The EARL of WICKLOW
said, as they were now at the last stage of these proceedings, and were about finally to conclude this great change in the commercial policy of this country, he begged to direct the attention of Government and their Lordships generally to two points on which, it appeared to him, that no information had been afforded to their Lordships in the course of these proceedings, and on which he thought that both to the country and their Lordships information was due from the Government. The first of these respected the promises made by the First Minister of the Crown when he introduced his resolutions to confer certain equivalents or compensations, which, it was stated, should accompany this measure. They had now reached the last stage of it, and yet up to the present time he had not been able to ascertain that in either House of Parliament anything like a proposal as to any of these matters had been made. It appeared that this point was not consider- 940 ed by the Government of small importance at the time of the measure being introduced, for Ministers then represented that the equivalent to be proposed would in some degree compensate the landed interest for the loss which they would sustain. How was it, then, that they had now come to this period of the Session, and that no notice had been taken of the subject in either House of Parliament? Was it the intention of Ministers that the Session should close without any proposal of compensation being brought forward? One such compensation had been promised to the country which which he was connected, which, though not equivalent to the landed gentry or tenantry for the injury to their interests which would be inflicted by the Corn Bill, was in itself of some little importance; and it ought to have been brought forward by the Government independently altogether of this measure, for it was one of the Bills strongly recommended to the Government by the Commission of which Lord Devon was at the head. He referred to the proposition by which the whole expense of the constabulary force of that country was to be thrown on the Consolidated Fund, and the various counties relieved from any portion of the expense. Such a step was proposed by Lord Devon's Commission, not with reference to such a measure as the present, but as a matter of simple justice. Upon that subject, however, they had heard no proposition of Her Majesty's Government made to either House of Parliament. He therefore thought, before they agreed to the third reading of this Bill, it was incumbent on some Member of the Government to explain to their Lordships what was their intention with reference to any measure to be brought forward. He now came to the second point, which appeared to him infinitely more important. Allusion had been occasionally made to the subject in that House, especially by his noble Friend opposite (Lord Monteagle), but no explanation had been afforded by Her Majesty's Government. When the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government brought forward in the House of Commons his proposition for an income tax, he obtained the consent of the House to the tax for three years, on the especial ground that he was then effecting great financial changes and extensive reductions in the customs, which would inevitably lessen the amount of the customs duties, so as to require for a certain short period a means of taxation in 941 lieu of them. But the right hon. Baronet held out strong hopes to Parliament, that by the end of three years those reductions would so much increase the produce of the customs duties, as to render it unnecessary to renew the income tax. It was solely on this ground that the right hon. Baronet had obtained a three years' income tax, for he believed that no other Minister who had governed this country for many years would have obtained it on any grounds whatsoever; but the great confidence reposed in the right hon. Baronet as a financial Minister by Parliament and the country, induced them to waive the strong objection which prevailed against an income tax in time of peace, and so far to confide in his promises that the operation of the reductions would be successful, as to concede the imposition of the tax for that period. The right hon. Baronet's promises, they knew, had remained unfulfilled; but Parliament was induced to extend the period for which the tax had been granted, from a belief that by the reductions in the customs duties the revenue of the country would be so increased as to make the continuance of the tax unnecessary. He believed this would have been the case if things had been allowed to go on as they were then doing, for the revenue was improving, and commerce in every department was flourishing. But most unfortunately, in the present Session, partly owing to the very increase which had been thus predicted, the right hon. Gentleman and his Government were determined by a sense of duty not to remain content with the alterations they had made, but to make those other alterations which their Lordships had been considering during the last three weeks. His noble Friend at the head of the Board of Trade (the Earl of Dalhousie), by the able manner in which he had conducted these proceedings—and he gave his noble Friend credit for having done so in a most masterly manner—had shown himself an able statesman, a great debater, and capable of conducting affairs in any department which might be entrusted to him; but his noble Friend had never ventured to hold out to their Lordships that the result of the measures he proposed would ever raise the revenue beyond the point which it had attained previous to the reductions, for he had swept away, in a great measure, the income derived from the duties which they affected. His noble Friend only proposed his reductions in the hope that in the course of years the buoyancy of the public re- 942 sources, and the augmentation of trade, might raise the revenue, not up to the amount anticipated by Sir R. Peel when he first proposed the income tax; but up to the point at which the revenue stood at the present time. Under these circumstances, Government must have seen the position in which they placed themselves with regard to the future taxation of the country. They had now the income tax for three years. Their Lordships would, however, observe that the financial Minister, when he brought forward the budget, had held out little or no hope of a surplus—the whole surplus, including China money, not being calculated at more than 70,000l. Had they not then a right to demand that Her Majesty's Ministers should state their expectations with respect to the future revenue of the country? Was it not perfectly clear, on their own showing, that the customs duties would not rise to the point at which they had formerly stood? Had not their Lordships a right to know if it was the intention of Government to propose to Parliament the renewal of the income tax? If it was not their intention, they had a right to know to what sources of revenue Ministers intended to look as a compensation for the taxes they were now abolishing. If it was their intention, they were bound to announce it fairly. A new Parliament would be elected before the expiration of the present tax; and if Ministers intended to propose a renewal of the tax, it must be to a new Parliament. He asked them, did they believe that a new Parliament would ever sanction that tax as a permanent tax? If it was not their intention to propose it, they must have some other measure to propose which they ought to let the House know. But did they believe that any Parliament that would ever meet in this country would sanction the imposition of the income tax as a permanent tax? He believed the contrary. He believed that no Parliament would ever sanction that direct mode of taxation as a permanency. See to what this would drive them. If they determined to adopt the direct mode of taxation, and to abolish that indirect mode which had hitherto been looked upon as the most proper for a commercial, or indeed for any country, then it became absolutely necessary that the whole or almost the whole of the taxation of the country should be derived from that source. It was impossible that another Parliament, if it sanctioned that measure, would ever allow the malt tax to continue, or that tax 943 which they had been discussing lately, the duty on hops. It was impossible that Government, in considering the measures they had brought forward, should not have fully and distinctly deliberated on these matters. Was it fair or just that they should now conclude these measures without any information whatever being given respecting the points to which he had called their attention? Let him not be told that the financial Ministers in the other House were the proper persons to answer those questions. There was his noble Friend at the head of the Board of Control (the Earl of Ripon), who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer, and without whose full sanction no measure of this kind could be proposed to Parliament. His noble Friend at the head of the Board of Trade was also perfectly capable of giving an answer; and if they declined, on this last stage of the measure, to give an answer, the country would draw its own conclusions from their silence. Let it not be said that because Ministers were going to resign, they would throw the affairs of the country in an embarrassed state into other hands. Let it not be said that, because they had received the affairs of the country in an embarrassed state from their predecessors, they would retaliate by leaving them in a similar condition. Such an excuse would not be received by the country; it would be tampering with public feeling to offer it; but he knew that his noble Friends were men of too high honour to be influenced by such considerations. He said that, before the measure passed, Ministers were bound to give their Lordships the information upon these subjects which they must possess; and he called on his noble Friends to give him an answer on the two points he had stated, which he considered of vast importance to the country.
§ The EARL of RIPON
said, that as he had no right to object to the questions which had been put to him by the noble Earl, and as he had no fault to find with the manner in which they had been put, he would endeavour to give them an answer. The first question was, whether Her Majesty's Government intended to carry into effect those measures which were stated at the commencement of the present Session as intended to accompany the alteration which they proposed to make in the Corn Laws, and which were considered likely to be beneficial to the agricultural interest. He was not aware that they were to be considered as equivalents or compensations; 944 they were considered measures right in themselves, and as far as they went tending to do that which it was desirable to effect—to diminish the cost of production to those whose capital was employed. No doubt Her Majesty's Government felt now as they did then, that what they undertook to propose to Parliament with that object in view, they were bound to adhere to; and although it might be true that those measures had not yet passed in the shape of law, he believed some of them did not positively require an Act of Parliament, except in so far as the sum to be raised from the Consolidated Fund, instead of in any other way, was concerned. There was, however, another measure of very considerable importance, which stood much on the same footing as those to which he had referred—he alluded to the measure relative to the removal of paupers. That measure was, no doubt, quite independent of the question of the Corn Law, and would have been a proper measure to adopt whether the Corn Laws were altered or not. A Bill had been brought into the other House of Parliament for carrying that measure into effect; and he could not answer for the circumstances which had rendered it impossible to proceed with that Bill so as to bring it into their Lordships' House; and when his noble Friend complained that the measures had not been brought forward in their Lordships' House, he must understand that they were of such a nature that their Lordships could not originate them. The noble Earl having asked those questions, proceeded to inquire what it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to do as to the continuation of the property tax. Now, under all circumstances, he apprehended that no Government could undertake to give answers or pledge themselves to reply to such questions as these. The property tax had been originally brought in for three years; it had been since renewed, and he thought it would be exceedingly unwise to give any pledge that it would not again be renewed. Looking on the question in that light, he must therefore decline answering it. But he would make one or two remarks on the observations of the noble Earl as to the actual condition of the revenue with respect to the effect of the reductions which had been made within the last four years. He thought his noble Friend could hardly have attended to a document which had been laid on the Table, which would have explained to him the ground on which the Government trusted that the reductions 945 made in the customs and excise were not only not likely to be attended with the full extent of the loss which the numerical amount of the reduction would have led them to expect, but that in point of fact they were entitled to count upon a considerable increase, he would not say naturally arising out of those reductions, but in connexion with them; and he trusted to be able to satisfy their Lordships that that was the case. It appeared that in the year 1842 the amount of revenue derived from the customs was 19,661,000l. In the course of that year duties were reduced to the amount of 1,338,000l., which of course, unless there had been an increase of consumption, would have reduced the customs duties excepted in the following year by that sum of 1,338,000l., so that if the customs in 1843 had amounted to 18,323,000l., the revenue would have undergone the full loss occasioned by that reduction. But what was the fact? Instead of the reduction bringing the customs duties down to 18,323,000l., the duties for that year produced no less than 20,275,000l. being an increase of upwards of 600,000l. beyond the positive amount of 1842, although the duties taken off in that year amounted to 1,338,000l. In the year 1843, the customs duties were still further diminished, and the duties reduced amounted to 171,000l. But did the revenue suffer to that extent? Not at all. The amount of customs duties, in 1844, was 21,460,000l., being nearly 1,800,000l. more than 1842, notwithstanding the reduction of duties to the amount of 1,500,000l. In the year 1844 the duties had been reduced still further, to the extent of 286,000l.: the products of those duties in 1845 certainly had not amounted to as much as in the two preceding years; but in 1845, their Lordships would recollect that a great reduction had taken place, to the extent of 2,418,000l. in the customs duties; and although that reduction did not take place until late in the year, a great portion of the loss would take place in that year itself. Notwithstanding all this, the amount of duties received in the year 1845 had been 19,829,000l., exceeding the absolute amount even in 1842, by about 200,000l., although in the course of the four preceding years duties had been remitted to the amount of upwards of 4,000,000l. If then there had been no increase in the receipts connected with the reduction of duty, the sum which stood at 19,691,000l. 946 in 1842, should have been only 15,661,000l. in 1845; whereas in point of fact the actual receipts in 1845 amounted to 19,829,000l. Had not the Government, then, with those facts before them, a right to anticipate that there would not be a permanent reduction in the customs to the amount of the duty which would be removed? His noble Friend would observe that the increase had not been confined to any particular period, but had been spread over the whole of the years of diminished duties. In the excise, to which the noble Earl had alluded, reductions had also taken place. In 1842 the excise had produced 12,517,000l., and in 1843 had amounted to 12,879,000. In 1844 a reduction had been made to the extent of 70,000l., and in 1845 a further reduction of 913,000l. had taken place. But, notwithstanding these reductions, the excise in the subsequent year amounted to 13,585,000l. He did not apprehend that the whole loss of those reductions would take place in the course of the year; but whether it did or did not the excise revenue of 1845 exceeded that of 1844; the excise of 1844 exceeded that of 1843, the receipts of that year being also larger than 1842. The sum total of the excise and customs in those four years had been 32,178,000l. in 1842; 33,152,000l. in 1843; 34,714,000l. in 1844; and 33,450,000l. in 1845; while the total amount of duties removed had amounted to 5,197,000l., notwithstanding which the receipts in 1845 had exceeded those of 1842 by upwards of 1,000,000l. He thought the experience of those four years, therefore, tended to show there were rational grounds for assuming that the total amount of the reduction, great as it might be, would not cause a reduction in the amount of the revenue. That was the basis on which the Government proceeded, and he thought their views had been fully borne out by the fact. They flattered themselves that in a limited course of years there would be made up in the increased receipts from these sources an equivalent to that which they had lost. It was impossible to suppose that the equivalent would be produced immediately; and it was necessary to provide some means by which the loss would be made up in the intermediate time, and that loss was made up by the income tax, to which, no doubt, there were very serious and grave objections, not only on account of the nature of the tax itself, but partly also from its having been introduced in a time of peace, and 947 not reserved as a great resource in time of war. But it was necessary to provide that temporary means of making up a certain deficiency, which they had every reason to think could be made up as years went on; and they hoped to be able in future years to dispense with the renewal of that tax. He must decline expressing any opinion or giving any pledge on that subject. Of this he was quite certain, that Parliament never would be unwilling or afraid to take any measures that might be deemed necessary for preserving the revenue of the country in such a state as to meet all demands. Those demands were very great, and it was deeply to be lamented that there was so little reason for holding out the chance of the expenses of the country being diminished; but it was a satisfaction to think that in regard of one source of expense to this country, there had been a considerable diminution, and that was in the charge for the public debt, which had been reduced by the amount of 1,000,000l.; and which, considering the state of our finances, was a circumstance of material importance. He had thus endeavoured to answer all the questions which had been put to him. He had brought no papers with him, not having expected the discussion to take such a turn; but, recollecting there was a document on the Table from which he could satisfy their Lordships, he had availed himself of the information it contained to do so.
§ LORD FEVERSHAM
denied the assertion that the tenant-farmers were in favour of those new measures. That assertion had been made, and had been several times repeated, but nothing had been shown to prove or corroborate it. What had they done? They had held meetings all over the country, at which they had passed resolutions that indicated beyond the possibility of doubt what were the real feelings of their body. The noble Lord then read extracts from resolutions passed at protectionist meetings in Doncaster, in the North Riding of York, in Lincoln, at Spalding, and in Dorsetshire, which were strongly condemnatory of free trade in corn. These were the opinions of the tenant-farmers, who were said to be favourable to the Bill. But, said the supporters of this measure, they have nothing to fear; the land which will be thrown out of cultivation by the operation of the Bill, must be of the worst and poorest soil. Why, it was that poor soil which required the greatest number of labourers for its til- 948 lage. So that the evil of diminished employment would be increased instead of lessened. No one knew what the price of corn would be reduced to. When a Member of the Government in that House had been asked what the probable price of corn would be, he replied that he would not hazard any prediction on the subject. That might be satisfactory to the noble Lord, but he doubted if it would satisfy the House. Indeed, it did not appear that Government had taken any pains to calculate the price of corn under the new law. He had lately spoken to an intelligent American gentleman, who assured him that corn could be exported from America under 30s. a quarter. He could not at all concur with those who thought this measure would be so conducive to the improvement of the labouring classes. A much more useful measure, in his opinion, would be the Ten Hours Bill, which would be a benefit to them in every way. That Bill had been introduced into the other House of Parliament, where it had been rejected by a very small majority, aided by the Government; but he believed the time was not very far distant when it would receive the sanction of that House. When it should come up to their Lordships, as it was but a measure of policy and justice, he hoped they would give it their favourable consideration. As to the Bill before them, he regretted they had passed it, as in effect they had done, and more particularly that the majority of the right reverend Prelates had supported it, because he believed it had been very greatly through their influence and votes that the measure had been successful. Their Lordships' House and the agriculturists had always supported the rights and privileges of the Established Church, of the right reverend Prelates, and of the rural Clergy, and he therefore regretted it. This Bill was a premium to agitation. It had been brought forward by the Ministers of the Crown, but they could not be said to be its originators or promoters. Those who really originated and promoted it were the manufacturers and masters of Stockport and Manchester. It was nothing but concession to intimidation and agitation to pass this Bill. He looked upon it as a downward movement, calculated not to uphold but to overthrow the Constitution. It was impossible, he maintained, to say which of the great institutions of the country would not be subject to attack after their Lordships had given their consent 949 to a Bill like the present, which had been commenced by a great agitation; which had been carried by a betrayal of great public trusts; and which would be regarded as a concession to that agitation, and a record of that betrayal. In conclusion, he begged leave to enter his decided protest against the third reading of the Bill.
§ The DUKE of CLEVELAND
said, as this was probably the last opportunity that would present itself to speak on this Bill, he would rise not to create any further delay, but to protest solemnly against the policy of the measure. After having listened attentively to all the arguments and evidence urged in favour of the measure, he remained still of the same opinion, and he was still as strong an opposer of the Bill as ever he had been. Scarcely had any measure ever passed the House on which so many of their Lordships had given their opinions vivâ voce, and the occasion would, on that account, be memorable in history; but still more memorable would it be for the sacrifice of private opinion to party interest. The House was constituted by three distinct parties, two of which had been hitherto the rival parties of the State; but one of these opposed parties having sacrificed their real opinions to party interests and party views, had coalesced, and had overcome any opposition which could be made to them by those who retained their old opinions and acted up to their old principles. How many noble Lords would say the Bill was in conformity with their preconceived opinions? Many noble Lords were advocates of a fixed duty, and, notwithstanding they still maintained this opinion, yet, seeing their party on the threshold of office, they gave up their convictions, and agreed to support the measure as it was. Having referred to the manner in which the question had been treated by one side of the House, he would refer to the way in which noble Lords had dealt with it on the Ministerial side of the House. Many noble Lords, who had changed their votes but had not changed their opinions, had taken the more prudent course of recording a silent vote against their opinions. Other noble Lords had completely changed their opinions; but the main pressure of the debate had fallen on two noble Lords connected with the Government, one of whom had not always been exactly of the same way of thinking on this question. He would now say a few words about a third party in that House, to which he had the 950 honour to avow his adherence. Though their Lordships had decided against them by a large majority, he hoped he might claim credit for his party for consistency, for independence of conduct, for fairness in their actions, and honesty in their intentions. He had taken the liberty at an early period of the discussion of appealing to the Episcopal Bench as the representatives of the parochial clergy. That appeal was responded to by a right reverend Prelate, who said the parochial clergy were not justified in opposing this Bill: first, because they were a small body; and, next, because they had taken no part in the agitation against it — extraordinary reasons he must take leave to say, and the latter of them not doing much credit to the right rev. Prelate's charity. If the Bench of Bishops had voted with his party, they should have had a majority of those present against the Bill. The number of proxies was large—thirty-five—and a majority were in favour of the Bill. It was not his intention to deprecate the system of proxies. It was founded on long and established usage. That was the only ground of its justification; for voting in any society by proxies was not in accordance with public taste at present. If they meant to preserve this privilege, they should take care not to abuse it. It was true that noble Lords resident in this country might be as capable of forming a judgment on a public measure if they resided 200 miles from town, as if they attended in that House; but that the proxies of Lords in different parts of Europe, who never heard of this measure, or never imagined that such a measure would be brought forward, should be resorted to, he thought a most extraordinary proceeding. He should give one instance. There was the Marquess of Tweeddale, Governor of Madras, who had been absent for four years from this country, and who was so engaged by the late war in India, that he doubted whether he ever heard of this measure. The lamentable part of this measure was, the loss of confidence which it inspired in the humble followers of leading men like himself. His political life had not been a short one. For half of it he attached himself to the Whig party; but in 1833, he found himself unable, on the Reform Bill, to go as far as the Government was inclined to go. Far be it from him to say there was any breach of faith on that occasion by the Whigs. From that time to the present he 951 had supported Sir Robert Peel, whom he looked on as one of the greatest men this country had produced, whose talents he admired, and in whom he had placed implicit confidence. It could be easily supposed what his feelings now were at finding himself deserted and standing aloof, as it were, from both the parties. But he had some consolation in the fact that there was still left a leader whom he could follow, and that a man of no mean talents—he meant the noble Lord near him (Lord Stanley). He had no hesitation in saying that he should for the future look up to that noble Lord not only as his guide but his polar star. He had no favour to expect from him, nor had he received any; but he had the greatest possible admiration for his talents, and for what he considered much more essential to a statesman—honesty in his professions. He had sat a long time near his noble Friend in the other House, and he had always heard him speak without hesitation or equivocation; and he had never seen him look for a loop-hole through which he might one day escape. He protested against the policy and principle of the measure, because it was uncalled for by the circumstances of the case, and because it was a thorough breach of faith on the part of the Government.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
should not have risen on the present occasion had it not been for the observations made by the noble Duke who had just sat down in reference to proxies; and if those observations had been merely of a general character, he should not under those circumstances have felt called on to notice them. But the noble Duke had mentioned by name a noble and gallant relative of his (the Earl of Dalhousie's), the Marquess of Tweeddale, who was now serving abroad; and as his proxy had been intrusted to him, he hoped their Lordships would allow him to say a few words in reference to what had fallen from the noble Duke. He widely differed from the noble Duke in respect to the view he took of the principle of the vote by proxy. Whether that practice was right or wrong, as long as it existed he contended that the proxy was given on the principle of the entire delegation of the mind of the person giving his proxy. That was the principle of the vote by proxy; and as long as that practice existed, it mattered not whether the individual whose proxy was made use of was in India, or dining in Belgrave-square. 952 Having stated thus much on the general question, he would now briefly advert to the particular case referred to by the noble Duke. The noble Duke had stated that it was utterly impossible that the noble and gallant Lord whose name had been mentioned (the Marquess of Tweeddale), being at the distance he was from England, should be aware of what was going on in this country. The noble Duke seemed to forget that this question respecting the Corn Laws had been substantially before the country for no less a period than seven months; and the period of time necessary for communications to take place with Madras did not exceed six weeks. Now, during the whole of these discussions, he had been in possession of the sentiments of his noble and gallant relative; and he could assure their Lordships that it was his firm conviction that his noble and gallant relative, had he been present, would have voted for the second reading of this Bill. He was bound also to state, that he believed his noble and gallant relative would, if he had been present, have voted for the Amendment in Committee for a fixed duty; and had their Lordships assented to that Amendment, and if, subsequently, any Motion had been made—on the third reading, for instance—to reverse that decision, he (Lord Dalhousie) should not have used his noble and gallant relative's proxy for the reversal of such decision, though on the general principle he should have been entitled to do so.
was understood to say, in addressing their Lordships against the Bill, that the proposers of the measure had brought forward no argument in favour of it, except the power to pass it. He had heard it said, and that in quarters where he should have least expected it, that those who opposed this measure did so from a dread that it would operate against themselves. Now, he should like to know how far these ultra liberal Gentlemen meant to carry their imputations? Were they not to defend their own rights, properties, liberties, or he supposed their lives? Was that to be the state of nature of which they had heard? Who would defend them if they would not defend themselves? or what would be committed to them to defend if they did not defend what was their own? Where was the impropriety of their opposing a measure in which they saw, or fancied they saw, destruction to theirs and to them, with no 953 countervailing benefit to the rest of their countrymen? And besides, if they were to be sacrificed for the benefit of the rest of the community, where was the doctrine to stop? Would noble Lords be allowed to roll in wealth while their poorer brethren were starving? Ten thousand a year! that was too much for any one family; what need of 500l.? what need of 100l.? They might depend upon it this would come; though, if their Lordships conceded in time, they might generously be allowed as much as would enable them to live—at least, for the term of their natural lives; though, if they delayed to pass the measure, they would in the end be forced to do the same thing with a worse grace, and might be kicked out of their estates altogether. Did noble Lords believe that there was no danger in the operation of such a measure as the present? Had it not been admitted on all sides that the lesser yeomen might, and in all likelihood would be ruined? Well, then, who was to employ their labourers and the numerous artisans who were dependent upon them for employment? There would be no question, that if such were to be the case, the country towns would be ruined. Then would come the reaction upon the manufacturing towns; and, on the first pressure of distress, they would start several questions which would not be very palatable to their Lordships. If there were some advocates of this measure who appeared before them in the guise of friends, look who were its promoters on the other side. Was there a single republican democrat? — was there a single Quaker, Baptist, or Unitarian?—was there one known or suspected enemy to the Church or State, Crown or aristocracy, who would not be found heart and hand urging on this measure? Even if their Lordships approved of this measure — as much as nine-tenths of them in heart, notwithstanding their votes, disapproved of it—he should still say it was their bounden duty to stand firm in resisting it, at least until they were released from their post by the constitutionally expressed will of their country. Let no noble Lord flatter himself that this measure would be the last of the kind they would have to pass. The institutions of this country, both in Church and State, would be shaken to the foundation; the Charter would become the order of the day; and this great constitutional monarchy would be merged in some model republic, without power or influence abroad, 954 and without stability at home. He regretted to be obliged to advert to the observations made on this question by the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) on occasion of the second reading of this measure. The noble Duke said he supported this measure, because he felt it necessary to support the Crown. A strange support to the Crown was that which weakened the influence of the Crown's firmest supporters, and which handed over the Crown to what he supposed they had now found out to be the more safe and loyal keeping of a Chamber of Commerce; and a right loyal statesman must he be who made that condition the price of his services! If, in a strait like this, there was so little patriotism among our public men as this measure showed, then the time had come, and the nation might be said to deserve its fate. But if patriotism existed, then, no doubt, talent enough would be found sufficient to conduct the Government, and leaders able to inspire as much enthusiasm as any Member either of the late or the present Cabinet. When the noble and gallant Duke trusted that that might be the last advice which he would tender to their Lordships, he must confess that great as was the pain with which he heard the whole speech, that part was not the least painful. He could not marvel that the prestige of the noble Duke's character should prevail even to the extent of carrying the present measure; but on that account he felt the more deeply that the last triumph gained by the noble Duke should be a triumph gained over his own country.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, it was not his intention to animadvert on the conduct of a Minister who would in the course of a very few hours, he trusted, be dismissed from office, and would never again be employed by the country. Nor would he advert to the way in which this measure had been carried, by a strange and monstrous coalition of parties who had conspired together to overthrow protection, which each of them had formerly supported. He would only say, that though defeated he was not discouraged; for he entertained a firm and confident conviction that protection would ultimately triumph, whatever might be the sacrifices and the struggles through which they were to pass. He did not intend to argue further against this Bill; but he wished to call their Lordships' attention to some of the consequences which were certain to follow it. He would as- 955 sume throughout that the principles of free trade were the principles of common sense—that it would be a benefit to all classes of the country—and that it was their duty, as speedily as possible, to carry it out to the fullest extent. Well, if that were so, the agricultural classes, who were at all times entitled to consideration, would, under the altered circumstances of the case, have a right to demand that they should not be subject to exclusive taxation. They ought no longer to be subject to the land tax, to the malt tax, or to the hop duty. These were the taxes which at present they exclusively paid, for no manufacturer paid any tax upon his capital as the agriculturist did on his land, nor on the produce of his industry, as the agriculturist did on his malt or hops. Neither ought they to be called upon to pay more than their just proportion of the church rate, the highway rate, or the poor rate. At present it was well known that by far the greater portion of those rates was paid by the occupiers of land. Then the Tithe Commutation Act ought to be altered. He had always opposed that tax, as unjust alike to the farmer and the titheowner; but at all events it was impossible to deny that the Act could not, in present circumstances, be fairly carried out. Then there was another circumstance—the admirable Amendment, founded in strict justice, which was proposed by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) on the cross benches, ought to have met with the cordial and unanimous assent of their Lordships; and if such a measure did not follow, as it ought to have accompanied, this measure, their Lordships would commit the most flagrant act of injustice which had ever been perpetrated. Next see the position in which this measure would place all those persons carrying on work for which they had given contracts. They would wholly alter the relations of those parties; and they could not, without the most manifest injustice, compel the one to pay, or enable the other to exact, a greater amount in value than was originally stipulated for. They would, therefore, be inevitably driven to that which was called by an eminent writer (the late William Cobbett) an equitable adjustment; and though he did not participate in the general views of that writer, which varied, indeed, like the colours of a rainbow, he thought he had in this case happily described what the effect of this measure would be. They were not without experience of what such 956 a measure would be. They had already had bitter experience of that measure of confiscation called Peel's Currency Bill; and the present measure might justly be called the second volume of Peel's edicts of confiscation. If, however, they were to have free trade in corn, why should there not be free trade in all agricultural produce? Why should not the farmer be allowed to grow tobacco on his own land, and manufacture sugar from his beet-root? If they were to be called on to compete with the poorest countries in Europe, they could only do so by means of the measures he had mentioned, and by an enormous reduction of taxation. The cry would soon be set up for an immediate and total repeal of taxation, particularly on the articles of soap, coffee, sugar, and low-priced teas; and after all it would be found impossible to satisfy the public demand. He concluded, therefore, by warning their Lordships of the danger of their course; that it would end in nothing less than ruin and revolution; and if the revolution should proceed, which might now be said to have commenced, he cast upon the heads of its authors all the calamities which would ensue.
The EARL of SELKIRK
merely rose to say that he continued still to take the same view of the measure which he had done when the question was last before their Lordships. It had been said by some noble Lords, that after this measure was carried, that was, after the question had been put that this Bill do pass—the Corn Laws would be no more heard of. He did not believe that. And if the view which he took of the matter should prove to be correct, he trusted their Lordships would not hesitate to reconsider the subject. That was no new thing: the country had more than once been without any system of Corn Laws, till they got tired of that, and re-enacted them; and if their Lordships found that this measure brought ruin and misfortune and mischief on the country, he trusted their Lordships would have no hesitation to retrace their steps, and return to that which he held to be, compared with history, the Corn Law constructed upon the best plan which this country had ever witnessed — he meant the last edition of the sliding-scale.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
remarked the circumstance that the third reading of this Bill had been moved without any noble Lord rising to move that it be read a third time that day six months. Now, he should 957 be very sorry that his name should appear on the Journals of the House as assenting to the third reading of the Bill. He was anxious to hear some explanation from the Government relative to the statement made by his noble Friend the President of the Board of Control, that it was the intention of the Government to persevere in introducing some equivalent or compensation, or whatever it was, to the landed interest, and that all that remained to be done in the matter was, to embody their intention in an Act of Parliament. Now, that was just one of the things of which they had a right to complain, namely, that the Bill had not yet been brought in, and, what was worse, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in bringing forward his budget, did not say a single syllable of the sums to be paid in aid of county rates. What he wished to hear from Her Majesty's Government before they separated, was, whether they were still of opinion that the statements by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, on the first reading of this Bill, might be carried into effect; because it was very possible that the Act of Parliament in question might not be framed under the direction of the present Government. It was possible that that Government might be out of office not only before this Bill had been brought in, but even before the Resolution on which it was to be founded could be proposed in the House of Commons. The effect of this would be, that their Lordships would have given a third reading to these two measures, and the Government would remain unpledged by anything except their speeches; and noble Lords must not be very angry with him for saying that speeches and pledges were very different things. He quite agreed with the noble Lord who had last spoken, in thinking that it was quite out of the question to treat the present measure as a final settlement of the question. Did they believe that the great body of the middle class of this country, landowners and tenantry, would sit down patiently under an Act which they felt to be injurious and unjust? No such thing. It would be no agitation for the continuance of the miserable sliding scale provided by this Bill, or for a miserable fixed duty of 4s.; but a struggle to get back an adequate protection to our agricultural produce, and to the domestic industry of the country. For his own part, he would do all in his power to persuade the farmers of this country not to yield, but to behave like men. He would re- 958 commend them to be up and stirring, and they might succeed in renewing protection. He would recommend them to agitate for the removal of local burdens, and not to submit any longer than they could help to the malt tax. He would recommend them to take care that those who hold mortgages on property should pay taxes equivalent to those paid by the holders of real property. If the farmers should reject his counsel, he had mistaken their character. It had been said that the tenant-farmers were indifferent to this measure. He denied it, and pointed to the petitions presented by himself and other noble Lords in support of his assertion. A right rev. Prelate had stated that the parochial clergy were indifferent to this measure, and referred to the fact that they had held no meetings. He (the Duke of Richmond) applauded them for not meeting in a body, for no one objected more than he to large meetings of the clergy to discuss political subjects. Their names were to be found, however, at the head of numerous petitions signed by their parishioners. He thought the case of the working clergy a very hard one. He believed they did their duty to their parishioners, and practised what they preached, and that they deserved to be well treated; and yet how were they going to treat them? They were about to kindle strife between them and their parishioners, who would object to pay on an average of seven years when the price of corn had been reduced. He entertained considerable doubts whether the tenant ought to pay more than on an average of two or three years. He did not advocate a reduction in the pay of the clergy, but thought the loss ought to fall on the landlord. He had ventured to propose a clause for the protection of the tenant-farmer, but had not divided upon it, knowing that he would not have had the support of a single Peer; besides, he was unwilling to pledge noble Lords on the subject, knowing that as soon as the Bill had been carried, Ministers would resign. He doubted very much, however, whether they contemplated such an issue when the Bill was first introduced. He believed, on the contrary, that the Government acted on mistaken ideas of public opinion—that they did not take into consideration the independent character of the British yeoman. They never, he believed, contemplated the probability of a Cabinet Minister unable to obtain a seat as the champion of this popular measure. They never expected to see the Secre- 959 tary for the Colonies and the Secretary for Ireland so long without seats. They were now about to carry the Corn Bill and the Customs Bill; and they would have the satisfaction of reflecting that, in carrying these two Bills, they had destroyed one of the largest parties which ever existed in this country; that they had risked the future government of the country; that they could not hope, for some time at least, if ever, again to see a strong Government. Their Lordships must be well aware of the evils which must result from a Government being kept in office by a majority of six. He was glad, he hoped and trusted, that they were about to resign; he was glad, because he believed that their resignation would be of future service to the country. It would show future statesmen that they could not break pledges with impunity. It might throw out of office and disappoint 110 followers; but he, for one, would not be very sorry to find that these 110 individuals had gained nothing by their conversion. The noble Duke concluded by moving that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH,
in answer to the question put to him by the noble Duke who had just sat down, as to whether the Government still thought it expedient to pass the measure with respect to the burdens on land with which the Corn Bill was to be accompanied, begged to state, on behalf of himself and his Colleagues, that their opinions on the point had undergone no change. He would also say for himself—and he believed he might also say for his Colleagues—that they would consider themselves individually bound to endeavour to obtain every one of those measures.
The DUKE of RICHMOND'S
Amendment was then negatived, and the Bill read a third time, and passed. The Earl of HARDWICKE, Earl STANHOPE, the Duke of RICHMOND, and some other Peers cried loudly "Not-content."