HL Deb 27 April 1846 vol 85 cc1048-50

called the attention of the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack, and also of the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), to a Motion he was about to make for returns connected with the question of the importation of Foreign Corn, and also with the importation of Corn from Ireland. The production of these Papers could not be objected to, because they had already been produced in the other House. It might naturally suggest itself to noble Lords that he was rather premature in moving for returns which went to affect the discussion they were about to have upon that most important measure the Corn Bill, which, he perceived by the Votes of the other House of Parliament, had at various times and in different manners occupied its attention during many weeks of the present Session. It was a measure which he perceived from the same Votes—for of course he could only look to the Votes for information—had made no considerable progress in that House. The state into which the business of the country had been brought, according to the Votes, which were the only records he had access to by the Constitution of the country, and by the law of Parliament, was such that in the foreign capital from which he had lately returned he had heard grave doubts expressed respecting the expediency of our system by persons with whom no doubt he differed upon nearly all political questions. He had in vain defended our system against his friends at the French bar, and among French politicians. He had argued with them, that what they looked upon as the radical defect and vice of our system, was only of a passing, temporary, and accidental nature—that it must be accounted for by the various caprices of fortune, which had placed certain men in certain positions, of which they availed themselves, affecting to be in favour of a measure which in their hearts they hated, or affecting to be against a measure which in their hearts they loved, only complaining that it did not go far enough, and waving their opposition to the measure they loved, in the hope of postponing the measure they hated. He had given this explanation to his friends in France of the present state of things with regard to the Corn Bill. "But," said they, "facts are against you; you do not get on; your business is stopped; there is an utter incapacity to carry on the business of the country; and how long it is to last, or what is to happen, who can tell?" His other answer had been this: the nature of the British Constitution, and its singular excellence, is, that wherever there shall happen to arise any temporary mischief from the friction of the parts of the machine, or any resistance in the medium through which it moves, there is in that great political engine (the perfection of human polity, as he firmly, conscientiously, and seriously believed — a well-regulated constitutional monarchy, acting by means of a well regulated representative system), a vis medicatrix, a power of re-adjustment, self-corrective and adaptative, which never failed to get rid of any temporary obstruction, and to restore harmony in its working. Their Lordships possessed a power within themselves of applying the corrective, and of administering an effectual remedy. If in any quarter, of whatever colour of politics, the desperate hope was entertained of frustrating the intentions of Parliament, and of the country, by endless and vexatious delays, or of postponing the arrival of that great, and, in his conscience he believed, most salutary measure into their Lordships' House till it should be too late to discuss it (for without ample discussion God forbid it should be carried this Session), then the remedy was in their Lordships' own hands, for they had the power of anticipating the discussion, and of coming to a deliberate and well-considered opinion. And if, in the course of a fortnight, he should, by having recourse again to the Votes, still find the same obstruction to this, and indeed to all business elsewhere—for it was not to the Corn Bill, but to all other business that the obstruction referred — he should deem it his bounden duty, as their Lordships had the unquestionable right, to bring on the subject for discussion without waiting for the Bill; and thus give noble Lords an opportunity of discussing, and deliberating, and pronouncing their opinion upon the general principle of that great and most important commercial change. And when their Lordships, after discussion, should have pronounced a favourable opinion upon the principle, as he earnestly hoped and confidently expected would be the case, then he might venture, without any gift or prophecy, to foretell that the passage of that and other measures would no longer meet with obstruction elsewhere. With the view, therefore, of preparing for the discussion, which might be wholly unnecessary, but which might also become absolutely necessary — he took leave to move for the returns.

Motion agreed to.

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