§ The EARL of ESSEX
rose to move an Address in Answer to the Speech they had just heard read. He had been too long a Member of their Lordships' assembly to have any claim to that indulgence which it was usual to concede on an occasion like the present. If, however, his seldom having had an occasion to address their Lordships would justify his asking that indulgence, he might assuredly express a hope that their Lordships would listen to him with patience whilst he addressed to them a few observations upon the gracious Speech which had been that day delivered to them on the part of Her Majesty. Since their Lordships last met in that place, it had pleased God to take to himself her late Most Excellent Majesty the Queen Dowager; and he was sure that their Lordships, as well as the other House of Parliament, and, indeed, that all classes, high and low, rich and poor, would sympathise in the deep affliction which the decease of Queen Adelaide had caused to Her Majesty, in common with the people of this country; for never had any foreign princess won so much love from the country of her adoption as Queen Adelaide had won by her exemplary goodness, 8 her unbounded and unostentatious charity, and her universal kindness to all classes and descriptions of persons. So long as those virtues were revered, so long would the memory of Queen Adelaide remain cherished in the breasts of Englishmen. He would now call their Lordships' attention to that paragraph in the Speech in which Her Majesty declared that She continued in peace and amity with Foreign Powers. He sincerely congratulated their Lordships upon that announcement. In the course of last autumn Her Majesty had been called upon, in conjunction with the French Government, to act as mediator between the Governments of Austria and Russia, on the one hand, and the Government of Turkey on the other, in consequence of certain circumstances having occurred which threatened the peace of Europe; and Her Majesty now announced that Her mediation had been attended with the happiest success. It was not for him to make any observations upon the causes of that interference; but, as far as he was informed upon the subject, it appeared that Her Majesty's mediation was a legitimate and solicited interference in the affairs of foreign nations—an interference which, when carried on with impartiality and justice, had ever added to the dignity of this country, and promoted the interests of those other countries which had been concerned in the negotiations. Her Majesty had congratulated the House and the country upon the state of peace which now happily prevailed throughout Europe, and he might say throughout the whole world. That state of peace was, indeed, a noble theme for congratulation; nay, more, when he looked back to the events of the last two years—when he recollected that during that period of time every country in Europe appeared like a revolutionary volcano—when he reflected that each day's post brought us news of the abdication of some living Sovereign, and of the overthrow of some ancient dynasty; and when he considered that the violence of the storm had desolated every nation on the Continent, and that we alone had remained not only unscathed but untouched, he thought it not only a theme for congratulation, but also a subject for deep and lasting gratitude. It was surely a matter of the deepest congratulation and thankfulness that we should have escaped, and that peace, plenty, and tranquillity at this moment prevailed to a greater degree 9 than had been known for a number of years past. He could recall at length to their Lordships' minds the causes to which this result was mainly attributable; but he would not tax their patience to that extent. He could not, however, consent to pass over those causes altogether in silence. He could not but consider that one of those causes was the high-minded feeling which prevailed among the upper classes in this country, which led them to abandon their long-rooted prejudices, and to sacrifice their self-interests whenever they were called upon to do so by the public voice for the public good. Another cause was that sound good sense of the middle classes, which led them ever to avoid extremes, and from which arose a sound and well-directed public opinion, of which it might be said that it almost invariably gained its point, and almost as invariably would be found consistent both with wisdom and justice. A third was the forbearance of the artisan and operative classes, which, though more subject at all times to privations and distresses than others, bore them with patience; and, though often tempted by the examples which had been set them in foreign countries, still always held fast to their loyalty to their Sovereign and to their allegiance to her crown. He could not, whilst he was upon this subject, refrain from expressing his praise of that power omnipotent for good in this country—he meant the public press—the members of which, however they might differ on many points of public policy, were all united in one point, namely, the support of our constitution, and with it the support of peace and tranquillity. He thought, also, that we owed our immunity from revolution to that just and moderate spirit of reform which had prevailed in the Councils and in the Legislature of this kingdom now for so many years. As education and civilisation extended, so also did the wants of mankind multiply and extend; and it became requisite that laws bearing on those wants and requirements, whether social, political, or commercial, should also undergo revision and amendment. When he looked back to the events of the last few years, and saw pestilence and famine existing in this country, and revolution ravaging the Continent, he could not but consider it as a most beneficial occurrence for England that there were in the Councils of Her Majesty men who had the sagacity to see the impolicy of the laws restricting the importation of food, and the policy of abolishing them. Those 10 laws, which would have been pregnant with mischief in a time of universal distress, were now done away with; and, of all the votes which he had ever given in that House, there was none to which he looked back with greater satisfaction than that which he had given in favour of the repeal of the laws preventing the free importation of food. Her Majesty had also congratulated their Lordships on the cessation of that terrible epidemic which had carried desolation into the houses of the people during the last autumn; and after acknowledging that Almighty God in his mercy had been pleased to arrest the progress of mortality and to stay this fearful pestilence, Her Majesty had recommended the adoption of sanitary measures, observing that She "is persuaded that we shall best evince our gratitude by vigilant precautions against the more obvious causes of sickness, and an enlightened consideration for those who are most exposed to its attacks." At all times their Lordships were disposed to pay every attention to promote the interest of those classes who were in less fortunate circumstances; and he was sure the House would feel itself bound to take every step to ameliorate the condition of those who were exposed to evils to which the more affluent classes were not subject. There was a strong feeling abroad as to the sanitary regulations respecting the labouring classes. It was well known that associations had been established for the erection of lodging-houses for the labouring classes, and those lodgings had been much sought after by those classes; and as regarded their promoters, in a commercial point of view, they had given satisfaction. Her Majesty had next expressed her congratulations on the improved condition of commerce and manufactures. If they looked to the immense increase which had taken place in the exports last year, and to other results accompanying it, they would see how greatly the predictions had been falsified of some of the pretended friends of the farmers—for they had asserted that the admission of foreign corn to this country would not lead to an increase of the exports of manufactures, as the foreigners would take nothing but bullion for their corn, and consequently the coffers of the Bank would soon be drained, and the revenue would be affected. The only answer which he would make to these predictions, was by simply stating that during the last year the importation of food had been greater than was ever known before; that the export of our manufactures 11 was greater than was ever known before; and that the coffers of the Bank of England were fuller than was ever known before. Would to God that some of the millions which were now lying idle, could be exported to our countrymen on the other side of the Channel, where it only required peace and quiet to induce capital which would render it the most fertile and richest of lands! He could not help expressing his satisfaction at the kind and cordial reception which Her Majesty had met with in Ireland. If the loyalty there displayed could have been manifested under happier circumstances, he had no doubt it would lead to the happiest results. It was satisfactory to find, with regard to the measures introduced last year for the benefit of that country, for the sale of Encumbered Estates in Ireland, they had given great satisfaction, and that the Rate in Aid Bill had been productive of much good. Her Majesty had also expressed her deep sympathy with the distress stated to exist in many of our agricultural districts. No man could regret the existence of that distress more than he did; but in expressing that regret he must also state his conviction—a conviction which was shared by many wealthy merchants, and by many, he would not say a majority of, landlords—that the distress was not of a permanent but of a temporary character; that it arose in a great measure from the panic which had been so industriously and so unwisely kept up by those who set themselves up as the farmers' friends, but which was not shared in by those owners and occupiers of land who had not allowed themselves to be driven wild, and to have their intellects obfuscated by agricultural agitation. On the advantages accruing from the cheapness of food, he could not refrain from quoting a letter which he had received very recently from a gentleman who took a very active part in the parochial affairs of this metropolis. [Here the noble Lord read a letter stating that in the parish of Marylebone there had been a saving in the rates of 11,000l. in the year, owing to the extreme cheapness of food; and that in another parish there had also been a saving of 7,000l in the same time.] On the other great measure of last Session, the repeal of the navigation laws, Her Majesty assured the Parliament that the Governments of the United States of America and of Sweden had taken steps to secure to our ships in their ports advantages similar to 12 those which their ships now enjoyed in our ports; and Her Majesty had further informed them that She had received from nearly every other State still having navigation laws of a restrictive character, assurances that the character of those laws should speedily undergo investigation. It was satisfactory to hear that the repeal of our navigation laws had been productive of beneficial effects. So far from shipbuilding decreasing in our ports, it had increased, as he was informed, at Sunderland, at Hull, and in the river Thames. The shipbuilders in all our ports were in full employment, and were not only building vessels for the merchants of our own country, but were also receiving orders to build vessels for foreign countries. That did not look like despair and ruin; on the contrary, it was indicative of the energy and spirit of our merchants, which had rendered this the first naval country in the world. Their Lordships had been informed that day that one of the measures which would speedily be brought before them would be a measure for the better government of the Australian colonies. Without knowing what that measure was, he would only express a hope that similar measures would be carried into effect with respect to our other colonies. He hoped that the time was not far distant when a greater degree of freedom would be extended to all our colonies in the management of their internal concerns and the nomination to their civil offices. He could not but think that such an extension of freedom would be for the benefit both of the colonies and of the mother country; it would give the colonies the power of self-government, and it would lead them to supply from their own resources those governmental advances which were now pressing so heavily on the resources of the mother country; it would thus induce between both a feeling more like that of child and parent than that of dependant and master, which now existed. Having thanked their Lordships for the patience with which they had hitherto heard him, he would conclude by expressing his fullest concurrence in the last sentence of Her Majesty's Speech, namely, that by combining liberty with order, by preserving what was valuable, and amending what was defective, their Lordships would sustain the fabric of our institutions as the abode and the shelter of a free and happy people. The noble Earl concluded by moving the following humble Address:— 13MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,WE, Your 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 the Assurance of Your Majesty's great Satisfaction in again having recourse to the Advice and Assistance of Your Majesty's Parliament.WE condole with Your Majesty on the Decease of Her Majesty Queen Adelaide, which has caused Your Majesty deep Affliction; and we entirely concur with Your Majesty in the Belief that the extensive Charity and exemplary Virtues of Her late Majesty will always render Her Memory dear to the Nation.WE beg humbly to express the Satisfaction with which we learn that Your Majesty happily continues in Peace and Amity with Foreign Powers.WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that in the course of the Autumn Differences of a serious Character arose between the Governments of Austria and Russia on the one hand, and the Sublime Ports on the other, in regard to the Treatment of a considerable Number of Persons who, after the Termination of the Civil War in Hungary, had taken refuge in the Turkish Territory; and we rejoice to learn that Explanations which took place between the Turkish and Imperial Governments have fortunately removed any Danger to the Peace of Europe which might have arisen out of these Differences.WE humbly convey to Your Majesty our Thanks for informing us that Your Majesty, having been appealed to on this Occasion by the Sultan, united Your Majesty's Efforts with those of the Government of France, to which a similar Appeal had been made, in order to assist, by the Employment of Your Majesty's good Offices, in effecting an amicable Settlement of those Differences in a Manner consistent with the Dignity and Independence of the Porte.WE thank Your Majesty for acquainting us that Your Majesty has been engaged in Communications with Foreign States upon the Measures which might be rendered necessary by the Relaxation of the Restrictions formerly imposed by the Navigation Laws of this Country.WE rejoice to learn that the Governments of the United States of America and of Sweden have promptly taken Steps to secure to British Ships in the Ports of their respective Countries Advantages similar to those which their own Ships now enjoy in British Ports.WITH regard to those Foreign States whose Navigation Laws have hither to been of a restrictive 14 Character, we learn with Gratification that Your Majesty has received from nearly all of them Assurances which induce Your Majesty to hope that our Example will speedily lead to a great and general Diminution of those Obstacles which previously existed to a free Intercourse by Sea between the Nations of the World.WE unite with Your Majesty in lamenting that in the Summer and Autumn of the past Year the United Kingdom was again visited by the Ravages of the Cholera; but we are thankful to Almighty God, who in His Mercy was pleased to arrest the Progress of Mortality, and to stay this fearful Pestilence.WE humbly concur with Your Majesty in the Persuasion, that we shall best evince our Gratitude by vigilant Precautions against the more obvious Causes of Sickness, and an enlightened Consideration for those who are most exposed to its Attacks.WE humbly assure Your Majesty that we rejoice to be informed that Your Majesty in Your Majesty's late Visit to Ireland, derived the highest Gratification from the Loyalty and Attachment manifested by all Classes of Your Majesty's Subjects; and we learn with Satisfaction, that although the Effects of former Years of Scarcity are painfully felt in that Part of the United Kingdom, they are mitigated by the present Abundance of Food, and the Tranquillity which prevails.WE regard with great Satisfaction the improved Condition of Commerce and Manufactures; and, whilst sharing with Your Majesty in the Regret with which Your Majesty has observed the Complaints which in many Parts of the Kingdom have proceeded from the Owners and Occupiers of Land, and humbly concurring with Your Majesty in lamenting greatly that any Portion of Your Majesty's Subjects should be suffering Distress, we unite with Your Majesty in the Feelings of sincere Gratification with which Your Majesty witnesses the increased Enjoyment of the Necessaries and Comforts of Life which Cheapness and Plenty have bestowed upon the great Body of Your Majesty's People.WE express our Thanks to Your Majesty for informing us that some of the Measures which were postponed at the End of the last Session for Want of Time for their Consideration will be again laid before us, and that among the most important of these is one for the better Government of the Australian Colonies.WE humbly thank Your Majesty for having directed various Measures to be prepared for the Improvement of the Condition of Ireland, and for acquainting us that the Mischiefs arising from Party Processions, the Defects of the Laws regulating the Relations of Landlord and Tenant, the 15 imperfect State of the Grand Jury Acts, and the diminished Number of Electors for Members to serve in Parliament, will, together with other Matters of serious Consequence, form the Subjects of Measures to be submitted for our Consideration.WE unite in the Satisfaction with which Your Majesty has learnt that the Measures which have been already passed for the Promotion of the Public Health are in a Course of gradual Adoption; and we concur with Tour Majesty in the Hope that, both in the Metropolis and in various Parts of the United Kingdom, we shall be enabled to make further Progress in the Removal of Evils which affect the Health and Well-being of Your Majesty's Subjects.WE humbly join with Your Majesty in acknowledging that the Favour of Divine Providence has hitherto preserved this Kingdom from the Wars and Convulsions which during the last Two Years have shaken so many States on the Continent of Europe; and we heartily concur in the Hope and Belief expressed by Your Majesty, that by combining Liberty with Order, by preserving what is valuable, and amending what is defective, we shall sustain the Fabric of our Institutions as the Abode and the Shelter of a free and happy People.
said, that he was fully aware that the high and distinguished honour conferred on him in selecting him to second the Address, in reply to the Speech of Her Majesty, could have been more worthily bestowed, and that many noble Lords might have been selected, whose competency for the discharge of so important a duty could not for a moment be questioned. He would, however, as briefly as possible, advert to a few topics contained in the Speech. Their Lordships were fully aware that great fears had prevailed in the public mind as to a probable rupture taking place between Russia and Austria on the one side, and the Sublime Porte on the other; but these apprehensions had, through the mediation of England, in conjunction with France, happily been dispelled. It must be a great source of satisfaction to their Lordships that this result had been brought about by the united exertions of those two powerful countries who were formerly the greatest rivals in the arts of war, but who now were happily allied for the promotion of the blessings of peace. The next matter of congratulation was the favourable terms with which the Government of the United States and of Sweden had met us in securing to British ships in their respective ports advantages similar to those which their own ships now enjoyed in British 16 ports. It should be a matter of satisfaction to witness the gradual improvement that was daily taking place in the aspect of affairs; and, when he contemplated the great increase in the revenue of the country—which was an infallible indication of the prosperity of the manufacturing and industrial interests—he could not refrain from congratulating their Lordships on that very visible improvement. He regretted that he could not express the same feelings of congratulation as to the state of the agricultural interest, as he was aware that many complaints had arisen as to its distress from various parts of the country. He was aware that the greatest panic had existed in many parts, which was owing to false alarms in regard to the effect of free-trade measures, and which panic had been greatly increased by the agitation of the protectionist party since last harvest, in consequence of the decline in the price of corn. On this point, however, he would refer to the fact, that in the years 1822, 1823, and 1824, when foreign corn could not be introduced for consumption, unless home-grown wheat was above 80s. the quarter, prices of agricultural produce were lower than they had been during the last year. This certainly might be attributed at that period to the resumption of cash payments; but the same event also occurred in 1835. He thought there were at the present time several causes to which the lowness of grain might at present be attributed. Let them contemplate the enormous amount of capital locked up in railway speculation, together with the immense sums locked up in the coffers of the Bank of England, as in all the minor banks throughout the kingdom; and then he thought they would be of opinion, as he unquestionably was, that all that amount has been withdrawn from its legitimate course of application, and that the cry that had been raised by the protectionist party could have no other effect than to damage the agricultural interests. It was to be expected that agriculture would have its days of adversity as well as its days of prosperity; but he felt it was the duty of the true friends of that interest to encourage rather than to depress the feelings of the farmer. He could not but express on that occasion his strong dissent from many of the doctrines laid down and promulgated by that party, and equally strongly deprecate the conduct and language of some persons out of doors, who were most opposed to the agricultural interest. Some of these 17 persons were men of acknowledged talent; but instead of promoting the best interests of the country by encouraging confidence, they pandered to the worst passions of the multitude, they exerted themselves to set class against class, and with words of "peace" in their mouths endeavoured to excite the most bitter feelings of animosity between different interests. He should not have ventured to address them in that manner, but that he felt the necessities of the period called for such denunciations of the doctrines and practices resorted to by those who were in truth the worst opponents of the permanent interests of the country. He had much pleasure in seconding the Address in reply to the Speech of Her Most Gracious Majesty.
On the Question being put,
The EARL of STRADBROKE
said, that he should consider himself to be wanting in his duty, if he abstained from embracing this, the earliest, opportunity of declaring to their Lordships his experience of the result of their late experiments in free-trade legislation—the experience, namely, of deep and great agricultural distress, the existence of which was admitted in the Speech from the Throne, but which, as he gathered from the speech of the Mover of the Address, was to be characterised as merely of a temporary nature. Was he to understand that any such feeling as that expressed by the noble Earl was participated in by Her Majesty's Ministers? His own conviction was, that this distress was not of a temporary character, but would be permanent, at least so long as they persisted in the present course of legislation. In attempting to trace the causes of this distress, it was almost needless for him to refer to what had occurred in the long war which had lasted almost without intermission from 1793 to 1815, in the course of which period such large sums of money were expended in the cultivation of the soil, with the view of enabling this country to produce a sufficient supply of grain, so as to be independent of foreign producers, for the increasing population of the country, the result of which necessarily was an increase in the rental of the landed proprietors. When peace returned in 1815, serious apprehensions were entertained by statesmen of all parties as to the effects that would be produced by opening the ports to an unrestricted supply of foreign corn. So strong was the impression on this subject, that a law was passed by large majorities that foreign 18 corn should not be allowed to be introduced into this country for home consumption unless the price had attained a certain height. When their Lordships considered who were the advocates of that measure of limited protection, they would perceive that it was no party measure. Mr. Coke, then in the zenith of health and power, who was one of the greatest friends of agriculture that this country had ever possessed, strongly supported that measure; and he believed a noble Earl opposite, who was at that time one of the representatives of Yorkshire, also did so. The effect of that measure had been to ensure prosperity to the agricultural interest for several years. He admitted, with the noble Lord who had seconded the Address, that there was a great depreciation in the price of agricultural produce in the years 1822 and 1823. This had occurred, although there had been little or no importations of foreign corn; but he (the Earl of Stradbroke) was prepared to state, and he believed the noble Marquess the President of the Council would not deny the fact, that that state of things was entirely owing to the alteration in the currency. Shortly before that time, one of the most distinguished Members of the late Government had introduced a measure, which he induced the Legislature to sanction, which had the effect of enhancing the monetary interest in this country 25 per cent, and in the same proportion depreciating the value of land. He well remembered the great and grievous distress which pervaded the agricultural interest of this country at that time—he remembered how slow the reduction of rents by the landlords was, and the impossibility which existed after a short time of collecting those rents, resulting in a great number of the landlords of this country being compelled to quit their homes for the Continent, under the pretence of educating their families, but really for the purpose of reducing their establishments. He remembered, too, how many farmers were driven to pass the remainder of their days in the small towns or workhouses, whilst a great portion of the labouring population were doomed to pass their days in idleness and their nights in debauchery. He would now advert to the measure introduced in 1828 by the Government of the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), whom he had the pleasure of seeing in his place, the principles of which he supported, although he had voted against some of the details, believing that under the altered state of the 19 currency, the protection afforded by that Bill was amply sufficient, and that under reduced rents a certain amount of prosperity had returned, leaving only the sting behind of labourers being paid partly or entirely out of the poor-rates, which misfortune had occurred under the previous distress. The next period to which he would refer was 1834, when the Poor Law Amendment Act was introduced into Parliament by a noble Lord, now no more, than which none more just or more favourable to the agricultural interest and the labouring population was ever brought before the Legislature of this kingdom. The effect of that Act was to improve the condition of the agricultural classes, by increased attention to the aged, by giving better instruction to the children, and, last not least, a great demand for employment, and the immediate effect of which was a reduction of rates to the extent of 40 per cent. That year and the following we had most productive harvests, and prices fell, in consequence, from 60s. to below 40s. However, there was no distress. [" Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial benches.] There was no distress; and there was none, because that low price was the result of abundance. He begged their Lordships always to keep that in view, because he could not imagine two subjects more utterly distinct than the present low price, and that of 1835. He now arrived at the year 1839, when, owing to deficient harvests, both in this country and throughout Europe, the price rose to 70s. 8d. on the average of the year; yet, notwithstanding that high price, the exports of that year amounted to 53,000,000l.; whilst in 1842, when the price of corn was only 57s. 9d., the exports were only 47,000,000l. In 1842 Sir R. Peel introduced into Parliament another alteration in the corn law, to which he (the Earl of Stradbroke) gave his support, conceiving that the time had arrived when a further remission of protection might be safely conceded, the more especially as he believed that that measure would secure greater Steadiness of prices than had hitherto prevailed. In 1846 the whole course of things was changed. The leader of a party, who during a long life had advocated protective duties, all at once turned round and advocated their repeal, and introduced a measure which had resulted in the permanent reduction of the price of corn. In 1848 the harvest was bad, and the agriculturists were told that the deep distress which then 20 afflicted them was owing to that circumstance. In 1849, however, the harvest was abundant; still the result had been, not an equitable return for their labour, but a reduction of prices to their present level. Under these circumstances, could their Lordships doubt that great distress existed? Were they not aware that the union-houses in the agricultural districts were filled with poor? Could they doubt that the natural result of this was to impoverish the land of this country; and was he not justified in stating that the result of free trade must be permanently and in a high degree injurious to the landed interest of this country? Upon this point, therefore, he ventured to move the following Amendment to the Address—namely, that after the word "manufactures," in the third line of the thirteenth paragraph, there should be inserted the following words:—We regret, however, to be compelled humbly to represent to Your Majesty that in many parts of the United Kingdom, and especially in Ireland, the various Classes of Your Majesty's Subjects connected with the Cultivation of the Soil are labouring under severe Distress, mainly attributable, in our Opinion, to recent legislative Enactments, the Operation of which is aggravated by the Pressure of Local Taxation.
The EARL of DESART
said, that in supporting the Amendment it was not without a feeling of regret that he felt himself compelled to stand in the way of that unanimity which it was so desirable should exist in respect to the Address to be presented in return to Her Majesty's roost gracious Speech. But when he had read over that Speech, and found that a mere regret was expressed for the agricultural distress which existed throughout the kingdom, but more particularly in that unfortunate country with which he was connected, because it possessed less capital to bear up against the heavy restrictions imposed upon her; and when he found that that regret was unaccompanied by any suggestions for its alleviation, but that the acknowledged distress of that most important interest was, as it were, cloaked and passed over by a reference to the prosperity of their commerce and manufactures—that interest which their forefathers considered the great and vital interest of the country, and upon which all other classes rested—an interest upon which was based the security and the well-being of the country—he felt called on to join in the opinion of his noble Friend, and to support the Amendment which he moved. There could 21 be little doubt that agricultural distress prevailed generally in this country; but he could give, from his own personal observation and knowledge, such a picture of its extent and intensity in Ireland, that he was surprised it did not call forth something stronger than a casual expression of regret. As the chairman of a board of guardians in a highly-favoured portion of Ireland, he could state that at that moment, even in that part of Ireland, all interests, landlords, labourers, and tenants, were fast progressing to utter annihilation and ruin, and that there was more distress in Ireland occasioned by the legislation of man than had been inflicted by the visitation of Providence. Of the distress of the fanners there could be no better proof than their inability to meet their engagements to their landlords and their other kinds of liabilities. This was the first year that the landlords of his part of the country had not been able to get their rents. He knew proprietors who made large deductions, amounting to from 20 to 25 per cent, in their rents, and yet, notwithstanding these reductions, they had not been able to get the miserable residue which was due to them. He was not surprised at this when he saw the poor-rate collector anticipating the landlord, and demanding for one rate, to cover about six months, 4s. or 5s. in the pound on the original valuation of the land when prices ranged from 30s. to 35s. a barrel for corn, whereas this year they had fallen from 17s. to 22s. These collectors go about in some instances seizing the corn crops in the haggard, which were barely sufficient to meet the demand of the poor-rate collector alone. When he saw such a state of things as this, he looked with the greatest dread at the prospects for the coming year. He would not allude to the more distressed districts of the west, because he was sure noble Lords who were connected with that part of Ireland would tell the House with greater effect what came within their own observation. What was the effect of this state of things on employment? They were often reminded that property had its duties as well as its rights; but if farmers were not unwilling, but unable, to pay their rents, how could the landlords or the farmers employ the labouring population? They must, on the contrary, turn out any extra labourers, and retain only such as were absolutely necessary to carry on their occupations. He had received a letter from Lord Shannon, whom he was sorry he did 22 not see in his place, in which he stated that he had undertaken large drainage works in Cork, but he was obliged this year to give them up altogether. Six hundred men were in one fell swoop dismissed, and sent to fill the walls of the already overcrowded poorhouse. They were told that they ought to expend capital upon the land, for the purposes of improving cultivation to meet that foreign competition which you must now undergo. He would ask them, what inducement had they to expend more capital on that upon which they had already lost that which they had invested? He was sick of that cry of "invest capital in the land." Capital would find its own level. It would invest itself where it was most profitable; and if its application to land was not a profitable investment, it was no wonder that persons could not be found so to apply it. A noble Lord who sat near him (Lord Lucan), had, with great spirit and energy, brought some farms of his to rival those in England and Scotland; but, though he offered them, with excellent farm buildings, at from 12s. to 18s. an acre, he could not induce any one to invest their capital in them. He did not think they ought to give the farmer that excuse for not paying his rent. Why, they must tell him the truth. When they found that land was depreciated to so great an extent, the truth must be known, that the landlord and the tenant must share the depreciation in the value of that from whence their profits came. When such was the melancholy picture of the whole kingdom, although the farmers of this country might be able to weather the storm for some time longer than others, it is but a paltry comfort to hear that manufactures were in a thriving condition. He, for one, did not place much reliance upon statistics, but he found that the agricultural and landed interests far exceeded in numbers and value the manufacturing interest, and he did not think that a class of such vast importance should be sacrificed to the prosperity of a few. He believed that the prosperity of manufactures, of which they boasted, was but temporary and ephemeral, and, perhaps, would for the future be more so than it had hitherto been. In the history of this country they found that periodical prosperity was followed by a reaction; and at the present time he did not think that there was more prosperity than they experienced on former occasions, which had been followed by great distress and suffering. In answer 23 to those who maintained that the present prosperity of manufactures was owing to the repeal of the corn laws and the other measures of free trade, he would ask noble Lords to compare the returns of five years at different periods—that of five years preceding 1849, and the five years preceding 1838—let them compare the amount of the consumption of that great home mauufacture, cotton, and they would find that in the former period, when the protective system of policy was in operation, the increase in the manufacture of that staple article was no less than 28 per cent; while in the other period, under a free-trade system, the increase had only amounted to 13 per cent:—
|Cotton imported for Home Consumption.|
|Average for five years||324,320,080|
|Average for five years||556,580,000|
§ He would remind the House also that the price of corn in 1838 was not less than 64s. the quarter, and that a large quantity of it had been taken out of bond at 70s. in September of that year. That was a proof that manufacturing prosperity was not dependent upon low prices. He did not mean to state that anything had been positively proved, but he thought the argument that the prosperity of the manufacturers was owing to free trade, had been entirely disproved by what had occurred in the previous period. The great advantage the manufacturers had derived from the free-trade system was, that they could send out goods so cheap as to command the markets abroad, although the prices were barely remunerative. It should, however, be borne in mind that that exportation might, at any moment, be stopped by a glut of the markets, or hostile tariffs, which, while adding to the revenue of the imposer, would diminish the consumption of English goods by the consequent rise of price, and bring down the manufacturer to a scale of cheapness unremunerative to him and crushing to the labourer; or compel 24 him to pay for foreign produce in bullion, leaving mills idle and operatives starving, and enabling the foreigner, with raised prices at home, owing to the influx of our bullion, doubly to profit by the unnatural cheapness of our productions. He would not go further into the discussion of the principles of free trade. In conclusion, however, he would say simply one word as to the charge that had been made against them by their adversaries. It was alleged that the landed interest wished to provoke a war of classes. Now, in the name of the noble Lords with whom he acted, he would say that they utterly deprecated any such object. It was not he and the noble Lords who thought with him who were anxious to provoke such a war; but it was the men who, for their own selfish ends, had, by illegal combinations, attacked the other interests of the country. It was they who, for their own selfish purposes, were arraying one class against another. For his part, the only object he had in view was to promote and preserve the best interests of the country. Feeling that the distress of the agricultural classes was not a temporary evil, but likely to be permanent, and being anxious, to the best of his power, to preserve them from annihilation, he should give his cordial support to the Amendment of the noble Lord near him; and he thought that by so doing he would best prevent those who appeared bent upon destroying all that was most sacred in the institutions of the country from succeeding in their designs, and enable England to maintain the rank she had hitherto held among the nations of the earth.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
said, that as an Amendment had been moved to the Address, though in a very temperate, considerate, and able manner, by the noble Earl opposite, perhaps their Lordships would allow him to offer a few observations on the position of the immediate question which they had now to decide—which was, whether their Lordships would do well to alter the Address which had been moved by his noble Friend behind him, and to substitute for it the Amendment of the noble Earl. Now, in adverting to the difference which that Amendment introduced into the substance of the Address, he had to observe that it was confined within a very narrow range. It did not pretend to controvert that which the Address asserted, that Her Majesty was able to congratulate Her people on "the improved condition of commerce and manufactures," which, though it might appear in a paltry light to 25 the noble Earl who had just sat down, he (the Earl of Carlisle) regarded as affecting some of the greatest and most enduring interests in this empire. The Speech adverted also to the distress prevailing among the owners and occupiers of land. The noble Earl complained that the Speech of Her Majesty only expressed "regret" at the distress to which the agricultural portion of the community had been subjected, and thought "regret" was but a cold word to use; but he had to observe that, in speaking of that distress, the actual words used were, not "regret," but "greatly laments;" this, at best, therefore, was but a philological difference in the words of the Address and Amendment. The material difference was this: Her Majesty and Her Government did not deny, but admitted, the distress which prevailed among the owners and occupiers of land; therefore, in dealing with this Address and with the Amendment, he would advise their Lordships to look not so much at the actual expressions contained in either, but to consider the views with which the Amendment was proposed, the hopes by which it was suggested, the construction which might be put upon it, and the results which would follow from its actual adoption. There was no great difference in the actual force of the terms employed in the Address and the Amendment. The Amendment, indeed, referred to local burdens; but he thought their Lordships would agree that any discussion with respect to the exact incidence of local burdens and their distribution, would be more conveniently and properly deferred till the question was regularly brought before the House. The Amendment, however, attributed the distress under which the agricultural interests suffered to recent legislative changes. It was his opinion that if their Lordships sanctioned the proposed Amendment, and agreed to substitute it for the original words of the Address, they would by so doing allow it to be understood throughout the whole length and breadth of the land, that they threw a doubt upon the recent legislation, were prepared to reconsider it, and indeed were willing to reverse it. Now this, he thought, would be a very mistaken and a very disastrous conclusion to arrive at; and it was upon that ground that he called upon them not to temporise upon the subject, and by so doing give rise to such delusions, but to give an unqualified negative to the Amendment which had just been moved. The noble Earl who seconded the Amendment did so 26 with a degree of feeling which he was afraid he had almost drawn from his own experience of the present distressed state of Ireland. No person was less disposed than himself to underrate the distress which prevailed in that country; but he confessed that when, from the experience of the last three years, it was plain that Ireland could be brought through—he knew he could only barely with truth make use of such an expression—that horrible state of destitution and suffering to which she had been subjected only by the plenty and cheapness of the corn brought from abroad, he did not think that it was in connexion with the state of Ireland that their Lordships could quarrel with or censure the system of free trade. He would not pretend to follow the noble Earl who moved the Amendment throughout the very clear and able retrospect which he presented to their Lordships of all the legislation connected with agriculture and corn; but when the noble Earl adverted to the law of 1815, and to the mimimum price of 80s. per quarter for corn, which was then laid down as the price to be attained before corn could be imported into the country—and then proceeded to allude to the law of 1828, and to the sum of 56s. which was then calculated as the turning price at which corn might be imported—though if he (the Earl of Carlisle) rightly recollected the discussions of that time, the price was assumed to be rather from 63s. to 65s.—when the noble Earl alluded to the effects of this legislation, he surely must have forgotten that when it was proposed to admit corn at a less price than 80s., or less than 63s., they constantly and regularly heard the same bodings and anticipations of distress which at the present time so painfully met their ears; and as the agricultural interests and farming energies of this country had overcome the embarrassments anticipated from the introduction of foreign corn at lower prices than 80s. and 65s., so he hoped, even if corn was destined not to rise above the average of 41s. per quarter, yet that, even with that desponding anticipation, the agricultural energies of this country would know how to rise above the difficulty. During the whole of the discussions which had recently taken place upon this subject, and throughout that conflict of opinion which had pervaded the length and breadth of the land, whether in the press or on the platform—and upon some of the platforms there had been some, now here, who had not been backward in expressing their opinions upon the subject—but throughout these discussions 27 there had been a great deal of nice and ingenious calculation bestowed upon the question at what cost corn could be grown, so as to leave a fair profit to the grower, and at what range of prices the cultivation of the land could be profitably Carried on. He was not disposed to deny either the pertinency or importance of such calculations; and it would be a strange thing indeed if he who, like many of their Lordships, derived all he possessed, and all he ever hoped to possess, from the land, and who, like many of their Lordships, had to labour under a very oppressive amount of fixed incumbrance, derived from generations who had gone before him—it would be strange indeed if he were indifferent to the issue of such calculations or speculations as to the value of landed property. He was one, therefore, who could fully acquiesce in that portion of Her Majesty's Speech in which she lamented that any portion of Her subjects, such as the owners and occupiers of land, should be suffering distress. But of course the extent of that concern, and the degree of his alarm, would be somewhat in proportion to the apprehended duration of the distress, and the fact whether it was occasional or exceptional, or whether it was produced by special and exceptional causes not liable continually to prevail or constantly to recur; for in that case it would be plain that the agricultural interest were undergoing that which every other pursuit, every other profession, every other branch of industry, and every source of emolument—seemed destined by the laws of the universe to undergo, and from which laws of vicissitude and change agriculture has, in the most marked degree, whether protected or unprotected, never been exempt. The question, then, which their Lordships had to bear in view, in deciding upon this subject, was, whether it was absolutely certain that the present distress might not be temporary and casual in its nature and duration. It had been already stated, in the course of this evening, that the prices of corn have twice, within the memory of many of their Lordships, been lower even when agriculture was basking under the full glow of protection, and rejoicing in the mid sunshine of legislative favour; and it had been even said that there was, at those periods, no great amount of distress. If he turned, however, to the statements of those Gentlemen who represented the agricultural interest at those periods, if their Lordships referred to their speeches in Parliament, to the Motions 28 which they made, they would at least find that the cry was then very little less loud than it was at the present day. What, however, he wanted their Lordships to bear in mind was, that after a series of discussions, continued through many years, which had engrossed the attention, swayed the convictions, and enlisted the passions of all classes of the community, they had resolved upon trying a great experiment. He thought it had been continually, repeatedly, and most laudably avowed by all parties, by the most friendly as well as the most hostile to the change, that as it was settled by the Imperial Legislature that a great experiment was to be made, it ought to be fully and fairly tested. Now, since the first fair commencement of the operation of the law, not one whole year had elapsed. So much then with respect to time. Then, so far, in his humble judgment at least, from no special and exceptional causes having been at work throughout the period of the application of the experiment, there perhaps never was a time in the whole history of the world in which so many causes, which seemed to him extraordinary and exceptional, had been heaped together, all of which bore in the most marked and prominent manner upon the prices of corn. He needed only to mention to their Lordships the famine in Ireland, the extensive and successive failures of the potato crop—the main article of subsistence for the people of that country, as well as in many other parts of the united kingdom—and the unparalleled revolutionary convulsions which had pervaded every nation and every corner of the Continent, and which in their consequences had most materially interfered with the growth and consumption of corn in all those regions which they had affected. He would leave entirely out of consideration any reference to the nature of the seasons, although they had a marked and most disturbing effect on the prices of the last few years, because they could not be considered as exceptional causes, inasmuch as variety and vicissitudes of seasons must be expected at all times. It was at present a controverted point by all the most enlightened friends and followers of agriculture, whether the cheapness and lowness of prices at present so much complained of, was owing most to the great abundance of the last harvest, or the great deficiency and bad quality of the harvest of 1848. What, however, he had to contend was, that with such very circumscribed limits for the trial of the experiment upon which the country had resolved, and with such a 29 marked prevalence of special and exceptional causes during the time of the experiment, it would be most unfair, and altogether preposterous, in his judgment, to assume, that the experiment had been tested, that it was exhausted, and that the change in the policy of the country was to be reconsidered, condemned, and reversed. They were not, therefore, in his judgment, in a position to pronounce upon what would be the natural and permanent fruits of the great experiment which they had agreed to make. It was impossible to assume at what cost corn could be permanently grown in the country, or whether the same abundance of foreign import would at all times exist. His own impression was not one of despondency, discouragement, or despair, upon this subject. It was a point upon which he had no right to palm any opinion of his own upon their Lordships; all he wished to enforce upon them was, that they were not then in a condition to pronounce that the experiment had been fairly made, and that corn could not be grown so as to realise better profits than at present, or that the same abundance of foreign imports into this country would continue. He owned, however, that he could not honestly stop there, or confine himself within those ambiguous and hypothetical limits; and he felt bound in honesty, speaking for himself, to tell their Lordships that even if he were convinced that the average price of corn would never ascend One farthing higher than at present, still he was not prepared to reverse the policy upon which they had entered, or to revert to the old system of protection. He would tell their Lordships why he would not consent to do so. He had referred to the calculations which had been so largely entered upon with respect to the remunerative prices of farming operations, and had pronounced his own inability to give any opinion upon them; but it seemed to him that to attempt to square any such matter by fixed and uniform rules would be a most delusive operation. Each case must be governed by its own circumstances. Each farm must be considered in its own speciality, with due reference to its position, its nearness to the markets, to the nature of its soil, to the various growths and crops for which it was adapted, the amount of available skill and capital which could be applied to it, and an infinite variety of qualities, dispositions, and means, on the part of both landlord and tenant; and if the imperious dictation of circumstances, and the permanent condition of the farmer's profession, 30 should prescribe permanent alterations in the relations between landlord and tenant, it was between those parties themselves that such alterations in their mutual relations must be adjusted. That sentence in Her Majesty's Speech, which he had already quoted, in which She laments that any portion of Her subjects should be suffering distress, and in which She makes special allusion to the owners and occupiers of land, is followed by another sentence, which states, "But it is a source of sincere gratification to Her Majesty to witness the increased enjoyment of the necessaries and comforts of life which cheapness and plenty have bestowed upon the great body of Her people." So, too, behind the condition of the farmers and landlords to whom he had already alluded, there loomed forth a far wider and more extensive interest—that of the people at large, to which all other interests must be secondary and subordinate. Now he believed that the Speech of Her Majesty rightly assumed the ease which had been given to the great body of the people by the increased enjoyment of the necessaries and comforts of life, which cheapness and plenty had bestowed upon them. This cheerful assertion in the Speech of Her Majesty, Her Majesty's Ministers thought they had a right to ground upon the information and advice which reached them from all parts of the country—from the great increase in the imports of those articles which were justly termed "the comforts and necessaries of life." Not only had there been a great increase in the importations of those articles, but there had been also a great and growing increase in their consumption. Her Majesty's Ministers considered themselves justified in advising the expression he referred to, by the statements and details which had reached them from all the great marts of business and of commerce—from all the principal manufacturing and industrial towns, and even from some whose prosperity seemed to have been somewhat oh the wane—he might mention such towns as Leeds and Sheffield, towns which, from local causes, had been looked upon as having suffered permanent declension from prosperity, but from which they now heard that a greater amount of industry and business had not been known in them for a long series of years. But it was not even to the regions of commerce and business, or the crowded marts of industry and employment, that accounts of improvement were confined. Her Majesty's Ministers had procured returns showing the total number 31 of paupers receiving indoor and outdoor relief on the 1st day of Jannary, 1849, and for the same day of 1850, in 602 unions in England and Wales. He did not wish any statement which he might make on this subject to be carried too far. He had no doubt that there were many districts in the country in which the owners and occupiers of land were most laudably exerting themselves, even in spite of, and in the face of, their own distressed and impoverished condition, in keeping the men whom they employed from the workhouse, by employing them upon works which would probably not prove remunerative to themselves—he had no doubt whatever that such was the case, to a considerable extent, and he did not therefore wish greater stress to be laid upon the returns of the number of paupers than was due; but still, in looking to the whole aspect of the country, they had a right to assume, as one material element of its condition, the aggregate sum of relief which at different periods was given to the most indigent classes of the country. From the returns which had been presented to the Government, it appeared that in the number of paupers receiving relief on the 1st of January, 1850, as compared with the same period of 1849, there had been a decrease of about 7 per cent. He was quite aware that it was not so great a decrease as might be desired—
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
It was a return from 602 parishes, in different parts of the country; no selection had been made of them, and it included all the parishes from which returns can be procured by the Poor Law Commissioners. This decrease in the amount of pauperism was not confined to the manufacturing districts or manufacturing counties. He was quite willing to admit that in the neighbourhood of large manufacturing cities and marts of industry, a decrease might have been expected, in consequence of the increase of business in these places; but the decrease is by no means confined to those places. In Bedfordshire, which was not a very manufacturing county, the decrease within the last year had been 11 percent; even in agricultural Buckinghamshire, there had been a decrease of about 6 per cent. In Cambridgeshire, the variation had been on the other side; in Derbyshire, the decrease had been 11 per cent; even in Dorsetshire, which was generally considered as almost 32 the worst of agricultural counties in point of distress, there was an improvement to the extent of about 6 per cent. In Durham and Northumberland there had been an increase, owing chiefly to unsuccessful mining operations. But, as might be expected, the greatest diminution had taken place in the counties of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the East Riding, which was purely agricultural in its character, there was a diminution of about 7 per cent. In Nottinghamshire, the decrease was about 7 per cent. Thus the agricultural counties participated in the improvement as much as the manufacturing. With respect to Ireland, although he was not able to congratulate their Lordships upon the distress of that country being materially relieved, yet there were many symptoms of amendment. Among other pleasing indications, he found that the expenditure of the workhouses in that country, owing probably to the cheapness and plenty of provisions, had been reduced from 2s. 1d. per head, which it was last year, to 1s. 1d. at the present time. In the face of such results as these, with a general increase of prosperity which marked their commerce and manufactures, and all their seats of industry, and in connexion with this prosperity a great increase in the comforts and necessaries of life, and a decrease of pauperism even in the most agricultural of our districts, he felt compelled, in answer to the noble Earl opposite, to state frankly, that, even if their agricultural prospects were more gloomy and discouraging than they were at present, he could not, under any circumstances which he could contemplate, bring himself to be a party to any measure which would have the effect of checking the present cheapness and plenty in all the great articles of human comfort and enjoyment, and, above all, in the indispensable articles of human subsistence which, without reference to, or distinction between, particular classes and sections of the community, were so well calculated to promote the general well-being of the entire community. Reduce the chief protectionist complaints and demands to their real elements, and what are they? He did not say in the conscious intention of those from whom they proceeded, for he believed that the agricultural body were not one whit more selfish than those who composed any other class or section among the people—perhaps, in some respects, he would be inclined to say they were even less so; for they touched the rest of the 33 community upon more points than any other; but reduce their great complaint to its real element, and what was it but that there was too much to eat in the country? [Laughter and ironical cheers.] If he had not stated it correctly, he really did not see what was the charge against free trade. If the complaint was not of too much corn imported, inducing too much cheapness in the home markets, what was it? He would like to hear one explanation as to where the complaint did attach itself to free trade, if not founded upon the opinion that too much foreign-grown corn was imported, and home-grown corn was too cheap. He knew that it was sometimes pretended that the abolition of protection would have a tendency to throw land out of cultivation, and that, therefore, though they continued to import greater quantities from abroad than formerly, they would not have a greater quantity to eat at home. But that was surely not the case at present; it could not be said that any considerable portion of land had been thrown out of cultivation. If he were informed rightly, there had been a greater breadth of land sown with wheat during the last year than had ever before been the case. There were also not less than seventy-two applications for enclosures of land made to Parliament this year, the Bills for which would provide for the enclosure of 48,065 acres, being a far greater number of separate applications than had ever before been made to Parliament in one year, although it was true that a larger quantity of land was involved in the application for enclosures which had been made last year: surely that was a circumstance from which it was reasonable to infer that apprehension of ruin to the agricultural interest did not greatly prevail. If, then, the quantity of home-grown produce was not to be diminished, and if the same quantity of produce is to come from abroad, and there is matter of blame against free trade, what else can it be than that there is too much to eat in the country? If corn was not too cheap, and not too abundant, what was it that they accused free trade of doing? They could not accuse free trade of having diminished their trade, or of having injuriously affected their manufactures, or that it had sent out of the country a large store of bullion. The complaints of cheapness in the home market, and abundance in the foreign, resolved, therefore, into their natural elements, are simply that there was too much to eat in 34 the country. Now, with respect to any change of policy founded upon these complaints, he did not know how it might be with the well-ordered estates of their Lordships, with their carefully-tended villages and cottages; but he felt persuaded that, apart from any such enlightened and benevolent superintendence, there were scarcely any by-lanes in the rural districts, or back streets in their large towns and cities, and alleys—some of which were to be found at no great distance from the gorgeous chamber in which he was speaking—he wished they were not—which could not give a fearful contradiction to the assumption that the country was suffering from a superabundance of food. Sooner than consent to any measure which should either in seeming or in reality diminish the command over the comforts or necessaries of life of the great masses of the people—sooner than he would give his individual consent to any proposition, or to any change of policy, which would have that effect, he would rather forfeit the place which he had the honour to hold among their Lordships' ranks. With these feelings, and in the hope that they would not reverse the policy which the Legislature had resolved upon—that they would not, by any specious words or amendments, allow it to go forth to the country that they were prepared to revert to the old policy, he called upon them to give a positive, and, in point of number, an overwhelming refusal to the Amendment of the noble Earl.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
I shall begin by thanking my noble Friend who has just sat down for the very important admissions he has made, and which are the real secret of those free-trade movements. Formerly, my Lords, it was thought that the prosperity of the agricultural interest was one of the happiest indications of the improvement of the nation; but now it seems to be altogether disregarded, and my noble Friend tells us that, notwithstanding the ruin which a free-trade policy has brought upon agriculture, he would sooner forfeit his rank and station, and even the office which he holds, than vote for its reversal. But I warn the noble Earl that, if that policy be persisted in, he will have no occasion to make a voluntary sacrifice, for he will be shorn of all his honours and emoluments. I wish my noble Friend to pay some attention to one of the clauses of the Address. Her Majesty expresses regret—observe!—not at the distress and 35 suffering of the agricultural class—no, Her Majesty was not instructed to express any sorrow for their condition. What signify the ruin and misery of thousands of farmers and lahourers as long as the cotton spinners filled their pockets with money, and the Member for the West Riding is satisfied?
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
The Queen does not, I repeat, express regret at the distress of the owners and occupiers of the land. When I say the Queen, of course I mean Her advisers; but I have a right to mention it as the Queen's Speech. What Her Majesty does express is regret at the complaints which have reached Her from many parts of the kingdom, proceeding from the owners and occupiers of the soil. This was neither more nor less than "a slap on' the face" for the owners and occupiers of land for making complaints. Her Majesty, I admit, laments that any portion of Her subjects should be suffering distress. The truth of the case is, my Lords, that I consider this clause as an insult to the agricultural interest. When my noble Friend quoted from any return, I think it was only due to your Lordships that that return should be laid upon the table, so that we might see whether it applied to one day or one year. I could not understand from the noble Earl whether it applied to the first day of January in each year, or to the whole of the years 1849 and 1850.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
A very material difference indeed. He tells us that the number who received relief was seven per cent less on the 1st of January, 1850, than on the same day in the previous year; and it is upon this notable return—it is upon this evidence—the evidence which a single day affords—that your Lordships are called upon to believe that the poor-rates have greatly decreased. I ask him whether he has seen the returns up to Christmas, 1848, and whether he compared them with those in the following year, for that is the way to make a comparison, and not to take twenty-four hours in each year; for to compare one day with another day is worse than idle when great interests are at stake. But, again, there are many reasons why the state of the country cannot be correctly ascertained from the number of persons receiving indoor and outdoor relief. In my own 36 county, as well as in many others, such a test would not be correct. But my noble Friend made a singular omission. He spoke of pauperism, and of cheapness and plenty, and of imports, but he has not done us the favour of telling us anything about the amount of wages. He did not tell your Lordships that in some counties the hardworking labourer gets only 8s. and in some cases only 6s. a week to maintain himself and family. I ask if the hundreds of labourers now out of the workhouse, and kept out of it by a plan that had been lately acted upon in various parts of the country, have gained by their vaunted cheapness and plenty? When the parish officers found that the rates were increasing under the free-trade measures, while the means of paying those rates were much diminished, what did they do? They went to the way-wardens of the parish, and said, we have eight or ten honest men of good character without employment, don't drive them into the workhouse, but employ them on the roads. The consequence is, that instead of giving a man six days' labour, they employ a man for two or three days in the week, which is just sufficient to prevent that man from having a claim for relief on the board of guardians. The man is employed to work for two or three days; he just gets enough to keep life and soul together, and he has three or four days of idleness to get him into all sorts of scrapes. Of all distressing circumstances to which country gentlemen are exposed, I know none more painful than to be obliged to refuse employment to an industrious poor man because his labour cannot be remunerative. Free trade was called by my noble Friend an experiment; but if so it has most signally failed. The noble Mover of the Address took it upon himself to lecture the protectionist party for the course they have pursued. I own I was not surprised at that; for I never knew a man who left the ranks in which he had long fought, who did not hate most cordially his former friends. The noble Earl was himself one of the great movers of the protectionist policy, but his friendship to protection ceased with the Government of Sir Robert Peel. When Sir R. Peel went out, the noble Earl left his party and became a free-trader. He tells us that we are lowering the price of corn by creating a panic among the farmers. Why, I thought it was free trade that lowered the price of corn. The noble Earl has, in his zeal 37 to advocate the cause he has newly espoused, destroyed one of its supports. The noble Earl argues both ways. He says that two opposite arguments lead to the same conclusion—a course I can quite understand, the noble Earl having sat upon both sides of the House. He objects to protectionist meetings, and the exciting speeches made there. I own I agree with the great body of the farmers of England. They consider that, as free-born Englishmen, they have a right to meet, and give expression to their grievances; and, notwithstanding the displeasure it may give a seceder from the protectionist ranks, be he who he may, I express my unequivocal approval of that opinion, and I will advise the farmers of England, by every constitutional means in their power, to meet and give utterance to their sentiments, that, through the good sense and good feeling of their fellow-countrymen, their grievances may be redressed. But the protectionist party are, forsooth, to be lectured upon agitation. Why who taught them the lesson? Were noble Lords opposite sincere when they brought their free-trade measures before Parliament? I have always stated in this House, and I now repeat it, that a jury of twelve of you could not be found who were, in their consciences, in favour of free trade; and I firmly believe that, if there had been a ballot instead of an open vote, there would have been an immense majority against your policy. When you passed free-trade measures, they were attended by most unfortunate circumstances, to say the least of it. I allude to the means and the manner by which this question was carried. I am not now going to attack individuals, nor to use any strong expressions as to the course then pursued; but I am bound to state that this country has never recovered that confidence in public men which it had previously entertained, and which had been at that crisis so grossly abused. The country knew that those measures were achieved by an unnatural combination of parties, and by an unusual departure from the principles of political consistency. But the noble Earl (the Earl of Essex) claims credit for the courage exhibited by noble Lords in voting for this measure. Courage, my Lords, is the term he gives to cowardice. There was no courage exhibited; but a want of courage in not resisting the pressure from without. The noble Earl blames the protectionist party for agitation. Why should they not seek to recover those benefits by agitation which had been wrested 38 from them by agitation? The farming class is not to be thus put down. Act as you will—refuse protection in 1850—but the demand will still continue. The farmers, when roused—and they are now roused, seeing ruin stare them in the face—will not patiently submit to an injury. I hope they will do their duty, and by every constitutional means seek redress. For my own part, I do not hesitate saying that I will continue to advise the farmers of England to do so, whether noble Lords opposite like it or not. I hope they will make every town and hustings in the country their battle-field—that they will pursue their object, not with violence of language but with steadiness of purpose—that they will state their case, and the grievances under which they labour—and I still cherish the hope that this House, which has never yet been indifferent to their sufferings, will not disregard them now that they so much require legislative aid. Although not connected with commerce or manufactures myself, I feel the deepest interest in their welfare, and am rejoiced to hear that they are in a satisfactory state. I do not wish to see one class depressed at the expense of another. I wish to see all prosper. I do not find any fault with the speech of the noble Lord who seconded the Address, because he spoke more in our favour than in his own; but when he said that the agricultural interest always had a day of adversity and an hour of prosperity, he drew a very gloomy picture indeed of their history. My Lords, I give my cordial support to the Amendment.
§ The EARL of ESSEX
explained that in what he formerly stated it was his intention to say that the panic which had recently prevailed among agriculturists had paralysed the exertions of farmers. Although the noble Duke had objected to his use of the word "courage," as applied to the conduct of their Lordships in adopting free-trade measures, he must maintain that it was no slight effort of courage for a man to give up his opinions when he was conscious that by doing so he might forfeit the esteem of those with whom he had always acted, without gaining any personal advantage. As to himself, he had changed his opinions because be thought them erroneous; and he would only say that if the noble Duke supposed that his change of opinion was not as disinterested as it was unsolicited, he was never more mistaken in his life.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
was understood 39 to urge that at the present moment for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to think of proposing a duty on corn of 2s., 3s., or 5s. a quarter, was an impossibility; and even if it were not impossible, those who were agitating on the plan which the noble Duke so strenuously advocated, would have rendered it so. Why should agriculture be now protected when all our great manufacturing interests were exposed to unlimited competition? With regard to what had been stated on the subject of the comparison between the number of paupers in the past and the previous years, he held in his hand a report which referred to what was called the Midland District, embracing all the middle of England—an area of 1,400,000 acres, containing a population of above 1,000,000. It included only four manufacturing unions, out of fifty-two. It states the number of paupers in the quarter ending Christmas, 1848, as compared with that ending Christmas, 1849, there being in some unions an increase, and in others a decrease. In some of them there was an increase of 135 indoor paupers, and in others a decrease of 1,051, being on the whole a decrease of 916. In the outdoor paupers there bad been in some unions an increase of 1,902, and in others a decrease of 6,366, making a total decrease of 4,464. It might be said that the decrease in the outdoor paupers was greatest in the manufacturing unions; but even after striking those out, there was a positive decrease of 2,002, of which the agricultural unions had the benefit. With regard to the present prospects of agriculture, he had formed his own opinion. It was true he was not acquainted with the parts of England, south of the Thames, nor with the county (Suffolk) with which the noble Earl who moved the Amendment was particularly connected; but he had a pretty general knowledge, more or less, of all the country to the north of the Thames, and he could see no district in which, in his judgment, there was the slightest reason to apprehend that there would be any abandonment of land. Indeed he saw evidences of a directly opposite character, and he could truly say that he never saw so much preparation for draining and improving the land. He would now call the attention of the House to the different measures of protection, the series of which had been so correctly stated by his noble Friend (if he might so call him), who had moved the Amendment. The first of those measures was the corn law of 40 1815, which he had himself supported; and here, in relation to changes of opinion, he would take the opportunity of informing the House of a circumstance to which most of their Lordships were probably strangers. He was a Member of the Committee which might be said to have been the parent of that measure; but there was another much more important Member of that Committee—Mr. Huskisson—and it was a remarkable fact that in the examination of the witnesses before that Committee, Mr. Huskisson was the Member whose questions were particularly directed to show the advantages of what was called high farming, and of protection. The result of that Committee was the corn law of 1815, which gave the highest possible protection, for it prohibited the import till the price of wheat reached 80s. per quarter. Under this law prevailed the agricultural distress of 1821.2, the second under which the English farmer had ever laboured. It was the operation of this law that had first opened his (Earl Fitzwilliam's) eyes to the radical defects of the protective system. Then came an Act passed in 1823, which, from the conditional nature of its enactments, never came into practical operation. Next came the Bill proposed in 1827, by Mr. Canning, which introduced the sliding scale, a measure which he (Earl Fitzwilliam) supported, as a great improvement upon the prohibitory law of 1815. Their Lordships were of course aware that it was defeated by a sidewind in that House. In the succeeding year, 1828, came the measure introduced by the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington's) Government, which was also founded upon the system of the sliding scale. This law—they all lasted above fourteen years—remained till 1842, when Sir Robert Peel proposed to take away what he called the superfluity of protection. The law of Sir Robert Peel altered what was called the pivot, substituting 56s. for 63s. Now the effect of all these laws had been to impress the farmer, the landowner, and, above all, the land valuer, with the notion, that they would respectively secure the prices of 80s. 63s. 56s. per quarter: they had done no such thing, for, under the exaggerated protection of the first, the price had fallen below 40s., and under the succeeding laws, it had fallen occasionally to 35s. or 36s. Now, what was the conclusion which he (Earl Fitzwilliam) drew from these results? Why, it was that there was something essentially vicious in the protective system, which defeated and 41 nullified every conceivable mode of carrying it into effect. With regard to the present low price of corn, it was attributable to a variety of circumstances—among others, to a superabundant harvest.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
had asked a tenant of his in Northamptonshire what the average produce per acre was, and tenants were not prone to magnify the amount of their produce, and he replied that the average in the parish in which he lived was five quarters per acre, while in the year before it was not more than three.
§ The DUKE of CLEVELAND
I will give a whole county (Durham) against a parish, and where the average was not two and a half.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
maintained that the late harvest had been most abundant, except in the unfortunate district to which his noble Friend referred. Besides an abundant harvest, there had been a great importation of corn, caused by the great distress which prevailed in the two or three years previous, and which induced merchants to import. He would say that it would be most unwise to deceive the country again by any recurrence to protective measures; he said "deceive," because it was in consequence of those former measures of protection that the arrangements had been made between landlords and tenants to which he had alluded. There was nothing so injurious as vacillation in legislation. In the legislation relative to the import of corn, whatever other errors there may have been, there had been no vacillation—the stream had always run in the same direction. It had begun with high protection, the next measure relaxed it, and so it proceeded, the stream always tending in the same direction—each measure which was passed giving less protection than the one before; and it was not probable now that the owners and cultivators of land, or the labourers, could derive any advantage from retracing their steps, as noble Lords opposite now hoped to do. What was the law which they wished to propose? He hoped that some noble Lord who followed him in the debate would state what the law was which they wished to enact. He hoped they would not succeed in carrying such a measure, and that they would fail in carrying this Amendment; but if they did they would place themselves in a dilemma from which they could not 42 escape; and let them not deceive themselves with the hope that it would be believed that in proposing a law for the protection of corn, they intended it to have reference to the interests of the cultivators of the land or the labourer, for it would unquestionably be attributed to interested motives.
The EARL of WINCHILSEA
said, it was impossible for any man to think of the inundation of foreign corn into this country during the last twelve months, and especially from America, and not foresee the destruction of the agricultural classes. He would undertake that, before very long, he would import any number of millions of quarters here at 30s. per quarter, and what, then, must be the condition of the farmers of England? It was impossible for an English farmer to produce wheat under 50s. a quarter, upon an average, and how could he compete with the foreigner? He was very glad to hear the noble Earl opposite, Her Majesty's Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, openly avow what the feelings and intentions of the Government were. The landed proprietors and agriculturists, at least, might infer from the noble Earl's speech what the determination of Government was. The noble Earl plainly said, that the supporters of free trade would not retrace their steps, and that he, for one, would not recommend the Government to do so. The agricultural interests were reduced to the deepest distress by the abolition of protection. They had embarked their capital and applied their industry for years in the cultivation of land, upon the faith that its produce would be protected; and the withdrawal of that protection necessarily brought ruin upon every one connected with land in this country. To such a state were agricultural pursuits reduced, that farms could be had almost for nothing. The noble Earl opposite would find that he could get farms in many parts of England without any rent at all, if he would only undertake to cultivate them and pay the taxes. The Legislature had made a most fatal experiment; but when they saw it was an erroneous step, and that it was bringing ruin upon the country, it was their duty at once to retrace it. For his own part, he should never rest contented until agricultural interests were fairly protected; and he called upon God as witness of his belief and firm conviction that protection was for the general interest of all classes 43 in the country. They might get foreign corn cheap, no doubt; but what would be the consequence if it pleased the Almighty to send a dearth amongst foreign nations upon whom the people of this country must be dependent for food? The position in which England would then be placed was fearful to contemplate. He thought the Legislature were bound to encourage the agricultural produce of their own country, and not to rely altogether upon foreign nations. He advocated protection upon this further ground. It was his firm belief, if agriculture was properly encouraged at home, that corn could be produced cheaper in England than it could be got from any foreign country. He apprehended the worst consequences from the fearful situation in which the labouring population of this country were placed, totally dependent for food upon foreigners. He understood the condition of the landed interests well, and expressed opinions, founded upon experience, for more than thirty years. He was intimately acquainted with the condition, not only of farmers, but of labourers, and every other class connected with land. He had been in the habit of acting as his own agent and steward, and he knew the value of land as well as any man. Now, speaking with all his experience, he had no hesitation in telling their Lordships that if any one would take the trouble to examine the investments made in land in this country, he would find that three per cent even was not made of the capital embarked in it. He would ask their Lordships whether that was the case with the manufacturers. No, certainly not. But their Lordships should understand the real objects of the late revolution in the landed interests. The cry was raised that "rents should come down." English landlords, honest, upright, honourable men, were willing to share in the general distress which existed, and in many instances, they did reduce their rents. The effect of removing protection undoubtedly would be the transference of the property of many within the walls of that House to persons who had become wealthy by mercantile pursuits. The mortgages of landowners would be foreclosed, for land would be unable to bear its burdens, and some fine morning they would find it the property of some prosperous manufacturers. That was the condition to which the landed interests would very soon be reduced by the blind and infatuated policy 44 of the Legislature. He would, therefore, resist it in every way he could, and he was sure the Saxon blood of the honest English labourer would show its determination not to yield quietly to be trampled on and ruined. They might not collect in great masses, but they were capable of feeling a deep injury, and they would not submit to it. He believed the manufacturing population looked upon the landowners and occupiers as their best friends. They now felt they suffered from the condition to which the landed interests had been reduced, for when they had no money they could not buy of the manufacturers. He looked upon the Speech prepared by Her Majesty's Ministers as an insult to the agricultural interests, and he was certain the yeomanry, and people in general, would be of a similar opinion. They were not so blind as to be incapable of understanding the manifest object of the Legislature, and they would express their opinions plainly, as was their constitutional privilege. They had reason to complain of a severe grievance, and they had a right to express their opinions upon the subject. There never was greater distress amongst the agricultural labourers than at the present time, and hitherto they had been employed out of the capital of the landlords and occupiers of land. How was it possible to withhold relief from that large class whose distress was hourly increasing?
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that having listened with respectful attention to the speeches of noble Lords who had addressed their Lordships, he thought it must be matter of satisfaction to find that there was some difference between the language held in that House and the language reported to have been used by the protectionists in the country. At all the protectionist meetings it had been represented that the distress created by free trade was general. But by the Amendment now proposed, though somewhat vague, and entirely omitting all mention of what measures noble Lords who supported it were inclined to adopt, in the event of any change taking place in the policy of the law, and by the speeches which had been delivered that evening, the distress was generally acknowledged to be confined to those classes immediately interested in agriculture. Now, those classes he believed to be the landowners, the occupying tenants, and the labourers engaged in agricultural pursuits. 45 To them might be added the tradesmen living in small towns situate in purely agricultural districts. Beginning with the latter class, it was not unnatural that they should participate in these apprehensions if they believed that the farmers were in a course of approaching ruin. It was a matter of complaint that the farmer now, when he came into these towns, had sold his produce, and made his purchases, after having transacted his business, immediately returned home; whereas, in prosperous times, he was in the habit of dining and spending the evening in the town. Now, although this practice might for a time be injurious to the tradesmen of these towns, it was one of those prudent measures of economy which it was well for the farmer to adopt, and it certainly would not prove eventually disastrous to the agricultural interest. Again, as regarded those small towns which were not far from railways, the consumer now having the facility of sending, within twenty-four hours, for his grocery or other articles to the metropolis, the profits of the small tradesmen were consequently reduced. But he would now come to the most important part of this question of distress, namely, the state of the labourer. It was obviously the interest of the labourer to have his food, his clothing, and all his other comforts, as cheap as possible. "That is very true," admitted the noble Lords opposite, "but if you don't give him wages to purchase this cheaper food and necessaries, the labourer will be worse off than before." He was not now going into a question of political economy, but he did think the question of labour, like all other cases, depended a little on the demand and supply. One fact connected with the labourer should not be lost sight of. They were aware that the increase of population in the agricultural districts was greater than the increase of employment, that superfluity being relieved by those labourers being absorbed by the manufacturing and commercial districts. Now, it was quite clear that any step taken to injure those large interests, must immediately bear on the interests of the labourer himself, by cutting off the means of relieving the superfluity of the labour-market in purely agricultural districts. With respect to the farmer, there was no doubt that he was at the present moment passing through a state of transition. The changes which were now taking place, must materially affect those farmers who had not skill or capital sufficient to cultivate the land they 46 at present held. Whether those changes would have the effect of stimulating them to greater efforts, or whether they would induce them to occupy smaller farms, which it would be more easy to cultivate with limited capital and skill, it was quite obvious that one great advantage would result—namely, an improved state of agriculture. No one in that House would at present, he believed, venture to affirm that agriculture in this country had even approached to anything like a state of perfection; and he therefore thought that stimulus would make the farmer more active in adopting every available means of extracting the greatest amount of produce possible for the soil to yield to his efforts. And now, with respect to the landlords, the question, as it concerned them, was simply one of rent. Some observations were made by the noble Lord who moved the Address about the inexpediency of the course taken by the protectionists at their meetings with regard to the present state of the agricultural masses. A noble Duke had adverted to those observations in a manner more warmly, perhaps, than the very temperate tone of the noble Earl warranted, and had said it was too bad that, after the agriculturists had been driven to a state of despair by the agitation of certain commercial parties, they were now to be debarred from having recourse to similar modes of agitation to obtain, if possible, redress for the injuries those parties had inflicted upon them. Now, he (Earl Granville) readily admitted that the landlords had a perfect right to assert their cause, and what they considered to be their grievances, in every legal way which they believed best for themselves and their dependants. No one denied them that undoubted right; but the only question was, whether they were agitating—but, that being an offensive term, he would not say agitating—but whether they were meeting together to obtain an object which was practicable, or not? Or whether, on the contrary, they were not following a course which was disheartening the farmer from making those efforts which it was most desirable at this moment that he should be induced to do? It appeared to him (Earl Granville) that the course which was now being pursued by the landlords, of acquainting their occupying tenants, and also their mortgagees (for the noble earl opposite particularly alluded to that class of persons), that in their opinion the landed interest was ruined—that the farmer could not cultivate the land 47 with advantage, and that they themselves could not expect any rent, was so entirely contrary to their own interest that it was impossible to attribute any but the most conscientious motives to gentlemen holding such language. There was another class of persons who lately, both in speaking and writing, had held the same sort of language as to the difficulties of the farmers paying their rent—he meant those who were at the same time advocating free trade. Now, in his opinion, those persons were not quite justified in holding that language. He, for one, had always been the supporter of free trade; in the first place, because he believed it was calculated to promote the well-being of the community at large, without ultimately affecting injuriously the interest of any particular portion of that community; and further, he, for one, did not believe it to be true that the land of this country was over-rented, or that rents generally would have to be reduced. It might be thought presumptuous in him to speak on such a subject in the presence of noble Lords whose interests were so much more largely concerned in the matter than were his own. He would not enter into any argument why he held such an opinion, but would state certain general facts to their Lordships. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment went through the history of the different crises of protection, from the years 1814 and 1815 up to the present time. He (Earl Granville) should have been tempted to go through that identical history himself, to show how very little incompatible a reduced price of corn was with the same or even with an increased rent. Since 1815 the general landed rental of this country had increased about 5,000,000l. yearly. By the Committee which was appointed to consider the corn question in 1845, as stated by the noble Earl, the remunerating price was settled at 80s. a quarter. He (Earl Granville) believed that some of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee of that day, stated that 120s. was the lowest remunerating price; but the Committee adopted the opinion of the general body of the witnesses, and recommended to Parliament, and Parliament acted upon that recommendation, that 80s. should be the price of English corn, below which all foreign corn should be prohibited being imported. In 1822 the price was fixed at 70s. In short, from the first corn law in 1815, down to the corn law which had recently been repealed, the protecting price 48 had been reduced from 80s. to 54s.; and yet all the laws had eminently failed in securing their own practical operation; for the price of corn had invariably been less than the amount sought to be established by law, the prices under the late corn law being, upon an average, 50s. a quarter instead of 54s. His argument, then, was this, that if it appeared that the price of corn had been declining from 80s. to 50s., while the general rental of the land had increased 5,000,000l yearly, there was no reason—allowing for an increasing population, and for the increasing prosperity of the commercial and manufacturing interests of the country—why they should not have the price of corn reduced still lower than 50s., and yet be able to afford a rent equal in amount to the present, or even in some instances greater. But in saying this, he wished to guard himself against any particular instances. There might exist cases where the rent might require to be lowered. He had heard of lands being let, and also of being sold, at very high rates. But it was not fair to argue from special instances. Without venturing to prophesy what might hereafter be the case, he would state that his belief at present was, that 40s. was an unnaturally low price. He thought there were many reasons to account for the present reduced price of corn; as to its being entirely owing to free trade, he could not believe it. He was in Paris a short time ago, and he spoke to many on this question, and the opinion they held on it was almost universally the same. They said that their country was still almost in a revolutionary state, and that it was of great advantage that the labouring classes should in such a position of things be provided with cheap food. Now, it appeared to him (Earl Granville) that that observation equally applied to a country which was in a state of profound peace. But while the people had this advantage, yet there was no doubt the price of produce in France was so low that it was impossible for the tenants to pay their rents. Now, that circumstance could not be owing to free trade, for the duty on the importation of corn into France at this moment was from 30s. to 40s. With regard to the question of competition with foreigners, he felt it unnecessary to go into that point, from the statement which had been made by the noble Earl who moved the Amendment; for that noble Earl had declared his belief that, in the course of years, the English 49 farmer could produce cheaper corn than the foreigner could. As to the inability of the English farmer to compete with the foreigner on account of the peculiar burdens imposed upon him—the allegation being that the English farmer was too heavily taxed—he begged to ask whether the noble Earl had given any data on which that observation was made? He did not mean merely proof that a larger amount of revenue was exacted from the Englishman than from the foreigner; but that the revenue so raised was larger with respect to the English farmer in proportion to his means of paying it, than the revenue levied in any other country. He considered it very natural that noble Lords, after just coming up from the country, and after having been surrounded by their tenants—who were labouring under, as he thought, a panic, but, as they believed, only a reasonable apprehension for themselves, thinking that distress was coming upon them, and believing that there were no means within their own power of alleviating that distress—it was very natural, under these circumstances, that their Lordships should come forward with warm and anxious feelings, and endeavour to devise some means, by legislative enactment, for relieving that distress. But he did trust that when those noble Lords should have more calmly reflected upon this matter—when they should learn, what he had not yet heard the noble Earl or any other noble Lord prepared to deny, that the great mass of the people were in a satisfactory condition—they would reconsider the course they were about to pursue on this question. It appeared by returns that there was 7 per cent less of pauperism in this country on the 1st of January, 1850, than there was on the 1st of January, 1849. He could not agree with the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond)—though he felt the greatest respect for the landed interest, and though he believed it was the source of immense wealth to this country—yet he did not agree with the noble Duke that it was the duty of the Government, by artificial means, to force up that interest, in order that it might become the basis of the prosperity of the country. He did not think it was the duty or the interest of a Government to foster any species of industry by special means. In his opinion, Her Majesty's Government had adopted a much wiser and surer course of policy for insuring that prosperity. He considered that they had arrived at a high and proud station in having 50 secured the tranquillity of the country and bettered the condition of the great mass of the people by more natural and more statesmanlike means. Believing that it was from the prosperous condition of the mass of the people that the prosperity of all other classes in the country could be derived, he hoped their Lordships would reflect, and consider whether it would not be better to give a fair trial to those measures which had been so recently enacted. It was impossible to arrive at a satisfactory opinion as to the merits of those measures by the results of merely one or two years' experiment. One reason why he believed there was so much ground for hope that the farmers of this country would be able profitably to produce corn and food at a cheaper rate, was the fact that, with reference to all other staple manufactures, that result had taken place. The prices of cotton fabrics were about one-seventh of what they were in 1815; it was the same with cotton yarn; there was hardly one article of manufacture that had not been cheapened by competition. He thought, therefore, that if their Lordships would turn their attention to those general measures which affected all interests alike; if they would make those reductions in the public expenditure which were necessary and practicable; and if they would, either by themselves or by their tenants, apply the same amount of capital, skill, and attention to the cultivation of the land which was bestowed on merely manufacturing and mercantile matters, it would be a better thing for the country than if their Lordships should be able to carry the Amendment, which, as he had already observed, was somewhat vague, and which in no way mentioned the course their Lordships were prepared to pursue, except the bit of information given by the noble Earl that he would not rest satisfied till protection was regained. What amount of protection the noble Earl required, he (Earl Granville) knew not; but one thing he was perfectly convinced of, namely, that their Lordships would be labouring under a very great delusion if they thought that the great majority of the people of England would ever consent to re-enact protection again in this country.
said, he did not mean to delay long upon Her Majesty's Speech, which, by a course both Parliamentary and constitutional, he was entitled to consider the Speech of the noble Lords opposite. But among two or three things 51 which deserved his attention, there was one, namely, the admission that a very great amount of distress existed in this country at the present time; and if the amount of distress existed, as was said, among the agricultural classes, he took it to be a clear and settled proposition that it was a matter deserving the attention of the Government. But he was not at all of those disposed to ascribe this distress to causes he had heard some noble Lords attribute it to, as the agitation of one party, or to a panic among the others in this quarter or in that—the fact of distress might be exaggerated as to its amount by agitation or by means of the panic; but that that fact of distress had had, as far as by possibility it could have had, the effect of producing the unhappy state of things which was to be deplored throughout the country, was a proposition so clear as to be indisputable on either side. He, for his part, should be very far from denying the existence of the distress, or diminishing or correcting the exaggerations made touching it, and for this reason, among others, that he well knew from experience that with individuals as with societies there was no greater difficulty than to persuade a man that he was less ill off than he thought himself, or that the rest of the community was no better off than himself. He could assure their Lordships that he would feel delighted and comforted if he could deny the existence of the distress; but it was his entire and firm conviction that there was no exaggeration whatever in the statements made of its amount. But that proved nothing as to the causes to which the distress was attributable. He was prepared to defend his old opinions on this subject, for they had undergone no change. The measure was an experiment. He contended that all great changes in the internal policy of a Government were experiments, and that all wise legislators, on that ground, ought ever to be ready to modify their opinions or to retrace their steps, or entirely to abandon the course they had adopted, if the consequences were not such upon actual trial as to justify them in persisting in their course. All legislation, all government, all public policy, was necessarily experimental. In saying this, he was only confessing that men were mere finite beings, who never knew beforehand what was to he the result of their most deliberate measures. But then he must have no bias on his mind when he came to judge whether his experiment had succeeded or failed. 52 He must have no sinister motive to prevent him from at once declaring, if he found he had been wrong, that he was wrong, and that his experiment was ill-contrived, or rashly applied, and had been a failure. But if he had obtained a fee, which some agitators had done, and which he must disgorge before he could form an honest judgment, then that fee he must give back before he could say that the experiment for which he had been feed had succeeded or failed. He stood not in that position. He had no bias on his mind. If he thought he had acted wrong, he was prepared to avow it, and ready to accompany their Lordships in retracing their steps. But, if he felt no bias to influence his judgment, so neither did he feel that any argument had been adduced to alter his judgment. Upon the most deliberate view which he could take of the events which had happened in the interval, he was clearly of opinion that they were right in 1846, and that they should be wrong, immeasurably wrong, now to attempt, if it were possible, to retrace their steps. This distress complained of by some of their Lordships, was by no means confined within the limits of this island. He spoke with confidence, because he spoke with knowledge, when he said that in the great neighbouring country—in Prance—with a population of 33,000,000, for the most part agricultural, the very class who were now most complaining in this country, though a smaller class here as compared with the rest of the population—he spoke a fact which came within his knowledge, when he said that in France, and all over France, they were suffering at this hour, and had been for months past suffering, a deep distress, as much as ever this country had suffered in its worst moment, and very considerably more than we were suffering now. He would state to their Lordships the results of his knowledge as to the condition of the corn-growing regions of France. He might most truly say that it was now in the most complete state of agricultural suffering; the rents were reduced, but none, or next to none, were paid; land was thrown out of tillage; the farms were being thrown up constantly, and there was no possibility of even finding successors to the outgoing tenants; and the labourers of course, in very many instances, remained unemployed, without the auxiliary of a poor-law to fail back upon. Now, to show them the cause of this, and how little it had to do with free trade in corn, he might state to 53 them that seeing corn landed at the port one day near his residence, he went down and inquired whether they ever imported any corn from Odessa, or from Africa, once the granary of the Empire? "Oh, no," said they, "there was plenty of corn there for them if they chose, no doubt, but they could not bring it into the country." As the noble Earl (Earl Granville) had truly said, France was a protected country, and had nothing to do with free trade; not one ounce of any grain or flour or meal could now he imported; and yet distress, agricultural distress, was found prevailing in every quarter. Then as to our people being more heavily taxed than others. Being desirous of obtaining the most satisfactory information of the condition of the French people, and the amount of their burdens to the State, he had placed himself under the tutorage of an inspector of revenue for a district near his residence in the south, containing 10,000 souls, and with him he carefully inspected the tax-books and the last year's receipts. Of these 10,000 there were 2,600 proprietors of land, 2,100 of these being owners of mere hits of land, which they called their estates, submitting to the evils of subdivision for the fiction which all Frenchmen hugged to their bosoms under the name of "equality." The direct taxes were levied in these cases on the rental; but as every proprietor was his own tenant, the tax was levied in effect on the estimated yearly value of the land. The land was valued on the books which he inspected at 136,000 francs, yearly value, and the inspector showed him the receipts of last year for about 40,000 francs of direct taxes; that was more than one-fourth, and nearly one-third, of the actual value of the land. There was 11 per cent of direct land tax, 8 per cent on the doors and windows, and 8 per cent on what by a curious speculation of the financial mind was taken as the rent each householder was supposed to pay himself for inhabiting his own house, and on the amount of rent, suppose he let it out: be that rent received from the house or not, the taxgatherers said they ought to receive it. In other words, supposing the yearly value of an estate to be 3,800l., 2,700l. was the total amount which had to be paid. It was in the proportion of twelve to nineteen; so that if any one of their Lordships should have an estate of 19,000l a year, as many of them had estates worth ten times that amount, or at least had before this distress, then they would 54 have to pay 12,000l. for the support of Government. The French people, however, were quite content to pay that amount, so that they were allowed to have liberty, for which they cared nothing—equality, for which they cared much. Their Lordships must also consider that France, in addition to direct taxation, was also subjected to indirect taxation upon the consumable commodities imported into the country, which also had the effect of raising the prices of the necessaries of life. In Germany the taxes amounted to 25 per cent. They often heard of the light taxation of the United States of America; but the grievous and gross mistake made by those who cried out about liberty and light taxation in the United States was, that they looked only at the federal Government. They said it was a cheap government; and so the federal Government was; but they forgot that each separate State paid for its own government, for its own justice, for its own establishments, and for every one of those things that made it necessary to impose taxes upon the people; so that he did not think that they had much to brag of in the United States as compared with ourselves in point of taxation. This was not immaterial to the present argument, because when it was contended that this country was so heavily taxed that its agriculture needed protection, it was necessary to look into the matter, in order to see whether we were really more heavily taxed than other countries; and when he did so narrowly look, he was satisfied that we were not. Though he did not consider that the distress which had existed had been in any degree exaggerated, he must at the same time disapprove in the strongest manner of the language that had been used at some of the meetings held in the country. He had, with strong feelings of indignation, seen respectable men borne away by this zeal to do all but threaten even assassination. He hoped, however, they would never have recourse to such threats of violence as were, though in general terms, thus openly recommended. He had with yet greater horror, seen yet more plain exhortations to assassination. He had seen deliberate letters written by literary men, who audaciously put their names to them, and published them in the journals conducted by persons in the service of our Government, and in terms and words recommending the assassination of princes on the Continent of Europe, and holding out to the assassins the sure refuge that 55 would await them in the United States of America. It was a foul and monstrous libel on our kinsmen in the United States, for he believed that if any miscreant were to raise an unhallowed arm in obedience to any such fanatical reformer, or falsely pretended lover of peace, against the life of any Sovereign in Europe, instead of being received with open arms by the honest American, he would be rejected and spued out of the country with abhorrence and disgust. There had been sundry disclosures made regarding the distress which affected other portions of the community in this country beside the farmers; and he could not but refer to the manner in which a respectable morning paper had most ably and usefully given circulation to a great deal of curious and interesting information respecting the grievous sufferings of a large portion of their unfortunate fellow-creatures, and, above all, of the women employed in needlework. While he admitted the existence of those sufferings, however, he felt himself most reluctantly bound to dispute some of the remedies which most benevolent and most excellent individuals were proposing for removing the evil. But it was a subject he approached with great pain. The details were enough to melt the hardest heart. He knew that there were numbers of meritorious individuals scarcely able to keep body and soul together on their labours of fourteen hours a day, existing on the smallest pittance of food with which animal life could be supported, and conducting their labours with an industry and assiduity that passed all belief, as it exceeded all praise. All this he felt as strongly as did those benevolent and charitable individuals of whom he had spoken; but, alas! what was the cause of it? It was, that in proportion to the demand for labour there was an overabundant supply. It was, that in proportion to the wants of those who were to be paid for their labour, there was no proportion in the wants of those for that labour who were to pay them. It was, that they were paid 2d. or 2½d. by the day, because their employers would not pay more, and because no law they could make, no lectures on charity they could preach, would ever make the employer pay 4d. when he could get the work done for 2d. But, it was said, what harm was there in taking off a portion of the labourers, and lessening in the market the superabundance of hands? Let us, it was said, take off so many thousands 56 of those hands, and should we not thereby adjust the supply more nearly to the demand? No, indeed, shortsighted charity! Benevolence, more benevolent than beneficent! zeal, but rather without knowledge! Who could doubt that if they took 10,000, 12,000, or 20,000 individuals out of the labour market, the price of labour would at once rise; but did they not see that this very success would bring in twice as many as were taken out, simply because the price of labour had risen? So that instead of the market rising from 2d. or 4d., it would, in the end, after a temporary rise, fall lower than ever. It was like digging a hole, not in wet, but in dry sand, which, the instant it was taken out, was replaced by other sand rushing in. But then, emigration was to be the resource. Emigration had two objects: one was to give labour relief, and raise the price of labour; but it was evident this would be attended with the exact effect he had referred to. The other object was to give labour to the colonies; in that case it might be very useful; but, possibly, the colony might be nice, and refuse all labour but that which could be given by virtuous individuals, so that they must first scrutinise their emigrants and send the best of them abroad, though he did not see why, if they were likely to make good wives, they should not remain at home to get good husbands. According to this mode they were sending away the best part of the population, and retaining the worst. He must say, when on this subject, that he never was more astonished (much as he sympathised with the dislike of receiving convicts) than to hear of one of our colonies refusing to the passengers of an unhappy convict-ship a landing after having been tossed about for three months of a tempestuous voyage. The noble and learned Lord concluded by stating, that having seen no cause why they should retrace their steps on the corn laws, he was unable to vote for the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl.
could only say that he participated in the gratification with which he was sure all must have heard the speech which his noble and learned Friend had delivered upon the present occasion—he was about to say, upon the present question. He confessed that the speech on the present occasion, at least the half of that speech, if not the whole of the speech, had a very indistinct connexion with the subject which now demanded their attention. 57 It might be his ignorance that made him say so, but he must confess, that at least in the one half of his noble and learned Friend's speech, be could not trace the smallest connexion between the Speech of Her Majesty which was then under their consideration, or the Amendment which had been submitted to their consideration with such great good temper and judgment by his noble Friends the noble Earls behind him. Before, however, he adverted to the question which was then especially under their consideration, he wished to be permitted to say a very few words upon topics in the Royal Speech which had hitherto been passed over in the discussion, and on which there could not be the same difference as upon the main subject for their consideration. He was quite sure that there was not one, not only of their Lordships, but hardly an individual in the country, who would not echo—and that not in the mere language of formality, but of perfect sincerity—the hearty expression of condolence to Her Majesty upon the loss which Her Majesty and the country also had sustained in the lamented, and, he might add, the premature death of the Queen Dowager. He was quite sure that they would all concur in believing that the extensive charity and exemplary virtues of Her late Majesty will always render her memory dear to the nation. She had left an example how, with becoming dignity, she could occupy a throne, and with what becoming grace the same individual could retire into private life. It was no formal expression of condolence that was given utterance to on this occasion. It was the manifestation of that which was the universal feeling amongst all classes and conditions of persons in this country. He would also concur with their Lordships in the expression of their gratitude to Providence, who, having visited them with a most formidable disease, had now permitted it to pass away, and had now restored the country to its present state of health. He concurred in thinking that they could best evince their gratitude by vigilant precautions against the more obvious causes of sickness for the future, and an enlightened consideration for those who were exposed to its attacks, and by extending as far as they could the promotion of those sanitary measures in favour of the lower and humbler classes of the country, which were no less conducive to their bodily comfort than to their moral elevation. While he entirely concurred in the propriety of those precautions 58 recommended in the Speech, he thought at the same time there was no subject over which it was necessary to watch with more care than these sanitary measures. There had occurred in connexion with them a great deal of unfortunate mismanagement; and he was much afraid, if great care was not taken, that they might even do injury instead of the good which they hoped to promote by such measures. With regard to the various measures which on the part of the Crown were to be submitted to the consideration of their Lordships during the present Session, they no doubt related to matters of great importance; but, as on all other occasions similar to the present, he thought it would be most improper to express any opinion upon those important subjects till they were in the ordinary way brought under discussion. They would thank Her Majesty that such measures were to be laid before them on the responsibility of the Crown, and they would promise to give them that attention which their importance demanded; but, in the meantime, they would reserve their opinion regarding them till they were submitted in the proper form. There was, however, one topic mentioned in the Speech, on which he should indulge himself by making a remark. It was stated that Her Majesty "rejoiced that the Governments of the United States of America and of Sweden had promptly taken steps to secure to British ships, in the ports of their respective countries advantages similar to those which their own ships now enjoy in British ports." He maintained in the strongest manner all the opinions he had expressed on former occasions with regard to the impolicy, in a national point of view, of that great experiment on which they ventured last Session of Parliament; but if there was to be any modification of the evils arising from the repeal of those navigation laws, it must be from the complete and entire reciprocity of other nations who might be willing to treat with them. He believed, however, there was no country in the world that was able to give to this country full reciprocity under a repeal of these navigation laws. He still believed that measure to have been an injurious one; but if the experiment was to be tried, be should rejoice to see it tried fairly, and in a spirit of reciprocity. The noble Earl who moved the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne stated, that the very countries which we thought would be the last to reciprocate our advances, 59 were in fact the first to do so; and he instanced the United States of America as one of the last countries expected to reciprocate. Now, the noble Earl must have forgotten that, in the course of the discussion on the repeal of the navigation laws, it was stated distinctly that the laws of the United States would entitle us to all the advantages that this country could give them by the repeal of our navigation laws. He was grateful for the assurance—though certainly it did not convey much news—that we were not at war with any Foreign Power. They were told, "Her Majesty happily continues in peace and amity with all Foreign Powers." Now, in all the Speeches which he recollected to have heard delivered from the Throne, there was language introduced to express in the most confident terms the footing on which we stood with foreign Powers. The Royal Speech used to say that the Sovereign had received from Foreign Powers assurances of friendship; and they were told that they had the most cordial understanding with them, and that they were now on the most friendly footing with the other Powers. On the present occasion Her Majesty told them, no doubt, that they were not at war with France or Spain, or with Russia and Austria; but would Her Majesty's Ministers venture to say that we were on a friendly footing with Austria, and that we were also on a friendly footing with Russia? He rejoiced that they had the blessing of peace; but he should have rejoiced still more if Her Majesty's Ministers had been able to state—and if the fact had been so, they would have stated it—that we had friendly relations with all the great nations of the European Continent. Upon the next topic which was touched on in the Speech, he presumed that some further information would be laid before the House within a short time, as to the circumstances that had actually occurred with respect to the "differences of a serious character" which had occurred "between the Governments of Austria and Russia on the one hand, and the Sublime Porte on the other," and with regard to which he rejoiced to learn that "the explanations which had taken place between the Turkish and Imperial Governments had fortunately removed any danger to the peace of Europe which might have arisen out of these differences." After having told them that explanations had taken place which had removed all danger, they were informed that "Her Majesty having been 60 appealed to on this occasion by the Sultan, united her efforts with those of the Government of France, to which a similar appeal had been made, in order to assist by the employment of her good offices in effecting an amicable settlement of those differences in a manner consistent with the dignity and independence of the Porte." Now, if an explanation had already taken place that had removed all apprehensions of danger to the peace of Europe from any rupture between Turkey and the Imperial Governments, perhaps it was hardly necessary that the French or British Government, by their mediation, should have interposed to effect an amicable settlement of the differences between them. He did not know what were the instructions issued, either to a plenipotentiary or to any other party, with regard to the measures to be taken for effecting an amicable settlement of these differences in a manner consistent with the interest and dignity of the Porte; but on this subject he apprehended they would have papers laid before the House; and, in the present state of things, he was disposed to concur in thanking Her Majesty for the information that Her Majesty had laid before them. Before quitting the subject of our foreign policy, however, he begged to say that there was one question upon which he had hoped for some information, and of which he expected that some notice would have appeared in the Royal Speech. He thought it was whilst Parliament last sat that the French Republic sent a small force to the coast of Italy, which small force was subsequently increased to a very large amount, and which augmented force conducted the siege of the city of Rome, which city of Rome they occupied, and in which city of Rome, under what pretence or reason he knew not, they had continued to exercise power up to the present moment, thus dividing the dominions of the Pope between the French occupation of the western coast, and the Austrian occupation on the eastern coast. He did not wish to add to existing embarrassments arising out of this subject, but he did firmly believe that the French and Austrian Governments were at this period acting in accordance with regard to the affairs of Italy. He did not believe that there was any danger of an immediate outbreak of war; but it was a question upon which this country could not look with absolute indifference, that Italy should, without, as far as he could judge, any ground whatever for such continued occupation, be occupied by two foreign 61 armies—that that occupation should have continued for the space of eight, nine, or ten months—and that it should not have occurred to Her Majesty's Ministers as a matter of sufficient gravity and importance to warrant the insertion of a paragraph in the Queen's Speech, stating that they had received assurances that satisfied them that no evil consequences were likely to arise from that occupation. The noble Marquess told them last year that he had had assurances from the French Government that their troops would be withdrawn as soon as the object they had in view was accomplished, and that he believed that object was the restoration of tranquillity in the Papal dominions and the restitution of the government of the Sovereign Pontiff. What might have been the object of the French Government, he (Lord Stanley) knew not; but it was stated by the noble Marquess that there was a time, and that that time was not far distant, at which Her Majesty's Government expected that this provisional occupation of Italy by hostile armies—that this anomalous state of things—should be put an end to. He now came to a point where he was compelled to object to the terms contained in the Speech from the Throne. He did it with sincere regret, for he could assure the noble Lord that there was no object for which he was more anxious than that the terms of Her Majesty's Speech should be such as not to force upon those who entertained the same opinion as he did himself upon agricultural matters, the necessity of objecting to them. He felt most anxious to concur in an unanimous Address to the Throne; and it was with the sincerest regret that he found the terms used in the Speech to be such that it was impossible for him, with his feelings relative to the condition of the agricultural interest, to agree to the language of the Speech itself, or of the Address moved in 'answer to it. He could not separate the language of the Speech itself, objectionable as it was, from the fact that the selection of the Mover of the Address in the other House had been made by the Government, deliberately, from the strongest and most strenuous supporters of those free-trade measures, which, if not the cause, he believed had greatly aggravated agricultural distress in this country and in Ireland; and, taking also into consideration the speech of the noble Mover, and that of the noble Seconder of the Address in their Lordships' House, if it were the intention of Government, through their 62 organs, to provoke the necessity of discussion and the necessity of an Amendment, that necessity would have been found in the comments with which the noble Earl who opened the discussion had addressed himself to the question. The text of the Speech itself, though not intentionally, was insulting to the agricultural interest as a body, and passed over, in a light and trivial manner, that distress which had been admitted by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) to be most disastrous, and not exaggerated in point of fact by the statements made at the meetings in the country. In what terms had that distress, so general, so prevalent, so severe, and so ruinous with regard to Ireland, been referred to by the Speech placed in Her Majesty's mouth? "It is with regret that Her Majesty has observed the complaints which in many parts of the kingdom have proceeded from the owners and occupiers of land." In the first place, this was not a fair and candid statement of the case. The complaints which had been made were loud and general. The distress was great and grievous. The distress was not confined to, and the complaints had not proceeded exclusively from, the owners and occupiers of land. The distress reached far beyond the owners and occupiers of land. Nay, primarily, and before it touched the owners or the occupiers of land, it touched a class still more numerous and more deserving of their care, because more helpless—it touched the labourers of the soil—it touched the small shopkeeper—it touched the mechanic—it touched the artisan—it touched the numerous classes who were not either owners or occupiers of the soil, but whose all depended upon the well-being of the owners and occupiers of the soil, and who were the first and severest sufferers from the present agricultural distress. Therefore, he repudiated the expressions in the Speech that the distress was confined to, or that the complaints proceeded exclusively from, the owners and occupiers of land. The distress was great, general, and grievous among all those classes who were never, until the speech of the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, accustomed to be considered as secondary and subordinate interests. The Speech went on to say, that Her Majesty greatly lamented that any portion of Her subjects should be suffering distress. Great distress there certainly was; the owners and 63 occupiers of land were complaining, and She observed their complaints with regret. It was certainly an annoying fact—it was disagreeable that any class, however unimportant, however insignificant, or however fractional in point of numbers, should be suffering distress; "but it is a source of sincere gratification to Her Majesty to witness the increased enjoyment of the necessaries and comforts of life, which cheapness and plenty have bestowed upon the great body of Her people." He trusted that he should not be misunderstood as deprecating, depreciating, or undervaluing the advantages of plenty and cheapness, especially when they gave to the great body of the people an increased measure of the necessaries and comforts of life, in such cheapness and abundance as were produced by a plentiful harvest in the year 1835, which gave the employers of labour ample means to employ those who were dependent upon them, and furnished, at the same time, to the population the means of subsistence at a cheap rate—in such cheapness and abundance that no man living would rejoice more cordially than he (Lord Stanley) should, or regard it more as a matter for sincere congratulation. But he feared the Government had fallen into an error. They had been led by those whose footsteps they had been too easily induced to follow—who, because they made a great deal of noise, considered themselves all in all in this country—that everything must be secondary to them—that they were the people, and that every other class was but a fragment and a fraction of the people. The "great body of the people "were not to be placed where the Queen's Speech placed them—in opposition and invidious contrast to the owners and occupiers of the land. With regard to that great portion of the people whose interests were involved in the cultivation of the soil—and they formed a very large, and hitherto a primarily-important, portion of the population—he contended that cheapness and abundance of foreign imports had not given to them that great command over the necessaries and comforts of life which they were led by the Speech to believe was the case. If, as was the case, the wages of labour throughout the agricultural districts had fallen from 11s. to 8s., from 9s. to 7s., and from 8s. to 6d. weekly; if it were true that, in order to produce upon the whole community the small fractional diminution of 7 per cent upon the number of paupers 64 actually receiving relief, there were men working on the road at 6s. a-week for three days of the week, and called to subsist on 3s. a week—if there were men who worked upon the roads at reduced wages to keep them out of the union houses, and to spare the poor-rates the cost of their maintenance—then he said that it was a mockery, a cruel mockery, to talk to those men, whose employment was taken from them, and whose wages were diminished, of the additional means which cheapness and plenty afforded them for enjoying the necessaries and comforts of life. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) said, that throughout the whole country there was 7 per cent less pauperism in January, 1850, than in January, 1849. But the year which terminated January, 1849, was a year of the deepest depression—a year which he remembered noble Lords opposite always talked of as an exceptional year not to be taken into consideration, and which, from various causes, was a year of the greatest possible distress among the agricultural and manufacturing population. But taking the year 1848—a year of deep depression—a year in which the poor-rates had exceeded by one million sterling the poor rates of the preceding year, with lower prices for agricultural produce, and then tell him that, as compared with the year 1848, there was upon the 1st of January, 1850, a diminution of 7 per cent in the pauperism of the country; and add to that the fact, that whereas the last year was a year of great manufacturing distress, and that the present was a year in which the manufacturing prosperity was so great as to make it a matter of congratulation in Her Majesty's Speech. From the diminution of pauperism to the extent of 7 per cent on the whole country, deduct the large diminution which must have taken place in the manufacturing distress, and upon the figures of which the noble Earl himself had read a few that night he founded an indisputable inference that, great as was the agricultural distress last year, that agricultural distress was infinitely greater this year; and it was with regard to agricultural distress and agricultural pauperism that the Amendment of his noble Friend was directed, and not to any allegations of general distress in the manufacturing and commercial districts. He rejoiced as much as anybody could at the improved accounts of manufacturing prosperity. He took it for granted, upon the statement of the 65 noble Earl that there was a large increase of exports and imports, that the public revenue was flourishing, and that trade was prosperous. He admitted it—he rejoiced in it, and heartily united in the congratulations of Her Majesty upon the subject. But he was not prepared, and Ministers had not called upon them, to attribute this to any specific cause, or to say that it was the consequence of free-trade measures. When he looked, indeed, at the amount of the exports, there were various circumstances which indicated that that increase of prosperity—not reaching, but very nearly reaching, the amount of our trade in 1845 and 1846, and previous to those distressing years of 1847 and 1848—had been wholly independent of their free-trade measures, and arose from totally different causes. It was a remarkable fact, that of their exports of calicoes, in which there had been an enormous increase of something like 128,000,000 of yards in the present year, no less than 89,000,000 of yards were exported—where?—to countries where free trade had been established? No; but to British India; and a very small proportion indeed of their calicoes had gone to those countries which had adopted the principles of reciprocal free trade. He only trusted that this prosperity might not lead to overtrading, to overspeculation, and to the glutting of foreign markets, of which we had already seen some indications, but that it would be permanent and enduring. But if he admitted the existence of prosperity in our manufactures, and that it was owing to the cheapness of food in this country that the manufacturers had been able to produce more cheaply, and to export more abundantly in return for foreign imports, it was not in any invidious sense that he stated that the boon thus conferred upon the manufacturing districts had been so conferred upon them at the expense of agricultural industry; for he did not think that any man would deny that the great reduction which had been caused by free-trade measures in the prices of agricultural produce, had had a very considerable effect in causing that distress which they all deplored, and which, to a greater or lesser extent, they all acknowledged. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) said that the distress of agriculture could not be referred to free trade; "for," says he," in France there is no free trade—in France there is strictly a system of protection; yet in France all classes connected 66 with agriculture are labouring under the deepest and most aggravated distress." He would take these facts; and he would agree with his noble and learned Friend thet they were wholly different with regard to France and England. He joined in the expression of sincere gratitude that by the favour of Divine Providence this kingdom had hitherto been preserved from the wars and convulsions which, during the last two years had shaken so many of the States of the Continent. But in those wars and convulsions he saw one cause, and one most important cause, of the agricultural distress admitted by his noble and learned Friend. His noble and learned Friend had told them that the state of the land in France was extremely different from what it was in this country. And in what did the difference consist? Why, that under the principles of "liberty, equality, and fraternity," there had been a minute subdivision of the soil amongst small and poor proprietors, which rendered it impossibe duly to cultivate the soil by laying out a proper amount of capital in its improvement; and yet one of the principal objects of the declamation of certain parties, under whose guidance, unfortunately, Her Majesty's Government appeared too much to be proceeding, was against the class of large landed proprietors in this country, who, they said, had more land than they were themselves able to cultivate, and were, therefore, compelled to screw the rents out of the tenants who did cultivate it. This was no question of rent; but even if it were, he would ask them whether they were prepared to cut down the weight and importance of the landed aristocracy of the country, and to seek to apportion the land of this country, as was done in France? He could tell them they were proceeding in a rapid line towards that to which one of the great leaders of the movement pointed his ambition and aim—namely, a safe, permanent democracy. If they were seduced by any considerations to adopt such measures as were thus recommended for breaking down the great weight, influence, and property of the landed aristocracy of the country, the aristocracy might, no doubt, fall—their days might be numbered; but with the numbering of their days were also numbered the days of the British monarchy. If the views of the people were in favour of a republic, which was almost the avowed object of many of the leaders of this movement, whore, then, were they to look for the security of property, the investment of 67 capital, the improvement of the soil, the extension of agriculture, which was now so loudly called for? There would not he found any of those improvements which were now carried on, but they would find themselves in the condition of France, a condition owing to the entire abolition of the aristocracy, and the minute division of the soil. Then would come the greatest distress upon the small proprietors of land, which had already been so graphically described by his noble and learned Friend. He turned now to the question connected with the crushing weight of taxation. It was true that France had protection, but she had also wars and internal convulsions, from which, with the blessing of Providence, our constitution had as yet preserved this country. The possession of property in large lots, and the existence of an aristocracy, had up to this time secured us from those miseries to which France was a victim. The misery inflicted upon the proprietors in France should serve us as a warning against following this cry of direct taxation, with a view of reducing the agricultural and landed interests of this country. But what reason had they for supposing that the distress which at present existed would be but temporary? What was there to account for the prices of corn in this year and the last year declining? The decline, too, he did not think had ceased at the present time. The noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, gave us an extraordinary reason for this decline—namely, the great failure of the harvest in Ireland, and the fact of half of the food of the people in that country being swept away by the loss of the potato crop. He (Lord Stanley) was, no doubt, a man of ordinary understanding; but he would think that that argument told exactly the other way. He would have thought, indeed, that such a state of things would have had the effect of increasing the price of corn rather than of reducing it. What, then, were the temporary causes of this decline? Last year they had a plentiful harvest—so plentiful that the corn was hardly worth reaping. Last year they had low prices, because they had a bad harvest; and it seemed that this year they were to have low prices because they had a good harvest. In addition to the internal harvest of 1849, which was such a plentiful one, they had imported wheat and wheat-flour to a considerable amount. The price was 69s. 9d. on the average of 68 1847; 50s. 7d. on the average of 1848; and 44s. 1d. on the average of the first four months of 1849. There were imported, in 1847, 4,456,000 quarters; and in 1849, 4,533,523 quarters. So that there was an actual increase in favour of the latter year, with a low price, over the import of the year of famine, 1847. But, it was said, "Surely these people won't continue sending in their corn. They might send it in at 69s. 9d.; but they won't when the price is lower." However, they had sent it in at 50s. 7d., and, in larger quantities still, at 44s. 1d. When discussing the question of protection some time ago, they were met with the argument that the foreigner would not go on importing unless at remunerating prices. At that time a noble Friend of his, now no more (Lord Ashburton), stated, with his usual sagacity, that there were districts whose production was illimitable, and which, so long as England continued at all times, and under all circumstances, to admit corn duty free, would pour in grain continually, glutting our markets at that which would be a remunerating price for them, because they would be only supplying their own superabundant production. But he did not believe that the foreigner was importing at a loss. He recollected when they were discussing à priori, and not with the light of subsequent experience, the question as to the probable price under a perfectly free trade in corn, that he took the liberty, upon the authority of some statements he had, of expressing his belief that, within three years, they would see an importation of from 4,000,000 quarters to 5,000,000 quarters of wheat, at a price varying from 40s. to 45s. That prophecy was, he contended, a strong primâ facie evidence that the present low prices did not depend upon temporary causes, but were the natural result of the measures then proposed. In addition to what he then said, he would further say now, that he did not think the price could permanently rise in this country above 40s. or 45s. a quarter. At the time of the passing of the measure for repealing the corn laws, there wasn't a man who didn't scout the notion that the effect of that measure would be permanently to bring down the price of wheat to 40s. or 45s. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey) went so far as to say, that immediately the corn laws should be repealed, he would raise his rents. Now, though he did not admit that the question of rental was unimportant, he 69 did not say that the primary object he had in view was the maintenance of the existing amount of rent. His primary object was to prevent, owing to the diminution of price, large tracts of country being diverted from the cultivation of wheat, which would throw large masses of the population hopelessly out of employment. And if that unfortunate occurrence should take place anywhere, it would be primarily in those districts in which, on the faith of a long series of legislation, the largest amount of capital had been employed, naturally to the poorer soils, where, by the exertions of such men as Mr. Coke, land, naturally sterile, had been brought to a state of high improvement, and where, were such outlay of capital to be discontinued, the land must in a short time revert to its original barrenness, and the population which had been led to establish itself with a view to honest industry upon those lands, be driven from the face of the earth, or led to earn a precarious livelihood at the half-deserted loom. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) stated that the agriculturists first said 80s. would be a good price, then that 70s. would be a remunerative price, and now that 56s. would answer very well. But the noble Earl omitted to state, what he knew would not suit his argument, that 70s. was demanded prior to the alteration in the currency, and 56s. afterwards; so that, though there was nominally a difference of 14s., there was in reality little, if any, diminution. The noble Earl said, "See how the rental has increased—it has increased 5,000,000l. since 1815." But that was not the rent of the land, but the interest of the capital sunk in the land; and it was an interest which, he would venture to say, if offered to any manufacturing or commercial gentleman, would be scorned by them as an utterly insignificant remuneration for anything like the amount of capital that had been expended by the landed proprietors. His noble and learned Friend said, that nobody would give 1d. for what he could get for 2d. He (Lord Stanley) believed that that was the principle of the party that had recently sprung up into prominence; but he was happy to say that that was not the principle acted upon by the gentry of England, and that they would, when they could get labour for 6d., give 1s. for it; because, though they knew the supply to he such as to enable them to obtain volunteer labour at 6d. a day, they knew that a man could not live upon such a pittance, and would 70 not descend to such starvation prices. And yet those were the classes of persons held up to obloquy, and were told that they must reduce their rents. For himself, he believed if these prices continued, that they must all reduce their rents. He needn't reduce his in Ireland, certainly. It was his full intention to make next year to his property-tax assessment a return of nil; for he assured their Lordships that for the last eighteen months he had not drawn from his property in Ireland one single shilling—not one single shilling had he had remitted him from that property, although he had for a long time past been laying out about one-third of the yearly rental upon the property, and there was not, he believed, a more contented tenantry in Ireland. He had nevertheless at this moment upwards of one-fourth of his land thrown upon his hands, because, owing to present depressed prices, he could not find a tenant to occupy it. This was far from being an extreme case, and this was land so good that he had grown upon it the other day at the rate of 26 tons of turnips to the statute acre. Now, he asked them, was it unreasonable when that was the state of things—when the poor-rates were ranging at from 6s. up to 18s. and 19s. in the pound—was it unreasonable, when estates were brought to the market in Ireland in such profusion as to render the chance of purchasers very inconsiderable—was it unreasonable, while estates could he shown highly improved which could not find tenants to occupy them, in consequence of the grievous burdens that were imposed upon them, and the unremunerative price for their produce—was it unreasonable if under these circumstances—more exaggerated undoubtedly at present in Ireland than in England, though that was a state of things to which, if they were not careful in their legislation we should fast approach in this more favoured island—was it unreasonable, if in this state of things, that on behalf of themselves, on behalf of their tenants, on behalf of that large population, whom if they could help it they would not turn out of doors to starve, but with whom they would share the price and the produce, of the soil—was it unreasonable if on their behalf they were not satisfied with the expression that Her Majesty had observed with great regret the complaints which in many parts of the kingdom had proceeded from the owners and occupiers of land? It was with regret that he assented to the Amendment that had 71 been proposed by his noble Friend. He could not rest satisfied with the language of the Queen's Speech, and must, therefore, give his cordial support to the moderate and temperate Amendment moved in the moderate and temperate address of his noble Friend. He was not asking their Lordships to retrace their steps. He retained his own opinion. He believed a system of moderate protective duties would be for the advantage of all classes. But what his noble Friend desired their Lordships to observe was, that in many parts of the united kingdom various classes of Her Majesty's subjects connected with the cultivation of the soil were labouring under severe distress, mainly owing, in the opinion of those with whom he acted, to recent legislative enactments. He could not but attribute a large proportion of the distress prevailing in Ireland to that cause which had been mainly operative in England. It was equally indisputable that those local burdens which had been carefully investigated by a Committee of their Lordships' House, and which did press heavily on landed and real property, and that to the extent of not less than 12,000,000l., might be borne by an interest favoured for national purposes. But whether the policy of the recent legislation were right or wrong, if they had caused the distress of that class by taking from it the peculiar benefits it had previously enjoyed, it was a matter of gross and flagrant injustice to continue on that class exclusively the burden they had exclusively borne, not for their own advantage, but for objects which involved the common interests of their common country. He and his friends had been invited to say what they desired to have. He made no secret of his own views. He believed a moderate protecting duty would be advantageous to the agriculture and to the revenue, while it would not he injurious to the consumer. He did not ask their Lordships to interrupt the progress of that great experiment which he feared was leading inevitably to the most serious consequences. He asked their Lordships, and he asked them with confidence, not to refuse their assent to the Amendment, which affirmed that there were two causes for the distress of the agricultural interest—causes with which it was the function of the Government to deal; and they were entitled to say that in one shape or other the Government was bound, at least, to take some steps for the relief of that distress.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
was 72 understood to say, that after the manner in which these questions had been discussed, and after the unanswerable objections stated to the Amendment by his noble Friend at the head of the Woods and Forests, he should not have thought it necessary to detain their Lordships; but after the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, he felt himself called upon not only to touch upon some questions which had been referred to in the course of the debate, but to apply himself to some of those topics to which the noble Lord had adverted, but which were not connected with the immediate subject under discussion. Noble Lords, he regretted to observe, conceived themselves under the necessity of moving Amendments; but while he cheerfully acknowledged the perfect right of noble Lords to give vent to their opinions, and to embody them in the form of an Amendment, he derived consolation from the reflection that, as affecting Her Majesty's Government and the policy they had pursued, there was out of the various topics touched on in Her Majesty's Speech only one on which noble Lords opposite had thought it necessary to make a substantive proposition. The noble Lord who had spoken last began by stating, that he saw with something like surprise that Her Majesty had been advised to say that she was at peace and amity with other nations. That was not the first occasion on which the noble Lord had dwelt on the Address to the Throne; but, with reference to the omission of any statement that Her Majesty had received friendly assurances from other Powers, was it to be supposed that when Parliament met, every foreign nation in the world was to come forward and express what were their feelings towards this country, in order that a paragraph to that effect might be inserted in the Queen's Speech? But he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) took upon himself to affirm that the statement thus made in Her Majesty's Speech was strictly correct; and, above all, he begged to say in reply to something like an insinuation or question on the part of the noble Lord with respect to Russia, that Her Majesty's Government was not only at peace but at amity with that great country. The passage in which reference was made to the question that had arisen between Turkey and the Imperial Government was alleged to be inconsistent. But where was the inconsistency? Did the noble Lord suppose that there was any, because the good offices both of this country and 73 of France had been energetically employed with the determination to assist the Porte in the position in which that Government was placed, and to do that which the noble Lord, he thought, would agree with him in regarding as important for the peace and safety of Europe—namely, to maintain the honour and dignity of the Porte? The effect of that interposition was, that peace bad been preserved, that the dignity of the Porte had been preserved, that the peace of Europe was not likely to be endangered, in consequence of these explanations thus conducted to a successful issue; and no noble Lord would venture to say the negotiations had been conducted in a manner to derogate from the interests or reflect discredit on the policy of the country. The noble Lord then went on to allude to that part of the Speech which referred to the alteration in the navigation laws. Now, without entering into any discussion on the necessity for the change which was made last Session, he would state that the reciprocity, to which the noble Lord attributed so great a value, had been attained in the short space of half a year to a far greater degree than the most sanguine hopes of Her Majesty's Government had led them to anticipate. That was the case with the United States of America, with Sweden, and in a great degree with Holland, though the negotiations with that country had not yet been completed. He would now say a few words with regard to the Amendment which had been proposed for adoption, though, even after the speech of the noble Lord, he was somewhat at a loss to know with what views it had been brought forward. Of course deep regret must be felt at the distress of any large portion of Her Majesty's subjects; but when the noble Lord, not content with saying that this distress was felt by the owners and occupiers of land, went on to allege that it was shared by the agricultural community at large, he would meet the noble Lord with the assertion that throughout England the condition of the labourer was better than it had been. First of all he would refer to the poor. His noble Friend the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests had cited a return, showing that there was a smaller number of ablebodied paupers on the 1st of January, 1850, than there was on the corresponding day in 1849. It had been objected that this return only related to one day; but if any other day had been taken, it would have been just the same. He could assert, from his own 74 personal knowledge, that in his own neighbourhood the number of poor receiving parochial relief had very much diminished, and in parts of Sussex also it had been greatly reduced. Since he had come into the House, also, he had been informed, that in the union of Henley, where, above all others, the condition of the labourer was stated to be so bad, the number of able-bodied paupers was diminished. The number of persons relieved in that union was 28,327 in 1848, against 19,312 in 1849, showing a diminution of several thousands. Nearly 300,000 less had been spent in 1849 than had been expended in 1848 to maintain the poor. But was this the only test of the state of the labouring population? If the labourer were really so badly off, would not his condition show itself in a diminished consumption? Now, it was a fact that almost every article that constituted a labourer's luxury had been consumed to a greater extent in the last than in the preceding year. The noble Lord would hardly deny that tea was a luxury to the labourer. Last year there was an increase in the consumption of tea to the amount of 3,000,000 lbs.; and with the exception of coffee, which was balanced by an increase of cocoa, there was an increase in all other articles of general consumption by the labourer. He would venture to say that not only was consumption increasing, but would increase. The noble Lord opposite had adverted to the increase of commerce, and had treated that circumstance with something like contempt, as having no sort of bearing upon the landed interest. It was the glory of this country that its commerce could not increase without ultimately benefiting the proprietors of land. During the last year the increase in the amount of exports had been not less than 10,000,000l. It had been said that a great portion of the exports had been sent to India; but a great part also was sent to the United States; and could it be contended that the landed proprietor was not benefited by that portion of the export trade? It had also been urged in the course of the debate that this increased amount of exports had been counteracted, as affecting the interests of the landed proprietors, by the immense importation of corn which had taken place. He would not dispute the fact that the importation of corn had been very large; but he saw no reason to expect that this importation would be likely to continue upon so large a scale. From information which he had recently received, he believed that 75 there was every probability that the importation had reached its maximum, and was at present very greatly reduced. In the last three months of the year ending January 5, 1849, the quantity of corn imported was 1,438,000 quarters; while in the three months ending January 5, 1850, the amount had been reduced to 845,000 quarters. But this was not all; he had received an account of the quantity of corn imported during the first four weeks of the month of January of the present year, which amounted to 336,890 quarters, while in the corresponding period of the last year the quantity imported was 1,108,650 quarters. So that this importation of foreign corn, against which the farmers were told it would be in vain for them to struggle, was reduced in the proportion of about one-fourth of its former amount. Some allusion had been made to the state of France, but there could not be a more instructive picture than that which the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had drawn of protected France and unprotected England. The noble Lord said that a great part of this distress in France was owing to the parcelling and extreme subdivision of the land. But that existed long before these extensive importations had taken place. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment referred to former periods, which he described as times of happiness to the labouring classes of the community, under a state of protection of corn laws and of the sliding scale, of which he avowed himself to be still the advocate. One of the years to which the noble Earl referred was 1833. He would quote from a most authentic document the state of England and the landed interest at this period, when protected by the sliding scale. It was the report of a Committee which was composed of the greatest authorities on both sides of the House. After referring to the report of a former Committee of 1821, the Committee expressed a hope that the great body of the occupiers of the soil in this country possessed a power which would enable them to surmount the difficulties under which they laboured; and they then go on to say that they were bound to state that a great many of the difficulties remained unchanged—that the savings of a great number of the occupiers were gone, their credit was diminished, and their resources generally exhausted. This opinion, they stated, was formed not upon the evidence of the ratepayers, but of many of the most respectable gentlemen, as well 76 owners of land as occupiers, surveyors, and land agents. What worse description could the noble Lord give of the state of agriculture and the owners and occupiers of land at the present day? Could he describe them in more simple or more emphatic terms than "that their savings were gone, their credit had failed, and that their resources were exhausted! "And this, too, was under a scheme which he thought so good, that he refused to take an 8s. permanent duty in lieu thereof, believing that the country could only be saved by the and of that defensive system, with this panoply—this fortification of a sliding scale, which exhausted the resources, took away the savings, and diminished the capital of the country. The condition of the agricultural labourer had, therefore, been at various times equally as bad as it is at present; and therefore it was that he hoped noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen who were in the habit of addressing public meetings upon this subject would cease to hold delusive language to the farmers, and forbear to tell them that their resource was only in those protective laws. They deceived the farmers when they held out such delusive hopes to them, instead of telling them fairly that they were not the only body in England who had to compete with the foreigner, and bidding them look to the woollen and silk manufacturers, who were successfully competing with the foreigner, and bidding them "go and do likewise." Instead of adopting this course with the farmer, they deceived him by telling him to go to Parliament, and that Parliament would relieve him. And what, after all, was the relief proposed to be obtained from Parliament? Was it a recourse to a system of fixed duty? If a farmer addressed at one of these public meetings was told that by going to Parliament he could obtain relief and security—if he had the intelligence of a British farmer, and would come and look over the Amendment of the noble Earl, he would ask, what is the relief you promised us? You have nothing here but mere general statements. What do you propose to do? He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) understood that the noble Duke was prepared, if the Amendment was carried, to follow it up by some other resolutions in favour of a return to the old system of protection—
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
I am prepared, if this Amendment is carried, to get rid of the present Government; and I have every hope that the Members of a 77 new House of Commons will give their protection to all the domestic interests of this country.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
thanked his noble Friend for stating so explicitly his intentions. It was now clear, that what was intended was to get rid of the present Government, and then to call together a new House of Commons to re-enact the old corn laws. He would be as frank with the noble Duke as he had been with him. There was a time when he considered that a fixed duty was the best mode of meeting the necessity which existed for a great and radical change in the system of the corn laws. That proposition was made, and by the noble Lords opposite it was resisted. It was resisted by them successfully, and the rejection of that proposition placed the country in a situation which compelled it to determine between the sliding scale and no corn duty at all. Whether the farmer was now, upon reflection, grateful to the noble Lords opposite for having saved him from the fixed duty, he did not know; but, at all events, the farmer was so saved by their exertions, and Parliament having once decided between the tee-total repeal of the corn laws and the sliding scale, and that having been decided by large majorities, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) for one—though the noble Lord might be ready for the conflict—was not prepared to engage in that conflict of interests which would ensue if that proposition were now to be carried. He would not be responsible for it. Noble Lords had a right to take the sense of the House upon the subject, and he was glad that they were prepared to take it with the explanation so distinctly stated by the noble Duke. He did not entertain that low opinion of the English farmer which some of those who professed to call themselves his friends appeared to entertain, that he alone who was engaged in the manufacture of the land, was unable to compete with the manufacturers of other countries. He was not speaking lightly when he said that, although the farmers might he rather slower than the manufacturers in embracing improved methods, and in making new exertions, still they did not want the energy which was indispensable to success. Their Lordships would recollect, that from one end of the country to the other, all protection had been substantially done away with, Take the case of silk, 78 for instance. Since the amount of protection was diminished, the exportation had been steadily increasing. During the last year, the quantity of silk exported had increased from 605,963 pounds to 1,231,835 pounds, while the increase in the declared value had been from 466,000l. to 805,000l., or nearly double in amount. And a great quantity of this silk was exported to the countries from whence the raw material was imported into this country. Was not this a proof of the injuriousness of the protective duties? Again, in the article of copper, the same results had been obtained from a reduction of the duty. The poor-rates of the county of Cornwall had not been so low for some years as they were at present, owing to the great increase of employment given to the people in connexion with the manufacture of copper. With respect to the public meetings to which he had referred, he had seen and heard enough of them to know that those who addressed them did so not with a view of discussing great questions of principle, but of inflaming the minds and exciting the passions of one part of the country against the other. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was not prepared to go back on their past policy; he was not prepared to hold out what he believed to be a delusion. He objected to the Amendment of the noble Lord, which was calculated, if carried, to give rise to general uncertainty and confusion. The way to test the question was to appeal to the energies that distinguish the British character, and which were not confined to one class alone, but extended to every class—energies which at the present moment were exhibiting themselves notwithstanding the change in the navigation laws, for in spite of the predictions in that House, and the declarations of persons interested, or supposed to be interested, in that subject, there was scarcely a port in England at that moment in which shipbuilding was carried on, in which there were not more ships building than at any former time; and at that port which was the emporium of the trade, the port of Sunderland, there was an enormous quantity of shipping laid down. Not only were vessels laid down there of a general description, but also of that particular description, from their size, build, and tonnage, that were destined for foreign voyages, though the foreign voyage was the general question on which noble Lords dwelt during the discussion of the measure, 79 and declared that that was a description of competition in which they would utterly fail. With such an example of what energy could do before him, he could not accede to the proposition of the noble Earl; and he trusted that spirit and energy would redound, not only to the honour, but likewise to the permanent prosperity of the country.
§ The DUKE of BEAUFORT
said, that a doubt having been expressed as to their being distress amongst the agricultural labourers, he could only state, in spite of the figures referred to by the noble Marquess, that such distress did exist. When he saw repeatedly at the sessions and other meetings bodies of labourers coming and begging for work and wages, and stating that they could not get one or the other, he could not but believe there was considerable distress. With regard to the statement made as to the decrease in pauperism, there was no doubt of what his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) stated, as to the practice resorted to of giving labourers 3s. or 4s. for working two or three days, to keep them out of the workhouse.
§ EARL GREY
wished to say a single word in reference to a statement made by a noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley). The noble Lord had said that he (Earl Grey) made use of a certain observation on the debate of the corn laws; but the noble Lord had quoted inaccurately what he did say. The noble Lord represented him to say that after the repeal of the corn laws he would increase his rent; but he never did say any such thing: what he did say was, that the repeal of the corn laws would increase the value of his property. Noble Lords generally could not attempt to deny the improved state of the country, and its advance, in spite of the difficulties of the last three years, in the career of prosperity; and no one could entertain any doubt whatever that at no distant time the land, like other interests, would share in those benefits. As the noble Lord had referred to his (Earl Grey's) private affairs, he would only say that nothing had occurred within his own personal experience in the slightest degree inconsistent with the public experience, or the expectations that were entertained.
§ On Question, whether the said words should be there inserted?
§ House divided:—Contents, Present, 69; Proxies, 34: Total, 103. Not-Contents, Present, 86; Proxies, 66: Total, 152:—Majority 49,82
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Leven and Melville||Skelmersdale.|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Archbishop of Canterbury||Camden|
|Hardinge||Say and Sele|
|Archbishop of York.||Suffolk|
|Haddington||Howard de Walden|
|Shrewsbury||Stanley of Alderley|
|Stuart de Decies||Wenlock|
§ Then the original Motion was agreed to; and a Committee appointed to prepare the Address. Then the Committee withdrew; after some time, report was made of an Address drawn by them, which being read, was agreed to, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with white staves.
§ House adjourned to Monday next.