§ Earl Spencer
rose to move the Address, and spoke as follows:—On ordinary occasions it has been considered the best course for persons in my situation to avoid as much as possible topics that might give rise to the expression of a difference of opinion, but the present is not an ordinary occasion. Some of the questions which her Majesty has directed the Lords Commissioners to submit to the consideration of Parliament involve the highest interests of the country; they affect the future prosperity and stability of the empire, and it will be necessary for me to enter somewhat more in detail into the arguments on these questions than I should otherwise have done. In the performance of this duty, I hope, however, not to detain your Lordships for any great length of time. There are many topics in the speech of the Lords Commissioners which will meet with your Lordships' concurrence. I am sure that your Lordships will join with me in an expression of satisfaction that this country is in friendly communication with the other powers of Europe. We must all, too, feel rejoiced at the renewal of our amicable relations with Persia. On the subject of China, also, but one opinion is likely to prevail: I admit that it is a point of great difficulty; but I apprehend that a great majority of your Lordships will think that 17 it was impossible to avoid the course that has been taken. The matter is still pending, and we earnestly hope that it will be brought to a happy conclusion. There are other points in the speech which are highly gratifying. It is highly gratifying to find that the mediation of her Majesty has effected a peaceable adjustment of the dispute which had arisen between Spain and Portugal. What is said respecting Canada is also a subject of sincere congratulation, but the matter is brought before your Lordships in a shape which does not call for the expression of a distinct opinion; it more properly belongs to the House of Commons; but I am satisfied that your Lordships will neglect nothing by which the interests of those colonies may be promoted, in order to complete the union between the two provinces, I believe, to their own great benefit, as well as to the advancement of the interests of the mother country. It is impossible for me individually not to express my great gratification at the ability my noble Friend the Governor-general has displayed; intimately as I have been acquainted with him for many years, the success of his great undertaking is to me a source of peculiar satisfaction. The next topic to which I may advert is the effect of the treaty of July, 1840. We all must rejoice that the objects of that treaty have been accomplished without involving Europe in war. For myself, I confess, when I saw that England had entered into a treaty with three powers, to the exclusion of France, I entertained most serious apprehensions. I saw that that treaty might result in a great national calamity, and I felt great regret that my noble Friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had entered into it; I was afraid that my noble Friend had abandoned the wise policy which seemed to have guided the course of his administration, and which hitherto had secured the peace of Europe. I must own, however, that what has since appeared-— the candid avowal of M. Thiers of what was his intention—the unexpected weakness of the Pacha of Egypt, and, indeed, the whole course of events, has shown me that I was mistaken, and that her Majesty's Ministers were in the right. I am quite ready, and not at all disinclined to admit my error, and I am now most happy to find that we are again connected with France in a great political union. Such a union, and perfectly good understanding, are essential to the preservation of peace in 18 Europe, and with such a union and good understanding, I hardly see how peace can be disturbed. I consider peace essential to the prosperity of this country, and indeed to the promotion of the best interests of all the great powers of Europe. As long as England and France are united, there is little danger of a European war. I look upon war, not only as a great calamity, but as a great crime. Not that I entertain the least idea that this country is not now as well prepared for war as at any former period of her history, but because I have a horror of war, and think nothing can justify it but the most imperative necessity. I do not believe that Great Britain is not in a condition to go to war. On the contrary, were it absolutely necessary that she should commence hostilities, I am satisfied that she could do so better now than at any former period. True it is, that the debt of the country has been greatly increased— that the amount of interest paid upon it is larger than formerly; but, looking at her condition and at her resources, and comparing her present wealth with its amount in 1792, I am satisfied that her wealth has increased in greater proportion than her debt. Therefore, on every account, I am without fear, but at the same time I am sincerely rejoiced that we have again formed a diplomatic union with France. I have stated, that the wealth of the country has increased in a greater proportion than her debt; but, in order to give this state of things full effect; in order that the wealth of the country may tell as it ought on the prosperity of the people; that it may tend to the lightening of taxation, it is necessary that we should take into consideration the mode in which taxes are imposed. It is our duty to ascertain whether by some alteration and revision we may not make taxes press with less severity on the people than at present. I know that it is not agreeable in any assembly (but not more disagreeable to your Lordships than to others) for any one to enter into a discussion upon the general principle of taxation; but it is the duty of the Legislature to look at such questions. In managing the affairs of this country, it must look fairly and steadily at the principles on which commercial prosperity must be founded, and consider whether those principles are carried out by the mode in which taxation is imposed. Our taxation is now upon a principle of restriction. Undoubtedly of late years, to a certain degree, we have relieved the country from restric- 19 tions; but we have a great deal more to do before we can be justified in saying, that we have done what we can to make taxation as little burdensome as possible. In arguing this point, we do not find that any body objects to the general principle; all agree, and it would be very extraordinary if they did not agree, on the general principle, because the arguments in its favour are so uncontradicted and self-evident, that it is impossible to resist them. Therefore every one admits, that the best policy is to give commerce its free course; not to interfere with the distribution of capital, in order that a man may employ his means in the way he thinks best calculated to promote his interests. This has been proved over and over again to be the best mode in which the great resources of the country can be applied. I should not be justified in pressing this matter on your Lordships' attention, but that we are always sure to meet with people who, admitting the general principle, contend for some exceptions. I had the honour many years ago of being a Member of the Committee of the House of Commons on foreign commerce, on which sat many able and experienced commercial men. I remember, that all were agreed, that the general principle I have stated was correct and just, provided the particular branch of trade in which each happened to be engaged were not included. I myself being disinterested, not having any thing to do with commerce, found myself dividing with different sections of the committee, according to their individual interests. This is always the case; individuals tell us that these general principles are excellent—incontrovertible; but that England is so peculiarly circumstanced that they cannot by applied to her or to them. Now, what is the peculiarity of her situation? It is peculiar in having to pay the public creditor an enormous amount of interest in the shape of an annuity; it is peculiar in having to raise by taxation an amount equal to pay that annuity. There are other peculiarities to which I will refer hereafter, but this is the main peculiarity. It is said, that England is so severely taxed, that it is impossible for her to compete with foreign countries without what is called protection. No doubt the perpetual annuity to the public creditor is a heavy burden, and that it is most important it should be lightened as much as possible. There are two ways of lightening it; first, by redeeming that annuity, 20 that is, paying it off; or, secondly, by an increase of the commerce of the country, which would be quite as effectual. If any of your Lordships have granted an annuity, redeemable at the pleasure of the debtor, not of the creditor, it is precisely the same thing to you whether the annuity be paid off, or whether your income is so increased as to enable you to pay the interest without feeling the pressure. I have great satisfaction in reflecting, that at one period of my life I was engaged with Mr. Pascoe Grenfell in putting an end to what was at one time considered a panacea for all the evils of the country. He laboured hard for many years, but he ultimately succeeded in preventing money being taken from the pockets of the people, in order to apply it to the redemption of the perpetual annuity to which I have referred. He contended, that if it were left in their pockets it would increase to a much larger amount than the sum it was employed to pay off. I contend, that the object of a Government ought to be, by increasing the wealth of the country, to increase the power of the country to pay the annuity to the public creditor. The ordinary rules of political economy enjoin us to promote in all ways the welfare of the country but we are at present placed in a situation where it is peculiarly our duty to do all we can to increase the wealth of the country. We ought to endeavour, as fast as we can, to apply the true principle of trade, and thereby to promote the general interests of the nation. With this view her Majesty has directed the Lords Commissioners to call your attention to this subject. During the late Session her Majesty's Ministers brought forward certain measures as a commencement of the system: one of their new arrangements regarded the timber duties. On that subject, if your Lordships have thought it worth while to pay any attention to my conduct, you will be aware, that the measure had my entire approbation: it was, in fact, a measure which I had had the honour of proposing. The present state of the law compels the people to use worse timber at a higher price. I know that some ten years ago it was thought a good speculation for persons, in order to import Baltic timber, to carry it out in the first instance to Canada. Could anything be more absurd than to carry timber across the Atlantic in order to bring it back to Europe? Yet such was the case, and the reason was said to be that it gave 21 employment to ships which had been engaged as transports during the war, and were so completely rotten that they could carry no cargo but timber, I trust that those ships are now all worn out, and that we shall hear no more of any such argument. What, then, would be the effect of the measure proposed last Session? It would give people the means of selecting that species of timber which is most fit for their use, and it would besides increase the revenue. As to the amount of increase, I do not intend to enter into any calculations now, but it is obvious that the augmentation would be in proportion to the increased consumption of a timber which paid a somewhat higher duty. Neither would Canada timber be excluded, because for a great number of purposes it is much to be preferred. On the other hand, for many other purposes, Baltic timber is the best, and it is a great hardship upon people that they should not have the commodity they like best, when at the same time it benefitted the revenue, the material was worse, and the revenue suffered. Another point to which Ministers had directed the attention of Parliament was the sugar duties. Precisely the same course of reasoning applies to them, only more pressingly, as the amount would be greater. At present our laws tend to confine the importation of sugar to our own colonies; we refuse to receive foreign sugar, and amongst the rest sugar from the Brazils. The treaty with the Brazils is now near its expiration, and it is of great importance to decide the question soon with a view to the renewal of that treaty. Sugar, though not actually a necessary of life, is nearly so; and. by maintaining the existing system, you increase the cost of the commodity most materially to the middle and lower classes. So far, too, from benefitting the revenue, you are injuring it. An objection has been raised which would have the utmost weight with me if I thought it well founded. It is said, that to alter the sugar duties would interfere with the accomplishment of that great and noble measure by which slavery was abolished. If this objection were proved, I should be the last to consent to a change of the law upon such terms. We may loot back to many glorious achievements by this country in war, arts, and literature, but in my mind to none with so much satisfaction as to that achievement, accomplished with such unexampled unanimity, which is known as the abolition of slavery. It was wrought by many years of patient 22 struggle, and by an enormous pecuniary sacrifice, and liberty was restored by it to a vast mass of our suffering fellow creatures. If I thought there was the least danger of retarding a general manumission of the negro population by the reduction of the sugar duties, I could hardly bring myself to consent to the measure. Our great experiment has not succeeded, and cannot be said to have succeeded, until we have induced other nations to follow our example — until slavery is abolished, not only in our own colonies, but in every country of the world. Surely no greater obstacle to the attainment of this end can be imagined than to hold out to other nations that the effect upon us of the abolition of slavery has been such, that it is impossible for Great Britain to enter into competition with countries where slavery still continues. The general disposition of political men is to follow examples, but how can we expect other governments to imitate us, when we tell them, in effect, that we have done wrong as regards our own interests, and that we are afraid of admitting the sugar of colonies where slavery exists, because we have abolished it in our own? The last question to which I feel myself bound to refer is one specifically recommended to their attention by her Majesty's speech—the state of the law respecting the importation of foreign corn. On this subject the grossest misrepresentations have been spread abroad both on one side and the other. I am myself entirely dependent upon agriculture, and I, for one, can not believe that the price of corn will fail in consequence of the proposed change, so as to throw thousands of acres out of cultivation. Than this, in my opinion, nothing could be more lamentable, but I have no hesitation in saying that the present Corn-laws are no protection to the farmer. I do not believe, that by their abolition the price of corn would be materially altered. The price must always be fixed in proportion to the expense incurred in the cultivation, and the trade price must be settled generally by the price in this country. It was a complete mistake to suppose that the worst lands would be thrown out of cultivation, for they could only become a barren waste. The land thrown out of cultivation, if any was, would be that arable land which could be turned into pasture. Taking all these things into consideration, it is quite impossible to conceive that the price of corn would be very much diminished. I do not mean to say that it would not be diminished in a small degree, 23 but nothing to the extent which has been sometimes represented. During the continuance of the present laws there have been 11,309,000 qrs. of foreign corn imported into this country, and of this only 1,300,000 qrs. were introduced when the duty was above 13s. 8d. It was not then worth the while of the foreign merchant to import wheat into this country unless he could receive 50s. a quarter clear of duty: and this fact did not contradict any theory favourable to a repeal of the present laws. It bad been stated, that in the Channel Islands the average price was 41s.; but I cannot believe that any large quantity could be introduced into this country at such a price. Your Lordships need not be under any apprehensions of the effects of the change in reducing the price of corn. I am quite aware that the principle of free trade is not altogether palatable to a considerable portion of their Lordships; but I must say, that I am convinced that the time will come when the principle of free trade will become general. It has generally been my fate to be in a minority; but I have seen that minority gradually decrease, and I feel confident that the question of freedom of trade, and of opening an intercourse with other countries to the greatest possible degree will eventually be carried. I may be asked, why I advocate the repeal of the Corn-laws, if the change would not cause an alteration in the price? What I want is to alter the price on the continent, in order that the manufacturer on the continent may be less able to compete with our manufacturer. Opening the trade will be of great advantage to every interest in the country. It will increase the prosperity of the country, because there is no doubt that on the prosperity of the manufacturer depends in a great degree the prosperity of the agriculturist. But what have the Corn-laws done? It is not when prices are high that persons engaged in agriculture want any assistance, but when prices are low. Under the present system, however, when prices are low, the Corn-laws depress them still more. I must repeat that I am quite aware that to a large portion of those whom I am addressing, these observations are not agreeable; but, I speak as a landed proprietor, as one interested in the produce of the soil, and I do hope and trust that your Lordships will relieve the agriculturist from the unmitigated evil of the present Corn-laws. The present Corn-laws, by their sudden changes, throw out Such an enormous temptation to frauds in 24 forcing up the price of corn, that they produce an evil which could hardly be exceeded. The measures proposed by the Government, I am confident, will ultimately prevail; but I must confess that I feel deeply apprehensive of the delay likely to take place. The country had suffered already from the long delay of one great measure—the Catholic Relief Bill. The present state of Ireland was owing in a great measure to the delay in passing that measure. Delay, too, will increase the agitation which already is at work on this subject. It will increase the heat and ill feeling engendered by a long contest. If their Lordships delay so long as to drive capital abroad, they will find it impossible to retrace their steps. The prosperity of the manufacturing portion of the community will have been destroyed, and will not return. Considering the great masses of our population congregated in towns, and requiring increased means of subsistence, I must say, that nothing can be more artificial than such a state of society; and I hope and trust that the time is not far remote when the alterations which I advocate will be carried into effect. The House ought to remember that when capital diminished in a country, the diminution rapidly went on. In concluding, I must say, that I should feel deep regret if the House do not agree to the address which I am about to propose. With most of her Majesty's Ministers I have long been in the habit of acting. I felt confidence in them when they came into office, I feel sanguine as to the policy which they will pursue, and I am glad to say, that I feel every confidence in them still. I must add, too, that I feel still as deeply as ever my attachment to the party to which I belong. The noble Earl then read the following Address,—
§ MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble Thanks for Your Majesty's most gracious Speech.
§ We desire to express our Satisfaction that Your Majesty has availed Yourself of the earliest Opportunity of resorting to the Advice and Assistance of Your Parliament after the Dissoution of the late Parliament.
§ We assure Your Majesty that we are much 25 rejoiced to learn that Your Majesty continues to receive from Foreign Powers gratifying Assurances of their Desire to maintain with Your Majesty the most friendly Relations.
§ We learn with much Contentment that the Objects for which the Treaty of July 1840 was concluded, between Your Majesty, the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, the Emperor of Russia, and the Sultan, have been fully accomplished; and we share in the Gratification with which Your Majesty is enabled to state, that the temporary Separation, which the Measures taken in execution of that Treaty created, between the Contracting Parties and France, has now ceased. We trust with Your Majesty that the Union of the principal Powers upon all matters affecting the great Interests of Europe will afford a firm Security for the Maintenance of Peace.
§ We participate in the Joy with which Your Majesty informs us, that, in consequence of the Evacuation of Ghorian by the Persian Troops, Your Majesty has ordered Your Minister at the Court of Persia to return to Teheran.
§ We regret that the Negotiations between Your Majesty's Plenipotentiaries in China and the Chinese Government have not yet been brought to a satisfactory Conclusion, and that it has been necessary to call into action the Forces which Your Majesty has sent to the China Seas but with Your Majesty we still trust that the Emperor of China will see the Justice of the Demands which Your Majesty's Plenipotentiaries have been instructed to make.
§ We rejoice to learn that the Differences which had arisen between Spain and Portugal, about the Execution of a Treaty concluded by those Powers in 1835, for regulating the Navigation of the Douro, have been adjusted amicably and with Honour to both Parties, by the Aid of Your Majesty's Mediation.
§ We humbly thank Your Majesty for acquainting us that the Debt incurred by the Legislature of Upper Canada for the Purposes of Public Works being a serious Obstacle to 26 further Improvements, which are essential to the Prosperity of the United Province, Your Majesty has authorized the Governor General to make a Communication on the Subject to the Council and Assembly of Canada. We also thank Your Majesty for having directed the Papers to be laid before us, and we assure Your Majesty that we will not fail to direct our earnest Attention to matters so materially affecting the Welfare of Canada and the Strength of the Empire.
§ We beg to express our entire agreement with Your Majesty, that the extraordinary expenses which the events in Canada, China, and the Mediterranean, have occasioned, and the necessity of maintaining a force adequate to the protection of our extensive Possessions, have made it necessary to consider the means of increasing the Public Revenue; we participate in Your Majesty's anxiety that this object should be effected in the manner least burthensome to Your People; and it is our opinion that we may at this juncture properly direct our attention to the revision of Duties affecting the productions of Foreign Countries; we are prepared to consider whether some of these Duties are not so trifling in amount as to be unproductive to the Revenue, while they are vexatious to Commerce; and to examine whether the principle of protection on which others of these Duties are founded, be not carried to an extent injurious alike to the income of the State and the interests of the People.
§ We beg to state to Your Majesty that, in obedience to Your Majesty's expressed desire, we will proceed to consider the Laws which regulate the Trade in Corn, and to determine whether those Laws do not aggravate the natural fluctuations of supply, whether they do not embarrass Trade, derange the Currency, and by their operation diminish the comfort and increase the privations of the great body of the community.
§ We assure Your Majesty, that we fully share in the deep sympathy which Your Ma- 27 jesty feels with those of Your Majesty's Subjects who are now suffering from distress and want of employment, and we fervently join in Your Majesty's prayer, that all our deliberations may be guided by wisdom, and may conduce to the happiness of Your Majesty's Subjects.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
could assure the House that he felt very sensibly the difficult and disadvantageous position in which he was placed in rising to support this Address, and how much he stood in need of all their Lordships' indulgence; because in following his noble Friend who had moved the Address, which he wished their Lordships to adopt, his noble Friend had adduced sufficient reason on the only part of that Address in which any difference of opinion could be apprehended—sufficient, at least, in his mind, to induce any calm, dispassionate assembly to adopt the Address, and bad, therefore, rendered it difficult for him to adduce any new argument; and also because anything which came from his noble Friend came with so much weight, not only on account of his eloquence and great ability, but also on account of the high position which he held as a great landed proprietor and a great constitutional statesman. He felt, that in touching upon any of the topics referred to by his noble Friend he must appear tedious to the House. He would however endeavour to state some of the principal grounds on which he hoped and trusted their Lordships would adopt the Address which his noble Friend had just read. Upon a great portion of the Address he apprehended that there would be no difference of opinion. He thought it must be a subject of satisfaction to the House to hear that her Majesty received from foreign powers assurances of their desire to maintain with her Majesty the most friendly relations; and it must also be gratifying to them to learn that the treaty which was signed last year had been now fairly brought to an end. The policy of that treaty was discussed last year pretty fully in the House, and as it might be said to have been pretty generally approved and to have received the sanction of Parliament, it would not be necessary for him to trouble the House longer on this point, except to add, that it must be very satisfactory for them to see, that notwithstanding the difficulties which occurred in carrying that treaty into execution, the judicious employment of her Majesty's forces, and the skill and valour of those forces, com- 28 bined with the honourable forbearance, and steadiness, and determination displayed by her Majesty's government and the Government of Russia, had enabled them to arrive at so speedy and satisfactory a conclusion as had been come to. It was, he believed, a matter of notoriety that a treaty had been agreed upon by the parties to the treaty of last year and by France, relative to the navigation of the Dardanelles; but as that treaty had not yet been ratified it had not been mentioned in the speech from the Throne. The separation of France from the other great powers of Europe might therefore be said to be at an end. All the doubts and anxieties which had been excited in the public mind on this point, he hoped would soon subside, and thus the peace of Europe would be further guaranteed. The paragraph in her Majesty's speech in which her Majesty informs the House, that in consequence of the evacuation of Ghorian by the Persian troops, her Majesty had ordered her Minister to the Court of Persia to return to Teheran, must also be a matter of satisfaction to the House, and gave us reason to hope that the points still to be settled with the Shah would be amicably arranged. On those portions of the Address which related to foreign affairs it was unnecessary to trouble their Lordships at any length, because he believed they were all matters of congratulation; but he could not disguise from himself, that there were other points on which his noble Friend had dilated on which he (the Marques of Clanricarde) differed from many noble Lords on the other side of the House, and it was only because he had the greatest reliance on their patriotism, that he could hope that they would accede to this Address. This topic it was, therefore, unpleasant for him to open. In fact, it was difficult for him to do so without touching upon points which must be familiar to the House, for almost every thing had been adduced on one side of the question or the other by authorities whose knowledge of the best principles of national finance, commerce, and political economy gave them great weight. But in maintaining his own opinion, he hoped he might say, if not altogether unbiassed, his bias would not be suspected of prejudice. The manufacturing interest and the agricultural interest had disclaimed any bias, but he felt great distrust of such general disclaimers, for a knowledge of human nature told us, that when a class of individuals had a particular interest, their bias generally went with 29 their interest. He begged leave to say, that it was not only as one having the honour of a voice in their Lordships' deliberations that he advised, but as one whose whole property was involved in land, he implored them to accede to the opinions expressed in the Address, advocating an alteration in the Corn-laws—laws which, in his opinion, did most injuriously affect the landed interest. He said, that the landowners had the greatest of all interests in the corn trade, and if there was one class more than another which had a deeper interest in the general prosperity of the empire, it was also the landowners. It was directly proved, that no parties could so much profit by any increase of the wealth of the country as the landed interest, because the land was of a limited quantity, but the power of expansion of the commercial wealth of a country was unlimited. If they gave expansion to the commerce of a country, it was impossible to say how far it might go—where it would stop; but the land was limited, and if they would allow their fellow subjects to acquire wealth whilst they retained their land, their land would increase enormously in value, either for selling or keeping. But he maintained, that the landed interest were the direct sufferers from the present law. A trade of any sort must be profitable in one of two ways —either there must be a regular business with steady profits, or, when fluctuations take place, they must be attended with so much profit at one time as to overbalance the Josses at another. Now, he ventured to affirm, that any reference to the operation of the present Corn-laws would show, that it had terribly aggravated the fluctuations of the trade in corn, and that the profits of those fluctuations had never gone into the pockets of the British farmer, but, on the contrary, the loss had invariably fallen upon them. If they referred to the tables which had been laid before Parliament, they would find, that the quantity of corn—by that term he meant wheat—imported into England since the passing of the present law, amounted to 13,000,000 quarters, while the prices of it averaged from 56s. to 57s. a quarter. But they all knew, that in the year 1834, wheat was down as low as 35s. and 36s., while, since that period, the price had increased to 64s. in 1839, and even up to the average of 70s. If, therefore, the farmer could gain at all, he ought to have gained with those prices, but he would venture to say, that he had not gained by the high prices; on the con- 30 trary, he had lost by them, because, if their Lordships looked to the returns to which he had alluded, they would find, that in 1834, when prices were low, only 28,000 quarters of foreign corn had been imported, while, in 1839, when prices were high, there were entered for home consumption 2,711,723 quarters. The returns also showed, that of the 13,000,000 of quarters of foreign corn imported into this country since the commencement of the present law, upwards of 10,000,000 quarters had been admitted at an average duty of 2s. 10d. This was what they called a protective duty given to the farmer by the present law. It was thus clearly proved from these returns, that in 1834, when prices were down at the low rates which he had stated, the British farmer sold all his corn, but when the prices increased to the high rate, then the averages were worked up— whether properly or not was another consideration—then, after the people had been kept in want for a certain time, until the duty was low enough, was foreign corn admitted, and sold at the high prices, while the British farmer had sold his at the low prices. If they calculated the gain made by those who sold at the high prices, and the loss sustained by those who sold at the low prices, it would be found that the British farmer had sustained an enormous loss in consequence of the operation of the present law, and that the protection said to be afforded to him by it was entirely a delusion. There was another part of the subject to which he could not help calling the attention of their Lordships—it regarded the different quantities of the supply. If they gave, as they fancied that they gave, to the British farmer protection against the introduction of foreign corn—if they wished to give him a monopoly of the market, it was their duty to see that the market was supplied by the farmer, and that he was able to meet the wants of the community. Unfortunately that was not the case. It was notorious, that in 1838, and in other seasons when prices were high, large quantities of foreign wheat had been introduced by capitalists, in the hope of reaping the advantages to be derived from a low duty and high prices. It was quite clear, that in 1834, when the harvest was abundant, there was not more corn than what the wants of the country required, because in the course of the two following years foreign corn still continued to be entered for home consumption. It was calculated, that there was a deficiency 31 in the harvest of 1839, compared with that of 1834, of from 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 quarters, but taking it at 7,000,000, being the lowest calculation, and taking from that amount the quantity entered for home consumption, they would still find an alarming difference in the market supply of corn. Their lordships would perceive that the prices had been forced up in the years which he had mentioned as being years in which foreign corn had been introduced, in consequence of the scarcity at home. This sufficiently proved, that they had not enough of home grown corn to supply the market. He asked their Lordships how they could account for the difference of 5,000,000 quarters in the supply between the periods he had mentioned, unless it was, that a great part of the population had bread in one year, but were without it in another? Was not this an appalling fact—no matter whether the difference was either 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 quarters? Was it not, he asked, an appalling fact, when they found such an immense difference in the consumption of the country in one year over another, proving, as it most undoubtedly did, that a great portion of the population were at certain times not supplied with bread, and occasional want and scarcity of food, if not a degree of starvation? There had been one argument used against any alteration of the present laws—one that had been greatly insisted on during the last election, but which he though most puerile and absurd, although it seemed to have had great weight with some persons—it was said, that it was unsafe for this country to have recourse to foreign countries for a supply of so essential an article of food as corn. But what had experience shown? They had no need to go back to the history of other countries, ancient or modern, to Venice, or Genoa, or Holland, or to Rome, whose power and position most nearly resembled our own— they had the experience of the present day to go upon—the fact was going on at that very instant. If it was dangerous to depend on foreign, countries for such a supply, it was a danger which they had already incurred. If it was an unfortunate state of things to be so situated, it could not be denied, that they were then in that unfortunate condition, for the fact was, that they were now dependant on foreign supplies The question which Parliament had to consider was, whether they would make such an alteration in the present law as would ensure a regular supply, sufficient for the 32 wants of the community, or whether they would continue to subject the nation to hose ruinous fluctuations — occasionally starving the people, and bringing ruin upon he very farmer himself. The fact, that since the existence of the present law, this country had imported altogether 13,000,000 quarters of wheat, was a sufficient proof that they were dependant on foreign nations or at least one-sixteenth or one seventeenth part of the wheat consumed in this country. But they had been told that they could not depend on this; that war might break out, and that the ports would be shut against us. This might sound well in theory, but it lad been proved, not only by sound reasoning, but also by experience, that the force of the physical wants of mankind was stronger than any fiscal regulations. What occurred in 1809 and 1810 was a complete refutation of this argument. At no other period were the ports on the continent so effectually closed against this country, yet how effectually their Lordships might judge, from the notorious fact, that the imports of corn from the continent to England in 1809 and 1810 were immense. In the House of Commons in 1811, Mr. Horner stated, in argument upon the currency, that 2,000,000 quarters of corn had been imported within the year. Mr. G. Rose replied, on the part of Government, and said, that it was quite true that such a quantity of foreign corn had been imported, but justified it because there was a scarcity in this country nearly amounting to a famine. That, therefore, which was now represented as dangerous, had been proved to be no danger at all He would not detain their Lordships by dwelling on the evil effects of the present laws in regard to the currency of the country. In periods of great distress these laws had a most injurious operation. Then was just the time, when bullion was most necessary to the country, that these laws forced the precious metals abroad, deranging the monetary system at a time when, above all others, it was most desirable to have it in a sound state. It was difficult for the manufacturer to contend against such a state of things. What they complained of was, the inequality of the present laws. He agreed with the noble Lord who moved the Address, that supposing a fixed duty established or all duties abolished, the price of corn would not be depressed so much as many people imagined. But under the present system the manufacturer had to contend, not against the 33 average price so much as against the high prices, which every now and then occurred. He was ready to admit, that if corn became cheaper, wages would most undoubtedly fall. That he knew was a favourite argument with the noble Lord on the other side, but the value of a man's labour was not to be estimated merely according to a nominal amount of wages in reference to money alone. If, under an alteration of the Corn-laws, the workman was enabled to procure a greater quantity of food for the same amount of labour than he could at present obtain, no matter what might be the nominal rate of wages, if for a certain sum of money he should get a larger supply of food and clothing than he could before, then most undoubtedly would his condition be bettered, and to all intents and purposes would he be a richer man. No one he thought would dissent from that proposition. If the manufacturer had but fair play, there could be no doubt but that the market for manufactures would be greatly extended. Whenever our Government proposed to any foreign government an alteration of their tariff, they were invariably referred to the restrictions which this country had placed on the importation of foreign corn, and this was always found to be an article in the way of a new liberal commercial treaty. So long as the price of corn remained lower on the continent than it was in this country, they would force the manufacturers of this country to export machinery, and mechanics would go abroad, where they could obtain a sufficiency of food, because the food was not permitted to come to them. The consequence was, that foreign countries obtained the skill and the machinery of this country, the market was shut against those manufactures which, if trade was opened and an alteration made in the present Corn-laws, would be received from this country ready made. He was well aware that in arguing for a lower price of corn he might be answered by it being said, that this could be obtained by lowering the sliding scale. He objected to the principle of the sliding scale, for the effect of it was to interfere with and derange the currency, while its past operation, he thought, had been altogether injurious. The principle of it was, that the corn for the supply of the population should be grown at home, and that the ports should only be open for the admission of foreign corn in seasons of scarcity and want; but the principle of a fixed duty is, and the effect of it would be, 34 to ensure at all times to the people a steady supply of foreign corn—not excessive at one time and too small at another, but a regular and steady supply, equal to the demand. In his opinion, the protection afforded to the farmer by the sliding scale was altogether a fiction—if made so low as to have the effect of a fixed duty, it would still be a delusion on the agriculturist. It was much fairer for the advocates of a sliding scale to say that they were going to alter it materially, than to profess that they were going to maintain it with some modifications. Such subtlety might be suited for the hustings, but it was unbecoming when used in debating the question in Parliament. If the advocates of an alteration in the sliding scale meant to establish a regular trade in foreign corn, they ought at once to say so to the people. The Address which he had the honour to second spoke fairly and frankly on this point; it differed in this respect from former documents of the like description. Nothing could be more explicit; and all that noble Lords opposite had to do to negative it would be to move the insertion of the word "not," in the different parts of the address. He only wished they would be as explicit and frank in the declaration of their principles as the Address itself, because he had been watching the opinion of the leading men on the other side in regard to this question, and he had seen a great deal of most unbecoming evasion, which he trusted their Lordships would not adopt. He recollected the outcry against their Lordships some years ago—it was said, that they had lost the esteem of the country, and that their aristocracy would be overthrown. In this alarm he never participated; but if their Lordships practised the evasion which some leading men had done on this question, he feared that their influence would be in considerable danger. It might be very well for the advocates of a sliding scale to say, that there was no occasion to discuss this subject—that their past conduct in relation to it was well known—that they would afford protection to the agricultural and landed interest. He and those who voted with him were quite prepared to do that. The phrase meant nothing. Would it not have been better for them to have said, "We will give the agricultural interest protection by maintaining the present scale exactly as it is?" This would have been better than merely giving general and evasive answers which could bind no one. 35 He wished their Lordships to avoid this, and to take a more decided course. It was infinitely better that they should do so, under the circumstances in which they were at present placed. Ministers held their tenure of office on this question of a fixed duty. If their views were rejected by Parliament, they would have to leave office; and it was infinitely better that those who should succeed them should not be supposed, when they came into office, to flinch from the principles which they professed when out. He knew not whether such a course had been adopted to gratify the country or their party, but this he knew, there was no question, if viewed as a party matter, on which the Government could be defeated with more satisfaction to themselves for having brought it forward, than on this question of Free trade When he recollected the various acts of the present Ministry — their reform of abuses, which twelve years ago was thought impossible—the reform in Parliament and in the municipal corporations, by which the recurrence of abuse had been rendered almost impossible—when he recollected they had reformed the abuses in the tithe system in Ireland, and placed the church in both countries on a better footing—when he recollected this, he thought they could not better terminate their official existence, they could not fall in a better cause, than in a struggle against unnecessary, and therefore, unjust taxation, and in an attempt to relieve the people from a pressing and enormous grievance. He hoped, therefore, noble Lords opposite would fairly meet the matter at once, and state their reasons against extending the trade of the country, and against enabling the people to pay into the treasury a revenue sufficient to dispense with the necessity of any new taxation. He hoped they would state their objections fairly, for, as he had said before, if Ministers were so unfortunate as to be overthrown on this question, they could not be defeated with more honour to themselves than in defending the principles embodied in the Address.
§ The Earl of Ripon
fully concurred in the observation made by his noble Friends who moved and seconded the Address, that there were some topics referred to in the Address to which their Lordships would probably offer no objection; and for his own part he would most willingly have followed the example that had been generally set by their Lordships in the last eight years, and not offer any opposition to the Address, 36 beyond a general reservation as to certain parts, had he felt himself at liberty to do so. He would have preferred to have taken that course on the present occasion if he could have done so honestly to his own feelings. Whilst, however, there were some points in the Address which he could not pass over without directing the particular attention of their Lordships to them, and upon which he entirely differed from the sentiments of the proposed Address, he felt himself also called upon to make some observations upon those parts in which he concurred. He alluded particularly to the state of our foreign relations. He owned that he cordially rejoiced at the complete restoration of those amicable feelings which had subsisted between France and England, and had for a time last year suffered some interruption. To the prudence, judgment, and moderation of the King of the French they owed much for the restoration of those amicable feelings and relations. They had also to thank his ministers, who by their sound judgment and due appreciation of the feelings known to exist towards France at this side of the water, had so ably seconded the good sense and good feeling of their Sovereign. By their combined exertions supported by the concurrence of the French people they had put an end, for a time at least, to all grounds of alarm as to any disturbance of the peace of Europe, which had been risked by the reckless conduct of some of their predecessors in office. But let him add that his satisfaction at those circumstances would be much greater if he saw that the great question out of which those temporary differences had arisen were now settled on a firm and lasting basis. But it must be evident to their Lordships that matters in those quarters had not yet been so settled. The Pasha of Egypt was still a powerful vassal, while the Sultan was a powerless sovereign, and the preservation of the improved condition of affairs in that quarter depended not more upon the fact of a good understanding between the five great powers of Europe, than upon the manner in which their efforts might be directed to that great object of their alliance, the preservation of the Ottoman Empire and the general peace of Europe. He also concurred with his noble Friend in rejoicing at the renewal of our amicable relations with Persia, but his noble Friend (the Marquessof Clanricarde) had alluded to some points still unsettled between this country and Persia, though he had not told their Lordships 37 what they were; but whatever they were, he hoped that the exertions of our diplomatic agent who had proceeded to Teheran would soon bring them to an amicable termination. He attached the more importance to the restoration of amicable relations with Persia, on account of its intimate connection with other courts of immense importance, not noticed in the speech. He alluded to the war—for such it really was—which was now going on on the north bank of the Indus, of the commencement of which we had but scanty information, and of which no man could predict what would be the end. These operations had been marked in the first instance by a certain flash of success, and we had succeeded, at a very considerable sacrifice of men and money, in placing on the throne of Affghanistan a decrepid old man, who had previously been thirty years an exile from that kingdom. But although we had already exhausted in those operations all the surplus treasure of the Indian Government, and had been obliged to resort to a loan for the purpose of maintaining our position beyond the Indus; it was clear that without the continued presence of the British troops, the throne of Shah Soojah was utterly insecure, whilst we were perpetually engaged in a desultory and harassing warfare, as much for our own security in the country as for the maintenance of the tottering authority of the Sultan. In the Punjaub also, with whose ruler Runjeet Singh we had made a treaty, which led to the attack of Affghanistan, all now was utter confusion. He had recently died, the succession to the throne was previously disputed, and the interposition of that large and distracted country, between our own frontier and the scene of our operations beyond the Indus, seriously complicated our position, and rendered it equally difficult to say how we could remain with safety or retire with honour. There was, however, another kind of warfare noticed in the speech, which was still more singular in its character. It was a war carried on at a great expense and a great sacrifice of human life, but carried on against an enemy who would not fight. We knocked his castles about his ears, destroyed his ships, and took away his guns, and then asked him to enter into a negotiation to give us redress for an attack, to bear with which would be a compromise upon our honour as a nation. To this negotiation a kind of half consent was given, 38 but before its conclusion the island of Chusan, which we had taken and held for some time at a great loss of life, was hastily restored to the Chinese Government, some of the troops were ordered to return to India, as if all was settled, and a treaty (such as it was) sent over to this country, for the ratification of the British Government. In the mean time the Chinese authorities did not observe even its preliminary arrangements, and the British Government refused to ratify it; so that, after all, the affair is still unsettled; and not a particle of information is given to us either as to the cause or the course of this ridiculous and discreditable war. Nor have we any means of judging whether it has arisen from the blundering instructions sent from home, or to the blundering execution of them on the spot. On the subject of our relations with the United States of America, he studiously refrained from saying a word, for there were some delicate points connected with it on which he thought it better to refrain from saying anything for the present. He now came to a part of the speech upon which it was evident his noble Friends opposite did not anticipate an unanimous vote from their Lordships. He certainly was not surprised that his noble Friends should entertain such an anticipation; for under all the circumstances of the case, he thought it utterly impossible that there could be an unanimous vote upon it. He meant that part of the speech which referred to the ministerial proposition for improving the finances of the country— propositions affecting the general state of trade and commerce, and of the trade in corn in particular. According to the views of the Government, the three questions propounded by them were inseparably linked together, and could not be properly discussed or considered except in relation with each other. From the terms of the speech it was to be assumed that the Government retained (although it certainly had not hitherto been famous for retaining in one session what it had advanced in the previous one)—it was to be assumed that the Government still retained its opinion that the measures it had suggested with respect to the duties on timber, sugar, and corn were absolutely necessary to meet the difficulties of a great financial crisis. If he thought that those measures were calculated to meet the difficulties of the crisis; nay, even if he thought, being calculated to meet those 39 difficulties, they were nevertheless liable to serious objections, he should yet hesitate in proposing to their Lordships to express any opinion with reference to the principles on which the Government had brought them forward, and had conducted the finances of the country. But it was because he thought, that, in this matter of the finances of the country, there had been the greatest possible mismanagement, and that the plan of the Government was quite inadequate to remedy the evil, that he felt himself bound to state, that he could not think that their Lordships could do otherwise than express their opinion that her Majesty's Government did not possess the confidence of that House. Upon various occasions within the last two years he had taken opportunities of explaining to their Lordships the views which he entertained upon these subjects, and the very great apprehensions which he felt that the ministry were embarking in a ruinous course. He had also upon those occasions expressed an opinion that some most decided, vigorous, efficient, and certain scheme ought to be proposed for the purpose of extricating the finances of the country from the immense difficulties in which they were involved. For the last four years the revenue had been annually diminishing, and in the course of that time the expenditure had exceeded the income by no less a sum than 5,000,000l. It was, moreover, a singular fact, and one he thought deserving of serious consideration, that during those four years the mode that had been taken in order to fill up the deficiency in the revenue was one that, however advisable to resort to occasionally, under the pressure of a single and sudden emergency, was utterly unjustifiable as a general principle, or as applied to a series of years. How had the deficiency been made up? The mode of doing it was not known till the present year, when a paper was called for in the other House of Parliament requiring the Government to explain how the deficiency had been met; and how was it done? Principally by tampering with the savings banks, by borrowing money from the savings banks, or at least what was equivalent to borrowing money from them—by converting part o their stock in Exchequer bills into an addition to the permanent funded debt of the country. Such a course of proceeding, al though not contrary to the law, was, to say the least of it, highly objectionable. To make use of the savings banks year after 40 year for the purpose of propping up a fallen revenue, without the knowledge of Parliament—without any communication with he House of Commons—was, in his opinion, an unconstitutional proceeding, and one which no Government ought to have recourse to. It was objectionable upon he constitutional point as being done without the knowledge of Parliament; but it was even more objectionable as regarded the savings banks themselves. What were the savings banks? Institutions or the receipt and safe custody of the savings of our poorer fellow citizens; of those men, who, by honest industry and praiseworthy prudence, were enabled to save something of the fruits of their toil to gild the evening of their laborious lives, and who were induced by the Legislature to entrust those savings to the public custody. But if the Government upon every emergency were to be at liberty to touch these funds, for the purpose of propping up a failing revenue, what security would the depositors have for the safe custody of a property which was to them invaluable. He did not mean to say, that any positive mischief had actually occurred; but the principle was wrong, and was calculated to cause distrust in the minds of those whom the Legislature had invited to entrust their savings to a department of the Government, and whose distrust might be encreased by the very fact of the transaction not being carried into effect in the open day, and the face of Parliament and the country. In his opinion, therefore, the Government were not justified in persevering in it for so long a time. The other course which they had pursued, if not equally unjustifiable, was still liable to great objection; he meant the practice of diminishing the balances in the Exchequer by a very great amount. To meet the financial difficulties in which they were involved, the Government had diminished those balances to a comparatively very low sum. That was a very improvident mode of dealing with the difficulty against which they had to contend, and if it were resorted to upon every such emergency as had arisen within the last few years, the result would soon be that there would be no floating balance at all. No course of proceeding could be more objectionable if carried on systematically for a series of years. There was another point connected with this part of the subject, upon which he begged to make one or two observations. It appeared, that, during the course 41 of the last ten years, additions had been made to the annual charge of the public funded debt of the country to the amount of nearly 1,000,000l., for which no provision whatever had been made by Parliament. This was not, perhaps, objectionable at the period at which it was first done; because at that time there was a positive surplus of income over expenditure, so that the additional expense thrown upon the country by the process of raising the money did not add to the public burdens—it merely diminished the surplus. But during the last four years there had been a constant deficiency of revenue to meet the expenditure of the country, and yet no provision whatever had been made for the 1,000,000l. added to the public debt. It was a large sum, and, taken together with the additional expense incurred by the mode of not raising a sufficient income to meet the expenditure, and, with the revenue lost by the too hasty adoption of the Post office scheme, the gross amount of both in their effect upon the balance of income and expenditure, was not less than 2,200,000l., pretty nearly the whole amount of the deficiency which Parliament had been called upon to provide for in the course of the present year. This exhibited a mismanagement—a want of arrangement on the part of the Government— which was quite unpardonable. The finances of the country could not bear to be treated in such an unskilful manner. His noble Friend (Earl Spencer), who moved the Address, had observed, that commerce could not wait for any long consideration on the part of the Legislature— that its defects, if remedied at all, must be remedied with promptness and despatch. But brief as the period, that commerce could wait, might be, finance could not wait so long. Finance was more delicate, more sensitive than commerce. In finance we might be ruined before we knew where we were. He could only designate the proceedings of the Government, therefore, upon this point of finance, as most shortsighted, most imprudent, and most impolitic. Upon previous occasions he had stated the view which he took upon this subject, and he did so under a strong sense of the very serious danger to which the country was exposed by the condition in which its finances were placed. He hoped, however, that he had never stated anything beyond what the case actually required. He had endeavoured to exaggerate 42 nothing, to impute no blame, to abstain, as far as possible, from anything calculated to excite inconvenient discussion; and he had had the satisfaction of hearing from his noble Friend at the head of the Government, that he admitted all the statements he had made—that he admitted most of the inferences he drew, and, in fact, although he did not admit all, he did not refute any. He thought, therefore, that he might take the liberty now, when two years had elapsed—when he found the condition of the finances so precarious, and attended with so much danger—he thought he might now take the liberty of again noticing the subject to the House, to point to the financial mismanagement of the Government, as constituting, in his judgment, a ground for the expression of want of confidence. In 1840, the Government, sensible of the necessity of doing something, proposed to meet the exigency of the time by a considerable addition to the taxes. This showed that they felt the necessity of making some effort to meet the crisis; but the scheme they adopted was but a clumsy contrivance, and was accompanied by a notification of a plan contemplated by the Government, which if it had been carried into effect would have been quite in contravention of the whole principle of the finance project of that year; he meant the negotiations for a commercial treaty with France, which was at that time going on, and was announced to Parliament at the time of the budget. Now, the main part of the scheme of 1840 consisted in the imposition of new duties on the customs generally and an additional duty specifically upon spirits. But if that treaty with France had been carried into effect, it would have been necessary to call upon Parliament to undo a great deal of what had been done the year before, in order to put the expenditure of the country upon a right footing; for it was clear that there were certain articles of French produce upon which our duties must have been relaxed under any commercial treaty with France, and therefore the increase of duty to which such articles would have been subjected by the plan of 1840, must have been taken off in the subsequent year, thus destroying all previous calculation, and throwing commerce into uncertainty and confusion, by a policy at once vacillating and contradictory. They now came to the present year, and they found the deficiency of revenue to be the same. No; it was not the same; 43 it was aggravated, because in addition to the deficiency of the year before, the deficiency calculated for the present year would exceed 2,000,000l., and then the Government came down with a scheme which they professed to consider a plan for putting our revenue on a sound footing—namely, the alteration of the duty on the three articles to which the noble Lords opposite had referred, and it was stated by the Government that these alterations would have the triple elicit of improving the revenue, extending our commerce, and benefitting the consumer. He should have no difficulty in showing, that not one of these alterations could possibly effect all these objects. He would point this out. The manner in which it was proposed by the Government to deal with timber was this: they said, that the proportion between the duty on foreign and on Canadian timber was unduly favourable to the latter. He did not defend the disproportion in the abstract, he admitted that it did require revision; but what he questioned was, the prudence and the policy of the mode in which the Government proposed to revise it. They proposed to increase the duty on Canadian timber by doubling it, that is, by raising it from 10s to 20s., and to reduce the duty on Baltic timber by 5s., that is, from 55s. to 50s.—increasing the duty on Canadian timber 100 per cent., and reducing that on foreign timber by 9 per cent. Now, what the noble Lord had stated was true, that it was admitted that Canadian timber was not so fit as the Baltic for certain purposes —though this was not quite a clear proposition, since in Canada there were buildings, churches and other edifices, that had been standing for 120 or 130 years; but his noble Friend had said at the same time that it was admitted, that a great deal of Canadian timber was perfectly fitted for other purposes—namely, for the internal timber of houses. In those cases its superior cheapness compensated for any deficiency in its quality of durability. Now, the scheme of the Government to benefit the consumer was by increasing the duty 100 per cent. How could that benefit the consumer? Then it was said, that it would answer the purpose of revenue. How could that be? Perhaps it might, if it had the effect of compelling the people to substitute Baltic timber for Canadian timber; for, supposing the same quantity of timber to be consumed, it would pay a higher duty. But how would 44 that benefit the interest of the consumers of Canadian timber? and the only effect of the change in a commercial point of view would be a certain encrease in the trade to the Baltic, counterbalanced by an equivalent diminution of trade with our North American colonies. And how are the consumers of Baltic timber benefitted? Mr. Macgregor, who had laid a rigmarole paper before the import duties Committee—who got a gentleman from the office of the Board of Trade before them, though it was impossible he could know what he was going to do or to say—had laid a proposition before the committee for altering the duty, which he (Lord Ripon) believed was the foundation of the whole scheme, and this gentleman said, that the duty on Baltic timber amounted to from 50 to 200 per cent. Take it at 100 per cent.; then, if the duty were 55s., the cost of the article would be 110s. per load. And what is the benefit given to the consumer? Why 5s. out of 110s Was there any person, knowing anything of business, who supposed that a reduction of 5s. in 110s. would benefit the consumer? It might put money into the pocket of the merchant or the builder, but not one farthing into that of the consumer; therefore, this tax could not answer the triple object proposed by the Government. He called it a complete fallacy, and he considered such a scheme for supplying the deficiency of the revenue as little short of madness. Then as to sugar; the amount of the reduction of the price of sugar which would be obtained by the measure of the Government, was calculated at a fraction of a farthing per pound. Now, unless the price of the article should be reduced at least 1d. per pound, it would be folly to expect that the consumer would derive anything from it. He was not prepared to say, that there was no period at which the duty upon foreign sugar could be reduced, and he could not bind himself to such a proposition. But the noble Lord who had moved the Address had told their Lordships, that if he thought the foreign slave trade would be promoted by the alteration of the system of the sugar duties, with all his love of free trade, he for one, would not consent to it. Now, he thought it must have that effect; he thought there was, at least, great danger of its having that effect, and this, in his mind, was an objection to the scheme. He had been engaged in the noble work of extinguishing slavery in our colonies. That 45 great experiment was now in a course of trial, and he believed it was working remarkably well, and he had no doubt that the produce of sugar in our free colonies would, at no distant time, be largely increased, and sold at a cheaper rate. The measure was one which he had the honour of opening in their Lordships' House, and he, therefore, took a deeper interest in the question. He thought the measure of Government would have the effect he had mentioned, and that, at all events, it was unwise to risk it. He knew it was said that all this was sickly sentiment; that those who opposed the measure on the ground that it would tend to the increase of slavery, pretended a deal for the abolition of the slave trade which they did not feel; and that under that pretence they cloaked their reluctance to afford to the people the benefit of cheap sugar. He did not think this was sickly sentiment, and, as far as he was concerned, he had ever been forward to join in any project, to extinguish the slave trade, and the first vote he had given in Parliament, when a very young man, had been in support of Mr. Fox's bill for the abolition of the slave trade. But there was another subject to be considered in this question, which had not been noticed by the noble Mover. It had been only within these two or three years that it had been deemed expedient to put the sugar grower in our territories in the East Indies on the same footing as the grower of West India sugar. The climate of India was adapted to a variety of products, and could grow an immense quantity of excellent sugar, and it was our duty to develop the resources by every means in our power. It should be recollected, that the vast progress of our cotton manufacture in this country had extinguished the cotton manufacture in India, and the policy of this country had always been (upon the wisdom of which he gave no opinion) not to permit the East India Company to put any duty upon the manufactures of England, except a nominal one of about 2½ per cent., which produced a trifling revenue, but afforded no protection to the manufacturer of the East. He said, that justice required that we should pause before we let the foreign slave owners come into competition with the growers of East India sugar. Was there anything sickly in that? It appeared to him that objections without end applied to every part of the Government scheme, which he thought would appear still more strongly, when he came to consider that 46 most important part of the whole case, he meant the alteration of the Corn-laws. That was a subject so difficult, so delicate, and, in some points of view, so dangerous, that he hardly knew in what manner he should best approach it. He wished to express his view of the question, but not to trouble their Lordships more than was necessary. He thought he should be able to show that the measure was one in which their Lordships ought not to concur. The noble Mover of the Address had told their Lordships that he was an advocate for free trade—for free trade in every thing, and, above all, a free trade in corn. But the noble Lord very fairly referred to the monstrous exaggerations which prevailed upon this subject. But the first question to be asked was, what is the real proposition of the Government? Is it free trade, or merely a question of the best mode of giving a protection? In his opinion, whatever might be the professed object of the Government, within whatever bounds they might incline to limit their views, the whole question is in substance, and in the view of all parties in the country, a question of absolute free trade, without any protection whatever. Why were the two noble Lords selected to move and second the Address? It was customary for the Mover and Seconder to confer with the Ministers previously, and he must assume, that the noble Viscount at the head of the Government was aware, when he selected the two noble Lords as the Mover and Seconder of the Address, that they would argue the question on the principles of free trade, and no other, it was not unfair or unjust to infer that this is the end of the whole scheme. The country cannot have the slightest doubt, from what had been said in pamphlets and newspaper on newspaper, and from the bitter reproaches and calumnies cast upon the defenders of the Corn-laws, and from the arguments of the anti-corn-law league, that there was to be an abolition of all protection; and that nothing short of that would satisfy those who impugned the existing Corn-law with such unmitigated and fierce hostility. And their Lordships must therefore make up their minds to that if they adopt this Address, and give their confidence to such a Government. If this was a question bonâ fide whether there should be a fixed duty of 8s., or a sliding scale—if it was a question as to the mode of giving protection, which was the most convenient and the fairest—would that be 47 a question upon which to agitate the country as this had done—to set class against class, to rouse the worst feelings of our nature, and to create such a ferment throughout the country, as would render any useful consideration of the question utterly impracticable. Thequestion could not be settled so. He would, if their Lordships pleased, say that both parties were guilty of exaggeration; but the dangerous and violentagitation, the agitation which threatened disorders, and the breaking up of all social feelings, appeared to him to be on the side of those who clamoured for what they called "cheap bread," though cheap bread it would not bring, even according to the distinct and honest declaration of the noble Earl himself, who advocates so warmly the extreme principle of no protection whatever. When charges against those who supported the Corn-laws, of being hardhearted monopolists, were spread amongst the people—he did not say by the Government—he did not accuse them, but by persons of influence—it was a most dangerous agitation. He regretted to find in a report—he would not call it a charge, but an insinuation—that, as the Legislature is composed of great landed proprietors, the people were led to believe, that they were ready to strain measures with a view to keep up their rents. Then their Lordships had been told to look at the question in connection with the existing law, and it had been said, that the existing law had entirely failed in its object. He would show, that the law in its operation had not only not failed, but that it had produced the effects which it had been intended to produce. Their Lordships would find, from a return of the averages of corn for several years to the last year, that the average price of corn, for the last twelve years, had been 58s. 6d., which was not at all an extravagant average; and if they divided the period into two parts—aud that was the fairest way— it would appear that the average price of wheat, in the first six years, was 59s. 1d., and of the second six years 57s. 6½., so that the averages of the two portions very nearly agreed; showing that there had been in the operation of the act, something approaching to an equality of price to justify his saying, that the scheme had not failed. But, in order to make the point still more clear, he would divide the period into three parts: in the first four years the average was high, 63s. 10½d.; during these years, the averages being high, and there being 48 therefore a necessity for the importation of foreign corn, the importation in those four years amounted to 4,936,822 quarters. In the last four years the price was nearly the same, 64s. 4½ d. and the importation was 6,780,823 quarters; so that during these two periods, the law performed its office of supplying the corn that was wanted. In the second period the average was 46s. 8¾d., considerably below both the first and last, and the importation was only 205,889 quarters. But it had not been an excess of importation that had produced the low price, but the increase of production here, and this shows that the law had effected its proper purposes. Those purposes being to admit all that could be wanted when the price was high, and our own supply scarce, and to exclude it when our own abundance caused the price to be materially reduced. It was said, that if there had been a fixed duty, there would have been comparatively no fluctuation at all; that commerce would have been free and easy, and everything would have gone on well. This, however, was contrary to experience in respect to many other articles. Upon a former occasion, he had shown their Lordships, that, taking a series of years, in the prices of wool, cotton, hemp, silk, and articles without end, imported in large quantities from every part of the world, there had been greater fluctuations than in the prices of corn. The noble Lord who seconded the Address had alluded to the objection made to the proposed scheme, on the ground of its making this country dependent upon foreign supply, which was a dangerous thing, and he had argued that he saw no danger in this; but it appeared to him that it was the true ground upon which he felt himself justified in supporting the Corn-laws, and he could not, after all the consideration he could give to the subject, divest himself of grave apprehensions, if we were to depend on the importation from abroad of the main part of our supply, and neglect the cultivation of corn in our own country, we might find the difficulty aggravated every year; for although the noble Seconder did not think that the importation of foreign corn would throw land out of cultivation, yet if he listened to the arguments of others who wished to abolish the Corn laws, and who called this a landlord's question, they argued that land had been brought into cultivation, which would not have been so brought but for the Corn laws. Why, if so, according to their argu- 49 ment, the abolition of the Corn laws must have the effect of throwing that land again out of cultivation. He (Lord Ripon) did not say that land had been so brought into cultivation, he thought there were other causes. But if we habitually depended upon foreign countries for corn, we incurred risk—and risk in such a matter was a great thing; we ought to see the effect of the measure before we placed such interests in jeopardy by so tremendous a change. It was not clear to him, if they admitted foreign corn, and discouraged the growth of our own, that they would find foreign countries always in possession of corn to send us. In Dr. Bowring's report, a curious circumstance was mentioned. He was arguing against the Corn laws as preventing the extension of commerce, and he says that the German League had a population of 22,000,000, and the total quantity of corn grown in the League for these 22,000,000 of people did not exceed 13,000,000 quarters, wheat, barley, oats, and everything, of which the people consumed 13–14ths: if so, the whole quantity they were capable of exporting would not equal 1,000,000 of quarters per annum. And yet the Government scheme assumed that we must import no less than 3,000,000quarters of wheat, and 3,000,000 quarters of other corn every year, which exceeded the whole quantity ever imported in any one year, whatever might have been the stimulus of excessively high prices, and however remote the corners which have been ransacked to attain them. In no one year did the imports of corn ever amount to 2,500,000 quarters, and yet there must be an importation of 3,000,000 quarters of wheat per annum. Why did the Government set this up as a measure of finance? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had assumed that the customs on corn produced a given sum per annum, and he built his calculations on the produce of the customs for the last two or three years; in this period about 1,000,000l. a year had been received on corn. The Government said they expected to raise by their project, 400,000l. But if they did get 1,600,000l. a year, the whole calculation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was wrong; and the result of the estimate, which was founded upon the last two years giving l,100,000l., was, that 3,000,000 quarters of wheat must be annually imported at the 8s. duty, and another 3,000,000 at the medium duty, in order 50 to produce the required sum of 1,600,000l.; in fact, there must be a perpetual importation of wheat, whether it was wanted or not, before the expectations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, could be realized. But, on the supposition that the project of the Government were carried into effect, no man could entertain any reasonable doubt that a very large portion of the corn land in this country would be thrown out of cultivation—an evil, which, if it once commenced, no one could say where it would stop, or what would be its disastrous consequences. One of his noble Friends had laughed at the idea of foreign powers interposing laws to prevent the importation of corn into this country. But was it not true that there was a law now in force in Russia which permitted the importation of foreign corn. Why was this? Because the supply for the last few years had been below the demand. If, however the Emperor of Russia could permit the importation of foreign corn, for two or three years, it would seem that without his permission it could not be imported, so that there was not a free trade in corn in Russia after all, for the Emperor could put an end to it whenever he thought proper. He could not help thinking, then, that it would be the height of imprudence to rely habitually upon any foreign supply of corn, for such a course must inevitably lead to the risk of exposing this country to want and even to famine. There was only one other part of the case to which he wished to advert, that was the mercantile view of the question. It was said, "If you establish free trade in corn, you will have such a great and increased exportation of manufactures, that our trade will flourish to an enormous extent, and the landholder will profit in the general prosperity that the increased trade would produce." No doubt, that if the prosperity was general, the landholders would profit by it; but he thought there were grave reasons for doubting, whether, if they were to alter their Corn laws, they would acquire that extensive trade from those particular countries whence it was expected. Just see how the question became narrowed when they looked at those countries. The trade could not come from the greater part of Europe, because the greater part of Europe had protective Corn-laws. Holland, France, Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Naples, Sicily, the Papal dominions, Austria, and even Bavaria, 51 in the interior of Germany, had Corn laws for their own protection. How then could any one possibly argue that those countries would be induced to take our manufactures by a reduction of the duty on their corn? It was said, that the Prussian league was entirely owing to the Corn-laws, and if they were repealed, nothing could be more easy than to induce the Prussian government to alter their system, and to receive our manufactures. Now, he begged leave to say, that he did not believe that the Germanic league had anything whatever to do with the state of the Corn-laws or the commerce of this country in its original conception. The fact was, that the real character of that league was political; it was part of a great political scheme, propounded and carried into effect by men who were under the influence of a spirit of devotedness to their father land, and of zeal for the prosperity of their great and noble scheme—a scheme devised for the purpose of nationalizing the north of Germany, and giving to it a coherence and solidity which experience had proved to be entirely wanting in the antient German empire, and in that partial and flimsy substitution for it by Napoleon, of the confederation of the Rhine; and here he would remark, that the existence of that Germanic league, and whatever incidental obstacles it might impose upon our trade, the commercial scheme connected with it, was one of the safest guarantees for the peace of Europe that had been brought into existence since the termination of the last war. What reason, then, was there for thinking that any of those countries he had mentioned would take our manufactures if we said that we would take their corn? No man who knew Germany could fail to discover that the principle which animated the German government and people was that of securing protection for their own manufactures. They might be wrong, or we might be wrong; but it was a very natural feeling, and one which had pervaded all nations in all civilized times. It might have been carried to great excess; indeed it has been carried to very great excess in this and other countries, and he, as well as others, had been instrumental in checking that excess. But he believed that none of those governments would make any relaxation in their laws merely because we proposed to take their corn. As to Russia, if ever there existed a country whose policy was of a restrictive character 52 against the productions of other countries, it was Russia. From the time of the Empress Catherine, the laws of Russia had been most rigorously enforced, under the severest penalties, against the introduction of foreign manufactures. The Russian government had made great sacrifices, whether wisely or not, he would not at present say, to establish manufactures in every part of the country: they had done so; those manufactures were greatly extended, and some were very flourishing, though others, probably, were not so, as all could not be expected to succeed there, any more than here or in other countries. But they had extended greatly, nevertheless, and the interests of a large portion of the people were bound up in them. Looking then at the history of nations, and the motives by which men were governed, he could not believe, that for the mere sake of giving a little extension to their trade in corn they would all at once abandon all their settled policy, upwards of a century old, and let our manufactures come in to what they could not but deem an injurious, perhaps a ruinous, competition with their own. It appeared, then, that the Government scheme was vicious and fallacious. At all events, it was uncertain. And it was part of the wisdom which her Majesty had expressed a hope would guide their deliberations, not to shut their eyes to such great evils as those to which he had alluded. Having now gone through these various topics at some length, he had to state that under all the circumstances of the case, looking to the course that had been taken with respect to the finances of the country —looking to the course which her Majesty's Government had proposed to pursue— and looking to the declaration which had been stated by the two noble Lords opposite, that they intended to stand or fall by those propositions, and deeming the propositions, as they stood, liable to the grave doubts and difficulties which he had stated, he should move an amendment to the Address, which would express a want of confidence in her Majesty's Ministers. He thought it needless to attempt to say anything to justify this course, beyond the grounds he had already stated. The Government, the country, and all parties were in a position which evidently rendered it impossible for the public business to go on. They must come to some plain and distinct expression of opinion as to the principles upon which the Government of the country should be conducted. He should, therefore, propose 53 such an amendment as he hoped, and believed, their lordships would adopt. He desired that they should present themselves before her Majesty as her loyal, and faithful, and devoted subjects, whose attachment to the Throne was founded upon the principles of the constitution, not adopted to serve the purposes of the moment—as a body of men who, whilst they respect the prerogatives, and venerate the dignity and the person of the Sovereign, know how to appreciate the duties which their station imposes upon themselves, and equally desire to maintain the lights and liberties of the people. He should wish their Lordships to approach her Majesty with those feelings in their hearts, sensible of their human infirmities, and with the fear of God before their eyes, looking to him for that wisdom which was necessary to guide their councils and deliberations, and to direct all their efforts to the utmost—as, notwithstanding all misrepresentation and all gainsaying, he would assert, it was their earnest desire, for the welfare and happiness of the country.
The noble Earl concluded by proposing the following Amendment to the latter part of the Address:—
We Humbly represent to your Majesty, that we observe with great concern that the public expenditure has of late in each of several successive years exceeded the annual income, and that we are convinced of the necessity of adopting measures for the purpose of remedying so great an evil:
We assure your Majesty that we are deeply sensible of the importance of those considerations, to which your Majesty has been graciously pleased to direct our attention, in reference to the commerce and revenue of the country, and to the laws which regulate the trade in corn:
That in deciding the course which it may be advisable to pursue with reference to such matters, it will be our earnest desire to consult the interest, and promote the welfare of all classes of your Majesty's subjects:
That we feel it, however, to be our duty humbly to submit to your Majesty that it is essential to the satisfactory results of our deliberations upon these and other matters
of public concern, that your Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the country; and respectfully to represent to your Majesty that that confidence is not reposed in the present advisers of your Majesty:
We assure your Majesty that in the gracious expression of your Majesty's deep sympathy with those of your Majesty's subjects who are now suffering from distress and want of employment, we recognize an additional proof of your Majesty's tender regard for the welfare of your Majesty's subjects; and that we cordially join in the prayer of your Majesty, that all our deliberations may be guided by wisdom, and may conduce to the happiness of your Majesty's people.''
The Marquess of Clanricarde
explained, that he did not say he was for a total abolition of the Corn-laws immediately: he thought he had said he was for a moderate or low duty on corn at first. But he was free to say, he hoped that in a very short time those laws might be repealed. He had not said that he did not think any foreign powers would not impose laws preventing the importation of their corn into this country; on the contrary, hereferred to a time when such laws were imposed; but his opinion was, that no such laws could prevail against the reciprocal wants of nations.
§ Earl Fitzwilliam
said, that curiosity had been excited on his part at the beginning of the speech of the noble Earl opposite, which had not been entirely gratified. He had undoubtedly thought, that the noble Earl in the task he had undertaken would have endeavoured to state to their Lordships what measures he would be disposed to pursue under the present circumstances of the country. Instead of that, however, the noble Earl had concluded with an amendment, in which he did not point out any one measure which it would be desirable to pass, but merely stated, that her Majesty's Ministers did not possess what was in Parliamentary language called the confidence of that House. That was neither more nor less than saying—and that was the important proposition involved in that statement— "we are the many, and you are the few." That was all that was meant by that statement, and it would appear from the 55 words the noble Earl was desirous of adding, that he was desirous of nothing more than of avoiding a declaration of any mode which he would propose to extricate the country out of the difficulties in which she was placed—difficulties which the noble Earl admitted—but for which he did not condescend to point out the remedy. The noble Earl he apprehended did not deny the difficulty in which the country was placed, he did not deny the deficiency in the revenue, on the contrary, that deficiency formed the groundwork of the amendment he had proposed. Then, if the noble Earl did that, if he enunciated those premises, the logical conclusion of his amendment ought to have been, that such and such other measures would have been more advisable than those proposed by her Majesty's Government. Nil horum! The noble Earl said nothing but this, "We are the many, and you are the few." That, indeed, was what the people out of doors looked at when a change of administration was coming on. But that had not been the usual manner in which pro positions of the kind had been stated within the walls of Parliament, nor the manner in which those who were to incur subsequent responsibility had generally conducted themselves on such occasions. He would beg to refer the noble Earl to his own conduct on a former occasion, some ten or eleven years ago, when the noble Earl was connected with a party then coming into power, as he was now a member of a party wishing to take office. What did the leaders of that party do on that occasion? Did they make a mystery of the measures they intended to propose? What did the noble Earl, under whom the noble Earl then served as a Cabinet Minister, do upon that occasion? He said there were certain principles which his party adopted, and which they intended to carry into effect. The great measure of reform in the representation was the measure they afterwards effected, and upon the principle of which they came into power. Earl Grey did not say, "we are the many, and you are the few," but boldly stated certain principles which he designed to be the basis of his policy. In like manner, in 1807, when the administration of Lord Grenville was overturned, and the Duke of Portland and Mr. Perceval came into power, certain measures were opposed, and contrary principles were avowed and carried into effect. And 56 so, upon all former great changes, he apprehended that some principles were stated, and some measures propounded for the consideration of Parliament, as the groundwork for making them. But the noble Earl was a prudent man in his generation. The noble Earl had said, the country was in difficulties, but he left Parliament in a state of profound ignorance as to what their remedies were to be. The noble Earl said we had a deficient revenue—how did he propose to equalize the revenue with the expenditure? Did he intend to sweep away the taxes that now fettered the commercial industry of the country, and to substitute a new land or property tax? Would that be the measure the noble Earl would propose? He believed, that if any party in that House were to propose to accept the Government of the country upon the principle of imposing a new land tax, or property tax, there would not be so large a majority in favour of the amendment of the noble Earl as they might expect to see in the course of the present evening. If the noble Earl did not intend to propose that, what did he intend to propose? The noble Earl did not deny the difficulties of the country, for they were undeniable, and no man who had paid any attention to the state of manufacturing and commercial industry in the country, could by any possibility deny them. The noble Earl emphatically stated, that the chief ground on which he was prepared to defend the Corn-laws was the necessity of this country being independent of foreign supply. It was all very well for the noble Earl to make a flaming speech on that subject, and to call upon their Lordships to maintain the independence of the country, but how stood the fact? Could this country be independent of foreign supply? If their Lordships would refer to the last half century, and divide it into cycles of any number of years, they would find, that in each succeeding cycle the dependence of the country on a foreign supply of grain was greater than in the preceding one. He would prove that in a very few moments. In the twelve years which elapsed from 1775 to 1786, both inclusive, the average annual import of grain was 179,000 quarters; in the succeeding cycle, ending with 1798, the average annual importation was 324,000 quarters; in the next cycle, ending with 1810, the average annual import was 693,000 quarters; in 57 the twenty-five years which had elapsed from 1815 to 1839, both inclusive, the average annual import was 614,000 quarters; and, taking the last eleven of those years, the average annual import was 863,000 quarters. Thus it appeared, that the average annual importation of corn which, in the first cycle of twelve years amounted to 179,000 quarters, had, in the course of half a century, risen to 863,000 quarters. Under these circumstances, to talk of this country being independent of foreign supply, was to talk of something that could not by possibility have any existence, and, therefore it would be better not to talk of it at all. The only subject which practical men ought to consider, was upon what terms the importation of corn should take place—whether under what was called the sliding scale, or upon payment of a low duty, or without any duty at all. Foreign supply we must have, and the simple question was, upon what terms should we have it. The population of the country was increasing at a much more rapid rate than any increased supply we were able to draw from our own internal resources. The enumeration of the population would be before Parliament in a few weeks, and then it would probably be seen, that the population of these islands was increasing at the rate of not less than 250,000 souls a year. To supply that increase of population 250,000 quarters of wheat would be required, and as many acres of land must be brought into cultivation as there were quarters of wheat wanted. Their Lordships, however, would be deluding themselves and the country if they held out the expectation, that the requisite quantity of corn could be supplied by any quantity of land which they could bring into cultivation in this country. He was aware, that under the stimulus of high prices, tracts of land had been brought into cultivation which, under other circumstances, it would by no means have been desirable to plough. This was the case with the downs of Sussex, and even Salisbury plain—land which was never intended by nature to produce corn, and to bring which into cultivation merely involved a waste of capital, without any advantage to the country at large. On the contrary, taking an agricultural view of the matter, he must say, that bringing such land into tillage was positively injurious. Left to itself the land was, to a certain degree, profitable, but, 58 having been broken, up, it was allowed, when a cycle of low priced years came, to go to grass, and then a century would elapse before it would be as valuable as it was before it was first broken up. As he had before observed, the time had come when it was necessary for Parliament to consider upon what terms foreign corn should be admitted into this country. The pecuniary effect of the sliding scale was to encourage speculation, the object of the speculators being to raise the price of the article to the highest price, in order that they might import foreign corn at the lowest duty. The speculators had no abstract love of high prices, and did not desire to make the food of the people dear, but it was necessary for their purpose that it should be so, in order that they might get rid of the duty. The present price of bread corn the must use the phrase, although he had before been rebuked for doing so) was between 75s. and 80s. a quarter. The rise of price had been owing, in some degree, to the prospect of an unfavourable harvest, and also to the operations of the speculators in foreign corn, who, not content with the ordinary sales which take place in the country, created a vast number of fictitious sales, in which the farmers were in no respect concerned. Farmers are deriving no benefit from the present high prices, for if any of their Lordships had had occasion to travel from the Land's end, or from John O'Groat's House to London, they must have observed that the farm yards were perfectly destitute of corn, and it was manifest, therefore, that no part of the present advance in the price of corn would go into the farmer's pocket. It went into the pocket of the corn dealer; and at the time he was realising from 9s. to 10s. a bushel, it was exceedingly probable that many a farmer was actually obliged to buy corn for the subsistence of his family and his cattle. This was a state of things by no means beneficial to the agricultural interest, and he doubted whether it could be beneficial to the landed interest as distinct from the agricultural interest. That was the opinion at which he had arrived from a consideration of the evidence given before Parliamentary committees by land valuers and agents of the most respectable character. The effect of high prices was, to cause a higher rent to be demanded from agricultural occupiers than the actual state of 59 things would justify. The noble Earl below him had correctly stated, that 57s. a quarter was a fair basis for the rent a tenant should pay; but if he would inquire, the noble Earl would find, that that was not the basis at which, under the operation of the present Corn-law, land-valuers look in settling the rent of land. It went considerably beyond that sum, and, in fact, the very construction of the law was calculated to infuse into the minds of both occupiers and landowners that the sum ought to be 63s. or 64s. a quarter, and that was actually the basis upon which the rent of land was calculated. If rents had been calculated at 63s. and 64s. per quarter, whilst, in point of fact, the average price of corn had been only 56s., 57s., or 58s., in that fact alone was to be found the history of agricultural distress. That was the true explanation of all the petitions presented to that and the other House of Parliament some years ago, in consequence of which committees were appointed to inquire into the distress of the agriculturists. Rent was, in fact, fixed at a higher level than circumstances could justify. He was anxious that the Legislature should retrace its steps with reference to this question. A great deal of very good language had been introduced into the amendment, but, after all, it told nothing, and it was intended to tell nothing. The agricultural interest would not be a bit the wiser for it. A great authority had stated elsewhere, that the sliding scale must be maintained, but not a word had been said as to the point at which it was to begin or end. As to that the noble Earl opposite also had said not a word. For the reasons which he had stated, he considered the sliding scale a very bad scheme, but he was willing to admit that it might be so adjusted as to obviate some of the objections which he entertained to it. It might be so arranged as to prevent the price of food being raised so enormously as it was at present, by taking 45s. or 50s. for what was called the pivot, instead of 62s. or 64s. Upon all these points, however, their Lordships were left in a state of blessed ignorance by the amendment of the noble Earl. Whatever might be the intentions of those who were about to succeed his noble Friends in the Government, he certainly gave them credit for concealing their intentions most effectually; but, after all, he would not be very much surprised if, after the lapse of a certain 60 time, the law should be altered. He did not know how long it would be before the alteration took place—that would depend upon the nature of it. If the alteration was to be a small one, the country would have it soon; but if the alteration was intended to be a great one, it would be necessary, to save appearances and for decency's sake, to defer it a little longer. He, however, had a lively recollection of what in common parlance was called Catholic Emancipation. He came into Parliament when the battle began, and he had the satisfaction of seeing it brought to a successful issue. The battle of commercial freedom was now about to be fought, and he believed that the same spirit of truth which had led to success in the former battle, would lead to triumph in this. The fortress of monopoly, was at present, in appearance, vigorously defended, but he believed, and he was of opinion that the noble Earl opposite believed so too, that it would shortly be surrendered. He thought also that the noble Earl himself might very likely be a party to its surrender,and he would tell their Lordships why he thought so. The noble Earl was the author of the law of 1815, which was introduced to make this country independent of foreign supply. [The Earl of Ripon: Not so.] He recollected perfectly well that that was the ground on which the law of 1815 was introduced and defended. It was, however, abandoned in favour of the law of 1828, which was a great stride in the road of improvement, although he preferred the measure proposed in 1827 by Mr. Canning. We had now got to 1841, another cycle of thirteen years—just the time for a fresh change. It was probable, however, that the existing law would be allowed to go on for another year. Much, of course, would depend upon the courage of noble Lords opposite in facing public opinion. If they could not venture upon a radical change of the law, there would be a little tampering with it. It would be discovered that the harvest of 1841 was very bad—that there was a short supply in the country—that it was necessary to introduce a small supply from abroad—that there were 230,000 quarters in bond, ready to be brought into the market, and, perhaps, an order in council might be resorted to for that purpose. For his part, he congratulated the country on the present position of the question; it had made a great stride in 61 public opinion, in consequence of having been taken up by the executive. It might cause the downfall of the present Administration, but that was a matter about which he felt comparatively little. He spoke sincerely, and he believed he might venture to say that his noble Friend near him cared as little for the result. The question had been brought fairly before the country by the executive, and men who never brought their minds to bear upon the subject were now attentively considering it. There might, to be sure, have been large numbers of persons, such as the anti-corn-law league associated in Manchester and other towns; but the great mass of public opinion had never before been brought to bear upon the question. For having produced that result, therefore, Ministers were entitled to the gratitude of the country, and whatever might be the result of that night's debate—whatever might be the triumph of noble Lords opposite, the time would come when the people of this country would gratefully acknowledge the obligations under which they stood to the Government for having had the courage to bring this great measure before them. He said, for having had the courage to do so, because whoever observed the power of the landed interest must be aware that any Government which ventured to place itself in opposition to them was committing an act of political suicide. The landed was the most powerful interest in the country, and he was anxious that it should continue to be so; but tie wished it to unite justice with power. He wished it to exercise its power with justice to the rest of the country. The landed interest might rely upon this, that it could not long maintain itself against all the other interests of the country, when they should bring their minds to bear upon this important question.
said, I cannot vote for the Address proposed by my noble and most respected relative, without troubling your Lordships with a few remarks. My Lords, I vote for that Address, in order to signify assent, as far as imperfect knowledge will justify me in forming an opinion, to those measures of commercial policy which are most pointedly alluded to in that Address; with the exception of that on the sugar duties, and that not on commercial grounds; and also to that general system of policy concerning trade, which would seem to be indicated by those 62 measures, and which I suppose we may now take for granted that her Majesty's Ministers, had they the opportunity, would proceed to act on. But inasmuch as, considering the nature of this occasion, and of the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl, a vote given in favour of the Address might very fairly and reasonably, unless otherwise explained, be construed as a vote of general confidence in the Government, I hope to be excused if I explain to your Lordships some of the reasons why I cannot allow my vote to be so considered; both with regard to some circumstances connected with the introduction of those measures, and with regard to some other points not immediately connected with them. It is not that I can see much force in some of the objections commonly taken to the conduct of the Government: I cannot see that it was wrong in them to introduce those measures, as being a weak Government; because those same measures might fairly be expected to convert that weakness into strength. Nor can I think, even after the remarks of the noble Earl, that it was wrong in them to appeal to the people on those measures by a dissolution of Parliament, on the risk of what is called popular agitation. Popular agitation seems to mean little but popular discussion; and if ever it be allowable to let the people judge of public measures, these measures would seem to be such as they might most reasonably be supposed qualified to understand. But I cannot but accept another objection, no less commonly made — for I cannot pretend to novelty in producing it—namely, that at the time when Ministers introduced those measures, they had no right according to the constitution of this country to stand before the then existing Parliament as Ministers of the Crown at all; and especially that it was almost an absurdity and a contradiction for them, to stand before that Parliament under those circumstances, and still to call themselves a Whig Government. My Lords, let me recapitulate a few facts. I will say nothing of what happened in the Session of 1840; something might be said; but I pass that over. But in the last Session, Ministers were beat on an important clause of the most debateable and disputed bill—indeed, the only party bill, as it is called, which they had yet introduced, on April 26, by a majority of 21; on April 29, on another clause, by a 63 majority of 11; they gave up the bill, but still retained their places; they brought in their budget; they were beaten on the sugar duties by a still greater majority; they still remained in office, till this succession of negations by the House of Commons was changed into a most undeniable position, and they were declared unworthy of the confidence of that House. My Lords, I do not trouble your Lordships with argument on what has been already so amply debated; I will only say that I for one, am too much of a Whig to approve of such conduct. For what is the defence? What is the defence on the constitutional question? Precedents are appealed to. That we do not object to. But what precedents? Several; but chiefly, as the most recent and appropriate, those of 1784 and the property tax of 1814, the precedents of Mr. Pitt and Lord Castlereagh; what are we to say to this? Why, noble Lords opposite may find themselves pinched by such an argument; her Majesty's opposition anywhere may feel themselves bound to answer it; but for us who call ourselves Whigs in this matter; who hold, not indeed that the people are the true and ultimate source of all power, but that a popular constitution is the best mode of bringing into free action that wisdom and virtue which have a real, divine right to sway the destinies of nations—for us it is sufficient to reply that Mr. Pitt's conduct appears to us utterly unjustifiable and unwarrantable; justified, as the phrase is, by success, and drowned, as it were, beneath the flood of prosperity and glory that followed it; but in itself unwarrantable, and that of all the authorities that can be alleged on a constitutional question, Lord Castlereagh is about the one to whom we should attribute the least weight: I hope I may speak without offence of an historical character. Such at least is my view. My Lords, I must beg your Lordships' indulgence, if I leave the engrossing topics which have chiefly been the subject of discussion this evening, and say something of remote matters, which have weighed with me in refusing entire confidence to the Government. It may perhaps be supposed that what has had the most weight with me, has been the conduct of the Government with respect to ecclesiastical legislation. My Lords, I certainly have considered that the Government were not deserving of entire confidence, for their 64 mode of dealing with an institution which I believed they did not rightly appreciate. But considered relatively to any Government that might be supposed likely to succeed them, I have not been in the habit of thinking it certain that their removal would benefit the Church. I had little confidence in the existing Government on these subjects; I had not much more in those who might be supposed to be their successors. Moreover, I did not consider it material to what are called the interests of the Church, what Government might or might not be in power; believing, that if the Church herself, by which I mean if we, every one of us, did our duty as churchmen and not only as citizens, the Church would then vindicate her position in the country, and any Government that might be in power would find that the best thing it could do for its own purpose, would be to let the Church alone. My Lords, in mentioning what has perhaps weighed most with me in my conduct, I must, beg your Lordships' pardon for reviving a very antiquated and perhaps defunct subject; I allude to the once celebrated appropriation clause. Of the circumstances attending that clause I need not remind your Lordships; the resolutions on which it was founded I will take the liberty of reading to your Lordships. On April 2, 1835, it was carried on the motion of Lord J. Russell, "that this House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to consider of the temporalities of the Church of Ireland." On the 7th of April it was carried, "that it is the opinion of this Committee, that any surplus which may remain after fully providing for the spiritual instruction of the Members of the Established Church in Ireland, ought to be applied locally to the general education of all classes of Christians." On the same evening, "that it is the opinion of this House that no measure on the subject of tithes can lead to a satisfactory and final adjustment, which does not embody the principle contained in the foregoing resolution." My Lords, I say that if ever words had a meaning beyond the mere letter; if ever circumstances and context should be taken into account in determining the meaning of words, the meaning of those words was, that coming into office on the adoption of those resolutions, nothing should ever induce them to be parties to a measure which did not embody their principle. 65 That is the plain common sense view; on that principle they came in; that principle they abandoned; from that moment I have not been able to avoid the conviction, that they stood in office on ground not their own, and in virtue of an unfulfilled covenant. No agreement in general policy, no private feelings should ever induce me to adhere fully to a Government whose public engagements were unfulfilled, and when political integrity was gone. My Lords, I will not dwell upon other points, in which it has seemed to me that the Government acted wrong, and specifically in contravention of Whig principles; such as the Jamaica bill, and their conduct on the Bedchamber question. My Lords, undoubtedly if I thought that the interests of this country, and the liberal principles to which I am attached, would suffer seriously from the removal of the present Government, it might greatly modify my conduct on this question. But I for one have little fear of this. I believe that whatever Government is in office, the principles of liberal policy will be pursued; that this is the real, permanent result of the Reform Bill, and that there is no danger of an opposite result. The question, therefore, rather is with me, whether the political character of the party which may at any time be in office, is such as will allow of their conforming to those principles without dishonour to themselves. My Lords, I am not prepared to say that those who will probably succeed the present Government are of character other than this; and I believe this to be the opinion of many whose liberal principles are undisputed. I do not forget the words of the great master of political wisdom: he that supports every administration subverts all Government. But when Mr. Burke wrote this, of the two parties whom he had in view, the one was in his belief partly the designing agent, partly the passive instrument of a system which went to subvert in an essential point the constitution of this country. It may be held by some persons that this is the intention of either of the parties who are at this time likely to be in power; I at least have no such belief. My Lords, aware of your Lordships' indulgence, I have ventured to trouble your Lordships, simply with the view to explain and qualify the vote which I feel it my duty to give.
§ Viscount Melbourne said
The nature 66 of this motion, and the circumstances under which it has been made—notwithstanding its great importance, the arguments on which it has been founded, and the fair, candid, clear, and distinct spirit in which it has been submitted—do not make it necessary for me to trouble your Lordships with many observations. I listened to my noble Friend who moved the amendment with great deference for his abilities, with great deference for his information, and with great respect for his candour, and I must say, that seeing the superstructure he was about to raise, a more meagre, slender, or fragile foundation it would be impossible to have laid down. The noble Lord made a sort of omnium gatherum speech; impressed every thing into his service, as well what we had done last year as during the present and on such a collection of heterogeneous materials he founds a motion of this magnitude—a motion so important in its consequences, and a motion, allow me to say, perfectly new to this House. My Lords, it came like a thunder-clap upon me. I own I was ignorant that there existed in this House the spirit on which that motion seems to proceed. We all know that there were a great many factious motions in the late House of Commons, and continual motions of want of confidence, but there was not the least intimation that your Lordships sympathised with, or countenanced any such proceeding. Your Lordships were reposing a tranquil confidence in the present Government, when suddenly, on the grounds stated by the noble Lord, unexpectedly, contrary to all former precedent, belieing in fact the manner in. which you have heretofore conducted yourselves, the noble Lord has come forward with this distinct motion of a want of confidence in her Majesty's Government. And what is the ground for such a proposal? He states certain omissions in the speech from the Throne. He says there is no mention of the expedition to the north of the Indus, or the Affghanistan territory. With respect to that omission I can only say, that no events have lately taken place in that quarter of the globe which seemed to call on her Majesty's Ministers to advise her Majesty to make any observation on that subject. But the noble Lord coupled with that expression of regret at not seeing this expedition noticed, a complete condemnation of the whole policy which has been pur- 67 sued, and wholly condemns the steps which have been taken with respect to Candahar, as well as the grounds on which they were taken. Why, my Lords, there was very full information lately laid before the House on this subject, and if the noble Earl disapproved of the policy on which the Government proceeded, surely he showed himself considerably wanting in his duty not to bring the question before your Lordships, instead of reserving it for the foundation of this new and unexpected proceeding with which he has threatened us to night. But, then, it appears that we also neglected to mention the state of things in the Punjaub, and it is stated,that we formed improper alliances— with Runjeet Sing, for instance. The noble Lord added that Runjeet Sing died. I suppose he does not mean to say, that we are responsible for that. It is not so very unnatural an occurrence, that, on the death of an Oriental Prince, the country which he governed should fall into disorder. That is a circumstance sufficiently common. The noble Lord then finds fault with the expedition to China. I believe, however, that it is pretty generally admitted that the steps taken by the Chinese authorities did call for and justify this country in adopting such measures as those which have been acted upon by the Government. The present occasion is not a fitting one—nor is it my wish—to make any observations on the conduct of that expedition. It would be highly premature to do so. But that that is an expedition of great difficulty, and that it will have to contend with the passive resistance pointed out by the noble Lord, I fully admit; and all I can say farther with respect to it is to express an anxious hope that these measures may be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. My noble Friend condemns not only what has taken place, but what would have taken place under circumstances which have not arisen. He says we have not concluded a treaty with France, which, if agreed to, would have involved us in great difficulty. But as that treaty has not been concluded, and as those difficulties have not arisen, I certainly do not consider it necessary for me to go into a vindication of a policy which, in fact, has not been carried into effect. The noble Lord then proceeds to a further consideration of the whole state of affairs, and of those measures brought under the consideration of the House and of the country by 68 the determination of her Majesty's Government. He finds very considerable fault with those measures, although he agrees on the principles of all of them. He says the principle of the proposed alteration in the timber duties is correct, but he is doubtful as to the manner in which it is to be carried into effect. He questions the propriety of raising the duty on Canadian timber, but at the same time he gives his adhesion to the general principle on which the Government measure is founded. Her Majesty's Ministers never asked for anything more—a general sanction of the principle of their measure, allowing Parliament to deal as it should think fit with the details. On the sugar duties, too, he only objects to one or other trivial part of the measures which have been brought forward; but his grand objection to the proposed change is, that it will encourage the slave trade. I must freely say, that having as great a hatred and detestation of the slave trade as any man in the country, and being anxious to take measures to diminish, and, if possible, to eradicate that traffic, I do not believe it is by means of commercial hostility, by cutting off the intercourse of slave employing countries, and refusing the produce of slave growing states, that that object can be effected. My noble Friend argues, that it is but justice to our Indian colonies that you should not interfere with the trade of sugar at the present moment, as supplied by slave states. But my noble Friend must recollect that if he makes that admission now, he shuts himself out from ever adopting those measures which at some future day he thinks might be right and proper, because his present objection will, by the lapse of time, grow stronger and stronger. That Indian interest to which he alludes will be on the increase, in point of importance; it will be more difficult to meddle with it; it will be stronger in itself, and will, consequently, give greater weight to any objections it may urge against tampering with the trade; it will, in fact, be in a position to put an end to all hopes of ever adopting such a measure as that contemplated by the Government and by the noble Lord. My noble Friend then comes to that great question which undoubtedly interests your Lordships most deeply, and that is the question of the trade in corn. My Lords, notwithstanding all the statements which he has 69 made—notwithstanding all the deductions which he draws from the fluctuations in the price of other articles, I cannot but feel certain that the adoption of a fixed duty would give greater steadiness to our market in corn. It appears to me self evident that such must be its effect. I know from the nature of the trade in corn that the prices will alter and fluctuate; but that a fixed duly will produce a greater steadiness of price, and a more even and regular current of trade, it is in my mind impossible to question. I will fairly state very shortly to your Lordships the great arguments which have always weighed with me on this subject. I have certainly been, on former occasions, for putting off the agitation and discussion of this question, which, whenever it came on, I knew must be attended with the circumstances which my noble Friend has described. But I always knew that come it must. I always knew that it was not to be avoided. I always knew that it was entirely a question of time. And I beg of your Lordships to consider what I have always looked upon as the pinch of this question, namely, that these laws have been introduced and supported by those who have a direct interest in maintaining them. They were sanctioned by two houses of Legislature, one of which is entirely composed of landholders, and the majority of the other consists of the same class. I say that is not a state of things which you should look on with complacency. I am not accustomed to speak in the language of dictation or of admonition; but I tell you it is not safe for the governing powers of a country to stand in such a situation as to be open to an imputation of so popular, so plausible, and so specious a nature as that which I have described; and I do assure your Lordships that you will find it absolutely necessary to put these laws some day or other on a more reasonable and satisfactory foundation. I do not think your Lordships fairly chargeable with the imputations which are often urged against you. I do not believe you passed these laws from interested feelings. No man more deeply regrets or more decidedly condemns the general language, arguments, and topics which are pressed into the discussion of this question. I do not think they are condemned by religion; I do not think they are contrary to morality; nor do I think they are the work of those who had 70 nothing else in view but their own interest; but feeling sure that no such consideration influenced you (though I do not mean to deny, that you had that due regard to your own interest which, as the noble Lord justly observes, every man must feel) that nothing base, or mean, or sordid, ever entered into your intentions when passing that act—I call upon your Lordships to free yourselves from the imputation, to redeem yourselves from the possibility of being so charged. Nothing is so foolish as to have the discredit of that which you do not do. If you are really free from imputation yourselves, as I have no doubt you are, I earnestly entreat your Lordships to consider whether it would not be wise to attempt at least to put these laws on a more satisfactory and reasonable foundation. It is very well to say "what your arguments lead to is total abolition—that is what you mean." But that is not so. We know that there have been many measures founded on arguments which went farther than the measures themselves, and which yet have been acquiesced in and found sufficiently satisfactory. Depend upon it that that measure which is generally considered fair will produce the satisfaction which naturally results from it. It is on these grounds that I am for an alteration with respect to the duty on corn; and I am also persuaded (without going into any minute arguments upon the subject) that a fixed duty is a principle which would be found safe and tenable, and would answer all the ends of giving a sufficient protection, and, at the same time, of diminishing much of the general discontent and suspicion which at present prevail on the subject. My noble Friend contrived, as I said before, to bring a great number of small things into his speech, and being conscious, perhaps, that he was on stilts throughout a great part of his address, his charges became tempered down towards the conclusion, to the legal but not constitutional conversion of the funds in the savings banks, and to the imputation that there was but a small balance in the Exchequer. Why if there is no discontent on the part of the managers, and no distrust on the part of depositors of the savings banks, and if no inconvenience is felt from the state of the balance in the Exchequer, such topics can not be said to form a just foundation for a motion of this description. The meaning 71 of this motion in plain English is, "we have now a majority in the House of Commons." To judge by some of the declarations at the hustings, I suppose there is such a majority. At the same time it must be recollected that Members are sent "ad consultandum de rebus arduis regni." We are not, therefore, to judge, what the conduct of Members may be by their declarations on the hustings; but I must say, that if I felt alarmed at some of the avowals made there as to the majority against Ministers, I derived some consolation from the arguments and speeches made by their opponents, for I hoped that a sense of justice and honour would never suffer them to persevere in the opinions which they announced, and which they rested on such shallow pretences. My noble Friend on the cross benches (Lord Lyttleton) has also excluded us from his confidence, and perhaps we should be as well off without his vote. I think, however, my noble Friend overstates what he lays down as a Whig doctrine, when he says that on the last Irish Registration Bill we did not resign. We acted on a tenable principle, according to reason and to the conduct of former Governments. He next makes a strong attack on us on account of the appropriation clause. All that was meant was, that no settlement of the tithe question would be satisfactory which did not appropriate some part of the revenues of the Church to some other general purpose, such as education. What was that but saying we would do our utmost to carry it. I am very sorry that clause was not carried, and I think it would very much contribute to the stability of the Irish Church if it had received the sanction of Parliament. We brought it forward two or three times in this House, and when we found it impossible to carry it, we gave up all hope of its being assented to by Parliament. And my noble Friend says this was wrong; that it was anti-Whig. Does my noble Friend admit Sir Robert Walpole to be a Whig? If so, I beg to remind him that Sir Robert Walpole introduced his Excise Act with professions very like those which we felt justified in announcing when we introduced those late measures which have been the subject of so much discussion. His testimony in favour of that act amounted to this:—"It will benefit land, it will greatly improve commerce, it will generally facilitate trade. It 72 is impossible to state benefits of a far higher nature than those which this measure would confer; but if the interested clamour and prejudice of individuals should prevail against me, I will give up the scheme, and not only that but I will never bring forward another of a similar nature, and if I am defeated, I don't believe that another will be found bold enough to face the storm which has overwhelmed me. I don't think this measure absolutely necessary (for that can hardly be said of any measure), but I look on it as highly beneficial, and if I am obliged to abandon it I shall not only give it up, but I will never carry into effect its principle." That is all a Minister of discretion and prudence can do. It is nonsense to persist in measures which it is impossible can succeed. In conclusion I can only repeat that considering the nature and object of this motion, as far as I can understand them, I look on it as quite unprecedented, and certainly never was a motion supported on more weak grounds or more insufficient arguments.
explained. What he said was, not that the conduct of Government on the appropriation clause was anti-Whig, but that it was a violation of constitutional principles.
§ The Duke of Wellington
spoke to the following effect: I am happy, My Lords, to find that the noble Viscount repudiates these charges altogether which have been made by his supporters against your Lordships, and those parts of the noble Viscount's speech must, my Lords, be therefore, most satisfactory to your Lordships. But, my Lords, it appears to me, that the noble Viscount has treated the speech of my noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) in a manner not deserved by him. My noble Friend in that speech said nothing that was not perfectly within the rules of Parliament—did nothing which was not perfectly correct. My noble Friend stated that he should make no objection to some portions of the address; on the contrary, my Lords, he expressed his concurrence in them; and in commenting on parts of the speech of the noble Lords who preceded him, and on some of the paragraphs of the address, he pursued a course which is by no means an uncommon one in this House. He observed, that no information whatever had been afforded the House by her Majesty's Ministers upon several topics; and he commented on the state of 73 the war at present waging in China. In parts of the speech and the address, my Lords, my noble Friend only did that which has been always the practice in similar cases. But there were other parts of the speech on which my noble Friend thought proper to move the amendment he has submitted to your Lordships, and this is the course which the noble Viscount has thought fit to oppose on the most stringent grounds. My Lords, the noble Viscount states —and he states truly— that it is not a habit in this House of calling on your Lordships to give an opinion on abstract questions of policy. That my Lords, is perfectly true, and I have myself endeavoured to bring the House to that view on more than one occasion—that is, to prevent the expression of any opinion on abstract questions of policy, in the shape of an address or otherwise, until it should be brought before your Lordships in the shape of a distinct legislative measure. More than once I have succeeded in persuading your Lordships to withhold such opinion, and on some occasions even I have supported the Government against them, however much I may have disapproved of their policy in respect to it. But, my Lords, on this occasion there comes a question of the greatest importance before us—of the greatest importance, not only in principle, but also in the details—not in a tangible and distinct shape, but in the unusual form and manner of a Speech from the Throne; and it, therefore, behoves us to deal with it in the best way we can—in the only way left us. My Lords, it was but natural that, when my noble Friend was persuaded to move an amendment to those parts of the address that he objected to, he should state to your Lordships the grounds on which he based his opposition to them. It was a natural—it was a proper course; and yet it is for this that the noble Lord had attacked him. To these grounds, however, the noble Viscount did not reply or refer, though that would have been the more obvious course for him to follow. These grounds, my Lord, as stated by my noble Friend, are neglect and mismanagement of the finances of this country by her Majesty's Government, the future consequence of which, as he truly states, it is impossible to foresee, and the improper, impolitic, and unconstitutional means which they took to recover themselves. These things he proved by reference to the actual 74 state of the finances, when it was found necessary to review them in the last Parliament; and he showed that, in point of fact, after a period of about five years, a debt had not alone been accumulated of five millions, but there had also been a vast deficiency in the public revenue. My noble friend likewise stated truly, that this debt and deficiency was to be attributed to the practice adopted by her Majesty's Government of carrying on extensive operations, of which nobody approves, mind you, more than I do when done as they should be, and at the same time not making due provisions for the increased expenditure occasioned by their carrying on war in several places with a peace establishment, being the most crying of these evils, and neglecting to employ the proper means for meeting the increased charge and putting an end to the impending danger. The next allegation against them, my Lords, is for not making financial provision in the way of ways and means for the expense and charge incurred by the country by the exertions made to put an end to the danger which menaced it. My noble Friend has stated that, though a large amount of army and ordnance was kept on foot since 1831, no provision had been made for the additional expenditure in the usual way of an application to Parliament, but that irregular and unconstitutional modes were adopted by her Majesty's Government for finding means of defraying those expenses. In this, my Lords, my noble Friend spoke but the simple truth. In one case the whole charge of a war had been thrown on the East India Company, and then converted into a debt on this country; in another the funds of the savings' banks have been tampered with; in another the exchequer bills have been funded; and, in short, several most irregular modes have been adopted. Then, my Lords, what happened? Besides these expenses; besides the failure of the Government to make due provision by the mode of ways and means to defray the charges incurred by their military and naval operations; besides these, my Lords, her Majesty's Government thought proper to repeal a large amount of taxes, by which means they reduced the revenue of the country to such a degree as materially and inevitably left a most serious deficiency. This deficiency, my Lords, amounts to the sum of two and a half millions, besides the 75 large debt incurred. Now this being the case, my Lords, I think that all these grievances, so clearly stated by my noble Friend, and it would only impair their effect for me to restate them here, were sufficient to justify him in calling on your Lordships to vote against the Address on this occasion. The noble Viscount taunts my noble Friend with having objected to the French treaty of commerce. If the noble Viscount had attended more closely to my noble Friend's speech he would have made less mistake in it. What my nobly Friend said was, that part of the scheme of the Government would have been destroyed if that treaty had been concluded, and that they should have to call on Parliament to undo the next year what they had done in that. My noble Friend only stated, that they were fortunate in not having concluded it; and I think my noble Friend is fully justified in the deduction he made from that fact; namely, a want of foresight, and a neglect of the finances of the country on the part of the Government of the noble Viscount opposite. What my noble Friend did say was, that the Government had been saved the disgrace inevitable to that portion of their proceedings by the treaty not being carried into execution. My noble Friend has clearly shown the unfitness of the Government for managing the finances of this country. And the reasons my noble Friend adduced would be sufficient to call for your Lordships' vote against them, if there were none others; but I confess, my Lords, I have other reasons for calling on your Lordships to condemn them, which I shall state to your Lordships fully and freely, however painful it may be for me to do so. My Lords, in the course of the months of May and June last, her Majesty's Government found themselves under the necessity of intimating that they should advise her Majesty to dissolve Parliament. My Lords, I hardly think the moment they selected for making this announcement was, to say the least of it, the most fortunate they could have chosen, and when you come to consider the excitement under which the country then laboured, brought on by the discussion of these subjects in question to night, I think your Lordships will be of the same opinion. Considering, my Lords, what passed on the subject of the budget at large, and also on the subject of the Corn-laws, in the House of Commons 76 during the month of May and the early part of June last, I cannot but think that it might have been more advisable of the noble Viscount to avoid counselling her Majesty to introduce certain words delivered in the speech from the Throne, in June last, in reference to those topics, and which were certainly calculated to excite animosity between classes of her Majesty's subjects in this country, especially at the period of a general election; these words being seconded by the expression of an opinion that her Majesty had a strong feeling on the subject of these laws; that she felt the depression upon the trade and industry of the country; the burdens of the community at large were entirely involved in the question of these laws; and that her Majesty had no other object in view in dissolving Parliament than the desire of securing the rights and promoting the interests of her Majesty's subjects. Now, my Lords, I know it has been said, that on former occasions the sovereigns of this country have adopted the same course as her Majesty, in dissolving Parliament, and appealing to the opinions of her people, and that words even stronger than those have been made use of by them at such periods. But, my Lords, I deny the fact.
§ Viscount Melbourne
I referred to the words of George the 3rd at the opening of Parliament in 1784.
§ The Duke of Wellington
I have the words here, and I beg your Lordships to observe the difference between the Speech of George the 3rd, and that framed by the noble Viscount for her Majesty. The language is very different:—On a full consideration of the present situation of affairs, and of the extraordinary circumstances which have produced it, I am induced to put an end to this Session of Parliament; I feel it a duty which I owe to the Constitution and to the country, in such a situation, to recur as speedily as possible to the sense of my people by a new Parliament. I trust that this measure will tend to obviate the mischiefs arising from the unhappy divisions and distractions which have lately subsisted; and that the various important objects which will require consideration may be afterwards proceeded upon with less interruption and with happier effect. I can have no other object but to preserve the true principles of our free and happy Constitution, and to employ the powers entrusted to me by the law for the only end for which they were given, the good of my people.Now, my Lords, begging the noble Vis- 77 count's pardon, the case of George the Third is totally and entirely different from the case of her Majesty. That case was one wholly within doors—this is one wholly without. That was a dispute within the walls of Parliament—a dispute between prerogative on the one hand and privilege on the other—a question in which I will not deny that many men felt a deep interest; but it was exclusively a question in the House of Commons. This is a question of a very opposite nature. I hope the noble Viscount will see the difference; I am quite sure your Lordships' perceive it. The circumstances of the two cases are totally different—the terms in which the two speeches are couched are extremely different. But there is another point, my Lords, which aggravates the case as against the noble Viscount — it is that he should have permitted her Majesty to make such a speech. I am willing to admit, that the noble Viscount has rendered the greatest possible service to her Majesty. I happen to know that it is her Majesty's opinion that the noble Viscount has rendered her Majesty the greatest possible service in making her acquainted with the mode and policy of the Government of this country, initiating her into the laws and spirit of the Constitution, independently of the performance of his duty as the servant of her Majesty's Crown—teaching her, in short, to preside over the destinies of this great country. My Lords, knowing this, I feel that the noble Viscount should not have embarked her Majesty, in the month of June, in that Speech from the Throne, still less should he have embarked her in the Speech of this day. In this Speech of to day not only is her Majesty made to call on Parliament to answer on the part of those subjects—being, as they are, perhaps, the most invidious that can be presented to Parliament. My Lords, I frankly confess I am sorry for this. I respected the noble Viscount for the services which I have reason, as I stated, to know he rendered to her Majesty; and I could have wished him not to have embarked her Majesty in such a course as he has taken on this occasion. My Lords, it grieves me to say thatthenoble Viscount has given the country to believe, that those who are opposed to the proposed alterations, are therefore opposed to her Majesty. Give me leave to tell him that it is unjust to say so. My Lords, it is not more than fourteen months ago since 78 I heard the noble Viscount himself making use of the strongest language I ever heard in opposition to a motion merely for taking the Corn-laws into consideration. The noble Viscount on that occasion declared before God, that with reference to the abolition of the Corn-laws, he believed the man must be mad who dreamed of such a thing. Now, my Lords, I do not pretend o say that the noble Viscount has not a perfect right to change his opinions. I believe he thought that he had good grounds for doing so, and I think I have myself read the report which induced him to change it. But this I do say, that before your Lordships and the country were placed in this situation with regard to the Queen, the noble Viscount was bound to give Parliament and the country an opportunity of obtaining that know edge and information as to the true merits of the question, which he imagines himself to have obtained. I have, in the course of my life, seen many alterations made in the finances, the trade, and the commerce of the country. I was in the country at the period of the restoration of the currency, and also at the period of the inquiries into the China trade. I remember the occasions of other great financial and commercial alterations. How, my Lords, were these subjects discussed? In what manner were they brought forward, and in what way was this and the other House of Parliament enabled to judge of their propriety? Why, by the formation of committees, consisting of the first men in the country and in Parliament—of leaders in debate, and of men who by their varied qualifications were perfectly qualified to form opinions on such subjects. It is by such inquiries as these, my Lords, calmly and patiently conducted, that men are enabled to judge respecting the consequences of great changes of this nature, and of the bearings and tendencies of each particular part of what is intended to be done. But, instead of such a course being pursued, what has been done in the present instance? Nothing. No inquiry whatever has been made or instituted by Government. A gentleman in the House of Commons thought fit to move for a committee to inquire into the state of the import duties. Your Lordships are aware, that there exists a body calling itself the Anti-Corn law League, consisting of a number of persons in and out of Parliament. When the committee in question 79 was moved for, a noble Friend of mine I observed,The committee appears to be very comprehensive in its constitution. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman (alluding to the President of the Board of Trade) will state whether its inquiry is to extend to the subject of the Corn-laws?The President of the Board of Trade replied, that it was not possible to answer the question put by the noble Lord; that it was not easy to foresee to what points the Committee would limit itself; and he added,I imagine the point is (observe, my Lords, it is not to inquire into the Corn-laws) to classify all the information that can be procured, relative to the duties on the importation of commodities, and state that information to the House. And, (continued the President of the Board of Trade) I think that the labours of the Committee will be found exceedingly useful.And then, my Lords, we had the Import Committee, and its report from which the noble Viscount and others drew their convictions and conclusions. But the conclusion which I drew was this— that not one-tenth part of the requisite information was brought before Parliament and the public. I further think that the Committee and Report were ex-parte ones, upon which no legislative measures ought to have been founded. But what I chiefly complain of is this—that before the noble Viscount put this speech into the mouth of her Majesty, he did not give us fair and full information to guide us as to what we ought to do. I believe, my Lords, that conduct like this is sufficient to induce you to say that the noble Lords opposite do not deserve your confidence. And here, my Lords, I should finish what I have to say, but I wish to say a few words respecting the budget, about which so much has been said, and on which we shall have to give an opinion. As regards the timber duties, the noble Lords, before they attempt to renew the propositions made some years ago by the noble Lord opposite, ought to recollect the position of our American possessions at the present moment. They ought to consider whether, since that proposition was made by the noble Earl, vast quantities of land have been sold, covered with timber. I wish, then, my Lords, to submit, whether the purchasers of this land would not be entitled to some compensation for the loss 80 they must sustain by the proposed alterations? And with respect to the alteration in the sugar duties, I wish to inquire whether, when the West-India planters were deprived of the labour of slaves—(the apprenticeship of the negroes have also ceased sooner than was expected)—I wish I say, to submit whether they were told that in a year or two afterwards they would be deprived of all the benefits arising from the fair protection of their sugar; and I wish further to inquire if they will not be entitled to some compensation for this loss? The noble Viscount has attempted to answer the arguments of my noble Friend (The Earl of Ripon) as to the encouragement of East India industry. Now, I ask, your lordships whether, in consequence of measures lately introduced, many persons were not led to believe, that it was the object of Parliament and of the Government to encourage the introduction of sugar from India. A quantity of capital must have been invested in procuring this sugar, and in bringing it to England. And the persons who have laid out their money in this way, have, of course, done so on the faith of Government, and cannot they likewise fairly claim some compensation? This proposition will, therefore, require the greatest caution and consideration. But, my Lords, there is another difficulty which the Government have almost entirely left out of sight. I mean those points bearing on our relations with the government of Brazil? They have alluded to questions arising out of the commercial treaty; but I wish to know, will there be none raised about the treaties for the suppression of the slave trade which had never been carried into execution? I want to know whether it is proper to throw away all means of successful negotiation, instead of retaining in our hands something which would ensure proper attention to other matters that ought to be considered in our connection with Brazil? This great point the Government appear to have entirely forgotten. My Lords, with respect to the Corn-law question, my opinions are already well known. I shall not now argue the propriety of these laws, but I shall be ready to discuss them when a discussion is brought forward by a Government having the confidence of her Majesty's Parliament. But, my Lords, I earnestly recommend you, for the sake of the people of this country—for the sake of the humblest orders of the 81 people—not to lend yourselves to the destruction of our native cultivation. Its encouragement is of the utmost and deepest importance to all classes. My Lords, I have passed my life in foreign countries, in different regions of the earth, and I have been in only one country in which the poor man, if sober, prudent, and industrious, is quite certain of acquiring a competence. That country is this. We have instances every day; we have seen only within the last week, proofs that persons in the lowest rankscan acquire not only competence, but immense riches. I have never heard of such a thing in any other country. I earnestly beg of you not to lose sight of this fact, and not to consent to any measure which would injure the cultivation of our own soil. I have seen in other lands the misery consequent on the destruction of cultivation, and never was misery equal to it; and, my Lords, I once more conjure you not to consent to any measure tending to injure the home cultivation of this country.
§ Viscount Melbourne
In consequence of the new matter which the noble Duke has introduced in the course of his speech, I feel obliged to trouble your Lordships with a very few words in addition to what I have already said. The noble Duke has referred to the Speech which her Majesty was advised to make at the close of the last Parliament, and says, that it is very much calculated to point public indignation against particular persons, and that I said, that those who opposed the measure proposed on the subject of the Corn-laws were opposed to her Majesty. Now, my Lords, I am totally unaware of having ever made such a statement. [The Duke of Wellington had not said the noble Viscount.] I certainly so understood the noble Duke's observations. With respect to the Speech which her Majesty was advised to make, at the close of the last Session of Parliament, it was framed upon the model of the Speech of his late Majesty, George 3rd, advised by Mr. Pitt, on the dissolution of Parliament in 1784. Parts, of course, were omitted, which did not apply to the circumstances of the present case, and when the Speech was drawn up I thought it was milder in form than the Speech of George 3rd. But however that might be, the Speech was that of her Majesty's Ministers, and did not in any way, as the noble Duke said it would, commit the Sovereign to its senti- 82 ments. Undoubtedly there had been much discussion on the subject of the measure we proposed, and all that we intended to state was, that it was adopted by her Majesty's Ministers as most likely to prove of advantage to the commerce of the country. Undoubtedly some allusion was necessarily made to this proposition, but I think, that it was not done in a way which was open to the animadversions made by the noble Duke. The noble Duke then said, that my opinions on this subject were probably changed in consequence of having read a certain report of a committee of the other House of Parliament. Now there is nothing at which I should feel more indignant than that I should be supposed to have learned anything from that report. The noble Duke says, that I have changed my opinions on the subject of the Corn-laws. Undoubtedly I have done so. We are all very much in the habit of taunting one another with having changed our opinions, but the fact is, we are always changing our opinions. No doubt the new Corn-law was a very great error, yet all the greatest authorities were in favour of that measure at the time. This is perhaps the measure on which there has been a greater—I should say progress of opinion, rather than change of opinion—than any other. The noble Duke has also referred to some observations which I made use of in reference to this subject, but the measure the advocacy of which I said was a sign of insanity, was the total repeal of the Corn-laws. In all the speeches which I have made on this subject I have opposed the projected alterations on temporary grounds only, owing to the circumstances of the time being such as to render it unadvisable to make any alterations of the kind. With regard to the changes now proposed, I know that violence and animosity are great evils, but great measures cannot be carried without them, and therefore, if the circumstances be considered otherwise favourable to a great and awful change, I do not think, that we should be deterred by apprehensions of temporary animosity and violence from attempting it.
§ The Duke of Wellington
observed, that up to the moment when the noble Viscount declared, that any man must be mad who would propose a repeal of the Corn-laws, he had given no hint, that he thought any part of them might be touched. With regard to the contents of 83 the Speech from the Throne, it was at all times desirable that the Sovereign should Dot be pledged.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that he should follow his usual course of not addressing their Lordships at any length, but having been in the Cabinet with some of the Members of the present Government, and having since his retirement supported them when in his power to do so, he could not come to a deliberate vote of want of confidence in it, without stating his reasons for doing so. He hoped, that his noble Friends would give him credit for acting on this, as on other occasions, in an open and manly way. The question of the Corn-laws was, in his opinion, of paramount importance to the best interests of the country, and he was astonished to hear his noble Friend (Earl Spencer) so distinguished as a grazier, contend, that it was not the poor but the rich land that would be thrown out of cultivation, or converted to grazing land, if the Corn-laws were repealed. But even if his noble Friend was correct in his view of it, which he was satisfied he was not, by his own showing the farmer would be the loser, for if the change would not be attended with loss, he would make it at this moment. What, however, was the fact?—that the poor land, that which it cost the most to till, and which produced the least return, would be thrown out of cultivation, and become a barren waste, and not the fertile soil of Lincolnshire, where his noble Friend grazed such beautiful short horns. A great quantity of land in the county in which he resided would be thrown entirely out of cultivation. When his noble Friend asserted, that the English farmer could compete with the foreign grower, he forgot the heavy weight of taxation which the English farmer was compelled to bear. He had great respect for his noble Friend's opinion upon any other subject, but regarding corn, he was sadly mistaken, he was sorry to hear him declare himself favourable to the total repeal of the Corn-laws, for unless the malt duty, and the various other taxes pressing peculiarly on land were repealed, the English farmer could not exist without protection. To adopt the recommendation of Ministers, would, in fact, be to adopt a scheme which one of themselves had not long since pronounced the project of a madman. That 84 great and influential class, the farmers of England, would be ruined in order to enich foreigners. He called upon the House to recollect the debt of gratitude due to the farmers of England; for many years, but especially during the last twenty years, they had devoted their time, their talents, and their capital, to the improvement of the soil, and at the moment, when much had been done, and when they hoped to be repaid some of their outlay, or to realise a moderate profit on the capital which they had expended on the soil, the Government wanted to turn round upon them, and to compel them to compete with the serfs of Poland. Many of them have long leases of their farms, and therefore cannot quit them, even if they could find any other profession to follow. "What, my Lords (said the noble Duke), are the landlords to do under such circumstances? If they are honest men they must reduce their rents, but of what avail would that be if they could not be placed as to taxes and other charges in the same situation as the foreigner. I have no hesitation in saying, that if unfortunately a bill of this sort pass through Parliament, I will be the man to move, that every tenant, if he think fit, may have the power to throw up his lease. No similar declaration would be heard from the free traders and their friends—the farmers were to be ruined—they were to be driven from the land which they loved, and on which they had lived from youth to age, and, together with their unfortunate labourers and their families, were to be driven into the workhouse for their daily bread." He felt most strongly upon this question. It had been said to night, that the men who were to succeed the present Government in office would themselves soon turn round upon the landed interest and refuse it protection. If they did, he knew what course the landed interest would take. They would turn out the new Government as they had turned out the present one. If the new Ministers came forward with an 8s. duty, the same men who brought them into power would thrust them out of it. But he did not believe they would pursue so "mad" a course— they knew too well the justice due to the cultivators of the soil; and were also well aware that the home market was of great importance to the manufacturing interest, and that commerce and manufacture 85 could not flourish if the agricultural interest were destroyed. Before he sat down he wished to say a few words on a rather delicate topic, which had been alluded to by his noble Friend the Mover of the amendment, who had expressed his deep regret, that the money of the savings banks had ever been touched. Although the Government had applied the money of the depositors to temporary purposes, he hoped that those depositors would receive an assurance that their property was quite safe. Thisassurance ought tobegiven by Government in the most distinct terms, for many of those who had placed their earnings in the savings banks were not well educated, and they would not understand it unless the plainest language were employed to convince them that their money was secure. He had commenced by stating, that he should only say a few words, and he hoped he had kept his promise.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
rejoiced that he had given way to the noble Duke who had uttered his strong opinions in terms which had not caused him at least much surprise. He did not feel so competent, as his noble Friend (Earl Spencer) to discuss with the noble Duke, points peculiarly agricultural; but with reference to a general view of the subject, he could not but. complain, after the explanation afforded by his noble Colleague (Viscount Melbourne) that the noble Duke had persevered in the taunt that his noble Colleague, according to his own confession, must be mad, because he had once stated that any man who proposed a repeal of the Corn-laws in toto would be so. No such proposal had been made by the present Government; and if it were meant that any man must be mad who contemplated some change in the existing Corn-laws, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) apprehended that all who had taken part in the discussion already, and all who would take part in it hereafter, must be looked upon as insane. They all contemplated some change or other, be it more or less, and the only question was, as to the time of making it, and whether they should enter Bedlam by one door or another. He did not believe that the noble Duke himself was entirely exempt from this species of lunacy, and though he might not yet be so far gone as others, and possibly might be the last mad man of the day, mad he would go in the end, and would allow of a change when it could not be resisted.
§ The Duke of Richmond
denied that he had ever said that his noble Fried (Viscount Melbourne) had proposed a total repeal of the Corn-laws. He was very sorry, by interposing, to spoil the joke of the noble Marquess; but it was necessary to set him right as to what he did say.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
was glad to infer that the noble Duke did not consider it perfect lunacy for a man to recommend some change in the Corn-laws. Before he proceeded farther, he most willingly complied with the request of the noble Duke, that he would make some distinct declaration respecting the security of the money borrowed from those most valuable institutions with which this country was ever blessed—the savings' banks. He regarded them with the deeper interest from having been himself instrumental in their first establishment in England. Depositors might rest satisfied that their money was perfectly safe, and that the Government and the Parliament, in the face of the country, pledged the revenues of the State for the security of the most sacred of the public funds. All that had been done was to convert one species of security into another, and whatever suspicion might be indulged in by noble Lords for the purposes of debate, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) did not believe that such a suspicion had ever entered the minds of that most suspicious class of persons, the saving portion of the community. He had risen before the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) in order to offer a few remarks upon what had fallen from another noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), who had delivered a speech which did him the highest honour, and to which he had listened with the greatest pleasure, although he felt it his duty to comment on some parts of it. No part did the noble Duke higher honour than what he had said respecting services of a peculiar nature rendered by the present head of the Government to the young Sovereign of this country—connected as he was, by office and personal intimacy, with his noble Friend, it was little for him to bear testimony, on his own knowledge, to the accuracy of the statement of the noble Duke; but what ever might be the issue Of this night's discussion, he was rejoiced, that the recognition of those services went forth to the world stamped with the high authority of the noble Duke. The noble Duke, how- 87 ever, accompanied that declaration by some censure of the terms employed in two royal speeches, the one delivered on dissolving the last Parliament, and the other this day read from the woolsack. He must deny, emphatically, that Ministers had committed her Majesty to anything, but to the opinion "that the trade and industry of the country were of paramount importance," and to the declaration that "she felt the greatest anxiety to provide for the exigencies of the public service in a manner least burdensome to the community." The noble Duke had, moreover, expressed some dissatisfaction that measures, on which no definite opinion was pronounced from the throne, had not been preceded by an inquiry by which due information might have been conveyed to Parliament and to the country. The noble Duke and other Peers had adverted to a report of a committee, not proposed by any Member of the Government, but by an individual Member of Parliament. Their Lordships would, however, recollect that not once, twice, or three times, but constantly, within the last twenty or five-and-twenty years, all these subjects had been over and over again investigated by committees. Sometimes these inquiries were made at the instance of discontented manufacturers, sometimes by discontented agriculturists; and on no fewer than five separate occasions reports had been presented to one or other House of Parliament. To none of these committees had the noble Duke adverted, yet some of them came exactly within the category laid down by him of having been composed of the most eminent statesmen. In 1821 and 1822, a committee of a most important nature, connected with these questions, was appointed; and he would just inform the House what members composed it, and made the report. They were Sir Robert Peel, Lord Althorp, Mr. W. Lamb (Lord Melbourne), Mr. Huskisson, and Mr. Robinson. What did the House imagine this combination of illustrious statesmen of different parties agreed in recommending? They recommended a fixed duty as the best protection that could be given to agriculture. Yet, if he were not very much mistaken, this Mr. Robinson was the same individual who had been afterwards created Viscount Goderich and Earl of Ripon. It might be supposed, after what that noble Lord had said to-night, that he could 88 not be the same person, but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had taken some pains to ascertain his identity; and, for his own part, he was satisfied upon the point. The present Ministers were, therefore, only humble followers of that great statesman, Mr. Robinson, who now wished to deny his own offspring, and to cast it, like a foundling, at the door of anybody who would be charitable enough to give it shelter. The report stated that "such a system is fit to be kept in view rather as the ultimate tendency of the law than as practicable, within a very short period," and this was delivered in the session of 1821–2, and from that date until 1841–2, that was to say for about twenty years, the noble Earl, instead of tending towards such a system, had, it seemed, been getting gradually further and further from it. The result would be, that Ministers were never likely to have the benefit of the aid of the noble Earl in this undertaking; the longer he lived the less likely he was to approach the fixed duty he had recommended in 1821–2. The noble Earl might recollect a Greek tragedy which begun with a soliloquy by a person who had waited ten years in vain for the signal to announce the termination of the siege of Troy; but the noble Earl had out-watched the watcher; he had doubled the ten years; and twenty years, instead of inducing him to think that a fixed duty on corn might be adopted, had convinced him that it was more dangerous than ever. The progress of affairs during a long peace—the advance of foreign manufactures—the proved uncertainty of supply —had no effect upon the mind of the Earl of Ripon, though they might have operated forcibly on that of Mr. Robinson. In the report to which he had referred, Ministers had placed some confidence— it was their harbour of refuge in the midst of the storm of opposition, and, backed by the opinion of Mr. Robinson and his colleagues of the committee, they had sought by a fixed duty to obtain a sure supply at a certain price, which, to the manufacturer the farmer and the labourer was the great desideratum. This system, the perfection of a law upon the subject, they had sought to establish, warranted by experiments already made upon the same principle in other spheres of commerce. They had been encouraged also in this course of policy by perceiving that the same principle in the case of wool had entirely suc- 89 ceeded. When it was proposed to remove the restrictions on wool, the same cry was raised, and the same prophecies indulged —the poor lands would be thrown out of cultivation, the farmers would be ruined, and the labourers starved; but, nevertheless, aided by a great portion of the opposition of that day, he himself having taken part with the Government (for they had not sought; to unite themselves with powerful classes for the poor end of getting into office) the restrictions were removed, and the result had been a great increase in the importation of foreign wool, conjointly with an advance in the price of our own wool. Thus both landlords and tenants were benefitted by a change which, it was asserted, would be their ruin, and not an agriculturist had been found to suggest a return to the former system. His noble Friend had been taunted with making a distinction between the principles of fixed duty and total repeal. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was a friend of free trade, but he knew that perfect freedom was not consistent with the maintenance of the revenue. All that could be done was to make as near an approach to perfectly free trade as was consistent with the interests of the revenue; and in the instances before the House it had been thought that the changes would increase instead of diminishing the revenue; and, while it afforded relief to the subject, would be no disadvantage to the Government or to any party. Above all, it was thought that the condition of the farmer would be improved, and that a system might be established which would accomplish this object, while it insured regularity of supply to the community, without bolstering up the machinery of varying averages, the preservation of which would inevitably lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and discontent. His noble Friend had omitted many of the transactions which he might have recounted, he had overlooked treaties concluded, reconciliations effected, and expeditions that had been successful, but no wonder that with opinions from which he could not escape on corn, timber, and sugar, he should fly for grounds of attack to China and Afghanistan, the papers relating to which were not completely before the House. These were not, he thought, sufficiently broad foundations on which to build the superstructures that had been erected on them. 90 This policy of his noble Friend evidently arose from no other motive than his desire to avoid touching upon the great questions at issue. He commended that policy, and the prudence which dictated it. He had been much struck, not only with what was expressed, but with what was omitted in the amendment. There was no point of the subject to which noble Lords were called upon to pledge themselves. If there were any who thought that the continuance of the sugar and timber duties, as they existed at present, were essential to the interests of the colonies as that of the Corn-law was to the prosperity of the agriculturist—if they were comforted and consoled by that amendment, they were certainly the most easily comforted and consoled people he had ever met with. There was little else said in condemnation of the Government. The noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, with his characteristic manliness and fairness, had given his approval to the sums voted for defraying the expenses of the late various military expeditions, though frequently implying that the establishments were not large enough, but with those establishments and influence in every part of the world we had successfully maintained the national honour and interests, and they had been maintained—not only been maintained, but the power of England had been asserted and proved in a manner which would not be speedily forgotten. It would be a satisfaction to the Ministry, that in the face of an opposition the most formidable and active which had ever thwarted an administration, no opportunity had been supplied of proving that the honour of the country had ever been tarnished in their hands. It would be also matter for satisfactory reflection, that although for the present they were unsuccessful in bringing their great commercial measures to a satisfactory issue, they had fairly taken up and proposed these great measures. They were prevented from conducting them to the grand point they aimed at, but the situation of the next administration, when placed in such a position, as would enable it to enjoy a greater share of the confidence of both Houses of Parliament, than they had been enabled to possess, would be one of deep responsibility. "To whom much is given, of him much shall be required." The sooner the time arrived which should place them in possession of that greater 91 share of confidence the better; for then he hoped that the cloud which seemed to hang over the opinions of the majority of that House would be dispersed; and that their views would at last become visible; and, when that event occurred, if their intended policy should appear to tend towards liberal measures and liberal principles, he was sure he was speaking the sentiments of every noble Lord near him, when he said, that they should have their most unanimous and cordial support.
§ The Earl of Coventry
rose amidst loud cries of "Question, question." After silence had been obtained the noble Earl exclaimed — "I am Lord Coventry; a few words from me." "I think the country is in a safe state, and I hope to find it placed in the hands of the Duke of Wellington. My Lords, I hope I have not detained you."
The Marquess of Northampton
said that, as he intended to vote for the Address, he thought it necessary to state to their Lordships the reasons which influenced him in so doing. When either House of Parliament passed a vote of want of confidence, they did something more than the thing itself. They passed not only a vote of want of confidence against the existing Government, but they passed a vote of confidence in favour of those who were supposed to succeed them. Their Lordships were called upon to pass that vote completely in the dark. He would never consent to any vote expressing approbation of any Government unless he knew what were the measures which that Government intended to bring forward. The finances of the country now required that something should be done. What could they do? They must adopt the plane recommended by her Majesty's present Ministers—or borrow a loan—or further increase the taxes. Which of these three plans were they prepared to adopt? There was another reason which induced him to support the original Address. In his opinion it was a very inconvenient course for the House to go out of the subjects contained in the Address to vote something on some other subject. He certainly did not quite agree with his noble Friends as to the sort of speech which they had placed in the mouth of her Majesty. It went too much into details. He was bound to confess that whilst he voted against the Address he did so with reluctance—for he disagreed with his 92 noble Friends on the subject of the sugar duties, and also on the subject of corn. He differed with them as to the first point, because he thought that the change which they proposed would lead to an increased cultivation of sugar, and an increased cultivation of sugar must lead to an encouragement of the slave trade. He thought that some negotiations might be entered into with the Brazils by which this country would consent to receive their sugar if they entered into an agreement to abolish slavery. As to the Corn laws, though perhaps they might be changed with advantage, he did not approve of the fixed duty sanctioned by the Government. The sort of Corn law he would support would be one which contained the qualities both of a fixed duty and a graduated scale.
said, that, with the opinions which he entertained as to the important subjects contained in the Speech then under discussion, and as to the conduct of the Government in bringing forward the great question of the Corn-laws, the timber duties, and the sugar duties—with these opinions, and having so often maintained the side which he supported with regard to these important subjects by argument, their Lordships would be aware that he would give his vote in favour of the Address in that form which had been recommended to them by his noble Friend behind him; but, in so doing, it would not be necessary for him to trespass upon their time by any argument at all. Yet he could not give his vote in favour of that Address without guarding on some important particulars against the inference that might be drawn from his vote that he wholly approved of the conduct of the Government even in respect to those questions to which he had alluded. Those questions had been that night fully and fairly considered in the most able, eloquent, and impressive address by his noble Friend opposite (Lord Ripon). His noble Friend, at the head of the Government, and in whose department this subject more especially lay, had certainly given no manner of answer to that speech. He seemed to think, continued the noble and learned Lord, that it was no duty of his to answer that speech, and yet he ventured to call upon your Lordships' House to disregard it. I differ entirely from my noble Friend, and when we are found sitting together, on the opposite side of the House, if a speech should be made on this side of the House, to recommend a measure which we together oppose—to propound a 93 measure which we together resist— a measure, as we think, dangerous to the country, and hurtful to the constitution—if such a speech be then made on this side of the House, (and I hope there will not), I shall most sincerely hope to hear a more elaborate, a more statesmanlike, a more effective answer from my noble Friend sitting there, than it has been my good luck to hear tonight from my noble Friend sitting here. It was from no want of ability on the part of my noble Friend, it was from no want of knowledge on the subject, but he seemed to think—I know not how—that it was not worth his trouble to answer the speech of my noble Friend opposite. He seemed to think that there was an end of the concern—that the question had been decided, though no vote had been taken; that something which has happened elsewhere has put an end to all doubt, hope, chance, thought, anxiety as to the business, and he seemed to be giving himself and his Government up as martyrs to these propositions— to these popular measures. And he did this wilfully. It was not from the badness of his cause nor from his want of skill to handle it, but simply and entirely from the carelessness and indifference of my noble Friend. The noble and learned Lord proceeded to say that the defects of his noble Friend's (Lord Melbourne's) speech had well nigh been supplied by the speech of his noble Friend, who had last addressed their Lordships, but there was one thing which he had left unanswered, and, as it was a very material point, relating to the whole question of the Corn-laws, he would briefly solicit their attention to it. He referred to his noble Friend's (the Earl of Ripon's) manner of dealing with the averages. The whole gist of the question as to the comparative advantages of a sliding scale and of a fixed duty—indeed the whole gist of the entire question of the Corn-laws, was this—which of the two schemes would give the better prospect of a fixed, constant, and not fluctuating price. His noble Friend the noble Duke (Wellington) who always saw at one view what was the point on which every question turned, and who always manfully met and fairly argued it, when they had last argued the question he (the noble Duke on one side, and unfortunately for him, he himself on the other) had applied himself to that point, and endeavoured to satisfy their Lordships that the present system was the more likely to secure a fixed, regular, and not fluctuating price. So had argued the noble Earl op- 94 posite to-night, and the way in which he had made out his case was this:—he took a number of years, and, having the price of each year, divided the whole number of years, and thus obtained the average of a certain period. He took the first four years of his calculation at 50s., the next four at a little more, the next series at under 60s., and then, dividing each series separately found out the average during that time. Why, he would undertake to prove anything in figures, if they would allow him to choose his own figures, and then to de vide them as he liked. He objected to taking any one year. It did not answer the purpose they had in view. Suppose they divided the year into fifty-two periods, and obtained a quotient from the prices of all these fifty-two weeks, it would give no idea of the fluctuation which had taken place during the time. In one week the price might be 20s., in another 40s., in another 60s., in another 80s., up to 120s. Why taking them altogether, and dividing them by twelve, you obtained an average of the whole period, but no one could possibly tell how steady or how unsteady, or firm, or how fluctuating the price of corn had been during the fifty-two periods taken in his calculation. So with respect to any given period. The list from which his noble Friend had argued wag simply a list of averages—and the question was not a question of average, it was a question of price—and the average was the very thing which then they did not want to know. In the paper of averages during the last six years, the three first years of the series being 1835, 1836, 1837, and the three last being 1838, 1839, and 1840,— (and here he was meeting the noble Lord upon his own ground, and upon that he would show that there had been a very great fluctuation, even with this steady, firm, secure scale)—he found that during the first series of three years, the average price, was somewhere about 43s. The average price of the first three years was 43s. Now, what was the average of the last three years? Why it was no less than 63s. or 64s.—a fluctuation, taking these two periods, of no less than from 43s. to 63s., or no less than 50 per cent. He thought it his duty thus to remind the House of the defective state of the argument, and of the extreme fallacy of any arguments founded on averages; and he was the more induced to enter into this part of the question from a conviction that it bore very closely upon the main point at 95 issue. Upon some of the other topics which had been broached in the course of the present debate, it would be preposterous for him to enter, for many of these, as they had been taken up both on the one side and the other, appeared to him to have no relation whatever to the issue on which the House had to decide. With these remarks he might perhaps have been contented to sit down, did he not apprehend, that in voting for the Address as he intended to do, his conduct and motives might be misapprehended; he therefore should not vote without stating briefly, and in a manner as little offensive as possible, the grounds upon which his opinions had been adopted. His noble Friends were quite aware of his opinion of the objection he was about to state. If he were to allow the Address to be put to the vote, and should say to it, "content," then he could have no right to complain if there should afterwards be any misrepresentation as to the reasons by which he had been influenced in so voting. He apprehended, that he might be exposed to much misrepresentation, if he allowed the measures mentioned in the Address to pass without notice. The position in which her Majesty's Ministers stood, he deemed to be a matter of great regret in a constitutional point of view. It appeared to him, that his noble Friends behind him had been guilty of a great error of judgment on one subject, but he rejoiced that they had brought forward the question of the Corn-laws. Though not satisfied with the nature or the extent of what they proposed to do, he still rejoiced that they had brought the subject forward, for the hare taking it up gave a prospect of success to the larger, safer, wiser measure. As to the timber duties, he should, with the same qualifications, say, that he likewise rejoiced to see them brought forward at the present moment. On the subject of the measures regarding sugar, he should now only express his regret that the opportunity which they presented had not been taken advantage of for the purpose of entering into negotiations with the Powers which governed Cuba and the Brazils, with a view to the extinction of the slave trade. But in counselling a dissolution of the late Parliament, it did appear to him that his noble Friends had been guilty of a great error of judgment. It was wrong towards the state, it was wrong towards the Sovereign, and it was doubly wrong towards the interests of those questions themselves, which, as responsible ad- 96 visers or the Crown, they had brought under the consideration of Parliament. He could not for a moment doubt that his noble Friends entertained a sanguine hope—nay, they would not be justified merely by a sanguine hope—they must have entertained a confident expectation of receiving a favourable answer, when they advised the Sovereign to make an appeal to the country. They must, when they gave that advice, not only have entertained a confident expectation, but have felt absolutely certain, that a majority would be returned in favour of them, and of their measures, They could not have entertained the least doubt that they would have a majority—not a bare majority, not such a majority as that which for some time past had enabled them to linger rather than to live—not a majority of twos or threes, or now and then of eighteen or twenty; but such a majority as would enable them to carry on the business of the country —such a majority as might fairly be called a working majority. On this they could have felt no uncertainty when they tendered that advice to the Sovereign. He was not permitted to suppose that they entertained a shadow of doubt upon the subject. Why did he say so? Because on no other conceivable supposition had they a right to tender such advice— to advise the Crown to dissolve a Parliament—to council a Sovereign to exercise the highest and most important of the prerogatives; but to counsel the Crown to have recourse to that prerogative, for the purpose of what, if it were not to return a majority in their favour, and a decided majority? For the purpose of returning a larger minority than their adversaries might gain, if they succeeded to power and dissolved. He wished to use no offensive expression, and therefore he should only say, that that was an advice which no British Minister dared to avow that he had given to his Sovereign. But he went further, he acquitted his noble Friends of having, by possibility, been guilty of giving such advice. It would be to advise the Sovereign to become a party to a mere factious manœuvre; therefore he denied that it was possible that any one of his noble Friends could have given such advice. Wherefore it was evident that they must have held the most confident expectation of a large, or at least a very considerable majority, in their favour, at the general election. If it were said that an appeal had been made to the people on the subject of these measures, and that it had failed, and 97 that the people at the elections had returned an answer opposed to that policy, he took leave to deny that position. He felt bound to do so from his regard to the best interests of that people, of those questions, and of that state policy. If he merely cared for the party that had brought these measures forward—if he were wholly regardless of the importance of the free trade, of the Corn-laws, and of the policy recommended by the Government,—if he wanted to make a pretext of this kind for the purpose of bolstering up a party, then he might say, that the country had returned a verdict—not against the Government—not against the men, but against their measures. But did those men suffer nothing in character who had given such a judgment? Would the interest of the people have suffered nothing by returning such a judgment; and, above all, would the questions themselves suffer nothing by such large majorities pronounced against them? Undoubtedly a great injury would be done to these measures; they would be sacrificed in the hopeless attempt to prop up the fallen fortunes of a party in power who brought them forward. He would not admit that that was the construction to be put on the verdict which the country had returned. He thought their Lordships would perceive that the verdict was on one issue and the trial on another—that the country had given their verdict against the men, but that on the subject of their policy no verdict had been returned, or opinion expressed. That policy had received a scanty measure of justice—first, as to the time, next as to the shape, then, as to the measures themselves. If his noble Friends two years and a half ago, had opened their eyes to their own real position, and to the exigencies of the case with regard to the trade of the country, if they had only allowed that evidence to be brought to their Lordships' bar which had been tendered on oath in support of this question, and had been defeated by their Lordships, and on the renewal of the question the Session after had persisted in lending it their aid and support, and then, after two years' support, with no possibility of any sinister motive being imputed to them, they had found it expedient, for any other reasons, such as their defeat on the Irish Registration Act, to appeal to the country, by dissolving Parliament, he ventured to say, that they would have had a very different reception from what they had had, whether they put the question on the merits of the 98 policy itself, or on the merits of the Ministers who had brought it forward. But though it was perfectly untrue that they for the first time took up the Corn-law question in the month of April last, when defeated on the other bill—though it was undeniably true that a considerable time before that they had directed their attention to it—though it was undeniably untrue that they had only conditionally come to a resolution to bring forward the Corn-law question if they should find it needful, and if they should be driven to straits— though it is undeniably incorrect to slate that that was their course; ["Some Lords laughed,"] he had no more doubt of the fact than that he was standing before their Lordships. The correspondence with the Governor-General of Canada proved that the bringing forward of these measures had not been suggested after the defeat in April. Nevertheless, it was impossible to deny that the coincidence in point of time went out to the country in such a manner as to throw great suspicion on the conduct of the Government. He had stated to their Lordships why that suspicion was altogether groundless, or very much exaggerated; but that the suspicion did exist, and in every part of the country, was undeniable. It was that by which the advocates of the repeal of the Corn-laws were everywhere met—that of their having so long delayed taking this course, and then to have appeared to the people only to have taken it when driven to it—and that they did not take it up on its own merits, but as a handle for the purpose of regaining their popularity at the elections. That was the prevailing opinion, at the late election, and if they would inquire of any of those who stood as candidates, or of any of those persons who were less liable to be biassed in their judgments, because they were bystanders and witnesses rather than parties in those contests, he would venture to say, that with extraordinary unanimity the same answer would be given by them all as to the character and the results of those contests. But that was not all. The shape in which the measures were brought forward appeared to be another and a very serious impediment to success. The measures were good in themselves. The principles upon which they were founded were sound. They were calculated to relieve the trade of the country, but they were not brought forward as measures for relieving that trade. Upon that foundation they could have stood, and 99 stood firmly; but they were brought forward as measures of finance. That was a rotten foundation, and upon that foundation they could not stand. They were sound and well-constructed measures as measures of commercial policy, but as measures of financial policy, it was impossible to listen with patience to any argument in their favour. The smallest statement of figures, the most cursory glance at accounts, the slightest knowledge of financial matters, would make it impossible for any man to say that they ought to be regarded as measures of taxation and finance. Take the corn question for instance. His noble Friend had argued with respect to the timber and sugar duties, but taking the Corn-laws, could any mortal believe that any portion of the revenue could be regarded as certain, or that a source of revenue could be relied on, which was to be dependent upon the seasons and the price of grain at home? Look at the averages, look at the prices which had prevailed during the years 1834, 1835, and 1836, and they would find that not one farthing of revenue could be got from that source. During every one of those years the duty, the freight, and the charges of shipping would have made it impossible for a single bushel of foreign grain to be brought into this country. His noble Friend had, with his usual ability, stated, that under the price of 64s. no foreign wheat could be imported. Perhaps his noble Friend had taken rather a large idea of that subject. [Earl Spencer: 56s.] Well, take the price at 56s., or even lower than that, at 51s. or 52s., still the prices in those successive years he had mentioned would have made it utterly impossible for one single bushel of foreign grain to be imported from either Dantzic, Rotterdam, or Hamburgh. Therefore, the answer he had to give was perfectly satisfactory; it could not be a financial measure, it could not be a tax upon which the revenue could place any dependence. The only argument on the other side of this important question was, that in those years of greatest cheapness at home there was an increased consumption of excisable articles; consequently, though the same amount of revenue was not to be expected from corn, the deficiency was made up in that way It certainly was the duty of a prudent financier to take the bad as well as the good years into account, and to set one against the other, but they had no right to take the bad years and say that they were the consequence of the corn tax, and that the 100 corn tax was a total failure. But the measures had been brought forward of a frame and an amount which was not likely to insure for them that success which might have been expected had they been placed on a larger ground. In that House their Lordships might calmly deliberate upon subjects which they might hold to convey lessons of practical instruction, for wise and sober legislation; but when they appealed to the people on grounds of a philosophical and commercial nature, they must take something more tangible than refinements upon principles. No doubt the measures proposed were improvements upon the present state of things; but the greatest defect of the Government scheme was, that it professed to be a free trade scheme, and yet it commenced with doubling the duty on colonial timber. It raised the duty of 10s. to 20s.; it added 100 per cent, to the duty upon colonial timber, and called that free trade. True, it took off 9 per cent., that was to say 5s. out of 55s. on Baltic timber; and though they who were sitting in deliberation there were aware, that upon the whole that was a considerable improvement; yet, if the Government went to the country upon the question of free trade, and called upon the people to support them because they were propounding measures of free trade, they should not let the people see that the first thing in their budget was, that they took off 9 per cent, from Baltic timber, and added 100 per cent, on Canadian timber. The effect must be, as it had been, that the people would see it was not a measure of free trade; and, therefore, they must withhold their concurrence. On that ground alone, therefore, free trade had not had a fair trial in the country, and a proper verdict had not been obtained upon it. Then, as to sugar, if they had shown the people that there was a measure in contemplation for which they deserved the support of the people; if they had so far reduced the duty on sugar as to make that all but necessary of life easily obtaina e by the lower classes, most undoubte y they would have a right to expect, and in all probability would have received, the support of the people. But what was the difference of price which they proposed to effect?—1s. 6d. per cwt., or very little more than half-a-farthing in the pound—six-tenths of a farthing in the pound! Why, every one who knew anything of trade, knew very well that the dealer alone, and not the consumer, would benefit by such a trifling reduction. As to the Corn-laws, 101 it was a very considerable improvement upon the sliding scale to substitute a fixed duty. He was against any sudden, total repeal of the Corn-laws, or of what was called the protective duties, but he thought it ought to be gradual, yet total, and no doubt in a few years the repeal might be completed. He might be quite wrong, and no doubt many of their Lordships thought he was. But they were now looking to the measure upon which an appeal had been made to the people, who had been called upon to give their support to a free trade in corn, a free trade generally, but, above all, in that which formed the basis of all other commodities, and which was the staple food of the people. Free trade in corn was said, to have been the object of the Government in making an appeal to the people. But what did the people see? Instead of a free trade in corn it was a tax upon food—a tax of 8s. per quarter, upon every quarter of corn imported. That was the shape in which the question went to the country; that was the ground upon which the support of the people was asked; that was the plan of free trade for the purpose of bringing down monopoly. It must be clear that a fixed duty totally prevented the possibility of a reduction in the price of the commodity. Cheap bread could not come from that quarter; no one had a right to say that cheap bread had any connexion whatever with the imposition of that duty. The total repeal of the Corn-laws would certainly reduce the price of corn; but the Ministerial proposition would not at all. He had always argued before their Lordships, as elsewhere, that the agriculturists as greatly exaggerated the effects to be anticipated one way, from the repeal, as the manufacturers did the other way. A fixed duty, however, of 8s. could not possibly produce any reduction in price. Why, the average duty lately had been 5s. 6d. or thereabouts, so that here was a positive increase of some 2s. 6d. A total repeal would, certainly, producing a reduction perhaps of from 5s. to 8s. per quarter, be a relief to the people. The Government had not the right to speak of their measure as calculated to cheapen corn, seeing that it could not possibly lower the price of corn one farthing. Still, as a measure substituting a fixed duty for a sliding scale, it would produce most important and most beneficial results. It would reanimate drooping manufactures, and relieve the poor, not by cheapening bread, but by giving them more money wherewith to procure it. On these 102 grounds he was clearly of opinion that the result of the late election could not be said to have been a verdict against the repeal of he Corn-laws, or against the principle of free-trade; but that it had been clearly against the general policy of the Government, and that it indicated a distrust of he Administration, which he could not but say he thought justified that statement in the amendment—of which, by-the-bye, not one word had been said by those of his noble Friends who had spoken upon it—the statement, that her Majesty's Ministers had lost, not the confidence of Parliament merely, but "the confidence of the country." "The confidence of this House "would have been a very incorrect expression indeed, inasmuch as the Ministers never had possessed it, but it could not be denied, that the elections had decisively demonstrated, that they had lost the confidence of the nation. Now, there was one other point, and one of paramount moment, to which he could not but advert. And lest it should be said (by those who might be desirous of destroying the effect of what he said), that he was "only wise after the event," he begged to recall to the recollection of his noble Friends and of their Lordships, that he had in this House on the 21st of June stated the substance of what he had now said, or was about to say, "before the event,"—that he bad always declared that he would never agree to be bound by the result of the "appeal" (as it was called) "to the country," regard being had to the circumstances under which that appeal would be made, the time at which, and the shape in which, as well as the measures upon which, it would be made: he had declared, that he would not consider the election as any test of the opinions and the principles of the people; but now he came to a more weighty and momentous point, involving principles of the highest constitutional importance. He frankly avowed, that he conceived, after the result of the recent elections was known, it was the duty of his noble Friends to have resigned. They ought not any longer to have remained in office; they ought simply, straightforwardly, manfully, to have resigned. Two years and a half ago, when the Ministers, after having stated to Parliament that they had lost the confidence of the Legislature, returned to place under circumstances to which he would not particularly allude—it was unnecessary to do so—and when they assumed office without power, all real power 103 being vested in the hands of the majorities of either House opposed to them, he had then foreseen what he believed then would be, no doubt had been, and was, the actual truth of the case—that this retention of office would be one main cause of their losing the confidence of the nation. He had then blamed them, but their remaining in office since the result of the recent elections was known was a mere "error in judgment," — the confidently believed it was no more than that)—he was persuaded office must have since been a burden to them. It could be nothing but a burden— but the consequences certainly had been most unfortunate. For it had happened that they had, through having thus retained office, had to advise their royal mistress upon one of the most important occasions on which the discretion and the authority of the Crown could be exercised—the declaration of the causes of summoning the Parliament—the statements of the Sovereign in opening the Imperial Parliament. Most unconstitutional would it be to hint, that any opposition to the Speech was an indication of opposition or hostility towards the Sovereign. Nothing could be; more clear than that the Speech was the speech of the Ministers, and was to be dealt; with as any other act of theirs with all, possible freedom. At the same time it was just as clear, that it being most desirable to have a good understanding between the Crown and the Parliament, all things ought to be studiously avoided which could have any tendency to provoke or impel any thing that resembled a rejection, a refusal, a negation of the Address in answer to the Speech, even though that Speech was the act alone of the Sovereign's responsible advisers. But now, the Ministers having remained in office after the result of the elections was known, with a perfect knowledge of that result, had prepared a speech which was to have a fate as absolutely, as distinctly known, as any event could be before it happened—a speech which they knew—which they confessed they knew— must meet with rejection in both Houses of Parliament. If he were told that until men came to act in Parliament, nothing could be known of their votes, as hustings declarations did not always bind, or if he were told that until a division was taken, they could not tell which way a man's vote might be given, then would he again say, unfortunately, "litera, scripta manct." A noble Friend of his had announced to his constituents, in a public letter, that an 104 overwhelming majority of Members had been returned against the Government. The fact must, therefore, hare been known to his noble Friend near him, and a speech was accordingly prepared, to be rejected by an overwhelming majority of both Houses of Parliament. The opinions which that speech contained could have been entered upon the journals of the House just as well and in a much more regular and constitutional manner, in a manner more conformable to the practice of the House, than that which had been chosen by his noble Friends. He wished he could close these observations without saying a word in reference to the conduct of late elections; but since they had occurred, the unprecedented corruption which had been practised at them in every form all over the country, had hardly once been absent from his mind. Bribery, to an extent he believed unparalleled, influence and intimidation of the worst description, violence, turbulence, threats, actual outrage by imprisonment, by wounding, and sometimes by murder, disgrace, he was sorry to say, very many of the recent elections. Such was the picture which had been presented to them, not merely by the addresses of disappointed candidates, and the reports of eye witnesses, but they had actually seen, by the records of courts of justice, not only that bribery and intimidation, and actual violence of a most hideous character, had been resorted to, but that they had taken place without any exception of party, and were common to both of the great parties contesting those elections. He could state just as bad cases on the one side as the other; but he would not now detain their Lordships by doing so. Of this, however, he was certain, that unless Parliament interposed—unless an inquiry were instituted, both the parties which divided that House and divided the country, must make up their minds to share, and share equally, the blame of protecting and screening, by refusing to punish persons guilty of those practices. He believed that their Lordships had great power in the matter. He believed, that if, with their means of inquiry, some of which were peculiar to that House, they were to institute an inquiry into the mal-practices which had taken place at the late elections—with no view to punish, of course with no view to seats in the other House, as in that they could not meddle, but merely with regard to future legislation on the subject—he believed that not only would the character of 105 their Lordships' House be greatly raised in the estimation of the country, but that the inquiry could not possibly be gone through without such a successful result as would lead to some useful, and, to some extent, at least, efficacious remedy, for this enormous evil. One remedy was in the hands of all, a remedy in which, without legislation, every man might bear his share. Bribery was much too lightly talked of, and too lightly thought of. The old practice of paying so much a-head, not being considered a bribe, led to that which was actual bribery, to the giving of money for electioneering purposes, and eventually to a corrupt state of things, which no man could defend, but of which most men spoke far too lightly. It was not merely the purchase of a vote, it was not the giving of money to a man corruptly to influence him in discharging an important public trust, it was not merely that that turned elections into a perfect mockery, but it was the perjury which was thereby encouraged, by which corruption was sown, as it were broadcast, over the face of the electoral body in this country, which it behoved them to notice. There was not a man who received a bribe for the purpose of influencing his vote, who did not run the hazard of perjury; there was not one man in a hundred of those willing to take a bribe, who did not take it, and go to the poll prepared to take the bribery oath, and therefore perjure himself. He was certain, that if all those who were engaged in elections would take this view of the matter, a very different course would be pursued, and stronger reprobations expressed than those hitherto known. The result of the division to which they were about to come would, of course, create a change in the Government of the country. He could only say, that he did not join in the taunts which had been indulged in by some of his noble Friends near him, respecting the probable course of their successors. He hoped they would come over to his noble Friends. If they did, he should be the first to hail their arrival amongst them. He agreed with his noble Friend, the President of the Council, that so far from feeling the least disinclination to their adoption of the measures of the present Government, he would gratefully receive from them the smallest contribution, and instead of deeming it to be his duty to triumph over them and say, "You are doing precisely the same thing which you turned us out for attempting to do." He would say to them, "Do so and wel- 106 come, and you shall have my best support." A noble Lord had blamed the conduct of his noble Friend, the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government, with reference to the appropriation clause; and the noble Viscount had defended himself by referring to that of Sir Robert Walpole in, respect of the tax upon excisable commodities. Notwithstanding the remarks of his noble Friend, he thought that that noble Lord had a perfect right to state as he had stated—but he had stated it far too strongly when he said that the noble Viscount had in that instance exhibited a total want of political integrity. He did not agree with him: he thought that he had only exhibited a great fulness of the desire to remain in office. The comparison he thought inapposite. The case of Walpole would have been like that of the noble Viscount, if Sir Robert Walpole, in the teeth of the Minister whom he afterwards supplanted, had brought in a resolution, as leader of the Opposition, that no plan of finance deserved the support of Parliament and the country which did not involve a tax upon excisable commodities, and if, after the lapse of a short period obtaining a majority in the House of Commons upon that motion, when he turned out his rivals and got into their place, he then brought in a budget in which a tax upon excisable commodities formed a prominent feature, and finding that he would be beaten upon it, withdrew it summarily, said nothing at all about it, and still retained office. Then the case of Sir Robert Walpole would have borne some resemblance to that of his noble Friend, and might indeed have formed some precedent for his conduct. Apologizing again for the length at which he had intruded himself upon their Lordships attention at so late an hour, he would conclude by stating that he would heartily vote for the Address.
§ Their Lordships divided on the original question: Contents96; Not Contents 168: Majority 72.109
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Fitzwilliam||Talbot, of Malahide|
|Spencer||Say and Sele|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|De la Warr||Rochester|
|St. Vincent||Stuart de Rothesay|
|Earl Roseberry||Lord Douglas|
|Lord Belhaven||Earl of Eglinton|
|Lord Dinorben||Earl of Galloway|
|Lord Sherborne||Earl Manvers|
|Lord Hastings.||Viscount Exmouth.|
§ Address as amended agreed to.
§ The following Protests were entered against the Amendment adopted by their Lordships.