The MARQUESS of EXETER
said: My Lords, I rise to offer to your Lordships a few observations upon this important question, and to lay before your Lordships a few facts derived from private documents in regard to wages, which, I think, in addition to the able arguments brought forward by my noble Friends, ought to induce your Lordships either to reject this measure, or to render its provisions innocuous to the labouring classes. Before I proceed, however, I must express my regret at finding myself opposed to my Friend the noble Duke and his Colleagues; but, my Lords, we have each of us a duty to perform in this House to the Crown and to the country, which is paramount to every other consideration. I had hoped, before the second reading of this Bill, to have implored your Lordships not to abandon the opinions that you have so often expressed in favour of agricultural protection, and in regard to the necessity of protecting native industry, lest you should lose your high character as a legislative body, and show the country that you are but a passive instrument in the hands of a despotic Minister, who, hav- 295 ing changed his own opinions, has sent this measure up from the other House of Parliament by the aid of persons to whom, up to the present time, he has been diametrically opposed in principle; having so contrived to break up parties, that neither his late friends nor his former opponents have found themselves in a position to form a Government; although I believe that both at the present moment are more numerous than his own supporters. This fact ought, I think, to have induced your Lordships to have stopped this Bill at once, that a precedent might not be set which hereafter, if followed by any ambitious and designing Minister, might alike endanger the security of the Crown, as well as the independence of the country. Unfortunately, your Lordships have allowed this Bill to be read a second time; but how has it been carried? Not by any strong manifestation of feeling in this House or the country in its favour; not by any urgent arguments for its adoption; but by the sudden amalgamation of two parties of rival leaders who have been outbidding each other in liberality for the last fifteen years, aided by the deservedly invincible influence of the noble Duke, who having consented to remain a Member of the Government, has assisted in forcing this measure through the House. But what is the object of it? Why, under the plea of giving cheap food to the people, to subject the heavily-taxed producers and labourers of this country to a competition with the untaxed labour of other nations; to lower the agricultural interest by the removal of protection; and to set up the manufacturing interest as the predominant and fructifying interest of all others. It is difficult to account for this sudden change in the opinions of the author of this measure, unless he has been enamoured by the great wealth which has poured out of the manufacturing districts for the purpose of railways, or has been fascinated by the enormous sums subscribed for interfering with the elective franchise, and has conceived that if he could only divert some of this wealth into his Exchequer, he would, for the future, be free from all anxiety about the revenue. But, my Lords, I believe that he will find himself mistaken. He may have power to set up his idol and bow down to it; he may encourage the manufacturers to increase their production, and for a time, perhaps, all may appear to be going on prosperously; but when his Exchequer shall become deficient from the 296 falling-off of the resources of the agriculturists, he will call in vain for gold from the manufacturing districts; and instead of gold he will find himself surrounded with masses of unsaleable cotton goods, which will be offered to him at reduced prices. Now, my Lords, before I proceed to the question of wages, I will just advert to the state of the country when this measure was first proposed; and I find that, under the old system of protection, which the noble Lord behind me sneered at last night, the country was in a prosperous condition: the agriculturists were just recovering from the effects of the last alteration in the Corn Laws; the labourers were receiving good wages, and in consequence of the demand of labour for railways were well employed; and the manufacturing districts were in a flourishing condition. There was nothing to be uneasy about at home, excepting a sudden disease amongst the potato crops, which threatened to occasion considerable distress in certain districts in Ireland, which it was quite right the Government should be prepared to alleviate, but which, in my opinion, was the very reason for not interfering with the Corn Laws, that the labourers in England, by a fall in prices might Dot also be reduced to a state of distress, by the want of employment. And what are the arguments by which it has been enforced? By exaggerated accounts of scarcity and famine, which have turned out fallacious, and which ought never to have been brought forward, when, through the bounty of Providence, there is grain enough in the country to feed the whole population, if they had but money to purchase it? And who are the persons by whom it has been brought forward? Why, Gentlemen who up to the present time have been warm advocates for protection. Who have told you that protection was necessary, on account of the heavy burdens upon land, on account of the large sums invested in the cultivation of the soil, and on account of the great distress it would occasion, by the displacement of labour, if protection were to be withdrawn; but who now turn round upon us, and, adopting the language of the Anti-Corn-Law League, tell us that protection is no longer politic, and that a tax upon food is unjust? Now, my Lords, I shall endeavour to prove the converse of this proposition; and the fairest way of doing it, I consider, will be to compare the charges imposed upon the country in the year 1792, with those of the last year. I fix upon that 297 period, as it is just before the commencement of the war of the French Revolution, which was followed by the war with Napoleon, which wars, though successful, have been the occasion of all our burdens; and if I should prove to your Lordships that the interest and charge on the funded debt is about three times greater now than in 1792; that the income and expenditure of the country is, with the charge of collection, three times as large at the present moment; that the poor rates and county rates have nearly increased threefold within that period; and that the excess of the amount of those three charges is about 43,000,000l. beyond the amount of those heads in 1792, I think I shall have made out a strong case in favour of the necessity of continuing protection to those who pay the greatest share of those burdens. But if, in addition to this, I shall prove to you that, though the population has doubled within that period, the average price of wheat for the last three years, commencing
|Interest and Charge of National Debt.||Interest and Charge of National Debt.|
|March 25||…||…||…||…||£9,426,858||To April 5||…||…||…||£27,788,836|
|INCOME AND EXPENDITURE.|
|(No account of 1792.) £2,167,750||Gross receipt||…||…||…||£7,009,511|
|ACCOUNT OF THE SEVERAL HEADS TOGETHER.|
|Poor rate of 1785||…||…||…||2,167,750||Poor rate||…||…||…||…||7,009,511|
|Highway rate||…||…||…||218,815||Highway rate||…||…||…||1,169,891|
|Repayments, allowances, and drawbacks, say||…||…||…||1,300,000||Repayments, allowances, drawback, and other payments, as in 1842||4,626,126|
|Deduct Income of 1792||…||…||22,944,749|
|Poor rate, 1785||…||…||…||2,167,750||Poor rate||…||…||…||…||7,009,511|
|Highway rate||…||…||…||218,185||Highway Rate||…||…||…||1,169,891|
|Repayments, Drawbacks, &c.||…||1,300,000||Repayments, Drawbacks, &c.||…||4,626,126|
|Deduct Expenditure, 1792||…||21,123,376|
|Excess of Income, Poor Rate, and Highway Rate in 1846, over the like charges in 1792||£41,970,103|
|Excess of Expenditure, with like charges, in 1846, over 1792||…||…||…||…||40,982,319|
§ with 1792, is very little below the average of the last three years; that the duty imposed upon foreign wheat, in 1792, when the average was under 50s., was 24s. per quarter, whilst the duty now, at the same average, is only 20s.; and, above all, if I shall show you that the burdens which your necessities oblige you to impose upon the country, compel the farmers, and all those who employ labour, to pay double the wages they did at that period (1792), though the price of corn is about equal; so that, supposing a farmer paid 400l. a year for labour in 1792, he now has to pay 800l. for the same number of persons; and that the wages of masons, carpenters, and all who are employed in labour, are also doubled—I think I shall have made out a case to show, not only that a tax upon foreign corn is just, but that it will be a gross act of injustice to pass this Bill, and to remove protection from agriculture, unless you first remove those burdens which press upon the industry of the country.299
|9,200,000||18,664,761||20,000,000 (without Ireland).|
|Average Price of Wheat at Stamford in Years||Average Price of Wheat at Stamford in Years|
|Average of Three Years, 47s. 4¼d. per quarter.||Average of Three Years, 49s. 1d. per quarter.|
|General Average from 1790 to 1799, 55s. 11d.||Average of Tithe Commutation from 1837 to 1846, 56s. 9¾d.|
|Average of last Three Years, 50s. 9d.|
|Duty on Wheat in 1792, under 51s., 24s. 0d.||Duty on Wheat in 1846, under 50s., 20s. 0d.|
|Average price of labour, for garden, park, and farm labourers, 6s. per week.||Average price of wages for garden, park, farm, &c. 12s. per week.|
|12s. per week having been the ruling wages since 1815, with very few exceptions.|
§ It is evident from this statement, which I hope I have rendered intelligible, that the amount of wages depends more upon the burdens which press upon labour than upon the price of corn; for unless the labourer can obtain as much for his labour as will defray the expense of the taxed articles which he consumes, as well as to supply the other wants of his family, he is no longer in an independent condition, but is upon the verge of pauperism. Now, if this measure should pass, and the price of wheat and other grain should fall as much as we apprehend, how can the farmer pay the amount of wages to the labourer which the burden of taxation renders necessary? The thing will be impossible, and the result will be that the farmer, being in distress, will not be able to employ the labourer; and the independent and now happy labourer will become a brokenhearted pauper. It is unjust, therefore, to deprive the farmer and labourer of protection, unless you first diminish the burdens which press upon their industry. Either you should reduce the national debt in the same proportion which the repeal of the Corn Laws will diminish their incomes, or you should retain the Corn Laws to keep up their capital, so as to make the pressure of taxation less onerous. But this measure does neither, but will reduce the capital of the landed interest one-third, and thereby will augment the pressure of taxation upon the whole community. It may have the effect of lowering wages a little, which is the sole object of the League; but I deny that it will assist the manufacturer, for what he may gain in a foreign market he will sacrifice doubly in the home and colonial markets. The malt tax, the spirit duties, the duties on tea, sugar, tobacco, and hops, are the taxes which the most press upon labour; but until you can reduce those and the national 300 debt, which you cannot do till 1860, you have no right to take away protection from native industry. I cannot help expressing my great regret that many of the right rev. Prelates, for whom I have the highest respect, should have thought it their duty to vote for the second reading of this Bill. I had expected, as they are the only representatives of the Clergy, whose interests will suffer so extremely from this measure, that they would have opposed it as a measure most hurtful to the interests of the Church. My surprise is, that many of those who have been asserting the necessity of augmenting poorer livings, and using their best exertions to carry out the object of the present Commission, should have voted for a measure that must indisputably affect the incomes of the poorer Clergy, and stultify—such would be the effect—all they have been doing to augment them during the last few years. I can assure the right rev. Bench that their Clergy will feel their desertion most acutely. I had some conversation with several, in which I told them that I had heard reports that the Bishops intended to support the measure; but one and all declared they did not think the right rev. Bench would so betray their trust. Even now the incomes of many of the Clergy are so limited, that they cannot assist their parishioners as much as they desire to do; and if this Bill should unhappily pass, the calls upon them will be more numerous, and they will be less able to relieve them from their diminished resources. However, as your Lordships have, however unfortunately, allowed this Bill to pass the second reading, it remains for me to implore your Lordships so to reconsider this question and so alter this Bill when it shall get into the Committee, as may render it as little hurtful as possible to the country, if it shall not ultimately be rejected by 301 your Lordships. In order to do so, I will just advert to the period when this measure was first suggested—one of the most extraordinary features of which is, that it was proposed at a time when the country was in a state of great prosperity. I think I have now shown your Lordships that we have been living under a Constitution based upon agriculture, of which protection has hitherto been considered the vital principle. Under it our manufactures have flourished and increased beyond all expectation; and although our expenses have been enormous, we have been enabled to sustain public credit and to raise sufficient grain to feed our increasing population at as low a price before the burdens to which I have alluded were imposed upon the country. I think I may assert, therefore, that it has been based upon a proper foundation, for it has proved itself to be founded upon a rock. But this Bill proposes to us a new Constitution, of which the manufacturing interest is to be the foundation, and free trade its vital principle. It is to be supported by a theoretical increased supply and demand from foreign nations, aided by impoverished home and colonial demands. It may flourish in times of peace; but if war shall occur, being dependent upon foreign nations for the supply of food, it will be annihilated like a house built upon the seashore, for it will have no real foundation and no resources to sustain it. I trust, therefore, your Lordships will reject this Bill.
assured their Lordships that he rose to address the House only from a pressing sense of public duty. From the first moment this measure was announced to the public, at the commencement of the present year, he, as an humble individual, yet as one who would be called upon to say aye or nay to this measure in his place in Parliament, foresaw that he would be placed in painful and difficult circumstances. He felt that on the one hand he should have to struggle with strong party and political attachments; and, on the other, with the stern requirements of public duty. He felt that on a question of this magnitude and importance—a question involving, he might say, fearful changes — changes, at least, in his mind, of fearful import to the best interests of the country—it was the duty of every man, and that every man was solemnly and seriously called upon to consult his own conscience before he determined upon 302 the line of conduct he should pursue. He had struggled hard with his own humble opinions to see if he could bring them into harmony with those of the authors of the measure, hoping to avoid that which he conceived to be almost an unmitigated evil, namely, a separation from the political Friends with whom he had acted since he had the honour of a seat in that House. His course of conduct, also, involved the public situation which he had held; and great as was the honour of that station, he felt it was of very inferior value when compared to the marks of condescension which he had received from the highest quarters, and which he would not dare to allude to further than to express his deep and lasting gratitude. But, notwithstanding the consideration to which he had referred, he had been compelled to come to the conclusion that as an honest man he could not give his support to this measure. At that period of this protracted debate, it would ill become him to enter into detail, with a view to explain the process of thinking that had brought him to the conclusion at which he had arrived. It was sufficient to say, that he had given to the measure all the attention he could command—he had examined the arguments adduced by the supporters of this measure, and they had all failed to convince him that there was anything in the exigencies of the present time to call for it. No irresistible circumstances had suddenly come across them which rendered it necessary to change the current of their legislation. They were now told that it had been long running in the same course; but no necessity had arisen to induce them to raise up the remaining floodgates which had hitherto served to stem its too great impetuosity. He trusted it was unnecessary for him to say that he did not mean to cast anything like reproach on his right hon. Friend the right hon. Baronet in another place, or on the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), or on his noble Frends on the bench below him, in consequence of the course they had adopted. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman and those noble Lords had on this occasion been—as they always had been—actuated by an overpowering motive in doing that which they thought to be best for the interests of the country. He thought the course they had taken was a mistaken one; but he was convinced that they had adopted it and carried it out, so far as it had been carried out, with that sincerity and singleness of purpose which he trusted 303 they would give him credit for in the opposition which it was his misfortune to be compelled to give them on this measure. It had been said, what was the use of resisting this measure? — what could they hope to obtain by it? It was said that public opinion was in its favour; and, if it were not carried this year, it would be carried two or three years hence. Now, he begged leave, with all humility, to deny that assertion. He denied that public opinion was in favour of this measure. It was well known that a very large portion of those noble Lords in that House, and of hon. Gentlemen in the other House, who supported this measure, felt themselves very much dislike for it in its present shape. They had proof that a large number of their Lordships, and of the Members of the other House, disliked this measure altogether; and was it not fair to think that the same thing was going on out of doors? It was not fair, therefore, to say that public opinion was in favour of the measure. He doubted it very much; there was no proof of it; and he doubted very much if the opinions of the reflecting and well-disposed part of the public would be in favour of any change in the present circumstances of the country. They were told to consider the influence which the possible rejection of this measure might have on political parties in this country. That question was ably and eloquently put on the preceding night by a noble Baron who was not then in his place; and it was one of the unfortunate circumstances of the case that this question was presented to them. If they now did their duty, it struck him that they had only one course to pursue, and that was, to look at this measure plainly and simply as it was put to them. Let them deal with it openly, honestly, fairly, and without partiality. They might yet be able to cope with the difficulties by which he was willing to admit they were surrounded, and with the assistance of Divine Providence they would be successful. He had endeavoured to discharge the painful duty which he thought incumbent on him; for he thought that to have shrunk from doing so would have been to make shipwreck of his own conscience.
The BISHOP of ST. DAVID'S
said, that anxious as he had been to say a few words before the debate came to a close, he assured their Lordships it was not because it ever was his intention to trouble their Lordships with any discussion of the 304 general merits of the important question under their deliberation, or for the purpose of stating at large the grounds of his opinion on that question. He was quite aware that this subject was so alien to his ordinary studies and pursuits, that it was one on which he could have no claim whatever to their Lordships' attention. He was conscious that he possessed no authority whatever on it that could give the slightest weight to his opinion. He was also conscious that he was not able to adduce any facts or arguments upon it with which their Lordships were not familiar even to weariness and satiety. It was a different motive, and one of a very special, and, he thought, of a very reasonable kind, that had induced him to depart from his original intention, and break that silence which he had intended to preserve, and to solicit their Lordships' attention. It was a motive which compelled him, in a measure, to speak in his own defence; for their Lordships could not have forgotten, that, in the course of the recent discussion, very numerous appeals—most pointed, emphatic, solemn, and earnest appeals — were made by a great number of noble Lords—and he (the Bishop of St. David's) must be permitted to say, he thought in a very unusual strain—to those who occupied a place in that part of their Lordships' House. Their Lordships must be aware, as he was sure was every one of those to whom those appeals were addressed, that they were of such a nature as to involve very serious charges against that part of the Members of their Lordships' House in that place who held the opinions which he held, and had given a vote conformable to that which he had given on this question; charges amounting to nothing less than that of neglect of a duty which undoubtedly they ought to hold most sacred—an indifference to interests which ought to be most dear to them. Under these circumstances he was sure their Lordships would think that it was perfectly natural and proper that one of those to whom those appeals had been applied, should solicit their Lordships' attention for a short time, in order to meet those appeals, and vindicate himself and others from the imputations which were cast upon them. At the same time, he wished it to be understood, that, in the few remarks he was about to make on this point, he was speaking simply in his own name. He had not the presumption to stand forward in that place as the representative of others, many 305 of whom he saw near him, and who would be better able to discharge the duty than himself, and to whose more able hands, if he had observed in them any inclination to answer those appeals, he should have most gladly resigned this duty. But nevertheless he did venture to hope that, in the statement he was about to make on the subject, he would enjoy their unanimous concurrence, however they might differ from him on the general merits of the question before them. There was one thing in those appeals to the Episcopal Bench which he must acknowledge afforded him some satisfaction, and that was the circumstance that those appeals exclusively came from one quarter and from one party in their Lordships' House — they came exclusively from those noble Lords who were adverse to this measure now before them. That was a circumstance which afforded him an agreeable surprise, for the case might have been far otherwise; and, considering the arguments which their Lordships were all aware had been used on this subject in other assemblies, and addressed to excite the popular mind on this subject, he should not have been surprised if some appeals founded upon those arguments and topics had been addressed to the Members of that Bench in a different sense and for an opposite purpose. And he could not but express his surprise that those noble Lords who had indulged in these appeals did not consider, before they made them, that they were using weapons which might be employed as effectually by their opponents, and turned against themselves. He should not have been surprised if that Bench had been appealed to on principles of not merely public policy, but on principles of humanity, nay, of religion itself, and even texts of scripture brought against them to prove that it was their bounden duty not to lend their countenance to any law which had for its object to thwart the benevolent designs of Providence, by restricting the supply of food to the population of this country. That would be an appeal which they might find it difficult to answer. He could not say that they should attach any importance to such an argument, for he considered such an argument would be a gross fallacy; he admitted, however, the moderation exhibited by the noble Lords who were favourable to this measure, in refraining from such popular and specious topics. He held them to be fallacies, because it was quite clear that they took for granted the question at issue; that they 306 supposed, not only that one view of the subject was the only right one, but that it was known and felt to be so by those who opposed it. There was another circumstance connected with the appeals to which he had referred that was deserving of attention: he really looked upon them as a very curious and remarkable feature in this debate. It appeared to him that in making these appeals the noble Lords who made them were acting a little inconsistently with their own professed principles. He would call their Lordships' recollection to the nature and circumstance of those appeals. They were called upon to recollect that they (the Bishops) were the natural representatives and guardians of the rights and interests of the Clergy; and on that ground it was urged upon them that it was their duty to give their vote against a measure which threatened to be injurious to their interests. But what was the language and what were the professions of the same noble Lords in other parts of their speeches and addresses to the House on this question? Did they not remember that every one of them in succession had most emphatically and indignantly repudiated the idea of treating this question as a landlords' question, or as a question at all affecting the peculiar interests of a class? Those noble Lords all stood forward as the advocates of the interests of the great masses of the community—as the friends of the labouring man; they cast away all considerations of private interest—all considerations affecting their own class and their own order in society. Why, then, how came it that it had escaped the observations of those noble Lords, that with regard to the Clergy they stood precisely in the same position. Their interests either coincided with those of the great mass of the community, or were distinct and separate from them. There was only one of those two cases that could be supposed; and for argument sake he was quite willing the noble Lords should choose whichever they liked. Let him suppose that the interests of the Clergy were identical with those of the great mass of the community. Then what occasion was there for bringing them into this discussion, or to appeal to them (the Bishops) as the representatives of their particular interests? It was clear that such an appeal was at all events superfluous; and when their Lordships considered the line of argument taken by those noble Lords, and what pictures they had drawn of the consequences to result from this 307 measure—when they represented it as pregnant with danger to the institutions of the country, as well as the interest and welfare of the labouring population, did it not border upon the ridiculous that they should place in juxtaposition anything so diminutive and insignificant as the effect this measure was to have on the interests of the Clergy? Were they to be told that they were bound to resist this measure, because it would lead to the overthrow of the Constitution and the ruin of the Empire, and also because it would produce a considerable reduction in tithes? They must recollect the vehement language in which they were addressed by one of those noble Lords, who held out some vague indefinite threat of the consequences that were to fall on the Members of that Bench if, as he said, they deserted, not the interests of the people or of the labouring population, not even the interests which might be expected to be so dear and sacred to them, considering the character in which they sat there; but, said the noble Lord, "if you desert us;"—if they did he did not know what retribution was to follow, and he did not care, but he wished to call their attention to what was probably passing in the noble Lord's mind. The noble Lord felt that whatever might be the consequences of it, it was not a question for the labouring class, or for the tenant-farmer, but that it was a landlords' question; and if it had been otherwise he was sure the noble Lord would never have addressed such an appeal to the Members of that Bench. There was another circumstance which struck him as being still more remarkable about these appeals, and that was, that noble Lords should express such sympathy for the interests of the Clergy. It appeared that they understood their wishes and feelings better than the Clergy did themselves; for not only had the Clergy as a body publicly expressed no feeling on the subject, not only had they abstained from approaching their Lordships' House by way of petition, but they had never professed to his knowledge an opinion in private on the subject, or given to the members of the Episcopal Bench even a hint as to the course of conduct they had desired them to pursue. And he considered that the Clergy by so doing had acted most wisely, and had earned the approbation and respect of all classes. What, he asked, was the tendency of the appeals which had been made to them by those noble Lords, except that they should by their voluntary 308 officious interference place the Clergy in that very invidious position which they had voluntarily declined to stand in? He would like to know what any of those noble Lords conceived would have been the effect on the public mind, even if there had been a perfect unanimity on this subject, in every sense, amongst the members of that Bench—would there have been a second opinion in the mind of any man in the country that that part of their Lordships' House had been swayed not by their dispassionate and deliberate opinion, but by a sense of the interests of their peculiar class? He rejoiced that it was otherwise, proving that the Bishops, as a body, had followed their own convictions; and he might appeal, as a further confirmation, to the fact, that two of that body, united not only by their office but by ties of blood, took opposite sides on this question. A noble Duke who had spoken on the preceding night (the Duke of Buckingham) had stated, as the result of his calculation, the effect which would be produced on the interests of the Clergy if this measure passed into law. The noble Duke had calculated the matter so exactly, that he had found out that it would produce a diminution of their income amounting to one-fourth. He (the Bishop of St. David's) did not pretend to be able to follow that noble Duke in those calculations, or say whether there was any good foundation for them or not; but he must say the noble Duke had overlooked and taken out of the account everything in the shape of the compensation which the Clergy might receive to make up for this deficiency, in consequence of the effects which its advocates expected from this measure. That could not be fairly or reasonably left out of the account; and, moreover, he must be permitted to say, that whatever might be the consequences arising to the interests of the Clergy from this measure, he thought the bad effects could not be laid on this measure, but on one that had passed long before; for it was taking this measure in connexion with that for the commutation of tithe, that the interests of the Clergy were placed on a different footing from those of the other classes who were interested in land. But, if so, although it was possible that the Clergy might sustain loss, they could not say they suffered any injury; for that measure was undoubtedly passed with the concurrence of those who represented their interests in that House, and with full warning of the possibility, if not probability, that it would 309 be followed by the proposal now under consideration. Some of those who took part in the discussion of that measure, did distinctly advert to the possibility that at no distant period the repeal of the Corn Law would take place. He only alluded to that circumstance for one purpose, which was to show the uncertainty of all calculation of that nature; for those who adverted to that possibility did so, not because they conceived in case of the repeal of the Corn Laws the interests of the Clergy would be affected, but that that repeal would operate as a grievance and hardship to the owners of land. [The Duke of RICHMOND: Oh, oh!] He did not know what the noble Duke meant by that intimation; but, on reference to the best accounts that could be found of the proceedings of Parliament during that discussion, he found the circumstance had occurred to which he adverted. He felt that the vote they should give on this question should not be in the slightest degree affected by its operation on the interests of the Clergy. If he met a body of his Clergy, after the close of this discussion, and said to them, "I think I merit your approbation, for though, according to my own convictions, I thought the measure was likely to tend to the general interests of the community, still, as I thought it would operate injuriously to yours, I complied with the earnest exhortation I received from many of your best friends in the House of Lords by giving my vote against it" — he (the Bishop of St. David's) was sure, that if he were capable of such dishonesty, so far from earning the good will, and thanks, and support of the Clergy, he would be undeserving of the good opinion of any man in the country. He could not consent to place such a momentous question as this upon any such narrow, paltry, and miserable ground, as its effect upon any particular class, however closely he was connected with it. There was only one way in which he could consent to look upon it, and that was the effect it was likely to have on the comfort, and well-being, and prosperity of the great mass of the community. Looking at it in that point of view, he asked those noble Lords whether or not it was their intention to represent that the state of the gross mass of the labouring population of the country was on the whole so satisfactory, that it did not stand in need of any change? He thought expressions had been used which seemed to his ear very strongly to put forward such a notion; and yet when 310 he reflected upon all he saw, it appeared to him so monstrous a paradox that he scrupled to attribute it to the good sense or good feeling of any of their Lordships. There could be no doubt that, if this measure was, as it had been described, a great and fearful experiment, at all events it was not a gratuitous and wanton one. Gratuitous and unnecessary it might be with reference to the case of those noble Lords, and the class immediately below them, the occupiers of their land, who might have no desire for any uncertain or perilous change; but with regard to the interests those noble Lords most particularly professed to advocate, he must contend that this was far from a gratuitous experiment; that it was one forced upon Parliament by the emergencies and necessities of the case; and that the question was one of life or death to the people of this country. To his own mind it was the great recommendation of the measure, that at all events it held out that which was the sweetener of all human adversity and misery—hope—the hope of an improvement in the condition of the people. If their Lordships rejected this experiment, and declared their determination to abide by the system advocated by the noble Lords to whom he had referred, what had they to hold out in exchange? What prospect of improvement did they present? None. It was a natural and inevitable consequence of their principles, that they should more or less directly, openly or covertly, deny the existence of the need of such improvement. They had been reminded occasionally in the course of this discussion of the consequences likely to ensue from the rejection of this measure; and they had been reminded of what he believed was an unquestionable fact, that such a step on their part would be likely to produce a very great degree of disappointment, and discontent, and irritation in the country. That was a topic he should be most unwilling to touch for the purpose of, in the slightest degree, influencing their Lordships; but he thought there was one thing which deserved their Lordships' most serious attention in the matter, namely, the reason why the rejection of this measure was likely to produce discontent and irritation, Was it not simply this, that the country at large and the labouring population felt that if their Lordships rejected this measure, they were excluding them from the only hope they had at present to look to for a favourable change in their position? That was a consideration which 311 he felt to be worthy of the attention of their Lordships' House, and they should most seriously and carefully dwell on it before they made up their minds to take a step that would produce such a feeling in the public mind. He did not mean to say that although he looked to this measure with hopeful expectation, he expected very great advantage from it. He repeated, his expectations of benefit from this measure were by no means sanguine; and if the Government had represented it in the light in which it had been placed by many popular declaimers on the subject, who described it as the beginning of a new epoch of unbounded prosperity in the country, he would have viewed the measure with the greatest distrust; but his feeling of confidence in the measure of the Government was very much strengthened by the sobriety and the caution of the language they had used in expressing the expectations they felt on the subject. They contented themselves with saying that the effect of this measure would be to produce an increased steadiness in the market—a constant and more regular employment of the labouring man—that it would give an active stimulus to trade, and also a considerable and healthy stimulus to agriculture itself. But with all that, he was quite sure it would be unreasonable to expect that they could at the same time promote the great interests of the manufacturing classes of this country, and also any very considerable advantage or addition to the comforts and enjoyments of the labouring man. But still although he did not anticipate to a great extent such results, yet however small they might be, however small might be the addition made to the means of subsistence enjoyed by the labouring man, still it became a matter of very grave importance when they considered the vast surface over which that benefit was spread, and the immense number who would participate in it. He was not sure that all their Lordships were fully aware of the importance of the addition that was made to the comfort and happiness of the labouring population by a very minute addition to their means. And here he would be allowed to advert to a little circumstance connected with this part of the subject, and illustrative of the habits and feelings of the poorer classes. He was sure that he would be borne out by the experience of any person who had anything to do with the education of the poor, when he said that no cause was more frequently assigned by them as a 312 reason for their being unable to take advantage of the means of education and instruction offered to them, than the misery of their physical condition. Often, in localities where there were excellent Sunday schools and places of worship, they found a poor family, a swarm of ragged children playing about in the streets all Sunday; and if the question was put, why this was so, the answer of the parents almost invariably was, that they could not send their children to church or school because they had not decent clothing to appear in. If these poor people had but a little surplus, however small, of the share which they received of the produce of the soil which they cultivated, to send to the manufacturer and exchange for decent articles of clothing, such an addition to their means would confer an inestimable blessing, as it would afford them means of educating their children, and improving their morals and religious condition. There was another point of view in which he must be allowed to consider the subject. He had heard noble Lords speak of this measure as a wanton and gratuitous experiment, because it was not positively certain what amount of benefit was to be derived from it. Though that might be a fair consideration for those who had to bear the whole responsibility of introducing it, it was no argument against the measure which ought to operate on their Lordships' minds; because, even if no benefit whatever of the kind he had adverted to, should result from this measure—if he was sure that it would leave the country precisely where he found it, still he would contend that, by rejecting the Bill, their Lordships would be incurring imminent danger, and would be altering their own position in the country in the most hazardous degree. It would still be no contemptible gain for their Lordships to release themselves from the obloquy and suspicion of having rejected such a measure, and refused to make such an experiment from selfish and interested motives. No doubt their Lordships might be fully conscious of the purity of their own intentions; but they must recollect that a very different view of this great question would be entertained throughout the country, and that their conduct would be liable to a very different construction out of doors. He could not help, therefore, reminding the noble Earl who spoke last night, and adverted to what he deemed the extraordinary fact of a measure of this importance being passed through their Lordships' 313 House on the first occasion on which it was brought before it, and reminded their Lordships how differently they had dealt with another great question, on which they had at first disagreed with the other House of Parliament, but at length acceded to its views—he alluded to the Catholic Relief Bill—he could not help reminding the noble Earl that there was a very wide difference between the two cases, which the noble Earl appeared to have overlooked. In the question of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, it was possible that their Lordships might have been charged with shortsighted prejudice in rejecting it; but there was not, there could not, have been any suspicion that their Lordships were actuated by personal interest. Could there be a more glaring contrast than that which existed in this respect between the two cases which had thus been brought into comparison by the noble Earl? Now, although he did not entertain any exaggerated expectation of the benefits to be derived from the operation of this measure—although he had endeavoured to modify and limit those expectations where they were entertained; yet he did entertain a very strong and active belief that at all events the expectations which had been held out on the other side, the evil consequences which had been predicted, had been enormously exaggerated. He expected no consequences from the measure of a sinister character; but, at any rate, those who had threatened them with disastrous results had entirely overlooked all the compensation which might be made, and which, indeed, would spring from the very nature of the measure, for any incidental evils which might accompany it. Those persons had taken it for granted that the Legislature, if it passed this measure, would be divesting itself of the power of which it was possessed of interposing for the purpose of redressing, and reforming, and correcting any injustice or inconvenience which experience might show had resulted from this measure. It was quite certain that Parliament did not abdicate such a power: it did not preclude itself from receiving the lessons of experience, and adopting such legislative amendments as it might find necessary at future periods to pass. For himself, he placed unbounded confidence in the wisdom of Parliament; and he believed that if the result of this measure should prove unfair or injurious to any particular class of men, it would be found not beyond the reach of the wisdom and justice of the Legislature 314 to provide a fitting remedy. Therefore it was that he did feel on every ground that in the vote which he had given, and in that which he was about to give, he was not betraying any of those interests which ought to be dear to him; while at the same time he had consulted, to the best of his poor ability, the highest interests of the great mass of the community. At all events it was a great consolation to him to reflect that in the vote which he had given, he found himself coinciding with the result of the most anxious and careful studies which had been bestowed upon the subject by men who had devoted the labour of their lives to it; it was a consolation that he found himself coinciding with the great majority of all the parties between which the Legislature had hitherto been divided. He could not believe that in sharing their opinions, he had fallen into any very great, very serious, or, at all events, very fatal error. Sure he was, too, that he should enjoy this consolation, that whatever might be the result of this measure to those interests which considered themselves attacked by it—and particularly to that interest the representatives of which he was addressing—still they would by passing this Bill, retain something more valuable still than that which they conceived endangered—namely, increased respect, good will, and kindness from the great majority of the people.
The BISHOP of EXETER
said, he had not the least intention of addressing their Lordships that evening, nor would he have done so now, had it not been for the almost individual appeal which had been made to him by the right rev. Prelate who had just sat down. That right rev. Prelate had called upon those Bishops who differed from the vote which he was about to give, as well as those Bishops who voted along with him, to agree with him in a portion of the speech which he had just delivered to their Lordships. In that speech he (the Bishop of Exeter) had heard something in which he could cordially concur, and he had also heard many things from which he was bound to say he decidedly dissented. He agreed with the right rev. Prelate cordially in all the praise he had given to the Clergy for the way in which they had acted in the contemplation of those great sacrifices which were, in all probability, about to be inflicted upon them. But he could not agree with the right rev. Prelate that it would be right in them to be regardless of the interests of that class of the community. He was sure 315 the right rev. Prelate did not mean to say that they ought to be regardless of their interests; he certainly used phrases which were a little too strong; but he (the Bishop of Exeter) was confident they did not do justice to his own feelings. The right rev. Prelate said, that he would not put into competition with the great interests of the country, the smaller, and insignificant, and miserable interests of that class to which he had alluded. [The Bishop of St. David's rose to explain.] The right rev. Prelate would have an opportunity of offering an explanation afterwards; but if he would permit him to go on, he thought his right rev. Friend would feel the truth of what he was about to say. He was about to state, that his right rev. Friend had used certain words which he knew were not intended by his right rev. Friend to convey their full meaning, which, however, they would convey to the ears of all that heard them. He thought his right rev. Friend mistook the nature of the argument which noble Lords had addressed to the Episcopal Bench, when they called upon them to interpose on behalf of the interests of the Clergy of this country. It was not because the pecuniary interests of 10,000 or 12,000 individuals would be deranged—though those persons were, from their position, of deep importance to the community—by the passing of this measure, that noble Lords addressed them; but because the best interests of the poor were at stake on the matter—the interests of religion and morality—and because the interests of the poor and of the rich alike would suffer, if their position, their independent position, as far as that consisted in the temporalities of the Church, was in any degree shaken. It was upon that ground, he understood, that noble Lords had so frequently appealed to that Bench, calling upon them to interpose. He thanked them for those appeals. He did not agree with his right rev. Friend in thinking that it was unfit for their Lordships to call upon that Bench to interpose in behalf of those interests which they were specially bound to protect from invasion, whenever they were threatened by any measure proposed in that House. He rejoiced that it was the practice of their Lordships to call upon that Bench to defend those interests. They were in the habit constantly and continually—he spoke now from the experience of many years—they were in the habit of constantly appealing to that Bench to interpose for the protection of higher interests than those of individuals— 316 the sacred interests of morality and religion. He thanked noble Lords, therefore, who were in the habit of making those appeals to them upon the special interests which they sat there to defend; and he would repeat that nothing was more common. He was sure that if it was an offence, it was an offence of which he had himself been guilty more than once, for he had frequently taken occasion to call upon the noble and learned Lords in that House, in cases where the laws and Constitution of the country were endangered—he had taken the liberty, and he was sure that in so doing he acted in the spirit of the Constitution, of calling upon them to protect the laws and Constitution of the country; and if he had the right to address noble and learned Lords upon those points, he thought that all noble Lords had the same right to address the Bishops who sat in that House, in defence of those claims which they (the Bishops) were specially bound to protect. He had done with that part of the subject. He certainly agreed with his right rev. Friend in this, that he for one was not disposed to rest upon the way in which this Bill would affect the interests of the Clergy—he would not rest upon that as his main argument in this case; but they would permit him to say, that he considered it, though a subsidiary argument, as one of no mean moment, in judging of this measure. He, like his right rev. Friend, would not for a moment put any temporal interest in competition with the great question of plenty, or cheapness of provisions in the land. If mere cheapness of provisions was the only question now before their Lordships' House, it was one which in all probability would admit of a tolerably easy solution. But the question which he had to ask — he was not capable of dealing with it as a political economist, for of political economy he was altogether ignorant; but dealing with the question as a man of plain understanding and of ordinary observation, he would ask, would cheapness of provisions be a great good to the mass of the people in this country? If he thought so, he should have voted very differently from what he did on the last occasion; for he considered it to be the duty of their Lordships to view the question of cheap bread as it concerned the interest of the great masses of the people, and not as it affected special classes. He had, therefore, heartily joined in resisting this measure which was before their Lordships; and he had done so the 317 more especially for the sake of the people. He was not to be repelled by the jests almost which had been thrown out, of supposing that none could be truly the labourers' friends except those who supported this measure, and that it was pure hypocrisy to talk otherwise; he would not be deterred by that from avowing frankly his chief reason for resisting this Bill. It was that he did not consider the interests of the labouring poor would be promoted by cheap provisions so much as by good wages. That applied to all classes of the labouring poor. His own personal experience and observation, indeed, were almost entirely limited to agriculture. He saw the agricultural labourer now suffering under a great deficiency of wages through a large portion of the county with which he was connected. Then, he asked the House, what would be the best way to increase this rate of wages, and to improve the condition of the agricultural labourer? Would it be by letting into the market of this country the labour of foreign countries? Could they be gravely told, that the true way to raise the wages of the labourers of England would be to bring them into competition with the serfs of Poland? In his opinion, that was not the right course; his opinion certainly was, that the more they introduced foreign labour, the more they interfered with the wages of the domestic labourer. That, he said, was the main reason why he opposed this measure. Agreeing, as he did, most heartily with his right rev. Friend, in not expecting any great advantage from this measure, even if it attained the utmost success that could be imagined; and believing that it was fraught with bitter disappointment, he could not give an opinion with those who pressed it upon their Lordships to adopt this measure. Even if he thought with his right rev. Friend that there was a chance of some benefit being derived from this measure, still he would hesitate long before he would endanger the peace and tranquillity of the country by holding out hopes from the passing of this Bill, which in the nature of things could not be realized—which his right rev. Friend himself did not think would be realized, for he stated that he did not anticipate much benefit from it. But his right rev. Friend had addressed to their Lordships some observations with respect to the position in which they would stand after giving this vote. He stated that their position would be an invidious one, because if they hap- 318 pened to vote different from himself, it would be against the general feeling of the people. That he did not believe. His own experience in the county in which he lived was decidedly otherwise: the feelings of the people there were all the other way; but his was an agricultural county, and public feeling might be otherwise elsewhere. But his right rev. Friend also said, that the great majority of the authorities of all the parties in either House of Parliament were in favour of this measure. If he thought so—if he could see in the conduct of those parties sufficient reason to justify him in believing what his right rev. Friend said—he should certainly have distrusted the soundness of his own judgment; but his belief being that the feelings of all parties with regard to the measure were very different from those of approbation, he had the greater confidence in the conclusion at which he had arrived. He grounded this opinion on the repeated and solemn declarations of noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen on this subject. He would not enter into the question of inconsistency—he was dealing simply with the argument that from these speeches of those parties it was plain that the understandings and the hearts of the great majority of them were against this measure; and if he could presume to follow the example which had been set, of appealing to other portions of the House, he would call upon their Lordships, in the vote which they were about to give, to give their votes as they would do on any judicial question which might come before them—to lay their hand upon their heart, and say, "Content," or "Not content, upon my honour."
The BISHOP of ST. DAVID'S
said his right rev. Friend had misconceived what he had said, and had applied to the interests of the Clergy epithets which he (the Bishop of St. David's) had connected with a different topic. He believed he was correct in saying that the observation he had made was, that he could not consent to consider so vast, so vital, and so momentous a question as this, upon a ground so paltry, and miserable, and insignificant as that of respect for the interests of any particular class; and he must leave their Lordships to determine whether that language indicated any degree of disregard or indifference to the rights and true interests of the Clergy. His right rev. Friend had also misunderstood him on another point. The right rev. Prelate had conceived that he (the Bishop of St. Da- 319 vid's) had made an admission unfavourable to his own case, in stating that he did not expect any great advantages to result from this measure; but his right rev. Friend overlooked the distinction he had attempted to draw. He (the Bishop of St. David's) admitted that in one point of view — arithmetically — the advantages which would result from the measure might not be very great; but he had attempted to show why that which was in other respects trifling might nevertheless be of immense importance to the improvement of the religious, moral, and physical condition of the people.
§ The EARL of WARWICK
said, that, after anxious and careful deliberation on this subject, he had come to the conclusion that it was impossible for him to say "Content" to the present Bill. He could not conceive the necessity for it; and everybody in the country was asking, "Could trade be more flourishing? could agriculture be in a more satisfactory condition?" and this opinion was also entertained by those persons in the country with whom he had had any communication on the subject. In Heaven's name, then, why was this Bill brought forward? If it were an experiment, he agreed with one of the wisest of men, who said "It is not good to try experiments with States, unless the necessity is urgent, and the utility evident." It could not be the high price of corn that had rendered it necessary; for although Sir R. Peel had told them that he wished to secure to the farmers by the present law the price of 56s. a quarter, the price of wheat had been as low as 50s. a quarter. Was it, then, agitation which had induced the Government to bring it forward? Why, the agitation on this question was that of a class only, or rather of a part of a class, for it was an agitation solely of the millowners: it had not been joined in by the working classes in the manufacturing districts. The agitation in favour of this measure had been as blasphemous and wicked as any agitation of which he had ever heard; and to show that this was the case, he would read one out of numerous documents which he held in his hand, and which had been issued by the council of the National Anti-Corn-Law League. It was a card which he had received from the office of the "National Anti-Corn-Law League," which he had kept as a curiosity. This card was addressed to the electors of the United Kingdom generally; and it informed them "that, 320 as intrusted with the privilege of choosing their law givers, upon their right or wrong exercise of it depended the happiness or misery of millions of their fellow creatures." That "at the next election they would have to choose between a bread-taxer and a free-trader, and that this choice involved an awful responsibility." It told them, therefore, that "it behoved them to look solemnly before they decided, and to remember that plenty or scarcity, and even life or death to thousands of immortal souls, depended upon their decision, and that they would hereafter be called upon to account for it at that dread tribunal where all mankind would be judged, not by their professions, but by their actions." He (the Earl of Warwick) was at a loss to know how this Bill could possibly be carried; for few noble Lords on either side approved of it altogether, and consequently if all voted as they thought respecting it, it would be rejected by a large majority. In conclusion, the noble Earl said that he had supported the Government as long as he could conscientiously do so; but on this question he felt compelled to vote decidedly against them.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
My Lords, after what has fallen from my right rev. Friend, who sits behind me (the Bishop of Exeter), and from many noble Lords, in the course of this debate, I feel it necessary, holding the opinions I entertain, and being prepared to record a vote similar to that which I have before given on this question, to trouble your Lordships with a very few remarks, explanatory of the reasons which have induced me to vote as I did upon that occasion, and as I mean to do on this. My right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Exeter) expressed great gratification at the appeals which have been made to himself and to other right rev. Prelates on this occasion; and he gave a version of those appeals marked, I may venture to say, with singular skill and subtlety. He said—We occupy these benches under peculiar circumstances; we are, as it were, authorities upon morals and religion; and, therefore, noble Lords, anxious to be right upon matters of morality and religion, naturally appeal to us, and ask for our opinion in questions involving those matters. When I require an authoritative statement on legal subjects, I address myself to the noble and learned Lords who sit in this House; and I am sure to have responses worthy of the grave personages by whom they are delivered. I certainly never put questions in order to puzzle or entrap them; and I am always willing to bow to the decisions which they express. Of appeals, in like manner, to the Episcopal Bench, connected with 321 subjects of morality and religion, I shall always be a ready and a willing auditor.Now, my Lords, I admit at once the propriety of appealing to my right rev. Brethren as authorities upon subjects of morality and religion. I cannot say, however, that such is the character of a great part of the appeals which have been made to my right rev. Brethren upon this occasion. For the justice of this observation, I think I may safely appeal to your Lordships. What was the tenor of the argument used by the noble Marquess who began the debate this evening? He said, that the Legislature has been for some time devising schemes to raise the incomes of the Clergy; but that the effect of the present Bill will be to diminish those incomes. Is that an appeal to those moral and religious principles which we sit here to advocate and maintain? Is this one of the appeals which my right rev. Friend behind me welcomes with such ecstatic pleasure? And if I turn from this night to those in which the previous stages of this Bill were discussed, what are the appeals which I find to have been made? Perhaps it is in the recollection of your Lordships, as it certainly is in my painful recollection, what language a noble Earl (Earl of Malmesbury) allowed himself to use in addressing the Bench on which I have the honour of sitting. The noble Earl began by making a most erroneous assumption, and stated that the estates of the English Bishops had been commuted for a fixed money payment—a statement which is utterly fallacious and inconsistent with the truth. Proceeding upon this assumption, the noble Earl reminded my right rev. Brethren that their interests were now separated from those of the parochial Clergy, and that the Bill which would lower the incomes of the parochial Clergy, would benefit the occupants of the Episcopal Bench, because their incomes being fixed in amount, they would get the necessaries and luxuries of life cheaper than they did before. The noble Earl told my right rev. Brethren that in voting for this Bill, therefore, they were giving a sordid support to their own interests. I will ask my right rev. Friend behind me whether this peculiar appeal came home to his mind with comfort and delight? I cannot admit that the conduct of the Episcopal Bench, upon this occasion, ought to be regulated by the effect which they believe the measure likely to produce upon the interests of the class to which they themselves belong. My Lords, in my 322 judgment, such appeals as these are not only improper, they are utterly unconstitutional. We do not sit here to represent a particular class; and to suppose that we do so is destructive of all sound constitutional principle. Into the House of Lords are infused members drawn from every profession and rank in society, and so it is composed of those who, by hereditary descent, and those who, by the favour of the Sovereign, sit here to represent, not the interests of the class in which they were born, but the interests of all classes of the community. If it were not so, the Prelates ought not to be called upon to give their opinions and voices upon any measure which does not affect the Clergy; and I am sure that my right rev. Friend behind me would be among the last to welcome any such notion. I cannot, therefore, welcome an appeal addressed to us as if we sat here to consider what is best for the Clergy, instead of what is best for the country. In saying so, I do not mean to disparage or underrate the importance of maintaining a due provision for the Clergy; but then it is because I am convinced that the best interests of the country are inseparably connected with the existence of such a provision, that I am an advocate for placing the Establishment on a sure and safe foundation. One noble Earl (the Earl of Winchilsea) who addressed the House the other night, told us that we were going to do something which would be fatal to the country, and that we ought not to do so. There was only one thing lacking in that address, and that was the faintest shadow of a reason for the statement that we were going to ruin the country. I feel that it behoves me, with such faculties as God has given me, to take as correct a view as I can of the probable results of the measure, and then to follow up my conclusions by my vote. I shall not follow the example of the right rev. Prelate in disclaiming all knowledge of political economy, because some slight knowledge of political economy is necessary for the consideration of this subject; and if the right rev. Prelate says he has none, he puts himself out of the condition of the argument. I would rather suppose that he said this out of modesty, because the right rev. Prelate is a very judge and master in all other matters which come before him in his legislative capacity; and of this whole matter the very alphabet is to be found in the science of political economy. On the surest principles of political economy, so far as I have been able to under- 323 stand them, I approve of this measure. It is, I admit, an experiment; but when was there ever any new measure deserving to be called great which was not an experiment? All legislation is but a series of experiments. You meet a certain evil by the tentative remedy which promises to embrace the greatest probable amount of good. I look at this question, my Lords, chiefly as affecting the position and habits of the labouring classes. Noble Lords who have opposed this Bill have been but too happy to appear as the labourers' advocates; but I cannot allow them to occupy that position. The present law, with regard to the importation of corn, must be admitted to be an unnatural state of things. [Cries of "No, no!" from the cross benches.] Do noble Lords who cry "No, no!" know the meaning of the term "natural?" In the providence of God and by the order of nature, wheat grows in the field; it is fed by the dew and ripened by the sun, God working through certain known laws. And does any one believe that the principle of the poor not being allowed to purchase bread on the cheapest terms is to be set down as part of the economy of nature, and the arrangements of Divine Providence? I said that the present state of things is an unnatural arrangement—it may be a necessary, but most assuredly it is not a natural arrangement. Legislation, for the most part, is an interference with nature; good legislation is a necessary interference with nature; but where it is shown to be a needless interference, it is bad. The legislation which follows nature—which as little as possible interferes with and interrupts the blessings and benefits of nature, is the legislation which is alone good. By our present legislation, the labourer is prevented from being that important element in society which he will be under the operation of the proposed measure. The effect of the introduction of foreign corn will be the introduction of competition. [The Duke of RICHMOND: Competition with foreign labour!] Let it be so; for what is it then which makes a man of value in a life of labour? It is the amount of competition he has to strive against. Be he farmer or be he labourer, what is it that makes him important and valuable to those above him? It is competition which fixes the measure of his value; and, unless by the competition of the foreign labourer with our own, he will never be raised to his due 324 position. The noble Duke smiles. It is agreeable to see a person in a matter affecting his own personal feelings smile rather than be angry; but I do not forget that I am met by a smile instead of by an argument—by a laugh instead of an answer—and I shall go on through the chain of reasoning I was about to enter upon, although the noble Duke's laugh should increase to the highest degree of cachinnation. My Lords, in the woollen manufacture, as long as there was no room for competition with foreigners, there was no room for skill; but when competition came in, it became worth the while of the manufacturers to create a better class of labourers. So it will be found that competition generally both requires and makes it worth while to employ a better class of labourers. As long as the growth of our fields is protected by legislative enactments, the grossest form of unskilled labour will be sufficient to enable the labourer to earn his bread, and the farmer to pay his rent. But when you admit foreign corn, the result will be that the owners and holders and tillers of the soil will all suffer if they make no change in their mode of cultivation. Self-interest here steps in, and when they cannot look to the Legislature to protect them, they are compelled to protect themselves, by using the advantages which they possess. The farmers of this country must make an acre of land produce corn in greater quantity. [An ironical cheer from the Duke of Richmond.] So completely has the protectionist principle entered into the heart of the noble Duke, that his very faith in the improvement of English agriculture itself has been eaten out by it. The noble Duke cheered as if it was most incredible; but I tell him that English agriculture is capable of large improvement.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, that the whole course of his life contradicted this opinion. He had always urged the English farmer to increase his produce as much as possible.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
I was not speaking of the whole course of the noble Duke's life, but of the sound of his voice. If the noble Duke, instead of putting his remarks in a shape in which they can be readily understood and answered, contents himself with making sounds, articulate perhaps, but certainly of a very doubtful and easily mistakeable nature, he must pardon me if I mistake what those sounds express. Will the noble Duke, will any 325 one say, that the introduction of a better sort of agricultural husbandry will not bring in an increase of cattle feeding, and that it will not be attended by a greater demand for labour; and of labour admitting of far greater degrees of skill than now is possible? Again, let noble Lords remember that this measure is proposed to us, not by some unsettled political spectator, but by the only two great parties who, as parties, can conduct the government of the country; and in saying this, I am far from saying that I vote for this measure to keep the right hon. Baronet in power. There is an essential difference between supporting a Government, and supporting the present Government. The one is a lawful, and the other an unlawful and treacherous motive. But noble Lords who oppose this measure, appear to me to be continually putting forward self-contradictory assertions and arguments. They say, for example, that we do not give a free vote on a great constitutional question, because we are biassed by a desire to keep the right hon. Baronet in power; and yet they say that we do not ourselves believe that it will have the effect of keeping him in power. Then, again, it is said, that Her Majesty's Government have brought forward this measure on account of a certain agitation and clamour, and the noble Duke cheers me. But then he says further, that this agitation and clamour have been caused by the League; and here again is the same contradiction, for if granted to a pressure from without, it cannot be granted to the League. Has the noble Duke read so little of constitutional history and of the proceedings of this House as to tell me that the League, though they may have raised a large sum of money, ought to be spoken of as a body which the House of Lords need dread? No. The great consideration which gives the League power and influence is this, that the great mass of the thinking men in this country are with the League. And when they speak to us of yielding this measure to a pressure from without, it shows that in the depth of their hearts, and in the centre of their convictions, noble Lords suspect that the opinions of the people accord with this agitation; and they know that then and not otherwise such an agitation becomes fearful. Would the machinery of the League terrify this House, if their objects did not come home to the sympathies of the people? If the League had 326 double their actual funds, and proposed the repeal for instance of the Reform Bill, that agitation would not be dreaded by your Lordships, because there is nothing in the great mass of the English people to answer to such an appeal. The secret, my Lords, is, that in the thinking mind of England, and the feeling heart of England, the opinions of the League are sympathized with; and this is why noble Lords are roused by what they call agitation and clamour. They perceive that there is this feeling risen and rising. They feel that the minds of men have undergone a change, and are ready to support a Government which proposes a measure in conformity with that change. Again, the condition of the working Clergy has been referred to, as it will be affected by this Bill. My Lords, I know no class of persons who encounter more hardships and make great sacrifices more cheerfully than the working Clergy. I have lived too long amongst them not to know this well. I believe that in many cases a reduction in their incomes will be a reduction not merely in their luxuries, but in many cases in the essential necessaries of life. But it is a striking circumstance that the Clergy have not raised their voices anywhere in support of the Corn Laws. This has not been from want of invitation, for they have been invited to throw themselves into the battle, with the promise that they would be covered by the capacious shields of their defenders. But they would not respond to the invitation; not because they fear to oppose the Government, for the Table of this House has been covered with petitions against a Bill for the union of the sees of Bangor and St. Asaph, supposed to be especially dear to the leading mind of the Government; because when they did indeed believe that a great national principle was at stake, they were the first and most numerous in coming forward with their addresses to your Lordships; but in this other case, although they suspect that they themselves may be injured—for I admit so much—yet, because they consider that they have no grounds of justice upon which to withstand this measure, they have been altogether silent. I say grounds of justice, because I very much desire that your Lordships should distinctly see that the injustice to them—if injustice it be—injustice to the parochial Clergy was committed by the Tithe Commutation Act, and will not be the fruit of an alteration in the Corn Laws. Before the Tithe Commuta- 327 tion Act the Clergy had a direct interest in the agriculture of the country; but it was judged needful—I will not say whether it was wise or not—that they should lose that interest and take in future an annual sum out of the income of the concern, instead of being, as they had been, sleeping partners in it. And why were they asked to do that? Because it was said that agriculture would be greatly improved if other persons who would come forward and advance the money were to have the whole interest of that money, instead of the Clergy taking any part of it. What, then, is this Corn Law repeal, my Lords, but the simple acting upon the principle you then established? Since your former Act the clergyman has had no right to claim any share in the interest of the capital which must be spent in improving agriculture, in order that we may compete with the foreign grower. The injury, therefore, was inflicted on the English clergyman, when you took from him an increasing share in an increasing concern, and did not allow him any share in the increasing profits of that concern. And therefore the Clergy, feeling that they have no ground of justice on which to resist this measure, have held a noble, dignified, self-denying silence; have refused to join in the clamour which they might most injuriously have swelled; and have set to all classes in the community an example such as it is rarely the habit or in the power of any one class to set, by showing that they knew there were interests beyond the interests of money, and a reward for themselves greater than the reward of their annual income. And when I say this, I admit that I think it probable that, to a certain amount, the income of the English Clergy will be injured by this Bill; and I do not see how that can be met except in one way—they will be made partakers in that compensation which this Bill will produce in the cheapness of articles of consumption. This, as far as it goes, will be a direct compensation; but there will be another upon which I will say a few words. But, before I do so, I think there is another class which will also be injured by this Bill. I think it right and fair in argument to admit that. It is a class who may possibly have some representatives in this House—I mean the nominal owners of great properties mortgaged to their creditors; and I will say of them that they appear to me to be in precisely the same position as the English Clergy, and they may do well to 328 copy in this respect their example. I think that they will be injured by this Bill, because, as I said, the foreign grower is only to be met by improved agriculture in England—by bringing corn into the markets of a better quality and in greater quantity, with the advantage which greater security of price and freedom from the liabilities of change, to which they are now subject, will give to such agriculture. But these improvements will require the outlay of capital. Now, in the case of noble Lords who have capital, the money to be laid out will come from the possession of those noble Lords. But I grant you, and it is my bounden duty in argument to do so, that when the estates of a noble Lord are mainly or wholly another's; when they are mortgaged to his creditors; when he has no money to improve his land—then does arise the deep and solemn question which the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) has this moment put to me with that plainness of language upon which I could hardly have ventured, but which I may adopt, when he said, in a tone of sepulchral demand—"And where is the money to come from?" Now it does appear to me an undeniable fact, that with regard to those mortgaged estates, the effect of your legislation must be that many of those lands must change hands. I deeply regret the necessity: but still I see with its evils many consequent compensations. For we know that the tenantry of a poor proprietor are generally poor themselves; I know, from their cottages, that the labouring workmen of a poor proprietor are lamentably poor. It happened to me, the other day, to inquire into the moral condition of a certain parish, and I was told by the clergyman that it was in the worst state of immorality; and when I asked the cause of this, he traced it mainly to the miserable dwellings of the poor which made everything like decency of life absolutely impossible. I followed up my question by asking, "Why have you not told the proprietor of the estate that he must, upon the higher claims of duty and upon the lower grounds of expediency, lay out some of his money in building better cottages?" The answer I received was, "I have already done so: the case has been looked into, but he says he has no money with which to build cottages." And this, my Lords, is the case with many who, in the common parlance of society, are the owners of vast tracts of land, and who consider it necessary to their 329 territorial greatness that they should be held to be so, but who are only nominally lords of the land; for others really possess that land, and displace all the influence of the proprietor, who alone can feel the responsibility of property with reference to the poor on his estates. He alone can feel that responsibility; and if he does feel it, he is unable to acknowledge it in any degree, because, instead of having a small property really his own which he could improve, he has nominally a great property altogether beyond his means; and so he is, in fact, reduced to the condition with which I fear some of your Lordships are too familiar, of the farmer with a larger farm than he has the capital to work, and which is therefore altogether neglected, whilst the same man with a small farm equal to his capital would be a good and successful farmer. And, therefore, my Lords, although I admit fairly that there must be much evil in such a change of property, I say that, looking forward to that as one of the possible contingencies of the working of this Bill, yet it appears to me to be no reason why your Lordships should not adopt it; because, in fact, it will be only one means of bringing the whole holding of property into a healthier and better condition—a condition in which it will be more easy to improve the land, and more natural to acknowledge the responsibility which waits upon the possessor of the soil. This, my Lords, seems to me to be a most important view of this question, which it is the duty of a person in my situation, even at the risk of offending some of your Lordships, to present to yonr notice. My Lords, it is because I think that the condition of the poor is such as to require some such measure as this, that I am an advocate in its behalf. And here, my Lords, I revert to that other compensation of which I spoke before as accounting for the silence of the Clergy. I believe that many of them—many who are acquainted with this state of society—are looking forward to this measure, because they believe that from the effects it will produce, they will minister to a happier, a more contented, a better provided for, and a greatly elevated peasantry. I know that they who live amongst that class, who do not see them only upon their days of forced festivity, drinking out of empty glasses "health to their landlord, and prosperity to agriculture,"—they who see them within their homes and amongst their trials, who visit them when they lie on the bed of 330 fever and of death—I know that those men—for I myself have been for sixteen or seventeen years one of them—are continually grieved in their hearts at sights of wretchedness which they cannot alleviate, and wants to which they can only administer by spiritual consolation. I have witnessed the patient endurance of the English peasant; and I am convinced that the time is come when the other side of that hypothesis of Lord Bacon, to which the noble Lord alluded, is made good in England. I believe, my Lords, that the absolute "necessity" of this measure can be proved. I know that the Clergy of this country believe that the state of the great mass of the labouring population and the peasantry of England is such that they cannot desire it long to continue as it is. They do not wish to see them and their families suffering from physical wants, and from moral and religious destitution; they do not wish to see them living in cottages from which the decencies of domestic life are necessarily banished, and where their children are looked at in their up-growth only with the anxious feeling that so many additional mouths are to be filled, while the difficulties of obtaining food are daily increasing. Now, the Clergy see these things practically; and, looking round for a remedy, they believe it will be found in anything which increases the prosperity of the country. But some noble Lords say that this measure will not increase the prosperity of the country; that our best markets for our manufactures, our home markets, will be injured; and that we shall suffer more than anybody else. ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord cheers that sentiment, and I rejoice in his cheer, because if it be so, what becomes of the argument brought forward with the usual eloquence and power of the noble Earl who at the beginning of this debate told us to calculate on the step we were taking, for that it would be irremediable for us and our posterity? Why irremediable? Such cases, I grant you, there are in legislation—cases where there is no opportunity of retreat. If, for instance, you give way to some strong necessity and admit to a share of power political classes heretofore excluded; here there is no retracing your steps, because the persons who were strong enough to make you give this power will be strong enough to keep it. But the noble Lord says you are altogether in mistake about this measure. It will be ruin to the manufacturers and agriculturists. Then, 331 I ask, my Lords, who is the third party to maintain this measure? Why is it to be irremediable? If it is found that the home markets will be ruined by this measure, will any one of those who claimed this concession stand up in either House of Parliament and ask that it might be continued? If the manufacturers are on the brink of ruin, if agriculture is on the verge of destruction, they will forget their past dissensions, and ask that this measure shall not continue; they will have found the evil of this experiment, and the utmost harm will be that you will have to retrace your steps and re-enact the former law. Therefore, this argument, my Lords, is clearly most destructive to the other argument from which the opposite side of the House draw their conclusions. The two cannot be held together by any rational man. It cannot be both irremediable, and yet injurious in its working, not to a privileged class, but to all classes alike. Therefore, with the utmost deference to those who differ from me, but with a full determination not to act upon the judgment of others, but to the best of my poor ability to judge for myself upon the subject under discussion, I am prepared, for one, to risk the dangers, and, as I hope, to partake of the benefits of the experiment you are now invited to make. It would ill become me, my Lords, and it is most alien to my feelings, to suppose that your Lordships were influenced by any motive of fear upon this measure. If any such motive be brought to bias your decision, there is but one motive of fear under which your Lordships can have any danger of falling—and that is the fear of being thought afraid. I believe that this is the fear your Lordships should, more than any other, guard against—that you should not, for fear of being thought to have changed your purpose out of fear, refuse to show that the time is come when that which might once be useful has become noxious; for let me remind your Lordships of one of the arguments mentioned in this debate from an agricultural quarter, but in a manner which seemed to me not to savour of any great agricultural faith. The argument was this:—"Protection is the course you pursue with regard to everything else. You nurse carefully and protect the tender fruits of the earth; and you ought to do the same with this tender plant, the agriculture of England." I, however, am not one who think that the agriculture of England is 332 such a sickly and fantastic exotic as to require the aid of protection; I think that all it requires is to be set free from the shackles of protection, and it will assert its own indigenous strength and native vigour. Protection to native industry has become a favourite phrase in reference to this subject; and I can say for myself that I am one of those most favourable to the protection of that industry. What is protection to native industry? It is to bring it into a field where every opportunity is afforded for wholesome competition. How was it that the great manufactures of England originated? In the beginning their tender youth was sheltered, and perhaps it was needful, by protection, even as men shelter the tender seedling from external violence by a fostering glass; but those manufactures soon asserted their strength as they grew up, and the protection which nursed their infancy would only have dwarfed their vigorous and ripening maturity. When Mr. Burke said at Bristol that he would increase the woollen manufactures by the removal of protection, until England supplied the world, he was hooted off the hustings by such clamours as have not been altogether silent in this House to-night. He was told he was going to exterminate our manufactures. But if you now look to Leeds and the other great seats of that manufacture, you will find how they fully bear out the wisdom of that prophecy, which was based on those great truths which regulate human conduct. If you wish to improve the condition of native industry, teach our population the necessity of human exertion and human skill—teach them to depend for success on their own right arms—on their moral habits—on their inventive genius—and on that ever-favouring Providence whose aid is never withheld from the exertions of good men. If they be thus trained, they may contend with the world, and far more successfully than if they are taught to depend on the sickly system of protection. Make it worth while for that native industry to meet that of the world, and you will be the true protectors of that native industry. You will make its results surer far than they can be at present; for who can depend upon the strength of your legislation, when any Minister rash or traitorous—(Yes! such was the expression applied to one, who, at the price of sacrificing place and everything which a mere party man esteems of the highest value, but fulfilling that which his conscience 333 tells him he ought to fulfil, in order to provide the necessaries of life for a great nation, which Providence has placed under his Government)—may abandon those legislative guards at any moment? ["Hear, hear!"] In spite, then, of the derision which the declaration may provoke, I venture to say that I and the noble Lords who think with me are, and one day will be acknowledged to be, the true protectors of the native industry of the English people; and, believing this, I would most earnestly beseech you not to be led away by that attractive declamation which has so tickled our ears. I hope your Lordships will not be misled by the splendid declamation with which we have been favoured. ["Hear, hear!"] Was it not declamation? Why, what is declamation? Is it not painting in the most glowing colours certain propositions, which, when they come to be tried and examined, prove to be rottenness and delusion. Was it not declamation to engage the mere feelings of the House by assuming certain consequences as likely to follow from this measure, and then painting the fearful picture of the approaching destruction of our ancient aristocracy, the guardians of the rights of the nation—an idea the most parricidal that an Englishman can admit into his bosom—and then to rest all this upon the statement that wheat was sold in the Liverpool market at 15s. per quarter?—and when the fact comes to be examined, it crumbles away, and you find that 15s. was 25s. paid on the spot where it was produced, in a distant port, to which was to be added the expense of freight, the outlay of capital, the risk of a voyage—and that, finally, the wheat was of so inferior a quality as to be unsaleable in your market. I entreat your Lordships not to be led away by any such declamation, delightful to hear, but not matter upon which Englishmen and English statesmen should draw their conclusions. I do believe, my Lords, that there is in the minds of the people of this country a deep-seated conviction, a firm persuasion, that your Lordships will in this, as in other matters, gravely, soberly, and wisely consult, not for your own interests, but for the best interests of the whole nation. Here, my Lords, is your strength, and I do beseech you not to shake its foundations. Her Majesty's Government has been said to be mainly culpable in that it did not send back to the electoral classes this question for 334 decision before calling upon Parliament to settle it. My Lords, such a course I believe would have been alike unworthy of English statesmen acting on an enlightened view of their duties, and contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. I believe the very principle of representation as settled by the Constitution of this country, is that the electoral body, when they have made their election, should leave to the judgment and discretion of those who for a limited time are their representatives the decision of those questions which may arise and call for decision during that period. The reasons for such an arrangement are obvious. And these reasons apply with peculiar force to certain questions. If, for instance, there be one of such a nature that it can easily be made matter of divers representations addressed to and acting mainly on the feelings of those who have to decide in elections, that question is precisely one which according to the theory of the Constitution should be reserved, not for the decision of the electoral body, but for the decision of the elected. A question such as this—one of such a nature that a right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter) had thought it necessary to apologize to the House for venturing upon its discussion, since if discussed upon its merits it was so abstract in its nature, and so wound up with political economy as to be almost beyond his grasp—this was a question which must be most unfit to be left to the decision of great masses of the people. For before them such a question could not be decided upon its merits by argument, by clear reasoning, by the unbiassed judgment of those who were to decide upon it, but must be carried by appeals to the passions on one side or the other. Now, a question which will be determined by appeals to particular prejudices, is most indisputably such a question as ought to be reserved from agitation, from turmoil, and from passion. I think, therefore, my Lords, that it would be most fatal to the character of a statesman who, having to deal with such a question, should flinch from the responsibility of exercising in such a case the power that has been intrusted to him; who should flinch first for himself, and then for your Lordships, and say that Parliament ought not to decide upon such a question; that he would not take upon himself the responsibility of its solution, but that he would run the risk of exciting 335 an almost universal conflagration, an almost universal convulsion, in every borough and in every parish in the kingdom; and this because he would not dare to arrange the matter himself, and would not leave it to your Lordships to determine it. What would have been the result of such conduct—what else could it necessarily have been—but to set class against class in a struggle of a most doubtful and dangerous issue? what but to tell the manufacturer, "Now is the moment for you to try all your strength;" and to tell the agriculturist, "Now is the time come for you to raise your loud shout for protection to agriculture?" My Lords, it cannot be doubted that the effect would have been to cause this question to be decided as a great agitation question, instead of deciding it by the dictates of the wisdom of the best informed minds, if the Government had gone to the country instead of coming to Parliament for in settlement. Sit in judgment on this question, then, my Lords, I beseech you, divested of party feeling; sit on it judicially, not as the representatives of one interest or another, not as owners of rents, not as owners of land; not as owners of impropriate tithes, who are about to suffer in pocket by the change; but as the natural heads of the great English people, in whose welfare your whole welfare is necessarily bound up—in whose success you must succeed, and in whose prosperity you must prosper. Remember, I beseech you, that the labouring classes of this country look to you, in the patient endurance of long-continued suffering—suffering which, I am sure, no other class of men but the English peasantry could be found to endure with patience—but with the anxious hope that you are about to do something to assuage that heart-consuming suffering. Do not disappoint the expectations that they have built upon your known justice. Do not, above all, mistake the greatness of that suffering for apathy to that which is passing around them. Do not read the signs of the time so fatally amiss. Never was there, in this country, a time in which there was less of outbreaking dissatisfaction; but this is so not because the labouring classes are apathetic with respect to their condition, but because they believe that those who have the power have also the inclination to do all that can be done by legislation for the improvement of their situation. Beware, my Lords, of disap- 336 pointing those just and righteous expectations. Show the people of this country that your decision of this question is based on the broad enduring principle of justice to all, not on the narrow and uncertain one of advantage to the few. In coming to this decision on these grounds, you will establish on the firmest foundations the authority of this assembly: in this assembly, I believe, is laid the main groundwork of British liberty: let not I beseech you that sure foundation be shaken by your decision here. Show that you are ready to make any sacrifice—if sacrifice there be—of that which has been only given to classes for the benefit of the people around them. Your power is indeed great; but there are some things which it cannot effect: it cannot stand, my Lords, against the rising tide of a great nation's convictions. Do not be deceived, therefore, by the whispers of flatterers to think, that even you can set your curule chairs on the edge of the rising waters, and bid them, on a principle of hereditary prescription, recede and fall backwards from your feet. Do not, my Lords, let it be said of this House that the same body which represents the hereditary wealth, property, and rank, does not represent also the hereditary justice, wisdom, and virtue of this mighty people.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
must declare that during this debate he had heard nothing so personal; from no quarter had he listened to such imputation of motives, or such eloquent admonitions to their Lordships to put aside personal motives, as from his right rev. Friend who had just spoken. He had often heard his right rev. Friend before, and never without admiration; but on this occasion his admiration was entirely confined to his right rev. Friend's eloquence, for never, he believed, was a speech addressed to that assembly in which there was less argument. The noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham), could well appreciate argument; but he (Lord Ashburton), doubted whether the noble and learned Lord, great as must be his pleasure at listening to the hereditary eloquence of the right rev. Prelate, had been able to discover anything in that speech, any single point of reasoning, or anything bearing the appearance of solid argument. His right rev. Friend seemed to speak of the effect of this measure upon the labouring part of the population as if he expected to bring a new class out of the change; but while his 337 right rev. Friend was dwelling on this part of his subject, he (Lord Ashburton) was very much reminded of the eloquent speech of a French orator, at the time of the French Revolution, who said, "Above all things, gentlemen, let us respect property, but let us change the proprietors." Then his right rev. Friend had drawn such a picture of the cottage of a labouring man, and the miseries he suffered, that any one knowing English life, might have asked, "Where could the right rev. Prelate have lived to have got these notions?" Probably, however, his right rev. Friend spoke of what he had somewhere seen; but his (Lord Ashburton's) experience pointed to a different conclusion; he had lived for some time not far from the noble Duke on the cross bench, and he could say that he believed the cottages on the noble Duke's estate could compare, not only with any in England, but with any in the world. His noble Friend had inveighed against the effects of the incumbrances on the land; but it must be remembered that these incumbrances were, in a great measure, the necessary result of the particular state of society to which they belonged. Any person having his money in the funds might easily put aside portions for his children; but if the owner of landed estates only wished to grant a dower to his widow, or to make any arrangement for younger children, he could not do so without incumbering his land. The state of things which his rev. Friend deplored, had arisen, in part perhaps, from the personal fault of owners of land, and in part from the reluctance to part with an hereditary property, which he (Lord Ashburton), for one, could not condemn. But then his right rev. Friend said that persons in this situation were so poor that they could not afford to keep their labourers in decency; and his right rev. Friend's remedy was to make them poorer; for he said that the change could not take place without suffering on the part of the landowners, which he admonished their Lordships to bear with patience. He complained that the landowners were too poor already, and his remedy was to take away half their property. Now, he would venture to remind his right rev. Friend, when he talked of the neglect in which parishes were left by the owners of land, that there were neglectful clergymen as well as landowners. He was not desirous to say anything derogatory to the Church of England; he believed the Church of England stood higher than any other 338 church in the world for usefulness; but knowing what human nature was, he was not surprised that landlords as well as clergymen were sometimes found to neglect their duties. With respect to the effect of this Bill on the tithe of the Clergy, it had been stated how it would operate on all classes, and it was also stated that it would fall most heavily on the parochial Clergy; it was said that it would fall very unjustly and very heavily, for the first three years, on the farmer, but that after it had come into full operation it would bear severely on the Clergy. Twenty-five or thirty per cent, in his opinion, would be an unfair estimate of the loss to them. This loss would be caused, it was pretended, by the Tithe Commutation Act, and not by the operation of this measure. But that was a wholly mistaken idea; for if the Tithe Commutation Act had never been passed, and they lowered the income from land, the clergyman's income must have been lowered by the same means. All political economists agreed that at given prices particular descriptions of poor lands must go out of cultivation, and others must lower their rents; but in the case of the clergymen's tithe it was not so: therefore, so far from being injured by the Tithe Commutation Act, clergymen would rather be benefited by it. The Clergy had behaved during the agitation of this question in a way that was worthy of all praise: they had stood by and taken no part in it. But it was not true that they had been solicited to join in the opposition to this measure by the protectionists. It was not that party, but the League, who had been anxious to gain them over to their side; and every time the League got hold of any man who was half a clergyman, having some local connexion with a dissenting chapel, they trumpeted his name from one side of the country to the other. With respect to the question of the effect of tithe commutation on the incomes of the Clergy, he might cite the evidence of Mr. Jones, a very competent authority, given before the Committee on Burdens on Land, who said that the Church had benefited since the commutation to the amount of two or three per cent. His right rev. Friend with great eloquence had urged that this change which was to produce cheap bread must be right because it was in nature. But it was not in nature to have any laws at all. Nature never made the three per cents. Nature never intended that the nation should have a debt of 800,000,000l. hanging over 339 their heads. Nature never intended this country to fight battles with the Sikhs, and establish a dominion over countries beyond the seas; and if the right rev. Prelate was for going back to the times when "wild in woods the noble savage ran," the principles of the right rev. Prelate, he must say, would but little adapt him for the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would make a very bad one. The real state of the case was that they had gone on for 300 years under this system; and this great and complicated system of British power and British wealth had arisen from it, and yet his right rev. Friend said that all this was rottenness. Certainly if a foreigner had heard the right rev. Prelate's description, he would have thought the country was on the verge of ruin. Nevertheless his right rev. Friend gave this as a reason for passing the measure; while, on former occasions, the prosperity of the country was urged by its advocates as a reason for passing it. With respect to the condition of the labouring population, all the evidence they had went to show that in Poland the condition of the labourers was such as would not be suffered in this country for a moment. He believed that the condition of the people in this country was every way better than it had ever been at any former period. But was cheap food always a remedy for distress? The comfort of an individual labourer depended on his power of commanding the necessaries of life; and if they looked to the countries of the world, they found the very cheapest food where the people were the most miserable. He did not say that one was the cause of the other; but were they quite sure that to establish the one was to remedy the other? Let them look to the banks of the Ganges, or look only to Ireland, and they would be satisfied that where food was cheapest the people were most miserable. They saw daily that to establish cheapness of food was not necessarily to establish the comfort of the working classes. But according to the views of the right rev. Prelate, everything was to be done by competition, not among ourselves, but with other countries. The man in England who had to cultivate his farm was in a very different condition from the man with whom he had to compete in Germany. They might as well say there could be fair competition in a race where one rider carried 50 lbs., and the other 200 lbs. The former had to pay a large amount of poor rates, and tithes, and 340 county rates—burdens which to the foreign cultivator were to the same extent unknown. These were not the mere theories of political economists, but plain matters of fact and reasoning which any capacity could comprehend. Then the right rev. Prelate went on to show how much the land was to be improved. Now, no one doubted that great improvement had already taken place in the cultivation of the land in England, and that the English farmer was beyond the rest of the world in that respect; that, in point of fact, the produce of the English farmer's wheat was nearly double that of foreigners. It was, however, plainly impossible that he could go on with improvements if he was compelled to come into competition with men who were so much more advantageously situated than he was. As to what might be the future fate of the country in these circumstances, he would not take upon himself to predict; but it was quite clear that the great mass of these farmers would be completely ruined if this measure should pass into a law. Not only was the land of England at present made to produce nearly double that of foreign countries, but they had the best authority for stating—it had been often said by the Leaguers—that one English labourer was worth three of other countries. He would say, look at the mass of wealth which was produced in many parts of England—wealth so great that never before was so much amassed in one place on the surface of the earth; and all this was produced under the principles which they were now told were such as no country could safely rest upon. The right rev. Prelate had laid it down as the duty of the statesmen of this country to make a series of experiments on such questions as this. A more extravagant proposition he had never listened to. But it was just a sample of what had been laid down by the right rev. Prelate, who had given them plenty of eloquence in place of wisdom. More absurd advice, indeed, than that which had been urged upon them he never heard. He hoped that in our modern days Churchmen would keep to their churches—it would be more to their own credit, and greatly to our advantage; but if their advice was to be taken in questions of this kind, it could not be expected that the country would advance much in wisdom. He would now add a few words on the general question. The right rev. Prelate spoke of the proposed change as calculated to give steadiness in the price of grain: now it so happened, that so far as con- 341 cerned the Corn Act of 1842, the three years which followed it were the most steady and most moderate in price which had ever occurred, and this at a time when in all other parts of Europe the greatest fluctuations of price had taken place. In France, Belgium, and other countries, they suffered from scarcity; while here, with our own resources only (for very little grain was let in) the prices remained as steady as if we had had a law fixing the price at which it was to be brought into the market. But the right rev. Prelate said he recommended this measure to their Lordships, because all the great authorities of the country were in its favour; and why, in such circumstances, should they set up their opinion in opposition to it? Was his right rev. Friend so ignorant of what was passing in the world of politics as not to know that the whole of this concurrence of party was a mere job—a mere scramble for the government of the country? His noble Friend opposite (Lord Brougham) need not look so grave upon the matter. This was the solemn weight of authority to which their Lordships were asked to look up with so so much reverence. He denied that there were any great authorities in favour of the principle of the measure. On the contrary, if they looked back only a year or two, they would find all the party to which noble Lords opposite belonged in favour of a fixed duty of 8s. And when they looked to such men as Huskisson and Pitt, and even Ricardo, they found them in the opposite scale. Indeed, they had no authorities in favour of the change but those who had been raised up under the Anti-Corn-Law League, and the parties whom they had frightened into proposing the measure. As to the practical working of this measure, he would just remark, that even if he was favourable to its principle, he should still say that the Bill itself would be fatal to the purpose for which it was intended. In 1825, when Mr. Huskisson foresaw a bad harvest approaching, he proposed to let out all the corn in bond at 10s. duty, the price then being 75s.; but so cautious was he not to bring out all the grain in bond upon the market, so as materially to affect it all at once, although the quantity in bond did not exceed 400,000 quarters, that his Bill provided for the grain being brought in by degrees at three different specified times. But here no such precautions were to be used, and thus in the very working of the measure it would defeat itself. There was one view of this 342 question which was regarded as exceedingly important by the advocates of this measure. They talked constantly of free trade, which meant that they would open their ports to everybody, while nobody would open their ports to them. What would be the effect of this but to enable foreign countries to come into our markets, and undersell our farmers, traders, and manufacturers, while all the time we were prohibited from going into their markets, which were kept closed against us. He would now shortly direct their attention to the question of the Colonies. On the first day of the debate in that House apprehensions were stated, naturally enough, as to the effect this measure would have upon the Colonies, especially Canada; and a reference was made to a pressing letter from Earl Cathcart, in which it was stated that the unanimous opinion of himself and his Council was, that the measure was an exceedingly dangerous one to the interests of Canada. Now when a Governor of the Crown made a statement of such a nature as that, it was a proof that his convictions were very strong upon the matter. The noble President of the Board of Trade, however, in answer, stated that there were later advices from Canada, and that the Legislature of the country had taken a totally different view of the case, and that nothing was to be apprehended to the Colonies from this measure. Now no one could doubt that such was the belief of his noble Friend; that he really did not know of another despatch being in the country; but the next morning there came a representation from the Legislature of Canada, written of course in much stronger language than the letter of the Governor, in which they expressed the great alarm they entertained that this measure would be injurious to the provinces and to the general interests of the inhabitants. There were also petitions from the Boards of Trade in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto, against the measure. Last night the noble Lord the Under Secretary for the Colonies had given some explanations to the House on this subject; but they were by no means such as to allay the apprehensions which they entertained in reference to Canada. Canada was defensible against the United States and all the world, if the people were in heart with us; but we could only keep that Colony by making it its interest to be connected with us. Those who talked of the grandeur and advantage of a connexion with the British Crown, must be 343 very young indeed in knowledge of the world; people would not be led away by such high-sounding phrases; for if people submitted to be governed, it must be their interest. A noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton) had had said that the Colonies "must follow in the wake of the mother country;" but we had enough of that "must" when we lost our other great Colonies in that quarter, not from any desire to be separated from us originally, but because we made it their interest to separate. Nor was it the value of a Colony only that was at stake; but if we lost it, there must be a long struggle and much bloodshed. The fear of the Canadians was, that the St. Lawrence would cease to be a port. It was said on the previous night that you could get to Montreal at such a price, and to New York at such another price; but in the one case you were still a long way from the sea, with the passage only open for six months. Nothing but the strongest convictions would have induced him (Lord Ashburton) to turn round on the party with whom he had cordially acted; but their Lordships would feel the importance of the question; there was not a point of our Empire which was not affected by the decision.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
began by complaining that the noble Lord who had just sat down had greatly perverted the meaning of the right rev. Prelate who preceded him. The right rev. Prelate had spoken of particular places in England, in which, from the poverty of the possessors of the soil, their duties towards their tenants were not adequately performed; and the noble Lord had described that statement of an excepted case as a general statement, applying to the whole agricultural interest. The noble Lord had dealt in the same way with other remarks of the right rev. Prelate. With respect to the general question, the noble Lord had touched upon the subject of tithes as a burden upon land, and as a justification of protection to the payer of them. Why, now that tithes were commuted, did it make any difference in the cost of the production of corn, whether it was produced upon tithe-paying land or tithe-free land? Noble Lords ought to be aware how they took their stand upon "burdens on land;" it would raise the question, whether the charges complained of were burdens on the cost of production, or on the rent? If the latter, the Corn Law (placed on that footing) was simply a protection to rent. Were tithes abolished to-morrow, no one would feel the relief but 344 the landlord: there would be a proportionate rise in rents. On this subject he (Lord Monteagle) would quote from memory a passage in a manuscript pamphlet lately shown to him; found among the papers of the late Sydney Smith. The pamphlet was on the subject of tithes, and was written at the time of great political and ecclesiastical excitement—excitement adverse to the Church of England. The passage ran thus, in substance:—We sometimes get great instruction in singular and unforeseen ways; I got great instruction one day from going into the stables of my excellent friend, Mr. Pickwick, who keeps the White Hart Inn at Bath. It was a period when the great macadamizing improvements were going on all over the land. When I entered the stables I found all the horses in the greatest state of commotion and excitement. 'What a time for us post-horses!' said they; 'the roads are all being macadamized; there will be no more rough gravel, no more deep ruts; this is a most blessed time for us.' Upon which an old grey poster in the corner, blind of one eye and lame of one leg, but possessed of great experience, addressing his friends in the stable, said to them, 'Beloved quadrupeds, do not exult unreasonably or hastily; do not believe that our biped masters are making all these improvements for our sakes: they are doing them for their own. If the roads are made smoother and more level, depend upon it it is only to make us run so much the quicker, and carry so much the heavier burdens.Just so the repeal of the tithe would be no benefit to the cultivator of the soil, but only an advantage to the landlord. With regard, next, to the constantly diminishing proportion of the agricultural classes to the manufacturing, this was a condition of things essential to the prosperity of the agricultural interest itself. According to the census of the population, it appeared that in 1811 the proportion in the hundred of agriculturists was 35, and of non-agriculturists 65; in 1821 the proportion of agriculturists was 33, and of non-agriculturist 67; in 1831 the proportion of agriculturists was 28, and of non-agriculturists 72; and in 1841 the proportion of agriculturists had fallen to 22, while that of the non-agriculturists had risen to 78. The result shown by the returns he looked upon as a proof of the increasing prosperity of the country, as every improvement which took place among the manufacturing and trading classes reacted upon the agriculturist. Far from proving that the agriculturist class were lessening in value and importance, it was in his mind only a proof of their progress. Whence did this proceed? [The Duke of RICHMOND: From protection.] He would undertake to prove that the noble Duke's doctrine of protect- 345 tion to all—to the manufacturing as well as to the landed classes—was the greatest possible fallacy, and that so far from leading to justice, it contained within itself the element of the most flagrant injustice. Let them take corn and cotton as an example—he would not say corn and currency. Supposing 10 per cent put upon corn and cotton as a protection, would that protection operate equally in both cases? Not at all. Corn was not exported; therefore the price was regulated by the markets of this country, and the 10 per cent protection, if it acted for any purpose at all, must raise the price of corn so much. But how was the case with cotton? All the cotton manufacture was not consumed in this country; a great quantity was exported, and, as there could not be two prices for cotton, the price of cotton in this country must be regulated by the markets of the Continent, and must fall to the continental level; and the ten per cent was no protection at all. Then, what became of the whole argument of protection to all branches of native industry? It had been observed by some one, that protection of all classes was general robbery: and he must say that he considered it general nonsense. He was astonished to hear the present measure objected to on the ground of its being a great experiment. Why, was not all legislation experiment? But the Parliament in adopting this Bill were not adopting an untried principle. The principle had been tried and found to answer, and had been supported by the best authorities, living and dead. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) had referred to ancient statutes; and he (Lord Monteage) would oppose to them statutes of a more modern time. One would look for anything in ancient statutes rather than sound principles of political economy. Trade was not to be made prosperous by passing such Acts as enforced the burying of the dead in woollen, or which rendered their Lordships liable even now to penalties for not wearing metal buttons on their coats. He would read to their Lordships the preamble of an Act drawn up by Mr. Burke. It was to the following effect:—"That whereas it had been found by experience that the restrictions imposed by several statutes in reference to corn, flour, and several kinds of victuals, by preventing a free trade in the same, had a tendency to discourage their growth, and increase the price," &c. Such was the preamble of an Act passed in better times than were those alluded to by 346 the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). This was an Act to remove the restrictions imposed on the internal trade in corn. [Lord STANLEY: Hear, hear.] True, it was to remove restrictions on the internal trade; but the preamble showed that all the mischief was done by preventing a free trade. As the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) looked for authority, he would also state the opinion of Dr. Johnson, who, in reference to the suggestion of a duty on the importation of corn, observed—"Why, Sir, you speak like a savage; would you prevent a man from buying food in the cheapest market?" The authority of Mr. Huskisson had been appealed to; but he was at a loss to understand how that statesman's authority could be appealed to in favour of restrictions on the importation of corn. No doubt, his mind had varied at different periods on the subject; but in a letter which he wrote in 1830, and which contained the ultimate statement of Mr. Huskisson's matured judgment, he said that he had no doubt whatever that these (the corn) laws might be repealed without affecting the landed interest, while the people would be relieved from their distresses. The noble Lord (Lord Ashburton) had objected to a series of experiments being carried on. Why, the history of the Com Laws was the history of a series of experiments. In 1815, when the Parliament was strongly agricultural, protection for agriculture was obtained: but did it serve agriculture? Why, in 1822, the whole country, under the blessing of the Corn Bill, was in state of distress. [A cry of "That was after the alteration of the currency."] Well, if noble Lords said that it was the alteration of the currency that caused the distress, were they prepared to propose the repeal of the Bill which altered the currency? But in the report of the Committee of 1821 the Currency Bill was not put forward as the cause of the distress, neither was it in the speeches made in Parliament. In place of benefiting the agriculturists, the Corn Bill of 1815 then did the agriculturists much mischief. In 1822 the agriculturists had a new Bill, which did them no benefit, and they came again to Parliament for protection in 1826. Again, in 1836, they complained of distress; and, in 1842, they got a new Bill: notwithstanding which, in 1845 a noble Lord declared that the tenantry had, during the past year, lost a great deal of capital and property. Such was the history of protection. But it might be asked, if the 347 system of protection had not benefited the agriculturists, what harm had it done to any other class? He believed that a vicious system of this nature benefited no parties whatever; for while it held out false hopes to the agriculturists, its effects with regard to other branches of the community were most mischievous. His noble Friend opposite said that this system had produced a greater equality of price than had before existed; but he (Lord Monteagle) was prepared to show that, just in proportion as they restricted the supplies of corn, they occasioned fluctuation of price. If Norfolk was governed by one system of corn laws, and Lincolnshire by another, it was clear that there would be a greater fluctuation of prices in each of those counties than there was at present; and why should not the same result follow the difference of corn laws between Russia and America and this country? His noble Friend opposite had stated on the 6th of June, 1814, with reference to the Corn Laws, that "steady prices were never produced by restriction. Apply the doctrine of restriction to any one county of England, and it will be found that doing so will not have the effect of steadying the prices in each particular county. On the contrary, the price of bread will be alternately high and low, as there is a bad or good harvest in each particular spot." The noble Lord added, "What the whole of England is to any particular county in England, so exactly in this respect is the whole of Europe to the whole of England." He thought he was entitled to claim the benefit of the noble Lord's high authority on this point. There was another subject to which he (Lord Monteagle) wished to refer—that of our dependency for supplies of food upon foreign countries. He was ready to admit that a dependence upon foreign countries for supplies of food might be attended with great danger; but it was a danger to which we were now pre-eminently exposed. If, however, we made our laws what they ought to be, we should render foreign countries dependent upon us. Under our present system, we discouraged the growth of corn abroad, with a view to the permanent supply of this country; but we could not do without it at intervals. His noble Friend who had just sat down seemed to think that for the last three years we had done without foreign corn; but the fact was, that although during the last year we had not required a large supply of corn, we had 348 received very considerable importations during the last three years. His noble Friend would not deny that, taking decennial periods, we required more and more foreign corn; but we did not encourage the foreign producer to grow for our market, for we only took his supplies when we wanted them. By rendering foreigners dependent upon us for the sale of their produce, we should do much to insure the maintenance of amicable relations; but our present system, as he had said, discouraged them from growing corn, and led them to view our arrangements with suspicion. He must confess that he had not expected to hear from any noble Lord during this discussion an elaborate defence of the sliding-scale, coupled with an invitation to those who were friends of a fixed duty to resist the present Bill; but his noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies, who had come forward as the leader of the protectionist party, had selected as the heraldic badge of his banner the sliding-scale. He (Lord Monteagle) believed, however, from the experience they had of the effect of the sliding-scale, which was mischievous to the farmer, to the consumer, to the trader, and to the Bank of England, that no individual would be found ready to come forward and pin his faith upon the operation of that system. It had been said that the Bill now before their Lordships would be most injurious to Ireland; but he did not think the interests of that country would suffer, any more than those of England, by the adoption of a system of entire freedom of trade in corn. He believed the effect of this Bill would be to diminish fluctuation of price; and of all things fluctuation of price was most prejudicial to Ireland. He was glad to observe that all those noble Lords who had referred to the distress existing in that country had done so in a tone of sympathy with the sufferings of the people, and had evinced the strongest desire to concur in any measure calculated for their relief. Unfortunately, however, during the discussions upon the Corn Bill, some persons had been betrayed into expressions upon this subject, which, on calm reflection, they would not have used. They had heard of the humbug of Irish famine; they had been told that no one relied on the tales of Irish distress; and it had been intimated that the cry of Irish famine had been raised in order to facilitate the passing of this measure. Now, he (Lord Monteagle), as one 349 who was conversant with the condition of many districts in Ireland, especially with the southern portion of that country, must remind their Lordships that it did not follow, because they received very favourable accounts of the crops in some parts of Ireland, that great distress might not prevail in other districts. There had been deep distress in Ireland; and he was bound, in justice to Her Majesty's Government, to say, that he believed it was owning to their early and prudent interposition that the distress had not been more visible. He would take upon himself to say that the distress recently existing in Ireland had been much more severe than at any former period within their Lordships' knowledge. It had been said, over and over again, that in all our commercial measures the concessions were made by this country, and that we got nothing from foreign countries in return. But was not the example of Great Britain likely to be followed by other nations? In a despatch, dated May 30, 1824, written by Mr. Addington, our Minister at Washington, to Mr. Canning, it was stated that the example of Great Britain was adduced by both parties in favour of or against a system of protection. Mr. Addington, however, emphatically added, that if no restriction on the importation of foreign corn had existed in Europe generally, and especially in Great Britain, he had little doubt the Tariff would never have passed through either House of Congress in the United States. The Prussian Government had declared to Mr. Canning that our corn and timber duties were an obstacle to trade with this country. With respect to the price of corn under a system of free importation, he (Lord Monteagle) had never anticipated a great reduction. That was also the opinion of the late Lord Spencer, and also that of Lord Sydenham. When Mr. Poulett Thompson, he had pledged himself, on the hustings at Manchester, to a free trade in corn, he said, "What I think you will have will be a steadier trade." Mr. Ashworth said, it was not the cheapness of corn and other produce that was wanted, but freedom of trade. A mist lay over the destinies of nations that the human eye could not penetrate. This country was necessarily exposed to great revulsions in trade; and, although we had been hitherto blessed by prosperity, the times of calamity must come. He called upon their Lordships not to continue to place themselves in a position which permitted the people to refer 350 their calamities to laws made by the Legislature. If the harvests were bad, let them say it was a dispensation of Providence; but let not the people attribute their sufferings to legislation, and particularly to the legislation of a class who were supposed to have a pecuniary benefit in maintaining their own laws. He did not say that this measure would protect the trade and industry of the country from variations and reverses; but he would say, that it would diminish the chances of those variations, and that they, as legislators, would cease to be responsible for them when they gave to trade its fullest scope.
My Lords, it was not my intention to have addressed a word to your Lordships in the course of this debate, after having trespassed upon your attention at such length on a former occasion; nor would I have done so had it not been for the observations which have been made by my noble Friend who has just sat down, which have been so pointedly addressed to me, that, in the absence of all preparation, without a note of any kind, without a single document to refer to, still I think I should not be justified if I were to permit a single day or a single hour to pass without offering an immediate reply to some statements of my noble Friend. And, my Lords, I confess that it is a matter of satisfaction to me, that in an assembly composed of the men whom I have now the honour to address, and opposed by the antagonists whom it has been my lot on this occasion to meet, I may venture to say that there has not been any attempt to answer the statements which I made to your Lordships on the 25th of May last, from the period when we discussed for three days the original proposition of the second reading of this Bill, till the speech which my noble Friend has now made, after an interval of considerably more than a fortnight; and I confess, my Lords, it is an additional gratification I feel that my noble Friend, in professing now to reply to a speech made three weeks ago, has touched but upon a very small, and, comparatively speaking, a very insignificant portion of it. But, so far as he has touched upon it, he shall not have to wait for a fortnight, nor even a week, for his reply. My noble Friend touched upon one statement, which he supposes I made in reference to the authorities which were brought to bear upon the subject of protection in general. Now, my noble Friend and others, whose remarks I do 351 not notice because they were made out of this House, stated that I relied for my defence upon the measures introduced into the Parliament of Edward IV. My Lords, you heard the statements I did make. The President of the Board of Control stated, that from the earliest period of British history the principle acted upon in this country had not been the principle of protection. I stated the very contrary had been the case, and I quoted the preamble of the Statute of Edward IV. to show that since the time of Edward IV.—and that was all the allusion I made to that statute—not only had protection been the principle adopted at the very earliest period, but that it had been acted upon without intermission to the present time; that that principle had been recognised, sanctioned, and maintained by the Legislature of this country during the whole of that long period. Such was the reference which I made to the Statute of Edward IV., being a very small part of the authority which I brought to bear on this question. But how does my noble Friend meet me? He brings forward another authority; and, my Lords, what authority? The preamble of a later statute. The preamble he alludes to states, that whereas it was found from experience that restraint had been laid in several statutes upon meal, flour, milch cows, &c., which had a tendency to discourage their growth, and to prevent freedom of trade, and to enhance the price of these commodities. And this, said my noble Friend, is an authority in favour of universal free trade, and of the present Corn Bill. But, my Lords, what is the statute to which this is a preamble? Does it regard foreign trade. No. ["Hear!"] No; I say it only relates to our internal trade. And the preamble goes on to recite that if such statutes were put in operation it would bring great distress on the population in many parts of the kingdom, and in particular on the cities of London and Westminster. It then goes on to repeal the Acts against forestalling, regrating, or—in short, my Lords, the statute is nothing more nor less than an Act removing vexatious restrictions with respect to the internal trade of this country; and yet my noble Friend brings it forward as an argument against our taking those precautions which our ancestors have taken against our freedom of trade being a one-sided freedom. My noble Friend is for sacrificing all the advantages which we at present possess, or which we are likely to obtain, on the 352 ground that we shall obtain corresponding advantages from the Legislature of foreign countries. When my noble Friend used the preamble of that Bill as an argument, he should recollect that it applied to a state of things over which we had perfect control—to parties amenable to our laws, and interested in our institutions, and not to foreigners, who were perfectly independent of us. He cannot legitimately bring such an argument to bear upon a system where, although one party may be brought perfectly under our control, it is perfectly optional with the other, who is quite beyond our reach, to receive or reject our terms. I had the misfortune not to be present when a right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) made an allusion to my speech. I understand the right rev. Prelate talked of the importance of going back in matters of legislation to a state of nature; and my noble Friend opposite (Lord Monteagle) said that restriction ought to be the exception, not the rule, in our system of legislation.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
As my noble Friend was not in the House when I spoke, I may as well repeat what I said, and which was, that we should interrupt the course of legislation which nature seemed to recommend as little as possible, and that restriction ought not to be used except upon some plain and inevitable necessity.
My noble Friends about me were under a different impression as to what the right rev. Prelate stated. However, I am bound to take his explanation as correct. But I suppose the right rev. Prelate will admit this to be his meaning—that the nearer we approximate to a state of nature in our legislation, the better. [The Bishop of OXFORD: Hear.] Very well; but, unfortunately, all the world will not consent to act upon this approximation to a state of nature. There are a great many things in which we cannot approximate to a state of nature. In our clothing, for instance—for if such an approximation were possible, it might not be decent. Voltaire somewhere says—"Ce n'est pas selon la nature, cependant je porte les culottes." We are not in a state of nature—our whole system is artificial. We impose restraints upon personal liberty for the benefit of the community at large; we are constantly obliged to depart from that standard of purity—from that original state of nature so strongly commended by the right rev. Prelate. We have gradually 353 departed from it since the earliest ages of the world; and I do not think it a legitimate object of legislation to attempt to recur to it. But the right rev. Prelate says, we should approach it as closely as we can. Granted, when we can bring all those who come within the working of our system under our control: but your Lordships must remember that we are legislating for flesh and blood, not for Utopia. Different countries will have separate, or it may be adverse, interests—they have other laws, interests, and objects; and for you to say we will enter upon a state of nature, but allow everybody else to protect themselves and wear a defensive armour, appears to me to be placing the former in the greatest possible disadvantage towards the latter. That is a state of things, an Utopian constitution of society, which never will be arrived at. Mr. Owen, in his system of parallelograms, could not arrive at it. Mr. Owen would have each man work for the advantage of his neighbours, and not to be actuated by any selfish interests. Mr. Owen demonstrated that if the world would but consent to act upon his system of parallelograms, one man for the benefit of the other, mankind would be more prosperous. This sounded tolerably in theory; but when people found they were not working for themselves they would not work at all. These Utopian schemes sounded very well, but they would not work. It was just like the man who invented the most ingenious and beautiful machine on earth, but omitted to provide for the impediments of friction—or like the person who invented a system of projectiles, but forgot to take into account the resistance of air, and the doctrine of gravitation. You must not look to what is good in the abstract, but to what is practically desirable; and as foreign countries will not agree in your scheme, it falls to the ground. My noble Friend referred to Dr. Johnson; but Dr. Johnson, it ought to be recollected, spoke in 1776, when the state of the public burdens was very different from what it is now. A system of free trade there may be, but not with safety to the State, when there is 800,000,000l. of debt. My noble Friend referred to a speech of Mr. Huskisson's, who said, the Corn Laws could not be maintained. I do not recollect Mr. Huskisson's words; but what he said I think was, that in the present state of taxation, they could not be maintained. My noble Friend then expressed surprise 354 that I should have ventured to take up the defence of the sliding-scale; but the noble Lord has not in any way shown that the sliding-scale is pernicious either as regards the fluctuation of the price or the dearness of food. He said that the sliding-scale had been given up; but he made the assumption without reason. The noble Lord asserted that the sliding-scale must produce great fluctuations of price. Now I say that the sliding-scale ought to be judged not by what it "must do" but what it has done. I thought that I had shown on a former occasion that it had prevented fluctuation and ensured steadiness; and I cannot see therefore upon what grounds the noble Lord should assume the reverse. But the noble Lord went further: he said that foreign nations would fall in with the free-trade scheme. But he did not say what advance had been made in this reciprocity system with other countries. My noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs did not hold out any encouraging expectations. I took the liberty of showing the House a few nights ago, the statement of the Secretary to the Treasury of the United States, in which, so far from holding out any prospect of a relaxation in their tariff, he congratulated his countrymen on the free admission of their bread stuffs into this country, and proved that such a system would more and more exclude English manufactures from American markets. Prussia has not reduced the duties on the cotton and hardware of this country, because our Tariff has been relaxed in favour of her corn and timber. Our Legislature has reduced the duties on timber; but, so far as reciprocity is concerned, we have nothing to congratulate ourselves upon; nothing that can lead us to suppose that the relaxation of protection will lead to that delightful state of nature to which the right rev. Prelate has alluded. I believe I have adverted to the more prominent points of the noble Lord's speech; but while I am on my legs, I will refer to one or two statements which have been made, to my great surprise, by the right rev. Prelate, and also to some statements made by my noble Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies with respect to the colonial part of the question. I heard with great surprise from my noble Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies, that the only advantage of having Colonies is an outlet for our surplus population: he considered it as a matter of little importance 355 whether the mother country should have their commerce under her control—whether there should be a shipping trade between them, which would serve as a nursery for her seamen, as a means of employing their population—as a market for those goods which was not at the caprice of a foreign rival—all these things my noble Friend regarded as comparatively trifling. The great thing, according to his (Lord Lyttelton's) theory, was to have an outlet for the surplus population. If he will look on it solely in that light, I would say, cast off the Colonies altogether; for, if that be all they are useful for, they are an incumbrance rather than an advantage. The surplus population would find outlets in the United States, or in any other country blessed with a fertile soil and a fine climate, even though those countries might not be willing to fall into that state of nature to which the right rev. Prelate has alluded. I do not know how the colonists will like the designation which my noble Friend has given their territories—an outlet for the surplus population. They may, perhaps, think, that as they are so valueless to this country, they may as well make the most of themselves, and perhaps impose a duty of 35 or 50 per cent on our goods. Noble Lords calculate with great confidence on the acquiescence of the Colonies in this measure; but in my opinion you had better wait a little for more certain intelligence. Let us wait until we see the deliberate expression of the people of Canada, and until the opinions of the people of this country are constitutionally expressed. The Government propose a great and a hazardous experiment; they are doubtful of the sentiments of the Canadian people, but yet will not defer the passing of it until the arrival of the next Canadian mail. I can hardly believe that the Government is serious in calling upon this House to force through it so vast and important a scheme, and in the same breath declare they labour under a disadvantage in not knowing what the unanimous feeling of the people of Canada may be, who, for aught the Government knows, may have changed their opinion as rapidly as some of your Lordships have changed yours. Then my noble Friend seems to think that Lord Cathcart is not so strongly of opinion that this measure will be so ruinous as he has before expressed himself. If that be so, let us have the statement of Lord Cathcart. It is right we should know what his opinion 356 really is. Then, have Ministers consulted Lord Metcalfe? He is a man of liberal principles, in favour of general free commercial policy; and if they have not consulted him, they have failed in that which it is incumbent upon them to have done. We have heard what is the opinion of the Legislature of Canada upon the subject; the opinion also of the Attorney and Solicitor General of Canada, expressed in their places in the Assembly, as representatives of the people; and they think that this measure is fraught with ruin to Canada, and that if it is passed they will have no resource but in free trade, and of throwing themselves, commercially, into the hands of the United States. As regards the present state of Ireland, I fully agree in opinion with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Monteagle), that the repeal of the Corn Laws will have no effect in healing the distresses that at present exist in that country. The noble Lord gives great credit to the Government for the measures they have taken to supply Ireland with labour and food; but they are temporary and palliative, and not permanent or effective measures. The distress in Ireland does not arise from the dearness of provisions, but from the want of permanent employment; it is the want of employment that causes the great destitution that exists amongst the labouring classes. The greater portion of the landed proprietors of that country are unable to dispose of their estates, they have them so heavily mortgaged; which also prevents their being able to reduce their rents, or give their labourers employment. I ask your Lordships, then, how can this measure remedy the evils complained of? You are about to introduce a law, which must have the effect, more or less, of reducing the price of corn, and which, I believe, must also tend to increase fluctuation, to cause a great influx at one time, and a great scarcity at another. My noble Friend opposite, who professed to answer the speech of my noble Friend near me, thought it advisable to abstain from noticing the dilemma into which this measure will, in this way, bring the country. I wish to say a few words on the subject of class legislation. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) said, that he thought no reference ought to be made to the right rev. Bench on the subject of the revenues of the Church. Now, my Lords, I say that the lowering of the incomes of the landlords is not a matter of simple injury to them, and 357 that the lowering of wages is not a matter of simple injury to the labouring classes, but that it is a general injury to the community at large. So, in like manner, the lowering of the incomes of the parochial Clergy is not a private but a public injury, and is not to be considered merely as a diminution affecting the parochial Clergy alone. If the Commutation Tithe Bill had not taken place, the Clergy would have been infinitely greater sufferers by the introduction of this measure. If a commutation of tithes had not taken place, a double injury would now be inflicted upon the Clergy. As they would have benefited by an increase of tillage, so in an equal proportion they must have suffered by a diminution. Therefore, I say, that although this Bill will inflict a great injury upon the parochial Clergy, it is not by reason of the commutation of tithes having taken place; for if that had not occurred, the injury would have been much greater. I am quite sure that the right rev. Bench is above the danger of being unduly influenced; yet I may mention that there is a broad distinction between the parocial Clergy and the Members of that Bench who are the guardians of the Church. The parochial Clergy are dependent for their incomes upon the price of corn; but the right rev. Bench have all a fixed salary. The parochial Clergy's income depends upon the fluctuating price of corn; whilst the right rev. Prelates receive a fixed and definite sum of money. I am quite sure that that circumstance will not in any way actuate the right rev. Bench in giving their votes upon this question, and I only mention it for the purpose of showing that a difference does exist. What is to be the effect of a reduction in the price of corn by this measure? If the price of corn should fall, then there will be a fall in the prices of other commodities. What is to be the result of that? Why, there will be a great advance in the value of money. There is one interest which will be benefited by it. You are about to confer a boon upon the moneyed interests of this country. Have you considered the effect it will have upon your national debt? If you raise the price of money one-fifth, you will increase the burdens upon the country in the same proportion. I throw out these remarks, in order that your Lordships may not be induced to adopt this measure without thinking of the effect it will have in increasing the burdens upon this country. The right rev. 358 Prelate spoke of the great reduction that would take place in the price of bread, as well as the increase in wages, that was likely to arise from the passing of the measure, and how the people had been induced to expect that it would be passed; and as "hope was the sweetener of the evils of life," some hope would be given them that their wishes would be realized. I tell your Lordships not to give the people hopes for the purpose of misleading them, for "hope deferred maketh the heart sick;" and if you held out hopes that may never be realized, you will thereby inflict an injury that cannot easily be remedied, as hope disappointed leads to that which constitutes a sense of evil. The right rev. Prelate said that the smallest assistance to these poor people would be of the greatest service to them; but he should have gone on to show that you were going to give them any at all. My opinion is, that the labouring class will be the first to discover that cheap bread is not a blessing but a curse to them, notwithstanding the sweetened hopes that are held out to them to induce them to put the cup to their lips. My Lords, you say you will bow—and God forbid that you should not do so!—to the deliberately expressed opinion of the people of this country. Many of you, however, are about to vote for this Bill, not that you believe it to be necessary, or approve of its principle, but because it has been passed by the other House—you are going to vote against your own judgment; and before another twelve months has elapsed, you will discover the error you have committed. Do not think that when you pass this Bill, the question is settled. You are about to pass it in order that you may get rid of the annoyance of agitation. Do you think that agitation can only be on one side? Do not imagine that your conceding all to one party, will have the effect of settling the question. I tell you, that when the next election takes place—come when it may—let the measure be now carried partially or entire—that the entire question will be again renewed. The opinions of every candidate on this measure will be inquired into, and by it they must abide. You have yielded to the judgment of the House of Commons—or, I should say, you have yielded to the votes of the House of Commons—you did not alter your opinions—you have altered your votes. The elections come on, and the people confirm their opinions of 1841, and return their representatives, who pass through the House 359 of Commons a Bill repealing the measure you are now about to adopt. What will you do then? Will you be consistent in your inconsistency, and reject it? Having in 1845 voted for protection, and in 1846 voted against it—will you in 1847—should a Bill be sent up to repeal this measure—will you again vote as you are now about to do? Act, my Lords, upon your own judgment and opinions boldly—act upon them in that constitutional sense in which you are bound to act—till the opinions of the people of the country are unmistakeably expressed—vibrating from one point of the compass to the other, according to the various mutations of popular feeling; those manifestations of popular feeling which have been so aptly represented by the mutations so recently displayed by the House of Commons.
§ EARL GREY
, who rose amid some confusion, said it had already been moved that he should be heard; and he thought as his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had taunted the supporters of the Bill that it required a fortnight's deliberation before they could answer the arguments he used on the former occasion, a noble Lord, on the opposite side to his noble Friend, ought to be heard in reply. Now, he thought there had been no reluctance te meet the speech of his noble Friend. The very same evening his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had torn absolutely to tatters great part of his noble Friend's speech. [Cries of "Hear!" and "No!"] According to the best of his judgment that was the case; and he would fearlessly ask the House and the country whether his noble Friend's (Lord Stanley's) arguments had not been disposed of. Could any one who had heard the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Clarendon) deny that he had proved most conclusively that wherever restrictions had been removed, and free importation had been admitted, a great increase and improvement in the home produce had taken place? His noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had spoken in a triumphant air, and said that his noble Friend near him (Lord Monteagle) had fallen into a great blunder by quoting the preamble of an Act of Parliament, as an argument in favour of removing restrictions, when the Act relates only to the internal trade, and not to the trade with foreign countries. But the principle was exactly the same, whether they applied restrictions as between county and county, and between country and country. Just as it was the interest of Middle- 360 sex to have corn from Northumberland cheap, so it was the interest of England to have cheaper corn from Poland. But the argument of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) was, that we could not enforce reciprocity from foreign countries, as we did between county and county. Why, however, did his noble Friend shrink from the argument that money was exactly like any other article of commerce; and therefore that not producing gold in this country we should pay for our corn directly or indirectly by the produce of British industry? It was a new light in the noble Lord that protection was only desirable where we could not have reciprocity. [Lord STANLEY: I never said so.] His noble Friend denied having used the argument; but then in that case the preamble quoted by his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) was applicable, and there was an end of the mare's nest which he had discovered, that the preamble was only applicable where we could have reciprocity as between county and county. The noble Lord, in his remarks on the subject of Canada, had made a good deal of the letter received from the Governor of that Colony, and he had also expressed a wish that the opinions of the late Governor General of Canada should have been made known on this subject. Now he was happy to inform the noble Lord that the noble Earl behind him (the Earl of Clarendon) had a letter from Lord Metcalfe, in which he expressed his regret that he was not able to come down to that House to state his views in favour of this measure. The noble Lord had used as one of his arguments in favour of the sliding-scale, the statement that it was productive of steady prices; and in endeavouring to prove this, he compared the prices of this country with those of foreign countries; and how did he do so? In so far as respected the produce of this country, he took the Gazette averages; but in regard to foreign countries, he took the market price of the articles. Could anything be more erroneous than this mode of proceeding? And yet his noble Friend founded an argument upon the result. This year, in the north of England and Scotland, the quality of wheat was so unusually bad, that the old wheat was selling at 100 per cent higher than the wheat of the present year, the price of the new wheat at one portion of the year being 42s., while the old wheat was 84s., leaving the average of 63s. between the two prices. The wheat of the present year was so bad, it was necessary to have some foreign wheat 361 to mix with it, and which circumstance nominally kept down the prices. It also kept foreign wheat out of the country; and thus there was an apparent steadiness in the prices, while the population was suffering all the inconveniences resulting from a supply of bad wheat. Nothing could be more futile than the attempt to show that the sliding-scale gave steadiness of price. In fact, there could be no steadiness of price unless there was encouragement to produce an article in such quantity, that it could be laid up in store for the purpose of being brought to market when there was danger of scarcity. The noble Lord spoke of the effects of this measure on Ireland; and he illustrated his view by saying that Irish estates were generally heavily burdened, and that the landlords there had no means of contributing to the improvement of their estates. Now, the present measure could only injure such landlords as those in the way of reducing their rents, and thus the noble Lord was led to use the old argument formerly brought forward in the House of Commons, where it was scouted by the noble Lord himself, that the use of a Corn Law was to raise rents, in order to enable landlords to pay their mortgages. It was a naked and explicit avowal of self-interest—it was plainly telling the House to keep up the existing system of Corn Laws, in order to enhance the value of land and increase rents. Was that the ground on which his noble Friend was prepared to go to the country with this question? Something of the same kind fell from him in the course of his first speech. In alluding to what was said in the other House by the Prime Minister, his noble Friend observed that perhaps that Minister would find a pauperized aristocracy as difficult to manage as a proud aristocracy. If an agitator had used this language—if it had been said, in effect, that rents depended on the Corn Laws, how indignant would his noble Friend have been? But when translated into its proper meaning, the language of his noble Friend was, that the Corn Laws were established for the benefit of a pauperized aristocracy. His belief was, that if there was one part of the Empire which would gain more than another by the abolition of these laws, it was Ireland, as it would tend greatly to lessen that keen competition for land which was the great grievance of Ireland, inasmuch as by promoting manufactures in that country it would divert the industry of the people into other channels 362 besides that of the cultivation of the land. The noble Lord had brought forward the old argument, that cheap corn would produce lower wages, and that, in the face of facts, that when corn was cheap wages were invariably high. It had been uniformly found so in this country; and he defied any noble Lord opposite to point out a country where there was peace, order, and security, in which cheapness of corn was not accompanied with high wages. If there were no such restrictions as those experienced under the serf system of Poland or Russia, cheap corn was invariably accompanied with high wages. Indeed, the noble Lord had himself said so. [Lord STANLEY: No, I did not.] The noble Lord had admitted this operation of prices, if not in words, yet in effect. The noble Lord had been shown that in those countries where cheap corn was produced, the wages of labour were high. [Lord STANLEY: Where?] In America, in New Zealand, and in other places.
hoped the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) would now allow that his speech had been answered. [Lord STANLEY shook his head.] Oh! no doubt the noble Lord did not think the answer satisfactory; perhaps it was less satisfactory to him than to anybody in the House to hear it, coming unexpectedly upon him as it did, when he was in such a state of exultation and exaltation after the success of his able performance, received with the utmost applause by a most numerous audience, especially the parts that were most flimsy, proceeding from the mouth to the ear, but not coming from the brain to the heart, adapted most skilfully to catch that applause by soothing every feeling that was most boiling up in the breasts of the audience, and flattering every prejudice under which they were not labouring, but exulting; as a sacred authority, he thought, said, "glorying in their chains." At such a moment, it must be most unsatisfactory to his noble Friend to have the cup of pleasure, from which he was drinking deeply, dashed from his lips by the little accident of his other noble Friend getting up and answering that speech. His noble Friend (Earl Grey) had, point by point, gone through the whole of it, with the exception of two; and to these two points, by way of supplement, he was about to address their Lordships. It was with very great regret that he did rise to speak, near as it then was to one o'clock in the morn- 363 ing, and when so many must be disposed, having gloated over the speech of his noble Friend, having exhausted themselves with rapturous plaudits, being fatigued in their lungs and throats with their exertions, and when they must be preparing for repose, as from such a state of excitement it was necessary for them; for from such excitement they must readily fall into collapse and inaction. But though they must be detained for a short time from their slumbers, yet he must, as a matter of honour, address their Lordships. He really could not excuse himself to their Lordships if he did not, nor, indeed, would their Lordships at large stand excused; for his noble Friend (Earl Stanhope) had said that they were so feeble, so imbecile, so wretched a set, that they were not able to answer the former speech of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley). That he (Lord Stanley) had not heard what he considered to be an answer to it was plain, from the fact that in his own observations he had carefully avoided making an allusion to any one of those answers which had recurred at the time he made his speech. His noble Friend, intoxicated with the success of that former speech, and not having recovered, after the lapse of two or three weeks, his sober senses, he must how be content to hear somewhat—Whitsuntide being come, Pentecost being fully come, and the time of tongues having arrived, when nobody could be expected to be silent—yet now ventured to say that no one had attempted to answer his speech until to-night, after a fortnight's preparation. Now, he (Lord Brougham) did recollect, what but for his noble Friend (Earl Grey) he might otherwise have forgotten in the multiplicity of speeches, that not a fortnight had elapsed—that not a moment was allowed to pass away, when he himself (Lord Brougham) rose and spoke for an hour and a half in reply to his noble Friend. It might be said that his answer was insufficient: but why insufficient? It was shorter by an hour or two than his noble Friend's speech, he admitted; but why? Was it because he thought the speech of his noble Friend unanswerable? Very much the reverse. No; but he was prevented from going more fully into the matter by his noble Friends below going away. They heard the speech of his noble Friend, and then they retired. It was not to be supposed he would seek to convince those already convinced; arguments were intended to convince opponents, but the opponents 364 had disappeared; and if on that occasion his noble Friend was not fully answered, then it was no fault of his. He had gone over his able arguments shortly because of the reason just assigned; but he had spoken at the moment, and not after any delay at all. But now, there were two points which the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had omitted to notice, and to which he (Lord Brougham) felt compelled just to direct their Lordships' attention by way of supplement. The first was one of the most extraordinary hallucinations—but that was too argumentative a term—one of the most outrageous blunders he ever heard upon any political matter; he would not say "political economy," because noble Lords professed it to be their qualification for this discussion that they knew nothing of political economy: a right rev. Prelate had done so that night. With the extraordinary ability and acuteness of the noble Lord (Stanley), and his quickness in perceiving the absurdity of any other man's absurd arguments, he (Lord Brougham) marvelled beyond expression at the blunder he was about to mention, and he had communicated his wonder to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who partook of it. The noble Lord began, "There is to be a fall in the price of corn." That was always assumed; but nothing was so convenient as begging the question, especially upon a subject of nicely balanced evidence and greatly disputed fact. Always beg the question. Some begged it gently, cunningly, slyly; you would think they were quietly arguing, when out flashed upon you at last what they had been doing, namely, assuming the very thing in dispute all the while. Others did it in a more open, avowed, sturdy manner, and were what you Lord call sturdy beggars. The noble would (Lord Stanley) was generally of the gentler kind, and so much the more dangerous. Said he, "There will be a great fall in the price of corn; and, if corn falls, the money price of every other commodity will fall too. Now, the value of the currency rises as the value of commodities falls." Granted. "Then," cries he, "if the value of money rises, look to it, you who have 800,000,000l. of debt." God forbid any one should deny that! that was not "begging the question." But then came the consequence—"because the price of commodities will fall one-fifth, and the value of money, therefore, will rise one fifth, you will have added a fifth to all the public burdens." Did mortal man ever 365 hear of such outrageous nonsense? A man had an income of 100l.; his taxes were 10l.; he paid the 10l. as best he could while the prices of corn and other commodities were high. Then comes the Corn Bill; down fall the prices of corn and of other commodities; and, therefore, his income of 90l., after deducting taxes, remained the same. That was the hypothesis. [Lord STANLEY: No, no!] Oh! the noble Lord referred to an entirely different argument. The public burdens remaining nominally the same, the income was increased in value one-fifth; it would buy more corn; therefore, argued his noble Friend, it was a larger sum. But what was the truth? The possessor of that income was just one-fifth more able to pay than before.
begged to state that what he dealt with was the case of a fixed income. The diminution of the price of every article consumed raised the value of money. The person who had a fixed income in money was benefited; because a fixed income gave a greater command of commodities, and because a party who was uuder an obligation to pay in money had to give a greater portion of his substance for the purpose of dischaging that obligation. The creditor, therefore, gained by the advance in the value of money, and the debtor had his burden increased, having to pay the same amount of money, but that money representing a larger amount of commodities.
asked whether he had not given precisely the same statement of his noble Friend's doctrine? His income, he supposed, was 100l. He gave 10l. to his creditor; that he admitted was worth more than it was before. But he, the debtor, was not worth less. He had 10l. to pay as before; but he did not lose, nay, he greatly gained, because he had the benefit of the reduction in the price of commodities on his whole expenditure. It was the bane of the protection argument from beginning to end, that those who pressed it did not believe that one could gain without another losing. The 90l. which remained bought one-fifth more commodities than before; and therefore he was a great deal better off, and so was his creditor; but he, the debtor, was none the worse off that his creditor gained while he gained himself. But one word more upon a more serious point. A noble Lord had asked, amidst loud cheers, in reference to the disputed despatch from Canada, and the ex- 366 pectation expressed that later intelligence might show a different state of feeling in that Colony, "Why confine your appeal to Canada—why not make your appeal to England?" There could not be a more plausible argument; but he protested against it on constitutional grounds. They lived under a representative Government, God be praised—a Government which was not to depend upon constant appeals to the people, whose function it was to appoint not delegates, but representatives; and those representatives were sent to Parliament to deliberate on public affairs. The monster evil of the present day was that the constituents who had delegated that trust to their representatives, niggardly withdrew it, and interposed themselves to decide on those questions which their representatives were appointed to consider, instead of first choosing them and then simply meeting from time to time to express their opinions. The constituency called upon its representative to come before it, and then decided for both itself and him. That was not the Constitution of England. But it was said that was different from making an appeal to the people by dissolving Parliament; and it was held that when a question was vital or paramount, such an appeal should be made. What question was there that had not in its turn become vital or paramount? The intrigues of party would make the most trumpery question paramount at any given time. If, because a question was called a paramount question, Parliament must be dissolved, and an appeal made to the people, there was an end to the representative system — that grand improvement in the administration of public affairs under which the advantages of liberty coexisted with the benefits of extensive territory; they might bid adieu to that system; they were governed by a democracy, and there was an end to representation. Maynooth was a great question; but who asked for a dissolution? No doubt some men went before their constituents; some lost their places in the counsels of the country, but there was no talk of a dissolution. That was the true language of the Constitution. The late Lord Grey — than whom, among his thousand greater qualities, no man ever possessed a more accurate knowledge of the principles of the Constitution—held that persons were sent to Parliament to consult for the good of the Empire, and not for particular interests. Again, in 367 1829 there was no call for a dissolution on the Roman Catholic Relief Bill. But he was going to state a much stronger case, in which every man was pledged to the teeth to take a particular course. What passed when two Parliaments were elected, one the Irish Parliament of 300 representatives of the people of Ireland, and the other the Parliament of Great Britain, consisting of 568 representatives? Every Member was chosen in both countries for an express purpose; the Irish Members to represent the Irish people in the Irish Parliament, and the British Members the British people in the British Parliament. Then came the question of the Union. If ever there was a case in which the strict letter of the Constitution might be bent, that surely was the case, because two Parliaments were absorbed into one without any appeal to the people. That was a strong measure. What said Mr. Fox, who objected to the principle of the Union, and to the manner in which it was carried into effect? As to the principle, he thought Mr. Fox wrong; but as to the manner in which it was carried into effect, he thought he was right. Mr. Fox said, when the argument of pledges was used — and he (Lord Brougham) well remembered his saying it—that there was no exception to the rule; that Parliament was chosen for general purposes; and that, if they once refused to pass a measure without an appeal to the people because it was said to be important, then every question would successively become important, and there would be an end of representative government. He did not mean to say that a case might not arise in which a dissolution might be necessary. If Ministers differed from Parliament, or if the Houses differed in opinion from each other, the only course which could be taken would be to dissolve. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) had been pleased to say that his noble Friend near him (Lord Monteagle) had not answered — no, not even adverted, but had attempted to advert to his speech. He would, therefore, to use the noble Lord's own expression, attempt to advert to his speech for the purpose of making but one further observation. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had solemnly adjured their Lordships to look sharply as to what they were about, because they had been called on to change their opinions at once. [Lord STANLEY: No!—to change their votes.] Well, their votes; and it was, he granted, a safer expression 368 to say votes than opinion; for you cannot be mistaken in that; it reminded him of an old gentleman once correcting him when he (Lord Brougham) talked of an old maid—"Don't use that phrase; it may be inaccurate." "The word old?" he (Lord Brougham) asked. "No," said his friend, "the other word; it is safer to say, old single women." So he agreed with his noble friend, that it was safer to speak of votes being changed than opinions. But also that change was a more important thing, no doubt; for, said the noble Lord, see what a dreadful state of agitation the country would be in next year, or whenever a general election took place; and then, possibly, the people of England would elect a House of Commons which would call on their Lordships to change their vote back again. This was very plausible, but it seemed to him (Lord Brougham) to have no weight. The same argument might be used on every question on which the country was divided; and the result would be that their Lordships, if they attended to such an argument, could never safely pass any important measure especially towards the end of a Parliament. His (Lord Brougham's) belief was that the country, and even those noble Lords who had expressed great alarm with respect to this measure, would not arrive at the next year without finding those fears chimerical. In conclusion, he must say that he preferred the total repeal of the Corn Law to any modification of it. Against the total repeal he knew several arguments might fairly be urged: among others, the extent of the experiment. The noble Lord was correct in saying that till 1771 there had been no free trade; but since that time all their legislation had been towards free trade, with the exception of the Corn Bills of 1815 and 1828. But he admitted that the present was a great experiment, and that it might have been done more safely, that it might have been better done, had it been done gradually, and with less surprise—less of concealment, he might say—than had accompanied it. He was sure, had a different course been pursued with respect to the measure, it would have saved them much trouble in carrying it through that House; for he verily believed the sudden and secret manner of urging it forward was a main ground of its disfavour with their Lordships. Still, however, he was for a total repeal of the principle of protection; because that was, in his opinion, the only final and conclusive 369 settlement of the question. The sliding-scale always had the objection, that it carried within itself the seeds of change and decay. And now he would appeal to the noble Lords who represented so powerfully the great landed interest, and the great solid and permanent interests of the country; and he beseeched them to beware how they lightly rejected the present measure, which went at once, and not indirectly or circuitously, to their benefit as landowners; because, being final, it let all men — landowners, farmers, capitalists—know where they were. Let the House think of the millions of capital now locked up, as he knew of his personal knowledge, waiting until this question of the Corn Laws should be finally settled. Not one guinea of that capital would go out while all was in suspense—not a guinea would have gone out towards the land under a fixed duty which on the face of it could never be regarded as a final arrangement of the subject. Let them settle the question, finally and for ever settle it, and that capital would flow throughout the land for purchase, for lease, for improvement, for loan. These were the grounds, in addition to those he had advanced when he last addressed their Lordships, why he should vote for going into Committee on the Bill.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, it was not his intention, at that late hour, to trouble their Lordships at any length; but he wished to make an observation or two after the eloquent speech of his noble and learned Friend, which, though it did not contain much argument, was a most amusing display. He agreed with his noble and learned Friend in what he had said with respect to the mischief which would arise if, instead of Members of Parliament being sent, the country should send delegates to the House of Commons; but he did not agree with him in every other part of his address. In 1829, he had pressed upon the Legislature and the Government the necessity of dissolving Parliament; and he did the same thing now; and he did so for the same reason. He maintained that in 1841 the question of protection or no protection was that which had been reechoed on every hustings throughout England. He did not approve of Members of Parliament giving pledges to their constituents; but he did not approve of their breaking the pledges which they had made; and during the period that he had the honour to represent a city in the other House of Parliament, he had invariably re- 370 fused to become pledged to any particular measure; but this he would say, that if he was pledged to pursue a particular measure, no power on earth should induce him to forfeit his pledge, and to occupy a position which he should then feel he had obtained by fraud. But he thought the course which unfortunately Her Majesty's Ministers had pursued on the present occasion, would lead to making more delegates than before; for representatives were formerly believed to be honourable men, in whom confidence might safely be reposed. On the one side a man said, I am a Conservative; on the other, a man said, I am a Liberal; and the constituencies of the country, generous as they were, took these Members at their word, and returned them to Parliament. But, now, would these constituencies believe them—could they credit the assertions they made? Would they not know—would they not remember the 112 that unfortunately, if they had not broken their direct pledges, had at least broken the faith which their constituencies had put in them; and this, therefore, in his opinion, would lead to more delegates. His noble and learned Friend said that they, as landed proprietors, ought to let this question be immediately carried; and that he himself was for an immediate free trade in corn. But he would ask their Lordships whether the present Bill was for an immediate free trade in corn? Did they expect to get rid of agitation when they passed this Bill, while for three years they were to have the sliding-scale? Upon his honour he could not find out why, except that the men who had broken their pledges wished to look opposite and see men who were in favour of a fixed duty violate their opinions by voting for a sliding-scale. That was the only way in which they could account for it; and they all knew that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was a very sagacious gentleman, as it was called; but on this point he would not dwell, because he never had attacked Sir Robert Peel personally, and he never would. He had a right to attack his conduct — he would not presume to judge of his motives. Well, but it was said their Lordships ought not to encourage agitation. Did not his noble and learned Friend know that noble Lords in that House were but a small body of the landed interest in the country? Was it to be supposed that the landed interest was composed of a certain number of people who frequented the saloons of London, who belonged to the 371 clubs, or attended Almack's? Why, the agricultural and the landed interest of England was a great and important body: their Lordships were not even entitled to be called their representatives; they were too few in number for that, and their possessions were much larger than those of noble Lords. But when they told him that he could prevent agitation if he wished it, he proudly avowed that, instead of preventing agitation, he would do his utmost to recommend it. He would do his utmost to tell the farmers of England that they had been ill treated, and to recommend them to exert themselves in every one of their counties, and in every one of their boroughs. The question was stated by his noble and learned Friend to be one in which the landed interest alone was concerned; but he would say boldly that the operatives in the manufacturing districts were hostile to this measure; and it was well known that the counties of England were hostile to free trade, or the Anti-Corn-Law League would not have gone and bought votes for these counties. The manufacturers knew well how to expend their money; and they would never have gone and bought fictitious votes in the counties if they had not known that the real votes in the counties were against their schemes. He believed it was a fact that the Anti-Corn-Law League had never, up to the present time, ventured to hold a public meeting in any town in this country without giving tickets to those who attended; and this was a proof that they knew the operatives were hostile to protection. His opinion, however, on this subject being well known, and as he had on a former occasion received the attention of their Lordships, he would assure them that he should not have now risen to trespass on their attention, if it had not been for what he conceived to be a most unjustifiable attack which had been made upon him by the right rev. Prelate with the blue ribbon around his neck (the Bishop of Oxford). That right rev. Prelate stated that the landowners of England knew nothing whatever of their labourers; that they only saw them at their public meetings; and that the Clergy alone, forsooth, knew anything of the habits and wants of the people. He should not have taken this as personal to himself if the right rev. Prelate had not condescended, in the very next paragraph of his speech, to take notice of a circumstance which he understood to have been mentioned in one of the newspapers of the day, where it was said that at a public meeting 372 the labourers drank, out of empty glasses, the health of their landlords. He understood that there was a report of a meeting in one of the London papers, which was held on Tuesday last, and at which he filled the chair. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) had made, he thought, some allusion to that meeting; and as the right rev. Prelate had landed property in Sussex, near his, he thought he might have alluded to him when he said the landholders were deficient in the duty they owed to their poorer brethren. If that were his intention, it would have been more manly for him to have avowed it. He listened to the eloquent speech of the right rev. Prelate with pleasure, at the talent which it displayed; but he looked in vain for that Christian charity which ought to be manifested by all, and more particularly by a young Prelate of the Church, one of the youngest Bishops who ever sat in their Lordships' House. He could well understand the gratitude which the right rev. Prelate felt towards Sir Robert Peel, and found no fault with him for that; but he must say that the right rev. Prelate ought not to have made those charges; and he deeply regretted the allusion which had been made to that meeting, because three or four years since he had the satisfaction of seeing the right rev. Prelate upon a similar occasion, which not only met with his approbation, but with the approbation of the Bishop of his diocese, and the numerous Clergy who were in the habit of attending those meetings The gentlemen of the county had held these meetings for some years back; and he did not think there was anything in their nature which ought to bring upon them either the contempt or the ridicule of their Lordships. They were got up for the purpose of rewarding the honesty and fidelity of the agricultural labourer, who obtained a premium upon the presentation of a certificate of good moral character, and the performance of his Christian and social duties in a proper manner. The labourer dined there, and considered the day upon which this meeting was held as one of the pleasantest in the whole year. There was no intoxication—all was morality and good order. The right rev. Prelate said, the labourers drank the landlords' health out of empty glasses; but he (the Duke of Richmond) could not see how a man could drink out of an empty glass. That reminded him strongly of a saying of Earl Spencer, who, when charged with having uttered something ab- 373 surd, exclaimed that he had never uttered such nonsense because he was not an eloquent man. He left the House to say how far the comparison might be carried in the present instance. Notwithstanding what the right rev. Prelate said, he would still encourage those institutions, which he thought promoted good feeling and confidence between the labourer and the employer, and were, in fact, productive of the greatest advantages. There was another remark of the right rev. Prelate which he did not perfectly understand. The right rev. Prelate said that the display of friendship for the Established Church came from an unexpected quarter. Now, he (the Duke of Richmond) always supposed the protectionists to be the strongest friends of the Established Church; but he supposed they were now no longer to be considered so. He would just make one remark on the subject of tithes. He consented to the passing of that measure, because it would set the matter at rest; but no power on earth should have induced him to support that Bill if he had thought it was intended to get rid of protection altogether, and keep the average of the tithe at seven years.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
said: I desire to say a few words in answer to the charge which the noble Duke has brought against me. I can assure the noble Duke that one result at least has followed from the contiguity of my small property in Sussex to his large domain: it has made me acquainted with the noble Duke's kindness, care, and attention to the state of the cottagers and the peasants in that county; and I therefore beg the noble Duke will believe what I say most un-feignedly and unreservedly, that if in the heat of debate, not being particularly experienced in debate, I have said anything of the noble Duke which impeached his character in that respect, it was most unintentionally said, and is most sincerely regretted. I can assure him that even if the compliment which he was pleased to pay me, for what he kindly called the talent shown in my speech, were deserved, that, in my estimation, would be a miserable set-off for any lack of charity which such a speech exhibited. I can also assure the noble Duke that I did not in the least degree find fault with that meeting of the peasantry to which he has alluded. Three years ago, I myself, I remember, took a part under his auspices in that very meeting; I have 374 aided to the best of my power similar institutions in other places. I by no means undervalue them; but what I meant to say, however inadequately I may have expressed it, was that such meetings did not at all reveal the real sufferings of the peasantry—that we were not to judge of their feelings as to the present state of the laws and institutions of our country, by the passing excitement produced on such occasons—that this was rather to be judged of by following them home to their cottages in their daily struggle for a livelihood, and seeing then how they do feel; when we should find that many of the institutions of the country are felt by them to bear hard upon them, and in their opinion, to require alteration. I once more beg to thank your Lordships for the kindness with which you before heard me, and to beg the noble Duke, if he felt hurt by what I said, to receive the assurance of its having been my intention to say nothing whatever which could personally hurt the feelings of any noble Lord.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned.