The MARQUESS of GRANBY
rose and begged to be indulged with the attention of the House for a few minutes. He laboured under a very strong conviction that the Speech of Her Majesty did not convey a fair representation of the condition of the country with reference to the manufacturing interests and the agricultural districts. He was anxious to make a very 259 few remarks upon that paragraph in the Royal Speech which related to the reductions proposed to be made in the estimates of the country. That paragraph was, "The present aspect of affairs has enabled me to make large reductions on the estimates of last year." Now, he was quite sure that every Member of that House must be most anxious, as far as it was fair and practicable, to reduce the estimates of the present year; but he might be allowed to ask this question—how was it that they were able in the present year, in consequence of the "present aspect of affairs," to reduce the estimates, when last year they had increased them? He had waited to hear, but he had not as yet heard, any reason assigned for a difference between the year 1848 and the year 1849. The Government had not confined themselves to the question of the estimates; but the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in his speech the other night stated that he proposed to reduce the Army and Navy. He (the noble Marquess) again asked Her Majesty's Prime Minister to say, what was the distinction between this year and last? What was "the present aspect of affairs?" The noble Lord said last year there was a convulsion, but there was no convulsion when the noble Lord then proposed an increase of the Army. On the contrary, it was just at the period the hon. Member for the West Riding had made his celebrated prophecy of universal peace. Well, but what was "the present aspect of affairs?" Why, he found in this very Speech the following paragraph:—A rebellion of a formidable character has broken out in the Punjaub, and the Governor General of India has been compelled, for the preservation of the peace of the country, to assemble a considerable force, which is now engaged in military operations against the insurgents.Again, he found in the same Speech the following paragraph:—The insurrection in Ireland has not been renewed, but a spirit of disaffection still exists, and I am compelled, to my great regret, to ask for a continuance, for a limited time, of those powers which, in the last Session, you deemed necessary for the preservation of the public tranquillity.Again, although it was, unfortunately, not mentioned in the Speech, yet there was not a Member present who did not know that the state of our colonial empire was most distressing. All of them knew that many of these dependencies were on the very verge of insurrection. Then, he asked, 260 was it safe and prudent at such a time as this to make large reductions in our Army and Navy? With respect to the omission of all allusion whatever to the distress in the agricultural districts, he could not suppose that Her Majesty's Government were altogether ignorant of the reality and the depth of that distress. What, then, could be their object in making no mention or allusion to it in the Speech from the Throne? Did they think that the conviction which was brewing in men's minds that the free-trade system had been a complete failure, would be crushed by such an omission? He recollected the prophecy made at the time of the passing of those free-trade measures, that wages were to be raised, and that bread was to be had at half-price. How had that prophecy been fulfilled? He held in his hand a statement of the condition of the agricultural classes in the neighbourhood of the county where he lived; and as it was very short, perhaps the House would allow him to read to them the difference in their condition now, and what it was before the free-trade measures passed. The wages in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire were now reduced from 12s. to 10s. He took a family of five individuals—a husband, wife, and three children—and he presumed that they consumed half a stone of coarse flour per week. The price of flour, when the wages were 12s., was 2s. 2d. per stone, making for those five individuals 5s. 5d. The la-hour would consume three pounds of meat a week at 6½d. That would be 1s. 7½d. a week. The total expense, therefore, of the flour and meat would be 7s. 0½d. He now took the prices at the present moment, the wages being 10s. The two and a half stone of flour now, at 1s. 10d. per stone, would be 4s. 7d.; and the meat at 5½d., would be 1s. 4½d., the total being 5s. 11½d. The reduction, therefore, in the price would be 1s. 1d., but the reduction in the man's wages was 2s.; so that he was worse off now than he was before by 11d. per week. The truth was, what was required to meet the evil of the present day was employment; but all the legislative measures of late years had tended to reduce employment at home, and to transfer that employment to the foreigner. How could the farmer be expected, with wheat at 45s. per quarter, to lay out capital upon his land, particularly now when competition was staring him in the face. He deeply regretted that Government, if they did not see fit to retrace their steps in relation 261 to their free-trade policy, had not at least thought proper to insert in the Speech from the Throne some expression of sympathy for those classes who had suffered so seriously by their recent legislation.
§ MR. BANKES
said, he wished to take that opportunity to put one or two questions to the Government. He did not see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his place, but perhaps the noble Lord at the head of the Government might know something of the matter on which he wished to obtain information, He (Mr. Bankes) had seen in a newspaper that day—the Morning Herald—a statement to the effect that the Government of Brazil had raised their customs duties on imports from this country to an almost unlimited amount. Now, he wished to know whether that was the fact, and if so, what were the articles thus virtually prohibited. He wished, also, to know whether any accounts had been received since the end of last Session from Portugal and Spain relative to the tariffs in force in these countries. Information upon that point had been promised last Session; but he believed it had never been given. Now, with respect to Portugal, this deficiency of information was very strange. With that Power, at least, our friendly relations had never been disturbed, and we had a competent person at the Court of Lisbon to represent this country, and to obtain any information desired by Parliament. As regarded Spain, although our intercourse with her had certainly been interrupted, there was, he believed, still at Madrid a consul, who had been described by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary as being quite capable of discharging all duties, and watching over all interests there connected with the trade and commerce of this realm. And now, speaking of Spain, he would answer an inquiry made by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) the other night. The noble Viscount had asked him whether, in revenge for the affront which we had received, he (Mr. Bankes) would recommend our going to war with Spain? The noble Viscount had also assured him that he (Mr. Bankes) must not assume to himself the credit of having expelled the Minister of Spain from London. Now he begged to assure the noble Viscount he had neither assumed, nor did he wish to assume any credit in that respect; for, in his opinion, a more bungling mode of proceeding than that adopted by Government on the occa- 262 sion in question had never been pursued. For what were the facts? After our Minister had been insulted in Madrid—after he had come home—a living symbol of the greatest insult which one nation could inflict upon another—the Minister of Spain had been allowed to remain here for many days. Now, had he (Mr. Bankes) had any control in the matter, that Minister should not have staid here, as Minister, for so many hours as he had remained days. It would have beeen quite competent for the Government, with all due respect for the person of Senor Isturitz, who was, no doubt, a gentleman of the highest character, fit to represent so gallant a nation, to have intimated to him that he ceased to be an Ambassador at this Court from the moment that the intelligence of the expulsion of our Ambassador from Madrid had become known to the British Cabinet—particularly, considering that the latter gentleman had been so expelled only for fulfilling the orders of those who had employed him on his mission. As to the Spanish Minister here, indeed, he doubted whether he would have been dismissed at all, had it not been for the House of Commons. In reply to the question of the noble Lord, however, he had to say that he would not have gone to war with Spain about the matter in question, had he had the power; but this he (Mr. Bankes) would have done—he would have discovered the real originator of the insult offered to us, and he would have perhaps found him, not in Spain or in Madrid, but in London sitting on the Treasury bench. The noble Viscount was pleased to say that he (Mr. Bankes) and his friends had become the war party in that House. Perhaps they might be amenable to such a charge; but he thought it came with a very ill grace from the noble Viscount and his Colleagues. The party with whom he (Mr. Bankes) acted were chargeable with having last year voted for estimates which they believed were necessary for the public service; and they certainly had assisted the noble Viscount in carrying those estimates through the House, at a time when, had a different course been pursued, the plans of the Government would have been defeated, and their seats in the Cabinet perhaps tranferred to others. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) bad said that the House had not boon asked to congratulate the Throne with regard to the commerce, manufactures, and improving revenue of the country. But that noble Lord had asked the 263 House to express its satisfaction; and it was only in accordance with that spirit of complaisance which was usually exhibited on such occasions that the House could concur in an expression even to that limited extent. He could feel no satisfaction with respect to the commerce of the country, when he found that every alteration in the tariffs of other nations was of a hostile nature. How could the House he expected to congratulate the Throne on the state of our manufactures, when not a single manufacturer in that House had stood up to show ground for such congratulation? Were the hon. Members for the West Riding of Yorkshire and for Manchester prepared to say that manufactures were in a state which could be pronounced prosperous? What was found with respect to our revenue according to the balance-sheet which had been laid upon the table of the House that day? Why, an excess of expenditure over income of 796,419l. Again, he found an item of 539,305l. for China money, a casualty which could not be counted on for this year. There was also another item of 380,415l. for old stores. That was an item which ought not to have appeared in the account at all, and which could not be reckoned upon in the year to come. He would ask the House how satisfaction could be fairly expressed at "a progressive improvement in the revenue," when there was such an excess of expenditure over income? But that was not all. There was also the revenue proceeding from the corn duties—an amount not falling far short of a million—which would be struck out from our receipts. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had bound himself, in the speech he had delivered, not to resort to that source of revenue again. That was not a source of satisfaction to those with whom he (Mr. Bankes) acted. There was a source of satisfaction, however, arising from the speech of the noble Lord, to those who had sometimes been taunted with not having accepted the fixed duty of 8s., as formerly proposed by the noble Lord; for the noble Lord seemed to intimate in the speech now delivered by him, that the fixed duty could have been no fixed duty at all, but would have come by this time to a vanishing point. Did he misconceive the noble Lord? [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: We should have had it still.] Then he (Mr. Bankes) had some hopes of the noble Lord, and should not quite give himself up to despair. When the noble Lord had no 264 more China money or old stores to look to, he might possibly return to the first object of his love—the fixed duty. He (Mr. Bankes) agreed with his noble Friend (the Marquess of Granby) that we were only entering upon our calamities; and yet it was at such a time that the House was called upon to make new grants to Ireland, and deliberate upon the means of meeting the distress which prevailed in that country. For the reason he had stated, he thought that the party with whom he acted were justified in withholding the language of congratulation towards that part of the Address which spoke in terms of satisfaction of the state of trade, manufactures, and, above all, of revenue.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he believed it to be true, as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bankes) had stated, that this country was threatened with differential duties by Brazil, and that Brazilian trade was not in so satisfactory a position, or the personal rights of English merchants in Brazil so well respected as they ought to be. But he (Mr. M. Gibson) thought this was to be attributed to that hostile policy which this country had pursued towards the Brazils with respect to the slave trade. At the present time we were acting hostilely towards the Brazils under the authority of an Act which had no foundation in treaty, but was the mere assumption of might over right. We were acting towards the Brazils in a manner calculated to excite hostile feelings in that country; and to our conduct might be attributed the unsatisfactory position in which our merchants engaged in the Brazilian trade were placed. He would ask any Gentleman in the House whether it could be matter of surprise that trade had still difficulties to contend with, considering the restrictive policy which had for years been pursued by this country—whether it could be wondered at that there should still remain some of the difficulties which had been created by a system of restriction? The country had not yet entirely got over the effects of its past restrictive policy. With all respect for country Gentlemen and the agricultural party in that House, he must tell them that he thought they had occupied rather a peculiar position during the debate on this Address. Disclaiming any thing like levity of tone in the expression of his opinion, he must say he thought that, with respect to the tenant occupiers, those honourable Gentleman had taken a very extraordinary course. First of all, 265 they did not openly ask for protection. Hopes had been held out elsewhere; but it was to be remarked that the honourable Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) had not mentioned "protection," but talked of "reciprocity." The question of a return to protection was evaded. But while those Gentlemen evaded protection, they proceeded to censure the Government for proposing a reduction in our armaments, and for attempting to economise our public expenditure. Let them answer the question of the hon. Member for Montrose, and say what it was they proposed; what it was they wanted for the fanner. They came forward as the friends of the tenant-occupier, but quarrelled with the Executive when they hinted at retrenchment. With respect to the malt tax, he heard parties asking for its repeal. A gentleman who had that morning come from Kent, had told him that his object was to make an appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal the hop duties. But how could they ask this burden to be removed, and at the same time object to retrenchment? He warned those hon. Gentlemen who pursued such a policy, that the country would make them responsible for their advice. Many lectures had been read in that House and elsewhere, upon the impropriety of agitation. He should, himself, be sorry to see agitation carried on beyond the point necessary for giving due instruction, and awakening the public mind with respect to the subject on which they were interested. He approved of instruction to the public, because he did not think that there could be any safe legislation which was not founded on public opinion. In the Speech from the Throne reference was made to attachment to our institutions, and to a constitution founded upon principles of freedom and justice. Lofty though the terms were in which that allusion was made, he admitted that we enjoyed great blessings under that constitution. But he could have wished the tone of the Speech to have been a little more qualified. He did not like the "matchless constitution" doctrine, for that constitution had faults as well as virtues. For instance, it could not be said that the Roman Catholic population were attached to the Protestant Church, and he did not think the Dissenters in this country were enamoured of our ecclesiastical system. In considering the merits of our constitution, therefore, we should keep these qualifying clauses in view. He would ask 266 the hon. Member for Essex how much of the good things we enjoyed under this constitution was the spontaneous gift of Governments, and how much had been wrested from those Governments by the people? In his opinion, the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), in awakening the public mind to the enormous amount of expenditure which was going on, was only assisting the Executive, and presenting a support upon which they could lean. The Government were pressed by their friends; the different services were urging on the Executive to a lavish expenditure; and the public mind had to be awakened and drawn to the subject, in order to prevent a reckless extravagance in the administration of the public funds. He would not detain the House further than to express a hope with respect to the commercial policy of the country. He trusted that all differential duties would be removed, and that the principle of competition would be carried out. He trusted, with the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles), that free trade would be carried out with respect to every interest in the State. He hoped that the Government would pursue that policy, and that the navigation laws would be dealt with as boldly and completely as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tam-worth had dealt with the corn laws. If they did so, he felt assured that their conduct would be appreciated by the country.
§ SIR J. TYRELL
said, having lately attended an enormous meeting of the tenant-farmers and agriculturists of this country, he wished to make an observation or two on that occasion. He had nothing whatsoever to do with the getting up of that meeting, but he acknowledged that two things at it astonished him much. The first was the great numbers which attended it; and the second was the language held at it, and the confirmed manner in which the speakers expressed their respective views upon the state of this country. They had spoken at that meeting against the carrying out of those principles of free trade which the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Milner Gibson) advocated, but which a Chancellor of the Exchequer might find so very inconvenient. He was aware that it was disrespectful to vote against an Address to the Crown; but he had been brought up in the school of the two noble Lords opposite. He well remembered how those noble Lords were in the habit of tearing to pieces Royal Speeches in days 267 gone by. The omission of all mention of the colonial and agricultural interests of this empire from the Royal Speech, he considered as in some sort an attempt to trade upon the forbearance of the two sections of party into which his side of the House was unfortunately divided. It was very true they had not the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) sitting on the Treasury benches, although he had been offered office, as they knew; but he thought it was a little unfair that those who came from the Manchester school should claim to themselves the merit of representing the public opinion of this country. And it was strange that the Government should also fancy that that party which arrogated to itself the task of instructing the country should represent the voice of the country. The Gentlemen representing the manufacturing interests had called upon the protectionists to state what it was they wanted. He would ask the men of the Manchester school to tell the Parliament what country it was they wished to imitate, or what they were driving at. It appeared that in the late meetings to celebrate the triumph of former political questions, a strong under-current prevailed, which was to set in in favour of financial reform. If the hon. Member for the West Riding had not held out a budget which it was not very creditable to the Government to have accepted to so great an extent, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in all probability would not have taken the wind (to use a common phrase) out of the sails of the Manchester school. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knew very well he could depend on that (the Opposition) side of the House to keep up the estimates. In 1835 the Secretary at War and Sir Robert Peel had been most closely examined before a Committee as to the expediency of increasing the Army and Navy Estimates, and their opinion had been that the great colonial empire of this State demanded such an increase. What confidence could they in future have in Chancellors of the Exchequer if they came forward to trade upon the divisions existing in that House, in order to carry their respective measures? But they, at his side of the House, could not be justly accused as the promoters of war; although they should assert that the financial and official statement made by the Government showed that this country was in a condition of great alarm and uneasiness. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. 268 Cobden), seemed to think it necessary to vamp up his character as a prophet; but he (Sir J. Tyrell) was surprised to find Her Majesty's Government adopting hastily and with little decency, the crude doctrines of the hon. Member. It was only fair under such circumstances that the hon. Gentleman should at once receive a seat on the Treasury benches; and he thought the hon. Gentleman ought in justice to himself to insist on his claims to that position. He wished to remind the Members of the Manchester school, that they themselves enjoyed a protective duty of 10 per cent in favour of many of their manufactured articles. [An Hon. MEMBER: Not in favour of cotton manufactures.] The hon. Member who interrupted him, seemed to think there was nothing in the world but cotton. He wished to give fair notice to Her Majesty's Government, that he would not for the future support their estimates; and he would tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should henceforth look after him more carefully than he had been wont to do.
§ MR. WODEHOUSE
wished to express his entire concurrence in all that had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (the Marquess of Granby). He could not but agree with him that the Speech from the Throne, and the Address of the House in reply to that Speech, had been framed in a too congratulatory tone, and were not justified by the circumstances in which the country was placed. He felt it his duty distinctly to declare that there was at present a prospect of continued suffering among all classes connected with the occupation of land. In all parts of the kingdom the agricultural interest were exposed to losses and to perils of the most serious character, and which might have been entirely averted, or, at least, greatly mitigated, if more wisdom had been shown in our recent commercial policy. He found that in the year 1841, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in submitting to the House his proposal for a fixed duty on corn, had used the following language:—He thought likewise he could have shown that a fixed duty had been supported by some of the ablest writers, who considered the subject I not with a view to popular applause, but calmly in their closets, and with a view to the improvement of the people.Now he felt surprised that a statesman, who entertained that view of the subject, could have lent his name, and his influence 269 to so crude a measure as that which had been proposed in the year 1846, under the auspices of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and carried in both Houses, in a manner discreditable to Parliament, and most disastrous in its consequences. It was not the owners of land only that suffered from the change; the farmers suffered still more; but the class which suffered most of all was the agricultural labourers—a class whose condition had been taken into consideration by a Committee which had sat in the year 1824, over which the noble Lord had presided. He had no hesitation in saying, that nothing could exceed the folly and imprudence of the measure passed in the year 1846; and be believed that the experience of the operation of that measure would soon force on every unprejudiced mind the same conviction.
§ MR. FREWEN
said, he believed the noble Lord the Member for South Durham (Lord H. Vane), who bad moved the Address, was a Sussex proprietor, and, what was more, the noble Lord was, as be understood, much against his will, a Sussex farmer. Some years ago, the noble Lord bad purchased an estate in that county, and a considerable portion of it had since been thrown on his hands, and remained still unlet. But, as one well acquainted with the state of property in Sussex, he could assure the noble Lord if his farms had become vacant in the year 1845, he would within a single week have found good and substantial tenants for them. He could quote many similar instances in that part of the country, where there were at present many farms unoccupied which could not be let even at greatly reduced rents; and he believed the hon. Member for West Kent, whom he did not then see in his place, could state many similar cases in the district which he represented. The fact was, that farmers were at present losing their capital in attempting to keep their land in a state of cultivation. He hoped that the noble Lord the Member for South Durham (Lord H. Vane) would join the Members of the protectionist party in impressing on Her Majesty's Government the state of the farmers in the weald of Sussex, and throughout the country generally. He could assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it would be perfectly impossible for the Government to collect the bop duty during the ensuing spring. He had been that morning in conversation with a very ex- 270 tensive farmer in that part of the country, who said be was satisfied that if the collection of the hop duty were to be enforced during the spring, half the farmers would have to be sold out, and even then the whole of the duty could not be collected. He really hoped that Her Majesty's Government would be induced to pursue the same course which bad been pursued in the year 1822 by the Government of that day, when one-half of the hop duty had been remitted. Without some such concession, the farmers in the hop-growing districts would be absolutely ruined.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
desired to offer a few words in explanation of what bad fallen from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with respect to some observations of his (Mr. J. O'Connell). He (Mr. J. O'Con-nell) had referred to a report that Lord Minto, during his mission to Italy, had invited Count Sterbini to a dinner, and that, at that dinner, encouragement was given to the outrage which afterward occurred in Rome. He (Mr. J. O'Connell) had made that statement according to the report which bad reached him; but, of course, was unable to vouch for its accuracy. He believed, however, that Lord Minto was receiving Count Sterbini, and a son of Cicerachio at the very time the rioters made their appearance in the streets.
§ MR. P. BENNET
said, he certainly felt surprised that no allusion had been made to the state of the agricultural interest in the Speech from the Throne; and he also felt bound to complain of the little attention paid in the House to that interest. At a recent meeting held on the borders of Cambridgeshire many statements had been made of labourers thrown out of employment in consequence of the low and unremunerating prices of corn. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Bunbury) could bear testimony to the present depressed state of the agricultural interest. He could tell them that good wheat was sold in that town a fortnight since for 38s. a quarter, and that the best wheat in the market had not brought more than 40s. a quarter, He had himself seen those prices paid. In a great many districts the smaller farmers were not able to employ labourers on their land, and the union workhouses were rapidly filling. It appeared that the word "protection" was not palatable in that House; but the farmers hoped that for purposes of revenue, if not of protection, something like a fixed duty would be 271 imposed on foreign corn—a project which the party opposite, and especially the noble Lord at the head of the Government, had so constantly and so warmly supported, and which, he (Mr. Bennet) believed, he even now in his heart espoused, would be restored, with the view of affording due encouragement and support to the industry and labour of our own countrymen, and of re-establishing that confidence in the agricultural resources of the country which their recent commercial policy had done so much to destroy.
§ MR. HENRY
said, that some doubt had been expressed as to the present condition of the manufacturing interest; and, he confessed, he was much surprised at the want of information which had been exhibited by some hon. Members opposite. This was a subject on which he was able to speak with confidence; for he was connected with manufacturing establishments in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Glasgow, and Belfast, and was also a very extensive exporter of manufactured articles to all parts of the world. He could assure hon. Gentlemen—and he was certain the House would hear it with great satisfaction—that the manufacturing interest was now in a state of considerable prosperity. The evidences of this on all sides were so unmistakeable, that any person who would take the trouble to inquire might satisfy himself that a great degree of prosperity was dawning over the manufacturing interest, and that it had already commenced.
§ MR. HUME
said, he wished to take that opportunity of stating what, in his opinion, the Government ought to have done, in conformity with the wants and wishes of the country. But before he passed to that subject, he would tell the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Frewen) and his party what they ought to do for the relief of the agricultural interest. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex (Sir J. Tyrell) had candidly acknowledged that he and his friends had voted for the maintenance of our enormous establishments, and that without them the Government could not have carried their budgets. Then he (Mr. Hume) and his friends were justified, upon the hon. Baronet's own authority, in attributing no small share of the culpability of the long-continued extravagance and intolerable burdens under which the people groaned to the country Gentlemen. Now, if those hon. Gentlemen seriously wished to benefit the farmers, he would recommend them 272 henceforward to vote for a diminution of that taxation which pressed so heavily upon all classes. The corn of this country was now exposed to competition with foreign corn, and he hoped that every thing else in this country would be left to contend with foreign competition. He (Mr. Hume) certainly considered the request of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex (Sir J. Tyrell) perfectly fair and legitimate—that the same principle of competition which had been carried out with respect to agricultural produce, should also be extended to every branch of manufacture. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes) asked the Government to do something for the agricultural interest. Let him state what they were to do, or what they could do. What could they do for the tenant farmers, except to lessen the burden of general and local taxation, by reducing the expenditure of the country to the lowest rate at which the Government could be carried on? Owing to the artificial state in which agriculture had been long kept, most unfortunately for the country, farmers were now exposed to a severe competition from all parts of the world; and they would be entitled to protection if it was afforded to any one branch of manufactures. Still he was convinced that a free trade in corn was the best for all classes. He rejoiced to hear from his hon. Friend (Mr. Henry) of the improvement in the manufacturing and commercial world, and perfectly concurred in the paragraph of the Address which expressed the gratification of the House on that subject; but he could not admit that that expressed all that the Government ought to do. The Royal Speech ought to be a plain statement of what Ministers meant to do during the Session. Such was the case now in Belgium, in France, and to an extraordinary degree in the United States. Let Government state what the country wanted, and what they meant to do, and not gloss over important questions. Home matters were too much passed over; the first five paragraphs were devoted to foreign policy, and the debate on the Address had almost wholly turned on that point. The noble Viscount at the head of the Foreign Department had, he must do him the justice to say, made a very clever speech for the purpose; but if it meant anything, it was that the English people were called upon to act as the police officers of the whole world, and that whenever kings quarrelled with their subjects, and 273 subjects with their kings, it was our business and duty to interfere to keep the contending parties quiet. This was why they had to maintain costly establishments—to keep peace between the King of Naples and other persons. Why, they would next have to keep peace between the Grand Sultan and his subjects, and every body else. This was the policy to which he (Mr. Hume) had always objected, because it divulged the secret of why the estimates had risen to such an enormous extent, and why the people of England were ground down by a crushing weight of taxation. With these views he meant to place on record what he thought ought to have formed part of the Speech. Last Session there were between two and two and a half millions of petitioners for Parliamentary reform, and a largo number for reduction of the excessive burden of our unequal taxation. The following was the number of petitions presented to the House of Commons in 1848 on these subjects, and the number of signatures attached to them:—
Was it not, then, most extraordinary that no notice had been taken in the Speech of the popular demand for these objects? As to Ireland, in its present state, he did not object to the continuance of the extraordinary powers that had been granted to the Government; still the Irish Members ought to be listened to; and these powers ought not to exist a moment longer than necessary. What, on the other hand, had rendered England unquiet but the demand for reform and reduction in taxation? The Speech spoke of a reduction of some of the estimates; but not a word did it say of the reduction of the general taxation. A revision of our whole fiscal system was loudly called for, and something of the kind had been promised when the income tax was reimposed; but not a word was heard of it now. The colonies, too, did not receive even a single passing allusion. 274 Lord Elgin, in Canada—where responsible government, self-government, for the first time had been given—had, within the last twelve months been conducting the affairs of that dependency with great satisfaction to the colonists. He (Mr. Hume) had just read a speech of his Lordship's, that had only arrived that day; and what did it recommend? He wished Her Majesty's Government would attend to it, and follow his Lordship's example at home. The speech was delivered in the local legislature of Canada on January 18th, when his Lordship declared that he was disposed to think an increase in the representation would be attended with considerable advantage to the public interests; and he commended this subject, which was one of no ordinary importance, to their best and most earnest attention. And why did his Lordship say so? Because petitions had been sent from all parts of the country, in the previous Session, calling for such an improvement. Surely, if the representative of Her Majesty in Canada thought fit to say the time was come for the legislature to occupy itself in endeavouring to meet the wants and wishes of the people for reform, the Government at home should begin to consult the necessities and requirements of the people of England. The time was now come when the Government must be carried on with the consent of the people, or it would be impossible it could be carried on at all. He was of opinion that much more had been made of the events of the 10th of April than circumstances warranted; he believed they had been made a pretext for increasing the Army. He deeply regretted that the present Government many of whose Members had been even stronger reformers than he was, had not sought to meet the wishes of the people. Sound policy demanded that the suffrage should be extended in time, or the consequences, as might be seen elsewhere, would be most deplorable. To know when to yield was the highest wisdom; and this principle had been recognised by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The omission from the Speech of all allusion to the state of our colonies was most significant. Allusion had been made to the rebellion in the East Indies, but none to the rebellions at the Cape and in Ceylon, whereby a far greater number of lives had been sacrificed. To the eleventh paragraph of the Address, which deplored the existing disaffection in Ireand, and alluded to the continuance of the 275 extraordinary powers, he should propose the following addition:—
Petitions. Signatures. 9,005 For an extension of the elective franchise 290,559 5 For reform of Parliament 222 3 For the Charter 2,018,080 5 For vote by ballot 4,736 6 For retrenchment of expenditure 42,710 5 For revision of taxation 40,837 167 For retrenchment of naval and military expenditure 162,864 38 For ditto and militia 15,854 1 For reduction of Army 34 9,235 2,565,896And we assure Your Majesty, that we shall also without delay, direct our serious attention to the consideration of the rebellions which have unhappily occurred in the course of last year in the Island of Ceylon and at the Cape of Good Hope, in order to ascertain the extent, as well as the causes, of those rebellions; and we shall endeavour to trace the causes of the distress and discontent that exist in British Guiana, in the Mauritius, and in other British Colonies.And at the end of the twelfth paragraph, the following addition:—But we are, at the same time, compelled earnestly to represent to Your Majesty that the amount of Taxation is excessive, and the burdens more than the industry of the Country can support; that millions of the people are thereby affected both in their physical and moral condition, causing great privations and consequent discontent amongst Your Majesty's faithful people:We desire to inform Your Majesty, that numerous Petitions presented to this House, and recorded in its proceedings of last Session, complain of the present system of National Taxation being unequal and unfair in its bearing on the several classes of the community; that the system, therefore, requires a complete revision, with a view to a more fair and equal distribution for the future:Our duty to the people further requires, that we humbly represent to Your Majesty, that great and well-founded anxiety exists in this Country respecting the Elective Franchise and the Constitution of this House; that millions of Your Majesty's loyal and industrious people preferred their Petitions for a great extension of the Franchise, and for protection to the Electors, with other measures of reform, by which this House might be so constituted as to fully and fairly represent the people.In the present state of the House he did not wish to take a division, no notice having been given by him; but when the House came to the paragraphs he had pointed out, he should move these Amendments.
The Address was then read by the clerk at the table. On his arriving at the eleventh paragraph,
§ MR. HUME moved the above Amendments.
§ MR. BANKES
seconded the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose with respect to the colonies, because it was essential that they should mention in the Address what was both publicly and privately known with reference to the calamities that had occurred in the colonies specified, and which, if they were to believe the papers, had certainly occasioned a very great loss of life—a loss far exceeding any that had occurred in Ireland. He certainly concurred with the hon. Member for Montrose, 276 that matters such as these ought o have been noticed in the Speech from the Throne, unless those Speeches were a mere form. Although the hon. Gentleman did not intend to divide the House, he (Mr. Bankes) would certainly have been quite prepared to vote with him if he had. There was a great difficulty about giving notice of any intention to move amendments of this kind, because parties could not get at the secret of what the Speech would contain beforehand, but must wait until it was brought under discussion. He (Mr. Bankes) mentioned this to excuse the absence of his friends on the division the other night; and he was sure that if they had had the option of giving notice afforded them, they would have had a much greater number of votes on their side at the division.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
thought the Amendment too important to be allowed to fall to the ground without ascertaining what number of Members Mould vote in support of it. He therefore appealed to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) not to permit it to be swamped in that way, but to take the sense of the House upon it.
§ The other paragraphs were agreed to.
§ Address agreed to.—To be presented by Privy Councillors.