Mr. Edward Lytton Bulwer
said, that in rising to move certain resolutions for the repeal of the principal taxes on knowledge, he trusted that his deep and conscientious conviction of the necessity of the measure he was about to propose, would be a sufficient excuse for undertaking a task, which, if as important as he believed it to be, was equally above his abilities and his*This whole Debate is re-printed from a corrected copy, published by authority.620 station in public life: those were not light or ordinary motives which, supporting as he did the present Administration, could induce him to bring forward a measure, not, he trusted, opposed, but certainly not sanctioned by them, and which must necessarily be of a nature that it would better suit their convenience to leave to their own time and their own discretion to determine; but the motives by which he was actuated had been so long nursed, and were so strongly felt, that he conscientiously believed they left him no alternative; for, when he looked round and saw the dangerous effects of those taxes in daily operation—when he saw the numberless pernicious and visionary publications which were circulated in defiance of laws, which, having lost the sanction of public opinion (as his Majesty's Attorney General so justly remarked some time ago), had lost the power of being carried, with prudence into effect—when he saw, that while the cheap dangerous publication was not checked, they suppressed the cheap reply: for those who would reply, were honest and well-affected men; and men honest and well affected, would not break, while they lamented, that law which at present forbade the publication of cheap political periodicals—when he looked round and saw the results of that ignorance which the laws he desired to abolish fostered and encouraged, breaking forth not only in wild and impracticable theories, but, as the experience of a few months since had taught them, in riot, and incendiarism, and crime—when he saw them written in the fires of Kent, and stamped in the brutal turbulence of Bristol, he felt, that in this Parliament, and at this period of the session, he did but fulfil his duty in pointing out the evils of the present system, and the manner in which he conceived, they could be remedied. Would it be said the time was unseasonable which related to national morals and to the waste of human life? He should proceed, at once, to call the attention of the House to certain facts, which would tend to show why it was our duty and our policy to diffuse cheap instruction amongst the people, and he should then show in what manner that instruction was, by the existing taxes, checked and obstructed. From an analysis, carefully made, of the cases of those persons who were committed for acts of incendiarism, &c. &c. in 1830, and the beginning of 1831, it appeared 621 that in Berkshire, of 138 prisoners, only twenty-five could write, and only thirty-seven could read; at Abingdon, of thirty prisoners, six only could read and write; at Aylesbury, of seventy-nine prisoners, only thirty could read and write; of fifty prisoners tried at Lewes, one individual only could read well! Now, when they remembered that it was not sufficient to read, but that, to derive any advantage from that ability, there should also be the habit of reading, how small a proportion of those unfortunate men could be said to have possessed any positive instruction. The same connection between crime and ignorance existed in France. In 1830, it appeared that in the French Courts of Assize there were 6,962 accused persons; out of this number, 4,519 were entirely ignorant of reading and writing, and only 129 had received a superior education. It might be said, that as ignorance and poverty usually went together, it was in these cases the poverty that sinned, and the ignorance was only the accident that accompanied the poverty; but this notion he could contradict from his own experience: his habits had necessarily led him to see much of the condition of those men who followed literature as a profession, and he would say, that this city contained innumerable instances among well-informed and well-educated men, of poverty as grievous, as utter, and certainly as bitterly felt, as any to be found among the labouring population of Kent or Norfolk. Yet how few among these men were driven into crime! How rarely you find such men retaliating on society the sufferings they endure. The greater part of offences are offences against property: but men accustomed to inquiry, are not, at least, led away by those superficial and dangerous notions of the injustice of the divisions of property, which men who are both poor and ignorant so naturally conceive, and so frequently act upon; the knowledge which cannot, in all cases, prevent them from being poor, gives them at least the fortitude and the hope which enable them to be honest. If, then, it was true, as the facts he had stated seemed to him sufficient to prove, that there was an inseparable connection between crime and ignorance, it followed as a necessary consequence, that it was their duty to remove all the shackles on the diffusion of knowledge—that poverty and toil were suffi- 622 cient checks in themselves—that the results of any checks which they, as legislators, voluntarily imposed, were to be traced, not only in every violent and dangerous theory instilled into the popular mind, but in every outrage the people ignorantly committed, and every sentence of punishment, transportation, and death, which those outrages obliged them to impose! It was, then, their duty to diffuse instruction in all its modes; yet he thought it would be scarcely necessary for him to contend that newspapers were among the readiest and most effectual instruments of diffusing that instruction. In the first place, they had this great advantage—they were the most popular. A certain traveller said, that he asked an American why it was so rare in America to find a man who could not read? The American answered, "Because any man who sees a newspaper always in his neighbour's hand, has a desire to see what pleases his neighbour, and is ashamed not to know what forms the current topics of conversation." In fact, no man could have lived in a city without observing the extraordinary appetite for intelligence on passing events, which the life of a city produced among all classes, from the lowest to the highest; and it had been justly said, that you may note even a greater crowd round a newspaper office, with the day's journal at the window, than at the most alluring of the caricature shops. A newspaper was, in truth, almost the only publication (religious ones excepted) that the poorer classes were ever tempted to read; and, above all, it was the only one in which they could learn those laws for the transgression of which ignorance was no excuse. Thus, it had been well remarked, that every account of a trial, every examination at Bow-street, every dogma of my Lord Mayor, had for them not only an interest and an amusement, but also a warning and a moral. A newspaper, then, was among the most popular and effectual modes of instructing the people. And now mark the interdict laid on the newspapers: the present taxes upon newspapers consisted, first, of a duty of 3d. per pound weight on the paper, or about a farthing a sheet; second, of a duty, nominally 4d., but subject to a discount of twenty per cent:** On the daily, but not on the weekly, papers; the weekly papers pay the full duty (4d.) without discount.623 and, third, a tax of 3s. 6d. upon every advertisement. The whole duties, with the price of printing, and the news agency, amounted to 5½d. for every sevenpenny copy of a London paper. Now, let them glance rapidly at some of the consequences of the high price at which newspapers sold. In the first place, owing to that price, the instruction they contained did not travel extensively among the poor; in the second place, as only the higher and the middling orders could afford in general the luxury of these periodicals, so it was chiefly to the tastes and interests of those wealthier orders that these journals addressed themselves. They contained, it was true, much that was valuable, much that was necessary to the poor, but they did not give to them that advice, and those frequent suggestions and admonitions upon matters of trade, or points of law, which would necessarily be the case were the poor among their customary supporters. Even in mere style, that which suits the richer is not always attractive to the poorer people; and thus, as in this free country you cannot prevent men of all ranks from seeking political intelligence, the poorer people, finding themselves debarred from the general use of these expensive papers, and finding, when they do obtain them, that they are not often addressed in a style seductive to them, are driven almost inevitably to those illegitimate, those dangerous productions, cheaper in price, and adapted almost exclusively to themselves. It was thus that the real political education of the people was thrown into the hands of the wildest, and sometimes the most pernicious teachers; and while they were erecting new props and new buttresses to the gorgeous palaces and solemn temples of the Constitution, they were suffering that dark and stealthy current of opinion to creep on, which, if not speedily checked, must sap both temple and palace in the very midst of their labours. He should like hon. Members to know the real nature of publications thus circulated; he would not read any extracts to the House, because he knew the House objected to that course: but he denied that there was much justice in the argument, that by so doing they should give notoriety to publications otherwise obscure. The fact was, that for the class to which they were addressed they were not obscure. Were hon. Members aware that many of these 624 publications circulated to the amount of several thousand copies weekly; that their sale, in several instances, was larger than the sale of some among the most popular legitimate papers; that their influence over large bodies of the working classes was much greater? A very intelligent mechanic, in a manufacturing town, with whom he had had occasion to correspond, said, in a letter to him, 'We go to the public-house to read the sevenpenny paper, but only for the news; it is the cheap penny paper that the working man can take home and read at spare moments, which he has by him to take up, and read over and over again, whenever he has leisure, that forms his opinions.' 'You ask me,' said another mechanic, 'if The Penny Magazine will not counteract the effect of what you call the more violent papers? Yes, in some degree; but not so much as is supposed, because poor men, anxious to better their condition, are always inclined to politics, and The Penny Magazine does not touch upon them; to correct bad politics you must give us not only literature, but good politics.' Did hon. Members know the class of publications thus suffered to influence the opinions of their fellow countrymen? He spoke not about such as were aimed at mere forms of government: who should say what opinions on such subjects were pernicious or not? But were they aware that some of them struck at the root of all property, talked of the injustice of paying rents, insisted upon a unanimous seizure of all the lands in the kingdom, declared that there was no moral guilt in any violation of law, and even advocated assassination itself? Thus, then, it was clear, that the stamp duty did not prevent the circulation of the most dangerous doctrines. It gave them, on the contrary, by the interest which the mere risk of a prosecution always begets in the popular mind, a value, a weight, and a circulation, which they could not otherwise acquire. Above all, let them recollect, that while these were circulated in thousands, the law forbade reply to them; or if, in despite of fact, you call the legitimate papers a reply to them, then, even by your own showing, you sell the poison for a penny, and the antidote at sevenpence. His proposition was not at present to touch the paper duty; it was a tax which, in the present state of the revenue, might be fairly spared, and which, 625 though a grievance, did not fall nearly so heavily on the public as the two taxes he would abolish; the first of these was the stamp duty—the second the advertisement duty. Take away the stamp duty, and the 7d. paper would fall at once to 34¾d.; but he was inclined to believe, and in this he was borne out by many impartial practical men on the subject, that, owing to the great increase of sale which the cheapness of the article would produce, the newspapers would be enabled to sell at a much lower rate than 3¾d., and would probably settle into the average of 2d. each. The great point, and the first to consider, was, would the number of newspapers published through the year increase to any very large extent? All his argument rested upon that point—partly as related to the diffusion of knowledge—partly to the profits of a postage. To him it seemed a self-evident proposition, that when it no longer required a vast capital—a capital from between 30,000l. and 40,000l.—to set up a daily newspaper—when it was open to every man of literary talent, with a moderate sum, to attempt the speculation, there would be a great and sudden increase of newspapers. To him it seemed equally evident, that when newspapers were so cheap as to be within the reach of almost any man, there would he an enormous addition to the present number of readers; that many who hired a paper now would purchase it—that many who now took one paper would then take two—that the intelligent mechanic, who now, in every town throughout the country, complained that he could not afford to purchase a paper, would spare, at least once a-week, his 2d. or his 3d. from those ale-house expenses he was now induced to incur, for the very sake of reading or hearing read the paper he would then be able to buy: that, in short, when a weekly paper cost only 2d., there would scarcely be, in this great political community, a single man who could read who would not be able and willing to purchase one. But he would rest no part of his case on propositions only—however evident they seemed to him—he would not stir a step without the support of facts hon. Members had often heard of a certain contraband paper, set up by Mr. Carpenter, called The Political Letter: it was published at 4d.; of this paper the average sale weekly was 6,000 copies. Made sanguine by his suc- 626 cess, Mr. Carpenter took out a stamp, and his paper became 7d. What was the consequence? Why, the paper could no longer exist; from a sale of 6,000 copies it fell, in the very first week, to a sale of 500. A most important fact: for here was a journal in all respects exactly the same, except in price, but it could sell 6,000 copies one week, when sold for 4d., and only 500 the next week, when sold for 7d. There had lately been a sensible falling off in the sale of these illegitimate papers. Why? Not from any increased severity of the law—not from any want of political excitement—not, surely, from any great prosperity in trade, which usually deters men from any inflammatory speculations; no, but because of late a great number of penny literary papers had been set up, and these had been found to interfere with and contract the sale of the contraband journals. Now, as literary papers, after all, were not what the poor particularly wanted, how much more would the sale of these illegitimate journals have been crippled, had some of these innocent literary papers been innocent political ones? But the great sale even of these cheap literary papers (The Penny Magazine, for instance, is said to sell 120,000 copies) proves how general is the desire of the people for such periodicals as they can afford to buy, and how great would be the increase of political periodicals, were they made as cheap as his Motion would make them. But, besides these proofs that the cheapness of periodicals will incalculably increase their sale, we have the experience of other countries that it does; in America a newspaper sells on the average for 1½d. What is the result? Why, that there is not a town in America with 10,000 inhabitants, that has not its daily paper. Compare Boston and Liverpool: Liverpool has 165,175 inhabitants; Boston had, in 1829, 70,000 inhabitants. Liverpool puts forth eight weekly publications; and Boston, with less than half the population, and with about a fourth part of the trade of Liverpool, puts forth eighty weekly publications. In 1829, the number of newspapers published in the British Isles was 33,050,000, or 630,000 weekly, which is one copy for every thirty-sixth inhabitant. In Pennsylvania, which had only in that year 1,200,000 inhabitants, the newspapers amounted to 300,000 copies weekly, or a newspaper to every fourth inhabitant. What was the cause of this mighty differ- 627 ence? The cause was plain. The newspaper in one country sells for a fourth of what it sells for in the other. The newspapers in America sell for 1½d., and in England for 7d. From all these facts (to which he could add innumerable others), they had a right to suppose, that if newspapers were as cheap as they would be if his object were carried, the number of copies would be prodigiously increased. Thus, information would circulate far more extensively; thus, matters connected with trade, science, and law, would become more familiar; thus, there would be a thousand opportunities for removing those prejudices among the poor, which now so often perplexed the wisdom and benevolence of Legislators. A great number of trades would have journals of their own; a great number of the more temperate and disinterested friends of the people would lend themselves to their real instruction, and, by degrees, there would grow up that community of intelligence between the Government and the people, which it was the more necessary to effect, at a time when they were about to make the people more powerful. It is thus that Ministers would have it in their power to reply to those hon. Gentlemen, who had said the working classes were too ignorant to be trusted with the elective franchise; at the same time that they granted the trust, they would dispel the ignorance. Ministers had been told they had created a monster they could not control. No; on the contrary, they had won the monster to themselves; instead of making a ferocious enemy of a gigantic and irresistible power, they had softened it by kindness; let them, at the same time, enlighten it by knowledge. Lord Eldon, on the 29th of November, 1830, at the time of the agricultural insurrections, had made use of these remarkable words—'Many, very many (of the agricultural insurgents), were not aware of the criminality which attached to the offences they had been led to commit.'*** 'There could not be an act of greater mercy to the misled and deluded people, than to have the nature and provision of the criminal law explained.'*** 'He did hope that those learned men who were about to be sent into the disturbed districts, would take the trouble of explaining to their deluded and mistaken fellow-countrymen, the law of the land, and the reasons of the law, and the reasons why it was for 628 their interest, and to the interest of the community at large, that it should remain the law of the land.'* In those words Lord Eldon did but adopt his principle, but there was this difference between them; Lord Eldon adopted the principle when it was too late. He made the warning go hand-in-hand with the punishment, and he sent the people instructors and a special commission at the same time. He had one more argument for urging the immediate adoption of his proposal—one reason for considering it a necessary appendix to Reform—they had passed the Reform Bill. Suppose they did not break the present monopoly of the five or six newspapers, which now concentrated the power of the Press, what would be the consequence? Why this. In a reformed Parliament, would not a Ministry too entirely depend on some one or two of the most influential newspapers for support? What the close boroughs had been, might not the existing journals become? Did he speak against the respectability of the present Press?—No; considering the va power they possessed, the wonder was, not that they had so often, but so seldom abused it. Was he, then, opposed to granting that power to the Press? Absurd! While types and paper existed, that power must continue; but then, it should be a free Press, and not a monopoly. Every shade of opinion should find its organ. Power should exist, but that power should be a representation, not an oligarchy. Why exchange an oligarchy of boroughs for an oligarchy of journals? But would he injure the interests of the existing papers—injure their sale? He thought we owed too deep a gratitude to their services for him willingly to do so. The competition would divide their power, but the cheapened price would increase their sale. If the stamp duty were the pernicious tax he had attempted to show it to be, what should they say of the advertisement duty? Advertisements were the medium of commercial intelligence of sale and barter. The first principle of a statesman was, to encourage that intelligence; yet, here they laid an interdict of 3s. 6d. on every announcement of it. In the excellent letters which the Editor of The Scotsman had addressed to a Chancellor of the Exchequer, the ill effects of this tax on our commerce was shown by a* Hansard (third series), vol. i. p. 679629 reference to America, in which country advertising was untaxed. In one year, twelve of the daily papers in New York had published 1,456,416 advertisements. In the same year, the 400 papers of Great Britain and Ireland had published 1,020,000 advertisements; so that there were nearly a half more advertisements published in the twelve daily papers of New York, than in all the 400 papers of Britain and Ireland, including the London journals. What was the cause of this preposterous disparity? Was it not the price? The price of an advertisement of twenty lines, in a London paper, if published every day though out the year, would amount, at the year's end, to 202l. 16s. In New York, the same advertisement, for the same period, would be 6l. 18s. 8d. Was not that a sufficient cause for the difference? Need they look further? Might they not call this tax, in the words of The Scotsman, an engine for extinguishing business, and for obstructing and depressing all the various branches of trade? If such was the effect of this duty on their commerce, how did it affect their literature? A book must be advertised largely in order to sell: advertising was the chief expense. What was the consequence? Why, that as it cost as much to advertise a cheap book as to advertise a dear one, the bookseller was loth to publish a cheap one. He cared more about the number of pages in your work than the number of facts. You told him of the materials you had collected, and he asked you if he could sell them for a guinea. This operated two ways: 1st, it degraded literature into book-making; 2ndly, it was a virtual interdict upon cheap knowledge. In both ways the public were irreparable losers; and all for the sake of about 157,000l. to the revenues of the wealthiest country in the world. So much for the taxes he would repeal. He now came to that which he would substitute. He did not think, however, that it would be a sufficient argument from the noble Lord to say, the revenue would not bear the loss of these taxes, while there was any other conceivable source from which revenue could be drawn. It was not the amount of taxation under which we groaned, it was the method of taxing; it was too much, for instance, that we should make knowledge as dear as possible, and gin as cheap; that we should choke the sources of intelligence, and throw open the means of 630 intoxication. What volumes in the mere fact, that at Manchester there were 1,000 gin-shops, and not at Manchester one daily paper! Squeeze, then, new profits from the excise duties, augment the assessed taxes; odious and unwise as those taxes were, any tax was better than the one which corrupted virtue, and the other which stifled commerce. It was not, then, enough to reply that the Government could not spare these taxes, and therefore, even if his substitute were doubtful, the doubt made not against his main proposition. His plan was, a cheap postage, in the following manner: all newspapers, poems, pamphlets, tracts, circulars, printed publications, of whatsoever description, and weighing less than two ounces, should circulate through the medium of the general post, at the rate of 1d.; if into the 2d. or 3d. post, at ½d. He would also propose that all works under five ounces should circulate through the same channels, and at a low and graduated charge. The principle of this plan had been successfully adopted in France and America. In France, they might see how little it operated as a check on the circulation of the metropolitan papers. For, if we looked at home, we should find that from 1825 to 1829 there had been little variation in the number of copies sent from London into the country; while in France, where the cheap postage was adopted, the number of papers sent daily by post from Paris in 1825, was 25,000 copies; in 1829 it was 58,000 copies; and it was well stated by Mr. Chadwick, a gentleman admirably acquainted with these matters, that while, during those years, letters had increased fifty per cent, newspapers had increased more than eighty per cent—an important fact, in answer to those who contended that persons would be unwilling to pay a postage, and that such a plan would operate against the diffusion of the metropolitan papers. He had proved there would be a vast increase of papers if the stamp duty were to be abolished. What might that increase reasonably be supposed to amount to? In America there was one newspaper, weekly, to every fourth person; suppose one newspaper, weekly, to every eighth person in England—he took that calculation from the reading proportion of our population—the publication of weekly papers throughout the year would then be 150,000,000 copies; but the present total number of sheets, weekly and daily, pub- 631 lished throughout the year was 30,000,000; so that the increase of weekly papers alone, over all now published, would be 120,000,000 sheets yearly. Now the weight of daily papers of the largest size is eighty-eight pounds per 1,000 copies, which pay a duty of 3d. per pound, or 22s. per 1,000 copies (say 20s.); this makes the paper duty 1,000l. sterling for every 1,000,000 sheets. Now, we found at present that two-thirds of the London papers went by post; suppose for one moment that this ratio continued with the increased number, the account to the revenue would stand thus:
But this is only for weekly papers; add now all the daily papers—those published twice or three times a week—the pamphlets—the tracts—the prospectusses—the various publications sent through the post, and if you only calculate these at an equal sum produced by the weekly papers, the results would be more than a million; from which, if you took 300,000l. to pay the expenses of carriage, distribution, &c. (a most extravagant calculation), you would still leave more than the profits of the two taxes he wished to repeal? A more minute calculation would produce a far higher result. When they remembered all the complicated interests, the vast trades, the numerous intellectual wants of England—that the average talent and enterprise here was at least equal to that in the United States—capital greater, printers' labour cheaper, and that increased appetite for intelligence would be produced by increased freedom in our institutions, was it unreasonable to suppose that the demand for papers might at length equal that in the United States? But, there to every 10,000 inhabitants there is a daily paper, selling, at the lowest ratio, 2,000 copies. Suppose the same in Great Britain and Ireland, and for a population of 24,000,000, you would have 1,440,000,000 of sheets published yearly. Now, reckoning that two-thirds of these would be transmitted by post, the result would be 4,000,000l. stering: add extra paper duty of 1,440,000l., and the total was 5,440,000l. And now suppose two-thirds of the papers would not go through post; he did not be- 632 lieve they would—suppose not one went through the post—suppose they did away with the postage altogether, still the extra paper duty alone would be 1,440,000l.; viz. more than double the whole of the two taxes he asked them to repeal. So profitable might be the diffusion of information. If knowledge was power to its possessor, its diffusion was wealth to a State. He came to the last consideration; the method of transmission through the post. In France the plan had been so systematically arranged, that the best way would be to borrow their details. The main machinery was already formed; if extra expenses in distributing were acquired, the enormous profits would cover those expenses. They might see what those profits would be to Government, by ascertaining what they were to an individual speculator. The average weight of the largest-sized daily papers was 88lbs. per 1,000 copies; say 90lbs. Now, persons engaged in transmitting luggage by the swiftest conveyances, compute the charge at 1d. per lb. every 100 miles; this for 90lbs. would be 7s. 9d., the price of carriage; but the 1,000 newspapers at 1d. each, would be 4l. 3s. 4d.—certainly an ample profit to allow for the expense of distribution, which leaves a clear profit, after all the expenses are paid, of 3l. 15s. 10d. This was all he thought it necessary to say of the plan of a postage at present, for his resolution only went to appoint a Committee to consider the propriety of adopting such a plan; and further details were, therefore, at present unnecessary. He had been more anxious to submit his calculations on this head to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because at one time it was understood that the noble Lord, contemplated not the repeal, but the reduction of these taxes. Now, he would consent to a large reduction in the advertisement duty (though he thought the total repeal most desirable), but he could conceive no reduction in the stamp duty which would not leave in equal, if not greater force, the obnoxious principle; the tempting premium and the unjust prosecution. What could be so monstrous in principle as that any tax should be requisite for a man to publish his opinions? A tax on opinions is a persecution of opinion, it is a persecution of poverty also. If we say, that no one shall declare his sentiments without paying a certain sum, and if, not being able to afford that sum, he yet does pub- 633 lish his sentiments, and is fined, (that is, in consequence of his poverty, cast into prison) for the offence, you make war on his poverty, not on his principles; you punish him, not for the badness of his principles; you punish him, not for the badness of his opinions, but you punish him that, being poor, he yet dares to express opinions at all. Is truth confined to the rich? Who were the great fathers of the Church? Could they have expressed their opinions if a tax had been necessary to allow them that expression? We have been monopolizing the distribution of other blessings, let us, at least, leave opinion untaxed, unquestioned, unfettered, the property of all men. He had now nearly finished. He had attempted to show that the stamp duty checked legitimate knowledge (which was morality—the morals of a nation), but encouraged the diffusion of contraband ignorance; that the advertisement duty assisted our finances only by striking at that very commerce from which our finances were drawn—that it crippled at once our literature and our trade—that the time in which he called for the repeal of these taxes, was not unseasonable—that it would be no just answer that the revenue could not spare their loss, and yet that he was provided with an equivalent which would at least replace any financial deficiency. "Do not let us" said the hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, "do not let us believe, that there is anything in the diffusion of information which is hostile to our political security! At this moment when throughout so many nations we see the people at war with their institutions—the world presents to us two great, may they be impressive examples! In Denmark, a despotism without discontent—in America, a republic without change! The cause is the same with both; in both the people are universally educated. What consoles mankind for inequality in condition like the consciousness that there is no barrier, at least to equality in intelligence? We have heard enough in this House of the necessity of legislating for property and intelligence—let us now feel the necessity of legislating for poverty and ignorance! At present we are acquainted with the poorer part of our fellow-countrymen only by their wrongs—their murmurs—their misfortunes and their crimes—let us at last open happier and wiser channels of communication between them and us. We have made a long and fruitless expe- 634 riment of the gibbet and the hulks; in 1825 we transported 283 persons, but so vast, so rapid has been our increase in this darling system of legislation, that three years afterwards (in 1828) we transported as many as 2,449. During the last three years our gaols have been sufficiently filled; we have seen enough of the effects of human ignorance—we have shed sufficient of human blood—is it not time to pause?—is it not time to consider whether, as Christians and as men, it is our duty to correct before we attempt to instruct? Whether, by sentencing to criminal penalties men, ignorant both of the nature of the offence they commit, and of the penalties to which they are subject, we do not reduce for them all legislation into one great ex post facto law? Is it not time to consider whether the printer and his types may not provide better for the peace and honour of a free state, than the gaoler and the hangman? Whether, in one word, cheap Knowledge may not be a better political agent than costly Punishment? Deny my motion, you cannot deny my facts—by these facts alone, and the attention which they have received, I have made no inconsiderable progress towards the attainment of that object I have so dearly at heart." The hon. Member moved the following Resolutions:—
Postage of weekly papers £416,666 Extra paper duty for the extra 120,000,000 sheets 120,000,000 Total £536,666
"That all taxes which impede the diffusion of knowledge are injurious to the best interests of the people.
"That it is peculiarly expedient at the present time to repeal the stamp duty on newspapers.
"That it is also peculiarly expedient to repeal, or to reduce, the duty on advertisements.
"That it is expedient, in order to meet the present state of the revenue, to appoint a Select Committee, to consider the propriety of establishing a cheap postage on newspapers and other publications."
§ Mr. O'Connell seconded the Motion.
§ Lord Althorp
My hon. friend has shown great industry in his investigation of this subject, and great ability in the manner in which he has introduced it. In a great part of his observations I entirely concur with him, and I think the whole House will agree that the diffusion of knowledge must be advantageous to the country. I agree with him in thinking that cheap publications, such as he has alluded to, would very much promote the diffusion of knowledge, and I believe also, 635 that the only mode by which the bad effects of mischievous publications can be effectually counteracted is, by giving facilities to cheap publications of a contrary tendency. My hon. friend began his speech by saying, that the adoption of his plan would not produce any diminution of the revenue, and he entered into calculations to prove this. I cannot, however, say that I am satisfied with his proofs; and unless I was so, I could not consistently with my duty, in the present state of the revenue, accede to his proposition. My hon. friend says, he is prepared to support his plan, whether it produces a diminution in the revenue or not. In this I am not able to go along with him, in our present circumstances. I cannot help thinking, that he, a little exaggerated the facts and probabilities, as they regarded the revenue. At least he has not convinced me that he is right. There are questions which it is almost impossible to discuss satisfactorily in debate; they are better calculated for the closet than this House. I do not intend to follow my hon. friend through his able arguments; it is not necessary for me to say, that I think the stamp duty on newspapers an objectionable tax; for I myself proposed to reduce it; but the question brought forward by my hon. friend, is one of immense importance; it involves considerations affecting the highest interests of the people of this country, and I think it is too late in the season to undertake such an investigation. I should be very glad to find, on such an investigation, that my hon. friend was right in his views. If I should so find them, no one will be more ready than myself to adopt them. I stated that I thought my hon. friend had been led to exaggerate some of the consequences of his proposals. Gentlemen who are very eager on any particular point, as he very laudably is on this, cannot well avoid being rather two sanguine in their views. He states, that the yearly expense of an advertisement in America is 6l. 18s., while in England it amounts to 202l. 16s. and he attributes this difference to the stamp duty. Now as the duty only amounts to about 60l. of this sum, I think he is too sanguine, when he estimates that the reduction of the duty, would have the effect of giving as great an extension to advertisements in England as exists in America. I do not, however, mean at all to deny that great advantages may 636 be expected to arise from giving every facility to the circulation of cheap newspapers, and though I may think that my hon. friend has exaggerated some of these advantages, I think they are sufficient to be well worthy the attention of Parliament. I have doubts as to the expediency of the mode which he proposes, in order to supply the loss to the revenue, which will be occasioned by the reduction of the stamp duties. He takes off all charge upon the inhabitants of the metropolis, where knowledge is the most diffused, and where people are better instructed, and possess more information, and he imposes a tax, in the form of a postage duty, on the transmission of newspapers to the more distant parts of the empire. Now this is certainly contrary to the principles on which we ought to proceed for the diffusion of knowledge. He says, that this postage would replace the stamp duty. It might do so, but I think he has not taken into his consideration the great additional expense to the Post Office, in the conveyance of these publications, and that the present means of conveyance would by no means be sufficient, if there was anything like the increase in the number of publications conveyed which would be necessary to bear out my hon. friend in his calculation. Even as the case stands at present, great inconvenience and some delay arises, when any extraordinary number of newspapers are sent by the post, from the great additional weight of the letter-bags. I am therefore satisfied, that no great increase to the receipts for postage could take place without incurring the expense of additional carriages. I feel, therefore, very great doubts as to the financial conclusions to which my hon. friend has come, and I could not satisfy these doubts, without an investigation much more accurate than I can apply to the subject in this House, or in a Committee, and I am, therefore sorry to feel it my duty not to acquiesce in this Motion. I find, since my hon. friend communicated with me, he has altered the Motion, and has changed the course which he intended to pursue—had he persisted in moving for a Committee of the whole House, I should have felt no difficulty in meeting the proposition with a negative. He has, however, since dropped that course, and has moved his first proposition, "that all taxes which impede the diffusion of knowledge are prejudicial to the best interests of the 637 people." This is a proposition the truth of which I cannot deny, but thinking that this is not a fitting opportunity of going into the other parts of the subject, I shall meet the Motion by moving the previous question. I repeat, I do not believe the change which my hon. friend proposes would lead to the consequences he anticipates; but as I did not rise with the purpose of answering those parts of his speech, I shall merely observe, that, on the simple grounds I have stated, I shall move the Previous Question
I will not detain the House with more than a very few words, for it is quite unnecessary to do so, after the speech of my hon. friend; but I wish to reply to the observation of the noble Lord as to the advertising. The charges of an advertisement in this country for one year is 202l., while in America it is only 6l. The noble Lord says, that the repeal of the duty will only strike off 60l. out of the 202l. But does the noble Lord forget, that, in fixing the price of advertisements, the newspaper proprietor charges for the interest of his capital, and also, that the price is considerably augmented by the monopoly which exists in the hands of the few, who are able to advance the 60l. on each advertisement. Even now, different papers charged different prices, and if the monopoly were to be abolished, and the market thrown open by the reduction of the tax, from the competition, what would arise? The public would have advertisements cheaper. The reduction would operate in two ways; directly, by making it cheaper to the amount of the tax taken off, and indirectly, by promoting competition. The argument of my hon. friend on the subject of postage was unanswerable, particularly after the example of France, where it has been tried with so much success. Let the noble Lord recollect the great number of newspapers now carried, as well as parliamentary papers. Now the latter as well as the former, might be made to pay a moderate postage. I think that the noble Lord is not following the right course in rejecting this Motion, but that the question ought at once to be submitted to the consideration of a Select Committee. The statement of my hon. friend appears to me, not only to be unanswerable, but to be incontrovertible. I think the whole system upon which we have been proceeding with regard to this subject is erroneous. You have laws imposing severe penalties 638 upon those who are guilty of breaches of these laws; but it has been found impossible to stop the sale of those cheap and obnoxious publications by fiscal laws; and the success with which they are broken, the sympathy excited in favour of the offenders, and the assistance which they receive, only give encouragement to pursue the same course. I have been informed that, within the last fortnight or three weeks, between forty and fifty persons have been taken before the police Magistrates, and convicted for selling these publications. This great number of convictions has arisen from the increased activity of the revenue officers; but this excites a strong feeling in the minds of the public in favour of those who are convicted of breaches of these laws. The law is daily becoming a less effectual check against the circulation of these works, as I understand that they are increasing rapidly. The only effectual check, the only means of preserving the public morals from the baneful consequences of these publications, is, by the diffusion of sound and just notions; and those who are desirous of spreading cheap useful knowledge amongst the people are checked by your fiscal laws. At present, the most erroneous statements and opinions are published without contradiction; and those who are able and willing to instruct the people, are precluded from doing so, as they are unwilling to infringe the law; but the advocates of the most pernicious doctrines, having no such fear, spread their opinions without an opportunity being afforded of showing the fallacy of them. At present, in consequence of so many persons having been convicted, a feeling has gone abroad that there is persecution against them on account of their opinions, and people are, in consequence, induced to purchase these cheap and obnoxious publications. I will not trouble the House at greater length; but will give my cordial support to the Motion.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
I concur entirely in the opinion of the noble Lord, that the appointment of a Committee can lead to no useful result; but that we shall merely have, at the end of a few weeks, a large printed Report. I think that this very extensive inquiry is undefined and illimitable; and I confess, that I do not think that any practical good can possibly result from it. I believe there are three distinct propositions in the hon. Gentleman's Motion; the 639 first has reference to the importance of diffusing knowledge among the people. I do not deny that newspapers very often contain matters of great interest and importance; but I do not think that newspapers are celebrated for containing any philosophical discussions, or that the knowledge disseminated by them is of t he most useful character. I have no doubt that the noble Lord is anxious for the diffusion of knowledge, but I hardly think that he would recommend any one to read the newspapers for the purpose of finding moral or philosophical dissertations on any subject. The second point is, that the duty should be taken off newspapers, with a view to render them cheaper, and to enable persons to commence newspapers; that is, that there is to be a diminution of the expense of a newspaper, and that which sells now for 7d. is to be sold hereafter for 2d. or 3d. It is stated that a monopoly at present exists with respect to newspapers, and that, if the tax were removed, it would enable persons to commence cheap newspapers. Now, I will not mix up the merits of the opinions divulged in newspapers with the rights of the proprietors. The Press is a very expensive and valuable right of property, and I should be loth to see the capital and property of the owners of established newspapers so materially shaken and injured as they would necessarily be if the hon. Gentleman's Motion were carried. I am convinced that, if these taxes were removed, it would be extremely ruinous to the owners of the copyright, who have large capitals embarked in newspapers. The third proposition which the hon. Gentleman brought under the notice of the House, had reference to the finances of the country. He said, if you take off the stamp duty on newspapers, it does not follow that the revenue would suffer, for you might substitute a postage duty on the transmission of newspapers. Now I think that this proposition for substituting a postage duty has been most ably exposed by the noble Lord opposite. I think it has been made perfectly clear by the noble Lord, that, for the purpose of benefitting the metropolis, the hon. Gentleman would do an injury to all the other parts of the country. I really do not think that, if the hon. Gentleman's plan were carried into effect, his object would be accomplished. I cannot help feeling also, that it is inexpedient for the House to interfere in 640 this matter, and that it should be left to his Majesty's Government. I am not one of those who think that newspapers are celebrated for the moral purity of the opinions they propagate, and I do believe that by means of a cheap circulation—quoad newspapers—an end would not be put to the propagation of erroneous doctrines. I think that it is useless for the House to interfere in matters of this sort, unless it is immediately to be followed by a legislative enactment. If, however, a Committee should be appointed, I think the House would be doing that which a House of Commons ought not to do.
§ Sir Matthew White Ridley
As I have presented several petitions on this subject, I am anxious to explain the motives which govern me on the present occasion. I entirely agree in the object which my hon. friend has in view; but, under all the circumstances of the case, I think it is better to assent to the course proposed by my noble friend; I therefore shall support the Amendment. I am anxious to state my opinion, that I cannot support the present Motion, not because I do not agree with the first proposition—that the diffusion of knowledge is most useful, but, on this occasion, I object to send the Motion to the consideration of a Select Committee. I admit the excellence of these Committees for gaining a knowledge of facts, but I do not think that it is proper that matters should be referred to the consideration of a Select Committee, for the purpose of removing the responsibility from the Government. I therefore object, on principle, to the mode which it is proposed to pursue in this case, and I regret that it has been pursued in so many others. But, besides this, I object to the Motion at the present moment, as there are ten or twelve Select Committees now sitting on most important subjects, and it would be utterly impossible that the duties of another Select Committee could be properly performed at this period of the Session. I think, then, that it would be worse than useless to appoint a Committee from which no advantage could be derived. I am decidedly in favour of the reduction of the duty on newspapers and advertisements, but I think that the proposition for substituting, in the place of those taxes, a postage duty on the transmission of newspapers and parliamentary papers, is liable to the most serious objections, for it is giving an advantage to the metropolis over all other parts of the country. At present, 641 the metropolis has great advantages, for it is the centre of all commercial and political information, and agreeing to this proposition would be increasing these advantages at the expense of the distant provinces. In the diffusion of knowledge, of course it is desirable to spread it over as wide a field as possible, but this would tend materially to check its progress in the country. I shall oppose the present Motion, not because I am opposed to the reduction of the duties, but from its being impossible to go into all the details at present; and also, because I think it is taking the responsibility which ought to rest with the Executive Government, and throwing it on a Committee of this House.
The only argument which I have heard used in favour of the course proposed by the noble Lord, which has the least weight with me, is, that it is impossible to go into the inquiry with a hope of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion at this late period of the Session. Nearly all the Members of the House who are not remarkable for their attention to public business, and some whose opinions are entitled to the most weight, are already, and will to the end of the Session, be occupied with Committees of great importance, which are now sitting; and I doubt, therefore, whether any Committee could now be appointed, that would give to the plan of my hon. friend, and to its details, that attention which it so well deserves. I do not agree with the Member who spoke last, in thinking that there is anything improper in a Select Committee to make out a case in all its details, for inquiring into the merits of which a Government may not have time. I think that if a Member has a plan, which, in a prima facie view of the case, appears to promise to effect the objects which the Member has in view, he should always be allowed a Committee, before which he might be able to make out his case. I certainly think, that my hon. friend has made out such a prima facie case for a Select Committee; but, after the declaration of my noble friend, that the only reason for not assenting to the proposition is the late period of the Session, and the state of public business, I hope that my hon. friend will not press his Motion to a division. Sure I am, that if in the next, and the first Session of a reformed Parliament, of which I hope he will be a Member, he will bring forward the subject at an early period of the Session, 642 so that a Select Committee may have ample time for inquiry, the plan of my hon. friend will be attended with success. With respect to the objections urged by the hon. and learned member for Borough bridge, they appear to me extraordinary. He objected that, if the present monopoly was thrown open, the proprietors of newspapers now established would be injured. We are, therefore, to continue the present imposts, to protect their vested interests. The enormous capital now required for conducting a daily newspaper, gives to the proprietors of the leading newspapers a virtual monopoly, and enables them to charge the public a monopoly price, over and above the charge resulting from the high duty. It does not, however, follow that they would be injured by the reduction of the duty; an extended sale would be the consequence of diminished price, and their established reputation would give them a preference with the largest class of readers. The argument, in fact, goes to the extent, that no improvement should be allowed, because the change, peradventure, may injure some particular persons. The objection urged against rendering these publications cheap, might be used as an objection to the art of printing. "How many libels, how many heresies and blasphemies will not be produced by the cheapness of printing! Let us then cling to dear manuscripts, and thus prevent the sale of printed pamphlets and newspapers altogether. Let us stop the distribution of cheap poison." Thus spoke the Conservatives of former days. Some evil, no doubt, results from printing, and cheap publications, but it is the balance of good and evil that, in questions like the present is to be looked to, and unless experience in this country is totally disregarded, all must confess, that, so far as we have gone, the good has greatly predominated; but the argument that publications may be too cheap, and that the public interests would suffer in consequence, would have justified our predecessors in putting down printing altogether; or rather, in refusing to have suffered it to have come into use. Granting, then, that there are distributors of poison, let us ensure the cheap distribution of antidotes. After the admission made by my noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press his Motion to a division, as he will get a Committee next Session, and see his views carried into effect.
§ Mr. Strutt
I will only trouble the House with a very few observations, which I feel called upon to do in consequence of having been intrusted with several petitions on this subject. I consider this subject to be one of the greatest importance; and I know that the working classes throughout the country are looking with the most intense interest and anxiety to the decision of the House on this question. I think that the most beneficial consequences would result from the removal of the taxes on knowledge. The law, as it now stands, on this subject, is not only injurious to the poor, but also to the rich: for I am convinced that all experience will show, that as education is more widely diffused, the moral condition of the people is improved. I think this is the more important now, when you are conferring political power on so large a number of the poorer classes. I think it is highly inexpedient to let them remain in a state of ignorance; and that it is the bounden duty of this House to increase the instruction of the poorer classes, by every means in its power. Hitherto, you have legislated too much for yourselves; you are now called upon to legislate for ignorance. It is chiefly upon the diffusion of sound political knowledge that you render safe the granting political power. If you give the people the latter, without the means of obtaining the former, you do not confer a benefit upon them. At present, in consequence of the operation of the taxes, those who advocate doctrines most injurious to all classes of the community, and, above all, to the labouring classes, are able to spread their opinions without an opportunity being afforded of answering them in such publications as come into the hands of the labouring classes. I know that those who entertain similar opinions to myself on this subject, are sincerely desirous of applying an antidote to this evil, but they are unable to do so without violating the law, while men of abandoned character, break through it with impunity. The effect of the present system is, that it leads to the habitual violation of the law, and prevents the diffusion of useful knowledge and sound instruction among the lower classes, who, above all others, stand in need of it. We have the evidence of the Attorney General, that it would be an absurdity to undertake a crusade against the publishers of these cheap newspapers; for the prosecutions might fail, and the sympathies of the 644 people might be excited, under the impression that it was a species of persecution. It is probable, for the reasons that have been assigned, that the Motion of my hon. friend cannot now be assented to: but I trust that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will, during the recess, turn his attention to the subject. I regret that the reduction of these duties cannot at once be effected; but I trust that the subject will engage the attention of the House at an early period of the ensuing Session.
§ Mr. Robinson
Before this Motion is put, I feel anxious to make some few remarks which occur to me. I am sure that the speech of the hon. member for St. Ives has produced such an effect on the House, that it will not fail of leading, hereafter, to the result which he desires. I entirely concur with the hon. Member in the propriety and advantages of the measure he suggests; but, in my opinion, as the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has shown that his objection to the proposition arises, not from his opposing the principle, but on the ground of mere expediency, I think it would be better to leave the matter as it is, rather than go to a division; I, therefore, would recommend the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his Motion, and bring it forward on a more opportune occasion. In my opinion, it is the duty of this House to examine into the effects of taxation; indeed, is will be one of the most important questions that will come before the House when the expenditure of the country has been reduced to its lowest limits; namely, to consider how the whole system of taxation can be remodelled. This tax must certainly be got rid of; but the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, like all Chancellors of the Exchequer, said, that he could not part with it in the present state of the finances; but, in point of fact, the tax is so objectionable that he could not urge one single argument in its favour. This tax, however, is small in amount, and I am sure that there would be no difficulty in finding a proper substitute for it. I will not detain the House longer than to express my cordial concurrence in what fell from my hon. friend, and I am sure that it will produce its effects; at the same time, I concur with the noble Lord, that it would he inexpedient to go into this question at so late a period of the Session. As it is obvious that, before 645 long, this tax must be put on a proper basis, I trust that my hon. friend will not press his Motion to a division.
§ Mr. John Campbell
As I have received various representations on this subject from my constituents, in which they express the most hearty dislike of these taxes, I rise to give my support to the motion of the hon. Gentleman, and to express my cordial concurrence in the principle of it. There are, no doubt, evils which arise from the licentiousness of the Press, but these are nothing in comparison with the advantages which result from it. I trust that the time is not far distant when we shall have newspapers, as they were in the days of the Spectator and Tatler, published at a halfpenny; and I have no doubt that most hon. Gentlemen recollect a luminous paper in the Spectator on this subject, in which the writer jokes the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day for imposing a small tax on newspapers. I trust that, next year, the noble Lord will be enabled to reduce this duty, and I am sure that the most beneficial consequences will result from it.
§ Mr. Hunt
As I have had the honour of presenting no less than forty petitions on this subject, I will trouble the House with a few observations. I must express my admiration at the ability displayed by the hon. member for St. Ives, in the manner in which he has brought this subject forward. I am most anxious that these restrictions on knowledge should be removed, in order that the newspaper Press may be liberated from that great monopoly which now exists. I hope the time is not distant when there will be fair play and a clear stage for all literary men. It has been assumed by several hon. Gentlemen, that the editors of the greater portion of these small publications are men of abandoned character. Now, I have the pleasure of knowing some of these gentlemen, and I will venture to say, that they are as virtuous and upright men as the writers for the great newspapers. There may be some of these unstamped publications of a very absurd and improper nature, but I deny that this is the case with all of them. The fact is, that this House has been legislating for property alone for a great number of years, and the poorer classes have not been thought of. The truth is, that the working classes of this country are so depressed, and have been so shamefully used, that they are 646 glad to read any publication written against the present system of making laws in this country. The more violent these publications are, with the more avidity are they read. If the hon. Member knew as well as I do what the situation of the labouring classes really is, I am sure he would not be surprised at their hatred of the laws. I know that in some of the large manufacturing towns of the north of England—and I would mention Huddersfield in particular—the greatest distress prevails; and it is with the greatest difficulty that the labouring classes can get three farthings an hour for their work, and certainly not more than 5s. per week. Any thing likely to lead to a change is regarded with the greatest satisfaction. The hon. Member said, legislate for ignorance; I say, however, legislate for poverty. You must lessen the expenses of obtaining knowledge, and afford every facility to the publication of good and cheap publications: this can only be done by removing the taxes on newspapers, and thus destroying that monopoly which exists at present. I protest against the character given to all these small publications; and I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they make these complaints, whether they never saw anything improper or unbecoming in the Times, or the other great papers. The Attorney General said, the other night, that it was in vain to attempt to convict the persons who published the cheap papers; and the only means of stopping the sale of them was, by prosecuting the unfortunate persons who were seized selling them. But the fact is, you have brought the labouring classes to such a state that you cannot put a stop to these publications. These men are quite willing to go to gaol for selling these publications; and those who are punished are looked upon as martyrs to the cause of the lower orders. If the hon. Gentleman presses this Motion to a division, he shall have my vote; but I think that it is unnecessary to do so, as the noble Lord admits the principles to their full extent. Indeed, he could not oppose this first resolution, for, if he did, he would be voting against a self-evident proposition. I am convinced that this will be one of the first measures which a Reformed Parliament will take up, and, I trust, bring to a successful isssue.
I certainly think, that the noble Lord might, without any injury to the revenue, reduce this duty at once. 647 The whole amount received is a very small sum, and when the good that would result from the reduction is considered, I am surprised that the Motion should not be assented to. I certainly did not expect to have such objections, as I understand were used by the noble Lord, against this Motion. As, however, he chooses to persist in opposing it, I can only express my regret that he has seen reason to change his opinions on the subject.
§ Lord Althorp
I beg to observe, that I have not changed my opinion on this subject; so far from it, I distinctly stated that I agreed in the principle of the proposition, that I regretted I was not able to support it, but that my objection was based entirely on a financial ground. With respect to the amount of revenue derived from these newspapers, I would observe, that it is not very small; for it is considerably more than 500,000l. a-year.
I was not in the House when the noble Lord spoke, but I was informed of the nature of his address by an hon. Gentleman; but I am glad to find that I was mistaken.
Mr. Edward Lytton Bulwer
I have made several notes in answer to remarks that have been made; but, in consequence of the turn the Debate has taken, I will not detain the House with more than two or three observations. I am surprised that the hon. and learned member for Borough-bridge has been the only Member who has opposed the Motion on the ground of injuring the existing papers. What! he whose vivid eloquence has so often thundered anathemas on the licentious, the revolutionary Press, now stand up as its advocate! Impossible! The hon. and learned Member cannot be serious. But my Motion would not injure the existing papers; for it leaves them their capital and their ability; and I am quite sure that the Times and Herald, to which the hon. and learned Member alluded, would not suffer in their pecuniary interests by the removal of the taxes, although, from the industry and competition of other papers, their influence might certainly be diminished. In concurring (and how can I avoid it?) with the unanimous feeling of all my hon. friends, whom I know to be as cordially as myself attached to the principle of my Motion, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that the noble Lord agrees with the principle of my Motion—that the time only is in fault—that my facts are un- 648 answered—and that it is universally allowed that my Motion has, even in present defeat, or rather delay, considerably advanced the principles I have advocated. For the sake of the question itself, and that no vote may appear against it on the ground of the season, which hereafter would be assigned to the principle, I yield to the universal sense of the House, and withdraw my Motion, pledging myself to bring it forward in the next Parliament, should it be my fortune to have a seat in it.
§ Motion withdrawn.