§ LORD NAAS
Sir, I have no apology to offer to the House for, even at this late period of the Session, rising to move that this House do on a future day resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the present state of the milling interest in Ireland. I have been induced to do so from statements that I have received, and also from circumstances that have come within my own personal observation. One of the greatest interests of Ireland is now actually on the brink of ruin, and therefore I feel that I should ill discharge my duty to my constituents, and my country, did I not avail myself of the earliest opportunity of laying before this House the circumstances of this 796 alarming case. Sir, the industrial occupations of the Irish people have for long consisted first of agriculture, which occupies seven-eighths of the population, of the woollen, linen, and flour manufactories. These great interests our statesmen who lived in the end of the last and the beginning of this century made their especial care; and under their fostering influence they gradually rose to importance and greatness; but as those old patriots sunk one by one into their graves, their doctrines were forgotten, their principles disregarded; new theories begun to gain ground, and those great interests which they wisely thought worthy of the protection and care of a native Legislature, are now gradually falling before the baneful effects of imperial indifference. What has became of our woollen manufacture, this House is probably well aware. How our agriculture, our mainstay and chief dependence, has suffered, Her Majesty's Ministers have in their Speech from the Throne themselves deplored. I have now the painful duty of showing to this House how the most important of our manufactures, that of wheat into flour, is almost extinct; and it is with deep concern that I declare my belief that its entire loss may soon be looked for, unless something is done to avert the blow. I will commence by showing what the country has lost in the production of wheat, the raw material of the miller. I find that in 1845 the exports of wheat from Ireland amounted to 372,000 quarters, whereas in 1850 they were only 76,000 quarters; the exports of wheatmeal and flour were 1,422,000 cwts., but in 1850 they had fallen to 327,000 cwts. And, now see what in this single article of wheat Ireland has lost since the days of her comparative prosperity. Up to 1845, Ireland exported generally on an average about 500,000 quarters, which, valued at 40s. a quarter, would be equivalent to 1,000,000l., now utterly lost to her. Taking the import of the present year at 800,000 quarters, this would require a sum of 1,600,000l. to pay for it, so that the entire loss, compared with the state of the corn trade a few years ago, when Ireland exported considerably, would be equal in the whole to 2,600,000l., or one-sixth of the entire valuation of the country; and this probably far below the reality. This loss fell not altogether upon the farmer; the miller suffered too. The English market to which he was used to send his best samples, is now glutted with 797 French and American flour, with which he finds it impossible to compete. The country miller in Ireland was the farmer's best customer; he employed a large capital in his trade, and in all the great markets was the readiest buyer, and it requred the employment of considerable capital, for he was obliged to purchase his stock between the harvest and spring, thus purchasing when the farmer was most in need of money, and when it suited him best to dispose of his produce. This placed him in a very different position from the miller at the ports, who can always obtain his supply of grain to his hand at any time.
I will now proceed to show to the House the present state of this interest in Ireland, and though it is impossible for me to inform the House as to the circumstances of every mill in the country, I shall be able to bring such a statement before it, that the House can come to a very accurate idea of what is the general position of the trade. Through the perseverance and energy of certain gentlemen in London, who have taken up this subject most warmly, and to whom the millers are deeply indebted, I have been furnished with returns from upwards of 340 mills, including all the largest establishments in the country, and find that the value of 349 mills in Ireland represented a sum of 1,487,310l., running 1,876 pairs of stones. So much for the value of only a few of the mills in Ireland. Now, what their present state is the following table will show:
TIME-WORKING OF 321 MILLS IN IRELAND. 88 Munster. 61 Ulster. 35 Connaught 137 Leinster. 321 Total. Fulltime 12 10 2 15 39 Not full — — 6 1 7 Three-quarters 1 1 — 4 6 Two-thirds 1 2 — 3 6 Half-time 27 15 2 37 81 Not half 3 3 1 3 10 One-third 16 5 19 8 48 One-fourth 6 — — 12 18 One-sixth 1 2 — 3 6 One-eighth 1 — — 1 2 Not one-ninth — — — 2 2 Partially 2 4 — 5 11 Given up and idle 12 14 2 17½ 45½ Full on Indian corn 5 4 2 10½ 21½ Half-time on Indian corn 1 — — 7 8 Full on oatmeal — 1 1 1 3 Not one-fourth on oatmeal — — — 7 7 88 61 35 137 321
Though these are the actual numbers of men out of work in the mills, yet it gives a very small idea of the number of men actually unemployed in consequence of the reduction of mills, for none of the carmen, cornporters, boatmen, and factors' men are mentioned above.
INFORMATION RESPECTING LABOUR EMPLOYED IN 318 MILLS. Provinces. No. of Mills. Pairs of Stones. No. of men employed When in full work. At present. Ulster 61 289 930 573 Connaught 36 147 467 273 Munster 87 512 2267 1041 Leinster 134 705 2111 900 Total 318 1723 5775 2787
But to give the House a greater insight into the actual state of this trade, I will read a few individual statements, taken from the handwriting of persons engaged in this pursuit, and couched in their own homely language. One gentleman writes—Mr. Crosthwaite, of Bagnalstown, Carlow, estimates that his mills, working 24 pairs of millstones, gives support and employment to 300 families; Mr. Malley, of Castlebar, his eight-pair mill to 100 families; Mr. Rathbone, of Virginia, Cavan, his six-pair mills to 60 families; and the Messrs. Grubbs, of Ferrybank, Waterford, their eleven-pair mills employ and support 106 families. Therefore the returns show that upon the employment of the corn mills returned, 22,512 families depended for support. We have 685 mills in the books, and averaging them each at four pair of stones—2,740 stones give labour and support to 30,880 families, and these mills will make 109,600 sacks of flour per week, or 5,000,000 sacks per annum; showing the capabilities of the mill power of Ireland with good protective laws—these may be considered the export mills. Mr. Clibborn says, there are 1,800 mills for grinding oatmeal and corn in Ireland. If these 30,880 families be taken at four each, it will show 123,520 souls depending on the corn millers directly for support.And now, Sir, I will read to this House various notes and remarks which have been sent by some Irish millers with their statistics:—Ulster, Armagh, No. 7, 5 pairs stone.—This mill was built 5 years past, and in consequence of the late Bill of Sir Robert Peel, was obliged to give up making flour.Down, No. 14, 9 pairs stones.—2 water flour mills and wind mill idle from badness of the trade. I cannot let or sell them.Cavan, No. 18, 6 pairs stones.—Including carters, there are 40 men thrown out of work at the two mills of Messrs. Rathbone; but in the returns the millers only losing work are estimated at 14.LEINSTER, County Dublin, No. 4, 9 pairs stones.—I bought an iron wheel for 400l. in 1847, 799 but in consequence of free trade, I abandoned the idea of putting it up; if I had, I would require more than double the hands.LEINSTER, County Dublin, No. 64.—I have 4-pair nearly ready for work, but will not finish them until the free-trade plague is removed—we seldom work our corn mill—since December, the price of flour being so kept down by the quantity imported, and particularly the large lots of slightly damaged coming every day into the market, must turn the mill into something else.Kilkenny, No. 79, 9 pairs stones.—From the great difficulty we experience in endeavouring to sell flour, we do not keep one pair of stones constantly at work; we have very much improved the quality, still we can scarcely dispose of a sack in Liverpool, where we could readily sell 200 to 300 sacks weekly before the change in the corn laws; every market seems full of French flour.Louth, No. 61.—Situated in one of the best wheat districts in Ireland, but owing to the large quantities of foreign flour coming into this place, and neighbouring towns, has not dressed one bag of flour since 1st of February, and at present 400 bags on hand, and not a baker or other to ask the price of it, with 500 barrels of wheat ready to manufacture, so that the flour mill is only grinding a little wheat for wheat meal to retail.Kilkenny, No. 59.—A mill with 7 pairs stones, now idle. French flour is selling so low, and Irish wheat not grown. From 1837 to 1845 these mills (3, with 17 pairs stones) cost for carriers' wages and men's labour 3,500l. per annum; they now cost only 500l. yearly: the labourers all in the poor-house or gone to America, that were then employed.MUNSTER, Clonmel and Neighbourhood, No. 16.—11 mills, 89 pairs stones, cost 70,500l.; not on an average more than one-third worked for the past eight months, owing to the heavy imports of foreign flour into all our usual markets.Cork, No. 36.—The importation of foreign flour interferes so much with the trade, and it is so dull in consequence, that scarcely first cost can be made of the wheat, and not allowing anything to pay the expenses of clerk, millers, carters, labourers, and interest of capital. If something is not done to afford some protection to the trade, these concerns will be stopped, (9 pair mill, value 7,000l.) which will add considerably to the distress of an already very poor district, heavily taxed with poor rates, &c.Waterford, No. 50.—A mill, 5 pair stones, cost 5,000l. all idle, and remains as a monument of the baneful effects of free trade: every men discharged.Tipperary, No. 9.—10 pair mill, 5,000l., about one-third worked: our export trade being totally annihilated by the immense importations of foreign grain: 100 men once employed, now 40.Cork, No. 28.—The water-power mills at Shannon Vale are and have been idle these three years, (worked 10 pair stones per water.) We expended over 8,000l. in additional buildings and machinery within 16 years, after which the mill part was burnt down. We since put up the mills and machinery on the newest principles, at an expense of 3,000l., but finding free trade interfered so much with millers, we never since worked them, and they are idle these three years. We were glad to give a surrender of these mills after all our expenditure. 40 men were employed— 800 most of the men and families are now in the poor-house.Kilkenny, No. 84.—I am ordered by Government to let 2 pair sleep, to accommodate the French and American millers; and also 3 pair by night occasionally to oblige the den of Cobden, Bright, and Co., the destructives. I was under pain of losing all my property, being compelled by Sir Robert Peel and free-trade millers, now repentant, to put out the fires of my steam engines, and discharge my men, in order to benefit the country with a big loaf, and no money to buy.Louth, No. 22.—Mills, 5 pairs stones, value 5,000l.—all the 10 men discharged. A long time standing, from the plain fact of not being able to make a profit out of either foreign or home-grown wheat, oats, or Indian corn.This, then, is the present state of the greatest of our mannfactures in Ireland. Is it not a state of unexampled depression? Is it not enough to alarm any true lover of his country, and make one tremble for the effect such a loss may have on an already impoverished nation? But now for the cause. It is too apparent that this loss of property and trade has been occasioned by the enormous and unexpected importation of foreign flour; a circumstance quite unforeseen by the authors of the measure of 1846, and even unlooked for by them, till within the last year. I find that a paper, supposed to represent the opinions of the Treasury Bench, and conducted by one of its most distinguished members, expressed a decided opinion on this subject, so lately as last year, after having stated that France imported annually, on an average, 650,000 quarters of wheat. The Economist says—As a source of permanent supply, therefore, this fact alone would not induce us to look to France, and we are the less inclined to do so, when we consider the very backward state of agriculture in that country, and the extremely small produce of the land, which appears to have been stationary for nearly 60 years.But what is the fact?—how different the practice! I hold in my hand a return which I moved for during this Session of Parliament, and which will show a very different result from that predicted by the Economist; and here I may remark, that as the distress which I have brought under the notice of this House, dated principally from the time that French flour began to be largely imported, I shall confine myself to that part of the case, as I believe that the nearness of French ports, and other circumstances to which I will hereafter allude, renders her at present our most formidable competitor. The return I al- 801 lude to shows what has actually taken place in the importation of French:—
WHEAT FLOUR—REDUCED TO ITS EQUIVALENT IN QUARTERS OF WHEAT. Imported from France. 1849. 1850. Into England, qrs 216,987 435,575 Into Scotland, qrs 38,089 57,682 Into Ireland, qrs. 32,426 56,793 Into United Kingdom 287,502 550,050
These returns, therefore, show that in the first quarter of the present year there was imported of wheat flour, into the United Kingdom, very nearly as much as in the whole of the year 1849. I can now show the House a French account of their exportation:—The Moniteur of June 15th, 1851, concluded the official report of the Special Committee appointed to inquire into the question of admitting foreign corn into France for grinding and exportation, drawn by M. de la Rochette:—The following are the quantities given in this report of the exports of corn for the twelve months ending August 1, 1850, and for seven months of the agricultural year 1851:—
Imported from France. Last qr. of 1850 separately. First qr. of 1851. Into England, qrs 129,346 160,409 Into Scotland, qrs 18,106 38,161 Into Ireland, qrs. 17,571 27,979 Into United Kingdom. 165,023 226,549
It appears from these figures that the exportations from France during the seven months of the current year have exceeded those for the whole of the year 1849 by 1,080,089 quintals, showing an increase in two years of 54 per cent. In the agricultural year of 1850 the flour exported amounted to 902,481 quintals, and the wheat to 943,639 quintals. During the seven months of the agricultural year of 1851 the exports of flour from France amounted to 987,918 quintals, and the wheat to 1,183,902 quintals. These quan- 802 tities, reduced to their equivalents in imperial quarters, will stand thus:—
Year ending August 1, 1850. Seven months to March 1, 1851. Metrical quintals. Metrical quintals. Flour 902,481 987,918 Wheat 943,639 1,183,902 Maslin 3,488 2,021 Rye 84,190 75,597 Barley 93,860 219,832 Buckwheat 1,032 27,388 Maize 193,187 59,466 Potatoes 638,584 315,175 Legumes 83,171 100,147 Oats 31,532 83,807 Total 2,975,164 3,055,253
It would be seen too, by the following detailed statement, what was the exact amount of the bonus obtained in the various ports of France upon shipping flour instead of wheat, in consequence of the difference in the freight between the articles:—
12 months, 1850. 7 months, 1851. Wheat, qrs. 418,549 554,443 Flour, qrs. 506,494 525,122 Total 925,043 1,079,565
This last table shows how great an advantage the importer of flour has over the importer of grain, and how likely it is that the French manufacturer, having discovered this mine of wealth, is likely to pursue his advantage to a far greater extent than he does at present. It has been stated by one of Her Majesty's Ministers, in another place, that the French miller was restricted in the exportation of the produce grown on the French soil. But this is not all the case. A gentleman connected with the trade, having read that statement in the newspapers, wrote to France on the subject, and here is the answer to his inquiries:—
CHANNEL PORTS. Average freight of wheat per qr. 3s. 0d. Duty 1 0 4 0 Freight on produce thereof in fine flour 1s. 6d. Duty 0 11¼ 2 5¼ Bonus in favour of the French miller 1 6¾ MARSEILLES. Freight of wheat 4 6 Duty 1 0 5 6 Freight on fine flour 2 9¾ Duty 0 11¼ 3 9 Bonus 1 91st Question.—Is it permissible to receive foreign wheat in every French port to he ground in bond, or is that privilege only to be enjoyed by Marseilles?Answer.—Every bonded French port has the privilege. For instance, not only Marseilles, but Nantes, Havre, Dunkirk, &c.2nd Question.—What quantity of flour must be exported for a certain quantity of wheat imported?Answer.—70 per cent of wheat. For instance, for a quarter of wheat weighing 500 lbs., 350 lbs. of flour. The flour must be exported within 20 days from the time the wheat was imported. The flour must be exported from the 803 same port at which the wheat was landed, or from one of the same division. For example, it would not be practicable to import wheat into Marseilles, and avoid the duty by giving a bill of export for flour for Dunkirk. France will not allow any flour to be imported into France.This, therefore, is nothing more nor less than a regular system of grinding wheat in bond for exportation, and there is nothing to prevent the French from grinding the wheat that was imported from the Mediterranean ports and sending it into England. I do not pretend to say that the French had availed themselves of the power to any great extent of bonding their flour, but it is too evident that the practice is gradually increasing. Now, I have received a very able communication, written by a corn factor in Dublin, to a country miller, which shows the whole case better than I could possibly express it:—
§ "Dublin, 26th April, 1851.
§ —"I believe there can be no second opinion on the subject, that the trade has been most seriously interfered with. Our sales of Irish flour are now but little above the proportion of one to three of French, and I believe the same could be said by every other commission house in Dublin, whilst in Liverpool and Manchester, the great markets for Irish flours in former years, the proportions are still less. I know several large mills unworked, and many others but partially so, and I need not tell you as a miller, that until wheat, both native and foreign, recede fully 10 per cent below even the present low rates, this state of things cannot be otherwise, improve your style of manufacture how you will.
§ "Much has been said about the inferiority of our system of manufacturing, and I admit with truth—and much also of our choice of wheats from the granaries of the world, which I also assent to; but unless you as a miller can buy this wheat at such price as will admit of some margin for your cost and profit in manufacturing, your skill and good wheat will do you little good.
§ "Now considering that our legislators in speering into the future overlooked in toto in their calculations that source of supply which I may say has inundated our markets with flour, it appears to me safer to judge of facts as we find them, and from our opinions on the experience of the past twelve months of our trade; and I maintain that no miller in this country can buy wheat in any of our markets, take that wheat to his mill, grind it and re-sell it, in competition with the French flours now offering, with a profit, but on the contrary a loss. It may be said, much of this French flour is leaving a loss to the importer, and prices will go up when present stocks are reduced. Our house, however, hold consignments direct from more than our French manufacturer; and my opinion is, that having a 'surplus' they will consign it to our markets if we do not 'buy' it; and from some knowledge of the provincial parts of France I would say that if their surplus of wheat has admitted of their immense exports to us since in 1848, moderate improvement in their system of agriculture will greatly increase that surplus.
§ "Again, let us look to American supplies, and 804 I think it must be admitted that barrel flour can now be bought in Liverpool, in good condition, cheaper relatively than their wheats. The same applies to French flours and wheats; for example, the wheats from both these countries could not be bought at any of our ports of discharge during the past season, to form a fair miller's average, so as to produce flour equal to the French or American under 23s. to 23s. 6d. per barrel. We are selling French flour of prime quality at 11s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. per cwt., about equal to what such wheats would produce if well manufactured; and I believe your miller will confirm my assertion, that at 11s. 6d. the return from the barrel of wheat would not exceed 23s. 8d., and at 12s. 6d. but 25s., leaving in the first case nothing, and in the second but 1s. 6d. towards working, cost and profit, supposing the buyer to be a miller at the seaport; but if (as in your own case as well as that of many others who have embarked capital in mills at greater or less distances in the interior of the country) there is to be calculated additional cost on the raw material going to be manufactured, and cost of placing the flour on a market other than that of the immediate locality of the mill, the trade would be ruinous. American flour is now selling in Liverpool, sweet and in condition, at 19s. per barrel, or about 10s. 9d. per cwt. These remarks apply to the general quality of flour in use by bakers, but hold good, with all qualities relatively. No doubt much foreign and also native wheats have been sold, in good condition, from 19s. per barrel upwards; but such wheats would not give flour equal in quality to that alluded to. It may be fairly presumed that French millers, like our own, make a careful selection of the wheats in their respective districts, leaving but the middling and inferior for export, consequently the quality of their flour should be better than ours from French wheat: moreover, it is well known in the milling trade that it is on the home sale of coarse flours that the principal profit is made, the fine flour produced being sold at a comparatively low profit: the fair inference is, that the course of the French trade in this respect is similar to our own, and that they will always sell their fine flour comparatively cheaper than their coarse; in fact they must sell it, and it is more to their advantage to export flour than wheat, as in addition to retaining coarse food for their own population, there is a saving of freight of fully 8 stone on every barrel of 20 stone.
§ "These reasons, confirmed by the fact of continued importation on a very largo scale, say 50,000 sacks during the last 10 days between London, Liverpool and Dublin, lead to the conclusion that the pressure from the French millers will continue, and will increase; the result will be ruinous to the milling interests of this country, those in the interior falling first, coarse feeding will become scarce, and much enhanced in value, to the injury of the lower orders and agriculturists; the value of any wheat grown in these countries still further depressed, first, by the natural importation of food itself, and, secondly, by its perishable nature, as flour, unlike wheat, cannot he held over, and must at times be unfairly pressed on the markets to avoid loss by going out of condition.
§ "You must excuse this terrible scribble of a letter, but I have been both hurried and interrupted whilst writing.
§ "Yours truly,—."805
I now, Sir, come to one of the most curious features in the whole of this deplorable case, and that is, that so far from the ruin of the miller having contributed to the welfare of the poorer portion of the consumers, their condition has been actually made worse, and a great quantity of the coarser sorts of flour arid breadstuffs are kept out of the country, which were usually consumed by this class. The following is an extract from the circular of the Irish millers issued last May;—
As superfine flour only is imported, and as each quarter of wheat yields (according to the quality of extra fineness of the flour and the particular kind of wheat) from 300 down to 260 lbs. (and in some instances even less), now we take an average, and for convenience take 280 lbs. as the weight of a sack of flour, allowing the quarter of wheat to weigh 480 lbs. and waste 14 lbs., it is obvious that about 186 lbs. of the coarse flour, bran, &c, fitted for the consumption of our own population, and the manufacture of biscuit and feeding purposes, is kept out of the country by the import of the said sack of flour, instead of the quarter of wheat. This deficiency has to be met in two different ways, a certain portion of other food (Indian corn, &c.) has to be especially imported at a higher relative value than would otherwise have to be paid, in consequence of the especial demand, and the consumption has to be checked by the higher price paid for it, and by the enhanced value caused by scarcity of the coarse portion of the produce of the wheat manufactured here. This is shown by the fact that coarse flour and bran are actually as dear, and in some instances dearer, with superfines at 30s. per sack, than when they were at 50s. and 55s. The working classes and tradesmen, the farmer or householder who required bran and the coarsest flour for feeding, feel this most severely. The former has to consume Indian corn or flour, almost half bran; the latter was obliged to lessen his stock of pigs, cattle, &c, and to teed those he does keep at a disadvantage.
I have also received the following letter from Mr. Robinson, of Dundalk, dated the 26th of May, 1851:—
My Lord—I perceive with pleasure your notice of Motion for the 3rd June about the milling interest. For the last two months a hundred of bran was not to be had in Newry or Dundalk under 6s., whereas there was plenty first flour at 11s. 6d.—a circumstance quite unprecedented. Feeders of all cattle, and the poor, are by far the worst off, from want of the coarser flours and bran, whilst we are overwhelmed with the finest.
I can also show a most true and accurate estimate of the actual loss received by the poor by this state of things. The effects produced by the imports of flour from France, might be judged by the following extract from a letter of Mr. L. Crosthwaite, a highly-respectable merchant in Dublin. It was dated May 15, 1851:—
But taking the year 1850, the value of the import may be estimated as follows:—595,355 qrs. of wheat, at 40s. 1,190,710l.; 1,925,175 cwts. of flour, at 12s. 1,155,105l., making a total of 2,845,815l. The coarse flour and offal from the wheat that would be required to make the above quantity of fine flour, may be estimated at 1,036,632 cwts.; 1,036,632 cwts. at the average value of coarse flour and bran, even when wheat was dearer than at present, was 5s. 6d. per cwt., and would make thereat 285,073l.; but the actual.present selling price of such coarse flour and bran, is an average of 7s. 4d. per cwt., thus making 380,098l.; being an advanced price for the coarser food of 95,024l.; and the practical working of the system is, that the rich classes may, perhaps, effect a saving of about 1s. per cwt. on fine flour, being on 1,925,175 cwts., 90,258l.; whilst the poorer classes pay an advance of about 1s. 10d. per cwt. on 1,036,632 cwts. of coarse flour and bran, making 95,025l. This shows the advanced price which the lower orders of society in these countries are obliged to pay, in consequence of the encouragement given to the import of flour instead of wheat from France alone; but as the operation of the system has an effect on the prices of the coarse flour and offal of the produce of all the wheat ground in these countries, the actual enhanced prices paid by the poorer classes in Great Britain and Ireland amount to an enormous sum in the aggregate, and, moreover, additional expense and inconvenience arise in the rearing of young stock and poultry.
Now, Sir, it has repeatedly been stated that one reason why the French miller could beat us, was that they were superior.manufacturers. An impression has gone abroad that the British and Irish millers were inferior in intelligence to their French competitors; but I believe nothing can be more unfounded than that they are inferior to any millers on earth either in intelligence, in their machinery, or in their mode of working. I do not wonder at this Argument, for it has of late been quite the fashion with a certain party in this country to undervalue and run down our own workmen. The farmer, I well remember, has constantly been described as most deficient in intelligence, ignorant of his profession, uneducated and stupid, little better than the clod of the soil, and utterly.unequal to the management of a farm, that perhaps he and his fathers had lived on in honour and comfort for thirty generations; he was opposed to all progress, a thing of a past age—brutal, boorish, and superstitious, strongly suspected of an inordinate love of beer, and a belief in witchcraft. The British sailor was also said to be drunken and mutinous, and attempts were made during the debates on the Navigation Laws, to prove that they as a class were undeserving of the countenance and protection of this House; the same course is now
pursued with regard to the miller, and high authorities have told the British miller in (I must say) somewhat an insulting tone, that he should go to France and learn his trade. Now, Sir, I am happy to say that I am in a position to disprove this monstrous assertion, which I sincerely trust will never again be made.
§ The great object of the miller is the close separation of the farinaceous part of the grain from the skin, and the great test of good milling is the light weight of the bran (showing the complete separation of the flour from the bran). Tried by this criterion it was shown, by some returns laid before Sir Robert Peel in 1842, that the British millers were equal if not superior to the French. The produce of flour from the quarter of wheat of 480 lbs. was given from three different ports of the kingdom:—
|First, of fines||313||Superfine||290||White||316|
|Middlings, 3ds||17||Biscuit, 3ds||28||Coarse||24|
|Coarse, 3ds||15||Fine pollard||12||Sharp||14|
|Bran||70||Bran||70||Bran & shorts||76|
|BRUSSELS.||LILLE AND PARIS.|
|Fine or first||260||Firsts||300|
|Wheat.||Wheaten Meal or Flour.|
|1842||469,707 qrs.||164,690 cwt.|
|1850||595,355 qrs.||1,925,175 cwt.|
|1842,||22,202,292 lbs.||at 1s. 5d. per lb.||1,572,661l.|
|1850,||690,602 lbs.||at 1s. 5d. per lb.||48,917l.|
|From Great Britain and Ireland.||From Belgium.|
|1st Class 1 to 9½ less||41f.||80c.||19f.||36c.|
|2d Class 10 to 19½||52||80||27||04|
|3d Class 20 to 38||88||0||48||40|
|4th Class 40 to 58||137||50||33||60|
|5th Class 60 and upwards.||181||40||98||56|
|Per 100 Kilogrammes 220lbs.|
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House will, on a future day, resolve itself into a Committee, to take into consideration the present state of the Milling Interest in Ireland.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that though it was not his fortune to agree with the noble Lord either in his conclusion or his argument, yet he willingly bore testimony to the industry the noble Lord had evinced in making himself acquainted with the facts of the case, as well as to the temperate manner in which the subject had been introduced. The noble Lord's Motion should have been one not to ask the House to restore protection to the Irish millers, but to ask them to restore the Corn Laws. For he thought the noble Lord himself would acknowledge that, although his Motion merely asked the House to go into Committee to consider the propriety of restoring protection to the Irish millers, it was impossible they could separate the Irish millers from the English millers; and if they restored protection to the millers of one country, they must do the same with regard to those of the other. He thought the House would go further, and, whether Protectionists or Free-traders, would be prepared to say, that if any one was to be protected, the farmer had quite as good a right to protection as the miller; and if it should be the opinion of the House that they should retrace their recent steps and restore protection, he trusted that they would take some other opportunity of expressing that opinion than by assenting to the Motion of the noble Lord; for if they did not mean to restore protection as a principle, they did nothing but delude that class of men by proposals like the present one. If they thought, however, that they had no reason to repent of the course which had been pursued—if they thought that that course had borne its fruit in the general contentment and prosperity of the great body of Her Majesty's subjects, they would ill represent the people, whose interests they were bound to protect, if they were to falter or 813 hesitate in supporting that policy. He hoped that no one would go away with the impression that they could act consistently in supporting that policy, and at the same time agreeing to such a proposal as the noble Lord had now submitted to the House. He thought that he should be able to show, not that individual millers had not suffered—for he admitted that both in England and Ireland individual millers had, from the altered circumstances of their trade, sacrificed much of their capital, and were in a condition of distress—but then he would at the same time venture to say that there was not the slightest ground for asserting that the millers as a class had not quite as much employment in the last few years as at any part of the preceding period, or that there was any reason to suppose that, as a class, they are not just as well able to compete with foreign millers as any class of English manufacturers are with any class of foreign manufacturers who may be their rivals. The argument with respect to the taxes paid in this country, and the high price of labour here, obviously applied equally to all branches of manufacture. So far from there being a special case made out for the protection of millers, nothing more preposterous was ever attempted to be urged upon the House. He thought it could be proved that the millers of the United Kingdom had as much to do since the Corn Laws were repealed, as they ever had to do before. The produce grown in the United Kingdom had not diminished in the least. It was true there had been a greater importation of breadstuff's since that period, but they had mainly come in grain, and not in flour. He would state to the House the quantity of wheat and wheat-flour that had been imported into the United Kingdom during the last ten years. In 1841, of wheat, 2,409,754 quarters; wheat-flour, a quantity that was equivalent to 360,894 quarters; in 1842, of wheat, 2,717,454 quarters; wheat-flour, 322,815 quarters; in 1847, of wheat, 2,656,455 quarters; of wheat-flour, 1,501,271 quarters; in 1849, of wheat, 3,845,373 quarters; of wheat-flour, 959,097 quarters; in 1850, of wheat, 3,754,593 quarters imported; in the shape of flour, 1,101,445 quarters; for three months of 1851, ending 5th of April, of wheat, 1,105,182 quarters; of wheat-flour, 382,575 quarters. The grain that was imported went through the hands of the millers of this country, and added to their 814 business, besides the grinding they had of the produce of their own country. So much for the United Kingdom; but he had also a return from Ireland alone. In 1846 there were imported, 82,209 quarters of wheat, and 43,885 cwt. of wheat flour; in 1847, of wheat, 238,648 quarters, of wheat flour, 442,893 cwt.; in 1849, of wheat, 543,509 quarters, of wheat flour, 218,332 cwt. In the first three months of 1851, ending 5th of April, of grain 415,662 quarters; of flour, 99,373 quarters. A great alteration in the circumstances of trade was going on; those alterations, he believed, were in operation before any alteration had taken place in the law regulating the importation of corn. In many instances the smaller millers had been obliged to give up their trade in consequence of the establishment of steam mills and the introduction of machinery. He was informed that near Black friars-bridge an immense manufactory of this kind had been established, where they could turn out 7,000 or 8,000 sacks of wheat with 60 or 70 pair of stones. They were doing1 an immense business, and supplanting a number of persons who had been doing business elsewhere. He did not complain of any want of enterprise oh the part of their millers. He felt confident that they could compete with their foreign rivals; and he believed that this competition had made them look about and adopt some improvements from their neighbours which would undoubtedly prove to their advantage. The competition had operated as a stimulus to the milling interest. It had induced the millers to improve their machinery, and he was informed that the greatest improvements were taking place in milling, both here and abroad. A very ingenious plan had been introduced in the grinding operations in the dockyard at Deptford; and from experience of it hitherto, there was reason to believe that it was eminently successful, and that the result would be such as to induce them to continue it. He therefore could have no fear that, in the long run, the millers of this country would not successfully compete with the millers in all parts of the world. The noble Lord complained that the French only sent their fine flour to this Country, keeping the coarse at home; but he thought they might leave them to do just as they pleased in a matter of this description; for if it was worth their while to send it here, it would be sent. The noble Lord said that they took flour from France, but that 815 Franco would not take their linens, and that the French had adopted a restrictive policy towards them in return for their liberal system. He (Mr. Labouchere) thought it was for their interest to pursue that liberal system. The noble Lord had alluded to the Irish linen yarns; but he did not deny that the manufactures of Ireland had greatly prospered under the commercial system of the last few years, and that their exports had expanded, and that if France did not take them, some one else did take them. Had the noble Lord observed what was the increase of exports from this country to France during the last few years? If he (Mr, Labouchere) had known that the noble Lord would have brought forward the subject so prominently, he would have been prepared with the figures, but he must quote from memory. Looking back for a period of about sixteen years—since the time their commercial system was liberalised—the exports from this country to France had increased from about 400,000l. to 2,000,000l. He wished it was more, for the sake of France as well as for the sake of his own country. He regretted the restrictive policy to which France clung with so much tenacity; he regretted it for the sake of France as well as for the sake of England. They had an interest in the pursuit of peaceable industry by that great and ingenious nation that was their nearest neighbour; but if they were desirous for the destruction of France, or felt an interest in paralysing the commercial power of that country, they would rejoice to see her cling to a system which was incompatible with any great extension of her manufactures or commercial interests. As long as she did not supply herself with iron and coal, the great sinews of industry, as cheaply as other countries, she could never hope to compete with those countries in the great trade that was open to all the world. France might continue her restrictions with respect to navigation, by which she was able, in petty branches of commerce, to exclude all rivals; but she would never be able to enter the great field of competition with England and America, so long as she imposed upon herself shackles which those countries had the moral courage and the wisdom to get rid of. He really did not know that it was necessary for him to detain the House at any length on this subject. He was disposed to place his opposition to the Motion on no narrow exclusion, or on minute cal- 816 culations, but on those broad principles on which he hoped the House would take its stand, and resist any attempt that was made to break them down. The noble Lord had talked of the partial injury which the free-trade measures had brought upon particular classes of the community; any change in commerce, even from bad to good, must always produce that result to a certain extent. But surely they were not without their compensation. It was but the other day he saw a document, not prepared in any Government office, not brought forward by men desirous of supporting any system of political economy or any party in the State, but by men engaged solely in a work of benevolence and charity; he meant the report that was made by those excellent persons who were occupied as district visitors, in visiting the haunts of the poorest and most distressed portions of the population that inhabit this mighty city. He was most forcibly struck with the almost uniform tenor of that report. There was a succession of queries with regard to the condition of the humbler classes of the community in this city within the last two years, as compared with preceding periods; and there were the answers given to those queries by medical men, clergymen, and men of all sorts and descriptions who were engaged in this charitable office; and they almost all stated that a great and manifest improvement had taken place in their physical condition, in their outward appearance, in their moral habits, in their cleanliness—in fact, in every particular that constitutes the well-being and comfort of human beings. In very many instances they traced the improvements that had taken place directly to the increased means of obtaining provisions cheaply which those people have had during the last three years. These were the real objects which it was worth the while of the House to legislate for; and if the House, as he believed, were satisfied that by recent legislation they had obtained those objeects, and had promoted not only the material comfort, but the moral condition and practical contentment, of the great body of their countrymen, he hoped they would pause before they were moved, by any partial case being stated of any particular set of men in this country, to sacrifice that which ought to be the main object of all their deliberations, namely, the general well-being of the great body of the people. He therefore called upon the House not to support the Motion 817 of the noble Lord, and he should feel it his duty to give it the most decided negative.
§ MR. JOHN STUART
would call the attention of the House to a petition which he had presented from Newark, which stated that free trade was operating injuriously on all classes in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had admitted the distress of the millers, but told them to console themselves with the general prosperity. If the condition of the London poor was improved, he rejoiced at it, but he doubted the fact. All the noble Lord (Lord Naas) sought by his Motion was an inquiry into the condition of the milling interest in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) took alarm, and said they might as well ask the repeal of the Corn Laws; but why should not the whole question be raised? The Government had admitted the agricultural distress in Her Majesty's Speech; what had they done to relieve it? The case of the miller was the same with that of the farmer, the landowner, the mortgagee whose capital was invested in land, and that of every tradesman depending on the agricultural interest. It was, therefore, no small class question, but one affecting a class three times as numerous as any other. The complaints of such a body ought at least to be respectfully attended to, and calmly and deliberately discussed. Nothing of the kind had been done in the present Session. True, the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had been defeated by only a very small majority; but in the other House the case of the agriculturist had never been brought forward at all, and hence the responsibility thrown on this House was the greater. It would never do for a Government to disregard suffering and complaining classes. Experience showed the fatal result of so doing in the case of the West India interest, which was entirely ruined. Now, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) told them, "You have nothing to do but submit to it; for there can be no great fiscal change without ruin to some class." The ruin of classes was a very formidable consideration for a Government. What was the condition of Ireland as a country? The provision trade of Ireland had been destroyed by the legislation which opened the ports of the West Indies, for by that means the Irish provision merchants were undersold in the West India market. By a singular retribution, the 818 cry for free trade had begun with the now ruined West India interest, who closed their markets against Irish produce; let another class, who had clamoured for free trade, be warned in time and open their eyes. No one would deny that the commercial legislation had seriously increased the embarrassments of Ireland. The millers of that country were deeply suffering; and those who refused their request would incur a heavy responsibility. It was truly said the millers would be the last to complain, as free trade brought them the raw material of their trade. Nevertheless, they did complain, either with or without reason; inquiry ought therefore to take place. The millers now petitioning were free-traders not long ago. The Mayor of Stockport—the borough formerly represented by Mr. Cobden—was one of those who now begged for a reconsideration of the free-trade system. Not only in France, but in the United States, all the most eminent statesmen were in favour of a protection to their own industry, and they prognosticated that before long a general change would take place in the popular feeling here, and that the Legislature would be compelled to reopen the question of free trade. The parties now complaining wished not for consideration of their own particular case, but that of the whole question. It should be remembered, that whatever might be our present prosperity, it might have been far greater but for the free-trade system. He recommended the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, to study the Transatlantic writers, one of whose works well expressed the object aimed at by his (Mr. Stuart's) noble Friend, namely, the Harmony of Interests, Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Commercial. Ministers appeared to have had for a text-book Franklin's Rules for making a Great Empire a Little One; and the rule "If people make complaints, don't listen to them, and tell them they must suffer," had been faithfully worked out in Ireland. The Minister who was the author of the recent changes in their commercial system had promised the agricultural interest compensation for some portion of the loss it had sustained, and had read from Adam Smith to show that that interest was a class the least obnoxious to a charge of monopoly. The noble Lord at the head of the Government must himself recognise the truth of the description that was referred to by the late Sir Robert 819 Peel. It was only in Ireland that the free-trade system had had its full scope, and its result was evident. It was to be feared that the fate of Ireland might foreshadow that of England, from the same cause. They admitted the distress, but applied Franklin's rule, and said that classes must of necessity be ruined by great commercial changes. But was it necessary, for the benefit of all, or compatible with the benefit of all, that class after class should be ruined? Was three-fourths of the property of the kingdom to be swept away, and the Government quietly to look on? He had never before heard it propounded as a principle of Government that you must ruin somebody. Such a course was the surest they could adopt to make a great empire a little one. What the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) said about free trade being a general benefit, was mere rhodomontade; for he had referred to no facts and adduced no arguments that established his proposition. It would be a heavy responsibility to refuse this Motion; but he trusted the Government would feel themselves bound to accede to the proposition of the noble Lord. It was said the labouring classes were better off than formerly, and no doubt there was not that distress amongst agricultural labourers that might have been anticipated; but the reason was that the landed proprietors spent their money in the employment of the labourers, without the least hope of thereby increasing the value of their estates. How did Ministers mean to answer this fact? They had reduced the value of land in Ireland to twelve years' purchase, but did they thereby enhance the value of land in England? On that very day, an English estate was put up for sale under judicial authority, and the reserved price was fixed at 70,000l., but the highest bidding that could be obtained for this choice land in Suffolk was 60,000l. The condition of England was rapidly approaching that of Ireland, which under the present system of commercial legislation was most deplorable. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, strong in the numerical force of his party, should declare his determination to negative this Motion for inquiring into the admitted distress of the agricultural class. He thought a day of reckoning would come to both Ministerial and Opposition Members, for neglecting, on both sides, the agricultural interests, He (Mr. 820 Stuart) did not envy the Minister or the individual Member who might vote against that Motion, looking forward to the day of reckoning which his constituents would certainly exact from him. The celebrated Adam Smith had stated—That the country gentlemen and farmers were of all people the least subject to the wretched spirit of monopoly. Dispersed in different parts of the country they could not so easily combine as the merchants and manufacturers collected in large towns, and who, actuated by that exclusive corporation spirit which prevailed, naturally endeavoured to obtain against all their countrymen the same exclusive privileges which they possessed against the inhabitants of all the other towns.In the United States they possess most accurate information with respect to the state of trade in this country. In the Patent Office of the United States they would find a more accurate description of the trade of Liverpool than could be found anywhere else. How did it happen that in the United States—where the controversy was carried on between the opposing commercial systems by men of great intelligence and ability—the result was arrived at that our legislation of 1846, as regarded the corn laws, was based on a total misrepresentation of the facts? It was asserted by all classes that the agricultural body had been sacrificed to the manufacturing interests of Manchester, who were now engaged in forwarding subscriptions to America, there to maintain a class of writers who were engaged in the feeble attempt to disseminate to their full extent the principles of free trade in that country. He held in his hand a transatlantic publication (the author of which was Mr. Carey) warning his fellow-countrymen by the impending fate of England, showing that the manufacturers of England were engaged in a struggle to maintain themselves as the manufacturers of all the world, at the expense of the commercial interest; and the inference derived from it by the American philosopher was ruin to England. Notwithstanding the taunts of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere), he (Mr. Stuart) thought that English machinery and English millers were better than the French, and in support of that assertion he referred to a statement that had been put forward by a man eminent as a miller and a capitalist in Newark, Mr. Thorpe. It was to this effect:—Lord Grey had told the House of Lords that the English millers did not know their business, and held up the French millers as superior. From what he (Mr. Thorpe) saw of French milling, he could only say that were English millers to per- 821 form their work in such a way, he, for his part, would long since have been in the Gazette. The French milling he considered would be disgraceful to English millers. Let the Government only take away the burdens under which they laboured, and place them on an equality with the French millers, and the English would soon leave them where they always left them—second.That was the opinion of an eminent man in the milling interest; and, therefore, he did not think it fair that men suffering as they were just now, should be taunted in such a manner. The proposition before the House only invited an inquiry, and if it were negatived, a great responsibility would be incurred by Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
supported the Motion, but conceived there was nothing in it which justified the allusions to the West Indies, to the cotton spinners of Manchester, to the philosopher of America, or to the shipping interest, all of which formed the staple of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newark (Mr. J. Stuart). It might be true that an estate in Suffolk which had been worth 70.000l. was reduced by Chancery management to 60,000l., but they had not now to consider the depreciation that had taken place in the value of that estate, or of any other estate. He believed that the Irish Members who voted for free trade did well, upon a general consideration of what was for the common good, by giving their votes for it; and in voting for the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Naas), he (Mr. Anstey) thought he was doing nothing to endanger that measure. He could not see how a measure that had cheapened wheat could injure the millers. He thought it could be proved before a Committee that it was not by the alteration of the Corn Laws they were a suffering interest, but in consequence of the mischievous interference of Parliament in the local concerns of the Irish people. It was caused also by the want of capital, which want was increasing; and he believed that before a Committee facts would be elicited to establish what he stated. There was nothing in the Resolution that would oblige the House to refer to any asserted case of distress; and he would be prepared to state in Committee his views of that distress, and any other Member might do the same. He hoped he should be able to satisfy the millers that they were mistaken in supposing that the remission of the former high duties on flour had any effect whatever in producing their present and undeniable distress. They were mistaken also 822 in supposing that the calamity was more than temporary, and it could be removed without interfering with that liberty of commerce from which all classes had derived such undeniable advantages.
§ MR. ROCHE
would not enter into the general question of free trade or protection. The hon. and learned Member for Newark (Mr. J. Stuart) said that all the distress in Ireland arose from the late changes in our commercial policy. He entirely dissented from that statement. The diminution of the population of Ireland arose first from a famine, consequent on a dreadful visitation on the staple article of food in that country, which famine was mitigated, not aggravated, by the present commercial policy, and also from the unsatisfactory relation of landlord and tenant in that country. The real question now before the House was, whether the importation of foreign flour to this country was to be prevented? [An Hon. MEMBER: No, no!] The object of the Motion of the noble Lord was to prevent the introduction of foreign corn into this country. He (Mr. Roche) had not been able to see that any special case of exemption bad been made out in favour of this particular class. As a farmer, as a producer of wheat, he denied that wheat was a raw material at all. Why was the miller to have that protection which he, as a farmer, could not have? It had eked out of the speeches of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) and the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. Stuart), that the miller was no more a philanthropist than any one else. He was' a free-trader so long as he did not expect foreign competition. By specially protecting the miller, they would place in his hand a rod which he would doubtless take every opportunity of laying on the shoulders of the farmer. The noble Lord said that the British miller was more experienced, and had better machinery, than the foreign miller. Why, then, if such was the case, did he require protection? The fact was this, that the millers of Ireland had not applied themselves with the same energy to improve their machinery as the millers of France and other countries had, and they were now consequently suffering for it. At the present moment many millers in Ireland were improving their machinery, and therefore the success of the Motion of the noble Lord would be injurious; it would only tend to perpetuate a bad system in Ireland. If the country wished to retrace its free-trade policy, that question ought 823 to be decided by the country at the next election—and not by such piece-meal Motions as the present.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the hon. Member for Cork was a bad interpreter; he declared that the object of the Motion of the noble Member for Kildare was to give exclusive protection to the miller as against the farmer. The noble Lord himself had stated, that that was not his object; and the President of the Board of Trade backed the noble Lord's assertion by condemning the tendency of the Motion, as in effect proposing the extension of protection, not to the milling interest only, but to the farmer and to the agricultural interest generally. The hon. Member was reduced to the plea that the distress of the Irish millers was owing, not to the effects of legislation (though the facts contradicted him), but to the stupidity and sloth of the Irish millers. He (Mr. Newdegate) supposed the hon. Member was anxious to stimulate the Irish millers. Perhaps the millers of Cork might return the compliment with advantage, by stimulating the intellect of their Representative. The facts of the case before the House appeared to him (Mr. Newdegate) clear enough. It appeared from the return of the Board of Trade, that the importation from abroad into the United Kingdom, in 1849, was—
In 1845 the importations were of—
Wheat 3,845,378 qrs. Wheat flour 3,349,839 cwt. Oats 1,267,106 qrs. Oatmeal 40,229 cwt.
Showing an increase in wheat of 339 per cent; in wheat flour, 244 per cent; in oats, 113 per cent; and in oatmeal, 1,233 per cent since the repeal of the corn laws. The importation from Ireland into Great Britain in 1845 was—
Wheat 871,710 qrs. Wheat flour 945,864 cwt. Oats 590,466 qrs. Oatmeal 3,052 cwt.
In 1849 it was—
Wheat 372,719 qrs. Wheat flour 1,422,378 cwt. Oats 1,679,958 qrs. Oatmeal 1,059,184 cwt.
Showing a decrease in the importation from Ireland in 1849, as compared with 1845, of wheat, decrease, 73 per cent; 824 wheat flour, 66 per cent; oats, 61 per cent; oatmeal, 32 per cent. It might be said, that the increased importation of foreign grain tended to the advantage of the milling interest, though to the injury of the agricultural interest of Ireland; but the noble Mover had shown how little ground there was for this assertion; no such argument could be used with respect to the importation of wheat flour and oatmeal, the articles manufactured by the miller. The increase of the importation from abroad of wheat flour and oatmeal was scarcely less enormous than that of grain. There was an excess of importation of wheat flour and oatmeal from abroad, of 2,441,152 cwt.; while the diminution of the importation from Ireland into Great Britain in 1849, as compared with 1845, was 1,305,203 cwt. The decrease of the Irish supply of wheat flour and oatmeal was equal to one-half of the increase of the foreign supply on a comparison of 1845 and 1849. In 1849 there were imported from foreign parts, 3,390,068 cwt. of wheat flour and oatmeal, more than threefold the 948,916 cwts., imported in 1845. In 1845 there was imported from Ireland, 2,481,562 cwt. of wheat flour and oatmeal, while in 1849 there was only 1,176,359. This showed that the foreign supply in 1849 to the United Kingdom was threefold that of 1845, while the Irish supply to Great Britain had fallen off one-half. He (Mr. Newdegate) was here anxious to advert to bold and bald assertion, frequently made by free-traders, with respect to the increased importation of breadstuffs. They said, True, this increased importation of four or five million quarters has taken place, but it has been consumed: the inference is, that without it four or five million people would have suffered from hunger. But a cursory review of the state of the supply of home-grown and of the wheat imported from abroad, would show, that without this excessive importation, had the corn laws not been repealed, this country would not have suffered from famine, but would have been supplied with wheat grown at home instead of wheat imported. He (Mr. Newdegate) had not the accounts for Scotland relating to the sales of wheat, which he regretted, because the improvement and extension of agriculture in Scotland up to 1846 was proverbial, and the evidence of it would have strengthened his case. He adverted to the returns of 1849, as the last furnished by the Government to the House. 825
Wheat 101,865 qrs. Wheat flour 460,534 cwt. Oats 666,542 qrs. Oatmeal 715,825 cwt.
1845. Wheat returned as sold in the 290 markets of England and Wales 6,666,240 qrs. Wheat returned as sold in the 290 markets of Irish growth imported 779,113 7,445,353 Wheat and flour imported from abroad 1,141,957* Total 8,587,310 *Equal to one-eighth of total consumption.
The demand for and consumption of this increased quantity of foreign wheat and flour was easily accounted for by the increase of the population in the five years, which was about one million, and equal to one quarter per head. Now, this increased demand for one million quarters, would, if there is any truth in reasoning from analogy, have been supplied by the extension and improvement of our domestic agriculture, had not the corn laws been repealed, as was proved by the increased supply furnished by our own internal agriculture during the three years before the repeal of the corn laws.
1849. Wheat sold in the 290 markets 4,453,982 qrs. Wheat sold in the 290 markets of Irish growth 233,446 Wheat and flour imported from abroad 4,835,280* Total 9,522,708 Increase of importation of foreign wheat and flour in 1849 over 1845 935,398 qrs. *Equal to one-half of total consumption.
THE QUANTITIES SOLD IN THE 290 MARKETS OF ENGLAND AND WALES. Qrs. 1843 5,302,298 1844 5,456,307 1845 6,666,240* * Increase of 1845 over 1843 1,363,942.
If, therefore, the improvement of agriculture had not been checked by the interference of the Legislature in 1846, there could be no doubt the home supply would have kept pace with the population; for 826 there was no reason to doubt that the increased production of home agriculture by improvement during the four years ending with 1849 would have been tantamount to the increased production of the three years ending with 1845, and more than equal to the increased demand. That was his answer to the bold assertion that the supply was wanted, and that it was eaten; and to the false inference that it could not have been supplied on reasonable terms, otherwise than from foreign countries, which was put forth in palliation of the disadvantages and danger incurred by the dependence of the people of this country upon foreigners for food. Another fact was, that France had, instead of being an importing country, become an exporting country in the last five years. Alexandre de Jonnés, the chief commissioner deputed by the Minister of Agriculture, in 1849, to take a survey of the agricultural departments, says, in his official report, L' Agriculture Française, p. 414:—
QUANTITIES OF WHEAT OF IRISH GROWTH IMPORTED INTO GREAT BRITAIN. Qrs. 1843 413,466 1844 440,153 1845 779,113 Qrs. 1845 779,113 Deduct 1843 413,466 Increase of 1845 over 1843 365,647 Add increase of wheat as sold in the 290 markets in 1845 above 1843 1,363,942 Total increase of home production in 1845 above that of 1843 1,729,589In 1845, when I first made my official survey, I had found that France hardly produced as much corn as is necessary for her consumption. [France imported corn in 1844 in value 17,000,000f.] But since that period a new era has begun in our agriculture, owing to the repeal of the English corn laws. More than 3,000,000 of hectares (about 5,000,000 English acres) of waste land in the southern departments', from Languedoc to Avignon and Pictou, have now been cleared and made arable; and France, from being an importing country of grain, has now became an exporting, sending the produce of more than a million of quarters of wheat, besides vast quantities of flour, to the English markets.But this evidence of the transfer of the supply of corn from our own to foreign lands was not confined to France. Baron Reden, Speaker of the Diet at Berlin, in his valuable work, German Statistics for 1850, says (p. 145)—How far England had benefited by the repeal of the corn laws in 1846, time will teach us, while the immediate advantages derived from it are reaped by the agricultural States of Northern Europe, such as Prussia, Denmark, and Russia. Prussia produced in 1845, 3,500,000 qrs. of wheat; in 1849, more than 5,000,000 qrs. Denmark produced in 1845, 1,700,000 qrs.; in 1850, 2,500,000 qrs. Russia exported corn in 1841, in value, equal to 10,382,000 roubles silver; in 1842, equal to 12,191,000 roubles; in 1843, equal to 18,899,000 roubles; in 1844 and 1845 nearly the same; but in 1846, equal to 20,000,000 roubles; in 1847, equal to 25,000,000 roubles; 1848, 30,000,000 roubles; and in 1849, 33,000,000 roubles.The increased produce of France was caused by the opening of the English ports, and so was that of the northern countries 827 of Europe, at the expense of the English agriculturists; and if the French producer was embarrassed by lowness of price, that was occasioned by the competition of other foreign produce in our markets, which distressed the French as well as the English agriculturist. The case of the English millers had been touched upon during this debate. They had found it necessary to form a league for the common defence against the evils entailed by legislation. He (Mr. Newdegate) would not further take up the time of the House by citing their representations of distress, than by reading the postscript of a very remarkable letter, addressed this spring by a miller at Wakefield, Mr. Jackson, to the hon. Member for the West Riding. Mr. Jackson had been a free-trader and an active supporter of that hon. Member, and was one of his constituents. He had been to France, last winter, to examine the causes and state of the competition from which the milling interest suffered. This was the postscript to Mr. Jackson's letter:—P.S.—I had meant to have given you my reason for the superior position of the French. They have the millstones without duty; we have them from that country. They only pay their best workmen 15 francs per week, while we pay 25s. They pay no poor-rates for their large mills, and they have advantage that we have, that I know of. I might just refer you to a distinction that has been conferred on a French miller by the President of the French Republic this last week. M. Parbleu, jun., no less than the Legion of Honour, for the impetus he has given to the manufacture of flour in France for exportation. There are no such distinctions as these in England to millers; their distinction will be the Gazette."Such was the representation made by an English miller, a quondam free-trader, to the hon. Member for the West Riding, and his assertions and experience were supported by those of the great body of his class in England. The noble Lord the Member for Kildare had done this country good service and himself great credit by the ability, with which he had stated the case of the Irish millers; and he (Mr. Newdegate) had great pleasure in supporting his Motion.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, that he could Hot possibly understand how the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House could make out that the greater importation of wheat, which he had said had taken place in 1849, as compared with 1845, could be injurious to the milling interest of this country. He knew that the hon. Gentleman also said that a great importa- 828 tion of flour had taken place; but even taking both together, the result would show an increased trade in favour of the miller. The noble Lord who introduced the question rested his case principally on the state of the milling interest of France, and on the advantages which the French millers possessed, in consequence of the state of the French laws, over the English millers. Now, it was of importance that the House should clearly understand the position of the French miller and the French law, in order that they should not be misled by the statements of the noble Lord in this respect. France enjoyed a protection to the utmost extent that the Legislature could give, and therefore, according to the noble Lord's views, that country should consequently enjoy the greatest agricultural prosperity. But the fact was not so, for if the English farmer was suffering, the French farmer was suffering still more. The last report of the Minister of Commerce described in the most deplorable terms the existing state of French agriculture, and the only suggestion made as a remedy was one which he believed the House would only be inclined to smile at—that the laws regulating the stocks to be kept on hand by millers should be made more stringent, and the stocks augmented. The noble Lord had stated correctly that, by the law of France, the millers of that country could import wheat into certain ports for the purpose of having it ground and re-exported in the shape of flour. But the farmers of France, during the recent agricultural distress in that country, conceived that the state of the law enabled wheat to be introduced which was not afterwards exported in the shape of flour, and they considered that their own distress was occasioned partly from this cause. An inquiry was consequently set on foot, and the result was that the law was modified, although the inquiry had not by any means established the fact that the privilege given to the millers was the cause of the low price of wheat. Now he admitted the fact that for three or four years the export of flour manufactured in bond in France had increased, and would probably still further increase. But what conclusion did he draw from that? The noble (Lord Naas) said, that the French mills were inferior to the English in every respect. But if French millers could bring wheat from Odessa, pay the expense of keeping it in bond, and afterwards re-export it in the shape of flour, and undersell the English 829 miller in this country, there must he a great superiority somewhere. He was willing to admit that the first-class mills of France were known as English mills, but at the same time they should not forget that foreign countries frequently improved upon the improvements originally introduced in this country. There could be no doubt that the dryness of the French climate gave the French a great superiority in the sieving of their flour; but he had that day witnessed an experiment at the Government mill at Deptford, in which by an ingenious application of machinery, that natural superiority of the French climate was more than counterbalanced. The experiment was tried by a comparison of six pair of stones working on the old system, and six pair working on the new process. The result was that by the ordinary method, 147 hours, including eight hours for dressing, were consumed in grinding 500 quarters of wheat, whereas by the new invention only 79½ hours were consumed. The labour employed under the old plan was eight men, and under the new system only two men and a boy; and the coals consumed were as twenty-six to twenty tons. But this was not all, for under the new system the dust of the mill was entirely got rid of, and wheat that produced 10s. a quarter less in the market, was made into flour equal in quality to that of the high-priced wheat. It lost, of course in quantity, but that loss was in the offal, and not in the flour. He had been assured by a gentleman who had a mill at Reading on the ordinary principle, and a small mill in London on the patent principle, that he had ground a portion of the same quantity of wheat at each mill, and had been enabled to command a price of 2s. or 3s. a sack more in the London market for the flour ground on the new system, than for that ground at the old mill. In reply to the representations made as to the distress of the millowners, he might remind the House that during the last three or four years the millers had been rapidly extending their means of manufacture. Several large steam mills had been built in the metropolis itself, and an extensive mill, containing between sixty and seventy pairs of stones, was now in course of erection in the very heart of the city of London, within a short distance of Black friars-bridge. He thought, therefore, that the millers did not appear to be very much alarmed at foreign competition. The English millers had in many respects consider- 830 able advantages over those of France. The French millers, for instance, had to pay a large import duty upon the coal they consumed; there were also heavy taxes upon iron and machinery; and the cost of building a mill in France was, he believed, 30 or 40 per cent more than in England. The noble Lord had referred to the report to the French Government on grinding in bond; but he had fallen into a singular mistake in supposing that hard wheat, which was not to be ground in bond, was the worst kind, the fact being that it was very superior to the soft. Hence the alarm of the noble Lord at the best kinds of flour only coming here, was unfounded. It was said there were peculiar charges on wheat which did not attach to flour. The only one he knew of was the charge made by the city of London for metage, but that was purely local. A miller paid altogether 38l. 10s. for importing 1,000 qrs. of wheat; for 1,400 sacks of flour, which was about equivalent, the total charge was 52l. 10s. It was, therefore, impossible to say that the English miller laboured under any disadvantage compared with those abroad. He had one great advantage, however, for he saw how the trade must be done in future, and was preparing to do it. There were, however, some reasons which might account for the depression existing in the milling trade of Ireland at this moment. A letter quoted by the noble Lord himself who brought forward the Motion said, "French flour is so low, Irish wheat so little grown, and the labourers all gone to America." No doubt there had been a considerable diminution in the cultivation of wheat in Ireland, and this sufficed to account for much of the difficulty with which the milling interest was at present struggling. He believed that similar effects had been experienced in England. It had been calculated that the supply of home-grown wheat in the country towns had fallen off by 500,000 quarters; and he believed that the country millers had suffered in some degree from this cause.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
rejoiced that the attention of the House should have been called to this subject. All the fault he found with the noble Lord's Motion was that it did not go far enough. He had no particular sympathy with the millers, as they were at first most violent free-traders. He thought that protection should not only be given to them, but to every interest id. Ireland. He doubted the accounts which 831 had been given as to the increased comfort and contentment of the people in the metropolis; articles were cheaper, and if the shopkeepers did not lose by them, the artisan did. He advocated this as the only means of restoring some degree of prosperity to the trader, and of comfort to the working man. Where, he asked, was the increased comfort and contentment boasted of in Ireland as the consequence of free trade? Was such improvement shown by an increase in the Customs and Excise? Was it proved by the scarcity of employment—the waning deposits in the savings banks—the crime lists of the assizes, or the 2,500,000l., which would be lost to Ireland by the falling-off in the cultivation of corn? Was it proved by the levy of 22s. in the pound for poor-rates, and by the amount of emigration? The millers were not protected, like the manufacturers, by ten per cent duty on the manufactured articles from abroad. They purchased the millstones from France, and paid duty on them. He wished to see the inquiry proposed by the noble Lord extended to the effects of free-trade in all its branches, and he believed the result at which they arrived would be that it was ruining every interest in Ireland.
§ LORD NAAS
* Sir, the hon. Member for Westbury has made out a capital case for the prosperity of the milling trade, and has proved to demonstration apparently if the millers are not thriving, they ought to be. But, unfortunately for the argument, the opposite is the case, and my best answer to his assertion and his presumption is, that, notwithstanding the increased importations of raw grain, notwithstanding the many causes which, according to the hon. Member, ought to promote his prosperity, the miller never was in so evil a plight; and my statement, which has not been in the least degree controverted, is worth all the abstract theories, hypothetical cases, and ingenious calculations that can be brought against me. He has alluded to the Blackfriars-bridge mill, and says, with some plausibility, that a trade cannot be declining which can show a new manufactory rising up capable of grinding such an immense quantity of corn, and moved by such extensive machinery; but I must remind the hon. Member, that that mill was begun in 1846, before free trade was allowed, and its erection was continued during a time when the millers thought that they would profit by the new system, and make a good thing of free trade. How 832 they have altered their opinion of late, the petitions with which the table of the House is covered clearly show. Though I have an insuperable objection to mention the names of private individuals in this House, I must (as the hon. Gentleman has mentioned Mr. White's name) say that that gentleman, whose character and position is unrivalled in the trade, is not at all satisfied with the present state of things. Why, Sir, it is notorious that that gentleman attended and presided at, not very long ago, a meeting in Mark Lane, to take into consideration the depressed state of this great interest, and to devise means for bringing the case before the public. To Mr. White, therefore, I leave the hon. Gentleman—he could not be in better hands, and I can only hope that he will follow his advice and attend to his suggestions. With regard to Bovill's Patent, so confidently put forward by hon. Members on the other side as a means whereby we shall be able to compete with France, I can only say, that a considerable doubt as to its efficiency still exists. I should be very sorry to say anything calculated to injure that gentleman or his invention, which doubtless possesses merit. But I am bound to remember that it has been tried and found wanting by Mr. Kidd, of Isleworth; Mr. Thorpe, of Newark; Mr. Packman, of Eu; Mr. Charrington, of Carshalton; and several other millers of experience. It may be of some use to bad millers, but it is the greatest absurdity to imagine that it is of sufficient value to place the British miller on an equal footing with his French competitor. Sir, it may be said of this as of all other improvements in machinery and mode of manufacture, that the French will have them as soon as we ourselves, if they are of any value. Why, Sir, M. D'Arblay himself is actually at this moment in this country making inquiries regarding Bovill's Patent, in order, if he approves of it, to adopt it in his own mills; so that our improved machinery cannot alter the present relative position of the trade in the two countries. Sir, I entreat the House not to reject this Motion. My statement—my assertion—that this great interest is in a state of unexampled depression, remains uncontroverted—the Minister has himself admitted it; its importance is undoubted—its distress fully demonstrated; and I would fain hope that a House even constituted as this is, containing a large majority of Members professing to approve of the new commercial 833 system, will have the generosity to inquire into a circumstance which they themselves then never contemplated, when the measure was passed—into misfortunes occasioned by their own acts.
§ Question put:—The House divided:—Ayes 93; Noes 128: Majority 35.
|List of the AYES.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Jones, Capt.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Langton, W. H. P. G.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Lennox, Lord A. G.|
|Bankes, G.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Baring, T.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Bateson, T.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Magan, W. H.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Meagher, T.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Boyd, J.||Manners, Lord G.|
|Bramston, T. W.||March, Earl of|
|Brisco, M.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Brooke, Lord||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Mundy, W.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Nugent, Sir P.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||O'Brien, J.|
|Butler, P. S.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Packe, C. W.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Conolly, T.||Portal, M.|
|Dick, Q.||Prime, R.|
|Disraeli, B.||Renton, J. C.|
|Dundas, G.||Reynolds, J.|
|Dunne, Col.||Rushout, Capt.|
|Edwards, H.||Scully, F.|
|Forbes, W.||Seaham, Visct.|
|Freshfield, J. W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Smyth, J. G.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Spooner, R.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Stafford, A.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Stuart, J.|
|Goold, W.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Taylor, Col.|
|Grogan, E.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Hallewell, E. G.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Vyvvan, Sir R. R.|
|Heneage, E.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Wynn, H. W. W.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||TELLERS.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Naas, Lord|
|Hudson, G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Blackstone, W. S.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Blair, S.|
|Alcock, T.||Bouverie, hon. E. P.|
|Anderson, A.||Boyle, hon. Col.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Brotherton, J.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Brown, W.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Bunbury, E. H.|
|Bell, J.||Cardwell, E.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Carter, J. B.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Cavendish, hon. C. C.|
|Birch, Sir T.B.||Cavendish, W. G.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Martin, J.|
|Childers, J. W.||Matheson, Col.|
|Clay, J.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Cobden, R.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Cowan, C.||Morris, D.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Osborne, R.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Dawes, E.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Denison, J. E.||Parker, J.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Duncan, G.||Perfect, R.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Pinney, W.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Ponsonby, hon. C. F.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Power, Dr.|
|Ellis, J.||Price, Sir R.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Ricardo, O.|
|Evans, J.||Rice, E. R.|
|Ewart, W.||Rich, H.|
|Fergus, J.||Roche, E. B.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Forster, M.||Salwey, Col.|
|Freestun, Col.||Sandars, J.|
|Geach, C.||Scholefield, W.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Seymour, Lord|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Smith, J. A.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Grey, R. W.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Grosvenor, Earl||Tancred, H. W.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Thompson, Col.|
|Hallyburton, Lord J. F.||Thornely, T.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Trevor, hon. T.|
|Hastie, A.||Tufnell, rt. hon. H.|
|Hatchell, rt. hon. J.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Hawes, B.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Henry, A.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Williams, J.|
|Heywood, J.||Wilson, J.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Wilson, M.|
|Hollond, R.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|Hume, J.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||TELLERS.|
|Lawley, hon. B. R.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ The House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.