Sir T. Lethbridge
presented a petition signed by the Chairman and four members who constituted a committee of the Norfolk Agricultural Society, stating that the measure now before the House relating to foreign corn, would, if it should become the law of the land, virtually repeal the Corn-laws—that the petitioners, confiding in the assurances of his majesty's ministers, and the resolutions of majorities of both Houses of parliament, that no alteration should be made in the Corn-laws during the present session, were quite taken by surprise, and deprived of all opportunity of opposing, as effectually as they otherwise might have done, what they could not but consider as an impending evil,—that if the poor manufacturers stood in need of relief, it ought to be afforded to them in the same manner as it was afforded to the other necessitous classes of the community,—that the petitioners were willing to contribute their proportion towards such relief, but 960 that the whole burthen should not be allowed to fall on them,—that the distress had not arisen from any excessive high price of corn, but that, even if it had, the remedy ought to be such as would afford relief to the distressed persons alone, and not, like the contemplated measure, which would afford an advantage to the whole community, at the expense of the agricultural interests; and praying, that no alteration might be made in the Corn-laws, which would increase the facility of importing foreign corn, until taxation should be reduced at least 50 per cent. The hon. baronet, on presenting the petition, said, that he thought the House would consider it worthy of attention, and that it was not surprising that considerable excitement had been created amongst the growers of agricultural produce, by the measure now before the House; that the present petition was from a body of gentlemen with whom he had no acquaintance; that he supposed the presenting of it had been intrusted to him, because his views on this question accorded with those of the petitioners. He thought the whole petition, and especially the closing part of it, well worthy of the consideration of the House. Perhaps he himself might not go quite so far as to think 50 per cent must be deducted from taxation, before any thing of this kind could be attempted; but he saw no chance of people in this country eating bread at the same price as people abroad, whilst it continued in its present state; and if he should have the honour of having a seat in the next parliament, and the consideration of the Corn-laws should be brought before the House, he would endeavour to procure an investigation into the causes why agricultural produce here must necessarily be higher than in other countries. He did not think the price of labour was high because corn was high, but because taxes were high; and he was convinced, that it was quite impossible for the agricultural interests to pay the taxes which they were now called on to pay, unless they could obtain remunerating prices for their produce. If proper notice had been given, the table of the House would have been covered with petitions against the present measure; and if it should pass, and he should have the honour of holding a seat in the next parliament, he should feel himself obliged to vote for every proposition in favour of the most rigid economy.
§ Mr. Benett
thought, it would appear 961 pretty clearly, that the distress in the manufacturing interests had not arisen from the present high price of labour, when it was considered, that within the last forty years the price of labour had not risen more than 33 per cent, while the amount of taxation had increased between 200 and 300 per cent.