rose, pursuant to the notice he had given, to move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the distress which prevailed so generally in some of the manufacturing districts of the country, and more especially to enable their Lordships to form a judgment as to the cause of the distress. He almost regretted that he had undertaken this task, as he felt that he was not fit to enter before their Lordships into a subject of such importance. He could hare wished that the question had been brought forward by some noble Lord whose knowledge and experience would have given that weight to the motion which he considered its great importance demanded. The ne- 1119 cessity for strict inquiry into the causes of the distress was made apparent by this fact, that so many and such contradictory statements had gone abroad respecting it that many, in and out of that House, were ignorant of its extent. While residing in their mansions at the west end of the town, their Lordships saw little of the misery which existed in other parts of it, and when they went down to their country seats, seeing only the smiling faces of their cleanly cottagers, what could they know of the severe sufferings in immediately adjoining districts? Impressed as he was with the great extent to which distress had spread amongst the working classes in many parts of the country, he felt it his duty to state to their Lordships a few facts—and they should be very few—which had come to his knowledge, which he considered of the deepest importance. The distress which now prevailed commenced in the year 1828. It began, as it usually did, with the lower classes. It was now approaching the middling classes, and that it would reach the agricultural classes before long he had no doubt whatever. Her Majesty's Government were fully aware of the great extent to which the distress had spread, or they never would have advised her Majesty to issue such a letter as that which had lately been sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, authorizing the begging for funds to assist the suffering poor. The issuing of that letter was of much greater importance than would appear at first sight. For his part, he did not approve of it on many grounds. The extent of the distress might no doubt have called for some such aid, but he doubted the policy of the appeal, and he doubted still more the manner in which it was made. In the first place, he objected to the appeal being made pointedly and exclusively to the Established Church. What the object of that exclusive application was he knew not. Why should the Archbishop of Canterbury, and through him the clergy of the Established Church, be addressed, and no application be made to any dissenting minister? Surely if such charity were necessary, it ought to be general. One fact alone, if indeed he sought any, would be sufficient to convince him that her Majesty's Government were fully aware of the extent of the distress, and he had called the attention of their Lordships to it the other evening. It was this:—it was the unconstitutional use made of the public money to choke 1120 and suppress any notice of the extent and nature of that distress. He would state it broadly, and it could be clearly proved, that money had been issued from the public Treasury—from what particular fund he knew not, in order to suppress and strangle the public exhibition of distress. Noble Lords might indicate surprise, but he asserted plainly and boldly that they had done so. That public money had been so applied to relieve distress was a fact which no man on the other side of the House would dare to deny. Another fact was this—that the military officers had got orders to have their troops prepared as for active service. It might, no doubt, be right to guard against danger. The fact he had mentioned was well known in the country, and in particular in the districts where distress prevailed, there was no doubt that some of those districts were in a dangerous state. He would do her Majesty's Government the justice to believe that they could not have been aware of the extent of the distress some ten months since, for if they had he could not suppose that they would have left the country without some remedial measure. That measure had not been applied, and because it had not he appealed to them on behalf of starving thousands. They had petitioned that House in numerous petitions signed by large bodies, by many, many thousands of starving artisans. They asked for the opportunity of proving not only the distress and its extent, but also its causes. They asked for cheap food. He regretted to say that their Lordships had turned a deaf ear to their prayer. "They asked for bread," said the noble Lord, "and you gave them a stone." They asked for cheap food, and your Lordships gave them the Corn Bill, one effect of which has been already a rise of 3s. in the quarter of wheat, and a further rise may be expected. This, the noble Lord went on to say, was the answer which they had given to the prayers of hundreds of thousands of their distressed fellow-countrymen. He feared the motion was to be opposed on the ground that the appointment of a committee would be holding out hopes that they would relieve the distress which now existed, and it had also been said that no advantage could be derived from an inquiry which must end in disappointment. This he did not think a valid objection. However much their Lordships might be persuaded that no practical good could result from inquiry, still, were they to concede it, the 1121 effect on the minds of those who sought it would he pacified. At all events, they would not be any the worse for Laving their grievances inquired into, even though no immediate measure of relief should result from it. But were their Lordships quite certain that no advantage would arise from the appointment of a committee? They all remembered the severe terms of condemnation which were applied by a noble Lord not now present (Lord Ashburton) to the report of the import duties committee; and yet now the Members of the Government in the House of Commons were continually referring to that report as an authority whenever they wanted to argue against their opponents, who, as it curiously enough happened, were chiefly found amongst their own friends. The publication of that report had been of the utmost importance, and if the committee had gone still further in their inquiries, it would have been attended with the greatest advantage. Another reason for not acceding to his motion might be that there was no necessity for it, inasmuch as the prospect of a reviving trade was most promising. He believed that the noble Lord the President of the Council (Lord Wharncliffe) rather held to that opinion: and certainly the accounts from Manchester within the last week were in a trifling degree better. But their Lordships would remember that about three weeks or a month ago the same thing took place at Liverpool, and on inquiry, it was found that owing to the very low price of the raw material, many persons were induced to speculate. But what was the state of the warehouses now? Instead of one side of the building being filled with the manufactured article, and the other with the raw material, there was never to be seen more than one of these in the same warehouse; either the building was overstocked with goods that could not be sold, or was filled with the raw material which it was not to the interest of the manufacturer to work up. The noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade had said, that when the fund about to be collected by means of the Queen's letter should be exhausted, it would be for their Lordships to consider what next should be done to relieve the distress of the poor. He would entreat their Lordships not to defer the day. The Poor-law was totally inefficient to support the destitute. In many places, the poor had been for a long time living entirely upon charity. Although the population 1122 had been annually increasing, the consumption of articles of the excise and customs had diminished, as he would show their Lordships. The noble Lord read the following paper:—
But in 1840 the additional duty of 5 per cent, was imposed. If that had not been the case the receipts for the last three years (calculating the proportions) would have been:—
Date Population Net Produce: Customs & Excise Tax. Actually produced. £ £ 1836 26,158,324 gave 36,392,472 1837 26,518,885 should give 36,938,363 33,958,421 1838 20,879,246 37,484,254 34,478,417 1839 27,239,607 38,030,145 35,003,633 1840 27,599,968 38,567,036 35,536,469 1841 32,230,261 1842 32,340,739
That proved that the means of the people had diminished to an alarming extent, for the revenue upon necessary articles had fallen off, while the population had greatly increased. With respect to the poor-rate, it was a curious fact that generally the amount varied according to the average price of wheat; but in the last year the poor-rate increased, although the averages were not so high as in the preceding year. He would take a parish which was neither manufacturing nor agricultural — he would take Marylebone, which, perhaps, was the most wealthy parish in the metropolis. In 1836 the poor-rate in that parish was 1s. 2d. in the pound, and the sum raised was 44,573l.; in 1840 the rate was 1s. 11d. in the pound, and the sum raised was 76,355l; and it has increased since. It was found that when provisions were dear employment was scarce, and paupers increased; and the reverse was the case when provisions were cheap. He would now advert to a subject that was of great interest to their Lordships, as being the principle landowners in the country—he meant the consumption of wheat. The actual consumption of wheat had fallen off during the last three years to the extent of 1,361,252 quarters annually. He had been furnished with a very important document which had been prepared with the greatest care. It showed the quantity of wheat consumed from October, 1839, to May 1842, in separate periods of eight 1123 months each. The quantities of wheat sold in the 150 towns, from which the old averages were calculated, represented, as nearly as could be ascertained, one fifth of the whole quantity sold in the kingdom. The quantity sold in these 150 towns in eight months, from the 1st of October to the 1st of May of each of the three last Years, was:—
1840 £32,401,000 1841 30,753,000 1842 30,723,000
In the two former years the foreign wheat was all consumed, and additional large quantities were delivered for consumption in May and June; but this year there remained in warehouse 400,000 quarters of foreign wheat which had paid duty. Thus the difference between the consumption in 1840 and 1842 was 1,361,252 quarters. The same result had taken place with respect to meat and other articles. The consumption of groceries and butcher's meat in Leeds was reduced one-fourth, but as the middle and lower classes probably did not consume less, the reduction had fallen on the operative classes; the consumption of butcher's meat was half what it was in 1834. In Manchester the receipts of the grocers and butchers had fallen off 40 per cent, in two years. In Rochdale the quantity of butchers meat was not half what it was in 1836. In Dundee, in 1836, the weekly number of cattle killed was 150; in May 1842, it was 71, being a reduction of 79, or more than one-half. The sales, of bread, butter, eggs, and sugar, was reduced to one half. The cheapest and coarsest food was about the same. The diminution in the consumption of meat was not from dearness of price, best meat from November, 1835, to May, 1836, being 6d. per lb. From November 1841, to March 1842, it was 7d. per lb., and from March, 1842, to this date, it was 6d. per lb. He was afraid he was troubling their Lordships too long, but he had a deep impression upon the subject, and, therefore, he 1124 ventured to caution their Lordships against the deep under-current, which was working in the country, of which the landed proprietors would be the first to feel the effects. These statements might be doubted, he was, therefore, anxious for a committee that he might show upon what grounds they were made. He would now call their Lordship's attention to the actual state of three or four of the principal towns in England, and to one or two in Scotland. Manchester had a population of 192,408
Oct. 1, 1839, to May 1, 1840 1840 to 1841 1841 to 1842 These multiplied by 5, show the sales in the kingdom 2,620,753 2,467,783 2,216,201 5 5 5 13,103,765 12,338,915 11,081,005 To these quantities add the foreign wheat, which paid duty in each period 1,138,492 1,311,642 2,200,000 14,242,257 13,650,557 13,281,005The amount expended for the relief of the poor in 1836, 25,669l. In the year ending March, 1841, 33,938l. But this gives no idea of the extent of the distress. The rev. Mr. Hearne stated at the conference that in one district there were 2,000 families without a bed among them, and 8,666 persons whose income is only 1s.2½d. each per week. The grocers, butchers, drapers, &c, state that their receipts have fallen off 40 per cent, within the last two years. The total number of patients admitted into the dispensaries in the Manchester district during the six years ending in 1835, was 54,000. The number admitted during the six years of dear food ending in 1841 was 169,000, an increase of more than 200 per cent. The deaths in the dispensaries during the six years of scarcity showed an increase of 1,175 over the mortality of the six years of comparatively cheap food, as the following table would show;—
MANCHESTER DISPENSARIES. CHEAPER YEARS. Cases. Deaths. Begin. June 1832 29,893 987 —1833 28,332 891 —1834 23,652 680 —1835 22,877 762 —1836 23,262 872 —1837 26,675 1,013 Total of six cheaper years 154,692 5,205 Mean 25,782 867
DEARER YEARS. Cases. Deaths. Begin. June 1829 23,621 1,074 —1830 27,756 942 —1831 30,150 921 —1838 29,158 1,102 —1839 28,242 1,190 —1840 30,422 1,153 Total of six dearer years 169,349 6,380 Mean 28,225 1,063The average daily number of prisoners in the New Bailey in 1836 was 539; the number has since gradually increased, and last year it was 722. The number committed for trial in 1836 was 1,031; in 1841, 1,992. Empty houses.— 5,492 untenanted dwellings; 681 shops, offices, &c.: 6,173 houses, shops, &c, assessed at 76,168l.; 110 mills, works, &c.; idle, 10,926l.; total, 6,289, 87,094l. The steam power not at work is about 1,000 horse-power, the yearly value of which is much above 100,000l. of unproductive rateable properly.In Bolton, containing a population of about 50,000, there are fifty mills usually employing 8,124 work-people; of these there are thirty mills and 5,061 work-people, either standing idle or working only four days a-week. Iron founders, engineers, millwrights, and machine makers.—In 1836, the number employed was 2,110; there are employed at present 1,325; discharged 785. Carpenters.—In 1836, the number employed was 150; at present they are reduced to forty-nine, leaving 101 who are permanently unemployed.— Brick-setters.—In 1836, the number employed was 130; at present it is reduced to sixteen. Stone-reasons.—In 1836, the number employed was 150; there are fifty employed at present.The estimated loss of wages in Bolton alone was 320,560l. in the year. What could any charitable collection do towards relieving so large an amount of distress? But this had not come upon their Lordships suddenly; it had been growing gradually. The spring trade had done wonders, and yet this distress existed. What had they to look forward to in the winter? Employment was out of the question. Their Lordships ought, therefore, to be prepared, because the local funds were nearly exhausted. These were able-bodied men who were destitute of any legal means of support, and the inhabitants of the town had no possible provision for them during the winter. There was another statement he wished to allude to. It had been stated that the guardians of the union of Burnley had represented to the Secretary of State that the distress was far beyond the reach of their means of relief; they had 12,000 persons on their books, and must leave the matter in the hands of the Government, for they had not wherewith to relieve them. Her Majesty's Government, it appeared, had considered this statement, and he was informed that they had sent down a special commissioner. Sir John Walsham who immediately applied for funds to meet the pressure of the moment, and a certain amount had been already sent. Now, 1126 when their Lordships reflected that the surrounding towns were nearly in the same state as Burnley, it certainly was a state of things which it behoved them to consider deeply. This occurred in England; in Scotland no assistance could be afforded to the able-bodied, for there were no workhouses. The same system had been acted upon there, and more especially with respect to Paisley. For the last three weeks, the poor there had been entirely supported by funds supplied by Government. Whence those funds came he knew not. It was public money, and he thought it was their Lordships' duty to know whence it came. At Paisley there was a commissioner-general, a commissioner-surgeon, and in short a regular establishment under the control of the Government. One curious circumstance was, that the relief committee of that place, who had distributed 25,000l. in supporting the poor, had been completely set aside, and the whole thing was now under the management of the Government. He would now for a moment advert to the declining state of trade in Scotland. The exports from Dundee had materially diminished. From the year 1827 to 1834, omitting the speculating years of 1835 to 1836, the shipments of linens increased on an average rate 29,405 pieces. In 1837 there were 717,070 pieces exported; there was a reduction, in 1839, of 19,775 pieces; in 1841, a further reduction of 29,457 pieces; and for the last eleven months, ending April, 1842, a still further reduction of 45,837 pieces, about the value of 90,000l. Of this deficiency at least 20,000l. consisted of wages. This diminution of exports must press very severely upon the people of Dundee, and he wished by means of a committee of inquiry to ascertain the cause. What was the reason our foreign customers no longer dealt with the manufacturers of Dundee? That could be ascertained by the examination of persons connected with those countries. More than one-fourth of the whole trade consisted in exports to the United States. Up to September 30, 1841, linens were admitted free, now they paid a duty of 20 per cent, ad valorem, and there was a bill before Congress to raise it to 30 per cent., with an additional 10 to countries which did not take their produce. This blow was evidently aimed at our Corn-laws. Our next best customer was Brazil, and we would not taka Bra- 1127 zilian produce, except at with an enormous duly. We levied 63s. per cwt. on the sugar of the Brazils. As soon as our commercial treaty expired, which they said would be in 1842, though we contended it was not till 1844, they would retaliate upon us as they had done in the United States. He would once more refer to the case of Paisley.The gross sum expended by the Renfrewshire relief committee, for procuring food principally, has been 25,000l. up to to about the 1st instant. This sum had been expended over four, and for a short time five villages in the county, besides the town of Paisley. During the worst of the distress in winter, the sum expended in food alone for Paisley was about 800l. per week, for the villages about 100l. per week. There has been a great deal of private charity by persons both resident and at a distance, and also a good deal of provisions distributed which are not taken into account in the gross sum stated.It had been stated by one of the magistrates at Paisley, that one of the reasons why Government had sent down a commissioner was that they thought the local authorities had been rather too extravagant. But what had the commissioner done? He had cut off those villages from Paisley, and the consequence was, that in those places there were nearly nine hundred people going about in gangs with no means of subsistence—all the local subscriptions having ceased He had been informed that there were many industrious people who did not like being placed on the subscription list, and that in consequence of this a subscription had been entered into for the purpose of affording them temporary sustenance by way of loan. 5,000l. had been collected for this purpose; and it seemed that the relief committee, standing in need of funds, had applied to this other committee for a loan of part of the 5,000l 1,500l. was lent to them; but as the committee was now broken up, of course this sum must be considered as lost. At present these persons were certainly supported from funds derived from he knew not what source. He trusted that the Government would give him some information on this point. He was aware that he was trespassing on their Lordships' time, but as the subject was one of great importance, he felt it necessary to detain their Lordships a little longer, and to call their attention to a very important, statement. The return which he held in his hand of 1128 the condition of the township of Leeds had been obtained from persons appointed to examine into its state. It appeared that there were in the
The average of the whole being under 1s. per week for each person. At a very recent date about 9,000 persons had less than 1s. per head per week for all their wants.
WARD PERSONS. RATE. WEEKLY INCOME East 2,179 rate per head of 8¼d. South 363 — 8¼d. North 1,420 — 1s. 6½d. West 802 — 1s. 3½d. North-East 3,137 — 8¾d. Mill-hill 173 — 8¼c. North-West 889 — 8⅛d.
It thus appeared that there had been an increase in the poor rates of nearly 50 per cent. Nor was the distress confined to one class. Every trade was in a distressed state. He asked their Lordships whether any thing had been done towards either inquiring into or meeting that distress? It had not come unawares upon them, for it had commenced so far back as 1828; and at the close of the last Session of Parliament he had taken the liberty of calling the attention of the noble Duke opposite to the subject. He did not pretend to say that Government could be expected to relieve the distress at once, because it was not, in his opinion, a temporary distress, but arose entirely from the mischievous operation of their commercial law. But what had been done since that time? They had passed a Corn-law, the result of which had been to raise the price of wheat 3s. per quarter. They had also resorted to an Income-tax, than which nothing in his opinion could be more absurd under the present circumstances. It was admitted that the means of the consumer were exhausted, and he would like to know when they called on the people to put down so much out of their income, how they were to do it without making matters worse? He believed that a great 1129 many in this country lived up to their income; and in order to pay the tax they would have to reduce their expenses. Whatever amount they took in the shape of taxation, they would diminish the means of employment, so that when men were suffering from want of employment and from the want of means to purchase food, they would still further increase that distress by taking away the means which would have otherwise been expended in giving employment to the working classes. The next measure of the Government was the tariff, the principle of which he thought would puzzle the wisest man. It was impossible to say what the tariff would be. Various deputations from the different trades had come to London for the purpose of representing their cases to the Government. He knew of one party who had been endeavouring to make what they call a bargain, and who, in regard to one article, had concluded a bargain on their own terms. Look to the duty proposed on coals. At first a four-shilling duty was proposed. This was a most improper tax, because coals were a manufactured article. It appeared, however, from representations made, that the duty was to be reduced to 2s. Perhaps it might yet be reduced to 1s. He would be glad if it should be so; but at the same time he thought that these alterations only showed that it was impossible to understand the principle on which the tariff was framed. In addition to this he looked to the uncertainty which prevailed in trade in consequence of the tariff. Confidence had been entirely destroyed throughout the country, and it would take a long time before anything like certainty could be established. It interfered with the small monopolies in trade, with the monopolies in such articles as shoes and gloves; just at the time when those trades were suffering under great distress it did this, and created a deficiency in the revenue in order to keep up the great monopolies of sugar and corn, which, if not abolished, would prove most injurious to the commerce of the country. On behalf of the thousands who were now suffering great distress, he called on their Lordships to grant them an inquiry. The patience of the people had been extolled, but not more than it deserved. He had lately asked a gentleman connected with a town in which distress existed, how it was that the people had borne their sufferings with such 1130 patience, for he thought that if he had seen his children perishing around him from want—if he had seen the felon in gaol better treated than the person willing to work—sooner than submit to this, he thought he would have gone and helped himself. [Laughter] This might be a laughing matter to their Lordships comfortably seated on these benches, but it was no laughing matter to those who suffered from the distress. When he asked that Gentleman how it was that the people had been so patient, he was answered,—
1840 1841 1842. The sum paid to the poor in Leeds, in January £l,044 £1,062 £1,336 To other poor in the township of Leeds 211 269 370 £1,255 £1,331 £1,706If the bread had been taken from you suddenly, you might have gone and helped yourself; but if you had been gradually reduced to starvation, and weakened from not getting food sufficient to support the energies of nature, you would have become reckless, and would not have cared to see your children perishing around you.Now this, he believed, was the truth— the horrible truth. He deeply lamented it, and he only wished the committee which he intended to move for would visit those scenes of distress, and become convinced of the unexaggerated sufferings of those unfortunate individuals. He would willingly adopt any mode of inquiry which their Lordships might think fit to recommend. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had maintained the necessity of having extended markets, in order to relieve the pressure on the commerce of this country. He had lately been in communication with a person connected with the American trade, who had travelled through all the United States, and who had assured him that the openings in that country for the manufactured goods of England were quite beyond belief. Along the banks of the Mississippi and the Ohio there were several states with an aggregate population, in 1840, of 5,499,892. Of these states two grow principally cotton for the market of this country; the others were purely agricultural states, manufacturing nothing, except some coarse stuff, used for trousers. The produce of these states was carried down on rafts to New Orleans, to be exchanged for manufactured articles, and it was here that, in the opinion of those connected with the trade, an opening existed for the manufactures of this country. A great part of the produce brought down to New Orleans consisted of flour, which was often kept there until it turned 1131 sour. When the Corn Bill was under discussion in that House, he had some intention of proposing that this sour flour should be admitted into this country duty free, not for the purpose of its being made into food for the people, but for the use of manufacturers, who annually consumed almost a million of quarters in the dressing of their calicoes and other articles of manufacture. He thought, that this sour flour would have answered the purpose of the manufacturers, but as any alteration made in the Corn Bill would have been fatal to it, he knew he had no chance of succeeding in his object, and therefore relinquished his intention. But the admission of even a million of quarters of this sour flour would be the commencement of a trade with the southern parts of the United States. At present the trade there was principally with Germany and France, both of whom could undersell this country, and both of whom had more ships trading with that part of America than England had. He thought it would be of vast importance, therefore, to establish a trade of this sort. It would be the surest guarantee of peace between the two countries. All he asked them to do was, to relieve this country from the pressure of selfish imposition, and to free honest industry from the fetters restricting it. The people did not ask for charity— they sought to be allowed to carry their labour to the best market; and he thought their Lordships could not refuse them their request, without incurring a fearful responsibility. He felt sorry at having detained their Lordships so long, but he would NOW conclude by moving that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the cause of the present general distress.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had no intention to follow the noble Lord through all the details of his speech. The noble Lord had dwelt at considerable length on the distress existing in the country. No one doubted the existence of such distress, particularly in the manufacturing districts. He objected in some degree to the observations which the noble Lord made in the early part of his speech, with reference to the measures which her Majesty's Government had thought proper to adopt with the view of relieving the distress at present prevailing in the country. He was ready to admit, that it was not exactly consistent with principle to interfere 1132 with the ordinary and recognised mode of administering to the relief of the distressed—to send down to any particular district pecuniary assistance; although he was prepared to allow that such a practice would be attended with injurious consequences if frequently had recourse to; still it must be remembered, that the mode of relief had been adopted at different times under special circumstances. The law recognised the principle, although it fixed on particular localities the necessity of providing for the distressed residing within particular districts; but should these localities be unable to relieve the distress which prevails, then it was the duty of other parts of the country to come forward for that purpose. In Scotland, as truly stated by the noble Lord, the relief afforded by the levy of rates was not so extensive as it was in this country; therefore a large subscription was raised in this country for the purpose of administering to the wants and necessities of a portion of the population of that country. As the fund which had been raised was nearly exhausted, the Government thought it prudent to adopt other measures to extend relief to the country. Their Lordships should remember that Scotland was not the only part of the country which required relief. With the object of alleviating the distress, her Majesty's Government had suggested, that a letter should be written by her Majesty to the Archbishop of Canterbury, which was to be read in every church, calling upon the benevolent and charitable to come forward to the relief of the distress prevailing in every part of the country. He thought, that the noble Lord had approved on a former occasion of that appeal. The noble Lord now objected to it, and for what reason? Because the letter was confined to the Archbishops, Bishops, and clergy of the Church of England. The noble Lord thought, that other congregations not in connexion with the national establishment, ought to have been called upon to raise subscriptions for the relief of the country. The noble Lord complained of the improper influence which he said had been used. He was not aware, that it had been customary for her Majesty to adopt any other mode of calling upon her subjects to relieve the distress of the country under circumstances like those at present existing. On a former occasion, her Majesty had herself subscribed handsomely, thus giving an example to her 1133 loyal subjects, which he hoped would be liberally followed. He did not think, that the noble Lord had any right to complain of any undue influence having been used. If such a mode of procedure was necessary — if relief was to be obtained by voluntary subscriptions, it could only be effected in the manner recommended by the Government. The present state of distress was admitted by the Members of both Houses of Parliament. The noble Lord said he wanted a committee to inquire into the causes of that distress— a committee before which he wishes to submit his calculations and documents. It was the usual practice, when a noble Lord moved for a committee, to state for what object that committee was to be constituted, and what facts it was to inquire into. It appeared, however, that the noble Lord merely wished for the committee, for the purpose of laying before it his calculations and schemes with the view to the repeal of the Corn-law—that Corn-law which their Lordships had only recently passed through Parliament. He submitted to their Lordships, that if that law was to be repealed, the noble Lord ought to introduce a bill for that purpose; but he entreated their Lordships not to consent to a committee which would sit day after day to examine into the noble Lord's calculations and theories, with no other object in view but to alter or repeal the Corn-law, which had so recently received the sanction of the Legislature of the country. If that law was to be repealed, their Lordships ought to have a full and fair discussion of the whole subject. He hoped their Lordships would refuse their assent to a committee, the only effect of which would be to excite the country on the subject of the Corn-laws. The noble Lord had blamed the Government for not having attended to the subject before—for not endeavouring to relieve the distress in the country. When did the present Government take possession of office? They came into power at the beginning of September. Since they had been in office, they had passed many measures of great importance and benefit to the country. He would refer to some of the measures of the Government, with the view of establishing that they had not been unmindful of the interests of the country. He would recite a few of the measures which this House had adopted, and which the other House of Parliament had passed, and which had 1134 become law, and then he would ask, whether it was fair on the part of the noble Lord to come down to that House, and bring forward such a motion, based upon such inconclusive arguments, and then to tell their Lordships, that he was not influenced by party feelings? The noble Lord said, that he found fault with no other measure of the Government except that which related to the Corn-laws. He would remind the House of a measure which had passed the other House of Parliament, and which would shortly be under discussion in that House— a measure adopted for the purpose of removing the financial difficulties with which the country had been involved. That measure would also have the effect of increasing the finances, and raising the credit of the country— of enabling the country to pay the interest of the national debt. It was his hope, that the measure would restore the finances of the country, and place them on that basis upon which they ought always to stand. The measure would also have a beneficial effect upon the commerce of the country, and thus establish the public credit. He anticipated the most happy results from the measure to which he referred, not only upon the commerce and trade, but upon all the great interests of the country. The sum which would be obtained by the proposed Income-tax would enable the Government to repeal many taxes on articles of general consumption. It also would give the Government the power of repealing the duties on the raw material of manufacture, and in this way the manufacturer, and the manufacturing interest, generally, would be considerably benefitted. The noble Lord had stated, that but little benefit would accrue to the country from the proposed tariff'. He would ask the noble Lord to consult with his friends before he made such an assertion. The effect of the tariff' would be to improve to a vast extent the commerce and trade. But that was not all. The noble Lord stated truly, that the evils suffered by the manufacturers, and by the people generally, was to be traced to the pressure on the commerce of this country. The noble Lord said we wanted an extended market; our distressed condition was owing to that, and to nothing else. The alteration proposed in the tariff would enable the British merchant to bring many articles into the market which were formerly prohibited. The duties on these articles 1135 were to be generally reduced, and conquently the consumption would be greatly increased. He maintained, that if these effects were to follow the operation of the tariff, then he was justified in asserting that considerable relief would be afforded to the manufacturers, and to the consumers generally. At the commencement of the Session Her Majesty had declared, in the speech from the throne, that the Government was engaged in negotiating certain treaties of commerce with other countries, with the view of relieving the commercial distress existing at home. The Government had been anxiously engaged in these negotiations, and it was hoped that in the course of time they would be definitely settled, and that the good which was expected from them would be fully realized. Independently of the treatise to which he had referred, the Government had been exerting its efforts with the object of promoting peace, and by so doing to extend the commerce of this country with other nations. Before the present Government came, into office, peace had been, to a certain extent, restored in the Levant. Peace was now entirely established in that quarter. Peace had also been established in Spain, in Portugal, and in those parts of Asia under the government of this country as well as in central Asia. He entertained sanguine hopes that pacific relations with the Chinese empire would before long be restored. Attempts had also been made, and he hoped they would turn out successful, to settle those questions of difference which had so long existed between England and the United States of America and Canada. All these subjects had been the subject of negotiation during the few months the Government had been in office, all of which measures must eventually tend to improve the manufacturing and general interest of the country. He thought that the noble Lord might have considered these points, and have waited for a short period to see the effects of this measure before he moved for a committee to inquire into the existence of public distress. Were that motion agreed to, the effect would be, that great discontent would be excited throughout the country; one part of the community would be arrayed against the other, and the most melancholy results would ensue. The only object which the noble Lord appeared to have in view was to obtain a repeal of the present Corn-law. The speech which the 1136 noble Lord made would have done to preface a motion for the total repeal of all laws relating to corn. He again asserted, that if the noble Lord obtained his committee, and if that committee sat day after day, it would give rise to great excitement in the country, and thus obstacles would be thrown in the way of fully legislating on those measures which the Government considered it necessary to introduce in the present state of the country. He hoped their Lordships would refuse their assent to the motion, the only object of which was to effect a repeal of the Corn-laws.
The Earl of Radnor
thought the noble Duke had not acted fairly towards the noble Lord in putting words into his mouth which he had not given utterance to in the course of his speech that evening. The noble Duke maintained that the noble Lord had no other object in view than a repeal of the Corn-laws. The noble Lord had not made any reference to that subject. ["Yes."] He did not think the Corn-law was mentioned. The noble Lord, considering the present amount of distress in the country, thought that an inquiry was necessary with a view to its relief. The noble Duke might consider that the distress arose from the Corn-laws, but that was not the question before the House. The question was one merely of distress. His noble Friend had satisfactorily established the existence of great distress; he had presented to the House a number of facts which clearly established the necessity of immediate and full inquiry. An allusion had been made by his noble Friend to a letter which had recently been issued to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and through him to the clergy of the establishment. His noble Friend considered that the measures resorted to by the Government would not prove adequate to the relief of the distressed condition of the country. The noble Duke asserted that his noble Friend wished to obtain a repeal of the Corn-laws, Should his noble Friend obtain a committee, and it was established that the Corn-laws were the cause of the present distress, then he (the Earl of Radnor) thought that the noble Duke himself would not refuse to vote in favour of the repeal. The noble Duke considered the Corn-laws had nothing to do with the distress prevailing in the country. When the former Corn-law was under discussion the noble Duke had eulogized it; now the noble Duke had 1137 repealed that law, and had substituted a new one in its place. The new Corn-law afforded no relief to the country. No foreign corn had been introduced; and, in fact, the law which had recently passed was more efficient than the old one in keeping out of the market foreign corn. The noble Duke has referred to the exertions of the present Government in establishing peace in different parts of the world since their accession to office. He believed it was pretty generally understood that this country was at peace before the noble Duke came into office, and therefore he did not feel disposed to give much credit to the present advisers of the Crown for the friendly relations which were maintained between this country and foreign states. Nevertheless, he was most happy to hear now, as he should be at any time, that peace prevailed in Spain and Portugal; but, as he before said, that peace was as perfect during the rule of the late Government as during the rule of the present. It happened, however, that amongst the beneficial results which the present Administration took credit to themselves for having produced, there was one which had not yet been brought about,—there had not yet been any alleviation of the distress of the people. The distresses of the country had gone on increasing for the last four years, and especially during the last nine months. He should not stop to inquire whether these distresses were owing to the Corn-laws, or whether they had their origin in any other source. The noble Duke told them to wait with patience till they saw the effect of the measures which were now before Parliament; but that, he could not help saying, was only poor consolation to people who were endeavouring to live upon 8½d. or 8½d a week. His noble Friend had called the attention of the House to the sufferings of those unfortunate persons, and though his doing so might be attended with no immediate or substantial advantage, yet it would be some consolation to them to know, that their condition was not disregarded by either branch of the Legislature. It would be some consolation to them to know, that their Lordships had taken the trouble to inquire into their condition, and had evinced towards them something like commiseration and sympathy. He knew enough of the people to know, that they placed but little reliance upon anything which they 1138 thought to be a crotchet. Amongst the things called crotchet, he believed, that many were not indisposed to include some of the most favoured measures of the present Administration. Many amongst the people believed, that the design of the present Government was to set one class against another; and in connexion with this part of the subject, he must be allowed to say, that he thought the remarks of the Duke opposite were not well-timed, and would not be received favourably by the people at large, Noble Lords might think, that the agricultural interest endured at present a considerable degree of suffering, but he had no doubt, that the measures of her Majesty's Government would react upon them, and, without producing so much benefit to the commercial and manufacturing interests as they anticipated, would yet not serve the agriculturists even to the extent intended. He should certainly vote for the motion of his noble Friend, for he desired to give to the people at least that consolation and comfort which the adoption of such a motion might be expected to produce.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had never said, that peace did not exist before the present Government came into office! what he said was, that peace had been made previously, but it had been consolidated since the resignation of the late Government. It was quite evident, that the object of the noble Lord's motion, was a repeal of the Corn-laws. It was not enough for the noble Lord to misrepresent him, but he appeared to wish to misrepresent his own noble Friend near him.
The Earl of Radnor
said, he did not wish to misrepresent the noble Duke, he had a great respect for him, but surely it could not be doubted, that the object of the noble Duke was, to show that the measures of the Government would relieve the distresses of the people.
§ The Duke of Richmond
had listened with great attention to the speech of his noble Friend, and he certainly must be allowed to say, that he thought the whole gist of his arguments was directed against the Corn-laws. When his noble Friend came to speak of the geography of the United States, he told the House, that there were districts in America which yielded great quantities of corn, cattle, butter, cheese, and other agricultural products. These the Americans, he told them, would willingly send to this coun- 1139 try, and would receive our manufactured articles in exchange. Surely his noble Friend could mean nothing else by a claptrap of this description—surely he could intend nothing but to effect a repeal of the Corn-laws. He need hardly remind that House, that such a measure must be regarded as a great and important change, and he was sure there were no reflecting men in the country, who could regard extensive change with any other feelings than those of alarm. He felt for his fellow-creatures as much as any man, and he should be as anxious as any noble Lord then present, to agree to any motion calculated to afford them substantial advantage or even temporary consolation, but, he confessed his total unwillingness to agree to the appointment of a committee, unless he saw his way as to what would be the probable result of the labours of such a body. So far from alleviating, it would aggravate the distress of the people if the House were, without clearly seeing its way through some plan of operating, to appoint a committee such as that which his noble Friend desired. They might be told that, his noble Friend did not contemplate a repeal of the Corn-laws; but no one, who observed him during the present discussions could for a moment doubt that he was a most enthusiastic repealer of the Corn-laws, and for that, amongst other reasons, he should strenuously oppose the proposition which the House now had under its consideration. The noble Earl, who had just addressed the House, appeared strongly to censure the conduct of her Majesty's Government in sending down some damaged stores to Paisley. The noble Earl might think that wrong, but the people of England would think, that the Government were perfectly justified in the course which they had taken. Did any one suppose, that the responsible advisers of the Crown would be doing wisely or well, if they allowed the people of Paisley to starve on, till a motion could be brought before Parliament for money wherewith to relieve them? His noble Friend (Lord Mont-eagle) would recollect when he filled the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, that larger charges of a similar kind were incurred for the purpose of giving relief to suffering portions of the people—that considerable efforts had been made by the Executive Government when his noble Friend was in office for the purpose of 1140 relieving the starving Irish. He did not forget that, with reference to the relief sent to Paisley, it had been made a matter of complaint, that the stores which the Government sent down were not placed at the disposal of the local committees, but intrusted to the commissaries appointed by the Government. He was clearly convinced that that was the proper course, and he entertained no doubt that the House generally were of the same opinion. The noble Lord had entered into several calculations for the purpose of showing that the consumption of wheat had diminished during the last three or four years; but the House would recollect that the manner of taking the averages had the effect of showing the quantities sold, not the quantities actually consumed. His noble Friend had said that the farmers of England were in the habit of making false returns—he did not think the farmers of England were capable of anything of the sort; so far from their making false returns, they did not make any returns at all—it was the buyers who made the returns. But there was one part of the calculations of his noble Friend which he did not understand. He had taken the 155 towns, on the returns from which the averages were founded, and he multiplied them by five; why he should have made that multiplication he professed himself utterly unable to comprehend. He did not attribute any motives to the noble Lord, but he could not refrain from saying that he had permitted himself to be made the tool of the Anti-Corn-law League.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
observed, that his noble Friend had founded his calculations upon those of Mr. Tooke, an authority which the House would not be disposed to question. He thought it would be most unjust to set aside the motion of his noble Friend merely because it was supposed that the inquiry in which he intended to engage would develope facts calculated to show the working of the Corn-laws. If his noble Friend resolved to divide the House on the question he should certainly vote with him; but he must at the same time be allowed to say, that he would rather not give such a vote, and for this amongst other reasons—that the inquiries of the proposed committee would embrace a larger field than appeared to him expedient at the present moment.
§ Lord Western
said, that after twenty-six years of peace it was most extraordinary that the responsible advisers of the Crown should find it necessary to have recourse to such measures as were at present before Parliament, and he therefore hoped that some inquiry would be instituted into the state of the country. He, nevertheless, thought that this was not the proper time for entering into such an inquiry, and he should, therefore, oppose the proposition of the noble Mover.
§ Lord Monteagle
was quite ready to confirm the statements of the noble Duke with respect to the course pursued by the late Government in relieving the distress of the people. The late Government not only sent relief without Parliamentary authority, but intrusted the administration of that relief, not to the local authorities, but to persons of their own appointment. In those respects, therefore, the conduct of both Governments was alike, and this he conceived to be not open to any constitutional objection; for there always remained an unappropriated sum to meet contingencies, and respecting that sum there could be no doubt that the Executive Government possessed a discretionary power. He was bound to add, that if his noble Friend pressed his motion to a division, he must vote with him; but he hoped that no such disagreeable necessity would arise.
§ The Duke of Wellington
observed, that on the other side it had been said, that the people had asked for bread, and that a stone had been given them, and that that stone was the Corn-law. In the same breath they were told, that they ought to grant a committee of inquiry into the general state of the nation. Now what could that mean, but that they were to grant a committee for the purpose of producing a report adverse to the Corn-laws? He wished to state more distinctly what he previously said. He stated that it was not fair to charge a Government with doing nothing when, after proposing several measures, he called upon the House to have patience and wait the results.
§ Lord Monteagle
wished, in addition to what he had previously said, to state that there were many cases in which the Executive might meet a temporary distress of the severest kind by granting relief from the funds at their disposal, and experience had proved that their doing so in an unostentatious way produced results far 1142 more beneficial than could be expected from any motion made publicly in either House of Parliament, the notoriety necessarily attendant on which having always the effect of exciting expectations calculated to aggravate that evil which it should be the object of the Legislature, and the Government to alleviate.
denied, that he had any intention of rendering the committee subservient to any inquiry into the Corn-laws. He would beg leave to withdraw his motion.
§ Lord Fitzgerald
complained, that the motion of the noble Lord opposite should have given rise to a discussion in all respects so unsatisfactory. The noble Lord opened the discussion with an inconclusive speech, full of unauthenticated statements and inaccurate calculations, and he could not help feeling surprise that a noble Lord so intimately connected with Scotland should have thought it extraordinary that the Queen's letter, to which reference had been made, was not addressed to any but the Prelates of the Church of England. He should have known that the organ of communication between the Crown and the Church of Scotland was the Lord High Commissioner. The letter of the Queen to the English Prelates was not a begging application, but an order from the head of the Church to the dignitaries of that establishment.
§ Motion withdrawn.
§ Their Lordships adjourned.