THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
, in rising to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons to inquire into the condition of the trade and commerce of the country,said, that he should have to ask the House to give him a little time and attention while he attempted to deal as shortly as he could with a very difficult subject, because, in asking for a Parliamentary inquiry into the condition of trade, it was necessary for him to show that the circumstances of the case were very grave; that the country was suffering from something more serious than one of those ordinary and transitory fluctuations to which trading communities were liable; and that the time of Parliament was not to be taken up in an unnecessary inquiry. He did not know how far the existence of serious depression would be admitted, for until quite recently it was denied by some of the highest authorities. The period of prosperity came to a close in 1873. In 1874 a period of depression set in which, notwithstanding occasional slight reactions, had lasted to the present date. Yet for a long time statements relative to the depression of trade were met with flat denial. Thus, as late as August 1, 1881, The Times said that—The depressed talk which is current is most unfounded, and the real prosperity of our national industries and the real well-being of our people at the present time ought to be generally recognized.1045 In the following month the same journal stated that there was hardly a trade or a manufacturing district "which was not doing well." Mr. Giffen, of the Board of Trade, constantly denied the existence of depression. Speaking at the Mansion House in October, 1882, the President of the Board of Trade said that "this country was on the eve of a period of great prosperity," and as late as last January he said at Newcastle that "trade was now fairly good." It was to be hoped that the knowledge of the President of the Board of Trade as to the causes of depression was more accurate than his estimate as to its extent. Yet, while these attempts were being made to lull the nation into false security, evidence was not wanting to justify the fears of those who were most alarmed at the signs of the times—evidence which had accumulated until it was now impossible any longer to deny that the depression was of a most serious nature. Let their Lordships look at the enormous and increasing excess of imports over exports. He was aware that by a certain school of economists the fact that imports exceeded exports in value was looked upon as a sign of prosperity. It was so to the same extent as the prosperity of an individual who succeeded to an estate known to produce £10,000 a-year, was proved by the fact that he spent £15,000 a-year. The excess might come out of profits derived from some unknown source, or it might come out of capital, or partly from capital and partly from profits. If it came out of capital, it was entirely bad. If it came out of profits on capital invested abroad, which had been or might be invested at home, it was partially bad—bad as far as the working classes were concerned. It was good only if the profits were derived from investments abroad which could not possibly, under any circumstances, be profitably made at home. The excess of value of imports over exports was, to a large extent, accounted for by the profits of the carrying trade, which was formerly in a flourishing condition. But, unfortunately, the carrying trade, and all the numerous industries connected with it, had now followed the sad example of other trades, and showed itself smitten with the same disease. Let them consider the condition of our other great trades. The cotton industry was 1046 stagnant. The output was still large, but the rate of increase had been most seriously checked. Stagnation had succeeded healthy growth, and stagnation was bound to intervene between growth and actual decay. Messrs. Ellison & Co., unimpeachable authoritios, stated that the consumption of raw cotton had increased since the year 1872–3 only 2.72 per cent. In other words, the great cotton trade had almost ceased to grow. And that was not all, for we knew from many sources that the profit of the trade, such as it was, had fallen almost to the vanishing point. The iron trade was no better off. In 1882 there were 566 furnaces in blast in England. In 1883 the number was reduced to 543, so that 23 furnaces were extinguished in one year. We had not far to look for the cause. Sir John Brown, the head of a very eminent firm in Sheffield, put the case clearly. He said—Our former customers have become our competitors, and not only sell against us, but undersell us, not merely in neutral markets, but under our very noses at home.The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), speaking at a meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute, in October, 1881, stated that in four years—from 1874 to 1879—there had been a reduction in the quantity of steel and iron we exported of 25 to 30 per cent, and in the value of 50 per cent. He said—That reduction in value represents to the iron trade of this country a net value of something like £40,000,000 a-year, so that during those four years no less a sum than £160,000,000 was lost to the iron trade.Since that time, the trade had gone from bad to worse. The woollen trade had also suffered. At present that industry was enjoying a revival, but that revival was due to causes which could not last. The coal trade, which, owing to very natural causes, held out stoutly, was weakening, and so were the great industries connected with shipbuilding. The same tale of depression might be told of every industry in the land. The position was well and accurately defined by The Economist in its review of the trade of 1883. The Economist confessed that the year was "one of disappointment." It said—With a few exceptions, which may almost be counted on the fingers of one hand, there runs through the long series of trade reports 1047 the same unvarying complaint of lessened returns to those by whom the trade of the country is conducted.Well, the state of trade had not changed for the better during the present year. Distress had penetrated below the class of capitalists, and was making itself felt with terrible severity among the great mass of people engaged in trade. At Sunderland there were, it was said, 11,000 men out of work; at Glasgow, over 4,000; on the Tyne and Wear, about 25,000; at Jarrow, hundreds of families were on the point of starvation; and in Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire trade was bad, and it was feared that in a very short time 10,000 men would be out of work in that district. About 60,000 men were employed, on an average, in the London Docks; of that number one-third were out of work, and one-third working four days a-week only. The wages of those at work had been generally reduced. The instances which he had given showed that some 200,000 or 250,000 human beings depending upon our main industries for employment were deprived of the means of subsistence. That was serious enough; but it must not be forgotten that even if he could furnish the total number of men out of work, statistics of the unemployed did not reveal the true state of trade. Masters preferred putting all their hands on short time to discharging any portion of them. That was the case in Staffordshire, Lancashire, and other great industrial centres. So much for what he might term the great trades, the industries upon which, putting aside agriculture, we depended mainly, not only for national well-being, but for national existence. In the case of these great industries the roots were deeply struck into the soil, the capital invested was enormous, the wealth at the back of them gigantic. Their power of resistance was great, and yet they had yielded slowly to the enervating lassitude of disease. It was only natural to expect that industries of comparatively minor importance should more rapidly succumb. The sugar trade was in great straits, and many other industries—such, for example, as were connected with the sale of silk, gloves, musical instruments, &c.—were either dead or in a dying condition. He had touched upon the conditions of these various trades, not because he meant to say that the decline 1048 or even extinction of any one of them must of necessity prove a national calamity, but because he wished to impress upon the House that the whole commercial, trading, mining, manufacturing community was suffering. The decline of any particular trade might mean merely the transference of capital and labour from an unprofitable to a profitable undertaking, an operation which, although it might cause temporary distress, might eventually be beneficial to the nation. But if all industries were languishing, and if in each case the decline was owing to the fact that in that particular trade capital could no longer be profitably employed, the inference was very different. Such a state of things proved that the capital invested was becoming unprofitable, which meant national ruin. This question of the value of a trade, the question whether it was profitable or unprofitable, was one of the most profound and vital importance. It was impossible to form a sound opinion concerning it by the study of statistics and the perusal of Board of Trade Returns. We might estimate the output in a large industry; we might ascertain correctly the volume of the trade, but we had no means of proving whether the capital in money and labour employed in it was profitably employed. The prosperity of a trade depended not upon the bulk of the articles produced in it, but upon the exchangeable value of those articles. Statistics could help us little in this matter, and it was to a great extent on that account that he demanded an inquiry. But there were other proofs of depression besides those which he had mentioned which ought not to be passed over. The Revenue derived from Excise Duties was falling off, and the consumption of an article of such universal consumption as tea was diminishing. There was a great desire on the part of capitalists to reduce their personal risk by turning their private businesses into limited Companies, and there was a tendency on their part to withdraw capital from industries in the United Kingdom and invest it in the same industries on the Continent. He might be told that, on the other hand, the Income Tax kept up, that the deposits in savings banks were increasing, and that pauperism was declining. These, however, were 1049 delusive tests of a nation's prosperity. If the savings banks deposits increased, it only showed that such deposits were not made by what were commonly called the working class. As a matter of fact, artizans and working men usually invested their savings either in Trades Unions or Friendly Societies. The Income Tax was a poor criterion. It did not affect the class he had alluded to, and it was no indication of the state of trade. It was calculated on past profits, and was often paid on imaginary profits. To reduce the amount it was necessary for a business man to submit his affairs to the closest scrutiny, and practically to the public eye. In course of time it would serve to show the state of trade to a certain extent, but not for some years, and it would not be affected in the least by a transfer of capital from the United Kingdom to foreign countries. The Income Tax revenue might remain but little changed, while the working classes here were starving. As to pauperism, it took a good deal to pauperize this country, thanks to the high qualities of the people and the accumulation of wealth. We were often accused of being an improvident and thriftless people. He dared say we were not nearly as thrifty and prudent as we ought to be. But the people did accumulate something, either privately or in the fund of Trades Unions and Provident and Friendly Societies. That reserve had been drawn upon. It had carried them over a long time, but it must become exhausted soon. In a letter to The Times of the 30th of last month, a Trades Unionist paid a tribute to the good work the Trades Unions had done. He mentioned one—the Boilermakers' and Iron Shipbuilders' Association at Newcastle—which paid out the huge sum of £37,000 in relief to members out of work in the last financial quarter only. It was impossible to collect much information on this point, because the accounts of Trades Unions were not published. But we might safely assume that very large sums were being paid to men out of work. He had had put into his hands letters from the secretaries of Trade Societies at Aberdeen, Glasgow, Birmingham, Darlington, Hull, Leeds, Edinburgh, Bristol, Cleveland, Liverpool, all testifying to deep distress and destitution, and expressing grave fears for the winter. Let them not forget that the tost for relief 1050 was now very severe, and that the idea of parish relief was intolerable to the English artizan and working man. Nothing but the direst distress would drive them to it. Their savings in Trades Unions, their private savings, their furniture, their comforts, their necessaries, everything must go first. They would suffer and suffer greatly in silence. If they complained their Lordships might be sure the complaint was wrung from them by the bitterest distress. They would undergo anything sooner than admit they could not support themselves, sooner than forfeit their independence and submit to the degradation of relief. The people were very patient, very brave, had most honourable instincts; and now the possession of the very qualities we honoured and respected most in men were turned against them, and they were told that because they were not paupers they did not suffer. Were we to wait until the whole accumulated property of the working classes was exhausted before making even an inquiry into the circumstances that were making their labour unprofitable? Were we to wait until vast multitudes were pauperized to think what could be done to avert such a fate? Delay was a cruel and a dangerous thing. He thought he had said enough to show that serious depression existed among us. The silk trade and some of our minor industries were dead or dying, and who could calculate the suffering that those words implied? The unavailing efforts, the despair of honest men, the breaking up of homes, and all the long train of misery that lead from independence to absolute want. In the cotton trade we saw looms idle and factories closed. In the iron trade furnaces were blown out, capital was withdrawn, and labour could not find employment. In our great shipbuilding districts silence reigned in yards which not long ago re-echoed the busy sounds of industry. Our dock-gates were besieged with men eager for work which they could not get. Everywhere the same most pitable spectacle—able-bodied, honest, skilful men clamouring vainly for work to support themselves and their wives and children. Was there any reason to expect an improvement? He feared not. The depression had lasted long, and had gradually increased. It was totally different in extent 1051 and nature from ordinary bad times, consequent upon some financial crisis or temporary excess of production over demand. Now a few words as to the causes of depression. We were generally told that the depression of trade we laboured under was due to bad harvests and overproduction, and that the people were suffering from their own bad habits. He was very far from undervaluing the disastrous reaction upon our manufacturing industries produced by the depression in the great industry of agriculture; but it would not account for it all. And what was more important, we must dismiss the view that agricultural depression was due entirely to lack of sunshine. The loss in agriculture had been estimated by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) at £130,000,000 or £150,000,000, by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) at £200,000,000, and such a gigantic dead loss must, of course, have acted very unfavourably upon our home markets. We had been passing through a long series of bad seasons. But the harvest of this year was good, and our flocks and herds were free from disease. But as far as could be gathered, the profitable nature of agriculture in the present year, the value of the produce of the earth's surface in food, was not such as to justify us in supposing that renewed sunshine would restore the industry of agriculture to its former position. Though we were perfectly right, therefore, in putting forward agricultural depression as one of the causes of trade depression, we should be totally wrong, and be merely deluding ourselves, if we assumed that agricultural depression would be remedied by sunshine, and that, in consequence, good harvests would produce good trade. Now, as to the other reason generally advanced, to account for the universal depression said to exist all over the world owing to universal over-production. The world was said to have become too industrious, and to make more than it could consume. He would not go into that abstract question; but he would compare, as well as he could, the condition of other countries with that of the United Kingdom, and would prove that the depression from which we suffered was out of all proportion heavier than that affecting other nations. When they spoke of a declining 1052 trade they were usually struck in the face by a violent discharge of statistics to prove that it was expanding. That might be true. Our trade had expanded in volume. But let their Lordships compare it with the expansion of trade among our neighbours. Since 1870 the United States had increased their total commerce by 75 per cent, Russia by 70 per cent, France by 51 per cent, Germany by 40 per cent, Great Britain by only 26 per cent. Let them take one industry alone—the greatest of our industries—the cotton trade. The United States had increased their consumption of cotton since 1873 by nearly 84 per cent, the Continent generally by nearly 64 per cent, and Great Britain by not quite 3 per cent. He did not wish to weary the House with many figures. He thought he had proved by these few that England, instead of increasing more rapidly than any other nation, was not holding her own; that she was not even holding her own, but had fallen back utterly, and that she was become last, instead of first, in the race. And in the face of such facts we were told we were only sharing in a universal depression. But there were special circumstances affecting our neighbours which must not be lost sight of. And, besides, he denied that there was any evidence on the Continent of such suffering or of such a decline of trade as was only too clear with us. He saw nothing of it in Germany, and yet Germany had to bear the burden of an enormous Military Establishment. What, he wondered, would become of this country under those circumstances? France might be suffering slightly. Granting for argument that she was, look at what she had gone through. Only 14 years ago her whole social and commercial economy was upset. She suffered an invasion. Nearly her whole territory was occupied by the enemy. She had to pay £371,500,000 sterling war expenses, and she lost two Provinces. Since then she had lost enormously by the ravages of the phylloxera. Where should we have been had such calamities occurred to us? In the United States there was considerable depression, but it was merely transitory and traceable to distinct causes. The commercial system of the United States was not conducted in the most healthy manner. It was too much affected 1053 throughout by Stock Exchange operations. It was infected by the spirit of gambling. The depression in the States was due to over-speculation in Stocks and to a slight excess in the development of the country. The nation was suffering a little headache, the result of excess, and a slight growing-pain incidental to youth. It was of no consequence and would soon pass. We could not, therefore, even console ourselves with the poor consolation that we were no worse off than others. But if we could, if we were only sharing a universal distress, was that any reason why we should sit down idly and do nothing? He thought it a more worthy part that we should bestir ourselves and see if we could not do something to help ourselves. He, at least, was not content that England should suffer because other nations were suffering also. It was a cowardly and illogical argument. If an outbreak of typhoid occurred in Westminster, should we neglect to inquire into our sanitary arrangements because they had cholera at Naples? Our duty was to our own people. Whatever might be happening to foreigners it was the first duty of the English Parliament to see that Englishmen did not starve, or, at any rate, to know the reason why they did. Then as to the causes. He had seen some remarkable reasons given for the existing distress in this country. Mr. Giffen, of the Board of Trade, in writing in 1877 about a depression, the existence of which he afterwards denied, gave vent to a kind of Gladstonian utterance, and said that it had "its roots in human nature which lends itself to an ebb and flow, an action and reaction in affairs." No doubt, commerce, like most actions of men, had its roots in human nature; but it was difficult to know exactly what Mr. Giffen meant, and he did not see that commerce having its roots in human nature was any great comfort to men who were starving for want of work. Afterwards Mr. Giffen became more practical, and informed us that—What mankind require for the greater efficiency of their labour is that the proportion of people employed in agriculture and mining should diminish, and foreign manufactures should increase.Foreign manufactures had increased largely, and the population engaged in 1054 mining and agriculture had largely decreased. He hoped Mr. Giffen was satisfied with the result. But the depression continued, and it was now infinitely worse. No doubt, commerce still had it roots in human nature, and the ebb flowed on with increased velocity. The President of the Board of Trade spoke in 1881 of—Weak industries, such as those of Coventry and Bethnal Green, in which energy was engaged which was capable of much better direction.That meant, he supposed, that the money and labour in those industries should be more profitably employed elsewhere. That was very sound sense under certain circumstances. But surely now when, as he maintained, all industries were suffering, it would be only common charity on the part of the Board of Trade to point out where the energy, the capital, and the population were to go to. The capital might go to Saxony, France or Belgium; but how about the people and the energy? The depression could not be traced to purely natural causes or improvident reckless habits. No great dislocation of trade centres or trade routes had occurred; our coal was not exhausted; we had abundance of capital. There was no evidence that as a people we had lost our skill, energy, or courage. We might be suffering to a certain extent from universal over-production, but not to an extent sufficient to account for the depression. We were affected by overproduction, not because the supply throughout the whole world was greater than the demand, but because we were no longer allowed to supply our fair share of that demand because foreign markets were forcibly closed to us, and because our own markets were unfairly interfered with. Our industries were suffering from bounties and foreign tariffs. He could not go at length into controversial topics. The bounty question was probably well known to their Lordships by the prominence which had been given to its effects upon the sugar trade. It was a simple question. The object of bounties was to create or foster an industry that could not compete with the same industry existing elsewhere under more favourable circumstances. It could be combated only by countervailing duties. This was admitted by the Committee of the House of Commons 1055 that inquired into the condition of the sugar trade. No one would deny that it was allowable for the Government to persuade foreign countries to take off bounties. If persuasion failed they might equally counteract the effect of the bounty. The only argument against doing so was that it was advantageous to the whole community to purchase an article of so universal consumption as sugar as cheaply as possible, oven below cost price. The argument was specious but false. The value to the community of the cheapening of the article would have to be compared with the loss to the community of the value of the industry. The value of the sugar trade was very great. A very large amount of capital was invested in it and in industries dependent upon it in this country, and it employed a large number of people at home, 51,000 of whom, it was estimated, had been thrown out of employment through the effect of bounties. The capital invested in the Colonies was estimated at £30,000,000, supporting a population of 500,000 at least. That loss would have to be deducted from the gain of unnaturally cheap sugar. It would be a dead loss; the capital could not be reinvested. There was no opening for it in any other industry. If, after competition was destroyed, the price of sugar rose again our trade could not be recreated. It was as easy to destroy a trade as it was to cut down a tree. It took generations to build up one and grow the other. But the main argument was that consumers would not ultimately benefit. Bounties destroyed competition. Anything that destroyed fair competition and restricted the area of production was prejudicial to the consumer. As soon as the competition of our Colonial produce and Home manufactures was got rid of the price of sugar would rise to an unprecedented price. It was admitted that our export trade was crippled by hostile tariffs. That import duties could possibly do any harm except to the people who were rash enough to impose them on themselves was at one time stoutly maintained by economists of the Cobden Club school.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said, he could not do so at once; but he would 1056 undertake to do so on a future occasion. But some glimmering of common sense had penetrated even into the sacred precincts of that sanctuary of theory. The evils to us of hostile tariffs were allowed. Our whole system of Commercial Treaties proved it. The very idea of such a Treaty, the importance we attached to a Most Favoured Nation Clause, the very employment of the word "favoured" proved that hostile tariffs were injurious to us. The conflict of opinion was as to the best method of combating hostile tariffs. Free imposts, an attempt to bargain when we had nothing to offer in return for the benefits we asked, and a liberal distribution of Cobden Club tracts were the methods we had hitherto employed, with the result that tariffs had been raised and our export trade had rapidly declined. It was high time to try some other plan. We should be much more successful by altering our fiscal system in such a way as to raise revenue by the imposition of a uniform low duty on all foreign imported manufactured goods. In many cases the pressure of such duties would compel foreigners to relieve our goods of excessive duties, and we should obtain better prices for them; and even if it did not have that desirable effect, revenue would be raised and applied to relieve the taxation, and the cost of production would be lessened. The quantity of foreign manufactured goods was far larger than was generally supposed, and a low duty on articles chiefly luxuries would raise a sufficient revenue to give us considerable relief. In the case of import duties, the exporter paid a proportion of the duties, large or small, according to the relative necessity to sell or to buy. At present their industries were heavily taxed at home, and, in addition, contributed largely to the revenues of foreign countries. The foreigner should contribute to our revenue, and give proportionate relief to our taxation. The effect of protective tariffs was two-fold. Those high duties wholly or partially excluded their goods from foreign markets. But that was not all. They enabled foreign manufacturers to compete with them unfairly in the home and the neutral markets. Being secured, wisely or unwisely, mattered not, from our competition in their home markets, they were enabled to throw their surplus stock upon our 1057 markets at very low rates. The quantities might be small, but they were increasing, and they were sufficient to bear down our home market prices to an unwholesome extent. Every argument that could be used against foreign bounties was applicable against foreign protective tariffs, and, even admitting that there was not a word to be said in favour of Retaliation, the imposition of low import duties on our part was necessary to neutralize the effects of high protective duties abroad upon our home market. He might be called a Protectionist. After all, Protection was the political creed of the United States, with 50,000,000 English-speaking people, and of all the British subjects in Canada and the Australasian Colonies. The United States had progressed most marvellously under a fiscal system based on pure Protection. They began the present century with a commerce worth £20,000,000 a-year. By the year 1870 it had increased to £116,000,000, and by 1883 it had reached £300,000,000. Under it they had also paid off £180,000,000 of their Debt, and they had brought an enormous area of land under cultivation. Protection could not have been very detrimental to them. But he did not believe in Protection for us. He wanted no advantage; he asked only for equality. Free Trade was the free exchange of various products of the world, and he believed in that principle. The object of Free Trade was that every locality and every person should be able to produce that which it could naturally produce to the greatest advantage. But our system acted in an exactly opposite direction. If, for instance, sugar could be grown and manufactured at Magdeburg as cheaply and of better quality, or of equal quality and cheaper, than it could be grown and manufactured in Demerara and England, then, on Free Trade principles, the trade should be prosecuted in Germany, and the imposition of a duty in favour of Colonial, and against German, sugar would be Protection, That would be Protection. But if the contrary was the case, if the locality best suited to the trade was the West Indies and England, then anything that tended to transfer the trade to Germany was in direct violation of the principles and objects of Free Trade, and if they passively permitted such a transference of 1058 trade to take place when it was in their power to prevent it, they were guilty of acting contrary to Free Trade. Political economy was not an exact science. There was no absolutely perfect fiscal system suitable for every country under all circumstances. The theory of Free Trade was perfectly correct, and it must be good in its effects, provided it had fair play. But it was necessary that it should be exercised over a sufficiently large area. Trade was exchange, and if they had not got free exchange, they had not got Free Trade. They might have a very excellent system, but it was not Free Trade; it was absurd and ridiculous to call it by that name. Our commercial system might be good, but its advocates were guilty of a most unwarrantable act of piracy in calling it Free Trade. And this unjustifiable misapplication of term had most unfortunate results, for, in spite of the authority of Shakespeare, there was a good deal in a name. The bulk of the people of these Islands believed in the doctrines of Free Trade, and they were right. They further believed they had got it. In that they were wrong. And the fact that they falsely thought they were in the enjoyment of Free Trade induced them to tolerate a system which, if pursued, would eventually work their ruin. They were trading under circumstances never anticipated by the advocates of Free Trade. They expected the whole world to join with them. Mr. Cobden said in the House of Commons—Adopt Free Trade, and there will not be a tariff in Europe that will not be changed in less than five years to follow your example.Nearly 40 years had passed, and the prophecy remained unfulfilled. Sir Robert Peel also argued on the supposition that our example would be followed. He said—In spite of the desire of Governments and Boards of Trade to raise revenue by restrictive duties, reason and common sense will induce relaxation of high duties. The sense of the people will prevail.And he added—Our last accounts from the United States give indications of a decline of a hostile spirit in this respect.Yet they still heard of "indications" from the United States; but they remained "indications," and nothing more. The country where the people were supposed to rule, where, therefore, the "common sense" of the people, 1059 if they had any, must prevail, was the most Protectionist nation on the face of the earth. The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) was constantly telling them that America was on the point of adopting Free Trade. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Earl Derby) held out the same hope in a speech at the Cobden Club dinner, full of many most interesting fallacies. They would reduce their tariff, no doubt, because they must do so, or invent some way of spending their surplus revenue. But they would never reduce it lower than they were compelled, by the strange difficulty they laboured under of reducing their income to the limits of their expenditure. The question, therefore, of the truth or falsehood of Free Trade was in no way involved in a consideration of the depression of trade or the causes of it; but the question was whether our present system was suited to our present circumstances? It was suitable when we could sell freely. It was unsuitable now that we were not allowed freedom of sale. Our trade suffered from perturbations owing to sudden calls from abroad, especially from the United States. England, instead of doing a good, steady business, was in the position of a journeyman waiting for a job. Full of work occasionally, and then relapsing into comparative idleness, our resources in capital and population flowed largely to the United States. When demand overran supply for a brief period in that country, orders came to us, and we had a brief spurt of prosperity, followed by a corresponding reaction when supply in the United States had overtaken demand. Nothing could be more unwholesome than such a state of things. The remedy lay in the direction of looking less to foreigners, as consumers, and more to our Colonies and Dependencies. Every legitimate effort should be made to turn British capital and British emigration to India and the Colonies, for the very simple reason that upon India our principal industry — cotton — depended, and our Colonies were the only customers we could rely upon. With the one exception of the Cape Colony, they bought largely from us in proportion to their population. It was at least worthy of notice that the only exception was in the case of that Colony in which the Imperial tie was weakest, and where 1060 our duties had been most neglected. A continuance in our present commercial and Colonial policy would bring about the ruin of England. But by a policy directed to developing the Empire and increasing the purchasing power of British subjects across the seas, and by a commercial system aiming at neutralizing the evil effects of bounties and hostile tariffs, and a revenue system on which revenue should be raised on foreign manufactured articles and applied to the relief of taxation, prosperity would be secured to England in the future. It was not his business to formulate a system or define a scheme. It was impossible to do so without the information that a full and exhaustive inquiry into the condition of trade alone could give. He wanted to know, also, what the practical men thought—the master manufacturers and shipowners, the great agents and shippers and dealers, the artizans and operatives and labourers. If a change was necessary it was of the utmost importance that the change should be made deliberately, and after the most careful and serious consideration. The commercial revolution which swept away most of our import duties was forced upon us by a national calamity. It was undertaken hurriedly, and it had resulted in evils which might have been averted by more mature consideration leading to riper judgment. We ought to profit by experience, and not wait until another, and, perhaps, a far more serious, calamity forced a too violent reaction upon us. An inquiry into the conditions of trade ought to have been undertaken by Her Majesty's Government long ago; but Her Majesty's Government were not famous for forestalling evil or anticipating events. The Government were, to his mind, neglecting their first duty. They showed no signs of moving in the matter. At least, he expected them to accede to the request of a private Member of the House, not only to sanction an inquiry, which, after all, committed them to nothing, but also to use their best endeavours to assist the inquiry in every way.
§ Moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons to inquire into the condition of the trade and commerce of the country."—(The Earl of Dunraven.)
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords I have lately read a very clever and amusing book 1061 by a very old and noble Friend of mine who usually sits opposite; and I remember one passage where he described his own difficulties as one of the principal Conservative Leaders at the time when Protection was considered to be dead by the Conservative Party, and the difficulty which he had in making a speech on this subject, the difficulty consisting in this—that he was not to discourage the Protectionists and yet not to commit his friends. The Head of the Party entirely approved of the line he had taken. I entirely acquit my noble Friend (Earl Dunraven) of any wish to ride on so narrow a stile as that, although his moving from the Cross Benches to a more prominent place, seems to imply that he thought it fairer not to commit the Cross Benches to some of the theories and facts which he has stated this evening. My noble Friend has laid great stress upon his not being a Protectionist. He says he is a Free Trader, and the only thing he objected to was that he did not like "sham Free Trade." He has been good enough to admit that, on the whole, foreign trade was an advantage to the country. I should have thought that as a real Free Trader he was aware what foreign trade consisted in; that it is a sort of barter; that you cannot get foreign goods without paying for them in goods. It is a perfect illusion that you pay for foreign goods in gold. Gold must, like water, find its level. You cannot keep more gold in the country than you want, because it lowers its value, and it immediately flows into places where its value is high. This is proved in the most clear way, because for nearly 40 years this country has been importing much more than it exported to the whole world, and yet concurrently with that, instead of our sending gold out of the country, the balance of import gold over export has been continually greater. The noble Earl objects extremely to this state of things. His object is to increase our exports and to diminish our imports. I believe it is perfectly impossible to do that.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble Earl says he does not wish to limit our imports—he only wishes this country to pay more for them. There are some elementary principles of Free Trade which I should like to know whether my noble 1062 Friend agrees with or not. Does he think that it is no advantage that Free Trade leaves people to follow the most natural and profitable course for the employment of their capital and labour? Does he not think that the division of labour is an important thing, and that Free Trade adds to the power of a division of labour more than anything else; whereas Protection, which he really advocated although he repudiated it, would destroy that division of labour? The noble Earl has given us his views. Five years ago, I remember—and I dare say a good many of your Lordships remember—a remarkable speech of Lord Beaconsfield on the subject. He gave an historical account of what had happened 30 or 40 years ago. It was a most interesting account, although in some particulars I ventured at the time to question its perfect accuracy. Lord Beaconsfield then contrasted the speeches of two noble Lords who had spoken in favour of an inquiry much like that asked for to-night. He showed that they entirely differed in their views, very much as the Fair Traders do at the present moment. Then he goes on to say that, putting aside altogether the question whether the policy of Reciprocity and Retaliation is good in itself, and whether Free Trade was well applied by Sir Robert Peel and his Friends at a time when our tariffs were burdened with duties, and almost every article came into this country subject to duties, it was impossible to pursue this policy now when only 22 articles were left in our tariff. I really do not think that Lord Beaconsfield contemplated the possibility which the noble Earl suggests of recurring to that cumbrous method of putting duties on every small article that came into this country. Lord Beaconsfield ended by a complete denunciation of an inquiry without any defined object and without any likelihood of the promoters bringing it to a practical end. I really think I might sit down and say that speech entirely disposes of the Motion of the noble Earl. But the noble Earl has brought forward so many questions that I should like to go into them. Now, the noble Earl has assumed that there is a great depression of trade. I must say that, in a statement like his, I have hardly ever heard so little evidence brought forward to support it. The noble Earl has travelled, himself, and 1063 has been told by secretaries who have not published their accounts what happens. But he seems to have neglected all the official documents which we have on this subject. Now, I do not deny that there is great suffering, both commercially and agriculturally. I believe exactly what Lord Beaconsfield said five years ago. I believe, as Lord Beaconsfield said on that occasion, "there is neither ruin nor despair to the bulk of the people." The noble Earl has made so many statements that perhaps he will allow me to make some observations with regard to the present state of the country. I quite agree that our profits, although they are not disappearing, are smaller than we should like them to be. The principle point in connection with the present depression would appear to be that it is, to a large extent, only nominal, the volume of trade being larger than ever it was before, and the appearance of depression arising from the lower prices. This is conspicuously the case as regards the foreign trade. The imports and exports for the last few years have been in millions of pounds: — Imports.—1879, 363; 1880, 411; 1881, 397; 1882, 413; 1883, 427. Exports.—1879—British, 191; Foreign and Colonial, 57; total, 248. 1880—British, 223; Foreign and Colonial, 63; total, 286. 1881—British, 234; Foreign and Colonial, 63; total, 297. 1882—British, 241; Foreign and Colonial, 65; total, 306. 1883—British, 239; Foreign and Colonial, 66; total, 305. Thus, the foreign trade was larger in 1883 than it had been for several years before, although prices were lower than in any of the other years in the table. The nominal figures have not been higher in any previous year, except as regards the exports of British produce in 1872 and 1873, when the large totals of £256,000,000 and £255,000,000 were reached; but in 1872 and 1873 prices were abnormally high, and they were in 1883, on the average, 20 to 30 per cent lower than in 1873. If the exports and imports were now to be valued at the prices of 1873 the volume of foreign trade would appear much larger than it has ever done. The magnitude of the volume of trade down to 1883 is also apparent from other figures. The production of pig iron in 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1883 was the largest on record—namely, in 1880 it was 7,749,000 tons, in 1881 it was 1064 8,144,000 tons, in 1882 it was 8,580,000 tons, and in 1883 it was 8,490,000 tons. The annual average of 1869–74 was only 6,223,000 tons, and of 1875–80, 6,609,000 tons. This, surely, is a most extraordinary condition for a trade which, as the noble Earl represents it, has been entirely destroyed. The noble Earl has drawn attention to coal. Similarly, the production of coal has progressed as follows:—The annual average in 1869–74 was 118,000,000 tons, in 1875–80 it was 135,500,000 tons, in 1880 it was 147,000,000 tons, in 1881 it was 154,000,000 tons, in 1882 it was 156,500,000 tons, and in 1883 it showed the enormous increase of 164,000,000 tons. Now, take the raw cotton. The amount of raw cotton used in manufacturing has likewise increased. The annual average in 1869–74 was 1,150,000,000 lbs., in 1875–80 it was 1,245,000,000 lbs., in 1880 it was 1,373,000,000 lbs., in 1881 it was 1,439,000,000 lbs., in 1882 it was 1,461,000,000 lbs., and in 1883 it rose to 1,511,000,000 lbs. In the present year—1884—there are signs of some falling off from the large totals of 1882–3—a decrease of £24,000,000 in the imports, or 7½ per cent, and of £3,000,000 in the exports, or 1½ per cent, during the nine months ending with September. But these decreases are more than accounted for by the low prices. The Gazette average of wheat last week was only 32s. 3d., as compared with 40s. 3d. at the same time in 1883, and other prices have fallen similarly. In sugar, raw cotton, wool, jute, iron, copper, tin, and lead, a great reduction of price is shown at the present time as compared with the same time last year. Apart from reduction of price, therefore, it would appear that the volume of foreign trade is larger at the present time than ever it was known before. The noble Earl had quoted the condition of the people, and had actually cut the ground from under my feet by saying—"Do not talk to me about Income Tax, pauperism, or deposits in savings banks." The noble Earl relied in preference on Benefit Societies, whose accounts were not published, and which he (Earl Granville) did not know. But these considerations were most essential to the case. The fact was that the Income Tax of 1d. in the pound, which once meant £1,000,000, now meant £2,000,000. The following are 1065 the material figures as to Income Tax, consumption of certain articles per head, pauperism, and savings banks deposits, all indicating the condition of the people: — The annual average of the Income Tax assessments was, in 1869–74, £204,000,000 on Schedule D, and the total was £487,000,000; in 1882, it was £267,000,000 on Schedule D, and the total was £601,000,000. Surely that proves something; but the noble Earl entirely rejects it, because, he said, the Income Tax does not touch the poor. But certainly it has some effect on the depression or the prosperity of the whole country. Again, the noble Earl says that pauperism is no test, as there is more difficulty about out-door relief. I am very glad there is, because I think it is an excellent thing, not only for the ratepayers and the farmers, but for the persons themselves who are the recipients of the relief. But I think it cannot be denied that the figures relating to pauperism have an important bearing on this subject. In the years 1869–74, the number of paupers per 1,000 of the population was 42½; whereas in the year 1883 it was only 29. Take, again, the savings banks deposits. In 1869, they were £51,000,000; and in 1883 they rose to £87,000,000. Then the consumption of articles in the country shows a state of prosperity or depression. I find, in regard to sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco, and spirits, that the consumption of coffee has rather fallen off, though not very largely. With regard to spirits, I was rather in hopes that there would be a diminution in the consumption owing to the much greater temperance of the people; but this is not the case. In 1840 the consumption of spirits was 0.97, and in 1883 it was 1.06 gallon per head. I think figures like these must have some sort of importance. There is much discussion among economists as to the causes of the low prices. Mr. Goschen, in the House of Commons, and in a lecture to the Bankers' Institute last year, attributed them to the scarcity of gold. Mr. Hubbard and others have contended that it is the great multiplication of commodities, due to such influences as extension of telegraphy, great rapidity of communication, and low freights, &c. The two assertions are not in reality contradictory. If there had been more gold produced, prices would undoubtedly have risen, or not 1066 have fallen, notwithstanding the real abundance of commodities. The relation between gold and commodities generally has changed. For the present purpose, however, it is only necessary to point out that the present depression of trade is to a large extent only apparent. Production and consumption are large, and people are well off. As wages have not yet fallen in proportion, the profits of wholesale merchants and manufacturers are curtailed, and hence the complaints. If it is argued that it is possible by appointing a Commission or Committee of the House to examine how the production of gold is certain suddenly to increase trade, that is an argument which will hardly be valid with your Lordships. The noble Earl laid great stress upon the comparison between ourselves and foreign countries as to the depression in trade. He, first of all, said that the depression is not at all the same in foreign countries as it is with us; and then he said it had no bearing at all on the argument. But I think it has very great bearing on the argument; for if the countries protected are in a much more flourishing condition than we are in, then, I think, there is at least a primâ facie case against Free Trade; but if you find that this depression is common to all countries, then it is extremely absurd to refer it to legislation which occurred 40 years ago, and had been followed by singularly prosperity in all the countries affected by it. My Lords, the fact is that in Germany and Austria the depression is quite as great as our own. The following figures show the foreign trade of the United States and France in recent years. It will be seen that the present depression in each of these countries is greater than in our own. In the United States the maximum year for imports in recent years was 1881–2, in which they amounted to £147,000,000. In 1883–4 the amount was £139,000,000; and in the two months July and August this year there is a further decline of 10 per cent compared with last year. As regards exports, the maximum year in the United States was 1880–1, in which the amount was £184,000,000; in 1882–3 the amount was £151,000,000—a decline of one-sixth. In the two months July and August there is a further decline from £23,814,000 to £22,660,000, or about 5 per cent. In France the maximum year of imports was 1880, the total being 1067 £201,000,000; in 1883 the total was £192,000,000. In the nine months ended September 30 this year, as compared with the same period last year, there is a further decline from £140,000,000 to £134,000,000. The maximum year of exports in France was 1875, when the total was £154,000,000; but not going so far back, and taking only 1882, which was the highest year lately, with a total of £143,000,000, it appears that in 1883 there was a decline to £138,000,000. In the nine months ended September, 1884, there is a further decline as compared with the same period of 1883, from £100,000,000 to £94,000,000, or 6 per cent. The following is a comparison with the United Kingdom:—Imports—United Kingdom—Maximum year, 1883, £427,000,000. In nine months of 1884 a decline of 8 per cent compared with 1883. United States—Maximum year, 1881–2, £147,000,000; 1883, £139,000,000. In two months of 1884 a decline of 10 per cent compared with 1883. France—Maximum year, 1880, £201,000,000; 1883, £192,000,000. In nine months of 1884 a decline of 5 per cent. Exports—United Kingdom (British produce)—Maximum year, 1882, £241,000,000; 1883, £240,000,000. In nine months of 1884 a decline of 1½ per cent. United States—Maximum year, 1880–1, £184,000,000; 1883, £151,000,000. In two months of 1884 a decline of 5 per cent. France—Maximum year, 1882, £143,000,000; 1883, £138,000,000. In nine months of 1884 a decline of 6 per cent. In the face of those figures, showing how much greater in two protected countries—two countries with the greatest natural wealth in the world—the depression has been than with us, I really think that any hearsay evidence brought forward by the noble Earl must fall to the ground. The noble Earl also gave us figures about sugar, and he seemed to believe that the bounties which other Governments put upon refined sugar was one of the three causes which have reduced this country to the miserable state he has described. But the sugar bounties affect only a very small portion of the sugar industry. From figures I have before me, it appears that in 1840 the consumption of sugar in this country was 15⅕lbs. per person; whereas at this moment, when the sugar trade has entirely disappeared 1068 from the country, it has risen to the enormous amount of 71⅗lbs. per head. In 1840 the consumption of tea was 1⅕lbs. per person, while last year it was 4⅘lbs. And in the same way the consumption of tobacco in 1840 was only ⅘lb. per head, while last year it was 1⅖ lbs. I do not believe that noble Lords opposite will support the noble Earl in his suggestion that a remedy for a matter affecting only an infinitesimal portion of the trade would be found in putting a countervailing duty against the bounty given by other countries. But the noble Earl makes three suggestions. He suggests that a low fixed duty should be put upon every manufactured article introduced. That is, in short, a proposal to return to that old, condemned, and obsolete tariff of duties which was formerly levied on large quantities of articles, to the great obstacle and detriment of trade, and also to the great injury of fiscal arrangements, the cost of collection being enormously increased. The noble Earl proposed to fix a duty on manufactured articles, and at the same time expressed sympathy with the farmers, and did not propose to tax them. He protected the farmers, and he does not propose to tax food or the raw material for our manufacturers, but proposes to put the duty entirely on manufactured articles. That will certainly not help the farmer. On the other hand, by his plan he raises the value of every single article which his wife, his family, or he himself use. The general scope of the noble Earl's plan is to take away trade and emigration from foreign countries and force them into the Colonies. I am quite sure nearly all the Colonies have raised their tariffs since 1869 in a higher proportion than any foreign country has done since that time, with the great exception of the United States; and I must say here, when the noble Earl entirely repudiates the idea of our example having been of any use whatever to foreign countries, I must remind him that foreign countries have to a certain degree followed our example. There does not at this moment exist a single prohibitive tariff in the world—a great advance since we introduced Free Trade. The noble Earl follows the example of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) in saying that Sir Robert Peel, in establishing Free Trade, was guided by the conviction 1069 that all other countries would follow our example.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble Marquess has certainly laid great stress upon the gigantic blunder which, according to him, Free Traders made 40 years ago in believing that foreign countries would follow their example. I would, however, point out to the noble Marquess that the Free Traders of those days did not merely advocate their policy with the object of our being imitated by foreign countries, but they put that policy forward because they were convinced that simply and by itself Free Trade was best for this country. The object of the noble Marquess is not quite the same as that of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches. He does not propose to establish permanently a fixed duty upon all manufactured articles; but he would threaten to do so, and use the threat as an instrument of warfare with which to frighten all foreign countries into reducing their tariffs and becoming Free Traders like ourselves. If the noble Marquess could satisfy me that by our using that threat or putting it into execution for one year we should cause all the Protective walls in every part of the world to fall down, it might be well to make the experiment. But I do not believe in our power to achieve that result by using such a threat. The plan was tried for 20 years, and we went on trying to force other countries to fall in with our views by clapping 20 per cent on to the price of their goods; but without result. If we were to say—"We are going to use our tariffs as a means of forcing you to do that which you do not think advantageous to do," we should be using an argument like that which a missionary would use were he to say—"Heathens, your religion is unsuitable. Ours is the only true, pure, and inspired religion. If you do not follow our example and become Christians, we shall be forced to become heathens ourselves." If the views of noble Lords opposite are to prevail, how are you to deal with the Most Favoured Nation Clause which exists in almost every Treaty which we have made? 1070 This demand for Fair Trade appears to me to be as theoretical and fallacious as anything can possibly be. I must say that I shall be extremely surprised if your Lordships, simply on the statement of the noble Earl (the Earl of Dunraven) as to the existing state of things, which, I think, I have proved is not a correct statement, and after his suggestions as to the reforms he would carry out, should agree to grant the inquiry which he desires.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
said, he had heard with perfect amazement the assertion of the noble Earl that there was no very serious depression in this country.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that at the beginning of his speech he stated that there was very great suffering and distress among certain classes of the community.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
said, it was something to have got that acknowledgment from the Government. He asked their Lordships to consider whether the arguments of the noble Earl who had just sat down (Earl Granville) did not afford the strongest reasons for the holding of such an inquiry as was asked for? The noble Earl had pointed out that the present volume of the trade of this country had never been exceeded, and had also acknowledged that large classes of the community were in a very depressed and suffering condition. What was the meaning of such an extraordinary state of things? The volume of trade was greater than it had ever been, and yet very large masses of the people were in the greatest straits. Surely this mystery ought to be inquired into. The whole burden rested on Her Majesty's Government to tell the House why there should not be an inquiry. The noble Earl had given no reason why there should not be an inquiry, and had rested himself mainly upon what Lord Beaconsfield said five years ago. But when Lord Beaconsfield made that speech he had no idea that the depression would go on increasing at the terrible rate which had been the case, and it was perfectly absurd, therefore, to quote that speech now. Another argument in favour of permitting the inquiry was the fact that the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Dunraven), who, on that occasion, represented a large mass of the industrial population, and the noble Earl who represented the Government 1071 (Earl Granville) were at complete variance in regard to matters of fact. He held that the real facts ought to be ascertained. In the manufacturing districts, in the iron and coal districts, the depression of trade was only too manifest. He (the Earl of Harrowby) had been in the manufacturing districts this autumn, in the great Port of Liverpool, and in the iron and coal districts, and unless his eyes deceived him there was one uniform testimony as to the suffering in every branch of trade. The Liberal Member for Liverpool (Mr. S. Smith), in "another place," said the other day—The fact has to be faced, that this great commercial country, which for years made such rapid progress by leaps and bounds. … has for some years past shown a tendency towards retrogression.That came from a Gentleman who was well versed in commerce, and it was testimony worth a good deal more than the statistics of the noble Earl opposite. As to the statistics quoted by the noble Earl opposite, he would remind the House that nothing could be more deceptive than a mass of figures, which could be handled in a variety of ways. He should, therefore, decline to give his assent to the statistical statement of the noble Earl until it had been fully sifted by people of opposite views. He did not entirely agree with the noble Earl who brought the subject forward as to the reasons for the existing depression. In his opinion there were greater reasons. Trade and commerce were very shy of instability and uncertainty, which were fatal to enterprize, and one of the chief reasons why depression now prevailed was that the acts of the Government, and the speeches of some of its Members, had succeeded in creating a feeling of uncertainty and instability at home, and of great insecurity abroad. Enterprize was in consequence shy, commerce was frightened, and everybody seemed to be afraid to launch out. There was nothing extraordinary in this when they remembered the legislation of the Government in regard to land; their proposed shipping and attempted railway legislation; their attempted tampering with the coinage of the country; their bankruptcy legislation, which was evidently breaking down; and the threats which they had levelled at their Lordships' House. When they remembered these things, they would no 1072 longer be astonished that trade and enterprize were less prominent than formerly, and that labour was not receiving its just reward. Surely it would not be denied that our commerce was suffering from the instability of our policy and the state of uncertainty with regard to foreign affairs. The Government had neglected our commercial interests—that could be seen in many instances. Did we not see in every part of the world a state of things which made commercial men anxious? Were we not told by Sir Donald Currie and by Mr. Stanley that commerce was flying from West Africa in consequence of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government? What about their treatment of the Congo? They were allowing stringent tariffs to be established against our commerce on the Congo. Was their support of commerce in China encouraging? And what had been done in Madagascar? Everywhere we found the same feeling—that traders were afraid to launch out boldly into commercial enterprize, because the British flag was not likely to protect them, and the Government was not fairly supporting them. The uncertainty of trade, and feeling of want of stability and uncertainty at home, were, in his opinion, potent factors in the present trade depression. It was the opinion of a large mass of people who agreed with the noble Earl who had made this Motion that an inquiry ought to be held, and no reason had been given by Her Majesty's Government why it should not. But Her Majesty's Government were only following a fatal precedent. Their answer always was "No inquiry." When their Lordships wished to inquire into the operation of the Irish Land Act, the answer was "No inquiry." The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) asked for an inquiry as to the condition of the sugar industry, and the answer was "No inquiry." The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) urged for an inquiry into the state of our finances; but "No inquiry" was still the answer. And so again, with regard to our merchant shipping, a Select Committee was refused last year. And with respect to that most important matter, the Conference on Egypt, the Government made use of their majority to prevent inquiry. He owned he did not expect that the inquiry now moved for would be granted, 1073 as he had watched the conduct of the Government on former occasions. But the country would not rest until there was a full and searching inquiry, nor would any sensible man be afraid of demanding it lest he should be called a Protectionist. This inquiry would come in time; what the result of it would be it was not for him to say, but the country had a right to have this matter thoroughly investigated.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, that neither the beginning nor the end of the noble Earl's (the Earl of Harrow by's) speech was consistent with the middle of it. In the beginning of his speech the noble Earl gave reasons for inquiry, and at the end of his speech he adduced what he deemed very strong reasons for it; but in the middle of his speech he cut away the ground for inquiry altogether, because he had found out that the way in which Her Majesty's Government had conducted foreign affairs was the cause of all the mischief. What the noble Earl really wanted was, not inquiry, but the removal of Her Majesty's Government. He (the Earl of Kimberley) was not going to follow the noble Earl in his long and unconnected statement with regard to every possible subject, from foreign affairs to Irish land, but would direct his remarks to what had fallen from the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Dunraven). Her Majesty's Government were asked, Why not grant an inquiry? The answer was, because nothing could be worse unless they had made up their minds that the evils complained of were of such a nature that they could be remedied by the action of the Government and by legislation. Her Majesty's Government had made up their minds that the evil from which we suffered could not be so remedied by them, or by legislative measures. They ought to have some notion of a remedy before encouraging people to hope for one. The noble Earl on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Dunraven) had a remedy—the application of the principles of Reciprocity. The principles of Reciprocity were held in some countries; but what he would ask was, were we prepared to look forward to the establishment of a system of Reciprocity with other nations? This was a practical question, not a question of theory. Unless we obtained Reciprocity 1074 Treaties from all the nations of the world we must introduce differential duties in favour of countries from whom we obtained Reciprocity. And suppose we did so; the question was, would that produce any effect upon the other countries? Taking the United States, for example, suppose we were to endeavour to drive them into a more liberal policy by a system of differential duties, were we going to put a duty upon corn, or upon raw cotton, or upon the raw materials imported from the United States and used in the most important trades in this country? The attempt to force foreign countries to change their commercial policy by putting on differential duties would be the most Quixotic enterprize it was possible to enter upon. If they on that (the Ministerial) side of the House did not consider the introduction of a system of Reciprocity and Retaliation a practical measure it could not form to them the ground for any inquiry. Then if we were not going to introduce such a system, what possible scheme could be suggested for meeting the evil? The noble Earl said he would not deal with one of the principal interests of the country—namely, the agricultural interest. It might be all very well for noble Lords to put that out of their view; but the agricultural interest was a very important interest, and if they were going to leave food untaxed and to tax other things which the producer of food in this country used, they would be doing a great injustice. This was a thing he had often begged farmers to consider. If by any chance the people of this country were to be persuaded to put duties on foreign manufactures, the large mass of our population would never consent to have duties imposed on food, and therefore the agricultural classes would be placed in this position—that they would not have high prices for their produce, while they would have to pay high prices for all they had to consume. The noble Earl referred to theories which he said were held by members of the Cobden Club—for instance, that foreign tariffs were not an evil to this country. Anything that injured the trade of this country was an evil; that nobody could deny; but whether it would be wise in us to put duties upon foreign imports in order to break down the system of foreign tariffs was 1075 quite another thing. This was perfectly certain, that if goods were imported, from foreign countries, they must be paid for by the produce of the labour of this country, and the produce of the labour of this country was the riches of this country, and the larger our imports—he did not say in any one year, but for a series of years—the greater our prosperity. He did not believe that this was a matter which would be regarded with disfavour. The noble Earl made a comparison between the advance of trade in certain countries and the advance of trade in this country over a given series of years; but that comparison was not a fair one. If they took the case of New South Wales and looked at the imports and exports of that Colony for the past 30 years, he had not the smallest doubt that it would be seen that the advance made there was greater than had been made by France in the same period. The reason was that the advance was much greater in a new country than in a country which had a greater volume of trade. The noble Earl quoted the wonderful progress in America in support of his argument. It would be a remarkable thing if the United States had not made a wonderful advance; but to compare the progress of America during the last 40 years with the progress of Great Britain of late years, was not a fair comparison. It had been said that he stated the other night that there was no depression in agriculture. He made no such statement. What he said was that there was no such depression as to induce them to mention it in the Queen's Speech. At the same time, he added that he was painfully aware, from his own experience, that there were parts of the country in which there was very serious depression, but that there were other places where depression did not exist, or where it was not so serious. He hoped it would not be supposed that he denied the existence of distress among many classes. He did say, however, that nothing could be less advantageous to the country and in the long run to these suffering classes themselves than an inquiry such as that now asked for. It would not be to the advantage of the people to make them lean upon such measures as the Government could supply. They ought rather to trust to the vigour and energy of the population.