HC Deb 23 February 1869 vol 194 cc273-6

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


, in rising to move a Resolution, for leave to bring in a Bill to equalize the Money Laws of England and Ireland, by extending to Ireland the provisions of the Act seventh George the Fourth, chapter six, "To prohibit the issuing of Promissory Notes under a limited sum," said, that no doubt Ireland had natural capabilities equal to those of any other county on the face of the globe. There was no doubt that her position, surrounded as she was by water, gave her the finest facilities for commerce with all parts of the world. The reason why she had not progressed so much as England was because she had not been treated as an integral portion of the Empire. He did not wish to attribute blame to any one; he durst say that as much blame was attributable to Irish Members as to anybody; but there must be "something rotten in the state of Denmark" when Irishmen had to go to other countries to seek the employment they could not secure at home. What was called the Irish difficulty was, in his opinion, mainly attributable to exceptional and differential legislation, and if they wanted Ireland to be prosperous and contented they must extend the same laws to that country as to England. He particularly referred to the Money Laws, which pressed more severely against Ireland than any exceptional laws under which she suffered. If Parliament was not prepared to have equal laws for Ireland and England in every matter, it might commence with equalizing the Money Laws, by extending to Ireland the Act which passed for England in 1826, putting an end to the small Note circulation and thereby giving that country the advantage of a free specie circulation, backed up by a large Note currency. When, previous to the Bank Restoration Act of 1797, Ireland, like England, had no small Note circulation, she had an abundant gold circulation as well as large Note paper, and, although trading restrictions were then enforced by England against Ireland, the latter country progressed so that her imports and exports were in comparison to those of Great Britain in the proportion of one to four. In 1777, the Irish were £6,238,366, the British £26,134,839; in 1789, the Irish £7,935,605, the British £37,835,500; in 1792, the Irish £9,725,772, the British £44,033,785; and even after 1797, when Bank paper was inconvertible and small Notes allowed to circulate, Ireland held her own; and her population which, according to the Census of 1801, was in proportion to that of England as 11 to 20, increased in like proportion, as long as equal Money Laws prevailed, but immediately after 1829, under the Act of 1826, small Notes ceased to exist in England, the proportion of increase fell to 5 to 20; and the Irish Bank Act of 1845, which prohibited the formation of new Banks of Issue, and limited and restricted the existing Banks in their issue of Notes, was so fatal in its operation in restricting the circulation, that the population of the country which, according to its increase up to 1829, should, in 1861, be 11,500,000, was only 5,750,000, leaving Ireland deficient some 6,000,000 of people which she ought and would have had, if industrial manufactures were not destroyed by bad Money Laws. He had long ago come to the conclusion that the want of the Money Law of 1826 had done more to injure Ireland than the want of any other legislation. The operation of the Act of 1845, limiting the formation of Banks of Issue and restricting the issue of Notes, had been a blow to Ireland from which she would never recover unless Parliament also ex- tended to that country the Law of 1826. In 1826, when England was commercially and financially prostrate, from the fatal effects of a small Note currency, there were many distinguished men in the Government, including Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Canning, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Liverpool, and. Mr. Goulburn. They desired to introduce good legislation, and they brought in a Bill in February to put an end to small Notes—the same month that he was proposing to bring in his Bill—and they had it passed in March. This was an example for them. The result of the Act was to lay the foundation of England's commercial prosperity; but unfortunately the same laws were not applied to Ireland, and the want of those laws, to his mind, brought death to Ireland; and they were left to the present day without a population adequate to that of England, as they had possessed before. If the Union had been based on any fair and proper principles it would have been a blessing to both England and Ireland; but it was based on the assumption of different interests. Restrictions were placed on the trade of both countries. Protective laws were enacted to prevent Irish manufactures being introduced in England, and similar laws in Ireland discouraged the introduction of English manufactures, when there ought to have been free trade between the two countries. Inconvertible Notes were the order of the day till 1819. The effect of the resumption of cash payments in England and Ireland was to pull down the prices both of manufacturing and agricultural produce to an extent which created the greatest dissatisfaction in the country; but the Government were firm. They did not repeal the Act of 1819. They would not return to an inconvertible paper currency; without gold they could not have paper. Without the basis on which convertibility depended, paper itself could not exist. He was old enough to remember the existence of thriving cotton, woollen, silk, glass, and iron manufactures in Ireland, and if they would only extend the Money Laws of England to Ireland her industrial resources would speedily be advantageously developed. Give the Irish people profitable employment, and they would be loyal, contented, and happy. He did not think that anything could promote again the industrial development of Ireland but the equalization of the laws in that country and Great Britain. As this was only a Motion to introduce a Bill, he would not trespass further on the time of the House; but at another stage he would go more fully into the question. He would only say further that when he compared the circulation of Franco with that of Ireland, after making allowance for the difference of population, his wonder was that Ireland made any progress at all. He hoped they would now take steps to put Ireland right, and he believed she never would be right till she had equal laws with England. The hon. Member concluded by moving for leave to bring in his Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Resolved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to equalise the Money Laws of England and Ireland, by extending to Ireland the provisions of the Act seventh George the Fourth, chapter six, "To prohibit the issuing of Promissory Notes under a limited sum."

Resolution reported:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. DELAHUNTY, Mr. BLAKE, and Mr. DAWSON.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 16.]

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