Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [5th July],
That the right of granting Aids and Supplies to the Crown is in the Commons alone, as an essential part of their constitution; and the limitation of all such Grants, as to the matter, manner, measure, and time, is only in them.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
MR. DIGBY SEYMOUR
Sir, the House has just heard from the noble Lord at the head of the Government the declaration that, so far as those Resolutions are con- 1537 cerned, he does not propose to go further than the Resolutions of which he has given notice. So far as those Resolutions themselves are concerned I am not going to express an opinion at all different to that which has been expressed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. Those Resolutions in themselves I believe to be excellent, but in my humble opinion they stop far indeed short of the extent to which this House ought to proceed. That is what I complain of, and I trust that I shall be supported in this view which I venture to take of them. Those Resolutions stop far short of giving a true effect to that which ought to be their proper purport, and they content themselves with reciting and laying down that which is true in the abstract and which cannot be contradicted; but there a line is drawn. I think it would have been much better for the dignity of the House and for the consistency of the noble Lord if they had proceeded to draw the inference which I think inevitably and necessarily follows from the Resolutions which the noble Lord has placed on the table of this House.
Now, in the first place we have there stated by the noble Lord—That the right of granting Aids and Supplies to the Crown is in the Commons alone, as an essential part of their constitution, and the limitation of all such Grants, as to the matter, manner, measure, and time, is only in them. That, although the Lords have exercised the power of rejecting Bills of several descriptions relating to taxation, by negativing the whole of it, yet the exercise of that power by them has not been frequent, and is justly regarded by this House with peculiar jealousy, as affecting the right of the Commons to grant Supplies, and to provide the Ways and Means for the Service of the year.Now, Sir, if the sole right, as the Resolutions aver, of originating and controlling the Supplies rests in this House, if this House is jealous of its ancient and undoubted functions, if it is true that the House of Lords has not often exercised the power of interference, and if an undue exercise of power has now been made by the Lords, I think that there ought to have been some plainer and some less equivocal enunciation of their privileges on the part of this House, and I do trust that when we come to that Resolution, that either the noble Lord will consent to amend it in some particulars for the purpose of giving entire effect to it, or that a majority of this House will support me in the Amendment of which I have given notice, declaring that by the rejection of 1538 the Bill for the repeal of the paper duty the Lords had violated the constitutional rights of the House of Commons.
Now, Sir, I must at once state that I listened with great admiration and attention to the eloquent speech of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government last night. I confess, however, that I admire him more as the advocate of the rights of this House than as the apologist for the excesses of the House of Lords, and I certainly thought that the first portion of the speech of the noble Lord was very much in contrast with the concluding portion, and I cannot help thinking that one portion of that speech entitles me to call upon the noble Lord to support me in the Amendment of which I have given notice, and which it will be my duty to submit to the House.
Sir, I find that the noble Lord in his speech last night said—It is our privilege to combine the whole into one scheme, and when that scheme is so framed, it certainly is not consistent with the exclusive functions of this House that any material portion of it should be rejected by the other House, so as to alter and entirely vary the bearing of all the financial arrangements. The question is was that done by the House of Lords upon the late occasion? One must admit, I think, that in principle it was so.Now, Sir, if the noble Lord really entertained that opinion, I ask the House why has he stopped short from any affected reserve towards the other House? From what the noble Lord said in his speech upon this subject, it would appear that the House of Lords have taken upon themselves to interfere in that which the noble Lord has declared to be the undoubted and ancient function of this House, and if so why does the noble Lord feel any affected reserve with regard to the position of this House in respect to its relation to the House of Lords? If the noble Lord was in earnest in that declaration—if the noble Lord was in earnest in bringing forward these Resolutions, why, I ask, has he not proved his sincerty by declaring not what the House of Lords has done in principle, but that they have in fact violated the privileges and made an encroachment on the functions of the House of Commons? But if I was astonished at those observations on the part of the noble Lord, I was still more astonished at the language which he addressed to this House in justification and apology for the conduct of the House of Lords. The language of the noble Lord was to this effect, he put it to the House 1539 whether the House of Lords in the course which they had taken might not have thought that it would be wise to give the House of Commons at least time for consideration, with a view to see whether the revenue under the altered circumstances might not be seriously affected by the contemplated change in respect to the repeal of the paper duty. What! Sir, are we come to this—that the noble Lord the leader of this House, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, standing up in his place to vindicate the privileges of the House of Commons, and to place on record Resolutions declaratory of our undoubted rights and privileges, is to become the apologist of the Lords, and to find an excuse for them in the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the course which he has taken, has exhibited so little wisdom or foresight in his proposition for the Supply of the year, that, therefore, the House of Lords were entitled to review the Budget which he has laid upon the table of the House? If the apology of the noble Lord amounts to anything, it amounts to that. But are we so likely to forget the Speech of the Queen in the opening of the Session of Parliament, in that stereotyped form of expression which, though vulgarized by perpetual use, is ever present to our minds, as to in whom resides the right to furnish the Supplies? Does not Her Majesty, I ask, on every occasion of the opening of the Session of Parliament call upon her "faithful Commons" to grant the Supplies for the public service, and does she not tell them that she will take care that the proper Estimates for the year shall be laid before them for that purpose? If the noble Lord be right all this must be reversed, and in future we must have an Address to the Throne asking both the House of Lords and the House of Commons for Supplies, and suggesting that the Estimates for the year shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament. This, I cannot help thinking, is the legitimate conclusion to be derived from the apology made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, for I confess that I can read it in no other way. For my own part, I must be permitted to protest against the course which has been taken by the House of Lords in setting themselves up as a Court of Appeal from the House of Commons, from the Committee of Ways and Means, The Lords have clearly made this question, every one knows, a question of party 1540 struggle in the other House, and they have not hesitated to single out the proposition of an individual Member of the Government for comment and criticism with regard to the financial preparations for the year. Talk of a simple assent! Talk of a simple negative! Is it a simple assent or a simple negative? Instead of a simple assent or a simple negative, they have gone into a debtor and creditor account upon the subject of the balance of finances for the year, and they have indulged in a somewhat angry and personal debate upon the merits of the Budget which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid before the House of Commons. I think, Sir, that the apology of the noble Lord at the head of the Government was not only misplaced but mistimed, and in his anxiety to justify the course which has been taken by the House of Lords, and to harmonize their act with that of the House of Commons, he has only placed their position in a more unconstitutional light. Put the noble Lord has made matters worse by suggesting that the House of Lords might have been guided in the course which they took by the extent of the majority in the House of Commons. The noble Lord referred to the numbers that had carried the third reading of the Bill for the Repeal of the Paper Duty. Now, I think that the argument of the noble Lord upon that subject was a most unfortunate argument, and I do protest against the argument being addressed to this House—I do protest against the principle that the House of Lords are to measure the degree of a majority of the House as to the course of policy which they are to take. That argument is opposed to every constitutional principle, and to every sound reason of philosophy or argument which can be addressed to this House, and I certainly am utterly astonished to find that the noble Lord has seriously urged it upon the attention of this House. But it did not for a moment occur to the noble Lord to ask what the numbers were that placed the Ministry in power. It did not occur to the noble Lord that it took nine votes which might well suffice to carry a Bill for the Repeal of the Paper Duty, and that it only took a majority of thirteen to place the Ministry in power. Ministers who are the guardians of the British Constitution, Ministers who advised the Queen on matters of peace at home and war abroad, Ministers who have to give their opinions in matters of state 1541 affecting the interests of untold millions throughout the wide extent of Her Majesty's extensive dominions, throughout the wide extent of the habitable globe, if we are to be told that a majority of nine on the third reading of the Bill for the Repeal of the Paper Duty is so insignificant that even the House of Lords are entitled to look at it, it appears to me that the noble Lord should not have used that argument when we know that sometimes in this House questions of the greatest possible magnitude are decided by the smallest minority.
Now, Sir, I have humbly but earnestly, and, as I hope, clearly endeavoured to explain the ground upon which I have placed the Resolution on the paper, and which I trust before this debate closes will receive the sanction of some hon. Members, and that I shall not be left alone to do that which I conceive to be of paramount importance at this juncture—namely, to vindicate the rights and privileges and authority of this House.
Now, Sir, there was one other observation which I wish to refer to, and when I have alluded to that I shall pass away from the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and that was with reference to the importance of the House of Commons and the House of Lords at this particular juncture not being placed in a position or in an attitude of unfriendliness or of hostility or of jealousy one towards the other. I quite agree with the noble Lord; I believe that it is well that in the eyes of all foreign nations, the Legislature of this country, the Legislature of England, should stand in a dignified position aloof from the strifes and jealousies of Parliament in either House, and that the House of Commons should not be degraded in the eyes of the country and the nation. It appears to me that the House of Commons, whose duty it is to vote the Estimates for the year, whose duty it is to discuss questions of war and peace, which questions are generally most significantly and amply and fully discussed; it is far more important, it appears to me, that the dignity of this House should be maintained in the eyes of foreign nations, than that we should for a single moment suffer that dignity to sink from any apathy on our part, or from the want of taking the necessary steps to uphold and sustain it.
Now, Sir, after these observations upon the speech of the noble Lord at the head 1542 of the Government, I cannot pass away to another part of the subject without for one moment alluding to the position which has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I know not how the conduct that the right hon. Gentleman has exhibited, and the speech that he delivered last night, may affect the minds of hon. Members of this House, but I can say this, that much as I admire the high position, much as I admire the talents which he possesses, much as I admire his talents as an orator, much as I respect him as an orator, and his ability as a Minister of Finance, it certainly does appear to me that he last night assumed the character of an indignant and honest and a fearless patriot. It appears to me that that speech will bring its fruits sooner or later, it appears to me that his speech will produce an effect from one end of the country to another, and that, although some may here condemn him, the fervour of his language and the honesty of his utterance will elsewhere meet with almost universal approbation; it will be that of a Minister who consulted rather the interests of his country than the convenience of his colleagues, who would suffer for his fearlessness. But I beg to tell the right hon. Gentleman that if, on account of that speech he were to lose a neat in the Cabinet, he will at least be rewarded by a throne in the affections of his countrymen.
Sir, whatever the action may be that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer sketched out to this House, whether he would propose another Bill for the Repeal of the Paper Duty, whether he would ask the House to suspend its ordinary course of proceeding, in order that that Bill may be sent up to the other House, whether he would give instructions to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, that they shall not, after the 15th day of August next, proceed to collect any further portion of the paper duty for the purposes of the Revenue, I do not know. I cannot tell what course the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will think it necessary or advisable to ask the House to adopt. I am not in the secret, and therefore I do not know what course the right hon. Gentleman intends to pursue with regard to this most important subject. Although the noble Lord at the head of the Government has told us to-night that he does not intend to go further with the Resolutions which 1543 he has submitted for the approval of the House, and that he is prepared to let these Resolutions remain a dead letter, the pledge and promise given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot be forgotten, but it will, I hope, hold good, and be carried out to its fulfilment. They are recorded side by side; the one is pledged to inaction, the other is pledged to action; and I do sincerely hope and trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, considering nothing but his own high character, considering the pledge which he has given in the face of this country, considering that the eyes of a large section in this House and countless persons out of doors are turning their eyes towards him, I do hope and trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be true to that character, and that he will be true to the promise which he gave to the House last night, and that he will really redeem that pledge.
Sir, I now am led to call the attention of the House to the position in which we are placed. In my opinion there is a great deal worthy of being considered on this important subject at the present moment. In my opinion we ought either to have done nothing at all, or that having thought it necessary to interfere we ought to interfere in a manner consistent with our lignity and consistent with the position which we hold in the eyes of the country. Our position is this—either the House of Commons should suffer calmly this encroachment of the House of Lords on their rights and liberties, or they ought so to vindicate those rights that their proceedings might serve as a beacon and a landmark for the guidance of their latest posterity. Let us for a moment see the position in which this country is placed. What is that position? Repeated Resolutions and declarations by former Parliaments had been come to which had doomed the paper duty, and declared that it must be repealed. Then came the present Session; then came the preparation for Supply for the year; the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Budget was opened. Sir, upon the repeal of that paper duty every Vote that was passed in that Committee of "Ways and Means on this side of the House was come to after the most deliberate consideration. Every hon. Member who voted, and who supported the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of 1544 the Exchequer, supported him as a Minister, who had pledged as part of that provision the repeal of that paper duty, and therefore what is the effect? The effect is this—the present position of affairs is this—that a tax which has been declared by the House of Commons unfit for continuance—a tax which this House has, as far as they are concerned, repealed, will, as soon as the 15th of August comes, instantly and for ever become a tax, imposed not by the House of Commons, but by the House of Lords. As soon as the 15th of August comes the anomaly will be presented, that instead of being a tax imposed by this House, it will in effect be a tax imposed by the other House of Parliament, and the people will thus be paying a tax inflicted and imposed upon them by the House of Lords.
Now, Sir, that is the true way to view it; that is the true position in which this House and its representatives will be placed. On the morning of the 16th of August a tax will exist which, if there were no House of Lords, the country would not be called upon to pay. On the morning of the 16th of August next every man that pays a paper tax in this country—every man that does that, will entertain a feeling of resentment against the House of Lords, because he will feel perfectly conscious that he will be paying a tax which, if the House of Lords did not exist, he would never have to pay. I say, therefore, again, that that is a position in which this House ought not to be placed. I say that that is a position in which the Commons of England and those who represent them ought not to be placed. I say that that is a position which has no precedents to support it. I say that there is no example of previous years which can be cited in its favour, and if the House will allow me, I think I shall be able to satisfy them that a very great, and wise, and salutary rule exists with regard to this subject. I think I shall be able to satisfy the House that if they take the three parts of this Report of the Committee upon precedents—if they take the precedents as to the rejection of Bills by which indirectly a charge is made upon the people—if they take those precedents which show the rejection of Bills which impose a tax or charge in the nature of Supply upon the people, and if they refer in the last place to those Bills repealing a tax upon the people, there is not one of these precedents that I have not carefully examined, and 1545 there is not one of them, I deliberately affirm, that does not, on careful consideration, crumble into dust and ashes, and are vox et prœterea nihil.
Now, let me call the attention of the House for a moment to the first class of precedents upon which so much has already been said by hon. Members; and here I must confess that I cannot help making the observation that it does appear to me that the hon. Members who sat upon this Committee have exhibited great industry and research, that they have devoted their time most anxiously with the view to furnish this House and the country with the results of their careful research and labours; but still, there is one thing which I cannot refrain from stating, and that is that I find in this Report—solemnly as the result of the researches of that Committee—numerous cases which are not only precedents in the ordinary sense of the term, but which give an air of the ridiculous to the other examples placed near them, and to which I think some observation or some distinction or line of demarcation ought to have been drawn by the hon. Members of that Committee.
Now, Sir, I will take for instance the Tax Bills rejected and postponed by the House of Lords, at page 40, of the Select Committee on Tax Bills. Let me just see what they are. I shall go as rapidly as I can through them. I know how much has been said with respect to these precedents, and I know the amount of reliance which is placed upon them; and I believe that I have formed a proper and just appreciation of their value. I shall endeavour to follow the course and to vindicate the course which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) has taken, and I shall take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to one class of these precedents to which my hon. and learned Friend did not last night call the attention of the House. In the first place, at page 40, we find the Forfeitures Bill, the Worsted Yarn Duties Bill, the Tobacco Trade, &c, Bill, the Pawnbrokers Regulating Bill, the Wrought Silks, &c, Bill, Dr. Smith Bill, Phillips's Powder Bill, again Phillips's Powder Bill, the Lotteries Bill, the Cocoa-nuts Bill, again the Cocoa-nuts Bill, the Lotteries Bill, the Malt Duties Bill, the Extra Post Bill, the Corn Bill, again the Corn Bill, the Excise Licences Sale of Spirits Bill, and the Public Revenue and Consolidated Fund Bill.
1546 Now, with respect to the Worsted Yarn Duties Bill—upon making an examination into the circumstances connected with that Bill, we find that the very statement of the Bill itself at once announced to the House that which can also be predicated with regard to two or three other Bills. The Worsted Yarn Duties Bill was not a Bill connected with Supply; the Worsted Yarn Duties Bill was not a Bill forming part of the provision which was made for the public revenue of the year. It was a Bill referring to particular interests in this matter; it was a Bill which involved not a matter with regard to Supply, but it involved questions of a party character; it involved questions of protection or free trade as affecting a particular manufacture in England.
Then, Sir, we next come to the Tobacco Trade Bill, and this House will see stamped upon the face of that Bill unmistakeably the powers of its own authority to deal with it. It was not thrown out by the House of Lords in a sense that would make it a precedent here, but it was a Bill in which, besides dealing with certain duties, provisions are made—For discharging the Lustring Company from sealing Lustrings and è la modes to be made in Great Britain, and for continuing the deputations of Custom-house officers, notwithstanding the death or removal of any Commissioners of the Customs, and for the relief of Sir John Lambert and others in relation to the duties of certain wines taken as prize, and for better enabling the Bank of England to lend money on Stock of the South Sea Company, and for the more effectual taxing and determining several accounts relating to the Forces and Marines.Now, Sir, this Bill upon the face of it is a tack, and a Bill which ought not to have been included in these Returns.
Then, Sir, the next Bill is the Pawnbrokers Regulation Bill. Now, what in the name of common sense, and common fairness can be said of a precedent, what can be said of quoting the Pawnbrokers Regulation Bill affecting the time at which they should open and close and various other regulations relating to the conduct of the Pawnbroking business? what, I ask this House, has that to do with the question whether the House of Lords has or has not a right to reject the repeal of the Paper Duty Bill?
Now, Sir, the next Bill is the Wrought Silks and Velvets (additional duties on) Bill, and I find here the following words:—The order of the day being read for the second reading of the Bill entitled 'An Act for laying 1547 several additional Duties upon the importation of Wrought Silks and Velvets, for the encouragement of the silk manufactures of this Kingdom; and for preventing unlawful combinations of workmen employed in the said Manufactures.'It then says:—The said Bill was read a second time. And it being moved 'to commit the Bill' the question was put thereupon. It was resolved in the negative. Ordered that the said Bill be rejected. Not noticed in the Parliamentary History.Therefore, Sir, this Bill was a Bill not only for laying several additional duties upon the importation of wrought silks and velvets, for the encouragement of the silk manufactures of this kingdom, but also for preventing unlawful combinations of workmen in manufactures. It was therefore an obvious tack, and of course the House of Lords had a right to reject it.
Then, Sir, comes the Bill, "Reward to Dr. Smith." I do not know who Dr. Smith was, but it appears that he was a Doctor of Physic, who, for the humane treatment of prisoners, received some compensation for his conduct, according to the statements of certain hon. Members of this House.
Now, Sir, I ask the House, is a Bill providing a reward on account of the humane conduct of Dr. Smith to be quoted seriously in this House as a precedent for the House of Lords rejecting a Bill which imposes a tax, not upon Dr. Smith alone, but upon all the subjects in the kingdom.
Now, then, Sir, what are the next two Bills? The next is called Phillips's Powder Bill, and I find here "The Order of the Day being read for the House to be again put into a Committee upon the Bill." I confess that I thought this might be some detonating powder, or some powder that was used for Her Majesty's Army or Navy, but instead of that I find that the Bill is headed "An Act for providing a Reward to Henry Philips on his making a proper discovery for the use of the public of the composition of his Powder for the destruction of insects."
Now, Sir, what these insects were, whether they were bugs, or whether they were fleas, or what kind of insects they were, or whether they were worms of any particular description, it is of course utterly impossible for me to say. All I can say is, that that Bill which was a Bill for providing a reward to Henry Philips, for discovering a particular powder for the destruction of insects, is taken as a justification for the attempt of the House of Lords to interfere with the right of taxa- 1548 tion of this House, and to destroy the liberties of the people.
Then, Sir, the next Bill is a Bill to the same effect. It is "Reward to Mr. Henry Phillips."The House was moved that the last of the Resolutions which upon the 21st day of June last were reported from the Committee of the Whole House, to whom it was referred to consider further of the Supply granted to His Majesty, and was then agreed to by the House, might be read.And so on. That Bill is to the same effect as the preceding one, "Phillips's Powder Bill," and, therefore, I will pass it over.
Then, next, Sir, I come to the Lotteries Regulation Bill, and I find—The Order of the Day being read for the third reading of the Bill entitled 'An Act for amending and more effectually carrying into execution an Act made in the 22nd year of the reign of His present Majesty entitled "An Act for Licensing Lottery Office Keepers, and regulating the sale of Lottery Tickets'"—and for hearing counsel against the same.That Bill contained penalties of a most severe character, and into the particulars of it I need not go; it is a Bill which contained the penalty of death in certain cases, and, therefore, I submit to the House that that Bill cannot be quoted as a precedent here.
Then, Sir, I come to two Bills which have a peculiar significance, as having been referred to by a noble Lord, who is greatly distinguished in the other House of Parliament, and whose opinions certainly are entitled to great weight, but who has treated the question somewhat in the spirit of a partisan. I am sorry to say that the noble Lord to whom I refer quoted this Bill, but he quoted it with the omission of the statement which is to be found in this book annexed to it. I shall merely say that if this Bill can be quoted by any noble Lord, whether the justification was made in the House of Commons or out of it—all I can say is, that it was a grievous misquotation, and if this Bill was quoted without a reference to that which I am now going to call the attention of the House to, it was not only ont an apposite quotation, but it was not an honest one. It is the Cocoa-nuts Duty Bill. That was a Bill entitled "An Act for charging a Duty on Foreign Cocoa-nuts imported into the British Plantations." Imported where, I ask? Not into England, or into the United Kingdom, but imported into "the British Plantations." It is also—For reviving an Act made in the Sixth year 1549 of the reign of his present Majesty to permit the removal of sheep from the ports of Southampton to Cowes; and for permitting the removal of sheep and lambs and all other goods (not liable to duty on exportation, or prohibited to be exported) between the said ports reciprocally without cocket or bond, under certain regulations and restrictions; for empowering the collectors and comp trailers of the customs to grant licences to open boats of certain descriptions free from stamp duties on bonds; for subjecting tub boats of certain build and dimensions, and vessels of certain tonnage to which they belong (except square-rigged vessels), and also vessels with sliding or moveable keels to forfeiture.Now, Sir, I submit to the House, in the first place, that this is a Bill with reference to cocoa-nuts imported, not into England, not into the United Kingdom, but it is a Bill with reference to cocoa-nuts imported into the British Plantations. I submit to the House, in the second place, that it is a Bill which is an obvious tack; because it includes provisions with regard to the removal of sheep from the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth to Cowes; and further it is a Bill with regard to the forfeiture of certain vessels, if they happen to be of a certain build and dimension, and not in accordance with the regulations of the Legislature. I therefore pass from the Cocoa-nut Bills, because the grounds upon which they were passed are perfectly clear.
Then, Sir, we have the Lottery Bill which is "An Act for Granting to His Majesty a certain Sum of Money to be raised by a Lottery." I do not see the bearing of that upon the present case before the House; and I will, therefore, not occupy the time of the House by making any remark upon it.
We now come to No. 68, which is the Malt Duties Bill. We find that when that Bill was brought up, a Standing Order, No. 25, was read; and the Bill was rejected. This Bill is quoted here as a great precedent; there was no line of demarcation drawn; it swells the number of those precedents which have been referred to by various speakers; but this Bill is an obvious tack. I find here—The Order of the Day being Read for the House to be put into a Committee upon the Bill, entitled, 'An Act for Continuing and Granting to His Majesty certain duties upon Malt in Great Britain, for the service of the year 1807.'This is an obvious tack, because it says it was a Bill forRemoving doubts with respect to signing the Exchequer Bills issued pursuant to two Acts of the last Session of Parliament for granting to 1550 His Majesty certain Duties upon Malt in Great Britain, and upon Sugar, Malt, Tobacco, and Snuff in Great Britain.And then we find that when the Bill was brought before the House of Lords it was moved that the Standing Order be read; and the Standing Order was read, "that no clause be annexed to a Money Bill foreign to the matter thereof." "The same was accordingly read by the Clerk;" and it was then ordered that the said Bill be rejected. And I find this—Ordered that an entry be made in the Journals of this House of the reasons which induced the House to give leave for the bringing in the Bill now Ordered.Memorandum containing all the Provisions meant to be enacted in this Bill, together with other matters which had already passed the House in this Session; but as the House were now informed by a Member in his place, that the same had been rejected in the House of Lords on account of its containing multifarious matter; therefore the House permitted this Bill to be ordered in some of the matters contained in the former Bill.It was moved that no clause should be added to a Money Bill foreign to the matter contained in that Bill; that the Standing Order to that effect should be read; and that the Standing Order was read; and that it was then Ordered that the Bill be rejected, and the Bill was rejected,Why, I ask the House, was that Bill rejected? That Bill was rejected, because it was a direct invasion and inroad upon the Resolution of the House of Lords.
Then, Sir, the next Bill is the Extra Post Bill. It was a Bill for the purpose of authorizing His Majesty's Postmaster General to receive certain additional rates of postage for the conveyance of letters and packets on the establishment of an extra Post in Great Britain. That is a Bill upon which I shall say nothing further than that it was a Bill which was withdrawn ultimately; and it really is not a Hill that affects, in any degree, the question now before the House.
Now then, Sir, we come to a series of Corn Bills; and there we have a Bill rejected, no doubt, on the 12th of June, 1827; but what do we find a little further? In the first place, we find that the Bill was a tack; and, in the second place, we find that a few days later, on the 19th, the Bill having been read on the 12th of June, 1827, on the 19th of June, only seven days afterwards, a second Bill was brought in and passed. Therefore here you have the House of Commons, within a week after the first Bill had been rejected by the House of Lords, sending up the same Bill; omitting the tack which made the objec- 1551 tion to it, in the first instance, and then you have that Bill passed by the House of Lords without any addition.
Then, Sir, we have The Public Revenue and Consolidated Fund Charges Bill. That Bill contained numerous tacks of a similar character to those contained in other Bills to which I have called the attention of the House. That Bill is rejected by the House of Lords; but three days afterwards it is sent up again and is then passed.
Now then, Sir, I have gone through this part of the Select Committee connected with Bills either rejected or postponed by the House of Lords: and I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are so zealous even in their silence—because, although they do not speak, they still have a mode of expressing their sentiments—I appeal to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, they have urged us to get up in this House—I ask any hon. Gentleman opposite—I ask any man on those benches to rise up—be he lawyer, or be he layman, and take the Report of the Select Committee, to demonstrate the fallacy of the argument which I have felt it my duty to address to the House; and, if that be so, here you have one chapter, at all events, of this "strange, eventful history," which crumbles into dust at the mere touch; and which does not stand the test of either sober reason or sound logic.
But now, Sir, I approach a subject of a more significant and delicate character. I now come to public Bills, which were not strictly Bills of Supply, or Tax Bills; but which operated as a charge on the people, and which have been rejected or postponed by the House of Lords. They form part of this Report from page 61; and if I was right in what I said with regard to the former precedents, I think the House will see in a moment that these precedents, are a mockery and a delusion; for there is nothing in them at all bearing upon this question before us; and I think that the House will agree with me in thinking that they ought not to have been included and ranked on an equality with the other precedents. The first Bill is a Bill "For taking, examining, and stating the Public Accounts of the Kingdom." I do not know what taking, examining, and stating the public accounts of the kingdom has to do with the question, whether or not a 1552 Bill inflicting an injury upon the public of this country, has been rejected or postponed by the House of Lords.
Then, Sir, we come to the "Dundee Duty on Beer Bill." Now, let us see what that is. That is a Bill entitled,An Act for continuing a Duty of Two penny Scots, or one sixth part of a Penny Sterling laid upon every Scots pint of Ale and Beer sold within the Town of Dundee, and privileges thereof; for paying the public debts of the said Town, or endowing a new Church; and for other purposes therein mentioned.Therefore here is a Bill which not merely regulates the sale of beer at Dundee, but which also regulates the religious principles of the people of Dundee, and which provides, not only the price of each pint of ale, but which also provides for a new church. I submit to the House, therefore, that that precedent does not apply to the case before us.
Then, Sir, here is a precedent; and I certainly should very much like to hear from some hon. Member of the Committee what it means. It is Lord W. Poulett's Bill. What that was, I really do not know. At all events, it seems to be very mysterious in its character. There I find, after some time spent in considering the subject of the Bill:The Lord De la Warr reported for the said Committee, that they had gone through the Bill, and made some Amendments thereto; but upon consideration of the whole, find several things contained in the said Bill un parliamentary and unprecedented, entrenching on the rights and privileges and derogatory to the honour of the House, and therefore did not think fit to proceed any further in the Bill without having the direction of the House.See what words the other House of Parliament can use! So that this has nothing to do with the millions or the masses of the country, this is declared to be un parliamentary and unprecedented, entrenching on their rights and privileges, and derogatory to the honour of the House. These are words I like. They are not mindful of the rights and privileges of this House—they are not tender with regard to our feelings. We send Bills up to them, and they send them back to us accompanied with language worthy of them and setting upon record an example which they appear to consider is worthy of being adopted. No doubt the increased revenue of the Post Office was an important matter to be considered, This is dated so far back as 1789, and, as I was not born 1553 myself till a good many years afterwards, I may be excused, perhaps, for not recollecting it so well as the more ancient friends of mine near me do; but I think that the fact of the Bill having been thrown out by the House of Lords is not a precedent for the House of Commons conceding to the House of Lords the right of resisting the Bill for the Repeal of the Paper Tax.
Now, the last Bill is this New Church of Scotland Bill. The Bill was entitled an Act for Building and Promoting the Building of Additional Churches in Scotland. But surely that is no precedent. What, I ask the House, has that Bill relating to a religious question to do with the question of Supply? What has that Bill to do with the question of the rejection of a Bill inflicting an impost of duty upon an article which is used by the people of this country?
Now, Sir, I have called the attention of the House to every one of the precedents under the two heads which bear principally upon the question before us, and I now come to the last head, which I do not intend to go through with much minuteness. But I have taken the trouble of analysing the Bills in that list headed "Precedence for the rejection by the House of Lords of Bills of Supply and Taxation," and I think that the observations which I have made before, apply only with increased strength, apply è fortiori when we come to this. The noble Lord said last night, and I will quote his words in order that there may be no mistake,—There are, however, precedents which bear directly upon the point at issue, because between the year 1714 and the present time there have been about thirty-six cases of Bills for repealing duties or imposts of some kind or other which have been sent up to the Lords, and have been rejected by them, or at least have not come down again to this House.Now, Sir, I come to those Bills, and I find the number to be exactly thirty-six. It can hardly be called thirty-six. In the first place you must strike one off, because that was the Paper Duty Assessed Tax. I therefore think that was not quite correct, strictly speaking, a Bill that could be considered strictly applicable, because it sounds something like a special, demurrer, but there are in fact thirty-five Bills. I find that there are eleven Bills which, in no sense of the term, can be quoted as precedents or examples for our guidance, or warning, or direction. In the 1554 first place there is the Wine Merchants Bond Bill and the Tobacco and Wine Merchants Bill, which would affect only a particular interest, but which clearly are not Bills which affect the general taxation of the country. There are two Bills, namely, the Custom House Officers Pees Abolition Bill, and the Tithe Commutation Bill, which do not at all apply. They have nothing whatever to do with this question. There is then the Highways Bill, which relates to the Highways of the country, and there is the Court of Session Bill in Scotland which relates to tolls on steam carriages—it is a Toll Bill regulating the Management of Railways in Scotland; and there is the Stone Bottles Bill, about which we heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night. Then we have the sale of Game Bill, relating to matters connected with the game certificates, the Church Bates Abolition Bill, relating to matters affecting religious sections in this country, but which has nothing whatever to do with the right of Supply or the sources of revenue payable by or imposed on Her Majesty's subjects at large. Here we have therefore eleven Bills which cannot be fairly quoted in any sense of the word. Then there are five Bills which I cannot conceive how it is that they have been introduced into this Report at all. There is the Highways Bill—that was read a first time in the House of Lords, and no division upon it took place—it was not pressed to a division. There is the Inland Navigation (Ireland) Bill, which was not pressed to a division. There is the Roman Catholic Land Taxation Bill, there is the Tobacco Growth Prohibition Bill—that was also read a first time in the House of Lords, and there is the Tithes Abolition Bill which was also read a first time in the Lords. But these five Bills perished the moment they got within the walls of the House—they were never debated—no division ever took place with regard to them, they were simply printed by order of the House and abandoned by the promoters. Therefore these Bills cannot be said to have been rejected or postponed—they simply died of inanition or some other cause in their early infancy, and they certainly, not one of them, can be drawn as a precedent.
Then, Sir, I find seven other Bill which were all brought in and which were sent again to the House of Lords in the I same Session and passed, with the excep- 1555 tion of one that was passed in the subsequent Session. Therefore I submit that these Bills are Bills which went up into the House of Lords with regard to which the House of Lords seems to have exercised their authority; but this House did not submit to the rejection of the Bills, but sent the Bills back to the House of Lords.
Then, Sir, there remains another class of Bills, the last with which I will trouble the House, and to which it is necessary I should call their attention. I am sure that what I am now doing may not be considered a very ambitious duty or a very pleasing one. I might have taken less trouble and time had I contented myself merely with dealing with platitudes in this House and in mere speaking without calling the attention of the House to them. I have thought it my bounden duty to go through these precedents which have been brought before us in the Report of the Select Committee. I have felt it my duty to go through these precedents and, as truthfully as I can, to give the House the result of my honest judgment. There are twelve other Bills, and amongst them the Woollen Manufactures Bill, and the Coasting Trade Regulation Bill. They are every one of them Bills, whether they affect the workers in brass or the workers in coal-mines, whether they affect the manufacturers in the north or the agriculturists in the south, they are all Bills connected with a particular trade or policy. They are all Bills connected with matters of policy in the purviews and gist of the Bills, and they are not one of them Bills which were sent up to the House of Lords as Bills of Supply. There is not one of them a Bill which formed part of the provisions of the Ways and Means of the year, still less is there one of them a Bill like the Paper Duties Bill brought in as part of the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and forming one of the conditions on which other portions of it were adopted.
Now, then, Sir, I have gone through that Report, and if my argument be correct—if there be no precedent—if neither in the rejection of Bills which directly charged the public, or in the rejection of Bills which imposed duties upon the public, or in the rejection of Bills which repeal a tax upon the public—if there be no precedent—if the Bolls of the House of Lords and its records have been searched and ransacked in vain—if the eyes of the hon. 1556 Gentlemen who sat upon that Committee have peeped into every corner and crevice with no other result than I have stated, if they have only been able to bring up these Bills that I have just referred to, why, Sir, all I can say is, it is not fair—it is not dealing honestly with this House to call upon this House to avoid maintaining its privileges, and telling the House of Lords in the face of the Commons of England, and in the name of the Commons of England, that not having a precedent for the course which they have taken, and ours being a Constitution whose pivot and basis is in use and in custom, that they have violated the privileges of this House, and that they have thrown an affront upon the constitutional representatives of the country. But if these precedents are wanting, why restrict the proposed precedents to 1628? "Why were the framers of this Report content to draw a line at 1628?—I do hope and trust that hon. Members will not be content to let their conduct be directed or regulated solely by precedents arising since that period—I believe that the rights of this House, Sir, are much older than 1628. In the earliest chapters of History I find precedents. I submit to the House that the Committee ought to have gone back to the times of the Stuarts and the Tudors, even to the earlier days of the contests between the Houses of York and Lancaster—the Wars of the Roses, and I believe that, in the earliest chapters of our Constitutional History, you will find in language which cannot be gainsayed in words which stand out in bold relief, a distinct and explicit avowal of the right of the Commons alone to control the Supplies and taxation of the country. Sir, allow me to call the attention of the House for a moment to one or two precedents which appear to me to be worth 10,000 such flimsy precedents as those which appear in the Report which has been presented to the House. In the year 1515 I find something recorded upon the Rolls of Parliament which I believe is worthy of the attention of the House. I find a record there that the Supplies were granted by the Commons alone, without even the formal assent of or any reference whatever to the House of Lords; and, Sir, I find on looking to that same enactment on the other side of that very Roll on which this principle is engrafted—I find it recorded that the Lords and Commons have acted together in questions of arms, thus showing that the distinction between Lords 1557 and Commons existed—that they acted together in questions of arms, but that the Commons alone acted in the matter of Supply. Now, Sir, we come to 1404, and let me see whether there is a precedent there. In that year, according to the Rolls of Parliament in the 6th year of Henry the Fourth, I find this precedent a somewhat significant one. The Commons in 1404 granted a subsidy, and they annexed to it the following condition—that the subsidy should be expended upon the defence of the realm according to the intent of the Grant and no other, as the Treasurers for War should answer to the Commons in the next Parliament. So I say here. It is not here merely a voting of Supply, but here is a calling upon the country upon the Treasurers of War to account for the expenditure of that Supply, not to the Lords and Commons, but to the Commons of the Realm in this Parliament.
Now, Sir, I come to another precedent, one of still greater importance, and a precedent which, mutatis mutandis, putting the paper duty in the place of woolskins and woolfells, expresses the very same position in which we stand to the House of Lords. I refer to a Resolution of still greater importance—I refer to a Resolution as old as the year 1407—the ninth of Henry the Fourth. What does that Resolution declare? I should say that I now come to the year of that celebrated indemnity of the Lords and Commons. The statute to which I refer applies in this way—the Lords deemed it necessary that they should have, for the purpose of the Supply for the year, a continuation of the tax on woolskins and woolfells. The King, according to the record of that time, assembled the Lords in the Council Chamber within the Abbey of Gloucester, and there they had sundry, sober, and weighty councils of war held upon the subject of saving the King from the hands of his enemies. The result was that it was agreed that the Lords should send to the Commons to furnish the King with a Supply in the shape of a prolongation of a tax.—As soon as the Commons heard this message they sent twelve of their body to confer with the Lords. The twelve returned and informed the House of the reasons for the demand made by the Lords. And what was the effect upon that Parliament?—What was the effect upon the Commons of England, when they were told by the Lords in 1407, that the Lords required a prolongation of a tax to help to save the King from the hands of his 1558 enemies? Now observe the language of the Record, it says—it is that "the Commons were greatly disturbed." They were not disturbed by laughter. The Commons did not receive the communication of the Lords with a sardonic grin and ironical cheers, but were "greatly disturbed," and declared that compliance was in great prejudice and derogation of their liberties, and the King caused it to be solemnly recorded on the Rolls of Parliament, even in that hour of his necessity, as significant of the undoubted rights of the Commons that his permitting the Lords to assent to the grant which the Commons had voted should not be drawn into a precedent. If the Commons of 1407 were greatly disturbed more than 450 years ago when they were guarding the liberties of this country, shall it be said that in 1860 we will allow those liberties to be violated and overrun?
Now, Sir, I pass from these earlier precedents and I now come to one significant precedent, which is recorded in the year 1640, because allusion has been made to that year. In the course of last night's debate quotations were made from distinguished writers. Allow me to call attention to an extract from a work of Lord Clarendon, in which he expresses himself with respect to the position in which the Lords and Commons were placed in the year 1640. The Lords had committed a similar encroachment on the privileges of the Commons, and the Commons had demanded "satisfaction and reparation from the House of Peers." Satisfaction and reparation from the House of Peers!—How are we to exact satisfaction, but by putting a Resolution upon the table saying that this House has the power to guard its liberties? Stop there, say that you have the sword; say that you have the weapon of defence, but do not say that you will receive a deadly blow. I submit, Sir, that this precedent shows that in the year 1640 there was not such a conciliatory disposition on the part of the House which now seems to be in the ascendant. I have not, as I said before, ventured to go through a minute detail of all that passed on that occasion, I am merely calling the attention of the House to the opinion of a great constitutional writer as to the principle which regulated the proceedings of the House of Commons at that time, and I am contending that it would be only an equivocation and a deception to say that the principle which regulates the Supply and controls the taxation does not greatly affect the ques- 1559 tion of the rejection of a Bill of this description.
Then, Sir, I come to these Resolutions, which one would have thought were a sufficient exercise of the abstract powers of this House. The noble Lord at the head of the Government must have these Resolutions too, but I ask the noble Lord in what way the Resolutions which he has put upon the books improve or add strength to the Resolutions passed in 1671, 1678, and 1689? The Resolution of 1671 declares that in all aids given to the King by the Commons, the right to tax ought not to be altered by the Lords. The Resolution of 1678 affirms that all aids and Supplies to his Majesty in Parliament are the sole gift of the Commons. If ever words could be used to express the controlling power of this House, one would think that the words of the Resolution of 1678 were those words. Then comes the Resolution of 1689, to the effect that all money raised and to be raised for the purposes of the country were the sole and entire gift of the Commons of England
Sir, the Bill for the Repeal of the Paper Duty which has been brought before the House of Lords is now thrown out. £800,000 a year is added to the Supplies of the country—who has given those Supplies, or granted that tax?—We have not done so—the House of Commons has not done so, we have refused to grant it; but they have done that in the other House which we by all these Resolutions and examples in former times have declared to be unauthorized. I submit, Sir, that it can never be said that we, who are the sole givers and granters of Supplies to the Crown, while such a state of things' exists to which I have called the attention of the House—I submit, Sir, that it never can be said, that that principle is to be for one moment controverted. I shall only quote one precedent in modern times which has not been referred to in that Report—it does indirectly affect the question, and being a late precedent I will call the attention of the House to it. Sir, I refer to the Debate on the Municipal Corporations Bill for Ireland on the 7th of August, 1839. I find there "a Bill which as it passed the Commons contained clauses with certain power which was hitherto exercised by grant—(reading down to)hereby exercised them,therefore the House of Commons proposed to deprive certain persons of the right to impose taxation. The Lords continued the 1560 powers of those parties. What says the Speaker of that day?—The Speaker said:If he correetly understood the question, it had reference to those Clauses in the Bill—(reading down to,)have never consented and never would consent to any alteration being made.Now here, Sir, is a modern precedent so late as the year 1839, which shows, even with regard to the powers of grand jurors in Ireland, how properly jealous the Speaker of that day was to show the House of Commons that the House of Lords had no right whatever to make an Amendment.
Now, Sir, I have stated the grounds upon which I have ventured to address the House, feebly, it is true, but at the same time carefully, I hope, because I have been anxious that there should be no mistake—why I ask the House not to be simply content with the reciting part of the noble Lord's Resolutions—not to be content with a simple abstract principle, but manfully and distinctly to draw the obvious conclusion from those precedents to which it is better that a clear enunciation shall be given, in order that the future generation can look to this as a precedent to guide them. I say that I have given these reasons for the purpose of showing why we should draw a conclusion from those principles, and declare that the Lords have infringed upon the rights of the Commons. Sir, I quite agree with the distinction which was drawn by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier). There is a wide difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the Constitution; there is a wide difference between the mere exercise of power and the exercise of it in such a manner as shall invade the principle of the other House of Parliament. Sir, we have examples pervading throughout the whole system. The spirit and practice of the law says, that the right of taxation rests with the Commons. The spirit of the law and practice, says, that the House of Lords even may amend a Bill; the spirit of the Constitution, says, you have no right to do it—that it is an invasion of the rights of the British House of Commons. The technical rule of law, says, that the Queen may reject a Bill sent up to Her from the House of Commons, but the spirit of the Constitution is averse to such a proceeding. The past declares that the exercise of that right would be a wrong done and an affront to the Constitution. So I say in this question, however much technicalities may be 1561 in favour of the course pursued by the House of Lords, the spirit of the Constitution will condemn it.
Sir, I therefore agree with my hon. and learned Friend—I think that my hon. and learned Friend put this question upon the proper ground when he asserted the distinction between the practice of the law and the spirit of the Constitution. In conclusion, Sir, I do not speak in any revolutionary spirit of the practice of the House of Lords: I believe that distinctions of order are necessary in a State; I believe that the House of Peers is highly important in the working harmoniously of the Constitution of this country. I hope that the day may be long distant indeed when even the most sanguine can hold out to himself the prospect of there being no House of Lords; but I believe that that House will maintain its honour and its dignity in an efficient condition so long as it is content with its sole high and dignified duties, and not attempting to make an invasion upon the valued rights and privileges of the Commons. I disclaim any antagonistic feeling whatever towards the House of Peers, and I trust that the result of this debate will be that which will conduce to the safety, to the dignity, and to the usefulness of both Houses, and I trust that, notwithstanding the warnings which have been held out—notwithstanding the picture which has been drawn of the result of a conflict between the Lords and the Commons—I trust it may be said by and bye, in the spirit of that Prayer which on every Sabbath day is offered up at the altar,That all things may be so settled by our endeavors upon the best and surest foundation, that peace and happiness, truth and Justice, Religion and Piety may be established amongst us.Sir, I shall reserve to myself the right of moving the Amendment of which I have given notice as an addition to the three Resolutions of the noble Lord at the head of the Government.
§ MR. HORSMAN
* Sir, I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just eat down, as to the magnitude and importance of the question before us. But its magnitude and importance have not now come upon me for the first time. On the very first occasion that the Budget was discussed in this House, I ventured to single out the proposition for the repeal of the paper duty as the subject for an humble and respectful warning to the House—not, indeed, couched in the vigorous and startling phraseology of the Chancellor of 1562 the Exchequer, who speaks of "a gigantic innovation"—but, expressing the same sentiment in feebler and more diluted language: I stated that this was the most important financial measure submitted to Parliament by any Minister in our day, whether for the principle it involved or the consequences to which it must inevitably lead. After an interval of some weeks, when the question was brought more directly before us, on the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Somersetshire (Sir William Miles), I ventured again to employ the same words, both as to the principle and the consequences of that measure. Since then I have watched with unabated interest the progress, I may say the change, of opinion upon it. I have seen how it gradually came to be less favourably regarded in this House, how it became less popular in the country, how it rose to be a source of embarrassment to the Ministry—subjecting them to a mortifying discomfiture in the other House of Parliament, raising the most serious Constitutional question that could be raised as to the relation of the two Houses with each other—and threatening consequences which have only been averted because in the head of the Government there have been exhibited a calm sagacity and sound constitutional views which, unhappily, are not shared by all who occupy the Treasury Bench. I listened with great satisfaction to the speech of the noble Lord, because I saw in it a gratifying fulfilment of the assurance which he gave to the House when he moved for the Committee, that that was not a step intended to provoke a collision between the two Houses; but it was a still greater satisfaction to me to gather from some portions of his speech that he had a distinct perception and appreciation of that which is one of the greatest political problems of our day—how to reconcile the inevitable growth of the House of Commons with the maintenance of a mixed form of Government and a balanced Constitution. That danger and that necessity did not appear to have presented themselves to the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord wishes to make the independence of the Lords a reality; the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to desire that it should be a fiction. The noble Lord would place them in a position which the Constitution had assigned to them—of entire independence of the House of Commons; his colleague would raise the House 1563 of Commons into an absolute position and place the Peerage at his feet.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked a question to which I should like to give an answer. He asked, "Is it the Constitution of this country that the financial policy of the Commons should be reviewed by the Lords?" Before I answer that question in detail I will meet it by another—Is the Budget of the Minister a question between Downing Street and the House of Commons? If it be, then I admit that the Lords' interference with that Budget is an intrusion, a meddlesome and unconstitutional intrusion; but if the Budget, instead of being a matter between the Minister and the House of Commons, is in reality a question between the House of Commons and the country, then, if the Commons run riot, there comes in the power of the Lords, which the Constitution has provided as a check. Let me ask another question. Is it not the first law of our Constitution that there is no power in this country without control and without responsibility? But where is the check or control upon a House of Commons recently elected, that has five years to live, that is elected upon reform, and, throwing aside reform, begins to play tricks with finance? Why, a House of Commons in that condition may ruin the country before a dissolution can take place; and therefore I say that the power of the House of Lords to review and to check the financial policy of the Commons—a power which can be rarely exercised, and which ought to be kept for most exceptional occasions—is a power vested in them as directly, as distinctly, and as constitutionally as that of interfering with any other political matter that may be submitted to them.
I am not going into any question of precedent, except one point—and that not so much to prove the bearing of precedents on the present case, as to show what were, in times referred to, the constitutional relations of the two Houses, as insisted on by the Peers in that very remarkable controversy, recited by our Committee, on the Bill for "An Importation of Foreign Commodities," and on which, for his management of the Conference, the Attorney General received the thanks of the House of Commons. The Lords on that occasion met a very strong Resolution of the Commons, by one of their own, declaring what at that time they considered to be their Constitutional rights. They say—That the power exercised by the House of Peers, 1564 in making the Amendments and Abatements in the Bill intituled 'An Act for additional Imposition on several Foreign Commodities, and for Encouragement of several Commodities and Manufactures of this Kingdom,' both as to the matter, measure, and time, concerning the rates and impositions on merchandise, is a fundamental, inherent, and undoubted right of the House of Peers, from which they cannot depart.Then in their "reasons" they go on—Consult the writs of summons to Parliament, and you will find the Lords are excluded from none of the great and arduous affairs of the kingdom and Church of England; but are called to treat and give their counsel upon them all, without exception.In another "reason," which is important with regard to an argument which has been used elsewhere, they add—If positive assertion can introduce a right, what security have the Lords that the House of Commons shall not in other Bills (pretended to be for the general good of the Commons, whereof they will conceive themselves the fittest judges) claim the same peculiar privilege, in exclusion of any deliberation or alteration of the Lords when they shall judge it necessary or expedient?Those were the Constitutional rights asserted by the House of Lords. I do not say that they have been, or that they ought to be, maintained to the extent then claimed, but at least they show that the absolute power claimed by the Commons has not passed undisputed. The fact is, whenever such rights are asserted in opposition to the Commons, the Lords must come into collision with the Commons. But collisions between the two Houses are in effect appeals to the nation. If the Commons are right they must, upon a great question, override the Lords. If the Commons are essentially in the wrong, the Lords may defy and correct the Commons. There is no authority, either in the Lords or Commons, against the other: the real authority rests with the nation, as the Court of ultimate appeal, by the decision of which both parties must abide.
In what form, then, does this question come before the nation? It was said most truly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night, and has been repeated by the hon. Gentleman to-night, that this rejection of the repeal of the paper duties is not the mere rejection of a Money Bill; it is, and must be admitted to be, the reversal of a financial policy. It was in that character that we contested—that we condemned—the Bill in this House; not as the repeal of an insignificant excise, but as part of a great and dangerous and innovating scheme of financial policy, defaced 1565 by two novelties: first, the remission of a tax with a deficiency in the Exchequer; secondly, the substitution without inquiry, and on a principle that was capable of indefinite extension, of direct for indirect taxation. The noble Lord said last night that the repeal of the paper duty was a main element of that financial policy. Sir, the repeal of the paper duty was the keystone of the whole, for it let in both these objectionable principles—the remission of a tax with a deficiency in the Exchequer, and the addition to the income tax, which was the substitution of direct for indirect taxation. That, in reality, was what the House of Lords checked and defeated when they rejected the Bill, the passing of which they believed would be as much at variance with the national sentiment as it was opposed to the national interest.
But we are told that their act was entirely against precedent. Precedents may be quoted on either side, and the manner in which they have been quoted during this discussion shows that on neither part will anything be gained by them; but the real character of these differences has been well described by the constitutional historian who was quoted last night by the right hon. Member for Bucks, and from whose work I hope the House will allow me to read a few lines, in order to dispose of this part of the question. Mr. Hallam, in his Constitutional History, chap. 13, page 197, says—These restrictions upon the other House of Parliament, however, are now become in their own estimation the standing privileges of the Commons. Several instances have occurred during the last century, though not, I believe, very lately, when Bills, chiefly of a private nature, have been unanimously rejected, and even thrown over the table by the Speaker, because they contained some provision in which the Lords had trespassed upon these alleged rights. They are, as may be supposed, very differently regarded in the neighbouring chamber. The Lords have never acknowledged any further privilege than that of originating Bills of Supply. But the good sense of both parties, and of an enlightened nation, who must witness and judge of their disputes, as well as the natural desire of the Government to prevent in the outset any altercation that must impede the course of its measures, have rendered this little jealously unproductive of those animosities which it seemed so happily contrived to excite. The one House, without admitting the alleged privilege, has generally been cautious not to give a pretext for eagerly asserting it; and the other, on the trifling occasions where it has seemed, perhaps unintentionally, to be infringed, has commonly resorted to the moderate course of passing a fresh Bill to the same effect, after satisfying its dignity by rejecting the first.1566 And this statement of Mr. Hallam's is replete with truth and reason. The extreme views of neither House can nor ought to be insisted on, and their mutual moderation and good sense must smooth difficulties otherwise embarrassing to both.
Let me now say of the precedents of which we have heard so much, that, in my opinion, their importance is often exaggerated, because it is not sufficient to show that they are analogous in their character; it must also be shown that they are applicable to the present time. Our privileges are the growth of time, and even of accident. Every era has its own precedents, and the precedents of one era are not applicable to another. No precedent has been more dwelt upon than that of 1678, and yet it is in many respects inapplicable to the circumstances and the Constitution of the present day. In 1678 there were no Ministers responsible to the House of Commons—there was no Government in its modern sense—there were no annual Budgets—no complete statement of the income and expenditure of the country—no elaborate review of the national finances—no enunciation of the principles which the Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to adopt. Most of the public revenue was then voted for the natural life of the Sovereign. Hence the control of the Commons over the financial affairs of the country was at that time very limited, and the power of the House very small. Hence, also, it became necessary to be extremely tenacious as to Money Bills. So great was the power of the Crown, that if Money Bills could have been originated or modified in the Lords, advantage would often have been taken of the weakness of the Commons, and a serious blow dealt at their power in the State.
Every one knows that, during the reign of Charles II. (from which the most important precedents are taken), the nation was always in imminent danger of despotism. The Appropriation Act, one of the greatest safeguards of the Commons, was then unknown; the command over the Supplies was almost the only weapon of the Commons. But against whom was that weapon used? Not against the Lords, as Gentlemen would have us now believe. Any one listening to the speeches delivered in this debate might imagine that it was the Lords who were perpetually threatening and assailing the liberties of the Commons; and that these Resolutions of Privilege, behind which we are now again to 1567 entrench ourselves in alarm, were directed against them. But it is notorious that these Resolutions were all directed—not against the Lords, but against the Crown, which attempted to act on the Commons through the Lords, and had facilities in the Lords for furthering its designs that it had not in the Commons.
But does that bear any analogy to the present case? and can it be pretended that the condition and circumstances of the Commons in those days—the wise jealousy then shown of the encroachments of the Crown—and the defences thrown up in an age when their rights were perpetually besieged and their liberties were insecure, are really such a precedent as to constitute a guide and obligation and necessity for us in the full enjoyment of the liberties of 1860?
But if we turn to the other branch of the Legislature, it will be found that still greater changes have taken place in the relations of the Lords both to the Crown and the House of Commons. I was amazed to hear the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth assert last night that the Revolution of 1688 made no change in the relations of the two Houses or in the Parliamentary Government of the country. I have always believed that the revolution of 1688, in the new distribution of political power, made one of the greatest changes that was ever made in the Parliamentary Government of England. It placed the Government of England in the hands of great families, and from 1688 to 1832 the power of the peerage was immense. The Peers made and unmade Governments. By their influence at Court, by their wealth, relatively so great before the extension of commerce, by their close connection with the landed gentry, by their absolute sway in so many boroughs, they set up and threw down Cabinets with a power greater than that either of the Crown or Commons, greater even than the power of both combined. There was, therefore, no need to excite jealousies and dissensions with the Commons by taking up questions on finance and money Bills for which the House was not then well adapted. The financial arrangements of the country developed themselves in the Commons, and the Lords could accomplish all they desired in finance by their indirect influence in that House. No financial burdens were imposed on them as peers. As landlords they were in close alliance of sentiment and power with the landed in- 1568 terest in the House of Commons, and the feelings and interests of the Peers in matters of taxation and finance were identical with those of the predominant power within the House of Commons. There was no motive, therefore, either as regarding the personal interests of the peerage or the expectation that the financial policy of the Commons would or could be revised by an independent and essentially different body for setting the House of Lords in Motion on money Bills sent up from the Commons.
But the Act of 1832—which is the constitution under which we now live, and which has been strangely overlooked and forgotten by the assertors of Privilege on the present occasion—changed all that. It transferred the power over the State to the middle class and the constituencies that elect the Commons. The peerage no longer, directly or indirectly, rules the country. The landed interest is no longer dominant in the Commons. The commercial interests have their due share of power; and it may perhaps be thought, judging from the experience of the present Session, that they have something more. The effect of the Act of 1832 on the House of Lords was fully as great as on the House of Commons. The House of Commons became a truer representation of the people, because it ceased to be a representation of the Lords. The new power given to the Commons was so much taken from the Lords, and in proportion as the Commons were strengthened the Lords were weakened.
But while the Act of 1832 deprived the Peers of powers they had usurped, it became only the more necessary to secure and strengthen them in that legitimate authority which the constitution really intended them to possess. Losing their territorial ascendancy, they were thrown back on those functional services which became the condition of their existence. They were to give to the nation those legislative services without which their institution would be a fiction. They are established as a second council of the nation—to provide for the nation that security which all constitutional Governments have sought in the existence of a second Chamber, as the only safeguard against the despotism of democracy.
But Gentlemen around me, ignoring all those changes, forgetting that the House of Commons, instead of being the weakest is now the strongest power in the State,— 1569 and, instead of defending with difficulty its own rights, threatens to override and absorb all other rights, and to assume the whole government of the country—follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who made a speech last night in the spirit, if not in the language, of those who look upon the House of Lords as an anomaly, to be tolerated only so long as, with a becoming consciousness of its inferiority, it consents to register the edicts of the Commons, and receive from these new expounders of the Constitution that certificate of good behaviour which graciously prolongs to it an existence on sufferance.
The speeches we have heard—able and instructive as to the past—impressive as to the present—derive their greatest interest and importance from their ominous character as to the future; for they suggest an inquiry which, I think, could not be long delayed as to the constitution and powers and functions of the House of Lords. It has been found convenient by some speakers to assume that the Lords are a privileged class—distinct and separate from the nation—with interests even antagonistic to the people at large. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government, in one passage of his speech last night, when he spoke of the ancient Barons, must have carried back the imagination of some Members to those feudal times when the Barons sat with armed retainers, exercising authority for themselves, dispensing justice in their own names, and recognizing no laws but those of their own making; and I think that the tone of some even of the most moderate speakers must have conveyed to the House an idea that the Lords are still a proud and domineering and dangerous class, against whom the Commons and people of England should be perpetually on the watch as against a common enemy.
But happily the daily experience and common sense of every man amongst us suffices to correct such delusions. We see that the Lords of our modern times are no longer the masters but the fellow-subjects of the people—obeying the same laws, paying the same taxes, ruled by the same interests, and having no exclusive privilege whatever.
In their individual capacity the Peers are country gentlemen; and they derive weight and influence in their localities from precisely the same causes as other country gentlemen, not from the titles they bear, but from the property they possess. 1570 In their collective capacity, as a legislative body, they are a national institution—created by opinion—maintained by opinion—and no more existing for the exclusive benefit of the peerage than the Crown exists for the exclusive benefit of the Royal family; and they exercise power, not in their own name and by their own authority, but in the name and by the authority of the people, of whom they are a part just as much as we are a part, and whom they represent as constitutionally as we represent them. As this is a point which lies at the bottom of the whole question, I will cite the authority of a constitutional statesman, who was quoted last night. Burke, on the constitutional relation of the Peers to the people, says,—For it is not the derivation of the power of that House (Commons) from the people which makes it in a distinct sense their representative. The King is the representative of the people; so are the Lords; so are the Judges. They are all trustees of the people as well as the Commons, because no power is given for the sole sake of the holder; and, although Government certainly is an institution of divine authority, yet its forms, and the persons who administer it, all originate from the people. A popular origin cannot, therefore, be the characteristical distinction of a popular representative. This belongs equally to all parts of Government, and in all forms.This establishes that the Lords, as well as the Commons, are the representatives and the trustees of the national interest. Although they are the wealthiest class in the nation, they are not less on that account a national class, but the reverse. For there is this peculiar feature in the English Peers, to which too much weight cannot be given in this discussion, that, as contrasted with nobles of other countries, who, relying solely on their titles, have been swept away by the first storm, the English Peers have this great element of strength, that they are a body of landowners—that is to say, they derive their wealth from that trade which is the greatest trade in the country. Their revenues are intimately associated with the prosperity of that trade which employs and supports the greatest number of the people, and is the most productive industry in the nation. This gives them a vital sympathy with the progress and improvement of the people; it identifies them with the people; and no one can compare the peerage of England with the aristocracy of any other country without perceiving how they are eminently distinguished for habits of business, for knowledge of agriculture, for 1571 personal activity in the management and improvement of their estates, for acquaintance with farmers and labourers, and a general commercial interest and feeling; and it is difficult to over-estimate the great and enduring sympathy that these qualities have won for the Peers from the people at large.
It is not true, therefore, to say that, because they are not an elective, they are in no sense a representative body. They do indirectly represent a very vast amount of the interests and feeling of the people of this country, and it fits and qualifies them the better to compose that Council of some 400 or 500 men, which is established for the express purpose of discharging constitutional functions absolutely essential to Parliamentary Government. No democratic or mixed constitution has been found capable of long duration without a similar body. If there were no House of Lords, it would be necessary to make one. They are a small portion of the people, chosen for a special purpose, and their legislative power is derived, as the power of the Crown is derived, from the people; and they exercise it, as the Crown exercises it, for the people—in the name of the people—in behalf of the people—and, above all, as a part of the people.
This is not only the theory, but in these days it is essential that it should be acknowledged as the law and practice of the constitution, for if it be not, the peerage is a fiction, and cannot be sustained.
I have dwelt on these points, because I believe that at no time in the history of England has it been so all important as at present, to set forth clearly the constitutional rights of the House of Lords, as well as the expediency and political necessity of those rights in the common interest of all, and to uphold them with the utmost vigilance. Already their admitted legislative power has been reduced to the lowest limits consistent with useful influence. They have ceased to originate great public measures, especially if they involve any general policy of state. A few professional Bills take their rise in the Lords, and others are given them to begin for mere economy of time. But the House of Commons now virtually directs the Government of England. It lays down, settles, and directs the principles of the whole policy—and even of the administration—of the State. The Crown and the Lords no longer rule—they balance and regulate—but they do not supply the 1572 movement of the State. It is this moderating influence alone which saves England from the despotism of an uncontrolled popular assembly, and, since that influence no longer acts indirectly in the Commons, it is only the more essential that its direct action in the corporation of Lords should be strengthened and preserved.
For we know that all forms of Constitutional Government, in all ages—from ancient Athens down to modern America—have indicated by their arrangements the same deeply felt want—the necessity of a second institution—strong in itself—independent and distinct in its nature—which shall control the popular force—which shall receive, and not give, the impulse to legislation—but shall be able to command revision—to enforce time for reconsideration—to compel the moving power to think twice, and appeal from the hour of excitement to that of sobriety—which shall give effect to the permanent, and stable, and abiding element of each political organization—and yet be not strong enough to resist progress, or become an obstacle to improvement.
And this principle pervades the whole British Constitution, which is nothing but /a collection of every kind of device to balance political power and give completeness to legislative change. And it is this which has made it so enduring. It allows free scope for innovation, but yet contrives that innovation shall not be carried out until the fullest examination has been brought to bear on the change.
Then how does all this affect the case of privilege before us? If the Lords claim what none among us can be so unreasonble as to deny them—identity of feelings and interests and character with the nation at large; if they profess only to be the servants of the nation, fellow-servants of the Commons, employed on the same business, charged with the same interests, obedient to the same authority, and responsible to the same tribunal of opinion,—what interest has the nation in dispensing with their services on rare and critical occasions as auditors of finance? The nation has decreed that its business shall be transacted by two Chambers, differently constituted and chosen; the one, popularly elected, and indicating every shifting gale of popular opinion,—the other, nominated by the Crown, and ordained by the people to be permanent and independent, expressly that, by its freedom from those influences to which the more impulsive Com- 1573 mons are exposed, it may exercise a beneficial power as a court of revision and control.
And there cannot be a greater mistake than to suppose that because the Lords are an hereditary, they are therefore an irresponsible body. On the contrary, I believe there is no other body in the kingdom so responsible. They are the only important public body that may be said to hold power by the tenure of good conduct. A few mistakes, even without anything like a pertinacious obstruction of the national will, would jeopardise their position. They saw this in 1832, when their defence of the rotten boroughs separated them from the nation in a struggle which was to them one for property as well as power. It damaged them very much; they were a long time recovering it. But they have recovered it, and we may gather even from the admissions made in this debate that, of the two Houses of the Legislature, the Lords are at this moment the most popular and revered. But they are profoundly conscious of this truth—that they can only oppose the House of Commons for one purpose—to give time for reconsideration—for a more mature and decisive demonstration of the national will—that this, and this only, is within their power—and the will of the people, once made up, and unmistakeably expressed, must be obeyed. It is hard to imagine a more genuine responsibility. The Lords have ever acknowledged and acted upon it; and every impartial student of history must admit that, on the whole, no institution known to history has shown so profound and accurate a knowledge of the feeling and movement of the nation, and has so steadily, under every form of political turmoil, made the national sentiment the basis of its own conduct.
And now I repeat the question,—on what ground of public policy or safety are the Lords to be excluded from dealing, on even the most urgent occasions, with measures of finance? On what principle can you justify that exclusion? For we must acknowledge and give weight to the truth, so frequently insisted on in this debate, that the question of finance in our day has assumed very different proportions to what it had two centuries ago. It is now the largest and most important branch of legislation. It is mixed up with every important question of national policy. To exclude the Peers from finance would be to exclude them from more than one-half of 1574 the legislative business of the country. And why are the Commons to be relieved on finance from any portion of that control which the Constitution has so carefully provided on all other matters of legislation? Are the Commons infallible in finance? Is there no unwise, or mistaken, or rash, or selfish legislation on finance? I believe that money questions are precisely those which, while they must ultimately be decided by the Commons, need, beyond all others, the balancing and regulating action of the Peers; for it is here that the temptations of constituencies and of classes to selfishness are strongest; and where particular localities or interests put an undue pressure on representatives, and would turn them into delegates, then it is that, not the public interests alone, but the secret convictions of the coerced representatives themselves, need the correcting hand of a second Chamber.
I grant that all taxes should originate with the Commons—that the initiative should be taken by that elective and more immediately responsible assembly that is constantly referred back to the constituencies. But no less essential is the reviewing power of a permanent and independent Chamber that is by its constitution more peculiarly adapted for the functions of calm deliberation and dispassionate judgment; and so much is this the case that, even if law and precedent combined, which confessedly they do not, to cast a doubt on the financial functions of the Peers, I should say that it behoved us to consider well before we enforced a construction that might unduly abridge the powers of that body.
It is undeniable that the Act of 1832 gave a preponderance of power to the Commons, and that the tendency of any further Reform Act must be in the same direction—towards a greater concentration of legislative action and authority in one chamber, to the practical disfranchisement of the other.
It is, therefore, above all things desirable, in solving doubts as to the respective rights and functions of the two Houses, to bear in mind the necessity for maintaining harmonious co-operation; and so far from narrowing the field of action for the Peers, it might be the wiser alternative to adopt a generous construction of their powers, with a view to preserving the equilibrium that is held to be essential to the safe and well-working of the Constitution.
Such being my views of the constitu- 1575 tional rights and functions of the Lords,—holding them to be as essentially a national body as the Commons,—with duties as varied and comprehensive, responsibilities as unlimited, and a dependence on opinion even more complete, I ask, on what grounds can we now challenge this last act of their undoubted legal power?
The repeal of the paper duty was submitted to them as a part of a great scheme of financial policy; but that policy was based on a commercial treaty which was so mixed up with the Budget that they could not be disconnected.
And if it were really and truly the opinion of the Lords, on whom much new light had broken since the Budget was first propounded in this House, that its most blissful promises were based on treacherous calculations, and that the sacrifice of revenue by which, with an empty exchequer, we had bought that treaty was now proved to be an error—if they saw our manufacturers thronging the antechamber of the Emperor, suppliants of his mercy to falsify their fears that their roaring trade was about to prove a bubble—if the relations of eternal peace and harmony with France, which the treaty was to secure, had already given way to disquietude, and disputation, and alarms—if, while the trumpet of war was all but sounding, the Lords durst not disregard the signal not unwisely and wickedly to multiply perils by parsimonious neglect of our defences—if, under the apparently innocuous addition of a penny to the income tax, the House of Commons had been surprised or seduced into revolutionizing our whole system of finance—and if every succeeding week since the Budget first threw these benches into an ecstacy had, to the minds of the Lords, accumulated fresh and irresistible evidence that the anticipated surplus was tending to an inevitable deficiency, and, so far from remitting taxes, it would ere long be the duty of the Minister to augment them—if such were the conclusions forced on the convictions of the Peers, and communicating themselves to the most experienced, the most thoughtful, the most dispassionate and unprejudiced on both sides of their House—what were they to do? "What, in such circumstances, were they, as sworn and responsible legislators, bound to do? What did their duty to the country call on them, command them, compel them to do? Could they hesitate? To their honour, be it said, they did not hesitate; but, by a majority 1576 unprecedented, I believe—yet deriving still more importance from its character than its numbers—they interposed that veto which checked the House of Commons in its headlong, precipitate, and mad career, and challenged for their act the verdict of the country.
By so doing, says the hon. Gentleman,—and here is the gravest count of his indictment—the Lords have perpetrated an unheard-of act of usurpation, far beyond what is even suggested by any precedent, for they have imposed an additional tax upon the people. It is not, he says, merely a refusal to remit—it is actually a right to increase taxation that they assume. This is a fallacy often repeated, but which it is not difficult to refute. It is said that the Lords have increased taxation. But what does taxation mean? Does it not mean expenditure? does it not go hand in hand with expenditure—or rather, does it not follow expenditure? Is it not, invariably, one of the first duties of the House, at the commencement of each Session, to vote what shall be the national expenditure, and go on afterwards to supply the Ways and Means? When I say, invariably, I must of course except the present year, for in this Session, for the first time in the memory of man, or, I believe, in the history of Parliament, we were persuaded, unfortunately, to reverse that practice, and to pass the Budget before we had passed the Estimates; and we are to-night reaping the fruits of that irregularity, against which it is a satisfaction to me to remember that I protested strongly at the time. But I repeat my question. Can it be affirmed that the Lords have increased the expenditure which rules the taxation of the country? We know that they have not. We know that they have taken the expenditure at the sum estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and approved and sanctioned by the House of Commons; and that they have in no way questioned the absolute and exclusive right of the Commons to determine what the expenditure shall be, or have themselves attempted or desired to increase the national burdens by a single shilling.
But the Lords have done this: as the Commons have determined the sum to be expended, and pledged Parliament to provide income to meet it, the Lords have endeavoured to retain and secure the means of fulfilling that pledge and maintaining the national credit. They think that Parliament should be in a condition 1577 to meet its engagements, but they doubt its being so if this tax should be repealed, and they decline to share the responsibility of placing the country in that discreditable and embarrassing position. They do not assume to administer the ordinary finance of the country—they know that a body of exclusively rich men must by position and nature be disqualified for such a task. They do not pretend, therefore, to make a Budget; but they do pretend, viewing that Budget and treating it as of a mixed character, combining political with financial considerations, to question the calculations that have been made, and to suspend its operation till they have been submitted to the test of time. The hon. Gentleman must see that restoring the balance of a Budget is a very different thing from imposing a new tax. What the Lords have done has been to take a just and provident and necessary security that the pretended remission of one tax does not furnish an excuse for substituting another in a new and more objectionable form.
I think I have shown that Gentlemen have somewhat mistaken, not only the relations of the two Houses of Parliament to each other, but also their relations to the country; and they have not perceived that, not only all legislative functions, but also all legislative departments, are by law common to both; and that, although a division of labour between the two Houses may be convenient, an appropriation by either House of the absolute, unchecked, and uncontrolled administration of any one department would be highly unconstitutional.
And here is the fallacy that has run through the whole of the speeches of Gentlemen on the other side; they have thought that it was enough to show that an Act is unprecedented to prove it unconstitutional. But, unhappily for their argument, our whole constitution is made up of a succession of precedents, each of them unprecedented, and most of them the growth of some unforeseen necessity, like that which has just arisen.
We live in an age that is essentially an age of precedents. The House of Commons is perpetually assuming fresh powers, and establishing new precedents. Virtually, all Bills now originate with the Commons; but this is not the consequence of any aggressive spirit in the Commons, but the necessary and inevitable result of the historic working of the English con- 1578 stitution. The change is just as real and deep as if it had been produced by violence, either of revolution or encroachment.
Equally so is this new act of the Lords. It was not dictated by any desire to brave or affront the Commons, or to assert the privileges of the Lords, or to acquire any additional power. It was simply the natural working of the constitution to meet a definite emergency. The novel principles of finance, to which we in this House had too hastily assented, required revision. That revision could not take place in the Commons. The majority had committed themselves by their early votes. Men do not like suddenly to reverse their votes—least of all when accountable to popular constituencies. A reversed vote has an awkward appearance on the hustings. The Budget was really a revolution in finance, into which the House of Commons had been partly coerced and partly charmed. Many who had voted in the majority had their misgivings, but did not see a remedy. The only remedy was the House of Lords; and the Lords, instinctively, from the nature of the case, and without any premeditated intention of claiming a new right, applied the remedy. The act was perfectly natural and perfectly constitutional. It was a very happy illustration of the practical self-working of our English Constitution. The Commons are ever advancing; it is the law of our system; it must not be bewailed—it is not to be combated—it can only be balanced. The equilibrium must be preserved, unless the Constitution is to be destroyed and mixed government to come to an end. Change there is—change there must be; shall it be only in the direction of the absolute power of the Commons, or shall the Lords also change and retain their relative position?
Sir, the unconscious encroachments of the Commons have quickened into life the dormant powers and latent faculties of the Lords; and this wonderful and healthy energy of the Constitution—obeying, as its law of political vitality, the all-pervading law of benevolent nature, and developing spontaneously new processes to counteract new tendencies to disease—deserves our highest admiration, as being the very best and most solid guarantee for safety and durability.
But the Constitution which I have been describing is not the Constitution which the advocates of action desire to vindicate. The Constitution in their eyes struck at 1579 by the Lords, and to the defence of which their speeches and agitation would incite us, is of a different kind. The Constitution they would set up is the despotism of the House of Commons—the tyranny of one Chamber—the absolute dominion of an unchained and irresponsible democracy.
Such a Constitution would indeed be an anomaly—unknown in England—ruinous to England—fatal to all classes and interests, to the lowest as well as the highest—to traders and artisans as well as to Peers; for we may rely upon it that, when the Upper House of Legislature ceases to be independent, the Lower House will soon cease to be a House of Representatives.
It is because I believe that the Act of 1832 gave to the Commons as much power as relatively they ought to have, and because I agree with that which was so well and truly said by the noble Lord last night, that there is, in the future, more danger to public liberty to be apprehended from the encroachments of the Commons than the usurpations of the Lords, that I am glad that the majority of the House are prepared to justify and. support the Lords in the course they have pursued.
And I rejoice that we shall not be daunted by the fear of the new precedent we are establishing. For what is the precedent? It is that the Lords have opposed themselves to the Commons when the Commons have not consulted or regarded the wishes and interests of the nation? Is that a dangerous precedent? I hope for my part that it will be faithfully recorded and fearlessly followed up whenever a like necessity shall recur. It is such occasions that especially call for a House of Lords—for which a House of Lords exists and is of the utmost value—that the Lords may be sane when the Commons are wild—that they may suspend an irrevocable decision till the country has had time to recover its senses. We must remember—what some Gentlemen have been too apt to forget—that the Peerage is now the property of the nation—that it has to keep watch for the nation. On this occasion it has kept faithful watch. It has sounded an alarm that has aroused its masters and arrested you in your irregular course. If the arrest has been illegal, you have your remedy. Why do not you appeal to your judges out of doors? Is it not that your judges would affirm the decision of the Lords, and it would be shown that the Lords really represent the nation, and that 1580 the majority in the Commons only represent the Ministry?—and even that majority is of an equivocal and precarious nature—inasmuch as the noble Lord himself last night reminded us that the Ministerial majority was a vanishing quantity, which another division might, in his opinion, have turned into a minority—and in that third division it seemed only too probable that the noble Lord would have been found in an opposite lobby to his Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The truth is, Sir, on this occasion we have no materials for a contest with the Peers, and the attempt to raise one has lamentably broken down. The law is not with us—precedents do not favour us—constitutional principle and policy are both against us—and as to the country, if we appeal to that, the nation is certain to affirm what history will most assuredly record—that this Session of 1860 has been doubly memorable—for the rashness, the recklessness, the ruinous disregard of consequences that have marked the proceedings of the Commons,—and the calmer courage, the dignity, and the patriotism that have shed a lustre over the saving wisdom of the Lords.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I cannot help being struck with an inconsistency in the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. I am surprised that he has not concluded by moving that certain words in the first Resolution should be omitted, and in point of fact that the declaration which the House is about to make should be reversed. That, Sir, would be in accordance with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and with the sentiments which many Members opposite have most vociferously cheered. Sir, I confess I do not know what a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite thought of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman about the headlong, precipitate, and reckless Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I think there were some fifty of them who were more enthusiastic supporters of that Budget than a great number of the Members on this side of the House.
Now, Sir, I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman in his endeavours to support his theories with regard to the extreme value of the House of Lords, nor shall I attempt to controvert them, because, in reality, that is not the question which is before the House. But, if the House will permit me, I will endeavour to keep as close to the question as I can, 1581 and I will state the grounds on which I am not very well satisfied with the course which this House is invited to take. Sir, I will not attack the Resolutions of the noble Lord, and I will not defend them, for I am not responsible for them. They appear to me not worthy of the occasion which is before us. I think they bear marks of having been prepared by more than one hand, and if they pass, and constitute the sole expression of our mind on this occasion, posterity will hardly fail to pronounce them the Resolutions of a somewhat degenerate House of Commons. The first Resolution is a very good one, but it is very old. It is none the worse for that; and I am glad the noble Viscount did not think it necessary to endeavour to amend it. The other two Resolutions are, to my mind, somewhat anbiguous and feeble, and are not in their expression of what I believe is constitutional usage, any more than as examples of composition in the English language, to be compared to the first and oldest. Last night we had two speeches from that side of the House after long silence—speeches which, I confess, I heard with some surprise and with some pain. They appeared to me marked—to use a favourable phrase of the right hon. Gentleman below me—by great recklessness, and, if I may so speak, with great levity. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. Members of this question, it is not one to be treated in that manner. It is a serious question—whether the powers of this House have been infringed or not, or whether neither House of Parliament shall hereafter exercise powers which they have never heretofore exercised. I confess I was compelled to think of the truth we learn from history, that there is no greater sign of the decadence of a people than when we find the leaders of parties and eminent statesmen treating great questions as if they were not great, and solemn realities as if they were not real at all. Sir, I think I could observe in those speeches the triumph of men who had found an advocate in the Prime Minister, whom they expected to meet as an opponent, and who were delighted that, acting with their confederates in the other House of Parliament, they were likely to obtain a signal party advantage. Is there anybody who has denied in point blank terms, except the right hon. Gentleman, that the. House of Lords, in the course it has taken, has violated—I will not say the privileges of this House, for privilege is a word not 1582 easily defined—but has broken in upon the usages of many centuries old—usageb which our predecessors in this House have acknowledged to be of the utmost importance to our own powers and to the liberties of those whom we represent? If there was nothing wrong, then why was there a Committee? Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks neglected to answer that question. He made no opposition at the time; but three weeks afterwards he thinks that it would have been better if the Committee had not been appointed. I will, however, undertake to affirm that, when the noble Viscount proposed that Committee, every Member of this House thought the proposition a reasonable one. Why did we ransack the Journals unless something had happened which jarred upon every man's sense with regard to the rights and privileges of this House, and the usages of the House of Lords? And why, having this Committee, and instituting these researches, have we these Resolutions moved, not by a young, inexperienced, and unknown Member—if any such there be of the House of Commons—but by one of the oldest Members of this House, one of the ablest statesmen of the day, and at this moment the chief Minister of the Crown? Surely, Sir, every one will admit that the circumstances were such as to justify the course that was taken in appointing the Committee.
Then, Sir, I have another reason to show to hon. Gentlemen opposite, notwithstanding their spasmodic cheering—I do not intend the word offensively—why we should have these very Resolutions which you are about to agree to, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, as far as I could understand, entirely approves, and which you all feel delighted should be proposed by the noble Viscount, because they relieve you from a considerable difficulty. Sir, I say that these Resolutions are a proof that the course which has been taken by the other House has been unusual, if not wrong; because the Resolutions by implication condemn what the Lords have done, and although they do not revoke the Act, or pledge this House to any particular course, yet, when those Resolutions come to be considered, it will never be denied that the House of Commons does by these Resolutions express a unanimous opinion that the course which has been taken by the other House is contrary to usage, and is calculated to excite the jealousy and alarm of the Mem- 1583 bers of this House. Sir, I have been a member of that Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge knows my opinion of the Committee and its labours. I think that Committee fell wonderfully below its duties—that the course which it pursued was poor and spiritless; and at a future time when the course it has taken is contrasted with the course taken by the House of Commons on previous occasions, it will be justly said that there had been a real and melancholy declension in the spirit of this House. That which I complain of in the proceedings of the Committee, I also complain of in respect to the manner in which some hon. Members have discussed this question. Half of the Committee appeared to me to go into that Committee as much the advocates of the House of Lords as of the House of Commons, and I find that some Members of this House are of the same character. Speeches have been delivered here that very few Members of the House of Lords would make on this question, and I will undertake to say that not one Member of that House, who is known to the public by his political influence, legal knowledge, high character, or extensive learning, would dare to make the speech that has been made to-night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud. Sir, I went into the Committee with the utmost frankness in order that I might ascertain, not altogether in what manner the Lords had asserted their privileges, but what our predecessors had done with regard to theirs. We have no right to let go one single particle of the privileges and powers which the House of Commons have gained in past times; and I took it for granted that if I examined for some centuries back the course which the House of Commons had pursued—if I read their Resolutions, if I read the reasons adduced at their conferences, if I observed the Acts which they passed, and the result of the discussions between the two Houses—we should be justified in concluding that we have rights to maintain in this regard for which our predecessors have contended.
Now, Sir, several Members, following the example of the Committee, have taken the House back for a long period of time. I will not go into those precedents with the view of contending whether they do or do not refer to this particular case; but the House will permit me to mention two or three facts which I brought out of the 1584 Journals, and which convinced me that we should not take a sufficiently bold or decided course, if we merely agreed to the Resolutions of the noble Viscount. I will first refer, Sir, to that very case which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge and myself fixed upon as the starting point of our precedents—the precedents of 1407; and I trust every hon. Member has read it, either in the translation, or in the old Norman French. Sir, it is worth reading, for it is a very curious case, and there is no other so like the recent action of the House of Lords, as that which took place 453 years ago; for the House of Lords then proposed to continue a tax to which the Commons had not assented, and the House of Commons were greatly disturbed at the House of Lords prolonging a tax to which the House of Commons had not given their assent. We then made a great leap, and from the year 1407, came down to the year 1628. We then found the House of Commons insisting upon the initiation of Bills of Supply. They would not permit the name of the Lords to be inserted in the preamble of a Bill of Supply, neither would they agree to the compromise that neither the Lords nor the Commons should be introduced, but that the High Court of Parliament should be mentioned. The House of Commons refused to pass the Bill in that shape, and submitted that the Commons should, be named alone in the grant. This, Sir, was done, and that has been the practice ever since in the preamble of Supply Bills.
Now then, Sir, we come down to 1640, when the House of Lords were much more modest than they ought to have been, according to the right hon. Gentleman, who maintains that they ought to check, alter, amend, improve, and if necessary, overthrow all the financial arrangements of the year that this House may agree to. Sir, the Declaration of 1640 set forth that the Lords stated at the Conference that—My Lords would not meddle with matters of subsidy, which belong naturally and properly to you—no, not to give you advice therein, but have utterly declined it.Then the House of Lords in 1640, we are asked to suppose, knew nothing of their constitutional rights, and the House of that day were less able than they are at present to judge of what is necessary for the performance of their proper functions in the State, and for the liberties of those whom they represent. Mr. Pym told their 1585 Lordships that they had not only meddled with matters of Supply, but had "both concluded the matter and order of proceeding, which the House of Commons takes to be a breach of their privilege, for which he was commanded to desire reparation from your Lordships." The Lords gave reparation by declaring that they did not know they were breaking a right in merely suggesting that Supply should have precedence over the consideration of grievances. I am not sure that even now, notwithstanding what has been said, the House of Lords have ever admitted by any Resolution that they have not the power to originate Supplies. They have not the power, of course, to carry such a Bill, because if it came to this House it would fall down dead, unless that unhappy time should come when the theories of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Stroud, are carried out.
Then, Sir, comes the question of Amendments. The Lords endeavoured to Amend a Bill of Supply. I do not wonder that they did, because the theories of the right hon. Gentleman must have been palatable to a good many of them. In 1671 it was proposed not to continue a tax, but to reduce a tax—the duty on white sugar. The Lords proposed to reduce the duty from one penny per pound to five-eighths of a penny, and the House of Commons came to a Resolution that "in all aids given to the King by the Commons the rate or tax ought not to be altered by the Lords." A conference was held with the House of Lords, and the House of Commons then declared that the right which they claimed "was a fundamental right, both as to the matter, the measure, and the time." Then, what followed in the House of Lords? Why, they replied by the very same Resolution which the House of Commons had passed in its own favour. The Resolution they passed asserting their power to make Amendments was just as strong, and in the same words as the Resolution which had been passed in a contrary sense by this House. They said, with reason, "for if they cannot amend, or abate, or revise a Bill in Parliament"— they said this, mind, in answer to the Commons, who declared that they could not amend, but might negative the whole—they said, "if we cannot amend, or abate, or alter in part, by what consequence of reason can we enjoy the liberty to reject the whole?"
Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, the 1586 Member for the University of Dublin, last night showed himself a most unhappy critic. He called our attention to the condition of things in the United States. In fact, Sir, he proved himself—only he did not exactly understand what he was saying—he showed himself to be strongly in favour of Americanizing our institutions in one respect. He said the Senate of the United States has the power not only of rejecting, but of amending, which is quite true. When the founders of the American Republic were binding together the thirteen Sovereign States in one great—and to be still greater—combination, they looked back naturally to the practice of the country from which they were separating, to determine, or at least, to learn something from our Parliamentary practice. They found that in England the Lords could not begin Money Bills, could not alter or amend them; but that theoretically—because the matter had never been decided—theoretically they had power to reject. But, then, what was the conclusion which they came to? They said the very same thing as the House of Lords had said in the year 1761—"It is perfectly childish to say that the House of Lords cannot alter, abate, or increase, but yet shall be able to reject." They knew well that, although there was that theoretical right in England, yet, practically, it had never been enforced, and they came to the conclusion that if they would give to their own Senate power to reject, it would be necessary also to give them the power to amend; and at this very moment the Senate of the United States might, not with that sort of responsibility of which the right hon. Gentleman is so fond, but with a real responsibility, every two members being the representatives of a particular sovereign State—that elected Senate does amend, and does reject, and does deal with finance in a manner which has never been permitted, nor even proposed in this country, until in the extraordinary speech to which we have just listened.
Now, Sir, seven years after the last date to which I have referred there arose another contest, in the course of which a Resolution was passed. It is the strongest and most comprehensive Resolution that the House of Commons have ever passed in relation to this subject. Sir, I will not go into any elaborate arguments upon it, but I will just read it, because it makes the argument I am about to bring before the 1587 House more continuous and clear. The House of Commons declared this; and it was not one of those sudden acts which the House of Commons are now alleged continually to commit; but it was a Resolution drawn up by a Committee specially appointed for that purpose—a Resolution specially considered and solemnly entered in the Journals of the House. It was in these words, thatAll Aids and Supplies, and Aids to His Majesty from Parliament are the sole gifts of the Commons, and all Bills for granting such Aids and Supplies are to begin with the Commons; and it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint in such Bills the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to be changed or altered by the House of Lords.Now, Sir, at this time, when the Lords had never pretended to reject a Bill, it is probable that such a proposition was a thing that never entered into the head of any Member of the House of Peers. I will undertake to say it would be difficult for any Member of this House to draw up a Resolution more comprehensive and conclusive as to the absolute control of the House of Commons than that of the year 1678, which I have just now read.
Now, Sir, shortly afterwards, in the year 1691, there is another Resolution which goes minutely to the case before the House, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman's attention to it. In that year a Bill was passed for appointing Commissioners to Examine the Public Accounts of the Kingdom. The House of Lords Amended, the House of Commons dissented; and among the reasons which the House of Commons gave was this—" That in aids, and supplies, and grants, the Commons only do judge of the necessities of the Crown." Sir, what are we asked now? We are asked to take into partnership another judge of the necessities of the Crown. The House of Commons which for 500 years, which, since the Revolution at least, has never withheld adequate Supplies from the Crown, is now to be depreciated and defamed, as if it had been guilty of scantily supplying the wants of the Crown, and the House of Lords is to be asked to do that which the House of Commons alone did in 1691, namely, to judge of the necessities of the Crown, and to make the Supply greater than that which the House of Commons have believed to be sufficient. And, referring to that famous record of 1588 Henry the Fourth, we find it stated there that "all grants and aids are made by the Commons, and are only assented to by the Lords."
Now, a few years afterwards, our forefathers got into a question about the paper duties, just as we are at this time; only they managed it better than we are doing now. In the year 1699 they declared:It is an undoubted right and privilege of the Commons, that such aids are to be given by such methods, and with such provisions, as the Commons only shall think proper.But now we are told that aids and provisions for the Crown are to be raised by methods, not which the Commons think proper, but which the Lords think proper in opposition to the Commons.
Now, Sir, the House will perceive that I am very hoarse, and I am sorry to trouble them with other cases. In the year 1700 there was another question raised between the two Houses: and the Commons told the Lords that they could not agree with their Amendment, thatAll the Aids and Supplies granted to His Majesty in Parliament, are the sole and entire gift of the Commons; and that it is the sole and undoubted right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint the ends, purposes, considerations, limitations, and qualifications of such grants.Then, Sir, in 1702 there was another statement that "the granting and disposing of all public moneys, is the undoubted right of the Commons alone."
In the year 1719 they objected to a clause which the Lords had introduced; on the ground that it levied a new subsidy not granted by the Commons, "which it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to grant, and from which they will never depart." Sir, I want to ask the House, or any reasonable man, if we were discussing this question between the American Senate and the House of Representatives, or between the two Chambers of any foreign country, to what conclusion would each one of us necessarily come as to the purpose and object of all these declarations, to which I have referred, and which are only a portion of those which are to be found in the Journals of this House for the last 500 years? "Would you say that they lead to the conclusion that the House of Lords could throw out a Bill repealing a tax of the value and magnitude of £1,300,000 a year? Would you say that if they could not abate a tax, or continue a tax, or limit a tax, or 1589 dispose of a tax, or control in any way a tax, or even give advice to the Commons in respect to a tax—could you say that notwithstanding all that which is clear and undeniable, they could, in the face of this House, reject a Bill which repealed a tax of £1,300,000 a year, without violating Parliamentary usage, and running contrary to all the declarations of this House for many centuries? I think, Sir—and I put it before the Committee—and if any hon. Gentleman has done me the honour to read the draft Report which I prepared, he will see that. I put before the Committee this long string of cases and Resolutions, and declarations, couched in language not ambiguous, not feeble, but in language clear and forcible, which could not be mistaken; and then I wished to ask the Committee—as I now ask the House—what was the end and object which the House of Commons had in view in these repeated declarations of their rights and opinions touching the granting of Supplies, and the imposition of taxes upon the people. Why, Sir, I should say they did this—they confirm and consecrate a practice of 500 years, the principle which, within the last hour, I thought every man in England admitted—the fundamental and unchangeable principle of the Government and Constitution of the English people, that taxation and representation are inseparable in this kingdom. Let us look and see how these declarations and Resolutions apply to this case.
Sir, we are now in the year 1860, and for a long period we have had no question of importance of this nature; and we begin to fancy that, after all, there is no great importance in such a question. We have long had our personal liberties in this country; longer almost, in some classes of society, than history can tell; but people perhaps fancy that their personal liberty cannot be endangered by this matter. No; in this case we were so confident of our right and our power that we could not comprehend any infringement of those rights. These paper duties, I believe, were granted in the reign of Queen Anne; partly for revenue, and partly for other purposes; which purposes, I presume, had some effect in procuring the rejection of this Bill by the Lords. It was a tax to prevent the publication and spread of political information. I see an hon. Gentleman up there in the gallery who is very much astonished at this; but he is not aware, probably, that all which I have 1590 stated is, if I am not misinformed, in the Preamble of the Bill. Public opinion in those days allowed of very bad reasons being given. They can be acted on now even when they are not given. From the time of Queen Anne, to the present time, this paper puty has crippled a very important industry. It has taxed all the trades which required large quantities of paper—such as those of Manchester, of Sheffield, of Nottingham, of Birmingham, and elsewhere; but more than that, it has very successfully done what Queen Anne's Ministers wanted; it has threatened, and, to a large extent, it has strangled the press of this country. Within the last thirty years—and hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, I presume by this time, are becoming conscious of it—new principles have become established in this country with regard to taxation on industry. New and wiser principles have been adopted, and not only adopted but established; and there are some very powerful defenders of these new principles, that I have the pleasure to see opposite me to-night.
Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Stroud, has gone on the old mode of discussion when arguments are not plentiful, and facts are entirely wanting. He has raised his old friend, the hobgoblin argument, and has tried to show us that some frightful calamity must come upon us if this paper duty be repealed: it is but a million-and-a-quarter. Does any hon. Gentleman believe that our prosperity or success—or that any vast interest of this country—can possibly depend on a million, more or less, in the general revenue of the empire? Sir, a million is a million. ["Hear."] I am glad to have said somethingin which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicestershire can coincide. There is no Member who has laid more stress on the importance of a million in the taxation of the people; it is the tax of many villages, of many towns; and it makes the difference sometimes between comfort and desolation; and therefore I am the last person who would undervalue the amount of a million of the public revenue. But still I should only be making myself foolish, if I were to say that a million sterling—whether our taxation be £50,000,000, as it was twenty years ago, or £70,000,000 as it is now—was of the gigantic importance attributed to it by the right hon. Gentleman: for on this million, which we had provided a substitute for, before we relieved the million of that mil- 1591 lion, he founds his argument as to our recklessness, precipitancy, and madness, and drunkenness—I think he added—at least it was to be inferred from what he said; for he made use of the converse, and spoke of sobriety.
Now, Sir, the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, in his speech last night reviewed the course of events, and told us what we all knew, that within the recollection, I suppose, of almost the youngest Member of the House, there have been Excise duties on many other articles; I think, at one time, on candles; certainly at a later period on leather; I believe, since I came into this House, on glass; and, still more recently, on soap. Well, Sir, all these Excises have been done away with. Can you find a man, from John O'Groat's to the Land's End, who will not tell you that these reckless principles, applied to the repeal of these Excises, were not of essential benefit, not only to the particular trades most interested, but to the great mass of the people, and to the industry by which your people live?
Well, then, Sir, having followed for many years a course so beneficial, we come at length, in the year 1860, to the repeal of the paper duty, which was promised by the House; which was recommended by the Government officers; which was called for by innumerable petitions; which was hoped for I believe, by every person in the country, who took an intelligent view of what was essential to aid the efforts which Government are making, by liberal grants every year, to promote the instruction of the people. This tax was £1,300,000. It was a question whether sugar should be relieved to the extent of a million, tea of a million, or paper of a million: I am speaking in round, numbers. The hon. Gentleman, not caring in the least about this reckless deficit, would evidently have preferred sugar or tea; but surely, as regards the question of the Supplies for the year, it was equally a matter of indifference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the duty were taken off tea, or sugar, or paper. But the conclusion to which he necessarily came was, that while in the cases of tea and sugar, the relief was to the extent of a million of taxation, in the case of paper it was not only a relief to that amount in money, but it was a relief to a great industry, and to several other industries, whose prosperity must depend on an abundant and cheap supply of paper. I speak with some 1592 knowledge of the subject, and I have not the least doubt that the abolition of the paper duty was a positive relief to the whole people of the country equal to double the relief which would have been afforded by a reduction, equal in amount to the duty on the articles of tea and sugar. But the question may be still more narrowed; and I beg the right hon. Gentleman's particular attention—for it appears now that his hostility to the Chancellor of the Exchequer renders him unable to understand the multiplication table, or anything else that is plain. If the paper duty expired on the 15th of August, the reduction of revenue between that time and the end of the financial year, would probably not be more than £600,000, but certainly would not exceed £700,000. I am sorry the House did not take more economical advice in past years. But we are now come, according to the right hon. Gentleman, to this extremity of our resources, that you cannot take £700,000 this year from our Excise which is strangling a great trade, and put an additional halfpenny or penny on the income tax, without bringing about such a frightful state of things, that the Constitution itself and the usage of Parliament must be violated, and we must bring in a foreign power to check us in our precipitous, reckless, and headlong career. Sir, it may be very far from the modesty which becomes a Member of this House, but I confess I am of opinion that the House of Commons is the best judge in this country of what is necessary for the trade, and also what is required by the financial condition of the country. First of all, Sir, there are among us a good many sagacious men of all sorts. There are, as I know, some very sagacious landowners; we found it very hard to beat them even when they had a very bad case. We have a very sagacious Gentleman down here who spoke to-night, and who, whatever be the question which comes before us, always finds some very fitting object for his merciless and unscrupulous vituperation. We know many of us intimately all the details connected with these questions; in fact, I suppose, there is not a trade in this country of any importance or note that cannot find its representatives in this House. For many years past we have had the absolute control of questions of finance, and I undertake to declare, notwithstanding what the right hon. Gentleman has stated, that there is not a representative body in the world, which during 1593 the last twenty years has done more in the way of financial and fiscal reforms with greater advantage to the people. And yet, at the end of that period, when the triumphs of this House are to be found not on granite and bronze monuments, but in the added comforts of the population, and in the increased and undoubted loyalty of the people! you are now, forsooth, asked by the right hon. Gentleman to abdicate your functions, and to invite 400 gentlemen, who are not traders, who have never been financiers, who do not possess means in any degree equalling your own of understanding the question—you are to ask them to join your councils, and not only to advise, but to check, and even to control. Why, Sir, it is one of the points which gave me most grief in regard to this Question that I have seen the House of Lords taking, of all cases, perhaps the worst that could possibly come before them, and inflicting suddenly, unexpectedly, and in my opinion, groundlessly, most harsh and cruel treatment on all the persons who were interested directly in this question of the paper excise. We are asked now, in terms not ambiguous, to overthrow the fabric which has grown up in this country, which has existed, and existed without damage, for at least 500 years. By the Report of the right hon. Gentleman we find that as far back as the year 1640 the House of Commons made this declaration, to which I ask the particular attention of Members of the present House. They said:—We have had uninterrupted possession of this privilege" [the privilege of the undisputed control over the taxation and finances of the country], "ever since the year 1407, confirmed by a multitude of precedents both before and after, not shaken by one precedent for these 300 years.Well, Sir, if that be so, it carries us back for a period of 520 years; and yet we are asked to-night in the most unblushing and audacious manner, to overthrow this magnificent and time-honoured fabric, and admit to powers, to which they have hitherto been unaccustomed, the hereditary branch of the Legislature.
Now, Sir, I say that the House of Lords in the course they have taken have committed two offences, which I had much rather they had not committed, because I am not anxious that they should depreciate themselves in the eyes of the people of this country. [A laugh.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite were as anxious that they should continue limited to their proper 1594 functions, doing all the good that it is possible for them to do, and as little harm as possible, they would not laugh with that kind of unbelieving expression which I presume they intended just now to convey as to what I have stated. I say the House of Lords have not behaved even with fair honour towards the House of Commons in this matter. Every man of them who knew anything about what he was voting for knew that the House of Commons repealed the paper excise, not because it wished to remit a million of taxes, but because it thought that to strangle a great industry was an injurious mode of raising revenue, and, therefore, they transferred that amount of taxation from the paper excise to the income tax. Then, Sir, I say if that were known in the House of Lords, although they might have disapproved the change, and might have thought it better if it had not been made, it was not an honourable treatment of this House, and if they had the power which the American Senate has, and which the right hon. and learned Gentleman wished them to have, still it would not have been fair to this House to enact the penny on income and refuse to repeal the tax on paper. That, Sir, is a question which every man can understand; and I cannot believe that there is any Member of this House who does not wish it to be put in that shape.
But, Sir, there is another thing in which the House of Lords have done wrong. They have trampled on the confidence and taken advantage of the faith of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman last night made on this subject a very curious statement, which, if I were a Member of the House of Lords, I should be disposed to find fault with. He said:—
"Why, what can you expect? It was the lâches of the House of Commons that gave the House of Lords the opportunity of doing what they have done." But, surely, if for 500 years the House of Lords have never done this,—if since the Revolution, even with the search into precedents made by the Committee, not a single case which approaches this can be discovered—are the House of Commons blameable for thinking that they were at least dealing with a House which would abide by the usage of the Constitution, and would not take advantage of the change which the House of Commons made for the public interest in the mode of imposing taxation. Instead of being temporary, taxes were made permanent. The West 1595 India interest said they did not want their trade to be troubled and disturbed every year; and the sugar duties were made perpetual. Well, but then are we always to treat the Lords as political burglars, and invent bolts, bars, locks, everything which may keep them from a possible encroachment on our rights? Must we treat them as men who, if you give them the smallest opportunity, will come down upon you and do that which you wish them not to do? If that be so, you must assuredly take certain precautions to prevent them from continuing such a course.
Now, Sir, it is said that the Paper Duty Abolition Bill was thrown out in the Upper House by a great majority. That is a fact with which we are well acquainted. I was talking recently to a Peer who gave an explanation of this, which I will venture to repeat. "If," he said, "the regular House of Lords, that is to say, the hundred Members who during the Session really do transact the business, if they only had been in the House, the Paper Duties Repeal Bill would certainly have passed." That, however, happened which we all understand, and I have no objection to repeat the exact words used to me. "About two hundred Members, who hardly ever come there, were let loose for the occasion." Most of them are unknown to the country as politicians, and they voted out this Bill by a large majority, with a chuckle, thinking that by doing so they were making a violent attack on the Ministry, and especially on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is a House, recollect in which three Members form a quorum. I sometimes hear complaints in this House that Ministers pass measures very late at night, when, perhaps, only fifty Members are present, of whom thirty are connected with the Government; but in the House of Lords three form a quorum. Proxies may be used too; and these three Peers forming a quorum, with proxies in their pockets, are to dispose of great questions involving £70,000,000 of taxes raised from the industry of the people of this country. At all events, if the 200 Peers who voted that night choose to come down on other such occasions there is no single measure of finance, however liberal or however much for the advantage of the people, that they would not reject, and thus frustrate the beneficial intentions of this House.
Now, Sir, after all I have said I am going to make this admission, that the 1596 Lords of course can reject a Bill, and can also initiate a Bill if they like. If it were not so late (and the Lords like to get away about seven) if it were not so late, the Lords might to-night bring in a Bill levying a tax or voting money for the service of the year, and they can also reject any Bill you may send up to them. They are omnipotent within the four walls of their House, just as we are within the four walls of this House. But if they take their course, one contrary to the general practice of that House and of Parliament, it becomes us to consider what course we will take. We cannot compel them to make any change; but we may ourselves take any course that we please, and we may at least offer them the opportunity of altering the course they have taken. My opinion is that it would have been consonant with the dignity of this House, wholly apart from the question of £1,300,000 a year, or of £700,000 the sum for this year, to have passed another Bill to repeal the paper duty. If that had been a duty which I considered not the best to repeal, I still should have laid aside all partiality for a particular tax. The question before us is of far more importance than the maintenance or abolition of any particular tax. There can be nothing more perilous to the country, or more fatal to the future character of this House than that we should do anything to impair and lessen the powers we have received from our predecessors. I understand there are other sums amounting to about £1,500,000 or £2,000,000, which have yet to go up to the House of Lords. Now, Sir, if the noble Lord at the head of the Government, acting up to his position, which I think he has failed to do in this matter, had asked us, not on the ground (for that is a low ground) that the paper duty was the best duty to repeal, but on the ground that as the House of Commons have come to that decision they should abide by it; if he had asked us to pass another Bill, with an altered date, perhaps, and sent it up again to the House of Lords, he would have given them the opportunity of reconsidering their decision; and my full belief is that a course like this, taken without passion and without collision, would have been met in a proper temper by that House; this difficulty would have been got over, and in all probability both Houses for the future would have proceeded more regularly and easily than they are likely to do under the plan proposed by the noble Lord.
1597 Sir, having stated that I shall leave the question of these Resolutions, I say there is no reason whatever in the arguments which have been used why this duty should have been maintained, or why it was perilous to remit it. Its repeal was consistent with the policy of the Whigs before Sir Robert Peel came into power, with the policy of Sir Robert Peel's Government, of Lord Derby's Government, of Lord John Russell's Government, of Lord Aberdeen's Government, of Lord Palmerston's Government, of Lord Derby's last Government, and of the existing Government. The policy of the repeal of the paper duty is the recognized policy of this House, and it is the admitted interest of the country. Then, why, Sir, unless it be for a party triumph, unless it be to attack a particular Minister, why is this question of £700,000 this year, and less than double that sum in future years, raised to an importance which does not belong to it? and why, for the sake of a party triumph, are the great interests connected with it to be damaged and tortured, as they now are, by the action of one House of Parliament? I am told, Sir, there are Members of this House who would not support the Government in this course, and I should certainly hardly expect that all the Gentlemen on the benches opposite would lend to it their sanction. Yet I doubt whether if the noble Lord at the head of the Government were to act in the manner I have indicated, the great majority of them would be induced, upon reflection, to adopt the policy which they have pursued with respect to these Resolutions, and whether the House of Commons would not have passed a second Bill even by a larger majority than that by which we passed the last.
Now, Sir, there is a rumour that some Gentlemen on this side of the House object to such a course of proceeding, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have, perhaps, on that account been led to take up a line of action upon this question in which they otherwise could not hope to succeed. An hon. Gentleman behind me, from whom I should have expected something better, said only last night, in speaking of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he was a reckless and unsafe finance Minister. That observation he no doubt confined to the question of the repeal of the paper duty; but I cannot forget that in 1853 we had the same Chancellor of the Exchequer as to-day, and that it was as- 1598 serted then also that he had committed great errors. [Cheers from the Opposition.] Yes; but your Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in office long enough to perpetrate any great mistakes. Not long after that right hon. Gentleman assumed the reigns of office, he brought in a Budget which the House of Commons rejected, and upon the next occasion on which he proposed one, he found it necessary to shift the burden of responsibility to the shoulders of his successor. But in 1853, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford was Chancellor of the Exchequer, I put it to those among us who were then Members of this House, whether it is not the fact that the strength of the Government of Lord Aberdeen, of which he was a Member, was developed and concentrated by his action on the taxation of the country which met with universal approbation out of doors.
Well, we come now, Sir, to the present year, and while I do not wish to depreciate the popularity, or the character, or the ability of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, or any of his colleagues, still I undertake to say that the power and authority which his Administration have acquired during the present Session, it has gained mainly as the consequence of the beneficial propositions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made. I heard somebody last night—(I am not quite sure it was not the right hon. Gentleman below me to-night)—talk of the House of Commons having been partly charmed and partly coerced into the acceptance of these propositions. But if that be so, and if we have proved ourselves to be soft-headed children who could be so swayed, I must say it appears to me very strange that such should be the case; for I think the House of Commons has upon the contrary shown wonderful independence, and has proved itself to be extremely free from all those ties, the acting in accordance with which usually enables a Government to conduct the business of a Session with success. Be that, however, as it may, I repeat that the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer when it was laid before the country, was received throughout all the great seats of industry, and among the farmers too—for it tended to benefit them as well as the inhabitants of towns—with universal approbation.
Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman below me has been indulging himself to- 1599 night, in accordance with his custom, in dwelling upon the French Treaty, and I must say we have heard a great deal upon that subject since it was first mooted in this House. We have had it commented upon by a great Journal in this country, whose motives I will not attempt to divine, but whose motto must, I think, be that which Pascal said ought to have been adopted by one of the ancients—"Omnia pro tempore, sed nihil pro veritate,"—which being translated, may be rendered—"Every thing for The Times, but nothing for truth." We have had in short, every description of falsehood propounded with respect to this Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman below me has not hesitated tonight to give currency to representations with respect to it wholly inaccurate, and if I were not here, I would apply to his observations a still stronger term. Did not the right hon. Gentleman say our manufacturers were—I forget the word—plaintiffs—no, suppliants in the antechamber of the Emperor of the French? The statement is one, I can tell him, which is wholly untrue; nay, more, and I may say that with the exception of some right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench, there is no one more competent to give an opinion on the subject than myself, for reasons with which the House is of course acquainted. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that nothing can exceed the good faith and the liberality with which that whole question is being treated by the Commissioners of the French Government. I would have him know that they are as anxious as our Commissioners that a great trade between England and France should spring up; and I will add that in the case of nations and Governments in amity one with the other, whose representatives are endeavouring in all fairness and frankness to extend the commerce between both, he is neither a statesman nor a patriot who seeks to depreciate in the eyes of his countrymen the instrument by which it is hoped these results will be accomplished, and thus doing his utmost to prevent its success.
Now, Sir, I come to ask the House what is this reform in the tariff introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by which you are so frightened? Is it something novel? The right hon. Gentleman below me says it is a scheme both new and gigantic in its proportions, and fatal in its principle. Now, I was speaking last week to an hon. Mem- 1600 ber for a South-Western county who sits on the benches opposite, and he spoke in terms of exultation to me of the success of late years of that branch of industry in which you are peculiarly interested. Is it honest, then, that you should make such acknowledgments and not consent to extend further the principles which the whole country has pronounced to be sound and beneficial? We boast of the freedom of our commerce. That commerce has more than doubled since I had first the honour of a seat in this House. When, then, you now attack, through the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, principles, the adoption of which has wrought this great good, you are not, in my opinion, pursuing a course which will enhance your reputation with the country which you profess to represent. There is not, I contend, a man who labours and sweats for his daily bread; there is not a woman living in a cottage, who strives to make her humble home happy and comfortable for her husband and her children, to whom the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer have not brought hope, and to whom his measures, which have been defended with an eloquence few can equal, and with a logic none can contest, have not administered consolation. I appeal to the past and present condition of the country, and I ask you, solemnly, to oppose no obstacle to the realization of those great and good principles of legislation.
Sir, I will not enter further into this question. I am unable from physical causes to speak with clearness, and I am afraid I must have somewhat pained those who have heard me. I must, however, repeat my regret that the noble Viscount at the head of the Government has not shown more courage in this matter than he appears to me to have exhibited, and that the House of Commons has not evinced more self-respect. I fear this Session may as a consequence become memorable as that in which, for the first time, the Commons of England had surrendered a right which for 500 years they had maintained unimpaired. I, at least, and those who act with me, will be clear from any participation in this; we shall be free from the shame which must indelibly be attached to the chief actors in these proceedings. I protested against the order of reference which the noble Lord proposed, yet I sat and laboured on the Committee with earnest fidelity on behalf of the House of Commons. I have felt 1601 it an honour to sit in this House up to this time, and I hope that hereafter the character of this House will not be impaired by the course which is about to be taken. I have endeavoured to show to my countrymen what I consider to be the almost treason which I fear is about to be committed against them. I have refused to dishonour the memory of such Members as Coke, Selden, Glanville and Pym; and, if defeated in this struggle, I shall have this consolation, that I have done all I can to maintain what I believe to be the honour of this House, and that I have not sacrificed the interests which my constituents committed to my care.
§ MR. WHALLEY
Sir, I rise for the purpose of making a few observations to the House. [Cries of "Divide, divide."]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed—"That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I do sincerely hope and trust that the hon. and learned Member will not persist in pressing his Motion for an adjournment of the Debate. The question which I have brought under the notice of the House has been most fully discussed, and the House is exceedingly full, and is quite prepared to express its opinions. It is now Friday night, and I do hope that the House will come to a decision. When an adjournment is spoken of I certainly do not know what other day will be convenient to adjourn to at this period of the Session.
§ MR. BRIGHT
I beg to ask the noble Lord whether he will not be satisfied if the first Resolution were to be put and agreed to on the present occasion, and then the second and third Resolutions might be postponed to a future occasion. Those are in fact the Resolutions upon which difference of opinion exists, and it is very natural that some discussion should take place with regard to them.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
I think it highly necessary that an opportunity should be given to every hon. Member to express his opinions upon the Resolutions which have been submitted to the House by the noble Lord at the head of the Government.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I would beg to observe that, although the first Resolution only is formally before the House, and the debate which has taken place has comprehended all three Resolutions, they have been discussed as a whole. It appears to me that the debate has been very com- 1602 pletely carried on, and I certainly cannot understand why it should be adjourned; indeed, no grounds have been given why the debate should be prolonged. Although formally we are going to decide upon the first Resolution, yet I think that the House will agree that they should be taken together.
§ MR. MELLOR
With the leave of the House I will withdraw my Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate, but I beg at the same time to say that I shall reserve to myself the right to say a few words upon the second Resolution.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
That the right of granting Aids and Supplies to the Crown is in the Commons alone, as an essential part of their constitution; and the limitation of all such Grants, as to matter, manner, measure, and time, is only in them.
§ Put, and agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON moved the following (the second) Resolution:—
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, although the Lords have exercised the power of rejecting Bills of several descriptions relating to Taxation by negativing the whole, yet the exercise of that power by them has not been frequent, and is justly regarded by this House with peculiar jealousy, as affecting the right of the Commons to grant the Supplies and to provide the Ways and Means for the Service of the year.
§ MR. MELLOR
It appears to me, Sir, that this Resolution expresses more than the House intends and certainly more than the precedents prove, and I do hope that the noble Lord will think it necessary to amend the Resolution. The allegation is—"That although the Lords have exercised the power of rejecting Bills of several descriptions relating to taxation by negativing the whole." I say that that expresses more than the precedents themselves prove. I say that there is no precedent which establishes the fact, that the Lords have exercised that power by amending any Bill relating to taxation or to a tax simpliciter. The words which I would suggest, and to which I cannot conceive there can be the least objection on the part of any hon. Gentlemen, are only for the purpose of guarding ourselves against making an improper and unnecessary omission. I beg to propose that after the word "Relating," the following words should be inserted, "Among other matters." If that were acceded to by the noble Lord, I 1603 should have no objection to the Resolution, but if it be insisted upon that we are to consider the Resolution in the way precisely in which it is framed, and if it be passed in that form, it will controvert the truth. Therefore, if the Amendment which I venture to propose to the House should be satisfactory to the noble Lord and to the hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, my objection to the Resolution would cease. But unless I have some assurance that that course were adopted, I must take the sense of the House upon it. I therefore move that after the word "relating," the words be inserted, "among other matters."
§ Amendment proposed, after the word "relating," to insert the words "amongst other matters."
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I object to the insertion of the words proposed by the hon. and learned Member. These Resolutions however they may been criticised by some hon. Members who have spoken in the course of this debate, have nevertheless been subjected to a good deal of consideration. I think that they correctly express the idea which they are intended to convey. What is meant is not that a Bill relating to various other matters has been rejected, but the point of the Resolution is that of Bills rejected relating to taxation. It is stated that they are Bills of several descriptions relating to taxation which have been rejected, and I think that the Resolution correctly describes them. I conceive that the words, "Bills of several descriptions," imply what the hon. and learned Member has in view.
§ MR. BRIGHT
The difference between the noble Lord and my hon. and learned Friend is this, that as the Resolution stands, it would bear the interpretation that a Bill, very like the particular Bill which we have been discussing, was one of those that were among the various descriptions of Bills referred to, whereas it is notorious to the whole of the Committee, and to everybody who has attended to this subject and looked into this matter, that that is not the case. Therefore, while I do not like the Resolution, while I am no friend to the Resolution in either shape, I think it would be better when we are meddling with edged tools, to be a little careful that we do not admit 1604 something into it which would enable some degenerate Members of a Committee, some fifty years hence, to quote this Resolution in favour of the theories and the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will allow the House till Monday for the purpose of considering this point. [Cries of "Divide, divide!"] I was only going to say, that the Gentlemen who with so much consideration prepared this Resolution will be able between this and Monday to—[Cries of "No, no!"] There must be many hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, who are desirous of aviling thamselves of the excellent opportunity which an adjournment of this debate will afford them, of addressing the House; for up to this time we have only been favoured, with the views of two Speakers on the Opposition side.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 36; Noes 433: Majority 397.
§ The House divided on the Amendment of Mr. MELLOR.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 369: Majority 317.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, to guard for the future against an undue exercise of that power by the Lords, and to secure to the Commons their rightful control over Taxation and Supply, this House has in its own hands the power so to impose and remit Taxes, and to frame Bills of Supply, that the right of the Commons as to the matter, manner, measure, and time may be maintained inviolate.
§ LORD FERMOY
Mr. Speaker, I really have an appeal to make to the noble Lord at the head of the Government and to the hon. Gentleman opposite who have exercised hitherto, no doubt, a sound judgment to postpone this Resolution, inasmuch as upon this Resolution there are two very important Amendments which require considerable discussion, and inasmuch as, to use a phrase which the noble Lord used last night, "Circumtances are now very different." I am at 1605 a loss to understand how hon. Gentlemen will not allow this matter to be discussed, but will still persist in preventing consideration being devoted to it. It is perfectly clear that we ought either to discuss the question, or we ought to adjourn. I would say that the circumstances have now completely changed—[Cries of "Divide! Divide!"]—As I cannot be heard, I shall content myself by moving that the Debate be now adjourned.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I do trust that, after the unequivocal expression of opinion which has just been given by the House, and considering that there stand for next week matters of very considerable importance for discussion, it would be exceedingly inconvenient to the public service if this debate were not brought to a termination to-night. I do therefore hope and trust that the noble Lord will not persist in his Motion for the adjournment of the debate, but that he will allow the Resolution to be put at once. If, however, the noble Lord will persist with his Motion, I trust that the House will reject it by a large majority.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
I seconded this Motion because discussion, which it is most important should take place, is shut out. The noble Lord (Lord Fermoy) stated that his object was to have the matter discussed, and that his object was not an adjournment; but inasmuch as the matter is not now to be discussed there is no alternative but to persist in the Motion for adjournment, I shall support the noble Lord in his Motion. The noble Lord at the head of the Government said that these Resolutions which he has submitted to the House are most important, and therefore I apprehend they cannot be too fully discussed. In fact, the very Amendments which have been proposed in the course of the debate to these Resolutions are very important, and there are many hon. Members who doubtless would desire to express their opinions with respect to them. These are my reasons for seconding the Motion for adjournment.
§ MR. CLAY
Sir, I do trust that my noble Friend (Lord Fermoy) will not put the House to the trouble of a division. We all know full well how these repeated divisions on adjournments end, and I do confess with regret that it would be a very unseemly act of our own upon such a question as this, if this debate were to be now 1606 adjourned. My noble Friend can hardly expect that any further light will be thrown upon this question by further discussion, and I must confess that I think that my noble Friend would better consult the dignity of the party to which he belongs by at once withdrawing his Motion for adjournment, and thus enabling the House to agree to the Resolutions which have been submitted to them. The Resolutions may not do all that he feels and all that I feel upon the subject, but at the same time they are more or less a protest; and I submit to my noble Friend and to the House, that the best course which we can take under existing circumstances is at once to agree to them.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ Put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.