HL Deb 16 May 1820 vol 1 cc395-422
Earl Stanhope*

rose and said:—My lords;—In rising to submit to your lordships the motion of which I gave notice some days ago, I am influenced solely by a sense of public duty; and I am deeply impressed with the extreme importance of the subject to which I am anxious to call your attention, that of providing employment for the poor. In circumstances like the present, of extraordinary difficulty and danger, the consideration of this subject is perhaps of all others the most interesting and important, as we know that in almost every part of the country, the want of employment for the poor has produced severe distress; and as we knew also, that the discontent of those who suffer from that distress, has in some parts of the country assumed even the character of disaffection. The first and most urgent duty which your lordships had to discharge, was, to repress the machinations of the disaffected, when they tended to the subversion of that ancient and excellent constitution which has so long been the happiness and honour of this nation, and has so long secured its liberties and welfare. But your lordships have another duty to perform—a duty most important in itself, and of which the performance will be most beneficial to your country, and most honourable to yourselves; I mean the duty of inquiring, whence has arisen that calamitous situation of public affairs, which no man can contemplate without apprehension and alarm;—what have been the causes, and what might be the remedy, of that great and general distress which has produced such great and general discontent.

When the house is in flames, the first duty of the inhabitants is to extinguish the conflagration; but they will not suppose themselves to be secure in future from the * From the original edition, printed, for J. Harding, St. James's-street. danger, as long as the cause which produced it still continue to operate; nor will they suppose that they can prevent its recurrence by providing themselves with fire-engines and buckets. There is no maxim more true in itself, none perhaps more important in its application, than that of lord Bacon, that in order to allay sedition, it is necessary to expel the matter of sedition. If this should not be done, let not your lordships delude yourselves with the expectation that any measures of coercion and restriction which you have adopted, or may hereafter execute, would be sufficient to secure the internal peace and tranquillity of the country, or that you could rely for protection upon any increase which you have made, or could make, to your military force. The principal matter of sedition is at present public distress. I am aware that discontent has been found to exist in places, and among persons, that have not considerably suffered from distress; but it is however, true, and is confessed on all sides, that if such distress had not existed, the machinations which have been used to excite disaffection, could not have been successful. I am aware also, that the example of the French revolution has afforded extraordinary encouragement to inordinate ambition, since by the consequences of that great political convulsion, persons from the lowest classes of society were raised to the enjoyment of rank, of power, and of wealth. Nor can it be surprising, after an event so memorable, so recent, and so fruitful in bad example, that persons should be found who seek to acquire wealth by the means of public plunder, and to exalt themselves by plunging all around them in misery and ruin.

But we are to inquire whence it arises that persons whose professed objects amount to nothing less than the total subversion of the British constitution, are able to assemble so many auditors and adherents. This I am convinced, would not, and could not, take place, were it not occasioned by great public distress. If such distress did not exist, if the labouring classes were provided with employment, and enjoyed a comfortable subsistence, I believe that the number of those who would be anxious to change the constitution would be very small indeed, and that still smaller would be the number of those whom they might be able to delude. I would appeal to your lordships, whether in the former and more prosperous periods of our history, which have been truly and emphatically designated as "the good old times," any demagogue who had attempted to harangue the multitude in the same manner as we have sometimes witnessed in our days, would not have been pelted by the very boys in the street, as an enthusiast or a madman? But when distress is widely extended throughout the country; when even peace itself has not brought its accustomed prosperity; when the pressure of taxation is in all quarters, and by all classes most severely felt; when the agricultural, the manufacturing, and the commercial interests are greatly depressed; when almost every person finds that his means of enjoyment are considerably abridged, and many are deprived even of food and raiment, and the common necessaries of life; when the patient begins to despair of relief from all regular practitioners, and to view them with distrust; then it is that he becomes ready to swallow any nostrum which any quack can recommend.

In the Papers relative to the Internal State of the Country, which were laid upon your table in the last short session or parliament, there is no circumstance more striking than this, that the distress existed principally in the manufacturing districts. This is indeed a natural and necessary consequence of the mistaken and mischievous system which has been so long pursued, of encouraging exclusively the manufacturing and mercantile interests of this country. Such encouragement was the less requisite, as persons are in general more anxious to find a lucrative than a secure investment of their capital, and consider more their present profits than the future interests of their families. The prevalence of that feeling, the numerous examples which have been witnessed, of large fortunes that have been rapidly accumulated by such means, offer sufficient inducements to engage in such pursuits. But the manufacturers and the merchants receive not only large present profits, but are also practically relieved from many of those burthens which bear with dreadful weight upon the other classes of the community. They contribute nothing to the support of the clergy; they contribute nothing, or in a degree too inconsiderable to be mentioned, to the support of the poor: from the enor- * See First Series, voK.41, p. 230. mous, and in some cases, almost intolerable burthens of tithes, poor-rates, and other local and direct taxes, they are almost entirely exempt. I would ask your lordships, upon what principle of justice it is that taxes intended for general purposes, should be levied upon one description of property, and not upon any other? that one class of his majesty's subjects should be called upon to discharge exclusively those duties which are common to them all; and that the agricultural interest should be depressed while the monied interest is encouraged in the same proportion? I would ask your lordships, upon what principle of policy it is that these burthens are imposed upon that class of the community, which is, of all others, the most: valuable to the country; which is essential to its very existence, and which offers to the state those permanent and substantial resources, which are not affected by foreign trade, or by the state of foreign I markets? Can that taxation be just; which is unequal? Can that system be politic, which discourages the most useful and important branch of industry, and; encourages all others? Nor is the encouragement confined to the undue and unjust preference which they thus enjoy. They are further encouraged by absolute prohibitions in some cases, by heavy duties in all others upon the importation of foreign goods, by prohibitions and by duties which are intended for their benefit, but which are accompanied with considerable injury to the public revenue. The temptation of high wages, and consequently of idleness, attracted large: numbers of persons to manufacturing employments, and afforded great encouragement to marriage, particularly as the offspring of such marriages, instead of being an expense to their parents, became at a very early age a source of emolument, by working in those manufactories, where: their labour was very frequently employed in a manner which was most prejudicial to their health, and which certainly required the interposition of the legislature.

Thus has arisen, in great measure, that superabundant population in some districts, which has been the cause of so many complaints, and which it is now attempted to remedy by encouraging emigration. Great and grievous indeed must be the distress of the country, when it can induce government to offer, and many persons to accept, as a favour, that which in former times would have been considered as a punishment; exile from their country and their native soil, and the removal to other and far distant climes. Thus also, it has arisen, that immense multitudes of manufacturersare congregated together in one spot, with every possible means and opportunity of combination and conspiracy. By the exclusive encouragement which they have enjoyed, more capital has been invested, more labour has been employed in manufactures than would otherwise have been the case; and the number of the manufacturers has been increased beyond all natural and reasonable limits. Their subsistence, however, is, and must continue to be, of all others, the most uncertain and precarious. It is only upon the home market, which has, by many persons, been so much undervalued and neglected, that any permanent reliance can be placed: it is to that market only that you can look with any security, and yet we know that thousands of manufacturers may be deprived of employment by an alteration in the fashions of the day. The market of any foreign country may at any time be closed against us, not only by war, but also by its own municipal regulations, over which we have no control, and against which we have not even the right of remonstrance. This is not a theoretical evil, but one which is the more to be dreaded, as few of the continental powers have the advantage of a representative government, which might oblige the sovereign to consult the wants and wishes of his subjects.

We know that, at the present moment, the foreign trade of this country suffers very considerable depression; but it is said that this distress is only of a temporary nature. I can by no means concur in this opinion. It must be recollected, that the distress under which our manufacturers now labour, was not occasioned solely by the return to a state of peace, and did not commence at that period, but was experienced for several years previous to the conclusion of the war. If your lordships will refer to the Journals of the House of Commons, you will find that, during the continuance of the war, numerous petitions were presented from the manufacturing districts, which complained loudly of the distress which they suffered, and called loudly for relief. Yet that was a period in which our manufactures received extraordinary encouragement, partly from the immense demand which the wants of government occasioned, partly from the exclusive market which was enjoyed in some countries. The circumstances of that period were such as; never occurred before, and cannot be expected to occur again. God forbid that they ever should. But as great distress was then experienced, it is reasonable to conclude, that unless relief should he afforded, a still much greater degree of distress must continue to exist, under the present circumstances of the county, than was felt at that period, which seems to be considered as one of extraordinary commercial prosperity. I would say of that period, that it was not so much distinguished by commercial prosperity as by commercial speculation; by speculations often the most visionary and chimerical; of such as begun in delusion, and ended in disappointment. Such was the rage for commercial enterprise at that period, that, amongst other strange instances which were witnessed, whole cargoes of; warming pans and of coffins were sent to; South America. It was, I remember, publicly stated at that time, by a gentleman whose knowledge upon these subjects was equally accurate as extensive,: (I mean the late Mr. George Rose), that I though the quantity of our exports was very considerable, some of the goods were captured at sea, Others were burned when they were landed; some were never sold, and others were never paid for; so that, upon the whole, the balance of payments was very much to the disadvantage of this country.

If the information which I have received is correct (and unless I had the strongest reasons for believing it to be so, I would; not state it in this or in any other place), the continental commerce of this country has received a deadly wound, by the consequences of an event which I always reprobated as unjust, which I always regretted as injurious to our interests—the annexation to Prussia of part of the Saxon dominions. The extreme injustice of that measure must be confessed by all, as it dismembered the dominions of a sovereign who was so justly beloved by his own subjects, and so justly venerated by all Europe, and whose political conduct was the necessary result of the circumstances in which he was placed, as it wrested from him a considerable portion of those subjects who, from their moral and social virtues, deserved our respect, and who had. so long flourished under his benignant and paternal sway he im- policy of that measure begins now to be equally apparent. The cessions of territory which were made by Saxony, have nearly surrounded Leipzig with the Prussian frontiers, over which no goods are allowed to pass without paying heavy transit duties; such, I am informed, as amount almost to a prohibition, and such as must prevent our merchants from trading to that fair with any advantage. It must have been known, that the heart of British commerce on the continent was at Leipzig, from whence, through various streams and channels, the produce of British industry was carried, not only over the greatest part of Germany, but over many of the neighbouring countries. It ought also to have been considered, that it is indispensably requisite for every emporium of commerce, such as Leipzig, to enjoy freedom of access; and that as the trade to Hamburgh, for example, would become insignificant, if the Elbe were to be constantly blockaded, so must the British trade to Leipzig become insignificant, when it cannot arrive at that place without paying such duties as are now levied by the Prussian government.

This, however, is not the only difficulty opposed to our continental trade. The continental system, as far as it related to the. prohibition of British merchandize, still continues in many parts of the continent, and is preserved almost, if not entirely, in its original vigour; and the principles of that system are still very popular upon the continent, as they were found to afford great encouragement to their own manufactures. Can we be surprised that the continental powers should endeavour to encourage the industry of their own subjects, and should feel upon that subject the same anxiety as ourselves? Do we not know also, that our exclusion of their manufactures justifies, and may have occasioned, their exclusion of our own? It has indeed been recommended, that a change should take place in the commercial regulations and prohibitory system of this country.

This is a question of such magnitude and importance, that it requires, and will so doubt receive, a separate discussion; and I will not therefore detain your lordships on this occasion with many observations upon the subject. I would however remark, that if the change which is recommended should be a remedy for any of the evils which we suffer, it is a remedy which it may not be in our power to ob- tain. The concurrence of a foreign state is necessarily required for the purpose; and with respect to a large neighbouring power, the lessons that France received from her commercial treaty, and afterwards from her continental system, were such as must not only discourage, but would, I am persuaded, totally prevent her from forming such are arrangement with this country. If, however, the contrary were the case, the advantage or disadvantage of such an arrangement must in a great measure depend upon the comparative consumption which might exist, in consequence, between the two countries. If, by such an arrangement, we should import from a foreign country produce and manufactures to a greater amount iii value than we should export to that country, we should lose, instead of gaining, by the bargain, and should establish with that country an unfavourable balance of trade.

In foreign trade there are, as appears to me, only two principles upon which you can act with propriety—the principle of reciprocity, or the principle of retaliation; and it is unfortunate that you do not steadily and consistently adopt either of those principles. You do not. show more favour or indulgence towards the kingdom of Saxony, which admits all your merchandize, either without any duties, or with duties extremely insignificant in their amount, than you show towards the empire of Austria, which prohibits all your merchandize, and proscribes its importation with the utmost rigour. In justice to the former, you would wish to act with reciprocity; and in justice to yourselves, with retaliation towards the latter.

As to the encouragement which foreign trade is supposed to afford to your manufactures, I cannot think that it is politic to afford an exclusive encouragement to any one branch of industry, or to foster it like a tender exotic, till it becomes unable to bear the least inclemency of the seasons. Nor do I think it politic to render a considerable portion of the people dependent for their subsistence upon foreign countries, and upon the casual market which they may find in those countries for the produce of their industry. We ought to profit by the example of our neighbours in Holland, a nation eminently distinguished by the excellence of some of its institutions, and by its extraordinary sagacity and success in all matters relating to trade and commerce. The Dutch were great trailers, but were not great manufacturers; for they knew that it was wise to purchase when they could sell with advantage; but that it was unwise to employ immense numbers of persons in manufacturing goods for a foreign market, and to become dependent therefore on a market that may be closed by causes which it is not possible either to foresee or to prevent. It is undoubtedly a great advantage, when manufactures enable a county to provide for its own wants; but does it therefore follow, that they should provide also for the wants of other nations, who have both the power and the inclination to manufacture for themselves, or that any reliance ought to be placed on such a source of employment and subsistence? It is a still greater advantage, when manufactures enable a country to provide emplyment for its own population; but in this country, that most important and most desirable object is in a considerable degree frustrated by the means which are employed—by the very extensive use of machinery on which point I shall afterwards have occasion to make some observations.

Having spoken of the manufacturing and mercantile interests, your lordships will allow me to say a few words upon the agricultural population. That class of the community alone enables us to subsist, and is the basis of our prosperity and power. It is more than any other distinguished by the excellence of its dispositions and habits, as well as by its attachment to the religion and laws of the country, and has remained uncontaminated by that contagion which has been spread with such unexampled activity and such mischievous effect. Hut I am grieved to say, that the interests of that class of the population have received no favour, no encouragement, no, not even that justice and protection which was due to them, but that they still continue to be burthened by taxes, grievous in their amount, and unjust because unequal in their operation. I do not ask, on behalf of the landed interest, for favour or encouragement, although it is entitled to claim them from many important considerations, and for the national advantage; but I ask for equal justice, and for equal protection. I know that I shall be reminded of the corn laws, upon which so loud a clamour has been raised, a clamour which is the more to be deprecated, as it relates to a subject upon which it may be difficult to enlighten the minds, but upon which it may not be difficult to inflame the passions of the multitude. The corn laws were adopted from considerations of vital importance to the welfare, nay, to the very existence of this country; and not as a protection to the landed interest. I deny that the corn laws were enacted, as has been falsely and malignantly stated in a publication which I have read with unutterable disgust, in order to enable the land owner to receive higher rents. It is not the nominal amount of rents which constitutes the riches of the land owner, but their amount as compared with the value of money, with the wages of labour, with the prices of various commodities, and with the weight of taxation. The corn laws were necessary, in order to prevent this-country from being exposed in unfavourable seasons to all the horrors and calamities of absolute famine. This, however, is only a narrow and imperfect view of their importance. They were necessary in order to enable this country, in the most favourable seasons and under the most auspicious circumstances, to procure a supply of corn, for which, if those laws-did not exist, you would depend upon other countries. This would be contrary to every principle, I will not say, of policy, but even of common sense, and it is obvious that corn could not be procured from foreign countries when they will not receive that merchandize which might be sent in exchange, and when they require; those precious metals of which we feel and lament the scarcity.

Need I mention the present amount of poor's rates, which is one of the principal causes of the distress which afflicts the landed interest, and is also one of the principal consequences of the distress which is suffered by that and by all other classes of the community? The present I amount of the poor's rates is known to I exceed by more than one half, and-if the I accounts of the last year were examined, might appear to be more than double the sum that was required for the whole peace establishment of this country in the year 1792; a fact which would have appeared incredible to our ancestors, and may, it is hoped, appear so to our descendants If no effectual remedy should be adopted, if the poor's rates should be allowed to increase as rapidly as they have done of late years, the destruction of the landed interest at no distant period is inevitable. Your lordships might, in such a case, still preserve your title deeds, and still continue to be the nominal proprietors of your estates, but the produce of those estates would be partitioned according to the projects of the Spencean politicians. Against this great, this grievous, this growing evil, no effectual remedy has yet been adopted, or even been proposed; for I need not speak of those bills, which, whatever may have been the industry and information of those who prepared them, have been found to be most nugatory and inefficient. God forbid, my lords, that I should wish any measure to be adopted which could in any manner operate with harshness towards the poor, or that could operate otherwise than with kindness and indulgence. I have, however, the satisfaction to believe, that measures could be adopted, which would improve their condition, and would increase their comforts and enjoyments, while on the other hand they would considerably diminish the burthen of the poor's rates. Whatever may be the truth or falsehood of the theory which Mr. Malthus has attempted to establish, I disapprove entirely of the measures which some of his followers have recommended. Unless some noble lord, more qualified than myself for the task, should wish to undertake it, I intend at a future, and I hope no distant opportunity, to submit to your lordships, a motion upon the subject of the poor laws.

Lastly, my lords, as that which is the chief cause of our present distress, but as that which it is also the most difficult to remedy, let us view the financial situation of this country, groaning, as it does, under such a burthen of taxes and of debts, as never yet afflicted any country upon earth. The pressure of that taxation is as galling as its inequality is unjust and injurious to the interests of the country. It may be proved by a clear calculation, that every individual in the country who is not a land-owner, pays one third of his expenditure in taxes, but that every landowner pays more than one half, that is, eight-fifteenths of his expenditure in taxes. Under such a burthen, the result of long wars and of the funding system, it is perhaps impossible that this country can enjoy prosperity, I mean, of course, absolute, and not relative prosperity. But though prosperity may at present be unattainable, it is the anxious wish of the people to receive, and it is the duty of parliament to grant, every possible allevi- ation of the public burthens. It was no doubt with great reluctance, but from a mistaken view of the public interest, that ministers were induced, last year, to propose a measure which was so generally, and, I conceive, so justly unpopular, as that of imposing, in a period of profound peace, and several years after the termination of the war, an additional and permanent burthen of three millions of taxes upon the suffering people of this country I am ready to do justice to the motives which influenced their conduct, and to the importance of the object which they had in view, the maintenance of public credit. But it ought to have been considered, that any measure which renders the debt more onerous, renders it also more odious to the country, and tends unhappily to create a feeling of anxiety and impatience to shake off that burthen at any sacrifices and at any risk. The security of the public creditor was therefore weakened instead of being strengthened by that measure. Exclusive of that consideration, it was, I think, the duty of ministers to have adopted, under the circumstances in which the country was placed, a contrary system; and instead of imposing three millions of new taxes, to have diminished to the amount of several millions annually, the taxes which already existed. It was their duty to adopt measures which might tend to equalize the grievous burthen of taxation. It was, however, at that moment that they began to make an experiment, which was certainly very desirable in its object, but which was very singular in its mode of execution. I speak of the measures which were adopted, with the view of enabling the Bank to resume cash-payments. I do not mean to dispute the propriety and importance of returning as speedily as may be done with safety, to the legitimate standard of value, to the only system upon which you can act with prudence, that of a convertible currency. But was the time which was chosen for the purpose the most proper? Were the means which were employed, the best adapted to the object? If that measure is to have the effect which was intended; if the circulating medium has been depreciated, as we have heard it stated, twenty-five per cent, and if it is in consequence to be restored to its proper value, it is obvious that the pressure of taxation, which is one of the chief causes of the distress of the country, must be increased in the same proportion.

In the observations which I have mode upon the distress which is now suffered, nothing has been farther from my wishes and intentions, than to excite any feelings of despondency. But I have considered it to he my duty to state my Opinions upon the subject fairly, freely, and fully to your lordships, and to represent that the evils with which we are afflicted are most severe; that the necessity of affording some relief is most urgent, and that your measures must be commensurate with the magnitude of the object, I proceed therefore to a part of the subject, the consideration of which is as pleasing as that of the other has been painful—the consideration of those measures by which we might be able, not to remedy completely, but to relieve very considerably, that which is the cause of so much distress, of so much discontent, and of so much danger to the country, the want of employment for the poor.

I will, upon this occasion, content myself with stating to your lordships, the general principles of the measures which I shall recommend. The consideration and adoption of those measures must necessarily precede the examination of the manner in which they may be carried into effect, and the explanations which I should offer upon the mode of execution, would not only be premature at present, but might lead to very minute and very protracted discussions, which could he conducted with more convenience and advantage by the committee which I will propose to your lordships to appoint.

In the measures that I shall now propose, I have in view two principles, which I consider to be most important, that of providing permanent employment for the poor, and that of enabling them to secure an independent subsistence. In the former respect, those measures are distinguished from the plans which have been occasionally adopted, of employing the poor in public works; a mode of employment which is generally unproductive, and must be considered of a temporary nature, and has, besides, the disadvantage of being attended with very considerable expense. In the latter respect, those measures are distinguished from the plans which have been proposed for employing the poor in workhouses. Your lordships know that an establishment; has been formed by Mr. Salisbury, under the name of "The School of Economy," which is well calculated to employ the poor in work-houses, with considerable advantage to the parish, and with a consequent reduction to the poor's rates. Great merit is due to that gentleman, for founding that useful institution, which has many advantages, though it does not profess to secure an independent subsistence to the poor.

The first of these measures is, the cultivation of waste lands; and if I required any confirmation of the opinions which I entertain upon that subject, I should find it in the project which is now about to be executed at Dartmoor. With respect to that undertaking, I have not such information as would enable me to form a correct opinion on the probability of its success or of its failure; and much will of course, depend upon the general principles on which it is conducted; much also on their mode of execution. Such, however, has been the ingenuity and perseverance of the gentleman, who is understood to be principally concerned in the undertaking, the usher of the Black Rod, that valuable produce has, I am informed, been drawn from a spot, which was considered to be totally' barren and useless. If the undertaking should be attended with any success at Dartmoor, it cannot fail in. any other place; for I do not suppose that there exists in the whole island, a more unpromising, and perhaps a more unprofitable spot, than that which has been selected for the purpose.

It has, I am aware, been stated, that if waste lands could have been cultivated with success, they would have been cultivated long since. It does not, however, follow, because a certain tract of land could not be cultivated with advantage as a large farm, with the large capital and large establishment which is wanted for the purpose, that it could not be cultivated with advantage, when divided into small allotments, which would require no other labour than that of the occupier and his family. For such cultivation, the spade husbandry would, I am convinced, be found very advantageous. It has, I know, been attempted to ridicule that mode of husbandry; but the fact is, that in a part of the country with which I am well acquainted, and in which, happily, there does not exist as much distress as in most others, the expence of digging land is not greater than that of ploughing it, and the produce is considerably more abundant, which we know, from scientific reasons, if this were a proper place for explaining them, must always be the case. One of the principles, therefore, which I should propose far the cultivation of waste lands, is, that of dividing them into such portions as could be tilled by the occupier and by his family, without requiring any other labour whatsoever.

Nor does it follow, because a certain tract of land could not be cultivated with advantage for want of a market, or without the risk of glutting the market with the new produce which would be raised, that it could not be cultivated with advantage when the greatest part of that produce is consumed by the occupier, without his requiring any market, except for the purpose of enabling him to provide for his other wants, and to pay the moderate rent which would be expected. Under such circumstances, the state of the market would not prevent the cultivation of such land, and would become of very little importance to the occupier, or consequently to the proprietor. Another principle is, that colonization must precede cultivation, to provide the means of tilling the land, and also a demand for its produce. The first measure to be adopted for the purpose, is, that of building cottages, which could be done at a very moderate expense, as they would be constructed by the labour of those who are afterwards to inhabit them, and the rents would be proportioned to the value of the materials which would be employed, and which, in some parts of the country, would be very inconsiderable.

Another principle which should be followed, is that of rendering the system of cultivation advantageous to the owner as well as to the occupier, in order that it may be applicable to such lands as are private property, as well as to those which are crown lands or common lands, and to lands which are of an inferior quality, as well as to those which are termed waste lands. It has, indeed, been supposed, that such a system of cultivation would tend to encourage population; but it appears to me, that the effect would be directly the reverse. Imprudent marriages among the poor, are some of the results of that improvidence which naturally arises from their present situation. When a labourer has reason to apprehend, and, perhaps, from experience to know, that his own exertions, whatever may be his industry or good conduct, will not suffice for his support, and will not enable him to subsist without receiving parochial relief, he becomes careless of futurity, and, in the degraded situation to which he is reduced, he trusts to the parish for assistance in all cases, and under such circumstances is unwilling to debar himself of the enjoyments which he would receive from a family. But if his condition were the reverse, if he enjoyed comfort and independence, his children would beware, lest through their own imprudence or misconduct, they should fall from the station in which they had lived into one of poverty and degradation. This is the moral restraint which is found to operate with almost constant success amongst the middle and higher classes of society. The example of Ireland does not apply to this case, because the superabundant population of that country does not arise from small occupancies, but from the pernicious system of leases for lives, and of sub-letting. I speak in the presence of many noble lords who are connected with that country, and who know that this statement is correct. If, however, we look to the example of Ireland, we shall find that in that country, which possesses neither the advantages nor the disadvantages of poor laws, for they may be considered in both views, the labouring classes could not be supported if they did not occupy small portions of land, which enable them to provide subsistence for their families. Can it then be doubted that a system which alone enables Ireland to subsist without the assistance of poor's rates, would in this country operate very beneficially in diminishing the amount of the poor's rates? We know, that such is the opinion of those who have devoted much time and attention to the subject, who have maturely considered it, and who have exerted themselves in a manner which is most meritorious and patriotic.

The system which I recommend to your lordships, would effect that which, at all times, is very desirable, and is at the present moment peculiarly important; it would give to the labouring classes an interest in the soil. It would also tend to re-establish that order of men, which once formed the happiness and strength of this country, but which, unfortunately, has now become nearly extinct, the class of small yeomen. It would raise to that independent station, many of those who are now labourers, and would enable them to secure their subsistence by labouring for themselves instead of labouring for others; and by diminishing the number of the la- bourers, you would proportionally increase the demand and the wages of labour. Thus would your lordships encourage the industry of the labouring classes, and revive amongst them those habits and feelings of independence, which are essential to their welfare; and thus would you secure the means of permanent employment, and of comfortable subsistence to many thousands of your fellow subjects who are now in the most abject state of misery and distress.

Another measure which I would propose to your lordships, is the encouragement of the public fisheries. Upon this point I speak from the authority of the late Mr. Cobb, a person whose talents and information upon this subject were unrivalled, and who, in consequence of the valuable discoveries which he had made, received a pension from government under the administration of Mr. Pitt. Some of these discoveries have, I fear, followed him to the grave, but others are preserved in some of his manuscript papers which are in my possession. His views related partly to improved modes of fishing, and partly to the mode of conveying fish from the coasts into the interior of the country. I am aware that the prices of labour, and of every article, have very considerably increased since the period in which he wrote, which is now about thirty years ago; but he then proved by calculations the most perspicuous and convincing, that sea-fish could be delivered in a fresh state, and in any quantity, at a distance of forty miles from the coasts, at the rate of one penny per pound, and at the distance even of one hundred and twenty miles from the coasts at the rate of three pence per pound. I would explain to the committee if it should be the pleasure of your lordships to appoint it, in what manner the execution of this project could be encouraged; and it was proved by Mr. Cobb, that a very large profit would be received by those who might undertake it. It would not only afford abundant means of employment for sea-faring persons in catching the fish, and for other persons in conveying it into the interior of the country but would also provide food at, a very cheap rate, as the source from which it is taken is quite inexhaustible, as the implements, which are requisite for the purpose are, by no means costly, and as no other expense would be incurred than that of the labour of the fishermen.

The last measure to which I wish to call the serious attention of your lordships is that of establishing proper regulations with respect to the machinery, which is now so generally employed for abridging labour. That the unlimited use of such machinery has in some cases occasioned, and in other cases very much aggravated the public distress, is a fact which cannot be denied, and which does not require to be proved. It is stated even in the papers which were lately presented to parliament by the executive government, as one of the causes of the distress, and, therefore, of the discontent which existed in the manufacturing districts. The first victims of such machinery were the agricultural poor, whose domestic industry has been destroyed by it, because it prevented that industry from being exerted with any prospect whatever of advantage. In proof of this assertion, I beg to state to your lordships what was the situation, forty years ago, of the labouring poor in a part of Devonshire with which I am connected. The wages of labour were then six shillings per week, the price at which they had continued from the year 1728, as I can show by documents to which I have referred. The wages of labour in that part of the country are now seven shillings per week; and your lordships will judge what was the comparative situation of the poor, when you consider the immense difference in the value of money between the two periods. But at the former period, the wife of the labourer was able to earn as much by spinning, as he did by his daily labour. The earnings of a family at that period were, therefore, twelve shillings per week, and they are now only seven, although the price of every article of subsistence has been since that time enormously increased. In that part of the country the situation of the labouring classes has become so much worse, that the change is truly afflicting, and the causes deserve your serious investigation. The evils which thus afflicted the agricultural poor, are now severely felt by the manufacturers themselves, many thousands of whom are now deprived of employment, and even, of those who are employed, I know from indisputable authority, that the earnings do not, in some cases, exceed ten shillings per week, by working eighteen hours out of the four and twenty, an extent to which human labour ought not in any case to be exerted, and to which it cannot be exerted for any length of time. I speak with all proper deference to the opinions of those who differ from me upon this question of political economy; but I must confess, that the arguments by which it is attempted to justify the unlimited use of machinery, appear to me, upon the most mature reflection, to be utterly fallacious. It is true, that in general, and when trade is allowed to take its natural course, the supply will be equal to the demand; but the converse of that proposition, the principle upon which the manufacturers seem to act, that the demand will be equal to the supply, is false, and is contradicted both by theory and by experience. If manufactured goods were to be given away, instead of being sold, and such has already been very nearly the case, when they have been sold at a considerable loss upon their prime cost, the consumption of them could not be indefinitely increased, nor would their consumption in the home market be much diminished if less machinery were to be employed. Though goods which are manufactured by machinery are lower in price than those on which manual labour has been employed, their quality is in many cases very much inferior, and the real difference in the price is therefore far less considerable than is generally supposed. The great advantage which arises from manufactures, is that of providing employment for the poor; and this principle is recognised not only in your Statute Book, but also, by the whole system of your commercial regulations. It could be demonstratively proved, that many articles could be purchased from our neighbours at a much lower price than that at which they could be manufactured in this country, and that government would derive an additional revenue by allowing them to be imported on the payment of moderate duties; but this objection would always be made, to which it is difficult, if not impossible, to return a satisfactory answer,—will you deprive of employment a considerable number of your artizans? By the general use of machinery they have been most effectually deprived of employment, and that evil, of which the melancholy and alarming results have already been witnessed, is constantly increasing. What was the conduct upon this subject of Frederick the Great? which I quote not as an example for our imitation, but in illustration of my argument: That sovereign, whose views were directed to the glory of his monarchy, and were not influenced by very tender feelings of humanity and compassion, desired, when the model of a machine was presented to him which tended to abridge human labour, that it should be preserved as a specimen of ingenuity, and that the inventor should receive a pecuniary compensation for the time, the trouble, and the talent which he had employed upon it; but he desired also, that the inventor should immediately quit his dominions. In countries where there is a deficiency of population, and in new colonies, the use of such machinery must be eminently beneficial; but ought it to be allowed without any restriction in the present circumstances of this country, which, as we are told in all quarters, suffers from a superabundance of population? There is undoubtedly some machinery which deserves not only protection but encouragement, such as that which performs mechanically those processes which are either injurious to the health or dangerous to the lives or limbs of the workmen: nor should I wish to interfere with such machinery as affords merely a substitute for physical force, nor, except in particular cases, with such as performs those processes which, being of a complicated nature, might otherwise require many tools and much instruction for the purpose. It is by a minute and careful examination of the different species of machinery which is employed, that the committee would be enabled accurately to distinguish between that which may be allowed, and that which ought, from considerations both of justice, and of policy, to be restricted. The objections which I have stated apply particularly to the machinery which supersedes the occupations of domestic industry, such as spinning and lace-making, and such arts as can be easily learned and easily executed by the labouring classes of the community. When such machinery is used, when industrious workmen are in consequence deprived of employment, and obliged to subsist upon the bounty of others, those by whom such evils are inflicted, should be called upon to relieve them, and to support those who, if such machinery did not exist, would be both able and willing to provide for their own subsistence. This is not a new principle, but one which is practically followed by the agricultural population. If in consequence of the exactions of the clergyman for tithes, or if from any other cause, the owners or occupiers of land in a parish determine to convert their arable grounds into pastures, they are required to support those who are thus deprived of employment. If the manufacturer were to be placed, as in justice he ought to be, under a similar obligation, and were to bear only his due portion of the burthen which is thus imposed upon the other classes of the community, his own personal profits would not be acquired, as they are at present, without his incurring to any considerable degree an additional expense, and without his sharing as he ought, in those taxes which are required to support those whom he has thus deprived of the means of supporting themselves. It seems to be argued as if the private profits of the master manufacturers were in all cases, and necessarily, a profit to the country; but place on the other side of the balance the losses which are sustained by the artizans, and the expense which is incurred in supporting them, and you will then judge whether the unlimited use of machinery can be considered as profitable to the whole community. If, however, by the regulations which should be adopted upon this subject, an inconvenience should be sustained by the master manufacturer, it could not be commensurate with the evils which are now suffered by the artizans; but I have the satisfaction of believing, that the internal trade of this country would be very little affected by such regulations. Though the price of some manufactured goods would be somewhat increased, the means of purchasing them, and the number of purchasers, would also be increased. I may, perhaps, be asked, whether the foreign trade of this country could subsist, if such regulations were to be adopted, with respect to some machinery? To which I might reply,—can the foreign trade of this country be I expected to flourish even without such regulations? I see little or no reason to I hope that the foreign trade of this country will ever revive to any considerable degree, and my fears upon that subject are the stronger, when I reflect upon the prohibitory system which is still adopted in many countries, and which the manufacturers in some countries, anxiously wish to render even more rigid than it is at present. With respect to foreign manufactures, I cannot expect that the improvements of machinery in this country can long be kept a secret from them, when so many artizans, who used it, are now deprived of employment, or that improvements will not be made in the machinery of the continent. Should it however still continue to be more imperfect than that which is used in the country, the disadvantage on their side may in great measure be counterbalanced on the continent by the difference of the wages of labour. It might, perhaps, be practicable, informing regulations upon the subject, to admit exceptions with respect to such goods as are manufactured solely for a foreign market. I know that strong prejudices exist in favour of the unlimited use of machinery; but I am, however, convinced, and that conviction is the result of much reflection, that it is indispensably necessary to adopt some regulations upon the subject, otherwise, great public distress will continue to exist, and in many cases the exertions of some of the labouring classes will be paralyzed, their industry and their means of occupation will be destroyed, their subsistence will be derived only from parochial relief, and their condition will become helpless if not hopeless.

Such, my lords, are the measures which I would most strongly recommend to your adoption, and which I submit to your candid judgment. Though unconnected with each other, they have in view one and the same object. If your lordships should appoint the committee which I shall propose, and if it should, after a full investigation of the subject, adopt the general principles of those measures, I would, upon receiving its report, move for the appointment of a separate committee for each object, to consider the most eligible mode of carrying it into execution. Whatever difference of opinions may possibly exist upon the practicability and propriety of any of those measures, there can, I think, exist but one opinion on the vital importance of the object, which imperiously calls for your speediest and most attentive consideration. The motion which I shall submit to your lordships, does not prescribe to the committee any specific mode of accomplishing that most desirable object, and does not preclude the adoption of any measures which, upon deliberate examination, may appear to be the most eligible for the purpose; but the necessity of the case is most urgent, and will not allow you to postpone that examination without danger, whatever difficulties the subject may present. I conjure your lordships to meditate day and night upon the measures which ought to be adopted in this great crisis of our fate, to alleviate the distress with which the coun- try is now afflicted, to allay the discontent which at present pervades it, to avert the dreadful consequences which may ensue, to preserve the public peace, to restore, as far as is yet possible, our former prosperity and happiness; and in the language of the prayer which is daily read before us, "to unite and knit together the hearts of all orders of men within the realm." I therefore move, "That a select committee be appointed to consider the practicability and the means of providing employment for the poor, particularly in the manufacturing districts."

The Earl of Liverpool

did not intend to enter into any discussion of the various topics which his noble friend had introduced in the course of his able speech, because, if he did, he should be obliged to trespass on the patience of their lordships to an extent which they could hardly be expected to forgive, since a discussion of them would lead to an examination of the whole principles of political economy, and of the origin of agriculture, of manufactures and of commerce, not only in this, but in every other country. He was also the more inclined to defer the discussion of those topics, because another opportunity would shortly present itself, when it could be carried on with greater practical advantage than it could be carried on at the present moment. He should preface the few remarks which he was about to offer to their lordships by thanking his noble friend for the candid manner in which he had brought forward his present motion. His noble friend had pointed out the object which he wished to accomplish in the most clear and manly terms, and had explained most distinctly the views with which he intended to go into the proposed committee; and and yet, with the exception of the benevolent intentions entertained by his noble friend of benefiting the poor in the first place, and the country in the second, there was not a single position in his speech to which he was not prepared to give his most direct and unqualified disapprobation; for the propositions which his noble friend had maintained went to subvert the whole political economy of the country, and to make an entire change in the whole of its commercial relations. He had commenced his speech by laying down a most dangerous distinction between the manufacturing and the agricultural interests; and by stating that the policy of the British government, which, in reality afforded nothing more than equal protection to both, had hitherto led it to support the former at the expense of the latter interest. He, however, was one of those who did not understand how the two interests could be separated; for it appeared to him, that there was nothing which supported the one that did not at the same time support the other also. Manufactures had made great and rapid progress during the times in which it had been their fate to live, and had raised the country to a degree of power and glory which it could never have obtained without them. In what manner had they made that progress? By restrictions upon, agriculture? Most assuredly not; for when had they ever been supported in defiance of it? Agriculture, on the contrary, had been greatly benefitted by the increased circulation of manufactures; for was there any man who made a fortune by them who did not invest such part of it as he could withdraw from his business in landed property; or, if he did not so invest it himself, who was not desirous that it should be so invested, for greater security, by the heirs who succeeded to it?—But his noble friend had also argued as if all the protection of government had been extended to the interests of the manufacturers, and withdrawn from those of the agriculturists. But how far was this view of the matter; correct? True it was that the importation of foreign manufactures into this country could not take place except under certain restrictions; but was not the agricultural interest protected in a similar manner? Could any foreign nation import cattle into this country, or sheep, or wool, without the payment of heavy duties? Certainly not. Was not the cultivator of grain also protected by prohibitions, forbidding the importation of foreign corn, except under certain stipulations? Were there no such things as corn-laws to give them protection? He was not now arguing whether that protection was rightly afforded or not: he was only anxious to show, that, if protection had been afforded to the manufacturer, it had not in any degree been denied to the agriculturist. Into that question he would not ax that time go any further, though he thought it necessary to say a few words regarding the other objects which were contemplated in the motion of his noble friend. He should, in the first instance, dispose briefly of one of them, to which he intended no opposition—he meant that which went to encourage the fisheries. He could assure his noble friend, that there was not any subject on which his majesty's ministers had bestowed more of their time and attention than they had done upon this; and he was inclined to think that every exertion which could be made had been made, to increase the fisheries. In that opinion he might be mistaken; but if either his noble friend opposite, or any other noble lord, could devise a mode of procuring, first of all, a greater supply offish, and, next, an adequate market for that increased supply, which had not as yet come under his own notice, he could assure them he should be very happy to receive such information, and to offer, in return, such assistance as he could give, He thought, however, that if his noble friend were to review the minutes of evidence which had been taken upon this subject, his noble friend would come to an opinion not very different from that which he himself entertained. But though he was not inclined to oppose this object of his noble friend, if it were brought forward separately, he was obliged to oppose the accomplishment of his other objects, by an imperious sense of duty; for his noble friend's views regarding them were founded upon the most erroneous principles; and, though they proceeded from the best intentions, were calculated, if carried into execution, to produce most mischievous consequences.—As to the cultivation of waste lands, which his noble friend had proposed, he must observe, that there was no subject which had attracted more of the attention, not only of parliament, but also of political economists throughout the country. For his own part, he was much inclined to doubt the expediency of any measure which would invest fresh capital in the cultivation of lands now waste. He was for leaving capitalists to find out the way in which their capital could be best employed, being perfectly convinced that, under such circumstances, the interest of the public was not distinct from the interest of the individual. Besides, the misfortune of the agriculturist was not that too little, but that too much waste land had been cultivated—a misfortune which had arisen out of the high price of corn during the war. He positively knew that this was the source of the mischief, and that it had led to the breaking up of several waste lands, which had previously been used at a small price for several useful purposes. More than one half of the individuals who had given their attention to this subject were of opinion that, if the capital which had been expended on the new land had been expended on the old, it would have produced a much greater profit to the cultivator, and a still greater advantage to the community at large. He himself thought, that if they were to proceed to cultivate more waste lands, they would double, treble, quadruple, nay, quintuple all the present agricultural distress. He was of opinion that this would be the case, sup posing that the scheme were to be carried into execution at the expense of private individuals; but the evil would be still further aggravated, if it should be carried into execution at the public expense, as his noble friend had just proposed. Several of the noble lords whom he was then addressing were themselves agriculturists, and well aware how small were the profits at present derived from agricultural pursuits: he himself, who sometimes engaged in them, partly for health, and partly for amusement, knew them to be so from his own experience: he would therefore put it to their lordships, whether any thing could be more ruinous than the cultivation of waste lands, under such circum stances, at the public expense. Indeed, he would ask them, whether it was consistent with the dignity of government to descend to speculations in land, and with its wisdom to undertake the cultivation of that kind of land which no other person could cultivate with profit? He thought that only one answer could be given to such questions; but, whether that were the case or not, there was another consideration which ought not to be overlooked. It was this—Where was the money for such a scheme to come from? The country was already burthened with a great weight of taxes for the payment of its army, its navy, its civil establishment, and the interest of its national debt. In addition to these taxes, it was now pro posed that a great revenue should be raised for the purpose of cultivating certain waste lands at the public expense, which all allowed no other person could cultivate with profit. Upon these grounds he must certainly oppose such part of his noble friend's motion as related to the cultivation of waste lands.—He should now call their attention to the remarks which his noble friend had made upon the employment of machinery; and here he would take the opportunity of informing him, that, next to the spirit of her people, England was indebted for her commercial power and greatness to the inventions which that people had made in machinery. It had given, as it were, legs to the lame and sight to the blind: it had inspired the dull with enterprise, and to the enterprising had given additional energy: it had placed the country, in spite of all its disadvantages, on a level with the most favoured nations, and had enabled its merchants, who paid a heavy price for labour, to compete with those of other nations, who paid but a trifle for it. Did his noble friend conceive that the commercial greatness of England had arisen from any superior advantage in its climate, any superior fertility in its soil? No. He might go to the east or to the west, to the north or to the south, and find climates of more genial influence, lands of much richer quality—but he would not find in their boundaries men whose mind was a richer treasure to the land which contained them than any which either soil or climate ever produced. He would find that they did not number among their inhabitants a Watts, a Bolton, an Arkwright, and many other names to which England was indebted for its present greatness—men who were as useful to their country, in their generation, as any of the legislators of old were in theirs. Let him visit our manufacturing towns—for instance, Birmingham; and he would see the greatest inventions matured, and brought to perfection, by those whom he might consider as the meanest and most abject of mankind, but who were, notwithstanding daily rising, from the humble situation in which Providence had originally placed them, to wealth and honour, and eminence in the state. If, therefore, his noble friend was for discouraging the employment of machinery—if he was for putting down the bold and enterprising and inventive spirit of our industrious mechanics, he was for putting down and discouraging that which had been in times past, and must again be in days that were to come, the source of much of our welfare and happiness. True it was that the employment of it had been productive of distress as well as of prosperity; but all experience proved that, wherever there had been great wealth, there also had been at the same time great poverty; and that, wherever great enterprise had existed, that enterprise had always been found forcing itself beyond its natural level, and not returning to it until it had experienced great distress and misery. To that state the enterprise of the country had at present reduced it. But were their lordships therefore prepared to say that they would retrograde to the first ages of society, and give up all the benefits which had since accrued to them from the exertion of human ingenuity? Could they with advantage go back one single step? He thought not. They must feel that they owed a mighty debt to the population which was now looking up to them for support and consolation; and, feeling that obligation, they ought likewise to feel, that neither the laws of God nor of man permitted them to shrink from the responsibility attached to it. Being impressed, therefore, with the conviction that the objects contemplated by his noble friend's motion were such as he had described them to be, and were calculated to produce pernicious results, which had, by some fatality, escaped his noble friend's observation—being unwilling at the same time to put a decided negative upon a motion which was intended to relieve the distresses of the poor—he felt it necessary to conclude the remarks which he had made to the House by moving the previous question.

Earl Stanhope

made a short reply, in which he complained that his noble friend had misunderstood him both on the subject of waste lands and on that of machinery. He regretted that the money spent in useless expeditions such as that to the North Pole, was not laid out in the erection of cottages; remonstrated against the rejection of his general motion, on the ground upon which his noble friend had objected to his specific plan; and declared that as his opinions on the subject were unchanged he should feel it his duty to enter them on the Journals.

The previous question was then carried without a division.