§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
then rose to move for the following returns:—Return of the imports of wheat and wheat flour, also of barley and oats, into the United Kingdom, in each week since the 1st of January, 1850, and of the average prices of each week, and also, return of the total amount imported within the same period, distinguishing the countries from which imported.The noble Earl said, he might be told that he could obtain the information which he was anxious to acquire from the returns relating to trade and navigation, which had already been presented to the House, and in which was to be found the amount of corn imported into this country since the commencement of the year. But he was further desirous of knowing what were the countries from which that corn had been received, and from which corn still continued to arrive in large quantities, in the face of a falling market. If he were to consult his own convenience, he should content himself with merely moving for 674 those returns; and he was aware that, in attempting to discuss at any length a subject which had already occupied so much of their Lordships' time, and which in itself was so little attractive, he ran a risk of forfeiting any claim to an extension of that indulgence which he had always experienced from the House. But when he witnessed the deplorable state of the agricultural interest at the present moment, he thought it his paramount duty to entreat their Lordships to direct their most earnest attention to that subject, as well as to the state of our corn markets since the repeal of the corn laws in the year 1846. At the commencement of the present Session they had been assured that the low prices of agricultural produce at that period could not continue; and there was some truth in the assertion, for they had since fallen considerably lower. Three parties had assisted in the repeal of those corn laws which had previously afforded a protection to the agricultural class under the great and peculiar burdens which they had to bear. One of those parties did not exist, he was happy to say, in that House, but its influence was not the less felt to exist in the country. It consisted of intelligent men who had been the most active in agitating for a repeal of the corn laws, who had not scrupled lately to declare publicly that they considered that that repeal would lead to this most desirable end—the establishment of a pure democracy in this country. That party believed that with a repeal of the protective system the value of agricultural produce would become so depreciated as to lead to a diminution of the social and political influence of those whom they called the aristocratic body, among whom they included not only the nobility, but the whole of the landowners of this country, who, as every one knew, had always been the strongest bulwark of the Throne against democratic invasion. He should, however, say nothing more of that party, because none of them were present. There was another party which certainly did exist in that House, and which also possessed great activity, talent, and intelligence, and which had been mainly instrumental in procuring the repeal of those laws—he alluded to those theoretical economists who had suddenly become enamoured with the doctrine of free trade, believing it to be founded on natural and normal truths, but totally forgetting the complex state of society in this country. Those were men for whom he 675 entertained the greatest respect, because he knew they were honest in their opinions, and sanguine in their expectations. They believed that free trade would prove beneficial to this country, and he certainly gave them credit for thinking that it could not lead to that deplorable anxiety and discomfort which it had occasioned among the agricultural classes. But they were men like the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Grey), who had lately congratulated their Lordships on the effects produced by free trade, and who was himself one of the most distinguished of their number—they were ardent and uncompromising politicians, who threw down a principle before the country as they would throw down an article of material produce, without reference to its capabilities of practical usefulness for Government. He believed that anything he could say would not have much influence with those persons; but he would ask them also to turn their attention earnestly to what was going on in the corn markets of this country, and to consider what must be the result. There was a third party in that House to the repeal of the corn laws, which comprised a majority of their Lordships, and which must always be looked upon in this country with the deepest respect. Among the Members of that party he wished particularly to address himself to the noble Lords on the cross benches, and to some noble Lords on that (the Opposition) side of the House, with whom he had once the honour to act, but had unfortunately been for some time dissevered. He believed that those noble Lords had thought, in voting for a repeal of the corn laws, that they had been doing their duty to the country by giving way to what they considered to be an almost universal call on the part of the people. They had hoped that no such evils as those which the party with whom he was associated had predicted, would result from the proposed change, and that, after its adoption, what he might call a genial stream of food would flow into this country, instead of that overwhelming torrent by which our markets had been inundated. In that party he should place the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Lansdowne) himself, because the noble Marquess had, both at the beginning of the present Session, and at a subsequent period, called the repeal of the corn laws "an experiment." He had also been told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated in another place, that 676 he did not expect that that measure would occasion such low prices in our markets. He accepted the expression of the noble Marquess. He had always looked upon the measure as "an experiment;" and he should always protest against the language held, not so much in that House, as out of the House, by leading journals, and by men of great talent and eloquence, to the effect that the existing law upon the subject was necessarily final. He considered that language to be a positive insult to the common sense and good feeling of the country. Surely a law was not necessarily final, because it had been tried for a year. Surely no Act of Parliament could be considered necessarily final, and least of all an Act of Parliament upon a fiscal question. He could understand that the abolition of personal privileges confined to a class might be final; but to say that a fiscal enactment was necessarily final was the language of decrepit men who had only sufficient strength left to enable them to move in one unvarying attitude. The price of corn still continued to fall; it had not only fallen within the last two months, but it had fallen within the last week. The last average that had been published was that for the week ending on Saturday, the 13th instant—that average being 38s. a quarter for wheat. The average for the week ending on last Saturday would not be published until to-morrow; but he could state from information which had reached him, that in almost all our principal markets the price had fallen during the last week. He found that during that week the average price of wheat at Salisbury had been 37s. and of barley 21s., which would not be more than a remunerating price for oats. He found that at Swindon the price of wheat last week had been 35s., at Dorchester 36s., at Warminster 35s., at Norfolk 37s.; that in Northumberland it had been below 35s., and that in London the average price had fallen 2s., in consequence of an importation during the week of 100,000 quarters of different kinds of grain. Now, their Lordships should remember that a fall of 2s. on 38s. was one of very considerable amount, and was of course much greater than a fall of 2s. on 56s. We had begun the year with an average of 40s.; and in the face of that average a very large importation of foreign corn had taken place. At the beginning of the month of December it must have been known in foreign ports that the price of wheat in our markets was reduced to 40s. a quarter; 677 and, notwithstanding that fact, we had received in the months of January and February importations of 275,000 quarters of wheat, of 47,000 quarters of barley, and of 29,000 quarters of oats; and the importations were still being continued. The fact was, that even at prices which could not remunerate the British farmer, foreigners could inundate our markets. In the year 1849 the average price of wheat in England had been only 44s.; and yet in that year we had received from foreigners 4,509,626 quarters of wheat, 1,554,860 quarters of barley, 1,368,673 quarters of oats, and 3,937,219 cwt. of wheaten flour; making altogether an importation equivalent to 10,000,000 quarters of grain, without including pulse and Indian corn. We had, besides, received from abroad during that year 52,000 head of cattle, and 129,000 sheep. He had stated these facts for the purpose of showing what vast powers foreigners had of importing into this country; and their Lordships might depend upon it that they could continue their importations at a profit to themselves, even though the prices were lower than at present in our markets. There had, as yet, been no means of knowing the exact price at which foreigners could import into this country; but he believed that that point might soon be ascertained. The British farmer was already well aware that he could be undersold by the foreigner; and when he demanded 38s. for his wheat, the corn factor showed him a sample of wheat which he could receive from Havre, or some other near port, for 37s., and then asked him how he could require 38s. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) had himself heard that language held, and so, no doubt, had many of their Lordships; and then, he would ask, whether it was surprising that under such circumstances a panic should spread among our farmers? It was well known that the farmers had still large stocks on their hands, which they had been induced to hold in consequence of the language employed some time since by Members of Her Majesty's Government and by other free-traders, who had stated that prices should necessarily rise; and the result was, that at present, at the end of April, within three months of the harvest, they had large quantities of grain on hand, whilst increased importations and falling markets were staring them in the face. The large farmers might be able to bear up for a while against such a state of things; but how would the small 678 farmers fare? Now it was admitted that the small farmers would be destroyed, unless they possessed capital, and were conversant with chemistry. He recollected that, during the discussions on the corn laws in 1846, a most eloquent prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) had declared that to repeal those laws would be to return to a more natural and normal state of things. But was there anything, he would ask, in our normal nature that was to teach chemistry? Or was it the natural state of mankind to be born with capital? He would warn their Lordships that the destruction of the English yeomen would be the removal of what had boon the most loyal and the most peaceable portion of Her Majesty's subjects. But he could with confidence state that the farmers were now finding fault with the form of government which had reduced them to their present condition. He might be asked why they had not held similar language in the year 1835, when prices had been as low as at present. Now, his answer to such a question would be, that prices had at that time been low in consequence of the intervention of Divine Providence of a plentiful season, which gave them riches not poverty, while their present unhappy position was the result of human intervention and of Acts of Parliament. The agricultural classes had a right to come to the Legislature and say to it—"You have depreciated the value of our property to the extent of one-third; it was worth 56s., it is now only worth 38s.; yet, while you have done so, you ask us to pay the same amount of taxes as we formerly did, which, so far as regards ourselves, is equivalent to having raised the taxes from 50,000,000l. to 67,000,000l. Is it fair, then, that we should pay the same fixed annuities which we were to pay before you made these changes? There is nothing given us to compensate for that depreciation which might require us to pay the same rate of interest to the public creditor as we did before." In conclusion he had only to say, their Lordships and Parliament, and the fund holders, who benefited by low prices as far as their weekly bills were concerned, would have to consider whether or not it was a wise thing for this country to ruin its debtors. If they did not retrace their steps, he thought that neither the condition of the country would be safe, nor could it be governed with honour.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, he could not allow that debate to close without bearing his testimony to the truth 679 of everything that had fallen from his noble Friend who had just sat down. Never was there a time when the burdens were greater, and depression more universal upon the agricultural interests of this country, than at the present moment, and the accounts which they had from every part fully corroborated and admitted the prevailing distress. A considerable number of our farmers and yeomen were suffering at the present moment; but he warned the Government, he warned their Lordships, he warned all those interests who were receiving money from the public funds, not to drive those naturally independent and loyal men to desperation. He knew large tracts of the country at that moment where the farmers were men not of large capital, but individuals who were possessed of enterprise and industry, who had always lived and brought up their families with some effort, and who newfound themselves reduced, from the effects of free trade, to the condition almost of paupers, and that ere long they would feel obliged to seek the shelter of the workhouses. He trusted the great body of the people of England would ever continue to be loyal; that they would not permit it to be said of them, as was said of a neighbouring country. Le peuple ne se soulève pas par envie de se soulever, mais par impatience de soufrir. The great body of farmers might wish to be loyal, but they could not pay the amount of taxes which was now imposed upon them. He did contend for it that it was unfair the agricultural interest should be singled out to be plundered, when the public creditor and all other classes were placed in a better position than before. He confessed he expected nothing from his noble Friend opposite. He had expected nothing from noble Lords opposite, and therefore he was not disappointed that his noble Friend should adhere to his policy—the Government unfortunately were too deeply pledged to their particular views to return to a system of protection; but he confessed he did look to the good sense of the people of England, to that growing feeling which had arisen in every part of Scotland, for a loud demand in favour of a change of the present policy. He did believe, that before long there would be but one feeling in the British empire, and that it would be loudly expressed in favour of a return to a system of adequate protection. What he asked of the farmers of England was to bring forward 680 their grievances before the Parliament of the country, to select no representatives who were not protectionists, and to bind and fetter their Members, so that they should not permit them to do anything but vote in favour of protection. It was idle to suppose that any measures but a return to a system of protective policy could be of any use unless they were prepared to sweep away a great amount of the taxation of the country. There was another class which was suffering, and would suffer, from the present state of things. He meant the clergy. Not, indeed, the right rev. Prelates on the opposite benches, for their incomes were fixed, but the working clergy in the country, for the farmers were complaining that they could not now, as formerly, pay their tithes. He had stated enough to show that before long they might have an agitation in this country, which, as statesmen, they had better prevent, by getting rid of a grievance which, if they did not put an end to, the people of England were determined that they would get rid of.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
was understood to declare it to be his intention not to enter into a discussion upon the important subject to which the noble Earl and the noble Duke had referred. This was not a fit opportunity for considering whether the great experiment had failed or not. Whenever the noble Earl should found any proposition on the returns for which he had moved, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would be prepared to state his views fully, and the grounds on which the policy of the question rested. In his opinion, the present depressed state of agriculture, as indicated by the fall of prices, was an exceptional state of things, and did not furnish a fair ground for calling upon the Legislature to review the policy which had been adopted and acted on of late years. He was perfectly willing to admit that the noble Lords had taken a very fair and Parliamentary course in commencing their operation—if they deemed fit to undertake it—of proposing to their Lordships to make a change in the present system of policy, by moving for all the facts connected with it, and taking care they should be laid on the table of the House. He would offer no opposition to the production of the returns called for by the noble Earl, but would content himself with moving, that an additional return be produced, being an account of the quantity of wheat, corn, and oats returned as sold 681 by the corn inspectors in each week during the last five years.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, that he would not believe a syllable the corn inspectors might say. Their returns had been found to be incorrect on a former occasion.
said, he would not go so far as to say that he did not believe one syllable of the corn inspectors, but he must be permitted to say that the Motion of the noble Marquess would not add much to their information as to the real state of the case, or the amount of permanent consumetion in the country. So far as the corn returns might go, they might be right as regarded the prices, but they would leave unrepresented a large portion of the corn actually sold in the country. From accidental causes a larger portion entered into the returns in one town at one period, than there did in another town at another period. He had heard with great satisfaction the other day from the noble Marquess, that this measure was not to be considered as un fait accompli—that it was not an irrevocable step, as they were told last year—not a thing from which it would be thought a folly to imagine they would recede—but merely an experiment still in progress, upon which the noble Marquess thought it right they should have all the practical information before them from time to time, showing what was the practical bearing of that experiment, and whether the results were such as he (Lord Stanley), and those who agreed in opinion with him, had anticipated, or were such as had been anticipated by the framers of the Corn Law Bill. He was glad to gather from the noble Marquess's statement that night, this further fact, that the noble Marquess assumed the present amount of price to be an exceptional amount of price, and not likely to continue—
Yes, an exceptional state of things, alluding to this low price. Therefore, it was to be inferred, that in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government an unmitigatedly low price was not advantageous to the country. They learned from the noble Marquess that the prices he thought were exceptional, for the purpose of diminishing the objections raised to them. He understood, therefore, that those low prices were not what the Government desired to see. It appeared that they were lower than they had contemplated or de- 682 sired, and that they looked to a rise of price; but he would not stop to examine the ground for it. It was evident that Her Majesty's Government, in passing the repeal of the corn laws, were carrying on an experiment; and that experiment, at all events at that moment, had not produced the effects the Government and the repealers of the corn laws had expected. He would take those two admissions—first, that the price was lower; and, next, that the measure itself was an experiment. If it should be proved that this was not an exceptional state of things, and that there was no tendency to a rise of price, then, and in that case, he would put it to the Government that the experiment had failed, and that it would be necessary to retrace their steps. But how long, he asked, was this experiment to last? How many more hundreds of their countrymen were to be ruined, before they were convinced? How much more capital was to be sacrificed before they took steps to recover back the national prosperity? He was willing to give full time for consideration, but there must be some limit to the period during which the country should undergo the suffering it was now undergoing to test the value of this experiment. They were told at the beginning of the Session that they should wait another month or six weeks—the month of March, he thought, had been pointed out as the period at which it was said to be quite clear that the averages must considerably rise, and the prices improve; but the "ides of March" had come and passed, and, what was more, the ides of April were come and passed also; and within three months of the new harvest they had—not diminishing importation, but increased importation—they had not rising prices, but falling prices. There was a portion of his noble Friend's returns which was of the greatest possible importance. He asked for returns showing the country from which the importation had taken place. If it should appear, in the face of those low prices, that their importation had not been from distant ports, in countries whore their prices could not be easily ascertained, but from ports within sight almost of their shores, where the inhabitants possessed a knowledge of their markets, and with that knowledge going on from day to day the importation increased, they might have an expectation that the prices would increase; but still they would fall lower than they were at present. He would take an illustration from the case of cotton. 683 Let them see what had been the quotations of cotton in the course of fifty or sixty years, and also see if the price of cotton had been raised in consequence of the increased demand for the article. So far from that being the case, the demand had diminished the price of cotton. In spite of the demand, the price of cotton was falling; and it was now lower than it was at the time when the demand was smaller. So also with respect to tea and other articles, for which in this country there was an almost unlimited demand. That unlimited demand from free admission would be sure to be met by increased production in foreign countries, and to such an extent as to lower the price while it increased the supply. If that were found to be true with respect to cotton, it would also be found to be true with respect to corn; and with the large field open for the increase of corn in Europe and America, they would have, while their ports were continually open, a constant glut of all the corn in their markets that could be grown throughout the world; and so far exceeding the demand that they must have continually falling prices, and the prices in this country would be the lowest on the face of the earth. Under these circumstances it was impossible that the cultivation of corn would go on to the present extent. The farmers could not bear the burdens and the taxation to which they were exposed. It was not a question of rent; but the fact was, that under those prices, or anything like those prices, and if those prices must continually fall, it was impossible that the farmers could continue to grow wheat in many parts of this country, or, still more, carry on that high and extensive farming that was recommended by some persons as a remedy for the present distress, by growing a greater quantity of corn on the same soil, for that could only be grown by the increased application of capital. But, most of all, it was impossible that the cultivation of the Lothians could be kept up at its present amount. In that country, the garden of Scotland, where skill and capital had been applied to the greatest extent to increase the production of the soil, how could the farmer add in any material degree to the amount of produce at present raised? What was to become of that man who, on the faith of an Act of Parliament, had invested his capital, applied his skill, and devoted the industry of a whole life to bring the country to a state that reflected credit upon him as an agriculturist, when he found that by 684 their legislation all the capital and industry that he had expended, and all the expense to which he had gone, only tended to increase and render more formidable the ruin in which he was involved? He concurred with his noble Friend near him in the opinion, that upon their Lordships, sooner or later—upon the House, sooner or later—upon the country at large, at no distant period, but within a limited time, the conviction must be forced by circumstances that they could not advance in their present course, and that to stand still in their present course would be ruin. He was confident that he should see the time when those Members of their Lordships' House and those of the Lower House who had conscientiously voted for carrying out this great experiment, would, with equal honesty and conscientiousness, be of opinion that that experiment had not accomplished the object in view; and, in accordance with the general feeling of the country, would be prepared to revise their opinion, and to recede from that experiment which, he was rejoiced to think, was still continued as an experiment, the failure of which was daily becoming more apparent and disastrous.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
complained that the noble Lord had not thought proper to adhere to the line of proceeding which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had prescribed for himself, and which he thought the noble Lord, when he rose, would have prescribed for himself. The noble Lord had proceeded to draw inferences and deductions from the papers now moved for, and invited their attention to certain results, as coming from those papers, which results had not yet been made apparent. This disquisition on the part of the noble Lord argued, he must say, some little doubt as to his intention of ever bringing this subject before the House in a plain and distinct form for their Lordships' consideration. He felt it would be irregular to enter into the subject at that time; but after what the noble Lord had said with reference to him, he must declare that he had never used the words which the noble Lord had put into his mouth. He did not state at that time, or on any former occasion, that that House would be bound, at no distant period, to review the whole of this question. [Lord STANLEY dissented.] He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) understood the noble Lord to say so.
begged to be excused for a single moment, while he explained 685 what he had said. He had spoken of this measure not as un fait accompli, but as an experiment in progress, and said the noble Marquess considered the present prices exceptional, and that he did not anticipate they would last. And the inference he (Lord Stanley) drew from the statement of the noble Marquess was, that he thought that the price at present was not such as he contemplated as the result of the experiment, or as he considered desirable. Further than that he did not attempt, in the slightest degree, to offer an opinion; but this he did say, that upon those assumptions he founded the conviction that the noble Marquess, finding himself disappointed in the result he had anticipated and hoped for from the experiment, he would at no distant period feel himself compelled to acknowledge that the experiment had failed.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
begged to state what he did say with respect to the exceptional state of things now in existence. The inference he drew from its being an exceptional state of things was, that the House ought not rashly, hastily, or speedily, to come to any conclusion on the subject. If the noble Lord considered that that exceptional state of things was one under which it would be expedient for Parliament to review the policy it had pursued upon this subject, it was open to him at any time to bring this subject distinctly under their consideration. When he did so, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) should be prepared to meet him; but, so far as he could see, the noble Lord was not prepared to make any Motion. He had made no proposition by which the public of the country could be informed of that which he considered a great evil. He should have done so, and taken a fitting opportunity to call upon the Government to bring the subject for discussion before Parliament. When the noble Lord arrived at that conclusion, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) trusted he would distinctly communicate it to the House, and not throw out arguments and suggest inferences from papers which were not upon the table. When those papers were on the table, let the noble Lord invite the attention of the House to them in a distinct and intelligible form.
wished to observe, that he did not consider the present price an exceptional state of things; on the contrary, he considered it a state of things that was likely to continue. He was not 686 prepared, in the present state of their Lordships' House, to bring forward a distinct proposition, and would exercise his discretion both as to the period at which he would bring it forward, and the opportunities he should think proper to take of expressing his opinions during the progress of this experiment.
§ EARL GREY
thought that if noble Lords entertained a very strong opinion as to the necessity of some change, they ought to bring forward the question in such a manner as that the opinion of the House could be distinctly taken upon it; they ought to explain what they considered the right policy of the country upon the subject. But he could see no possible advantage in discussions leading to no conclusion, and in which noble Lords, when they found fault with the existing system, cautiously avoided giving any information as to what they would substitute for it; and he must utterly deny that Parliament, or any Government or Legislature, could make itself responsible for a state of prices. Noble Lords seemed to think that the present measure necessarily failed because the price of wheat was at that moment low; but often in the other House, when Gentlemen of great benevolence, but as he thought not of great judgment, urged some interference to relieve the handloom weavers from their distress, and to prevent wages from falling from the point below which no persons could live—he had heard such arguments answered, as he thought, most conclusively, and, as he believed, by the noble Lord himself, by showing that it was not in the power of Parliament or Government to determine what should be the rate of wages; and he believed it was equally out of the power of Government or Parliament to determine what should be the rate of prices of wheat. He utterly denied that anything in this country had occurred to justify them in denying the wisdom of those principles upon which this policy was based.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
did not expect that their Lordships would derive much further information from these returns when they were laid on the table, but he nevertheless thought the noble Earl was justified in moving for them, and in commenting on the subject of them, because they were at that moment in this position, that, looking at the present state of things, they must either conclude that the foreigner was willing to import into this country grain in enormous quantities with a certain loss, or 687 else that the present low prices must be permanent. It was to get out of the difficulty in which they were placed, that these returns were, in all probability, moved for; because when they were laid on the table they would ascertain which of the two cases was the fact. In the first place, they would ascertain from what country they were importing, and the average prices in the ports from which corn had been lately imported. It might happen that large quantities of corn had been imported from France, and, if that were so, he should not feel so much alarm as if it were from the ports of Dantzic or the Baltic, because they knew that France, generally, was an importing and not an exporting country; but if it appeared that the quantities now imported were from the Baltic, and those countries which had unlimited means of production, and were sent to this country at an advantage, they must come to the conclusion that the present prices had no chance of rising, because it was undoubtedly the case, and never had been denied, that when once they established free trade, the markets in this country must range on the level of the markets of the world. He must say, however, that he was surprised at the want of courage of the free-traders; for, if they were consistent, they ought at that moment to say that low prices were what they wanted, and to congratulate themselves on what had fallen from the other side. They ought to have said, "The lower the price the better; for if, instead of 35s. a quarter, they could get wheat at 25s., it would put 10s. into their pockets. This question presented itself to him in this form—Was it or not of advantage to the country at large that prices should range so low as to prevent some of those persons who had been occupied in the cultivation of the soil, and who had invested money in it, from deriving a sufficient profit from it to induce them to continue the occupation? It might be said by the free-traders, that the agriculturists had gone too far in bringing land not naturally rich into cultivation, and that all the money sunk in that cultivation was a dead loss; but if they took the other line, and said that not only was such land to be thrown out of cultivation, but that the agriculturists were to lay out still further resources by bringing still further land into cultivation, then it might be answered, why should they do so when they could get as much corn as they wanted from foreign countries, 688 and at a cheaper price? But this subject could only be fairly discussed when the subject of the corn laws was properly before their Lordships. There was, however, one point to which he wished to draw the attention of the Government; and if any return could be made upon it, he believed it would be of the utmost importance. Nothing had struck him more in the operation of the corn law than the total abandonment of keeping any quantity in store, or on hand. There was nothing to supply the place of the bonding warehouses. It was extraordinary as far as his observation went, that a class of speculators who might naturally have been expected to supply the place of the bonded warehouses, did not appear to exist. Now, suppose a sudden blight was to come over the whole of the country at a critical moment of the corn crop. The consequence would be a rise of price to 120s. a quarter. That rather alarmed him, for he dreaded a high price equally as much as he dreaded a price too low. If, therefore, a return could be made showing the difference in the quantity now in store from what it was before the present law, it would be of importance. He was not for agitating the repeal of the corn law; it must have a fair trial; but in the course of it they ought to have every means of obtaining information as to the different points of it, one of which was the want of speculators to supply the place of the bonding warehouses.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
believed there were no means of obtaining the return to which the noble Lord had referred.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
replied. The object he had in moving for these returns was to ascertain the working of the present law from month to month. He did not expect that this discussion would have any effect upon the noble Earl opposite; because he had always placed that noble Earl in the category of those who never changed their minds, or condescended to go into details by which their principles might be shown to be wrong. He would only detain the House further by asking the noble Marquess how long it would be before the return could be made which he said he was willing to give?
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
thought that some time must elapse before the returns could be produced, but that they should be placed on the table as soon as possible.
§ On Question, agreed to. Returns ordered.
§ House adjourned to Thursday next.