§ MR. D. R. ROSS
commenced the Adjourned Debate by referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand). He proceeded: If the hon. Gentleman who spoke last had addressed himself to the question before the House, and not blinked it, I should have felt myself bound either to yield to his arguments, or to endeavour to answer them. But, I did not consider myself called on to deal with the late election in the West Riding of Yorkshire, nor to defend the Anti-Corn-Law League, nor to take up the cudgels for the manufacturers, nor to offer apologies for right hon. Gentlemen opposite, nor to make it appear that the hon. Member for Stockport never sold milk to his workmen. I think it is perfectly disgusting, to be forced to sit listening to such idle talk as has been indulged in, while famine has already begun the work of desolation, and the poor sufferers in Ireland are turning imploring looks to the Legislature for relief. If we are to argue, night after night, let us, at least, avoid the indecent delays occasioned by reiterated personalities. Why did not the hon. Member for Knaresborough show, or attempt to show, that the mass of the labouring population, whose advocate he has constituted himself, would be worse off under a system of free import than they now are? But his argument went only to show, that whereas the agricultural labourer is at present very poorly off, the manufacturing labourer, the better paid, is treated with cruelty and neglect; and that, in point of fact, the rich of all classes conspire against the poor. Now, I have attended to this debate, and, I must say, I have heard nothing which goes to show that the labouring classes, of whose earnings so large a proportion must be spent in food, would not be great gainers by a permanent diminution of the price of their daily bread. I don't deny, that the poor man's interest in protection, as it is called, has been strongly asserted; but has it been proved? Two or three noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen who have taken the protection side in this debate, have, indeed, claimed for its leading advocates the 122 credit of having supported their views by arguments which their opponents have shunned to grapple with. One of these forgot, apparently, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, who, as well as the right hon. Baronet, pointed out some of the difficulties attendant on the doctrines of which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire was the eloquent, but, in my opinion, not very successful advocate. The country must decide whether these self-crowned combatants shall wear their laurels or not. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire threw one of his arguments into a syllogistic form, and thereby made the fallacy it contains easy of detection. He undertook to prove what I may call the cardinal proposition of his speech, after this fashion: "The labourer has a right to legislative protection." That was the proposition he undertook to prove. "A man's labour," argued the hon. Gentleman, "is his property"—ergo "property is entitled to protection." Now, the conclusion he would draw, does not follow from these premises. Is it not clear as the day, that it is only by playing and punning upon the words "property" and "protection," that any semblance of truth is lent to the proposition which the hon. Member seemed to think he had incontrovertibly established? No doubt, every man has a clear right to exercise his industry, without let or hindrance, on the part of any other. To this amount he has a rightful claim on the Legislature for protection; but, does it therefore follow, that the Legislature is bound also to secure to him profitable application of his labour, by excluding rivals, and establishing a monopoly in his favour? Surely, the same things cannot be predicative of property in labour, which can be predicative of property in goods or houses. If so, it ought to be penal to interfere with the former as with the latter; and the laws ought to transport a man for "robbing" another of his property in labour. The word "protection" was used by the hon. Gentleman in a double sense, fatal to logical accuracy. But, I need say no more: the House perceives the unsoundness of the hon. Gentleman's logic; and further exposure would be tedious and unprofitable. Let me, however, remind the hon. Gentleman to what conclusion his reasons inevitably tend, and ask him whether he could make up his mind to abide by it? Set aside all domestic competition—which, however, the hon. Gentleman did not distinctly except—and say 123 whether, supposing the attempt to cultivate vineyards, and manufacture wine, in the south of England, had been persisted in, the producer of such wine would have had a rightful claim on Parliament to place his commodity on a footing of artificial equality with the produce of the south of France? If that cannot be maintained with regard to a luxury, what shall be said of one of the prime necessaries of life—bread? According to my apprehension, the argument cannot be pressed to its legitimate conclusion, without reaching the point of absurdity, which stands in lieu of all other refutation. It may be the part of wisdom, on the ground of expediency, to impose taxes on bread, or it may not; but, whoever shall attempt to establish the claim of one portion of the community to enrich itself at the expense of another, on the high principles of an abstract right, will find himself reduced to use such fallacies as the hon. Member for Northamptonshire has imposed on his own understanding, by a juggle of words, not very dexterous. With regard to the general question of protection, as it is called, the wisdom of our ancestors has been appealed to; and we have been told, that for 200 years the principle has been recognised and acted on. Yet, our ancestors had some glimmering of light on this subject. About 200 years ago, language was used in the House of Commons, which either of the hon. Baronets opposite might consistently adopt in supporting their present measure:—It is trade that brings food and nourishment to the kingdom; it is that which preserves and increases the stock of the whole, and distributes a convenient portion of maintenance to every part of it; therefore, such obstruction as this must needs be dangerous; the freedom of trade being so necessary, the benefit so important, that it gives life, strength, and beauty to the whole body of the Commonwealth.Thus spoke Pym, in the course of the farmers' conference with the Lords, which he was appointed to conduct; and there were other minds, in that day, besides his, cast in the same mould of statesmanship—great in comprehensiveness and power, fully awake to the vital truth enunciated in the passage I have quoted. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Dublin speak in defence of the great principle of free trade, in its application to Ireland. The statistical facts which he urged, deserve the utmost attention. I shall accept the challenge he threw out, and say a few words on a subject of which I ought to have some knowledge. In supporting the 124 prayer of a petition presented by me on the first night of the debate, which speaks the wishes of every flaxspinner in Belfast, of every operative, I believe, and of a vast majority of men of all parties engaged in other departments of industry, I would intreat those hon. Members who may favour me with a few minutes' attention, to believe that I stand free of all suspicion of speaking from interested or double motives. It is true that my constituents, almost to a man, earnestly desire the total and immediate repeal of these mischievous laws. It is true that names appear on the petitions presented by me, from Belfast and Larne, which were never before found in conjunction on any political subject; but it is also true that I neither adopted these views to obtain nor to secure my seat, but was chosen on account of the opinions I had formed and avowed, long before the dissolution of 1841. I was then far in advance of those who honoured me with their confidence; for, whilst they would have been fully satisfied with the 8s. fixed duty proposed by the noble Lord, I had arrived at the point where the right hon. Baronet now is, and actually suggested the adoption of the plan originally proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose—that of gradual, but total and final, repeal. As a country gentleman, I thought the welfare of the whole community demanded free trade in the prime necessaries of life. My own subsistence depends altogether on land. Now, I might perhaps go as far as many others, to peril life and property, on a great occasion, in the service of my country—I hope we should all be ready to do so, But I do not desire to claim credit for, nor do I expect from others, that more than Roman virtue, which would impel a man deliberately to cast himself, and all he most loves and values, into a pit of destruction, for the general good. My opinion is, and has long been, that we shall do no disservice, but the contrary, in the long run, to labourer, tenant-farmer, or landowner, by establishing a free trade in corn, and abolishing all merely protective duties; and I share this conviction with many gentlemen in Ireland, possessed of large estates—men of high intelligence, and exceedingly well informed on agricultural subjects. I differ with the Member for Dublin University, who, in a speech half philippic, half jeremiad, prophesied ruin to Ireland, as the consequences of this measure. The gallant Officer who represented Donegal was, also, 125 a prophet of evil; but I hope he will be obliged, one day, to confess his error. In the case of the Irish millers, he reasoned on partial and narrow grounds; just as he has done in the present instance. Nobody doubts that the manufacturing interests will be largely benefited by the change proposed; few doubt that the condition of the skilled labourer will rise with that of his employer. Now, as has been already observed, seasons of agricultural prosperity have ever been coincident with manufacturing. It cannot be otherwise. At such times, more consumers of agricultural produce come into the market; and the habitual consumers of beef, mutton, pork, cheese, butter—to say nothing of corn—buy these things in larger quantities—a fact too much lost sight of in this discussion. I well remember my first visit to the great tryst of Dumbarton. On the eve of the day of sale, I found the Highlanders engaged in settling the scale of prices for the following day, and governed in their decision by the latest news from Leeds and Manchester. This, then, may be assumed to be generally true, that the market price of agricultural produce rises and falls with the ebb and flow of manufacturing prosperity; and this is my first ground of hope, for my own corn and provision exporting country—Ireland. Next, I look to the powers of the land itself—to mechanical contrivances, and scientific management. During the late war, much capital was squandered in ignorant attempts to realize fortunes by farming. People are wiser now-a-days. Economy is the main secret of the prosperous farmer; I mean such wise economy as is consistent with increased production. The necessity for economical administration has arisen from the keen competition of enterprising and intelligent farmers for the possession of land; and that stimulus, which has worked so much good in the Lothians, and in Roxburghshire, for instance, will be again applied, with like results, but on a larger scale, in the parallel case of competition with foreigners. It is with farming, as with every thing else. Generally speaking, if little exertion and little contrivance suffice to ensure tolerable comfort, little will be done. It is not under genial skies, or on soils of inexhaustible fertility, that the science of agriculture has been studied with the deepest attention, or the art practised with the most signal success; but rather where the caprice and rigour of the seasons, and the stubborn or 126 infertile character of the soil, necessitate skill, vigilance, ingenuity, and unremitting toil. Norfolk and Scotland were first in the race of improvement. I will not say what counties or countries are last. If we had in England a bread-fruit tree, we should have a listless, lazy, South-Sea Islander sort of people to eat of it. I am sure there were no good farmers in the golden age. We, farmers' friends, have tried to create a golden age for our own people; but, so far as we have gone, all experience has proved, that the removal of our wise means and appliances to make money-getting an easy affair, has served the community, and the producer also. The right hon. Baronet, in his first speech, adverted to an illustration full to the point, and applicable both to the raw material and to the late manufactured article; and I think his late rejoinder justified him fully, and rebutted the counter assertion of the hon. Member for Somersetshire. If the duty of 10l. per ton, formerly imposed on foreign flax, had continued to the present day, I very much doubt whether I should ever have seen flax, the produce of the county of Armagh, sold in the market at the rate of 19s. 6d. a stone; or whether any Irish farmer would have dreamed of the possibility of raising a crop of flax equal in quality to the best which Belgium can produce. But these things have been done. The hon. Member for Somersetshire will have it, indeed, that it will not pay to cultivate flax in England, now that the 10l. duty is removed; and he quoted some statistical facts to make good an assertion which, I confess, startled me. I pass by the little slip he made, as to the connexion between the abolition of duty and the abandonment of the culture of flax, in the parish of Chizelham. He was set right on that head by the right hon. Baronet, who also drew, from the great extension of flax cultivation in Ireland, and from the greatness and thriving character of the linen manufacture, evidence of remuneration to the Irish cultivator of the crop. What a vast trade has grown up in Ulster, under a free system! How ricketty was the trade before! Out of a population of 2,386,972, 500,000 persons derive their support from this business. The wages exceed 1,200,000l. The capital employed, 5,000,000l. The value of Ulster linen, 4,000,000l. per annum. Last year, 60,000 new spindles were added, in Belfast alone, involving an outlay of about 240,000l. of sunk capital. All the linen weavers are at work on an increase of wages; yet the ar- 127 ticle sells at one third what it commanded but a few years ago. The hon. Member will allow—for the fact is notorious—the rapid and constant increase of flax culture in Ireland; but he observes, labour is cheaper in Ireland. Not a bit—in Ulster. The wages of labour are as high in the neighbourhood of Belfast as in Northampton, and much higher than in Wilts and Hampshire. I strongly suspect, labour has been unskilfully applied, in the case referred to. I once heard a Lincolnshire farmer, Mr. Warnes, say, he had found it advantageous to grow flax, for the sake of the food it produced for his cattle; adding, what set us all in a roar, that he had made a journey to Belfast, in order to learn what to do with the straw. [Laughter.] I advise the Essex farmer to try the flaxseed in fattening their calves; and, also, to make use of the straw. There must have been some bad management in the parish of Chizelham. Let me ask the hon. Member for Armagh this question. On which crop does the farmer in his county depend principally—on the protected or the unprotected crop—on his wheat or on his flax? Why, his reliance is on the flax, a product in which he is rivalled to the extent of 4,000,000l. of value by the foreigner; yet, he is now meeting and underselling the foreigner in Germany; and the flax which he sells, at a high price, to the Belfast spinner, finds its way, in a manufactured state, into France, in spite of the tariff, and 30 per cent duty. I have adverted to the enormous amount of raw flax annually imported into the United Kingdom. Now why should not Ireland, admirably suited, in point of climate and soil, to the production of this invaluable plant, supplant the Belgian, and drive the greater part of the foreign supply out of our markets? The Belfast Flax Improvement Society has already done wonders. Beautiful flax has been sent to our factories from Minister, and from the remotest parts of Connaught; and, if but a sixteenth of the arable land, fit for the cultivation of this crop, were sown down with it every year, the Irish farmer and the Irish manufacturer would alike be benefited. The returns of land in Ireland, fit for tillage, and so employed, show a gross amount of 13,464,300 acres. In the district where flax enters into the regular rotation, one-fifth part of the farm bears that crop annually. This is far too large a portion to be devoted to flax; but it marks the value of the crop in the farmer's estimation. I find, that in Belgium 128 not more than a tenth or eleventh of the arable land is thus occupied. Now, suppose the sixteenth part of the 13,464,000 Irish acres sown with flax, we should have no less than 841,518 acres, producing, at the rate of 6 cwt. per acre, 252,455 tons of this remunerative crop, worth, at the most moderate estimate, more than 10,000,000l. The half of this would supply the wants of the United Kingdom, according to the present demand, and afford employment and support to a third part of our teeming population. I want to know, too, what should hinder us from competing successfully with the Dutch butter? In London alone 6,000 barrels of Dutch butter are sold every week. Are the pastures of Carlow and Cork, of Limerick and Tipperary, less verdant than the flats of Holland; or, rather, has the Dutch farmer, who feeds his cows in the house, any advantage, as regards the excellence of the article, over the Irish farmer, whose cows range over some of the richest pastures in the world? No; but we want the Dutchman's method, and his cleanliness. Yet, we are improving; and I am happy to be able to state, that considerable quantities of butter—house-fed butter, too—are sent, by the daily packets, from Belfast to Liverpool or Fleetwood, and sell in the market, at very remunerating prices. As an instance of the relief which improvements afford to the farmer, permit me to glance at that arising from the introduction of efficient and portable manures. Under the common five-course rotation, one-fifth of the farm will, of course, be under green crops—turnips and potatoes. The carting and spreading of farm-yard manure is so exceedingly expensive as to run away, in most cases, with a large portion of the gross profit—in some cases, of the whole. Hence, I have often known the land given rent free, to be well manured. But I have ascertained, by accurate experiment, that, taking into account all expenses, rent included, a profit of 16l. an acre can be drawn from potato ground manured with guano, and almost as much on land manured with crushed bones. Or, take the matter in another point of view. Suppose a small farmer, such as we have in Ulster, holding ten acres of land, at a rent of 1l. per acre, to employ half his farm - yard manure in top-dressing his clover, the other half in manuring his green crop, in combination with guano—the difference of expense between the two being 5l. per acre—the saving, under the pre- 129 sent supposition, would be 2l. 10s., which, distributed over the whole ten acres, would be 5l., that is, 10s. an acre, or half the average rent. From these considerations—1st, from the dependence of agriculture on manufactures; 2nd, from the fact that in Ireland the resources of the soil have been, as yet, very imperfectly developed; 3rd, from the decided experiment with regard to the culture of flax, and the fair prospect before us of like success in the production of butter; 4th, from the known results of applying portable and fertilizing manures, by means of which a saving equal to half the rent may be effected—I have arrived at the conclusion (which I challenge any opponent to prove unfounded), that if the Irish landowners and occupiers of the soil will but avail themselves of the resources at their disposal, they need not fear the rivalry of the foreigner, even though the prices of corn were permanently depressed; because they have the means of compensating for diminished price by increasing production, and, besides, they will be enabled to buy cheaper every other article of consumption, while they sell dearer every product of the soil, corn excepted. But we are threatened with starvation! In the blind pursuit of abundance, we are rushing into the jaws of famine! Land is to be thrown out of tillage to an enormous extent! Our dependence on foreign nations is to be absolute! A year of universal scarcity may bring us to a state of absolute want, and to the verge of national ruin! Sir, I believe nothing of the kind can take place. If there be any truth in what I have advanced, the apprehension is chimerical. Already means have been found to alter the very texture of soils, on which their fertility or barrenness depends. And as to the contingencies of an universal failure throughout the civilized world, let the extent of fertile districts which freedom of commerce in corn, aided by the facilities for its transport from inland countries to the sea, afforded by railways, be taken into account. The cost of conveyance to the Baltic ports, for an extra distance of 250 miles, has been found to double the price of the commodity, owing to the difficulties of navigation. But that expense will be greatly diminished in the course of a few years. Improvement, and the certainty of finding a market, will induce and justify efforts which, in the present uncertain state of the corn trade, it would be madness in the remote foreign cultivator to 130 make. I may safely refer hon. Gentlemen who make use of this argument to the hon. Member for Somersetshire. He thinks every interest will be swept away by an inundation of foreign corn; and, lest the destructive flood should abate, unfailing supplies will flow in from the reservoirs of the warehouse. Were it otherwise, can we deem it to be within the hounds of reasonable probability that all the countries from which supplies of corn can be derived—countries widely differing from each other in soils and climates—should simultaneously be visited with the affliction of dearth in the same products; that a blight should fall, in one year, upon the shores of Michigan and the Black Sea; upon the banks of the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Vistula; on Canada and on Russia? Surely, we need not distress ourselves with imaginary cases of far-fetched possibilities. To me, such a calamity seems to be a mere phantom of the examination; a thing quite out of the constituted order of nature—inconsistent with that providential arrangement which supplies food in abundance for all the creatures of God's hand, and has spread out the ocean as a great highway for the distribution, throughout the world, of the fruits of His exuberant bounty. Another argument, glanced at in the course of this debate, and much insisted on by one of our cleverest periodical works—I mean Blackwood's Magazine—is based on the supposition, that one day or other our supplies of food may be intercepted by the fleets of a victorious enemy. Sir, our case, in such an event, would be bad indeed; bad, whether the Corn Laws were abolished or not; our ships taken or sunk, our Colonies lost, our commerce annihilated; what would remain for us but peace on any terms—peace at the dictation of a triumphant and insulting enemy? Væ victis! Is the supposition one on which the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland ought to base its measures? That is the question. Sir, it ill becomes either individual men or nations to boast; but I may be permitted to express the modest confidence I repose in the naval resources of this nation, in the discipline of our sailors, in the skill of their officers, in the valour that is common to both; and if it should come to pass that French or American Van Tromps and De Witts shall head the fleets of our enemies, and threaten to sweep the British Channel clear of our ships, we have ample proof, up to the pre- 131 sent day, that the breed of British seamen is not extinct; and ample ground for the assurance that new Monks, and Deans, and Blakes, will be found to meet them on our own channel, and maintain the ancient glory of our unsullied flag. I know "the battle is not always to the strong;" but I know also, and am persuaded, that the government of the world is not capricious. Let who will call it enthusiasm—fanaticism: I have a deep-seated confidence, that as long as our naval supremacy is a guarantee for freedom of trade, and the diffusion of knowledge and civilization—as long as this country shall be an asylum and a sanctuary for the oppressed of all nations—as long as freedom and enlightenment follow in the train of our colonization—as long as the sceptre of this kingdom is swayed over its wide dependencies in equity and beneficence—as long as, desiring pacific and friendly relations with all the world, regarding war as the last of calamities, we maintain the character of that magnanimous meekness which becomes our exalted station, so long shall we come conquerors out of every righteous struggle—so long shall the Island Queen be Queen of the circling seas. These, Sir, are my hopes and my opinions, not hastily formed; and, strengthened by every year's experience, I say to this House, do what is just and right, and fear nothing.
MR. BECKETT DENISON
regretted that his hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough was not in his place; because the hon. Gentleman had in his (Mr. Denison's) absence, alluded to him in a manner and in terms which he deeply regretted being obliged to say were in no way warranted. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, in doing him (Mr. Denison) the honour of asking him to second the Address at the opening of the Session, had deceived him as to the measures which the right hon. Baronet intended to propose. It was hardly necessary for him to say that the right hon. Baronet, if not the last man, was certainly one of the last men, in the country who would deceive any one. He (Mr. Denison) was bound to say that the right hon. Baronet had not directly or indirectly deceived him. He must take leave to add, that he joined in the wish which had been expressed by several hon. Gentlemen, that his hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough would be more cautious in future when addressing the House in alluding to private individuals: so doing would 132 tend to raise his character in the House, and in public estimation. Having disposed of this subject (he hoped satisfactorily to the right hon. Baronet)—[Sir R. PEEL: Hear!]—he should proceed, to say, that when he (Mr. Denison) had the honour of seconding the Address, he did conceive, from what the right hon. Baronet had communicated to him, that the Government would bring forward measures of the same character as those which they had propounded within the last three or four years, and which he (Mr. Denison) considered had certainly been most successful; and he also thought that a discussion would take place on the subject of the Corn Laws. But he would frankly own that he did not expect that the right hon. Baronet would propose the total abolition of the Corn Laws, even accompanied by a sliding-scale for three years; and by certain (so called) "compensatory" enactments. He would also admit, that in so doing he considered the right hon. Baronet had committed a "great mistake"—an error which he feared many would have to deplore, but which he hoped the right hon. Baronet would never have reason to regret; for although prepared to oppose the measure, he certainly hoped, should it pass, that it might be successful, and promote those interests which, he doubted not, the right hon. Baronet wished to benefit. He must do the right hon. Baronet the justice to say, that he believed that unless he had felt overpowered by a strong sense of public duty, he would not have ventured to bring forward such a measure. It would be admitted that it was as much the duty of Governments as of individuals to exert themselves for the promotion of the employment of the people; and to furnish them, in the best possible way, at once with the requisite supply of provision and the means of procuring it. He (Mr. Denison) could conscientiously state, that in supporting the Corn Laws as he had done for several years, he had been influenced solely by that consideration. He had never advocated the Corn Laws for the benefit of the landlords. Nor had he advocated them solely for the interest even of the tenantry—that hardworking and deserving race of men, the yeomen and the pride of England; but the great anxiety on his mind had been in favour of the working classes of the community at large: and he would frankly admit, that if he could be convinced that the measure before the House would really benefit the working classes, he would at once become a Corn 133 Law repealer. But until convinced of that, he should remain firm in his adherence to his original principles; being satisfied that the continuance of the Corn Laws was for the advantage of the working classes generally, and not for the benefit of the landed interest alone. He must ask leave to take a brief review of the state of things in this country for the last few years, in connexion with this subject. Within this century the population had doubled—within this century the price of corn had fallen nearly 50 per cent. At this time, 1846, there was not a larger proportion of the population fed by foreign wheat than at the commencement of the century; and yet during all this period the country had been under the operation of the Corn Laws, which had been changed from time to time against the landed interest, though of course professedly for the good of the public. Then, referring to pauperism—the poor rates within the last century had greatly decreased: we raised less money in 1841 than in 1810. Yet all this while we had been under the operation of the Corn Laws. Lest he should be in error on this subject, especially after the extraordinary statements of the right hon. the Vice President of the Board of Trade (Sir G. Clerk), to which he should soon allude, he would quote from a document prepared from Parliamentary Papers, representing the importations of corn in decennial periods:—
the last period being, it would be observed, five years only. On examination, however, of these Papers, it would be found that, in some of the years, not much more than 100,000 quarters of foreign wheat had been imported; so abundant had been our harvests at home, and so perfectly able was the country, in ordinary years, to supply an abundance of corn for the whole community. Thus, there were entered for home consumption (of foreign wheat imported)—
AVERAGE IMPORTATION OF FOREIGN WHEAT. Between 1791 and 1800 470,000 quarters. Between 1801 and 1810 455,000 quarters. Between 1811 and 1820 429,000 quarters. Between 1821 and 1830 534,000 quarters. Between 1831 and 1840 908,000 quarters. Between 1841 and 1846 1,300,000 quarters.
Yet they were told that it was necessary to take off the Corn Laws, that the population might have foreign corn imported to any amount. It appeared to him that no interest had been so cruelly treated, or so 134 hardly pressed, as that of agriculture. In 1815 there was a prohibitory duty upon foreign corn, until the price here reached 80s. In 1822 that price was reduced to 70s. In 1828 there was a new law, introducing a "sliding-scale," which lasted till 1842, when the rate of duty was reduced 50 per cent; and now, in 1846, when the last law had not been in operation four years, total abolition was proposed. Surely there should be "a case" made out against the agricultural interest, before such a sudden and extensive change could be justly proposed or acceded to. It ought to be made out that the agriculturists had established a system which had worked extremely ill—that the price of wheat had risen as the rate of population increased—that the people had been starving. Then, indeed, it might have been reasonably said, "We can endure this law no longer!" But the very reverse of all this had been the fact. He had attempted already to prove—and trusted that he had succeeded in satisfying the House—that within the present century the improvement of agriculture had been going on at the same rate as the increase of the population. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood that cheer. He gave the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench the full benefit of conceding that agriculture was still in its infancy. But he said, while there was no reason to doubt that agriculture would continue to improve, and while he did not question that our agriculture possessed full power to meet the exigencies of an increasing population—he thought the Legislature ought to behave fairly to agriculture—that it ought to give the agriculturists a lease of the measure passed in 1842, as it had done with the law of 1828—that it ought to have waited until it was seen whether the agriculturists would exert themselves, and put their shoulders to the wheel (or rather to the plough), as they had hitherto done—that it ought to have ascertained whether there would be any just ground of complaint on the score of deficient, supply of food; and he believed that, though of course the agriculturists could not control the changes of the seasons, they would be found to do all that was required to supply the national necessities. He had been much astonished by the speech of the right hon. the Vice President of the Board of Trade (Sir G. Clerk), who said—
In 1844 822,000 quarters. In 1845 136,000 quarters.Within the last ten years, we had imported nearly 10,000,000 of quarters of corn, giving an average of nearly 2,000,000 quarters a year.135 That, of course, was a mistake of the printers. [Sir G. CLERK: Five years.] Taking the right hon. Gentleman's correction, the calculation remained im-inexplicable; 2,000,000 quarters of wheat imported yearly must surely be a mere misprint. However, the right hon. Baronet continued—No one could say that the people had been meanwhile at all overfed. If the population were to go on increasing for the ten years to come, as it had been during the ten years preceding, an annual average import of 3,000,000 quarters would not be greater than the country would require. Not only would not a single acre be thrown out of cultivation, but there would be a greater demand for the home-grown wheat than at present. The experience of the last thirty years had satisfied him that the rate of population advanced more rapidly than the rate of production, and that we must increase our imports of foreign corn.All that he could say was, that if the Vice President of the Board of Trade was right, then he (Mr. Denison) must be wrong. His right hon. Friend said, that the quantity of corn imported within the last five years was greater than in the preceding years; but he had just referred to figures, and he would beg to refer his right hon. Friend to them. The whole question before the House was this: "Are the Corn Laws calculated to promote the comfort and happiness of the working classes, and thereby increase the wealth and power of the nation?" He frankly admitted that unless the comfort and happiness of the people were increasing, the wealth and power of the nation must decrease, and that that decrease would necessarily be succeeded by disease, poverty, and distress. Unless it could be shown that the Corn Laws had the effect of increasing the comfort and happiness of the people, he would vote against them. He presumed, however, that there was ample evidence to show that protection had that desirable effect. But by the Tariff of 1842, the right hon. Baronet reduced the duties upon meat and animals generally. He was one of those who thought the right hon. Baronet did perfectly right. He did not agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) in the opinion expressed by him on that occasion; because, at that time, the price of meat was rising in the market. He was now quite ready to say, that if the price of wheat were rising in the market, you ought to take off the duty, and give the people an opportunity of getting cheaper corn; therefore, although, in his opinion, 136 the right hon. Baronet was quite right in his measure with respect to meat, it did not follow that he was correct with respect to corn. There was also a reduction of duty on sugar. But there was no analogy between the duty upon sugar and duty upon corn. The duty was imposed upon sugar expressly for the purpose of revenue. He believed the quantity of sugar imported had been nearly stationary for some years past; and the consequence must be that the price would rise, or a certain portion of the people would be certainly deprived of that necessary article of life. The Government, therefore, were right in reducing the duty on sugar; so with respect to coffee, and various other articles which were not grown at home. But he saw no analogy between articles grown abroad, and those grown at home. The Corn Laws ought not to be considered as a fiscal regulation: they ought to be contemplated as a system for giving encouragement to the cultivation of home-grown corn. Viewed in this light, he believed that the destruction of such a system would ultimately prove as detrimental to the manufacturing interests as to the agricultural. He had ascertained some of the consequences which resulted from a good harvest and a bad one; and he must say that it appeared to him that much error prevailed upon this subject. It had been stated, over and over again, that wages were never so good, and employment never so plentiful, as when the price of corn was low. He admitted that this was true, with a few additional words, namely, when that lowness of price was the consequence of a good harvest. For he maintained that neither the agricultural interest nor the manufacturing interest could be in a healthy state, unless they had the advantage of a good harvest. He would challenge any one to show an instance of the people of the manufacturing districts being in full employment after a bad harvest; and he would challenge any one to show an instance where the people of those districts were out of work after a good harvest. The explanation was easy and clear. After a plentiful harvest the price might be low, but there was more corn to sell; so that there was an increase of wealth in the nation, and more corn to consume. The farmer, though getting lower prices, brought home more money, and had greater encouragement to employ labour; while the labourers got an ampler supply of the necessaries of life 137 than they would otherwise receive even with higher wages. But if the position of affairs were reversed, and if the results of a bad harvest were examined, it would, be found, on asking the shopkeepers in a country town how they got on, they would reply that "there had been a bad harvest," and therefore "they sell nothing." What he would impress upon the House, therefore, was the immense importance of encouraging agriculture as much as possible. He asked not high duties—he desired not prohibition, but protection, believing it to be for the benefit of the nation that agriculture should be encouraged. As to the manufacturers they never were in a good state when the price of corn on account of a bad harvest was high. And here he would observe that the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) was, he doubted not, fully alive to the value of good harvests; the bad harvests of 1839, 1840, and 1841 — accompanied as they were by distress and discontent in the manufacturing districts, did more to shake public confidence in the noble Lord's Administration than, almost anything else. [Lord J. RUSSELL: Hear.] And, to do justice both to the noble Lord, and to the right hon. Baronet now at the head of the Government, he must add, that the good harvests since the right hon. Baronet came into office had very much assisted his Administration. Again, they all remembered that in 1833, 1834, and 1835, when there were remarkably good harvests, the manufacturing districts were well employed; while it was equally well known that in 1823, 1824, and 1825, there were good harvests, and manufactures were most flourishing. The noble Lord (the Member for London) made an observation the other night which was deserving of notice. The noble Lord said, that the case of the Corn Laws was one of exceeding difficulty; that many eminent men had written upon the subject; but every one of these learned writers had been puzzled as to the best mode of dealing with the subject. Now, with all respect for the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel,) and with a candid declaration, that if he (Mr. Denison) were compelled to choose a pilot to steer the vessel of the State through the shoals and breakers that might beset its course, he would take the right hon. Gentleman; but so long as he (Mr. E. B. Denison) possessed any judgment to guide his conduct, and had the power to speak for himself, he must act 138 upon his own convictions. He therefore could not accept the invitation for the abolition of the Corn Laws. Even if the proposition and the measure were right, still the time for bringing it forward was wrong and unfortunately chosen. The right hon. Gentleman had taken the country by surprise, which ought not to have been done. The measure put 300 Gentlemen, who were most anxious to support Her Majesty's Government, in the painful position either of voting against their leader, or of voting against their conscience, or of resigning their trust into the hands of their constituents. He might have resorted to the last alternative; but he confessed he preferred rather to vote against the Government, which, up till now, he had most sincerely supported. He had, however, another reason for voting against the present Motion. In 1841, he (Mr. E. B. Denison) was, as his hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. C. Wood) would admit, pressed into the service of his country, by being urged to become a candidate to represent the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was so required to stand for the express purpose of opposing the two most popular men in the kingdom, Lord Milton and Lord Morpeth—men whom, under ordinary circumstances, he should never have dreamt of opposing. But he was selected by his friends on that occasion, because they knew that he had always advocated protection to agriculture. He accordingly presumed to present himself to the electors of the West Riding; but he never made them any promises; he gave no pledges; undoubtedly he did state that he was a sincere advocate for protection, and he now felt that he was as much bound in honour and good faith to keep his word, as if he had entered into the most solemn engagement. From those declarations he would not swerve. He might possibly be induced to forfeit his bond; but his word of honour he would never break. To the surprise of everybody—certainly to his own surprise, and to that of the hon. Member for Halifax—he (Mr. Denison) and Mr. Wortley were elected. The hon. Member for Halifax laughed at the notion of Mr. Denison being brought forward as the opponent of Lord Morpeth, and in a tone of confident triumph, exclaimed—"Now then, we shall have a stand-up fight; there are Wortley and Denison against Milton and Morpeth, we will meet them, and lick them both most heartily;" to the surprise, however, of every man, Mr. Wortley and he (Mr. De- 139 nison) were elected. But so little was he disposed to go into the contest, that he made a proposition to his opponents, that if they would withdraw one of their own candidates, and let the Conservatives have one Member, he would not be the cause of a contest. But the idea of allowing a Conservative to be returned for the West Riding of Yorkshire was laughed at, while the Whigs offered the people "Cheap corn! cheap timber! and cheap sugar!" He, on that occasion, told his hon. Friend (Mr. C. Wood) to take care, that they did not thrash both his candidates; the warning was unheeded; the election went on, and the Conservatives were triumphant. Well, then, in 1846, without a single reason being assigned, even by the right hon. Gentleman himself, for this proposal to abolish the Corn Laws, how could he justify himself, after having opposed the noble Lord (who was now his hon. Colleague) in 1841 upon that very question—how, he asked, could he justify himself in supporting the proposition of Her Majesty's Government? He should be ashamed of himself to do so. If he changed his mind upon the subject, he should have been bound in honour to have resigned. True, he might, indeed, have avoided that course by simply saying "he had changed his mind, and so disposed of all his former speeches." But being determined to stand by his former speeches, and not having changed his mind, he must vote against the measure. There was one other point to which he must allude. His noble Colleague (Lord Morpeth) seemed to fancy that his not being opposed at the late election of a Member for the West Riding in consequence of Lord Wharncliffe's death, was indicative of a very general change having taken place in the minds of the people in that part of the kingdom upon this subject. But he would ask the noble Lord not to deceive himself upon that point. There were various circumstances which induced the friends of protection to say, "We will not offer any opposition to the noble Lord on this occasion." But he could assure the noble Lord that if it had been a general election, and if the public had known then as they did now what was the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, the noble Lord would have had to encounter a very sharp contest. He would further tell the noble Lord that many gentlemen of influence and property, who, in 1841, supported the noble 140 Lord, had since told him (Mr. E. B. Denison) that it was true they did, in 1841, give the noble Lord their support, in opposition to Mr. Wortley and himself, but circumstances were so changed that a protection candidate for the future might rely on their best services. That occurred only the other day. Therefore he thought it his duty to tell the noble Lord that he must not indulge the pleasing idea that by giving support to the repeal of the Corn Laws, he would insure his return at the next election. The hon. Gentleman concluded by saying, that he had not changed his mind upon the policy of the Corn Laws, and he therefore steadily opposed their abolition; for he was not prepared to give any man in Yorkshire, whether of 25,000l. or 30,000l. a year, or the poorest voter who voted for him at the last election, the opportunity of saying—"I took you upon your word of honour, but you have betrayed me, and deceived me."
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken seemed to imagine that there was something derogatory in a man's changing his mind. Now, he (Mr. Brotherton) had read in a good book, that "a wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind, but he who is not wise is obstinate and perseveres in his error." The hon. Member had said that if the Corn Laws were not beneficial to the working classes he would repeal them, and that his only motive for supporting them was that he believed them to be beneficial to the people; and that he did not support them from a mixed motive of their being beneficial either to the farmer or the landlord. He had also adduced certain figures to prove that they must have been beneficial to the community at large, inasmuch as fewer persons were now fed on foreign corn, than at the time the Corn Law was enacted in 1815. He was at issue with the hon. Gentleman upon that point. The returns presented to the House showed that for the period from 1815 to 1821 only one in thirty of the population was fed upon foreign corn; that upon the average of ten years to 1831, one in twenty-two of the population were fed upon foreign corn; and upon the average of the ten years to 1841, one in sixteen and a half were so fed. If the hon. Gentleman would take a note of the quantity of wheat and wheat flour imported into this kingdom for the last eight years, he would find that one in ten of the population had to be fed upon foreign corn. Therefore if the Corn Laws 141 answered the purpose for which the hon. Gentleman supposed them to be enacted—that of feeding the people, and not of keeping up prices—he must admit that they had failed of that effect. He (Mr. Brotherton) would admit that many honest persons supported the Corn Law with a view to promote agriculture, without having exclusively in their minds the desire of keeping up rents. Many, no doubt, advocated the law for the sole object of enabling this country to be independent of foreign supplies. But the question was, had the Corn Laws answered the end intended? Was the home supply sufficient for the population? On the contrary, instead of the population of Great Britain being supplied with sufficient food by the home market, the dependence of the country for corn from our foreign neighbours had been gradually increasing — ay, and this increased dependence more than before the Corn Laws were enacted; and this fact disposed of the argument. Again, let the hon. Gentleman consider whether there was not sufficient reason for Her Majesty's Ministers to change their opinions upon this subject. Were there not four millions of people in Ireland living upon potatoes? The right hon. Baronet had stated that he believed those poor people were upon the verge of famine; potatoes had risen 50 per cent in price during the last year. Trade was in a state of stagnation. Every letter he (Mr. Brotherton) received from Manchester stated that trade was paralysed; and he had the opportunity of attending a deputation which waited on the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), who represented to that hon. Gentleman that the people in the manufacturing district were alarmed lest the scenes of 1841 and 1842 should come again. [Sir R. PEEL: Hear, hear.] He (Mr. Brotherton) well remembered those scenes—he was present at them, and he was now deeply impressed with the conviction that it was the duty of Parliament to provide food for the people. He was surprised that country Gentlemen should stand up and endeavour to prevent Her Majesty's Ministers from opening the ports, to preserve the people from starvation. ["No, no!"] Gentlemen might deny it, but it was true. There was every reason to apprehend a state of anarchy in Ireland, unless food were provided for its inhabitants. The Government had already adopted precautionary measures, and he gave them great credit for what they had done. He was astonished at the doctrines 142 laid down by the country Gentlemen in their speeches, after they were divested of all their mystifications and verbiage. They had said, in effect, "The land is ours, and we have a right to do as we like with our own; we have a territorial Constitution; we have a right to govern you; for we have fed you, and employed you, and you are much better off than the serfs of Russia or Poland; and what have you to complain of?" But how have you governed the people? How have you fed them? How have you employed them, and what is their condition? You have undertaken to feed the people, but you are determined that they shall be fed only at your price; that they shall receive their food from you, and not from foreigners." He believed they would altogether prevent foreign corn coming here, if they dared; as it was, they had made a law to make corn dear and scarce, in order that they might keep up their own rents and incomes. That was the real object for which the Corn Laws were now supported. He had heard a great deal of cant about regard for the working classes, about their being benefited by these laws, and what a horrible thing it would be if the agricultural labourers were thrown out of employment. This appeared to be very charitable and humane; but who employed these labourers? It was an undeniable fact that there were fewer labourers employed in agriculture in 1841 than in 1821. This was his assertion: let the protectionists disprove it if they could. The population of Great Britain had increased four millions since 1821: who then had employed and fed this increased number? And if foreign corn had to be imported to feed them, who paid for it? The hon. Member for Wiltshire had stated that every quarter of wheat, cost 25s. in labour. Taking the annual consumption of wheat at 20,000,000 of quarters, this at 25s. a quarter—the alleged cost of the labour—amounted to 25,000,000l., a sum equal to the wages of all the agricultural labourers in the kingdom. Now, according to documents laid before the House, there were only about 1,200,000 agricultural labourers in Great Britain in 1841; and taking the hon. Member's own estimate, that the wages averaged 8s. per week, the annual amount would be only 25,000,000l. How then was it possible that the labour employed in cultivating wheat should cost 25s. per quarter? The protectionists had themselves estimated their protection at 20,000,000l. a year—he contended it was much more—and they 143 complained that the right hon. Baronet, now that he was doing one of the noblest acts of his life, was only giving them a compensation of 200,000l. But if the protection had been 20,000,000l. a year on wheat only, those who paid it had paid the wages of every agricultural labourer in England. During the thirty years the Corn Laws had been in operation, 600,000,000l. sterling had thus been taken from the community; and it was the people who ought to ask for compensation for being thus deprived of their rights. The Corn Law was unjust and inhuman, and it had been proved over and over again to be impolitic. It was asserted that cheap food would reduce wages; if so, dear food ought to be accompanied with high wages. The hon. Member for Westmoreland had said, that along with the removal of this protection, Government ought to reduce the duties on sugar, tea, tobacco, and coffee, by which the working classes would be exceedingly benefited. If so, would they not benefit from a reduction in the price of bread? The increase in the price of food in the last twelve months had made a difference of 1,000,000l. a year to the people of Lancashire. He was convinced this law could not be maintained on any principle, either of justice, humanity, or sound policy. The more agriculture was protected, the more it was weakened; the best protection to native industry was the extension of our foreign commerce; and the best protection to agriculturists was the prosperity of their customers. Let there be a good foreign trade, and agriculture was sure to prosper. What gave its value to land? Nothing but the extended market, at home and abroad, for our manufactured products. The agriculturists had been enabled to buy cheap manufactures, while they sold their corn dear; corn was as dear now, or nearly so, as in 1815—at least it was so a year or two ago. With all the boasted improvements in agriculture, for a series of years, corn had been at the same price as it was when the Corn Laws were enacted. Manufactures, on the other hand, had gone on increasing in quantity and in reduction of price; so that, while in 1815 a piece of calico would purchase three bushels of corn, it would now only buy three-quarters of a bushel. Thus, cheap manufactures were given for dear corn; and that was what the protectionists called the best market, and they said the home customers were the best. The fact was, the country was giving the agriculturists 25,000,000l. a year, that they 144 might expend some portion of it in manufactures, and that was a very pretty way of making them into good customers. Therefore, so far from the landed interest being entitled to compensation, the commercial interest had a much better claim to it, for the injustice they had suffered. The hon. Member for Finsbury had spoken of the new law of settlement to be introduced by Government; and there had been great cheering among the protectionists, as if the manufacturing interest would oppose it. He (Mr. Brotherton) had already expressed his conviction that the measure was one of humanity and justice, and it should have his support. Though some prejudice might exist against it in the manufacturing districts, he conceived it to be a measure of humanity, and, to a great degree, a measure of justice; if the agriculturists would only with a good grace abolish the Corn Laws. So far from the manufacturers opposing the plan, he believed they would accept it, and gave it their support. The Chairman of the Poor Law Union (Salford) with which he was connected, informed him that the guardians considered it a wise and humane measure, and they urged him to give it his support. He could easily conceive that its operation would be rather injurious than otherwise to the manufacturing interest; for in Ireland, where 4,000,000 of the population lived on potatoes, the prospect of gaining a permanent settlement here by five years' residence, would be a strong inducement to them to come over to this country; and it might have an effect upon the labour of this country. But he had no such fears; he thought it as great an error to apprehend any mischief to this country from the influx of Irish labourers seeking employment, as it was formerly to prohibit the importation of Irish corn into this country, lest land in England should be thrown out of cultivation. He should have liked the Government measure better, as a whole, if it had included an immediate repeal of the Corn Laws; that would have accomplished an end worthy of the great measure brought forward. But as the measure stood, he believed that, so far from its being injurious to the working classes, it would cause increased employment, a diminution of poverty, crime, and immorality, and would conduce to the general interest and happiness of the community.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
was induced to offer a few observations on a question in which he was much interested. He should, 145 indeed, take a very narrow view of the whole question if he were to oppose the measures proposed by Her Majesty's Government, solely because they might materially affect those which he had the honour of representing in that House; but he opposed them because he regarded them—whether as applied to our agriculture, commerce, or manufactures—as injurious to the public interest. On these grounds, and taking also into account the compensation proposed by Her Majesty's Government, he was prepared to regard the measure as a whole, and to give his most cordial support to the Amendment proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for the city of Bristol. The hon. Gentlemen who spoke last complained that Members connected with the agricultural interest had mystified the subject before the House; but he must say that the mystification proceeded in a great measure from hon. Gentlemen who, instead of regarding the country as it existed, took a Utopian view of its commercial relations, and laid down principles which, in the present state of things, could not possibly be adopted with safety to the country. He should not follow the example of some Gentlemen who took part in the debate, by casting imputations on his right hon. Friends on the Treasury bench for the course they had thought proper to pursue. He would pass over the speeches uttered by his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) when, at the head of a powerful Opposition, he had ejected the Whigs from office. He (Mr. Christopher) would also pass over the opinions expressed by the right hon. Baronet in 1842, when a material change in protective duties was made; when, though the principle of prohibition was abandoned, the principle of protection was recognised by the House. He would even pass over the more qualified expressions of his right hon. Friend in the last Session of Parliament, when the subject of the Corn Laws having been introduced, he stated that he looked forward to a period when we must return to what the political economists called sound principles of legislation on this matter; but, at the same time, laying it down as a principle, that it was imprudent and unwise to interfere with great interests, where large capital was expended—to interfere with persons who were tempted by the legislation of that House to regard protection as a part of the legislative system of the country. He had supported the right hon. Baronet on all questions, for nearly twenty 146 years, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill and the present measure; and it was his desire, if possible, to submit, on this occasion, to the superior judgment of his right hon. Friend; but having listened attentively to his able speech, he could see no case whatever made out to justify so great and so sweeping a change as that recommended. The right hon. Gentleman had in his own opinion satisfactorily explained the principles on which he reconstructed his Cabinet; but it would have a most unfortunate effect on the country if right hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords having come into office on the principle of protecting the native industry of all classes, should suddenly abandon that principle. Such a course was calculated to make the country at large place no confidence in any public men. He considered a strong Government of great advantage. He also considered it of great advantage to the country to have the right hon. Baronet at the head of that Government. He had been so far trusted by that House, and the constituent body, that he was enabled, by the imposition of taxes, and regulations of the revenue, to relieve the country from difficulties, and bring it into a most prosperous state; but with all those advantages, he would much sooner see a weak Government, controlled by a powerful Opposition—he would sooner see any body of politicians in office, whose principles were steady and sincere, than statesmen whose system of legislation was of that weathercock character that it was impossible to say what a day, or even an hour, might bring forth. Considering both the time and the manner in which the present measure had been introduced, he regarded it as a fearful and hazardous experiment. He was convinced that even its authors were not prepared to say what would be its effect. As a hazardous experiment he should give the measure his most decided opposition. His right hon. Friend had laid down the position that, as a principle of legislation with regard to our commercial policy, all protective duties whatever were bad in principle, and ought to be abolished; and that no duties should be levied except for the purposes of revenue. But he must say that, whatever might be the object in levying duties, they must practically be protective in their operation to the extent to which they were levied. This was the case with regard to the duties recommended to the House. The right 147 hon. Baronet proposed to continue a duty of 10 per cent on the article of cotton, 10 per cent on woollen and metal articles, and 15 per cent on silk, the produce of foreign countries; and he proposed to abolish in the course of three years the duty on articles entering into competition with the agricultural produce of this country. If the Government intended to adopt the principle of levying duties only for the purposes of revenue, then the agricultural and manufacturing interests ought to be equally protected. The Government, to be consistent with the position laid down, should adopt the principle of the fixed duty advocated by the noble Lord (Russell), as an impost on foreign corn, and only abolish that duty when they had made up their minds to withdraw all protection from manufactures. The noble Lord the Member for South Lancashire, whose graceful language had the merit of clothing the dull dogmas of political economy in a more classic dress than that in which they were usually presented to the House—that noble Lord had laid down the just position, that the producer of corn in this country, and the manufacturer, should be exactly on the same footing. He said the only difference between them was, that the one manufactured corn, and the other cotton. But if the earth be the machine by which corn was manufactured, it was stubborn in its character, and not so easily managed as that employed in the manufacture of cotton. There was another most important matter for consideration—the great difficulties with which the manufacturer of corn had to contend. The farmer was obliged to cultivate his land with care, with skill, and with assiduity. He was obliged to guide all his operations in such a way as fully to be able to contend and to compete with those who were engaged in the same business. He could not regulate the supply so as to meet the demand; whereas the manufacturer in wool, in cotton, or in articles of a similar description, could. The cotton manufacturer could ascertain the exact state of the market, and could regulate the supply in proportion to the demand. He had, therefore, reason to complain that the right hon. Baronet was sparing in his encouragement of the manufacture of corn—of encouragement to those interests which hitherto the Legislature had felt it its duty to protect, but from which now all protection was to be taken away. He thought that the agricultural interests, even on the pure prin- 148 ciples of free trade, had reason to complain; for while the right hon. Baronet was about to take away all protection from land, by removing the duties on the agricultural produce of foreign countries, yet the landowner was not to be allowed to cultivate his own land so as to insure the most amount of profit. They were prevented from cultivating tobacco; whereas, from what he had seen in Germany, he was convinced that in the county which he had the honour to represent, many thousand acres might be profitably employed in the cultivation of tobacco. They were still to protect their Colonies—they had their differential duties remaining, and no attempt had been made to alter the relative amount of those duties, and no attempt was to be made to relax the principle of the differential duties. He had seen beet-root for the manufacture of sugar grown to a large extent in France; and he was sure that the fertile soil of the county which he represented might be profitably employed in its production. He did not wish to detain the House by entering into the details of this measure, but he wished to make one allusion. The right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, for the purpose of placing the agricultural interest of this country on a different footing from the manufacturing interests, offered them, as an inducement to agree to such a sweeping, and in his mind injurious, change, certain proposals in the way of compensation. He regretted that he (Sir R. Peel) made use of that expression in introducing this measure, because, if the measure were right in itself, and were one which ought to be acceptable to the country, he repudiated the principle of compensation. If the measure were right in itself, there ought to be no compensation. He proposed, in the first place, that Gentlemen who had settled estates should have the opportunity of going before the Commissioners of Land Revenue, and of borrowing money at a low interest. He believed that such a proposal as that would be totally inefficient. In the first place, if Gentlemen were in a condition to go to their bankers, persons from whom they might receive accommodation, they would infinitely prefer doing so, to laying their title-deeds before a public board. Persons who knew the nature of landed property, and persons who, like himself (Mr. Christopher) knew what a Chancery suit was, knew better than to place their title-deeds under the glance of any public officer. He 149 thought on that ground that any compensation of that kind was inefficient. The right hon. Baronet also proposed to alter the law of settlement: he proposed that all persons who create a settlement by residence for a certain period in the manufacturing districts should not, as now, be removed to rural parishes. That might be a good measure in itself, though he would not be a supporter of it. His hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, stated, that he knew perfectly well that there were a great many hand-loom weavers who found work in Coventry and Nottingham; and he doubted whether they would confer any great benefit on that portion of the community by such a step. He was willing to regard this measure as beneficial with regard to the law of settlement, and he was willing to give it so far his entire support; but, in doing so, he felt bound to say that it would be no great boon to the agricultural interest, as he could show that though not the ultimate, yet, the immediate effect of it would be to inflict a severe, and, he was afraid, a lasting injury on the agricultural interests; and even if they took their view of the proposed law in the most favourable light, it would only afford a prospect of further evil. His right hon. Friend, in stating his entire measure of compensation, said, that it was the intention of the Government to consolidate parishes, for the purpose of improving the internal communication of the country. The internal communication of the country he admitted to be very defective. No person had complained of it more than he; but he could not consider the measure as any compensation for an immediate evil; it would be no compensation as far as relief to the poor went; and he doubted if it would not inflict a great injury on them, though it might improve the internal communication of the country. Now, with regard to the highways in England. Was it not notorious, whether right or wrong, that those highways, at that moment, formed, the means of relieving and maintaining numbers of sickly persons, who from infirmity of body and weakness in health were unable to obtain subsistence in field-labour? The right hon. Baronet would perhaps wish to sweep all these poor persons into the workhouses; but those who were employed on these highways were persons who were, under that age which entitled them to poor-law outdoor relief. They were in a state of humble independence, 150 not forced to seek relief from the workhouse or from any local fund. But the moment they employed a district surveyor, who would be guided by a class of inflexible economists, those persons must seek parochial relief, and, if under the age of sixty, they must be sent to the workhouse, so that when they lowered one rate they increased the other. So far from being a relief to those poor persons, he apprehended that this measure would tend materially to inflict an additional injury. He came now to another part, of the question, and he wished to take a practical view of it—he wished to see what would be the probable effect of this measure on the agricultural population of this country. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that there need be no apprehension that the shipping interest would be affected; for this reason, that a great quantity of corn would come from foreign countries, and consequently more shipping would be employed, and a benefit would be derived by this measure; but at the end of his speech, alluding to the effect which it would have on the agricultural interests, he said that it would have no great effect on that interest, for his right hon. Friend asked, where was the foreign corn to come from? If the shipping interest would be benefited by the importation of all this corn that was to come from foreign countries, he should like to know on what grounds the Chancellor of the Exchequer could say that the agricultural interest would not be injured for the same reason. And if there were no corn to come in, how, he would like to know, could the shipping interest be benefited? He could refer to documents on this subject, but that he did not wish to weary the House. He could not look upon this measure in any other light than one which would cheapen labour by bringing foreign produce into competition with their own. It might cheapen food; but the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, on the other side of the House, said, that though no farmer himself, yet, from his acquaintance with those who were concerned in agricultural operations, he fancied that they had nothing to do but to sow the seed and to reap the produce. But it should be recollected that now-a-days skill, science, and chemestry, were employed in the advancement of agriculture in this country. A great many improvements had, of late, been introduced that were unknown six- 151 teen years ago. It was in consequence of the application of science, he believed, that the people of England were now in a better condition—in a better state, with regard to their supply of food, than any other nation. He found that though there was famine in all other parts of Europe there was no famine here. At this moment the average price of corn was under 54s. per quarter, notwithstanding all the different plans that were resorted to in towns for the purpose of raising the average price. In his own county the average price was 51s. The foreigner could bond his corn at very little more cost than any of his tenants would be liable to for sending a portion of their agricultural produce into Lancashire. But to give a practical proof, he would quote the average price of wheat for the following years in England and Dantzic:—
An eminent corn merchant told him, that he cleared a large cargo of excellent wheat under 40s. when the average price in England was 50s. 10d., and that he had actually purchased wheat at 26s. 6d. Whether the effect of the measure would be to make food cheap he would not say; of one thing he was certain, that by the introduction of such large quantities of grain from foreign countries so much labour would be displaced, as to throw a vast quantity of land out of cultivation, and a number of people out of employment. Mr. Deacon Hume, in his evidence before the Import Duties Committee, a gentleman of intelligence, and an excellent judge as to all that related to the produce of foreign countries, was asked—
Years. England. Dantzic. s. d. s. d. 1836 48 6 28 7 1837 55 10 29 0 1838 64 7 49 0 1839 70 8 53 0 1840 66 4 52 0 1841 64 4 52 6 1842 57 3 53 0 1843 50 1 39 0 1844 51 3 1845 11 months 50 10 26 6Do you think the production of corn in this country would be diminished?—I think the production of corn in certain parts which have been forced into corn cultivation would be diminished, but not otherwise. You do not think the soil would cease to be used?—No, I believe that the rents of lands, generally speaking, in this country would gradually increase, in consequence of the 152 greater demand for labour creating a greater demand and ability to pay for fresh or green vegetable food, and especially for animal food. Have you formed an estimate of the quantity of corn that would be imported under your proposed tariff, one year with another?—Taking all kinds of corn and meal, I estimate that we should receive at least from eight to ten millions of quarters every year. Do you think, in consequence of that increased population and wealth, the population of this country might consume an increased quantity of imported corn, without diminishing the demand for the agricultural produce of our own country?—I think so, taking all kinds of agricultural products. In the course of ten years you would want at least ten millions of quarters of grain additional, if you were to produce as much as you have done in the last six years in the United Kingdom; but then you would not produce so much, but you would change a great deal of the land into grazing and culinary vegetable land. Ten millions appears to be a great quantity to introduce into the population we have; but it is but little more than the third of a quarter to each individual. When I made out this, I allowed one-fourth less per individual of bread to the population of this country than to France.The inference, then, was clear and palpable, that by this free-trade measure a great deal of land would be changed into grazing from arable, and diminish not only the amount of labour, but also injure the land; for it was well known to any tyro in agricultural science, that land once turned into pasture, would take a considerable time before it could be brought again to that state in which it was, before broken up. He hoped he had not wearied the House. He endeavoured to the utmost of his power to argue the proposed system on its own merits. He conscientiously believed, that if the measure so suddenly introduced by the right hon. Baronet were carried into effect, it would be most injurious to every interest which existed in the country, whether it was the manufacturing or the agricultural interest—it would affect trade of every description. He opposed the measure because he did not like to see a number of his fellow countrymen thrown out of employment. He did not like even to see men of small property but of ancient family, who maintained an honest independence, and who were anxious to maintain and educate their families as they were maintained and educated themselves, reduced in their means; but he principally opposed the measure because of the injury it would inflict on the humbler classes of society. Having, therefore, after mature deliberation, come to that conclusion, he was resolved to give it his most decided and unqualified opposition.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, although it 153 was his misfortune to differ from his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. B. Denison), and the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Christopher), in the vote he was about to give, it was by no means necessary that he should differ from all the positions they had laid down. On the contrary, it would be his duty, in the few observations he should submit to the House, frequently to insist on many of those positions on which they seemed to lay the greatest weight, and to press, as he thought, he might justly press, into the service of his argument, many facts and illustrations which they had thought it expedient to employ. To his honourable Friend the Member for the West Riding he had no difficulty in admitting that our agriculture had continually gone on improving with the increase of the population of this mighty Empire, or that, although there had been a continuous relaxation of our protective system, although the ordinary prices of agricultural produce were now much lower than they were at the commencement of the century, yet that agriculture, nevertheless, was in a better and an improved condition. Nor, would it be necessary for him to dispute that, with the variations of the harvest, the prosperity of the country had varied. The first and most obvious result of a bad harvest was, of course, the scarcity of food; and it would be quite inconsistent with the argument he was about to urge, to contend that the general prosperity of the country had not varied in proportion to the scarcity or the abundance of the supply of food. As, therefore, it was not necessary for him to dispute these positions, or the position of the hon. Member who spoke last—that the population had been increasing and were now better supplied than formerly, he would endeavour to derive from them the illustrations and corroborations of his own argument. But as he had never enjoyed the opportunity on any former occasion of expressing an opinion on the subject of the Corn Laws, perhaps he might be excused if he ventured shortly to state the grounds which induced him to give his cordial support to this measure for their final adjustment. His hon. friends who represented the agricultural interest would think it eminently uncandid in him, if he did not admit, that on this, as on other occasions, they had rested the strength of their case, not on the protection it afforded to a particular interest, but on the general advantage it was supposed 154 to confer upon all classes of this great community. Well, it was on this ground that he desired to meet them; and most unworthy should he be to enter in that House upon so great an argument, if, dealing with the general welfare of the community, he did not recognise among the very first and most important objects of consideration the welfare of that great interest which those Gentlemen so zealously and in many respects so creditably supported. The arguments on which they rested their case were great arguments, and were urged as became men who felt that they had a great weight to sustain. They said the existing measure of protection had maintained us independent of supply from foreign nations; that it had given us security, under which capital was cheerfully invested for the improvement of domestic agriculture; that it had ensured to the farmer a remunerating price; and, above all, that it had provided for the ordinary labourers of the rural districts in England a protective rate of wages. Now, he would ask them when they used the words "independent of foreign nations" to think, for one moment what was the practical significance of the language they employed. Did they remember that this country exported annually no less than 50,000,000l. of our native manufactures? Were they aware that fully two-fifths of the imperial revenue was derived from taxes on foreign imports? Did they recollect the history of former periods? Did they not know that it was the expanding energy of the cotton manufacture that sustained them in the deadly contest of the last war? Did they not know that towards the close of that war they were at the same time in collision with America and France; and had they forgotten that at the same period they were indebted for their cotton to America, and for their corn to France? Why "independent of foreign nations?" Had they learnt no lesson from the distress of 1842? To what was it owing? Not to our dependence on foreign nations for the supply of food, for we had on the Statute Book the law which was to preserve our independence. It was owing to the falling-off of the demand of our foreign customers for the export of our manufactures that our traders became involved in difficulty, and our labourers in a state almost amounting to starvation. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded his right hon. Friend as Chancellor of the Exchequer, had found it impossible to remedy the 155 effects produced upon the Treasury by the falling-off in our imports of foreign produce. But if, then, we were thus dependent upon foreign nations, in every sense in which one free nation could be dependent on another, were we less dependent upon them for the article of corn than for any other article? Hon. Members seemed to make light of the fact, that the gross imports of foreign corn for home consumption had amounted of late years to the steady average of 2,000,000 of quarters, or about 10 per cent. of the whole quantity of corn consumed in England. If that were so, if that was the average importation of corn, he said it was not using language according to its ordinary signification, it was little better than a play upon words, to say that the existing law preserved this country independent of foreign nations. Then as to the security under which it was said capital was cheerfully invested for the improvement of our native agriculture: he put it to hon. Gentlemen who urged this argument, whether living under free institutions, they did not know that when a great and growing sentiment was opposed to an existing law, and public opinion had set in against it, there must necessarily be uncertainty and difficulty respecting it? Now, what was our position? He knew that every eminent writer in the science of political economy—he believed that every individual in that House, on whom the responsibility of giving counsel to Her Majesty had ever been imposed, was opposed upon principle to the maintenance of protection. What was the case with the country at large? He would put it to every hon. Gentleman who heard him, to say whether, in the actual state of things, there did not exist throughout England a great and growing sentiment which opposed itself to the existing Corn Laws? There was no man acquainted with popular feeling who could doubt that the tide of public opinion had set in against a system which had occasioned so much difficulty and uncertainty. What was the state of the question in the House of Commons? Almost every individual who advanced an opinion on the subject was, at least, upon principle, opposed to protection; while, in the country at large, the evidence was much stronger upon this point. The manufacturing interest was universally opposed to it; if his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Liverpool were in his place, he should not hesitate to say before him that the commercial 156 interest was generally opposed to it; and, he would ask, was even the agricultural interest unanimous on the subject? Were there not many amongst that body who adopted the opinions of the late Lord Spencer and the present Lord Grey? Had not the hon. Member for Northamptonshire told them that he never thought protection could be permanent? And had not many hon. Members on that side of the House said, while objecting to a particular provision of the scheme, that what the British farmer chiefly wanted was, to be placed in a position of security against further change? If such was the case, could they seriously and confidently maintain, that if they succeeded in their present proposition, that they would go down to their respective estates and invite the farmers of England to come forward and take long leases under the security of the existing law? [Mr. CHRISTOPHER: No.] The hon. Member for Lincolnshire said "No." But that was the test. If the landlord would not offer, nor the tenant accept, leases on the faith of the existing law, what became of the security it was supposed to afford? If the farmer would not take leases under the present law, he should like to know where was the security for the investment of capital? But they also said that the present law ensured to the farmer a remunerating price. Now, he would at once admit to them, that if they could keep as it was the cost of production—and if, while the demand was increasing, they could limit the supply, the law which effected these results would secure them a remunerating price. But they on the other hand must not refuse to admit to him, that if he could diminish the cost of production, and could so readjust the balance of demand and supply, that while the supply increased, the demand should more greatly and rapidly increase, a twofold benefit would be attained for agriculture, and that the abolition of the law would have done more than the maintenance of it in ensuring a remunerating price. Lest it might be said that these were mere hypotheses, he would call into court a most unexceptionable witness. If any one doubted that the cost of production would be diminished, he would recommend him to read the speech of the hon. Member for Somersetshire on the Tariff of 1842, when he complained of the hardship of exposing the British farmer to competition with his foreign rival, because he showed that every other article being protected, it 157 exposed him to the difficulty of competing with the foreign farmer at a disadvantage of cent per cent; and he would call him as a witness, whether by the relaxation of protective duties the cost of production would not be materially diminished? Well, but how stood the other portion of his case, the balance of demand and supply? In the autumn of 1843, it was the first symptom of reviving trade in Manchester that there was suddenly an increased demand for inferior joints of meat. That demand for the produce of land, for the necessaries of life, had increased with improving trade: now what was the increase of supply? The hon. Member for Somersetshire had furnished a remarkable illustration of the argument, for he adverted to the fact that during the past half-year there had been an average falling-off of 16,000 sheep a week in the London market. Now he would ask him, under that Tariff, from which he once had augured so much evil, how many sheep had been imported into this country in the last twelve months to supply the rapidly increasing demand? Why, in the whole twelve months the foreign supply had not made up for the average deficiency of a single week. These, then, were the elements of his problem: the present price of butchers' meat was the natural and obvious solution. Well, but if the existing law did not maintain their independence of the foreigner: if it could not be relied on as a security for the investment of capital: if it appeared that relaxation, rather than restriction, had operated for the enhancement of price; yet there was a part of the case remaining which was most important, and on which he did his agricultural friends the justice to acknowledge, that they laid the greatest stress. They said that the existing law secured to the labourer in the rural districts a protected rate of wages; and in the course of the debate an hon. Member expressed his wonder that the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, with the case of the silk weavers in his mind, could have ventured to propose a relaxation in the existing Tariff. Now, the effect of protection upon wages was precisely that part of the case on which he wished to meet his hon. friends; and he asked no better illustration than the instance of the silk trade would afford. Whenever an article was produced merely by hand labour, no doubt as competition increased there must be a great adverse incidence on the scale of wages; but when they cheapened an article by the 158 increase of capital and machinery, it did not follow that the price of wages must be lowered. The prices of manufactured articles had been reduced by improvements in manufacture, till a penny stood where a shilling stood before; and yet the average rate of wages had not fallen, while the numbers of those employed in the production had rapidly and steadily increased; and the cause was obvious. New markets had been opened that did not exist before. Countless peoples of the earth who could not deal with us at the shilling, were thankful to be our customers at the penny; and thus there was an increased stimulus given to trade, a greater application of capital, and greater improvement of machinery. Again, by reciprocity of action, this improvement further reduced the price, and so more widely increased the market. Thus, they were perpetually enlarging the basis of the trade on which the operative at home depended. But while they enlarged, they also increased greatly its security. For as we became dependent on a greater number of customers, our dependence on any one became less and less important. Now let them consider the effect of this progression upon their American and German rivals. Not having our capital, our improvements, our energy, our start, they would be at a disadvantage, and you beat them in the neutral market. But if you beat them in the neutral market, could they long sustain the competition even in their own markets? If they did, it could only be effected by a constantly increasing Tariff. In other words, the agriculturist in Germany and America must be content to submit to a constantly increasing burden. Well, but if so, he must constantly compete at a greater and greater disadvantage with his hon. Friends who represented the agriculturist of England. Now this was the history of hostile tariffs. Had he not then furnished the reply to that challenge so ostentatiously thrown out—had he not shown that hostile tariffs could be met and be defeated by free imports? that one was a continual course of progress, the other a perpetual retrogression? Well, now, an hon. Member had suggested the case of Russia, and had said that Russia would send into this country annually 5,000,000 quarters of grain, for which she would not receive our manufactures, but would compel us to pay in gold. He supposed that hon. Member had forgotten that Russia was a country producing gold, and England not; for he might just as well have imagined 159 that Middlesex would pay Lancashire for its manufactures, or Northumberland for its cattle, by sending coals to Wigan or Newcastle. Russia might, it was true, decline directly to receive our manufactures. She might force us to a circuitous trade; we might, as the hon. Member had suggested, have to pay for imports from Russia by the purchase of bills upon Brazil. No doubt it was advantageous to obtain reciprocity, by which the expense of this circuitous trade was saved, and double benefits secured. But suppose Russia to refuse reciprocity, what would be the consequence to herself? That dealing with us not directly, but by way of Brazil, she would drive a smaller trade and at a smaller rate of profit; that she would sell cheaper and buy dearer than she need. There was no want of intelligence in Russia; and we might reasonably expect that Russia would perceive the advantage to be derived from the adoption of a direct rather than a circuitous trade. There was another argument derived from the peculiar burdens alleged, and he thought to a certain extent truly alleged, to be imposed on land. He did not think it was necessary to enter upon that subject at much length. He did not, however, mean to decline it: on the contrary, he was ready to admit, that a claim of that kind ought to be fairly looked into, and that a protected interest, burdened because of its protection, had, when that protection was removed, an irresistible claim to have its burdens fully inquired into and considered, and, if proved, relieved. No one wished to dispute that proposition; but what he contended for was, that the landed interest had no right to say, "We are a burdened interest," which was a very convenient argument for protection; and then to say also, "In spite of you, we will remain a burdened interest, in order that we may maintain our protection." Such a conclusion could not be admitted; and he hoped that it would not be attempted to be supported. He had now gone cursorily over the main argument used by hon. Gentlemen near him; and, if his memory did not fail him, he had not omitted any one main argument except what was called the colonial argument. He had put the case of our independence of foreign supply—he had put the case of security for an advance of capital—he had put the case of securing fair and remunerative prices — he had put the case of giving the labourers an increased rate of wages; and he had endeavoured to show that, by increasing the 160 amount of labour in our great manufactures, they had raised the rate of wages from 8s., 12s., or 15s., to something like 30s. or 40s. He had shown that population and wealth had increased by the process he had described, and asked hon. Members to draw the inference that, with wages of 30s., a man would cause a greater demand for butchers' meat, for bread, and for the produce of agriculture generally, than the man who earned only 8s., or 12s., or 15s.; and he had asked them to believe that when by these increased wages the population was drawn from the agricultural districts, the rate of wages would naturally rise in those districts, and the condition of those who remained would be materially benefited: and, having touched also upon the argument of peculiar burdens, he was not aware that in the course of that long debate any considerable argument had remained unnoticed, except the colonial argument. Now, with respect to this colonial argument, he ventured to say that the position in which it was sought to put the Colonies had been, as he had always understood from Gentlemen interested in the cause of the Colonics, that they should be as dear to the British Crown and to the Parliament as Yorkshire or Middlesex; and it appeared to him to have been reserved for that debate to hear it deliberately maintained, that the course of policy to be pursued with respect to imperial interests should be made to subserve colonial interests. If they took a course which was beneficial to imperial interests, it would, except for special and exceptional reasons, be equally beneficial to colonial interests. The colonial argument was maintained by his gallant Friend the Member for Liverpool (Sir H. Douglas), and by the hon. Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Scott); but in the course of that debate a speech had been made which he believed was considered by hon. Gentlemen as containing the most powerful argument, and claiming particular attention (Mr. Disraeli's). In that speech it was contended that the agricultural interest maintained the principle of moderate protection, or, as it was called, of "genuine free trade;" which descended from Mr. Pitt to Mr. Huskisson, and from Mr. Huskisson, until that particular juncture, to the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel.) But when he looked at the speech to which allusion had been made, and to former speeches of the same hon. Member, he found that hon. Gentleman dated what he was pleased to call, this "genuine free trade" of Mr. Pitt to the 161 year 1787, after the loss of the American Colonies: and the distinction he drew was this, that up to 1787 the commercial policy of England had been hampered by her colonial system; but at that time, abandoning the colonial system, Mr. Pitt introduced a wider, a sounder, and a more statesmanlike view of the case: he adopted the same sentiments with respect to colonial as other interests—he adopted those principles of free trade, or moderate protection, which, the hon. Gentleman said, descended from him to Mr. Huskisson, and, till lately, to the right hon. Baronet; and if hon. Gentlemen sided with the high authorities of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Huskisson, and the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, he wanted to know what became of the gallant Member for Liverpool, and the hon. Member for Roxburgh, and the great colonial argument? If the principle were good for the mother country it was good for the Colonies, except under special and peculiar circumstances, and, logically speaking, the colonial must not be regarded as a different argument, but as another mode of stating the same thing. If, then, hon. Gentlemen's arguments were not so absolutely irresistible, and if their facts were not conclusive, he asked them to consider in what position they stood before the country. Were there no strong arguments against them? Were they not seeking to levy from the food of the people a tax, a very small portion of which went into the coffers of the Imperial Exchequer? Were they not setting up an arbitrary barrier in the way of the course of trade? Were they not seeking to deprive the industrious classes of the obvious advantage of disposing of their own produce at their own discretion? And could they overcome objections of this kind, except by arguments the most powerful, and facts the most conclusive? He had avoided troubling them with statistics. Let him read to them a single extract, for he wished to show that these were not cant doctrines of some modern school; and the paragraph he held in his hand was classical authority, for it was taken from a great writer, whom he was glad to find his hon. Friends at length had learned to quote. Adam Smith said—All systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, 162 or order of men. The Sovereign is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient—the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interests of society.An illustration had occurred to his own mind in connexion with a different subject, which, if he were permitted, he would mention to the House. A distinguished man, himself a conspicuous defender of his country in the late war, had recently been made Chairman of the Commission appointed to inquire into our Maritime Defences. That gallant Admiral, referring to the progress of steam navigation, had said to him the other day—"You will be told that your ancient securities have failed you; that you can no longer rely on the wooden walls of Old England for your defence, and you will be told the truth. Your ancient securities have failed you; but don't be afraid of the march of improvement; keep pace with it; it will supply you with new and better securities. In an instant of time one modern invention will tell you which is the place of danger; in an hour another modern invention will concentrate on the point of attack the disposable forces of an empire. You were an extended country; you have become a fortified citadel." Now, this was applicable to the political and social, no less than to the military condition of the country. Let him say to his agricultural friends—and he declared he would not be found advocating that great change unless he believed that he might truly say—"Don't be afraid of the march of improvement; it has deprived you of your ancient securities, your independence of the foreigner, your security for capital, your Parliament price, your protective rate of wages. It has given you new and better securities, the expanding energies of trade, the multiplied capacities of production, the stimulated powers of consumption, tbe ever-growing demand of a great and increasing people. You have ceased to be an extended country; you have become an urban community — what the hon. Member for Shrewsbury had eloquently called them, the metropolis of the world." They would find, therefore, that in this country the interests of agriculture and of commerce, when rightly considered, depended upon the same principles, and would be promoted by the same measures. He would trouble the House with 163 only a very few statistical statements; but did they know what was going on around them? were they aware of the increase of agricultural demand arising from an increase of population and an increase of employment in the manufacturing districts? Let him take Mr. Porter's statement of the increase in the valuation for county rates in the manufacturing towns. He was aware that there had been a different mode of making the assessment; but this return did, neverthelesss, contain substantial proof of the progress in those districts. He would take the valuation of 1815, and compare it with the valuation of 1841:—Valuation made for County Rates in the Townships which now constitute the boroughs of Manchester and Salford:—
If that were the increase in the value of property in those towns assessed to the county rates between 1815 and 1841, let him read an extract from a return made by Mr. Horner, the Inspector of Factories, in the present Session of Parliament:—
Manchester. Salford. 1815 353,376 918,397 1829 495,997 1841 1,022,055 2,703,292 Increase 189 per cent. 194 per cent."Since the last return to Parliament in February, 1839, there has been an increase in my district of 529 factories, of 10,041 horses' power, and of 50,522 persons employed.He would ask hon. Members then to work out with him an arithmetical calculation, and see what quantity of butchers' meat and what quantity of wheat these 50,000 persons employed at a high rate of wages would necessarily consume. Could it be doubted that very much of the improvement in the agricultural districts must result from this increased demand? Mr. Horner went on to say—This increase has all taken place since November, 1842, when the revival of trade began; and indeed the increase of persons employed since that time must have been considerably greater than the above amount; for between June, 1838, when the collection of particulars for the return of 1839 began, and November, 1842, many mills had entirely ceased to work, and others had considerably reduced the number of their hands. The total number of power looms in my district, ascertained by this inquiry, is 142,949. The only return of power looms made to Parliament is that of 1835; and I find from it, that in the same parts of England which now constitute my district, viz. Lancashire, part of the West Riding, and the whole of the North Riding of the county of York, and the four northern counties of England, there were then only 63,861; showing an increase of 79,088 in the ten years; and there are now 26,237 more power looms at work in my district alone than there were in the whole United Kingdom ten years ago.He did appeal to the House, therefore, 164 whether a statement of such facts was not a more pressing argument than any other facts or argument? In all these cases the rate of wages was generally high; but what was the experience of Mr. Howell with respect to the silk trade, and how were the workmen practically affected in the settlement of these questions?—Throughout the entire district general scarcity of hands is noticed, and a consequent rise of wages. In the silk districts particularly, hands are very scarce.Let them observe how the sound interests of trade subserved the interests of humanity better than any mistaken legislation:—And I have been informed that instances are not wanting where children working half time have got as much wages, and in some cases it is said that they got more than they did when they worked ten hours; but I am told that a rise also has taken place in the wages of those who now work ten and twelve hours respectively.This was not confined to Manchester or to Salford; but if they went to Preston or to any other district, they would see that the course which had been pursued had been everywhere attended with the same results. He must here refer to a remarkable speech lately made at a meeting of the Town Council of Liverpool by the Chairman of the Dock Committee; and he hoped the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Liddell), who had made a complaint of the injury likely to be done to the shipping interest, was in the House, that he might have the benefit of this statement. The chairman stated—Surprise has been expressed in the council when an increase of 100,000 tons was talked of some time since; but I have not now to deal with an increase of 100,000 tons, but with an increase of hundreds of thousands. In the dock financial statement of the 24th June, 1845, which was the end of the financial year, the increase was 383,819 tons over the preceding year. The increase in six months from June to the 31st December last, exceeded that of any previous period, inasmuch as it showed an increase of 600 vessels and 209,409 tons over the corresponding six months of the previous year. … The increase in the East India trade has been about 20 per cent, and the increase in the United States and western trade has been about 30 per cent.That was where there had been hostile tariffs. The chairman went on to say—I may also state, that in proportion as we afford increased dock accommodation, in the same proportion shall we draw trade to the port. Suppose that at no distant period—which I dare say will be the case—we were to have modified rates of duties on various other foreign productions (which he specified), which are at present virtually excluded by a high and impolitic tariff; when the duties are so reduced, it is not in the power of man to divine what accommodation will be required in a port like Liverpool. Liverpool will 165 stand in the pre-eminent position of possessing 203 acres of docks and basins, with about fifteen miles of quay space.It would be presumptuous in him to express in the House of Commons his sanguine anticipations of the great and growing increase in the commercial and manufacturing districts with which he had the honour to be connected; but he might cite this business speech made to business men, and to declare with this speaker the truth that "it is not in the power of man to divine the increase of accommodation which will be required." [Mr. LIDDELL: What of the timber trade?] He had not intended to trouble the House with any statement on that subject; but as the hon. Member wished it, he would read one from the same speech. Mr. B. Moore said—One fact connected with the timber trade will show its importance to the country, and that is, that there are more artificers above eighteen years of age employed in the different ramifications of the timber trade, than in any other single trade that can be mentioned.He would first give the results of the recent changes as they affected the North American trade. [Mr. LIDDELL: The Baltic trade, not the Canada.] He would give the Baltic trade also. The argument the other evening was, that all the increase of trade had gone to the Baltic, and that there was no increase in the Canada trade. Now, hon. Members should have the facts whichever way they liked. He would show a concurrent increase in both trades, and he really did not know in which there had been the most satisfactory progress. First, however, let him refer to the increase in British America.
And next let him take the same years with respect to the trade with the Baltic:—
Years. Vessels. Tonnage. 1838 305 160,415 1839 339 170,591 1840 230 133,400 1841 318 174,948 1842 165 91,179 1843 311 154,518 1844 369 189,414 1845 453 239,854
166 He was very much obliged to his hon. Friend for the interruption, and to the House for the kindness with which it had listened to these statistics, He was glad to see that the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) had just entered the House, and he wished to disabuse his mind of a fallacy which appeared to pervade it. He had already alluded, in the absence of the hon. Member to the fallacy of the effect upon imports of corn and of the payment of Russia in gold. The hon. Member—and no one had more right to say it—said that he could make railways enough if we did not send our money abroad for the purpose of buying corn. Let him tell that hon. Member that, while he had been prosecuting his successful enterprizes, then; had been an average each year of 2,000,000 quarters of corn imported, paid for not in gold sent to Russia, but by the exports of trade; and if the hon. Member would condescend to receive information from an humble individual like himself, he would venture to tell him the result of the proceeding was this:—his industrious navigators had derived great benefit from the 2,000,000 quarters of corn, and no doubt the profits made on the exports had been invested in his railway scrip, and had gone to sustain the prosperity of those useful undertakings. These conclusions, then, he verily believed, were based upon reasonings almost mathematical, and surrounded by the strongest buttresses of fact. Those opinions he had always entertained: he had never disavowed, he had not attempted to disguise them; but he did not think that those who, in former years had voted against the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) ought to shelter themselves, under the plea that they had taken no part in the debate, from their equitable share of responsibility, He did not hesitate to say; that he had voted in former years against the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; but he had always thought that these great changes should be regarded by prudent men as questions of time. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire regarded this as a question of time; and why should not he be allowed so to regard it also? Could it be denied, then, that the present was a time at which it was essentially necessary to look out for a supply of food? There never was a time when the change could be made with so slight dislocation of existing interests. The word "compensation" had been invidiously imported into this debate; but he appealed to the House whether 167 that word had been employed by his right hon. Friend. But they would not deny that the measure was accompanied by important ones of another kind, conducive to good government, and which, as the opponents of this measure admitted, would confer great advantage on the country. Holding, as he always had, those abstract opinions, he was at perfect liberty to say, that this was a proper occasion for the adjustment of this question; and he did not admit that this Parliament was returned as a protective Parliament, and had no right to entertain it. There were hon. Members on that side of the House who never disguised opinions like those which he had endeavoured to express; and he ventured to say that a large portion of that great commercial interest in this country who had supported the Conservative party did not think that this Parliament was elected to maintain protection. The people of England were slow to learn from abstract reasoning, but were very quick to learn from practical experience; and without saying that this question turned on the experience of three years, he did say that the experience of the last three years, and the consequences of commercial relaxation, had not been lost upon that great and reflecting people whom they represented. He said that there was a large and important interest, whose support was essential to the Conservative party; and, without the slightest disrespect to the agricultural interest, of whom he should express his own feelings most untruly if he spoke otherwise than with the utmost respect, that commercial interest did expect a reasonable and constantly vigilant, and not unyielding, disposition to watch the ever-varying circumstances of this country in Parliament. He was persuaded that he was borne out by facts; and he did with perfect cheerfulness give his cordial support to this measure for the final adjustment of a great and complicated question, believing that in a due, generous, wide, and discriminating regard to all the complex interests of this country, they were a Parliament competent to decide upon this great question; and that if they decided it in the affirmative, they would confer upon the country most important benefits.
Years. Vessels. Tonnage. 1838 72 22,788 1839 58 17,415 1840 48 14,000 1841 40 11,923 1842 33 11,239 1843 61 17,253 1844 51 14,144 1845 113 33,792
§ MR. FINCH
said, he addressed the House with considerable hesitation, because he knew how weary it must be after the long debate; but as his constituency was anxious that he should deliver his sentiments, he would, with the permission of 168 the House, convey his ideas in a few words on the subject. The speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, did great credit to his good taste, temper, and ability; but to him it seemed anything but a convincing speech, and would not, he thought, have much weight with the country. With respect to the glowing details of manufacturing prosperity which had been quoted, it seemed to him that it was entirely in favour of the other side of the question. Because, if trade and manufactures were flourishing to that degree, where was the necessity or propriety of interfering with them? They had become so under the protective system: then why change it? But when credit was given to the Tariff for being the cause of so much prosperity, he must beg leave to deny that position. His opinion was, that the prosperity would have been greater, if no change had been made in the Tariff. He had carefully noted the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken on that side of the House—he had heard them taking credit for the beneficial effect of the relaxation in that system; but he had not seen any of them descend into the particulars, or trace effects to their cause. Several causes had coincided to establish that prosperity. America had been in a state of prostration, and its credit was at an end. Insolvency was spread throughout that country, and during that period there was, as a necessary consequence, the greatest possible distress in the manufacturing districts. The credit of America had revived, and with it trade and commerce—with the revival of trade and commerce credit sprung up; thence a fresh demand for manufactures, and from that time to the present our manufactures had prospered. Railway speculation and railway undertakings had contributed their quota to the general prosperity; they had given a great stimulus to industry, and had materially tended to increase consumption. It was going too far to say that all our prosperity was to be attributed to the Tariff. He defied any hon. Gentleman to say how any part was to be attributed to that measure; or, if they did succeed, it must be in a very trifling respect indeed. When he formerly sat in the House, his place was with the Conservative party on the Opposition benches. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London was then strongly in favour of protection: he was, as a Minister, a strong protectionist, and until a very late period the question 169 discussed between the leaders of the two parties was not protection or no protection, but as to the mode and degree of protection. The Government which then sat upon the side from which he spoke, advocated a fixed duty—the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) who sat opposite, a sliding-scale. A strange change had taken place. The only manner in which the sliding-scale had been maintained was—the right hon. Baronet sliding out of office—the noble Lord sliding in and out again—and the right hon. Baronet sliding in once more. The right hon. Baronet had thrown overboard his sliding-scale—the noble Lord his fixed duty. All were now agreed in free trade in corn; at least the Members of the present and of the late Government. It seemed as if a sort of moral murrain had broken out among the leading statesmen on both sides. He had great regard for the opinion of the right hon. Baronet; and he was told that of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), was held in great respect; but he must say that their conversions on this subject appeared to him not miraculous, but ludicrous. Whilst the right hon. Baronet had changed his opinion with railway speed, the noble Lord had changed his with the speed of an electric telegraph. Such convictions, if convictions they could be called, had no weight on him; it could have no weight on the minds of the people. If the right hon. Baronet had, like a noble and learned Lord who was the ornament of the other House of Parliament, retired to a beautiful and sequestered villa in the south of France, and there, surrounded with the best works on political economy, Malthus, Adam Smith, Ricardo, MacCulloch, MacGregor, and the works of all those which begun or ended with Mac—had calmly read and reflected, and at length arrived at a conclusion opposite to that which he had all his lifetime entertained; he could understand the converted statesman coming forward and expressing regret for his former error, storming the Cabinet, and grasping the seals of office; but the convictions of the right hon. Baronet and of the noble Lord had been, in his opinion, the result rather of circumstances than of reflection. There were many disturbing elements to interrupt the serenity of the right hon. Baronet's contemplation. There was the Anti-Corn-Law League from the boards of Covent-garden Theatre, thundering its anathemas against the Corn Laws—there were the visions of bloody battles and of hostile fleets in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean 170 —in other words, there was the dread of an American war; then there was that unfortunate, potato rot; and there was the hon. Member for Cork ready to discharge, at the first opportunity, his well-poised javelin at the head of the Minister, meditating no second stroke; then there was the rumour of the ports being thrown open, and the difference thereon, the Generalissimo of Her Majesty's Ministers going one way, and the Generalissimo of Her Majesty's Forces another; and, finally, those three counties to be inundated, not with water, but with voters. Under these circumstances, he could not be persuaded to think that the change in the opinions of the right hon. Baronet, was the result of calm reflection. But as for the noble Lord—he, having received information of the doubting and division in the Cabinet, and that the right hon. Baronet was directing his course towards free trade, wrote a letter from one of the Scotch lakes to the citizens of London, electrifying them and convulsing the kingdom with laughter. He thought this debate should be carried on with as little party feeling as possible, and was anxious to discuss it in a calm spirit. Some were anxious to overthrow the Corn Laws, because they thought that by that means they would inflict an injury on the clergy of the Established Church. Others were anxious to uphold them, because they wished to maintain the just influence of the clergy; others were anxious to overthrow them, because they thought that by that means they would spread distrust and disaffection in the agricultural body, and so bring about an organic change. Others, again, who wished to maintain the Constitution, were desirous of protecting agriculture; they had stood side by side with them in the same battles, and were still willing to share in their adversity and in their triumph—they would not be bribed by the cry of cheap sugar and cheap bread. There was another class that wished to destroy the Corn Laws, that they might break up the agricultural party, and so shift upon the shoulders of the noble Lord the cares of the Empire, to which he thought the noble Lord was not equal. There was yet another body who wished to destroy the Corn Laws, because it would injure the aristocracy. This party was the weakest of all. They might as well enter into a confederacy to blow up the coal mines, because several of the aristocracy were proprietors thereof—destroy the city of Westminster, because some of them 171 lived there—or republicanize the Debt, or any other foolish and absurd project which had for its object the destruction of the mass, because the few were members of it. It was a mistake to say the aristocracy would be the chief sufferers by this measure. To the man of 100,000l. a year, it would make little difference one way or the other; it was the struggling industrious farmer, and the honest labourer, that would chiefly feel its pernicious effects. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire administered a most solemn lecture to the aristocracy; and he talked very eloquently of the fertility of the valleys, the depth of the woods, the extent of the plains, and the immense resources of America; but upon one subject he was perfectly silent — the American Corn Law. He thought the noble Lord was discreet in that silence; because if he had introduced the subject of the American Corn Laws, the whole speech would be so charged with ridicule, that he must have himself laughed outright. He had lately soon a letter from the American correspondent of the Morning Chronicle, in which was distinctly stated that the democracy of Philadelphia was adverse to free trade. Out of twenty-six of these democratic representatives, twenty-five were against any further relaxation in the Tariff. He hoped that the noble Lord had, before he left America, administered a solemn warning to the republicans, and told them how dangerous it was for democracy to rely upon exclusive privileges. He would make a few comments on the speech of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. He admitted that that speech was distinguished by tact, talent, and eloquence. Nobody else within the walls of that House could deliver such a speech. He was happy to see that, during the period which elapsed since he held a seat in that House, the mental powers of the right hon. Baronet had not declined. It must, however, be admitted that the commencement was rather ponderous—the right hon. Baronet was rather slow in getting upon the wing, and his flight was for some time heavy; but at length he became at once rapid and graceful. Wherever there was a weak point, he guarded it. He had voluminous documents about the potato rot, with which he fortified his most defenceless position—he caricatured the speeches of the agricultural members, and amused the House at their expense. Indeed, so great was the ingenuity of the right hon. Baronet, that he 172 thought, if he liked, he could make the House very merry with his own former speeches. He terminated with a splendid peroration — in which he worked himself up to fever height, animated, indeed, to a high degree, but very far from that cool deliberate conviction that should characterize a British Minister—in which he recommended free trade to the utmost extent that could be wished for by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he thought rather dangerous from a person in the high station of the right hon. Baronet. That was a brilliant peroration, and must be answered; but where could he find one to do so having the eloquence, weight, and experience of the right hon. Baronet? Well, but it must be answered; and he promised the House, before he sat down, to provide an answer—he did not mean that he would answer the right hon. Baronet himself, but he would get some one to answer him. But in the mean time, he must observe upon what he considered some weak points in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The right hon. Baronet said, that in consequence of the failure of the potato crop, they would be obliged to open the ports. He denied that. Then the right hon. Baronet said, the ports being open, the Corn Laws cannot be sustained. That was a complete non sequitur. It could be of no advantage whatever to the Irish peasant to open the ports. Wheat, at the time the opening of the ports was projected, was selling in the European markets at from 45s. to 50s. per quarter. Upon that rumour it rose to 50s. and 60s. How could the Irish peasant, who could not give 15s. a barrel for oats at his own door, send over here to buy wheat at 60s. a quarter? It was a perfect delusion—not one quarter of wheat would find its way to the distressed people of Ireland. But suppose the ports were open, why should they not be shut again? The League, it was true, said, Let the gates be once opened, and then shut them again if you can; but if the Order in Council had been issued, setting forth that the ports were to be open until the 1st of September and no longer, what could the League do to prevent them being shut, beyond raising a great clamour? Every instance the right hon. Baronet produced told against himself: he referred to the different periods in English history at which the ports had been thrown open, but in every one of these instances the Corn Laws had been continued. The right hon. Baronet said that the ports in Belgium and 173 Holland had been thrown open; but these would be the very last nations to abolish the Corn Laws. The right hon. Baronet said, the refusal to deal with the Corn Laws would increase the agitation tenfold. But what would be the consequence of the right hon. Baronet's measure? the agitation would be increased twenty-fold. The Leaguers would keep up and increase the agitation, and the agriculturists would agitate twenty-fold more than they had done. A man was not fit to be a British statesman unless he was clamour-proof. The English people were not much impressed by clamour: they were accustomed to it. He had heard an anecdote of a canary in France which was so accustomed to noise that at length it fired off a brass cannon without being at all frightened. If Ministers would thus yield to the clamour of the Anti-Corn-Law League, they would have plenty of other leagues—leagues for cheap religion, cheap Government, and cheap everything. If they yield to agitation, why not yield to the agitation for the Repeal of the Union in Ireland? That was quite new doctrine. If the right hon. Baronet had maintained his position and stood by his guns, he might not have feared anything; he would have had a majority in that House, and a majority out of doors. He was sure that if there were universal suffrage, and the votes of the people to be taken on this subject, there would be an immense majority in favour of the Corn Laws, and free trade would be thrown into the British Channel. The right hon. Baronet said, the prosperity of agriculture did not depend on the price of wheat. Had he (Mr. Finch) made use of such an assertion the farmers would have placed him in an iron cage, and exhibited him as a living curiosity. Every argument by which the right hon. Baronet attempted to prop up this theory was illusory. He took the aggregate rental of the country in 1815 and 1845, and, without allowing for the increase arising from steam power, water power, chemical science, and general improvements, the right hon. Baronet argued that, inasmuch as that aggregate rental was now four millions greater than in 1815, whilst the average price of wheat had fallen one-half, therefore the price of land was not dependent on the price of wheat. Then with regard to the silk trade, they were told by the right hon. Baronet that the French could not now excel us in the manufacture of silks; whereas it appeared that there were two kinds of silk manufac- 174 ture, and formerly two different high protective duties on them. Since the alteration of those duties, the French had exported many hundreds of thousands of pounds a year of the best sorts, whilst our manufacture had only increased with respect to the worst sorts; and he had no doubt but that by the contemplated changes manufacture of the better sorts would be ruined altogether. Then, with regard to the shipowners. It appeared that there were conflicting opinions as the effect of the contemplated changes in the interests of shipowners. Some shipowners were of one opinion, some of another; but on the whole, there would be no doubt that the weight of evidence was against the change. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred last night to Mr. H. C. Chapman; and he could scarcely have related a more unfortunate witness, for he (Mr. Finch) found that that gentleman had addressed a letter to the Morning Post, in which he cited his own evidence as follows:—Question 1040—Corn is generally imported in foreign ships?—Yes. That is in consequence of the sliding-scale duties?—Yes, as far as it has reference to the Baltic; but I believe this, that if the Corn Laws were to be abolished to-morrow, it might create greater employment for our ships for the year, but ultimately it would only cause increased production and greater competition of foreign vessels, and we should go back as far as the Baltic is concerned. If we had a free trade in corn it would be most injurious to the British shipowner, for this reason, that by the new Tariff we shall have a vast quantity of corn by the St. Lawrence, which will be exclusively brought in British shipping? Mr. Liddell: That will be very beneficial to the British shipping? No doubt; an alteration in the Corn Laws would destroy the new trade that is about to spring up in Canada. Totally repeal the Corn Laws, and the growing trade with Canada will be crushed, consequently American, Canadian, and British shipping, would receive a severe and decisive blow.That was the evidence of a gentleman who was quoted as favourable to the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers. The right hon. Baronet had also referred to the increase of feather beds; and certainly he could not congratulate him upon his reference. At first he had been unable to conceive why so much intercourse had taken place between the Premier and the feather-bed maker; but as the bed of the Government had not recently been "a bed of roses," perhaps he was consulting him as to how they could lie softer. Then the right hon. Baronet went on to talk about osiers. Now, it was a curious fact that an osier dealer had sometime since remonstrated with Mr. Gladstone respecting the alteration of duties in 1842, 175 and had told him that when he went to Manchester for orders he had been informed that, since the reduction of duties, osiers were imported from Holland so cheap that there were no orders for him. But then the right hon. Baronet went on to talk about the flax trade. Now no article in the Tariff made more against him than flax. The only proof of the success of the alteration of duties on this article was the present favourable condition of the Irish linen trade; but he would declare that he had seen in this country samples of Silesian table linen as far superior to the Irish as anything could be, and calculated, he verily believed, at no distant period, entirely to supersede it. The right hon. Baronet had made allusion to Anacharsis Cloots. The allusion was not a happy one; for if at the present time there was one individual who more than another resembled Anacharsis Cloots, it was the Premier himself. He it was who soared so high on the wings of universal philanthropy as to lose sight of every national interest; he it was who robbed this great Government of its sovereign character, and deprived the people of every reason to entertain public respect for public men. He it was who, like Anacharsis Cloots, called on them to act as "citizens of the world"—endeavoured to rally round him Dutch, Portuguese, Poles, Swedes, Danes, Belgians, Irish and Scotch, telling them all, "I have no partialities: whoever produces the cheapest article him will I deal with." The Anacharsis Cloots of the day, the Prime Minister of England, no doubt hoped to meet all nations on some central point of the earth's even surface, that they might swear eternal friendships, and bind themselves together in adamantine chains of so-called national intercourse. But he would not follow the right hon. Baronet further. He should best sum up the arguments against him in his own words. On the 3rd of April, 1840, the right hon. Baronet said—Suppose, as in the years 1833, 1834, 1835, there should be a succession of very good seasons, and a consequently large supply in this country, and also, as might naturally be expected, a plentiful harvest on the Continent. Now, under circumstances like these, the foreign market being overstocked, he would ask whether with a fixed duty the trader in corn might not be induced to bring over very large supplies, and after paying the duty offer it in the market at a price much below that of British growth? And would not this operate as a great discouragement to corn of home production, a great discouragement to agriculture, and cause a great deal of land to be thrown out of cultivation. Theoretically, and in the abstract, this magnificent plan might be 176 correct; but when he looked to the practice, to the great interests which had grown up under another system—when he found that whatever theoretical objections might apply to that system, still great and complicated interests had grown up under it, which probably could not be disturbed without immense peril—when he besides bore in mind, that defective as that system in principle might be, yet under it this country, considering its population, had acquired the greatest Colonial Empire, the greatest Indian Empire, the greatest influence which any country ever possessed — when he considered, also, that under this system (he would not say in consequence of it, for that might be denied by hon. Gentlemen), but simultaneously with it, we presented this spectacle to the world—a country limited in extent and population, yet carrying on greater commercial and manufacturing enterprise than any other country ever exhibited: when he considered all these things, he would not go the length of the Prime Minister, who said that he who entertained the notion of upsetting this system 'proposed the maddest thing that ever he had heard of;' but this he would say, that he would not consent to put to hazard those enormous interests for the purpose of substituting an untried principle for one which might be theoretically defective, but under which practically our power and greatness had been established; fearing that the embarrassment, the confusion, and distress which might therefrom arise, would greatly countervail and outweigh any advantage which could be anticipated from establishing at the expense of what was practically good, that which might be theoretically correct.Those were the right hon. Baronet's words, the conclusion of a noble speech, on the 3rd of April, 1840; at a period when, though out of office, he was at the head of a great constitutional party; and he owned that it seemed to him, that whilst those words were not inferior in point of eloquence, they were far superior in wisdom to anything the right hon. Baronet had said in the course of these debates. He thought he had now fulfilled his promise of providing an answer to the peroration of the right hon. Baronet such as it deserved. He (Mr. Finch) would now make a few remarks on the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The right hon. Baronet had a very happy knack of perplexing very simple subjects when it suited his purpose. The right hon. Baronet said that the price of food was low in America, and also in Poland, and yet wages were high in one country, and low in the other. But there was no similarity between the circumstances of the two countries. It had been said that our manufacturers would be undersold unless a reduction should take place in the price of food. Now this was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman himself:—If they desired a low price of corn, let them 177 explicitly declare their intention, and he would tell them at once that they desired to produce a low rate of wages. They sought, in fact, to lower wages; and let the agriculturists and the manufacturers thoroughly understand that low wages would certainly be the ultimate effect of the low price of corn.And the right hon. Gentleman added—If when, after a lapse of four or five years, the price of corn should rise, because we shall be dependent upon foreigners, and because large quantities of land had been thrown out of cultivation, in vain would the unhappy labourers seek for a rise in the price of wages.There was another statement of the right hon. Baronet which he really thought was the most unfortunate that had ever been heard of within the walls of Parliament. The right hon. Baronet stated, that when bread was cheap the rate of crime diminished, and when bread was dear the rate of crime was increased. How did he establish that position? Why, he took six manufacturing counties — York, Lancashire, Cheshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, and Staffordshire. He then took six years—from 1840 to 1845, and he divided these six years in halves—the first half from 1840 to 1842, the other from 1843 to 1845. He then showed the rate of crime in the first and second halves of this period, and showed that it was diminished 18 per cent in the latter period as compared with the former. He then took the price of corn for the same period, and showed that wheat was from 60s. to 70s. per quarter during the first three years, and that on the latter it was from 50s. to 60s. Now it ought to be remembered that the counties instanced by the right hon. Baronet were all manufacturing counties; and every body knew that when the manufacturers were distressed there was a great increase of crime, and that when manufactures flourished there was a corresponding diminution of crime. In the first half of these years there was great distress in the manufacturing districts. It was well known that at that time the iron trade in Staffordshire was greatly depressed in consequence of the great supply of iron brought into the market from a new process brought into use in Glasgow. Many furnaces were blown out; and the distress was so great that many families emigrated from Staffordshire to Glasgow in search of employment. The same distress existed in Manchester and other parts of the manufacturing districts; and it was abundantly evident that this would cause an increase of crime in those districts, 178 which would be diminished when the manufacturers became fully employed, so that the price of bread had little or nothing to do with it. Another of the right hon. Baronet's statements was to this effect, that there was a great difference in the price of corn during the last year, and therefore the sliding-scale did not answer. Now, this was a most unfair statement. The dear corn was the corn which remained over from the preceding year; and in consequence of the wetness of the season, as compared with the last, the corn of the former year was much in demand to be mixed with that of the present. If the farmers were not to be allowed the use of this advantage when it occurred, they must go out of the profession altogether. But the right hon. Baronet had said that the sliding-scale had become locked, and therefore the sliding-scale would not do. He asked, who had passed that scale but the Members of Her Majesty's Government? From the moment the rumour went abroad that the ports were to be opened, prices fell at home, while they rose abroad; the rate of duty remained stationary, and it was not to be expected that speculators would import corn at the rate of 12s. or 15s. duty, when they had the prospect of having the ports opened to them altogether. If it had not been for the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, the sliding-scale would have worked fast enough. The right hon. Baronet talked of this measure as being a settlement of the question. He thought that in this he was reckoning a little without his host. There could not be a settlement of the question without an appeal to the country. That appeal must come either this year or the next; and on that appeal it would be seen that the question would be as much open as before. He would give what he thought would be the probable issue of the matter. There would be again a long debate on the subject in the next Parliament; and if it were again carried against the agriculturists, there would next year be a debate upon the repeal of the malt tax, and two or three other duties. Next year would be a year of distress, and then would come petitions for protection, and perhaps for some important constitutional changes. The distress of the agriculturists would extend to those engaged in trade and manufactures, and there would be much shaking and fear among the fundholders as to the difficulties of maintaining our financial system; and as the result of all these things he should 179 not be surprised if the leading free traders were burnt in effigy, and the country returned to the old system. He would now, in a few words—and he must apologize to the House for detaining them so long—touch upon the general question. The right hon. Baronet said in a former debate, that the principles of free trade were the principles of common sense. That might be true in the abstract, and it might be practically in use in some planet which never knew more—if such planet existed; but he believed that on this earth, the unqualified principles of free trade, instead of being the principles of common sense, would be discovered to be the principles of uncommon nonsense. The country ought to be cautious of entering into too close a commercial engagement with foreign countries, so as to render itself dependent upon them for a supply of necessary articles—such countries especially as Russia, France, and America. In the first place, with respect to political economists, it was known that they had often made egregious mistakes themselves. Nothing could be a greater blunder than that of Adam Smith, who held, that corn, being a bulky article, no more could be imported than about the 175th part of the consumption of England, Now, they had seen of late years as much as a fifth part of the consumption imported from abroad. But respect to the general theory, he had no objection to it. According to the free-trade notions, it was argued, that if France excelled in the silk manufacture, she was to export it to England; and if England excelled in cotton, she was to export to France; and so with respect to china, earthenware, &c. Now that used practically to be the case between the two countries; and that actually was the basis of the Treaty concluded with France by Mr. Pitt before the revolutionary war. But the result of that was, that the intercourse between the two countries was stopped. We had to establish silk manufactories, and the French cotton mills. It had been said that Buonaparte was a great friend to British agriculture. In the same manner he was a great friend to several branches of British manufactures which were established in consequence of being unable as heretofore to obtain supplies from France. It was evident, therefore, that the theory of free trade was constantly liable to be disturbed in its practical operation in the event of a war. What was the inference he drew from this? That they ought to give ad- 180 vantages to their Colonies over other countries, because in the event of the parent State being engaged in a war, the Colonies were exposed to great dangers, and often called upon to make great sacrifices. Of course advantages ought also to be given to the parent country. After making these qualifications, what was the next step? Let them look round the world and see what were the countries with which they were less likely to go to war, and enter into intimate commercial relations with them; so that the country, if it must be dependent, might be dependent upon them. This would open an immense field for their manufactures. It would include the whole of South America, the Brazils, Greece, Italy, Austria, Turkey, China; in fact, it would embrace four-fifths of the whole globe. But when they came to those countries with which they were likely to be engaged in war, they ought to be cautious of entering into new commercial engagements, or of becoming dependent upon them. These countries were Russia, France, and America. After stating shortly the causes that rendered war with these countries not improbable, he said, at the present moment, they were unhappily dependent in a great measure upon America for cotton and tobacco. Now it would be wise policy, instead of increasing this dependence, to diminish it—to encourage the growth of cotton in India, which would take the manufactures in return that were now taken by America; and in the other Colonies tobacco might be grown, while by developing the cultivation of Canada, they might render themselves independent both of Russia and America in the article of corn. In this way they would render the country independent, and at the same time they would have a flourishing commerce, which would be put upon a stable foundation, not exposed to the reverses and calamities that they would be exposed to if under the present system in the event of a war, or even in the event of a scarcity, whether at home or abroad. There was one remark which fell from the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, which deserved some reply. He said it was absurd to talk of paying Russia for her produce in gold, for the fact was, we imported gold from Russia. Now, he thought that made the evil worse, if they were first obliged to get the gold from abroad, and then were forced to send it back again to purchase corn. That was the case; otherwise what was the meaning of the operation of the screw, 181 which caused so much distress among manufacturers? The present measure he held to be most unjust. No doubt it was argued to be necessary for the general public good; but if on the faith of protection being for the general public good persons had for the last fifty years purchased and cultivated land at great expense—if no less than four hundred millions of capital had been invested on the faith of such an understanding, then all at once to sweep away protection now was essentially unjust. In the first place, it would displace a large amount of home labour. So long as this country had a system of Poor Laws—and Heaven forbid they should ever be overthrown! for then general benevolence would cease altogether—so long this country could not pretend to compete with foreign agriculture. Then there was the land tax, and various other local taxes; and it ought to be remembered that agriculture was essentially different from all other things. The noble Lord the Member for South Lancashire had stated, on the first night of the Session, that the agriculturist was a manufacturer just like any other manufacturer. He had a high respect for the talents of the noble Lord; and if the House wished to convert this debate into an epic poem, he knew no one to whom they might apply with greater success than the noble Lord. But with regard to the agriculturist being a manufacturer, he wondered what a manufacturer would say, if, after expending all his capital, he found that 40 or 60 per cent might be destroyed by accident. There was this, also, to be remembered, that the more capital there was laid out on land, the greater was the loss in the event of a bad season. He had once met the hon. Member for Stockport, and naturally approached the hon. Member with some trepidation as a sort of free-trade dragon. But when he drew near he found that he had no symptoms of a dragon about him—no scales nor claws, but a remarkably amiable, well-bred, and entertaining companion. In the course of conversation the hon. Member asked him, why don't you use the steam plough? Now, that question argued his ignorance of the difficulties farmers had to contend with. He should like to see the steam plough in operation in any one point. Suppose that fifty or sixty labourers were out of employment, while the steam plough was in operation; the stacks would be fired, the machinery broken, and they would have a system resembling the reign of terror. 182 They were told by some hon. Gentlemen that they had nothing to fear. But what said Sir Robert Peel on this point formerly? In 1842, quoting the opinion of Mr. Meek, on the probability of the supply from Denmark, the right hon. Baronet said—Now what does Mr. Meek say with regard to Denmark? The prices of corn in Denmark have, during the last twenty-five years, averaged for wheat 28s. 10d. per quarter, barley, 14s., oats, 10s. 6d. Considering the depression of the corn market during the greater part of that period, and that the prospect of a permanent sale of corn in England will be likely to render the continental markets more steady and more firm than they have hitherto been, it is probable that prices free on board would not be much below the following quotation—wheat from 30s. to 31s. per imperial quarter. And he adds that, in case of a regular and speedy demand in England for foreign corn, the quantity produced in Denmark and Sleswick Holstein might without difficulty be considerably increased. And in passing a law regulating the importation of foreign corn, is it not wise to deliberate upon what may be the possible supply in future years? Is it not a wise principle of legislation not to take wholly the prices of corn now, but to consider what may be the increased improvements by railways or otherwise: what may be the effect of a regular demand, and what may be the diminished freights? Ought we not to take all those things into account when we propose to legislate, without ever having the opportunity of retracing our steps, at least so far as the agriculturists are concerned. Mr. Meek says, further, that many experienced persons in Denmark are of opinion that if the trade in corn were made constantly open at a moderate duty, wheat and corn would generally be grown in Denmark to a much greater extent than it is at present. But you will say that the quantity grown in Denmark is insufficient to supply the wants of our population. Now, what does Mr. Meek say on this point? He tells us that the average export of wheat from Denmark is from 150,000 to 200,000 quarters; and Mr. Meek adds that 700,000 quarters of corn might be brought in years of moderate growth. …. Then, I say, if prices are below 50s. in England, and there is a great quantity of surplus wheat in Denmark, do not discourage home production—do not chill the expectations and blight the hopes of your own farmers, by permitting the Danish agriculturist to throw a quantity of his corn at a low rate of duty into your market, and so damage the price of your own produce. In discussing a question like this, I own it appears to me that the strict principles of free trade cannot be applied without danger to the interests of the community.On the 19th of February, 1839, the right hon. Baronet, speaking on Mr. Villiers's Motion, said:—When you tell me that corn is 60s. a quarter, I ask is there not a paramount necessity for maintaining the obligations of public faith? And is it just to repeal the Cosn Laws while continuing taxation upon the agricultural interests, which is the very cause of the high price of corn? Can I shut out of my consideration altogether the operation of the malt tax—the operation of the Poor 183 Laws—the operation of the county rate, and of all those burdens which press heavily upon the landed interest?Now, the right hon. Baronet might have relieved agriculture from the malt tax and the other burdens to which he referred; but, instead of doing so, he had preferred taking the duty off cotton and glass, and had thus put it out of his power to remove these burdens from the land. He would tell the House what he was convinced would be the eventual result of this measure. In the course of two years there would be a glut of corn—wheat would become unsaleable in this country, and there would neither be rent for the landlord, profit for the tenant, nor wages for the labourer. This was said by Sir Robert Peel years ago; and he said it with peculiar force, for he made the remark under the idea that we were to have a fixed 8s. duty. He would only further observe, that if, after all, this country was to be placed in a position which all her best and wisest statesmen had endeavoured to avoid; if they were to become dependent upon Russia and America for corn, the most favourable effect would be, that they would still further increase the present enormous manufacturing population, which in the course of the last twenty-five years of peace had come to press upon the home supply; and which, in a few years more, would press upon the home and foreign supply both; and they would become so much dependent upon America, that they might as well burn the history of England, and become a province of America at once, for the sun of England's greatness would have set for ever. He would conclude by noticing one observation which fell from the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House. He argued that if agriculture in the Colonies was placed in the same position with agriculture at home, they would have no right to complain. But then, the agriculturists at home thought they had every right to complain. And he must say that he thought Canada had been sham-fully used. If ever there was a compact entered into between Parliament and another country, it was the compact entered into between Canada and Her Majesty's Ministers—that if the Canadians would consent to tax American corn 3s. per quarter, this country would give Canadian corn the first preference after Ireland; but by this measure, instead of having the first preference after Ireland, it would now be last of all. Her Majesty's Ministers ought to recollect 184 that there were vast temptations to the Canadians to throw off their allegiance. Their loyalty and allegiance to this country had already cost them great sacrifices; and if they were now to ally themselves with America, they would have to pay the present tax of 8s. upon American corn, and in the event of a war between this country and America, their country would not be invaded, their crops would not be destroyed, and their lives would not be lost. He would make a single remark as to the result of the division. Her Majesty's Ministers would have a nominal majority, but they would be in a bonâ fide minority. When all the Members who now misrepresented their constituents were deducted from the one side, and added to the other, there could be no doubt that this apparent majority would, in the estimation of the country, be a real minority. On the other hand, the protectionists would retire from the division with unbroken ranks and undaunted hearts, ready to enter the battlefield again on the first occasion, and to renew the contest. They would appeal not only to their constituents but to the country. They knew that the majority of the population were with them; and he believed that the majority of the constituencies were with them also. That appeal must soon be made to the nation, and the least he reckoned upon in the new Parliament was 300 good Protectionists. They would, therefore, see that the cause of protection was not lost. He believed that that cause was still dear to the British nation, because it was in unison with British habits, and consonant to British interests. That cause he should continue to support—strong in the conviction of the principles on which it was founded; and he should support it as long as he had a voice to speak, an arm to raise, or a shot to discharge in its behalf.
§ MR. SEYMER
said, in rising for the first time to address the House, he wished, if possible, to enlist the feelings of hon. Gentlemen in his favour by assuring them that his speech would not occupy many minutes. He did not mean to discuss the principle of protection; that had already been fully discussed on his side of the House. Had there not been frequent allusion made in the course of this debate, to the opinions of the tenant-farmers, he would not have risen on the present occasion. Hon. Members who had been elected for the last five or six years, appeared by this time to have forgot what were the opin- 185 ions of their constituents. Their memories, however, would probably be refreshed on an occasion which could not be far distant. As he had been elected on Thursday last, he would, with the permission of the House, state what were, at the present moment, the opinions of the tenant-farmers in Dorsetshire; and he believed that the opinions of the Dorsetshire farmers were the opinions of nine-tenths of the farmers of England. The hon. Member for Finsbury, in the course of the present debate, had been pleased to say, that what the farmers required was, not protection to agriculture, but the protection of the ballot, in which case they would vote conscientiously in favour of free trade. Now he would inform that hon. Gentleman and those who cheered him, that there could not be a greater mistake than to say, that the genuine feelings of the farmers were not in favour of protection. He believed that that statement was a mere radical shot fired at random by the hon. Member, who might very fairly represent the feelings of a metropolitan district, but who evidently knew nothing of the feelings of the farmers. There were one or two circumstances connected with the election in Dorsetshire, which, with the permission of the House, he would allude to, in order to prove his assertion that the genuine feelings of the farmers were in favour of protection. His hon. Colleague and himself became candidates for the county in consequence of a requisition numerously signed by the tenant-farmers of the county. It happened that three or four of the largest estates in the county were in the hands of free traders. It was therefore natural that the tenantry on those estates should hold back and refuse to sign the requisition till they knew what were the wishes of their landlords. He believed it was perfectly notorious and well known, that the English tenantry generally did wish to consult the feelings of their landlords. And he did not think they were to be blamed for this. On this occasion they did, previous to signing the requisition to his hon. Colleague and himself, ask whether there would be any objection taken to this course on the part of their landlords? He was happy to state that these Gentlemen, much to their credit, said, as this was a farmers' question, they would not interfere. From the moment that was known, almost without a single exception, the farmers came forward and signed the requisition to his hon. Colleague and himself. That, he thought, proved his assertion, 186 that the genuine feelings of the farmers were in favour of protection. Another statement had been made to the House, that only those persons cared for protection who were small and slovenly farmers — men who the free traders said ought never to have been farmers at all, but ought to be swept from the face of the earth; but that those who were really good farmers cared nothing about protection. Now, so far as his experience went, he would say that the very reverse was the case. The farmers were certainly all in favour of protection; but the small farmers, not being in the habit of attending to political questions, did not understand much of the subject. They were very wisely in favour of protection; because they did not wish any change—they wanted to let well alone. But the large farmers, the men who employed machinery and purchased foreign manures, and brought the appliances of science to bear upon agriculture—these men had leisure to attend to the complicated details of a question, and they, to a man, were strong protectionists. While speaking of the opinions of the farmers, he must, in justice to them, mention another point. In the course of his canvass he had heard strong language used with respect to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and to the Ministry in general. The farmers were plain men, and they used plain words, and he was afraid it would not be quite Parliamentary if he were to state the language which he had heard them use with respect to the right hon. Baronet. He had also heard strong expressions of dread at the consequences of the measure now proposed; but this he could say, that he had not witnessed any symptom of disaffection amongst the farmers; no abatement of their attachment to the institutions of the country; and therein he thought they were honourably contrasted with the Gentlemen of the Anti-Corn-Law League. The moment matters went wrong with the League, disagreeable expressions were used, and those hints about an hereditary aristocracy were thrown out, which were so painful to persons favourable to the maintenance of the great institutions of the country. The loyalty of the farmers was a constant quantity; the loyalty of the Leaguers varied with the weight of their purse. In his opinion, persons so loyal and well affected as the farmers of England were entitled to the greatest respect at the hands of the Government; but he regretted to say, that had the farmers been less loyal—had they 187 been more clamorous, and, he was afraid, more seditious in their language, he believed their opinions would have had greater weight with Her Majesty's Government. He would only add, that should the hon. Gentlemen of the Anti-Corn-Law League, or their successors, for successors in agitation they would certainly have—should the Gentlemen of the League or their successors next attack one of the most cherished institutions of the country; and should the right hon. Baronet or any other Minister conceive it to be his duty to yield to that agitation, the Minister and the League would be met on that occasion by the same opposition from the farmers and independent yeomanry of England, as they now had to encounter from them on the question in which they were supposed to be specially interested. Having said thus much, as the result of his observations amongst the farmers, by whom he had so recently been returned, he would not longer detain the House than to thank them for the patience with which they had heard him.
Sir, I have some scruple in rising after the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, from observing the order in which you have selected Members who have risen to address this House. I believe the hon. Gentleman and myself are agreed at present in opinion; for, if I am not mistaken, coming recently as he does from the hustings and from addressing the farmers of Dorsetshire, he has stated there, representing as he did his own views and those of the farmers, that he was now for the immediate repeal of the Corn Laws. ["No, no!"] Then the hon. Gentleman has been entirely misreported; for there is not one newspaper that reported his Address which did not give sentiments to the effect that if there was to be a change in the Corn Law, he for one would be in favour of immediate repeal. The hon. Gentleman, it appears, now denies that he ever said in the county of Dorset that he was for immediate repeal.
§ MR. SEYMER
had no wish to be misunderstood on the point. What he said was, that he should oppose to the utmost the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers; but that if he failed in that opposition, he thought, on the whole, if repeal was to be carried out, that instead of being deferred three years, it would better it should take place at once.
I am glad to see that the accuracy of the press is so well supported by the hon. Gentleman. I am 188 happy to hear his confirmation of the report to which I alluded. ["No!"] Why do you say no, when the hon. Gentleman has just said yes? He has said that if the Corn Laws were to be repealed, it was far better to have them immediately repealed, than postponed for three years. I claim him therefore as a supporter of the Amendment to this measure which it is my intention to propose; and if the hon. Gentleman is really representing the sentiments of the farmers, I believe he will vote for that Motion. The hon. Member has told us that the tenant-farmers are an independent body of men; but the proof he has given us of it is, that most of them go to their landlords to ask how they ought to vote. He has stated that a great number of persons whose support he received held lands from landlords of liberal principles, and, fortunately for him, they got leave to vote as they liked. He has, however, I admit, given one proof that the farmers were independent. He says they are generally loyal and well-affected. Now, this is a somewhat more cheering proof that they are not wholly under the influence of their landlords. I believe it to be the case. I believe they are very quiet good sort of people, and in general too steady and sensible to be really influenced by the disloyal, disaffected, inflammatory language that from the upper classes is addressed to them. The complaints of the farmers are not against the State—they do not quarrel with the Government—their grievances are nearer home. Those who know them are aware that they have domestic grievances that are never redressed; but the landlords, instead of remedying these, have been going about and telling them that the Government of the country is endeavouring to injure them, and that it is composed of men void of honour, truth, and honesty. The farmers, however, are much too sensible to be led away by all the interested language addressed to them; and in their hearts I believe what the hon. Gentleman says is true, that they are for the immediate repeal of the Corn Laws, and for abolishing the system at once. ["No, no."] I think the hon. Gentleman's speech went to show us how very much the farmers were under the influence of the landlords with respect to their votes, and therefore their opinions are not necessarily those of their landlords. I will just refer to a speech which was made before him. That was the most extraordinary address that we have heard recently; it was nearly an 189 hour and a half long. I refer to the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Rutlandshire (Mr. G. Finch). He is the last newly-elected protectionist Member in this House. I think the hon. Gentleman must have met the same person as I met with this morning, who asked me what all this was about, and what was the cause of this protracted debate; for he said it was only the same old story over again, and nobody really eared about it out of the House, except that it might be brought to a close. The hon. Member gets up, and like the chorus in the Greek plays, tells us all that has passed, how we come to be where we are, who has done this and who has done the other, arriving only at the same conclusion as those of his party who have preceded him, namely, that if the Corn Laws are abolished, England's sun will set for ever. He professes to tell us what is the result of this election—that it indicates the opinion of the public on the question; while the fact is, that it indicates nothing but that which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorsetshire has stated—the influence which the landlords in Rutlandshire have over their tenants; and they have returned him, as many others have been returned, just to represent their views and opinions. A single novelty in the hon. Gentleman's speech there was, namely, that it was important to put an end to the trade with America and France, because those are countries which we might possibly go to war with—the wisdom of which is so obvious as hardly to need repeating. Sir, I really have some scruple in rising to address the House upon this subject. In the first place, there is nothing I can say respecting the question now before the House which has not upon this occasion been better said by Her Majesty's Government; and, in the second place, I believe that no service would be more highly appreciated by the public than that of facilitating in every way the progress of the measure. Hon. Gentlemen in that corner of the House do not seem to encourage this forbearance. They have marked out for themselves a course of obstruction, which, perhaps, they can explain, and in which, if they can, they are more fortunate than other people. I cannot, however, help contrasting the patience with which the House now bears with them with the conduct adopted when the persons who brought forward this question at other times have met with. When persons in a minority, in this House, and who 190 have promoted this discussion, have stood up and pleaded for the sufferings of their constituents, and have asked for an inquiry into the connection of this law with all that misery and privation, were asking even for a partial inquiry into that which they ascribed to the influence of this enactment—I have tingling in my ears now those hideous noises, those horrid yells which were then raised to stifle all expression of opinion. I think there is also presented a striking contrast in what took place upon the passing of this law in 1815, with what is now occurring with regard to its abolition. The people were exclaiming in the streets against the enactment of this law. Soldiers surrounded this House; and the Members made complaints that they had not even time to present their petitions to the House, foretelling all the misery and distress which its operation could entail upon them. Notwithstanding which, the Corn Law was passed with the greatest speed which the forms of this House would enable a Bill to pass into law. But now Gentlemen opposite are pleading for themselves, for the rich, and for the aristocracy; and therefore we have this debate protracted to a longer period than has ever been known upon any other question — longer than any question has been protracted within the memory of any Member within this House. Now we are to have an unprecedented delay. For three weeks have we sat here listening to the same statements over and over again. After all the experience which has been gained of the mischief of this law; after it has been discredited by every enlightened authority; after all the argument being on one side, and that side being supported by every statesman of note—I say, here we are, having the same things repeated over and over again, for the space of three weeks. Such is the difference between the way in which the interests of the rich, and the rights of the poor, are considered in this House. However, Sir, as the time is to be wasted, I do not think I should be really doing justice to the principles I have advocated in this House—I do not think I should be doing justice to those whom I represent here, and those with whom I have co-operated so long throughout the country—if I did not express my joy and satisfaction at the concession that has been made to wisdom, truth, and justice in the propositions and avowals which have been made by Her Majesty's Ministers. ["Oh!"] And, Sir, as the sub- 191 ject has been so much forced upon the consideration of the House, I cannot help forming an opinion as to whether this concession has been made at the sacrifice of honour or from interest on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers; and I declare most solemnly, that it seems to me, that the concessions which have been made, have been the result of a lively sense of the responsibility which, as Ministers and statesmen, they have of the danger to the country from the continuance of this law. And I must state for those who have depended chiefly on fact and argument to persuade their opponents, that it is most gratifying to observe that the abandonment of the protective system has been conceded by the leaders on both sides under circumstances which place them entirely above the suspicion of any interested views; for I do believe, that when the noble Lord the Member for London declared in this House, at the beginning of last Session, that he considered that the system of protection, as it is called, was the bane of that interest which was thought to be secured by it—when he proposed, in the course of last summer, that the House should resolve that those duties were injurious to those who were said to be benefited by them—when he, moreover, addressed his letter to his constituents, telling them that he was ready to give full effect to his conviction—I say, that when he did this, I believe he did so, not only from an honest sense of what was due to the community; but I am not sure whether in doing so he was not considered by some to have marred the interests of his party. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, there has been so much discussion on his conduct, that it is impossible not to have formed an opinion upon his position in this matter; and I declare that I cannot see in what respect he has deserved the reproaches which he has received from his party. As far as I have collected from what has been said in this House, the right hon. Gentleman does not propose this measure himself without reluctance. He has made the proposition himself, being satisfied that it was right that it should be made, but only after having submitted to others the propriety of proposing it to this House. It is no fault of his, as far as I can discover, that he is Minister at this moment, or that he is now the proposer of this measure. I think, therefore, Sir, that on this ground, and certainly on every other, the public have 192 no reason for complaint, that the right hon. Gentleman should have been the Minister to submit such a measure to the country. If I collect the opinion of the public rightly upon this subject, it is, that they are pleased that the right hon. Baronet should have thrown aside those trammels with which every Ministry has been surrounded on this question, and that he has at length cleared himself from an insolent domination to which all past Governments have been too long subject, and has become the Minister of the country. It has been the boast of this class that they have chosen the Minister of the country; and they have always threatened their Minister, that if he ventured to meddle with the Corn Law, to deal in fact with this privilege of their class, he should cease to hold power in their service. The right hon. Gentleman, actuated by a sense of what is due to the country, has braved this party, disregarded this dictation, and has come forward and proposed a measure for the interest of the community, and has thrown himself upon that community unreservedly for support. I believe that the public in general are delighted to see him relieved from the trammels of his former party; and I further believe that the public will carry him through, not only in this, but in every other measure in which he will consult the public interest, and have the honesty and courage to propose them to the House. Sir, I know that this measure is not a complete one; I am aware that in one respect it falls short of what the country wished. I have been asked by an hon. Gentleman, the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne, whether I will indeed venture to recommend the adoption of this measure? Why, Sir, I did put on record, within a few hours after that measure was proposed, my congratulations to my constituents at their being likely to receive so large an instalment of what they had been struggling for so long. If I had not taken that step, I should have been much disposed to have done so after the opening speech of the Member for Bristol, who proposed the Amendment now before the House; and who said, that if this measure was passed, he and his party would regard the system of protection as abolished for ever. If I had not done it then, I should have felt justified in doing so after witnessing the opposition which the right hon. Gentleman has received from the other side of the House. I say, the violence of that opposition will 193 be accepted by the country as an apology for many of the deficiencies and much of the incompleteness of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman will be looked upon as a negotiator with that party which has long domineered and tyrannized over this country, and as having obtained the most that he was able for the people. The public will see from the conduct of the hon. Members opposite, what difficulties the right hon. Baronet has had to contend with, and what a fierce spirit has been opposed to him on account of the measures he has proposed. Gentlemen opposite, however, are not aware, perhaps, of what service they are rendering to the right hon. Baronet, and the popularity they are giving to the measure by their conduct in the course they are pursuing. For my part, I believe that the violence and passion that have been exhibited upon that side of the House, in respect to that measure, has of itself endeared it to the public—that every Member who has deserted the Minister, and exhibits the sacrifice that the right hon. Gentleman has been obliged to make in proposing this measure of national advantage, places the right hon. Gentleman on a pinnacle of public favour which he could not have expected otherwise to attain. Sir, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne asked me whether I would dare to show my face among my constituents after supporting this measure? I would ask the hon. Member and any of those who support him, whether two years hence they will venture into any public meeting and show their faces after supporting an Amendment which I must consider the most daring defiance of public opinion, and of the general interest, I have ever known? It makes no distinction in the measures involved in the scheme, without denying the expediency of many of them: it says simply and peremptorily to the scheme, "We will have none of it, we abjure the principle of it." There are many parts of the right. hon. Baronet's scheme admitted to be beneficial to agriculture. There are many people without the means of subsistence, who might expect to obtain it if some of these measures were carried; for they might hope to exchange food for their industry, which they cannot do now; but simply because that article is dealt with, from which so many here derive their income, the whole scheme is to be rejected. [Cries of "No, no," from the Conservative benches.] You say, "No, no;" but are there not many of you 194 who have said that there were parts of the scheme which were most desirable, and which would much benefit agriculture? You say, "No, no;" but I ask if there are not many of you who have said that some parts of the scheme are most desirable and expedient. I ask if noble Lords have not, at some of their protection meetings, said that several of the schemes included in this measure will be most advantageous to agriculture? [Cries of "No, no!"] Why I can point to counties where protectionists have come forward and said so. [Cries of "Name, name."] There is Lord Essex, in Hertfordshire, said that Indian corn would be a great boon to agriculture. ["Oh, oh!"] Why, he is a protectionist, and he would not let foreign wheat come in to feed the people, but he would allow foreign food to feed cattle. You will not even allow those who are graziers, and who want to feed their cattle, to have this food from abroad. ["Hear, hear!"] You may shake your heads, but I say it is so. Why, my hon. Friend the Member for Newark, who has just been returned, a rank protectionist, shakes his head; what does he mean? Does he mean that he would let in Indian corn, not fearing that it might supersede the use of the nobler grain? He would let it in! Then why vote for this Amendment? The Bill is opposed in toto. The Irish people might starve. ["No, no!"] Oh, you would open the ports; how long is it since you consented to do that? Since you discovered that there was little corn to come in. There was nothing said in last autumn about opening the ports. Then it was said that there was no scarcity, that there was nothing but the basest cowardice on the part of the Government. "Afraid," you said, "afraid of the people starving! Why, was there ever such pusillanimous government as this? Was there ever such turpitude?" I heard this expression the other night. This is what you stated then; but now you have discovered that grain is actually going out of this country from the warehouses to neighbouring States, and that there is such a scarcity on the Continent that there is no more grain to come in; and you now state, and the hon. Member for Somersetshire says, "God forbid that we should prevent anything coming in to save the people, if they are starving!" Anything may come in so long as it is sure that prices will not fall. With little prospect of advantage the ports may be open now. ["No, no."] Well, 195 if that be not so, I do not understand what you mean by saying "No, no," when I assert that you are trying to oppose all the measures comprehended in this scheme. Sir, we have heard in the course of this debate, that it is for the purpose of discussing the great principle, the great system of protection, the system of policy that has long prevailed in this country, that this debate has been so long continued. Now, this is the eleventh day that we have been discussing the system of protection; and I want to know whether any one has the least idea what that system is? Has any one the slightest idea, from anything that has fallen from the hon. Gentleman opposite, what that system or principle is—whether there is any rule in it—any result from it; whether anything that ought to be dignified by the name of a system of policy, resting on general principles and involving the general good, has been raised in question on the occasion? Why, it is quite clear that no one has given the House an idea of what is called the system, if he has one himself. It has been asked on this side, whether this system of protection can be universally applied. "Oh, certainly not," it is answered. You say you cannot regulate the price of labour, whatever you may do with the price of food. It has been admitted that cannot be done. Can you define the cases where protection ought to be applied? They have not been stated, if it is possible. "Is it," we ask, "opposed to the principle of competition?" "Oh, God forbid! it is not opposed to competition, for Lord Stanley, our leader, defines protection to be 'competition subject to regulation.'" But you cannot tell us the principle on which it should be regulated. You say you do not mean to oppose all the advantages proposed in the measure; but you want to maintain the principle of protection. I thought that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli) would have told us something about the principle, would have shown us how its application could be made national or general; but instead of enlightening us himself, he only complained of others not enlightening him, and lamented that his friends around him had not told him what the principle was. Now, I ask the House candidly whether this great system, which was said to be in question, has not dwindled down into a complaint of that fanciful obstruction to the trade in food for the purpose of making it dear and scarce, called the sliding- 196 scale, being in danger of being removed? Every Member who has spoken upon this subject, when he has risen to vindicate the system of protection, has hardly been on his legs five minutes before he commences to discuss the horrors of free trade in food, and to depict the advantages of the sliding-scale, which, it seems, is dignified by the term of protection to agriculture. Well, but here again, have we got any information upon the influence of this mode of protecting agriculture? Have we had the slightest intimation upon the subject, how the science of agriculture is advanced by this means; how capital can be wisely applied to the cultivation of the soil? Have we even heard anything but the vaguest assertions as to what prices would be if there were a free trade in corn? Not one single syllable has been uttered to show how this impediment to trade tends to advance agriculture. Not one single agricultural authority has been quoted in the whole of this debate to show that the sliding-scale, or what you term this system of protection to agriculture, promotes improvement in that business. Not one single man engaged in agriculture—not an individual who would be an authority in any hundred or parish in this country, have you quoted to back your statements that this protection is essential to a proper culture of soil. Many have been quoted on the other side, who have said that agriculture depends on nothing of the kind, and that there is not the least necessity for an Act of Parliament to secure high prices. Why, there has been a gentleman deeply interested in the business of farming, who has been in the gallery of this House, that I could quote. He is about the largest occupier of land in the country, and he was examined for three days before the Agricultural Committee of this House, when it sat last, having been called as a great authority amongst agricultural gentlemen. Well, he has been within the last few nights in the gallery of this House, and he has been wanting to be in the House that he might answer the silly things which he has heard from your side on the subject. He occupies 3,800 acres. He holds land in six counties. He is a receiver of rents in eight counties; and he states, that he is for the total, and immediate, and unconditional repeal of the Corn Laws as the best thing for the farmer. When we see such men as that in favour of a repeal of the Corn Laws, it certainly is not wonderful that you are so averse to inquiry. You never would give 197 any Committee: you would not hear any one at the bar of this House on the subject, because you knew that these persons would come forward and give evidence directly in opposition to your views. You would never face an inquiry. Those persons are ready to come, but you have none ready to call on your side. ["Oh, oh!"] "Oh!" why you never name such persons in support of your case: you are surely on your trial before the country now, and you should cite intelligent agriculturists in support of your views of protection. I venture to say now, what I said before, that if you go into a Committee of inquiry, that I will call farmers from every county in England—that I will call land agents, and every man who is competent to give evidence from his experience, and that they shall give evidence contrary to your views of the subject. ["Oh, oh."] You say "Oh;" why there is a club of land agents in this city, and I have reason to believe that the majority of its members are of opinion that a total and immediate repeal of the Corn Laws will do no harm to the landed interest. One would have thought that the hon. Member for Essex and the hon. Member for Suffolk, who have both spoken—who plume themselves on being identified with the soil—who would be quite angry if they were not supposed to be so, would have given us some information. I listened with great interest to them, because I know how able they are upon this subject. The hon. Member for Essex (Sir J. Tyrrell), after cutting some very questionable jokes, in the first part of his speech, ended by reading a chapter from Dr. Arnold about men with one idea. Then there is the hon. Member for Suffolk. He was returned specially as the farmers' friend—as the man who knew more about the farmers than anybody else. I don't know whether anybody else did, but I confess I listened to what that hon. Gentleman said; and all I could collect was, that he was reading the Solicitor General's speech made some time ago at Cambridge. Those are two of the chief agricultural counties, and that is all we can collect from those two Members. Those hon. Gentlemen will go any length to turn out the Government, and to oppose the right hon. Gentleman's measure, and yet we cannot obtain a single notion from them as to the way in which the sliding-scale benefits agriculture. There is the Member for Norfolk: I see him in his place there. There is a very intelligent man in the county of Norfolk who has 198 written a pamphlet, and who says if the landlords will do (what they will not do), and if you will make the tenants do (what they are not able to do), that we shall have plenty of corn without free trade. That gentleman, I dare say, is a constituent of the hon. Member for Norfolk: his name is Warnes. That gentleman has published a book, and he declares, that the farmers of the present day must take for their text, for their rule of proceeding, that low price is quite compatible with good agriculture; that they must never look to high prices, but must produce a great quantity, and must depend for success on low prices and plentiful crops. That doctrine is, I think, directly opposed to that of the hon. Member for that county, who, practically, by this law tells the farmer, "Never mind the cultivation, never mind how you manage your farm, because we will get you an Act of Parliament, and we will secure you high prices, which is all you want:" that is the object he is seeking to serve at this moment. Then I ask, if the House has heard, on this occasion, any great results from this system of protecting agriculture, which justify it? The hon. Member for Norfolk tells us of none. Do you point to the farmers or labourers as offering examples of its success? Why, we have scarcely heard a word said about the condition of the farmers during the discussion; but if you look at the speeches out of this House, you will collect from them that the farmer who has prospered during the last thirty years is so rare a bird, so strange an animal, that if he was seen, he should be stuffed and sent to the British Museum. It has actually been said at the agricultural meetings, that the farmer who has thriven under this system ought to be preserved in a Museum. Then, as to the labourers, have we had any evidence of their prosperity? We have been told that the Goatacre meeting was a thing got up by the Anti-Corn-Law League. That, however, is not the fact. The League had nothing whatever to do with that meeting. I know that that meeting was only one of a series of meetings which have been held for some years past by the labourers of Wiltshire, who have always declared the same thing, that they could not be worse off than they are, and that any change among them must be for the better. But look at the Reports of every Commission that has been appointed to inquire into the condition of the agricultural labourer, and you will see from 1824 down to 1843, the date of the 199 last Report, just exactly the same account of the agricultural labourers—that their condition is as bad physically as it is possible to be, and that they live under circumstances, the result of physical suffering, the most unfavourable to their morals and their happiness; and that this is particularly the case in the most agricultural counties. I wonder that the hon. Member for Suffolk did not allude to the agricultural labourers of his county, because they are specially mentioned in the Report of the year 1824, and have been constantly referred to since. In Suffolk there are more of what are called gentlemen farmers and of clergy than in any other county, and yet the people are described as being there as demoralized, and are subject to as much privation as in any other county in England. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury asks if the people have not thriven under this system of protection? I say they decidedly have not; and I ask why, if they have, we have had no account of that prosperity during the eleven days that this debate has been discussed; and why we have not been told how it could benefit the poor; and, in fact, why we have up to this moment been left with no better definition of the results of the system than that which was obtained from Lord Stanley in another place? Lord Stanley was asked what he meant by this system; and he was obliged to avow that it was a system that raised the rent of land, that raised the price of food, but did not raise the wages of labour. Well, then, I believe that Lord Stanley is your leader, and that you are all proud to acknowledge him to be so. The principles, therefore, which he has avowed are those which you have been fighting for eleven days past, and in support of which you are going to a division; a system that raises the price of food, raises the rent of land, but does nothing to benefit the labourer—a system which accounts for a prosperous farmer being such a rare bird that he ought to be stuffed and preserved; and why the condition of the agricultural labourer is a by-word of demoralization and distress. It is the exact result that you would expect from Lord Stanley's definition of raising the rent of land and the price of food without also raising the wages of labour. That is the definition of your own system, given by your own leader. Now, we ought to know what the general effect of this system is. We are legislating for the public at large, and we ought to know what the effect of this system is 200 upon them. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department tells us that he has ascertained its effect. He has, in my opinion, most accurately stated it. The right hon. Baronet said that he had evidence which had been forced upon him, to show how the purpose of the protective system, namely, to secure high prices, affected the working classes and the community at large, if it succeeded. The right hon. Baronet states the result of his official observation, and you have avoided dealing with that point altogether. Yes; you have met it in one way; you have railed at the Ministers for treachery; you have charged them with letting the cat out of the bag. We have had a great deal of talk about a system; but you have not answered this case, and you have left yourselves up to this moment exposed to the charge of promoting a system which produces the effects which the right hon. Gentleman has told us, who has been in office during two periods—one, when food was dear through the operation of your law; and the other when it was cheap, the result of the blessings of Providence. He says that he has found, in one case, that in consequence of high prices the poor were in distress; that they were miserable; that they were tempted into crime; that the rate of mortality among them had increased; and that these misfortunes had fallen upon them from the success of protection. And when, by the bounty of God, your system has failed; and when you come to this House to complain that the price is low, and that high prices are necessary to your interest, and when you denounce the Minister, because you have not got a sufficient price for your produce; he tells you that, though food is low, the price of labour is high, that crime is diminished, and that death, disease, and all the miseries that before befel them are less; and that, therefore, he has come to the conclusion that the success of your protective system is calculated to promote the misery of the people, and its failure ensured to them prosperity and happiness. To this moment there is not one of you who has given an answer on this point to the right hon. Baronet—not one. When the right hon. Baronet rose last summer, and stated all these results, there was not one of you who answered him. When he said that, under a high price of provisions, wages did not increase, but that much misery and destitution followed, you ought to have risen and said, that low-priced provisions do not 201 promote the comforts of the people. You ought to have risen and said, what I have often heard in this House before, that high prices of provisions improve the condition of the labouring class. But you did not do that; because if you had you felt that nobody would have believed it. You submitted to his proposition then; you tacitly agreed with what he said; and who could believe that any man who intended to show his face in the country again would continue a system which he said was the source of such calamity whenever it succeeded success? I say, that when the right hon. Gentleman made that speech last May, it was a subject of general remark that the Corn Laws were doomed. If he had said then that high prices of provision were good for the poor, and that none of these blessings had fallen to them from low price, you would have a good right now to charge him with inconsistency. I maintain that the right hon. Gentleman did then overthrow the system of enhancing the price of food by law. He told you that misery and misfortune had been the result of it; but not one rose to contradict the statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made, but, on the contrary, some country Gentleman rose on the other side, and bore out his statement. Even in the agricultural districts it was seen that the effect of high prices of food was to produce misery and misfortune; but when the prices of food fell it brought the greatest advantage to the agricultural labourers. Well, now, I say that it is a very serious charge, which ought to be met before the close of this debate. I say that the charge involved in that statement ought to be met, otherwise the indication of your good fortune is that of the misery of others. You should not look to the prices current, but to the calendars and to the rate of mortality, and the misfortunes that befal man, in order to know whether you are well off under this law, or whether you should contend for its maintenance. According to your system, a man should congratulate you if you were told that the people were miserable, and dying of disease, occasioned by the high price and scarcity of food. I do not say that this is so; but if you do not answer the right hon. Gentleman, you are open to the charge. You have had now eleven days' debate without meeting that one fact. I say that the right hon. Gentleman stated that to you; that the noble Lord the Member for London tells you, in his letter to the city of London, that the intention of the law is to make food 202 dear, and that the effect of that is, in his opinion, precisely what the Home Secretary has told you it is. You cannot escape from that purpose of the law, because there is no meaning in the law, if it is not to make food clear. It is very well for the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon to say, "God forbid that the price of corn should be high; he does not wish scarcity: that he knew it was a great misfortune"—and all that sort of thing. It is all very well to say so; but how is he going to vote, and how has he voted on previous occasions? I ask this because there has been talking about the Corn Law for twenty-five years; and there has been no other purpose ever in view but to maintain price. I refer him to the year 1822, from that time to the present, and to the fact that prices never have been low during that period, but that the country Gentlemen have come here to complain: and, on the other hand, I say, they have never been high but that the people have come here to complain of distress. In 1822, the price of food was lower than ever it was before. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon must remember all that took place then; that it was made a subject of positive grievance by the county Members, that prices were so low. But these low prices were not the result of importation. We have heard to-night that cheapness produced by importation and abundant harvests, are two very different things. I say that low prices are what you have always complained of. You never distinguish between low prices and the causes that produce low prices. I forget who it was—but I believe it was the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. B. Denison) who attempted to-night to draw a difference between the cheapness produced by foreign importation and an abundant harvest. Ah, you will do well to look to the years 1822, 1835, and 1845. I say there are three distinct periods when the prices have been low, not from importation, but from the care of God, of which you have come down here and complained. ["No!"] Why, it is of no use denying the fact; there are the records up-stairs which will prove it. Lord Castlereagh came down and proposed a scheme for making food dear. He suggested a vote of money, in order to buy up the "surplus food," as it was called, to secure a remunerating price to the landed interest. There was a vote of money proposed in the House to relieve the landed interest from the support of the poor. I say that in 1835 and 203 1836 there were low prices that proceeded from good harvests and nothing else; and yet the Marquess of Chandos came here and proposed a repeal of the malt tax, and that the House should go into Committee upon the grievous state of agriculture; and I believe there were Committees appointed in both Houses of Parliament, to consider the unparalleled distress of the country party, although not from importation, but simply from an abundant harvest. I ask, what was the meaning of that two hours' speech which we heard last year from the hon. Member for Somerset, flourishing the prices current in his hand, and complaining that the Government had not secured them a better price of beef, flour, bacon, veal, pork, &c. He did not complain of low prices occasioned by importation, because there was less imported during that year than for some time before; but he stated that there was distress owing to prices falling, and on account of a more abundant harvest than usual. I say, therefore, that what you complain of is low prices, and that the object of the Corn Law is high prices. I say, again, that after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, who says that he cannot resist the evidence that high prices produce distress, because wages are not increased in a corresponding ratio, you must say why you contend for the continuance of a system that is intended to raise price. But then it is contended that the Corn Laws are not only a protection to agriculture, but are also to protect domestic industry. What do you mean by "domestic industry?" It must mean something, I suppose, in which the working classes are concerned. But have you any evidence that the working classes agree with you in that view of the case—that the working classes believe themselves interested in a system that produces all that misery which the right hon. Gentleman says takes place whenever this scheme succeeds? Have you any evidence, I say, of the working classes agreeing with you? Has any Gentleman quoted the opinions of the working classes in support of the position that the Corn Laws are beneficial to domestic industry—that they are satisfied with the idea that they shall benefit with the high price of food? I tell you there is not a single town in all England where the working men are not against you, and have not more or less declared themselves against your doctrine. I believe the address published by the working men at 204 Sheffield, agreed to in an open-air meeting, and to their fellow workmen throughout the country, was assented to by them all. They say—These laws have deranged our monetary system, making numbers of our manufacturers bankrupts, checking the natural current of trade, and reducing thousands of families to misery and starvation; nor do they produce any real good to the great mass of our agricultural population; for those who till the earth, and make it lovely and fruitful by their labour, are only allowed the slave's share of the many blessings they produce.Again, at Liverpool in 1843, some of the working classes undertook to inquire into the condition of their own class then residing in that town, and the result of the inquiry into the condition of 5,000 families in that town, which was verified by some respectable merchants at the time, was the following:—That the labouring classes are in a state of great distress. That their condition has been getting worse for the last four years. That we find that disease and crime bear a relation to the price of food. That high prices of provisions compel the people to live on coarser food, thus injuring their health and abridging their comforts. That manufacturers and dealers are fast sinking, from an inability in the bulk of the pepulation to purchase from them those articles necessary to their existence. That we find that high wages and full employment are coincident with low prices of provisions, and that high prices of provisions are coincident with low wages and want of employment. 1052 families are supported by pawning, charity, or prostitution. 1017 families are supported by savings, credit, relations, and casual employment. Other families are now on the parish: out of 5,000 families, 3,600 come from the agricultural districts, not being able to find employment in their own districts.That is the way the Corn Law supports domestic industry. Why, it is surely a mockery and an insult to tell the poor that you stop this measure to promote their industry in the town and in the country. There are some things that have been said certainly against the measure, and which, perhaps, I should not notice, but that the authority of the Member for Sunderland, who has used them, may influence somebody. The hon. Member for Sunderland is very much alarmed at this measure, and he has used all his authority to frighten the House and the country upon three grounds. In the first place, he is afraid that the sum at which wheat can be brought into this country from abroad will be too low for agriculture here—he is afraid of the injury which may be done to our home trade—and he is afraid of the effect on the exchanges. I mention the hon. Gentleman because he has a singular 205 position at present; and, owing to the great success of his undertakings, whatever falls from him is taken to be gospel by some. Now, the hon. Gentleman told us the other night that he had brought foreign corn into this country at 25s. a quarter. The hon. Gentleman says in 1837 he was a party to a transaction himself, in which wheat, after paying the charges of freight and duty, was lodged here at 25s. It was impossible to doubt the truth of that which any Gentleman says he did himself, and quite impossible to doubt anything which the Member for Sunderland says; but when the hon. Gentleman states a fact of that kind, he wants the country at large to draw a general conclusion from it. He wants people to suppose when food can be purchased and consumed at 25s. a quarter, and can be imported at that price from abroad, that the farmers of this country cannot compote with the foreign grower. That is the purpose for which the statement was used; or, if not, it was of no use at all. I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to have stated in the first place where it was that he imported his grain from, as during the last week his statement has been used in different papers, as if it was the general import price of foreign wheat. I believe that the hon. Gentleman opposite will admit that we must import a considerable quantity of grain from Poland and Russia, and that Dantzic must be one of the ports from which we must receive grain. We shall have to get a million, or two millions, or, as some people say, four millions; and we must depend on that port to a great extent. I happen to have here an authority which I defy any one to question, namely, the prices of grain at Dantzic during the whole of the year 1837, in which year the hon. Gentleman imported his wheat at 25s. a quarter, and the price of freights from Dantzic to Liverpool or London. [Mr. HUDSON was here understood to say, that, the wheat which he had purchased came from Odessa.] But as I understood the hon. Gentleman's statement, wheat could be bought for general consumption at 25s. the quarter; and this fact is of little use if it has only reference to damaged wheat at Odessa, because I say that you must depend for a large portion of your wheat upon Dantzic. The hon. Gentleman says he brought grain here—good grain—capable of being consumed as human food, and brought into the market at 25s. I say that the finest quality, capable of being consumed there, 206 never was sold at Dantzic during that year under 29s. a quarter. [An hon. MEMBER: "Odessa."] But the hon. Member is telling you the free-trade price of wheat, and you all began triumphing on that account, because you believe that it will be inferred that wheat, which ought to be at 56s. here, as you say, will be only 25s. in future. Now the prices of wheat at Dantzic for the highest and lowest qualities, during the year 1837, were as follow;—I find that in 1837 the prices in Dantzic were—
During the same period the prices of freights from Dantzic to London and Liverpool were never less than 4s. 9d., and sometimes were 6s., and the other charges 3s., and yet the hon. Gentleman tells you that if the trade was open, foreign grain would be imported here at 25s. a quarter: this he infers from what took place in the year 1837, after our ports had been closed for four years. There is another peculiarity in that year—namely, that a very large amount of Baltic wheat which was grown, went from Dantzic to America—which makes him still more fortunate in having been able to land one cargo here from somewhere for 25s. But the hon. Gentleman is one of that school which says there is no objection to an importation of foreign corn if it be not paid for in gold. Well, then, I will just tell the hon. Gentleman what was the case when we were importing grain between the years 1840 and 1844. In 1839, there is no doubt that the bullion fell from upwards of 9,000,000l. to 2,000,000l. in the course of six months, and owing to a large importation; but our importations for the three years were as large, but were regular; and the hon. Gentleman will see that the bullion returned to this country, and the regular importation of wheat was paid for by manufactures. In 1840, the import of wheat was 2,600,000 quarters, but the bullion in the Bank had increased to 3,500,000l. from 2,000,000l. In 1841, the import of wheat was 2,300,000 quarters, but the bullion was in the Bank in that year 4,900,000l. And in 1842 we imported 4,206,000 quarters, and at that time the bullion in the 207 Bank of England had increased to 10,000,000l., our exports had also increased in a corresponding ratio; and these exports to the great grain countries took place when our exports to all other countries failed. But without reading all the particulars, I will just state what was the result of the exports before we began to import grain from the grain-growing countries down to the last year. In 1837, the export of manufactures was 12,800,000l.; in 1842, after we had had four years' import of grain, the exports of our manufactures was 16,800,000l. This increase of trade with foreign countries took place when our exports to every country were falling off, showing that after the first year of a great and sudden demand for articles we had not before imported, there arose a regular trade. Sir, the hon. Member for Sunderland has referred to what has been alluded to by other Members in this debate, the value of the home trade. It is a very common argument with agricultural Gentlemen that the home trade is far better than the foreign trade, and that we ought to be careful how we deal with it. Sir, that is our case: it is because the home trade is so good that we ought to be careful not to injure it, and nothing injures it so much as high prices of corn. The hon. Member is well acquainted with the midland counties; and I therefore select the evidence of the Mayor of Leicester, a large manufacturer, given before the Import Duty Committee of this House, for his information on this point:—
Highest quality. Lowest quality. April 31s. 0d. per quarter. 23s. 5d. per quarter. May 32 0 per quarter. 24 0 per quarter. June 33 0 per quarter. 25 5 per quarter. July 30 0 per quarter. 20 0 per quarter. Aug. 32 3 per quarter. 20 0 per quarter. Sept 32 0 per quarter. 24 0 per quarter. Oct. 29 6 per quarter. 23 5 per quarter. Nov. 30 0 per quarter. 25 5 per quarter. Dec. 29 0 per quarter. 28 0 per quarter.In speaking of the consumption of Leicester, you say that the market has been falling off for two years. Are the Committee to understand that has been from the increasing poverty of the industrious classes of the country?—I do imagine that to be the case. Have the artisans been obliged to give more labour, and to do more work for the same wages in consequence of the pressure which has existed in Leicester?—Certainly, wages have been lower in consequence of it, and I never saw anything like the distress that there has been among the artisans employed in the town of Leicester. To what do you ascribe the decreased demand for their goods?—To the high prices of provisions, which have diminished the means of the labourer to purchase, because if his food takes a large proportion of his wages, it leaves him less to lay out in clothing, furniture, and other articles. Have you any experience, with respect to the demand for your goods, when provisions have been low? Yes; it is the invariable rule in our trade that when provisions are low, we have a good demand; it is a rule observed by the manufacturers, and established as a maxim in the trade. If the harvest is good, we may have a better home demand; but if we have a bad harvest, I do not know what will become of the population, for it will make corn high, and leave the workmen 208 destitute of employment, and the distress will be very great. Ours is a home manufacture depending upon the home market; and upon the wellbeing of the working population generally the prosperity of the manufactures of Leicester entirely depends. Are you quite certain that the falling-off in the demand for Leicester manufacture amongst the purely agricultural population has been as great as amongst the manufacturing population? The falling-off has been as great. The hosiers who travel there tell me that the wages of agricultural labourers are so low, that it leaves them nothing to lay out in manufactures. They have first to obtain the necessaries of life, and it leaves them nothing to lay out in stockings. Then although the price of food has increased, their wages have not increased in proportion? Certainly not in the agricultural districts; in the manufacturing districts wages are lower than they were two years ago when food was lower. Would you attach any importance to the protecting duties being removed which you are said to have yourself? The bulk of our manufacturers would be glad to see them removed. We passed a resolution to that effect at a large meeting held in the spring of the last year. We had a large town meeting, and resolutions were passed declaring their willingness to abandon all protective duties on manufactures, if all prohibitory and all protecting duties on agricultural produce were also removed. Was that resolution the result of the opinion of the general aggregate of the manufacturers in Leicester and the neighbourhood?—It was.Facts of this kind were elicited on the Import Duty Committee, from nearly every manufacturer of articles of general consumption; and we urge them in opposition to what is stated in defence of artificial prices as necessary for the home trade. Now I ask your attention to what it is which has been said at the other side, in reply to these great economical considerations which have been brought before them by the Government, and to propositions which have been from time to time submitted for years past to the same effect, by hon. Gentlemen at this side. It has been stated, and stated truly, by the right hon. Gentleman, that the population of this country is rapidly increasing—and that the census shows that there is no chance of finding employment for them, except from commerce and manufacture. Now I ask the House to attend to the answers which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire and the hon. Member for Bristol make to that statement. Commissioners of the Crown recently reporting the results of their inquiry, have declared that produce equal to that of the county of Surrey is annually required to feed the increased population of this country, and places as large as Birmingham and Manchester to find them room for shelter. The hon. Member for Bristol says, that manufactures have been carried a great deal too far; that we ought 209 rather to consider the propriety of restricting our manufacturing districts; and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, who is the leader of the body of protectionists, and who undertakes to speak for that party, and to tell them the views which they ought to take, and the opinions they ought to pronounce, as opposed to this side of the House—he (the hon. Member for Northamptonshire) says that we may talk as we please about the increase of our population, and about our want of food for that increased number, but that the true policy for this country is not to import food from abroad, and that we ought to confine ourselves to native produce, and to a system under which we produce three quarters of corn, where we might produce five. Now let the country distinctly understand the political economy of the other side. They say the manufacturing districts are increasing too fast in this country, and that their limits ought to be confined, whilst, concurrently with that restriction, they also say that we ought to produce less food at home instead of more, and that we ought to import less food from abroad notwithstanding the increase of population. That is the argument which is used by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and deliberately stated in their organs of the Quarterly Review, Standard, and Herald. We see it there stated that if the manufacturing districts were razed to the ground, if half the metropolis were razed to the ground, the country would be greater, happier, and more prosperous. And consistently with such views this measure is opposed, it being alleged that we want no more manufacturing towns—that we should not produce more food at home or import more from abroad, however rapidly the population may increase. That is what you say are your economical principles. We say that we want to provide food for an increasing population; and we find, by the census returns, that you give less employment to the population in the agricultural districts now than you did in 1831; and, in answer to that, you say that we ought to have fewer manufactories and less production of food. Now I ask, if men are fit to be loose who entertain such notions, or if such men ought to be allowed to legislate for the country? And yet these are the persons who propose to form a Government; who say, "If you will only throw out this measure we will form a Government that will upon our principles provide for the exigencies of the country, will provide for 210 the people;" who propose to diminish the manufacturing districts, and to produce less food in the country. How do you propose to get the power to carry out these doctrines? You cannot depend upon the opinion of the country: no, you will say you depend upon your territorial influence, small constituencies, and the House of Lords. You think that by your influence with the counties and the small boroughs, and with the influence of the House of Lords, you will be able to throw out this measure of the Government, and to uphold monopoly. This it is which has induced you to keep up the debate for eleven days; and it is with a hope of effecting that object that you will go to the division to-morrow night. You hope by these means, by your influence with dependent voters, and the support of the House of Lords, to throw out the Government measure. But let me ask, did you ever consider how you were to maintain the Corn Laws after you have defeated this Government? The Corn Laws must be supported now by force or by opinion. ["Oh!"] Is there any other way? You have already tried by force to support it. You tried force when the law was introduced; and four years after it was carried you maintained it by force. I say the people were put down in this town by force in 1815, for openly resisting that law; and at Manchester also, in 1819, four years after its enactment, they were cut down for calling for its repeal. They were threatened again in 1830, when they were suffering dreadfully from its effects. It was contemplated again to stifle their voice by force; but the time was past in 1830 for putting down opinion by the sword. It was said in high quarters that there was a way of putting down the people if they ventured to express an opinion against this law. The rotten boroughs had during former Governments the power to put down the people. In 1830 the time had come for the rotten boroughs to be put down themselves, and they were so. The people, finding their condition unimproved, and their interests neglected, became disappointed with the results of the Reform Bill; and they organized themselves to obtain a further extension of the suffrage; and when a scarcity from bad harvests occurred in 1839—which since the Corn Laws had passed had been periodical—they were indisposed to join the middle classes in demanding the repeal of the Corn Laws alone. This feeling was turned to account by the protection societies, and every thing 211 which they could do to mislead the people, and to direct their attention from the operation of the Corn Law, was attempted by them. Every thing which could delude the minds of the people on that subject was done by those societies and their emissaries, and by their partisans in Parliament. It was their proceedings, indeed, and the deceptions practised upon the people to reconcile them to this law, that really drew out the Anti-Corn-Law League: it was this that caused them to exert themselves as they had done; that it was which led them to do so much in circulating, not any new principles, not their own notions, but the deliberate opinions of the most enlightened men that ever the country produced; and induced them to make those extraordinary exertions which the country had witnessed to influence public opinion against all restrictions on commerce, and, in particular, for the total abolition of the Corn Law. With what result the efforts of late years have been attended is now learnt; and it is obvious to every rational mind that you cannot longer support it either by force or by delusion; and if you wish to support this law, you must do it by other means. You are now quarrelling with a Minister who is honestly applying himself to the settlement of this question. I ask, if you have devised any means yourselves—if you have contemplated how you are to maintain it, under those circumstances from which the Minister has shrunk, namely, the recurrence of a period of scarcity? If a season of scarcity should occur again, and that the people under the pressure of that scarcity should call upon you, as they have always done on former occasions, for political reforms; or if it should so happen that the people rose up against this law, what state would such a Government as you could form be placed in under such circumstances, having refused to alter this law, about the evils of which they have no longer any doubt, and against which all mankind are agreed? I only ask you just to imagine such a Government as we have seen described—a Government with a noble Duke at its head, and consisting of some hon. Gentlemen whom I see opposite—in what position would such a Government find itself in a period of scarcity and tumult, and the responsibility placed upon them of restoring and maintaining peace, order, and contentment? Can we suppose a Gentleman placed in a more pitiable, I will not say despicable, situation? What would you do? Would it not be exactly as it has been before? 212 Would you not come to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and pray of him to resume the reins of power and restore peace and order, by requesting him to do what you are now quarrelling with him for attempting? The hon. Member for Rutlandshire blamed the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government for not having stuck to his guns. "Stick to his guns!" What Minister, let me ask, would have stuck to his guns under similar circumstances? Would you stick to your guns if starvation was spreading throughout the country, and you were not able to put the people down by force, nor to persuade them that the starvation they suffered was not your fault, and was not the result of your legislation? Would you who blame the right hon. Baronet stick to your guns under such circumstances, and after it is clear to the whole world that sticking to your guns means only sticking to your own interests? Why, the fact is, that the protection that you require is protection from yourselves, and that the right hon. Gentleman is providing this for you, though you cannot see it. Other countries have been referred to on the opposite side; and I remember the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, at the commencement of the Session, said, he was not afraid so much of agitation with respect to this question, or of high prices, but he was afraid of such men as Neckar or Turgot getting into the Government. There is some analogy, I admit, between the position of this country, as regards this question, and the state of France at a former period, when Turgot became Minister. The hon. Member for Dorchester, who expressed his fear of a second Turgot in our Government, is, I am sure, acquainted with the character of that Minister, and the views he entertained with respect to his country at that time. He was a very sagacious man. I venture to say, notwithstanding the pretensions of the economists of the present day, that there is no man possessing more comprehensive views now than he possessed upon national economy at that time. Turgot was called to power in 1774, and no man could have obtained it entertaining more honest and intelligent views than he did. He undertook the government of the country after writing a very remarkable letter to the King, pointing out to him the difficulties he should have to contend with in his administration of public affairs. He stated in that letter that he despaired of doing good; that he knew he should be calumniated; that a confederacy 213 would be formed against him because he should represent to the King that a certain class ought not to live on the substance of the nation; and, after dilating upon his difficulties, and expressing his confidence in the good faith and justice of the King, he said he accepted office, desiring to die with the character of having acted honestly and having done as much good as possible for his country. Now what was the first act of his Ministry, and which probably is what excites the fears of the hon. Member opposite? He repealed the Corn Laws in France. He said there were two things which should be taken care of by every country if it was desirous of escaping bankruptcy and revolution; and this he said, be it remembered, fifteen years before the revolution took place in France. The two things which he said ought to be cared for were, that the revenue should be maintained, and a scarcity of food avoided; and above all things for this purpose, that trade in corn should be free. Consistently with these views, the first act of Turgot in 1775 was to set free the internal corn trade of France, and place on record his views of the expediency of setting free the external corn trade. What was the case then in France? It is really worth the while of hon. Gentlemen opposite to observe it. When he came into power he found that each province was made by its corn law dependent upon itself for its supply. Each province was protected from the abundance of its neighbour, and thus they were constantly exposed to all the evils of scarcity, leading to riot, misery, and confusion. He removed the barriers to this trade between the provinces: he then proceeded to place the finances of the country upon a sounder basis; and having attempted thus boldly and wisely to strike at the two great causes of danger and evil—let the cause of his fall be observed; because, if care be not taken, the same may await those in this country who would act with similar courage and wisdom. It was, if he remembered rightly, in Condorcet's Life of Turgot, that the combination which was formed against him was described; and it appeared to have included all those who lived on the revenue without rendering any service in return—who profited by abuses of all kinds in the State—farmers of the public income, foolish people about society, women of fashion, and young nobles. That was the description of persons who were opposed to his policy, and combined against Turgot, and against every Minister 214 from 1775 to 1789, who foresaw the consequences of the system which he was anxious to reform. Turgot complained, and wished to prevent them. That was the Minister whom the hon. Member for Dorsetshire feared might be imitated by a Minister of this country. Mr. Carlyle, in one of his recent works, had referred to the sentiments of the privileged classes in France in the year 1787, and had represented some of them as saying, "that they could not live upon the rents of their estates alone; that they could not parade themselves at Court; that they could not maintain their station, unless they had something more than the natural profits of their own possessions; and that they could only sustain their order and their usual expenditure by privileges and exemptions to which the rest of the community were not entitled;" and they would support no Minister that refused to support them in these pretensions and views; and every Minister who disputed them was driven from power from the time of Turgot till 1788. In that year, however, the harvest was bad throughout France; and in 1789 the people were threatened with famine: then came riot, disturbance, and speedily in their train a comprehensive change, such as was referred to by the Member for Shrewsbury the other night, that struck deep into the roots of society, and effected vast changes in the relations of different classes. As hon. Gentlemen opposite have referred to this period, let them study it and take warning by it; for I declare that with the deep-rooted conviction which the people have of the character and purpose of this law, I know nothing that would enable the Government to support its authority in this country if placed again under the circumstances of scarcity of food and a failure of revenue; and I ask you to consider, when you reflect upon what you have experienced of late years of the effect of scarcity, whether the right hon. Baronet is not, in proposing this measure, fulfilling the conditions of true Conservatism; and, whether you can, in professing that character yourselves, and in the absence of any security against the recurrence of scarcity, be justified in the course you are taking; for remember you have not proposed a single measure of security yourselves against a time of scarcity. You heard the right hon. Baronet opposite say what he apprehended from it; that he dreads the very recollection of the last period of scarcity, and insecurity, and sedition; that he is 215 therefore desirous to prevent the recurrence of such periods; but you have offered no security against their recurrence. You have taken no precaution; and mind that, after all the discussions which have taken place on this question, the enlightenment of the people on this subject, it is impossible to deceive them again, and they will hereafter hold you strictly responsible for what occurs. Recollect that the system you wish to maintain is to prevent the growth of food in other countries, for the supply of the wants of our population; and from this circumstance you cannot consider yourselves released from responsibility for at least two or three years to come. There is something like famine already existing in Ireland; and you are not sure that there may not be a bad harvest next year. What do you mean to do if there should be a bad harvest, and, owing to the discouragements you have given to other countries to produce for our markets, that there should be little to be obtained from abroad? If the people are distressed and without food, and call on you for supplies, what do you mean to do? You have undertaken to feed them, and they are not fed. What answer will you give in 1846, and 1847, and 1848, if distress should ensue? Surely there is sense in taking this into your consideration. In a period of scarcity it would not be merely a question of Corn Law. People are then in a peculiar state of mind. Men's minds are in no ordinary state when suffering from want. Her Majesty's Ministers are fully alive to this fact, and contemplate with horror and alarm, as they avow it, the recurrence of such a period; and they are therefore taking steps to prevent it. They know that when men are made desperate by distress, and driven to madness by suffering and by privations of those who are dear to them, that they will accept too readily any causes that are assigned for their misfortune, and will too easily, perhaps, grasp at any remedy that promises them relief; and it is for the interest of the aristocracy of this country, that the public should not be placed under such circumstances: for most surely it is for their interest to avert the public mind from reflecting upon the manner in which they have been governed for the half century past. My noble Friend the Member for London has referred to the immortal services the aristocracy have rendered to this country. I do not deny that such services have been rendered by them. I 216 am glad to hear that such has been the case; and from not being so well versed in the ancient annals of this country as my noble Friend, I cannot dispute it; but I think if there should recur another period of anger and distress, that the people of this country might be forgetful of such services, and would be disposed to reflect chiefly upon that period of some forty or fifty years past, of which they have themselves some immediate cognizance; and I cannot believe that any candid mind could come to any other conclusion than that, with the government in their hand, they have wielded the powers of the Legislature against the industry, the energy and intelligence of the people; that they have been faithless to their trust in Parliament; that through this law they have sought unhallowed gains reckless of means; and that they ever have proved themselves blind to the destiny of this great nation. I therefore conjure them at this moment and at the present opportunity, to consult their own true interests, and to sacrifice selfish prejudice to the cause of justice by a hearty concurrence in the measures proposed by the Government, and by the abolition in toto of a law, which, as long as a vestige of it remains, will only be an evidence of their shame. Lose the occasion, and I venture to predict that they will follow the fate of every one who has ever sought, or for a while succeeded in trampling upon, or tyrannising over this race and this nation, amongst whom it is their great fortune to be born, and over whom it ought to have been their pride to rule with justice and intelligence.
§ MR. HUDSON
wished to make a single observation in explanation of a remark which had fallen from him in the course of that debate. He thought he had distinctly explained that when he spoke of 26s. a quarter for corn, the probable average in a fair season would be from 35s. to 40s. a quarter. If the hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with the 25s. a quarter, he (Mr. Hudson) could hand him over the name of a gentleman who bought at 22s.
§ MR. W. B. FERRAND
said, that he had been informed that a personal attack was made on him that evening by no less than four Members on the other side of the House. He had received no intimation that such an attack was meditated, or he should have been present to repel it. He begged then to state that he should be 217 in his place to-morrow at five o'clock, and quite prepared to defend himself from any charge that might be brought against him.
LORD J. RUSSELL
expressed a hope that the debate might be brought to a close to-morrow, on account of the very great length to which it had already extended.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, that having failed in several attempts which he had made to address the House on the measure of the right hon. Baronet, he would now ask two or three questions. Before he did so, he could not help remarking on the extraordinary position in which the country was placed in consequence of the absence of so many of the allies of the right hon. Baronet from that House. There was at present no Secretary for the Colonies in that House; there was no Secretary for Ireland within the walls of that House; there was no Attorney General for Ireland—no Solicitor General for Ireland in that House. What a strange position the sister kingdom must feel itself in when hon. Gentlemen like himself had no opportunity of putting such questions as might be deemed necessary to those official persons! He had a right to presume that the office of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, was of great importance—the salary, he believed, was 5,000l. a year; and how then could he be spared from that House? With respect to the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, he admitted he had gone down to the election to oppose him. As to his tenants, he did not know how they voted, for he never pressed them to vote one way or another; but he believed there was hardly a doubt as to what they did. They voted against the noble Lord, and in support and protection of their just rights. The Government was then without having a Secretary for Ireland in that House. They had also lost a Lord of the Admiralty. It was very clear to the public and to the House that the First Lord of the Treasury—the Prime Minister of England—could not place in that House a single Lord of the Admiralty, even though that appointment was worth 1,200l. per annum. The same might be said with regard to the office, of the Clerk to the Ordnance, which a noble Lord had resigned; and he had been informed that there had been vacancies for two Lords of the Treasury, consequent upon the retirement of two Gentlemen whose high-mindedness had gained universal approbation. 218 Those Gentlemen had retired because they had felt it to be no honour to wear the livery of the Government at the cost of a sacrifice of the very principles which had brought that Government into office and power. Again, he saw in the metropolis vast improvements in progress, which were said to be adopted under the cognizance and superintendence of the Office of Woods and Forests. He should like to know who now represented that department, to the head of which he believed there was attached a salary of about 4,400l.? If the office was not filled, it would be desirable to know whether the amount was to be passed to the Consolidated Fund, or to be kept in reserve as a fund for the individual who might succeed in obtaining a seat in that House. What must be the opinion formed by neighbouring nations from this state of things? Would they not say that the men selected by the Prime Minister to fill important offices, were pronounced by the constituent body to be unworthy of a seat in the Assembly of the Representatives of the people? It was, therefore, the bounden duty of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government to satisfy the House and the country as to the situation in which both would probably be placed in the course of a very few days. He had been told the office of one of the Lords of the Treasury, and that of Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, had been disposed of; but how disposed of, remained to be explained. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), who used to call his friends together on great emergencies, had said that the feeling of that body evinced in the years 1841, 1842, and 1843, never could be effaced from his memory. He thought that it would be well if the month of May, 1838, still lived in the recollection of the right hon. Baronet. In the month of that year, the right hon. Baronet was met by 313 Gentlemen, whom he called Conservatives, and to that assembly he intimated what were his views, and at that time confidence was placed in the right hon. Baronet. They, however, now found that too much confidence had been reposed in that quarter. From all that had since transpired, it did not seem at all unlikely that while the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) was expounding his Anti-Corn-Law views in Covent-garden theatre, the right hon. Baronet was hid at the wings, or, if not, in the secrecy of the green-room. It was not at all unlikely that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary 219 for the Home Department and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert) had been there also. At all events, many important offices were not represented in that House; and he must assert that a great country like this ought not to be left with the Treasury bench in that House only kept warm until occupants could be found for it.
§ On the Question that the Debate be Adjourned,
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that he cordially agreed with the noble Lord the Member for London, in hoping that the debate might terminate to-morrow night; but at the same time he could not give his consent to its so terminating, unless hon. Gentlemen had an opportunity of delivering their sentiments on this question. He was now speaking on the question of Adjournment. He had risen several times to address the House, but he had not succeeded in catching the Speaker's eyes. He wished to explain to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton the motives which would actuate him in giving his support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bristol. He would not undertake to address the House at that hour. Representing, as he did, a large manufacturing population, he would require to have an opportunity of explaining the grounds upon which he would vote. He could not go on now. His object was to permanently lower the price of food; and his objection to the present measure was, that it would delude the people by holding out that bread would be cheap when it would be relatively dear. He agreed with the noble Lord that the debate had lasted long enough; but he could not give his consent to its being concluded unless he had an opportunity of explaining his views.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to One o'clock.