HC Deb 02 March 1846 vol 84 cc421-72

House in Committee on the Customs and Corn Importation Acts. On the Question— That in lieu of the Duties now payable on the importation of Corn, Grain, Meal, or Flour, there shall be paid until the 1st of February, 1849, the following Duties"—


rose to move an Amendment to the following effect— To leave out the words 'in lieu of,' in order to insert the words, 'All duties on imported corn do now cease and determine.' The hon. Gentleman spoke as follows: Sir, in submitting the Amendment of which I have given notice, it is not my intention to detain the House at any length, or for a moment longer than is necessary to explain the grounds on which I make this proposition. It is the farthest from my intention to impede the progress of the measure before the House, or to offer any observations in hostility to Her Majesty's Ministers. I had indeed intended to have brought forward, at a later period of the Session, a distinct Motion, with a view to carry out the object which this Amendment contemplates—namely, the total and immediate repeal of the Corn Laws, and to that intention I would have adhered. The House has very wisely resolved to take into consideration the protective system with a view to its ultimate abolition. The Ministerial measure recognises the policy of perfect freedom in the supply of the necessaries of life to the people of this country; but it has postponed the full application of that principle until the 1st of February, 1849. In my opinion that delay is not called for. It is my conscientious belief that the full advantage of the Ministerial scheme may be extended to this country at once, without danger or inconvenience to any class of the community; and it is because I hold this opinion, and am anxious that the country should be placed with as little delay as possible in the enjoyment of the results of that policy that I now propose this Amendment. I do so in consistency with the Motion to the same effect, which it has been my practice for some time past to submit to the House. The measure which has united so large a number of the productive and industrious classes in its favour, has been for the immediate repeal of all obstructions on trade in the necessaries of life. When I made that proposition first to the House, it was not without giving it the fullest consideration. There has ever been in this country a large party who complained of their injustice and impolicy, and who have been anxious for their removal; but of late years a question has arisen whether it is possible for us to remove them immediately, and pass to a sounder, wiser, and more rational policy, without danger or inconvenience in the event of the transition being immediate. This question I always regarded as worthy of consideration, and I have accordingly given it the most serious attention. It was urged that a panic would be created by an immediate transition, and that those who have invested their capital in the soil might be so much alarmed at the possible consequences of entire free trade, that they would withdraw their capital from agricultural employment; and that, from land being thrown out of cultivation, results might ensue which would be injurious to the community at large. I admit that this consideration had great weight with me; and had I not ascertained from the testimony of persons who, being themselves personally and deeply concerned in the welfare of the agricultural interest, ought to be best qualified to pronounce an opinion on the subject, that this apprehension was totally without foundation—that it is, in fact, altogether a mistake to suppose that you cannot pass at once, without danger or inconvenience, to a sounder policy—if I had not had the most satisfactory evidence of this fact, I would not have been the instrument for submitting the proposition to the House. But I made it my business to obtain the most authentic information that I was able on this subject, either by consulting experienced and competent persons, or those without prejudice, whose interests were deeply involved in the change; and having found upon their testimony that there was no real foundation for fear, I never hesitated to advocate the principle, and the measure of total and immediate repeal. In the year 1843, when I brought this Motion forward, I was strongly influenced to the course I adopted by the perusal of a pamphlet which had just then been published by a farmer, who distinctly announced as his opinion, that whenever the Legislature should decide on the total abolition of the Corn Laws, it would be for the interest of the farmers and the agricultural community in general, that the abolition should be immediate. I mentioned this fact when I made the Motion in the year 1843. It is not, therefore, now since the opinion of the farmers has been so generally ascertained, that I say it; nor was the case to which I referred a solitary one, for, as I mentioned at the time, that farmer, after expressing these opinions publicly and in his works, was called upon by the farmers to preside at a public meeting of his county held in the county town, to consider the subject of the Corn Laws. I was confirmed, moreover, in the wisdom and safety of seeking the immediate repeal by the opinions of some of those who united great agricultural fame with high rank and station, and never hesitated to admit the propriety of such a measure. Lord Spencer, for instance, always declared that he did not participate in the least in the fears of these who opposed the repeal of the Corn Law, alleging as his reason that the effect of their immediate repeal would be to equalize the price here and on the Continent; and that a rise in the price of grain abroad, and some fall in the price in this country, which might be expected at first to occur, would at the same time prevent that inundation of foreign corn of which some spoke with such dread. He was not single in his opinion among those of rank and property who had devoted much consideration to the interests of agriculture, and to the circumstances under which farming in this country might be improved and profitably conducted. I may here allude particularly to two noblemen, who, residing much of the year on their estates, doing much to improve their property, are practically acquainted with the business of farming. I refer to Lord Ducie and Lord Radnor; they have always said—and since this measure has been proposed have taken occasion particularly to declare—that the interest of the farmer and the landlord alike required that the change should be effected at once: they say, moreover, that among their own tenants and among those in their neighbourhoods this opinion is universal. Their reasoning was this, that if the time for the abolition were to be postponed with a view to afford to persons whose capital was vested in the soil an opportunity of preparing for the transition, the postponement would fail of its object; because they might rest assured that preparation would never be made by the farmer until the duty had been actually abolished. There would still be a delusive hope on the part of the landlords, that they might be able to retain protection or revert to the old law; and the farmers, with prospects so uncertain before them, would never think of making preparations involving great trouble and expense. They argued, however, that exactly the reverse would be the case with the foreign grower, for that he would watch with an anxious eye the period for the opening of the markets, and possibly proceed at once to make preparations on an extensive scale, applying capital in various ways to be ready for an open trade at the end of the third year, rendering it perhaps difficult at first to the native grower to compete with the foreign supply. This was the view I entertained in defending my proposition in 1843, constantly urging out of this House that what might be deemed precipitate in other things would be only prudent with respect to corn, owing to the unprepared state of the Continent, and the tardy processes of agriculture. And now I ask the House to consider the state of opinion generally on the subject, now that the question has to be seriously decided upon; and I ask if there is any one thing on which unanimity has been more nearly approached than this; but if the Corn Laws are to be repealed, it should be done at once. I think that of this fact we have had ample indication in the progress of the debate. Hon. Members who are hostile to the principle of free trade, have, without any promptings from this side of the House, volunteered the statement, that if we are to have it, it were better to have it immediately; and this they have given not as their own opinion only, but as the feeling and opinion of the farmers all over the country. It will not be denied that certain personages who boast to be the farmers' friends, and who profess to have the agricultural interests especially at heart, immediately after the meeting of Parliament declared voluntarily to the world that it would be for the interest of the farmers that the Corn Laws, if repealed at all, should be repealed immediately. I allude especially to the noble Duke in the other House, who, the week after the opening of Parliament, volunteered the declaration of his own opinion, and answered for the opinions of the farmers generally (with which he is said to be conversant), that if we were to have repeal at all, that it should not be delayed. Every body must remember the distinct, emphatic, and unequivocal manner in which the hon. Member for Somersetshire, who is regarded by his Friends as an oracle on farmers' interests, made a declaration to the same effect. [A VOICE: No!] I beg your pardon. The hon. Member volunteered the assertion that the farmers, if they were put to their election, would prefer immediate to protracted repeal; nay, he pledged his honour to the fact; and, turning round to the Friends behind him, he asked them if it were not true, and they answered by a unanimous cheer. There is no county in England which has been more forward in declaring in favour of protection, than the county of Lincoln; and yet my noble Friend the Member for Lincoln (Lord Worsley) was, I believe, the very first to see the advantage of immediate repeal. Three months since, he made the declaration in favour of immediate repeal (if repeal at all) so decisively, so unequivocally, that I had expected he would have originated some measure in favour of it. So that from every quarter—from every authority—from which you could expect to learn what is the opinion, the interest, and the wish of the farmer, you learn it is for the immediate repeal. Sir, I do not exactly perceive upon what ground then it is that any party in this House should object to the Amendment which I now propose. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who represent the protection interest, are quite angry if any one distinguishes their interest as landlords from that of the farmers. I am sure they would be angry if I said they had, and I do not wish, on this occasion, to provoke their anger by saying they have, an interest distinct from the farmer; though I know it is said that the landlords have interests in this matter opposed to that of the farmer. I know it is said, that the farmer wants an adjustment of rent to prices; that the farmer wants an arrangement with the landlord; that the farmers want to come to some terms with the landlords on the subject as soon as possible; but that the landlords are unwilling to vary in any respect their present arrangements with their tenants, which is for the advantage of the landlords; that they do not despair yet of being able to retain protection, to keep up some part of the sliding-scale; that they are not willing to come to terms with the farmers, but hope to keep up the prices by retaining the protection, and to hold out still by these means the prospect to the farmer of high prices. But if hon. Gentlemen do really wish to do justly by that interest about which they appear to be so solicitous, and of which they talk so much in this House, I offer them now an opportunity by supporting this Amendment; and I cannot myself see how they can avoid it. There has been so much consideration of the general interests in the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers, that I should be willing to rest my proposition on these grounds alone, namely, that the delay proposed, simply for the benefit of the agriculturist, is not really for his advan- tage, and that his interest is even greater than that of the public for an immediate settlement. I cannot, however, omit to remark upon the opinions of the Government, and the position in which they stand with regard to the Amendment. I do not do so in any spirit of hostility, or in any hostility to the measure that is proposed, or in forgetfulness of the difficulties the Government had to encounter in the matter. But I must call the attention of the House to the fact, that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government cannot entertain much fear himself respecting the instant suspension or abolition of the Corn Law. If I correctly understand his statement to this House on the 1st of November last, he considered that there was a very great apprehension of a want of food in England, and he conceived it would be safe and wise instantly to suspend the law, or for the time practically to abolish it. I do not collect from the right hon. Gentleman, that his apprehension is less now than it was then. He apprehended a deficiency of food on the 1st of November, in some parts of the United Kingdom, and deemed a suspension to be necessary. From what has fallen from him since the Session commenced, it appears that his apprehensions have not abated. His fears are nearly as great—quite as great—as they were on the 1st of November. The right hon. Baronet then has no fear himself of the consequences to the country from the immediate suspension of the law, for he proposed that suspension as a mode of extending relief to the people; but the right hon. Gentleman has stated with great force his reasons for permanently abolishing the law, and seems to have satisfied himself that at a certain time the trade in corn should be free, and restriction be permanently abolished. He seems then to have reasons why the law should be immediately suspended, and to have reasons also why it should be permanently abolished. Now that is precisely the effect of my Amendment; I propose that the abolition should be immediate as well as permanent. The right hon. Gentleman, if he supports the immediate abolition of the law, has only to look round the House, and he will see what he could not expect to see on other questions, friends on all sides of the House. If he looks to that bench [pointing to the protectionists] from which he has received a fierce opposition on the principle of free trade, and on which he has been successful, he will find that, on the question of immediate suspension of the law, they are ready to support him. For this they say they are prepared; they say it was the thing to have done; they urge it now as the measure that ought to be adopted. We have it then, on the best authority, that suspension of the law, or immediate repeal, will be attended with no evil, whatever may be apprehended from permanent repeal. Well, then, if the right hon. Gentleman will look opposite to him (to the Opposition benches) he will find the party, at the head of which is my noble Friend the Member for London, is perfectly ready, on the general principle, to support the immediate as well as total abolition of the Corn Law. My noble Friend has expressed this view of the question, and honestly entertains the opinions; and we know that when he expresses an opinion we may rely upon him. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) will adopt the Amendment I propose, which is for the immediate, total, and permanent repeal, he will find authorities on that side of the House [pointing to the protectionists] to assure him that it will be safe, and he will find the requisite support and strength on this side of the House to carry him through with it. The right hon. Gentleman has said himself, that he has no fears of his own on the subject. The hon. Member for Somersetshire has elicited his opinion on the matter. The right hon. Gentleman stated, in answer to a question from the Member for Somersetshire, on the point of postponement, that he had been apprehensive of producing panic and alarm among the farmers by abolishing the law at once, and he was desirous to give them time to prepare for the change; but the right hon. Gentleman had not then heard the consolatory speech of the hon. Member for Somersetshire, for he told him there was no ground for fear or alarm—that if there was to be free trade, the farmers were ready for it, or that they did not want delay. The agricultural interest do not require the postponement. Then, if the right hon. Gentleman himself is in favour of the immediate and permanent abolition of the law, I cannot understand why he should not adopt the Amendment. Every person seems to be ready for it: there is no danger to be apprehended from it; and there is a majority in the House in favour of it. If, then, Sir, there are no objections to or inconvenience attending the adoption of the Amendment, are there not some advantages that would result from it? There is always one that I should name before any other—that there would then be no impediment to the supply of food for the people; and let me say that this is a most important consideration this year, and perhaps more so than any other for many years past. There are several reasons why a deficient supply may be expected this year. The harvest has been bad in Europe, bad in the grain-growing countries, and also deficient in other States not usually dependent on foreign supply; our own harvest has been deficient; there has been a failure in an important article of subsistence in Ireland, and there is an unusually great consumption of wheat in this country; there is little to come from America this year, and we must expect less than usual from the Baltic. The prices are high in neighbouring countries, the ports are open for imports, but shut for export. Already wheat, destined for this country, has not waited for the passing of this measure, but has proceeded to Antwerp, and found a market. There was a profit to be obtained from the price, and there was no duty. We are then in a state possibly to want food this year, and yet to be in danger of not obtaining it. We have no indication of the harvest yet for the coming year, and before nine months are over we may be suffering from a deficiency—paying a high price, and the bnsiness of the country disturbed by is. Every sixpence of duty may tell upon the supply and the price this year. The hon. Gentleman, in continuation, asked if that was just towards the people, or if it was wise, after the admission that had been made of the error, the mischief and the inhumanity of the law, and whether it was politic to lot the people see this remnant of it in operation and possibly as effective in causing their suffering as before it was amended? This duty of 4s. might be as effective in excluding food a short time hence as the present duty of 17s. If food were to rise much on the Continent, if prices became at all equalized, this 4s. added to all the other charges of importation might prevent a grain coming in: on this account, therefore the duty is most objectionable. It would not, perhaps, be fair to suppose that the Government had retained this duty from choice, and not to notice the supposed reasons of its retention. It was said that they had contrived their scheme with a view to its success, that they had secured a certain amount of support for the measure as it was, but if they were to alter it in this particular, they might risk the loss of the measure in another place: this consideration, he understood, would weigh with some of his own friends, who felt anxious that the measure before the House should be secured. There might be prudence, no doubt, in this course, and he did not impugn their judgment; at the same time he felt it his duty to state the reasons distinctly to the House, that he thought ought to weigh with it, and decide it to adopt the Amendment. He was sure they were such that justified its being proposed. Before he sat down he could not help submitting one other consideration to the House bearing upon the subject. He referred to the statement made by his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, during the last debate. He stated that that great organization of the people of which he was a leader, was formed and existed for the single and simple purpose of obtaining the removal of all obstructions to the trade in the necessaries of life; and he answered for the good faith of those who followed him, that the day after this law was repealed that that association would dissolve. Now it was not underrating the services which he (Mr. Villiers) considered the League had rendered to the country, to say, that that would be a great advantage. He believed that the time would soon arrive when the services of the League would be fully and duly appreciated by the whole country; for his part he should always look back with satisfaction at having co-operated with it, and joined in their exertions as far as he was able. They had sought to disseminate the views and opinions of those clear and calm minds that had enlightened this country on the difficult science of political economy. They had sought support only by appealing to the reason of those whom they addressed; and he honestly believed that they had, during the long period of their agitation, given as little real cause of offence to those opposed to them as any body of men that ever were united for a great public object. But, doubtless, it was an evil that such a combination should exist. It was impossible for them to proceed without exciting bad feeling and great animosity between classes. He, for one, deeply regretting that result, was anxious that no reason should remain to warrant a continuance of the cause. That could, as his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport said, be only effected in one way; for he know that both he and his hon. Friend the Member for Durham were deeply bound to those who trusted them that they would not cease their exertions until the object for which they were associated was attained. He did not say that this ought to be binding on the Legislature, if any evil was likely to follow from it; but his case was, that there was no evil likely to ensue; nothing indeed, but advantage to the interest in question—added to which would be the blessing that those classes who had been brought into collision would, after the repeal of this law, cease to struggle with each other, and only see their real interest in co-operating to promote the interest and happiness of the public at large. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment as above.


said, he would not long occupy the attention of the House. The opinions he entertained on the subject were very well known, as were the opinions he entertained upon the conduct of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, who insulted the country by bringing forward these measures in a deceitful manner. The course pursued by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was, he had no hesitation in saying, a comparatively bold, manly, and independent one: he had proved himself a much more honest man than any one on the Treasury benches. He wished he could speak as well of those in whom he had formerly placed confidence. He would read to the House a speech made at a banqnet at which Sir Robert Peel was present in 1838. On that occasion the right hon. Baronet treated with extreme ridicule the Government of the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), which was then in power. At that meeting there were present, among others, the following gentlemen: the Marquess of Chandos, now the Duke of Buckingham, well known by the appellation of "the Farmer's Friend," and a more honourable title he could not bear; and what was more, the noble Duke deserved it. The Marquess of Chandos was in the chair, and among those present were Sir R. Peel, Lord Francis Egerton, Mr. Goulburn, Lord Lowther, Sir R. Inglis, Lord Stanley, Sir J. Graham, Mr. Herries, and Lord Granville Somerset. He could not say whether the noble Lord yet continued a Member of the Government. He had not seen him in the House lately. He could not say where he was, but felt sure that that noble Lord would not be found, where it was said another noble Lord had been found, in the coalhole. But what were the words of the right hon. Baronet on that occasion? He said— I am deeply grateful for the motives which have influenced you in paying me this mark of respect, unparalleled in the political annals of this country, and for the corresponding feeling with which you, Gentlemen, have just received the proposition of my noble Friend. Gentlemen, I wish I had any command of language, at least of appropriate and befitting language, to convey to you the sensations which, as you must perceive, almost overpower me; but I feel that it is infinitely better to appeal to your feeling for an estimate and vindication of mine—to the consciousness of each of you that, were you placed in my present situation, you would rather remain perfectly silent than try to express your gratitude by the trite and exhausted forms of complimentary acknowledgment. Gentlemen, you have conferred upon me the highest reward that can be conferred upon a public man who does aspire to that distinction, and that alone, which is founded upon the esteem and confidence of intelligent and enlightened men, who is ambitious of power, but of that power only which, having its roots in much esteem and confidence, adds life and vigour to the authority derived from office, and does not wither and decay when official authority is extinct. Gentlemen, you have also proved to me and others that there are other bonds of connexion—other sympathies which unite us besides a cold concurrence in political sentiments. You have proved to those who are treading the rugged and laborious path which leads to political eminence, that they may on their way be cheered by the cordial voice of friendship, and the cheering tones of personal attachment and esteem. By this feeling, Gentlemen, you have done much more than even the honour it confers upon me; you have given a public demonstration that the great object to which, for some years past, my exertions have been mainly directed, is completely accomplished. My object for some years past—that which I have most earnestly laboured to accomplish—has been to lay the foundation of a great party—which, existing in the House of Commons, and deriving its strength from the popular will, should diminish the risk and deaden the shock of a collision between the two deliberative branches of the Legislature—which should enable us to check the too importunate eagerness of well-intending men, for hasty and precipitate changes in the Constitution and laws of the country, and by which we should be enabled to say, with a voice of authority, to the restless spirit of revolutionary change, 'Here are thy bounds, and here shall thy vibrations cease.' This was what the right hon. Baronet said after dinner, and cum vino veritas. Such were the opinions, then, of the right hon. Baronet, or rather the professed opinions; for he (Colonel Sibthorp) was sorry to say, that he thought the right hon. Baronet entertained the same opinions then as now, but he wanted the moral courage to avow them; moral courage—that quality which was a great virtue in any man, but above all requisite in a Prime Minister. The right hon. Baronet's system of polities seemed to be founded upon expediency. Yes; that one word would explain his whole conduct. The right hon. Baronet deprecated the conduct of the noble Lord opposite, who was then in power; but tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis. He had no doubt the right hon. Baronet could turn round upon him as he did the other night, and say—[A call of "Question"]—If the hon. Member who called "Question" was tired of him, he could walk out. But he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that the man who was white to-day and black to-morrow would not appear to advantage, either to that House or to the country. He should not be at all surprised if the right hon. Baronet, before the expiration of three years, proposed the immediate and total repeal of the Corn Laws. Three years was a favourite period with the right hon. Baronet. Three was a pet number of his. There were three years of triumph—three years of postponement—three reasons—three tests, just as there are three Secretaries of State. As for the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he had tilled—he could not tell how many situations. He had assumed all the shapes of Proteus—he had at least undergone three times three chops and changes—in short, the right hon. Baronet was ready for any place—Tory, Whig, or Radical—"any port in a storm." Something had been said in the former discussion about the Church. It was only last year that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had given him very strong reason to think he had no very strong attachment to the Church, by his conduct on the Maynooth and other questions. By their acts you will know them. His conviction was, that the right hon. Baronet felt as much for the Church as he did for the farmers—that was, he cared as little for one as the other—that he was as little disposed to maintain the rights of the Church as he was those of the farmers. He had heard the League was to be dissolved; but, if so, what was to become of the votes they were to manufacture, and of their project for undermining "the proud aristocracy," as the right hon. Baronet termed them. The hon. and gallant Officer read another extract from the speech of Sir R. Peel above quoted, showing the necessity for union and exertion in the Conservative party, and proceeded to say—but the right hon. Gentleman having now betrayed that party, he attempted to support himself by those Members of it who still adhered to him, and by the party opposite. But inter duas sellas inerduas. In other words, between two stools the breech will fall to the ground. He was sorry to see the Treasury benches so much infested with those noxious animals called rats. The gallant Officer proceeded to read another extract from the speech of Sir R. Peel:— My object is, that by steadily attending to our duty, by censuring the Government on all occasions when they deserve it, enforcing our principles by aiding them to carry those measures which we think right, even though by so doing we may be rescuing the Government, we may establish new claims upon the approbation of the country. I own I have felt on some occasions, when we might have relied upon a majority in favour of those principles which the Government professed to share in common with us, yet I have found that when a question involved the existence of the Government, the principles were forgotten, and the only consideration was, how most effectually the Government might be preserved. It cannot be satisfactory to be told—'You deserve censure, but rather than inflict it upon you, we will vote in your favour to rescue you.' Gentlemen, there was an observation made more than a hundred years ago by Mr. Addison, who lamented the violent party heats and resentments which appeared to obstruct the performance of public duty, and suggested that it was a bounden duty to combine all neutral men in defence of the common good. He thought it possible to form some sort of covenant to which moderate men might adhere, and by which, rising above party considerations, and only seeking for the public good, they might be bound. He found great difficulty in framing such an instrument, but at length he hit upon a form of covenant for moderate men. I will read the form of association which Mr. Addison proposed, and which he expected to be subscribed by moderate men, but which, I believe, would find but little favour in these days. It was to this effect:—'We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do solemnly declare that we do conscientiously believe that two and two make four, and that we shall adjudge any man to be an enemy who advances or pretends to the contrary. We are likewise ready to maintain at any hazard, against all men, that six is less than seven in all times and places. We do finally declare our firm determination to call black black, and white white, and that we shall, on all occasions, oppose such persons as shall, on any day of the year, hold black to be white, or white black, to the utmost period of our lives.' If Mr. Addison were now alive, he would perceive that this form of association was not much appreciated by the friends of the Government; but if he had drawn it in a different form—if he had said, 'We will on all occasions, on every day of the year, vote black to be white, or white black, whenever the Government is implicated,' that would insure more signatures than the declaration which he proposed, that two and two make four, and that on every day of the year, black shall be considered black, and white white. He thought that what the right hon. Baronet said of making black white, and white black, was thoroughly illustrated by some of his supporters, who spoke one way, and voted precisely the reverse. They spoke white, and voted black. He really could not see what the grounds were upon which the right hon. Baronet could at all justify or excuse himself from bringing forward the present question; and as for the information conveyed in his speech, he thought it was completely refuted in the admirable one delivered by the noble Lord (Lord George Bentinck) on Friday night. The gallant Officer read one of the notes of invitation which Sir R. Peel was accustomed to send to his supporters previously to the commencement of the Session, requesting them to meet him at his house, to concert the line of action to be adopted and pursued during the Session; but neither himself, nor any of those about him had received a similar note this Session. At any rate he had not been honoured with any invitation to the right hon. Baronet's house; but had he attended the League meetings at Covent Garden, this might have been the case. He should oppose the right hon. Baronet whenever it was possible. On this occasion, however, he regretted he could not do so. If, on the division, he went into the same lobby with the right hon. Baronet to oppose the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, it was from no attachment, no affection, no regard for the right hon. Baronet, or for any one Member on the Treasury benches. It was solely because he was obliged to choose the least of two evils. The right hon. Baronet had been surrounded by a great and powerful party—such a party as no other Minister ever had. He might have retained that party firm to himself and beneficially for the country. That party had ever shown loyalty to their Sovereign, and reverence for the Protestant Church. They had always endeavoured to uphold and maintain the Church. That party would have gone through fire and water for him. He had, however, deceived and betrayed that party; and let him now beware lest he was sowing the seeds of a revolution. He hoped he should never see the day when he should find his country ruined by those who had betrayed it, but who ought to have preserved it. The gallant Colonel concluded by cautioning the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government to beware of his free-trade associates, and to guard against the dangers likely to arise from the dissemination and encouragement of their doctrines.


said, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had alluded to him, and to a statement which he had made on this question on another occasion, at a time when it was thought impossible the question could be met as a mere matter of compromise, and when he supposed that the House of Commons were to decide by a large majority that no alteration of the Corn Law should take place, or else that there should be a settlement of the question either by a total abolition, or by such an arrangement as those who advocated total abolition would assent to, he wished to state to the House the grounds on which he intended to give his vote on the present Amendment. It was now proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, that all duties on the importation of foreign corn should totally and immediately cease. On the other hand, it was proposed by Her Majesty's Government that, until 1849, there should be a continuance of the sliding-scale, on a much lower rate of duty than that now in operation. His impression was, that if the question were solely whether the Motion proposed now by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, or that of Her Majesty's Government, should be agreed to, it would be much better that they should now decide in favour of immediate and total repeal, than that they should be forced to remain in a state of constant uncertainty during a period of three years from the present time. On those grounds, if the House had to decide simply between those two propositions, he certainly should be in favour of the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. But he had to look to the question in this light: he felt that if he were to vote in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton; and if that Motion were carried by the House, he would thus aid in precluding himself from considering other Amendments which were to be proposed by other hon. Members on this question. It might be considered that, in adopting this course, he was not acting quite consistently with the opinion which he had before expressed in favour of a desire to set this question at rest; but he hoped he could satisfactorily explain to the House that the charge of inconsistency could not be brought against him, and that he was justified in taking the course which he adopted, because he believed that the propositions to be brought forward by the hon. Member for Anglesea (Mr. W. O. Stanley) would be a settlement of the question, and because he was anxious to give that proposition his support. The Amendment intended to be proposed by the hon. Member for Anglesea was, that in lieu of the duties now paid on the importation of foreign corn and grain, there should be paid a fixed duty of 5s. a quarter on wheat, 2s. 6d. a quarter on barley, and 2s. on oats. Now, it might be said, those who had hitherto advocated a total repeal of the Corn Laws, would not be satisfied with that arrangement—that it would not come up with their expectations or desires; but, on the other hand, the persons who had hitherto supported them could not but feel that such a plan would not materially enhance the price of food; and although it would not afford any real protection to the agriculturists of this country, it would, to a certain extent, supply that loss to the revenue which a total repeal would effect, and which must otherwise be made up by the imposition of some other burden. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton must know better than he (Lord Worsley) did, the opinions of the persons to whom he alluded; but it was not improbable that, though they had asked so much, they would take less than they demanded. He remembered that, before the Reform Bill had been proposed, they were told that nothing short of vote by ballot, a considerable extension of the franchise, and the repeal of the Septennial Act, would at all satisfy the country; and yet, when a measure much shorter than these demands was proposed, it was admitted to be a greater step than was thought possible to obtain. He did not consider that the Amendment about to be proposed by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. R. M. Milnes), would prove a settlement of the question. That was, that the sliding-scale, which, as proposed by Her Majesty's Government in the present instance, was to cease altogether in 1849, should continue after that period; that it was to be a permanent sliding-scale varying from 10s. to 4s. a quarter on wheat. That proposition would not, he was convinced, be considered satisfactory by those who advocated an alteration in the laws; whereas, by adopting a fixed duty of 5s. a quarter upon wheat, as proposed by the hon. Member for Anglesea, he considered the corn merchant would be satisfied, as he would then have a regularity in the trade he would have to prosecute, while many who now opposed any alteration in the existing law would also give such an arrangement their support. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Captain Polhill) had also given notice of an Amendment which he thought he could show it would be utterly impossible to carry. The Amendment was to the effect— That, in the event of this House consenting to the change proposed by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government in the duties on the importation of foreign corn for three years, that the amount of such duties as received shall be appropriated as a fund to relieve or compensate such tenant-farmers of the United Kingdom now subjected to certain rents, burdens, covenants, and obligations entered into under the present scale of duties, who may prove before a Select Committee of this House, that they have been ruined, impoverished, or deeply injured by the lessening of the protection they now possess. He thought the House would agree with him that it would be utterly impossible to have a Committee to decide who had been ruined by the reduction of protective duties, or who had not, and to hear the complaints of farmers, and ascertain whether the ruin of which they would complain might be owing, perhaps, to the effect of a change in the Corn Laws, or perhaps to incautious or improper arrangements entered into by particular individuals. If the majority of the House should support the views of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, he should thereby be precluded from supporting any other proposition advocating a higher amount of duty; and he could not, therefore, give any assistance towards bringing about such a result. On the other hand, he thought there might be very serious evils arise from the course proposed by Her Majesty's Government. How, for instance, could they avoid the difficulty which would arise when the anticipations which had been expressed, and which he understood it was generally believed out of doors would be carried into effect, namely, that an endeavour would be made on the part of the farmers and those by whom they were advised, to get back at the next general election the protection of which they were now to be deprived, by returning to Parliament none but Members pledged to support a Com Law, and to get rid of the measure which Her Majesty's Government were now prepared to carry: and how, he would ask, while such a course of proceeding were threatened, could those who were the advocates of the Anti-Corn-Law League be expected to persuade the Members of that association to dissolve their body. They could not expect that such a course would be taken; and in stating that he would support the Motion of his hon. Member for Wolverhampton, if the question were simply between it and the propositions of the Government; he did so, because he was not one of those who would delude the farmers—he could not call it by any milder term—with the idea that they could get back again the protection which it was now proposed to be taken from them. If he were to hold forth that language to the farmers, he felt that he should be taking a dishonest part; because he did not think the agriculturists had the least chance of recovering the protection of a Corn Law if it were once taken from them. He could not, therefore, give any vote that would hold out the least expectation of such an event taking place. If he had silently opposed the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, in order to support the measure of the Government, it might lead to an expectation out of doors, that he thought there was a chance of the agriculturists again getting the protection of which they were now to be deprived. He did not think there was the least probability of such an event taking place; and believing such to be the case, he could not do otherwise, acting as an honest man, than show by his vote the view which he entertained of the question. In voting against the Amendmeet of his hon. Friend, he wished also to show that he believed it was impossible the agriculturists could ever again possess such an amount of duty as they at present enjoyed.


was one of those who never entertained any sanguine expectations that those hon. Members who advocated protection would support the Motion of his hon. Friend. He felt that when the proposition of immediate repeal was submitted to the House, those hon. Members would find very good reasons for not giving it their support; but, at the same time, he was extremely glad to hear from the noble Lord who had just sat down, that he did not withhold his vote from his hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers), because he would wish to encourage the feeling among the tenant-farmers that the protection which was now about being withdrawn from them could ever again be restored. His noble Friend had told them that, if he were to take such a part, he should not be acting honestly—conscientiously believing, as his noble Friend did, that protection once withdrawn could never be again conferred upon them; but such being the con- viction of his noble Friend, he would necessarily be perfectly justified in giving his vote in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton had taken a judicious course in submitting this measure to the House. He thought it was due to the country, to those who had acted cordially with him in this free-trade movement, and due to the hon. Member himself, to submit this proposal to the House. It was a proposal, as his hon. Friend had very justly observed, which had been taken and adopted as the motto of the free-trade movement after due consideration. It had caused some unpopularity to the advocates of free trade. It had been said that the question of immediate repeal of the Corn Laws was a proposition which overlooked the sufferings that might arise to the agricultural body from the immediate transition from monopoly to complete freedom of trade. All these things were taken into consideration, and formed the elements on which the Gentlemen who had conducted the free-trade movement had come to the decision that it was better for the agricultural interests, and for all the interests of the country, that this question should be settled by the mode of immediate and unconditional repeal. He thought that his hon. Friend himself, having taken so prominent a part in the promotion of the repeal of the Corn Law, was entitled to be heard in respect to the settlement about to be made. His hon. Friend must take a very large share of the responsibility on his shoulders; and on the shoulders of his friends must also rest much of the responsibility of the future consequences of this measure. Therefore, he would say his hon. Friend was entitled to have a voice in the settlement of the question. With regard to the allegation that they would endanger the plan of the Government by asking for something more than was proposed by the right hon. Baronet, all he could say was that he did not think that danger would exist if they succeeded ill inducing the House of Commons to carry his hon. Friend's propositions. As to what would take place elsewhere, with that, he submitted, they had nothing to do. All he could say was, that there was not a single supporter of the right hon. Baronet on his own side of the House, who had spoken during the late debate, who had stated that he gave his support to the measure in consequence of the three years' grace that was afforded to the agricultural interests, while many opponents of the measure had expressly declared that they would prefer immediate to gradual repeal. Under these circumstances, he could not perceive that any danger could possibly arise from pressing upon the Committee the Motion of his hon. Friend. But when he took into consideration the present condition of the country, he felt that the case of his hon. Friend was perfectly irresistible. It was the only case that met the circumstances which had been stated by the First Minister of the Crown. The First Minister had told them that he had two objects in view: one to settle permanently the question how the future commercial policy of the country should be conducted; and the other was how, at the present moment, they were to avert a great national calamity. Now, his hon. Friend had reminded the House that, in November, the right hon. Baronet had thought that no measure short of opening the ports and a complete freedom of the corn trade, would satisfy the present emergency; and he had also contended that nothing short of total repeal would be a final adjustment of the Corn Law question. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him that there was no course which the House of Commons could, in common reason and with consistency, adopt at the present moment but total and immediate repeal. Nothing short of such an adjustment could meet the present exigency in Ireland; and he would beg to remind the right hon. Baronet that, though he might grant these three years' grace to the agriculturists, it was a question whether, considering the accounts which were received from that country, he could maintain this degree of protection even until the month of July next. How could he, when he knew that famine and fever were making progress in Ireland in consequence of the want of food—how could he possibly maintain any duty on the importation of foreign corn? He would ask, if it were right to open the ports in November last, how could a maintenance of the duty be defended at the present moment, especially when he considered that the circumstances which justified the opening of the ports in November had become more and more pressing at the present moment? His noble Friend had touched on the duty on wheat; but they should also look to the effect of the duty on barley and oats. Taking the present prices of barley and oats, the scale of the right hon. Baronet would amount to an actual prohibition. No bar- ley or oats could be now introduced into the country and sold at the present prices if they had to pay 2s. 6d. duty. How, then, could they for a moment suppose it was possible to maintain a duty to the proposed extent under the emergency at present existing in Ireland? The duty of 2s. upon oats and barley was, after all, 10 per cent. upon the value. He believed that, taking the price of barley in this country at the present moment, it could not be imported and pay duty at a profit. Those duties would cause considerable supplies of oats and barley to be thrown into the English market, and to be diverted from foreign markets; and this when we were told that every grain of corn that could be imported into this country was necessary to avert the calamity with which we were threatened. That immediate, instead of deferred, repeal was better for the agricultural interest, there could be no doubt. He himself did not believe the farmers cared anything about the Corn Law question. He declared positively it had struck him as something most remarkable, when he was in the country, to find that, as a matter of business, the tenant-farmers did not seem to care one straw about the repeal of the Corn Laws. As a matter of politics, they might have some concern upon it; as a matter of opinion, they had not; but if Gentlemen opposite were right in saying that the farmer was entitled to a reduction of rent in consequence of the withdrawal of protection, when the farmer came to ask them for an adjustment, what would be their answer? Would they not say, "Wait and see what the effect of free trade will be?" His hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Cobden) had informed the country that prices would not be affected by the repeal of the Corn Laws; and, therefore, they (the protectionists) said to their tenants, "Wait till the 1st of February, 1849, and see whether it will then be necessary to make a re-arrangement of rent, or to lay out capital in particular improvements." He (Mr. Gibson) believed that the change impending over the agricultural body till 1849 would cause many improvements to be postponed till that period, which, if the repeal took place now, would be carried into effect before. If a man was ordered to be executed this day three years, did the House suppose he would occupy the interval in preparing for eternity? Nothing of the kind. He would be calculating how he could avert the sentence. The position of the protectionists was exactly the same. Protection had been fairly put upon its trial; it had been found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours, and condemnation had been passed upon it by that House. All that was asked for now was its speedy and immediate execution, and no respite. A respite, instead of being a kindness, would be a cruelty; and he called upon the House to adopt, as the best measure for the agricultural interest, as the most in accordance with the justice of the case, and the most equal to meet the pressing emergencies of Ireland, the Amendment proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton.


said, if no danger could be proved to arise from the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, he would vote for it; but if anything occurred in the course of the debate to make him seriously believe that the eventual success of the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers would be endangered by the Amendment, however much he might respect the hon. Member (Mr. Villiers) for his advocacy of this cause—and no one could honour him more for it than he did—then, upon the principle laid down by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) at the commencement of the Session, in order to save that great measure, he should vote against the Amendment. The question he asked himself, in determining the principle upon which he should give his vote was this:—Under the existing circumstances of the country, is it right and just that the price of the food of the people should be increased by restrictive laws? He had attended a meeting of his constituents in November last, and he told them that, in his opinion, the only justification of the ports being closed was the fact then supposed to exist, that there was no Government responsible for the affairs of the country. The statements made by the First Lord of the Treasury during the late debates fully supported him, when he said, "at that time there was no Government responsible for the affairs of the country;" and it was notorious that his right hon. Friend could not open them, in consequence of certain disagreements. Had anything happened since to make him (Mr. B. Escott) believe that there ought to be no restrictions on the importation of food? He thought everything had happened to make the unrestricted importation of food more necessary than it was before; and, under these circumstances, he should vote for the Amendment, unless he found that by so doing he should endanger the great measure of Her Majesty's Ministers. One word with regard to the farmers: they said they wanted to have done with agitation, and that there was but one way to accomplish that, which was, to repeal the Corn Law for ever. There was but one Member on the benches near him who would tell the farmers differently; but it was mere delusion to tell them anything else. This being the case, he asked whether it would not be better for the interests of the farmers, for the interests of trade and commerce, and for the credit of the House of Commons to repeal the Corn Laws at once.


, not having had any previous opportunity of expressing his opinion on this subject, wished to state the grounds on which he should give a cordial and sincere support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. He had given his support to the right hon. Baronet, not because he believed that all the details of his proposed measure were perfect, but because the measure itself was right in principle. The arguments and reasoning of the right hon. Baronet had clearly proved free trade to be right in principle; but, notwithstanding this approbation, he (Mr. R. Colborne) reserved to himself the right of voting against whatever parts of the measure he might think proper. That measure was a free-trade measure; but it would have told better upon the country if it had included the total and immediate repeal of the Corn Laws. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had told the House it was not his wish that the Amendment should be carried, for fear it should endanger the Ministerial measure; and on this point he would allude to one subject upon which he feared there would not be found many to agree with him. He referred to a dissolution of Parliament upon this question. He believed if Parliament were dissolved, the cause of free trade would gain; but when he heard the noble Lord say they dared not oppose the measure, because he thought if there was a dissolution upon it, there was not sufficient spirit to carry him through, he (Mr. R. Colborne) would ask what stronger proof there was of it than the arguments urged by hon. Gentlemen opposite in favour of an appeal to the country? Before this measure was finally settled, there must be a new Parliament, for it was impossible to call the doubt and hesitation of three years a settlement. There must, in short, be a total and immediate repeal of the Corn Laws, otherwise the question would be agitated again and again. The only chance of carrying the Ministerial measure to the satisfaction of the country, was to make the repeal total and immediate. Hon. Gentlemen must get ready to fight the battle; and as the battle must be fought, he urged upon the House to adopt the principles of total and immediate repeal that evening. He did not urge this with any object of party triumph over the right hon. Baronet, but because he wished him to have the satisfaction of carrying a great and important measure. Before; he sat down, he wished to refer to one point upon which he was personally concerned. In one of the newspapers of yesterday he had been mentioned as a political apostate. He was not an apostate, and the editor had apologized to him for the expression, and there the matter ended. He mentioned this circumstance because it had always been his opinion, notwithstanding the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, that protection affected the landlord alone, and not the tenant; but at the same time he believed the landlords were prepared to make all reasonable sacrifices. He had voted in favour of the noble Lord's proposition (Lord John Russell's) for a fixed duty; but it was not his opinion now that a fixed duty would be the best, because sacrifices must be made where the food of the people was concerned. He was in favour of an immediate repeal of the Corn Laws, but without applying the principle to every other article. If they were to do away with all import duties, and to throw the whole burdens of the country upon direct taxation, he should be opposed to free trade. There was one direct tax from which the country would be glad to be relieved, and there would not be a more cordial supporter of that object than himself; and there were certain articles the duties on which might not only be relaxed, but additional revenue obtained. The right hon. Baronet had boasted, that although he had taken so many taxes off, there had been an increase of revenue. Why did he not apply that principle to the consumption of tea, sugar, and coffee? If they were to legislate, let them legislate for the labouring man who toiled from morning till night to earn a scanty support for his family—legislate for the artisan, and all the good expected by the right hon. Baronet would arise.


could not see what preference could be given in favour of the Government plan of 4s., as compared with the duty of 8s., which had been proposed by the noble Lord opposite. He admired the tact and skill with which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had brought forward his measure. The naturally candid disposition of the noble Lord opposite, would have led him to state to the House what measures he was about to propose in 1846, and thus have caused their failure. But the delusive policy of the right hon. Baronet was likely to carry the measure safely, with the aid of a party that might aptly be called the Ministerial body guard. Hon. Gentlemen said that this was a landlord's question; and they asked the landlords to make the sacrifice which the repeal of the Corn Laws would involve. But he would ask these hon. Gentlemen, was that the reason why they had hitherto supported the Corn Laws? He should be ashamed of himself if he had supported them from such selfish motives. Those hon. Gentlemen, to use a Treasury expression, came down to the House whining to the landowners, and asking them to make this sacrifice. Now, he would tell them that it was not by the large landed proprietors that loss would be sustained. By the extended use of machinery, and thus diminishing the number of labourers—by putting up fewer buildings, they might be able to meet the expense. It was the smaller proprietors, who depended upon their rents to meet their jointures and mortgages—it was such men as these that would suffer. It was admitted on all hands that by this measure the small farmer would be swept from the face of the earth. The right hon. Secretary at War had stated that if the hills of Wiltshire were cultivated as they ought to be, all the labourers in the county would be fully employed. He supposed he meant by that that if the farmer would double the produce obtained from the soil, he might meet the difficulty. That might be the case with respect to the farmer, whether he grew three quarters of wheat at 60s., or five quarters at 40s.; but the tithe owner would undoubtedly suffer, as his income was bound down by the Commutation Act to the price of corn; and this would, therefore, be a serious difference to him. He should certainly oppose this measure to the best of his ability; and he and his Friend would have this consolation at least, that neither the clamour of a faction nor the threatening countenance of a fickle tyrant, had deterred them from doing what they believed to be their duty: that it would not be through their means the country was rendered dependent upon foreigners for the national supply of food; that they would not hear the curses of ruined farmers ringing in their ears; and that it was not through their folly or cowardice that the agricultural labourer was driven from his happy home to the vice and sordid misery of the manufacturing towns.


I rise principally with the view of making a few observations upon the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Lincolnshire (Lord Worsley). The noble Lord said he was of opinion that even now the imposition of a fixed duty of 5s. would settle this question. Now, I have here a speech delivered by that noble Lord in Lincolnshire; and as he, upon one occasion, amused the House with long extracts from the speeches of Members of the Government, perhaps he will not object to hear read a short extract from one of his own, delivered as recently as three years ago. At a meeting held in Lincolnshire, the noble Lord said— Something had been said about compromise. About a year ago he thought something like compromise might have been effected; but that day had gone by. There was at present only one ground of compromise, and that was a final settlement of the question, whereby agitation would be for ever stopped. It was agitation on this subject that was doing all the injury, and the stopping of that was the only compromise that could be for a moment entertained. Some had supposed that it was the intention of Sir Robert Peel to propose a fixed duty with a descending scale, to go down gradually until it vanished altogether. That would not stop agitation. It would go on as violently as ever, until the last shilling of duty was removed. The noble Lord then gave a dissertation upon the peculiar burdens on land, which it is not necessary for me now to quote. I quite agree with the noble Lord that there can be no cessation of the agitation of this question, until all the duties upon the importation of corn are finally abolished; and I am sure that he who thinks differently must have formed, indeed, an imperfect idea of that amount of public opinion which is now concentrated in one universal demand for the total and immediate abolition of the Corn Laws. The hon. Member who preceded me has referred—and I wonder at his imprudence—to the mortgages and incumbrances upon the property of landed proprietors. Now, I do hope that the time has nearly come when the landed proprietors in this House will not subject themselves to such imputations as have, with some justice, been heaped upon them, by again bringing forward their own extravagancies or imprudence, their mortagages and incumbrances, as the justification for a law to raise the price of food, in order to secure to them a rent for their property, which, in reality, it is not worth. I recollect, in one of Mr. Dickens' works, that he gives an account of an election for the dignified office of parish beadle, on which occasion the walls were covered with placards, with "Vote for Scroggins and eleven small children." Why, there is scarcely, even in that, anything more pitiable than it is to witness the great landowners of this country coming here and talking of the incumbrances upon their estates, or of the necessity of providing fortunes for their grown-up daughters. To come, however, to the question more immediately before the House. That question is now greatly narrowed, and it is no longer whether we shall have protection or not, but whether protection shall be immediately abolished, or shall linger on for three years more. Now, I do not like to say anything which may appear in opposition to the Ministers, because in the speeches which they delivered in the last debate upon this question, I have observed so much of what I believe to be perfect honesty and sincerity in the course which they are now pursuing, that I feel unwilling to say anything which might make it appear that in my opinion they were falling short of the duty which at this important period they owe to the country. But I must say that Her Majesty's Government have admitted all our case; and if there be any man on either side of the House, who, in consequence of the speeches of the Members of the Government, has come to the conclusion that protection should be abolished, I can't think it possible that such a man would say that we should wait for three years before that abolition took place. I think that every argument offered by the Gentlemen in justification of their measure, justifies still further our proposition for the immediate repeal; and I think it would be a condemnation of the arguments of the Government if we now stopped short of immediate repeal. The impending famine in Ireland is either a reality or it is not. The Government tell us that they have established stores for the accumulation of grain, to be sold to the people at a moderately low price. Both the right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, said that they could not come to this House and call for a vote of public money, whilst there was a law in existence imposing a duty of 16s. or 17s. upon the admission of foreign corn. I would ask him, could they come and demand 200,000l., 300,000l., or 400,000l., as they may be obliged to do in the course of this Session, and ask the clergy and the public generally to subscribe money in charity to feed the people of Ireland, while this House maintains a law which imposes a duty which narrows the circle whence our supply of food can be drawn, which must make prices higher here, and must limit the whole supply from which the people of the United Kingdom can be fed? The right hon. Gentleman said he could not propose to allow maize and the inferior grains for the food of pigs and cattle to be admitted at a nominal duty, whilst there was a heavy duty upon the nobler grain—wheat, which was more especially the food of man. I know not, then, how he can reconcile the imposition of a duty varying from four to ten shillings on the food of man in this period of great scarcity, whilst he allows maize, the inferior grain, to be admitted duty free. The reasons for the delay in removing the duty stated by the Government, were curious. One of them was, that the right hon. Gentleman thought that his measure might meet with rather less opposition. Now I suspect the right hon. Gentleman has found out by this time that that idea was altogether erroneous. I believe it would have been impossible, whatever were the measures proposed, even if they had come directly from the council of the Anti-Corn-Law League, that they could have met with a more determined resistance than they have already encountered, or than they are about to encounter both in this and the other House of Parliament. The right hon. Baronet, in his speech the other night, almost said that he was willing to accept of immediate repeal; and I believe every one must feel that there are no hon. Members in this House, not even amongst those who sit on this side of the House, who are more firmly of opinion in their conscience that the immediate repeal is the best thing for this country in every way, than are the Members of the Government themselves. The protectionists can scarcely have any objection to it, for they have always said that it was a farmer's question, and not a landlord's question. If it is a farmer's question, then, why not settle it as the farmers wish it to be set- tled? There cannot be a doubt of their opinion upon the subject. Then, if there be, I challenge hon. Gentlemen opposite to point out one case in which any number of farmers have agreed that three years' delay previous to the removal of protection would be preferable to the immediate abolition which we propose. You say that the agitation of this question is the worst thing that can happen. The noble Lord the Member for Lincolnshire says so distinctly. What guarantee have you that you will not have as much agitation now as if the law had not been altered in the least? I am afraid that hon. Gentlemen opposite are still clinging to the gains of that protection. I believe that you cling to the three years' delay because you fancy that you can gain something from it. As far as I am associated with the Anti-Corn-Law League, I can assure you that that agitation will go on till the question is fairly settled. We were bound by hundreds of pledges to bring this question before the House, and still more are we bound to do so by a firm conviction of the necessity and the justice of the measure which we propose; and I am sure that the free traders throughout the country will thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton for giving the House this opportunity of deciding once for all upon this question. If the House pass this measure, it will have again to discuss it before this Session is over; and if we do not gain the immediate repeal this Session, we shall have to discuss it every Session until the law is fairly abolished. We commenced our agitation with that object—we have carried it on for no other—and you may rest assured that we shall continue to persevere in the principles which we believe to be right, and to press them upon this House and the country until this great question is finally and fairly settled.


said: Sir, I presume it is not the wish of the great body of the House that we should continue this debate, to which twelve days have already been devoted. There are some points raised in this debate with respect to which I should wish to give some explanation; but as I shall probably have other opportunities of offering that explanation, I shall, in what I have now to say, simply confine myself to the question whether it be desirable that the repeal of the Corn duties should be immediate, or whether they should continue, as Her Majesty's Government propose, for a period of three years. Now, I am bound to say that if you look singly and abstractedly to the emergency which exists in Ireland—I am bound to say, that in that case I think the better measure would be the immediate suspension of all duties. Suppose we had taken the course pursued in former years, and had, by Act of Parliament, suspended the duties for a period of eight months—that is to say, until the month of August or September next, there would then be an absolute repeal of all duties, or the maintenance of a nominal duty only; but we should have to determine in the interim what provision should be made with respect to the period when the suspension would expire. Those who contend that the Corn Laws ought to be immediately repealed, would of course be perfectly satisfied with a measure carrying out their object. An immediate repeal would provide for the accomplishment of their purpose, and it would also provide for the romoval of all duties during the approaching scarcity in Ireland. But that is not the universal opinion. There are many who think the Corn Laws ought not to be repealed. Her Majesty's Government having to decide upon this question on the 20th of December, after they had been recalled to office, thought that it might be possible at the same time to make provision for the emergency in Ireland, and to lay the foundation of a settlement of the Corn Law question. I have frankly admitted that the provision made for the present emergency is not quite so complete as would be made if you removed the duty altogether. But what Her Majesty's Government had to consider was, on the 20th of December, as I have already stated, how they could best effect the double object of providing for the emergency in Ireland, and at the same time of trying to gain the assent of the Legislature to laying the foundation for the total removal of all duties; and in the hope of reconciling those two objects in the best way possible, Her Majesty's Government framed the proposition which is now under the consideration of the House. With respect to the apprehensions of scarcity in Ireland, we certainly do not altogether remove the duties on grain, but we propose to remove the duty altogether on Indian corn; we propose to remove altogether the duty on rice; and though not, perhaps, so nearly affecting the people of Ireland, we propose to remove it also altogether from cattle and meat. With respect to wheat, too, we place that in a very different position to what it was in before; and we materially reduce the duty, which at present absolutely prevents you taking out of bond that superior description of wheat which is most important for the purpose of mixing with the inferior descriptions which enter into the market, and affect the average prices which regulate the duty on the other. I have before me a memorial signed by the whole of the millers of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and they state that the general weight of the bushel of corn in ordinary years averages from about 61 lbs. to 63 lbs., whilst in the present year it is not above 58 lbs. They say it would be of the utmost importance if they could have access to the better qualities of wheat which are in bond, for the purpose of mixing with the inferior wheat, and they therefore pray for immediate repeal. The duty at present upon that wheat, however, is 17s.; and as there is a great quantity of inferior wheat in the market, the price appears to be low, and the duty consequently remains high, so high as to operate almost as a prohibition to taking out of bond that quality of wheat which it is of the utmost importance to have for mixing with the inferior wheat. The present proposal of Her Majesty's Government certainly does not remove the duty on wheat altogether, but it will considerably reduce the present duty of 17s.; and it will do more—it will give a guarantee that in no one case can the duty rise above 10s., and there must be a very rapid fall in the price of wheat, which is not to be expected, to bring the duty up to 10s. The maximum duty at present is 20s. Under the proposal of Her Majesty's Government the maximum would be 10s., and it is not probable even if the price should fall to some extent, that it would be more than 5s. or 6s. for some time to come. That is the proposal of Her Majesty's Government with respect to wheat. Then with respect to barley. The present duty is 7s.; we propose, certainly, not to reduce the duty to a merely nominal one; but we believe that it will not exceed 2s. instead of 7s. The duty upon oats is now 6s. Under the proposal of Her Majesty's Government it will not exceed 2s.; but both in the case of barley and oats, observe the guarantee which is given as an encouragement to importation. In barley there would be a guarantee that the duty should not rise above 5s., and in the case of oats not above 4s. a quarter. The duty on rye is at present 8s. 6d. Under the proposal of the Government it will be reduced to 2s. The present duty on beans is 6s. 6d., which will also be reduced to 2s. On peas, a similar reduction will be made. I am speaking now of the apprehension of a scarcity of food in Ireland; and I admit that the proposal is less perfect than if the duty had been altogether removed. But I say, that in the present state of public feeling in this country, you cannot look at this question abstractedly. I think it would be a very inconsiderate course at the present moment to propose a mere suspension of the duty, to endure for eight months; for we should make no advance by such a suspension towards the final settlement of the question. At the end of that period the difficulties in the way of dealing with the question would be just as great as ever: the public feeling would be equally excited; and I confess I cannot see at all how a suspension of duties for eight months would tend to a satisfactory settlement of the question; and it is of paramount importance to be certain of the footing on which the Corn Laws shall hereafter stand. My opinion is decidedly that it is for the public interest that the question of the Corn Laws should be either at once settled, or that the foundation for a settlement should now be laid, and that there should be a certain assurance on the part of the country that at no remote period the duties upon the importation of foreign grain should cease. The proposal of Her Majesty's Government gives that assurance. I was certainly impressed from what passed the other night, with the belief that the hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were inclined to prefer the immediate repeal. When I use the word "repeal," I mean the reduction to a nominal duty. The hon. Member for Somersetshire certainly did declare positively in favour of immediate repeal. I may be erroneous in my impression of the degree of assent which the hon. Member gave to the immediate repeal—I speak merely hypothetical; but when the hon. Gentleman spoke, his declaration was certainly received as implying a preference of immediate repeal, nor was any dissent then expressed by him. Her Majesty's Government have proposed a suspension of the repeal for the period of three years, partly from the impression that that proposal was preferable in itself to the immediate repeal, partly from a hope that it would be more acceptable to those who represent the agricultural interest; and it was under the impression that the immediate repeal was viewed by many, as I know it is, most decided friends of the agricultural interest, and the main advocates of their rights, with the same approbation which I attributed to the expressions of the hon. Member for Somersetshire, that I said, as I now repeat, that if the representatives of the agricultural interest—if those best acquainted with the feelings and wishes of the agriculturists, should really prefer immediate repeal to a suspension of the repeal for three years, I have no doubt whatever that, under these circumstances, by uniting their forces with those of the hon. Gentlemen who sit on the opposite side of the House, they will be enabled to carry that proposition. Should they do that, my paramount object being to lay the foundation of an adjustment of this question by the repeal of the Corn Laws, I shall accept the amended proposal of an immediate repeal. But, at the same time, my own opinion in favour of the gradual removal of duties proposed by Government remains unchanged. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Durham threatens us with a continued agitation. Sir, I am very sorry for it. I think such an agitation will be unreasonable. I cannot answer for the agricultural party as to the course they would pursue in case a great change of this kind were carried; but I don't think an attempt would be made by them to disturb a settlement of this kind when once made. [An hon. MEMBER: I think there would be.] I am sorry to hear that observation, because that might certainly justify agitation. But, if there were a general acquiescence in the measure, I must say I think that a continued agitation on the part of the Anti-Corn-Law League, considering that there was a Parliamentary assurance that those duties would cease after a lapse of three years, and that, during the interval, there would be but a low duty as compared with the existing duty, I must say I think that a continued agitation under such circumstances would be unreasonable. I must say, moreover, that I do not think that agitation would be successful. The hon. Gentleman says, that year after year a Motion would be made for absolute repeal. Now, it might be made; but as year after year the time would be approaching when absolute repeal must take place, I cannot think that much interest would be attached to the Motion. I think there are a great number of persons who would then withdraw from the Anti-Corn-Law League—a great number of persons who would say that this is not an un- reasonable settlement. Considering the differences which prevail upon the subject—considering the prospect that the duty is to expire in three years, and that every day would be bringing us nearer to the period of an absolute repeal of the duty, or at least of its reduction to a nominal amount, I cannot help thinking—considering also that the duty would be much lower than it has hitherto been—I cannot help thinking that whatever may be the menaces of continued agitation, that agitation would be of a very different character from that which would prevail if no attempt were made to adjust this question. If we had proposed a total and immediate repeal, I think we must have abandoned all hope of success. When a proposal is made, people are naturally inclined to take a different view of it from that which they would take if some other proposal had been made; and I cannot help thinking, that if we had proposed an immediate repeal, the hon. Member for Somersetshire would not have expressed for it any preference. I do think that if the proposal of Her Majesty's Government had been for immediate repeal, we would have met with such a degree of opposition, that we must have abandoned all hope of carrying the measure. Our proposal has been made partly from a preference for the Motion abstractedly on its own merits, and partly from a sincere desire to meet the wishes and to conciliate the feelings of those who are the immediate representatives of the agricultural interest; but if immediate repeal be carried in preference to deferred repeal, I intend to accept the Amendment. Yes, my conviction of the policy of an adjustment of the question is such, that I intend to do what I can to promote the success of that amended measure; but I cannot be answerable for the effect of such an Amendment. It will not affect my own course; but it is impossible I can answer for its ultimate success. I prefer the deferred repeal to immediate repeal, for this reason, that Her Majesty's Government intend to propose other measures connected with the landed interest. One objection to deferred repeal is, that it will lead to two prices, one now and one at the end of three years. But I do not see the panic now. I mean a panic greatly depressing the price of wheat. But I have a strong impression that we are depressing the price of wheat by this protracted discussion. I have a strong impression that the owner of every quarter of wheat now sold is receiving 1s. 6d. or 2s. less than he would receive if this question were settled. It being quite notorious that you can have no great supply from the Continent, there being other countries since we began this debate, from which exportation has been prohibited and importation encouraged; I cannot help thinking that there may be, on the part of the tenant-farmer, a perfect assurance that the degree of competition with which he will have to contend will be very trifling indeed; and if he once knew that the mind of the Legislature were made up on the subject of the corn trade, my own impression is, that there would be a slight and immediate increase of price. Considering, too, that we accompany this measure with another for affording facilities for the drainage of land— [Hon. MEMBERS: They will not be accepted.] There is no compulsion to accept them; but, if they be accepted, there will be an opportunity in cases of settled property of raising money for improvements on more moderate terms than it can be procured for at present. I cannot help thinking also, that as it will be known there is to be a competition at the end of three years, the minds of landed proprietors and of tenants will be directed to the improvement of land, and that at the end of three years, partly by the aid of public money, and partly by the exertions of individuals, we shall place ourselves in a more favourable position to compote with the produce of foreign countries, than if we opened the ports immediately, with the possibility of a good harvest all over the Continent before us. These were the reasons which induced the Government to make the proposal which they have made. We don't think there will be the panic some apprehend at the end of three years. If the foreign corn grower thinks he can overwhelm our market at a duty reduced from 4s. to 1s., I think he will be very much mistaken. If there should be a great demand here, the result will be a rise in the price of land in foreign countries, a consequent rise in the cost of production, and diminished advantages to the foreign producer. These were the general reasons which induced Her Majesty's Government to introduce this measure. They will do what they can to carry it; but, again, I say, if another proposal is approved of, they will not from pique or mortification abandon the measure, but will give effect to it so amended by those whom they will accept as the best judges of the plan most conducive to the agricultural interest.


rose to address the House, but was received with cries of "Hear, hear!" "Question, question!" "Chair, chair!" "Order, order!" which continued the whole time he was speaking. He was understood to say: I think a Minister who had the means to obtain every information which no other individual in the country could attain—I say, when he did receive that information which no other could have, he should have given both sides of the question. It had been stated by clergymen of the Established Church, and by Roman Catholic clergymen, that there was an average crop; and by others it was stated that it did not amount to more than one-third. The right hon. Baronet has identified himself with the free-trade principles, which would destroy the property of the country—which would be the destruction of agricultural property. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen think I am out of order I shall sit down. The right hon. Baronet referred to the agitation threatened by the hon. Member for Durham; but does not the right hon. Baronet know that the agitation of that party will continue while there is one single thing they imagine they want? What have those people done to promote the agricultural interest? Nothing. On the contrary, they have robbed those interests. I do not condemn any one for improving his fortune by industry, by manufactures, or by any particular trade; but, in my opinion, the interests of all should be considered—the interests of the one should not be exalted over that of another; nor should the interests of the one be considered distinct or separate from the other. Those men who have by manufactures amassed great wealth, what do they care to give 1,000l. to promote agitation? and this agitation will go on. I am totally opposed to the repeal of the protective duties. The hon. Member continued to address the House for some time; but, notwithstanding his great exertion to make himself heard, the interruptions were so numerous that they rendered all his attempts abortive, and for nearly ten minutes not a word he uttered was audible in the gallery.


said: If the Committee will allow me, I will endeavour, without discussing the general question, which has been already discussed for several nights, and which may again be discussed on the second reading, to state my views on the several propositions before us; and I shall take this course, because it has been taken by hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, and because it may upon the whole, be more convenient to take a view of the whole of the Amendments together, and their bearing upon the measures generally, than to consider each separately. Before I do so, however, I wish to explain in regard to a statement made on a former evening by the hon. Member for Somersetshire. The hon. Member seemed to suppose that I stated that the agricultural party were not willing to allow a suspension of the Corn Laws, even to meet a case of famine. I never made any such statement. What I said was, that supposing, as was alleged, the famine was not so great as was stated, or that the potato crop had not failed to the extent reported, that that circumstance afforded us a good opportunity for settling the question of the Corn Laws, instead of waiting for a year of greater scarcity, when the difficulties would be increased. That is the view in which I wish to look upon the proposition; and I think, therefore, that this is a time peculiarly applicable to the settlement of the question. Many propositions have been made for the purpose of improving the plan of the Government. And first, with regard to the one to which my noble Friend the Member for Lincolnshire adverted, the proposal for a 5s. fixed duty. I do not think the objections made to the application of a fixed duty are, in the main, fatal to the measure. I never did consider that either a 5s. fixed duty or an 8s. fixed duty would necessarily raise the price of corn to that amount. I believe the Handloom Weavers' Commission, composed of such men as Mr. Senior and Mr. Lloyd, took a view which I am inclined to adopt when they said that a duty of 5s. per quarter might raise the price of wheat only 1s. a quarter. But I should not think it fit at the present time to vote for a proposition which would not be a settlement with respect to the Corn Laws. I do think that a fixed duty of 8s., if agreed to, either in 1840 or 1841, or a duty of 5s., if agreed to, last year, might have been a settlement for a number of years. I believe that with those duties there would have been a regular trade in corn, and a large importation, and that those who now complain of the present law would have been satisfied. But I would not commit myself to vote for a proposition at the present moment which would be likely to continue agitation, and to keep the farmer in prolonged uncertainty. I say, that having been told in 1842 that the Act which now exists was a settlement of the question; and having been told in 1846, by the authors of that measure, that it was a complete and signal failure—that the sliding-scale, far from being a scale, as then represented, which provided for years of scarcity as regularly and as exactly as it provided for years of abundance, was, on the contrary, in the very first year of difficulty, found to be a sliding-scale which would not slide, and therefore must be abandoned—I say, that if after that has been abandoned, a new plan of protection were enacted as a permanent law, and if you saw then, as you would see, the Anti-Corn-Law League reinforced by numbers who consider that to be the triumphant and successful side, the farmers would still be in a state of uncertainty: they would be ignorant in what manner they should make bargains with their landlords; they would be uncertain as to what would be the probable price of corn for a number of years; and, instead of a settlement of the question, you would have a renewal and continuance of agitation. Therefore, for my part, while I regret that my noble Friend the Member for Lincolnshire did not, in a former year, concur with me that a fixed duty Would form the ground of a settlement of the question, I cannot say to him, or to any one who is now convinced that that proposition would be an effectual settlement of the question, that I do believe that it would be advantageous to the agricultural interest, or to any other interest, that such a proposition should now be carried. Well, then, I need not notice the proposition for the continuance of the modified sliding-scale proposed by the Government for three years longer. With respect to the proposal for the continuance of the duty proposed by the Government beyond the three years, with the view of making that a permanent arrangement, I think it liable to the same objections as a fixed duty. It would continue the agitation from this time to the general election, and from the general election till some time after; it would be a cause of dissensions, heartburnings, and discord between the various classes of the community, and we should not arrive at that which is to be desired—a general agreement, or, if not agreement, acquiescence in the law enacted by Parliament on the subject. I come now to the proposition at present before the House, brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, who, consistently with all his former conduct, now proposes that the duty on corn should im mediately and forthwith cease. I must say, that were I to compare the two propositions as being made by two independent Members of this House, I should consider the proposition of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton both more wise as an abstract proposition, and more effective as a practical measure, than the plan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I consider it so because, instead of their being now, as there has been in some years, very abundant harvests and great stores of corn on the Baltic and elsewhere, which might, by being imported into this country, depress the price, it does so happen, that at the present time those stores have been emptied by the great demand in Belgium and other countries; and the harvest of last year was not in quality so good as to make it likely that any great depreciation of price could be effected in the present year. That being the case, if the corn laws were immediately repealed, there would be no panic following that repeal. The right hon. Gentleman says, and says truly, that there has been no panic following his proposition; yet his proposition would let in whatever corn is likely to be brought in for the next three or four months at a duty of 4s.; and I cannot believe that a duty of 4s. would make the difference of panic or no panic; or, that if there were no panic at the prospect of a duty of 4s., there would be a panic with total repeal. But if you had immediate repeal, you would have this further advantage, that there would no longer be any question on the subject. The farmers would at once apply their minds to that which your protective laws have hitherto prevented them from doing, viz., to obtain from the soil the largest produce by means of the utmost exertion of intelligence; by inquiry, by energy, and by all that activity which it is the effect of monopoly, restriction, and protection to relax and impede. With this protection, small as it may be considered, which is established by a sliding-scale varying from 10s. to 4s., I do not think it likely that the same amount of exertion will be employed by the farmers as if it did not exist. That protection will be counted for something for the time, and various speculations will be formed as to what will happen in 1849—some anticipating an immense influx of foreign corn producing a totally different state of the country, and others taking a different view, and wishing to prolong this condition of protection, hoping that some future Parlia- ment may re-enact it; so that between the farmers and the manufacturers the three years will be a period of doubt, irritation, and excitement. For these reasons and others—for there are others—with which I will not trouble the House at this late hour of the night, I consider, taking the two propositions by themselves, that that made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton is the better. But the case which I now have to consider is the case of the Government proposing a plan for the settlement of this important question, on which hitherto there has been the greatest resistance in this House, and on which there may still be resistance and opposition on the part of the majority of the other House of Parliament. I am not aware what view the other House may take of this subject. I must listen, therefore, to what is said by the Prime Minister, who has undertaken the settlement of this question. If the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken this task in a way entirely objectionable, I might favour any amendment I thought desirable, endangering his proposition; but he has undertaken it in a manner which, in three years at all events, will produce a final and complete settlement of the question. The right hon. Gentleman has said, in accordance with his declaration of a former night, that he has reasons which induce him to prefer his proposition. I own I do not consider those reasons in themselves very conclusive. One reason is, that it is more favourable to the landed interest. I will not say what view the landlords will take; but I am more and more confirmed in the opinion that the farmers throughout the country do not value this temporary protection of three years. What the right hon. Gentleman has stated only confirms the view which we on this side took at the time with respect to the Canada Corn Bill. When that was introduced we said it was dangerous to introduce a Bill giving a monopoly to a single Colony which it never had before; and that when it was necessary to take it away, a feeling of injustice and injury would be raised. I am afraid that a similar feeling will be raised among the landlords by giving them this three years' protection. It will not reconcile them to the loss of the benefit at the expiration of that term. The right hon. Gentleman makes another statement, to the effect that though the Committee were to decide by a majority in favour of immediate repeal, he yet would use his best efforts to promote the success of the measure so amended; but he states at the same time that he will not answer for the result; and he likewise adds—what is a most important statement—that, in his opinion, if he had brought forward a measure for immediate repeal instead of that which he has proposed, he would have failed in his endeavour to settle the question. I never think it right to vote in this House for any measure or resolution which I do not think it desirable should succeed. Now, supposing that there is a majority in this House in favour of the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, and that I am one in that majority, I then gain in terms a better settlement of the question than that which the right hon. Gentleman proposes. But what should I lose? I should lose that measure which the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), as the organ of the Government, has introduced; for which he has made himself responsible; and of the success of which, though he cannot guarantee it, he entertains, as I do myself, strong hope. Upon weighing the advantages of these two questions, I say I will not incur the responsibility of assisting to carry the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. It is far better, as I conceive, to promote the measure which has been introduced by the right hon. Baronet. I believe myself that if this House carries that measure—as I trust it will do—on the third reading by at least as large a majority as that which decided the other day in favour of going into Committee, the House of Lords, respecting the decision of this House, will most probably accede to the Bill thus carried up to them as the measure of the First Minister of the Crown. I feel by no means confident that they would carry a measure which would be capable of being represented as the identical measure of the Anti-Corn-Law League. But I do consider that, in the present state of affairs, the adoption of this measure by the present Parliament, without any dissolution, without any further conflict of interests, would be of the very greatest advantage. I believe that, if it is carried—though, as I have said, there may be some excitement, that excitement will gradually subside, and the different classes of society will be better reconciled to each other than they have been for many years past; and that, Sir, speaking besides and beyond this corn question, is to any one who values the institutions of this country a most important consideration. Because, without attending to particular threats or particular declarations, it is impossible not to see that a great popular agitation upon any one question, carried on from year to year, may extend to other subjects, and may affect some of the most valuable parts of our institutions. I wish, therefore, most ardently to see this question settled; and after weighing in my own mind in what manner I should act in order to obtain that settlement, I think, upon the whole, that the plan most conducive to this end will be to support, against every Amendment, the proposition of Her Majesty's Government. I do not think that any question brought before this House ought to be considered merely on the ground of the preference of one proposition over another. I think it should be considered with reference to times and to circumstances, with reference to the general views Parliament may take, and with regard to the ulterior state of the country. Having said thus much, I would beg for one moment to refer to a statement made to-night by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that if he had proposed the immediate repeal of the Corn Laws, he thinks that proposition would have failed. Now I understood that right hon. Gentleman, on a former occasion, to say that he regretted I had not undertaken to settle this question; and that he thought I should have been successful in such an attempt. I will own I was surprised at that statement; for though I fully believe that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) would have supported me most fairly in any measure I might have brought forward for the settlement of this question, yet I think, during the time that has elapsed since he introduced the present measure, he must have heard statements and objections enough to convince him that those who would have followed him in that course, and would have supported me in the proposition of such a measure—I being in office, and he out of office—would have been very few in number. My belief, I may fairly state, is that not more than forty Members, or somewhere about that number, perhaps fifty, would have followed him. ["No!"] Some hon. Gentlemen seem to intimate that I am making an exaggerated statement; but at all events I do not believe that, if all the Members of the present Cabinet in this House had gone with me, I should have had a sufficient number to enable me to obtain a majority on the first proposition for going into Committee. An hon. Friend of mine has stated to-night that he understood me to say that I should have been very sorry to see a dissolution of Parliament, because I should not have expected that a dissolution would have given a majority in favour of the repeal of the Corn Laws. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, who made this statement, has not rightly understood me. What I said was, that I did think it desirable, and I do think it desirable, that there should not be a dissolution of Parliament upon this question. I think all the statements that have been made in this House as to the incompetency of the present House of Commons to decide the question of the Corn Laws are founded on an ignorance and misapprehension of the Constitution. I consider that when a Parliament is elected, that Parliament is to provide for all the most important affairs of the country, be they foreign or be they domestic, according to the best of its judgment and discretion. I can conceive no assertion of an opposite principle—no assertion that the House of Commons is not competent to decide such a question as the present, which would not lead to the doctrine that we are not competent to decide any question of great importance unless we have been immediately elected by the people for the express purpose of determining such question. Such a doctrine, let me observe, is most democratic in its nature—a doctrine which leads almost to annual Parliaments, almost to the conviction, that unless elected for that express purpose, Members are not justified in giving their votes upon any great measure. This question bears directly upon the general powers of the House of Commons; and I may say, with regard to one question which arose out of the settlement of the house of Hanover, that I conceive the Parliament which was elected for three years was perfectly justified in prolonging its existence for seven years, and thereby saving the country from anarchy and rebellion. Now, if I am right in that opinion, will any one say that the House of Commons, which was competent to prolong its own powers from three years to seven, exceeds its powers in claiming to settle the question of the Corn Laws? I might also refer, if it were necessary to do so, to the circumstances which occurred with reference to the Union with Scotland and Ireland. I do not meddle with the question as it regards the engagements into which particular Members may have entered, or as to what their feelings may be with respect to their own private honour or their public character. My conviction is that this House, as at present constituted, is perfectly competent to settle the question of the Corn Laws; and unless there were a great popular—a great national feeling the other way, I conceive that no one can with propriety maintain a contrary opinion. But having stated that I consider the present House of Commons competent to determine this question, I may add that I think it desirable there should not be a dissolution. I do not entertain this opinion because I consider that in the event of a dissolution we should not obtain a majority in Parliament for the repeal of the Corn Laws. My belief is, that we should have such a majority. But my belief also is, that that majority would only be attained after a great collision of opinion, after very angry feelings had been excited in the course of the elections; and that, under those circumstances, such a majority would hardly have that weight with the other House of Parliament which I think a majority of the present House of Commons is likely to exercise upon its decisions. I think the question would then excite much greater discordance between classes; that men would be much more apt to stand upon pledges they had given, against their more reflecting opinions; and that we should be for some years in a state of agitation on the subject which would be most injurious to the country. For these additional reasons, therefore, I am going to take the only course which it seems to me—after pondering upon this matter most seriously—to be my duty to the country to follow. I am going to take the course of voting with the Government against this Amendment, and against any other Amendments that are likely to be proposed in Committee. I shall be prepared to vote with them upon every stage of this Bill; and I think the interests of this country are deeply involved in the speedy, safe, and tranquil settlement of this great question.


was anxious to address a few words to the Committee in explanation of the vote he was about to give, without making any reference, if he could possibly help it, to the debate on the Corn Law, on which, however, he should have been glad to speak had the opportunity been afforded him. He had always consistently voted against the proposition of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, on the question of the Corn Law, and it was his intention still to vote against that hon. Gentleman. But if he did not enter into some explanation in doing so, he might be liable to misrepresentation; for he desired it to be understood that it was out of no preference which he entertained for the measures of the Government that he voted against the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. As long as a firm body could be found in this House, and in another place, and a much larger body out of doors, he should cherish the hope that, those measures would be defeated. The measure was objectionable in every point of view. It was most objectionable, even on his own showing. He said it was to meet an emergency for which it was not at all calculated; and then, as if not to leave poor consistency a single inch to stand upon, an hon. Gentleman proposed a fixed duty, which could not be maintained when prices rose to a height when foreign corn would be really wanted. If they were to have a great change, let them have it at once, for it would be even less dangerous to the country than at the end of three years. The country was now prosperous; agriculture had been, for the last six months, in a flourishing condition; the farmers had straight accounts with their landlords—they could, therefore, better endure the measure introduced in an intelligible straightforward way, than in the insidious manner in which it had been at present introduced. It was like making a man live on half a meal a day before he underwent some great bodily exertion: would he not much sooner undertake it when in health than when in decay, and would he not be much more able to execute it? As it was with the body physical, so it was with the body politic. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman said he should vote against Mr. Villiers' Motion, because he had always opposed it, and against the measures of Government, because they seemed to have neither justice nor common sense in them.


hoped that on this occasion the speech of the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat would teach those who were about to divide the ranks of the supporters of the measures of Government what course they ought to adopt. After the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), he thought that every individual who was anxious to carry those measures should do his utmost to support the right hon. Baronet. He confessed that he should prefer an immediate repeal of the Corn Laws; but seeing what the right hon. Baronet had stated, he considered they would be acting in a manner that was calculated to risk the great question; and on that ground he appealed to his hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers) not on this occasion to divide their ranks. At any rate, he (Mr. Hume) could not give him his support.


, amid cries of "Divide," and "Oh!" from the Opposition, moved that the Chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again.


would detain the Committee but a few moments. The noble Lord opposite had said that the present House of Commons was in a situation to settle this question. He contended that it was not, and he would prove it from the noble Lord's own observations. The noble Lord said, "If I had undertaken the government, and proposed the same measures that the Government now propose, I should not have been able to carry those measures in the House of Commons by a greater majority than 40 or 50." He now asked the Committee, in common fairness and candour, whether they thought they were in a position to carry those measures with satisfaction to the country or to those hon. Members who had always maintained that the Corn Law ought to be immediately repealed? He contended that it was not the opinion of that House. It had been proved by the noble Lord that it was not the opinion of that House. Even if the measure were right, this was not the way in which it should be carried.


rose to explain. He feared his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) had misunderstood what he (Lord Worsley) had said in an earlier part of the evening, when he declared his intention of supporting the proposed duty of 5s., not as a measure of protection, but as one from which a revenue would be obtained. He would also take the opportunity of declaring that he saw nothing inconsistent in those opinions, or in the vote he was about to give, with the speech quoted by the hon. Member for the city of Durham (Mr. Bright).


said, that the House was in such a state of confusion that they seemed to have forgotten the question before the Committee. He understood that his hon. Friend the Member for Evesham had moved that the Chairman should report progress and ask leave to sit again.

The Committee divided on the Question—Ayes 70; Noes 227: Majority 157.

List of the AYES.
Adderley, C. B. Alford, Visct.
Allix, J. P. Lawson, A.
Arkwright, G. Lowther, Sir J. H.
Bailey, J., jun. Manners, Lord C. S.
Bankes, G. Manners, Lord J.
Benett, J. March, Earl of
Bennet, P. Martin, T. B.
Bentinck, Lord G. Milnes, R. M.
Beresford, Major. Newdegate, C. N.
Bramston, T. W. O'Brien, A. S.
Brisco, M. Packe, C. W.
Broadley, H. Palmer, R.
Broadwood, H. Palmer, G.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Pigot, Sir R.
Brotherton, J. Polhill, F.
Buck, L. W. Rashleigh, W.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Rendlesham, Lord
Churchill, Lord A. S. Rolleston, Col.
Clifton, J. T. Round, J.
Cole, hon. H. A. Scott, hon. F.
Deedes, W. Sibthorp, Col.
Du Pre, C. G. Spooner, R.
Fielden, J. Spry, Sir S. T.
Filmer, Sir E. Stanley, E.
Finch, G. Stuart, J.
Fuller, A. E. Thompson, Mr. Ald.
Gardner, J. D. Trotter, J.
Granby, Marq. of Tyrrell, Sir J. T.
Grogan, E. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Halford, Sir H. Waddington, H. S.
Halsey, T. P. Wodehouse, E.
Henley, J. W. Wyndham, Col. C.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Hope, Sir J.
Hussey, T. TELLERS.
Ingestre, Visct. Borthwick, P.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Ferrand, B.
List of the NOES.
Acland, T. D. Chapman, B.
A'Court, Capt. Chelsea, Visct.
Antrobus, E. Chichester, Lord J. L.
Archbold, R. Childers, J. W.
Austen, Col. Christie, W. D.
Baillie, Col. Chute, W. L. W.
Baine, W. Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.
Bannerman, A. Cobden, R.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.
Baring, rt. hon. W. B. Colborne, hon. W. N. R.
Barrington, Visct. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Beckett, W. Collett, W. R.
Bell, M. Collett, J.
Benbow, J. Conolly, Col.
Berkeley, hon. Craven Corry, rt. hon. H.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Cowper, hon. W. F.
Bernal, R. Craig, W. G.
Blewitt, R. J. Crawford, W. S.
Bodkin, W. H. Cripps, W.
Boldero, H. G. Currie, R.
Botfield, B. Curteis, H. B.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Dalmeny, Lord
Bowes, J. Dalrymple, Capt.
Bowles, A. Damer, hon. Col.
Bowring, Dr. Davies, D. A. S.
Boyd, J. Dodd, G.
Bright, J. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Browne, hon. W. Douglas, J. D. S.
Bruce, Lord E. Drummond, H. H.
Buller, C. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Busfeild, W. Duke, Sir J.
Cardwell, E. Duncan, Visct.
Carew, W. H. P. Duncan, G.
Carnegie, hon. Capt. Duncombe, D.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Dundas, Adm.
Easthope, Sir J. Mahon, Visct.
Eastnor, Visct. Mangles, R. D.
Ebrington, Visct. Marjoribanks, S.
Egerton, W. T. Marshall, W.
Egerton, Sir P. Martin, J.
Ellis, W. Martin, C. W.
Elphinstone, H. Masterman, J.
Emlyn, Visct. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Entwisle, W. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Escott, B. Mildmay, H. St. J.
Evans, Sir De L. Mitcalfe, H.
Ewart, W. Mitchell, T. A.
Fielden, W. Moffatt, G.
Ferguson, Col. Morpeth, Visct.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Morris, D.
Fitzmaurice, hon. W. Napier, Sir C.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Neville, R.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Flower, Sir J. O'Connell, D.
Forster, M. O'Connell, M. J.
Fox, C. R. O'Connell, J.
Gibson, T. M. Oswald, J.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Palmerston, Visct.
Gore, M. Parker, J.
Gore, hon. R. Patten, J. W.
Goring, C. Pattison, J.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Pechell, Capt.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Peel, J.
Hale, R. B. Pennant, hon. Col.
Hall, Sir B. Philips, G. R.
Hamilton, W. J. Philips, M.
Hamilton, Lord C. Plumridge, Capt.
Hastie, A. Protheroe, E.
Hawes, B. Pusey, P.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Rawdon, Col.
Hervey, Lord A. Reid, Col.
Hindley, C. Ross, D. R.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Russell, Lord J.
Hogg, J. W. Russell, Lord E.
Hollond, R. Russell, C.
Hope, A. Sanderson, R.
Hope, G. W. Seymour, Lord
Hornby, J. Shelburne, Earl of
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Sheridan, R. B.
Howard, hon. E. G. G. Smith, J. A.
Howard, P. H. Smythe, hon. G.
Hughes, W. B. Smollett, A.
Hume, J. Somerton, Visct.
Humphery, Mr. Ald. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Hurst, R. H. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Irton, S. Stanton, W. H.
James, W. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Jermyn, Earl Stewart, J.
Jervis, J. Stuart, Lord J.
Jocelyn, Visct. Stuart, H.
Johnstone, Sir J. Strutt, E.
Jones, Capt. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Kelly, Sir FitzRoy Thesiger, Sir F.
Kemble, H. Thornely, T.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Trelawny, J. S.
Lambton, H. Trench, Sir F. W.
Langston, J. H. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Tufnell, H.
Layard, Capt. Vane, Lord H.
Loch, J. Villiers, hon. C.
Lockhart, A. E. Vivian, J. H.
Lockhart, W. Wakley, T.
Lyall, G. Walker, R.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Walpole, S. H.
Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B. Warburton, H.
M'Carthy, A. Ward, H. G.
McGeachy, F. A. Wawn, J. T.
McTaggart, Sir J. Wellesley, Lord C.
White, S. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Williams, W. Wynn, rt. hn. C. W. W.
Wilshere, W. Yorke, H. R.
Wood, Col. T. Young, R.
Worsley, Lord Baring, H.

Question again put.


rose to notice a remark which had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that it was competent for the present Parliament to alter the Corn Laws, and that this case was analogous to the passing of the Septennial Act. He asserted that throughout English history there was not so disgraceful a case as that in which a Whig House of Commons, afraid to appeal to the country, and elected only for three years, had been led to vote that the same House should sit for a septennial period. He knew not what the noble Lord's present views might be; but he must say for himself that if the noble Lord's ardour to secure a long life to the present House of Commons should propose to extend its existence for a decennial period, he could venture to assure the noble Lord that he would have no more decided opponent than himself; and when the noble Lord said, that the public honour of that House was separable from the private honour of individuals, such a proposition could hardly be seriously maintained; for what was the public honour but the aggregate private honour of individuals? What! destroy the private honour of 120 or 130 individual Members of the House of Commons, and then hope that they could maintain by a constitutional fallacy the public character of the House of Commons? He said, if he had asked for any justification for the course which that great minority of the House had adopted, he should find it in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London; and he would ask the House, after such a speech, after such arguments, whether it could refuse to postpone this discussion for any number of nights to allow those hon. Members who chose to express their opinions? For himself, he could conceive no such argument in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Evesham as that they had heard from the noble Lord. So long as his hon. Friend chose to divide the House on the question of adjournment, so long should he be happy, after the speech of the noble Lord, to divide with him.


was sorry he had incurred the displeasure of the noble Lord; but really the penalty of adjourn- ment seemed too heavy to inflict on the House for a speech of his (Lord J. Russell). He had said that no good result could arise from a dissolution; but he thought there might be one advantage from it. As far as he could see from the noble Lord's published opinions, the noble Lord said, that the measure of protection, which he considered it quite necessary to vote for as a benefit to the country in the present Parliament, he should, if re-elected to a new Parliament, consider it to be his duty to vote as illegal; and that the Corn Laws, instead of being maintained, should be repealed. He must confess that getting the noble Lord's vote would be an advantage from a dissolution of Parliament, and it would be the only one.


complained that several Irish Members had waited for thirteen nights, wishing to speak on this question, without ever getting an opportunity. This night, the whole time had been occupied by the hon. Members for Durham, Manchester, and Wolverhampton, by the noble Lord the Member for London, and the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, so that those who were in favour of protection had been prevented from speaking. Under these circumstances, he thought the call for a division very unfair, and should move that the House do now adjourn—that this debate be now adjourned.


said, if they came to a vote now, it would not close the question on the Resolution. There were other amendments before the House, but probably the best course would to dispose first of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.


said, he was prepared to justify the course they were pursuing that night, by reference to a speech of the right hon. Baronet, delivered on the 31st of January, 1840, in the debate on the vote of want of confidence in Ministers. Substitute the name of Stanley for that of Howick, and the exactness of the application was perfect. The hon. Member then read the passage referred to, to the effect that Lord Howick had quitted the Ministry of Lord Melbourne, because he had no confidence in its principles or professions. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the Chairman do now leave the chair.


wished to observe, in reply to the observations of the noble Lord, that if the noble Lord would have the kindness to refer with more care to that letter to which he alluded, he would perceive he was totally unjustified in drawing the conclusion he had from it, and that in that letter he had never said anything which could justify the noble Lord in drawing a conclusion that he would in a new Parliament vote for the present measure.


said, it was really too bad that they should have perpetually quotations and opinions cited from former speeches on all occasions, and particularly on such an occasion as the present. He really wanted to know what any opinions expressed in a speech on a vote of want of confidence in a former Government had to do with the question of adjournment on the present occasion? As he did not want to see the character of that House lowered in the public estimation by such conduct, he, for one, rose to enter his solemn protest against such a course of factious opposition as a small minority of those who were opposed to the measure of Her Majesty's Government were now offering to it. Such a course could but bring the House of Commons into disrepute with the public.


said, that as the hon. Member (Mr. M. J. O'Connell) asked why hon. Gentlemen desired to speak upon this subject, viz., whether the repeal of the Corn Laws should be immediate, or according to the right hon. Baronet's proposition; he would tell him it was because the hon. Member for Essex (Mr. Palmer), as honourable a Member as any in the House—respectable as well for his long standing, as for his many other qualifications, was interrupted from the commencement of his speech until the conclusion—so much so, that even those who sat on the same side with him could scarcely catch a single observation he had made. When a Gentleman of such high character and standing, could meet with no more respect than that, it was surely foolish for other hon. Members to attempt to get a hearing. Whatever might be the trouble and inconvenience it occasioned, they (the protectionists) were determined to persevere in their course. For his own part, he felt that the observations made by right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) called for a reply.

House resumed.

Chairman reported progress. Committee to sit again following day.

House adjourned at half-past one o'clock.