HC Deb 16 August 1848 vol 101 cc145-7

On the Motion for the Third Reading of this Bill,


could not but take occasion to offer his thanks to Her Majesty's Government; indeed, it would be the height of ingratitude on his part did he not, in the name of the farmers of England, render to the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, his and their thanks for—and congratulations on the courage with which he had come forward to take this—the first retrogressive step—this, the first step towards the repeal of their free-trade measures. The House would not forget that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, the source whence the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord opposite derived their commercial policy, had at a time when mutton was 7d. per pound, thought it right to admit duty free the sheep of Germany as a benefit and a boon to the poor people of this country. But what had been the consequence? Only 100,000 or 120,000 sheep had been imported in the course of two years—in fact, about two days' supply for Smithfield market, and now in the second year of free trade, they found Her Majesty's Ministers obliged to come forward with a measure prohibiting the importation of the agricultural produce of foreign countries. And why? Because the great boon of free trade had been the means of importing into this country a foul, fatal, and contagious disease, which, as they were told on the high authority of the hon. Member for Westbury, had ravaged the flocks of Germany for many years, and which, according to the authority of the inspector of sheep at Norwich, was unknown in England until September last—a disease so fatal in its consequences that the inspector in question stated that in no instance less than 25 per cent, and in many cases up- wards of 80 per cent, of the sheep attacked were destroyed—a disease by which one farmer lost eight score of sheep in four days, and the Marquess of Salisbury no less than 1,800—a disease so fatal that he could not, he repeated, but be deeply grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for stepping forward to put a stop, if possible, to its ravages. The scientific name of the disorder in question, was, he understood, the variolum ovina; but it had acquired a more popular, though less classic denomination—as, instead of being literally translated "sheep's small pox," it was known by the last monosyllable of the phrase, to which, however, had been appended by the grateful farmers, in order to insure the appellation being duly distinctive, the name of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. Well, so extremely virulent was this disorder—he need not give it its popular agricultural name—that, after it had broken out amongst a flock, the hurdles within which they had been bent, would communicate the contagion for weeks or months to any healthy sheep which might come in contact with them. He had now, then, to thank the right hon. Gentleman for this first step towards the repeal of his free-trade measures, and he hoped it would not be the last which he would bring forward in order to render nugatory those free-trade acts which had been productive of so much alarm and so much mischief.


acknowledged that a compliment proceeding from the noble Lord was so rare that it certainly came upon his ears with a pleasing sound; and if in this instance he could honestly accept it, he would be happy to do so. But he did not think that the noble Lord was justified in saying that he had shown any courage in departing from the principles of free trade when he introduced this Bill—not the most ardent free-trader would contend that free trade implied the admission of diseased stock, or of articles, whether living or dead, which would be likely to spread contagion or generate disease. He would take the opportunity of saying that he had recently received from our consuls abroad valuable statistical information on this subject, to which he wished the attention of the agricultural public to be directed. The general impression among our consuls was, that the only real way of checking the progress of the disease was by inoculation. Every other way was ineffectual; but inoculation was found to re- duce the rate of mortality to a very small amount. There was a prejudice among veterinary surgeons against inoculation, he believed; but in foreign countries, where they had the benefit—if it could be called a benefit—of experience, the universal conclusion was, that inoculation was the only real preventive against the spread of the contagion.

Bill read a third time and passed.

Back to