HC Deb 04 February 1850 vol 108 cc287-309

OCCUPATION of 100 ACRES in the PARISH of LOUGHBOROUGH, divided into Five Parts of 20 Acres each, cropped by a Four-course System successively of Seeds, Wheat, Turnips, and Barley, the Fifth Part being Pasture:—

Expenses of Entry and Stocking, being Capital invested on the Farm.
Tenant-right to outgoing tenant £174 17 9
Horses, waggons, implements of husbandry, &c. 300 0 0
Store beasts, sheep, and pigs to stock the farm, and first year's oil-cake 484 0 0
Seed, barley, and labour of ploughing and sowing it on entering 33 10 9
For first year's improvement of farm, being 20 per cent on rent 44 0 0
Poultry and sundries 5 11 6
£1042 0 0
Prices under Protection. Prices under Free Imports, allowing for a Fall of Two-sevenths.
£ s. d. £ s. d.
Rent at 44s. per acre; local burdens 92l. 10s. 312 10 0. Abatement of rent, 28 per cent; local burdens 92l. 10s. 250 10 0
Seed—5 quarters wheat, at 56s. 14l.; 5 quarters barley, at 35s. 8l.15s.; turnip and grass seeds, 5l 5s. 28 0 0 Wheat, at 2l., 10l.; barley, at 1l. 5s., 6l. 5s.; turnip and grass seeds, 3l.15s. 20 0 0
16 store beasts, at 11l.4s. 179 4 0 At 8l. 128 0 0
130 store sheep, at 1l. 8s. 182 0 0 At 1l. 130 0 0
10 pigs, at 1l. 1s 10 10 0 At 15s. 7 10 0
Oil-cake and other cattel food 45 10 0 32 10 0
Labour, at 11s.a week 175 0 0 At 8s. a week 125 0 0
Blacksmith, carpenter, bricklayer, collar-marker, &c 10 10 0 7 10 0
Manure 28 0 0 20 0 0
Keep of four horses 105 0 0 75 0 0
Depreciation fund for keeping up horses and dead stock, 10 per cent on 300l. laid out on entry 30 0 0 8 per cent 24 0 0
Tenat's income-tax 3 4 2 Tenat's income-tax 2 6 1
Insurance 1 10 0 Insurance 1 2 0
For improvement of farm, being 20 per cent on rent 44 0 0 35 4 0
For depreciation of fat stock by disease first introduced into this country by importation: —On 510l. for beasts, sheep, and pigs, 10 per cent 51 0 0
£1,154 18 2 £909 12 1
Under Protection. Under Free Imports, allowing for a Fall of Two-sevenths.
£ s. d. £ s. d.
20 acres wheat, 5 qrs. an acre, at 56s. 280 0 0 Ditto, at 2l. 200 0 0
20 acres barley, 7 qrs. an acre, at 35s. 245 0 0 Ditto, at 1l. 5s. 175 0 0
16 fat beasts at 21l. 336 0 0 Ditto, at 15l. 240 0 0
170 sheep, at 2l. 2s. 357 0 0 Ditto, at 1l. 10s. 255 0 0
10 pigs, at 2l. 2s. 21 0 0 Ditto, at 1l.10s. 15 0 0
Wool from 60 sheep kept in summer, 15 tods, at 1l. 8s. 21 0 0 Ditto, at 1l. 15 0 0
Poultry and sudries 3 3 0 Ditto 2 5 0
1,263 3 0 902 5 0
Deduct expenditure 1,154 18 2 Farmer's loss 7 7 1
Farmer's profit £108 4 10 Expenditure £909 12 1

These facts and figures could not be controverted or overturned, and the deduction would be that free trade must be ruinous to the tenant-farmers as well as to their labourers. Now, what had the agricultural labourer gained by free trade? It had been asserted by hon. Members opposite that the labourer gained in other matters more than he lost by a reduction of wages under the operation of free trade; that, in short, the agricultural labourer was better off at 8s. per week under free trade, than at 11s. under protection. Why, he scarcely knew of an agricultural labourer in his district who did not grow his own corn. All his agricultural labourers had allotments. How, then, was it possible for a labourer who grew his own corn, and whose earnings were reduced to 8s. per week by free trade, to make up the difference in the cheapness of other things? There was nothing that he consumed which could compensate by cheapness for this reduction. If it were put to the labourer whether he would have corn at 56s. and wages at Us., or corn at 40s. and wages at 8s., there could be no doubt whatever of his decision. The House was called on to address Her Majesty to the effect that the House— united with Her Majesty in the feelings of sincere gratification with which Her Majesty witnesses the increased enjoyment of the necessaries and comforts of life which cheapness and plenty have bestowed on the great body of the people.

He could not understand what this meant. Who were the great body of the people? He would show the House who they were, and then it would be clear this paragraph contained one of the greatest untruths ever uttered in that House. In the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the total number of persons engaged or dependent on agriculture was 17,469,893, the number dependent on manufactures was 9,366,196. Why, was the House to be told that the manufacturing consumers were the great body of the people? The hon. Member for Cork told the House the poor man had no interest in protection. He could assure him that thousands and thousands of his countrymen who annually came over to assist in getting in the harvest—than whom a more steady, hardworking, and openhearted set of men could not be found—that these men were all deeply interested in protection—for the adoption of free-trade principles would naturally affect the wages they had been accustomed to receive. The hon. Member for Malton said the land ought to be improved. He could assure the hon. Member, in the district in which he lived, none were more anxious to improve their property than the agriculturists, and none had carried improvement further. But the hon. Member, in answer to the complaint of the poor-rates being heavy on the land, had stated that magistrates could lower the rates if they pleased. He (Mr. Packe) had presided as magistrate in his own county for many years, and he could assure the hon. Member that magistrates had no power, as he supposed, to lower rates; they had no control in any way over the poor-rates, nor were there any means under the Poor Law Act of altering the rates. He had proved that the labourer gained nothing under free trade, and also that the tenant-farmer was injured. The tenant-farmer in this country must be affected in the greatest degree by the change consequent on the adoption of free trade. Already much had been said on the gross injustice of the operation of the income tax, which compelled him to pay, not on his actual income, but on one half of his rent, which was regarded as profit, no matter whether he derived any profit or not. It had been stated, and he believed with great truth, that tenant-farmers had thrown up their lands in many cases. A reference had been made to the conduct of a noble Duke in giving a large sum—many thousand pounds—to a tenant, by way of compensation for improvements undertaken on the faith of protection prices; but he would ask, whether it would be possible for private gentlemen generally, under such circumstances, to have given 5,000l. or 6,000l. to a tenant? He was certain, if agricultural produce was to remain at present prices, that the farmer and labourer would be ruined. The landlord, if he got any rent, might drag on for some time longer; but the certain conclusion would be, that he, as well as the farmer and the labourer, would also be ruined.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, though he attended quarter-sessions regularly, appeared to be totally ignorant of the principles which regulated society in reference to commerce and manufactures. What would be said if the manufacturers were to come to Parliament, and—representing the deplorable state to which they were reduced by the reduction of the prices of their manufactures: that they were obliged now to sell cotton goods for which they formerly obtained 9d. a yard for 3d.—demand protection, on the ground that Par- liament had been instrumental in producing that result, in consequence of its having consulted in its legislation the interests of the consumer rather than of the producer? Such a demand would be scouted as ridiculous. Gentlemen opposite seemed to have been asleep for the last half century, if they supposed that was the principle on which those things proceeded. He hoped his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding would treat the uncalled-for attack which had been made upon him by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, with that contempt which it merited. The hon. Gentleman appeared to fancy it to be the duty of the House to attend to whatever demand the producers of corn might bring before it, without any reference to the interests of the consumers. The hon. Gentleman mistook altogether the duty of Parliament. Throughout all its proceedings, except while monopoly prevailed in favour of the landed interest, Parliament had proceeded on the opposite principle. He recollected, certainly, when monopoly was the law of the land, the interests and dictates of the monopolist producers only were respected; but as monopoly was now scouted, and the cry on the other side, as well as on that, "no monopoly," he could not understand the drift of the hon. Gentleman's argument. No speech had satisfied him more in the course of the debate on the Address, than that of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. Though he did not agree in all his conclusions, he went fully with him in his demand for carrying out the free-trade principle in everything. No doubt the sudden transition from protection to free trade in corn occasioned much difficulty to the producers; but that difficulty was mainly due to the agriculturists themselves, who had strenuously refused to proceed gradually from the bad and unnatural to a good and natural system. But hon. Gentlemen opposite would never listen to any proposition of that kind. In 1829 he endeavoured to show the absolute necessity of abandoning the unnatural and artificial state of things in regard to the corn laws which then prevailed, and proposed that they should do it gradually by fixing a duty of 10s. for the first year—and he would not have objected had it been greater—and reducing it 1s. a year afterwards until they returned to a state of perfect free trade; but out of a full House—he believed nearly 600 Members—only thirteen voted for the proposition. Since then, however, a revo- lution had taken place in men's minds; the evidence taken by the Import Duties Committee had opened the eyes of the whole world, he might almost say, but certainly of the mass of the people of this country, and free trade in corn had been established. Well, now, hon. Gentlemen who represented the agriculturists, and who were formerly the great opponents of that measure, ask to be placed in the same category as the rest of the community. That was a most reasonable and just demand, and he, for one, was prepared fully to concede it, and to say that whatever burdens there were upon land which other interests were free from, ought to be removed. He was quite confident that that was the principle on which free trade had been established, and that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who proposed and carried free trade in corn, never intended to have any part of the manufacturing interest protected while he deprived agriculture of protection; and he was sure that the right hon. Baronet's assistance would be given towards the establishment of a perfect equality. It was useless to bring before the House the case of one farmer or another, with the view to show the cost of cultivation in comparison with the return from the produce of the land, because no two farmers, though their farms might be alike in every other particular, would agree as to the outlay. He would say to the farmers, let them put themselves in the category of manufacturers; they were manufacturers of corn, cattle, and various productions of the land; and there were no manufacturers who possessed any claim to protection. It was of no use to talk about the rent of land. It might be worth 40s. an acre. It might be worth 20s. or 10s.; but whatever it was worth the landlord must be content to take. No doubt it was the duty and the interest of the landlord to see that the various charges upon land were reduced to the lowest possible point; but as to rent, the landlord must take what he could get for his farms. Whatever protection the manufacturers enjoyed, the farmers should enjoy the same, but no more. But the hon. Gentleman wanted more. He asked the House to take his debtor and creditor account, and if there should be loss by his farming operations to make that loss good. What had Parliament to do with that loss? If prices continued so low that the land could not be cultivated at its present expenditure without a loss, that expenditure must be reduced either by lowering the rent, or in some other way. He did not refer to wages, which, it appeared, were sufficiently low already. He was sorry to say that wages were as low as 7s. or 8s. in the hon. Gentleman's neighbourhood. It was not so in his part of the country. But the landlords had raised the alarm unnecessarily, and instead of exhorting the fanners to exertion to meet the difficulty in which the sudden change from protection to free trade had placed them, and assisting in that object themselves, they went round the country calling public meetings, raising the cry of alarm, and telling the farmers that they must all be ruined, and there was no help for it, until they had so impressed the farmers with the truth of their statements, that he believed that they would be miserable, if they were not ruined. In this respect the country gentlemen had taken a most insane and injurious course. No doubt the farmer could not live if prices continued disproportionately low, as compared with the cost of cultivation; but then it would become a question between him and the landlord whether there must not be a reduction in the rent, and, instead of the hon. Gentleman coming down to Parliament to ask for legislation and protection for the farmer to enable him to maintain a profit, he ought to set his mind to consider now the land might be cultivated at less cost. He (Mr. Hume) recollected last year, when he moved for a Select Committee to inquire into the subject of the county rates, with the view to reduce that burden, very few of the agricultural Members voted with him. The subject of depreciation had been referred to by the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, and he seemed to suppose that depreciation in farming stock and farming capital had never taken place before in this country. In 1843, when that question was before the House, a gentleman—a member of the Agricultural Association—sent him (Mr. Hume) a paper pointing out the great depreciation which had taken place in 1842, in consequence of the low prices of that year. The calculation this gentleman made was, that farming stock and farming capital had suffered a depreciation in 1842, as compared with the previous year, of 25 per cent, or, in the gross, 117,000,000l. This return was made in Feb., 1843. But he (Mr. Hume) took it that the greater the depreciation, as resulting from free trade, the greater the injustice which had been committed by monopoly on the people at large. He hon. Friend who had moved the Address, had calculated that the loss to the community by protection had been 91,000,000l. a year. Now, he (Mr. Hume) remembered that, in his evidence before the Import Committee, the hon. Member for Glasgow stated, as the result of a calculation made by him, in conjunction with Mr. Deacon Hume, that the loss to the community by these protective laws was 60,000,000l. a year—an amount equal to the whole of the taxes laid on by the Crown. That statement was pooh-pooh'd at the time, but he rejoiced to find that its correctness was now confirmed. In his opinion, the corn laws had for many years operated as a great check on the property of the kingdom, while free trade would give a wider field for the exertions of all classes, and tend to universal prosperity. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leicestershire had put down the agricultural population at upwards of seventeen millions, while he had estimated those engaged in commerce and manufactures at only nine millions. He (Mr. Hume) believed the more correct estimate to be, that one-third of the whole population were dependent on agriculture, and the remaining two-thirds on commerce and manufactures. It was clear, therefore, that free trade already benefited the greater number; and it was his firm conviction that, in the end, it would be found equally advantageous to all. The hon. Member for West Surrey, whom he was sorry not to see present, had accused his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding with having been the means of deteriorating the condition of the British labourer. He admitted the industry of the working classes of this country—he believed the labourers in no other country worked so hard and so continuously; but if anything more than another was calculated to improve their condition, it was this very measure of free trade. What situation should we be in if our foreign trade were stopped, and we had to depend on our own resources, recollecting that we were essentially a manufacturing people, and imported more than half our supplies? Twenty years ago the cotton trade amounted to thirty-four or thirty-five millions, one-fifth only of which was taken by the home market, the rest being exported to foreign countries. The opening of the trade in corn was the means by which the industry of the country would be best promoted, and the condition of the labourer improved, as it would enable the foreigner to send here that alone which he could pay for our manufactures with. He should be glad when the day came for the promised debate as to the effect of free trade on labour, because he was sure that the result would be that it had been, so far as it had gone, most beneficial. The present debate, in which the leaders on the other side appeared to be altogether beaten in facts and in argument, must be peculiarly gratifying to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, as evidencing the triumph of those principles he so ably expounded in 1842. He wished, while on his legs, to obtain some information from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, not on our foreign relations, but our home affairs, which appeared to occupy not one-tenth of the attention on the part of Ministers which were given to foreign matters. They had already received some information regarding foreign affairs—they had had a great blue book given them about the affairs of Italy, and another about Hungary; he wanted to know something about our affairs at home; they had been told nothing about remedial measures, or about any measure of importance respecting the internal condition of the country. The Members of the Government gave ten times the attention to foreign that they did to domestic affairs. Ministers had intimated some change in respect to the elective franchise in Ireland, but he thought the people of this country were also entitled to some consideration. Looking at the situation in which we were placed, and the manner in which the people had supported the Government in their endeavours to preserve the peace, the quiet orderly manner in which they had conducted themselves amid severe privations and suffering, entitled them to some attention and some relief. He regretted to find no allusion in the Speech of the Royal Commissioners to the extension of the suffrage. The promise made by the noble Lord, in 1832, of the entire removal of class legislation—the taking the power out of the hands of the few, and placing it in those of the real representatives of the people—had not been realised under the Reform Bill. This brought him to the last paragraph in the Royal Speech; and he hoped the noble Lord would avail himself of the present opportunity to state to the House whether he meant to introduce a reform in Parliament, and make such other changes as would di- minish the amount of crime in the country. The paragraph was as follows: — It is Her Majesty's hope and belief, that by combining liberty with order, by preserving what is valuable, and amending what is defective, you will sustain the fabric of our institutions as the abode and the shelter of a free and happy people. He asked nothing more. He wanted nothing more than to preserve what was valuable, and to amend what was defective. The noble Lord had admitted, and all hon. Gentlemen were aware of the defective state of the representation; therefore it was sincerely to be hoped, that the noble Lord would be able to state whether it was his intention to propose any extension of Parliamentary reform, so as to take away that which was odious in the eye of the people—namely, the nomination of hon. Members to that House. He did not ask the noble Lord and his Colleagues to go to the extent that he (Mr. Hume) would go, for he had always trusted the people, and had the most perfect confidence in them, and therefore he would grant them extensive rights. The principle of the constitution was, that the people were the root of all power, and that they should possess the full privilege of electing those who had to dispose of their lives and liberties. Seeing that the defects in the representation were admitted, and that the people of England were anxious for improvements, could the noble Lord give any information on the important subject of reform in addition to that the Royal Speech contained? Was it intended that there should be such a reform in Parliament as the people required? He had no wish that any change should take place which should not consolidate the Government of the country. He was as great a friend to peace and order as any man in the land, and it was on that ground he wished the noble Lord to reconsider the speech he delivered two nights ago, because every able argument he had then adduced against altering the present system of free trade, would apply still more strongly in favour of having reform in Parliament, and granting contentment to the great masses of the people. He believed that a large portion of our military establishments were kept up in order to suppress the demands of the people. He supported the principles of the Charter, but repudiated altogether the attempts made to carry it out; and it appeared perfectly clear to him that the noble Lord and his Colleagues had been obliged to add to the military force, and to increase the number of their coercion laws, with the view of putting down the demand which existed almost universally in favour of improved Parliamentary representation, particularly among the labouring classes. Let the noble Lord place them within the pale of the constitution, and not restrict the franchise to 1,000,000, instead of 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 persons. He submitted that the speech of the noble Lord against the demands of the protectionists, would apply equally well in favour of giving the people Parliamentary reform, placing them within the pale of the constitution, and interesting them in the institutions of the country; and he believed that if these rights were granted, the noble Lord would do more to establish Her Majesty's throne in the hearts of Her subjects than by any other plan he could adopt. Another question he wished to ask was this, was it the intention of Her Majesty's Government to afford relief by taking off those taxes which were known to be most mischievous and injurious to the people? Her Majesty had alluded in Her Speech to the precautions against sickness, and to the necessity of adopting sanitary measures; but how could the noble Lord put a sentence of that kind in Her Majesty's mouth, or appear earnest in his expressions of wishing to attend to sanitary measures, when he still imposed the window tax, which was the greatest of all enemies to the health and comfort of the working classes? If the noble Lord wished to carry out the recommendations contained in the Speech, and to congratulate the House on steps having been taken in the country to promote sanitary measures, why did not he state, at the same time, that the burden of the window tax would be taken off the people? It was a downright mockery to tell the people of England that they should raise money to promote the health of their respective boroughs, by draining and pure air, whilst they shut out, by legislation and taxation, fresh air from the inhabitants. He further called upon the noble Lord to lessen the burdens at home by reforming the whole of our colonial system, making the colonies free and willing adjuncts of this country, giving them the means of managing their own affairs, and paying their own expenses. The advantages of this reform would be tenfold. We might then relieve ourselves rom the support of that large military force which was now maintained for the preservation of order in the colonies, and we should have emigrants in large numbers proceeding from this country of their own accord. These were three points, then, upon which the country required information; and he should feel thankful to the noble Lord if he would at once avail himself of the opportunity to satisfy all inquiry.


thought that the questions which had been asked by the hon. Member for Montrose might he answered on some other occasion. He had himself risen for the purpose of saying a few words as to the vote which he had given on a previous evening, on the Amendment to the Address. It was painful for him to have to answer for that vote, because, however satisfied he might be as to the prosperity of this country, he had no satisfaction as regarded his own. In the one they had, comparatively, a picture of happiness; in the other, a picture of desolation. It was the duty of the Government to account for such a state of things; for it was not merely a matter of interest to his country, but a matter of life and death. He had admired the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Address, but quite as much for what he had omitted as for what he had told them. He had told them, however, that if Ireland had been properly managed she would have given corn enough for this country as well as for herself. Well, for fifty years past they had Ireland under their control, and what had they done? They had brought matters to such a pass that they had driven the farmers and labourers out of the country. It had been stated that the consequences of the scarcity which prevailed in Ireland had been mitigated by the tranquillity which existed in that country; but the proposition was one which he confessed his inability to understand. He could not understand how the consequence of scarcity, which was hunger, could be mitigated by tranquillity. The inconvenience which was the result of hunger might no doubt be succeeded by tranquillity, but it was the tranquillity of the grave; and he could not help thinking that a large loaf, or even a small one, would be preferable to quiescence purchased at so dear a price. It was made a subject of felicitation in the Royal Speech, that the necessaries of life might be had for little or nothing in Ireland at present; but from that assurance, he, for one, could derive no comfort. In Ireland they had not even a little now, and what had become of the nothing? The un- fortunate Irishman was in the position of the ill-fated individual whose hapless case had been so pathetically alluded to by the Roman satirist— Nil habuit Codrus; quis enim negat? Ettarmen illud Perdidit infelix totum nil. Of what avail was it to a starving man that the comforts or even the luxuries of life might be had at an insignificant expense, if he found it as difficult to procure a small sum as a large one? With respect to the free-traders, he candidly confessed that he never believed one-half they said; and if the hon. Members who were now listening to him would do him the favour to look over the list of divisions on free-trade questions, they would not find that his name figured there. He was sorry to say that he believed the free-trade party had fallen into many errors, and committed many mistakes. The hon. Member who had moved the Address was the real author of the repeal of the corn laws. Him he (Mr. Grattan) believed, because he was not a merchant or a trader; but if he had been either, he would not have been so ready to give credence to his representations. He remembered having asked that hon. Member whether he thought that, in the event of free trade being carried, the prices of the necessaries of life would be reduced, and also whether he thought it probable that foreigners would receive the goods of our manufacturers; and to each inquiry the hon. Gentleman replied in the affirmative. But the event had lamentably falsified his prediction, so far, at least, as the latter part of the assurance was concerned. Foreign nations, so far from manifesting any desire to receive our goods, and to reciprocate our free-trade policy, had enacted hostile tariffs, and seemed resolved to pursue, in our regard, as unfriendly a system as possible. True, the English were still as they had been described by Voltaire, des gens fiers et hardis, and they might perhaps recover from the experiment; but as for unhappy Ireland, he saw that day by day she was going from bad to worse. He denied that there was free trade in any fair or equitable sense of the word. He had received from abroad a letter from a friend who could not drink British port, and who was in the habit of getting over a cask of foreign wine. Well, that wine paid 5l. duty, and his friend wanted to know why, with free trade, he was to pay that for German wine? Well, another friend received some Sicilian wine, which cost 22l. in that country, and for which he paid 15l. duty. An Irish Member coming over to attend his Parliamentary duties in this country, could not dare to bring a gallon of Irish whisky over with him. If he were to do so, he would have to pay 100l. to Her Majesty's Chancellor of the Exchequer, which would be purchasing Irish whisky at rather too dear a rate. At the present moment some of the best spirituous liquor in the empire, of the richest possible flavour, and more than thirty years old, was lying in the Queen's stores at Liverpool, having been forfeited under what they were pleasantly told was the free-trade system. If the Irish Member, misled, poor simple fellow! by the representations of English excise officers, who ridiculed him for bringing over so small a quantity as a gallon, were to fetch over a puncheon the next time, he would find that before the end of the Session had arrived, more than one-fourth would have escaped or evaporated; and yet, when he came to settle accounts at the Excise Office, he would find that he would have to pay duty for the whole. And that was what they called the free-trade system. Such treatment of the Irish was in direct violation of the assurance which Lord Castle-reagh gave to Sir John Newport at the time of the Union, that Irish whisky should for the future be imported into England free of duty; but Irish whisky was taxed to protect the West India interest. The fact was, that in this as in every thing else, Ireland had been made the victim of the grossest and most monstrous mismanagement. The country had been devastated and desolated as by a plague. Where were her exports and her imports? De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. He could find no account of them. The fact was, that of late years her exports in every single article had been going back. This was true even of the article of whisky. In the year 1817 the revenue of Ireland was 7,600,000l. Would it be believed that it was now no more than 3,968,000l? What were they going to do for that unhappy country? What did they purpose on the general principle of Government to assuage the sorrows, to remedy the sufferings, and to redress the grievances of that ill-fated land? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They would compel the Irish Members to spend six months in London, and then they would send them home to their estates as wise, but not as rich, as they had come. The exports of Ireland were rapidly decaying. There was a time when the value of the exports of corn from Ireland averaged 2,000,000l. a year. At present there was not, of all descriptions of corn, whether wheat, oats, or barley, more than the value of 14,000,000l. in the country. Ireland now was nothing better than a lifeless block, floating on the western waters. Her exports were gone, and her imports were only injurious to her, inasmuch as they injured her native manufactures. In 1792 there was exported 90,000,000 yards of linen; and now they were told by the hon. Member for Rochdale—as a proof of prosperity—that Ireland exported last year 87,000,000 yards of linen. So much for the linen trade. If it was true that the Boyal Speech was to be the programme of the Session, how came it that it contained no allusion to the poor-law? It was well to call upon the Irish gentry to employ the people, for it was known that agricultural produce could no longer command a remunerative price. Little or nothing was got for corn and mangel wurzel; carrots and turnips sold at a mere nominal price. The present poor-law system was eating up the country like a cancer. It had been established, not for the purpose, as had been often said, of ascertaining whether the property of the country might not be made to support the poverty, but for the purpose of ascertaining whether the wretched remnant of property that still remained might not be made to support the great mass of the people in idleness. In what a condition were the unions of Kilrush, Scariff, Mohill, and Carlow? Nothing but nakedness, misery, disease, and death was anywhere to be seen. The workhouses were the pest of society, and if he had his will they should all be burnt to the ground. He was credibly informed by a gentleman who derived his information from a person connected with the police, that the practice was known in this country of making a contract for supplying houses of ill-fame in this metropolis from the female inmates of the workhouses in Ireland. It was impossible to calculate the amount of evil which the poor-law system had effected in Ireland by demoralising and debasing the people. You might travel all day through Ireland, and without meeting anything but misery, disease, and death. The fit place for those men, whether Whigs or Tories, who had brought a fine country to such a condition, was neither the Ministerial nor the Opposition benches, but the bar of the House, when they should be called upon to answer for their misdeeds. The attacks of the bon. Members for the West Riding and Man- chester, he threw back upon them with all possible indignation. No more unjust or undeserved attacks had ever been made on any class of men than had been made by the hon. Gentlemen in question. He would take leave to assure the hon. Member for Manchester that the persons in this country whose favour he sought to propitiate by calumniating the Irish landlords, would as soon cut his own throat as the throats of those landlords. It was not true that the resident landlords were universally despised and detested. Was Lord Fitz-william detested? Were the La Touches detested? What would Government do on behalf of the poor Irish clergy, Catholic and Protestant? He was in a position to show that many of both classes were in a state of the most abject destitution. [The hon. Member read a number of letters, chiefly from clergymen of the Established Church, complaining that they had been reduced to the direst distress. One expressed his thanks for a few articles of clothing; and another said he had only 41l, to support himself and ten children.] He again asked the Government what they intended to do for Ireland. Many suggestions had been made, and many expedients had been tried, but nothing effective had been done. Would they give back the absentee rents which were daily drained from Ireland, or cause capital to flow into the country? Did the House know that within a few months 700 inquests had been held upon persons who had perished by starvation? Did they know that men were employed in the west of Ireland to drive the dogs from the churchyards to prevent them from feeding on the wretched corpses of the people, which were barely covered with sand? If he had his will, he would send the Ministers to that country to behold with their own eyes a scene of horror and misery unparalleled in the history of the Christian world. To the block, and not to the bar, the Ministers ought to be sent who could permit such a state of things. As the cackling of a goose once saved the Capitol, so, perhaps, the bleeding head of a British Minister might yet save the fallen destinies of Ireland. Entertaining the feelings that he did, he could not have felt himself justified if he had not voted for the Amendment.


begged to address a few words to the House on what had fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose. They had seen with satisfaction that Her Majesty's Ministers proposed to extend the now contracted limits of the Irish constituency. Now, he did not feel any jealousy as regarded them, but he thought it would be most satisfactory to the people of this country, if the noble Lord at the head of the Administration were to take some steps at this time of profound peace to extend the franchise in this country. He thought Government might do it now without appearing to follow in the wake of foreign Powers. The people had shown by their good conduct that they were ripe for further elective privileges, and he thought some concession should now he made to them. He thought that an extension to household suffrage might now be made, that it might he done with perfect safety, and that it would be duly appreciated by the country at large. It would be an extension consistent with the ancient constitution of this country. Many Members might wish to establish the principle of the ballot. He only wished to see the constituency extended, to see the liberties of the country placed upon a broad foundation. Many years had elapsed since the Reform Bill was carried. Since then the progress of education had been great, and he was sure if a project was brought forward by Government, it would be the best and most likely way to secure the general assent of Parliament; but if it was not, he should certainly take an opportunity of forwarding as much as possible his own views on the subject.


said, he should not have risen but for the misrepresentations which the Mover of the Address had made with regard to the labouring classes. He looked forward to free trade affecting the people, the labouring classes, more than any other class; and by the labouring class he did not mean merely the workmen congregated in large towns, but the labouring classes spread all over the country and living in towns which were in a great measure dependent on agriculture, and he believed that the number of those connected with agriculture was much greater than those connected with manufactures. The hon. Mover of the Address said, that even in the agricultural districts the labourers were better off, as they had either more wages, or they got more for the same money. Now, he (Mr. Bennet) denied the fact of their receiving more wages. Their wages were dreadfully reduced. In his county there were more men out of work than in any district in the kingdom. He might be ashamed of that; but from the great reduction in the price of produce, the farmers were not able to employ them. Distress had been felt by the agriculturists not only in 1849, but in 1848, for the crop was so very small, and the harvest so extremely wet, in 1848, that with better prices it was equally bad for the producer. In 1848, the produce was much over-rated; it was hardly an average. At the present moment there were immense numbers of labourers loitering about without employment. Some farmers had thought it better to reduce the wages, others had reduced the number of days on which they employed the men; and the fact of the price of the principal articles of consumption being reduced was of no avail to them, for they had no money wherewith to purchase them. The wages were 7s., in some places only 6s. a week, and many ablebodied men were in the union-house. A public meeting would be held on Thursday, in the county of Suffolk, which he had the honour to represent, which would be attended by a great many who would express their feeling that they would be obliged to turn away more. Seeing the Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place, he would ask him whether he had received information at the Home Office that the military from Ipswich had been obliged to be called out in aid of the civil power at the union-house of Bosmere and Claydon on Barham, and that the police were in requisition at the Newmarket union on the borders of Suffolk?


observed, that Government had received no such information.


said, that such disturbances had taken place, and he supposed the information had been communicated to the hon. Secretary of the Home Department. He then proceeded to observe, that it was said farmers might get on with wheat at 5s. a bushel, because what the farmer consumed fell in the same proportion. But that was not an advantage to him, because he produced what he consumed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer remarked, that he was decidedly of opinion that the agricultural labourers who had been able to retain their work, had been considerably benefited by the reduction in the price of food. There could be very little doubt that if they had work, and the articles they consumed were cheaper, their condition had improved. With respect to the farmers, he had heard no one come forward and give them the means of improving their condition. The ideas of some of the Mem- bers on the Treasury bench were so extravagant as to the profits of farming as proved they were not acquainted with the subject [which was assented to by Mr. Hawes, to whom he (Mr. Bennet) referred]. The malt tax, amounting to about 3l. or 4l. to the acre, on every acre of barley grown, was a great burden on the farmer. If their condition could be improved in any way, it was by the reduction of the local taxes which pressed so heavily upon them—if they were in any way placed on a level with the rest of the community, then they might compete with foreigners; but at present the local burdens were so great that they could not compete. The hon. Gentleman concluded by stating his regret that the Speech had only referred to the complaints of the agriculturists, and omitted the distress of the agricultural labourer.


had felt extremely anxious to speak the other evening because he had had the honour of seconding a resolution at one of the most important public meetings that had ever been held in Lincolnshire. There were from 15,000 to 20,000 men assembled at that meeting. He had thought it fair to put a question to one of the most earnest opponents of the landed interest in that county—he meant Mr. John Norton, mercer and draper, of the city of Lincoln. He asked that gentleman, "What sort of a meeting do you think we have had to-day?" His reply was, "An excellent one." "Do you not think that you are dead beat?" His answer was "Decidedly." "Did you ever see a more influential meeting?" He replied, "Never in my life." This he (Colonel Sibthorp) considered most satisfactory, coming, as it did, from so strong an opponent. Mr. Norton told him that the hon. Member for the West Riding had come down to Lincoln on Tuesday. He (Colonel Sibthorp) presumed that it was not on any secret matters; that there was nothing going on clausis fores. But why was he not at the meeting? If he could not have appeared as a freeholder of the county, there was another opportunity given him for arguing the question of free trade; a meeting was held in the city of Lincoln where every one would have been at liberty to speak. He, however, came not, but preferred employing himself, like some quack doctor, in disseminating little tracts by which he hoped to poison the minds of the inhabitants; but he did not succeed. The other night, indeed, the hon. Gentleman challenged the hon. Mem- ber for Buckinghamshire to come forward and enter into the question as to the state of the agriculturists, or rather, he should say, of native industry; but as that hon. Member had given notice of a Motion to the same effect, it would have been wrong for him to have entered upon the subject then. [An Hon. MEMBER: The notice was about the poor-law.] He should like to have added to the Amendment a declaration that the House of Commons, as at present constituted, was inefficient to enact laws which would tend to benefit the country, or to carry out more satisfactorily the administration of its affairs. With respect to protection to native industry, he was afraid there was very little hope. While he saw so many associations formed, there was little chance for protection. There was the National Reform Association—what a society!—a sort of Anti-Corn Law League revived—small in numbers, but exceedingly deceitful and treacherous. Then there was the Anti-Peace Society—[Laughter]—he meant the Peace Society. Oh! slips went for nothing. Well, those he called revolutionary societies; but then there was the commission for the grand exposition in 1851; and who patronised it? He was sorry to say, those who ought not to do so. Foreigners would carry off the premiums out of English purses. Perhaps some of the secret service money might go towards them, and he was not prepared to say that it would not—every trick would be tried. He had looked over the list of commissioners, and he did not see much to give him confidence in protection to native industry. First, he saw "our right trusty and well-beloved councillor" the right hon. Member for Tamworth; and then our "trusty and well-beloved "the hon. Member for the West Riding. If such were to be the component parts of the commission, he could only augur, for experience had made him wise, that there would be nothing but trick and manœuvre—native industry would be forgotten, and the foreigner would be encouraged too much, as he had been, in this metropolis and elsewhere—outwitting, if he could, and outselling the hard-working people of this country. But then there was the Emigration of Females Society. He was sorry to use such a term, but that society was a premium for promoting prostitution, and nothing else. The system was a "cheap and nasty one." If they gave them employment here, by putting a duty on foreign articles so as to enable them to compete with the foreign, it would do them some good. He did not place much reliance on the apparent prosperity referred to by his right hon. Relative. A man might have 5,000l. at his banker's on Thursday night, but if he paid his debts he might find that he had nothing there on Friday morning. Accounts might be arranged so as to present a favourable appearance—he had heard of such things, and such things might happen again. Orders might be given for 50,000l. or 60,000l. worth of timber to be sent to a dockyard, but you might not hear of payment until it was convenient, and then, when it was put into the account, it was mentioned as a small item. He believed that at that moment items were put into the accounts to suit various party purposes. His right hon. Relative spoke of the Excise as being in a thriving state; but he believed that there were mis-statements and misrepresentations about it. The most favourable period, from the 10th of October to the 5th of January, was taken; but he believed that if the statements were analysed and scrutinised, the fact would not be found to be as stated.


begged the House would permit him to correct a misapprehension, or mis-statement, in a portion of the evidence that had been taken before the Poor Law Committee; but before doing so he must say he was surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath attribute the state of Ireland to the want of protection for native industry. He entirely agreed in the opinion expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the city of Cork, that the tenantry of Ireland had very little interest in the question of protection. They had none whatever, and as a proof of his assertion, he would read a passage from a statement made in the year 1836, when protection was in its zenith; and he would recommend that statement to the consideration of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath. Three tables were prepared stating the average employment during each month, of three classes of labourers. The more skilful were employed 150 days in the year; labourers of a general average class were employed 115 days; and the labourers who had not acquired their full strength, or were becoming old, were employed only 70 days in the year. That was at a time when the protective laws were in their zenith, and it was not in a distressed part of Ireland, but in the rich county of Meath, the best land perhaps in the world. He knew the county well; he lived on the borders of it; and the habitations those persons lived in were habitations that no English cottier would occupy. For twenty years the appearance before their doors was not to be equalled in the worst lanes of the most filthy towns in Scotland and England; and a state of famine and pestilence was the constant fate of those people in the best days of protection. They should attend a little to the facts, and these were the facts with regard to Ireland. He felt bound to make this statement, because a gentleman who inherited a great name, and also added to it by his writings, had represented the distress to arise from the want of protection. The error he now wished to correct appeared in the report of the Committee who sat on the poor-laws last Session. It was in answer to a question by a gentleman of the name of O'Sullivan. He stated that he was acquainted with the union of Kenmare, and he said the rents there were generally 20 per cent over the poor-law valuation. On this evidence the inference was drawn that the rents on the Marquess of Lansdowne's estates were 20 per cent over the poor-law valuation. His Lordship having instituted an inquiry into the matter, wrote a letter, which he had since forwarded to him, with a request that it should be printed in the Appendix. That letter gave as formal a contradiction as possible to the statement; and the Marquess of Lansdowne requested of him to take the earliest possible opportunity of making public the fact. He begged to read to the House the letter received by him from the Marquess of Lansdowne: — London, Jan. 23. Sir—I take the liberty of addressing you, as chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons which sat during the last Session to inquire into the Irish Poor Law, to correct a gross error in the evidence adduced before it. Having observed with great surprise that Mr. O'Sullivan (the priest of Kenmare) had stated that my rents in that neighbourhood were 20 per cent above the poor-law valuation—a statement which I knew must be false, though I could not exactly state to what extent—I directed, therefore, during the recess a minute inquiry to be made on the subject; and having had it proved to Mr. O'Sullivan how erroneous his statement was, I have desired him to address to you the paper which I enclose, admitting the fact; indeed, the gentleman who conducted the investigation assures me that they are still more below the valuation than he now admits. Allow me to add, that it is not so much with a view to setting myself right in your opinion and that of the Committee, that I trouble you with this, as for the purpose of administering the only corrective in my power to that habit of loose statement and rash assertion which prevails so much, and takes off from the utility of all inquiries by diminishing the confidence attached to them. I have no reason to believe there was any malice in the reverend gentleman towards me—quite the contrary, as he has always spoken well of me—hut merely a desire to appear to know what he did not know, at the risk of misleading others.—I have the honour to be your very faithful servant, Sir John Young, Bart." "LANSDOWNE.