§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
I rise, Sir, to move that an humble Address be presented 83 to Her Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech which has been just read to this House. In doing so, I can assure the House that I am fully impressed with my own incompetency duly to discharge this task; and I am sure that no person that has preceded me in this position has ever felt more in need of the forbearance of the House. Indeed, Sir, but for the circumstance that there appears upon all sides a disposition to refer the present condition of the country to those recent changes in our commercial policy which have undergone such frequent discussion in this House, and in which I have borne my humble share, I should have deemed myself the least appropriate person to have been selected for this purpose. However, Sir, I do most certainly agree in the view which I know that Her Majesty's Ministers take of the condition of the people; and, having the most implicit reliance that my noble Friend at the head of the Government will not compromise—that he will not in any way surrender, but that he will maintain entire—those measures which he conceives to be connected with the happiness and well-being of the people, I have no scruple, in other respects, to ask the House to respond to the Speech which has just been read. And, first, Sir, I will advert to those topics in Her Majesty's Speech, which I am sure will unite the feelings of the House. It has been communicated to this House the deep affliction which Her Majesty has experienced from the death of Her illustrious relative the late Queen Dowager; and I think I should only be correctly representing the opinion of the country if I were to say, with regard to her late Majesty, that her blameless life, her unostentatious character, and her numerous charities, as well as the exemplary manner in which she filled the duties of her exalted station, have secured for her memory a feeling of deep respect among the people at large; and the House, will, I am sure, not hesitate to concur in the expression of cordial condolence and sympathy with Her Majesty for the bereavement she has endured. It is stated in Her Majesty's Speech, and the statement is one which this House always receives with the greatest satisfaction, that "Her Majesty happily continues in peace and amity with foreign Powers." It is further announced that Her Majesty has, in conjunction with France, and by means of a friendly mediation, prevented hostilities from "occurring between the Governments 84 of Austria and Russia on the one hand, and the Sublime Porte on the other." The causes of this apprehended rupture are indicated in the Royal Speech, arising, as it seems, from certain persons, subjects of Russia and Austria, having sought refuge and protection in the territories of the Sultan, and a claim having been made by the Emperors of Russia and of Austria, based on treaties of ancient date, that those persons should be surrendered, in order that they might he punished according to the offence with which they were charged. Sir, a doubt having arisen upon the part of the Sultan as to the correctness of the construction of those treaties upon which this claim was made, the Sultan referred to the Governments of England and France to aid him in the solution of his doubts. I believe it is a matter now known, that the Governments of France and England adopted the construction put upon the treaties by the Sultan, that construction being unfavourable to the surrender of those persons; and which construction having been allowed to be just, the final arrangements with regard to the persons who had sought refuge in the dominions of the Sultan were in accordance with the propositions that had emanated from the Sultan. The result, therefore, of Her Majesty's mediation, in conjunction with France, has been to prevent hostilities occurring between the Imperial Governments and the Sultan, involving, perhaps, the peace of Europe; and that friendly relations have been, or are about to be, resumed between those Governments and the Porte. Sir, I believe there never was a time when the interference of this country with the affairs of foreign countries in which we are not directly concerned, was regarded with more objection than at present; but I think that with regard to such intervention a great distinction must be taken with regard to its character, for there is a great difference between an interference which has for its purpose to dictate to a people the form of government under which they shall live, or to contribute force to a Government to resist its people, which it would be otherwise unable to do, and that kind of intervention which assumes the form of friendly mediation, which has in view the cause of peace and humanity and the prevention of hostilities, the issue of which might be dangerous to ourselves. I conceive, in this latter case, that interference is not only justifiable, but politic; 85 and I think it is one of the best consequences of the position we now hold in the opinion of the world, that, when we do intervene in the cause of peace and humanity, we can do so with effect. I refer to the position we now hold in the opinion of the world, because it is with satisfaction that I consider this country has seldom been looked upon with more trust and respect than it is at present; and which I am disposed to explain by the true character of the people of this country being better understood by the world. I believe other countries are perfectly satisfied that the people of this country have no other object but to maintain peace with the whole world: that they have neither a wish to aggrandise themselves, or to take political advantage at the expense of any other country; whilst, as regards power, that they are perfectly satisfied with the vast results of their own peaceful pursuits. And though doubtless we must always sympathise with those people who, following in our footsteps, are struggling to obtain their liberties, yet I believe there is no way in which we can aid those people so well, or influence other Governments so much, as by pointing to our own example, which shows that the greatest amount of liberty enjoyed by any people upon the earth is consistent with peace, with order, and the acquisition of vast wealth; showing to the people what is to be gained by firmness and moderation; and to Governments what is to be averted by timely concession to the people. Her Majesty has announced in Her Speech that She has been engaged in communication with different Powers for the purpose of making arrangements consequent upon those changes which we effected last year in the laws for regulating our navigation; it has been also announced that Her Majesty is negotiating at this moment with other States, who have intimated their readiness to reciprocate the advantages which, by those changes, have been extended to them; and it has been further announced that already the United States and Sweden have reciprocated to us every advantage which we have offered to them by the recent abolition of our navigation laws. It is rather early, perhaps, to express any opinion of what will be the general result of the change which has been adopted in this part of our commercial system; but there is at present every prospect, so far as one can see, of all similar restrictions to the intercourse of nations, originating as they did, at a time far 86 less enlightened than the present, and continued far too long, for the convenience of the world as it is, being swept away. It is gratifying to observe that all the apprehensions which were expressed upon the part of those who resisted that change hero, appear to have been unfounded. It has been seldom we have seen so much sentiment and feeling mixed up with private and pecuniary interest as was evinced upon the question of the abolition of our navigation laws; and I think it has been rarely that the mischiefs and evils of an old system, and the advantages of a change, have been so quickly and clearly brought into view. There is every prospect of the predictions that were made by the advocates of the navigation laws, and their alarms also, proving unfounded; and there is every promise of what was prophesied and expected, as to the advantages of the change, being realised. Perhaps the interest that was most affected by the change, has not been for some years in such a state of activity as it is at this moment. There is general activity in the dockyards of this country. Whether in the Tyne or the Thames, the Wear or the Clyde, the same account is given that the business of shipbuilding never presented a more cheering prospect. I should also mention that some of the persons who were most prominent in predicting evil consequences from the change, are amongst the most busy now, thus showing little faith in the statements they made themselves, and justifying us in the discredit we cast upon them. It is further disclosed, what was perhaps not known before, that we have advantages in building ships that are possessed by hardly any other country; and so far from that interest being likely to suffer by the alteration, we find they can not only build ships at home cheaper than they can be built in other countries, but, what is still more satisfactory, we find that other countries can build their ships cheaper here than they can in their own yards. It does appear also that, whatever advantage we supposed was possessed by other countries over us, resulted from the system which existed in this country; and that, in consequence of the change, we have adopted that system with respect to the structure of our vessels and to secure better character morally, and with regard to knowledge of their business, among our masters and mates, that is likely to qualify us to maintain competition with the ships of any country 87 in the world. I do not intend to weary the House with many details on this matter, but I cannot help reading one letter that I have received from Liverpool on this subject, and the character of the writer may be deemed of sufficient authority. The writer said—As regards shipping, there is a much better feeling since it was ascertained that the navigation laws were irretrievably doomed; builders are well employed, new contracts are making freely, both at home and in the colonies, and first-class British-built ships are readily taken up as they arrive. In fact, the supply of 12-year ships fall short of the demand, and advanced rates have been paid in some cases for homeward freight. There are now building on the stocks 2,850 tons, against 2,229 in 1849. Some British ships have been taken up in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, and loaded for the States, and a few foreigners to load for England—the first fruits of reciprocity. I enclose some of the shipping circulars, particularly pointing attention to that of Thom, Currie, and Co., from the importance of that firm.The hon. Gentleman then read a passage from this circular, to the effect that—" the prospect of the sweeping measure for the repeal of the navigation laws was accompanied with doubts and anxieties that had had the effect of checking the operations even of the most enterprising; but so soon as it was decided that the old laws were doomed, increased energy evinced itself;' the native hue of resolution,' which had been' sick lied o'er with the pale cast of thought,' again appeared, and in the assurance that the position of the shipowner would not be further compromised, buyers and builders resolved at once to be up and doing.I have also got a return from the port of Sunderland, and I find that of the vessels building in the port of Sunderland on the 31st of December, 1847, the amount of tonnage was 22,140, and on the 31st of December, 1849, the navigation laws having then been doomed for six months before, it was 29,210. Of ships sold, there were 16 in December, 1847, and in December, 1849, 24. The number built in December, 1848, when there seemed some doubt as to the navigation laws being abolished, was 142, of 37,878 tons, and in December, 1849, 155 of 44,333. I might go further into detail on the subject of the navigation laws, to show that I am right in congratulating the House on the change that has been made; but knowing that there are some Members more perfectly informed on this subject who are likely to afford the House further evidence, I will not longer detain its attention on this topic. I cannot, however, help repeating, that after six months' experience of 88 the certainty of the change, that everything foretold by the opponents of the change has hitherto been falsified, and that everything which was promised by its advocates is likely to be realised. Sir, the Speech has communicated to the House the satisfaction which Her Majesty derived from her recent visit to Ireland. That Her Majesty's reception in that country should have been marked by every indication of attachment and loyalty, I believe occasioned no surprise to those who were best acquainted with the feelings of that people. The people of Ireland, often complaining of this country, and sometimes with reason, have seldom been wanting in respect for the Crown. They cheerfully acknowledge the legitimate right of Her Majesty to the dominion of that country; while of Her Majesty personally they only knew that from the time of Her accession She has manifested a marked interest in their welfare, desiring that all reason for complaint should be removed, and anxious that justice and favour should be dispensed alike in each portion of Her kingdom. It was, moreover, supposed that Her Majesty had long wished personally to visit that country. With these prepossessions with regard to Her Majesty, it was not surprising that among a people of their generous nature, Her arrival among them should have been welcomed with delight. Having been present in the capital myself, when Her Majesty was there, I am bound to say, that I never saw so vast a concourse of people congregated together, who demeaned themselves with so much order, respectfulness, and propriety. People from all quarters of the country, and of all opinions, assembled there on the occasion; and, without yielding to any extravagance of feeling or losing their self-respect, they seemed to have come there for the common object of manifesting respect for the person and character of Her Majesty. From information I have received, I do not think that anything has occurred amongst the people at large in that country, since Her Majesty's departure, to shake those feelings of attachment and loyalty which were evinced in Her presence; and I do believe that in no way could Her Majesty confer more satisfaction upon that people than by intimating an intention of revisiting that country. We are reminded by Her Majesty's Speech that there is still great distress in that country, and vestiges yet exist of the awful calamity with which it was visited. Indeed it is impossible for 89 those who know the extent of distress which the famine occasioned, to suppose that at so early a period all traces of its effects should have disappeared; but it is gratifying to think that in many respects the poor of that country are improving in their condition, and that, owing to the abundance of the necessaries of life, the amount of suffering is less. This is not only indicated by the less frequent resort to public relief, but there are signs of greater contentment, and evidence of less crime and outrage being committed. It is matter of satisfaction, considering the apprehensions that were expressed with reference to the extent and mode of the relief which was afforded in Ireland, it should not have realised the fears of those who were opposed to it. It was imagined that if relief was once given out of the workhouse to the Irish people, they would become generally demoralised, and there would be a habit of dependence on public charity which nothing could check. It is satisfactory to observe that, as soon as the necessaries of life become more reasonable in price, and that more means of employment prevailed, that outdoor relief very greatly diminished. At the commencement of 1849, we find that the indoor relief included 206,254 persons, and in 1850 it is reduced to 204,407. The amount of the outdoor relief on the 1st of January, 1849, was 479,576; and on the 1st of January, 1850, it was reduced to 104,650. The decrease, therefore, of indoor relief was 1,760, and of outdoor relief 364,926. As far as we can ascertain the prospects of the operation of the poor-law, it appears that the administration of the system becomes more simplified, and the means of preventing imposture and the exhaustion of the resources of the country more certain. There is a most striking evidence of this by the increased workhouse accommodation provided in the country during last year, showing that that which is considered in this country a sufficient test of imposture, is likely to be applied there generally and with effect. The workhouse accommodation on the 6th January, 1849, was for 290,720; on the 5th January, 1850, for 251,717. I stated that there was a diminution of crime in Ireland, consequent on the improved condition of the people. I find, by a return of the number of outrages reported by the constabulary in 1847 and 1849, that the number of cases of cattle and sheep stealing which occurred in 1847 was 10,044; in 1849, 8,157; of other outrages, the 90 number in 1847 was 10,142; in 1849, 6,749; the total of offences being for 1847, 20,986; for 1849,14,906. The total number of animals stolen was, in 1847, 15,291, and in 1849, 13,631. I come now to an announcement in Her Majesty's Speech which I am sure will be most gratifying to the House—I allude to the reference that is there made to the condition of manufactures and commerce in this country, as well as the condition of the people generally. Her Majesty is happy to congratulate the House that the state of the manufactures and commerce of the country has greatly improved, and that the condition of the people is very much better than it has been, in consequence of the easier access to the necessaries and comforts of life. This, Sir, is a most important fact—important at any time to those who are aware of the vast consequences that are involved in this consideration, affecting as it does our whole social, political, and financial condition. But though an official announcement of this fact has been waited and watched for with great interest in this country, I believe there never was a time when attention and interest were more directed to that subject out of this country than at this time. Everybody is wanting to learn the present condition of England. The whole commercial world consider that we have lately made a great and momentous experiment on our industrial and commercial interests, and are waiting the result. This announcement, therefore, contained in the Speech, has a peculiar importance. The fact is, that the nations of the earth are beginning, notwithstanding the sneers sometimes cast upon the subject, to direct their attention to political economy. There never was a time when nations were more desirous of acquiring wealth, or when the people complained more of its distribution, than they do now; and the problem that is now seeking a solution, is, in what way nations can accumulate the greatest possible amount of wealth consistently with the fairest distribution of it. I do not dispute that there are two systems totally opposed to each other, each of which has professed to accomplish this object. The one consists in regulating and restricting the trade of this country by the State, and maintaining particular industries and interests that are unable to maintain themselves—this is called the protective system. The other is to leave to the unfettered intelligence and energy, almost the instinct, of a free and civilised people, the discovery of the means 91 by which they can obtain the highest possible reward for their capital, skill, and industry—that is called the free-trade system. What excites the curiosity and interest of the world is, that regarding us, as it does, at the head of all other commercial nations, we have been seen for years past to act on the protective system, and that recently we have abandoned it, for that of free trade. This interest has also been much enhanced by the very confident predictions that were made here and elsewhere as to the disastrous effects that must follow from the change. In this country the great issue upon the protective and free-trade system has been taken on the free introduction of food into this country. Upon this subject there are recorded some most positive prophecies and warnings; and I have no doubt that there are many persons who have been shaken in their faith in what they thought to be a sound principle, by the confidence with which persons of authority and station in this country have spoken as to the results of that experiment. But the importance of the announcement made in Her Majesty's Speech is, that it enables us now to know the results of the change. Certainly, it may be said that the time is rather short to judge of the result of any experiment after the trial of only one year; but if those predictions of evil had been in any measure justified, I think the time has arrived when we should have at least some intimation of the evils that were likely to follow. Now, amongst the objections urged by those who opposed a free trade in corn, the House is, I am sure, very familiar with the following: first, that it would greatly impair the home trade; second, that the condition of the working classes would be greatly deteriorated; third, that the currency must be exported to pay for it; and, fourth, that the revenue would decline. Now, it was said on the other side, that inasmuch as food was the basis upon which all human industry proceeded, that according to its supply—whether scanty, or adequate, or abundant—so would be the means of the community available for the production, distribution, or consumption of all other articles; and that an objection founded on the evils of having more food instead of less, was fallacious; and that as trade only consisted in the exchange and distribution of articles required for human use, or as such articles would be demanded in proportion as the first necessary of life 92 was procured with more or less facility, so must trade be always better when food was plentiful and cheap; and, lastly, it was said that, inasmuch as with our system of taxation, revenue depended more upon expenditure than on income, so would that be greater, and not less, as general consumption was increased. Abundance of food, therefore, said we, must always be a cause of prosperity in such a country as this. These were the arguments put forward for and against that system. Now, I want the House, the country, and the world at large, to judge between us; and I want the world to decide at present by examining the results. And what are the results? We have heard something of them from private sources, but this is the first occasion on which any official announcement as to the state of the country has been made. We are told that commerce and manufactures are thriving, and the condition of the people greatly improved from having fuller command of the necessaries of life. The evils denounced as about to overtake us were to be in proportion to the quantity of commodities, especially food, that were to be imported. Now it was certainly beyond my expectation, that we should so soon have an opportunity of putting this matter to the test. For what am I now in a position to state to the House? Why, that within the last sixteen months we have imported more food than we imported during sixteen years before. Now, if any of the threatened consequences were necessarily to follow from the adoption of free trade in food, surely there would have been some indication of them at present, for no party imagined so soon that the imports of grain would have been so large: nothing approaching to it, indeed, has, I believe, ever occurred in the history of this country, for we have been importing at the rate of 1,000,000 quarters a month. And my honest conviction at this moment is, that not a single thing that was feared by the opponents of free trade has come true, or has the slightest prospect of coming true; whilst the advantages expected by the free-traders have already been felt. The home trade has improved; the condition of the working classes has been ameliorated; not a sovereign has left the country—for there is as much gold as the hon. Member for Warwickshire could wish; while, as we shall be informed by my right 93 hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the revenue is improving. I am in possession of letters, circulars, and documents coming from every part of the country, in which the writers not only admit—a very rare thing with the people of this country—that they are well off, and their condition improved; but ascribe it chiefly to the cheapness and abundance of the necessaries of life. With respect to the home trade, I really had some doubts whether the improvement would be so soon evinced; but only this day I had a letter from the north of England describing the state of the manufacturing interests in a place chiefly concerned in supplying the interior of the country—Bradford and its vicinity:—
"Bradford, Jan. 28th, 1850.
My dear Sir—In reply to your esteemed favour I beg to say that I have taken considerable pains in obtaining information as to the condition of the working classes in this town and neighbourhood, also as to the rate of wages, and the general state of trade. In all these respects a constant, steady, and great improvement has taken place during the last twelve or eighteen months. The exports to the United States have increased—the demand for the Continent has revived with the more general return of tranquillity, and with regard to the home trade, while a very large increase has taken place in the demand for our goods in the manufacturing districts, the experience of our firm would not lead us to the conclusion that there has been in 1849, as compared with 1848, any diminution in the demand for Bradford goods in the agricultural districts, but quite the contrary. The result has been that new machinery has been so much in demand as to have risen greatly in value; the amount paid for the relief of the poor is not much more than half of what it was two years ago; hands have been so scarce during the whole of 1849 that repeated advances in wages have been given, and I feel justified in stating that owing to the high rate of wages and the low prices of clothing and of food, the working classes as a body were never so well off in this district as at present. These remarks apply to Bradford, Thornton, Shipley, Bingley, Keighly, and the intermediate district. I annex a statement of the number receiving relief from the poor-rates, and the amount paid in Nov. 1848 and in Nov. 1849 in Bradford.
§ Another letter was from Leicester, where there had been a good deal of agitation on the subject of free trade, and apprehension that the country would be ruined in consequence, and written by a person whose authority and station in that town place his statements beyond question for accuracy:—
"Leicester, Jan. 26th, 1850.
Dear Sir—The great staple trade of this district, the Leicester and Leicestershire stocking trade, is one of the best indexes that can be found of the condition of the working classes throughout
the country; three-fifths of the whole frame machinery of the town and county is employed in the manufacture of wrought and cut worsted, woollen, cotton, and merino stockings, four-fifths or nine-tenths of which are consumed in the home-market, and principally by the operative classes. Dear food, \ want of employment, and its depressing consequences have been for many years so long co-existent in this locality, while on the other hand full employment and increased comforts have so uniformly coexisted with years of cheap food, that we are not at all surprised at the ease and comfort enjoyed by the working population amongst us during the last year, nor shall we be surprised at its permanent continuance.
The demand for the last year has been fully equal to the manufacturing capability of the district—all the workmen have been fully employed, and two advances in wages have been established and maintained in the staple trade, of the permanence of which there is every indication—indeed from the inclosed printed notice, which has been issued by the workmen this week, it is possible that the spring will not have passed before a third advance will be established:—
'FRAMEWORK-KNITTERS.—At a general meeting of the straight-down hose branch (middle gauges), it was unanimously agreed that a request be made to the manufacturers for an advance of wages, viz. 2d per dozen up to 50 leads, and all above, 3d. A deputation is expected to wait upon them on Tuesday next, when the workmen hope they will accede to their request; if not, the hands, it is said, will cease to work on the 11th of February.'—Leicester Chronicle, Jan. 26.
The request of a further advance will in all probability be conceded at once to half the extent proposed (as there are no stocks of these goods on hand), and if so this will be an additional rise of about 5 per cent more.
In the other departments of the Leicester and Leicestershire hosiery trade there has been similar activity—the underclothing manufacturers have had more orders than they could supply—an increased amount has been ordered for home consumption as well as for exportation, and in this department the wages of the workmen in the town of Leicester have experienced a considerable advance, having improved fully from 12½to 17½ per cent. The wages in the various fancy hosiery ar. tides, all being more highly skilled branches of the trade, are generally higher than the wages of the staple manufacture; but as these departments are dependent upon fashion, novelty, and the taste of the higher classes, it is not necessary to go into detail further than to say that in every department of skilled labour there has been for the past year full employment.
I assure you nothing has ever been so satisfactory to me as the realisation of the results to the working classes of corn-law repeal—to be responsible for the peace and order of a dense manufacturing population, as I have been twice, during the trying year of 1841, and the still more agitated and depressed one of 1848, is no light matter; nor is it to be wondered at that unemployed, and (from want of employment) half-starved, men, should after a series of years of patient endurance, increase from hundreds to thousands the ranks of Communism, or evince a spirit of discontent dangerous to social security.
Another letter from the chairman of the
Leicester board of guardians, stated that the trade of the place had never been in a more prosperous condition. He states, that the population of the borough, which is a poor-law union within itself, is now about 60,000. The poor-rates in 1848 were 37,000; in 1849, 32,000. He says that—
During the current year of 1847–8, the working population were generally out of employment. The guardians had to provide a temporary union-house, and tests in two mills, and two large stone-yards, in which were nearly one thousand able-bodied men. Disturbances were frequent, and a serious riot took place in May, 1848. In the autumn of 1848, a change took place, and trade began to revive; the stone-yards were soon unoccupied, and the temporary house was relinquished.
To-day I am informed by one of the relieving officers that there is but one ablebodied framework knitter on the mill, and he is there by an oversight, and will be dismissed this week, as there is plenty of work. The men now on the mill are chiefly outdoor labourers, prevented from working by the severe frost, and they are orderly and peaceable.
I have resided in Leicester twenty years, and I never knew it in so prosperous a condition as regards its general trade. The wages of the working men of the staple trade, for many years notoriously low, are advanced, and there is a prospect of further advances; and the cheapness of provisions, especially of bread, is regarded as an inestimable benefit.
May the same gracious Providence which has opened the way to the enjoyment of these blessings, preserve them for the benefit of generations yet toe ome!
§ Sir, I merely give these as specimens of the evidence that may be collected in every part of the country, showing that the home trade, about which so much solicitude is expressed in this House, does not suffer. The comparative amount of bankruptcies alone is some indication of the state of trade. In 1848 it was 1,763; in 1849, 1,146, showing a decrease of 617. With respect to the condition of the working classes, the indications are of the most satisfactory description, and as they have a great many friends in this House, I am sure it will be a source of high gratification to them to hear it. Whether we look to the manufacturing or the agricultural class, it will be found that the one have higher wages, and the other can command a larger share of the comforts of life, and uniformly they are far better off than during the past year. I see the hon. Member for Warwickshire expresses some doubt; then let it be ascertained. An important indication on this matter is the amount of public relief given. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Chief Commissioner 96 of the Poor Laws, will be able, when they address the House, to inform it whether the poor-rate has increased, and more persons are now receiving public relief. In fact, I trust to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is so able and accurate in statements on these matters, to give details from official sources in support of what I have said. My own impression is, from the reports on the subject, that there is an extraordinary diminution of the number for the past year, as compared with that which preceded it, and a great reduction in the expense of supporting them. I believe that the number of persons receiving relief is between 50,000 and 60,000 less. With regard to the amount of bullion at present, I do not know the exact quantity, but I am informed that there never was a time in the history of the Bank of England at which it was greater. With regard to the revenue, there is actually an increase of 2,000,000l. in its amount. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: A surplus.] Well, it comes to the same thing; a surplus then of income over expenditure, which we have not heard much of before this year. I have here a comparison of the commitments in the years 1848 and 1849—a subject which is generally admitted as showing the condition of the people at different periods. In 1848 I find that the number of persons committed to prison in England and Wales was 10,352, while in 1849 the number was 9,512. With respect to Ireland, the number of offences reported by the constabulary for the same period was 3,615 in 1848, and 2,501 in 1849; and as poverty and crime have always been justly reckoned as two of the consequences of a want of a sufficient supply of food which always go together, these results tend to confirm still further the view of the increased prosperity of the country which I have been taking. I am prepared also for the argument which I know will be used by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that though they must admit—for it cannot be disputed—that trade is good and flourishing, and the employment of the people general, still that all this results from other causes besides those to which I have attributed it, and that there are other ways by which the general prosperity may be accounted for. But I have here by mo a calculation which I have made of what the country saves in the articles of food—of the difference which it makes to the country in paying for the necessary supply of food, when that food is cheap, and when it is dear. The people have to be fed, 97 whatever the price of food in this country may he; and there is necessarily a certain expenditure required in order to obtain that food which varies according as food may be cheap or dear at different periods. Now what I want to show the House is, the enormous difference in the cost of supplying food to the country when food is cheap and when it is dear; and that when you hear of wages going farther, and the trade being better, at the time that food is cheap, that there is no difficulty in concluding that cheapness of food is the cause. I have here the average prices for the years 1847 and 1849:—
|Average price year 1847.||Average price Dec. 29 1849.||Difference.|
|Wheat||69s. 5d.||39s. 4d.||30s. 1d.|
|Barley||43s. 11d.||25s. 9d.||18s. 2d.|
|Oats||28s. 7d.||15s. 6d.||13s. 1d.|
|Beans||50s. 1d.||26s. 11d.||23s. 2d.|
|Peas||39s. 1d.||29s. 0d.||10s. 1d.|
§ The following is the estimated consumption of all kinds of grain in this country:—
|20,000,000 quarters wheat at 30s.||£30,000,000|
|20,000,000 quarters oats at 13s.||13,000,000|
|20,000,000 quarters barley, beans, and peas, 18s.||18,000,000|
|Estimating the consumption of meat, butter, cheese, potatoes, and other vegetables, to be equal to the total consumption of grain, say 60,000,000 quarters, and estimating the reduction in price to be equal to 10s. per quarter, the reduction will amount to||30,000,000|
So that there remains on the expenditure of the people for food a difference of no less than 91,000,000l. sterling between the years 1847 and 1849, as every-body must see, which must leave means to the community available for other objects; and which, from whatever cause it may arise, will always be felt immediately in the trade and condition of the people. If the protective duty on food has had the effect of keeping up the price of food, the people will know how to judge of what they have gained by its abolition, and the people may calculate how much they have lost by protection being continued so long. I do not want to make the people more dissatisfied than necessary with the manner in which they have been treated for the benefit of a particular interest. On the contrary, I should be glad if hon. Gentlemen opposite could show
me that I am wrong—I should be glad to find that they could show the people that there has not been injustice done to them in past years, as such calculation tends to show, and that they have not derived so much benefit from free trade as I believe they now enjoy, seeing that in the first year of free trade, which, it is said, has caused reduction of price, such great saving has been made. Why, if 91,000,000l. had been rendered available to the people by any other means, would anybody be astonished to hear that a state of general prosperity followed? And I say that this economy in the article of food between such years as 1847 and 1849 has been available to the people for the comforts of life; and the state of prosperity which prevails proves that the people have availed themselves of these increased means of procuring comforts of which they would otherwise have been deprived. Any one who entertains any doubt on this subject, has only to look to such evidence as I have read in order to see that such is the case. But I must say, that when that is called an experiment in this country—because I understand that Gentlemen call the liberty to buy food freely an experiment—it seems to me an experiment of justice and advantage not likely to be soon changed or departed from, or, at least not until people prefer less instead of more of what they want, and like to pay more instead of less, for what they wish to buy. Seeing that there are so many others to follow me, likely to be full of information of the kind that I have already adduced, I shall not detain the House longer on this question. My case is, that this great change in the price of food is sufficient to account for the improvement that has taken place in the condition of the people. I would now advert to another topic in Her Majesty's Speech, namely, that which is contained in the following passage:—
It is with regret that Her Majesty has observed the complaints which in many parts of the kingdom have proceeded from the owners and occupiers of land. Her Majesty greatly laments that any portion of her subjects should be suffering distress.
And I think that any expression of sympathy on the part of Her Majesty with the sufferings of the owners and occupiers of land, will readily be responded to in this House, and indeed out of this House. I share in that feeling largely myself—I never wished ill, God knows, to the landed interest. When I advocated the repeal
of the corn laws, I always thought the advantage of that interest was, as much as that of any other class, involved in the removal of what was falsely termed protection. What enhances my regret now for it is, that I cannot hold out the smallest prospect of relief that, with the view to its benefit and justice to other classes, the Legislature can extend to it. There was great difficulty in doing so, and for more than one reason; for what strikes me is, that there has been some experience already in that direction. The landed interest has had great power in the Legislature, and owing to the frequent recurrence of distress notwithstanding protection, there have been great opportunities of considering in what way it should be relieved; and these opportunities have not, I think, been thrown away; it was difficult, indeed, to find an experiment that had not been made of this kind. After considering this subject, I am obliged to conclude, that there are no peculiar liabilities attaching to land from which it could be relieved. There are none, in fact, that attach to an agriculturist in that capacity; the assessments for rates are upon local and visible property in any district. But I have found that there have been constant exemptions made in favour of the agriculturist; for certainly, when it was enacted that the farmer should pay no duty for his horses, none for his dogs, none for his tolls, none for his windows, none for insurance, those were favours; but what made him more despair of proceeding in this direction farther, was, that he was told, that whenever any charge of this sort was removed, it gave value to the land; that in consequence of any such reduction land would always let for a higher rent to the occupier. Now, he understood that what was chiefly desired was to relieve the occupier. He heard that the owner cared little for himself; and that inasmuch as this was not calculated to relieve the occupier, it was of little use. He did not merely state this on his own conviction, but he was fortified by an authority in the other House, no less than the late Lord Eldon—who said, in a corn-law debate, that it would be needless to reduce the local charges on land, for every 6d. that was taken from them, went to swell the rent of the owner. He thought, indeed, this was delicate ground for the landed interest to touch upon, for it would disclose more favour in the way of taxation than perhaps Gentlemen were now conscious of. But still less had he hope
of relief being possible, when he observed the claim put forward, especially for the occupiers of land themselves; for, judging by the oratory that had lately been diffused throughout the country, it would seem as if the farmer still called for that which it was impossible to give, and which if given, would only prove, what it had been before, delusive and ruinous to himself; for it was still demanded for him that Parliament should promise him a price for his wheat, according to which price he could bargain for his land: that was the effect of the demand for protection that was now again made at the many meetings that had been held. He was astonished at the infatuation that could make such a claim after what had passed. He thought it a perseverance in delusion that was unequalled. It was worthy of a place in a work he had seen, entitled The History of Human Delusions. This would be among the greatest; for if anything was logically deducible from what had preceded it, it was, that fanners' losses, and sometimes ruin, had been occasioned by this very promise of Parliament not having been realised. The evidence taken before the Agricultural Committees of this House was really nothing else but the details of the farmer's disappointment, given by himself, in consequence of his having bargained for his land at the Act-of-Parliament price; and not having obtained that price, and being obliged to fulfil his contract, was compelled to pay his rent out of his capital, and too often to end in the Gazette; and yet he again required the Parliament to guarantee him a price for his produce, which he had seen was impossible, or at least not to be relied upon. It was just ten years ago, when making his annual address in that House on this subject, the greater part of his speech consisted of evidence which he had taken from those Committees on the part of farmers, describing the manner in which protection had deceived them, alleging, both in the year 1822 and 1836, that they were unable to meet their liabilities, from having contracted to pay for land what the prices of produce rendered impossible. In 1822 the story was, "We were told that wheat would sell for 80s. a quarter, and we are here, as ruined men, having only been able to get 49s." In 1836 the story was, "Here we are, deceived again; we have been promised 64s. a quarter, and we are actually feeding our pigs and horses with the wheat, and malting it, instead of barley, having no better use for it." And
what is worthy of notice is, that in 1822 the protection amounted to 50s, a quarter, and in 1836 to nearly 100 per cent. And let no man imagine that there was hope then among the farmers; it was unqualified despair; numbers were really swept away, and others deemed themselves ruined beyond recovery, because they did not expect to see a higher price again. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will turn to the report, they will see that the language was more desponding then than now; and the question that seems to engross the agricultural thoughts especially again now, was then also occupying them, namely, whether wheat could be grown at 40s. a quarter. The question is deliberately put in that Committee; an intelligent land agent and farmer is asked what he believed, and what farmers generally believed, would be the price of wheat in future; and the answer deliberately given was, that the farmers did not expect to see it again higher than 5s. or 6s. a bushel. He was then asked whether he thought the farmer could do upon that. "Well," he said, "I think they will, for other things will fall in proportion." And lucky would it have been far the farmers if they had seized that moment to abolish protection, and rely upon the price then, which they must submit to now; they would now probably have been a contented and prospering interest. But, Sir, I cannot lead the landed interest to expect that the House will take this matter into consideration, for I don't think it is a matter it has anything to do with; for if it was to consider that question, and come to a conclusion that wheat could not be produced at 40s. a quarter, I do not see that it could act upon that conclusion; for the time is past when we can raise the price of food upon the people again for the mere benefit of the producer; and if the other conclusion was come to, that wheat could be grown at 40s., it does not follow that it would be grown at that price, and the farmer be insured against loss in consequence; for if it required great capital, economy, intelligence, and security on the part of the farmer to produce wheat at that price, looking to the mode in which owners of land dealt with their properties, it did not follow that farmers would be always placed under the circumstances that would enable them to accomplish it, and if any reverse came, they would be as unable to meet it as they are now; for land is not regarded by many of its owners as a means of producing the
greatest quantity of produce at the least possible cost. Land has a value to many people quite independent of that consideration. Accordingly, we find that it depends much upon the taste and objects of the proprietor what will generally be the tenure or circumstance of the farmer or cultivator of the soil. One man is a sportsman, and preserves game on his land, which destroys much of the produce. Another man is a politician, and cares more for the vote than the skill of his farmer. Another charges his estate with debt, and has nothing left, after paying the interest, for improvements. Another looks to influence from the possession of territory; while many like to tie up the land or limit the interest of the owner, for the sake of perpetuating the same property in one line of descent; while there are few only who are very ardent agriculturists. But all this shows how difficult it is to calculate upon the result of what could or would be done in farming in this country, and how impossible it is for Parliament to fix a price for produce. The tenant of an improving landlord may be the next neighbour of another who is of a different character, and one will be ruined in a year like this, while another might be doing well; all tending to show that this House cannot relieve any man from those conditions of his success, in this or any other business, in relying upon his own forethought, capital, skill, and industry, without which he will fail. The farmer, then, should be told that, with the best disposition to serve him in the world, this House cannot do it; for Parliament cannot undertake to manage the landed property of the country, or to limit the amount of its produce, without which there cannot be any certainty with respect to price. In the midst of their present distress I will just read a case that has recently occurred, showing how little able that House was to come to any practical conclusion on the business of agriculture from statements of distress made by individuals:—
A farm in Gloucestershire of 400 acres, the land of medium quality, and distant from a market—which was formerly let at 20s. per acre, which has been drained and money otherwise laid out in permanent improvements—has quite recently been taken, on a lease for eighteen years, by an experienced farmer, with adequate capital, at a rent of 40s. per acre, The tenant to be at liberty to destroy game, remove hedges, cut down trees, and, in short, to deal with the land as though it were his own; and if the landlord sees reason to fear that he is not fairly dealt by, the matter is to be settled between him and the tenant by arbitration.
No other conditions in the lease. The tenant says he shall be satisfied with 40s. per quarter for his wheat, and prices for other produce in proportion.
[Cries of "Name, name!"] Gentlemen seem to doubt the correctness of the case. It was given to me by persons who assure me it is a faithful statement of what has occurred, and I have read it believing it to be true; if it is otherwise, I shall be the first to admit that I have been deceived. I do not deny that many farmers are distressed; I believe, that they are. I should be astonished if they were not; for tenants at will, depending entirely on the price of wheat for the year, could not stand if the price fell. But, notwithstanding the reduction of price, I do not think that the case at present of the owners and occupiers is hopeless; for there is still this consolation, that land has not fallen in value, but it is as high now as it has been for the last twenty years, and much higher than formerly—that no farm falls vacant that there are not as many or more candidates for its occupation than ever, but, in some cases, farms have lately let at an advanced rent—and that the agricultural labourers are as well or better off than they have been. And that is the condition of the landed interest after the first year of free trade, which is not one, I think, at present to produce despair, or that precludes persons interested from retiring from a business of which they despaired; and there is this farther consolation, that will, I am sure, occur to them, which is, that, supposing that if the worst came to the worst, and that the owner was obliged cordially to co-operate with the occupier, with the view to improvement, and to conduct the business of farming in the same spirit and with the same economy and energy with which other businesses were conducted, that really and truly the landowner of this country laboured under no disadvantage whatever compared with any foreigner; and that if he was less fortunate in one respect, he was more so in many others, and that there was really no reason why he should not compete successfully with any country on the earth. In most respects, he was superior—he had better climate, better government, better labour, better implements, more manure, superior communication, and the best market in the world at his door. But one thing was wanting, which the landed interest had in its own hands—namely, that
the land was dearer here than elsewhere; but here the remedy was always in the hands of the owner, and I am certain, that if he looked at his position fairly in the face, and at the requirements of the community in future, he would come to the conclusion that it was only a reproach to him, and to the agriculturists in Ireland, that they should import any food at all from other countries. It is my deliberate opinion that these two islands could, with ease, maintain a very much larger population than existed at present; and this reproach more particularly applies to Ireland. Why, if any man was calmly to survey the circumstances of these two countries, he would say that Ireland had been laid a-side of England, for the purpose of feeding her—the finest agricultural country in Europe, united to the largest manufacturing and wealthiest commercial community in the world; and yet what was the spectacle presented to the world at this moment?—the owners of land in Ireland more distressed than those of England, and the people of that country better off, simply because there had been a large and free importation of foreign food; and yet this very agricultural interest had been what was called protected. Well, what was it owing to? Is there a man that says, that Ireland could not produce more? or that it has resulted from anything but the mismanagement of landed property, protected highly for forty years? A purely agricultural country, and yet within three years one of the most awful famines that ever visited a country, has befallen it, and the landed proprietors at this moment in a state of ruin. Was ever such an anomaly? I do not wish to reflect severely on the present proprietors, but an awful retribution has fallen upon the ownerships of land, and the owners have been quite unprepared for the visitation: their lands had been neglected, the people neglected; too much of the agriculture in a barbarous state, and the estates encumbered with debt; while the only hope for the country now is, that its recent misery, having revealed to us the real cause of its past poverty, and the responsibilities now cast upon the landed property in case of its neglect in future being so heavy, that it makes it unlikely that the same evils will again be suffered to recur. Yes, Sir, regretting as I do, deeply, the sufferings and sad reverses of fortune to which the people of property in Ireland had been lately exposed, I do honestly
and firmly believe, that the regeneration of that country will date from the time that has so fully discovered and disclosed to us the past neglect and sad waste of its resources. I have no hesitation in defending the legislation for that country in the particular which is most complained of by the Irish proprietors—I mean the poor-law; and I never felt more sanguine about the prospects of that country than I do at this moment. I believe that the poor-law was a measure of humanity as well as of policy. I believe that it has already withdrawn from the people the chief pretext for crime; that it has diminished, what was next to crime, the frightful extent of mendicity in that country, and comparative security has been given to life and property; the people have ceased to feel desperate from being destitute; which taken together with the facilities which had been given to the transfer and sale of property, I firmly believe, will very soon tempt men of capital to invest their fortunes in land in that country, and that agriculture there will become a profitable enterprise, engaged in by persons from all parts of the united kingdom. But, of all other things, I should reckon upon the continued prosperity of the manufacturing interests of this country as the most important adjunct to the prosperity of Ireland, as affording a constantly-improving market for their produce, and a great and ready vent for their surplus people; and this, I do firmly believe, will result from the policy that has been adopted here with respect to trade. I expect, and am not afraid to say it, that the prosperity of this country will be steady, referring, as I do, so many of our past convulsions in commerce to erroneous policy with respect to the trade in food. I do believe that prosperity will endure under our present system. I may be wrong, but I regard the affairs of this country now with more confidence and with more hope than I have ever done before; I believe that they rest upon a more solid foundation than they have hitherto done. I ascribe it to the increased intelligence of the people, their constant vigilance in public affairs, the higher moral feeling that pervades all classes, together with the great and useful reforms that have taken place of late years, from all of which has resulted a greater amount of political, religious, and commercial freedom than was ever enjoyed before by any people on the earth. Political
and religious freedom we have had for some time past, and nothing but better order and more contentment have proceeded from it; and I can never think that anything but good could result from that other measure of freedom which gave us the strongest interest that there should be peace on earth, good will among men, and that our neighbour should prosper like ourselves. And I trust, now, that I do not place a wrong construction upon the concluding passage of Her Majesty's Speech, when I infer from it that those who are now entrusted with the administration of the country are duly impressed with the truth, that the surest mode of maintaining the institutions of the country in the affections of the people, is by proceeding still, in the progressive spirit of later years, in reforming what is decayed, extending what is inadequate, and showing a confidence in the people, which every extension of their liberties has hitherto justified. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey to Her Majesty the Thanks of this House for the gracious Speech which Her Majesty has commanded to be made to both Houses of Parliament:
Humbly to thank Her Majesty for the assurance of Her great satisfaction in again having recourse to the advice and assistance of Her Parliament:
That we condole with Her Majesty on the decease of Her Majesty Queen Adelaide, which has caused Her Majesty deep affliction; and that we entirely concur with Her Majesty in the belief that the extensive charity and exemplary virtues of Her late Majesty will always render Her memory dear to the Nation:
Humbly to express the satisfaction with which we learn that Her Majesty happily continues in peace and amity with Foreign Powers:
To thank Her Majesty for informing us that, in the course of the autumn, differences of a serious character arose between the Governments of Austria and Russia on the one hand, and the Sublime Porte on the other, in regard to the treatment of a considerable number of persons, who, after the termination of the civil war in Hungary, had taken refuge in the Turkish territory; and we rejoice to learn that explanations which took place between the Turkish and Imperial Governments have fortunately removed any danger to the Peace of Europe which might have arisen out of these differences:
Humbly to convey to Her Majesty our thanks for informing us that Her Majesty having been
appealed to on this occasion by the Sultan, united Her efforts with those of the Government of France, to which a similar appeal had been made, in order to assist by the employment of Her good offices, in effecting an amicable settlement of those differences in a manner consistent with the dignity and independence of the Porte:
To thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that Her Majesty has been engaged in communications with Foreign States Upon the measures which might be rendered necessary by the relaxation of the restrictions formerly imposed by the Navigation Laws of this Country:
That we rejoice to learn that the Governments of the United States of America and of Sweden have promptly taken steps to secure to British Ships in the ports of their respective Countries, advantages similar to those which their own ships now enjoy in British ports:
That with regard to those Foreign States whose Navigation Laws have hitherto been of a restrictive character, we learn with gratification that Her Majesty has received from nearly all of them assurances which induce Her to hope that our example will speedily lead to a great and general diminution of those obstacles which previously existed to a free intercourse by sea between the nations of the world:
That we unite with Her Majesty in lamenting that in the summer and autumn of the past year the United Kingdom was again visited by the ravages of the Cholera; but we are thankful to Almighty God, who in His mercy was pleased to arrest the progress of mortality, and to stay this fearful pestilence:
That we humbly concur with Her Majesty, in the persuasion that we shall best evince our gratitude by vigilant precautions against the more obvious causes of sickness, and an enlightened consideration for those who are most exposed to its attacks:
Humbly to assure Her Majesty, that we rejoice to be informed that Her Majesty, in Her late visit to Ireland, derived the highest gratification from the loyalty and attachment manifested by all classes of Her subjects; and that we learn with satisfaction that, although the effects of former years of scarcity are painfully felt in that part of the United Kingdom, they are mitigated by the present abundance of food, and the tranquillity which prevails:
That we regard with great satisfaction the improved condition of Commerce and Manufactures; and whilst sharing with Her Majesty in the regret with which Her Majesty has observed the complaints which in many parts of the Kingdom have proceeded from the Owners and Occupiers of
Land; and humbly concurring with Her Majesty in lamenting greatly that any portion of Her Majesty's subjects should be suffering distress; to unite 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 upon the great body of the people:
To thank Her Majesty for having directed the Estimates for the year to be laid before us, and for informing us that they have been framed with a strict regard to economy, whilst the efficiency of the various Branches of the Public Service has not been neglected:
That we participate in the satisfaction with which Her Majesty has seen the present state of the Revenue:
To express our thanks to Her Majesty for informing us that some of the measures which were postponed at the end of the last Session for want of time for their consideration, will be again laid before us, and that among the most important of these is one for the better government of the Australian Colonies:
Humbly to thank Her Majesty for having directed various measures to be prepared for the improvement of the condition of Ireland, and for acquainting us that the mischiefs arising from Party Processions; the defects of the Laws regulating the relations of laadlord and tenant; the imperfect state of the Grand Jury Acts; and the diminished number of electors for Members to serve in Parliament, will, together with other matters of serious consequence, form the subjects of measures to be submitted for our consideration:
That we unite in the satisfaction with which Her Majesty has learnt that the measures which have been already passed for the promotion of the Public Health are in a course of gradual adoption, and that we concur with Her Majesty in the hope that, both in the Metropolis and in various parts of the United Kingdom, we shall be enabled to make further progress in the removal of evils which affect the health and well-being of Her subjects:
Humbly to join with Her Majesty in acknowledging that the favour of Divine Providence has hitherto preserved this Kingdom from the wars and convulsions which during the last two years have shaken so many of the States of the Continent of Europe; and that we heartily concur in the hope and belief expressed by Her Majesty, that by combining liberty with order, by preserving what is valuable, and amending what is defective, we shall sustain the fabric of our Institutions as the abode and the shelter of a free and happy people.
§ SIR JAMES DUKE
After the very able, full, and successful speech of my hon. Friend, I am sure that this House will feel that I rise under no ordinary difficulty to second the Address which he has moved to Her Gracious Majesty. Sir, though I have had the honour of a seat in this House now for nearly thirteen years, this is the first occasion that I have ventured to offer myself to the notice of the House; and I am sure, under these circumstances, I shall meet with the kind indulgence of the House in the discharge of the duty which I have undertaken with great reluctance—with great reluctance, from a sense of my inability to address the House, but with great satisfaction, as a Member for the city of London, in giving my cordial support and confidence to Hoi-Majesty's Ministers, under the firm persuasion that they will continue to do everything on their part to maintain the high character and peaceful influence of the nation abroad, and the contentment and prosperity of the people at home, while, at the same time, they will enforce reform and retrenchment in every department of the State, consistent with the safety and the honour, and the dignity of this great empire. No one more deeply sympathises than I do with our Gracious Sovereign, in Her deep affliction at the decease of Her Majesty Queen Adelaide. I fully concur in the sentiment that Her late Majesty had justly endeared Herself to this country by Her piety, her charities, and Her exemplary virtues, and that Her name will be long held in grateful remembrance by every man, woman, and child in this kingdom. Her Majesty states that She recurs with great satisfaction to the advice of Her Parliament. The first meeting of the present Parliament occurred little more than two years ago, and I remember that, on that occasion, instead of the hon. Mover congratulating the House on the state of the country, he was necessarily compelled to begin his speech by lamenting the great distress which prevailed in the trading and manufacturing districts of the kingdom, many mills in that part of the country which he represented being stopped, and the operatives thrown out of work. I think I may feel justified in saying that, at no period in the history of the country, has the House met under more gratifying circumstances than at the present moment. When we reflect that two years ago the great commercial interests of this country had passed through an ordeal which shook 110 some of the most potent commercial houses in the world, and threatened others with a similar fate, I think we may congratulate ourselves that in so short a time the prosperity of this country has been so firmly re-established. I am happy to say, as the representative of the city of London, that I believe at no period has the trade and commerce of the city been in a better condition; and not in London alone, or in the other great commercial emporiums of the country, but in the most remote towns and manufacturing districts we have evidence of an increased and greatly extended trade, giving full means of employment to the people, whose improved means and condition are evidenced by the growing state of the revenue. At the same time, I deeply lament with Her Majesty that causes of complaint exist in the agricultural districts. I had the honour to represent a borough closely connected with an important agricultural county, and, from my knowledge not only of the landed proprietors, but also of the farmers of the district, I confess I should be one of the last persons to witness the distress of that body with feelings of indifference. I believe the farmers to he a peaceable, loyal, and industrious class; and, as such, well deserving of the favour of this House. But, though I say that, I fear I cannot go farther and agree with the means which have been suggested as a remedy for the distress which prevails. I fear that if they were led to believe that this House could, by any legislative measure, reimpose the duties which have been taken away, they would find themselves deceived; for I believe that the people of this country could not be prevailed upon again to have their food taxed, nor do I think that any Government would propose it, or any Parliament sanction it. I confess, however, that when speaking of free trade, I am reluctant to say much on the subject; because I have observed, with some pain, that parties who are willing to believe that free trade has benefited the country, are supposed to be inimical to the agricultural interest. I fear it is supposed that the repeal of the corn laws was effected to lower the landed interest and to depress the farmer, but to benefit the manufacturer. So far from that being the ease, I am persuaded that nothing but the most overwhelming sense of public duty, and the stern necessities of the country, could have carried that measure. My hon. Friend has said so much upon this point, that it is 111 unnecessary for me to detain the House further with respect to it; but without referring to returns which were open to every other Member of the House, I may refer to one which I received in my position as a magistrate of the city of London, which shows not only that cheap food affords abundant employment to the people, but that it tends to diminish pauperism and to lessen crime. I hold in my hand an official return, which I received yesterday from the governor of Newgate; and though my hon. Friend has already quoted similar returns, embracing all England, I think that this return is the more striking when we consider that the idle, the dissolute, and the unemployed are generally to be found in the metropolis of the empire. The total number of prisoners committed to Newgate from the 1st of January to the 31st of December, 1849, were 2,464, being a decrease from the previous year of no less than 593, or one-fourth of the whole number. This shows the diminution in a most striking manner, as this gaol includes the whole district within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court. I may also read a letter, which was not sent to mo preparatory to my speech in this House, for I was desirous to confine my observations to what I myself knew, and not to trouble the House with information which was equally open to other Members of the House; but I received a letter yesterday from my hon. friend the mayor of Manchester, which I think of importance sufficient to deserve the attention of the House. He says—I have a strong impression that the operatives of this district were never, at any former period, more fully employed, more comfortable in a social point of view, or better disposed than now. The rate of wages is, I believe, satisfactory; and the cheapness of the necessaries of life—in food and clothing—has wonderfully improved their condition. The hat trade is rather an exception to this rule, though but few people are employed therein, and the depression is easily accounted for. I have never, during my mayoralty, had one hour's uneasiness about the peace of this district. The speculation in cotton, and its high price, now interfere with the prospects of our master manufacturers and spinners, and I think few are making money; nevertheless the trade of 1849 must, on the whole, be considered very satisfactory. Our own experience in the home trade leads me also to think that the demand from the agricultural districts has not indicated that distress of which we have recently heard so much.Now, if the general trade and business of the country continue in this prosperous condition, it is to be hoped that prosperity will speedily find its way to agriculture; end for my part, I see no reason to anticipate 112 that the present low prices for agricultural produce will be continued. I remember when the measure for repealing the corn laws was passing through this House, great apprehensions were entertained of an immense supply of corn from the continent of America; but it happened that I was at Liverpool on the day when Mr. Bancroft, the late American Minister, left this country. I had some conversation with that gentleman before he embarked, and in the course of it he gave it as his confident opinion that it would be impossible for America to send any considerable quantity of corn to this country at a price less than one ranging between 45s. and 50s. a quarter. I do, therefore, hope that the demand for food will continue to increase, and that in this fact alone the farmers will find an improvement in their prices. At the same time I am most happy to concur with my hon. Friend as to the results of free trade in reference to the importation of corn; because it was supposed that not one extra bale of goods would be sent out of this country in return for the corn imported; that nothing but bullion would be taken by the foreigners. On the other hand free trade has proved that at no period has commerce made so rapid, so solid, a progress as since the passing of the free-trade measure; while the stock of bullion was never so large, nor capital so abundant and so easy in the commerce of the world. But I will not dwell longer upon this point except to repeat my hope that the prosperity of the manufacturing and commercial classes would soon be shared by the agricultural interest. There is one part of Her Majesty's Speech to which it is my duty to advert—the expression of Her Majesty's gratitude to Divine Providence that the recent visitation of the cholera has so soon abated; and I am sure the House will feel that one of our first and most sacred duties is to endeavour to protect the health of the people, who have shown, by their exemplary conduct, that they are animated by feelings of obedience to the law and loyalty to the Crown. I must also say, that I am gratified to find Her Majesty contemplates an increase in the number of the Parliamentary electors of Ireland; but, I confess I should have been better pleased if we had had some intimation that a similar measure was to be extended to this country; and I do hope that the Government will even yet consider whether or not the many towns 113 still left in this country, which have neither the privilege of a borough franchise, nor of sharing in the county representation, may not now have conferred upon them the privilege of voting for Members of Parliament. I cannot sit down without referring to the navigation laws, because I was one of those who voted against the Government when that question was be-fore the House. I considered at the time that it was a hazardous experiment; but I am now happy to find, from the Speech we have heard from Her Most Gracious Majesty, that several of the foreign Powers have already conceded to us the advantages we have conferred upon them, and that it is hoped others will take steps to follow their example; and I am happy to confirm the statement which my hon. Friend has made respecting the activity and progress that is now apparent in all the dock and building yards of the country, especially in the port of Sunderland, with which I was long connected. At no time have there been so many ships in progress, and at no period have so few been built on speculation, but almost the whole of them to order, being at the same time a class of ships that are far superior to any that have been built heretofore. I may add, that the energy, the enterprise, and the character of British shipowners, as well as the class of their ships, will enable them to maintain their superiority in the carrying trade of the world. With respect to our foreign relations, I heartily share in the feelings expressed by my hon. Friend; and I trust that the noble Lord who so ably conducts our foreign affairs, will still be able to maintain the best understanding with the Government of France, and to leave to us the blessings of peace for ages to come. I am quite sure the House will be as unwilling as I am myself that I should further trespass upon their attention—["No, no!"]—but I cannot sit down without thanking them for the indulgence they have shown me, and without expressing a cordial response to the wish expressed by Her Majesty, that by combining liberty with order—by preserving what is valuable, and amending what is defective—the fabric of our institutions may be sustained, and this country long remain the abode and the shelter of a free and happy people.
§ SIR J. TROLLOPE
said, that he felt he ought, in the first instance, especially to claim the indulgence of the House in taking the unusual course—unusual, at least, with-in 114 the last few years—of proposing the addition of a few words to a passage in Her Majesty's Speech. He ought, too, to apologise, perhaps, for intruding upon the House; but he would endeavour to make his statement as brief and concise as possible, whilst he endeavoured to lay before them the case of a very numerous class of their fellow-subjects that were suffering severe distress, and to whose complaints he gave sincere and hearty credence. He felt also that some apology was due from him to the House on another ground, namely, because, with the exception of the point to which he was presently going to refer, there was so much in Her Majesty's Speech in which he heartily concurred, and in which he was sure that concurrence was shared by those who were sitting around him. They felt, in common with all in that House, and with the nation at large, sentiments of the deepest condolence with the Throne on the loss which all had sustained in the death of the lamented Queen Adelaide, for they had all known how extensive were her charities, how great was her kindness of heart, and how exemplary and virtuous her character. In the next passage of the Speech Her Majesty had informed them that she happily continued in peace with foreign Powers. In all that Her Majesty had said on that head they all agreed; and they were happy in receiving the assurance that the differences between Austria and Russia, on the one hand, and the Sublime Porte on the other, had, in some degree, been brought to a happy issue by the employment of the good offices of this country. Her Majesty further stated, that she had been engaged in communications with foreign States upon the measures which might be rendered necessary by the relaxation of the restrictions formerly imposed by the navigation laws of this country; and that the Governments of the United States of America and of Sweden had promptly taken steps to secure to British ships in the ports of their respective countries advantages similar to those which their own ships now enjoyed in British ports. Now, in all this they heartily concurred, and as the measure for the repeal of the navigation laws had passed into a law, it was the duty of every good subject to wish for its success; and he hoped that it might be found that the British marine might not be rendered less efficient in consequence of it. In the next passage Her Majesty had referred to the ravages of that awful disease, the cholera, in the course of the summer 115 and autumn of the past year; and he would say, that he believed that they were much indebted to the Government for the measures which they had taken to stay the progress of the pestilence, and thought he might assure them that they would, if they considered any fresh measures on such a subject essential, and were prepared with any, receive a willing concurrence and support from that side of the House; for the classes of this country who were the least able to help themselves had, it could not but be admitted, the greatest claim on their sympathy and assistance. Her Majesty had further observed, that She had, in her late visit to Ireland, derived the highest gratification from the loyalty and attachment manifested by all classes of Her subjects. That gratification, he was sure, was shared by all who heard him; and when Her Majesty added, that although the effects of former years of scarcity were painfully felt in that part of the united kingdom, they were mitigated by the present abundance of food, and the tranquillity which prevailed, in these remarks they could all sincerely and cordially concur. The next paragraph of the Speech began with the observation that Her Majesty had great satisfaction in congratulating them on the improved condition of commerce and manufactures. Here, too, he could concur, as could also the great party with which he had the honour to act; and he was sure that the large constituency he represented in that House would likewise rejoice to hear that this was the ease; all they asked was, that some portion of this prosperity might be reflected upon themselves, which was certainly not the case just now, except as regarded one article, in which there had undoubtedly been considerable improvement of late. He alluded to the article of wool—in respect of which they had certainly received a considerable accession of price in the last few months; and though the price was very low at the last clip time, it had since risen by some 25 or 30 per cent. But when Her Majesty proceeded to say—It is with regret that Her Majesty has observed the complaints which, in many parts of the kingdom, have proceeded from the owners and occupiers of land; Her Majesty greatly laments that any portion of Her subjects should be suffering distress; but it is a source of sincere gratification to Her Majesty to witness the increased enjoyment of the necessaries and comforts of life which cheapness and plenty have bestowed upon the great body of her people;"—he must say, he hardly thought that complaints 116 issuing from every county in England and Scotland—Ireland was too much absorbed with an important grievance of her own, the new poor-law, to take up this question—should be treated with so much indifference. There was not a county, from Cornwall to Caithness, but had spoken of the difficulty under which agriculture was labouring. His own county had met last Friday, and a more imposing assembly he had never witnessed than that which he then beheld in the Castle-yard at Lincoln, where not less than 15,000 people were present during the meeting, and no fewer than 20,000 persons had entered the city of Lincoln on that day with the view of joining in the proceedings of the occasion. They had been told there was to be a formidable opposition from some tradesmen in the city of Lincoln, whose opinions were more in accordance with those of the defunct Anti-Corn Law League than of those who were their customers; and he believed that a well-known agitator, who had been a member of that body, came down to Lincoln to take counsel with those who were about to propose amendments on the resolutions at the meeting. That gentleman, however, did not think fit to stay to meet the farmers of Lincolnshire—finding, no doubt, that he must not expect any support, and avoiding, very wisely, giving cause or occasion for the eliciting of angry and acrimonious feeling. The consequence was that that great body of persons had held their meeting in perfect peace—opinions were fairly expressed and discussed, every man was heard, and the majority was uncountable, whilst the minority might be summed up in a very small space. The resolutions might be said to have been carried all but unanimously—and the same proceedings had been adopted in many other counties; in some, he regretted to have observed, with an acrimony of speech, and in some with a violence of conduct, which could not advance any cause. They had in Lincolnshire avoided that, and had discussed the question in a calm but, at the same time, an unmistakeable tone—in a tone, in short, in which they meant to abide, and still further to press their claim to be heard, and to have their complaints considered—for they were of opinion that representing, as the agriculturists did, so numerous and important a body in the country, they had not been met with that attention to which they had so just a claim. They thought those complaints had been treated with 117 something of levity, and, indeed, with a feeling akin to disrespect. They did not find there was any disposition evinced to listen to them. They had not, in this passage of the Speech, one word of redress, though many modes of redress had been pointed out by them. They had scarcely received a word of condolence—but that they did not ask, and they cared not for their pity, if they would only give them the relief they required and were entitled to. The hon. Mover of the Address had referred in the course of his speech, to many written authorities, and to many statistics; but he (Sir J. Trollope) would not on that occasion trouble the House with anything of that description; though, were it necessary to do so, he could lay before them many very important documents with reference to the cost of production and other points connected with this question. Such a course would, however, occupy much of their time, and would not be of service. The hon. Mover had stated that the true reason for the abolition of the corn laws was, that England did not produce enough to feed her own people; but he (Sir J. Trollope) at all events could not plead guilty to that charge—it was a charge that could not by any means be brought against the north-eastern counties of England—because it was with them a pride and boast that they had cultivated every corner of the land—and brought every acre of waste under culture—and all this by the skilful application of great capital. The most sterile heath and boggy fens had been converted into fertile districts through the application of great capital; and now that they asked them to compete with all the world, of course their capital was diminished, for as the returns of their capital were diminished, the consequence was that their capital itself grew less. Indeed, in one of the north-eastern counties, a work of drainage was going on, namely, that of the Middle Bedford Level, on which not much less than half a million of money would be expended, and which would turn the land into a district of the greatest possible fertility. He could well remember the time when that part of the kingdom of which he was speaking was an oat-growing county, it was now a wheat-growing county—a bread-growing county—for more wheat was now sold in Wis-beach and Boston markets than in any markets of the kingdom—and all this, let him repeat, had been done by the large and skilful application of agricultural capital. 118 He asked them, then, was it fair treatment to disregard the complaints of these owners and occupiers of land? But were there no complaints in other quarters on the subject of the cultivation of the land? Let him go to the highest quarter, and let it be asked whether the Crown lands were in a proper condition? Did they make both ends meet there with their 66,000 acres of waste in the New Forest—in respect of which they brought in an annual Bill for expenditure, instead of showing any profitable return from their property? Why did they not turn the Crown lands to good account at home, as they did in Canada and elsewhere? Gentlemen connected with the land in Lincolnshire and elsewhere had been laying out every year for many years past a certain portion of their income in the improvement of their properties; and he could say for himself that, having been a landlord for thirty years, he had laid out a large proportion of his property in improvements. But they did not come there as landlords—they might, as landlords, be able to meet the times. They were not in debt in his part of the kingdom; but it was the small landowners that would be the sufferers. In his own division of the county there was from 5,000 to 6,000 small freeholders, and the House was no doubt aware that more than half of the voters for the county he had the honour to represent were such men—and were unequalled for industry, morality, and loyalty to the Crown—and these were the people who so lately met at Lincoln, and to whom this question was one of almost life and death—whether they should continue or not in the occupation of their properties, or be deprived of their lands and their homes. The hon. Mover of the Address said that lands let as high and sold as high as ever; but he (Sir J. Trollope) could state that one gentleman, an attorney, much connected with these freeholders, who in single parishes sometimes amounted to 200 or 300—a class of men whom the hon. Member for the West Riding, if he really had at heart the extension of the freehold franchise, ought to cherish—that gentleman told him that many of these men, whose estates did not average more than a house and garden, could hardly effect sales of their property at all, and when they did, it was at a loss of from twenty to thirty per cent from the valuation made only two or three years ago. Another gentleman said they could find no buyers at any prices, and that even those 119 which were held with mortgages on them could not be sold for the price of the money lent. So it would appear that this distress would at no distant period affect the moneyed interest and all other classes, as well as the agriculturists. This state of things would, they might depend upon it, reach them all in time, though they had eighteen millions in the Bank of England. Was it not possible they might have again one of those cycles of years of alternate sunshine and cloud?—might they not be some day exposed to another crash in the commercial and manufacturing world? He could not but remember the time when collections were made in the churches in all the agricultural districts in and of manufacturing distress; and he now asked them that their (the agriculturists') case should be considered. He asked them not to put money in their pockets, but simply to take their case into consideration. He was entrusted with the proposal of a few words which he wished to add to this part of the Address they were now considering, after the words "commerce and manufactures." They were in a perfectly respectful spirit, and pledged the House to no policy, and only showed that the case of the agricultural interest was entitled to consideration. Now, there were one or two points in this passage, on which he wished to say a few words. The first point was, that they attributed the distress under which they were labouring to recent legislative enactments. This was admitted, both by the hon. Mover and Seconder themselves. They (the agriculturists) further stated that this distress was greatly aggravated by the heavy pressure of local taxation. They did not, however, complain of that when they had protection, as they were then in a better position to bear the burden of taxation; but now, when the case was somewhat altered in that respect, and prices so much reduced, men cried out lustily on this subject, when they found that they paid more than their neighbours, and remembered that though Ministers last year refused inquiry into it, yet that the House admitted it was possible there might be a heavier pressure, in point of taxation, on one class than on another, but that it was inconvenient to have the subject brought forward. Let them depend upon it, however, that it would be brought forward again—and, when it was brought forward, he trusted the Government would give it more attention than they had hitherto done. Let me now refer to the income tax. 120 Schedule A gave 7d. in the pound on all realised property; and if this great reduction in the value of property continued, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not, he imagined, be able to boast of much of a surplus under that head. And how would they deal with Schedule B, which proceeded on the arbitrary system of taxing tenants occupying farms on the principle of profits taken at half the rent? But tenants told them they had no profits at all. If that is true, they ought to scratch Schedule B out of the Act, or else place the farmers in Schedule D, and let them make their own return. They would thus arrive at a more accurate view of the truth than they now did. It was, indeed, an arbitrary principle on which they now proceeded with the farmer, to calculate his profits at half his rent, for if he had the misfortune to have a bad landlord, he had a hard Chancellor of the Exchequer into the bargain. No; the right hon. Gentleman must revise his income tax if prices were to remain as low as they now were. But Her Majesty's Speech went on to say that it was a source of sincere gratification to Her Majesty to witness the increased enjoyment of the necessaries and comforts of life which cheapness and plenty had bestowed upon the great body of Her people. Now, he was not in the condition of having the sight of returns furnished by the Government as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had been with reference to the returns of the Poor Law Board; but he knew that a certain return had been asked for from the different unions of the country, and he had had the order before him in the union with which he was connected. That return he had not yet seen, but he had paid great attention to all matters connected with the poor-law in his own county, and in regard to the Stamford union, within which he resided, and which comprehended several parishes covering a large district of country, he was enabled to say that they had not long ago from 40 to 50 people more than in any previous year—whilst in the Spalding union—a district favourable to the employment of labour—they had 100 more than at the correspounding period of the preceding year, and in the Sleaford union no fewer than 103 more. Besides this, there were in the gaol for the parts of Kestevan, within five of the greatest number of prisoners that it ever held before, and yet all of them confined for petty offences such as were 121 committed under the pressure of distress—cases of vagrancy, of petty plunder, and poaching. For to the honour of the people of that district he it said, that, in spite of the great prevailing distress, there were only four prisoners for trial at the last quarter-sessions—the united value of the property for which they were tried being not more than 10s. A man, a mechanic, lately came to him out of work for several weeks, so that he had exhausted his credit, and knew not what to do. He (Sir J. Trollope) was reluctantly compelled to advise him to go into the union house; but the man replied that he had rather starve than break up his home, and go into the workhouse; and he did not go into it. And were they to discourage such feelings as these? The distress that prevailed had been largely met by the farmers and landowners, who had employed the people in works of drainage, and on their farms, and on the highways. And thus the list of the returns from the poor-law unions did altogether indicate the distress of the rural districts. With respect to Leicester and the stocking weavers, who were reported to he so well off, let it not he forgotten that the town and neighbourhood of Nottingham was not very far from it, where there had been, till lately, severe distress for a long time past. Let it, however, not be forgotten that both the Leicester and Nottingham trades are protected trades. They had a protecting duty of 10 per cent, and therefore did not come under the category of free trade; nor, indeed, had they anything that did, except the produce of land, and perhaps cotton. Why, they had no free trade; if they had, why not pull down their customhouses? What would they do with the malt tax? He had never yet advocated the remission of that tax; but now the question was becoming a very different one, when barley, the raw material of which they made the malt, was of very little more value than the heavy duty upon it. It now amounted to 90 per cent upon the price of barley, and under the present condition of the agriculturists it deserved consideration and revision. He himself did not approve of feeding cattle upon malt; but others did, and they should be enabled to make malt of their barley if they pleased to do so. If they were to have free trade, let them have every trade free. The capital applied to land of late years had been greater than it had ever been, and tenant-right was acknowledged 122 and acted upon in the district of England with which he was connected. They had there a system of what was called "free farming," which meant that the tenant was not restricted as to the mode of cultivation to be adopted by him, and taking care to have men of capital and skill for tenants. Perhaps they talked louder than many other parts of the country, but it was because, having done all these things, they were, when the pressure nevertheless came upon them, in a position to call out without deserving the imputations that were so profusely thrown against the owners and occupiers of the soil. With respect, again, to the Speech under discussion, he hoped the House would bear with him whilst he made a few more remarks upon the next passage in that Speech. Her Majesty, addressing the House of Commons, said She had directed the estimates for the year to be laid before them. They had been framed, Her Majesty informed them, with a strict regard to economy, while the various branches of the public service had not been neglected. He was most anxious to impress upon the Government the fact that the general depression of prices must make all of them economical, and those who applied this principle to their private affairs ought to enforce it on the State. When gentlemen found their private resources diminished and deranged, and were thus obliged to economise, could they be blamed for dealing out the same measure to the Government? He, for one, should in future be one of the most rigid economists in that House. The whole body of the farmers of England were of the same mind as himself, and they would enforce the strictest economy in every department of national expenditure. The Government had dealt out a strict measure of justice, as it was called, to them, and they would take care that the expenditure of the country was carried on upon the same principle of strict justice. Talk of feeding the people! Were not the agriculturists part of the people? Nay, more, did they not take the greater share of the national burdens; and who was more interested in a diminution of expenditure than the agriculturists? Depend upon it, the representatives of the agricultural interest would be found the most unflinching economists in that House. He was no practised speaker, and had no claims upon the House in consequence of his oratorical powers; but he spoke from a long experience, and stated only that which his practical knowledge 123 enabled him to ascertain. He could remember, as a landowner and cultivator, the distress of 1822, and the still lower prices of 1835; but those seasons of depression arose from different causes. In 1822 the prices of some kinds of produce, oats and barley for instance, were lower than even at the present time, and the price of meat was not more than from 3d. to 1d. per pound. En passant, he could tell them that in the past year the graziers of England had sold the greater part of their meat at 1d. to 5d. per lb., although the inhabitants of the metropolis had been paying 7d. and 8d. That, however, was their affair. In 1822 there were great reductions of rent all over the kingdom. He had reduced his, and they had never been raised again to the full extent. Many farms were given up; whole parishes went out of cultivation, to his knowledge, in Cambridgeshire and Buckinghamshire, and the inhabitants and the poor had to be maintained out of capital. Might not such a state of things occur again? Would not the present legislation have a great tendency to produce such a result, by impoverishing continually this branch of industry; and must it not also have a tendency to endanger the security of property and of the State? He was aware that the distress then prevalent was attributed to legislative causes, to the effects of the Bill introduced in 1819 by the right hon. baronet the Member for Tamworth. He was not going to make a currency speech, however; he should leave that part of the question for the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. But the principle of that Bill was relaxed, and things went right again. That period of depression was followed by one of prosperity, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day was greatly elated. He trusted his right hon. Friend opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would not find his elation subject to so speedy a fall—for directly afterwards there was then a terrible depression, not only of the agricultural, but of all the industrial interests. In that day, however, legislative relief was afforded, things righted themselves, and nothing more was heard of the agricultural depression. Again, in 1835 and 1836 wheat was almost unsaleable. He could not sell his, but, mixed with other food, was obliged to use it to feed animals. That was not caused by any overwhelming foreign importation, but by that most wholesome of all causes, plenty at home—the unparalleled abundance of the harvests of two consecutive years. That was the true 124 and legitimate source of cheapness, but it led to a great outcry. The farmers struggled on, and after a time prices rose. The next period in which the agriculturists were directly concerned was that of the famine in Ireland; and then they all to a man, and, indeed, he believed every man in the country, raised their voices in favour of opening the ports. But how to deal with present circumstances was now the question, and that without delay, for the difficulties of their position seemed to them every day to be growing larger and more formidable. He saw no way of dealing with present circumstances but that of reconsidering the whole question of imports. The state of the agricultural interest must be fairly met. When a most important interest of the community was suffering, when it experienced a great declension in social position, when its cultivators were no longer able to employ the labourers themselves, and its owners were on the verge of ruin, surely it was time for the Government to do something. Would they leave them to such resources as those offered by the philanthropic right hon. Gentleman near him—the Member for South Wilts—to the distressed needlewomen? a resource which, while it deprived those who were sent from their native land of all the cherished associations of homo and kindred, did not, in his opinion, offer any real relief. If a number of labourers were thus removed, the vacuum would soon be filled up, and those who were gone would probably be those who would be best left behind. Voluntary emigration was going on at an astonishing rate, and that not only took out of the country the most energetic and skilful agriculturists and labourers, but that very capital which should be laid out on the land at home. The skilled artisan, the small landowner, and the farmer, were, he had always been taught to consider, the strength of the country, and in this crisis we could ill afford to lose them. This system had now gone on for some time in Ireland; and did any one suppose that the men thus transported across the Atlantic bore any feeling towards the mother country but that of hate? If ever this country should have a quarrel with that great and powerful Republic the United States, they would find their bitterest enemies were the expatriated Irish—men who, if they had been valued as they ought at home, would have been now the stay of England. He had lived in early life in Ireland, and had frequently visited it since; he had experienced from 125 her people the most generous hospitality, and for their sakes, as well as from the conviction that to legislate so as to stimulate one interest at the expense of another could neither be a lasting benefit to any class, nor ensure the prosperity of all, he pressed the Legislature to reconsider its past policy. He should more, as an Amendment, after the words in the Address, "commerce and manufactures," the insertion of the following words:—But humbly to represent to Her Majesty that in many parts of the United Kingdom, and especially in Ireland, the various classes of Her Majesty's subjects connected with the cultivation of; the soil are labouring under severe distress, mainly attributable, in our opinion, to recent legislative enactments, the operation of which is aggravated by the heavy pressure of local taxation.
§ COLONEL CHATTERTON
seconded the Amendment. He said, he would not travel over the ground so well occupied by the hon. Gentleman who preceded him on the topics of Her Majesty's Speech, but would confine himself to the state of the sister Country. In the first place, be begged to disclaim every feeling of partisanship, or any feeling of a factious nature, as he was only actuated by a high sense of duty. Re-turned by men of all parties and ranks, and of various political doctrines, he had pledged himself to represent to the House the difficulties in which Ireland was placed, and to convey to them her weak and almost broken-hearted prayer for the restoration of protection to her commercial and agricultural interests. Men of wisdom and men of religion had, by various endeavours, sought to discover the causes of that wretchedness which made the people of Ireland so wonderfully different from the people of every other country—a people who filled the ranks of the British army, and were at all times ready to maintain the honour of England at the cost of their lives. In that country the suffering and degradation of the people had been beyond all powers of description. It was not for the tongue of man to tell the extent of their sufferings, and it was unfortunately but too true that their sufferings, in every variety of form, had been aggravated by religious differences which no successful attempts had ever yet been used to allay; but for a time, amidst the extremity of the distress which had afflicted them, they forgot those religious differences—they laid them aside and did all in their power to assist each other, and mitigate as much as possible the general distress; but such efforts would not, 126 to any great extent, be successful. Almost every effort would be ineffectual so long as free trade and the poor-law remained in full operation. He believed it would be impossible to continue such enactments in full force, but he should at present content himself with seconding the Amendment.
§ Question proposed "That these words be there inserted."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I have heard with considerable pleasure the address of my hon. Friend the Member for South Lincolnshire in moving his Amendment to the Address moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. I am glad to find that, on almost every point, there is little difference of opinion in this House. I am glad to find that there is an almost unanimous concurrence in the spirit of the Address. I am glad to find that upon the subject of the disease that unfortunately appeared in this country last year, the House approves the precautions taken by the Government for preventing the spread of that dreadful visitation; and that their best attention will be given to any further measures of this description that may be considered necessary. I am glad, also, to hear from my hon. Friend a disclaimer of that intemperate and ill-judged language which has been used of late in some public meetings in this country—language which, as my hon. Friend observed, can only be injurious to those who indulged in its utterance. I am also glad to find that my hon. Friend has moved the Amendment in the terms he has done. There can be no mistake whatever as to the meaning of the Amendment he has proposed. He says, that be means to urge upon the House the reconsideration of its recent legislative enactments. He proposes to the House that they should reconsider the Act which we believe has contributed much to the welfare of the country, but to which he believes all its distress is owing. And I am glad that upon this, the first night of the Session, that great question is to he brought at once to issue, and that the deliberate opinion of this House is to be called for, and, I trust, expressed, upon the question whether we are to retrace our steps—whether we are to follow the advice of my hon. Friend, and reconsider our recent legislation, or whether we are (as I hope and trust we shall resolve by a great majority of this House to do) to persist in the same course of legislation to which the present prosperity of the country is in a great measure owing 127 I have not heard from my hon. Friend any question as to the prosperity of the trade and manufactures of the country. I perceived in the requisition for calling the meeting in Lincolnshire, to which my hon. Friend alluded, that the farmers of Lincolnshire did not confine themselves to the allegation of the distress of the agriculturists, but included also the distress of the trade and manufactures of the country. I hope that they have been, ere this, convinced of their mistake in that respect. Every hon. Gentleman in this House connected with trade or manufacture would bear me out by their evidence as to the satisfactory condition of trade. They would state that, from one end of the country to the other, trade is in a flourishing condition, and commerce in a state of steady advancement—that the people are universally well employed. And, without indulging in any sanguine anticipations, I am fully borne out in stating that trade and manufactures appear to be in a state not only of present, but of progressive improvement. I have looked over many of those trade circulars which houses in considerable business are in the habit of sending about this time of the year to their customers, both at home and abroad; and I shall indeed be surprised if any one can state to this House that the allegations contained in one of them, which I have here, are erroneous. I shall quote very shortly from it, for the purpose of showing the course of trade during the last twelve months. And I must here observe that it appears to be from one of those houses which are the least sanguine in their language or expectations. It states—The year we have just closed was begun by most commercial men with the confident expectation that it would prove the commencement of better times … but it was soon perceived that the disturbing elements, far from being extinct, were still smouldering below the surface, ready to burst forth with more intense violence in different parts of Europe. While a renewal of hostilities on the Continent became inevitable, news from India of an unfavourable tenor reached us early in February, the effect of which was that the slight improvement in trade, scarcely begun, was again checked.… In this fluctuating and unsatisfactory manner we reached the month of March, which was one of the quietest business months we experienced during the past year; the fear of a reblockading of the Elbe and adjoining rivers caused an almost total suspension of business to the Continent.Now, Sir, I remember that when I mentioned that very fact at the time to the right hon. Member for Stamford, he 128 thought it quite impossible. The circular goes on to state that the home trade had not been so good, but that lately a much better home market had sprung up; and, if the people continued to be kept employed, of which there was little doubt now, a much better home trade was to be expected than had been known for many years. And, Sir, it is remarkable that the Excise revenue of Great Britain fell during the first two quarters of the last year, and increased during the two last quarters, whilst in Ireland it fell during the first three quarters, that is to say, there was a diminution in the consumption of exciseable commodities in Ireland during the first three quarters, and an increase in the last quarter of the past year compared with what the amount had been for the corresponding period of the preceding year—
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Yes; I said so. I said there was a diminution upon three quarters of the year, and an increase upon the fourth and last quarter only. But it shows that some improvement, even in Ireland, has begun; and that there is ground for hoping that the anticipation of the hon. and gallant Officer opposite will not be realised. But I will particularly call the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire to the statement which he made—and which was repeated by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire—when they said more than once in the course of last Session, that the trade and manufactures of the country were in an absolute state of ruin. It was in vain that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House attempted to set them right. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwickshire took up the table of exports and imports, and said that the trade there set forth was an annual dead loss to the commerce of the country. I ventured to say that the small demand for exports from this country in 1848 was mainly owing to the troubled state of the Continent. So says the circular which I have just read. But the hon. Member for Warwickshire maintained that I was entirely mistaken upon the subject, and that the disturbed state of the Continent, so far from diminishing our trade, had increased it, by causing a greater demand for our goods. What has happened since then? In the course of last year the state of the Continent has been much more settled. What, then, has been the effect 129 upon our own exports? What was the amount of British manufactured articles sent abroad? Why, if it were true, as hon. Gentlemen opposite say, that the prosperity of the country is wholly to be measured by exports—if we are to pay no regard whatever to imports—why, there never was a year of such extraordinary improvement in trade as the last. Month after month the declared value of our exports increased from one end of the year to the other, as compared with the corresponding months of the preceding year; so that when we come to the aggregate value of the imports of last year, as compared with 1848, we find an increase of little less than 10,000,000l. I take the declared value of our exports for the last three years. In 1847 it amounted to 51,000,000l.; in 1848, to 48,946,000l.; and in 1849, to 58,848,000l. And yet during this last year the Continent has become tranquillized; so that, if the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite had been correct, our exports ought, instead of having greatly increased, to have greatly diminished. I dwell on this topic the longer, and for this reason—because, when Gentlemen have indulged in such very confident predictions as to the ruin of a trade or interest, and when their statements turn out to be so unsupported by fact, and so negatived by experience, I think I have a right to call, not only upon the House, but on those who might have been disposed to place faith in the hon. Gentlemen's predictions, to be more chary in their belief for the future, and not to be so easily frightened at prophecies of ruin. But I proceed to place before the House some details of the improved condition of our trade and manufactures. I have taken from the account of exports for the two years some of the most important items, and the following is the result of a comparison of the quantities exported in those periods:*—I have thus gone through the principal articles of manufacture; and I think it will be admitted that the increase has been extraordinary, and far beyond what anybody could have anticipated. But the hon. Member for Bucks says, "True, you send out a greater quantity of goods, but at prices so low that the labour is not remunerated—the trade is a losing trade." Now, I do not know that the manufacturers are persuaded of the truth of this; but on referring to a document periodically* See Table in following column.130 published—I mean Burn's Glance at the State of the Cotton Trade—I find that in every item the prices of manufactured and exported articles have risen. I have here a list of the average prices of the goods exported in 1848 and 1849. I find that colicoes printed have risen from 9s. to 10s. 3d.; calico plain, from 6s. to 6s. 9d.; cambrics, from 6s. 9d. to 7s. 6d.; mixed cotton and linens, from 9s. to 9s. 6d.; dimities, from 19s. 6d. to 21s. 3d.; damasks and diapers, from 18s. 6d. to 20s. 9d. The list is a long one: I need read no more of it, as I hope the House will accept my statement, that in every item the price of 1849 is higher than the price of 1848; so that we have had the double benefit of increased exports and higher prices. My hon. Friend who moved the Address has gone into the question of the effect of the repeal of the navigation laws upon the shipbuilding of this country. There again the anticipations entertained by those who opposed the repeal of these laws, urging that any such measure would destroy our shipbuilding trade, and that no foreign country would be found to reciprocate
|EXPORTS OF BRITISH AND IRISH PRODUCE AND MANUFACTURES IN YEAR ENDED 5TH JANUARY.|
|Cotton manufactures entered by the yard yds.||1,096,751,823||1,335,654,751|
|Cotton yarn lbs.||135,831,162||149,502,495|
|Haberdashery and millinery value||£927,603||£1,183,229|
|Hardware and cutlery value||£1,860,150||£2,198,597|
|Leather unwrought cwts.||9,436||16,192|
|Linen manufactures entered by the yard. yds.||89,002,431||106,889,558|
|Liner yarn lbs||11,722,182||17,668,618|
|Iron wrought. tons||83,606||121,935|
|Silks only—stuffs, &c lbs.||204,483||358,343|
|Mixed—stuffs, &c. lbs.||206,665||404,417|
|Silk thrown lbs.||45,693||105,334|
|Entered by the piece. pieces||1,755,099||2,372,345|
|Entered by the yard. yds.||32,250,822||50,613,578|
|Stockings, doz. pair||88,201||164,645|
|Woollen yarn, cwts.||75,260||105,340|
the advantages so offered, have been signally falsified. I have here returns from all the shipbuilding ports in the kingdom; and I find that with one exception—the port of Greenock—an exception which can be explained upon local grounds, that, with this single exception, the amount of shipbuilding is uniformly as great, at the very least, as it was during the year before; while in many of the principal ports—in Sunderland, Shields, and some of the Scotch ports—the amount of shipbuilding going on is greater than has marked any former year. And there is a circumstance, too, well worthy of observation in reference to this part of the subject, and that is, that a better class of vessels than were formerly constructed are now being built—a class calculated for what is called the "long voyage." Now it was in reference to what is called the long voyage, that it was anticipated that the repeal of the navigation laws would mainly deprive us of the advantages we enjoyed; and yet we see that our shipbuilders are so little afraid of this, that they are increasing the number of ships especially calculated for this voyage. But there are two other facts of striking import in connexion with this part of the subject. One of these is, that parties who have gone from this country to Baltic ports in order to ascertain whether they could build ships cheaper there than here, have come back with the conviction that they could build them cheaper here; and indeed we are at this moment building ships for foreign countries in the Clyde. The other fact is the one alluded to in Her Majesty's Speech, that intimations have been received, from which there is every reason to believe that almost all the maritime Powers of the Continent are preparing to make such relaxations in their navigation laws as will admit our ships, more or less, to the benefit which we have already bestowed upon theirs. I quite concur with my hon. Friend who moved the Address in believing that foreign countries are looking with great interest on the recent legislation of this country. They long believed that our maritime and commercial greatness was owing to our old system of protection; and when they see that, on the other hand, more rapid improvement in our trade and commerce has followed the relaxation of those laws, we have now every reason to hope that a relaxation of their commercial codes wiil follow the course of legislation in which we have recently been engaged. I now turn to that
branch of the subject which is more specially brought under discussion by the Amendment of my hon. Friend opposite—I mean the state of the agricultural interest. Now, I should be deceiving the House were I not to admit, candidly and at once, what, indeed, is stated in the Speech from the Throne, that to some extent, and in some parts of the country, distress among the holders and occupiers of land does exist, and that to a considerable degree; but I utterly deny the expediency or the wisdom of retracing the legislative steps which we have taken. I believe, I say, that distress to some extent exists. A certain degree of distress is indeed the inevitable consequence of such a change in the law as we have made; but I rely on the industry and the energy of the British farmer to overcome obstacles arising from a fall in price—obstacles which he has already, on several occasions, and to a far greater extent than at present, met and surmounted. I believe that it is principally amongst the smaller class of holders that the distress in question exists. I lament that amongst those agricultural labourers who have been discharged, distress also prevails; but I am quite confident that all those who remain in employment find their condition to be very much benefited, while I think I shall be able to convince the House that the actually existing amount of distress has been considerably exaggerated. I admit that in the county of Lincoln there has been an increase of persons relieved; but I confidently assert, taking England generally, that in a majority of even the agricultural counties, there has been a diminution of distress and diminution in the numbers depending on the poor-rates. And here let me remark, that I am not astonished that some distress should prevail in agricultural districts. I never thought, and never said, that a great change could take place such as we have made, without causing some degree of suffering to the agricultural interest. A great branch of productive industry has been called upon to increase and cheapen its products. Sir, I know of no improvement in any trade or branch of industry which has not at first caused some degree of suffering, by which some parties have not been thrown out of employment, although the ultimate result has been a great benefit to the community and the world. But, Sir, it by no means follows, because that is the case, that such improvement should not take place; and I may add that I lay
far more stress on what individuals can do than on what legislation can do to mitigate the severity of the present pressure. At the same time, however, it is my belief that the alarm existing is not warranted or justified by the facts which have actually taken place, and that the amount of alarm and discouragement existing has been much exaggerated by language which I have heard used with very great regret. Reference has been made to falls of price which have taken place in former years in this country; and the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment has pictured the degree of distress existing at former periods in his neighbourhood—a degree far exceeding, I venture to say, that which generally exists at the present moment. The hon. Gentleman referred to the price of 1822. That year was marked by an extraordinary fall of price, although there then existed a law professing to secure a price of 80s. per quarter. Recollecting that fact, I cannot think but that the hon. Member must entertain some doubts as to the probable success of the remedies which he now proposes to apply. In 1817, the price of corn was 96s. 11d. During five consecutive years thereafter it fell at the rate of about 10s. per year. By 1822 the price had fallen nearly 50 per cent, and under a corn law professing to secure 80s., the prices ranged from 86s. 3d. in 1818, to 44s. 7d. in 1822, the average price of the five years being 65s. 10d. But the hon. Gentleman said that there was hope then—hope, I presume, of a return to those high prices which legislation professed to ensure. Why, no such return took place. In 1829, five years afterwards, a corn law was passed—passed with some opposition indeed from the agricultural party—the avowed object of which was to ensure a price, not of 80s., but of 64s. Well, what happened under that law? In 1831 the price of corn was 66s. 1d.; in 1835 it was 39s. 7d. It fell at the rate of 6s. 9d. per annum for four consecutive years, descending almost, but not quite, as much as 50 per cent. In 1839 the price was 70s. 8d.; in 1845 it was 50s. 10d. In 1847 the price was 69s. 9d.; and in the month ending November 24, it had fallen to 40s. 8d., and is now under 40s.; and surely, therefore, the agriculturist need not apprehend ruin now because a fall takes place actually of smaller amount than those with which they have had at several times to contend—occasions on which their industry and energy triumphed, as their industry
and energy will, I am confident, triumph again. But I deny that the present fall in price is to be altogether attributed to the repeal of the corn laws, and I can show what I consider good reasons for holding that opinion. In the first place, we have had a very large harvest at home. It is not very easy to ascertain exactly the produce of different years, but one of the greatest cornfactors in Liverpool estimates that the produce of last year's harvest was 30 per cent greater than that of the year 1848. Now that increased quantity of corn must in no small degree have contributed to reduce prices. But in a neighbouring country, in France, there has been no repeal of corn laws, and yet the prices there have fallen to a greater degree than has been the case in this country. In 1847 the price of corn in France was 69s. 7d. The lowest duty at which corn can now be imported into France is 25s. per quarter, and in November last the price was 33s. 7d., showing a fall of 36s. France also has had the benefit of English demand, having sent to this country upwards of 700,000 quarters of wheat. In England the fall of price from 69s. 9d., in 1847, to 40s. 8d., the average price of November, was only about 29s., being less than that in France. In that country the fall cannot by any possibility be attributed to any alteration in their corn laws, and I cannot see, therefore, why a less fall in this country can be attributed to no other source than the repeal of our law. But I agree with my hon. Friend the seconder of the Address, that the present is not to be taken as the permanent price which corn will maintain in this country; and I will add, that, great as my estimate is of the benefit to be derived by the body of the people from cheapness and plenty of corn, I am not insensible to the evils produced by a great fall in price taking place suddenly, and causing a widespread discouragement amongst farmers. But I repeat my conviction that the alarm has been greatly exaggerated. I find the Mark Lane Express stating that the prices in the Baltic ports are rising so high that exportation to this country would no longer pay. It is a curious fact, too, that the only country from which wheat is being brought at present is France—in ordinary years not an exporting country. I think then, if this be so, that there is good reason for supposing that the permanent prices of wheat in this country will not range so low as they have stood for some time. The importation has already received a
considerable check. Corn which had been sent here under the expectation of higher prices, is necessarily entered for consumption, being actually in our warehouses; but the entries for this year far exceed the importations. The quantity of grain of all sorts imported into this country in the year 1849, is 9,673,000 quarters, whilst the quantity entered for home consumption is 10,655,000: the flour and meal of all sorts imported is 9,479,000 cwt., whilst the quantity entered for consumption is 4,055,000 cwt. The importations, too, for the last six months of the year, are very far below those of the last six months of 1848. In that year, in the six months ending January 5, 1849, there were imported 2,298,000 quarters; in the six months ending the 5th of January last, they were 2,073,000 qua ters; and the falling off in the last three months of that period is still more remarkable. In the last three months of 1848, the quantity imported was 1,438,000 quarters; in the last three months of 1849, 845,000 quarters; showing a diminution of 592,000 quarters. The importations have fallen off most remarkably also during the month of January. In the first week of 1849, it was 246,588 quarters; in the first week of this year it was only 83,952 quarters; in the second week of 1849, it was 275,341; in the second week of this year 92,658; in the third week 303,310 quarters, against 82,615 quarters; in the fourth 293,419 quarters, against 77,670. It is extraordinary to what an extent the importation has fallen off; but it affords, I think, a conclusive proof that the present price of corn does not pay the importer, and that the agriculturist has good reason to expect that so low a price cannot continue for long. What prices wheat may permanently command, it would be rash in me to attempt to predict, especially after the great mistakes upon the subject into which the most sagacious and practical men have fallen; but it is not a little remarkable that from all the countries with which we were threatened, the importation has been very small indeed, while the greatest quantity imported has come from a country from which no one anticipated any supply whatever. The hon. Member for Somersetshire, at a recent agricultural meeting, predicted a rate of 44s. as one which he thought likely permanently to prevail; and I do not think that agriculture must necessarily be ruined even should be prove right in his anticipation.
It was once believed that a price of 80s. was necessary for the remuneration of the owner and occupier of land. Then they were satisfied with prices at 64s. And in 1842 a rate of 56s. was talked of. Taking the three years subsequent to that period, the average price of corn was 50s. 8d.; and it was not till 1846, when the potatoes had failed, that the price reached 54s. 8d. These prices were invariably lower than those contemplated by the Legislature. But has agricultural distress always existed since 1815? Has land gone out of cultivation since then? On the contrary, has not capital been expended, largely expended, on the land since 1815? The hon. Member for Lincolnshire has stated that since 1815 a great amount of capital has been expended upon the soil—that the production has been greatly increased—and that a great extent of waste or outgrowing land has been converted into wheat-producing land. Although the prices of corn, then, have fallen from what were then sup-, posed to be remunerative rates—namely, 80s. per quarter—to 50s. per quarter and under, yet the rental of the land has increased since 1815. There is only one county in England in which the rental of the land is shown by the income-tax returns to be lower than it was in 1815, although corn has in the meantime fallen from 80s. to 50s. If it be so—if energy and industry have enabled the farmers of England as a body to pay more rent with prices at 50s. than with prices at 80s., what is there to prevent that self-same industry and energy successfully meeting the demands of the great mass of consumers at prices ranging somewhere between 40s. and 50s.—prices I think likely to prevail? It is by increased produce that the difficulty is to be surmounted; and there is nothing I should more wish to see than this country growing a sufficient quantity of corn for its own supply—a result which I believe may be yet arrived at. I have ever tried to disbelieve that the great body of the landed proprietors of England looked upon this question of national food simply as a question of rent. But I have stated that it was possible that any attempt to bring back protection would be treated and met as an attempt to keep up high rents; and it is therefore with the greater sorrow that I have seen, at different agricultural meetings throughout the country, language used by landed proprietors themselves, identifying the protection which they call for with the preservation of high
rents. After holding such language as they have done, I must say I think they can have no reason to complain if their rents are not paid. I have recently read a powerful article in a northern periodical, in which it is contended that it is impossible to carry on farming in Scotland under a system of free trade. But I have also made inquiries into the subject of farm-letting in Scotland, and I find that the rents of Scotch farms generally have not been reduced. In one or two instances they have been increased. Without attaching much importance to raising the rents of such farms, I think it is true generally that farms in Scotland now maintain the same rent which they have borne before. What value, then, is to be attached to the argument that it is impossible to cultivate farms on these terms? Do you think that farmers of great experience, possessing great capital, and being actuated, as we must suppose, by feelings of common honesty, intend either not to pay the rent which they agree to pay, or mean to submit to a loss? I find repeated cases of a similar description in this country, and parties who openly state that at present prices they have made a fair profit on their farms. I read a letter the other day in the papers, addressed by the high sheriff of the county of Norfolk to his tenants, in which he states that in spite of the disadvantages under which the system of gentlemen-farming is supposed to labour, he has realised a good rent and a profit into the bargain. This gentleman says—
In my own occupation of about 580 acres (of which 100 acres, as my steward testifies, yield no profit), notwithstanding the great disadvantages under which a gentleman must always farm, and although I have sustained a loss of five score stock ewes, I have, up to St. Michael last, not only made my rent, but more than obtained 10 per cent for my capital invested in live and dead stock.
Now, if one gentleman can point to such results, I do not see why others should not do the same. I confess that when I hear persons of credit and station speak in this manner, I cannot despair for the British farmer, or feel doubt that he will be able to meet the demands which may be made upon him. It is my firm conviction that, taking the country throughout, and looking more especially at the condition of the labouring classes, a signal benefit has been derived from the cheapness and plenty of food resulting from free-trade legislation. The manufacturing and trading classes of the community have assuredly benefited
by such legislation, and no less so the majority of agricultural labourers, who, after all, form the great mass of the agricultural community. Let me now observe, in answer to the argument used in this House, that it is of no use rendering food cheap, for the effect of so doing is to deprive labour of employment, and take away the means of purchasing such food. This argument was constantly pressed upon us last year; now what is the fact? We have imported to an unexampled extent, but we have not only imported, but we have consumed what we have imported. On an authority which I presume hon. Gentlemen opposite are not disposed to dispute—on the authority of the Mark Lane Express—I find it stated that, notwithstanding the enormous imports of the last twelve months, at the end of the year the stocks on hand are but light—that those stocks are diminishing—that the people have found means of paying for the food so imported, and have been benefited by the large importations and increased consumption. It follows, therefore, that the people have derived benefit from the law we have passed, the object of which was to insure a large and cheap supply of the necessaries of life—and have not been deprived of the means of purchasing food, and have not, according to the predictions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, been starving in the midst of plenty. This is, after all, the main element in the consideration of this subject. The ground taken in this House last year, had, if it had been true, some shadow of reason in it. It was contended that large numbers of persons would be thrown out of employment, and that, although there might be cheapness arising from our legislation, it would be counterbalanced by those evils which attend a diminution of employment. In the county of Lincoln, it appears there has been an increase in the number of persons relieved; but taking the whole of England, and including the great majority even of the agricultural counties, it will be found that a diminution in the amount of relief has taken place; and, what is still more striking, a diminution in the amount of relief to the ablebodied. I confess that I saw with the greatest possible pleasure the Address emanating from a noble Lord on a recent occasion in one of the southern counties. We know well that if any counties were likely to suffer more from agricultural distress than others, it is the southern counties. In Kent and Sussex I should have anticipated such distress;
but I find that the noble Lord to whom I have referred (Lord Chichester), whose character is above reproach—I find that noble Lord not addressing a county meeting, or popular assembly, but the grand jury of the eastern division of the county of Sussex, from the judicial bench, using language to this effect:—" It was," his Lordship observed, "very satisfactory to find that agricultural labourers pursued their usual avocations, and that when the pressure upon farmers was greater than at other seasons, so few labourers were unemployed. He thought they might conclude thence that there was no great dearth of employment from the fact that the number of offenders from the agricultural districts was so small. Another source of congratulation arose from this—that the workhouses were by no means full, and the number of ablebodied paupers was far from being so numerous as they generally were at this season of the year. These facts were worthy of consideration. It was highly creditable, and must be satisfactory to the farmers and to the country generally to know, that notwithstanding the great difficulties and pressure with which they had been surrounded, they had taken the best and wisest course, both for their own interest and that of the community, in keeping their labourers honest by affording them regular employment. They all knew, however, that they could not employ men unless they had the means of paying them. It was a well-understood fact that there was plenty of agricultural employment in the county, if the farmers had sufficient capital to carry it out. He was of opinion that the landlords and tenants would find that the course they had adopted in providing employment for their labourers was not only their duty, but that it would tend to benefit them and their property." Such has been the language recently held by this nobleman. I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend state that a similar course has not been pursued by the owners and occupiers of land in Lincolnshire. But I am thankful to say that the case of Lincolnshire is one of the few exceptions to the general rule throughout England and Wales. I will now state the expense of maintaining the poor at different and recent periods. The expenditure for the relief of the poor in England and Wales for the year ending Lady-day, 1848, was 6,180,000l. In the year ending Lady-day, 1849, the amount expended was 5,792,963l.; or a diminution of 287,802l., or 6 3–10ths per cent. Now this was the
year in which in his speeches of last Session the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire said there was great agricultural distress. There has been an increase in expenditure on account of the poor in only five counties; and those were comities where the distress could not be attributed to the state of agriculture—Middlesex, Warwickshire, Westmoreland, the West Riding of Yorkshire, and Anglesea. Comparing the expenditure of 558 unions for the half-year ending Michaelmas, 1848 (the others are not audited), with the expenditure for the half-year ending Michaelmas 1849, the sum expended in the first half year was 1,750,000l., and in the last 1,653,000l., being a diminution of 97,000l., or 5 5–10ths per cent. These accounts are, I think, satisfactory enough, as regards the diminution of expense; but I admit that they are open to the objection that the diminution of expense is owing to the greater cheapness of food. This could be no inconsiderable advantage in itself, but it is not conclusive. I do not rest my case on the diminished expenditure; but I will appeal to a more decisive and undeniable test, and that is the number of persons receiving relief at corresponding periods of the last and of the preceding year. The President of the Poor Law Board has had prepared a statement of the number of persons relieved at different periods. The number of persons relieved on the 1st of July, in 538 unions in England, and 42 in Wales, was, in 1848, 892,655; in 1849, 827,150, showing a diminution of 65,505 persons. The number of persons relieved in 560 unions in England and Wales, on the 1st January, 1849, was 987,164; on the 1st of January, 1850, only 923,167, exhibiting a diminution of 63,997, or of 6 4–10ths per cent. Estimating, for the few remaining unions, at the same rate, it would appear that there had been a diminution of numbers of 70,409 persons relieved in January, 1850, as compared with January, 1849. But the diminution of ablebodied persons receiving relief is still more remarkable and satisfactory. Any discharge of labourers would, of course, have increased the number of ablebodied persons out of work, and driven them to the relief lists. Such was the effect anticipated; but I am most happy to say, that the result has been precisely the reverse, and that the decrease of the ablebodied persons receiving relief is proportionally greater than that of other parties. In 590 unions, the
number of ablebodied persons relieved on January 1, 1849, was 201,644; in January, 1850, 170,502, showing a diminution of 31,142, or 15 4–10ths per cent of able-bodied persons. This is so important a point, that, even at the risk of wearying the House, I must be permitted to insist more fully upon it; and, that the case may be complete, I will state the per cent-age increase and decrease of persons relieved, and of ablebodied persons relieved in every county in England and Wales. There are fourteen counties in England in which there has been an increase, and twenty-eight in which there has been a decrease in the number of paupers relieved, and hon. Gentlemen will see that this implies a considerable reduction. The 14 counties in which there had been an increase in the total number of paupers were:—Westmoreland, 0.2 percent; Rutland, 0.2; Devon, 0.3; North Riding, 0.5; Worcester, 0.9; Essex,2; Kent,2.3; Cambridge, 3.2; Huntingdon, 4.8; Stafford, 5; Durham, 5; Suffolk, 6.5; Lincoln, 7.3; Northumberland, 7.5. The 28 counties in which there was a decrease in the number of paupers, and the rate of decrease, were—Salop, 0.6; Norfolk, 0.6; Monmouth, 1.2; Northampton, 2.9; Oxford, 3.1; Somerset, 3.3; Sussex. 3.6; Southampton, 3.9; Cornwall, 4; Berks, 4; Warwick, 5; Buckingham, 6.4; Wilts, 6.5; Dorset, 6.9; Glocester, 7.1; East Riding, 7.3; Surrey, 9.1; Hertford, 9.4; Hereford, 9.9; Chester, 10.3; Bedford, 11.3; Middlesex, 11.4; Derby, 11.4; Cumberland, 12.3; Nottingham, 13.5; Leicester, 14.4; West Riding, 22.7; Lancaster, 22.8. In Wales six counties exhibited an increase, and six a decrease. I may state generally, that of the twenty-eight counties which exhibited a decrease in the number of persons relieved, a majority were agricultural. I am now come to what must be admitted as a most important test of the condition of the country—the number of ablebodied poor in the receipt of relief; and I am happy to find that instead of there being fourteen counties in which the number has increased, and twenty-eight in which it has decreased, there are only seven in which the number has increased, and thirty-five in which it has decreased. The greatest increase was in Suffolk, in which it was 17.1 per cent. In Huntingdon, it is 14.9; Lincoln, 10.8; Northumberland, 9.4; Rutland, 8.3; Durham, 5.8; Essex, 2.7. The counties in which there is a positive decrease are as follows:—Norfolk, 0.3; Worcester, 0.6; Kent, 1; East Riding, 2.1;
North Riding, 3.7; Cambridge, 4.2; Southampton, 6.1; Dorset, 7.9; Sussex, 8.2; Buckingham, 8.7; Salop, 9.1; Stafford, 9.5; Devon, 10.3; Northampton, 10.5; Westmoreland, 11.8; Somerset, 13.6; Oxford, 14.6; Wilts, 14.7; Glocester, 15.2; Middlesex, 16.2; Berks, 16.8; Hereford, 17.8; Hertford, 18; Cornwall, 19.6; Surrey, 19.8; Leicester, 23.9; Cumberland, 24.3; Derby, 25.2; Chester, 25.2; Nottingham, 25.6; Bedford, 28.3; Monmouth, 29.8; Warwick, 32.6; West Riding, 37.2; Lancaster, 37.2; totals of 548 unions, 16.5. In Wales there is an increase in four counties, and a decrease in seven. The counties in which there is an increase were as follows:—Glamorgan, 28.5; Carmarthen, 8.8; Montgomery, 6.9; Pembroke, 6.9; totals of 42 unions in Wales, 3.2. The counties in which there was a decrease were these:—Flint, 25.6; Denbigh, 25.5; Merioneth, 2.9; Cardigan, 2.3; Brecon, 1.8; Anglesea, 1.7; Carnarvon, 0.7. Throughout England, and including Wales, the total diminution in the number of ablebodied persons relieved has been 15 4–10s per cent up to January last. Now how is this enormous diminution in the number of persons relieved in the great majority of agricultural counties to be accounted for? I ask whether the agricultural labourer, as well as the interests of commerce and manufacture, has not derived signal benefit from that cheapening of produce which has been secured? From the facts I have stated—and they are facts beyond dispute—I think I am justified in drawing the inference that cheapness of food has been found to confer a great and signal benefit. And taking the condition of the poor alone, and resting my whole position on that, I say it would not be expedient or wise to reconsider or repeal our recent legislation. My hon. Friend stated that there was observable a most satisfactory diminution in the number of persons receiving relief in Ireland. It appears there is a net decrease of 295,000 persons receiving relief as compared with last year. I am happy to find, from information derived from different parts of the country, that not only the owners but the occupiers of land in many agricultural districts are draining their lands, and introducing new improvements, and exerting themselves in every possible way to effect what must be effected—an increase of production. It is satisfactory to receive such information, although it is only what I expected; for I could never believe that the energies
of the British farmer would be paralysed; but, on the contrary, I felt convinced that he would show himself prepared to bear up against the pressure, and overcome it. At most of the various meetings which have been held, it is gratifying to find that some one has stood up and stated that, even at present prices, a profit might be made. One gentleman said, that with no greater outlay, but simply the application of more labour, he had obtained a better profit from his farm at present prices than at former ones. My hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire has stated truly that one branch of British agriculture, the producers of wool, at least, are suffering no depression. I expected that my hon. Friend might have been induced to see some symptoms of hope for improvement in other branches of industry from a similar cause, the increased and increasing demand of the manufacturing districts for agricultural produce. Considering, however, the Amendment he had to propose, he could not, perhaps, perceive symptoms which, under other circumstances, might have occurred to him. Under other circumstances, perhaps, my hon. Friend will see in the improvement of manufactures a promise of improvement in the condition of agriculture. Now, it is not only the home demand for wool which has risen, but the export of British wool has increased to an extraordinary extent. The quantity exported in 1848 was 3,978,842 pounds; in 1849, 11,083,645 pounds. In the last year, also, when the imports of butter and cheese had fallen off, the exports of British butter and cheese increased. I do not think it necessary, however, to pursue this part of the subject further. I have stated that I do not think the agriculturists have that reason for despair which they seem to think they have; and as for the argument that protection should be restored on account of the condition of the working classes and of the agricultural labourers of England, I think it will be admitted that those classes are in a better position than they were last year, and that there are fewer persons now in receipt of relief than then. I will now turn very shortly to a consideration of the general state of the country, as evidenced by our home consumption. I find that with the exception of coffee, which has fallen off in some degree, the consumption of almost every article has increased. This increased consumption
has occurred in the articles of cocoa, rum, brandy, tea, and others. Cocoa, for instance, has increased from 2,936,641lb. in 1848, to 3,233,372lb. in 1849; rum, from 2,987,492 gallons in 1848, to 3,044,758 gallons in 1849; brandy, from 1,609,557 gallons in 1848, to 2,187,500 gallons in 1849; geneva, from 23,765 gallons in 1848, to 27,209 gallons in 1849; tea, from 48,735,696lb. in 1848, to 50,024,688 lb. in 1849; tobacco (unmanufactured), from 27,098,314lb. in 1848, to 27,480,621 lb. in 1849; wine, from 6,369,785 gallons in 1848, to 6,487,771 gallons in 1849. The imports of salt beef and pork have somewhat increased; but not more, I think, than to counterbalance the diminished importation of pigs from Ireland, which, comparing the last six months of each of the last four years, has been—1846, 203,224; 1847,45,664; 1848, 30,414; 1849, 28,640. I will now refer to the consumption of another article, which, owing to peculiar circumstances, had fallen off—it was the article of sugar, which, in a re markable manner, had contradicted all the predictions of those who opposed the relaxations introduced by the Government. The delay which was interposed in passing in the summer of 1848, certain resolutions which I proposed as to foreign sugar, caused a forced entry of foreign sugar in The month of July in that year, and there fore the entries of foreign sugar in the two years do not afford a fair comparison; but the whole falling-off in the quantities cleared for consumption has occurred, not in colonial, but in foreign sugar. The consumption of West India has increased from 2,771,148 cwt. in 1848, to 3,070,273 cwts. in 1849; Mauritius from 812,808 cwts. in 1848, to 997,541 cwts. in 1849; East India from 1,352,599 cwts. in 1848, to 1,356,548 cwts. in 1849; whilst foreign had decreased from 1,225,866 cwts. in 1848, to 497,764 cwts. in 1849. Nor has The increased entry of foreign spirits de pressed the home trade. In the quantity of British spirits which has paid duty for consumption, there has been an increase; for in 1848 they amounted to 22,202,379 gallons, and to 22,920,000 gallons in 1849. The quantity entered for consumption in Ireland had fallen off upon the year; but There has been an increase upon the last quarter ending January 5, for in 1848 it was 287,969 gallons, whilst in 1849 it amounted to 312,696 gallons. There was only one other subject of importance to which he would refer, and that was to raw
materials, which were the means of providing employment for our labouring population. I have not the returns for the whole year, but on the eleven months ending December 5th in each year, the following were the results:—
|Hides, untanned, dry||cwt.||96,435||122,187|
|Ditto ditto wet||cwt.||320,806||506,294|
|Lead, pig and sheet||tons.||3,293||6,902|
§ This table justified the reflection, that whilst the people had been employed in the last year, means had been afforded to them for a continuation of that employment. It had been said that large imports of copper ore, consequent upon removing restrictions, would be fatal to the copper miners of this country. The reverse had been found to be the fact; and I have the satisfaction of saying, that the accounts from the mining districts of Cornwall were exceedingly satisfactory. Employment was brisk, and wages were good. The exports of British copper, for example, in bricks and pigs, had increased, in the eleven months ending January 5, from 85,224 cwts. in 1849, to 153,397 cwts. in 1850; of wrought copper, from 5,156 cwts. in 1849, to 17,835 cwts. in 1850; and the exports of brass of all sorts from 13,094 cwts. in 1849, to 23,636 cwts. in 1850. In fact, there was scarcely an article of any sort or kind as to which ruin and distress had been predicted from admitting foreign produce, which had not utterly falsified that prediction by the facts of increased production at home, increased exportations, and increased employment. The state of the shipping trade afforded exactly the like testimony. Taking the eleven months ending December 5, it would be found that the number of ships entered inwards in the year 1848 had been 24,949, of 5,059,000 tons; whilst in 1849 there were 28,946 ships, of 5,678,000 tons; 146 and the number of ships cleared outwards in 1848 were 23,394, of 4,678,000 tons; whilst in 1849 these were increased to 25,660 ships, with a tonnage of 5,120,000 tons. From the situation I have the honour to fill, my statement would naturally not be complete if I closed it without reference to the condition of the revenue. I am happy to say, there has been an improvement in every branch of the revenue to a greater extent than I had expected. The result of the year, partly owing to increased production, but still more to reduced expenditure, left an excess of income above expenditure upon the year ending the 5th January last, of 2,098,000l The amount of gold in the Bank was another satisfactory sign, for it amounted in round numbers to 17,000,000l., against 15,000,000l in the corresponding period last year. This fact sufficiently rebutted the assertion that it was impossible to have a large import of corn with an increase in bullion. It had been said that much of this amount might be owing to importations from California; but I do not think the whole sum derived from that place exceeded 600,000l or 700,000l But, whilst making these satisfactory statements, I heartily concur in the wise advice, that we should not be too much elevated with the present state of the country. I thought it my duty two years ago, when great distress and alarm prevailed, to endeavour to check the discouragement; and I shall think it equally my duty now to prevent, as far as in me lies, any undue excitement and overweening confidence. I have felt it to be also my duty, however, when such words were proposed to be added to the Address, to state what I believe to be the real condition of the country. I sincerely hope, then, that no rash speculation will disturb the general well-doing of the people. We have, in my belief, entered upon a course of sound improvement; and my earnest hope is, that it will, under the blessing of Providence, continue; and that, notwithstanding its present temporary depression, the agricultural interest may participate in the general improvement. When it does arise from that state of partial depression, its prosperity will be based, not upon the delusive foundation of protection, but upon the firm foundation of its own industry and exertion, on which it could never be shaken.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
hoped the House would not consider it presumptuous in him to rise at so early a period of the Session. 147 He had had no idea of doing so when he entered the House, nor would be now trespass on their attention, if it had not been for some expressions of an hon. Gentleman who had moved the Address. Both the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had spoken but little of Ireland, and he (Mr. Herbert) presumed it was but little on the old principle, that "least said was soonest mended." One assertion had, however, been made, which evidently seemed to have made a strong impression on the House. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address said, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated, that an enormous diminution had taken place in the number of persons receiving relief in Ireland, and from that was deduced a comparative state of prosperity, or at all events of improvement. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Dispute my facts if you can." He (Mr. Herbert) was not there to dispute the facts, but he was there to dispute the deductions; and he would now show that the facts cited did not necessarily prove an improvement in Ireland in 1849 as compared with 1848. The hon. Gentleman said that from the returns dated December 9, 1848, it appeared that the number of those receiving indoor relief were 187,803. The exact number was only 186,403; but for his (Mr. Herbert's) purpose those figures were near enough. In the same report it was stated that the outdoor relief on the same date was 315,719, but that in December, 1849, the number was only 95,449. He (Mr. Herbert) contended that that did not show any real diminution of destitution. Any hon. Gentleman who read that return would find that there had been additional house accommodation provided for 50,806 persons. Let any hon. Gentleman go into any part of the south of Ireland, and he would find whole streets and every building erected in them for the purpose of trade or commerce converted into workhouses. It was also well known that when once outdoor relief was established in any district, a vast mass of imposture was connected therewith. It was impossible to check that, and consequently the numbers 315,719 did not represent the actual destitution that existed in 1848. He would appeal to the hon. Gentlemen in the House who had been endeavouring to work the poor-law system in Ireland, if that was not notoriously the case? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, then in his place, stated in an able speech which 148 he made last year, that he believed there would be no safety in Ireland in administering the poor-law, unless they returned to the law of 1836. But he (Mr. Herbert) would call the attention of the hon. Member to another reason for the diminution in the number of Irish paupers. Many of the 315,000 referred to had migrated to England. He would ask any Gentleman who paid any attention to the subject if the highways and byways of England were not thronged with Irish paupers? He, during the autumn spent a few weeks in the south of Scotland, and walked through a great portion of Northumberland, and observed that those places were thronged with his unfortunate countrymen. It might he said that they came over to reap the harvest, but numbers of them told him that they were living on their wits for the last two years; and some of them had so completely exchanged the Irish brogue for the Scotch twang, that until he spoke to them in their own dialect, he could not tell that they were Irishmen. Death had also greatly diminished the paupers. Many districts had been half depopulated by that means. Many hon. Members in that House who had been in Ireland this season could bear testimony to the vast numbers of roofless houses and deserted homesteads which could be everywhere seen. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had therefore no right whatever to infer the increased prosperity of Ireland from the diminished amount of paupers. If the House would look at the figures in the returns referred to, they would find that there had been an extraordinary diminution of numbers in one week. In the week before November 9, they were in round numbers 105,000; the next week they were only 95,000. In the margin he found the diminution accounted for in these words: "This sudden diminution arose from peculiar circumstances in the Kilrush union." He wished to know what those peculiar circumstances were. If outdoor relief were to he taken as a test of improvement, then there must have been some sudden burst of improvement, for there was no outdoor relief at all given at that time in Kilrush, the most impoverished and bankrupt district in Ireland. Having compared the exports of 1848 and 1849, the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the Customs, and admitted there was a decrease. He said there was an increase during the last quarter, but took good care not to give the figures. He (Mr. Herbert) suspected they 149 were so very small that the right hon. Gentleman preferred not mentioning them. In Ireland they would be very thankful to have even a small improvement. They were, however, so accustomed, from day to day, to hear the voice of woe, to see their property passing away from them, to hear well-authenticated accounts of destitution, and to look absolute ruin in the face, that accounts of destitution and misery hardly now affected them. The hon. Gentleman the mover of the Address laid great stress on the diminution of crime. That could be accounted for by the proportionate diminution in the population. The hon. Gentleman alluded to sheepstealing, and stated that there had been a diminution in that description of crime also. He did not, however, allude to the fact that there had been so great a diminution in sheep that there was hardly one left. He (Mr. Herbert) had heard of a dialogue between a Hungarian nobleman and a Scotchman. The Scotchman said he had so many sheep on his estate. The Hungarian said, he could not tell how many sheep he had on his estate, but he could tell how many shepherds were in his employment. If the hon. Gentleman had told the House what diminution had taken place in sheep, it would go far to account for the diminution in sheepstealers. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Dispute my facts if you can." He (Mr. Herbert) was ready to dispute his facts; and he would call on the House to receive with great caution anything coming from the supporters of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the prosperity of Ireland. He hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government did not think that he spoke with the slightest disrespect of the Government; but he would show the House that the right hon. Gentleman had on other occasions made statements concerning Ireland which were utterly at variance with the actual state of things. In a speech delivered last Session, the right hon. Gentleman said—It was certainly very satisfactory to have to state, that, with the exception of a very small portion of Ireland, he did not believe that any assistance whatever was either wished for or necessary. The greater portion of the east and north of Ireland was not more distressed at this moment than the south of England; and in several other parts of Ireland there was not the least need of assistance. He might refer to the case of the union of Listowel, in which the collection of rates had fallen into some disorder. A commissioner had been sent down, and within six weeks the demands due had not only been paid up, but 700l. remained to the credit of the union.150 But what were the facts of the case? At the time the right hon. Gentleman was using these words, the debt of that union had increased. He (Mr. Herbert) had no connexion with the union by property, but as it was connected with the county he represented, he had taken much trouble in inquiring into the facts of the case, and, as far as the accounts and the statements of the most intelligent clerk of the union, and the admission of the assistant inspector, Lynch, could go, as well as that of the gentleman who made the report, the union was in debt at that time. The guardians were dismissed and vice-guardians appointed in November, 1848; the debt then amounted to 5,234l. The right hon. Baronet made his speech on the 7th February, 1849. A week, however, before, the debt had amounted to 5,729l.; and yet this was the union that the right hon. Baronet had put all to rights—so much so that there was tool in pocket. The vice-guardians continued the management, and by the 4th August the debt had increased to 15,927l. The rate in and was actually levied in that union, bankrupt as it was. As a proof of what the vice-guardians must have thought of the position of the union, he would mention the fact that they made an arrangement with the Messrs. Russell for a supply of Indian meal, on the price of which they contracted to pay a sum equal to 27 per cent. He did not mean to say anything to the disparagement of these gentlemen; he merely mentioned the fact. When the guardians were restored, the first thing they did was to strike rates, and on one occasion 14s. 6d. in the pound was actually agreed to be levied. The assistant inspector attended the meeting, and what did he do? Why, he endeavoured to dissuade the guardians from levying so high a rate, and, after some correspondence with the Lord Lieutenant, the guardians were induced to strike lower rates than they intended, and the probability was, that the diminished rate would be referred to in due time as an evidence of returning prosperity. With respect to the Amendment, as an Irish Member he must vote for it. Under no circumstances could Ireland have gone through the crisis without much difficulty and suffering; but his belief was, that the effect of recent legislation had been to aggravate and increase those difficulties. He represented a county (Kerry) in which the local taxation had enormously increased. 151 In 1835, the amount was 30,951l.; in 1845, 41,095l.; in 1849, it had increased to 155,417l.; while in the adjoining county of Limerick it had increased from 45,000l. to over 200,000l., while in the same county the cultivation of wheat had fallen off from 1847 to 1848 from 52,000 acres to 32,000. He hoped the doctrine of expediency—the tyrant's plea—would no longer be put forth as a reason why Ireland's interests should be sacrificed to save a Ministry from embarrassment.
§ MR. W. FAGAN
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had not made a single observation pertinent to the subject before the House. Respecting the improvement of Ireland, he differed from the hon. Member, who should recollect what was the condition of that country prior to and during the potato famine. Four millions of the people subsisting on a description of food which failed them during a period of three years, and the tenant-farmers obliged to dispose of their cattle and farming implements for subsistence. A better state of things was now in progress; and although the improvement was not extensive, it was still improvement, and gave good indications for the future. Prices within the last two months had considerably improved. In cattle alone the rise had been equal to 1l. a head. It had been asserted that the Irish workhouses had been considerably relieved by the emigration of paupers to England. He believed that such was the case; and it was with much pleasure he stated that many of these vagrants had met with employment in England—a circumstance altogether owing to free trade. Upon the subject of free trade he entirely differed from his hon. and gallant Colleague, who seconded the Amendment. He could understand the motive and object which Gentlemen opposite had in selecting the gallant Officer for that duty. Personally, no man was better entitled to that compliment, or to any other which could be bestowed upon him; but this was the gallant Officer's first appearance, and he (Mr. Fagan) could not but perceive that the object in selecting him was to indicate that his election was an evidence of reaction against free trade. [Cheers from the Protectionists.] He emphatically denied that such was the case, and he thought he was in a position to make good the assertion that protection had nothing whatever to do with that election. [" Oh! oh!"] He was prepared to make good his assertion. In the Speech from the Throne an 152 intention was indicated of introducing a measure for amending the franchise in Ireland. The miserable franchise which now existed was one of the main causes of the election of the gallant Officer. There was so much difficulty in the present system that people had grown apathetic, and the consequence was that the registry was neglected. In the city of Cork the registry had actually become a nullity. He could show that a great number of those who had supported the gallant Officer were not protectionists; the chairman of his election committee was a free-trader. He did think that the circumstances connected with an election which had made so much noise were altogether misapprehended. The same result would have taken place although protection had never been heard of. In the great constituency of the county of Cork the tenant-farmers were decidedly free-traders. These persons have taken a different view of that question from the farmers of England. Whether that arose from the connexion between the landlords of England and their tenants being closer than that which prevailed in Ireland, he could not say; but the fact he had asserted could not be disputed. He thought the display recently made in many of the districts of Ireland by the landlords, would not prove beneficial to them. The course adopted by many well-meaning Gentlemen of taking advantage of certain political views entertained by Gentlemen who had never expressed any sympathy with the misgovernment to which the Irish people had been subjected, was not prudent. He believed that the very agitation which prevailed in Ireland would of itself compel the landlords to come to a fair adjustment with their tenants, who would then, having an interest in the land, become as industrious as any of the like class in England. He was persuaded that protection never added a farthing to the poor man's wages in Ireland, and that free trade had had nothing whatever to do with the low prices that had prevailed in that part of the kingdom. With cheap food, it was undeniable that both tenants and labourers in Ireland must be better off.
§ SIR J. B. WALSH
contended, in opposition to the hon. Member who had just sat down, that Ireland had been a peculiar sufferer by the abolition of the duties on foreign corn. He was at a loss to know, notwithstanding the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, where the glowing pictures of 153 prosperity in which the Government indulged were to be found. It was not their (the protectionists') fault that they were not all enabled, on that occasion, to join in a loyal and respectful Address to the Throne, and then to proceed to the business of the Session. The Amendment was in a manner forced upon them by a passage in the Speech, which appeared to have been introduced into it by the Government for the very purpose of provoking a division. Was it only the owners and occupiers of land who were interested in this great question? No man who really understood the connexion between the different classes of society in this country could for a moment believe that the distress and ruin which any injury to the agricultural interest could create, would be confined to the agricultural interest alone. But the Government had not been content with this mode of disregarding the complaints and the meetings of the country; they had actually gone out of their way to declare to the whole country that they intended that the grievances and the distress complained of, should have neither remedy nor consideration. They had chosen to bring forward a gentleman, who, however estimable in private life, was identified with a particular system. It had been said that the name of Napoleon was a system, and if that of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was likewise a system, it was the system of the Anti-Corn Law League. He wished to know whether it could be considered a prudent or a wise course of the Government not to give to: one from among their own steady and uniform supporters the complimentary offer of moving the Address in answer to the Speech, but to go to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, one who had been a member of the Anti-Corn Law League, and associated with all the movements of that body. The Ministry that acted thus showed that they were not the principals in this contest, but that the real principals were the landed interest of the united kingdom on the one side, and the spirit and power of demagoguism on the other. He denied all the positions on which the hon. Member for the West Riding and his party had argued this question. If they looked to the people of England and Ireland, they would see the manufacturing interest was con-fined to a very limited area, and that the agricultural interest, on the contrary, comprised four-fifths of the kingdom. If, therefore, any great injury occurred to the 154 agricultural body, all their small towns—their Readings, their Devizes, and such like places—must inevitably be involved in the same common ruin. Even the tradesmen of this great metropolis would be sufferers under any great calamity that happened to agriculture. If the rents on the richest soils must be reduced to meet the reduced profits, everything must not only be reduced, but swept away altogether—capital, scientific applications, and the employment of labour resulting from them on the poorer soils. When this was done, how was the increased poor-rate and the mass of taxation on the land, now found so grievous to bear, to be provided for with the diminished resources resulting from free trade? The peculiarity of the poor-rate was, that it always increased when the means to meet it diminished; and it would soon swallow up the whole property vested in those counties where poor soils predominated, as it had already swallowed up the whole of the property in the south of Ireland. There was one thing he had observed Gentlemen opposite always urged, and that had formed a large portion of the speech of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that was the supposed power of the soil and the capability of the farmer to increase the quantity of produce. No one was more fully aware than himself of the fact that farming in England was capable of great improvement. He had always encouraged improvements on his own estates, and with some success; but it appeared to him to be a law from which there was no escape, that additional produce could only be obtained by additional outlay of capital. It was a false and erroneous statement to say that the English farmer was deficient in industry—that he was lazy and wanted enterprise. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was true that in some districts the farmer had not profited by all the improvements discovered; but it was equally true that, to enable him to do so, there must be a large outlay of capital for draining, subsoiling, levelling fences, making roads, purchasing expensive manures, &c. The hon. Member who moved the Address brought forward the case of a farm in Gloucestershire, which had let for 20s. per acre lately, but was now fetching double that amount. But the material ingredient in the bargain, by which the House would be enabled to come to a right understanding in that case, was but lightly touched upon by the hon. Member. He said there had been some draining done; but he should 155 like to know what had been the outlay of capital to enable the owner to command this great additional rent. The House should recollect that the countries with which they were forced into competition were by no means under the necessity of resorting to improvements. On the banks of the Mississippi subsoiling was unknown, draining did not exist, and the cultivation was of the rudest character. They did not read their Professors Low and Liebig, and had never heard of Mechi and Huxtable. They scratched over a piece of ground, threw in the seed, and reaped the crop. This was done for four or five years, and then they treated the next piece of land in the same way. Thus the English farmer was obliged to be at a great outlay, and have recourse to all the arts of science, while those with whom he was brought into competition carried on their business without either the one or the other. The match was therefore a most unequal one. The law of competition was just this:—A little competition, nobody could deny, quickened and stimulated; in the absence of all competition a man became careless, and paid anything but a proper attention to his business. But if competition was carried too far, it injured and destroyed; it plunged individuals or nations into utter despair. They were now about to decide the question whether the English farmer was to have that amount of competition which would give him energy and spirit to overcome it, or a degree which he was not able to encounter, and with which he must be overwhelmed. This question, as far as experience had gone in the present year, seemed to have been decided by the fact that any amount of corn could be procured at such low prices that the resources of the English farmer must be altogether overtaxed, and they must be reduced to the lowest state of depression, and—God forbid he should ever live to see it!—coincident with that depression the manufacturing interests would be entirely dependent on the foreign customer. Hon. Members opposite had taken care that this should be the first subject of debate this Session, but they need not hope to smother it at once by that policy. If they were inclined to let it alone, they would be driven by their constituents to force it on the attention of the House. It was assumed that this was a landlord's question and a landlord's agitation; but he believed that it was totally the reverse. He believed the tenant-farmers and the 156 yeomen were far more inclined to reproach them with remissness, backwardness, and want of energy in their cause, than with an undue inclination to forward their own interests. The agitation had nothing of a factitious or got-up character about it; and it would be continued with that pertinacity which Englishmen always showed when they felt they had a just and good cause. Even if they did not wish it, the Members who represented the agricultural interest would not be able to avoid bringing this subject constantly under the attention of the House, He wished, in conclusion, to address a few words to those who held that most dogmatic pretension that there was something in the decision of the legislation on this subject of a final and irreversible character; that it was not susceptible of reversion. That he utterly denied. The whole character of their legislation for some years past had been purely experimental. They were always trying some new experiment—always acting upon one theory or another—and always casting aside the conclusions of all their experiments. Had a legislation like this the right to arrogate to itself finality? The very circumstance of their legislation being experimental supposed that it must be tested by the result; and they were imperatively bound to change if that result should deceive the expectation or belie the predictions of its projectors. It was sometimes said to be irrevocable because it was founded on the deliberate decision of both Houses of Parliament. The hon. Member for the West Riding, at a recent meeting at Leeds, said that out of the whole House of Peers he believed there were but twelve who in their hearts were favourable to the measure of free trade. That was the only conclusion in which he entirely concurred with the hon. Member for the West Riding; and the first point in this irrevocable and final legislation was, that it was passed against the convictions of one branch of the Legislature. With regard to the section of the Conservative party who fortified by their votes the measures of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, he knew they were placed in a difficult position. They believed, doubtless, that they were forced to sacrifice their own individual opinions to maintain the merits of that great party, the existence of which they believed essential to the good of the country; but, admitting that construction of their conduct, and admitting also that the right hon. Baronet was a conscientious convert 157 to free-trade doctrines, it was impossible that two hundred Gentlemen should, at the same moment, have been also convinced, as it were, by an electric shock. He gave those Gentlemen credit for the disinterested character of their vote; but he could not but believe that vote was given against their own deliberate conviction. And then it could not be alleged that the question was decided according to the opinion of the majority of the constituency of this country. It was certain that an indisputable majority of the constituency were in favour of protection, and returned a majority of that House with the belief that they would vote for protection. It must he owned that the question was carried against the recorded sense of the constituency, and against the real convictions of a great majority of the representatives themselves; and how, then, could it he pretended that this experimental piece of legislation must now be considered as final and irrevocable? With this fresh in their recollections, and, still more painfully fresh, the disastrous results of this experiment, he trusted they would never hear again of its irrevocable character. The House would be forced to record its vote on that question; but the agricultural Members would feel it their duty not only to divide them, but to discuss the question in all its bearings, and to advocate a return to protection again and again during the Session. He trusted they would be met with fair arguments and with a candid spirit; and he hoped no attempt would be made to extinguish discussion, on the pretence that the present debate, and the division which would ensue, would place it in the position of fait accompli, a conclusion at which he could assure them the country would not allow them to arrive.
§ MR. GRANTLEY BERKELEY
moved the adjournment of the debate. [Loud cries of "No, no!" and "Go on!"] He bowed to the decision of the House, and would take that opportunity of alluding to certain peculiarities of the Royal Speech. He deeply regretted that all mention of one great portion of the British empire was totally left out, just as if the colonies of this great empire were no longer of any importance to the State. He must also make a remark upon one paragraph in the Speech:—With regard to those foreign States whose Navigation Laws have hitherto been of a restrictive character, Her Majesty has received from nearly all of them assurances which induce Her to 158 hope that our example will speedily lead to a great and general diminution of those obstacles which previously existed to a free intercourse by sea between the nations of the world.This passage, of course, excepted the United States, the self-protective character of whose policy was sufficiently indicated by the message of the President, to say nothing of the actual exclusion of British manufactures. Another paragraph was as follows:—Her Majesty greatly laments that any portion of her subjects should be suffering distress; but it is a source of sincere gratification to Her Majesty to witness the increased enjoyment of the necessaries and comforts of life which cheapness and plenty have bestowed upon the great body of Her people.That, again, must be supposed to intend the exception of that portion of Her Majesty's people the colonists, who were reduced to the lowest state of ruin and distress. He had observed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, in a recent speech, had said that it would be a blessing to this country if the colonies could be swept away altogether. He did not expect to hear such a sentiment from one who had enjoyed the honour of a seat at the Councils of Her Majesty. He confessed that be was struck with amazement when he found that the hon. Member for the West Riding—that illustrious disciple of peace—preaching to the people in words which, if he (Mr. Grantley Berkeley) knew anything of the English language, were the words of disaffection and revolution. Having, in the first place, devoted his talents—those talents which they all knew him to possess; and his eloquence—his "unadorned eloquence"—to the abolition of the state, army, and navy of this great empire, he then turned round, and when he found that it suited his purpose to do so, preached up war and disaffection. The hon. Member had tauntingly observed that the agricultural interests had been recently exhumed for a party purpose; but the fact was that those interests had been foully and most unconstitutionally murdered. It was admitted on all hands that there ought to be a reduction of taxation; but in what better way could the Government reduce taxation than by raising a supply from the pockets of the foreigner? It was idle to say it was all a question of rent. He could assure the House that if every sixpence of rent were taken off the light hill land in the county with which he was connected, it would be still impossible to farm the land to profit 159 at the present prices. The Manchester school were endeavouring to stir up ill feeling between the landlords and the tenants on this question, just as they had endeavoured to do on the game-law question; but it was to be hoped that their iniquitous designs would be foiled. The hon. Mover of the Address had alluded, when referring to the game laws, to a tenant in his (Mr. Grantley Berkeley's) county, named Josiah Hunt. Now it so happened, happily or unhappily, that this man was a Quaker, a tenant of a small farm, whose word was not held at the valuation of a single farthing, and who had been employed at the last election to bribe the voters against him (Mr. Grantley Berkeley); and as some of the money had not been accounted for, it was believed that it was still in the Quaker's pocket. Nothing could be more disgraceful than the treatment the tenant-farmers had experienced. If any complaint was made of their distress, or any demand of justice, the hon. Member for Manchester, with that gentleness which so well became his cloth and cut, threatened them with the destruction of the House of Lords. He had never read speeches so fraught with danger and delusion to the people in general as those of the Manchester school; and in reply to these men he would say that free trade had been given to the country when the country was not in a fit state to receive it, and that the burdens of the farmer ought now to be taken off, and the malt tax removed. With reference to the game laws, about which the hon. Member for Manchester, who sometimes overshot the mark, was so fond of talking, it was perhaps necessary to say that another Quaker had given evidence before the Committee upon the subject, in which he declared that he had not taken any part, active or inactive, to get up a cry in the county of Fife against the game laws. He referred to that to show the fallacies which had been resorted to in reference to the game laws by these free-traders when they designed to sow disaffection between landlord and tenant. Did the Government imagine that they had given free trade a fair trial? He was a free-trader, and he answered that they had not. Free trade was hurried on the country in a most unbecoming manner. The country was not put in a condition to receive it, and was no more fit for it when it was passed into law than the colonies had been prepared for abolition at the time that that measure was 160 forced upon them. In order to have fair free trade, the burdens which now weighed so heavily on the farmer should be removed, and the malt tax should be abolished. If Government were not in a position to do so, they were not in a position to institute free trade. He hoped that hon. Members, in recording their votes on this question, would be uninfluenced by the base threats which had been held forth, that in the event of any effort being made to relieve the distress of the agriculturists, riots would spring up in all parts of the country, and that, in fact, England would be on the eve of a civil war. The country was at that moment threatened with more serious disturbance than had ever menaced it before. It was intolerable that the tenant-farmers should not be permitted to meet in a constitutional manner to give expression to their wishes and declare their grievances, without the interference of a vile mob. They found that at Reading, Bedford, and other places, persons were sent to the meeting who had no single stake in the county; and then they were told when these meetings were so disturbed, that these people had been constitutionally defeated by the rabble sent to disturb them. Now he fancied that the farmers of this country had a right to meet and discuss this question. If the arguments were correct, if trade was in a flourishing state, was that a reason why the agriculturists were to be lost sight of? Were they not a vast portion of this empire? Had not our chief prosperity sprung from that interest? Was that to be totally forgotten, and were they to be content with a mere allusion to it in the Speech from the Throne? He held that the agriculturists of this country had been ill used by the present Government, that their interests had been lost sight of. For nearly seventeen years he had been a supporter of the Government, and had never spoken against them before; but, free-trader as he was, he must confess that free trade had been a most deceptive measure. When he was making that assertion, he knew that numbers of freetraders who still adhered to the principle in his own county were of the same opinion. They thought that though the measure might be properly founded on principle, it had been placed on a wrong footing; that much haste had been exercised in the matter; and that unless something was done, the agricultural interest must go to a fast and overwhelming ruin. He, therefore, trusted that the House, in coming to 161 a vote on this question, would do justice to that oppressed and too quiet class; and that they should see the agricultural interest return at last to its proper state in the country.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, he would not oppose the Motion for the adjournment; but he hoped that it would be understood that the division should be taken to-morrow night. He would wish to be made acquainted with the feeling of hon. Gentlemen opposite on the subject under discussion, especially of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that he shared in the hope of the noble Lord that the debate would be closed to-morrow evening; but he could not be guilty of the presumption of giving a pledge for himself or others. The duration of the debate would very much depend on the conduct of Gentlemen at both sides of the House, and past experience had taught them that the noble Lord did not always find it an easy matter to exercise that influence which he ought to possess over his own supporters.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter past Twelve o'clock.