The Earl of Dalhousie
said, that he rose to move, that their Lordships should go into committee on the Canada Wheat Bill. In doing that, he should not think it necessary to enter into any long statement, but should content himself with stating as briefly as possible the general objects of the measure. The bill was to reduce the duties on wheat and wheat flour imported from Canada. The effect of the bill would be that Canada wheat, which lately paid a duty varying from 5s. to 1s. per quarter, would be introduced at a nominal duty of 1s., and that United States wheat, brought to Canada, and ground there, would pay a fixed duty of 4s. on importation into this country. This was the sole change effected by the bill now before their Lordships. American wheat and flour imported from America, could only be introduced under the bill, at the foreign duty, as they were now. He was not going to hold up the measure as one of paramount importance. It never had been so represented by those who originated it, and, probably, but for accidental circumstances, it never would have attracted so much attention. Their Lordships were aware, that from the first introduction of the measure, very great doubts and apprehensions had been felt respecting it in various quarters. He felt confident, that the discussion which the measure had undergone in the other House, and the investigation which had been made by the country into its real nature and effects, had done much to remove the misapprehensions which existed; but as they were not entirely;removed, it would be his duty to advert shortly to a few of the objections brought against it. It was said, in the first place, that this was an entirely new measure. This was not so; for the corn introduced under this measure would be simply that introduced under the former act, by which wheat grown in the United States, and ground in Canada, was imported as Canadian produce. This had been so since the law of 1828, and was done under the direct sanction of official authority.
572 American wheat ground in Canada, according to the general rule, that manufactures were to be considered as the produce of the country where they were made, without paying any regard to the country from which their raw material was obtained, had invariably been treated as if it were the produce of Canada. It was said that even if this were so, the reduction of duty from 5s. to 4s. was one which, in the present depressed state of the agricultural interest, ought not to be agreed to. He trusted he should be able to show their Lordships, that the duty imposed by the present measure, was fully equivalent to that hitherto levied. He held in his hand, a return made by order of the House of Commons, showing the rates of duty levied on Canadian wheat during the last five years, from which it appeared that the average of that period was no more than 2s. 1d. It was said, that the measure now before their Lordships would produce a vast inundation of cheap corn. He thought he could undertake to show their Lordships that there would not be an inundation of corn, and that the corn introduced under it would not be cheaper than that which was imported from Canada under the law as it now stood. He had a return from the Custom-house, showing the total amount of wheat imported from Canada, under the operation of the law of 1828. During thirteen years, from 1830 to 1843 there were introduced 1,153,968 quarters, making the average importation of each year, less than 90,000 quarters, little more than one day's consumption. There appeared no reason to suppose that an importation, which remained so steady during the last thirteen years, would receive a sudden and great increase. Of the quantity he had mentioned, 950,000 quarters were introduced when the price was at upwards of 55s., not 200,000 quarters of the whole having entered this country when the price was under that. It was clear, then, that there was no reason to apprehend any considerable importation, when the price was under 55s. Now, at Montreal, the price usually varied from 45s. to 50s., and never fell below 40s. From 1815 to 1842, he found there were but two years in which the price of wheat in Canada stood as low as 40s., and the average price during twenty-seven years was 49s. 9d. Assuming the average price at Montreal to be 45s., he should be able to show their Lordships, that no corn could be introduced under the price he had named. The freight and charges from Montreal to this 573 country were, according to the various returns, 12s. 6d., 13s. 6d., 14s. 6d., and 16s. per quarter. He would take the price at Montreal, at the lowest rate of 40s., and the freight at the lowest amount 12s. 6d., which would make the price when introduced into this country, adding the duty, 53s. 6d. It might be said, that corn would be brought direct from the great western states of America, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. The average price of corn at Cleveland, the great port of Ohio, in the last year, for which a return could be made out, was 39s. 6d., for which the freight and Charges to Montreal, would be 15s., according to the Parliamentary papers. But take the price at Cleveland at 30s., and add the freight and charges to Montreal, 15s., and thence to this country, 12s. 6d., it would be impossible that corn from Ohio, coming by way of Montreal, paying 3s. duty on the Canadian frontier, and 1s. duty on reaching England, could be brought into this country under 61s. or 62s. In Michigan, the price was 20s., and the freight and charges to Montreal would be 17s., so that Michigan corn, with the 3s. duty, could not be brought to England under 53s. 6d. From Illinois, corn could not be imported under the price of 55s. 6d.; and from the state of New York, by way of Oswego, it could not be landed here under 56s. On the whole, their Lordships would see that not one single quarter of corn could be introduced into this country under 55s. or 56s. No one who was at all acquainted with the subject, or had made the slightest inquiry into it, could for an instant suppose that smuggling could be carried on to such an extent as to interfere with the operation of this bill, should it become law. With the exception of about seventy or eighty miles, the frontier consisted of the great lakes of Ontario and Erie. From the port of shipment in the western states to the nearest port in the British provinces the distance across would not be less than seventy or eighty miles. The corn could not be conveyed in boats, and must be brought in large vessels, chiefly schooners, which were all well known, and could be watched. The custom-houses were now very efficient establishments, and would be able to counteract the attempts of smugglers, if such should be made. The temptation to smuggling was great in proportion as the bulk of the article was small, and the duty high; but in the case of wheat the bulk was enormous, and the duty very 574 low, and it could not be supposed worth any man's while to smuggle a small quantity of corn to save a trifling duty, while it would be impossible to smuggle a very large quantity. During the period from 1825 to 1831 there was a duty of 8s. on United States wheat and flour imported into Canada, which offered a temptation nearly three times as great to the smuggler to attempt to bring it into Canada, with the same advantages when brought to this country, as the present bill would give. Yet no one had ever heard of an attempt at smuggling wheat from the United States into Canada. He did not mean to say, that a small quantity might not be smuggled here and there; but to suppose that smuggling could be carried on to such an extent as to prejudice the interests of the grower, was ridiculous. It had been objected elsewhere that this measure had taken the agricultural interests by surprise, and during the present Session a noble Lord on the cross benches had remarked that no intimation of any intention to introduce such a measure as the present had been given by her Majesty's Government, during the last Session. He could show from the recorded proceedings of Parliament, that such an intimation was clearly, explicitly, and in a manner which no one could mistake, conveyed by the language of the Government. On the 8th February, last year, the right hon. Gentleman then Vice-President of the Board of Trade, brought in the Colonial Possessions Act, by which it was proposed to levy on the United States wheat imported into Canada, a duty of 3s. a quarter. On the following day, the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, introduced the Corn-law, by which it was proposed to levy on Canada wheat a duty varying from 5s. to 1s. a quarter. On subsequent days, questions were asked as to whether it was the intention of Government to levy both the duties; and on the 25th of February, the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, stated that that was not intended. The words of the right hon. Gentleman clearly expressed the intention of Government to be, that if a nominal duty were levied on Canadian wheat imported here, the duty of 3s., which stood in the resolutions, on the importation of wheat into Canada, should be adopted. Of all the objections which could be made, that of having introduced a measure in any other way than that which frankness, fairness, and manliness pointed 575 out, was most unpalatable to him. He was quite sure, that this feeling was shared by his noble Friends near him, and by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in another place. But he thought he had now satisfied their Lordships that this imputation was groundless, and that the clearest intimation of the intention of Government had been given in another place. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in the discussion on Mr. Smith O'Brien's motion to reduce the duty on wheat coming into Canada to 1s., said that he could not agree to it, because the American wheat would be let in at a merely nominal duty; but if a proper duty on American corn were imposed by the colonial Assembly, then the Canadians would be entitled to greater relief. This clearly indicated that under certain circumstances, if the Canadians would protect the home grower against an inundation of American corn coming as Canadian produce, then a nominal duty would be imposed on Canadian corn. The noble Lord also observed on that occasion, that he did not believe that, in that case, the agricultural interest would feel the slightest jealousy of the free importation of Canadian corn. He submitted to their Lordships, then, that there had been no concealment of the intentions and motives of the Government with respect to this measure. It was the understanding of the colonial Legislature of Canada, and that Legislature acted on that understanding. They had passed an act, imposing a duty of 3s. on American wheat, in a confident expectation, that having secured the interests of the home growers, their Lordships would relieve them (the Canadians) from the disadvantages under which they had so long laboured. He trusted their Lordships would not disappoint the expectations formed by the Colonial Legislature. In Canada a vast field presented itself for an extensive emigration, calculated to relieve this country of much of the pressure of population, that was weighing upon it, and a great navigable river and chain of lakes were opened there to receive for that province, and the mighty power which was growing up at its side, almost any amount of commerce which this country could pour into them. The circumstances of the province, at the present moment, were such as justified the carrying out of the proposed plan. But a few years ago, that colony was the scene of an alarming rebellion, on which occasion the colo- 576 nists of English descent, quelled that rebellion, though there was not a single soldier in the province. He did not mean to say, that the measure now submitted to their Lordships was of such importance as to produce a very great effect; but it would show on the part of this country a desire, at least, to foster the interest of that colony: and a general impression that such a desire existed would be certain to lead to the best effects in a country which at no very remote time was likely to become a wide market to the commerce, and a vast bulwark to the strength of England. At the same time, while the measure was calculated to give great satisfaction to the colony, it would not diminish one tittle of that protection which British agriculture now possessed, and ought to possess.
seconded the motion. He did not approve of the bill on the ground of its being a step in the right direction towards the abolition of the Corn-laws, but because he looked upon it as calculated to remove an anomaly in the system that now prevailed, an anomaly to which he could not shut his eyes while the system was retained.
§ Earl Stanhope
said, it might have been expected that a motion like the present, which had been introduced by the noble Earl with much ability, would not have been presented to Parliament till the probable consequences had been made the subject of a careful investigation before a committee of inquiry. Such an inquiry was indispensable, but an inquiry had taken place, and their friends were even without satisfactory information as to the price at which wheat could be raised in Canada. But surely, without having ascertained this point in the most distinct manner, Ministers ought not to come forward to propose a reduction in the duty to 1s. a quarter, nor ought Parliament to accede to it. The papers on their Lordships' tables came from parties directly interested in the question: thus were they called on to legislate completely in the dark. But even from the papers on the Table he could show that it was the duty of Parliament to reject this bill. They were told, that smuggling could not be carried on to a great extent; but he had it on the authority of a person of great experience and the most unimpeachable character, that smuggling could be carried on, and actually had been largely carried on, without the possibility of detection. A 577 British ship left a port in Canada, and met an American ship at sea. The cargo of the latter ship was transferred to the former. In such a case, if another ship did not happen to be in view, how would it be possible to obtain proof of the transaction? The vessel that had sailed from Canada had her bill of clearance from a British port, and evidence to show that she had touched at no other port on her voyage. What security could they have against a system of smuggling like this? Already, in many years, the importation of colonial had been larger than that of foreign wheat —and would no doubt have been still greater if the duty on colonial wheat had been 1s., instead of 5s. They were told, they had no inundation of American wheat to apprehend; but that, it must be borne in mind, would depend very much upon the extent to which cultivation was carried,' and cultivation must depend on the encouragement held out by a large market. [The noble Earl read extracts from Canadian papers, and from petitions to the Legislature, expressive of a belief that Canada would be capable of furnishing any quantity of wheat that the British market could receive.] The noble Secretary for the Colonies, too, had described the measure as one of inestimable advantage to Canada. It was true, he said, at the same time, that the measure. would not diminish the protection to British agriculture. The argument, however, was certainly an extraordinary one, it emulated the present administration, and, like that, attempted to sit upon two stools at once. How could the measure be of importance to Canada, except by enabling that colony to send to England enormous supplies of grain? Endeavours had been made to prove that, before wheat could be imported with advantage, the price in this country must be 61s. The disadvantage, of that argument was that, if it proved any thing, it proved too much, for it would prove that no wheat could be imported at all. But was not Canadian wheat imported even now, when the price was under 50s.? In the preamble to the Canadian Act, it was distinctly stated, that this measure would make England a market at all times certain and available for Canadian grain, yet the Legislature of Canada could not but have been aware that the price in England had often, and for a considerable time been below 50s. He could not consider it otherwise than as an ab- 578 surdity to say that Canada ought to be considered an integral part of the empire, in the same way as any British county. If Canada were subject to the same engagements as England, he should not be opposed to such a view; but as long as it was necessary for the maintenance of her honour that this country should be highly - taxed, while Canada was hardly taxed at all, their Lordships were in duty bound to protect the industry of the highly-taxed country. He looked on this bill only as one of a series of stepping, stones, which had been placed at small distances from one another, to enable the Government to advance, as conveniently as circumstances allowed, towards the realization of those principles of free-trade which, to do them justice, they had never attempted to conceal. The Secretary of State for the Home Department declared that the principles of free-trade were the principles of common sense, and the head of the Cabinet had declared that Ministers were agreed in their views. The noble Lord at the head of the Board of Control had indeed said that protection could not be abandoned at once; but he must I say, if it were to be abandoned at all, let there be no suspense, but let it be done boldly and manfully, and he would dare them to the attempt. It had been said this measure was brought forward in consequence of a pledge given by this country. But if there was a really efficient House of Commons no such pledge would be given by Ministers without the sanction of Parliament. But that House was really astounded — as an assembly of much greater sense might well be—by the announcement of a Government, calling itself Conservative, proposing that Canadian corn should be introduced at a duty of 1s., and American corn admitted under the pretext that it was ground in Canada. It was his impression that immense quantities of corn would be imported front Canada and America; but if a single quarter were not imported he should oppose this bill. Agricultural produce had been already deteriorated 25 per cent. Assuming that it was a sudden panic which occasioned this, that panic arose from the tariff; and if any vestige of confidence yet remained in Government—if any delusion anywhere existed as to their real intentions—if any hope was entertained that Government meant to stop in their insane 579 career towards free-trade, it would be utterly annihilated by the present measure. They were next told to pass this measure because a confident belief was entertained in Canada that it would be granted. Confident belief, indeed ! As if there was not a confident belief reposed in the representatives of this country that they would be faithful to their trust—that they would not so soon forget their promises and professions—that they would not disgrace themselves by such base and intolerable servility, as would always be remembered, and would in due season be properly requited. How were the present Ministers placed in power, but on the understanding that they would bring forward measures the very reverse of those which they proposed. To his judgment this bill was proposed for other motives than those announced. To his mind it was meant as some compensation to that patient beast, the agricultural interest of Canada, for the evils inflicted by the new tariff. He did not speak without authority, for he found by a paper issued under the sanction of the President and Council of the Board of Trade, that the produce of the colony was greatly diminished in value by foreign goods being allowed to enter into competition with those in the home country. So that because they inflicted an intolerable evil on the agricultural community of Canada, they were, in order to recompense them, to heap ruin on the heads of the agriculturists of this country. There was only one other motive which he could suppose prompted this measure. That was, it was a step towards carrying into full execution the principles of free-trade. If it was really intended to give way to the clamours of the Anti-Corn-law League, it might be a useful clap-trap argument to say, "Surely you cannot object to extend the system of free-trade, for you see how inoffensive is the Canada Bill which you have already passed." He should conclude by moving that the bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ The Duke of Richmond
My Lords, even if I were of opinion that this bill would not materially affect the interests of the growers of the home country, I should still oppose it, because I frankly admit I should not give my assent to any proposal which could by possibility, in the slightest degreet reduce that amount of protection, which in my conscience I believe has been reduced to too great an 580 extent already. I also object to this measure on the ground that I do not think it wise or expedient to propose a change for the sake of change; and I submit to your Lordships that neither my noble Friend, in the most able address in which he has introduced the measure to night, nor any one who has spoken in another place, has brought forward a single argument which can convince your Lordships that this measure will in its results be any great advantage to any one. Now I object to such a change, on account of the uncertainty which it will produce. I object to it because it is unsafe to make alterations year after year affecting the great interest of agriculture, in which millions of money are invested. I object to it, because whatever cripples the energies of the agriculturist ultimately entails on them an actual loss; and ultimately I object to it, because I think it inexpedient to start such a question as that raised by this bill unless under the pressure of an inevitable national necessity. You are well aware, my Lords, of the uncertainty and exceeding irritation which such a measure is calculated to engender throughout the country, ruining, by the very panic to which it gives rise, hundreds of farmers. The farmers, my Lords, ask to be let alone. They ask the Ministry to speak out as decidedly on the subject of protection to agriculture, as they have done with respect to the repeal of the union? They say they are entitled to know whether Ministers intend to go further, or to stand where they now are. I ask at the present moment whether a man can get a fair value for his estate, if he be disposed to sell it? I ask if it is possible for landlord and tenant to come to an equitable and I just arrangement as to their respective inabilities? I ask, too, whether it Can be expected that they should lay out their capital in draining and other improvements which must increase fertility immensely, whilst they would employ that industrious and meritorious class of men, the agricultural labourers, who for want of such employment, are now too many of them obliged to seek relief at the workhouse, when they formerly were able to maintain themselves and family in that comfort which I and every one of your Lordships rejoice to see. Before the debate closes I strongly suspect we shall hear sonic of my noble Friends approving of this bill because it admits the principle 581 of a fixed duty. My noble Friend (Earl Dalhousie), like an old stager, though a young debater in this House, said not a syllable on this point. Now I object to any such principle. I do not say that this bill goes in accordance with that principle the length some apprehend; but it certainly does admit the principle. I have always considered a fixed duty the greatest possible delusion. I never knew one of its advocates that was not in private ready to admit that if a considerable rise should take place in corn (and it was impossible to say that such a time might not arise) an order in council must be issued, the effect of which would be to admit corn from all parts of the world free of all duty. My noble Friend stated it was impossible that smuggling should be carried on, and that, whatever practices formerly prevailed, the Canadian customs were now under the best possible regulations. If this were so, it is a monstrous pity our own Custom-house is not as wisely administered; for, if I am not greatly mistaken, considerable frauds have of late been discovered there. As to preventing smuggling, I do not believe it will have any such effect. I do not think it is possible to prevent fraud when the least temptation is held out to commit it. How may deafeat the penny postage by sending their letters by carriers, and such means of conveyance? I should like to hear some Member of the Government tell us how much flour it is calculated will come in under this bill; and I should be particularly delighted to hear the name of the gentleman who gave it as his opinion that corn ground in Canada must be considered as the produce of the country. I should like to see the case submitted and the person who signed that opinion. I can only say if that is the law of England it is a very odd law. Whilst on this point I may say that there was an act passed last year, commonly Called the Grinding Act. I did not approve of it, but I was told that frauds under it would be impossible. If I am not wrong, convictions have already taken place under that act; and I have no doubt that other frauds have been committed which have not yet been discovered. I agree with my noble Friend, that papers emanating from the Board of Trade are to be looked on with suspicion. I do not say that those who issue papers do not believe their contents; but they are often 582 mistaken in their information. Last year the announcement of the tariff as to salmon caused a panic amongst the Scotch. A deputation waited upon the Board of Trade, and they were assured that no importation could possibly take place that would affect the price. I do not think the deputation were convinced, but they were not strong enough to get a line altered. Now what has been the effect of the tariff? Why, that the price has been reduced 20 to 30 per cent, in consequence of foreign competition. I must say that I agree with the advice given the other clay by a practical tenant farmer in the county of Bedford, a farmer with whom I have the pleasure of being acquainted, and whom I know to be a sensible man. He said to the tenants "Don't quarrel with, but join the landlords." My Lords, I give the same opinion to the agriculturists. I say if you stand firm and united you will be able to repel the assaults of the Anti-Corn-law League and your other enemies: but if one section of you declares in favour of a fixed duty, and another in favour of some other crotchet, your task will be much increased in difficulty. I agree with my noble Friend (Earl Stanhope) in strongly recommending that the agriculturists should let it be well known by those whom it may concern that they are decidedly resolved and firmly determined, by every constitutional means, to prevent any further breach in the laws affording them protection; that they will care not for party or any such motive, but that they will one and ail, and shoulder to shoulder, resist any attempt to reduce protection—a protection, let me be permitted to say, not given, as falsely asserted, for the benefit of one class, but for the promotion or the welfare and prosperity of every individual in the country. My Lords, I would humbly and earnestly entreat you to vote against this measure, although it is proposed by those with whom you may have been long politically connected. If you do so, I feel certain that ere long you will be accounted, even by those whom you now oppose, their best and sincerest friends, by checking them in the career of free trade mania, by preventing the uncertainty which must produce the greatest evils throughout the country, shake the confidence between man and man, cripple the energies of the agriculturist, and certainly endanger the best interests of the empire. If, however, 583 you do vote for it, I ask whether, in your consciences, you are not persuaded that the agricultural interest has a right to ask if this is meant to be a stepping stone, or a final measure. My Lords, I need not say that I shall vote with the greatest cordiality in favour of my noble Friend's amendment, and I am much obliged to him for his opposition to a measure which must produce alarm, and may seriously affect the interests of the home grower.
The Earl of Radnor
said, he should vote against the bill, but for reasons very different from those assigned by either of the noble peers who had last spoken. If he thought, with the noble Earl, that this was a step towards free trade, he should certainly have supported the bill; but instead of that, he considered the measure a step in the other direction. If he thought either, with the noble Duke, that the bill would do away with what was called, or rather miscalled, "protection," in that case he would vote for it; but, on the contrary, he considered that the bill would create a protection which had never before existed, and, therefore, he should decidedly vote against it. Or, if he thought with another noble Lord, that the bill would remedy some grievance, some anomaly, or some absurdity, then he would support it; but he had heard nothing from the noble mover which at all gave him that idea, and, indeed, so far from that being its effect, he thought he should be able, before he concluded, to point out several absurdities which this measure perpetrated. Before going to this part of the subject, however, he desired to throw out a suggestion as to the propriety or advisability of proceeding with the bill at all. This measure had for its object to alter certain duties on the importation of Canadian wheat and wheat flour ground in Canada, in the event of her Majesty giving her Royal Assent to a bill passed by the Canadian Legislature, imposing a certain duty on American corn imported across the Canadian frontier. Now, that Royal assent had not yet been given. It was understood that it would not be given until this bill passed, and it was evident that without that assent being given this act could be of no effect. The bill of the Canadian Legislature, however, enacted, that the new duties it imposed were to come into operation on the "5th day of July next." If this bill, therefore, were not passed, and the 584 Royal assent were not given before tomorrow, it was clear that the act of the Canadian Legislature would not come into force until 1844, and, in that case, they were only giving themselves unnecessary trouble in passing the bill now. He would now proceed to make a few observations on the bill itself. How would the bill affect this country? That was a question to which no very distinct answer was given by the other side. Among the supporters of this bill there seemed to be very different views as to its probable effect upon ourselves. One party thought it would increase protection; another that it would cause a great importation of corn. A noble Lord, a Member of the Government, had declared in another place that the bill would afford additional protection by raising the duty on imported wheat and wheat-flour from an average of 2s. 1d. to 4s. There was a great fallacy, however, in that argument. The duty which averaged 2s. 1d. would, no doubt, be raised to 4s. as it affected American wheat, but with respect to Canadian wheat it would be diminished to 1s. When, therefore, it was argued that the protection to our own agriculture was increased by the bill, it was a gross fallacy to say that it was increased with respect to all Transatlantic corn. It was, no doubt, raised with respect to American-grown corn, but it was clearly lowered with respect to corn the produce of the Canadas. By the other section of those who supported the bill, it was said that the measure would have a beneficial effect, because it would lead to a great deal of corn being admitted. He was inclined to differ from that opinion; but even admitting that corn would be brought in, it was quite clear that the bill would effect its admission in a very roundabout way. If they wanted to admit corn why not do it directly? if they were to have it, surely it would be better to have it cheap, and direct from the United States, than to have it by this dear and roundabout mode of transmission consequent upon its passing through Canada? But by another party it was said—indeed the noble Lord who proposed the bill appeared himself to be of opinion, that the measure would have no effect at all; that it would not diminish protection on the one hand, or lead to any great importation of corn upon the other. Why then, he asked, have the bill at all? The bill occasioned great irri- 585 tation and alarm, and if it was to do no good, why create all that confusion? If that were the case, it was the most preposterous and ridiculous bill he ever remembered to have heard of. Well, then, having gone through this first branch of his subject, he now came to consider the bill as it affected Canada. Its first result upon Canada was to raise the price of every quarter of corn consumed in that country. If, indeed, the season was very propitious, and a very great superabundance of corn was grown in Canada, then the Canadians might probably export their own corn without any great rise in their prices; but if their season was only an average season, and they were nevertheless induced, by the hope of profit, to send some of their corn to England, then, having to make up their own deficiency from America, of course the price of their corn must be raised by so much as the duty was raised; that was to say, by 3s. a quarter. Well, was that desirable? He knew that there were some who seemed to think that nothing was so good as to raise prices. He had met with landlords who said, "Oh ! if the country is to go on, if the high taxes of the nation are to he paid, we must have high prices.' Now, that might be very good argument for producers, but he could not conceive that it was good argument for consumers. Surely it was not desirable that they should have more to pay for corn because they had more to pay in taxes? It was people who argued thus, he supposed, who thought that it was good for Canada that she should have her corn 3s. a quarter dearer. It was clear, however, that the people of Canada did not agree with that opinion; for by their petitions, now on the Table of the House, they proved that they thought it a very bad bill. But there was a still more serious objection to the bill in his mind, which was, that it established a new protection. He held all protections, and especially protections to agriculture, to be great misfortunes, and great grievances. Nobody, in fact, approved of protection as a thing good in itself—it was only defended on the ground of its necessity, in consequence of previous legislation. A noble Lord, whom he did not now see in his place, had once declared that if protection had never been created by acts of legislation, protection would never have been required. A right hon. Gentleman in another place had also said, 586 and that not long since, that the principle hostile to protection—the principle, namely, of free-trade—was "the principle of common sense;" and yet here they were gratuitously and wantonly establishing a protection for Canada, where it never before existed—creating a protection which, but for the act of the Legislature, never would have been required anywhere—raising up a barrier to the principle which, on the authority of the Cabinet, was now declared to be the "principle of common sense." The bill, therefore, was doubly mischievous to Canada; it was mischievous, first, by raising the price of food, and secondly, by creating a protection which never before existed. 'Whether that protection were required or not, he could not say; but it certainly appeared to him that it was not, for in the petition from the merchants of Montreal, as well as in other petitions, the great grievance complained of was the want of a market for the produce of the Canadian soil. That apparently was what was wanted—a good market. But, then, it was said, that this bill was much desired by the Canadians, and that they had pledged themselves to meet it. How did the Canadians pledge themselves? What they wanted, and what they asked for was, that on their imposing a certain duty on American corn imported into Canada, we should admit all the corn from Canada at a merely nominal duty. We were to admit not only Canadian wheat and wheat ground in Canada, but likewise American wheat brought through Canada, the premium for the Canadians being the increased traffic consequent upon the purchase of American wheat for exportation. That was what they wanted, but that was not what we gave. We limited our importation to wheat absolutely grown or manufactured in Canada, and the Canadians thus got only a part of what they had a right to expect at our hands. If this measure was a boon, why not extend it to other of our northern possessions? Why should not the Nova Scotians have the privilege of grinding American flour, if it was such an advantage? But he understood that they would rather not have it, seeing that they could grind wheat now without paving a duty of 3s., and were able to send it to England under the old duty of 2s. 1d., instead of having to pay 4s. Independent, however, of the practical effect of the bill, he objected to 587 its principle. Was it a principle of free-trade or not? His noble and learned Friend had said, he did not support the bill because it was not a step towards free trade; but there was a step towards free-trade in one part of the bill, and in another part a step another way. It was difficult to know what the view of Government was. The other day, nothing but a sliding-scale would do. That was the principle of his noble Friend who spoke just now. A sliding-scale was continued with respect to all foreign countries; it did not exist with respect to the colonies; though there might have been a jumping scale, a scale going from 5s. to 10s. in some things, and from 6s. to 6d. in others. With respect to Canada, there was no sliding-scale for wheat, but there was for other commodities. The sliding-scale appeared to him to be contrary to all sense and reason, notwithstanding all that his noble Friend had said —it looked very ingenious at first, but experience had shown that it was of no advantage. Upon these grounds, it appeared to him that this bill ought to be rejected. If the measure would do nothing—for those who recommended it stated that it would produce no effect one way or the other—where was the use of it? The measure, certainly, would have no good effect in this country, and must produce a very bad one in Canada. His noble Friend objected to continual changes. He thought the tendency of the measure was to produce changes, and such changes as he desired to see. The people thought the Government a changing Government, because they did not act upon the principles they laid down; their measures did not come up to their principles, and, as the people supposed, that they must ultimately act upon those principles, they thought the Government changeable. A noble Lord who was absent (Lord Ripon) had professed that he was an advocate of free-trade, but that it was altogether a question of time. That was the very point; if we were to have free-trade, when was it to be? That was really saying, that there must be a time for the change; and the only question was how soon the change should be made? Upon the general grounds he had stated, he should vote for the amendment of the noble Earl.
§ Lord Beaumont
said, that if he could look upon this measure as an isolated ques- 588 tion, independent of any general principle of policy, he should, (after the speeches of his two noble Friends, the noble Earl at the Table and the noble Duke on the cross-benches) be content to give a silent vote upon the subject of this evening's debate; but as on the contrary he looked upon this bill as a further indication of the new system of policy adopted by her Majesty's Government, and could only consider it as one more step towards the total abandonment of the principle of protection, he felt bound to trouble their Lordships with a few observations, while he protested now, as he had protested last year, on debating the Grinding Act in the latter instance, and the Canada Corn Bill in the present instance, against any further progress (however minute) towards the admission of free-trade doctrines. Her Majesty's Govern-men had on various occasions declared that the principle of their Corn-laws and the rule by which they should be guided was a moderate duty based upon a sliding-scale, which would give protection to the farmer in times of low prices, and relief to the consumer when corn was dear; and yet, in the face of this distinct avowal, they did not now hesitate to come forward and declare that there was nothing inconsistent with that principle or contrary to that rule, in imposing a fixed duty upon Canadian corn. He must say, that their arguments on the present occasion reminded him of their conduct on a very recent one, when after passing a solemn judgment on a solemn subject, they introduced a declaratory bill of a totally contrary purport, and supported that bill by the assertion that it was no ways inconsistent with their former decision. Such abandonment of all fixed principle and ordinary consistency as these proceedings demonstrated, deprived her Majesty's Ministers of all title to the confidence of the country, and it convinced him, for one, that if they wished in good faith to resist the tide of public opinion which they themselves had caused to flow in the direction of free-trade, they would not be able either to stem or to turn it back, but must eventually be borne down by the current and obliged in spite of themselves to go forward in the fulfilment of those principles which the noble Lord who had spoken last had so long and so ably advocated. In consequence of these convictions on his mind, he would now, as on all former occasions of the like kind, raise his voice, feeble though that voice may be, to protest against conduct so inconsistent on 589 the part of her Majesty's Government, and warn them, albeit he feared without much avail, of the dangerous consequences both to themselves and the country of the course they were now about to pursue. A panic, it will be remembered, had existed throughout the country last year in consequence of the alterations which had been then made in the Corn-laws and the tariff; that panic after a long duration had begun partially to subside; there had been a good seed time, there was a prospect of a good harvest time—heaven seemed to favour the measures of the Government and everything combined to revive the hopes of the agriculturists. But when this pleasing prospect began to open on our view—when these agreeable expectations began in some measure to be realised—when our ports were beginning to be again crowded with reviving commerce—when an increase in our exports of manufactured goods was becoming daily more evident in our large towns and (as is always the case) an increased demand for agricultural produce began to follow the reviving industry of our manufacturing population, her Majesty's Government came forward to dash to the ground the cup which industrious men began after a long waiting, to raise to their lips, and upset all their schemes and calculations by proposing a measure which left them again in uncertainty as to the future, and which must prove another lever in the hands of the free-traders to shake those principles of protection on which the farmer had been led to expect he might in future rely. On this occasion, moreover, Ministers had acted as they had done in the case of the Grinding Act and the repeal of the former Corn-law, and introduced an important measure without giving due warning of their intention so to do. And here he wished to set himself right with the noble Earl who had introduced this bill as well as with the House as to the charge which the noble Earl had brought against him of misrepresenting the Government on this score. It would be in the recollection of their Lordships that on a former occasion before this bill was brought into the other House of Parliament he, after giving due notice of his intention, had put a question to the noble Duke opposite, whether in the case of a certain act passed by the Legislative Assembly receiving the assent of the Crown, foreign corn, coming through Canada would be admitted into our ports at the nominal duty of is. To this question the noble Duke answered in the af- 590 firmative. He then remarked, that there was not a single passage in the speeches delivered by any Member of her Majesty's Government in either House of Parliament which could have led any one to suppose that such a proposition would have been adopted. He could make this assertion good by reading all those passages from the speeches of Members of her Majesty's Government, which in any ways touched on this subject., but he was spared the trouble of so doing by the noble Earl himself who had read this evening to the House the very passages alluded to, and in none of which was there any word from which it appeared that last year it was the intention of Government to permit this year the importation of America corn through Canada at 1s. duty. It was not for him to say whether this restriction to flour was an after thought of the Government, or whether the noble Duke himself was in error when he answered the question, but he was certainly misled by the noble Duke and believed in common with the noble Earl who spoke last and the Canadian people that wheat as well as wheat-flour was to be included in the bill. But supposing that the noble Duke who had actually said flour and not wheat, was this the way that the intentions of Government with respect to a measure of such vast importance were to be announced to the public? Was it by a random word dropped on one occasion, and another word dropped on another occasion—was it by a-half sentence falling from a Minister in the course of a debate on a different subject, or the possible construction of an imperfectly expressed opinion of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade—was it by these means that Government were to make known the changes in their views, and announce to Parliament their intentions on some great and important measure. [The noble Baron referred to several other occasions when questions had been put to Members of her Majesty's Government on this subject, and commented on the unsatisfactory nature of their replies.] This was not the way all former Governments had announced their intentions upon important matters of this nature. He had always understood it to be the practice of Parliament for the Minister of the Crown to come down to the House and there in his place distinctly and unequivocally state the intentions of his Government as to any change in the laws that regulate the trade between this country and the colonies, and 591 to take the opinion of Parliament on the question, before he took upon himself to propose terms to a third party and strike a bargain, from which he could not withdraw, with a Colonial Assembly on a matter of fiscal policy. It appeared, however, that in the present instance, the noble Lord the Secretary for the colonies in order to heal the wound which had been inflicted on the Canadians by the new timber duties; and in order to be able to announce to the world how happily be had induced them to submit to the late tariff, and how successfully he had restored terms of friendship between the colony and the mother country—in order, in short, to boast in Parliament that he had silenced all complaint in Canada—sat down in the seclusion of his own study at the Colonial-office, and there wrote a dispatch in which he bargained and bartered away a vote of the House of Commons, and a principle which had been adopted by a solemn vote of the Parliament of this country. Lord Stanley, without taking the sense of the House of Commons, or consulting Parliament at all on the subject, wrote to the Colonial Legislature, telling them to pass a bill, imposing a 3s. duty on American corn imported into Canada; and that he would thereupon induce the British Parliament to pass an Act admitting Canadian corn and flour ground in Canada at 1s. duty. He did not think that this was the way in which the Government of this country ought to conduct its business with the colonies, or shake the confidence of a great, and at present, suffering interest at home. Under these circumstances, he had, on the introduction of this measure confessed, that he had been taken completely by surprise, and he firmly believed, that Parliament and the country were also taken by surprise, as well as himself. He repeated, that Ministers had not announced their intentions last year; and after the explanation he had made, be did not think the noble Earl would now gainsay him. To come, however, to the merits of the bill itself, and to see whether for such a trifling good, Ministers were justified in spreading so great an alarm—the whole lay within a narrow compass, and amounted in a few words to this: the loss of 4s. protection to the British farmer against the introduction of Canadian wheat and American flour, when prices fall below 55s.; or when the home producer stands most in need of it; and to give a bonus to the Canadas, to establish a great milling interest, in opposition to that 592 of the mother country. It was bad to relax the principle of protection, either as regarded grain or flour; but if he were asked in which he would rather have it relaxed, he would say in wheat rather than in flour. If wheat were imported at a time when the markets were in a depressed state, and prices continuing to fall, it could be withheld from sale, and kept in a warehouse till the revival of the market made it available, and the prices became remunerating; but at whatever time flour is imported, it must be brought to sale, and cannot be held back from the market; and thus, however low prices may be, and however overstocked the market, it must tend to reduce those prices still lower, and increase to a still greater amount the surplus already in the market. Such were the evils which must immediately result from this measure. On the other hand, what benefits were expected which might in any degree compensate for these inevitable evils? Would it benefit the revenue?—the great advantage looked for in all fixed duties, and the best argument used in their support. It would not; for the 3s. were to be paid into the Colonial Treasury, not to the Customs at home—thus neglecting the good, and inflicting all the evil attendant on fixed duties in corn. Would it create a great commerce on the St. Laurence? The very proposers of the measure were urgent on its utter insignificance. It had no enlarged views in it: it neither promised to cover the lakes Erie and Ontario with ships, nor to make the St. Laurence the great highway for our manufactures. As to increase of trade, or further demand for our staple articles, neither the noble Earl, nor the supporters of the bill in the other House, held out the slightest hope. Its benefits in Canada were confined to the mere prospect of creating a great milling interest there, and thus compensating the Canadians in some degree for the loss lately sustained in consequence of change of duties on their chief staple, timber. While this was the only advantage obtained in the colony by the bill, the mischief clone at home by it was both extensive and of a permanent nature. No great question was more attended to by small farmers and agricultural labourers than that of emigration; and not a small village existed that had not its oracle, who descanted on the rich alluvial plains of America, the unbroken extent of virgin soil, the luxuriant valleys of the Mississippi and other rivers; nor were the rural population of this country inclined to look 593 upon any premium awarded (as in this bill) to the increased cultivation of American soils, in any other light than as a heavy blow to their own industry at home, and an attempt to make the Canadas and States the granary of Europe. It was in this light they viewed the present measure, and with such a conviction on their minds, it was not surprising, if they regarded this reduction of colonial duties as a more severe blow to British agriculture than even the great sweeping bill of last year. Was it not wanton cruelty on the part of Ministers, to revive so great a panic, for the sake of so trifling a measure as they considered this bill? But this is not all; it would give to that formidable body the Anti Corn-law League an argument, which would be used by them as a lever, to shake the remaining protection, and which would be difficult to answer on the part of the friends of protection. It would be asked why should they refuse to other colonies the boon they had granted to Canada? Malta, the Ionian Islands, Gibraltar, all might say, admit wheat flour duty free, and we will impose a 3s. fixed duty on foreign wheat in grain; and thus you will have a 4s. fixed duty as the only protection against corn from Odessa, Smyrna, Egypt and Tripoli. If you grant this boon to the teeming soils of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, how can you deny it to the lands where nature has been more niggard of her favours? This, the Anti Corn-law League may say, is your own principle and system, and not ours; you cannot say it was wrung as a concession to the free-traders from an unwilling Ministry, but it was the deliberate, uncalled for act of those who call themselves the friends of the farmer; and as it is theirs, we call upon them to carry it out to its full extent. He had, although alone and unsupported, opposed the Grinding Act last year, because he considered it as the precursor of other similar small but repeated concessions; and he now opposed the present bill, because he feared it too might only prove the precursor of other and equally dangerous measures; nor could he refrain from telling noble Lords opposite, that it was the same thing whether the interests he advocated were struck down by the blows of their open enemies, or sapped and mined by their professing friends; nay, it was perhaps better to fall at once beneath a great measure like that advocated by the noble Earl near him, than to be tortured and worried, "stung to death by pismires," as they now 594 were by these little but recurring attacks. He would, however, never flinch from doing his duty; and he therefore was prepared to vote with the noble Earl who had moved the amendment.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, so far from there being any wish on the part of the Government to take away protection from the agricultural interest, their whole object had been to support that interest; and he believed that the measures of the present Government would be the salvation of the agricultural interest. He believed that to persist in the extreme measures which the noble Lord advocated, would be to ruin the agricultural interest. He stated distinctly, that the object of the Government was to protect the agricultural interest, and they had taken no step whatever but with that view. It was true that they had reduced the scale of protection, but not more than the well-wishers of agriculture desired. He believed, in his conscience, that the great majority of the agriculturists felt, that the price at which corn was distributed to the people of this country under the former law was too high, and required reduction, and he believed the country generally was satisfied with the change. But he again repeated that protection was the object of the Government, and the principle on which they wished to act with regard to agriculture. The noble Lord (Lord Beaumont) taunted them with becoming free-traders, because they had taken certain measures last year to reduce the price of certain articles, which was notoriously too high. They had taken measures by the new tariff to lessen this price, because they thought such a measure due to the country when they were obliged to impose taxes. He wanted to know if, in point of fact, there was any trade in this country which was not protected? The interests of agriculture had grown up under a system of protection, and it would be madness in the Government to take away protection from it. But they were pressed and asked, "Why don't you say manfully you will go a step further in lessening that protection?" Why, they could not do that; they must depend upon circumstances. It might be asked, why did they not treat this question firmly, as they did the question of the Repeal of the Irish Union? Because the Repeal of the Union was a vital question to this country, which they must re- 595 sist at all hazards; not so, the Corn-laws, and the Government would be unworthy of the position which it held if for one moment it treated the two questions in the same manner. Another argument brought against the Government was that of constant change, and this bill was spoken of as an instance of it. His noble Friend (the Earl of Radnor) said, "Here you have a fixed duty; you have gone from your principle of a sliding-scale and have gone to a fixed duty." He could not see the adoption of a principle of a fixed duty here. He confessed that he could see a fixed duty which would be better than a sliding-scale, provided they would insure it to him; but his objection to a fixed duty was this, that it was impossible to impose it tinder certain circumstances. They were deluded when they talked of a fixed duty as a protection, when, in point of fact, they could not maintain it when most necessary. So far from this bill being an instance of continual change, he contended that a fair warning had been given of it; the Canadian people had been appealed to, that if they would impose a proper duty on the importation of American corn, the Government of this country would reduce the duty on wheat flour coming from Canada, and the object of this had been to do good to the people of Canada. It was not for the purpose of doing anything very serviceable to the people of this country, but in order to show Canada that we were disposed to treat her as a favorite child, and to give her every advantage we could, without doing an injury to the agricultural interest of this country. Five-sixths of the wheat that came from Canada came in a manufactured state, and the proposed mode was the best way of imposing a duty on American produce. It was true that this duty did not come into the Exchequer of this country, but it came into that of our colony, and we were willing to give her this advantage. Before the present bill the duty was 5s. at the highest, and 1s. at the lowest, and by this bill the Government put on a duty on the importation of American manufactured corn through Canada equal to four-fifths of the highest duty that could be laid on it under the existing law. It was true that this duty might be called a fixed duty, but it was not like a fixed duty imposed on corn coming from the Baltic, which they knew well they could not obtain under certain 596 circumstances. This duty was imposed under circumstances against which the agricultural interest of this country could always contend. He believed the Canadians were perfectly willing to pay this 3s. duty, especially as they had no corn of their own. They were told that this bill would introduce smuggling into Canada, and that though they imposed a 3s. duty there would be a great deal of smuggling, and in point of fact they would only realize 1s. It surprised him that any people should imagine the smuggling of corn in any country. He should just as soon imagine the smuggling of coals, a similar bulky article. He should say that it was almost impossible to smuggle corn. It was quite true, that make laws as stringent as they would, they could not prevent the smuggling of some articles easily conveyed; but it was impossible to smuggle corn across the lakes of Canada. It was said, that there was a part of the St. Lawrence, near Montreal, where the river was narrow, where it was possible to smuggle corn; but, in point of fact, they were here a long way from the corn districts of Illinois and Michigan, and other corn-growing states; and the corn could not be conveyed to this part of the St. Lawrence, except at an expense to put smuggling out of the question. He would again repeat that the agricultural interest having grown up under protection, the Government deemed that it ought to be protected, and the Government had no intention of taking protection away.
§ Lord Monteagle
confessed, that he felt some degree of difficulty on this question; not on account of the vote he intended to give in favour of the bill, but in consequence of the opinions that had been expressed in its favour by some noble Lords. If he could agree with them, in their facts, or in the inferences they drew from these facts —then, so far from supporting the bill, he should concur with them. in opposing it. He admitted that in acquiring this case, the Government was placed in a very great difficulty, for they were exposed to a cross fire, and could not advance anything which was likely to conciliate one class, without subjecting themselves to hostility from another. This difficulty had betrayed them into the most extraordinary fallacies. First, the noble Lord, the President of the Council, had said, that this was a measure intended altogether for the benefit of Canada. But 597 in what way did the noble Lord make out his proposition? So far as the Canadians were consumers of foreign American wheat, they evidently were placed in a worse situation than before, because they would have to pay hereafter a duty on all the foreign American corn they consumed. But then it was said, that the concession of trading with this country would be such a benefit to them, as to counterbalance the disadvantage of paying a higher price for American corn. If, then, the increased intercourse with England was a benefit, that benefit must he in proportion to the reduction of British duty conceded by this bill, yet the House were gravely assured, that whereas the Canadian could heretofore have imported his produce into England at 2s. 11d. duty, he was under this bill called upon to pay 4s. [Lord Wharncliffe: It was to be 1s. duty on Canada.] That was on the produce of Canada only. It was clear that the benefit to the colonial manufacturer of flour must depend upon the amount of the consumption, and that must depend, more or less, upon the amount of the duty imposed. So far, then, from this measure being a benefit to the Canadian, upon the hypothesis of the Government, it would be none whatever. He did not, however, admit that hypothesis, practically a fallacy, ran through the whole of the speech of the noble Lord; and he would tell the noble Lord, if there were not that fallacy in it, his argument would carry him much further than he intended. The noble Lord had said, that this was not a new measure. He thought that it was a new measure, and on that very account he supported it. Since 1815, there had been no new measure proposed in Parliament that in his opinion so boldly or so wisely recognised the principle of a fixed duty. This was its leading feature—this seemed to be its main object—and, therefore, it was, that he should be found heartily voting in its favour. The noble Lord had stated that this bill would not encourage the import of much corn. Now, he would take the liberty of showing, that hereafter, and perhaps at no distant time, it must lead to the import of a large quantity of corn, and he gave his support to it on that expectation. In dealing with the interests of nations, the Legislature was bound, and had a right to look beyond the present time. They were not alone to look to Canada in 1843, but to Canada such as it might become hereafter. They had also to look forward to 598 what must be the certain progress of other great provinces of North America. They were also as Legislators bound to look to what must be the ultimate and indirect consequences of this measure hereafter. The noble Lord had said that this bill would not lead to a great importation of corn, and he had denied that it would give corn at a cheaper rate. No doubt, if it did not give them an increased supply of corn, it would not give corn cheaper. He thought he could show, that corn must hereafter come in in considerable quantities, and with a great increase in cheapness. But, if this was denied, and that bill was only to be that which it was represented to be by its framers, he asked on what ground, or from what necessity, was it to be passed at all? The only ground stated for it was, to conciliate the good feeling of the Canadians. He attached importance to those feelings. If the bill were a matter of indifference, or even if he felt some slight repugnance to it, still on grounds of Canadian feeling he would hesitate, before he refused to assent to it. It was impossible to consider this bill without also considering the state of Canada at the present time. Canada had just recovered from a rebellion. The Legislature of Canada had passed an act which was on the Table of that House, They did so upon the inducement of the Secretary of State. It was on the faith of Lord Stanley's dispatch that this was done. It was on the intention expressed by that Secretary that they relied. He could not imagine, that the attachment of a colony to the mother country, more especially a colony, subsiding from the danger of a revolution, could be put to so severe a trial, as if after acting, in good faith, relying on the inducements held out to them, the promised good should be withheld by Parliament, after everything short of a Parliamentary pledge had been given to them. He could not imagine anything more fatal to our character and interests than to refuse assent to the present bill. But was it wise, he would ask, on the part of the Government to put Parliament in so novel a position? With all the respect and regard which he entertained for the Secretary of State, he did not think Parliament was quite fairly treated by having this engagement made by a Minister without a more direct authority from Parliament itself for the realization of the engagement. On a former occasion, he had stated that Parliament and the public had a perfect 599 knowledge that some measure on the subject of Canada Corn was intended to be introduced, and he did not concur with any one who had in this respect attributed bad faith to the Government. It would, however, have been better if some more specific intimation of the intended measure had been given, and had been strengthened by a Parliamentary sanction. But were they now carrying into effect the promise made to the colonies? Undoubtedly not. He was free to admit, that the absence of any remonstrance from Canada went far towards negativing the supposition of any injustice inflicted, or of any discontent on the part of the colonists; and he also admitted, although there was a difference between the engagement entered into, and that to which they were about to give effect by their legislation, yet that difference was not so great as at first appeared. It was, however, perfectly clear that the Canadian legislature had expected the same concession to be granted to American wheat, and to flour. This he thought he could demonstrate, and it was important that the fact should not be overlooked, because he thought the Legislature and the Government would do wrong, if they did not give the most liberal construction to the engagement that had been entered into. Now, though he was convinced that the effect of the present bill would be more advantageous to the public interests than some noble Lords expected, he still objected to the principle of contingent and conditional legislation. The Imperial Act would endure only for the duration of the colonial act; if the latter were repealed the old law would be thereby revived. He objected to that. He objected also to the transference of the duty received on American corn to the Treasury of the colony instead of being received by the British Exchequer. He thought that principle unsound. But those objections were overcome—first, by the fact that he got by the bill a Parliamentary and solemn recognition of the principle of a fixed duty; and, secondly, by his belief that the country was certain to obtain hereafter a greater abundance of corn, and that increased supply furnished at a cheaper rate. There was an objection which might fairly be urged against the bill on agricultural grounds, it unwisely feared the introduction of flour in preference to wheat, if flour were thus introduced, it would operate in substitution for flour made in this country, whereas if wheat were introduced, 600 it acted not as in substitution of British wheat, but in aid of British wheat. In a cold bad harvest, foreign wheat was important to the miller to assist in grinding up with the soft qualities of wheat in England, and it was important to the consumer increasing the quantity of food, as well as bettering the quality. In this way, the introduction of foreign wheat is productive of good to all parties concerned. In order to prove the ultimate effects of the present bill, he would next refer to passages subjoined to Lord Durham's report on Canada, in which that noble Lord described the mass of rich and fertile land which lay north of the Lakes. Lord Durham, after drawing a comparison between the United States and Canada, said, and alluding to the supposed superiority of the former states—It might be supposed by persons unacquainted with the frontier country, that the soil on the American side is of very superior fertility. I am positively assured that this is by no means the case, but that upon the whole superior natural fertility belongs to the British territory. In Upper Canada the whole of the great peninsula between Lakes Erie and Huron, comprising nearly half the available land of the province, consists of gently undulating alluvial soil, and with a smaller proportion of inferior land than probably any other tract of similar extent in that part of North America, is generally considered the best grain country on that continent.Now, there were 17,000,000 acres of land already disposed of by the Government. [A noble Lord: Yes, but not cultivated.] No, not cultivated, and so much the better for the argument, because, if those lands were already in a state of cultivation, there would not be so much reason to anticipate a great future increase in the agricultural produce. It is because these rich alluvial soils were not cultivated, yet capable of profitable cultivation, it was on that very account that there might and must be anticipated a great increased production hereafter. Now 17,000,000 of acres contained in this single district of North America, was a district nearly equal to the whole amount of the cultivable land of Ireland, but the population of the district was under 400,000. Well, but the Government were encouraging emigration, and most wisely encouraging it; every emigrant landed upon the shores of that country must, it was true, in the first instance be a consumer, but ultimately he would become a producer also; and the production of grain upon land of such fertility as that described 601 in the reports of Lord Durham and Mr. Buller, ought to be estimated not in reference to the state of the country at present, when it was so under-populated, but in reference to the time when it should become fully inhabited. If, therefore, they dealt with Upper Canada alone, they must look to a greatly increased future production, and it must be remembered also that the whole of the produce of those soils would come in at the lowest amount of duty. There was no question, here, of a 3s. protection. The 17,000,000 of fertile acres in Upper Canada might all he cultivated with wheat, which might be introduced at a 1s. duty. He was perfectly consistent, then, in voting for this bill, for he obtained a reasonable certainty of an increased supply of corn at no very distant time. But how would the matter stand in relation to the grain of the United States? South of the Lakes we had to deal with the great wheat-growing states of the Union, Now the production of articles of food in the United States was brought before them as part of the statistical results of the last census. He had the papers before him, and they led to wonderful inferences. For the sake of brevity he should exclude the general question, as it applied to the whole of the Union, and apply himself simply to those parts of the Union which would more immediately profit by the new law, namely, the states lying to the southward of the Lakes. The produce of the United States was, of course, subject to vicissitudes, as well as that of all other countries, and these vicissitudes, he might add in passing were increased by injudicious Corn-laws. There were bounties on the growth of corn in some states, and duties on importation, and such laws could not fail to be most injurious. The only states to which he now felt it necessary to refer, were Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan; he would ask how had population increased in those states? One of these states was greatly in advance of the others, which enabled him by showing the effect of an increased population in one instance, and comparing it with the increased produce, to apply a test by which the House might calculate what an increased population would effect in other states of equal fertility. The most densely inhabited of the four states was Ohio; and taking its population at four decennial periods, it appeared, that the increase had been from 230,000 in 1810, to 1,515,000 in 1840. In Indiana the population had started at 602 24,520, and augmented to 638,000 during the same period. In Illinois, the increase from 1810 to 1840, had been from 12,283 to 486,000; and in Michigan from 4,762 to 211,705. Now, the produce in wheat was justly represented by the progress of population in those four states; and it should be remembered, that when they dealt with the produce of wheat in those states, they dealt with states that produced enormous quantities of Indian corn, the consumption of which at home must set free a proportionate quantity of wheat for the consumption of other countries. The number of bushels of wheat produced in Ohio, in 1839, was 16,292,000; in Indiana, 4,154,000 bushels; in Illinois, 2,740,000 bushels; and in Michigan, 1,899,000 bushels; and the area of these four wheat growing states was 178,816,000 acres. In comparison with that enormous territory it should be remembered, that the area of the British isles was only 77,394,000 acres, and let it also be remembered, that in the states he had mentioned, the land though fertile was as yet scarcely populated. In Illinois there were only eight inhabitants to the square mile; in Michigan, four; in Indiana, eighteen; and in Ohio, thirty-nine. When, therefore, he mentioned that the produce of these states would be enabled under the present bill to profit by the water carriage extending through Canada, and to claim admission into British markets at a low fixed duty, he had made out his case, and had proved that it was absurd—that it was the greatest of all fallacies—a fallacy advanced in entire forgetfulness of the enduring principles upon which all sound legislation should rest, if the House were solely to look at the produce of the past as a guide or test to decide the probable produce of the future. But he would not rely exclusively on the statistical facts he had recapitulated. He would refer the House also to the evidence of a gentleman perfectly well qualified to give testimony on the point. In 1833, a committee was appointed by the other House of Parliament, to consider the state of manufactures and commerce, and before that committee, men of the highest authority, knowledge, and commercial eminence were examined. It was the more important to consider the evidence taken by that committee, because it was given before the sliding-scale and fixed duty had unfortunately become party questions, and before the present struggle of opinion on the subject of the Corn-laws had com- 603 menced. The following evidence was given on the occasion referred to:—With a change in the Corn-laws here, I do not think that American manufactures would make much progress.Are the committee to understand, that the consumption of our manufactures by the United States is only limited by the power they have of purchasing them; and that if we were to permit a more free ingress of American produce into this country, we should then be able to induce them to take a much larger supply of our manufactures?—No doubt of it; the people of New England having nothing of their own produce which this country will take from them, and finding no market for agricultural produce, of necessity must do something else.Supposing there was a change of the law in this country by which corn were admitted more regularly than at present, and the trade were no longer subject to the fluctuations incident to a graduated fluctuating scale of duty —do you conceive, that the United States would send continually a considerable supply of corn to this country?Now, a more direct question could not possibly be put. The answer was—There is no doubt that she would send a very large quantity, depending, however, upon what the fixed duty might be.Have you any data as to the price at which a considerable quantity of corn could be afforded under such circumstances? — The price at which it could be afforded from the Western country, if there was a great market continually open for it here, would be very low indeed.Coming out through the St. Lawrence?— Coming out through the St. Lawrence.Can you state anything more precise on the subject?—The price of wheat in the western country is stated to be very low—2s. a bushel a high price, or 16s. a quarter. Thus it might be delivered at New Orleans, at 22s. per quarter for very fine wheat, and in Liverpool or London at about 30s. a quarter. The uncertainty with regard to the duty would prevent any one from speculating in it, and it would not be till some time after the establishment of a fixed duty that the low price would be arrived at.Thus the witness admitted, that a great supply of corn might be obtained from the western country upon a fixed duty. He supposed he should now be asked the name of the gentleman whose evidence he had quoted. That gentleman was asked the question—" You are a partner in the House of Baring and Co.?" and the answer given was—" I am." The name of the witness was Joshua Bates, and a more intelligent person could not be examined; he was an 604 American by birth, and an Englishman by residence, and it was important to recollect that his were not sentiments delivered in opposition to the bill now before the House though bearing so immediately upon it —but was the enunciation of the simple truth as it appeared to the witness. Now, he hoped that as a free-trader he had fully justified his intended vote. He had also shown that the results he anticipated in 1843, had been foretold in 1833. But were there no other considerations to be taken into the account also? The House had passed a bill for the encouragement of public works in Canada, and a million and a half was pledged by the country for the improvement of the water navigation in the colony. He would ask, must not every increase and every improvement they gave to the internal communications of that province, increase by so much, the facility of producing, and with the facility of conveying, increase also the cheapness at which corn could be sent to market. He was anxious to represent to the House, the facility of water carriage in Canada as strongly bearing upon the question of smuggling. The more they smuggled, the better for his argument, for he wanted to get increased quantities of grain into consumption; if Parliament made a bad law, they must pay the penalty in having it defeated by smuggling; and he thought that the increase or diminution of smuggling, furnished the best test, whether a revenue law was good or bad. In regard to the intercourse between the United States and Canada, he believed he was right in stating, that the exports of farinaceous food exceeded in value 4,000,000 annually, and that it occupied a tonnage equal to one-third of the whole of the shipping of the United States. America, too, as well as Canada, was improving her water communication; they bad spent 2,000,000 of dollars in improving one inland harbour. Thus increased cultivation would improve navigation, and improved navigation give a new stimulus to agriculture. He had shown, upon high American commercial authority, that the abolition of the sliding-scale would be an enormous encouragement to the production of corn in the States. It would place American commerce on a better and juster footing than formerly, for a graduated scale operated most injuriously upon those states which were at the greatest distance from our markets. He hoped, that the beneficial effects of the change would be felt in 605 America, and that it would be appreciated not only by our own provinces, but by the people, the legislature, and the government of the United States. He believed, that the bill would do good in its assertion of a good principle, as also by securing to this country a larger supply of grain than noble Lords on the other side contemplated, or perhaps than they considered it quite politic to avow. He believed, that it would do good by giving a more healthy commercial action to our exchanges with America; he believed it would do good to the province of Canada, and on these grounds he gave his entire and hearty assent to the principle of the bill.
§ Lord Ashburton
said, that whether or not the bill deserved the praise bestowed upon it by his noble Friend. His noble Friend, by the exercise of his great Parliamentary tact, had taken care, while he approved of it, to throw out also a great deal to alarm the country gentlemen. He looked upon the bill with a totally different view; he regarded it as one of favour and conciliation to the Canadian colonies, and as one likely to do no injury to any interest in this country;—none whatever to the agricultural interest. He thought, that it would even do good to the agricultural interests, so far from being injurious to them. Looking at the subject with a view to the landed interest, and as a protector of that interest, he should say pass this bill as one likely to benefit them. What his noble Friend opposite had said with respect to the western states was perfectly correct, and no part of the habitable globe was more rich and fertile. A noble Lord said, that corn would come from New Orleans at 22s.; but this he very much doubted. The question was, what amount was likely to come from the northern ports of the lakes down the St. Lawrence, whence the noble Lord who opened the debate had shown that it could not come into England at less than 55s. The noble Lord opposite had merely endeavoured to frighten the House a little with the immense products of the valley of the Mississippi, and with the corn which was likely to come to New Orleans in the course of the next generation; but he had not touched on the material point, the price at which the corn was likely to come by Canada. It was to be borne in mind, that the population of the new states increased at a most rapid rate; when he first knew Ohio, it had a popula- 606 tion of 10,000, and it now contained 1,000,000. Very few newly settled countries had much food to spare for exportation. A country which imported 150,000 or 200,000 fresh mouths every year had much to do in providing for them; the increase of population prevented its having any very large surplus production. Settlers in a country for the first two years did not feed themselves, and required three or four years before they were enabled to contribute to the general stock of produce. If he thought this bill was likely to endanger the landed interest, or to trench on the protection which he believed to be the soundest policy of this country, and to which those who had invested their capital and industry in agriculture were entitled in every respect, both as a continuation of the system which had been suffered to grow up, and in respect of the burthens which had been imposed on them, he could assure their Lordships he would be the last man to vote for it. It was for them to consider whether an importation of 90,000 quarters annually at a duty of 1s. less than was now levied would justify the apprehensions which his noble Friend had laboured so artfully to excite. Upon the question of protection he had never entertained the slightest doubt. He maintained, and he had always believed, that the present system of protection by the sliding-scale was the one best adapted to the circumstances of the country; but with reference to the existing aspect of things, he confessed he looked at it with some doubt and suspicion. If it could be made out satisfactorily to his mind, that the country, on an average of crops, was not capable of feeding its population, then he should hold that the sliding-scale was riot suited to its wants. If there were every year a deficiency of 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 quarters in the supply that was required, it was quite clear that the corn-dealer and importer had only to wait their time. He did not however, believe that to be the state of things in this country; it was undoubtedly true, that during the last four or five years there had been a large importation; but it was also true, that in the preceding four or five years there had been a completely adequate supply. Again, at the period of the year when the harvest was closed, a mass of corn was often thrown on the market, by the operation of the sliding-scale, at the 607 time most inconvenient to the farmer. This, however, could not permanently happen, unless on the certainty of an insufficiency of home supply. Suppose, what he believed to be the more probable case, that the country produced nearly sufficient for its own supply, and that the improvement of our agriculture would keep pace with the increase of population—suppose 100,000 or 200,000 quarters would make the difference, if you let in Canada corn you would keep out foreign produce. Taking merely the narrowest view, and looking only to protection, he would say, let in the corn of Canada as a protection against that which would otherwise swamp your markets. The noble Lord opposite thought he had gained a great triumph by the little bit of fixed duty which was inserted in the present bill. He was not one of those who saw any great advantage in uniformity of system. People were much given to think that either a sliding-scale or a fixed duty had some great principle in it, and that either one or the other ought to be universally adopted; but he saw no strong objection against a mixed system, varied in different places according to circumstances. He admitted the extreme importance of not too frequently changing laws of this description; but he would not refuse to do so if good cause be shown. It had been stated with all possible distinctness by the noble Lord near him, and he rejoiced to hear it, that it was the intention of Government to support those who cultivated the land. It was impossible to over-rate the greatness of this subject, which, besides its importance to the industrial interests of the country, migh be said to he a great social and constitutional question, lying at the very foundation of English society. They must give protection to agriculture proportioned to the competition it had to sustain, and the charges which were laid on it; if they did not do that they would become dependent on foreign countries, which might some day lead to the most fatal consequences. This had been universally admitted until the prevalence of the new philosophical doctrines. It was acknowledged by the wisest men of all countries, and he trusted that Parliament and the country would still uphold this maxim.
must oppose the bill, notwithstanding the pain he should have invoting against his noble Friend near him (Lord Monteagle) believing that it was 608 founded on a bad principle. They were about, by this bill, to establish a Corn-law in Canada, to do that which they were gradually undoing in this country. He could not vote for a measure containing so small a modicum of good, with so much that was evil. The country had been told, on the highest authority, that this was not a free-trade measure, and therefore he opposed it. In Canada the bill would set the various classes of the people against each other, in the same manner as unfortunately; prevailed in this country.
The Duke of Buckingham
said, had he entertained the slightest doubt as to the course he should take on this bill, the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) would have confirmed him in the opinion he was inclined to form. He objected to the bill not only because extensive smuggling would take place under it, but because it afforded a precedent for a fixed duty, against which he had always voted, and which he believed would be extremely detrimental to the agricultural interests. He did not think his noble Friends near him would fly from their words, which they had repeated over and over again, that it was not their intention to make any further alteration in the Corn-law but they had set a precedent for a fixed duty, which he thought would hereafter be brought against them by noble Lords opposite, and which might eventually lead to another change into a fixed duty instead of a sliding-scale, most injurious to the interests of the country.
§ The House then divided on the question that the word "now" stand part of the question:—Contents 57; Not Contents 25: Majority 32.609
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|The Lord Chancellor||Galloway|
|List of the Not-CONTENTS.|
|Marquess of Huntly||Lord Lilford|
|Earl of Digby||Earl of Zetland|
|Earl of Belfast||Lord de Lisle.|
|Lord Lyttleton||Lord de Mauley|
|Lord Forester||Lord Portman|
§ Bill went through committee without amendments, was reported, and ordered to be read a third time.
§ The House adjourned.
§ The following Protest was entered.
1. Because a fixed duty of only 1s. per quarter would, under the proposed measure, be payable on the importation into the United Kingdom of wheat which is grown in Canada, and which might hereafter be sent to the British market in such large quantities as would be very injurious to the home growers.
2. Because the duty of 5s. per quarter, which at the present price of wheat and by the existing law, is now payable on Canadian wheat, would thus be reduced to one-fifth of its amount, although under the payment of that duty, and during a considerable number of successive weeks, a much larger quantity of colonial than of foreign wheat was lately entered for borne consumption.
3. Because the duties that are now payable on wheat, under an act passed in the last
Session of Parliament are, and have been found by experience to be, utterly insufficient for the protection of the home-growers, and cannot be still further reduced without additional injustice, and without inflicting greater injuries on them and on the other industrious classes of the community.
4. Because a still further reduction of that remnant of protection which is yet felt to the agricultural classes of the United Kingdom would increase the general mistrust which now prevails amongst those who have invested their capital in the cultivation of land, and might still more depress the price of wheat.
5. Because no Parliamentary inquiry has been instituted, and no satisfactory evidence has been obtained, with respect to the prices at which wheat can be grown in Canada, and imported from thence into the United Kingdom and without such inquiry and information Government ought not to have recommended the proposed measure, and Parliament ought not to proceed with it.
6. Because Canada, which, like all other British colonies and possessions, ought to be treated with more favour than any foreign country, is placed under very different circumstances from those of the United Kingdom, is much less burthened with taxes, and ought not to be allowed to injure the mother country by depressing the prices of its produce in the home market.
7. Because the proposed measure is not required for the prosperity of Canada, which would be best promoted by restoring it to those advantages with respect to its trade in timber of which it was most unjustly deprived by the new tariff.
§ KENYON, for all the reasons except the second.
§ RICHMOND, for all the reasons except the second.