§ MR. NEWDEGATE
rose to resume the Adjourned Debate, and remarked that it must be in the recollection of the House in what manner the debate had been terminated on the preceding night, by the speech of the hon. Member for Yorkshire—a speech characterized not less by soundness of reasoning and a natural eloquence inspired by the feelings of the speaker, 422 than by the triumph it exhibited over the physical infirmities which unhappily had oppressed the hon. Member. As he listened to that speech, it seemed to him as though the spirit of those statesmen who once ennobled the House, had animated the hon. Member. It almost seemed as if the genius of Pitt or of Canning had returned to elevate the debates of that House above the dead level to which they too often were reduced. He desired briefly to advert to one or two statements of the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles), which had been controverted, or rather denied, by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary. The right hon. Baronet had stated that the hon. Member for Somersetshire had informed the House that there existed in Russia a disposable surplus of 20,000,000 quarters of wheat above the consumption of that country; and that in America land had every year been producing wheat for a lengthened period without manure; and the right hon. Baronet had ridiculed these statements. Now, however, the right hon. Baronet might attempt to throw discredit on these statements—however determined the Government might be to take this "leap in the dark," it was important to communicate all the information that could be obtained as to the probable amount of corn to be expected from abroad in the event of the abolition of the Corn Laws. The statement of the hon. Member for Somersetshire was fully borne out by the authority of Mr. Ellsworth, the Commissioner of Patents in the United States, as shown by the following passage in Mr. Ellsworth's report:—The wheat lands in the west are so rich in proper qualities, that probably for years no injurious effects of a constant succession of this crop need be apprehended; but in western New York, and perhaps in some of the earlier settled sections of Ohio, there is some danger, and the attention of the people has been called to the subject.Now, with respect to the other statements of the hon. Member for Somerset. In page 328 of the commercial tariffs and regulations of the several States of Europe and America, under the head Russia, in the documents laid before the House, compiled by Mr. M'Gregor, it would be found that the total average consumption of Russia, including seed and the supply of distilleries, amounted to 141,000,000 chetworts; the total average disposable surplus to 40,000,000 chetworts, or about 28,000,000 quarters. So that, if there were any error in the estimate as to Russia, 423 it was to be attributed to the Papers laid before Parliament by the Government: while, as to the land in America, he (Mr. Newdegate) having himself been there, could testify to the substantial correctness of the statement he had referred to. He had been at some pains to ascertain the prices of wheat at the great port of America, New Orleans; and he found the average price of the last two years was 24s. 8d. per quarter, and that of flour in proportion; and the expense of transit to this country 10s. per quarter. So that if the supply of corn in America exceeded the demand—and no one who knew the resources of such vast States as Ohio, Illinois, &c., could doubt that it would be so, if a demand were created in this country—wheat would be imported from New Orleans to Liverpool or London under 35s. per quarter as an average. When, therefore, our ports were thrown open to the world, we should have a competition in our markets of supplies from both hemispheres at that rate; for it had been abundantly proved that the countries of Europe could compete with America at that price. There could be no doubt that our prices would be reduced to the general level of the world; and that wheat in this country would, after the repeal of the Corn Laws, be at from 35s. to 40s. per quarter as an average. He would next advert to some topics in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who last night had again spoken of this measure as the result of the Ministerial sense of a great public danger. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had himself acknowledged that if he had attributed his proposition of the measure solely to the "pressure" of distress in Ireland, he would have been disingenuous. What, then, was this pressing danger? He (Mr. Newdegate) did not see the cause for the apprehensions entertained by the Government, unless it were the prospect of a stagnation of trade. But he (Mr. Newdegate) believed there would probably be a stagnation in trade whether this measure had been introduced or not; and he considered that the measures passed in 1844 would aggravate any such pressure. He believed that the Government had felt the necessity for some remedial measures in favour of the manufacturing interests, with a view to mitigate the mischief of their own monetary measure; but he was still more strongly persuaded that the present position and professed opinions of the Government were to be attributed, 424 in a great degree, to the progress of agitation. And when it was considered how many instances might be enumerated in which, from the passing of the Emancipation Act of 1829, to the present period, including the grant to Maynooth, which was the consequence of the Repeal agitation and the monster meetings, the Minister now at the head of affairs had yielded to similar pressures, could it be expected that such popular influence would ever cease to have a corresponding effect upon him? The noble Lord the Member for the city of London had warned the agricultural Members to yield in time. He had adverted to the successful agitation which had preceded the Emancipation Act of 1829—the Reform Act and the Maynooth Bill. The House had seen Her Majesty's Government yielding to the pressure of the Anti-Corn-Law League in the present change in their commercial policy; and could the House believe that if these measures passed, in consequence of the exertions of the Anti-Corn-Law League, that the Repeal Association would be less successful in the result of their agitation? This was the opinion entertained by the hon. and learned Member for Cork in 1844, who had said at a meeting in Conciliation Hall—I cannot bring myself to doubt that Peel himself might be the man to propose the repeal of the Union." ["Hear, hear, hear," and a laugh.] "Then hurra for Peel and Repeal!" [Laughter.] "When you talk of a man's future conduct, the best grounds upon which to conjecture what it will be, are those afforded by his past conduct." [Loud cries of "Hear, hear!"] "In the antecedents of Peel, what is there to justify a disbelief in the possibility of his being the man to propose a repeal of the Union?" ["Hear, hear!"] "We have nothing to be grateful for to Peel and the 200 myrmidons who go from one side to the other at his command." [Loud cries of "Hear, hear."] "No! Thank Conciliation Hall—thank agitation!" ["Hear, hear."]And then came the memorable words with reference to the Maynooth Grant Agitation:—I thank you Conciliation Hall, I am obliged to you, Repeal Association; Maynooth ought to pray for you.The introduction of the present measure, in fact, was another, added to many proofs which the right hon. Baronet had furnished, of deficiency in that firmness which was the first characteristic of a great statesman. Were his supporters to go on in a similar course? Why should not Repeal of the Union, then, be expected as one of the right hon. Baronet's future concessions? Why 425 should the right hon. Baronet disappoint the hon. Member for Cork, after having gratified the hon. Member for Stockport? The loss of character in public men was perhaps one of the results most to be regretted in the introduction of tee present measure; and it had been well said by the hon. Member for Huntingdon, that if the country were suffering under any dearth, it was a dearth of statesmen. The Gentlemen on his side of the House, who contended for protection, had been taunted by the Secretary for the Home Department with having, during the last two years, maintained great silence on this subject; but was there no reason for that silence? When the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government told them that the measures he from time to time brought in during the last three years were but stepping-stones to greater changes, such as that which he had now proposed, might his hon. Friends not, with reason, think that any word which dropped from them during that time would be turned against them hereafter, and that they would be told they were committed to the measures of the right hon. Baronet? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department had referred to the observation which fell from the hon. Member for Shrewsbury with regard to the exportation of bullion which would take place when the measure passed; and he said he agreed with the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, that, in the present state of our monetary system, large exportations of the precious metals were inconsistent with a sound state of the currency; thus differing from the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, who said he did not care whether such exportation took place or not—indeed that he wished it might. How the right hon. Baronets came to a coincidence on the principles of free trade, differing in so essential an element of our commercial relations as the monetary system and the effects of an exportation of bullion, he did not know; but the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government stated, that we should bring the bullion back by the exportation of our manufactures. The right hon. Baronet did not tell, however, at what sacrifice and loss to the trade of the country this would be done. But the Home Secretary admitted that, even after this panacea of free trade was carried, in times of scarcity there would be an exportation of bullion. He was of the same opinion; and he asked the House, viewing 426 the effect of an exportation of bullion in 1825 and 1839, to consider what would be the result. The right hon. Gentleman went on to show that the way of getting out of the difficulty of our monetary system, in the case of a glut of the markets for our manufactures, would be to send manufactures abroad when the home markets were glutted, and so glut the foreign markets to relieve the home market, receiving payment in grain without payment of duty. Now, supposing this to be the case, the only effect would be that the manufacturer would have an opportunity of shifting the loss from himself upon the shoulders of the agriculturists, by transferring his goods to foreign markets, and bringing back importations of corn, which would injure the farmer. What would be the effect on the circulation? By the first statement there had been a glut of manufactures; therefore there would be distress among the manufacturers. Then they would bring on a glut of corn by the importation, which would cause distress among the agriculturists. But any one who knew anything of exchanges, knew that a forced importation turned exchanges against the country importing. Now the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had predicted that the foreign markets would be glutted to relieve the home market. But importation of necessities, such as tea, sugar, &c., for home consumption, would go on, and would not be paid for in manufactures, because the foreign markets in the case supposed would be glutted: they must therefore be paid for in bullion exported from this country, and a drain must ensue; for exchanges, owing to a forced importation of grain, must already have turned against this country. They would therefore have a monetary crisis, by reason of the exportation of bullion, according to the system of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, more severe than had ever been known in this country. The two right hon. Baronets had declared for free trade, and adopted the doctrines respecting free trade from Adam Smith and Ricardo; but they had rejected the opinions of those authorities respecting the monetary system. He believed that those writers, when they advocated free trade, understood that a different monetary system from that of this country would be required under free trade; and this the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had admitted in 1844. The right hon. Baronet claimed the authority of those 427 eminent political economists to sanction his commercial policy, but repudiated them with respect to monetary matters. [Sir R. Peel having indicated by gesture a denial of these remarks of the hon. Gentleman, Mr. Newdegate observed] I will state this in the terms of the right hon. Baronet's own speech on the Bank Charter question, in 1844:—In support of that opinion they, the opponents of the present system, have undoubtedly the high authority of Adam Smith and of Ricardo. Both these eminent writers assume that immediate convertibility into coin is all that is requisite to prevent the excessive issue of paper. It is no impeachment of their sagacity, if, in the progress which this science, like all other sciences, is making, there be reason to doubt the soundness of any particular opinion which they may have delivered. And it is our duty to disregard their authority, and to act on the conclusions of our own judgment, if either reason or experience convinces us that they are safer guides.The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had said much on the reduction of prices of British produce; but he did not admit what must be the effect on the agricultural interest and the operatives of such a reduction, and on the national resources: he (Mr. Newdegate) would refer to the opinions of Mr. Malthus, recorded in that able work, by the Home Secretary, "An Address to the Landowners on Corn and Currency." Mr. Malthus said, that if the price of corn were to fall to 50s., and labour and other commodities nearly in proportion, there could be no doubt that the stockholder would be benefited at the expense of the industrial classes, and that Government would in reality pay 7, 8, and 9 per cent interest for the debt, instead of 5 per cent, and for the last 200,000,000l. of it not less than 10 per cent. Mr. Malthus thus continued:—If we consider with what an increased weight the taxes on tea, sugar, malt, soap, candles, &c., would in this case bear on the labouring classes of society, and what proportion of their income all the active industrious middle orders of the State, as well as the higher orders, must pay, in assessed taxes and the various articles of custom and excise, the pressure will appear to be absolutely intolerable. Indeed, if the measure of value (meaning corn) were ready to fall as we have supposed, there is great reason to fear that the country would be absolutely unable to continue the payment of the present interest of the national debt.Now this applied to a reduction to 50s., not 35s., and applied à fortiori to the present case. It was urged by the right hon. Baronet, in justification of his measures, that this country would not become dependent on foreign countries for food; but to his (Mr. Newdegate's) poor apprehension, 428 if they established a direct exchange between foreign corn and our manufactures, that must be the effect. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had said, that the demand for food in this country was certain. Well, then, they knew that the home production was able to meet the demand, with the exception of a small average of importation at a moderate price. Now there were three reasons why homegrown corn must be displaced, if the free traders succeeded in their object, which was to exchange manufactures for corn by direct barter, as it were. First, if they exported manufactures, and brought corn in return, they must sell the corn, when they had got it, in the markets of this country, being the only open markets, and could afford to sell it cheaper than corn merely imported for sale, and not as a remittance in payment for manufactures. With this additional advantage, how could it be doubted that it would displace home-grown grain, which was more costly in its production. The difference of the cost of production, as against the corn grower of this country, was the second reason, and of itself sufficient to cause the displacement of a large quantity of home-grown grain from our supply. The third reason was the fact that the markets of this country, being the only open markets of the world, would become the markets for the surplus grain of the world; and every one knew that, in ordinary years, there must be a surplus production of grain in every country depending upon its own supplies, or there would be frequent periods of scarcity. For these three reasons he could not doubt but that a very large quantity of home-grown corn, perhaps to the extent of six or seven million quarters, would be supplanted in the markets of this country; and to the extent of that displacement we must become dependent on foreign nations for our supplies of food. It had been assumed that wages did not vary with the price of food. He should have thought, however, that when they remembered the fall of wages coincident with the fall of prices in wheat from the commencement of the present century to the present time, or the mass of individual evidence they had received, the statements of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (the Marquess of Granby) for instance, must have convinced the Government that, in one particular at least, they were wrong; whilst the statements of many other Members near him ought to have taught them to doubt their theory. For the 429 reasons he had given, he conceived that the Corn Laws were not unjust; and for one he would not be a party to disappointing those who sent him to the House to combat these newfangled doctrines. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had both bid the aristocracy yield, and said, that if they would preserve their position, and retain their power and influence in this and the other House, they had better succumb; but he, humble individual as he was, told them that they would do better to convince the people of this country that they had courage and honesty to act upon their convictions. He had always felt it was wiser to confront any enemy than to cause desertion from one's own ranks; and he thought the present position of the Government was a strong instance in proof of this. What was that position now, compared with six months ago? The feelings of the people of this country were never so much outraged as when they saw persons whom they had been accustomed to revere, changing their principles of action; and if anything could pave the way for the destruction of the aristocracy, it must be such tergiversation as they had lately witnessed. Let the House of Lords remember that their House was a court of justice as well as a legislative assembly, and that the preservation of the character of the Upper House was of more real importance to its stability than any transient acquisition of popularity at the expense of principle. A mistake had been propagated, both by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), in speaking of the population of this, the most productive country in the world, as if they were all mere consumers. Their argument proceeded on the evident fallacy that the agriculturist produced no more than he consumed, which was absurd; and if he did produce more than he consumed, by lowering the price of his product, he must lose upon the larger quantity, and be compensated on the smaller, and must therefore be a loser. The noble Lord, Lord John Russell had said—The great cotton manufactures of this country, the great woollen manufactures, the great linen manufactures of this country, are sent abroad to compete in markets at a great distance from us; they are sent to the markets of America and of Asia to compete with the fabrics of other countries; we therefore want no protection for them in Sussex or in Lincolnshire. If that be the case, and if the great branches of our industry want no protection, they are not benefited by the trifling 430 and the trumpery protection which remains on your Statute-book, and they are not benefited by that protection which seems to give to one particular class of industry an advantage. The great general argument of all writers on political economy with regard to protection applies to each particular class. In the first place, it interferes with the due current of trade on behalf of one particular class; in the next place, it lays a tax upon the rest of the community for the benefit of that particular class; and in the third place, this particular object is not attained, and the very classes it seeks to benefit lose by this pretended protection. Indeed, these propositions have now been so clearly proved, that they have become axioms in political science.For these reasons the noble Lord pronounced the Corn Laws unjust. The two first arguments proceeded upon the assumption, that protection was effectual in preserving the home market to the home producer, and in thereby raising the price of his produce for his benefit, but to the disadvantage of the consumer. But the third argument contradicted the two first, and assumed that protection did not, by preserving the home market to the home producer, raise the price to the consumer; but that this was untrue, could not be doubted from the difference of price for corn in this and other countries, and from the payment of a duty sometimes equal to 17s. a quarter. But, to refer to the two first arguments, which assumed that protection is effectual, because of its partiality. Now the interests of the producer were here assumed to be antagonistic to those of the consumer; a doubtful hypothesis in a productive country; but the laws, which were for the benefit of the majority, were, he believed, admitted to be for the general good, unless they could be proved to unduly oppress the minority. The question then was, whether the manufacturing or the agricultural interest was the most numerous; for a law which gave protection to a majority, if it did not unduly press on the minority, had always been held to be a good law; and this reduced the question to a comparison of the numbers dependent upon the different interests of this country. Grievous mis-statements had been made, not only in this country, but in foreign nations on this important subject. As a proof of this, he would refer to the observation of M. Guizot, with reference to Sir R. Peel's measures, that free trade might be justified in a State like England, because the population of that country depended mainly on manufactures and commerce. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had said 431 that this country had become, for good or for evil, a manufacturing and commercial, instead of an agricultural country; and in support of his position he had referred to the Population Returns. This matter had been investigated county by county, after the plan that had been used in every census except the last, in order to find whether the classes dependent upon agriculture really were so few in numbers as they were made to appear in the last census; and the result he would state to the House. Mr. Spackman, the well-known writer on statistics, had analysed the returns, and the details would shortly be given to the world in a work now in the press. It appeared that the occupation abstract of the census of 1841 had been made out in a different form from that of 1831. The return of 1831 was perfectly intelligible, and clearly showed from what sources the different classes drew their means of support, and upon what interest they depended; but, in 1841, all persons employed in trade, manufactures, and handicraft, were mixed up together, and made to appear as depending on the manufacturing interest; as if the agriculturists needed no shopkeeper to buy his goods from, no handicraftsman to make his implements, and no railways or canals to convey his produce; as if all this traffic, and all these means of conveyance and sources of profit, were dependent on the manufacturing interest alone. It would be seen that while in the census of 1831 the population of the United Kingdom was divided into three classes—namely, agriculturists, manufacturers, and all other individuals, such as persons engaged in retail trades, capitalists and professional men, there were but two divisions in the census of 1841—namely, persons engaged in trade, commerce, and manufactures, who were set down at 2,636,795, and persons engaged in agriculture, who were set down at 1,712,699. Now in that latter return there was a manifest juggle, inasmuch as many of the members of those retail trades which were classed with manufactures depended principally on agriculture for their support. Was it possible, he would ask, that any reliance could be placed on returns based on such a principle? But from the returns which he held in his hand it appeared that in 100 counties and divisions of counties the agriculturists predominated, while the manufacturers predominated in only twenty counties or divisions of counties. It further 432 appeared that the actual number of persons engaged in agriculture was 3,343,974, and that the number of persons actually engaged in manufactures was 1,867,218; and if all the rest of the population were divided in the same proportion, there would be 13,604,915 dependent on agriculture, and 8,009,982 dependent on manufactures; so that the total number of persons engaged in or dependent on agriculture might be taken at 16,948,889, and the total number of persons engaged in or dependent on manufactures might be taken at 9,887,200; showing a majority of 7,071,689 in favour of agriculture. He contended that the improvement of agriculture in this country, unsurpassed in any other country, if anywhere equalled, showed that the Corn Laws had operated to the advantage of the British cultivators, who with their dependents constituted a vast majority of the population. Could it be shown that the minority—those engaged in manufactures—had been unduly oppressed by these laws? Had no fortunes been made in Manchester? Was Leeds deserted? Was trade unsound in Birmingham? Was it not notorious, that the reverse of these suppositions was the fact. He then had a right to assert, that to term protection to agriculture unjust, was to propagate a baseless fallacy. After having trespassed on the attention of the House with these details, he could not help expressing, before he concluded, his deep censure of the change in the policy of Her Majesty's Ministers upon the question. The course they had taken induced him to believe that their recent measures had been long secretly contemplated, and that they had been precipitated by the state of distress in Ireland, and by an uneasy feeling with respect to the trade of the country, a relapse of which he believed would occur, whether these measures passed or not. But it was not of their opinions that he complained; and what he complained of was that they had so long entertained those opinions unavowed. He could only look upon their present proposals as measures secretly determined on — produced in fear — introduced into that House in arrogance; and he was confident that, if passed, they would result in disaster.
§ MR. G. PALMER
said, that there was never any measure introduced into the House more deserving their serious attention than the present; but he thought that if every Member were to vote according to 433 his feelings, the result would show a majority of two to one against it. One great advantage which had arisen from this debate was, that it had shown the fallacy of the arguments used by Her Majesty's Government. He must declare, upon the part of the constituency which he represented, that it was not their desire, nor the desire of the agriculturists of his county, to profit at the expense of other interests; but they thought this measure would be against the interests, not only of the agriculturists, but of every one in their country. He believed the returns laid on the Table relative to our trade were not correct; but, admitting their correctness, the large import of our manufactures on the Continent, which they showed, would not compensate for the disadvantages which the measure would entail. If they wanted 2,000,000 quarters of corn, they would have to pay for it in hard gold. As for America, it was every day establishing manufactures of its own, so that there was no great hope from that quarter. As regarded the currency, they could not issue more than a certain quantity of notes; and if the drain of gold became great, the whole finance of the country might be deranged. He thought the better policy was, that they should mainly trust to themselves for the necessaries of life; and he thought we should rue the day when we were dependent upon the foreigner for the supply of the necessaries of life. He should be sorry were it supposed by any class, that he or his party was influenced by interested motives; but then it was only fair to consider the burdens which peculiarly affected land. There was not an acre of old cultivated land which was not subject to a charge of 13s. poor rates, highway rates, county rates, and other taxes. It was the small farmers and the labourers who would chiefly suffer by the measure; for the latter were to a great extent dependent on the farmers, and the small farmer could not, like the man of capital, reserve his crops for an advantageous market, but was frequently obliged to sell when there was a glut, and when corn fetched a ruinously low price. Sincerely entertaining these opinions, which had always been held by him, he must vote against a measure which he believed would be detrimental to the general interests of the country. These opinions were entertained by Her Majesty's Government not very long ago; and he had never heard a foreigner speak on this subject who did not say that it was the first duty of a Government 434 to protect the interests of their own country.
§ CAPTAIN POLHILL
thought the small farmers would be injuriously affected by the Government measure; and so strong had been his impression on that subject that he thought it necessary to bring under the notice of the House a clause designed for the relief of those tenant farmers. He was of opinion that if a Select Committee had been appointed, it would have been proved that the tenant farmers would be deeply injured by the passing of this measure. It was his intention to have moved the insertion of the clause he had mentioned; but he had learned from the Speaker that it was not competent for him to do so. He wished it to go forth to the country that he did not shrink from fulfilling his duty; but the rules of that House did not permit his doing so in the manner he wished. He entertained a strong sympathy for the class he had alluded to. The leading journal of the Empire, in one of its leading articles, did him the honour of combating his proposition; but in doing so used an argument which he thought had rather a tendency to confirm his opposition to the Bill, for it said that if a Committee for the relief of these small farmers were granted, there would be 300,000 applicants. He could not think the extent of the injury would be so great. If he thought 300,000 of his countrymen would be ruined by the measure, he would give 300,000 votes against it, if he had them. He was of opinion that the time was come when this great measure ought to be settled one way or another, for he believed there was a great stagnation in every department of commerce and agriculture from the present state of incertitude. If the Government measure did pass, he trusted that the Anti-Corn-Law League would be at once dissolved. He could not help expressing his admiration at the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), who although entering into the combat at a great disadvantage, had conducted himself with such ability, prudence, and integrity, as must win, for him the attachment of his own party and the respect of his opponents. He had never given a vote in the whole course of his life with more reluctance than the present for the third reading of this Bill; and he did so in order to allay the excitement which prevailed on the subject throughout the country.
§ MR. BENETT
would not address himself 435 to those calculations which had been made as to the relative price of corn in this country and on the Continent, but would confine himself entirely to one point, namely, was the measure calculated to promote the comfort of the great mass of the people? He had always said, that if the abandonment of agriculture altogether and the promotion of manufactures was calculated to benefit the mass, then he would be for the extension of manufactures and the suppression of agriculture. But he believed no such thing, and it was because he consulted the welfare of the greatest number that he opposed the present measure. It was remarkable that the free traders were only free traders in agriculture, not in manufactures; and they argued that the larger was the amount of corn purchased in foreign countries, and by consequence the less it was grown here, the greater would be the export and sale of manufactures. Now, he did not think that the evidence which had been laid on the Table of that House was calculated to show that those engaged in manufactures were in a very enviable condition. On this point he would refer to an opinion expressed by an hon. Member of that House, one who was known as a very kindhearted man, and one who had formerly advocated the free import of corn. A more kindhearted or a more patriotic man did not exist; he referred to the hon. Member for Liskeard, whose authority he was happy to be able to appeal to in support of this view. On the 27th of March, 1844, the hon. and learned Gentleman said:—Millions, he might say, of men had collected together for the first time in certain limited spaces; millions—not skilled artisans, but men carrying on, in their several classes, some one particular branch of industry, which they practised from the first moment at which they could work, till they could work no longer—the great mass of them, in fact, just as unskilled as the rudest agricultural labourer. Thus large masses of unskilled, needy, impoverished labourers were collected together, subjected to terrible privations and discomforts from their very agglomeration; from the same cause almost at the mercy of their employers; and from the same cause ready and apt to combine for mischief. Was this a state of things which Parliament could regard with satisfaction? Was it a good state of things? Was it better for the working people? Was it better for the rest of the community? What was the physical condition of these unfortunate people thus collected together? Was it a satisfactory one? He would not go into any lengthened details, but let him simply ask the House to remember what had been shown to be the comparative duration of life in Manchester, for instance, and in the county of Wilts, an agricultural district. In Wiltshire, the average duration of life was thirty-three years; in Manchester, it 436 was only seventeen. He did not mean to say that this difference in the duration of human life sprung solely or mainly from the nature of factory labour; but it clearly must arise from the circumstances taken all together under which that labour was carried on in the great towns. Now, it could not be doubted that the evils of this physical condition were calculated to grow worse in every succeeding generation. A people whose life was reduced to one-half of the usual average of the labouring class by no accident, no sudden disaster, no chance epidemic, but by the constant action of circumstances unfavourable to health and longevity, were not likely to propagate a vigorous and healthy race. He thought that no Legislature could view with indifference a state of things that thus shortened human life, and tended to deteriorate the species. In some respects, no doubt, the factory labourer was better off than other unskilled labourers. But he did think that there were circumstances in that kind of labour that tended to the injury of health. The mere temperature in which they worked must tend to this result. There were these poor people working for hours and hours together, all day long, in an Indian temperature, and then turned out to go home and sleep in a northern climate. Nor was their social and moral condition at all satisfactory. No man could venture to say that they were properly educated. No man could say that their religious wants were properly attended to. No man could say that their moral condition was wholesome or natural. The mode of employment was such as to subvert all the ordinary relations of the sexes as to labour; the women and children did the hard work, the men occupied themselves with the household duties.Such were the opinions of the hon. Member for Liskeard at the period he mentioned. Now, however, the hon. Member was changed in sentiment, and he could not but feel greatly surprised that he should now be the advocate of a system which perpetuated the evil, and caused destruction to human life. Was it not strange that the average duration of human life should be only seventeen years in Manchester, and thirty-three in Wilts? Could he support a measure which, by fostering the causes tending to depression and degradation of the population, produced the ill of which the hon. Member for Liskeard so feelingly complained? He (Mr. Benett) had always been desirous of increasing the happiness and comfort of the people; and he would say, that if effects were contrary to what he had shown to be the case of the manufacturing population—if, to be more clear, the duration of life was greater in Manchester than in Wilts, and the present system of poor laws tended to decrease that morality, most surely would he then change the views he had held so long, and vote for that system which increased life. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) had expressed an opinion last night which narrowed 437 this question to a simple point, and which he had delivered in that House many years before his right hon. Friend had displayed those talents which placed him in his present eminent position—that was, the promotion of the greatest happiness of the mass of the people. Could that be called a happy state in which the average duration of life was seventeen years? He would ask, too, if the misery and destitution detailed in the reports laid on the Table of the House, exhibited the happiness of a large portion of the community? The deep distress of the labourers in Dorsetshire had been brought before the country. A great fallacy, however, existed on this general subject of distress and prosperity. A prosperous and happy period may be felt in the manufacturing districts, but happiness did not consist in money only. Any man who had lived as long as he had lived, would be well informed, that seasons of prosperity did not last for ever. Great fortunes were rapidly made by manufacturers; but this could not always follow, and at last, the people would be left to starve, or else depend on the charity of the landowners. He did not find himself equal to enter as fully as others into the intricacies of debate. He was a very old man. For fifty years, at least, he had practically advocated the happiness of the people. He spoke that night, perhaps for the last time in that House; and he was desirous of knowing from Her Majesty's Government, what was the object of the measure they had introduced, and what was likely to be its result? Did they imagine that this country would go on increasing in population for a thousand years? Were the people to be forced forward to a more excessive competition than they had yet sustained? Was there to be no rest for nations? Was not this country to have any quiet? Were the people to be urged forward with railroad speed, and the Ministers to allow of no cessation? Would such a condition increase the real happiness of the community? He thought not. Manufactures might be increased until England might indeed become the workshop of the world; but would this be happiness? Great Britain was strong in her power and her glory, and, therefore, why not rest? But it appeared no rest was to be allowed. He was of opinion that the increase of trade, when founded on such a reckless principle, could only lead to speculation; and it was dreadful that the Government should not possess the foresight to perceive the end of 438 the system they felt so anxious to extend. When the impoverished condition of the labourer was made the subject matter of debate, why not also bring the state of the Irish labourer into notice? It had been stated that a high remuneration for labour may exist with a low price of corn. This he denied. It was impossible. If the labour market could be regulated, why did not the Government apply themselves to the task in Ireland? Ireland, however, seemed the great difficulty—the Asses bridge—of the whole work. Here was the finest country in the whole world in the very depths of destitution, and no efforts ever yet made appeared to make any change in the character of its misery. As he before observed, this was probably the last time he should address the House. Allow him to repeat, that the great duty of Governments was the promotion of the greatest happiness of the people; and he was of opinion that any system which curtailed the duration of human life should not have the support of those who legislate for the country at large.
§ MR. PLUMPTRE
had heard nothing during this lengthened discussion to induce him to alter his opinion of the experiment that the right hon. Baronet proposed to try. The Government were taking a step which, so far from approving, he very much deplored, as being rash and perilous. By the policy they were pursuing, they had divided a great party, who had heretofore given the right hon. Baronet an honest and an independent support. The confidence of that large party was destroyed, the country was thrown into confusion, and how matters were to be settled it would be impossible to predict. He remembered in the year 1835, when the right hon. Baronet sat on the Opposition side of the House, and when the noble Lord the Member for London, who was then Minister of the Crown, had proposed his Tithe Commutation Act, the right hon. Baronet had stated that he would not object to that Act, because he considered that it would provide a due and adequate provision for the clergy. Now, the hon. Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cayley) had last night delivered a speech which made a deep impression upon him (Mr. Plumptre), in the course of which he stated what his calculations were as to what the price of corn would be if this measure passed into a law. He called upon the House to recollect these calculations, and to consider the situation in which the clergy would be 439 placed if these anticipations were realized. In 1839, the right hon. Baronet objected to the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for London upon this subject, and said that before he attempted to alter the Corn Law by the adoption of a fixed duty, he ought to alter the Tithe Commutation Act; and that he could not consider him an honest man if he did not first propose an alteration of that Act. He called upon the right hon. Baronet to take the same course now himself which he had on a former period so earnestly suggested to the noble Lord. He knew that the proposed measure might work unjustly, cruelly, and prejudicially against the tithepayer; but it would have the effect of robbing the tithe-receiver of one-third, or perhaps one-half of his income. If they took the man with only 300l. a year to support himself and his family now, and that this measure, if passed, would reduce this income to 200l., they would be surely inflicting an act of cruel injustice upon him, which they might not afterwards be well able to redress. He would ask them whether they would now consent to alter the Tithe Commutation Act, and thereby place the clergy in that position which the Government pledged themselves they should enjoy; for the right hon. Baronet had himself admitted that they were entitled to due and adequate protection. He entirely concurred in the view taken by the hon. Member who last addressed the House, and which had before been expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, namely, they were bound to consider how they could best promote, to the largest extent, the happiness of the largest mass of the people. If he had not a deep conviction that this measure, instead of effecting that desirable object, would inflict the most serious injury upon the people, he would not continue his opposition to it for a single minute. He believed that they were taking steps which would most seriously affect and injure the domestic happiness of the largest mass of the people of this country. This injury would begin with the agricultural labourer; it would then travel to the small tenant-farmer, from him to the landowners, and from them to the operatives and manufacturers generally. He believed it could not be otherwise; that if they depressed the agricultural interest, every other interest would suffer also. By their present course they were about causing a larger amount of misery than they would ever have it in 440 their power to repair. The party with which he was connected were taunted and ridiculed as hardhearted men, who had no feelings for the poor. He hoped, and trusted, and believed, that they entered as earnestly and sincerely into the comforts of those who were around them as any other class in the country. It was, therefore, because he wished to see the happiness and the comforts of the people increased, that he felt himself called upon to take so determined a stand against this measure. He believed in his conscience that, if passed, it would inflict an injury upon the poorer classes, rather than promote their interests. God forbid that he should have any selfish motives for his conduct in this matter! Upon the grounds he had just stated, he considered it to be his duty to give his most decided opposition to the measure.
§ MR. HASTIE
thought all the arguments against this measure resolved themselves into apprehensions of a reduction of rents. He believed it might be calculated that the average price of corn for the next ten years would be 15 per cent less than the price during the last ten years. To ascertain, as far as practicable, how rents would be affected by the reduction of prices, it would be necessary to find the aggregate value of the whole agricultural produce of the kingdom from which rent was derived, and of which corn, including wheat, barley, oats, beans, and peas, formed part. The whole rental of the kingdom was estimated at 59,500,000l.; the aggregate value of the agricultural produce of the country was calculated by M'Culloch, in his Statistical Account of the British Empire, at 250,500,000l. Of this amount, the portion made up by the price of corn would be reduced 15 per cent. It could not be doubted, though the present Corn Law was, as described by the First Minister of the Crown, a most unjust law, that the landed interest viewed its anticipated repeal with a needless and irrational alarm. In his (Mr. Hastie's) opinion, should the new measure pass to-morrow, there would be no greater reduction in the prices of agricultural produce, or in rentals, than that which he had mentioned.
§ SIR J. WALSH
said, that the House must feel much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the details which he had furnished, and which they had in vain sought from Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman was satisfied that the landed interest had no cause for apprehension; he 441 could not undertake to follow the hon. Member, but it seemed to him a strong fact that the reduction in the price of corn would be fifteen per cent, according to the calculation of the hon. Gentleman. The details furnished by his hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire, had, however, led him to conclude that the reduction would in fact be much greater; and he confessed that he was very much surprised that Her Majesty's Government had not ventured on any predictions of the same kind; but so it was: the Government had not ventured upon any such confident anticipations as the hon. Member; they had not ventured to prophesy what would be the result of their own measure. He had certainly expected from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State some declaration on that subject last night; but the right hon. Baronet had contented himself with impugning the data of his hon. Friends, without furnishing any better or more accurate information to the House. When his hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire had made statements and drawn inferences, which were to his mind very clear and convincing, the right hon. Baronet disposed of them in the same summary way in which he had before dismissed his own opinions, and said, "I don't admit your data." The hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade had, on a former occasion, in a speech which was certainly very comprehensive, since It completed the whole circuit of the globe, endeavoured to show that there was no corn to come into this country from anywhere; but last night the right hon. Baronet had said, that the delay of this measure had caused a vast accumulation of foreign corn in this country, and that in consequence of that delay there was great danger that they might be, by an avalanche, overwhelmed when the floodgates were opened. That was rather inconsistent with the former argument of the hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade. The delay therefore had, at all events, this good effect—it had removed some of the arguments which, at the commencement of the discussion, were urged in support of this measure. Abstaining, however, from any prediction, the Government had still ventured to anticipate that the reduction in prices would be just enough to benefit the consumer, but not enough to injure the producer. Professing themselves to be in entire darkness as to the results of their own measure, they 442 yet took upon themselves to assume that that golden mean would be attained. But he asked, had those discussions shown that the fears of the landed interest were groundless? Had it not been shown to demonstration, that the ordinary price of wheat in the north of Europe was about 35s., and that protection, by the cost of freight alone, would not be sufficient? It had been placed beyond a doubt that the cost of transmission from the northern parts of Europe to London or Hull was less than that of transmission, inland, from one part of this country to another, though no very great distance apart. He had on a former occasion stated, that in 1843 the freight from Hamburgh was 1s. per quarter: that statement had excited considerable surprise, and he had since made inquiries on the subject from an extensive shipowner at Hamburgh. The answer of that gentleman, who was a warm free trader, was, that the average price of wheat, when crops were good and prices were high in England, was 35s.; that when there was no demand for exportation, 30s.; and that upon occasions of sudden demand for French consumption it might advance to 40s. Now, it was to be observed, that all the corn in the north of Europe was full 5s. a quarter better than the average price in England, so that 5s. must be deducted from that amount. His correspondent also stated that the first freight was 2s. per quarter; but that as the season advanced, vessels might probably be engaged at from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 9d. It was, however, hardly necessary for him to refer to that statement after the ample details laid before the House by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. There was another argument triumphantly answered by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, a favourite argument with the supporters of this measure. It was this: that the corn was so distributed that the entrance of England into the market would immediately raise the price all over the world. The answer simply was, that when supply was restricted, a sudden demand of course raised the price; but that the sources of supply being abundant, the effect of steady and constant demand was not to increase, but in the long run to diminish price. That was a doctrine which might be classed amongst those—such favourites with the right hon. Baronet—the doctrines of common sense. It was not to be forgotten that the increased means of transit by railways, for the formation of which the north of Europe was a very favourable 443 country, would open new sources of supply, and afford ready access to the markets of England. With regard to competition, it might be the effect of moderate competition to stimulate; but it was the effect of excessive competition entirely to paralyse. It remained to be seen to what extent the English farmers would be subjected to competition under this Bill. They were told to improve. It was said that there were boundless sources of supply yet untouched, latent mines of wealth yet to be explored; and that if they would exercise industry, talent, and enterprise; if they would discard antiquated modes, and avail themselves of modern science, they would be able to contend on terms of equality with the foreign grower. He fully admitted that there was great room for improvement; that there were many parts of the country in which the effect of improvements had been tested, and much larger districts still capable of greater improvement; but when they talked of industry, intelligence, and enterprise, hon. Gentlemen omitted one important ingredient of the process — the application of capital. Capital, and very large capital, was absolutely necessary for such improvements. It had been said, that there was no royal road to the knowledge of mathematics; and certainly there was no cheap road to the improvement of land, whether it consisted in draining, subsoiling, embanking, manuring, the making of roads, or any other process: those who engaged in it must be prepared to expend large capital. Then how was it possible that a Bill, which would expose the farmer to such competition, which would render his profits so much smaller and so uncertain—how, he asked, could such a measure operate as an inducement to the farmer to employ capital in the improvement of his farm? If the farmer held his 1,000l. in his hands, he had it safe; but was there anything in their legislation to induce him to part with it? He could only say, that if he were a farmer he should hesitate long before he embarked his money in so hazardous a speculation. The right hon. Baronet had drawn an imaginary line from Southampton to Inverness, and had said that the counties on the east of that line grew nearly all the corn for the consumption of those on the west: they might add to that, that the counties to the east were those in which all the great improvements in the cultivation of land had taken place. The Lothians, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, 444 and Norfolk, had been held up as patterns, and cited as examples for the rest of the country; yet those were the very counties which would be most injured by this measure: those who had laid out their capital, who had ventured to improve their land—those were the men whom they were now about to teach what it was to rely upon the faith of a British Parliament. There was one point so important that it had been touched upon by almost all those who had preceded him in the course of these discussions to which he must refer, he meant the operation of this measure on the wages of labour. The right hon. Gentlemen who supported the measure had started a doctrine perfectly novel and quite inconsistent, as he thought, with the boasted doctrines of free trade. The right hon. Gentlemen the Secretary of State had stated, that the wages of labour did not depend on the price of food. He could not understand that doctrine in a country like this; he could understand it perfectly well in a country where labour was scarce, and employers were competing for labour; not of a country like this where the labourers were competing for employment. Let them take the case of America, or the still stronger case of the island of Jamaica. There was no country in which the labourer more easily provided himself with the necessaries of life than in Jamaica—none where the employer was so much dependent on the caprice of the labourer; and there that state of things existed to such an extent that there was no proportion between the wages of labour and the price of provisions. But the case of England was quite different; the case of an old densely peopled country, in which the population had been rapidly increasing, and would increase in a still greater proportion after this measure had passed. The right hon. Baronet had referred to three years' experience on that subject; and the experience of three years had led him into error in that as in other respects. Fluctuations were quite possible; and under the influence of temporary prices, such as the formation of railways, the wages of labour and the price of provisions might not vary together; but the tendency was uniform in a country like this; in the long run the labourer must be dependent on the employer for his wages, and the employer must be able to make his own terms, and to reduce the wages whenever the price of food should permit him to do so. Great complaint had been made, that so much of these discussions had been taken 445 up in recrimination and accusation. He felt that he was not amenable to that charge; but, at the same time, it was a branch of the subject of very great importance; and he could not sit down, although he would avoid even a tinge of that acrimony which had not unnaturally been exhibited by some hon. Members, without expressing his sentiments on that important subject. The right hon. Baronet had thought it necessary to declare, that he had been actuated only by the most disinterested sense of public duty. To him it was not necessary that the right hon. Baronet should make any such assurance. He deplored the policy which the right hon. Baronet had adopted; he considered it a great and grievous error; but he felt the most entire conviction of the purity and integrity of the motives which actuated him. He did not say this for the purpose of interposing a Parliamentary shield, under cover of which he might launch his sarcasms at the right hon. Baronet. He said so simply because he believed it. But while he imputed to the right hon. Baronet nothing more than error of judgment, it was, in his opinion, an enormous error—one of those errors which shipwrecked statesmen, and which shook States. He could not, however, forget what they owed to the right hon. Baronet. He remembered the finances of the country reestablished; the credit of the country rescued from insolvency; China pacified, and commercial intercourse placed upon a permanent and satisfactory footing; the settlement of the Maine boundary upon just terms; relations of cordial amity replacing a state of feverish irritation between this country and France; tranquillity at home, except in the unfortunate condition of Ireland; and, of late, our Indian empire confirmed by victories which had decorated the standard of our country with the purest laurels conqueror ever gathered—all these great merits he admitted; but he asked the right hon. Baronet whether to him alone was due all the credit—whether entirely by him these advantages had been achieved—whether they were not ascribable to the efforts of that great party which had placed the right hon. Baronet in power, and enabled him to wield with a firm hand the mighty energies of this great nation. The misfortune of recent events was, that inevitably, necessarily, he had broken the wand, he had destroyed the power which had effected so much good; and so completely destroyed 446 it, that he could not see how it could ever be knit together again. This was surely a high price to pay for a measure of political economy. He deeply regretted that the right hon. Baronet should have taken a course which had created so wide a breach in the great party he had been the means of forming, not only in that House, but in the country; but he was glad to take that opportunity of stating his opinion that the adoption of that course was the result of an error in judgment on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, and one which could only be palliated by the vast amount of service he had previously rendered to the country.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
said, the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House founded his arguments against the measure of the Government on the allegation of the immense fall which that measure would produce in agricultural produce. He (Mr. S. Crawford) wished to remind the hon. Gentleman, and the other hon. Members who took a similar course of argument, that their reasoning operated in two ways. They might show an injury to the agricultural interest by the great fall which would take place in the price of agricultural produce; but they, at the same time, taught the labouring classes the immense injury which had been done to them, and would be done to them, by holding up the price of provisions. It would impress upon that class the feeling which they had already, in a very strong degree, imbibed, that this was a landlord question, and not a question of the nation; and that by keeping up the price of provisions they were endeavouring to support the landed interest to the great injury of the masses of the community. If the hon. Gentleman's argument were correct, that the fall of provisions would be so great, was he not proving, by that very same argument, that the labouring classes would be in as great a degree benefited by that reduction of price? The hon. Gentleman who took that course of argument ought to reflect upon the injury which they might do to the interests of the great aristocracy of this country, by making the people of this country believe that the aristocracy of the country were hostile to their interests? What injury so great could be done to the aristocracy as to raise the opinion in the minds of the people that the aristocracy were the cause of the miseries they suffered? Therefore, he would impress upon those hon. Members that they ought not 447 to rest their arguments in opposition to the measures of the Government on the assumption that the fall of produce would be so great; for the more they based their arguments upon that position, the more anxiety they would create in the minds of the people, that that measure of the Government should become law. The hon. Gentleman talked of the importance of capital. He admitted that importance; but let the hon. Gentleman recollect how capital was created. It was created by the labour of the industrious classes; that labour was the origin of all wealth and prosperity; and therefore those classes were entitled to the highest degree of respect. Would the argument of the hon. Gentleman be an answer to the starving labourer who could not obtain the provision which was necessary for the subsistence of himself and his family? Would such an argument as that raise the aristocracy of England in the affections of the people? He would say, that the great object of the aristocracy of this country should be to supply the people of England, the mass of the community, with the necessaries of life on the cheapest terms; and every act of legislation which would stand between the people and cheap food, was an injury which the people of England could never forget or forgive. Some hon. Gentlemen talked of the wages of the labourer falling with the price of provisions. That argument had been raised over and over again, and it had been shown over and over again that wages did not fall proportionally with the price of provisions. He would not contend that the price of provisions might not operate in some degree on the rate of wages; but statistical returns proved that wages were higher in proportion when the price of food was lower. Therefore, wages were in a better condition when food was cheap than when it was dear; that had been proved over and over again by information that could not be refuted. The principal reason that had induced him (Mr. Crawford) to rise on this occasion, was to reply to certain arguments that had been reiterated on the opposite side of the House, and answered over and over again with regard to the condition of the people of Ireland. It had been asserted that there was no real distress in Ireland. He (Mr. Crawford) begged leave to contradict that assertion: there was great distress in Ireland. He admitted that, in the most distressed parts of Ireland, the markets did not show that distress in the manner which some persons 448 might expect. In some of the most distressed parts of Ireland, the price of potatoes and provisions had not risen proportionably to that distress. Why had they not risen? Because the people were not in a condition to buy food. The people who depended upon their own produce, being deprived of it, could not go into the market to buy produce; but in the part of Ireland where the people were in a condition to buy produce, as a substitute for the loss of their potatoes, the markets had risen to an intolerable pitch. He would refer, for instance, to the market of Belfast, and to that part of Ireland. In Belfast the market had risen to 5s. and 5s. 8d. per cwt.—a price which should be a starvation price; oats had risen to 10s., and oatmeal had risen to 7s. Within the last few days, a meeting was called in the town of Downaatrick, for the purpose of providing food for the distressed inhabitants; and a resolution was passed, that the unusually high price of potatoes, which was likely to increase during the summer months, was such as to call for public attention. Here was a proof that, in the very best part of Ireland, where labour was best requited, the distress was great; and if distress existed in that part of Ireland where people were in so much better a condition than in other parts, what must be be the distress in those other parts where neither wages nor employment could be supplied? He would unhesitatingly say, that distress to a vast degree was almost universally prevalent in Ireland; but, at the same time, he admitted that, from the causes he had stated, the markets in some places did not exhibit distress in that degree that might be expected. He (Mr. Crawford) also unhesitatingly stated it to be his opinion, that it was the interest of all classes that cheap food should be supplied to both English and Irish. He agreed with the general feeling of the people, that this could be considered as nothing but a landlord question; and he (Mr. Crawford) felt that the landlords could never have a just security for their existence and prosperity, except it was founded on the prosperity of the people. He (Mr. Crawford) was of opinion there would be no reduction in the price of produce which could not be compensated for by a fair reduction of rents by the landlord. At the same time, he did not expect that a very great reduction of rents would be necessary. He thought the improvements that would be effected in producing agricultural produce 449 would be such as to render very little reduction necessary. As a landlord, he (Mr. Crawford) did not care what the reduction might be that would be necessary. He should not stand against the true interests of the people and the nation; and let the landlords be affected by it as they might, he felt it was his duty to give all the support in his power—not only as an Irish proprietor, but as an English representative—to the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. F. SCOTT
said, four months had now elapsed since those measures had been introduced, and he had waited patiently in the expectation that Her Majesty's Ministers would have given some other reason for bringing them into that House, than those which had been successfully combated by those very Gentlemen, when propositions of a similar nature emanated from hon. Gentlemen who usually sat on the other side of the House. He had expected that some reason would have been given for the change which had come over the minds of those right hon. Gentlemen, and which should induce them to falsify all their professions, to abandon all their former opinions, and cause them to turn renegades to those opinions, the free expression of which had obtained them their seats. He had seen nothing happen during any month of the present year which could induce him to say that the right hon. Gentlemen had been wrong in the whole of their anterior policy upon the Corn Laws. Undoubtedly they had raised the cry of famine in Ireland, knowing well that no Gentleman in that House could hear that cry without feeling a deep sympathy for those who were labouring under the pressure of want; but he did not think that they had successfully proved that case. Their defence of the measure—a measure which was wholly uncalled for—was full of inconsistencies. They had put it forth, that the supply of grain in this country had been for some years insufficient for the supply of the people. Why, the returns which were on the Table of the House proved that the supply of corn had been fully adequate to feed even our largely increasing population. Then they were told that our acres did not grow with the population. He maintained that in Canada and in Australia our acres grew far faster than the population—those, and other possessions of the Crown, were waiting to pour in their wheat into our markets, while, at the same time, they were ever 450 ready to receive a large supply of our surplus labour. Under the protective system our agriculturists had doubled the produce of the soil. True, the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department said, that under that system wages were low in Dorsetshire; but he knew that in his own county the rate of wages was double what it had been stated to be in Dorset. But if protection lowered wages in Dorsetshire, what was it that raised them in Lincolnshire, and other counties he might name? It was said that protection left barren the downs of Wiltshire; ay, but it drained the fens of Lincolnshire, and fertilised the hills of Scotland. It was said, that protection swelled the pockets of the landlords; and yet those who said this, had stated also that there was no investment which brought so small a return as an investment in land. It was alleged that it interfered with the commerce and interrupted the manufactures of the country; but when had commerce and manufactures made such rapid strides as in the last fifteen years? When had profits been so great, or when had machinery displaced so much human labour? And, lastly, they were compelled to say, that the protective system rendered prices unsteady. What were the facts? Why, it was proved by returns then on the Table of the House, that in no country in Europe had the price of corn been so steady as in England. How was it possible they could be asked to give their support to a measure which required to be defended by such inconsistent arguments? To defeat the measure, at least to upset all the arguments by which it was supported, it was only necessary to revert to those used by the right hon. Baronets now sitting on the Treasury benches, when they so successfully opposed the continued Motions brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. This question was professed to have been brought forward in consequence of the condition of Ireland. Now, he sympathised deeply with the sufferings of Ireland, as an integral portion of the British Empire; but this measure was calculated to cause increased detriment to that country, and to deprive her of many advantages she now possessed. But they had failed to show any connexion between the disease which afflicted Ireland, and the remedy proposed; for the disease was immediate, and the remedy was remote. How could they maintain, too, protection to the manufacturing interest to the extent of ten or fifteen per cent; and yet, when husbandry employed more than double the 451 number of people employed in the silk, the linen, the woollen, and the cotton trades, deprive it of all protection at the expiration of three years, and give it a very moderate protection during the continuance of those three years? If protection was bad for any interest, it was bad for all; and all the land asked was, evenhanded justice for all; and that they trusted they should obtain. He knew the agriculturists of this country well, and his belief was, that in no class of the community was there more intelligence; whilst he was persuaded that there were no men more willing to bear their fair share of the public burdens, or to make any sacrifice for the public weal. He believed that when the Government sought to interfere with protection to agriculture, they were about to distort and disable one of the strongest limbs of the State. By the present measure, they were about to fetter agriculture, and mock the farmer with compensation; and having stripped him naked, expose him to be the laughing-stock of all the world. If they were to have free competition, let them have it free and fair. Let them use malt for the fattening of cattle—let them be free of the malt tax, and let them, without stint, cultivate their land as they liked—let them cultivate tobacco and other productions likely to yield an adequate return to the grower. But then it might be said, "We cannot afford to make so great a sacrifice of revenue." But the corn-grower was sacrificed all the time, and his interests disregarded. He begged of the Government to make another sacrifice, and render the agriculturist justice for the injustice it had inflicted upon him. The present was not a question of merely landlord and tenant, but a question, and a material question, that affected alike the artificer, the operative, and the manufacturer. These were times of significant moment, when iron, steel, and fire, were taking the place of muscle, bone, and sinew. They were legislating too much for furnaces, and too little for land. They were displacing the labour and the sweat of man's brow, and replacing it by infant toil and premature decrepitude. The present were not times when a Government ought to take further measures to displace further labour, or to adopt any course that might have the effect of reducing agricultural and other labour, by throwing the poorer soils out of cultivation, and thus leaving it to the dictate of the manufacturer to settle what amount of wages it might suit his caprice to give; and also to 452 induce foreign countries to take more of our manufactured goods than they might otherwise be disposed to do. His opinion of free trade had always been an interchange of various commodities, the productions of foreign countries, upon equal terms. But let them contrast Russia, who met us with a hostile tariff, and China, with which we had such extensive mercantile transactions. Much had been said about the expediency of reducing the duty upon all the articles that entered into general consumption, and were to be regarded as necessaries of life; but in the calculation of what articles could be styled necessaries, he would inquire whether tea was not a necessary article of life. It was quite true it was not an article of universal consumption (he wished it was so); but if the duty of 225 per cent on the value were taken off, it would be a real boon, productive of great benefit, and tend to improve the morals and conduce to the comfort of the humbler classes. The reduction of the duty on tea would also tend to the prosperity of our Colonies, as it would undoubtedly cause an increased demand for sugar. But then again, it would be said that the requirements of the State could not afford so great a reduction of revenue as that which would ensue from the total abolition of the duty on tea; and that a measure so likely to be productive of advantage not only to great class of the community, but to our colonial possessions, could not be carried out. Surely this argument was a proof that this so much talked of "free trade" was a boon to foreign countries, and was calculated to tell against our own Colonies. If free trade were to be introduced at all, let it lean to our own Colonies, and not to aliens and strangers. He should like very much to know how this bastard free trade would affect the Colonies. The success of our colonial possessions, in his opinion, depended to a great extent on the maintenance of protection. Our colonial possessions were the most extensive in the world, and it was a matter of the first importance that they should be bound to us by ties of reciprocal advantages, as well as by international laws. Had Mr. Pitt lived, he would have urged, as that great statesman the elder Mr. Pitt had done, the importance of such a proceeding. What had the latter said, speaking of the Colonies—We have bound our Colonies by our laws, our regulations, our trade, our navigation, our manufactures, and everything; and how can we abandon 453 protection?—I care not whether by a military force, or protection in the every-day transactions between the mother country and the infant State in commerce—but how can we compel obedience if we abandon protection? If the Colonies fall, they will fall like a strong man embracing the pillars of the State, and pulling down in their ruin all constitutional law.It was his opinion, that as long as England enjoyed the colonial trade she at present possessed, it would be little short of madness to hazard, by the introduction of such a measure as that now proposed, the connection between the mother country and her possessions. Let them see what Canada would say: "You impose rules and restrictions on me; you quarter troops upon me, and when I ask leave to send you all I have to send—my wheat and my timber—you reply, the Baltic is near at hand, and we will rather take timber from it; it is true, you are mild and meek, and the Baltic is unstable, but still we would rather deal with it." Thus it would be with the West Indies, and thus it would be with Australia, which fain would be made the receptacle for the villany of this country, without giving it any countervailing advantages. This would be the feeling which would be excited throughout the Colonies, if a measure tending to withdraw protection received the sanction of the Legislature. If they were resolved to have free trade, let them have free trade with the Colonies, and thus maintain their commercial and maritime superiority to any other nation in the world. He believed the feeling hitherto with respect to the proposed Ministerial measures was, that there had been a gross dereliction of duty on the part of public men, and that a feeling prevailed, that, however desirable a reduction of some duties might be, a total abolition of the duty on foreign corn would be productive of the most disastrous consequences. He also knew it had been said, that oft-repeated professions had been violated—that sacred pledges had been broken—and that confiding constituencies had been betrayed. He also knew that when the husbandman would be thrown out of employment, and the artisan and the operative reduced to distress—that when capital became unproductive, and there would be a necessity for direct taxation—that when those and other ulterior consequences would result, as unquestionably they must—he well knew upon whom the nation would throw the heavy responsibility of a measure carried against the sense, as it was against the interests of 454 the country, by a strange coalition of discordant and distrusting parties.
said, he intended to give his vote against the measure of the right hon. Baronet, and he must contend that on the first showing of it the principles involved in it were such as to well warrant the most strenuous opposition on the part of hon. Members in that House. The present measure was proposed as an experiment; but he considered that the Government were not justified in trying experiments which might be attended with the most injurious and disastrous effects. It was an old saying that a man's character might be known from the company with which he associated; and applying this test to the First Lord of the Treasury, with reference to the present measure, he found that his coadjutors in its support in this country were men of the most extreme opinions; and in Ireland its most strenuous advocates might be found among those who were clamorous for a repeal of the Union. He did not attribute to the right hon. Baronet any sympathy with the extreme opinions of these persons; but he regretted to see the right hon. Gentleman co-operating with such individuals in promoting measures, the success of which they believed would enable them to carry out their own extreme principles. The right hon. Home Secretary had said that one great object of this measure was to prevent fluctuations in price; but between 1770 and 1790, the fluctuations in the price of wheat had been much more considerable than under the present system of Corn Laws. It could not, therefore, be said with justice that the present Corn Laws had been the cause of this fluctuation. He would give his hearty opposition to the Bill, which he believed would most injuriously affect the interests of landlords, tenants, and all persons employed in agricultural pursuits.
§ CAPTAIN VYSE
considered it due to his constituents to give expression to their opinions on this most important question. He must say that his opinion of the fallacy of free-trade principles had been strongly confirmed by the observations which, in the course of this debate, had fallen from several hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. They had been told by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government that the reason for introducing this measure was the state of Ireland; and he (Captain Vyse) had heard no other reason assigned for its introduction. Now, he believed there were proofs enough, for 455 they had never been answered by Her Majesty's Ministers, that not with standing there might be distress in Ireland, that distress did not exist to the extent represented by the Government; and he was at a loss to know how a repeal of the Corn Laws which was not to take effect for three years to come could ameliorate a present pressure in Ireland. That House was now called on to vote for a measure, which no country under heaven had ever thought fit to adopt. They had been told that the people of this country were in favour of free trade; but the soundness of that assertion he begged most distinctly to deny, and he believed that the measure of the Government would be found in operation not only injurious to the agriculturists, but also to the poor man. The country had been deceived, for the Prime Minister, instead of conducting the Government on the principles which he formerly professed, had changed his policy. But the protectionists, though deserted by the Minister, had still a leader deserving of their confidence; they were not dismayed, but would stick to the last plank until the vessel foundered.
§ MR. SEYMER
wished, as a representative of an agricultural district in this now no-longer-to-be agricultural country, to address a few words to the House. It had been stated by his hon. Colleague in the representation of Dorsetshire, that in those cases where the money wages of the labourers were 7s. a week, the labourer also received an additional allowance, such as house-rent and fuel free; and he estimated the whole actual wages received as amounting to 9s. a week. The right hon. the Home Secretary had, however, misunderstood that statement, and had argued that the money wages being 7s. a week, there were to be deducted from that 1s. 6d. for house-rent, by which the right hon. Gentleman reduced the labourer's wages to 5s. 6d. or 6s. a week. This was a mistake on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, and was contrary to what his hon. Colleague stated, as he (Mr. Seymer), sitting near at the time, could testify to. He did not mean to say that the remuneration of the labourer was as high as he could wish; but he had yet to learn how the measure of the Government could operate as any remedy in reference to low wages. He gave every credit to his hon. Friend the Member for Shaftesbury (Mr. Sheridan) for his exertions in the cause of the labourer; and he as glad that that hon. Gentleman thought they (the protectionists) did, and would 456 vote with them on this occasion. If he (Mr. Seymer) could agree with the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, that the inevitable tendency of low prices would be beneficial to the labourer—if he did not believe that there was a broken link in the argument which the right hon. Gentleman thought so conclusive—if he did not know that in those countries from which cheap corn would come, the condition of the labourer was inferior in every respect to that of the English labourer—he might be induced to vote with the right hon. Gentleman on the present occasion. Having said this much, he would address a few words to those hon. Members upon his side of the House who supported the measure of Her Majesty's Government. It was by the votes of those Gentlemen, the friends of agriculture as he was willing to believe them, that the present measure must be carried. There had been no great change in the position of political parties in this country. The Anti-Corn-Law League had been remarkably unsuccessful in their elections. The one great exception of which they boasted was mainly to be attributed to the well-deserved popularity of the noble Lord, who on that occasion consented to be their candidate; therefore he contended that if this question was carried at all, it must be carried by the votes of hon. Members on his side of the House, "friends" of agriculture. The question he would ask these hon. Gentlemen was this: would they have supported this measure had it been proposed by the noble Lord the Member for London? Some of them had said they would not have supported him; "but," said they, "we have confidence in the right hon. Baronet, and we have not confidence in the noble Lord." Let the House have a clear understanding upon the principal point of difference between them. When they said they had no personal objection to the noble Lord, he agreed with them there were nothing in his personal character to justify any personal objection. His objections were of a purely political character. The great Conservative party withheld their confidence from the noble Lord, because they differed from his political views, more especially at the last election, because they thought they perceived in his measures a tendency—merely a tendency—to the doctrines of free trade. And were they to support or give their confidence to the right hon. Baronet, when he absolutely proposed this very measure, the mere tendency to which was a reason for their withholding 457 their confidence from the noble Lord? The hon. Gentlemen would perhaps say, "The right hon. Baronet is such a delightful Minister for keeping up the price of the Three per Cents." That might be a very important advantage. He (Mr. Seymer) was afraid country gentlemen were not so much concerned as they wished to be in the doubtless important question; but the political character and consistency of public men were of still greater importance, for unless that were kept up, in the long run they would not be able to keep up the price of the Three per Cents. Having said this much upon the general question of confidence, he would address one or two more interpellations to hon. Gentlemen on his side the House upon the arguments by which they were enabled to support the right hon. Baronet's measures. One argument, of great weight, which they used was, that there might be a reduction in price, but that was made up by increased production. He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen were aware, but he believed it to be true, in his neighbourhood at least, that those persons who were good farmers had the most sympathy, but those who were very bad farmers got no sympathy, let them grow as heavy crops of corn as in this uncertain climate it was safe to grow. Hon. Gentlemen would understand him when he said that the heaviest and best crops were most liable to injury from the uncertainty of the climate. During last summer he saw some of the most splendid crops of corn laid flat and rotting upon the ground in a very short time. How were these farmers to be compensated for the loss of price by increased production? And it was this uncertainty which distinguished agriculture so much from manufactures. The manufacturer bought a bale of cotton, he put it into his mill, and he was quite certain it would produce a given number of yards of calico; if he overstocked the market it was his own fault, but his stock would keep good. But what was the case of agriculture? Why, in spite of his farming, and of the expense to which he had gone, all his hopes of a crop were blighted by five hours' rain or wind, and he sighed in vain for a return for his labour and capital. Yet it was said, "You must apply exactly the same principle to agriculture as to manufactures." He did not say this was a proof that different principles should be applied; but it was an à priori argument that two lines of business, placed under such different 458 circumstances, should not be legislated for exactly upon the same principles. This uncertainty of agriculture had always appeared to him a justification of that sliding-scale which was now abandoned by its author. The sliding-scale appeared to him to provide that the farmer should not be ruined by a succession of bad crops and low prices; at the same time it stepped in and said, "You shall not, in consequence of your bad crops, raise the price to such a decree as will injure the consumer." Its operation was to allow foreign corn to come in in proportion to the scarcity. It struck a happy balance between the interests of the home grower and the consumer; and although it had been abandoned by its author, it was upon the whole suited to our condition. On this point he was aware he should be met by the political economists. It was a great misfortune to the political economists that the discussion of this question had arisen, for they had for some time past been losing ground. Their doctrines, as applied to practical legislation, had been losing ground. The strong hold which they had from ancient habit in that House, was shaken. They had abandoned their principles with regard to mines, railway legislation, and labour in factories; but they were seeking to apply them in all their integrity to corn. Admitting the truth of the doctrines of political economy (and that was admitting a great deal), it appeared to him those who held them were not agreed upon their definitions. One man who wrote one book would give one set of definitions, whilst another would give a different set; and they had no agreement. Their terms were not defined, their axioms were not universal, and their elementary propositions were not proved. It was a great question whether their doctrines were applicable to this country. The political economists and the right hon. Baronet, who represented their opinions, said, "The principles of free trade are principles of common sense;" but did "common sense" ever anticipate the case of a nation with a debt of 700 millions, the interest of which common honesty required us to pay? Then they said, "Every country ought to stand upon its natural advantages, and we must have a natural state of trade." What were the natural advantages of England? It possessed abundance of coal and iron, and a temperate moist climate. There was no room for corn growing here. This, in former days, was the opinion of the political 459 economists, when they did not think their doctrines would ever he brought into practical operation. They used to say this ought not to be a wheat-growing country, the climate and soil not being adapted for it: now, when they were nearer their object, they told us all these free-trade measures were brought forward with the view of doing good to all classes of the community, and the agriculturists among them. He could not help thinking that the language of the right hon. Baronet, with regard to commercial treaties, had of late savoured of the sour grapes. He recollected the time when the right hon. Baronet was most anxious to enter into them; but as soon as he found he could not he said, "Never mind the exports, but only the imports—the exports will take care of themselves." Were not our merchants and manufacturers better judges than the right hon. Baronet on this subject? Suppose the French conquered Morocco, there was a probability that some now regulations would be made with England with respect to Morocco. What would the merchants and manufacturers do? They would go to the Foreign Office, and beg attention to what was going on. If the principles of free trade were worth anything, it did not signify so long as we were allowed to import the produce of Morocco what restrictions the French might introduce into Morocco upon British commerce. As practical men, he begged the House not to be imposed upon by the scientific jargon of the political economists. One other point he wished to touch upon—the prospect of the reduction of wages under a system of free trade. The great argument which was formerly used by the free traders was, "We are now in a critical state of manufacturing industry—the foreigner is running us very hard—we want to get cheap bread in order to lower the cost of production." What was the meaning of "lowering the cost of production?" Why, lowering wages, to be sure! Now it was said that trade in corn would give a steady export for our manufactures. When we could command the seasons, we should have a steady trade in corn, and not till then. Admitting that the measure of Her Majesty's Government passed, and that we got our corn from foreign countries, he presumed the trade would follow its natural course, and that those foreigners who could supply us cheapest would supply us to the exclusion of the British agriculturist. It was said that we 460 could not be rendered independent of foreign supplies. He had no objections to a reciprocity with foreign nations; but he thought that when persons said we could not be independent of foreign nations, they forgot the Colonies. He thought that if the Colonies were properly attended to, we might be rendered independent of other countries; and it appeared to him that the right hon. Baronet himself at one time entertained a similar idea, and contemplated a sort of English Zollverein; but that idea had been altogether forgotten. If the pure principles of free trade were established, of what use, he would ask, were our Colonies? In such a case, all that we should require would be a few stations for our shipping; that is to say, in case we retained any commercial marine after such an occurrence. For with such a state of things, our Colonies would be a useless and expensive burden to the mother country. The next subject to which he should allude, was one that had been very frequently brought forward as bearing upon the question of the Corn Laws—he meant, the failure in the potato crop. He never had underrated the importance of that failure in the potato crop; and in his opinion, it had nothing to do with the case of protection. He never thought so, and he never underrated the importance of the failure in the potato crop; and he could add, that he thought the right hon. Baronet was right when he proposed to meet the apprehended scarcity by opening the ports. In his own neighbourhood, potatoes were selling at the usual price; but that fact did not alter his opinion of the proposition of the hon. right Baronet to open the ports; for when he considered the position in which the right hon. Baronet was at that time placed, with accounts constantly reaching him from all parts of Great Britain and Ireland in November last, and having the responsibility of providing food for so many, and of preserving tranquillity in the country, he thought the right hon. Baronet was perfectly justified in the proposition which he made to open the ports, as a preparation against apprehended scarcity from a failure in the potato crops. But if he thought the right hon. Baronet was justified, what was he to think of his Colleagues who overruled him? They must have been in November last strong protectionists—stronger than he (Mr. Seymer) should have been under similar circumstances; and he need not remind the House that those Gentlemen were now the advocates of a total abolition 461 of the Corn Laws after the expiration of three years. He did not mean to impute motives to those Colleagues of the right hon. Baronet: no one would dare to impute unworthy motives to the noble Duke in another place, who approved of that change; but he could not understand their conduct. The right hon. Baronet had expressed his opinion, that if he opened the ports on that occasion, he would not close them again; and in that opinion he thought the right hon. Baronet was wrong. The right hon. Baronet had admitted that changes had taken place in his opinion since his first introduction of the question, and in that respect he illustrated a well-known principle in human nature, according to which persons became attached to that for which they had made sacrifices; and he believed that the sacrifices which the right hon. Baronet had made with respect to this question, had been greater than was anticipated. He brought forward the measure on the ground of policy; but he found himself opposed by 240 Members of that House, and then he raised it into a question of justice; and if he found hereafter that the opposition to it in another place should be still more determined than that which it had met with in this House, he might raise it, as some reverend orators at Covent Garden Theatre had done, into a religious question. But whatever might be the changes in the views of the right hon. Baronet, the question itself remained the same. It was no more a question of religion or justice now than it was last year. It was a question involving great commercial and social considerations, but was no more a question of justice or religion than the duties on hair powder. Unfair allusion had been made by the hon. the Secretary at War to the speech of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire; but the gist of the hon. Member's statement was, that the prospect of prolonged life was greater in the agricultural than in the manufacturing districts. That was a valuable test of the physical condition of the people. But he would suggest another test, which, from the office which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert) held, might have some influence with him, namely, the recruiting officer's test. He would not ask from what district the greatest proportion of recruits came; but he would ask if any village in Wiltshire or Dorsetshire could not furnish a greater number of adult males capable of serving in the army, than any population of the same extent in the manufacturing 462 districts? Now, he was strongly of opinion that the duration of life and the capability of serving in the army, formed two excellent tests of the physical condition of a population. In these the agricultural districts had the superiority; and he was of opinion that the comparison would be also favourable to them as regarded the great social advantages. He gave no credit to the farmer in consequence of the employment to which he put his labourers being of a healthy description; nor did he attach blame to the manufacturers because the labour at which their operatives were employed was not so favourable to the duration of human life as that of the agricultural districts; but when the House of Commons was called upon to consider such a question, they had a perfect right to consider the comparative effects of agriculture and manufactures on the physical condition of the labourers. Assuming that this change was made in deference to the manufacturing interests, he would remark that they were far from being unanimous in its favour. And here he would observe, that as regarded the manufacturing interest, the sooner the question of the Ten Hours' labour was settled the better; for to that measure the great body of the operatives were much attached; and it might be attributed to that very circumstance that so many of them became converted to the principles of free trade in corn. He would tell the House how that change was effected. The operatives got the notion into their heads that many of the agricultural Members in that House had rescinded their votes on the factory question, with the view of keeping in office the right hon. Baronet. While he could not very accurately tell whether the motives attributed by the operatives to such hon. Members were accurate or not, yet he would say that any hon. Member who rescinded his vote on that question, and with such a view, would soon discover that he had committed a most egregious mistake; for the feelings of the manufacturing operatives have been thus more than once expressed: they said, "If the question of the Corn Laws was to stand in the way of the Ten Hours' Bill, they would rather throw the Corn Law question overboard, than be deprived of what they esteemed a favourable regulation of labour." That was one great reason why so many of the operatives had fallen in with the cry which was raised against the Corn Laws. He was now drawing nearly to the close of his address, 463 and he sincerely thanked hon. Members for their attention. ["Go on."] He would, then, detain them on one or two points which appeared to have produced some weight during the discussion. Persons were struck with the statements that had been made, that since the agitation of the Corn Law question, small farms in Scotland had greatly increased in value. He had it in his power to give the true solution of the case. Persons held farms in Scotland for a certain number of years, say for a period of twenty-one years: those individuals possessed not only capital, but they had that skill in the management of their farms which made them most productive; there was also a considerable outlay in the erection of the necessary buildings; in fact, the farms were so greatly improved in every respect, that when at the expiration of the lease they reverted to the landlord, he had it in his power to re-let them to other farmers of capital and of industry, and at an increased rent; so that if any change of this sort had taken place during the discussions on the measure now before the House, the increased value of the farms was not to be attributed to the introduction of that measure, but it was to be attributed to a circumstance which always existed, namely, the improved condition of the farmer and all the appurtenances. Another argument had been urged, that the price of land in the market had not fallen because of the introduction of the Corn Importation Bill. Assuming that to be a fact, yet it would not prove the case for which it was adduced. But why was the price of land kept up? An individual, suppose a millionaire, lived in the city of London, of whom so very little was known, that had an omnibus prostrated him in the public streets he could not be traced, unless he had his cognomen on a card; but that person wished to be somebody; he could not be so in his own locality—he considers over the matter, and having come to the determination to go down to the country to purchase an estate, he did so, and all at once became a gentleman, a country magistrate, or perhaps a deputy lieutenant. He attends the sessions, presides at grand juries—and thus, in the country, he was found all at once a novus homo, an aristocrat. Well, as he must pay for all the advantages, it could not be expected the price of land would fall, such aspirants being the purchasers. It was also to be considered that a vast improvement in the land had taken place, 464 because the farmers were thoroughly convinced in their own minds that the settlement which had been made in the Corn Laws would be lasting and permanent; at least that it would be so for a very considerable period of time. Certainly the poor farmers never thought that those laws would be first disturbed by their own promoters. An improvement also in many places was owing to the praiseworthy exertions of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. But before concluding he must advert to an observation which had been made by the hon. Member for Stockport, who said, that the farmers were all on his side; but how that hon. Member could, after recent elections, make such an observation, he could not well understand. But the observation he intended to retort on the hon. Member was, that the farmers, to convince the landlords, should toss them all in a blanket. He was sure the answer of the farmers to that appeal would be the expression of their assurance that it would afford them great gratification to associate the hon. Member in the operation. But he would hurry to a conclusion—as he was not vain enough to think that any argument he could advance would produce its due influence; what he had stated, however, ought, in his opinion, to convince any reflecting mind that there were just, strong, and cogent reasons to withhold all assent from that fatal measure which had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at half-past Twelve.