presented a petition signed by upwards of 16,000 landowners, occupiers of land, manufacturers, traders, and artisans of the County Palatine of Lancaster, complaining of the injurious effects of free trade, and praying for a restoration of protection. The noble Lord stated that the petition would has been signed by a much larger number of persons, had it not been for a system of intimidation which had been carried on to a most disgraceful extent, for the purpose of preventing persons signing the petition, under the threat of withdrawal of custom. He had seen a number of letters written by persons who had signed the petition, requesting that their names might be erased 2 upon that account. He also held in his hand a printed declaration of a farmer, who had lost a great number of his customers for milk, in consequence of its being supposed that he had signed the petition, in which he most solemnly delared that he had not done so. Their Lordships would judge from this, of the extent of the intimidation which had been brought to bear upon these subjects, and which, in his opinion, afforded a sure indication of a consciousness of a losing cause on the part of; those who resorted to such conduct. He had also a petition to present to the same effect, from the owners and occupiers of; land in the hundred of Rochford, in Essex.
cordially joined with his noble Friend in expressing his clear and unhesitating disapproval of any attempt to interfere with the most perfect freedom of the right of petitioning; he hoped that there was some exaggeration as to the extent of the interference complained of by his noble Friend.
§ EARL GREY
concurred in the opinion just expressed, as to the impropriety of; any such proceeding as that of interfering 3 with the right of petitioning. He could not, however, help remarking that, when the noble Lord stated that he saw in such conduct an evidence of a losing cause, it? was quite possible that it might also he evidence of something else. When they found that the farmer referred to by the noble Lord, whose sale of milk was obviously most to the working classes, they being the greatest consumers of that article, had sustained a falling-off in his custom, it might be that the working classes in his neighbourhood, in common with those of the whole country, felt fully convinced of the inestimable advantages which they had derived from free trade, and had resented by the withdrawal of their custom any attempt to reimpose restrictions upon their industry and comforts.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
complained that this system of intimidation had been at work for a long period, but that they had not been able to obtain complete proofs of it until recently. He joined in the opinion expressed by his noble Friend, that no persons would resort to such conduct who did not feel that their cause was getting weaker and weaker every day.
§ Read and ordered to lie on the Table.