The EARL of HOME
My Lords, in rising to propose that an humble Address 6 be presented to Her Majesty, in answer to Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech from the Throne, which your Lordships have just heard read, I feel gratified by the reflection that I shall have no proposition to submit to your Lordships, upon which I anticipate difference of opinion in debate, or any division in the Vote which I must call upon your Lordships to give. It is also a matter of high satisfaction to me when I consider that the subjects alluded to in the Speech and in the Address I am about to submit, are not surrounded by such difficulties as need call for that, which, were it required, I should feel quite unable to bring to bear upon them—namely, a power of illustration and explanation. I am, however, too sensible of my own deficiency to occupy more of your Lordships' time by dwelling upon it, and I therefore proceed at once, with these few prefatory remarks, to the immediate duty with which I have been entrusted. In the first place, I have to congratulate your Lordships on the assurances which Her Majesty informed you She continued to receive from Her Allies, and from all other Foreign Powers, of their desire to cultivate the most friendly relations with this country. I am aware that owing to the constant recurrence, for a series of years, of the same assurances being received from Foreign Powers of their peaceable desires and intentions, your Lordships can scarcely avoid looking upon this part of the Royal Speech as a mere matter of course; and, in offering my congratulations to your Lordships at receiving this gratifying intelligence from Her Majesty, I therefore labour under the disadvantage of appearing to repeat what, year by year, has been said to your Lordships by those who, on similar occasions, have appeared in the situation in which I have now the honour to stand before your Lordships. But, in truth, the very fact of the repetition of this congratulation enhances its value; and every year's prolongation of peace in the world, ought to make us the more sensible of the advantages and the blessings which this long continuance of peace brings to this country, and ought to induce us more highly to appreciate the skill and judgment of those by whose wise counsels this state of things has been prolonged. Her Majesty proceeded to inform your Lordships, that in conjunction with the Emperor of Russia, and through the success of their joint mediation, She has been enabled to adjust the differences which have long existed between the Ottoman Porte and the Schah 7 of Persia, and which have seriously endangered the tranquillity of the East. The mere fact of the settlement of a dispute which had existed between the Porte and the Schah of Persia, might not at first sight appear to be of any immediate importance to this great country, or to have any direct bearing on the peace of Europe and of the world; but when your Lordships take into consideration the vast interests which Great Britain possesses in the East, and the consequences that might have ensued to the tranquillity of the extended frontiers of our empire in India had these differences been permitted to ripen into war, I am convinced that you will see the importance of the intelligence which Her Majesty has graciously communicated, and that you will concur with me in the satisfaction which I feel at the evidence to be derived from this transaction, of the desire of the Emperor of Russia to unite with Her Majesty in promoting the line of policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government to preserve peace in the East, more especially when the result has been to prevent a rupture between two Mahommedan powers, which probably would have led to horrors all the more dreadful, inasmuch as they would have been unrestrained by the softening influences of Christianity. From this subject I have now to draw your Lordships' attention to another quarter of the globe, in which Her Majesty is similarly employed, and for a similar object, and in which also Her Majesty has had the happiness to obtain the co-operation of a powerful ally. I allude to the warfare that has been so long existing in the States bordering on the Rio de la Plata. These States, formerly dependencies of the Spanish Crown, have since been recognised as independent Governments; and your Lordships must be well aware of the importance of preserving to each State its particular independence. Differences had, however, arisen between these States; and these differences had led to a war, which, as Her Majesty has informed you, has been for several years past of a desolating and sanguinary character, and has been characterized by barbarities, on both sides, among the conflicting parties unknown to the practice of civilized people. The result has been, great interruption to trade and commerce; and consequent inconvenience, not only to the subjects of this country, but also to the merchants of all parts of the world. It became, therefore, for every reason, most desirable that an end should 8 be put to such a state of things. Accordingly, France and England determined conjointly to undertake that work of pacification; and there is every reason to hope, that as the Governments of both countries are perfectly disinterested, and have no object of their own to serve, and no desire to interfere with the internal concerns of other countries, but only to restore independence where it had been invaded by the stronger State, and to re-establish peace, their efforts will soon be crowned with success, and that at no distant day freedom of commerce will be established on a secure and lasting basis. Your Lordships are already aware, that in the course of last year a Convention was concluded between this country and France, for the more effectual suppression of the Slave Trade; and your Lordships will derive satisfaction from knowing, that that Convention is about being carried into immediate execution by the active co-operation of both Powers. Feeling in common with every other Englishman the greatest detestation of this dreadful trade, it might perhaps be a comparatively easy task for me to dilate on some of the horrors attendant upon it; but as I know that your Lordships do not require to have your feelings aroused on this point, and as I know that every information that could be acquired has been already afforded to your Lordships, I will refrain from entering upon the subject. Neither do I think it necessary to enter upon any historical details of the efforts that have been made by this country for the extirpation of the Slave Trade; efforts made through good report and through evil report, and in spite of the insinuations which were thrown out against our sincerity. It was thought that we could not have devoted so much treasure, and incurred so much risk and so much trouble, for the mere purpose of putting down the Slave Trade, and for an object which was considered too romantic to be real; and that our efforts were chiefly directed to the assertion of our own maritime rights and supremacy. I rejoice to think that this feeling no longer exists, and that an ardent desire to effect the abolition of the Slave Trade is no longer confined to this country, but that other nations of Europe are joining their efforts to ours, and are awakened to a full sense of the disgrace which this nefarious traffic brings upon the civilized world. It must be, therefore, most satisfactory to your Lordships to know that France is now for the first time, actively 9 co-operating with this country in this measure. And here your Lordships may well join in the wish expressed by Her Majesty, that the union and cordial understanding which so happily exist between Her Majesty and Her powerful Ally may long endure, and that the power of both nations may be exerted, not in rivalry against each other, but for the benefit of mankind, and for the advancement of the interests of humanity. I believe that it has been said that England has purchased this co-operation of France rather dearly, by the sacrifice of the Right of Search, which has long been considered essential to carrying out effectual efforts for the suppression of the Slave Trade; but when we know that the French Government are, on the other hand, assailed on the same point, and charged with having established a new right of search more prejudicial than the old one, the natural conclusion to be drawn is, that both accusations are alike unfounded—that the sacrifice has been injurious to neither. For my own part, I am fully convinced that an effectual method has been discovered for putting an end to this traffic, which has the merit of respecting national prejudices, while it does not sacrifice the honour of either party. It must be satisfactory to your Lordships, as well as a subject of congratulation from me, that the negotiation was entrusted to the hands of the Duke de Broglie and Dr. Lushington—who are the two men least likely, perhaps, of any others in Europe, to agree to any thing which could be injurious to the cause of abolition of the Slave Trade, to which so much of their lives had been devoted. It may, perhaps, be too sanguine an expectation for me to indulge in, to anticipate that there can be any immediate diminution in Slavery itself, in consequence of the joint efforts of the two countries; but we may at least hope that by the vigilance of the united cruisers of France and Great Britain, an effectual check may soon be put to the dreadful transport of human beings across the Atlantic from the coast of Africa, for the purpose of filling up the gaps which cruelty and neglect may have made in the ranks of the unfortunate negroes, in those States where the disgrace of slavery is still permitted to exist. I next proceed to that part of Her Majesty's Speech which relates to the conflicting claims of this country and the United States in respect of the territory on the north-western coast of America. Your Lordships will, I am 10 sure, cordially join in the regret expressed by Her Majesty that this question still remains unsettled, and will cordially approve of any efforts which Her Majesty may be advised to take, consistent with the national honour, to bring it to an early and peaceful termination. It must be evident to all true friends of their country, both on this side of the Atlantic and on the other, that it is obviously for the interest of both countries that the most friendly relations and good understanding should exist between them. Disastrous as the consequences are when hostilities take place between nations, they are peculiarly to be deprecated when they occur between two countries bound together by so many ties—the ties of common origin, common language, and of common interests—as England and the United States of America undoubtedly are. This must be so evident to all, that the negotiations which may take place on this question must be accompanied by the ardent wishes for success of all reasonable and right-thinking men in both countries. The progress of these negotiations has indeed hitherto been slow, and attended with no successful results; but the difficulties, though hard to be avoided, can scarcely be such as may not be overcome when the negotiations are entrusted to the hands of those who are zealous in the cause of peace and reconciliation. I look, indeed, to the success of past negotiations as a happy augury for that which is to come. I allude more particularly to the termination of that dispute which, a short time back, existed respecting the north-eastern boundary which separates the territory of the United States from those of Great Britain—a dispute which bore at one time the most threatening aspect, and which created great excitement and even animosity against this country among some of the Citizens of the United States; yet we find that even this dispute was amicably terminated by the intervention of a noble Lord, a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House. As to the mode in which this amicable arrangement was effected, it is sufficient for me to say that it met with the decided approbation of both Houses of Parliament, which approbation has been since fully confirmed by the general voice of the country. I consider also the fact that the same noble Earl, under whose firm and skilful, but at the same time temperate instructions, that noble Lord to whom I have alluded, carried on his negotiations, still presides over the Foreign Affairs of this country; and I may, perhaps, be permitted 11 to express my confidence, that in the hands of that noble Earl the country will suffer no loss of honour; while at the same time every effort that diplomacy can make will be tried to bring the matter in dispute to an amicable conclusion. I next come to that part of Her Majesty's Speech in which She announces that She has been compelled by a due regard to the exigencies of the public service, and to the state of the naval and military establishments, to propose some increase in the Estimates which provide for their efficiency. When your Lordships take into consideration our widely-extended Empire, and our colonial possessions scattered over the face of the globe, I think you will find sufficient reason for this recommendation in Her Majesty's Speech, without looking for one in the anticipation of any possible interruption to the peace of the world at present so happily existing. Your Lordships need not be told of the great amount of forces that are required, even in periods of the most profound peace, for the maintenance of order in all the territories of Great Britain, both at home and abroad, and for the protection of our commerce in those parts of the world not under Her Majesty's dominion. British enterprise is daily extending the sphere of its operation, and making corresponding demands for protection. Without, therefore, entering into any details of the severity of the duty required from our gallant soldiers and sailors, and which, I firmly believe, nothing but the proverbial loyalty and patient endurance of hardship in the British character would enable them to go through as they have done; I think that I have shown grounds sufficient to justify me in asking for your Lordships' concurrence in that part of the Address. I next come to a subject in which I feel confident that the House will join with me in the regret which I must express that Her Majesty should be obliged, by the dreadful nature of the case, to bring under your Lordships' notice: I allude to the deep regret expressed by Her Majesty at the very frequent instances in which the crime of deliberate assassination has been of late committed in Ireland, and Her Majesty's recommendation of measures to bring to justice the perpetrators of such dreadful crimes. Your Lordships must have observed in the public journals, and through other sources of information, to what an extent this dreadful crime has been carried in some parts of that country; and I feel confident that your Lordships will completely sympathise 12 with the Sovereign in Her feelings on the subject, and that I may confidently anticipate that you will take Her Majesty's wishes into consideration, and direct your attention to the consideration of such measures as may seem best calculated to give increased protection to life, and to bring happiness and security to our Irish fellow subjects; and which may have the effect of providing a remedy for this crying evil. Her Majesty in the next place brings to your Lordships' notice the disease that has unfortunately affected the potato crop in several parts of the United Kingdom; and on that subject I feel sure that your Lordships will have shared in the general anxiety and apprehension which has been felt on account of the great failure that has taken place in what I may call one of the necessaries of life. Failures in the potato crop have been known before; but never, I believe, one so fatal nor so extensive in its operation as the present. It has not only visited this country, but other countries also; and is not only more destructive than any former visitation of this kind, but also different in its nature. No part of this country has been exempt; but in England and Scotland the evil has not reached to such an extent as was at one time feared it would have done; but there is no doubt that great distress will be felt even here. Had England and Scotland, however, alone been concerned, I think I may venture to say that the evil has not extended farther than, with the industrious habits of the people, would have been remedied by their own exertions. In Ireland, however, the case is different. The ravages of the disease are said to be much greater in that country than here; and I believe that I do not err from the truth in saying, that from the accounts which are continually received from that country, the extent to which the evil has gone, and the dreadful consequences which must result from it, are yet not fully known. Your Lordships will therefore see that in that country disastrous consequences may justly be apprehended; and we should feel deeply grateful to Her Majesty for having, with Her usual care for the welfare of Her people, adopted all such precautions as it has been in Her power to adopt, for the purpose of alleviating the sufferings that may be caused by that calamity, and for having gone to the full extent of the powers of the Crown, without the sanction of Parliament, in order to do so; and I feel confident that your Lordships will cheerfully do whatever may be necessary 13 to carry out the good work which Her Majesty has begun, and will tender your advice to Her Majesty in recommending such measures as may have the effect of averting the threatened calamity, and of providing against future seasons of scarcity. I now come to another part of the Speech, in which Her Majesty brings before the notice of Parliament the prosperous state of the revenue, the increased demand for labour, and the general improvement which has taken place in the internal condition of the country. These instances in proof of the success of past measures with respect to commerce have induced Her Majesty to recommend to Parliament to take into its early consideration whether the same principles may not be more extensively carried out with benefit to the people of this country, and to the strengthening the bonds of amity with Foreign Powers. This part of the subject I approach with great diffidence. Having so lately had the honour of a seat in this House, and having therefore so little acquaintance with the business of Parliament, I feel that it would be presumptuous in me to express an opinion on so important a matter: were I to do so, I should probably fail in throwing any new light upon the subject, and, although far from intending it, I might introduce topics which might rouse party feeling, and tend to bring on premature discussion with respect to measures the consideration of which I am sure that the great majority of the House will agree with me in thinking it will be better to reserve to a more fitting and not distant opportunity, when Her Majesty's Ministers may be enabled to make known what their views are, and what the measures which they intend to introduce into Parliament. I will content myself, therefore, with saying that I feel confident that the House will agree in congratulating the Sovereign and the country on the prosperous state of the revenue, on the increased demand for labour, and on the general improvement which has taken place in the internal condition of the country, and on the prosperous state of all branches of industry; and I am also sure that every noble Lord in this House will heartily rejoice that the commercial measures of the Government—whatever may have been his fears when they were introduced—have not had the effect of diminishing, but, on the contrary, of greatly extending the resources of the country, of which, no doubt, ample 14 evidence will be laid on your Table without delay. I am also confident that this House will come to the consideration of the further measures calculated to carry out the principles which have been hitherto so successfully applied, to which Her Majesty directs our attention, with the sincere and disinterested desire of doing all that is necessary for the promotion of the general interests of the Empire, and in the most liberal and enlightened spirit. Having now, to the best of my humble abilities, touched upon the most important topics of Her Majesty's Speech, I have only to express my hope, that my total inexperience in addressing so illustrious an Assembly as this is, may not have betrayed me into any expression calculated to divert discussion from the legitimate object of this night's debate, or to disturb the unanimity with which I trust your Lordships will vote for the Address I have the honour to propose. Thanking your Lordships for the considerate forbearance with which you have treated me during the time I have trespassed on your attention, I will now, with your permission, read the words of the Address.
§ MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to return Your Majesty our humble Thanks for Your Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ We beg leave to express our Satisfaction that Your Majesty continues to receive from Your Allies, and from other Powers, the strongest Assurances of their Desire to cultivate the most friendly Relations with this Country; and that Your Majesty, in concert with the Emperor of Russia, and through the Success of joint Mediation, has been enabled to adjust the Differences which had long prevailed between the Ottoman Porte and the King of Persia, and had seriously endangered the Tranquillity of the East.
§ We thank Your Majesty for informing us that inasmuch as for several Years a desolating and sanguinary Warfare has afflicted the States of Rio de la Plata, by which the Commerce of all Nations has been interrupted, and Acts of Barbarity have been committed unknown to the Practice of a civilized People, Your Majesty is endeavouring, in conjunction with the King of the French, to effect a Pacification of these States.
§ We thank Your Majesty for informing us that the Convention concluded with France in the course of the last Year, for the more effectual 15 Suppression of the Slave Trade, is about to be carried into execution by the active Co-operation of the Two Powers on the Coast of Africa; and that it is Your Majesty's Desire that the present Union, and the good Understanding which so happily exists between the Two Countries, may always be employed to promote the Interests of Humanity, and to secure the Peace of the World.
§ In accordance with Your Majesty we regret that the conflicting Claims of Great Britain and the United States, in respect of the Territory on the North-western Coast of America, although they have been made the Subject of repeated Negotiation, still remain unsettled.
§ We rejoice to learn that Your Majesty will continue to make all such Efforts as may be consistent with National Honour to bring this Question to an early and peaceful Termination.
§ We humbly assure Your Majesty that with Your Majesty we have deeply regretted to observe the very frequent Instances in which the Crime of deliberate Assassination has been of late committed in Ireland, and we will not fail to consider whether any Measures can be devised calculated to give increased Protection to Life, and bring to Justice the Perpetrators of so dreadful a Crime.
§ In common with Your Majesty we lament that in consequence of the Failure of the Potato Crop in several Parts of the United Kingdom there will be a deficient Supply of an Article of Food which forms the chief Subsistence of great Numbers of Your Majesty's People; and that the Disease by which the Plant has been affected has prevailed to the greatest Extent in Ireland.
§ We rejoice to learn that Your Majesty has adopted all such Precautions as it was in Your Majesty's Power to adopt for the Purpose of alleviating the Sufferings which may be caused by this Calamity; and Your Majesty may confidently rely on our Co-operation in devising such other Means for effecting the same benevolent Purpose as may require the Sanction of the Legislature.
§ We humbly beg to thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has had great Satisfaction in giving Your Assent to the Measures which we have presented to Your Majesty from Time to Time, calculated to extend Commerce and to stimulate domestic Skill and Industry, by the Repeal of prohibitory and the Relaxation of protective Duties; and that Your Majesty considers that the prosperous State of the Revenue, the increased Demand for Labour, and the general Improvement which has taken place in the internal Condition of the Country, are strong Testimonies in favour of the Course we have pursued.
§ In conformity with Your Majesty's Recommendation we will take into our early Consideration whether the Principles on which we have acted 16 may not with Advantage be yet more extensively applied; and whether it may not be in our Power, after a careful Review of the existing Duties upon many Articles, the Produce or Manufacture of other Countries, to make such further Reductions and Remissions as may tend to ensure the Continuance of the great Benefits to which Your Majesty has referred, and by enlarging our Commercial Intercourse to strengthen the Bonds of Amity with Foreign Powers.
§ Your Majesty may rely upon our Endeavours that any Measures which we may adopt for effecting these great Objects may be accompanied by such Precautions as shall prevent permanent Loss to the Revenue, or injurious Results to any of the great Interests of the Country.
§ We humbly beg to thank Your Majesty for the Expression of Your Majesty's full Reliance on our just and dispassionate Consideration of Matters so deeply affecting the Public Welfare.
§ We join most fervently in the earnest Prayer of Your Majesty that, with the Blessing of Divine Providence on our Counsels, we may be enabled to promote friendly Feelings between different Classes of Your Majesty's Subjects, to provide additional Security for the Continuance of Peace, and to maintain Contentment and Happiness at Home, by increasing the Comforts and bettering the Condition of the great Body of Your Majesty's People.
LORD DE ROS
, on rising to second the Motion, said: By the very judicious manner in which the noble Lord who preceded me referred to the various topics of the Queen's Speech, it has been rendered needless for me to detain your Lordships at any great length. I shall venture, however, to pay a just tribute to the good faith and honour of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia as to the steps which he has adopted, in conjunction with Her Majesty's Government, to mediate, with a view to the adjustment of the differences which have so long existed between the Ottoman Porte and the King of Persia, and on the success which has attended such mediation. I rejoice at the success of the policy of this country, which is not only to promote and cultivate the arts of peace herself, but also to exert herself on all occasions, when differences arise between other countries, to mediate with a view to the maintenance of general harmony. With respect to the Convention with the King of the French for the more effectual suppression of the Slave Trade, I cordially concur with my noble Friend as to its advantages, not only as regards the great principle of 17 putting down the infernal traffic in slaves, but because I believe that the alliance between France and England for its suppression will be the means, not of exciting rivalry and jealousy, but of promoting a friendly spirit of emulation and co-operation between the maritime forces of the two countries. My Lords, with respect to the Oregon Territory, I also entirely agree with my noble Friend; and I hope and believe, notwithstanding the attempts of a party in the United States to get up a war cry against this country, that the good sense of the American nation, and their consciousness that their interests are identified with those of this country, will on this, as on former occasions, enable Her Majesty's Government to conclude an amicable settlement of the dispute. After what has fallen from my noble Friend as to the proposed increase of the Army and Navy, I will only remind the House that this was necessary in consequence of the great extension and increase of our colonial possessions; and that it is but just to afford relief to the persons employed in the public service, as it is not desirable to put too hard a strain upon the devotion and willing services of our soldiers or seamen. The question of endeavouring to repress by some new measures the fearful system of assassination which now prevails in Ireland, is also referred to in the Speech of Her Majesty. My Lords, I should be the last man to desire to see any coercive measures proposed by the Government, which would restrict the general liberty of the subject throughout Ireland; but, my Lords, I do think that on those bloodstained spots, where intimidation has been allowed completely to prevail over justice, and to paralyse the ordinary efforts of the law, in those parts of the country, every lover of his country, whether a native of England, or of Ireland, would desire to see the necessary measures applied. I should be sorry to overstate the case—and I wish it to be understood that my remarks apply only to the particular districts in which this abominable system has prevailed—for I do not mean to say that such a state of things is general, and I should greatly mis-state the case if I led the House to infer that I supposed that such a state of things exists in the greater part of Ireland; but it does prevail and has long prevailed in certain districts, in which it is carried to a very fearful extent. In these districts so well organized is this system of intimidation, that it is 18 almost impossible to obtain convictions. Nor is this to be wondered at, when the prosecutor, the witness, and even the jurymen, are liable, if they do their duty, and act according to their consciences, to the very same awful fate as the victim of the murderer who stands before them for his trial. It is no longer a question of the midnight assassin in those parts of Ireland. Assasinations are perpetrated in broad day, and the assassins are allowed to escape without any attempt being made to seize them. In some places it has been shown in evidence, that the price of blood is openly determined, and that assassinations can be procured to be perpetrated for 3l. or 4l. Under these circumstances the Legislature is now urgently called upon to take the subject into its consideration. With respect to the scarcity of the potato crop, there can be no doubt that the disease has prevailed to a great extent in Ireland—that it is likely to be productive of very great difficulty and distress—and therefore it will be desirable that steps should be taken in due time for ensuring a supply of food when the pressure for it arrives. The hospitality of the Irish almost all persons who have visited that country agree in praising; but another and a nobler virtue is to be found amongst them—that of unbounded charity, which has been exercised by them from the highest to the lowest, on all occasions, in the most praiseworthy manner. This will, I hope, tend to alleviate the worst evils of famine in that country, and to give double effect to the measures adopted by the Government. Great room for employment exists in all parts of Ireland, and it affords much facilities of approach by means of water. No part of Ireland is above fifty miles from the coast; and, therefore, those facilities are greater, perhaps, than those presented by any other country for receiving the supplies which can be speedily thrown into it. Her Majesty's Speech then alludes to the repeal or relaxation of protective duties: that is a subject which is so far beyond my experience that I will not enter into any discussion of it; but I will merely observe that the relaxations which have been already made in the Tariff have not been productive of those evils which some expected would have been the result of them. I do not think that the fears and anticipations which were manifested at the time the proposition was made for allowing the importation of foreign cattle into this country, have been at 19 all borne out, or that that measure has been attended with any serious injury to the farmers; and so I trust it may prove with other measures of a similar nature. My noble Friend who preceded me stated the difficulties which he felt in entering upon that part of Her Majesty's Speech which alludes to this subject; and if such were his sentiments, I feel that my difficulty is even still greater. All that I can venture to do is, to call your Lordships' attention to that sentence of Her Majesty's Speech which contains this recommendation with respect to the introduction of such measures:—Any measures which you may adopt for effecting these great objects will, I am convinced, be accompanied by such precautions as shall prevent permanent loss to the revenue, or injurious results to any of the great interests of the country.In conclusion, I entreat of your Lordships to give such measures as may be proposed, at least the benefit of a calm and dispassionate consideration. My Lords, it only remains for me to second the Address, and to thank your Lordships for the patience with which you have heard me.
§ The Question was then put from the Woolsack, and no noble Lord rising, was declared by the Lord Chancellor to be carried in the affirmative.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
, however, then rose hastily, and said: I am not at all surprised at the effort that has been made to stop the discussion—
The LORD CHANCELLOR
I beg the noble Duke will not state that I wanted to stop the discussion. I put the question deliberately, and was surprised that no noble Lord had risen; but when I found that no noble Lord was inclined to rise, after more than the usual interval, I put the question, and I put it slowly.
The EARL of SHAFTESBURY
said, he sat near his noble Friend the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and he could say that his noble and learned Friend put the question distinctly.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
I am perfectly in order in speaking now—in moving, if I think necessary, the adjournment of the House; but I speak, being perfectly in order upon this question. In the first place, I must express the satisfaction with which I listened to the speech of the noble Lord who moved so eloquently the Address upon this occasion. I should not have interrupted the noble Lord with "No, no," if it had not been that some noble Lords on 20 this side of the House cheered that part of his speech in which he expressed his hope that we would wait until we heard what measures the Ministers intend to propose. I have heard enough in this speech to know what the Minister intends to do. I know that he intends to withdraw protection from the domestic industry of this country. I should have liked the Speech better if it had been a little more manly, and had used the words Corn Laws. I defy any noble Lord to say that it is not the intention of the paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech now alluded to, to indicate the abolition of the Corn Laws of this country—a measure which I know is advocated by many noble Lords on the other side; that is, to get rid of the solemn compact that was made with the agricultural interest in the year 1842, when, as was said by Mr. Gladstone, now Secretary of State for the Colonies, in order to remove difficulties, and for the purpose of getting a permanent law, we made great sacrifices for that object. I might call attention to what Mr. Gladstone said in 1843, when he said it would be unjust to the agriculturists, it would be dishonourable to the Government and to Parliament, if they proposed any change without great and adequate cause. I ask where is the cause now? Is it the failure of the potato crop in Ireland? No. The intention of the Government was previously stated in the Government prints and in the League organs—I class them together because I see no difference between the Government and the Anti-Corn-Law League, and, for myself, cannot see why Mr. Cobden should not be created a peer. I wish to ask the people of England—I wish to ask those noble Lords who disagree from me in opinion as to the expediency of free trade—whether they approve of the course of the Anti-Corn-Law League. I say that that course has been most unconstitutional. I say they are the authors of the whole of those changes which the Ministers are about to propose, and which you, my Lords, will not, I hope, sanction; for I hope and trust that this House will never so far abandon their duty to their country as to be intimidated by the Anti-Corn-Law League or their money. What is the fact? The Government comes and asks us to make a sacrifice to popular clamour, while we find in the very Speech which we have heard read, that the concessions of Sir R. Peel in 1829 have been soon forgotten, and that they have not produced tranquillity in Ireland; but that, 21 on the contrary, assassinations and murders take place every day. This is in the same Speech in which the Government come to us and ask us to give way to alterations in those laws which every man knows are for the benefit, not of the agricultural interest alone, but of every class of persons in this country. And I call the attention of the operatives in the great towns of England to the statements of Sir R. Peel in 1839, when he was seeking office at the hands of the agriculturists. He then said, "If you get rid of the Corn Laws you must expect that the farmers will ask of you to get rid of protection to every other branch of industry." He stated then, as I state now, that if you get rid of protection to corn, you must get rid of protection altogether. Are you prepared to do that? Are you prepared to destroy your Custom House? If you are, where are you to get revenue to pay the public creditor? My Lords, if protection to agriculture is to be got rid of because it is a great monopoly, there are other great monopolies which you must treat in the same way. What do you think of the East India monopoly, and the Bank of England monopoly, and a hundred others? If you consent to make those inroads and to get rid of protection, you will have to pull down the House altogether, and rebuild it from the commencement. Will it be just or right that the farmer should pay the same tithe as he did when the Corn Law was in existence? Can the Civil List remain as it is, can a single payment for salary be made, if you at once destroy all protective duties? My Lords, I, for one, will not give your Lordships the trouble of voting against any Amendment on the present occasion; but I enter my solemn protest against that clause of the Speech from the Throne to which I have referred. I say that that clause of the Speech is contrary to every principle ever brought forward by the present Government. There is no Speech of theirs from the year 1839, when they were seeking for office, up to the present moment, which does not go directly in the face of that clause. I know nothing of what their measure may be, but I have a right to speak strongly, because I am one of those who are for no relaxation in the Corn Laws at all. But we are told forth-sooth, that a series of little measures have been brought before Parliament year after year, and that the object of those little measures was what some of your Lordships always said they were—a step towards 22 free trade, and against which little measures I for one always voted. But Sir R. Peel had contrived by his eloquence, and by his smooth speeches, to get so large a majority of both Houses to put their confidence in him, that he was able to pass those measures. My Lords, that confidence may exist still in some quarters, but I say it exists not in the large body of the middle classes of this country. I say that the manly, open, and truly English character of the farmers of this country has been displayed on late occasions: they do not ask you to reject any of those measures. No; but they come to their Sovereign and the Government and say—"You, the present Government, came into office pledged to protection: you have thought fit—we care not why, we do not impute motives—to propose an alteration in the Corn Laws; but we say to you, you ought not to carry out such a measure without again appealing to the country." My Lords, that must be a bad cause indeed in which the Minister does not dare to face, on what is supposed to be a popular question, the electors of the country upon the hustings. We ask you for no more. Give us a clear stage and no favour. Appeal to the country, and let the country decide whether or not we are to have those modern innovations passed into law, whether we are to be rendered dependent on foreigners for the supply of our population; whether we are to be constantly changing about because there happens to be some popular clamour. My Lords, I think the present occasion should not be allowed to pass without our hearing from some Member of the Government the reasons of their resignation of office. I think the House and the country have a right to be informed on the subject. I think we have a right to know the reasons for those sudden changes. Those reasons of those sudden resignations and counter-resignations are known only to some half-dozen of my noble Friends behind me, and to some half-dozen noble Lords on the Treasury Bench opposite. These are grave questions, and I think the country has, at the first moment of the opening of Parliament, a right to inquire why the Government resigned their offices. Explanations have been offered, but I can find no explanation at all; but I know this well, that the protective duties are in immense danger. My Lords, if I am rightly informed, if those who sit behind me sat on the opposite side of the House, the ports would have been immediately 23 opened, though I am satisfied we should not have free trade; for those who unfortunately support Sir R. Peel in power in another place would carry out the pledges made to their constituents if another Government had been formed. My Lords, I feel assured that your Lordships will consider the question on its true merits—that you will do your duty to your Sovereign and to your country; that you will not have any fears, but, banishing from your minds who the Minister is who proposes these measures, that you will look to the measures themselves, and if they tend in any degree to diminish the protection of British industry, that you will give them your most cordial opposition. I do not feel called on to say more, on the present occasion, than I have; but I will say this, that I will use every Parliamentary means of opposition in my power—be it called factious or otherwise I care not—for where the interests of a large body of people are concerned I do not pretend to be over sensitive; and further, I will take every opportunity I can, day after day, to press on your Lordships the necessity, at all events, of not proceeding further. Now, with regard to the great benefits produced by the Tariff, we have heard a great deal of the disease of potatoes; but it has been forgotten that we have had a disease of cattle, and this disease may account for the Tariff not being so prejudicial as some persons thought it would be. But I will not enter upon the discussion of that topic now, as I shall probably have other opportunities of doing so. On the present occasion I merely wish to enter my solemn protest against the clause in the Speech from the Throne to which I have referred, and to say that I think that the House is entitled, to hear from some Member of the Government the reasons for their resignation.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
My Lords, my noble Friend the noble Duke has moved no Amendment to the Address proposed by the noble Earl who spoke on this side of the House. He has complained of the omission of all reference to the Corn Laws in the Speech from the Throne, and also in the Address. It is not necessary for me, on the present occasion, to follow my noble Friend over his observations on the conduct of a Minister in another place, nor shall I now defend that conduct or any measure of his Government. The question now before the House is, the Address which has been moved by my noble Friend near me; and I beg to inform your Lordships, 24 that other measures will be brought before you in the course of a very few days; for I understand that notice has already been given of the intention of bringing forward those measures on Tuesday next, in another place; and in the course of time, those measures must come under the consideration of this House. I, therefore, entreat your Lordships to consider that you have nothing before you except the proposition of my noble Friend near me, and that you will have an opportunity of taking into consideration those measures when they come under your Lordships' notice. My noble Friend the noble Duke will then have an opportunity of endeavouring to persuade your Lordships to dissent from those measures;—but what I now entreat of your Lordships is, to adopt the Address, which says that you will take them into your consideration. With respect to the question put to me by my noble Friend the noble Duke in reference to the resignation of the Ministry, I beg to remind my noble Friend that he has been himself a Member of the Privy Council of the Sovereign; and he knows that, as a Member of that Council, he was sworn to keep the counsels of the Sovereign secret, and that no Member can come down here and talk of what has passed at those Councils, without having had the previous permission of the Sovereign; and, under those circumstances, I must think that, before my noble Friend asked that question, he should have given notice of his intention to do so, in order that those who might think proper to enter into any explanation on the subject might have obtained permission to state that which they thought proper. But asking questions in this way the first night of the Session, is not usual. The public interests require that the counsels of the Sovereign should be kept secret. It may be very convenient to some that those counsels should be revealed; but the general rule is that they should be kept secret, and should not be revealed without the positive permission of the Sovereign to the party who thought proper to ask for it.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
I shall be very glad to give notice of my intention to put the question to my noble Friend to-morrow, though I cannot conceive that there was any necessity to give such notice. I can only wonder that the noble Duke, who has been so long in Parliament, did not think it very likely that he would be asked this question, and that he did not procure the Queen's consent. Certainly, 25 as the noble Duke has not procured that consent, I am afraid that the only thing I can do is, to ask the same question tomorrow; but I will first ask my noble Friend who has left office, whether he has not got the Queen's consent to state the reasons why he left the Government?
I had been in great hope that I should have been spared the necessity of offering myself to the attention of your Lordships in the course of this evening; but my noble Friend having appealed to me, I beg to say, that I have the permission of Her Majesty to make such explanations of the cause of my retirement from the service of Her Majesty, and of my differing from my Colleagues, with whom I for four years acted with the utmost cordiality; but though I have Her Majesty's most gracious permission to make such explanations for the vindication of the course I myself adopted, in doing that which no public man has a right to do for a light or trivial cause, or without sufficient grounds of public interest (I mean that of abandoning the position in which he has been placed by the favour of his Sovereign, and for which he is responsible alike to his Sovereign and the country, for the way in which he exercised the functions of his office); yet I am sure my noble Friend will perceive that it is impossible for me to make the statement he invites me to make, with any feelings of justice to those who were my late Colleagues in office, and for whom, though separated officially, I have the most unfeigned respect, regard, and esteem. My Lords, I cannot state the grounds of my own retirement, without stating what were those measures contemplated by other Members of the Cabinet—without entering into the details of those measures, and the objections I entertained to them. I cannot enter into a vindication of my own conduct, for an apparent abandonment of that public duty which devolves on every member of a Government, without disclosing prematurely and unfairly to my noble Friends and the country, those plans which were in contemplation when I was in the Cabinet, and which may since have been modified or altered; to which additions may have been made; to which certain qualifications—I know not whether they have or not—may have been added, of a character to counteract the mischievous tendency of the measure to which I objected. My Lords, I trust that your Lordships and my noble Friend will be satisfied, if I make this statement only; 26 that there was one, and one only, subject on which there existed a difference between my late Colleagues and myself; and that question had relation to the degree, and amount, and nature of the protection to be afforded to the domestic industry of the country. Upon that subject a measure was proposed, and intended to be submitted to your Lordships, which I conceived to be neither justified by the state of the country, nor called for by any change of circumstance since 1842; and to which, therefore, as a Member of the Government, I felt it was impossible that I should undertake the responsibility of being a party to their being submitted to your Lordships. My regret is, that my disagreement is with noble Friends with whom I have had no previous difference. I had placed before me the choice of separating from my Colleagues, for whom, as I have before stated, I entertained the most unfeigned esteem, and with whom I had had no previous difference, or to sacrifice my own individual opinion, and to sacrifice also what I conceived to be my own personal consistency and honour. [Cheers from the cross-benches.] I beg in this not to be understood as casting the smallest imputation upon the conduct of others, by the course I thought it fair to pursue; I had to consider the course which in my opinion my public duty and my private honour required me to pursue. I had no doubt that duty required me to intimate my dissent to a measure which obtained the sanction of a large majority of my Colleagues; and, so dissenting, humbly to tender to Her Majesty my resignation of office and the conduct of public affairs. I hope that my noble Friend will excuse me from making any further explanation. Having stated that I dissented from a measure proposed by my Colleagues, having dissented from the details of the measure, and from the opinions of my fellows, I trust your Lordships will not ask me now for any other statement; and nothing will give me more pleasure than the hope that I may not have to present myself to your Lordships upon this subject on any future occasion.
§ The EARL of HARDWICKE
said, he had felt it his duty to rise to address their Lordships the moment he saw that the noble Lord on the Woolsack rose to put the question, whether the Address should go to the Throne without any exception. He could not agree in every part of that Address, though his loyalty and feeling towards the Throne led him to the opinion, that the 27 Address should go to Her Majesty without the slightest opposition. There was one passage in the Address, to which especially he could not agree; and with reference to which he rejoiced that he had given way to the noble Lord. He wished to follow in the steps of the noble Lord, with all his feelings of honour and good understanding; but it was highly necessary for the welfare of the country, more particularly at the present moment, that every one who was looked up to with respect in the councils of the nation, should give utterance to his opinions without any mental reservation whatever. Now, he saw in the Address a direct progress towards free trade; the extent of which no one could tell. It was only in 1842, that they had entered into an arrangement with respect to the duty to be paid upon corn; and on that arrangement he considered the question to be settled, at least till it should be shown that the wants and the difficulties of the people of this Empire required a change. He denied that a change was necessary in the present case; they had a better and a cheaper supply than heretofore; and, moreover, they had in that very Address the important statement that there never was more employment, and that the people never were better off, nor better supplied. He wished to know, if in times of prosperity these great and rapid changes were to be made, what they were to do in times of difficulty? He was not desirous to be led away on this occasion; he was more disposed to stop, than to allow his feelings to run on; he would rather stop short, than give to the feelings of others any offence, or be the cause of any bitterness towards those whom he deeply respected, and with whom he had been associated for ten years—nay, longer—ever since he had entered Parliament, in the year 1829. It was, therefore, with the greatest regret he found any occasion had arisen for differences on any one subject, between himself and his hon. and right hon. Friends, to whom he had always looked up, and than whom, he knew none better fitted to guide the affairs of the country at any time; but a change had come over the spirit of their dreams, whilst he was still as he had been. They had taken a course in which they honestly thought they were right; they had taken a course which they thought to be proper, and which might ultimately turn out to be so. He confessed, however, that he was not able to agree with them in this course; he could not see where it would stop, or 28 that there would be any security to the country for the settlement of these important questions. He would, rather than see the daily diminution of protection—if he might use the term not offensively—have the greater certainty of a proposal to put it aside altogether; for many more would go along with these constant changes than would be found to give their support, if an appeal were distinctly made to the country to say whether they would go on in a course which would lead ultimately to a direct taxation for the purpose of paying the debt and bearing the burdens of the country, without either Customs or Excise. For these reasons, he dissented from the Answer to the Speech which Her Majesty's Ministers had put into the mouth of the Queen: and he thought, that with these views he could not assent to the passage in the Address proposed by his noble Friend.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
The noble Duke on the cross benches (the Duke of Richmond) has said, that there are noble Lords on this side of the House who are persons from whom the country has a right to expect explanations of the political transactions which have recently taken place. I am induced to rise, therefore, for the purpose of saying that upon this subject I entirely subscribe to the propriety of the line taken by my noble Friend the late Secretary of State for the Colonies. I rise also for the purpose of stating that, like him, and in the expectation of an explanation being made in this House, and made this night, of the motives which led to the late resignation of the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, I thought it my duty, as my noble Friend has done, to obtain permission from Her Majesty to explain that part in those transactions which I took myself, and which was taken by a noble Friend of mine, who was had recourse to by Her Majesty upon that occasion; but it certainly never occurred to me to use that permission till an explanation should have been made by Her Majesty's Government; and, in the absence of any such explanation, I conceive it would be most improper for me to enter, even for a moment, on that important subject. All I can state is, that when the proper moment shall arrive, having obtained permission, and being prepared to have made the statement this night, I shall be ready to state what part I recently took. On that part of the subject, therefore, I say no more; but I rise, likewise 29 on this occasion to refer to that other more important part of Her Majesty's Speech, and of the Address in reply to it, which even the important considerations to which I have already adverted do not so completely overshadow as to drive it from a prominent place in the public mind—I mean the discussions with the United States of America, with respect to the territory of Oregon. I rise to express my approbation of the intentions expressed in the Speech from the Throne, and my satisfaction at learning the determination of Her Majesty's Government to omit no efforts to maintain, what is of so much importance to the interests of the world, a peace between this country and the United States, without sacrificing any of the honour of this country; and, in conclusion, I must say, that if, with the maintenance of our honour, those efforts should be made, the Government will meet with the unanimous support of every party in England. And I could not allow this evening to pass without a cordial expression of my approval of the manner in which this subject has been adverted to in the Speech from the Throne.
I wish before proceeding with the subject matter of the Address, to allude to remarks made by my noble Friend, and to one remark of the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonial Department. I cannot proceed to do so, without expressing, as I feel it my bounden duty to do, my perfect concurrence in every sentiment which has been expressed by my noble Friend who has just taken his seat, with respect to that portion of the Speech and Address which refers to the American question. I believe that if ever there were an instance in which the course of a Government has, as far as that course is known, already met, and in which as it becomes more fully disclosed will fully meet, with the universal and unanimous assent of a whole people, it is this instance in which the Government pledges itself first to leave no effort untried to preserve peace with America; then to leave no effort untried to call forth all the resources of this country, if, consistently with her honour, that peace cannot be preserved. It was a wise remark of Mr. Fox, in answer to some flippant remark about going to war, and plunging the country into the extremities of that greatest of all calamities, for mere honour—he (Mr. Fox) said, "Show me where a war with any 30 people, on a calculation of interest or advantage, ever yet was justifiable in the eyes of rational men; but it is when the defence of a country is concerned; it is when the honour of a country is concerned; it is when that honour and that name, which every independent powerful country, unconquered and unconquerable like this, must preserve untouched and pure; it is to preserve that honour un-assailed, and that name untarnished, that alone the dreadful extremity of war should be had recourse to." And if all efforts shall be made, as I hope and trust they will be made, consistently with our honour to preserve the inestimable blessings of peace; and if those efforts should fail, I believe the unanimous support of the people of this country will be given to the Government in that sad though necessary alternative. My Lords, I now come to matter, on which, unfortunately, there is not the same unanimity and the same calm reasoning, from some symptoms that have already tonight appeared, as are displayed with respect to the differences with America. My noble Friend on the cross benches (the Duke of Richmond), in the course of his speech, as was fully to be expected of him, with even more than his usual degree of animation and zeal, brought forward a statement of the alarm and disappointment with which he has heard the portion of Her Majesty's Speech which seems to contemplate a relaxation—I suppose I may add, a further relaxation, because this is not the first that has been made—of the protection which the agricultural and commercial interests of this country now enjoy. My Lords, my opinions are well known. I differ widely from my noble Friend on the cross benches; but no such difference ever interrupted that cordial friendship towards him in private, and that heartfelt respect with which I have ever marked his public conduct, even when I most sincerely lamented the course which he is induced to pursue on State affairs. But as there are some matters on which I differ with him, so also are there some on which I so entirely agree with him, that I feel bound, in fairness towards him, and in justice to myself, to take this early opportunity of setting him right as to the charges in which, by his turning towards me, I seemed to be included in one portion, and a prominent portion, of his observations. I rather thank my noble Friend for speaking out, and for giving me an opportunity of doing so too. That I have been the advocate 31 for free trade; that I have been, to a certain extent, the advocate for an alteration in the protective system; that I went further and differed from my noble Friends near me, not merely as to the bread tax, to use a short word, but as to the whole policy of the protective system; that I called the attention of your Lordships again and again to the subject; that in 1839 I made a Motion to induce you and my noble Friends near me to call evidence and examine the question by means of testimony, is undeniable. My noble Friends near me, now my converts, resented, and defeated me with the help of the noble Duke. I then differed, and so far still, from my noble Friend on the cross benches. I entertain the same opinions still; but let me not be mixed up with those who hold them on grounds alien indeed to those on which I have ever acted. It was my opinion that an alteration in the commercial policy of this country with respect to corn, as well as to other commodities, was highly expedient; I will not say solely, but principally and beyond all comparison most chiefly wanted, not for the purpose of lowering the price of corn and food (which I never expected it could do, which I urged it could not do, which I endeavoured to show it had no tendency to do, any more than that the Corn Laws had a tendency to keep up the prices of food); but because I thought that it would tend to remodel the whole of our commercial system, and cause it to assume such a shape and position with respect to Foreign Powers as to prevent them from excluding our manufactures, by opening our ports to their corn, and such as would give us a reasonable prospect that their restrictions would be removed, and our manufactures allowed to penetrate into their foreign markets. I urged that question at great length, though it had not the effect of procuring an assent, either from your Lordships opposite, from those who, being half way, I never expected an assent from, or my noble Friends near me, in whom I might have had better hope. I was so defeated in that attempt, as to deprive me of any interest to press the matter again. My hope is, now, that I have lived to see better days, and that I have lived to see considerable changes of opinion. I hope and trust that, before we have gone through this subject, some of my poor opinions will now be more favourably received by this and the other House of Parliament. I was induced to rise first for the purpose of negativing the grounds which have been given for a change or 32 modification in the Corn Laws, to what extent we do not know, for we are all in the dark as to the nature of the Government scheme My noble Friend on the cross benches said, that he had expected the settlement made in 1842 would be final, and that there could be no further change. Man and finality! Human wisdom and no progress! Increased age without more wisdom! Because in 1842 we assented to this measure, it is urged that in 1846 we can neither retrace our steps, nor take another line for the future. That is the doctrine of my noble Friend on the cross benches, and I grieve to say that it is the doctrine of my noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonial Department. It is no part of my policy. I have learned other lessons of practical wisdom; but most loudly do I express my disapprobation of the manner in which my opinions, important as I deemed them, and sincerely as I hold them, have formerly, but chiefly of late, been attempted to be supported. I stated, and noble Lords know what were my arguments—I refer to my Motion in the year 1839, and I shortly restate the ground on which I rested for the repeal or the modification of the Corn Law system—I did not, because I could not, hold out to the people of this country—I could not honestly hold out to them that it would make bread cheap. I could not hold out that the Corn Laws did that against their doing which I have argued so often in vain till now. I did not argue that the Corn Law was the cause of famine, that it was the cause of disease, that it was the cause of crime, or that it was the cause of mortality in this country. I would rather set my right hand into the fire till it was consumed than set it to a document which pretends that the Corn Law is the cause of crime, of famine, of disease, and of death. If I had so thought, how was it that I, sitting during four years in the Council of the Sovereign, had never stepped forward to change a law which caused famine, and disease, and crime, and death? I stated what I thought was the fault of the Corn Law, and I recommended a repeal or alteration on grounds very different from those whose language I reprobate and disclaim. Their opinion ought not to be taken as mine; their statements are not mine; respecting some of them highly, yet with them I am as much at issue on the one side, as I am with my noble Friends on the cross benches on the other side. But there is another class who are agitating 33 this great question, for whose arguments, and whose conduct, my respect is wanting; and when my noble Friend on the cross benches turned round to me and appealed to me, as he had a right to do, I must endeavour to answer him, and I must hope I shall do so satisfactorily. If I am asked am I one of the League, or one of the followers of the League, or one of the allies, or one of the accomplices of the League; or if I were to be asked, "Are their means your means?" then I should unhesitatingly answer, "God forbid!" From the members of the Anti-Corn-Law League, I differ even more than from those who stand forward as the friends and advocates of protection. Much reflection—long observation—no little experience, has convinced me that a representative government—the best of all forms upon which a government can be administered—the greatest political discovery of modern times—the most important improvement in national polity—the only means which men can possess of reconciling freedom and popular government with extent of territory—I say, all reflection has convinced me that it is of the very nature and essence of representative government, that when you have once chosen your representatives, you should leave the government in their hands; and that it is the representative that is to speak thenceforth, and not the constituent body. That is, and always has been, my deliberate opinion. And this leads me to step aside and answer the question of my noble Friend on the cross benches, who says, all he wants is an appeal to the people. Though it may be wholesome to appeal to the people in certain circumstances — though it may be right and necessary to give them a general and useful control over their representatives at such times and under such circumstances as would render that control conducive to the public good; yet, if there is anything more clear to me than another, it is this proposition, that it is neither wise nor wholesome to make such an appeal at a moment when the nation is in a ferment—when they are in a state of strong excitement upon a particular and exciting question. [Some Noble Lords said: "There was the case of the Reform Bill."] I do not mean to deny that there are cases of such vast and paramount importance as absolutely to require that the Executive Government should appeal to the people. Where there is a difference of opinion between the Executive Government 34 and the Commons' House of Parliament—I am expressing now the A, B, C, the ordinary language of the Constitution—where there is a difference between the two Houses of Parliament, an appeal to the people is usually considered as necessary, because it is the only course to take, in order that the Government may go on. But if you are, each time a measure is called one of importance — if you are, upon questions that may interest each particular party in Parliament, to dissolve, and appeal to the people, I say there is an end to all representative government, and you are not governed by the representatives of the people, but by the multitude—ay, even by the mob. Is that event less likely to happen—is that event of a tumultuous and passionate, and ignorant, and not a calm and learned decision of the subject, less likely to occur when the question is the exciting one of cheap bread, on the one hand, and agricultural protection on the other? If I were to single out from all political questions any one upon which it is expedient not to make these constant appeals to the people, I should say it is precisely such a question as this. But now, with respect to the body which my noble Friend on the cross benches has not for the first time referred to; my objection is this, that after having chosen representatives, these very people take out of the hands of such representatives the whole discussion of this question; and, by agitating the country upon it, as others are agitating Ireland for a repeal of the Union, withdrawing the subject from the decision of Parliament, from the representatives of the people, and placing it in the hands of the constituencies—the people themselves. That is the conduct those agitators have pursued—that is the course in which they are proceeding. I am about to refer to the conduct now in great favour with that body, some of whose members are highly respectable, others of whom are very much less to be respected, as it happens in all great bodies. But be they all ever so respectable as individuals, the course of their conduct as a body is what I am arguing upon. I find they are levying immense sums of money with one avowed object, which is a perfectly lawful object. And I appeal to my noble and learned Friends who are clustered together upon the Woolsack at this moment, whether or not I am right in my opinion when, in point of law, I say that it is a perfectly legal object. 35 They break no Act of Parliament—they violate no common law, in collecting a sum of a quarter or a half million, or whatever it may turn out to be, for the avowed purpose of purchasing votes in different counties. ["No, no," in the course of which some noble Lord said, "Purchasing freeholds."] Purchasing freeholds! When I said votes, I used a short expression. It is, however, by this interruption suggested to me that if they should find they can more easily buy voters than votes, they will do so; that disclaimer about purchasing votes was calculated to raise some suspicion—it was a negative pregnant. The votes might be called freeholds, or they might not; but this was clear, that there existed a determination to acquire Parliamentary influence by some mode of pecuniary expenditure, and there was clearly no change of name respecting the matter by the noble Lord who said, "No, no." Now, I say it is a perfectly lawful act—it violates no statute—it goes against no branch of the common law—that a person should collect money for the purpose of purchasing freehold qualifications; and they brag that in the county with which I am connected they have bought two thousand; and their boast is, that they will run the opposite side far harder than I ever did in my three contests; but I don't think they will come much nearer than I did after six days' polling of the county; I was only defeated by, I think, eight-and-thirty. In North and South Lancashire, they say they are going to get two thousand more—two thousand in each division — and so on throughout all the country, until they get a hundred county seats, and thus influence the whole Parliament. And for that purpose some men send a thousand pounds, some only five. Now, I cannot say that the zeal is in proportion to the money; but in the case of the small contributors there may be great zeal, though little cash. I do not hesitate to give my opinion in favour of the perfect legality of the course which the gentlemen of the Anti-Corn-Law League and their contributors of all sizes are pursuing. My friend Mr. Atwood, and other rich persons, who, perhaps, have millions of money at their disposal, may meet together and subscribe for the purpose of purchasing qualifications; they now have the benefit of my opinion that it is a perfectly legal act—that they have a perfect right to buy up those votes; and that in doing so they violate no law, either common 36 or statute. Mr. Bentham was in the habit of saying, that there was no such thing as an unconstitutional doctrine or an unconstitutional proceeding. Mr. Bentham contended that everything legal was perfectly constitutional, and that some people called that unconstitutional to which they themselves objected—any thing, said he, that anybody don't like is unconstitutional. Mr. Bentham agreed with those who held that every thing strictly legal was perfectly constitutional. I can, however, show a case which every man will admit to be most legal, but most unconstitutional. Every one knows that the Sovereign of this country can create an indefinite number of Peers. The Crown, for example, can create 500 Peers: and as the Sovereign is not restricted with respect to numbers, so there is no limitation with regard to rank—any description of person may be made a Peer of the realm. The Sovereign, then, might march into this House 500 persons possessing an undoubted right to seats in the House of Lords. A battalion of the guards may be marched into the House to overwhelm us with their votes, and carry any measure which the Crown thinks proper to propose. This would be a perfectly legal exercise of the Crown's undoubted prerogative. But if the Lord Chancellor put the Great Seal to such patents of creation, assuredly the instant this act fell upon the ear of the Commons' House of Parliament, the crime which he had committed—perfectly lawful, but equally unconstitutional—a gross breach of the Constitution—a foul violation of that Constitution—a high crime and misdemeanor—I say, so surely would the head of that high officer, if not in fact, at least by right and by desert, fall for the crime which he had perpetrated. My Lords, can the people, can associations, as they are called—can Repeal associations in one country, and League associations in the other, commit no unconstitutional acts? If I were asked my opinion as a friend of the people of this country—as a friend of the liberties of this country, as a friend to the Commons' House of Parliament, the seat of that people's power, and the sanctuary of those liberties—if I were asked, in any capacity, whether as a lawyer or a statesman, which of the two acts is the most unconstitutional, I should say, that act which violated the people's sanctuary by jobbing the seats there, and placing a body of men in that House for a particular purpose—sent there by force of gold subscribed for that purpose. Therefore, my Lords, it is my distinct 37 and clear opinion as a lawyer, that the act is legal, but, as a constitutional lawyer, that such an act is a breach of the Constitution. I am not now for the first time stating this opinion. I acted upon it in Westmoreland, in the year 1820. I was asked, upon a canvass proving that we were nearly equal in amount of votes with the enemy—I was asked to sanction a measure for creating 500 votes, which could have been done by rent-charges; but my answer was a distinct negative. I refused to subscribe one farthing for it—I refused to countenance it. I said, you will be beaten at your own weapons. This may be done by an exchange of freeholds in two counties, without passing any money at all. But I also took my objection upon other and higher grounds, and said—"It is an unconstitutional act, and I am against multiplying votes—a course of which Parliament has again and again expressed its high disapproval." I will now, as I am naturally led to it, say a word on the subject of voluntary contributions. Those who thus subscribe, those who contribute to raise large funds without the authority of Parliament, must be prepared to abandon the constitutional doctrines of some of the ablest constitutional lawyers and highest constitutional authorities who have ever flourished in this country. There once were voluntary contributions entered into for the purpose of enabling the Crown to resist a foreign enemy, and maintain the integrity of the Empire. I suppose the contribution which I refer to was perfectly voluntary; therefore I say it was perfectly legal, for the purpose of enabling the Crown better to defend the country when the finances were at a low ebb—to enable the Crown the better to keep together the Empire when it was distracted by sedition. A contribution for that purpose, made by a loyal body of people, was as constitutional and praiseworthy a subscription as a voluntary contribution for the purpose of subverting the established policy of the Empire, nay, of distracting, of rending in twain the Empire itself—for I now allude to Ireland—by a repeal of the Union. I suppose that act of loyalty in '94 was as constitutional as the Repeal or League fund in these our days—many persons might think it more constitutional and more justifiable—yet, in 1794, Mr. Sheridan made a very eloquent speech against the dangerous and unconstitutional practice of raising contributions without the consent of Parliament. But those who think otherwise will 38 have to combat higher authority than that of Mr. Sheridan—the late Sir Philip Francis supported him; and they will have to combat the opinion of a still greater authority than either, which was most strongly and vigorously expressed—I mean that of Mr. Fox; and, finally, they will have to combat the opinion of one whom I never can refer to without feelings of the deepest emotion—I mean my late lamented and venerated friend, Lord Grey, who closed the debate by an inimitable speech to the same purpose, and maintained, as strongly as any who had preceded him, the position that it was unconstitutional to raise money by voluntary contributions for a political object without the consent of Parliament. Lord Grey in one instance closed the debate, and in the other was a teller upon the division. The contribution was, on the other side, defended by Mr. Pitt, without denying the constitutional doctrine laid down by his antagonists, upon the ground that Parliament had by its votes sanctioned the use to which that money so raised by voluntary contribution was to be applied;—which cannot be said yet of the English subject, and I hope never will be said of the Irish subject of agitation. I may be quite wrong—those great statesmen may be quite wrong—and we live in days not much disposed to respect the authority of the great men of former times; but, at all events, I consider the ordinary course in this country ought to be only to levy money on the people by authority of Parliament and under the responsibility of the Executive Government—the sworn councillors of the Crown; and from the moment the sufferance of Parliament, the tolerance of the respectable classes, and the political—not to say party or factious—zeal of some, allow, and persist in allowing those things to be done with impunity, and without stint or control, the consequence of that will and must inevitably be to loosen the foundations of our Parliamentary Constitution—and to raise up a new trade in this country, which my love of free trade does not at all embrace, or reconcile me in the least to the contemplation of—I mean the trade—for it is driven as a trade, and for money—it is driven as a trade for the base lucre of gain under the pretext, as flimsy as it is stale, of patriotism—I mean the trade of constant political agitation. And be you well assured, my Lords, if that trade be continued by not being discouraged, and suffered by not being checked, there 39 never will be wanting persons to carry it on, because it requires, of all trades, the meanest accomplishments—of all trades, the least, the shortest apprenticeship. Of all trades it is the easiest to drive, for it asks not even the exertion of common industry; and as long as it is lucrative, which you now see it is in Ireland—and it is beginning to take root in England—so long will you have, now on Repeal, now on the Corn Laws, then on some other subject, on any subject except charity—which of course covers all transgressions, and to which my observations don't apply—but so long as you suffer it thus to thrive, you will have that trade driven by a multitude of those of whom I wish to speak with some respect if I can; but as they are not the most valuable members of society, neither are they the most peaceable subjects of the Crown. The sum and substance of my advice to your Lordships is the opinion which I have often stated, and now repeat, upon the propriety of adopting a wiser policy. Almost every other subject I do think of infinitely trifling importance when compared with this—the dislike which I entertain towards it (equal to that of my noble Friend on the cross bench to the principles of free trade)—the rooted, the inflexible, the unappeasable dislike which I have to what is called mob government—government by the pressure of the people, the "pressure from without." My Lords, I will have this country governed by the Crown and the Parliament. I will have the measures for the safety of the people of England digested by wise, prudent, experienced men. I will have those measures propounded by those men, discussed by that Parliament, adopted or rejected, according to their merits, and according to the deliberate opinion of their own legislators, influenced only by their reason, guided only by their own lights, and not obeying the pressure of the multitude from without. My Lords, I am reminded of what was said to me a little while ago, or by an ejaculation supposed to convey the opinion of those who uttered it, as to the inconsistency of my condemning sudden appeals to the people, when I remember my own conduct in advising the Crown to dissolve Parliament during the agitation of the Reform Bill. I stop for a moment to vindicate myself from that charge of inconsistency; but I care not to be called inconsistent, if I feel that I am right. I sat at the helm of the imperial vessel for four years with 40 others more worthy of that high post in that critical juncture—I sat at that helm and saw that vessel more than once in sight of the breakers; and I have no desire, before I descend to the grave, to see her in the same position again, taking the all but desperate hazard of being able to wear her round and bring her off. I have once been within sight of a revolution, and I have seen nothing so attractive in that view as makes me very desirous again to look upon it. I saw nothing so attractive in its glare as to make me plunge, like the insect which plunges to its destruction into the taper, or the fire, attracted by its light. Let the glare attract other men, and younger than me. To my eyes it has only the effect of intimidating and scaring me away, and not of drawing me towards the flame. My Lords, my noble Friend on the bench opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke) has talked of my right hon. Friend in the other House, who is at the head of Her Majesty's Government—perhaps my noble Friend on the cross bench it was who talked of him; but my noble Friend on the opposite bench said that, without any disrespect for the right hon. Baronet, or his Colleagues, for whom he professed, and, no doubt, in all sincerity, to entertain the utmost respect, attachment, and esteem, he differed with my right hon. Friend; I cannot avoid saying that I heard with regret the words to which he gave utterance—I will not, however, say anything further on the subject. But then the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) has said, that considering what had taken place at a former time on this question of the Corn Law, he could not now, with a due regard to his consistency and his own honour, take part in that which was about to be proposed—that he could not retain office—
Oh! holding the same opinions! If that be the case, why my noble Friend would have been guilty of worse than inconsistency had he remained in office. It is not inconsistency to think one way and act another; it is downright dishonesty. I thought he had said that he could not in consistency and honour support those measures which he had before opposed, without reference to any supposed change of his own opinions: but it is self-evident that if he holds the same opinions now that he held before, of course he could not, honourably and consistently with those 41 opinions, act otherwise than he has done. My Lords, I have often heard the charge urged against myself and the Government with whom I acted, that we yielded to the pressure from without; but I declare that I never yielded to the clamour that was raised on any question. I hardly know of a question, except the one of the African Slave Trade, on which men may live half a century and never change one opinion; but on that great subject, and the kindred one of Slavery, I never for one instant yielded to clamour. And without any impeachment of the wisdom or the practical good sense—much more of the consistency and the honesty—of my noble Friend, I declare I have no respect for, or sympathy with, those persons who hold that we are only to advance as we are driven on by this pressure from without. I wish not to court or to belong to the suite of that class of persons, alike conceited and contemptible, who allow years to roll over them without increase of knowledge, and who are too proud to gather increase of wisdom from length of years. I consider it to be the duty of all to whom Providence has lent the blessing of long life to profit by the lessons of experience, and when experience proves they have been wrong, to correct the errors of which they have formerly been the supporters, and to guide their course in future by that which experience recommends as right. My Lords, I have thought it my bounden duty, because I retain my opinions in favour of free trade, to state the grounds on which I still wholly and entirely differ from the course that has been pursued by its professed advocates; to state, by way of discriminating, the grounds upon which I do not wholly agree, and never have agreed, with them; and, above all, to mark my disapprobation of every unconstitutional course that can be taken, even for propagating what I believe to be the truth, because I am firmly persuaded that the cause of truth can only lose, and not gain, by such unworthy means, though they are professed to be adopted for the purpose of advancing it. My Lords, I heartily approve of one branch of this Address, to which I venture to say there will be no objection made whatever—I allude to the necessity of taking into early consideration the disturbed state of Ireland. It is one in which I hope all party feelings will be cast to the winds; that with respect to it, at least, all parties will be found to coincide, for the purpose of strengthening the arm of the Irish Executive, 42 in order to protect the lives and the property of the peaceful citizen and peasant.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
I will not detain your Lordships many minutes; but I must protest against that part of the Speech of the noble and learned Lord in which he alluded to what was said by my noble Friend on the cross bench. I perfectly agree with my noble and learned Friend when he says that it is on no trivial occasion that an appeal to the people must be made; but I put it to your Lordships—I ask your Lordships sincerely, on both sides of the House—do you believe that a measure which is to go the length we have a right to suppose the measure about to be proposed is to go, is called for by the state of the country? I do not think that even that great measure — all-important as it has been for good or ill—the Reform Bill, was more important than the measures now likely to be discussed by your Lordships; and I protest against the opinion and the doctrine, that the majority of the people are for those measures. We have no right to judge of the opinion of the English people, except through the last expression of that opinion which has been given by them. And no one will refuse me the assertion, when I say that the Parliament elected in 1841 was a protectionist Parliament. What right have you, then, to say that the people have changed their minds? I will not accept as a proof of that, that the Prime Minister may have changed his opinions. I will not accept as a proof of their change of opinion, the opinion of the Anti-Corn-Law League, or of your assemblies at Manchester, at Leeds, or here in London. I say, that the constitutional right of the people will lead them to expect, under such peculiar and momentous circumstances, that they ought to be appealed to; and they will tell you, that though their Representatives may have been seduced by the speeches of a talented and eloquent Minister—they will tell you that eloquence is an accomplishment, not a virtue, and that they would rather have a consistent Minister—one who will fulfil their purposes—than the most brilliant orator that ever addressed the House. My Lords, I should not have addressed these few words to you, were I not sincerely convinced in my own mind that the majority of the English people are for protection, and not for free trade; and I am convinced that if, in the course of this Session, any measure be brought up from the House of Commons—the House of Commons having 43 passed it—having for its principle an extended free trade, that your Lordships will act in a manner so as to induce—nay, even to force—the Minister to appeal to the people.
The EARL of RADNOR
My noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) objects to the Government for taking up this measure in consequence of "the pressure from without." Now I regret to say that Government will not take any such step without that very course which is thus objected to. The Government will not listen to reason—it will not attend to argument—it will only move when it is forced by the "pressure from without." I say this with sorrow and shame; but I wish now to ask my noble and learned Friend whether all the great measures which he has himself supported by his eloquence and wisdom have not been carried by "the pressure from without?" I ask him if the Reform Bill was not carried in Parliament by "the pressure from without?" I ask him if the Abolition of Slavery was not carried by "the pressure from without?" Whether the repeal of the Orders in Council was not carried by "the pressure from without?" I ask him whether Catholic Emancipation was not carried by "the pressure from without?" I ask whether the Reform Bill, whether the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts—a measure which I am quite sure he most cordially supported—was not carried by "the pressure from without?" My Lords, I lament that this should be the case—I lament that it should of necessity be the case; but I say that it is of necessity the case when the people outstrip, in intelligence, or in readiness to adopt good measures, the Government that is at the helm of affairs. My noble and learned Friend has laid down the constitutional doctrine respecting the raising of money—a doctrine which I, for one, will not deny; but it is evident that a constitutional Government must be limited by circumstances; for if the principle is carried to the length to which my noble and learned Friend seems to wish to push it, why then any subscription whatever may be attacked on the same ground. To be sure, he did say that charity would justify the raising of money in this way; and with respect to the question in hand, I say that of all acts it is the most charitable. But if the principle is carried out to the extent to which he seems inclined to carry it, any subscription of 100l. for a railroad would be 44 an unconstitutional act. According to his doctrine, any subscription for the purpose for which I believe there is now one going on, of raising a large amount for improving the dwellings of the poor in the metropolis, would be unconstitutional. A subscription for the building of churches even would be unconstitutional. There is a limit, therefore, to this constitutional doctrine; and my noble and learned Friend admits that there is so, for the purpose of charity. Now, my Lords, I should not have risen and detained your Lordships at this length, because it appears to me that every noble Lord who heard my noble and learned Friend must have felt what I have ventured to submit to your Lordships; but my noble and learned Friend chooses to pronounce a violent philippic, to pass a violent censure upon the persons who are called the Anti-Corn-Law League—I have no objection to the name—in consequence of their raising money; and he says that they raise money for an unconstitutional purpose. That I deny. I am a subscriber to that fund myself; and I not only believe that I have done nothing unconstitutional, but I believe I have done that which is most consistent with charity, because I believe that no greater act of charity can be performed; I look upon it as money given to charity when it is subscribed to get rid of these accursed Corn Laws, and to forward the principles of free trade. And with that view—that being my honest opinion—I subscribe to the fund. My noble and learned Friend says, that it is raised for the purpose of buying freeholds—of buying votes. It is raised for no such purpose. The Anti-Corn-Law League buy no votes. They have carried on a system of agitation, I grant you; and the object of this money is for carrying on this system of agitation for five years longer, if it should be necessary to carry it on for five years. But they buy no votes—they give no votes. They not only buy no rent-charges, but they buy no votes. They persuade people to buy votes; they persuade people to lay out their own money, and to get votes for the purpose of giving effect to their own opinions. And as to its being unconstitutional, is it unconstitutional to persuade the people of this country—when you tell them they are free men, and have a right to form an opinion—to acquire for themselves the means of expressing that opinion? That is all that the League do with respect to votes; they facilitate the getting of votes. They open an office, 45 where certain persons meet; where certain persons who are willing to sell votes or qualifications, know that they can offer them; and where people who are inclined to buy votes may come and buy them. But they buy no votes; they do not make fagot votes; they do not, like some people, taking advantage of the 50l. clause, pack five or six of their sons and nephews upon the register for the same property. And, moreover, they tell you what they do; they do nothing in secret. They tell you that they meet and subscribe in order to put these votes on the register; and if they do wrong, they are liable to have these votes set aside as bad by the revising officer, in the same way as any other parties. I think there is nothing unconstitutional in that. And as to anything unconstitutional in agitation, I should like to ask my noble and learned Friend, if he thinks that agitation is so unconstitutional, whether he had no hand in the agitation for the abolition of slavery? Did he not rejoice in the success of that agitation? The noble and learned Lord, in one part of his speech, threw out the hint that the Anti-Corn-Law League were doing this for pelf and for profit to themselves. Far from it; for, to their infinite inconvenience, leaving their trade, leaving their factories—at a great expense of time, labour, and trouble—they exert themselves for this object; they exert themselves for a cause which they are convinced will be, not for their own good only, but for the good of the public generally. What was the origin of this Anti-Corn-Law League? It originated in the meeting of a few—I think not more than seven—merchants of Manchester, who found their trade in a most deplorable state, at a time when the trade of the country fell so very low. They prosecuted their views openly, for the purpose of rescuing themselves and the persons concerned in a similar trade, from the ruin which they saw impending over them. They were as much free-traders in the beginning, I believe, as my noble Friend on the cross bench (the Duke of Richmond); but in prosecuting their object they became free-traders; they found that what was good for them, was good for the people of every class of society; and they became as wholly and thoroughly free-traders, as my noble and learned Friend himself is; not for their own personal benefit, but because, in pursuing their own benefit, they found they were pursuing the benefit of the people at large. It is with that view, my Lords, 46 that I, for one, am willing to advance and support, in every way I can, the operations of the Anti-Corn-Law League. I am sorry, indeed, that the thing should have been alluded to in this way. But if you have a Government that will not yield to the arguments and reasonings of my noble and learned Friend, we must resort to "that pressure from without" he so much dreads, to give that effect which his arguments ought to have produced, but which they have yet failed to produce. And yet he objects to agitation! Why, my noble and learned Friend began his speech, by saying he was glad that this object would probably be brought about, and that this measure was likely to be introduced. I wonder how many years we should have been at work without this agitation if it had not been for the Anti-Corn-Law League coming in as allies to my noble and learned Friend. I dare say he might have got up, and would have got up, year after year, and have made a most eloquent speech in favour of free trade—in which he would have had my support and that of many of my noble Friends below the bar. But "the pressure from without" has been produced, and Government must yield to it. If they do not yield to it, who to them and to the country. As to the feeling of the people of England, the noble Lord who spoke last said he did not believe that the majority of the country were in favour of free trade. I believe that the majority is in its favour; but we have neither of us the means of knowing. If the pressure is such that they are obliged to yield, I shall rejoice in that pressure; and that they are about to yield I feel very little doubt. I only address these few words to your Lordships to set my noble and learned Friend right about that which he has unjustly accused others of doing, which he says is not illegal, but unconstitutional. They do nothing of the sort; I beg him to understand that they do nothing of the sort—that they have no intention of doing anything of the sort. All they mean to do is, to continue an agitation which I think necessary, and which, upon other occasions, my noble and learned Friend has thought necessary too.
Your Lordships, I am sure, will allow me a few words, in order to explain to my noble Friend that he is quite mistaken in those instances of agitation which he has referred to as those in which I was concerned, or had anything to do, with what is called agitation, or "the pressure from without." For instance 47 he has referred to the Orders in Council: now we were engaged five weeks at hearing evidence at the bar of the House on that measure; and every day that that was going on it produced secession from our adversaries on the opposite side. And I do not believe that one public meeting was held on that question, except one at Manchester, and I believe one at Birmingham. It was after the thing was carried out that public meetings were held, to thank my noble Friend on the other side—late the Ambassador to America—and myself, that we had carried it out. Then as to the Catholic Emancipation—why, good God! was there ever any measure like the Catholic Emancipation Bill? It was the result of the reasoning and advocacy of thirty years.
The EARL of RADNOR
If this is explanation, I hope my noble and learned Friend will strictly confine himself to that; but really this is very like a second speech.
All I mean to say is this, that the people of this country were against the Catholic Emancipation question. I certainly have a great respect for my noble Friend, who is, I am sure, no party to the scurrilous abuse of the League, however he may support them. But, my Lords, this is what they say: "You will very soon have a very different champion in Westmoreland to what you had in 1820 or 1826; but it will be because we the League (and this was put forth by order of the League) are going to put 2,000 additional voters on the roll for Westmoreland." Why, the whole number of freeholders was but 4,000. In the poor little county of Westmoreland there are 2,000 people who are to subscribe 50l. each—for that is about the worth of a freehold in that county—for love of the League. Now, I should like to know who are those 2,000 men in Westmoreland, who are ready to give 100,000l. of their own proper money for the sake of repealing the Corn Laws. Why, it is quite clear that the object of the League is to facilitate, in one way or another, the acquisition of freeholds. My Lords, I certainly consider that there is nothing more justifiable than a man arguing the question, and discussing and reasoning on the subject. I never said the reverse; all I object to is, "the pressure from without." As to the abolition of the Slave Trade, I never attended a meeting in my life on that question. I attended one meeting on the subject of the Emancipation Bill, and that was all. And, I believe, that if 48 ever a thing was carried by the force of reason, effecting its object in the course of the long period of half a century, it was the Emancipation Bill and the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
The EARL of RADNOR
As to the Emancipation Bill, to which my noble and learned Friend has just referred, in March, 1829, that measure was carried by a majority; a similar majority having voted but in the month of July or August preceding, against the question. And there is the proof which my noble and learned Friend produces of the effect of reasoning during half a century.
The EARL of RADNOR
I spoke to order when my noble and learned Friend was on his legs the second time; and I said if it was to be a second speech, it ought to be understood and treated as such. And I say, with respect to that very Emancipation Bill, it was avowed in the House, if my memory does not fail me, by the noble Duke sitting opposite to me (the Duke of Wellington) that his opinions were not changed, but that it was necessary to do it to avoid a civil war. [Cheers, and a gesture of dissent from the Duke of Wellington.] I remember the words well; and they confirm the opinion which I always had, and shall always continue to have of that noble Duke;—"it was necessary, in order to avoid a civil war;" and (said he) "My Lords, I have seen a great deal of war, but of all wars the most horrible is a civil war." Now, with respect to Westmoreland, I cannot undertake to explain what may be the intention of others, but this I do explain, that it is no intention of the Anti-Corn-Law League to create votes or to buy votes; but their object and their intention is, to induce others to possess themselves of the franchise. Their efforts have been exerted in Westmoreland, in Surrey, and in Middlesex, and, I believe, with success, to encourage persons to qualify themselves to vote, in order that they may be able to give effect to their opinions in the Legislature of the country.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I will explain both the words and the sentiments expressed by me, God knows how many years ago; but there are records of the proceedings of those days, and if the noble Earl will be so kind as to look at those records, he will see that he has not quoted either my words or my sentiments 49 correctly. I positively and distinctly deny that the words quoted by the noble Earl, or the sentiments mentioned by him, were either the words or the sentiments which I used.*
The MARQUESS of SALISBURY
I shall not trespass upon the attention of your Lordships for more than a few moments; because the occasion of an Address to Her Majesty is not the most opportune for discussing questions which must, in the course of the Session, come before your Lordships for consideration. I cannot, however, refrain from expressing my surprise at the declaration made by the noble Earl opposite, that the proceedings of the body calling themselves the Anti-Corn-Law League are not illegal; because I had always understood that for any body of men to conspire to upset the law was an illegal act. The noble Earl has applied a term to the present Corn Law, which I believe has never been applied by any Member, either of your Lordships' House, or, I may add, by any Member of the other House of Parliament. The noble Earl said, that "the Corn Law was an accursed law." I beg to say, my Lords, that I do not subscribe to that phrase. I also understood the noble Earl to say that "it was desirable that the pressure from without should act upon Parliament." I am sorry to say that occasions have been when that pressure from without has acted upon those conducting the affairs of the State; but it is certainly the first time I have ever heard it deliberately avowed by any noble Lord in his place in Parliament, that he thought it desirable to bring that pressure from without to operate upon your Lordships to carry measures, and that it was by such means only that he could hope to carry such measures. This was, certainly, a pretty distinct and strong avowal on the part of the noble Earl (the Earl of Radnor). At the same time that I intend to vote for the Address, I beg, my Lords, to guard myself from being supposed, in the slightest degree, to be pledged to those portions of the Speech which are adduced as grounds for the present commercial prosperity of the country. I cannot, for one, admit that the relaxations which have taken place in our commercial policy have conduced to the prosperity of the country. Whether those relaxations will ultimately do so or not, remains to be seen. I confess my opinion is that they will not. I confess my* See Hansard, 2nd Series, vol. xxi. p. 46.50 opinion to be that the prosperous state of the country has gone on in defiance of those relaxations. At the same time, my Lords, I am prepared to give the best consideration in my power to all those measures which Her Majesty's Government may deem it their duty to bring forward, when they shall be presented to your Lordships in detail, deeming it that I, at the present moment, am acting wisely in abstaining from offering one single word of remark upon what one may possibly anticipate the nature of those measures will be. But, in doing this, I am anxious to avoid laying myself open to the supposition that, by assenting to the present Address, I am pledging myself to support any of those measures.
§ The DUKE of BEAUFORT
was understood to say, that, without pretending to discuss any measures which were not yet before their Lordships, he felt called upon to protest against the extreme latitude of the expressions used in the Speech from the Throne in favour of those measures of relaxation in our commercial policy, which measures he believed to have been most injurious to the best interests of the country.
§ The Address was then agreed to.