HC Deb 27 February 1846 vol 84 cc249-349
, in resuming the Adjourned Debate, said: Sir, I must in one respect regret the delay that has taken place in resuming the adjourned debate this night, be cause I concur in the wish that has been so generally expressed that we shall this night go to a division. As far as I am concerned, I certainly will not be the occasion of much delay, for I do not intend to follow the example of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton who has preceded me in the debate. I will not most assuredly rival that hon. Gentleman in the length of his speech; and I cannot avoid remarking, that when that hon. Gentleman complained of delay, he ought not to have accompanied the complaint with a speech which to such an extent postponed our arrival at the conclusion which he expressed such a desire to attain. I do not regret, upon this occasion, that the measure now before us has been preceded by one that is really for the relief of Ireland—a measure that is intended and calculated to meet and abate the misery and calamity that have arisen in Ireland. It is calculated, I believe, to meet the present emergency; whilst the greater measure that has been forced on our attention has nothing to do with that calamity, and has not any bearing upon it. I am glad that we may now understand that we are in a condition calmly to consider whether this great measure, forced upon our attention, is one that is fit for our adoption, and that this measure is no longer to be involved in its discussion with the question of the present deficiency of food in Ireland. We are not, as I trust, any longer to be called to do that which ought never even to have been suggested—namely, that a permanent measure should be enacted to meet a temporary inconvenience. I do not see how the two things could ever have been combined together,
especially when I recollect what occurred in the year 1822—a year which was alluded to on the previous night by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and when the distress was not only as great, but much greater than it is now in Ireland, or than I hope it ever will be; and when I recollect that in that year of such distress in Ireland there was the greatest glut of corn in England that has ever taken place — when I recollect these circumstances, I ask how can it be supposed that the introduction of foreign corn into England could be a remedy for the distress in Ireland? [Sir R. PEEL rose to leave the House.] I am sorry to detain the right hon. Baronet; but there is a portion of the observations which I must address to the House that has reference to the transactions in which the right hon. Baronet has taken part, and to this I should not like to give utterance, except in the presence of the right hon. Baronet. I refer to that extraordinary crisis which has been brought about by the right hon. Baronet, in the conduct which he has pursued. It seems to me, and has so appeared to many others, that the course adopted by the right hon. Baronet was unusual, unexampled, and unprecedented—I dare not say the word unconstitutional, in giving my opinion upon the conduct which the right hon. Baronet has thought fit to adopt. Certainly it was absolutely unusual, and, in my opinion, it is not desirable that it should be followed as a precedent. I say this with reference, in the first place, to the manner in which on this occasion the right hon. Baronet has exercised the powers and privileges vested in him as Prime Minister—powers and privileges, I must remark, which are unknown to the Constitution; for the Constitution does not recognise a Prime Minister. But the right hon. Baronet, first, by his influence in the Cabinet of which he was a Member, controlling a large majority of that Cabinet, who decided against his opinions and his views; and afterwards, by the resignation to which he thought fit to resort in consequence of a division in the Cabinet; and then, after he had ceased to be a Minister of the Crown, and had become a private individual, by making a communication to the Sovereign, which had an undoubted tendency to influence, and must have had an influential effect upon, the mind of the Sovereign, the right hon. Baronet being then a private individual, and no longer responsible for his acts—for these proceedings I assert that there
is no precedent. I am sure that this course was without example; though I dare not say that it was unconstitutional, for I do not know the authority to which I could appeal on this point as to the real doctrines and principles of the Constitution; for on these points and principles of the Constitution to what can I refer but to the political actions of our public men? A Gentleman, divested of responsible authority, become a private individual, communicates with the Sovereign, for the avowed purpose of producing an influence on the mind of the Sovereign. We have not, I must remark, the slightest explanation of this transaction. The right hon. Baronet did not recollect these particular circumstances when he first addressed the House: they were stated by a noble Lord opposite. It was by him they were first informed, and that the fact was made known to the House and the public, that when the noble Lord first waited on Her Majesty, in obedience to the summons he had received from Her, for the purpose of forming a Government; and that when he had, in conformity with the resolutions of his friends, stated to Her Majesty that he must decline the attempt to form such a Government, seeing the difficulty in which he was placed, and considering that he was in a minority in the House of Commons; that upon this Her Majesty placed in his hands the letter of the right hon. Gentlemen; and then, said the noble Lord, that made a great difference with me. Thus the letter of the right hon. Baronet had much weight with the noble Lord, and it was plain it had much weight with his Sovereign. I am aware of no instance like this. I am not aware of an instance of a private individual addressing his Sovereign under such circumstances. I am not aware that a private individual has ever before, under such circumstances, stated to his Sovereign that he would give his Parliamentary support to those individuals as Ministers who should pledge themselves to such and such opinions. I am perfectly aware that the right hon. Gentleman has stated that he did not know who was to be his successor. That of course is true; but the politics of the individual, whoever he might be, must be pretty well ascertained in regard to the probability of his receiving encouragement from the production of that important paper. And I may remark, that it was hardly possible that any individual of opposite opinions should be bold enough to assume the reins of
Government, when he found such a letter as that in the hands of Her Majesty. However pure were the motives of the right hon. Gentleman—and no one for a moment could doubt their purity—still, I cannot but be apprehensive that these circumstances may give rise to a precedent which will be found dangerous in the highest degree. Here was a person without responsibility, but known to control and guide a large portion of a commanding party, dictating terms of support, which terms are transmitted through the hands of the Sovereign to some person of weight belonging to another political party. I would submit it to the better judgment of the right hon. Gentleman himself, whether such a precedent as this may not become dangerous in the highest degree, and whether the people have not a right to complain. I contend that before we in this House proceed to act upon an unexpected change of opinion, we shall give the people the opportunity of of expressing their will and their opinion. If the people have changed their opinion as Ministers have done, then it is all well. We have then nothing more to do but to bear with it—to submit to it, and to accept it; but still I say, if the people have not so changed, neither the Ministry, nor Members in this House, have a right to stifle the voice of the people. When two parties were thus balanced; when a broken party of the Conservatives were not able to form a Government for themselves, and the Whigs did form a Government for a day and a half, and could stand no longer, what, I ask, could prevent a dissolution, but a coalition between the broken party of the Conservatives on the one side, and the Whigs on the other? We all know, by past experience, the constitutional jealousy that is entertained in this country against the coalition of parties. It implies a sacrifice of principle somewhere, and the country is jealous as to that; and it matters not whether the coalition be for the purposes of patriotism, or for power or place. Men of mean minds may suppose that political coalitions are formed solely for considerations of place or patronage. To men of vulgar minds it may seem as if pecuniary considerations alone could influence statesmen. That is not the thought that suggests itself to those who take a higher and more just view of the conduct of political affairs. They object to such coalition on constitutional grounds. They dislike, and ever have
disliked, to see men acting together whose principles for many years had justly kept them asunder. No man of right feeling could imagine that when a coalition was formed between Lord North, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Burke, men of the highest honour and most unblemished reputation—no man supposed that they had entered into that coalition from the greedy and unworthy desire to share amongst them the spoils of office, the exercise of power, and the gifts of patronage. No one could have believed this of men who were the glory and the ornament of the parties of which each was the respective leader; nevertheless the moment that it was seen that such men were combined together—admirable as they were for their talent, and unsuspected as might be their motives, still the mere act of their coalition so outraged the public feeling, and so injured the general respect for them throughout the country, that these great men never recovered it. I venture to say that coalition is not merely obnoxious, because men, when coalesced, sit on the same bench together: it is equally obnoxious when a principle of combination brings opposing parties to act together, whether united in office or not. In both cases it is equally dangerous—alike calculated to destroy public character, and unduly to influence the Sovereign. A coalition is objectionable in every way, whether the coalition displays itself by men sitting together on the same bench; or whether the one sits on one side the House, and the other on the opposite side, and play into the hands of one another, responding one another's jokes, and joining in the vilification of those who will be no parties to the coalition. What, then, is the course to be pursued? The opponents of the coalition, the representatives too of numerous constituencies, have a right to call upon their public men not to do that which is condemned by public opinion. And when you, who are the great men of this assembly, admit that you have suddenly come to a new determination, and have only very recently recanted those opinions which you formerly avowed—when this happens, we have a right to call upon the Gentlemen on both sides of the House who support the measures, not to combine together to prevent that appeal to the people which the Constitution has given as a bar against rash errors and mistakes. I call upon them not to co-operate and combine together to prevent that, which, if the feelings of the people be regarded, must be resorted to—a dissolution
of Parliament before we can with any propriety consent to pass this Bill. I speak not without authority. The noble Lord the Member for London was the first by a few days to announce his change of opinion; for his letter was published in November, and the change of opinion in the Cabinet was not revealed by the Times newspaper until the 4th of December. And the noble Lord, in his views of this question, which he supports with all the energy and vigour that distinguish the zeal of a recent convert, observed, "If this end is to be achieved, it must be by the unequivocal expression of the public voice. It is not to be denied that many of the elections for cities and towns in 1841, and some in 1845, appear to favour the assertion that free trade is not popular with the great mass of the constituency." The noble Lord might have added the year 1846, in which every election, without exception, has gone in favour of the agriculturists. [Cries of "Yorkshire."] I beg pardon, I will speak of that presently. [Sir J. GRAHAM: Westminster.] "Westminster!" Oh, I wish you joy of Westminster. Where is the future Lord of the Admiralty? But the right hon. Baronet who interrupted me, must permit me to say, that if he contradicts my opinion of the sentiments of the constituencies, here is a point of controverted opinion to be decided. Why, then, not go to the country upon it? I defy you. And now for the election for Yorkshire. That might have been a triumph under ordinary circumstances; but I am bound to say that the mode in which the noble Lord has achieved his triumph, must neutralize the effects of it. I remember the days before the Reform Bill; and when a Gentleman in this House, with few constituents, made a most able speech, it was thought a sufficient answer to him to say, that he represented only the money in his breeches pocket. That was then deemed a sufficient reply to eloquence and argument; and now, I say to the noble Lord the Member for Yorkshire, that he represents the 5l. note which he sent to the hon. Member for Stockport, and who said, and said truly, on receiving it, that that 5l. note was as good as 5,000l. And so it was. But where is the credit or the honour to the noble Lord? And when we hear so much against delegates, let me ask, who is a delegate, if that noble Lord is not one? Where there has been no interference by that powerful League—whose power I am not here to deny,
when I see to what it has reduced a great party and a powerful Ministry—in those parts of the kingdom where the electors have been uninfluenced by their power and endeavours, the freedom of election passed as it was wont, and as it ought to do, by men giving their votes in the places in which they resided, and where they were known, without being brought from a distance, as they used to be under that which was once called the corrupt system of nonresident voting. Show me the place where there has been a free English election, and I will show that a Protectionist Member has been returned. I understand that in Yorkshire 2,000 votes were boasted to have been purchased for the service of the Anti-Corn-Law League. Where, then, was the triumph of the noble Lord who sat for the West Riding? And where is the contradiction to my assertion, that the voice of the people, when left unbiassed, and permitted to exercise that freedom which the Constitution provides, has uniformly given a verdict in favour of the principle of protection? Shall I take the last and most striking instance—the election for the county of Nottingham, the Member for which has not taken his seat to-night; and I do not know why, though another county Member, who was elected only this morning, has taken his seat to-day? It is perfectly true that every legal agent in Nottinghamshire has been retained against the hon. Gentleman who is returned. Whether that was in the hon. Gentleman's favour, it is not for me to say; at all events, it is not that which turned the election. I believe it was turned upon other grounds and upon other principles; and if there could be a circumstance to convince the House that the Constitution of England was sound, and that the voice of the people, whether it reached the ear of the Minister or not, will still make itself heard, I conceive it to be the result of the Nottinghamshire election. Here was a noble Lord, with everything to recommend him—talent, character, and honour unimpeached: he went down, avowedly patronised by the Government of which he was an ornament, with the confident hope, if they believed, as they must do, all that fell from his lips, of being completely successful. To read the statements contained in his addresses, it would seem as if nothing could be more certain than his success; so certain, indeed, that it was even more certain than the success of this Bill in Parliament. The noble
Lord assured the electors that it was of no use to talk of the passing of that Bill—it was as good as passed. Peers were every day sending in their adhesion, and the Government would have a majority of 100 in their favour! No doubt with equal sincerity, and equally confident of his success there, as he was here, the noble Lord wrote up to his friends in London, and said, nothing can be more certain than our success here (in Nottinghamshire), for the freeholders are every day sending in their adhesions, and my majority is certain. In one of his addresses to the electors, the noble Lord asked, "Where is my antagonist? Echo answers, 'Where?'" I will ask, "Where is now the noble Lord? Echo answers, 'Where?'" We not only do not know where he is, but the right hon. Baronet will not tell us when he is coming, or when we may hope for him. If ever there was a fair trial of political strength made in any part of the kingdom, it was that which has taken place in Nottingham—a county not of an unmixed agricultural character, the candidate being of such high standing, and going down with such hopes and such confidence. If he could meet defeat, may we not also suppose that a like result may attend the Bill that is now before the House? At all events, the right hon. Baronet must admit that it is not an isolated circumstance, and that, accompanied as it is by the verdict of other county constituencies, the result may be the same elsewhere. Am I asking too much, when the fate of Ireland, it is admitted, does not depend on this measure; when the necessity which has been put forward as—I will not say the pretence, but—the reason for this attempt, is given up and abandoned; and when we admit that there is no occasion for haste, alarm, or anxiety—is it too much to ask that we should allow the agricultural interest to have that which it demands, namely, the expression of opinion by the whole constituency? Different opinions have been given with regard to those Members who have resigned their seats, as well as with respect to those who, having changed their opinions, have retained them. Now, some hon. Members have adopted a middle course, by partly resigning and partly retaining their seats. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Bright) chose to be pleasant with hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and observed that, considering we were all going to execution, we looked remarkably well. I remember the
old and well-known ballad of Prior's, descriptive of a man going to execution; and it struck me that it very much resembled not our case, but the case of those half-resigned Gentlemen:—
Now fitted the halter, now traversed the cart,
And often took leave, but seemed loth to depart.
Let the House refer to what may be considered the best authority upon the subject of hon. Members altering their opinions, and yet retaining their seats. This is the authority which I find upon the Table of our House, contained in the well-known columns of "Hatsell's Precedents;" who thus sums up his observations on this point:—
I will now give an authority which no man will be inclined to dispute. Algernon Sidney, in his 'Discourse concerning Government,' said—speaking of the power of delegates—'It is not, therefore, for Kent or Sussex, Lewes or Maidstone, but for the whole nation, that the Members chosen in these places are sent to serve in Parliament; and though it be fit for them, as friends and neighbours, to hearken to the opinion of their electors for the information of their judgment, and to the end that what they shall say may be of more weight, yet they are not strictly and properly obliged to give an account of their actions to them. And,' he added, 'the only punishment (and this was a very material point for the House to observe) to which they are subject, if they betray their trust, is scorn, infamy, hatred, and an assurance of being rejected when they shall again seek the same office.'
Now, the law was one way: honour seemed to be another. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers), the other night, observed that I had expressed alarm at seeing a person at the head of the Government who so much resembled in political conduct, Necker or Turgot. I did express that sentiment; I did feel that alarm; I feel it still. And I agree with the hon. Member when he said, that this particular crisis does put him very much in mind of the opening period of the French revolution—viz., the period which elapsed from the year 1781 to the year 1789. I have found, in an author who has written very eloquently of that period, a statement which does embody my own views in language much happier and more powerful than I ever hope to attain to: having opened a volume of Mr. Alison's "Modern Europe," I found these words:—
The exciting cause, a physician would say, of the French revolution was the spirit of innovation, which, like a malady, overspread France at that crisis, precipitated all classes into a passion for changes, of which they were far from perceiving the ultimate effects; and the most ardent in the cause of innovation were those whose fortunes were about to perish from its effects. The young
nobles applauded without ever suspecting that they would be the first victims of such opinions.
There were at that time Lord Lincolns—young nobles who thought themselves wiser than other men; and there were there sons who ranged themselves against their fathers; and in addition to the public mischiefs that were induced, the system of the social relations of private life and of family connection was destroyed. The author last quoted thus gave his estimate of the character of Neckar, the Minister of that day:—
His private character was unexceptionable. Possessed of immense wealth, he made a noble use of it—liberal without either pride or prodigality. He would have been a perfect citizen had it not been for a vein of ostentation and a secret vanity, which afterwards, by making him sacrifice every thing to his love of popularity, brought unheard-of disasters on the monarchy.
The character of Turgot was also well drawn in Mr. Alison's work:—
Had Turgot united to those great and good qualities (for a better and greater minded man there never lived), an adequate knowledge of human nature, he would have been an invaluable Minister. But, unhappily, he laboured under one great defect, which, not only proved his own ruin, but rendered him the most dangerous guide. He was entirely ignorant of human nature; was rigid and unaccommodating in his ideas; and pursued his designs without any consideration of the effect they were to produce either upon the persons likely to be injured, or those intended to be benefited by his reforms.
Now, without any impropriety, I may say that I can find in this country a parallel to the characters here described; and that the faults and failings attributed to those eminent but unfortunate men are the faults of our present Chief Minister. Ignorant as I assert that right hon. Gentleman to be of the public feeling, I charge him with having unduly, not only avoided, but contrived, if I may use that word without intending offence—contrived to prevent recurrence to the public voice at a period when he might have been convinced of his error. It is true that Algernon Sydney has laid down the law as I have read it to the House; but he did not then contemplate septennial Parliaments; he did not imagine that Parliaments would last so long as they do in the present day; and I believe that many will begin to doubt whether it would not be wise to shorten their duration. When great changes took place in the minds of public men, the advice which should be given to the Sovereign, and the advice which Lord John Russell must have given, unless he had some support beyond that upon which he usually relied, was to appeal to the country. But then there took place
a sort of political compromise between the great leaders, to which I have alluded. Recurring to that strange incident (for so I must call it), the letter of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) to Her Majesty, dated the 8th of December last, the day after he quitted office; I do not dispute the propriety of one political leader going out of office communicating with another who is to succeed him; but that communication need not pass, and ought not to pass, through the medium of the Sovereign. In the course pursued in the present instance, there was, as I have observed, the almost ensured impossibility of a trial by the Sovereign of any persons who held other opinions than those which had been so strongly impressed upon Her mind. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) held office for almost a day and a half; and he could not deny that the cause lately assigned by him for abandoning the attempt to form a Government was not the only one. I think it is better to speak plain English, and at once say that the noble Lord had found that if he were in office, and received the support of the right hon. Baronet, when out of office the right hon. Gentleman would probably bring but very few of his followers with him; while, on the other side, so much more patriotic were those who were under the leadership of the noble Lord, and so much despising all considerations but those of patriotism and the public good, that the noble Lord could command every man of them to march to the support of the right hon. Baronet. That is the real English of the whole transaction. The true history of the matter is, that the noble Lord found he could have but an uncertain support from those who might be the adherents of the right hon. Baronet, should the right hon. Gentleman be out of office; but, if the right hon. Gentleman remained in office, the noble Lord would bring his whole force to the aid of the Government; and for the purpose of accomplishing this great change would carry him boldly forward against the voice of the people; for against the voice of the people they both know it to be, or why are they so fearful of appealing to the country? We are told, however, that the voice of the people may be heard; and the noble Lord, in his letter to the citizens of London, spoke of petitions. Why, we have had a pretty lesson on petitioning here to-night—a lesson that will make us for a long time hesitate before giving much weight to petitions represented
to come from the people. No, let me have their votes. Let me see them face to face. Let them have promises, if promises hon. Gentlemen think fit to give; and, having given them, let them take care that they keep those promises. In the course of this debate the right hon. Baronet said there was something very inconvenient and unpleasant in those promises; but it is a part of our system and established usage for candidates to appear before the electors whose suffrages they solicit. There is a regular day of nomination for hearing the statements of the candidates, and questioning them; and if candidates are to become so cautious and chary of their language, as the right hon. Baronet would have them to be, I very much doubt whether the right hon. Baronet will have many supporters in a future Parliament. I am not aware that the voters are obliged to take persons merely on account of their looks. I rather suspect they will still continue that very inconvenient practice of putting questions to candidates, and expecting answers, and that when the answer is given they will expect the man who gave it to stand by it. It was stated the other day that an hon. Member of that House, who entertained strong opinions on Irish subjects, had an interview with Lord Lincoln, and came out confessing that he was entirely satisfied. Can I imagine that the noble Lord, having answered the hon. elector's inquiries, will depart from what he had said to him? And if bound to that hon. Gentleman, is he not equally bound to the humblest man in the crowd who asks his opinion, puts question to him, and insists upon hearing on what principles it is that he solicits the suffrages of the electors? Is there any difference in rank or station that enables persons safely to despise a promise because it was made to one who belonged to an inferior class of the community? No such doctrine as that, I am sure, will be maintained in this House. Unless we do away with the whole principle upon which elections were established, we must be content to see Members vacate their seats, and appeal again to their constituencies for the purpose of ascertaining if they will receive them upon principles different from those upon which they were accepted upon the first occasion. If there be one circumstance more advantageous than another in the principle of our Constitution, it is this, that when matters of doubt arise in the great tribunal of the
nation, hon. Members are able to say, "We have now the means of ascertaining what the feelings of the people are;" and to those feelings it is that I appeal on the present momentous question. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, who has been the only person that has taken exception to the length of the debate—though he has himself occupied between two and three hours in the delivery of his speech—has been pleased to say, that we have no right to approach the question in its present stage, and that we ought to say we decline entering now upon the discussion. Now it is precisely because we at present decline entering upon the full discussion of the question, that we have taken the debate on this stage. We say that if the measure be right, which we assert it is not — if it be expedient, and we maintain the contrary—if it be beneficial, as we think it will prove injurious—it will be hurtful to a degree beyond that of any advantage which can ever be expected to be derived from it, if you pass this measure after the manner Gentlemen opposite seem to desire, or if you pass it in this Parliament; and if, for that reason, we now appear here to make that stand—to say that until we have been assured that the minds of the people have changed, as well as the minds of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, which have most wonderfully changed, we shall not feel ourselves justified in belying the expectations of those who have elected us—expectations to which we have given every encouragement, and we do not feel satisfied that we should act honestly or honourably by entertaining the question for the purpose of carrying it out at the present time;—for that reason we have taken our present course, instead of wasting days and hours in debates upon the different particulars of this measure. It was for the purpose of saving time, as for other reasonable objects, that we shall take the division upon this stage; and whatever may be the result here—feeling, as we must feel, the power of such a combination as will be brought against us, of men the most opposed in principle—of men who have never before united, and whom the country grieves to see united—whatever may be the result here, we trust that in another place—we believe that in another place, a delay will happen which shall give an opportunity to the people to declare their opinions and feelings on the subject. When I remember that there is another place where that
measure must be submitted to consideration before it becomes law; and when I know that in that other place the votes of our proceedings are received, and scanned, and read; and when I am aware that year after year, during the whole existence of the present Government, in those Votes have been inscribed large divisions on that very question, in which enormous majorities have declared that this House could not sanction such a proposition as that now laid before them—can I suppose if there is wisdom, experience, and justice (as I know there is) in that other House, when they shall see, uncalled for by any circumstance in public affairs, so strange a change as this, which is utterly unexplained by anything that we have heard—can I think but that the Members of that other House will at once see that so rapid and sudden a change on the part of this branch of the Legislature, calls for some pause and hesitation on their part, and gives ground for them to use the prerogative they possess, of counselling the Crown to apply to the people to know whether they are or are not willing to become parties to this great, extraordinary, and extravagant change?
should give his vote on this great question, in the full hope that the course he had elected would tend to the future advantage of the country, and with a full consideration of what public honour required. [Interruption from some Protection Members.] Hon. Gentlemen had a perfect right to differ from him in opinion; but he trusted that, at least, they would hear him without interruption. It appeared to him that this question naturally divided itself into two parts: the one, whether the proposed measure was likely in its effects to produce benefits to the country; and the other, practically almost as important, could the carrying of such a measure possibly be prevented now? He would begin with the latter; and his proposition was, that the carrying of some such measure could not, in the present state of the country and of parties, be prevented. Hon. Gentlemen who talked so much about deluding the farmers, and who were constant in their professions of defending the farmers, had better at once tell them whether they did really believe the carrying of the measure could any longer be avoided. He wished that the two questions he had propounded had occupied a little more time in the debate; and that a third question, which had taken up so much space, had been considered only in subservience to
them—namely, whether the Government, or the hon. Gentlemen who sat on the other side, were the proper persons to carry the measure? for that was viewed by the country as a point of very minor importance. He had been accused by the hon. Member for Knaresborough of a dereliction of his duty to his constituents in the course he was about to take; but with respect to the hon. Member for Knaresborough, he would at once say, considering what had passed in the earlier part of this very evening, that the best way was not to enter into any personal altercation with an hon. Member of so peculiar a character; but merely to say, in justice to those who were absent, that the statement that hon. Member had made on a former evening, with respect to his (Mr. Escott) having been called upon by his constituents to resign his seat in that House, had not the shadow of foundation in fact; and so far from its being fact, his constituents had not only not called upon him to resign, but not one single individual of them had indicated the opinion that he ought to resign. So much in justice to them. But there was another Member, a noble Lord, who had done him the honour to allude to him in pointed terms. That noble Lord had been pleased to say that he could not perceive how it was consistent with his (Mr. Escott's) personal honour to support the Motion for going into this Committee. At that time he had answered the noble Lord perhaps a little hastily; but he now, on reflection, begged to state to the noble Lord—and it was important as regarding the personal questions which had taken up so much time in this debate—what he thought on so important a matter as the personal honour of a Member of that House. He thought, in the first place, the personal honour of a Member of Parliament did not consist in bartering away his independence to gain the votes of his electors. He thought that, when a Gentleman came into that House, it was his duty to give up his time daily and nightly to promote the interests of the country; and, to put a modern instance, if a Gentleman came into the House ignorant of the general questions of political economy which were occupying its attention, it was his duty to make himself master of those questions, considering his responsibility as a representative of the people. Or, supposing him to be a Minister of the Crown, it was still more his duty to make himself master of the principles on which such questions must be decided, and
to neglect the maintenance of a character for personal consistency in order to attain that much higher character, of being a good and efficient servant of the public. That was his idea of the personal honour of a Member of Parliament. But to resume the consideration of the question before the House—he protested that in all this remarkable debate there was nothing which excited his surprise more than to hear hon. Members express their amazement that such measures should be proposed by these Ministers: they say they did not anticipate it. Where were their senses of anticipation? From the night, in the year 1842, on which the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and the Gentleman who lately filled the office of Vice President of the Board of Trade, delivered their well-known speeches on the subject of the new Tariff; he (Mr. Escott) not only anticipated, as a likely contingency, some such measure as that which was now in contemplation, but he regarded such a measure as the natural and inevitable consequence of the measures which the House sanctioned in the year 1842, and the principles upon which the hon. Members who introduced those measures sought to justify them. He did not think it necessary to mention names; but he could assure the House that certain personages, whom he highly respected, and to whom he felt himself under obligations, had done him the honour to ask him his opinion respecting the aspect of public affairs; and he had invariably told them that the total and unqualified repeal of all protective duties, must, sooner or later, be the consequence of the arguments which had been propounded by the Ministers and sanctioned by the House. He could not for his life understand what was the meaning of hon. Gentlemen lifting their eyes, throwing up their hands, and exclaiming in amazement, that they had been taken by surprise. Why, the fact was, nothing could be more natural than the course which events were taking. Since the year '42 there had been repeated speeches on the Corn Laws in that House, but he, for one, could safely affirm that during that period he had never heard a single argument from the Treasury benches in favour of the principle of protection. [Cries of "Oh!" and "No."] Hon. Gentlemen might cry "oh," and "no," but he repeated his assertion. For the last four or five years he had not heard an argument in favour of the principle of
protection from the Treasury benches. He had heard some clever speeches made for the purpose of evading the question altogether; but he had never heard an argument during that period in defence of the principle. He must say that it appeared to him that there was not a little inconsistency in the conduct of certain of the hon. Gentlemen who were now so strenuously opposing the policy of the Government. For instance, the hon. Member for Somersetshire appeared to be absolutely horrified at the prospect of abundance. He appeared to regard it as one of the most calamitous of the consequences that could result from repealing the Corn Laws. He seemed to view with horror the bare possibility of a vast quantity of corn or other things, good to eat, being imported into the country; and yet at the very moment while his mind was scared by such appalling visions of prosperity, there were human beings in the vicinity of his own farms, who, but for the mildness of the winter and the extraordinary supply of greens and turnip tops, would at this time have been reduced to starvation or the workhouse. There was no one whose indignation was more warmly excited than the hon. Member's by the contemplation of the proposed relaxations in the protective system; and yet the hon. Member had, during the course of last Session, laid on the Table of the House with his own hands no less than 110 petitions against the Corn Laws. In those petitions—for he had read some of them — the petitioners represented the Corn Law as the destruction of the agricultural interests; and yet that system was now defended (and by no one more fervidly than by the hon. Member himself) as affording the only sure foundation for the prosperity of those interests. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University, had advanced this startling doctrine, that the relaxation of the protective duties would consequently involve the ruin of the great and immemorial institutions of the country. He had never heard any doctrine propounded inside that House or out of it which had excited so much surprise, and indeed he would say so much indignation, in his mind as this. What! would they place the preservation of the institutions of a country on the maintenance of restrictions upon the food of a people who had scarcity—nay, perhaps, famine—staring them in the face? If hon. Gentlemen meant to contend for such a proposition as that, he would tell them that the history
of nations afforded no instance but this solitary one of the institutions of a free country being supported upon such arguments. When Mr. Pitt had to meet scarcity, and to repeal the Corn Law, he never talked about injury to the institutions of this great Empire. No; he manfully abolished all protective duties, and thus — no matter what might be the character of his general policy in other respects—discharged the first and most important of the duties of a Minister, by taking care that the people should be fed. He remembered an able lecturer on political history, who sat on the same side of the House with him, having reminded the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) that, let the merits of his party be what they might in other respects, he had no right to claim for them the introduction and original advocacy of free-trade principles, for that that honourable distinction belonged as of right to Mr. Pitt, the Tory Minister, who was the first to study the doctrines of the great economists, and the first to teach senates to be the exponents of those doctrines. Yes, said the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, the glory belonged as of right to the Tory party; and yet the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was now styled a "traitor" to his party, and branded with apostacy, because he advocated a relaxation of the protective system, and that by the same hon. Gentleman. But he would next ask how they could contend for a restricted trade in grain with the present prospects of this country and Ireland with respect to a supply of food for the population. The right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had declared that the rumours respecting the approach of scarcity in Ireland had been greatly exaggerated; but he had made inquiries on the subject from persons connected with Ireland, and he was led to believe that the reports had not been in the least overstated. He believed that the hon. and learned Gentleman had been misinformed; and he placed more reliance on the Reports which were lying on the Table of their own House, and on the statements of the clergy of Ireland, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, representing the prospects of Ireland as most appalling, than he did on the individual representations of any Member whatever. Nor was it the Irish population alone that was in danger. In parts of England there was nearly as much reason to fear scarcity as in any district of Ireland. In his own neighbourhood at least one-half of the
whole food of the people consisted of potatoes; and he believed he was warranted in the statement that one-half of their stock of potatoes on an average had been destroyed. In the West of England, many persons had already lost their whole crop, which, under ordinary circumstances, ought to have lasted till June. Others had lost half, and others (and they not the smallest proportion) had but a very scanty quantity indeed yet remaining; and yet this was the moment when hon. Gentlemen stood up and exclaimed that the institutions of the country would be ruined if food were admitted. The hon. Member for Oxford University implored the Government not to interfere with the present peaceable and prosperous condition of the country; he cried Quieta non movere. Peaceable indeed! It was his (Mr. Escott's) conscientious belief that, within three months from that period, in districts surrounding his own dwelling, the quiet which would be found to prevail would be the quiet of the grave, unless some effective measures were taken in time for feeding the people. It was with such prospects as these before them, that the hon. Baronet took for his motto, Quieta non movere. Was that a time for hon. Members to clamour for the maintenance of a law whose operation it was to make food dear? ["No, no."] They cried "No, no;" but if it was not the effect of the Corn Law to raise the price of corn, what was the use of the Corn Law at all? And if it was indeed true that it had such an effect, how could they reconcile it to their consciences to struggle for the maintenance of such a law while starvation was impending over the people? In the last Session he had taken the liberty to give notice of a Motion for the introduction of maize duty free. He thought it would be of great benefit to the agriculturists, and would assist the farmers to feed their stock. But he must explain himself fully. He never for one moment imagined that the importation of maize alone would be sufficient, and that they were to stop there. He never meant anything like that, but intended that it should be a preparatory step to the removal of every restriction. He thought the introduction of maize would prove useful to the farmer; for what, he (Mr. Escott) asked, was the great deficiency of the country independent of the failure of the potato crop? It was the supply of meat. What they wanted was, more meat in the country, and if they had more food for their stock they would be able to graze more
meat. They not only would be able to graze more meat and feed the people better, but every farmer and grazier in the country would be better off. If the House would allow him for one moment, he would examine into that subject. When he gave his notice he felt the strongest impression that the severest evils under which the farmer laboured arose from the difficulty of obtaining food for his stock. He had made inquiries on the subject in his neighbourhood; he had received some curious information; he would mention one instance. He would take the case of a cattle dealer who was accustomed to travel through an extensive district of country, comprising all sorts of land; he asked him if he did not think that during winter and spring great distress was caused by the want of some food that might be substituted for that which was so scarce; and he told him that in his experience he could without hesitation say, that out of all the heads of cattle in that district one out of twenty had died from sheer starvation. Now, let the House mark what he was going to say. At that very time, in a market town in that district, an enterprising merchant had a large store of maize, which he had imported from the United States on speculation; but he could not sell one bushel of that maize, because he could not take it out of bond without paying the duty; and the payment of the duty rendered it too dear for any farmer in that district to purchase it as food for his cattle. Thus it happened that, at the very time when one out of every twenty head of stock was lost in that district, there was abundance of food to be had, if the farmers were only allowed to put their hands upon it and help themselves; but in consequence of the high duty to be paid upon it they were unable to do so, and this was called protecting agriculture. He had consulted a small farmer on that very point, with a view to ascertain if it would not be a very great advantage to him if he could have cheap maize, and oats, and peas, or any other cheap food for his cattle during the last year; and he told him that he had lost within 10l. of his whole rent during the last winter, by the increased price he had to give for hay and corn, and the decreased value of his stock. He told him, in addition to this, that he had three beasts which would be worth to him 20l. a-piece if he could have kept them to Midsummer: but he was obliged to sell them about Lady-day, in a state in which they were not worth 3l. a piece, and in fact not
fit for human food. That was entirely owing to the want of food, and that occurred within three miles of the very town in which there was that large store of maize. The wonder was that they had gone on so well as they had to the present moment; certainly it was not owing to the existence of this law; and it was also wonderful, that in a great commercial country like England, with a population that was rapidly increasing, with all the means of obtaining from other countries those advantages which they did not possess themselves, such a restrictive system should continue to exist. But whether some farmers were to suffer or not, would the hon. Gentleman who opposed this Bill once for all manfully tell them what it was they meant to do? He wished to ask them, did they think they could govern this country with the Duke of Richmond as Prime Minister? He had already stated what induced him to think it was impossible for them any longer to maintain this law; and one of the reasons why they could not maintain the law was, the extremely erroneous choice they had made of leaders. He was under a strong impression that one of the greatest mistakes that ever was made by the protection interest—he could not call it the agricultural interest, for it was not the agricultural interest—the greatest mistake that was ever made by the protection interest was the deposing of the Duke of Buckingham from their leadership, and setting up the Duke of Richmond. The Duke of Buckingham, to the best of his knowledge, had never argued for protection on the starvation principle; but the Duke of Richmond was only celebrated for two sayings, one of which was, "In Sussex we don't grow glass, but we do grow timber," which, if it meant anything, meant ours is a selfish principle. He asked, could such a man wage a successful war with the hon. Gentlemen opposite—with the hon. Member for Stockport—with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, and with the electoral constituencies of England? He believed he could not. He believed that with the Reform Bill—with the new town and old county constituencies—with the hon. Member for Stockport, and others who thought with him—his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury would, on this question, beat the Duke of Richmond and twenty like him. In former times, when the nobility of this country had not any one of their own rank sufficiently
practised in public affairs to direct the destinies of the country, and sway the opinions of senates, they were accustomed to choose as their leader some commoner of practised ability, and trust to him to interpose the ægis of his talents between them and the civil tempest. Five years ago they found such a man—ready to fight their battle so long as it could be fought with advantage to the people—the only honourable civil warfare; and now, when he refused to lead them against the people and against his own honour, why they were determined to get rid of him, and do the battle of their own protection on their own account. He did not think it was the duty of a party leader to lead his party against the interests of the people. He felt that the only contest in which he could take part with advantage to his followers, was to go with the people, and prove to the people that the interests which he defended were not adverse to their own. Why, now he hoped that in order there might be no more deceiving the farmers on this question, the protectionists would tell their friends whether they thought this contest was to end in the triumph of protection. He wanted them to tell the farmers plainly and honestly, whether they thought the contest would end in defeat or victory. If they thought—and he believed they did in their consciences—that the issue must be defeat, why not then consent to put up at once with what they could not avoid? Had they not much better, he asked, refrain from exasperating the people already in a state of great want? His hon. Friend the Member for Somerset (Mr. Miles) said the people were not in want; but he wished his hon. Friend was in the House when he stated what he should not repeat as to the condition of the people in his county. He wished he would inquire into the condition of the people, and then say whether they were in want or not. He now said they were not in want; but he was the first person that he (Mr. Escott) ever yet heard had the hardihood to deny that the people were at that moment in a state of want. He would like to know from his hon. Friend, whether the famine to which the people were exposed at this moment was a state of prosperity? He (Mr. Escott) knew he did not think so—he knew that if he examined into those things, he would not make those sort of speeches, or express such horror of plenty. He knew that if the hon. Member took the trouble to examine this subject, he would not make such
statements—he knew his goodness of heart—he knew his high principle—he knew his excellent character—and he knew he would not express such horror of plenty, if he knew the actual state of the people. [Mr. MILES never had used the expression "horror of plenty."] No, he might never have used those words; but in effect he thought he never heard his hon. Friend make a speech without introducing some such observation: it was his staple commodity. He always dreaded the increase of corn and bacon, and he was always dolorous about loaded trenchers. His hon. Friend had certainly greased the wheels of the free-trade coach. He had been alarmed about the introduction of grease, and compelled his hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade to promise that the grease should be mixed with tar. He had told him then he was bringing the whole principle into contempt. So it was. Those were the arguments that opened the eyes of the people; and no one in the country had really done more for the removal of restrictions from imports than the hon. Member for Somersetshire. And he was convinced that when he found the removal of those restrictions would be for the benefit of the country, no man would be more gratified at that object being effected than the hon. Member; but, at all events, let him not delude the farmers: the question was virtually decided. There were none who knew better than the farmers that progress in legislation could not be resisted, and that to resist an importation of food when the people were in want, could not be for their benefit, nor for the safety and honour of their country.
If I had succeeded, Sir, in catching your eye at an earlier period of the debate, I should not have ventured to enter at any length upon the question before the House, much less shall I do so at this protracted period, when every argument and illustration that could be brought to bear upon the subject has been exhausted, and endless statistics quoted, some of them pressed into the service and obliged to do double duty, thus proving the most opposite conclusions. I shall, therefore, confine myself to stating very briefly the reasons which induce me to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol. Before I do so I trust I may be allowed, in common with other hon. Members who have preceded me, to express the deep and painful regret which I feel at being compelled to vote against Her Majesty's
Ministers on so important a question. No one can be more sensible than I am of the sincerity of their motives, or feel more confident that nothing but the strongest sense of public duty could have induced them to take the course they have done, and place themselves in so painful a position towards a large portion of their former supporters. I was quite prepared, Sir, to have supported them in their former policy, which since 1842 has been repealing the duty on raw materials used in manufactures, removing prohibitory duties, and gradually reducing protective ones. But this, Sir, is a very different course, and cannot be considered a cautious and gradual one; it is impossible to doubt that, with protection to agriculture, all protective duties will be removed; and I think the hon. Gentlemen, members of the League, showed great judgment and discretion in directing their attacks against agricultural protection, well knowing that when the Corn Laws were repealed, all the other protected interests would fall an easy prey. Many hon. Members who have addressed the House, and also Members of the Government, have declared that the proposed measures are only a development of the principles laid down in 1842: if such be the case, why did the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, and the Secretary at War, declare that their opinions on the subject of protection had undergone a change; and that even if the potato panic had not occurred, that they could no longer defend the present Corn Laws? Sir, I cannot coincide in the opinions of many hon. Members who have spoken in favour of protection. I do not hold extreme opinions on the subject: it is not necessary for me now to say whether I consider protection in the abstract right or not; but I find that it has long existed in this country; that under it this country has greatly prospered; and that manufactures as well as agriculture have benefited under it. I consider, Sir, that is not a sufficient reason to say that cotton and other branches of manufacture are now independent of protection, and, therefore, that protection should no longer be afforded to agriculture. The cotton manufacture was at one time protected against that of the muslins of India, as has already been stated in this debate, and ultimately succeeded in destroying it. Manufactures and agriculture are very differently circumstanced; for many years capital and mechanical skill have been applied with great advantage to the former; while it is only
of late years that capital and mechanical skill and chemistry have been applied to the latter. It seems impossible to doubt that the effect of the proposed measure must be to lower the prices of agricultural produce; and I cannot conceive that such a result will increase the inducement on the part of landowners and capitalists to invest capital in the improvement of land. Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, who spoke last, has described the state of the small farmers in his neighbourhood under the present law; but what will it be under the new one? I think many hon. Members were not in the House when the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark spoke: I consider one part of his speech well worthy the attention of hon. Members, and I have not heard it contradicted. He stated that hon. Members who advocate protection called this a tenant's and not a landlord's question; and he proceeded to show that it concerned the landlord more than the tenant, for the latter would be able, to make a new arrangement; but what did he say with regard to the small tenants? He said, "The farmer, that was the farmer who possessed capital and skill, and whose farm was not confined within narrow limits, would be benefited; but he admitted that this was the only class of farmers who would be benefited by free trade. There was another class of farmers, those who were the occupiers of small farms, that class of whom the hon. Member for Northampton gave, a description on a previous night, and whose ruin he depicted in vivid colours, as the consequences of the right hon. Baronet's free-trade measures, would, no doubt, under the influence of competition, ultimately cease to exist." If this is to be their fate, can it be wondered at that the farmers of the counties of Dorset and Nottingham should be opposed to the measure. I believe, Sir, that four-fifths of the farmers of England, and a far larger proportion of those of Ireland, come under this denomination. What then is to become of them? Are they to be forced into the manufacturing districts, or how are they to find means to eke out a living? I have not heard this statement contradicted; and think it is well worth the consideration of Her Majesty's Government and hon. Members generally. Sir, I deeply regret the statements made by the First Lord of the Treasury relative to the failure of the potato crop in Ireland, and the apprehension of scarcity in that country; and I rejoice to find that measures to provide employment
for the people of that country have been brought forward by the Government, and have passed this House; and shall be glad to hear that they have other similar measures under consideration. I have recently been in that country, and made it my duty to inquire into the extent of the disease, and the prospects of the peasantry of that country; and fear there is too much reason to apprehend scarcity of food before summer, more particularly in the south, where they are most dependent on potatoes, and least able to buy wheat or oaten meal. But I regret that, as one reason given for the necessity of passing this measure is the benefit of Ireland, that part of it which is expected to have that effect was not brought in as a separate measure, but connected with others affecting so many interests, that much time must necessarily elapse before it can pass into a law: but the hon. Member for Wolverhampton declared last night that the reason that hon. Members advocating the cause of protection on this side of the House are willing that the ports should be opened now, is, because no corn can come in owing to the scarcity on the Continent: what becomes, therefore, of the assertion, that on account of Ireland it is necessary to pass the measure without delay? I am quite willing to admit the beneficial effects of the Tariff of 1842; but I believe there never was a period when so many causes combined, independently of it, to promote the prosperity of the country: in 1842, owing to the previous depression of trade, stocks, both in this country and abroad, were very low; since then, the improved state of credit in the United States, and consequent increase of trade with this country, the extension of our trade with China, and that which I think has not been alluded to in this debate, and which has been most important in its effects—the large crops of cotton in the United States, and consequently unprecedentedly low price of cotton, which has enabled our manufacturers greatly to increase their exports. To these causes are to be added the blessings of abundant harvests, and the demand for employment caused by the railroads in progress. The present prosperous state of the country, therefore, cannot be attributed solely to the Tariff of 1842; but even if it were so, it would not follow, that because the removal of all duties on raw materials used in manufacture, as well as those of a prohibitory character, and the gradual reduction of protective duties, have proved beneficial, that the withdrawal of all protection
to native industry will prove so. But, Sir, there is one consideration which weighs with me more heavily than any other; and it is, that this measure should not have been brought forward by Her Majesty's Ministers in this Parliament: if we are to have free trade, let it be passed by a Parliament elected for that purpose, and not by one pledged to uphold protection. It is said that it is desirable to settle the question; but how can this be a settlement of it, when in a short period at any rate a dissolution must take place, when the agricultural interest will endeavour to restore protection? The assertion is, that the public mind is in favour of free trade; if so, I suppose the agriculturists are not supposed to have any mind, as the late county elections prove that they are strongly opposed to it. The agitation and angry feelings that would be caused by a general election, are urged as a reason against it; but I conceive that in the present prosperous state of the country this evil would be much less felt, and that passing this measure in the present Parliament will be much more injurious and lasting in its effects; being calculated to shake confidence in public men, and to establish a system of demanding pledges from candidates at future elections. Sir, I have only now to thank the House for the kind attention they have given to one so little accustomed to address them. Should it be the pleasure of the House to go into Committee, there are parts of the measure to which little opposition, on the part of the interests affected, will be given, and which I shall feel it my duty to support; but being convinced that the main feature of the whole is the total repeal of the Corn Laws, clearly shown by the general character of the discussion, and feeling strongly that it is most desirable that that great portion of the community interested in agriculture should, at the earliest possible period, know its fate, I feel compelled to endeavour to stop the measure on the threshold, and to vote for the Amendment.
I assure the House that it is impossible for me to trespass long upon their notice, but I am anxious to say a few words before the close of this protracted debate. I have had the good or the ill fortune to listen to many debates upon this subject in this House, and although it has not been my fate to listen to this, at all events I have had the merit of perusing every word of it. On former occasions I have had to complain, that although
the object and purpose of the Motion was to discuss the principle of the Corn Laws, yet that hon. Gentlemen always evaded the question, and tried to discuss every other rather than the particular question before the House; but however I may have had to complain of that on former occasions, I think it will be admitted that extraneous matter has been introduced into this debate by hon. Gentlemen opposite to a much greater extent than before. It appears to me, that one half of the debate has turned upon the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers, and nearly the whole of the other half upon the necessity of a dissolution and an appeal to the country. Now, though there may be ground, I will not say there may be just ground, for hon. Gentlemen below the gangway assailing the Ministers for the course they have pursued; yet the country, I assure them, will not sympathize with them in the quarrel with their leaders, nor will they be without some suspicion that that grievance has been dwelt upon to avoid a discussion of principle; for I wish you to bear in mind that, on former occasions, by similar means, you did try to avoid that discussion. In 1841 you denounced the leaders of the Whigs as furiously as you denounce the leaders of your own party now; and when I came into Parliament, in the spring of 1842, I must say that I myself and the members of the Anti-Corn-Law League were as much the objects of your vituperation as the Ministers are now. The country, therefore, will not sympathize with you; and, on the other hand, it will doubt whether or not you have introduced these personal topics because you cannot justify the Corn Law. Now, if hon. Gentlemen opposite have any fear that their present leaders contemplate, after the repeal of the Corn Laws, doing something else which they may think injurious to their party interests, I beg to assure them that they are taking the most effectual means of arming the present Ministers with the power of accomplishing something else, if they wish it; for the more they attack them, the more obloquy they load them with, the more will the country sympathize with them out of doors. Why, you are making the present Ministry the most popular men in the country. If the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury were to go into the manufacturing districts of the north, his journey would be one of continued triumph. The right hon. Home Secretary was not
personally very popular two or three years ago. It is a difficult thing for a Home Secretary in troublesome times to become popular; but the magnificent contribution the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) has given to our good cause, by his able speeches and authoritative statements of facts, has sunk deep into the mind of the country; these, and still more the martyrdom you are nightly inflicting upon him, have rendered him so popular, that I don't think we could parade any one in Manchester or Liverpool who would meet with a more cordial reception. I don't think you [addressing the protectionists] are pursuing a good party course. I think you are as badly off on the score of good judgment and tactics as ever you were. I will now, however, draw your attention to the second topic to which I have referred, and which is of still more importance. If I understand your position rightly it is this: you say, "We wish for an appeal to the country; if the country decide that free trade shall be the national policy, we will bow to that decision." I believe I am fairly interpreting your meaning. I tell you, then, in the first place, that if you are believers in the truth and justice of your principles, you are unworthy advocates of those principles if you will think of abandoning them on such grounds. If you believe in the truth of your principles, you should not bow to the decision of a temporary majority of this House. When I came into Parliament, in 1841, I met you with a majority of 91 in your favour. Did I then bow to that majority, and submit to the Corn Law? No; I felt as confident in the triumph of justice then as now. I said I would never cease my exertions till you abrogated that law. If you have confidence in the truth and justice of your principles, you should use the same language. You should say, "It is not one defeat that shall make us abandon those great principles which we consider essential to the welfare and prosperity of the great mass of the people. No; if we are thrown to the ground now, we will spring up with renewed determination and vigour." ["Yes."] You say "Yes, yes," to that sentiment; but you had already told me by your cheers that you did not intend to do anything of the kind; I am conscientiously of opinion that you are unbelievers in the doctrines you advocate. But I will assume that you can carry out your object—that you can force a dissolution; and to this point I wish particularly to draw your
attention, and, what is of still more importance, the attention of persons in another place. We have had some pretty frank allusions, especially in the peroration of the speech of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, to what is to be done in another place, where there is no representative with this measure of the middle classes—no merchant, no manufacturer, no spinner, no farmer. In that other place, however, what I now say on the subject of a dissolution may probably be read. You want a dissolution in order to ascertain the opinion of the country. Have you ever thought, or considered, or defined what the opinion of the country means? Do you think it means a numerical majority of this House? We shall have that to-night. You are not satisfied with that. You are preaching the democratic doctrine, that this question must be referred to the people. Now, I want to have well defined what you mean by public opinion. You will perhaps say, "We will abide by the decision of a numerical majority of this House returned at another general election," and you will consider that the decision of the country. Well, I totally disagree with all those who believe for a moment that you will obtain a numerical majority in this House in the event of a dissolution. I ought to know as much about the state of the representation of this country, and of the registration, as any man in the House. Probably no one has given so much attention to that question as I have done; and I distinctly deny that you have the slightest probability of gaining a numerical majority in this House, if a dissolution took place to-morrow. Now, I would not have said this three months ago. On the contrary, at a public meeting three months ago, I distinctly recognised the great probability of your having a numerical majority in the event of a dissolution. But your party is since broken up. Though you may still have a firm phalanx in Dorsetshire and Buckinghamshire, what has been the effect of the separation from you of the most authoritative and intelligent of your party upon the boroughs, and among the population of the north? I told you, three years ago, that the Conservatives of the towns of the north of England were not the followers of the Duke of Richmond. They were, almost to a man, the followers of that section of the Government represented by the First Lord of the Treasury and the right hon. Home Secretary. Every one acquainted
with the towns in the north of England will bear me out when I say that those Conservatives who follow the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) comprise at least four-fifths of the party; while the remainder may look up to the Duke of Richmond as their leader, and sympathize with the section below the gangway. That large portion of the Conservative party in the north of England has ever been in favour of free trade. The language they have used to free traders like myself has been this: "Sir R. Peel will do it at the proper time. We have confidence in him, and when the proper period arrives he will give us free trade." Then I say, that in this state of your party, I wholly deny the possibility of your gaining a majority. But I will assume, for the sake of argument, that, in the event of a dissolution of Parliament, you obtained a numerical majority. Let us see of what that majority and of what the minority opposed to you would consist. There are eighteen representatives in Parliament for this metropolis, and there are two Members for the metropolitan county. We have the whole twenty. They represent 110,000 electors; they represent a population of 2,000,000 of souls — the most intelligent, the most wealthy, the most orderly, and, notwithstanding my acquaintance with the business habits of those in the north of England, I must add, with respect to business and mechanical life, the hardest working people in England. Do those people express public opinion think you? Why, this metropolis assumed to itself, conturies ago, the power and privilege of closing its gates in the face of its Sovereign—a power which is still retained, and which is exercised on State occasions. This metropolis is now twenty times as populous, as wealthy, as important in the world's eye as it was then; and do you think it will be content that you count it as nothing in your estimate of public opinion? But turn elsewhere. What says the metropolis of Scotland, Edinburgh? Do you reckon on having a Member for that city to vote in the glorious majority which you anticipate? Turn to Dublin. Will you have a representative for that city with you? Go to Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and Liverpool; take every town containing 20,000 inhabitants, and I defy you to show that you can reckon on a single representative for any town in the kingdom which has such a population. I tell you that you have not with you now a town in
Great Britain containing 20,000 inhabitant. [Hon. MEMBERS: Liverpool and Bristol.] No, no, no; you have neither Liverpool nor Bristol. That shows you have not weighed these matters as you are bound to weigh them. Don't be led away by the men who cheer and halloo there, like the school-boy whistling in the churchyard to keep up his courage. Examine these facts, for those who were formerly your leaders have weighed them already; and there is none among you deserving to be your leaders unless they have well considered these important matters. I repeat that you cannot reckon upon any town of 20,000 inhabitants sending up a representative to vote with the great majority you expect to obtain. True, you will have your pocket boroughs and your nomination counties. And I will say a word or two directly as to the county representation; but I now place before you broadly the situation in which you will find yourselves after a dissolution. I will assume that you have a majority, derived from pocket boroughs and nomination counties, of twenty or thirty members. But on this side you will see the representatives for London, for South Lancashire, for West Yorkshire, for North Cheshire, for North Lancashire, and the Members for all the large towns of England, Ireland, and Scotland; nay, not one Member will come from any town in Scotland to vote with you. Now what would then be your situation? Why, you would shrink aghast from the position in which you would find yourselves. There would be more defections from your ranks, pledged as you are—steeped to the chin in pledges. So much alarmed would you be at your position, that you would cross the floor to join us in larger numbers than you have ever yet done. I tell you there would be no safety for you without it. I say that the Members who came up under such circumstances, to attempt to maintain the Corn Laws, from your Ripons and Stamfords, Woodstocks and Marlboroughs, would hold those opinions only till they found it was determined by public opinion to repeal them. They could not hold them one week longer; for if the country found that they would not give way to moral force, they might think it requisite to place them in another Schedule A. Now, I have told you what, in my opinion, constitutes public opinion. Had there been such an amount of public opinion as now exists in favour of the repeal of the
Corn Laws, in support of the Pretender in 1745, the dynasty of the Stuarts would now have occupied the Throne of these realms. That amount of public opinion is sufficient to change the Constitution of this country—to alter your forms of Government—to do anything, in short, that public opinion is determined to effect. But you may probably tell me that, though we have the electors of the great constituencies I have mentioned in our favour, the great mass of the people are not with us. That is a rather democratic sentiment. You never heard me quote the superior judgment of the working classes in any deliberations in this assembly. You never heard me cant about the superior claims of the working classes to arbitrate on this great question. But you say the mass of the people are not with us. What evidence is there that this is the case? Will you shut your eyes to proofs? Will you go blindfold against a stone wall? You say the petitions presented to this House have not been honestly signed. I cannot disprove that assertion. It must go for what it is worth. But we have ten times as many signatures to our petitions for Corn Law repeal as you have to your protection petitions. You may assume that the signatures to those petitions are fictitious. Do so if you please. I will give you another test. I will challenge you to the old Saxon mode of ascertaining what are the opinions of the country by calling public meetings. Now, if you really entertain democratic opinions, this is the way in which to elevate the working man to an equality with his master; ay, to an equality with the Peer of the realm — bringing them out into public assemblies, where every man has an equal vote—assemblies which make laws for the conduct of their own proceedings, and elect their own chairman, Call your public meetings to support the Corn Laws. I challenge you to call one anywhere. Why, it is not in the manufacturing districts alone that meetings have been held since the 1st of November last. Public meetings, convened by the authorities, have been held in every large town. Meetings not confined to a particular class, or consisting of men pledged to particular opinions, but convened to determine, ay or no, whether the people should petition for free trade or not. These meetings have not been confined to the manufacturing districts alone; they have been held at Exeter, Brighton, and Oxford; and the opinion of the people was as unanimous
at those places as at Bolton, Stockport, and Manchester. Now, cannot you call a public meeting, and test the opinions of the people? Would not one meeting, at all events, be something like a proof that you are practical men, and not disposed to be misled by the chimeras of those hot-headed, half-witted people who try to deceive you? I have seen some of your notices calling protection meetings. One was forwarded to me from Epworth, in Lincolnshire, by a gentleman who complained that the notice was so framed that protectionists only could attend, and that no amendment could be proposed. Why, in the purely agricultural district of Haddingtonshire, in the centre of the Lothians, a protection meeting was called about six weeks ago. All the neighbouring nobility and landed proprietors attended; they talked of the British Lion, and of the nation being with them. Soon after, another meeting was held, when it was proposed to petition for the repeal of the Corn Laws. The protectionists fled from the room, the largest room in the place; but it was quite full without them, and resolutions in favour of repeal were adopted. Was this evidence of public opinion? [An hon. MEMBER: No.] Was it not? Then what will teach you what public opinion is? Must you be tossed in a blanket? Must you be swept out of this House into the Thames? What must be done to convince you that the feeling of the nation is not with you? You will be abandoned to fatuity and destruction, if you are left to persons who have so little mercy upon you as to delude you on this question. I said that I would refer to the county representation. You are pluming yourselves on the result of recent county elections, and you are reckoning, no doubt, on the attainment of great strength from your purely agricultural counties in the event of a dissolution; but I beg to remind hon. Gentlemen that the county representation, under the 50l. tenant-at-will clause of the Reform Act, is not the old county representation. We never heard, twenty years ago, of requisitions being got up to candidates by tenant-farmers. The requisitions were then got up by freeholders. You introduced into the Reform Act, by a great mistake on the part of those who then had the power to have prevented it, a clause innovating on the old constitutional custom, and giving tenants-at-will a vote for counties. Do you mean to tell me that the votes of these tenants-at-will are an evidence of public opinion?
We heard a definition of tenant-at-will votes last night, which, with the permission of the House, I will read. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire—and I congratulate the free traders on his advent here—told us with great naïveté—
He (Mr. Seymer), with his hon. Colleague, came forward at the recent election for Dorset, in consequence of a requisition signed by the great body of the tenant-farmers. Three or four of the largest properties in the county were in the hands of free traders, and naturally the tenants on those estates held back, and refused to sign the requisition till they knew what were the wishes of their landlords; for it was notorious that English tenants generally wished to consult the feelings of their landlords. He (Mr. Seymer) did not think tenants to blame for that. Knowing that their landlords were free traders, the tenantries in question made inquiry, previous to signing, whether those landlords would object to their taking the course their consciences dictated; the landowners, very much to their credit, said, that this being a farmer's question, they would not interfere, and then, almost without exception, the farmers on those properties signed the requisition.
Yes, yes; it is all very well for those who get the consent of their landlords to vote; but recollect what the hon. Gentleman says at the commencement of his remarks. He tells us that he and his Colleague were put in nomination in consequence of a requisition signed by tenant-farmers—that is, in consequence of a requisition got up by command of the landlords, and signed by the farmers. Now, I put it to you candidly—is it not an understood etiquette in counties, that one proprietor who is a candidate should not canvass the tenants on the estate of another till he has obtained the sanction of the owner? ["No."] Am I to understand that the protectionist Gentlemen in a body below the gangway contradict me when I state as a point of etiquette in counties, one proprietor, who is a candidate, does not think it proper to canvass the tenantry on the estate of another proprietor, without first intimating to the landowner his intention and desire to do so? ["No."] Well, there are only two or three faint noes. I think the ayes have it. But, however, this point at all events is admitted, that, as a rule, farmers vote with the landlords; that the vote goes with the land: nobody denies that the farm carries the vote. What right, then, have you to call this the opinion of the farmer? You cannot have it both ways. It cannot be both the opinion of the landlord and the opinion of the tenants. What becomes, then, of all those interesting romances in which the Duke of Richmond has indulged in public, about the bold, independent, and
gallant yeomanry of the country? Why, these are the men who have not the right of using their suffrages. It is your own statement. This country certainly will not be governed by a combination of landlords and tenants. Probably you are not aware on what a very narrow basis this power of yours rests. But I can give you some information on the subject. There are about 150,000 tenants who form the basis of your political power, and who are distributed throughout the counties of this country. Well, let it come to the worst; carry on the opposition to this measure for three years more; yet there is a plan in operation much maligned by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, and still more maligned in another place, but which, the more the shoe pinches, and the more you wince at it, the more we like it out of doors. Now, I say, we have confronted this difficulty, and are prepared to meet it. We are calling into exercise the true old English forms of the Constitution, of five centuries antiquity, and we intend that the ancient 40s. freehold franchise shall countervail this innovation of yours in the Reform Bill. You think that there is something revolutionary in this. Why, you are the innovators and the revolutionists who introduced this new franchise into the Reform Bill. But I believe that it is perfectly understood by the longest heads among your party that we have a power out of doors to meet this difficulty. You should bear in mind that less one-half of the money invested in the savings banks, laid out at better interest in the purchase of freeholds, would give qualifications to more persons than your 150,000 tenant-farmers. But you say that the League is purchasing votes, and giving away the franchise. No, no; we are not quite so rich as that; but be assured that if you prolong the contest for three or four years—which you cannot do—if, however, it comes to the worst, we have the means in our power to meet the difficulty, and are prepared to use them. Money has been subscribed to prepare our organization in every county, and we are prepared to meet the difficulty and to overcome it. You may think that there is something repulsive to your notions of supremacy in all this. I see a very great advantage in it, even if the Corn Laws were repealed to-morrow. I think that you cannot too soon widen the basis of our county representation. I say, with respect to a man, whether he be a small shopkeeper or a mechanic, who by his prudence has saved
50l. or 100l., and is willing to lay it out in the purchase of a cottage or land bringing in 40s. a year as a freehold—I say that it is to that man of all others that I would wish to intrust the franchise. Let it be understood that all this extraneous matter is not of my introducing; for your debate has turned on the question of dissolution. No one can complain of my having, on this question, been guilty of introducing irrelevant matter. I generally keep close to the argument; but you have chosen to say now that you will not settle the question by argument, and by an appeal to facts and reason in this House; that you will have nothing to do with this House, but that you will go to the country. Now, I have given you some idea of what is your prospect in the country. I do not ask you to take my opinion for it; but as mischief may be averted from yourselves, more from another place to which allusion has been made than from others, I do ask you to take these facts home, to study them for yourselves, to look over the registry, to count the population of the towns, and then to come down and say whether you think the public opinion of the country is with you or against you. So much of the discussion has turned on this extraneous question, and what little argnment has been addressed to the merits of the case has been so abundantly answered by other persons, that it would be impertinent in me to trespass at too great length on the time of the House. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, I will tell you what my thoughts were as I sat at home patiently reading these debates. As I read speech after speech, and saw the old protection fallacies which I had knocked on the head seven years ago reappearing afresh, my thought was, what fun these debates will afford to the men in fustian jackets. All these fallacies are perfectly transparent to these men, and they would laugh at you for putting them forward. Dependence on foreigners! Who in the world could have supposed that that long-buried ghost would come again to light? Drain of gold! Wages rising and falling with the price of bread! Throwing land out of cultivation, and bringing corn here at 25s. per quarter! You forget that the great mass of the people now take a very different view on these questions from what you do. They formerly, seven years ago, did give in, to a certain extent, to your reiterated assertions that wages rise and fall with the price of bread. You had a very fair claptrap against us (as we happened
to be master manufacturers) in saying that we wanted to reduce wages. But the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, are not suspected by the English people of having such motives on these questions. The English people have no disinclination to defer to high authorities on these matters. They assume that men high in office have access to accurate information; and they generally suppose that those men have no sinister motive for deceiving the great body of the people on a question like the present. You see, I do not underrate the importance of your leaders having declared in favour of free trade. On the contrary, I avow that that has caused the greatest possible accession to the ranks of the free traders. Well, then, the working classes, not believing that wages rise and fall with the price of bread, when you tell them that they are to have corn at 25s. a quarter, instead of being frightened, are rubbing their hands with satisfaction. They are not frightened at the visions which you present to their eyes of a big loaf, seeing that they expect to get more money, and bread at half the price. And then the danger of having your land thrown out of cultivation! Why, what would the men in smockfrocks in the south of England say to that? They would say, "We shall get our land for potato ground at a halfpenny a lug, instead of paying threepence or fourpence for it." These fallacies have all been disposed of; and if you lived more in the world, more in contact with public opinion, and less within that charmed circle which you think the world, but which is really nothing but a clique—if you gave way less to the excitement of clubs, less to the buoyancy which arises from talking to each other as to the effect of some smart speech in which a Minister has been assailed, you would see that it was mere child's play to attempt to baulk the intelligence of the country on this great question, and you would not have talked as you have talked for the last eleven days. Now, with respect to the farmers, I will not deny that you have a large portion of the farmers clinging to their landlords on this question. They have been talked to and frightened by their landlords, as children by their nurses, and they dread some hideous prospect or some old bogie, ready to start up before their eyes. They do not know what is to happen; but they have not strict and implicit
faith in you. They are afraid lest anything should happen to render them unable to make terms with the landlords in the matter of rent; or, otherwise, they are perfectly easy and willing to receive free trade to-morrow. They are afraid of how the adjustment might be conducted; and the question, therefore, I have no hesitation in saying, is a landlord's question. On this subject the farmers have had some hints given them in the following paragraph, which appeared some time ago in the Standard newspaper:—
Under what head then is the farmer to look for relief? Under the head rent. The landlord must reduce rent; but the farmer knows, by rather bitter experience, the process by which this reduction must be effected. He must be first himself rendered unable to pay rent, and then the landlord will yield, and not before.
This is the character given by the Standard newspaper of the landlords, and in this consists the great difficulty with the farmers. I do not think that the farmers generally believe all that you have told them. I believe that farms let as high now as ever they did. There is something remarkable in this. Since the right hon. Baronet has proposed this measure, I have directed my attention to this point, because I conceive that it solves much of our difficulty. I have inquired of land agents, land proprietors, lawyers, &c., as to whether land has suffered any depreciation in value in consequence of the proposition on this subject made by the Government? Now, it is remarkable, but land seems to be the only commodity not injuriously affected by the proposed measures of the Government—that, though French silks are for the moment rendered almost unsaleable, and though the proposed change has produced almost a paralysis in every trade touched, yet land is letting and selling for higher prices than ever. Now, I will give you an example. I will mention a case, and I am at liberty to mention the name. The hon. Member for Somerset will corroborate what I am going to state. Mr. Gordon, a near neighbour of that hon. Member, has made the tenants upon sixty of his farms an offer that he would take their land off their hands on equitable terms at Ladyday; yesterday was the last day for giving notice of accepting his offer, and not one farmer proposed to do so. I think it is not very complimentary to the hon. Member for Somerset. Mr. Gordon is a near neighbour of his; and his tenants, of course, have had the privilege of hearing those eloquent addresses which the hon.
Member has made in Somerset, wherein he has told them that land will not be worth cultivation at all, or, at least, that there will be such an avalanche of corn from the Continent and from America as will quite supersede home cultivation; and yet these farmers seem to have so little alarm that they are willing to hold their farms at their present rents. Let me read you, too, the account that is given me by a gentleman in the City, an eminent solicitor, whom I have known for some years, and who is largely interested in landed property:—
I have for many years been connected with the management of landed property, and with the purchase and letting of estates in several different counties, and am at this time negotiating for the renewal of leases and letting of lands in Bedfordshire, Herts, and Essex. In the latter county the tenant who has occupied a farm of 500 acres for fourteen years under a lease, and who has always spoken of his rent as somewhat high, and of his own farming as the best in his own neighbourhood, has now offered a considerable increase of rent (15 per cent) for a new lease of fourteen years, and to covenant to underdrain two-thirds of the farm, the landlord finding draining tiles, now acknowledging that the cultivation may be greatly improved, so as to meet the increase of rent. The farmer has another occupation, and is not, therefore, under any fear of being without a farm. He is a protectionist in words, and a supporter of Sir John Tyrrell. Under the rumour that this farm might be given up, there were eight or ten most respectable applicants for it. In Hertfordshire I am at this moment renewing leases upon two large farms, both with the offer of increased rents, and with covenants for greatly improved cultivation, particularly as to under-draining. In Bedfordshire upon two moderate-sized farms the same has been the result; and on the application for one of them, which the farmer is quitting in consequence of age and infirmity, the following conversation took place on the application to me by an intelligent farmer for the farm: 'I understand, Sir, that you have the letting of Mr. L.'s farm, as he is quitting.—I have. I should like to have the offer of it; my name is—, and I can refer you to the clergyman of my parish, and to several gentlemen, for my character and responsibility. You are, I presume, a farmer?—Yes, Sir; I have one farm, and I should like another to extend my occupation, as I have sufficient capital. You know the farm, I presume, and the rent which the present tenant pays.—Yes, Sir, I know the farm and the rent; and as we are no longer to have any protection, and the Corn Laws must now be repealed, I hope you will consider that point in the rent. Pray, as you say that the Corn Laws will be repealed, what, in your judgment, will be the effect?—Why, Sir, the first will be the waking up of thousands of farmers who have hitherto been asleep; and we must look to increased efforts and increased production. With respect to rent, I must have a small increase, and I must require covenants for better cultivation, more especially as to underdraining, which must be done very extensively.—Sir, my intention is, if I have the farm, to underdrain the whole of it,
being allowed tiles. Well, as you are a man of observation, and acquainted with different districts in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Herts, tell me whether I am right (so far as your observation goes) in saying that under improved cultivation one third more corn can be grown, and the sample much better?—I have no doubt that you are right. Then, if I am right, what have you to fear from the abolition of the Corn Laws? — Nothing at all, Sir.' This person has hired the farm at increased rent, and undertaken to underdrain the whole, if required by the landlord so to do.
Now, hon. Gentleman must, of course, be better able than I can be to judge from their own experience whether this be a fair statement of the case or not; but I would put it to them, are any of them prepared to sell their own estates for one farthing less now than they were twelve months ago? But if farmers will take the land at the same rent, and if you will not take less than thirty years' purchase now upon the present rental, where are the proofs that you are in earnest in all that you predict as the consequences of the repeal of the Corn Laws? Nay, this is a proof that there has been a system of mutual self-delusion, or mutual deception between you and the farmers. You have preached doctrines which the farmers have affected to believe, but which neither of you has believed at heart. Either you have been doing this jointly—doing it that you might practise upon the credulity of your countrymen, or else you are now pursuing a most unworthy and inconsistent course; because after telling the farmers at your protection meetings that wheat is to be sold at 30s. or 35s. a quarter, and that they cannot carry on their business in competition with the Russians and the Poles, even if they have their land rent free, with what fairness or consistency can you now let your land to farmers at the existing rents? But the truth is, that you know — that the country knows—that there never was a more monstrous delusion than to suppose that that which goes to increase the trade of the country and to extend its manufactures and commerce—that which adds to our wealth, increases our population, enlarges the number of your customers, and diminishes your burdens by multiplying the shoulders that are to bear them, and giving them increased strength to bear them, can possibly tend to diminish the value of land. You may affect the value of silks—you may affect the value of cottons or woollens; transitory changes of fashion may do that—changes of taste; but there is a taste for land inherent in human kind, and especially is it the desire of Englishmen to
possess land; and, therefore, while you have a monopoly of that article which our very instincts lead us to desire to possess, if you see any process going on by which our commerce and our numbers are increased, it is impossible to suppose that it can have the effect of diminishing the value of the article that is in your hands. What, then, is the good of this "protection?" Why, the country have come to regard it, as they regard witchcraft, as a mere sound and a delusion. They no more regard your precautions against free trade, than they regard the horse-shoes that are nailed over the stables to keep the witches away from the horses. They do not believe in protection—they have no fear of free trade—and they are laughing to scorn all the arguments by which you are trying to frighten them. How can protection, think you, add to the wealth of a country? Can you, by legislation, add one farthing to the wealth of a country? You may, by legislation, in one evening destroy the fruits and accumulations of a century of labour; but I defy you to show me how, by the legislation of this House, you can add one farthing to the wealth of this country. That springs from the industry and intelligence of the people of the country. You cannot guide that intelligence; you cannot do better than leave industry to its own instincts. If you attempt by legislation to give any direction to trade and industry, it is a thousand to one that you are doing wrong; and if you happen to be right, it is a work of supererogation; for the parties for whom you legislate would go right without you, and better than with you. Then, if this be true, why should there be any difference of opinion between us? Hon. Gentlemen may think that I have spoken hardly to them on this occasion; but I want to see them come to a better conclusion on this question. I believe, if they will look the thing in the face, and divest themselves of that crust of prejudice which oppresses them, we shall all be better friends about it. There are but two things that can prevent it; one is, their believing that they have a sinister interest in this question, and therefore not looking into it; and the other is, an incapacity for understanding political economy. I know that there are many heads which cannot comprehend and master a proposition in political economy. I believe that study is the highest exercise of the human mind, and that the exact sciences require by no means so hard
an effort. But, barring these two accidents — want of capacity, and having a sinister interest—I defy any man to look into this question honestly, and come to any other than one conclusion. Then why should we not concur on this matter? Why should there be any triumph for either? I want no triumph. Come down to us, and let us hold a free-trade meeting in our hall at Manchester; come to us now, protectionists, and let us see whether we cannot do something better for our common country than carrying on this strife of parties. Let us once for all recognise this principle, that we must not tax one another for the benefit of one another. Now, I am going to read you an authority that will astonish you. I am going to read you an extract from a speech of the Duke of Wellington, in the House of Lords, on the 17th of April, 1832. It is his opinion on taxation:—
He thought taxes were imposed only for the service of the State. If they were necessary for the service of the State, in God's name let them be paid; but if they were not necessary, they ought not to be paid, and the Legislature ought not to impose them.
Now there, that noble Duke, without having had time to study Adam Smith or Ricardo, by that native sagacity which is characteristic of his mind, came at once to the marrow of this question. We must not tax one another for the benefit of one another. Oh, then, divest the future Prime Minister of this country of that odious task of having to reconcile rival interests; divest the office, if ever you would have a sagacious man in power as Prime Minister, of the responsibility of having to find food for the people! May you never find a Prime Minister again to undertake that awful responsibility! It belongs to God and to nature—to those laws of trade which Burke says are the laws of God and of nature—it belongs to them, and to them only, to regulate the supply of food, and of every commodity for the use of mankind. When you shall have seen in three years that the abolition of these laws is inevitable, you will be obliged then to meet the wishes of the farmer, and dissolve the League, as in good faith it will be dissolved. I say that when you find it to be inevitable, as inevitable it is, you will come forward and join with the free traders; for if you do not, you will have the farmers coming forward and agitating in conjunction with the League. You are in a position to gain honour in future; you are in a
position, especially the young Members among you who have the capacity to learn the truth of this question, they are in a position to gain honour in this struggle; but as you are going on at present your position is a false one, you are in the wrong groove, and are every day more and more diverging from the right point. It may be material for you to get right notions of political economy; questions of that kind will form a great part of the world's legislation for a long time to come. We are on the eve of great changes. Put yourselves in a position to be able to help in the work, and so gather honour and fame where they are to be gained—not the privileged aristocracy, I don't mean that, but the aristocracy of improvement and civilization. We have set an example to the world in all ages; we have given them the representative system. Why, the very rules and regulations of this House have been taken as the model for every representative assembly throughout the whole civilized world; and having besides given them the example of a free press, of civil and religious liberty, and of every institution that belongs to freedom and civilization, we are now about to offer a still greater example; we are going to set the example of making industry free—to set the example of giving the whole world every advantage in every clime, and latitude, and production; relying ourselves on the freedom of our industry. Yes, we are going to teach the world that other lesson. Don't think there is anything selfish in this, or anything at all discordant with Christian principles. I can prove that we advocate nothing but what is agreeable to the highest behests of Christianity. To buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest. What is the meaning of the maxim? It means that you take the article which you have in the greatest abundance, and obtain from others that of which they have the most to spare, so giving to mankind the means of enjoying the fullest abundance of every earthly good, and in doing so carrying out to the fullest extent the Christian doctrine of "doing to all men as ye would they should do unto you."
said, that the hon. Member for Stockport began his address by stating that in all former Corn Law debates, much extraneous matter had been introduceed; but that there had been more in this than in any former one. It appeared, however, that he was determined to follow the example, for he (Mr. Spooner)
would defy any one who had entered the House whilst the hon. Member was speaking, to know the question upon which he was addressing the House. They might have thought that it was the Reform Bill, or the 50l. tenant-at-will clause which was under consideration; but he (Mr. Spooner) contended that the farmer renting to the amount of 50l. per annum was as well qualified as the 10l. householder. He would ask whether it was not natural that a tenant should consult the opinions of a kind landlord, and give him credit for being guided by just reasons? Was not the same influence used in a much more forcible way by the manufacturer? Whatever his station in society, be it landlord or master manufacturer, the man who did his duty, who felt for the interests of the voter, and wished to promote his welfare, would have the influence which he ought to have; and it would be the greatest curse upon this country if such influence were in any way infringed upon. The hon. Member for Stockport went on to say, that the landed interest were ignorant of their position, and if an appeal were to be made to the country they would not have a majority in that House. He further told them that they had no confidence in their principles, and that they would be ready to change them when their numerical position was altered. He (Mr. Spooner) could however say, that if a new election should issue in a majority in favour of the principles of free trade, the opposers of free trade would still adhere to their opinions. But they felt that the present Parliament was especially called to decide the question of protection or no protection. Indeed, her Majesty, at that crisis, in Her Speech from the Throne, said, that she had appealed to the nation to ascertain the sense of Her people upon that very question. Since then, the great leader of the Protectionists and his Cabinet had changed their opinions, and they necessarily carried with them a considerable number, which changed the position of the party in that House; but before the line of conduct was altered which they were sent there to maintain, it should be ascertained whether the change was confined to the Minister and part of his adherents, or whether the country sympathized in that change. It was not his intention to enter at length into the discussion, as the House had unequivocally declared its intention to divide that night; and he knew other hon. Members wished to speak on the question. He would only
therefore shortly express the reasons which would induce him to give his vote in favour of the Amendment which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Bristol. And in the first place, he would refer to the charges made by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), namely, that hon. Members who agreed to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, were bound to go into Committee; and further, that those who voted for the Amendment wished to stifle inquiry. Had the right hon. Baronet argued it as a Motion for inquiry? So far from it, he had put it on the right footing, that if they went into Committee, it would be for the purpose of considering resolutions founded upon the very principles that protection was not good in itself, nor required by the circumstances of the country. From that principle he (Mr. Spooner) completely dissented. Had the right hon. Baronet proposed to the House to go into Committee to consider the Corn Laws with a view to their modification, he (Mr. Spooner) would have given the Motion his decided support. He had never supported the Corn Laws. He had never given a vote for them. He had always been of opinion that the sliding-scale system was indefensible, and that a fixed duty was the only system that could be maintained by rational argument. But it was absurd to say, when taxes were imposed upon industry for State purposes, that they should allow foreign produce to come into the market without contributing its share to those taxes. The burden of taxation fell eventually upon the labour of the country, and that labour ought to be protected from untaxed foreign labour. The hon. Member for Stockfort had advised the younger Members of that House to study Adam Smith. He (Mr. Spooner) had attentively studied that author, and he had studied a work of the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell), in which that noble Lord had proved himself a disciple of Adam Smith. He was going to quote a passage—["Oh, oh!" from the Ministerial benches.] The hon. Members need not be afraid of what he was going to quote. It was not Hansard that he held in his hand—Hansard was a sealed book now—Hansard was never more to be referred to as a work of authority, a political guide, or a public tutor. It contained now only inconvenient records of pledges broken, promises unfulfilled, expectations blighted, hopes destroyed. It was to be treated now as a counsellor treated his brief when the trial
was over; it had served its turn, a cause had been gained by the use of it, and now it was flung aside; and the pleader, whose eloquence it had inspired, was prepared to take, nay, had already taken another brief from the other side, to plead with equal eloquence the adverse cause. No! he was not going to quote Hansard. The work he held in his hand was the work of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), which would be handed down to posterity as containing the opinions of a statesman and an author. He had said, in his work on the British Constitution, that nations are subject to great vicissitudes:—
We naturally look to those whose study is the wealth of nations, for a remedy; but they are occupied only with general truths. The transition from one state of employment to another does not seem to occupy their thoughts. They keep their eyes fixed on the end, and do not afford us any defence against the evils to be met with on their way. Whatever your complaint is, they repeat their abstract dogma, and a nation may be ruined before it can hope to have the benefit of their precepts. Adam Smith was, to a great degree, free from this error. In laying down the principle of free trade, he says, 'There are two cases when it may be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign for the encouragement of domestic industry. First, when some particular sort of industry is necessary for the defence of the country; secondly, when some tax is imposed at home upon the produce of domestic industry, it may be sometimes a matter of deliberation how far and in what manner it is proper to restore the free importation of foreign goods, when particular manufactures, by means of high duties or prohibitions, have been so far extended as to employ a great multitude of hands. Humanity may in this case require that the freedom of trade should be restored only by slow gradations, and with a good deal of reserve and circumspection.' These are wise restrictions; but they tend so much to limit the action of political economy, that many of its modern professors seem to throw them entirely aside. If any one objects to their sweeping laws, that numbers will be thrown out of employment, they wonder at the ignorance which does not know that if one employment is lost, another and a better will be found; yet, in spite of this clamour, a temperate man knows that the process of converting silk weavers into blacksmiths, or farmers into cotton spinners, is one of pain and suffering. A want of attention to the distinctions and modifications required by the divisions of the world into many independent nations is apparent. Were there no such thing as war—no such thing as commercial disputes — no such thing as a national debt—it might be easy for the Ministers of different communities to come to an understanding to regulate the world according to the rules of commercial liberty; but the existing fact is—that every nation is obliged to guard its independence with the utmost jealousy; to avoid, with the greatest care, putting itself under the control of any other Power; and to check its industry by taxes, which are absolutely necessary for the preservation of its separate existence.
The noble Lord compares Governments fettered with the restraints of the old mercantile system, and encouragements not wisely given, to a gouty patient whom some visionary physician ordered to leave off all stimulants, and to take to a diet of vegetables and water. A more experienced physician would recommend a system more wholesome and natural than the one hitherto pursued, yet one adapted to the artificial wants which an inveterate habit had created. Now these were the views which the hon. Member for Stockport had treated with so much derision. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had last night produced some figures to show that there might be a very considerable increase in the importation of foreign corn, and at the same time a considerable increase of our bullion; but, unfortunately for him, he was not borne out by facts. The hon. Gentleman's argument was that of four years of import, namely, from 1838 to 1842; in the first year, the gold in the Bank was reduced from nine to two millions; in the second it continued depressed; in the third it began to rise; and in the fourth it came again to its original point. By admitting that in the first year the effect was an exportation of bullion, the hon. Member admitted all for which he (Mr. Spooner) contended, namely, that the immediate effect of a free importation of corn would be an immediate exportation of bullion, greatly affecting the circulation of the country, thus producing the most disastrous consequences. But there were other causes in the four years to which the hon. Gentleman had referred, besides importation of corn creating those fluctuations in the bullion. ["Divide, divide."] He valued too highly the good opinion of the House to endanger the loss of it by attempting to intrude himself on their notice against their will and without their consent; and as he perceived they were not prepared to hear him further, he would, with perfect good humour, resume his seat, and reserve what he had to say for a more favourable opportunity.
said: I can assure hon. Gentlemen I have no choice in this matter; I am under the necessity of voting not silently, but with a very brief explanation of the grounds of my vote; and I put it to the House whether they will not hear me. If I had had the good fortune to obtain a hearing at an earlier hour, I might have taken the liberty of making a few remarks on the able speech of the hon. Member for Winchester; but
I will waive that advantage, merely answering, as I pass, the question which he has put, whether the country could be governed by a Ministry with the Duke of Richmond at its head? Sir, we sit here as the public counsellors of Her Majesty, and it is not our duty to answer the hon. Gentleman whether the country could be governed by any particular Ministry. It is our duty to answer the right hon. Baronet, and tell him whether, in the opinion of this House, and of the country, by whom this House was elected, the measure which he proposes is in itself right, or in itself wrong. The choice of her Ministers belongs to Her Majesty alone. I could not have believed, if I had not heard it, that, one after one, Gentlemen of the acknowledged ability of the hon. Member for Stockport and of those who now sit on the Treasury bench, would, upon a question so grave as this, which now agitates the House and the country, have offered arguments so contradictory of each other. Yet so it is. Men, the most practised in debate, the most accomplished in argument, have successively poured each into his speech so many contending elements that, like a well-conducted experiment in chemistry, it has passed off in the effervescence of its own brilliancy, leaving nothing behind but the crude though comfortable residuum of a vote in favour of the Bill. Although, Sir, my feelings and opinions upon this great question are, like the opinions and feelings of many hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me, at direct and irreconcilable variance, yet I cannot persuade myself to attempt the expression of both—to record a vote in favour of my inclination, and to pronounce a speech in conformity with my conviction. I must be contented to follow the antiquated but equitable course of bestowing my vote where I inflict my speech; and, whatever may be my respect for the distinguished examples which, in this debate, have sanctioned the opposite practice—however surely my avowal may incur the reproach of a strong prejudice and a feeble understanding—I must frankly admit the great probability that I shall continue of one mind, at least until I resume my seat. This I am aware is unfashionable, and, in sooth, I do not know how to atone for it. I can lay no claim to magnanimity for opinions changed, principles discarded, pledges broken, or friends betrayed. Such sacrifices I have none to offer at the shrine of a new policy or a dominant
power. I stand here, Sir, having altered no opinions. In 1841, I voted against the noble Lord the Member for London, and supported the right hon. Baronet, whom I then assisted in his efforts to displace him from power. I stand here with my opinions unchanged from that time; and I believe that my constituents, if I had changed those opinions, would have had a just right to have demanded of me an opportunity of constitutionally endeavouring to be represented in this House in a manner consistent with their expressed opinions and wishes. The right hon. Gentlemen who occupy the Treasury bench have failed to convince me that the principles upon which they assumed, and upon which they have hitherto exercised, their high functions, are false and dangerous; or that we, in helping them to power and maintaining them in office, were outraging the obligations of patriotism, and violating the dictates of common sense. I will go further, and confess that if they had succeeded in establishing all this—if I could be brought to believe it—wherever for the future my confidence might be placed, it could neither be in the soundness of their wisdom, nor in the sanity of my own judgment. But, Sir, the question before us is in itself so important, in its extent so vast, in its issues so multiform and momentous; it is, besides, propounded to our consideration under circumstances so strange, and we stand towards it in relations so novel and extraordinary, that I know not how to over-estimate the awful responsibility attaching to every vote which shall contribute to its decision. It is not, as the right hon. the Secretary at War has affirmed, the relaxation merely, or removal, of a fiscal impost, nor are its consequences, as others have maintained, limited to any one class of Her Majesty's subjects. It has been more justly defined by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Administration, as embracing "two points, each of great importance: the manner in which a great party ought to be conducted; and the principles upon which the commercial policy of a great Empire shall for the future be governed." The scheme, therefore, Sir, proposes the adoption of a commercial system, new to the practice, and, as I think, opposed to the polity, of this great Empire. It is, in itself, avowedly, a great commercial—in its results, I firmly believe, a great social and political revolution. This is to be proved. I presume, then, to take the measure, and the discussion upon it, as presented
to the House—not by the right hon. Secretary at War, who makes it a mere question of fiscal import, nor by the right hon. the Vice President of the Board of Trade, who contends that it is a step onwards in the same path in which we have been constantly proceeding, but by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Administration, who fully admits its magnitude, distinctly foresees its results, and gallantly affronts its difficulties and its dangers. Two points, says the right hon. Baronet, are involved in this inquiry: "the manner of conducting a great political party; and the principles upon which the commercial policy of a great Empire shall for the future be governed." Of the former, and, as he says, less considerable of these, the right hon. Gentleman favoured the House with no definition. He disposed of the subject by declaring, that the measures now before us are, "for mere party purposes, the very worst that could be devised." Now, I own I cannot dismiss this part of the question so summarily. "Mere party purposes" is a somewhat uncertain — I had almost said, invidious—phrase. It may mean the sinister objects of faction, seeking only to reach or to retain power, or it may describe the high aims of true patriotism labouring to achieve the amelioration of mankind. In the former sense, the "worst possible measures for party purposes" would probably be the very best measures for the purposes of the country. In the latter, bad measures for a party, must likewise be measures injurious to the commonwealth. In which meaning does the right hon. Gentleman speak? If in the latter, then the scheme which hurts his party, must wound his country too; and if in the former, then is the mighty Conservative phalanx which he has formed and led—to form and lead which he has declared to be the great object of his political life—no better than a miserable faction; if able, degraded by selfishness; if honest, by ignorance and incapacity. But is this so? I think otherwise. I think the country is of another and an opposite opinion. I do not believe that the people of England have forgotten, or that posterity will cease to remember, the high and important services of the right hon. Gentleman in this behalf. It would ill become me, Sir, humble as I am, to speak on this matter words of bitterness or reproach. Earnestly, God knows, however humbly, and as one of many, to assist him in his great work, I have spent the
best—I trust in heaven, the most anxious—years of my life. My confidence not only in his consummate administrative ability and sound financial wisdom, but in his general policy, remained undiminished until I heard these measures announced by his own lips. It has been said of Bonaparte that he could never have been conquered but by himself. I can say for myself, and I think I may say for others, infinitely more important than I can ever be, that no combinations of adverse factions—no efforts of party strategy—nothing, in short, but his own, I must say, somewhat abrupt direction, to stand out of his way, and allow the helm to traverse, could have shaken our faith in his leadership—much less scattered our forces from his defence. Yet we wished not to impede the action of the rudder—we had firm confidence in his skill to steer. We never required the vessel to be guided in 1846 by observations taken in 1842. We knew that as we made way onward the aspect of the heavens must change, and the landmarks must appear in altered relation to the ship. All this we knew; and we trusted our pilot, until he himself told us here on deck, that in clear weather, and with fair wind, he was determined to turn the vessel back upon her course, and, instead of steering as he had promised for the smooth harbour of protected industry, we were to sail into the dark, troubled, and untried waters of free trade. I have said, Sir, that I cannot presume to use language of reproach. I know that if the right hon. Gentleman is in an extraordinary position, he has lived through extraordinary times. He has had to contend—I do not speak of this question—with unexampled difficulties. The thirty years of which we have heard so much in this debate, date from the termination of that great European struggle which had conquered the form, but not eradicated the poison, of the earlier revolution in France. It is now thirty years since the thunders of Napoleon's wars have been hushed, and since Europe has been, as men say, at peace. Yet what a peace? Stillness indeed; but not the stillness of calm and healthful repose. Everywhere, on the contrary, we have seen uneasy and convulsive movements—denoting the presence of a feverish dream—the pressure on the seat of life, of some strange and terrible disease. During this ghastly peace, the spirit of war, scarcely disguised, has been busy in its mission. Thrones the most stable have been overturned. Dynasties the most ancient
have been removed. Systems and institutions the most surely established and venerable have been altered or deracinated. The genius of innovation had reached our own island. The social elements heaved with ominous commotion. It was in this state of things—to use the language of the right hon. Baronet himself in his speech to the electors of Tamworth, and through them to country, in the year 1841—
It was at that period, that those events took place in a neighbouring country (France) which exhibited to the world physical force triumphant over established Government—those events which led to a great revolution, not alone in that country, but in Europe; and which finally expelled a second time from the throne of that kingdom the elder branch of the House of Bourbon. Gentlemen, those events made a most profound impression throughout the whole of Europe. It agitated all countries in Europe—it led to revolution in some of them, and none escaped their great influence. This country was not exempt from it, and the consequence was a fundamental alteration in the Constitution of the House of Commons. Gentlemen, I then foresaw—for the alteration was accompanied by a useless and eager desire for still further change—I then, I say, foresaw the good that might result from laying the foundation of a great Conservative party in the State, attached to the fundamental institutions of the country, not opposed to any national change in it which the lapse of years or the altered circumstances of society might require, but determined to maintain on their ancient footing and foundation, our great institutions in Church and State. Gentlemen, the great object of my public life was not to gain for myself a position of political, that is to say, of official power, but to build up that great party which has been gradually acquiring strength in this country, which has been gradually widening the foundations on which it stands; that great party which has drawn from time to time its support from its opponents; that party which at first, not exceeding 100 in number, now presents a compact phalanx of 300 Members of Parliament—a body, too, Gentlemen—not even so strong in point of numbers as it is strong in the confidence of the country.
Here the report says, there were cheers and a slight interruption in the crowd.
I may not be strong in your confidence," continued the right hon. Gentleman, addressing the party who caused the interruption, "I see here below me two or three boys and girls who deny my proposition; but still I say that the Conservative party have the confidence of the great proportion of the intelligence and respectability of the country.
I wonder, by the way, what these boys and girls would say now, or whether they too have changed their opinion, and with that one sentence disposed of all their former speeches. Be that as it may, the Conservative party had then the confidence of the country—it has it still—and the right hon. Gentleman had the confidence
of both. How stands that account now? It was said on a hustings in this city, the other day, that his party were deserting, shamefully deserting, the right hon. Gentleman. His party deserting him! Is it not he, rather, who has without notice deserted, and so shaken, if not shattered, his party? Alas, Sir! when we look at the last ten years, and then at the last ten weeks, what feeling is it that possesses our minds? Here is a great party — the strongest and most united, perhaps, that ever sustained a Minister by its votes, or animated him by its faith—stricken down by the man whom it was its pride to uphold. Is it, then, wonderful, if this party—not his slave—(on his part there never was the superciliousness of dictation, nor on ours the abjectness of servility)—not his slave, but his companion, his friend, with whom he took sweet counsel, what time he "walked in the open light and direct paths of the Constitution"—is it strange, I ask, if this, his friend, the partner of his toils and sharer of his triumphs, having resisted the attack of the Leagued conspiracy yonder—having averted the stroke of Casca—having felt, but not faltered, under the keener steel of Cassius, conscious at last of a blow which has reached the seat of life, and turning to perceive that it has been directed by that arm to which, of all others, we looked for defence—that arm which our own strength had nerved, it should be, with the bitterness, not of death, but of a sharper pang than death knows—disappointed faith—that we exclaim—"Et tu Brute!" Ay; and if, in future times, posterity—as I believe the right hon. Gentleman justly hopes — shall ratify the decision of every calm judgment now, and admit that, if he made this great sacrifice—if "he slew his best love, it was for" what he deemed "the good of Rome"—be yet sure that, when the youth of future times, haply in those same halls, once associated with his position in this House, and still familiar with the echoes of his early fame, shall debate of him as our youth do now of the great example I have named—they will say it had been better for the name of Brutus—better for the fate of Rome—better for the myriads who, like us, are destined to be ruled—better for the few who, like him, are born to govern—that if Cæsar must fall, he had fallen by another hand. Sir, this is no light matter. If the right hon. Baronet is correct in his own definition of party purposes, the question of party is in this debate one of the utmost consequence. If the Conservative party are formed to maintain
the integrity of the British Constitution, to preserve our country from the shock of Continental revolutions—of changes which exhibit the principle of "physical force" triumphant over established Government—what can that measure be which, for the purposes of such party, is the very worst that can be devised? With this definition of his party, and this of his measure, how can the right hon. Gentleman blame me, if, adhering to the one which he says formed the great object of his political life, I feel myself compelled to oppose the other, which he avows is calculated to defeat it. Sir, if the measure before us were in principle acceptable to the House, what is it in the application of that principle? If the doctrines of free trade be the doctrines of common sense, then never was there a greater insult to common sense than the measure of the Prime Minister. It asserts with a loud and clamorous tongue—it applies with a feeble, uncertain, and timid hand. It is universal in rule; it is partial in application; it is bold, but its boldness is the daring recklessness of hazard and speculation, not the sound courage of honest enterprise. It protects the cane piece of Jamaica—it exposes to competition the corn field of England. It asserts that protection is the bane of agriculture; but it administers the bane for three more years. "This is poison," says the Minister; "but that you may live, I advise you to drink it for such a time." Sir, I feel I have to apologize to the House for having risen at so late an hour. I felt I had no choice; but one more word, and I shall sit down. In replying to the speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, the right hon. Baronet delivered a speech which he supposed himself to make to a farmer. The House will remember that speech—I need not repeat it. But the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had, for the sake of his argument, assumed the position of a free-trade landlord. In answering it, the right hon. Baronet proved that the free traders had indeed got his head, but that we still retained his heart—his understanding had been confused, but his practice was right; for, instead of pronouncing to his own tenants the speech of a free trader, he spoke the very words of a sound protectionist. I will not, Sir, at this hour, detain the House longer, but reserve myself for the Committee, as I am anxious, in common with the House, that we should divide.
LORD G. BENTINCK
Sir I can assure the House that, in asking for its patience, while I endeavour to answer some
of the arguments which have been advanced on the other side, there is no man within its walls who feels so much as I do my unworthiness to ask for its indulgence. I have had the honour of a seat in this House in eight Parliaments; but have never yet once ventured to trespass upon its time on any subject of great debate. We oppose your leaving the chair, Sir, not only because we object to the great change that is proposed to be made in reference to the agricultural interest, but because we object in principle to the entire measure upon the details of which it is proposed that we should go into Committee. We see in that measure a proposition effecting a change in regard to no fewer than 1100 articles—a great commercial revolution, which we are of opinion that the circumstances of the country do not by any means require. Sir, it is not only that we object to the removal of protection from the agricultural interest, but we object also to the removal of protection from the shipping interest, from the silk trade, and from all the other interests connected with domestic industry which are injuriously affected by this proposed measure. My right hon. Friend the Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert), has called upon the agricultural interest to submit to this great change now, whilst, in his opinion, it can be accepted with honour, and before it is extorted from us by force, coupled with loss of honour, loss of character, loss of influence with, and loss of station in, the country. Sir, I wish to God I thought that this change could be carried by this House of Commons with honour, without loss of character, loss of influence, and loss of station with the country. Vicious as I think this measure, and injurious as I consider it to all the great interests of this country, I think I should feel it was deprived of half its vice if it could be carried by this House without loss of honour, damage to reputation, and forfeiture of public character, to a vast many Gentlemen who are now seated within its walls. It is but candid to Gentlemen opposite to say that their honour is not arraigned; for they have been the consistent advocates of free-trade principles, and came to this House pledged to maintain free-trade principles on which they avowedly solicited the suffrages of their constituents, and are now with honesty and fidelity maintaining. But when we are told by hon. Gentlemen, and more especially by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury, that this is not
a protection Parliament, I am at a loss to understand upon what principles they and he ground their assertion. Why, was not the subject of free trade in corn discussed over and over again prior to the dissolution of 1841? Sir, may I not ask if it were not, emphatically, upon the question whether or not we were to have a fixed duty of 8s. a quarter, or whether we were to have a higher protection, that Her Majesty appealed to the people in the year 1841? Sir, upon this subject there can be no mistake. It was not only the right hon. Baronet now at the head of the Government, then the leader of the Opposition, who challenged his opponents, and made the accusations against them that they were going to dissolve the Parliament upon a cry of "cheap bread;" but the Secretary of State for the Home Department followed in the same wake, and not only charged the Government with the intention to dissolve, but in making the accusation, charged them with the malice of the devil himself. Nay, he even charged them with something more than the malice of the devil himself; for, apostrophising the speech of Mr, Tierney addressed to Mr. Canning in 1807—in which he charged the Government of that day with something more than the malice of the devil himself, for devising a scheme such as a dissolution of Parliament upon a cry of "the Church in danger" — my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, upon being ironically cheered by the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell), exclaimed, "Well, you cheer that; but let me ask is a cry of 'the Church in danger' half so maddening, half so exciting to the feelings of the people, as the cry of 'cheap bread' when raised from the Treasury bench." I should like to know what cry has been raised now from the Treasury bench? Have we not had the cry of "cheap bread" from the Treasury bench? Have we not heard from my right hon. Friend that this is a landlord's question, and that he, for one, will no longer condescend to eke out his rents from the sufferings of the poor? But, to return to 1841, what was the course of proceeding at that time? The noble Lord at the head of the Government of that day found himself defeated by a vote of no confidence, by a majority of 312 to 311, and then the noble Lord advised Her Majesty to dissolve the Parliament. But what was the language adopted by Her Majesty in the Speech from the Throne
when proroguing the Parliament preparatory to the dissolution in 1841? Her Majesty appealed to the sense of the people in these words:—
On a full consideration of the present state of public affairs, I have come to the determination of proroguing Porliament, with a view to its immediate dissolution. The paramount importance of the trade and industry of the country, and my anxiety that the exigencies of the public service should be provided for in the manner least burdensome to the community, have induced me to resort to the means which the Constitution has entrusted to me, of ascertaining the sense of my people upon matters which so deeply concern their welfare.
After that declaration from the Throne, I cannot help saying that every Member who was returned to Parliament at the general election which ensued was returned pledged by the Speech from the Throne. I appeal to the sense of this House—I appeal to the sense of the country—whether, after that speech, every Member who occupied a seat in this House, must not be considered as having been returned pledged to either one course or the other? ["No, no."] Well, Sir, though I hear a few cries of "No, no," that is my view of the matter, and as it appears to me it is the only correct view of the matter; and being of this opinion, I must repeat that in my opinion no Member of the old majority of this House can give his consent to this measure, as proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers for the repeal of the Corn Laws, without dishonour. But, Sir, we are told that there has been some change of circumstances, and that the experience of the last three years has proved that the recent commercial policy of the right hon. Baronet has been attended with the happiest results, and that the policy pursued during the last thirty years has been quite erroneous. Sir, the country will not be satisfied with three years' experience of any system. Three years' experience, I contend, is not sufficiently extensive to afford a proper criterion by which to decide the failure or success of any description of policy whatsoever. The right hon. Baronet has more especially founded his present belief in doctrines contrary to those which he has heretofore uniformly maintained, on the assumption that the price of corn will not be much reduced, and has argued that in the case of cattle and other commodities included in his Tariff of 1842, no diminution of price has resulted as a consequence of the relaxation of protective duties. He is also sanguine of success from the supposed results of free trade upon the silk trade, and has challenged
the House to instance any one single example of a case in which the reduction of duty had not proved equally beneficial to the consumer and the producer. I accept his challenge. I will meet my right hon. Friend in his challenge in regard to silk; and I am also ready to encounter him as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield on the article of wool. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) distinctly challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) on the article of wool; but my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset forgot to answer him, but I will do so for him; and I am also prepared to accept the challenge of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government in the matter of timber, and engage to show him the injurious effects of free trade in timber upon the prices of English oak, whilst I am at the same time prepared to demonstrate the evil consequences to the carrying trade of Great Britain, which have already resulted from the past measures, and must still more result from the proposed measures yet further reducing the differential duties between foreign and colonial timber. There is also another article, which was mentioned the other night by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) — I allude to spelter. The right hon. Member for Stamford attempted to answer the hon. Member for Birmingham when he asserted that the spelter manufacture had been destroyed by the reduction of the protective duties; but utterly failed to overthrow his statements. The hon. Member for Birmingham stood up as a witness, and as he is, I believe, in his character of a hardware manufacturer, the consumer of a seventh part of all the spelter that is used in Great Britain, his evidence ought to be most valuable in this House. He has told us, that, although, perhaps, his branch of trade may have been assisted by the relaxation of prohibitory duties, the result of that relaxation has been utterly to annihilate every single concern for the raising and manufacture of zinc in its raw state. I think the hon. Member said there was one exception, and that was in a case where the lessee of the spelter mine had had the good fortune to hold the lease of a coal mine in conjunction with the spelter concern at a very low rent; but with that solitary exception the result of free trade as applied to spelter has been utterly to annihilate it. This statement remains up to the present hour, and, I take it, will continue
to remain uncontroverted and uncontrovertible. I now, Sir, approach the subject of wool. Let us see, then, whether the experience of the past three years, with respect to that commodity, has been such as to afford a valid argument why the duty on corn should be repealed. Sir, this "wool" argument is a most convenient weapon in the hands of the right hon. Baronet. In 1846 the results of a free trade in wool afforded my right hon. Friend a most irresistible argument to his mind in favour of free trade in corn; the happy results which he sees in 1846, of the removal of 1d. per lb. duty on foreign wool in 1842, convince him of the indubitable policy of an entire removal of all protection to homegrown corn and to the landed interests of the British Empire. But, Sir, I well remember my right hon. Friend, in a speech which, from its surpassing ability, will never be forgotten, triumphantly appealed in 1839, not to three years' experience, but to twenty years' experience, of the operation of a protecting duty on wool, as the best possible reason why we should maintain high duties on corn. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, when he challenged my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Miles) on this subject, facetiously observed that the agricultural interests were wholly incapable of taking care of themselves; that, in fact, you could not do them so great an unkindness, indeed you could not inflict so great a cruelty upon them, as to indulge them in their taste and passion for protective legislation; and, referring to the year 1825, he said that in one of these fits of foolishness they had resisted, tooth and nail, the friendly efforts of the late Mr. Huskisson to remove the 6d. protecting duty on foreign wool, which was their bane. Happily, however, for these poor misguided, benighted agriculturists, who were so blind to their own interests, Mr. Huskisson was too strong for them, and, in spite of them, succeeded in taking off the duty; "and what," triumphantly exclaimed my hon. Friend, "was the result?" Answering his own inquiry, he said—
The result was, that the price of English wool instantly rose higher, and for the next five years, continued higher than it was ever known before.
Undoubtedly, Sir, this was a wonderful statement, if true; but let us first examine into the matter of fact; and here I will appeal to an authority which will not be doubted, at least on the Treasury bench—I appeal to the authority of Sir Robert Peel in 1839. Sir Robert Peel, in 1839, stated,
in his place from the benches opposite, that a duty of 6d. per lb. was placed on foreign wool in December, 1819, and that this duty was continued until the 10th or 20th of December, 1824. Well, what does he say was the effect and consequence of this protecting duty of 6d. per lb. on foreign wool? He says, the consequence was, that the price of wool remained steady and unwavering at 1s. 6d. per lb. for five entire years, that is to say, from 1820 to 1824, both years inclusive. In December, 1824, the protecting duty of 6d. per lb. was reduced to 1d. What happened? Did "English Southdown wool rise higher the next five years than ever was known before," as stated by the hon. Member for Sheffield? No such thing, Sir; far from rising, it fell from 1s. 6d. per lb. in 1824, to 1s. per lb. in 1825; it remained at 1s. per lb. in 1826. In 1827, there was a still further fall to 9d. per lb., and it remained at 9d. per lb. in 1828, and 9d. per lb. in 1829. The House and the country, therefore, will see that so far from the price of English Southdown wool having been enhanced, as stated by the hon. Member for Sheffield, it was greatly reduced, as the natural and direct consequence of the reduction of the protecting duty. Have I not now, then, met the right hon. Baronet, who challenged us to instance a case where the reduction of duty had proved disadvantageous either to consumer or producer? Is it not manifest that in the case of wool, at all events, the producer has been materially injured? I think I ought to mention at the same time, that during these five years, when the duty of 6d. was imposed, it did not interfere with the prosperity of the import trade; for I find, on looking to the returns, that the imports in wool amounted to 10,000,000lbs. in 1820, and that in 1824 they rose to 22,000,000 lbs. This proves that the protective duty of 6d. maintained the price at home, and did not prevent the importation of such additional supply as might be required to supply the wants of the manufacturing interest. I believe the duty on foreign wool imported into this country in 1823 amounted to 375,000l.; and in the present state of this country are we to be told that the loss of such a source of revenue is a mean and insignificant consideration? The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), when alluding to the subject of wool, went back to 1842, selecting a year of great depression, when he told you the price of wool was down at 11½d. per lb.;
but that in 1844 and 1845 it rose to 1s. 2d. per lb. He also told you that, the importation of foreign wool was only 45,880,000 lbs. in 1842, that in 1844 there were 65,079,000 lbs. imported; and in ten months of the last year the importation amounted to 65,216,000 lbs. (which quantity, it appears by the return since laid before the House, has been further increased to upwards of 76,000,000 lbs.); and that this increase of importation, and increase of price was "all in consequence of the reduction of duty." If he had gone back to 1836, ten years ago, during the reign of his rivals, the Whigs, he would have found that the importation was upwards of 64,000,000lbs., and that in 1835 the price of wool was not 1s. 2d., but 1s. 10d.; in 1836, 1s. 8d.; in 1837, 1s. 8d.; in 1838, 1s. 4d.; in 1839, 1s. 3d., a great deal higher than under his much-vaunted three years of free trade. It is much to be lamented, I think, that the right hon. Baronet should have restricted his view to three years only. If he had taken the trouble to refer to the years which I have specified, it is probable he would have come to a different conclusion from that at which he has arrived. Having disposed of wool, I will now examine how far my right hon. Friend is justified in introducing so mighty a change, as regards the landed interest, as an entire repeal of the Corn Laws, upon what he considers the perfectly successful and satisfactory results of a similar experiment in regard to cattle. My right hon. Friend reverted to the fears entertained by the agricultural interest, in 1842, at his proposal to admit cattle at a low duty, and triumphantly appealed to the results of that measure, in proof not only of the visionary character of the fears of the agriculturists, but my right hon. Friend even went the length of arguing, that the free admission of cattle, sheep, and pigs, had actually improved the prices of meat in England, and in proof of the truth of this argument he gave these as the contract prices of fresh beef, salt beef, and pork for the navy, in the years 1844 and 1845:—
Arguing that this extraordinary rise in the price of meat "was all in consequence of the reductions in the Tariff of 1842." Now, Sir, whilst I cannot help observing as I pass that those engaged in supplying Her Majesty's navy cannot have been very
happy in the markets to which they went in 1845, I must take leave to say that if, instead of restricting his view to 1845, my right hon. Friend had only taken a view of the prices of meat for the last seven years, he would have found very different results, and probably have come to very opposite conclusions. Sir, I hold in my hand the contract prices of provisions in the workhouses of a number of Unions in various parts of the Empire for the last seven years; but, for fear of wearying the House, I will be content to quote one or two only. I will first take a metropolitan parish, St. George's, Hanover-square; it is a return of the contract prices for the third week in January in each year:—
Thus, instead of an average rise of price in consequence of the new Tariff, the average prices of meat were nearly 30 per cent. higher during the two years previous to the new Tariff tban they have been upon an average of the four years subsequent to it.
|Contract price of meat, per 8lbs.
||Average of two years previous to the passing of the new Tariff, 3s. 9½d.
||Average of four years subsequent to the passing of ditto, 2s. 11½d. 2–4ths.
The Liverpool workhouse shows similar results:—
This is the statement of the contract prices of meat for the last quarters in each year at the Union Workhouse in the Borough of King's Lynn, which I myself represent.
|Contract price of meat. Cwt.
||Average of two years antecedent to the passing of the new Tariff, 47s. 2d. per cwt.
|| Average of four years subsequent to ditto, 41s. 0½d.
But, Sir, whilst I thus state that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, if not absolutely wrong in his facts, has at least given a false colouring to the effects of his Tariff, by selecting particular years to suit his purpose, let me not be misunderstood as meaning to convey to this House that the importation of such
an insignificant quantity of cattle as twenty-four thousand, can have affected the prices of cattle either for good or for evil. It must be clear to every one that as regards the importation of cattle, the new Tariff has been entirely inoperative. And recollecting as I do how strenuously my right hon. Friends on the Treasury bench, previously to the introduction of that measure, urged upon their then agricultural Friends that this would be the case—assuring us that there were no foreign cattle to come, and the sole object was to strengthen the hands of the agricultural interest as regarded more essential and more effectual protections, by removing from them the odium of a nominal protection, which, practically, was no protection at all, it is hardly ingenuous in my right hon. Friend to turn round upon the agricultural interest, and say, "See how I have raised the price of meat in 1845 by my Tariff of 1842, and the consequent introduction of 24,000 head of foreign cattle." My right hon. Friend knows full well that, as regards cattle, his Tariff of 1842 has been, virtually, as he intended it to be, wholly inoperative. Convinced by my right hon. Friends, in 1842, that such would be the case, I gave my cordial support to that measure. Sir, I will now meet the challenge of Her Majesty's Ministers, and especially that of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, in regard to silk. The silk trade has been made the great battle horse of the Ministry; and the great success, as alleged, of the free trade in silk, has been put forth with great parade, as an unanswerable argument why free trade in corn cannot fail to benefit all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, producers as well as consumers. Sir, I undertake to show, that free trade in silk has proved a signal failure. But before I go into the details of the silk question, I must explain to the House that there are three descriptions of silk: first there is "raw silk," varying in value from 14s. to 20s. per lb.; then there is "thrown silk," varying in value from 20s. to 28s. per lb.; and lastly, there are "knubs and husks," which mean the "scales, excrements, and offals of the silkworm," worth no more than from 6d. to 10d. per lb., and which no more resemble and no more compare with raw silk, than chaff or straw can compare with the grain of wheat, or than the offals of cattle resemble beef. To work up 2,000 lbs. weight of "knubs and husks," would occupy sixty or seventy persons no longer time than it would occupy
700 or 800 persons to work up and manufacture the same weight of raw or thrown silk, that is, one week. It will be clear, therefore, to the House and to the country, that to mix up "raw silk," "thrown silk," and "knubs and husks," in one common mass, would be to play off a complete delusion upon this House and upon the country; yet such, Sir, was the course adopted by my right hon. Friend the First Minister of the Crown, and such was also the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade. This was the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown. After adverting to the hard names applied to Mr. Huskisson some twenty years ago by the friends of the silk weavers, the right hon. Baronet went on, the other night, to ask what was the result of Mr. Huskisson's measures:—
|Beef per stone.
||Average, 6s. 9d., antecedent to new Tariff.
||Average subsequent to the new Tariff; 5s. 11¼d.
Were hundreds of thousands of silk manufacturers thrown out of employment? Have the poor rates been burdened for their subsistence? Have we been unable to compete with foreigners? In the decennial period ending in 1823, the quantity of silk entered for home consumption was 19,409,023 lb.; for the ten years ending 1833, 39,681,248 lb., immediately after the reduction of the duty; for the ten years ending 1843, 52,007,118 lb. The aggregate annual consumption of the successive decennial periods was 1,940,000 lb., for the ten years ending 1823; 3,968,124 lb., for the ten years ending 1833; 5,200,711 lb., for the ten years ending 1843, a further reduction of duty having taken place in 1842; whereas now the consumption, which for the ten yours ending in 1823 was 1,940,902 lb., is now (for the single year 1844) 6,208,028 lb. Which is the true philanthropist? Is it the man who cries out against the admission of French papers? Was it the man who cried out against the admission of French silks? Or, was it the Minister who said, 'Good God! don't suppose I do not sympathize with distress. Don't load me with the reproach of causing ruin to thousands when I am endeavouring to benefit them!' I have seen Spitalfields at the point of starvation; let me trace the cause of such calamities, and try whether by bringing in the free air of competition, I cannot diminish or remove the sources of such calamities.
Sir, with the leave and indulgence of the House, I will tell you how all this was; but I must commence by explaining to the House that, prior to the 25th of March, 1824, whilst there was either absolute prohibition, or else duties practically amounting to prohibition, upon all silken articles of foreign manufacture, there existed, at the same time, high revenue duties upon the importation of thrown and upon the importation of raw silk, annually bringing in, as I shall show you, a large harvest of revenue to the Exchequer. The duties on raw silk until the 25th of March, 1824,
were 5s. 6d. per lb.; these duties were then reduced to 3d. per lb.; but were finally reduced on the 5th July, 1826, to 1d. per lb. In like manner, the duties on thrown silk, which, up to the 25th of March, 1825, were 14s. 8d. per lb., were reduced on that day to 7s. 6d. per lb.; on the 15th of November in the same year to 5s. per lb. Further reductions took place in July, 1829, whereby thrown silks were classed according to value, singles paying 1s. 6d., trams 2s., and organzines 3s. 6d.; and finally, in 1842, all were charged alike 1s. and three-fifths of a 1d. per lb. Having thus, I fear, at too great length explained the exact history and position of the silk trade, I will now proceed to contrast the progress of the silk trade in its protected state previous to 1824, with its progress subsequent to 1824, "when breathing the free air of competition." Sir, that the accuracy of my statement may be above dispute, I have selected my data as regards the period of protection, from the tables of the late Mr. Deacon Hume; and I have taken three triennial periods, commencing with 1815, and concluding with the conclusion of the protected trade in 1823, the last triennial period being six years in advance of the first. This then is the state of the trade whilst fostered and cherished by high protecting duties:—
Raw silk, worth 14s. to 20s. per lb., 1815, 1816, 1817—average 1,095,000 lb.; 1818, 1819, 1820—average 1,504,000 lbs.; 1821, 1822, 1823—average 1,970,000 lbs.; increase as compared with triennial period 1815–16–17, 90 per cent.
Home consumption—Thrown silk, worth 20s. to 28s. per lb., 1815, 1816, 1817—average 293,000 lbs.; 1818, 1819, 1820—average 340,000 lbs.; 1821, 1822, 1823 — average 355,000 lbs.; increase as compared with triennial period 1815–16–17, 23 per cent.
Knubs and husks, viz., the scales, nests, excrements and offals of the silkworm, worth from 6d. to 10d. per lb., 1815, 1816, 1817 — average 27,062 lbs.; 1818, 1819, 1820—average 84,984 lbs.; 1821, 1822, 1823 — average 74,110 lbs.; increase as compared with triennial period 1815–16–17, 170 per cent.
Duty received on foreign silk and silk manufactures, 1815, 1816,1817—average 466,000l.; 1818, 1819, 1820—average 630,300l.; 1831, 1833, 1833—average 754,000l.; increase as compared with triennial period, 1815–16–17, 64 per cent.
Showing, under protection, a steady progress of the silk trade to the amount of 90 per cent in the home consumption of raw silk; 23 per cent in respect of thrown silk: of 170 per cent in knubs and husks; and last, but not least, of 64 per cent in the amount of revenue paid into the public Exchequer. Now, Sir, let us contrast this
picture with that of the silk trade under free trade. And here I beg leave to state that I am obliged to take not a triennial period six years in advance, but a triennial average nine years in advance of the last triennial period under the system of high protection. The House, therefore, will see that the comparison is highly advantageous to the argument of Her Majesty's Ministers, and to the same extent disadvantageous to my argument; but I shall show the House that the silk trade under protection can spare even so great a disadvantage in the comparison. The reason I cannot take, as in fairness to my own argument I ought to take, the triennial period 1827, 1828, and 1829, is, that during the first five years of the free-trade experiment, "knubs and husks" were mixed up in one common mass with "raw silk;" so it is practically impossible to come to any just or sound conclusion as to the progress of the silk trade during those years. I shall take, therefore, the first triennial period free from this objection. I shall now give the statement:—
Raw silk—1830, 1831, 1832, average 3,403,082, increase in nine years 72 per cent; 1842, 1843, 1844, average 3,869,328 lbs., increase in twenty-one years, 100 per cent.
Thrown silk—1830, 1831, 1832, 426,902 lbs., increase in nine years, 19 per cent: 1842, 1843, 1844, 394,958 lbs., increase in twenty-one years, 10½ per cent.
Knubs and husks—1830, 1831, 1832, 835,985 lbs., increase in nine years, 730 per cent; 1842, 1843, 1844, 1,548,064, increase in twenty-one years 2,000 per cent.
Duty received on foreign silk and silk manufactures—1830, 1831, 1832, 210,973l., revenue sacrificed, 543,027l.; 1842, 1843, 1844, 285,768l.—absolute loss and sacrifice of revenue, 468,232l.
The result being that, whilst under a highly protected trade, the home consumption of raw silk advanced at the rate of 90 per cent in six years, and that of thrown silk 23 per cent in the same period, the public revenue at the same time increasing at the rate of 64 per cent; under the blasting effects of free trade the progress of the silk trade fell down to an increase of only 72 per cent in nine years, and no more than 100 per cent in twenty-one years in respect to the home consumption of the raw silk, whilst in thrown silk the home consumption, which in the first nine years of free trade had increased 19 per cent, as compared with 23 per cent, in the six years under protection, actually fell down to an increase of only 10½ per cent upon the whole period of 21 years; and as regards
revenue, instead of an increase of 64 per cent in six years, under protection, an absolute loss of no less than 468,232l. per annum had to be submitted to by the Exchequer, a great portion of which unquestionably must have been extracted from the industry and from the pockets of Italians and Frenchmen. Lastly, as regards the silk trade, I come to the most important and painful bearing of free trade upon the wages, the comforts, and the morals of the unfortunate people, engaged in the lower ranks of the trade. With respect to the operation of free-trade measures on the silk weaver, I will (continued the noble Lord) take the evidence adduced before a Committee which sat in 1832. The first witness to whose evidence I will refer, is Mr. Grout, an extensive silk manufacturer in Norwich. He states that, up to 1824, the number of hands employed was 3,594, and that their wages averaged 8s. 1½d. per week. In 1831, the number of hands fell to 1,877, and their wages to 3s. 8½d. Thus, the gross amount of wages, which up to 1824 amounted to 60,000l., had fallen off to 16,000l. in 1831; showing a reduction in wages of 44,000l. So much for the beneficial effects of the relaxation of protective duties, as far as the employment of silk weavers is concerned. Now I will refer to the moral condition of the weaver, as detailed in the evidence of the same witness. He said it was not only a reduction of wages that they had to submit to, but he had been obliged to discharge a great number. Some of the men had emigrated; others had gone to the poorhouse; and many of the females had gone to a state of prostitution from necessity. "Their condition," he added, "is most abject, and much to be pitied." Mr. Brocklehurst, a Member of this House, was also examined before the same Committee. He was asked—
What has been the condition, since 1820, of the people employed in the mills?
In 1826, when overtaken by this change, they were living in comfortably furnished houses, and were amply provided for. When distress first assailed them they fell back on their little properties, which they gradually disposed of. They are now reduced to a state of utter destitution; hundreds of them are without change of clothes, and in many instances without a bed, sleeping on straw, and covered with their clothes worn in the day. Gross demoralization has been the result, and the once respectable and industrious artisan is now broken-hearted, and reduced to pauperism. Two-thirds of the people are found to be in want of the common necessaries of life.
These are the fruits of your much-lauded free trade. The duties on silk manufactures had then been reduced to something like 30 per cent. It is now proposed to reduce the protection to half that amount. Now, let us see what was the operation of that original reduction of protection upon wages. The silk weavers assured me that, up to 1823, when their wages were regulated by Act of Parliament, for weaving the article I hold in my hand, which is called royal floret, they earned 2s. 4d. a day. In 1825 their wages were reduced to 14d. a day. And now, in consequence of the intended reduction, their wages were to be further reduced from 14d. to 12d. a day. My informant assured me, that he could weave, with great industry, 20 yards of royal floret in a week, consequently a reduction of 2d. per yard would be equivalent to a reduction upon the aggregate work of a week of 3s. 4d. I ask you, then, whether you think that the silk weavers will be benefited by free trade? I think they were not far wrong, when they stated, in the petition which I presented to the House, that for a period of twenty years, experience and common sense had taught them that cheap bread was of no use to man, woman, or child unless they could obtain wages adequate to purchase it. ["Divide, divide."] I trust the House will recollect that I am now fighting the battle of a party whose leaders have deserted them; and if I cannot wield my weapons with the same skill as the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury benches do theirs, I trust the House will, for the sake of the cause I am supporting, show me some forbearance. I shall now go to an article termed ladies' fine velvet. So long as the trade was protected, the silk weavers received 4s. 3d. a yard for manufacturing this article; and I understand that a very superior journeyman, with great labour, may manufacture from eight to ten yards per week. In consequence of the diminution in the protective duties their wages were reduced, in 1825, to 2s. 6d. a yard; and on Thursday week last, on account of the proposed measure, they received notice of a further reduction of 3d. a yard. Now, Sir I leave it to the House whether a man, who can manufacture ten yards a week, and has his wages reduced 3d. a yard (amounting to 2s. 6d. a week, or 130s. a year), can derive any advantage from cheap bread equivalent to that reduction of wages? It is well known to every Gentleman in this
House, that the estimated consumption of each man per annum is one quarter of wheat. I leave it, then, to the House and the country to decide, whether, on the supposition that a man by his own labour has to sustain himself, a wife, and three children on a quarter of wheat each, any difference that can arise in the price of wheat in consequence of free trade, will compensate him for the loss of 3d. per yard on the article of his manufacture of which he manufactures ten yards in the course of a week? Why, it is clear to every one that the poor silk weaver would be better off with his old wages and wheat at 70s. a quarter, than he will be now with his wages reduced 3d. a yard, with wheat reduced to 45s. per quarter. ["No."] No! why, I believe five times twenty-five make 125s., while the loss on his wages amounts to 130s. I challenge any hon. Gentleman opposite to refute that statement. I ask, would not the silk weavers be better off with wheat at 70s. a quarter, with their wages unreduced, than they will be with reduced wages—with wages reduced 2s. 6d. a week under the free-trade system, though the price of wheat should be reduced to 45s. a quarter? Great stress has been laid upon the argument, that by opening the trade in corn you will be conferring a benefit on the labouring classes; and for the first time that I ever heard such a strange doctrine propounded, we had heard it maintained from the Treasury bench, "that the rate of wages has nothing to do with the price of corn;" nay, even more than this, that the rate of wages rises and falls in the inverse ratio to the rise and fall in the price of corn. I confess this novel doctrine sounded strangely in my ears, more especially when I heard it propounded, not only by the First Minister of the Crown, but also by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department; for I thought I could remember a celebrated address to the landowners of England, wherein my right hon. Friend laid it down as a proposition not to be refuted—
That the wages of labour sink to the price of corn, though the taxes remain and must be paid out of diminished earnings.
My right hon. Friend, in supporting that proposition, contended that the happiness and prosperity of the lower classes of the people, far from depending on a reduced price of corn, was apt to be least when prices were lowest. Reviewing the concluding period of the French war, during
which the prices of wheat had been as high as 125s., averaging, I believe, somewhere about 100s. a quarter, he tells us that, in 1815 or 1816—
The price of wheat fell to 64s., and then ensued such a scene both of agricultural and commercial distress as this unhappy country had at that time never witnessed.
My right hon. Friend continued his history down to the years 1821, 1822, and 1823. In 1822 the price of wheat fell to 43s.; and during this period of three years the price of wheat averaged under 50s. We are told now that we have nothing to do but to open the ports and reduce the price of corn; and that comfort, happiness, and contentment will follow, as far as the working classes are concerned. But what says my right hon. Friend writing the history of those three "bitter years," when bread was so cheap in 1821, 1822, and 1823? Describing the condition of Ireland, as spoken to in the evidence of Mr. Nolan before the Distress Committee of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend says—
In Ireland distress is greatest when provisions are cheapest; then we see famine without dearth; hunger amidst superabundance of provisions; farmers without a market; labourers without the means of purchase; it was the fall of prices in which famine originated; that fall prevents the tenant from paying the rent; then the miserable stock of the miserable tenantry is seized, next the labourer is left destitute without employment, and then ensues a scene of famine and despair, of tumult and bloodshed suppressed by military force.
Such, Sir, was the sad picture drawn by my right hon. Friend of the results of low prices in Ireland in 1822. But how was it in England? My right hon. Friend says that—
Amidst the ruin of the farmer and the manufacturer, the distress of landlords, and the insurrections of a populace without bread and without employment, one class alone flourished and was triumphant; the annuitant and the tax-eater rejoiced in the increased and increasing value of money—rejoiced in the sacrifice of productive industry to unproductive wealth—rejoiced in the victory of the drones over the bees.
My right hon. Friend must have been thinking of the tax-eaters and tax-consumers when, in introducing this measure to the House, he told us that the wages of labour did not depend upon the price of corn. Undoubtedly their wages do not sink to the price of corn, but the contrary. But I must not forgot the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, who cast so much obloquy on Gentlemen on this side of the House; and, though I will not attempt to cast back upon him the hard epithets he applied to my Friends
on this side of the House, I must say that his speech was not one overflowing with the milk of human kindness. But when the hon. Member for Wolverhampton comes forward, and stands up as a witness before this House and the country against the landlords of England, and describes them as a set of men wholly indifferent to the sufferings of the poor, and talks of them "as idle consumers, to whom it might justly be made a matter of congratulation that food was scarce and the people dying of starvation;" I think I am entitled to insist that he should himself be questioned upon what in legal phrase in Westminster Hall is, I believe, termed the "Voir dire;" and I have a right to ask, and the country to know, whether he is altogether a disinterested witness—whether he has not some pecuniary interest in this matter? I have a right to ask him, and the country has a right to know, whether or not, as an Examiner in the Court of Chancery, enjoying a snug sinecure of some 1,000l. or 1,200l. a year out of the taxes levied on the people, he does not come within the category of my right hon. Friend—whether he is not "one of those annuitants and tax-eaters who rejoice in the increased and increasing value of money, who rejoice in the sacrifice of productive industry to unproductive wealth; who rejoice in the victory of the drones over the bees?" Sir, we have been taunted on this side of the House with dealings in revilings of the right hon. Gentlemen who have deserted us and their principles on this occasion, and also with having used no arguments in support of our views. I thought in the admirable speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. S. O'Brien) who sits beside me, replete as it was with argument, as well as in the speeches of many others of my Friends around me, especially that of my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury, we might have well claimed exemption from the unjust taunt that we have brought no arguments to our support. But to return to the heart-stirring speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire; my right hon. Friend the First Minister of the Crown thought fit to mock the speech of my hon. Friend, and instead of the touching appeal and reply of tenant and landlord, which my hon. Friend so well and so feelingly imagined and gave utterance to, my right hon. Friend suggested another speech to be put into the mouth of the landlord, in which, out of his supposed and visionary savings by free trade, the unhappy landlord
was to offer an advance of capital to his tenant to enable him, by improvements of his farm, to compensate in increased quantity for the loss which he might incur through the reduced value of his produce consequent upon the repeal of the Corn Laws. Such an observation, I think, did not come with a good grace from the right hon. Baronet, The old landed aristocracy have done their duty to their tenants, but are not in a position to advance capital to enable them to increase the products of the soil. The right hon. Gentleman, when he goes down to Drayton Manor, and surveys the broad acres and wide domains which surround that splendid mansion, might have recollected that they once belonged to the old aristocracy of England. He might have remembered that a Bill passed in 1819, changing the currency, and that that Bill bore the name of the right hon. Gentleman at its back; and whilst, Sir, in referring to that law, it is far from my wish or meaning to impute anything but the most perfect innocence of intention, the right hon. Gentleman is said to have added by that law half a million sterling to the vast wealth of his family, whilst in a like degree it diminished from the wealth and crippled the resources of the old landed aristocracy. I think, then, it was rather hard on the part of the right hon. Baronet, to turn round now upon the old landed proprietors of England, and taunt, them with not advancing the capital which, I am sorry to say, they no longer possess, to improve the farms of their tenants, now about to be injured by free trade. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman is himself a landlord, and, if I mistake not, some time in 1842 or 1843, after passing his Tariff, went down and addressed a landlord's speech to some 250 or 300 of his tenantry at Tamworth. I do not think he began, "My good fellows!" that might be too familiar in the First Minister of the Grown, and might lead to too great expectations. He did not begin, "My good fellows," but; began, "Gentlemen!" Destruction of rabbits was promised, something conditional said about hares, long leases too were hinted at: nay, in one instance, a lease was proclaimed to have been actually granted where to be sure the land was run out, and the farm out of condition, and the tenant was to set out with a low rent, which was to rise by a sliding-scale as his leases went on. Lastly, after exciting the expectations of his hearers, who were looking, no doubt, to reduction of rent, some by fifteen, some by twenty,
and some perhaps even by 50 per cent, my right hon. Friend, after adverting to the great advantage of improved stocks, wound up his courage and liberality to the uttermost, and went the length of this gracious announcement:—"Regardless of the expense of the animal, at my own entire cost, I will purchase, say a bull, and give free access to that animal, not only to my tenants, but to the cows of my tenants as well." But, for my life, I cannot recollect that my right hon. Friend, out of his savings from his new Tariff ever hinted a syllable of putting his hands into his breeches pockets, and advancing any capital to his tenants, in compensation for the operation and injury done to them by his new Tariff. Such are the differences between the practice, the speeches, and the professions in this House of my right hon. Friend. ["Order!" "Chair!"] Sir, I now come to the pretext of "famine in the land;" out of the false cry of which in England, and the exaggerated cry of which in Ireland, this Government measure for the repeal of the Corn Laws has really arisen, and since that cry first obtained importance from the sanction it received in a voice from Scotland, conveyed in a letter dated the 15th of November, and written by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. I will take the kingdom of Scotland first, and examine how much real truth there was in the alarm of famine thus proclaimed from Edinburgh in November. That my authorities may be above all suspicion, they shall be restricted to such information as may be gathered from the printed circulars of the corn trade itself. I will begin with the circular of Messrs. A. and R. Smart and Co., of Montrose, of date the 12th of December, 1845. What say they? They say—
Sir—In consequence of the alarm and uncertainty about the state of the potatoes, we have not submitted our report of the harvest earlier to you, in order that we might gather more particular information, and ascertain how they would keep in the pits. After careful inquiry, we have come to the conclusion that from this district there will be fully the usual quantity exported of sound quality. Though they have, in many localities, been tainted more or less with the disease prevalent in other parts of the kingdom, and have, in some few instances, suffered partially in the pits: yet, as none but those which are tainted will be used for cattle, or other feeding purposes, we think fully as many will be made available for human food as in a season of abundance.
Wheat, notwithstanding the untoward character of the season, is proving a fair average crop in quantity, but of various quality. There is not a large breadth cultivated, and only a trifling quantity exported from this district; but from some of
the northern counties, where we ship, a good many cargoes can be spared. The weights at present run from 56 to 62½lb.; but as the season advances we may expect them to increase.
Oats are a full average crop, unless on the high and cold lands, where they were exceedingly late, and did not thoroughly ripen. Their quality is fair—weights from 39 to 43lbs. Potato oats can be shipped in good condition about 42 to 42½lb.; Angus, 41 to 42lb.
Viewing all the crops together, we consider the harvest in this district, and all to the north of it, a very abundant one.
So much, Sir, for the prevalence of dearth in the neighbourhood of and north of Montrose. I will now cross the island, and see how it fared in the west of Scotland. This is an account of the Glasgow corn trade. It is from Brown and Co.'s circular. Here it is, Sir:—
Glasgow, Dec. 31, 1845.
We beg to refer to the statement at foot, showing the annual stock of grain in granary since 1841:—
|STATE OF STOCKS AT THIS DATE FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
||Wheat Bolls of 240lb.
||Barley Bolls of 320lb.
||Oats Bolls of 320lb.
||Beans and Peas. Bolls of 4 Bushels
||Oatmeal. Loads of 280lb.
Showing an absolute excess in the stock on hand on the 31st of last December of no less than 54,264 bolls of wheat, and of 46,497 barrels and 21,419 sacks of wheat flour, as compared with the largest stock of wheat and wheat flour ever before known to be on hand in the city of Glasgow
at any corresponding period of the last five years! Oh, Sir! what a tale of famine is this to have been imposed as such upon a credulous nation, and wherewithal to have half frightened the people of England and the Queen's Ministers quite out of their senses! But, Sir, with the leave of the House, I must read one sentence more in the circular of Messrs. Brown and Co., as, in my opinion, it will go far to enlighten this House in regard to the progress of the Scottish nation as regards their comforts and condition. What say Messrs. Brown? They say—
Our stock of wheat on hand exceeds by far that of any previous year, notwithstanding a decided considerable change in the national taste from oatmeal to wheaten flour, of which the consumption has been unprecedented. The latter, we are inclined to think, applies to most of the large towns in this kingdom. Of wheat the crop of 1844 was of a superior order both in yield and in quality all over the United Kingdom and Ireland. The productiveness of that crop becomes more apparent on comparison with former stocks and this year's, which latter, with a trifling exception, is all of the growth of 1844, exhibiting an increase of 46,120 bolls of free, and 49,528 bolls of bonded over 1844. The crop of 1845, considered a fair average in quantity, but deficient in quality, has not yet got into condition, so that we are lying heavy on old wheat for baker's purposes. The value of wheat, compared with last year's same period, is about 10s. higher for old, and 4s. for new, per boll of 240 lb.
Thus, Sir, I have shown you, not only that so far from a famine prevailing in Glasgow and in the west of Scotland in December last, the stores of grain were unprecedented, whilst a very considerable improvement had taken place in the condition, the comforts, and the habits of the people of Scotland. ["Hear!" and
"Order!"] Why should I thus be interrupted? Is it because I speak of the comforts of the people—is it nothing in the estimation of some to speak of their comforts—to speak of the comforts of the poor? I am anxious to show, in defence of my Friends who have argued for protection, the advantages which have resulted from protective laws, and that they are the real friends of the poor. I am anxious to show the wonderful increase which has taken place in all that pertains to the food of the people under protection. In Glasgow, a decided change for the better has taken place; there the people have advanced in their taste and in their comforts, from oatmeal to the use of wheaten flour. Whereas, let it be remembered, when the right hon. Baronet introduced his Corn Law in 1842, he was obliged to acknowledge the immense
number that were there—I forget whether in Glasgow or in Paisley—existing only upon charity; but this I remember well, the numbers then kept alive by charity were 17,000. It would appear, too, that the pleasing advance in Glasgow was also visible in various other towns in Scotland. That the wheat crop in 1844 was so superior in quality and amount in comparison with any former stock, that even in last December they had not commenced the use of the crop for the year 1845, besides the large quantities in bond. [Interruption.
] I make no charge against those who are opposed to us on this question. I am only defending my party by indubitable evidence from the attacks of indifference to the comforts of the poor, which were advanced against us—that we cared not so we preserved our own interests though they were starving. You first make a charge against us, and then you are afraid to hear the answer. Last, as regards Scotland, I travel back to the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, from whence, on the 2nd of December the celebrated letter of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London was written. I am now going to read you some extracts from the circular of Messrs. Grindlay, Cowan, and Co. It is dated—
Leith, Dec. 17, 1845.
Sir—Although our harvest has been finished fully six weeks ago, we have deferred our report till now, that we might obtain more detailed information as to the result.
Wheat may amount to about an average quantity; the quality is of all grades, from fine to very inferior, the medium however preponderates; the whole is sound and wholesome. The weights are from 54, 58, 60, 62, and 63 lb. per bushel.
Oats are upon the whole a full average quantity, but are very various in quality and condition: those grown upon the coast are bright, heavy, and handsome; while the produce of the high country, though sound, and of tolerable colour, is mixed with greens, and extremely damp and light. They are all weights from 35, 38, 40, 42, 43, and 44 lb. per bushel.
Potatoes are a good crop as regards quantity; they have been affected by the disease throughout the whole of this district, but in a greater or lesser degree; those raised early and put into pits without ventilation went rapidly to decay, but such as were taken up later, and where proper precautions were taken in storing them, have kept much better, and the disease among them is not making rapid progress. We have, in the meantime, abundance of good quality for human food, and we have reason to believe that that will be the case till spring. The decayed ones make good cattle feed,
In the counties north of us, the corn crops generally are fully better than in this quarter; and in Aberdeen, Banff, Moray, Ross, and Sutherland shires potatoes are little if at all affected.
Just before harvest our stocks of grain here were very limited indeed. The disease in the potatoes and the very unfavourable weather, gave such an impulse to the market as has since attracted large supplies, both home and foreign, so much so that, notwithstanding the considerable sales which were effected, we are now so completely choked, that granary room is not to be found, and we think a considerable portion of still expected arrivals from abroad will have to go to other ports.
Good heavens, Sir! what a description of a country of famine! so completely choked that granary room is not to be found!!
The quantity of grain in bond here consists of about 65,000 qrs. of wheat, 17,000 qrs. of barley, and 4,000 qrs. of oats, besides which we have about 40,000 to 45,000 qrs. of home wheat, chiefly very fine old English.
And pray listen again, to this, Sir:—
In fact, in place of the general outcry of 'famine,' we are literally labouring under repletion.
Literally they say, Sir, labouring under repletion.
To the quantity of wheat under bond, about 20,000 qrs., still on the passage, will soon be added, besides, a considerable quantity of barley and other grain.
From the circular just read, it then appears that the potato crop was good as regarded Scotland generally—that there was an abundance of potatoes of good quality for human food. I would ask then—was there any ground to change the whole policy of the country on such a miserable pretence of famine as this? It would appear from this document, that, so far from their being any just ground for an outcry on the subject of famine, they were literally labouring under repletion. Sir, I have now done with Scotland, and I trust, sufficiently disposed of the unfounded pretence of a famine in Scotland. I will now see how this matter of famine stood in England. Sir, in the mouth of December last, I saw a letter from a gentleman in Liverpool, whose name I think would be entitled to no little weight in this House—the letter was signed "John Robertson Gladstone;" and what did it say, Sir? It said the outcry about famine was all a mistake, as, at that time, there were not less than 200 warehouses in Liverpool as cramful of grain as they could hold. One more statement, and so far as regards the wheat famine I have done. Sir, on the 5th of January, 1845, a year admitted by all to be a year of extraordinary abundance, the stock of wheat and wheat flour in the United Kingdom, amounted to 437,193 quarters, whilst in London it did not exceed 153,008 quarters—whilst on the corresponding
day of the present year, when you tell us there is a famine, there were bonded in the United Kingdom, no less a quantity than 1,079,030 quarters of wheat and wheat flour; whilst in the city of London alone there were in granary under bond 418,422 quarters of wheat and wheat flour; being in this year of famine a quantity within a few thousand quarters, equal to the entire quantity in bond in the whole of the United Kingdom in the preceding year, which you all admit to have been a year of extraordinary abundance. But we are told by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, "that bread was rapidly rising to the war prices." Why, Sir, was ever such an unfounded statement made in this House? Bread rapidly rising to the war prices! Bread at a famine price? Why, Sir, in the war in the year 1801, bread was selling for 11d.;
not the four pounds, but the two-pound loaf. Eleven pence for two pounds! Whilst I find, in the last week, these two statements as to the prices of bread in London and in Liverpool:—
Price of bread this week.—The highest price of bread in the Metropolis is 9d. the 4lb. loaf; some bakers, however, sell 2d. below that rate." "Price of bread and potatoes in Liverpool.—In this part of England, where every article of food is as dear, if not dearer, than in any other town in the kingdom, potatoes have fallen in price, within the last few days, from 4s. to 3s. per measure of 90lbs. weight, and the 4lb. loaf of excellent wheaten bread from 7d. to 6d."—Liverpool Mail
Why, Sir, if I do not err greatly, the price of the 4 lb. loaf was 10d.
in 1841, when we turned out the Whig Government for proposing so low a protection as an 8s.
fixed duty, and it had actually risen to 10½d.
a short while before the right hon. Boronet the First Minister of the Crown introduced his Bill of 1842, which is now the law of the land; and yet I cannot for my life recollect that either he or my right hon. Friend, in the course of those discussions, spoke even of 10½d.
as a famine price. But my right hon. Friend says, the law of 1842 has failed, inasmuch as when it was wanted the sliding-scale refused to slide. Sir, I think I have shown good reason why it would not slide, in the exposure that was made in the course of the month of December, of—I can't call it the "great fact," another monosyllable would be more applicable—of the alleged famine in the land. The right hon. Baronet has taunted us with being unwilling to listen to the history of famine in Ireland;
he said that it appeared to us a matter which was distasteful — ["No!"]—that it was distasteful to many Gentlemen on this side of the House. I beg leave on the part of my hon. Friends to say, that what was distasteful to us, was not the length of the details; but it appeared to us that the right hon. Baronet did not tell us the whole truth. That was what was distasteful to us, and not the length of the details. ["Hear!"] Sir, I trust the House will allow me to proceed. I can assure the House that, tedious as I know and feel that I must be, possessing neither wit nor talents to enliven the debate, there is no Member in this House, however wearied he may be with listening to me, who feels that weariness so painfully as I feel the obligation of being the cause of it. Nothing but the most imperative sense of duty could have induced me to come forward on this occasion to trespass upon the valuable time of this House. Nothing but the circumstance of those who advocate the same principles with myself having been abandoned by our leaders, could have induced me to undertake a task so distasteful to me. I think, having sat eighteen years in this House, and never once having trespassed upon its time before in any one single great debate, I may appeal to the past as a proof that I duly weigh the very small measure of my abilities, and that I am painfully conscious of my proper place in this House; that I feel deeply how unworthy I am of the indulgence of which I have already received so large a portion, and that nothing but an emergency such as this could have dragged me out to intrude upon the time of a House so replete on every side with men of such very far superior talents, abilities, and eloquence to myself. I beg leave to say that though this debate has now continued for three weeks, I am the first Gentleman who has at all entered into the real state of the case as regards the allegation of a potato famine in Ireland, upon which, be it remembered, is founded the sole case of Her Majesty's Ministers for a repeal of the Corn Laws. ["Hear!"] Well, I may be mistaken; but as far as I can recollect the debate, I am the only Gentleman who has taken a practical view of the pretended potato famine in Ireland. They have told us that there is a great calamity impending over Ireland. I do not believe it; but let them prove to us that it is so, and I will venture to say for those that sit around me, that they will be behind no gentlemen in England in rendering
every assistance to the sister kingdom. We have, however, been told a good deal of the extent of the potato disease in Ireland; but what does my noble Friend the Marquis of Clanricarde say on the subject? He is a resident landlord in the county of Galway, and is himself a cultivator of potatoes. Well, he told me a short time since that the reports had been greatly exaggerated—that he had himself grown 140 acres of potatoes, and that certainly here and there there were a few diseased potatoes to be found, but not so many as to occasion any particular notice to be taken of it, had it not been for the great alarm and clamour that had been previously got up on the subject, chiefly by Her Majesty's Ministers encouraging the panic, and sending their potato-famine Commissioners to Ireland.
I firmly believe," said my noble Friend, "that one-half of the mischief has been created by the sending of these very learned Commissioners to Ireland, who began their absurd recommendations by advising that all the potatoes should be dug before they were ripe.
Common sense might have told them how pernicious a course that was; every practical man knowing that the inevitable consequence of lifting and storing potatoes before they are ripe is, that the potatoes would all decay. The next thing they did was to recommend the application of artificial heat—viz., "kiln-drying the potatoes." I believe, however sound potatoes may be, it is impossible to devise any more certain specific for making them rot than kiln-drying them. I myself witnessed the result of some experiments made by the Duke of Portland at Welbeck, and whilst those potatoes which had had been cured with magnesian quick-lime, and those which had been cured with charcoal ashes, after being pitted six weeks, proved as sound as the day they were pitted, when the learned Professor's pit, the kiln-dried potato pit was opened, I can assure this House that it smoked up like a dunghill, the potatoes cured according to the recipe of Her Majesty's Ministers and their learned professors, was one entire mass of corruption. But that was not all the mischief that the Government and their learned Commissioners had done, for they created such a panic about these potatoes, that the people were not only induced, in the hope of saving a portion of them, to rush upon the trial of those suggested methods that proved their destruction, but, from fear of the rot, they hastened to consume their
potatoes in every possible way; in the language of the peasantry of Galway, "to destroy them," that was, to give them lavishly away to pigs and cattle, not then wanting them, in short, to anything that would eat them. My noble Friend told me that from the great excitement that prevailed, even he was himself induced to give them to his pigs and cattle, and even his horses, in fact to dispose of them in any and every way by which he could get them used; before—as he was induced to think—the disease should affect them all; and this all proceeded from the panic caused by sending these Commissioners into Ireland. We are told by Her Majesty's Ministers that there are four millions of the Irish people on the brink of famine: I, therefore, wish to ask Her Majesty's Ministers what provision they have made for those four millions of poor people? If they honestly believe that there will be four millions of people requiring support for three months, they must know that it will require a million quarters of grain to feed them. They believe no such thing. But we are told that the order they have sent to the United States for maize to supply their wants, is limited to one hundred thousand quarters, which would afford subsistence during three months, not for four millions, which they say are on the brink of starvation, but only for a tenth part of that number, that is to say, for four hundred thousand. I would, therefore, be glad to know if Her Majesty's Government really believe that there will be four millions of people depending upon them for relief for the space of time I have mentioned, how they intend to supply the deficiency? Is it not quite clear that to serve their purposes here they have exaggerated tenfold the extent of the calamity which in their hearts they believe to exist? But what says our own great Duke—England's great Duke—on this subject? The Duke of Wellington tells you, "that he saw no reason for opening the ports, inasmuch as whenever a deficiency should appear, prices would rise, and, under the existing law, the ports would open themselves." And with regard to Ireland he tells you, "that although there has been a great loss of potatoes, and there must ensue, in consequence, considerable privation to a great portion of the people of Ireland; from all accounts there is no ground for believing that there is any danger of an absolute deficiency of food in Ireland." It is five weeks ago this day, that the Member for
Somersetshire moved for a return of the highest price of potatoes in each of the last seven years in each of all the market towns in Ireland; but that return has not yet been produced. I want to know why it is kept back?—why are we kept in the dark? The right hon. Baronet the First Minister of the Crown has told you that wheat has at this time an import duty of 17s.
a quarter upon it, and nothing on earth could induce him to come to the people of England to ask them to pay that price for the purpose of feeding the people of Ireland; but I believe that the right hon. Baronet never intended to feed them with wheat, but with maize or oats. I am sure hon. Gentlemen will be rather surprised when I tell them that in January last there were 100,000 quarters of oats imported into this country from Ireland—a quantity corresponding exactly to the Government contract for maize from the United States as a provision for the starving people of Ireland. Well, then, I ask, ought not common sense to have taught the Government the propriety of purchasing these Irish oats, thereby conferring a double benefit upon the people of that country? In the first place, they would have been paying the Irish people for the produce of their land; and in the next place, they would have had the supply ready at hand when and where the scarcity required it. As I understand, the poorer classes of the people of Ireland generally cultivate one acre perhaps of oats, and two of potatoes; the oats are grown on the same land only once in three years; it is upon the potatoes that they generally depend for their food; and they sell their oats to pay their rent, and to supply perhaps some other few necessaries and comforts of life; therefore, had the Government adopted the course I mention, it would, as I said before, have conferred a double benefit on that country. The right hon. Baronet gave us an account of a London provision dealer who went a tour into Kent, and after visiting the gardens in Kent returned by the railway, and as he was whirled along in the train looked out of the window of his railway carriage and saw the potatoes looked black; he read us also a letter from Yorkshire, written by a Mr. Wood, whom nobody knows. I happen to know something about Yorkshire. But I want to know why, instead of the letter of this Mr. Wood, the right hon. Gentleman did not favour us with the opinions, which I presume he must have learnt, of
my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, the seconder of the Address, upon this subject of the potato disease in Yorkshire? My hon. Friend tells me, that in the month of December he called upon my late lamented Friend, Lord Wharncliffe, himself the Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire, himself too a Cabinet Minister, and told him that there was no foundation for the cry of famine as regarded the state of the potato crop in Yorkshire. Now, Sir, as this was not a private or confidential communication, it is hardly to be supposed my late lamented Friend, Lord Wharncliffe, would keep it back from Her Majesty's Ministers; and, if not, I must beg leave to ask, when Mr. Wood's letter was communicated, how came the information from my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding to be kept back from this House? I shall now go to Ireland. We have heard a great many statements as to the disease of the potato in Ireland; statements from police, and from inspectors of police, as well as from various other quarters. But, Sir, I must take leave to ask, what has become of the reports of the Lieutenants of the counties of Carlow and Kilkenny? My noble Friend the Member for Derby is Lieutenant of the county of Carlow, and he made a report to the Irish Government; and the Lieutenant of the county of Kilkenny made a report to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Lord Bessborough, long a Cabinet Minister, is the Lieutenant of the county of Kilkenny; and I will ask if there is any man in England or in Ireland whose opinion, on account of his business-like habits, of his great practical knowledge, and the warm and affectionate interest which for a long period of years he has ever taken in everything which concerns the true interests of Ireland, and more especially of the peasantry of Ireland—is there any man whose opinion could have had greater weight? Is there any man whose opinion would have been so willingly listened to by this House or by the country, either in England or in Ireland, as that of the Earl of Bessborough upon an Irish subject? Well, Sir, I am assured—and I appeal for the truth of my statement to my noble Friend the Member for Derby—that the Earl of Bessborough took the greatest possible pains to ascertain the truth—to ascertain the real state of the case as regards the failure of the potato crop in Ireland; and, having done so, made an elaborate report to the Irish
Government. Well, then, I desire to know why Lord Bessborough's report to the Irish Government is suppressed? Is it because Lord Bessborough told both sides of the story, and that his report would not assist the present policy of Her Majesty's Ministers? I can also appeal to my noble Friend the Member for and Lieutenant of the county of Down; my noble Friend made his report to the Irish Government. Why have we not had laid before us the report of my noble Friend the Lieutenant of the great county of Down? Then, again, there is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the county of Antrim, who was canvassing the county of Antrim throughout the month of December, and, feeling a deep interest in the prospects of the Irish people, lost no opportunity of making every possible inquiry as to the true state of the potato crop; and my hon. and gallant Friend has assured me that the invariable answer he received was—"We have here and there a bad one, but we have no fault to find with the potato crop." Sir, I can also appeal to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chatham as an evidence in proof of the undiseased state of the potato crop in the county of Roscommon in December last. It was a little before Christmas last year, that after having witnessed the result of several experiments tried under the directions of the Duke of Portland at Welbeck with diseased potatoes, thinking I might be of service to Ireland, I wrote to my right hon. Friend, who was then staying at Lord Crofton's in the county of Roscommon, the results of those experiments; and first, I had to tell him of the disastrous results of those modes of cure especially recommended by certain learned professors sent to Ireland by Her Majesty's Ministers; the invariable effect of the application of artificial heat, of "kiln drying," as recommended originally by these learned professors, was, that the potatoes one and all became rotten! Sir, I myself witnessed, and so I wrote to my right hon. Friend then in Roscommon, the opening of the pit cured according to the prescription of those learned professors; and I can assure the House when "the professor's pit" was opened, it steamed up like an opened dunghill, such was the state of putrefaction in which it was in. Anxious to communicate to my right hon. Friend any information that I deemed might be useful to Ireland, I wrote to him an account of the experiments which appeared
to me to be most successful, and more especially of an experiment made with magnesian quicklime, which seemed in every way to be entirely and pre-eminently successful. But what was my right hon. Friend's reply? "Much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken; but there is no potato disease in Roscommon." Sir, again I can appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Admiralty and a Member for the county of Tyrone, who only returned from Ireland from the county of Tyrone on the 1st of January He will tell the House that potatoes were then in Ireland only 3d.
per stone. In like manner, I can appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for the Queen's County. He assures me, that potatoes at this time are only 2¾d.
per stone in the principal markets of the Queen's County, though here and there in the mountainous districts, the potatoes may have entirely failed. Well, Lord de Vesci, the father of my hon. Friend, is Lord Lieutenant for the Queen's County, and he, too, made a report to the Irish Government. Why have we not that report? But how can it be honestly, or with truth, affirmed that there is famine in the land, with potatoes at no more than 3d.
a stone? Why, good God! when Mr. Burke wrote of scarcity in 1794, potatoes were 5s.
a bushel; and, Upon looking at Mr. Tooke's prices, I find that the average price of potatoes in the whole of the cotton manufacturing districts of England, during eleven years, from 1810 to 1820, both inclusive, averaged 7½d.
per stone, whilst the highest price mounted up to 17½d.
per stone, and the lowest price was 5⅗d.;
and, depend upon it, the money price is always the best criterion of the crop. Sir, I now come to the great challenge which is ever and anon put forth by the Anti-Corn-Law League, and now by their disciples, Her Majesty's Ministers. How are we, they ask, with our limited extent of territory, to feed a population annually and rapidly increasing, at the rate of 300,000 a year, as generally stated by the hon. Member for Stockport—a rate increased by my noble Friend the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire to a 1,000 a day, or 365,000 a year. Sir, I will meet the hon. Gentleman and my noble Friend, as well as Her Majesty's Ministers, upon this ground, and I will undertake to show not only that for the last five and forty years the produce of the land has outstripped the growth of the
population; but that there is ample scope without even any new discoveries in the science of agriculture, for a continued excess of production over population, at all events for the next twenty years to come. I will first examine the past. I find, Sir, that the population of England and Wales, which in 1801 amounted to 8,872,980, rose to 10,150,615 in 1811, being an increase of 14½ per cent upon the first period; and that by 1821 it had grown to 11,978,875, being a further increase of 17½ per cent; the aggregate increase on the twenty years amounting to 3,105,895. Sir, you will now expect me to furnish my proofs wherein this immense growth of the population was provided for; these are my proofs. I find that the Select Committee of the House of Commons, which sat in 1813 to inquire into the state of the corn trade, of which I believe Sir H. Parnell was the chairman, stated in their Report—
That through the extension of, and improvements in cultivation, the agricultural produce of the kingdom had been increased one-fourth during the ten years preceding the time of their enquiry.
Sir, the House will recollect that during the same period the population had increased not one-fourth, but 14½ per cent, which is only a fraction above one-seventh. But, Sir, if there were any doubt about this fact, I might triumphantly refer to the number of Inclosure Bills, and to the number of acres of waste lands brought into cultivation during the exciting period of the war prices, when wheat averaged nearly 100s.
a quarter. Sir, I find by a reference to Parliamentary documents, that between the twenty years from 1801 to 1821, no less than 1,677 Inclosure Bills were passed for the inclosure and reclamation of no less than 3,068,910 acres of land, being an average of 83 Inclosure Acts, and an average of 153,445 acres a year. I have before stated that the aggregate increase of the population during the same period was 3,105,895; the House, therefore, will observe, that since 1801 and up to 1821, for every new mouth born there was as near as possible a new acre of land brought into cultivation. Sir, I must now proceed to the period between 1821 and 1845. Prices fell after 1820. In 1822, wheat fell to 43s.
a quarter, and the rage for inclosures correspondingly diminished. I find, from 1821 to 1835 inclusive, the average number of Inclosure Bills greatly fell off, and so, of course, did the new acreage
brought into cultivation. The total number of Inclosure Acts in those fifteen years amounted to no more than 262, and the acreage reclaimed to 442,860, showing an average of about sixteen Inclosure Bills, taking in 29,524 acres a year. In the last ten years there occurred a still further decrease in these respects, the Inclosure Acts in the last ten years amounting in the aggregate to only 150, or 15 a year. I do not know the number of acres included in the inclosures during this last period; but the whole shows a sad falling-off, subsequent to the fall in the price of wheat, as compared with the period of war prices. It may be as well to state also, in passing, that the average of the last four years since the last modification of the Corn Laws, show only an annual average of eleven Drainage and Inclosure Acts. Sir, having failed under continually falling prices to give you evidence of new lands brought into cultivation, so as to keep pace with the growing population of the country from 1821 to 1844, I must look elsewhere for evidences of an increased growth of corn; and I am happy to say I readily find it in the improved cultivation of the land. The population of England and Wales, which was 11,978,875 in 1821, in 1831 had increased to 13,089,338, being an increase on 1821 of 16 per cent; in 1841, it further increased to 14,995,508, or 14 per cent on 1831: estimating this increase, or something like it, to have continued to 1844, and assuming the population in 1844 to have grown to 15,662,274, the gross increase of population in 1844, as compared with 1821, would be something under 32 per cent. I must, therefore, turn to the improved cultivation of the soil of England, and see what has been going on there to meet this prolific increase of the population. Well, Sir, I find that in 1821, in his evidence before the Agricultural Distress Committee, Mr. Wakefield—an authority universally quoted by all great writers on agricultural statistics—Mr. Wakefield computed the average produce of all the wheat lands in England, at no more than seventeen bushels per acre. But in 1840 Mr. M'Culloch was of opinion that the produce of the wheat lands of England had been raised on an average to twenty-six bushels per acre, whilst in 1844 Mr. M'Gregor estimates that such had been the rapid improvement in the science of agriculture, and in the cultivation of the soil, that the average produce of wheat throughout England and Wales had mounted up to twenty-eight
bushels per acre. What then is the result of this comparative statement of the growth of the population with the growth of corn to feed them between 1821 and the year 1844? The results are, that whilst the population increased at the rate of less than 32 per cent, the growth of wheat has, during the same period, increased no less than 64 per cent. Sir, it may be asked if such is the increased produce of wheat, as compared with the population—how comes it that we are still, to a certain extent as regards bread corn, an importing nation? I rejoice to think that it is to be accounted for in the universally improved condition and the enlarged command of food by the working classes of the people. Sir, I have myself, in the course of this evening, shown to you, that the taste of the people of Scotland, through increased affluence, has, throughout the manufacturing towns of that kingdom, in a considerable degree, changed from oaten to wheaten bread. You have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade affirm, that the consumption of bread in this metropolis has been 10 per cent higher in the last year than in any previous year; but we have still higher authority for this gratifying belief in Mr. Porter's Progress of the Nation,
wherein, after contrasting the duration of life in England as compared with other countries, showing, that whilst in Sweden and Denmark the average number of deaths is 1 in 48; in Holland, it is 1 in 43; in France, 1 in 40; in the United States, 1 in 37; in Prussia, 1 in 36; and in Wurtemburg, 1 in 33; in England — in happy England, it is only 1 in 59; he goes on to show, that in England and Wales, in 1800, the deaths were 1 in 47; in 1811, 1 in 53; and in 1831, 1 in 58; now, 1 in 59; Mr. Porter accounts for this continually diminishing mortality, this improvement of health, and prolongation of life, by the vast amendment in the condition of the people; the less crowded state of their dwellings; the superiority and cheapness of their clothing; to better medical assistance; greater personal cleanliness, and, above all, to the increased command of better kinds of food. Sir, my noble Friend the Member for the city of London has more than once denounced "protection as the bane of agriculture." In the history of my noble Friend's illustrious family, I should have thought he would have read a remarkable refutation of such notions as these. Immortalized as is the name of that noble
family in the brightest pages of English history, for its great deeds and sacrifices paid to liberty and to patriotism; for its valour in the field and its distinction in the councils of the nation; it is scarcely more distinguished in these respects, than it has been for its gigantic and patriotic works in the wonderful improvements in the agriculture of the country, during the reign of protection. I should have thought that no Member of the House of Russell could have forgotten that it was under the influence and encouragement of protection, that Francis Earl of Bedford, and his fellow adventurers, drained and reclaimed the fens, bringing 300,000 acres of land drowned in water into cultivation, and thus converting into fertile fields a vast morass, extending over twenty square miles and seven counties in England. Still more, I should have thought my noble Friend would not have forgotten that, emulating the good deeds and great works of his illustrious ancestor, John Duke of Bedford, the father of my noble Friend, at a cost of 300,000l.
within these twenty years carried out those mighty operations upon the rive Nene, whereby at once the navigation of that great and important trading river was wonderfully improved, and the agricultural produce of the immense tracts of land drained by the Nene more than doubled; and all this under the influence and encouragement of protection. In like manner my noble Friend might have remembered that in 1818, running parallel, and within seven or eight miles of the Nene, under the auspices of a lamented relative of mine, the late Lord William Bentinck, at an expense of 600,000l.
the Eau Brinck Cut, and those other works for the improvement of the outfall of the Ouze, were executed, whereby the agricultural produce of 300,000 acres of fen lands drained through the Ouze, must likewise have been nearly doubled: all these great works being lasting monuments, not of the folly, but of the wisdom of protection to British agriculture. Sir, the year 1845 alone remains to be accounted for; but I think I shall have no difficulty in showing, setting aside all other improvements in agriculture, that by the importation and application to the land of guano alone, there must have been an increase in the produce of the land far more than equivalent to even the 365,000 additional mouths assumed to have been born, by my noble Friend the Member for the West Riding,
in 1845. Sir, we are informed that in the year 1845 no less a quantity than 280,000 tons of guano, at an expense to the farmers of somewhere about 2,000,000l.
sterling, were imported into this country; that of this 200,000 tons, or in other words, 4,000,000 cwt., were last year expended upon the land. Of this I will assume that one half would be applied to the growth of wheat, and the other half to the growth of turnips, preparatory to next year's wheat crop. To begin then with wheat. According to the experiments tried and recorded in the Royal Agricultural Journal,
it would seem, that by the application of two hundred weight of guano to an acre of wheat land, the produce would be increased by one quarter per acre. At this rate a hundred thousand tons, or 2,000,000 cwt. of guano, would add 1,000,000 quarters of wheat to the crop, or bread for one year for 1,000,000 of people. But to be quite sure not to exceed a correct estimate, I will assume that it would require three hundred weight of guano to an acre to produce an extra quarter of wheat. According to this estimate, one hundred thousand tons of guano applied to the land in 1845, must have added 666,666 quarters of grain to the wheat crop, or, in other words, bread for 666,666 additional mouths. Now for turnips; Mr. Everitt, of South Creake, near Fakenham, in Norfolk, has, in like manner, proved that two cwt. of guano will add ten tons per acre to the turnip crop. But again, for fear of exaggeration, I will suppose that three cwt. per acre would be requisite to create such increased fertility—in this case 2,000,000 cwt. of guano would add 6,666,660 tons of turnips to the natural unmanured produce of the crop. I believe it is generally considered that one ton of Swede turnips would last twenty sheep three weeks; and that each sheep should gain half a pound of meat per week, or one pound and a half in three weeks; thus, twenty sheep feeding on one ton of turnips in three weeks should, in the aggregate, make, as the graziers say, thirty pounds of mutton. But, to be quite sure to be under the mark, I will assume that one ton of turnips will only make half this amount of mutton; multiply, then, 6,666,660 by 15, and you have no less than 99,999,900 lbs. of mutton as the fruits of 100,000 tons of guano; which, at ninety-two pounds per man—which is the average Englishman's allowance—or, in other words, meat, mutton, for 1,860,955—nearly 2,000,000 of people. Such, Sir,
will have been the produce of the last year's crops, made luxuriant by the application of guano; but after the turnip crop, fed off by sheep, as a necessary consequence, would follow a productive crop of spring corn in 1846; added to which, it will be recollected, that I said before that there remained of the 280,000 tons of guano imported in 1845, 80,000 tons, as stock in hand for the coming year of 1846. ["Divide, divide!" "Hear, hear!"] Well, but you have challenged us to show how we could feed the people: will you not now allow me to reply to your challenge? God knows, if you had not taunted us, and thrown out this challenge, I would not have troubled you. You have challenged me to show how the agricultural interest could provide food for the people under the protective system. I have answered your challenge, and, as I think, have triumphantly shown you that this country possesses the power of feeding its population, and, under the influence and encouragement of protection, has fed its population, as I will show you, better than the people of any other country of Europe are fed. Well, Sir, I have shown you that we have most successfully fed the growing population of this country up to the present time; that, under the influence of protection, the agricultural produce of the country in a remarkable manner has outstripped, and continues to outstrip, the growth of the population; it remains for me to show that there exist the means and the scope for its continuing to do so. Sir, these means exist in the still remaining wastes in Great Britain, and more especially in Ireland, which are stated to be capable of being brought into profitable cultivation. Sir, I find in Mr. Porter's Progress of the Nation,
which I have already quoted, this estimate of waste lands thus remaining waiting for cultivation:—
Sir, assuming that in the course of the next twenty years, these fifteen million acres of wastes should be brought into cultivation, and that they be made to produce the present average of England—that is to say, twenty-eight bushels of wheat per acre once in four years—the annual average produce of the lands now waste would, at
the end of the next twenty years, prove equal to the growth of 10,075,000 quarters of wheat, or bread annually for an increased population of 10,075,000 of souls; an estimate of increase which must by all be admitted to be fully equal to any increased growth of the population of the United Empire of Great Britain and Ireland that can fairly be expected during the next twenty years. We are told by the hon. Member for Stockport, and by the hon. Member for Durham, that the English are the worst farmers in the world, and that it is absolutely necessary to take away their protection, in order to excite them to exertion, and by exposing them to competition with foreigners, to induce those lazy fellows to exert themselves. I will not fatigue the House by quoting documents, or I could show that England produces, comparatively speaking, much more than France, or even Holland; and I could show you, from the testimony of honourable and high-minded foreign writers, whose authority would not be disputed, and who appear to have more candour, and to possess higher feelings of generosity than some of our own countrymen towards the farmers of England, that in England not only a better system of farming prevails, but that there is a larger produce, compared with the space cultivated, than in any other country in the world. Sir, I might at great length quote the authority of a distinguished French author—I mean, Monsieur le Chevalier Tapiès—in proof of this assertion; but at this late hour of the night, when the House is so wearied, I will only trespass further on its attention, whilst I state that Monsieur le Chevalier Tapiès says, and in this Mr. M'Gregor confirms him, that whilst France only produces on the average 14 bushels of wheat per acre, Great Britain produces 28; and that whilst the cattle, sheep, and pigs in England, even so far back as 1814 (since when the greatest improvement has taken place in the breed of every kind of animal in this country), had doubled in weight since 1710; those of France appear at the present day to be precisely of the same weight with the farming stock of England in 1710. He then gives what he conceives to have been the weight of these animals in England in 1710 and in 1814, as follows:—
|An ox usually weighed
I may here as well observe, that in 1842, Sir Charles Lemon, a high authority, estimated the average weight of the carcase of an ox at 800 lbs., and those of sheep at 80 lbs. Well, Sir, with all this disparity in size between the cattle, sheep, and pigs of France with those of England, what says M. le Chevalier Tapiès of their comparative numbers? He says—
England, with a population of 14,000,000, and France, with a population of 32,000,000, produce as follows:—England, 170,000 horses, 1,250,000 oxen, 10,200,000 sheep. In proportion to her numbers, France ought to produce 400,000 horses, 2,520,000 oxen, 24,000,000 sheep; whereas her actual produce is under 100,000 horses, 800,000 oxen, and under 5,300,000 sheep.
The result of all which is, that M. le Chevalier Tapiès' calculates, that if there were to be a dearth of grain in France, and in England, that, comparing the riches of each country in cattle with their respective populations, France would be found to possess fresh meat enough to keep her people from starving to death for three months only; whilst the cattle, and sheep, and pigs, of England, would keep her people alive for nearly two years! But what does Monsieur le Chevalier Tapiès say of the comparative improvement in the condition of the two people. He says, that the population of Paris having averaged from 1766 to 1775, 511,000; and 890,000 in 1831, he finds that the consumption of the French metropolis was as follows:—
|1766 to 1775
Monsieur le Chevalier Tapiès remarks, that a similar diminution in the consumption of animal food is to be remarked in pretty-nearly all the towns of the kingdom; showing a considerable diminution of consumption in the face of a greatly increased population. Now, contrast this retrograde movement in the condition of the people of France, with the consumption of this metropolis. I find in Mr. Spackman's tables the consumption of cattle and sheep in this metropolis to have been in—
But the falling-off in France is not by any
means confined to animal food. He gives thus the consumption of Paris in other things, comparing now the years 1821, 1822, when the population of Paris was 678,860, with 1831, when it increased to 890,000:—
|Sacks of flour
|Cheese, dry lbs.
It does not appear, however, that the condition of France generally has improved since 1830; for it seems that taking the entire of France, her consumption of meat continued to fall off in 1840, as compared with 1830, although, during the same period, her population had increased from 32,569,223, in 1830, to 33,540,910, in 1840. This is the consumption of France, stated in kilogrammes, a kilogramme being equal to two pounds and one-fifth English.
||Beef and Veal. Kils.
||Total Meat. Kils.
||Eng. Weight Equal to lbs.
|Diminution in 1840 as compared with 1830
|Increase of population during same period, 971,687.
The consumption of England and Wales, during the year 1840, exclusive of pork, was, 1,260,336,000 lbs., showing, with a population considerably less than half that of France, an excess of consumption of beef, mutton, and veal, of no less than 427,498,905 lbs.; thus with considerably
less than half the number of months, consuming more than half as much again of beef, mutton, and veal, as France. In corroboration of this statement, I find it said in April, 1841, in the Chamber of Peers in France, by M. Cunin Gridain, the Minister of Agriculture in France, that whilst in France the consumption per head is 28 lbs. of beef, veal, and mutton, and 21 lbs. of "charcuterie,
" (which I understand to be pigs' meat); altogether 51 lbs.,—he says in England the consumption per head, including "charcuterie,
" is actually 149 lbs. (68 kilogrammes). M. Tapiès further observes that in England the manure expended on the land is nine times that expended upon the land in France. This same impartial historian tells us, moreover, that whilst with our large properties consequent upon the law of primogeniture, in the course of the last fifty years England has knocked down 200,000 miserable cottages, and replaced them by magnificent farm-houses (batiments ruraux
), in France, with her small divisions of property (avec la petite culture
), during the same number of years, it is not the cottages but the chateaux
that have been razed to the ground. I will now turn to Holland, said to be, with the exception of Great Britain, the best cultivated country in the world. Well, what says Mr. M'Gregor of the average produce of the wheat lands in Holland? You will recollect that he estimates the average of England at twenty-eight bushels per acre; the average of Holland he estimates at twenty-three bushels per acre; more than 20 per cent less than England; whilst of her ability to feed the people, and of the fulness with which they are fed, he thus expresses himself:—
If the labouring population of Holland, instead of eating bread and animal food more sparingly than, perhaps, any other in Europe, were to consume as great a quantity as the French do, the corn produced in all the provinces of the kingdom would not probably be equal to half the consumption.
Now, having already shown, upon the authority of the French Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, that the French people can only afford to eat, and do only, upon an average, eat a third part of the meat and pork commonly ate by the average of Englishmen; I do most cordially hope, before it is too late, that the working classes will come forward and say that they do not wish to see those protective laws to British agriculture, under which they have fared so well compared to their neighbours of France and Holland,
hastily done away with. Well then, if there is no country in Europe which can compare in the science or enterprise in agriculture with English and Scottish farmers, perhaps it is in America that you can find our rivals and our superiors: if you think so, pray hearken to what a noble-minded and generous American says of his British rivals. Mr. Wadsworth, who for the generous mention he makes of the people of this country, would do honour to the chivalry of the British ancestry from which he is sprung, in a speech delivered at a meeting of an agricultural association of which he is the president, held three years ago in the State of New York, delivered himself of these memorable sentiments:—
It has been our fate to meet the English on the battle field and upon the ocean, and whenever we have met the results of the contest have been such that neither party has had need to be ashamed; but there is now a more appropriate field of action, that field which the ploughshare furrows; and when we reflect, that whilst England makes her land produce forty bushels of wheat per acre, whilst America can only produce fifteen, we may well acknowledge, 'that England is pretty hard to whip, meet her where we may."'
Now, Sir, when disinterested foreigners bear such important and honourable witness as this to our great superiority in farming, I do think it is not a little hard that our own countrymen, manufacturers chiefly, knowing nothing themselves of the science of agriculture, should take upon themselves to hold up to public contempt the agriculturists of England, as being the very worst, instead of what, in truth, they are, the very best farmers in the world. Sir, there is one point with regard to the comparative value of wages in France and in England, which I have omitted, but which with the leave of the House I will state. ["Divide, divide!"] Sir, it is the poor of whom I am going to speak. You pretend to be the friends of the poor; will you not hear me when I address myself to the interests of the working classes? Sir, Monsieur le Chevalier Tapiès, after noticing that the average price of wheat for the previous eleven years in England had been 56s.
and in France 39s.
proceeds to discuss the question whether the labourer in England with his 21d.
per day (i. e.
per week), or the French labourer in his own country with his wages at 12½d.
a day, are best off in their respective countries; when he comes to the conclusion that the Englishman is very considerably better off. He shows first, that notwithstanding the
comparatively low price of wheat in France, it takes the labourer in France fifteen days and a quarter to earn a hectolitre of wheat; whilst in England, with his higher rate of wages, and much higher price of wheat, it will only take him eleven days and three-tenths; in other words, at the respective prices of wages and bread in their own countries, it would take a Frenchman thirty-eight days' labour, and an Englishman only twenty-eight days and a quarter to earn a quarter of wheat; but, as an Englishman in other regards is one-fifth better fed than a Frenchman, it takes an Englishman but eighty-four days and three-quarters work to purchase his subsistence; whilst it takes a Frenchman ninety-one and a half days' work to procure his. Thus, says Monsieur de Tapiès, "there is an immense difference in the lot of the two workmen, to the advantage of the Englishman, in whose food, meat, beer, tea, and sugar abounds; whilst in that of the Frenchman, it only enters as a rare luxury. Those, therefore," says this French writer, "commit a great error, who advance the doctrine that the English people are a miserable people, as regards their system of subsistence, and their means of paying for it." My right hon. Friend the Secrecretary of State for the Home Department, on the 10th of June last, in resisting the Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, for the repeal of the Corn Laws, emphatically declared that the inevitable effect of such a measure would be—
To throw two millions of acres of the most ancient land in England out of cultivation, and that the consequence must necessarily be to throw the 500,000, or 800,000 persons dependent upon their cultivation out of employment, stopping the whole machine of State, and reducing these unfortunate people to pauperism, to beggary, to destitution, and despair.
I wish to ask Her Majesty's Ministers, if such fatal and sad consequences as these are to arise out of the very measures which they are pretending to bring forward as an alleviation of the sufferings of the poor, how they reconcile these antagonist doctrines? If you, the Ministers, honestly wish to afford relief to the labouring classes, why instead of taking off the protecting duties on British agriculture and British industry of every description—why, instead of removing the Customs' duties, none of them prohibitory, scarcely any of them exceeding 30 per cent, ad valorem,
on those articles, which come into competition with the industry of Englishmen, of Scotchmen, and of Irishmen,
whether engaged in agriculture, in manufactures, or in handicrafts—why, instead of remitting the Customs' duties upon the produce and manufactures of those countries which maintain against you the most stringent and prohibitory tariffs, do you not apply yourselves to the reduction of other Customs' duties on articles that do not come into competition with domestic industry, but are, not less than corn, or than timber, or than silk manufactures, articles not of luxury only, but almost of absolute necessity, to the poor? Take, for example, sugar or rice, or above all tea: tea has become almost as great a necessary of life, especially to the female portion of the working classes, as bread itself; and how does the matter stand as regards tea? Tea would come into competition with no article of domestic produce or domestic industry. The introduction of cheap tea would injure no one, and benefit all. The tax on tea is not some 25 or 30 per cent upon the value, as are those on corn, on timber, on silk manufactures, and other articles, but actually 250 per cent upon the cost of the tea. The cost price of the tea is only 10d.
per lb., the tax you put upon it is 2s.
per lb.; that is, 250 per cent on the produce of China; 250 per cent upon the produce of the Chinese, who take all your manufactures, charging you not prohibitory duties, not extortionate duties, as you are charged in Prussia, in Russia, in Germany, in France, and in the United States, whose produce and manufactures you are going to admit free of duty, or at almost nominal duties; but charging you a duty not exceeding 6½ per cent, ad valorem,
upon your manufactures. Take, for example, a consignment of grey woollen cloth: say the merchant's transaction shall be one of 20l.,
viz., forty pieces of grey cloth, measuring twenty yards the piece, at 6d.
per yard, or 10s.
per piece; the Chinese charge you with a duty of 15 cents, or 7d.
a piece, on these grey cloth goods: the Chinese duty will be exactly 1l.
The Chinaman pays your merchant back with 480lbs. of tea, which, at 10d.
per lb., comes exactly to 20l.,
the valuation of the forty pieces of grey woollen cloth; but your duty, at 2s.
per lb., comes to the enormous sum of 52l.
on an article of exactly the same value with that on which these liberal Chinese only charge you 1l.
Sir, I am at a total loss to discover any principle in this, unless it is a fixed principle with Her Majesty's Ministers to deal with
nations as they deal with parties in this House and in the country, the principle of cringing to their enemies, and of maltreating and bullying their best, their truest, and their staunchest friends. But there is yet another consideration; the Americans are your rivals with their manufactures in the markets of China; the Americans, wiser than you, admit the tea of their good and liberal customers in China free of duty. Take care, with the ill-advised, ill-assorted, ill-conditioned policy you are now pursuing, you do not alienate from yourselves, and transfer to the United States, the goodwill of the Chinese and their Government, and lose a market that numbers three hundred millions of people. Sir, one more word before I have done. We have heard in the course of these discussions a good deal about "a limited monarchy, a reformed House of Commons, and a proud aristocracy." Sir, with regard to our limited monarchy, I have no observation to make; but, if so humble an individual as myself might be permitted to whisper a word in the ear of that illustrious and royal Personage, who, as he stands nearest, so is he justly dearest, to Her who sits upon the throne, I would take leave to say, that I cannot but think he listened to ill advice, when, on the first night of this great discussion, he allowed himself to be seduced by the First Minister of the Crown to come down in this House to usher in, to give éclat,
and, as it were, by reflection from the Queen, to give the semblance of the personal sanction of Her Majesty to a measure which, be it for good or for evil, a great majority at least of the landed aristocracy of England, of Scotland, and of Ireland, imagine will be fraught with deep injury, if not ruin, to them—a measure which, not confined in its operation to this great class, is calculated to grind down countless smaller interests engaged in the domestic trades and industry of this Empire, transferring the profits of all these interests—English, Scotch, Irish, and Colonial—great and small alike, from Englishmen, from Scotchmen, and from Irishmen, to Americans, to Frenchmen, to Russians, to Poles, to Prussians, and to Germans. Sir, I come now to the reformed House of Commons; and, as one who was a party to that great measure, I cannot but feel a deep interest in its success, and more especially in that portion of it commonly called the Chandos clause; but originating, I believe, with my hon.
and gallant Friend the Member for Lincoln, which extended the franchise to the largest and most respectable body in this kingdom—I mean the landed tenantry of England; and deeply should I regret should any large proportion of those Members who have been sent to Parliament to represent them in this House, prove to be the men to bring lasting dishonour alike upon themselves, their constituencies, and this House, by an act of tergiversation so gross as to be altogether unprecedented in the annals of any reformed or unreformed House of Commons. Sir, lastly, I come to the "proud aristocracy." We are a "proud aristocracy;" but, if we are proud, it is that we are proud in the chastity of our honour; if we assisted in 1841, in turning the Whigs out of office, for that we did not consider a fixed duty of 8s.
a quarter on foreign corn a sufficient protection, it was with honesty of purpose and in single-mindedness that we did so; and, as we were not, before the fact, we will not be accomplices after the fact, in the fraud by which the Whig Ministers were turned out of office. If we are a proud aristocracy, we are proud of our honour, inasmuch as we never have been guilty, and never can be guilty, of double-dealing with the farmers of England—of swindling our opponents, deceiving our friends, or betraying our constituents.
The House then divided:—Ayes 337; Noes 240: Majority 97.
|List of the AYES.
||Bodkin, W. H.
|Acland, T. D.
||Bouverie, hon. E.
|Aglionby, H. A.
|Anson, Hon. Col.
|Baillie, H. J.
||Browne, R. D.
||Browne, Hon. W.
||Bruce, Lord Ernest
||Bulkeley, Sir R.
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.
|Baring, W. B.
|Barnard, E. G.
|Barron, Sir H.
||Butler, P. S.
|Berkeley, hon. C.
||Byng, rt. hon. G.
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.
||Carew, hon. R.
|Blake, M. J.
||Cavendish, hon. C.
|Blewitt, R. J.
||Cavendish, hon. G.
|Childers, J. W.
||Glynne, Sir S.
|Christie, W. D.
|Clay, Sir W.
||Gore, hon. R.
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.
|Clive, hon. R.
||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.
||Gregory, W. H.
|Colborne, hon. W.
||Grey, Sir G.
|Colebrooke, Sir T.
||Grosvenor, Lord R.
||Guest, Sir J.
||Hall, Sir B.
|Corbally, M. E.
||Hamilton, W. J.
|Corry, rt. hon. H.
||Hamilton, Lord C.
|Cowper, hon. W.
||Hanmer, Sir J.
|Craig, W. S.
|Crawford, W. S.
||Hay, Sir A. L.
|Curteis, H. B.
||Hayter, W. G.
||Herbert, hon. S.
|Damer, hon. Col.
||Heron, Sir R.
||Hervey, Lord A.
|Dawson, hon. T.
||Hill, Lord M.
|Denison, J. E.
||Hobhouse, Sir J.
|D'Eyncourt, C. T.
||Hogg, J. W.
|Dickinson, F. H.
||Hope, G. W.
|Douglas, Sir C.
||Howard, hon. C. W.
||Howard, hon. J. K.
|Dugdale, W. S.
||Howard, hon. E. G.
|Duke, Sir J.
||Howard, P. H.
||Howard, Sir R.
||Hughes, W. B.
|Dundas, hon. J. C.
|Easthope, Sir J.
||Johnstone, Sir J.
|Egerton, W. T.
|Egerton, Lord F.
||Kelly, Sir FitzRoy
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.
||Langston, J. H.
||Langton, W. G.
|Esmonde, Sir T.
||Lascelles, hon. W.
|Estcourt, T. G. B.
||Leader, John T.
||Leigh, G. C.
|Evans, Sir de L.
||Lemon, Sir C.
||Lockhart, A. W.
||Macaulay, T. B.
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.
||Mackinnon, W. A.
|Fitzgerald, D. A.
|Fitzroy, hon. H.
|Fitzroy, Lord C.
||M'Geachy, T. A.
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G.
|Fleetwood, Sir P.
||M'Taggart, Sir J.
|Flower, Sir J.
|Fox, Charles R.
||Mangles, R. D.
|Gibson, T. M.
||Russell, J. D. W.
|Martin, W. C.
||Scrope, G. P.
||Seymour, Sir H.
|Maule, rt. hon. F.
||Shelburne, Earl of
|Milnes, R. M.
||Smith, J. A.
||Smith, R. V.
|Mitchell, T. A.
||Smythe, hon. G.
|Molesworth, Sir W.
||Somers, J. P.
||Somerville, Sir W.
||Stanley, W. O.
||Stansfield, W. R.
|Mostyn, hon. E.
||Stanton, W. H.
||Staunton, Sir G.
|Napier, Sir C.
||Stewart, P. M.
|Norreys, Sir D. J.
||Stuart, Lord J.
||Strickland, Sir G.
||Sutton, hon. H. M.
|O'Connell, M. J.
||Tancred, H. W.
||Thesiger, Sir F.
|O'Ferrall, R. M.
||Tollemache, hon. F.
|Owen, Sir J.
||Trelawny, J. S.
||Trench, Sir F.
|Paget, Lord W.
||Troubridge, Sir T.
|Paget, Lord A.
||Vane, Lord H.
|Patten, J. W.
||Vernon, G. H.
||Villiers, hon. C.
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
||Vivian, J. H.
|Pendarves, E. W. W.
|Pennant, hon. Col.
|Philipps, Sir R.
||Wall, C. B.
|Philips, G. R.
||Ward, H. G.
||Wawn, J. T.
|Pigot, rt. hon. D.
||Wellesley, Lord C.
||Whitmore, T. C.
||Wilde, Sir T.
|Praed, W. T.
|Price, Sir R.
||Winnington, Sir T.
||Wood, Col. T.
||Wortley, J. S.
|Reid, Sir J. R.
||Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.
|Roebuck, J. A.
|Ross, D. R.
||Yorke, H. R.
|Rumbold, C. E.
|Russell, Lord J.
|Russell, Lord E.
|List of the NOES.
|Acland, Sir. T.
||Adderly, C. B.
|Allix, John P.
||Duckworth, Sir J.
||Duncombe, hon. A.
||Duncombe, hon. O.
||Du Pre, G. C.
||East, J. B.
||Egerton, Sir P.
|Bagot, hon. W.
||Farnham, E. B.
|Bailey, J., jun.
||Ferrand, W. B.
||Filmer, Sir E.
|Balfour, J. M.
||Forester, hon. G.
||Fox, S. L.
||Frewen, C. H.
||Fuller, A. E.
||Gardner, J. D.
|Bentinck, Lord G.
||Gaskell, J. M.
|Blackstone, W. S.
|Boldero, H. G.
||Gooch, E. S.
||Gordon, hon. Capt.
|Bramston, T. W.
||Gore, W. O.
||Gore, W. R. O.
||Hale, R. B.
|Brooke, Sir A. B.
||Halford, Sir H.
||Halsey, T. P.
||Hamilton, J. H.
||Harcourt, G. G.
|Bruges, W. H.
||Hamilton, J. A.
|Buck, L. W.
||Harris, hon. Capt.
|Buller, Sir J.
||Hayes, Sir E.
||Heathcote, G. J.
|Burroughes, H. N.
||Heathcote, Sir W.
|Campbell, Sir H.
||Heneage, G. H.
|Carew, W. H. P.
||Henley, J. W.
|Cayley, E. S.
||Hill, Lord E.
||Hinde, J. H.
||Holmes, W. A'Court
|Christopher, R. A.
||Hope, Sir J.
|Chute, W. L. W.
|Clayton, R. R.
|Clifton, J. T.
||Howard, hon. H.
|Codrington, Sir W.
|Cole, hon. A.
||Hurst, R. H.
|Collett, W. R.
|Colquhoun, J. C.
|Colville, C. R.
||Inglis, Sir R.
|Compton, H. C.
||Jolliffe, Sir W.
|Coote, Sir C.
|Davies, D. A. S.
||Kerrison, Sir E.
||Knight, F. W.
|Denison, E. B.
||Knightley, Sir C.
||Law, hon. C. E.
|Douglas, Sir H.
||Lennox, Lord G.
|Douglas, J. D. S.
||Leslie, C. P.
|Drax, J. S. W.
||Liddell, hon. H.
|Lockhart, W. S.
||Scott, hon. F.
|Lopez, Sir R.
||Seymer, H. K.
|Lowther, Sir J. H.
||Sheridan, R. B.
||Shirely, E. J.
|Mackenzie, F. W.
||Shirley, E. P.
|Manners, Lord C.
|Manners, Lord J.
||Smith, Sir H.
|March, Earl of
||Sotheron, T. H. S.
|Martin, T. B.
||Spry, Sir S. T.
|Maunsel, T. P.
|Maxwell, hon. J.
|Miles, P. W. S.
||Taylor, J. A.
|Mundy, E. M.
||Trollope, Sir J.
|O'Brien, A. S.
||Tyrrell, Sir J.
|Packe, C. W.
|Packington, J. S.
||Vesey, hon. T.
||Vivian, J. E.
|Pigot, Sir R.
||Vyvyan, Sir R.
||Waddington, H. S.
||Walsh, Sir. J. B.
||Welby, G. Earle
||Wynn, Sir W.
||Yorke, hon. E.
|Round, C. G.
|Ryder, G. D.
||Newdegate, C. N.
||James, Sir W.
||Lascelles, hon. E.
|Hamilton, C. H.
||Somerset, Lord G.
||O'Brien, W. J.
|Blake, Sir F.
||Wyndham, J. C.
|Denison, W. J.
||Hepburn, Sir G.
|Ponsonby, hon. C.
|Rice, E. R.
||Williams, T. P.
||Creswell, A. J. B.
|Stuart, W. V.
|MAJORITY (TELLERS INCLUDED).
|Absent, including Pairs, (Conservatives)
|Absent, including Pairs, (Liberals)
|Seats Vaeant—Sudbury 2
|Nottes., N. 1
|Not taken his Seat (Mr. Hilyard)
|Cannot vote (Mr. Lindsay, of Wigan)