HL Deb 18 December 1812 vol 24 cc323-4

On the order of the day being read, for going into a Committee on this Bill,

The Marquis of Lansdowne

expressed a wish, that the Bill had been divided into two. To one part of it he was disposed to agree, namely, that which respected distress for rent; it was true, it was a part of a faulty system, but it was certainly necessary to protect tenants from oppression in being called upon to do that which would be, under present circumstances, a violation of the original contract with the landlord; for though a noble friend of his in calling for rents in specie, had laid down rules which were perfectly equitable, yet other landlords might not be actuated by the same equity. So far, therefore, he agreed in the measure; but to the other part of the Bill, which went in fact to declare, that no person should part with gold, except for less than its value, nor take paper except for more than its value, he considered it as a system pregnant with incalculable mischief. He would not now enter into the question of depreciation; but confine himself to the more immediate object of the Bill, and he contended that it was perfectly absurd to attempt by a legislative provision to give a currency to paper, which was not worth the value set upon it. Similar expedients had been the resort of all weak and tyrannical governments, and had successively failed. The natural consequence was, the driving all the gold out of the market, and thus precluding' the means of returning to payments in specie. What good had been ef- fected by resorting to this measure? Had it tended to support the war in the peninsula? It was a well known fact, on the contrary, that ministers had been unable to send a requisite supply in specie to lord Wellington, and that his lordship had only been enabled to procure a supply from the circumstance of there being two prices in Portugal, a gold price and a paper price. Had a similar legislative enactment to this prevailed in Portugal the supply could not have been obtained. Thus it would be seen that it was only upon the principle of two prices that our army was supplied in the peninsula, a principle which, in fact, prevailed in this country, but in ineffectually endeavouring to counteract which by this measure, ministers had precluded the means of adequately supplying our army there from hence. The same principle also of two prices prevailed in Canada, where 100,000l. in Bank notes I had been sent, and had been discounted, being taken at the rate of 14s. in the pound. Impressed with the idea of the futility of enacting what was in itself absurd, and in its consequences mischievous, as it could not prevent the two prices which it was its object to counteract, and as it operated by driving the gold out of the market to prevent a return to a sound and healthy circulation, he intended to have taken the sense of the House upon a motion for dividing the Bill into two; but as the House was thinly attended, he should not put it to the vote.

The Earl of Clancarty

contended, that the most mischievous consequences would result from having two prices, and that the supply to our army in the peninsula was best secured by the present measure.

The Bill then passed through the Committee.