§ "Sir—My attention having been called to an answer of mine (No. 2,558) in my examination before the Committee, in which I stated the rent on Lord Lansdowne's estate to be 20 per cent above the poor-law valuation, I have made more minute inquiry, and I find, in the electoral division of Kenmare, his Lordship's rents to be the same as the poor-law valuation; in the electoral division of Bunane, 8 per cent under the poor-law valuation; and, in that of Tuasist, 17 per cent under the same valuation; and I have much pleasure in taking the earliest opportunity of correcting this material, but certainly very unintentional, error on my part. And I have the honour to remain, Sir, your very obedient servant,
§ "JOHN O'SULLIVAN, P.P. and V.G.
§ "Kenmare, Jan. 4."
§ MR. BANKES
said, that as the hon. Baronet who had just spoken, undoubtedly with great authority (as an Irish Member, and who held office under the late Government), had thought it right to say that during the existence of the protection system Ireland was in a state of famine, pestilence, destitution—[Sir J. YOUNG: I said the Irish peasantry.] As the hon. Baronet represented the Irish peasantry to be in a state of famine, pestilence, and destitution, it was becoming in any hon. Member who entertained different opinions to appeal to an authority to which he thought the hon. Member was a party, as affording a solemn contradiction to that which he now ventured to assert. He (Mr. Bankes) had observed in the course of the debate on the present occasion, that it was very convenient for those hon. Members who supported free trade, commencing with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address, to appeal only to years subsequent to the repeal of the corn laws, for the purpose of comparing them with the year now under consideration; and then they spoke of free trade and the progress of commerce and the improvement of manufactures as compared with those years. Now, he asked the hon. Baronet to take one of the years before the removal of protection, when he was himself a Member of the Government, and compare it with the present year. Let him take any year from 1841 to 1845, and compare the present 310 state of the kingdom with the state of the kingdom in those years. He thought the hon. Baronet would have acted more fairly if he had taken the year 1845, the alteration having been made in 1846—the hon. Gentleman was then a Member of the Government—and let the House see what was the account given by that Government of the state of the united kingdom, and especially of the state of Ireland, in the year 1845. He would take Her Majesty's Speech at the opening of the Session of 1845, and what then were the opinions of the Government of the country. Her Majesty in Her Speech was advised by those Ministers to say—My Lords and Gentlemen—I rejoice that I am enabled, on again meeting you in Parliament, to congratulate you on the improved condition of the country. Increased activity pervades almost every branch of manufacture; trade and commerce have been extended at home and abroad; and among all classes of my people there is generally prevalent a spirit of loyalty and cheerful obedience to the law. I continue to receive from all foreign Powers and States assurances of their friendly disposition. I have had much satisfaction in receiving at my Court the Sovereigns who in the course of last year visited this country.And then with reference to Ireland, the Government, of which the hon. Baronet was a Member, advised Her Majesty to express herself thus: —Gentlemen of the House of Commons—I have observed with sincere satisfaction that the improvement which is manifest in other parts of the country has extended to Ireland. The political agitation and excitement which I have had heretofore occasion to lament, appear to have gradually abated, and as a natural result, private capital has been more freely applied to useful public enterprises, undertaken through the friendly co-operation of individuals interested in the welfare of Irelend.Yet an hon. Baronet who was connected with that Government now rose in his place to say, that during the whole continuance of that system, which he, with his party (he should not misrepresent the hon. Baronet), continued to promote—
§ SIR J. YOUNG
I rise to order. What I said was, that the Irish peasantry had little or no interest in protection. I instanced the small amount of employment which they received under that system; and I stated that in the county of Meath famine and fever were frequent during the existence of protection. What has that to do with the abatement of agitation, and the cheerful submission of the people to the law?
§ MR. BANKES
thought the condition of the peasantry of the country had much to do with the welfare of the country. He 311 did not think that Gentlemen would have put into the mouth of the Sovereign a statement which would have been a glaring falsehood if that peasantry were then suffering from the system which they now condemn. The hon. Baronet and other Members of the Government, five years since, were ready to rise in their places and propound the very opposite sentiments. It was not for him to quarrel with the hon. Baronet if he thought fit to change his opinions. [Sir J. YOUNG: I never changed my opinions in my life. I deny it.] If the hon. Baronet entertained a different opinion, he refrained from expressing it during a long period of his life. As to the division the other night, when it was recollected that one great party was opposed by three several parties, united for this one only object, he saw no reason to despair; and with regard to the division in the other House, he, for one, did not so much deplore that some of the greatest in the land should refrain from offering an opinion, and avoid furnishing a pretence for the observation that the question was merely a landlord's question. It was a battle to be fought in that House and in the country, and he did not think the Peers of the realm lost any of their dignity by abstaining from mixing in the contest. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose—although he agreed with them, and admitted they had grievances to complain of, and good grounds for calling for redress—said they were wrong, because they did not adopt the line he recommended; but when he saw only thirteen persons in the House concurring with the hon. Gentleman, there was, he thought, some absolution for them. The hon. Gentleman treated them too severely when he said, "As you do not pursue the remedy I have pointed out, you shall have no remedy at all." However, the hon. Member for Montrose, whatever might be his sagacity, seemed at a loss to tell them what to do. [Mr. HUME: Reduce your expenses, and do as others do.] The hon. Gentleman was mistaken if he did not think that system would be adopted as far as possible. They should, however, hesitate in making experiments, which might seem to the hon. Gentleman to be very cheap, but which, like other experiments, might be liable to error. The advantages which our neighbours had gained by their cheap revolutions, were not such as to justify us in embarking in similar experiments. The hon. Gentleman had fallen into a very serious error with regard to 312 this question. He had heard him say that the result of the repeal of the corn laws would be, not a fall in prices, but an equalisation of prices. [Mr. HUME: Hear, hear!] At a time when the price ranged at about 54s. or 55s. the quarter, the hon. Gentleman had said that the effect of the change of law would be to enhance that price, and to equalise it throughout all corn-producing countries. But the hon. Gentleman was disappointed in his expectations, and he could not blame them for declining to follow his advice until they found he was right in some of his prophecies. He had referred them to the Speech of Her Majesty in 1845 to show the opinions of the then Ministers of the Crown; and he might say that such also was the opinion of the whole House, for there was no amendment moved on the occasion, and Her Majesty was not then placed in the painful situation of hearing the complaints of any portion of Her subjects. The noble Lord at present at the head of the Government made a speech upon that occasion, but said not one word about depression arising from prices, or anything of that sort. Totally different were his observations; and he (Mr. Bankes) would read a portion of the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, then at the head of the Government, made in answer to that speech: —The noble Lord has admitted that in the Speech delivered by Her Majesty this day, and in the answer to that Speech, and also in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address, he can scarcely see anything to find fault with. Of the Speech the noble Lord said he had no complaint to make; neither of the Address, nor of what fell from the Mover and the Seconder. That being the case, I wonder the noble Lord did not approach the commencement of the Session with something more of an equable temperament. What was there for the noble Lord to be wroth at? And yet the noble Lord has given utterance to a most violent and bitter party speech. Is it that the noble Lord's temper has been provoked by the contrast which the Speech from the Throne this day presents to the Speeches which the noble Lord, when in power, was obliged to counsel? Is it the congratulations which Her Majesty offers to Parliament on the present state of the trade and commerce of the country, of the improved condition of the manufacturing industrial classes, and, above all, of the flourishing state of the public revenue; is it these things which have suggested to the noble Lord reminiscences of a very painful nature, and which has disturbed that equanimity of temper which is usually displayed by him, and which is generally observed on the first day of Session?'Vixque tenet Iachrymas, quia nil lacrymabile cernit.'313 But now there was some lacryrnabile, and yet these were the palmy days of 1850, in which they were called upon by the hon. Member who moved the Address to consider that a new day-star had arisen, and that free trade was now dawning upon them with all its benefits, and that such happiness as they had never seen before was now destined for their enjoyment. It had been said in the course of this debate that manufactures were in a state of wonderful prosperity. There were some cotton manufacturers now present in the House, and he would be happy to hear any one of them rise in his place to state that he considered the present state of the cotton manufactures to be in a sound, healthy, or happy condition. That they had greatly improved during the last year as compared with former years of free trade, he was most happy to believe; but he totally discredited the assertion that they were in a secure and healthy condition. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had alluded to the disruption of their relations with Spain, and hoped that their diplomatic relations with that country would never be re-established. It was impossible to avoid a painful feeling when allusion was made to that topic. It could never be forgotten that England had been subjected to the humiliation of having her ambassador expelled from Spain, and up to this time had received no reparation for the insult. He did not concur in the hope expressed by the hon. and learned Member with respect to a renewal of diplomatic relations. During the cessation of these relations an alteration had taken place in the tariff of Spain, by which the duties upon some of our manufactured articles had been raised considerably higher than in 1846. Whatever might have been the effect of the travels of the hon. Member for West Riding, through the various countries of the Continent, free trade had not, however, followed in his wake. With the exception of Spain, every country which he had visited had had its revolution. He supposed that Spain saved itself from such a catastrophe by the expulsion of our ambassador. From none of the countries which the hon. Member had visited, had they had a single beneficial tariff, and from Spain they had one directly the reverse. Some foreign news from the Levant, received on Saturday, had startled some of the manufacturers of Manchester; and he could not but believe, from the statement made to-night by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign 314 Affairs, that there was something in the question not altogether fully explained; he trusted that no trivial or foolish circumstances would be suffered to interfere with the interests of a large commercial nation such as this was, and such as he trusted it would ever continue to be. It would be the grossest mismanagement to allow such petty causes as those which had been assigned to cause anything like a suspension of the industry and commerce of the country, and it would be past all endurance if such should turn out to be the case. He cordially concurred in an observation which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, to the effect that in any question of reduction of expenditure it would be well to consider the expense of our diplomatic relations. Should the question come to one of cheapness, he certainly thought it a fit subject for consideration whether they could not, without in any degree detracting from the honour and character of I the country, maintain their honour and dignity in foreign countries at less expense. But while he was ready to consider that! subject, he was not prepared to consent to any reduction which would affect the dignity of the Throne, or the safety and honour of the country.
§ MR. SPOONER
trusted the House would give him its attention for a few moments. He should have contented himself with a silent vote if he had not been directly alluded to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address. He was called on to explain why the prophecies which had been alluded to with respect to the currency had failed. The hon. Mover of the Amendment had left it to him to answer the currency part of the subject; but he had no intention at present of entering upon the question of currency. He was, however, ready to answer the challenge which had been thrown out. The hon. Gentlemen had said, that they on his (the protectionist) side had prophesied that free importations of corn would lead to an exportation of bullion, but that the reverse had taken place. He (Mr. Spooner admitted it); but there were causes for the great influx of bullion. The first cause was one which had frequently occurred. If hon. Members would look back at the various speeches delivered from the Throne since 1819, they would find them noticing alternate periods of prosperity and distress, followed at periods by an influx of bullion, which gave a stimulus 315 —lasting, however, only long enough to raise prices above the prices of the Continent, and then out went the bullion, followed by a period of distress. In a year of distress our manufactures were forced into foreign markets, and were sold too frequently at a loss to enable the exporters to meet their engagements, and bullion was brought back. Such a cause had lately been in operation in this country, which accounts, in some measure, for the present large amount of bullion in the Bank. Another cause of the increase of bullion was the state of the Continent for the last two or three years. He spoke on authority when he said that not less than 25,000,000l. had found its way to this country for investment. Another cause was the mania which existed to such an extent some years ago for travelling on the Continent. Not less than 12,000,000l. had been taken abroad for that purpose. But the mania and the expenditure had lately ceased. Another cause was, that the sovereign was no longer a legal tender in Belgium, and the consequence was, that not less than 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. in sovereigns were released from the circulation of Belgium, and found their way to this country. These were the causes, not unattended with danger, of the present accumulation of bullion in this country. On the restoration of order on the Continent, much of that bullion would be in demand for exportation, and then it would be seen that it had not been brought here as a balance of trade, but from unforeseen circumstances, the continuance of which they had no right to expect. It was a serious thing to consider what would be the effect on trade. The returns furnished by the Board of Trade showed that for a number of years the balance of trade had been against this country—a proof that the accumulations of bullion had not resulted from commercial transactions, but must be attributed to the causes to which he had alluded. Another false prophecy charged to the protectionist party was their statement that the adoption of a free-trade policy would be injurious to our commerce and manufactures; for it appeared that under that policy they were enjoying a state of great prosperity. Now, he should observe that he had never said, nor did he know any of his hon. Friends who had said, that the immediate effect of a free importation of foreign corn would be to injure our manufactures; but he had always maintained, and he still maintained, that it would ultimately lead to such a re- 316 sult. Let the House bear in mind how much more important was our home trade than our foreign trade. The hon. Member for Montrose had said, that one-third only of the labourers of this country were employed in agriculture. That statement might be true, if it merely referred to the number of labourers engaged in the cultivation of the soil. But if the hon. Member would include in the list of labourers connected with agriculture the various classes of artisans who manufactured the machinery and the other articles employed by agriculturists, he would find that that list embraced at least two-thirds of our entire labouring population. The value of the home trade was too apt to be underrated, and the consequence would be, that if they were to destroy the home trade, as destroyed it would be, if they continued the same course of policy, they would find all our towns and villages swarming with paupers, who would have lost their only source of employment; and they would learn, when too late, that they had sacrificed the best interests of the country to a prosperous home trade, which it should have been their aim to have nourished, for an uncertain and precarious foreign trade. He agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose that the agricultural interest had no right to any exclusive legislative favour; that they had no right to any protection which was not extended with equal liberality to the members of every other productive class. For his part, he wished to protect every branch of domestic industry in this highly-taxed country against the untaxed foreigner. The foreigner, who bore no share of our taxation, ought not, in his opinion, to be allowed to compete freely in our markets with our own producers. The protectionist party did not come to that House to ask for a favour, but for simple justice. Will any one deny that taxation enters into the price of every native production? Can a bushel of wheat, or a pound of meat, or a single article be produced, the price of which is not increased by taxation before it can be brought into the British market? Why then should the foreign producer be permitted to come into competition with native producers in our own markets without bearing his due share of taxation? He confessed that he looked with great alarm at the results which were likely to follow from a continuance in our present commercial policy. We had an immense population employed in the manufacture of cotton goods. Now, there could be no 317 doubt but that the people of the United States grudged us the profit which we derived from that manufacture; and who could feel assured that the opinions of their President and of their Secretary of the Treasury might not yet be carried fully into effect, and that they might not impose a tax on the exportation of cotton, for the purpose of destroying that great branch of our manufacturing industry? Then let the House look at the danger of our leaving ourselves dependent on foreigners for our supply of food; for it should be remembered there was a great difference between being dependent on other nations for the luxuries, and being dependent on them for the necessaries of life. In the year 1842 that view of the case had been enforced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth in the following most clear and cogent language:—Looking, then, at the question in this point of view, I retain my opinion, which I expressed some time ago, that it is of the utmost importance to the interests of this country that you should as fer as possible be independent of foreign supplies. By this I do not mean absolute independence, for that, perhaps, is impossible; and nothing, I think, would be more injurious than to pass such laws as would give rise to a general impression that it was intended to keep this country in absolate independence of foreign supplies. But, speaking generally, I say that it is of importance in a country like this, where the chief subsistence of the labourer consists of wheat, that if we resort to foreign countries for our supplies, we take care that those supplies should be for the purpose of making up deficiencies rather than as the chief sources of our subsistence.Now, in that opinion he (Mr. Spooner) entirely concurred. Let them look at the present condition of Ireland as an exemplification of the results of their free-trade policy. What was the reason why whole districts were uncultivated, and the labourer at present unemployed in that country? It was because prices had so fallen there that agriculture afforded no profits, no means, for the payment of wages. That was the view of the subject expressed in the very passage read by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan, for the purpose of proving that periods of great distress had occurred in Ireland under the protective system; for it was stated in that passage that the diminution of the profits and of the capital of the farmer was the cause of the diminution of employment. He would tell them that a perseverance in their present commercial policy would ultimately reduce the labourers of this country to the unhappy condition of the Irish 318 labouring population. If it were a mere question of rent, as opposed to the welfare of the labouring classes, he should at once say, "Down with rents, and up with the labourers!" But he believed that it was the labourer who would most severely suffer from the depreciation of property; and it should also he remembered that the rent received by the landlord did not remain idle in his hands, but was distributed among servants, labourers, and tradesmen. Let them not decrease the means of affording employment to the people. Let them retrace their steps, or they would find,; when it was too late, that they had given; up the substance for the shadow. With regard to the commercial and manufaeturing population, he had no hesitation in stating that they were at present in a better condition than they had been in for some time past. The price of labour had not yet come down while they obtained the necessaries of life at a cheaper rate than on any former occasion. But he would tell the House that the manufacturers were now receiving no profits, and he feared that before long they would again have their markets overstocked, while they would witness that worst symptom under our monetary system—gold becoming the cheapest article of export, the employment of labour ceasing; and then the manufacturers would be thrown out of employment as well as the agriculturists, and a general distress would be the result. He prayed that Heaven might avert from us those calamities which he solemnly declared he believed to be imminent, after having considered the question, not as a party man, but as one who had a long acquaintance with the commercial transactions of this country. He earnestly hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would take these subjects into his most serious consideration; and that he would not deal with the case of the agriculturists merely as one of "complaints," but as a serious evil, in which the interests of the members of every other class were more or less concerned. One word with respect to the poor-rate returns. They had been told that the poor-rates had last year been much less than in the year 1848; but it should be remembered that the latter year had been a most unfavourable one, and he had every reason to apprehend that a change for the worse could not be far distant. He would state from his personal knowledge of many farmers in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, that the vote of 319 the House on last Saturday morning would spread dismay among the agricultural classes. Many farmers had of late continued to expend their money in the cultivation and the improvement of the soil, in spite of the difficulties with which they had to contend, because they had hoped that Parliament might at length be induced to adopt towards them a different course of policy; but that hope was at present at an end; and he feared the consequence would be that a check would immediately be given to agricultural industry, and that a great addition would be made to the number of the unemployed poor. But they had been told that there could not at present be any depreciation in the value of land, as there were numerous applicants for every farm that was to be let. Now he believed that a good deal of misapprehension prevailed upon that point, and he could state to the House a fact confirmatory of that view. A certain noble Lord had said that he had no fear of his land being thrown out of cultivation, as he had abundant applications for all the farms he had to let. Among those farms was one for which he had fifteen applications; but of these fifteen he found, on inquiry, that twelve had come from persons possessed of no capital, and in whose ability to meet their liabilities no confidence could of course be placed, while the three remaining applicants had each in succession declined to take the land except at a reduced rent, and as no concession to that effect had been made to them, the farm in question still remained untenanted. He would conclude by quoting to the House a passage from Locke, no mean authority:—An infallible sign of the decay of wealth is the falling of rents; and the raising of them would be worth the nation's care—for on that, and not on the falling of interest, lies the true advantage of the landed man, and, with him, of the public.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, he would take the liberty, in the outset, of making a few remarks in reply to the statements of the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat. As far as he (Mr. Monsell) recollected the course of the debate, the hon. Gentleman was the first who had the boldness to assert that the present misery of Ireland had been aggravated by their recent commercial legislation. He entirely disagreed in that statement. [An Hon. MEMBER on the Opposition benches: Why, that is stated in our Amendment.] That might be; but he had not heard the declaration made before by any hon. Member. He 320 would not take advantage of the admissions made by all Gentlemen, as regarded the improving and prosperous condition of the north and east of Ireland. He would go to one of the worst districts in Ireland, a district which he represented, situated in the vicinity of Limerick, and which was in a most miserable and melancholy condition, indeed it would be impossible to exaggerate its condition. The landlords were without rents; the labourers were starving, and the capital of the tenantry rapidly disappearing; but yet he asserted, were it not for the change recently made in their commercial legislation, bad as at present was the condition of the people in that district, it would have been infinitely worse; had it not been for the change in our commercial legislation, under the circumstances, trebly worse. What had been the history of the corn trade in the port of Limerick, in a rich and agricultural district, during the last three years? This, that the imports had greatly exceeded the exports. In 1847, the exports from the port of Limerick were 209,000 quarters, and the imports 472,000 quarters; in 1848, the exports were 295,000, and the imports, 267,000; and in 1849, the exports were 182,000, and the imports 391,000 quarters. If free trade had not thrown open our ports to the admission of foreign corn, the result would have been that in Ireland they would have been compelled to pay an additional price for the excess of corn imported over that exported; the poor-rates would have been higher; and the condition of the country in every respect worse. Previous to the failure of the potato, Ireland was an exporting country; since then she was an importing country, and being so, it was essential that she should get her corn as cheaply as possible. That proved at once how the dependence of Ireland on the potato crop was the result of the protective system. During the continuance of the penal laws the people were not allowed to possess capital. It was, however, the direct interest, of the landlord particularly, when the high protecting duties were imposed, to have the largest amount of corn grown upon his property; and the only way that could be effected was by a minute subdivision of land. The subdivision of land went on—the people living solely on the potato, and never touching corn. There was thus an undue and unnatural stimulus given to the growth of corn and to protection, which he regarded as a main reason why Ireland was sunk in her present miserable condition. 321 The hon. Member for Dorsetshire described the people of Ireland as extremely happy in 1845. That was the year the Devon Commission made their report to that House, and one of the first statements it contained was—That the agricultural labourer in Ireland continues to suffer the greatest privations and hardships, that he was still badly housed, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly paid for his labour.In another part of the report, it was stated that their only food was the potato, and their only beverage water; that the cabins they lived in seldom sheltered them from the weather, and that a pig and manure was their only property. It was evident from that report that the labourers and the great mass of the people of Ireland had no interest in protection, and that they never enjoyed any produce of the land except the potato. For his own part, he believed that any change was likely to be for the better, and when the hon. Gentleman spoke of the prosperity of Ireland in late years, he only showed his ignorance of the condition of the country. He begged the protectionists to consider what an amount of evil they were inflicting on Ireland by the course they were pursuing. The agitation on this subject which had been carried on during the last three months in Ireland had done immense injury, by setting class against class—by impeding the progress of improvement, by diverting the people from self-reliance. He implored of hon. Gentlemen to be certain of the sound I ness of their principles before they decided upon continuing a course which they must perceive was at variance with the best interests of the country.
had just entered the House when the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was arguing that it was unfair to expose the English agriculturist to competition with foreigners, on the ground that the latter were untaxed. But he (Col. Thompson) appealed with confidence to the House whether it was not the real fact of the case that the struggle was, not between the taxed agriculturist and the untaxed foreigner, but between the taxed agriculturist and the taxed labourer of Bradford and elsewhere, whose trade it was to manufacture goods for the purpose of being exchanged for foreign corn. The question was, whether it was right and just to put the manufacturers of Bradford down to serve the agriculturists? What would be thought of the former, if, because they were heavily taxed, they were to insist 322 upon taxing home-grown corn? His constituents said, "If we are not taxed enough, tax us more, but do not stop our trade, the success of which alone enables us to pay our taxes, which is, in fact, our life-blood—our all." A great deal was said about the encouragement of native industry. Are we not native industry? Encourage that, or, at all events, leave it alone to follow its honest course, without checking it in order to fill the coffers of another interest. The principle advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite was the same as if they recommended putting a stop to omnibuses in order to encourage the ancient body of hackney coachmen, or putting heavy duties upon the port wine of Portugal, in order to give employment to the glassmakers and gardeners of this country; the result of which on the total balance of the account would only be, that the consumer of port wine would give an increase of price without getting anything for it in return?
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
was not a little surprised to hear the lamentable condition of the Irish labourer under protection in many parts of the country turned into an argument in favour of the measure lately introduced, for he had yet to learn that the free-trade measures had improved the condition of that class. His hon. Friend the Member for the county of Limerick had stated that the protection meetings had done incalculable mischief, and had set class against class. Connected as he (Vis count Bernard) was, with a large agricultural county, the central town of which had been the first to advocate this protective principle, he utterly denied the statement, for he had met at those meetings men differing in politics, and on all other subjects, but united on this. He regretted that he could not gather one ray of hope with reference to Ireland from the Queen's Speech. The existence of agricultural distress in this country had been admitted; but if the change in the law had produced mischief in England, what must be the aggravation of that mischief in a country already borne down by the pressure of a calamity lately inflicted on it by Providence? He could testify to the fact, that not only the agriculturists, but every class in Ireland, had suffered. He would venture to suggest to the Government that there were ways in which they might materially assist Ireland at the present time, by relieving that country from the enormous pressure of the grand-jury taxation and the poor-law instalments—matters 323 within the province of the Government to remedy. In Cork, the grand-jury cess had increased from 70,0002. a year to 130,000l., caused by repayments of the instalments to Her Majesty's Government. He did not complain of these repayments, but thought they were not levied with all the leniency provided by the law. He thought Government would do much towards restoring confidence if they would extend the time for payment of the labour-rate, and the instalments of the temporary relief loan. By a paper presented to the other House of Parliament in July last, he observed that 821,188l. 14s. was still remaining due for advances under the Temporary Relief Act; and this these unions were at any moment liable to be called on to repay. He believed also that there were auxiliary measures which would confer incalculable benefit on Ireland, such as the development of railway communication. He would ask the Government to give them some measure which would facilitate the formation of railways in Ireland. Why could they not embody in a public Act the Galway Act of last year, and compel the landlords to give land at a fair value? If this were done effectually, he was convinced that railways might be constructed at from 5,000l. to 6,000l. per mile. He hoped they would bring in a Bill to facilitate the sale of land for such purposes. If free trade was really a benefit, let it be honest. At least, let them afford to the Irish farmer the means of conveying his produce to the best market. The advantage of railways was evident in America, where it had materially developed the resources of the country. Let them look at the geographical position of Ireland, and the sources of inexhaustible wealth she had in her fisheries—these were at the present moment utterly useless, unless some means of communication were afforded by the Government. Again, look at the condition of the labouring classes—was it not most lamentable to see so many ablebodied men in the workhouses, instead of employing them in permanent and profitable works, which would lead to the ultimate prosperity of Ireland. Now, with regard to the land being thrown out of cultivation, he happened to have read a very able letter from the Professor of Agriculture in the Queen's College at Cork. Speaking of the culture of flax, he observed, that it was largely imported from abroad; and if the low price of corn continued, much of the land at present under 324 corn would be devoted to the cultivation of flax. In all probability that would pay the farmer as well; but look at the position in which the country generally would be placed. He had always apprehended the greatest danger from the dependence of any country upon foreign supplies of food, and he had been too lately a witness of its injurious effect in Ireland to alter his opinion. That calamity had been greatly aggravated by the iniquitous conduct of the corn engrossers. He knew an instance of a ship having been twice sold during its voyage to Ireland. They had many instances of the danger of such dependence in ancient history. Let them look at Greece, which, when dependent on foreign supplies of corn, was frequently startled by the reports of ships being lost to raise the price of corn. Look at proud Tyre, which was a suppliant at the foot of a Judean prince for its supplies of food. If they were to have no protection for corn in Ireland, at least let not the agricultural body be the only suffering body in the community, but let something like justice be done to them.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
would not have trespassed on the House but for the statement made by the hon. Member for the county of Limerick, that Ireland was not suffering from recent legislation. The constituents of that hon. Gentleman would, he (Colonel Dunne) felt convinced, be somewhat surprised to hear that their Member had made such a statement; and he was, above all, surprised to hear this statement, when he heard that the hon. Member had himself drawn up an able report on the state of the Newcastle union in the county of Limerick, in which it was shown that it had been much affected by that cause. Had he (Colonel Dunne) not been convinced that the distress of Ireland was owing entirely to the legislation of England, he should not have voted for the Amendment to the Address. The hon. Member for the county of Limerick voted for the rate in aid. Now, there was not a man in all Ireland, except the receivers of that rate, who did not believe that that rate had been deeply injurious to his country; and yet the hon. Gentleman said that Ireland was not suffering from recent legislation. Ireland had been suffering from legislation for the last eighty years; her manufactures had all been destroyed by legislative measures. Upon the understanding that she was to supply England with agricultural produce, and now that 325 market was taken away from them, they were told that Ireland was not suffering from recent legislation. Whatever good free trade might have done in England, in Ireland it had done unmitigated injury. He knew of no part of Ireland which had not suffered. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address had spoken in glowing terms of the returning prosperity of Ireland. He (Colonel Dunne) did not know where to find it; taking the country altogether, it was his opinion that Ireland was gradually sinking. He would not trouble the House with many statistical details, he would merely quote one or two points. The deposits in the savings banks in 1845 amounted to 2,927,000l., while in 1848, they had fallen to 1,334,296l.; the certified circulation was in 1845, 6,354,000l., and in 1848, 3,331,000; the land in cultivation, taking the valuation, had been reduced from 16,250,000l. in 1847, to 12,250,000l. in 1848. Were these signs of the prosperity of Ireland? The diminution of the number of paupers had been mentioned as another sign of prosperity. It was true that the number of paupers had apparently diminished, but it was only because outdoor relief had ceased to be given, and because the resources of many districts, such as Kilrush, had failed altogether; and it did not follow, therefore, that the same, if not a greater, amount of relief was not required. If the number of paupers had diminished, the expenses of the poor-law had not diminished, and he found that just those parishes which were completely under the control of the salaried Government officials, were the worst off of all. How could it be said that Ireland was not suffering from recent legislation, when the average local taxation of the country had been raised to 8s. 4d., while in England it was only 2s. 2½d.? It was well known also that on several estates in certain parts of Ireland, the debts exceeded the value of the land. He trusted he had said enough to show that the statement of the hon. Member for the county of Limerick was utterly unfounded.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, the noble Lord the Member for Bandon had spoken of the different payments made on account of former advances to railways in Ireland, and suggested that they should be consolidated. That question had been for some time under the consideration of the Government, and he hoped that on a very early day his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to state the pro- 326 position which the Government intended to make. With regard to the wish which the noble Lord had expressed that further assistance should be given to those railways, be hoped the noble Lord would not forget that not only had there been the advance he had mentioned, lately made by the Exchequer Loan Commissioners, but likewise with respect to the trunk lines, both in the south, south-west, and west, there had been schemes proposed to Parliament, and now carried into effect, for the formation of lines to Athlone and Galway, and to Drogheda and Armagh. In the present state of the north of Ireland, with the prosperity experienced by Belfast and the neighbourhood, there would be no difficulty in completing the lines which they had been told last year it was desirable that the Government should undertake. As regarded the general state of Ireland, no doubt there would be other oppertunities presented to them of discussing that question. In respect to the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last, that though there had been a diminution of the numbers relieved under the poor-law in Ireland, there had been no diminution in the expenses, he begged to state that this was an error. He believed the difference of expense for last December, as compared with December of the former year, was nearer 60,000". than any other sum. Comparing the 5th of January, 1849, with the 5th of January, 1850, he found the decrease of expenditure was upwards of 9,000l. The hon. Member for Montrose, who spoke early in the evening, addressed several observations to him on the subject of the extension of the franchise in this country. He would not enter into argument, or give any reasons on the subject at the present moment, as his hon. Friend had left the House, but would merely state that it was not the intention of the Government to propose any Bill for the extension of the franchise in England during the present year. The hon. Gentleman and other Members would probably discuss that question in the course of the present Session, and he (Lord J. Russell) would be ready then, as he hoped he should be at all times, to assert and maintain the opinions he held. He should not further detain the House.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
wished to explain his statement relative to the expenses of the working of the poor-law. No Member was in possession of the returns, and he had taken the early months of last year, the 327 expenses of which he had doubled, and had thus arrived at the conclusion, which it now appeared, was erroneous.
§ MR. SADLEIR
said, that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portarlington had wished to represent that there had been no very considerable diminution in the expenditure for the relief of the poor; and the noble Lord at the head of the Government had unintentionally, no doubt, misrepresented his hon. Friend's statement. There had been a diminution in the numbers of those who were receiving outdoor relief, but this was owing to the great waste of human life in Ireland, which he designated as disgraceful. His hon. and gallant Friend might have impressed on the Government that each week numbers applying for outdoor relief were refused it. He held in his hand a letter received from Thurles, in which the writer stated that out of 3,000 applicants, only fifty-eight had been relieved during the previous week. He did not conceive that this was the time for discussing the question as to the wisdom or impolicy of free trade, and he would have wished to see no discussion take place on the policy they had deliberately adopted so recently, and which he thought should have a fair trial. He was anxious, however, that no errors should be disseminated respecting the prospect of renewed prosperity in Ireland. He thought the hon. Mover of the Address was too sanguine in his expectations of immediate prosperity, and that it would be many years before Ireland recovered that position which she held anterior to 1845. It was said that in former times the misery in Ireland had been more intense than it was in the present day, and that misery had been attributed to protection. He was anxious the House should bear in mind that her former misery could be attributed to other causes than protection, and he was astonished to hear hon. Gentlemen assigning protection as a cause. They might remember a time when repeal speeches were answered in that House by a reference to the rapid and extensive improvement of the Irish in agriculture during the palmy days of protection—a fact which had been demonstrated by a former Whig Chancellor of the Exchequer. A free-trade policy must necessarily press severely for the present on all classes in Ireland. No man could contend that they had not in the time of famine and scarcity reaped a benefit from the free importation of food; with the Irish tenant- 328 farmer the question was eminently one of rent, simply because they were without capital. The amount of rent to the tenant-farmer in this country made little difference; but when he found himself with an enormous capital sunk in his land, and with diminished prices, then, indeed, free trade was a serious question with English tenants. The tenant-farmer in Ireland said that if he had a lease, and was at a reduced rent, he could see his way to prosperity; but there was this difficulty in the way of an equitable adjustment of rents in Ireland—large blocks of land were held by nominal proprietors in an excessive quantity, and a greater curse could not exist in any country. Between this circumstance and the, generally speaking, encumbered position of the owner—who, frequently, with an apparent rental of 1,000l. a year, had an available income of 200l. only—it was impossible to arrive at an equitable adjustment of rent; for to say to such an owner, "Reduce your rents," would be as much as to propose that he should abandon all social distinctions enjoyed as an owner of property in Ireland—it would be as much as to tell him to retire to the workhouse. One of the results of free-trade policy in Ireland was, that the labouring classes were not as well employed now as formerly—for the quantity of land under cultivation and tillage was diminished. Then as to the rate of wages—in fact, there was no rate of wages. He knew ablebodied men gladly work for the cottier tenant for their two meals a day, contented if they could have the additional advantage of sleeping in an outhouse; so that it was folly to talk of 1s., of 8d., or even of 4d. a day as the wages paid in Ireland. He could not help observing that hon. Gentlemen who were now so zealous in their advocacy of free-trade policy, and who expressed so much sympathy with the tenantry of the country, were perfectly contented last Session to have those most unjust provisions introduced into the Poor Law Act, which bore so severely upon the occupiers of land in Ireland. He maintained, the advocacy of protection was not exclusively a landlord question—the landlords were interested in everything that interested their tenants—their interests were identical—they were in the same boat. But these Gentlemen silently acquiesced in the introduction of a clause into the Poor Law Act of last Session which had the effect of diminishing the tenant's right of deduction 329 of poor's rate from his rent—and that, when the prices of agricultural produce and of stock was diminishing day by day. A more unfair or unjust clause could not possibly be conceived. As the noble Lord at the head of the Government had left his place, he would press upon the other Members of the Government in the House, the importance of what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Bandon, in every sentence of whose speech as related to railways he agreed—namely, that the Government should turn their attention to the introduction of a general Act during this Session to enable railway companies to obtain land by the arrangements secured in the Great Western Act, known as the "Mullingar Clauses," so that existing railway companies in Ireland may have the benefit of the acquisition of the land that they require for the completion of their useful projects. He believed there was no possible way in which the Government could more substantially assist the agricultural interests than by enabling the railway companies to complete the unfinished lines in that country, and affording companies an easy mode for the purchase of the land necessary for their various lines, and by that means put an end to the frightful system of adverse swearing which prevailed so extensively in Ireland with reference to the probable value of half an acre. [The hon. Member read an extract from a report of the expense of the South Western Company, to show that the solicitor's costs for the purchase of land were no less than 45,000l.] He (Mr. Sadleir) knew something of this matter, and he had no hesitation in saying that if the South Western Company had the benefit of the Mullingar Clauses to Dublin and Cork, the expense would not exceed 5,000l. or 6,000l. In that one item alone there was a waste of property to the amount of 40,000l. In the investigations about this land, in which a large share of drinking was mixed up and other excesses, the South Western Company had expended 36,000l. He should conclude by calling on Her Majesty's Government to grant the necessary facility to those companies by which the evils he alluded to might be averted.
§ VISCOUNT NEWPORT,
not having had an earlier opportunity of addressing the House, considered it his duty to his constituents to express the great regret and deep dissatisfaction with which they, in common with a great portion of the people, would re- 330 ceive that part of Her Majesty's Speech to which the Amendment referred. He rejoiced that the Government had declared that they did not intend to offer an insult to the agricultural interest; but notwithstanding that disavowal, he could not but regret that the Speech had not contained different language. As by a coincidence of circumstances the expressions had not passed Her Majesty's lips, so did he not believe they had proceeded from her heart. The statement of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, that the cause of protection was not the cause of the farmers and agriculturists alone, but of all classes, had been met by smiles and ironical cheers from the opposite benches, but he had read the report of a meeting of the operative silk weavers of London, convened by themselves, to consider the rights of labour, whereat several speakers expressed similar opinions amid the cheering of the operatives. A gentleman named Kyd, with whom he had no acquaintance, but whose views, he understood, were not those of the protectionists, but rather of the extreme nature generally called chartist, was cheered by the assembled operatives when he declared that the principle of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market, must be ruinous to the mechanic. Another speaker said, that the alterations made by Mr. Huskisson in 1824 laid, the foundation of the operatives' ruin, and that when waiting, as one of a deputation, on the hon. Member for Montrose, in 1834, on the state of wages, the hon. Gentleman confessed he wished to destroy the weaker interests of the country to force them to ask for the repeal of the corn laws. Thus it appeared that whether that measure was right or wrong, the advocates of it were aware it would ruin the weaker classes of the country twelve years before it was carried. He did not admit the justice of charging the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire with ambiguity of purpose—what he said was, in effect, that though he believed the system of protection to be the fairest and best, yet, as Parliament had by large majorities chosen to enforce the system of free trade, he only called on them to carry it out to its full and legitimate extent, to take the burdens off the agricultural interest, and to remove the duties on malt, hops, spirits, tea, and tobacco, as a matter of principle to which they were entitled. To the best of his belief that was the position taken by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, with which 331 the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the hon. Member for the West Riding found fault, but in which he fully concurred. He could assure the Government, if it was any consolation to them, that he had given his vote against them in no spirit of hostility. On the contrary, he would much regret to see them defeated by a combination of parties, in most of whom he could not place political confidence; but he would tell Her Majesty's Ministers that unless they carried out their principles in a fair, just, and impartial manner, by removing the restrictions which fettered agricultural industry, as well as the duties which entered largely into the consumption of the people, they would be compelled by the justice of the people of England to make way for other statesmen who would place the commercial and social system of the country on a sounder principle, and that he believed to be protection to native industry.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
begged permission briefly to explain his reasons for voting in the minority on Friday night. He had not spoken in the debate, because, having only arrived from Ireland on Thursday, he was too late to speak on that day, and on Friday the House was too impatient and desirous of coming to a decision. He therefore voted, with the determination of explaining at the earliest possible period. The fact was, he liked neither the Address nor the Amendment, and he voted in the minority, not out of any spirit of hostility to the Government, nor in the spirit of the Address, but merely because he felt that the kingdom of Ireland, as an important part of the united kingdom, had not met with the proper respect with which it should have been treated in Her Majesty's Speech. There might have been at least some expression of sympathy for its condition, if no hopes were held out of remedial measures; whereas all that it had met with was a recognition of its deep distress. But even that was glossed over and immediately followed by a jubilation upon the general prosperity of the empire. For that reason he had voted against the Address; but he at the same time did not coincide in the least in the idea that the distress of Ireland was owing to any late legislation—to any of the so-called free-trade measures. For he thought that Ireland could be very prosperous under free trade, if it were not for the unfortunate circumstances that had preceded the passing of those measures. He had listened 332 with pleasure to the most able, eloquent, and winning speech of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government; but not one word about Ireland did he hear from beginning to end of it. He could only say that he wished he were as ignorant of her miseries as the noble Lord seemed to be.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said he had been misunderstood by an hon. Gentleman opposite. He firmly believed that protection would be regained.
§ Report agreed to.
§ The House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.