§ MR. STANSFELD
Sir, if the question of confidence in the Government should be raised in the course of this debate, it is at least not raised by the Motion which I shall have the honour of submitting to the House. That Motion was placed upon the paper in the conviction that the time had at length arrived when it had become possible, and highly necessary, that both the House and the Government should reconsider the expenditure of the country with a view to its reduction. And, Sir, I submit the Resolution now also in the belief that it is the best contribution which I can make towards the attainment of so desirable an end. It is to the sincerity of that purpose alone that I can appeal, and do appeal, as my justification to the House in occupying on this occasion a prominence and responsibility from which otherwise I should shrink. There have been certain—there have been numerous—Amendments placed on the paper since I gave 306 notice of my Resolution. I do not think it my province to discuss the comparative merits or demerits of those Amendments. What I have to do is to justify and defend the Resolution for which I am myself responsible. There have been certain objections made, which may be made again tonight, to the method and the time of my proceeding. It has been said that it is an inconsistent proceeding to enter upon a discussion of the expenditure of the country at a time when all the Estimates have already been passed through Committee of Supply. But, Sir, I venture to think that the appropriateness in point of time of the discussion is, after all, to be judged mainly with reference to the temper of the time; and that, when the mind of the House begins to concentrate and gather itself round a given question, that above all times is the most fitting time and occasion for those who take a special interest in it to bring it under the consideration of the House. Now, Sir, I might point to the Amendments as a proof of the opportuneness of the Motion which I am about to make; but I will go back to the time when I placed my notice on the paper, and justify my act by the circumstances which then existed. At that time there was already a consciousness pervading the minds of the House and the country that our peace expenditure had reached a maximum, and that it was necessary to check and to reduce it. Why, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already gone, as it was said, to the very verge of what was consistent with collective Ministerial responsibility, both in this House and out of it, to warn back the country from the course of ever-increased expenditure on which we have for some time been proceeding. The leader of the Opposition had already been making haste to reap the fruits of an expected disaster, to which his own party had contributed as potently as any party or any section of a party. But it may be said, "If the time for this discussion be appropriate, it is impossible to defend a Resolution condemning as a whole the expenditure to which the House has already consented in detail." Now, Sir, I might confine myself, in replying to this objection, to reminding the House that I have not been so foolish as to ask it to stultify itself by condemning any specified Estimates, whose responsibility now rests, not only upon the Government, but upon the House; but I have no desire to fence with this objection. It is not an unnatural 307 or unfair one; and I will meet it in the fullest and frankest way. Sir, it is no more nor no less than a question of sincerity of purpose and good faith. If there be any among us who, having approved our late expenditure—who, having done more, stimulated it to its utmost growth—now seize on this opportunity to profess a regard to economy solely with a party or a personal object, I, for one, devoutly hope that they may be in the issue disappointed and deceived; but if there are others among us who have long thought that our expenditure is excessive—if there are those of us who think that the time has arrived for revision and reduction—I see no reason why we should not be at liberty to seize on a time and an occasion which have become, I think, most propitious for the accomplishment of the object which we have in view. But, Sir, I cannot let the matter rest here. I am prepared to maintain that the submission of what is called an abstract Resolution, with the discussion which it implies, is precisely the most fitting and appropriate course for those of us who are specially interested in the question of economy to pursue. I am one of those who, ever since the first short Session when. I had the honour to take my seat in this House, have been accustomed to look at the process by which our Estimates are said to be discussed in Committee with a feeling akin to hopelessness and despair. Night after night the House is supposed to be applying itself seriously to a consideration and revision of those Estimates; yet I know of no case in which by this process the Estimates have been seriously modified or reduced. The truth is, that the amount of the Military and Naval Estimates—of which I am now speaking—is decided by general views of policy, which cannot be discussed in Committee of Supply. If those views are once taken for granted, the Estimates which depend on them, as far as the revision of this House is concerned, a few reservations excepted, pass almost as a matter of course. So that it comes to this—that the discussion of Estimates in Committee of Supply is useless and meaningless unless it be connected with, and unless it arise out of, discussions on other and more fitting occasions about those great principles and general views of policy which really govern the amount of those Estimates. And, if this he so, I venture to put it to the House what time could be more fitting 308 or less open to objection for a Motion of this kind than when, the Estimates of the year having been already accepted by the House, it is impossible to pervert the occasion to a want of confidence in the Government, and when the Government is not pledged to any Estimates that may be affected by the conclusion at which the House may arrive? I do not, therefore, look at this year's Estimates, in the Motion that I have made, save as one of a series of Estimates, and as part of a continuous expenditure for which not only the present, but the preceding Government—and not only the preceding Government, but the House—and not only the House, but, in a certain sense and degree, the country are also responsible. If hon. Members will refer to a very useful and admirably-conceived Return obtained last Session by the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby), they will see at a glance the march of the growth of our expenditure. The Return dates as far back as 1835, but it is not necessary to take the House back to that date. There is an intermediate date at which a sudden and immense expansion of our Estimates contrasts in a marked manmer with the previous gradually-swelling growth of those Estimates, responsive to the increase in the wealth and prosperity of the country. I will take the year preceding the Crimean war. In the year 1853, the total Votes agreed to in Committee of Supply for the Army and Naval Services, putting out of question a Supplementary Vote of £200,000 for the Caffre war, amounted to £17,235,154. In the year 1861, not taking into account a Supplementary Vote of £1,000,000 for the China war, £53,431 for the Russian war, and nearly £1,000,000 on account of the mail packet service, which had appeared at former periods in the Naval Votes—in 1861 the cost of the army and naval services had risen to £27,550,001. Now, what is the explanation of that sudden and enormous rise? I desire to state its origin, because it is the very starting-point of what I have to say on this question. The early disasters of the Crimean war, the temporary collapse of our military system, on its first trial after a long peace, before the eyes of Europe, and by the side of France, went straight to the heart of the people of this country, and back from the heart of this great people—and let not those of us who recognise the fact, disguise it for a moment, either from others 309 or from ourselves—back from the heart of the people, spontaneous and direct, came the responsive cry for efficiency at any cost. Now, in what manner have we, the House of Commons, and in what manner have successive Governments, responded to that appeal? In what manner have we played our part, and accepted our responsibility? In what respect have we failed, and what is there that remains for us to do? That is the question we have to discuss to-night. Sir, we have heard a good deal lately about the various functions of public opinion, of the House, and of the Government in this matter of public expenditure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has lately warned the country back on the cost of our ever-increasing expenditure, and I believe that the country will respond to that appeal. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been blamed—nay, has been violently attacked, for having, as it is alleged, endeavoured to place on the shoulders of the people a responsibility that ought to rest upon the Government alone; and he has been accused of unconstitutional doctrine and political immorality for endeavouring to evade the responsibility with which he ought rightly to be fixed. A theory, on the other hand, has been brought forward which would absolve the Opposition and the House from any responsibility for the Estimates which they have approved, and which would have fixed it on the Government alone. That may be a very convenient theory for an Opposition—namely, to grant all the Estimates that a Government may demand—nay, individual Members of that Opposition urging on to the utmost the amount of these Estimates—reserving to themselves the right, and rejoicing in the expectation, of making political capital out of their very magnitude when the tide of public opinion shall have turned. But I venture to denounce such a policy as being to the full as unconstitutional and politically immoral as that which has been wrongly charged against the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir, there is no difficulty, if we look at this question in good faith, in understanding the different functions of the public, the House of Commons, and the Government. What, in the first place, may we fairly expect of public opinion? Why, we know that the great masses move on great and simple lines, and so it is with great aggregates of public opinion. At the time of which I speak, public opinion 310 demanded the efficiency and sufficiency of our armaments. Are we entitled to ask of public opinion that at one and the same time it should demand that efficiency, and itself take the initiative in calling for all possible economy in carrying that efficiency into effect? Here begin the functions of the House as a representative and deliberative assembly—not parrot-like, to repeat the public cry and leave all to the Government of the day, but to consider something of greater importance than any individual Votes in Committee of Supply—the great questions of the cost, the policy, and method of those armaments that may be deemed necessary for the purposes of the country. And if such is the joint responsibility of the House and the Government, I ask both whether the time has not arrived when we ought to turn our minds from that sole question of efficiency on which they have been riveted so long, and give our attention to the question of economy, with the conviction that there lies our future work, and that it is impossible to enter upon it without reaping a rich harvest in the reduction of the expenditure of the country?
Sir, if the House has gone with me so far, I will now ask its attention to the financial question. I am aware it may be said that our Naval and Military Estimates are based, not on the financial, but on the military exigencies of the year. But that is not, I think, altogether true. We all know that the cost of our services grows by no means in proportion to our needs, but rather in proportion to the growth of the wealth and prosperity of the country. The tendency of the services is, I am afraid, to take all they can get; and if we are entering on the question of economy, it is merely on financial grounds. But the financial question is of the very essence of the subject of national defence, because, if you exceed a due proportion between the resources of the country and its warlike expenditure, you introduce an element, not of strength, but of weakness, into the condition of the country. I must, therefore, ask the attention of the House to the question of the great total of our expenditure. Sir, taking the average of the last few years, our expenditure has reached the amount of £70,000,000 sterling. Now, I ask, what is the meaning of these figures? I think I can put this in a shape that will reach the comprehension of most men. A sum of £70,000,000 represents an income tax of 6s. in the 311 pound. Take the wages of a working man at the high average of £1 per week, and assume his family to number five persons. £70,000,000 a year means the wages, sustenance, clothing, and education of 7,000,000 of the population of these islands. We are in the habit of looking at figures very differently from different points of view. We have been in the habit of speaking of the marvellous proportions and growth of our commerce with feelings of something like wonder and astonishment. In 1860 the amount of our exports of British produce reached a grand total of £136,000,000 sterling; but what proportion of that gross value represented the profit out of which we had to spare? What portion of it represented the wages paid for labour? What portion of it represented the hard cash paid down for the raw materials imported into this country before that labour was bestowed on it? I have seen a calculation, in accordance with which the total earnings, in the shape of wages and salaries, in the vastest industry which the world has ever known—the cotton trade and manufactures of this country, with all its dependent and subsidiary trades—taken at the point of highest prosperity, reached the amount of some £25,000,000 a year. More than that amount is now yearly swallowed up by the Naval and Military Estimates of the country in time of peace; and thus it comes to pass that the whole of this vast industry, that all the labours of these teeming hives of men who make England what she is, go for nothing set against this vast expenditure in the ultimate balance-sheet of the nation. And now I put my first question to the House—Is this expenditure to be justified as a normal and permanent expenditure in time of peace? Turn for a moment to our taxation. We have of late years repealed many taxes, but not so as to render less prolific any one of the great classified sources of revenue. In the year 1847 we raised a net revenue of £51,500,000, and in 1861 a net revenue of £64,000,000. There is an increase in the revenue of £12,500,000, and out of that only £4,000,000 are to be accounted for by the rise in the rate of income tax. But though our revenue has been thus elastic and productive—though we have maintained certain war duties on income, on sugar, and on tea, to keep it up to this amount—and though we have rightly, as I conceive, availed ourselves of certain temporary resources to meet the 312 drain on our Exchequer, the growth of the expenditure at last threatens to exceed the growth of the revenue, and new taxes or reduced expenditure is the alternative which stares us in the face. I ask, then, whether any Government, or any party in the House or the country, is prepared to take its stand upon the imposition of new war taxes to keep up our expenditure in time of peace? We have heard something of exceptional circumstances. It is true that there have been exceptional circumstances tending to diminish during the last year the productiveness of our revenue; it is true also that there have been exceptional circumstances to cause an additional drain upon our Exchequer, of which the wars in China and New Zealand and the draughting of our troops to Canada are the most recent examples. But I put this question to the House—when did we ever know four or five years without exceptional circumstances? Is it not of the very A B C of economy in private expenditure to average such charges—exceptional, because varying in their nature, but constant, because ever recurring—and to take them into account? But I will put the question still more home. Have we any reason to suppose that the future will have less claims upon us in this respect than the present has? Look to the condition of the Northern States of America, becoming, for the first time in their history, a great naval and military Power. Is there anything there in the proximate future likely to lessen the demands upon our warlike expenditure? Come back to Europe—look at the condition of Italy. How soon is Italy to have Venice and Home? Sir, the prospect is not immediately cheering, and dark indeed would it be were the destinies of Italy confided, so far as the influence of this country can affect them, to the tender mercies of the leader of the Opposition. Look again to the east of Europe, to those aggregate people, half tribes and half nationalities, which constitute the provinces of the Austrian and Turkish empires. Is there among us any one, accustomed to look beyond the shores of these islands to think of all that is passing around us on the Continent of Europe, who does not recognise, who does not feel, that there are elements of disturbance there, most difficult to reconcile, which are likely for years to come to be causes of expenditure to others, and indirectly to ourselves? Now, am I cutting the ground from under 313 my feet by that which I have just said? I have said that which I believe to be true, and which, believing to be true, it would be bad service to the cause of economy were I to affect to ignore. But if this be true, it constitutes to my mind the strongest possible reason why we should make haste to put our house in order—why we should endeavour to arrive at something like an understanding for the future, something like a principle and a policy which should give us everything that is essential for us to have at the minimum of cost. Where can we find such a principle and such a policy? We have not far to go. There is one by no means new, though I think it is as yet unused, and yet it is one upon which we have rather ostentatiously professed to act. I have referred to the public demand for the efficiency and sufficiency of our armaments. England was determined to be safe and to feel safe, and at the same time to hold her own before the world, and she was prepared to undergo the necessary sacrifices for the accomplishment of both of those objects. But there is a distinction between these two objects. The first is absolute. The safety, the inviolability, of these shores must be above suspicion; but the second is a matter much more within the range of discretion, and within the limits of which, I believe, large economies are possible—it is the possession of the means of aggressive warfare, and the preparation for the possibility of external warfare. If we should be agreed that the condition of things abroad is a disturbed condition, but still that this characteristic is not one which threatens proximately a war in which ourselves may become involved, but rather a chronic state of uneasiness against which we may for years to come have to provide, we have every possible reason why we should endeavour to arrive at some conclusion which would enable us to save our resources from a wasteful and excessive drain.
I may be told that the Resolution which I am about to move, and the remarks which I have made in support of it, are abstract. They have been purposely abstract. It does not appear to me that it is for me, in introducing this Resolution, to do anything more than to define and defend its general purport and scope; but it was necessary that I should endeavour to suggest something like a principle and method of possible economy. I appeal 314 to those of us who are sincerely for a large economy, but who are also for the honour of their country and for the maintenance of its position and the fulfilment of its duties before the world. I offer them by this Resolution a tenable ground, and the only tenable ground, as I believe, from which they may fight the economical battles of the future. I offer to them a principle which, if firmly grasped and resolutely carried out to its legitimate conclusion, promises a rich harvest of reduction in the future expenditure of the country.
There is but one subject on which I am now to touch, and I will do so as briefly as possible. Sir, the country has had from the leader of the Opposition the promise of an economy to be founded and adjusted upon a change in the foreign policy of which the country approves. It is not for me, upon this occasion, to enter upon any lengthened or detailed criticism of the views of foreign policy which have thus been held out to the House. But, Sir, it does appear to me necessary that I should state the light in which I for one regard the offer which has thus been made. Well, then, I have to say that I am unable to regard as a contribution to the cause of possible economy an offer which amounts to a declaration by the leader of one of the great parties of the State that no economy is possible, save at a price which the country ought not and which it will not pay. I say further, that I hold the policy which looks to any solution of the Italian question, save by the completion of Italian unity, as false to the cause of economy and of peace. I regard a policy professing to found itself upon the abdication of our independence and upon the system of repression of our sympathies and opinions as of all possible policies at once the most unworthy and the most certain to eventuate in war.
Sir, I trust now that the object of myself and of those with whom I think and feel has been made clear beyond all possibility of misconception or mistake. On the one hand, to the continuance of a scale of expenditure which we hold to be inadmissible and unjustifiable as a normal and permanent scale of expenditure in the time of peace; and, on the other hand, to the uncertain offer of an economy to be pursued at the certain price of a policy which we repudiate, we oppose the programme of a large economy consistent 315 with, the maintenance of the safety, the independence, and the legitimate influence of the country. Sir, I have the honour to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the National Expenditure is capable of reduction without compromising the safety, the independence, or the legitimate influence of the country.
§ MR. BAXTER
rose to second the Motion. It had, he said, often been charged upon the Liberal Members who had been the advocates of reduced expenditure in that House that they were either absent when the Estimates were under discussion or that some of the foremost of them were found in the lobby voting in favour of schemes which involved increased public expenditure. That charge in some individual instances might be true, and would always be true so long as inconsistency existed in this world; but it was not true of the great body of the party, for he had observed that on Supply nights the benches below the gangway on that side the House were generally better filled than any other part of the House, and that their occupants did not as a rule vote for increasing the burdens of the people. For himself, he could say that ever since he had had the honour of a seat in that House he had taken an active part in the discussion of the Estimates; though he believed it to be perfectly true, as had been said by the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), that no serious reductions could be effected on those occasions. The fact that he or other hon. Members took part in the discussion of the Estimates did not, however, absolve them from the bounden duty of discussing the expenditure of the country as a whole and endeavouring to press upon the House and the Government the danger of keeping that expenditure at so high a rate when we were at peace with all the world, and when our naval and military armaments were in such a state of efficiency as to render all peril from abroad totally ridiculous. It was very easy to stigmatize the Motion of the hon. Member for Halifax as being merely an abstract proposition; but he put it to the House whether the Resolution of his hon. Friend would not be likely, if carried, materially to affect the Estimates of the coming year? Was there anything unreasonable or unconstitutional in the House of Commons in the month of June, 1862, criticising the financial position of the country, and without casting blame upon any one for Estimates which were no doubt prepared 316 about the close of last year, coming to the conclusion, that the expenditure of the country might be safely reduced? He agreed with his hon. Friend that the House and the country were responsible as well as the Government for excessive outlay, and therefore he did not see why the Government should consider this Motion in the light of a censure. Nor would the Resolution bind any one as to the future; for in case of exigency, or of foreign war, no one in his senses would say that it was the duty of the Government to reduce the expenditure. What he maintained was, that in the present state of the country—with the daily increasing distress in Lancashire—with the prospect of that distress seriously affecting the general trade of the country—with, on the other hand, the present satisfactory relations of this nation with other Powers, and the highly efficient state of our army and navy—the present excessive expenditure ought now to be reduced. He understood that the original objection entertained by the Government to the Motion was, that they could not have their hands bound by an abstract Resolution of the House of Commons. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had, however, changed his ground, and had now—compelled by the exigencies of the situation—given notice of an Amendment which was also an abstract Resolution. His (Mr. Baxter's) objection to that Amendment, as well as to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walpole), was, that while they only expressed a hope and trust, the Motion of the hon. Member for Halifax, as also that of the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Sir F. Smith), affirmed the principle that reduction could be accomplished. He was rejoiced to welcome on the side of economy so many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. He mentioned the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). The first part of the Amendment of which that right hon. Gentleman had given notice was a decided step in advance—as it distinctly impressed upon the Government the necessity of economy in every department of the State. He could not, however, go with the right hon. Gentleman in the latter part of that Amendment, in which he whitewashed the present and former Governments, He believed that the people of this country had, to some extent, been led away by their recent prosperity. They had had too much money 317 to spend, and had believed that the exports would always keep up to the enormous figures to which his hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) had referred. As was always the case in happy times the country had lent a too willing ear to the story of the defenceless state of the nation, whereas in a season of depression that story would have been totally disregarded. There was to be found in one of the volumes of Hallam's admirable History of the Middle Ages, the following remarkable sentence, which well deserved the attention of the House:—It is difficult to name a limit beyond which taxes cannot be borne without impatience, when they appear to be called for by necessity, and faithfully applied; nor is it impracticable for a skilful Minister to deceive the people in those respects.That was true at all times—especially when a country was rapidly becoming rich. But it must be remembered that the cold fit was generally proportionate to the hot fit, and that just in proportion to the extravagance of the Administration, so soon as trade begins to languish and the taxes to become difficult of collection, would the nation be disposed to pass to the opposite extreme and insist upon an unwise economy. Mr. Hallam went on to say—Those Statesmen who deem the security of Governments to depend, not on laws and armies, but on moral sympathy with the people, will vigilantly guard against even the suspicion of prodigality.He thought we had been indulging in unworthy fears and trusting to batteries, and ships, and armies, rather than to the spirit and resources of a free, contented, and united people. This country had all the wealth, the mechanical skill the supply of metal, the command of coal, everything, in fact, in case of emergency, necessary to give it the advantage over other Powers. And more than that; in consequence of recent benevolent legislation, and the adoption of the principle of free trade, the mass of the population—not only the middle and upper classes, but the working men—never were so loyal or so knit together as at the present moment. Yet they went on as if they could trust nothing to this spirit, but must place all their hope and confidence in those bulwarks and "towers along the steep" of which the poet Campbell said Britannia had no need. He believed they had been listening to stories of danger and bugbears, the effect, if not the object of which, was certainly to magnify what were called the; "services," and increase the expenditure 318 they were that evening discussing. Happily we now heard no more of those transports of 2,500 tons, each fitted with all the necessary appliances for embarking and disembarking troops, and had discovered that our navy is vastly superior to that of France; and the suspicion prevailed that the jealousy which had been excited about France had an end in view which did not appear on the surface. He wished to be perfectly candid on this subject, and he was free to admit that there still rankled a belief in the public mind that it was since the accession of Napoleon to the throne of France, that the navy of that country had been largely increased, and in greater proportion than our own. But the reverse of this was the fact. He appealed to the figures; and would compare the last year of the reign of Louis Philippe, 1847, with the financial year 1861–2. In 1847 Great Britain had 45,000 seamen, and France 32,000. In 1861 Great Britain had 78,000 and France 34,000. In other words, while the men in our navy had increased by 75 per cent, the men of the navy of France had only increased by the number of 2,000. He did not approach this question of expenditure, with merely theoretic views. He was not a member of the Peace Society, and did not believe the time had come when we could turn our swords into plough-shares. He grudged no money for the proper equipment or comfort of the British soldier. And as for the navy, even the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), admitted that the navy of England ought to be greatly superior to the navy of any other Power. This was required, not only for the safety of our shores, but for the protection of our commerce and colonies. He therefore looked at the question as one of degree, and he believed that the reduction advocated by the hon. Member for Halifax, could be made without injury to the interests of the country. His hon. Friend had mentioned the sum total of the expenditure during the last nine years; but it was important that the House should have before it the figures in a little more detail. In the years 1853–4 there were voted of men for the British army 102,283; and for India, 29,749; making a total of 132,032 men. How many had we in 1862–3? No less than 145,450 men of all ranks; and 83,523 in India; a total of 228,973, against 132,000 in 1853—a difference of 96,941 men. Even exclusive 319 of India we had 43,167 men more than we had nine years ago:—to say nothing of 150,000 Volunteers, who had been declared by competent military authorities to be equal in many respects to the regular troops—to say nothing of the Militia and Yeomanry Cavalry. They were assured also that many thousands of these Volunteers could be concentrated on any doint of the coast in a few days. [An hon. MEMBER: A few hours.] That was all the better for his argument—he did not wish to overstate the case. Was such a force to be reckoned of no avail in discussing the expenditure of the country? And if they were available, ought not the regular army to be reduced? In 1853–4 the Estimates for the army, ordnance, and commissariat amounted to £9,635,709; in 1862–3, exclusive of the army for India, the Estimates were £14,317,370; an increase of £4,681,661. He asked what there was in the internal condition of this country, or in our external relations, to prevent the reduction of the army by 20,000 men. Even then we should have 23,000 more, and all the Volunteers besides, than we had in 1854. Our material of war had also increased at an unexampled rate, and to an amount which said little for the foresight and judgment of the Government. He had been informed that there were now at Woolwich a sufficient number of cannon and of shells to last an army in the field for three years, though engaged every day. But it was added that these enormous stores—greater than any country ever possessed before—were totally useless, because they would all have to be re-cast in consequence of the improvements that had taken place in military science. Passing from the army to the navy, he desired to point out some facts well worthy the attention of the House. In 1833–4 we voted 45,500 men and boys for the British navy, and now we had 76,000. In 1853–4 the navy Estimates were £6,235,493; in 1862–3 they were £11,794,305—an increase of £5,558,812, or between 80 and 100 per cent. He did not believe the country to be sufficiently aware of the fact that there had been an increase in the Estimates of the army and navy during the last nine years of ten millions and a quarter—just about the produce of the income tax. If hon. Gentlemen opposite really desired to get rid of the income tax, let them agree to go back to the military and 320 naval expenditure of 1853–4, and then they might do away with the income tax altogether. Let it be remembered that at the former period we had no Naval Reserve whatever. He (Mr. Baxter) thought it an admirable force, and he begrudged none of the money applied to it. Now, on the authority of the Secretary to the Admiralty himself, we had 10,000 men or more in the Naval Reserve; and the noble Lord had stated that, irrespective of the fleet afloat, as many as 47,800 men could be got to go on board our ships if an emergency required. Compare our condition with that of France. There were serving in the Royal Navy of England more men and boys than were to be found in the whole of the mercantile marine of France. An hon. Gentleman opposite shook his head. Let an appeal, then, be made to figures. There had been voted this year 76,000 men and boys for the Royal Navy of England; and the French mercantile marine consisted of about 70,000 men, scattered over all parts of the world. It was often said that the French had a powerful reserve in their maritime inscription. That means was becoming more and more unpopular every day. The maritime inscription included all the sailors in every part of the world, all the fishermen that hoisted the flag of France, all boatmen on the navigable rivers of France, and all the labourers, mechanics, and artificers in every dockyard. What reason, then, had we to fear the French Navy, when for their 70,000 we had 300,000, and when, if we were to include all the classes included in the French maritime inscription, we should have more than half a million of men. Now, one word on a fact which bore closely upon the question before the House—namely, the gradual decadence of the mercantile marine of France, from which the national navy must be fed. Our mercantile marine, even in the worst times, had been steadily increasing, while that of France had been gradually declining. In 1859 the tonnage in France was positively 42,000 tons less than in 1857. He would not touch, as he had intended, upon the vexed question of iron ships. We had now found out that all those stories about the increase of the screw liners of France and the increased number of men serving in the navy were entirely apocryphal. Now, we were told that they had more iron ships. He would admit that whilst our Admiralty were going on in a jog-trot way building sailing 321 vessels, the French, had abandoned them for screw liners, and afterwards, when they had abandoned screw liners and were building iron-plated ships, we were wasting time in building screw wooden vessels. That was the real explanation of all those panics—if the noble Lord would allow him to use the term—that had taken place in regard to France. We had lost a great deal of time by stubbornness; but would any man say that, in a race of this kind, England could possibly be beaten by any Government on earth? The papers that had been delivered to Members that morning with regard to the marine of France would dissipate all these delusions. In the spring of 1860 the Secretary to the Admiralty told the House that the French would very soon have five steam iron-clad frigates at sea. It was now the month of June, 1862, and only one of those frigates was at sea. Last year the number was stated to be fifteen; then it grew to twenty-seven; and now the noble Lord seemed to delight in the idea that our neighbours across the Channel had got thirty-six or thirty-seven iron-cased ships. But where were they, and what are they? There were only six afloat, and the papers delivered that morning would relieve the minds of hon. Gentlemen who had been alarmed. The French were building very slowly; and it was evident, that whilst there were a number of small batteries that were never intended to cross the ocean at all, and were merely for the defence of the dockyards, the rest only formed part of a paper programme, and were not likely to be finished for years. He should not be surprised if this programme remained unfinished until some invention other than iron-clad ships rendered these vessels totally unnecessary. It had been stated that the Civil Service Estimates could not be reduced, and must go on increasing; but they were less this year than they were last; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer's intentions were carried into effect, they would be still less next year. To show how they could be reduced, he need only refer to the fact that this year the Estimates for the Printing and Stationery for this House was £73,000 less than it was last year. This was partly owing to the repeal of the paper duty, and partly to the indefatigable zeal of Mr. M'Culloch, the head of the Department. The Government ought not to lose sight of the recommendations made by the Select Committee 322 of last year, presided over by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. A. Mills), and ought not to forget that some of those recommendations had been endorsed by a Resolution of the House. If effect were given to those recommendations, he believed the hon. Member would concur with him, that the eventual saving would be at least a million a year. He believed it to be the duty of the Government to adopt those recommendations now. He would not have trespassed so long on the attention of the House had he not wished to bring forward figures which appeared to him to have an important bearing on the subject. He assured the Government that he had not spoken with the slightest feeling of hostility to them. He had attacked no man or party; he desired to steer clear of anything like party combinations or alliances. His sole object was to bring about the adoption of a policy which he believed the present circumstances of the country justified and demanded. The House might reject the Motion of his hon. Friend—he hoped they would not—but both the House and the country must, nevertheless, act upon it. They could not go on much longer squeezing £70,000,000 a year out of the taxpayers of the country. If the war in America continued, there must inevitably be continued distress, and difficulties in obtaining the taxes; and with all respect to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would find himself in dread of a deficit at the end of the financial year. If there were a deficit, they would be compelled by the force of public opinion to reduce the expenditure. He wished them to adopt the policy of the hon. Member for Halifax, to set their House in order, and, before the pressure from without came, to adopt the wise policy of retrenchment, which he conscientiously believed to be both a necessity and a duty, and which he, also, believed the Government might carry into effect, not only without difficulty or danger, but with the greatest possible advantage to all classes of the community.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the National Expenditure is capable of reduction without compromising the safety, the independence, or the legitimate influence of the country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Mr. Speaker, I avail myself of the courteous intimation which was made by the noble Lord on the other side, and by my right hon. 323 Friend (Mr. Horsman), that if I were prepared, on the Motion being made, to propose the Amendment of which I have given notice on the part of Her Majesty's Government, they would not insist on their right to precedence. It will, perhaps, save the time of the House if I avail myself of this permission. Sir, I must do justice to the ability of my two hon. Friends who have moved and seconded the Resolution, and also to the fairness with which they have repudiated party motives. I have no doubt that they have at heart only what they conceive to be the public interests, and that the object which they seek to attain by the Resolution is one which is perfectly compatible with the interests of the country at large. I differ, however, from some of the views which they have expressed. I cannot concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax in many of the arguments which he has used in support of his Resolution. He admits that the discussion of the Estimates in Committee of Supply might be deemed the fitting opportunity for criticism upon, and, if necessary, to propose a reduction of the Estimates; but holds that such a course is inconvenient—that the House is not disposed to listen to advice at that time. He says he cannot remember any successful attempts in Committee of Supply to diminish the effective services of the country by reducing the votes which the Government of the day proposed. I might draw from that fact a very different conclusion. I might infer that the Government of the day had wisely proportioned the amount of the establishments to the necessities of the moment, and that therefore a majority of the House, concurring with them, had affirmed their proposals and rejected any Motions for reduction, I differ with my hon. Friend in thinking that the Committee of Supply is not the fittest and most convenient occasion upon which these subjects can be discussed. He says that the amount of our naval and military forces must depend on great political considerations on the general state of the country, and of its interests on an enlarged view of the whole subject. Well, why cannot such matters be discussed in Committee of Supply as well as on any other occasion during the Session? It seems to me that there is an obvious advantage in going into these considerations in Committee of supply, because Members 324 attacking and Members defending votes may then speak as often as they choose, and are not limited to the opinions or arguments which they may utter in a single speech. There is an obvious convenience, therefore, in proposing any reduction that may be thought convenient in Committee of Supply. My hon. Friend believes that the proper time for criticising the Estimates is after they have been voted by the House. That is the occasion he says—for his argument comes to that in the end—not for affirming that the public establishments of the year are too great, but that, taking into view those large considerations connected with the general policy of the country to which he adverted, a reduction may be made in the next ensuing year. That does not seem to me a proposition which is consistent either with reason or with facts. It is perfectly competent for any hon. Member in a given year to argue that, in the existing circumstances of our internal condition or foreign relations, the amount of establishments which the Government propose is unnecessary, and it is then for the Government to show by actual facts that they are right in the proposals they have made. But how can any man say in May or June, 1862, what will be the state of affairs in 1863? How can the Government tell beforehand what will happen in the following year? How can any onek now—either the party who propose the reduction or those who support the Government know—whether it ought to oppose the reduction? How can either argue the proposition which they wish to enforce with any semblance of reason or any facts that will carry conviction to the minds of their hearers? Therefore, Sir, I say that on general principles I am against all these anticipatory Resolutions. I think they involve a course which is not becoming the Parliament of this great nation. They bind you to nothing—they only bind you to something that looks like a blindfold rushing into that future which it is not in the power of any man to penetrate. Those Resolutions, therefore, amount to a nullity, or an idle and embarrassing pledge, both for the House and the Government. I would rather have stated to the House why this Resolution is one that it is not convenient to the House to agree to; but Amendments were proposed which it was necessary should be discussed, and therefore the Government 325 thought it was their duty to submit an Amendment which should embody the policy which they desire to recommend to the House. The hon. Gentleman has fairly acknowledged, that the amount of our naval and military expenditure was the result of the combined desire of the nation, the Parliament, and the Government. It is perfectly true, as he has observed, that the mischances which happened in the early part of the Crimean war struck deep into the hearts of the English people, and that that which vibrated to the hearts of the people was felt by and guided the policy of the Parliament and the Government. And what was it that struck so deeply into the hearts of the English people? Why, this—they saw that the organization to which they had been accustomed in time of peace, had broken down when tested by actual service. Moreover, they argued justly, that if our preparations failed when they were called into action on foreign service, they would not be very efficient if they should be required for home defence. It was therefore a wise desire on the part of the country, that our naval and military forces, in all their details, should be placed on a more satisfactory and reliable footing. Well, Sir, that object successive Governments have endeavoured to accomplish. Both my hon. Friends have borne testimony to that. They have mentioned the different augmentations of expenditure which have been caused by the improved arrangements of the naval and military services. Those arrangements could not have been made without a greatly-increased expenditure. That increase of expenditure, as far as it has arisen from a superior organization of the army and navy, has been justly called for by the country, wisely sanctioned by Parliament, and legitimately proposed and carried into effect by successive Administrations—by that with which the Gentlemen whom I see opposite were connected, as well as by that which has the honour to conduct the affairs of the country at this moment. Well, Sir, the House is called upon at this period—though the words of my hon. Friend's Motion imply, that the establishments of which he speaks are now capable of reduction; but I infer from his speech, that is not his meaning; I think he rather means next year—we are therefore to be called upon now to express an opinion, that next year less naval and military establishments will be necessary than we 326 have voted this year. Now, what does my hon. Friend say with regard to the circumstances under which those establishments are to be placed? He says, the House has been told that we have had exceptional years—that there have been chance operations in China and disturbances in New Zealand and elsewhere; but then my hon. Friend truly says, "Do not run away with the idea that these years were exceptional, in the sense that you will never have unforseen events happen which will require an additional development of your naval and military forces." My hon. Friend said candidly enough, "These things are all likely to occur." In this respect, I think my hon. Friend made a very telling speech against his own Motion. He says, "Do not flatter yourselves upon an impunity in future years from what has happened before. Look," he said, "at the state of things in North America. As the war tends, you cannot tell whether your Northern possessions may not require defence." Then he said, "Look at the East" (I think he mentioned China)—there things are always uncertain. Look at Europe," he says; "look at Italy;" and I heard with great pleasure the generous and liberal sentiments which came from his heart, in spite of his wish to support his own argument. He could not, in the generosity of his nature, forego the pleasure of expressing his liberal feelings towards that country; and I hope it may be very long before those feelings shall cease to be felt both by the people and the Government of this country. He expressed an opinion which did not imply any great confidence in Gentlemen who sat opposite, because he said, that he hoped Italy might be saved from the tender mercies of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. I fully join with him in that hope; and in order that it may be realized, I deprecate a Vote of this House—at all events, until Italian unity is fairly established—which would transfer the conduct of affairs from my noble Friend now at the head of the Foreign Office to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham-shire. Then, I say, that my hon. Friend and myself are agreed, that it is part of the duty of Parliament to enable the Government of this country to hold a proper position with regard to the affairs of the world, and, without interfering by force of arms, at all events to exert a moral and, I will not say, preponderating, but at 327 all events a powerful influence in favour of the principles which this great nation so heartily and cordially approves. But to do that, it is essential that we should be in a position of perfect self-defence; and by self-defence I mean not merely self-defence upon the shores of these islands; we have interests all over the world; we have possessions in every part; and the perfect defence of the country means that we should, as stated in the Amendment which I shall have the honour of proposing, have the means not merely of defending our own shores, but also of protecting those vast interests, commercial and political, which we have in every part of the world. For that it is necessary that there should be certain naval and military establishments; and I contend that it is the opinion of this House—I claim the opinion of the House because it was expressed in a Vote—I say it is the opinion of the House this year that we have not overstated our military establishments, because there was a Motion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. White) to reduce the army by 10,000 men, and he could only get eleven Members to vote with him. I am, therefore, entitled to say that this year the House has sanctioned the recommendation of the Government, and has expressed the opinion that our military establishments are not greater than are necessary. My hon. Friend who seconded the Motion (Mr. Baxter) went into a long and detailed calculation concerning the navies of other Powers, and especially the navy on the other side of the Channel. He must admit, what we have been told over and over again, that henceforward the issue of naval engagements will depend more upon iron-clad than upon wooden ships. There have been ups and downs between the two classes of vessels as far as the recent conflicts in America go. At one time ironclad ships had the best of it; then forts had the best of it; then wooden ships had the best of it; but it is quite clear that in future iron-clad ships will determine the issue of naval engagements. It is also demonstrated by the papers that are upon the table of the House that, as far as ships built and in course of building go, the French are ahead of us by, I think, about eleven iron-clad ships. It is not to the purpose to tell me that at one port there are iron ships about which not much is doing, and that there are ships which have been ordered of which only 328 the keels have been laid down. The fact is, there are thirty-six iron ships built and building in France, and there are only about twenty-five built and building in England. Therefore, I say, that it is preposterous to say, in regard to our naval establishments, that we have more ships than are necessary; we have not as many as are requisite, according to the proposition of my hon. Friend, who says that England ought in her naval force to be superior to every other power. My hon. Friend also went into a long enumeration of the reserves of the two countries. We have, no doubt, a much greater mercantile marine than that of France, but it is scattered over all the seas of the world, and is not available at a moment's notice. We have, thanks to the exertions of my noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty, an important and increasing Naval Reserve at home; but the French have a very large inscription—I think amounting to something like 170,000 men, but I will not trust my memory to state the number—however, there are on the French inscription and conscription a very large number of men who are liable to be called upon to serve if need should be. Well then, Sir, it seems to me that, whether or no, the state of things next year may be so far different from what it is now as to admit of reductions being made in the expenditure upon our army and navy; yet, looking at the matter as it now stands, I contend that the Resolution of my hon. Friend, worded as it is, and applying literally to the establishments of the present year, is one the adoption of which would be a stultification of the House, and a reversal of the decision to which they came when the matters were submitted in detail to their consideration. I hope that things next year may be in such a condition as may enable us to come to Parliament and propose a reduction of the expenditure of the country. The Amendment which I am about to propose pledges us to do that fairly and honestly, as far as we think it possible, consistently with our public duty; and any Government that came down to this House to make a reduction simply as a claptrap attempt to gain momentary favour from the public, would soon find that they lost a great deal more than they gained, and that in that matter, as in others, "Honesty is the best policy." The duty of the Government—and I can assure the House it will be our earnest endeavour to perform that 329 duty—is to proportion the demands made upon Parliament to what may be fairly and honestly considered the wants of the country at the moment to which the demands apply. Therefore I think that the Amendment which I shall propose combines a statement of the opinions which, as it seems to me, animate the two sides of the House. We propose that the House shall say that it is the duty of the Government to study and practise economy in the public services of the country, and that it is also an obligation upon this House not to lose sight of its duty to provide adequately for the defence of the country, and for the maintenance of our interests abroad. Now, I should like to see the Gentleman who would dissent from that—I do see the Gentleman who dissents from it—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), because he omits altogether the protection of the interests of the country abroad. His Resolution would confine the attention of the House to the defence of our shores. ["No, no."] I say it is limited to that. Only read it, and you will find that it is so. ["Read, read!"]
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The right hon. Gentleman leaves in what we put in his preamble; but when he comes to the practical part of his Resolution, he confines the enactment solely to the defence of this country: and, after all, he only slips in the reference to our interests abroad as a parenthesis. When that was putin—it looks like a sort of afterthought—there was so little time that it could not be well woven in with the substance of the Resolution. Our Resolution affirms the duty of the Government and the obligation of the House to provide for the defence of the country and the protection of our interests abroad. I do not think that there is any man in the House who, when the question is seriously put, would negative that affirmation. We say that we have seen with satisfaction that some decrease of expenditure has been effected. Listening to the speeches of my hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Resolution, one would have thought that the expenditure of the country had gone on annually increasing. That was their whole argument, and those who were not acquainted with the facts would have been led to the conclusion that year after year 330 we had been adding enormously to the expenditure of the country. But the fact is exactly the contrary. The fact, as shown by the papers laid upon the table, is, that the expenditure of this year is £1,800,000 less than that of last year, and about £3,500,000 less than that of two or three years ago. I say, then, that the assumption upon which most of their argument rested, that we were going on recklessly and extravagantly increasing the expenditure of the country from year to year, utterly fails, because it is proved that the Government has, without any stimulus from motions of this sort, gone on upon its own responsibility progressively diminishing the amount of the annual expenditure. At the same time there have been reductions in the taxation of the country. The income tax has been diminished, and a great number of small duties connected with the French Treaty have been taken off. The Government have shown that they are mindful not only of their duty to reduce expenditure, but also of their duty to diminish as far as they can the burdens of the country. Consequently, that impression which the speeches of my two hon. Friends were calculated to produce, that we have gone on in a reckless course of increasing expenditure, is really quite opposed to the facts, as shown by the papers, and known to those who have chosen to look into them. Well then, Sir, I claim for the Government assent to the proposition which they submit in the shape of an Amendment to the Motion of my hon. Friend. I say that under that Amendment the Government will feel themselves bound in duty to themselves and in obligation to the House, narrowly to examine the different establishments which they may have to propose next year; and if the circumstances of the country and of the world shall lead them to think that they can justly and honestly propose to Parliament a reduction of expenditure on account of those establishments, they will be only too happy to do so. But the object here is to tie us blindfold with regard to a future which we cannot foresee, and tell us, like naughty schoolboys, "Do a certain exercise; write down what you are told; and mind you do it next year, happen what will, and be the circumstances what they may." I think that is not a becoming course for Parliament to ask any Government to adopt. If Parliament finds a Government in office which 331 it does not trust, and which, it thinks necessary to bind hand and foot by a prospective Resolution, why, then, I say it had much better get rid of that Government, and choose another which it can trust. Better, both for the sake of the Government, and of the country, to do that, than to cripple their action, and lower them in the eyes, not merely of England, but of the world, by fettering them in matters with regard to which no human foresight can foretell what may happen. My hon. Friend who made this Motion and other hon. Members who from time to time express their opinions on foreign affairs, I am sure, wish this country to take a part in European questions—not actively to interfere in hostilities, but by the force of reason and the expression of opinion, backed by the moral weight of the country, to endeavour to influence in a liberal spirit the course of events. But if a Government that is expected so to act, is looked upon as a Goverment upon sufferance, not trusted even by those who profess to support it, but shackled by its own friends and not allowed to have a free will or honest opinion of its own, I say that Government is unable to carry out the wishes which may be expressed in this House, and I say it is much better for the House, especially if they should find the country to be of the same opinion, to change the Government and put in another in whose unfettered action they could repose constitutional confidence. That is my objection to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge. He says with perfect sincerity that he has no wish to disturb the Government. Well, Members may wish not to disturb a Government, but they may desire to lower them in public estimation; they may wish to degrade them in the eyes of their countrymen and of the world. I do not impute that to the right hon. Gentleman, because he is too high-minded a man to resort to those means; but, nevertheless, men sometimes do things that have an effect different from that which they contemplate. Now, that that is the effect has been but too clearly expressed in the course of this debate, stated it in the beginning of the evening. Gentlemen on the other side, the right hon. Gentleman especially, denied that there was any such intention. No, the Amendment, according to them, was proposed simply for the public good, and to enforce a strict regard for proper economy. But 332 what said my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud? Why, he said that it was an expression of distrust in the present Government. [Mr. HORSMAN: Hear, hear!] That is what I say; we are quite agreed. My right hon. Friend is a very good judge of Parliamentary as well as public matters; and that is his opinion as one who is supposed, I hope justly, to be well inclined towards the Government of the day. Then what did we hear from the other side—from an hon. Member who, by reason of his sitting high above his fellows, may be supposed to be a careful observer, and speaks with some degree of impartiality and independence—what did the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. D. Griffith) say? He said we were going to cat the leek; he concurred in the belief that an acceptance of the Resolution would be a degradation and humiliation of the Government. I say it would; and the House cannot be surprised that we should not choose to accept either an expression of distrust, or a compulsion to eat the leek. Therefore, on the part of the Government, I certainly am not in a condition to submit to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. It may be said, and I dare say the right hon. Gentleman will say, that in truth and substance there is no material difference between his Amendment and ours—that they are very much to the same effect. Well, then, I say why does he persist?The wound is great because it is so small.If there is no material difference in the probable result, why does the right hon. Gentleman come and tell us to tear up our own exercise and write his? Why does he spurn the words that we propose, and peremptorily tell us that we must adopt his instead? There is no use in disguising the fact—the desire is to impose a degradation upon us. There is no public object to be gained by his Resolution; but I object to the words in which it is couched, because they imply coercion instead of free action, and for that reason I am totally unable to accept it. Of course, if the House are prepared to adopt it, it must be considered as an expression of distrust and an attempt to make us swallow the leek—and the consequences will be such as the House may naturally suppose. We could not either submit to an expression of distrust, nor, whatever our appetites may be, could we, even at this late hour, consent to swallow the food which has been set before us. I hope the House will view the question in an enlarged and statesman- 333 like manner. If the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit there really want the House to express distrust in the Government, let them do it fairly and manfully—on direct action and affirmation. We shall then be prepared to state the reasons why we think we deserve the confidence of the House, as, without affectation or flattery, I do say that we possess the confidence of the country. But these things are not to be done indirectly or by implication. There is a manly way in which political parties approach a contest within these walls; and if it is the desire of the party opposite to make a trial of strength, why let them try fairly, in a way that shall explain itself to the whole world. We do not at all shrink from that contest; but we will not accept a Resolution that implies censure which they are not prepared openly and in words to move. I trust the House will not be deceived by an assertion that is merely putting in different words the meaning that the House has not confidence in Her Majesty's Government. I say the words of our Resolution are sufficient to satisfy any reasonable man. If the House have no confidence in Her Majesty's Government let them say so, and we shall then know what to do.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, deeply impressed with the necessity of economy in every Department of the State, is at the same time mindful of its obligation to provide for the security of the Country at Home and the protection of its interests Abroad; and observes with satisfaction the decrease which has already been effected in the National Expenditure, and trusts that such further diminution may be made therein as the future state of things may warrant,
§ —instead thereof.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, from the somewhat desultory observations of the noble Lord, I observe that one topic was studiously omitted; he avoided all reference to the present condition of our finances, though that condition—described by one Member of Her Majesty's Government as unhealthy, and believed by Parliament and the people of England to be dangerous—is the real cause why the subject of national expenditure has been brought, somewhat suddenly it may be, but most earnestly, under the consideration both of Parliament and the people. Now, Sir, I am sure I do not misinterpret the general feeling of the House upon this subject 334 when I say that there is a desire to effect all practicable reductions in that expenditure which are consistent with the complete efficiency of the public service, with the security of our shores, and with the protection of our interests abroad.
Now, Sir, let me take the first point to which the noble Lord adverted, and to which the first part of the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman refers. Let us look to the question of our home defences, of which we have lately heard so much. Well, that is not a new question. We have been establishing and completing our home defences for a considerable period. It is a subject which has engaged the attention of Parliament and the resources of the country for now more than ten years. Ten years ago a Ministry was formed for the sole purpose of establishing a Militia throughout this country founded on a popular principle. Well, a Militia, on that principle, was established, and most successfully established. During the ten years that have elapsed that Militia has been embodied; it has fed our regular army with soldiers equal to veterans; it has sustained foreign service in our garrisons with a discipline which those who commanded there have recognised as equal to that of the Line; and when war ceased, that Militia was disembodied; and when the annual appeal was made to it for its muster—which, at the time, it was said, would be quite illusory—that appeal has always been responded to with an alacrity—as displayed in the last few weeks, I may say days—which has shown that one great arm of our national defences has been successfully, completely, and I hope permanently established. But the Government, that ten years ago was called into existence specifically to effect this object, effected also another great object connected with our home defences. It established a Channel Fleet. After that period this country was engaged in war. Its immediate attention was, for a time, diverted from the specific object of home defences; but the indirect effect of that war very much increased our means of defence at home, for it produced a perfect army in this country, which, in every branch, and in every military attribute, is now recognised as inferior to none in existence. Well, Sir, subsequently to all this, by one of those spontaneous acts of public spirit which eminently distinguishes England, you saw the great Volunteer movement raise a domestic 335 army, now admirably disciplined, and which, I trust, will he of a permanent character. What is the consequence of these great incidents so far as our home defences are concerned? Counting our regular army, which for some years on an average in this country has been not less than 100,000 men, you have in England—at least, in the United Kingdom—a body of disciplined men, accustomed to the use of arms, of not less than from 350,000 to 400,000, a garrison for these islands equal almost to the army of France; and in addition you have the command of the Channel by your fleet. Well, then, Sir, I say that so far as our home defences are concerned we have not been idle or unsuccessful in our exertions, and that it is difficult to conceive how any country can be in a position more completely secure than Great Britain is at this present moment. If, however, there be any proposition by which our home defences can be really improved, I am quite sure that Parliament will listen to such a proposition from any Government with the utmost attention; but for the present this great result remains, and none can deny it, that we have in England, and have had in England for some years, a garrison—I may call it a national garrison—composed of our regular troops, our Militia, and our Volunteers, and other elements which it would be wearisome now to dwell upon—amounting to scarcely less than 400,000 men; and we have in the Channel an efficient and commanding fleet. Well, Sir, I am myself a supporter of such a state of affairs as regards our defences—not with reference to any country contiguous to us or to the disposition or policy of any of our neighbours. In my mind this is a state of things which ought to exist abstractedly, if I may use the term, with regard to the defences of this country. And while I would not, for example, rest that programme of defence upon the assumption of friendship on the part of our neighbours—an element which I for one have no wish to bring into this consideration—so I would not, on the other hand, do as the noble Lord does, argue in favour of those means of defence on the assumption of the enmity of our neighbours. We ought to look to our means of defence on this principle alone—whether they are adequate to the position which this country occupies. And I must say that I was astonished that even in so recent a period as three weeks ago, when we 336 had a discussion on the subject, the noble Lord at the head of the Government concluded his observations by saying that England should be prepared for a sudden invasion of its shores by its nearest neighbour—that this country should be prepared against some midnight foray of a cordial ally. Such declarations confound civilization; and a policy founded on such principles can only lead to national disaster. So much for our national defences; so much for the subject which has engaged the anxious attention of Parliament and the country more or less for the last ten years. I say that we have completely succeeded in effecting our object. We have in these islands a force of nearly 400,000 men disciplined, used to arms, and animated with that high spirit which a free country alone can display. We have, in addition, a commanding fleet in the Channel, as we ought to have; and we are prepared to support any measures that may be necessary to increase our home defences. This being so, I think we ought to consider at this moment what has been done, and review our position with calmness. I say it is a monstrous mistake for a moment to suppose that this country is not adequately defended—and, I say, that there is no country in the world, so far as artificial arrangements are concerned, more secure than England. And what is this country that you have so properly guarded and protected? Is it a country without any spirit of its own? Is it like some other countries, where the Government is mere police, where there is no public opinion, no public spirit, nothing of the inspiration of ancient freedom, no strength and resources but those of the Government itself? Why, Sir, that Minister is unworthy of governing this country who forgets for a moment that the people of England are the most enthusiastic people in the world. There are more excitable people to be met with—the French, for example, are far more excitable—but there is no people so enthusiastic as the English, as they have shown, among other instances, in this very question of national defence. To say of this country, protected by 400,000 men and a commanding fleet in the Channel, that we are in danger of midnight invasion from cordial allies is a mystification too monstrous for belief.
I come now, Sir, to the second point of the hon. Gentleman's Resolution—the protection of our interests abroad. I have 337 been trying to give some meaning to a phrase so vague. By protecting our interests abroad I conclude that the House of Commons moans that in all our principal stations throughout the world we should be represented by an adequate armed force; that our commerce should be duly protected; that our foreign garrisons should be efficient, their fortifications strong, their armaments complete, their troops numerous; that in our great naval stations—the Mediterranean and the West Indies—we should have commanding fleets to secure our supremacy of the sea. Well, Sir, these are certainly sources of influence for England in her intercourse with foreign Powers and foreign Courts. When it is known that the garrisons of England are strong, that her fleets are commanding, that her extensive and unrivalled commerce in every clime is adequately defended, no doubt those are sources of respect for us with foreign Courts and countries. But allow me to say, there is also another great source of influence, and perhaps the greatest, which England possesses with foreign countries. I pretend to no more experience of foreign Courts, and foreign statesmen, than has fallen to the lot of many, perhaps to the majority, of Gentlemen in this House; but I have seen some, and I have in the course of my life been in communication with some of the most eminent statesmen of various countries—men of different political parties and of varied experience—and I have always heard them use this language with regard to the influence of England—that the real cause of that influence of England—which, no doubt, on the average, is the most permanent influence throughout the Continent—may be found in this circumstance, that England is the only country which, when it enters into a quarrel that it believes to be just, never ceases its efforts until it has accomplished its aim. Whereas it was always felt in old times, and in generations that are passed—and hon. Gentlemen can form their own conclusions whether the present state of Europe makes any difference in this matter; that, with scarcely an exception, there was not a State in Europe, not even the proudest and most powerful, that could ever enter into a third campaign. What, then, gave us this power of continuing any war on which we had entered? It was the financial reserve of England. It was the conviction that the resources of 338 England, when once we chose to engage in war, were such that it was not a question with us of one, two, or three campaigns; but that, as we had proved in old days, our determination, supported by our resources, would allow us to prepare for an indefinite struggle, whenever we had an adequate object. But I say, if you allow your finances to be sapped and weakened, you are at the same time weakening this prime source of your authority. You may have these strong garrisons in foreign parts, and you may have those improved armaments, and those fleets of commanding power; but if you have omitted the greater, or at least the principal, source of your power—namely, a sound state of your finances—you may find that you have omitted a most important element of that influence abroad, and that security for maintaining it, of which we have heard so much. Now, we are sometimes asked, why do you not propose something definite when you talk of retrenchment? The answer is obvious. In the position in which we stand, we must deal with general truths and aim at general conclusions. It is only for Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the table to come forward with specific propositions on specific items. But, Sir, I think it is not difficult even on this side of the table to place before the House some results which, if I have not mistaken the character of the House of Commons, and the common sense of England, will not be listened to with indifference. Sir, I have shown you that whether you look to your home defences at the present moment, or to the means which you now possess of protecting your interests and maintaining your influence abroad, you have made adequate preparation. Well, Sir, I have taken the necessary pains to calculate what is the cost of these home defences of which I think we may be justly proud, and with which I think we may be perfectly satisfied; also of the cost of those fleets and garrisons that we have abroad at the present moment to protect our interests and maintain our influence. I have, from official documents in the possession of every hon. Gentleman, made calculations of what is the united cost and expenditure to the country under those two heads:—and I find, when I have ascertained that cost, it does not account for our naval and military expenditure by a vast sum; that after supplying the sums necessary to maintain those defences 339 and protect those interests, there still is a vast expenditure under those heads unaccounted for. Then, I say, at the first glance there would appear to be some margin—even in that view of the case—for considerable, and, in the present state of the finances, of necessary reduction. But then a plausible objection may be taken, and I am here to acknowledge its plausibility and to answer it, for we hear it every day, whenever this question is brought forward. "You forget that the naval and military condition of England at the present moment is one of transition; that you are changing in this age of scientific discovery, and scientific discovery especially applied to warfare, your whole system of armament, and that this leads to the vast expenditure which, otherwise, would not be accounted for." Well, that is a satisfactory solution, provided one condition be fulfilled, that it is true. I will now examine whether it is true or not.
We have before us now, in the statements of the Minister, and in papers on our table, authentic information on these subjects. What have you done with regard to the armament of your army and navy and other forces during the last few years? You have done great things. You have completely armed your regular troops, in amount exceeding 200,000 men, with the most perfect weapon of modern invention—the Enfield rifle. You have armed your Militia with the Enfield rifle. You have armed the Volunteers with the Enfield rifle. You have armed even Canada with the Enfield rifle. And having done all this, you have in store at this moment a number of Enfield rifles capable of arming your regular forces, your Militia, your Volunteers, and even Canada, for a space of ten years. If you have effected these great results for your small arms, what have you done for your artillery? You have armed the whole of your foreign garrisons with Armstrong guns. You have armed your domestic garrisons with the same artillery. You have completely armed the whole of your field artillery with Armstrong guns; and for this current year of 1862–3, you have voted money which will produce nearly 2,500 more Armstrong guns, two-thirds of them of heavy calibre; altogether, giving you about 5,000 guns of that character. You have done more than that; you have at this moment military stores which, 340 both in number and effectiveness, exceed any collection of stores that this country has had for the last fifty years. My authority for this statement is one who long sat in this House, a great advocate of military expenditure, and a most distinguished member of the military profession. I believe I am right in saying, that from the siege train to the ambulances, England never was so profusely and effectively furnished as at this moment. Then, Sir, I say, that where we find that these armaments have been carried on so effectively and completely, and apparently so near to entire fulfilment, the conclusion we must arrive at is, that the time has come, and in the present condition of affairs we are compelled to ask whether it has come or not, when considerable reductions may be made in our military and naval expenditure without in the least impairing our home defences, or without in the least affecting the efficiency of those forces which protect our interests abroad. This is a condition of affairs, which, if it be as I have described it—and I have described it only from authentic and official information—certainly does hold out to the people of this country the means by which retrenchment—necessary and inevitable retrenchment—can be made with honour, with security, and with prudence.
But, then, I may be told that I forget, that although our armaments are complete, although the whole of our forces, to the amount of hundreds of thousands of men, are armed with the Enfield rifle, with enough in store to sustain and feed the various arms of our forces for ten years; although we shall have at the end of this year 5,000 Armstrong guns, two-thirds of heavy calibre; although all our garrisons abroad and nearly all at home, and all our field batteries, are supplied with these unrivalled weapons, yet a great change in the means and material by which ships are constructed has taken place, which renders, on the part of England, a great expenditure under this head necessary. Well, Sir, let us, if we can—and I think on a subject connected with our finances we can—let us examine this point with calmness. Now, I am not going to enter with the noble Lord into any controversy about the relative number of iron ships that England and France may possess. I think the time has not yet come when the naval powers of England and France are to be measured by iron ships. But I must say, since 341 the noble Lord will always thrust this view of the subject before the House, I have taken the best means I could to inform myself on the matter, and I believe the statement of the noble Lord to be a monstrous mystification. I believe the noble Lord counts an order for the construction of an iron ship as an actual ship. Now ships in France, whether of iron or of wood, are not begun as a matter of course when ordered. It is not as in England, where we build ships off hand. In Prance ships are ordered according to a programme in the bureau of the Minister of Marine; and when the order is given, it is executed at leisure—sometimes it is three or four years, sometimes even ten, before the construction of the ship is commenced. But let that pass. I admit, nay, I maintain, that there should be no question of rivalry between the navies of the two countries. Our navy should not be only equal to that of France, but greatly superior. It is a necessary condition of our geographical position and our political power that our navy should be as superior to the navy of France, as the army of France is superior to our own. But this I wish to impress on the House—that the utmost caution and consideration are necessary in reconstructing a navy with new materials; and in the case of these iron ships, we must not conclude too rashly and too rapidly, when any apparent novelty has been introduced, that it should instantly be recognised and adopted as the model and perfect exemplar that we always ought to follow. When these great changes occur, some caution and some temperateness of conduct are required;—and the noble Lord seems deeply conscious of the value of these virtues, because though the whole resources of the country have been at the command of the noble Lord since he held office, he has generally spent them in building wooden ships. If France had really that superiority which the noble Lord tells us she has—if she really has thirty-six iron ships while we have only twenty-five, more shame to the noble Lord, after the millions he has spent in ship-building during the last three years. [Viscount PALMERSTON: I never stated that France had thirty-six ships and we had only twenty-five. What I said was that she had thirty-six built and building.] The same distinction applies to both navies. But I have not done yet with the noble Lord on the subject of iron ships. If iron ships be wanted, let no false principle of 342 economy prevent our voting the money; but take care, first, that they are wanted; and take care, in the next place, that when the money is voted it is expended on iron ships. Now there was an extraordinary ease only last session, when the noble Lord came down to the House and addressed it on this alarming subject—the iron navy of France. It was late in the Session and he succeeded in extorting from an appalled House of Commons a Supplementary Estimate of £250,000 for building iron ships. But it has so happened that not one shilling of this money has been employed by the Government in the construction of iron ships, but has been appropriated to an entirely different purpose. I do not think the noble Lord will deny that, and I say it is monstrous for a Minister to get up and make sensation speeches about the iron navy of France, obtain from a credulous and enthusiastic House of Commons large Votes to maintain the supremacy of England, and then to prorogue Parliament—as he will prorogue it again in a short time—and expend the resources of the country thus obtained for other objects and other purposes. The conclusion I have arrived at from these views—general views I admit, but founded on authentic facts—is that at this moment we are expending a large amount in our naval and military establishments, for purposes which are not necessary for the security of our shores, or for the protection of our interests and influence abroad.
Well, Sir, that being the state of the case, I have on more than one occasion called the attention of the House to this subject. It was the budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that allowed mo to do this with any chance of success. Until the House became aware that we were really in an insolvent state, it was impossible to appeal to the House to consider the question of expenditure. The hon. Gentleman who opened the debate to-night (Mr. Stansfeld), and to whose Resolution I will in a few minutes advert, did not do me justice—not that I ever want anybody to do me justice—when he spoke of my taking up retrenchment for party purposes at a moment's notice. I beg leave to remind him that two years ago, when the noble Lord the Secretary of State (Earl Russell) came down to the House and informed us of the Treaty of Zurich, I, at once rising and congratulating the House upon peace being made, said, "Now is the time for the Government to counsel disarmament by 343 France, and for the general exercise of our influence for reduction on that subject;" and even last year, when the famous Vote of £250,000, the misappropriation of which I have just mentioned, was under consideration, I then said I could not comprehend why some steps should not be taken to put an end to that fatal rivalry of armaments between the two countries; and I said, "What is the use of our diplomatic agents—what is the use of our cordial alliance—if you cannot come to some sensible arrangement for the reduction of those forces, which are exhausting France, and which are embarrassing England?" Therefore the observation of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion is unfounded, and only shows that his mind is of that rhetorical character which sometimes induces hon. Gentlemen to sacrifice to point in debate that attention to accurate details, which, on the whole, is the most valuable quality in a practical assembly. After the financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—after having myself brought the condition, I think the perilous condition, of our finances before the House—after the visit of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Manchester, in which he himself did that which I am perfectly willing to admit he had before done in this House, called the attention of the country to "the unhealthy condition of the finances," I might as well have accepted the Chiltern Hundreds as have fat silent and stupid on this bench without making the remarks I did make, and without counselling a course which, although the noble Lord may try to get rid of it by Parliamentary menaces, or by some other stale hocus-pocus of faction, let me tell him can no more be ultimately evaded than we can evade that fate which awaits us all. Remember this, that financial embarrassment is not a subject to be got rid of by a Vote of the House of Commons. It is not like the question of the propriety or policy of an ancient institution. You may form, a party in defence of an ancient institution; and if you have a majority of the country with you, you will be successful; but if you have only a minority, it may be long before you discover it, and before your opponents discover it, and a thousand things may occur to prevent a decision. But where there is financial embarrassment the results are certain, and comparatively speaking immediate, and a Minister may be a most 344 popular Minister—he may have a majority of 200 in this House; but if his policy is that two and two make five, the time will come when all his majorities will not be able to maintain him in his pride of place. I admit, that if there was any state of affairs of a very menacing character—if a general war were possible, if the principal countries of Europe were agitated and warlike—I admit that under such circumstances economical considerations, and even economical principles, must be discarded. But these considerations and principles are to regulate us in what I hope is still the natural condition of humanity—a state of peace. In the hour of exigency you must, no doubt, run great risks—you must do many bold and sometimes imprudent things, even in finance. But is there anything in the state of Europe at present that justifies, that calls for, that even intimates, the necessity of extravagant and extraordinary armaments? That is a question which, I think, ought to be answered.
Sir, I will now advert to the views of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion. So far as I could follow him, his speech was a speech in. favour of illimitable expenditure and national bankruptcy. There was not a country in Europe that was not pregnant with revolution and anarchy; and at last the hon. Gentleman treated the House with a grand dissolving view of cosmopolitan chaos which the noble Lord seemed to welcome with alacrity and glee, feeling that such a state of permanent disorder must give him an illimitable tenure of the office which he now fills. But I must take, I believe, a more practical, and certainly a more prosaic view, of the condition of Europe. I cannot throw my prophetic glance over slumbering Sclavonic populations. I will leave for the moment even the unity of Italy to the care of the noble Lord. The noble Lord told me the other night that he had observed that no generous word of sympathy or approbation ever came from me in favour of the Italians. That cannot be said of the noble Lord. Words enough he has given to the Italians, but what more he has given them the Italians know best. If all the encouragement they have received, and all the assistance they have had in their hard fortunes, were those furnished by the noble Lord, I doubt very much whether they would occupy the position which they now hold. But I must recur to a more prosaic aspect of Europe, 345 and I want to know what we find there to justify extravagant and extraordinary armaments? Europe is tranquil because Europe is exhausted. You have had 4,000,000 of armed men for fifteen years, more or less, in possession of Europe. And what is the consequence of the expenditure which such a state of things involves? Under ordinary circumstances one would rather avoid making any allusion to the pecuniary condition of other States. But we need have no delicacy in the present state of public affairs, because all the great Powers parade their embarrassment and exhaustion in the eyes of Europe. Where is Austrian finance? I refer you only to the statements of her own Ministers and her own budgets. Where is Russian finance? I will not pursue the picture, though I might say, what is the financial condition of even that Imperial France that is thrown in our face as a bugbear on all occasions? Why, 4,000,000 of armed men in Europe for fifteen years have exhausted and impoverished Europe. This is not a moment to be speculating on the revolutions of Sclavonic populations; but for England, of all countries in the world, to remember well that which has been the prime and chief source of her influence in Europe in old days, the consciousness in every State, in every Court of Europe, that if a struggle came, and England entered into it, it was not the first, nor the second, nor the third campaign that would daunt her; but proud in the elasticity of her resources and in the inexhaustible riches of her industry, and freedom, she could enter in to a contest from which she would never swerve, and in which she would ever be the victor. Sir, these are times for economy—they are times for a scrutinizing revision of our expenditure, because we, from the state of our finances, are forced to consider the subject, and to face our condition, and because I believe that revision can be made with a view to retrenchment without in the least degree impairing or compromising, as the words of the Resolution have it, either our defences at home or our influence and interests abroad. Well, Sir, under these circumstances, who can be surprised that the condition of our expenditure should occupy the attention of Parliament? The noble Lord says to-night—it is the old story—"You ought to have interfered when the Estimates were before you." It is a matter of no great importance, but I must be allowed to say that on 346 that subject the noble Lord is perfectly wrong. It is not when the Estimates are before us that the House of Commons has ever thought of interfering. Whenever the House has interfered, and with good effect, it so happens that all the Estimates had been passed. And the noble Lord ought to have known something about this, because he was a Member of the House of Commons in 1816, and must recollect the time when the income tax was repealed. That was not done in Committee of supply. The Estimates had been passed. It was in Committee of Ways and Means, after the Estimates had been passed that the House of Commons at once threw out £16,000,000 of taxes. And in more recent times, when the present Minister for Foreign Affairs was First Lord of the Treasury, and himself brought forward a budget in this House—when he proposed that the income tax should be raised to 12d., for example—the Supplies had already been voted, and it was in Committee of Ways and Means that the House told the noble Lord he should not have that additional 5d. to the income tax; and the noble Lord revised all his Estimates, and adapted them to the position in which the decision of the House had placed him. And therefore the routine lecture of the noble Lord, though it is of no great importance, is not correct. The Committee of Supply is not the right or the necessary occasion for the House to interfere. But it may be said, why did you not interfere in Committee of Ways and Means? It is not very easy to do so now in Committee of Ways and Means, when the privileges of the House of Commons have been so singularly and successfully vindicated that you have £22,000,000 of taxation brought before you in a single measure. Nothing certainly is more noble than our position, having vindicated our privileges against the House of Lords; but as to asserting our privileges in behalf of our constituents, I am afraid, in consequence of our triumph, the chances of that are very much diminished; and therefore I was of opinion, that as we had passed the Estimates, it was, on the whole, better to pass the Ways and Means. And the necessary consequence of that was, that the conduct of the Government has been condoned, so that we can bring no charge of unnecessary expenditure against the Government. But equally did I feel that when the condition of the finances 347 was revealed to us, and when we had no reason to believe that there was anything in our external relations to justify great expenditure, it was our inevitable duty to consider our financial position. I say, Sir, that nothing could have justified reserve on our part in this matter unless Her Majesty's Government had come forward and told us that the condition of Europe was one of so dangerous and critical a character that that expenditure was necessary. Her Majesty's Government did nothing of the kind. Her Majesty's Government are not bound to impart to Parliament the secret information on which their policy is framed. Nobody asks anything so unreasonable from Her Majesty's Government. But Her Majesty's Government are bound to do this—if they think the state of our foreign affairs to be serious and menacing, they are bound to convey that impression to Parliament, although they are not bound to state the grounds which have led them to arrive at that conclusion. But have they given us any such intimation? Nothing of the kind. I infer from my own observation, and, from the silence of the Government on the subject—when silence would be a crime—that the prospect of foreign affairs is not one that justifies such expenditure. The House knows, therefore, that it could not have been brought more naturally to the consideration of our expenditure than it has been by the events and circumstances of the last seven or eight weeks. And even if the Ministers are silent now—if they allow this discussion to be crushed—do you think the House can escape further discussion? What will the country say? You represent, many of you, the suffering districts, and there is no district in the country, if the present state of things continues, that will not suffer. And what will be the consequences of that suffering? You will read the consequences in the monthly returns of the Board of Trade; in every return of the monthly exports and imports, in every quarterly publication, of the state of your revenue. These documents will be public. And if Parliament is sitting, do you think we can have a repetition of such documents and remain silent? Do you think it possible then that a Prime Minister should get up and say, "You who discuss the distress of the country express a want of confidence in the Ministry"—do you think that will be 348 tolerated by a suffering people? But what will happen if month after month the people are less employed, if your trade decreases more and more, if your revenue still continue to fall, and Parliament be still silent, and there is no means by which the apprehensions of the people can be expressed and explained? Will that keep even the noble Lord a popular Minister? The people will say, "We will go to those who proffer us advice; Parliament is silent—we will go to the platform; statesmen have deserted us—we will go to the agitator." This is what they will do. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State (Sir G. Lewis) with too quick a sneer, thought he had detected me in some petty political manœuvre. I regret that a man in so eminent a position could not, in the present position of the country, elevate his mind and enlarge his vision a little more. I should like to see the countenance of the Secretary of State—I forget at this moment for what department—they change so often—but I should like to see his countenance, if we have to go through a long lugubrious autumn, followed by a dark and gloomy winter. Will your answer to an alarmed and suffering people be, that there has been a vote of confidence passed in the House of Commons, gained by a surprise, moved by the Prime Minister himself, and expressed in the queerest language man can conceive? In the course of the last few weeks I have on more than one occasion, brought our financial position before the House, and I have drawn from it the inevitable conclusion that a reduction of our expenditure was necessary. I have taken, as I think, a wise and proper position under these circumstances. I have shown that the House of Commons was estopped from founding any charge against Her Majesty's Government on these matters in consequence of its own conduct; but I have expressed my hope that under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government would take some step satisfactory to the House—and I now repeat that I think they ought to have done so. There were many Parliamentary courses which they might have pursued. They might have proposed the appointment of a Finance Committee—they might have proposed a Resolution themselves. It was clear that on the part of the House of Commons there should be the greatest forbearance, and nothing but extreme necessity could justify us in 349 asserting our opinion in the form of a Resolution. But suddenly up jumps the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) and places a Resolution on the paper which is to solve all difficulties. I have due respect for the hon. Member; but I never knew until to-night that the hon. Member was the great apostle of reduction and retrenchment. I have passed many hours here when the public money was being voted, and I have not remarked his frequent attendance. I cannot recall any word he ever uttered on the subject. But to-night he spoke with the indignation of a man whose monopoly of economical wisdom has been invaded—as if we were poachers on his financial manor. He is to secure the reduction and obtain the retrenchment desirable by stirring up a blazing war in every quarter of Europe. The Resolution of the hon. Gentleman declares, "That in the opinion of this House the national expenditure is capable of reduction without compromising the safety, the independence, or the legitimate influence of the country. "The Resolution is only saved from the imputation of being an abstract Resolution by the absolute declaration that the expenditure of the country is capable of reduction. Why! cut down a gauger—that is reduction! and we find that if we do not take a certain course, the country will be compromised. What does that mean? We have heard of a lady being "compromised;" and have always been sorry for it: for my part I never believe these stories; but fancy this country, great and glorious England, being "compromised"! And the most extraordinary thing connected with this Resolution is, that it seems to be supposed a noble Friend of mine called his friends together to consider whether they should support it! It is a Resolution of little meaning, and that unsatisfactorily expressed. The Resolution is either an expression of want of confidence in the Minister, or a means by which we may actually obtain some retrenchment. I will consider it under both these heads. Placing a different interpretation upon it from that of the noble Lord—placing that interpretation upon it which ninety-nine men out of every hundred would do—I will consider it is an expression of want of confidence in the Government. Well, I think that no person has a right to bring forward a Resolution of want of confidence in any Government who is not prepared to stand by all the responsibility of such a proceeding. 350 Is the hon. Member for Halifax prepared to take all the responsibility of his Resolution, supposing it to turn out the Government? I have not yet heard that he is so prepared, and I am not prepared to vote a want of confidence in the Government, proposed by a Gentleman who will immediately shrink from the responsibility which, if successful, would devolve upon him. If I wished directly to express a want of confidence in the Government of the noble Lord, I should myself propose, or ask some Friend to assist me in that respect. If this Resolution, therefore, is one of want of confidence, it is one which I could not support. But if it does imply want of confidence, how far is it likely to lead to that administrative improvement and that reduction and retrenchment we desire? Why, it leads to nothing; it indicates no object—it expresses no purpose—it shadows forth no policy. Therefore I will say for it that it is hardly worthy the numerous Amendments which some how or other it has called forth. There is one by a noble Friend to which, I confess, at first I did not attach any idea. My noble Friend has since explained it to me, and, with that explanation, I think it partially deserves, under some circumstances, some consideration; because the first part of it expresses that "Her Majesty's Government are alone responsible to the House for the Supplies which they ask the House to grant." I understand that to refer to a theory prevalent some little time ago in this House, that Her Majesty's Government were not responsible for the sums they recommended to be voted. It refers to a mischievous error of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has since appeared in his place in a white sheet, and the taper of penitence in his hand, and cried "Peccavi." I am ready to accept his assurances that he shares in all the responsibility of the expenditure he proposes, and therefore, under the circumstances, I cannot see the necessity of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire. Then there is another Amendment, which in its time made considerable noise, although I understand we shall hear no more about it. But although it comes from an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman)—than whom no one is more qualified to address the House and enforce his counsels, which he always does with 351 ability and eloquence—and although I will not contest on the part of the late Government that the expenditure which they recommended was perfectly justifiable, I must be allowed to say, that while our expenditure in 1859 was considerable, and we were prevented suggesting the ways and means to meet it by a remarkable incident which occurred in this House, yet, after we quitted office, it was increased by our successors. I therefore think any jury would fairly conclude that we were justified; but I do not solicit, however honoured and gratified I might be, the formal verdict of the House in that respect. I am not at all prepared to agree that the expenditure of the present Government has been justified. But, as I said the other night, what is the use of talking about the past? What we want to know is, what is to be done at present and for the future? In the prospect of continuous deficits how are we to make both ends meet? I have no comment to make on the Amendment of the hon Member who sits up aloft (Mr. D. Griffith). I will come, then, to the Amendment of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), who, having on several occasions, expressed his opinion that there ought to be no Resolution whatever upon the subject, consistently concludes by proposing two Resolutions, and accompanies the proposal of those two Resolutions with the lamest and most unsatisfactory reasons to account for them; because it was perfectly open to the noble Lord to meet the Resolution of the hon. Member for Halifax and any succeeding Amendment which became a substantive Motion by the simple negative. It was not the least necessary for the noble Lord to bring forward any Resolutions; but if he did, he should, at least, have brought forward satisfactory ones. Are these Resolutions satisfactory? The noble Lord is deeply "impressed with the necessity of economy in every department of the State"—well, that is the first time I ever heard he was. He may talk of eating the leek, but I think that is a supper which may satisfy even an Opposition. Well, the noble Lord, being "deeply impressed with the necessity of economy in every department of the State, is at the same time mindful of its obligations to provide for the security of the country at home, and the protection of its interests abroad." I think it is more than an obligation; but let that pass. The noble Lord says, "This House observes 352 with satisfaction the decrease which has already been effected in the national expenditure." Upon the principle that it is no use talking of what has passed, I was perfectly prepared to vote for that in the amended Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole); but still, as we have got into criticism, I am bound to say to the House that there is not a word of truth in it. For reasons which I will give the House when the proper time comes, we would not, in the Amendment, disturb a single word of the Resolution of the noble Lord, which we could avoid altering, and we passed over expressions which many of my friends did not approve, and language to which I could not help objecting on the ground of veracity. Let us come to the Resolution of the noble Lord—"We observe with satisfaction the decrease which has already been effected in the national expenditure." The figures are very shortly stated, and they are very instructive. Our expenditure in 1860–1 was £72,521,825. I deduct from that expenditure some items, and I am sure the House will recognise their fairness. I deduct the China Vote, £3,043,000; a second China Vote, £1,111,920; and I deduct the Fortifications Vote, £578,387. The total of those deductions is £4,733,193, which being taken from £72,521,825 leaves the real expenditure, without those exceptional items, for that year at £67,788,632. Our expenditure for the year 1861–2, was £70,838,441. I deduct the China Vote, £1,230,000; the Trent affair, £900,000, which is the estimate of the Minister; and Fortifications, £158,185. The total deduction is £2,288,185, which being taken from £70,838,441 leaves the expenditure £68,550,256. So that the expenditure of 1860–1 was really £67,788,000, and the expenditure of 1861–2 £68,550,000. Then we come to the expenditure of 1862–3, which is the present year, in which these boasted reductions have been made. That expenditure is £69,000,293. I deduct £500,000 for China and £163,000 for Fortifications, and that leaves £68,337,293. Here is the comparative expenditure for the three years. In 1860–1 it was £67,788,632; in 1861–2 it was £68,550,256, and in the present year 1862–3 it is not £68,550,000, but it is £68,337,000. Therefore, I am glad to see there is £200,000 which will allow us to vote for this Resolution absolutely 353 with a clear conscience. The noble Lord says, "The House observes with satisfaction the decrease which has already been effected in the national expenditure;" but if that decrease be of the character which I have shown, I fear the House will view with little satisfaction the reduction of expenditure of which the noble Lord holds out the hope, and which is described in the following words:—"And trusts that such further diminution may be made therein as the future state of things may warrant." What is "the future state of things," and whoever heard of such language by a Minister of State? I can only account for this Resolution, that, like that unfortunate document, a Queen's Speech, it is the united composition of the whole Cabinet, and everybody has had a hand in it. I say seriously, that when the House is called upon to consider the finances of the country, and to take security as to their future state—when the Prime Minister himself acknowledges that it is necessary that the House should come to some Resolution, and that no less a personage than himself should propose it—I say that that Resolution ought to have some definite object, and be expressed in definite language. I do not say that it should be so precise as to tie down the Minister in detail; but, not treating the House like children, it should indicate some object and intimate some policy. The object that ought to be indicated is this—that in the present state of affairs, the first duty of the Minister is to make such reductions as shall equalize the charge and revenue of the country; and the policy intimated should be a diminution in that war taxation which, used in time of peace, is sapping and wasting our financial reserve—that financial reserve which is the surest source of our influence with foreign nations, and the best security for our prosperity at home. Under these circumstances, being forced to an opinion by the noble Lord who proposes this awkward and shambling vote of confidence in his own Government, we thought it desirable that the objects should be specifically indicated, and the policy intimated; and therefore a Resolution was proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole). But my right hon. Friend appears to have been appalled by the address made to him by the noble Lord. What are we to do under these circumstances? If our objects were such as the noble Lord 354 supposes—if we were really making an assault on the Treasury Bench—I do not suppose it would be quite impossible to find another commander who would lead us to the attack. But our object was only to assert a policy at a moment of great perplexity—a policy which we thought was temperate and practical, which we believe the House must ultimately adopt, and which we think public opinion will sanction and recognise, without supposing the noble Lord would choose to pervert an effort of that kind into a challenge for the Government of the country. I am not surprised that my right hon. Friend was shaken by the statement of the noble Lord, which did not appear to me, though loudly supported by those behind him, to be one which recommended itself to the perfect sense of propriety of the House generally, but which has, no doubt, produced considerable effect; because, if the noble Lord really means to say that an attempt on the part of the House of Commons to make his Resolution on finance intelligible, is an attempt to overthrow the Government, no doubt that gives an entirely new aspect to the proposal. If we had the intentions which the noble Lord imputes to us, I do not think I should have asked my right hon. Friend to have moved his Resolution; but it appeared to us that the Resolution on the expediency of which the House was universally decided ought to be one that should secure the good opinion of the country, or, at least, that respect which an intelligible purpose always commands. To-morrow, I believe, we shall all of us be engaged elsewhere. I dare say many gentlemen who take more interest than I do in that noble pastime will have their favourites, and I hope they will not be in the position in which I felt for the moment at my favourite bolting. If they are placed in that position, they will be better able to understand and sympathize with my feelings on this occasion. I was anxious that this Resolution should have been accepted by the House, and I confess I had some hope that the noble Lord would have taken it. With this Amendment, we should have had something to guide us. We should have had a policy temperately expressed, and only to be acted upon if the circumstances of the country justified it. I cannot doubt that had that Resolution been adopted—unanimously adopted by the House—you would have had next year on those benches a Government—no matter of 355 what materials formed (except in the case of the hon. Member for Halifax, when we might expect perpetual war)—a Government who would have submitted the expenditure of the country to a severe revision, with a view to that retrenchment which is perfectly consistent with the efficiency of the public service.
§ MR. P. W. MARTIN
said, he trusted no one would suppose that he had the presumption to rise for the purpose of following and answering the able speech which they had just listened to from, the right hon. Gentleman. He would not have risen but for one observation in the speech of his hon. Friend who seconded the original Resolution, and because he thought he had a few figures which had an important bearing on the question, and which were deserving of the serious consideration of the House. His hon. Friend had stated, that in his opinion it would be wise to strike off the Estimates 20,000 sailors and soldiers. But what would be the effect of this upon an average of years? Within the last six years, this very experiment of a reduction of 20,000 men had been tried, and he would show the House the results. At the end of the Crimean war we had 76,000 efficient seamen, whom we maintained at the cost for wages, necessaries, &c., of £2,602,000; and the report was, that the Government of the day intended to recommend that force at that cost to be maintained as the permanent defensive force of the country. But upon the return of peace, and with the income tax at 16d. in the pound, came a cry for reduction, and the next year after the peace the navy was reduced by 20,000 men. In the succeeding years there came the Indian mutiny, the misunderstanding with France upon the Conspiracy Bill, and the war between France and Austria in Italy, and at the end of these events we arrived at exactly the point from which we started, for in 1861, the same number of 76,000 men were voted for the navy as they were voted before the Crimean war. The men, however, who were dismissed at the end of the Crimean war, left with a feeling that injustice had been done to them; and what with bounties and other expenses necessarily incurred to get some of them back, we found that at the end of six years we had succeeded in maintaining 69,000 men, at the cost of £2,706,000, instead of maintaining a force of 76,000, in much greater efficiency, at the cost of £2,602,000. This result had been brought 356 about in endeavouring to carry out extravagant notions of economy. What security had the House that they would not have again to go through the same cycle if they were again to attempt the same inconsiderate reduction? How were they sure, that if they were now to strike 20,000 from the army and navy, the first cloud in the political horizon would not cause a panic, that they would not have to raise forces at a much increased expense, and that our prestige in Europe would not, in the mean time, suffer? Though, however, he did not agree in the policy of such a reduction in the number of men, he thought that there was a mode by which the House could effect an equal saving without sacrificing the efficiency of the services. Out of £27,500,000 only £15,500,000 was expended in paying and providing for officers and men, and in other things connected with them, whilst no less than £10,500,000 was expended on works and stores, and there remained £1,500,000, which he could not group under any one general head. They were expending upon warlike stores nearly as much as when they were burning powder by the ton before Sebastopol, and he believed they might save at least a million upon that Vote alone. He hoped, if the Government weathered the storm of that night, they would, during the recess, turn their attention to the reduction of this branch of expenditure; and in the full belief that the Government were sincere in their resolution, and that they would effect more in the way of reduction than any private Member, he would give his most cordial and hearty support to the Amendment of the noble Lord at the head of the Government.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Sir, the House has now before it the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld, and the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. They are as dissimilar, both in character and in aim, as a Resolution and an Amendment can well be, and they are both well deserving of our serious consideration. There was another Amendment before the House, which I believe has now been withdrawn; and on that I will only say one word in passing as to the Parliamentary position of those by whom notice of it was given, and to what I alluded in the earlier part of the evening. The noble Lord understood me to construe that Amendment into a Vote of 357 distrust of the Government. I did not put that interpretation upon it; but, speaking as perfectly neutral between the noble Lord's Amendment and that of the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole), I said that if the noble Lord proposed an Amendment containing a paragraph, which the Opposition construed into a Vote of approval, he must not be surprised if they, on the other side, met it by an Amendment which he might construe into a Vote of distrust. I did not give any opinion upon those Amendments; but as between the two I meant to say, that since the noble Lord assumed the aggressive by asking for an expression of approval, the counter Resolution, moved in self-defence, might be interpreted into an expression of distrust; and I must say it is unfortunate that, on any subject, any party or section of the House should be placed by the Minister in a position in which, while not wishing to disturb the Government, it is forced into resistance to him, and is threatened, as he threatened hon. Gentlemen opposite to-night, with what Earl Russell once called a "penal dissolution."
To make the question before us as clear as I can to the House, I must first deal with the Motion of the hon. Member for Halifax, and then turn to the noble Lord's Amendment. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord so well said as to the objection to proceeding in matters of practical legislation by abstract Resolutions. There was much force and wisdom in his remarks on this head. I am sure the experience of all the oldest Members of this House will bear me out when I say that abstract Resolutions are as easily used for insidious and mischievous objects as for any practical purpose. We know, Sir, that Governments are sometimes turned out by abstract Resolutions; but then the Ministries which succeed them carry this moral on their front—that, as they rose by such means, so by such means they are apt to fall; that those who agree to carry an abstract Resolution can often agree in nothing else; that such bickerings, heartburnings, and mutual reproaches break out among them that you find the rank and file in one encampment, and the commanders arrayed in another, and that each bombards the other with the very missiles originally devised for the destruction of the common enemy. The hon. Member for Halifax 358 placed the question before us in a speech exhibiting great earnestness and love of truth, and comprised within the simplest and shortest compass. He entirely confined himself to two main topics, the one taxation generally, the other our Naval and Military Estimates. On the question of taxation I will only say a few words in answer to my hon. Friend. I cannot at all admit that the people of this country, as compared with other populations, are heavily taxed. I hear some Gentlemen saying, "Look at how much the Englishman, the Frenchman, or the Austrian pays to the tax collector, and you will see that the Englishman has to contribute far more than the citizen of any other civilized State." But a great fallacy lurks in that comparison. A million of taxpayers in a rich country may pay more than two millions of taxpayers in a poor one, and yet be more lightly taxed. It is not the amount abstracted from a man's pocket, but the amount to be found there before and after that abstraction, which has to be considered. It is a comparison, not of payment, but of means. To argue that because a Frenchman may possibly pay but half the sum paid by an Englishman, therefore the former is only half as heavily taxed as the latter is illogical as it would be to argue that because the wealthy householder in Grosvenor Square pays twice as much as the poorer householder in Holborn, therefore the one is twice as heavily taxed as the other. That reasoning does not, I think, require further refutation. But the hon. Member for Halifax, and still more the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), went into the question of our naval and military Estimates. They gave us their facts and their history upon that subject, founding the whole of their conclusions, as usual, upon the assumption that all our increased expenditure proceeded from panic and delusion. [Mr. WHITE: Hear, hear!] I am surprised that so deep a thinker as my hon. Friend near me, and so earnest and impartial an inquirer, should not have looked below the surface of things, and ascertained for himself how it is that an eminently practical and trading community like that of England, with which he is so familiar, should in 1853 have brought down their naval and military expenditure to so low a point, and should in 1862 have relapsed into war Estimates and high taxation. "Oh! it is all panic," says the hon. Member for Rochdale. "The Duke 359 of Wellington was the first panic-monger; Sir Charler Napier caught the infection—the officers of the army and navy are the men most easily made nervous; the country is always ready to go off in panic and at half-cock. It is all panic. The Duke of Wellington was an old croaker; Sir Charles Napier was an old croaker; the noble Viscount is a young croaker; the English people are a nation of croakers; and the only true men among us, whose vision is always clear, their heads always clear, their hearts always in the right place, are to be found seated round a tea-table in a certain hall in Lancashire." But any one who has observed for himself carefully and impartially the rise of what is called the war feeling in England, will have noticed that it has been the work, not of individuals, but of events; not of opinions, but of hard and dear-bought experience: and that the increase in our war Estimates has been forced—as the noble Lord well and truly said—upon successive Governments by the public voice, not instigated by vain fears or weak imaginings, but taught by a series of perils and calamities which exhibited the self-styled lovers of peace and the fanciful simulators of panic in their true character before the world as the falsest of prophets, the most one-sided of economists, and the blindest of all possible guides. Let me test the facts and the history which the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution have cited to-night. Judging from their speeches, we gather what they think the happiest and most desirable state of things for England. They would have an economical Parliament under the guidance of a peace-loving Minister, who would dispense with our armaments and reduce our expenditure to the lowest possible point. That would, in their eyes, render the lot of this country an enviable one, insuring her the unbroken enjoyment of peace, safety, and prosperity. Well, but in 1853—that model year to which my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax referred so affectionately and so regretfully—you had a combination of all those political and financial blessings. You had a low expenditure, you had discarded armaments, you had an economical House of Commons and a war-dreading Cabinet. And what did all these advantages do for you? Why, they "drifted" you into a Crimean war—that war which, with all its calamities and sacrifices, the Emperor of Russia would have spared you if this nation had 360 only had an armament, or the Cabinet a policy. It is well known that the Emperor Nicholas was deluded into embarking in that contest by an exaggerated idea of the influence of the peace party in England. That party had been strong enough, he thought, to compel us to a pernicious reduction of our establishments. They would be strong enough, he thought, to prevent us from again increasing those establishments in order to make an effort to save Turkey. He believed that he would have impunity for his aggressions, because he had friends and allies both in our Cabinet and out of it who would keep England's hands tied while he devoted his attentions to the sick man. Well, Sir, he was lamentably deceived. That magnificent army which it had been the pride of his life to train and perfect left half-a-million corpses strewing the battlefield or the line of march. The Czar himself was the last and greatest victim of that war, which cost England more in a few weeks to restore her forces to efficiency than she had saved by the mis-called economy of years. The nation was deeply moved by the "horrible and heartrending" tale of the sufferings of our brave troops, and this House itself rose against the Minister, and censured and ejected him from office by a majority of more than two to one. That was the first great service rendered to the country by the mischievous counsels of the advocates of economy at all hazards and peace at any price. It was also, Sir, the first great lesson taught to the English people. But, unfortunately, that lesson was soon forgotten. Peace came in 1856, and again there was a great reduction in our armaments, and so far did the reaction proceed, that our navy was lowered to a point never before known since England became a great naval Power. We lost the command of the sea. We had not even a Channel fleet. While France towered in all the naval and military efficiency of the Crimean war, we paid off our ships and left our shores defenceless. While we were in this denuded state, an attempt was made upon the life of the Emperor of the French in consequence of a conspiracy which was hatched in England. The French nation—the people, the press, the Ministers, and the army—all chose to make England responsible, and the Minister of England was required at the sword's point to change our whole law of conspiracy. In an evil hour the Minister consented; 361 and the nation, again indignant, rose and drove him a second time from power. By what political party in the country was the censure directed which at that time fell on the noble Lord's head? The Resolution was moved and seconded by two of the most eminent Members of the Manchester and Peace party in this House, the Members for Birmingham and Ashton; and our economical Chancellor of the Exchequer was the most eloquent exponent of the national dissatisfaction with the Minister who had not shown a bolder front to Trance, when our economy had left him no front to show. I am about to impart to the House a suspicion, by which I hope the noble Lord the First Minister will not be offended. I have the strongest suspicion that the meek, lowly, and Christian spirit which the noble Lord exhibited on that occasion was the result, not of the study of any book of homilies or sermons, but of a careful examination of the army and navy returns; and I believe that if, when the noble Lord received that Imperial mandate from France, our armaments had been in the state in which they were when the outrage on board the Trent occurred, he would not have allowed his opponents in this House or elsewhere to have placarded him through the country as the only man among us destitute of the pride and spirit of an Englishman. That was the second severe lesson taught to the English nation. The Crimean war with its disasters cost us one Ministry; the Conspiracy Bill with its humiliations cost us another. On both occasions the nation was the victim of misnamed and clap-trap economy; on both occasions it discovered its mistake when it was too late, and revenged itself on the executive Government. The noble Lord went out, and Lord Derby came in: and this brings me to a date which is a marked one in the history of our expenditure—that of the year 1858. When Lord Derby succeeded to office, he found our Estimates at a lower point than they had before reached since the Crimean war; and it is a rather singular and certainly not an uninstructive coincidence, that when the economists have brought down our expenditure to the lowest point, their success is always signalized by a war or a crisis. The Government of Lord Derby largely increased these Estimates. They took credit to themselves for so doing; they gained credit for it. That credit was 362 cheerfully given to them from this side of the House, and I think they will admit from no quarter more frequently and more readily than from the occupants of the Treasury Bench. That Government went out before the war feeling was raised in England; and I must say that the credit of raising that war feeling, of which we have heard be much, in all its intensity, is entirely due to their successors in office, and to the steps so effectively taken by the present Government to alarm and terrify all classes in the country. I am now coming to a period in which there was something which my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Cobden) may well and truly term a panic, and I am sure that he will not take it amiss if I tell him that I believe he was the sole cause, and I am sure he will not misunderstand the spirit in which I speak when I say that I think he was a not inadequate cause of it. The year 1860 opened to find Europe alarmed at the aggressive policy of France; and the English Government selected that special moment to convey to Europe a proof—a new and striking proof—of its confidence in the peaceful policy and the honourable designs of that country They did so by sending a plenipotentiary to Paris to conclude, under the form and title of a commercial treaty, what was, in fact, a public manifestation to Europe, not only of amity and confidence, but of a complete understanding and agreement on the policy to be pursued with regard to the international questions which were then open in Europe. The plenipotentiary selected for that mission was, I need not tell the House, a man of the highest character and most unquestioned ability, of great singleness of purpose, of the purest aims, and much and deservedly esteemed by his countrymen for the services which he had rendered to them; but he will not be offended by my saying in his presence that he had two very striking and opposite peculiarities, which showed at once the earnestness and the simplicity of his character. He worshipped peace with so intense a worship as apparently to believe that all the world might be brought under its dominion; and, combined with his love of peace, he displayed an admiration amounting almost to devotion to the great military ruler of France who had maintained greater armies, set more armies in motion, desolated more hearths and homes, and clone more to wring the hearts and revolt the principles 363 of true lovers of peace than any man who has lived since the days of the First Napoleon. It soon appeared that my hon. Friend, impelled by the sincerity of his character, not confining himself to his commercial mission, took upon himself to enlighten his countrymen upon the character and policy of the Emperor of France, whom he described as an ally much misunderstood, and occasionally maligned, by the English nation. Now, Sir, when the public saw that it was not the commercial intercourse between the two countries, but their foreign policy, which he was aiming to guide; when they remembered that he was the chief of a political party whose views of foreign policy were, to say the least of them, distasteful to the English nation; and when they also observed that that party had recently acquired such an ascendancy in affairs, that, to use their own terms, they had been doing a roaring business in reform, in finance, and now in foreign policy, the public of England began to grow uneasy; and when in addition to that, before the treaty was ratified, there came the perpetration of that act of mingled deception and audacity, the seizure of Savoy, showing how the English Cabinet had been used as the tools of France to dupe and deceive their own Parliament; and also when it was found that that act, if not entirely extenuated, was made very light of by some of the Friends of our Plenipotentiary in Parliament, then the public mind in England did become excited and alarmed. It felt then that there was danger. It felt that it could not sit easy under a Government that was advised from the Tuileries by the Member for Rochdale—and was coerced in Downing Street by his Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then there was something approaching to a panic; but it was not fear of what might be done by English enemies abroad—it was fear of what might be done by foreign auxiliaries at home; and then there up-sprung those voluntary associations for home defence which were nothing but manifestations of the deep conviction of the country that the Government was under the mischievous ascendancy of anti-English hallucinations that might lead to degradation and disgrace. It was in vain that my hon. Friend or any of his Friends endeavoured, by their publication of the pacific assurances of the Emperor, to stem the storm. The feeling of the country was not to be 364 mistaken. It was in that state of panic which he has himself described, and everything that he wrote and said during that panic was interpreted by contraries. He was, in the excitement of the public, held to have fallen into the toils of the master of a craft which was not known in his vocabulary. He was believed by them to be turned and twisted and moulded like wax, to be played on like an instrument, by his Imperial captivator and enslaver. That feeling of the country was deep and irremovable. The more he negotiated, the more they armed; the more he spoke of tariffs, the more they bought rifles; the more he exalted the Emperor, the more they set up targets; the louder he preached, the more they practised, until an army of Volunteers, enrolled as if by magic, started into life, making it known to Europe that the people of England, emancipated from the credulities, of their plenipotentiary, and from the forced subserviency of a necessitous Government, had taken the safety and honour of England under their own protection. That Volunteer movement, which was one of the most remarkable events of our time, was nothing but a great national Vote of distrust in the Executive. It was a loud, general, and solemn protest against the ascendancy of the Peace Party in our councils. It was a rebuke to the Cabinet. It was an unmistakable warning to its chief that there was a feeling in England which had already, on two occasions, called two Ministers to account, and which would possibly make a more serious example of the third, if the safety and the honour of England should again be made subservient to the exigencies of party politics. There were three great occasions on which the apprehensions of England had been excited and the experience of insufficient preparation had been deeply felt. These were the Crimean War; the Conspiracy Bill; and, thirdly, the seizure of Savoy under the accommodating cloak of a commercial treaty. The seizure of Savoy was a very costly affair for all the parties concerned. It was costly to Sardinia, for it despoiled her of her ancient territory; and the deception, dissimulation, and fraud towards Europe which characterized that proceeding cast a stain not easy to be removed on the memory of Cavour. It was more costly to France. The Emperor of France, 365 when he invaded Italy, had, if he were sincere, a great work before him. Europe would have forgiven the illegality of the first invasion in consideration of his sincerity and success in giving new life to Italy, in striking the chains off that noble victim, raising her to a place in the sisterhood of nations, and bidding her go forth free, strong, progressive, and self-reliant, with a new future before her. He would have gained the gratitude of Italy, the respect of Europe, and would have contributed to the true greatness and glory of France in a manner that would have rallied a moral power round him to strengthen his throne and perpetuate his dynasty. But he missed his chance. He preferred the short-sighted gratification of a selfish but worthless aggrandisement, and now after ten years he still reigns; but he has achieved no greatness, and made no friends. He still reigns, the accidental monarch of the day, who has made no provision for the future. And it was costly to England, The annexation of Savoy led to the rapture of the alliance with France, and compelled us to take up a position of antagonism, and invest in the munitions of war in order that we might go into council with France as an equal Power, or that we might go into joint action with France as a controlling or corrective Power. This is the history of the rise and progress of the war feeling and of the increase in our war expenditure. It was a feeling not arising from any suddenness on the part of England—it was gradual, it was forced on us by events; it was not indicative of anything like precipitancy, or haste, or heedless alarm on the part of England; it was not insensibility to war, it was not indifference to taxation; but it was the spectacle of a peace-loving and Christian people rousing itself in a peace-preserving and business-like and Christian spirit for the security of all that was dear to it at home, and for the protection of all that was valuable abroad. I should like the House for a moment to consider what has been practically the effect of the changed relations of England with some of the Powers of Europe; and, first, in regard to her policy in Italy. Nobody can say it would be easy to exaggerate the difficulties of the English Government—both the present and the late—since the outbreak of hostilities in Italy. From the day when to the Austrian Ambassador was given the first indication of that war which had been agreed upon 366 secretly, though publicly denied, by Sardinia and France it was impossible not to feel that the functions of the British Minister were full of unusual difficulty and responsibility. The first invasion of Italy by France was such a manifest infraction of international law that the other Governments of Europe were bound to discountenance it. The late Government, in the- discharge of that duty, incurred an imputation—which at the time I thought was undeserved—of sympathizing with Austria. But as events arose from that aggression and went on to develop themselves, the position of the English Ministry became daily more difficult, and occasionally even critical. The Convention of Villafranca was followed by what quickly assumed the appearance less of a treaty than a truce, and the combatants retired not to lay aside their arms, but to arm themselves afresh for a more deadly encounter. The determination of Sardinia to win the Venetian provinces by the sword being avowed, and secret counsels, to be followed at the proper moment by open assistance on the part of France, being more than suspected, Austria, indignant and alarmed, armed to the teeth, and could scarcely be kept from precipitating the hostilities which she believed to be inevitable. It was between these three armed and conflicting Powers, two of them with ulterior objects leading them to become aggressive, that the British Minister had to mediate. He had three main objects to keep in view—first, to secure to the Italians the right of choosing the form of Government they desired; secondly, he had to make sure that this should not be accomplished at the price of any fresh acquisition of territory by France; thirdly, he had to preserve the peace of Europe. Down to the beginning of 1860 the British Government failed most deplorably in all those objects, because up to that time they had no mind, or will, or policy of their own; but followed helplessly the bidding of France. But, from the day in the month of March, 1860, when the Foreign Secretary, speaking in his place in this House, expressed his opinion that the aggression on Savoy was only the first of a series, and when amid the plaudits of this House he announced the fact that the exclusive alliance with France was at an end, from that moment the foreign policy of England assumed a new character. It was avowed then that the policy of France in Italy was a selfish and crooked one, and that 367 the whole of his proceedings showed, in a manner not to be mistaken, that the Emperor had no intention to let go his hold on Italy; but was promoting confusion there in furtherance of his anti-Italian designs. That imposed a corresponding obligation on the British Government, and I must say they appear to have addressed themselves to it in a right and becoming spirit. They had been no parties to the original war of aggression that had torn Italy from the grasp of Austria; but they did feel under a strong compulsion to save Italy from the gripe of France. The despatches of the Foreign Secretary from that day breathe a new spirit, and the addresses of his colleagues in this House speak a new language. The noble Earl the Secretary of State from that moment was at no pains to dissemble his distrust of France; he stated in plain words that he would not believe that peace was intended merely because professions were made; and on every one of the questionable proceedings of France—the increase of the French army at Rome, the action of the fleet before Gaeta, the rumoured annexation of Sardinia—on every one of these, explanations were promptly demanded and objections boldly and manfully expressed. And although many of the truths told in those despatches it must not have been altogether palatable to hear, so far from the relations of the two countries being imperilled by that honest and manly course, the result showed, that if the two Governments were to remain on friendly terms, it could only be, as the noble Lord said the other night, by acting as if they were equals. It is said that the aid which England has given to Italy has been solely that of "moral power." That is so far true; but it was moral power supported by material guarantees for its efficiency. I believe the moral power of England has been for the last few months greater on the Continent than it has been since the pence of 1815, solely because our material strength, has been greater. It was thus that we were enabled to shame France by our example into a recognition of the now kingdom of Italy; and it was thus thrt we were enabled to hold fast to the tribunal of public opinion one who has been the despoiler, and would otherwise be now the Dictator of Italy. At that tribunal, more powerful in the present day than fleets and armies, we have compelled him to vindicate the policy and morality of his acts; and we have left him the 368 choice whether lie would respect public opinion or defy it. This, I believe, is a true description of the moral influence exerted by England—a power multiplied indefinitely by the strength of armaments. Without armaments it is cant and a fiction. We are now told, and we are encouraged still more to believe from the tone of the noble Lord to-night, that this question of Italy, in which Englishmen take so honourable an interest, is approaching a settlement. I hope that may be so, and that a settlement will take place in the manner we all wish—just to Italy, and honourable at the eleventh hour to France. If the correspondence yet to be produced is in keeping with the last despatches presented and the last speeches made by Ministers in this House, I think when that settlement has taken place we shall only be too ready to express to the Government our tribute of admiration for the consistency they have displayed, and our congratulations on the entire success of their policy; and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with whom on financial questions it has often been my misfortune to differ, I must say, that if the settlement of Italy does take place in the manner that is to be desired, he may look back to the share that he has taken in that great and good work with a feeling that will support him under many financial trials and difficulties, even if they should be crowned with a vote looked forward to with such dreadful anticipations as that of to-night. The time will soon come when the financial controversies of this Government will be forgotten, and when the question of deficit and surplus will cease to interest; but I do not think the time ever will come when the Italians will forget that in their hour of darkness his was the first voice among European statesmen that sent forth her cry of wrong to Europe; and more lately, when light and hope dawned upon them, he was still found among the foremost of their friends—no heart throbbing more warmly, no tongue pleading more eloquently than his, to combine the freedom and happiness of Italy with new guarantees for the peace of Europe. But now let me ask, is it only in Italy that our armaments have given vigour to our councils and peace to the country? When we were lately threatened with serious differences in America, we all know how Europe was stunned and how America was elated—we all know how one hasty action or faltering word 369 would have been fatal to the successful termination we all desired. No one can doubt, when our Ministers met in Council on that anxious occasion, what was the first question in every mind and on every lip. No one can doubt that the noble Lord had a feeling of the deepest thankfulness that our armaments were not in the same state as they were in 1858. Was not that feeling of thankfulness universal? And what was the result? Have we not all now a common interest and pride in acknowledging, that tracing the proceedings of our Government at that time step by step, whether we consider the determination, they at once took, or their prompt action, the explicit terms of their demand, or the instructions given to Lord Lyons, accompanied as all these were by the simultaneous despatch of reinforcements to Canada, there was exhibited on the part of England a combination of courage, sagacity, and success as complete in itself, as satisfactory to the country, and as honourable to Ministers as anything that has occurred in the recent history of the country? But where would all this have been if we had not had our armaments—if we had been in the condition my hon. Friend behind me now desires? And do you not think that the determination of the Washington Cabinet was influenced by the question whether England was in weakness or in strength? And what would six months of war with America have cost us? Our armaments saved us from that war, which would have cost us ten times more than would have been saved by a penurious policy—to say nothing of that far more fearful loss of friends and kindred which would have given desolation and sorrow to what are now peaceful and happy homes. Let us then for a moment cast up the account—the Crimean War, which was brought on by the low condition of our armaments, besides a high current expenditure, left an increase of £40,000,000 to our debt; the American War, if we had fallen into it, would have cost us—what I cannot pretend to compute, but I will let any hon. Gentleman place it at as moderate a figure as he pleases. Well, we have done something to preserve the peace of Europe and establish a new kingdom of Italy—suppose the cost £20,000,000 more—is that all loss? Even a new commercial Italy, especially if she have a free tariff, will give us some interest for our money. Looking at the question, merely as traders, not as politicians, there is not 370 a speculator in Europe who will not tell us that we have been receiving cent per cent for the additional armaments of the last few years. But I do not think the House ought to consent to degrade this question into one of mere money transaction. I hold that the name and influence of England, as a moderating and tranquillizing Power in Europe, is not to be valued by pounds, shillings, and pence. Nations, as much as individuals, do live for a higher interest; and England must make some sacrifice for great ends proportioned to the policy she holds and the power she wields. The noble Lord speaks of our extended commerce: we are proud of our free institutions, proud of our naval and military renown, not merely for the advantages they bring, but also for the blessings they enable us to impart; and it is this vast amount of universal sympathy that rallies around us, links us everywhere with material interests and moral progress, that makes England so great as the palladium of freedom and the surest friend of the distressed. I say, if it were not £3,000,000 but £30,000,000, or if it had been a multiplication of that, the sum would have been small, which would have enabled England to fulfil the mission which in these days has devolved upon her, as the instrument of Providence for disseminating the holy doctrines of peace, the civilizing influence of commerce, of enlightened Christianity, and of elevating and ennobling freedom.
Sir, I have gone through the history of the past, because it was suggested by the terms of the noble Lord's Amendment, and it is only by reference to the past, by appreciating clearly the circumstances which have already occurred, and the position in which we now stand, that we can judge of the Amendment proposed and the policy it indicates. The hon. Member for Halifax has said to us—Your armaments are too costly, your expenditure ruinous; I challenge you, the Government, in the face of the whole world, to maintain that policy I impugn, and I move a Resolution in order to bring that question fairly before the House. The noble Lord does not find it convenient to meet that challenge: he does not find it convenient to allow the House to meet it—but he adopts a proceeding perfectly unprecedented in our Parliamentary history. He himself, the Prime Minister, not reserving himself for debate, steps forward and undertakes that task which usually devolves on a supporter 371 of the Government—moves the Amendment. Now, what does this novel proceeding indicate? It proves two things well deserving the attention of the House. It proves, first, the great importance which Government attaches to evading the issue raised by the hon. Member for Halifax; and, secondly, that there was something in the character of that Amendment that required the profound skill and unrivalled ability of the Prime Minister to disguise its character and make it palatable to the House. I ask the House to look at the Amendment. It consists of two parts of a very opposite character, and betrays two separate hands. First, says the noble Lord, we are "mindful of the obligation to provide for the security of the country at home, and the protection of its interests abroad"—that part of the Amendment belongs to the noble Lord. Then it speaks of retrenchment and the necessity of economy in every department of the State—and there, I think, I trace the handywork of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In fact, the Amendment indicates two minds and two policies at work. There is the mind of the Minister who would have averted the Crimean war by making it a casus belli when the first Russian soldier crossed the Pruth; and there is the mind of that Minister who was supposed averse to that war, not very liberal in his supplies during the war, and who, in the opinion of many, has not done much to improve our finances, and would now leave us imperfectly defended. I wish the House to fix its eye on this Amendment, because here I say you have a confession as plain, a proclamation as loud as words can make it, that we have again fallen into the danger of divided councils, under a Cabinet that on this vital question of defences has again no policy, no principle, no conscience, which is again drifting us into the half-hearted system of shifts and compromises, which, as in the case of the Crimean war, is weakening at home and damaging and discrediting abroad. I wish again particularly to show the manner in which the noble Lord deals with both sides of the House in this Amendment. I hear Gentlemen sitting around me very frequently say that the noble Lord at the head of the Government retains his position by persuading one half of the House that he is a Conservative and the other half that he is a Liberal; and so he is retained as a convenience by both, without being trusted as a politician by either. 372 Now, I think that is a very unkind way of putting it. I would rather say that his great experience has given him an instinctive perception of what is really Conservative and what is truly Liberal; and being a man without prejudice, he decides impartially between them, and always adjudicates in favour of the right side at the right moment. But in this Amendment the noble Lord dictates to both sides, and that in a way to make both sides look very foolish. "We will retain our armaments," says the noble Lord—that is a compliment to the Conservative side ["No, no!"]—"but we will reduce our expenditure"—that is a sop to the Gentlemen below the gangway. To be sure the expenditure is not reduced precisely in the department they desire, because the first part of the Amendment, in order to be made acceptable to the hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, is a direct negation of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Halifax; but the noble Lord knows how readily the Gentlemen below the gangway will accept the second part, when their own Resolution is defeated. Perhaps the noble Lord framed his Amendment with the knowledge that it would have this effect. They come here with a Resolution condemnatory of the war expenditure. The Government meet them with a form of Resolution which preserves the war expenditure, but in which they are told that there is to be a reduction, not in the department of war, but, what will amount to the same thing, in the department of peace. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Halifax will be gratified by the result; but, after this debate, he will be too much instructed ever to propose an abstract Resolution, again in the presence of the noble Lord. Having disposed of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Halifax, how does the noble Lord treat the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite? He says, "We will give you the defences, but you must approve the financial administration of my Government." [" No, no!"] As I understand it, this is the proposal of the noble Lord—" You shall have your system of defence, but it is on the understanding that your leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire"—["No, no!"] That is the proposal which, with a grave face, is submitted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. The Amendment may be affirmed by the 373 House. I myself will not go into the question to which I think we are invited—how far any portion of that Resolution, by speaking of the satisfaction with which we view the financial management of the Government, and the confidence with which we look to the future, may be consistent with the opinions which we have often heard expressed in this House. I would rather not on this occasion go into any review of the financial policy of the last few years; but I can only say that upon an occasion like this, when a challenge has been given to the Government by the hon. Member for Halifax to justify their naval and military expenditure, I think it is not the right way to meet that challenge by entirely evading it, and making it an occasion for a certain show of tactics and dexterity, by which the economists on one part of the House will accept a Resolution which does not affirm a reduction of expenditure in the sense they understand it, but which does affirm an approval of the present military expenditure; while Gentlemen on the other side of the House also accept that Resolution which confirms the armaments which are now kept up, but which, with regard to the general financial condition of the country, every one must admit is extremely vague and unsatisfactory. I must confess that for myself I would rather the issue that has been raised by the hon. Member for Halifax had been more directly met. I think it would have been more satisfactory to the country and the House, and more in keeping with the recent policy which we have pursued and the great interests connected with the question which we now know to be one of the most interesting of the day.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, it was my intention to have moved the adjournment of this debate. I came down to the House expecting that there would have been a lengthened discussion on the question of our finances, to which the House generally would have listened. I am not able to speak at length on the general question that has been discussed to-night; but as I think from the turn the debate has taken that the House will not be disposed to adjourn the discussion, I am induced to offer one or two remarks simply in consequence of the very friendly, and affectionate appeal made to me by my right hon. Friend, who has just sat down (Mr. Horsman). I remember once hearing the 374 late Mr. Shiel, in a brilliant and pointed sentence, describe my right hon. Friend—I speak from memory—but Mr. Shiel described him as possessing faculties which peculiarly qualified him to be the exponent of dissatisfaction and the faithful mirror of discontent. I think that was spoken in 1849, and I can vouch for it that my right hon. Friend has preserved that charactet to the present day. ["No, no!"] There is an expression of dissent. Possibly the statement might be qualified. I will not say the right hon. Gentleman is always the exponent of dissatisfaction and the mirror of discontent; for he has this other remarkable quality, that he sometimes does express himself satisfied and contented, but it is with a state of things with which all the rest of the world has become dissatisfied and discontented. Now, I think if there is any one assertion that I could make with little fear of being contradicted, it is that all rational men who examine facts before they give an opinion.—who reason instead of declaiming—who talk sense instead of rhapsody—I say all men who answer to that description have, I think, now arrived at the conclusion that we ought to be engaged in something else besides declamatory exultation upon the amount of money we can spend. Is there anybody in this House except the right hon. Gentleman who thinks that if we spend £30,000,000 multiplied—he does not say whether by itself or by how much—that if we spend £30,000,000 or £100,000,000 sterling, we shall have it back again to the markets for our manufacture and industry? Is there anybody but the right hon. Gentleman who at the present moment thinks that the state of our finances and the prospects of our country are such that they should be dealt with in the rhapsodical fashion by which we have just been entertained? I remember hearing the right hon. Gentleman speak in this House—it was the last time but one that I had an opportunity of speaking here, though now three years ago—I remember hearing him deliver a speech in 1859 in favour of fortifications. He spoke for an hour, with remarkable eloquence; but there was not one statement of fact in all his speech, with this exception—he stated that France had a number of iron-clad vessels, and had possession of the Channel. That was in June, 1859. "Well, I visited Toulon six months afterwards, and the only iron-cased ship France was building was then 375 but half finished and was not launched till the August following—more than twelve months after the right hon. Gentleman had told us that France had iron-cased vessels in the Channel. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman was threatening us with invasion. He was not talking about Savoy or about French treaties, but an invasion. The right hon. Gentleman now goes back and sketches all the events that have taken place since that time; but he does not say a word in explanation of the failure of his predictions about this pretended invasion. Now, I regret that the right hon. Gentleman, who I am happy to be permitted to call my Friend, after thirty years in this House, and with undoubted ability—that he, while engaging our attention for an hour with great power, gives us not one fact or argument. His speeches are pleasant episodes. As parentheses in our debates they are perfect—but the question before the House is a very simple one—it is one of expenditure, and the possible reduction of it. We have certainly not heard much upon that subject from the right hon. Gentleman. But does anyone suppose that the interest taken in this House—the interest that is taken in that lobby with respect to this subject—arises from, any care about the state of parties in this House? The interest that is taken in this question of economy now arises from nothing in the world but the impending state of difficulty and trial that is coming upon the country. I have no hesitation, after twenty-one years' experience in this House, in saying that if we had continued as prosperous now as we were two years ago, we should have had no difficulty about fortifications and armaments; we should have gone on, and perhaps our expenditure might have risen to £75,000,000. But now every one feels that there is a great calamity pending over our prospects. It has been hanging over us for some time, and we have hardly dared to face it. We cannot even now face the whole amount and magnitude of the difficulty that may be impending over us, except something averts it—though no one I have met knows how that is to be accomplished. There is a great gulf yawning which none of us has the courage to look into or fathom. That being the case, and seeing that every man in the country engaged in active pursuits is obliged to begin to put his house in order and review his expenditure, and to make fresh calculations for the future, this 376 House, responding to the feeling of the country, is, or should be, engaged in the same occupations. It is this that has given an interest to this discussion. Does anybody suppose, that in the present state of the country the existing expenditure of the Government can be maintained? Nobody expects it, for this reason—revenue will not be forthcoming, and reduction will therefore be inevitable. Would it not be more rational and more becoming, that, as a great and intelligent nation, we should make a reduction of expenditure as a part of our policy, and in consequence of a well-defined and understood plan, than that we should be forced into retrenchment merely by the exigencies of our finance? Now, the right hon. Gentleman has talked a great deal about the power which England exercises in consequence of her being always fully armed. But I have ever understood that money was the sinew of war, and that to be well armed was to be well fortified in your finances. I do not think the strength of a nation depends upon armaments so much as upon its resources. I deny the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman that it is necessary, in order to impress your policy or impress your counsel upon the rest of the world, that you should always present yourselves in the attitude of armed men. Look what is now going on beyond the Atlantic. Everybody has complained that America was very overbearing in her foreign policy. Very well; but bear in mind America was never armed. She had but 14,000 or 15,000 soldiers; she never would have a fleet; she has not had a line-of-battle ship in commission for the last ten years—certainly not more than one. If, then, America played the bully without arms, what was it that impressed her will upon the rest of the world? Undoubtedly, it was that you gave her credit for having vast resources behind her, which were not unnecessarily displayed in a state of armed defiance. Well, what has been the result of the present deplorable war in America? You have seen that country manifesting a power such as I have no hesitation in saying no nation of the same population ever manifested in the same time, No country in Europe, possessing 20,000,000 of people, could put forth the might, could show the resources in men, money, and equipments, that the Federal States of America have done during the last twelve months. Taking the whole country together, about 30,000,000 of 377 people have kept nearly 1,000,000 of men in arms; and they have, upon the whole, been equipped and supplied as no other army ever was before. Why was that? Simply because the Americans had not exhausted themselves previously by high taxation. They were a prosperous people. Their wages and profits were high, because their taxation was low; and as they were earning twice as much as the people of Europe earned when the war broke out, they had only to restrict themselves to one-half of their usual enjoyments, and they found means of carrying on the war. That, I think, is a doctrine that applies to us as well as to the Americans, and I deny the doctrine of my right hon. Friend below me that a nation increases its power, and is better prepared for carrying on war, because it always maintains a large war establishment in time of peace. I have frequently, ill speaking on this subject, alluded to the relations of this country with France. I say it is an anomaly, that whilst you have a Government professing to be par excellence the friend of France, we should be kept always in a state of alarm and apprehension from the alleged hostile preparations of France. All the increase of our armaments during the last ten years has been made under the plea of protecting ourselves against France. We have had since the Crimean war no occasion to arm ourselves against Russia, for the Russian fleet in the Black Sea has been annihilated; and there has been no plea for a fleet against America or any other country. Our increase of armaments has constantly had reference to France. Well, I say it is hardly treating us with consistency to tell us that a Government which came into power especially as the Friend of France is not able to keep on terms of amity with that country in any other way than by maintaining heavy armaments. I speak now of those in preparation for an attack from France. I have often said—and I repeat it here only for the purpose of making a suggestion—better by far than to allow yourselves to appear to be forced to reduce your armaments by mere poverty, go to France and talk over the subject of these iron-cased vessels. ["Oh, oh! "] Some hon. Gentlemen in the back benches opposite cry "Oh!" but they forget that the same proposal was twice made by the right hon. Gentleman, their own leader. I think it is rather an enviable distinction of the right hon. Gentleman, 378 that on two occasions—once in 1859, and again last year—he has been the first of right hon. Gentlemen sitting in the front rank to make the suggestion, that instead of keeping up this foolish rivalry with France, we should try to make some arrangement by which we can produce peace and quietness between the two countries on cheaper terms. It seems to me the present moment is peculiarly opportune for such an arrangement. You have got to the end of wooden-ship building; you have not yet got a navy of iron vessels. Let the two Governments who are so friendly that they can enter into offensive and defensive wars, and who can make treaties of commerce with each other, and are therefore supposed to entertain feelings of confidence towards each other—let them exercise their friendship in the most elementary way. Let them say," Do not let us arm ourselves and exaggerate our mutual forces in order that we may deceive our people in respect of the heavy taxation imposed upon them." Does anybody suppose there is anything impracticable in the suggestion? It wants only will to act upon it. The noble Lord at the head of the Government brings here accounts which come from Paris as to the state of the French preparations. I have no hesitation in saying that these accounts are calculated to give a most exaggerated impression of what is going on in France. The noble Lord, indeed, scarcely ever speaks but it is to produce some apprehension, some disquietude, with reference to the French preparations. For instance, he tells us there are now thirty-six iron-cased ships—he always speaks of "ships"—built or building. Why, one half of them are not ships. There are but sixteen ships sea-going vessels; twenty are iron-clad batteries, and of these five are actually lying in the warehouse at Toulon, having been built to be carried by railway to Lake Guarda to be used in the siege of Peschiera. The noble Lord lumps them altogether, and talks of thirty-six iron-cased vessels, Is not this a matter capable of being dealt with in a different way? I ask what is the use of our friendship? The right hon. gentleman, the leader of the Opposition, asked last year, "What is the use of your cordial alliance and your diplomacy—what is the use of your entente cordiale—if you cannot do such a thing as that?" I will not attribute motives; but it seems as if the object of the noble Lord was first to frighten people into the apprehension of 379 danger of attack, and then to find an excuse for a large expenditure of money, and at the same time to get for himself the credit of being a spirited Minister, enabled to protect the people by all this forethought and preparation. If that was his object, all I can say is, that he could not carry it out in a more effectual manner than he is now doing. Cannot the noble Lord come to us in a different spirit, and say, "We are on the best terms with the French Government, and we will endeavour to make an arrangement with them for the mutual saving of expenditure." They have got, at the present moment, four iron-cased ships completed; they have the La Gloire, which has been at sea; they have three other frigates completed; and those are all they have completed. They have no more. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington), speaking in May of last year, said that the Solferino and Magenta, two others of those iron-cased vessels, were going to be launched in the ensuing-month, and added to the French fleet. They are not finished yet, and will not be for the next three or four months. That is an illustration of the way these matters are exaggerated. Why cannot the noble Lord take the matter into his own hands; or, if he cannot, let somebody else do it? I mean by that, I think that it is not an impossibility to do it. I will undertake for him that it can be done. Nay, only that I might alarm the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud did I say so, I would add that I would undertake to do it. Now see what a difference it would produce in the state of our preparations and finances if such an arrangement as that could be talked over and come to. I do not speak of any written formal engagement or diplomatic act. All that I want is, that a Government which professes to be so friendly with the French Government—a Government which came into power on two grounds—first, to give us a Reform Bill; and secondly, because they were the only Government to keep us on terms of friendship with France—I ask that the Government, which is par excellence the friend of the French Government, shall take this little matter in hand. Never let us hoar again, from this moment, that the Government is under some apprehension because these iron - cased vessels are being built, or some other preparation is going on in France. Let them come to us, and tell us exactly what that 380 state of preparation is, and that they have assurances from the French Government that these vessels are not to be completed within a certain time. In the report before us there are ten frigates announced as having been ordered to be laid down in the winter of last year. There is not one of them that is in a state of completion; there is not one that could be launched before the spring of next year. Would it not be possible for our Government to say to the French Government—"If you won't push forward these iron-cased vessels, we will enter into a similar engagement; and we may then husband our resources and go on with the least expense, and still preserve the same relative strength towards each other." For it is, in my opinion, a great mistake to suppose, that if two countries are armed, the one having twenty and the other thirty iron-cased vessels, they are any stronger than they would be if one had six and the other four. I am not speaking with a view to a total disarmament. I am not speaking in reference to any chimerical notion of saving the whole expense of your fleet, or of lowering your fleet to the level of the French fleet. No rational man in this country or France expects it. We are an island; the fleet is the key of our very door: we cannot leave our house except by water—and no one can complain, as we have at least four times the tonnage of France, and double her commerce, besides our colonies to protect, that we should have a larger fleet. I am persuaded that we might maintain a superiority at sea without objection from anybody in France. I beg the House to entertain this idea, and if it will not be advanced by the noble Lord, I would say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, "Agree with your leader, and see whether you cannot do it." I will speak to my hon. Friend behind mo (Mr. Stansfeld) as somewhat of an old soldier in this House, and I will give him a word of advice as to the way in which any object of this kind can be accomplished. Twenty-one years ago, when I came into this House, the Liberals were just at the close of their career, and they were in financial difficulties. They were succeeded by Sir Robert Peel and the Conservative party. I came into this House on a mission—to establish as far as I could the principle of free trade. My hon. Friend has also a mission, for he wishes seriously, I suppose, to effect a reform in the expenditure. I give him the result of my experience, 381 and point out to him the way we went to work. I proclaimed from the first that I would accept aid from cither side of the House in promoting my principles. I did not assail Gentlemen opposite as a political party. I found most of my opponents there, and I hope they will give mo credit when I say that as opponents I found them straightforward and above-board. But to this political party I held this language—"If you will do the work I wish to be done, I shall be as glad to support you in doing it as if it were done on this side." Well, and what was the consequence? The work was done by the other side. If I had taken the line the hon. Gentleman has taken to night, and assailed the party opposite, and refused to have their aid in the task I had in hand, it would not have been accomplished. So far as I am concerned—and I hope my hon. Friend will take the same view—unless the Government now in office will address themselves seriously to the task of retrenchment, and take a rational course in their relation to France, calculated to promote that end—I hope my hon. Friend and those who act with him, will give their support to the right hon. Gentleman and the party opposite for the purpose of doing it. I speak, undoubtedly, with great respect, personal respect—for some of the Members of the present Government; but this is a question in which the interests of the whole community are at stake, and we must not indulge too far our personal predilections or partialities. And I say, that unless the present Government will address themselves, and that speedily, to the task which has been indicated by my hon. Friend, the state of the country will be such that I am sure their opponents will be compelled to address themselves to it. The crisis which impends over us is one in which all classes are concerned, and which affects all the various interests of the nation. The first thing to be affected is that industry which is now in the greatest peril, and which more than anything else carried us through the great war with France, and has been the main source of your prosperity ever since. Depend upon it, if the cotton industry falls everything else will fall with it. ["Oh, oh!"] I say it will be so, for there is not a grazier or breeder in Norfolk or Lincoln, a cattle dealer in Scotland or Ireland, but will, within six months, in common with every other interest in the State, become sensible of the disastrous consequences; 382 and it is with a full knowledge of the danger which impends that I earnestly hope this question of financial retrenchment will be seriously entertained by the Government.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 367: Majority 302.
|List of the AYES.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Lee, W.|
|Baines, E.||Lewis, H.|
|Barnes, T.||Lindsay, W. S.|
|Bazley, T.||MacEvoy, E.|
|Bulkeley, Sir U.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Buxton, C.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Caird, J.||Marsh, M. H.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Mildmay, H. F.|
|Clay, J.||Mills, A.|
|Clifton, Sir R. J.||Pease, H.|
|Cobden, R.||Peto, Sir S. M.|
|Coningham, W.||Pilkington, J.|
|Cox, W.||Potter, E.|
|Crossley, F.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Dalglish, R.||Seely, C.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Seymour, W. D.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Shelley, Sir J. V.|
|Douglas, Sir C.||Sidney, T.|
|Doulton, F.||Smith, J. B.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Sullivan, M.|
|Ewing, H. E. C.||Sykes, Col. W. H.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Forster, W. E.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Greville, Col. F.||Tomline, G.|
|Hadfield, G.||Trelawny, Sir J. S.|
|Hennessy, J. P.||Warner, E.|
|Heygate, W. U.||Westhead, J.P. B.|
|Hibbert, J. T.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Hornby, W. H.||White, J.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Kershaw, J.||Wyld, J.|
|Langton, W. H. G.||TELLERS.|
|Lawson, W.||Stansfeld, Mr.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Baxter, Mr.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acton, Sir J.D.||Bathurst, A. A.|
|Adair, H. E.||Beach, W. W. B.|
|Adam, W. F.||Beamish, F. B.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Beaumont, W. B.|
|Adeane, H. J.||Beaumont, S. A.|
|Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F.||Beecroft, G. S.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Angerstein, W.||Bentinck, G. W. P.|
|Annesley, hon. Col. H.||Bentinck, G. C.|
|Anson, hon. Major||Benyon, R.|
|Antrobus, E.||Berkeley, hon. H. F.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Berkeley, Col. F. W. F.|
|Ashley, Lord||Berkeley, hon. C. P. F.|
|Astell, J. H.||Bernard, T. T.|
|Atherton, Sir W.||Biddulph, Col.|
|Bailey, C.||Black, A.|
|Baring, H. B.||Blencowe, J. G.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Bond, J. W. M'Geough|
|Baring, T.||Bonham-Carter, J.|
|Baring, T. G.||Booth, Sir R. G.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Ewart, J. C.|
|Bouverie, hon. P. P.||Fane, Col. J. W.|
|Bovill, W.||Farquhar, Sir M.|
|Bramley-Moore, J.||Fellowes, E.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Fenwick, H.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Fergusson, Sir J.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Brown, J.||Finlay, A. S.|
|Browne, Lord J. T.||FitzGerald, W. R. S.|
|Bruce Lord E.||Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.|
|Bruce, Major C.||Foley, H. W.|
|Bruce, H. A.||Forester, rt. hon. Col.|
|Buchanan, W.||Foster, W. O.|
|Buller, J. W.||Fortescue, hon. F. D.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Fortescue, C. S.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Gallwey, Sir W. P.|
|Bury, Visct.||Card, R. S.|
|Butler-Johnstone, H. A.||Garnett, W. J.|
|Butt, I.||Gavin, Major|
|Calthorpe, hon. F. H. W. G.||Getty, S. G.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Gilpin, Col.|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Gilpin, C.|
|Castlerosse, Visct.||Gladstone, Capt.|
|Cave, S.||Gladstone, rt. hon. W.|
|Cavendish, hon. W.||Glyn, G.G.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Cecil, Lord R.||Goldsmid, Sir F. H.|
|Chapman, J.||Gore, J. R. O.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Clifford, Col.||Greaves, E.|
|Clive, Capt. hon. G. W.||Greenall, G.|
|Cochrane, A. D. R.W. B.||Greenwood, J.|
|Coke, hon. Col.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Cole, hon. H.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Gray, Capt.|
|Collier, R. P.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Conolly, T.||Grey de Wilton, Viset.|
|Copeland, Mr. Ald.||Griffith, C. D.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Cowper, rt. hon.W. F.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Gurdon, B.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Gurney, J. H.|
|Cubitt, G.||Gurney, S.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hanbury, R.|
|Davey, R.||Handley, J.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Hankey, T.|
|Dawson, R. P.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Deedes, W.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Denman, hon. G.||Hardy, J.|
|Dent, J. D.||Hartington, Marq. of|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Hartopp, E. B.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Hav, Sir J. C. D.|
|Duff, R. W.||Hayter, rt. hn. Sir W. G.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.|
|Duneombe, hon. W. E.||Heathcote, Sir W.|
|Dundas, F.||Heathcote, hon. G. H.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Dunkellin, Lord||Henley, Lord|
|Dunne, M.||Henniker, Lord|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Herbert, rt. hon. H. A.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Edwards, Major||Hesketh, Sir T. G.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Heygate, Sir F. W.|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Egerton, hon. W.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Elcho, Lord||Holland, E.|
|Enfield, Visct.||Hopwood, J. T.|
|Ennis, J.||Horsfall, T. B.|
|Estcourt. rt. hn.T. H. S.||Horsman, rt. hon. E.|
|Euston, Earl of||Hotham, Lord|
|Evans, T. W.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Ewart, W.||Howes, E.|
|Humberston, P. S.||North, F.|
|Hume, W. W. F.||Ogilvy, Sir J.|
|Hunt, G. W.||Onslow, G.|
|Hutt, rt. hon. W.||Owen, Sir H. O.|
|Jackson, W.||Packe, Col.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Padmore, R.|
|Jervoise, Sir J. C.||Paget, C.|
|Johnson, Capt. J. S. W.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Kendall, N.||Pakenham, Col.|
|Ker, D. S.||Palmer, Sir R.|
|Kinglake, A. W.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Kinglake, J. A.||Parker, Major W.|
|Kingscote, Colonel.||Patten, Col. W.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Peacocke, G. M. W.|
|Knatchbull, W. F.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Knatchbull-Hugessen E.||Peel, rt. hon. F.|
|Knightley, R.||Pennant hon. Col.|
|Knox, Col.||Philipps, J. H.|
|Knox, hon. Major S.||Phillips, G. L.|
|Lacon, Sir E.||Pigott, Serjeant|
|Laird, J.||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Layard, A. H.||Ponsonby, hon. A.|
|Leeke, Sir H.||Portman, hon.W. H. B.|
|Lefroy, A.||Potts, G.|
|Legh, Major C.||Powell, J. J.|
|Legh, W. J.||Powys, P. L.|
|Leighton, Sir B.||Pritchard, J.|
|Lennox, Lord G. G.||Proby, Lord|
|Leslie, C. P.||Puller, C. W. G.|
|Lever, J. O.||Ramsden, Sir J. W.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.||Raynham, Visct.|
|Liddell, hon. H. G.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Locke, J.||Ricardo, O.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Robertson, D.|
|Lowe, rt. hon. R.||Robertson, H.|
|Lysley, W. J.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Lytton, rt. hon. Sir E. G. E. L. B.||Rolt, J.|
|Rothschild, Baron M. de|
|Macaulay, K.||Russell, H.|
|M'Cormick, W.||Russell, A.|
|Macdonogh, F.||Russell, Sir W.|
|Mackinnon, W.A.(Lym.)||St. Aubyn, J.|
|Mackinnon.W. A.(Rye)||Salomons, Mr. Ald.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Malcolm, J. W.||Scott, Lord H.|
|Malins, R.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Marshall, W.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Martin, P. W.||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Martin, J.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Massey, W. N.||Seymour, Sir M.|
|Miles, Sir W.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Miller, W.||Shirley, E. P.|
|Mills, T.||Smith, M. T.|
|Mills, J. R.||Smith, Augustus|
|Milnes, R. M.||Smith, M.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Smith, Abel|
|Mitford, W. T.||Smith, S. G.|
|Moffatt, G.||Smyth, Col.|
|Monson, hon. W. J.||Smollett, P. B.|
|Mordaunt, Sir C.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. M.|
|Morgan, hon. Major||Spooner, R.|
|Morris, D.||Steel, J.|
|Morrison, W.||Stirling, W.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.||Stewart, Sir M. R. S.|
|Mundy, W.||Stuart, Col.|
|Newdegate C. N.||Stuart, Lieut. Col. W.|
|Newport, Visct.||Stracey, Sir H.|
|Nicol, W.||Tempest, Lord A. V,|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Thompson, H. S.|
|Norris, J. T.||Thornhill, W. P.|
|North, Col.||Thynne, Lord H.|
|Tite, W.||Welby, W. E.|
|Tollemache, hon. F. J.||Wemyss, J.H.E.|
|Torrens, R.||Whitbread, S.|
|Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.||White, L.|
|Turner, J. A.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Turner, C.||Williams, Col.|
|Vane, Lord H.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Vansittart, W.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Verner, Sir W.||Wood, W.|
|Verney, Sir H.||Woods, H.|
|Vernon, H. F.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Villiers, rt. hon. C.P.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Vivian, H. H.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Vyner, R. A.||Wynne, C. G.|
|Walcott, Admiral||Wynne, W. W. E.|
|Walker, J. R.||Wyvill, M.|
|Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Walsh, Sir J.|
|Watlington, J. W. P.||Brand, Mr.|
|Weguelin, T. M.||Dunbar, Sir W.|
§ Question proposed, "That the proposed words be added instead thereof."
§ MR. WALPOLE
Mr. Speaker, the announcement made at the commencement of this evening by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government was of so startling and unusual a character, that it places not merely myself, but my friends and the House, in a position of great difficulty and embarrassment. In the choice, however, of the difficulties placed before me, and placed before the House, it is my duty now to redeem the pledge which I gave at the commencement of the evening, that I would state the course which, upon reflection, I thought it would be right to take. The Government have placed us in this position—either the House is not to express its opinion on questions of finance and expenditure, without running the risk of throwing the responsibility on any Gentleman who may move an Amendment of attempting to displace the Government; or else the responsibility which, on the other horn of the dilemma, would be thrown on me is, that notwithstanding the Motion of which I gave notice was not intended, either by me or by those with whom I act, as a Motion of censure or of want of confidence in the Government, yet the noble Viscount has chosen to put it in that light, and therefore throws on me, who have given notice of that Motion, the responsibility alluded to by my right hon. Friend below me, of taking upon myself all the responsibility of such a Motion, supposing it were to succeed. Now, I always understood that any Gentleman or party in this House who undertook to move what is considered a vote of censure 386 or of want of confidence, can only do so on the supposition that they are prepared to take the consequences of the Government resisting such a Motion and being in a minority. Those consequences would be either a dissolution of Parliament, or a change of Administration. The friends with whom I act—the noble Earl at the head of the party with which I am proud to be connected has, I know, from the beginning of these proceedings—from the beginning of this Session and throughout this Session—publicly in his place in the other House, and privately among his friends, always said that he did not wish to displace the noble Lord opposite. That being so, it is not in my power—consistently, at least, with my opinion of the duty I owe to this House and to my friends—to persevere with a Motion which may be attended with consequences, and which might entail responsibilities, that I, for one, am not prepared to encounter; and inasmuch as the noble Viscount himself has said to-night, that if his Resolution be carried, the Government do intend earnestly to apply themselves to consider the best means by which reductions can be made in our expenditure, the House loses much less by accepting such Resolution than it might lose if I were to persevere with my Motion entailing the consequences to which I have adverted. I know the course I am now taking may not be agreeable to some of those with whom I would wish always to co-operate; but I am placed in so unusual and unexpected a position, that I must bear all the responsibility of the course which I take; and, if anybody is to blame for that course, the blame must rest with me alone. Nevertheless, I believe that, upon the whole, the course I propose to take is a course most conducive to the well-being of the country; for I think it not desirable to attempt to disturb the Government at such a moment as the present, when I have no reason myself to say that the Government do not deserve the confidence of the country.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER (who spoke amid much interruption)
said, he wished to state in a few words the sense he put upon the Resolution of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. He interpreted it in the sense stated by the noble Lord himself—as a pledge for economy. He was well aware that the words in which the pledge were clothed in themselves carried very little weight 387 with them; nevertheless, he felt assured that the noble Lord would not have ventured to take the unprecedented course of himself proposing this Amendment, knowing the feeling of the country with respect to the amount of taxation, without being prepared, as far as possible, to fulfil the pledge held out. He wished further to state, that notwithstanding the small number, comparatively, of the supporters of the original Motion, he congratulated—and he believed that the friends of economy throughout the country would congratulate—the hon. Member for Halifax on having brought forward the Motion, for he fancied that otherwise they would not have had this pledge from the noble Lord. Since the noble Lord had proposed his Resolutions as a vote of confidence in the Ministry, he might say that he had confidence in the noble Lord's Government, as far as foreign policy was concerned; but with regard to economy, if he merely compared the professions of the noble Lord with those of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he should have been willing to support the right hon. Gentleman; however, he could not separate the foreign policy from the home policy, and therefore he should now support the Resolutions of the noble Lord, on the condition that an expenditure admitted on all hands to be excessive should no longer be wrung from the pockets of the people.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he wished to state the course he should feel it his duty to take under the extraordinary circumstances in which the House was placed. He liked a direct course. He came there to-night for the purpose of hearing the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) debated and decided upon its merits. He thought the subject interesting, and he should not have been frightened by the language even of the noble Viscount. But before that question could be discussed, the noble Viscount, in a manner unprecedented, unconstitutional, and unparliamentary, stood up and declared what would be his conduct in the event of the House being satisfied of the justice of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment. If the noble Viscount could act in that way whenever he pleased, he became not the leader, but the Dictator of that Assembly. As the Motion of the Previous Question could not be now put according to the forms of the House, and as his right hon. Friend had withdrawn his Amendment, nothing remained for him to say, 388 but that, as he held the words of the noble Lord's Resolutions to be without meaning, equivocating, and shuffling, he could not agree to them, and should meet the Motion with a direct negative.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
As a friend of economy, I cannot, like the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who, I believe, pulls the strings on this occasion, find matter of congratulation in the course which the debate has taken; for, whatever may be the opinion of the crowded assembly in this House, I am mistaken if the country will not look on the whole proceedings of this night as one of the most solemn shams. Here we were brought down on the eve of one of the great holydays of the country to hear an elaborate speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax, which, somehow or other, evaded the whole subject, but which, if carried out to its legitimate conclusions, would involve this country in a long and expensive war. The hon. Member for Halifax, taking counsel, no doubt, in the morning with his colleague, the other Member for Halifax, made a speech in which a few Liberal sentiments were enounced, but the question of economy was kept completely in the background, though the hon. Member, like the Emperor Napoleon, seemed ready to go to war for an idea. In the speech he made he gave the go-by to all the discussions on Estimates, and I felt rather surprised when I recollected that those hon. Gentlemen among whom I sit, but in whose sentiments I do not always participate, when we come to Votes upon Estimates—to a Vote like that on Alderney, for instance, the other night, in which £270,000 was at stake, and which by the aid of eight votes we might have struck off, are always absent, though they can come down here at other times and in sounding periods and bow-wow platitudes enunciate theories which attract the attention of the House even on the eve of a Derby Day—and that is a great thing. Then there are those sixty-three Financial Reformers who signed the famous round-robin, who are always away when there is anything brought forward; for instance, on that Vote for Aldershot, which was one of the first things we tested them upon, they were all absent. ["No, no!"] Perhaps there were some of them there, but I notice that these Gentlemen have got now into a way of saying, "No, we won't contest the Estimates, but we will come forward on some 389 occasion when we can do no good; we will shut the door of expenditure when the steed of economy has been stolen" and late in the Session a Motion is made like this, which I think is about the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. I cannot congratulate the friends of economy on this night's business. Between the variety of Amendments, my feeling was very muchWhy all this difference should there be'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee.This has been from the beginning to the end a bottle of smoke which will be duly appreciated by everybody who is not a Member of Parliament. [Mr. Cox: And by some of them.] Well, perhaps, by some of them too. My hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury represents a large constituency, full of common sense, who will appreciate all this; but there are other people who are not in the same happy position as the hon. Gentleman. Well, what is the state of things we have got to? If we talk of economy, up starts the noble Viscount and cries out, "I will have no economy—that's a party question. "The right hon. Gentleman and sensitive Member for Cambridge University attends a meeting. [Mr. WALPOLE: No, no!] No, he does not attend it, then; but he has such confidence in his party that he keeps away and agrees to move an Amendment; and thenBack recoils, he knows not why,E'en at the sound himself has made.The right hon. Gentleman was bound, before he brought everybody down here in crowds, to have made up his mind, and to have known the effect of what he was about to say. It will not do for him to come down here, and, with hearse-like moans and with as much solemnity of manner as if the British Constitution were at stake, to say, "No, I like economy much, but I like Lord Palmerston more." It was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to have thought of all that before he put himself, his party, and, what I think is of infinitely more consequence, the country, in the position in which we now find ourselves. I felt so strongly the futility of all these Motions, that I intended to have taken the noble and independent course of walking away out of the House and voting upon none of them. I have heard nothing like a reason given to-night. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax made a speech in 390 which there was a good deal about Sclavonian nationalities, and some of the claptrap about Italian unity. It seems now that we are never to have anything said about domestic policy; but the moment any domestic policy is pointed at, immediately people are to get up and say, "Oh, but there's Italian unity." I give no opinion now about Italian unity. I hope that all nations struggling for liberty will succeed on their own merits; but if for Italian unity we are to be called on for that self-defence of which we have heard something to-night, and if for that self-defence we are to be called on for a loan of £11,500,000, then, much as I love Italian unity, I love British integrity more. I warn the House, and those hon. Gentlemen who allow that red herring to be drawn across their trail so often, that, fond as they may be of Italian unity, there is a duty which they owe to this country in the shape of British expenditure, and, however much I may sympathize with a people struggling for their liberty, I sympathize with the British taxpayer more. I, for one, regret that this debate has not turned upon questions of domestic economy, but has run away on questions which are not relevant to the subject. I do not exactly know what the position of things is after the course the right hon. Gentleman has taken. I believe it has been said that on the eve of the Derby "favourites" are sometimes found "bolting." It looks to me in this case as if the "favourite" had—not "bolted" exactly, but as if somebody had "got at him," as they say. Whether or not that be the case, I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman can never run for a Derby again. We have had this battle of Amendments, these sham Motions, and reformers getting up and congratulating themselves on economy; and what progress have we made towards economy? Is the Member for Bradford so soft as really to believe that by this Motion we have got any promise of economy? The effect of it is this—we have made the noble Viscount stronger than ever. I hear the cheer of the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnard), who, as a banker, of course delights in the circulation of money; but by "stronger than ever" I mean that the noble Viscount will be more unchecked than ever. He will come down here and propose Votes of national fortifications, and you will support him. I think the only person who has come out of this matter with 391 feelings of satisfaction is the hon. Member for Brighton. [Mr. WHITE: No, no!] For he comes down with, his Eleven, and plays All the World. He is beaten fairly; but late in the Session we get the outsiders, the fags and the longstops, who come down here and bring forward these Motions, which can, do no earthly good. I do not know whether we are going to have another division or not, but what I would advise the rest of the House to do would be to leave the matter entirely in the hands of the right hon. Member for Cambridge University and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton.
said, the Resolution of the noble Lord did not satisfy him, more especially the second paragraph, and he would move the omission of the second paragraph, and the substitution of the following words in lieu thereof:—"But this House would regard with satisfaction such a decrease of the National Expenditure as would admit of a reduction of the present exceptional War Taxation." Hon. Gentlemen who were anxious to see the expenditure reduced without interfering with the security of the country could hardly do otherwise than support this Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment,
By leaving out from the word "Abroad" to the end of the said proposed Amendment, in order to add the words "but this House would regard with satisfaction such a decrease of the National Expenditure as would admit of a reduction of the present exceptional War Taxation,
§ —instead thereof.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I can only say that I have the same objection to this Amendment as I had to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, if I might presume to give any advice to the House under the present circumstances, it would be that we should all go home. The business, being really serious, will no doubt again afford to the House an opportunity of delivering its opinion upon it. It is not likely that a combination of Parliamentary circumstances such as has occurred to-night will occur again. I think the best thing is always to put a good face upon a disagreeable state of affairs, and take that sensible view which may be taken even of the most distressing and adverse occurrences, if you have 392 a command over your temper and your head. On the present occasion it would be much better not to interfere with the further discussion, which, I have no doubt, will occur on a subject so serious as the finances of the country, when that subject will be divested of the collateral circumstances which have been connected with it to-night. I will not impugn the conduct of my right hon. Friend. I certainly did expect that one who has so many real claims to the name and character of a statesman, and whose Parliamentary knowledge is so great that I have always willingly and readily bowed to it, might have contemplated the possible issue, that the Government might choose to raise, however unwarrantably. There has been a discussion to-night whether it was a question of want of confidence or not. I think, no doubt, on the part of my right hon. Friend there was a want of confidence. The only result of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lindsay) would be, that the House will sit up to a very unreasonable hour—considering the engagements of to-morrow—and my opinion is that we should much better allow the He-solutions of the noble Lord to pass. What are those Resolutions? The House having lost an opportunity of discussing in a becoming spirit the most serious question of the day, we shall not at all improve our present position, or advance those opinions which are, I doubt not, sincerely entertained by many hon. Members on both sides of the House, by entering upon the consideration of the Amendment which has just been proposed. It appears to me that the best thing we could do, after what has occurred, is to allow the Resolutions to pass, with this conviction, which I am sure the majority of the House will feel, that when the Resolutions have passed they will not have the least influence on public events or on public conviction.
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
I entirely concur in the advice which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed to the House, and believe that it would be far more for the dignity of our debates and of our proceedings if we take without further division or discussion the Amendment of the noble Lord, which has now become a substantive Motion, and leave the whole world to judge of the proceedings of the noble Lord and the Government upon the matter. But my reason for rising now is 393 not to give that opinion, but rather to protest against the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) as regards the colour which he has given to the conduct of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) and the course which he felt it his duty to take, and also against the view which was taken by an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. B. Osborne) on the same subject. It is true that the course which events have taken this evening have reduced to a solemn farce that which ought to have been a serious debate. But to whom is that owing? It is owing not to my right hon. Friend, but to the noble Lord. ["Hear, hear!" "No, no!"] Yes, to the noble Lord—for the noble Lord, with that adroitness of which he is so great a master, put the House in such a position that it was absolutely impossible for the debate to go on otherwise than in a manner which would be entirely beside the question which we wore met to discuss. Now, I say that the course taken by my right hon. Friend is one which leaves it in the power of the House to deal with the subject again. You may be assured of this—that if my right hon. Friend had not withheld his Amendment, the result would have been that the whole House would have been embarked in a subject entirely foreign to finance. The whole question would have been whether the noble Lord was to retain office or not. Many a man who does not agree with the noble Lord politically or financially on some subjects would have withdrawn from opposition rather than have disturbed the noble Lord in the possession of the office which he holds. Any looker-on may judge how far the noble Lord's Government has gained in character by the course pursued to-night. I will give no opinion on that. Let every person who reads the newspapers to-morrow judge of our position. But this I say, that this financial subject remains open; it awaits discussion; discussion some time or other is inevitable, and you will then approach it without the prejudices with which it would have been approached if my right hon. Friend had not exercised a wise discretion. ["Oh, oh!"] There may be Gentlemen eager for a division; but of this I feel confident, that the time will come when they will see that my right hon. Friend has been the man who has saved them from a great difficulty, and that he has not only shown the fair disposition which he always does to look 394 things really in the face, but has shown a political discretion and wisdom which some of those who have censured him will one day recognise.
§ MR. CLAY
expressed his satisfaction that the noble Lord had not accepted the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, which had been generally spoken of as calculated, if was not intended, to humiliate him. The noble Lord had, however, undeceived those who thought that he was ready to swallow anything. There was a want of vigour and of reality both about the original Motion and the Amendments, with the single exception of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman), which alone raised a distinct and an honest issue,
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said proposed Amendment," put, and agreed to.
That the words 'this House, deeply impressed with the necessity of economy in every Department of the State, is at the same time mindful of its obligation to provide for the security of the Country at Home and the protection of its interests Abroad; and observes with satisfaction the decrease which has already been effected in the National Expenditure, and trusts that such further diminution may be made therein as the future state of things may warrant,' be added to the word ' That' in the original Question,
§ —put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to,
That this House, deeply impressed with the necessity of economy in every Department of the State, is at the same time mindful of its obligation to provide for the security of the Country at Home and the protection of its interests Abroad; and observes with satisfaction the decrease which has already been effected in the National Expenditure, and trusts that such further diminution may be made therein as the future state of things may warrant.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock till Thursday.