§ Lord Redesdale
said, he was anxious to make a few observations, in proposing a series of Resolutions, of which he had given notice, with reference to the Corn-laws. The unfortunate event which had prevented the noble earl, who was recently at the head of his majesty's government, from doing that which he had intended to do, had led to one very great inconvenience—the resolutions which had been proposed to the other house of parliament 790 having spread a great degree of alarm throughout the country; the natural consequence of which was, that a variety of petitions from all parts, thronged their lordships' table; upon almost every one of which, a kind of desultory debate had arisen, often times when the House was by no means full; consequently, the consideration of this important subject had been as yet of a very unsatisfactory nature. It was, therefore, suggested, that the only way to remedy the evil was, by offering to the House certain resolutions, which might at once lead to some definite result. He had, in consequence, drawn up a series of resolutions, which he meant to propose should he laid upon their lordships' table, that each noble peer might have an opportunity of examining them. In considering this subject, the principal guide he had taken, was an able speech, delivered by the noble earl recently at the head of the government, during the session of 1820, when a motion was made by a noble marquis, for the House to go into a committee on the state of the foreign trade of the country; in the course of debating which, the subject of the Corn-laws was introduced. The noble earl then at the head of the Treasury, upon that occasion objected to the discussion of a subject, tending, as he stated, to change the law as it then stood. In the course of his speech, the noble earl deprecated such discussion in the following terms: "Let the law," said he, "be considered as fixed, and then any person may know how he is to act, and on what terms he is to make his bargain; but if the law is to be continually changing, and vacillating from one side to the other, it will be impossible for the landlord, the tenant, or the merchant, to form a correct judgment; it will be impossible for the landlord to know at what rent he is to let his land, for the cultivator to know on what terms he is to take it, and for the corn-dealers to ascertain in what manner their arrangements are to be made." Their lordships were aware that the corn commerce of the country was now carried on almost exclusively between the farmer and the corn-dealer, and that the article was conveyed almost entirely by the corn-dealer to the consumer. Our old habits had nearly become extinct; and, with few exceptions, farmers, instead of baking their own bread, procure it from the baker. The noble earl at the head of the government had, in 791 1820, deprecated any change in the then system of Corn-laws. He had then said, that whatever inconvenience might result from them, in the state in which they stood, the landlord, the tenant, and the dealer, would be aware of the precise circumstances under which they were placed, and every thing would be settled; but if a change were made—if one day, we had one system, and another day another, such vacillation would give rise to more inconvenience than the existing laws by any possibility could effect. There was so much wisdom in these observations, that he confessed he was surprised when he heard, in 1822, the same noble earl considering what alterations could be made in those very Corn-laws; and still more so, when, during the last session of parliament, that noble lord brought forward a certain resolution, to which he (lord Redesdale) offered his most strenuous opposition. This resolution was grounded on the fact—a fact it certainly was—that there was in the country a great body of manufacturers unemployed; and, to remedy this evil, it was proposed to introduce into the market of this country a quantity of foreign corn, in order to reduce the price which corn then bore; and this was to have precisely the effect of taking so much out of the pockets of our home-growers of grain, to supply the exigencies of cotton and other manufacturers—to give bread at a certain rate cheaper; as much so as it could be made by four or five hundred thousand quarters to some eight or nine millions of people: and, at the same time, this arrangement had another object in view, which object was, neither more nor less, than to enable the public revenue to participate in the plunder. By this means a certain sum was put into the public treasury, which sum was taken out of the pockets of all those who were then in possession of British corn. It did then appear to him, that such a measure was one of a highly impolitic nature; and, notwithstanding he felt the greatest respect for the noble earl who proposed it, and whose administration he had, to the best of his abilities, long supported, he had held himself bound in the strongest language, and in the most uncompromising manner, to oppose it. However, that was past; but he then felt, that there must have been the most extraordinary change in the opinions of the noble earl, if such opinions he did entertain; and, in consequence of 792 this feeling, he reverted to the opinion stated in 1820, thinking it the sounder and best founded—when the House agreed to abide by, and for a time did abide by, their resolution, that the Corn-laws should not be interfered with, but should remain as they stood. The resolutions he now proposed to offer to the House, were, in a great degree, what might be called self-evident propositions: yet they had been disputed. The noble earl, to whom he had been referring, in 1823, took it as undisputed and indisputable, that, "the agriculture of the country was the great basis of its power and wealth." He also considered, as a matter of course, that agriculture would not be as important as it was, but for the trade and manufactures of that country. And, surely, it was a fact, that the population, did give a stimulus to agriculture; that as the population increased, agriculture would flourish; and, therefore, that it unquestionably urged to the cultivation of the land. But, what he would ask would be the state of that country, what would be the state of its trade, and its manufactures, if it were not cultivated? Agriculture was, therefore, the first step—the original source—of the improvement of both these branches; without which, neither of them could continue to flourish. The first proposition he had to make was—"That the wealth and strength of Great Britain originated in the cultivation of its soil, and must always be dependent on that cultivation, whatever other advantages the country may possess."
In making use of the word "wealth," he begged to say, that it was used by all good political economists, as all that constituted the well-being of a country—as the common-wealth. It was of little consequence how much gold or silver, or precious stones, it possessed; it was to this well-being of the country (and wealth taken in this sense) that the attention of government was and ought to be directed. By this word was evidently meant the cultivation of the land; for without it, what would any country be? Should we be satisfied to exist like the savages of America, as hunters of wild beasts, or like the patriarchs of old, as the keepers of flocks? Yet such must be our state without the cultivation of land; for to such cultivation, all the blessings that followed trade and manufacture were owing. Let their lordships for a moment, picture to themselves, the barren wilds of Africa. 793 Why were they barren? Because they could not be cultivated. If they were capable of receiving cultivation they would soon be peopled as thickly as were those little productive spots that were here and there scattered over them. Suppose that the skill and intellect of man could make those barren deserts as fruitful as the fertile plains of Egypt, what a difference would there then be from that which now was, where the solitary caravan travelled leagues upon leagues, depending for their subsistence only upon the provisions they carried with them. And suppose, also, that some visitation of Providence converted this country into a waste as barren and as unproductive as the African sands, and equally incapable of cultivation, what would then become of its numerous population? They must at once fly the kingdom, and our trade and manufactures must necessarily fall. It had been the fashion with late political writers to hold up to ridicule all those who, of old, had written on the subject; but he would, nevertheless, refer their lordships to a paper in the Spectator—one which was attributed to the pen of sir Richard Steele, which was very applicable to the subject. He supposes (with referrence to another topic), that the power which had created this fair island, were to raise out of the sea a country equal in extent to this, and to join that country to ours. The question would then be, whether such a juncture would strengthen that land which previously existed, being as it would be, without inhabitants and without cultivation. Certainly not, but, on the contrary, it would weaken ours. Now, he would say, that the man who wrote this Essay, knew more of political economy than ever Mr. M'Culloch did. But, on the other hand, suppose that the Divine power had raised out of the sea a country of equal population and cultivation with ours, and with equal trade and manufacture, then the case would be altered. Then our island would be strengthened—then Great Britain would possess double the strength which it new possessed. Another of the old writers, sir W. Dugdale, in describing a vast tract of country that had been gained from the waters, said, "where there was formerly nothing but wild ducks, there are now goad land, good villages, and good roads," and he went on to comment on the curious complaint that was made, when it was first proposed that those lands 794 should be reclaimed and cultivated; namely, that the markets of London would not be so plentifully supplied with wild ducks. After this, he proceeded to observe on the fact, that the counties of Northampton and Somerset were both nearly of the same size; that the one was enclosed and cultivated, and that the other was open, and, to a great degree, a mere sheep-walk; and that the natural consequence of this difference was, that the inhabitants of the enclosed county were double, that its productions were double, and that the taxes it paid were double, those of the open county. He then went on to show the advantages possessed by the one over the other, and the consequent advantages of cultivation. Now, our modern political economists would describe this as nothing more than absurdity; inasmuch as they assert it to be folly to cultivate any but the most fertile lands. He (lord Redesdale) had happened unfortunately to peruse the public papers, at the very time when Mr. M'Culloch's book was published, and in them he had met advertisements for the sale of estates in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, some of which were described as being let at a rent of 700l. per annum. How came it that those lands yielded such a rent? Why, the advertisements gave the answer — because they stated, that upon them were farm houses, to which were attached barns, orchards, gardens, and other requisites—that the lands were divided into pasturage and tillage, and the divisions enclosed. Now, it was these circumstances that created the rent; but if, by Fortunatus's wishing-cap, or by some such means, such lands were transported into a part of the country in which there was no cultivation nor any roads, although they might remain in precisely the same state, they would produce no rent. It was to the improvement that every where took place, that the productive rent was owing. And by whom was this improvement originally made, but by the landlord? It was he who built the barns, and prepared the lands for the subsequent cultivation of the farmer. Yet, our political economists, not only Mr. M'Culloch but Mr. Ricardo, had taken it into their heads, that land was a machine; when it was in reality no more so than the oak tree from which the machine was afterwards formed. The system of cultivation, he considered to be a complicated system, requiring a great capital; and one of the 795 vices of the present system was, that it would destroy that capital. It was a most desirable object, that the system should be rendered profitable; and that object was so stated in the act of Charles 2nd, on which the Corn-laws were founded. In that act, cultivation was urged, not only with a view to make the waste lands valuable, but to make valuable those lands which were already improved. The noble lord then proceeded to comment, in terms of approbation; on the conduct of a gentleman who had reclaimed a large portion of waste land in the neighbourhood of his estate. But the wealth of the country was not alone to be considered; the strength of that country was an important object. He had the best authority for saying, that "when a strong man keepeth his goods, he resteth in peace; but when a stronger than he cometh, he spoileth his goods, and taketh from him that which he hath." It was then important, that we should have strength to keep the wealth which we possessed, and that strength depended mainly on our agricultural population, and on those Navigation laws, which gave us power at sea.—The noble lord then entered into a detail of the origin and nature of the Navigation laws, and described the militia of the country, as contributing to its protection and tranquillity. His second and third resolutions were as follow:—
"That the cultivation of the soil of a country is a trade and manufacture, and is so far the most important trade and manufacture in every country, as every other trade and manufacture must depend upon it.
"That, though the production of corn for the food of man is, in Great Britain, one of the most important objects of cultivation, yet the means of obtaining the production of corn, the quantity purchased, and the profit to be derived by the cultivator from the production, are all dependant on many other objects of production, and especially on the production of animals, and of food for animals, and on the further produce or other benefit derived from such animals; and the general profit of the cultivator is the result of the combination of all the several articles so produced, each article contributing to the more profitable production of the rest, the amount of the whole production at the same time greatly depending on the capital and skill employed in fitting the land for the purposes of cultivation, and on the 796 capital and skill employed by the cultivator: and it is the combined effect of all these operating causes which gives plenty from cultivation, and renders cultivation profitable."
He considered this branch of the subject as highly worthy their lordship' consideration. They ought to bear in mind, that the price of corn depended, in a great degree, on the price which the farmers were enabled to procure for their wool. Their lordships had upon their table many petitions stating the great evils that had arisen from the importation of foreign wool, and that, when this was permitted, there was no scarcity of the article in the country, but that, on the contrary, nearly every wool-stapler in the country had one or two years' stock, which he was unable to dispose of at any price; yet he would venture to say, that not one of their lordships found his coat cost him less than it did before this importation was permitted. The same observation would hold good of leather, and other articles. When he was a young man, he commonly paid 5s. for his shoes, and now he was in the habit of paying for them 17s. 6d. Now, if he received the same rent when he paid for this article only 5s. as when he paid for it 17s. 6d., what must be the consequence? To prove that the price of corn had not kept pace with those of other articles of produce or manufacture, it was only necessary, he would repeat, to refer to the price of shoes. Formerly an agriculturist could purchase a pair of shoes for the price of a bushel of corn: now they cost the price of two bushels and a half. The taxes, too, formed a material point for consideration; for, where the price of a bushel of wheat had been sufficient, in former times, to pay the taxes of a farmer, the price of twenty bushels now would hardly suffice. Their lordships must see, therefore, that corn could not now be sold for the same price at which it was disposed of sixty or seventy years ago.—The noble and learned lord then proceeded to contend, that rents had not been raised in any thing like the proportion which some people imagined, and instanced a farm which paid 60l. a year rent in 1675; the present rent was only 180l. The whole of the increase in the price of corn had been caused by the increased expenses incurred in agriculture. The next Resolutions ran as follows:—
"That the laws now in force, regulating 797 the importation of foreign corn, are founded on the principles expressed in the foregoing resolutions, having in view the extension and improvement of the cultivation of the country, the increase of its productions, and insuring to the improvers and cultivators of the country the just reward for their expenditure and labour, as expressly acknowledged in the preamble to the act of the 15th year of the reign of king Charles 2nd, intituled, 'An Act for the Encouragement of Trade,' in these words:—'Forasmuch as the encouraging of tillage ought to be, in an especial manner, regarded and endeavoured; and the surest and effectuallest means of promoting and advancing any trade, occupation, or employment, being by rendering it profitable to the users thereof; and great quantities of land within this kingdom, for the present lying in a manner waste, and yielding little, which might thereby be improved to considerable profit and advantage (if sufficient encouragement were given for the laying out of cost and labour on the same), and thereby much more corn produced, great numbers of people, horses, and cattle, employed, and other lands also rendered more valuable.'
"That under the encouragement proposed by the said act of the 15th of king Charles 2nd, and many other acts since made, in conformity to the principle expressed in the preamble to that act, great quantities of land, which were in the 15th of king Charles 2nd lying waste and yielding little, have been improved with great cost and labour, and much more corn has been produced, and great numbers of people, horses, and cattle, have been employed, and a population, very greatly increased in number, and consuming a much greater quantity of corn in proportion to their number, has been provided with food by means of the improvements so made, and the produce of the country has thereby become equal to provide for such increased population, both with corn and other food, in great abundance; unless by the dispensation of Providence, the extraordinary inclemency of a particular season should happen to render the production of that season considerably less than the production of an ordinary season.
"That under the apprehension of the possible occurrence of such an extraordinary season, and the consequent failure of crops, provision has been made in the said act 798 of 15th Charles 2nd, and in all the subsequent acts respecting the importation of foreign corn, to prevent the scarcity which might be produced by inclement seasons, the importation of foreign corn being allowed whenever the prices of home-grown corn, estimated according to the value of money at the several times of passing such acts respectively, should indicate so great a failure of crops, as to raise just apprehensions, that the produce of the country might be insufficient for the consumption of its inhabitants; but at the same time allowing to the home-growers of corn the benefit of a rise in the prices of corn, corresponding with the deficiency in the quantity produced, and thereby compensating to them, by increase of price, the loss which they would otherwise have suffered by deficiency in their crops, whenever that deficiency did not, by an extraordinary rise in price, indicate the danger of distressing scarcity."
The act of the 15th Charles 2nd might be termed the foundation of the Corn-laws, although something of the same nature had been enacted in the reign of Edward 4th. The noble and learned lord here contended, that unless the agriculturist was protected, a breach of the public faith would be committed; for, under his faith in acts of parliament, he had laid out his money in improvements and prosecuting agriculture. Their lordships would be shocked at any thing like an approach to a breach of faith with the public creditor; yet he would contend, that the public faith had been equally pledged to the agriculturist. Moreover, if the claims of the landed interests were scrupulously examined, it would be found that that class had been eminently beneficial to the country, particularly during the last thirty years; having, by the encouragement held out to them, been induced to apply their capital to the extension of agriculture, until the amount of produce had been so increased, that, unless in very bad seasons indeed, the produce of the soil was equal to the consumption of the country. The same principle had been applied in Sweden with the same success.—The next Resolution involved the question of what was really the price of corn at the present moment, and was to the following effect:—
"That, considering the present value of money, and the great rise of prices of almost every article of consumption, and the great increase of burthens imposed on 799 the people of Great Britain, and especially on the produce of the soil; the prices of 60s. for the quarter of wheat, of 32s. for the quarter of barley, of 24s. for the quarter of oats, and of 36s. for the quarter of rye, peas, and beans, cannot be considered as indicating such a deficiency in the quantities of the same different sorts of grain produced in the country, as to warrant any apprehension of scarcity; and, on the contrary, those prices are not more than sufficient to remunerate the corn-growers for deficiency of crops in ordinary years, as they are very little above the prices in very plentiful years, when the prices are always lower than fair remunerating prices in an ordinary year, as the supply in such very plentiful years greatly exceeds the demand, and the surplus forms part of the consumption of the succeeding year, and often at an advanced price."
His lordship here proceeded to contend, that much of the increase of the price of grain was caused by the luxurious habits in which the present generation indulged, and referred to the state of distress into which the trade and manufactures of the country had fallen, attributing it to the causes pointed out by lord Liverpool in the year 1820; namely, the excess of manufactures, speculations in trade, and a sudden desire to grow rich. It was, therefore, very unjust that their lordships should be called upon to injure the agriculturists, because the manufacturers, by the introduction of machinery, had been enabled to dispense with many of their workmen, or at least to reduce their wages, and thus put it out of the power of those poor people to purchase, for the produce of their labour, the same quantity of corn as formerly. The next Resolution furnished matter for grave consideration; namely, whether there must not, of necessity, be, from time to time, a variation in the price of grain. That Resolution was to the following effect:—
"That the continual and great variations in the prices of different sorts of grain during the course of above one hundred and fifty years, of which there is clear evidence, demonstrate that assuming certain prices for each or any species of grain, as the prices, or nearly the prices, for which such grain may be sold with advantage to the producer in every year, is an attempt to do that which is impossible; and, on the contrary, that the fair prices of each year must depend on the amount of the produce of each year which may 800 vary so greatly from year to year as to make the fair prices in one year greatly exceed or greatly fall short of the fair prices in another year."
The effect of the seasons must always produce variations in the prices of produce; and, in the returns laid upon the table, their lordships would see, that a variation in price was as frequent, and more considerable, in foreign countries, than in England; a fact attributable to our improvements, and superior skill in agriculture, which enabled us to combat with the effect of the seasons. The consequence was, that the prices were more steady in this country than in any other. The great misfortune of the present plan was, therefore, that it was an attempt to do that which could not be done. The ninth Resolution was to the following effect:—
"That to allow the importation of foreign wheat into Great Britain at all times, without payment of any duty on importation, and to permit such wheat afterwards at any time to be entered for sale on payment of a duty of 20s. only, whenever the average price of wheat, taken weekly in certain districts, shall amount to 60s., and to impose a scale of duties, increasing as the average price should fall below 60s., and diminishing as the average price should exceed 60s., would be to fix indirectly the price of 60s., for the quarter of wheat, as the highest price for which wheat should be sold, even in the most unfavourable years, inasmuch as foreign wheat may generally be obtained at so low a price, that on payment of a duty of 20s. only, it can be brought into the market for sale, with considerable profit, at a price below 60s. the quarter; and if a proposition to that effect should be made law, wheat produced in Great Britain can never be sold at a higher price than 60s. the quarter; and the effect of such a law must be to keep the price of wheat at all times under 60s. the quarter, whatever failure may happen in the home-grown crops."
The consequence of the warehousing of foreign grain would be, that whenever the crops of this country should fail, and that the price reached beyond 60s., the whole quantity of grain then in warehouse would be released, and thrown at once into the market. The opportunities for such an operation would occur more frequently than, perhaps, their lordships imagined. If, therefore, large quantities of foreign grain 801 should be thrown into consumption at a duty of 20s. per quarter, it would be impossible that the price should ever—no matter how unproductive the season might have been in England—rise beyond 60s. so that, in fact, the British farmer would be a loser by both good and bad seasons. Another grievance of which the agriculturist of the present day had to complain was, that he sold not to the consumer, as his predecessors had done, but to the dealer. Of the increase of this latter class, their lordships might form some idea from the fact, that in one small market town, there were no fewer than sixty-four corn dealers. These had their profits, no doubt, on the article which they supplied to the consumer; so that it was not unfair to suppose, that although the market price might appear to be 60s. per quarter, the price obtained by the grower for his wheat, did not exceed 55s. They must also consider the effect of the vast increase which had taken place in the population. In London the population had been, within a comparatively short period, doubled. There was a similar increase in other places. The town of Cheltenham, for instance, had been, within his own memory, a mere trifling village; and now it contained no less than twenty-three thousand inhabitants, who went there to drink the waters, to dance, and to amuse themselves. The country, therefore, could not be supplied at present with food at as low a price as formerly. The spirit of dissipation and loco-motive disposition, which kept people constantly moving about, as if they bad discovered the perpetual motion, rendered it impossible to obtain food at the moderate price of former times. Under these circumstances, to judge of the present by former times was a mistake. Really corn was now, relatively speaking, one of the cheapest articles in the market. Then, the importation of foreign wool, by depriving the farmer of the price of his skins, necessarily compelled him to increase the price of his corn. With respect to the bill before the House, the very title of it was an absurdity. It was denominated, "An Act for Imposing certain Duties and Customs on Foreign Corn," and not "An Act for regulating the Trade in Foreign Corn," as it might have been expected it would be called. The preamble of the bill, as well as the title, was opposed to all precedent. However, that preamble accurately described it; for it was an act for granting 802 duties and customs on corn. The effect of the bill would be, to impose certain duties on the importation of foreign corn; which duties were to vary according to the average price of British corn. These duties would, in reality, be paid by the corn-growers of Great Britain; for the introduction of foreign grain must diminish the prices of agricultural produce in this country, and push a corresponding quantity of English corn out of the market. The duties would be a new land-tax, to all intents and purposes. What would be the effect of the proposed measure upon Ireland? Ireland, at present, had an open market for her agricultural produce in this country; because Irish corn paid no duty on its arrival in England: and the consequence was, that there was an immense increasing importation of grain from that country. The noble lord then proceeded to argue, that the effect of the proposed bill would be, to inflict a serious injury on the agricultural interests, not only of this country, but of Ireland. If the present measure were to be the means of introducing a, million quarters of foreign grain into this country, the same quantity of Irish corn would be shut out from our markets, or other branches of our home production would be impaired. We had various institutions in these kingdoms (an Established Church amongst the rest), which had the effect of increasing the price of corn. In foreign countries it was different. There the proprietors were glad to sell their commodity for almost any price they could obtain. It was unfair to expose our English farmers and land-owners to a competition with foreigners on such unequal terms. He believed the present bill, if passed into a law, would have a most mischievous tendency on our native agriculture, and reduce this country to something like the distressed condition of Poland, while it would go to raise Poland and other foreign states, to a participation in the affluence which it had been hitherto our lot to enjoy. The measure would he alike injurious to the manufactures, trade, real wealth, and agricultural prosperity of the country; and on these grounds it should encounter his determined opposition. The noble lord concluded by moving for a committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the proposed Resolutions, with a view to decide whether their lordships should reject or agree to the law relative to time importation of foreign corn.
said, he trusted their lordships would agree with him in thinking, that it would be more convenient to abstain from discussing, on that occasion, either the general principle, or the particular details of the bill which stood for a second reading on Friday next; because, although it was true that many of the topics contained in the Resolutions presented by the noble and learned lord were more or less directly connected with the subject of that bill, yet it was quite clear that if he attempted now to enter into a full exposition of his views on the subject (as he intended to do on Friday), he should undertake a task infinitely beyond his strength and competency at that moment, and more than the patience of their lordships would endure. The resolutions of the noble lord embraced not only the bill before the House in its principle and details, but likewise the largest questions of government—questions of internal policy, and every possible topic connected with the intercourse of this country with foreign nations. All those subjects were of the greatest importance, and, for ought he knew, it was very reasonable they should, at a fit time, be taken into consideration; but, to have them thus mixed up together in resolutions, and voted in a mass, would be inconsistent with the practice of a legislative assembly. The bill, which he should move the second reading of on Friday, was a practical measure upon which their lordships would be called upon to pronounce "ay" or "no;" but the resolutions were, in fact, a series of essays on political economy; and it would be an out-of-the-way course for their lordships to express their approbation of the opinions contained in them by a formal vote. It would, indeed, he thought, be highly impolitic in their lordships to establish by their vote all the propositions contained in the resolutions to be matter of fact. There was one circumstance, too, which would render it impossible for then lordships to adopt any one or more of the resolutions unless they adopted them altogether —namely, that each successive resolution was founded upon the reasonings of the one which preceded it. They must, therefore, take them in the lump, or not at all. If they adopted some and rejected others, there would appear only a skeleton of what was originally proposed. The resolutions would, necessarily, appear on the journals 804 of the House; and he hoped that that would satisfy the noble lord, and that he would not press the matter further.—He would proceed to state very briefly his reasons for not concurring with the resolutions. In the general bearing of the first resolution; namely, that agriculture was the basis of the prosperity of this country, he certainly was disposed to agree; although he thought some allusion ought to have been made to the other sources of our wealth. The second resolution however declared, that agriculture was "a trade and manufacture, and is so far the most important trade and manufacture in every country, as every other trade and manufacture mast depend on it." Now, he could not admit, as an historical matter of fact, that agriculture was the most important trade in every country. That it was not the fact was indeed proved by the example of many states — small ones, he admitted, but once exercising an important influence in the affairs of the world,—and amongst others of Genoa, Venice, and the United States of Holland. The power and greatness of those states by no means depended on agriculture; and, therefore, if their lordships should pass that resolution, they would affirm what was not matter of fact. The third resolution appeared to contain an error in reasoning. It stated, that the profitable cultivation of the land depended on other objects of production, and particularly on the production of animals and the food of animals; but it was well known, that in countries which were most celebrated for the production of corn, those other productions were little regarded and of little value. If, therefore, they agreed to this resolution, they would, in a second instance affirm that which the state of the world contradicted.—The fourth resolution declared, that the laws now in force regulating the importation of foreign corn were founded on the principles expressed in the foregoing resolutions. That was not an accurate statement. The laws at present in force on that subject had no reference whatever to those other articles of production upon which the noble lord had placed so much emphatic stress in the third resolution. With respect to wool, the act of Charles 2nd, from which the noble lord dated the system of which he was so fond, not only imposed no duty on the importation of foreign wool, but even confined the consumption of English 805 wool to this country alone. It was therefore impossible to say that the old law was founded on the principle of the resolutions; which was to extend protection to agricultural produce of every description. The 15th of Charles 2nd, the preamble of which was quoted in the noble lord's resolutions, did not proceed upon the principle of those resolutions. It never allowed of a free export of corn. When the price reached 48s., export was prohibited. Under the same act foreign corn was admitted upon payment of a duty of 5s. 4d., until the price arrived at 48s., after which it was admitted upon payment of only 8d. duty. The act in question, amongst other things, imposed a duty of 20s. per head on all lean cattle imported from Scotland between the months of August and December. The noble lord opposite (Lauderdale) must doubtless consider that as a barbarous piece of cruelty towards his countrymen. He mentioned this to show that the enactments of the law which had been referred to did not bear out the theory of the noble lord. The noble lord had quoted from the "Spectator," and had contrasted the opinions of sir Richard Steele and Mr. M'Culloch. It was to him (lord Goderich) a matter of perfect indifference which of those two persons was considered the most eminent political economist. He had never subscribed to all the doctrines of Mr. M'Culloch, nor any other teacher of that school —"nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri." He might, perhaps, occasionally puzzle himself with the essays of the political economists, which, he believed, likewise puzzled their authors; but he was not, therefore, wedded to their opinions. About the time, however, to which the noble lord had referred, as presenting a contrast with the present period, which was favourable to the state of agriculture, namely, the reign of George 1st, it happened, that the most woeful complaints were made of the degraded state of the agriculturists. The publications of that day stated, as the noble lord now did, that agriculture would be ruined, and that the constitution of the country would be involved in its destruction. During a considerable portion of the 18th century, agriculture was stationary; but other things connected with agriculture were not. The population continued to increase, and the greatest possible distress prevailed in this country, on account of 806 the high price of corn. This was the case between 1763 and 1773. What, then, led to the change of the law in 1773? Why, that change was made, because, in the ten years preceding, it had been found necessary to pass eighteen or twenty acts of parliament to meet the contingencies occasioned by the old system. Was, then, that system so all-wise, so beneficial, so favourable, to the interests of agriculture, as it had been represented? In 1773, a change was effected; the plan then introduced continued to be acted on until 1815; and it was to the principle of the law of 1773, that they were now endeavouring to return. Between 1773 and 1815 the progress of trade, of manufactures—in short, of every thing connected with the welfare of the country—was as great as the most anxious mind could wish. That extension of industry, that accumulation of wealth, was effected under the very system of laws, the return to which was now considered by some individuals as a dangerous innovation. It was for the noble lord who had introduced these resolutions to controvert that fact if he could. The correctness of his statement was shown by the vast number of enclosure bills which had been passed during the period he had mentioned. Therefore, he contended, that this resolution of the noble and learned lord led to a most erroneous conclusion; because it went to establish the proposition, that the system which had been set on foot in the time of Charles 2nd, and acted on down to the year 1773, was the cause of all the strength, power, and prosperity at which this country had arrived. He had made these detailed remarks on the resolutions of the noble and learned lord, although he thought that the objection which he had first stated was sufficient to prevent their lordships from supporting this series of resolutions, which constituted a sort of politico-economico thermometer, if he might be allowed to use that expression. He certainly could not, on the grounds the noble and learned lord had stated, bring himself to acquiesce in the propositions brought forward. He wished to advert to one or two other points connected with these resolutions, which also involved principles that it was impossible for him to agree with. In the thirteenth resolution, the noble and learned lord had dwelt much on the assumed fact, that the payment of foreign corn had been, and would 807 be, made in coin. Now, he apprehended that this resolution, if it had any object at all, was intended to lead their lordships to believe, that the trade in corn (not an immoderate), but any trade in corn, was likely to operate prejudicially to the interests of the country, by inducing a large export of coin. He should not combat this proposition, on theory, lest he might be considered a political economist, and thus excite the displeasure of the noble and learned lord. He should confidently appeal to the evidence which their lordships had lately received on this subject; by which it was clearly shown, that corn was not to be paid for in gold, or if so paid for, that that gold was not to leave the country altogether; and he must say it was a most unreasonable fear to suppose that they could not have a trade in foreign corn, without causing a drain of gold out of the country. Last year two million of quarters of foreign corn were imported, the cost of which would be upwards of two million sterling. Now, if the noble and learned lord's proposition were true, that corn must have been paid for in gold. But how stood the fact? Why, during the whole of that year, the exchange was so much in favour of this country as to make the export of gold, in return for corn, the very worst speculation that could have been entertained by any mercantile man. During that time bullion was imported into the mint, and coined, to the amount of no less than six million of sovereigns. The rate of exchange had been such, that it was not worth any body's while to buy corn with gold. What occurred in 1824 and 1825? The exchanges were then unfavourable from various causes, and the exportation of gold was considerable; but yet he would undertake to say, that in those two years, not a single sovereign went to Dantzic, or to any other part of the world, for corn. Even the sovereigns exported in 1824 and 1825 in casks, and which were placed in the Bank of France, came back to this country in the same casks, which had never been opened. He therefore, with these facts in view, could not affirm a resolution, which implied that a more open importation of corn would draw all the gold out of the country. This he had alluded to as a general proposition, which, if the subject were at all considered, could not be affirmed. He begged leave to say one word on the topic to which the noble and learned lord had last adverted: 808 he alluded to the question of free trade. Those resolutions were manifestly directed against free trade; but they did not explain, neither did he think the speech of the noble and learned lord had explained, what was there meant by free trade. If the noble and learned lord understood by free trade, that all foreign articles were to be admitted into this country without paying any duty, then he must say, that such was not his (lord Goderich's) idea of free trade. His idea was, that this country should not allow any prohibition. And why? Because experience proved, that prohibition, with regard to manufactures, was the veriest illusion that ever entered the mind of man. There was no effectual mode of establishing a prohibitory system, so long as money was in existence. Money would defeat all prohibitions. He was a friend to that free trade which encouraged the honest dealer; but he was unquestionably an enemy to the free trade of the smuggler. He conceived it was a most praiseworthy object, to aim at the destruction of that pestilent free trade; one of the greatest evils, moral and political, by which any country could be afflicted. Such was his feeling; and, if their lordships looked into the evils which were the result of the old system, they would participate with him in that feeling. If noble lords had, as was his case, been connected, for fifteen years, with situations having reference to the trade and commerce of the country, it would be impossible for them not to feel, in the first instance, the ill effects produced by this monstrous system of smuggling; and, in the second, that the only remedy for those evils was to give fair and free access to every description of foreign manufacture. He therefore felt, that they ought even to endure some degree of inconvenience, if by so doing they could put an end to this system of fraud; to this system of perjury; nay, he would say, to this system of murder which had been too long continued. At present they were obliged to surround their whole coasts with armies and fleets, to check the smuggler in his illicit career,—a proceeding which he contended was as inconsistent with the principles of a free constitution, as it was contrary to the best interests of the country. He had raised his voice against that system, and, in opposition to it, he had advocated the principles of free trade. He thought, however, their lordships had already given pretty unequivocal 809 proofs, that they sincerely approved of those principles; because they had supported and carried laws that were emphatically founded on those liberal principles and no other. In 1825, his majesty had recommended, in a speech from the throne, the adoption of those principles; and, what was their lordships' answer? In the address to the throne, they stated that they would give all the assistance in their power to any measures that would tend to remove those inconvenient and mischievous restrictions. Now, having, in 1825, given that pledge, it was utterly impossible for them to vote for the resolutions of the noble and learned lord, unless they were prepared to unsay and to undo what they had already solemnly said and done. He owned that he felt warmly on this part of the subject; because, if there was any portion of his public conduct in which he took a pleasure and a pride, it was in the support which he had given to the establishment of liberal principles, in opposition to those that were now brought forward by the noble and learned lord. He might take one of two courses on this occasion—either to move the adjournment, or to propose the previous question. But, as the motion was for going into a committee, he conceived the best thing he could do, was to move that this House do now adjourn.
The Earl of Lauderdale
said, he could not suffer this discussion to terminate, without thanking his noble and learned friend for the talent he had displayed, the great pains he had taken, and the extensive knowledge he had shown in drawing up these resolutions, which, whatever might be their fate that night, must produce a strong effect on the minds of their lordships and of the country at large. Since they had been laid on the table, their lordships had not been assailed with that tissue of calumnies and lies directed against the landed interest, which the House had been in the daily habit of hearing for some time before. Those resolutions being placed on their lordships' Journals, containing as they did the soundest political doctrines, would go down to posterity, and would be read with admiration by future generations. He would have said little more on this occasion, but for the manner in which the noble lord opposite had treated some of the propositions before their lordships. He would deny the assertions of the noble lord opposite, with respect to the argument 810 contained in the sixth resolution. That resolution set forth, that the act of Charles 2nd was efficient for the preservation of the agriculture of this country. The noble lord opposite denied this; and he asserted, that there never was a time when agriculture was in a state of greater distress than in the reign of George 1st, when the laws of Charles 2nd was in full force. The noble lord had alluded to the publications of that day, as a proof of the fact. Now, few men had read more of the publications of that period than he himself had done; and yet he could not charge his memory with the recollection of any work which stated such a fact. On the contrary, there was a fall of price, and no importation of corn. Therefore, he should conclude that there was at that period a sufficient production, and a sufficient market. He here begged leave to read to the noble lord a passage from a pamphlet written by a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Huskisson), whose authority, especially as he was a colleague of the noble lord, would, he believed, carry some weight with it. What that right hon. gentleman stated was, as he declared, the result of a consideration of this subject for thirty years. He said, that for one hundred and seventy years, the cheapness produced by importation was a proof of sterility, occasioned by want of cultivation; and he went on to observe, that a steady home supply was the proper means of ensuring a moderate price. "For a hundred years, up to 1765," the righthon. gentleman asked "what was the state of the country, with respect to corn? It was this,—that, under ordinary circumstances, their own ground supplied a stock of corn sufficient for home consumption, and in some seasons they even exported." At that period, the price of grain seldom varied more than a few shillings. Allusion had been made to the period between 1766 and 1773. Did corn at that time fall, in consequence of importation? Did the manufacturers then find that they had cheaper corn? No: for although that foreign importation was held out to the manufacturers as a great boon, their lordships would find, that from 1766 to 1773 the price of corn was raised; though the ports were open for the importation of grain:—As to the circumstance of gold being sent out of the country to pay for corn, he only knew that, some years ago, when the noble lord then opposite to him had contended, that a one-pound 811 note and a shilling were equal in value to a guinea, and he (lord Lauderdale) had contended that they were not, he had always been answered that he was mistaken, because he did not take into consideration the quantity of gold sent abroad to buy corn. Within a period of eighteen years, as he could shew by the authority of the noble lord's colleague, 60,000,000l. of gold had been sent out of the country to buy corn. It was undoubtedly correct, that there had been a great importation of corn in 1826, and he also believed an influx of gold to the amount, as stated by the noble viscount, of 6,000,000l.; but this was to be accounted for by the state of the country at that period. The noble lord had said, that the year 1826 afforded an extraordinary instance, which contradicted the resolution of his hon. and learned friend. The noble lord stated, that more corn was imported in 1826 than in 1824, and yet that there was, in the former year, a great influx of gold into the country, instead of the money being drained out of it. He believed that there had been a large importation in that year; but did that circumstance invalidate, in the smallest degree, the facts stated in his noble and learned friend's resolution? Very plain reasons could be given for the circumstance to which the noble lord had alluded. The noble lord must recollect, that, in the commencement of the year 1826, the effect of those various joint-stock companies and schemes, which had been called into action in the preceding year, was still powerfully felt. It was to this, as he should presently shew, that the influx of gold was to be traced. He remembered publishing, in 1804, a Treatise, in which he stated, that if the sinking-fund were continued on the footing on which Mr. Pitt had placed it, capital would be rendered so abundant at home, that at length individuals, for the purpose of procuring a higher rate of interest, would employ it abroad. A man whom it was the misfortune of the country to have lost—a man of the most extensive capacity he had ever met with — he meant the late Mr. Fox—had read the proof-sheets of that Treatise; and he had now a letter from that great statesman, in which he asked—"Do you think it possible, that an Englishman would trust his capital in the foreign funds?" Now, the noble lord opposite and himself had lived long enough to see, that there was 812 not a fund in Europe that did not contain a large quantity of British capital. If the noble lord asked the Bank itself, or those who supplied it with the money to which he had alluded, he would find, that the money would not have been forthcoming, but for the demand which had been suddenly created in this country, on account of the speculations he had referred to, and the extensive sale of foreign stock. The influx of that six million of gold, then, did not surprise him, considering all the circumstances. — The noble lord had alluded to the subject of free trade; and now, to his astonishment, after having read the high eulogiums, that were pronounced on free commerce by the noble lord when in the other House, he found that the noble lord only meant to make a few regulations to protect the trade of the country against smugglers. A system of free trade was, perhaps, better than a system of restrictions; but the continuance of such a system depended on universal peace and general brotherhood. If such a plan could be carried into effect, it must annihilate all those differences of commercial interests, which, in the present state of the world, could not be removed without subverting many of their existing commercial institutions. Beyond that, he would remind the House, that the wealth of this country had grown and increased, under an opposite system, to an extent which it never could have attained by an adherence to free trade. That system had a tendency to enrich the world at large; and it was only by an exclusive system that Great Britain had arrived at her present height of riches and of power. He did not think it would be advisable to proceed with this discussion, as a bill would be shortly debated which would let in the whole question. Therefore he hoped his learned friend would be satisfied with the good which he had done by the publication of his resolutions, and that he would not press the subject further.
§ Lord Bexley
contended, from a comparison of the number of enclosure bills, from the Revolution to the year 1773, and from the latter year to 1815, and also from a comparative view of the amount of population in both those periods, that the system which was in force prior to 1773 was not so beneficial as that which had continued from 1773 to 1815. From the Revolution to 1773, the number of enclosure bills was 690; from 1773 to 1815, 813 the number was 2,852. The increase in the population was equally great.
The Earl of Rosslyn
argued, that the production of the country had been greatly increased under the system recognized by the act of Charles 2nd, and that the people were supplied with corn at a much lower price, in consequence of the protecting plan then introduced. If the noble lord looked to the period during which that act was in force, he would find, that corn was as low in this country as elsewhere. The noble lord had also stated, that while the war lasted, the law allowed practical importation. But, though the law permitted it, were there not circumstances that prevented the country from taking advantage of that permission? Could they, at that time, pay a sufficient price for foreign corn? The noble lord had mentioned the subject of enclosures; but, from what other circumstance did the great number of enclosures take their rise, than from the great demand for corn, which could not be supplied but by the cultivation of the land? Those enclosure bills did not apply to new lands, but to the old; in order that they might be cultivated in a more profitable manner. If the noble lord stated that the wealthy condition of the people, and the doubling of the population, was to be attributed to the alteration of the law in 1773, he was pressing a great many things into his arguments, which would not serve his purpose.
§ Earl Stanhope
said, that, after the luminous statement which had been made by the noble earl near him, he thought it would be more convenient to postpone any expression of the feelings of the House until the second reading of the bill which had come up from the Commons. The noble viscount opposite had stated, that it was not the fact that foreign corn was paid for in specie. He supposed, therefore, the noble viscount had not read the evidence of sir Claude Scott, given to the committee of that House, who had stated, that he never knew a single instance in which corn was paid for but in specie. He was surprised, too, after all that he had heard said of the liberal system of free trade, which was to pour its benefits on the country, to find that that system had dwindled down into an insignificant plan for protection against smuggling. But, had it that effect? Their lordships knew, on the contrary, that the coast of the 814 country was surrounded by armed men; they could not forget the expense of the preventive service. Their lordships were not called upon now to admit or reject the resolutions, but to refer them to a committee; and he did not know how they could refuse to do otherwise. The proposed bill went to subvert the whole system of the Corn-laws, which a noble earl had stated, was intended to be a permanent system, and the final settlement of the question. He did not think that their lordships ought to pass that bill with the same levity as if it were a turnpike bill. They ought to investigate the principle upon which the agriculture of the country had been protected. What had been the effect of the free-trade principle with respect to wool? That was now, in many respects, an unsaleable article; and the value of the lands upon which wool was produced had diminished one half.
§ Lord Redesdale
said, that, as he had recorded his opinion, by entering his resolutions on the Journals, he should not resist the amendment of the noble viscount for an adjournment.
Their lordships accordingly adjourned.