HL Deb 23 May 1843 vol 69 cc754-6
The Earl of Radnor,

pursuant to notice, rose to present a petition against the Corn-laws from the farmers of Uxbridge. This petition was agreed to at a meeting lately held in Uxbridge, and was signed by the chairman on behalf of the meeting. The corn market of Uxbridge, as their Lordships were aware, was one of the largest in the kingdom. The farmers of Uxbridge had invited Mr. Cobden, with whose name their Lordships must be well acquainted, to attend a meeting of farmers in Uxbridge, for the purpose of discussing the question of the Corn-laws with Mr. Pownall, a gentleman also well known, who once stood as candidate for the county. That invitation was accepted by Mr. Cobden, and he went down accompanied by Mr. Moore. This meeting was a select meeting, and confined exclusively to farmers. The greatest pains were taken to prevent the introduction to the meeting of persons of a different description. Considerable discussion took place, the result of which was, that a resolution was agreed to by a majority of about three to one, adopting the present petition against the Corn-laws. Some time back a noble Lord opposite, the President of the Council, said that it was not the present intention of her Majesty's Government to make any alteration in the Corn-laws. The agitation on this subject amongst the public had since been very much increasing, and he believed that the farmers themselves were very generally beginning to become converts to a repeal of the Corn-laws, and he must say that he thought the conduct of her Majesty's Government, in respect to this agitation, was anything but such as would conduce to a settlement of the question.

The Earl of Mountcashel

begged to say, with respect to the meeting, that he had been informed that it was quite a hole-and-corner affair, He understood that Mr. Cobden, on going down to Uxbridge, found the farmers totally opposed to his views, and finding that he could get no support amongst them, it was no difficult matter for him to get one gentleman to take the chair and sign the petition in that character. If the farmers had not been opposed to the principles of the petition, was it not reasonable to suppose that they would have pursued the usual course, and signed the petition with their own hands? With regard to the assertion of the noble Earl, that the farmers were beginning to become favourable to a repeal of the Corn-laws, he believed that that apprehension was quite without foundation. Considering all the money which had been spent in order to influence the minds of the farmers, who were a class of persons not generally very well informed on all subjects, the wonder only was that more had not been brought over by the League to their way of thinking.

The Earl of Radnor

said it was extremely disagreeable to him to be obliged to repel the statements of a noble Lord with statements for which he had not the authority of his own personal cognizance. He had not been present at the Uxbridge meeting, but he was informed by credible persons that what he had stated was true. He had admitted, that by the forms of the House the petition could only be received as the petition of the individual who signed it, although emanating from a large meeting. The noble Earl asserted that the meeting was a hole-and-corner affair, and that Mr. Cobden could get nobody amongst the farmers of Uxbridge to support him. He could only say that the meeting was advertised by placards for several days previous, and that it was attended by Mr. Wood and Mr. Byng, the members for the county, and by Colonel Wood, the member for Brecon, together with several of their tenants and friends. He was convinced that the meeting was anything but what could be called a hole-and-corner meeting, and the petition was entitled to as much attention from their Lordships as one coming from any public meeting could be. The noble Earl said that, in spite of the exertions of the League, very few converts had been made to their principles amongst the agriculturists. He would refer the noble Earl, however, to the result of the large agricultural meeting in Dorsetshire, which was attended by upwards of 3,000 persons, and where resolutions in opposition to the Corn-laws were almost unanimously adopted. Only two hands were held up against them. He would also refer to the Berkshire meeting, where the petition was adopted by a majority of about three to two. With respect to the Uxbridge meeting be declared again that he thought a more straightforward meeting never took place, whilst the resolutions were agreed to by a majority of three to one.

Petition laid on the Table.