§ House in Committee.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
rose, in pursuance of the notice he had given, to move the addition of a clause to this Bill. Their Lordships were well aware of the respectability of the great body of the tenant-farmers of this country, and therefore he was satisfied that they would not be surprised at his rising to endeavour, to the utmost of his power, to prevent that body of men from being consigned to entire ruin. Their Lordships well knew that the tenant-farmers of the country felt most strongly that the measures now about, he feared, to pass that House, would very much diminish the price of their produce, and therefore they were naturally anxious that they should be enabled to get rid of those engagements which they had entered into solely upon the faith of Acts of Parliament, and the numerous pledges which were from time to time so solemnly given, that protection was to continue to be the policy of the Government. Without any fault of their own the case had been altered. He said, without any fault of their own: for he must remind the House that in 1841 the tenant-farmers of the 670 country returned their representatives to Parliament for the great object of maintaining protection to themselves as growers of corn, and to the other branches of domestic industry. They could not blame the farmers because some of these representatives had either been seduced or converted to hold other views than those for which they had been elected: in which class these men were to be put, they would have an opportunity of judging when the time arrived for giving them the reward which they were to receive for their change of opinions; but in the mean time it was a great hardship to the tenant-farmer, who had expended a large amount of capital in the improvement of the farm he had taken for 19 or 30 years on the faith of protection, and that his rent was to be paid with the price of wheat at from 50s. to 56s. a quarter—it was a great hardship to make that tenant adhere to his lease when wheat came down to 40s. a quarter. If he knew anything of the character of the high-minded, unsuspicious, and independent yeomanry and tenantry of this country, if he knew anything of their character, he was assured that they would scorn to ask a favour from Sir Robert Peel, who they felt had cruelly deceived them, and shown himself hostile to that interest which, up to the present time, was admitted by all to be the foundation on which was based the prosperity of all classes. He therefore asked not their Lordships to insert the clause he was about to propose as a favour, but he respectfully demanded it as an act of justice to the tenantry of the country. It might be said that in making this Motion, he was expressing an opinion unfavourable to the landowners of the country. It was far from his intention to do so, because he believed that there were many—indeed, a considerable portion—of the landowners, who would not keep their tenants to the engagements they had entered into on the faith of protection, but would meet the exigencies of the case, and do their duty to the farmers. But they did not legislate for the liberal-minded landlord; they legislated there for those cold-blooded, heartless men, who told them they would screw out of the pockets of the farmers every shilling they could get from them; they were there to legislate also on behalf of the tenantry against trustees. A great part of the land occupied by the tenantry was held under trust; and, though he conceived that a trustee was bound to act as 671 if the property were his own, yet there were many who felt themselves bound not to reduce rents so long as the farmer had capital to pay. Then there was land held under colleges and corporations, and they very well knew that when the responsibility was divided among many they were much less likely to be liberal than when the property belonged to themselves. He could not see the slightest reason that could be adduced against the proposal, because the Government said, and their new allies seemed to agree with them, that the present measure would not have the effect of reducing the price of corn. If it had not the effect of reducing the price of corn, then the tenant would not desire to give up his occupation; but if it eventually led to a great reduction in the price of food, surely they could not think it right to compel men to pay rent at the rate of 54s. a quarter of wheat, when they could in the market receive only 40s. If the wording of the clause he was about to propose did not meet their Lordships' approbation, there were other means of carrying out the principle which he advocated. They might give every tenant in the country the opportunity of converting the money rent he now paid into a corn rent; but what he contended for was, that they must not leave him to the tender mercies of the free traders. His opinion was, that from what he had seen in that House, there was but little doubt that the Anti-Corn-Law League would be triumphant; and if they were triumphant, he thought it was well to secure to the utmost of their power the interests of the tenantry. His proposal was that the tenant should have the power, within six months after the passing of the Act, to give his landlord six months' notice of his intention to quit; and he proposed that, by arbitration—and if parties did not agree as to the appointment of the arbiters, he would leave the selection of the Commissioners for the Enclosure of Commons—he proposed that those arbiters should value the unexhausted improvements; because nothing could be more unfair than that the tenant should not get back a fair proportion of the outlay he had made for the benefit of his farm, and from which outlay he had not sufficient time to gain any profit. He was not asking their Lordships to do anything he was not prepared to do himself, even if they threw out the clause he had now to propose, for, in 1842 he felt it to be his duty towards 672 his tenants to allow all of those who had leases to give up their farms, because they had engaged to take those farms prior to the passing of the Corn Law of that year. This was only an act of justice, and he could not understand the slightest reason which could be adduced against it, unless, indeed, it might be said it would lose this Bill. He knew not whether, by the forms of Parliament, inserting such clauses as those would lose the Bill; but he was quite satisfied that there was nothing in themselves that ought to have that result. He had taken up so much of their Lordships' time in the discussions on this question, that he did not feel himself authorized to detain them on the present occasion, and also because it appeared to him the clause was self-evident, right, proper, and just, and therefore he would conclude by moving that the clause of which he had given notice be added to the Bill. The noble Duke then read the clause, as follows:—And be it enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for any Person or Persons in the actual Possession or Occupation of, or holding any Lands either in his, her, or their own Right, or in the Right of any Person or Persons under any of the Disabilities hereinafter mentioned; (that is to say), Infancy, Coverture, Idiotcy, Lunacy, Unsoundness of Mind, or Absence beyond the Seas, under a Lease, or an Agreement for a Lease for a Term of Years unexpired, or for the Lives or Life of any Persons or Person named in the Lease, or for a Term of Years determinable upon a Life or Lives, at any Time or Times within the Space of Twelve Calendar Months from and after the passing of this Act, to give Six Calendar Months Notice in Writing of his, her, or their Desire and Intention to quit or deliver up Possession of the Lands comprised in the same Lease or Agreement for a Lease before the Expiration of his, her, or their Term or Interest therein, such Notice to terminate at that Period of the Year at which the Tenancy commenced; and on the Expiration of such Notice, the Term or Interest for which such lands shall be held under a Lease or Agreement for a Lease, shall absolutely cease and determine in like Manner, as if such Terms or Interest had expired by Effluxion of Time; and all the Covenants, Conditions, and Agreements of such Lease or Agreement for a Lease, so far only as the same may have a prospective Operation or Effect, shall be void and of no effect; and thereupon also such Person or Persons shall be entitled to the same Allowance or Remuneration, if any, by an incoming Tenant, or by the Lessor of the said Lands, as he, she, or they would have been entitled to in case of such Lease or Agreement for a Lease had been determined by Effluxion of Time, the Amount of such Allowance or Remuneration, in case the Parties differ about the same, to be settled by the Arbitration of Two Persons, One to be named by each of the Parties in difference, and of such Third Person as the Two to be so chosen shall, by a Memorandum under their Hands before they proceed on the Arbitration, nominate and appoint, or any Two of 673 them: Provided, that in case either Party shall within the Space of Fourteen Days next after the Expiration of such Notice as aforesaid, neglect or refuse to nominate or appoint One of such Two Referees, or in case such Referees if appointed, or either of them, shall within the Space of Fourteen Days next after their Appointment, neglect or refuse to nominate or appoint such Third Person or Umpire, then the Amount of such Allowance or Remuneration shall be settled by the Arbitration of the Commissioners acting in the execution of the Act then in force for the Inclosure of Commons and Lands in England and Wales: And be it enacted, That in the Construction of this Section the word "Lands" shall extend to Lands, Tenements, and Hereditaments, and any undivided Share thereof which shall be in the Possession of, or held by any Person or Persons as aforesaid, under a Farming or Husbandry Lease, or any Agreement for any such Lease.
§ The EARL of RIPON
would not on this occasion enter upon the general question, but confine himself to the subject introduced by the noble Duke. He entirely agreed with his noble Friend as to the character and spirit of the class of men whose claims he professed to advocate; and he would not oppose the clause which he had now moved, did he not think that it would be productive of evil rather than of benefit to them; it would produce the utmost possible confusion from one end of the kingdom to the other. If carried into a law, there would be no end to the litigation which would inevitably follow in every part of the country. The principle of the clause was liable to great objections. Parliament was now asked to give to one party to a contract the power of compelling the other party to rescind it, not because the latter had been guilty of a violation of it, but because it might suit the interests of the former. That was a serious principle, and it was proposed to be introduced, not by a general enactment, but by a single clause in a Bill to which it did not apply. To him (the Earl of Ripon) it did not appear necessary, for he was not impressed with the noble Duke's terrors as to the impending ruin of agriculture; but the noble Duke himself could scarcely feel very strongly the necessity of the clause, after his own statement of what he should be prepared to do if the Bill should pass. There was not a more generous landlord in the country than the noble Duke; and experience of the conduct of the landlords proved that they would follow in the same steps; it was no mere compliment to them to say it. Great litigation would result from such an enactment; some tenants might endeavour improperly to take advantage of it; it would really produce the 674 greatest imaginable evil to both parties. With a view to the interests of the landlords, but still more of the tenants, he felt bound to oppose it.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
could not deny the possibility of some inconvenience resulting from the proposed clause, but that would only be one of the many evil consequences attributable to this Bill. A great deal had been said of this being a landlord's question, and of the landlords coming forward to bear the brunt of the danger; but, when he heard of a noble Friend intending to raise his rents 10 per cent; when noble Lords opposed to the measure were called "sturdy beggars;" when he heard what he had, in various quarters, he must suppose that there were landlords who were not ready to relieve their tenants from the consequences of this measure. It was very well for the noble Earl (the Earl of Ripon) to say, "Trust to the generosity of the landlords;" it would have been more to the purpose if he had answered the question as to the probable fall of price the other day. Night after night the House was told that prices would not fall, but that farming produce would rise: what protection had the tenant, then, from the fancies and whims of his landlord? This law would put the tenants in the power of the landlords. Even in the present year they were being made to sow under one law and reap under another, though they had the assurance of Cabinet Ministers that there should be no such change—from the Secretary at War, for instance, only a few months since. Highly as he (the Earl of Malmesbury) thought of the generosity and goodness of English landlords, he was not ready to leave the tenantry entirely at their mercy; he preferred facing all the difficulties and confusion that might take place in consequence of this clause.
§ The EARL of MORNINGTON
had some documents with him, which he had a little hesitation in producing, because they had so much relation to himself; but during the progress of this question in Parliament he had turned his mind to the probable consequences of the measure, and had obtained some information not unworthy attention. For thirty years he had lived among tenant-farmers, but on returning from the Continent he found the most marvellous change in their social habits and character; he found that, as a noble and learned Friend of his had said, "the schoolmaster was abroad," and that whilst they had not lost any portion of their affection 675 for the higher classes of society, they were a much more intelligent class of men than formerly, that their sons received a better education, and that they themselves looked much more forward than they used to do. Under these circumstances he thought it would be better for him to "take time by the forelock" as to his own estate. For thirty-three years of his life he never granted a lease. In the course of a very short period he gave notice to 110 tenants, but he took care that notice should not be given to any tenant whose rent was not upwards of 100l. a-year. The greater portion of the estate he was speaking of was his own; the rest belonged to one of his family; and he saw those tenants himself; he never employed an agent except a bailiff. The farms were rented low; the rents had not been altered for something like twenty years. Now, he was about to state to the House what those farms had been let at before March, 1845, and what they were let at in March, 1845, for the future. The account was supplied by his bailiff; and his (the Earl of Mornington's) object was to show that it was a mistake to suppose that this measure would cause a great fall of rent, and that there would be no tenants to take farms; he believed that not one old tenant need be removed, and that there would be men with capital ready to take farms where the old tenants left, as was the case in some of the instances he was going to mention. He had not taken the best land nor the worst in those instances, but every description of land, some of it not far from a principal market. The first he would mention was in the district of Clare, in Suffolk, two miles from a principal market, and sixteen miles from a seaport—the Tilbury Lodge Farm, farmed on the four-year course of husbandry, containing 372 acres. The rent to Michaelmas was 13s. 7½d. per acre. The present rent, let for seven years from Michaelmas, 1845, is 23s. per acre. Security given for the rent, and let to a highly respectable man. [A noble LORD: That is a smart rent.] The noble Lord himself probably liked a good rent; if the noble Lord found the banker in the next town security for the man's rent, he would probably think he was not doing the tenant injustice. He had the particulars of a number of other and similar cases; but he would pass on to a very large farm, as well known in Essex and Middlesex as any in the world:—"In the district of Rochford hundred, in Essex, 676 the Rochford-hall Farm, of about 550 acres, let to Michaelmas, 1845, at 32s. 2d. per acre; relet from Michaelmas, 1845, for seven years, at 50s. per acre. Farmed on the 6-year course of husbandry, and titheable. Produce to London market by sea and river. Let to Mr. J. Jaber, a deputy-lieutenant of the county, and farming upwards of 3,000 acres of land." After he (the Earl of Mornington) had let that farm at the rent just stated, about 1,400l, a year, another person, equally respectable, came and offered 1,800 a year, which of course could not then be taken. Again, he (the Earl of Mornington) also remodelled an estate of his in Hampshire, and the House should hear the facts: "In the county of Southampton, five miles from Basingstoke, three from Odiham, and fourteen from Reading, about twenty farms, containing about 3,000 acres, on an average, from Michaelmas, 1845, from 18s. to 30s. per acre, relet within a week from the proposed measure of Sir R. Peel in February last for three years at an increased rent of 24 per cent." He had spoken to the farmers on that estate about this measure himself, and they told him they did not care about it. Supposing, then, that he had had no opinion on this question, and had come perfectly new to the consideration of it (which he could not say he did), but with a desire, justifiable enough, to support the landed interest and his own interest, so far as was fairly consistent with the promotion of the public welfare; here was a proof of a feeling among tenant-farmers very different from what some noble Lords imagined. He knew of his own knowledge that the farmers were not in the state of alarm that had been represented; he had seen above 200 of them within the last twelve months. A few hours ago he saw the tenant of one of his farms, a most respectable person, and as clever as any man living; he asked that tenant-farmer what he thought of this Bill, and his answer was—"When I go to Mark-lane, as I do every Monday morning, and see the prices of corn, and converse with the merchants and men who have no interest on one side or the other, but who look to trade, and when I am told that there is not the quantity of corn on the other side of the water that is supposed, and that they are beginning to quake for their markets, I begin to think that Sir R. Peel is right after all; but still I am sorry the measure is brought in by Sir R. Peel." There was that feeling among 677 them certainly with regard to this distinguished Minister. But surely if he felt it necessary, not for the sake of his party, but for the good of a third party—the country—to alter his policy, he was in very good company, for Mr. Pitt did the same; and some noble Lords could even recollect the debates when Mr. Pitt was charged just in the same way with breaking his faith. Noble Lords seemed to make the gravest assumption that this measure would be extremely injurious to the tenant-farmers; but where was the proof of it? As for petitions against the measure, he (the Earl of Mornington) knew of some, for instance one from Rayleigh), with which the population of that place had about as much to do as the people of China. If he, or if Lord Petre, were to put an advertisement in the paper, or go among the people and tell them some dreadful event was going to happen, there would be a number of signatures to any petition about averting it very easily obtained. In all the speeches he had heard against the Bill, there was continually the same note struck. There was continually the same exclamation, that this was a breach of faith on the part of Sir R. Peel, and that the tenants would be ruined; but he had not heard one argument in support of such an assertion. The price of corn, which was rising at this moment in Mark-lane, was a proof to the contrary. He had conversed with many auctioneers and persons who dealt in land, and they had assured him that there was no difficulty in selling land. There could not be a shadow of doubt that the price of land was rising under the new order of things. He had some years ago anticipated the course which the Government was now pursuing, and he believed that this great system of policy would be successful in its results, and would have the effect of laying the foundation of reciprocity on the part of foreign countries. The noble Earl then proceeded to argue that the present policy of the Government had nothing novel in its nature, but was only a recurrence to the policy which had been pursued on former occasions. He believed that they never would arrive at a sound system of commercial intercourse with other States, until foreign countries were prepared to adopt of their own accord a policy analogous to that which this country was now pursuing. Hitherto foreign countries had acted on a policy of prohibition; but a change in public opinion abroad on this 678 subject had now taken place, as might be gathered from the tone of the newspapers, which reflected the public mind on the Continent. The noble Earl concluded by expressing his satisfaction at feeling that the present policy of the Government, which had, as appeared from the instances he had given, proved beneficial to himself, would not be injurious to the interests of the tenant-farmers and the country.
§ The EARL of ABINGDON
said, that it was his intention to support the Clause moved by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond). He believed that unless the agricultural interest of this country had effectual protection by law, they would, in a short period, become nothing more than paupers. He recollected a conversation which had taken place between Bonaparte and John Bull, and which he might quote as applicable to present circumstances:—Says Boney to Johnny, 'I'm coming to Dover;'Says Johnny to Boney, 'I won't let you come;'Says Boney to Johnny, 'I will, though, come over;'Says Johnny to Boney, 'You'll then be overcome.'Now, what the English farmer said was this, that the Prime Minister had come over. He believed that the position of Prime Minister was no sinecure; but there were thousands and thousands of clearheaded men in this country who were perfectly astonished that the Minister should have forsaken that line of policy which they considered natural for him to have pursued; viz., to uphold "the land we live in," and on which every individual depended for his daily bread. If they were to depend on foreign land, instead of their own, for the staff of life, no man could calculate how soon a great portion of the population of this country might be brought to a state of starvation, for want of work and want of money. He might be a protectionist—a great protectionist—he believed he was an exorbitant protectionist, for at the last agricultural meeting which he had attended he stood stoutly up for protection, and even the very women who were looking in at the windows to see of what sort of materials the farmers were made, participated in the feeling. The farmers of this country had strong constitutions and strong feelings; they felt loyalty and attachment to their Sovereign, and they had an earnest wish to take that course which they thought best for the interests of their country. They were not legislators, but humble petitioners to the 679 Parliament, and they trusted to the wisdom of Parliament not to pass any measure which would bring the foreigner into competition with the highly-taxed Englishman in the home market. The petitions which had been laid on their Lordships' Table ought to lead to a fair consideration of one of the most important measures ever brought forward. The measure was important, in reference to the ingenious manner in which it had been brought to their Lordships' House; and it was also a matter of importance for their Lordships to know how to deal with it, and to find out the best way of getting rid of it; for if it passed into law, they would all, and more especially the right rev. Prelates, be like rams caught in a thicket. He was certain that, if it were not for the protection and encouragement of agriculture, there would be no Woolsack to sit upon. He had all his life been a supporter of regular Government upon constitutional principles; but these were days when those principles were to be knocked on the head. Under the system of protection this country had struggled through the greatest difficulties and dangers, and had attained higher prosperity than any other upon the face of the earth. No one could regret more than he did that a Government which appeared to be founded upon protectionist principles should all at once be shivered to pieces by a single man, who, it might have been supposed, would have been wedded to the highest interests of his country. In early life he (Lord Abingdon) had served his country, not under a modern bishop, but under a respected and gallant dean. When apprehension was entertained of an invasion of this country by the French, the Dean of St. Asaph raised a corps at his own expense, in which he (Lord Abingdon) served as a private, and was afterwards appointed drummer to the band. His next promotion was to the office of Speaker of their Lordships' House, and he had no difficulty in performing the duties of that office. He sat upon the Woolsack and listened attentively to the arguments of noble Lords, and those arguments which were sound were easy of digestion. He had intended to show their Lordships how closely agriculture was mixed up with military matters; but he feared he was trespassing upon their attention, and he would only say, that he hoped they would concur in this Amendment, which was calculated to prevent the most serious injury to the best interests of this country.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Mornington), in referring to the policy of an illustrious relative of his, and an immortal statesman (Mr. Pitt), had mistaken and misrepresented the policy of that illustrious individual. He (Earl Stanhope) had recently perused the speech delivered by Mr. Pitt, when he recommended to the House of Commons the commercial treaty with France. The noble Earl seemed to imagine that this measure was founded on the principle of free trade. Now, with reference to the article of corn, Mr. Pitt had always proved himself a zealous protectionist; for in 1791 he proposed a Corn Bill fixing a higher rate of duty than was now maintained, and he persevered in that policy. The measure of Mr. Pitt was founded on principles of reciprocity; but he would ask whether that was the case with the measures of the present Prime Minister? Why, in 1842, when our protective duties were relaxed, no less than six foreign countries came down upon us with hostile tariffs. With respect to the present Bill, the tenants, unsolicited by the landlords, had got up a spontaneous movement against the measures proposed by Sir R. Peel. It had been said that the agriculturists had no cause for alarm; but he would ask whether, when the protecting duty upon wheat was suddenly reduced from 16s., or 14s. a quarter, to 4s.—as would be the case under this Bill—their alarm was not natural and justifiable. His conviction was, that this measure would be deeply injurious to the farmers, and to all connected with agriculture. He confessed he had heard with some pain from his noble Friend the President of the Board of Control, the observation that the Amendment proposed by the noble Duke on the cross benches (the Duke of Richmond), who would always deserve the gratitude of the country for the part he had taken on this great question, was objectionable. Now he (Earl Stanhope) considered that if any proposition could be unobjectionable, it was the Amendment of the noble Duke, which was founded upon the principles of eternal and immutable justice. When, by a legislative measure, they changed entirely the relations between the landlord and tenant, in such a manner as to inflict ruin and injury upon one party, while the other obtained an advantage to which he had no title, it was obviously the duty of Parliament to interfere, and to prevent such injustice and oppression. It was to be apprehended that injustice and oppression 681 would be the result of this measure, in consequence of the chimerical notions entertained by some parties as to its operation. The idea was entertained in some quarters that this measure would have the effect of raising prices and augmenting rents; and a landlord who held this opinion might suppose that his tenant's objection to be bound by a lease executed under widely different circumstances might arise from ignorance or error, and he might insist upon the observance of the lease, thereby reducing the tenant to ruin and beggary. The object of the Amendment was to prevent such oppression and injustice, and to assert the sacred and eternal principles of even-handed justice; and he called upon their Lordships to give it their assent. He would deny that the introduction of this clause would be attended with any confusion whatever, any more than in the case of an ordinary tenancy at will. He entreated their Lordships not to pass this Bill—which might truly be called a Bill of pains and penalties, an edict of confiscation — without making provision for some compensation to those who would be injured by it. Let the bane and the antidote at least go together, although no antidote could be sufficient to meet all the evils of the measure. He looked upon the vote which their Lordships had come to in favour of this Bill, as the death-warrant of that House, as the entire and final extinction of their legislative functions, and of their very existence as an independent branch of the Legislature. Their Lordships had shown no disposition to retract that vote, and it therefore behoved their Lordships to pause, to hesitate, and to meditate well on the consequences of rejecting the Amendment of his noble Friend, lest the cup of bitterness should be filled to the brink, and and at last overflow.
§ The EARL of MORNINGTON
explained. He repeated his assertion that Mr. Pitt was a free trader. The Continent of Europe would not reciprocate our overtures of free trade, unless this country proved its sincerity by passing the present measures of the Government. If it were denied that Mr. Pitt himself expressed free-trade opinions, the proverb noscitur a sociis, applied to Mr. Huskisson, Lord Grenville, and others of his intimate acquaintances, would give them reason to believe that Mr. Pitt also held those opinions, and that he held them in very good society. He might mention the name of his late most illustrious relative, the Marquess 682 of Wellesley, as having lent its sanction to liberal commercial principles. In a recent publication of his he had urged those principles, and the noble Marquess, in a letter which he would not trouble the House by reading, said he approved of them; he congratulated himself on having given his proxy to his brother (the Duke of Wellington); he said, he agreed with Sir R. Peel and with the Duke of Wellington in the policy they had advocated. The noble Marquess, in that letter, extolled Sir R. Peel as the man of the day, as a man who was born to conduct the affairs of the country, and expressed his conviction that there must be a change in our commercial system. He (the Earl of Mornington) believed that he was supporting Mr. Pitt's policy in voting for the present Bill. He believed he had also supported that policy when he advocated the Reform Bill and Catholic Emancipation. That policy must not be judged by what Mr. Pitt had done during a state of war, but by what he said he would do if he could have maintained peace.
§ EARL STANHOPE
explained. He knew that the Marquess of Wellesley had been the coustant companion, the friend, and the colleague of Mr. Pitt; but he could not forget that the noble Marquess had in the latter part of his career adopted a course of policy which Mr. Pitt would have reprobated.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
was not going to follow the noble Earl (the Earl of Mornington) into the discussion which had occupied the House for the last two hours. He wished merely to bring the House back to the question really before them, namely, the Motion of his noble Friend on the cross benches, to allow tenants to vacate their leases, and receive compensation for unexhausted improvements. He confessed that, if the question were pressed to a division, which he hoped it would not because it would spare him from an unpleasant dilemma, he should be inclined to vote against it. He admitted that great injustice would fall upon the tenant if some arrangement of the kind proposed was not come to; but at the same time he feared that its tendency would be to open a door to so many discussions and disputes of a disagreeable kind, as to its mode of execution, that he was not prepared to give it his support. What he would recommend to the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) was, to withdraw his Amendment in the meantime, and wait to see the result of the 683 measure of Government, and if the consequences should prove so disastrous as was anticipated, some arrangement of this kind might be proposed next year. He would not say that much suffering would not take place in the meantime; but it was still in their power to come to the relief of the occupying tenant, when they had ascertained the probable extent of his injury. He perfectly agreed with those who thought that three-fourths or nine-tenths of the landlords would do what was right and fair in the circumstances. In fact, they had no interest to do otherwise, because it was no benefit to a landlord to have tenants on his estate who were ruining both themselves and his land; but at the same time he thought that, in the uncertainty of the case, and without an exact measure of their suffering, it would be better to wait till next year to see what the consequences were, when they might then call upon Parliament to interfere and make some arrangement of this kind. Before sitting down, he begged to intimate to the House that he wished to postpone, until the third reading of the Bill, the Resolution of which he had given notice to move on the subject, respecting the necessity of some better provision against the calamity which would be occasioned by the sudden importation of the large quantity of wheat now in bond. In the meantime, he entreated both sides of the House to take the matter into earnest consideration, particularly the supporters of the Bill, who should take care not to bring discredit upon its immediate operations.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
replied: He was willing to concede that the noble Lord (the Earl of Mornington), might know much more about France than he (the Duke of Richmond) did, but he denied that he knew so much of the opinions of the farmers of Essex. He had seen them frequently, he had met 500 of them not above a fortnight ago, and he knew their opinions of the measure before the House, and he again complained that noble Lords got up in that House, and declared that the farmers were in favour of free trade, when they were nothing of the kind. He would rather take from the farmers themselves what were their opinions, than take from any noble Lord what the farmers felt on the subject. The noble Earl, in order to show the feelings of the farmers on this measure, had quoted a number of farms whieh had been let; but, it would be observed, that all of them but one had been 684 let at Michaelmas, 1845, before any one had dreamt for a single moment that Sir R. Peel had the slightest intention of changing his opinions, or that, if he did, the House of Lords would sanction such a change. The farmers were an openhearted, unsuspicious race of men, and they never expected that the House of Lords would turn round like a weathercock and change their opinions at the beck of any Minister, be he who he might. He thought that Sir Robert Peel could never be justified, in the eyes of any body of men, for the conduct he had pursued. Free traders might like the Premier's free-trade measures; but he begged the House to mark his words, they would never be found following Sir R. Peel or placing confidence in him. They might in the meantime back him up, because, if permitted to stay in office, he would be the means of carrying all their measures, for they knew very well that if they could only bring the pressure from without into operation, Sir R. Peel would not have the nerve to withstand it. They might on that ground be induced to like him, but he defied them to respect him. He was sorry to say that he could not withdraw his Amendment, because he conceived it to be an act of justice, and an act of justice alone. He should not, however, trouble the House, by dividing, because he did not see what advantage there would be in being beaten by a majority of 33 or 34, or perhaps 40 of their Lordships, and as he did not see any possibility of carrying his clause, he was anxious not further to discredit their Lordships in the eyes of the country.
§ The EARL of MORNINGTON
explained, that so far from the leases referred to having been executed before the announcement of the free-trade measures, most of them had been executed only the day before yesterday.
§ On Question, to insert the said Clause, resolved in the negative.
§ Bill reported.
§ House adjourned.