HC Deb 20 March 1878 vol 238 cc1699-706

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said he felt that he incurred some responsibility by bringing forward that question, as he was not qualified to explain it so clearly as others might be. He had, however, the consolation that the two Houses of Parliament had, as far as England was concerned, decided in favour of the change which he advocated. He had brought this matter forward in the shape of an abstract proposition, but he now brought it forward in the shape of a Bill. The time had arrived when Ireland ought to possess the power, now enjoyed by England, of having a specie circulation so as to render money plentiful and abundant in that country. He must, however, draw a distinction in speaking of the legislation on that subject which affected the Three Kingdoms. Up to within a comparatively recent period England and Ireland had always been in the same position in respect to currency laws, and when he was told that he had to reckon with Scotland in that movement, he denied that altogether. In England the persons who first started joint-stock banking, in consideration of lending all their capital to the Government, obtained a strict monopoly, and no other companies were allowed to compete with them. Thus, the extraordinary anomaly was created, that persons having subscribed their money to facilitate and benefit trade, the way in which that was carried out was by lending to the Government all the money which should have been used for the purposes of trade, and by prohibiting the competition of all other capitalists. The Bank of England was established and no other bank of issue was permitted. The same law was also applied to Ireland. The Bank of Ireland lent £3,000,000 to the Government, and in consideration of lending that capital, which ought to have been devoted to the purposes of trade, they were allowed to have a monopoly. In Scotland it was quite the reverse. There, joint-stock banks were allowed to an unlimited extent; no monopoly existed, and the consequence was that Scotland attained a prosperity which Ireland was never permitted to enjoy. England and Ireland had, in that matter, been in the same boat, and Scotland had been in a different boat. He did not grudge Scotland the benefit she had derived from free banking, nor did he seek to interfere with her arrangements; but he wished that Ireland should have the same advantage of a specie circulation which had done so much for England and made her the great country she now was. A Committee sat in 1826, and it would appear that, according to the evidence, there were 32 joint-stock banks in Scotland. He wanted to show that Scotland had been in this respect a favoured nation as compared with Ireland. The evidence given before the Committee was of an extensive character, and every man of financial ability and information gave evidence tending in the direction of extending to Ireland the law applied to England, the only persons who gave evidence against it being men whose views—although they knew nothing about the matter—were taken as gospel by those who knew less. In Ireland, in 1822 and 1823, the banks failed, and the result was that famine stalked through the land, whilst provisions being abundant could be had for half the price they previously fetched. The people starved because the circulating medium did not exist, or exchanges owing to its scarcity, and there was no employment to near the necessary amount. He only wanted to put Ireland on an equality with England; and no doubt, if the small notes were suppressed in Ireland, they would have a large increase in specie, also in large notes. The two countries progressed somewhat equally in manufacturing developement as long as their financial laws were the same; but the moment their laws became different Ireland went to the bad, while England sprang forward in the race. In England all the great leaders of public opinion had advocated the propriety of withdrawing £1 notes because specie currency would never circulate with small notes. In two years after the abolition of £1 notes the specie circulation of England increased some £20,000,000 or £30,000,000, and the note circulation also increased. The country thereby acquired a larger circulating medium, and at the present moment the circulation of England was five or six times greater than it was in 1824. The English circulation was now £136,000,000; whilst in 1822–3 the whole circulation was only about £26,000,000. Up to 1826 the circulation of Ireland was always about 1 to 4, as compared with England and Wales, but how did they stand now? In 1825 there was an Irish note circulation of over £8,000,000, whilst in England the note circulation by inflation had increased to £35,000,000. From this inflation 77 banks stopped payment, when thereupon Parliament passed a law to suppress £1 notes, in order to let gold into circulation. Since then England had gone forward, whilst Ireland had gone backward. In 1826, out of a population of 200,000 in Dublin, 60,000 went through the hospitals owing to the depression of trade, and manufacturers ceasing to be employed. In 1847, in consequence of the English panic, the banks of Ireland withdrew from circulation more than half the amount of notes they had previously issued, and the circulation was brought down from £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 to £3,500,000 in 1848–9. Again, they had a famine, and from the extinction of employment through the want of circulation, the population diminished to an unprecedented degree. He knew it had often been said that Ireland was merely an agricultural country, and could not be a manufacturing country; but he denied thatstatement, because lreland always had been a manufacturing country up to the year 1826, when England got the right and good money laws, leaving Ireland with the wrong ones. In proof of this the hon. Gentleman quoted descriptions given by Arthur Young on the social and industrial condition of England, Ireland, and France respectively, from which it appeared that the ways and progress and prosperity of England and Ireland were pretty much the same, while France was very backward and much behind them. Arthur Young said the manufactures of Ireland were progressing, and her state was most prosperous, and was fully equal to England in the reward for the labour of her people. He stated that the dwellings in Ireland had been nearly all rebuilt during the previous 20 years. In 1793 they had evidence that Irish manufactures were extending, and had improved considerably. That was the evidence of 80 years ago, and at that time there was no £ 1 notes. Arthur Young stated that in Ireland the cotton manufactures were increasing and improving, and glass manufactures, particularly the bottle trade were also increasing. The manufactures of paper and other manufactures were also carried on in Ireland, and were carried on successfully. Besides Arthur Young, the hon. Gentleman quoted a number of works in support of the fact of the existence of manufacturing prosperity in Ireland for many years; from Postlethwayts' and Jones' works; Lord John Sheffield's Observations on the Manufactures of Ireland, published in 1785; Samuel Crump's Prize Essay on the Employment of the People, in 1793; Thomas Wallace's Essay on the Manufactures of Ireland, in 1798; and Thomas Mortimer's Work on the Mann- factures and Commerce, in 1810. People said they could not manufacture iron in Ireland, because they had no iron, but it was manufactured in places in England where they had no iron; for instance, at Bedford there were very large iron manufactures, and they obtained their iron from South Wales, and they had to pay double the freight to bring it to Bedford by railway, than had to be paid to bring it by sea to Ireland. It was all nonsense to say that they could not have iron manufactures in Ireland as well as they could have them at Bedford, Nottingham, Reading, and other places in England. He contended that Ireland would again be a great manufacturing country, as she had been before, were it not for those infernal £1 notes. If she were only treated by England as Yorkshire was, she would be a great source of strength to the Empire and her prosperity would be assured. That was his idea, and he meant to stick to it and to swear to it. Lord Sheffield, who had been a long time in Ireland, wrote in 1785 that the present improvement of Ireland was as rapid as that of any country had been—that she was a prosperous country, had manufactures, and that her people lived by them. That was the condition of the country 90 years ago, and the question was— Why was it that she had not gone on prospering? People were obliged to fly their country to seek their subsistence. He said that one remedy for this state of things was the remedy which he proposed in his Bill. The reason why he was so anxious to have Home Rule was because such Bills as his would soon be passed. He wanted Home Rule, because he believed it would tend to the prosperity of Ireland, as the local legislation would soon give the Irish as good and similar laws as they enjoyed in England, and therefore it was that he was a Home Ruler to the fullest extent. Lord Sheffield, whom he had quoted before, went on to say that the manufactures of Ireland were excellent. What he wanted to show was that those who said Ireland could not be a manufacturing country were entirely wrong, and he believed he had succeeded in doing that. He believed that if £1 notes were abolished it would settle the manufacture question, and result in making Ireland as prosperous as England. It was ear- nestly desired by him that the £1 notes should be abolished, with the view to establish manufactures in Ireland again, and they must either have this brought about, or Home Rule — one or the other they must have, and the sooner the better, for Ireland would not remain satisfied, or in the condition it was now in without one or the other being brought about. It had been truly said that with regard to Home Rule—


I would remind the hon. Member that he is not confining himself to the question before the House.


hoped that the House would see fit to bring about what he wanted. It was a reasonable concession to make, and he would defy anybody to show that the withdrawal of £1 notes would not be for the benefit of Ireland, for they caused the circulation of money to be totally inadequate to the wants of the people. They knew that England had no small notes in circulation, nor had France nor Germany — the latter country passed a law to abolish small notes after the year 1875, and the effect would be to increase the circulation of money of every kind. Look at the countries that had small notes in circulation. They all knew how they got on, and that the populations had been depressed to an enormous extent. Austria, Hungary, Russia, Spain, and Italy had small notes, and, looking at these countries, he would defy anybody to show that it would not be to their advantage to have small notes abolished; while, as regarded Ireland, that country particularly required their withdrawal from circulation. He did not intend to talk the measure out, but would rather appeal to the justice of the English Members, and also to Scotchmen, who, he hoped, would not interfere adversely in this Bill. In regard to this measure, if Scotchmen allowed it to pass in order that Ireland might benefit, and if they found it had that effect a Bill might be introduced by one of their Members to obtain the same benefit if they so desired. In conclusion, he begged to move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Delahunty.)


in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, the hon. Member for Waterford had left him only a few minutes to reply; but that was of little consequence, for the long speech they had listened to had been so entirely wanting in logical continuity, and was so quaintly inconsequential, that it was difficult to lay hold of salient points to reply to. The hon. Member, however, had spoken of prosperous manufacturers in Ireland hundreds of years ago, and had said there were then many hundreds of manufacturers in Dublin, where now there might be scarcely one; but he forgot one large factor in the argument— that in those old times they had little machinery, and no steam—and probably the one manufacturer of to-day would produce as much as the whole 1,500 of old times. He had said, also, that there was no country with a small note circulation that had not, along with it, a depreciated currency. The hon. Member actually forgot his own country—Ireland-—where there was no depreciation of currency, and every £1 note was good for the full 20s.; and Scotland was in the same position. The hon. Member's argument was only the old logic that "Tenterden steeple caused the Goodwin Sands." He saw the £1 note in Ireland, and he saw want of prosperity there; and so he concluded that the one must be the cause of the other; but he must look deeper than that for the cause of Ireland's poverty: and, in any case, it was an extraordinary remedy to propose for that poverty to take away what money she had, and make her poorer still. The hon. Member had not shown where the gold was to come from to replace the currency he wanted to take away; but he would not continue his remarks, as he did not wish to talk out the Bill, or to deprive the hon. Member of the satisfaction of a division upon it.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Anderson.)


in opposing the Bill, said, he should not have time to make any lengthened remarks, but he intended to reserve his observations on the Bill for a future occasion. He did not think the withdrawal from cir- culation of £1 notes would do anything to remedy the wrongs and evils complained of by the hon. Gentleman. "Without going at length into the question, he would state as regarded the hon. Member for Waterford, that although they all respected him, a considerable number of his Party looked upon the subject he had introduced to their notice that day as one of the very few on which he was astray. When they found that his Bill was brought in, having all the appearance of being a serious measure, and when attempts had been made by hon. Members to force it to a division at this hour, he thought it was his duty to protest against this course, in order that on a future occasion the question might be fully discussed on what they might courteously term its merits.

It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.