MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
resumed the Adjourned Debate, saying, he was not ashamed to acknowledge that his opinions had undergone a considerable change within the last few months. On several occasions he had supported propositions brought forward by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers) with a view to the adoption of a moderate fixed duty, which then seemed to him the best mode of settling the question, at least for many years. He now frankly avowed that in his 16 opinion the best course for the agricultural and all other interests was to enact the speedy and total abolition of duties on the import of food. His individual opinions were of little importance; but as he represented a large constituency he might perhaps be allowed to state his reasons for the change his opinions had undergone. He would first advert to the origin of the recent and prevailing alarm in Ireland. In the middle of October the disease in the potato crop showed itself extensively, and in the latter end of that month an expectation was general that an opening of the ports and a perfectly free importation of grain would be ordered by the Queen in Council. It was not, however, until Ministers met, and the proposition of the right hon. Baronet was unfortunately rejected, that a cry was got up—a cry of a most strange character. That cry was that the threatened danger had been exaggerated for party purposes; that the alarm of famine was, in fact, a party alarm, in order to bring into office the noble Lord the Member for London and his adherents. Even the high character and moderate views of the Duke of Leinster did not secure him and others of the Dublin Mansion-house Committee from the imputation that they were anxious and unscrupulous partisans of the Whigs. The effect was most disastrous, for many men who until then were ready to press upon Government the necessity of taking steps to join in subscriptions for the importation of foreign food, began honestly to doubt as to the reality and extent of the evil. He must make one honourable exception—the Protestant Clergy; they never doubted—they never joined in the cry: on the contrary, they gave statements of the disease in their districts which were unbiassed and exaggerated, acting from that pure motive of charity and benevolence which had raised their character very much, even among those who were opposed to them in faith. What was the state of Ireland now? Descriptions had been given on former nights by the First Minister of the Crown, confirmed by facts adduced by the hon. and learned Member for Cork; nevertheless, the right hon. the Recorder of Dublin had maintained that a system of gross exaggeration on the subject prevailed. If such were the truth, why had the right hon. Gentleman not, as his duty required, pointed out the exaggerations? The right hon. Gentleman had not brought forward a particle of evidence; and he (Mr. M. J. O'Connell) begged to tell the right hon. Gentle- 17 man and the House, that boldness of assertion would not pass for proof. He hoped that the hon. and gallant Member who cheered the observation would also bear it in mind. The truth was, that the danger in Ireland was most imminent. Some had contended that it was only a temporary emergency, and that a temporary emergency ought to be met by a temporary remedy. But there was every reason to fear that the emergency was not temporary; that the crop of next year would be infected; and that the disease might be permanent. If, however, it were certain that the crop and harvest next year would be abundant, still it ought to be remembered that there was no security against the return of the disorder. That consideration had much tended to produce the change that had taken place in his opinions; for he had asked himself this question—Why are the people of Ireland to be dependent on an article of food so peculiarly liable to disorder and failure? It was peculiarly liable, first, because it was a root, and it was often impossible to know that it was infected; and next, because the disease was a new one, and little, if at all, understood. The conclusion to which he came was, that the sooner all laws restricting the importation of the food of the people were repealed, the better for all classes of the community. He wished, therefore, that the proposal of the right hon. Baronet had been to do away with the Corn Laws at once; and if he (Mr. M. J. O'Connell) supported the Motion as it stood, it was only because it seemed under all circumstances the most effectual and speedy means of putting an end to an evil. Why, he would ask, had potatoes become the almost universal food of the peasantry in Ireland, and the general food of the lower orders in the south of England? The great, he did not say the sole cause was, the high price of bread-corn. Fixty or sixty years ago, the use of potatoes was by no means so common in Ireland: in some of the more remote districts, oatmeal was nearly as much employed for food as in Scotland. The high price of bread-corn had constantly tended to make the great body of his fellow countrymen dependent for subsistence on this most precarious article. He felt it his duty to do all in his power to render a supply of more nutritious food accessible to the working classes. The House had, however, been told that the repeal of the Corn Laws would be injurious to the lower orders, especially in Ireland; and it was urged that 18 the present system was mainly valuable to labourers and tenant-farmers. That they were so valuable might, in his opinion, be answered in a single word; and that word was—Ireland. Had the Corn Laws been of service to the labourers and tenant-farmers there? Look at the destitution among the working classes in Ireland. The truth was that the Corn Laws were of no value to the labouring classes. It was admitted that improvements must be made in agriculture to meet the change; and he defied any man to show that such improvements would not necessarily give additional employment to the working classes; and the consequence of additional employment would be increased comfort and amelioration of condition. As to the tenant-farmers, he begged hon. Members to bear in mind that profit did not always depend upon price; that the profits of the tenant-farmer might be higher even if the price of corn were lower. Comparing the last three years with the three years preceding 1842, it was obvious that a comparatively low price was more profitable. The tenant-farmers had been in a better condition during the last three years, when corn was cheap, than in the previous three years when corn was dear. Much, of course, depended upon the prosperity of the consumers—on the prosperity of the home market—the manufacturers. The very circumstances of the increase of population in the Empire, which was most likely to continue, would of itself afford security against any considerable fall of price. The experience of the past had taught him to distrust the predictions of ruin in which alarmists dealt whenever a change of system was proposed; and the Vice President of the Board of Trade (Sir G. Clerk) had alluded to some of those predictions last night. One of them respected the introduction of swine when the Tariff was reduced in 1842. It had been calculated by some of the alarmists that no fewer than three millions and a half of swine would be imported; but the number really brought into the country had been ridiculously small. The prophecies of these gentlemen reminded him of the prophecies of a certain lady of old: it was decreed that she should prophesy truly, and not be believed; but of the Corn Law alarmists it seemed to be determined that they should prophesy falsely, but find people foolish enough to trust them. The hon. Member read an extract from a recent copy of the Dublin Evening Mail respecting the number of sheep sold and remaining unsold at Ballinas- 19 loe fair in 1842, 1843, and 1844, showing a regular increase both in number and price. He hoped, therefore, that farmers would be governed by experience, and not allow themselves to become the victims of a panic. The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere), when in office in 1840, had brought in a Bill to allow the introduction into Ireland of foreign flour upon the same terms as into England. It was opposed by some Members of the present Government; and Sir J. E. Tennant, in a speech crammed with statistics, proved to demonstration, as was thought and said by some, that the millers of Ireland would be ruined if the measure passed. In 1842 the right hon. Baronet altered the Corn Laws, and among his alterations was one by which foreign flour might be introduced into Ireland exactly on the terms proposed two years before by the right hon. Member for Taunton. It was, of course, supported by the Opposition side of the House, though not without some taunts against Ministers for silently adopting in office a scheme they had resisted in opposition; and what had been the result? The result was, that in spite of this Bill, which was to ruin the millers of Ireland, the importations of flour into this country from Ireland had constantly and most importantly augmented.
Thus this ruined interest in the course of four years had quadrupled the amount of its importations of flour into England. How had the arguments on this subject been met? Scraps from newspapers and centos from Hansard afforded no grounds for debating a great national question. The Recorder for Dublin, quoting Lord Mansfield, had said that the worst of precedents were established from the best motives; but the agricultural interest, if they could learn anything, must have learnt since 1829 that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government would never consent to sacrifice national objects to party consistency. They were, therefore, forewarned of the present crisis; but, nevertheless, they had placed him again at their head, knowing that, under like circumstances, he would act in the like way. They had thus set a bad precedent from the best motives, and they must now expect to find it used against themselves. What had happened only last year on the subject of the grant of May- 20 nooth?Hon. Members on the other side of the House supported the proposition, because it was introduced by the right hon. Baronet, though they would have opposed it had it been brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for London. After that, what right had they to attack the right hon. Baronet for his conduct upon this question? Did they wish to set the precedent again? There was no doubt that when this debate was over, they would again become the humble servants of the right hon. Baronet. In 1829, nusquam tuta fides was the exclamation; yet they had restored to him all their confidence: again nusquam tuta fides would be the cry, and again they would submit themselves to his mercy. What could they do without him? Whom could they put in his place? Lists of new sets of Ministers had been circulated, but they only seemed worthy of the satirical pages of the admirable Punch. On this point he might quote to the House a passage from the posthumous pamphlet of the Rev. Sidney Smith:—
In 1812 had been imported 314,311 cwts. In 1843 773,463 cwts. In 1844 839,567 cwts. In 1845 1,422,379 cwts.And let me beg of my dear Ultras not to imagine that they can survive for a single instant without Sir Robert—that they could form an Ultra Tory Administration. Is there a Chartist in Great Britain who would not, upon the first intimation of such an attempt, order a new suit of clothes, and call upon the milkman and baker for an extended credit? Is there a political reasoner who would not come out of his hole with a new Constitution?After reading the words of so eminent a man, he was unwilling to add anything of his own, since it must appear to vast disadvantage; but he would ask whether there was a bear on the Stock Exchange who would not realize large profits under such a Minister, or a stockholder who would not be a sufferer? If he (Mr. M. O'Connell) wished to see great changes accomplished, his earnest desire would be that the right hon. Baronet should be thwarted, and that his present adversaries should be compelled to form a Ministry of their own. In his speech a few nights ago, the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. S. O'Brien) had had recourse to a fallacy, which run through all he said: it was when he talked of protection as valuable to the working classes. He assumed that the existing laws afforded them real protection; but he supported the present measure because he felt convinced that that, and that only, would afford them real and effectual protection. It would protect them against extravagantly high prices—against scarcity of food—against a reduction of wages—against want of em- 21 ployment—against, in short, all the evils incident to the present system. It was very well for agriculturists to talk of their anxiety for the welfare of the lower orders; but true philanthropists were those who, by unshackling commerce, gave industry employment. It was far better that the industry and energy of our own country should walk forth in its own strength, than that they should be supported by legislation in an enfeebled and ricketty existence. He did not believe that the labouring classes would ever again call for such protection as they had enjoyed under the Corn Laws—not even the stentorian voice of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand) would be able to raise that cry among them. If they did, it could be in the same spirit that the graphic wit of a former age described the ignorant crowd exclaiming, "Give us back our eleven days." If any man had eloquence to reverse in the nineteenth the folly of the eighteenth century, it must be some such overpowering orator as the individual to whom he had alluded. For these reasons he supported free trade and free imports, which he believed essentially the same; he believed the cause he advocated just and righteous, and that formed not the least of the reasons which would induce him to give the measure before the House, not a lukewarm and a grudging, but a zealous and a cordial support.
§ COLONEL CONOLLY
said, he entirely agreed in the assertion of a right hon. Friend of his (Mr. Shaw) that the evils arising from the partial failure of the potato crop in Ireland, had been infinitely exaggerated. Accounts from various parts of the country, and his own acquaintance with its condition, especially in those districts with which he was connected, enable him to state this decidedly. He hoped that he need not declare how heartily he desired that all legitimate relief might be afforded to the Irish people in their present position; or that the whole course of his life presented sufficient evidence of his being utterly incapable of insensibility as to the miseries of his fellow countrymen. But he had listened attentively to the debate, without being able to discern the slightest connection between the measure before the House, and the potato deficiency. The evils arising out of that deficiency would, in the common course of events, continue but four months; while the measure of the Minister could not come fully into operation before the expi- 22 ration of three years. Thus the two affairs, so anxiously attempted to be associated, were, in fact, entirely unconnected. He could not understand what on earth they had to do with the matter; and assuredly the Irish peasantry would be extremely ill off if they waited for relief until the consummation of the Ministerial measures. The perilous experiments about to be entered on by the Government, would have most injurious effects, he thought, upon the Empire at large; but would peculiarly affect that part of it from which he came, and he must consequently give it the utmost opposition which it was in his power to present to it. It was his opinion that it would immensely aggravate all the evils that existed in Ireland—that it would degrade and depress the condition of the people lower than at present. There could be no doubt that cheap bread and low wages were synonymous terms. The measure was first put forward professedly with the object of enabling the manufacturer to compete with the foreigner by lowering wages; and though opinions had changed in some quarters as to the measure, it was the same "wolf in sheep's clothing" as had originally been detected and exposed. The present Premier had, on his first entrance, into office in 1842, proposed a measure which had alarmed and injured the agricultural interest to a certain extent; but of course the right hon. Baronet had submitted it to the House in its brightest colours and its fairest form, and enforced it especially by the assurance that the agricultural interest should retain an adequate amount of protection. Now Members opposite taunted the agricultural Member with having supported that measure of the new Tariff. No doubt they had so supported it; and he for one had frankly confessed that he had gone as far as he could, and a good deal against his inclination, for the purpose of supporting the right hon. Baronet. Of course he was the more mortified with his present position; for now he found that he had been induced thus to yield to a measure which had proved the precursor of another, the effects of which could not be but absolutely ruinous to the industrious classes generally, destructive not merely to agriculture, but to our home market in general, and inconsistent with the welfare of the whole Empire in all its relations at home and abroad. The agricultural interest had behaved with manly generosity, and had pursued a perfectly disinterested 23 course in taking the minimum of the protection they considered necessary for the national welfare; and they had effectually vindicated themselves from the charge of a selfish regard for "class interest," and all the other opprobrious accusations hurled against them, in default of argument, by their opponents. After the measure of 1842 came the Canada Corn Bill, as to which he could not help observing, that the effects of the clandestine introduction of American grain into Ireland had been most injurious to the Irish millers. But when that measure was introduced by the able and statesmanlike arguments of the then Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley), it was agreed to as designed to extend the trade in corn merely with our Colonies, which produced no more grain than our increasing population required. And it had been supported indeed, with the very view of preventing the influx of corn from other parts of the world, and as giving a just and proper preference to the productions of our own colonists, and thus extending the market for our manufactures. And though the agriculturists were accused of legislating for "class interests," he could declare that a main motive for agreeing to the Canada Corn Bill was, the desire to promote our trade with our Colonies; and to keep the benefit of our trade to them, instead of wildly, rashly, extravagantly endeavouring to extend it indiscriminately with all the world—with friends and enemies — with the States of liberal or of restrictive policy—with those who had and with those who had not manifested any intention of reciprocating our advances to increased commercial intercourse—with all equally and alike—even with such as had resisted all diplomatic endeavours to promote the reception of our produce. So entirely had there been an absence of all disposition, on the part of foreign nations, to reciprocate our "free trade," that many of them had actually increased their restrictions in proportion as we adopted a more liberal commercial policy. The hon. Member (Mr. Cayley), whose profound thought on this question was so well known, had ably argued that the manufacturing interests were "standing in their own light" in clamouring for a free trade: and that cheap bread and low wages were inseparable. The home market must be the main mart for our manufactures; and it was the most rash and inconsiderate thing in the world to rush into a course ruinous 24 to that market, in the vain hope of securing markets in countries which had long experienced the advantages of a restrictive system for the fostering of their own manufactures. It was said on the other side, what had agriculture received from protection? He should like to know what good the projected measure could possibly do to that interest? The great evil to be met and remedied was, deficient or unremunerating labour. And the present measure would displace agricultural produce at least to the extent of one-fourth. Such must be the result when the price of wheat was reduced from 56s. to 30s. per quarter. When it was to be remembered, that the main resource of Ireland was the sale of her agricultural produce, it might be imagined that whatever causes of distress or discontent at present existed in that country, would be as nothing compared with the wretchedness and ruin likely to result from this measure. It appeared that the recent imports of agricultural produce from Ireland into this country had quadrupled those of former years. When it was asked then, what had protection done for agriculture, it might be answered that here alone was evidence of no inconsiderable result. What was the origin of all capital but protection? What encouraged the accumulation of capital by means of energy and enterprize, but protection to the investments of capital? Protection had promoted the growth of capital, and had developed its resources and its results; and this was the real reason why high wages had temporarily coexisted with low prices—an anomalous state of things. However, the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had endeavoured to show that high wages and low prices would exist concurrently: they might for a short time; but that they should do so permanently, was utterly inconceivable and impossible. The right hon. Baronet had most incorrectly attributed to the measures he had introduced, the prosperity of recent years. But it was incontestable that the farmer, the artificer, the tradesmen, each and all, were entitled to protection for their industry, their capital, and their enterprize; and were entitled to demand it of the State to which they paid taxes, to which they owed loyalty, and to the resources of which they contributed so much. And to say that such a natural, indefeasible claim to protection should be disregarded—it was monstrous! "It is," exclaimed the gallant Gentleman, "unchristian! It is intolerable! My opinion may 25 be sneered at as 'sentiment,' or 'selfishness,' and may be overwhelmed with such opprobrious epithets; but while I have a soul in my body, I will not consent to inflict such frightful evils on so many of my fellow-countrymen!" The measure would not benefit the interests it peculiarly professed to profit. Protection was the natural and bounden duty of the State, considered in connection with our fiscal as well as our commercial system; it was a source of revenue and means of enabling the nation to bear its burdens; it was intimately associated with all our financial relations; and it was the opinion of such able monetary authorities as Lord Ashburton, that the result of this measure would be to reduce the resources of the nation by at least twenty-five per cent. The burdens of Ireland in particular had been recently increased, as by poor rates, &c., and the present measure would greatly diminish the ability of the people to meet these burdens. Could it be supposed that the evils of Ireland would be assuaged or lightened by the harsh grinding hand of a hard political economy? He was satisfied that the agriculture, both of Ireland and of England, would, if justly protected, keep pace with the increasing demands of the population. This argument, as applied to Ireland, had a strong analogy to the argument as applied so ably by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Sir H. Douglas), to the case of the Colonies. The evil and the peril were equally obvious in both cases, of alienating and estranging our fellow subjects in other parts of the Empire. It was far wiser to conciliate their affections by a just and equitable protection, securing them our own markets in preference to foreigners. Whereas, the policy of the present measure consisted in throwing open our ports to all the world; and giving the benefit of our markets to the subjects of every nation but our own. The inevitable effect of this suicidal course was, the irretrievable injury of those invaluable interests, our shipping and our commercial marine, on which our maritime supremacy so much depended. The former and the wiser policy of the country had been, on the other hand, to foster these important and sister interests of agriculture and shipping—the sources of our subsistence and our security. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had, in his amended version of the imaginary colloquy of the hon. Member for Northampton with the farmer, represented the propriety of the landlord's telling his 26 "good fellow" of a tenant that his landlord would lend him money wherewith to promote improvements in cultivation, and increase the produce of the farm from three quarters per acre to five. But the right hon. Baronet had omitted to tell his imaginary farmer that the five quarters would realize no more than the three had done; for five quarters at 30s. would not fetch so much as three at 56s. It was a favourite mode of expression on the other side to urge, that the injuries arising from the Ministerial measure would be but temporary. He for one disputed the right of the Legislature to inflict severe injury, however temporary, on large classes of the people. To do so was to corroborate the theories of those who agreed that the House did not represent all classes of the community. He hoped that it did, and that its sympathies and its care would be equally extended to all; and for this reason he earnestly implored of the House to pause before they rushed on to such a perilous experiment as was now proposed, which was certain to be injurious to all classes but especially to those whom it must be the object of every sensible man to protect.
§ VISCOUNT INGESTRE
felt that an apology was due from him to the House for venturing to trespass upon its attention when a subject of such importance was before it; but its very importance must be his apology. He had also another excuse for addressing it; for he found that the parties with whom he had generally acted, and whom he had always been proud to follow, had gone over to the enemy, and that they were without a leader. It was necessary, in these days of general apostacy, that each person should himself declare his own opinions. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, at the commencement of that which he would allow him to call his most extraordinary speech, some nights ago, adduced two or three tests by which he tried his own sincerity. He (Lord Ingestre) gave him full credit for his sincerity; and, as he was bound to do so, he gave full credit to the sincerity of all who sat upon that bench. Still, he must be allowed to say, though he had no abandonment of political opinions to account for, he might adduce one test of his sincerity. He believed he might say that such test was to be found in a letter written by a noble relative of his (Earl Talbot)—by one of whom he must always speak with that respect and affection which he 27 must ever bear to that noble Lord. That was a letter which had been made a great deal of, because that noble Lord was one whose opinions were of great importance as those of an experienced agriculturist, and whose opinions must therefore be entitled to every weight and consideration that justly attached to his high character. But then he felt it due to that noble Lord, his noble relative, to say, that his opinions were not of recent date; he had not, like many of those in that House, changed his opinions under a very short notice. The opinions which his noble relative now expressed, had been entertained for many years; but, as he had referred to them, he would state the exact extent to which those opinions went. He had often heard that noble relative say that he thought the energies of Englishmen were so indomitable, and their industry so persevering, that they must come out of every difficulty, and eventually surmount every obstacle. That, then, was the extent to which his opinions went; but then he had no doubt, with the opinions his noble relative entertained, that he would give to Her Majesty's Government his support with respect to the measures they were now proposing. In the early part of this debate, he (Lord Ingestre) was very much struck with the observation of his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, that this was not a question of principle—that it was ridiculous that such a sensation should be made throughout the country about that which was purely a fiscal and commercial question. He should like to know what question could be more a question of principle than this. Why it was the very principle on which this Parliament was elected. As to his (Lord Ingestre's) own individual election, he was not aware that he had at the hustings uttered a single word on the subject of protection or the Corn Laws; but he had done so on the previous occasion, and, therefore, he should think it highly dishonourable—he could not give it another name—if he did not (like the noble Lord who had lately resigned his seat in the House) consider that there was an understanding between him and his constituents on the question of protection. He was favourable to protection, and had he been struck with any remarkable conversion on that point, he should have felt it his duty, as a man of honour, to have resigned his seat. There had been some some resignations of seats on that principle. Other hon. Members had written to their 28 constituents, half resigning their seats, and then taking advantage of circumstances. He could not, he must own, greatly approve of this conduct. Those who did it might reconcile it to their consciences; and their constituents, he had no doubt, would, at the fitting time, and the proper day, express their opinions on such conduct. They had also had manifestoes, or something very like them, from Ministers and others having a connexion with the Cabinet. He had recently seen, as no doubt many others had seen, a manifesto from the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland. Now, he could only look upon that as something like a declaration from the Government. In the principles announced in that document he could not coincide, and therefore could not give them his support. They had then had explanations from the free-trade Cabinet. When this question of free trade was first agitated in the Cabinet last November, as they had been told by the right hon. Baronet, he could not find many Members in his Cabinet to agree with him. Now, he thought that this House had a right to call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and upon the noble Lord the Member for Monmouth, to explain to the House and to this country, why they rejoined the Cabinet, and were now ready to support measures, which, in November last, they thought to be so destructive to the interests of the country as to oppose them, and resign their posts into Her Majesty's hands. And now, in allusion to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would beg leave to ask him, if he recollected the address that was sent by the right hon. Baronet the Premier when he was very much in a similar situation to that which the right hon. Gentleman now held? He would ask him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) if he recollected what that right hon. Gentleman thought was consistent with his duty to do?—and no man who knew the right hon. Gentleman would not believe that he at all times acted in accordance with the convictions of his conscience. But the right hon. Gentleman was now in a very similar position to that which the right hon. Baronet occupied with regard to the Emancipation Bill; and how did the right hon. Baronet then act? In an address which he (Lord Ingestre) saw the other day in the papers, and which he believed to be true and genuine—an address from the right hon. Baronet to the electors of the University of Oxford, he thus expressed himself:— 29I cannot doubt that the resistance which I have hitherto offered to the claims of the Roman Catholics has been one of the main grounds upon which I have been entitled to the confidence and support of a very large body of my constituents; and, although I discontinue that resistance solely from the firm belief that perseverance in it would be not only unavailing, but would be injurious to those interests which it is my special duty to uphold, yet I consider myself bound to surrender to the University, without delay, the trust which they have confided to me.He (Lord Ingestre) did think that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in a similar position with the right hon. Baronet. It seemed to him at least that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was in a similar position, and he should be very glad to hear from him why he did not pursue a similar course of conduct. He had now, he must say, reason to quarrel with this measure of the Government; first, for the time at which it had been thought proper to introduce it. What were the circumstances of the country when it was introduced? It was almost impossible, in a debate which had been maintained for such a long time as the present, to say anything which had not been said before, and no doubt much better than he could hope to express it. Still, he must remark, that the period at which the measure had been introduced was most infelicitous. Ministers had found the country in a state of prosperity—there was full employment for labourers, and labour was highly remunerated—the labouring classes were in the enjoyment of more comforts of life than he had ever known since he had known any thing at all. He had no doubt that this prosperity had grown up and continued under protection. They had, to be sure, heard a great deal about famine and a disease in potatoes. He hoped it was idle in him, even though he belonged to such a maligned body as that of the agriculturists, to say, that for distress of any portion of the people he felt the deepest sympathy, and was ready to adopt any measures calculated to afford the most speedy and certain relief. But in looking at the Corn Market, as he found that of Liverpool described in the Mark Lane Express, of February 17, he saw the following:—A liberal supply of wheat and flour, and a moderate supply of oats and oatmeal, have arrived here since this day week from Ireland, with several parcels of grain coastwise; also 2000 quarters of wheat, with 1100 quarters of Indian corn from Trieste, and 200 quarters of beans from Egypt, but no grain or flour from America. The trade has been generally flat to-day. Sales of wheat 30 have progressed slowly, and though choice qualities are held at last week's rates, all lower descriptions are 2d. per 70lb. cheaper than on this day se'nnight. Oats are 1d. per bushel and meal 6d. per load cheaper. Beans, peas, and other articles, slow of sale, and prices nominally the same as before. Flour also sells in retail at 1s. reduction. In bonded wheat nothing done. Of bonded flour a few hundred barrels are reported at 27s. per barrel. Barley almost unsaleable.Now, he asked that House—he asked anybody who heard him, if this were like to famine staring them in the face?—first, a great quantity of corn was brought from Ireland—and then oatmeal, the natural substitute for the root that had perished, only bearing a declining price. But he found a similar decline in Mark Lane. How, he again asked, could they call that famine when they saw food with a tendency to decline in the price? The right hon. Baronet, in the course of the two or three powerful speeches he had made on this subject, made his principal argument to go upon this, that the measure now proposed by him was to be a final adjustment. What did the right hon. Baronet call a final adjustment? He thought that the right hon. Baronet, as a great many ladies had a fancy for making matches, so had he a fancy for making final adjustments. Where were these adjustments to end? Did he fancy that this adjustment, being once begun, he would not have to go to a greater extent with it. He warned the right hon. Gentleman—he warned the Government, that if they gave way to alarms and to fears that might be excited by the hon. Gentlemen who composed the League, they would be dragged from one point to another, until nothing should be left for them to guard, and nothing more to yield. This he was sure of, that when the right hon. Gentleman said that the day on which he announced that he abandoned protection was the happiest day of his life, that if his life were spared, and the system now adopted carried out to its full extent, the right hon. Gentleman would yet say, that instead of its being the happiest it was the most miserable in his life. At this stage of the debate he felt disinclined to enter into the general commercial part of the subject. They heard nothing then but of free trade. Now, what was free trade? The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government said that free trade was to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market; that as different countries produced different articles, the true policy was to allow every country to exchange its produce for ours. Now, he thought there was a pal- 31 pable fallacy in that statement of what was free trade; and his opinion was, that if we were to have free trade, it ought to be a free trade of this nature—to exchange the articles which we produced, for the articles which other countries could, and we could not, produce, and to afford protection to those articles which were equally produced by both countries, or, at any rate, to give such a protection as would allow both countries to be on an equality. That was a real, genuine, and impartial sort of free trade; not the one-sided free trade they would slip into if they adopted the right hon. Baronet's measure. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman the late Member for Westminster (Captain Rous) were now present, he (Lord Ingestre) would ask him, as he was a notoriously good handicapper, to handicap the different nations, and let them all start fair: then the agriculturists would be ready to unite with him for free trade. In the absence of that hon. Gentleman, perhaps his noble Friend the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck) would undertake the office; but let them all start fairly, and then he would agree with his noble relative that this country, with its indomitable energy, and its numerous advantages, might successfully compete with the foreigner. Hitherto, however, we had always been met by hostile tariffs on the part of other countries. He would now refer to two periods of time, which exhibited results of a very remarkable character, in reference to the question of free trade. From the years 1832 to 1836 inclusive, the price of corn was notoreously cheap; so cheap, indeed, that the duty was very high, and no, or next to no corn was imported from abroad. Practically speaking, these were years of prohibition. And what did he find? Why, that in these three years the exports and imports increased to a considerable extent. But in the three succeeding years the price of corn was very high, the duty on importation was low, and the direct opposite results ensued; for the exports and imports were materially decreased. He had often heard those who were the advocates of protection described as monopolists. What was meant by the application of this term? Did they mean to call that a monopoly which was the means of employing four-fifths of the whole people? If foreign corn were admitted free of duty, it must have the effect of displacing British produce; and, as a matter of course, a great deal of the capital at present invested in 32 the cultivation of the soil. This would lead to the destruction, in a great measure, of the home market, which Adam Smith said, with great truth, was worth all the others put together. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had stated that low prices and high wages often went together. Now, that might be very true; but, at the present moment, this state of things had arisen from extraordinary circumstances, the chief of which was the construction of railways, which had given quite a different complexion to the whole of the economical part of the question. But experience proved, and all political writers agreed, that, sooner or later, wages and the facility of getting food, were dependent upon each other. His own opinion was, that the present law had created great prosperity; but upon this point he observed a marked discrepancy in the speeches of two very high authorities: he alluded to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government and his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War. The right hon. Baronet said, that one of his reasons for altering his former opinions was the success of his measures in 1842. He said, "I have been wrong all my life. I think I have made a new discovery, and that my measures of 1842 did so much good that I am encouraged to go on in the same course." But what did the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert) say? He said he had been a free trader in disguise for some years—ever since he had been in office; and notwithstanding the strong protective speech which he made upon his re-election, after being appointed to the office he so worthily filled, he now said the Corn Law of 1842 was a signal failure. Now, he (Lord Ingestre) should like to know which of these right hon. Gentlemen was right. Seeing that there had been greater steadiness of price under the existing system of Corn Law—that fluctuations in the price of corn had been less in this country since the Act of 1842 was in force, and less than in any other country; he could discover no reason for running away from the principle, however much they might think it necessary, as science advanced, gradually to remove protection. It had been said by the advocates of free trade, that foreign wheat could not be imported at so low a price as was stated by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) the other night. He (Lord Ingestre) had heard it said that the wheat imported by the hon. Member was not of good quality. What was the 33 best test of that? Why the weight of the bushel; and the hon. Member assured the House that it weighed upwards of 61 lbs., which was a fair and proper weight for good grain. But upon this subject of the prices at which foreign wheat could be imported, he held in his hand a statement of the average prices of foreign corn in bond in the port of London, in the years extending from 1835 to 1845. In January, 1835, wheat was imported into the port of London (all charges being paid) at 22s. a quarter; in 1836, at 22s.; 1837, at 40s. [An hon. MEMBER: Where from?] From all parts. It mattered not where from; his argument being that it came here cheap. In 1838 it was brought in at an average price of 25s.; in 1839, at 35s.; in 1843, at 29s.; in 1844, at 42s.; and in 1845, at 26s. a quarter. He contended, therefore, that foreign corn would come in at a lower rate than was represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who said that the agriculturists would still get a remunerative price, and that they need not be alarmed at the effect of the present measures. Though he regarded the question as one that concerned the whole country, he would just for one moment advert to the case of the landlord. It had been often said, that the Corn Law was peculiarly a landlord's question; but he had made a calculation which conclusively showed that this assertion was altogether erroneous. He took the average produce of an acre of wheat to be twenty-two bushels. Now, five bushels of wheat would give rather more than four bushels of flour, and a bushel of flour would give eighteen quartern loaves. So that an acre of wheat would furnish nineteen bushels of flour, or 340 loaves. Taking the loaf at sixpence, the produce of an acre of wheat in money would amount to 170s. He calculated the rent upon an average of the whole kingdom at 25s. an acre, the highest point at which it could be taken; and what, then, if they abolished the whole of the rent of the kingdom, would be the result? Why, that the consumers could not be benefited to a greater extent than one-sixth the price of the quartern loaf. Take the rents from the landlord, and how were they to live? How could they afford to expend money upon manufactures? And what would become of the home market? He objected to the measures under consideration, not merely on the grounds he had stated, but because he thought they would prove most injurious to Ireland. He could not conceive a more suicidal course, 34 as far as that country was concerned, than to deprive it of the best market for its produce. He desired to know upon what ground Parliament was asked to do this, and to introduce foreign corn into Ireland. When he saw that Ireland was an exporting country in agricultural produce, what did he deduce from this state of things? Simply, that if they wanted corn there, they should cease exporting it; and if it were sent them from abroad, they would not have money to pay for it. In fact, he regarded the measures as a real and substantial injustice to Ireland, as well as to the Colonies, and more particularly Canada. It was only in 1843 that the Canada Corn Bill was passed into a law; the argument of the noble Lord the then Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley), and of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government himself, being "You must confer this benefit on the Colony, because it is an integral part of the Empire." Well, having passed that measure, and opened the door for a most lucrative and important trade, they were now asked to place the Colony on the same footing as foreign countries. He gave the right hon. Baronet credit for being actuated by the purest motives; but when the right hon. Gentleman said he was above all party considerations, he begged to tell him that if he or any other man attempted to govern this country without party, he would signally fail. Such exhibitions as had been witnessed there of late were calculated very much to destroy the faith of the public in men who professed to be uninfluenced by party. He really felt distressed the other night, when he saw the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade (Sir G. Clerk) stand at the red box, and heard him contradict all the opinions he had before adduced on the other side of the question. He begged leave to ask the right hon. Gentleman, and also those hon. Gentlemen who had experienced these sudden and miraculous conversions, if they could put their hands on their hearts and say, that, if the right hon. Baronet had proposed an increase, instead of a diminution and abolition of protection, they would not have followed him in his course and given him their support. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth) had given the aristocracy of the country some advice: he alluded to his noble Friends the Members for Stamford and Shropshire, whose names the noble Lord 35 said he was sorry to see allied with protection; thus implying that the aristocracy were setting their faces against the wishes of the people. Now, the aristocracy of this country were of so peculiar a nature, so mixed up with every institution of the country, and so mixed up with the affections of the people, that he was sure wrong motives would not be imputed to them in the course they felt it to be their duty to pursue. In this country the aristocracy enjoyed no immunities; but to all intents and purposes were, as he had said, mixed up with the people, to the benefit of both. If advice were needed in any quarter, he would give the noble Leaguer his advice. Without being chargeable with vanity, he might say that though the noble blood of "all the Howards" flowed in the noble Lord's veins, yet he had sprung from as ancient a root; and he would venture to tell the noble Lord and those who went with him, that if they would join such unconstitutional and revolutionary societies as the Anti-Corn-Law League, they set an example which ought to be a warning to all the members of the aristocracy. One word with regard to the disease of the potato before he resumed his seat. He held in his hand some specimens of young potatoes. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but it was an important fact that these potatoes had been produced from the eyes of diseased ones, and the grower was Mr. Chapman, a market gardener at Isleworth. He felt bound to mention this circumstance for encouraging those who possessed diseased potatoes to turn them to a beneficial purpose.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
was surprised at the extraordinary contrast between the letter of the noble Lord the Member for Newark and his recent speech. Why, from reading that letter, he concluded the noble Lord would of course support the Government; or that, if he did not, his only reason for opposing the Government would seem to be because he agreed with it. He believed the noble Lord to be a most benevolent person—he believed him possessed of considerable ability; and yet his conduct was difficult to reconcile with these qualities. The noble Lord admitted the frightful state of famine and disease expected to prevail in Ireland. He admitted the necessity of taking measures to diminish these dreadful visitations. He went even so far as to agree that the right hon. Baronet ought to have opened the ports, even in the autumn, when the danger was 36 far less imminent: and yet now he was coolly going to vote that the consideration of these pressing matters should be put off till this day six months. And why? Because he had some objections to the political morality of a particular individual, whose fault, if it were one, was to be the cause of the suffering of millions of men. Why, the true course for the noble Lord to pursue, and the protectionists with whom he acted, though he did not agree with them, would be to move an Amendment that the operation of the Corn Law be immediately suspended. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury had certainly made a clever speech. He made an observation which the Members of the free-trade party must candidly admit to be just, viz., that while the League had been for years professing to educate the masses, it had really been educating itself. Yes; but it was educated at last. The hon. Member had said that they had constantly been shifting their grounds. True; but so had the protectionists. Feeling that it would not do any longer to fight under so exclusive a banner as that of protection to agriculture, they had chosen a new one in protection to native industry. But how could native industry be protected in the case of articles already competing, spite of heavy duties, with foreign goods in foreign markets? A bounty on exports would be necessary if protectionists would be consistent. Were they prepared for that? And if all were protected, what good was protection? The fact was, the hon. Member's argument failed, as he would do as a commercial Minister. Having so thoroughly and so enviably succeeded in a different line, it was a pity to see him frittering away his reputation in aspiring to be a statesman. The protectionist party had argued this question throughout as if it was simply a Corn Law question, and as if it was certain agriculture would be injured. Now he demurred to that. Supposing the agriculturists lost something by the removal of the duty on corn, would they gain nothing by reductions on other articles? The right hon. Baronet's proposal was not a corn measure, but a new Tariff. What was the use to farmers of the duty on maize? How did they benefit from the duty on brandy—on manufactured goods—on sugar? Again, different classes of farmers were protected to each other's injury. Of what use was the wheat duty to the grass farmer? Of what use was protection on cheese, butter, and cattle to the wheat farmer? He said that 37 hon. Members on the protectionist side of the House were a little unfair towards the Government on the subject of their change of opinion. They wholly forgot the tremendous responsibility which any body of men must be under who assumed to feed twenty-four millions of men. It was easy for those who were out of office, who had none of its cares and anxieties, who were not responsible for the preservation of internal peace, to talk loudly about principle, and the obligation of a rigid adherence to it. Then, besides being a little unfair, they were rather more illogical, because, after all, what did the quotings from Hansard and taunts of inconsistency mean? What was their real force and virtue? Why, simply this, that when a man had taken up an opinion, he was bound to be fanatical in maintaining it, although he conscientiously believed it to be unsound. Hon. Members seemed to be indignant that Government no longer assisted them in finding plausible defences of an untenable position; or was it that they could not forgive the implied reproach to themselves of the earlier conformity of others to rational opinions? If Government were supposed to have been guilty of deliberate falsehood in respect to the time of their asserted change of opinion, why did not some protectionist manfully say what he really meant? Was it like the characteristic courage of the English gentleman to rest content with insinuations? If, when a man at the head of a party deliberately announced an opinion and subsequently changed it, he was bound, according to what hon. Members seemed to imply, to affect adherence to it for party purposes: then the moral of all this was, that he who commenced by error should end in dissimulation—the very thing with which protectionists reproached Government. For his part, he thought there had been very adequate cause for the recent changes of opinion. In the abstract, the question had long been settled, and a very narrow induction was necessary, by way of experimental confirmation, when the abstract conclusion was in accordance with the practical. Besides, if Government were not convinced by any other evidence of the soundness of free-trade principles when applied in practice, could they have had higher grounds of conviction than were to be found in the speeches of protectionists during the last few months—speeches which the Times had been malicious enough to report in full? Could any sane man have 38 remained protectionist who had carefully waded through the heavy dig of the speeches of England's Dukes? Why, had they not been by fortune raised far above want, their speeches could not but have raised the opinion that they were retained by the League! Indeed, so effectually had the Dukes argued in favour of free trade in their sneeringly ironical defence of protection, that when be saw them, inflated and floating about in the public gaze, over the agricultural districts, he concluded as a matter of course, that they were the pilot-balloons which were testing the current of popular opinion in favour of free trade. But seriously, some friend to aristocracies should warn those who stood highest among the Peers of the ultimate effects of their recent conduct. There was more involved in this question than a mere duty on a commodity. The successful maintenance of a one-sided law by a one-sided Parliament would involve a great constitutional question, and new agitation would commence, even amongst the middle classes, for further measures of organic change. If the existing form of government could be made permanently subservient to the purpose of a class, a practical demonstration would be afforded of an inherent vice in the Constitution itself; and no great grievance in this country would long want its League or Repeal Association, and, in fact, such bodies seemed necessary as indications of symptoms not otherwise easily detected in time. It was a pity to see an ancient aristocracy putting its power, its usefulness, its very existence, on an issue of rent! If it were to fall, one would have wished to give it credit for a Roman wish to fall with decency. Could the country afford to place all its intellect on the shelf?—at the present time, especially. Were they so sure of peace abroad? Were their Oregon negotiations in so satisfactory a state? Were they not at war in India? Could the country afford to trust itself to "all the talents" of all Dukes? If Government had all along deceived their party, how very innocent must the party have been to be so easily and so long taken in!—or was it that they were compelled to put up with the arch-deceiver, because they had no men fit to form a Cabinet? Was it that they could not pardon the head of the Government that he had so long been a standing reproach to their incapacity? They might depend upon it, even now, that something more was required to make a statesman besides successful vituperation. He could 39 have wished the change in the Corn Laws had been immediate and final. He thought it a pity that for three long years the duty should remain a monument reminding the people of the melancholy infatuation of an agricultural Parliament. His constituents held the same opinion, as they indicated in a petition presented a few days since. Much had been said of unconstitutional practices. Was it constitutional for a body of men to come into that House as the avowed delegates of one interest? Agricultural Gentlemen always talked (ay, and acted—witness their resignations) as if representation were particular, not general—as if they were returned to carry out a great agricultural job, instead of benefiting the nation as a whole. They fell into this error particularly when they accused Government of betraying the landed interest. For his part, he could only say that if the Government ever pledged itself to support, exclusively, the landed interest, such a pledge was void for its immorality. But it was said the League was unconstitutional. He flatly denied it, though he was not a member of that body. In what respect did it differ from other associations for bringing about elections, and which Conservatives in most counties belonged to, except in superior wealth, strength, numbers—and even, perhaps, intellect: and to what causes were its power and wealth due but to the existence of a grievance of such magnitude as to produce such results? The League did not buy votes. It merely indicated in what way the unrepresented intelligence of the country (unrepresented, because county Members seemed avowedly delegates of a class) might constitutionally influence opinion at future elections. Was it immoral to buy small estates in order to obtain a stake in the country? Immoral to indicate how the desire might be gratified? Besides, did it not raise the price of land, and benefit landlords? A learned Judge was reported to have pronounced the desire legitimate and commendable. He believed he was correct in stating that some of the leaders of the protectionists had talked of fighting the League with its own weapons. A noble individual was reported to have talked of opposing the Government factiously if necessary. Let Peers take counsel, before they set such examples. It were wise in those whose hereditary duty it was jealously to watch over the Constitution, to beware how they impotently bragged of their power to prostitute its functions to purposes which could not but 40 seem suspicious to the uninstructed. He knew it was denied that rents were the objects of the Corn Law. But if it were said that food for the people was its real end, then how could men be induced to believe that the best method of keeping corn in was to pass a law to keep it out? This kind of argument would no longer do in towns, however it might go down with farmers' clubs and labourers' friend societies. In conclusion, he should only add that he should support the Government, only protesting against the incompleteness and want of finality of the measure they proposed.
§ MR. PACKE
said, the question now before the House was of such a nature that he could not content himself by giving a silent vote. It was a measure which, if passed into a law, would be ruinous to the best interests of the country; it would be most destructive in its results. It gave him great pain to be obliged to differ from an Administration which he had supported during his whole Parliamentary career. He did not wish to impute improper motives to the right hon. Baronet as to the introduction of the measures before the House, yet he could not help saying again, that they would be ruinous to the general interests of the country. But what principally startled him on the first day of the Session was, to hear the right hon. Baronet affirm that his present policy was a "Conservative policy." How he could address such language to the House, or how he could describe that to be a Conservative policy which principally originated in the continued agitation of the hon. Members for Durham and Stockport, he (Mr. Packe) could not conceive; an agitation which went on increasing from year to year, until it produced those effects which could not be too strongly deprecated. His opinion of the word "Conservative" was, that it meant fixed principles; for surely no one could for a moment imagine that its meaning was — principles ever varying, ever changing. Conservative did not mean that—it did not mean either the change of principle or the sacrifice of party. But it was stated that, as the measure before the House had the support of public opinion, that was quite sufficient; and it was wrong to ransack Hansard to ascertain what were the former views of those hon. and right hon. Members who now supported free trade. No doubt that would be a very desirable course for men who had no fixed principles: they would deprecate those 41 quotations which would not present a very gratifying contrast. But, however unpalatable, he would refer to some statements made in that House by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. On the 18th of May, 1841, the right hon. Baronet said—You ask me what I propose to do with reference to the Corn Laws. Sir, I will not shrink from the expression of my opinion. If I saw reason for changing my course I would do so, and frankly avow it. But I have not changed my opinion, notwithstanding the combination which has been formed against the Corn Laws; notwithstanding the declaration that either the total repeal or the substitution of a fixed duty for the present scale, is the inevitable result of the agitation now going forward. Notwithstanding this declaration, I do not hesitate to avow my adherence to the opinion I expressed last year.Owing to that bold and honest declaration important results followed. Again, on the 7th of June, the right hon. Baronet declared that—While he left entirely with Her Majesty's Ministers all the responsibility of making an appeal upon the subject of the Corn Laws to the sense of the people, yet he must at the same time say that he was not prepared to offer the slightest obstruction in the way of Her Majesty's Government taking that course.A dissolution took place, and at the commencement of the next Parliament the right hon. Baronet acceded to power as Her Majesty's Minister, with a majority of 91, which accession to power, by the aid of so large a majority, was to be mainly attributed to his declaration on the subject of the Corn Laws. And the right hon. Baronet, when about to propose some modifications and alterations in the Corn Laws, thus declared himself on the 9th of February, 1842—My belief and the belief of my Colleagues is, that it is important for this country—that it is of the highest importance to the welfare of all classes in this country—that you should take care that the main sources of your supply of corn should be derived from domestic agriculture.Such was his declaration; and he laid it down as a general principle. And on the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, on the 12th of May, 1843, the right hon. Baronet had thus expressed himself:—I think that frequent alterations on laws of this kind are in themselves to be deprecated. I think also that the existing law offered as a compromise was a fair adjustment of the question. I believe that there was as willing and as cordial an assent given to it by the agricultural interest as could have been anticipated. I think they gave that assent upon the assumption and in the expectation that the law would not be again altered without good and sufficient reason.42 Could words be stronger, and if the question were then adjusted, was it not then settled? Did not adjustment mean settlement? And when the right hon. Baronet stated "that there was as willing and as cordial an assent given to it by the agricultural interest as could have been anticipated," was not that "willing and cordial assent" given on the presumption and on the expectation that that "fair adjustment" would not be disturbed? Was it not on the assumption that the law would not be altered, at least without good and sufficient reasons. But while he could produce several other extracts from the declarations of the right hon. Baronet, to show his continued consistency on the subject of the Corn Laws, he would content himself with one more. On the 26th of June, 1844, the right hon. Baronet said—I defend protection to agriculture on the principle and to the extent I am bound to say that I have defended it before. I am about to pronounce no new opinions on this subject. I have a strong feeling that, speaking generally—and I am not now speaking of the amount of protection; I shall come to that presently—but speaking generally, I think the agriculture of this country is entitled to protection, and that it is so entitled to protection from considerations of justice as well as from considerations of policy. I do consider that there are special and peculiar burdens on agriculture.…. I ask you to look at the extent of capital employed in the cultivation of the soil—to look at the population of Ireland entirely depending on its agricultural produce—to see the amount of the supply of corn obtained from domestic agriculture, at least nine-tenths of the whole quantity consumed—and to look at the condition of the population employed in its culture. I am not prepared to alter the amount of protection determined upon two years ago, with the general goodwill and concurrence of the agricultural interest.After such a declaration, was it not totally impossible that that House should be prepared to hear of those sweeping measures which were for the first time developed on the 22nd of January last? how could the right hon. Baronet state that he, and those who acted with him, could not be charged with having acted at variance with the "principles of a Conservative policy?" Having disposed of that subject, he would call attention to a few of the reasons which were offered for the introduction of the proposed measure by the right hon. Baronet; and the first and principal reason adduced was the failure in Ireland of the potato crop, upon which there were arguments in such abundance during the debate, that the subject became threadbare. But why should the failure of potatoes in Ireland go to overturn a system—go to over- 43 turn those fixed principles which existed for upwards of two hundred years—principles by the operation of which this country had so greatly prospered. It appeared to him perfectly impossible—he could hardly believe that such could be the reason of attempting to effect changes so strange, and which must be ruinous in their consequences. But, again, he was told—with what consistency he would leave others to explain—that the prosperity of the last three years justified further relaxation. But if the country had made those wonderful advances of which the right hon. Baronet spoke, was not protection the cause?—and protection being the cause, why should not protection be continued? Why should not that principle be made permanent, that had conduced to the country's good? He was told that the wages of the labourer was not dependent on the price of corn. His experience was contrary to that statement: in his own county (Leicestershire) a different result came under his own observation; and he was sure he could also appeal to the knowledge of the hon. Member for Lincoln, who would bear him out in the assertion that the agricultural labourer was, in a great measure, dependent on the price of the grain. The proposition was so self-evident, that his surprise was, how it could be disputed. Again, he was told that the design was to reconcile differences, and to remove any animosity which might exist between the various classes of Her Majesty's subjects. Whether he were to understand that the sentiment had allusion to the Anti-Corn-Law League he would not say; but that the agitation which was kept up in different parts of the country by the League, had its influence somewhere, there could not be the shadow of a doubt: at all events it brought the hon. Member for Stockport under the notice of that borough, and he was elected as its representative. As to the proposed measure of something in the shape of compensation, he had not the slightest hesitation in saying, that instead of advancing the agricultural interest it would rather impede it. The Loan Commissioners were to be allowed to lend the public money for draining. He did not consider that was a matter of any consequence, as it was easy enough for any gentleman to raise money upon his property, if he were so inclined. The whole of the propositions of the right hon. Baronet for the alleged benefit of the landholders, would not, if carried into effect, 44 give them relief to the amount of 3d. in the pound. He wished to allude, before he sat down, to a circumstance that had been mentioned in the public prints of the day in reference to the election for Nottinghamshire, where it was stated that the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had avowed that it was the intention of the Government to adopt a liberal policy towards Ireland; and he wished to observe that if it were likely that the noble Lord (Lincoln) was about to adopt such measures as would prove satisfactory to the noble Lord the Member for London, he would recommend the Irish Members of that House to look sharp about them as to what the policy in embryo was to be in regard to that country which they represented. The hon. Member concluded by thanking the House for the attention with which they had listened to the observations he considered it his duty to make upon the question under discussion.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said: In addressing to the House the few observations which I think it necessary to make upon this occasion, I find that I must begin, as most of the hon. Members have begun who have latterly taken a part in the discussion of the present question, by saying, that at this period of so protracted a debate I cannot expect to add anything to the facts and reasonings which have been already laid before the House. I shall therefore feel it my duty not to claim much of your attention; I shall endeavour to confine the observations which it will be necessary for me to make within as narrow limits as it is possible for me to assign them. As to the more prominent merits of the question, it appears to me quite unnecessary that I should say much after the great ability with which it has been opened by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, and after the manner in which it was yesterday evening argued by my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade, who, in the course of his speech, left no part of the subject untouched, nor any argument of his opponents unrefuted. My right hon. Friend established beyond the possibility of contradiction, that the progress which we had made, and were making, towards the removal of restrictions upon commerce must be regarded as successful—that all the relaxations which we had adopted had in every instance been attended with benefits, and produced results favourable to the comfort and hap- 45 piness of the community. But before I enter into the question itself, I should be glad to respond to a call which has been made upon me to give some personal explanations, and to state distinctly the part which I have taken in the transactions which have led to placing the Government in the situation in which we now stand. It has been supposed that upon this question I differ from my Colleagues in office; and it has been openly communicated through the ordinary channels of public information that I do so differ; but this, I think, will be proved to be as illusory as the arguments which have been urged against the measure itself. The course which I took I shall beg permission to state to the House as briefly as possible. In the middle of October last an opinion began to prevail in the public mind that a disease affecting the potato crop, had unfortunately extended itself throughout many parts of the country. On the 1st of November, the responsible advisers of the Crown were assembled for the purpose of considering the circumstances of the country. The House has been already informed by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government that he then proposed to us two separate measures, either to open the ports by an Order in Council, or to call Parliament together for the purpose of immediately effecting that object by means of a legislative enactment. Upon both those propositions I differed from my right hon. Friend. I felt then, as I do now, exceedingly averse from any direct interference of the Government with the existing law. It appears to me that in all cases an interference of the Crown to suspend the operation of law must be hazardous and dangerous, unless there be an immediate, evident, and urgent necessity. Conceiving, then, that the state of Ireland did not come within this description—conceiving at that time that the case was not one which demanded an immediate course of action, and that there was no actual urgency, I certainly thought that it was not expedient by an Order in Council to open the ports for the admission of foreign corn. In forming that opinion, there was one point which I could not put out of consideration, namely, that we were not called upon to decide merely what should be the course taken at the moment respecting the Corn Laws. I could not conceal from myself the fact that the step which we were called upon to take, was one which must lead to a revision of the Corn Laws. I 46 know it has been stated that a suspension of the law does not necessarily lead to the consequence to which I have referred. In earlier periods of the history of the Corn Laws the ports have been opened by an Order in Council without those injurious effects upon trade which had been anticipated; or without a change of the general law, at the time to which I am now referring. But the circumstances of those times were different: the sliding-scale of corn duties had not been established. It was the recommendation of that scale, that it readily adapted itself to the necessities of the country; that in a period of plenty it restricted the influx of foreign corn, and in a time of scarcity furnished facility for importation without interference on the part of the Government—an interference which had been on former occasions found most inconvenient. I felt that the sliding-scale, if good for anything, superseded the necessity of departing from principles, or of dispensing with the existing law for the purpose of letting in foreign grain. I considered suspension as neither more nor less than as an abrogation of the Corn Laws; and that circumstance was with me an additional argument for not effecting the object in view by means of an Order in Council. I considered that it would not be giving the corn question fair play to prejudge, by premature suspension, the continuance of the existing law, Such a step was calculated to excite the feelings and passions of the great body of the community previous to the moment when Parliament would be called to decide for or against those laws, and thus to prejudice a fair discussion. For these reasons, therefore, I gave my opinion against the admission of foreign corn into the country through the medium of an Order in Council. But my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government proposed an alternative; the immediate assembling of Parliament for the purpose of effecting the object of opening the ports by a legal enactment. To that proposition I equally offered an objection; but my objection rested on a different ground. The proposition was submitted on the 1st of November. At that period, no doubt, the Members of the Cabinet had, from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, accounts of widely-spread apprehensions as to an extensive failure in the potato crop of Ireland. On the other hand, however, there were opinions of others resting on what was considered respectable authority, that 47 the failure of the crop had not reached that extent which was calculated to give any colour of truth to the alarm which appeared to be entertained. At that period, moreover, the potato crop in Ireland had not been generally dug, and there was therefore no means of ascertaining by actual experiment, whether the apprehensions by which the public mind was disquieted were likely to lead to the extensive results which some persons were inclined to believe would be realized. I felt that with this defective information as to the extent of the calamity which appeared to be coming upon Ireland, it was highly probable that there might be so prevalent a doubt on the minds of a very large class, both in and out of this House, with respect to the actual extent of the disaster, as to render exceedingly unlikely that general concurrence to the proposed measure of acting on the Corn Laws by the means of a legislative enactment which was so essentially necessary to the securing successful results. I deemed it highly desirable that time should be afforded for further investigation, with a view to ascertain whether there were sufficient grounds for the apprehensions by which the country was beginning to be so seriously alarmed. I was anxious that it should be distinctly ascertained whether it were likely that these apprehensions would be realized; for I felt that in the event of our being able to show that the extent of the misfortune which impended over Ireland was anything like what we have now ascertained it to be, by authority which I regret to say, admits not of a shadow of doubt—I say I felt that, in the event of our being able to lay that as the true state of affairs before the public, there could be little doubt of our securing a more general concurrence in support of some measure for the immediate suspension and subsequent alteration of the Corn Laws, than we could hope to command if we proceeded at once to the discussion, provided only with information which, though unquestionably of an alarming character, was, notwithstanding, in many respects, defective and incomplete. For these reasons I gave my voice against the immediate assembling of Parliament. I may have been wrong, I may have committed an error of judgment, but I have no hesitation in asserting that I acted throughout in conformity with what I believed to be the best. It appeared to me that the danger with which we had to deal was one which could not be experienced at all events until an early period of the spring; 48 and I confess I felt great anxiety that as large a number of hon. Gentlemen as possible should be induced by the power of undisputed evidence to concur in acknowledging the necessity which existed; it being in my view most desirable that the measures to be adopted should be sanctioned by a very large proportion of the Members of this House, and supported unequivocally by public opinion out of doors. I, therefore, preferred delay in the commencement of our operations, in order that, when they were commenced, they might be carried with a weight and an authority which would put an end to cavil and opposition. I may be told that, in opposing the Order in Council, I displayed a want of that boldness which a Minister ought to exhibit in dealing with great public emergencies. I may be told that I was wanting in that sagacity which ought to have enabled me to comprehend the actual extent of the calamity long before it had approached. I may be told, also, that I was yet more deficient in a knowledge of the feelings and opinions of those Friends who sit at the same side of the House with me; for that I should have known that they would at once have consented to the suspension of the Corn Laws if the question had been only put to them. I may, I say, have been in error in all these respects; but the error, if it be an error, was only one of judgment. To my own conscience I stand acquitted of any higher offence; and I hesitate not to assert, that after the lapse of the period which has since intervened, and after calmly reflecting on the course I have taken, and the advice I have given, I cannot, on review of the whole transaction, bring myself to believe, that if the case were again to be presented to me in the shape in which it then stood, I should be justified in pursuing a different course from that which I then adopted. After these differences in the Government, it was agreed to postpone the further consideration of the subject for a limited period, in order that more extensive information might be obtained. That further period did most unquestionably bring with it the strongest possible arguments for a change of opinion. Many days did not elapse before we were in possession of the Report of the Commissioners who had been sent to Ireland, detailing their views of the extent of the potato disease, and the limited amount of the crop on which it was possible to calculate with reference to next year. The 49 statement contained in the Report of these Commissioners was confirmed by actual experience when the crop came to be dug up; and it was then put beyond all question that to such an extent had the potato plague spread, that in some districts of the country one-half of the crop was lost, in others one-third, in others three-fourths. Nor was this the full extent of the calamity; for there was a general feeling, and one which I believe was completely warranted by the fact, that in some portions of Ireland the preservation of any part of the crop, however minute, depended altogether upon the wetness or fairness of the weather afterwards. When these facts were known, the case was relieved from its difficulties; and, although I was well aware, and felt most deeply that the adoption by us of the course which my right hon. Friend has now proposed to you, would be attended by the dissolution of party connexions, and that it would cause my separation from many of those with whom for many years it has been my pride to act, and whom, I trust, I may still be permitted to call my hon. Friends—I say, although I felt that this must be the inevitable consequence of the measure, I also felt that there were imposed upon me, by my position as Minister, other and higher duties paramount to the feelings of party attachment; and being convinced that the alteration of the Corn Laws had now become a question of absolute necessity, I was of opinion that under all the circumstances of the case those laws ought to undergo a change. At the same time, however, I felt that the change ought to be effected by others than myself and my right hon. Friends with whom I was associated in office; and entertaining that opinion, I cordially concurred in the resignation of our charge into the hands of persons who, from their longer maintenance of the opinions which we then entertained, were better fitted to discharge the duty, and had perhaps a better chance of carrying the contemplated measure into operation. And here permit me to assure the House, with the most unaffected sincerity, that when I tendered to Her Majesty my resignation of office, I had not the remotest conception that I should have ever to deal with this question in any other capacity than as a private Member of Parliament. If any hon. Gentleman should be inclined to question this assertion, I am prepared to sustain it by testimony which cannot be resisted. I am prepared to prove, by evidence of the most 50 incontestable character, that when I resigned my office, the resumption of it at a subsequent period never entered into my contemplation. But when it was discovered that the noble Lord the Member for London found it impossible to construct a Cabinet with satisfaction to himself, the question arose whether I should decline to accept office in a Government of which my right hon. Friend was again to be the head. Sir, I know of no principle on which it would be possible to justify a refusal. I had in the first instance doubted as to the exact time at which the great move should be taken, and as to the particular measure which ought to be proposed; but I had subsequently seen sufficient to convince me of the necessity of an alteration in the Corn Laws, and I was perfectly prepared, as a private Member, to give the sanction of my vote to that course of policy which, under all the circumstances of the case, I considered most conducive to the interests of the country. Therefore, being fully prepared to maintain in my private capacity the opinions which I now advocate as a Minister, I felt that there was nothing against honour, or duty, in my resumption of the situation which I at present occupy. That is, in a few words, a brief history of the transaction as far as I am concerned. I trust this explanation will satisfy my Friend the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool; and that he will understand that, although I may have had doubts at first as to the particular period at which, and the particular mode in which, Her Majesty's Ministers ought to have introduced the measures which they considered necessary, I have come at length to the deliberate conclusion that I am best consulting the interests of the country by adopting the course which I am now pursuing. A noble Lord, a friend of mine, who has spoken in the course of this debate, charges me with acting in a manner inconsistent with my duty in not tendering a resignation of my seat in Parliament to my constituents; and he calls on me to make some explanation of the fact that I still remain here as Representative of the University of Cambridge. Now, Sir, I think it right to state that the views I take of the duties of a representative differ very materially from those which have been expressed by the noble Lord. I do not pretend to say that if hon. Gentlemen, at the period of their election, think fit to pledge themselves, under all conceivable circumstances, to maintain parti- 51 cular laws, and to take particular views of certain specified questions, they may not take upon themselves an obligation which they are bound in all honour to redeem, and which renders it imperative on them to resign their seats if they see grounds for departing from those pledges; but I am not one of those who are in this position. In offering myself as a representative to my constituency, I gave no pledge as to the Corn Law; I was asked for none. I may have stated to them in general terms my views on particular questions, if they happened to come under discussion; but I have ever reserved to myself, in the most unequivocal manner, the fullest right to adopt, in reference to every question that may be deliberated upon in this House, that course — whatever it may be—which in my conscience I believe to be most conducive to the general interests of the community; and however strongly an opposite course may be sanctioned by some great examples, however conformable it may be to the views of certain hon. Gentlemen who have pledged themselves at the hustings—I cannot admit that it is the duty of a representative who happens to act in opposition to the feelings of some portion of his constituents on a particular question, to make that difference the ground for tendering his resignation, or even for acquiescing in a demand that he should do so. I gave no pledges whatsoever with respect to the Corn Laws on any of the occasions on which I addressed myself to my constituents. I never expressed that permanent and unqualified adherence to existing laws which some hon. Members around me appear to have expressed when they were elected; and upon these grounds I think that I should be abdicating the character of a representative altogether—that I should be depriving myself of the capacity of being useful to any class in the community if I were, by my professions or my example, to give countenance to the idea that it is the duty of a representative, when he differs from his constituents on any point, to give back into their hands the trust that has been reposed in him. Thus much, Sir, I have said on matters personal to myself. I have to apologize to the House for having trespassed at such length on their time and attention by matters having reference to myself; but I felt that I was called on to say something in explanation, and having done so I now proceed to address myself to the consideration of the question 52 more immediately before us. That question is one which in my opinion can be comprised within a very narrow compass. It is simply whether you will continue to progress in the course which for some years past you have pursued in the relaxation of protective duties, or whether you will be content, not merely to remain stationary where you are, but to retrograde on the path which, after full and mature consideration, you have entered. I am well aware, that in the course of this debate many hon. Members who have supported the Government up to this period in their relaxing policy, maintain that we have now arrived at that particular point in the withdrawal of protection from native industry at which it is essential that we should stop. They contend that we ought not to advance beyond it, because we cannot do so without injuring interests which we ought to protect, and because they think that in remaining where we are, we are doing what they believe to be just to all parties. But when I consider the arguments of some of my Friends at this side of the House—when I hear one hon. Member declare that as regards the Corn Laws he thinks they ought to be suspended at once, and when I find that that sentiment is cheered in such a manner as would seem to show that it met with very considerable approval — when I hear other Gentlemen admitting that the Corn Laws may be modified after a certain fashion — when I see that some hon. Members advance a step further, and some not quite so far, on this question—when, I say, I see and hear all this, it appears to me that the great principle for which we are contending is conceded upon all hands; and I certainly think that those Gentlemen will find it difficult to account for the reasons why, with such professions and admissions on their lips, they resist, as they are resisting, the Motion now before the House. I could have understood them if they had proposed some modification of the Corn Laws, or if they were prepared with some amendment after getting into Committee. That would have been a natural and rational course. That would have been the proper time and mode to consider the measure. But they have adopted the course which precludes all consideration whatsoever of that kind. Whatever they may be in words, in actions they are against us. They refuse as much to suspend as to abrogate the Corn Laws. They have taken a step from which no other results can come, but to remain just 53 as we are, without remedy for the existing evil, which they admit to be great—without a remedy for a possible future evil which may be yet more dreadful—and without the means of making that progress in the coure we have undertaken which is essential for the welfare of this country. Sir, in support of the views which the Government take in support of this question, we have appealed, and I think in the opinion of the country successfully appealed, to the results of experience, as attesting the progress which the country has made in opulence and power since the protective system has been relaxed. That progress has been attempted to be denied by certain hon. Members who are adverse to free trade. They have referred to figures and calculations in support of their position, that no beneficial consequences have resulted from the relaxation of the protective system; but I think I am warranted in saying, that these figures and calculations have proved an utter failure. ["No, no."] Well, I think they have. I think they have been most triumphantly overthrown by my Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade. The statement made by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was this, that it could not be shown that in the case of anyone of all the articles affected by the recent reductions of the protective system, anything had resulted from the relaxation but increased activity to the trade and improvement to the industry of the country. This was the proposition that was advanced; and how was it refuted? After some delay, one hon. Gentleman, the Member for Birmingham, pointed to the article of spelter or zinc; but the Vice President of the Board of Trade met the assertions of the Member for Birmingham, and settled spelter as everything else had been settled; for he showed that though the home producer of the article might have had some diminution of profit, the relaxation of the protective duty led to the introduction of a foreign raw material, the manufacture of which opened a new source of industry, and afforded increased employment to a vast number of the poorer classes in this country. An hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Liddell) yesterday evening thought it necessary to complain of the hardship which those free-trade measures would inflict upon the shipping interests. He told us that whatever might be its effect upon other interests, the welfare of the shipping interests was inseparably identified with the preservation of the protective 54 system; and he did not seem willing to admit that the shipowners had derived any benefit whatever from the relaxations that had already taken place, or were likely to realize any from the reductions now in contemplation. I must say, Sir, as my hon. Friend at the head of the Government has already said, that this opposition to freedom of commercial intercourse on the part of the shipping interests, is one which greatly excites my surprise. I should have thought that a system of commercial intercourse which leads to a great increase of exports and imports, would have suggested itself to the mind of every thinking man as one calculated to increase the shipping by means of which these imports and exports were carried; and that it would be as clear as light, that in proportion as commercial intercourse extends, in the same proportion would your shipping interest be benefited; and that this additional benefit would also be realized—that by abundant commerce in the times of peace, we should provide ample means of defensive or offensive hostility in the event of war. This I ever regarded as the natural result of free commercial intercourse, as far as the shipping interests were concerned; and I confess that no one could be more surprised than I at finding opposition on the part of the shipping interests to the propositions of the Government. But I deny that the shipping interests have been injuriously affected by the relaxation of protective duties. I can prove the contrary to be the fact. In the year 1842 the tonnage of British vessels entering inwards amounted to 2,600,000 tons. In the year 1845 it was 3,669,000 tons, showing an increase consequent on the relaxation of protection duties of one million of tons in that period. [An hon. MEMBER: The Chinese trade.] Making every allowance for the increase of the Chinese trade, and every other circumstance, with every deduction, there will be found to be a large increase in the tonnage. Now my hon. Friend the Member for the county of Durham insists that injurious effects are likely to result to the timber trade from the proposed measures; and that injury has resulted from the relaxations which have already taken place. But let us come to figures. Let us consider what has been the quantity of shipping engaged in the Baltic trade within the last few years. In the year 1842 the number of ships engaged in that trade was 3,519; their tonnage was six hundred and thirteen 55 thousand eight hundred and nine; in the year 1844 the number was 4,424, and their tonnage eight hundred and eighteen thousand four hundred and forty tons; showing an increase of nearly 1,000 ships, and 200,000 tons. My hon. Friend has said that the increase of British shipping in the Baltic bears no proportion to the foreign ships that are engaged in the same trade, and, therefore, that the removal of the duty would throw into the hands of foreigners a greater extent of trade than we derived ourselves from the same source. I admit that it is the necessary consequence of the navigation law itself, that the foreigner can introduce, if he pleases, the produce of his country in the shipping of his own nation. But there is another reason for the increase of foreign shipping in the Baltic trade, which the measure before the House is calculated to remove; and if my hon. Friend deems it expedient to give encouragement to British shipping in the Baltic, there is no means by which he can do it more effectually than by passing the measure now before the House. Sir, if the hon. Gentleman had looked to the proportion of shipping employed in the conveyance of corn under the system of the Corn Laws—when, the demand being sudden, it must come immediately from the country where the produce is, in the ships that are to be had on the spot, and cannot wait to be introduced in ships which come from this country, carrying out a cargo to bring back a cargo in return—if he looked to the disproportion in that particular branch of trade between the British and foreign shipping employed, he would see that he could not give a better chance of employment to British shipowners, than by passing the measure now before the House. It appears by the returns of corn-laden ships that pass through the Sound, that there are 1,138 foreign ships, and only 501 British—a disproportion exceeding that which prevails in the ordinary course of trade, and only to be accounted for by the circumstance I have stated. Then, if my hon. Friend wishes to restore the employment of British shipping, let him join with us in doing that which, by giving more freedom in commercial intercourse with those particular ports, and in an article which will not be suddenly sent for, but in a regular article of trade—let him join us in passing that measure, and his object will be accomplished. But then, said my hon. Friend, this diminution of duty on Baltic timber will necessarily 56 affect the shipping interests as regards your Canadian provinces, and tend to injure those provinces which you ought to protect. I will tell my hon. Friend, that in making that statement he falls into an error which is not uncommon with those who argue in favour of protection in respect to commercial measures. They think that an advantage on one side is sure to produce a disadvantage on the other; whereas the converse of the proposition is more near the fact; for by increasing the import of an article into a country, instead of inflicting an injury upon the home produce, you confer a benefit on it. I have already referred to the state of our trade in the Baltic, in 1842 and 1844; and now let us see what is the state of the shipping trade in those years in the British North American Colonies. In 1842, 1,550 ships were cleared out: in 1844, 2,844 ships were cleared out, with a tonnage, in the former case, of 540,000, and in the latter of 789,000. Can there be any more conclusive evidence than this affords, that the reduction of the duty on foreign commodities does not injuriously affect the colonial trade, or the interests of the British shipowners connected with it? But this does not rest on my statement. There was a Committee last year in which this very question incidentally arose; and Mr. Chapman, a gentleman of great knowledge and of extensive interest in the trade of shipping, then stated the benefits which the shipping interest had derived from the operation of the Tariff, of which the success was doubted at the time it passed. He was asked—Is it not the fact, that it is only since freights were not remunerative that the attention of shipowners has been directed to obtaining relief from any quarter they could?And he said—The fact is, that until Sir Robert Peel, by the new Tariff, allowed us to get foreign provisions out of bond, the competition we had to maintain against foreigners was most unfair: that made a difference of 30 per cent. upon those provisions at once. Previously it was like a penalty hanging over us, and a premium to the foreigner.And yet, if there were one point upon which more anxiety was expressed in particular quarters than another, it was the admission of provisions which would be brought into competition with your produce; but the exclusion of which had, as it appeared, been in fact, so unfavourable to British trade as to give to the foreigner a premium of 30 per cent. Mr. Chapman was then asked—Has that relaxation of the law, by which vessels 57 going abroad can provision out of bond, been very useful to the shipping?—Of the greatest possible consequence; it makes just the difference, I believe, between a loss or no loss upon sailing the ship, as they are obliged to do, because they are compelled to have apprentices, and the apprentices must be maintained; and the real fact is, that they often send ships to sea only to save themselves being out of pocket.His evidence was further continued, and he was asked—Are we to understand from what you have stated, and from the trade in guano, the shipping have not suffered so much as they did the three preceding years?His answer was—Yes, because the freights are becoming better all over the world. There is one exception, I believe. In the Canada trade they got from 30s. to 38s. and 40s.; that has been the rise since last year.And he says—If you will give me 38s. a load for yellow pine for ten years to come, I will contract to supply you with any amount of tonnage.When therefore my hon Friend speaks of those affected by the late change, and as likely to be affected by the future change, he proceeds only upon the statement of individuals who, embarking in the shipping trade when it was more costly than at present, find it difficult to derive that return from their capital which they have a right to expect; I admit that there were shipowners at the time of the reduction of duty upon Baltic timber upon whom it necessarily had an injurious effect. Ships built before the reduction, were built at an enormously enhanced expense, in consequence of the duty on timber, necessarily imposed upon them; and though my hon. Friend said that that statement was erroneous, and that the Baltic timber was not required for the making of ships, my hon. Friend must recollect that the duty on Baltic timber enhanced in precisely the same proportion the value and price of British oak with which ships were built, and did indirectly add to the price of building ships nearly or exactly to the same extent as if built from timber brought from the Baltic. I think, therefore, it is probable that gentlemen who have built ships of those expensive materials find it difficult to compete with those who have built ships since then of cheaper materials. But, if I may compare great things with small, they stand precisely in the situation of those innkeepers on the north road, who are ruined because the turnpike roads no longer bring customers to their houses, the railways affording a better mode of conveyance. But, says another hon. Friend, 58 "Why, what an injury you are about to commit on Canada, whom you patronized two Sessions ago, and to whom you gave the advantage of being considered on the same footing as the mother country!" But has Canada any right to complain that you are now going to admit foreign corn in competition with the corn of Canada. I will stand up as high as any man for the purpose of preserving our colonial connexion, and of doing for the Colonies everything that is just, equitable, and right, and likely to conduce to their ultimate benefit; but if in dealing with the Colonies you place their produce on the same footing as the produce of your own country, they have no right to complain, if, for the general benefit, you place in competition with them the same foreign commodities which you place in competition with those of your own country; and therefore, if they complain that their advantages are diminished, my answer is, "You stand on the same footing as the mother country; you share her advantages, and you must also share the inconveniences, if they exist, with her; but you have no right to complain." Now, it has been a favourite argument with hon. Gentlemen, in discussing this question, and it is always a favourite mode of dealing with a subject when arguments cannot be readily adduced against it, to draw a picture of the extravagant consequences likely to result from it. We have been told, therefore, that if free trade be permitted to one article, it must be the same to all; that there should be no duty on tea, tobacco, or other articles, because they say that that interferes with the course of free trade. But I beg to state that, in adopting those principles which are promulgated by the Government, I do not adopt extreme opinions either on the one side or the other. I admit that, all duties, whether they be raised for taxation or otherwise, are impediments to trade, and I admit that, in many instances, they may indirectly operate as protection; for it is impossible, under any financial system, however carefully regulated, to avoid the effect of a revenue duty in some instances being a duty of protection; and therefore, when I advocate free trade, I put in my claim decidedly to retain those duties which are essential for revenue purposes; to retain those restrictive duties which are essential for preserving public morals; and to retain those duties which may be necessary occasionally for the public safety. And in doing so, I do not conceive that I am in the least de- 59 gree departing from the legitimate application of the principles of free trade to a society constituted as ours is; I view freedom of trade in the same light as I view civil liberty. The liberty of the subject must necessarily be under some restraint if he continues to live in a state of society; but you are not to take any restrictions which may be imposed upon that liberty as the law by which your conduct is to be regulated. It is an exception from the general rule, which it may be desirable to adopt, and you may find it indispensably necessary to maintain it upon one of the grounds I have stated—either for revenue or national safety, or, what is more important than all, for the purpose of national morality. The greater part of the argument on the present question has turned upon the probable effect the repeal of the Corn Laws is likely to have upon the agricultural interest. Hon. Gentlemen have supposed that by introducing competition with the agriculture of this country, we are likely to be overwhelmed with foreign produce, and that the agriculturist is likely to lose his fair reward. We have heard various points argued in the course of this debate; but I will content myself merely with calling the attention of the House to two cases in which we have made a fair trial of what is the effect of restriction upon agriculture, and what is the effect of introducing competition with respect to it; and from the results of these two experiments which history furnishes, I think I can show in the strongest manner the advantages which competition produces to the country which fully admits it. It is, perhaps, known to the House, that a considerable number of years since, as long ago as the reign of Charles II., the agricultural interest of this country entertained very similar opinions to those which have been professed by individuals connected with that interest at the present moment, and thought they were deeply affected by the importation of produce which came into competition with their own. At that time the object of alarm was Ireland. It was thought that Ireland, where labour was cheap, the soil fertile, the climate favourable, and where there was every inducement to exertion, might by competition overwhelm the industry of this country, and lead to the ruin of the agriculturist here; and the Parliament of that day thought fit to pass a law for preventing the importation of cattle from Ireland. Now, it was curious to observe what arguments were used at 60 that period when this disposition prevailed to give to this country the entire monopoly of cattle. History tells us, as to the proceedings in the House of Commons—There was a great rumour, rather than a complaint, of the great damage the kingdom sustained from the importation of Irish cattle, which were bred there for nothing, and transported for little, and might well undersell all the cattle here; and hence the breed of cattle would be totally given over, and thereby the land yield no rent proportionally to what it ever had done, and that this could only be remedied by a very strict Act of Parliament to forbid the importation.However, there were some Members of the agricultural interest who did not concur in those views, for Lord Clarendon tells us—Very many Members of several counties desired that their counties might not undergo any damage for the benefit of other individual places. They professed that their counties had no land bad enough to breed, and that their great traffic consisted in buying the cattle, making them fat, and upon this they paid their rent; and this appeared to be the case of many counties in England.But the voices of those Gentlemen had little weight in the House of Commons. The Bill was carried with almost universal assent, and taken up to the House of Lords, and the House shall hear the reception it met with in the Upper House:—In the Lords, a marvellous keen resolution appeared to use all expedition in passing it, and I must remark upon the singular coincidence, that the Duke of Buckingham appeared at the head of those who favoured the Bill with a marvellous concernment; and at the time appointed for the debate of it, contrary to his custom of coming to the House, indeed of not rising till eleven o'clock, and seldom staying above a quarter of an hour, except upon some business he concerned himself in, he was always present from the first thing in the morning, and stayed till the last at night, for the debate often held from the morning till four o'clock in the afternoon, and sometimes till candles were brought it. It was urged that, if the Bill did not pass, all the rents in Ireland would rise in a vast proportion, and those in England fall as much.In consequence of this statement two noble Lords, one an English proprietor and the other an Irish, fought a duel by way of settling the question. And seven years afterwards a distinguished man in this country—an ancestor of the noble Lord whom I see opposite (Sir W. Temple)—in writing a letter to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1673, when this law, which had been pressed forward so anxiously, had been in operation seven years, said—When the passage is open, land will be turned most to feed cattle; when shut, to sheep, as it is at present; though I am of opinion it cannot last, because this Act seems to have been carried on rather by the interest of particular counties in 61 England than by that of the whole, which, in my opinion, must evidently be a loser by it. For first, the freight of all cattle that are brought over, being in English vessels, was so much clear gain to England. The trade of hides and tallow, or else of leather, was mightily advanced in England. Where the Irish sell, there will they be sure to buy too; and all the foreign merchandize which they had before from Bristol, Chester, and London, they will have in time from Rouen, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and the Straits. As for the cause of the decay of rents in England, which was made the occasion of that Act, that proceeded not from the importation of Irish cattle. Besides, the rents have been far from increasing since.The Bill, therefore, which was, by excluding the importation of cattle from Ireland, to have kept up the rents of England, is proved, after seven years' experience, by one most capable to judge—by a man of the most admirable judgment and most conversant with the affairs of England and Ireland, to have failed in its object, and to have caused rather a diminution than increase of rents. But there is a period in later times which shows, on the contrary, that the admission of competition contributes to the prosperity of agriculture. It is perfectly well known, that, up to the period of the Union, Ireland was, as to the importation of corn into this country, treated as a foreign country. In 1800 and 1801, there were 3,000 quarters of Irish corn imported in the one year, and 2,500 in the other; but after the Union, and after a free trade of corn was established between Ireland and this country, the corn of Ireland was at once admitted to the markets of this country, in competition with corn grown by the agriculturists here; and we must bear in mind that at that particular period the population of England amounted to something short of 11,000,000 souls, and the quantity of corn raised in England was proportionate to the population which at that time existed in it. Ireland rapidly sent large and annually increasing quantities of corn for consumption of the people here, and in the course of a few years she imported at first 460,000 quarters per annum; and ultimately the corn sent annually to England from Ireland amounted to between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 quarters. Why, if there were any force in the arguments that agriculture would be ruined by the importation of corn from countries where labour is cheap, the land fertile, and where there is great room for improvement—why had they not weight, as applied to the admission into England, of corn from Ireland, which enjoyed all those peculiar advantages? And if Eng- 62 land,with a population of 11,000,000, could sustain the admission to that extent of corn from Ireland, not only without injury, but, as I will show you, to the great improvement of its own agriculture; what fear have we now, when the population of the United Kingdom amounts to 27,000,000, that any practicable importation from abroad can exceed, in proportion to the population, the quantity that we previously admitted from Ireland, or can produce an effect upon the agriculture of this country more prejudicial, or, I ought to say, less beneficial, than that which the Irish importation has produced? It is from the time of the Union that we may date our improvements in agriculture, and the stimulus that has been given to British industry. In the ten years subsequent to the admission of Irish corn, a greater number of Enclosure Bills were introduced into this House than at any previous or subsequent period. The gentlemen of England immediately paid great attention to the extension of agriculture, and to the application of science to its improvement. We find that the price of corn in England was not reduced by the importations that took place from Ireland; but that agricultural prosperity was growing from year to year. If, therefore, as I said before, upon the limited field into which these large importations of Irish corn were introduced, you find no sensible effect to the injury of the agriculture of this country—that competition led to industry and permanent improvement—how can you argue that a small introduction of corn from the Continent more limited in amount in proportion to the present population, will produce those disastrous effects which the hon. Gentlemen on my right are so fond of predicting? Another circumstance with respect to the agriculture of the two countries strikes me as of importance. I think no man present, whatever his attachment to the sister country may be, will deny that the agriculture of that country, as compared with the agriculture of this, is deficient in the extreme. Yet, to which country has competition been most stringently applied? England has received corn from Ireland—a country where the soil is fertile, wages low, and taxation trifling. Ireland has imported no corn, because her ports have been sealed against importation; and the consequence is, that from the want of competition, agriculture in Ireland has remained in much the same state that it was in when permission was obtained for the introduction of its corn into the English market; 63 while competition, thus denied to Ireland, has been beneficial to England. My hon. Friend dreads the competition of any foreign country with Ireland. I think that what I have said will satisfy him, that, by the application of the same principles to the sister country the same effects might be expected; and that, so far from reducing the value of land and the amount of employment for the poor, a stimulus will be created there by the increased demand which an extended intercourse with foreign countries will necessarily give. It will produce there, as in England, greater employment in agriculture, and the establishment of manufactories to meet the wants of the people. It has been said, and said truly, by my hon. Friend, that the home market is the most valuable market. But the very object and effect of the proposed change is to enhance prices in that market; and, so far from the agriculturist being influenced by jealousy, he is in my view of the question of all men the individual who should most rejoice in that extension of commercial intercourse which, adding to the wealth of the general body of the community, gives him the richest customer for the produce he has to sell. I will refer to one other topic which has formed a larger proportion of this debate than any other; I mean those different arguments with respect to the inconsistency of public men. They have formed the main staple of the arguments of hon. Gentlemen; and whenever the word has been used, it has never failed to elicit their cheers. I am as strong an advocate for consistency as any man. But, Sir, shall I be told that consistency consists in adhering to a particular line upon a subject which is subject to variation with the altered state of society from time to time? Am I to be told that if I in one particular year adopt a measure and give my assent to it, because at the time I believe it to be a proper one, I then am not at any subsequent period, whatever alteration may take place in the circumstances of the country, in the wants of the population, in the deficiency of their means of being fed, at liberty to depart from the line which I have already supported? I say that, in maintaining such opinions, you place consistency on a ground which is not tenable, and, so far from supporting the consistency of public men, you do more, by placing it on a wrong basis, to damage it than otherwise. Who is there among hon. Gentlemen who has been, in their sense, consistent upon the Corn 64 Law? I know of no public man for many years past, not excepting Mr. Huskisson, Lord Brougham, and Lord Liverpool, who has not entertained different opinions at different times. And now let me ask, are the hon. Gentlemen on my right themselves agreed upon the question? Are they prepared to maintain the principle that constancy and adherence to a particular line are to be the rule by which the virtue of public men is to be tested? Why, even the hon. Member for Northamptonshire says, "I never imagined that these laws would be permanent." He admits that the time may come when they may be changed. I would ask my hon. Friend, when is the time at which he thinks it will not be inconsistent to change? When are these Corn Laws to be altered or abrogated, as he thinks they must be? When a Gentleman tells me that he does not imagine certain duties are to be permanent, it is clear that he does contemplate a change at some time or other. I ask him, then, to show me the period when he will be prepared to advocate the repeal of the duty on corn? Will he tell me the time when that repeal can be effected with less injury to society at large, or with greater advantage to the general body of the community? Or will he show the time when resistance to the repeal of the Corn Law can be less effectively maintained, or lead to less dangerous consequences? The question at issue between us is merely a question of time. I think the present the most important period for us to lay hold of for the purpose. We have reached a period when there is great distress from the failure of a particular crop; we are arrived at a moment when not only do we contemplate the effects of the failure of the present potato crop, but we look forward to the consequences of a failure in future years, probably leading to the substitution of a diet of corn instead of potatoes. For although the noble Lord the Member for Staffordshire has very kindly advertised the potatoes grown by Mr. Chapman in his garden at Isleworth, from diseased Irish potatoes, I must say that more extensive experiments have been made by gardeners, scientific men, and others, and the results have been anything but satisfactory. I have seen, Sir, accounts from America, where this disease has prevailed for three consecutive years. It was observed in the first instance in a slight degree. In the second year it came with aggravated force. In this year in which we are now speaking the 65 destruction of the crop in North America is equal to that in many parts of Ireland. What has happened in other countries may also happen in this; and in the prospect of the continuance of this disease, is it not prudent and wise to take the earliest opportunity for providing increased provision for the wants of the people? It is not only that the disease prevails in England and in Ireland, but there is the apprehension of a subsequent prevalence of the disease in other countries; and if it should continue, there will be a demand for corn in those countries beyond that of the present moment, and during the same period that we shall have an increased demand also; and the probability will rather be that we shall not get that supply which we shall necessarily require under any circumstances, than that we shall have the inundation of corn which some hon. Gentlemen fear. Has the House ever considered the situation in which this country stands at this moment in regard to the extent to which its population is growing every day? Have they calculated that the addition to the population made every year requires no less than from 100,000 to 120,000 additional acres of wheat to be grown every year, to meet their wants? If we cannot add this extent of land (in size equal to a county) every year, must we not look abroad for aid; and do not circumstances loudly call upon us to make provision in time for the wants that are coming upon us? I ask hon. Gentlemen, will they wait until the time of distress, famine, and mortality arrives, before they make a settlement of this question? and will they then be able to settle it satisfactorily to their own minds, or in such a way as to produce a good effect upon the minds of those who require the change, in order to be supplied with food? For myself, I must say that this is the time at which the repeal of the Corn Laws ought to be effected, and the question settled; by doing it now we shall effectually provide for the happiness of the people, and excite a spirit of emulation and enterprise which must result in general good. It is not necessary for me to go into all the objections of the hon. Gentlemen who oppose this measure. I am surprised that so many of my hon. Friends should express themselves in terms of such strong disapprobation of the conduct of her Majesty's Government. I regret that some of those for whom I have the greatest respect should have expressed themselves hostile, 66 not merely to the measure, but to the individuals by whom it is propounded. I do not presume or intend to retort upon any hon. Gentleman the expressions used and applied to us. But my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, in a speech which, he will permit me to state, contains far more of eloquent declamation and attack upon my right hon. Friend, than of argument upon the subject, stated that it was the duty of an independent Member of the House to maintain what he believed to be a right opinion, independent of the men by whom any measure may be brought forward. I allow, in the fullest terms, the propriety of the right hon. Gentleman retaining to himself that right. I only ask him to allow the Ministers of the Crown the same latitude of acting upon the principles they believe to be right, independently of those by whom their measures may be opposed. I ask him if he himself thinks that he is not liable to censure while acting upon principles which he believes to be right, that he will at least allow others to pursue the same course without bestowing upon them those opprobrious epithets he has applied to them? The right hon. Gentleman told us that we were unstable in mind. He says that we are infirm of purpose, and calls us political tergiversators. My right hon. Friend told us that we were "Cabinet jugglers," and made use of an observation which was not very kind, courteous, or just, and one which I regret the more, as it affects the character and reputation of my right hon. Friends, rather than that it is applicable to any part I have had in the the proceedings of the Government. The House has had laid before them distinctly the whole of the transactions of the Government in their resignation of office and their return to it; and I believe, with the exception of my right hon. Friend, there is not a man in the House who would believe there was any but the utmost openness and sincerity in those transactions. There was no deception—none of that political jugglery which the right hon. Gentlemen imputes to us. My only regret is, that the public at large, viewing the hasty, inconsiderate manner in which my right hon. Friend has given judgment on this occasion, may be misled into the belief that he wants that candour and calm consideration of evidence which I believe he is accustomed to display elsewhere, and which, certainly, is most becoming in one filling his high judicial office. I may be called a 67 coward or a political tergiversator. I admit that I was afraid to maintain party connexions in opposition to the public interest. I was afraid to risk the subsistence of a nation in deference to the opinions of a party. If that was cowardice, I am guilty of that cowardice, and I am not ashamed to avow it. I may be called a political tergiversator. But if I have turned my back upon my political friends, it has been only to protect them from the consequences of their want of foresight. Seeing that there was famine in Ireland ahead, and fearing the effect of the reaction upon the interests of this country, I was not ashamed to turn a bold front to the threatening dangers, though in doing so I may have turned my back on some of those with whom I was before associated. I tell my hon. Friends, that though I painfully feel the loss of their good opinion upon matters connected with politics, I shall ever remember with satisfaction the periods when we were formerly connected; and I trust that when their judgment shall have had time to cool—when they shall see the dangers with which this country is threatened, not merely in prospect, but in real operation—when they shall be aware of the necessity that existed of making provision for those dangers by the alteration of the laws affecting the supply of food—I know enough of them to believe that, however inconsistent it may appear to them now to change their opinions upon a public measure, there is not one of them who will not then admit that he was wrong in condemning this measure, which has been proposed by Her Majesty's Government with the full belief that it is calculated to promote the best interests of the country.
§ MR. FERRAND
I believe, Sir, I am now perfectly in order in alluding to those petitions which were presented a few nights ago by the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth). Hon. Gentlemen will remember, that, in the year 1843, I produced evidence before this House that the Anti-Corn-Law League had purchased signatures in the West Riding of Yorkshire at one shilling a hundred. I was well aware when the noble Lord presented those petitions, that, though he might believe that the signatures to them were genuine, and the unbiassed acts of the parties who had attached their names, such was not the fact; and I am here prepared to prove before a Committee of this House, if my statement is denied, that the working people are compelled by 68 the master manufacturers who support the Anti-Corn-Law League to attach their signatures to these petitions, however strongly they may be opposed to them in principle. If those men dare refuse to attach their signatures to such petitions, they know perfectly well that they sacrifice their daily Dread. I am indebted to the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) for having, several years ago, exposed in this House the odious intimidation and oppression which was practised upon the working men in the manufacturing districts if they dared to disobey their masters. He said in this House, that "it was a regulation entered into by the masters of Scotland that no person who quitted one factory should be employed in another; and that object was effected by the masters sending round to each other lists of the men who from any cause whatever had quitted their employment, so that no man who happened to differ with his master could succeed in obtaining employment elsewhere." Is not this "an odious combination?" That combination has been introduced into the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire; and I again repeat, that no working man who is employed by an Anti-Corn-Law League manufacturer dare refuse to attach his signature to any petition that may be presented to him. But I have seen several petitions for the repeal of the Corn Laws presented to this House by hon. Gentlemen opposite; and among others one by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. I will ask those hon. Gentlemen, as well as the noble Lord, whether they conscientiously believe that the signatures to those petitions are genuine? I have never heard those petitions alluded to during this debate. If the hon. Gentlemen who presented them had believed the signatures to them were genuine, they would surely have pointed to them as an evidence of public opinion upon this question. Now, I tell the House that I am prepared to produce evidence at the bar of this House, or before a Committee of the House, that one man attached 14,000 signatures to one of these petitions without ever having left his house or asked a single person to write his name. That is the way in which the petitions of the Anti-Corn-Law League have been got up, and then placed upon the Table of this House. So much for your petitions. I may now be allowed to allude to the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) the other evening. While the hon. Gentleman was 69 delivering that speech, I contradicted him in rather a round manner; but I assure him I intended nothing in the slightest degree offensive. But as the hon. Member mentioned several circumstances in a most positive, and, let me tell him, dictatorial manner, I thought I had a right to give a somewhat positive denial to his statements. That hon. Gentleman said it was a "notorious fact that some hon. Members of this House, with some foolishness, and much good nature, had subscribed 2,000l. to enable the hon. Member to fight the West Riding election." That fact may be notorious, but I never heard of it before; and if the hon. Gentleman will be so obliging as to inform me where I can find the money, I will cheerfully allow him 20 per cent. The hon. Gentleman then went on to say that I had published a very able letter. I begin to think this was the case, for I have seen no answer to it from any member of the Anti-Corn-Law League. The hon. Gentleman also said that I had completely succeeded in what he believed was my peculiar mission—in creating a hostile feeling between the masters and men, the employers and the workmen. Now, I totally deny that charge. The hon. Member says he read my speeches. Can he deny any statements I made? If he cannot, he will find that I merely exposed to the public gaze, and brought under his notice, cruelties and oppression which have been for years practised by the masters towards their workmen, and which have produced the bad feeling he charges me with exciting. He said that my friends actually repudiated my efforts. That assertion I most strongly deny. When I arrived in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the Tory party—I don't mean the Conservative party, for, thank God, there is not now such a party in the country—told me that it was utterly useless to attempt to contest the election. They said—"The Anti-Corn-Law League have been here, and by fraud and perjury have swamped the honest and constitutional electors. They have placed 2,000 electors upon the register, and we don't think we have any chance." I advised them to fight the battle. I told them they had truth and honesty on their side, and that I believed the honest electors would rise up indignantly against this impudent attempt of a factious league to trample them under its feet. I have no hesitation in saying, that if Mr. Edwin Lascelles had fought the battle as he ought to have done, 70 and as I say he was bound to do, if he intends to head the party in that division of the county; or if Mr. Lane Fox had not been compelled, under the advice of his physician, to relinquish the contest, which he could only have undertaken at the risk of his life, Lord Morpeth would not now occupy a seat in this House. ["Hear, hear."] You may say "Hear, hear;" but what said your party in Yorkshire at the time? The instant they found I was going to make a fair stand-up fight, they said, "Not a moment is to be lost; if we don't strain every nerve we are sure to be beaten." I think the hon. Gentleman said in another part of his speech, that the working men repudiated my doctrines. Now, if that was the case, how is it that I was so successful in exciting a bad feeling between the employer and employed? I think this is a contradiction; but to show that these working men did not repudiate my doctrines (and I am sorry the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding is not in his place), I may tell the House what, happened on the day of election. A friend of the noble Lord's who stood near him on the hustings, proposed thrice during the proceedings to the 8,000 working men who had been sent down by the League manufacturers to hold up their hands for the noble Lord, that they should give three groans for Ferrand. Twice they refused: not one man would respond to the call; and surely, if the working men had repudiated my doctrines, they would have responded to the request of their employers, and have given three groans for Ferrand. But is the hon. Member for Sheffield aware that when I was in the West Riding of Yorkshire, I challenged any member of the Anti-Corn-Law League who was a Member of this House, to meet me in public and discuss the question of free trade before the working men. I challenged them at Leeds, at Bradford, and at Huddersfield; but they refused to accept my challenge. Here, in this House, I repeat that challenge; and I dare you to accept it and appear before the manufacturing operatives of the West Riding of Yorkshire. If you wish it I will read to you the challenge I published in the West Riding of Yorkshire—a challenge that was refused there, and is refused here again to-night. How can you say, then, that the working men in the north of England are, to a man, in favour of free trade? I will prove to you to-night before I conclude whether they are or not. With the permission of the House, I will now allude 71 to what, without intending anything offensive, I must call the disgraceful position in which hon. Members on this side appear before the country. I remember the noble Lord the Member for the city of London rising in his place and asking the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), after he had been placed in power backed by a majority of ninety-one in this House, how he intended to conduct the affairs of this great country. The right hon. Baronet replied, "I am asked by the noble Lord how I intend to conduct the affairs of this nation." Then turning round to the men who had placed him in power, the right hon. Baronet said, "I will walk in the direct path, and in the light of the British Constitution." I believe it is in unison with the spirit of the British Constitution that when a dissolution of Parliament occurs, and a general election takes place, the candidates for the suffrages of the electors should appear before them, and honestly and openly explain, without reserve, their political principles. Not only are they compelled to do this, but they have to undergo a most searching examination; and the electors do not decide for whom they will vote, or in whom they will place confidence, till they have duly weighed the political principles of the candidates who may appear before them. When the last Parliament was dissolved, I believe Her Most Gracious Majesty declared in Her Speech, that She was anxious to take the sense of the nation upon those great questions which then agitated the public mind. When I stood upon the hustings at Leeds by the side of the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Lord Morpeth), by the side of my hon. Friend also Member for the West Riding (Mr. E. Denison), and by the side of the hon. Member for the borough of Leeds (Mr. W. Beckett), I heard this language uttered by the noble Lord. On the 25th of June, 1841, the noble Lord said—The cause which I conceive is at the bottom of the great struggle which I am about to commence is a war against monopolists, and it is not before such an assembly as this, or in the Cloth Hall at Leeds, that I can despair of triumph.Now, that I call a fair and manly way of laying down the principles of free trade. Mr. S. Wortley (the present Lord Wharncliffe), to show his purpose of standing by the Corn Laws, quoted the remark of Lord Melbourne in the House of Lords—When I hear my noble Friend (Earl Fitzwilliam) speak of leaving the agriculture of this country wholly without protection, I declare before 72 God I think it the wildest and maddest scheme that ever entered into the mind of man.But, what had Mr. B. Denison said—the Gentleman who was going to vote against the Government, and to tell the House that he had been deceived into seconding the Address? Sir, I think that noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite once were charged with thimblerig; but, surely they may retort in these days of general apostacy. Well, Mr. B. Denison said, "I think they are attempting to gull the people by what I call the humbug of free trade." Then, the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. W. Beckett) had said—Some people tell you to stick fast to English agriculture, and then go to foreign agriculture. I say, stick fast to English agriculture;" and he went on to ask, "What does the English landlord get from agriculture? On the average, wheat land does not pay him more than 24s. an acre, when he can get it. That is about 3 per cent. for his money. Now, is there a manufacturer who ever received so low a rate of interest on his capital as 3 per cent? Look to the tenant: he gets not more than 5 per cent for his money; and as for the labourer, he gets no more than 12s. per week.Now, Sir, if the hon. Gentleman is present in this House, I will say, I don't mean to ask him how he means to vote, because I know how he ought to vote. If he is an Englishman, he will stick to English agriculture; if he is an honourable man, he will stick to his hustings' pledges; if he is an honest man, and has changed his principles and opinions upon this subject, let him resign his seat. Let him remember that he stood at the hustings at Leeds under a banner having inscribed on it, "A Beckett never failed us yet." He has gained a name in that borough as "honest William Beckett;" but if he changes on this occasion he will be ever after known, politically speaking, as "dishonest William Beckett." Sir, I now turn to the benches immediately behind the Treasury bench; and I have no doubt that several Members have already begun to tremble, and say, "Is it I he is going to attack? But it is the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. B. Escott) to whom I am about to allude. Let me ask him how he obtained his seat? Has he forgotten the visit he paid to the Buckinghamshire farmers previous to the last election? Has he forgotten drinking their wine, patting them on the back, and giving one cheer more for agriculture; and then marching into Winchester with the other hon. Member, like himself, a supporter of protection? Sir, I like honesty in public men; and if I had been guilty of such conduct as the hon. 73 Member for Winchester, I should scorn to tread on the floor of the House. Sir, he came here reeking from the hustings, pledged to stand by agriculture to the last moment of his existence; and what is his course now? On the 22nd February, 1842, he made a splendid speech in this House. Sir, he stood there then [pointing to the agricultural benches], among the friends of agriculture, and not behind the Treasury bench; and the next day he went to Mr. Ollivier, of Pall Mall, and got him to publish his speech corrected from the shorthand writer's notes. Sir, he was so kind and obliging as to present me with a copy; and I now, with the permission of the House, will for the first time make use of it. He says, speaking of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton—Before my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) called on us, the representatives of the people, to repeal and totally abjure the principle of the law for regulating the importation of corn, it was necessary, in my apprehension, for him to prove two propositions to the satisfaction of this House. It was necessary for him to prove, first, that the distress of certain portions of the people is caused by the principle of the law for regulating the importation of foreign corn. Secondly, that the repeal of all laws founded on that principle, would not cause greater evils to other portions of the community than those which he assumes it would remove. Sir, the hon. Member and his supporters not only do not prove these propositions, they never attempt to argue them; and yet, until these propositions are not only argued, but proved, that man must be, as was well said in another place, a madman, or something worse, who would attack the principle of a law which has not only answered its purpose better than any other principle which has ever been tried, but under which the owners and occupiers of lands have been taught by this House and the Legislature to believe themselves safe and secure. Six Parliaments have maintained this principle. Talk of public faith indeed; here is the faith of Parliament pledged to the landed property of England, pledged not indeed to particular enactments, and clerical details of scales and figures—who could imagine such a folly?—but pledged to the principle of protection—protection without prohibition; but still protection to the home grower. And under this solemn sanction and security, and relying on this faith of Parliament, have they purchased, taken leases, made devises and settlements, laid out vast sums in improvements and expensive systems; married, made plans in life, educated and provided for children in business, and whom they fondly thought were safe under the shelter of that protection beneath which their fathers rested. Is the hon. Gentleman prepared for a system of treachery and confiscation? I know he is not; but I know also that his Motion, if carried, would be equivalent to such a system.The noble Lord the Member for London made a proposition for a 6s. duty. The hon. Member for Winchester, said, "The 74 people of England knew the treachery of such conduct, and spurned it as an insult on their understanding." Where is the treachery now? Where is the insult to the electors now? Especially to the electors of Winchester, who, having called upon him to give up his seat, he refused to do so. Then he referred to the soil, and said—The soil they cannot annihilate, nor destroy its perennial bounty. In spite of their foolish projects it will still continue to feed their wrongs and nourish their ingratitude—while its possessors and its cultivators are still the best customers for their trade and manufactures, and maintain the wealth and credit of the country against the subtle lucubrations of economists, or the rashness of disappointed politicians.Sir, I want to know who are the disappointed politicians now? He goes on:—Would a little party of them now ask leave to overset the corner-stone of that commercial policy by which they have grown so great? Whence is this strange insanity? Has too much prosperity made them mad? This question affects the very principles of the Constitution, and the honour no less than the constitution of this House.I tell him this question affects his honour. I tell him that he is bound in honour to go down to Winchester and resign his seat. He says in his preroration—Sir, I know not what the noble Lord will do next; but having no proof of national benefits to be derived from his changes, or those of his more rational associates; and seeing all around me much of the distress and mischief, the effect of ill-considered change, I am resolved, for the benefit of the country and the preservation of its liberties, to stand by the landed interest; which is only another name for the English interest, and to oppose by the best means in my power—and now by voting for the measure of Her Majesty's Ministers (not the present measure)—the schemes of those, who for years past have shown by nothing so much as their rashness in new legislation, their hostility to English liberty and their incapacity to govern their country.That, Sir, is the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Winchester, who now sits behind the First Lord of the Treasury as one of his supporters. There is an old saying in our part of England, and I think it is a very true one, "Birds of a feather flock together." I don't know whether the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Cripps) is in his place. He is, I believe, the last Lord of the Treasury who was elected. It is high time, I think, that there were other two Members. On the 14th of August, 1845, be went down to his constituents, and said—Had I thought that I was rendering myself liable to the charge of supporting a man who could be called, with any show of justice, a traitor to his party, I would have relinquished the highly 75 prized honour of being your representative, and sheltered myself, as I could have done without dishonour or loss of character, under that offer of permanent and lucrative employment referred to by Mr. Mullings, but which I had no wish should be made public here.I heard the right hon. Baronet the Vice President of the Board of Trade stand up in this House last night, and expound the great brass case with great ability, as counsel for the First Lord of the Treasury, but certainly without convincing the House of the truth of his argument. But when I know that the right hon. Baronet, when he was attacking us for opposing Her Majesty's Government, had either in his red box or in his pocket an address from his constituents, demanding the resignation of his seat for having broken his pledges, I did look him in the face and thought—but I won't say what I thought of him, though I know what his constituents think of him. I will now allude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire, the Secretary at War (Mr. Sidney Herbert). I think his personal honour is at stake at the present time. On the 15th of February, 1845, exactly one year from this time, when accepting the office he now occupies, he went down to his constituents, asking them again for their confidence; and he said—It is now twelve years since I first appeared before you as a candidate. I was then a young man, just entering into public life, and I then asked for your suffrages upon trust and credit, undertaking to use such abilities as I possessed in your service, and for the advancement of the public interest. During that time in my Parliamentary course I may have made many mistakes; but, gentlemen, we are all fallible, and in the various questions which came before Parliament many difficulties have arisen in the progress of various measures upon which I may have been in error; but, I believe that the course I have taken generally has been to conciliate your support, because I believe my views have generally coincided with those of my constituents.He then went on to address his constituents upon the Corn Laws, and he said that he thought that protection was necessary for agriculture—He did not think that that protection was one bit larger than it ought to be, looking to the burdens of agriculture;" and he finished by saying, that "he hoped and believed that there was among the people of this country, as there certainly was by Her Majesty's Ministers, a determination to uphold that law.I am glad to see the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place. He, too, went before his constituents when he accepted office; and how stands he pledged to the electors 76 of Dorchester? I tell him, too, that his personal honour is at stake. He may dispose of his changes of opinion by one fling of his arm; but he will not dispose of his constituents in that manner. He is bound to redeem his pledges on the hustings; and if his political opinions have changed, I tell him that he is bound as a man of honour to resign his place into their hands once more, in order to enable them to be freely and honourably represented. I have read the speech which the right hon. Baronet delivered to his constituents on that occasion, and was delighted with its talent and ability; and I think the best thing the protectionists could do would be to print it in a cheap form and circulate it through the country, as the First Lord of the Treasury used to do with his speeches when in opposition to the Whigs. I was then one of the rank and file of the Conservative party; and I used to receive large packages of Sir R. Peel's speeches on the Corn Laws, which were sold at one penny each. Who sent them to me I never found out; but I suspect that the right hon. Baronet had heard that I was a warm and earnest supporter of his principles, and, therefore, favoured me with packages of his speeches, carriage paid, which I circulated among the people in my neighbourhood; and I rejoice to say that they made many proselytes, and were the chief cause of the return of Mr. Stuart Wortley as a protectionist. But to return to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department: he said—A friend of mine said, 'And what about the Corn Laws?' I said, I would not avoid that subject; nor will I. I conceive the true principle to be, that a protective duty should be substituted for absolute prohibition; and I think that, as a general rule, it should be the smallest amount which, on a careful revision, would be found to give to native industry fair play in its competition with foreign countries, the circumstances attending our relation to those countries being duly considered.Then he went on to quote what poor Lord Melbourne said on the Corn Laws:—What did Lord Melbourne say in the House of Lords, when the proposal to alter the Corn Laws was mooted in that House? He declared that it would be absolute madness in any one to make such a proposition.The right hon. Baronet then proceeded to say—"I never have and never will shrink from public opinion." Then, why don't he go down to his constituents? I am delighted to see the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in his place. The right hon. Baronet thus spoke of the noble Lord and his party:—The late Government is fallen, to rise no more. 77 The question now at issue is this—shall the Conservative or democratic principle prevail? Shall Messrs. Roebuck, Warburton, O'Connell, and Bowring, sway the destinies of this great Empire; or shall Sir R. Peel continue Prime Minister?Let me ask the First Lord of the Treasury, who have been his supporters of late? Where has been the "democratic Roebuck?" Where has been the "democratic Warburton?" Where has been the "democratic O'Connell," who was only a short time ago a "convicted conspirator?" The right hon. Baronet continued his address to his constituents as follows:—My opinion is, that a further prevalence of the democratic principle would prove most destructive to the institutions and great interests of the country. Should that unfortunate day ever dawn upon the political horizon when the principles of democracy will be paramount, degraded indeed will be our fate—'The day when thou, imperial Troy! must bend'And see thy warriors fall, thy glorious end.'But I will add—'May I be cold before that dreadful day,'Pressed with a load of monumental clay.'After this poetical fervour, the right hon. Baronet concluded his speech thus—It now only remains for you to decide whether I shall return to the House of Commons as your representative. (The right hon. Baronet then sat down amidst most vehement and long-continued shouts of applause.) As no other candidate presented himself, Sir J. Graham was pronounced duly elected, and was afterwards chaired through the town, with the usual honours.Two extracts more from an election speech, and I have done with that part of my subject. I think these last will be the severest and most tremendous cut of all. The one is a quotation from the nomination speech of the First Lord of the Treasury, and the other from his speech after his election; and I tell the right hon. Baronet that his personal honour is also at stake. On the 29th of June, 1841, Sir R. Peel, on the occasion of his nomination for Tamworth, said—I feel that confidence, because I have no reason to suppose that your political sentiments have undergone a change; and, if they have not, I am conscious that I have faithfully adhered in public life to every profession which I made upon these hustings, and have kept every engagement into which I entered… I now come, I repeat, to a most important question—that of the introduction of foreign corn… I prefer the principle of the ascending and descending scale; and I do not consider, when I look to the burdens which land in this country is subjected to, that a fixed duty of 8s. per quarter on corn brought here from Poland and the north of Europe, will afford a sufficient protection to the land of this country. Look at the amount of poor rates levied from land in this country, compared with the amount levied from the profits of manufactures. Who pays the 78 highway rate? Who pays the church rate? Who pays the poor rate and the tithe? I say, not altogether, but chiefly, the landed proprietor of this country; and if there be corn produced by other land not subject to those burdens, it would be clearly not just to the land of this country to admit the corn on equal terms.Sir, there was a poll in the borough of Tamworth; and the electors, believing the pledges of the right hon. Baronet, that he would protect agriculture, returned him to the House. He said the other night that he thought he was wrong (on the occasion of his violating his pledges to the University of Oxford) in resigning his seat; but, Sir, I will prove to him now, that he is bound to resign his seat, and go down to Tamworth, and place himself in the hands of his constituents there. After the last election the right hon. Baronet told them that—They had placed him in the proud position of representing them in Parliament, and they might depend upon it that he would be faithful to the professions he had made; and in adhering to those Conservative principles which in the face of his constituency he had professed he would, while at the same time he paid due respect to the just rights of those who might differ from him in religious opinions, do everything in his power to maintain the fundamental institutions of the country in Church and State, and to advance the glory and happiness of the country.Now, Sir, the right hon. Baronet is pledged, in the face of his constituents—he pledged himself of his own free will—to stand by his principles and the pledges he gave on that occasion; and I call on him, not as Prime Minister of this country, not as once the leader of a great party, but as an honest Member of this House, to resign his seat and go down to his constituents for their approval or disapproval. I said this should be the last quotation; but perhaps you will allow me, as a make-weight, to throw in a remark of his hon. Colleague (Captain A'Court) when he contested the borough of Tamworth. His Colleague said—He was certain that the prosperity of Tamworth depended mainly on the prosperity of the agriculturists; and if they were permanently depressed, every farmer, shopkeeper, and labourer in it would be involved in one common ruin. With that feeling he would never consent to take from the British farmer such fair protection as would enable him to compete on equal terms with the foreign corn-grower, nor consent to reduce the English labour to the same condition as the ill-fed and ill-paid labourer of the Continent.What a figure to cut before his constituents! Can you [pointing to the Treasury bench] look these hon. Gentlemen—honourable by the courtesy of this House, 79 and honourable by character in their political principles—can you look them in the face at this present moment, and say you are conducting yourselves with common honesty? Do not tell me you were bound to reaccept office, and carry those measures in this House. I tell you you were not bound to do so; but that the moment you found yourselves unable to carry out the principles of protection, you were bound as honourable men at once to appeal to the country, and ask the constituencies of England for their approval of your conduct. Now, I believe if the right hon. Baronet had pursued that course at first, he might have rallied around him a great party in the country; but I must tell him that the people of Great Britain and Ireland view with unmitigated disgust his contemptible apostacy and tergiversation. Let me ask you, how has the right hon. Baronet been supported during this discussion? I know that hon. Gentlemen who are on terms of personal friendship with right hon. Members sitting on the Treasury bench, have almost wept for them when they heard them addressing this House—they felt so much for their degraded position. And well they might. I could see hon. Gentlemen who were also apostates from the principles they held at the last election, and who sat on the benches behind them, endeavouring, night after night, to muster courage enough to address the House; but up to this moment their courage, as well as their consciences, have failed. The hon. Member for Bath addressed the House; but he failed for the first time in this House, and the hon. Member for Bolton said a few words; but the democrat was consistent in his principles, and the Conservative was not. Without following this subject any further, I must remark that no man, whatever party he belongs to, in this House, can contend that the House of Commons has any right whatever, either constitutionally or in common honesty, to decide on this question. It is not at all impossible that an Address may be moved in this House to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to send us where we should have been long since—before our constituents. If that is the case, I now avow the course which I will then pursue. So soon as this division is over, I will obtain the list, and look out the name of every man on this side of the House who shall vote for the Government measure. I shall then go to Peel's coffee-house, in Fleet-street; I will there look 80 over all the country papers of Great Britain and Ireland, and will see how Members pledged themselves at the last election to stand by the principles of protection; and when the question again comes before this House, I will be in my place to show up the whole party who have deserted from the cause of protection. Even the most democratic Gentlemen may have to go to their constituents—even the Member for Nottingham, though I know it is a very expensive place; but he must take care to fight the question on constitutional grounds. I have narrowly watched the tone of this debate; and it is a most extraordinary circumstance that, during the whole of the discussion, the representatives of the manufacturing body have scarcely been heard. We are told by hon. Gentlemen that the population is increasing so rapidly in this country that it is necessary to extend our manufactures. But before we do that, it is our duty to inquire what has already been done by this House for the moral and social condition of the working classes. I could go back for the last sixty years, and bring before the House some valuable information on this head; but I will only read one or two extracts from a debate that took place on the 3rd of April, 1816. On that occasion, Mr. R. Gordon said:—It appears that overseers of parishes in London are in the habit of contracting with the manufacturers of the north for the disposal of their children; and these manufacturers agree to take one idiot for every nineteen sane children. In this manner, waggon loads of these little creatures are sent down to be at the perfect disposal of their new masters.This was what was called the apprenticeship system, and it has been introduced again under the New Poor Law. On the 19th of February, 1818, the late Sir R. Peel thus expressed himself in the House of Commons:—About fifteen years ago, I brought in a Bill for the regulation of apprentices in cotton manufactories. At that time they were the description of persons most employed in these manufactories. I myself had a thousand of them, and I felt the necessity of some regulation with respect to them. …. It was notorious that children of a very tender age were dragged from their beds some hours before daylight, and confined in the factories not less than fifteen hours; and it is also notoriously the opinion of the faculty, that no children of eight or nine years of age can bear this degree of hardship with impunity to their health and constitution.The present Sir Robert Peel on the same day said—It is proved that children are employed in 81 Lancashire fifteen hours a day, and after any stoppage, from five in the morning to ten in the evening, seventeen hours; and this often three weeks at a time. On a Sunday they are employed from six in the morning to twelve in cleaning the machinery.It is in evidence that children are employed at as early an age as five years. That was the origin of the cotton trade in Lancashire; and what have been the results? We are told by manufacturers in this House that they are enjoying even comfort, and making great wages, and that it is necessary for the agriculturists to send their surplus population for the purpose of being employed in the manufacturing districts. You will hear from the evidence of a manufacturer who was once a Member of this House what were the sufferings of the manufacturing population. This gentleman, in 1831, said—Domestic manufactures were almost extinct, and the population, which was formerly scattered through the country, was impressed with a distinct character, besotting themselves, particularly on Saturday evenings and Sunday, with ale, beer, and gin. The quantity of gin drank was enormous, and even children of tender age drank it. Many took large quantities of opium, sometimes laudanum in pills, and sometimes an anodyne draught of the same kind. They were also exposed to severe and unremitting labour. Their work was most laborious, only exceeded by mowing. They worked twelve hours a day, while farm labourers worked only ten hours. The children did not receive that attention from their mothers which was necessary for their welfare.["Question!"] The hon. Member for Bath cries "Question." Sir, I am speaking to the question. The question is the increase of manufactures in this country, and the sacrifice of agriculture for that purpose; and I am now showing what has been the effect of the manufacturing system. I do not wonder that the hon. and learned Member for Bath feels uncomfortable under the circumstances. [Mr. ROEBUCK: Oh, no. I beg your pardon.] I thought the hon. Member was a representative of the people. I will now, with his leave proceed with my quotation:—The quantity of opium they took was very large, and a very considerable number of the children feel victims to diseases.Now (and I speak to Gentlemen of the League) who is the gentleman I am quoting? Why, no less a person than Mr. R. Gregg, and one of that party who call on the Legislature to give the death-blow to agriculture, in order that they may be able the better to absorb in manufactures the surplus population of the agricultural districts. Dr. Kay Shuttleworth confirms all 82 that Mr. Gregg says; and he adds that the people in Manchester are in a state bordering on savage life. Dr. Shuttleworth continues—The moral check has no influence in preventing the rapid increase of population. The existence of cheap and redundant labour in the market has a tendency to reduce its general price.That is what the League are aiming at. They want to be be able to beat down wages. I have also another authority, Dr. Cooke Taylor. He says, speaking of manufacturing population—I have seen misery in many forms; I have been in the huts and hovels of Ireland, when my native land was visited with the scourge of the cholera; I have visited the cellars of Liverpool, where existence assumes an aspect that ceases to be human; I have penetrated into the wynds and vennels of Glasgow (localities that would try to the utmost the hardest of hearts and the strongest of stomachs); but nowhere have I seen misery which so agonized my very soul, as that which I have witnessed in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire. And why? Because the extreme of wretchedness was there, and there only, combined with a high tone of moral dignity, and a marked sense of propriety—a decency, cleanliness, and order, the elements which produced the vast wealth I have described, and which do not merit the intense suffering I have witnessed. I was beholding the gradual immolation of the noblest and most valuable population that ever existed in this country, or any other under heaven.Yes, I say they are murdered by the factory system, in order that a few may grow rich. Are hon. Gentlemen aware that Mr. Gregg has stated before a Committee of this House that the Saxon hosiers have uudersold the hosiers of the midland counties, who are in such a frightful state that they have not, for fifteen years past, averaged 7s. a week for their labour? And all this, although there is a protection of 20 per cent. The facts which I am able to bring before the House are worth a thousand statements by three months' converts. Sir, in 1843 I presented a petition to this House, signed by 25,000 frame-work knitters of Nottingham, Leicester, and Derby, in which they prayed the House to prohibit foreign hosiery till foreign States ceased to prohibit English hosiery. After I had presented that petition, the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade, who cannot find a place in all England to send him to Parliament, and whose absence from this House I deeply regret, though not the cause of it, employed Mr. Muggeridge, as Commissioner, to go down and ascertain the truth of the statements in the petition; and that gentleman made a report, some passages of which I will 83 read to the House. At page 103 of his Report he says—They labour fifteen and eighteen hours a day for 3s. 7d. a week wages. Many women and children are employed. One-third of the women of the manufacturing population are working in trades. The employment of women is reducing wages.Mr. Muggeridge examined Dr. Shaw Leicester, who says—The mortality of children under five years of age is about 49 per cent. of the deaths; that this arises from the general neglect of the mothers. They are in the stocking frames, and they are not in the habit of hiring their children out to the same extent that they are in many of the manufacturing districts. The children of the poor are very much neglected. Dr. Shaw speaks of the physical debility of the frame-work knitters, as being greater than that of the manufacturers in the north, and says that it is caused from the deprivation of the necessaries of life. That their food is bread, cheese, gruel, tea, and a proportion of meat, but to no great extent; that they got better wages in former years, and had more regular habits, and consequently they were enabled to obtain good sustenance, working at a very fair rate of remuneration with comparatively less labour.Now I am going to justify myself for having made the statement a short time ago, that a wholesale system of murder is carried on in the manufacturing districts. He says—Among the poorer classes it is a common practice of mothers to administer Godfrey's cordial and laudanum to their infants; the object is to keep them quiet while the mother is at work.I ask the hon. Member for Finsbury to pay attention to what I am now quoting; this is horrible; it proves the poor in such a state of starvation, that they murdered their children by wholesale. An eminent druggist is examined by Mr. Muggeridge; he says—He has known an infant killed with three drops of laudanum; that nothing was said about it; infants go off quietly; they are not like grown people.Another eminent druggistHad heard of four children in the same family who had died in the same way; the infants who die in a more insidious manner, become pale, and emaciated, and tremulous, and at last seem to sink from emaciation or decline. The system has considerably increased since witness has been in the business, which he attributes to the abject poverty of the people.I do ask the House of Commons to get this Report of Mr. Muggeridge's, and to read it; I never in my life heard anything more frightful than the whole of this evidence. Hear what a pawnbroker says; and I am sorry the hon. Member for Dublin is not in his place. I think I know the 84 reason why he is absent; but if he had been here I think he would have said that nothing which was narrated at Goatacre could be compared with this. At page 109, a pawnbroker says—They pawn their blankets in the morning, and fetch them out at night, for a day's subsistence, which costs each poor person 3d. a week.Now hear what Mr. Commissioner Muggeridge says:—The social condition of the frame-work knitters presents unvarying evidence of the distress and depression almost inseparable from the low rate of earnings to which the trade has been subjected for many years past. This is especially observable in the state of their dwellings, which are, every day, diminishing in comfort and respectability; their furniture becoming less and less, as time destroys or necessity compels them to part with it piece by piece—their clothing usually of the worst kind, and the sacrifices they make to support existence, often greatly aggravating the evils attendant on their penury.He adds—So far as their moral condition may be judged of by their attendance at places of public worship, the evidence from all quarters tends to establish an almost total disregard of this solemn duty.Such is the statement of the Commissioner appointed by the Government to inquire into the condition of the manufacturing population in the midland counties. If the time of night had allowed me, I would have produced before this House a startling statement with regard to the manufacturing population of the county of Norfolk; but here we have Lancashire, Yorkshire, and the midland counties, pronounced by incontrovertible evidence to be in a state bordering upon savage life, and the working population reduced to such a state of misery and want, that they do not hesitate to murder their offspring. Are we to be told that, with the manufacturing population in such a frightful state as this, we, the agricultural party in this House, are to consent to hand over the agricultural labourers, who have looked up to us and to our ancestors for centuries for succour and support, to your tender mercies, and allow them, in the language of Dr. Cooke Taylor, to be immolated, that a few cotton lords may get rich? Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, a few nights ago, said that crime was greatly reduced in this country. I tell him that that is not the fact with regard to the manufacturing districts. I entreat his attention to this. Perhaps I may attract it when I tell him that the protectionists are 462 ahead in South Notts to-day up to 1 o'clock. Now, having attracted 85 his attention, let me state to the House what Mr. Justice Coleridge declared in his charge to the grand jury on the 29th of November, 1844—a winter assize, mark, in a manufacturing district:—Another cause for a winter assize, he lamented to say, must be considered to be the steady increase of crime throughout the country, and in their own county; that increase, too, being not so much observable in crimes of a petty nature, as in those of a more serious character. Within the last eight years the number of prisoners had nearly doubled in their own county; and though it was true that the population had increased—that the police were more efficient than formerly—and that capital punishment had in a great measure been removed, yet he did not think that it was possible, by the application of those facts, satisfactorily to explain away the great incubus which seemed to hang over them.That is the statement in relation to the manufacturing county of York; and, in contradiction to the statement of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, I tell him that the West Riding gaol at Wakefield was never known so full of prisoners as at this moment. When I was in the north of England attending the West Riding election, I came in contact with large bodies of the working population, and they instructed me to bring their case before this House; and they said that their battle was the battle of labour against capital, and that so far from an extension of trade in this country being of the slightest benefit to them, it had been the bitterest curse. They produced statements of the greatest importance to prove to me that this was the fact; which statements I have to thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Cornwall, for having at his expense published to the world; and let me tell this House, that it would be well if hon. Members would purchase the book, and in a few pages read the history of a working man in the manufacturing districts of the north of England during the last few years; it is written by a working man, but a man who has shown ability far above his order. He traces all the sufferings which the working classes have endured, not to a restrictive policy in your manufactures and commerce, but to overtrading, and the glutting of the markets. He proves in these pages, that the more your manufactured goods have increased, the more dreadful have been the sufferings of the working population; and with the permission of the House I should just like to read some fifteen or twenty lines. He says that, in 1781, 5,198,000 lb. of cotton were used in the manufactories of the cotton districts of 86 England, and that the mean increase from 1781 to 1841 was from that quantity to 528,000,0000 lb.; the trade increased 101 times, or, in other words, where we manufactured 1 lb. of cotton in 1781, we manufactured 101 lb. in 1841. This working man goes on to say—We presume the Corn Law repealers could not expect a more rapid increase of trade than has here taken place during the last sixty years, supposing that all restrictions were removed from our commerce; and surely if there were a shadow of truth in the statements that 'increased trade would give increased prosperity to the working classes,' they ought, indeed, to be supremely happy.Now, hear the effect upon the wages:—During the periods included in the above table, it will be seen, however that the hand-loom weaver was reduced from 33s. 3d. for weaving 20 yards of a 60 reed, down to 3s. 9d. for 24 yards. Now, if the hand-loom weaver of 1841 was paid for weaving 24 yards at the same rate as the weaver of 1790 for weaving 20 yards, he should receive 39s. 10¾d., instead of which he only received 3s. 9d.; that is, he received 1s. where he used to receive 10s.Such is the effect of your increased manufactures upon the hand-loom weavers in the cotton districte. Can anything be more frightful than the sufferings which increased trade has brought upon those poor people? But this working man goes on and shows the price of calico; and, speaking of the amount of money expended for clothes, he says—In 1815, when the weaver was paid 28s. for the same work which he now performs for 5s., he had to pay 1s. per yard for calico; in 1843, he might purchase it for 4d.And he shows that this, and the cheapening of silk, linen, and woollen, give him a a total saving of 5l. in the year; but then "the loss in his wages amounts to 58l. 10s." But the power-loom weavers have even suffered more extensively in a shorter time, than has been the lot of the hand-loom weavers. The working man says that—In 1824, the power-loom weavers at Sidebottom's mill, Waterside, had for weaving 24 yards, 21 picks to the quarter-inch, 2s.; they now receive 1s. for the same length, with one pick more to the quarter, which ought to be 1d. extra.Another master paid 2s. 8d. in 1825 for twenty-four yards, and in 1836 only 1s. 2d., and the wages have fallen still lower since. I could quote many other statements equally startling from this book; and, late as it is, there is one statement made by Mr. Muggeridge, the Commissioner for inquiring into the state of the manufacturing population in the midland counties, which I must not overlook. It shows that what 87 brought 2l. 3s. in 1829, brought only 19s. in 1839, while the trade of Rochdale had doubled. A weaver of Bolton, who was examined before the Select Committee of the House, being asked whether he would be as well off if the Corn Laws were repealed, replied that he should not if he got all his food for nothing; and when further asked why he thought so, his answer was, because a reduction had taken place in his wages amounting to more than the price of all the food he needed, and the clothes he wore. The same volume also contained evidence of a startling character, as to the effects which the introduction of machinery to so large an extent in manufactures, had produced on the condition of the labouring classes. The other evening I was accused by the hon. Member for Stroud of being opposed to all machinery. That charge is totally unfounded. I am in favour of machinery so long as it is subservient to manual labour; but the moment it supersedes manual labour, I think with the late Sir R. Peel, that it becomes the bitterest curse of this country. It has been asserted that the price of food does not regulate wages. Does the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring) assert that the price of food does not regulate wages? That hon. Gentleman, on the 26th of June, 1835, said in this House—We export 50,000,000l. sterling of manufactures. Does anybody imagine that they are not affected in foreign markets by the price of foreign corn? Does any one suppose that they have not to suffer in value from the fact of their having to meet, as rivals, with goods produced in countries where the price of corn is lower, and the average of wages less, than in England?Does the hon. Gentleman admit that now? Then he admits that the price of food regulates the rate of wages. The hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork, in the very lucid statement which he made a few days ago, also recognised the principle. Mr. Ricardo has very often been quoted. Will any hon. Gentleman deny that Mr. Ricardo was of that opinion? I can also refer to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz). Then it is admitted that the price of food regulates wages. If that position had been denied, I should have called into court Mr. Rathbone Gregg, who, after remarking that foreigners were able to compete with us successfully from the low price of food in their own countries, went on to say that we must ultimately come to the repeal of the Corn Laws; and, referring to the effect on the home demand, observed that it was but trifling compared with 88 the foreign. Then he asked the other party how men were to compete with the foreign labourer? He remarked that what the working people of this country considered the necessaries of life were not considered so on the Continent; and that was one reason why the price of food must be reduced. He was asked, from his practical knowledge of cotton-spinning, whether he was a competent judge of the mills he had seen on the Continent; and his answer was, "Yes, I looked upon them with a somewhat uncomfortable eye." And, in answer to a question relative to the machinery used in the foreign mills, he said, "They had all the newest inventions. Even in the remotest part of Germany they obtain them as soon as we do in England." It has been said that foreign manufactures are equal or superior to ours. Why, it was not so before the right hon. Gentleman legalized the exportation of machinery. We have been committing a suicidal act, not only in allowing our working classes to be starved to death under the system which has been introduced, but in admitting the foreigner to compete with us by the exportation of our own machinery. Another charge made by hon. Gentlemen opposite is, that the proposition on the part of the manufacturers of the north of England to absorb and use up their labourers, originated with the agriculturists. Will any hon. Gentleman opposite, connected with the Anti-Corn-Law League (and I see the hon. Member for Wolverhampton in his place), dare to repeat that statement now? He will not make that statement; he will not, because he has always conducted the Corn-Law question in this House with the most gentlemanlike feeling; and he never made a statement against the agricultural party except one, and that one he could not prove. The agricultural party in this House, the gentry of England, never heard of that proposal to absorb and use up the surplus population of the south of England till the attempt was made to carry it into effect; and as soon as they heard of it, they caused placards to be put forth, warning the people not to go. I proceed on the authority of this letter, from a Quaker, in my statement as to what I here call the traffic in white slaves, as I shall prove it to be:—Turton, near Bolton, 9th of 9th Month, 1834.Respected Friend,—I take the liberty of forwarding for thy consideration a few observations on the New Poor Law Bill, the leading principle of which I most cordially approve, whilst in some of its details I fear it will be found practically 89 defective. I would not venture to suggest an opinion to you, who have already so ample a store of evidence, were it not that I feel so much the vast importance of the subject, and am most anxious that, whilst a change is making, the law which is substituted for that now in force may be made applicable to the wants and circumstances of all parts of the community. The poor rates of Lancashire have long been the lowest of any county in the kingdom, in consequence of the great demand for labour caused by the increase of manufactories. Full employment in every department was never more easy to be found than now, consequently wages have advanced in most operative employments, and particularly so in the least skilful; spade labourers, for instance, who last year had 2s. 3d. per day, have now 2s. 6d. to 3s. Hand-loom weavers have been much wanted, and their wages advanced, on an average, 10 per cent. This bespeaks a scarcity of labourers here. I am most anxious that every facility be given to the removal of the labourers from one county to another, according to the demand for labour: this would have a tendency to equalize wages, as well as to prevent in a degree some of the turn-outs which have been of late so prevalent.Let me call the attention of the House to the cold-blooded cruelty of this. At the very time that the writer complained that the wages of hand-loom weavers had risen 10 per cent, a Committee was inquiring into their condition, and hearing evidence, which proved of the men surrounding this man's mill that they were living on 2¾d. a day. Is not this disgraceful? What would the House say of any man who could be guilty of such conduct? Mr. Ashworth was a member of the Anti-Corn-Law League — so distinguished a member as to be considered the king of the League; and such was his language. Nay, more than this, it was proved that the hand-loom weavers at that time were in such a state that many of them had not worn a shirt for five years, that they were clothed in rags, that they had no furniture, no plates to eat from, no chairs or tables, only a chest that served them for table and drawers was all the furniture in the house. That was the state of the hand-loom weavers when this letter was written. Another member of the Anti-Corn-Law League, a manufacturer, a gentleman who subscribes his thousands to the League fund, also wrote a letter, dated the 17th of September, 1834, only three months after the former one, as a kind of refresher to Mr. Chadwick. The letter repeated the same request for a supply of labourers, urging the favourable nature of the opportunity, and hoping that some channel of communication should be opened through the Poor Law Commissioners' office, or some other establishment, by which the manufacturers 90 might be placed in communication with the overcharged parishes, and lists of families be transmitted. And let the House listen to what follows; the letter goes on—As the variety of our wants is great, we may require lists of small families or great ones, men and women, grown persons or children, widows or orphans.This is the proposition that came from Mr. Gregg to the Poor Law Commissioners, and his proposition was adopted. I hold in my hand a regular invoice which was sent by a family that was packed off from their native parish to a manufacturing district, and I also have here an extract from an article in the Manchester Guardian, stating that the migration of labourers into the manufacturing districts would be the means of re-elevating the character of the agricultural population of the south of England, and calling the gentlemen of those counties "system-mongers," because they placarded their parishes with warnings to their labourers not to be taken in, and not to go to Lancashire to be absorbed and "used up." The article concludes with these lines:—It gives us pleasure to record the success in this way of another effort to improve the condition of a laborious and deserving class; and we trust that which we have now written may pave the way to further successful experiments of the same kind.Two years ago I moved for certain returns, which were to prove that the agricultural population had been worked to death in the manufacturing districts. The House ordered the Poor Law Commissioners to account for the tens of thousands of labourers who had been induced to leave their homes, and go to Yorkshire and Lancashire; but the only return that could be made was of about 8,000 who had so migrated: they could account for their leaving the south of England, but they could not account for their return. I can prove that they have been worked to death; but before I do that I must state that the extraordinary documents connected with the Poor Law Commissioners and their assistants have come into my hands within the last few days. The country will now begin to know what has been going on in Somerset House for the last few years, and how the Commissioners have been playing into the hands of the Anti-Corn-Law League. I have received a letter from Mr. H. Gibbons, Bledlow Ridge, West Wycombe, Bucks, inclosing an account forwarded from Messrs. Ashworth to that parish for charges for persons belonging to it who had been tempted to migrate to Egerton Mills in 91 1835, at the instigation of the Poor Law Commissioner, — Gilbert, Esq., and Messrs. Ashworth and Greggs. The charges were for medical attendance and allowances to different families, and amounted to 61l. 13s. 4d. A part of this was paid, and a prompt order sent that no farther advances would be made by the Union. The consequence of this was that Messrs. Ashworth wrote to the guardians, stating that "after the service they had rendered to the parish of Bledlow, they considered this as a very unworthy return; and pressing for the repayment of money they had advanced in sums of 4s. 6d. a week to a widow named Avery. What will the House think of this? The Poor Law Commissioners have paid to Messrs. Ashworth the sum of 47l. 13s. 4d. in aid of wages; paid it to a firm which proposed that labourers should be sent to their district in order to reduce the wages! This is a pretty exposure. You hear now the sufferings which a few of those families who have been worked up in the manufacturing districts have endured in a short period of time. The agricultural labourers were promised that if they went into the north of England they would go into a land, as it were, "flowing with milk and honey;" but what the sufferings were they endured have been described by the hon. Members for Bolton and Manchester in this House. The hon. Member for Manchester, the representative of the town the cotton spinners residing in which boasted a short time since that they could buy up all the land of England, declared that the population of that place was starving to death; that in many cases—Whole families are compelled to pawn the clothes they wear in the day for the purpose of redeeming the bedding on which they are to take their nightly repose, and who are able to redeem their clothes in the morning only by replaeing their bedding in the hands of the pawdbroker.The hon. and learned Member for Bolton declared that the people of that town were dying for want of food, and were glad to exist on the refuse of dungheaps! This was the state of the working people in the manufacturing districts in five years time after the Anti-Corn-Law people proposed to the Poor Law Commissioners, that the agricultural labourers should go down to the north of England. I hold in my hand two statements, one of which is a document laid on the Table of this House, which will account for the agricultural labourers being brought down to Lancashire, and the House shall hear what has become of them. 92 Then, I think, the agricultural Members in this House will receive a warning this night sufficient to make them ten times more determined to oppose the measure of the Government, which, it has been openly avowed, will throw out of cultivation the poorer lands of the country, and which will therefore compel the labourers employed on them to go down to the manufacturing districts. Let the House hear how the manufacturers treat the poor workmen, and I much doubt whether hon. Members opposite will not themselves be obliged to say that this does indeed far surpass anything that has been exposed at Goatacre. Mr. Charles Trimmer, a factory inspector engaged in 1837, 1838, and 1839, the three succeeding years to the removal of the agricultural labourers, reported that in that time 340 cases of accident had been taken to the infirmary at Stockport, out of which 36 were owing to the parties being caught by the machinery whilst cleaning it in a moving state. Out of these 340 cases, he states, that he only knows of two in which the manufacturers have made any reparation or compensation to the injured parties. Thus it appears that 340 poor labourers have been torn limb from limb in three years by the machinery of the free-trade manufacturers, and carried into the Stockport infirmary, and yet only two have received the slightest compensation. I challenge hon. Members opposite who profess Anti-Corn-Law League doctrines, to produce one case in this country of an English country gentleman having a labourer lamed in his employment, without having instantly provided for his family. I challenge them to send their paid lecturers, convicted blasphemers, and discharged soldiers, with the stripes of the cat-o'-nine-tails on their back, to inquire and to produce one instance of cruelty on the part of the country gentlemen, similar to what I have just described. But the House shall hear from the lips of a manufacturer, and a Member of this House, what has become of the agricultural labourers. The Poor Law Commissioners refused a return on this subject to the House, but I will now produce one. The hon. Member here read a paper, of which the following is the substance:—In many of the manufacturing districts, but particularly, he (the author of the statement) feared, in the guilty county to which he belonged, cruelties the most heartrending were practised on the unoffending labourers. They were harassed to the brink of death by excessive labour; they were flogged, fettered, and tortured, and, in many 93 cases, scarred to the bone, and even in some instances driven to commit suicide to avoid the cruelties practised on them; and yet the profits of the manufacturers were enormous; but this only whetted the appetite which it should have satisfied.This is the history of the manufacturing labourers, who in 1836, 1837, and 1838, were torn from their green lanes and shady alleys, and were driven down to the manufacturing districts, for the purpose of being absorbed and used up, to use the words of Mr. Gregg to the Poor Law Commissioners. On this subject I appeal to the hon. Member for Oldham, and I challenge any one to deny his statements. That gentleman has earned for himself, in the north of England, the title of the "Poor man's Friend:" he is a manufacturer of the old English school, and is looked on by his workpeople as a father, and he tells the world that you of the Anti-Corn-Law League are a set of tyrants. This is a dreadful exposure; and if any Member can deny one of these statements, I challenge him to do so; but if they are true, it is the duty of the Government, as well as of the agricultural Members, to demand that agriculture shall be protected, and that the agricultural labourers shall exist on the lands on which they have been born; they being content to live on moderate comforts, as of old, rather than to be sacrificed and immolated by the manufacturers and cotton lords of Lancashire. I have not exposed one quarter of the cruelties I intended to have done; but the time will arrive when I shall do so. I am inclined to believe that I have said to-night sufficient to be remembered for many years to come by the Anti-Corn-Law League. Having shown the cruelty of these persons to their working people, I will now proceed to expose their selfishness. The House will recollect how I exposed a worthy alderman, who, with respect to an article in which he was interested, asked me to vote against free-trade principles, observing, "in this world every one for himself." I will now refer to Mr. G. Wilson, the president of the Anti-Corn Law League, who, it appears, has also adopted the motto of "every one for himself in this world." He is a dealer in starch; and when the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government proposed, in 1842, to reduce the duty on starch from 9l. 10s. the cwt. to 5l., Mr. G. Wilson said, "Oh! this will never do; my starch trade will be injured;" and, therefore, the chairman of the Anti-Corn-Law League convened a meeting at Manchester of all 94 the starch-dealers of the kingdom, at which he presided, and a resolution was adopted to the effect that a deputation should go from the meeting to the right hon. Baronet, and use their influence with him in favour of starch. The deputation waited on the right hon. Baronet, and were successful; and I believe that lobsters and starch were almost the only things which obtained the slightest mercy in the Tariff. Now, on this subject I have a letter from an honest free-trader, and it is as follows:—I take the liberty of troubling you with a few particulars which I think will show to you the sort of disinterested reformers some of the leading members of the Anti-Corn-Law League are. You will please to satisfy yourself of the correctness of this statement before you make any public use of it.I believe it to be perfectly correct.When Sir Robert Peel published his new Tariff, he put down starch at 5l. per cwt. duty from any foreign country—it before was 9l. something; no sooner did Mr. George Wilson (Chairman of the Council of the League) and a few others, leading men, hear of it, than they summoned a meeting of all the starchmakers in the kingdom to meet at Manchester, and Mr. George Wilson took the chair. Now, what do you think this meeting was for? You would suppose to take off the whole duty, as the whole population are consumers of the article. No such thing. Mr. G. Wilson, Mr. J. Rawsthorne, Mr. Halliday, and others were starch manufacturers; and although there are only about 200 of them, masters and men, yet the population of Great Britain and Ireland must be taxed for their individual interests, and not taxed at 5l. per cwt. (25 per cent. upon the cost of foreign starch), but they wanted the tax to be prohibitory, and actually succeeded in doubling the duty; they appointed a deputation from the meeting, consisting of Mr. John Rawsthorne, Mr. Halliday, and others, to wait upon the Board of Trade; these are self-styled disinterested reformers. You must not suppose that I am not for free trade: on the contrary; but I cannot join such free traders as these, and think every man of principle should show them up to public indignation.Now in looking over the right hon. Baronet's new Tariff, though I find that there is to be free trade in corn, yet I find also that Mr. G. Wilson and starch are to be protected. Is this fair? This is the way in which the Government of the country truckle to the Anti-corn-Law League. I must allude now to a subject which is personal, and in alluding to it I must ask the indulgence of the House. I have suffered not a little from the conduct of an hon. Member of this House. I should perhaps never have referred to the subject again in this assembly, had not that hon. Member of whom I speak recently asserted, at a public meeting, held within a few miles of 95 my own house, that he meant to go down to the borough of Knaresborough with 1,500l. in his pocket, with that to deprive me of my seat. When, again, attending a meeting at Halifax, the same hon. Gentleman called on the Anti-Corn-Law League manufacturers to subscribe their money liberally, promising to them that, if they did so, the sums raised should be spent in the borough of Knaresborough, as it was high time that I should be removed. Now, as I am to be opposed to that hon. Gentleman or to some of his nominees, it will only be fair that, before we go further, we should stand on equal ground, and with that view I now take the liberty of introducing the matter. On March 15, 1842, I said in the House—The other night the hon. Member for Stockport said, he had inquired, whether in his mills, or 'printing works,' the truck system prevailed, and that he had found it did not; whereas the fact was, that the hon. Member himself kept cows, and forced his people to buy milk from him.On the next night, the hon. Member for Stockport replied—As many hundred tons of dung were used in this trade, it was necessary for manufacturers to keep great numbers of cows. Now, it so happened that his printing work being close to a town, it was found more convenient to buy the requisite quantity of dung than to keep cows; and, therefore, the insinuations of the hon. Member for Knaresborough were not only untrue, but destitute of the shadow of a foundation.When he made that statement I adopted the course usually pursued by Gentlemen in this House. I went into the library, wrote a letter to the hon. Member, and gave up the name of my informant; and he sent that letter down to the Manchester Guardian, and on the next day but one it was published to the world. I asked for a Committee of this House to enable me to prove the truth of the assertion I had made with regard to the truck system in the north of England, and that Committee was granted. The hon. Members for Stockport (Mr. Cobden), and Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), and others, whom it is unnecessary to mention, sat on it; it was fairly appointed, and Lord Ashley was in the chair. The hon. Member for Stockport had, on the 26th of March, made the House and the country believe that I had made a statement which was utterly untrue; he published that contradiction in every newspaper over which the Anti-Corn-Law League had influence; and what was the result of the inquiry? On the 13th of June, 1842, when the Committee sat in the presence of the two hon. Members I 96 referred to, and of the noble chairman, Isaac Oldfield, clerk to the house of Stain-ton and Jones, of Chorley, solicitors, was called. In answer to a question from Lord Ashley, as to the manner in which Lord Atherton's Truck Act was evaded, he said—I think Mr. Cobden has not a shop attached to his works, neither do they let cottages. Mr. Cobden has no shop, but he is in the habit of letting out cows to his workpeople.It would be imagined that hearing this the hon. Member for Stockport would ask this witness for his authority for such evidence; but instead of this, after several other answers had been given, the hon. Member put a question which was intended to draw only off the scent, and which was merely relative to the number of mills in Chorley. The hon. Member for Rochdale, also in the Committee, asked, in reference to letting out cows, "What was the nature of that transaction?" The answer was—I do not think that it is any injury to the workpeople, but it is done in Chorley. I made inquiries chiefly at Mr. Cobden's printworks: there are certain individuals who take cows. It is the interest of the printers to have cows kept upon certain land that they have, and several of the men take cows.Then I put this question—Have you heard at any time of any manufacturers in your part of the country compelling the work-people to take more milk than they could consume?" The answer was, "Yes, I have." I asked "Is that carried on to a considerable extent?" and the reply was, "Yes, it is." "In Chorley?" "Yes." Mr. Cobden asked "Has that been the millowners or the calico printers?" The answer was, "The millowners, generally." I asked "Is the system considered by the working classes as oppressive?" The answer, "Yes, and it is particularly oppressive, and I state it as a fact, that the whole of the mill owners in Chorley, with the exception of one, in the cotton trade, are in the habit of getting something like 50 per cent. out of the shop." He also said, "They sell everything." Another question was, "That is the feeling among the working classes?" "Yes; milk has been taken for a family, and actually sold at less than they gave for it to another family to get quit of it.Now I will not (continued the hon. Member) say another word on this question. I appeal to the gentlemanly feeling of this House for my justification. It is late in doing so, I admit; but my conscience has always acquitted me; and I was unwilling to rake up any unpleasant discussion. I knew I was speaking the truth; and I now call upon the House to decide which of the two Members it was, the hon. Member for Stockport or myself, who made a statement without a shadow of foundation. I am 97 prepared to meet that hon. Member on his own ground or on mine. He may go down to Knaresborough, and spend his 1,500l.; but I have far too high an opinion of my constituents to believe that he can be successful, or that the Association which he represents would be countenanced. I thank the House for the indulgence with which, this evening, I have been heard. I have felt it my duty to redeem every pledge I have given to my constituents. I am prepared to go before them; I challenge you to do the same.
MR. M. MILES
begged upon that to move an Amendment, that the debate be adjourned to Thursday evening. He did not think that it would make the slightest eventual difference, and he was of opinion that the business for which, as he understood, Wednesdays had been set apart, should not be interfered with. If his wish had been consulted, a division would long since have been come to; but on a question of such importance, one, as all agitating the country, east, west, north, and south, it would have been impracticable, and perhaps inadvisable, to close the debate before this week. It had certainly already been sufficiently discussed, as far as that side of the House was concerned; and there would therefore, be no objection to an adjournment to Thursday. He sincerely hoped the discussion would not be continued over Friday night. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had that day presented a petition from Liverpool, containing a prayer to that effect, from merchants engaged in the American trade, and also representing the great impediments which the delay in a settlement presented to mercantile business. That might be looked upon as the general feeling on the subject; and the sooner a settlement was effected the better for Ireland. If, in reference to that country, the right hon. Baronet introduced a short Bill, the object of which should be to give an immediate supply of food, his (Mr. Miles's) consent should be cheerfully given to its passing. If famine, while the debate was going on, did come on the Irish people, and if the price of provisions did rise, upon the right hon. Baronet would rest all the responsibility.
§ Debate adjourned to Thursday.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to One o'clock.