§ On Motion for going into Committee of Supply,
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that before Mr. Speaker left the Chair he wished to draw the attention of the Government to the present anomalous state of affairs in that House. He could assure them, with the most unaffected sincerity, that in alluding to this most important subject, he was actuated by no idle motive, nor by any feeling of hostility towards Her Majesty's Government. But, really, the state of affairs in that House was so anomalous—so unheard of—that there was no Member who felt himself under responsibility to his constituents who would not be justified in directing the attention of the House to the subject, not only for the sake of those whom he represented, but out of regard for the interests of the community at large. He did not mean to enter into any minute or elaborate criticism of the surprising Ministerial statements which bad been made in another place on the 15th, the 19th, and the 31st of March; nor had he any intention to undertake the very easy and obvious task of pointing out the various discrepancies in those declarations. But, setting aside the statements in question, as though they had never been made, he put it to the House to say whether—this being the last supply day before the commencement of the Easter recess—it was not incumbent on Her Majesty's Government to offer some more distinct and more detailed exposition of their future plans and policy than had heretofore been presented to the House or to the country? Whatever diversity of opinion might exist as to the explanations which had been already made in that House, and in another place, he was sure that men of all parties must be now of one accord in thinking that it was in the highest degree inconvenient, in the present state of political affairs in this country, that the First Minister of the Crown should be a Member of another place. They had had explana- 685 tion after explanation, commentary after commentary; and nobody seemed as yet to be aware of the true signification of the explanation that had been made in that House on the 31st of last month. If he were now to be met by the objection that the present was not the proper time for calling on the Government to explain their policy in a clear straightforward manner, he knew not how he could better dispose of such an argument than by referring to a sentiment in one of the despatches—he ought rather to call them the Arcadian love-letters—which had recently passed between the Earl of Malmesbury, Her Majesty's Foreign Secretary, and the Austrian Ambassador. In one of those delectable compositions the Earl of Malmesbury said—Her Majesty's Government rejoice to find in your communication a full confirmation of the confident hope entertained by Lord Derby that the surest mode of arriving at a good understanding with the nations of the civilised world, was a frank and honest exposition of principles, to be frankly and honestly acted upon; and it is with the most unfeigned pleasure, though with no surprise, that Her Majesty's Government received the assurance that the Court of Vienna subscribes without reserve to the principles and intentions developed by the First Minister of the Crown.If it was incumbent on a Foreign Minister to write in that manner to a foreign Power, how much more incumbent was it on the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to give a frank and honest exposition of his principles to the people of this country? Why try the long range at Vienna when there was so much practice ground in this country? The truth of this proposition was self-evident, and he felt, therefore, that he was doing nothing more than his duty in calling on Her Majesty's Government, as he now did, to make an exposition, clear, frank, explicit, and distinct, of the principles by which they intended that their policy should be governed. Explanation No. 4 in that House had been looked forward to with much interest, but it left things in pretty much the same state as they were on the 15th of March. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the House to understand that the Government were sensible of the necessity for a dissolution, and that they did not intend to call upon the House to pass any other measures than such as might appear to be indispensable for the service of the Queen, and the good government of Her Majesty's realm. Now, surely it was due to that House and to the country that some Minister should rise in his place, and 686 state, on behalf of the Government, the number and character of those measures for the enactment of which the present Parliament was to continue in existence. On Friday evening one distinguished statesman on the Treasury bench had shadowed forth the magnificent outline of a measure which he deemed essential to the good government of the realm, but which his Colleagues, regarding in a totally different light, he had been obliged to withdraw the very next day that the House met. How many similar things were to occur? and on the caprices of how many of the Ministers was the existence of the present Parliament to depend? Notwithstanding all the so-called explanations that had been made in that House and in another place, he did not hesitate to assert that to this hour the House and the country had been left completely in the dark as to what those measures were which the Government might deem to be indispensable to the good government of the nation. It was only the other day that a Committee on East Indian affairs had been appointed. There was no knowing how long their deliberations might be protracted; and was it to be understood that the present Parliament was to continue sitting until that Committee had reported? Then, again, there was a new Militia Bill. It would transcend all conjecture to imagine how many clauses might be introduced into the measure, or how many amendments might be proposed at each successive stage; and were they to be told that the present Parliament was to be prolonged until both these questions had been satisfactorily disposed of? He entreated the Government, as they valued their own reputation and the welfare of the community, to state at once what it was they meant by measures indispensable to the good government of the realm. Nothing could be more unfortunate or more distressing than the condition of perplexity into which all the great interests of the country had been thrown by these miserable evasions of the Government. Trade and commerce were alarmingly impeded—the tenant farmers were in a state of the most pitiable trepidation—and the shopkeepers and tradesmen were so bewildered that they knew not what to think; and yet it was at such a moment as this that Her Majesty's Ministers played fast and loose with the country, and when they were asked to explain what they meant by "indispensable measures," only taxed their ingenuity to think how they might most skilfully evade 687 the question. A noble Lord in that House (the Earl of March) had told them of a new sect that had sprung up in this country called the Derbyites, and according to that noble Lord's definition, a Protectionist was a Derbyite, and a Derbyite was a man who believed in the Earl of Derby. Such statements as these were in the style and spirit of the "definitions" and "explanations" which usually came from the Treasury bench. They were not more definite nor more satisfactory. These definitions might do very well for the supporters of the noble Earl in that House; but what would the people out of doors say? The policy which the First Minister of the Crown seemed resolved to adopt, in his treatment of his adherents, was that indicated by the great dramatist:—I as I may (that which I would I cannot)With best advantage will deceive the time,And aid the in this doubtful shock of arms,But on thy side I may not be too forward.Such policy as this had been characterised as the "very soul of chivalry," but he (Mr. B. Osborne) could not so regard it. In his estimation it savoured of the sly practices of the cockpit, rather than of the bold defiance of the "tilt yard," and partook more largely of the trickery of Newmarket Heath, than of the chivalry of Cressy or of Flodden Field. He denied that it lay in the mouth of the Government to say that they had encountered a factious opposition. The very reverse was the fact. 14,000,000l. of public money had been voted sub silentio. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) had not offered a single objection, and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) rose in his place only to intreat that the Government would be pleased to accept the money with all possible celerity; and yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could find it in his conscience to cry "Faction," and to accuse the Opposition of frivolous and vexatious resistance to the proceedings of the Government. He (Mr. B. Osborne) flung back the charge, and took leave to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there might be such a thing as a factious Government. The present Government, as a Government, had climbed into office on false pretences—had pocketed the supplies on false pretences. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Yes, on false pretences; for what was it but false pretence to turn round and give such explanations of their policy as had been offered' in that House on the 31st of March? Purely, it was not too much to say that the 688 time had at last arrived when a candid and straightforward explanation of the policy of the Government should be offered to the country. What did the Ministers purpose to do on the subject of the Maynooth grant? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated the other evening that there was no intention on the part of Government to disturb that grant in the course of the present Session; but he declined to give any reply to the question of the hon. and learned Member for Athlone (Mr. Keogh) as to whether they would tamper with the grant in the course of the ensuing Session. The noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown had been pressed to state his views on the subject in another place; but he managed to elude the pursuit, and gave an answer the exact meaning of which no one could undertake to interpret. The fact was that they left the question in a state of uncertainty, which they hoped might be turned to some advantage on the hustings at the next elections. The Tapers and the Tadpoles wanted a cry, and it was thought that "No Popery" was as good a cry as any to go to the country with. The hon. Under Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. F. Mackenzie) had harangued the electors of Liverpool, whom he was ambitious of the honour of representing, and he told them that he regretted having voted for the Maynooth grant, and that he would not vote for giving any more money to that institution. But surely the hon. Gentleman did not suppose that he would succeed in deceiving the people of Liverpool. Surely he did not imagine that he would find favour with that class of the electors on whom he depended for support by endeavouring to mystify them on this subject by telling them that he would vote for the present grant, because it was an endowment, but would not support any further advances of public money for the same purpose. The Government would find that they were ruining their own cause by not pursuing a candid and manly course on questions of such national importance. Already many of their supporters had committed themselves irretrievably on this question, and they ought to be treated with more confidence by the Government. Why should the respectable Queen's Counsel who was now soliciting the suffrages of the people of Bath, and who might one day live to be Attorney General—why should that estimable Gentleman be left in darkness as to the true intentions of the Government upon 689 this question, and why should he be left to plunge head over heels into promises and engagements, with respect to it, which hereafter it might be most inconvenient to adhere to. And then, with regard to the Irish distillers and millers, what treatment were they to receive at the hands of the Government? This was once a favourite question with the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He was eloquent upon it in opposition, and enthusiastically so when addressing the electors of Coleraine; but now that he was seated upon the Treasury bench, his tongue was tied, and he found it impossible to utter one syllable on the subject. He was sorry to say, the noble Lord appeared to have lost the candour and ingenuousness which at one time so agreeably distinguished him, and to have acquired in their place something of the "chivalric" spirit of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown. He (Mr. B. Osborne) confessed he was at a loss to account for the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was so unlike what he had always advocated, and so inconsistent with all his antecedents. On the 20th of February, 1846, still ringing the changes on the Corn Laws, he exclaimed—"How anomalous is the state of affairs in this House, where we have a Protection Cabinet and a Free-trade Ministry." [3 Hansard, lxxxiii. 1321–22.] Nothing could be more opposite to the state of things in 1852 than that exclamation. Had they not now a Protectionist Cabinet and Free-trade supporters? Were there not hybrid animals wandering through the boroughs and counties called "Free-trade Protectionists?" They came to the counties on different principles, demanding Protection, unmitigated Protection, for they had not come to the modification principle as yet, but were agreed only in one thing, namely, that they were to support the Earl of Derby's Government. And this was what was called "the country party," celebrated for its chivalry and candour. Last year he remembered to have seen a paper bearing the signatures of several hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, who were now Members of the Government, but who then and there declared that nothing short of protection could bring back the people of Ireland—not to their former prosperity, for they never had any, but to such a state of things as would prevent them from being engulphed in the slough of despond; but now these hon. Gentlemen had completely changed their tone, and declared that what was re- 690 quired for the people of Ireland was not a reversal of the free-trade policy, but a revision of it. Such was the treatment awarded to the Irish—nor did the English fare better. The English farmer was by nature of the most confiding disposition; but even the English farmer, and his brother in affliction and credulity, the British shipowner, must have some suspicion that they were not fairly treated, when they read the address of that gallant squire, the last Widdrington of protection, the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. G. F. Young), who could talk by hours in favour of that ruined cause when not one shred of argument remained to it, and of whom it might, with perfect truth, be said that—When his legs were shotten offHe fought upon his stumps.Such was the devotion, and such the fidelity, which distinguished the hon. Member. But the other day the hon. Gentleman did not hesitate to assure his constituents that he did not want to go back to any of his Utopian theories—that he wanted no restoration of the Navigation Laws, but only a modification. He put it seriously to the Members of Her Majesty's Government, whether they did not believe that it was of the highest importance that the character of that House should stand as high as possible for honour, chivalry, and truth; and, if so, on what plea of honour, chivalry, or truth, could they reconcile it to themselves, that a Government should acquire office by calling for protection, and retain it by advocating modification? For his own part, he did not hesitate to say that there was no Member of the Government for whom he had so high a respect as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. That right hon. Gentleman was at all events outspoken and sincere. He told his constituents at Lincoln that he would not be gulled with modification, and that nothing should ever satisfy him but a total reversal of the ruinous free-trade policy. He (Mr. B. Osborne) respected the right hon. Gentleman, and congratulated the farmers on having at least one friend left. It was a melancholy fact, that the Protectionist cause had been betrayed. It might be said to have been a "book-horse." They had heard of many Derby favourites which the people had backed very spiritedly, especially the poor people in the country; but, when the day of the race arrived, they had seen people in high places "scratch their nomination," and leave the public in the lurch. Just so 691 was it with protection. The right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury benches made the poor people in the country clamour for what they had no notion of giving them, and when the day for the race arrived, they withdrew the favourite horse, and coolly substituted another. So was it with the cry of protection.Who would not praise Patricio's high desert,His hand unstain'd, his uncorrupted heart!His comprehensive head, all interests weighed,All Europe saved, yet Britain not betrayed?He heeds them not, his pride is in piquet,Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet!They had heard a great deal of comprehensive measures for England and for Ireland, but for his part he confessed he had a horror of that phrase. He never heard a Ministry talk about large and comprehensive measures that he didn't feel that the country was going to be sacrificed to a high-sounding word. But he forewarned the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that his tenure of office would not be of long duration, if it only lasted as long as he could succeed in imposing on the British public by specious phrases and sonorous words. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that the course he was pursuing was not one that the people of this country would consider worthy of the candid character and position of a British Minister. There was nothing in his policy, as far as that policy had as yet been developed, that could command respect, much less challenge admiration. Even the blank cartridge Reform Bill—the right to vote, wrapped up in a bullet, which was So rashly promised and ignominiously withdrawn, had not the merit of originality. It was copied from two suggestions, one of which originated with a Mr. F. Hill, and the other with no less a personage than Mr. Orator Hunt, who, in 1830, laid upon the table of the House of Commons a Motion in the precise words of the Motion so quickly proposed and so quickly withdrawn by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He would not trespass further upon the attention of the House; but, in conclusion, would take leave to assure the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) that if he were not prepared to give some distinct and intelligible exposition of his future policy, there was but little prospect that either he or his colleagues would stand high in the opinion of the people of this country. It had not escaped the memory 692 of the British public, how unsparingly the right hon. Gentleman had thrown out his taunts and sarcasms on a late distinguished Minister for his change of opinion, and that the right hon. Gentleman was indebted for his reputation, and, indeed, for his present position, to the unwearying assiduity of his attempts to ruin the reputation of that great and lamented statesman. If the right hon. Gentleman hoped to retain one shred of reputation—if he had the smallest particle of regard for his estimation with the nation whose political destinies he sought to control, he would now stand up in his place and declare what those measures were which he believed to be indispensable for the service of the Queen, and the security and good government of her realm.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that however strong might be the objection which the hon. Gentleman entertained to large and comprehensive schemes of legislation, it was at least certain that he had but little aversion to large and comprehensive criticisms on whatever was said in that House and in another place. He (Lord J. Manners) felt himself under no obligation to follow the hon. Gentleman into all the minute details of his long and elaborate speech. His reason for refraining from doing so was, that Her Majesty's Ministers had nothing new to say on the topics to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had referred. The intentions of the Government had been repeatedly and distinctly declared by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he defied the hon. Member to point out the slightest discrepancy between the statements made in that House and those that had been made elsewhere. The Government were prepared to take their stand, not upon any particular expression, nor on any one specific statement, but upon all and every one of the declarations which had been made on their behalf in that House and in the House of Lords; and when the hon. Gentleman undertook to assert that the country would have no confidence in men who used such language as that which had fallen from his (Lord J. Manners') right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, all he would tell him in return was, that they (the Government) would not shrink from that issue, but courted it, and were prepared to abide by it to the last. It was not very easy to understand at what the hon. Gentleman was 693 driving, but if his object meant anything, it seemed to mean this, that the policy to which he and his friends were so enthusiastically attached should be submitted to the decision of the present Parliament. The hon. Member wanted to have the opinion of that moribund House of Commons upon the great questions at issue between him and the Government. The hon. Gentleman boasted that he and his party had a majority in that House; and to that majority it was competent for the hon. Member to appeal if he chose, for even on that issue the Government would not flinch from the contest. If such was not the meaning of the hon. Member, what meant those nightly, those hourly, interruptions of the public business of the country? This was not the first time that a speech such as that of the hon. Member had been delivered in that House. They could not forget the long and elaborate essays on constitutional law and the first principles of government with which they had been edified from the lips of the noble Lord the Member for London. It was not to be expected that he should recapitulate these arguments, or enter into an examination of all the minute details of theory and calculation which emanated from the leaders of the heterogeneous Opposition. But let them bring their interruption to a head, and from the issue thus created the Government would not depart; but they must be pardoned if they refused to confide the vindication of their honour to such hands as those of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesex. It was the country that would have to decide upon their policy, and by the decision of the country they would stand or fall. They would make that appeal as soon as the necessary business of the nation was transacted. They were as anxious as the hon. Gentleman could be to go to their constituents, and to solve the great questions at issue by the constitutional process of an appeal to the country; but they were not to be deterred by taunts, menaces, or denunciations, such as those of the hon. Member, from proceeding with the measures which a sense of public duty urged them to undertake. This they would say to the Opposition—"If it be your pleasure to appeal to the great majority which you believe you possess in this House, do so. Even from that issue we will not recede. But as long as you are not willing to pursue that course, we must ask you, in justice, not to the Government, but to the country, to 694 permit us to conduct for the remainder of the Session, the necessary business of the country, for, be assured, we will have no reluctance to make the necessary appeal to the opinion and judgment of the people, as soon as the necessary business is transacted."
§ Mr. ROEBUCK
said, that, although there was a great deal of good sense and plain straightforward honesty in the words used by the noble Lord who had just spoken, there could be no doubt in the minds of men accustomed to constitutional forms, that the proceedings of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, so far as they could be judged of, were not in consonance with constitutional government. He had no feeling of hostility towards right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and up to that time he had said nothing in opposition to them. But now he felt called upon to express his opinion as regarded their position before the world, and be would at the same time express his opinion with respect to those who opposed them. He would ask why it was that this question was not brought to an issue, and why were right hon. Gentlemen opposite permitted to continue a policy and conduct wholly unworthy of the Government of this country? Why did they not by a direct vote in that House now bring the matter to an issue? It appeared to him that the Government opposite had come into office under the appearance of maintaining one set of opinions, and that being in office they were endeavouring to shirk and shrink from those opinions. He would ask the House to take a very short review of the facts preceding the advent of the Government to office. He would take them as typified by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was the man who had made them—he had breathed into their body something like life. They had traded on his ability, and he was in office upon their support. Now the right hon. Gentleman acquired the whole of his renown, acquired the whole of his force with his party, by reiterated attacks made upon the late Sir Robert Peel. And on what ground? Why, the late Sir Robert Peel had long supported the views of the country party, but a time came of great difficulty and danger to the neighbouring nation of Ireland. Famine stared them in the face, and he, foreseeing the difficulty—putting by all considerations of personal interest and personal renown, and casting himself upon the candour and honesty of the people of 695 England—said to them, "The policy which I have supported I can no longer support. There is a difficulty which threatens this country in the maintenance of the labouring population which I cannot face, and I am prepared to give up that policy which I have so long maintained, and to support an opposite course." Now he could not conceive a position more trying than that of Sir Robert Peel under those circumstances. He had been brought into office, with great power, by the maintenance of certain opinions, and, foregoing all considerations of personal renown, he made that great personal sacrifice. And who was the man that fastened upon him with envenomed and most prepared irony? The right hon. Gentleman opposite. He hounded him night after night, backed by the cheers of those who were now at his back. The right hon. Gentleman fastened upon him with tenacity; he never let him have one moment's rest. That was the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. Mark the circumstances. The whole of England, Ireland, and Scotland were endangered, and a great sacrifice was made by a great man. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not then feel for the difficulty, and could not bear for a moment with the change of opinion manifested by Sir Robert Peel, and declared that if the right hon. Baronet had changed his opinion he was not the man to carry his new principles into effect. From night to night the right hon. Gentleman pursued the late statesman with that sarcasm of which he was so great a master. Well, the right hon. Gentleman stepped into power with hon. Gentlemen opposite upon the maintenance of the great protectionist doctrine. He had gone on most steadily in that course. He came into office never having retracted one statement of his former declarations—never being pressed by any difficulty. He had steadily opposed the late Administration, and had taken advantage of every difficulty to render any Government impossible. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman had done that, and steadily continued his policy, he should have understood him. He should have then said—"Here is a man who will not stand at trifles, it is true, in his opposition; but he had a great object in view—he wanted to overturn a policy. He thought England misgoverned, and it was his object and his duty to get rid of the Government, and therefore he took possession of everybody, and advan- 696 tage of everything, for the purpose of creating a difficulty to the Government—not that he agreed in the opposition; not at all; but he used those who were in opposition." Well, the late Government dropped out of office, and the right hon. Gentleman dropped in. Well, now, where was the pressure upon the right hon. Gentleman? He had never forborne his opinions: he had never changed his principles. Up to the moment that he had obtained his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer he was the great protectionist chief. But he would appeal to hon. Gentlemen about him, and to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if there was ever so remarkable a change as that which took place in the language of the right hon. Gentleman? He came in as the great protectionist chief. He knew full well that protection was gone, but office might still be his. Let them tear aside the veil. The game the right hon. Gentleman was playing towards his country supporters was, that he really had at heart protectionist principles, and then he sought to get the confidence of other supporters who were no protectionists at all. A question was put to him on him on his conduct, and he said, "We intend to go to the country, and the comb-try shall decide." Now, what should the country decide? He (Mr. Roebuck) told the right hon. Gentleman—and he was quite sure there was not a right-thinking man in that House who would not say he was right—he told him that he and his supporters had shrunk from the answer, what was it they were going to the country upon? Was it protection? Oh no! they replied, they did not say so. But what did they say? Oh, they said, so soon as we have got over the necessary proceedings of the government of the country, we shall go to the country to decide upon our policy. Our policy! He wanted to know what our policy meant? The noble Earl at the head of the Government said, "I do not mean to go upon the question of protection or free trade, I mean to go upon the question of my conservative policy." Now, was it on that ground that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer took office? Was he so vague when he was in opposition? Not at all; he was plain enough then, and accused the late Government of ruining the great interests of the country by the policy they were pursuing. It was evident to every honest man's mind that the cry they came in upon was pro- 697 tection, and now the cry was, "our conservative policy." Now his objections to this proceeding were these: He had three great reasons for believing that the present hesitating, evasive, and, let him add, shuffling policy was mischievous. It was mischievous, first, because everybody believed out of doors that the Government was about to take the advantage of this uncertainty of protection or non-protection, and going where they could upon protectionist principles. The country believed that, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman had so long been a supporter of protectionist doctrines, they would go to the country in reality upon protection or free trade; and therefore the great mercantile interests in this country were once again put in jeopardy on that issue. The right hon. Gentleman ought at once to say he intended to go on that question, or that he did not. But he did neither the one thing ner the other; he avoided every inquiry, and would not tell them either when he would go to the country, or on what he would go to the country. Again, there was another evil. They might say what they liked, but this holding over the country a continuous struggle of electioneering was mischievous, not only to the material but to the moral interests of the country. Men's minds were kept in doubt, their passions were kept alive, and from hour to hoop, in the whole country, from one end to another, these great disputes arose, and material interests were disregarded, and moral interests were endangered. But there was a greater and more mischievous evil still, and that was, the feeling that had arisen in the minds of men out of doors respecting the morality of that House. What, they said, is this public morality—is this the great body that leads the landed interest in this country, who, for mere place, evade all public declaration, who evade all statement of their opinions now that they are in power, and endeavour to shuffle from that which they maintained before? Is this the morality of public men? This was a spectacle he witnessed, not for the first time in his life he would allow; but he must say that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, evincing such a wonderful tenacity to office did create in his mind, and he believed in the minds of most people out of doors, a very low opinion of public morality. People said that for mere purposes of personal interest public interests were given up, and that for the maintenance of interest principle 698 would be forgotten. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite frequently in his diatribes against those who were pursuing this course; and the very bitterness of his sarcasms, and the vehemence of his declaration, rebounded against himself, now that he was in that position. The right hon. Gentleman did that which he knew to be wrong, and which he had branded with all the vehemence of his sarcasm when others committed it, and now, having got into office, and felt the temptation, he did it himself. On these grounds, the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends was greatly mischievous to the interests of this country. Certain expressions had fallen from his (Mr. Roebuck's) side of the House, from which he should feel inclined to say there was great sympathy with his own estimates of their proceedings. He (Mr. Roebuck) was not, and could not, pretend to be the leader of any opposition; but, were he the leader of the Opposition, he would bring that policy to the test directly. He agreed with the noble Lord opposite that there was mischief in thus constantly assailing the right hon. Gentleman with mere words. But he asked hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, of what they were afraid? Did they, or did they not, believe that they were in a majority in that House? If they were, let the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House feel it. If not, let the country know its own danger. But, by the present course, hon. Gentlemen opposite had all the benefit of a majority and a minority. They had the benefit of a minority, because they did not dare to introduce anything, and they had the benefit of a majority because they (the Opposition) did not dare to propose anything against them. And so between the two all the interests of Great Britain and Ireland were forgotten in this miserable play of party. Sure he was that the country would justify neither one party nor the other. He appealed to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), if he was to represent the Opposition, to bring this matter to the test, to do it for his own character as well as for the interests of the country. Let them know if the right hon. Gentlemen opposite had a majority in that House, and if they had not, they would be forced instantly to go to the country. If they had, it would be their (the Opposition's) duty to continue simply as a minority in opposition, and Govern- 699 ment, taking advantage of their position, could propound their great doctrines, and the country would know what to do. Therefore, he said, have no more of this shilly-shallying either on one side or the other, for he did not see any difference. Let the noble Lord bring this question to the test, and let him be sure that he would have both the House and the country for his support.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, he wished to point out in a few words, as a Member of that House unconnected with the Government, the glaring and palpable fallacy contained in the attack of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down. He had in the same breath accused the Government of putting forth vague and unintelligible pretences, and of putting forth false pretences. The two charges were manifestly self-contradictory; and the hon. and learned Gentleman must stand upon either the one or the other charge, but he could not stand upon both. If the propositions of the Government were unintelligible to the learned Gentleman, their falsehood must be a gratuitous and uncharitable assumption on his part. If he knew them to be false, they were patent to his understanding. The one half of the hon. and learned Gentleman's attack was an answer to the other. But take the first charge—that the policy of the Government was vague and unintelligible. Well, if that was the hon. and learned Member's attack, and the attack of the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne)—if that was what they honestly meant, let them come to the test as soon as possible. It appeared to him (Mr. Adderley) that the Earl of Derby's declarations had been as plain and distinct as words could make them, namely, that if Parliament only allowed him to pass the measures which were urgent and necessary, he would then take the sense of the country. Now, if hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches were honest in their complaint against this course of policy, let them wait till the first measure was brought forward which they did not think necessary, and then let them oppose that measure. That would be a fair and straightforward proceeding, and it was within their power at any time, as they professed to command the majority. But no; instead of that, they came forward to obstruct the necessary measures, and to waste time by useless and pointless speeches, which prevented the Government from coming to the very test which the Opposition ap- 700 peared to be so anxious for. But with regard to the second and wholly different part of the attack of the hon. and learned Gentleman, how was it attempted to be proved that the policy of the Government was false? It was alleged that as soon as they became a Protectionist Ministry they made up their minds to abandon Protection; and the hon. and learned Gentleman sought to prove that the Government were in a false position, by referring to the attacks which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer used to make upon the late Sir Robert Peel when he abandoned protection. But surely it was one thing to abandon former principles and adopt opposite principles, and a very different thing to acknowledge that you were not able to carry out your own principles. It was one thing for a great and prominent Minister, whose judgment could not be impugned, and who would hardly accept the excuse that he had made an error in his policy, in a moment, and without consulting his party, not only to reverse his policy, but to take up the very arguments which with all his power and position he used to controvert, and to exult in his new views, as if he had an equal right to lead on either side. It was another thing to suppress opinions which, though still entertained, were no longer tenable. He (Mr. Adderley) did not question Sir Robert Peel's right to alter his opinions; but to contend that those who had condemned his course were now adopting it themselves, was wholly gratuitous and unfounded. It was one thing to acknowledge that your views were wrong, and another to say the national feeling was so strong against them that you would not attempt to carry them. He was in no man's confidence; but, for his own part, the sense of this necessity of abandoning protective duties on articles of food he had expressed publicly many months ago. He had studiously disclaimed any connexion with the Government when he rose, because he was not in their confidence, and he did not know what their feelings were; but he knew what his own feelings were. When a free country like this had shown itself favourable to a particular policy, it was not for one class of legislators, nor for the whole Legislature combined, to pit itself against the national feeling. That was a point which the country at the next election should determine. And when the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield asked what it was that the country must determine, it was simply this, whether the 701 maintenance of a Protectionist policy was any longer possible? If the country should declare that it was no longer possible, then the Government would come forward as the great Conservative party of this country. It was a gross exaggeration to suppose that free trade was a fundamental question, below which nothing else could lie; and, at all events, it could not be said that "Conservatism" was "unintelligible in that House. If protection must be given up, the Conservative party would not have changed its opinions; it would only have been defeated on one question, and would be ready to maintain its principles on others.
§ MR. C. VILLIERS
said, he did not rise to occupy the time of the House, nor to attack the hon. Gentleman opposite, but rather to set himself right, in consequence of something that had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners), as well as the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck). There had been some allusions made to a Motion that was to have brought the protective policy to a test in that House, and some taunts had been thrown out from the other side of the House, inquiring why the question had not been brought to an issue. He gave a notice to that effect in that House, as soon as it was possible for him to do so, on the occasion of the present Ministers taking office. He did so from the conviction he had that those hon. Gentlemen, having for five years been labouring assiduously for one purpose, and one purpose only, that upon taking office they would attempt to reverse the policy of free trade. He gave that notice to exhibit to the country that the majority of that House was unchanged on that question, and that they had been only fortified in their opinion by the experience they had acquired of the results of that policy. But at the time he was giving that notice there was an important speech being made elsewhere by the First Minister of the Crown; for that speech contained an unqualified admission by him, that, upon the subject of a Free-trade or the Protectionist policy, the Government was in an unquestionable minority in the House of Commons. The noble Earl said something further: he said he would in consequence take the opinion of the country without any delay on that question. These admissions made him (Mr. C. Villiers) assent to the policy of postponing that Motion, and he lis- 702 tened to what he considered a wise suggestion by Gentlemen on that side of the House, that the question to urge upon the Government to answer was, in what form and at what time they should submit their policy to the country? It was on that ground that he did propose a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he begged to remind the House of the right hon. Gentleman's reply; he begged to call the attention also of the noble Lord the Member for Colchester to it; for the noble Lord had risen to-night to vindicate, he supposed, the chivalry of the Government, which seems to have got much impugned lately. They had not before had the benefit of the noble Lord's oratory; but, he presumed, under an impulse of chivalry, or honour, or something of the kind, he had just told them that the Ministers were wholly unchanged, that their principles and views were the same, and that they wished and were ready to take issue upon the question of protection, either in this House or in the country. Now, he had not looked at the report of what fell from the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he had a clear recollection that when he asked the right hon. Gentleman if he had any intention to propose a duty on the importation of foreign grain, he distinctly replied to him that he had not any such intention. That reply of the right hon. Gentleman satisfied him that he was willing to abandon his former policy, and that he did not intend to do that which his Colleagues assured their constituents when they went to their elections they intended to do. He (Mr. C. Villiers) said before, and he repeated, that he had no party object in questioning them on the matter, but he had a deep interest in that question; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite would abandon their policy, he should be as satisfied with them as he had been with two other Governments that had preceded them. Lord Melbourne was originally opposed to free trade, and he (Mr. C. Villiers) had the satisfaction to see him abandon protection; and Sir Robert Peel supported protection, and he (Mr. C. Villiers) had the satisfaction to see him propose the free-trade policy; and he should be glad to hear the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer say as clearly and boldly as his predecessors that he had abandoned his old opinions on this subject. However, what he had stated was to justify himself in not having immediately brought the subject before the House. 703 But there had been a most extraordinary admission made just now, and that by a Gentleman who was well qualified to express the opinion. It had been admitted just now by a warm supporter of the Government that the national feeling was against Protection. So they had it now admitted that the House was unchanged, and that the national feeling was against protection and for free-trade. Then he wanted to know why they were to have a dissolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer justified their taking office on the simple ground that there might be an opinion out of doors in their favour. They were all identified with the Protectionist policy, and when they came into office, at least their Chief said, Parliament was against them, but that he expected that public opinion was with them, though they had heard it stated to-night that the public feeling was against them. The noble Earl at the head of the Government proposed to submit the question to them, and to hear their reply in the autumn, and to decide thereby who should be the future Ministers of the country. ["No.no!"] He (Mr. C. Villiers) certainly heard with his own ears the noble Earl say, that the autumnal Session would be to decide the controverted question of free trade, and then what men should be entrusted with the administration of the Government. Now, if their own Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) was right, and that the national opinion was against meddling with the free-trade policy, he hardly could understand their justification, in possessing themselves of the Government as they had done. They were only known as Protectionists—they knew they had the House of Commons against them on that question, and it was cow said that public feeling was against them—yet they were going to disturb the country with a dissolution, and to resign their offices, when opinion in favour of free trade was expressed in the New Parliament. The noble Lord the Member for Colchester said to-night that their own opinions were unchanged. What a wanton disturbance of the country, then, is their taking office, and causing the turmoil of a general election for no public purpose! Why did they not consult their Friend the hon. Member for North Staffordshire if they had a doubt about the state of feeling on the subjects which doubtless he has stated most correctly; and why had they not patriotism enough to leave the country quiet? He saw 704 the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord C. Hamilton) laughing at the idea of an election interrupting the business of the country. He could assure the noble Lord that there was a very general feeling in the country that this attempt to get power against the will of the people, was a most wanton proceeding, to say the least of it. The business of this great country should not be lightly disturbed. They had nothing to justify the experiment they were going to make in meddling with the commercial policy; opinion as well as the results were entirely against them; but having the patronage of Government at command, and knowing the practices at elections, they were in hopes to obtain a majority in this House, by the means that are too familiar to the country. If they had an excuse for saying that the opinion of the country was not decided against those views which the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) says are unchanged, their taking the Government and dissolving the Parliament might be justified; but as it was, he doubted if there was on record a more unprincipled proceeding. Surrendering their opinions, and appealing to the country as a new Government, is one thing; but retaining their opinions, and attempting to get a majority against the opinions of the country, could not be justified. But the other novelty to-night is, according to the hon. Member for North Staffordshire, to get rid of protection, by which they are only known, and then set up as real Conservatives, qualified to govern the country on that principle. He much doubted whether they would receive more favour at the hands of the country in the one character than in the other. There had been observed in them of late many things exceedingly unlike the old Conservative party. So far as he knew the old Tory party that used to prevail in that House, they had been wrong in all their political views—their political proceedings were wrong; but this was ever known to their honour, that they were bold—that they were straightforward—that they were chivalrous—that you could rely upon them. The proceedings of the party now in power, during the last six weeks, could scarcely be deemed as ranking them within any such category. Everything appears tortuous, crooked, and mystified; they could not get plain answers to plain questions; they could learn nothing they ought to know, from them, and when they talked of Gentlemen on this side interrupting the business of the coun- 705 try, it never had been made clear what that was. The inquiries on that side were to learn what that business was, and when they were going to do it? As matters now stood, there was no knowing from day to day what the Government would do, or would not do. They all went to bed on Saturday in the belief that a new Reform Bill had been announced the night before—an extension of the suffrage, on an entirely new principle. Not education, that was old-fashioned—not property, that was useless—but the very original one of two years' drill in the militia. Now, the great Conservative party came down and said they were not going to have anything of the sort: that had merely been a joke of the Earl of Derby's. The other night the great cause of Protection was abandoned: that evening it was again attempted to be set up. One night it appeared that the Militia Bill was the only business to be done: another night it was said the Chancery Bill must be disposed of; and again other measures were indistinctly referred to as indispensable, but not in a state to be yet disclosed. No doubt there was in the country a considerable number of gentlemen Conservatives, and honourably entitled to the designation; but did the Government, acting as they had been acting, imagine they would be accepted by those gentlemen as their representatives? It might be equally true that the country was not indisposed for the late change of Government: the people grew tired of old faces, and liked change from time to time; but the country would not tolerate a set of Ministers who refused to come forward like men, and state what they meant to do, any more than Members of that House would in silence permit themselves to be called factious for asking a legitimate and necessary question, or be charged with interrupting the business of the country, before they were enabled to know what that business of the country was. It might well be that the Government themselves did not know what they meant to do, but meantime the country was altogether dissatisfied with their chopping and changing about in this fashion. The House must hear from the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer another of those clear, frank, open, and lucid statements by which he had lately distinguished himself, so that no one might any longer remain in the dark on the subject: and he must say that they ought not to scold the Opposition for simply making inquiry on the subject; they sat 706 there as the representatives of the people, and he could assure them that from one end of the country to the other, the greatest curiosity as to the intentions and proceedings of this Government existed, and it was expected that through the medium of this House some information would be procured.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), had asked what the Government was going to do. He might answer them in Quaker fashion—what did hon. Gentleman want? Because some of those hon. Gentlemen wanted to press a dissolution, and the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had asked, what need was there to go to the country; that the whole business of the country would be interrupted by a dissolution. That was rather odd language, in the fifth year of the present Parliament, in the mouth of the hon. Gentleman, who, if he mistook not, had the other night walked into the lobby in favour of triennial Parliaments. One portion of the Opposition found fault with them for dissolving, while, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield quarrelled with them because they did not at once go to the country, and subject it to all the inconvenience and excitement of a general election. But the real fact was, that hon. Gentlemen opposite found that the country was very well satisfied with what the Government intended, and the country was under no mistake as to what they meant. They had been told that in another place, in language which they could not misunderstand, and which, he begged to say, they did not misunderstand—they had been told that that great question which hon. Members, for their own particular purposes, wanted to make the only question, but which the Government would take care would not be the only question—tbey were told that that great question would not be raised or mooted until another Parliament had met. But that did not suit hon. Gentlemen opposite—that was not convenient to the party who had sacrificed the last Government; for it was evident that but for their laches, idleness, or indifference, that mishap would not have been brought about. If they thought that the colonial interests of the country had been so particularly well managed, or that the foreign affairs and policy of the country had been so judiciously conducted, why had they suffered 707 the late Government to be put in a minority, and made them feel that no alternative was left them but to resign? Who was to blame for that? Certainly not hon. Gentlemen on his (Mr. Henley's) side of the House. They stated that they were in a majority—why were they not down, then, to support the late Government? No, that did not suit their purpose, which appeared to be to drop the late Government, and set up another, and then, by all sorts of interruptions, prevent the business of the country from being carried on. Her Majesty's Ministers were endeavouring to go on with the necessary and indispensable business of the country. They were to-night about to propose a Vote for the Kafir war; and he asked hon. Members opposite was that necessary, or was it not? It was said that the present Government had exhibited a great tenacity of office, but they had not yet been more than six weeks in power, and they not had a single division against them. It was a very odd reproach, therefore, to cast upon them. The question had been asked—what were the principles of the Government? and it admitted of a very simple answer. Their principles were what they always had been—they had changed no principles, and their opinions remained the same as before. Whether a party could carry out the principles they professed, did not depend on themselves. As soon as the necessary measures were carried—and the Government cared not how soon that would be—a dissolution must take place; Parliament must meet again in the course of the present autumn; and when they met again, the question which the Opposition wanted to make the only one, but which they would not be permitted to make the only one, would then be submitted to Parliament. That had been announced the first night the Government had had an opportunity of doing so, and it had been repeated over and over again. That answer had been twisted and turned in all sorts of ways with the view of getting another and a different answer. He could tell them that they would get no other answer—for this reason, that the Government was of one mind, and the country was perfectly satisfied with the answer that had been given.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
said: In the speech that has just been delivered there was one expression which I feel myself called upon to notice. It was a repetition of a similar expression which was used by the noble Lord the Member for Colchester 708 (Lord J, Manners), who says that the Government have been impeded in the progress of the necessary business by the interruptions from this (the Opposition) side of the House. The noble Lord said, "You have taken up the time of the House by reading to it lengthened disquisitions upon constitutional principles. Now, as regards the question of constitutional principle, it has been amply debated in this House. But this I will say to the noble Lord who thinks that Gentlemen were not justified in making these disquisitions, that at any rate they had this justification, that the Government yielded to the force of the arguments they brought forward. They yielded, and rightly yielded, to the force of a sound constitutional principle; and, if they will allow me to say so, it was politic for them so to yield, and not to allow themselves to have the appearance of being dragged as unwilling culprits before the bar of a general election. But the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, before he finished his speech settled the subject of the interruption of public business by an observation he made, namely, that there had not been one division taken against the Government. I doubt whether in the memory of any man in the House—I am sure, never in my own recollection—has so much necessary business been transacted with so little opposition—I do not say with so little cavil—I do not say with so little criticism—but even to the suppression of those observations which are always infallibly brought on by the discussion of the Estimates, especially at a moment when public interest has been so much excited as it has been upon questions of national defence. Well, then, I think this accusation falls to the ground utterly—that there has been any attempt to interrupt public business, or to interpose any unjust or unnecessary delays in the transaction of public business. But my hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) entered upon the subject of the course that we took in 1846 upon the question of free trade. Now, I am not going to revert to that period, or to the circumstances which preceded it. This only will I say, that to the latest day of my life I shall feel a pride in the course that I then took. It is true that we were exposed to much obloquy; it is true that we were exposed to much misrepresentation; and that we had to make a choice—a difficult one at any time, and a bitter option to make—a choice between party ties, and 709 the feeling of personal honour as wrapped up in party ties, on the one hand, and the welfare of the country on the other; and if those principles for which we then sacrificed office, and have undergone since what I admit to have been a necessary political ostracism—I say, Sir, that if those principles are to be attacked, no effort shall be wanting on my part to do my utmost to maintain those principles, and to preserve unimpaired, unreversed, unrevised, and unmodified, the blessings which I believe to have been given by those measures to the great body of my fellow-countrymen. But now it is said that the present Government have made no explicit declaration as to their intentions upon the subject. Sir, I do not wish to hark back on this question. I could wish, that instead of deferring this question to be settled by the constituency at a general election, and allowing, therefore, for some months great doubt to hang over the question, the Government had frankly said, "That policy is impossible; we agree with the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) that the national feeling is against it, and will at once say that we have no intention, under any circumstances, to attempt the reversal or modification of the present policy." I have no interest, I am sure, and a great number of hon. Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House could say the same, in doing what the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer called "pinning them to a 5s. fixed duty." My object is to see the country well governed, and to see sound principles prevail. If there is a bridge to be built, and I could contribute an arch to it, to enable you to escape by a frank avowal of free-trade principles from the dilemma in which you are placed, I would cheerfully add that arch. There is joy over every sinner that repenteth; still more should I rejoice inasmuch as other great principles which I value are at stake, and are endangered by the course which you are now taking. You value Conservative principles highly—so do I; and I say it is impolitic, I say it is dangerous, to have those principles allied to a policy which I believe to be odious to the great body of the people. I say that, wishing to see sound progressive Conservatism prevail in the Government of this country, I do look upon it as a great misfortune that a large party, comprising many men of public as well as private virtues, should identify itself with a cause which is hateful to the peo- 710 ple, because in their opinion it is founded upon injustice. Why, what after all was this Corn Law which you wish in some degree, however small, to see back, but a system of outdoor relief to landowners?—but with this difference, I admit, from a poor-law—that instead of being a rate fixed upon property for the sustentation of poverty, it was a tax levied upon poverty for the augmentation of wealth. Now, I am not accusing hon. Gentlemen opposite of concurring with me in this view of the subject; they would be the first to repudiate it if they saw it in the same aspect that I do. But I look upon it as most important that Gentlemen opposite, a great number of whom do not hold these opinions, should as soon as possible have an opportunity of entirely freeing themselves from the odium which attaches to them. Now, under these circumstances, I must say that I am satisfied with the arrangement that has been come to during my absence between the two sides of the House. I do not think it necessary in this moribund Parliament to re-discuss these questions, which are necessarily going to be settled by another, and therefore I have risen rather to say this, that having been prevented from taking any part in the debates within the last few days, I feel entirely satisfied with the course that has been taken, and the arrangement that has been concluded. I think that, now the Government having taken the course which it has on the subject of protection, the only way in which this question can be permanently or satisfactorily settled is by an appeal to the country, and I wish to see that appeal come to as soon as the public business will admit. I have, therefore, no wish to reopen these questions. I think that the assurance which has been given is satisfactory, and I am prepared myself to abide by it. I look forward to that election with the utmost confidence, a confidence which is gaining ground daily, as I see the working of public opinion. I am convinced that under no pretence, under no name, and by no artifice whatever, will the country be persuaded to give up that which they look upon as the charter of the comfort and well-being of the labouring classes.
§ MR. MOORE
said, that it appeared to him that the question which had so uselessly vexed the country during the last month might be summed up in one remarkably short sentence: The Protectionists are ready, it is said, to abandon protection, and the Free-traders will not let them. 711 The issue which the Ministers wished to have put to the country, was, whether the people of England wished to have the Whigs or themselves; and he did not think that they were very unreasonably sanguine as to the result. The Whigs, on the other hand, feeling a lurking and sensitive consciousness that perhaps that would not he a very safe issue on which to go to the country, insisted on making an appeal of their own, whether the people would rather have the Whigs or a return to protective duties, conscious that if there was a single alternative in the world to which the people would refer the Whigs, that was the one. He was himself never a free-trader, and he believed that the repeal of the Corn Laws had inflicted great injury upon the country to which he belonged; but he did not expect, and he believed that his countrymen did not expect, to return to protective duties. Protection, in his opinion, had been too long the humbug of that (the Ministerial) side of the House, and the bugbear of this (the Opposition), and he thought that it would greatly facilitate the transaction of public business if hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would mutually consent not to chase the phantom, or to start at the spectre. He believed that the people of England would never consent that the Whigs, as lately constituted, should return to power; that the whole Government of the country should be centered in one rapacious cabal, or that the great-grandmother of any noble Lord should be considered as the fountain of honour in this country. And as to the noble Lord the Member for the city of London (Lord J. Russell), the people of Ireland had unanimously, irrevocably, and irreversibly decreed that he at all events should never again sit on the Treasury bench as Prime Minister. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed; but they were laughing on the wrong side of the House. When Sir Robert Peel was turned out in 1846, Mr. Sheil said that he had been driven out of office because 7,000,000 of men had gone into opposition—because he had enlisted against him every man in Ireland belonging to every party—because he had enlisted against him the liberal press—and because the Catholic priesthood and the Catholic hierarchy had to a man gone into opposition; and that it was impossible, under such circumstances, he should not have succumbed. Hon. Members did not laugh then; but, on the contrary, these words were loudly cheered by the Whigs, because 712 that was their war note in 1846 which was their death knell in 1852. The Irish Members were perfectly satisfied with the arrangement which had been come to on this matter, because they had no expectation of office, and would not miss quarter day. They had listened with perfect calmness to expressions of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies (Sir J. Packington) at his unopposed return for Droitwich, at which, considering his official position, they might have revolted; and also to the Cato like determination of the noble Lord the Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners); and they would listen to the arguments on both sides, and decide inflexibly, as the weight might lay on the one side or the other. They were satisfied to wait the issue and to abide by the appeal to the country, because they had no motive but good to the country which they served, and were quite confident as to what the result of the appeal would be; and if hon. Gentlemen behind him had no fear of an appeal to the people, let them manfully, and patiently because manfully, trust their cause to the decision of the people.
§ SIR JOHN TYRELL
said, that he could quite understand that the position of hon. Gentlemen opposite was painfully embarrassed, because he felt that Her Majesty's Government had committed an offence already in that House, and in the country, which was not to be forgiven. They had shown that they had the power, the capacity, and the ability to bring forward measures of a well-considered character, that were likely to give satisfaction to the country; while hon. Gentlemen opposite were so divided in opinion when in opposition, that if they were to change to the opposite side of the House to-morrow, they would be split into infinitesimals, and would be perfectly unintelligible as to any consecutive course of conduct or measures that they were likely to pursue. It was his firm opinion that if Her Majesty's Government had a fair opportunity they would bring forward measures of a better character, and more suited to the feelings of the country, than hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) had drawn a great draft upon the credulity of the House and the country with respect to the opinions upon protection to agriculture, upon which he plumed himself, and upon which he seemed ready to stake his existence. But if he (Sir J. Tyrell) was mi greatly mistaken, that right hon. Gentle- 713 man had founded ten or fifteen Protection Societies in Wiltshire only three months before the new light made its appearance in his mind. Under these circumstances, he thought he was hardly entitled to read a lecture to those on that side of the House. He (Sir J. Tyrell) supported the present Ministry, because he believed that they were the only Government which the country was likely to have which would redress the grievances of agriculture. That was his definition of protection. The present was the third attempt which hon. Gentlemen opposite had made to misunderstand what had been said in that and in the other House of Parliament. But what was his (Sir J. Tyrell's) definition of these things? Why did he support Her Majesty's Government? Because he believed it was the only Government the country was likely to have that would redress the evils of the nation. As for the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, he deserved a crown of glory, for showing them that they had a better cause, perhaps, on the ground of justice than they had on that of protection. But, surely, those being their opinions, they were not liable to be taunted because, being in a minority in that House, they declined to take a direct vote on the question of protection. Yet that was the battering ram which the Opposition were directing against the Government. He had on a former evening remarked upon the factious character of that opposition led by the noble Lord the head of the late Government, who did not appear very forward on that occasion, but left the matter to Gentlemen outside the ring, while those who expected to be future "right honourables," and to figure away as men of great power and capacity for business, had hitherto maintained great silence. He must say that the remarks of the Opposition were not very flattering to the Government of the noble Lord, who, he thought, had deserved better at their hands than they seemed inclined to deal out to him. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers) said free trade was in danger, and taunted the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) for the position he had taken; but he (Sir J. Tyrell) considered it was very flattering to those on his own side of the House to see a Gentleman who had generally been a supporter of Sir Robert Peel take his seat where he had. They were told the other night that those on that side of the House were afraid of Parliamentary re- 714 form, and of an extension of the suffrage. They were no doubt afraid of a radical reform, from which they feared that the agricultural interest would again be severe sufferers, as they had been from the last. It was not a worthy course for the Opposition to waste the time of the House in debates of this kind. If their principles were so clearly true, and they had so much confidence in the success of the appeal to the country, they might at least allow the business of the House and the country to proceed in peace. He believed that if time was given to the Government, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would be prepared to bring forward a measure for the extension of the suffrage which would do honour to his talents. It would not at all surprise him if the right hon. Gentleman had a measure of that kind. That, no doubt, did not suit the book of the Opposition. On the ballot question he completely scarified them, and polished their bones. The right hon. Gentleman having brought forward Motions for the relief of the agriculturists, and having been defeated first by a majority of 100, then of 50, and at last by only 14, hon. Gentlemen then said, "Oh dear! we don't understand him;" and that was what they said now; but both they and the country could make a shrewd guess at what he intended to do. Perhaps it was not quite in order for him to say that hon. Gentlemen opposite pretended not to understand what was said in the other House; but they might recollect that when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his first speech in that House, he said that a time would come when they would hear him; and his (Sir J. Tyrell's) opinion was, that if they waited a little, there would come a time when they would understand him too.
§ MR. P. HOWARD
said, the only measure proposed by the Government, which they could call their own was, that by which it was intended to give the franchise to any person who had served two years in the militia. It had always been usual, on a change of Government, that a sketch should be given by the Ministry coming into office of the policy it intended to pursue. When Sir Robert Peel acceded to office he wrote a letter to his constituents at Tamworth, in which he entered minutely into the policy he intended to pursue; and when Earl Grey came into power, he was equally distinct in the exposition of his policy. The present Government, how- 715 ever, had left both their home and colonial policy a complete riddle, while on ecclesiastical polity they had expressed no opinion, but by the indirect answers which they had given, they had opened up a most fertile ground for religious strife. No Ministry could ever follow the course adopted by the present Government without causing a political discord which it was fearful to contemplate.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) had stated his firm adherence to the principles he had adopted in 1846, and had dwelt on the sacrifice he then made in not only changing his opinions, but in forcing those opinions on the country. Now, every one must feel that when a man had made great sacrifices, it was natural he should entertain an attachment to the object for which he had made them; but such attachments often became exaggerated by the sense of the sacrifices made by those who entertained them; and the right hon. Gentleman now intimated that if a bridge could be constructed to reunite him to those from whom he had been separated by his change of opinions in 1846, he would gladly add an arch to such a bridge. He begged, however, to tell the right hon. Gentleman, that his subsequent observations did not tend to any such object, when he said that those who had supported the Corn Laws had supported them as a system of outdoor relief to the country gentlemen of England—an expression which he trusted he would see the propriety of retracting.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
What I said was, that the Corn Laws might be characterised as a system of outdoor relief to the country gentlemen; but I said also, I was persuaded that if Gentlemen opposite held the same opinion, they would not have supported those laws.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was glad the right hon. Gentleman had acquitted the country gentlemen of England of being actuated by such base motives in their opposition to the policy of 1846—a policy against which, he (Mr. S. Herbert) had, previous to 1846, co-operated with the Protection Societies in his own county. He (Mr. Newdegate) as vice-chairman of the acting Committee of the National Association for Protection, had, owing to the illness of his hon. Friend near him (Mr. G. F. Young), had the honour of occupying the chair of that Committee, and he could assure the 716 House that the Protection Societies throughout the United Kingdom had placed their confidence in the Earl of Derby, and, for this reason, that they, adhering to their opinions, believed also that the noble Earl was sincere in the opinions which he had ever entertained, expressed, and acted upon. The members of the Protection Societies believed that the Earl of Derby was the Minister most likely to bring about a happy understanding between those who entertained the same opinions with themselves, and those sections of the community which entertained opposite opinions. For that reason they had—so far as information had reached the central society—unanimously decided on supporting the Earl of Derby as a consistent statesman, and the Minister most able and likely to bring about a happy understanding between themselves and those with whom they differed. They had not abated one jot of their opinions as to the question of protection; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire said that the Corn Laws were a mere system of outdoor relief to the landowners, he would ask him to allow him to interpose the opinion of an unprejudiced statesman on the adoption by this country of free trade. The speech of M. Thiers, in the late Assembly of France, had been adverted to in that House by the noble Lord the Member for London, who rightly characterised that speech as one of the ablest protection speeches that was ever delivered. M. Thiers ought to be unprejudiced, indeed favourable to the adoption of free-trade by England, since the French Minister of Agriculture had reported that 4,000,000 acres of waste land in France had been brought into cultivation since 1846. But what was the opinion of M. Thiers with respect to the maintenance of protection by France? Why, he defended it, and the Assembly by their vote confirmed his reasoning. What did M. Thiers say of the policy adopted by this country in 1846? He declared that Sir Robert Peel made a most unwise change in 1846—that it was made in deference to violent and ignorant agitation, not with the view to the real interests of the country, but to preserve the monarchy and the aristocracy of this country from the violence of a misguided population. And when the right hon. Member for South Wiltshire condemned the landowners of this country for receiving what he termed outdoor relief, what said M. Thiers of the landowners of France? Why, 717 said M. Thiers, did the Assembly of France give them protection? Because, he said, what may be borne in England cannot be suffered in France, owing to the subdivision of property; in consequence of which, if the corn laws were there to be repealed, to use his own words "everybody would he ruined;" but that Sir Robert Peel, in repealing the Corn Laws in England, had thought the large landed proprietors might afford to make a sacrifice from their surplus, and consider it advisable to agree to the measure: nevertheless that he (M. Thiers) thought that sudden and violent change most unwise and inconsistent with national prosperity. He appealed to this as the unbiassed opinion of one of the leading statesmen of France. He (Mr. Newdegate) did not wish to trespass upon the attention of the House at any length; but as doubt had been thrown upon the conduct and motives of the Earl of Derby, and as he (Mr. Newdegate) had been the chairman of the acting Committee of the Protection Society, he thought he was bound not to remain silent. It was said that the Earl of Derby would lose the confidence of the House and of the country by not dissolving at once, and stating at the same time the precise object of his future commercial policy, and the exact changes he would make. The Earl of Derby would lose nothing by not adopting this course. The hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), wanted the noble Earl to fix a 5s. duty, or some other precise amount of duty upon the importation of foreign corn, as a definite proposition, and also to fix the day for the dissolution of Parliament, because the success of the agitation which he intended to excite would depend upon two circumstances: one, that there should be a fixed and narrow point of attack, like a 5s. duty; and the other, that there should be a certainty as to the time of the dissolution. If the hon. Gentleman could arrive at a certainty on those two points, he had told the Anti-Corn-Law Leaguers that he would excite a violent and dangerous agitation throughout the country, which would culminate at the precise period of the general election. He (Mr. Newdegate) hoped the Earl of Derby would not conform to any such conditions. If he had any regard for the peace and well-being of the country, he would refuse to listen to the terms dictated by the hon. Member for the West Riding, and decline either to narrow to a point the future policy of his 718 Government, or to name precipitately the exact day for the dissolution of Parliament, because, if he acceded to such conditions, they would be turned to the worst possible purposes by the hon. Member.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, that his right hon. Friend the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert)—in proof that no unnecessary impediment had been thrown in the way of public business—had reminded the House that the Government, who had now been six weeks in office, had in no single instance met with a hostile division; but he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that public business had, to a great extent, been impeded by other means—in one instance by speeches for eight hours, and in another for six hours, on questions which might have been disposed of in half an hour. And who were those who brought forward those questions? They were the very Gentlemen who were so eager that the Members of that House should be sent to their constituents with the view to a new verdict on the question of free trade. Now, he (Sir R. Inglis) begged to say, with regard to the intentions of Government on the subject of a dissolution, he required nothing more than the original statement, in another place, of the Prime Minister. His belief was, that so soon as the measures which, in his judgment, were essential to the public service and the defence of the country were passed, the noble Earl meant, as an honest man, to appeal to the country. Now, that being the case, he asked the House whether, if the course were persisted in, of occupying eight hours on one evening, and six hours on another, and three hours, as on that occasion, with unnecessary discussions, the Government could be expected to advise the Crown to dissolve Parliament at an early period? On looking at the Orders for that day he found no less than three and twenty notices; amongst them were a Bill on the Salmon Fisheries, and the Sheep Contagion Bill. It was not asserted that those were measures of urgency; but he had full confidence in the Government not prolonging the Session beyond the time necessary to pass certain bonâ fide and necessary measures.
§ Subject dropped.