§ House in Committee.
§ MAJOR BERESFORD
said, it had fallen to his duty to move the Army Estimates, and in so doing, he had a claim to the forbearance of the Committee, for it was his duty to bring forward Estimates, not of his own preparing, for they were those of the late Government. He had not yet had time to give to each Vote that examination and inquiry which would enable him to give satisfactory answers to some of the objections that might be made, and he was sorry to have further to state, that he was suffering under severe indisposition. The Committee were aware that the effective and non-effective Votes were divided into seventeen branches. It was his intention to go over them briefly, and to show the increase and decrease as compared with last year, in the number of men, and the charges necessary 1305 to pay them. The first vote was for the number of men. In 1851–2 the number of men, exclusive of Her Majesty's troops in the East Indies, was 98,714. The number now proposed to be voted for 1852–3 was 101,937, being an increase of 3,223. He would not at the present time go into the causes of that increase, but he would come to the second vote for the charge for the land forces for that period. In 1851–2 the charge for the land forces was 3,521,070l. In the present year the charge was 3,602,067l., making an increase of 80,997l. The third vote was for staff, which this year exceeded the preceding year by 9,675l., this increase being chiefly owing to the Kafir war. The sum required for the next Vote, namely, for the public departments for the present year, was 95,957l., being an increase of 3,210l. as compared with the Vote of last year. The estimate for the Royal Military College was 17,141l., being an excess of only 240l. over the last year's estimate. In the Vote for the Royal Military Asylum there was a decrease of 480l.; the estimate for the last year having been 18,016l., while that of the present year was 17,536l. Under the head of Volunteer Corps the increase was 19,000l.; the sum required this year being 84,000l., while last year it was only 65,000l. The total expenditure for the effective service was 3,986,308l., which, compared with the estimate of last year, namely, 3,873,666l., showed an increase of 112,642l. He must now request the attention of the Committee to the Estimates for the non-effective services, on which there had been a decrease as compared with the Estimates for 1851–2. The rewards for military services for 1852 amounted to 15,643l.; for 1851 they were 14,606l.—increase, 1,037l. Army pay of general officers, 1852, 61,000l.; 1851, 52,000l.—increase, 9,000l. Full pay for retired officers: 1852, 50,000l.; 1851, 52,500l.; decease, 2,500l. Half-pay and military allowances: 1852, 365,000l.; 1851, 377,000l.—decrease, 12,000l. Foreign Half-pay: 1852, 36,916l.; 1851, 38,993l.—decrease, 2,077l. Widows' Pensions: 1852, 119,387l.; 1851, 122,717l.—decrease, 3,330l. Compassionate Allowances: 1852, 83,000l.; 1851, 88,500l.—decrease, 5,500l. In-pension: 1852, 28,815l.; 1851, 35,413l.—decrease, 6,598. Out-pension: 1852, 1,226,803l.; 1851, 1,233,050l.—decrease, 6,247l. Superannuation Allowances: 1852, 37,500l.; 1851, 37,500l. The total sum required for the non- 1306 effective services this year was 2,024,064l., which, compared with the sum voted last year, 2,052,642l., showed a decrease of 28,215l. Deducting this sum from 112,642l., the increase in the effective service, the total increase in the Estimates for the present year amounted to 84,427l. This increase, as he had before stated, was chiefly occasioned by the Kafir war, but for which the Estimates for the present year would not have exceeded those of last year, if, indeed, they had not fallen below them. It was due to his predecessor the right hon. Member for Perth (Mr. F. Maule) to state, that the Estimates appeared to have been framed with proper regard to the efficiency of the service, and the well-being of the country. It was the duty of the individual to whom the financial arrangements for the land forces were entrusted, to provide all that was necessary to maintain the Army in a state of efficiency. It had been his lot to have the honour of serving Her Majesty both at home and abroad, and he had learnt by experience to distinguish between well-considered and legitimate economy and a paltry and spurious economy, of the penny wise and pound foolish stamp, which ultimately entailed additional expense on the country. The men who protected the interests and upheld the honour of the country in every quarter of the globe, were at least entitled to justice, if not gratitude. As long as he should hold the office which he had now the honour to fill, he would endeavour to avoid all unnecessary expenditure; but at the same time he would earnestly apply himself to relieve the wants and satisfy the just claims of the soldier, being convinced that such a course would tend to promote a feeling of contentment, and increase the efficiency of the service. The total of the British Army, including the troops in the service of the East India Company, was 132,434, being an increase of 3,223 over the Estimate of last year, which was chiefly caused by an increase of the force required for the Cape of Good Hope. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the number of officers, non-commissioned officers, and rank and file for the service of the United Kingdom (exclusive of the troops in the East Indies) for the year from the 1st of April, 1852, to the 31st of March, 1853, be 101,937.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that after the slight attention which had been given to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, he could expect but little attention for 1307 himself. The Government, in consequence of their very recent accession to office, had adopted the Estimates of their predecessors; and this precluded him from making the objections he had made on former occasions. During many years he had voted, with his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume), for a considerable reduction in the military force; but the altered circumstances of foreign countries and foreign Governments had placed Her Majesty's Government in a different position; and it was accorded by the public opinion that the military force of this country should be placed on a more efficient footing. He should therefore not propose a reduction on this occasion; but he thought the Committee ought to be made acquainted with the further measures which the Government proposed. Something had been said with regard to a militia force. The Committee ought to know the number of men proposed to be so embodied. It must be satisfactory to know that the late Government, with the best means of information, entertained no apprehension of any foreign aggression; for it happened that on the 1st of January last, the number of the forces embodied was 5,172 less than the number voted by that House. Unless some new light had broken out, he was at a loss to understand the reason of the proposed increase. Looking at the enormous amount of our military force, he thought any apprehension of invasion was groundless, and the idea of embodying a lot of young lads as a militia was perfectly absurd. At present the number of officers and men in the cavalry and infantry was 101,936, in the artillery 15,582, making, with 5,300 marines on shore, a total of 122,818. On the 1st of January 42,280 of these were in the colonies, leaving a force in the United Kingdom of 80,538 men. In addition there were 15,000 embodied pensioners enrolled and ready to be called out at a moment's notice. The Irish police consisted of 12,380 men, allowed to be one of the finest military bodies in Europe, as described by Colonel Brown, before Lord Devon's Commission. That officer said he would match them to beat any 12,000 soldiers in the world. Adding those to the cavalry, infantry, and artillery, we had a force of nearly 108,000 men. What foreign Government could land an army in this country to match that number of men? In addition, we had a volunteer force amounting to a very large number. There was the coast guard, 6,000; the dockyard battalions, 9,200; the yeomanry 1308 cavalry, 13,520; which added to the above made a total of 136,638. If the 14,000 police, who only wanted to be trained to the use of the musket to become an efficient body, were added, the total force in Great Britain and Ireland would be 150,638 men. Was not this a force sufficient to protect this island against all the world? We had, in addition, that branch of the public service to which we had always appealed with confidence for protection, the Navy; but unfortunately it was now considered as counting for nothing at all. He hoped soon to see it placed in a state of greater efficiency. The number of marines on board was 7,708; the number of sailors voted was 28,000, and 5,000 for the reserve, making together 40,708, which added to the military branch gave a total force of 191,146, for the defence of this country, to be voted and paid for out of the public money, with the exception of the police. He hoped the Government would not contemplate the necessity of adding to this force a militia of raw lads. The proposed rifle corps would be found infinitely more efficient. If Her Majesty issued her proclamation, calling on the people to form rifle corps, he doubted not it would be responded to by 1,000,000 of men. He regretted to see that a rebuff had been given by the Government to an application for sanction to a rifle corps. He doubted whether Napoleon himself could have succeeded against such means of defence as we possessed; every hedge-row was capable of being made a means of attack. Without proposing any reduction on the vote, he could not help observing that the number of general officers were no fewer than 353, being more than two to every regiment, which was nothing but an iniquitous waste of the public money; it could only be wanted as the means of giving unjustifiable advancement. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War fulfilled the promise he had given, he would easily find the means of effecting great reductions, without at all impairing the efficiency of the force. On the present occasion he (Mr. W. Williams) would take a course which he had never done before, namely, that of allowing Government to have all the men they asked for the Army; and he trusted that every means would be used to make that Army efficient—that arms of an improved character would be placed in the hands of the men, so as to enable them to meet their foes on an equality.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, he 1309 would, under any other circumstances, have apologised to the Committee for the course he was now about to take, but he felt that the Committee and the country were placed in such an unprecedented position that it would be most unusual if they were to pass the present Vote of money as a matter of course. Appreciating, as he did, the great industry of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams), he must say, that on this occasion, when they had no indication of the policy of the Government, it was a little too much to expect hon. Members to get up and merely express their opinion of some particular parts of the Army Estimates. He wished to base what he had to say on a broader principle, for he did not think, after the answer which had that night been given by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), that matters in that House were at all more clear or satisfactory than they were on Friday night. He was one of those who dissented from the course recently taken by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) when he threw up the Government of the country; and he dissented also from the course which he had afterwards taken, for he thought it unbecoming in him to put the name of the Earl of Derby before the Queen, when there were so many noble Lords in another place, and so many Gentlemen in that House, who could have obtained the support of the Liberal party, both there and throughout the country. He, therefore, dissented from the noble Lord's policy in placing the powerful but dangerous party opposite on the benches which they now occupied. The day had gone by when this country was to be divided into two parties—either the Gentlemen on those benches, or the Gentlemen on these. He thought there was a third party, not composed of the ultras on either side of the House, and that, in order to preserve free trade and carry useful reforms, a party could have been found that would have received the respect and confidence of the country. They had, however, got the Earl of Derby and the Gentlemen opposite in power, and, being in power, they declined to tell that House and the constituencies of the country on what principle they intended to found their Government. He could not think, therefore, that the present was an unfitting occasion, or that there was any assumption on his part, if he endeavoured to worm from those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen what were the principles on which they intended to con- 1310 duct the government of the country. Whatever odium, whatever blame might have rested on the late Government—and he was not one of their flatterers, for they had great and manifold faults—they had at any rate this virtue, that they were open and aboveboard in the expression of their policy, and frankly told the House on what principles they intended to govern the country. Now, who were their successors? They were a party of Gentlemen who had exclusively monopolised to themselves the epithet of the "country party;" they were, as they repeatedly asserted, "more English than the English themselves," and yet directly they got into power they assumed a sort of Italian mystification, and endeavoured to conceal the cloven foot of protection under the smock-frock of official reserve. Was this their open honesty? Was it not rather what might be called shuffling, and the very meanest course that a statesman could take? He was of opinion that the proper time had arrived when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—he was sorry to observe he was not in his place—or some other Gentleman connected with the Government, ought to rise in his place and toll the House distinctly whether or no the question of protection was to be raised; not, perhaps, in the shape of a fixed duty, but whether any jugglery was going to take place to give what they had so often aked for, a compensation to the lauded interests. As a Member of a Liberal constituency, he must say he found no fault with the elevation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire to his present office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor was he inclined to arraign Gentlemen opposite—to whom he had no personal dislike whatever—for any presumed want of talent or ability, or on account of their being untried men. He was of opinion that it required no great conjuror, after all, to be a Minister of State, and that if a man had ordinary abilities, great attention to business, and some respectability of character, he was quite able to take charge of the two boxes that stood on the table of the House; and, even if he was a Chairman of Quarter Sessions, if he had fixed principles, he was as well fitted to be a Minister as any other man. As a Member for a Liberal constituency he, for one, rejoiced at the elevation of the right hon. Gentleman to the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had had a hard card to play, but he had achieved his position without any aristo- 1311 cratic connexion, and after some severe struggles, accompanied with great dislike on his own side, and great distrust on this—["Hear, hear!" and cries of "No, no!" from the Ministerial benches.] Why, the right hon. Gentleman had made the Protionist party what they now were; he had infused a spirit of life—of galvanic life, he admitted, into the dead body of protection, and had placed them where they now were, and those men would have been ungrateful indeed if they had not rewarded him. But he (Mr. B. Osborne) looked upon it as a tribute to the intellectual superiority of the age when he saw such a man the leader of the great aristocratic party of England, despite of them all; the man who had carried them into power, and made them what they now were, and he rejoiced therefore at his elevation. But, participating as he did in that feeling, he lamented that the right hon. Gentleman had not, in addition to his great ability, shown himself more open and candid as a Minister of the Crown. It could not be the want of audacity of talent, for the acerbity with which he followed the late Sir Robert Peel, and twitted him on various occasions, proved the reverse. He could not forget the opinions he expressed on those occasions; and, as it was not very long since some of those orations were delivered, he wondered all the more that the right hon. Gentleman did not now act upon them, and state more explicitly what the principles of his Government were. What was the language he used as to the necessity of a Minister of the Crown explaining clearly his policy scarcely more than five years ago? Before reading the words of the right hon. Gentleman, he must say that the system of the Gentlemen opposite struck at the root of all representative institutions. If they admitted people coming into power to preserve this silence, representative institutions were a farce; and so thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1845. Would the right hon. Gentleman allow him to refresh his memory, and would Gentlemen opposite listen for a few minutes to what they applauded so lustily when it was first spoken? The right hon. Gentleman, rising with his subject, as he always did, and never so successfully as when he was persecuting the late Sir Robert Peel, said—If you are to have a popular Government; if you are to have a Parliamentary Administration, the conditions antecedent are, that you should have a Government which declares the principles 1312 upon which its policy is founded, and then you can have on them the wholesome check of a constitutional Opposition. What have we got instead? We have a great Parliamentary "middleman." It is well known what a middleman is; he is a man who bamboozles one party and plunders the other, till having obtained a position to which he is not entitled, he cries out, 'Let us have no party questions, but fixity of tenure.'" [3 Hansard, lxxix. 5.]Now, what did the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer do? He now joined in the chorus which he deprecated in 1845: finding himself, by a shuffle of the cards, in power in 1852, he says, "For God's sake let's have no party question, but fixity of tenure." The right hon. Gentleman, he repeated, was bound to say on what principle the Government was to be conducted, and not to follow a course which he once thought destructive of all representative government. It was not conducive to the credit of public men to see two or three Gentlemen who had Motions on the paper to reverse our commercial policy, and to assail the Board of National Education, get up on the Ministerial benches night after night, declaring that their convictions were unaltered, but that they intended to do nothing to bring them into practice. Such a course of conduct might be becoming in those who were for "fixity of tenure;" but for a Minister of the Crown it was in the last degree shuffling, if that term was Parliamentary, as he supposed it must be, from having so often heard it. What was more, the people of this country had a shrewd suspicion that the old-fashioned amusement of thimblerigging was about to be played by the country Gentlemen, with my Lord Derby as their confederate, and that the public were, as usual, to be gulled and plundered while the noble Lord and his confederates in the smock-frocks were playing the game. This state of things must come to an end. The Government were bound to speak out. He knew the reply would be, that this was a factious opposition. But he was not to be discouraged by the cry of "factious opposition," for he always found that whenever Gentleman in office were contradicted or threatened an bringing forward their Estimates, they cried out that it was a factious opposition. He doubted if ever there was an occasion in history where Gentlemen came into power who had been so loud in their professions when in opposition, who had hunted an unfortunate Minister to death, and then, when they came into power refused to give any intimation of what their mea- 1313 sures were to be. He cared little about what the House thought, but he cared a great deal about what the people thought; and he believed he would not stand at all the worse with his constituency for the course which he had taken. And his alarm was not all diminished when he saw the Earl of Derby, who had been called the Prince Rupert of Parliamentary tactics, assuming the character of Fabius Cunctator; and while Gentlemen opposite had been taking credit for having the winning horse, the noble Lord had been acting upon the maxim, Cunctando restituit rem. So that my Lord Derby had kept back, waiting in the race, thinking no doubt that his cattle were rather short of speed, though able to go through a great deal of dirt. The best horse for the Protectionist party was no doubt the waiting horse, but he hoped Gentlemen would not be gulled by this jockey trick. They asked for forbearance and a fair trial. But why show forbearance to a party whose principles they all knew, for the principles were as old as the men wore new in office. They should decide not to vote any Estimates when they knew there was a Protectionist party in power who would on the first opportunity saddle them with a fixed duty, or make the public pay in some other shape to the landlords of the country. Look at the construction of the Ministry. There they were, hon. Gentlemen, who had all the real demure official look. They all remembered how, in opposition, the Gentlemen opposite spoke to the farmers, both in and out of the House, at the farmers' club, on the hustings, at dinners, and in Drury-lane. He remembered going to Drury-lane incog., and hearing my Lord Malmesbury make a most furious Protectionist speech, along with Chowlers and Jowlers, when everybody complimented him for standing by the great principles of protection; and it was declared that unless those principles were carried into effect the British lion would cease to exist, with all the usual Drury-lane oratory. The farmers were beginning to be inclined towards free trade, had they not been hounded on by Protectionist orators, and were, he believed, beginning to see who were their true friends. If they had read history at all, they would call to mind the conduct of a certain Lord Stanley on another celebrated occasion—Lord Stanley, who was so profuse in his expressions of attachment and friendship to Richard III., but who, according to Hume, was so skilful in disposing 1314 of his forces, that both parties were puzzled by his procedure, for he had ranged his forces in such a manner that he was prepared to join either party, as occasion offered. He thought the farmers should ask themselves whether the same proceeding was not going to be practised by the Earl of Derby of these days that was practised by his disloyal and treacherous ancestor in 1485; for such things were in the blood, and would come out. Hon. Gentlemen were disposed to say very little of the Earl of Derby now; but were there any Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House who advocated the doctrine of protection when in opposition, prepared to pin the Earl of Derby down to the protectionist declaration he made last year? If Government did not make a full declaration of its policy, it must be called a thimblerigging proceeding; and the term might, with greater justice, be applied to this Government than it was applied by the Earl of Derby to that of Earl Grey—a Government which was open in its policy, and said what it intended to do. But of whom was the Cabinet constructed? They had a set of gentlemen who might be called an amalgamated society of Chairmen of Quarter Sessions leagued together to raise the price of bread. They consisted of thirteen gentlemen, who, differing on other points, were agreed in this—to raise the price of the poor man's loaf. That was their position if they were consistent. He would say "if," for he had a suspicion that they intended to throw the farmers over. This was beginning to be noised about; they were said to be coming to the opinion that they might do without protection; and then why should they not stand by the Earl of Derby, who was such an excellent man, and would give such sure protection to the Church of England? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had always carried out one great principle—he had always said that the Government of this country should be based on the territorial principle, and hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered lustily. They did not very well understand how far it went; but now we had got a Cabinet constituted on the territorial principle. There were in it thirteen gentlemen, who, if not all possessed of great territorial possessions, represented exclusively agricultural constituencies. They were a baker's dozen leagued together to put a tax upon bread. Then, if the Cabinet was made 1315 up in that way, let them see how the rest of the Government was constructed. He found in the Government seven county Members representing exclusively agricultural constituencies. But the territorial principle prevailed also in other offices. Ten Members of the Government represented agricultural constituencies, and the very smallest that sent Members to that House; and he might make out a good case for reform from the places those ten Members represented. To begin with the alphabet, there was Abingdon, represented by the hon. and learned Attorney General. He believed that the hon. and learned Gentleman had 314 constituents, and they were so fond of him that they actually made him promise never to present himself to them again, and he promised never to go near them again. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, no!] It might be that the promise only applied to the next election; but this was some of those legal quibbles in which the hon. and learned Gentleman was fertile; and he would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, as an honest man, whether he was going there again? Then there was the hon. Member for Chichester (Lord G. Lennox). Did he represent any popular constituency? Let them take up Dod, and they would find that the Duke of Richmond had paramount influence there. Buckingham, with a constituency of 376, was under the influence of the Duke of Buckingham, and that was represented by a Lord of the Treasury (the Marquess of Chandos). Then the right hon. Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir J. Pakington), who had treated the West Indian interest with such consideration, and who was so much praised by that interest for his straightforward conduct in giving notice of a Motion on one side of the House, which he was not prepared to carry out on the other, had a constituency of 338. The right hon. President of the Board of Control (Mr. Herries) sat for Stamford, which was under the influence of the Marquess of Exeter. ["No, no!"] Did hon. Gentlemen presume to contradict Dod? Was it not notorious that the Marquess of Exeter held the greater part of the 10l. houses in Stamford? It appeared to be disagreeable to the hon. Gentlemen opposite to have their constituencies dissected. With regard to the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Walpole), he gladly and willingly acknowledged that that right hon. Gentleman ought to have 1316 a seat in that House whatever place he might represent, and he only hoped to see him sit for some place more important than Midhurst, which had only a constituency of about 300; among whom the influence of the Earls of Digby and Egmont was paramount. Those who were for the territorial principle were consistent in wishing to keep up this state of things; but he, for one, would desire to abolish these rotten boroughs, and would not allow the Earl of Egmont or the Marquess of Exeter to exercise influence in them, but would tell him to be satisfied with their influence in another place. Now, out of the ten agricultural boroughs to which he had alluded, represented by hon. Members on the other side, seven were nomination boroughs, and some of the others not of the best character; and did the hon. Gentlemen opposite, then, expect that the country, remembering what had been their professions on the Opposition side of the House, would be so besotted as now to grant them any confidence? For his part, he was sorry that a direct vote of want of confidence had not been moved. He had no confidence in the Government at all, and he believed that they had no confidence in themselves. If they had, why did they not come forward boldly, like men, and declare their principles? They said that they were still of the same opinion as they had so often professed before the country, that free trade was ruining, not the territorial interest alone, but the labouring interest, the commercial interest, and every interest; and yet, when they were in position to give effect to their principles, they slunk from the obligations attaching to the situation in which they had been placed by, as he conceived, the unpardonable weakness of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). What claim for forbearance did their English appointments furnish? A claim for forbearance had been put forward on the ground of law reform, of which he found the lawyers to be suddenly enamoured. Certainly Lord St. Leonards, when he formerly sat in that House, did not distinguish himself as a violent law reformer. Indeed, if hon. Gentlemen would only turn to the pages of Hansard, they would find that Sir Edward Sugden, in that House, then opposed every measure of useful reform, and was one of the most intolerant and bigoted Tories in the House. And yet they were told that they must have confidence in the Government, because Lord St. Leonards was there! That noble Lord's 1317 presence in the Government gave him (Mr. B. Osborne) no great confidence, neither did the other law appointments. They might be great lawyers, but the House would not forget that those lawyers were the first men to desert Sir Robert Peel; for deserted that statesman was,——"in his utmost need,By those his former bounty fed.Yet they were told that they ought to have confidence in the law appointments of the Government. Now, he thought the Government was not entitled to confidence; and, in his opinion, granting the necessity of law reform, even law reform might be purchased too dearly; and he was not prepared, for its sake, to sacrifice free trade and all other reform. The only forbearance he could advice his hon. Friends to have was to exercise a salutary restraint, and not to grant the Government men or money until they defined their principles. So much for the English appointments of the Government. He should make no allusion to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, because he was not in a state to answer any allusions that might be made to him. [Major BERESFORD said, he was quite ready to do so.] Well, then, if he made allusion to that right hon. Gentleman, he should say that, if there were one appointment worse than another, disentitling the Government to common respect, it was the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War. After the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the other day on the hustings at Braintree, where he said he did not care for the people—that he only looked to the electors of Essex—he thought the right hon. Gentleman was not entitled to the respect of any person representing an English constituency. Then, what was to be thought of the Irish appointments? In the state of Ireland this was a matter for more serious consideration than the English appointments. He had always heard Gentlemen from Ireland express consider able feeling against any Government that did not happen to have an Irishman in the Cabinet; but on the present occasion he rejoiced that there was no Irishman in the Cabinet, for, if there were, he would necessarily be of such opinions as could produce nothing but unlimited mischief to Ireland. The nobleman chosen for the Lord Lieutenant, was, if that office were to be retained, probably the best of the Irish appointments. If that nobleman only confined himself to the Curragh and the Castle, 1318 he would not do much mischief; but the appointments he had already made did not entitle him to confidence. The appointment of Chief Justice Lefroy was a most; mischievous one. Then let the House only look to the noble Lord's chaplains. For them the noble Lord had singled out, not impartial individuals, but all those men who were the most pledged against the system of National Education in Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) shook his head, and no doubt thought the appointment of Mr. Singer, who proposed the right hon. and learned Gentleman for Dublin University, a good appointment. Yet Dr. Singer was a most implacable bigot against the Roman Catholics. Let the House only consider the speech made by Dr. Singer the other day against the National Education system. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had made a speech full of misrepresentations concerning the Earl of Clarendon's appointments; but he (Mr. B. Osborne) would forfeit his seat in that House if Dr. Singer was not the most implacable opponent of the system of education, and if he ever spoke of the Roman Catholics without throwing contumely on their creed. He now came to the legal appointments of the Government in Ireland. He had a great feeling of respect for the right hon. and learned Gentleman representing the University of Dublin; but that right hon. Gentleman had a thorough feeling of dislike to the principles of the Roman Catholic religion, and was not a man to be put in the situation he now held if the Government wished to have the confidence of the Irish people. The sooner the Government put the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the Bench, the better the Irish people would be satisfied. The right hon. and learned Gentleman would do nothing but credit to the Bench; but, representing the University of Dublin, he would make speeches distasteful to the Roman Catholics, by whom they would be resented. Then, there was the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, for whom he had equal respect; but by the course that hon. and learned Gentleman had taken in that House—by opposing all reform in Ireland out of the House, and by the manner in which he had spoken of his Roman Catholic fellow subjects, it was evident that he was not a man in whom the Roman Catholics could have any confidence whatever. Then, there was the Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. G. A. Hamilton), another representative of the 1319 University of Dublin; and it must be a misfortune to any Government to have two representatives for Dublin University, not entitled to the confidence of the Irish people, as two prominent functionaries of the Administration. He perceived that the noble Lord the First Commissioner of the Board of Works smiled, and he had reason to smile, because his poetic prophecy was now become true; commerce was at a discount, and the old nobility had got it all their own way. No doubt the territorial principle had been satisfactorily asserted, in the noble Lord's opinion. The country had heard of the "broad bottom" Administration, and the Administration of "all the talents," and the people would not hereafter, forget the Government of "all the squires" of 1852. But he (Mr. B. Osborne) had neither confidence in the Government nor in their professions. He thought it mischievous to have men in office whose convictions, if they were compelled to act on them, would ruin the country; and it was because, if he gave the Government any support, it must be on the ground that they were false to their former professions; because he believed the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir. J. Pakington) honest in his opinions, earnest in his intentions, and incapable in his actions, that he proposed not to grant the Government either money or men.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that his hon. Friend who had just sat down, had adverted to the law appointments of the Government in Ireland in terms which he (Mr. Whiteside) felt compelled to notice. He was not sure whether his hon. Friend imagined that he excelled in irony; but he should say that he doubted whether the speech of the hon. Gentleman was constructed in that severe taste of polished sarcasm which he should have thought most suitable to that House. He reverenced genius when he met it; he admired eloquence when he heard it; but he thought he could distinguish between the divine original and the miserable imposture. The hon. Gentleman had criticised severely the Ministers who had made the recent appointments in Ireland, which he said did not deserve, and had not obtained, the confidence of the Roman Catholic people, or, as he (Mr. Whiteside) understood, of the Roman Catholic priesthood. [Mr. OSBORNE: No!] Now he was certainly open to that objection; and although he had never in his life, to his knowledge, uttered a sentiment offensive to Roman Ca- 1320 tholics, he had not concealed his own opinions; and if the fact of being a sincere Protestant, and of holding firmly the doctrines of the Reformation, were to disqualify men for office, he admitted that he and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) should be for ever debarred from the pursuit of an object of honourable ambition. But if the hon. Member merely meant that no man ought to be placed in office who would refuse to the Roman Catholics of Ireland impartial justice, or who would withhold from them a full share in every wise and useful measure that could be suggested by patriotic men for the good of that country, then he entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman. Was it necessary, however, he would ask, for a man to be a hypocrite—was it necessary for a man to pretend to believe things he did not believe—or must a man have no opinions, on the subject of religion, in order to entitle him to a place in the Irish Government? He could perfectly understand an hon. Gentleman who had no profound convictions himself on any religious subject, satirising those who had; but he believed there was nothing in an adherence to the religion of the bulk of the people of this country which could disqualify a man for office, if his character were unspotted, and his conduct honourable. What was there in the profession of the Protestant religion to disentitle him, or any man, to the favourable consideration of his Sovereign? So far had he been from having offended his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, that he could state in his own defence, that, when liberty and life had been at stake, the humble individual who then addressed the House had been more than once selected by Roman Catholic gentlemen as their defender; and he was not conscious that he had ever betrayed that trust. He told the hon. Gentleman that he would rather strip the gown he had the honour to wear from his back, than drag it through the mire of faction. The hon. Gentleman had eulogised the noble Lord the Member for London, and his Administration; but he (Mr. Whiteside) would contrast their appointments with those of the noble Earl. He (Mr. Whiteside) said that the Administration of the late Government in Ireland was the Administration, not of the great Whig party he saw before him, distinguished by their ability, their position, their knowledge of affairs, and their eloquence, but the Administration of a clique. From 1321 that Administration every man who held the opinions of the late Sir Robert Peel—every man who held Conservative opinions, was excluded. The party of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Athlone (Mr. Keogh) was excluded from that Administration, which had degenerated into a clique, that had daily been growing "fine by degrees and beautifully less," until, in his profession, men had been elevated to power whose voices he had never heard during his professional career. ["No, no!"] It was true, Lord Derby, on the other hand, had recommended the appointment of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland; and he (Mr. Whiteside) spoke the voice of his profession when he said that that appointment had met with the approbation of the public and of the entire Bar of that country, not merely because that distinguished person would pronounce his judgments in court with ability and speed, but because he would organise—and, indeed, he had already done so—those large and liberal measures of legal and equitable reform, at which the hon. Gentleman had sneered, but which deeply concerned the property, the industry, and the peace of every individual in the community. The first Judge whose elevation the noble Earl at the head of the Government had recommended, was one who had never served him, but who had served the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham). He had been the Attorney General with the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel). A Conservative, but moderate in politics, he had been passed over by the late Ministry, notwithstanding his learning, knowledge, and experience; he had been passed over on account of his opinions; but he (Mr. Whiteside) appealed to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon whether an honester, a better, or an abler man had ever served the Crown? Lord Derby had recommended his elevation to the Bench after having asked, as he (Mr. Whiteside) had heard him ask, not what individual would best serve his party, but what individual would best serve the interests of the public. It was true that Baron Lefroy had been promoted to the office of Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench; but if the hon. Gentleman would consult even Roman Catholic gentlemen connected with the Irish Bar, he would be told by them that the whole career of Baron Lefroy since He had been raised to the Bench had been distinguished by learning, temper, and moderation. He (Mr. 1322 Whiteside) had no right, perhaps, to trespass further on the time of the House; but He wished to take that opportunity of adverting to a passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) on a recent occasion. He confessed he was at a loss to discover what there had been of an unconstitutional character in the conduct of Lord Derby, either in his acceptance of office, or in his continuing to remain there until such measures as he conceived to be necessary for the good of the country should have passed through Parliament. It was not he who had driven the late Ministry from power. They had fallen unexpectedly under a blow aimed by a friend, with the best motives no doubt; they had fallen by a deliberate vote of that House, which the noble Lord the Member for London had accepted as amounting to a declaration of a want of confidence in his Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had said that the acceptance of office by Lord Derby was laudable, but that if he continued in office for an unnecessary period of time without appealing to the country, his conduct would be unconstitutional. The question, therefore, became one merely of time; and every hon. Member would be bound to record his vote against any measure which might be introduced by the Government, not for the public good, but for the purpose of prolonging the inglorious existence of a Ministry which had outlived its usefulness and its honour. Public opinion would pronounce its decision on the conduct of the Government of Lord Derby, and by that decision they should either stand or fall. But he (Mr. Whiteside) was satisfied that whether that noble Earl's tenure of office were short, or whether it were prolonged, it would be directed to maintain peace abroad, if it could be maintained with honour; to preserve tranquillity at home; to keep the people of this country religious, happy, and contented; to uphold the prerogatives of the Crown; and to guard undiminished the liberties of the country.
§ MR. HATCHELL
regretted that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, in replying to the hon. Member for Middlesex on the subject of the recent legal appointments in Ireland, had not confined himself to a panegyric on those appointments; but be had with his usual indiscretion charged the late Government with making unfair appointments; those ap- 1323 pointments, however, though they might not be satisfactory to the hon. and learned Gentleman, were perfectly satisfactory to the Irish people. The hon. and learned Gentleman intimated that some of the persons who had been appointed to office by the late Government, had never before been heard of in a court of justice. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman apply that remark to the Judges appointed by the late Government? Did he mean to apply to Sir Michael O'Loghlin the observation that his voice was never heard in courts of justice? Were not also the late Chief Barons Wolfe and Brady, and the present Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Mr. Justice Moore, ornaments to their profession? He felt called on to make these few remarks because his hon. and learned Friend was not satisfied with defending the present Government, but endeavoured to throw odium on the late Government. With respect to the legal promotions made by the present Government, he entirely agreed with his hon. and learned Friend's observations with respect to the appointment of the Lord High Chancellor.
§ MR. BOOKER
said, he thought they might then very well drop the subject of the law appointments of the Government. Neither did he mean to enter into any discussion of the extent to which Government possessed the confidence of that House; and he certainly would not attempt to pronounce any opinion on the confidence which the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne), who had opened that debate, had manifested in himself. But as a Member of that country party which the hon. Member had attacked in such unmeasured terms, he was desirous of recording the entire confidence which he, as a member of that party, reposed in the Government which had just been formed. He was desirous also of taking that opportunity of expressing his entire reliance and confidence in the judgment, the discretion, the eloquence, and the ability of the right hon. Gentleman who led them in that House. He readily joined in the tribute of respect which had been paid to that right hon. Gentleman's genius and ability; and assuredly no taunt from the other side of the House would wean the country party from the confidence they reposed in him. He (Mr. Booker) apprehended that it was unnecessary for him to dilate on the ability, the manliness, and the integrity of the noble Lord the present First Minister of the Crown. That noble Lord had led them on 1324 through good report and through evil report; and his counsels he (Mr. Booker) hoped would at present prevail, for he doubted not that those counsels would tend to the honour of the Crown, and the welfare and prosperity of the people. He would not then enter into the question of free trade or protection. That question should be decided by an appeal to the constituencies of the country; and after the constituencies should have returned Members to a new Parliament, that question would be properly and usefully reopened. At the same time, he must say that there was something extraordinary in the conduct of that party, which seemed to pant for an appeal to the country, in prolonging these discussions, and taunting the right hon. Gentleman on his (Mr. Booker's) side of the House with unnecessarily prolonging the duration of the present Parliament. By such unseemly haste they betrayed their real fear of meeting their constituents at the hustings. ["Oh!"] That observation might be received with a sneer or a smile; but the Government had answered the appeal that had been made to them. They had told the hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House what were their objects in keeping the present Parliament together, and avoid pushing them before the notice of their constituents. They had told them that the necessary business of the country had to be gone through, before, with safety to the Crown and the institutions of the country, an appeal to the country could be made. As soon as that business had been gone through, and no sooner, an appeal would be made to the constituent body. But he apprehended that hon. Gentlemen opposite were keenly alive and desperately uneasy as to the course which the Government were likely to pursue; he apprehended that they were not without a belief that the course which the Government would take, might tend to confirm them in office. Hon. Gentlemen opposite taunted their opponents with postponing an appeal to the country while they were in a minority in that House; but had not the Members of the late Administration themselves attempted to carry on the Government of the country with a not acknowledged, but with a practical, minority on almost every important subject that had of late years been submitted to Parliament? They might depend upon it that the great party that now occupied the Ministerial side of the House were bound together by a bond of union which could not be dissolved by such a con- 1325 federacy as that which they had to face. It was absurd to taunt the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with shrinking from a plain avowal of his principles. Why, it was the manliness with which he had professed his principles when in Opposition, that had, by the aid of his great industry and eloquence, placed him in his present distinguished position, and from which it would be more than hon. Gentlemen opposite could accomplish to displace him. He (Mr. Booker) believed that the people of England had confidence in the present Administration. They were sick of the imbecility, the vacillation, the utter absurdity of the manner in which the Government had been carried on by the late Administration; and it was a relief to them to see in office men who would hold the reins of power with a firm hand, and who would proceed on broad principles. Those principles, he was sure, would receive the approbation and approval of the people. It had been said that public opinion had received a shock, and that the interests of this country would suffer every moment that the Earl of Derby's Administration continued. But what evidence was there of that? The late Government had by their policy forced production, but they had forced it at the cost of a diminution of profits, and they had placed themselves in a position which left the present Administration and its supporters in no fear of an appeal to the constituent body.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland had, in the course of his speech, put one very pointed question—he had asked whether it was necessary to be a Minister for a man to be a hypocrite? He (Sir B. Hall) would ask—Is it not advisable that he who is a Minister should be an honest man? and, if such were the case, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman thought that the Ministry, as it stood at present, was composed of men who were determined to support a policy they had formerly pronounced for—if they were determined to stand by those professions which had enabled them to acquire the high position they now occupied, he thought they ought, having attained that position, to come forward and declare, as honest men, to the country whether they intended to abide by those professions, or whether they merely put them forward for the purpose of acquiring office. He was very much surprised at the speech which had been delivered by the hon. Gentleman who had 1326 just sat down. He remembered when his hon. Friend came forward as a candidate for the representation of the county of Hereford, seeing in a paper which advocated the principles of the Tory party in that county, a statement to this effect: "We have now Mr. Booker as a candidate for the honour of representing Herefordshire. We shall return him to Parliament, and we shall have a man who will 'beard the lion in his den.'" That lion was his noble Friend late at the head of the Government, and the den the assembly in which they then sat; and yet, from the time his hon. Friend (Mr. Booker) was elected, to the present moment, he had never suggested in that House one single idea in accordance with the professions he had advanced when he came forward as a candidate for the representation of the county, or submitted one single Motion for the improvement of that interest which he is said to represent. And what were the unfortunate deluded constituents of his hon. Friend doing at the present moment? He held in his hand a circular which had been sent round the county, giving notice that a meeting of the Protectionists of Peterchurch and the neighbouring district would be held at the Broughton Arms, in Peterchurch, to consider the best mode of proceeding as to the forthcoming election, with a view to return Protectionist candidates. The hon. Gentleman says he would let them know what they meant by protection; but when Gentlemen on his (Sir B. Hall's) side of the House asked them to come forward and declare what they intended to propose as to protection, for which they had so long clamoured, they called them factious for putting the question. Was this the conduct of honest men? He was not going to review the circumstances under which his noble Friend had given up office, or the noble Earl now at the head of the Government had acquired office; but he would remind the House that the noble Earl was reported to have said, in another place, on the 27th of February last, as the principles upon which his policy was propounded—upon some points of which he was very explicit—that the people should have no reform—no extension of the suffrage—no security for the voter; that the Church should be dominant—that the religious education of the people should be placed under the clergy of the Established Church, not only in this part of the United Kingdom, but in the other; and then he said: "I know I am in a minority 1327 in the other House, and I question whether I am in a majority in this House; but all I ask is forbearance." Forbearance for what? That he might work all the appliances of the Government, and when he had a majority, or was in a position to acquire it, then he might lay a tax on the food of the people. Was that a reason why the House should show forbearance—why hon. Members who represented large constituencies should depart in peace and show the Government forbearance? But the noble Earl was very decided upon some points: he did not say one thing definite as to his policy upon the corn laws; it appeared as if he was endeavouring to avoid that great question, and therefore it became the duty of hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House to endeavour to extract from the Government something definite on the question. Now, having read that speech of the noble Earl, and not finding anything definite, he (Sir B. Hall) and his friends had naturally looked forward to the addresses to be issued by the members of the Government when they went to their constituents. Allusion had been made to the address issued by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. That right hon. Gentleman said distinctly he was for a reversal of the commercial policy of Sir Robert Peel; but as that right hon. Gentleman was not in the Cabinet, they then looked to the addresses of those who were: first, they saw the address of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who represented an agricultural constituency; but that right hon. Gentleman took care not to say one word about protection; all he intimated was, "You are agricultural constituents whom I represent—some 200 or 300—and I promise you that you shall have a full and efficient reform of the Court of Chancery." Much they cared about Chancery suits! They would much rather have heard the intention of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government as to protective duties. Then they came to the address put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which, as might be expected from that Gentleman, was full of words without much meaning; so they waited patiently for his speech on the hustings at Aylesbury, where, after long prefatory and unimportant remarks, he alluded to the statement of Mr. M'Culloch, and said it was his intention—or, at least, he conveyed that impression—to put a fixed duty on corn. 1328 He spoke of a 7s. duty on corn, and a graduated duty on other species of grain; and he added—If the general body of the community, from their prejudice, their passion, and their shortsighted views, have a prejudice against this policy, I will not pledge the existence of a Government upon such a measure.What were they to gain from that? Were they to have a fixed duty or not? And then what came of that highflown language of the right hon. Gentleman on former occasions when he said, "I admire a Minister who says he holds power to give effect to his own convictions?" What were the right hon. Gentleman's own convictions? He had not told them lately what they were. And then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—Unfortunate will be the position of this country when a Minister pursues a line of policy adverse to the convictions which he himself entertains.Why, a short time since, the right hon. Gentleman entertained the strongest convictions in favour of protection. Was he afraid to avow them now? Was he afraid to give utterance to them when his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) asked upon what policy the Government was propounded? And then, the right hon. Gentleman said on the hustings—It is our belief that the best way, so far as the agricultural interest is concerned, would be to adopt that mode which science has recommended, and which we think only prejudice and passion oppose; but if the country will not have recourse to that mode of compromise, we bow to their decision.And added, if they did not give up this prejudice—They shall have measures forced upon them by which they will suffer infinitely more.What was the meaning of the threat of the Government to the country that they should have measures forced upon them if they objected to have their food taxed? He believed the measures they would most suffer from would be a tax upon their food, and he thought it would tax the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman himself to find out anything that would be more offensive to them than a recurrence to a duty on the importation of foreign corn. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he wished to put forward that scheme which science had recommended. But why should they not adhere to that system from; which they had received daily practical benefits? and as to talking of the prejudice and passions of the people being against a tax 1329 on their food, it was not a very unnatural thing for a man not to like to have his bread taxed. If it was a "prejudice," depend upon it the people would adhere to that "prejudice;" and if it was a "passion," they would give way to that "passion." Lately we had opened relations with a very singular people, the Chinese. They had some strange notions, one of which was, that the seat of the mind was in the stomach. He would not stop to analyse or dissect that proposition; but this he would tell the right hon. Gentleman, that if He intended to put a tax on the food of the people, He would quickly discover that the stomach would produce a very powerful effect upon the mind. But the right hon. Gentleman was explicit neither on the hustings nor in that House, and therefore it was necessary they should look back a short time and see what his views were, in order that if he intended to act as an honest man they might have some guarantee as to what he intended to do. He would not go back to times past—to 1832, 1834, or 1835—when the right hon. Gentleman advocated some of the most liberal opinions entertained by any Gentleman in that House. He had said on the hustings that it was perfectly true he had entertained and had advocated such opinions, but they were juvenile indiscretions, and he had now "sown his wild oats." Two years afterwards He became pledged to protection—he was pledged to protection; it was upon that that he had acquired office, and he was bound to toll the country before the dissolution, which he had announced is to take place before long, what were the views He entertained upon that subject. In 1841 he was strongly against an 8s. fixed duty, In 1846, when there was a proposition for a 5s. duty, he, in conjunction with the late Lord George Bentinck, said He would have nothing to do with it. He said that in 1842 there was a revision of the sliding scale, that they had then come to a compromise which was to be permanent, "and he supported that arrangement as a just, judicious, and moderate protection." Those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman, often repeated, that there might be "no mistake." Now, what was the protection at that time, and what was the protection which, if the right hon. Gentleman was honest and sincere, he would impose now? It was a protective duty of not less than 20s. when corn was 50s. But the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster thought 1330 this duty too low, and actually proposed a duty of 25s. when corn was 50s.: will he or the Government dare to make that proposition now? There was a very remarkable speech by one who was the soul of honour—the late Lord George Bentinck—a man beloved and respected by every one who knew him; who gave up all his pursuits, all his favourite avocations, for the purpose of working, to the best of his ability, the question of protection. They had had twelve nights of debate upon that question, and the last speech delivered was uttered by that noble Lord. He had an extract from that speech, and as it was short and apposite, he hoped those who voted with the noble Lord would listen to it. On the 27th of February, 1846, he said—Deeply should I regret should any large proportion of those Members who have been sent to Parliament to represent the landed tenantry of England in this House, prove to be the men to bring lasting dishonour upon themselves, their constituencies, and this House, by an act of tergiversation so gross as to be altogether unprecedented in the annals of a reformed or unreformed House of Commons." [3 Hansard, lxxxiv. 349.]And when the noble Lord was taunted by one of his opponents, and when it was said this question of protection was brought forward for the sake of the aristocracy, and that they were a proud aristocracy, He said—We are a 'proud aristocracy;' but, if we are proud, it is that we are proud in the chastity of our honour. If we assisted in 1841 in turning the Whigs out of office, because we did not consider a fixed duty of 8s. a quarter on foreign corn a sufficient protection, it was with honesty of purpose and in single-mindedness that we did so. If we are a proud aristocracy, we are proud of our honour, inasmuch as we never have been guilty, and never can be guilty, of double dealing with the farmers of England—of swindling our opponents, deceiving our friends, or betraying our constituents." [3 Hansard, ibid.]That speech of the noble Lord, who was, as he had said, the soul of honour, was delivered on the 27th of February, 1846; and six years afterwards, upon that very day, upon the 27th of February, 1852, the Earl of Derby, who had been the Colleague of the noble Lord as to his views upon this question, got up in the House of Lords as the Prime Minister of this country—placed in that office in consequence of his advocacy of protection—and neither He nor the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the moral courage or political honesty to declare what his views were upon it. Were they guilty of double-dealing with the farmers 1331 of England, or going to say to them honestly—"In 1846 we said a 20s. duty when corn was under 50s. was a just, judicious, and moderate protection, and that you shall have?" Would they dare to say that to the farmers of England; or would they be guilty of a gross act of tergiversation and say, "Protection is dead—we put it forward as a mere delusion, in order that we might acquire office, and now that we have acquired office, and have the opportunity of carrying out our views, and going to a dissolution to settle this question, we will adopt it to this extent, that we will make it our stalking horse at the coming elections, not with a view of encouraging but for the sole purpose of preventing those unpleasant questions of Parliamentary Reform and the Ballot from being considered by the electors? [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but would they come forward to their constituents and say—"We were honest, steady Protectionists in 1846, when we were in favour of a sliding scale, and voted against any alteration; our opinions were the same when you elected us again in 1847; but now, when we are in office, we are not prepared to carry out our principles." But they had now a Protectionist Government. In looking at the list of the Government, he found that all the Members of it, except two, were Protectionists. Who were those two? Members of what was called a liberal profession, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, the law officers of the late Sir Robert Peel. The one had been already alluded to; it seemed, by a happy arrangement, he was not to appear again at the place he now represented. The other hon. and learned Gentleman had been endeavouring, so far as he could learn, to get a seat in the most corrupt and notorious borough in existence—Harwich. The hon. and learned Gentleman was well acquainted with boroughs of various descriptions, because he believed he had sat for Ipswich, and afterwards lost his seat; and so gross was the bribery that the Committee determined that the defence made to the petition by the learned Gentleman was frivolous and vexatious. But some hon. Gentlemen said that a reversal of policy was not what they asked for—they meant a modification. Now, what did modification mean? Did it not amount to a reversal of the whole policy? If they put any tax whatever on the food of the people, it would be a reversal of policy. But it was said that although 1332 the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster put forward an address for a reversal of policy, the other hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords in the Cabinet were not in favour of such reversal, but of the modification to which he had referred. He thought that if hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords were pledged to anything, they were pledged to a reversal of policy. At a meeting of the friends and members of the National Association for the Protection of Industry, held at the London Tavern on the 12th of December, 1851, at which the Duke of Richmond presided, it was moved by Lord Berners, seconded by Lord Malmesbury, and supported by Mr. Gilliott (he supposed one of the deluded farmers), and resolved—That all friends of protection are hereby earnestly called on to support the Association, and to co-operate to the utmost of their power in obtaining a reversal of the present system of free importation, which is fast sapping the sources of national wealth, and threatens to consummate, ere long, the ruin of the country.That meeting was attended by some of the noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen who were now in the Cabinet. Again, the noble Lord now at the head of the Government said, on the 28th of February, 1851—I cannot, as an honest man, abandon the attempt to relieve the existing distress by retracing the false step which has been taken, and to remedy the wrong done by the imposition of a moderate import duty on corn.And in another part—By the imposition of a moderate duty upon the import of corn and provisions, to get rid, in a year or two, of the income tax.Now, let them observe the effect of that. The income tax produced between 5,000,000l. and 6.000.000l. About 11,000,000 quarters of corn were brought in annually, and in order to cover the deficiency caused by the repeal of the Income Tax, they must have a 15s. duty on the importation of corn, or perhaps more, for the quantity imported would diminish as soon as a tax was imposed on the importation; and this was what they called a moderate duty, and no reversal. Were they going to reverse the free-trade system, or were they not? That was all that they were asked, and they ought to answer the question. He would trouble the House with only a few statistics; but would refer all who desired a full and clear statement of the effects produced by free trade upon this country to the admirable exposé, supposed to have been drawn up by the late Secretary to the Treasury the hon. 1333 Member for Herefordshire (Mr. C. Lewis). It appeared that the imports of the United Kingdom from 1841 to 1845 inclusive, amounted to 360,641,000l. In the five years 1846–1850 that value rose to 466,755,000l.; being an increase of not less than 21,222,000l. per annum. So much for the imports. In the five years 1841–1845 the official value of our exports was 659,408,000l.; in the five years 1846–1850 that value rose to 833,160,000l., being an increase of 34,731,000l. per annum. Let him now state some facts in illustration of another point, which might be regarded as affording very strong indication of the increased prosperity of the country under the system which was now in operation. The bankruptcies in the first five years to which he had alluded were in number 7,010; in the last five years 7,072, being an increase of 62; but these bankruptcies wore in the proportion during the first period of 1 in 2,410 of the population, whereas in the latter period the proportion was only 1 to 2,534 of the population. Again, the commitments in the first five years were 139,505, or 1 in 121, while the commitments in the latter five years had fallen to 138,968, or only 1 in 129. Again, also, it would be admitted, he presumed, that diminution in the poor-rates might be considered as indicating augmented prosperity among the people. Now, He found, upon reference to the poor-rate in Manchester, that whereas there had been a steady increase of poor-rate there up to 1847, when the amount was 122,000l., there had, since that period, been a steady and marked decrease; in 1848 it was only 90,000l., in 1849 it was only 70,000l., in 1850 it was 65,000l., and in 1851 it was only 60,000l. So that, since the commencement of free-trade, there had been a decrease in this rate of no less than 50 per cent. Such were the benefits of the system. Why was it desired to revise, modify, or abolish the system? and for whose benefit was this revision, modification, or abolition to take place? Was it for the landlords', or for the tenants', or for the labourers'? As to the landlords, he was informed that two of the noblemen who had all along been loudest in their clamours for protection (the Dukes of Richmond and Rutland) had found, since free trade, no material diminution in their rents. If it were the tenants who had suffered by the change, why did not the landlords take measures themselves for reducing those sufferings? 1334 As yet no reduction of rents had taken place. ["Oh, oh!"] No general reduction, certainly. There had been, doubtless, various particular instances of reduction; but when Gentlemen said, as many had said, that it was impossible for the tenants to pay rent, and tithes, and taxes, could they show him that any general reduction had taken place at all equivalent to the stated exigencies of the case? As to the labourers, let him (Sir B. Hall) repeat what the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) himself had said the other day on the hustings at Aylesbury:—In 1846 we all admitted that there would necessarily be a great expansion of the foreign trade, and we said that expansion would be accompanied by considerable suffering, which would overweigh our great and important interests at home. No doubt much that was predicted did not occur; but allow me to say that much that was predicted has occurred. Distress on the farmers has occurred; but I admit, and it is with unfeigned pleasure I admit it, that the labouring population of England has not suffered, but, on the contrary, their condition has improved.Clearly, then, the right hon. Gentleman himself threw overboard one of the main arguments which had been put forward for the reversal of free trade; the labourers, He admitted, had found their condition improved by that policy. There appeared to be, indeed, only one point on which the right hon. Gentleman had been thoroughly consistent, and that was his opposition to everything that had been done by the late Sir Robert Peel. When Sir Robert Peel was in opposition, and he was asked what should be done for the benefit of the people, he said—"Place me in power and I'll tell you." What said the right hon. Gentleman when on the Opposition benches? "We want protection, the country will be ruined without it;" but when he got into office He threw the whole question overboard. In order that he (Sir B. Hall) might not be charged with presumption, he would not rely upon his own words in addressing what was called the country party, but he would quote the language of one for whom that party once entertained the greatest respect, and of whom he was quite sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer entertained the very highest opinion. To those words, which might be words of truth, which appeared, further, to be almost words of prophecy, he begged the attention of the House:—We must ask ourselves, as subjects of a popular Government, what were the means, what the 1335 machinery by which Sir Robert Peel acquired his position. The right hon. Gentleman supported a different policy for a number of years. Well do we remember—perhaps not without a blush—well do we remember the efforts which we made to raise him to the bench on which he now sits. Who does not remember the 'sacred cause of protection?' This Gentleman suddenly finds that the arguments in favour of protection to native industry are not, after all, so urgent as he once thought them. He discovers that the principle of protection cannot be supported. Having arrived at that conclusion, then, with all debating dexterity, with all the Parliamentary adroitness he possesses, he comes forward—he has the sublime audacity to come forward and confess, that at his ripe age he is convinced by arguments the very same we have heard for the last thirty years. If the constitution which governs England be a constitution that makes men recommend that of which they do not approve, then the sooner we get rid of that constitution the better. Let men stand by the principle by which they rise—right or wrong. I make no exception. Do not, then, because you see a great personage giving up his opinions, do not cheer him on, do not yield so ready a reward to political tergiversation."—[3 Hansard, lxxxiii. 115, 118, 121.]These words, surely, were the words of prophecy. Whose words, then, were they? Those of the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer himself in 1846; and he now begged emphatically to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intended to be one of the men who "stand by the principle by which they rise, right or wrong?" or whether he intended to be an exception? Did he mean, in the next Parliament, to act up to the profession of protection by which he had risen to his present position, or did he contemplate the political tergiversation he had in 1846 denounced, and imagine he should get over the difficulty by facetiously informing the House of Commons—as He had informed the electors of Aylesbury—that he had sown a second crop of wild oats, and was come to another way of thinking? The right hon. Gentleman might be assured that what availed him for the nonce on the hustings would not so avail him in the ensuing Session of Parliament. The Opposition were taunted with faction; but what could be more complimentary and courteous than their proceedings? The late Opposition demanded protection, and, as a means, clamoured for dissolution. The present Opposition, giving the late Opposition credit for candour, said, "By all means have a dissolution, and without delay." The present Government said, "We don't want fair play for ourselves; we want fair play for the country." The Opposition said, "We are quite willing to give you fair play, and we insist on your 1336 giving the country fair play, and that fair play can best be given by an avowal of your political opinions, to be followed by an immediate dissolution of the present Parliament, for which, when in opposition you clamoured, and which now in office you dread."
The EARL of MARCH
said, that the speech of the hon. Member who opened the present discussion, reminded him of the lawyer, who, having a bad cause to defend, was told to abuse the plaintiff's attorney. He had heard every word that fell from the hon. Member, and he appealed to the Committee to say if there could be found a particle of argument in the whole of his discourse? So the hon. Member, being manifestly unprovided with arguments of any sort in favour of his views, had resorted to a series of abuse of every member of the Government, with the sole exception of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose brilliant talents neither the hon. Gentleman nor any one else could call in question. It appeared to him (the Earl of March) that the tone of hon. Members on the other side of the House was by no means so candid as they would have it supposed. They were evidently not a little disappointed at the unanimity of feeling which united all the Members on the Ministerial side of the House, and they consequently took every opportunity of throwing a firebrand into their ranks; but he would inform the Opposition that it would require more exertion and talents than they possessed to produce any effect on the strength, stability, and firmness of the Ministerial ranks. With reference to the hon. Member for Marylebone, who had just spoken, he had a piece of advice to offer him—which was, not to talk of the matters and properties of individuals without having first made himself perfectly acquainted with the facts which he stated. The hon. Baronet stated that the Duke of Richmond had suffered no diminution of his rents in consequence of the policy of the late Sir Robert Peel. He would not be dragged into a Corn Law debate on this altogether inopportune occasion; but he begged to inform the hon. Baronet that his noble relative's rent-roll had diminished, not only in the south of England, but in the north of Scotland. In answer to the question which the hon. Member had put in the earlier part of his speech, he (the Earl of March), as being neither a member of the Government, nor 1337 a disappointed candidate for office, would beg to answer it. The hon. Member had asked what a Protectionist was? His (Lord March's) definition—and he believed it would be heartily responded to by the farmers throughout the Kingdom—was, that a Protectionist was a warm and cordial supporter of that Government of which the Earl of Derby was at the head. The hon. Baronet at one moment quarrelled with the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer for not bringing forward a strong measure in opposition to free trade, and in the next moment with the Earl of Derby, for having made a calm and temperate speech on the subject; but the hon. Baronet's objurgations would not influence the Protectionist party, who supported the Earl of Derby's Administration because it was one which would uphold the dignity of the Crown, and promote, the welfare of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, the definition of a Protectionist which we have just heard from the noble Lord the Member for West Sussex is something new; and I think whatever may be the opinion in this House, there will be no difference of opinion in the country as to what has been the interpretation and what has hitherto been the meaning put upon the term "protection." At all events the noble Lord will allow the House to make use of the definition that he has given us, and to convert the name of the Earl of Derby into that of a Protectionist. Now, we are bound to consider that we are dealing with a Protectionist Government, and that saves me, a great deal of argument, because we have it avowed by one who is so eminent, and who is so nearly connected with a nobleman who is a distinguished lender and champion of protection—we have it, I say, avowed by the noble Lord who has just sat down, that we are dealing with a Protectionist Government. Now, that is my case. We have a proposition from a Protectionist Government in the House of Commons that we should show a mark of our confidence in them by voting the supplies of the year for the Army. Now, it is an old constitutional rule, and, in fact, it is an indisputable rule in all representative countries, that the majority of the House of Commons, or the representative body, should govern the country. I ask the noble Lord then, who comes hero in the name of a Protectionist Government to ask a Free-trade Parliament to grant a mark of their confidence by voting the Supplies, whether he will 1338 deny that we are transgressing the rule by which our proceedings ought to be regulated, or whether, at all events, will he say that this House is not justified in pausing before it accedes to the demand that has been made to it? But Her Majesty's Government is in direct antagonism to the large majority in this House, and not merely in the number of members, for while we have a numerical majority in this House, we have also an overwhelming majority out of doors, in the number of those who sent us here. This debate has been opened by an hon. Member for the metropolitan county (Mr. B. Osborne)—a county not only one of the most populous, but infinitely the most wealthy in the United Kingdom. It has been sustained by the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Mr. B. Hall), representing a most important constituency in this metropolis. I also appear here to support that proposition, representing the vast constituency of the West Riding of Yorkshire, fully sustained by the population of that district, and representing here a body of constituents whose, number is, I believe, as large as the whole of the constituencies of all the Members of Her Majesty's Government. I am sitting by the side of the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. W. Brown) who will support the same proposition; and I shall be sustained, I am certain, by the hon. Members for Manchester, Glasgow, and the Members of other large constituencies. Therefore you are placed here not only as a numerical minority, but, tested by those whom you represent, whether as regards numbers, or wealth, or intelligence, you are an insignificant minority, asking for the confidence of this House. And if protection were merely one of the questions which are at issue between this side of the House and that—if it were a question raised for the moment, of which we had heard but little lately, and which could not be called the most prominent test of the character of the two sides of this House—I might say, why, test the confidence of the House by simply referring to the question of protection. But let me call the attention of the Committee to the fact that this great controversy has been dividing the country for nearly fourteen years. It is nearly fourteen years since the great assembly was held at Manchester, preliminary to the formation of the Anti-Corn-Law League. You had then seven years' discussion of the question which absorbed the attention of the country, and since the set- 1339 tlement you have had nearly five years more, during which it has been occasionally revived. Why, I appeal to your own candour, and you will not deny it, that the very origin of the party opposite is protection. Your foundations were laid in protection, they were cemented in protection, and you stand, as a party, solely as a Protectionist party. You will not dispute what I say, that we have hon. Members sitting on this side of the House who are opposed to you as Protectionists, but who, whether they be considered as friends of the Church, as friends of the monarchy, or as friends of aristocratical institutions, are as good Conservatives as you are. We have Members who may claim to hold as high conservative principles as yourselves. Take, for instance, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn). Will any one dispute that they are entitled to speak in this House, and in the country, as friends of the Church, the monarchy, or the aristocracy? I mention this fact, that there may be no dispute—that you may be sure to stand here as Protectionists, and as Protectionists only, and therefore I cannot allow you to come forward and say, "There are questions about Chancery reform and other matters which we are prepared to undertake, and which we are as competent to deal with as you are or can ever be." I wish to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite what is the course that is to be now adopted? I wish to ask the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell the Committee what course Her Majesty's Government is about to take. I hold that it is to be the majority of this House which is to be the test; and I ask, if we are to allow the minority to govern the House of Commons, what will it lead this House to? In the first place, on the same principle, why you may have a dictator governing this House. I appeal to the majority to vindicate itself, and to make itself felt in the policy which we have to pursue on this occasion, when we are called on to assert our rights. I appeal, therefore, to the majority of this House to vindicate itself, and make itself felt on the proposal to vote a sum of money for military purposes. The Vote for the Army is the question on which we should vindicate ourselves; and I will, therefore, not deal with the question immediately before us. I say, let the men be voted, get your Mutiny Act 1340 passed; but when we come to vote the money, let the majority of this House give a clear and unmistakeable proof of its recognition of the representative principle, by exercising in a constitutional way the right reserved to them of controlling the public purse. Well, I shall probably be asked—Why do you call on the Government to dissolve Parliament now? Where is the indication that the country demands a dissolution? I appeal to what is going on throughout the country to show that there is no difference of opinion out of doors as to the course which the majority in this House ought to pursue. Why, from one end of the country to the other, the constituencies of this Empire are in the heat and excitement of an election contest at this moment. You cannot take up a daily newspaper but you find two columns of it at least occupied with the accounts of election proceedings. And these proceedings are not confined to this side of the House. Why, the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Booker), who came into this House to decide this question, and has spoken on almost every other subject but it—has issued his address to his constituents; and the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) has also put forth a declaration in favour of protectionist principles. The country, then, I say, is in the midst of an election contest, because the instinct of the country knows that the majority of this House can deal with this question, and it is not favourable to our going on voting money and proceeding with legislation while the Government is in a minority. And this brings me to another reason why we should dissolve as soon as possible. You cannot carry on the business of the country—it is impossible that you can—while the Government is in a minority. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, when appealed to on important questions, have declared themselves that they cannot deal with these questions by reason of their being in a minority. The same sentiment also pervades the whole House. We have had Select Committees named on vital questions—questions of education and other subjects; and I ask hon. Members do any of us enter on these Committees, are our names given in to these Committees with the least idea that we can bring them to any satisfactory conclusion this Session? Does anybody doubt that in two or three months, by an absolute necessity, the proceedings of this House must be brought 1341 to a close? And, under these circumstances, seeing that everybody out of doors is preparing for an election, and seeing that this House can carry on no business satisfactorily, I say we are bound to bring this Parliament to a close by the constitutional means placed in our power. And I ask this decision from the majority, not only because the Government has declared itself protectionist on the principle of re-imposing duties on corn, but because, even in the evasive course which the Government are taking with the view of escaping the direct question of protection, they are still placing themselves on the ground of as great antagonism to the free-traders as they occupied before. For what has the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer been saying? He has avowedly been preparing, with the assent of his friends behind, to evade the question of protection—that is, the levying of the import duties; but he tells us, "I only change my ground; I still propose to give you, the agriculturists of this country, an indemnity for the loss of protection; I intend to give you redress in another form;" and then he shadows out a plan by which he means to transfer the taxes now borne by the agricultural classes to the shoulders of those who don't happen to be in possession of land. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in taking up that new ground, he is not still keeping himself in the same antagonism with those who have been his opponents on this question? I ask what is to be done with the Anti-Corn-Law League? If he has only shifted his ground, he will have to fight the same battle with the League that we once fought before. What will he do with the League if he says it has only compelled him to take his hand out of one of our pockets, in order that he may put it into another? Why, the right hon. Gentleman is doing his best to perpetuate that strife which he professes to be so anxious to allay, and to maintain in the country that agitation which I had hoped was completely put an end to. I tell the right hon. Gentleman with regard to his proposition for indemnifying the agriculturists for the loss of protection, that when we enter into that controversy I shall be as willing as he is to consider the claims of the landlords or the claims of the farmers to relief from taxation in any general remissions that we may have consequent on a surplus of revenue. I am as willing as he is to see justice done to the farmers or to the landlords, as well as to the 1342 manufacturers or traders; but when he professes to shift the burdens of the agriculturist to any other class, then, I say, he meets the free-traders on the same ground as before, and he has not taken one step to get rid of this great struggle. And I tell him that I will meet him on the very threshold of his controversy by asking, in the first place, whose taxation it is that is to be remitted; and if it is the landlords, I ask how will you relieve the farmers by lightening the burdens of the landlord? And, again, he must show me that the landowners generally are sufferers by the free-trade policy. The noble Lord opposite (the Earl of March) has met that question by referring to the case of a relative of his own—
The EARL of MARCH
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I answered the statement made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall), and which statement was not correct.
§ MR. COBDEN
Just so; it is the assertion of the incorrectness of the hon. Baronet's statement that I mean to deal with. The noble Lord, in speaking for his noble relative, states that he has suffered a loss of income in consequence of our free-trade policy. Now, I was not aware of, and I did not catch the passage in the hon. Baronet's speech in which the Duke of Richmond's case was referred to. However, don't let hon. Gentleman suppose, if this question is to be raised, that it will be possible to avoid individual cases. I have had the opportunity of knowing, from being an occasional resident in his neighbourhood, and yet I have not heard that there has been a reduction in his rents; but I have heard the contrary.
The EARL of MARCH
I must apologise to the Committee for having again to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, feeling that this is a matter of a somewhat personal nature. The hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) distinctly named the Duke of Richmond's estates; and I distinctly state, of my own knowledge, that the property of my noble relative in Sussex has been revalued, and that a dimiuution has occurred on the whole rental.
§ MR. COBDEN
Well, I will state exactly what I have heard in the course of my—[Loud cries of "Oh, oh!"] I am not going to make this a matter of reproach. I hope I have sounder views of political economy than to do that. But I have heard in the course of many oppor- 1343 tunities of inquiring of the neighbours of the noble Duke—of the tenants residing in the immediate neighbourhood of Goodwood—that not only has there been no reduction of rents—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—I mean, when I say there has not been a reduction of rents, that that has not been applied as a rule. I heard that not only has there been no general reduction, but I heard from those who are most likely to know, that if a tenant there were to leave the Duke's estate, there would be half-a-dozen others who would come forward and take his farm at the same rental. I say, then, if the Duke of Richmond's land will let on these terms, and if, when a farmer leaves his farm on the ground that the rent is excessive, half-a-dozen others with a capital are ready to take it, that his Grace would, I think, be very incapable of managing his own affairs if he dreamt of reducing the rent of that farm. [Cries of "Question!"] Well, but you were not so mealy-mouthed on your (the Goverment) side of the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham) was assailed by you in not very courteous language, when some one among you cried, "I should be ashamed to say that I had not reduced my rents!" When cases are repeatedly mentioned in a discussion, you will allow me to mention to the Committee what has been brought under my own knowledge. But I go farther. That noble Duke, like every other proprietor of land, derives his compensation in the reduced price of commodities in common with the rest of the community. A landed proprietor with a very large rent-roll, and with a large establishment—a large household to maintain, and a large stable to keep up—gains almost more than anybody else in the reduction in the price of bread, in the reduction in the price of sugar, and by the reduction of those rates of which we have heard such illustrations to-day, and which we know has been so general in the country. Then, I say, we shall have to go into all these figures before I acknowledge your right to take the taxes off land and place them on the shoulders of the industrious community. I only allude to this branch of the subject to show that hon. Gentlemen on the other side are merely changing their ground, and that they are again raising the same controversy which I had hoped had been settled by the grand struggle previous to 1846. On all these grounds, we are justified in refusing you our confidence as a Protec- 1344 tionist Government; and it is necessary that the question should be brought to a conclusion, not for the interests of the manufacturer and the merchant only, but also of the landlord and the tenant. Can it be doubted that the way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the last five years, have kept up the struggle for protection, and have diverted the tenantry by false hopes and delusive expectations that they could get redress through the medium of legislation—can it be doubted that by these means they have retarded improvement and prevented the tenant from seeking a reduction of rent or some other re-adjustment to enable him to carry on his trade with a profit? Now if that has been the result of the conduct of the party who have so perseveringly and so consistently maintained their opposition to the new policy, now is the time for bringing the question to a definitive issue. It is due not only to the manufacturers, as well as to the landed interest, but to the civilised world, that this question should be permanently settled, because the way in which you have carried on this controvorsy out of doors, led on by Dukes and Earls, in the eyes bf foreign countries, has made those countries really doubt whether we have permanently established the policy of free trade. And I myself have positive proof that in more than one country abroad you have suspended the operations of nations and also of Governments, in their adoption of a policy in the same direction as that devised by Sir Robert Peel; because other countries, judging not altogether erroneously from the power of the aristocracy of England, cannot believe all these threats to reverse the present policy will not be followed by some attempt to execute them. It is, I say, indispensable therefore that this question should be settled once for all—aye, or no—at the hustings of the country. I am not afraid that you will be able to divert the constituencies from the real issue. You may try to lead them aside by bringing forward other questions; but I defy you to succeed—the instinct of the country will keep the right question uppermost. And all I ask is, that the majority of this House will give the country an opportunity of coming to a decision on this subject.
said, he regretted the tone which had been assumed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden). Never had he heard such contradictions from one Gentleman to 1345 another. Never had he heard a Gentleman pursue such conduct as the hon. Member for the West Riding. But he passed it by. A Gentleman's honour—a Gentleman's word—should be respected in that House, and not be called in question, and he hoped such conduct would not be repeated. But to come to the question before the House. Was, or was not, the Queen's Government to be carried on? Were there, or were there not, some measures that it was indispensable to pass in the present Session? If so, why should a tyrannical majority be allowed to impede the wheels of Government? He, for one, was ready to appeal to the country, and to let the country judge between them, for he had no fear whatever for the issue. But, were hon. Gentleman opposite to dictate when a dissolution should take place? If so, the Government must be overturned, and the country thrown into the greatest confusion. Hon. Gentlemen said they did not understand the policy to be pursued by the present Government; but it was because they would not understand. Let them read the Earl of Derby's speech, and there they would see that his policy was lucidly laid down. The noble Earl had clearly stated that for the relief of the agricultural and other suffering classes, a duty upon corn and other commodities would afford the easiest mode of settling the question; but that he would not propose it if he should be placed in only a small majority, and in that event he would apply his mind to other measures for relieving suffering industry from the distress which now pressed upon it. The hon. Member for the West Riding had spoken of improvements in agriculture being impeded; but had he heard the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), in which he spoke of the large quantity of guano imported, and of the money laid out in farming? The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) said that their proceedings since 1846 had prevented the application of capital to the land; but fortunately they had seen this very year the balance sheet of a gentleman, a manufacturer, a landed man, entertained at the tables of the great, taken from the mechanical class, becoming himself, by what he had honestly earned, a man of capital, investing his capital in land. And what was the result? Had the hon. Member read Mr. Mechi's balance sheet, and seen that, with his high farming and scientific attainments, he had lost 637l, upon 1346 180 acres of land? He would allow that the importation of guano had greatly increased; but had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon observed the decrease in the importation of oilcake—not less than 10,000 tons—in the course of the year? The fact was, that guano was used so extensively because it was the most economical manure that could be employed. What he thought the House should do was this: Let them quietly go on passing the Estimates, which he begged to remind them were not the Estimates of the present Government, but of their predecessors, and let them also pass those few other measures which the Government felt it necessary to bring forward—most of them, also, the measures of the previous Government; and then, if a dissolution did not take place, let the House exercise the right which a majority always properly exercised when the Administration was in a minority, and take steps to hasten that dissolution which they so much required. As to the result of that appeal to the country, he, for one, was not afraid. When he looked at the present state of the nation, when he considered how very little excitement was occasioned by the going out of the former Administration, and the coming in of the present Government, he felt assured the country would accept the Earl of Derby's explanation of his policy, and would determine to support a Minister who would do justice to all classes of the community, who would uphold the constitution, and who, while he would not hesitate to bring forward new measures when he thought them necessary, would resist all ill-timed and reckless legislation.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, if I am so fortunate as to obtain for a brief period the attention of the Committee, I promise them that I will not willingly let fall a single word which can have the remotest tendency to perpetuate that heat which appeared, a few minutes ago, likely to disturb this debate. Sir, I believe there never was an occasion when calmness and deliberate reflection were more urgently demanded from those who take part in this discussion. I believe that we are called upon now to settle two of the most important questions on which the liberties and the happiness of a free people can depend. For, Sir, why is it that this favoured country has during the last few years enjoyed unexampled peace and prosperity? Is it not from that balance of our free constitution which, by the observance 1347 on the part of the Crown, and on the part of Parliament, of certain definite rules and certain established precedents, maintains that equipoise of freedom, securing on the one hand the sovereignty and permanence of the Throne, and the rights and liberties of the people on the other? And, Sir, the first question that we are called on to approach in this discussion is, what are the privileges, and, correlatively with these privileges, what are the duties of this House and of Parliament? Sir, we now see before us a number of Gentlemen—for whom I entertain great respect, and many of whom I have the happiness of reckoning among my personal friends—the Members of the Queen's Government, under this peculiar circumstance, that, according to their own admission verbally made, and according to their own admission more than verbally made—by the withdrawal of measures in favour of which they declare that they hold conscientious opinions—they do not enjoy the confidence of this House. In this state of affairs, let me ask, what duty devolves upon us? Sir, if you will allow me, I will, in a few words, state, on authority which I believe you respect, what is the relation of the House of Commons to the Crown in such a case as the present. In the year 1841 these propositions were laid down: that the power of the Executive Government to carry their measures by a majority of the House of Commons was essential to the continuance of their existence—that when a Government found itself in a position in which it no longer possessed that power, one single alternative remained, and that alternative was to resign their offices or to dissolve the Parliament—and that if they dissolved, they must dissolve immediately, and without any greater delay than the real exigencies of the public service require. ["Hear!" from the Treasury bench.] Now, these propositions I am glad to hear receive so much concurrence on the other side of the House. They ought: they were laid down by no mean authority—the late Sir Robert Peel, and they had what hon. Gentlemen opposite perhaps may value more, the concurrence of all those Members of the present Cabinet, who then had the honour of sitting in this House, who testified that concurrence by following the right hon. Gentleman in the Resolution which he then moved. Nor were these propositions laid down as mere dry and abstract propositions, but the reasons of them were also alleged. It 1348 was laid down and argued before you that the well-being of the Constitution depended on the constant and uniform maintenance of its equilibrium. With reference to the doctrine that a Minister might continue to govern without a majority, the right hon. Baronet said—"So unconstitutional, so dangerous a doctrine I never heard maintained; a doctrine so discouraging to public men, so fatal to the energy of a Government, I never before heard advanced;" and then this picture was drawn of the state of constitutional government in this country If we permitted it to be violated. Sir Robert Peel said it would no doubt be easy to get Gentlemen to carry on the Executive Government of the country as respectable as any of those who sat in this House, without meeting the censure of Parliament. But he said, if they were to be satisfied with the mere discharge of their executive duties—if they did not mean to carry out by legislation the advice which they gave to the Crown, what need was there of concert among Ministers, and what were the constitutional consequences that would follow? What encouragement it would give to the House of Commons to trespass on the prerogatives of the Crown? If the Government said to the House of Commons, "We care not for your legislative measures and decisions; we will not be deterred by your refusal to give effect to our measures, but we will wait until you stop the wheels of Government by some interference with our Executive Administration:" what an encouragement would they not hold out to the popular branch of the Legislature to take improper and unconstitutional liberties with the prerogatives of the Crown! He (Mr. Cardwell) had purposely avoided quoting the precise words of the speech of Sir Robert Peel, but he begged the attention of the Committee to the following extract:—If the Government say, 'We are independent of the legislative measures and decisions of this House, that which is your peculiar function we will disregard, our fate shall not depend upon your decisions, nothing but your interference with our executive administration shall influence our retention of power;' what an inducement do you not hold out to the House of Commons to interfere with the prerogative of the Crown! It is inconsistent with all usage, and inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution, that a Government should be enabled to select the measures which it thinks proper to submit to the consideration of a condemned Parliament, that it should withdraw some and submit others, that it should tell the Parliament, 'An immediate dissolution is in contemplation, but before we dissolve we Will just bring forward those measures the rejection of 1349 which we think most likely to damage the House of Commons in the eyes of their constituents; we will propose popular votes, such, for example, as that of advancing money for the construction of railways in Ireland; we will bring forward particular measures which we are of opinion may aid the party cause of our Administration; but respecting every measure which we have hitherto described as essential to the welfare of the country—measures the principle of which has been affirmed by large majorities in Parliament, but the further discussion of which may prejudice our cause at the hustings—respecting them we will exercise our own discretion as to whether they shall be brought forward or withheld.'" [3 Hansard, lviii. 1225, 1229.]That is to say, you encourage the House of Commons to trespass upon the province of the Executive Government, and you encourage the Executive Government, not upon their solemn responsibility to bring forward measures which they conscientiously believe to be necessary for the good of the country, but from their desire to concert their proceedings with a view to party operations on the hustings. If that is the conduct of the Government, what is the duty which you devolve upon the House of Commons? Do you not devolve this paramount obligation—that they, for the maintenance of the rights of the Crown, for their protection against these evil consequences, should take the first opportunity, not by factious opposition—not by a precipitate interference with the executive functions of Government, but by declaring before the country the views and principles which they are sent here to represent, and their sense of the danger of the course you propose. What is that danger? The danger that you will take by sap what you dare not venture to attempt by assault. You know that you dare not make a direct assault upon that policy which has received the approbation of the people; but because you know that you dare not venture to take it by assault, you proceed to take it by another and an easier way. My hon. Friend who has just sat down refers us to the speech delivered by the Earl of Derby, He, it seems, is satisfied with the tenor of that speech, and he plainly sees the policy which is there indicated. Well, Sir, let me congratulate my hon. Friend on his clearsightedness, for certainly many persons who have read that speech feel themselves in no degree relieved from their difficulties. But let me ask my hon. Friend to go with me into that speech which he has challenged us to read. In that speech this principle is laid down—that the policy pursued in 1842 was right, 1350 but that the policy pursued in 1846 is wrong; and that you should contrast the policy adopted—unfortunately, according to the noble Earl, adopted in 1846, with that better policy which regulates the tariff of the United States. Now let me remind you of the way in which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer and those who have acted with him, were wont to describe the American tariff; and I can assure hon. Gentlemen that the parts of the speeches to which I may refer are not selected for the purpose of invidious reference, but for the purpose of guiding us as to the views on which they intend to act. I extract from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman a passage with regard to the American tariff, when the income tax was renewed in 1848. The right hon. Gentleman then said—The result of a trade carried on between a country which permits free imports and one which maintains hostile tariffs is, that the exports of the former are diminished in proportion to the amount of those tariffs.That was to say, that the export of those countries which had established free trade diminished, but that the exports of those countries which maintained hostile tariffs would be increased. Now let me ask the right hon. Gentleman how he accounts for this—that during eight years before these changes began, there was no perceptible change in the amount of the exports of this country, but that the moment these changes began, the exports, which were then at 50,000,000l., rose, and in four years sprung up to 60,000,000l.? This, he begged the Committee to observe was, the result of a policy in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the Earl of Derby agreed. But now comes the policy of 1846—that policy which they deplore—that policy which though they do not wish to reverse, yet, as the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had stated, it was their intention to alter and modify. Within the last six years, from 1846, the exports have risen to 74,000,000l.; thus showing a more rapid increase after the introduction of the policy of free imports than they did even under that change of which the right hon. Gentleman approves. In the whole ten years—the exports not having moved at all during the previous eight years—they increased half as much again as they were before. Now what is the condition of the American exports under a tariff which contrasts so strongly with our own? I hold in my hand the opinion of the President of the United States. Now with 1351 the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the United States ought to be a very high authority; because he holds the doctrines of protection, which we are to be induced to revert to. But I do not find in the speech of the President of the United States that he is at all satisfied that it has increased the trade of the country—but the reverse; and so dissatisfied is he with it, that he proposes to change the policy, though in a still more Protectionist direction. It is not Protectionist enough for him, so he wants to get still more protection. But how much has he got already? Is the average of protection—which at present varies from 20 to 30 per cent—is that an amount which you would restore to this country, or is it that which the right hon. Gentleman will venture to propose? If the system which they have adopted be so mischievous to them, whilst yours has raised your exports in the course of ten years one-half as much again as they were before, I ask what sort of illustration is this of the canon which recommends us to adopt the United States tariff in lieu of our own? But the right hon. Gentleman has discovered that we are indebted to California; and here he finds the solution of the problem. But, Sir, the United States has some relations with California, and if the gold of California be a remedy for the ills of Great Britain, why should it not yield the same assistance to the United States? But hear what the President of the United States says—that the export of specie to liquidate their fiscal debt was 24,263,979 dollars more than the specie that was imported. Now, when bullion comes into the Bank of England, though the right hon. Gentleman says it runs through it like a sieve; yet he admits that it has saved us from a panic, and he cannot deny that there is a greater amount of bullion now in the Bank of England than ever there was before. But the same California has operated also on the United States; and what has been its operation there? I read from the speech of the Protectionist President of the United States that the exports of specie from that country, notwithstanding the influence of California, has increased in one year by the extent of nearly 25,000,000 dollars. Let me ask you this question—you are going to alter and to modify, to readjust the taxation of the country, not upon corn only, but upon other articles. In such a mysterious state do you leave the question, that it becomes necessary that we should extract by evi- 1352 dence, if we can, what articles you mean to place under taxation; and as there is nobody whose precedent you are more likely to follow than that of the late Lord George Bentinck, whose loss in these discussions we all most sincerely deplore, I refer you to a budget which Lord George Bentinck brought forward on the last occasion when the income tax was renewed. Let me ask the House whether they are prepared to alter or to modify the policy which was adopted in 1846, and to replace it by such a budget as this? Corn, according to the noble Lord, was to produce 850,000l., if not double. Timber was to produce 700,000l. Now that the Navigation Laws are irrevocably repealed, and that the shipowners and shipbuilders are therefore justly desirous to be exempted from every possible impediment, are we going to impose a duty of 700,000l., which is to be levied on timber. Cotton was to produce a revenue of 650,000l. [Laughter.] Lord George Bentinck dated the decline of our cotton manufactures from the removal of the duty on cotton, and he used this remarkable expression—"A tax upon cotton would be the cheapest you could impose; and you would be taking a lesson out of the books of the United States," Well, let us take that lesson. I will not fatigue you with statistics, but I ask you to take a lesson out of the books of the United States. They produce the raw material, which is brought here to be made into garments, and then re-exported to the markets of the world. Now who so naturally to compete with us, and with whom in every honourable rivalry, whether in politics or in commerce, are we so desirous to hold our own, as the United States? Let us ask you, then, to ponder over this fact. In the first year of which I have the particulars, the year 1839–40, their consumption of raw cotton amounted to 300,000 bales; and it rose continuously till it amounted to 531,000 bales eight years afterwards. What happened then? You removed the duty on cotton imported into Great Britain in 1845; in 1846 the other alterations were made in our tariff. During all previous years there was a constant increasing consumption of raw cotton in the United States; but after that change the decline immediately began—eyeny successive year since that experiment the decline has continued—that decline has been progressive; and in the last year their consumption has gone down to, 404,000 bales, and the manufacturers of Great 1353 Britain supplant the manufacturers of the United States. Now, I say, take a leaf out of the book of the United States, and don't let there be any alteration, or modification, or readjustment of that tariff which would cause a decline in our manufactures. Let me ask you again to apply the same principle in another point of view. Your desire is to give encouragement to the British labourer, and you say, "We will make the foreigner pay." I have shown you that by the policy which is now established, you have employed half as much again labour as you did before for the export trade, and have made the foreigner pay. I say let us encourage industry, not in the way that the United States has adopted, but in the way which is already inaugurated in this country, and which you now seek to reverse. If I might address the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would say one word to him, and draw his attention to this fact. He approves of the policy of 1842—he disapproves of the policy of 1846. The effect of the policy of 1842 was this, that you were enabled to remove taxes which pressed upon the people to the extent of 2,000,000l., and having removed them chiefly from the Customs and Excise in 1845, those branches of the revenue produced as much as they had done before. What did the tariff of 1846 do? It enabled you to take off taxes to the extent of 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. more, and still it left the Customs and Excise—I am speaking in round numbers—where it found them. I appeal, then, to the financial administration of the country not to reverse that policy, but to adhere to a policy which employs British industry, which makes the foreigner pay, which diminishes the burdens levied on the people, without diminishing their produce in the Exchequer. I say we, the Members of the House of Commons, are bound to take care that all shall be clear and explicit upon this point, and that there shall be no mystification whatever. Might I ask the attention of the Committee, I think there is an interesting matter of history which particularly deserves their notice. At the close of his immortal work, having exhausted the subjects to which he referred, Adam Smith described a scheme of finance, which, however, from the opposition it would encounter, could only, he said, be regarded as Utopian. He went oh to say that there were so many powerful interests arrayed in opposition to this 1354 scheme, that it would be very difficult to surmount the obstacles which would he created against its adoption. He then proceeded to explain what his scheme of finance was. It comprehended a readjustment of Customs and Excise duties, confining them to a few great articles of luxury and very general consumption, as sugar, rum, and tobacco, and a more equal tax upon the rent of houses. Then Adam Smith went on to state what the effect would he of his scheme, and to this I implore the attention of the Committee:—The debt would be diminished, and in the meantime the people might be relieved from some of the most burdensome taxes—from those which are imposed upon the necessaries of life or upon the materials of manufacture. The labouring poor would thus be enabled to live better, to work cheaper, and to send their goods cheaper to market. The cheapness of their goods would increase the demand for them, and, consequently, for the labour of those who produced them. This increase in the demand for labour would both increase the numbers and improve the circumstances of the labouring poor. Their consumption would increase, and, together with it, the revenue arising from all those articles of their consumption on which the taxes might be allowed to remain.Now, I must be allowed to remind the House of Commons that the Utopia of Adam Smith was the accomplished fact of Sir Robert Peel, and what the Ministry wanted to alter and remove was what Adam Smith wished to see accomplished. Had the debt been diminished, as was prophesied? The interest of the debt, which in 1832 was 29,500,000l., was now 28,000,000l., besides a reduction of 625,000l. more, to take effect in 1854. Had the consumption of the people been increased? Need I remind the Committee of that? In cocoa, currants, sugar, and tea, the consumption had gone on increasing—in tea from 36,681,000 lbs. in 1841, and the others proportionately; 1851, to 53,965,000 lbs.; while, at the same time, there was a large surplus in the Exchequer, I venture now to close the case which I have endeavoured feebly to bring before the Committee. I have not invidiously recurred to former speeches. I have simply recurred to the arguments and propositions you have held ii] former years, which you have never disavowed; and when my hon. Friend (Mr. Miles) challenges me to read the last speech of the Earl of Derby, and expresses his unshaken confidence that the result of the next election will be to reverse that policy, I have only to reply that we shall 1355 not allow you to take by sap what you dare not openly assail; and if in the exercise of our constitutional rights we respectfully—not factiously—not with bitter language, but throwing into our argument all the force that we are able to command—if we call upon you, for the sake of the country and for the sake of yourselves, to give fair play to the oountry—to state your views, to disguise nothing, to proclaim everything—I hope that in all this we are guilty of no improper, no factious course. I accept the truth of the proposition, that faction—if it be faction—will redound to your advantage and recoil upon us; and I, earnestly advocating the policy which now exists—I desire to give you no such advantage; but I believe we should be dumb watchers—faithless guardians of the public trust confided to us, and justly reprehensible for sacrificing the well-being of our constituents, if we did not insist explicitly on that principle which I laid down at the outset, which is the constitutional guarantee not only for the liberties of the country, but also for the security of the Throne.
§ MR. CAYLEY
Sir, my wish will be to avoid raising a tone of exasperation on either side, I will be no party to the causing a war of classes in this country; and I cannot but think that one grievance of the Opposition, especially of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), is, that the Ministerial side of the House does not respond to the invitation he has thrown out to excite such a contest. Sir, as to the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), I always observe that he speaks with great exultation of the effects of the policy of the late Sir Robert Peel on the finances of the country, as if on no previous occasion there had been a "spring" in the revenue after recovery from stagnation. Why, under similar circumstances, there never was an occasion when such a "spring" did not take place. In every instance since the war the same effects have been produced. It was so in 1817–18, it was so in 1824–25, it was so in 1835–36, and so again after the commercial stagnation of 1840–41. There came a "spring" after 1842, and the same increase of the revenue. But what I remark is, that there is not now so general a "spring" as took place in previous years. The export trade, it is said, has increased; but the increase of exports is not necessarily accompanied by an increase of prosperity. Will you affirm 1356 that the returns are identioal with the increase? Sir, I do not deny that the people have food cheaper, and that free trade has benefited the working classes to the extent that their wages have remained the same. But did you mean that they should have that benefit? No. Your early argument for free trade was, that you had to compete with the foreigner, and could not do so on your present scale of wages. ["No, no!" and loud cries of "Hear, hear!"] You contend—those of you who were most honest—that you wanted to repeal the Corn Laws in order to reduce the prices of food, and thus to have an excuse for lowering wages. [Loud cries of "Hear, hear!" and "No, no!"] Some Gentlemen say "No." But, I repeat, the more honest of your party did not pretend to conceal it. We always contended that the effect of the alteration would not be favourable to the working classes, because we said you would diminish the home trade in the proportion in which you increased the foreign trade. Has it not been so? We did not, indeed, anticipate the famine in Ireland, nor what has taken place to derange the labour market. Neither did you; and therefore, if we were false prophets as to that, so were you, I do pet deny that temporarily the working classes are benefited, and if the benefit be permanent, I shall be the last man to wish to disturb the present policy; but it appears to me that you have always endeavoured to raise a false issue on this question. You are not content to argue it on its merits. You say we are anxious to give the people a small supply of food. We have always denied this—our object has not been to starve the people. It is said that we want to give them less food. We have never considered that food was the first necessary, but employment. Yes, our great object was to give employment to the people, and thence arose the principle of protection. If you can show us any probability that the working classes of the country, without that constant stream of emigration which is now going on, are likely to receive under your system a greater amount of food and of employment than under the protective system, I shall bow with deference to your decision, for I want nothing but justice to the working classes. I have never put the question on any other issue. No one ever heard me say I wanted to keep up rents. On the contrary, I have often said, "Your system protects monied incomes and rents of large landowners against the working 1357 classes and against the farmers." And you are now doing so. You are protecting rents against the persons who pay the rents. The parties benefited in the end are not the working classes. The parties who really profit are the rich—the rich landowner, the rich capitalist, and temporarily, perhaps, a portion of the working classes. But how stands it with the bulk of the employers of labour? With the farmer for instance? He has been getting little or no return. Or with the shopkeepers as a body? or with the merchant? He also is getting no return. ["Oh, oh!" from the Opposition.] I challenge any one to contradict this. Why, last year, the Member for Manchester said that for three or four years past there had been no profits on manufactures. The manufacturers, during the last few years, have made small profits on the home trade, and losses on the foreign. On the first day of the Session I meet a Lancashire Member, the shrewdest perhaps among them, and said, "How of free trade?" He answered, "Every one is losing." I inquired, "Why then vote for free trade?" He said he could not help it; but Lancashire would vote against free trade, if it voted by ballot. Now, let it not be said I am arguing for a recurrence to protection such as it existed before 1846. No; I argue for no such thing. I have since then never asked for protection; indeed, I have always said we must exhaust every other means before we ask it. And in that I have gone pari passu with the right hon. Member for Bucks, though it was then said by you to the farmers, "Your leaders are leaving you in the lurch about protection!" The truth is, you Manchester Gentlemen wish the Government to declare definitively that policy. But you already have declared it for them; and your real grievance, I suspect, is, that they do not so declare for protection as to give you a decent ground of quarrel. The hon. Member for the West Riding, in short, says to you, "I will make you Protectionists. If you ask for a restoration of protection, I resist you. If you ask for a revision of taxation, I oppose you. Whether you are for the one or the other, I quarrel with you." In fact, what the hon. Member wants is a quarrel. Sir, for my own part, I have never concurred entirely with either party in this House, and have ever preferred my country to party: but looking at the question in the most unprejudiced way I can, I do not think it fair to compel Lord Derby's Government to make a more explicit declara- 1358 tion than they have made already. If any one have a right to ask them for it, those who think with mo are much more entitled to it than Gentlemen opposite. The farmers of England are the parties interested. And if they choose to confide in the noble Lord at the head of the Government, what is that to you? Surely the fanners of England know their friends from their enemies. You want to narrow the issue to one point. That, no doubt, is convenient to you. You think that the country will not return a Government as protectionist, and you want the Ministry to pursue that precise course. They will not take your advice. You had the game in your own hands for five years, and now you want to play the cards of your opponent. Why, instead of their being limited to one course, they have four courses open to them. They have complete free trade—which we have never had yet. They have next complete reciprocity; and that we have not yet had. They have, thirdly, complete protection; and they have, fourthly, complete revision of taxation. All or any of these courses, coupled with a proper monetary system, might be good. It is competent for them to pursue any of these; and for my part I hope they will select protection last of all instead of first—and that they will exhaust every other means before they resort to it—and before they respond to the invitations of the hon. Member for the West Riding. Many things would be more beneficial than a 5s. duty on wheat. But whichever mode of relief to suffering agriculture Lord Derby selects as a substitute for protection, it must be a real and decided course. The condition of the farmers will bear no longer trifling with. Sir, the hon. Member for Liverpool should have conferred with his Friend the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon before he spoke, for I well recollect that before the results of free trade were considered so certain as they seem now to be thought by him, the right hon. Baronet would sometimes say, rubbing his hands, 'Well, California will set us all right!" And I am not quite sure that part of his opposition to the Earl of Derby's Government does not arise from an idea that he may come in for the benefit of California. Sir, with respect to the question of dissolution, the noble Lord lately at the head of the Government said this was not a fit time for it. And if that were the case when the noble Lord was at the head of the Administration, and Lord Derby, 1359 having now the same responsibility, says so too, surely the Government which had the same responsibility should have the same discretion with their predecessors. Sir, I am not willing to deny to Lord Derby that discretion—especially as I see that he does not propose to introduce any new measures, but merely to carry on measures which the late Administration had proposed. And, when I consider the time of the year, and the interruption to trade entailed by a premature dissolution, and take the state of Europe into consideration—fully appreciating the arguments of the hon. Member for Liverpool as to the Constitution, and thanking Providence for the blessings we enjoy under it—and fully acknowledging that the majority of this House substantially governs the country, I think, for the few short months of the summer during which Lord Derby proposes to carry on measures you have approved of—with at least equal vigour, I cannot see—unless you have some ulterior motive—why you should not be content. If you say, as used to be said—more last Session, however, than this—that he has not a Government competent for office, well, then, you cannot do better than "give them rope enough." Are you quite sure, however, that your principles of free trade are true?—or that the people appreciate them. Then why not give three or four months' trial to the new Government, and test them a little longer. If you have confidence in truth, why shrink from letting truth and error go side by side for so short a period? A little more experience, both of the Government and of free trade, would be more satisfactory for the country before a dissolution. It seems you are afraid of this. Sir, I am convinced that there has been a reaction—and on both sides of the question. The farmers are less anxious for extreme protection, and large bodies of quondam free-traders are less anxious for your free trade. It would have been more satisfactory, perhaps, that the dissolution should have been deferred until next year; but, at all events, we shall be as competent to judge in June or July as we are now. Under these circumstances, I cannot withhold from the Government my confidence, so far as to enable them to pass (within the limit they have themselves prescribed) such measures as they and you both consider necessary. The noble Lord lately at the head of the Government, chose his own, time for dissolving his Administration; and I think it is fair to give his successor 1360 his choice of the time for dissolving Parliament.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said: The hon. Member who has just sat down has taken a course which was certainly unexpected by me; not that I think it was inconsistent with his former conduct in this House, for from him I cannot expect any-course but that which is honourable. At the same time, while he had some consolation from the existence of the present Ministry with regard to the burdens on land and with regard to protection, I am afraid that he must not indulge much hope from that influx of paper money which he thinks is so desirable: because the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day at the hustings that "if the Gentleman expects a great; influx of paper money, I am afraid that he will be disappointed." Therefore, my hon. Friend must not expect his theories: to be carried into effect by the present Ministers. I think we have upon this occasion very great and important questions to consider. We have especially two questions: one the question of the Constitutions and another the question of the commercial policy which has been pursued from 1842 to the present time. Now, Sir, with respect to the constitutional question, upon which I think that much misapprehension has existed, and certainly much accusation, has been brought against me, which I think totally undeserved, I will state what occurs to me upon that subject. It appeared to me that the course of the present Ministers was one that was perfectly clear, and one which I own that I am surprised that they did not adopt. The late Ministers haring resigned their situations into the hands of Her Majesty, it appeared to me, when Her Majesty asked me to whom she should, have recourse (though I was not positively hound to name my successor), that the Earl, of Derby was at the head of the greatest party in the House of Commons, and that he was the most likely person to be able to find support in this House, and that it was but consonant with my duty to recommend? Her Majesty to send for the Earl of Derby. The Earl of Derby, as I expected accepted and executed the commission which Her Majesty gave him. The position, of the new Ministers was one perfectly regular Parliamentary, and constitutional. They had nothing to do but to take their seats in this House and to appear in this House as invested with the confidence the Crown? But what was their next step? 1361 They differed, as they have always told us, from that part of our commercial policy which has been adopted and pursued since 1846. Now, under these circumstances, the most natural and the most easy course for them to adopt was to maintain the existing House of Commons, and to propose such measures as they deemed necessary to that House of Commons. That was the course which Earl Grey took in 1830; and I at that time—as the organ of Earl Grey's Government—proposed the Reform Bill to a House of Commons which had been elected while the Duke of Wellington was Minister. I have taken a similar course myself in 1846. I then proposed to a House of Commons, in which Sir Robert Peel had at the beginning of that year a very considerable majority, an immediate alteration in the Sugar Duties; and I carried on the business of the Executive during that and the succeeding Session of Parliament with that House. But that was not the course which the new Ministry chose to take. There was another course, attended no doubt with public inconvenience, attended unquestionably with some disadvantage to the country, but it was still a perfectly constitutional course, and one which was open to them. It was, as the right hon. Secretary of State for the Colonies had declared, that, "without wishing to reverse, alter, or modify the measures which have been carried by the Parliament by which they were adopted," they should be prepared as soon as public business would admit to dissolve the present Parliament, and to submit to the new Parliament the measures which they thought were conducive to the welfare of the country. With respect to that course not a word of objection was made. I, Sir, for my own part, if they had taken one course or the other, should have been perfectly satisfied to wait until these measures were proposed, to consider them, and to see whether they were such measures as I could support. But they took a course which I will venture to say has no precedent in the history of this country since the Constitution was established, and for which no justification whatever in the maxims and rules of that Constitution—["Oh, oh!" from the Ministerial benches.] Well, hon. Gentlemen dissent from me; may I be permitted to state my arguments? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who stated this matter very fairly on his side the other night, said that the precedent of 1784 was not applicable 1362 to this case. Now if the right hon. Gentleman means that it is totally inapplicable to the present case, I entirely agree with him. The question then was totally different. Mr. Fox and his party had been dismissed by the Crown, and they said—and said most truly, and argued according to that conviction—that the Ministers of the Crown should have the confidence of the House of Commons, and that so long as they were in a minority, the Ministry had no constitutional position in this House. But they said something further than that; they said that the existing House of Commons should be maintained; and there, I think, they fell into a error, for Mr. Pitt, while he did not deny that it was necessary that the Ministers of the Crown should have the confidence of the House of Commons, urged this further plea, that the Crown could not be bound, for any considerable time, to refuse to dissolve the House of Commons; that although that assurance might be given for a short time, yet that the Crown was not to be precluded from using the prerogative of dissolution, and of appealing to the people at large to elect a new House of Commons. While I think that Mr. Fox was perfectly right in the first part of the argument, I think Mr. Pitt was perfectly justified in the second. That precedent has been the rule of the Constitution from that time. But the House of Commons will see that the assertion of neither one side nor the other has the smallest bearing on the present case. We do not pretend, certainly, that the Crown has no right to dissolve Parliament, in order to attain, if possible, a majority in support of the views of the present Ministers. It is not contended, on the other hand, that it is not necessary that the Ministers should possess the confidence of this House. Well, I do not know that there is any other precedent which can apply at all to the present case. In 1831, when Earl Grey's Government were defeated in the House of Commons, they immediately dissolved the Parliament. In 1835, it is true that the late Sir Robert Peel for some time maintained his situation, although he was in repeated minorities; but I believe that Sir Robert Peel felt as strongly as it was possible to feel that was a position which could not be long maintained—that it was a situation at variance with the rules of the Constitution—and that, as he had already advised the exercise of the prerogative of dissolution, it would be incumbent upon him 1363 rather to retire than to continue that contest. Well, then, what is the position of the present Ministry? It is to take neither one course nor the other; neither to go on with the present House of Commons, and to submit their measures to them as Earl Grey had done in 1831, and I had done in 1846; nor to advise the Crown to dissolve the Parliament as soon as the public business will admit. But the proposal was, and I own I read with great astonishment such a statement of the intention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that the whole of the Session should go on the assumption that the Government were in a minority in this House, and that some time six or eight months hence, it may be in the month of November or perhaps in the month of December, that Parliament may be dissolved, and that the Government, without the confidence of the House of Commons, might thus meet the House in February—just eleven months after that Government had taken office. Now, Sir, I hold that to be a position perfectly unconstitutional. That there must be some time—some weeks—elapse in the constitution of a new Government which is in a minority before a dissolution can take place, is perfectly true. But I believe that no precedent will be found of a Government which declared—which made it their avowal—which stated it as an acknowledged fact—as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department said—that they are in a minority, and yet that they will continue to govern the country for eleven months, that is, for nearly a whole year, without ascertaining whether they can possess the confidence of the House of Commons. That, Sir, is the position to which I objected. Every person to whom I spoke said to me—"This is a position perfectly new, what is to be done we know not, but it is evident that the rules of the Constitution are set at defiance; it is evident that the present Ministers do not regard any of the precedents which exist, or any of those ordinary rules to which former Ministers have submitted." Then, as I consider that course to be so perfectly new, I had to reflect what course it became incumbent upon me to pursue. As I have already said, had there been no extraordinary course taken, I should have been ready to wait until the measures of the new Ministry were proposed to this House. One of the first things which occurred was, that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton 1364 (Mr. C. Villiers) came to consult me with respect to a notice of Motion which, he proposed to give. I dissuaded him from giving that notice, thinking it unadvisable to interfere with the Ministers before he-had some explanation of their intentions; but I did do that which it appears is imputed as a great crime to me, who really am, after all, an inhabitant in a free country. It is imputed as a great crime to me that I asked to come to my house those political friends with whom I had been in the habit of acting. Now this is the more extraordinary language, because this accusation, as I am told, comes from the Earl of Derby. I had been continually in the habit of seeing, during the past year and during the present Session, notices in the newspapers such as this—"Yesterday about 100 Members of the House of Commons assembled at the house of the Earl of Derby, where they heard an eloquent speech from the noble Earl." Why, Sir, one of the last things I saw before I left office was, that the noble Earl had assembled a number of Members of the House of Commons, no doubt of his own political opinions, at his own house, and there he, a Peer, prescribed to them what course they should take with respect to the representation of the people in the. Commons' House of Parliament. I made no complaint of that, because, although it was perhaps a little extraordinary—although perhaps it never quite happened before that a Peer of Parliament took such a step—I am for all kinds of free discussion and free communication on political matters, and I never should have dreamt of complaining of that. But it seems it is a great crime in me—something like a conspiracy, or a compact, or an attempt at revolution—to ask to my own house those political friends with whom I have been accustomed to act and who have been accustomed for the last five years to come to Downing-street to consult with me when I had any communication to make to them on political subjects. I asked the Gentleman to whom I entrusted the commission to summon those political friends of mine, whether any person had been summoned to that meeting who had not been summoned to Downing-street since the election in 1847; and he told me that not a single person had been summoned who had not been-summoned to all those meetings in Downing-street. Therefore it was a political meeting of those Gentlemen with whom I 1365 had been accustomed to act. But, then they are called by the name of "an alliance." Why, I have already said there were no Gentlemen present who had not been previously summoned to meetings in Downing-street. There was but one person who had never been summoned with whom I consulted previous to that meeting taking place; that was my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), whom I think I was perfectly justified in consulting. For what had been my course with respect to that right hon. Gentleman? On the misfortune occurring to the Government and to his friends, of the death of Lord Auckland, I asked my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham) to accept the post of First Lord of the Admiralty. He declined, for reasons into which it is not necessary to enter, to accept that office, but at the same time he accompanied his refusal with many expressions of personal regard to me, and a general expression of agreement with respect to our commercial policy, and to many other political subjects. More than once I asked my right hon. Friend to join the Government of which I was at the head. He certainly declined, on those occasions, to join it, but at the same time with renewed expressions of the same kind. I should likewise say that I had frequently, on matters of public import, informed my right hon. Friend what was the course which I proposed to take, and I had communicated to him as to what was about to take place with respect to our political measures. So that in fact, that I should consult my right hon. Friend with respect to the great question of commercial policy, with respect more particularly to the question in which he, as a Colleague of Sir Robert Peel, had taken very great part, was neither unnatural, nor will I admit that it was dishonourable either to him or to myself. Well, Sir, as it was natural, at that meeting those Gentlemen took part who had been the most prominent in the discussions with respect to the Repeal of the Corn Laws—with respect to commercial matters—and with respect to free trade; and they gave their opinion as to the course that was to be pursued. I consider that not only was I justified in calling that meeting of my political friends, but that it was incumbent on me to call such a meeting, when we saw on the one hand that all the rules of the Constitution were to be suspended or set aside, and when we saw on the other hand that the conse- 1366 quences of that suspension must be that the country would be, for seven or eight months, quite uncertain as to the course of commercial policy that would be pursued. Well, now Sir, as to the grounds upon which this extraordinary political position has been taken. As I have said, the case was a very simple one. The late Ministers had resigned, and other Ministers had accepted their office, and had taken their places. It appears that that was not enough; they were not satisfied with that position, but they asked for an extraordinary course, for extraordinary forbearance on the part of the House of Commons; making extraordinary assumptions of power on their part as Ministers. They then thought it necessary to put forward some new pretences to justify that course; and one of the pretences that were put forward was, that it was the greatest surprise to them that they had been called upon to assume office, that they had no part in the destruction of the former Ministry, and that nothing but the pain that it would give them to see their Sovereign without a Government could have induced them to accept office. Why, Sir, I must say that this pretence is a false pretence. During the last year they were continually bringing forward Motions, which, if successful, must have put an end to the Government. At the very commencement of the Session, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed a scheme that would have altered the whole financial plans of the year, and must have made it necessary for the then Government to retire. This was within ten days from the commencement of the Session. Again, with respect to the Income Tax—with respect to the Window Tax—with respect to the government of Ceylon, they were continually pushing forward, and supporting with all their votes, the consideration of Motions which must, if successful, have been destructive to the Government that then existed. I do not say that they were not justified in taking these measures if they thought their views were calculated to promote the welfare of the country. I am only saying that such a course was totally inconsistent with the pretence that has now been put forth. More than this, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster went to Edinburgh, apparently for the purpose of declaring at a Protectionist meeting that, although the Earl of Derby had declined office when it was proposed to him at the commencement of the 1367 Session, yet that if another offer to form an Administration was made, he was ready to accept it. This was the tone of the right hon. Gentleman. But, as was said of Demosthenes, Si ipsum audivissetis, I have no doubt his language was most expressive, as well as most consolatory, to his friends. Why, at the commencement of the present Session, one of the first things; I heard, as matter of public rumour, was, that their list was ready—that the mew Ministers were prepared to take their offices—and one nomination I heard of, which I remember more especially because it was not expected, namely, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) was ready to quit the Bar, of which he was an acknowledged ornament, and to accept the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department. It was in the very first days of February I heard that the appointments were settled; and in the end of February these Gentlemen were quite surprised and astonished that they found themselves in office. I have mentioned the somewhat discreditable Motion that was made with regard to the conduct of the Earl of Clarendon—a Motion of which the most honourable Members of the party were so ashamed that they left 'the House, and, thereby gave us a considerable majority against so unfair and unworthy a proceeding. ["No, no!"] So confirmed is that estimate of the Motion at present, that it is currently rumoured that the noble Lord who brought that proposition forward, and who is very properly anxious to wipe away from himself the reproach of having been the author of that Motion, declares that it was nothing but the exigencies and desires of his party that induced him to bring it forward. A case occurred last year which shows that, so far from being very scrupulous—that so far from being very anxious to avoid office—how very ready they were to accept it if it could be possibly brought within their reach. In the course of the debates on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, an hon. Gentleman, who does not in general carry many Members of the House with him, gave notice of a Motion of censure upon the Government. I did not pay much attention to him, there being many matters then which, occupied my attention; but one day, about three o'clock in the afternoon, I saw it stated in the second edition of a morning paper, that all the leaders of the Protectionist party had agreed and made a compact with those who were the 1368 great opposers of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill (and who went by a name to which I will not allude in this House), and that it was certain that the Government would he out next morning. Upon seeing this I desired all my friends to be summoned; the debate was very adverse to the proposition, and it was rejected; but it was evident how ready Gentlemen opposite were to join with any party against the Government. Well, but now it appears that the success of the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) was a matter quite unexpected by them, and in which they had no share, but that it was entirely carried by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and hon. Gentlemen who were friends of the noble Lord and of ours. Why, Sir, the facts do not bear out that statement. The noble Lord was very much persuaded of the value and importance of his own proposition, as we were of ours; but it was not likely, by any influence that he could have with any hon. Members who would follow him, that he would be able to carry that proposition. Accordingly, I find that out of 136 Members—Members who voted with the noble Lord—there were not above thirteen who usually voted with the Government, and I think that seven of these were not usually supporters of the Government upon many public questions. While on the other hand, I find in the majority above 100 of those who were the supporters of the present Government; that among them was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the President of the Board of Control, the First Commissioner of the Board of Works, being five Members of the present Cabinet; and that there were besides, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Secretary at War, the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the two Secretaries of the Treasury, the Solicitor General for Ireland, and it all twenty-one Members holding office1 under the present Government. And this is the result to which they declare them selves to be totally strangers, or, as this right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor' of the Exchequer calls it, "an internal dissension among the Members of the former Government by which they were overthrown." And, Sir, for what purpose all this said? As I have already stated? their position was a perfectly Parliamentary one, and that there was no 1369 need for their trying to put a false gloss and colour on facts which only show that they were anxious to overthrow the late Administration. If that was so, their opposition was a perfectly natural one; it might have been carried too far on certain occasions—that is not a matter of which I am a fitting judge—but it is a fair defence that they thought the late Government were not acting for the public benefit; and they might be satisfied with that defence; but as they have chosen to take an extraordinary course, they seek for every kind of false pretence, in order to cover the conduct that they now propose to pursue. Will the Committee deny that I have shown that, during the whole of the last Session, and that at the commencement of the present Session, they had done their utmost by party Motions to overturn the late Government, and that they were not strangers to the division, which at length declared that we had lost the confidence of the House of Commons? Is that not so? That, then, is their position. They then accept office, and far be it from me to find any fault with the individuals who are named to the several offices. I did not myself understand the reason for the extraordinary diffidence which they showed last year in refusing to accept office, and in being parties to the declaration then made by the Earl of Derby, that he could not find persons of competent experience to fill the several offices of the State. I did not see the reasons for that extraordinary statement. But neither do I see any reason for the extraordinary confidence which they now show, when they say that they will not only accept office, but will carry on the affairs of this great country in a position which Mr. Pitt would never have been bold enough to assume. That position is, as I have already said, that for eleven months they propose to carry on the affairs of this great country, without having the confidence of this House. Now, in that respect a very considerable change has been made in the course of the present week. The declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the declaration which I understand has been made elsewhere, hare very much altered their position, and have shown, I think, the benefits of public discussion—they have shown that the position which had been taken up is one which could not be maintained in the face of Parliamentary debate; and, to use the phrase of the right hon. Secretary of State for 1370 the Home Department, that position has been "altered and modified" to a considerable extent. I now come to the other part of the question—that is, the question of the commercial policy; and upon that, as many other Gentlemen have spoken, it does not seem to me that I need enter at very great length into the questions that are involved, but there certainly is something extraordinary in the present position of the Ministry. It is not one of total reserve, but at the same time it is not one of open and manly avowal of their principles; every day produces some change, and every man holds a different opinion as to the course which the Government intend to pursue. If you go into the street, probably the first man you will meet will say, "Well, the Government have thrown over Protection altogether;" then, probably, if you go ten yards further, you meet another man, who says, "I see the Government stand firm to protective principles; they are not abandoning protection, and we shall sec that they will maintain those principles after all, and produce them to the next Parliament." The consequence is, that there are now persons canvassing all over the country; and some say they will support the Government, because it is a Protection Government, and want to see Protection restored; while other Gentlemen say, that they are complete free-traders, and that they are against any renewal of the com laws, but that they are firm supporters of the present Government. Now this is a great evil, because it leads to a great urn certainty. An hon. Member, who addressed the Committee this evening, said that he would tell us what a Protectionist was. We were all ears, hoping for a satisfactory solution of the enigma, for we wanted to know whether being a supporter of a fixed duty on corn, or one of a sliding scale, or of an alteration of the Navigation Laws, constituted a Protectionist; but the information we received was, that a Protectionist means a supporter of the Earl of Derby's Government. As therefore the supporters of the Earl of Derby's Government are Protectionists, while many Gentlemen who say that they are Free-traders, profess also to be supporters of the Earl of Derby's Government, it would appear that Free-traders and Protectionists are interchangeable terms. My hon. Friend who has spoken last says, indeed, that the farmers of England know their own friends. Well, I confess that I rather doubt it; I am inclined to think that, perhaps, if they had 1371 known their friends, that the advice that I have given them from time to time would have induced them to consider me not as their enemy, but as their friend. I beg leave to refer to the advice which I have given them at different times. In 1841, I said I thought the farmers of England had much better accept an 8s. duty. I thought that great commercial changes were coming, and that it was probable that there would be, amongst other changes, a great alteration in the corn laws, and that it would be a great advantage to them to effect a compromise by accepting a fixed duty. But no; I was represented all over the country as the enemy of the farmers. Now-a-days a Gentleman who proposed an 8s. duty would be thought a strong Protectionist, and a great friend of the farmers? Well, in 1845, I asked the Gentlemen who compose what are termed the country party in this House, to consent to a 6s. duty, and to make some diminution of the taxes which pressed particularly on the agricultural interest. They would not hear of that, and I was called an enemy of the farmers, because I proposed a 6s. duty. Well, in 1849, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), in stating the case of the party he was leading, rather intimated to me that he would be desirous that I should state what they should do with respect to their own party. My answer was, "You are a very strong, a very compact party, and have great principles to which you always adhere, which were traditional with your party. Maintain these principles, but give up your protection. State at once that you give up protection." Well, I believe that I was then acting as the farmer's friend. I believe that if, in 1849, they had given up protection, they would have been in a much better position than they are now. I believe that they would not now have had their present difficulty before them. Consider the dilemma in which that difficulty has placed them. From 1849 to the present time they have been talking to the farmers of nothing but protection. There was a deputation last year went to the Earl of Derby and to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with a resolution stating that they were determined, so far as lay in their power, to reverse the commercial and financial policy of Sir Robert Peel. The Earl of Derby said—"I trust what I have to say to you will secure me in future from the misrepresentation that I have abandoned protection." So it has gone on up 1372 to the present time. Now we hear that the sliding scale is not to be thought of and the utmost that is to be done is the imposition of a duty so small that it will not make an appreciable difference in price, and even this will not be proposed unless the Earl of Derby has not only a great majority in Parliament, but also the concurrence of the country thus making a distinction between the House of Commons and the country on the part of those who refuse to make any change in the representation. It is indeed very evident this duty, which will make an inappreciable increase in price—which, after all, is a paltry duty, which can only be obtained by a great majority of the House of Commons, and with the general concurence of the country—is either not to be obtained at all, or, if obtained at all, is not worth having to the farmers. In fact, I might describe the conclusion of this great drama of protection in the language which Mr. Pulteney about a century ago applied in this House to the Ministers of the day who he said reminded him of Sir Epicure Mammon, who, having been promised the philosopher's stone, although no stone was produced, was told that he might have a little something to secure him against the itch. And these things, as it appears to me—these great professions, which have gone on now from 1846 to 1849, and from 1849 to 1852—have been put forth with a view to persuade the farmers to rely on the party opposite, and to believe that they should ever have a return to protection, and to the high prices of protection. The fixed duty having departed, there is next some talk about removing burdens' which pressed upon agriculture to the extent of 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l.; an objectionable plan in itself, besides which it would afford relief to the extent of only 3d. or 6d. in the pound. What would such relief as this, or a duty producing an inappreciable rise of price, be, compared with the descent of price caused by the repeal of the Corn Laws from 56s. to 38s. or 40s a quarter? Is there no danger in leading the farmers to suppose that they can obtain an equivalent for what they have lost? These opinions entertained by the farmers—and I am willing to admit honest opinions, though founded on a mistaken view of their own interest—must have a great effect on this House and on the country; and I do think there is danger from which we have been hitherto secure. In 1846, during the time that 1373 discussion was going on with respect to the repeal of the Corn Laws, although a formidable and able opposition was offered to the measure, which was thought necessary for the safety of the country, I had then the consolation, as I stated, of seeing the country gentlemen going with the farmers, and a confidence existing between them, which rendered it most probable that the farmers would choose the country gentlemen as their representatives. After having led them to expect a restoration of protection, to suddenly desert them may tend to unexpected consequences. There j is danger that, instead of choosing the country gentlemen of England as their representatives, they may choose persons, to my notions, not so conservative as those Gentlemen whom I see opposite. A man of large capital in this country said to me lately, "Some time ago we heard a talk of democrats and the danger of democracy, but I think some of the farmers of England are more democratic than any class I know." I will not tell you the authority, but if I were, you would find it an authority universally respected. [Cries of "Name."] As it is not a question of fact, but a matter of opinion, it is unnnecessary that I should give the name. Another scheme by which the farmers are to be relieved is the revision of taxation. It is easy to talk of a revision of taxation, but when it comes to be considered it will be found to involve a great deal that right hon. Gentlemen will hardly like to encounter. In 1830 Mr. Huskisson made a speech in this House in which he requested the House to consider how great a proportion of the taxes of this country fell on articles of consumption consumed by the great body of the people; and he pointed out the danger of continuing so to raise the great proportion of our taxation. Sir Robert Peel has done much to alter that proportion, but Gentlemen who might have happened to consult a speech of a great Protectionist, made in another country, would have seen it there stated what had been in France. It was a speech of M. Thiers—one of the most able speeches ever heard in the French Assembly, when there was a free assembly in France—and it produced a great effect. He said to that Assembly—We are asked to imitate the example of England, but already we have gone tar beyond the example of England. In France we raise about 18,000,000l. sterling of direct taxation, and 18,000,000l. of indirect taxation. In England together 21,000,000l. of direct taxes are paid to 1374 the State, and 35,000,000l. and upwards of in-direct taxation under the heads of Customs and Excise.If that be the case, I should say that the matter of revision of taxation, which certainly in office I promised to consider, and did consider very much, is one which can not be approached without the gravest deliberation If you do touch, and wish to touch, the system of indirect taxation, you will find the conclusion to which you must come is the adding to direct taxation. I confess I am very unwilling to diminish the great revenues obtained by means of Customs and Excise, and more especially I see some danger in adding greatly to direct taxation. But that is the conclusion to which you must come, in any revision of taxation—a conclusion most alien, most abhorrent to the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, because when the income tax was discussed last year, the right hon. Gentleman, who is so eminent in finance, the President of the Board of Control, sought to diminish the income tax, for the purpose of relieving the country of so much direct taxation; and this is the question which the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works raised, I think not very prudently, with his constituents. He said, "You pay a very high tax on tea, a very high tax on soap, why should you not pay something on bread and meat?" I think it must have been obvious to his constituents that their answer was, "Let us put it, my Lord, the other way. We pay no tax upon bread; we pay no tax upon meat; suppose we pay no tax upon soap, and little tax on tea." Would that be a better mode of arrangement? These are the questions which my hon. Friend the Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cayley) says are so simple and easy of solution—these are the questions which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to bring before a new Parliament, if—giving up protection as a thing odious to the great mass of the people, and not to be thought of, and giving up the shifting of taxation, which, after all, is only taking away taxation in one shape to make the same persons pay it in another shape, because the agricultural interest must, as a part of the people, pay a portion of any taxes you put on—if, rejecting these two courses, he seeks to make a general revision of taxation, to decrease taxation on the consumption of articles of food and comfort, and to do 1375 that to which he most particularly objects, to increase the direct tax which Sir Robert Peel introduced as an equivalent for Borne of the indirect taxation which he remitted. Having thus touched on these questions, I can ask no more from the present Government than that they should endeavour, in some mode they think best, before the country goes to a general election, to let us know what is the issue the country has to decide, and what is the issue a new Parliament has to consider. I think it very well for a majority of the House of Commons to show forbearance. I agree, it is an occasion for forbearance. I think, on the other hand, if we do show forbearance, we should not be treated with contumely and supercilious answers. If there ought to be some reciprocity with regard to the Navigation Laws, there ought to be some reciprocity with regard to matters of courtesy between hon. Gentlemen opposite and ourselves. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has tried to raise another issue, and that is an issue which he has no right whatever to raise, and upon which I think he has no claim, superior to others, to ask the approbation of the people. He raises the issue, to my astonishment, and I think most imprudently, that the present Ministry are specially called to resist the outbreaks and encroachments of democracy. Having had the honour to have been First Minister of the Crown during five years, I do not see that democracy has made any encroachments against the just prerogatives of the Crown, and the authority of the two Houses of Parliament. We have the Throne guarded by the virtues of the Sovereign and the two Houses of Parliament maintaining their just authority. But I have, however, learnt a lesson from the political scenes which have passed before my eyes during no inconsiderable experience in this House. The first political meeting that I ever remember was the meeting of the Lords and Commoners of the Whig party at Burlington House, on which occasion Earl Grey addressed them on the measures about to be introduced by the then Government. That was in 1817. Earl Grey in the House of Lords, and Mr. Ponsonby, as leader of the House of Commons, told them a Bill was about to be introduced for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and other Bills were to follow restricting the liberty of the subject. Those Bills were not found sufficient, and in the year 1819 six other 1376 Acts were introduced still further to restrict the privileges of the subject, and to prevent the outbreaks and encroachments of democracy, which were then feared. We read frequently of attempts at insurrection, beginning in riots, and we had the sorrowful spectacle of spies sent out by the Home Secretary, who misused the power, as spies are so apt to do, to bring under capital punishment the victims they had seduced into the violation of the law. It was a melancholy time when they were told the insurgents from Manchester were about to march on London, and the insurrection in Derby was spreading over the whole manufacturing districts. After no long period of years a change was made in the Executive Government, and we had Sir Robert Peel as Home Secretary, and Mr. Canning as Foreign Secretary. A change took place with regard to our position both at home and abroad. Sir Robert Peel turned his attention to the amendment of the criminal law, and displayed extraordinary judgment and firmness, and at the same time the greatest possible lenity with regard to all that related to the domestic government of this country. Mr. Canning was guided by the old sentiment "civil and religious liberty all over the world," and this House and this country responded to the generous sentiment uttered, and the admirable policy he pursued. It was no longer necessary to have those laws which were so restrictive of the liberty of the people. The policy commenced under Earl Grey's Administration was continued under that of Lord Melbourne and Sir Robert Peel; and the Attorney General, who in former times had been most active, made a more discreet use of the power intrusted to him, and ceased to contend in battle against political offences. That change has taken place, not to the advantage of democracy, but to the benefit of the great body of the people. They have become more attached to our institutions, more attached to the monarchy, more attached to the authorities constituted by the laws of the country, and therefore more satisfied and less desirous of any change in our national institutions. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control told us the other day he admitted the people were now in a state of prosperity, that prosperity being mainly caused, as I believe, by those changes in our commercial policy which have given increased employment and wages, commanding a greater portion 1377 of food, a greater portion of comfort, and leaving some surplus for the education of their children and the cultivation of the minds of the working classes. These are the means by which the attacks of democracy is to be met. If the noble Lord now at the head of the Government intends to resort to other means, if the laws which he has in contemplation be opposite to the general sentiments of the country, and if he contemplates that those laws will require to be enforced by other means, let me tell him, that instead of discountenancing democracy, he will be doing all that could possibly be desired by the most enthusiastic of democrats. Rely upon it, it is not by these attempts to revert to the plans which have been abandoned, that you can hope to retain the affections of the people. It is by calm, quiet, peaceable, and enlightened progress; by going on, without any violent change or any violent convulsion, but at the same time showing that you are the guardians of the people s interest, and will not abate one jot of the people's rights. Do this, and according to this manner, and you may rely upon it these attacks of democracy are not to be feared. In the meantime, if it is merely intended by this kind of language to raise an election cry, nothing can be more objectionable, nothing can be more unworthy of a Minister who is called upon to preside over the destinies of this great nation.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the noble Lord who has just sat down Said there were two questions before the House, or rather that the question before us might be viewed in two aspects, the one constitutional and the other economical; but I must recall the attention of the House to this fact, that the question before the House is one of a much simpler nature—it is the first Motion of the newly-constructed Opposition, and that Motion is one to stop the Supplies. That Motion, gaily proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Osborne), and respectfully recommended by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), was enforced in a speech of great length and careful preparation by the noble Lord recently First Minister of the Crown. Sir, we will meet the noble Lord, and the newly-constructed Opposition, on the issue they have themselves selected, and on that issue we intend to divide. The noble Lord professes to be much astonished that any imputation of faction should for a moment be raised against him. We were told, indeed, the 1378 other night, by the noble Lord, or one of his supporters, that it was a new doctrine in the House to suppose that asking questions of a new Ministry was factious; but I do not think that the charge of faction on the leader of the new Opposition was established on any dicta of such a character. I understood that the noble Lord, when in the position of First Minister of the Crown, and unable, in consequence of the attacks of his own friends, to carry on the affairs of the country, felt, by his own confession, and after deliberation with his Cabinet, that it was inexpedient to dissolve Parliament, and that he then recommended Her Majesty to send for another individual to form a Government; and what we charge as factious upon the noble Lord is, that after that declaration he should have constructed an Opposition, the first principle of which is to force his successor to an immediate dissolution. But, says the noble Lord, a remarkable event occurred between my declaration as a retiring Minister and my first adventure as the leader of the new Opposition. A speech was made, and a speech, too, in another place, in which was this remarkable declaration—that the new Government, according to the chief of the Administration, was in a minority in the House of Commons; and upon that phrase the noble Lord felt himself justified in changing his conduct. "Because that phrase was used," the noble Lord said, "and notwithstanding my declaration that a dissolution was inexpedient, I now feel myself justified in urging a dissolution of that very Parliament which I had said ought not to be dissolved." But, indeed, the noble Lord is so deficient in evidence to prove the want of confidence of the present House of Commons in the existing Government, that he can refer to no facts, he can appeal to no votes, to justify the opinion or sanction the conclusion he has arrived at. All he can do is to cull phrases used in another place, and by the Secretary for the Colonies. Now, I ask, if expressions of this kind are to be considered as conclusive of the disposition of the House of Commons? Are expressions of this kind to justify the noble Lord in totally changing his policy on a subject of such importance, and leading to such considerable results? I have arrived at a different conclusion on that subject from the noble Lord. All the precedents which he has found to apply to this subject are precedents of condemned Governments; and really to place us who are 1379 as yet uncondemned—or condemned only by the too modest estimate of an individual—in the same catalogue with those Ministers who, after long discussion and grave deliberation, and, in some instances quoted by the noble Lord, in Houses of Commons assembled under their own influence, have been condemned—to treat ns as if we were in a similar position, because it is convenient to the changed position of the noble Lord, is to me one of the boldest expedients that ever was adopted even in the annals of Opposition. But under what circumstances did the noble Lord have recourse to this expedient? I refer to them without reserve, because an enumeration of them formed not the least considerable, and not the least interesting, part of the noble Lord's address. The noble Lord said, in a strain of continued apology, "Have I not a right to summon my public friends to my private house? I have heard that other leaders in Parliament assembled their friends together; and surely I am not well treated when you are so severe on me because I ask to my private residence my political friends, to assist me with their counsel." Now, if the noble Lord had only asked those friends who had voted for him on the militia question; or if he had only asked those friends who were absent on that occasion—to assemble at his house, and if they had atoned for the past by their counsels for the future, I am sure not a single observation would have been made. And if the policy they had agreed to adopt had been in harmony with the course indicated by the noble Lord in the last official speech which he made from these benches, I think it would have sustained the great and just influence with the country which the noble Lord possesses. But instead of that, we find, by the authoritative statement that has been published, that the noble Lord did not invite his friends to his counsels, but his enemies—those whose speeches and whose votes had made his Government uncomfortable—and the noble Lord, doubtless with great pathos, said to them, "Gentlemen, you see what it has all ended in; let us forget the past—let us understand each other for the future—you have had a superstitious dread of an oligarchical Cabinet—forget it, and the oligarchical Cabinet shall become a broad-bottomed Opposition. The Reform Bill of this year did not please you; let bygones be bygones—we shall understand each other on that subject, no 1380 doubt, for the future." That was the character of the meeting; and it seems to have been successful. The noble Lord appears in his new capacity; and the moment he does appear, he announces a course on his part exactly the reverse of that which he announced when he retired from this side of the House. But there must be an excuse for this; and the excuse is, some half-dozen words in a speech of Lord Derby, and an expression used here by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, in answer to a question—the easiest reason for the greatest result that probably ever was discovered. But not only this; for the noble Lord discovers that he has been extremely ill-treated by the late Opposition, the present occupants of the Ministerial benches. The noble Lord has made a similar observation before, and to-night he adverted to it again. The noble Lord is an unfortunate Minister—he was worried out of office. After such an illustrious career, and so long a Ministerial experience; after all that has happened to him since that ever-memorable meeting at Burlington House, when he was addressed by the hon. Mr. Ponsonby, and early initiated into political life by the Whig leaders of the day; after such glorious antecedents—to be worried out of office by the Protectionists! 'Twas too bad. Again, the noble Lord said that he was vanquished with poisoned weapons—by a personal Motion against Lord Clarendon, and by a menaced Motion against Lord Grey. But how could the noble Lord attribute his fall to these attacks, since he had, as he took care to inform us, a commanding majority on the first Motion, and the second Motion was not brought on? Now, when the noble Lord deals in these free assertions, and such sharp criticism on his opponents, does not he think that it would have been better to have at least uttered one reproach to those political friends and followers of his who, on the critical night of the fortunes of the late Government, did not muster to a greater number than 130? I cannot help thinking that that meagre muster accounts better for the fate of the Ministry, than the attack upon Lord Clarendon, which the noble Lord told us tonight was a signal failure; or the menaced Motion against Lord Grey, which was certainly escaped—I will not say evaded. I have already put before the House, in answer to the noble Lord, the exact issue before us—it is a Motion of the new Opposition to stop the Supplies—a Motion, so far 1381 as I can collect, sanctioned by the late First Minister of the Crown.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I have to beg the noble Lord's pardon. I listened attentively to the speed of the noble Lord, expecting that after he had concluded the interesting narrative and amusing arguments with which he had favoured us, he would at last have condescended to announce that he did not sanction the proposal of the hon. Member for Middlesex to negative these Estimates. [Cries of "There's no such Motion."]
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Well, then, the negative to the vote which the hon. Member for Middlesex said he would move. [Cries of "No, no!"] Let the Chairman, then, state what is the Motion before us.
The Motion before the Committee is, the number of land forces, and that the grant of a certain amount of money for their support should be acceded to. [Great cheering from the Opposition.]
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
That cheer is premature. That is the Motion before the House; but the hon. and gallant Member for Middlesex not only announced that he opposed the Motion, but that he intended to divide upon it. Of course, I can have no wish to misrepresent the noble Lord; and it has given me the greatest pleasure to observe the noble Lord recede from his perilous position. I am glad that, on second thoughts, the noble Lord will not go on. I will now make one observation on the second part of the question, according to the noble Lord's division of it. I do not exactly understand what the noble Lord wishes the Government to do in this matter. The noble Lord said to-night that, to a certain degree, there had been, on the part of the Government, an absence of reserve; but that, on the other hand, there had not been that explicit declaration of principles which would have been agreeable to him. The noble Lord is not the most disinterested judge in the world; and if the noble Lord admits that there has been an absence of reserve, although there has not been such an explicit declaration as he requires, an impartial judge might decide that, on the whole, the Ministerial de- 1382 clarations have been as explicit as was necessary. The hon. Member for Liverpool has also given us a grave admonition to-night; but I understood him clearly as sanctioning the movement of the new Opposition.
§ MR. CARDWELL
I beg to inform the right hon. Gentleman, that the idea of re fusing the number of men necessary for the Army, or giving a negative to the proposal before the House, never entered my head.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
This is another proof of "the advantages of free discussion." I am glad to find there is another seceder; I am curious to ascertain what is the force that the hon. and gallant Member for Middlesex will carry with him into the lobby, and whether it will comprise any part of the public friends who met at the private residence of the noble Lord. I can tell the noble Lord that, when we go to I the country, the issue will be as distinct as, under such circumstances, it ever has been. It is clearly an issue whether the people have confidence in the present Administration, or whether they have not? It is clearly an issue whether the agricultural interest (on whose fortunes the noble Lord has so considerably dwelt to-night) have confidence in the present Administration, or whether they have not? It is clearly an issue whether they believe, or do not believe, that if we remain in power we shall do our utmost to redress the grievances of which they so justly complain? I believe that issue is distinctly understood by them. And, notwithstanding the speeches of the noble Lord, and those of his new ally, the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), they are perfectly satisfied that that issue should be arrived at as speedily as is consistent with the service of the country. I was reminding the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, when he made that pleasing intimation of his exact situation, which was received by this side of the House with such satisfaction, that he had given us a lecture, founded upon the conduct of Sir Robert Peel in 1841. But I must warn the hon. Gentleman and the House against putting more value upon that instance than it deserves. The hon. Member was one of the most ardent followers of that eminent personage, and he will remember that, in 1835, Sir Robert Peel professed a different opinion, and pursued a very different course. I do not think an interval of five years could make so much difference, that Sir 1383 Robert Peel's opinion in 1835 should not be of as much value as his opinion in 1841; but, at the same time, I must remind the House, that none of these precedents involved circumstances at all like those with which we have to deal. There is not now a vote of want of confidence carried against the existing Government by the existing House of Commons; and I think it would be more decent to propose a vote of that kind, preliminary to making a Motion to stop the Supplies. The noble Lord has dwelt very much upon the unconstitutional conduct of the Government in presuming to endeavour to carry on affairs with a majority of the House of Commons against it. I think it rather a large assumption, on the part of the noble Lord, to state that Her Majesty's Ministers will be unable to carry their measures in this House. But whatever might be the state of this House—even if on acceeding to power the Ministry had an undoubted majority—Lord Derby would not have thought of bringing forward, in a terminating Parliament, after the repeated pledges given to the country on that subject, measures for the redress of the grievances of the agricultural and other interests. There is a distinct pledge to that effect, understood by the country, and accepted by the country, that we shall not attempt to redress those grievances until the public voice has been taken. If, then, we had been secure of a majority on acceding to power, that fact would not have prevented our advising Her Majesty to take the sense of the people as soon as those conditions are fulfilled, which, I hope, to-night I have correctly and accurately expressed. But, as regards the result of an appeal, even to this waning Parliament, to which we do not intend to appeal, after all that has occurred, and after all that has been said about our not obtaining a majority, I want to know why we are to assume that the noble Lord can command a greater number of followers than ourselves? When the noble Lord accepted office in 1846, he certainly did not accept it with a party so powerful in that Parliament as honours the present Administration with its confidence in this. The noble Lord came into office as legitimately then as we have done now; but he not only had fewer followers than we, but he proposed measures which placed his newly-fledged Ministry in danger of being overwhelmed. He proposed measures which Sir Robert Peel could not sanction or approve—which were opposed 1384 not only to his declared opinions, but to his sincere convictions, with respect to the sugar duties. The noble Lord must recollect well that night when, if Sir Robert Peel and his friends had acted upon their own convictions, the noble Lord would have been defeated by a large majority. Sir Robert Peel did not approve of their policy, but at that moment, if the Government had been turned out of office, there were only two persons who could replace them. Sir Robert Peel was not prepared to take office himself, and he did not wish my late lamented friend the Member for King's Lynn (Lord George Bentinck) to have the opportunity. The noble Lord did not dissolve Parliament on that occasion, although it was a Parliament quite as old as the present; and he was pursuing a policy upon which the country manifestly wished to express its opinion. But the noble Lord went on, and was justified in his doing so, just as upon that precedent we are justified in the course we have adopted. I said the other night that great as were the difficulties under which the new Government was formed, many of its members being men of no official experience, yet I had faith in the good sense and good temper of the House of Commons. Nothing has occurred to make me lose my confidence in those qualities; and I do not think there are any reasons existing to make me suppose that any judicious measure we might propose would not be supported by a majority in this House. With that conviction, I will not defer to the ignoble opinion that Her Majesty's present Government is existing on sufferance. We are thankful for support; but I do not deprecate hostility. If the noble Lord be guided by the decision of the convention to which I have referred—if the noble Lord act in the spirit he has this evening evinced, and which I do not hesitate to say is a factious spirit—I believe that he will not be supported by a majority of this House; and that if measures are brought forward by the existing Government which deserve the approbation and are entitled to the confidence of the House of Commons, the existing House of Commons will, I believe, support those measures. The noble Lord made some observations—I ought not to say "some," since the whole of his speech was addressed to a speech made in another assembly, by another person—I should rather say in the elaborate reply which he made to the speech of Lord Derby, the noble Lord alluded to an expression 1385 of opinion and feeling on the part of Lord Derby, that the Government which now existed would meet with the support of the great bulk of the people, because it is a barrier to democratic innovation. "Democratic innovation!" said the noble Lord, "was not I a barrier to democratic innovation? did democracy run riot when I was Minister? when it attempted that which was improper, did not we check and successfully resist it?" I admit all that; but allow me to ask the late First Minister of the Crown, by whose aid he was so successful, and by what means was that menacing democracy repelled? By whose aid did he defeat those large schemes of Parliamentary reform of which he could afford to speak, when supported by this side of the House, with derision and contumely? And when the late First Minister discoursed so learnedly and so eloquently on the public credit of the country, and the difficulty of revising taxation, let me ask him who, when a proposition to reduce taxation to the extent of 10,000,000l. was proposed by an individual summoned the other day by the noble Lord to Chesham Place for counsel—let me ask the noble Lord, was it the 130 Gentlemen who supported the late Government on the Militia Bill who prevented the carrying of so disastrous a proposition? The noble Lord has condescended to a misapprehension of the meaning of Lord Derby—I use the mildest term—which I did not expect from his lips. It has never entered into the mind of Lord Derby, in any policy which he may recommend to Parliament, that it will be a policy requiring physical force to uphold it. When Lord Derby said that he was prepared to uphold the venerable and admirable institutions of this country, it was not that he wished to intimate that he was prepared to invoke force to maintain his policy; but what he meant was, that, being himself animated by a feeling of true patriotism, and believing Parliament was prepared to support a policy founded upon national honour, that when that appeal to the country should be made which is now pending, he would meet with such large support that he should be able to originate in Parliament measures which he believed to be necessary, and that he should be able to pass them, and find himself a successful and powerful Minister, supported alike by the favour of his Sovereign and the confidence of his fellow-subjects.
§ MR. BRIGHT
There have been one or two questions discussed to-night which I do not mean to enter upon. I will not enter upon any discussion as to the policy pursued by the noble Lord at the head of the late Government, or as to how far he is to be blamed for the present posture of affairs. The noble Lord will no doubt be able to defend the course he took in this House. Neither will I discuss whether the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is precisely such a champion of the aristocracy as they may much admire, or such a one as the democracy ought to fear. Neither will I discuss the question of free trade, because the question now is not whether the principle of free trade is sound or not. The question now before us, and that which the country is anxious to know something about is, whether a Government that, notwithstanding the high flight of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has acknowledged itself to be in a minority in this House, and which, as an Opposition, maintained a policy, and scrambled into office on a policy, which a majority of the House has repeatedly declared to be pestiferous and dangerous—ought to be permitted to carry on the Government without being summoned before that tribunal to which, in this country, I am happy to say, all Administrations must submit. It is not because the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Friends sit on the benches opposite, and that I wish to see those on this side of the House take their places, that I press this view of the question. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to carry on the Government with an avowed and acknowledged minority, and he claims credit for his willingness to carry certain measures which have been proposed by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). If the right hon. Gentleman can do that—if the right hon. Gentleman can claim credit for taking such a course, supported by 220 Members, but still a minority of the House, why may not a minority of thirty or forty Members—why may not, in fact, a mere Executive adopt the same course, and claim the support and forbearance of the House? It appears to me that the only question which can delay a dissolution of Parliament, is the question of what is called the internal defence of the country. Now, seeing that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) declared, that he did not propose this measure, the establishment of a militia force, to meet a special emergency—seeing that 1387 such a proposition was made four years ago, and was then abandoned—seeing that for thirty-seven years we have been in peace and security, without such a measure, I do not believe that a single interest in the country would be less safe if that measure, which we are told to regard as of so much importance in the country, and about which I venture to say a good deal will be heard at the hustings—should be postponed for two months longer. I do not blame Gentlemen opposite for opposing the late Government in opposition, for I do not know what an Opposition is for, unless it is to oppose, or at least to check, the Government. I believe they were not more factious as an Opposition than the Members who now sit on this side of the House. I think both sides of the House have been too much tainted with the Parliamentary vice of faction. But I must remind you that you occupy a position which makes it impossible for us to forget what took place when you sat on this the Opposition side of the House; and it is for the purpose of preventing you from getting on under disguises, of going to the country under false pretences, that I now address you. Taking your past conduct in opposition, and the promises you have made, I cannot but scout the notion that the 200 Gentlemen whom I saw in opposition making such a display of their professions and principles, are, now that they form the Government, about to throw overboard all those professions. In 1846 you objected to the course pursued by Sir Robert Peel with regard to the mode in which he carried the repeal of the Corn Laws. Now, from 1842 to 1846, you must have perceived from Sir Robert Peel's speeches, that there was a gradual change coming over his mind in reference to protection; and if you denounced him for changing his policy from conviction, and on an emergency such as had not occurred in modern times, what will the country think of you, if, without the excuse of any such emergency, except the love of office, you abandon the professions you have a thousand times made in opposition? We do not want to raise a war of classes, but let me remind you that some of the farmers' friends endeavoured to raise such a war long since. A gentleman from Cambridgeshire it was, I think, who said at an agricultural meeting that the farmers would rather march upon Manchester than upon Paris. Perhaps the fear of sea sickness may cause such a preference. Another gentleman reminded his hearers 1388 that the farmers had a greater number of horses than others, and that they knew how to ride them. That was, in fact, stimulating a war among classes—an offence of which his (Mr. Bright's) party had never been guilty. The noble Marquess the Member for Stamford (the Marquess of Granby) was one of the most consistent and honest in the whole ranks of the Protectionist party. Whether in this House or out of this House he always spoke in a tone of sincerity and conviction; and if it be true that you are going to deceive the farmers, I am not surprised that he does not form one of the Cabinet, for I am sure he would not sit at the Council table and countenance an ambiguous policy, a policy which would be likely to destroy all confidence in public men. I see the hon. Member for East Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) opposite, and he, I am sure, would not conceal his opinions, or be a party to deceiving the farmers of England. It is on this cry of protection that you built up your party. It is on this cry that the Morning Post, the Morning Herald, and the Standard have been writing those dreary leading articles which some of us at least have felt it to be our duty to read. But you have done something more than built up a party and attained office upon that cry of protection to agriculture. To this part of your conduct I must specially call your attention. You have charged us, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers), the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), my right hon. Colleague (Mr. M. Gibson), myself, and others who have acted with us, with being the destroyers of the native industry of the country. Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary (Sir J. Pakington) has made many a loud lament in this House upon the alleged destruction which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) is said to have brought upon our West Indian colonies. And the hon. Gentleman the Member for Scarborough (Mr. G. F. Young), who was to have been Vice-President of the Board of Trade, but who, I presume, on account of ill health, declined to take office, has passed some years in asserting the destruction of the shipping interests. Then, you have taunted the late Government with having been the tool of Manchester; and your perpetual argument has been that Manchester and the Manchester policy are hostile to the welfare of large classes of this country. Yet, after all this, you ask us to allow you to be quiet. You 1389 say we must show you forbearance because your difficulties are extraordinary. Well, we know they are. But your difficulties are not of our making: they are the difficulties of an impossible policy. And this, I tell you, is a difficulty we will not allow you to escape from; cither you shall recant your protectionist principles, or you shall go to the constituencies and let them decide the question, once for all, and for all of us. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Lord the First Minister, in another place, have referred to the humble labours which you, as a Government, are willing to undertake. We have no objection to the humility of your tasks—we think there has been a sufficient humiliation in your labours while in opposition. But there is one humility I do hope you will not stoop to, and that is, the retaining office not only when you can't carry your principles, but when you dare not even avow them. I will be more frank than the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, who never promises candour but he becomes unwontedly mystic. I tell you we want a dissolution—we want the question so long at issue between you and us referred at once to the only tribunal that can adjudicate upon it; and we feel a confidence, which no intelligent man in your ranks feels with regard to your ancient principles, that that adjudication will be in favour of the policy of 1846. If you felt that your policy had a chance, you would appeal at once in its favour. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer says that you are popular, and he refers to the funds. But then, the French funds have been rising for some time, and no one will pretend to say that the intelligent and liberal classes of France feel any rejoicing in what has of late been done in Paris. Your press boasts, in proof of your popularity, that your Ministers have been re-elected without opposition. Your press talks of the "remarkable unanmity." No doubt—unanimity between Lords Exeter and Egmont. Let us see what these Ministers are, as representatives of the people, I am not going to say that their position is any fault of theirs; it is the fault of the system, which I want to amend, but which they are not amending, or proposing to amend, but, on the contrary, objecting to any amendment whatever. Take your President of the India Board, who professed to represent 9,000 persons, that is, men, women, and children; but, of course, his real and only 1390 constituent is the Marquess of Exeter. Take your Colonial Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, has the good fortune to return himself; and, as might be expected, the right hon. Gentleman lives in a state of unparalleled harmony with his constituency. Take the Secretary of State for the Home Department—a right hon. Gentleman whom no person in the House regrets to see in such a position as that which he now occupies. The right hon. Gentleman represents nominally a constituency of 7,021 persons; but when we come to analyse, we find that the whole population represented by those three Members of the Cabinet is 23,050 men, women, and children; while the whole number of electors electing them, including the double qualifications, and all others requiring to be struck off, is 1,212 persons. I think, now, that that is a matter you ought to bear in mind, and, if you don't, I can tell you the country will. I may refer to other instances. Then there are the boroughs of Buckingham, Chichester, Petersfield, Lisburn, Enniskillen, and Portarlington; and I may point to the law officers of the Crown, particularly to the hon. and learned the Attorney General, who sits for a population of 9,954, with an electoral list only of 241 names; and I defy the hon. and learned Gentleman to deny that at the election in 1847, the bribery and corruption, on both sides, in that borough of Abingdon, were such that both petitions were withdrawn, out of an apprehension that the borough would have been disfranchised had they been persevered in. I may turn now to the hon. and learned Gentleman who has spoken to-night (Mr. Whiteside), the Solicitor General for Ireland; and I find that, with all the enthusiasm in favour of protection in Enniskillen, and notwithstanding the aid of the Earl of Enniskillen himself, the hon. and learned Gentleman was not able to poll more than the magnificent number of eighty-one votes. I will not refer to Portarlington, for I believe the hon. Member (Colonel Dunne) is sufficiently conscious of his delicate position. Does all this prove that you are popular? At any rate it proves that the representation of this country is in a bad and vicious state; and I warn you that if you proceed in governing the country through these nomination counties, which the Earl of Derby once described so well, or through these little pocket boroughs which have sent you here, you will be the men who will weaken the attachment of the 1391 people of this country to the institutions under which they live, and that you will be the men who will be breaking down the barriers to that democracy which you say you so greatly dread. But I am asking you to go to the country, and yet I am afraid I am using arguments not likely to induce you to take that advice. Let us see what course you are pursuing. There are two boroughs in Lancashire, the boroughs of Blackburn and Bolton, which, to their everlasting disgrace, have returned, during this Parliament, Members who call themselves manufacturing Members, who voted in favour of protection, if not on all occasions, generally with hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial benches. I now hear, on what I believe to be undoubted authority, that these Members intend to pledge themselves at the coming election never to consent to any reimposition of a duty on corn. I cross the hills between Lancashire and Yorkshire, and I come to the borough of Halifax. I am not able to speak positively, but it is rumoured that the hon. Gentleman who supports you, the Protectionist Government, as Member for Halifax, is coming out, now, for free trade; and I feel sure that if he does not really do what it is rumoured he will do, he will never return to the House as the representative of Halifax. I go on to Wakefield, and I find that the hon. Gentleman who has supported you by his speeches for the last few Sessions is now addressing the electors of Wakefield as a free-trader. I am further informed that the city of York, surrounded as it is by old walls, is penetrated with modern and rational sentiments; and that the Gentleman at present representing it, as a Protectionist, has no chance of coming back on those principles again. I come down to Kidderminster, and I am informed that the hon. Gentleman who has sat among you as a Protectionist is offering himself again to the constituency of Kidderminster on free trade-principles. [An Hon. MEMBER: No; he has done no such thing.] Well, I heard so on good authority; but if the hon. Gentleman contradicts me, of course I retract what I have said. Look at Bristol. Your candidate at Bristol has ran away. I beg to call the attention of the Committee to the city of Bath. There is a statement in the papers that an hon. and learned Gentleman, I believe a Queen's Counsel, has been recommended to the constituency of Bath by the hon. and learned Attorney General—a very proper thing to 1392 do; but it does happen that the Gentleman in question, recommended by the Derby Government, and wishing to come to this House to support that Government in the next Parliament, confesses, in his correspondence with the Conservative committee of Bath, that though he has a great sympathy (as no doubt we all have) with "suffering interests," he thinks that the necessary "relief" must be given in some other manner than by a direct tax upon food. Now, what I bring all these facts forward for is to show that you are conscious that on an appeal you would not have with you the support of the people of this country, and that, therefore, you dare not, on the question of protection, go to the great constituencies of the United Kingdom. I will call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Judge Advocate, the Member for Dorsetshire, to an unhappy incident which occurred in Dorchester within the last two years. There was a meeting held there on the question of protection; and even in the quiet agricultural town of Dorchester, where one would have thought the British lion was especially revered—the result of that meeting was a riot of the most serious character; and in the excitement your agitation caused, one unhappy individual lost his life by a violent and hasty assault made on him on the part of one of the farmers who attended that meeting. Go further north, to the borough of Tarn worth. I beg to ask the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), what the people of Tamworth said as to this question of protection? And if that is not sufficient evidence, I will appeal to the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Freshfield), and will ask him if he remembers the ludicrous catastrophe of his being kept by a mob on one side of a square, while on the other side his dinner was waiting for him—an admirable retribution for a gentleman in favour of a tax upon food. I am adducing this as evidence to convince you that you cannot dissolve safely for yourselves on the question of protection. There is other evidence. You have all read the account of a meeting in Manchester two or three weeks ago, when the Anti-Corn-Law League was reconstituted. The Earl of Derby, I am told—for I confess I did not read that portion of his speech—referred, in another place, to the subscriptions put down upon that occasion as merely subscriptions on paper. In reply to that, I can assure hon. Gentleman opposite that it positively required arguments on the part of my hon. Friend 1393 (Mr. Cobden) and myself, to prevent those subscriptions, large as they were, from becoming much larger. [Derisive cheers.] When I say much larger, I do not mean more numerous—I mean as to the separate amounts; and I do not hesitate to declare, that if there was the slightest attempt on your part to reimpose the duty on corn, there's a great deal more of your policy, besides your Corn Laws, that would not be quite safe. Examine what we did at Manchester. Merely by the distribution of circulars, and with the aid of the press, the subscriptions became at once 27,000l.; and the amount has since reached the sum of 62,000l.; and still those subscriptions are rapidly increasing. Perhaps, however, hon. Gentlemen would like to refer to Ireland. You have tried how protection stands in Kildare, and you sent to Kildare a gentleman (Lord Naas) against whom probably less could be said than against any other man whom you could have brought forward. Well, he was obliged to retire before the poll was opened. What is going on in Cork? You have got a candidate there, and I will read two or three lines from a speech made in Cork the other day by Lord Bernard, who, in proposing Mr. Frewen for that county, said—They had now a solemn duty to perform in electing a Member for this great comity. They had one of two courses to pursue. In returning a Member to the House of Commons, they should support one or other of two great parties in that House. It was perfectly absurd to imagine that any Member of that House could stand neutral in the approaching contest. And what was the issue to be decided in that contest? The sole question was, whether they should have protection to agriculture or not.Thus is the issue put in Cork; and you have tried that issue in the counties; and all your friends have run away from it, have skulked from it in boroughs: was there ever conduct less reputable? In Cork, the free-trade candidate was sure to be returned by a large majority. Go farther north, to Down. A noble Lord (Lord Castlereagh) in consequence of a domestic tyranny, as unconstitutional as unnatural, was forced to retire from that county. Thereupon the farmers of that county addressed the noble Lord; and in consequence that noble Lord will be put up again for Down, and will stand, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, entirely upon free trade and tenant right. [Cries of "No, no!"] I state what I have seen in the papers, and what I have heard from a gentleman intimately connected with that 1394 county. Could the people of Ireland be persuaded that the Corn Law had been of advantage to them—a people who had had protection for thirty-five years—which, according to the idea of the Gentlemen opposite, should have given them a redundancy of food, and permitted them all to profit by the industry which they pursued—and who at the end of that period were landed in the most calamitous famine known to modern times? I will not speak of the 270,000 Irish dwellings levelled with the ground; or of the 270,000 Irish families driven to the grave, or across the Channel here, or across the Atlantic, to the United States and Canada. But I quote the language of an hon. Friend of mine (the hon. Member for Oldham) used once at one of our meetings of the Anti-Corn-Law League—"The corn law is the harvest of death as well as of the landlord: and Monopoly says to Corruption, 'Thou art my brother.'" It is not possible that you can be permitted to trifle with constituencies as you have done. I will not exaggerate. The state of uncertainty that has arisen, is no doubt only partial; but is only partial, because the belief in your power for mischief is very partial. But if it were thought, for a moment, that you could carry out what I regard as your wishes, and what you have avowed in opposition as your principles, then, indeed, I tell you, you would see a tumult in this country to which the tumult you remember in 1832 would be, in comparison, but as a whisper to a whirlwind. I would ask hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side, whether the present was a state of things which they would call creditable if the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) was on those benches with his friends, as he was a few weeks ago? The speech of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, able as it was, was nothing like so clever as it would have been, had he been in opposition, and speaking to the noble Lord and his friends? Who would suppose that a Government would send one candidate to a county to preach protection, and another to a borough to say, "It is all very well as a party cry, but I am a Conservative Free-trader. My hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden) spoke of the effects of this uncertainty, such as it is, on foreign countries. I will speak only of the United States. There is a protectionist party in the United States; and it is a strong party. Another election is approaching there, and there will be a struggle for the Presidency. Now 1395 don't you let them in the United States suppose, if it isn't true, that the policy of this country is going to be reversed. For if the Protectionists thought that was to be the case, more money would be subscribed, and still greater efforts would be made by them, because they would have the stimulus of believing that England had tried free trade and had given it up, because it would not work. If you are not, then, for a return to the Corn Laws, say so. I tell you distinctly, that if any of the Members of your Government were to get up and disavow protection, assigning the reason of its injustice, or at least of the impossibility of it, you would be giving the greatest satisfaction to large numbers of Conservatives throughout the country. I say further, that if you will do that, you will not find me voting in any vote of want of confidence against your Government. I will take you and try you, by your measures, precisely with the independence and the honesty of desire to do my duty to my constituents, which I have always exhibited, I hope, in reference to the late Government of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). But if you are for protection, and will not say so, then I tell you, we will make war upon you. You said once you would breakup an "organised hypocrisy." I say to you, we will try if we cannot break up a confederated imposture. And bad as the representation of this country is—and no one is more conscious of the faults of our representative system than I am—yet I am perfectly persuaded, that if you will dissolve Parliament and go to the constituencies for any duty you like to name, large or small, upon corn, you will find that your ephemeral Government will be scattered to the winds; and that the united voices of the intelligent and free people of this country will condemn the policy you avowed in opposition, and upon the promise of which to your deluded dupes you have scrambled to your seats of power.
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
said, that he had been so pointedly referred to by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), that he hoped the Committee would allow him to offer a brief reply to that hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member had said that he looked upon him (the Marquess of Granby) as a consistent man. Now he hoped he had a right to be so considered, and he was certainly prepared to state that he still retained the opinions he had formerly uttered on the great question then under consideration. It was 1396 generally admitted that the free-trade policy had inflicted great injury on large classes in this country, and that in order to repair that injury some means should he adopted to modify that policy. He still thought, as he had always thought, that the hest mode of accomplishing that object would be the imposition of moderate import duties on foreign produce, by which the foreigner would be compelled to pay a portion of our taxes, and we should create a revenue by which we should be enabled to repeal other duties which press upon the industry of the country. That was his opinion, and he had no hesitation in telling the hon. Member for Manchester that he confidently believed that the Earl of Derby and the Government of which he was the head would endeavour to carry out that policy if the country would support them. He would say further that it would be absurd and ridiculous—that it would be highly mischievous—to attempt to reverse a policy which had been the law of the land for upwards of five years, if the people of this country were convinced that that policy was just and advantageous. He thought that he should have no difficulty in supporting the Government of the Earl of Derby, when he found that noble Lord speaking in these terms:—I express my opinion that if relief is to be given to the farmer, without any serious difficulty or increase of expenditure being thrown upon the other classes of the community, a moderate duty upon corn, producing a large revenue, and thereby enabling other taxes to be diminished, would be most advantageous to the country, and a most just mode of affording relief.In these sentiments he (the Marquess of Granby) entirely concurred, and he gave his humble but very sincere support to the Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had taken great pains that evening to show that they were not factious in the opposition they were then offering to Her Majesty's Government; but if their conduct was not factious, he was at a loss to imagine what conduct could be so considered. The noble Lord the Member for London had declared, when he had retired from office, that he thought a dissolution of Parliament would be attended with great disadvantages and inconveniences; but would it not be equally disadvantageous, and equally inconvenient at present, so immediately after the accession of the present Government to power? He could not help thinking that the noble Lord the Member for London and his 1397 party were anxious to force an early dissolution, because they were afraid that the present prosperous condition of the country, which they attributed to free trade, might soon decline—that the emigration which had set in to the western shores might be directed to our own workhouses—that those drainage works which had been mentioned the other evening by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham) might cease, and that a considerable number of labourers might be thrown out of employment. He should take that opportunity of saying that he had heard the other evening, with great pleasure, the fair and straightforward speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), who had said he was anxious to give Her Majesty's Government a fair trial, and that the question of free trade or protection should be fairly put to the country at a new election, when they would have an opportunity of saying aye or no to the question. But, on the other hand, he had heard with much regret the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, because he knew the influence which anything that might fall from that right. Baronet must exercise, not only on that House, but on the country. The right hon. Baronet had addressed a solemn warning to the Government and their party, if they were to dare to assert their principles at the next election. But for his (the Marquess of Granby's) part, the effect of that warning on his mind was much diminished when he remembered the language which had been held by the right hon. Baronet on other occasions. His object in referring to the right hon. Baronet was to show, that eloquent and conscientious as he was, his opinions were not unchangeable, and his judgment not unerring. He referred more especially to one contained in a small work published by the right hon. Baronet some years ago) in which he recommended a fixed duty of 15s. per quarter, the establishment of a sinking fund, and various other matters calculated to relieve the agriculturists. He (the Marquess of Granby) trusted that Her Majesty's Government would still continue to pursue the even tenor of their way, and would not suffer themselves to be diverted by any threats or intimidation for doing what they believed to be for the good of the country.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
It was not my intention to have taken any part 1398 in a debate which has been sufficiently discursive; but the Committee will do me the justice to admit that I have been dragged into it by the personal allusions which have been made to me. It is not my intention to trouble the Committee with any observations with regard to the candidate for Bath, for whose opinions I am not responsible, though as a personal friend of my own I sincerely hope he may be successful at the general election; but what I do feel most deeply is the attack which has been made upon my personal character and honour, and which I am desirous of repelling in the most distinct manner. The hon. Member for Manchester has challenged me to deny that at the election of 1847, or after the election of 1847, I entered into a corrupt agreement—["No, no!"]—an agreement not corrupt, then, I suppose—to suppress charges of bribery, in order to prevent the disfranchisement of the borough of Abingdon. That is the distinct charge made by the hon. Gentleman. Now, the Committee may perhaps be aware that at the election in 1847 I was returned by a very slender majority. ["One."] No; two—the result of an extraordinary and rather amusing accident. Two petitions were presented against that return, both of them containing charges of bribery; one of them asking for the seat, the other merely praying that the election might be declared to be void. Hon. Members are aware that when a petition claims a seat, and contains charges of bribery, it is open to the party who is petitioned against to recriminate upon his adversary. Before the period when the Committee was to assemble to try that election, an application—a proposal—was made to me that the charges of bribery should be abandoned on both sides. My answer was this: "I know that personally I cannot be affected. If any agent of mine, or any person for whom I am responsible, has been guilty of bribery, I hope he will be exposed before the Committee; but, whatever may be the result, I will be no party to any compromise whatever." Immediately after that suggestion was made to me, and my answer was given, the petition praying for the seat was abandoned. There then stood the petition which prayed merely that my election might be declared void; and one of the charges in that petition, as I have already stated, was a charge of bribery. I believe the Committee was to assemble on a Monday, and on the previous Friday evening an appli- 1399 cation was made to me, though from what quarter it proceeded I don't know, and am utterly indifferent, proposing to abandon that petition, providing I would pay the costs of the petitioner. My answer to that application was this: "There is a charge of bribery against me and my agents in that petition. I won't pay a farthing to suppress the charge of bribery, and you may go back with that answer." The answer was taken back to the quarter whence the suggestion proceeded; and in about an hour I was informed that the second petition was dropped. I feel that my honour and character have been assailed, because it is impossible for anybody to say that an agreement to suppress a charge of bribery for the purpose of preventing the disfranchisement of a borough, would not be a corrupt and scandalous agreement. I am anxious—more anxious than I can express—to stand well in the opinion of this House; but I feel that I should not, I ought not for one moment, maintain any character here, if I had been a party to any such agreement as I was supposed to have made, upon what authority I don't know, by the hon. Member for Manchester. I have given the fullest explanation. It is the truest and sincerest; and I should like to know how the hon. Member for Manchester could feel justified in making this charge, without having the smallest materials for it.
§ MR. BRIGHT
The Committee will bear in mind, that when I spoke of the borough which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Thesiger) represents, I did not make any allusion to any part he had personally taken. None knew better than many hon. Gentlemen opposite that these things are often managed when the candidate has nothing to do with them openly, and often when he is totally ignorant of what is being done. What I stated was, that a petition had been presented against the return of the hon. and learned Gentleman; that the hon. Gentleman's Friends proposed, as he has said, to enter into the case of his opponents; and that parties to the petition in the borough—[Loud and continued cries of "Oh!" prevented the hon. Member from concluding the sentence.] I never had the slightest idea that the hon. and learned Gentleman would have been a party to any such arrangement. I may appeal at least to the evidence of your own ears. Parties in the borough, as I was informed at the time, and as I have been informed recently, 1400 upon what I believe to be very good authority, were apprehensive that the result of an investigation into the conduct of both parties in the borough, might end in its disfranchisement. I was further told distinctly that the known price in the market of the borough of Abingdon was 3,000l. I acquit the hon. and learned Gentleman of what I never charged him with. When the Bill of the noble Member for the city of London is passed, if the House allows it to pass, I shall be very glad indeed if the borough of Abingdon comes under its provisions, or if that borough is subjected to the same ordeal which the borough of St. Albans has lately gone through.
expressed his satisfaction at the certain increase which must in the end arise out of these proceedings, to what he would denominate the just popular influence. The party meant by that term, and their friends, could not fail to be aware of the species of decision to which they were to be referred. They did not think of refusing the reference; because they knew that though "bad is the best," it was the only thing they were likely to have at present. But they were wide awake to the fact, that they were referred to a decision in which the chances were to be ten to one against them;—a decision where every 100 of the opposite side were to have a vote, and every 1,000 of their own. If they took for a specimen the case of the hon. Gentlemen who had just succeeded to the Government, they would find the ten county Members sent by a population altogether less than that of the county of Lancaster. Those ten counties sent twenty-three Members to the House of Commons, while the county of Lancaster sent four. That was six to one against Lancashire. Then the eleven borough Members were sent by two-thirds of the voters in Manchester. Those eleven boroughs sent seventeen Members, while Manchester only sent two; which a little arithmetic would show was in round numbers thirteen to one against Manchester. Putting these numbers together, the aggregate would be found close upon ten to one, as he had said; besides which, the data were three or four years old, and there could not be much doubt which way the alterations would lie. One thing more, he would take this opportunity to impress. He had heard something like a statement that this decision, such as it was, was to be "final." He believed hon. Gentlemen 1401 opposite rightly entertained the opinion, that if the decision should he against them, it would he final; but it did not follow that the other side were to entertain the same conviction; and he, for himself and all who thought with him, protested against being bound by any agreement to make anything like a final affair of the struggle now coming on. He requested to be understood as distinctly avowing, that if they should be defeated, they would from that moment begin to move heaven and earth to recover their position. He only hoped there would be "no mistake," and as far as he was concerned there should be none; and that they would at no time hereafter be taunted with having broken an engagement, against which they had done all in their power to protest.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that the few remarks by which he had brought on this discussion had been intended to extort some avowal of their policy from Her Majesty's Ministers. He had failed in this object. He should not divide the Committee on the present occasion. He had been met on the part of one Member of the Government, the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, with an imputation on his skill as a debater, which, of course, the hon. and learned Gentleman was quite at liberty to suggest; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had also thought proper to impugn his convictions on a more sacred subject. As to his skill as a debater, he would only say that, at all events, he never indulged in pompous periods of vapid declamations. As to the other matter, he never made professions of pharisaical sanctity—ebullitions of Orange piety engrafted on the zeal and fanaticism of a Latter-day Saint.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ MAJOR BERESFORD
said, he roust take that opportunity of protesting against the misrepresentation of what he had said at Braintree, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, and the hon. Member for Middlesex. They had put into his mouth language which he had never made use of. He now begged to move, "That a sum of 3,602,067l. be granted for Her Majesty's Land Forces."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
hoped the Committee would consent to grant this Vote only, and he should 1402 not propose taking another that evening. Sufficient opportunity to renew any discussion connected with the Vote would afterwards occur.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
would also suggest the propriety of reporting progress. It was unusual, without any explanation, and at so advanced a period of the evening, to propose such a Vote. He hoped, as the Committee had voted the number of men, there would be no objection to withdraw the Motion.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
did not understand if the Government had agreed to report progress. The proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), was perfectly fair. he thought the votes given the other night on the Navy Estimates, showed an indication that there was no disposition but to deal fairly with the Government; but he must say, with reference to their duties to the public, it was not desirable, as a general rule, at such an hour of the night to ask for these Votes.
§ Vote withdrawn. House resumed.