§ The EARL of YARBOROUGH
My Lords, I can assure your Lordships that although this is not the first time I have had occasion to address an assembly something similar to that of your Lordships, still I feel so inadequate to the task I have undertaken, that I am unaffectedly con- 15 strained to ask that indulgence which your Lordships, I have no doubt, are in the usual habit of kindly affording to Members who address your Lordships for the first time. I trust your Lordships will feel, as I do, that this is an occasion when one attempting to address your Lordships must labour under some difficulties; for there are subjects touched upon in the Speech which Her Majesty has graciously pleased to direct should be addressed to you, which require to be touched upon, as I think, most delicately, by the person who moves an Address in reply to that most gracious Speech, if, as I am most anxious should be the case upon the present occasion, he desires that the Address should receive the unanimous sanction of your Lordships. Whatever opinion noble Lords may have formed upon the conduct of those who advised Her Majesty upon a late occasion, every one must feel that, considering the circumstances in which the commercial affairs of the country were placed, the giving the power to advance further capital to the country was the best step which could have been taken; the commercial distress was greater than has existed in this country for a very considerable period; and I sincerely trust the measures of Her Majesty's Government will alleviate the distress consequent upon such a derangement in the accustomed stream of commerce. Many of your Lordships may differ as to the cause of that distress. Some may probably attribute it to the effect of a recent measure which received the sanction of the Legislature, more commonly known as the Bank Charter Act. Some may attribute it—and with those I shall certainly agree, for I think it is manifestly the case—to the great amount of money required to purchase food for the country during the past year. No doubt there have been other causes, and for some of them the Parliament itself does not stand wholly free from blame—the Legislature lent itself to the great encouragement of railroads. Such an amount of money was sanctioned to be raised for the purposes of those works as could not be drawn from the legitimate resources of the country. And, my Lords, the expenditure sanctioned for railways, coming contemporaneously with the great amount of money required for the purchase of food, greatly exceeded the abilities of the country. Upon referring, my Lords, to those returns which are an authority upon the subject, I find that the quantity of foreign grain imported this 16 year, up to the 10th of November was 10,898,000 qrs. [Lord STANLEY: Hear, hear!] I can understand the cheer of the noble Lord. The noble Lord supposes that this large importation was in consequence of the measures recently passed for temporarily suspending the duty upon the importation of foreign corn. But I think your Lordships will agree with me, that the immediate cause of such a large importation was the lamentable failure of the potato crop in Ireland, and also the deficiency of the harvests in this country in 1845 and 1846. Now, my Lords, suppose for a moment that there had not been any alteration made in those laws, I think the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) will agree with me, that it would have been impossible for any Government to have maintained them, while such an extent of misery and distress existed both in this country and in Ireland as we had unfortunately experienced during the past year. Well, my Lords, that was the quantity imported in 1847; there was also a very large quantity imported in 1846—it amounted to 4,770,000 quarters. This large importation had to be paid for; and, contemporaneously with this large expenditure, the Parliament, in the years 1845, 1846, and 1847, sanctioned a number of railways, to carry out which, required an amount of capital far beyond the ability of the country to furnish. In 1845 no less than 104 Railway Bills received the sanction of the Legislature, requiring a capital of 59,000,000l. sterling. In 1846, 240 Bills were passed, requiring an estimated capital of 132,617,000l.—8,000,000l. of that sum was transferred capital; still there was a power given to raise in that year no less a sum than 124,500,000l. The consequence of all that was, I believe, that many parties conceived the opinion that they could make rapid fortunes by speculating in those concerns, and they transferred their capital from trade to those speculations, not intending to invest their money in them, but in hopes of speedily getting it back again with large accumulations. The natural effect of all this was, that trade was very materially crippled; and the only wonder is, when the panic came, not that there was much ruin and difficulty, but that there was not much greater distress. These, my Lords, are not the only causes, nor probably nearly the whole of the causes of the misfortune which has recently befallen the country, but, in my opinion, they are some of them; and I 17 think when Her Majesty's Government found that the embarrassments of trade and commerce were so great—were so extreme, that a panic seemed to prevail throughout the whole of the commercial world—not because there was no money in the country, but because people were afraid to invest it—in my opinion, the Government were not only justified, but it was their duty, to take upon them the responsibility of allaying the panic in almost the only way it could be done—viz., by allowing the Directors of the Bank of England to issue notes on good security even at the risk of more notes being issued by the Bank than it was legally empowered to issue by the terms of their Charter. That power having been given, it is satisfactory to find that the necessity to act upon it did not arise; thereby clearly proving that it was a mere panic, and not a real want of capital the country was suffering under. In consequence of the communication which had been made by the Government to the Bank of England, the demand for bullion decreased from 1,994,000l. on the 23rd of October, to 1,605,000l. on the 25th, being a decrease of 389,000l.; and, therefore, I think that the Commercial distress which prevailed was not altogether owing to want of money, because the proposition which was at that time made by the Government had the effect of restoring confidence in the country without the necessity of violating the Bank Charter Act; and I trust that trade will soon assume its usual channel, and that those interests which have suffered from various causes will speedily be restored to their usual state of prosperity. It is a source of great satisfaction to me, as I am sure it must be to every one of your Lordships, to know that contemporaneous with the pressure upon commerce, and the distress of the manufacturing population of the country, the country has been blessed with a most abundant harvest, and that consequently the supply of food has been far more ample and reasonable than in the year preceding; and I trust, that if we should be blessed with such another harvest next year, we shall find the condition of the people of this country generally improved. My Lords, it is with great regret I learn from Her Majesty's Speech the melancholy state of affairs in Ireland, and that there is likely to be a recurrence, to some extent, of the distress which prevailed in that country at the commencement of the present year; and that 18 a necessity has arisen also for asking the co-operation of Parliament in measures for repressing offences which too unhappily prevail. My Lords, I am sure that while the British Parliament will always be willing to adopt measures to relieve the distresses of the Irish people, it will also readily support the Government in adopting means to provide for a willing obedience to the law in Ireland. I am confident your Lordships will be willing to believe that the utmost endeavours have been used on the part of Her Majesty's Government to enforce order, and to consider such measures as may be proposed for the extraordinary exertion of authority in repressing crime. But, my Lords, I think this country will, in the first place, require that every exertion shall be used by the proprietors of Ireland towards carrying out the relief of the poor; that the law passed last Session shall be observed and enforced. This country, I further think, will require that there shall be a willing obedience to the law; for, unless tranquillity prevail, no efforts to promote improvement can be expected to have a successful issue. All persons in this country, as well as in Ireland, must deplore the existence of a band of miscreants who go about wantonly destroying life. I believe that a sort of morbid feeling prevails against the possessors of land; that the occupants are resolved to keep their land, and not to pay rent to the proprietors. This information may not be correct; but I hope I am right in stating that those persons are few in number. They commit murder with seeming impunity, for they have struck a terror in the minds of those whose evidence can alone bring them to justice. Every person must admire the firmness and determination which the Lord Lieutenant has manifested during his short government of Irish affairs; and I am certain that your Lordships will assure Her Majesty that you are ready to assist Her Government in carrying measures which for many years they have been anxious to carry, and but for an organised system of opposition they would have carried, to repress crime and to produce peace and tranquillity in that unhappy country; which is necessary for enabling them to carry out those many liberal measures which they wish to pass for the benefit of that country; but of which the disorganised state is so likely to obstruct the progress. During the past year 10,000,000l. have been granted to employ the people on public works in 19 Ireland; and of that sum I believe 8,000,000l. has been expended. But, my Lords, while you are willing to grant pecuniary assistance to the people, let me again ask your Lordships to agree in assuring Her Majesty that ample provision shall be made for the exigencies of that country. My Lords, your Lordships, I have no doubt, will join with me in thanking Her Majesty for offering Her aid and influence for the purpose of putting an end to the state of disturbance which unhappily exists in Switzerland; and also for the assurance that the peace of Europe is not likely to be disturbed. Your Lordships will, I am sure, view with satisfaction the communication in the Royal Speech, that another country has expressed its willingness to assist in putting an end to the abominable slave trade; and I trust that the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department will, by some measure giving greater facilities to emigration to our colonies, lend additional assistance in putting down the abominable traffic in slaves. My Lords, Her Majesty has recommended to Parliament the consideration of the navigation laws; and your Lordships will, I trust, agree with me, that so great a desire exists in this country that something should be done with regard to these laws, that it is worthy the consideration of Parliament whether any alteration can be made in them which will assist in developing the resources of this country and her colonies, and which, at the same time, will not tend to diminish the pre-eminence of this country as a maritime Power. I feel confident that by a judicious relaxation of these laws, the mercantile interest may be greatly promoted; and it is also a question with me, whether thereby the naval strength of this country may not only not be impaired, but may on the contrary be greatly improved. My Lords, another subject in the Speech is well worthy of your Lordships' attention; and I think your Lordships ought to thank Her Majesty for calling the attention of Parliament to it—I allude to the sanatory condition of the people. It is a subject which I myself look upon as being of great importance; and I trust that any measure for sanatory improvement which may be introduced by the Government will not be confined in its operation to the metropolis, but that it will be extended to the whole country. My Lords, I feel that it is needless for me to say anything more in order to induce your Lordships to agree to the Address which I have now the ho- 20 nour of moving. The measures referred to by Her Majesty in Her most gracious Speech are of such paramount importance that they will doubtless receive your Lordships' immediate and grave consideration. My Lords, one word more with regard to Ireland. I am glad to find that while five or six years ago it was an uncommon thing to find the Lord Lieutenant of that country receiving support from the wealthy classes, that those parties are now laying aside their political differences, and are coming forward to support the Viceroy in maintaining the law, and are suggesting measures for the amelioration of the condition of their country. Your Lordships' best attention will no doubt be given to any measures for relieving the commercial distress which prevails, and also to any measures which may be proposed (if necessary) to make up any deficiency which I am afraid must exist in the revenue. The noble Lord concluded by moving the following Address in answer to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech:—MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,WE, Tour Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to return to Tour Majesty our humble Thanks for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has commanded to be made to both Houses of Parliament.WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us of the Causes which have induced Your Majesty to call this Parliament together at the present Time.WE beg to assure Your Majesty that we sympathise with the great Concern which Your Majesty has been pleased to express for the Distress which prevails among the Commercial Classes.IN common with Your Majesty we lament to hear that the Embarrassments of Trade have been aggravated by a general Feeling of Distrust and Alarm; and we thank Your Majesty for intimating to us that Your Majesty has authorised Your Ministers to recommend to the Directors of the Bank of England such a Course of Proceeding as might restore Confidence, and be suitable to the Emergency.WE beg to thank Your Majesty for the Assurance of the Satisfaction which Your Majesty expresses in being able to inform us that this Course has been adopted without any Infringement of the Law, that the Alarm has subsided, and that there has been a Mitigation of the Pressure on the Banking and Commercial Classes.WE rejoice to learn that the late abundant Harvest with which this Country has been blessed 21 has had the effect of alleviating the Evils inseparable from a Want of Employment in the Manufacturing Districts.WE concur with Tour Majesty in lamenting the Recurrence of severe Distress in Ireland, in consequence of the Scarcity of the usual Food of the People.WE beg leave humbly to express our Concurrence in the Hope which Your Majesty entertains that the Distress may be materially relieved by the Exertions made to carry into effect the Law passed last Session for the Support of the Destitute Poor; and we cordially participate in the Satisfaction expressed by Your Majesty that the Landed Proprietors have availed themselves of the Means placed at their Disposal by the Liberality of Parliament for the Improvement of their Land.WE lament, in common with Your Majesty, the atrocious Crimes which have been committed in some Counties of Ireland, and that Spirit of Insubordination which has led to an organised Resistance to legal Rights.WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has used with "Vigour and Energy the Means placed at his Disposal by Law for the Detection of Offenders, and for preventing the Repetition of Offences.WE thank Your Majesty for the Intimation Your Majesty has given us, that Your Majesty has felt it to be Your Duty to Your peaceable and well-disposed Subjects to ask the Assistance of Parliament in taking further Precautions against the Perpetration of Crimes in certain Counties and Districts in Ireland; and we assure Your Majesty that we will take the Subject into outmost serious Consideration.WE humbly thank Your Majesty for the deep Anxiety and Interest which Your Majesty takes in the present Condition of Ireland; and we assure Your Majesty that we will give our best Attention to Measures which Your Majesty recommends to the Consideration of Parliament, which, with due Regard to the Rights of Property, may advance the social Condition of the People, and tend to the permanent Improvement of that Part of the United Kingdom.WE assure Your Majesty that we participate in the great Concern which Your Majesty has expressed at the breaking out of the Civil War in Switzerland.WE beg leave to express our Gratification that Your Majesty is in communication with Your Allies on this Subject, and that Your Majesty has expressed Your Readiness to use, in concert with them, Your friendly Influence for the Purpose of restoring to the Swiss Confederation the Blessings of Peace.22WE cordially rejoice in the Confidence which Your Majesty has expressed with regard to the Maintenance of the general Peace of Europe.WE beg to express our Gratification that Your Majesty has concluded a Treaty for the Suppression of the Slave Trade with the Republic of Equador; and we humbly thank Your Majesty for having given Directions for laying this Treaty before Parliament.WE humbly assure Your Majesty that we will take into our Consideration the Laws which regulate the Navigation of the United Kingdom, with a view to ascertain whether any Changes can be adopted, which, without Danger to our Maritime Strength, may promote the Commercial and Colonial Interests of the Empire.WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has thought proper to appoint a Commission to report on the best Means of improving the Health of the Metropolis; and we assure Your Majesty that, in obedience to Your Recommendation, such Measures as shall be laid before us relating to the Public Health shall receive our earnest Attention.WE humbly assure Your Majesty that we participate in the deep Sympathy which Your Majesty has expressed for the Sufferings which afflict the Labouring Classes in the Manufacturing Districts of Great Britain and in many Parts of Ireland; and we fully concur in the Admiration which Your Majesty evinces for the Patience with which these Sufferings have been generally borne.WE beg leave humbly to express our Regret that the Distress which has prevailed among the Commercial Classes has affected many important Branches of the Revenue; and, in common with Your Majesty, we trust that the Time is not distant when, under the Blessing of Divine Providence, the Commerce and Industry of the United Kingdom will have resumed their wonted Activity.
seconded the Address in a very few words, which were spoken in so low a tone that few of them reached the gallery. He was understood to say that the noble Mover had noticed every point in such a clear and able manner that nothing was left for him to remark upon.
§ The question having been put by the Earl of SHAFTESBURY,
My Lords, I certainly had desired that some other of your Lordships had addressed you on the present occasion, who would have urged upon some Member of Her Majesty's Government the propriety of being more explicit as to the reasons for calling us together now than we have as yet heard explained 23 by either of the noble Earls who have moved and seconded the Address; as also of the intentions of that Government, and the explanation which they really have to offer for their conduct in summoning the Parliament together at this most unusual and inconvenient period—I should have wished that such an explanation had been given before I attempted to offer any of those observations which occur to me upon the Speech which has this day, by command of Her Majesty, been delivered to the House. But seeing that none of your Lordships are disposed to originate this discussion, and feeling that the country has never been called together under circumstances of greater anxiety and of greater alarm than at present—feeling that at this time of most serious difficulty, the Address to Her Majesty which has just been moved, though it is but the echo of a Speech singularly unmeaning in its character, and indecisive as to the purposes of Government, ought not to be passed over altogether in silence—under all these circumstances I trust your Lordships will hold me excused if at this early period of the discussion I present myself before the House for the purpose of submitting to your Lordships those views and impressions which that speech and the speeches of the noble Mover and Seconder of the Address have made upon my mind. I pass by altogether the speech of the noble Seconder; because I am well aware that my noble Friend has in the kindest manner, and upon the shortest notice, undertaken the duty which he has just discharged, and because he himself announced that he did not intend to speak in so doing beyond what was formally required of him. I shall address myself then, my Lords, to the Speech of the Government, and to those comments that have been made on that Speech by the noble Mover of the Address. My Lords, that Speech commences by informing us that the Lords Commissioners have been commanded to declare to Parliament the causes which have induced Her Majesty to call Parliament together at this early and unusual period. My Lords, I have looked attentively through that Speech, and with the exception of a most important, most anxious, and most painful expression of concern for the distresses of the country, I confess I find nothing in the way of satisfactory explanation for this early and unusual meeting. My Lords, I shall commence with the first subject in that Speech, which has been brought under the consideration of 24 Parliament; and I must here do the Government the justice of saying, that, upon this occasion, they, at all events, have not disguised from your consideration the greatness, the intensity, and the universality of the difficulties in which this country is involved, whether we look to our domestic or social relations, to our mercantile or commercial interests, or to our colonial possessions. I have had the honour of a seat in Parliament for nearly twenty-five years, and at no period do I recollect the Ministers of the Crown compelled to point to a political horizon so entirely clouded with gloom—enveloped in such complete shadow, without a single ray of light to which they could direct your attention, or call for your congratulations; not a single topic has been alluded to on which Her Majesty could found those hopes which She entertains of a speedy return of the country to prosperity. All is regret and lamentation throughout.Her Majesty has seen with great concern the distress which has for some time prevailed among the commercial classes. The embarrassments of trade were at one period aggravated by so general a feeling of distrust and of alarm, that Her Majesty, for the purpose of restoring confidence, authorised Her Ministers to recommend to the Directors of the Bank of England a course of proceeding suited to such an emergency. This course might have led to an infringement of the law.Her Majesty deeply sympathises with the sufferings of the people. And there is no Member of your Lordships' House who will not join with Her Majesty in this deep expression of sympathy with the sufferings of the labouring classes in the manufacturing districts of Great Britain. In England and in Ireland the people are suffering from this great distress. Her Majesty has to lament with your Lordships that the distress which prevailed amongst the commercial classes has affected many others beside.Her Majesty has, however, to lament the recurrence of severe distress in Ireland, owing to the scarcity of the usual food of the people.Her Majesty laments that in some counties in Ireland atrocious crimes have been committed, and a spirit of insubordination has manifested itself, leading to an organised resistance to legal rights.Her Majesty views with the deepest anxiety and interest the present condition of Ireland, and She recommends to the consideration of Parliament measures which, with due regard to rights of property, may advance the social condition of the people, and tend to the permanent improvement of that part of the United Kingdom.With apprehensions concerning the existence of almost civil war—of deep concern for the commercial distress that 25 prevails at home, the Speech contains nothing but deep and painful lamentations—lamentations on account of the loss of revenue (but the cause of that loss we are still left to inquire into)—lamentations over the state of Ireland, with an intimation to seek for such further measures as may be considered adequate to meet the emergency of the case—lamentations over a system of insubordination that unhappily prevails throughout the sister country, which has led to the commission of the most atrocious crimes, and to the overthrow of almost every legal right. This, my Lords, is a state of things which, in my deliberate opinion, calls for your most serious deliberations. There is no one point of congratulation upon which the Government can meet this great Assembly. We meet here in the midst of anxiety, of lamentation over the past, of anxiety for the present, in apprehension of the future. Never was there a time in which it was more essential for the guardianship of the Crown to be swayed by men far-seeing into futurity, who are capable of observing accurately the signs of the times, with resolution to take their own bold and decisive course, while they throw themselves upon the sanction and support of Parliament—men who can state clearly and boldly their views, the causes as well as the effects of all these great national misfortunes, and, stating boldly the causes of these distresses, to state as briefly and boldly the line of policy they propose to adopt. Such men as these the country now much requires—men who would not fear in this emergency to throw themselves upon the support of all parties in this country; whether they be their political friends or foes, they need not fear but they would all join together, forgetting all party considerations, in the one grand and general effort to rescue our country from the imminent dangers which surround her, and save her from that state of distress hitherto unparalleled. These I hold to be the duties which the position of those who are at this time the Ministers of the Crown calls upon them to adopt. My Lords, the first point noticed in the Speech is the distress that exists amongst the commercial body. No man can deny that that distress has been and is deeply felt. I hear with much satisfaction, and I heartily join in congratulations to Her Majesty for the information Her Majesty has communicated to us, that the alarm which has recently existed in this portion of the community 26 has considerably subsided, and that the pressure on the banking and commercial interest has been mitigated. I rejoice to hear that fact, if the information be really correct. Indeed I, for one, believe that there is some mitigation of this distress; but it is impossible as yet to say whether the alarm has really subsided; for your Lordships should recollect that you have not as yet received the accounts of the result of these commercial failures from our colonial possessions. You cannot as yet say what the extent and the width of this commercial alarm may be. My Lords, the noble Earl who opened the debate this night has claimed for the Government much credit for taking upon themselves the responsibility of going beyond the law when they became aware of the great commercial difficulties that existed. I am willing to join the noble Earl in the expression of thanks to the Government for taking this step, which meets with my hearty approval. I may, however, be permitted to express my opinion, that they ought to have given an earlier and more liberal assistance. If they had done so, they might have averted that panic which had so recently occurred. I do not, however, deny them the credit they deserve for having offered, though at the last moment, to violate the law for the purpose of saving the country, and authorising the infraction of a law so recently imposed. I know not, however, how to interpret the terms of that Speech which congratulates this House and the country that the law, notwithstanding the authority that was given for its infraction, has not been infringed.Her Majesty has great satisfaction in being able to inform you that the law has not been infringed; that the alarm has subsided; and that the pressure on the banking and commercial interests has been mitigated.Now, I do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, the law has been violated, if not by the Bank itself, by the Government, and that for that violation of the law they will require an Act of Indemnity from the Parliament. The Speech from the Throne sets forth, that "Her Majesty, for the purpose of restoring confidence, had, authorised Her Ministers to recommend the Bank of England to commit an infraction of the law." There are, I believe, some variations from this passage in the Address that has been moved in answer to Her Majesty's Speech. I was not, however, able to collect the precise import of 27 those variations; but I am sure the Government will he the first to acknowledge that the Address in answer to the Speech should be confined as closely as possible to the language of the Speech itself. The Speech proceeds to say that Her Majesty has the greatest satisfaction in being able to inform us that the law has not been infringed. Now, I hope I shall be pardoned if I take issue on this ground, and say that the law has been infringed—the forms of the law have been actually broken through, although the violation of its provisions may not have been actually effected. Whether this was a law which justified a departure from it in some cases, is not a question which it is now necessary for us to consider; but that law prescribed that over and above a certain amount of security the Bank should not be permitted to issue notes, except to the amount of bullion they might have in their coffers. The Bank was brought to nearly that state of things when it would be impossible for them to issue other notes, and it would have been necessary for it to call for extraordinary assistance. I believe, that according to ordinary management, the reserve in the Bank ought to amount to 3,000,000l. or 4,000,000l., at least; but it was actually reduced, lately, to a reserve, that did not exceed 1,300,000l. or 1,400,000l. At this time commercial pressure was at its greatest height. Under the operation of the Bank Charter Act it was necessary for the Bank to suspend the usual accommodation they were in the habit of giving upon undoubted security; and this result—though doubtless totally unexpected by its authors—was produced, that the anticipations that were generally entertained of the inability of the Bank to make further issues, or to afford greater accommodation, had the effect of inducing all the country banks, and all private persons possessed of property, to hoard up in their private coffers a store of bullion far beyond the amount required for the ordinary transactions of their business; and this accumulation, in addition to the 8,000,000l. of gold in the coffers of the Bank of England, necessarily caused a universal panic, which panic had the still more aggravating effect of preventing people from bringing forward those monies which they possessed, and which were wholly unnecessary for their immediate wants. At the same time gold was about coming into the Bank, that is to say, the Bank had fair reason to expect that at no 28 very limited period gold would come in. Yet, under the stringent operations of the law of 1844, the Bank was unable to issue a single note beyond that which it had already in circulation, although they had 8,000,000l. of gold lying beside them untouched. Now, these were the circumstances with which the Government had to deal; and I think it is only right to give them credit for taking, though late, that step which had the effect of restoring confidence. In the first place, I have no doubt, that with the most laudable intention to prevent undue issue and lavish accommodation, the Government authorised the Bank to increase their accommodation at the risk of violating the law—at the risk of making the issue of notes larger than the due proportion of bullion in their vaults. Government, under their hand—under, I believe, the signatures of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—authorised and empowered the Bank, upon their own responsibility, to violate the law by the issue of a larger amount of notes than they were authorised to issue. At the same time precaution was taken, no doubt with the best intentions; but, I must be allowed to say, most unconstitutional in character, and wholly unworthy of this great country and the Government; for the purpose of taking undue advantage, they required most usurious interest to be charged by the Bank upon all accommodation granted, even upon the most undoubted security, with the obvious intention of neutralising with the one hand the boon they were bestowing with the other. I think that this step, in the first place, was most unconstitutional, inasmuch as they were thus raising money on the subject, not only without the consent of Parliament, but against the express prohibition and will of Parliament. My Lords, I cannot help thinking that this step was wholly discreditable to this country. The condition accompanying the boon was nothing short of this—namely, that Government should go halves with the Bank of England in the profits, while they fixed 8 per cent as the minimum rate, and left the Bank no option as to the rate at which they should use the power given to them. I see no justification whatsoever that Government can offer for this proceeding. They must come here to Parliament acknowledging their offence, and must answer to Parliament ex post facto for that offence. My Lords, it is no argument for their justification to say that the law has 29 not been infringed. It is no argument for me to say, if I sanctioned the murder of a man, that this murder has never been committed, inasmuch as the victim had never been met. I authorised the perpetration of the crime, and morally as well as legally I must he held accountable for my advice, as if under my advice the crime had actually taken place. If Government undertakes to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act without the authority of Parliament, or by its order, or to authorise the arrest of people without the forms of law, it is no answer to us to say that those circumstances did not arise under which those orders were to be acted upon; that because no man had been actually deprived of his liberty, therefore the Government is not responsible for having authorised the suspension of that enactment. So, my Lords, I submit that under that letter, containing these instructions to the Bank of England, they must be held as much responsible for the possible violation of the law as if the Bank of England had availed themselves of the authority so given, and had really violated the law. Then comes a question much more important to the commercial interest of this country; a question that is exciting the deepest anxiety, and creating the most careful investigations amongst the reflecting classes of the population; and that is the question upon which we have a right to call on your Lordships for the expression of your decided and candid opinions. The avowed object of that law was to regulate the currency of the country, to prevent undue speculation, to check undue trading, and to render impossible those acts which, it was said, led to commercial difficulties. Panics arose, difficulties came, pressure was felt, and it was held forth that the interests of the country were hound up with the maintenance of that law. But, at present, Her Majesty's Government have thought it their duty to suspend that law; and I ask Her Majesty's Ministers what they meant to do with that law? and that is a question which the country has a right to ask, and to which the country has a right to expect an answer from Her Majesty's Ministers, for they are clothed with the responsibility. They are in this dilemma—if the law be wise, and just, and expedient, and beneficial, they are inexcusable for having violated that law; and, in defiance of an Act of Parliament, suspended its operation. If they were justified in suspending the law, and if it was a law not 30 applicable to fair weather only, but to all times; then it was their duty, as a Government, charged with the administration of this great country—than which no part of their duty is more important than that of watching the laws which regulated the whole commercial and monetary concerns of the country—it is their duty to say whether they intend to uphold that law in all its integrity, or, if not, what amendment of the law they intend to propose. That is a question which they ought to consider; and with these observations—and I think it had been better late than never that they had suspended the law—I will pass to other topics. I have a right to ask of the noble Lord who has just left his place, and to whom I think it would be rather an embarrassing topic, considering the course he has taken—I have a right to ask him, when is this commercial distress and pressure to cease? No doubt it has been said, that this distress partly arose from the undue amount of capital invested in railway undertakings. The noble Earl opposite, in his Address in answer to Her Majesty's Speech, undertook to give an account of the cause of that distress; and the noble Earl, while supporting Her Majesty's Government says, that a great portion of that distress was owing to the importation in the first nine months of the present year of 10,000,000 of quarters of foreign corn. Now, do not let the noble Earl and do not let the Government deceive themselves. I hope I shall not be led on this occasion into any discussion of the corn laws; but I cannot forbear calling to mind that, when those measures were in progress, I ventured to express an opinion, although it was met with a contemptuous expression on the part of a noble Friend of mine, that when these corn laws had been repealed, and provision made to meet the large supply, even when prices ruled moderate in England, we might look for an annual importation of not less than 4,000,000 of quarters of foreign corn.] My noble Friend laughed at that prediction; but the result has more than borne out my anticipations, for we have imported, not 4,000,000 of quarters in one year, but, according to the speech of the noble Earl opposite—and I do not mean to deny the accuracy of his figures—in the nine or ten months of the present year, we have imported upwards of 10,000,000 of quarters of foreign corn. And, my Lords, the noble Earl, in moving the Address, while supporting Her Majesty's Govern- 31 ment, attributed the commercial distress existing in the country at this moment mainly to the large sums we have had to pay for this foreign corn. Now, really, on the part of the supporters of Her Majesty's Government, this is indeed a valuable admission; and for myself I must say that the event has in a remarkable manner verified the results which I had ventured to anticipate from these large importations. My Lords, I had sent me this morning by post a copy of a letter which was addressed to me in 1841 by Mr. Cobden, in which he draws a very glowing picture of the results of a free importation of corn. He says there will not be an unemployed man—not a mill short-handed—that new populations would spring up, churches and chapels be built—that the wholesale and retail trade—in short, everything would flourish if this happy event took place. My Lords, you have had an importation which the most sanguine of the supporters of that measure never dreamed of. You have had 10,000,000 of quarters in nine months. What, then, have been your imports and your exports? Your exports have been bullion for the payment of that corn; and that export will continue until the prices of your manufactures fall unnaturally and ruinously low, by dint of poor pay, and hard work, and stint allowance; and until you have been enabled to force your manufactured goods, in spite of hostile tariffs, into the markets of the Continent. With an importation of 10,000,000 of quarters of foreign corn, we have a diminution of all the great articles of export. Never was there a period when there were so many mills standing still—so many men upon short time—so many operatives unemployed. Never was there a time when so signal a discomfiture came to crush and destroy all the anticipations of mere theorists who thought themselves wiser than all the rest of the world. But, my Lords, this is not the whole of the case. The noble Earl—and he is right—says that our home market has failed, and now you are obliged to export to foreign countries to endeavour to prop up your declining trade. This great truth of the importance of the home trade has been verified by experience and by facts; and it is now shown that your foreign market, great as it is, is comparatively insignificant when weighed in the balance against our home market. My Lords, I do not, for one, attribute the whole of our distress to the repeal of the corn laws, or those measures of free trade 32 which have been unfortunately adopted; but I say that the failure of the crops in England, having anticipated the repeal of the corn laws, by leading to that which you acknowledge to be the object of repeal, has resulted in a large importation of foreign corn as a substitute for British corn. The fulfilment of the prediction, however, has shown, that while the importation of a large amount of foreign corn has been ruinous to the farmer, it has not been profitable, but, on the contrary, ruinous to the manufacturers. My Lords, I have no hesitation in saying that that distress has been aggravated by the banking law of 1844; I do not hesitate to say, that at a period when a different policy was expected, the fact of the Bank being restricted in granting its usual accommodation to persons in business has a tendency, in connexion with the other circumstances to which I have alluded, to contract accommodation in other quarters; to impair confidence, produce panic; and that panic has led to a degree of distress and suffering more than commensurate with the capital and wealth of the country. It is not so much capital that is wanted as some exchangeable medium in which all parties would have confidence, and which would prevent that general stagnation and paralysation of trade which may still be remedied if the Bank, under the sanction of the Government, be enabled, acting upon sound principles of commercial prudence, to grant that temporary accommodation which may be the means of oiling the wheels of commerce, and preventing the machine from standing still for want of the ordinary medium of exchange. My Lords, I pass on to that passage in Her Majesty's Speech in which Her Majesty says—The abundant harvest with which this country has been blessed has alleviated the evils which always accompany a want of employment in the manufacturing districts.I do not clearly understand that paragraph; but I do understand this, that every abundant harvest in the country is an increase of its capital, and every increase of its capital which extends the means of procuring the necessaries of life must necessarily be beneficial to the manufacturing and commercial interests of the country. I wish you, my Lords, to bear in mind that nothing can compensate—no law can compensate—for the loss of that great national capital which must result from any great diminution of the amount of the cereal produce of the country. My Lords, I 33 heard with great pain the present state of Ireland. Her Majesty says that—Her Majesty has to lament the recurrence of severe distress in some parts of Ireland, owing to the scarcity of the usual food of the people. Her Majesty trusts that this distress will be materially relieved by the exertions which have been made to carry into effect the law of last Session of Parliament for the support of the destitute poor.I believe, my Lords, that great exertions have been made—with more or less of success—I believe that great exertions have been made by the landed proprietors to carry into effect, at great personal and pecuniary sacrifices, and at great personal risk, the law for the support and maintenance of the destitute poor. I believe the landed proprietors of Ireland have exerted themselves to the utmost for the purpose of availing themselves of those means which the liberality of Parliament had placed at their disposal, in order to give employment to the poor, and alleviate the distress that existed. I will not now enter upon the question of the poor-law, in how far it may have been advisable to extend its provisions to Ireland. I do not desire to exempt the Irish landlords from one iota of that duty which has properly fallen upon them. They have their own improvidence, and that of their ancestors, to thank, and they must bear the burden, whether deservedly or undeservedly, thrown upon them. But, my Lords, we must not place burdens more than mortal shoulders can bear, and we must not impose upon the property of Ireland heavier burdens than it can sustain. My Lords, there are districts in Ireland in which every shilling of rent—nay, I may say, the fee-simple of the land—would not be capable of maintaining the poor. The landlords upon whom you call to maintain the poor, to furnish employment, to borrow money in order to afford the means of employment, are absolutely penniless in consequence of an extensively organised combination to refuse or resist the payment of rent, which is the sole means of existence of these landlords. My Lords, my property lies in a district which is, comparatively speaking, free from distress; and although, after making the abatements I was called upon to make, the rents were fairly and punctually paid—I say this before your Lordships, that the expenses to which I was subjected in the present state of Ireland were such that in the course of the last half year—although my property was in a district which could not be called distressed—I have not received a single 34 shilling from that property. I speak not now of the distressed districts, but one in which considerable care and much money were expended. I speak now of a comparatively comfortable tenantry—of a well-disposed tenantry—and willing to do their utmost for themselves; and I ask your Lordships, then, what must be the state of the landlords in the distressed districts, where their sole reliance is in the payment of their rents, and whom you now call upon to support that tenantry? My Lords, it would be far better if these landlords would throw up their property altogether; and it is only a sense of duty that retains many of them upon their property, to the sacrifice of all their substance, and the risk of their lives. My Lords, when I speak of the present state of Ireland, I must say that it is worse than a state of civil war; and dreadful is it to find the people enlisted in strife one against another—connexions, neighbours, and friends, all engaged in an open struggle, and meeting one another with arms in their hands. In a state of war a man knows his enemy, and is prepared to meet him: that is not the state of Ireland. My Lords, the best landlords, those who have expended their time, and labour, and money—who have sacrificed everything for the purpose of discharging their duty—who have sacrificed the comforts of civilised life, for such they must do in certain parts of Ireland, in order to do their duty to their tenants and dependants—those men, many of them I could name, who are Members of your Lordships' House, are besieged within their own houses, and incapable of moving beyond their own demesnes; are fortifying and defending their houses and gardens, and are actually prisoners within them, and with the knowledge throughout the country that their names are in the "black list." My Lords, these men are not deterred—they endeavour to execute their duty; and they hope by their sufferings to enlist your sympathies in their behalf. One by one we see those proscribed men cut off by the hands of the assassin. They wait till that slow but certain hand, against which no precautions can protect them, will assail them unprotected, or if protected—if subjected to the espionage of the police—whether passing to the cottage of the poor man, or to the house of God, or to the board of guardians, for the purpose of doing what in them lies to mitigate the sufferings of the poor, one by one they fall victims to the blow of the assassin, 35 which they have foreseen, of which they have been publicly forewarned. Some of them perhaps in the bosom of their family—perhaps even the blow may fall, as fallen it had, in a humble quarter, on the unhappy wife, who rushed forward and opposed her own body between the husband and the murderer—perhaps in open day, in the face of the whole community, and with the knowledge and connivance of half the country, the best, humanest, and most irreproachable men are, to the disgrace of a civilised community, cut off by the hand of the assassin. This is the state of things with which you have to deal in Ireland. My Lords, this country is disgraced, I do not deny, by many grievous crimes; but in this country, thank God! the sympathy of the whole country is in favour of the victim of assassination. The support of the whole country is awake to vindicate the law. The whole country is aroused to bring, at all events, to the vengeance of the law, the perpetrator of such nefarious actions. One universal feeling prevails in favour of the vindication of the law, the punishment of crime, and the repression of outrage. My Lords, that is not the case in Ireland. Be it timidity, or some worse cause, there no hand is raised to stay the deed; but, worse than that, no voice is raised after the blow to denounce the assassin. Nay, if a voice be raised, it is raised at the peril of life—in Ireland; it is safer to violate than to obey the law. My Lords, I approach a far more painful and more serious question than even this. I hope I shall be forgiven for entering upon such painful details; but they are forced upon me by the manner in which the circumstances of Ireland have been brought forward in Her Majesty's Speech; and I think there is no subject which more imperatively demands or justifies the immediate attention of Parliament. I speak with all respect of the Roman Catholic clergy. I believe that, if not all men of education, they are in the main pious and well-disposed individuals—indefatigable in the discharge of their religious duties—in devoting themselves to their flocks—and in sparing no pains nor toil in those offices which they believe it their duty to discharge. Having said this, I think it would be a crime to conceal the expression of my opinion, that, however the Roman Catholic clergy, as a body, may be desirous of repressing and discouraging offences, the Roman Catholic clergy, as a body, do not lend themselves to the support of the law. 36 My Lords, I believe—perhaps it may be natural—but I believe that there is a kind of rivalry of authority with regard to criminal offences in Ireland between the clergy and the law. I believe that the sacredness of confession is carried to a degree dangerous to the civil Government and to the peace of the country. The Roman Catholic priest feels bound to conceal the secrets which the guilty man confides to him; and although I have heard of many denunciations against informers—and informer in Ireland means any man who joins in bringing offenders to justice; prosecutors, witnesses, all are classed under that name—while against informers there have been denunciations from the sacred altar without end, I never heard—I should wish to hear, it would give me the greatest possible gratification to hear—a declaration made, either publicly or privately, by pastoral letter, by private recommendation, or by authoritative declaration, in the temple of God, or outside the threshold, that it was the duty of every member of the community not only to abstain from crime himself, but to denounce to the civil authority those who might be guilty of premeditated crime. My Lords, I never heard of such a declaration; and I do believe, speaking with all respect of their merits, which I do not deny, that the Roman Catholic clergy do not in Ireland apply the influence which they have towards the support of the law, by recommending and enforcing as a solemn duty the denunciation to the civil authority of crimes which they knew to be premeditated, and which were afterwards accomplished. I must say, without attributing to any one of the clergy worse motives than those of imprudence, that among recent instances I have seen addressed to perhaps a too excitable peasantry denunciations of classes of individuals—denunciations of individuals—which denunciations could hardly fail of stimulating to acts of violence that excitable population. One most melancholy instance was followed within two days by the assassination of a man whom the priest had asked from the altar whether such a man deserved to live? Her Majesty's Speech holds forth certain expectations that some measure will be asked for for the repression of these crimes. I say, then, in my own name, in the names of my noble friends around me, and I am sure I may say in the name of England, in the name of humanity, in the civilisation, let those measures be effectual—let them be prompt. I say to Her Majesty's Min- 37 isters, let no fear of a loss of support from following such a course—let no fear of being taxed with inconsistency turn you from your duty. Throw yourselves upon the generosity—upon the justice of Parliament. Believe me, you will receive from us no unworthy opposition—no unworthy taunt. Believe me, you shall receive from us no flinching, no hesitating, no ambiguous support. Remember, it is you who are responsible for the life and property committed to your care. Life and property are above all constitutional theories; they are the foundation, the basis, the main bond of all constitutions and all rights. You, the Ministers, are charged with the maintenance of those rights. Demand what sacrifices you will from the Irish landlords. Compel them to discharge their duties; but, in God's name, protect them and their helpless dependants from the hand of the assassin. I recollect years and years ago, I was cried down almost for expressing an opinion which I entertain at this moment as strongly as I ever entertained it, that the law in Ireland must be feared before it can be loved—it must be looked up to for protection, and as a check to evil-disposed men, before the Irish people will bow to its authority. To the British Government the lives and properties of the people are confided—it is their duty to watch over and protect them. I give to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland my cordial meed of praise; I believe that to the extent to which the law would go, he has exercised the powers intrusted to him with fidelity and vigour. But the greater the fidelity and vigour which he has displayed, the mere clear and manifest is the proof that the existing powers of the law are insufficient, and that further powers are wanting. Upon you, the Government, rests the responsibility of asking for those powers. My Lords, I will not believe that this or the other House of Parliament—I will not believe that the representatives of this kingdom, whose prime object must be to protect the people, and maintain the security of life and property—I will not believe that in either House of Parliament you will find any resistance to granting to your discretion, subject to your responsibility, the exercise of any powers which you may deem necessary. Earl Grey, as sound a constitutional Whig as any noble Lord whom I see opposite, did not hesitate to ask for the powers necessary to effect the object he had in view; and I trust you will not hesitate to ask for full and sufficient 38 powers. Should Parliament deny you, on Parliament be the responsibility. My Lords, the subject on which I have just addressed you is of such deep interest, that I hardly know how to advert to those of minor importance. I find in Her Majesty's Speech, in reference to foreign affairs, a statement that Her Majesty, in concert with Her Allies, has offered Her mediation for the purpose of restoring peace to Switzerland. I only wish that Her Majesty's Government could promise to Parliament a speedy termination to the hostilities in that country. Speaking of our foreign relations, it is somewhat extraordinary that no allusion should have been made to the state of the war now going on between the United States and Mexico. With regard to the internal affairs of all foreign countries, my humble advice to your Lordships, and to Her Majesty's Government, is to interfere as little as possible. Last year I took the liberty of calling attention to the affairs of Portugal, and of remonstrating against the proposed intervention. My remonstrance was disregarded—an armed intervention took place. The effusion of blood was stopped, no doubt, and the civil war put an end to; but you undertook at the same time a task in which, as we told you, you would fail—namely, to guarantee the performance of certain acts on certain conditions. My Lords, I ask the Government, have you been able to fulfil those conditions? Has the Sovereign of Portugal implicitly followed the advice of those by whom alone her throne could have been saved? Or is the result this—that, whereas you have taken upon yourselves the anomalous duty of Minister of the Interior in Portugal, the consequence really is, after a system of intrigue, violence, and corruption in the election of the Cortes, the restoration, under British influence, of that Minister to power in Portugal to whose oppression and tyrannical conduct was owing the rebellion which you put down? I have nothing to say against Senor Cabral. If the Portuguese people desire him for their Minister, in God's name let them have him; but what I complain of is, that this country should intermeddle in the affairs of Portugal, and undertake a task in itself impossible, the result of which has been just as was predicted. I am surprised that the state of Italy should not have been adverted to in that part of Her Majesty's Speech relating to foreign affairs; for I hold the civil war now raging in Switzerland of infinitely less 39 importance as compared with the struggle now maintained between antagonistic principles in that country, where a revolution is going on which threatens the balance of power in Europe, in which we see ranged on one side a most liberal and enlightened Prince in all civil matters, but a most arbitrary one, as I conceive, in all of a spiritual kind. I know not what the Government are doing in this case, and I hope they are abstaining altogether—I hope they are doing nothing—but on an occasion like the present, it might have been decorous at least to have alluded to it. I hope there is no truth in the reports which have appeared in the newspapers from time to time, that a Member of Her Majesty's Government—a Member of the Cabinet—I hope there is no truth in the reports that Lord Minto has taken any part in this struggle, either one way or another, or has expressed publicly, or in any way, his own opinions, or still more the opinions of Her Majesty's Government, upon the subject; or that any Member of the Government has, indirectly or directly, given any opinion whatever as to the success or the result of that struggle; or that the Government are in the slightest degree committed by any indiscretion of their Agent which might be inconsistent with the obligations of former treaties. With reference to the concluding paragraph relating to foreign affairs, I confess that such was my geographical ignorance that I really was not aware that the Republic of the Equador possessed any ports or navy by means of which they would be able to assist in the suppression of the slave trade. No doubt, however, the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies will lay this important treaty on the table, though this, perhaps, was not one of the reasons why Parliament was called together. Your policy is the suppression of the slave trade. Take care what you do. Take care, in talking of the suppression of the slave trade, that you do not provoke us to a discussion which might show that the suppression of the slave trade on the left hand was carried out with its encouragement and support on the right. I believe that the report of the passing of the Act for the admission of slave-grown sugar was received in the Havannah with bonfires and illuminations; that it raised the price of slaves; that it gave an additional stimulus to the slave trade; and my firm conscientious belief is this, that if I had to choose between the two—the restoration of the pro- 40 hibition in the markets of this country of slave-grown sugar, and the total withdrawal of all your squadron, maintained at such an expense and loss of life on the coast of Africa—if I had to choose between the two, I should regard as far more effectual, far more innocent, far less ruinous, far less destructive, the total withdrawal of your squadron, and the restoration of the former system. And, my Lords, that brings me to another and not an unimportant omission in the Speech of Her Majesty. I allude to the omission of any notice of one of the greatest sources, if not the very greatest source, of that distress with which the Speech is filled. There may have been imprudence, there may have been undue speculation, on the part of our merchants; but there is not a man among you bold enough to get up and say that the last blow which overthrew the great commercial houses connected with your colonies was not that Act by which you placed on an equality with regard to duty, but on a frightful footing of equality as to all other circumstances, your own colonial producers of free-labour sugar and the slave-labour producers of Brazil and Cuba. But how are we now to deal with that question? My Lords, I read the other day—I read with pain and grief—the speech of Sir Charles Grey to the House of Assembly of Jamaica, in which, speaking in the name of the Government, and yet speaking against his own honest convictions, with the ruin of those whom he was addressing staring him in the face, he says to them, "What would you have? When protection was withdrawn from corn, protection could not be maintained for sugar." And now the West Indians say, and say with some reason, "If we are to have no advantages in the markets of England—if our produce is to receive no preference—if we are to have no favour in consideration of the difficulties and the obstacles thrown in our way by your legislation, and not in the way of our rivals—at all events subject us to no further disadvantage; at all events let us send our produce in the cheapest manner and at the lowest rates." Thus it has happened that the protection to corn having been withdrawn, the protection to sugar also ceased; and the protection to sugar having ceased, your sugar manufacturers join in the ignorant and dangerous cry, that, for the protection of the mercantile interests of this country, you must sweep away the navigation laws. But my in- 41 ference from the course of your past policy and its results is directly the opposite to that. Undoubtedly if the principles of free trade are to prevail over everything—if buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest is to be your only rule, while you set aside all considerations of maritime superiority, of national supremacy and national honour—then you will do wisely to go on in your downward course, and to lower prices to the utmost possible extent. But, my Lords, I believe it would be a suicidal policy for a country like ours, which must depend for its command of the necessaries and the luxuries of life not on the narrow precincts of this ocean-surrounded island, but on the extent of its foreign traffic, and its possession of that portion of the world over whose commercial relations it exercises a paramount influence—I believe it would be a suicidal policy for such a country to abolish those navigation laws which form the nursery of its commerce. In the opinion of some persons, however, we must bow before a theory, and submit to become a secondary Power. My inference, on the contrary, from the consequences of your past course, is, that you ought now at length to see the ruin to which that course is driving you, and that before it be too late you ought to arrest your downward progress, and if it be possible retrace your dangerous steps. I find that we have now to contend with a deficiency of means to meet the national expenditure. But I can find in Her Majesty's Speech no statement of the manner in which Her Majesty's Government intend to meet that deficiency. I see that Her Majesty expresses a hope "that the time is not distant when, under the blessing of Divine Providence, the commerce and industry of the United Kingdom will have resumed their wonted activity." My Lords, I earnestly pray that that hope may speedily be realised. But I believe that if you desire that the industry of the country should revive, you must pursue a course of policy calculated to promote and encourage that industry. I do not think that that is the course you have of late been pursuing. I will take this opportunity of expressing a hope that there is no truth in a report to which I shall not further advert than to state that it has been circulated, that in the distresses and difficulties to which Her Majesty's Government are exposed, a ruinous and desperate attempt will be made to aggravate the pressure of direct taxation; and not only 42 to continue a tax in the first instance temporary in its character, but to increase and extend that tax with aggravating circumstances in a manner into which I shall not now enter. I hope Her Majesty's Government have no such intention. I trust that they will rather feel it their duty, and that if they do not, Parliament will feel it its duty strenuously to resist any attempt to impose such a tax on the country in a time of profound peace; and that if there be a deficiency in the revenue, arising out of recent measures of the Government, sounder principles will be adopted—that to apply a well-known maxim, millions will be taxed for the purpose of raising millions; that you will not think yourselves wiser than the rest of the world; and that if your means are insufficient to meet the exigencies of the country (and God forbid I should throw any impediment in the way of meeting the national demands!), you will not have recourse to the dangerous principle of extending and aggravating direct taxation, but revert to the sound, sensible, old, universally-adopted system of raising a considerable portion of your revenue by the most legitimate source of taxation—namely, by imposing duties on articles of import. It is not my intention to disturb, on this occasion, the unanimity which it is desirable should prevail in presenting a dutiful and loyal Address to Her Majesty, as I am well aware—and I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will agree with me upon that point—that assenting to the Address will involve no expression of opinion with regard to the particular subjects indicated in Her Majesty's Speech, or with regard to any measures which the Government may hereafter deem it their duty to submit to Parliament. I pledge myself to nothing more than a respectful attention to the proposals which may be brought under our consideration. And I may add, that however strong and violent, perhaps, my opposition may be to measures which I believe to be founded on principles wholly and directly wrong, yet, on questions not involving such principles, but in which the interests of the country and the safety of the community are wrapt up, no feeling of resentment or hostility, if such a feeling be entertained, shall prevent me from giving to Her Majesty's Government for the maintenance of order, and for the efficient discharge of the public service, as loyal and as warm a support as if I had the honour of a seat on the benches opposite.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
I 43 shall state, my Lords, what I think to be the direct and main intention of Her Majesty in calling Parliament together; but I think the clear and powerful speech of my noble Friend plainly shows that he was pretty well satisfied of the nature of the objects which Her Majesty's Government had in view in causing it to assemble at this time. Her Majesty has, in the commencement of Her Speech, stated those views. What does She state in the commencement of it? She adverts to the great public distress, lamenting it, as we must all lament it; and, above all, the commercial distress which has existed in this country. Further, Her Majesty says that, to relieve that commercial distress, She has had recourse to a measure which the noble Lord himself admits to be a good one, but which has rendered it necessary and constitutional for Her Majesty to summon Parliament together at this inconvenient season, looking not to convenience, but to the principles of the constitution. But the noble Lord seems to think that it necessarily follows, that because Parliament is called together under those circumstances, and because a certain advice is given to the Bank of England, a Bill of Indemnity must necessarily be brought forward for the protection of Her Majesty's Ministers. I ask upon what does the noble Lord found that opinion? He states there has been a violation of the law on the part of the Government, although, as he admits, no violation of it has taken place on the part of the Bank. But although there has been no violation of the law on the part of the Bank, the noble Lord says he thinks there has been a violation of it on the part of the Government. And why? The whole burden of the noble Lord's argument consists in one point, which he has dwelt upon, but which has no foundation in fact. Her Majesty's Ministers have no authority, and claim no authority, to order the Bank, to direct the Bank, or to indemnify the Bank for any course they may take. They take that responsibility upon themselves; after being advised by two distinguished officers of the Government, they take upon themselves, not to authorise the breach of the law themselves, but to state their opinion that the act if committed could be justified. It was open to the Bank to reject that advice, and to follow or obey the law, if they thought it more expedient to do so than to rely upon the soundness of that advice. The noble Lord states that this has been done in consequence of a degree of com- 44 mercial distress such as is undoubtedly without parallel; and although he did not distinctly express the opinion, the inference to be drawn from his statement is this, that that interference, which he thinks requires indemnity ought to have taken place, at an earlier period. I am not ashamed to say that every one of Her Majesty's Ministers felt a very great indisposition to advise anything like a violation of the law. But what are the facts with respect to this measure? Two years only have passed over since the Government of which the noble Lord was a member introduced this Bill, not to meet the exigencies of any particular crisis, but to effect a permanent settlement of the commercial exigencies of the country: and it was thought by the noble Lord, and by the eminent individual who originated the measure, and also by the Houses of Parliament, in which the measure was scarcely opposed at all—in this House certainly it was very little opposed—to be a just measure for the permanent settlement of the question. If the pressure of the distress which prevailed through the country was felt only by persons who were not solvent, and who had engaged in speculation beyond their means, I do not think Her Majesty's Ministers would be justified in giving the advice which they have given, though certainly the whole of the transactions of the last few months disclose an amount of actual insolvency quite alarming in the country, and against which no Acts of Parliament or precautions could provide. But when most respectable, solid, and cautious houses were affected by the pressure, it appeared to the Government that the time had arrived when it was necessary to give that advice to the Bank of England, that they would be justified in a temporary violation of the law. When the noble Lord talks of the delay that has taken place in administering that remedy, if remedy it be, he has considerably overstated the case. The noble Lord is not quite correct, for he has stated that the Bank was reduced to a reserve amounting only to l,300,000l. Now I can assure the noble Lord he is mistaken, for the lowest amount of the reserve in the course of two months was l,600,000l.. I have here a return which shows that the reserve in the lowest week was 1,600,000l.. And it is to be observed that the instant this advice of Government was given to the Bank, the panic began to subside, without any violation of the law; and there had been an increase of bullion in the Bank, 45 almost progressively week after week, and the reserve was brought up in the course of three weeks to 3,208,000l. Now, my Lords, I do not hesitate to say, that the measure which Her Majesty's Ministers adopted with a view to the mitigation of that feeling of distrust which the embarrassments of trade had engendered in the public mind, was a successful measure; and I cannot but think that it ought to be a source of very sincere gratification that we should be enabled now to reflect that very great relief has been afforded to the public without the violation of the law which regulates the currency in this country. Her Majesty's Ministers felt that it was inconsistent with a sound and rational policy, that in a time of unprecedented panic so large a deduction should be made from the commercial resources of the country as was sure to follow from the practice of locking up a large number of balances, great and small, in the coffers of the Bank. Their advice under the pressure of the temporary emergency which arose was, that the commercial system should be eased by unlocking those sums; and it cannot be denied that the happiest results ensued. The noble Lord opposite, as I understand him, is not prepared to take exception to the course which we pursued in this matter; on the contrary, he approves our proceeding, but he would seem to argue that our temporary measure is a condemnation of that very law which he knows that he was himself in no small degree instrumental in inducing Parliament to adopt. For my part, I do not hesitate to declare that I would not be hasty or precipitate in condemning that law. I remember that it was solemnly suggested—that it was carefully analysed—that it was deliberately adopted by the wisdom of Parliament—and that it was supported by men of the very highest authority upon commercial and monetary questions; and this being the case, I do not think that it ought to be lightly condemned or frivolously dismissed under a temporary pressure, which a combination of circumstances utterly unusual, and not to be expected, suddenly occasioned in the commercial position of this country. If the noble Lord puts it to me as a categorical question, demanding an immediate answer, whether we are or are not prepared to propose a radical alteration of that law, or, in fact, its repeal, I would take the liberty of replying by means of another interrogatory. I would ask him whether he is now himself pre- 46 pared, as one of the authors of that law, to take a different view of its policy from that which he entertained at the time when he supported it? I am very far from saying that there may not be grounds to warrant the reconsideration by the Legislature of those measures which regulate the laws of currency, and affect the general commercial and financial interests of the countro; but I cannot undertake to say that without much reflection or grave deliberation, I shall be prepared, in a mere fragment of a Session, to enforce any great change in our monetary system, or to give my support to any measure which may be brought by others with a view to that end. On the other hand, I am sure that neither the authors of the present system, nor those who may feel anxious for its preservation, would be inclined to fetter pedantically a law which may supply a salutary check on ordinary occasions, but which may also require revision and reconsideration to render it applicable to the particular state of things which from time to time may arise. A combination of circumstances, such as never before occurred, conspired to put the commercial interests of the country in jeopardy; and it cannot but be matter of granulation that that jeopardy has been removed, and that the danger has been overcome by wise, judicious, and, I will add, prompt and timely assistance given in the form of advice by Her Majesty's Government. Passing to another topic of the noble Lord's speech, namely, our free-trade policy, I must be permitted to observe that it seems to me that nothing could be more unreasonable than his inference, which I remember was loudly cheered by many noble Lords, that the distress under which the country has been recently suffering so severely is to be attributed in any degree to the abolition of the corn laws. No rational men ever supported the repeal of those laws unless with the anticipation that a great influx of foreign grain into this country would be the result. And will any sane man say, that circumstanced as this country has been for the last twelve months, such a result was to be deprecated? Is the noble Lord himself prepared to say that he would have preferred starvation? The great object of those who advocated the abolition of protective duties was avowedly this natural and intelligible one, that in a period of scarcity at home, our granaries should, nevertheless, be full, and our people should have the means of sustenance. The noble 47 Lord is mistaken in supposing that the distress under which the country has been suffering is the consequence of a scarcity of corn. It was not corn that was at the bottom of it, nor is it in any degree to be attributed to the laws which regulate the importation of corn. The origin and foundation of all the evil are to be found in the sudden and total destruction of the potato crop, which involved the sustenance of many millions of persons, and created a deficiency which could not possibly be otherwise supplied than by an enormous increase in the importation of corn. The noble Lord knows very well that no Government that ever existed in this country would dare to have continued the corn laws in the face of such events as we have recently witnessed. He has no possible right to assume that the present state of things is a condemnation of the measure for the repeal of the corn laws. Circumstanced as the country has been, it is impossible to maintain that any inference adverse or the reverse to the corn laws, is to be drawn from the amount of foreign importation. I dismiss this portion of the noble Lord's address by the expression of my conscientious conviction that Her Majesty's Ministers, be the result what it may, took the only course that was open to them for the remedy of the commercial embarrassments which were the consequence of the disastrous calamity to which I have alluded. With respect to Ireland, I am deeply grieved to be obliged to say, that I have no choice but to acknowledge the general fidelity of the dreadful picture which the noble Lord has painted of the state of that country. His statement, that the population of that country are in a worse condition than if they were plunged in civil war, I accept as true, with this difference, however, that whereas civil war embraces in its disastrous effects the entire of the country which is so unhappy as to be scourged by it, the calamitous state of things which the noble Lord depicts with such faithful accuracy has been confined to particular districts—to particular counties. I believe I am warranted in saying that it is restricted to five counties at the most. The noble Lord has alluded to the portion of the country with which he is himself connected, and he has been under the painful necessity of bearing testimony to the want of order which unhappily exists there. I too will take leave to mention the results of my personal experience. In the county 48 with which I am connected the distress has equalled, if it have not actually surpassed, that of any other district of Ireland; and yet I am bound in justice to the inhabitants to say, what I believe would be equally applicable to the populations of many other districts, namely, that the inhabitants have for the most part conducted themselves with a degree of patience, fortitude, and heroism, all the more honourable because of the dreadful privations and sufferings they have had to endure. That the law should have been so outrageously violated as it has been in some districts of the country, must of course be matter of sorrow and indignation to all; but I am happy to find that we shall not have to encounter the opposition of the noble Lord or his friends in the efforts which we may feel ourselves called upon to make for the enforcement of law, the preservation of order, and the security of human life. I do not attempt to disguise that it is likely we may have to seek an extension of the law, with a view to taking further precautions against the perpetration of crime in those districts where a spirit of insubordination has outrageously manifested itself, and where popular sympathy appears to go with the malefactor. The Lord Lieutenant has tried the power of the law as it at present stands to the utmost, and he admits that it is inadequate to the repression of outrage. He has given to the whole subject the most serious attention, bringing to it the application of a clear and vigorous intellect; but he admits that the means which the law places at his disposal are totally insufficient for the repression of crime; he comes to you to solicit extended powers. It will be for you hereafter to consider under what particular conditions those powers ought to be entrusted; but when the question comes to be discussed, I hope you will have no difficulty in giving the Government credit for the manner in which they will submit the subject to Parliament, and that you will also acknowledge that no delay that could have been avoided has taken place in preparing the necessary measures. The noble Lord opposite, in speaking of the movement now progressing in Italy, took occasion to censure us for our alleged readiness to meddle with the internal broils of other countries; but I cannot think that there was justification for the allusion. I can assure him and your Lordships generally, that the whole object of Lord Minto's mission into Italy, and of our interference, is to 49 promote such a course of action on the part of the Governments and people of Italy as may lead to the prevention of what we cannot regard otherwise than as a calamity—namely, the military intervention of foreign Powers. It is by advice alone that we seek to accomplish what must be admitted to be a most desirable consummation; and I certainly do venture to entertain a hope that the counsel which we offer with such pure intentions may be followed, and that, through the wisdom of the actual and lawful sovereigns of Italy, a great calamity may be averted, and the welfare of those who inhabit that lovely and classic land materially advanced. Our advice has only been given, and will only be given, in concurrence with other Powers, and no suggestion of ours shall be inconsistent with the preservation of the essential characteristics and foundations of the present Governments. The noble Lord has alluded with some levity to the treaty which Her Majesty has concluded with the Republic of the Equator. The suppression of the slave trade must surely be admitted on all hands to be a most desirable matter; but it cannot be effected except through the co-operation of Powers great and small. The Government of the Equator is as well founded as that of any other Power in the same hemisphere; and there is nothing that I am aware of to incapacitate it from negotiating on such a subject with England. The noble Marquess concluded by expressing a hope that the anticipation with which Her Majesty's Speech concluded would soon be realised, and that severe though the distress had been which had long prevailed amongst all classes, the day was not distant when the skill and industry of the country would resume their customary energy, and those great commercial resources would again be in full play which had contributed so much to the glory, greatness, and prosperity of England.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
said, that he could not refrain from expressing his satisfaction at the determined and vigorous course which it was proposed to pursue for the purpose of suppressing the system of crime which prevailed in many districts of Ireland. But it had been supposed that the first object of calling Parliament together was to pass a Bill of Indemnity for the course pursued by the Government as to the Bank Charter Act; and yet they were now told that it was not the intention of the Government to ask for any such 50 Bill. The recommendation, however, to the Bank was such, that Her Majesty had been advised to say that it must have led to an infringement of the law; and it appeared to him singular that Her Majesty's Government should suppose that a recommendation to violate an Act of Parliament could be disposed of in so summary a way. But this was not all. He had been waiting anxiously to hear what were the intentions of Her Majesty's Government; and the next declaration which he had heard was this—not only that the Government required no Bill of Indemnity, but that it was not the intention of Government to alter the Act of 1844—which, in his opinion, if not the cause of it, had greatly exaggerated the recent commercial distress, and made that very great which without it would have been little or nothing. He trusted that, if that intention were persevered in, some opportunity in that House and in the other would be afforded of taking the sense of the Legislature upon the subject. His noble Friend had been taunted with being a Member of the Government at the time when that Act was passed; but he thought that no blame was imputable to Sir Robert Peel, or to the Government of that day, for passing the measure, because all persons acquainted with the operation of such measures knew that, until they were tried, the most sagacious might be disappointed as to their effects. At the time when that Bill passed he had remarked that it was an experiment, and that he felt considerable doubt as to the operation of the complicated species of machinery which the Act provided; but it would be most unjust to impute blame or ignorance to any one for proposing it, though he did blame the blindness to public opinion which was evinced by those who still denied that it had signally failed in the opinion of the country at large. In the way of commercial pressure, he recollected nothing equal to what had been experienced during the last four months. Houses had failed by dozens; indeed, he believed that he could sum up nearly 100 commercial establishments whose business had been suspended. Some very extraordinary causes had been assigned for that state of things. The noble Lord had spoken of imprudent speculations: a portion of these unfortunate merchants had no doubt engaged in imprudent speculations; but these speculations were prudent at one time, and were entered into from reliance on the Government; but they be- 51 came imprudent in consequence of the measures of the Government affecting the West India and Mauritius trade. The state of these colonies was quite indescribable: even the bills of agents drawing upon their proprietors at home were not taken up. Over-trading was also spoken of; but what was properly called an overtrading? It was where a man traded beyond the proper means of his capital, and that capital was a connexion of capital and credit. So these houses were carrying on business with a certain portion of capital and a certain portion of credit; and so the whole trade of the country was carried on. If, therefore, they said that these merchants were over-traders, and without pity to be condemned as having brought their own ruin on themselves, they would in fact destroy, as they had destroyed, the greatness of the commerce of this country. When that credit was wholly or even partially withdrawn, then interest rose to 10, 12, or 15 per cent, and that produced at last a total suppression of credit. Under the old system, the Bank occasionally afforded accommodation as low as three per cent, or even 2½ per cent; and if it was the intention of the Government not to remove the present restriction which prevented that from being done, he could only assure them that they had called Parliament together for the purpose of encountering a larger amount of unpopularity than any Government had encountered for many years; for if there was one measure which, in the commercial world, had excited more opposition than any other, it was the Bank Charter Act of 1844. The avowed object of it was to secure payments in specie; and it was said that there was no security for the punctual payment on demand of notes in specie unless the Legislature regulated the issue from the Bank. He had always said that there was great mischief in having the issue and the banking department united; and this was an illustration of it. What had been the result? The Bank, with three millions in its stores, was on the point of stopping payment. It was in danger of exceeding the limits of the Act, but it was in no danger of not being able to pay its notes in specie. The consequence was, that, instead of regulating their issues as the old Bank of England did, they relieved themselves by raising to a usurious rate the interest of money. When this matter came to be more closely considered, he hoped that another branch of the subject would not be overlooked; 52 but that they would inquire whether they had not too hastily determined on the repeal of all the usury laws. He believed that the repeal of the usury laws was a part of that free trade which included everything foolish in legislation. Of this he was quite sure, that if it were established frequently, or occasionally even, the interest of money might be raised to 7 or 8 per cent, the entire destruction of all the trade and all the manufacturing interest of the country must follow. It would then go to countries where capital was cheaper, or where, at all events, the rate of interest was not subjected to fluctuations from 2½ to 8 per cent. Again, he should like to have heard some explanation why the Bank was to ask a minimum interest of 8 per cent. The rate of interest out of doors was, at that time, 7, 6, or 5 per cent; and if it was said, why then did not people go elsewhere than to the Bank? the answer was, that perhaps twenty millions sterling-might be out in bills at six weeks; and as the larger portion of them must be renewed, at whatever price, the Bank had the opportunity of forcing 8 per cent from those unfortunate merchants, now called over-traders, though their over-trading arose from the operations of the Bank. The noble Lord took credit to the Government for the delay in issuing their recommendation to the Bank; but he forgot that, if issued much sooner, it would have had the effect of saving a number of houses from ruin. Why that particular time should have been chosen by the Government, he could not imagine, except that the pressure of necessity came on them from all quarters. That the relaxation of that restriction was necessary, was exclusively proved by the fact, that, no sooner was the order given to the Bank, than general confidence returned. If that relaxation produced the instantaneous effect described by the noble Lord, the evil must be attributed to the restriction which was so relaxed. The whole state of the circulation was relaxed from the moment when that resolution was adopted. Upon the other causes of this crisis he quite agreed that no effect could be well attributed to the operations in the corn trade, because that trade was in pretty much the same state as if no alteration had taken place in the corn law. The necessity for importation had undoubtedly its effect in pressing the balance of exchange against this country; but when they found that 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. only went out of the country, whilst the 53 Bank had 15,000,000l. or 16,000,000l. in its stores, and was positively encumbered with its gold, no great effect could have been produced, if it had been relieved of 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. only; and he firmly believed that, if the Bank had not had the terror of the Act of 1844 before its eyes, it would have gone on with the existing supply of bullion without any panic, precisely as before. Much of the calamity which had afflicted the country might be traced to the operation of the late commercial measures which been introduced into this country. Upon this subject there was a fallacy into which the mere free-trader was constantly falling, in illustration of which he would take the article of sugar, as that was an article on which the change had been very recent. The free-trader seemed to think that the mere cheapness of the price of an article was that on which everything else depended, whether that cheapness was the result of British or of foreign industry. Now he totally differed from this opinion. The fallacy of the system rested upon this—the free-trader said, that the cheapness of an article was everything, whereas he (Lord Ashburton) said it was not the cheapness, but the means which the purchaser had of purchasing. Now, what did it avail to the consumer if they brought sugar down 2d. or 3d. in price, if, at the same time, they took away—and their Lordships would remember that the same policy had been applied to all other articles as well as to sugar—if they took away the means which ordinary men had of buying it altogether? If they destroyed the means by which their own countrymen could, by the produce of their own industry, buy a cheaper article, it was of no use to make it cheaper.
said, that when Parliament was called together last Session, he took occasion to censure the delay of noble Lords opposite in delaying to apply for an indemnity for an act which, though certainly right in itself, was yet a breach of law; and his argument then was, that when the protection of indemnity was required, it was the duty of those who required that protection to lose no time in applying for it. That being the case, he could not but approve of the resolution taken in the present instance to call Parliament together quam primum, though certainly none of their Lordships could have felt so much as he had done that which a noble Friend of his had already 54 referred to as the inconvenience of Parliament meeting at the present time. Noble Lords opposite had placed themselves in a position in which it was probable, or at least possible, that an indemnity might be needed; because, if that act had been done which was contemplated, and if that act was illegal, which there was no doubt it was, they would then have required an Act of Indemnity. But he thought he must have misunderstood the noble Marquess opposite when he represented Lord John Russell and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as giving their advice to the Bank in their capacity of private individuals. It would be the most unbecoming thing possible, with all respect to his noble Friend, that these individuals, however distinguished, should, in their private capacity, have given advice to such a body as the Bank. He had nothing further to say regarding the indemnity except this—that if anything had been done which required an indemnity, there would have been no difficulty in obtaining it. But it was his clear and deliberate conviction, even before this question had attained that fearful magnitude which it now did—even in the earlier part of last autumn—whether or not this was the proper course to be adopted—whether or not Ministers had taken the right way, he did not stop to inquire; being satisfied that interference was absolutely necessary, and that the interference, when it took place at all, must be with the Bank Charter Act, and therefore with that he was disposed to be satisfied, and to raise no further question or comment. But he could not help stating that when he saw a course of events most painful to his mind, particularly when he saw the effects that were produced upon the whole commerce of the country by the acts of the Bank itself in changing so often their course of proceedings; first lowering the rate of interest, afterwards as suddenly raising it, when it ought not to have been suddenly so raised; then, ultimately, on raising it so high as almost to amount to a refusal; and, last of all, in refusing it altogether; and then when the pressure upon the commerce of the country was becoming insupportable, and wide-spread ruin was observed in all directions, that Government was obliged to interfere, and to interfere by directing the company to alter their course even as if no Act of Parliament were in existence at all—when he witnessed all this, he felt he must denounce a company possessed of such im- 55 mense powers; and doubts, or rather more than doubts, had passed through his mind, whether the existence of a great body such as this, possessed of so much influence and power over all the commercial concerns of the empire—whether the existence of such a body was not too dearly purchased, even notwithstanding all the benefits it might confer. Before sitting down he wished to express his opinion, though it would be very shortly, upon that other cause which had brought Parliament together—the state of the sister kingdom. There was no man who felt more than he did how much we owed to Ireland, as reparation for the evil policy which, for successive centuries, had been inflicted upon her. No man was more ready than he was to confess how much was due from this country to that, and from the empire at large. But, at all events, one thing was clear beyond dispute, that before any attempt was made to repay that which might be still owing, or to retrace their steps, if they had taken any steps in the wrong direction—before anything could be attempted or thought of, or even named in debate, except as a topic for discussion—the one thing needful was, that the present state of the country should by the force of law be altered. To be sure, it was only in five or six counties that this deplorable state of things existed; but there could be no doubt that if these outrages were suffered there, they would not be long confined to those five or six counties. For what was the present war waged by these wicked men, and by the still more wicked, because less ignorant men, the instigators of their crimes, be they lay or clerical? Why, the war was waged against property itself; and therefore to think, as some would tell them, to hope to put an end to this state of things, and to put down these enormous crimes by any improvement in the law of landlord and tenant—by the introduction of what was called a law of tenant-right, was absurd and preposterous. Why, it was not a new law of landlord and tenant—it was not compensation for the outlay which a tenant might have made during his lease, or which a tenant at will might have made during his holding at will—that was not what these men wanted—what they wanted was, that there should be no law of landlords at all—that the relation of landlord and tenant should cease by the tenant becoming the landlord, and by the landlord being expelled or exterminated from the country. If, therefore, 56 he saw—which he must confess he did not—any project of law which, rendering justice to the one party, would yet relieve the other—which, without injury to the landlord, would yet secure the interest of the tenant—which, without interfering with the sacred rights of property, would place the tenure of land on a more equitable and solid footing than it now stood on—even if he saw such a measure, which he did not—for he must say that the question was surrounded with far more difficulties than the greatest talkers on the question could conceive—even if he found one, he would say this was not the time—this was not the moment—it was not to be thought of—it was not to dreamt of—far less to be mentioned, until the law were vindicated, and the perpetrators of murder, with the abettors and instigators of murder, put down. He well recollected, that in 1812, when a foul assassination was committed in the lobby of the House of Commons—it was early in the period when an inquiry was instituted into the Orders of Council—in which his noble Friend (Lord Ashburton) and himself took the principal share—he well remembered going to Lord Castlereagh on the morning after the murder, and that in consequence of a report which had that day been spread abroad, that the Orders in Council had led to the assassination; he strongly recommended to Lord Castlereagh, that at least some interval of time should elapse between that assassination and the recall of those measures. For it had been reported, and very generally, that the assassin was an American merchant; and that the murder he committed had some connexion with the Orders in Council, and therefore, though nothing could be more just than that these Orders should be recalled, he (Lord Brougham) thought, that at least, some delay should take place in order to dissociate this event from that. Upon the same grounds, he insisted now, that whatever they did in Ireland, ought to be done, not because of these outrages—not with a view to prevent their continuance, or their repetition, but that it ought to be put down upon its own ground; and that these outrages should be put down independently, and by the strong arm of the law. Ireland stood in a position at this hour of shameful and hateful pre-eminence. It was the country in the whole civilised world in which life was the least secure; there was no country in the whole world, including even the most savage and barbarous people, in which life 57 was less secure than in Ireland. Could their Lordships conceive a system which was more likely to extend the number of its converts than one which was intended to put an end not only to the claims of the landlord, but really to all legal claims whatever? For he observed that one of the late murders which had been committed was that of a person who had lent money, and who held judgment against his debtors, when these debtors entered into a conspiracy to shoot their creditor. What the measures that were necessary for putting down this detestable state of things might be, he agreed with his noble Friend, it would be better not now to speculate upon, but to wait until they were fairly before them. He was sure that from no quarter of the House would any measure meet with any thing but the strongest desire to support the dignity of the law; they would go all possible lengths to restore its supremacy; and he hoped the noble Lords opposite, in this as in other measures, would cautiously avoid the error of adopting this course, or of refraining from that, to conciliate this knot of men, or to neutralise the enmity of that. Let them take their own course—let them throw themselves upon Parliament and the country—let them propose those measures which they themselves approved of, and he would answer for it that they would receive the general support of both Houses of Parliament; and they would have the satisfaction of doing their duty without the disadvantage—though he knew that to them was a very minor consideration—without the disadvantage of risking their authority, or risking their tenure of office. Nay, he would state farther, that even in the other House, any well-considered measure on their part would be received without any serious chance of opposition from any quarter whatever. One party would support them because it was right, and another party because the Government hid fair for a long tenure of office; because he would state that the present Government had as fair a chance as any set of men he ever saw in office to carry those measures which they believed to be for the benefit of the country. With respect to the benefit to be derived from interfering with the pastors of the people, that was a point equally difficult to abstain from or to handle; but he hoped that the law would be made sufficient even to cope with them. He believed that some of them had already been guilty of illegal acts. If the accounts 58 which he had seen were not greatly exaggerated, those accounts would make the parties answerable to criminal law even as it now stood. But if the law could not reach them, or if the execution of the law, in the peculiar state of society at present, was found to be surrounded with insurmountable difficulties, then the new law which Government asked for must be made so stringent as to reach them without doubt or uncertainty; and he was sure that no real friend of Ireland could feel otherwise than the greatest anxiety that all great criminals should be brought to justice.
The EARL of RODEN
said, that, eloquent as was the speech, and true as was the detail of the state of Ireland, which they had heard from the noble Lord behind him (Lord Stanley), yet they would give him leave to say, that no detail, and perhaps no statement of truth, could come up to the real circumstances of the case as they were now felt and experienced by the resident gentry of that country. It was his lot not to live in those parts of Ireland where those outrages were committed, but still he was in constant communication with near and dear and venerable friends, who were scattered over those districts, and he could not but feel the deepest sensibility for their fate. It was because he felt that no gentleman residing in those districts was at rest in his house that night that he thought he was performing an act of duty to their Lordships in asking permission for a few moments to enter for a short time into the circumstances of the case. The outrages were committed in the counties of Tipperary, Limerick, Roscommon, and others which he could name; and they were based upon this principle, that a list was made out—a list the names of which were well known—of individuals to be assassinated by persons hired for the purpose. He said that these names of persons so marked out for assassination were well known, and some of them were persons very dear to him. It had been suggested to some of those persons, who held high stations in Ireland, that on account of their names being placed on that list, of which Major Mahon was at the head, that they should at once leave the country, for that there was no hope of any circumstances arising which could possibly delay the execution of these diabolical deeds. What was the answer of one of them? He (Lord Roden) would not name him; but if he did their Lordships would 59 recognise him at once holding a high situation in Ireland. His answer was—Come life or come death, nothing should move him from his position. In looking at the distressing circumstances in which the country was placed, he trusted their Lordships would bear in mind what was the cause of its present position, or at least one of its causes. He maintained that it had been the course taken by a base press in writing every day calumnies of the grossest kind, not against individuals, but against the class of resident landholders in Ireland, who were held up to reprobation, as only fitted to be swept away from the face of the earth, instead of being, as they were, as honest, as determined, and as high-minded individuals as ever existed on the face of the earth. He could not say that there were no exceptions—he would not say that there were no bad landlords—where was the country where there were none? but he spoke of them as a class, for as a class they were referred to. This system was not carried on by the press alone, but even at public meetings, where the real circumstances could not be referred to, they were branded as tyrants and oppressors. These calumnies had been answered in the most effective manner by the anxious discharge of their duties in the support and relief of the poor around them. But even now their Lordships saw that these calumnies were still carried on. What measures might be necessary to repress the present outrages it was not for him to say. Certainly the first step ought to be the disarmament of the people. Could anything be conceived more preposterous than to see labouring men come to their work with firelocks and pistols in their hands, and as you went through the country to meet hundreds of armed men along the public roads? Therefore the first act which Government ought to do should be by some means to take these arms from individuals. But that was not enough. The common law of the land had been proved to be inadequate to meet the difficulty. The experience of every man testified this, that a state of open rebellion would not be half so dangerous as the present state of things. An open foe you could meet—an open foe you could fight—an open foe you could be prepared for; but no man could provide against the present system, where, as you travelled along the road, you were liable to be shot from behind a wall in the open day. He called upon their Lordships, therefore, to give 60 security to the innocent, and to enable them to find that the British constitution was their safety and security, and not the instrument which exposed them to danger. He hoped Her Majesty's Government were in earnest in their measures—that they would not be afraid of this man or of that man—that they would act in a straightforward manner—that they would remember that the inhabitants of Ireland had a right to protection by the same law which demanded their allegiance—and that their lives were not to be exposed merely because it was their misfortune to live in that portion of the empire. In conclusion, he could not help congratulating the House and the country, and noble Lords opposite, on this fact, that whatever measures Her Majesty's Ministers might propose, they might depend upon their being carried into effect by the individual who was now representing Her Majesty in Ireland. He believed Lord Clarendon was a man who, during the short time he had been in Ireland, had procured for himself the attachment of all classes there. He hoped that the Government on this side the water would do their duty; he was sure the noble Lord would do his; but it depended upon them to give him that power, without which all his efforts, and determination, and energy, would be of no avail.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
said, that he would entirely pass over one of the questions which had been introduced in this debate, for the purpose of meeting some of the observations made by the noble Earl who had just sat down, with respect to the landed proprietors of Ireland, who were represented in the last Session of Parliament as a class of persons who should be swept from the face of the earth. He thought that some repentance ought to be now exhibited by the persons who had so characterised them. With respect to the Speech which they had that day heard read, he thought that it did not touch sufficiently on the distress which prevailed in the different parts of Ireland; and the whole course of the debate had, in consequence, turned on the amount of crime alone, while the distresses of the people were altogether passed over. He would ask any noble Lord who had resided in Ireland within the last twelve months—he should like to know from any Member of Her Majesty's Ministry—whether any calculation had been made respecting the number of persons in that country for whom it would be absolutely necessary to 61 import food in the course of the coming year? In any calculation that he had made, he could not conceive the possibility of less than two millions of persons in Ireland being utterly dependent on imported food—food not to be supplied to the people, according to the rules of trade, but to be freely and absolutely found them. He would venture to suggest to the noble Earl beside him (Earl Grey), whether there were not parts of the country to which the rules of trade could not apply? Whether there were not parts of Ireland which, if corn were not freely imported, would not necessarily be unprovided for? Her Majesty's Speech expressed a hope that much distress might be avoided through the medium of the poor law. In some parts of Ireland this law would be found valueless. Her Majesty trusted that the distress would be materially relieved by the exertions which had been made to carry into effect the law of last Session for the support of the destitute poor. Now, he had already said that this law would be unable to provide food for numbers of the destitute poor if this food were not "found" for them. He did not consider his estimate of 2,000,000 of persons who would require relief in the next year overdrawn. He believed that the land at present under potato culture was only one-fifth of that appropriated to this crop in ordinary times. Supposing, then, that 7,000,000 of persons, who in ordinary times lived exclusively on potatoes, had now only one-fifth of the land under cultivation, it would of course follow that in an equal proportion to the ground cultivated would be the distress in Ireland; in other words, that only one-fifth of 7,000,000 of people, or 1,400,000, would have sufficient food; and that 5,600,000, or supposing that number lessened by disease and death, that 5,000,000 would be without it. He knew that it might be said that the potato might be supplied by other food of a different description; but their Lordships might perhaps be aware that there was no species of food which, according to the most favourable calculations, would give the same amount of sustenance per acre as the potato. Now he did not think, that however much they might condemn the crimes of individuals, they should allow no pity for their sufferings; and he hoped the Government would take into consideration the fact, that in the parts of Ireland to which he had referred, the poor-law would afford no relief. If no other plan than this should be adopted, he was utterly at a loss 62 to comprehend how the people in these districts were to exist at all. The Government had parcelled out Ireland into 130 unions; but he (Earl Fitzwilliam) would consider it as only one; and if the community, in a season of scarcity, was unable to provide its members with sustenance, he held that the duty then devolved upon the Government. He begged the noble Lord near him not to imagine that the poor-law had rid him of Ireland, or that that country would not again be a burden upon England, or rather upon the empire. He assured him that such she would still continue to be, unless some means very different from any yet adopted were taken to enable Ireland to raise herself from the leaden slumber in which she had for so many years been bound.
§ EARL GREY
said, that he would detain the House for a very short time, as he only wished to say a few words in answer to the noble Lord who had last addressed their Lordships. That noble Lord had stated that no noble Lord who had preceded him in the debate, had alluded to the distresses of Ireland, but had dwelt almost exclusively upon the crimes committed in the country. He (Earl Grey) regretted that his noble Friend had not adopted the same course—he deeply regretted that he had not exercised the same abstinence, and avoided altogether any reference to this topic. He regretted that he had not done so, because in the present state of the country, and comparing the present with the past year, he did not think it his duty to encourage any hope in the people of Ireland that they might look in the time coming for relief frem the general fund of the empire. It was necessary under the pressure of a great calamity last year to grant what he might term an almost profuse relief; but it should be remembered, that, under the circumstances, it was absolutely necessary to do so in order to avert fearful calamities which would otherwise have occurred. This relief had been in some degree attended with unhappy consequences. It was impossible for them to conceal from themselves that the granting of relief, even in the circumstances of that period, in those pressing circumstances—it was impossible to conceal from themselves that it had been attended with a serious amount of evil. It had the evil of tending to foster in the minds of the people of Ireland a dependence upon others than themselves. It had also been attended with great evil in 63 this country, for it had increased the want of capital under which the commerce of the country had so recently laboured; and under these circumstances he did not think that at the present moment, and in the present state of the country, it was expedient to use language which might lead to a hope that Government assistance would be afforded, or that they might look to that House rather than to themselves in any future emergency. No doubt peculiar cases might arise in which sustenance might hereafter be given; and there could be no doubt that where the case demanded it, such sustenance would be afforded; but he was happy to inform the noble Lord that there still remained a certain quantity of corn and other provisions in the country, which was under the control of the Government; and his noble Friend would perhaps be aware also that the British Association still possessed considerable funds, which would be applicable to the relief of extreme cases. He could only, therefore, express his sincere and earnest hope that these means would be found amply sufficient to meet the difficulties in the districts to which the noble Lord had referred. He could not conceive of any greater hardship than that of being compelled to open the public purse for the purpose of relieving destitution in that country. He would not go further in to this question at this time; but he would merely say one word with respect to what had fallen from his noble Friend opposite (Lord Ashburton) relative to the Bank Charter Act. His noble Friend at the head of the Council, who had shortly before left the House, had requested him to supply an omission which he had made, which was, that it was the intention of the Government to institute an inquiry into the causes of the recent commercial distress, more particularly with a view of ascertaining how far that distress was to be attributed to the law relating to the issue of notes payable on demand. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given notice that evening, in the other House, of a Motion for the appointment of the Committee on this subject. He would not, in the present state of the House, trouble their Lordships with any further observations.
§ In answer to questions from LORD REDESDALE,
§ EARL GREY
said, that all Bills at the present period of the Session would necessarily originate with the other House of Parliament, and it was not the intention of 64 the Government to move the appointment of the Committee to consider the Bank Charter Act in their Lordships' House.
§ Address agreed to.
§ House adjourned.