HL Deb 06 March 1815 vol 30 cc1-5
Earl Stanhope

said, he had a great dumber of petitions numerously signed, to present to their lordships against any alteration in the Corn Laws. One of these, he said, was signed by between 9 and 10,000 persons; a second was signed by about the same number; another by between 7 and 8000, and so forward: all were signed in a very short space of time. Would that House of Parliament, in which they were emphatically told the other night, they should attend to the wishes of the people of Scotland, in the case of the Trial by Jury, refuse to attend to the wishes of the people of England, so generally and unequivocally expressed? He hoped the House would keep in that sentiment, and attend to the wishes of persons out of doors, on a subject to which, he trusted, their lordships would feel it their duty to pay particular attention, and one that interested the individuals deeply. He cordially agreed in the opinion expressed by some, and these not merely distressed laborious persons, but persons in a most respectable line, that the change proposed to be made, would make their present bad condition much worse, that they might be said to fall 'out of the frying-pan into the fire.' On this subject, he should wish their lordships would take into serious consideration those principles which he had laid down, and in the conscious confidence of support given to their lordships last year for new-modelling the system with respect to those engaged in pursuits of agriculture. He did not believe a system so calculated to augment in every way the direct taxes of that nature and description could have been devised; it was in fact taxing the people upon compound interest. If their lordships would proceed rightly in so important a case, they would go into a consideration of the principles on which the revenue ought to be raised, and to record those principles. These were his sentiments upon points which he trusted their lordships would, ere it might be too late, take into their earnest consideration.—His lordship then presented petitions from White-chapel, from St. Botolph, from the Tower-hamlets, from Chatham, signed, as he observed, by a great number of true men of Kent, as were two other petitions from Rochester and Deptford, also in the county of Kent, and from several other places; in all about ten petitions.—The petitions were laid on the table.

The Earl of Derby

presented a petition from Great and Little Bolton, in the county palatine of Lancaster, also against the Corn Bill. His lordship observed, that, though from his connexion with that place, he felt it his duty to present their petition for the consideration of parliament, he by no means agreed in the prayer which it contained. Thinking, as he did, that the measure now in its progress was calculated to prove advatageous to the country, he should give it his support, whatever unpopularity it might expose him to. He was sure that the measure was not pregnant with the evils apprehended from its operation. If he thought it was, he would be one of the last men to countenance its adoption; and he hoped the petitioners would give him the credit of acting to the best of his judgment. The petition was most respectably signed, and was deserving of every consideration.—Ordered to lie on the table.

The Duke of Sussex

stated, that he had a petition to present to their lordships, praying also, that no alteration may be made in the corn laws. In presenting it, however, he wished to be understood as giving no opinion whatever upon the subject. When it should be under discussion, he would attend to what might be said upon both sides of the question, and draw his conclusions therefrom, according to the best of his judgment. At the same time, he would take this opportunity of saying, that from his present view of the Subject, there appeared to him to be a necessity for farther investigation, and he must deprecate any thing like an attempt to hurry a question through the House of such primary consequence. He should act upon the principle he had referred to, and would pledge himself no further. His Royal Highness then presented the petition, which was from certain inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Hammersmith.

Lord Grenville

said, he had likewise several petitions to present to the same effect, and those so numerously and respectably signed by landholders, as well as others, that he trusted their lordships would be fully convinced of the extreme impropriety of precipitation and hurry, in dealing with a question in which so great a proportion of the population of the country look so deep an interest. The first petition which he begged leave to present to their lordships was from the merchants, manufacturers, cotton spinners, and others in and about the town of Manchester, signed by 52,000 persons. Considering the great respectability and number of those by whom this petition was signed, he thought it would be proper to move that the petition be read at length. The petition was accordingly read, and stated the mischiefs which, in the opinion of the petitioners, would result from a perseverance in the proposed alteration in the corn laws, by raising the price of provisions in general, sending skilful workmen out of the country to France, the United States of America, &c. and ultimately proving highly injurious even to the owners of land. The petition was laid on the table. His lordship then presented petitions to the same effect from the parish of St. Leonard's, Shored itch, signed by about 18,000 persons in two days; from Wapping, from Plymouth, from Trowbridge, and several places in the county of Sussex; in all about twelve petitions.

The Earl of Darnley

addressed the House at some length upon the general subject under consideration, which he seemed to think was still much misconceived and misrepresented. He adverted to some farther information that would be necessary to illustrate certain points he had advanced in discussion on a former evening, and for which he intended to move. He would again beg leave to enter his protest against the use of any language, in or out of the House, which might, from, mistaken zeal, tend in any degree to irritate those feelings which were already much misled on the subject. It was fortunate, after what he had observed against the first part of a statement, that the necessary effect of the measure to the consumer would be, to advance the average price of corn to 80s., that he could refer to an important fact, which was so far decisive upon the subject, which was, that the price of the best wheat that day at Mark-lane, had fallen 5s. per quarter. This, he trusted, would have its due effect upon the public mind, which was misled on more than one point connected with the subject. Of these were the asserted facts, that the quartern loaf would rise, were the price at 80s., to 16d. or 18d. On this head, he had advanced that, in his opinion, the quartern loaf, under any fair operation, ought not to exceed 1s. To bring this part of the subject more fully before the House, he would move for accounts of the average price of wheaten flour, and the average price of the quartern loaf, during the last ten years; which he doubted not would shew that under no fair operation, the price being at 80s. that of the quartern loaf hereafter would exceed a shilling. There was one other point to which he would claim the attention of their lordships, namely, to a false assertion which had been made, including a gross absurdity—that the object of those who advocated the pending measure, was to raise the price of corn permanently, so as to make the subsistence of the people dearer hereafter. He, for one, would declare in the face of their lordships and the country, that if he thought or believed that this or any other measure would have such a permanent effect, he would not support it. On the contrary, he in his conscience believed the effect would be ultimately very different. He would repeat, that if he thought it would have the injurious effects alluded to, he certainly would not vote for the measure. The noble earl concluded by moving for accounts to the effect above stated, which were ordered to be laid before the House accordingly.