The Chancellor of the Exchequer
moved the order of the day, for the second reading of the Bill to continue an Act of the last session of parliament, for making more effectual provision for preventing the current Gold Coin of the realm from being paid or accepted for a greater value than the current value of such coin; for preventing any note or bill of the governor and company of the Bank of England, or of the governor and company of the Bank of Ireland, from being received for any smaller sum than 225 the sum therein specified; and for staying proceedings upon any distress by tender of such notes.
§ Mr. Whitbread
moved, that the 2d and 3d of the Resolutions which, upon the 14th of May 1811, were reported from the Committee of the whole House, to whom it was referred to consider further of the Report which, upon the 8th of June 1810, was made from the Select Committee appointed to enquire into the high price of Gold Bullion, and which were then agreed to by the House.
The Resolutions were accordingly read, and are as follow:
"2. Resolved, That the Promissory Notes of the governor and company of the Bank of England, are engagements to pay certain sums of money in the legal coin of this kingdom; and that, for more than a century past, the said governor and company were at all times ready to discharge such Promissory Notes in legal coin of the realm, until restrained from so doing, on the 25th of February 1797, by an order of council, confirmed by act of parliament.
"3. Resolved, That the Promissory Notes of the said company have hitherto been, and are at this time, held in public estimation to be equivalent to the legal coin of the realm, and generally accepted as such in all pecuniary transactions to which such coin is lawfully applicable."
§ Mr. Creevey
said, that it was impossible for him to allow this Bill to be read a second time without entering his protest against it, viewing it as he did, as a Bill of the greatest atrocity. (Cries of hear, and a laugh.) He repeated the term atrocity, for he knew of none which was more applicable to it. He was sure the House would be unwilling to enter into a lengthened discussion on the Bullion Question, but he only wished to state shortly his objections to this fatal Bill, which originated out of the Report of the Bullion Committee, who had been appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the causes of the high price of gold. That Committee stated that the market price was 4l. 10s. an ounce, while the standard price was 3l. 17s. 10d. and that the amount of the depreciation of the currency was 15 per cent. In consequence of this statement a distinguished member of the last parliament (Mr. Horner), who had also been chairman of the Bullion Committee, endeavoured to induce the House to adopt a series of resolutions, in which he proposed to bring 226 back the currency to its proper standard, by constraining the Bank of England to resume payments in specie within two years; but, in the mean time the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed, as a nostrum, what had been read by the clerk, at the suggestion of his hon. friend, and which went to establish the monstrous proposition, that a pound note and a shilling were equal to one pound one in gold. Since that period, gold had been sold at 4l. 14s. an ounce, which was a depreciation of 20 per cent. A noble lord (King) then took a resolution to confute the doctrine held out in the resolutions by compelling his tenants to pay their rents in gold, when a law was passed to prevent it. This law was temporary" and had been once renewed, and would expire in February next; it, therefore, became necessary to know the price of gold at this period before they renewed the law. The right hon. gentleman had come to his resolutions when there was a depreciation of 20 percent, and he now came to renew the law when the price of gold in the market this day was 5l. 5s. an ounce, being a depreciation of 35 percent and yet the right hon. gentleman gravely introduced the Bill, and seemed surprised that it should provoke any discussion. But did the right hon. gentleman really believe that paper and gold were of the same value, or that the law had succeeded in making them so? He could not think, so; but if this monstrous law was repealed, gold and paper would find their respective value, and no want of the former would remain. From what had been said the other evening relative to the offer of 27,000 guineas to government, it was likely that the eyes of the right hon. gentleman were opened a little to the difference between paper and gold.—He bad lately accompanied a friend of his to a shop, for the purpose of disposing of some light guineas, and the price his friend was offered was 1l.7s. 2d. for his light guineas. Would the right hon. gentleman, then, contend, that the owner of good guineas was not injured by the operation of this law, for if he took them to market he must lose seven shillings in the sale of them? What, then, must he do with his gold? If he hoarded it, it became unproductive; if he clipped it, he was subjected to the penalties of the Clipping Act; and if he came forward and demanded the fair value, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would 227 come down upon him with the terrors of fine and imprisonment. Was there ever then such a violation of the right of property? And what advantage resulted from it? Was the state benefited? only so far as it enabled them to pay their creditors in depreciated currency; but in all cases of public expenditure the state suffered as much as the private individual. As for all the great public creditors, they were in the same situation—they lost 35 per cent. or one third of their property. Thus the public, the annuitant, the public creditor were losing—and who were the gainers? He knew of none, except the Bank of England. The directors of that company were told in 1797, that they might defraud their creditors; and in 1811, they were again told, that they might go on in the same system. They exported coin, and as it disappeared paper became depreciated. What check was there, then, on the discretion of the Bank? These gentlemen, when examined before the Bullion Committee, had confessed, that in regulating their issues they never looked to the price of gold, or to the course of exchange, and that so long as a bill was brought to them with a good name at its back, they would issue to any extent. This was the theory of these gentlemen; what was their practice? They had divided six millions in bonusses, besides increasing their interest from seven to eleven per cent. The danger from depreciation being such on this account, besides the danger from a shock of public confidence, it became the House to take time for consideration, to reflect whether it would not be better for them to retrace their steps than to proceed. The time also at which the Bill was brought forward, was objectionable. Half the members were not present, and of those who were, a greater proportion were new than had ever been known before. As it was improper at such a time for the House to pledge itself to continue this act, and as it did not expire till the end of February, he should move that the Bill be read a second time on the 3d of February.
§ Mr. Brand
said, he was extremely anxious to hear what the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to say on the present occasion. The hon. gentleman then objected to two parts of the Bill; first, that which in pursuance of the ridiculous resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made the bank paper equal to gold; and second, to that part, 228 which took from lessors the power of distraining for rent after tender made of Bank of England notes. The only effect of the first part would be to increase hoarding, or perjury and crime, and that of the second to reduce the lessors of lands to the same state with the public annuitants. One observation made by his hon. friend, he could not concur in. If the Bank of England were unconnected with government they would be able to answer all demands on them. He certainly was astonished at the little knowledge of the subject shown by the gentlemen of the Bank, who had been examined before the Bullion Committee, but he was assured that if they had not been swayed by government, but had been left to follow their own bias, they would have acted in a manner consistent with the welfare of the country. He concluded by saying, that he should be unwilling, that the Bill should be pressed through the House at any time, but especially at the present.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he had no intention of preserving any disrespectful silence on a question of such great magnitude; but he had been desirous of hearing to what particular view of it the observations of members might be directed before he answered any general or partial objections. He was apprehensive, otherwise, of being drawn into a prolixity which might not only be tedious, but unnecessary, after the long and reiterated discussions which this subject had undergone. He now saw, that the favourite view taken was, the practical one, and to this, therefore, he should chiefly confine himself. The question of depreciation had been entertained, he wished the House to remember, at a period considerably earlier than the appointment of the Bullion Committee. In 1807 it had been argued in the other House of Parliament by lord King, and the same arguments then urged by him, were afterwards brought forward more amply by the Bullion Committee. In the year 1811 the same noble person had thought proper to adopt a proceeding which made it appear to parliament necessary to pass that act which it was the object of the present Bill to renew. It was not his desire to attribute to that noble individual any unworthy motive for this conduct; on the contrary, his persuasion was, that the noble lord was only desirous of confuting him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and of furnishing a practical example of the correctness of his own 229 theory. They had also the evidence of a Mr. Monck on the same side of the question, who said he would not accept of Bank of England paper at the same rate of value as gold. The reason of which was obvious: Mr. Monck was a coiner of local tokens, and for his purposes, gold or silver was much more useful than paper. With: regard to the practical question, he put it to any one of the Bullion Committee to say if it would be wise to cause the Bank to resume its payments in specie at this period; and if not, would it be expedient to pass a law, as they had formerly proposed, to fix the resumption of cash payments at any specific time, the circumstances of which they could not foresee? He had at that time pointed out to the satisfaction of the majority of the House, that similar rises in the price of the precious metals had taken place when there was no paper currency at all, and when there was a paper currency convertible into its nominal value in money. This proved that the rise did not depend on the depreciation of the paper currency. It was true, as asserted on the other side, that gold had advanced in price within the last year, and the argument they would draw from this was, that the circulation of paper had increased, and consequently its worth diminished. Now the case was not so, and this fact afforded another argument in confirmation of the fallacy of their reasoning. For his part, he found a sufficient cause for the rise of gold in the vast augmentation of our foreign expenditure: and still more in the total interruption of the supplies of the precious metals from South America, which in itself was sufficient to account for the advance upon those metals in the market. The circumstances of the present year were also somewhat remarkable. After the debates of last session the price of bullion remained for some time pretty steady; but of late it had risen suddenly to the extent stated by the hon. gentleman opposite. It had so risen on the opening of the intercourse with Russia, whence an excessive demand had occasioned a similar rise all over Europe. The nostrum of the Bullion Committee was to resume payments in cash; but where was it to be got? The mines of America were stopped, and the balance of trade was against us with every other country. It appeared then, that we must cither have sacrificed our political prospects, withdrawn our army from the continent, and have surrendered the hopes of 230 Europe, or we must, for the present, have continued the bank restrictions. Happily for our character, honour, and greatness, the latter alternative had been adopted.—The right hon. gentleman then went into a justification of his resolution recorded last session; and contended that the paper of the Bank of England was, for all legal purposes, equivalent to coin: though certainly not so to those who wished to melt it down, or make it the subject of foreign trade, which, however, was, and had long been, contrary to the laws I of the land. Could it have been possible to enforce these penal laws vigilantly and perfectly, gold would have had no other value than paper of the same denomination, and the only difference between them was, that the one could be converted into bullion, the other could not. The anomaly of light guineas had been much animadverted on, but this was no new case; there were abundant instances in our history, of light guineas being more valuable than standard coin, long before the Bank restriction was ever thought of. The enormous profits of the Bank had also been dwelt upon: to this he would, bear testimony, that the Bank was an unwilling party to those measures whence the profits accrued, and which were forced, upon it by the government of the country,. The Bank had ever evinced a desire to be released from these restrictions, and the preparations it made for resuming payments in specie were a sufficient proof of its readiness so to do, when it could be permitted consistently with the public good. The practical question now was, whether the period had arrived, when they could give up the safeguards that had; been imposed for the preservation of our metallic currency, and to protect the public generally from individual vexation and oppression? All that the public wanted was to go on quietly with the currency hey were used to; but this, it was in the power of any one to disturb, unless the present law was passed to protect debtors from the exaction of payments in a medium, which it was out of their power to obtain. The act had arisen out of the provocation of one individual, but for whom they might have been quiet yet, and the necessity for the law never have been raised. It was now indispensible to protect the subject from grievous oppression: and he submitted that there were stronger reasons for its continuance I than even for its being originally passed.
expressed his surprise at some of the positions of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he was not less surprised at the conduct of the House, which, in direct contradiction to its own Resolution, had passed the present Bill, to prevent the effect of that inequality which the Resolution of the House went to deny. The Resolution asserted that bank notes and guineas were in equal public estimation, and perfectly equivalent; but if so, why did landlords demand payment of their rents in gold, and if the pretended equivalency did exist, why pass an act to force the landlord to receive paper? The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that bank notes were equivalent to gold, as applicable to all lawful purposes. Was the payment of rent a lawful purpose? And if paper was equal to gold, why pass a law to guard the tenant against the landlord's demand for gold? How the right hon. gentleman or the House could be persuaded to entertain such opinions, he could not divine; and yet the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer continued to tell the House that an equivalency still existed. Did that equivalency exist when the bank note was at what he called a depreciation of 5 percent.? and did that equivalency remain unaltered, notwithstanding the depreciation had increased to 15, 20, and even 30 percent.? Could the right hon. gentleman find any one who would give him a guinea for a pound note and a shilling? Could he go into a market and purchase as much of a commodity with a pound note and a shilling, as with a guinea? If that equivalency still existed, why did we find such difficulty in obtaining guineas? Was any such difficulty experienced previously to the depreciation of paper? No; and the present difficulty was easily accounted for, because the Resolution of the House was not true. The right hon. gentleman referred the present scarcity and high price of gold, to the non-importation of bullion from America; but would this apply to England alone? Would it not affect France, and all Europe? Would the right hon. gentleman say that gold was as scarce and as dear in France? Would he assert that the paper circulating in that country was at a discount of 35 per cent.? He told the House that a bank note was equal to a guinea for all lawful purposes, but that it was not lawful to melt guineas; would the right hon. gentleman but in a bank note to prove 232 its value? fire would prove the value of a guinea, when melted it was even more valuable than before, but burn a bank note, and it produced only ashes. He was informed that the Bank had given notice to the bankers in London, that they could no longer be supplied with tokens. If the bank-note had not depreciated, why was that specie commonly called change 80 scarce as to bear a premium in almost every country town in England, nay, he had been told, even in the metropolis? The right hon. gentleman told the House, that the Bill was levelled against lord King: he did not know the motives of the proposers of the Bill. But he believed the Bill was intended to support the Resolution of that House, which it in fact disapproved, and to protect the paper, which had lost its legitimate protection—the good opinion of the public. He had no doubt the right hon. gentleman intended to press the Bill; but he saw no reason to hurry on its consideration at this period. Before he concluded, he wished to ask the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he paid for bills to remit to the continent; what premium he gave for such bills; what a hundred pounds cost the country, when remitted to the continent? [The Chancellor of the Exchequer signified his intention not to answer the question.] The right hon. gentleman repeated his question. He professed to be uninformed on the subject. He had never heard of any similar refusal. He plainly saw that the right hon. gentleman would not give time to new members to acquire information on the subject, but that he was determined to cram his obnoxious Bill down the throat of the House. Such conduct he considered as indecent and improper, and should therefore support the Amendment of his hon. friend.
§ Mr. Manning
rose principally in consequence of an allusion made by the right hon. gentleman who spoke last to the insufficient issue of tokens by the Bank of England. It was true that the company had deemed it expedient to discontinue the issue of tokens to a certain extent to private bankers, from a fear that the supply would not be adequate to the demand: large as the sum might appear, it could be proved by incontrovertible testimony, that within the last fifteen months no less than nearly two millions sterling had been delivered from the Bank in tokens of 3s. and 1s. 6d. No opportunity had been lost of promoting their circulation, but its extent 233 must of course be governed by the amount of the importations. With regard to the issue of bank paper, he hoped that the House would believe him when he asserted, that as late as yesterday evening, it did not exceed twenty-two millions and a half. In July or August 1810, it would be remembered that the number of notes in circulation was about twenty-five millions sterling; but this, excess was occasioned by the failure of two large houses in London, which produced a considerable sensation in the country. Bankers in the various principal towns then made demands upon the Bank, to ensure themselves against the consequences of a run upon their firms; but within six months the greater part of three millions was returned to the Bank of England, without having been employed. It could not, therefore, with justice, be said, that the issue of bank-notes at this time was excessive, or that the high price of bullion had been occasioned by it. One hon. gentleman had contended, that the Bank indiscriminately discounted commercial paper by its notes. This assertion was by no means correct, as it was established by evidence before the House; the issue for this purpose was always much below the demand. The hon. gentleman then adverted to the evil consequences that would result to the country if this Bill were not passed; and disclaimed on the part of the Bank of England any desire to have their notes maintained by parliamentary authority, since the confidence reposed in the company by the country at large was fully adequate to their support.
§ Mr. H. Thornton,
as a member of the Bullion Committee, whose conduct and report had been so severely stigmatized, felt it necessary to say a few words in defence of that body. It ought to have been recollected by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at the time the committee recommended to the House that the Bank should be compelled to renew cash payments in two years, the country was by no means in the situation in which it was now placed. Our commodities were not then excluded from the continent by that regular system which at present prevailed, and the balance of trade consequently on all articles was not so much against us. The main question with regard to the Bill now under consideration was, whether the issue of bank paper did or did not tend to influence the exchange? And thinking that 234 it had that influence, he had voted that the cash payments should, at the end of two years, be renewed, with a view certainly, that if at the end of that period it was found from any causes impracticable, the time should be enlarged from year to year until the company had the means of calling in all their notes: at present every body would admit, that to compel the Bank to pay in specie would be a gross act of injustice. There were advantages belonging to a paper system, and even to an extended issue of notes. 1. It was a great convenience to merchants who could thus with ease obtain discount for their bills. 2. It was an equal facility to government in raising loans. 3. It laid a burden upon the shoulders of those who were best able to bear it, and diminished the weight that would otherwise be imposed upon the poor. It might also be a very serious question whether, supposing the Bank had always paid in specie, the legislature would not have been called upon to remedy inconveniencies resulting from that system, instead of passing Bills to amend errors belonging to the present, considering our relation with the continent of Europe. As matters now stood it was perfectly evident that Bank paper had depreciated 35 per cent. Where that depreciation would end it was impossible to divine, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the Bill before the House, proposed no remedy to prevent its depreciation even to 100 per cent. Under these circumstances, the subject was to be viewed in a very serious and painful light, since its consequences might be so ruinous. Another point to be contemplated was the proposed abolition of local tokens, after the 25th of March. If such a measure were resorted to, what was to supply the deficiency? Small change for the common transactions of life was every where wanted, even with the aid of these local tokens; but when they were withdrawn, the governor of the Bank had admitted that that establishment had it not in its power to issue any silver to make good the loss that would be sustained in the districts where local tokens were in circulation.
§ Mr. Whitshed Keene
said, he had supported the measure on former occasions, as the only means to resist the military despotism with which we were threatened. It was perhaps paying dear, but not too dear, for salvation. As long as the spirit of the constitution should survive, this 235 little spot would continue to strive; but exertions were necessary, and considering the measure the Bill went to continue as one of those exertions, he would support it.
did not mean to discuss the principle of the Bill, but should suggest a course which he conceived it would be advisable to pursue. He thought that it would be the best way to suffer the Bill to pass, since ministers represented it to be of urgent necessity; but it would be better that it should be a short Bill renewing the present Bill for three or four months, so that after the recess the House might have full time to acquire the information necessary to the discussion of this important question in all its bearings. He thought the question of local tokens, which had been mentioned, was one which required much consideration. If the Course he had proposed should meet the views of the House, he hoped his hon. friend would have no objection to withdraw his amendment.
§ Mr. Huskisson
expressed his regret, that he was prevented by indisposition from delivering his sentiments on the important question before the House.
§ Mr. Creevey
wished to know, before the question was put, whether ministers would accede to the proposal of his noble friend, and agree to have the Bill passed for a short period?
said, that several branches of the present question must remain for discussion on some future occasion, but he was not aware of any circumstances which could possibly happen within the limited period which had been mentioned that could tend to render the present measure unnecessary.
§ Mr. Whitbread
was sincerely sorry for the cause which prevented the hon. gentleman, who was a great authority on these subjects, from delivering his sentiments on the present occasion, which appeared the regular period for discussing the principle of the Bill. He certainly thought that there was something in this Bill so inconsistent with the resolutions upon which it was founded, that he thought the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the House, should be somewhat ashamed of first resolving that gold and paper were equal in public estimation, and then passing a law to force the public to act as if they were really of equal value in their estimation. He certainly considered that the act which had been passed 236 last session had done great violence to the property of landlords, whose estates had been let out on long leases. The effect of it was, that the landlord was to receive less, and the farmer to pay less, than what was contracted for, although the farmer was also to have all the advantages of the depreciation, by an increased price on every thing which his farm produced. The fact was, that when lord King issued that notice to his tenants, which had been so much canvassed, he required of his tenants either to pay him in gold according to the contract, or else in Bank-paper at a rate stated in the notice, which was less in fact, than he would be entitled to according to the fair value. A great deal had been said, by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about public estimation. The right hon. gentleman was a grave man, and delivered his opinions in a grave manner; yet nothing could be more ludicrous than his assertion, that in all transactions where men were not inclined to incur the penalties of the law, the bank note and guinea were of equal value. Let that right hon. gentleman go, if he could disguise himself sufficiently—as he had desired him (Mr. W.) to turn informer, though he would not himself inform about his friend the Jew—let him go into any shop, and he would find that a shop-keeper would give 5s., worth more of goods for a guinea than for a note and a shilling. In the estimation of such a person—in the estimation of the Jew,—and in the estimation of the buyer of light guineas mentioned by his hon. friend, it was clear that the two things were not reckoned equivalent. Some persons, indeed said, that bank notes were superior to guineas, because they could not be hoarded in the same manner, for instance, in an invasion, and thus check the means of purchasing necessaries. This was true. People hoarded what was valuable, and what, if re-produced, would demand an equivalent; whereas in an invasion, Bank-notes, whether above ground, or below it, would be of equal value,—that was of no value at all. An hon. gentleman had argued as if this Bill had been the cause of our maintenance of the Spanish struggle, and had carried lord Wellington through the campaign: whereas, in fact, the Bill was not passed till the end of the year 1811, when it came, forced upon the unwilling ministers, from the other House, like a clap of thunder. But had it filled the military chest of lord Wellington? No! that chest 237 was altogether empty, and lord Wellington had been forced, at Madrid, to make a loan of a few thousand dollars. The officers of his army (all except those of the very first rank) were so destitute, that they had not even one piece of metal for the common comforts and necessaries of life. A material question had been asked, though the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not thought proper to answer it; what price he gave for bills to remit abroad, and whether the premium did not make that very article disappear which was most wanted? Robespierre had prohibited certain articles from being sold above a certain price, which caused those articles to vanish entirely from the market. Tokens had been issued from the Bank, and they had disappeared in proportion as the depreciation overtook the currency. He should be glad to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether by connivance, or otherwise, the government bought guineas, while, at the same time, they were, by their attorney and solicitor, prosecuting, convicting, and punishing others for the same offence? The right hon. gentleman had been applied to, and refused to act in contravention of his own law; he nobly disdained the offer, but did he make any inquiries after the offender? The guard of the coach had been taken and convicted; and marked money and other means were employed for the detection of offenders; but a man came with a friend offering to commit a breach of law with the Chancellor of the Exchequer: and no enquiries were made; no marked guineas issued. Thus the only avenue being stopped for those guineas, they would be necessarily hoarded: but abolish the law, and gold would find its real value, and come in plenty to the market. In the mean time public credit would be ruined, for St. Paul's might as well stand without a foundation, as public credit without a metallic currency. The hon. gentleman concluded by saying that he should vote for the Amendment.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
denied most solemnly, as he had done on a former night, that agents were employed, either directly or indirectly, by government, to purchase guineas. The man alluded to, and who had offered 27,000 for sale, was not prosecuted, because it was supposed he had no criminal intentions. The last price paid by government for bills to the continent was 67 pence per milrea.
was unwilling to allow the motion to go to a division without shortly stating the reasons that induced him to abstain from voting against a bill, the general principle of which was, without qualification, in direct opposition to all those long-established maxims of political economy, the soundness of which, until the last few years, no man in that House or in the country had ventured to question. Every measure brought before the legislature might be considered in two points of view; the one with reference to the general and abstract principle of right or expediency, the other with reference to any system already established, from which the measure might be said necessarily to emanate. It was in that last point of view, as proceeding from the principle adopted by the House after mature deliberation—a principle the adoption of which he had resisted to the best of his power—that he felt bound to acquiesce in the Bill. He had always contended, that the steps which had been subsequently taken must be the necessary consequences of the first step—that memorable resolution to which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had persuaded the House to come, namely, that the paper currency and the gold coin of the realm were, in public estimation, of equal value. On that occasion he had taken the liberty of stating, that the principle of the resolution was proposed in spite of individual knowledge and public notoriety, and that it was adopted by the House of Commons of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at a moment when it was perfectly known, that in one part of that united kingdom at least, guineas were publicly sold at a premium. He had at that time foretold the inevitable consequence of passing such a resolution in the teeth of the fact; and accordingly it so happened, that that which in May was declared to be the operation of public opinion, was in July made to be the operation of the law; the pains and penalties of which were called in, to overcome the obstinacy Of those who were not to be persuaded into conviction. He had at that time told the right hon. gentleman, that in all cases in which an attempt was made to force public opinion by the authority of the legislature, recurrence must ultimately be had to legal means, land to the secular arm of power. He heartily wished that the question were now as open as it was before the adoption of the resolution to which he had alluded. The proposed 239 measure might then be arrested. But he conceived that all the steps which had been since taken, were the natural and unavoidable successors of the original error. The Bill before the House was divided into two heads; the first, very justly securing to the public creditor, who was paid in paper, the power of making, in his turn, payment in paper operative on all who had demands on him. The other head related more immediately to the original resolution; it prohibited the purchase and sale of guineas at a price above their nominal value. Now, he confessed, that he did not think the latter part of the measure necessary or justifiable, otherwise than as it went to bear out the legislature in their original resolution; for he could not conceive nor had he ever heard described the inconvenience of allowing guineas, which, being no longer in circulation, were only pieces of bullion, to find their level in the market like any other commodities, and not to be driven into hoards or out of the country. As to penal laws for preventing the exportation of any coin, when that coin could be disposed of abroad at a higher value than that at which it would pass at home, it was a subject on which all authorities agreed. It was the concurrent opinion of all writers on political economy—of all statesmen—of ail financiers, that let such laws be as sanguinary as possible—let them be written in blood, they would be ineffective. The great Colbert had declared, that if a wall of brass were built round a country, the precious metals would find some think through which to escape, if it were the interest of any of the community that they should do so. Respecting the propriety of this part of the Bill, therefore, he entertained considerable doubts: with regard to the unfortunate necessity of the other part of the Bill, he had no doubt. But he wished particularly to guard himself from the supposition that he would vote in any stage of the Bill on the ground taken by the right hon. gentleman and another hon. member, namely, that the country must reconcile itself to the present onerous state of things, and must be content to build its future prosperity upon it, abandoning all hope of setting right that most important of subjects—the situation of our internal currency; and that, because the inconvenience to which we were exposed was partly natural and partly aggravated by the last parliament, we must be satisfied to consider it as indefinitely perpetuated. 240 He confessed that he did not pretend to see a way out of the difficulties into which the country had been brought in this respect by the councils that he had opposed. On the contrary, he was of opinion, that during the last two years those difficulties had become so much more numerous and complicated that they were out of the reach of any sudden remedy. He would not, therefore, vote for the amendment, because it held out a hope, which, as he did not entertain, he would not appear to sanction—that in such a limited period as that to which the amendment referred, some remedy might be discovered for the existing evil. He trusted, however, that the operation of the Bill it self would be only for a limited period, and that during that period the attention of those to whom the consideration of the subject was a duty, would be turned to it with a view of providing, if not a remedy for the evils which had already been incurred, at least a preventive for those greater evils which a perseverance in the present system must necessarily occasion.
§ Mr. Butterworth
read a letter from a friend in the country, in which the writer recommended strongly the passing of the Bill before the House, in order to save the people in his neighbourhood from the most serious loss, if not from ruin.
§ Mr. Alderman Atkins
expressed is decided opinion, that the present state of our circulating medium was not owing to the conduct of ministers, or of any other set of men; but to the growing commerce of the country, which the whole metallic currency of the world would have been insufficient to supply; and he earnestly wished that this fact were distinctly understood throughout the country.
The House then divided:
|For the Amendment||19|
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, Hon. J.||Lewis, F.|
|Brand, Hon. T.||Martin (Tewksbury).|
|Babington, T.||North, D.|
|Bennet, Hon. H. G.||Phillips, G.|
|Combe, H.||Ponsonby, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Calvert, C.||Vernon, G.|
|Fazakerley, N.||Whitbread, S.|
|Grenfel, P.||Westerne, C. C.|
|Hamilton, Lord A.||Lord Folkestone.|
|Lubbock, J.||Thos, Creevey.|