HL Deb 09 February 1843 vol 66 cc261-305
Earl Stanhope

said, he was aware that a humble individual like himself, who was entirely unconnected with any political party, could entertain little expectation of support, and no chance of success in any proposition which was founded upon views different from those that were generally entertained on both sides of the House; but he was not deterred by such considerations, or by the discouragements which he might encounter from endeavouring to discharge his duty according to the dictates of his conscience. On that, as on former occasions, he might vote in a small minority, but he was not accustomed to consider the result of a Parliamentary division as the criterion of truth, or even as a just indication of public opinion. It had been said by Mr. Fox, that on many questions the minority of the House of Commons spoke the sentiments of the majority of the people of England. That proposition had been exemplified on many occasions, and at present with reference to free-trade which was viewed with detestation by those classes of the community who were at once the most numerous and the most important, and were alone qualified to form an unprejudiced and impartial opinion upon the subject—he meant the productive classes. The doctrines of free-trade, might be acceptable to persons having fixed incomes, and to the whole tribe of idle consumers. They might be acceptable even to some of the productive classes, provided only they did not affect that particular branch of trade in which they were themselves engaged. But apply those doctrines generally (and there could be no semblance of justice in them if they were to be confined only to some classes), and they would be found universally odious and injurious to all the productive classes, for none of them would wish to compete in the home market with foreigners, who paid less taxes, and consequently could provide articles at a much lower rate. Nor would the productive classes tolerate the system of trade now carried on, in which the advantage was all on one side, without any appearance of reciprocity, though that was allowed by Mr. Huskisson to be the object which he had in view. All the anticipations which that gentleman had formed seventeen or eighteen years ago had been falsified by the event, and in proportion as we lowered our scale of duties, foreign nations had very wisely and properly increased their own. But if he wanted evidence that these free-trade doctrines were odious to the people at large he might point to the late general election, where a triumphant majority was returned in support of protection to native industry, and not merely in agricultural districts, or with reference to Corn-laws, for the same spirit prevailed in towns and boroughs which had no direct interest in land. He had rejoiced in that result, because he did not apprehend that all the fair promise and solemn pledges made in the summer of 1841 would be so utterly disregarded in the ensuing winter, that so many of those who had crept into Parliament under false pretences, could in so short a time exhibit such base servility as never would be, and never ought to be forgotten or forgiven. The views of the present Ministers he considered as erroneous as those of their predecessors, and their measures as mischievous, but there was this difference between them which was not to the advantage of the country—that the present Ministers had the power which their predecessors wanted, of carrying their policy into effect. It was well known to their Lordships that he was strongly opposed to the policy of the last Ministry, but he must say, the country would have been in much less danger if they had continued in office, checked by an overwhelming majority in that House and almost a majority in the other. The late Ministry were in that position that they found it necessary to be cautious of proposing measures which they were certain they would be unable to carry. Under these circumstances, the change of Ministry was an event most deeply to be deplored, for by the conduct which the present Administration had pursued, confidence was entirely and for ever destroyed, the last ray of hope had disappeared, that a change of Ministers would be attended by a change of measures, and now they had the strange and lamentable spectacle of the vessel of the State navigated by Conservatives and bearing the Conservative flag, steered in a Whig course. He did not assert that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Ministry had acted through awe and intimidation of the clamour and menaces of the Anti-Corn-law League. He assumed that his conduct was founded upon conscientious conviction, but dates were sometimes of very great importance, and he wished to know at what period he had arrived at that conscientious conviction, that the protection hitherto extended to agriculture was excessive, and that it was requisite or expedient to propose a measure which, he himself allowed, would effect a considerable diminution of that protection. He wished to know whether it were before or after the last election? If it took place after the general election, then it appeared that a person who had for many years been the leader of a powerful party, who had been Prime Minister, and again aspired to that situation, had not till that late period formed any decisive opinion as to the amount of protection necessary for the prosperity of agriculture. In that case what were they to think of him as a statesman? If it was before the last general election, it would have been candid in him to have stated it in his place in Parliament prior to that election taking place; and it was incumbent on him to have done so, when he found that in many cases the representatives were chosen under the influence of a gross delusion. This was not a novel case, for there was one very analogous in 1828, when it would be recollected, he paraded the country, and was everywhere received with compliments and congratulations as the champion of the Protestant faith. Yet in the following year the same individual came forward as the advocate of Catholic concessions. Let him suppose a case:—Let him suppose that in the interval George 4th had died, instead of living, as he did two years longer, and that a general election had taken place? what would have been the result? The Protestants would have made great efforts to return a majority in favour of their views, and would have had the sorrow and surprize of finding in the next Session all their efforts were frustrated by the very man who had been their champion. ["Hear, hear."] He was aware that their Lordships might consider these observations irrelevant; but it was necessary for him to mention them, in order to show them the position in which they were placed, and that if they sought for that redress which was now imperiously demanded at their hands, and urgently required for the safety of the country, they could not expect it from the Members either of the late, or of the present Administration, but must obtain it by their own independant and patriotic exertions Let them seriously consider the melancholy circumstances under which they were assembled. Let them seriously reflect on the present condition of the country—a condition which was daily becoming more awful and alarming—a condition, the consequences of which must be fearful in their nature, and might, be fatal in their effect or results. Some indication of that condition was given by the disturbances of last autumn, disturbances which had not, except in North Staffordshire, the character of an outbreak, but were merely a strike for wages, accompanied of course by some acts of violence. But he still entertained as full a conviction as ever that the present system, if allowed to continue, would end, as he had some time ago predicted in that House, in a general revolution—not such as that which was styled by common consent the glorious revolution of 1688, but in a social revolution, accompanied by the total subversion of our established institutions. The late disturbances would have been very different in their nature, in their character, and in their ultimate results. If the new Corn-law and tariff had been longer in operation, if the distress of the manufacturers had extended, as is now the case, to other classes, if the movement had been general—if the outbreak had been simultaneous—and if measures, to which he would not further advert, had been adopted—it was his firm belief that in that case no civil or military force could have prevented anarchy throughout the land. From these disturbances, a very important lesson might be learned, that no country can be safe unless labour is protected. This principle, which they ought always to bear in mind, was distinctly recognised in the report on the handloom weavers in 1835. No measure had been adopted for their relief, and what was their condition when as contrasted with what it was at the earlier part of the present century? It appeared that at the beginning of the century the handloom weavers could each earn 26s. 8d. a-week in 1833 they could earn no more than 5s. 6d. a week. In the first period the weaver could purchase 28llb. of food with his wages; in 1833 he could only purchase 83lb. In the first period he could pay his rent by weaving 6 pieces; in 1833 he could only pay it by weaving 25 pieces, and whilst he found the necessaries of life reduced 30 per cent, he found his wages reduced no less than 60 per cent. This was an instance of the evil resulting from not giving labour its due protection. In better times, the existence of such a 6ystem would not have been tolerated either by Parliament, or by the people. But it was not only the state of the hand-loom weavers that exemplified the evil; the state of the silk weavers afforded a decisive proof that under a system of free-trade there could be no protection to industry. He recollected that in the very first year after the former protection was withdrawn from the silk weavers, their wages declined 50 per cent., and they had never yet recovered. It was said, that high protective duties tended to produce smuggling. He granted that this was the case to a certain extent, but he wished that the noble President of the Board of Trade would explain how that principle could apply to the former position of the silk weavers, when there was an actual prohibition of the import of the articles which they manufactured; and when in consequence it was unsafe to deal in the article, to offer it for sale, or even to exhibit it publicly. They gave to the silk-weaver a nominal protection of the per cent, but it was in fact only 10 per cent, for on paying that amount abroad, silk goods could be smuggled into this country, the importer taking upon himself the expenses of the transit for the risk of seizure. But whatever differences of opinion might exist between him and other noble Lords, on either side of the House, as to the causes of the present distress, there could be no difference between them as to the extent and intensity of that distress. No tongue could depict the extent of suffering at present endured, and the consequences which might follow that state of suffering had not, in his opinion, been fully appreciated. It seemed to be represented in the speech delivered from the Throne, that the distress was confined to the manufacturing districts; but he should be glad to know what class there was in the community which was not, at that moment, suffering grievous, nay ruinous distress. With respect to the state of the master manufacturers, their condition was the natural result of their having increased during four years their productive power to the extent of more than 50 per cent., thereby creating a glut in the markets formerly open to them. Such a state of things was the consequence of over-production; and shows they had accumulated vast wealth under that system which they were now so anxious to destroy; but in looking at the state of the unfortunate operatives, he could not behold without the deepest sorrow their destitute condition. That state of things which now unhappily existed among our operatives had long ago been foreseen and foretold by a person for whose opinion he entertained high respect—he meant the late, not the present—Sir Robert Peel. He said, when speaking of their employment— Thus the great efforts of British ingenuity) whereby our machinery has been brought to such perfection, instead of proving the greatest blessing to the nation, would prove its bitterest curse. He entirely concurred in that opinion and it was with great satisfaction that he had listened to the sentiments which had fallen from the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Wellington) in a debate upon the Corn-laws. He certainly concurred with that noble Duke in the opinions he then urged with respect to the effects of machinery—in diminishing the employment and reducing the wages of the labourer. He concurred with the noble Duke when he asserted that we already possessed too many of what he termed "inanimate labourers"—labourers which consumed no articles of produce or of manufactures, and which did not contribute to the public revenue. The master manufacturers, he would contend, contributed a miserable pittance to the support of their labourers, and should have been assessed for their support in proportion to the extent by which human labour had been superseded by their machinery. There was one class whose interest he could not overlook while upon this subject, he alluded to those employed in factories, to whom full protection should be afforded. The labour of children even by a ten hours bill should not be permitted, for it could not be exerted for that time without serious detriment to the health of the children employed. In those factories, where, as he was credibly informed, children, were doomed to worse than Egyptian bondage—to slavery more horrible and revolting than any ever practised in the West Indies,—20,000 were annually disabled, and rendered unfit, not only for the enjoyments, but for the duties of life, and left to become burdens to themselves and their friends. In Spain, a despotic country, an edict was passed in the year 1786, forbidding the employment of Negro slaves under the age of seventeen years; and was Spain to be more humane than this country? Never was trade in such a lamentable state of depression as at present. Money was plentiful because there was no opportunity—indeed he might say no expectation—of employing it with advantage in any branch of productive industry; indeed, it yielded now only 2 per cent, instead of 6 per cent, which was the rate of interest at this time last year. The shipping interest, too, which had been considered by their ancestors as of vital importance to their maritime power, and therefore to their insular defence, had been diminishing and dwindling away ever since the abrogation of the navigation laws. In every portion of the country, and in the colonies, the value of property had been depreciated. In the West Indies two estates which formerly yielded 10,000l. per annum each, were now allowed to go out of cultivation, in consequence of the infatuated system that had been pursued. This was an instance which came within his own notice; and that confiscation of property which was there consummated was fast proceeding in this country. The new tariff had been adopted with extreme rashness, and with a reckless disregard to consequences, and no opportunity had been given to those whose interests would be injured by it, of being heard in their own defence. These measures had been of a most revolutionary nature—revolutionary, as tending to produce changes in the social arrangements of the country. Almost every interest had been affected by them. A handicraft workman had declared that he had been obliged to discharge his journeymen, but he knew not what was become of them, that he deeply regretted the circumstance, but that he could not compete with foreigners. Although there was extreme depression in the iron trade, and that articles which a few years ago cost 17l. could now be purchased for 5l., the protecting duties on iron had been reduced. Although a very great reduction had taken place in the prices of corn and cattle, yet no return of manufacturing prosperity had taken place, and there had been no alleviation of the former distress. Although corn had been imported in great quantities, and would not have been imported under the former Corn-law, which were not required for the wants of the country, no corresponding increase had taken place in the export of manufactured goods; and this was a practical refutation of the doctrines of free-trade. Noble Lords opposite had expressed their displeasure on finding that the alteration in the Corn-law did not occasion an immediate reduction in the price of corn; but was it not the very object of a Corn-law properly to regulate its importation, to exclude it when there was no need of it, and to admit it as necessity demanded? Their Lordships might, if they so pleased, pass legislative measures which would have the effect of annihilating their own rents. He did not question their right to do so, but he did question their right to adopt similar measures with respect to the interests of those who had no seats in that House; and he did maintain also that they had no right to pass measures injuriously affecting the rights and interests of the labouring classes, who were not represented in Parliament. At present, the agricultural labourers, as Well as the manufacturing operatives, were suffering from want of employment, and in those Cases where they were employed, their wages had been considerably reduced, even when they received only a scanty pittance of 9s. per week. He would lay before the House one instance of agricultural distress, of which he had been personally a witness. He had attended a vestry meeting in January last year, in the parish next to that in which he resided, held for the purpose of considering the condition of the labouring classes. At that time, there were eight or nine men in the parish out of employment, and the farmers present at once agreed to supply them with work. He had attended another vestry meeting in November in the same parish, and then it appeared that there were forty-four labourers out of work, and the farmers, upon being appealed to in their behalf, said, "We have plenty of work for them, but we cannot employ them, as we cannot pay them." They learned from a noble Earl, connected with the northern part of the kingdom, that in Scotland one-third of the landed property had been scattered to the winds. By that declaration, he meant that, the value of property had been depreciated by one-third. They had seen, too, great landed proprietors in Ireland making abatements from their rents of 20 per cent, in one case, and 25 per cent, in another, and under these circumstances, could they expect that Ireland would remain tranquil? He thought, that those who in that country clamoured for a repeal of the union, would, if they had any feelings of gratitude, send an address of thanks to the First Lord of the Treasury; for he had done more for their cause than had been effected even by the exertions of the great agitator himself. But they were told, that the depression in agricultural produce had been the effect, of a groundless panic; he denied that such was the case, but assuming it to be so, he would ask, how and by whom had that panic been occasioned? Would that panic have occurred, if the former Corn-law had been left unaltered, and if the tariff had not been enacted? If the depression had arisen from a panic, those who had occasioned that panic were responsible for its consequences, and for the enormous losses which had been sustained by the cultivators of the soil. If there was a panic, it arose in part from the want of any explicit declaration in regard to the future intentions of the Government, but their expressed sentiments showed them to be in favour of a still further advance in the course they had lately been pursuing. What was the declaration of the Prime Minister? That he entirely approved of the doctrines of free-trade. What was the declaration of his Home Secretary? He stated that the existing Corn-law was not to be considered a final measure. What had been said by the President of the Board of Control? That protection was to be taken away at once, objecting, therefore, as it would appear, not to the removal of protection, but to the period at which that course should betaken. Since Parliament had met, another declaration had, indeed, been made, but one very unlikely to afford satisfaction or encouragement, for it amounted to no more than this—that it was not intended at present to alter the new Corn-law; but no definite pledge was given to the country upon the subject, and, that if any measure should be brought forward next Session, it would be in the same spirit. He knew, that by an immediate adoption of free-trade principles in all their branches, the downfall of this country would be more rapid, but not less certain, than under the gradual advance of the system lately followed. But an immediate adoption of these principles would be at the peril of those who proposed it, for to say nothing of the patriotism of the country in opposition to such a proposition, a sudden and violent resistance would be excited amongst the productive classes for their own defence, and Ministers would be compelled to retrace their steps. He did not wish to enter upon financial questions, but he could not help cursorily alluding to the present state of the revenue. Their Lordships were all aware that the revenue derived from the excise had always, and with truth, been reckoned a good criterion of the condition of the people, and they also knew that the revenue from that source had declined during the last quarter to the extent of 700,000l. compared with the corresponding quarter of 1841, and there had been also the same decrease compared with the immediately preceding quarter. It would be said that this was one of the consequences of manufacturing distress, but there was no greater depression of manufacturing industry in the last than in the immediately preceding quarter, and their Lordships would remem- ber also, that the strike had taken place in the third, not the fourth quarter of the year. The increased deficiency, then, indicated an increased want of power of consumption among the labouring classes of the community. It could not be the result of the temperance movement; he was himself engaged in that cause, and he knew that the deficiency was not the result of temperate habits—not the result of choice, but the consequence of dire necessity. But he would maintain that, under existing circumstances, it was the duty of true patriots to discourage and discontinue the consumption of exciseable articles; and for this reason, that he had no hope or expectation whatever that the present administration, or any other formed from the members of the late Admininistration, would retrace the steps they had taken in the direction of free-trade, until they found by experience the injurious effects of such a course of policy upon the revenue. And here he might remark upon the lament able contrast which, in respect to the state of the revenue, this country presented to France. In that kingdom the revenue was increasing. The Government had been warned by the example of this country, and had wisely followed an opposite course of commercial policy from that which we had adopted, and had shown that it possessed sufficient patriotism to protect the interests of its own people. Of all the various questions which had ever come under the notice of Parliament, there could be found none so interesting, so important, as the means of providing profitable employment for the labouring classes, and securing to them a due remuneration for their industry. This protection, too, the productive classes had an undoubted right to demand, and unless it was fully and efficiently secured to them, no country could be either prosperous or safe. It could not be prosperous, if those who, from their immense numbers, should be the principal consumers of all articles, except those of luxury, were, from poverty, unable to purchase them; and it could not be secure, if those who were reduced to destitution became desperate and disaffected, and, as was the case at present, the ready tools of political demagogues. Unless they gave protection to the labouring classes, they could not expect their allegiance; and if they could not depend on their attachment, they would have reason to fear the disorganization of the whole fabric of society. He would quote the words upon this subject, of one who was a real patriot, a Tory of the true and genuine stamp and character, not one of those who called themselves merely Conservatives—a name, by the way, utterly devoid of meaning, he meant Sir John Becket. [The noble Earl read an extract from a speech made by Sir John Becket at Leeds, in which he stated that all considerations were inferior to the consideration of means of providing employment for the people—that peace at home meant contentment at home—and unless fair remuneration could be given for labour, there could be no peace at home—there never would be peace at home, and there never should be peace at home.] If any one should say that he too lightly assumed the practicability that Parliament would grant to the labouring classes a redress of their grievances, he would reply, in the words of an illustrious and immortal statesman, whose memory he revered, whose example ought to be emulated by all succeeding Ministers—he meant Mr. Pitt, who, speaking of a great reduction of wages which had taken place said, that— Parliament, if not then sitting, should be called together, and if it cannot redress these grievances its power is at an end. Tell me not that Parliament cannot—it is omnipotent to protect. [The Earl of Radnor: When was that stated?] It was stated with reference to a general reduction of wages. As the distress which now existed was occasioned altogether by legislative measures, some redress could not be refused without the most flagrant injustice; and such was now the situation of the country, that it could not even be delayed without exposing to danger all classes of the community. If it should he denied, or if it should be too long delayed, there would then be afforded a practical argument, which might be unanswerable, and which, he believed, would prove to be irresistible, in favour of organic changes in the constitution—changes of which he did not undervalue the danger, but which, in those days, and under such circumstances, and, upon the principle of the salus populi being the suprema lex, might, with all thesed angers, be considered necessary to the salvation of the country. Unless the rights of the labouring classes are held sacred, no other rights would be respected, and no property would be secure. The property of the poor man was his labour, and to that he was as much and as justly entitled as any of their Lordships to the possession of their estates. If a confiscation of property did take place, it could afford but little comfort and consolation to those who suffered, to learn that it was effected under the ordinary forms of the constitution, and by what was called an act of Parliament, emanating from an assembly in which the labouring classes had no voice and no representatives, and where their sentiments were not expressed. He had now stated to their Lordships, as clearly and concisely as he could, the general reasons that induced him to call upon their Lordships to take into their immediate and serious consideration those means of relief and redress which the country required—the profitable employment of the productive classes—the due remuneration of industry. He had never been influenced by factious motives, and in taking the part that he now did, he could assure their Lordships he was only influenced by the ardent desire that they might avert, whilst it was still possible, and even at that, the twelfth hour, the revolution which was rapidly approaching on this unhappy and ill-governed country. If he had only been desirous of collecting their votes, and of swelling his majority by a few stray supporters, he was quite aware that the course for him to pursue would have been to move for a committee on the state of the nation. Such a mode of inquiry must have embraced a great variety of topics, foreign as well as domestic, financial as well as commercial, and must, therefore, in itself have been unsatisfactory. Nor should he have thought it expedient to move for the appointment of a Select Committee. He thought that such a mode of proceeding would have led to great inconvenience, and occasioned a very dangerous delay. He must say, that he did not think that their Select Committees were conducted in a satisfactory manner. For there was a greater disposition to confute and confuse witnesses, instead of endeavouring to learn facts from them, and the arguments which they founded upon them; and thus it happened with respect to their committees, that the ancient fable was reversed; for formerly the mountain, it was said, was delivered of a mouse, while now-a-days, the mouse was delivered of a mountain. After months of gestation—after hour had been passed after hour in minute inquiries, there was always seen to come forth an immense mountain, consisting almost entirely of chaff. Few would venture to touch it—none would undertake to separate the few grains to be found concealed under the huge mountain. The course, then, that he humbly recommended to the House was to resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, for the purpose of discussing, with greater advantage and convenience than any other form of the House would allow, a subject of such importance. There would be an advantage in this sort of proceeding, as it would not be so easy to evade arguments, or inquiries, The remedy which he would suggest would be a restoration to that system under which this country had flourished, and by a departure from which it was now falling into decay, and would speedily be dissolved. That which he would propose as indispensable—as the necessary precursors of all others—was, the repeal of the new tariff, and the repeal of the new Corn-law. He was aware that measures for those purposes could not originate with that House; but, then, there could be no objection to their Lordships passing a resolution as to the propriety of such measures being adopted, and communicating such resolution in an humble address to the Crown. Or noble Lords opposite might, if they pleased, propose other measures more adapted to their views. But their Lordships ought not to be deterred by any preconceived opinions of their own—by obstinacy and false pride from doing that which their duty demanded, and the interest, welfare, and safety of their country required. He had done his duty—perhaps, weakly and ineffectively, but still sincerely and conscientiously—in bringing this subject under the notice of their Lordships. They might, if they thought proper, and without regard to his opinions, persevere in a course which, he could not but feel, was tending to ruin and revolutionize this country. If they continued in that course they would have to thank themselves for all the consequences that might ensue, whatever those consequences might be and the day was, probably, not far distant when they might find themselves involved in anarchy and confusion. Their Lordships could take their own course, but they would be answerable for the consequences to God and to their country. The noble Lord concluded by moving ing that,— This House do resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, for the purpose of taking into its most serious consideration the present condition of the productive classes in the United Kingdom, with the view of providing for their profitable employment and for the due remuneration of their industry.

The Earl of Ripon

observed that there could be no doubt as to the motives which had induced the noble Earl to bring this subject before the House. Upon many former occasions the noble Earl had manifested the same feelings in the same manner; and, in the course of the Speech that he had now addressed to their Lordships, he had given expression to generous sentiments, in which all were disposed to agree—to some political truisms which no one was disposed to controvert, but at the same time the noble Earl had also given utterance to many erroneous doctrines. But there was one merit which his noble Friend appeared to claim, and which he could not permit his noble Friend to claim exclusively, in his Zeal for monopoly, and that was the proper feeling by which the Legislature ought to be influenced. His noble Friend seemed to him to impute to them, not only gross ignorance of the interests of the country, but also a culpable indifference to that painful state of distress which every one must acknowledge, and that it would be almost an insult to deny. But, then, he could not admit that the Government of which he formed a part, nor would he admit with regard to the two Houses of Parliament, that his noble Friend was entitled to claim for himself a monopoly of feeling for the poor, or that Ministers and Parliament were to be held up to the people of this country as if they were indifferent to the situation of the empire, or to the difficulties that might afflict it. He begged to protest against that doctrine; and if he objected to the motion of his noble Friend, he said that for so doing it would not be right to impute to that course all that anarchy, and that tremendous revolution, with the approach of which they were threatened, and of the arrival of which his noble Friend felt so sure. He confessed that it appeared to him that his noble Friend took a most injudicious course in the mode which he recommended them to adopt. His noble Friend said that he would not recommend the appointment of a committee of the whole House to consider the state of the nation, because that would lead them into an inquiry that must be too extensive, and as involving all sorts of questions, foreign and domestic, financial and commercial, and therefore it would be impossible that such an inquiry could he attended with advantages. And then his noble Friend said he would not call for the appointment of a select committee, because these select committees conducted their inquiries in such a manner, that it was utterly impossible that the result should be satisfactory. He said that they examined witnesses for the purpose of confuting and confounding them, and that they produced a collection of reports that nobody read; and then his noble Friend gave as a singular illustration of the effects of their labours, that the mouse produced a mountain. But then, if they had a committee of the whole House, as it was suggested by his noble Friend, and if that committee were to examine into multifarious matters, such as had been suggested, what security could his noble Friend give to that House that his committee would not also be a mouse, and that a report of the examinations which came from them would not form such a mountain of chaff, as that which the noble Earl said would proceed from their select committee. There would be no advantage in the mode proposed by his noble Friend; but there would be disadvantages without end if they entered upon such an inquiry, and carried it on by such a mode of proceeding as would, in his opinion, be most unsuited to the end sought to be accomplished. His noble Friend, indeed, might come down there day after day, week after week, month after month—he might commence sitting at an early hour in the morning, and go on until a late hour every evening with the inquiry, but how that could end in the adoption of all the doctrines, and the sanction of all the wrong principles avowed by his noble Friend, he could not divine. How was his noble Friend to bring forth all those results from the examination of the witnesses?—for though his noble Friend might preside at the inquiry, he could not prevent other Lords from going into the advocacy of their opinions, and seeking to establish them by the examination of the witnesses, and thus they would only have an inquiry without end, without meaning, and without an object—a mere mockery and delusion upon the public—an inquiry that could attain no desirable result, and lead to no practical point whatsoever. The mere statement of such a mode of proceeding was, he thought, sufficient to induce their Lordships not to concur in this motion. But, there had been some points in the speech of his noble Friend to which it was necessary for him to refer. His noble Friend had indulged in language that was severe with respect to the conduct of her Majesty's Government, and of his right hon. Friend the head of that Government. This was not the first time in which the noble Earl had charged his right hon. Friend with a supposed duplicity, and with holding out false pretences and false colours, for the purpose of inducing the people to send to Parliament a body of gentlemen differing in principle from the Government that had recently existed. He did not mean to say that the noble Earl attributed to his right hon. Friend a deliberate and base design to deceive. No, his noble Friend did not say that precisely; but then there was something very like that in his insinuation. [Earl Stanhope: No.] Then he did not understand what his noble Friend meant. He could not for the life of him understand how his noble Friend could throw out the statement he had done, and yet not mean to convey that deception, and wilful deception, had been practised upon the country. As to his right hon. Friend, he said of him, as a Friend and a Colleague, and it was no mere compliment to his right hon. Friend, while he protested against the injustice, and against the injurious attack made on him, it was no compliment to say of his right hon. Friend that he was an honest man, for no man who was not honest was fit to be a Minister of this country. He protested against the monstrous charge made against his right hon. Friend; and, on the part of his hon. Friend and Colleague, he said that never was there an imputation more unjust and more unfounded than that which had been levelled by the noble Earl against his right hon. Friend. As a man, and a Colleague, he said of his right hon. Friend this, that there never had been one expression, one sentiment uttered by him, where the place or the necessity called for it, within the last year and a half, differing from opinions before maintained by him. He maintained this, too, for himself. The arguments he now used, and the principles he now acted upon, he had before now employed and advocated. He had always maintained that the restrictive principles which prevailed in this country had produced the greatest possible evils, and that it would be for the interest of the country to modify them. That he had always maintained, and in any question that had been brought forward within the last year, he defied his noble Friend to lay his finger upon any one sentiment uttered by him, in that time, that was in opposition to, or that was not conformable to principles which he had laid down before. He knew that his principles did not go the length of many other of their Lordships; but what he now stated, he stated with regard to his own principles, and by those principles he was prepared to abide. But then his noble Friend had illustrated his own principles by one or two points. The first point then taken by his noble Friend in illustration of his opinions was the question of the silk trade, and that trade the noble Earl said had been entirely ruined by the system of free trade. Was it true that the system of free trade, as regarded the silk trade, was hostile to the interests and progress of that trade? The duty that had formerly been imposed upon that article was extremely high. It was said, at the time of taking off the prohibition, that it would reduce the silk manufacturers to the greatest possible distress. Now, he wished to know from his noble Friend whether or not he had ever heard of distress in Spitalfields before the alteration of the duties? Did he never hear of distress when the silk manufacturer had that which his noble Friend considered the benefit of absolute prohibition. And, then, his noble Friend talked of their "rude bold ancestors," who would never have consented to free trade—who would not be content with aught less than full protection at the least, if not absolute prohibition. Why, if his noble Friend would go back to the days of Queen Elizabeth, he would not find prohibition, but a very large consumption of foreign silk in this country. He spoke not with certainty, but off-hand, when he said that the first time they heard of prohibition was in the middle of the last century. The policy which his noble Friend advocated was not one from which he could derive much support in "the wisdom of their ancestors." But then he asked, was it true that the silk trade had suffered so much, as his noble Friend affirmed? Where, he asked, was the proof of the impolicy of lowering the duties? Could it be shown in the contraction of the trade in a single locality, where it used to exist? On the contrary, had it not extended from London to a great variety of places where it had not been before—for instance, to Macclesfield, and Manchester, and Coventry? This he could show by papers, which he would shortly lay on their Lordships' table. They would prove that, in a series of years, he did not say in one year, the quantity of silk manufactured in this country had greatly increased. And since the alteration in the law, he could show that there had been an infinitely greater increase than before. What he wanted to prove was the extension of the trade. He did not mean to say that every manufacturer was in the same state of prosperity, or that the weavers were all well employed; but they must deal in generals, and not reason upon single instances. That increase in the trade was the consequence of the alteration in 1825. which his noble Friend so much decried. But then his noble Friend declared that they were going to destroy the profits of the iron trade. His noble Friend supposed that there would be no more iron, because in the course of the last Session, and in the new tariff, there was a reduction in the duty upon raw iron. Now he must say to his noble Friend that he wondered, where he got his information as to how the state of the iron trade was affected. His noble Friend knew the value of the argument, post hoc, propter hoc, and he was sure his noble Friend knew now to apply it in this case. There might be a depression in the iron trade, but it was not owing to the lowering of the duty. The duty had been reduced, but then no more iron had come in under that reduced duty than had come in during the previous year under the higher duty. How, then, did this fact correspond with the assertion of his noble Friend as to thousands of additional tons being imported, and then applying to his assertions those doctrines which he had alluded to before? It was but mere fancy. They then came to the tariff, and they had heard much on this subject as to the fall in the price of cattle. By law, the importation of them had now been allowed for six or seven months. How many were during that time imported? Of oxen about 3,126. That was the number of cattle, against the importation of which it was said that they ought to be protected. But then, how did this speculation answer with the importers? He did not know any one who bought the animals; he believed they had been sold, and he presumed that some of them had been eaten. He did not know the sums that might have been given for them. Some of them came from Spain; some were animals fifteen years old; some, the greater part of their term had been used at the plough, and were very unfit for these markets, and when they came here, he believed they were sold for little or nothing. But then, would anyone say that the present diminution in the price of meat was to be attributed to the importation of three thousand head of cattle? Was it to be said this could effect even the markets of Smith-field alone, where there was sold from 170,000 to 180,000 head of cattle every year? Were they to ascribe vast consequences to such a trifling cause? It was quite true in history that from trifling causes they might trace great effects; but he believed it was not so in political economy. But then a complaint was made, not only as to the importation of oxen, but of other animals. His noble Friend was in a perfect agony upon the importation of pigs. And his noble Friend and others even calculated how many quarters of barley were freely imported in the shape of pigs. He thought his noble Friend carried this argument to a great extent, when there had been an importation of only 415 pigs. He did not know how many quarters of barley were used to fatten those pigs; or whether or not they were at all fat. But then his noble Friend might tell them of what might be the dire consequences of such things should they happen hereafter. At all events, his noble Friend would call upon their Lordships to undertake an inquiry for the purpose of putting an end to a law which, if they were to judge by their own experience, did not realise his apprehensions. Then, his noble Friend had alluded to gloves, and he affirmed he took it for granted that what they had done must lead to the unavoidable ruin of that particular branch of manufacture. He had himself been in a very grave manner told, by those interested in this manufacture, that the reduction of the duty would be the ruin of the glove-trade in Worcester; that they would be inundated by French gloves; that the importation of them would be enormous. He had then said that he did not believe that the consequences would be so fatal—and he pointed out the additional quantity which hitherto had been imported, that it must go on, and that there never would be an end to the smuggling in that article. He was told that it was quite impossible this could be the case. His answer was that he knew that it was carried on to a very great extent. One of the parties who had strongly urged his views, in opposition to those entertained by himself, called on him a few weeks afterwards, and said that he had made inquiries on the Continent, particularly in France, and was, in consequence, convinced that his (the Earl of Ripon's) views were right, and that he thought it due to himself, as an honest man, to call upon him to say, that from the inquiries he had made amongst the foreign manufacturers, he was right, and that the only chance of preventing smuggling was by lowering the duties. [Earl Stanhope: Or prohibition.] Prohibition was the panacea of his noble Friend for everything. If they put on a high duty they could not prevent smuggling; and if they had prohibition they could not prevent it. Before the law allowed the importation of silk—when no duty whatever was received—there had been smuggling of French silks, notwithstanding the prohibition to import it. The smuggling had been more actively carried on then than it had ever been since, and there was, besides, the mischief that no revenue was received upon the silk imported. His noble Friend seemed to fancy that because a thing was prohibited by law it could be kept out in fact. His noble Friend had the same views as to other articles of manufacture. At this very moment he could show his noble Friend a letter, for he would like him to be convinced: he should feel more than ordinary pleasure in being able to convince his noble Friend, because he knew that that was the most difficult thing in the world. Now, he could shew his noble Friend a letter, in which a party undertook at this moment to import any quantity of silk at 12½ per cent., when the duty was 30 per cent. Did not that prove that the facility for smuggling was very great? His noble Friend might rest assured that smuggling was by no means a matter of light consequence. Smuggling was the root of all sorts of crimes, and could not be carried on without leading to the most dreadful consequences. Conflicts took place between parties—blood was shed—life was lost. It was pregnant with many evils; and if once the people got into the habit of violating the law—when that once became the prevailing feeling with the population—then he would venture to say that there would no longer be security for life or property. In his opinion, smuggling was one of the greatest evils by which a country could be afflicted. His noble Friend also called upon them to repeal the Tariff and the Corn-law, from which he did not seem to anticipate any great advantage. [Earl Stanhope: To repeal the last Corn-law.] If, then, his noble Friend induced their Lordships to repeal the last Corn-law if he could persuade their Lordships to get rid of that law, which he was prepared to show had worked well, (he might be wrong in that opinion; but he was prepared to show that he had good grounds for the assertion he made)—but then, if his noble Friend could induce them to repeal the last Corn-law, were they to go back to that which was avowed to be worse? Would he prefer that to the last Corn-law? [Earl Stanhope: He did; he would have the one before that.] Were they, then, not only to repeal the existing Corn-law, and the Corn-law of 1828, but go to the Corn-law of 1815. [Earl Stanhope: To that of 1822.] It was much the same thing. The inquiry proposed by the noble Lord was to prepare them for a retrograde step. In fact, there was no limit to the retrogradation of his noble Friend in legislation. But, then, there was also the currency. Then it was proposed to their Lordships to have a committee of the whole House for the examination of gentlemen entertaining speculative opinions on the currency. No Session could ever end when this was begun; and yet it was an immediate remedy that his noble Friend wanted, and he tried to persuade their Lordships that inquiry and relief could both be instantly applied. There was one other point on which his noble Friend had dwelt—it was the subject of machinery; and his noble Friend has descanted on all the evils of machinery. He did think, that there were evils in it. There was no one good in this life that had not with it some concomitant evil. Whether it arose from men's passions, or was to be attributed to the inherent weakness of nations, there was no one good that was not accompanied by some evil. Thus, it might be shown, that, in the unlimited use of machinery, evils had taken place; but then, to put a tax upon machinery under the idea that it would be the means of giving the operative a due reward for his labour, was a most fallacious notion. His noble Friend, he thought, had not proved his case with respect to one trade. He believed, that the progress of machinery had been, in that respect, greatly to supersede manual labour. It was so, not only in this country, but in France, in Belgium—and it had, to a great degree, begun with the German League. But then it did not follow, that the remedy was a prohibition upon machinery. His noble Friend referred to the evidence taken before the hand-loom weavers* commission, and very interesting it was. But all that those commissioners ventured to say was, that it might be possible to suggest one or two palliatives. They described the wretched condition of the hand-loom weavers as arising from various causes—chiefly from machinery superseding hand work; but they described that condition as hopeless, except where peculiar circumstances allowed a temporary alleviation. He was afraid it was so. He thought they could not hold out to those unfortunate men any prospect that legislation of any kind could ensure them a regular demand for their labour. Yet they were a class, whose conduct under privation for a series of years, entitled them to the pity, the respect, and the admiration of the country; and his noble Friend must feel that there was no man in that House, no gentleman in Eng land, whose heart would not bleed at the consideration of the distress of these people; the more so, because of the conclusion that no legislative remedy could be applied to their unfortunate condition. The noble Earl concluded with entreating their Lord ships not to go into the useless committee which was proposed, and which could end only in disappointment—disappointment being at a time of public distress the greatest possible aggravation of the evil to be remedied.

Lord Beaumont

said, he intended to vote for the committee proposed by the noble Earl, but did not wish their Lord ships' by that vote to imply his complete concurrence in the opinions professed by his noble Friend, nor his full participation in the policy of the measures he had recommended. He knew it was difficult to retrace steps so recently taken, however rash and uncalled-for those steps might have been, nor did he think quite fair that Government should be called on in one Session of Parliament to rescind the measures they had deliberately proposed in the immediately preceding one; but he nevertheless felt grateful to the noble Earl for bringing forward this measure, as it would be the means of wringing a pledge from Ministers as to their future policy, and it would afford them an opportunity of stating to the House and the public, what were their intentions with regard to the great question of Free-trade, which now occupied men's minds. He would moreover add, that it was the bounden duty of Government to avail itself of the opportunity thus afforded to speak distinctly on the subject, in order that the uncertainty and anxiety still felt in the country might cease, and no further doubt be entertained as to the opinions and intentions of Ministers; for he (Lord Beaumont) felt convinced that one, and the chief cause of the continued panic in the agricultural districts, and of the general discontent consequent on that panic, was the want of positive knowledge on the part of farmers, and of positive declarations on the part of Government as to the future prospects of the one, and the future measures of the other. He knew that prior to the meeting of Parliament, it was generally said when the subject of the distress was discussed at county meetings, at market-crosses, in corn-exchanges, and elsewhere, that the depression in trade would cease, and the distress pass away when Parliament met, because then the people would know what the intentions of the Government were, and could arrange their affairs and make their calculations accordingly. It was therefore, with a degree of disappointment which he must now express, and which he would have expressed earlier if he had had an opportunity, that he observed on the first day of the Session, a total omission, both in her Majesty's Speech, and in the Address in answer to that speech of the great and all important measure which at present agitated the country, and although there had since been something like a pledge given by a minister of the Crown in another place, yet if the rumour which had reached him, it was guarded by provisoes and exceptions, importing that although it might not be the intention of the Government to make any immediate alteration in their recently adopted plans and scales, it was still their intention to leave the question open, and would feel themselves at liberty to revise their own measures whenever the time should arrive that the present law stood in danger from the power and pressure of opinion against it out of doors. The House had a right to ask if the country was entitled to expect a more explicit answer, and distinct pledge, than this which he (Lord Beaumont) had just stated, for he was fully convinced that the reason of the panic which still existed, was a want of confidence, not in the intentions, nor perhaps in the principles of individual Ministers, but in the power of the Government, (unless they took a firmer stand than they now did) to resist the gigantic and growing power which was now daily, hourly rising in the country against all protection. It was impossible to disguise from one's self the rapid growth of that monstrous giant who had risen up in the form of the Anti-Corn-law League, and though Ministers might despise the absurd proclamations of that body, he (Lord Beaumont) thought they would be scarcely discharging their duty unless they checked its onward career and crushed in the shell the dragon which threatened to blight their fields. He (Lord Beaumont) knew not if that body had not transgressed the law—if some of its acts were not illegal as some of its circulars were blasphemous; but if active measures were not to be taken against the movement of the Anti-Corn-law League, at least the country was entitled to a positive pledge from Ministers, by which the Government should stand or fall, that they would maintain the remnant of protection which the sweeping measures of last Session had still left to the country. This was the least the Government could do, and this ought to be done without delay. It was vain to say that the measures had not been tried—that we did not see their working and did not know their final consequences. Six or seven months of bitter distress—without any alleviation in the course of them, and little prospect of improvement at the close of them—this was the result—this our experience of the measures. It was equally vain to say that the farmers had themselves created the panic, and that but small quantities of cattle had been admitted. The panic was the natural effect of the measures which had been adopted last year, and the small-ness of the number of cattle imported had been owing to the exertions of the farmers in driving a greater quantity of their own to market. The case was this, that when Government undertook to make alterations, they made those alterations on too wholesale a scale. If they had altered the duty upon wheat alone, there might have been complaints, but that general panic would not have spread throughout the agricultural districts which the rash wholesale measures as those he (Lord Beaumont) had alluded to, did and must produce. After a season of high prices and extraordinary expenditure in agricultural improvements, it was suddenly and unexpectedly announced that every article of agricultural produce which had hitherto been protected was to lose a portion of that protection. This was after the farmer had stocked his farm at an immense outlay and incurred all the heavy expenses incident to a period of high prices. Then it was, before he had got rid of the stock so dearly purchased, and when he least anticipated such a change, that the announcement was made that the protection he had hitherto enjoyed was to be taken off. In the mean while from London and Hull—from Newcastle and Stockton, unusual orders had been sent to Hamburg and Dantzic in anticipation of a reduction of duty, and corn was consequently purchased in the foreign markets to double and treble the amount in quantity that had ever hitherto been admitted. The farmer not knowing what might be the result of such a step, but knowing that he would have to contend with a much larger supply than hitherto, hurried the remaining contents of his granary to market, and endeavoured to get the start of the foreign importer; and when the early harvest came, he threshed out his corn sooner than he otherwise would have done, in order to prevent the release from bond and consequent introduction to the market of that corn from abroad, which he knew was already shipped, and on its way to this country. Thus, the farmers rivalled each other in getting rid of the corn they had in hand, for fear that they should be too late, and should find the markets overstocked by the foreign supply. It was quite true, that corn fell more in consequence of the farmers bringing it so eagerly to market than in consequence of the quantity actually admitted from abroad, but by this step on the part of the farmers, a large quantity already ordered from foreign countries, was prevented from coming out of bond, and which would have inevitably added still more to the loss of the home grower. This was clearly shown by the ruin of the factors. They had tried and intended as they always would try and intend, to work the averages, and if there had not been an early harvest, they would have probably succeeded, and have got the whole of the foreign corn ordered in at a nominal duty. Had that been the case, the loss to the farmer would have been great indeed. In the same way on the markets being thrown open to foreign cattle, the farmer was obliged to send his cattle to market sooner than he otherwise would have done, in order to get the start of the foreign importations. Thus, it is true, that the farmers by their own acts lowered the prices, but had they not done so, the foreign importer would have got a footing in the market. It is equally true that the farmers who had purchased lean stock enormously dear were compelled inconsequence of this rivalry amongst themselves, to sell their fat stock at exceeding low prices, and in proportion as the profit on each article was reduced, they endeavoured to make up in quantity of produce brought to market, the loss sustained by the low prices of each separate article, because a certain sum of money they were bound to have in hand to pay their rent, restock their farms, and meet their other engagements; and therefore although it might be said that the farmers has caused the panic themselves, they were obliged to do that which caused the panic, in self-defence against the foreign importer, and in order to meet their money engagements. As to the future prospects of the farmer, he (Lord Beaumont) had no doubt, that if Government would take their stand upon the Corn-law as it now existed, and thus give some certain data for future calculations, things would partially adjust themselves, and he would add, that, provided no alteration was expected in the law, and no tampering with the averages took place, the farmer might carry on, albeit with some abatement of his profits, his business with his present engagements; and, should the next year's harvest be as as the last, he might calculate on the good sliding-scale showing its advantages and coming in time to his relief, for the duty would naturally rise with the prospect of plenty, and foreign corn be excluded if there were abundance at home. But all this depended on a fair working of the averages which he was afraid had not hitherto been the case. So much for wheat; as to oats, he (Lord Beaumont) did not think they would ever again be grown in this country with great profit to the cultivator; grown they must be, because they came in the regular succession of crops, but he (Lord Beaumont) feared with very small return to the farmer. As, however, the chief consumers of oats are persons connected with the land, the loss to the occupiers is less felt than on any other grain. Unless the Government gave a positive pledge that they would stand by the present law, or at least maintain the present amount of protection, the opinion would gain ground in the country that free-trade principles would eventually triumph, and even now the number of converts to those opinions were daily increasing, and the league gaining ground, not in consequence of the arguments and by the advocates of free-trade, but in consequence of the absence of all resistance to the movement on the part of Government? The consequence was, that the public suspected an inclination in Ministers to give way to those principles for the triumph of which many now looked who would not have dared express a hope before. Again, look at the effect of the late policy of England in other countries. The prophesies of Ministers in favour of their measures had not been fulfilled. They said that their propositions would induce other countries to open their ports to our goods. Had other countries done so? Had France followed our example? France had not only not done so, but had admitted the linen yarns of Belgium to the exclusion of ours. Spain had acted in the same manner, and by treaty favoured Belgium to our detriment. Our treaty of navigation with Russia had not lowered the duties on English goods, nor prevented her from throwing open her frontiers towards Prussia for the admission of the mixed cotton and woollen stuffs of the Zolverein, Portugal, and other countries had raised their tariffs. His (Lord Beaumont's) great object in seconding the motion of the noble Earl was, to ask of the Government a pledge with regard to their future intentions—a pledge not shackled with provisoes and exceptions—but a distinct statement by which the country might know whether they were determined to stand by the present Corn-law or not. Without positive knowledge on this subject the farmer could not calculate his next year's outlay or profit. As he had said, he thought it would be unreasonable to ask the Government to rescind their recent measures, but he thought he might ask them for some additional measures to carry them fairly out and give the advantage of them to the poorer classes. Since the price of corn was lowered, and since they had a return of averages by which they knew at what price wheat was sold, he thought an assize of bread would be a fair measure in order that what was lost to the farmer might be gained to the poor. The loss of profit to the farmer was distinctly felt, and at the same time, we could not see the increase of the loaf—at least, the decrease in the price of bread did not follow immediately the reductions in the price of corn. But if there were an assize of bread, we should have the satisfaction of knowing that what was lost to the farmer in the price of wheal, was gained by the poor in the quantity of bread. There was no doubt a great number of labourers must be thrown out of employment; there must be a reduction in all agricultural establishments, and each class must descend a step. The farmer's sons who had hitherto set up for themselves must now be content to become hinds to their fathers, and the daughters who had hitherto aspired to higher things, perhaps higher than their station warranted, must now go out to service. There must be a reduction of all, and in the scale of descent the lowest kind of labourers must be thrown out. Something, therefore, to amend the condition of that class, or to provide them with other employment, ought to form a subject of serious consideration; this was one of the objects of the noble Earl's motion, and which he (Lord Beaumont) considered justified him in voting for the proposition.

Lord Brougham,

after the very able speech of his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade, did not intend to enter very largely into the question which his noble Friend at the Table had brought before their Lordships, nor to answer the statements of his noble Friend on the cross benches, (Lord Beaumont). He rose simply for the purpose of remarking the mistake into which any one would surely fall who had heard this debate, and knew nothing even of the subject. It would undoubtedly, appear to any one coming into the House that night and hearing the question for the first time—that the state of the law and commercial policy of this country was very different from what we knew it to be. Such a one after hearing the bitter complaints by both his noble Friends of the grievances of what they termed the agricultural interest, would certainly suppose that free-trade had passed into our legislation of late years—that all restrictions upon imports had been abolished—that they, the free traders at that side of the House, few in numbers he feared, were at that moment revelling in the full, uncontrolled, and unresisted enjoyment of their favourite doctrines by the universal adoption of liberty of commerce. Because the burthen of his noble Friend's song, from beginning to end, was the same—it was a continual harping upon this one note, that all the evils he spoke of were the consequences of free-trade, and that they should have no more of these free-trade doctrines, which had brought ruin upon us. But where could they find any of this free-trade? For his part, look where he would round the wide compass of our legislation, his wandering wondering eye could not sec even a glimmering of free-trade, unless it were the least and faintest spark of light, which he could hardly dignify with that appellation. He took one instance, the silk trade, which had been dealt with by his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) in the other House in 1825; not because it had given rise to any one of the consequences of which his noble Friend (Lord Stanhope) complained, but because it was an example of some slight approach to a freer system of commercial legislation. It was so just to this extent—that whereas formerly there were prohibitions of some articles of this kind, these no longer existed, and that whereas there were formerly high duties, those high duties having been found not to protect the trade, but to encourage smuggling, were materially reduced. But was there a free-trade in silk? Was there a free importation of silk? Were there no protecting duties with regard to silk? There was a protecting duty of neither more nor less than a duty proportionate to the value of the article of 30 per cent. This duty still encouraged smuggling; and then they were told, "Do not protect, but prohibit." What was restriction or protection but prohibition under a certain price? The protection was an encouragement to the smuggler by the amount of the duty—the prohibition necessarily increased that temptation. His noble Friend seemed to think that the moment you prohibited goods, they would no longer appear in the country; and he looked back to a time which made his teeth water, when persons might be punished for appearing in prohibited goods. His noble Friend thought that, in such a case, people would not wear foreign goods for fear of being punished. The only effect would be, that the foreign goods would not pass for foreign goods. They would be sold and used as home productions. If a man used a foreign glove, could another come up and not hold him by the button, but a still greater annoyance, ask for his glove, and say he were a foreign glove? The answer would be—"No. This glove was made at Wood stock." And so things would be, notwithstanding any regulation, notwithstanding any prohibitions that could be enacted. They had heard an extraordinary reason given for supporting the motion before the House, and they had heard a new theory, such as he believed had never been broached before. It seemed, according to his noble Friend on the cross benches, that the panic, which had arisen amongst the farmers, did not exactly proceed from the tariff, but that the farmers were obliged to make it themselves by way of defence, and for their own protection. This was a new doctrine of protection. He had heard of 30 per cent., of a fixed duty, of a sliding scale, and of a prohibition for the sake of protection, but never before of a panic raised expressly for that purpose by the innocent, agriculturists—happy if they but knew their own happiness, and he never was more surprised than in hearing of that peculiar kind of protection. But if this panic now existed, the inquiry was not necessary to put an end to it. They had put an end to it already, without deliberation or inquiry; they had the mouse, without the labour of the mountain; the grain, without the chaff, in the satisfactory statement of his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade, with respect to the importation of cattle. His noble Friend at the Table treated it with the utmost contempt. His noble Friend was determined to be afraid, resolved to be panic-stricken, and would not on any account take any comfort. But the panic, if it existed at this moment, whether artificial for protection, or natural when it came upon people from some external cause, as was the case with most panics on this side of St. George's Channel, would be at once removed by the fact, now clearly shown, that the importation had been 3,100 and odd oxen, on a consumption of twelve or 1,500,000, or about 1½ per cent, on the London consumption alone, most of these oxen being so bad as not to appear in the market, and none at all, he supposed, had ever appeared on the Table. What had been the case with another description of beasts? His noble Friend had been alarmed last year about oxen, but he had been a thousand times more alarmed about pigs. Now how many had been imported? 315 pigs, and not one pig more. How was it possible for any sane mind to think that mischief, in any degree whatever, could follow from such petty importations. He could not quite agree with his noble Friend on the cross benches, in his very great alarm at the proceedings of a body of very worthy and laborious persons, who showed their earnestness and their liberality by contributing their money as well as their time—he meant the Anti-Corn-law League—a body which seemed to haunt his noble Friend on the cross benches as an apparition peculiarly monstrous. His noble Friend fancied it sometimes a giant and sometimes a dragon, seeming, indeed, to have had his wits somewhat bewildered by the panic with which he and his friends had been solacing and protecting themselves. He could not agree, that the Anti-Corn-law League deserved this representation, or had sat for this picture. "I cannot, however," said the noble and learned Lord, "suffer the mention of the Anti-Corn-law League, and its proceedings, for the first time since the last summer that I have had the opportunity of saying a word upon it, to be made in this House without expressing my entire and hearty concurrence with the disapprobation expressed at many of the proceedings of that body by my noble Friend not now in his place, who was lately at the head of her Majesty's Government, and who from his temporary illness is not here to state his own sentiments. I am on that account more anxious to state my entire concurrence in his reprobation of some of the means used by that body. I differ from my noble Friend in his opinion of its object, for I go much further in desiring to see the repeal of the Corn-laws than my noble Friend; but I desire to express my most pointed disapproval of the means taken by some of the persons connected with that association; and, my Lords, I am the more anxious to state this, because I consider that those means are of all things the most prejudicial to a good cause. If anything could retard the progress of their doctrines—if anything could raise obstacles to the course of improvement in the laws respecting provisions and the general laws which they most justly oppose—it would be the exaggerated statements and violence of some of those connected with their body—the means adopted by them at some of their meetings to excite—happily they have not much succeeded—to excite discontent and breakings out into violence in different parts of the country; and above all, I cannot discharge my duty to your Lordships, and to my own conscience, if I do not express the utter abhorence and disgust with which I have noted some men—men clothed with sacred functions, though I trust unconnected with the League, who have actually in this very metropolis of a British and a Christian community, and in the middle of the 19th century of the gospel of grace and peace, not scrupled to utter words to which I will not at present, for obvious reasons more particularly allude, but which I abhor, detest and scorn, as being calculated to produce fatal effects—I will not say they have produced them—but calculated to produce the taking away of innocent life. My Lords, your Lordships are aware that I refer to a trial which is pending, and they who have used these expressions will, I hope and trust, be called on for an explanation in the course of its proceedings; and it is only because of the pendency of the trial that I abstain from more specially referring to those reverend gentlemen's observations." The peace of the country, he (Lord Brougham) said, had been slightly, and but slightly, broken in the course of the recess; but happily there prevailed among Englishmen a distrust of all unlawful proceedings. As his noble Friend, the noble Duke, in canvassing the late proceedings observed—they have a distrust of one another when engaged in illegal acts, and last of all, happily Englishmen had a distrust of themselves when engaged in an unlawful course, and thus peace and good order were preserved, in spite of the efforts of ill-disposed individuals. He entirely concurred in the respect, and admiration expressed by his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade for the peaceful and abstinent conduct of the working classes under grievous afflictions; but unhappily he could not see—if he could his grief would be less poignant—any means of speedily restoring them to their former state of comfort. Some of the distress now felt—he trusted temporary distress—was the result of machinery being substituted for labour; and no doubt by degrees that labour would be absorbed in other kinds of business—the capital for support- ing that business being furnished by the operation of that, machinery—but he could see no immediate remedy—certainly none in the proposition of his noble Friend at the Table, and as little in the more specific plan of his noble Friend on the cross benches. His noble Friend said, when corn is cheap you may have cheap bread by an assize. How so? By fixing a maximum? In the first place this was impossible; and it had never been tried in any country without producing the most grievous calamities—an utter subversion of public tranquillity, and, worst of all, a dearth and scarcity of that which you want to make cheap and plentiful. Neither was it possible by law to give employment for labour, or to secure its remuneration. It was impossible by law to compel farmers or manufacturers to employ labourers, or to fix the wages they should pay. There was no doubt a want of employment, but there was no means of compelling masters or farmers to give employment to labourers. The supply and demand must regulate the amount of employment, and their Lordships could not regulate that by any provisions. He saw, therefore, no ground whatever to support the motion, and no ground whatever for refusing his assent to the proposition which had been stated with so much feeling, and with such great propriety by his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade with respect to the working classes. He saw no reason to differ from his noble Friend, and could not consent to go into an inquiry which was urged on the principle—a bootless, a fruitless, an endless inquiry, he thought—of raising and settling wages. But then it was said, that his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had refused to make any announcement of his intentions—had refused in another place to give any pledge as to the conduct of Ministers, and would not agree to any demands, nor give security as to his future proceedings. A more unreasonable demand than to require any such pledge of a Minister was never made, unless indeed the present demand of a similar pledge from Parliament; and not only was it unreasonable to demand such a pledge, it was most unparliamentary. It was never done, and he hoped that neither Parliament nor Government would ever pledge itself for even a short time as to what course of conduct it would adopt. What better security could the noble Earl (Stanhope) have that the law would not be altered, than that the Government said it saw no ground to propose any alteration? His noble Friend (the Earl of Stanhope) said it ought not to be altered: why should it not be if the alteration were necessary? At present the Minister said, that under our present circumstances he saw no occasion which called for an alteration of the bill of last Session, such as his noble Friend desired, who, not contented with that measure, would fall back on the previous law. His noble Friend was not satisfied, and wished to go back to the law of 1828—why not go further back, back to the law of 1815? The change thus proposed was in the worst direction, and he was glad that no pledge was given. He wished for none, and none other could be given than the statement that the Government, as at present advised, did not intend to make any change in the law. On these grounds he regretted very much that his noble Friend had brought forward his motion; who could have no expectation that any thing but disappointment could result from the discussion. Only one benefit could ensue from it to any interest, as was said by his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade, it would put an end to the panic which was absurdly said to have been caused by the Tariff of last year.

The Earl of Radnor

rose to object to some of the latter observations of his noble Friend concerning the Anti-Corn-law League, and, condemning its conduct. He thought the observations of his noble Friend were not well founded. His noble Friend did not specify any charges; he alluded to something that had passed—not at the council of the League, not at any of its meetings—but to something which had dropped from a minister of the gospel, and his noble Friend implied that his proceedings were sanctioned and confirmed by the League. He was bound to say, that he could not agree with his noble Friend. In his opinion, it was most unjust to connect the sentiments of that gentleman with the Anti-Corn-law League. It was not his business to defend all the proceedings of the League, but he must say, that he thought its course a most proper one. It had done a great deal of good; it had spread abroad a great deal of useful knowledge, and had made the people acquainted with the demerits of the Corn-law. He saw nothing in its conduct with which to find fault. He did not attempt to reply to his noble Friend; he only wished to say, that it was not fair to attempt to con- nect what fell from a particular person with the League, which was not responsible for what he brought forward. Now that he was on his legs, he would say one word on the subject of the debate; and first, with respect to the panic, which, as his noble Friend said had been, as he knew, very great; and which his noble Friend said was caused by the law of last year. That he denied. When his noble friend alluded to the panic, did it not occur to him that panics had been common before? Was there never a fall of price on former occasions, and was there not agricultural distress in former years, and agricultural panics? He would refer their Lordships to a speech by a farmers' friend, which he found in the Farmers' Journal, supported by farmers' friends, at least he remembered a long list of names of farmers' friends who subscribed to that journal, and in it he found a report of an agricultural meeting at Chelmsford. At that meeting a Mr. Baker had said, that They might depend on it they had not yet seen the lowest prices, they would be lower; they had not yet seen the prices of 1822 and 1835. There were low prices, then, in 1822 and 1835, and in those years the country, according to his noble Friend, was thriving under the Corn-law which his noble Friend so much admired. His noble Friend wanted to revive the law of 1828, or the law of 1815, but this agricultural gentleman (Mr. Baker) said that they might yet see the same distress as in 1835, under the admired law of his noble Friend. If they got back the law of 1815, might they not have the same distress as in 1822? Mr. Baker went on to say, that in 1822 the farmers lost their profits, and after losing their profit lost their capital. Could those who opposed the repeal of the Corn-laws deny that those losses occurred under their favourite law? It appeared to him, that the distress was not caused by the tariff. In his (the Earl of Radnor's) judgment, it had entirely arisen from the Corn-laws, which had given a great premium to the cultivation of corn by the maintenance of high prices. Last summer there had been an abundant harvest, and in all probability the same would be the case in the present year. Owing to the premium given by the Corn-laws to high prices, agricultural depression would follow, and he had not the slightest doubt, but that for the next two or three years the same agricultural distress would prevail which had been witnessed in the years 1833, 1834, 1835, and 1836, whether there existed a panic or not. With respect to the proposition of the noble Earl at the Table (Earl Stanhope), it was impossible it could be entertained in the view the noble Earl took. He thought with the noble Earl that some inquiry into the cause of the distress, and a remedy for it ought to be instituted; and he had come down to the House prepared with an amendment to that effect to the motion of the noble Earl; but when he perceived that the motion was for an inquiry before the whole House, and not before a select committee, he felt that would be a most unsatisfactory and inconvenient mode of conducting the inquiry, and therefore he should abstain from moving his amendment. He, how ever thought the state of the country was such that an inquiry ought to be made into it; but not at all in the sense in which the noble Earl now made his proposition. The noble Earl said, that this country was on the eve of revolution, on account of the tariff and the Corn-law of last session, and therefore, that the Government and the Legislature ought to retrace their steps. Why, three or four years ago, according to the noble Earl, the country was on the eve of a revolution and at the brink of ruin; and then he had neither the tariff nor the new Corn-law to complain of. But the noble Earl now proposed to the House to go back and retrace its steps. He said, in the first place, "Give proper remuneration for labour." Were they then to fix by legislation the labourers' wages, as had been done by Acts of Parliament passed 500 years ago? He knew not whether the noble Earl proposed they should retrace their steps so far, or to what period he would go back. The noble Earl disliked machinery, and all the results of machinery. Did the noble Earl ever travel by railway? Was it abhorrent and unpleasing to him to avail himself of the means of transit in two hours and a half to London from his country residence? and was he like a neighbour of his (the Earl of Radnor's), who preferred to rise at five o'clock in the morning, and travel by the aid of post-horses under a hot summer sun, rather than adopt the expedition of the railway? But if the noble Earl would not use railroads, where would he stop? Would he use post-horses? There was a time when post-horses were not known, and when only pack-horses were found on the road. When the noble Earl went to Chevening, would he forsake the well-made turnpike road and take to some bridle paths where only pack-horses could travel. If his noble Friend were consistent, he should retrace his steps, and not stop till he got rid of all kinds of machinery. He wished for an inquiry, but for a reason entirely opposite to the reason of his noble Friend. He did not wish to retrace any steps; he would go at once for a repeal of the Corn-laws, and would have no Corn-laws whatever. His noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade did not act up to his principles. He talked of the principles of free trade, but his practises fell very far short of his principles. What the principle of the tariff was, he did not know. He knew that, far from being founded on a principle of free-trade, as it was introduced into Parliament it contained one of the most objectionable principles that ever was introduced into any law—the principle of a differential duty on every article of commerce. That principle, however, was given up. In that House, there had been but little discussion on the tariff; and he did not know what their Lordships thought was its principle, but he had heard that one of its principles was that the duty on every article should bear a certain proportion to the price. He should be glad to know from his noble Friend on the cross-benches (Lord Beaumont) on what principle he would give more protection. There was now no free-trade. It was not in the tariff—it was not in the Corn-laws—and as on the present occasion there was no attempt made to promote free-trade, he saw no reason why he should not vote with the President of the Board of Trade, and against his noble Friend (the Earl of Stanhope). He wished to see their Lordships adopt the principles of free-trade, and without that he was afraid there would be no settlement. At present great pains were taken to stimulate cultivation. The farmers were called on to under-drain, to extend their cultivation; but if they followed this advice, and the farmers cultivated more, they would be ruined. If they had afterwards a bad harvest they might be again prosperous, but after a few years, when abundant harvests intervene, great agricultural distress would ensue. Abundant harvests, which were so beneficial to the community, caused distress to the agriculturists. ["No, no."] It was so. The agriculturists were now distressed—and distressed by the good harvest of last year. ["No, no."] It will not be denied. "The Government could not deny it; for the Government had ordained a prayer for an abundant harvest, and that existed in conjunction with agricultural distress. If they went on cultivating more, they would not prevent distress, and in three or four years, they would find the farmers, as formerly, giving their wheat to feed their horses and pigs, and then wheat, not paying the expense of cultivation, would not be cultivated; and then bad harvests would come, and the manufacturers would be distressed. When a rise took place in the price of corn, and the agriculturists were again prosperous, then the other classes would suffer, and there would be nothing but alternations of agricultural and manufacturing distress. As they were encouraging the culture of wheat in this country, so our high prices were increasing its cultivation on the Continent. He had seen in the Mark-lane Express, a journal favourable to the agricultural interests, on account by a person who had travelled on the Continent of the cultivation of wheat being much increased there, in order to grow for our markets. In Germany, too, wheat had been so extensively cultivated that the price of potatoes had risen 50 per cent., and the price of rye had risen prodigiously. He mentioned this, because, in the discussion last year, rye had been quoted as a species of produce which varied in the price as much as wheat; but now they might see why the price of rye had increased. He had been led further into this subject than he intended, but he must add, that if they wished to see agricultural distress terminated and wished to see manufactures flourish, be would advise the Government to take immediate steps for repealing the Corn-law altogether. If they did that, it was his opinion, that in a short period prices would be so low, that they need not fear the introduction of any great quantity of foreign produce They had been going on for twenty years doing mischief by these laws; in fact, they had done all the mischief possible by their legislation, and he advised them not to enter into any new course of legislation—not to make new laws, but to put an end to the existing Corn- laws.

Lord Brougham,

in explanation, begged to remark, in order to set himself right with his noble Friend, that what he had stated with reference to the Anti-Corn-law League was this:—He disapproved of many of their proceedings, and of those of some of the agents in their employ. He had said he was quite certain that the very respectable persons—the principal members of the League, were quite incapable of using the language which some of their agents had made use of but he disapproved of many of the means taken by them through their agents for creating violent feelings, which were likely to break out in outrage. He had not alluded particularly to the language used by the rev. gentleman to whom he had adverted, because, although it was used at an Anti-Corn-law meeting, it was not at a meeting of the League; but having heard of those violent expressions, he felt he should not have discharged his duty if he did not express his entire disapprobation of them. He thought their absurdity even greater than their violence. He need only refer to the statement made at one of their meetings, that deeds were wanted, and not words; and to the speech of an Anti-Corn-law lecturer of the League in London who said, "What can be expected from the Duke" (the illustrious individual opposite), "a person who massacred men, women, and children, for three days and nights at the storming of Salamanca?" now there was no storming of Salamanca, but an engagement in the open field, being one of the noble Duke's most glorious triumphs, who then walked into Salamanca; but the allusion, he was told, was not to the storming of Salamanca, but an equally groundless reference to the storming elsewhere of a Whig commander, who was, he believed, an Anti-Corn-law leaguer himself, a gallant Friend of his, wholly incapable of permitting one single outrage of any kind among those whom he led to victory.

Lord Ashburton

did not expect that the motion of the noble Earl would bring on a general discussion on the tariff, and on that alteration of the Corn-law which had been made in his absence from the country, or he should have been better prepared to take part in it. He would make one or two observations. He congratulated his noble Friend opposite (Lord Radnor), who had in his prophecy of the coming harvests shown himself quite as great a man as Murphy himself. The noble Earl wished to caution the farmers against abundant harvests and low prices, he would rather caution those farmers against over confidence in the predictions of the noble Earl, but he must say, if abundant harvests created low prices, no person would see them with greater pleasure than he should. He was at the same time quite sure that if we had abundant harvests and low prices, that there was no propriety in allowing the condition of our own farmers to be damaged by bringing in a great quantity of foreign produce to add to the abundance. The great corn-growing countries of the Continent raised wheat as a merchandize, and not for the food of their people. Poland and Russia, and other countries, grew wheat for exportation, and the people did not consume it. If they abandoned the law, then there would be a great importation of wheat from the Continent, notwithstanding it might not now be wanted, and they owed it to the protection of the law that we were not deluged with wheat from abroad. On the great question of free-trade, he must say that he was no bigot, but he had always thought that those general principles must be modified by the circumstances and condition of the country. As his noble Friend said, he admitted we had no free-trade. To talk in our country of doing away with all restrictions, and allowing the free importation and exportation of all commodities, while we had, as Mr. Huskisson said, to levy duties and taxes to the amount of 50,000,000l. sterling., to talk of at once doing away all restrictions, was, indeed, an act of idiotcy. He said it with the greatest respect for the opinions of individuals; but he must repeat, that to talk of free-trade under these circumstances, was an act of idiotcy. If, indeed, all the states of Europe had a free communication one with another, if they were all combined as in Germany, under the Zollverein, under our own system, they might have free-trade; but in this country, so differently situated, and in such a peculiar financial condition, it was impossible to adopt the pure and level system of free-trade. There were several articles, such as tobacco, which would grow in this country, but which must not be cultivated. Beet-root, too, for making sugar, could not be grown here as in France. Again, one of the principal growths of this country was barley, it might be called, considering the great quantity of light land in this country, as peculiarly adapted to it, but what a tremendous impost existed on that commodity in one shape or other before it reached the consumer. He believed that it was not possible to find the growth of any country so heavily taxed. When they considered, too, the heavy charges on the land for maintaining the poor and the Church, which was exclusively supported by the land, they must see that the application of the pure principles of free-trade, under such circumstances, was impracticable. He said, as Mr. Huskisson said in his hearing, and probably in the hearing of his noble Friend (Lord Brougham), that, "In our artificial condition, with our complex relations and vast taxation, it was not possible to establish a complete freedom of trade." It was said by his noble Friend that there was no certainty for the landed interest, because the Government would not declare its intentions. He admitted that it was of great importance to the landed interest and to every other interest not to be exposed year after year to the system being upset on which they founded their proceedings. At the same time the Government did not profess to alter the system, though it would not pledge itself never to alter it. The Government said it would not make an alteration now. That was satisfactory. The Government said it had no intention to alter the law this year; and if his noble Friend had implied as was insinuated, that he was prepared to alter it next year, the country might with reason complain. But such was not the case; and his noble Friend had not implied that it was the intention of the Government at any future year to make any further alteration in the law. The constant repetition of radical changes, affecting the great interests of the country, was highly to be deprecated. In the position in which this country now stood, something of protection for land, some equivalent for the peculiar charges to which land was liable, something which should keep the property of the country in something like the proportion in which it stood at present, was essential for the interests of all; and more especially for the interest of the working classes, the industrious bees of the hive, who would be more damaged by any rash measure affecting the property of the country than any other class.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

did not think that the burthens, said to be peculiar to land, were so exclusively borne by the landowners as to entitle them to exclusive protection. It might be very true that to let things come in and go out without any duty of any sort whatever would be very absurd, but the advocates of free-trade contemplated no such thing. Those who were contending for greater freedom of trade, desired that as far as possible differential duties should be done away with, that as far as possible monopolies should be abolished, that protection should be abated, and that duties should be levied only with a view to revenue. Throughout Ireland the question had been put to him, what are Ministers going to do with the Corn-laws? and nobody seemed to have any fixed notion on the subject. The matter was hardly clearer now, though no doubt a very clear answer so far had been given, that Government did not mean to make any alteration in the Corn-laws this session—this session, were the words. But at the same time, it was impossible to deny that the state of this law was such, that the feeling of all parties and persons upon it was that there would be an alteration before long. The noble Lord opposite might say he was satisfied with the answer which had been given; but he would ask the noble Lord, did he think there was at this moment a landlord, a farmer in the country, who could with confidence settle a lease, who could let or take land, with a conviction that the rent paid for it was fair for both parties, looking forward to the next ten years? He entirely concurred with the noble Earl near him, as to the prospects of agriculture for the next year. As to the proposed committee, he would have voted for it had he thought it calculated to effect any beneficial object, but he did not regard it as so calculated and he could not support it. He thought that the great fault of the Government throughout was, that they were not sufficiently alive to the actual state of the lower classes. He was ready to believe they sympathised in the distress which had prevailed; but they did not attempt to remedy it by freeing the springs of trade and commerce in the only practical way by effectually settling the Corn-law; but assuredly if they did not soon take decided steps for relieving trade and commerce, the country would be placed in a state of danger, the degree of which had hardly been exaggerated by the noble Earl. When they came to in quire into the Corn-law, they would find that the operation of the law had been injurious to all parties.

Earl Stanhope

replied—His noble Friend at the head of the Board of Trade had admitted the distress, but neither he nor any other noble Lord had attempted to explain the cause of that distress. Upon the subject of the Corn-laws he asserted that although the effect of the repeal of the Corn-laws would be revolution, yet in the end it would establish to its full extent the protective system of our ancestors. He had thought it his duty to bring forward the motion which he had submitted to their Lordships on behalf of all the interests in the country, for every interest was directly or indirectly concerned in it.

Their Lordships divided, Contents 4; Not contents 25; Majority 21.


The following Protest against the rejection of the motion was entered.


  1. 1. Because under the present circumstances of the country it is the bounden duty of Parliament to take into its immediate and most serious consideration the means of providing for the profitable employment of the productive classes, and for the due remuneration of their industry.
  2. 2. Because the discharge of that duty is most urgently requisite, as many of the productive classes have by legislative measures been recently deprived to a very considerable extent of the protection which their industry formerly enjoyed, and which they have an undoubted right to claim.
  3. 3. Because that reduction of their protection has been very injurious to many of the productive classes, by depriving them of employment, or by diminishing their profits, or their wages, and they are therefore entitled to demand redress, which cannot be refused without flagrant injustice.
  4. 4. Because the grievous distress and destitution which many of the productive classes now suffer must produce just and general discontent, and redress cannot be delayed without imminent danger to all classes of the community.
  5. 5. Because there exists no reasonable expectation that the prosperity of this country can be restored, that its peace can be preserved, or that profitable employment, with due remuneration, can be provided for the productive classes, unless full protection should 305 be given to their industry and to the rights of labour.


KENYON, for all the 1st reason except that part which calls on Parliament to provide due remuneration for labour, which, I fear is beyond the power of Parliament; and for the 3d reason.