§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND
, in rising to call the attention of the House to the depressed condition of agriculture and trade, said, ho would ask for that indulgence of their Lordships which was generally granted to him when he alluded to some statistics; but he would promise that they should be as brief and condensed as the great magnitude of the question would permit—the depressed condition of agriculture and trade. As regarded agriculture, he feared it would not be necessary for him to detain their Lordships at any length to show how depressed it was 4 at the present moment. All parties of all kinds knew that it was never so depressed before; and yet the Government appeared to treat the matter with contemptuous indifference, for he had not heard a word of sympathy from them, and the subject was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. What had been proposed for the relief of agriculture? The only measure which since then the Government had proposed for the alleviation of agricultural distress was the Tenants' Compensation Bill. But while he admitted that measure to be a sound and, perhaps, a useful one, and that it had been brought forward by the Government with an honest intention to do good to the agricultural interest, yet he must ask the Government whether they seriously believed that it was a measure which could, by any possibility, relieve the existing agricultural distress? It would merely compensate a tenant who was leaving his farm for unexhausted improvements, and make the tenant who took the farm pay for them; that was merely transferring the burdens from one to the other; it was no relief to the agricultural interest. He inquired of a gentleman in Leicestershire, for whose opinion he had great respect, what he thought of the Bill; and the answer was that it would do little harm, and less good. He (the Duke of Rutland) believed that was a faithful representation of the effect the Bill would have in most of the counties of England; but he objected to some parts of it; for he believed it would inflict hardship and injury upon small capitalists. At present, many landlords were willing and anxious to allow time to tenants who were in difficulties; but when the Bill was passed they would be prevented from doing so, and would give a year's notice. He wished the Government to consider what this distress in the agricultural districts amounted to, and what it really meant. It was said that in the last 10 years 1,000,000 acres of land had gone out of cultivation; and, at four quarters an acre, that meant a loss of 1,000,000 quarters, which, at £2 a quarter, meant a loss of £8,000,000 a-year. Could we lose that, and not suffer from it? Must not an increase of poverty and pauperism be the consequence? He was sorry to say that ho did not think trade was in any better condition than agriculture. The Trade 5 Returns for the first five months of this year and of last showed that the exports had fallen from £98,160,280 to £96,931,963, and the imports had risen from £149,625,193 to £155,704,412, showing an increase in imports of £6,079,219, and a decrease in exports of £1,228,317. There was an article in The Morning Post of that day on this subject, and he there found it stated—Last month we remarked that the falling-off in the values of our exports, then £2,680,000, was not sufficient to be deemed of serious importance; but now that it is almost doubled by the £5,320,000 of last month, the same consolation cannot be accepted. Still, it does not yet amount to much more than 1¼ per cent on the whole transactions, though it is much to be feared that this will progress as the year goes on.This great diminution in the exports and the vast increase in the imports was a most serious matter. At present he believed there was great anxiety in the City as to the quantity of gold in the Bank of England. The value of the woollen goods we exported in 1872 was £32,383,273; the average in the last 10 years had been £19,252,699; so that there had been an annual diminution of £13,130,574. We imported silk goods of the value of £12,000,000, and this involved the displacement of about 36,000 labourers. The value of the cotton goods we exported in 1872 was £63,667,729; the average of the last 10 years had been £58,900,000; and that involved an annual diminution of £4,566,579. In 1872 we imported raw cotton of the value of £53,380,670; the average for the last 10 years had been £42,942,259; and the annual diminution was £10,438,140. He had received a letter from a manufacturer in Sheffield, who said—As a rule, the majority is usually correct in its decision, and what do we find? That one by one the nations of the world are going over to protection—that is to say, to employ their own labour in preference to that of the foreigner. England alone stands out for Free Trade. In the year 1880 I returned from a tour in Australia, and upon landing at San Francisco was struck with the appearance of the people. The working classes were well clothed and well fed, and upon inquiry I found that the artizan received an average of 2½ to 3 dollars per day—10s. to 12s.—and in some cases much more. From advertisements in the trade journals, as I passed through the United States, I found labour in request. It may be said—'Yes; but living is much more expensive.' Granted; but even then the large wage received by the artizan leaves a large balance in favour of the 6 American workman. Arrived at Liverpool, I found a different state of affairs—workmen seeking employ, wages at a minimum, say about 4s. to 4s. 6d. per day. The want of Reciprocity necessitates the manufacturers here reducing the wages of the workman to a shockingly low scale to enable them to climb the barrier of Protection. And where it is successively done the attention of the foreigner is at once drawn to it, and the barrier is raised still higher, as in the case recently of France and the United States. The result is trade continues dull, there is no life in it, and in consequence of our suicidal policy we shall find ourselves supporting a large portion of our able-bodied workmen out of the poor rate. America has built up a large manufacturing community by the protection she has accorded to her enter prizing manufacturers, and already she has become the largest manufacturer of steel rails in the world. The scale of wages in this country for artizans is lower than it was 20 years ago, while the work put into the article is probably increased 20 per cent. I am speaking now specially of my native town. Local taxes, however, increase. The best thing this country could do, in my humble opinion, would be to promote the federation of our Colonies, and become in fact, what we are in theory, a mighty Empire.That letter was written by a gentleman who employed a great number of artizans in the town of Sheffield. Then, the leading newspaper, The Times, which certainly was not Protectionist, said—Without in the least desiring to take pessimist views of our national condition, we venture to say that it is not one which dispenses us from strict caution and economy. In some respects it may he described as precarious. We depend upon foreigners to a greater degree than it is altogether pleasant to contemplate. We require that they should take an enormous amount of our manufactures, and should supply us with an immense quantity of food in exchange. They are straining every nerve to do without our manufactures, and they have already succeeded to such an extent that, though the volume of our trade remains, the profit has been reduced. No thinking man can avoid asking himself what will be the effect upon a country situated as we are of the extraordinary rapidity with which the population of the world is increasing.In fact, this question was constantly discussed in the papers, and the writers pointed out that the results of our exports and imports were not pleasant to contemplate. He thought their Lordships would agree with him that the trade of this country was not at the present time prosperous. He knew that subjects of this kind were dull, and that the figures were uninteresting; but he w as sure they would all agree with him that no question was so important to this country as the question of industrial prosperity. He felt that this country 7 was year by year losing her high position in commerce; and, indeed, without any hope of returning prosperity—both agriculture and trade, and everything connected with them, were going to rack and ruin. He did not think that any remedy which he might propose would be acceptable to the Imperial Parliament; and, indeed, he did not know that, except Protection, there was any remedy that anyone could propose. Mr. Ecroyd, in a remarkable speech in "another place," had stated his views of what he thought might tend to stop decadence. In that speech the hon. Member proposed that the duties on Indian tea, and on sugar, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and some other articles that were grown in India and in our Colonies, should be received duty free, as well as wheat and flour, and that a duty of 10 per cent should be raised on tea and similar commodities which were brought from foreign countries, as well as a duty of 4s. per cwt. on grain and flour from them. They had formerly been accused of having nothing to propose; but Mr. Ecroyd had met that charge by making his proposal. He (the Duke of Rutland) had just said that there was no remedy except Protection to propose; but he thought he ought in fairness to mention that the noble Earl opposite the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) proposed emigration as a remedy, and that remedy had been very largely advocated in different quarters. At a meeting held the other day at Mile End, a system of State-aided emigration to our Colonies was earnestly advocated. It was suggested that about 200,000 of our working and artizan fellow-countrymen should thus be got rid of. Why should those people, who were the very life and backbone of the country, be thus expatriated, because England persistently refused to adopt any other policy than that of Free Trade? Were they not our fellow-countrymen? Had they not the same love of their Queen, their country, and of their homes, as the Members of their Lordships' House? They loved their cottages, and gardens, and flowers, and they could not be turned adrift as coaches and horses were put away? Besides, the country wanted those men—they were wanted for the Army and for the Navy, and we did not want to get rid of the most active and vigorous 8 section of the population. Why were they to be sent out of the countries in which their labour was protected, because in Free Trade England they could not find employment? Would it not be more statesmanlike and honest to say" We will protect your labour hero as well as it is protected in Canada or the United States. Remain where you are. We want you here." There were many ways in which the depression in trade and agriculture caused by our present Free Trade system made itself felt. No country in the world cared for its poor as did this country. Nowhere were there so many hospitals and almshouses. But our hospitals were suffering acutely in the present distress. Guy's Hospital, for example, which derived nearly all its income from land, had soon that income reduced from £50,000 to £32,000; and had been compelled, and would be still further compelled, to reduce the scale of its beneficent operations. How was the present state of things to be remedied? It could only be remedied by a recurrence to the policy of Protection, which we had so unwisely abandoned, either with or against the will of the Government, and by making the question of Free Trade or Protection the test question at the next General Election. The working men had the question in their own hands. If the industrial portion of the country were desirous to have their industry protected, they must do so at the next Election. They must see whether candidates were Protectionists or Free Traders, and return a majority in favour of Protection to the House of Commons. If that were done, from that day the industry of England would flourish. Agriculture would become prosperous, and trade revive; the furnaces of the great manufactories would again blaze forth, giving employment to thousands; and the country would soon be brought back to its former happy state.
§ THE MARQUESS OF BRISTOL
said, that, in his opinion, the establishment of an international arbitration tribunal, in order to settle any disputes that might arise, would do more than anything else to encourage and develop the trade of Europe, by setting free that large portion of the industrial power which was at present absorbed in military operations, in the shape of standing Armies; another principle which, he believed, 9 should be adopted to that end was that of taxing moderately every imported article of general consumption.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he hoped that the noble Duke who bad brought this subject under the notice of the House (the Duke of Rutland) would not think him wanting in respect towards him if he did not attempt to follow him through all the topics into which he had entered. It was, unfortunately, an indisputable fact that agricultural distress did exist in this country, and had existed for several years; and that fact had been admitted by the late Government, who had appointed the Agricultural Commission, presided over by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) to inquire into the causes of that distress. The present Government were also aware of the continuance of that distress, though, during last year, the country had not been subjected to such great difficulty respecting agriculture as during many previous years; and, therefore, it had not been thought necessary to make any allusion to it in the Speech Her Majesty was advised to deliver. There was a general opinion on one point—namely, that, whatever causes might exist, the chief one was an unusual succession of bad seasons. That, of course, was beyond the control of Parliaments and Governments to remedy, and they could only hope that they might have years of greater sunshine, and more favourable agricultural conditions. No doubt, there were measures of interest to the agricultural community, which were recommended by many people as a remedy; and the noble Duke had referred to the Bill which had been introduced into the other House of Parliament, which he said would, in his opinion, do very little towards relieving agricultural depression. When that Bill reached this House, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to state their views with regard to it; but, at the present moment, he (the Earl of Kimberley) was sure he should be excused if he declined to discuss the provisions of a measure which was not before their Lordships. The noble Duke had discussed this question from the Protection or Reciprocity point of view; but the noble Duke must pardon him for saying that the question was not one of practical politics at the present time. Therefore, he did not think it worth 10 while to occupy their Lordships' time by reiterating the arguments in favour of Free Trade, for there was a general agreement to adhere to the system which had been deliberately adopted. Our trade was not so flourishing as it had been at some other times; but to say that it was decaying would be a proposition it would be very difficult to maintain. The amount of shipping which passed through the Suez Canal showed that the trade, at all events, was not declining, for the greater part of it was British. The noble Duke brought forward the theory that the less they received for what they sold the richer they wore. He (the Earl of Kimberley) could not follow that, because, by that reasoning, if they sold something for nothing at all, they would be attaining to a height of wealth almost impossible. He did not, however, deny that we were hard pressed by the competition of foreign countries; but he thought that, with the skill and industry and resources of the country, our people might be relied upon to hold their own. On the whole, ho thought that there was no reason for us to despair of our commercial position among nations.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, that, personally, he had never been in favour of emigration on a large scale, though, no doubt, we must look to it as an outlet for our surplus population in certain congested districts, such as existed in Ireland, where it had been of great assistance; and it was to the advantage of our working population that they should be allowed to carry their labour to any part of the world they might choose, and where extraordinarily high rates of pay might prevail for the time. He had been informed that in certain districts in England men who had emigrated were returning home, finding that wages abroad were falling, and that the diamond fields of South Africa were, for the present, played out. The Government were exceedingly anxious that any measures should be passed which would, in their opinion, facilitate the recovery of agriculture from the distress it was now undoubtedly enduring.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I should not like this discussion to close without thanking the noble 11 Duke (the Duke of Rutland) for the very interesting speech he has made. It was thoroughly characteristic of him, as a gallant defence of opinions he has long been known to hold upon the subject; and, whether we agree with him or not, we shall always listen with interest and with pleasure to opinions independently formed, and vigorously sustained. With regard to the question of agricultural distress, I think there are grounds on which we may complain of Her Majesty's Government. We have stated that before, and we may have reason to state it again. I wish they could be induced to pay a little more attention to the burdens which press on agriculture, and to take an interest in the gradual transformation of a large quantity of land from arable into pastoral farms, and mark the impediments thrown in the way of the healthy progress of that process, by the introduction of diseases from the Continent, which are fatal to the industry of the farmer. While making these remarks, it is almost superfluous to add that it was thoroughly ascertained by the Commission over which the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) presided that it was from causes outside any legislative control that, in the main, the sufferings of agriculturists were caused. That is admitted on all sides, and we can only hope for better things in the future. But I still regret that the Government, under these circumstances, have not found, for the comfort and sustenance of agriculturists, any food more encouraging or nourishing than that very insignificant Tenants' Compensation Bill which is now making its way through the other House. I thoroughly concur in the opinion of the noble Duke that, so far as I can judge, it is a measure which will not do much harm, and probably do less good. My noble Friend did not confine himself to agriculture; but he also dealt largely with the question of the decline of trade. I must say there is one point on which he has reason to complain of the tone of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley), and of the tone generally adopted on that subject. Whatever our opinions as to Protection and Free Trade may be, we must never lose sight of the fact, the startling fact, that we are in a small minority in the world on the subject; and that the advocates of Free Trade, however deeply 12 convinced they may be of the truth of their position, have no right to assume the airs of orthodoxy, and treat with contemptuous indifference all arguments that might be advanced on the other side. There is a vast majority in the world in favour of Protection. I belong, I regret to say, to the comparatively insignificant minority which believes in Free Trade; but, holding and avowing that position, I think the proper frame in which to approach this subject is to consider all the arguments adduced upon it, and to examine whether there is not in our system, however firmly we believe in our principles and mode of applying them, any weak point that vitiates the excellence of the principles we desire to uphold. There is one matter which interests very considerable classes in this country. It is a question called by some Reciprocity, and by others Retaliation; and it has, of late years, excited very great interest among those whom the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Peterborough) told us the other night would decide the fate of the institutions of this country—namely, what he called "the masses." They see the undoubted fact that a wall of tariffs exists around our trade; and they see that these tariffs do not diminish in severity, but that, as far as there is any movement, it is in the opposite direction, tending to grow more and more severe. They see we are isolated in this matter among the nations of the world, and that the promises and the sincere conviction under which the system of Free Trade was originally passed have not been fulfilled, and that other nations have not followed our example. They also see that this state of things forces our diplomatists into a position of singular weakness when they wish to argue for the relaxation of these terrible tariffs. They are like unarmed men going forth to meet men fully armed. They have no weapons by which they can instil fear of the consequences of refusing the alteration of the tariffs for which they plead; and, therefore, there has grown up—I do not say I agree with it—a feeling which I cannot ignore, and which, in considerable quantity, undoubtedly exists, a feeling in favour of that policy that is sometimes described as Reciprocity, but is more accurately described, I think, as a policy of Retaliation. I do not agree with it, because it do not see that it is immediately 13 practicable. Whether, as a principle, Retaliation should be exercised or not, is a very difficult question of economics to decide. The arguments against it are very much the same as those against war of all sorts. You injure yourself in the effort to protect yourself, by injuring others. That is, no doubt, true; but arguments of that kind have not prevented mankind from seeing that in war often lies their only protection; and it may be that a retaliatory fiscal system, under certain circumstances, would be wise and profitable to a nation. Your Lordships will hardly forget the remarkable speech delivered by the late Lord Beaconsfield on this subject, four or five years ago. He then pointed out what seemed to me unanswerable—that the policy of Retaliation, whether good or bad, was not, at all events at that moment, open to the country to pursue. We have wound around ourselves a skein of obligations, in the nature of the "most favoured nation clauses," which would absolutely preclude us from adopting, on any extensive scale, such a policy of Retaliation, or of reserving to our diplomatists the liberty to use it or threaten it; and, therefore, so far as the immediate policy of the Government is concerned, it must be dismissed from the category of practical remedies for our distress. In saying that, I wish to carefully guard myself from saying that I think there is no foundation for the contention that a policy of Retaliation is consistent with the true principles of Free Trade. If it were possible, it might be necessary—it might be advantageous. I have no doubt that the Free Trade originally looked forward to by those who introduced that system was a Free Trade in which all nations should take their part. An enormous amount of the benefit, however, which we thought would come from the measure has failed to arrive in consequence of other nations refusing to follow our example; and, unless we take heed in time, and take the requisite precautions, we run the danger that our Colonies may follow in the same path with foreign nations, and that we shall be shut out from the ports, not only of Colonies, but of Dependencies, as we have been from the ports of foreign nations. I am, therefore, glad the noble Duke has brought the subject before us, for I do not think a question which so deeply 14 concerns large masses of those employed in our agriculture or commerce ought to be pushed away from us, as if it were too unholy to discuss. We are in the midst of great difficulties, and we have very serious dangers and troubles to surmount. Poverty is growing, and the means of meeting and conquering it are not growing at the same time; and, therefore, I thank the noble Duke for having called attention to the subject. I think the Government will misconceive their duty if they cast it away in an indifferent or contemptuous manner.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I am satisfied with the discussion, and with the answer the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) has given with regard to Reciprocity. I should like to know, however, on what he founds the statement that pauperism is increasing in this country?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I said "poverty," and I take the statement of the noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland) for it, that it is so.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
No; it is not. I imagine that where there is distress there must be poverty, and in the last four or five years there has been great distress and poverty in very many classes. I could very easily produce, at some future day, evidence of the statements I have made; but I have been assured by persons well acquainted with the labouring classes, that they suffer seriously from want of employment, both in this city and in other large centres of industry. I know, with reference to the great agricultural interest, that many farmers are in such a condition that those who have been rich are now poor. There has been retrenchment on every side, and you cannot have retrenchment without throwing large numbers out of employment. I thought these facts were obvious to everyone, and I am surprised that the noble Earl should have treated them in this manner, and made them matter of debate. It would be easy to produce evidence of these things.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I dare say that I am mistaken, and that the noble Marquess is right; but until he brings me the evidence alluded to I shall be rather doubtful. My impression is, that pau- 15 perism has decreased, that poor rates in agricultural districts have decreased, and that there is a very great increase in the deposits in the savings banks.