The EARL of DALHOUSIE
presented a petition in favour of the Bill from merchants, hankers, and traders of the city 1291 of London. It was signed by 24 directors of the Bank of England, 19 bankers, and 217 merchants and traders. As it was a petition of the merchants of London in 1820 which very much led to the adoption of that system of commercial policy that had since proceeded step by step, so he hoped their petition this Session would be an inducement to the House to carry that system into full effect.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
felt sure that a petition could easily be procured from the city as respectably signed against the pending measure, as fraught with great danger to commerce as well as agriculture.
thought that, if so, the city must have strangely changed its opinions since his noble Friend presented the memorable petition against the Corn Laws in 1815.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
invited the noble Lord (Lord Ashburton) to procure such a petition as he had spoken of, and let it be compared with this in signatures and in allegations.
said, that that was a very ingenious observation in the form of a question, but he never heard of such a question being asked when a similar petition was presented in 1820.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
observed, that the petition to which the noble and learned Lord referred was not a petition of the same sort as the present. That was a petition in favour of a general relaxation of the immense trammels and restrictions which at that time pressed upon trade; but the present petition prayed that the whole of the protection, as respected corn, might be swept away, and had no reference to any other matter of commerce. Unquestionably, names of great respectability were attached to the present petition; but he doubted whether the signatures comprised the majority of the most considerable merchants in London.
§ EARL GREY
said, that the subject before the House had been both in and out of Parliament—in speeches and in pamphlets—so long and so fully discussed, that their Lordships might be of opinion that no new argument could be now brought forward, and they were anxious, therefore, to bring the debate to a close; and were it not that 1292 he had for many years taken a deep interest and an active part in the discussion of the question, he would have stood aloof in this, probably the last, battle to be fought betwixt free trade and monopoly. One of the reasons, however, which influenced him in rising was the feeling that a great impression had been made on their Lordships by the speech which they had listened to on the first night of the debate, from the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonies, whose absence, from what he heard of the unfortunate cause of it, he very greatly lamented. He had listened to the speech in question with as much attention and delight as any of their Lordships. His arguments were put with so much skill, and clothed in language of such extreme beauty, that for upwards of three hours he rivetted the attention of every noble Lord who listened to him, and made listening to him—very different to what listening to many others was—not a labour but a delight. He (Earl Grey) knew that some of the arguments in that speech had already been answered, especially by the noble and learned Lord who had followed him in debate, and by his noble Friend who now sat behind him. But it seemed to him that there were still portions of that speech to which it was requisite that their Lordships' attention should be particularly called. He was not vain or presumptuous enough to suppose that he was fitted to enter into the lists with his noble Friend; but he had such confidence in the power of truth that he believed that even to his (Earl Grey's) feeble hands the cause which he advocated might be sufficiently recommended to their Lordships, and that he should be able to show to the satisfaction of the House that in some most important points of his noble Friend's speech, his noble Friend was mistaken. Through the whole course of the debate it had struck him very forcibly that noble Lords opposite had avoided an explicit avowal of that which he took to be the main object and aim of the Corn Laws—not of this Corn Law only, but of every preceding Corn Law. He thought it was clear that the real aim of those laws, and the object really intended by them, was to secure what was called a remunerating price for corn, or, in other words, to raise the price of food for the people by artificially restricting the supply. If, as he ventured to submit to their Lordships it was, this was the real object of all these laws, it was one which required strong arguments to prove its expediency; and unless 1293 some very cogent reasons could be advanced for it, they must naturally and instinctively conclude that it was not scarcity and dearth, but plenty and cheapness in the food of the people which was to be desired. But although the proof of the necessity of raising the price of corn lay, as he thought, at the root of the matter, he must say that throughout all the speeches which their Lordships had heard in opposition to this Bill, it must have struck them that the opponents of the measure had to a great extent evaded this point. There had been an attempt made to show that upon other and different grounds protection was necessary; and, in particular, most of the noble Lords who opposed the Bill had told the House that the great object of the Corn Laws was really to secure a certain supply, and to save the Empire from the great danger of depending on foreign nations for a supply of the most necessary article of national subsistence. Without meaning any offence, he hoped he might be permitted to say that it was unfortunately out of his power to regard this as anything more than a colourable argument. Let him ask their Lordships what they would say, supposing similar arguments under similar circumstances were urged by others? Would those noble Lords who now defended the Corn Laws give implicit credit to such arguments? He would suppose, for instance, that the cotton manufacturers of this country, instead of manufacturing for the whole world, manufactured for this country only, and that these cotton goods were higher in price than those produced in other parts of the world. He would suppose, also, that foreign cotton manufactures were virtually excluded by high protecting duties. Now, if the cotton manufacturers of this country were to come to their Lordships' House under such circumstances, and say, "Oh, do not repeal these duties, do not make this country dependant on France and other foreign nations, or in the event of a war the population will be left without shirts and without gowns," he wanted to know whether their Lordships would feel perfectly convinced that it was their disinterested alarm for the welfare of the consumers of cotton in this country which induced them to clamour for a continuance of high protecting duties? Would their Lordships consider that these representations were made out of a just regard to the interests of the consumer? He must say, therefore, that he was a little incredulous that that which had 1294 excited so much enthusiasm at the protectionist meetings, and had attracted such crowds to Willis's Rooms that the noble Dukes on the cross benches had been obliged to divide their forces, was a real apprehension entertained out of regard to the consumer, that at some future time our supplies from abroad might fail, and that, as a consequence of that failure, the prices of food in this country might rise to an extravagant height. He could not help suspecting that it was rather an apprehension of having too much corn now, and too low prices at the present time, than of having at some future time too little corn, and that corn too dear. Taking the latter apprehension, however, to exist bonâ fide in the minds of those who opposed the present measure, the groundlessness of the fear had been completely established by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham). His noble and learned Friend's reference to the undoubted fact, that Napoleon, in the height of his power, was not able to prevent the corn which was wanted in this country from coming into it, was conclusive on the subject. If they wanted further proof, he would refer their Lordships to what had been said by his noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies. His noble Friend had contended, that it was one of the boldest and most laughable paradoxes ever palmed off for wisdom on the credulity of mankind, to maintain that competition was the cause of certain articles rising in price. He (Earl Grey), on the other hand, maintained that it was such a paradox to assert that security for a certain and cheap supply of corn was not to be found in extending as widely as possible the sources from which supplies could be obtained, and by sweeping away artificial restrictions. Utterly rejecting, then, as he did, the notion that this law was to be maintained, if it was to be maintained, for any other purpose than restricting the supply and enhancing the price of corn, he would ask if this was a fair and legitimate object? What was the effect of so raising the price of corn? It had been well shown by his noble Friend behind him, that, on the very calculations of those noble Lords who were opposed to the Bill now before the House, in reference to the amount which prices were expected to fall, and to the amount of consumption, that the existing Corn Laws could not be considered as laying a smaller tax on the consumers than 10,000,000l. sterling — a tax double the amount of the income tax, double the malt 1295 tax—a tax, not for the purposes of the State, for not one farthing of it went into the Exchequer, but a tax for the benefit—not the real, but imaginary benefit—of a class. He said the imaginary interests of a class, because he really believed that the landlords themselves shared greatly in the evils which the existence of a Corn Law produced. Their Lordships had been told, however, that this statement was an unfair representation of the fact; and that, admitting that the price of corn was raised by a Corn Law, and admitting also that the payment of a higher price for food would in itself be a burden to the working classes, still they were not really injured by the protection which was given to agriculture, because the effect of the existing law was to keep up the wages of labour in the same proportion as it raised the price of corn. This was the great argument used by his noble Friend who spoke on Monday night (Lord Stanley). Now, it was clear that in the first instance, at all events, an increase in the price of food was a considerable tax on the working population, a large proportion of whose income was necessarily expended upon it; and, therefore, before they determined to maintain the law on the ground that the labouring classes were compensated for this tax by a corresponding rise in their wages, they ought to be very sure that this was the fact. This point, however, which lay at the root of the matter, was very lightly passed over by his noble Friend; but he argued on the assumption that if the price of corn was permanently low, the competition of labourers would soon bring down wages in the same proportion, and that they would, therefore, be no gainers by the reduction of price. This was a very easy way of disposing of the question, but it was far from satisfactory to him (Earl Grey); and the less so, because his noble Friend made some admissions which, in his opinion, led to a conclusion exactly the reverse of that drawn by the noble Lord. His noble Friend admitted that, year by year, wages did not vary by any means in proportion with the price of corn; that in abundant years, wages did not fall in the same degree with corn; and that, therefore, in such years the labourer was very well off. But the noble Lord said that, on the other hand, in dear years the rise of wages was not immediately consequent on the rise of corn, and that, in such seasons, therefore, the working man was exposed, at least for a time, to a consi- 1296 derable pressure. The experience, however, they had had within the last few years, was perfectly decisive on the subject. If they compared the state of things in this country during years of plenty and years of scarcity, what was the result? Let them compare the condition of the country in 1833, 1834, and 1835, when wheat was low, with what it was in 1839, 1840, and 1841, when wheat was scarce, and consequently dear. In the first triennial period trade was good, there was a great demand for labour, and wages were very high; but in the last three years trade was depressed, there was no demand for labour, wages consequently fell, and numbers of the working population were unable to obtain employment. The condition of the country at that time was too recent, and made too great an impression, to require him to dwell upon it. There could be no doubt that the difficulties experienced in these bad years could be easily accounted for. When corn rose to the very high price it then attained, every family throughout the kingdom was compelled to expend a much larger portion of its income than it had done previously in the purchase of food. There was, of course, less available income left for other purposes; there was less demand for clothing, for tea, or sugar—articles which were paid for by our manufactures; the trade of our manufacturers, merchants, and small shopkeepers fell off, and there was a general diminution in their power of affording employment to labour, and a general diminution in the power of production. His noble Friend admitted that this was the effect of high prices for a short period; but what possible reason could there be for believing that if high prices became permanent, this effect would not continue? He (Earl Grey) believed that the permanent effect of high prices, like their temporary effect, would be, to render a smaller proportion of the national income available for general purposes, producing a reduced demand for labour, and a consequent diminution of the rate of wages; while, on the other hand, the permanent effect of low prices would be, to create a greater demand for labour, to afford ample reward, to industry, to enable the population to extend their consumption to other articles besides food, and to render the country flourishing and prosperous. This was the conclusion which he thought they had a right to infer from simple reasoning; but the correctness of that reasoning was borne out by the fact, that when 1297 their Lordships looked to other countries, where there was permanent plenty and a low price of food, unless there were some counteracting circumstances, wages were invariably high. A noble Earl who had spoken on the other side had admitted this fact; for he said, that wages were not regulated by the price of food, because, although in America and Australia, where food was cheap, wages were high, yet in Poland, where food was also cheap, wages were low. Poland, however, was not a fair instance to cite, as that country was kept down by misgovernment, and the unhappy social condition of its population; but he would challenge the noble Earl to mention any country in the world, beginning from Canada to Australia, where there was a small population in proportion to the extent of territory, and where food was cheap, and good order and good government prevailed, where wages were not also exceedingly high. He (Earl Grey) further contended that the reason why wages were thus high was simply on account of the abundance of food, and the consequent existence of an extensive field for the profitable employment of labour; for in such countries there was a competition on the part of employers to obtain labour, whereas in fully peopled countries like our own the competition was among the labourers to obtain employment. The effect of laws restricting the introduction of food was to increase the disadvantages under which a fully-peopled country necessarily laboured, compared with a new and thinly-peopled country; for such laws prevented that natural exchange by which a larger supply of food might be obtained in old and thickly-peopled countries. He knew that this argument had been, to a certain degree, met in anticipation by his noble Friend, who had told them that those nations from whom we expected to obtain a supply of corn would not receive our manufactures in return. This fallacy had been so clearly exposed by his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) by an appeal to facts, as well as by argument, that he (Earl Grey) would not trouble their Lordships on the point. It was, however, clear to his mind, that the Corn Laws inflicted a double disadvantage upon the labouring classes; for, so far from the high price of corn entailed by the Corn Laws being counterbalanced by an increase of their wages, those laws, while they enhanced the price of food, depressed the wages by which that food was to be purchased. If he was right in this 1298 opinion, if such was really the effect of the Corn Law upon the condition of the labourer, that one fact ought to be conclusive, without any further argument on this question; and, as a Christian Legislature, if they were once satisfied of that fact, no consideration ought to prevent them from at once sweeping away the existing restrictions. When he looked at the condition to which the labouring classes had been reduced in some parts of the country, when he saw descriptions of the frightful condition of the agricultural labourers in Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, and others of the southern counties, when he was aware that even in those districts where their lot was most favoured their position was far below what was to be desired—and when he was at the same time satisfied that the effect of the system of protection maintained by the Corn Laws was at once to depress wages and to raise the price of food, it seemed to him scarcely necessary to argue the question further. Taking what he assumed to be the case as true, he warned those noble Lords who had come down to the House with elaborate statements, to show that, under the proposed alteration, enormous quantities of corn at a very low price would be introduced into this country, to beware that they did not create a needless and a serious panic. But if those noble Lords were right (though he believed them to be entirely wrong), and if they could prove that the price of corn would fall to the extent they predicted, what was the inference? It was this—that the injustice done to the labourer, by artifically enhancing the price of food by Act of Parliament, was much greater than had been hitherto believed, and that there was the more pressing necessity for a repeal of the present Corn Law. While he stated this, however, he must at the same time say, that he thought it would be a very great evil if any panic should be created on this subject. They knew that, in 1842, those who called themselves the farmers' friends inflicted most serious injury upon those farmers who were simple enough to rely upon their predictions as to the probable effects of the Tariff. The farmers who were gulled by the prophecies of those individuals as to the fall which was to take place in the price of meat and other articles, and who rushed into the market and sold their stocks at a great sacrifice, very soon found out their mistake; and he believed the country was at this moment suffering in some degree from the effects of 1299 the preposterous and absurd panic which was then excited. He hoped no similar panic would be created on this occasion; and he was happy to say that he did not at present see any symptoms of such an event. He was glad to find, from all the information he had received, that land never let or sold on better terms than now, and that the spirit of agricultural improvement was never more actively at work. He believed that the demand for draining tiles was at this moment particularly active; and so great was the desire to use them, that, when a kiln of draining tiles was known to be ready, there was quite a competition among the farmers of the neighbourhood to obtain them. He thought that in this the farmers and occupiers of land showed much judgment. He believed that all the calculations which had been made of the price at which corn could be sold in this country, if protection were taken away, were made without proper data. While upon this point, he could not help adverting to a statement made by his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) who spoke on Monday night, and which had been furnished to his noble Friend by a high practical authority. His noble Friend told the House that there were at that moment two cargoes of wheat at Liverpool, which his correspondent had purchased at Dantzic, and which, including freight to this country, had cost only 23s. 6d. a quarter. Now, as this statement seemed to him to be a specimen of those which had been made upon this part of the question, he would read a short extract from a letter which he had received from Liverpool, from a gentleman engaged in the corn trade, with whom he was unacquainted, but who described himself as well knowing the circumstances of the case; it was as follows:—It is perfectly true that Lord Stanley's correspondent holds two cargoes of wheat, imported from the Danube, which cost him the price named in his letter. The natural inference is, that wheat can be shipped from the Danube at 14s. per quarter, free on board. Nothing, however, could be more fallacious. The cargoes in question were ordered in 1844 from Ibrail by a house in Manchester, by whom they were sold at a loss of 10s. per quarter. The original cost was about 33s. per quarter, including freight; but (thanks to the glorious uncertainty of the sliding-scale) they were too late to be released at the lowest point of duty in that year, and were sold to the said gentleman at 23s. 6d. Now, to adduce this as any evidence of the shipping prices of wheat is equally absurd and unfair. As well might railway shares, selling at 50 per cent discount, be adduced to indicate cheapness of construction. As regards Hungary, and other countries contiguous to the Mediter- 1300 ranean, Lord Stanley's ideas of their capabilities of supply are a mere chimera. … Under 35s. per quarter, free on board, for middling qualities of wheat, I venture to say we shall get no additional supply of any magnitude from that quarter. Freights thence, too, are nearly double, compared with freights from the Baltic. To return to Lord Stanley's correspondent, I may mention that he actually bought yesterday a cargo of red Wismar wheat, just arrived, at about 45s. per quarter, which, allowing 10s. for duty, charges, and profit, would make it stand 55s. per quarter free. This, at all events, proves he has no great practical fears of the effects of the new measure, however potent his theoretical may be. Lord Stanley wished to make it appear that wheat could be imported from the Danube at 14s. per quarter; the present price is 25s., which may appear low enough; but it is wheat of the most inferior description, mixed with rye and black seeds, and not within 15s. per quarter of the value of good Dantzic wheat, besides which it often arrives so heated as to be unfit for bread.It appeared, therefore, that taking into consideration the risk of heating, and the quality of the corn, wheat could not be brought into this country and sold at a lower price than that which British wheat now bore in the market. He thought that the result of former predictions of the same kind ought to teach those who were interested in the land how little reliance ought to be placed in such predictions. He would take, for instance, the case of wool. His noble Friend had said that wool was a strong case in point, and that as the price of that article was very much relied on by the free traders, he would show how the price had been affected by the reduction of the duty. His noble Friend then took the prices of wool in the years immediately preceding the removal of the duty, and the prices of wool in the years immediately subsequent, and endeavoured in this way to show what had been the effect of the repeal of the duty. But what were the real facts of the case? The duty on wool was reduced just at the time of the panic in 1825. After that time the trade and commerce of the country declined considerably, and the price of wool went down like the price of other articles. For some years the price remained low; and he remembered that in 1828 there was a Committee of that House moved for to consider this subject by his noble Friend the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) who sat on the cross benches. A great number of farmers were brought before that Committee to show that wool was then at a ruinously low price. These parties proved, with great minuteness and detail, what advantages the foreign producer of wool had 1301 over the home grower; and they stated that the low prices which had already been experienced were nothing to what was coming, and that when there was free trade in wool, prices would fall to a ruinous extent. That bales upon bales of foreign wool would inevitably be introduced into the markets of this country at so low a price as to preclude the competition of the British manufacturer. It was said that wool was of infinitely less bulk than corn, and that it could, therefore, be the more readily and cheaply conveyed from great distances. Parliament was wise enough not to listen to those apprehensions; and what was the result of that wisdom? The result was that in one or two years after the alteration was carried into effect, wool recovered, the price rose, the manufacture improved; and from that moment to the present wool was one of the most remunerating articles of agricultural production. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), he perceived, shook his head at that statement; but he would remind the noble Duke that, although a good deal of wool was produced in Sussex, yet there was also a great deal of wool produced in Northumberland, so that he (Earl Grey) had an excellent opportunity of becoming acquainted with the facts of this case; and he could state that from 1828 up to this time wool had maintained a remunerating price, and was higher than it had been before the removal of the duty. If, then, the predictions as to the loss which was to result from a free competition in the case of wool, had not turned out to be true, were they not justified in supposing that the predictions as regarded the probable effects of the proposed change in the Corn Laws would be equally fallacious? When the Tariff was under consideration, the greatest possible apprehensions were entertained by some as to the effect which the permission to introduce foreign cattle was calculated to produce upon the price of corn. It was stated, that if stock were allowed to come in from foreign countries free from duty, the effect of such an alteration would be virtually to repeal the Corn Laws, for the same agricultural produce which could be produced cheaply in foreign countries could be sent into this country in the more portable shape of fat sheep and fat oxen. That argument would be very forcible and well-founded if corn could in reality be produced so cheaply in foreign countries as those who relied on the argument presumed. If such were 1302 the case, cheap agricultural produce could indeed be introduced in the more portable shape of fat sheep and oxen. They all knew that the apprehension as to the effect of the reduction of duty on stock, as regarded agricultural produce, was quite fallacious, and had now altogether passed away. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley), in his speech on Monday night, dwelt very forcibly upon the argument which had been used by some, that the present high price of cattle was owing to the Tariff; and he (Earl Grey) must remark that notwithstanding the fears which were entertained, four years' experience of the Tariff had altogether disproved the assertion that the introduction of foreign cattle would have the effect of lowering the price of cattle the produce of our own country. If it were capable of producing any such tendency, it might have produced it at the end of four years at least to some extent; and yet within the last year the supply of cattle from abroad was not sufficient to check the tendency to a rise in price which prevailed in our own markets; whilst the few thousand head of cattle exported from Germany had produced a sensible effect upon the markets of that country, so that in many of the German towns the price of fat stock was within a small degree as high as in this country. Similar apprehensions had been indulged in with respect to the reduction of the duty upon flax; and, in fact, upon all the important articles of agricultural produce which were included in the Tariff. But although flax was more valuable in proportion to its bulk than corn, yet subsequent experience had proved that the British growers of flax had no just cause of fear from foreign competition. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had asked those who were in favour of the removal of restriction on the importation of corn, what advantage would come of it if, as they stated, it would not considerably reduce the price of bread? His noble Friend thought on that occasion that he had reduced the advocates of free trade in corn to a dilemma from which they could not escape. It seemed rather a probable argument in the beginning; but if they looked closely to it, what became of it? It was quite fallacious. For his part, he (Earl Grey) did not assert that there would be a great fall in the price of corn, and he was one of the advocates for the removal of restriction; but he did not believe we should see the weekly average of wheat down to 36s. per quarter, as they all had 1303 witnessed in the last week of December, 1835, nor did he think it would reach so high a price as 81s. 6d., which corn had reached, as their Lordships would recollect, in the week ending the 11th of January, 1839. But this he expected, that whilst neither that high price or that low price would be the natural result of the alteration in the law, an average price would be produced by it, but not greatly lower than the average of the last twelve years, and that the price of corn would invariably fluctuate within narrower limits than it did under the present system. The fact of its fluctuating less would be in itself a most important advantage; for it would be admitted on all hands that great benefit would arise from a more steady price. One of the greatest advantages which a civilized country could possess over barbarous countries was its power of preventing those great variations in supply which barbarous countries were apt to suffer from; the latter having at one time a superabundant supply of the necessaries of life, and suffering the utmost distress at another period from a deficient supply of food. Civilized countries, by the natural operations of commerce, enjoyed very great advantages as regarded the steadiness of supply. By those natural operations of commerce, mercantile men, for their own interest, would buy corn in cheap years for the purpose of selling it in dear years; and according to this beautiful system, if it were not interfered with by law, the prices would be to a great extent regulated, the alternations would be checked, and the suffering which must result from an insufficient supply would be removed without injury to any class. The wholesome operation of this system we had prevented by our own interference, by the operation of an artificial law. It appeared from evidence before the Agricultural Committee of 1836, that at a former period, when a different state of the law rendered dealing in corn less hazardous than it was at present, there was usually in this country a stock on hand of six months' consumption; but such had been the effect of the law of 1815 in rendering the corn trade hazardous, that the usual stock on hand now, at the same period of the year, was a fortnight's consumption. What had caused that? It was caused by a law which rendered the trade in corn a sort of gambling transaction. His noble Friend had stated that some of the agricultural distress which was complained of under the operation of 1304 a system of protection, was to be referred to abundant crops in particular years, and the consequent effect upon prices. Why was it that farmers had exerted themselves to such an extent as to exceed the demand that would be profitable? It was because high prices had been artificially stimulated, and excess of consumption thus became a cause of agricultural distress. So long as the country depended on its own supply, there must be a chance of agricultural distress; but if the supply were more regular—if a steady trade were established in corn, then, in cheap years, the freight of corn from foreign ports would be much higher in comparison to the price of corn than it would in dearer years; and, therefore, there being less inducement to export corn from foreign ports in those years, there would be the greater inducement in the home market to take our home produce instead of foreign corn, so that under such a system the farmer would be compensated for the fall in price by the greater sale of corn than usual; for he (Earl Grey) would not go the length of saying that corn would not be cheap in years of abundance, even after this measure was carried. Another advantage, and one of, in fact, incalculable importance, would be, that there would be an immense increase in the consumption of corn on the part of the people of this country; for no one would, he was sure, deny that a portion of our population consume at present much less corn than it was desirable that they should consume. Every one would admit that the labourers of Wiltshire and Dorsetshire, who at present consume more potatoes and less bread than it was desirable they should consume, would be benefited by being enabled to consume a greater quantity of food than they consumed under the existing law. He knew that one Gentleman, who advocated the Corn Laws, had stated that millions "rejoiced in potatoes;" but he (Earl Grey) was of opinion, notwithstanding that statement, that those millions would rejoice far more in a food consisting more of bread, and less of inferior articles of consumption than that which they can under existing circumstances obtain. He had described some of the advantages which were to be expected from a free trade in corn. A steady trade, which it was calculated to produce, would secure constant employment to the manufacturer; and those engaged in manufactures would thus become greater consumers of corn and cattle than they were at present. And what would be 1305 the effect of that increased consumption of articles of agricultural produce? The effect would be, that an impulse would be given to the farmers to produce more cattle than they did now; and he need not tell their Lordships that the foundation of every attempt to improve agriculture was to enable the farmer to keep a larger amount of stock, and that if the farmer had encouragement to keep more stock, he could produce corn cheaper. The direct effect, therefore, of this increased demand would be to cause agricultural improvement; and he believed that agriculture—which might now be regarded as almost in its infancy—would, under these improved and favourable circumstances, advance with a rapidity of which they had now but little notion. This was one of the advantages which he anticipated from the proposed alteration in the law; and it was an advantage which, he was convinced, could be obtained without any sweeping away of tenantry, such as had been described by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) on Monday. He (Earl Grey) should be as sorry as the noble Duke to witness any such sweeping change in the tenantry of the country as the noble Duke anticipated from this measure, if carried into effect; but he felt that no such change would be required, for the farmers were disposed to improve the cultivation, and, as his noble Friend had remarked, the effect of foreign competition could only be felt by degrees. The cultivation could, therefore, be improved aud extended to meet that foreign competition. His noble Friend had said that some time would elapse before the foreign competition could come into effect; but he (Earl Grey) thought it rather an advantage that the progress of the competition should be gradual, and that the increased cultivation abroad for this market should be accompanied by an increased cultivation at home—a cultivation which would have all the benefit of the skill and energy of our farmers. Amongst the causes which would operate to improve our agriculture, he would mention a change in the law to facilitate the conveyance of landed property, as one that was calculated to do a great amount of good if carried into effect; for under it capital, for the purpose of improving land, could be raised as readily upon land as upon a bale of cotton, or a cargo of wine. Under those circumstances, he was of opinion that the removal of protection would afford the strongest possible encourage- 1306 ment to improved farming, and increased production; and their Lordships were all aware, from their acquaintance with the subject of the cultivation of land, that improved farming implied more employment to labour—that by higher farming the employment of more hands on the land, and their employment more continuously, were necessarily implied. Part of the evidence before a Committee moved for by a noble Friend of his, was to the effect that the farmers in the south of England were obliged, in order to keep down the poor rates, to employ more hands on their land than under other circumstances they would be inclined to do; but he (Lord Grey) would undertake to say, that there was no farm in England on which every man now employed—ay, and more than were now employed — might not be employed with profit and advantage, with a better demand for agricultural produce. [A Noble LORD: This increased employment would require increased capital.] All that was required in order to make capital flow towards the improvement of the land was to remove the uncertainty caused by the present system of protection. It appeared to him that any one who soberly and deliberately considered the subject, would see that the effect of the measure now before them would not be to throw land in this country out of cultivation. He was so far from supposing the effect of the measure would be to throw land out of cultivation, that he thought they might date a new progress in the cultivation of land from the removal of protection. Another anticipation which had been indulged in as regarded the probable effects of the measure was a fall of rent, and that too was an anticipation which he did not expect to see realized. What was it, he would ask, to which they owed the value of landed property in this country? There was infinitely better land than 90 out of every 100 portions of this country in the prairies and wilds of America, which might be bought for 2s. 6d. an acre; and what was it which made our land, that was so much less fertile, so much superior in value to that land in America? It was the existence in this country of a large, an industrious, and a rich population. That and that only it was which gave value to the landed property in this country; and it was only consistent with common reason to suppose that anything which went to increase the national wealth, and develop the national industry, and increase the pros- 1307 perity of the realm, would also increase the value of landed property. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley), in his speech on Monday night, adduced the case of Ireland, which being an exporting instead of an importing country, would necessarily suffer a great deal from the proposed measure. So far from this, he (Earl Grey) could show their Lordships that no part of the United Kingdom would gain so largely from the passing of this law as the sister kingdom; but he had already gone so largely into the question, that he would not enter upon the subject of its probable effect upon Ireland at that stage of the Bill. He would now direct the attention of their Lordships to another point, which had been dwelt upon very forcibly by his noble Friend on Thursday night. The noble Lord produced a great impression on the House by describing the effect which this measure would be likely to create upon the condition of our Colonies and upon our interests as connected with the maintenance of our colonial possessions. That was a subject of very great importance; and he (Earl Grey) was so impressed with the high value which ought to be laid on the preservation of our colonial empire, that he would admit that if this law would shake the security of that empire, or its connexion with the mother country, it would deserve the gravest consideration before that House should assent to it. He, however, entertained unhesitatingly the conviction that, so far from being a disadvantage to the Colonies—so far from having a tendency to weaken the ties whieh unite them to us, the adoption, in the largest sense, and in the most complete manner, of the principles of commercial freedom, was the policy, of all others, which was best calculated to strengthen those ties. His noble Friend had asked, if the colonists were told that they were no more to the country than Frenchmen or Dutchmen, what inducement they would have to wish to be united with this country? To that he (Earl Grey) would answer, that his noble Friend should recollect that, by this measure, it was not proposed to apply the principle of the removal of restriction to the Colonies exclusively, but it was intended to apply to them a principle which we proposed to apply to ourselves. Would any one say that Cumberland and Yorkshire would be treated badly by this measure, because we did not leave them a protecting duty? If our own counties, then, were to be treated in the same manner by this Bill as the Colonies, then the Colo- 1308 nies had no reason to complain. He could understand how some persons in the old country, where there was a great competition for employment, could be induced to take a shortsighted view of the subject, and thus he eonld perceive how it was that many persons had been induced to form the opinion that protection was an advantage, and that it was not wise to let in foreign goods to compete with our home market; but with respect to the Colonies there was no such difficulty as that competition for employment. On the contrary, in every one of our own Colonies, the great difficulty was to find sufficient labour to develop fully its natural resources; and if the effect of the proposed system should be to divert labour in the Colonics to its natural and most productive channels, instead of to artificial and unproductive channels, there could be no doubt that it would be an advantage to them. Could any one doubt that Canada was poorer now than she would have been if there never had been a protective duty in favour of her timber? If, instead of letting into our markets bad timber, when we could have had good, we had never adopted that system, Canada would be better off; and the same principle would apply to all our Colonies. The Colonies had received no advantage from protecting duties, whilst in many cases those duties had been directly injurious to them. The West Indies had suffered from not having been allowed to get the various supplies they required in the cheapest market, or to send their supplies in the cheapest form to this country. They gained nothing by protection; and as regarded the effect of commercial dependence in strengthening the ties between the Colonies and this country, he would put it to their Lordships whether the system of commercial dependence had in reality strengthened the ties between the Colonies and the mother country. Did they not all know that jealousy, arising from that commercial dependence, had produced that American war which ended in the loss of those extensive Colonies to the Crown of this country? He need not point out how infinitely for the welfare both of the United States and ourselves it would have been that that fatal dispute had not arisen; he did not say that in their present state of importance those States would have been kept in dependence to the British Crown; but they might have parted from us in a different manner, and without leaving any feeling of jealousy 1309 towards the mother country, if it had not been for that commercial dependence. He was rather surprised, he must own, that his noble Friend, in the course of his speech, should have ventured to touch on the Colonies for an illustration; for he thought that the principle with respect to trade which he had adopted towards the Colonies was not, to say the least of it, very fortunate. Under that policy the corn of Canada was allowed to come into this country at a nominal duty, whilst that advantage was not given to Australia or to any other Colony. That advantage had been given in Canada almost avowedly because it had been recently in a state of rebellion; but it was refused to those which had been always obedient and loyal; and he (Earl Grey) thought that such a course of policy was calculated to excite a spirit of disaffection. His noble Friend asked, if we were to have no advantage in the markets of the Colonies, of what use were they to us? they would not be worth the expense of keeping up military and other establishments for their protection. He would be permitted to say that such a mode of argument was rather defective. It was those who defended protection who were to prove that it was good; but how did they prove it? They said that if we did not keep up protection we would lose the Colonies; and then they said we kept the Colonies by a protective duty; and they then turned round and said, if we did not keep up protection, of what use were the Colonies? That was a specimen of what was called arguing in a circle. For his part he believed that the connexion between the Colonies and the mother country was a mutual advantage, requiring no such support to maintain it. In our colonial empire we possessed friends and allies in every quarter of the globe—we had thus a large population in various parts of the world, possessing great natural resources, united heart and soul with us, ready to take part with us in all our conflicts, and to support us in all hostilities against a common enemy, and thus we maintained in each possession a garrison of the cheapest kind, whilst they enjoyed the inestimable advantages of being an integral part of the most powerful, and most enlightened, and most civilized nation upon the face of the earth. They gloried—and he knew that they felt it as a glory—in calling themselves British subjects, and in having their interests and rights protected by the 1310 power of this country, which was ready at any moment to be called forth to maintain their interests when it was required. That was a substantial advantage of the greatest service to the Colonies. He believed they were fully aware of it; and he believed that if they pursued a liberal policy in other respects towards the Colonies, by extending to them the dearest right of Englishmen, the privilege of self-government, and not needlessly interfering in their domestic concerns — that if they adopted a sound policy, politically as well as commercially, they would bind them to us with chains which no power on earth could break; and the connexion between them and the Parent State would continue until they far exceeded ourselves in population. His noble Friend had next proceeded to say how unjustly this measure would operate with regard to Canada, and had told their Lordships that this country had encouraged Canada to expend large sums of money in the improvement of their navigation, and that we had encouraged Canada to impose a duty on wheat from the United States. He said that this had been done on the faith of the Corn Law; and he asked would it not be unjust to the Canadians to alter that law on the faith of which they had acted? His noble Friend described the route for commerce by Canada, and through the United States; and after detailing the effects which he anticipated from this measure, he asked what chance would the Canadians have of competing with the United States if this measure were carried? The noble Lord continued: "Now I want to know what are the feelings of the Canadians themselves upon the subject, for surely that is an important point." ("Hear, hear!") My noble Friend says "Hear, hear!" Now I hold in my hand a newspaper containing a report of the debates in the Canadian Assembly, which I will presently read. Her Majesty's Government, when they determined on repealing the existing Corn Laws, addressed a communication to the Canadian Legislature, saying that they were at liberty to repeal the duty of 3s. a quarter on American wheat, which at our instigation they had imposed. Accordingly a measure for the repeal of that duty was submitted to the Canadian Senate, on which occasion it happened that a Motion for reporting progress was carried, and that was assumed to be a declaration on the part of the Canadian House of Assembly, 1311 that they were altogether hostile to the measures of the Government. What, however, was the fact? It seems that that Amendment was carried, almost under a misapprehension, from the parties not exactly understanding the effect of the vote; for a few days afterwards, when the consideration of the subject was resumed, and a vote was to be taken, the result was very different, for a measure was agreed to for repealing the duty on American corn. He had read the speeches on the subject, and instead of finding them characterized by a tone of despondency—instead of crying out against the injustice of this country—instead of lamenting the ruin to which they were to be liable, the utter destruction of their great public works, and of their commercial interests—he was happy to say that, by the majority of that Assembly, language far more manly and more creditable was held. They said, "As England will no longer give us protection, let us see if we can't do without it; and as the first step, let us repeal this duty on American corn. We can grow corn cheaper than America." One Gentleman says, that he has been over to Buffalo, and that he finds corn there always 3d. or 6d. per bushel dearer than he can afford to give in Upper Canada. Another said, "Our public works were never in a more promising state, and when they are completed we shall enter with great advantage into competition with America. The locks upon the Erie canal are much more numerous and more expensive in working than those upon the St. Lawrence. We can then not only carry our own corn, but the corn of the Western States through the St. Lawrence, cheaper than the Americans can carry it by the Erie canal." When they came to divide upon the question, he found those who were in favour of repealing the duty, who had no fear in the success of Canadian energy and Canadian enterprise, in opposition to America, were in a majority of 45 to 27. The resolutions were carried by that majority, and the Canadian Assembly determined on admitting American corn for passage through their country to England duty free. But his noble Friend said something more. His noble Friend said that this was treatment so unjust to the Canadians, that he thought it was calculated to shake their feeling of loyalty to the British Crown. He confessed he heard that language with great alarm and regret; because he thought he prophesied a diminution in the strength of those 1312 ties which now united the people of Canada to this country in such a manner as almost to imply that they would be justified in disregarding our claims upon their loyalty. But, in the same week in which the Canadian House of Assembly had been discussing the effect which the change of our commercial policy would produce, a Militia Bill was brought under their consideration, and with the permission of the House he read a passage from a Canadian newspaper, containing a summary of what passed on that occasion:—Dr. Taché made an admirable speech—temperate, argumentative, and well-timed. No appeal was made to party feeling, no attempt to enlist sectional prejudice. It was a speech which will raise the character of the hon. Gentleman immesurably in the opinion of all who heard him. It would be well for Canada if such addresses were more frequent—if measures of such importance were always taken up in the calm, deliberate manner that this has been, and with a disposition on both sides of the House in endeavouring to make a perfect measure. After stating the objections which he had to certain clauses, Dr. Taché concluded by suggesting that the Bill should be referred to a Special Committee.—Mr. Lafontaine followed, and treated the question in the same admirable spirit; he agreed in the suggestion of Dr. Taché, and hoped it would be complied with; he assured the Attorney General that every aid which could be given by that side of the House would be freely afforded to perfect a measure of such importance to the country.—Mr. Draper, after some remarks from other Members, moved to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, which was carried unanimously. — Thus the Bill, which has been looked upon as one over which the great battle of the Session was to be fought, has virtually passed through the House without an angry word. We congratulate the country on the event of last evening: the Members on the Opposition benches acted in a manner which did them honour, and entitles them to the thanks of the country. We feel convinced that the conduct of the French-Canadian Members has done very much to create a better feeling between them and their fellow colonists of British origin. No man who saw the demonstration of last evening could feel a doubt, that in case of need, they would be found shoulder to shoulder with the Anglo-Saxon in defence of our territory and the honour of the British Crown.These are the effects of our commercial policy in weakening the ties between the two countries. The result, then, my Lords, of these considerations is in my mind sufficient to prove that the passing of the Bill now before your Lordships is imperatively required in justice to the great mass of the people of this country; whilst it also proves that by adopting that course we run no risk of inflicting the slightest injury on any interest, either colonial or domestic. He believed that none of the great interests of this Empire would be exposed 1313 to the slightest risk by passing this Bill; but on the other hand, he believed that by rejecting it they would run serious hazards and incur great responsibilities. He would remind the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) that at an early part of the evening, when the petition of the Merchants of the City of London was presented by the noble Earl, he asked a very significant question, "How many of the signers of that petition are holders of bonded corn?" Did he not think that they all knew the inuendo conveyed by that question? But he would ask whether, if they rejected this Bill, his noble Friends' example would not lead those who thought themselves injured by this Bill to ask how many of their Lordships were owners of land? He did not believe that, consciously, any of their Lordships were actuated by personal motives; but after what had been said by his noble Friend, he believed that when they imputed to others interested motives, interested motives would in their turn be imputed to them. And he believed, though they were not themselves conscious of it, yet that unconsciously they were influenced in their decisions by the effect which they believed this Bill would have on the interests of the owners of land: it was not in human nature that it should be otherwise. And, though he admitted that the noble Duke was justified in putting the question which he did, yet he asked what effect would be produced on the public mind if their Lordships—an assembly of landowners—rejected this Bill, more especially after the manner in which it had come up to them from the Lower House? He trusted before their Lordships took a course which seemed to him so full of danger, that they would reflect a little on what the practical consequences of this measure would be. As men of judgment and experience, he was sure they would not act with the view of gratifying mere passion of temper; that they would not inquire into the changes of the Minister who had introduced it; but that they would consider, before rejecting this Bill, what practical advantages to themselves and to the nation would result from their adopting such a course. What were those supposed advantages? Did they believe that they could maintain permanently the existing Corn Law? Looking at the events of the last few years, he asked would any one of the three noble Dukes, now on the cross benches, say they believed it possible that by any combination of circumstances the existing Corn Law 1314 could be much longer maintained? ["Hear, hear!"] He thought his noble Friends stood nearly alone in that opinion. [Several noble LORDS: No, no.] He could only say that the noble Earl who spoke on Tuesday with great animation, and at great length on this subject, stated that he, for one, did not look to the permanent defeat of the proposed measure; he expected that some alteration of the Corn Laws would be carried; all he looked for was what he called giving the country "breathing time." If by giving the country "breathing time," it was meant that they should allow an interval for reflection, that an appeal should be made to the country, he confessed that that seemed to him one of the greatest misfortunes that could happen. A dissolution of Parliament at this exciting time—town arrayed against county—the angry passions that would be excited—the suspension of industry and trade — the absolute paralyzation of all the enterprise of the country that must exist during that mighty contest—were all these, the inevitable consequence of a dissolution, to be desired, if, after all, the result was still to be the passing of this Bill? The result, however, would not be precisely the same; for he believed the consequence would be the passing of a Bill for the immediate and entire repeal of all duties. But if they were not to look to maintaining permanently the existing Corn Law, he would ask the noble Lords whether they did really believe that by throwing out this Bill they could obtain anything of a compromise, on the principle of a fixed duty for example, which had been thought of? His noble Friend the other evening threw out many hints in order to catch the parties who were in favour of that measure, and his noble Friend said it would be inconsistent for those who had before supported a fixed duty to vote for the present Bill. He disagreed with his noble Friend; he had himself supported a fixed duty. When the measure of 1842 was introduced, he thought that a fixed duty would, on the whole, be the best settlement of the question that could then be proposed, and he then urged its adoption; but not with a view to protection, for he had uniformly, and on every occasion, objected to the whole principle of what is called protection. At that time, however, he thought that a moderate fixed duty was advisable for one reason, because he thought it would produce little perceptible effect on the price of corn, whilst it would afford a consider- 1315 ble revenue; but chiefly he thought it advisable because he regarded it as a reasonable compromise, because he believed that it would give them, some years sooner than they could hope to obtain it by other means, the practical advantages which he anticipated from free trade, and that it would avert the great and most injurious struggle which he foresaw. But even at that time, when he was advocating a moderate fixed duty, he took the liberty of warning those Gentlemen who were then supporting the Government, that they were supporting a measure which must necessarily lead at no very distant day to entire free trade. He told them that if they desired a fixed duty, the days and hours when a fixed duty could be accepted were rapidly passing away—that they must close with the offer as it was made, for that if that measure were not quickly conceded, such a settlement would in his opinion be impracticable. That anticipation was correct. If they had adopted a moderate fixed duty in 1842, it would have been accepted by the country; but he was no less firmly persuaded that if Parliament were to pass such a measure now, the country would not be satisfied; agitation would still continue; and, as one deeply interested in land (for he could not attempt to conceal his personal interest in this question), there was nothing which he should so much deprecate as the Legislature now sanctioning a measure for a fixed duty. The consequence would be a continuation for some years longer of the agitation which had of late been going on, and which, he believed, of all things was most deeply detrimental to the landed interest. But even if such a measure were likely to be accepted by the country, let him ask how was such to pass through Parliament? By what party—by what set of men—could a measure for a fixed duty now be carried? Certainly not by the existing Government, for they knew that they had pledged themselves within the last week or two to consent to nothing of the kind. The whole tone of their declaration had been that a fixed duty was perfectly out of the question—that protection might be right, but that the alternative was between protection, as it then existed, and free trade—that to make corn the subject of more taxation, to impose a duty on food for mere purposes of revenue, was a proposition to which they would never assent. Then the great party who were opposed to them, will they do it? His noble Friend, 1316 who with such distinguished ability conducted that party in the other House of Parliament, had publicly declared that in December last he was prepared to form a Government on the principle of the immediate and complete repeal of the Corn Laws. Could he, then, and those connected with him, take up a measure, after that declaration, which had been rejected by the present Government as not going sufficiently far? All who knew his noble Friend knew that he was the last man in the world to listen to such a suggestion. To expect him to come forward and propose a measure for a fixed duty now, was altogether irrational and improbable. Then there was a third party—as they called themselves, at least; there was his noble Friend who made so eloquent a speech on Monday night, and the noble Duke on the cross bench—were they prepared to form a Government and to propose that measure? He should think, after the very severe language which they had held in the course of the last few weeks on the subject of inconsistency, deserting pledges, eating words, and so on, that they would be the last persons so to come forward; and but last year the most prominent Members of that party declared that they never would consent to it—that even free trade itself was a less abomination in their eyes. Then there was nobody to propose it; and he really thought that all idea of a fixed duty might at once be consigned to oblivion. He thought that, if adopted at the proper time, and at the proper scason, it would not have been a bad settlement of the question; but that time and that season having passed, they must decide between maintaining the law as it now stood, or the more complete measure of reform which was opposed to it. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley) on Monday night warned them against passing this measure, lest they should be obliged to yield one concession after another; and he referred to ulterior measures which a speaker had alluded to at a League meeting. [Lord KINNAIRD: It was not a meeting of the League.] He was reminded that it was not a meeting of the League; whether it was or not was quite immaterial. He believed no man would attempt to defend all the speeches which had been made by all the members of the Anti-Corn-Law League; for his own part, he should certainly be very sorry to do so. He quite agreed that the speech in question was a most absurd speech, and that the speaker referred to most vicious measures—to mea- 1317 sures which he trusted would never receive the sanction of Parliament. He was also prepared to admit that the existence of the Anti-Corn-Law League was a very great evil. He said it was a great evil; but let him not be misunderstood. They must not suppose that he meant to throw any blame on those individuals who were at the head of that body; for he had no hesitation in saying, however the declaration might be received in that House, that, in his opinion, this country owed a debt of gratitude to the leaders of that body, and more especially to Mr. Cobden. He said that to him, to his genius, and to his indefatigable energy and perseverance—not to Sir R. Peel, not to that party in Parliament with which he had the honour of being connected, but to his hon. Friend, Mr. Cobden—were they indebted for the achievement of what he believed to be one of the most important measures with reference to the future welfare of the British people which ever received the sanction of Parliament. To him the country should feel deeply indebted. He had achieved this triumph by means altogether unexceptionable. There had been no appeal to physical force, no threatening displays of great multitudes of persons collected together. [A noble LORD: Because he could not get them.] The noble Lord said, "because he could not get them." He attributed it, however, to a different cause. He believed it was because Mr. Cobden thought, and thought justly, that the proper way of acting on the opinion of Parliament was through the opinion of the nation. All his efforts had been addressed towards converting the opinion of the nation—towards teaching both farmers and manufacturers what the real interests of the community upon this subject were; and, considering the time in which this great change of opinion had been attempted, he must say, that his success appeared to him almost miraculous. But still he said that the existence of the Anti-Corn-League was an evil; and he believed if they were to ask Mr. Cobden himself, he would tell them that he was of the same opinion. It was an evil, because such a body never could exist unless it was created by a strong feeling amongst a large proportion of the people, that wrong and injury were being inflicted on them. It was, he believed, only a monster grievance which could have created such a formidable organization as the Anti-Corn-Law League; but he agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), that, once created, 1318 the redress of the grievance which created this body would not destroy in all quarters the desire to maintain that organization. The noble Lord, with the happy language peculiar to himself, said that the cup of political power was too sweet, when once tasted, to be readily relinquished. That was perfectly true; and no doubt there would be a great anxiety amongst many members of that body to keep up their formidable organization, and to apply their powers to the carrying of other objects. It was consistent with all past experience that such should be the case. But what, let him ask, was the inference their Lordships ought to draw from that consideration? Was it that they should keep up the grievance which had created that formidable power until the present sense of wrong, aggravated by disappointment, forced concession from them? The inference which he drew, on the contrary, was, that their Lordships ought, with the least possible delay, to repeal this law; and he might observe, in passing, that one great objection which he entertained to a portion of this Bill, was on account of the delay in adopting it; and if, in accordance with the forms of Parliament, that House had the power of amending Bills of this nature, he should certainly have liked to have altered the three years' provision; for that "rag of protection," as it was aptly termed the other evening, was only calculated to afford an excuse for those who wished to keep up the Anti-Corn-Law League—a power which, if kept up, it was not impossible they might see directed to other and more dangerous purposes. Would not the grievance be aggravated a thousand fold when the hope of redress had been disappointed; and did they not think that the power of this body would be largely increased if, after the circumstances which had occurred, all redress were refused? His noble Friend (Lord Stanley), in the course of his speech on Monday, went on to say, that if they consented to pass this measure, their Lordships must be content in future to be regarded as a subordinate part of the Constitution—as the registers of the edicts of the House of Commons. But his noble Friend went on in the same breath to describe, in most beautiful and glowing language, the real purpose of this House.My Lords," he said, "if I know anything of the constitution or value of this House, it is that it should interpose a wholesome and salutary obstacle to rash and inconsiderate legislation. It is to protect the people against the consequences of their own imprudence. It is not, my Lords, 1319 it never has been, and never should be, to resist the expression of continued and deliberately-formed public opinion—to that your Lordships have always, and I trust always will, bow; but it is yours to check the progress of hasty and irreparable legislation.In those words his noble Friend, with his usual happiness of expression, detailed most accurately their Lordships' proper place in the Constitution of the country. As he told them, it was their office to check the progress of hasty and irreparable legislation, but not to oppose themselves to continued and deliberately-formed public opinion. It was therefore of the deepest importance that their Lordships should discriminate and distinguish accurately when the desire of the country for a change in the law did proceed from a hasty and inconsiderate passion for alteration, and when it rested on a continued and deliberately-formed opinion. It was of the deepest importance that they should accurately distinguish between these two cases, because if they made a mistake, if under the notion that they were opposing hasty legislation, their Lordships did set themselves against deliberately-formed and rational public opinion, it was perfectly clear they must give way, and that by so giving way they seriously shook and impaired their proper authority and power in those cases in which they really might be exercised with advantage to the country and to the Constitution. In this case, then, it was their Lordships' duty to endeavour to determine whether the desire of the people, as represented by the votes of the House of Commons, was founded on a deliberately-formed opinion, or whether it was the cry of hasty and inconsiderate legislation. Let him ask them what were the symptoms by which they were to judge? Let him remind them, in order that they might form an opinion on this point, which lay at the very bottom of the decision to which they were this night to come, let him remind them what were the symptoms which led to the inference that the desire of the nation for this measure rested on a continued and deliberately formed opinion. He would remind them then, that the principles on which this Bill was formed were first brought under the consideration of the public so long as eighty years ago, when the first edition of Dr. Adam Smith's immortal work was published, in which he laid down, with a force of reasoning which the experience of succeeding years had fully justified, that it was wise and just to emancipate commerce from 1320 all artificial restrictions. That doctrine was not long in working conviction in the minds of all theoretical men; every political philosopher in every quarter of the globe was soon found adhering to that principle; but it was long before those engaged in the practical affairs of life would concede it—before practical statesmen and manufacturers and farmers would consent to admit the validity of the doctrines of Adam Smith. But at length they did begin to yield—the authority of those maxims of commercial wisdom which had long been received as infallible by philosophers in their closets, began also to be recognised in the councils of the nation; at first in a hesitating and timid manner, but still a silent and gradual advance was being made to their consummation. As discussion went on, as the good effects were experienced of the partial measures which had been founded on those principles, more and more converts came over. In Parliament and in the country every succeeding year showed an increase of strength to that great cause of truth and of reason. In his own recollection of political life how vast were the changes whieh he had seen on this subject! Nineteen years ago, when he first voted on these questions in the other House of Parliament, in favour of a very timid application of free-trade principles, he voted in very small minorities; in minorities as small as fifteen, and never greatly exceeding fifty; whilst those who were for out-and-out protection, who resisted the Corn Law of 1828 almost as strenuously as the proposed measure was now resisted, doubled and trebled their opponents in the divisions—so powerful was the extreme agricultural party in that day; yet they now saw that year by year, from that time to the present, the strength of the party in favour of the bolder and bolder application of the principles of free trade had been gradually increasing; and in the last few years, though they had still had large numerical majorities arrayed against them in divisions, yet no man who attended to the debates in the other House of Parliament, no man who looked at the signs from which to judge of other men's feelings, could have failed to foresee symptoms of the rapid approach of that event in which the principle could be fully adopted. Their opponents spoke in the tone of men who felt conscious of defeat, like men who felt that their struggle could not much longer be maintained; and last of all they saw Her Majesty's Ministers themselves, who 1321 had so long been the ablest advocates of protection, coming forward and manfully avowing a complete change in their own opinions, a complete adherence to the doctrines of free trade. Severely as they had been censured, he gave them credit for that avowal—he had no doubt it was a sincere and an honest avowal. There was no reason why it should be otherwise. Their party interest and their personal feelings would have led them, consistently with their sense of public duty, to have maintained their former opinions; and when he found them unable to do so, he derived from that circumstance the strongest possible reasons in favour of the course it was now proposed to their Lordships to adopt, to yield to the irresistible current of public opinion. They might say the reasons that they had assigned for the change were altogether inadequate—that the potato famine was a delusion—and that there was nothing in the state of affairs to justify such a measure. They might say the arguments which they used were precisely the same arguments which they themselves had so often combated. They might say all this; but he did not think they would inquire what were the motives which led those gentlemen to hold other opinions on former debates. He did not wish to inquire whether it was a want of foresight or a want of moral courage to avow opinions which, though unpopular, made them in 1839 and 1841 still the advocates of protection. Whatever opinions they might form upon this point, it was impossible any rational man could doubt that the change which they had now avowed was sincere—and that they felt the repeal of the existing Corn Laws to be required by the best interests of the country. And he would say their adopting that opinion, their coming forward to advocate it, and their sacrifices for it, were a convincing and a striking proof of what was the state of public opinion on this question. Out of doors there were precisely the same symptoms. Did their Lordships not remember that out of doors at one time the merchants and manufacturers of this country were as strongly in favour of protection as the agriculturists were at this day? Were they not the main originators of the whole protective policy? They, he believed, were perfectly willing to admit the fact. This great mistake in our national policy was far more attributable to the mercantile and manufacturing interests than the agricultural, and when he first came into public life this was the general state of public 1322 opinion. He remembered Mr. Huskisson being regarded as a public enemy in the great seaport towns in the north of England, and the repeal of the discriminating duties on foreign shipping being considered as something like treason to the best interests of the country. From those very towns, in the present Session of Parliament, he had presented petitions praying their Lordships not only to pass this Bill, but to abolish all protective duties whatever. Such were the symptoms of the desire of the nation for the repeal of the Corn Laws; and it was not a desire for rash and hasty legislation, but it was the continued, the deliberately formed, and the rationally expressed public judgment. These measures were the symptoms of it, and public opinion being so, it was not, according to his noble Friend's own admission, wise in the House to diregard it. That their Lordships did not disregard it, and that they did pass this Bill by an overwhelming majority, was no less hls firm and confident expectation than it was his fervent and earnest hope.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
said, that the question which their Lordships were then called upon to decide, was not only the most important proposition made during the present Session, but one of the most important propositions that could possibly come under the consideration of Parliament; and he hoped that if he only addressed them very briefly upon this most momentous occasion, they would not impute the short time which he should occupy with his remarks to any indifference toward the subject, or to any insufficiency in the reasonings which might be adduced against the Bill. He hoped it would be attributed to his individual inability to address them at any length, rather than to any other cause, if he attempted to do more than advert very shortly to the leading features of the present discussion, and touch very cursorily upon the principal topics which he meant to bring under their notice. Avoiding, then, any further preface, he should limit his preliminary remarks to this—that in examining the merits of the present measure, he did not mean in any degree to reflect upon the authors of these great changes, and least of all upon his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, with whom he had long been connected by bonds of friendship, and many acts of kindness; and he should be extremely sorry if, in the discussion of the present question, any observation should 1323 happen unconsciously to fall from him which could at all be construed into the least complaint against those by whom the Bill was brought before their Lordships' House. At the same time, considering the great importance of the measure, and looking to the immense interests which were at stake, he felt that he should ill discharge the duty which he owed to their Lordships, to the country, and to himself, if he did not fully and candidly state the impressions which at the present moment weighed upon his mind. Occupied, then, as his feelings were with the vast interests at stake, he should not upon this important occasion take up any portion of their time by attempting to discuss the general political consequences of the change now sought to be introduced. He did not stop, as his noble Friend had done, to ask what would become of the Government, or what party there was in the State which could form a Government, or whether there was any party likely to agree upon any general principles. Instead of involving them in such discussions, he should content himself with advising their Lordships to proceed upon their own conscientious convictions and their own views of the policy which would be most beneficial to the country, without reference to the possible circumstances in which the Executive Government might be placed. He wished, before he proceeded any further, to remind the House that the present Bill came before them in a very humble shape, being merely a proposition to alter certain duties payable upon the importation of corn; that whereas, according to the statement of his noble Friend who last addressed the House, it was merely a Bill for facilitating the importation of foreign corn, and so changing the average prices of corn in this country from 50s. to 45s. or some such trifling variation; but the Bill assumed a very different aspect when they turned their attention to the dangers which had been so eloquently stated by his noble Friend on the first night of the present debate, its influence upon all the great interests of the country, and its colonial, commercial, and financial system; its ability to pay its debts and maintain its credit: all these important considerations were involved in a question which, as presented to the House by one noble Lord, was nothing more than a measure calculated to make a slight difference of a shilling or two in the price of corn. To his mind the Bill presented itself under a very different guise. He hoped that he 1324 might be mistaken; but he could not remove from his mind the conviction that the House was on that night dealing with a subject of the very greatest magnitude. Nearly forty years had elapsed since the great question regarding the importation of corn first occupied his attention; and in the year 1815, with the very small claims upon the attention of Parliament which he possessed, he was as stout an opponent of the Corn Law then passed by Parliament as he was at the present moment of the Bill now under their Lordships' consideration. By the Bill 1815 it was proposed to keep corn at the enormous price of 80s.; that appeared to him to be a most wild, ruinous, and fatal measure, and he thought it his duty to give it all the opposition in his power. He could not just at this point avoid noticing the singular coincidence that his noble Friend who proposed the present Bill should have been the identical individual by whom a Bill was brought into the House of Commons intended to fix the price of wheat at the high price of 80s. His noble Friend brought in the first Corn Bill of the present series; and now he moved the last. He was concerned in the commencement and the close of the system which was intended to regulate the importation of corn. As was said of Mr. Grattan, with reference to the political independence of Ireland—"he sat by its cradle, and he followed its hearse." But, without further noticing the share which his noble Friend had in those proceedings, he should examine the grounds upon which this measure rested. In the first place, he should observe that the argument which had been originally put forward for the necessity of repealing the Corn Laws, namely, the distress in Ireland, was now pretty well abandoned; for it had been very clearly shown that the distress which existed in that part of the United Kingdom had been greatly exaggerated. But, supposing the state of the case to have been quite otherwise, it did appear to his mind that the best way of making provision for the wants of the people of Ireland would be, instead of opening the ports, to close them, in order to keep within the island the provisions which were already there, and assign them to the use of the supposed starving population. Of course, the House would recollect that in the autumn of last year, when scarcity was apprehended, it was generally suggested that the Government might open the ports; but to this it was replied, that if 1325 the Government assumed the responsibility of opening the ports, they could never venture to shut them again. To that sort of reasoning he felt assured that their Lordships would attach very little importance. The ports had been opened and closed again both by Government, by Order in Council, and by Votes in Parliament, for particular emergencies; and he would refer for an instance to the manner in which one of those openings took place under the auspices of Mr. Huskisson, and he would point out to the House the precautions which that prudent and able Minister took when he opened the ports in the year 1825. In the month of May in that year, it was apprehended by the Government that there was going to be a scarcity of corn. The price of wheat was up to 72s. A Bill was brought in to let in corn in bond. This was done by the wisest Minister probably that had existed in our time. The price, as he had said, was 72s., with a probability of a deficiency in the approaching harvest; there were 400,000 quarters of corn in bond, and this supply was let in; but with the caution of admitting it in three months, with an interval of one month between each occasion, paying a duty of 10s., and thus relieving the apprehension of a possible scarcity. What did Government now propose to do? At present, the price was not 72s., but 52s., with a falling market, and there were 2,000,000 quarters in bond. This immense supply was to be let in, not by degrees, as that wise and prudent Minister, Mr. Huskisson, proposed; but, in the face of a harvest which up to this time promised favourably, and in the presence of an abundant supply of food, they proposed to let in an indefinite amount of foreign corn. That course the responsible advisers of the Crown defended by a reference to the grand principles of free trade, and by vague declamation, which established no sound principle of prudent legislation or political economy. Many noble Lords, and persons elsewhere, had stated their opinions how this measure would operate upon prices; and the question had been naturally put to those who proposed the measure, what prices they expected under the operation of the Bill, in order that it might be seen what would be the probable situation of the British grower of wheat? The only thing approaching to an answer was, that a noble Lord had told them that farmers were as ready to take long leases as ever they had been. He had a great respect for the opinion of the 1326 farmer with respect to the mode of cultivation of his farm; but he had no confidence in his opinion as to the extent or degree of foreign competition which a particular measure would create. The farmer would answer you with great judgment—supposing the price of wheat to be reduced to 40s. or 35s.—what reduction he should require in his rent, or what rent he should be able to pay, or whether he could pay any at all. These were questions which he was perfectly competent to answer; but if they wished to know what extent of cultivation upon the Continent would be caused by such a measure as the present, it was not the farmer they should ask—they must obtain the opinions of persons conversant with the trade, and who were in the habit of carrying on business with the grain-growing countries of Europe. In their Lordships' Committee appointed to inquire into the peculiar burdens affecting agriculture, amongst the witnesses who were examined was a very intelligent gentleman (Mr. Bamfield), who being asked whether he had made any estimate of the expense of growing corn on the Continent, said he had made many calculations as to the expense at which it could be cultivated both in Poland and Russia, and he found that wheat could be sold at Odessa for about 15s. the quarter, including the cost of carriage from the interior. He gave a similar account of the production of wheat at Dantzic; and this was the evidence of a gentleman well knowing the countries to which he referred, and might be safely contrasted with that quoted by his noble Friend, consisting, as the latter did, of the opinions of a gentleman who showed what was his object, and what he was aiming at by sneers at the protectionists. The gentleman to whom he referred said, in answer to further questions, that corn was so cheap in Poland that it was often unsaleable—that the price varied according to the foreign markets to which the grain could be sent, but that the supply of the country was endless; and, he added, that the quantity produced could be doubled or tripled, and he hardly knew to what extent it was not capable of being multiplied. The Bill which their Lordships were now going to pass, would, therefore, bring into our market an overwhelming supply. The whole amount of wheat which would be at once introduced into the market, according to the returns furnished by the corn inspectors, was 6,500,000 quarters, being one-third of our annual consumption; and it 1327 would be followed up in the course of the year by foreign corn in addition; by which large supply, introduced when nobody wanted it, if, unfortunately for the calculations of the Minister, there should be a good harvest, the price of grain would fall to the lowest scale that had ever been known in this country, because the supply would be far beyond all our power of consumption. He said that, by passing this Bill, the Government would, at starting, produce all the confusion arising from such an immense introduction of grain. The price would not only be low, but the market would be paralysed. The farmer would go to market week after week with his corn, but would find that none but the first-rate article could be sold. That would be the direct operation for this year; and that would be to him a sufficient justification in rejecting the Bill. And then, as to the future, what would follow after these three years? Noble Lords opposite seemed to go upon the calculation that certain and adequately remunerating prices could be maintained; but prices were uncertain, depending upon various occurrences, different demands; and it was, therefore, most difficult, if not impossible, to say which would be the price for any continuance. Prices, he would venture to state, might be wholly independent of the cost of the article and the terms at which it could be imported. When their farmers, in 1839, were selling wheat at 35s., it was not because such was the price at which foreign wheat could be or actually was brought in; it was because it had been brought in in great quantities at some other price; it was because there was this superabundant supply; and because it was there, just as in the case of vegetables rotting in Covent-garden market, it had to be got rid of. The article was a perishable article; it was injured greatly by being kept warehoused any length of time; it was also kept at a great expense; the holders were always in fear of the next harvest; and it must, therefore, in point of fact, be disposed of at certain times at any price. They ought, in forming an estimate as to the future prices of corn, to examine the condition of the northern parts of Europe, Poland, and Prussia, the country ranging behind the Carpathians, and that where the rivers of the Baltic poured themselves into the Black Sea, those great corn-producing lands, from which France, Belgium, and Holland obtained all their supplies, because thence corn could be imported at the 1328 cheapest rate. Many noble Lords said that they depended upon corn coming from America, from the valley of the Mississippi; but all that they could calculate upon was that it would most inevitably come from the cheapest market. Those countries of which he spoke grew corn on the speculation of a demand from all the nations of Europe; but all those nations, and not yet with the exception of England, might shut their ports whenever they did not want corn. They, in England, were going to depart from that policy; they were going to adopt what was called the principles of free trade; but they would do so alone, and not one of the nations which surrounded them would follow their example. The corn would come to Europe; none of the people of Europe wanted it; the ports were shut, and, as the corn must be disposed of, it came to that country the ports of which were not closed; it was poured in upon England. Now, he could understand such a plan as that which they were asked to adopt: it would be intelligible to him if he could see that other countries acted on the same principle; but it was not so; and, not being so, such a plan was altogether inexpedient and unwise. Seasons would most assuredly come when the people of Southern Europe, and Great Britain, would be able to feed themselves, and then the corn from the north would be rejected by every country except this; and therefore upon our markets the whole quantity grown for the supply of all Europe would be thrown, and the result would be an enormous depression in the price—a result, he need not say, most destructive to the English farmer. This argument he adduced for the purpose of showing how greatly they would be deceived, and how ruinous would be the discovery of the deception, if they supposed it possible to act, in such a matter as this, on the simple principles of political economy, on the supposition that a set of people, or that different Governments, would all act in the same manner, without an object, and solely in reference to this one principle, like so many motiveless machines. And, while on the subject of political economy, he might be permitted to quote the opinion of a writer who would be received by all, but more especially by the noble Lords opposite, as a great and trustworthy authority. The work from which he would read an extract was an essay written by a noble Lord now a distinguished Member of the party with which he acts—Lord J. Russell. 1329 The calmly and deliberately given opinions of the noble Lord, arrived at, not in the heat of a political contest, and put forth in a speech, but come to in the philosophic quiet of retirement, would be received as most valuable. The noble Lord said, in 1820, speaking of political economy—Political economy was an awful word. It was appalling to think that the Legislature should frequently be called upon to decide questions involving the happiness, perhaps the very existence of millions of the people, upon the principles of a science which was ever changing from day to day.So said Lord John Russell. Yet now their Lordships were called upon to decide a question involving the happiness, perhaps the existence of millions of people, according to the rules of a science which was said by the noble Lord referred to, to be "changing from day to day." The science was known by the one term "political economy;" but all who attempted to define it at length varied in the definition: the premises were different, as different the conclusions; Ricardo differed from M'Culloch; and both from everybody else. Yet they were now asked to regulate the affairs of this great country, not by the principles experience taught them, but according to a visionary scheme, the consequence of which, if adopted, would, in his humble opinion, be the irrevocable ruin of thousands. The same noble Lord had said that the peculiar feature of the science of political economy was the difficulty of connecting any data with which it furnished them whereon to found, with sufficient certainty, a system. He (Lord J. Russell) said also, that if all nations acknowledged the same guiding principles—if different national interests were identical, and different national prejudices were forgotten, then it would be easy to legislate according to theoretical rules; but the complication of political interests, the existence of ancient treaties, and, above all, the establishment of capital which had taken place on the faith of a continuance of the policy under which these had taken place, rendered the question of legislation by reference to political economy much more difficult to solve than any one problem within the range of mathematics. It was, indeed, very easy for them to say that the trade in corn ought to be free; that, if our farmers could not grow it as cheap as could foreign farmers, they must let it alone; but, in being compelled to let it alone, they should not forget where lay all the mischief. The species of free trade which, in other arti- 1330 cles, they had adopted, had not been attended in all cases with success. He was inclined to think that many restrictions had been, and were proposed to be, removed most imprudently; and even the measures under their consideration were unequal in different provisions, for there was no uniformity in free trade. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had pointed out that in the event of a free importation of corn, they would have to consider whether the consequent effect would not be the ruin of the English farmer, the relinquishment of agricultural occupation as unprofitable, and whether, in that case, there would not be a total dependence of this nation upon the caprices of foreign Powers; and the noble Lord had termed it "a knotty question to decide." The noble Earl (Earl Grey) opposite had treated this question as a mere question of abandoning 1s. or 2s. of duty; but in his (Lord Ashburton's) opinion, it was the most mighty and momentous question ever submitted to a Legislature. It was one affecting the foundation of their Constitution, disturbing the domestic relations of almost every family in the country, endangering the tenure of their Colonies, exposing them to the mercy of foreign nations; and, as such, they could not treat it with too much caution. He (Lord Ashburton) had already demonstrated what would be the consequences of a too abundant and unavoidable importation of corn; the noble Earl in answer might say, "But you cannot have bread too cheap." He thought, most decidedly, they could; and that would be when it was so cheap that the lowness of the price would throw any quantity of land out of cultivation. What had been the prices under the sliding-scale? The sliding-scale had been greatly abused; but it had been abused without reason. In 1843 the prices were 50s., 51s., and 50s. 10d.; and it was impossible to say that those prices were extravagant or too high. And if the prices under that system had not been excessive, what right had they to say that it had failed? He had, in 1815, resisted the advance of the protection to 80s. Since that period he had never been an advocate for any absurd or unreasonable protection to agriculture, as it was called; and his object in every vote which he had given had been to regulate the supply of corn on fair and equitable terms to the consumer and producer. He had voted for the Bill of 1842; he had approved of the admission of cattle; he had voted for the 1331 Canada Corn Bill, and, in a word, for every successive relaxation in restrictions which he had deemed more stringent than was necessary. But they now came to a question of a very different description—the total overthrow of a policy which had existed for a century and a half—the rejection of a legislation which, since the days of the Conquest, in different degrees, had been considered wise and just, and under which the country had prospered. The interests of an important section of the community, and of men who had applied large capitals to the improvement of agriculture—who had made every exertion to effect that improvement—who had even gone to the South Pole for the means of enriching the soil—were at stake; and these interests were not to be sacrificed at the bidding of dreamers. Mr. Huskisson—a great authority—had put the case even as strongly as it had been put by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). He said, in 1814 that the proportion of corn hitherto imported had not been 1–35th of the consumption; that, if proper measures were not taken to encourage home cultivation, it might be in the proportion of one-fourth; and that nothing could be more dangerous to the safety and tranquillity of the country than that there should be a diminution or stoppage in that home cultivation. It might be said that Mr. Huskisson had changed his opinions, and the great difficulty they had to contend with, in adducing any authority, was the never-ending changes of opinion; but, as he had died in 1831, it might very well be supposed that his declaration in 1828 was a final one. Mr. Huskisson then said, "I understand it has been urged against me, that I held an opinion that England ought not to depend too exclusively on other countries for the supply of corn. I maintained that doctrine in 1815; I maintain it now." He further said, "I am anxious to render this country, commercially as well as politically, independent of other countries." The doctrine was general, both in Europe and America, that it was in the highest degree dangerous to depend upon other countries for the supply of food. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) who spoke on Monday night had endeavoured to show that this dependence could not be dangerous; and he had for this purpose instanced what had occurred in 1810, when Napoleon endeavoured to withhold all supplies from us, and when, nevertheless, great quantities of corn were imported. In those years when he 1332 had the power of shutting up the ports of Europe he still condescended to allow us a supply of corn, by a system of granting licenses, which brought him large sums of money. But what was the price of corn in England at that time? In 1809 it was 94s. per quarter; in 1810, 103s.; in 1811, 92s.; in 1812, 122s.; and in 1813, 106s.; the average price during the five years was 103s. 10d. How much of that went into the pocket of the French Emperor, and how much to the English farmer, he could not say; but no doubt he considered whether he should gain most by bringing that sum into his Exchequer by means of the corn licenses, or by prohibiting the supply altogether. Suppose it had been possible for him to have forced England to make peace by totally withholding the supply, could there be a doubt he would have done so? Why, their Lordships might remember that an English Minister, Mr. Perceval, having taken into his head that the French army in Prussia would perish from disease if it could not get a supply of bark as medicine, seriously proposed a Bill to prevent the exportation of that article. Did they suppose, then, that foreign countries, if they thought they could derive advantage from it, would hesitate to stop the supply of corn? If they neglected their own agriculture, they must diminish the spirit of those engaged in cultivation, and largely reduce the amount of production. Those years of high prices contradicted another favourite theory of the noble Earl, that prosperity always attended low prices, and distress followed high ones; but there never was a more prosperous period for all classes in this country than that during the war, when corn was at 105s. per quarter. Large sums of money were borrowed from year to year, and circulated among the people; it was an artificial prosperity, and if the noble Earl would borrow 40,000l., and scatter it among his neighbours, he would produce an immediate prosperity of the same kind. He thought something similar was going on at present in the large sums raised and spent in railroads. He had always considered that protection was based on three main principles—encouragement of native industry, independence of foreign countries for our supply of food, and thirdly, that we imposed charges on land which entitled it on the other hand to protection. He considered poor's rate a charge on the land; he was not going to argue against that burden being charged 1333 on the land, because he thought they could not alter it beneficially, and therefore he thought they should continue to the land its present protection as an act of justice. Whether tithes were a charge upon the land or not, was disputed: it was said, "You have inherited your property or bought it with the charge, and you have no right to dispute it;" but it should not be forgotten that it was also bought or inherited with the compensation of protection. The question had puzzled the heads of the political economists. Mr. M'Culloch admitted that the landed interests were intitled to compensation in respect of tithes; and in writing on the subject, after discussing the subject of special burdens on land he said—Though the question is not free from difficulties, I should say, that owing to the local and other direct and indirect burdens to which the occupiers of land are subjected, they are liable to heavier charges than others.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
it was published only a few years ago. Mr. M'Culloch went on to show that these burdens averaged between 5s. and 6s. an acre. Now, whether this writer was right or wrong in his calculations, he (Lord Ashburton) wished merely to show their Lordships that those who denied to the landed interest everything in the shape of protection, and who took a strict line in that direction, acknowledged at the same time that the land was entitled to some compensation. He would now say a few words on the question, whether the British farmers were able to compete with the foreigners. It was stated that if the farmers of England were teased and worried a little, and put to some inconvenience, there was no knowing what could be got out of them. Yes, it was said that they wanted only the stimulant of distress to urge them to greater exertion. Now, it was known that poor lands went out of cultivation when corn fell to a certain price. It was true the fine tenantry on the noble Earl's estate in Northumberland might not be much distressed by an alteration in prices; but the cultivation of the soil, generally speaking, varied with the price the farmer was likely to get for his produce. Of two farmers having access to equal markets, the one having good land would beat the one holding bad; if their land was equal in quality, the advantage would depend on the charges they had to pay, because on those charges 1334 must depend the residue of profit. There had been some information given on this subject before a Committee of their Lordships' House during the present Session. Persons who had farmed in the north of France, and also in Prussia and Poland, had given evidence. What did the party acquainted with farming in Prussia state? He said that 1½d., or, at all events, less than 2d. per acre, paid all the charges on the land in that country, including the taxes for the Church, the relief of the poor, and the Government taxes. Under such circumstances, and supposing even that the land in Prussia was of an inferior quality to the land in England, did their Lordships believe it was possible for our farmers to compete with the Prussians? It was impossible. ["Hear!"] He should be glad to know on what principle noble Lords would assert, taking into consideration the facts he had just stated, that the English farmers could enter into such a competition. The condition of the farmers of the two countries had been compared, and it was argued that when bread was cheap the poor were better off. Now, any information he had been able to obtain led him to a different conclusion. It was said that the small farmers in Prussia lived well as far as their household was concerned; but from all he had learned those people did not always eat wheaten bread; and they seldom eat meat more than once a week. That was, he believed, a different mode of living to that of the English farmer. It had been discovered, all at once, that in this country wages did not depend on the price, or on the supply of food. In the north of England, and in America, where there was a great demand for labour, it did not; and in this country, while there was a great demand for labour on railways, wages would be independent of the price of food; in Lincolnshire, where happily the population was not in excess, the same thing took place; but when they came to the agricultural districts and the south of England they found that the rate of wages did follow the price of food. The Legislature was now proposing to take away from the employer the means of paying a fair amount of wages. There would be a fall in the price of corn, and though it would come immediately upon the tenant-farmer, he would soon begin to screw his labourer, and to call for a reduction of rent: and the labourer, not understanding political economy, or the deference to be paid to the superior wisdom of Par- 1335 liament, might, perhaps, be provoked to fire the stacks of his employer. Then with regard to the parochial clergy, they must be deeply injured by this measure, for their tithes were commuted upon the average price of corn. Suppose the price reduced from 56s. to 40s., the clergyman with 300l. a year would be reduced to nearly 200l. a year. It was easy to say that if this law turned out ill it could be repealed; but it could not be done without throwing the country into confusion, and having mischievous people going about, setting up a cry of "oppression to the poor;" and of course it would be still worse if the Minister of the day should himself join in the cry. For himself (Lord Ashburton), he thought the settlement of 1842 was a very fair and reasonable one; but if the Government had proposed an experiment of a duty something less, they might have come again to Parliament to reduce that protection still lower afterwards; to raise it was a very different affair. To become largely dependent on foreign countries for food, and to have to pay heavy sums for it year after year, might bring us into serious difficulties with respect to our circulation — difficulties which were the real cause of nine-tenths of all the distress and penury in this country: the depression in particular manufacturing districts at particular times was traceable to circumstances almost entirely arising from a derangement of the monetary system; the Corn Laws had no more to do with it than the most insignificant act. Turning to the colonial question, he must say that the noble Earl who had last addressed the House had left untouched the argument of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), and would perhaps have done better if he had delayed some of the remarks he had made until that noble Lord was able to attend. The noble Earl had particularly spoken of the Canadas. He must confess that some of the passages of the noble Earl's speech were far from giving him that confidence which the noble Earl seemed to feel. The question in those provinces, and in Lower Canada particularly, was a question of race. The people, although they had belonged to England since 1763, were French, with every anxiety to get back to France. What would be the consequence if you were to lose these Colonies? The immediate connexion of France with the Lower Province would surely follow. Who were the persons who, it was said, would 1336 be well satisfied with these alterations? Messrs. Lafontaine and Tachet, both Frenchmen. They wished to have entire freedom of everything in those Colonies; Great Britain was to have no more particular right in the country than France or Belgium. But of what use were the Colonies under such circumstances? Was England to keep the Colonies at all this trouble and expense, for the benefit of all the world? This was a sort of excessive philanthropy, which was very much in vogue in the early period of the French revolution. There was then a person who called himself the "advocate of the human race," who undertook the improvement of the concerns of all the world. We ought to take care of our own Colonies. The noble Earl who opened this subject had told their Lordships that all Europe was going to follow them. The only following that he saw were great praise, great admiration; but every one of them found that the system did not suit them. It was not in the nature of things that it should do so. The country that was wise (and England was wise formerly) looked to its own interests: it did not go on a Quixotic expedition for the benefit of all the human race. He had heard, it was true, that the King of Sardinia was permitting the exportation of chestnuts; and this was the only symptom he had met with of a liberal policy. If you could effect your object, and bring all the world to free trade, he very much doubted whether all the world would be benefited. The whole of the civilized world was divided into a variety of different societies, of different language and habits, and it was very desirable that they should so continue. General amalgamation would be one of the most fatal things that could happen to the liberties of mankind. What would be the result if you could establish this principle? England perhaps might be covered with tall chimneys, and manufacture for all the world, and be fed by all the world; but would your population improve under such a system? Certainly not. It was desirable that in every country every description of industry should be mixed up—agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing. The country which should be foolish enough to think that they could accumulate all the wealth of all the world, would soon find that all the world would be against them. He felt confident that their Lordships would decide this question without prejudice. To suppose that the 1337 Members of this House, the Peerage of England, the great gentry of the country, who had an interest in the general prosperity, would be actuated by any benefit they might derive by getting something more from their rents at the expense of the country, was one of the greatest delusions that ever entered into the head of man. If their Lordships should really think, after hearing all the arguments, that the landed interest of the country did stand in the way of the prosperity of the country, it was not only their interest but their duty to make such concessions as might be requisite. But if, with himself, they thought the proposal of Her Majesty's Ministers a great mistake, opposed to almost all authority and all experience, then they would act as he was about to act; and he never gave a vote in Parliament more heartily or with greater confidence than that which he should give against this Bill.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE,
believing that the debate had reached its last night, would not contribute towards preventing their Lordships from coming to a decision, by the length of any observations which he should make; as he should be sorry if any noble Lord whatever who was anxious to do so, should be deterred from addressing them. His noble Friend who had just sat down need not be alarmed at the supposition that he meant to trouble the House with that "awful" subject of political economy to which he had referred in connexion with the name of a noble Lord in another place. He had discovered that Lord J. Russell, some twenty-six years ago, when a young man, and before he had held any office, described political economy as an "awful word;" and after sitting for so many years in Parliament, his noble Friend (Lord Ashburton) seemed to consider it an awful subject now, so alien did his mind continue to the subject, as he had indeed proved in his speech that night. He would also assure his noble Friend that he should abstain from entering into a consideration of the burdens upon land. He should dismiss that subject, of itself an immense and important one, not, however, essentially connected with the question before them, by saying, that if justice should be done to the consumers of the country, so also should justice be done to the proprietors of the land; and perhaps his noble Friend might be aware that this was an opinion he had always held on that subject. But important as that question was, he would im- 1338 plore of them to dismiss it from their consideration now, and to fix that consideration on what his noble Friend had truly described to be one of the greatest, if not the very greatest question that was ever submitted to their Lordships' attention. It was a question which had been the subject of debate and discussion for years past in and out of Parliament, in every assembly, and in every town and village in the country. It did, indeed, assume something of a new aspect as it was now presented to their Lordships, since it came before them, for the first time, in the shape of a Bill sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government and the other House of Parliament. He knew, however, that his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), whose absence he regretted, would tell them, as he did on a former night, that against that decision of the House of Commons he would set their decision of 1842. Now, unless he was to suppose that a House of Commons became senile and infirm, and incapable of judging, in the fifth year of its existence, he did not know why he was to reject a mature Resolution of the House of Commons, come to after much deliberation, rather than that which they had arrived at in the early part of their history. Another noble Friend of his (the Earl of Malmesbury) had told them that this measure had been passed, indeed, by a clear majority, but not by a clean majority. He would ask, however, if the former majority of the House of Commons was more clean than the present? He would also ask if they would ever arrive at any decision in the other House of Parliament to which they would attach the importance it demanded, without the exercise of some authority or influence upon the body of persons who composed it? All these decisions were come to, more or less, from influence or authority derived from the advice of those persons accustomed to use it; and it was not for that House to inquire into the motives that had entered into the conduct of the other House, especially when by a large majority they sent up, as on the present occasion, a Bill to settle a most important and difficult question. They had no doubt heard of Members of that House who had voluntarily revealed the circumstances, the times, and the extent to which, of late years, in their private meditations, they had differed from their public votes; but though they had made those revelations, he did not think that he had a right to drag them or their supporters into the confessional; it was 1339 sufficient for him that they had altered their minds, and that their supporters had altered their minds also; he took the decision of the House of Commons as he found it, and received it as the undoubted decision of the representatives of the people. Before entering into that question which his noble Friend (Lord Ashburton) had discussed—the commercial view of the case—he wished to say a few words on two points, on which he had also touched, but which were to be considered as distinct, and preliminary to the consideration of the main question; because if these points were determined in the affirmative, they were such as would enable them to dispense with the trouble of entering into the commercial view of the question; he meant, in the first place, that question so great in the mind of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), and so much put forward in the early period of the Session—the danger that would arise to this country from a dependence on foreign countries for grain. He would not at any length advert to what had been so well stated already by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), who said that all the gigantic influence of Bonaparte over the whole of Europe could not keep grain out of this country. He would just remark, that on that occasion human interests were stronger than Bonaparte, and that every one of his attempts were defeated. Look at the high price of grain during that time, said his noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies; and he seemed to think that he had raised an argument against the introduction of foreign grain; but did he not see that instead of suffering from high prices, and being subjected to scarcity, this country would then have fallen a prey to famine and starvation had it not been for the foreign corn that was brought into the country? So that this furnished a proof of the need there was for grain from other countries, to save their labourers from starving and their farmers from ruin. When he heard his noble Friends taking up the sliding-scale as that which best served the end of securing this country against dependence on foreigners, and was, in fact, the best of all the laws made on this subject, he must say he was surprised; for, if ever there was a law so contrived as to expose them to the danger of political animosity, it was the sliding-scale. In the case of a fixed duty, or free trade, there was a regular growth of corn encouraged; and it was ready to be brought into this country when 1340 there was a demand for it, and when people found it to be for their personal interest to do; so that here they had the security of private interest, to which his noble Friend attached so little importance in one part of his speech, and so much importance in another part of it. Was he to be told that the sliding-scale was a security against foreign dependence? Why, after proclaiming to all the countries of the world that they were in want—as the sliding of this scale would show—was not that the very time when foreign nations—if they were capable of the conspiracy which his noble Friend thought so natural, but which never had occurred—would not that be just the time for those hostile countries to cut off their supplies and reduce us to starvation? So that the danger of dependence which so alarmed his noble Friend, would be called into activity at a moment infinitely more dangerous than any that could occur under any other law. His noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies had told them not merely that he was alarmed at the danger of being deprived of supplies of foreign corn, but he took an opportunity of referring to the supply of cotton from America. The noble ex-Secretary for the Colonies said he thought that the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs would feel more comfortable in the event of war, or even in the apprehension of war with America, if we were not dependent on America for our cotton. But was it not most singular, if this was the state of danger in which this country stood, that the last act of the Government in which the noble Lord concurred, was a measure to reduce the duty on the importation of that very cotton, and to contribute to the increase of the importation of that very cotton from America? On the whole, he really thought the subject of dependence on foreign countries was one which their Lordships would not do well to trouble themselves much about on this occasion. Apprehensions had been expressed by some noble Lords, that a considerable alteration in the social state of this country would be the result of this measure. In fact, it had been very much the fashion to consider this measure, both in this and other countries, as an intended alteration in the social state of this country. He confessed, that if the effect of this measure would probably be to make any such constitutional change, it would be the duty of their Lordships to pause and consider it very maturely; but, as he knew 1341 of no constitutional change which the measure could effect, so he was convinced that there would not be the slightest diminution effected by the measure in the consideration and respectability which attached to the landed interest. In all countries, in the poorest and in the most wealthy, and not more in the former than in the latter, there would always attach an importance to the possession of land, which would give the landed interest an almost preponderating influence in the government of the country. In countries infinitely more commercial than England could be—in Holland, for instance, which was described by De Witt as able to extract nothing that could be required for its own use from its own bowels, or in Venice—how did the landed interest stand? There never had been countries in which the proprietors of land were more fully recognized as the proper heads of the social system. In short, he thought this measure could not possibly have any influence to diminish the importance of the House of Lords or of the aristocracy and gentry of this country. He believed it would leave them precisely as they were now. Coming to the consideration of the commercial principles involved in this Bill, he must say at once, that he did not altogegether approve of this Bill. But he and his friends, who were friendly to the general principles of the Bill, had a right to found themselves on experience. But, whatever his noble Friend (Lord Ashburton) might think of political economy, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) and his noble Friends who supported the Bill, relied on experience as their guide, and its chief promoters were practical men; and it was those who supported a protective system that, in truth, relied on theories. He would say that restrictions on trade, as they had been introduced from time to time into our legislation, had been so many experiments, which experiments had failed, and having failed, had been abandoned one by one, not abandoned indeed without resistance at the time the abandonment was proposed; but abandoned without any attempt being subsequently made on the part of those interested in them to restore them to their former position. He ventured also to assert that this system of protection, which had been described as "the settled system of our ancestors," had never had any fixed shape whatever; it was always changing—and yet that system it was which their Lordships were 1342 called on to cling to, as if it was recognized by long experience and by the knowledge of the good it had effected. It had even been said to form part of our Constitution and religion, and he knew not what; but if it had formed part of our religion, it must surely have done so unknown to the right rev. Prelates, for, in that case, our religion had certainly never been the same for twenty years together. It had been said, that the proposed change would lead to inconvenience and injury. Every practical experience had, however, proved the exact contrary. Their Lordships would find instances of the truth of what he had said, if they looked to the changes which had been made within the last thirty or forty years; the changes, he meant, in the duties on wool, on silk, on hops, on timber, on feathers, and a number of other things. His noble Friend (Lord Ashburton) had said that Mr. Huskisson was the wisest man, in his opinion, that ever considered these subjects. In that praise he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) concurred; but one of the first efforts of Mr. Huskisson were not exerted in maintaining, but in destroying protection, by abolishing the duty on silk. That measure, however, his noble Friend (Lord Ashburton) had opposed; for he had no confidence in the wisdom of Mr. Huskisson at that time. Mr. Huskisson was aware of the consequences likely to ensue—he had weighed them well—he knew that misery or inconvenience to some portion of the labouring population would be the temporary result—he knew he should be called hardhearted if he persevered; but he did persevere, and what had been the result of that abolition of duty? At this moment such had been the increase of importation, 6,000,000 pounds weight of silk were used up in this country, instead of the 2,000,000 lbs. that had been consumed prior to the reduction. Was that a proof of the value of the system of our forefathers? Did his noble Friend find in that an instance of the injuries that would be done to our labourers by the removal of restrictions, it being clear that by the removal of the duties hundreds of thousands of labourers and their children had been called into existence, who but for it would never have found the means of subsistence? So it was with respect to wool. There had been an immediate increase in the value of the woollens made here. Then as to shipping—one of the things which had been dwelt upon as one instance of the mischief caused by a relaxation in these 1343 laws had been the amount of the tonnage of this country. From the returns, it appeared that there had not been a diminution of shipping in 1845, as his noble Friend had stated. There was a Paper on the Table which had been recently made up, and which was particularly accurate in setting forth the state of our tonnage, and from this it appeared that in 1820 the whole tonnage in the ports of England was 2,648,593 tons; in 1832, 2,618,068 tons; that in 1832, they would find that the amount of shipping entered inwards was 2,938,870 tons; but in 1845, after the relaxation of our protective system had taken place, it was 4,665,817 tons; and this was called a diminution of tonnage suffering under a relaxation of duty. Could anything be stronger or more decisive as to the state of the shipping interest of this country? Until other figures were brought forward to confute these, he should say that English tonnage never had been in a more prosperous state than at present. He cared not that there was a greater amount of the tonnage of foreign countries in the ports of England than formerly; he considered that a source of additional satisfaction; he was glad to find that our tonnage having increased, that of other countries had increased too; he hailed these results, and he believed that both the one and the other were proofs that in taking off the duty, that had been done which was conducive to the interests of this country. But it was not the first time that these objections to prohibitory and protective laws had been advanced in that House and in the country, and that too by persons of the highest authority. He was satisfied that as experience had proved, the objection he referred to would be perfectly groundless; experience would also show that the present objections were equally without foundation, and that the result would be exactly the reverse of that which his noble Friend had predicted. In 1785, Mr. Pitt, who studied political economy, and who did not consider it so very awful a subject, but who always endeavoured to avail himself of it, and did so with great success, giving his authority to its application—introduced certain commercial propositions with respect to the trade with Ireland. Those propositions were founded on the principles of liberality in commerce. But there were not wanting persons then, as there were not wanting persons now, of high authority—there were not wanting then large masses of the people out of 1344 doors, as there were not wanting now, persons to say that the adoption of those commercial propositions would be the ruin and destruction of the country; and a near relative of the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonies (Colonel Stanley) whom he remembered as a most intelligent and high-minded Member of the other House of Parliament, came forward on that occasion, and presented a petition, enforcing it with a speech, in which he stated what the petitioners, who desired to be heard by counsel, stated, that there was that about to be done which would put the finishing stroke to the cotton manufactures in England. And what did their Lordships think that was? It was the admission into this country of Irish fustians and cottons. It was represented that their admission would put an end to the cotton manufactures in this country, and that the manufacturers, people, and children employed in it would all be set adrift. The propositions were withdrawn at the time, but they were subsequently carried into effect; and what had been the result? Unfortunately for Ireland, she did not produce cotton goods for her own consumption, and the cotton manufacture of England had not only doubled, but tripled, quadrupled, and quintupled. This was evidence as to how little that manufacture was dependent for support on the protective system. In the next year there came on under the auspices of Mr. Pitt, who was anxious to put an end to the protective system, certain Resolutions for a commercial treaty with France. These were debated in their Lordships' House—and here he might observe, that he wished the present proposition had been debated in the form of Resolutions before it assumed the shape of a Bill, because, by the course pursued, their Lordships were debarred of the opportunity of proposing any alteration in the Bill—with respect to the commercial treaty, the Resolutions proposed in the House of Commons were communicated to the House of Lords, and the treaty debated by their Lordships; and a person not of inferior authority almost, but of a different walk of life from the noble Lord (Lord Stanley)—a man eminent for knowledge and science, whom he as a boy recollected—Dr. Watson, the bishop of Llandaff—took up those notions of protection which his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had taken up, and came down to the House of Lords and told their Lordships that they were overturning all the experience of their ancestors by this commercial treaty. 1345 Following or rather preceding the example of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), who appealed to the time of Edward IV., Bishop Watson came down and read the preamble of an Act of Parliament of the time of Charles II. And what did this preamble, embodying the wisdom of our ancestors, state? It said—That whereas it is universally known that the wealth of this country is disappearing and ruin is advancing, from money being sent out of the country to purchase French wines.This was a sample of the experience of our ancestors, to which his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had referred. Revering, as he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) did, the wisdom of our ancestors in founding the Constitution under which we lived—believing that they had laid that Constitution on the surest and most certain foundation, and had thereby contributed to the happiness and prosperity of this country, still he must say that his respect for our ancestors did not extend to any one of the nostrums which from time to time they had thought fit to apply to our commercial system. All the schemes invented by them, and founded on the protective system, had failed; and the noble Lord who presided over the Board of Trade, if he were to look over all the papers and memorials presented to that Board from time to time, would find that the commerce of this country had encountered more imaginary dangers than ever had been met with by any adventurer in a voyage, not excepting Sinbad the Sailor himself. If all those representations were to be believed, the commerce of this country had been almost ever at the brink of a precipice; but after a few years all apprehensions blew over, and the commerce of the country was always found to be upon a higher eminence than it ever attained before. He therefore again said that they had experience against, and not for, a protective system. But it had been said by some parties, that they were prepared to abandon protection for everything but the farmer. Now, nothing could lead him to believe that the British farmer was the only person in this country who could be advantaged by protection, considering the facilities of the means of communication in this country, with a certain and growing population—he could not bring himself to believe that the British farmer depended on the sickly atmosphere of protection, and that he could not derive his existence safely and honourably from his own labours, unaided by any delusive idea of be- 1346 nefit from the protective system. His noble Friend, whom he did not see in his place, had quoted Mr. Huskisson as the wisest of commercial statesmen. Now, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) wished his noble Friend had quoted Mr. Huskisson's opinions as expressed in 1830 instead of at an earlier period. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) begged leave to read some remarkable expressions from one of Mr. Huskisson's last speeches, delivered in 1830; and he would leave their Lordships, after hearing them, to judge whether Mr. Huskisson could be quoted as a person determined to maintain the protective system as regarded the Corn Laws:—Our Corn Laws," said Mr. Huskisson, in 1830, after the sliding-scale had been adopted, "however expedient to prevent other evils, in the present state of the country, are in themselves a burden and a restraint upon its manufacturing and commercial industry. Whilst the products of that industry must descend to the level of the general market of the world, the producers, so far as food is concerned, are debarred from that level. If the price of subsistence—that is, the price of those particular articles which we never export, and are frequently compelled to import—be materially dearer here than anywhere else, that dearness cannot be shifted to the articles which we do export; it must fall in the way of reduction either upon the wages and comfort of the labourer, or upon the profits of those who afford him employment.These words were spoken in the very year when an unfortunate accident deprived the country of that statesman's services; and it was, therefore, impossible that he could have given any subsequent opinion upon the subject. Some noble Lords had spoken in terms of contempt of the opinions of the farmers; but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) thought that every one would admit that there were no better informed persons of their class—no more long-sighted persons—none more intent upon procuring the best means of forming a correct judgment upon matters connected with their own interests than the Scottish farmers. Now, he had a list in his hand of the most recent lettings of six or seven large farms in the most important parts of Scotland; and, though those lettings had taken place in the present year, and one within the last week, since the Bill now under discussion passed the House of Commons, yet there was an advance on all those lettings varying from 10 to 25 and 30 per cent. Nothing was more clear, therefore, than that, if agriculture was to be ruined by the measure before the House, the Scotch farmers were exceedingly neglectful of their own interests, and 1347 would be handed down to posterity as the greatest of all possible dupes. He had always understood, however, that forgetfulness of their own interests was the last thing of which the people of that country could be accused. Again, they were told that though the system of free trade was good for other things, it was not good for the produce of the soil. But they had happily experience in its favour, with respect to the produce of soil, as in other things. They had experience to a remarkable degree in a very important article of agricultural produce—he meant flax. Flax, as their Lordships were aware, was formerly protected; that protection was, in a great degree, withdrawn in 1824. It was finally and entirely removed in the year 1842; from that moment flax became an unprotected article. He believed that the usual ceremonies were gone through of memorials to the Board of Trade, petitions to Parliament, and deputations of Members of Parliament to the Treasury, representing all the mischiefs that would ensue from the withdrawal of protection. Now he begged the attention of their Lordships to the actual effect of this withdrawal of protection from the article of flax. The produce of Irish flax in 1841—a year before the withdrawal of all protection—was 25,000 tons. Two years after protection was withdrawn, it amounted to 36,000 tons; so that unprotected flax, instead of falling off, progressed with unaccountable rapidity, in spite of the terror and alarm which were felt by many at the time the protection was withdrawn. He begged still farther to call their attention to the evidence contained in Lord Devon's Report. That Commission sat in the north of Ireland, and among others they examined an intelligent witness named Blake, who was asked what was the state of the cultivation of flax? He answered that it was daily becoming more prevalent. Another witness, named M'Cullough, was asked whether he considered flax a remunerative crop? To which he replied, that of late years it had become a remunerative crop. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had thus given their Lordships the evidence of figures, and the evidence of people residing in the country where flax was most extensively cultivated, that the removal of protection from flax had been immediately followed by an increased cultivation of that article. But perhaps some noble Lord would tell him that increase was owing to the prosperity of the linen manufacture. That argument, however, 1348 would not do; for the fact was, that protection was withdrawn from the linen trade at the same time, or rather he would say, the linen trade was relieved from protection, and placed in a situation of independence. He therefore repeated that he was of opinion with Mr. Huskisson—he did not mean Mr. Huskisson's earlier opinion which the noble Lord had quoted; but his last opinion, which the noble Lord had omitted to quote—that the Corn Laws were an impediment to the commerce and manufactures of this country. That was the dying opinion of Mr. Huskisson. If those who had in former days considered the removal of protection a dire calamity, had only been permitted to revisit their country in later times, they would have seen few or none of their vaticinations realized. The noble Lord the late Secretary of the Colonies, and others, had talked of the danger of the too great prosperity of manufactures. But he would ask, how had the agricultural community reached that eminence of prosperity it had now attained, but by the agency of manufactures? They were told last night by a noble Lord on the other side of the House, that they heard too little of the importance of the home market to the manufacturer, and that it was to that the manufacturer ought to look. But was the home market not also of importance to the agricultural interest? He had recently been reading an historical account of the county with which the late Secretary for the Colonies was immediately connected — he meant Lancashire. And what did he find there? Why, he found that in the course of 150 years the property in the county of Lancaster had advanced in value 6,300 per cent. But noble Lords might say that this was in the manufacturing districts. Now, in the three hundreds, which were chiefly agricultural districts, the property had advanced 3,500 per cent. Did their Lordships believe that, if in the manufacturing part of Lancashire property had not advanced 6,300 per cent, it would have been possible that in the agricultural districts it would have advanced 3,500? He therefore said that it was exceedingly shortsighted not to consider manufacturing prosperity as part and parcel of the universal prosperity of the country, as much so as agricultural; and, although it was part of the necessary law of nature that manufactures should be subject occasionally to revulsions of trade, just as agriculture was exposed to occasional revulsions from the difference of seasons, he could not bring 1349 himself to regard manufacturing prosperity as a morbid secretion which it was the duty of the state physician to purge and keep down, instead of allowing it to take its nataral course, and feed its operatives with the food from the cheapest markets. A noble Lord opposite had asked, not him (the Marquess of Lansdowne) personally, but many noble Lords on that (the Opposition) side of the House, whether they thought they could, consistently with the opinions they formerly entertained, support the Bill now before them? In reply to that he begged to say, that he had never concealed his opinion on this question. He had years ago stated it on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, and he had afterwards stated it on this (the Opposition) side of the House, and he had omitted no opportunity of stating his preference for a fixed duty as a mode of settling the question. He thought a fixed duty was preferable in the first place, because he was unwilling greatly to impair the revenue derivable from the Customs; and he was not ashamed to own that he had also supported it because he thought it most desirable that in all great changes of this nature, the sentiments, and even the prejudices, of large bodies of men should be consulted; and it had appeared to him that the proposition of a fixed duty was calculated to conciliate the support of those who were connected with what was called the landed interest, so that this question might be settled in a manner satisfactory to them as well as to other interests in this country. These were his opinions on the subject; and if he had had the settlement of this question in his own hands at present, he would have proposed a measure in accordance with those opinions. But the question he was called upon to answer was this—whether, if he voted for an Amendment calculated to promote his own views on the subject, he would not, in fact, while nominally voting for such an Amendment, be really voting against the settlement of the question? He could not disguise from himself, after the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who possessed great influence in the other House of Parliament—after what had occurred last November, when his noble Friend the Member for the city of London (Lord J. Russell) published a letter to which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was not a party at the time—and after the general opinions which had been expressed in favour of an alteration of the 1350 law both in-doors and out of doors, that if an amendment were carried which had the effect of throwing out this Bill, they would not obtain a fixed duty, but that a measure of a totally different description would be adopted. Under these circumstances, he felt, upon the whole, that in order to obtain a settlement of this question, he was bound to accept the Bill as tendered by Her Majesty's Government, and which had received the sanction of a majority of the other House of Parliament. His opinion on this point was confirmed by the Speech of his noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley), who had directed the whole strength of his argument quite as much against a fixed duty as against the present measure—who had steadily taken the high ground of protection—and who had advocated the maintenance of the present law not for the purpose of revenue, but of protection; for that noble Lord had shown that no aid could be hoped for from him in the enactment of a fixed duty. He must say, that in anticipating the results of this measure, in connexion with the rise or fall of the price of provisions, he neither shared the apprehensions entertained by the noble Lords on the cross benches, nor the exaggerated expectations which, as he thought, were indulged by noble Lords opposite. He did think, however, that the Bill would be productive of great and lasting benefits to the country by promoting a gradual and certain extension of commerce, based upon a solid foundation. He hoped and believed that, in this respect, the measure would contribute to the wealth and prosperity of this Empire; and that, after the lapse of a few years, it would be difficult to discover what particular class had derived the greatest benefit from its operation. He was confident that the exertions of the British farmer would save him harmless even from any temporary injury. He could not adopt the opinions on political economy expressed by one of the greatest poets of this country, in one of his most beautiful productions:—That trade's proud Empire hastes to swift decay,As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away.But he could adopt the sentiments embodied in the two succeeding lines, and apply them to the landed interest and the farmer of this country, that——Self-dependent power can time defy,As rocks resist the billows and the sky.On these grounds he felt bound to give his most cordial assent to the Bill now before their Lordships.
§ The EARL of ESSEX
said, that as the measure before them was important, not only in itself, but as involving the political character of many of their public men, he felt anxious to state the grounds upon which he intended to vote; and he claimed their Lordships' indulgence the more, because he felt himself placed in the painful position of one about to vote in opposition to those with whom he had hitherto cordially acted. He had not arrived at the conclusions which he now held without much doubt and difficulty. On the one hand, he had been influenced by opinions which he had long believed to be well founded, and which he had frequently expressed both in public and private; and, on the other, his convictions had been shaken by late events—by the facts and arguments which had been brought before the public—by the opinions expressed by many of the leading statesmen of the present day, and by the convictions avowed, not by the Brights and Cobdens, or the Members for Birmingham or Manchester—talented representatives as they were of the manufacturing interests — but by statesmen, by many of their Lordships, and by large landed proprietors, who had adopted the principle of the measure, and whom he could not bring himself to believe had done so from any party motive, but rather from a conviction that the measure would prove beneficial to the country, without inflicting any injury upon the agricultural interest. Since he had occupied a seat in that House he had generally supported the measures brought forward by the Government; but, on occasions when he had differed from them, he had not hesitated to declare his opinions. In this instance, feeling most unwilling to add to the embarrassments with which the Government were surrounded on this difficult question, he would, had he entertained any doubt as to the course he should pursue, have considered that the Government were entitled to the benefit of that doubt. He confessed that he had now no doubts whatever upon this subject, and was prepared to give a conscientious, willing, and hearty support to this Bill. He and others had been taunted with the sudden change in their opinions; but long before this measure was introduced he had entertained sentiments in entire unison with it. He had long advocated the admission of foreign corn for feeding and fattening of cattle as likely to be of the greatest benefit to this country; it would encourage the farmer to keep a larger amount of stock, 1352 and by that means to improve the quality and produce of the soil. He hoped still to see the day when there would be an abundance of meat and bread in the market, the produce of our own soil, at lower prices than the present; and he was satisfied that the increased consumption would remunerate the producers of that abundance. Among all the fallacies entertained by farmers none was greater than that high prices, irrespective of other circumstances, were the best for their individual interests. He wished them to believe the contrary; and he was satisfied that, by a liberal employment of capital—by the active exertions of skill and energy—and by the explosion of old and unprofitable modes of farming, and the adoption of new ones, founded on wise experience, the produce of the soil might be increased to that degree as to enable them to sell it at a moderate price, and to obtain a remuneration for their labour. However great the produce of their land, they might rest assured that there would be found mouths enough to eat it. Imputations had been cast upon him in another place in respect to this question; and it was stated that at a recent meeting of the Farmers' Club in Hertfordshire something had fallen from him to the effect, that he was altogether indifferent as to what should befall the small farmers of the country. That, however, he most decidedly denied; he had never said anything to that effect, and never would say it. What he did say was, those who would suffer in the change were farmers who had capital sufficient for their purposes, without the courage or the skill to use it, and those who had no capital at all. He could not see, for his own part, how it was possible to carry on the business of farming, which required to be well conducted, and a very great amount of capital, without any capital at all; and success in that, as well as in other trades, was quite impossible without that requisite. He would not yield to any man in his respect for the farmers as a class, nor in his good wishes for their prosperity: he looked on them as an essential element in the framework of society; and he believed that on their prosperity depended mainly the prosperity of the country at large; but still he was of opinion that the thing most to be deplored was the insufficiency of capital among them, and their consequent incapability of doing themselves or their occupation justice. Many causes concurred to that result—some wished, it might be, to occupy positions above their means; 1353 others had the ambition to hold large farms, many occupying 200 or 300 acres, when their capital was enough only for 100. In his opinion, if they were content to work with their capital, and up to their capital alone, they would be far better circumstanced. That was practically the opinion of that great agriculturist the Earl of Leicester, who would not give a farm to any man unless he had 10l. an acre to spend on it; the result of which was a body of tenantry unequalled in the entire country, who multiplied the stock upon their farms, who were able to find employment for their labourers, and who had capital enough to bear up against those losses to which farmers, in common with all other trades, were so liable. It was asked what, in that case, would become of the large farms of 1,000 and 1,500 acres? To this he would answer, that there would be always found a sufficient number of persons hitherto unconnected with agriculture, who would embark their capital as readily in this as in any other business, when there was a fair prospect of return for it. Still, if more capital were employed in the small farms, it would be better; and men of capital, who were not now connected with agriculture, were ready to take them. If these persons were not themselves fit to take the command, they could procure men as bailiffs, who were ready to manage their farms. To his mind, it was one of the best signs of the times that men not connected with agriculture, were ready to embark their capital in agriculture; and it was further a matter of congratulation, as it kept up the connexion between the commercial and manufacturing classes. He was at a meeting of the breeders of stock in the country, at which he broached these opinions, and a solitary cheer was all the response he got; one gentleman, indeed, told him, that he wished to put the little key in the lock to open free trade. He was not then prepared to vote for that contingency; but the times had changed since that period. Free-trade principles were now promulgated by Ministers, and carried by a large majority in the House of Commons. His conversion to his present opinions was at least disinterested. He had never asked anything from the Minister; and he hoped it would not be imputed to him that his motives were of an interested character. He had made a sacrifice of his character for consistency, in the firm hope and belief that this measure would be beneficial to themselves as well as to the country at 1354 large. He believed the measure must pass; and he thought it better that their Lordships should make a present sacrifice of their opinions, rather than perpetuate a state of bitterness between the two great interests of the country. The doubt hanging over the landed interest had rendered it impossible to enter into contracts between landlord and tenant; and this state of things was almost as injurious to that interest as the measure now under their consideration could possibly be. He would not then enter on any arguments in respect to the question; but he could not sit down without expressing his regret that, in the preparation of the measure before their Lordships, more consideration was not shown to the agriculturists, in respect to the special burdens upon land that existed in this country. He confessed he thought the present was a most favourable opportunity for introducing and carrying out such a measure as that which was now proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Seeing that a great change had been wrought in the minds of many who considered, even in the year 1842, that a certain amount of protective duty was absolutely essential to the welfare of the agricultural interest; that those who once thought a 40s. duty indispensable now would be content with 20s., while those who had been for a fixed duty of 8s. would now be ready to compromise for 4s.; seeing that even the noble Duke on the cross benches was disposed to make a relaxation in the opinions he had entertained, and that it was no longer possible nor desirable to maintain the present system of Corn Laws, he did not think it all disgraceful or dishonourable to avow that his own sentiments had undergone a change on this subject, and that it was more wise and politic for them as legislators and landlords to adopt the course proposed by the Government. It was on these grounds that he would give his vote for the present measure, in which he believed were involved not only the improved condition of the poor, the social advancement of the labouring classes, the extension of commerce, and the general prosperity of the agricultural interest—a measure, too, which he ventured to hope would not only receive the sanction of their Lordships, but would also meet with God's blessing and approbation. He supported it also in entire confidence in Her Majesty's Government. It was of no use to talk of consistency, unless everything around them was fixed and immov- 1355 able. But was that the state of this country? Even if he had not changed in his opinion on this subject, he never would have joined in the outcry which had been raised against the First Minister of the Crown. He would not concur in the accusation of political cowardice which had been made against that right hon. Baronet; and even if he stood alone in the matter, he would bear testimony to the great moral courage which that right hon. Gentleman had evinced, in sacrificing as he had done all party considerations in introducing a measure which he conscientiously believed to be for the benefit of the Empire. He hoped that Sir Peel's present policy would prove as successful as that commercial policy of his which had rescued the finances of this country from "the slough of despond" in which the kingdom was when the right hon. Baronet resumed the reins of office; but he had to say, in conclusion, that not only those men who had so long and so strenuously urged the abolition of these laws, but those who had consented to the attempt to remove them, in consequence of a conscientious conviction of their inexpediency, would be looked upon by posterity as the benefactors of their race; and the Minister under whose auspices the change was carried out would be regarded, when all the circumstances of the case were considered, as one of the most successful and sagacious legislators that ever swayed the destinies of this Empire.
The EARL of EGLINGTON
said, that since he had the honour of seconding the Address in Answer to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne at the commencement of the present Session, he had never addressed more than a few words to their Lordships; and he trusted that, upon this question, so important to the country, they would excuse him for occupying a very few moments of their time. Like the noble Lord who had just sat down, he had no hesitation as to the propriety of the course he was pursuing; but, unlike that noble Lord, he had not changed his opinions, for he still adhered to those great Conservative principles which it had been his pride to avow ever since he had the honour of a seat within their Lordships' House—and he trusted, if on a future occasion he should ever again address their Lordships, that his speeches would not evince such a total change of opinion as some which they had lately heard. No one was more convinced than he was of the necessity of not running hastily away from 1356 party ties, or of separating on light grounds from those whose talents or whose conduct had made them leaders. He believed that it was necessary for the well-being of the State that there should be two or more parties in both Houses of Parliament, both equally solicitous for the good of the country, but arriving at their conclusions by totally different reasoning and arguments, each watching the movements of the other, and sifting their intentions and measures to see whether they were good for the universal well-being or for the good of the country; and that those parties should submit to be guided by one or two great minds; for it would be quite impossible to proceed with the business of the country if they were all to advocate their own individual opinions. But there was a bound beyond which party feeling could not go. There was a bound where the proceedings of our leaders might become reprehensible; he regretted to say that they had arrived at that bound, where this great principle must cease; he thought that they must be considered to have arrived at that bound when the measures of their leaders would force them to give up opinions which they had held during all their lives, when that man who had become their leader, and had with such great eloquence inculcated those principles—when that leader so prostituted his eloquence as now to come forward and oppose with the same unrivalled talent those very principles which he formerly advocated; then, indeed, it must be held that further obedience became reprehensible, and it became public men to act upon their own convictions. He had not the slightest intention of being personal. A great occasion like the present was not the time for invective, or for ascribing interested motives to those who had undergone such a change as they now witnessed. Much as he deprecated the Ministerial line of policy, he was willing to believe that Her Majesty's Ministers, in the conduct they had pursued, and were pursuing, were actuated by no other motive than an ardent desire to promote the good of the country. Although he thought it singular, that out of the thirteen noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen, only one should come out unscathed, and true to the principles which had placed him in power, still he was perfectly convinced that the remainder were not actuated by any base desire of retaining office, but by a weak and extraordinary deference to the views of their leader. He would now proceed to inquire what causes 1357 had led to the late wonderful changes of opinion. The noble Earl, who had moved the second reading of the Bill, had denied that the failure of the potato crop was the primary cause; but it was so stated by the Prime Minister when bringing in the Bill. He believed that although the statements on that subject had been greatly overcharged, still that they were not wholly without foundation. He believed that in Ireland, usually on the verge of starvation, a partial failure of the potato crop had caused a considerable amount of suffering; and if he thought that the passing of this Bill would preserve a single family from destruction, it would be a great inducement to him to support it; but he feared that its success would be attended with far different results. If Ireland was to be benefited by legislation, it was by measures leading to the encouragement of agriculture, and the reclamation of waste lands, and not by a Bill which was likely to put a stop to domestic agriculture altogether. But they had been told that the farmers were a pampered race; that they had been made slothful by protection. No doubt many of them had not been so active as they might have been; no doubt that it could be well if they united the scientific knowledge of Liebig with the practical skill of Smith of Deanstown; but he could not understand how the competition to which they were about to be exposed, could lead them on to such a course of improvement. To make improvements the farmers must have money; and where were they to get money if the Legislature destroyed the market for their corn? Injurious as this measure would be to England and Ireland, he feared that it would affect Scotland, in which country he was more immediately interested, in a nearly equal proportion. In the west of Scotland there were poor landlords and wet lands. The farmers lived like labourers, and had arrived at a greater pitch of agricultural skill than most men in their way of life. They were prepared to do everything that men could do; but how could they compete with the foreign cultivator if the price of corn came down to 35s. the quarter? They had invested their small capital in improvements, and now, when they expected some return, a cloud came across the political horizon, and destroyed all the sunshine of their hopes. It had been urged that they were to be benefited by competition. Now, as regarded competition, he should like to know, if a new railway were projected 1358 alongside of an old established one, whether the latter would be benefited by the competition? He believed that there was not a railway director in the kingdom who would answer in the affirmative. And yet such was the state to which the farmers were about to be reduced. Perhaps the result would be something like the case of the two coaches which carried the passengers for nothing, and at last gave them a good dinner into the bargain. This was very pleasant for the passengers as long as the competition lasted; but the upshot was, that both establishments became bankrupt, and the road was left without any coach at all. Cheap bread might be a good thing, but they should also see that the people had the money to buy it; they should take care that as prices were reduced wages did not become lower, and also, that ultimately foreign producers, seeing we were at their mercy, did not conspire to make bread dearer than ever. He believed that it was the hope of low wages, and not of cheap bread, that had produced the Cobdens and the Brights, and the quarter of a million fund. It was that which stimulated the attempts making in every direction to usurp the electoral franchise of the country. This was not so much a landlord's or tenant's as it was a labourer's question. The labourer might see savoury viands in the shop-windows; he might hear that carriages had become cheaper; but if his wages were reduced, he would soon wish to see dear bread again, provided it brought back with it its former concomitant—fair and remunerative wages. They had been told that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was induced to propose his late free-trade measures by the success of his Tariff in 1842. Perhaps three years' experience of the present measures might lead him to some change equal to a repeal of the Reform Bill, or the destruction of the Irish Church. There were very few indeed of their Lordships, he felt assured, who approved of the Bill itself, however circumstances might induce them to deal with it. As to himself, he considered there was never a case in which their Lordships were more called upon to reject a measure sent up from the other House; never a case more urgently requiring their interposition to save the country from the effects of rash legislation elsewhere; never a case in which they were more called upon to make necessary an appeal to the country. The mere temporary change of Ministry that had oc- 1359 curred a few months ago, the half-dozen Cabinet Councils, the two or three trips down to Windsor Castle, and the two or three meetings in Chesham-place, did not represent the feelings of the country, nor did it follow at all from the result of these proceedings of the chiefs of the two parties that any change had taken place in the opinion of the people on this subject. What that opinion was might be clearly understood from the fact, that the late Ministry was turned out of office because they were opposed to protection, and that the present Ministry came into office on the sole pretence of their being champions of protection. It appeared to him, that if their Lordships did not, under the circumstances, exercise their prerogative in behalf of the people, the question might very fairly be asked—"Of what use is the House of Lords?" and he, for one, should have some difficulty in answering the question. If, when an appeal had been made to the people, it should appear that the people's opinion had changed on this subject, and that they were in favour of free trade, he, for one, was not prepared to say that their Lordships would be justified in opposing the wishes of the people. As it was, there being no reason whatever to suppose that the public had altered their views, he called upon their Lordships, as the hereditary guardians of the people, to reject this measure—he called upon the noble Duke, but for whose consent this Bill would never have been brought before them, to come forward and once more save the country that he had already so often saved. He implored their Lordships to refuse any share in a legislation which involved such discredit upon the character of British statesmen.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
said: I will not allow this debate to be crushed, and if the noble Earl (Earl of Dalhousie) persists in attempting to do so, I will move an adjournment and divide until I succeed in carrying the Motion. I am surprised at the noble Earl's endeavours to prevent my addressing the House, because an understanding had been come to, that after one more speech on this side, he should be allowed to conclude the debate; and I actually whispered to him across the Table that I would purposely avoid going into the details of the question at any length, feeling as anxious as he is, and as all your Lordships must be, that this debate should come to a close. It was my intention when I rose to have given a 1360 promise to the effect that I would confine within a very small compass my remarks, although I must confess it is with pain and reluctance I do so, because I feel much on this subject; I have studied it attentively, thought much on it, listened to every speech which has been made in the course of the debate, and though the subject has been ably handled, I think there are still some important points which have not as yet been alluded to. But my Lords, notwithstanding my strong feeling on the question, and natural anxiety to go into it at length, I will do violence to my own feelings, and give now the pledge I should have given if not interrupted by the noble Earl. If, therefore, your Lordships will lend me your attention for a few minutes, you will find I am not going to abuse your indulgence. If, my Lords, in the few remarks to which I intend to confine myself, I do not dwell on that portion of the subject on which so much stress has been laid in the earlier part of this debate, namely, the great change which has come over noble Lords' minds, I trust your Lordships will not attribute my silence to the small value I may be supposed to attach to consistency of character in public men, or imagine for a moment that I underrate the necessity of political honesty. I feel as sensible as any man the serious shock which public morality must have sustained by the sudden adoption by the present Government of this injurious and uncalled-for measure; and if the question of the conduct of Ministers were brought forward in a separate form, I should think this House justified in notifying by a resolution their condemnation of the flagrant dereliction of their avowed political principles; and if such a resolution was submitted to our consideration, I should not hesitate to vote for it. But on the present occasion I would fain have seen the discussion confined to the merits of the Bill at this moment before us. I wished to have seen the question considered exclusively whether or no you are now to abandon altogether the principle which has for so many years guided your commercial policy, and if so, whether or no the measure proposed by Government is the best mode of accomplishing the object. These were the grounds, my Lords, on which I hoped to have seen this question discussed, and the only grounds. I need not say how completely my hopes have been disappointed, for with the exception of the noble Marquess on this side of the House, and the 1361 noble Earl who sits near him, no attempt has been made to defend this measure on its own merits, nor any argument put forward for its unqualified adoption. None at least have been advanced by the Government; for what was the case with regard to the noble Earl who opened the debate and moved the second reading of the Bill? Did he not devote nearly the whole of his speech to a defence of his own conduct, and waste a long period of the time in endeavouring to reconcile his present vote with his principles by avowing that all his former votes were in violation of them? To excuse the single vote he was about to give in accordance with his now acknowledged devotion to free trade, he brought forward a long list of votes he had given against his long but secretly-entertained opinions. That portion which was by far the longest of the noble Earl's speech may have been conclusive; and your Lordships have the satisfaction of now knowing, that in the noble Earl you have long had a sincere advocate of the doctrines of free trade, although he never ventured to acknowledge them, but invariably did his utmost to prevent their adoption. In the remainder of the noble Earl's speech an attempt, but a very feeble one, was made to draw an argument in favour of the measure from the position of Ireland. After partially abandoning the famine, he said it is perfectly true that a considerable quantity of grain has been imported into this country from Ireland notwithstanding the distress there; but, added the noble Earl, the motive of this exportation of grain was to get money here where the market was high, in order to purchase other food in Ireland where the markets were lower. And yet in the very next sentence the noble Earl told you he was about to take away the very protection which kept that high market open to Ireland, and thus cut off the only source from which Ireland could receive money to meet her distresses. This measure has along with its other evil qualities the additional misfortune to prevent a certain good coming out of a great evil. The potato disease in Ireland, much as it was to be lamented, might have led to some good results: it might have taught those improvident people no longer to rely solely on one kind of green crop, but to see the advantage of sowing a greater breadth of white crops, so as to have the means of raising money by exporting their corn to the high markets of England whenever seasons obliged them 1362 to purchase food in consequence of their own potatoes failing. In fact, I believe that had it not been for this ill-timed measure, much more attention would have been paid in Ireland to the cultivation of wheat which, if the people of that country were too poor to consume themselves, they might have sold in England, and thus been enabled with the profits to have bought abundant though cheaper food. So poor a case did the noble Earl make out of his single argument on the merits of the Bill, that I felt regret at seeing the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) rise to oppose the measure so early in the debate, lest he should waste his strength in combating a shadow, as no real or substantial case had been set up on the part of the Government. The noble Lord, however, did for his opponent what his opponents could not do for themselves: he first set up each argument ever raised in favour of free trade, placed it in the very strongest position, and then deliberately and completely demolished it. Some of the statements made in that extraordinary speech were commented upon by my noble and learned Friend. It had been shown that in our trade with Russia we took more goods from her than she took in return from us, leaving the inference to be drawn that the balance was made up by the export of gold. My noble and learned Friend said, no matter if we did send gold in exchange for corn. Now I perfectly agree in the opinion that if we take from Russia grain and other raw materials to the amount of four or five millions, she must take in return from us four or five millions as the case may be—that is, an equal value of manufactured goods or gold, and that it matters little whether it be gold or manufactured goods, provided when in the circle of trade that gold returns to our shores, we buy it back on the same terms as we send it out. The gold will certainly return, not directly from Russia, but through other countries trafficking with Russia. For instance, Russia requires the products of Turkey, Persia, and other countries being articles of produce which her own soil does not afford her. She exchanges the gold she receives from us for these products of other countries; and these other countries send us back the gold in return for our manufactured goods whenever there is a balance against their export trade to this country. But then there is this further consideration. The gold when it leaves our shores represents a certain quantity of labour in 1363 this country: when it returns it represents a certain quantity of labour in the country from which we export it. Its value depends upon the value of labour in the country which returns it for goods; and thus when we buy it back, it requires more goods than it represented in this country before it left it. This accounts for what was stated by a noble Earl last night: the noble Earl said British goods are selling very cheap in many foreign markets; and I have heard it stated that at Trebizonde, Teheran, and Smyrna, English manufactured cottons were cheaper than in our own markets. In our trade with those countries our exports exceed our imports, and the balance is made up by returns in gold; but the price paid in goods for the gold is in proportion to the quantity of labour that gold represents in those countries; and as labour is cheaper in those countries than here, the quantity represented by the gold is greater, and consequently a greater quantity of goods is required in return for it. This accounts for the extraordinary difference in the prices of the same description of British goods in different markets, and explains the cheapness the noble Earl alluded to. I will now bring evidence in support of the small profits I have been contending that our foreign trade brings in comparison with our home trade. [Interruption by Lord Brougham.] I never was deterred by the noble and learned Lord's interruptions from freely commenting on his erroneous arguments: nor will I now submit to his irregular interference. To proceed with the subject: our exports depend upon the extent of our imports, and therefore you say, let us increase the amount of our imports of corn, in order to extend the export of our manufactured goods. But I argue that your export trade is limited by other causes independent of the Corn Law, and that the manufacturer's profits in the foreign trade are much smaller than in the home market, and that he will injure the latter if he attempts to bolster up the former by a repeal of the Corn Law. I refer to the evidence of Mr. Greg, as given before the Land Burdens Committee, in support of what I have said as to return cargoes:—We now export largely of those goods which are calculated for the Chinese market, that is to say, shirtings and yarns. The exporters are selling at less and less prices; then, as to the articles they want as returns they bid higher and higher, and between the two they are now completely fast, and there is a heavy loss on every transaction.1364 Such is Mr. Greg's account of our trade with China; and yet to extend such an unprofitable system as this, you call upon us to endanger a portion of our home markets. If the value of labour in this country was reduced to the level of the value of labour in the countries we trade with, and from which we take gold in return, there would be the same gain in such foreign markets as in the home markets; and it would not matter if the exchange was carried on through the circulation of gold or not, for it would not require a greater quantity of goods to purchase it back than it represented when circulating in this country. I fear, therefore, that any great extension of our imports would eventually tend to lower labour in this country to the continental level. The great object, however, of the free trader is to extend our trade by increasing our imports of corn. Let us, therefore, see what room there is for this increase without displacing our home produce. The population of England and Wales is 16,000,000; each person is supposed to be capable of consuming one quarter of wheat. It is stated that in England and Wales there are 20,000,000 acres of arable land; according to the four-course system of farming 5,000,000 acres would be in wheat. Supposing that each acre yields three quarters of wheat, that is less than many lands bear—but a fair average—the quantity produced would be 15,000,000 quarters, being only 1,000,000 less than the whole quantity required for the consumption of the country. That 1,000,000 is now made up by importations from Ireland, the Colonies, and foreign countries. The power of this country to consume wheat is limited to sixteen million quarters; and as fifteen are produced here, any import over and above 1,000,000 must displace British corn in the market. It should be remembered, that in England the lowest description of food of the poorest people is wheaten bread. It is the last resource, the last article to which the distressed artisan is reduced; he never falls back, as the people of other countries, on roots, or oats, or rye, but he invariably at the present day considers wheaten bread as the humblest food to which he can be reduced; he looks for nothing between that description of food and starvation. There are returns accessible to all your Lordships, which show that during the periods when distress prevails in Leeds and Sheffield, the consumption of wheat is greater than when trade is flourishing, and 1365 the artisan receiving high wages; because, when well paid, the people are enabled to purchase butcher's meat, and consequently substitute meat for an extra quantity of bread. When, on the contrary, the shambles are deserted, and the people can no longer afford to indulge in the luxury of meat, they consume an additional quantity of bread, and thus results the increased demand for wheat. It follows, then, from what I have said, that an improvement in the condition of the people will not increase the demand for wheat, but rather decrease it by enabling them to indulge in meat or a superior kind of diet. I therefore affirm, and I do so advisedly, that there is no deficiency of corn, and little room, if any, for an increased importation from foreign countries, unless you withdraw some of our home produce. The most modest, however, of the free traders state, that at least 2,000,000 quarters of corn will be brought to this country over and above our present imports, and to that extent our export of manufactured goods will be extended. True; but if even in seasons of depression when the people are reduced to bread as their only food, 1,000,000 quarters is the utmost additional wheat they can consume over and above our home produce, where are these 2,000,000 to find a market unless 2,000,000 quarters of English wheat be withdrawn? My noble Friend (Earl Grey) has allowed that in many seasons we produce sufficient, and some years more than sufficient corn. He said this had been the case, and would be the case again, notwithstanding any alteration of the law. If so, on what grounds are the expectations of those free traders founded, who assert that our trade is to be increased simply by the facilities our merchants will have of disposing of their goods in return for foreign corn? In fact, you are reduced to the alternative of either displacing your home-produced corn, or of acknowledging that there will be no large increase of your foreign trade. My noble Friend also allowed that there would be great variation in the demand for foreign corn, on account of the great variety of the seasons. Away then goes the favourite topic of a regular trade. It stands to reason, my Lords, that regularity in the corn trade is impossible: demand and supply depend upon seasons; and I am glad to find my noble Friend abandons the doctrine preached in the manufacturing districts, that this measure would lead to a large, a regular, and a permanent trade 1366 with the corn-growing countries. The noble Marquess, however, revived the fallacy, that if we adopted free-trade principles, the foreigner would be able to calculate the demand and regulate the supply, sending us each and every year a fixed and regular quantity; but how does this opinion agree with the previous statement, that in some years we produce sufficient for the wants of the country? In this supposition of a regular trade, the foreigner is to send us corn whether we want it or no. "At present," the noble Marquess added, "you give the foreign grower warning, letting him know when you are in distress, and when you have abundance." Why, that is exactly what I wish. The sliding-scale lets him know when we want corn, and makes it his interest to supply us with it; in the same way it tells him when we have enough of our own, and shows him the disadvantage of exporting at that period. But, my Lords, it is absurd to think of concealing from the foreigner the state of this country, or the quantity and quality of our harvests. He will know, under any system, the state and prices of our markets. But it was argued by the noble Marquess, that the foreigner having a knowledge of the state of our markets, could easily stop the supplies during disturbed times; but how does this assertion agree with the statement of my noble and learned Friend, who, I am happy to say, is not likely at present to again interrupt me. The noble and learned Lord stated, that Napoleon, in the meridian of his power, when the ports of Europe were under his control and the nations at his feet, could not prevent corn from coming into this country, when the people of this country really wanted it. Yet it is argued that the sliding-scale deprives this country of the corn in time of need; which, I ask, is most powerful, Napoleon in the very zenith of his greatness, or a duty of a few shillings? Why, my Lords, it is absurd to suppose, after such an illustration of the case, that either the foreigner can withhold the supplies, or the sliding-scale shut them out at periods the people of this country really stand in need of foreign importations. The sliding-scale merely keeps back the supplies when you do not want them. The question had been asked, what should prevent the British farmer from competing with the foreigner? The answer is, simply that they do not come into the market on the same terms. The English farmer brings a heavily taxed article into the market, to meet and compete 1367 with one totally exempt from taxation. The English farmer brings 15,000,000 of quarters into the market, on each quarter of which he has paid during the course of production at least 4s. or 5s. in direct taxes and rates: the foreigner brings in, or is to bring when this Bill passes, his 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of quarters, in the cultivation of which, if a Russian, he is liable to no rate or tax whatever. In other articles, when the home producer contends with the taxed produce of the foreigner or colonist, you put a countervailing duty on the home produce, in order to equalize their position, and balance the market. You do this on hops, British sugars, and would do so on tobacco if grown; but by this Bill the Russian corn-grower, who pays no taxes on his land, meets the English farmer, who has paid 4s. or 5s. some months previous to coming to market on each quarter of wheat he offers for sale. The larger quantity may regulate the market price; but if so, the foreigner pockets the difference. My noble and learned Friend knows nothing of Russia, or else he would not talk of the necessity of hewing down forests, clearing the land, charring the roots before they are able to grow more corn. In a large portion of the Russian provinces, vast tracts of rich soil wait but the plough; cultivation there requires neither the care nor the expense of our systems of farming: instead of a careful rotation of crops, the husbandmen exhausts one piece of land, and then tills the rich and virgin soils adjoining it. I know not if my noble and learned Friend is a German scholar; but if he is I will quote—[Lord BROUGHAM: No.] Well, then, I will refer him to the recent admirable work of Sir R. Murcheson, in which is mentioned the extent of rich black soil which needs no manure, but merely requires the seed to be broadcast on it to produce abundant harvest. If my noble and learned Friend is desirous of knowing the real condition of Russia, as regards the capacity of her soil, I request him to study the works of the geologist, rather than the political economist, and he will there discover the true productive capabilities of that extensive country. Now with regard to what has been said about Ibrailow, and the cheapness of corn in that port, I am not desirous of obtruding my own information on the House, nor am I inclined to rely on a few isolated instances of cheap cargoes having been shipped in the Black Sea as any proof of future prices in that portion of Europe; but I 1368 will state a fact, and give you my authority for it. A vessel lately arrived at Goole, in Yorkshire, with a cargo of wheat, which was free on board at Ibrailow at 12s. 6d. per quarter. I will give the particulars from a letter written by Mr. Hudson:—Aire and Calder Navigation Office, Goole.The cargo of wheat, 977⅜ quarters, in the ship Alexander Liddle, from Ibrail, was imported and warehoused here by Messrs. Edward Hudson and Co. of Leeds. Since then it has been sold and transferred to different parties. At the present time there are 822½ quarters of it in the warehouse belonging to Mr. Robert Mackie, of Wakefield.I state this, merely because an attempt has been made to throw discredit on a similar statement made by the noble Lord who spoke on the first night of the debate on the faith of a letter from Liverpool. Your Lordships now know the names of all the parties concerned in the transaction, and from any of them you may obtain the fullest information on the subject. However, my Lords, I cannot for a moment doubt but that the price will rise at Ibrailow and elsewhere, should any increased demand for grain take place in this country. The demand must seriously affect the prices; but of this also I am convinced, namely, that prices, though on an average higher than at present, will be subject to terrible fluctuations. Prices fluctuate abroad more than they do now in England; and we shall be influenced by that fluctuation where we are dependent for any quantity of corn on the markets of Europe. A forcible illustration of this took place last winter in Germany. Prices rose with rapidity, and the people were threatened with an alarming dearness. In Munich and some other Bavarian towns the price of bread rose six kreutzers, the measure between the Monday and Wednesday markets. Years of scarcity are not unknown on the Continent; and without some legal provisions with regard to the sale of corn, great suffering would periodically ensue. This leads me to a point of some importance, and to which I ask attention. In parts of Europe, in order to provide against the calamity of an insufficient harvest, a system of garnering a certain quantity of corn by the State is adopted. This is done in Austria, in Bavaria, in Turkey, in Paris, in—[Lord ASHBURTON: Everywhere.] The noble Lord says everywhere. Now, hitherto the bonding system has answered the purpose of the garnering system adopted on the Continent. By it you have had stored up a certain quantity of corn which was cer- 1369 tain to be poured into the market, if the market was ill supplied. It was allowed to accumulate when not wanted for consumption; and there was a profit on introducing it whenever prices indicated a scarcity. This system of bonding corn, while it afforded all the security against want which the system of Government hoards give, had the advantage of being more economical and less troublesome to the Government than the continental principle. You have not here a scene, sometimes witnessed in Constantinople, when the people clamour at the arsenal for the provisions in store, and the authorities render themselves unpopular if they use proper economy in the distribution. The self-acting principle of the sliding-scale releases the corn without the interference of the authorities. But now consider what will be the case if much arable land is laid down in pasture; and, instead of 15,000,000 qrs. home produced, and 1,000,000 imported wheat, we have but 12,000,000 or 13,000,000 home-grown, and rely for the additional 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 on the foreigner, with no grain in bond, and no Government stores to resort to; if in this case a general scarcity prevails in Europe, as it did last winter, when in parts of Germany they were obliged to have recourse to the garnered corn to which I have alluded, what would be the position of this country? When we talk of this country being dependent upon foreign supplies, it is not that we expect foreign States to prevent importations when they have it to export, but that we fear a scarcity abroad will cause an actual deficiency here. My noble Friend (Earl Grey) says, keep more stock, look to stock instead of corn—the great improvement in farming is to keep more stock; but my noble Friend forgets that the straw is as necessary as the stock to carry out his improved system of farming. On an arable farm, stock is of the greatest use, inasmuch as the straw is turned to the best account, and the land receives a greater return in manure. But what I fear is, the turning arable farms into pasture farms; and though the landowner may make as much by his stock as he did by his corn, you will require every year a certain quantity of foreign wheat to make up your necessary supply. Then, too, will happen the very result for which the free trader seems to pray, the grievous object for which he strives; namely, a supply from abroad limited to the wants of the moment, no corn in bond, no stores held back, all that arrives brought 1370 straight to market, no corn purchased abroad till the demand here is apparent; and while this country is thus living from hand to mouth, a check may be given to the exporting trade of other countries, some temporary cause—some delay which would not be foreseen; and then I ask, on what are we to fall back? Under the present law there is always a sufficient quantity in bond to supply the deficiency, in case of any accidental interruption to our trade. [The Marquess of NORMANBY: Remember your promise to be brief] The noble Marquess reminds me of the promise I gave at the commencement of my remarks, and I assure him I will endeavour to keep it by being as brief as I can. I wish, however, for a moment, to allude to what has been said about labour. Where there is a thin population, then there is a disproportioned demand for labour, and wages rise accordingly. Where, as in this country, the population is dense and the supply of hands great, the demand is not out of proportion to supply, and wages are affected by other causes. No argument, therefore, on the price of labour, can be drawn from the labour market in America which is applicable to the circumstances of this country. If labour is high in portions of newly settled countries, it is on account of the thinness of the population, not the cheapness of food. The price of food only affects wages where the supply of labour is abundant. One word on freights, and I will conclude the few observations to which I promised to confine myself. The freights from some of the northern ports, from Selby and Goole, for instance, to London, are higher than from Hamburg to London, or from Hamburg to Hull. Nay, freights are actually as high from the interior of Yorkshire to Grimsby, as from Hamburg to Grimsby. In consequence of your navigation laws and harbour dues, the foreigner has an advantage in transmitting his corn over the native inland grower. I believe this subject has began to attract attention, and the farmers of the north will soon ask why they are not to be allowed to avail themselves of the cheap Danish and Norwegian crafts to convey their produce coastwise, without being subject to the heavy taxes imposed by the present system of harbour dues and navigation laws. On this subject of freights, great errors seem to have crept into public statements of the cost of transmitting corn from foreign parts as compared with our inland towns; but I will refrain from going into detail, as I have 1371 already occupied your time for nearly an hour. I must really be allowed to repeat that it is with difficulty I restrain myself from entering into the many other topics connected with this subject, and which have been only partially alluded to in the debate. I will, however, do violence to my own feelings, and reserve for some other stage of the Bill my remarks, knowing that from the noble Earl who is to follow me, and who is, I expect, destined to close the debate, you expect a long, and what is beyond doubt, an able speech, for unless something more to the purpose falls from the noble Earl than we have yet heard from any of his Colleagues in office, the Government will have introduced a Bill, without saying a word in its support. I say a long and able speech, because the Government is bound at least to show the grounds of their new policy, and the reasons for which they recommend their present Bill. We have a right to know what are their expectations as to future imports; whether they look for a great increase in our trade with corn-growing countries, or if they hope to produce a diminution of price in the food of the people; above all, it behoves the noble Earl to show the probable effect on the national income. If this measure, by reducing the price of produce diminishes 20 or 30 per cent the income from land, you will diminish to that amount the capital on which the whole of our taxation is based; you will destroy, to a certain extent, its power to meet the heavy demands upon it in money payments for local and general purposes, and thus reduce the material wealth and resources of the country. The rental of land in England is less than is generally supposed; the average rent of all England is only 17s. an acre; the average rent of the North Riding of Yorkshire is 13s., of Merioneth, only 1s. 6d. This must be borne in mind, when an effort is made to throw the loss in price on the rent; for if I mistake not, the margin is too narrow in the rent-roll of some portions of the poorer lands to bear any additional reduction. Why, even in Lancashire the rent of the farm-lands was not high; in Longworth, the parish adjoining Mr. Ashworth's factory, the rent was only 8s. per acre; and when the noble Marquess speaks of the increase in the value of land in Lancashire, he forgets that it is the mineral wealth and increased number of hamlets that have caused the advance in rent, and not any great sums given for the purely farm lands. Besides, the compari- 1372 son between Lancashire now, and Lancashire some two hundred years ago, could scarcely bear on the present question; for it is well known that parts of Lancashire were at some such distant period considered as much out of the way, and barbarous as any portion of the kingdom. The common progress of ciuilization would account for the change in circumstances and rents between the two periods alluded to by the noble Marquess. The noble Lord concluded by repeating his deep regret, that he was precluded by the lateness of the hour, and his anxiety to allow the debate to close, from alluding to many other topics of interest; but after the attentive hearing the House had given him, he felt he should be abusing their patience, if at that time in the morning he prolonged his observations.
rose to apologize for one moment, while he ventured upon a trifling explanation of the personal matter which had obtruded itself upon the House. He must be permitted to observe, that it was for the convenience of the House and the speaker himself when any noble Lords had misapprehended, and was therefore misstating, the argument of another Peer, that this latter should at once get up and say that he did not state that which was misrepresented concerning him; whereupon it was the form and order of the House that the noble Lord so interposing should be believed, and the argument founded upon that misstatement should immediately cease. But what he desired to say more particularly was this—that his noble Friend (Lord Beaumont) had entirely misunderstood the observations he (Lord Brougham) had made, with regard to Russia, and the Russian trade; and not only had he misunderstood and mistaken them, but he had given the direct contrary argument, for so far from having said that we exported 3,000,000l. or 4,000,000l. in bullion to Russia, to adjust the balance of our exports and imports, that his statement was, that that was the argument of the noble Lord opposite; but that the fact was, that the export was made in the coffee of Brazil, and the sugars of Cuba. He (Lord Brougham) had been charged with being asleep during the noble Lord's observations. He could only reply, he wished he had been. But far from having been asleep, he had been wide awake, and he had been fully aware of a memorable promise made by the noble Lord, that of making a short speech, his breach of which he deeply re- 1373 gretted. Neither had he (Lord Brougham) used the argument as related to Napoleon as he had been said to use it. What he said was this—not that he had compared the potency of Napoleon to the potency of the sliding-scale; but what he did say was, that we were so far from having to fear being dependent on foreign supply, that even Napoleon totally failed in the attempt to stop it.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, that he was sure their Lordships would do him the justice to believe that he was entirely sincere when he said, that in rising to submit to their Lordships the reasons which induced him to give his vote in favour of the second reading of this Bill, and to bear his share of the responsibility of proposing it; he did so under a deep and unfeigned distrust of his own capacity to discharge the task which had devolved upon him. He should labour under a feeling of still stronger discouragement, were it not that he ventured even now to hope that he should receive at their Lordships' hands a continuance of that kindness and indulgence which for some years their Lordships had invariably shown him. He would not have contested with the noble Baron the right to occupy the attention of the House, were it not that there was an understanding (the noble Duke would bear him out) that he should follow the noble Lord who had previously sat down.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
After the noble Marquess spoke, it was right that a protectionist should answer him; their Lordships had already heard, that though the noble Earl had once been a protectionist, he was not so now.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
He hoped the House would not permit itself to lose its good humour; he could assure their Lordships that nothing whatever should fall from him calculated in the slightes-degree to increase the feelings of impatience, and he hoped the House would not be offended if he said of discontent, which it was too apparent prevailed among their Lordships. In the course of the debate here and elsewhere it appeared to have divided itself into two parts; one of these had reference to the merits of the measure itself, and the other to the conduct of those by whom it had been brought forward. There had been said many things which it was, no doubt, hard to listen to, and galling to bear. He was not about, however, either on the part of himself or of his noble Friends by his side, to offer any complaint upon that 1374 subject. Her Majesty's Ministers could not help being conscious, that however strong might be their own convictions of the expediency and the necessity of the course they had pursued, the introduction of the measure by them could not but have created feelings of mortification in the minds of those with whom they had hitherto acted; and he at once admitted that they had no right to be too quickly sensitive to the natural expression of that feeling. He assured their Lordships again that, if he could help it, not a word should fall from his lips calculated to increase any animosity which might at present exist. His noble Friends who had lately spoken, he was sure, would not be inclined to think that he disparaged their statement, when he said that a large proportion of that which had been stated by them had been stated previously in the brilliant and comprehensive address delivered by the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonies. He was sure that they would not think it flowed from any disrespect to them, if he directed himself chiefly to his speech, which was so comprehensive, as a whole, and which, in his opinion, placed the matter on those grounds on which alone he thought it expedient this question should be considered. The noble Lord gave his opinion, not only on this Bill, but submitted to the House his views on the whole commercial policy of the country. He stated that he objected to this Bill because he wished to sustain protection to native industry. Now, the Bill which was submitted to their Lordships, and in which was proposed a change of the law, was based on precisely the opposite principles; and it was in defence of that proposed change that he now addressed their Lordships—for he felt bound to maintain the opinion he held, that the principle of protection was altogether unsound. He believed that the principle of protective duties was oppressive and unjust to the consumer, because, if it had any effect at all, it raised unfairly the price of the article he consumed; he also believed that, in the long run, it was not really beneficial to the producer. He founded that opinion, not merely on the teaching of political economy; for it had not been impressed on his mind with some fearful and irresistible weight only by that which his noble Friend (Lord Asburton) had referred to that evening, as that "awful thing," political economy; but he had derived this opinion from an examination of the history of the com- 1375 merce of this country. His noble Friend had asked, where were the authorities for these opinions? The authority he should that night quote was the greatest of all authorities—he meant the authority of facts. He maintained that the history of our commercial legislation—more especially of the last thirty years, and above and beyond all, the history and course of our commercial legislation, which the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonies the other evening referred to so much in illustration of the Tariff of 1842—afforded demonstration of the truth of the doctrine he had just laid down. He must here beg permission to address to the House a few words personally relating to himself. In expressing the opinions he did now with respect to the principle of protection, he said nothing at variance with the sentiments he had ever expressed in that House. During the three years in which he had conducted a portion of the public business of the country, nothing in this House had been said by him adverse to the opinion he expressed now. It had been his lot to express this opinion amid the deadest and dullest silence of noble Lords on this side of the House, while it received the cheers of the noble Marquess and the noble Lords on the other side of the House; when noble Lords beside him were shaking their heads at the doctrine which he put forth, noble Lords opposite were nodding acquiescence. He recollected that upon one occasion, when he was called upon to oppose a Motion made by a noble Lord on the subject in that House, the noble Duke on the cross benches declared that if he supported the Vice President of the Board of Trade, it was not because he loved the sentiments of that Vice President more, but that he detested them; but that he did detest, abhor, and utterly abjure them some few fractions less than those of the noble Lord opposite. During the eleven years he had been in public life, he had not in any one case expressed an opinion adverse to that which he now held on this question. He had the honour of a seat in the other House of Parliament for an agricultural constituency, the county of East Lothian, and never to them, on the hustings or elsewhere, had he uttered a word adverse to his present principles. He never gave a vote on the Corn Laws but one, and that was for a diminution of duty and a relaxation of protection; and the very first Motion he had had the honour of proposing in 1376 their Lordships' House, was the Canada Corn Bill. He asked pardon for thus occupying their attention with matters personal to himself; but as that debate had turned so much on inconsistency, he thought it due to himself to say thus much. It would be unpardonable in him at that late hour of the night, and in the temper of the House, and after the fatigue it had endured, to proceed as fully as he should otherwise have felt it his duty to do in illustrating the views he held upon this question; but he did feel strongly the extreme importance of not permitting the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) on the commercial policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government, to go unanswered. He would not go into all the details, bnt would touch merely on two or three of the points urged by the noble Lord. But he had stated to their Lordships that he rested wholly on facts for the principles he entertained. He was prepared to go into the question, and to deny that the commercial prosperity of this country had risen from the operation of protection. In this he agreed with Lord Liverpool, who was not usually quoted by noble Lords on such a question as this, but who had said, at an interview respecting the trade in wool, he thought it more than doubtful whether the prosperity of the trade had not existed in despite of, and not in consequence of, protection. He was prepared to combat the statements of the noble Lord, and to assert that with respect to the woollen, cotton, linen, silk, iron, and indeed every branch of trade in the country, not only did they not flourish by reason of the principle of protection, but that they flourished as that protection was removed; nay, more, that they seeemed to flourish all the better in proportion as that protection was removed. His noble Friend had adverted to various points in the Tariff of 1842, and he made certain statements as to the price of wool and timber, and ships in the Baltic trade, and guano ships, the whole tendency of which was to impugn the good effects of that Tariff, and to show that protection to native industry ought to be continued. He must deny the soundness of these statements. Two years ago, a noble Lord out of the House remarked on the great increase in the importation of butter, and stated that that increase was owing to the duty having been lowered; but there were two reasons why that effect could not be traced to the reduction of duties. The first was, that the duty had not been lowered; the second was, that the importation 1377 had not increased. The statements now made were almost as unsound. He must regret the absence of his noble Friend on the present occasion, but he would endeavour to say nothing respecting the statement of his noble Friend which ought not to be said in his absence. One of his noble Friend's statements was, that his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) had made it his boast that the Tariff of 1842 had had the effect of increasing the prices of articles affected by it, and that he argued that increased competition tended to raise the prices of articles. Now, his right hon. Friend had made no such statement. His right hon. Friend said, that notwithstanding the alarm that was expressed that the Tariff would have the effect of greatly lowering prices, those prices had not been lowered; and he distinctly stated that he did not mean to assert that that result was owing to the operation of the Tariff, but that he mentioned it only to show that the apprehensions that were felt at that time had not been realized. His noble Friend had also gone into a statement to show the effect of these changes upon the prices of wool, and he had taken the period from 1819 to 1824, when a protecting duty was levied, and the price was 1s. 4d. per pound, and had compared it with the period subsequent to 1824, when the price was 10d. But the statement of his noble Friend gave neither a complete nor correct view of the question. This he now proposed to do. He now held in his hand a paper which had been laid on the Table of the House, containing the prices and quantities of wool from 1818 to 1845; and the return was made so extensive in order to comprise the three different rates of duty which had existed. In 1818, the duty was ¾d. a pound; in 1819, it was raised to 6d. a pound, which it continued till 1824, when the duty was lowered to 1d., and that duty remained until 1844, when it was finally abolished. Now, when the duty of 6d. a pound was proposed, those who urged that a protective duty was necessary were distinctly told by those who opposed the duty, that it would have the effect of lowering, not raising, the price; for that foreign wool was essentially necessary for combination with our own wools in the manufacture of cloth, and that the demand for home wool would diminish if foreign wool were rendered so much dearer by the increased duty; for the foreign wool would be excluded, and the price of home would accordingly fall. That prophecy 1378 had been fully realized. The price in 1818, when that protective duty was imposed, was 2s. 6d.; the average importation of foreign wool being about 24,000,000 lbs. During the continuance of the high duty, the importation fell from 24,000,000 lbs. to about 17,000,000 lbs., and the price of home grown wool fell to 1s. 4d. The consequence was that our woollens were entirely excluded from the markets of the Continent; and, in fact, from that hour to the present the woollen trade had never wholly recovered from the blow then inflicted upon it. His noble Friend would have found, if he had looked a little more closely into the subject, and had adverted to the price previous to the high duty in 1819, that the price had begun to revive, not to fall, upon taking off the high duty of 6d. a pound., and had continued to increase up to 1834, when it was 1s. 3d.; that was to say, the price was as high with an importation of 42,684,247 lbs., as when the importation was only 17,000,000 lbs. The price was now 1s. 4d. Thus it appears that, under the low duty of ¾d. per lb., the price was 2s. 6d.; under the high duty of 6d., the price fell to 1s. 4d., and the importation to 17,000,000 lbs.; on the re-imposition of the low duty, the importation increased; and now, when it has reached 42,000,000 lbs. per annum, the price is as high as when it was only 17,000,000 lbs. Whether, therefore, his noble Friend had in the case of wool made out his position that on lowering the duty on importation the price fell, he would leave to their Lordships to consider, the price having been 2s. 6d. under a low duty in 1818, and having fallen to 1s. 4d. under the operation of a high duty. Then his noble Friend had said, "Look to the case of timber, you lowered the duty on foreign timber in 1842;" and then the noble Lord put it to his noble Friend at the head of the Woods and Forests to say whether the prices of Crown timber sold in England had not to a considerable extent fallen. Now, he (the Earl of Dalhousie) held in his hand a return, not of a single sale of timber, but of the annual contracts for the whole of the British navy. The price of oak timber from Tuscany in 1841, previous to the lowering of the duty, was 12l. 4s. 6d.; in 1846 it was 10l. 14s. 8d. Dantzic oak in 1841 was at 14l.; in 1846 it had fallen to 12l. But the price of English oak in 1841 was 12l. 14s. 6d.; in 1842, 12l. 14s. 4d.; in 1843, 11l. 1s. 4d.; in 1846 it was again 12l. 14s. 6d., showing that under the re- 1379 duction of duty the price of British oak is as good now as it was before that reduction was made. Those were the contract prices.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
resumed by saying that he was speaking of the Admiralty contract price of British timber. Now, the conditions and circumstances of the contracts were precisely the same in the four years to which he had referred; and however the contract had operated on the price in 1841, it had had precisely the same effect in 1846. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley) next said, "See what you have done with the shipping interest; the number of British ships employed in the Baltic timber trade in 1839 was 612, whilst in 1845 it had fallen to 609; the number of foreign ships was 566 in 1839, and in 1845 it was 1,845." He (Lord Dalhousie) did not deny that there were more foreign than English ships employed in the timber trade; but their Lordships should bear in mind that the timber trade was peculiar, and that those foreign ships were of small capacity, and unfit for any other purpose; they were in may cases kept afloat by the cargo they carried. However, the whole amount of our shipping trade generally with the Baltic had not diminished. In 1842, as was stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was the first year of the Tariff, the British ships employ ed in the Baltic trade amounted to 3,519, with a tonnage of 613,000; and in 1844 the number of British ships was 4,424 (being an increase of about 1,000), with a tonnage of 818,000, being an increase of 200,000 tonnage. So much as respected the trade with the Baltic. But perhaps their Lordships would permit him to read an extract which must have greater authority than anything he could say, inasmuch as it consisted of observations stated at a business meeting, and related to affairs in which the interests of the parties present were concerned. At a late meeting of the Dock Company at Liverpool, the Chairman said that some surprise had been expressed at the increase of 100,000 tonnage talked of some time since; but he now had to deal with an increase, not of 100,000, but of hundreds of thousands; the increase in six months, from June to the 31st of December of last year, having exceeded that of any previous period, inasmuch as it showed 1380 an increase of 600 vessels and 209,409 tonnage over the corresponding six months of the preceding year. Now, what were the expectations of these parties under a relaxation of the protective laws? Did they expect it would be injurious to the shipping interest? No! The Chairman proceeded to say, that in proportion as they afforded accommodation, in the same proportion they would draw trade to the port of Liverpool; and supposing that at no distant period the rates of duty on other foreign productions, which were now virtually excluded, should be modified, it would not be in the power of any man to divine, whenever those duties should be reduced, what accommodation would be required at the port of Liverpool, which stood in the pre-eminent situation of having 203 acres of dock with fifteen miles of quay-way. After this evidence from practical men, would their Lordships say that the Tariff of 1842 had been injurious to the shipping interest? Next, with respect to the number of ships that had been built, his noble Friend, when alluding to this subject, took the Returns that were on the Table of the House, and said, "Look here at the comparison from the years 1833, and the two years since the Tariff; up to 1842 there has been a biennial increase of tonnage amounting to 197,000, whilst in the two years after the tariff the increase has only been 17,000 tonnage." That was true; but the explanation of the circumstance was this:—In the four years from 1839 onward, there was immense speculation in shipbuilding. So marked and so inordinate was that increase, that an application was made for the levying of duties upon colonial shipping, and a Committee was actually appointed in the other House to inquire into the state of the shipping interest, where the speculation to which I have adverted was stated in evidence as one of the main causes of the depression. In 1843, there was a reaction. That was the reason why the tonnage appeared to be small in the two years referred to; but if, however, their Lordships compared 1843 with 1845, instead of comparing 1842 with 1844, they would accordingly find that, instead of there being an increase of 17,000 tonnage only, the increase was 126,684 tonnage. In 1845 it reached 198,156 tons. The noble Lord then referred to the amount of shipping in the guano trade, and he said, "You have but 17,000 tons added to your 1381 shipping, and you have employed in the guano trade 219,000 tons." Now there was no comparison between the two items—the one was the amount of ships built, the other the amount of those employed in the guano trade. Their Lordships could not draw any inference as to the amount of trade from the number of ships actually building. For concluding accurately as to the activity of trade, their Lordships must look to the number of ships really employed, which was the only safe test in the matter. In 1839 the tonnage was 2,756,533. Under the Tariff it had increased in 1845 to 3,669,000. These figures speak for themselves. He now came to the other branch of the subject. His noble Friend, after stating his propositions with respect to protection of native industry, proceeded to apply those observations to the laws upon corn. He stated, in the first place, that there were high authorities to be adduced in favour of the maintenance of a law for the protection of corn; and he instanced Lord Chatham, Mr. Pitt, and Mr. Huskisson. He (Lord Dalhousie) estimated quite as highly as any noble Lord in that House, and had as deep and sincere a veneration as any for the wisdom of our ancestors; but he could not attribute to those ancestors, even to Lord Chatham, who was among the greatest of them all, the faculty of omniscience; and he said that nothing less than omniscience could have enabled him to pronounce as to those fiscal and commercial regulations which would be best adapted to the condition of society in this country at the present day. As to general principles of policy, or the eternal and immutable laws of justice—as to the principle, for instance, by which the liberty of the subject should be secured, the authority of Lord Chatham was entitled to the greatest weight; but as to the question of the policy of a corn law, or any other restrictive law, it was impossible for Lord Chatham to foresee what would be required by the state of society as it now exists. Then with respect to Mr. Pitt, it was impossible for any one who adverted to the proceedings of Mr. Pitt in 1787, or who read his speeches, to doubt that if he had lived now he would have been the foremost to advocate the policy which had now been submitted to their Lordships, and to bring the whole weight of his vast influence and his gigantic talents towards carrying this policy into effect. Another authority had 1382 been referred to, that of Mr. Huskisson. Mr. Huskisson lived at a later period, and did not therefore lie under the disability to which he had referred. But he (the Earl of Dalhousie) willingly appealed to him—he called from the grave, his voice—the voice of the mighty dead—in order to show that the course now pursued by the Government in the circumstances of the present time, and in the present condition of the country, was exactly such as he, if he had lived, would himself have pursued. In 1814, Mr. Huskisson said, that while commerce and manufactures were encouraged and forced by protections and by restrictions upon the introduction of foreign commodities, he saw no reason why the laws relating to corn should be excepted; but he also said that if other commodities were subjected to the application of the principles of free trade, there could be no objection to leaving agricultural produce to find its own level. He begged to adduce to their Lordships as another authority on this subject, a noble Lord whose name he was sure would be received with the greatest respect, as that of a man of the deepest sagacity, of enlarged experience, and great and varied powers of mind—he meant the late Lord Lauderdale. That noble Lord was as strong an advocate of the Corn Laws as anybody; but a reference to his works will show that he advocated them solely because he thought, that while protection was extended to other interests, it ought not to be withdrawn from agriculture; and he distinctly indicated his opinion, that as soon as protection was removed from other articles, it should be removed from agriculture also. A noble Lord (Lord Ashburton) who sat beside him, repeating a statement which was made on a preceding night, said that they were going to do that which no country on earth ever thought of attempting to do—namely, establish a free-trade in corn; and he asked them to solve the question what they were to do in cheap years, when the ports of this country were the only ports open to the importation of foreign corn? His noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had cited all the countries of Europe, from Turkey round to Russia, stating that each and all of them had a corn law, and that statement had been repeated to-night. Now, it was quite true that each and all of them had a corn law; but what sort of corn laws were they? Were they anything like the Corn Law in this country? No, they were nothing like it. 1383 There was hardly one of them imposed for the sake of protection, and hardly one of them excluded corn the produce of other countries in the years to which his noble Friend had referred. He (the Earl of Dalhousie) held in his hand a statement of the various corn laws in Europe, which he would read to their Lordships. In Turkey there was a duty upon corn as upon every other article of 5 per cent ad valorem; but in the Danubian provinces of Turkey (which he begged their Lordships to bear in mind were the corn-growing provinces) and where, if anywhere, a protection duty would be found, the duty was 3 per cent ad valorem, and there was no point which the population of those provinces held with greater tenacity than their right to have the duty at 3 instead of 5 per cent. How his noble Friend could draw any argument in favour of protection from this source, he declared he could not see. The Papal States of Italy admitted corn free when the price was 48s. per quarter. In the Two Sicilies the duty was about 8s. per quarter. In Sardinia there was a duty of 5s. per quarter. In Tuscany the duty was a mere fraction. In Greece it was 2d. a quarter; and in Austria 3s. per quarter; and he begged their Lordships to observe that Austria, possessing the rich corn-growing provinces of Hungary, Transylvania, and Galicia, nevertheless in the ports of Venice, Fiume, and Trieste, granted admission for the importation of foreign corn free of all duty.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
replied that he was quite aware of that; but the corn was admitted not into the ports only, but into the interior without the payment of any duty. In Spain and Portugal there was a total prohibition; and here he wished simply to mention one fact as showing what was the advantage or disadvantage of this description of protective duty on corn. The fact rested on the authority of official papers before their Lordships, and it was this—that from Portugal and Spain corn used to be purchased in the port of New York at 4s. 6d. per bushel, and brought for the supply of Andalusia; while wheat was to be had on the plains of Castile at 1s. 6d. per bushel, but which was entirely useless, because from the high cost of carriage it was impossible to bring it to a part where it could meet a profitable sale. It was undoubtedly true that Belgium had a corn 1384 law, and moreover a sliding-scale; but free importation was allowed when wheat was 33s. a quarter. A nearly similar regulation was adopted in Holland. In Mecklenburgh a duty of 3 per cent was levied; in Hanover 6s. a quarter; and in Denmark 3s. a quarter. In France there was a high protective duty. In Russia, a duty of 14s. a quarter was imposed on the importation of wheat. These were true; but were these countries in the habit of regulating their duties upon the system advocated in that House? No; and it was unnecessary to go further back than the present year to show how different was their policy. One of the earliest steps taken by the Government of Holland this year was altogether to suspend the Corn Laws. In Russia also—hermetically-sealed Russia—the duties on the importation of corn were altogether removed; and in Belgium the Chambers were convoked in order to remit for a year the duties on corn. What analogy was there, then, in the course pursued by these countries in favour of a permanent protecting duty upon corn, or between their corn laws and those which it was desired by many of their Lordships to maintain? And what was the cause of their suspension of the importation duties? Did it arise from any great failure of the corn crops? No; but from the very same cause which had been treated with such distrust and discredit in that House—the failure of the potato crop. And yet some noble Lords believed it would have been possible for Her Majesty's Ministers, while foreign countries were so acting, to have come down to Parliament and have asked the corn consumers of Great Britain to grant vast sums of money to relieve the distress of the Irish people, while at the same time they maintained a duty of 18s. a quarter upon wheat. There was no alternative between that course and the suspension of the Corn Law for a time; and he would ask whether, if such a suspension had been adopted in this kingdom, it would not have been utterly impossible ever to attempt to restore the Corn Laws to their former position? It had been stated very powerfully by the noble Lord, and it had been frequently repeated by other noble Lords in the course of the debate, that the main object of a Corn Law was to prevent a country from being dependent upon foreign countries for their supplies of corn; and the permanence of the law of 1842 had been advocated on the ground that, 1385 under the operation of that law, this object had been attained. It was said that the quantity of corn produced in this country was keeping pace with the demands of the population; and a noble Friend of his stated that the importations of corn for the last twenty years had averaged 1,070,000 quarters per annum; while during the last year it had only been 308,000 quarters. From this circumstance the inference was drawn that of late years our dependence upon foreign supplies had been diminished, and that production had kept pace with the increase of the population. But they could not draw a correct inference from a single average extending over so long a period as twenty-one years. The only way of arriving at a satisfactory result was to take averages, as far as they could, for equal periods. He held in his hand a return of the importations of corn into this country from 1791 to 1840, from which it appeared that in the first ten years, from 1791 to 1800, the annual average importations were 470,000 quarters; from 1801 to 1810, 555,000 quarters; from 1811 to 1820, 429,000 quarters; from 1821 to 1830, 534,000 quarters; and from 1831 to 1840, 908,000 quarters. Now, in the five years from 1841 to 1845, partly under the operation of the new Corn Law, the average importation had been 1,807,000 quarters annually, of which 1,583,000 quarters had been admitted for consumption. In the four years, from 1842 to 1845, under the new Corn Law, the average quantity annually entered for consumption has been 1,064,500 quarters. Thus it appears, that from 1791 to 1841 the largest annual importation was 908,000 quarters, while in the last four years the annual average entry for consumption has been not less than 1,064,000 quarters. It was therefore evident, upon the face of these returns, that the importation of foreign corn was increasing, that our production has not kept pace with our demand, and that the existing law did not render us independent of supplies from other countries. Now he would ask their Lordships to consider for a single moment this question of dependence upon foreign countries. How many trades and employments of life were there with respect to which they were almost hopelessly and entirely dependent for supplies upon foreign countries? Let them take the case of the woollen trade. There was not one of their Lordships who was not dependent upon foreign supplies for the coat he wore. Nay, there was not one of their Lordships' 1386 footmen who, if they were to propose to them to become independent of foreign supplies of wool, and to wear clothes made of home wool, would not give warning to-morrow. But were they less dependent upon foreign supplies with regard to the cotton manufacture? His noble Friend had stated that the annual imports of cotton wool into this country amounted to many millions of pounds. Did not this fact show how entirely, and hopelessly, they were dependent upon foreigners for their supply? So it was with respect to silk. So it was in a great degree with respect to flax. They could not even carry on a war or fire a shot without being dependent upon foreign supply for the articles used in war. This country was dependent upon her exports and imports in a great degree for her revenue, and she was therefore dependent upon foreign nations for the maintenance of her credit. And has it been the case that in war foreign nations have stopped our supplies? From 1812 to 1814 they were at war with the United States, from which this country drew her supplies of cotton. Would it not have been death and destruction to them if the United States had stopped the supply of cotton to this country? But that had not been the case; on the contrary in 1812 we imported 61,000,000 lbs.; in 1813, 50,000,000 lbs.; and in 1814, 53,000,000 lbs. The China war was another example, and our supplies of tea during the period of the war were as great as in any year preceding. The same principle would govern other nations with respect to corn. If we were dependent upon them for our supplies, we could get what we wanted, notwithstanding they were at war with us, as had been the case during the war with Napoleon. But then his noble Friend said, "Look at the price!" Why, at other times the price was as high as in any of the years his noble Friend had quoted. The price, too, had no effect upon the argument, which was, that if we were at war with other countries we could not obtain supplies of corn at all. During the course of the war in which we were engaged with the whole of Europe, large imports of corn came in every year. Even in 1810, we had importations, and importations too from France itself; and he maintained that, if this country again required foreign supplies, those supplies would be got. The Government had been reproached for not stating what, in their opinion, the price 1387 of corn would be under the new system. He was not prepared to answer any demand so unreasonable, or to pronounce what the actual and specific price of corn would be. He would also respectfully ask their Lordships whether they were quite entitled to demand that information from him? Would they have been prepared in any given year, under the present system, to say what the price would be in the year following? It had been stated that, during the last twenty-one years the average price of wheat was 57s. But what consolation was it to the farmer to be told what was the average price during a series of years, if it had been racing up and down the scale during that period? In one year the price had been 66s.; three years after 46s., in the next it was 39s., and in three years again 70s. How could their Lordships, when there had been such fluctuations under a system the boast of which was that it prevented fluctuation, ask him to name a specific price?
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
said, that if he did not mistake, the noble Duke had predicted precisely the same effects from the Bill of 1842, as he now prophesied from the operation of the present Bill.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, he never did anything of the sort. He did not vote for that Bill; but he probably should have done so if he had happened to have been in the House.
The EARL of DALHOUSIE
thought the noble Duke had voted against that Bill; but it was immaterial for the purposes of his argument. He would go to the last Bill. The present law had proved to demonstration that the whole system of averages was a fiction. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had boasted of the great fixedness and steadiness of price that had followed the law of 1842. The average price of the last year, 50s. 10d., had also been pointed to as a proof of the abundance of corn in this country. He maintained that that price of 50s. was no index whatever to the actual quantity of corn, or to the steadiness of price: it was only a proof of the inferiority of the quality. He held in his hand a return for the last twelve months of the average prices at the different returning market towns, not of the highest and lowest prices in each town, but of the highest average and the lowest average price returned in each week from the returning towns, each town 1388 giving, of course one average price. In the first three months of that period the difference was from 15s. to 18s. In November of the same year, the difference was from 68s. to 48s.; and in the week ending the 29th, from 69s. to 38s. In January, 1846, the difference in the first week was between 69s. and 44s., in the next 67s. to 40s., and in the next 71s. to 42s.; and during other periods of the same year, the difference, instead of ranging at near 15s., as in former periods, was as much as 25s., 26s., 28s., 30s., 31s., and so on, while on the 28th of March it was between 69s. and 32s., or a difference of 37s. In the face of these facts to talk of having equalized prices by means of this law was a gross fallacy. He had also the further evidence of the contract price from the Victualling Office for the years 1843, 1844, 1845, and 1846, to show that the official price of 50s. 10d. was no accurate index of the real supply and price. In January, 1843, the price of red wheat was 2l. 9s. 3d.; in February, 1844, 2l. 17s. 10d.; in 1845, 2l. 6s. 10d.; and in February, 1845, 3l. 5s., 5d.; and in white wheat the price in May 1843 was 2l. 15s., in May 1843, 2l. 8s. in May 1846, 3l. 11s. He therefore altogether repudiated the idea of attempting to fix a price. With respect to the general operation the law was likely to have, he was disposed to agree with the late Earl Spencer in the opinion he had formerly expressed in that House that everything as regarded price would remain not very far from where it was, and that the advantage of the measure would consist not in giving that 'cheap bread' for which there had been a cry, but in the steadiness of trade, and the encouragement which the agriculture of the country would derive from the increased stimulus given by it to our manufactures. One false premise seemed to lie at the foundation of all the arguments on this question—it was that there would be an enormous importation of foreign grain under this measure. Whence was this supply to come? It seemed to be generally assumed that Germany, Denmark, Poland, Russia, some Austrian provinces, and the United States, were the countries from which the grain was to come. But noble Lords who entertained those apprehensions never attempted to state in what quantities this grain would come, and where it was to come from. He maintained that no such quantities as were anticipated could or would come. Mr. Jacobs, in 1828, visited the countries in the north of Eu- 1389 rope, by order of the Government, and reported that they could not send to this country a larger quantity than they then sent. In 1842, another gentleman was sent to the same countries to make the same inquiries; the result was embodied in the consulate returns, and it was there stated that the whole average amount which those countries could send to this country was 2,200,000 quarters of grain. There was nothing whatever to contradict, not the general assertion, but the facts stated by that gentleman, to show that no great quantity could be imported into this country at all. He (the Earl of Dalhousie) perfectly credited the statement of the noble Lord opposite as to the virgin soil and fertile plains to be found in various countries in Europe. He did not dispute that there were millions on millions of acres on which corn might be raised; but what was their value if the corn was not attainable? As well might noble Lords point to the plains of South America, where thousands upon thousands of cattle were roaming about, and argue that under the new law these thousands and thousands would be imported here. There was no doubt of the capacity of those countries which were so dreaded; there was no doubt of the abundance; but distance rendered the capacity and the abundance unavailable. He would not fatigue their Lordships with calculations as to trade and carrying charges. With regard to the produce of Germany, and of Hungary, which found an exit northward, it went by rivers, which in winter were frozen, and in summer were during long periods dried up for navigation. That which found an exit southward was transported in bullock-carts a distance of 250. miles by a very tedious mode of conveyance, raising the charges to a very high amount. So that though in those countries the produce was large it was totally useless. The same was the case with Spain: no country could be more fertile; but though corn could be got at a very moderate rate in Castile, yet before it could be brought to the markets, as mentioned in Mr. Jacobs' report, the price it would have reached rendered it more profitable for the consumer to obtain their supply from America. In the continental countries of which so much was said, cultivation was carried on by serfs; neither they nor their landlords had means for improving agriculture; their implements were of the rudest kind; and he did venture to think, that nothing had been stated by 1390 any noble Lord to invalidate the testimony of the official documents long since laid on the Table, to the fact that the quantities of corn introduced from those countries would be extremely limited, and that the price at which they could be brought was above anything that would yield such a return as to encourage importation. Their Lordships had heard it stated the other evening, that 5,000,000 of quarters could, in three years, be brought into this country, purchased at Galatz, where the corn was produced at a price of 14s., and of excellent quality. He would not read letters to their Lordships, but he would lay before them documents infinitely more authoritative, namely, actual bills of sale. He held three of these in his hand in reference to cargoes of grain imported from Galatz. They were purchased in the abundant year, 1844. They were not detained in warehouse, yet on each transaction there was a loss to a very great extent. They were sold on account of Mr. R. Gardner, Manchester. The first was purchased on July 29, 1844, and the price paid was not 14s., but 21s. and 23s. 9d. per quarter. They were sold in bond on October 25, and the balance of loss was 10s. 4d. per quarter. Another cargo purchased in June, 1844, for 23s. 9d., was sold on October 12, and the balance of loss was 14s. 11d. per quarter. A third cargo purchased about the same time with the others for 23s. 9d. per quarter, was sold after a similar interval, when the balance of loss was 12s. 3d. per quarter. There were the invoices sent to him by a gentleman of high respectability; but they bore evidence on their face of the respectability of the parties and the transaction itself, for the agents in the transaction were Messrs. Baring Brothers. But supposing there was a large importation, it was not an entire surplus. The population was increasing, and it was necessary to find increasing supplies. And abroad the same necessity would be felt. [Lord ASHBURTON observed, they did not consume wheat abroad.] If they grew for themselves, they could not grow wheat to send it here. In the course of late years the population of the different countries which were regarded with such apprehensions had greatly increased. Such was the case in Russia, Norway, the German States, and all the others. The population of Prussia had increased from 12,000,000, in 1825, to 15,000,000, in 1843. In Austria 1391 it increased, between 1820 and 1840, from 30,000,000 to 37,000,000. In Russia, from 56,000,000, in 1827, to 59,000,000, in 1837. In France, from 31,000,000, in 1826, to 35,000,000, in 1845. But there was another consideration which had not been fully dwelt upon in this debate with the weight that ought to be attributed to it, and that was, the increase of our own population. There had been a total failure of proof to show that they could adopt fresh land to meet the wants of the increased population, or that they could increase the produce of that land for the same purpose. The Sanitary Report (p. 330) says—It may be of interest to observe, that as the whole population grows in age, the annual increase in numbers may be deemed to be equivalent to an annual increase of numbers of the average ages of the community. If they were maintained on the existing average of territory to the population in England, the additional numbers would require an annual extension of one fifty-seventh of the present territory of Great Britain, possessing the average extent of roads, commons, hills, and unproductive land. The extent of new territory required annually would form a county larger than Surrey, or Leicester, or Nottingham, or Hereford, or Cambridge, and nearly as large as Warwick.To feed the annually increased population, supposing it to consume, the same proportions of meat that is consumed by the population of Manchester and its vicinity (a consumption which appears to me to be below the average of the consumption in the metropolis), the influx of 230,000 of new population will require for their consumption an annual increase of 27,327 head of cattle, 70,319 sheep, 64,715 lambs, and 7,194 calves, to raise which an annual increase of 81,000 acres of good pasture land would be required.In the last thirty years there had been an increase of 15 per cent in the population in each duennial period. Did their Lordships realize the fact that, since this Bill now under consideration was introduced to Parliament, there were 100,000 and upwards more to feed? Was it in their power to increase the produce of the country in the same proportion? No proof of that had ever been attempted. He did not believe that that immense increase of supply would take place; but if it did, would it be more than sufficient to meet the increase of population that was constantly going on? Before he left this part of the subject, he would direct their Lordships' attention to the question of supply from the United States. He knew that it was usual to treat the United States as an inexhaustible source of food. Such, however, was not the experience of past years, nor was 1392 it the opinion in the United States themselves. The wheat producing States were limited to certain districts of country—they were all in the extreme west; and, consequently, whatever was produced there could not reach this country from their own ports except at a large charge. Let them trace what had been the increase of supply and of export in that country for a considerable number of years. He had the official tables of the States before him for the period from 1791 to 1840; and, although it appeared that the increase in produce had been enormous, as was admitted, yet the increase of population had been concurrent; and it appeared that now they had for export a smaller amount than they had fifty years ago. In 1790 the population was 3,900,000, and the wheat exported to foreign countries amounted to 4,750,000 bushels, being 28 per cent of the whole produce. In 1810 the population had risen to 7,000,000, and the amount of wheat exported was 4,000,000 of bushels, being 14½ per cent of the whole produce. In 1820 the population was 9,600,000: the export of wheat, 5,900,000 bushels, being 15½ per cent of the whole produce. In 1840 the population had increased to 17,000,000, and the amount of wheat exported was only 11,000,000 of bushels, or 14 per cent of the whole produce, that is to say, only one-half that it was formerly. That was the amount of wheat exported by the United States; and yet they were not without markets to encourage export during that time, for the markets of Cuba, of our own West Indies, and of South America, were thrown open to them. Their Lordships would see, then, that, with the increase of population that was going on in the United States, the increase of produce would be required at home, and there would be nothing like the enormous exportation that was expected from them into this country. Again, the prices of New York ruled at about 40s.; and in addition to that, there would be the cost of carriage before it could reach this country; so that, as with respect to the Continent, the expectation of an enormous importation was not borne out by facts. But then it was said, "Why try this experiment in this great country?" He answered, it was not now tried for the first time. It had been tried here before, and had perfectly succeeded; for from 1766 to 1791, we had practically an entirely free trade in corn. No doubt taxation at that time was not so heavy 1393 as now; but it was distinctly stated by writers of that period, that it did weigh heavily upon labour here as compared with labour on the Continent. At that time, we not only could import corn free here, we could grow corn cheap enough to export it to foreign countries; and what was the case in those years? Was the agriculture of the country in a depressed condition? By no means. On the contrary, large quantities of land were taken into cultivation. From 1766 to 1769, 300,000 acres were taken in; afterwards, from 1769 to 1791, other large quantities. Neither was it by the influence of high prices that this additional cultivation took place, for prices at that time ruled extremely low, varying on the average of quinquennial periods, from 1843 to 1846. In like manner they had tried it in other ports near their own doors. In Jersey they had had a free trade in corn, and the prices had ruled a little, if at all, lower than prices here. He knew that noble Lords would turn round and ask if they did not increase the supply, and did not anticipate a diminution of prices, why they proposed this change? The Government did not propose it because it would reduce prices, but because it would give a stimulus to trade, and set in motion the industry of this country, and so provide the fullest means for agricultural employment. The noble Duke shook his head; but if the activity of trade in manufacturing districts was not the most direct encouragement to agriculture, why was it that such perpetual reference was made to them? He remembered last year, when he received deputations with respect to the railways, that with respect to each of the railways, whether in the centre or from the sides of this county, the principal point on which noble Lords invariably dwelt was the advantages it would afford for an easy and rapid access to agricultural produce to the manufacturing districts. In the districts of Derbyshire this benefit was to be the access to Manchester; in the districts of Lincolnshire it was still the access to manufacturing population; in Argyll and Dumfries it was an easy access to Fleetwood, and so to the manufacturing districts; and if in Ireland, there was still the same burden of the song, the access was to be to some port whence they could reach Liverpool, and so the same manufacturing districts in England. Why was there this yearning after the manufacturing districts? Because the manufacturing districts were the great mar- 1394 kets for the agricultural. Every loom they stopped in Manchester stopped a plough in some agricultural part of the country. There could not be a closer connexion between all these districts than was shown by the reports of Committees and the statements of Members of Parliament, that unless the manufacturing interests were in a state of prosperity and employment, the agricultural interest would be in a state of depression, and that whatever promoted a demand in the manufacturing districts acted as a stimulus in the agricultural districts also; and, therefore, in addition to the wish to impose no restriction on the free importation of the food of the people, the Government were convinced that this measure would be attended with none but good results to all classes, and would confer equal benefits on all districts. Hence it was that Her Majesty's Government ventured to propose it to their Lordships' attention. The noble Baron near him (Lord Ashburton) had adverted to the colonial interests, and had asked whether they had anticipated the effect of this alteration of policy on the Colonies; and he asked of what use were the Colonies if they did not afford a protected market for our manufactures? He (the Earl of Dalhousie) ventured to think that the Colonies would be of advantage to us even if there were not a compulsory market. But the question raised by the noble Lord was no longer open; the colonial system, to which he referred, had been broken down long ago. In the West India Colonies it was only in 1842 that under the presidency of his noble Friend the late Secretary of the Colonies there was a free importation of many articles which previously came from Canada, and had since come from America; and in other Colonies the maximum rate of differential duties on all articles, with few exceptions, such as tobacco, has been only seven per cent, which was nothing as compared with the rates which used to be in existence under the old colonial system. So far from forcing upon the Colonies these protective duties, the constant struggle of this country had been to prevent the Colonies from imposing greater differential duties than this country approved. Therefore, the colonial system, as it used to be called, existed no longer. What, then, was the state of facts as to the alteration they were about to make? He thought that if his noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies were in his place, he would bear him out in saying that 1395 the only articles on which the change would act injuriously were timber and corn; and of corn there was the most grievous complaint. His noble Friend said that they were about to ruin the political connexion, and the whole of the navigation interests of the Colonies, if this measure passed. But with respect to corn, what was the amount of the carrying trade? The loss would apply only to the corn of the United States, which, by being ground into flour in Canada, acquired the character of colonial produce, and was admitted at 1s. duty, and to the corn the produce of Canada herself. He held in his hand a return of the American corn thus brought through Canada; and from the 11th of October, 1843, to the 5th of January, 1844, the quantity was 618 quarters; from the 5th of January, 1844, to the 5th of January, 1845, it was 43,860 quarters; and for the year ending the 5th of January, 1846, it was only 24,490 quarters. Inasmuch as 24,000 quarters was the quantity imported by Canada in the course of the year, it must be obvious, that anything affecting such an amount could produce no very serious result. But some stress had been laid upon the despatch received from Lord Cathcart, which was dated the 28th of January, 1846. Now that despatch did not contain, by any means, the most recent intelligence received from that Colony. Lord Cathcart, in writing that despatch, stated that he wished to lay before Her Majesty's Ministers the views entertained by the Executive Government of Canada, and that he wrote in great haste in order to save the post. That statement surely showed very clearly that the opinions conveyed in that despatch had not been very deliberately formed. There had, however, since that time, been a despatch received in this country from Canada, dated the 26th of March last, that was written after much deliberation, and after the House of Assembly had calmly discussed and considered the intended measure which was now before their Lordships; and had agreed to an Address to the Crown, the sum and substance of which was, that they wished the duty to which they were liable of 1s. on every quarter of grain, should be changed into 1d.—that what was considered in this country a nominal duty of 1s. should be changed into that which they really considered to be nominal duty, namely, 1d. In their address which had been printed, and was now on the Table of the House, they set forth that as one of the just claims 1396 of the province. Now, he would ask their Lordships if that could be said to bear any appearance of alarm? It was also not unimportant that he should call the attention of their Lordships to the views entertained on this subject, and expressed in the House of Assembly by the leader of each of the two parties. Colonel Prince, the leader of the Ministerial party, stated that he had unbounded confidence in the loyalty of the inhabitants of the province, in their devotion to the mother country, and in their desire to preserve their connexion with it; and he confessed that he did not view the proposition of Her Majesty's Government with any feelings of alarm—he saw no cause whatever why they should despair; and that, for his part, he had always been a supporter of free trade. Mr. Baldwin, the leader of the Opposition party, said that they wanted no foreign interference; that they were proud of the connexion which subsisted between Canada and the mother country; and he believed that the liberal principles which were springing up at home would be no injury to the province, and that though England had formerly treated Canada in the manner that a stepmother treats the family over which she is placed, yet now he rejoiced to say that Canada began to receive better treatment at the hands of the mother country; and that there seemed to exist in England no disposition to oppress her Colonies. On these points, then, it was evident that the leaders of the two parties were agreed. He hoped that the House would now permit him to mention two other Colonies; he meant Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In the former of these, when a proposition was made for improving the defences of the Colony, the colonists at once offered to place at the disposal of the Governor the whole of the income of the Colony for the purposes of defence should it be needed; and in New Brunswick it was proposed that, in addition, to a sum of 12,000l. which had been assigned for the purposes of defence, the whole ordinary revenue of the country should be taken for that purpose also, in order that their connexion with the mother country should be maintained in its fullest and most perfect condition. Although he had never held any office connected with these Colonies, yet he had long resided in them, and he possessed connections and means of information which enabled him to speak upon these points with some confidence. He could confidently say, with respect to them, that there was no want of 1397 loyalty in those quarters: for their attachment to the mother country, he could safely pledge his head—if such a pledge were good for anything—he entertained not a shadow of doubt that if the necessity should ever come, those Colonies would be, one and all, loyally prodigal of their blood, as they had ever been generously profuse in the offer of their treasure. He had touched briefly upon various points, and even in that brief way not upon as many as he should have wished to notice, feeling that as they had devoted so many hours to the discussion of this question, and that at the time at which he spoke, and in the exhausted state of the House, he ought not to take up much more of their time; but there was one point on which he did not wish to remain altogether silent: he referred to the charges of treachery which had been brought against the Government with reference to their present measure. He would admit that it would have been infinitely better if the proposal of the measures now before them had come from another quarter; and he believed every one of his noble Friends around him would echo him in saying that they had witnessed with sincere regret the unsuccessful attempt made by the noble Lords opposite to form a Government by which those measures might have been proposed. When, however, that attempt proved unsuccessful, when the servants of the Crown were called upon to give effect to their own convictions, he maintained the treachery would have been in taking any course different from that which they had taken. Their Lordships might accuse Her Majesty's servants of change of opinion—they might charge them with vacillation—they might arraign them for these faults at the bar of public opinion; but even were all this granted, their Lordships would not be justified in using the word "treachery." No man rated higher than he did the necessity of governing such a country as this by party; he recognized as fully as could any man the obligations of party; but he recognized higher obligations still. He had not the honour of a seat in the Cabinet at the time a decision on these measures was come to; but he was not on that account desirous of repudiating the responsibility of adopting them. He would not say what course had he been of that Cabinet, he would have taken; but he could not find any proportionate degree of responsibility between the First Minister of the Crown, who originated a measure, 1398 and his Colleagues in subordinate capacities by whom that measure had been approved: he recognized no such distinction of responsibility: and if it were ever his fate to be placed as Member of a Government, with the alternative such as that placed before his right hon. Friend before him, either of adhering to a party, or giving effect to a faithful and solemn conviction, he should pursue the course pursued by that Minister. He was bound to adhere to his party, he was still more closely bound to do his duty. It were a thousand times better that he should walk the earth branded as a traitor to his party, than that he should live with the consciousness, which under such circumstances would scorch his heart, of having been, if not in the eye of the law, at least in the court of conscience, a traitor to the Sovereign he was bound to advise, a traitor to the responsibility imposed upon him. He heartily hoped he might never be placed in such a position; but if it ever were his lot, he would meet the obloquy, he would submit to the penalty, but he would give true counsel to the Sovereign he served, and would act for the best interests of the people committed to that Sovereign's care. And then, when he had so done, although he might bow his head before the indignation of his party, he should stand upright before a higher power. One word he would add in reminding their Lordships of the consequences of a rejection of this measure, and of the blessings which would arise from an instant adoption of it. He did not wish to be understood as appealing to their fears; he knew that fear would be the last human passion which could affect the conduct of the House of Peers; but he would appeal to their prudence—he would appeal to their justice; he appealed to their prudence that they would not, without earnest deliberation, reject a measure which came to them backed by the recommendation of a large majority of the representatives of the people; and he appealed to their justice that they would not fixedly resolve on permanently maintaining a fiscal policy, the effect of which was, and always must be, to inflict an injury upon the many for the benefit of the few. He adjured them to search closely their hearts before they decided; he adjured them to test closely the arguments offered for such a maintenance; he entreated them to dismiss prejudices, if any such there were, and to satisfy themselves that, when they acted 1399 they acted solely and only for the public weal. Should they so act, he awaited confidently the result of their deliberations. He truly believed that if they adopted this measure, they would, ere long, look back with marvel at the time when they doubted what would be its effects; and he was equally certain they would look back with satisfaction to the assent which they had given. They would look back with satisfaction, because they would then feel they had done all that in them lay to remove a reproach from the legislation of their country—the reproach that it added bitterness to the bitter cup of adversity. They would feel that they had done all that in them lay to smooth for the poor their rugged path; that they had done all that in them lay to mitigate the primeval curse, and to soothe the fate of those whose hard lot it was to earn their bread in the sweat of their brow.
§ The DUKE of BEAUFORT
rose amid loud cries for a division, and said he felt some apology was necessary for rising to address their Lordships at so late an hour of the night. He would not detain them long; but at the same time he felt that he would not be discharging his duty if he did not detain them a few moments while he answered some of the arguments that had been adduced in favour of the measure. He objected to this measure, principally on two grounds. In the first place, he objected to it because it was an impolitic measure, and because it was an unjust measure—as he could not consent to see this country left dependent for its supply of food upon foreign nations. And, in the second place, he saw great objections to it, on account of the quarter from which it emanated. If the measure had been brought forward by noble Lords who sat on the other side of the House, his objections to it would not have been quite so great as they were. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon), to whose ability he was ready to pay every tribute, and whom he always listened to with respect, had said, "Did they suppose that corn was to be the only thing which the Prime Minister was not to touch?" To this he could only reply, that they had always had an assurance that corn should not be touched. He perfectly well remembered that he had, when the Tariff Bill of a former Session was introduced, entertained serious objections to that measure, and gone so far as to remonstrate against it; but he was told at the same time that he knew nothing at all about it— 1400 and that he ought to wait a little, when he would see that his coats and shoes, gloves, and so forth, would be much cheaper; and moreover to rest satisfied that corn would never be touched. He could not, however, discover that any of these things were any cheaper. His noble Friend had stated in the course of his speech, that this was not a tenants' but a landlords' question; but on this head, he wished to state a fact or two personal to himself. He happened to possess an estate in Wales, of which the rental was about 4,000l. a year, and upon which there were eighty tenants. Their Lordships would therefore at once perceive that their holdings must of necessity be small, and that if this measure passed into a law, these tenants must descend to the lowest state of labourers. He should, no doubt, be told to throw his farms together and let them in a different manner and in larger portions; "but," my Lords (said the noble Duke), "these tenants and their forefathers have lived under my ancestors and myself for many generations. I have, in one parish on this estate, two small farms which are let to one family, members of which have held under my own for no less than 350 years—and another family has held under us for 450 years. And can I send these men to foreign countries—or turn them out to become manufacturers—or to seek their living in the best way they can? My Lords, I had rather cut off my right arm than do any of these things; and proud as I may be of any honours I may possess as a Member of your Lordships' House, of that tenantry I am prouder still. And yet, my Lords, if this Bill passes into a law, this body of men are to be got rid of, and in the same manner would it act upon the 600,000 small farmers in England, and on nearly the same numbers in Ireland." He was sure that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) was too proud of the name he bore—too proud of the memory of his distinguished ancestors—to be capable of wishing anything of this sort. He could not, however, say the same of others, he feared—at least so far as was to be judged by what they themselves said. One word more before he sat down, as to why he considered this was a tenants' question; and not only that, but why he also thought the tenant farmers themselves so considered it. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) did not think so; and, though he much admired his eloquence—for nihil tetigit quod non ornavit—he could not 1401 agree with him in that opinion. But allow him to ask this question: if the tenant farmers did not think this a tenants' question, how was it that, at the late election for South Nottinghamshire, they returned the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hildyard) who now represented that division of that county?—how happened it that they, by their own unaided exertions — by themselves alone—returned him as their Member, and free of expense, and in the place of a Cabinet Minister. He could inform their Lordships, also, that he was acquainted with another county in which committees of farmers were now formed for the purpose of opposing the return of another Cabinet Minister, who had declared his intention of standing again. Again, he had himself been asked by the tenant farmers in his own neighbourhood to come to the recent great meeting at Willis's Rooms—a meeting which had been attended by farmers from the east, from the west, from the north, and from the south—a meeting, at which even from East Lothian a deputation was present. His answer was, that he would go; and when he asked them (they were, many of them, members of the yeomanry corps of the district, which was at that time on duty), what arrangements they had made for going, they said they had agreed to go in bodies of two or three from each troop, because, if all were to go who were anxious to go, the whole regiment would attend the meeting. And yet his noble and and learned Friend said that the opinions of the tenant farmers was the other way. The noble Duke then concluded by observing, that it was with very great regret that he separated from noble Lords with whom he had so long been on terms of intimacy and friendship, and with whose principles he had hitherto agreed; and above all, he felt pain in differing from his noble Friend the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) behind him, to whom he was bound by so many ties, and whose name must ever be one of the highest ornaments that adorned the history of this country, and which now he deeply regretted to see associated with a measure which, in his conscience, he believed to be fraught with evil and danger to this kingdom.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
My Lords, I cannot allow this question for the second reading of this Bill to be put to your Lordships, without addressing to you a few words on the vote you are about to give. I am aware, my Lords, that I address you on this occasion under many dis- 1402 advantages. I address your Lordships under the disadvantage of appearing here, as a Minister of the Crown, to press this measure upon your adoption, knowing at the same time how disagreeable it is to many of you with whom I have constantly acted in political life, with whom I have long lived in intimacy and friendship with the utmost satisfaction to myself—on whose good opinion I have ever relied, and, I am happy to say, whose good opinion it has been my fortune hitherto to have enjoyed in no small degree. My Lords, I have already in this House adverted to the circumstances which gave rise to this measure. My Lords, in the month of December last, I felt myself bound, by my duty to my Sovereign, not to withhold my assistance from the Government—not to decline to resume my seat in Her Majesty's Councils—not to refuse to give my assistance to the Government of my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel)—knowing as I did, at the time, that my right hon. Friend could not do otherwise than propose to Parliament a measure of this description—nay, more, my Lords, this very measure—for this is the very measure which my right hon. Friend stated to the Cabinet prior to their resignation in the month I have referred to. My Lords, it is not necessary that I should say more upon that subject. I am aware that I address your Lordships at present with all your prejudices against me for having adopted the course I then took—a course which, however little I may be able to justify it to your Lordships, I considered myself bound to take, and which, if it was to be again adopted to-morrow, I should take again. I am in Her Majesty's service—bound to Her Majesty and to the Sovereigns of this country by considerations of gratitude of which it is not necessary that I should say more to your Lordships. It may be true, my Lords, and it is true, that in such circumstances I ought to have no relation with party, and that party ought not to rely upon me. Be it so, my Lords—be it so, if you think proper: I have stated to you the motives on which I have acted—I am satisfied with those motives myself—and I should be exceedingly concerned if any dissatisfaction respecting them remained in the mind of any of your Lordships. I am aware that I have never had any claim to the confidence which you have all reposed in me for a considerable number of years. Circumstances have given it to me; in some cases the confidence of the 1403 Crown, and, in others, the zeal with which I have endeavoured to serve your Lordships, to promote your Lordships' views, and my desire to facilitate your business in this House; and I shall lament the breaking up of that confidence in public life. But, my Lords, I will not omit, even on this night—probably the last on which I shall ever venture to address to you any advice again—I will not omit to give you my counsel with respect to the vote you ought to give on this occasion. My noble Friend (Lord Stanley), whose absence on this occasion I much lament, urged you, and in the strongest manner, to vote against this measure; and he told you, in terms which I cannot attempt to imitate, that it was your duty to step in and protect the people of this country from rash and inconsiderate measures passed by the other House of Parliament, and which, in his opinion, were inconsistent with the views and opinions of the people themselves. My Lords, there is no doubt whatever that it is your duty to consider all the measures which are brought before you, and that it is your right to vote in regard to those measures as you think proper; and, most particularly, it is your duty to vote against those that appear to be rash and inconsiderate; but, my Lords, I beg leave to point out to your Lordships that it is also your duty to consider well the consequences of any vote you give on any subject—to consider well the situation in which you place this House—nay, my Lords, that it is the duty of every one of you to place himself in the situation of this House, to ponder well the consequences of his vote, and all the circumstances attending it, and the situation I repeat, in which this House would be placed if it should adopt the vote which he himself is about to give. This, indeed, has been the line of conduct pursued by this House before. I myself once prevailed upon this House to vote for a measure on which it had pronounced positive opinions by former votes; and persuaded it subsequently to take a course different from that which it had pursued on previous occasions, upon the same subject. My Lords, I now ask you to look a little at the measure in respect of which you are going to give your votes this night—to look at the way in which it comes before you, and to consider the consequences likely to follow your rejection—if you do reject it—of this Bill. This measure, my Lords, was recommended by the Speech from the 1404 Throne, and it has been passed by a majority of the House of Commons, consisting of more than half the Members of that House. But my noble Friend said that that vote is inconsistent with the original vote given by the same House of Commons on this same question, and inconsistent with the supposed views of the constituents by whom they were elected. But, my Lords, I think that is not a subject which this House can take into its consideration—for, first, we can have no accurate knowledge of the fact; and, secondly, whether it be the fact or not, this we know, that it is the House of Commons from which this Bill comes to us. We know by the Votes that it has been passed by a majority of the House of Commons; we know that is recommended by the Crown; and we know that, if we should reject this Bill, it is a Bill which has been agreed to by the other two branches of the Legislature; and that the House of Lords stands alone in rejecting this measure. Now that, my Lords, is a situation in which I beg to remind your Lordships, I have frequently stated you ought not to stand; it is a position in which you cannot stand, because you are entirely powerless; without the House of Commons and the Crown, the House of Lords can do nothing. You have vast influence on public opinion; you may have great confidence in your own principles; but without the Crown or the House of Commons you can do nothing—till the connexion with the Crown and the House of Commons is revived, there is an end of the functions of the House of Lords. But I will take your Lordships a step further, and let you see what will be the immediate consequences of rejecting this Bill. It appears very clear, that whatever may be the result of this Bill in this House, the object I had in view in resuming my seat in Her Majesty's Councils will not be attained. I conclude that another Government will be formed; but whether another Government is formed or not, let me ask, do your Lordships suppose that you will not have this very same measure brought before you by the next Administration which can be formed? And do your Lordships mean to reject the measure a second time? Do you mean the country to go on in the discussion of this measure two or three months longer? But the object of the noble Duke and of the noble Lords who have addressed the House against this Bill is, that Parliament should be dissolved 1405 —that the country should have the opportunity of considering the question, and of returning other representatives; and that it may be seen whether or not the new House of Commons would agree to this measure or not. Now, really if your Lordships have so much confidence, as you appear to have, in the result of other elections, and in the exercise of public opinion on this question, I think that you might venture to rely upon the elections which must occur, according to the common course of law, in the course of a twelvemonth from this time; and that you might leave it to the Parliament thus elected to consider the course which it will take on the expiration of the term of the Bill now before you; for that Bill is to last only till the year 1849. I think your Lordships might trust to that Parliament to take the matter into consideration at that time, without interfering with the prerogative of the Crown, by compelling the Queen to dissolve Parliament as the immediate consequence of the rejection of the present measure. Your Lordships, therefore, have now the option of immediately accepting this Bill, reserving it to another Parliament to pass or reject it again, if again the question should be brought forward, or of rejecting the Bill now, and obtaining a fresh election, of which you are so desirous: your Lordships have that choice—you may reject the Bill now, or you may appeal again to the new Parliament to confirm or reject it, at the time when its operation will cease, in the year 1849.
§ The question was then put that "now" stand part of the Motion?
§ Contents, Present 138; Proxies 73–211: Non-Contents, Present 126; Proxies 38–164: Majority for the second reading 47.1408
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Peterborough||Talbot of Malhahide|
|Petre||Stuart de Decies|
|Saye and Sele||Colborne|
|List of the NON-CONTENTS.|
|Willoughby de Broke||Northwick|
|Onslow||Bath and Wells|
§ Earl Belhaven paired (for the Bill) with the Earl of Lauderdale (against it.)
§ Bill read 2a. accordingly.
§ House adjourned.