§ On the Order of the Day for the resumption of the adjourned debate being read,
said, that the resolution proposed to the House by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, might be, he ventured to assert, a resolution which the right hon. Gentleman had been persuaded to propose by some of those advisers, in whom he conceived the experience of the right hon. Baronet might have taught him, that no very implicit confidence was to be reposed. But that resolution did not contain any condemnation of measures. There was nothing in it that would preclude the right hon. Baronet, whenever the interests of his country and his party might coincide, from reducing the duty on slave-grown sugar, or from bringing his own views upon the corn-laws, in conformity with those expressed by Sir George Murray, or the right hon. George Dawson. The right hon. Baronet—he would not say with disingenuousness, for he disliked the use of such phrases, but with characteristic caution, had taken especial care not to encumber the mo- 1122 tion with engagements from which he might find it hereafter embarrassing to escape. He thought, however, that that advantage was countervailed by other considerations, and that the right hon. Baronet would find the calculation erroneous upon which he had founded his resolution. The resolution itself, of necessity, involved a comparison between the relative merits of the two great parties, and whosoever gave their vote in its favour, would in effect say, that not only the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, but also the hon. Baronet, the Member for Kent, and, still more strangely, the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke, were more deserving of the confidence of a reformed House of Commons, than the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, and the rest of those by whom reform was never abandoned. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth observed, that the defeats of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, were rendered the more signal by the field upon which they were sustained. The House of Commons, said the right hon. Gentleman, was their own House of Commons—it was constructed upon the principles of that celebrated bill, the introduction of which was confided to the noble Lord in 1831. That remark of the right hon. Gentleman was just, and the satire was also double-edged, because it recalled to the remembrance of all the part played by the noble Secretary for the Colonies— a part which had reflected new lustre upon the name of Russell—it reminded all of the incalculable services performed to his country by that noble Lord; and those Gentlemen upon the other side called upon the House to pronounce a sentence of condemnation upon the man to whom, upon their own admission, the existence of the House of Commons, in its reformed shape, was owing. It was on that party which had governed this country for ten years, with the exception of ten months, to which he should presently allude, that the House was invited to pronounce its verdict of distrust; at the same time the right hon. Baronet invited the House of Commons to place his policy and that of the Whigs into the balance. Look back from 1841 to the 1st of March, 1831, the year the Reform Bill was introduced into that House, amidst those manifestations of ridicule, to which they were, perhaps, too 1123 prone to give way; and, in that interval, what a series of events had occurred— events to which he thought the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke, could not look back upon without feelings of admiration, even though they might be mingled with feelings of regret. If the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam worth deserved praise for the moderation of his speech, it must be admitted that the other right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, had made ample amends, in his address, for any want of pungency in the first-named speech. He thought that the expressions used by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke went a little beyond the limits of justice, and that the right hon. Gentleman would see, on reference to the most clear proofs, that he was more than mistaken in attributing to the Government experiments in Parliament for the irritation of the public mind, when they resorted to measures on which the most distinguished of the members of the Government had pronounced a distinct opinion. He held in his hand a letter from the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, dated January 31, 1835, addressed to James Watts, Esq., a gentleman resident at Stroud, in which the noble Lord set forth opinions on the Corn-laws exactly similar to those which he now entertained. The noble Lord in that letter (alluding to the Corn-laws) said that he gave his support to the bill of 1828, considering it an improvement on the prohibitory system; but at the same time in his opinion, a moderate fixed duty would be more advantageous to the agriculturist and also to the manufacturer; that it was desirable not to alter too frequently the law by which capital and great interests were affected; but it was also desirable not to maintain a system of duties which experience had shown had a tendency to raise the price of food; that he gave this as his individual opinion, but that it was one which he was ready to support by his vote in the House of Commons. He thought this letter established the fact that these opinions were not hastily taken up by the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, and that the imputation of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham) had no foundation. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, seemed to say that every measure that had been brought forward by the Government, 1124 when he was a member of it, had been well and duly considered. He observed, that when the name of Earl Grey was mentioned, there was an intimation made by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) the Member for North Lancashire and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke (Sir J. Graham), that they conceived that the policy of the Grey cabinet and the Melbourne cabinet were materially different. But whose cabinet was it that the noble Lord and his right hon. companion retired from? Was it not the cabinet of Lord Grey? Did they not leave the cabinet of Lord Grey upon the Appropriation Clause? That question the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham) now informed the House was the only one upon which he and his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) differed from the cabinet of Lord Grey. Lord Grey and the rest of his cabinet admitted the principle on which the Appropriation Clause was founded. The right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord differed from it, and retired from the cabinet. A commission was issued by Lord Grey to take a religious census of the people of Ireland. This was the question upon which the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) went out. They said they saw the inevitable consequence of the issuing of the commission —they saw at once the principle upon which it rested—they saw that the Appropriation question was intimately connected with the commission. Upon that they went out. It was, therefore, perfectly manifest, by a reference to dates and facts —not to speeches—that the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet separated themselves from the Grey cabinet upon a question with respect to which the rest of the cabinet coincided with Earl Grey. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke admitted that since he left office many important measures had been introduced by the Whigs; but both the right hon. Baronet and the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Sir William Follett) took occasion to observe that those measures were not counteracted by the Tories. But did the Whigs deserve no credit for having brought forward measures of such prudence, that even their antagonists could not complain of them?—or did the right hon. Baronet entertain such an opinion of his new Friends as to think that the value of the measure was deteriorated 1125 by their support? The right hon. Baronet slated that the Post-office measure belonged exclusively to the Whigs. The right hon. Baronet was mistaken. The Post-office measure did not belong exclusively to the Whigs. It was supported by a large portion of the Tories in that House; it was applauded by Lord Ashburton, with whom the right hon. Baronet ought, perhaps, to have some fellow-feeling; and it passed the House of Lords— the great Conservative body of the kingdom, as it was called—without a division.: If that measure were so fraught with evil as it had since been described to be, was it not the duty of the Tory party to arrest it in the House of Lords. [" Cheers."] He confesssed he was at a loss to discover the cause of the intimation conveyed to him by that cheer. At all events, it could: not be disputed that the Post-office measure was supported in that House by a large portion of those Gentlemen who belonged to the party commonly designated Conservatives. But was that measure—was that great commercial boon —to be withheld lest certain monopolists should be in danger by means of modifications by which the revenue of the country, it was admitted, might be improved? True it was that the expenditure of the country had of late exceeded the revenue; but, mark, that excess had arisen from an outlay for sustaining the honour and interest of the country, and he could not refrain from expressing his surprise that with reference to this part of the question the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke (Sir J. Graham), who was first Lord of the Admiralty under a Whig Government, had not availed himself of the opportunity of referring to the present state of the department with which he; was long and honourably associated. The right hon. Baronet scarcely adverted to our external policy. He thought that the right hon. Baronet would have said something of the Indian campaign, with respect to which he had given a notice, but which he dropped as soon as he heard of the victorious progress of the British arms in the East. Perhaps the right hon. Baronet felt that the intended Governor-General of India should not be embarrassed by any rash observations that might be made by the right hon. Baronet by whom the borough of Pembroke was at present represented. Upon the China question the right hon. Baronet certainly 1126 uttered one or two sentences—sentences that he (Mr. Shiel) did not think would have been spoken, if the right hon. Baronet had been apprised of the fact that the flag of England was floating on the walls of Canton. He thought that the right hon. Baronet would find that as his notice upon a former occasion was dropped in consequence of the results of the Indian campaign, so the results in China would provide the best refutation to the premature censure and sarcasm cast upon that part of the policy of the Whig Ministry. But if the right hon. Baronet and his friends approved of the policy of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the East, and especially in Syria, how did it come to pass that they now passed it by almost in total silence. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke had hardly said a word with respect to it. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth merely glanced at it. Yet that part of the policy of the Government was of the utmost importance, almost of paramount importance. He would endeavour to make some compensation for the silence of the hon. Gentleman opposite by quoting the opinions of a man hostile to England, but whose sense of justice did not prevent his offering the high tribute of his approval of wisdom, and genius. He held in his hand an extract from a speech made by one of the most eloquent men in the French Chamber of Deputies, M. Berryer, who, speaking of Lord Palmerston, said—Lord Palmerston has achieved great things for England in a short time. The Mediterranean is now again the central point in all the great transactions of the world. Lord Palmerston has planted his standard there; he has done a mighty deed, and I am not surprised that the most ardent English Tory is now resolved to do him honour and give him a firm sustainment.He supposed that M. Berryer was here adverting to the conduct of the Duke of Wellington, for that great soldier was too English, when the honour of his country was concerned, to degenerate into the partisan. But how must the man who spoke these words, or he should rather say—how must every man in Europe be astonished, if, after these achievements in the foreign policy of the country, the House of Commons should call upon the Queen to dismiss from her councils a man whom the House might deprive of office, but could not deprive of fame, and in his 1127 place to transfer the foreign interests of the country to the party who in 1829 deserted Turkey—who permitted Russia to cross the Balkan, and allowed the trembling Sultan, who invoked their aid in vain, to attach his signature to the treaty of Adrianople, from which such evil consequences had since ensued. He would now pass, and pass rapidly, from the foreign policy of the country to the Home Department, and he did so because he saw on the opposite benches, the hon. Baronel the Member for Wiltshire (Sir F. Burdett), and he was anxious to congratulate that hon. Baronet upon the fact that—without the Six Acts—without the use of Olivers and Edwardses — without the aid of an excited yeomanry charging upon masses of defenceless men, the tranquillity of the country had been preserved. With the Home Department was in some measure connected the Poor-law question. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham) stated that he condemned the severity of some of the clauses of the Poor-law bill; but in the progress of the measure through the House he did not recollect that in the cause of humanity the right hon. Baronet had ever interposed. His tardy and convenient commisseration must have been listened to with some disrelish by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Walter) the instrument through whom a remarkable petition had that night been presented to the House, and a Gentleman whom he respected, because in the cause of the poor he had lately made a very considerable sacrifice—a sacrifice he believed the hon. Gentleman would soon have the opportunity of repeating. He was further disposed to entertain a respect for that hon. Gentleman, because many years age, when he made a motion on the Irish Church, he had the honour of reciving the hon. Gentleman's support, and in the small minority in which he (Mr. Sheil) was left upon that occasion, the name of Walter was conspicuous. Much had been said about the appropriation clause by the Gentlemen opposite—much had been said in condemnation of it; but if he recollected rightly, they themselves concurred not long ago in passing an appropriation clause with a vengeance: they agreed to the Canada Clergy Revenues Bill, their bishops, their clergy, all their usual supporters, with the single exception of the hon. Baronet, the Member for the 1128 University of Oxford (Sir R. Inglis) agreed to that bill; a bill by which they conceded that property received by Act of Parliament for purposes exclusively ecclesiastical, should be diverted from its legal and recognised channel, and applied to Popish purposes. This, he thought, showed pretty plainly, that the party opposite were not influenced by those exclusively religious and Protestant sentiments that was generally supposed. He would now pass from the consideration of some of the measures adopted by the Whigs to the policy of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who, by his resolution, asked the House of Commons for a transfer of its confidence to him. The right hon. Baronet, in the course of his speech the other evening, adverted to the introduction of the Reform Bill into that House. Now, what was the conduct of the right hon. Baronet upon the Reform Bill? He would glance at it only for a moment. Two years previous to the introduction of that bill, the right hon. Baronet had refused to give representatives to the great towns and populous districts which, at that time, had no voice in Parliament; and when the Reform Bill was brought forward, the right hon. Baronet— although he ought to have taken cognizance of the public opinion—by his pertinacious resistance to the measure, produced that state of things which placed the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley) and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham), under the painful necessity of recommending the coercion of one portion of the Legislature. He came next to the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) in 1835. Under what circumstances did the right hon. Baronet come into office in that year? He begged that the right hon. Baronet would understand, that he did not intend to impute to him an attempt to revive, at that period, the ' No Popery ' cry. Strong language had been used in the course of the debate; he hoped, that none that came from him (Mr. Sheil) would be considered too strong. With all courtesy, therefore, but in the spirit of frank dealing, he must tell the right hon. Baronet that his case was this: the right hon. Baronet was brought into office in 1835 by illegitimate means; and he found in the appendix to the report of the Orange lodge committee, a statement of the circumstances in which the 1129 country was then placed, which superseded the necessity of his entering into any lengthened description of them. On the 12th November, 1834, the grand lodge of Ireland passed the following resolution— a resolution to which he begged particularly to direct the attention of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley), as it contained a distinct reference to him. It was in these terms:—The Grand Lodge congratulated their brethren in various parts of Ireland on the state of public feeling as manifested at many meetings which had taken place in support of the Protestant constitution, and which had been most numerously attended; they also expressed an ardent hope, that their brethren in other parts of the kingdom would speak out and vindicate themselves, proving, that they were not what they had been described—the expiring remnant of a faction.There was no doubt, that the King was at that time made to believe, that what was commonly called the Protestant spirit in the country was thoroughly aroused. The King, availing himself of the death of Earl Spencer, dismissed his Ministers, and called the right hon. Baronet to his councils. That the country was at that time in a state of religious excitement there could be no doubt. What did the right hon. Baronet do? Parliament had sat for two years. The right hon. Baronet did not meet that Parliament. The right hon. Baronet shrunk from encountering that Parliament, and the right hon. Baronet dissolved it in the midst of the excitement to which he had alluded. What was the next step taken by the right hon. Baronet—what measures did he adopt? The right hon. Baronet attached great importance to the royal household; and the Earl of Roden, the Grand Master of the Orangemen of Ireland, was the nobleman whom the right hon. Baronet selected to place in the closest relation to his Sovereign. The House would remember the answers that were made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), then Secretary of State for the Home Department, to the addresses presented from the various Orange lodges. The House would remember the scenes that took place in the Dublin theatre. Those scenes must be fresh in the recollection of every Member of the House, and he confessed he did not think they formed any just ground for making the right hon. Baronet 1130 (Sir R. Peel) the depository of the confidence of the House of Commons. What had been the conduct of the right hon. Baronet since he had been out of office. It was quite true, as stated by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham), that the right hon. Baronet had voted in favour of the English Municipal Bill; but what course did the right hon. Baronet pursue with respect to the Irish. Municipal bill? He stated, that Ireland was placed under such peculiar circumstances, that it was not entitled to a community of privileges with England. England at last forced him to give way upon the subject; but when he did so, he still adhered to an odious distinction, which established for a poor country a franchise twice as large as that established in a country which was regarded as the richest in Europe. "For these reasons," continued the right hon. and learned Gentlemen, "I think that the House of Commons ought to come to the conclusion that the party which is most deserving of its confidence, is that party by which municipal reform was carried—by which Parliamentary reform was carried — by which slavery was abolished—by which the East India trade was thrown open——by which the commerce of the country has been unshackled—by which a cheap medium of transit for intellectual and commercial communications has been afforded—by which the course of education has been promoted—by which Ireland has been conciliated—by which the union of the Canadas has been cemented and the foundation of a great empire laid in the west—and by which not only a great accession has been made to the glory and renown of England, but by which the peace of the world has been secured."
§ Sir S. Canning
said, that he was anxious to follow the example of courtesy prescribed by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, although he must take leave to say, that he thought that the right hon. Gentleman was in general singularly infelicitous in the character he gave to any debate in which he took part. He would not say that the right hon. Gentleman intended any want of courtesy on those occasions, but he meant to say, that he frequently indulged in personal observations of a painful character without in the least advancing his argument or the cause he was advocating. He could infer from the argument of the right hon. 1131 Gentleman, that he looked upon the Reform Bill as the most transcendent measure of the Government with which he was connected; and he thanked Heaven that their misgovernment had led to no greater misfortune to the country. The event that was to send the Members of that House again before their constituents was now for the first time expressly avowed; and why? the truth no longer lay at the bottom of the well. The hon. Gentlemen opposite began to feel that they could make out no case against the arguments of his side of the House. They knew that there was but one constitutional and proper course for them to pursue, and to avoid that they determined to adopt the other alternative of a dissolution, as they now explicitly avowed. Now this announcement had not been met on his side of the House with any outcry—and why? because the Members on that side felt a confidence in their cause and argument, and that their strength lay in the people. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last had alluded to many of the acts of the present Government, and, amongst others, to their policy as regarded foreign countries. He did not, by any means, wish to detract from the talents or merits of the noble Lord who conducted the foreign affairs of this country at present, or to speak disparagingly of any of the events of the last six months. He was aware of the difficulty of the noble Lord's duties and situation, for which he made every allowance, and he rejoiced in the success of her Majesty's arms; but at the same time that while he felt sure the noble Lord had done his best for the good of the country and the security of the peace of Europe, he must caution the House not to suffer themselves to be dazzled by temporary successes, but look dispassionately to the results. Suffice for him to say, that he believed if the noble Lord adopted a more European instead of an entirely English policy, the object of his exertions would have been more complete. Look at the excited state of France at this moment, and the vast armaments she had on foot, which produced, also, extraordinary armaments on the part of the other European powers, which he was apprehensive would lay the seeds of future disturbances. He could not, therefore, look back to the foreign policy of the country with that triumph which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to enjoy. With re- 1132 spect to China, was it not now notorious, that after it had been announced, that every thing was settled with that country, the negotiations had been turned into a renewal of the war. The insurrection in Canada had broken out under the rule of the present Government, and if they looked to the domestic Government of the country at home, it could not be forgotten from what source the Chartists had first taken their rise, and the extent of mischief to which they were allowed to proceed until the peace of the country was put to hazard, and was only preserved by the gallantry of a small body of soldiers at Newport. The right hon. Gentleman asked if it was not madness to call for a change of Government when the country was in such a state of prosperity as he described. But this was not exactly the question before the House. The real question was as expressed in the resolution of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, namely, the incapacity of the Government to carry any measures they deemed necessary for the interests of the country, and that under such circumstances they ought to retire from office. If his side of the House had acquiesced in the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or in the Poor-law Amendment Act, without any attention to what was due to the constitution, they would, he doubted not, have reason hereafter to repent such a course. He would avoid saying anything on the subject of Ireland, as there were so many hon. Gentlemen present who understood the situation and interest of that country better than he did; but if the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Dublin, had been in his place, he should have been tempted to make some observations on the tone of that hon. and learned Gentleman's speeches in that House, but as he was absent it would be more correct to abstain. He must, however, say, that in the cuckoo note of justice to Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to forget justice to England, and justice to the whole empire. And when the hon. and learned Gentleman was agitating for a repeal of the Union and a separation of the two countries, he could not but ask how it happened that the hon. and learned Gentleman had so close a connection with her Majesty's Government? He could not reconcile this any more than he could reconcile the votes of the Member for 1133 Lincolnshire who, after declaring against the Government a few nights ago, now turned round to give them his support. He thanked the House for the attention with which they had heard him, as he was but little accustomed to join in their debates, and should close his observations by declaring his cordial acquiescence in the resolution before the House.
Mr. C. Butter
said, the object of the right hon. Baronet in the very peculiar framing of the resolution which they were now discussing, evidently had been to get a vote of want of confidence in the present Ministry, without subjecting himself to any of the usual inconveniences and responsibilities of such a vote. The right hon. Baronet thought that he might avoid bringing under discussion the general policy of Ministers, by assuming the fact that it had frequently been repudiated by the House, and that he might thus avoid what, above all things, he shrank from, having to state the policy which he would substitute for their policy, and compelling the House, having both before it, to say which it prefers. But whether the right hon. Baronet carried his resolution or not, they might be very sure that the right hon. Baronet would not carry it in the way he desires. No man in this House would be foolish enough to vote on it without reference to its practical results; or be led away by the assertion of past exhibitions of want of confidence contained in the first, or by the abstract inference contained in the second part of the resolution, to vote for turning out the Ministry if he really approves of its policy. Those only can vote for it who, preferring a Tory policy, think that the majority of this House is Tory, and believe that it is prepared to support a Tory Ministry; and unless the object of those who support the motion were really that we should have no Government at all, it could only succeed if the majority were united, not only in condemning the policy of the present Ministers, but also in approving of the men and the policy which would prevail on their removal. He could not but think that the right hon. Baronet, in order to effect his purpose, had attempted to establish constitutional doctrines at once new and mischievous. He quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet, in deprecating the maintenance of a Ministry by the favour of the Crown, in opposition to the expressed will of a majority of the House 1134 of Commons; and in holding it to be the duty of a Ministry enjoying the confidence of the Crown to guard its prerogative by yielding to the first intimation of the withdrawal of such confidence, and thus to obviate what the right hon. Baronet had described as "the necessity of recurring to the use of extreme instruments in the collision of antagonist powers." But if the Ministry were of opinion that the majority of the House, though hostile to one, or even more, of their measures, on the whole prefer them to any others—if they were slow in perceiving the indication of their own weakness, or in taking intimations of the alledged hostility of the House, there was no help for it except by the House specifying in terms which could not be misunderstood. Nothing, he felt sure, could be more dangerous—nothing more fatal to the prerogatives of the monarchy —nothiag more inconsistent with the spirit of our constitution—nothing more destructive of the whole system of the "unfelt interposition of slight checks," so justly eulogized by the right hon. Baronet, than any attempt to define the contingencies in which the rejection of its measures ought to be regarded by a Ministry, as a proof of the withdrawal of the confidence of this House. And the more be considered the historical facts adduced by the right hon. Baronet, the more futile appeared his attempt to get any such, definition from the precedents of our history. He had made out to his perfect satisfaction that nothing like a general rule could be deduced from the instances the right hon. Baronet had mentioned, but that the course taken by different Ministries in those cases has always depended on the peculiar circumstances of the case. Walpole resigned on a trivial question; because that trivial defeat showed him distinctly that, in spite of all the arts he had not scrupled to use, the opposition remained compact, and that he had lost his majority; and to Walpole the loss of a certain majority was—in the heated temper of men's minds, and the circumstances of the time3—a matter that perilled his life, or at any rate his fortune and liberty, and rendered it incumbent on him when all hope of retaining power was gone, to secure his personal impunity by a prompt submission. Lord North retired with an actual majority of nine or ten, because no man in his senses would have dreamed of carrying on, with a bare ma- 1135 jority, a disastrous and disgraceful war against the general and indignant sense of the country. Mr. Addington also retired with a majority in his favour, because he shrunk from the rashness of attempting to carry on the most gigantic war in which this country was ever engaged, in the face of Pitt, Fox, and Wyndham, opposing his war policy. There were circumstances in which Ministers required to be supported by the assurance that there existed a feeling in their favour, which they might count on in their most arduous and unforeseen vicissitudes; and they could not encounter these vicissitudes when even under the most favourable circumstances they were sure of being opposed by an almost overpowering force. But now, look to the defeats, which, in less trying national exigencies, or under circumstances that left them hopes of retrieving their general majority, have been experienced by Ministers without affectting their stability. Mr. Pitt, in 1784, and the right hon. Baronet, in 1835, carried on an obstinate struggle against majorities, in the hope that time would give them the means of breaking up the hostile majority. Mr. Pitt was gratified by success, and the right hon. Baronet by his chance of it. Lord North did not resign when Dunning carried his famous resolution against the influence of the Crown. Mr. Pitt did not resign when, in his first Ministry, he lost his French commercial treaty and his Irish propositions. In his second Ministry, his most attached personal friend, and most distinguished political adherent was impeached by a vote of this House, which left him in a minority. This blow is said, to have contributed to his death, but it did not bring about his resignation. He would not recount how Lord Liverpool's ministry ushered into existence with a distinct vote of want of confidence, lost the Property Tax one year, and the Salt Tax another, and how different items of its estimates were torn from it in succession; because he wished to direct the attention of the House to one important measure, of which it experienced the defeat, and to which little, if any, allusion had been made in the course of these debates—he supposed, because, though its failure was caused by the certainty of defeat in this House, it was never exposed to an actual vote here. If ever there was a question, to the success of which the personal honour, as well as the 1136 political existence of a ministry were linked—in which the feelings of the Sovereign and the honour of the Crown were deeply involved—and which, in its universal and strong influence on the national mind, transcended every question that had been agitated within his personal recollection—or, at any rate, any question except Reform, it was the Bill of Pains and Penalties against Queen Caroline. Yet, after abandoning that measure in deference to the strong minority in the House of Lords, the presumed majority in this House, and the general sense of the country, Lord Liverpool's Government went on; and it was clear, that his so doing, must have been in perfect accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, because within little more than a year, that Government was strengthened by the accession of no less constitutional authorities than the right hon. Member for Montgomeryshire and his Friends. And why did such defeats as those he had enumerated produce no effect on the Ministers of the day, in spite of the importance of the questions in which they were placed in minorities? Because the House, while differing from them even on questions of such magnitude, nevertheless generally sanctioned their measures; because, condemning their course even on such points, it nevertheless preferred them to any who could have taken their places. He thought, indeed, that it might fairly be inferred, as well from the precedents of our history as from the common sense of the thing, that whenever Ministers have resigned, it has not been on account of any particular defects, but because from the general temper of the House, as well as of the country, it was quite clear, that the powers of the executive government could no longer be effectually wielded by the party in office. The right hon. Baronet told them, that the Duke of Wellington's ministry resigned because it was beaten on the Civil-list. That defeat was undoubtedly the occasion, but it surely was not an adequate cause for such a result; it was hardly possible to conceive any question on which a strong ministry might with a better grace have yielded to the opinion of the House, and continued in office. But the Duke of Wellington went out on that defeat because he was not strong; because never, in the history of the country was there a ministry in whose weak hands power was so thoroughly pa- 1137 ralysed—never a ministry more unpopular at home, or less respected abroad. The Duke of Wellington went out, because, at the previous general election, the great mass of the really independent constituencies of the country had declared against him, and his strength, such as it was, consisted almost entirely of the Members for the close boroughs. He went out, because he could neither keep the peace, nor protect the property of the country, not against rebels and insurgents, but against machine-breakers and rick-burners, and because being as powerless with regard to the City pickpockets as to the rural rioters, he was obliged to proclaim to the world, that the King of England could not go to dine at the Mansion-house, because his Ministers dared not, for fear of their lives, pass through Fleet-street at night. He went out when beaten on the Civil-list, because he wished to avoid being beaten on the question of Reform. His Government, in fact, had testified its inefficiency to discharge even the most ordinary duties of government, and it was afraid that after all its past disgraces, worse disaster was impending over it. Now what one of these grounds for resignation was, it even pretended exists in the case of the present Government? It was not the Ministry that shrank from any impending discussion, and it need not go out of office in order to evade any question which was to be brought on. Had any single instance been adduced of the laws not being efficiently administered owing to the weakness of the Government since they had been in office? The present Government had unhappily had to deal with disorders as formidable as any of its predecessors, and it might on this score invite a contrast with any preceding Government, and point with pride to the energy and success with which the law had always been enforced by it. There had been Chartist outbreaks, having their origin in a more extensive and deeply-seated desire of political change, and in a more formidable organization than ever before existed. Was it possible to imagine, that they could have been suppressed with greater ease and promptitude, with more hearty good will on the part of the public? They had had now no rural disorders, and Ireland, instead of being a scene of bloodshed and confusion, presented comparatively little crime, and 1138 scarcely any semblance of resistance to the laws. If this state of things precluded the Government from any claim to merit, on the score of energetic repression, it entitled it to the far higher merit of having put an end to disorder, by removing the disposition to turbulence. Indeed, the weakness of the right hon. Baronet's case on this head was pretty apparent, when he was driven to such a trumpery reproach as that which he directed against the Government on account of its being so hard run the other night on the motion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Finsbury; as if there ever was a Government that was not liable to be run pretty hard, or even to be occasionally defeated on chance divisions between eight and nine o'clock. If the right hon. Baronet came into office and should continue to stay in it a whole Session, it was evident, that there are a great many things which he would have to learn, and among others he would, perhaps, find out how very Radical this House is between the hours of seven and nine. Whatever might be the right hon. Baronet's majority on great divisions, he would be bound, that the right hon. Baronet's Government would be weak enough every evening at that time; and if resignation was to be the consequence of such weakness, as the right hon. Baronet says it ought to be, he suspected the right hon. Baronet would have to resign the first month after he was in. Take again our foreign policy, the administration of which was, after all, the point above all others on which the mere strength and efficiency of a Government was of most importance without reference to the wisdom of its policy. Whatever might be men's individual opinions of the foreign policy of the Government, they must all wish, that whatever it might be, it should be administered with such vigour as to make the power of England respectable in the eyes of the world. He did not believe there ever was a period in which the power of England was more respected throughout the world than it was at this present moment. He himself happened to differ from the Government on the Eastern policy. He thought, that they should have aimed at different results from those which they have obtained. But he was bound to say, that the noble Lord's policy was much more in accordance with public opinion than that which he himself would have followed, and, differing from the po- 1139 licy, he was the more compelled to admire the extraordinary vigour which had secured its success, the accurate knowledge on which it was founded—the skill with which the necessary preparations were made, and the courage with which imagined impossibilities and real risks of failure were encountered by the noble Lord. Though he still wished that the energy displayed had been directed to other objects, he could not but feel proud of the effect which the display of it had had in elevating the name and influence of England among other nations. He could not but contrast their present proud position with the miserable figure that this country cut during the Duke of Wellington's Ministry, twelve years ago, when every European power presumed on our internal dissentions, and when, in defiance of every principle of foreign policy professed by the then Ministers both before and since, we allowed Russia and France to dismember the Turkish empire, with just enough of remonstrance on our part to mark the impotence of our disapproval. The right hon. Baronet had been able to make out so very little of a case of weakness against the Government on the score of its administrative acts, that he has wisely confined the burthen of his charge to its legislative failures. Its positive defeats he had been pleased to magnify into a matter of very notorious frequency; but it did not appear, in spite of the numerous divisions on which the Government was said to have been beaten, that any very great number of its measures had been thwarted. The numerous recent defeats with which they were taunted all amounted to the loss of the Ministerial bill for the Irish Registration—a matter of no great practical importance in his eyes, since the result of the whole contest was, that no change has been made in the law on the subject, and the attempt to disfranchise the people of Ireland, under the pretence of a new system of registration, had been defeated. He spoke, of course, of events that occurred previous to the developement of the new and great commercial policy of the Government. That, he confessed, had been obstructed most effectually and most injuriously to the best interests of the Country, and the Government would indeed have been most weak, and deserved the contempt its opponents had cast upon it, had it resolved to abandon such a scheme, without giving the country a 1140 chance of declaring itself in its favour. But some of the reproaches directed against the Government on the score of its legislative measures surprised him coming from the right hon. Baronet. He had been astounded at hearing the right hon. Baronet make it matter of reproach that some of its measures hart been framed with a view of conciliating the opposition —that they had been carried by means of partial compromise—and that their success had very often depended on the support they received from the other side of the House. These were strange reproaches from a Conservative politician, who should have looked on the state of things described as one which in ordinary times was by no means undesirable. A Ministry which did not belong to either extreme must of necessity occasionally depend for support on different parties. He could not think it undesirable that a Government should be obliged so to depend—that it should be unable to ride rough-shod over its opponents by the mere force of a tyrant majority—and that, in carrying through measures of great and extensive change, it should be forced to make some compromises with existing interests, and conciliate to a certain extent the feelings of its opponents. The rotten boroughs used sometimes to give a Ministry a majority independent of popular feeling, and ready to maintain its policy through thick and thin; but in a popularly-chosen House of Commons you must have either such a state of things as the present, or any great excitement and legislation must be carried on by means either of compromise or agitation. He thought agitation a very necessary thing sometimes, but he was content sometimes to have intervals of repose, and periods of political repose were in his view necessarily periods of compromise. The right hon. Baronet, who above all things deprecated agitation and excitement, was particularly inconsistent, therefore, in objecting to compromise and conciliation; but he was still more astonished at such an objection coming from the right hon. Baronet, because, if he were called on to describe the principles that had guided that right hon. Baronet through his political life, he should say it was the principle of concession and compromise; and that his system while Minister had always been that of carrying into effect the political views of his opponents by means of their co-operation. The 1141 right hon. Baronet seemed singularly forgetful of his past ministerial career; and on the whole it would not be a very gratifying subject of retrospect. But he ought, when he was pouring forth the splendid bile of his indignation on Ministerial weakness and concession, to recollect his own Administration of 1835, when his justification of every measure proposed by him was, that it was precisely similar to some proposal of Lord Althorp; and when his only majority—that on the malt tax—was secured by our co-operation. But the right hon. Baronet and his Friends always claimed for that particular Administration au exemption from all the ordinary rules of political propriety, and spoke of it as a great experiment, in the course of which, on some ground which had never yet been fully explained, he had a right to do what it would be very wrong for others to do. So be it: but did the right hon. Baronet pursue a different course in the Duke of Wellington's Administration, of which he was the head in that House? That Administration held power during three Sessions of Parliament. What was the great legislative measure of the first Session—that of 1828? The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts—carried against him in the first instance by a majority, then taken up by him, and carried through both Houses. What was the great measure of 1829? Catholic Emancipation, adopted by him after having his whole life opposed to it, and carried against his Friends by the aid of the opposition. Nor did the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues hold up their heads more proudly in the Session of 1830. The very first night of that Session an amendment on the Address was moved by the right hon. Baronet's right hon. Friend, the Member for Kent, and the Government was saved from defeat solely by the aid of stanch Members of the Whig opposition, who voted with him by the advice of the leaders of their own party. That Session was a very important one in respect of its financial policy: and by far the most important division of the Session was that which took place on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal with respect to the beer tax, of which he thought the repeal best for the great body of the people, But the landed Gentlemen thought it would be a better thing for themselves to repeal the malt tax, and so they opposed the repeal of the beer tax. On that occa- 1142 sion the Government again had to depend on the support of their political opponents: and thus the one measure of the Session of 1830, which gave the Government any claim to popular gratitude, was carried by means of the support they received from the other side of the House, The right hon. Baronet, before he taunted his successors, should sometimes cast back a thought on his own ministerial career; and not judge so uncharitably of those who now carried on their Government in that spirit of compromise, and of reliance on the occasional honesty of the opposite party, on which he himself used habitually to lean. He did not remind the House of these things in order merely to annoy the right hon. Baronet by taunts, or to parry his arguments by retorts. He admitted the weakness of the Government in this House: and he could not but deplore the mischief which such weakness undoubtedly occasioned. It was not merely that, being weak, the Government could not carry those liberal measures which he heartily desired to see carried; but it mutt be admitted that this weakness prevented the progress of many beneficial measures which would interfere with the views and interests of no party. Without speaking of measures which from this cause have been brought before Parliament, they must all lament the loss of such a measure as the County Courts' Bill; they must all deplore the risk which they run of a second year losing the bill for creating two new judges in Equity; above all, they must lament the loss of the Poor-law Amendment Bill, which the noble Lord was perfectly right in withdrawing rather than subject it to an unprincipled bidding for popularity on the eve of a general election; but which, though it thus got another chance, got one which, after that election, would, he feared, be very small. He regretted this weakness as much as any man could; but it seemed to him a necessary consequence of the present state of parties in the country, and he saw no chance of getting a better and stronger Government at present. He could not admit, indeed, that a strong Government was all that they had to desire. He would undoubtedly rather have a Government like the present, unable to carry good measures, than one which should be willing and able to carry bad ones. But taking the question even on the ground on which the right hon. Baronet had placed it, he must still, 1143 before he consented to remove the present Government, make sure of getting a better in its place. If he withdrew his confidence from it on the ground of its not being strong, he must at any rate know where a stronger Government was to come from. He did not think the right hon. Baronet would supply the country with a strong Government. It was with a view to this, that he had reverted to his past career as a Minister. The weakness which marked it was no result of temporary causes or accidental errors. It was the necessary result of his very principles of action—of his whole political system. Place him in power again, and he could do nothing but repeat the errors he committed of old; and, after a ministerial career, liable to every reproach which he had urged against the present Government, bring it to a close as calamitous to himself and the country as that of his former Administration. He indeed wished, considering the chances which they had of seeing the right hon. Baronet at the head of affairs, that he could find in his present course aught that could inspire him with confidence in his administering the Government in a spirit worthy of his concession of Catholic emancipation. Looking on that as the great act of the right hon. Baronet's life, he wished he could say that his subsequent career had proved worthy of it—had shown that he rightly appreciated the wisdom and virtue of the act—and he had thus elevated it into an example of political integrity, instead of lowering it into that mere petty shift of temporary expediency, which it now appeared to be. Had the right hon. Baronet made that act the foundation of a new political career, renewed the principles upon which he previously acted, and adapted them to that course of events which he had already found irresistible, he would now have occupied the proudest and safest station ever held by public man. But since that period, the right hon. Baronet's life had been a servile repetition of his former errors. Again he had banded himself with those from whom he was compelled to separate himself once. Again he had enlisted himself in that course of resistance to the popular will which he was compelled to abandon once. Again he had, in opposition, linked himself to principles impracticable in power; and, as on a former occasion, he was borne into office by a No-Popery mob, he was now brought back to its gates as the champion 1144 of intolerance and monopoly. This was a cause in which no man could succeed— and no majorities which his adherents could imagine for him would enable him to struggle against the national feelings and interests that he was arraying against himself. The stars in their course fought against him in his warfare with the irresistible courses of human events, and the irrepressible feelings of men. The right hon. Baronet was not unaware of the hopelessness of the contest. When power was last within his reach, the right hon. Baronet confessed that he shrunk from grasping it on account of the difficulties that encumbered it. Ireland, he then said, was his great difficulty. All that he had done since had been to augment the difficulty of governing Ireland—and if he could not now with truth repeat the same confession, it was only because he had of late contrived to make England a greater source of difficulties than Ireland itself. In one respect he (Mr. C. Buller) perceived, in the course of the right hon. Baronet, a change that seemed to have been wrought by the recollection of the course which he was compelled to take with respect to the Catholic question. His experience on that matter seemed to have suggested to him the inconvenience of pledging himself to particular measures, and his aim of late appeared to have been to avail himself of a party without binding himself to its policy. On every question on which he had had to vote, his great object appeared to have been to leave himself at liberty to vote the reverse hereafter. And, like the feudal Baron of old, while appearing to strengthen his defences against the foe, his chief ingenuity had been expended in providing postern gates, and subterranean passages, to facilitate the abandonment of his stronghold. He knew of no question which the right hon. Baronet had not made a matter of unspecified time, and unparticularised details. He boasted to the House the other night of his eminent explicitness on every subject of public interest and his explicit-ness exhausted itself so completely on the charter, that he told them nothing of his policy as to any question about which anybody expected that he would have to give a practical vote during the next ten years. He would tell the right hon. Baronet what effect his explicit declarations had produced on public expectation. The right hon. Baronet had been so explicit 1145 on the subject of sugar, that he had left it perfectly open to himself to make the trade in sugar more free than the present Government proposed to do after a lapse of a year or two, or on the slightest diminution of supply from our present sources. He had put the question of the timber duties on the unknown contents of a letter from the present Governor-general of Canada, without a sight of which he alleged, that the human mind was incompetent to grapple with the principle of the question; and the policy which he might adopt in office, depended on the letters which his own future Governor-general might at the convenient moment write, in order to further whatever views he might hereafter wish to establish. The right hon. Baronet had been so explicit on the Corn-laws, that no man knew whether his hinted alteration of that sliding scale to which he had pledged himself with such vague devotedness, was to amount to a mere mockery of the suffering people of this country, or to a virtual fixed duty. As to his own remedies for the commercial difficulties of the people, or the pecuniary wants of the Exchequer, he had been explicitly reserved and uncommunicative. It was the sound and just maxim of Tory statesmen in former times, that no man was justified in thwarting the adoption of any plan proposed for the remedy of an acknowledged evil without proposing some better plan in its stead. True, with regard to all questions this was most true, and used to be most freely admitted with respect to taxes, and every tax being necessarily an evil, it had always been held that no man was justified in opposing any scheme for providing for the public wants except by suggesting a better. The right hon. Baronet would give them no information as to the course which he would take in office, and this great commercial country was left to make out from some dark hints thrown out by him whether he would make things square by adding to the public debt, or by reducing those establishments of which he and his friends urged the augmentation, or by a property tax, or by restoring the old rate of postage, or by any new form of indirect taxation, or by carrying, with the and of his opponents, changes in the tariff similar to those with respect to which he now thwarted the present Government. It was impossible to deny that a party scheme so loose and wide had 1146 surrounded the right hon. Baronet, with a large host of supporters, and that as he might be joined by any who, without fixed political principles, could pay their footing in that House, his minority had been swelled by the recent elections, which he, in a voice of bitter irony against popular institutions, had been pleased to treat as indications of public opinion, but which in sober sadness proved only the wealth of certain individuals, and the venality or dependence of certain constituencies. And by what bond was that large party held together? In what he was going to say, he meant no imputation on the personal or political integrity of the right hon. Baronet, whom he readily admitted to be an honest and public-spirited statesman, but whom he could not, as he would wish, call a great one. But it was the misfortune of his false position in politics that he was supported by half his present adherents, in the belief that the instant he had got into office he would throw over the other half. The right hon. Baronet should hear what his friends say of him out of doors. He did not mean those who had for some time been unable to conceal their hatred and suspicion of him, when necessity compelled them to use him as their only safeguard against the people. He spoke of moderate and sensible men, who, when you anticipate a career of violence and confusion from the Ultra-Toryism in England and Orangeism in Ireland, tell you—" Now, my dear fellow, just you wait till Peel's once in, and then you'll see how he'll throw all those fellows over." One man tells you—" Depend upon it Peel's a much better Reformer than the present men." Another assures you, "that he's the most thoroughgoing free-trader in England." And (continued the hon. and learned Gentleman) many a moderate Tory has promised me, that the first thing Peel will do when in office will be to pay the Catholic clergy in Ireland. Meantime, the gentlemen of every description, who are to be thrown over, see this, and endeavour to take advantage of the right hon. Baronet's present position, and coil around him such professions of bigotry and monopoly as they think it will be impossible for him to extricate himself from in office. I feel sure that they labour in vain: that when in office the right hon. Baronet will do what he thinks best for his country; and that in so doing he will do what half his 1147 supporters will think the worst and wickedest things that man can do. But I have no wish to see the ultimate triumph of my principles secured by such means as these; and I will do nothing to aid the right hon. Baronet in gaining power which I know he would be unable to hold. To retard the progress of Liberal principles he will do nothing effectual, but he may do much to endanger the solidity of our constitution. We are already greatly indebted to the right hon. Baronet for many very important reforms. It was his administration that gave us Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary reform; but it did so by calling into being the Catholic Association, and the Birmingham Union, with Terry Alt, and Swing. Let our next step the obtained by less fearful agencies; and it is because I believe it will be effectually obtained, but obtained without danger to public order, by a Ministry which places itself in the front of popular feeling, and improved views of Government—which, sympathising with the wants and sentiments of the great masses of their countrymen, voluntarily effect those reforms which others yield only to the angry coercion of the masses, that I shall express by my vote of to-night, my hearty preference of the present Ministry to those who are struggling to place themselves in their position.
§ Viscount Dungannon
said, the question the House had to determine was simply whether the course pursued by her Majesty's Ministers was constitutional and honest or not, and whether the precedent Which they had laid down by their conduct would not be injurious to all future Governments'. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last had attempted to bolster up the case of Ministers by placing the former conduct of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, in an unfavourable light; bat what parallel was there between the two cases? None whatever; and therefore, the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman so far was good for nothing. Now, he fully agreed, that on being defeated, the Ministers would be justified in appealing to the country but he mast say, that sustaining defeat after defeat, they were flat justified in retaining office and defering on appeal to the country for an indefinite period. Such a proceeding was not in conformity with either the practice or the spirit of the constitution; and he was 1148 satisfied, that in the history of this country no precedent to warrant their conduct could be found. It might be said, that the whole budget of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had been rejected by a large majority of that House; and this was an occurrence which, he believed, had never before taken place. There could, then, be no doubt, that the Government did not possess the confidence of Parliament. But this was not the only subject upon which they had suffered defeat. What had become of their Irish Registration Bill? Was it not admitted that they could not carry that measure? And what was the gloss attempted to be put upon that defeat? Why, that the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, had also failed in carrying his bill. The bill introduced by the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, was avowedly a Government, an important Government measure; and yet Ministers were unable to carry it through that House. To what was their inability owing if it were not to the House of Commons having no confidence in them? They had, too, staked their existence as a Government on the appropriation clause, but had not that measure, like all their others, been abandoned by them? But they asserted, that they did not possess the confidence of the people. If this were so, why did they not at once test the point by a dissolution? It could not, however, be denied, that they had lost election after election— that whenever the battle had been fought on the hustings they had been signally defeated; aha now, forsooth, they outraged common sense by Saying, "If you object to our Budget, why do you not tell us what Soft of Budget you, if in office, Would produce? "It was quite impossible to understand what was their criterion as to the state of public opinion. With regard to the elections, they attributed their want of success to the wealth of the candidate opposed to them, and the venality of the constituencies; but could such an observation apply to the triumphs achieved at either St. Alban's or Sandwich? He would recommend those who lived in glass houses not to throw stones. Ministers might put off the evil day as long as they could, but they might depend upon it, that it would arrive at last, and that the storm would burst with a fearful crash over their heads; for far and wide the feeling of want of confidence was extending 1149 itself, in consequence of the unparalleled and Unconstitutional course which they were pursuing. Their efforts, by means of hole-and-corner meetings in town and country, would not enable them to hold power which they so grievously abused much longer, and it was not creditable to them to keep places which they could only retain by ministering to the bad passions of excited mobs. They were now pursuing conduct which they themselves had denounced as injurious and insane; and the House, recollecting the sentiments expressed by the head of the Government some time back, in reference to the Corn, laws, must be at a loss to conjecture what it was that had caused such a total change in the opinions of her Majesty's Ministers. The fact, however, was, that they saw they could not carry on the Government except by means of agitation, and this it was, that had led to their bringing forward the three questions respecting sugar, timber, and corn. Now, in reference to the line of conduct adopted by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lincolnshire, and the hon. Gentleman who also represented a division of that county, all he could say was, that to him it was wholly unintelligible. The noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman had voted against Ministers on the sugar duties, and would, it was to be concluded, also oppose them on the Corn-laws; and yet, in the face of a past and prospective opposition to two important Government propositions, the noble Lord, and the hon. Gentleman, strange to say, were now prepared by their votes on the present occasion to assert that Ministers were deserving of the confidence of that House, and of the country. Such reasoning, he must confess, he could not understand; and he thought it was calculated to inflict an irreparable injury on the character of that House, by bringing its proceedings into discredit with the country. When disturbances occurred in the country, did they not find the right hon. Baronet ready to aid them in their measures for putting them down? And to whom, he would ask, might the occurrence of those disturbances be ascribed? To the Government who encouraged agitation when it suited their own views. The last hour of that Government was at length approaching, and he trusted, that their seats would be filled by those who, if not, in every sense of the word, powerful, would at least be honest and straight for- 1150 ward, and who would not resort to chicanery, the like of which, he hoped, would not be witnessed for many a long year, if ever again, by this country. He should, on this occasion, add another to the many votes which he had given against a Government whose policy had been fraught with danger to the best interests of the country.
§ Sir Harry Verney
The noble Lord who has just resumed his seat, has no right to throw on hon. Members the charge of supporting her Majesty's Government for party. I do not desire to accuse Gentlemen opposite of opposing them with any such unworthy view, and the fair construction that I am willing to place on their conduct, I claim most unreservedly for ours. I am astonished to hear the noble Lord reiterate the charge made by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, against the Member for Lincolnshire, for a more complete answer than that given by the hon. Member for Lincolnshire, has rarely, I believe, been given by one hon. Member to another in this House. And the answer contained a severe rebuke. The charge of inconsistency made by the right hon. Baronet, was fully met and disposed of by the hon. Member, by a reference to a speech at Carlisle, made by the right hon. Gentleman in 1835, when he stated, that it was not because he differed from the Government on one question, that he could be expected, or would be justified, in plunging into opposition to their measures in general. The noble Lord has referred to recent contests to prove that the Government has lost the confidence of the country. Single elections do not prove much one way or the other, but when the noble Lord refers to them, and at the same moment charges us with inconsistency, I must say, that unless public rumour does great injustice to the party opposite, one of the most important of the recent elections does no honour to the consistency of their political conduct. If the hon. Gentleman lately returned for Nottingham, was sent to that place by the Conservative party, that circumstance is calculated very essentially to excite distrust in that party, and must be viewed with pain by any man who watches political events, and values political integrity. A gentleman altogether unconnected with the place, and unknown there, is sent down by the party opposite, and contests the borough solely 1151 on the ground of his hostility to the new Poor-law, supported though that law had been in its general and essential principles by all the most distinguished Members of the Conservative party. It has been affirmed, that he was not only sent down by the Conservative Club, but that his contest was supported by their funds. [Dissent from Sir E. Kuatch-bull and others.] I am glad to receive from the hon. Baronet this assurance, that the statement is not true. I should be sorry if it were. I should deeply lament any circumstance that would slain the character of a political party, whether opposed to me or not; and this would, I think, if it had been true, been highly discreditable to the party opposite. Sir, it cannot be denied, that the vote proposed by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, calls on those Members whose votes have contributed to retain her Majesty's Ministers in their offices, to consider the ground on which they have given their support to the Government— it calls particularly on the Members for agricultural districts, who have been informed in the course of the debate, that for the course they have pursued in the discussion, they will not be again returned to this House, and most especially those Members are called on to consider them who are not indifferent to the interesting duties and occupations afforded by a seat in this House, and who having no connection with any but an agricultural district, are thus threatened with exclusion from Parliament. I am happy to acknowledge the obligation under which I feel myself to my constituents, who have now for nearly ten years granted me their confidence, fettered by only one condition, that I should faithfully perform my duties here, and support whatever measures appear to me conducive to the good of the country. I have redeemed my pledge to the best of my ability, and it is for having done so that I find myself arraigned by the motion of the right hon. Baronet. In reviewing the conduct of her Majesty's Ministers, I do not look back on what leads me to regret the support that I have generally given them; still less am I disposed now to acquiesce in the vote of want of confidence in them. I have watched their conduct, and believe it to have been directed to the good of the country. As a country magistrate, I have long taken a warm interest in the trans- 1152 actions of the business of the county in which I reside, and I bear my testimony to the advantage to the rural population of many measures of the Government. When first I began to act as a magistrate, I observed many things which appeared to me objectionable. I consulted an experienced Friend, the present Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, as to remedying them— the best remedy for such things, said he, is an open court. I followed his advice, and made many fruitless attempts to get the business of the county done in open court, but the subject was taken up by a Member of the Government, and obtaining their sanction, open court became the law of the land, and important advantages have, I think, resulted from that enactment. Then came the rural police, all of us who reside in country districts, know how inefficient the old constabulary force has become. A commission was appointed to consider this subject, and suggest a remedy; and the plan adopted by the Government under which those counties who approve it may adopt the rural constabulary force. I should have preferred, that the whole country should be placed under a general police force, organised and under one superintendence; but that plan received the strenuous opposition of hon. Gentlemen opposite. This subject affords an instance of the mode in which Ministers are attacked in this House and out of doors. If I were a candidate for the representation of the county in which I reside, a host of opponents would rise against me as a friend of the rural police, an unconstitutional, Anti-British, revolutionary plan of the Whigs to destroy the Saxon institutions of the country; and on the other side, the right hon. Member for Pembroke says, that for the rural police force the Ministers deserve no credit, as it is based on the measure of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and is indeed only an extension of his plan. How can I sufficiently thank the Ministers for their persevering support of the principles of the new Poor-law?—that law which has done so much to improve the character of the agricultural population. I would not pledge myself to support every proposal contained in the act of this Session, but I cannot forget the obloquy thrown on the Government, and the clamour raised against them because they refuse to depart from the principles on which the act is framed; 1153 and I hold, that the whole country, and especially the agricultural portion of it, are deeply indebted to them. Must I concur in a vote of censure on account of the changes introduced by the Government in our criminal code; The Ministers have swept from the statute book sanguinary laws, that had not the effect of preventing the crimes they punished. And this brings me to a subject that I believe never received from any former Minister the attention bestowed on it by the noble Lord. Long before I had a seat in this House, my mind was directed to the subject of prison discipline; and when visiting the prisons of the metropolis, and different parts of the country, the evils of our prison management struck me forcibly. How often have I been told by the governor or chaplain of a gaol, of some prisoner sent there for a trivial offence. He had never been in prison before, and such was the corrupted atmosphere of the gaol, that in three weeks his character was lost, and he was fit for nothing but to be sent out of the country. And, Sir, attempts have been made of late years to apply a remedy to this most grievous evil, and the subject has been discussed here, and from whom have proceeded lessons of the most practical wisdom on the subject? Who but the noble Lord below me showed that he had considered the whole question the most deeply, and had weighed the advantages and the evils of different systems of prison discipline? Yes, Sir, I listened with delight to those speeches on prison discipline and transportation, with feelings very different to any that mere political or party interests could call forth. To speeches delivered almost to empty benches—that certainly obtained no votes—that hardly elicited a cheer—but I walked away from this House with the conviction, that the lowest and most degraded of the population were thought of, and cared for, by one who stood highest in the council of our Sovereign; that the poor prisoner in his cell had a friend in the noble Lord — that means were taken, and the attempt was made to alleviate his condition, and prevent the punishment bringing a moral corruption over him, and that the author of these humane endeavours was the leader of this House. Will it be said, that the sacred interests of religion, and the advantage of the Church, have been neglected by the Government. Was the Tithe Com- 1154 mutation Bill not a most valuable measure to them? Did it not promote their temporal advantage and spiritual usefulness? The better discipline of the clergy, the diminution of pluralities, were these not beneficial to the Church? Have the Ministers not generally made a good selection of bishops? I know, Sir, that the Church have for the most part, as the noble Lord who spoke last declared, been hostile to the Government, but it is my opinion, that the Government has proved itself most friendly to the Church. No other Administration can confer such benefit on the Church, and on the agricultural interest, as have been conferred on them both by the present, for no evils are left so great as those which have been remedied in great measure by the Commutation of Tithe and the Poor-law. Am I to look at Ireland, and for its condition unite in a vote of censure against the Whigs? There we see peace preserved, and property protected, to an extent not known by any person living. Have our colonial interests suffered under the Administration of the present Ministers? Emancipation has prospered in the West Indies beyond the most sanguine expectation of its supporters. Canada has been tranquillised, and there is every prospect that the union of the provinces will be a successful measure. In the East, success has attended our arms. No proposition is more evident, than that with regard to India, much latitude should be left to the judgment of the authorities on the spot. The Governor-general was selected by her Majesty's Government, and taken from their ranks. He considered it necessary to send an army to Affghanistan, and the expedition planned with wisdom, was conducted with energy. I have always hoped, that the circumstances of that empire might allow its rulers to devote their attention more to its internal concerns than to foreign wars; but I never doubted, that they were right in detecting and punishing any intrigues that might be entered into against our power, and in maintaining unimpaired the prestige of the prevailing might of this country, which gives us so much influence among the nations of the East. Is it for their foreign policy that I am to join in a vote of want of confidence in the Government? The right hon. Member for Lynn approved of the energy displayed by the Foreign Secretary during the last six months, but I contend, 1155 that, it is impossible to study the despatches illustrating the foreign policy of the last six years, without being struck by the ability and attention to the interests of this country with which they have been conducted. I regret, that the right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. Member for Tamworth, should have expressed an opinion on so delicate a subject as our amicable relations with France, as if we had not done all in our power to maintain them, for it appears to me most evident from a careful perusal of the despatches, that the maintenance of a friendly understanding with that power, was a main feature in the noble Lord's foreign policy. In vain do I look through the foreign policy for occasions of censure on the Government, and for reasons why the conduct of our Foreign Affairs should be withdrawn from them. It is not so difficult to state reasons why it ought to remain in their hands at this juncture. The American boundary question is evidently near its settlement—who so likely to terminate that satisfactorily as the noble Lord, who has for so long a period conducted the negotiation? The American tariff will be new modelled in 1842. Will the right hon. Baronet opposite be as well qualified to negociate favourably for this country as the noble Lord, who has shewn his desire to receive the produce of their country? The Brazilian treaty expires next year—and the Prussian commercial league settles anew its tariff. Is it not of the utmost importance, that negotiations with these Powers should be conducted by the Minister who has the most carefully followed them. Sir, I tremble for the commercial prosperity of this country, if its affairs are taken from the hands of the noble Lord at this period, and transferred to the management of hon. Gentlemen opposite—nor do I know any department which is likely to gain by the change —and in some I fear that we may be seriously losers. This is the time when the House and the country should speak out. Have the Queen's Ministers merited your confidence? Have the institutions of our happy country been strengthened or impaired under their Administration? Have we enjoyed a large measure of peace and prosperity at home, and honour and respect abroad? Answer these questions faithfully, and recollect, that on your vote may depend, under Providence, the continuation of all these blessings.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, that as one connected with the county of Lincoln, he had heard with regret and surprise, the expressions and opinions, that had been made use of by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lincolnshire, and by the hon. Member who represented the southern division of that county. He had repeatedly heard these Gentlemen, whether at public meetings or on the hustings, or other places, where he had the honour of meeting them, holding out assurances and promises of attachment and support to the agricultural interest in that county, and who relied on them to defend their interest in that House. As a freeholder in that county he had a right to express his opinion with respect to the votes and speeches of those Gentlemen, and to express his feelings at the manner in which the noble Lord and the hon. Member had deceived their constituents and himself. He hoped the hon. Member, whom he saw in his place (Mr. Handley), had seen the county newspaper in which his conduct was commented on, and which expressed the dissatisfaction entertained in that county at his conduct. the opinions which that hon. Member had thought fit to express in that House, were not the feelings or opinions of the great agricultural constituency which he represented, and he hoped, that they never would be. There was an old adage, "Tell me your company, and I'll tell you who you are." Noscitur a sociis, and it was easy to know by the hon. Member's conduct, who were his associates. He, for the life of him, could not understand how the hon. Member could reconcile it to vote against her Majesty's Ministers On one night in opposition to a measure which he deprecated in the strongest terms, and give his next vote to keep that same Government in a position in which they would have an opportunity to carry that obnoxious measure. He could not understand how any representative of our agricultural constituency, could support a Government avowedly inimical to the interests of agriculture. With regard to the question before the House, it was admitted that there was a deficiency in the revenue. Now, he had always considered the financial part of their duties the most important for the Ministers to perform. When the present Government came into office there was a considerable excess of income; and after between twenty and thirty years of peace, 1157 after promising economy and retrenchment, when we found there was a deficiency in the last four or five years of nearly 2,000,000l.. a-year, though he firmly believed, that when the truth was laid before the House, it would be found to be nearer 6,000,000l., — who could place confidence in the financial arrangements of such a Government? What confidence would the noble Lord himself place in his own steward, if in four or five years there was such a positive falling off in his income? The hon. Member for Liskeard and others had said, "Tell me what the right hon. Baronet would do, in order that I may know how far to place confidence in him." The right hon. Baronet knew, that discretion was the better part of a general, and would keep the secret to himself. If he had any fault to find with the right hon. Baronet it was, that in his kindness he had let out too much already, to the consolation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who sat like patience in a punt, smiling at grief. The hon. Member for Liskeard in the course of his speech, had made sundry charges against the right hon. Member for Tamworth. He (Colonel Sibthorp) would not presume to repel those charges, or undertake that defence, for the right hon. Baronet did not heed his defence. He did not hesitate to say, that her Majesty's Government contrived to keep themselves in office by a species of low cunning, subtlety, dexterity, and duplicity, which could scarcely be equalled by the devil himself. They had shown ingenuity in the way in which they bad postponed important measures; and he himself had sat in that House night after night waiting to oppose the Poor-law Amendment Act—that act which was so grinding on the poor—and what was the result? Why, that in the end, the bill was postponed. He would next allude to the Bribery at Elections Bill. This reminded him of what had taken place at St. Alban's and elsewhere, in many other places where the grossest bribery had taken place. That was the way in which the 35,000l. annually voted for secret service was disposed of. The noble Lord introduced the bill at such a period that it would be impossible to discuss it with sufficient attention, or introduce such clauses as might be necessary. But, he would ask, was it right, that in June, at an advanced period of the Session, and under the threat of dissolution, they 1158 should be called on to vote a sum of from two to three millions for the civil contingencies and miscellaneous estimates? Why, the whole proceedings adopted by the Government were nothing but a mere attempt at delusion. Could any confidence be placed in a Government guilty of the grossest neglect of duty? He thought, that if they had any sense of what was proper, they ought to resign their situations, and let them be occupied by men of talent, of tried ability, men assiduous in the discharge of their duties, and who would be equal to the emergencies of the country. Now, he wished to call the attention of the House to the sums of money in the shape of salary, which her Majesty's Ministers received. There were three Secretaries of State, each of whom received 13l. 3s. 11½d. a-day. He found, that for the last ten years, the noble Lord opposite had received 50,000l. of the public money; the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 50,000l.; the Secretary for Ireland, 55,000l. Upon the whole, the hon. Gentlemen had received 550,000l., and for what? Why, for doing not merely nothing, but worse than nothing. It was not his intention to trouble the House further than to express his intention cordially to support the motion of the right hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. Hawes
should not feel called upon to answer many of the observations of the hon. and gallant officer, because the line of argument which the gallant Member had taken was only a parody of that taken many years ago by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke (Sir James Graham), when he was an ardent Reformer, and looked closely into the large sums paid to different Ministers. He would, therefore, leave the right hon. Baronet to answer the arguments of his new ally, which he thought utterly unworthy of refutation in that House. If historical precedents were to be referred to as a rule for the steps which this or that Ministry were to take upon certain emergencies, the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liskeard had fully settled the question; but he utterly denied that any Government at the present day, and especially since the Reform Bill, could have their conduct regulated by precedents drawn from the olden time. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had referred to the precedents of Walpole and of the year 1784; but he denied that 1159 they could be now guided by precedents of that time, for he thought that statesmen ought now to be mainly guided by the circumstances of the period; and he was warranted in adopting that argument, because he recollected a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, in which he said that so great a change had been effected by the Reform Bill, that the ordinary tactics of party must be given up. Before the Reform Bill, when a majority of the House was returned by close boroughs, the decisions were swayed to and fro by the votes of that independent party, who were supposed to represent in that House the feelings of the country, and the opinions of the people were thus ascertained. The passing of the Reform Bill utterly threw into the shade all former precedents, and the Ministry must now be guided by the best opinion they could form from all sources of the public feeling out of doors. With reference especially to the great commercial question which had been now brought before the House by her Majesty's Ministers, there had been the strongest indication of the feelings of the country. In all the large towns of the empire meetings had been held, which had been joined in by men who had never united before; and those public meetings, held as they had been in open day, and participated in by men of all parties, were sound sources whence her Majesty's Government could gather the public opinion, and by which they ought to be ruled. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke had referred to the measures which had been brought forward by her Majesty's Government, and which had been rejected or modified by the House, and said that they ought to learn from these things that they had lost the confidence of the House and of the country. He thought that this reference was singularly unfortunate. He entirely overlooked the result of the vote brought forward last Session of a want of confidence of the House, and the result of their measures of the last ten years. The right hon. Gentleman had referred, for one instance in support of his argument, to the English. Tithe Bill; he said that it had been supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that without their support it could not have been carried; but he had omitted to tell them, that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had failed because it was void of the very principle 1160 which gave vitality to the law as it was introduced by her Majesty's Ministers, and as it now stood. Next, the conduct of the Government with respect to the Irish Tithe Bill was an object of vituperation, because of the absence of the Appropriation principle, by which he said her Majesty's Government ought to stand or fall; yet, with regard to that, he must say, that if ever there were a charge coming with less propriety or consistency from any hon. Member, it was such a charge coming from the right hon. Baronet. Had the right hon. Baronet forgotten that the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire was the author of the 147th clause, which was as much an Appropriation of Church property to secular purposes as any introduced by the present Government? and the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman now took this occasion, and thought proper to make it a subject of vituperation and charge against the present Government, because they had given up their Appropriation Clause, whilst they themselves, when in power, had been obliged to give up their own 147th clause. The noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet must be aware that there was as strong language used against their clause, as they had used against their former colleagues. They must recollect the description of their clause given by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. Yet the noble Lord had given up the 147th clause when he found himself unable to carry it, and surrendered that which he had introduced with great pomp and circumstance to the notice of the House. It was utterly impossible to be guided in questions of this kind at the present day by precedent. If the country were to be properly governed the Ministers must obtain from the best sources they were able, the state of public opinion. Now he believed that there never had been so strong a conviction upon the public mind in favour of any measure, as there was at the present moment in favour of this great change in our commercial policy. As to the charge which had been made, that these measures were only introduced by Ministers to enable them to keep office, it was but a repetition of the very same charge that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon when the Reform Bill was introduced. It was because the circumstances of the country were such that the Government were obliged to meet the 1161 House of Commons, and either to propose new taxes, or to modify the tariff, that these measures were introduced, and had been met by an opposition which might almost be summed up in the simple term vituperation. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Kilmarnock, had entirely deviated from the, subject before the House, to impute to him and to the hon. Gentleman near him, a desire to pull down the Church. He agreed so fully in the observations of his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Liskeard, upon this subject, that he need say little upon this point, further than to declare that a more unnecessary and irrelevant charge had never been brought against him. He did maintain the voluntary principle, and he believed that this principle was not hostile to the interests of the Church. When he saw the progress and efficiency of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, when he saw the exertions made by the Dissenters in England, why should he shrink from approving of the voluntary principle, as more likely to conduce to the interests of the Church and of religion than the compulsory principle? When the right hon. Gentleman said, that the Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, had been guilty of unconstitutional conduct in supporting the Jamaica Government Bill, and when the right hon. Gentleman took credit to hon. Members opposite for more constitutional devotion in maintaining the Assembly of Jamaica, he could not forget that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, only opposed that bill that he might give to the House of Assembly a locus penitentiœ, declaring at the same time that, if they should refuse to discharge their functions, then he would support the bill of the Government. Where, then, was there any of the constitutional devotion to which hon. Gentlemen opposite now laid claim? If the financial difficulties of the country were to be the ground of distrust, he thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite had very little claim to the confidence of the country when it was known that those deficiencies had existed for some years, and they had not brought them forward as a ground of want of confidence. The deficiency was mainly attributed to the introduction of the reduced postage, and the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke said, that he would make that side of the House a present of the Post- 1162 office change. Now, if he had to give his vote again upon this proposal he would repeat that he had already recorded it, and he supported the present measures precisely because he believed that, by a, judicious alteration of our tariff, they would enable the Ministers to make many other reductions in our taxes. He was not ashamed of the vote he had then given, and even in the present state of the finances of the country he would be ready to repeat his vote. He rather thought that the gallant Officer opposite (Colonel Sibthorp), who had joined in the complaint, had himself voted for that very measure. But was there anything in the present state of the finances of the country that presented any peculiar source of difficulty? The only difficulty that he saw was, that when measures were brought forward to remove these commercial difficulties, without adding fresh burdens to the people, they found a great political party to contest those measures. If it could be proved that the amount of revenue required could not be raised by an alteration of the tariff, he would be prepared to reconsider the opinion he had formed; but when he found the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, coming forward to raise the question whether the Ministers who possessed the confidence of the Crown, were to be allowed longer to conduct the Government of the country, and when he found that the right hon. Gentleman had not attempted to make any calculation, or to show any ground for a belief that these measures would not raise the required revenue, he was disposed still to think that this alteration of the timber duties, of the corn duties, and of the sugar duties, would raise a large sum, and even more than was necessary for the finances of the country, whilst it would relieve many interests from a great pressure. A great deal had beep said, as to what would be the produce of the duty derived from corn; but that was not the question before the House. The question was, whether the alteration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would give such a stimulus and impetus to the different interests of the country as to make an increase in the whole amount of the revenue. It was said, that the present duty produced more than a million last year. Why, the million last year was one of the causes of the depression of the country, and was one great ground of complaint 1163 against the Corn-laws; and if by an alteration a stimulus were given to trade, the customs and other taxes would yield much more than they now did. And what was this great struggle for? Did hon. Gentlemen opposite mean to say, that the measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were objectionable and essentially wrong? If they did think thus—if they did, then they were opposed by an unanimity of feeling out of doors. If they did not think that these measures were objectionable and essentially wrong, they were liable to the accusation of acting entirely from party motives, and of opposing the measures they were ready to adopt the very day after they succeeded to office. He would not repeat what had been already so well stated, by the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Liskeard, that the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman upon the timber duties were unstated, that his opinions upon the corn question were unknown, that upon the sugar duties they were uninformed? What, then, were they struggling about? Was it a struggle to know whether the right hon. Baronet should come into office or not? If so, it was a struggle between two great parties, and it was one in which the people would not take any interest. The people were not struggling for any party advantages, they were struggling for great commercial and fiscal benefits; which, if carried, would confer great advantages upon all classes of the community. The people out of doors would appreciate the contest they were now entering upon. They did not understand what was meant by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They did not sternly stand on a principle. If they meant to do so, why did they not say in their resolution that they would not admit slave-grown sugar? They refused to do so. Their resolution refused to do so. Again, why did they not say that they would not admit foreign corn? Why did not the right hon. Baronet say, that he meant to adhere to the present scale? The right hon. Baronet came down with a general expression that he would adhere to a sliding scale, and he wished that the farmers of England should understand from this that he would adhere to the present duty. The right hon. Baronet meant, as far as he could to keep out foreign corn, whilst he admitted, that the prosperity of the country depended upon the success of our manufactures, and he meant to disap- 1164 point that great commercial class from receiving a boon offered to them at a time when it might be so beneficially granted hon. Gentlemen opposite had not, on any of the great questions which had been discussed, given any information to the House upon the subject of the principles upon which they rested. They must be understood to be struggling for place, and not as opposing those measures in respect of which they were called upon to give their votes. On the part of the people it was a struggle for food unfettered by unjust restrictions, and for wages which their unfettered industry only could secure. He rejoiced that on that occasion the party of which he was a member was led by the noble Lord, in the great struggle which they were undergoing, because he felt, that that noble Lord had the confidence of the people, who esteemed him for his candour, because he had not shrunk from avowing plainly the principles on which he went. They knew well what principles they were supporting, and past events assured them that they knew whom they were supporting. Meetings had taken place throughout the kingdom upon the subject of the Corn-laws, by the results of which the feelings of the people of England had been fairly exhibited. In the corporation of the city of London it was known, that as in another place, there were whippers-in, whose duty was so well known, that it was not necessary for him now to describe it. A meeting had been summoned to consider the commercial questions in dispute, and the circular showed, that the intention of the requisitionists was strictly political, and the object was, to support the present Administration—an object for the attainment of which the Corn-law question afforded an opportunity. At the meeting the question of Corn-laws was fairly discussed, those present were fairly divided, and although the very greatest care had been taken to secure the attendance of the opponents of any alteration being made, by a considerable majority a decision was arrived at in favour of the measures proposed by the Government. Public meetings had been held also in Liverpool, Manchester, Huddersfield, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and in other northern districts, over and over again, and however small might be the majority in that House, however equally the parties in that House might be divided, there was that opinion expressed 1165 out of doors which clearly entitled her Majesty's Ministers to appeal to the people for a decision. Much had been done to bring odium on that side of the House on account of the measures which had been brought forward by those who occupied its benches, but he for one had never thought it his duty to shrink from supporting them. He rejoiced that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had referred to these measures, for now that he was going to the hustings he avowed openly, that he abided by all that he had done, and that he was ready to vindicate the course which he had taken. If the right hon. Baronet should succeed in disappointing the expectations of the people—if he should succeed in the noble project of taxing the people to the extent of millions per annum for their sugar, their timber, their coffee, and their corn, he knew not what might be expected to be the result. But from the opinions expressed out of doors, he came to the conclusion, that the people would not suffer this question to rest where it did, but that any prolonged inattention to their wants would be the foundation only for agitation and animosity. He conceived, that the course which was taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite was fatal to their own popularity. The Conservative party were beginning to lean upon their new allies the Chartists, and while they were pandering to the worst passions of those persons, they opposed the wise and beneficial measures propounded by the Government—propounded without party purposes or objects, and solely for the benefit of the people of this country hon. Gentlemen opposite had said, that this was not a time at which these questions could receive a fair and calm consideration; but the effect of their continued opposition to measures introduced for the popular advantage would be, that they would band together men who before had never been united; they would go on disappointing the people; and when they saw distress accumulated on distress, they would be surprised to find their demands rise from those of a mere commercial to others of a political nature, and they would find, that they would be unable to restrain those passions which they had themselves excited. That the changes proposed to be made would be of a nature beneficial to the prosperity of the country, he thought could not be doubted. He challenged hon. Gentlemen 1166 to point out the time when any great change had been made in our commercial policy—liberalizing our commerce, and rendering our duties the means only of producing a revenue, as distinguished from their operation as a restriction upon the introduction of foreign commodities, that a result highly beneficial to the country had not been produced. The adoption of such a course by Sir Robert Walpole had been referred to, and the greatest prosperity had marked the course of our commercial career for years afterwards. If he came to a later date—to the time of Mr. Pitt—he should find that a like result had occurred, interrupted undoubtedly by the war. In the time of Mr. Huskisson, the most unequivocal evidence showing the same result had been afforded, and in following this course of policy, therefore, the Government was basing its proceedings not on a speculative principle, but on that which had been proved. He should be glad to hear what were the grounds and principles on which hon. Gentlemen opposite now resisted the proposed change. If hon. Gentlemen could show him that it would be injurious to the country, and that hon. Gentlemen were actuated by some other feeling than that of mere opposition, then, indeed, he should have some ground for believing that there was something more than mere party warfare in their opposition. But the policy of the Government was based on experience, on a system tried before and found to have uniformly produced the same result, and he only regretted that there should be a struggle between the two parties likely to produce an agitation throughout the country prejudicial to the authority of that House, and most injurious to the interests of the people.
Mr. Speaker, I have observed, during the course of the late protracted debates, that it is always a favourable omen of the approaching conclusion of a discussion, when the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, moves the adjournment of the debate, one night, and commences on the succeeding evening at five o'clock, and as we have this evening obtained that happy omen, I trust we may hail the right hon. Gentleman as the harbinger of the close of the present discussion. Before it terminates, therefore, I am anxious to address a few words to the House in explanation of the grounds on 1167 which I am prepared most cordially to support the motion of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth. I confess that if any thing could surprise me on the part of her Majesty's Ministers, it would be the course which they have taken on the present occasion—the narrow, and, as it appears to me, the unseemly ground they have occupied, in resisting the proposition before the House. That proposition divides itself into two parts. First, that which, in other times, I should have considered the main and substantial object of the discussion; and, secondly, that which, in other times, would have been considered a mere truism, and a corollary necessarily resulting from the assertion of the first proposition. What is the first proposition? It is this,—that Ministers do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons, to enable them to carry through the House measures which they believe to be essential to the public welfare. In what manner has that been met? Has it been met as a Government, strong in the conviction of its own right—strong in the conviction of its own good cause—strong in the support of the people, would have been eager to have met a proposition so directly condemnatory of the whole conduct and proceedings of the administration. I should have imagined that such a Government, if it had not met such a proposition, by a resolution avowing the confidence of Parliament and the country in their proceedings, would at least have taken the bold line of denying, utterly and at once, that they did not possess the confidence of this House and of the country. I should have expected them to have declared, that their measures had been so plain and straightforward—that they had at all times so distinctly avowed their principles and intentions, that, if they did not still retain the confidence of the House, it was owing to no change of conduct on their part, but to a degree of fickleness and vacillation which they could not have anticipated on the part of Parliament. I should have expected them to have told its, that the principles which they laid down on their accession to office they had steadily and strenuously persevered in maintaining—that no dread of unpopularity had induced them to depart from that which they knew to be right—and that they had steadfastly, firmly, and successfully resisted that which in their con- 1168 sciences they believed to be wrong. I should, I say, have expected that on these grounds, namely, the clearness with which they had defined their principles — the steadiness with which they had adhered to them—and the firmness and success with which they had vindicated them, any Government, worthy of the name of a Government, would have met such a proposition as has been submitted to the House by my right hon. Friend. And how have these Ministers — for I can hardly say this Government met the motion before the House? Why, at first, with faint and feeble opposition; and, at last, with a hesitating and reluctant admission of the truth of the proposition. True it is, that the right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, did, at an early period of the debate, venture on an hesitating defence of the Government, and declare, that it was not quite so bad as my right hon. Friend had represented it to be. True, he did produce a list of certain motions, which he said the Government had succeeded in carrying in the course of the last five or six years. The right hon. Baronet said,True, we have sustained defeats on many occasions. On more than one occasion we have been compelled to abandon—on more than one we have been defeated in attempting to carry, our measures. We have received the suggestions and corrections, and have deferred to the commands, of hon. Gentlemen sitting on the other side of the House. Those hon. Gentlemen have generally dictated the course of our proceedings; but it cannot be denied, that we have been able to carry some measures, from 1835 down to the present time.Now, I think that my hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke, completely demolished the whole of that argument. The right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, enumerated the whole of the measures, which, he said, Government had been able to carry; and my right hon. Friend, in following him, went through the list, seriatim, and showed that there was not one of the measures, as to which Ministers had not received the support of their political opponents. Yes, I repeat, that my right hon. Friend showed, that there was not one of the measures referred to by the right hon. President of the Board of Control, upon which a division had been taken by the political opponents of the Government, either on the first, second, or third reading, or or any clauses materially affecting the principles 1169 of the bills, with the single exception of the Irish Corporation Bill, which was at last passed, only because Ministers adopted the franchise insisted upon by this side of the House. "But," says the right hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade,What blame can you attach to us, if our measures were so pure and unexceptionable, as to command the respect and support even of our political opponents?The argument is a plausible one; but what if those measures did not, originally, belong to Ministers—what if they were borrowed from their political opponents? What if those measures belonged to the Governments of Earl Grey and Sir Robert Peel, and were adopted by you, and passed with the support and assistance—aye, and in almost every case, with the modifications suggested by your opponents? What can be more unjust, than that you should adopt measures which originated with your opponents, and then seek to obtain exclusive merit for them? I will not, at the conclusion of this long debate, weary the House by referring to any point which my right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke, has already adverted to, in a speech which, as yet, has received no answer from any hon. Gentleman opposite. There was, however, one point upon which my right hon. Friend omitted to animadvert. He proved, clearly and distinctly, that the Government have never succeeded in carrying a single measure against the will, and without the consent, of their political opponents. He proved distinctly that there were many measures which they were compelled to abandon after they had been defeated on divisions, and others which they abandoned without venturing to go to a division. But there is one circumstance which my right hon. Friend omitted to touch upon, which exhibits most strongly the weakness and impotence of the Government, and clearly demonstrates the truth of the resolution proposed by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth,—that Ministers do not possess sufficiently the confidence of the House of Commons to enable them to carry measures which they deem to be essential to the welfare of the country. I will undertake to prove to the House, that Ministers not only do not possess the confidence of their opponents, but even of those persons who call themselves 1170 their supporters. I will show that many hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are about to give their support to, and declare their confidence in, the Government, have, on many important occasions, opposed them. I will show you that, more than once, or twice (I might say more than twenty times), in the course of the last five years, during which you, the Ministers, have held the reins of Government, you have been fain, in resisting measures brought forward by your own nominal supporters, which you deemed injurious to the best interests of the country, to call—and you never called in vain—for the assistance of your political opponents to defeat your political supporters. Will the House permit me, without going back to an earlier period than the session of 1838, to call to its recollection the powerful support which Ministers were able to command, in the ranks of their own supporters, upon questions the rejection of which was deemed essential to the public interest? In 1838, the Ballot had not become an open question. In that year the present Government, in the present Parliament, declared, as a Government, that they would strenuously oppose the adoption of the Ballot. Mr. Grote at that time brought forward his motion for the introduction of the vote by Ballot, and the Government brought their forces to bear against it. If I recollect rightly, the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, addressed the House in opposition to the motion, which was, indeed, resisted by the whole strength of the Government, and upon a division, the numbers were—Ayes 198; Noes 315. This was a satisfactory defeat of a proposition which the Government, at that time, concurred with us in considering dangerous to the public interests. Now, how many votes did Ministers contribute from their own supporters towards the defeat of Mr. Grote's motion? The ayes exclusively consisted of those Gentlemen who are now about to vote their confidence in Government—who look to the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, as their leader in political matters—and who are ready to declare that they yield implicit deference to his opinion. To meet this hundred and ninety-eight of his own supporters, the noble Lord produced just sixty-five votes, including sixteen Gentlemen who held offices; whilst of the 315 Members who defeated the 198 supporters of the Government, the Conservative party fur- 1171 nished no less than 250. On the 28th of February, 1839, Mr. O'Connell moved for leave to bring in a bill to assimilate the franchise in England and Ireland, and to make the same more extensive. Upon that occasion the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, mustered courage, and declared be must meet the proposition with a decided negative, The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, also spoke against the motion; and when we came to a division, the ayes, consisting exclusively of the supporters of the Government, were ninety-two, and the noes 155 —of whom the Government furnished just forty-nine, including twenty-one Gentlemen in office, and the Conservative party furnished 106. On the 21st of March, in the same year, the hon. Member for Kilkenny moved for leave to bring in a bill to amend the Reform Act, which motion was resisted by the Government. On that occasion the hon. Member for Kilkenny brought up fifty Gentlemen to vote for him, and the motion was negatived by eighty-five; but of this number of eighty-five, the Conservative party furnished fifty-six, and the Government only twenty-nine. One instance more, and I have done. On the 4th of June, 1839, the hon. Member for Preston proposed to bring in a bill to alter the qualification of voters for counties in England. That motion was, as I recollect, opposed, in person, by the talents and eloquence of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies; but the noble Lord's eloquence was not very persuasive with his own party; for the motion being rejected by a majority of 207, I find that the noble Lord's supporters contributed thirty-nine votes, including twelve Gentlemen in office, whilst their Conservative opponents assisted them with the small force of 168. Now, I have produced four instances, in the course of two Sessions, in which the Government have been hostilely encountered by their own supporters. Motions were brought forward which Ministers considered dangerous to the public welfare; and, in every instance, if the Conservative party had been absent from their posts, the Government would have been defeated by their own supporters, and by large majorities— whereas, in each and every one of those cases, if the Ministers had been absent to a man, with all the votes they brought to bear upon the question, the results would not have been different—the Conservative 1172 strength was, in itself sufficient, and in most cases by considerable majorities, to defeat the attempts of the Friends of the Government. I refer to these occasions as completing the case necessary to establish the great influence and power which the Government possesses in the present House But I might almost have spared the House the trouble of listening to these details, because, in point of fact, the noble Secretary for Ireland frankly and fairly confessed, that, with respect to the first branch of my right hon. Friend's motion, there could be no difference of opinion. The noble Lord, speaking of the financial measures of the Government, said, "I admit that we do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House to enable us to carry our measures." Was there ever such an admission made by a Government before? Suppose that, in any other time, my right hon. Friend had brought forward this proposition, and this alone—the first branch, observe, of his present motion— that the Government do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of Commons, to enable them to carry their measures through that House—just pause for a moment, and consider what must be the position of a Government, who, to that single proposition, is bound to reply —" We admit your allegation: we are unable to dispute it." Why, in any other time, would not such an admission have been regarded as conclusive proof, that the Government was unworthy to conduct the affairs of the country? But my right hon. Friend was well aware that Ministers were very slow at taking a hint. He knew that very significant hints had been repeatedly administered during the course of past Sessions—he knew that it was necessary not to leave them a single loophole through which they could escape the decision of the question, as affecting their whole political existence; and, therefore, my right hon. Friend added to his first proposition, which is admitted, that which, I confess, appears to me to be a truism, namely, that Ministers are acting contrary to the spirit of the constitution, when, having lost the confidence of the House, they continue to retain their offices. But to my astonishment, and that of the whole country—to the astonishment, I believe, of many of those faithful followers who sit behind the noble Lord opposite, and are about to be dragged reluctantly into this division—the noble Lord, admitting the first proposition, 1173 finds it convenient to demur to the second, and says. "Although we have not the confidence of the House, it is not incumbent on us to retire. We have yet some chances to try—we have yet some turns to take. It does not necessarily follow, because we are without power, that we must also be without office." Weak as I consider that position to be, I think that the arguments by which it is sought to be maintained are the most extraordinary I ever heard fall from the lips of men charged with official responsibility in this great country. Least of all should I have expected such a position to have been taken up, and such arguments to have been propounded, by Whig Ministers—by those who profess to respect popular feeling and the popular voice—as have proceeded from the right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, and the right hon. the Secretary at War. Why, what said the right hon. Baronet? He stated—and I cannot be mistaken as to his words, because he was contrasting what he was pleased to consider the existing favourable circumstances of the Government, with the unfavourable position in which they were placed, when they first accepted office—he stated, in my hearing, and to my extreme astonishment, that it is not the duty of Ministers to resign, although they do not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, or the power of carrying their measures through t, because, forsooth, they do possess the favour of the Crown. I am sure I am not in the slightest degree misrepresenting the language of the right hon. Baronet, because, as if in order, that no doubt might arise upon the point, he followed up that declaration with these emphatic words:—"which, let me tell you, is the best support any Ministry can have." And these are the words which fell from a Whig Minister !—which fell from a man who was, at one time, the ardent and almost enthusiastic defender of popular rights ! This is the language which fell from the Member for Nottingham These are the doctrines which, in his place, a Cabinet Minister presumes to address to the assembled Commons of Great Britain ! I know not whether the right hon. Baronet is in the House; but if he be not, I tell his colleagues for him, that, in my judgment, there can be no higher responsibility—no deeper or graver offence against the constitution—than for a Minister to dare to whisper such doc- 1174 trine in the ear of a Sovereign of the House of Brunswick. I tell you, that of the personal favour of the Crown we know nothing, and ought to know nothing, in this House; and deep, indeed, is the crime of that Minister, who, fancying that he possesses that personal favour, presumes to abuse it for the furtherance of the selfish purposes of his own party, or the interests of his Government; but deeper still is his guilt, who dares to use the name and supposed favour of his Sovereign, for the purpose of overawing the discussions of this House, and fettering the free expressions of the feelings of the representatives of the people. Another argument which I heard used by another Cabinet Minister, the Secretary at War, was, that it mattered little whether the Government were able to carry their legislative measures, as long as they were visited by no censure from this House, on the ground of their exercise of their administrative or executive functions. A doctrine more fatal to the power and influence of the House of Commons was never broached, nor one that would so completely screen a bad or incompetent Minister, by overthrowing the influence of the House of Commons over Administrations, and leaving, not the appointment only, but the maintenance in power, of every Government, in the hands of the Crown, and of the Crown alone. I heard this doctrine advanced by the right hon. Gentleman who sits opposite to me with great astonishment; but I was greatly relieved when I found that it rested on the authority—high as it may deservedly be—of the right hon. Gentleman himself, but upon no other. I know the right hon. Gentleman's learning, his historical research, and his deep and intimate acquaintance with the constitutional history of his country; I know, likewise, the acuteness with which he can bring to bear the stores of his knowledge on the subject-matter of debate; and, therefore, I am perfectly satisfied, not only that if he had been able to find any vindication or authority for his doctrine, he would have produced it in this discussion; but also, that if there were any such authority or vindication in existence, it could not have escaped his research. Now, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to follow up his doctrine, and to tell me when, in the history of this country, a Ministry has ever been displaced by a vote of the House of 1175 Commons upon the ground on which, and on which alone, he alleges it can be so displaced? I believe there is, in the history of Parliament, no instance of a Government being removed from office upon a vote of the House of Commons, censuring their administration of affairs— I mean the executive administration of affairs, apart from their legislative measures. The mode in which want of confidence is signified to an administration is, by the rejection of their measures submitted to Parliament. I am ready to admit, that of all motions which can be made—of all questions which can be submitted to the House, an absolute vote of censure on an existing administration is one that puts to the highest test the feelings of the House of Commons against that Administration. It is the last vote to which Gentlemen will come, who have been cordially and for a long time the supporters of a Government. They will vote against their legislative measures— they will vote against their general policy —but they feel a natural, and I will not say a blameable repugnance, to supporting an absolute vote of want of confidence, or an entire censure on an Administration which they have long been in the habit of supporting. I admit this frankly and fairly to the hon. Gentlemen opposite; but, then, I call upon them to admit, on the other hand, that if that be the case, it it is a vote on which a small majority, in favour of an Administration, is equivalent to a decided defeat on any other motion; and one upon which a majority against the Government is the utter annihilation of the possibility of their retaining office. I think the right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, went on to say, that a single defeat upon a legislative measure is no ground for a Minister resigning his office. I frankly admit that it is not; but is this the case of a single defeat? Is it a case of one, two, three, four, five, six—I know not how many-defeats which the Government have sustained on important questions? I tell right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have boasted much of the tranquillity, happiness, and freedom of Jamaica, that if that colony be happy, prosperous, and contented, in the enjoyment of a free constitution, it is because her Majesty's Ministers were overruled by us, in regard to the Measures they proposed respecting it. I tell them, that if the Church in this coun- 1176 try, and more especially in Ireland, be in the quiet enjoyment of its revenues and legitimate influence, it is because her Majesty's Ministers could not carry the measures they proposed respecting it. I tell them, that if the national system of education introduced into this country be not altogether disconnected from all the forms of religion, it is because they could not accomplish their objects. I tell them, also, that if the finances of this country are, as no man can deny, in a state of deplorable deficiency and embarrassment, it is because, of all the branches of their policy, that is the only one in which they have not been checked and controlled by their political opponents. I cannot afford, therefore, to make the noble Secretary for Ireland a present of all previous Ministerial defeats. I cannot permit him to pass over quietly, as he is disposed to do, all the propositions abandoned—bills forsaken—pledges which he and his colleagues have been compelled to violate— and the principles which they have, if not entirely repudiated, at all events, left in abeyance. The noble Lord, however, was driven to confess, that Ministers are now in a position in which they do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House to be able to carry their measures through it. With respect to the right hon. President of the Board of Control, even when he is right in his assertion that a single defeat is not a sufficient cause for the retirement of a Government, he is singularly unfortunate in his illustration, the more so, as he took on him to correct my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, on a point of history. In illustration of his position, that a Government is not bound to resign upon a single defeat, the right hon. Baronet referred to the case of Sir Robert Walpole's defeat upon the Excise question. Now, Sir Robert Walpole, it is true, was compelled to abandon his project relative to the Excise, but not by a vote of the House of Commons. When he brought forward the project, he was, on five or six several occasions, supported by large majorities in its favour. He was supported in that scheme by the confidence of the House of Commons; but he yielded to strong indications of popular discontent, and ultimately withdrew it. Whether it be wise or prudent in a Minister to yield to indications of popular feeling, apart from its expression through the 1177 representatives of the people, is not the question which I now have to discuss. It is sufficient for me to show, that he did not abandon his measure in consequence of the withdrawal of the confidence of the House of Commons, which, indeed, he continued to enjoy for a period of no less than seven or eight years after that time. But, Sir, I have referred to the history of Sir Robert Walpole, and I think, that if there be one part of it to which his admirers must look back with pain, and in which future Ministers must read an instructive warning, it is that which is comprised in the closing Session or two of his political career. Sir Robert Walpole had, for a very long period enjoyed the confidence of the House of Commons—he had enjoyed the confidence of the House of Lords—he had enjoyed the confidence of the Crown. He had administered the affairs of this great country, with a degree of energy and success almost unparalleled for so long a time. But the period at length arrived when he lost the support of a portion of his colleagues. Sir Robert Walpole then suffered himself to be overborne in his own cabinet. He permitted himself to be drawn into, and become responsible, for measures of which he himself had disapproved. He plunged the country, not indeed into the miseries of eternal strife and civil discord, but into the misfortunes of a popular war—a war called for by the popular voice, but a war of which he foresaw the evils and disasters. And why did Sir Robert Walpole do this? He did it in deference to the earnest entreaty of his Sovereign, whom he had faithfully served, and who for him, almost exclusively of all his colleagues, entertained respect and esteem. He did it in obedience to the passions of the people out of doors—to passions which had been stimulated and excited, even by some of those who sat in the same cabinet with him. And, from the moment when he thus unwisely yielded, the power which Sir Robert Walpole once possessed was gone. Place remained to him, but the authority with which it had been invested was no more. Divided councils brought with them inefficient action. Feebleness in every department of the Government succeeded to previous energy. Defeat for a Session or two—actual defeat—was evaded or escaped by ignominious concessions, and humiliating compromises. But the hour of defeat came at last; and, 1178 after a long life of useful service to the country, that power which Sir Rober Walpole might have resigned with a dignity which would have commanded the respect of all men, if he had had the courage to act on his own opinions, was wrested from him by a majority of the House of Commons; and he fell at last, the less respected, and the less regretted, because he fell too late and too reluctantly. I cannot but think, that there is at least one Minister of the present day, who may find, in the history of Sir Robert Walpole, matter for serious reflection; and who, perchance, may hereafter look back on his own course with unavailing regret, when he views in it a repetition of Walpole's weakness, and of Walpole's fall. The right hon. Gentleman, the Judge Advocate, not quite satisfied with the defence set up for the Government, on the two points to which I have referred, took another ground, and told us, that the Crown had the power of dissolving Parliament. He told us, that that was their alternative to the motion of my right hon. Friend—the alternative of dissolution, rather than resignation. The right hon. Gentleman contended, that the question was not whether the Government ought to resign or not, but whether they should dissolve the present Parliament. I say, with all respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that this is not, and cannot be, the question before the House. It is not a question which ever ought to come before the House of Commons, or ever ought to be alluded to. No doubt the Crown has the power of dissolving Parliament, if her Majesty should think fit to do so. That is a prerogative of the Crown, with which the House of Commons have no right—as I am sure they have no desire—to interfere. For my own part, I venture to say, that Gentlemen on this side of the House do not deprecate a dissolution. I believe, that the country at large is anxiously awaiting a dissolution, to enable it to relieve itself, by its own exertion, from an Administration which has too long crippled its energies. But with the advice of dissolution the House of Commons has nothing to do. It is the prerogative of the Crown, to be exercised by the responsible advisers of the Crown; and for its exercise—for the time—for the mode—for the occasion— and for all the circumstances attending a dissolution, the advisers of the Crown will 1179 be responsible to a future Parliament. And now, let me ask, what is it that the Government seek for by a dissolution of Parliament? What is there to justify them in taking the course of dissolving Parliament at the present moment? I say, I do not shrink from that proceeding—I do not deprecate it; but the country has a right to know why we are threatened with dissolution; and it will inquire under what circumstances, and for what purposes, Ministers have advised her Majesty to take that step? Ministers will say, that it is for the purpose of effecting an alteration in the duties on sugar, corn, and timber, on part of which scheme they have already sustained, as on the other part they know they will sustain, a defeat. In what position, I ask, would the country be placed in the event—an improbable supposition, I allow—of the success of Ministers? Would the result be to render the motion of the great political machine more easy? Would it facilitate the harmonious carrying on arid working of the Government in the service of the country? Would it bring the two Houses of Parliament into greater harmony than they are at present? It would effect none of those objects. At the present moment, the two Houses of Parliament are, as far as we have any reason to believe, in perfect accordance of opinion with respect to the questions which her Majesty's Ministers have thought proper to bring into agitation. The House of Commons condemns the project of the Government; the House of Lords, we have every reason to believe, would condemn it also. If, however, the Government should unexpectedly succeed in their endeavours, and obtain some trifling majority of one or two in the House of Commons, in favour of their policy, the happy result of their operations will be, that they, who are charged with the responsibility of Government, and intrusted with the duty of carrying on the service of the Crown and of the country, will have created a difficulty for themselves, and have placed the two now accordant branches of the Legislature in a slate of irreconcilable difference of opinion. But there is an object to be gained by it. It is a desperate effort, by means of agitation and excitement—an effort which, I am convinced, the good sense of the people will repudiate, and visit with signal discomfiture— to prop up for a while a tottering Admi- 1180 nistration. I say, however, that we have no right to anticipate a dissolution. This House, in discussing measures, must discuss them in the supposition of the permanence of its own existence for the period which the constitution assigns to it. This House has no right to anticipate that the Crown will exercise its prerogative—a prerogative which it can exercise When it pleases, but which it is bound to exercise without interfering with the independent action of the Legislature, by hanging over it the menace of dissolution. For what reason is it, that, since the passing of the Septennial Act, there has been, I believe, scarcely an instance of Parliament having arrived at the natural term of its existence? Why has the term of the existence of Parliaments always been abridged? Why for this good reason —that it is considered desirable that a House of Commons, elected by the people, should exercise an independent judgment, and not be every moment looking to the effect to be produced upon the hustings by each vote and speech in this House. It is in order that we may carry on our discussions for the good of the people and not be seeking occasions for pandering to their passions. It is in order that we may exercise our functions freely and independently; and, if we do not so exercise them, we are unworthy of the name of legislators, and degrade ourselves into the occupation of political agitators. In 1807, Mr. Canning let fall an expression in the course of debate, which intimated the probability that Parliament would shortly after that time be dissolved. These were his words: —Whatever might be the issue of the division that night, the Ministry were determined to Stand on the prerogative of the Crown, and if necessary, make an appeal to the country on the subject.Was that intimation received with great approbation by one who is at present the colleague of the Gentlemen whom I see opposite? Lord Henry Petty immediately rose and said,However that House might be attacked by the Government — however it might be threatened—he, for one, relied on the manly spirit of the House, that no threat would be capable of influencing their deliberations, or altering their opinions.That was the mode in which Lord Henry Petty, now the Marquess of Lansdowne, a member of the present Govern- 1181 ment, treated what seemed to be a threat of dissolution, intended to influence, by intimidation, the deliberations of the House of Commons. What said Lord Howick—not the noble Lord whom I see opposite—what said that Lord Howick to whose opinions, when they happen to be in accordance with their own, hon. Members are so ready to pay respect—whose authority they are so anxious to enlist in their cause, even although there is not one of them who will venture to rise in his place and declare that that noble Lord agrees with them? What was the language of Lord Grey, who was referred to in the course of this debate by my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Exeter, as withholding his sanction from the rash and reckless course which the Government is now pursuing, and whose relative—almost the nearest he has in the House— rose immediately after, without venturing to offer any contradiction to the assertion of my hon. and learned Friend? What said that Lord Howick, in the lobby of this House, in 1807, while the division was going on? He requested the attention of the Members around him, and told them, that, if the original question should be negatived, it would, perhaps, be necessary to propose an address to the Throne to meet the threat held out that evening — a threat unexampled in the annals of Parliament. On a subsequent night, Mr. Shaw Lefevre condemned the threat held out by Mr. Canning; and Mr. Whitbread said, thatThe most pusillanimous Parliament would not suffer itself to be deterred from the prosecution of its public duty by such a threat— the most indecent, indiscreet, and unparliamentary that could possibly be thrown out.This was the language used in 1807, when a Minister of the Crown held out an intimation that Parliament was about to be dissolved, with a view to influence the proceedings of the House of Commons. Now, I place Government in this dilemma. Are they about to advise the Crown to dissolve? They say they have the alternative of dissolution, or resignation of office. I say, that we, sitting here as the representatives of the people, cannot infer that a dissolution is about to take place. It is not right that we should carry on our discussions under that menace and intimidation; and I say I am bound, therefore, to assume, that a dissolution is not about to be advised by the 1182 Government. But if it be about to be advised, then, I say, we are placed in a position in which no Minister of the Crown has a right to place Parliament. We are called upon to discuss great questions, and to agitate important interests. We are not called upon to pass great legislative measures; but Government proposes to bring forward these great measures for discussion without the hope of their being carried, and that, too, expressly because they are about to dissolve Parliament, and appeal to the people. And the noble Lord opposite thinks it a constitutional proceeding, that, with such expectations and anticipations, we should carry on our debates in this House. I was told the other day, that I was a most unworthy pupil of Mr. Huskisson. I recollect the language which Mr. Huskisson used in 1826; and as hon. Gentlemen opposite are very fond of appealing to the authority of that Statesman, I request their attention to the words which I am about to read. On the 18th of April, 1826, Mr. Wolryche Whitmore moved, that the House should resolve itself into a Committee, "to consider the present state of the Corn-laws." Now, mark the language which Mr. Huskisson applied to a debate on the Corn-laws, brought forward in expectation of an immediately approaching general election, He said,His purpose was to persuade the House not to engage in this discussion, because he was convinced that it could only terminate in inconvenience and embarrassment. It was almost universally admitted, that there were certain questions which it would be much better to leave in a state of abeyance until they could be more fully discussed in a new Parliament. If there was one question more unfit than another to be entertained at the present moment, it was this, relative to the Corn-laws. No question was more calculated to agitate the House, and to set afloat in the country notions which might give rise to general inconvenience; and he thought, therefore, that unless the House were prepared to go through with it—unless they were Convinced that this opportunity, and this time, were convenient for dealing with so momentous and difficult a subject as the state and system of the Corn-laws, it ought not to be taken up. He would fairly own, that, at this period of the Session, when everybody was looking forward to the probability of a general election, he thought that nothing could be less advisable than to agitate the subject. He repeated, that if, at this moment, the House should raise (as the discussion of this subject was necessarily calculated to do) a great ex- 1183 citement in the public mind, it would be impossible to conduct the debate with that calmness which ought to characterise the deliberations of a British House of Commons.That was the opinion of Mr. Huskisson as to the prudence, the policy, and the Parliamentary character of that course of proceeding, of introducing a discussion on the Corn-laws, on the eve of a general election. But what would he have said, if it had been proposed that the Corn-laws should be discussed in this House, with a view to their being made the very pivot on which a general election should turn? What would he have said, if, to all the considerations which attach to the question of the Corn-laws itself—their influence on prices and the wages of the labourer—their influence on the well-being of the humbler classes of the community —what would he have said, if it had been proposed to combine with these considerations, sufficiently grave and important in themselves, the question of the existence, as a Government, of one of the two great parties that divide the country? Why, the excitement and agitation arising out of the discussion of the question itself must be increased tenfold when it is known, that on the decision of that question, will turn the government of the country for years to come. Yet it is at such a time, and under such circumstances, with the tremendous risk arising from the nature of the agitation, that her Majesty's Ministers dare to come forward and invoke it. An address has been put into my hands to-day, which is a specimen of the calm and temperate mode in which the people are appealed to, on the eve of a general election, and just previously to a discussion in Parliament on the question of the Corn-laws. I will read a passage to the House.—[Here the noble Lord read an extract to the following effect:]—That by prompt exertions the people might get rid of the financial difficulties of the country, without resorting to additional taxation; but that, by the rejection of the plan, the sources of labour to the industrious workman, and of profit to the manufacturer, would be destroyed, and great impediments be thrown in the way of our commercial prosperity.And then comes an appeal, which I thought had been exclusively confined to the good taste and prudence of the noble Secretary for Ireland:—(" Arise, then, all yė Christian men, who look for the bread 1184 of life—will you let your fellow-men starve for want of food?") And this appeal for support to the Government, is addressed to that constituency which is now represented by her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, the leader of this House! I am far from thinking, for a single moment, that the noble Lord is in any way connected with, or even cognisant of, that address. I am sure I should be insulting the good taste and feeling of the noble Lord, if I for a moment thought him guilty of being capable of such a production. I refer to it merely for the purpose of showing the calm and temperate language which is employed, in the endeavour to excite the people, on the eve of a general election, at a time when the House of Commons is called on to deliberate upon a question of the most exciting nature that can be placed before the country. [An hon. Member: "Who signed the address?"] It is not signed—it is a printed paper. Before I sit down, I wish to address a few words, and they shall be only a few, to those hon. Members who profess, and, I have no doubt, sincerely, great regard for the agricultural interest— Gentlemen, who form a part of that unfortunate class, who, by the supporters of her Majesty's Ministers, are stigmatized as grinders of the poor, monopolists, and every thing else that is odious. The hon. Member for Lambeth, told us this evening, that an appeal is about to be made to the public, not on any general or undefined question—not to decide whether this or that man shall be at the head of the Government—but, simply, on this distinct question—whether or not the country will do away with the corn monopoly, which is the cause of various other monopolies? [Mr. Hawes: "Not the corn only."] Well, then, according to the hon. Member, Ministers are about to appeal to the country, for the purpose of inducing the constituencies to return such a House of Commons as will effectually put down all those great interests of the country, which they are pleased to call monopolies, of which interests that of the landowners and agriculturists is, in their mind, the first, the greatest, and the most atrocious. The question is fairly put by the hon. Member for Lambeth; and it is the question on which Government are about to dissolve Parliament. Ministers are pledged to use all their power in the next Parliament to effect their object. That is the issue which 1185 they are putting to the country—that is the issue on which they are asking for the support of the present House of Commons. This being the case, it appears to me that the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, made us of a very singular argument the other night, in opposition to the motion of my right hon. Friend. He said,How can I refuse to vote my confidence in the Government—I, who concur, not only in the measures which they have carried, but in those which they have abandoned. I concur in the principles which they have abandoned. I recorded my dissent from the abandonment of those principles; and that is the first ground on which I refuse my assent to the proposition, that they are not able to carry their measures through this House.Then, said the noble Lord, I am going to vote confidence in the Ministers, because, next week, they intend to bring forwardan important measure, on which they rest the existence of the Government. [" No, no." From the Ministerial benches.] Oh ! you do not ! It is very difficult to understand what your intentions really are ! You did not rest the existence of your Government on the question of the sugar duties. Well ! I will say that Ministers are about to bring forward a measure which they deem essential to the well-being and prosperity of the country; and the noble Lord, the Member for Lincolnshire, states, that he will not withhold his confidence from them, because he is convinced that, however loudly they may talk—however deeply they may pledge themselves—however much they may pretend to bring forward that measure, he knows they have not the power to carry it through the House of Commons. This is the excellent reason the noble Lord assigns for refusing to assent to the proposition of my right hon. Friend, which declares, that Ministers do not sufficiently possess the confidence of this House to enable them to carry their measures through it. The noble Lord's argument is undoubtedly a very extraordinary one: whether it is an argument which will prove very satisfactory to his constituents, remains to be seen. I wish, however, to put this consideration to the noble Lord, and others who profess themselves to be the exclusive friends of the agricultural interest. In a paper which supports the measures of the Government, and which is supposed to be their organ, I noticed a very significant intimation the other day. It was this — 1186After all, the motion of the right hon. Gentleman may be of advantage to the Government. It may give time to constitutional organization, and to make proper arrangements for a dissolution, by which they would have a better chance of defeating and destroying the monopoly of the agricultural interests.I do not think that Ministers will venture to take the course recommended by their organ of the press. But, suppose that they were prepared to do so: in a House so equally divided, when the decision of the question may depend on two or three votes to be given on one side or the other, what if Ministers should obtain the opportunity of organizing a successful opposition to the agricultural interests throughout the country, and that opportunity should be given them by the votes of two or three Members for the most agricultural county in England. I would suggest to the consideration of the noble Lord and his colleague, whether it will be considered that their votes in favour of the Government, on this occasion, will be perfectly balanced by the vote they intend to give against the Government proposition relative to the Corn-laws. I put it to those who profess themselves anxious to sustain the agricultural interest, whether they can justify themselves for giving to Ministers what the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, designated the other day as "no very extended period" for maturing the measure which they have in contemplation. It is impossible for me to pass by those Gentlemen who call themselves the friends of the agricultural interests, without saying a few words in answer to what appeared to me to be a very uncalled for attack, which was made upon me the other night by the hon. Member for Lincolnshire. The matter of accusation was simply this. That whereas, in 1835, I declined to form part of the Administration of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, stating, that I had not sufficient confidence in the measures which his Government was likely to adopt, to take upon myself the responsibility of joining, in an official capacity, an Administration which I yet declared I hoped to be able to support, I am now, after seven years of the most unreserved political intercourse— after the most entire and cordial concurrence with my right hon. Friend on all political questions—after the most intimate and confidential communications between us, as to his and my opinions—prepared to take upon myself my humble share of whatever responsibility may devolve upon him. From the charge of inconsistency, involved 1187 in that accusation, I do not think it worth while to defend myself. I will rather submit to the entire weight of the castigation inflicted upon me by the eloquence of the hon. Member. It is to me a matter of the most perfect indifference, whether the hon. Member writes himself down a Tory, or any thing else; but I confess it startled me to hear the hon. Member declare, at a time when he was attacking me for my inconsistencies, that he should belie the whole course of his political life, if he were now to be found writing himself down a Tory. I thought I recollected, and I believe there is no doubt of the fact, that whatever opinions the hon. Member may now hold, from 1820 to 1826, he had not the least hesitation in writing himself down a Tory. During that time, the hon. Member was, if I mistake not, one of the warmest and most strenuous supporters of Lord Liverpool's Government. In 1821, and, I believe, again in 1825, the hon. Member gave his vote against motions for inquiry merely into the justice of the Roman Catholic claims. In 1822, he gave his vote against a motion brought forward by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in favour of Parliamentary Reform; and through the whole of that Parliament he continued to be the most uncompromising and devoted adherent of a Tory Ministry. I believe, that subsequently to that period, the complaint of the hon. Member, though not in Parliament, against the Duke of Wellington's Administration, was, that it conceded Catholic emancipation; and it was not until Earl Grey came into possession of power, that the hon. Member came out in the new character of a consistent Reformer. It is true, I believe, that the hon. Member was a very constant supporter of Earl Grey's Administration, as he had been of that of Lord Liverpool; and when my right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, came into office in 1835, if I much mistake not, the hon. Member did me the honour of consulting me as to the course which he should take on that occasion—not liking to give an absolute refusal of his support to the right hon. Baronet's Government—and although I cannot claim the honour of having long retained the confidence of the hon. Member, I do find, that, either in accordance with advice which I may have taken the liberty to give him, or from his own unbiassed judgment, he did give his vote in favour of Mr. Manners Sutton for Speaker, as against the candidate whom her Majesty's present advisers proposed for that office. 1188 My right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, was in a minority on that occasion, and it somehow or other happened, that he subsequently had not the advantage of the hon. Member's support. From that time to the present, I am ready to admit, the hon. Member has been a steady supporter of Lord Melbourne's Administration, as he was previously of Lord Grey's, and, before that, of Lord Liverpool's. These, I have no doubt, are the slight and venial inconsistencies into which, as my noble Friend, the Member for Shropshire, said, last night, all great statesmen occasionally fall; but, if great statesmen are guilty of these inconsistencies, they should at least have a little mercy on those less distinguished individuals who, at a humble distance, follow in their steps; and I would particularly advise the hon. Member to abstain in future from making personal charges, more especially when there is a chance that, from however humble a quarter, such charges may be retorted on him. The hon. Member took leave to ask my right hon. Friend, what answer he should give to the farmers of Lincolnshire as to his future policy: a point upon which the hon. Member says, he and the farmers of Lincolnshire feel extreme alarm. Now, I think, that when my right hon. Friend seeks for an expositor of his policy to any portion of the community, he will hardly apply to the hon. Member; I am, moreover, inclined to think, that when the hon. Member meets the farmers of Lincolnshire, he will have quite enough to do to answer fur himself, without undertaking the somewhat superfluous task of answering for my right hon. Friend. I say, that neither the hon. Member nor the Government has any right to call upon my right hon. Friend to state what course he would feel it his duty to take upon any particular question, in the possible event of his being charged with official responsibility. I recollect that, when first came in to Parliament, Mr. Tierney, a great Whig authority, used always to say, that the duty of an opposition was very simple—it was, to oppose everything, and propose nothing.
; Ay, and to turn out the Government. That was the political creed of Mr. Tierney, as to the duty of any opposition; but I must say that if ever there was an opposition which has gone out of its way to avoid limiting itself to the performance of the duty prescribed by that 1189 high authority—if ever there was an opposition which hesitated to embarrass the Government when bringing forward their measures—if ever there was an opposition which, not only abstained from offering factious opposition to the measures of Government, but, on the contrary, lent its best advice and assistance to suggest alterations and improvements, and to carry, with the concurrence of the Government, such modifications as might ensure for their measures legislative sanction, here and elsewhere,—it is the opposition with which I have the honour to be connected. I must, however, say, that although we have not factiously opposed the Government—although we have endeavoured honestly to discharge our duty to the public, by giving our best assistance and support, without reference to the quarter from which they proceeded, to measures which we believed to be beneficial to the country, there is a time and a limit at which the duty of forbearance and longer patience becomes a crime against the people of England. There is a time when the measure of the iniquities of a Government is full. There is a time when, if they refuse to listen to the voice of friendly warning, or to attend to gentler hints, forbearance must end, and the plainest language must be spoken to them. To those limits, and to that position, in respect to the present Government, I have every hope the result of this debate will show that the House of Commons have come. To those limits, and to that position, I have no doubt whatever, the people of England have already come.
§ Lord John Russell
Mr. Speaker,—I could have wished to have addressed the House at an earlier period of this debate, soon after the temperate speech of the right hon. Baronet who introduced the motion, but I considered it my duty to wait until I heard the various arguments and allegations which could be urged in its support, and until I heard the charges which might be preferred against the Government. Admitting, as I freely do, the great ability and eloquence with which the motion has been supported—admitting the great numbers who are likely, on a division, to give their assent to it; yet, I may say, that a motion less consonant with the spirit of the constitution, or less founded on real matter, I never knew submitted to the House of Commons. The noble Lord who last addressed the House, in one phrase of his speech, said, that the time 1190 had come when the House must get rid of an Administration which had so long crippled the energies of the country. Now, that is a fit charge to bring against the Government. If that charge had been formally preferred by a motion, and if it could have been supported by arguments and evidence, I am the last person to deny that the confidence of the House ought to be withdrawn from us, and that no prerogative of the Crown, no personal favour of the Sovereign, ought to protect us from a declaration of want of confidence on the part of this House. But where is the evidence that the energies of the country are crippled? Is it in the Mediterranean? Have we been wanting in the due support of our ancient ally, the Sovereign of the Turkish Empire? Is it in India? When her Majesty's representative was insulted and outraged in the territories of the Emperor of China, did it appear to the world that, in the steps we took in reference to that matter, the energies of the country were crippled? Has there been any indication that the energies of the country were crippled, when we have been called upon to assert the national policy or avenge a national insult? Then, with respect to our Colonial possessions, I confidently ask, have the energies of the country been crippled? Have not the Government effectually subdued insurrection in Canada; and is not that colony now increased in strength and more firmly attached to the mother country than before? Is it at home that the energies of the Government have been crippled? Have insurrection and insubordination gained head in this country; or has it appeared that the powers of the law have been intrusted to hands unequal to the task of maintaining the peace of the country? With respect to Ireland, so long the source of complaint and discussion in this House—a country whose people all parties had long desired might, by some method, be conciliated to the support of the Crown and Government of the empire—is it in Ireland, I repeat, that we have proved that we are unable to procure the affections, und have lost to the Crown the support, of a generous people? What right, then, I ask, has the noble Lord to charge the Government with crippling the energies of the country, when, during the whole of this debate, neither he, nor any other Member of the numerous and able opposition I see arrayed on the benches before 1191 me, has been able to adduce a single proof in support of that charge ! I trust it will be unnecessary for me, after the convincing reply made by my right hon. Friends, the President of the Board of Control, and the Secretary at War, on the first night of the debate, to the constitutional argument of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, to dwell long upon that topic. The general proposition of the right hon. Baronet is, that a Government which does not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, in a sufficient degree to enable them to carry their measures, ought not to remain in office; and that their continuance in office, under such circumstances, is contrary to the spirit of the constitution. The right hon. Baronet referred to several acts and proceedings of this House, which, in his opinion, prove that the present Government is in the situation pointed at by the resolution. With respect to the precedents which the right hon. Baronet brought forward in order to sustain his general proposition, I think there was hardly one which bore out what it was intended to support; because it does happen, that, in hardly one of those instances, was confidence withdrawn, because the Ministers of the day were unable to carry through the House of Commons the legislative measures which they considered necessary. My right hon. Friend, on the first night of the debate, quoted the cases of Lord Sunderland's Administration, who were defeated on the Peerage Bill, in 1717 —of Sir R. Walpole, who abandoned the Excise Bill after he had introduced it—of Mr. Pitt, who was defeated on his Fortification Resolutions—and of Lord Liverpool who was defeated on the Property Tax—to show that it has not been the practice for a Government to resign because it was unable to carry all its measures, even when those which were rejected by the House of Commons happen to be of a most important character. But then the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, referred triumphantly to the case of Lord North. What was that case? It was Lord North's administration of affairs that was condemned by the House of Commons—it was the manner in which he employed the power and resources of the country, in a war against the revolted colonies, as they were called at the time, of North America. The House of Commons came to a resolution, that, after having lost thirteen colonies, and after an im- 1192 mense expenditure of blood and treasure, offensive operations ought no longer to be continued on the continent of North America. And then the House of Commons passed another resolution, declaring that any one would be an enemy to his Sovereign and his country, who should advise his Majesty longer to prosecute the war in North America. Was that, then, a question respecting a legislative measure?— was it, for instance, such a question as fixing the duration of the Poor Law Commission for ten or five years? No; it was a question affecting the whole administration of affairs. It was a question respecting the waste of the resources of the country, which resulted in the discomfiture of the King's forces, and the loss of thirteen colonies, now forming the United States of America. I think it must be confessed that the case of Lord North, at least, rests on entirely different ground from that of the existing Administration, and is altogether inapplicable as a precedent. The right hon. Baronet must be aware that there was one case in which a contest was maintained by a Minister against a majority of the House of Commons; and that, although in fourteen different instances, extending over a considerable period of time, the House showed by its votes that it considered that Minister unworthy of its confidence, he still continued at the head of the Government. That Minister was Mr. Pitt. Let us see how that precedent applies. Now, with respect to the general principle involved in the right hon. Baronet's resolution, namely, that the Minister of the Crown ought to possess the confidence of the House of Commons, I at once assent to it; and I do not think— although the contrary has been alleged— that my right hon. Friend attempted to impugn it. I admit at once, that if the House of Commons, for any reason, continues to refuse its confidence to the Ministers of the Crown, it is impossible for them to continue in office. That is the general principle, in which I concur, with one alternative, however, with respect to which I shall presently address a few words to the House. The right hon. Baronet said, that the case of Mr. Pitt, in 1784, was peculiar, because Mr. Fox had complained of the manner in which that Minister was brought into office, alleging, that he owed his appointment to secret influence, by whose agency the previous administration had been 1193 overthrown. I am willing to admit, that, as far as it goes, that is a perfectly fair statement of the case; but then it does not go far enough. It must be recollected, that there was another question in dispute between Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox; and that was, the question of the India Bill, which Mr. Fox affirmed to be framed in perfect accordance with the principles of the constitution; whilst Mr. Pitt, on the other hand, characterised it as an attempt to create a fourth estate in the realm, and declared that it would be utterly destructive of the constitution. Did it at all depend even on that question whether Mr. Pitt should remain in office or not? Far from it. Mr. Pitt introduced his India Bill, and, when he proposed to go into committee upon it, was defeated by a majority of the House. And yet, although it had been affirmed in debate, that the bill was of the greatest I importance—and, indeed, it was the sole measure of Mr. Pitt's Administration— that Minister did not consider its rejection by the House of Commons a sufficient ground for resigning office. Did Mr. Fox reprobate this course of proceeding? Did he say, that a Minister who was unable to carry measures he considered essential, ought no longer to remain in office? Did he maintain the doctrine which the right hon. Baronet has embodied in his resolution? No; Mr. Fox said:—I readily agree with the hon. Member who asserted that the failure of any bill proposed by a Minister afforded no cause for that Minister's dismissal from office—this is a sound doctrine.Thus, Mr. Fox, so far from affirming the doctrine laid down in the right hon. Baronet's resolution, affirmed directly the contrary. Mr. Pitt remained in office after having lost this bill; and Mr. Fox concurred with him in opinion, that the loss of the bill was no real ground for resignation. On that occasion we see Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox concurring in their reading of the constitution; and now we see a vice-president of the Pitt Club, moving a resolution, which is supported by a right hon. Baronet who professes a great veneration for the principles of Mr. Fox— which involves a doctrine opposed to that which Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox conjointly maintained. But the hon. and learned Member for Exeter said, I think, that the cases of the defeat of Mr. Pitt on the Fortification Bill, and of Lord Liverpool on the Pro- 1194 perty Tax, furnished no ground for the resignation of those Ministers, although they did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons sufficiently to carry their measures, because there evidently was not, at the time, a Ministry capable of being formed to succeed them. But the present resolution says nothing of that kind. It merely declares, that the continuance of Ministers in office, under the circumstances stated, is at variance with the spirit of the constitution. The resolution ought to have contained a saving clause, like that introduced into the resolution proposed by the noble Member for Liverpool relative to the Sugar Duties, and which was comprised in qualifying words in this sense; "especially when a sufficient amount of sugar is likely to be imported." The resolution before the House ought, in fact, to run thus: "that the continuance of Ministers in office under such circumstances, especially when there are other hon. Gentlemen perfectly able and perfectly willing to take their places, &c." Perhaps, the right hon. Baronet may find it necessary to amend his resolution, in order to bring it into agreement with the admission of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, and with the course of Parliamentary precedent. The observations which I have made have reference to the general tenour of the resolution as a constitutional precedent, and to the merits of that resolution, as professions to be founded on the spirit of the constitution; and it certainly appears to me, that after the arguments advanced by my right hon. Friends, and what I have now stated, nothing can be more clear, than that, so far from being in accordance with the spirit of the constitution, the present resolution would form an entirely new precedent, which, as I will proceed to show, it would neither be fit for this House to adopt, nor for any future Ministers, who had at heart the welfare of their country, to follow. Let us consider what has been the course of the constitution of late years; for I suppose, that there is no one who will not admit, that, with a change of circumstances, and with a difference in the position of the country, a different course of administration becomes necessary; and that, although the general spirit of the constitution remains the same, yet the mode in which it is to be acted upon must vary from time to time. 1195 If the House will consider what has been the course of the constitution for the last century, I think they will see, that that which is required from Ministers, at the present time, is very different from that which was required formerly; and that the task imposed upon Ministers formerly, was much less difficult than that which they have now to undergo. If the House will refer to what has passed in the course of the present debates, they will perceive, that as I have already observed, the general course of our Administration is not the point in dispute. We are not charged with having crippled the resources of the country, by involving it in unnecessary and expensive wars, or by having exposed it to tumults and insurrections, which we had not the power to quell. No; the charge against us is, that we have submitted certain measures for the approbation of Parliament, which we have wanted sufficient power to carry, in the shape of bills, through this House. Now, if we look back to the greatest statesmen which the country has ever produced—to those whose names are most regarded for the genius and ability which they displayed in the direction of affairs—if we look back to Sir R. Walpole, to Lord Chatham, to Mr. Pitt, and to Mr. Fox—if we refer to the administrations of those great men, and then cast our eyes on the statute book, for the purpose of seeing what laws they have placed there, and what were the legislative measures they recommended and carried through Parliament, I fear we shall meet with but a meagre return, indeed, for our labour. It is not, that those Ministers did not answer all that was required of them in their time—it is not that they were not fully equal to the conduct of affairs, according to the principles they professed—but that the usages of the constitution did not then require, that those at the head of the Government should bring forward legislative measures; and, indeed, for the greater part of the last century, did not even require them to take a uniform and consistent part, either in supporting or opposing measures submitted to Parliament. In latter times, however, and more especially since the passing of the Reform Bill, the country and the constitution have required a different course of conduct on the part of Ministers. What with the necessity for legislation—what with the difficulty which individual Members experience in carrying 1196 through bills — what with the great changes so long delayed, and which, after the passing of the Reform Bill, it was indispensable to make suddenly, and on various subjects—from all these different causes an expectation has arisen, that the Government should bring forward measures on subjects which excite public attention, and do their best to carry them through the House. But, when this is the case, I think it is unreasonable to expect, that a Government should possess the same general and uniform support, on the part of the House of Commons, which was required when Ministries had merely acts of administration to perform. With respect to acts of administration, when a Minister, in possession of all necessary information, states his views to the House of Commons, the House is prepared, either to give him its confidence, in support of his general policy, or to signify, by tokens which cannot be mistaken, that its confidence is withdrawn. But, with respect to measures of legislation, such as the Tithe Bill, the alteration in the criminal law, or the Poor-law bill, and all measures of a similar kind, each Member of the House is in possession of all necessary information; and, though Members may be disposed to yield a certain degree of deference to a Government, it cart hardly be expected that they should place such unlimited confidence in them as to approve of every measure in detail which they introduce into Parliament. Therefore, if, on the one hand, new duties have been imposed on Ministers, and you require them to carry through Parliament measures, which they deem of essential importance; so, on the other hand, you must make a fair allowance for the effect of discussion, and the expression of the deliberate opinions, first, of Members of this House; and, secondly, of our constituents, which will inevitably occasion the alteration of some measures, and the rejection of others. Am I making an apology for the present administration only, or, stating what does not apply to previous administrations? As the right hon. Baronet has founded his motion entirely upon the failure of some of our measures, and on the carrying of others by the support of our opponents, I must take the liberty of referring to the only measures I know of during the time the hon. Baronet formed part of the Duke of Wellington's Administration and, as 1197 the right hon. Member for Pembroke has alluded to our legislative efforts, in what certainly appeared to me to be a tone of unusal bitterness, I must also take leave to advert to defeats Sustained during the time when the right hon. Gentleman and I were both Members of the same administration, which, whatever else may be said of it, did not want a considerable majority in the House of Commons during the greater part of its career; I allude to the administration of which Earl Grey was the head, and Lord Althorp the leader in this House. First, with respect to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. I brought forward, in 1828 a motion for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. The right hon. Baronet met that motion by a direct negative; but it was carried by a majority of forty. Did the right hon. Baronet say, "I have been defeated; it is clear that I have lost the confidence of the House, and must no longer continue in office." Far from it. He said, "I will contribute, in the best way I can, to carry into effect the motion I formerly opposed." The right hon. Baronet's discomfiture did not stop there. The next time the question came before the House, the right hon. Baronet proposed, that, instead of repealing the Corporation and Test Acts, they should be merely suspended. I thought, that those acts were founded in bigotry and intolerance. I looked upon them as relics of the days of religious persecution; and such being my opinions, I said that they must be totally repealed. Upon that point the right hon. Baronet did not venture to divide the House. He left the House in possession of an hon. Member of the Opposition, as I then was; and, when the vote was carried against his wishes, all that he said was, that he had been at the time absent from the House, taking refreshment up stairs. But that was a strong administration It was not the weak, imbecile, and incompetent administration which has governed the country for the last few years. In the next year, another important measure was brought forward; and what was it? It so happend that, in 1827, the right hon. Baronet had spoken on the question of the relief proposed to be given to Roman Catholics, and stated that, in his opinion, it was not a measure which could be made a matter of doubt or compromise, because it would be incompatible with the main- 1198 tenance of the constitution, and the welfare and security of the Church. Could stronger objections be urged against any measure? And yet, in 1829, the right hon. Baronet brought forward that very measure, which, at the time, he stated most fairly and candidly to be the measure of his opponents, and not his own ! The only reason assigned for passing the measure at that particular time, which had not existed before, was, that large bodies of men were congregated in Ireland, who, by threats and menaces, forced the administration, of which the Duke of Wellington was the head, to adopt a measure which they had themselves declared to be incompatible with the security of the Church and the maintenance of the constitution. And this was your strong Government ! This was the Government which could carry through its measures. Why, that measure was opposed by one half of the usual supporters of the Government. It was opposed in a manner the most violent and acrimonious, and was carried only in consequence of the constant attendance and active support given to the Government by the Opposition of that day. And yet the noble Lord, who has just sat down, analysed the divisions of this House, and told us that our continuance in office was incompatible with the spirit of the constitution, because, upon questions of far less importance than that of 1829, we have received the support of our political opponents. The Duke of Wellington's Administration was succeeded by that of Earl Grey. One of the first things that occurred in Lord Grey's Administration was a defeat, by a majority of forty-six, upon a proposition relative to the timber duties. Besides this defeat, many parts of their budget, being opposed, were withdrawn. In the next Parliament the Administration had an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. I think that the party who now bring forward and support the present resolution, at that time mustered not more than from 120 to 140; and yet, in that House of Commons, the Ministers were subjected to more than one defeat, and I may particularly refer to that upon the malt duty. After being defeated upon that question, Ministers came down to the House, and asked it to rescind the resolution which it-had come to; and the right hon. Baronet most fairly and handsomely came down, and gave his support to the Government 1199 upon that occasion. He supported, with the greatest ability, the motion for rescinding the resolution for the repeal of the malt duty. Was the right hon. Member for Pembroke shocked at that? Was the noble Lord? Did they then say, that such an act of generosity, on the part of the Opposition, was never before heard of? I do not remember any thing of that kind to have occurred. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, and myself, were parties to another proceeding, upon which we were opposed by a great many of our usual supporters, and supported by our opponents. I allude to the Church Temporalities Bill. In bringing forward that measure, the noble Lord stated, I think on just grounds, that the funds to be derived from the improvement of church leases would be the property, not of the Church, but of the State. It Was found, that that bill, which had met with considerable opposition in the House of Commons, was not likely to pass through the other House of Parliament, if it contained the important provision to which I have just alluded, and therefore the noble Lord abandoned the clause in order to carry the bill; thus making an important concession to his opponents. Now, I maintain that there was no loss of dignity; there was no sacrifice of honour, in that proceeding. Because, with our mixed constitution, especially with a Reformed House of Commons, and a House of Lords, constituted as it is at the present moment, we must be prepared to make such concession and compromises as these, if any measures are to be carried, ' which conduce to the benefit of the public at large. My opinion is, at least, that any Government which is not prepared sometimes to listen to the objections of their opponents, will deservedly lose the means of carrying some of their measures, and, with the power of carrying them, they would lose the confidence of the country. That principle was fully acted on when the right hon. Baronet opposite expressed his objection to another part of the same bill. For when he, though at the head of only a small minority, urged the Government to alter those provisions of the bill which affected the interests of existing incumbents, they felt so strongly the force of his arguments, that Lord Althorp requested time to consider them, and afterwards announced that he was prepared to abandon that portion of the measure. I 1200 think I have shown that those compromises and concessions, to which so much importance has been attached during this debate, are not matters of such entire novelty as hon. Members opposite would have the House believe; and I must add, that, if you impose upon Government the necessity of introducing legislative measures, it is only by such means they can succeed in carrying them through Parliament. I remarked before, that, if we referred to the statute book for a record of the legislative labours of eminent statesmen of former times, we should find but little done in the way of abrogation of bad laws, and still less in the way of the introduction of good laws. But when we come to recent years, and look at what the successive administrations of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne have effected, it is impossible not to be struck with the great changes which have taken place— some entirely of a legislative, and others of a mixed legislative and administrative character. The right hon. Baronet, in addressing the House the other night, told us, that he had been for ten years practically out of the administration of affairs, and that he must therefore take-a review of our financial condition during that period. I confess that seemed to me to be a somewhat curious statement on the part of the right hon. Baronet, as if he had not been watching and attending to the progress of affairs whilst he has been out of office. But meeting the right hon. Baronet on his own ground, adopting his own position, and taking a review, not of the financial, but of the legislative measures of the Government, let the right hon. Gentleman observe what changes have taken place during his ten years' absence from office. When the right hon. Baronet quitted office, he left the power of returning Members to this House, in some 150 or 200 instances, entirely in the hands of individuals, who either returned themselves to Parliament, or bargained for the patronage and favour of Government, in consideration of returning their friends; or actually sold to some one, for a yearly pension, the power of sitting in the House. He left the great towns of this country —Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and Sheffield, and most of the other great marts of manufactures, and some of commerce—totally unrepresented in the House of Commons. If the right hon. Baronet were now to return to office, 1201 he would find no such power vested in individuals, as they formerly, by usurpation, had contrived to obtain. He would find that the great manufacturing and commercial towns of this country have representatives; and that some hundred thousand persons, who formerly did not possess the elective franchise, now form part of the base on which this House rests. When the right hon. Baronet quitted office, he left some 800,000 human beings, under the British dominion, who were considered as mere goods and chattels— who were treated with all the inhumanity to which brute beasts are sometimes exposed, and who were disposed of as mere property, and were liable to all the afflictions which attend upon compulsory labour. He would now find them converted into a population of freemen, in the enjoyment of property, and as well off, perhaps, as any labourers on the face of the earth. The right hon. Baronet, on quitting office, left such abuses existing in the administration of the Poor-laws, as threatened, in the first place, to swallow up the greater part of the landed property of the country; and, in the next place, were rapidly debasing the character of the labouring class of this country—one of the finest bodies of men that ever existed. He would find, too, on returning to office, that a law has been passed, which has had the effect, not only of saving landed property from confiscation, but of elevating the character of the labourers. The right hon. Baronet left municipal corporations, in many instances, self-elected, going on from generation to generation without being subject to any popular control, in consequence of which, their funds were frequently disposed of fraudulently; but, at all events, secretly, and without the superintendence necessary to secure correctness and honesty in local administrations. He will find that popular control has been introduced into those bodies, in order to secure the proper administration of the funds, and the good government of the towns in which they are established. The right hon. Baronet left tithes a source of constant irritation between clergymen and their parishioners—converting what ought to have been the relations of charity and benevolence into feelings of dissension and ill-will. He will find that that source of contention and strife has been dried up, and that, by removing it, that church, to which the noble Lord who has just spoken 1202 says we have done so much injury, has been avowedly more strengthened than by any measure which the strongest administration ever passed. Do not tell me that part of that plan is due to the right hon. Baronet. The attempt to settle the question was first made by Lord Althorp; and if we had had the misfortune to do what Lord Althorp did, namely, introduce bills on the subject of the tithes, in many successive years, without carrying them, we should, no doubt, have had it referred to as part of our sins. But to return:— That which I consider the essential part of the Tithe Act, is the making commutation compulsory. That principle was introduced by the present Government; and in the course of a few years it will effectually remove all the old evils connected with tithes. In Ireland, the right hon. Baronet left the poor and infirm without legal provision for their relief. He will find that legal provision now established; and the foundation is thus laid of a great social and moral improvement in the condition of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet left a source of constant disputes between the Clergy and Dissenters, in consequence of the compulsory enforcement of the marriage ceremony according to the rites of the church, and the necessity of receiving baptism according to the same rites, in order to secure the registration of births. He will find that an act has been passed which has removed those grievances— those sources of angry feeling and dissatisfaction, by means which are at once simple and efficacious, and have given rise to complaint from no party. The right hon. Baronet left the corporations of Ireland the seats of exclusiveness and intolerance, to the injury of the great body of the people. He will find that, now, the right principle has been introduced, though it has not been acted upon, as I think it should be, in details, of making corporations in the great towns of Ireland subject to popular control. There is another subject, with respect to which I must solicit the attention of the House for a short time. The subject is one which has not excited much party discussion, but upon which a great change has taken place, in effecting which the present administration has borne its part. I allude to the amendment of the Criminal-law—and I speak not of mere formal amendments, but of such that affect the number of persons sentenced to death, and executed. I find, 1203 from a return which I asked for the other day, that, from 1821 to 1825 inclusive, 5220 persons were sentenced to death, 4hd 364 executed, being an average of seventy-five yearly. From 1826 to 1830, 6679 were sentenced to death, and 308 were executed, being an average of sixty-one yearly. From 1831 to 1835, 5059 were sentenced to death, and 210 executed, being an average of forty-two yearly. From 1836 to 1840, in the second year of which period those amendments of the criminal law were adopted with I had the honour of introducing, the number sentenced to death was only 1181, and the number executed only fifty-one, being an average of ten yearly. It appears, therefore, that in the first ten years, 683 persons suffered death; whereas, in the last ten, only 261 have been executed; and in the last five years, capital punishment has been inflicted in only fifty-one cases. This is a change which I look back to with satisfaction. Now, I beg the House to sum up the measures to which I have referred—the Reform Act, the Act for the Abolition of Slavery, the Poor-law Amendment Act, the Municipal Corporation Reform Act, the English Tithe Act, the Irish Poor-law Act, the Act for the Registration of Births and Deaths, the Irish Corporation Act the Act for the Amendment of the Criminal Law, and, I may add, the Canada Union Act—and I ask whether, in any similar space of ten years, any Administration which has existed in this country ever introduced greater and more important measures, or I should rather say, effected greater and more important improvements? And yet it is upon our asserted failure in legislation—putting aside every consideration connected with our internal and external administration of affairs—putting aside every thing done by the executive, both at home, in the colonies and abroad —the right hon. Baronet and his supporters found their charge against us. In return, I show you a part of what we have done, omitting to notice minor measures, which are not, however, unimportant, but with respect to which I abstain from troubling the House. I have shown the important legislative changes which hare been introduced and carried by that Administration which has been so charged—-I will say, so calumniated. Let it be recollected, that all these changes, beginning with the Reform Act, 1204 have been effected without any of the direful evils of a revolution — that we have not seen, in this country, what has accompanied great changes, in former days, in this country, and almost in the present day in other countries—a civil war, and parties running to arms to contend against each other. On the contrary, although hon. Gentlemen opposite bring these charges against our management of the finances, the security of the public funds has gone on constantly increasing since the accession of Earl Grey to office. But I will not go so far back as that. I will take the year 1835, since it has been particularly dwelt upon by hon. Members opposite—the period at which the existing Administration was formed—and I ask, whether there has been any thing like serious disturbance in this country whilst the great changes which the Government has effected were in progress? Have not these changes been accomplished in the midst of peace? I have been, perhaps, too sensitive with regard to what are called organic changes. I feared that, after the great example of the Reform Act, an appetite might be created for other changes of the same kind, which might eventually endanger the most valuable and sacred institutions of the country. I am happy to say, however, that during the great changes and improvements which we have made—and I see near me my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general, who has been a party to many improvements which I have not mentioned—the country has continued in the enjoyment of peace, and property has not been disturbed; but, on the contrary, the pursuits of industry have been followed in fully as much security as when a Tory Administration thought it their great glory to leave things alone, to allow laws to remain on the statute book which were the offspring of the most barbarous times, and to leave, in the executive administration, relics of the worst corruption. I have stated the general changes which the Government has made; and I certainly do not think it necessary, at this late period of the debate, to detain the House by going through all the measures which it is alleged the Government have been obliged to yield to their opponents; and therefore I will confine my observations to three or four of those cases only. With regard to the Appropriation Clause, we felt it our duty to introduce it into a 1205 bill brought into this House, which we believed was likely to pass. It is undoubtedly true, that Parliament ultimately passed the measure without that clause embodying the principle which we considered necessary to the final and satisfactory settlement of the question. I maintain, however, that that does not furnish any proof that we did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons with respect to that measure; for the Appropriation Clause was supported by a majority of this House. We carried the bill through the House of Commons, and sent it, containing the clause, up to the other House. But, though it was carried to the bar of the House of Lords, the tide of public opinion was not sufficiently strong to bear it safely into the harbour of legislation. The House of Lords, it is well known, struck out the clause; and therefore, I say, that the abandonment of the Appropriation Clause is no proof of our not possessing the confidence of the House of Commons, although it may be considered evidence of our wanting that of the House of Lords. It was my opinion at that time, that, looking to the great changes which had recently taken place, and to the nicely balanced state of parties, it was most advisable, for the practical working of the constitution, to wait, in order that all parties might have an opportunity of observing whether public opinion was in favour of the further measures of reform which were then mooted, or whether it would become what it called more Conservative. If the voice of the country had been pronounced in favour of further reforms and liberal measures, I expected, that the House of Lords would, as they had before done, have yielded to the declared sense of the people. If, on the contrary, it should appear that the voice of the country was in favour of policy of a more Conservative character, we felt that it would be equally our duty not to press upon the attention of the other House of Parliament liberal measures with which we might even feel ourselves identified as an Administration. It did appear to us that the opinion of the country did not warmly support us in maintaining the Appropriation Clause, as we expected it would have done. But, since the right hon. Baronet has alluded tauntingly to the resolution in which we declared that no adjustment of the Tithe question could be final or satisfactory, 1206 which did not involve the principle of appropriation, I must say that, although I feel myself bound to support the settlement which has been effected, I would advise hon. Members opposite not to be so absolutely certain that there may not arise in Ireland, some serious discontent as to the manner in which that question has been disposed of. This has been drawn from me by the allusions which have been made to the subject, and not with any intention of departing from the settlement which has been made. On the contrary, I shall, under all circumstances, give my support to the existing law, which has established a rent-charge in lieu of tithes. All I mean to say is, that when it is alleged that this settlement is perfectly satisfactory, I cannot help thinking that some doubt may be entertained upon that point. The next subject to which the right hon. Baronet alluded, was the bill respecting Jamaica. I cannot help saying, that the manner in which the right hon. Baronet treated this topic, was not altogether marked by that candour which I expected from him. When the Jamaica Bill was brought forward, the right hon. Baronet said, "I do not think the measure is justified by the circumstances of the case; but if circumstances should arise to render it necessary, I will support it, or some bill like it." The right hon. Baronet also said, he could not look upon the bill as a party measure, and he suggested that it should be postponed for a year, and another bill, wanting its stringent enactments, passed in the meantime. Now, after that, I confess I was surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet refer to what occurred respecting the Jamaica Bill, as a proof that we did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons. [Sir R. Peel: You refused to adopt my views on the subject.] It is true that we did look upon it in a different light from that in which the right hon. Baronet viewed it. That is perfectly true. But it is equally true, that the right hon. Baronet is not justified in treating the measure, at one moment, as a subject which does not form a party question, and with respect to which we might fairly adopt his suggestions; and, at another, treating it as a party question, and referring to our adopting his suggestions as a proof that we did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons. The Government resigned office at the decision which the House of 1207 Commons came to with respect to the Jamaica Bill; but what was the opinion of the Duke of Wellington in reference to that proceeding? The noble Duke, who is not likely to be too favourably disposed towards us, or anxious for our continuance in office, declared, that we had acted prematurely in resigning. That opinion the noble Duke expressed both in public and private. Having resigned our offices, however, the right hon. Baronet was called upon to form an administration; but his attempt to do so failed, owing to circumstances to which I will not now refer. [" Cheers"] I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite, that I, personally, have no unwillingness to allude to those circumstances. But there are higher considerations which restrain me. The right hon. Baronet, it will be recollected, after the failure of his attempt to form an administration, stated in this House various reasons—independently of the circumstance to which I have just adverted—which induced him to think that he would have found it very difficult to carry on the Government. He said, that in the very division on the Jamaica Bill in which, be it recollected, we obtained a majority of five, ten Members had voted who were not usually found amongst his supporters. He commented, also, on the difficulties which he would have had to encounter in the Government of Ireland, and the inadequate support he would have received from the representatives of that country; and he particularly referred to the defeat which he anticipated in the coming election of Speaker. The right hon. Baronet's anticipations upon that subject proved to be correct. When the chair of this House became vacant, a Gentleman on the other side of the House was proposed to fill it, to whom no objection could possibly be taken on the score of character, or fitness for that elevated station. We, on this side of the House, as little doubted that right hon. Gentleman's fitness for the office of Speaker, as hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am sure, would think of questioning yours, Sir. The question was one in which the two great parties took an interest, because each wished to establish, in the person of the Speaker, the representative of its opinions. The result of the struggle, was a majority of eighteen, in favour of the candidate proposed by us. Was not that, I ask, decisive evidence as to which side of the Douse commanded the majority? Was 1208 it not a proof that we, at that time, possessed the confidence of the House? The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, has referred to our abandonment of the bill for amending the Poor-law Amendment Act, as another proof of our not possessing the confidence of the House. I think that the proper time for the right hon. Baronet to have criticised the bill, in the way in which he did, was when it was before the House. If the right hon. Baronet had at that time stated his objections to any parts of the measure, I would have been prepared to have given him an answer. But, instead of pursuing that obvious course, the right hon. Baronet waited until the bill was removed from the table of the House, and then took an opportunity of entering into a discussion on its merits, in the midst of an angry debate between two great parties. The right hon. Baronet accused the Government of not embodying in the bill some of the mitigating recommendations of a committee of this House, which sat to inquire into the subject of the Poor-law. Now, it so happens, that I had prepared clauses embodying several of the recommendations of that committee, and I only withdrew them, after mature consideration, because it was made apparent, that, by adopting them we should run a very great risk of bringing back some of the worst evils of the old law. For instance, it is quite right that an allowance in money should be given to a sick member of a working man's family; but if this was done by Act of Parliament, there is no knowing what construction might have been put upon it, or how far it would have led to the revival of the old abuses. After full consideration, therefore, we determined, and I think wisely, that it would be best for the country— that it would be best for the poor themselves—to leave all matters of this kind to the discretion of the Poor-law commissioners, instead of introducing positive enactments respecting them into an act o Parliament. I now come to the last instance which the right hon. Member for Tamworth referred to, in support of his proposition, that we do not possess the confidence of the House of Commons; and that is, the rejection of the Budget brought forward by my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The question involved in the Budget is, whether by a change in the differential duties-— whether by removing abolition and di- 1209 minishing restrictions—we cannot increase the revenue, supply the existing deficiency, and thus avoid the necessity of imposing fresh taxes. The right hon. Baronet said, that, if he were in office, he would take a calm review of all the circumstances connected with the state of our finances, before he determined on what he ought to do. Yet, whatever may be the right hon. Baronet's ability, I defy him to find any but four modes by which the revenue can be brought upon a par with the expenditure. The first is, by diminishing our naval and military establishments; but even the most sanguine could not expect to derive more than a million from this source; and I maintain that, in the present state of Europe, it would not be prudent— it would not be safe—to make any considerable reduction in these services. In the second place, a Government might go on from year to year, raising money by means of loans; but that would eventually only augment the deficiency, whilst, at the same time, it could not fail to operate injuriously to public credit. The third mode is, the imposition of fresh taxes. The remaining resource is to alter the protective duties. Now, I confess it does appear to me, that, as regards a question involving considerations of such magnitude as these we ought not, upon the first defeat, to have resigned office, and transferred power into the hands of our opponents. I will not deny that many reasons might be urged in favour of such a course; but, looking to the great interest of the people as affected by the measures which we have propounded to Parliament, it seemed to us that the reasons which existed for not tendering our resignation to our Sovereign were the stronger. If we had done so— if we had taken that course—would it not have been thought that we had brought forward these measures without the intention of standing by them, and that we had abandoned them on the first show of opposition? I say that, if we had acted in that manner, we would have seriously injured measures which we think beneficial to the public interest, and shaken and invalidated the great principles we desire to see carried into effect. As long as it is possible for us to persevere in propounding these measures, taking upon ourselves the responsibility of doing so as long as we see a prospect of carrying them, and thus rendering an essential benefit to the country—I think that we are bound to 1210 continue at our post. The right hon. Member for Pembroke quoted the opinion of a great man, but without that authority which attaches to a real admirer of his principles, and follower of his conduct. I will also quote his words. On an occasion when the Whig party was in a state of discomfiture, and almost of despondency, Mr. Fox said, that if he could entertain any hope of advancing the great cause of civil and religious freedom, which he had ever espoused, he would not slacken in his exertions; and he quoted from Virgil, as expressive of his feelings, the lines—Non adeò has exosa manus victoria fugit,Ut tanta quicquam pro spe tentare recusem.Espousing the principles of Mr. Fox, like him we will not desert the cause in which we have embarked; but will, on the contrary do all in our power to contribute to the success of the measures which we have brought under the consideration of the House, and the importance of which, I think, it is impossible to exaggerate. Having, then, determined, that it was our duty not to resign our offices upon the first defeat with respect to those measures, but one course remains open to us to pursue. The noble Lord who spoke last charges us with having referred to a dissolution by way of a threat. Why, at an early period of this debate, we were accused of not speaking out on that very subject. The noble Lord quoted a rebuke which Lord Lansdowne had administered to Mr. Canning when he uttered a threat of dissolving, but did we utter any threat on the subject? I say, we have neither uttered threat or menace. There have, to be sure, been threats and menaces uttered, but they have proceeded from the right hon. Member for Pembroke, and the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire. They have threatened my noble and hon. Friends, the Members for Lincolnshire, with the consequence of the votes which they are about to give upon this question. I trust that those threats will have no influence on the conduct of my noble and hon. Friends. I think my noble Friend, the Member for Lincolnshire, stands in far better grounds with respect to his constituents, than any one who would come forward and seek to supplant him by attaching himself to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke. What is it my noble Friend has said, both in the county of Lincoln and in 1211 this House? He said, "I oppose any alteration of the Corn-laws. It may be brought forward by the Ministers whom I support. My vote may cause a dissolution of the Ministry. I care not for that consequence, I give my vote on this question against them, because I feel that my vote on this subject is an adherence to the present law, which I prefer to any other," I believe the constituency of Lincolnshire may depend upon men who hold an attachment to the present principle of the Corn-law, without reference to any party tie. But on what ground are the hon. Gentlemen to stand, who are proposed to succeed my noble and hon. Friends? On the ground, not only that they are hostile to the present Government, but that they are ready to support the administration of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. And support him for what? Not on the great questions upon which the fight hon. Baronet differs from us. But are they to support him by adhering to the present Corn-laws? By no means. But they are to support him on that wonderful and immutable principle of the sliding scale, which, as my hon. Friend, the Member for Lincolnshire, has truly said, may be no protection at all, or may be an entire prohibition. The hon. Member for Lambeth gathers from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that he means to stand upon the principle of the present law. I confess I did not so understand him, because I cannot believe, that he would say so clearly, both last year arid the present year, that he is not satisfied with, the details of the present law, and, at the same time, mean to make only some trifling alteration in the sliding scale. I cannot think, that a great question of this kind could be brought forward by him for the sake of some very slight and trifling alteration. I believe, if he had the power, he would make a very great alteration. The hon. Member for Lambeth and I have read the oracle, and we read, it differently. It is, to be sure, a very obscure and mysterious oracle, but I gather, from a statesman of the tight hon. Baronet's prudence and long experience intimating that he was not satisfied with the present law, and would not adhere to its details, that he intends some day or other, if he has the power, to make a considerable alteration —always reserving, however, the sliding scale. How far that scale may slide may depend upon existing circumstances. But 1212 what would the Lincolnshire farmers have to look to? My noble and hon. Friends may say—" This is an insufficient protection, we think our constituents ought not to accept it. We would not vote for it when it was proposed by our own friends, and we will not vote for it now that it is proposed by our opponents." But if two Members were returned upon the grounds of their attachment to the right hon. Baronet, they would say to such a proposition—" Never mind the Corn-laws, never mind establishing protection to agriculture, let the scale slide down as far as it may, it being proposed by the right hon. Gentleman who has our confidence, and the great object being to support him, we are sure it will answer its purpose, and secure the welfare of the agricultural interests." The great question that her Majesty's Ministers had to consider on this occasion—I will not deny it—was, between resignation and advising an appeal to the country. On a subject of so much importance to the people—considering that we have undertaken this question—I feel that it is our bounden duty to offer such advice to her Majesty as we may think will ensure the decision of it by the electors of the realm, duly consulted upon the question. I may be told, that this resolution is intended as a bar to the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown. I cannot see it, although, in terms, it may appear to be so. I do not mean to say, that a dissolution is a prerogative which this House has no right to interfere with. I think a dissolution, like other prerogatives of the Crown, is one in which the House has a right, in certain cases, to interfere. But I think the only ground upon which it can properly interfere is, when this House can say, that the course of legislation and administration is proceeding harmoniously, and that it is likely, both with respect to administration, and with respect to legislation, that if this House is not dissolved, many beneficial consequences to the country will ensue, and that a dissolution would be a needless and wanton interference with the course of business. Such was the ground taken by Mr. Fox in 1784, when an address to the Crown was moved against the dissolution of the Parliament of that day, He said, that the House was fully able to undertake, and would undertake, to settle the great question relating to India. Such was the ground that we took, when, in 1213 1835, we moved and carried a vote of censure against the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel), for the advice he gave to the Crown for the dissolution of that Parliament. But is that the course taken in the present case? I have listened to this debate, but I have neither heard from the right hon. Baronet, nor from any one who followed him, the assertion, that if no dissolution of the present Parliament took place, it was likely to continue for the whole six years during which Parliaments are allowed to last, with benefit to the country, or with improvement to its legislation. With regard to legislation, hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves have made out, that various decisions have been given by the House, some for, and some against Government. Then, with respect to the budget; it is a question of such importance, that it could hardly be brought to a final issue without appealing, at one time or other, to the sense of the people. But with regard to the administration, will not the division of this night tell us—which ever side may have the trifling majority, which is the utmost any one expects— will it not, I say, show, that there is that degree of party feeling in this House, that it is not likely, even if we had surrendered the reins of office to the right hon. Baronet, that he would have found himself able to continue the administration of the country with the present House of Commons? Had the right ban. Baronet felt otherwise—had he been of opinion otherwise, would he not have stated it? If the right hon. Baronet could have alleged, that, if he were in power, he could carry on the Government without a dissolution, would he not have, alleged it? But has he done so? No. No doubt the right hon. Baronet thinks, as I think, and as almost every body out of doors thinks, that the symptoms of division in this House, are such that the present House of Parliament cannot be pf long duration, without some appeal being made to the people, in order to decide which are the principles, and which are the men, in whom they place confidence. If such, then, is the case—if we cannot attain the useful result of averting a dissolution, and of continuing the present Parliament by our resignation of office, what effect would that resignation have in the eyes of the country, but the apparent abandonment of those principles we have supported—an imputation, which, by the way, Lord Melbourne has declared, 1214 would be the last he would like to bear and, perhaps, also, an impediment, for some years to come, to the passing of those measures of legislation which, we think, are calculated to secure the welfare of the country. Then, Sir, is not what I have said sufficient justification for the course that we are now pursuing? Is it not a sufficient justification fur our no taking that course which the right hon. Baronet says was incumbent upon us, which, no doubt, in his view, he considers incumbent upon us; but which, I think, would not have done justice, either to our principles, or to the immediate measures which we have propounded. I now leave this question to the judgment of the House. With regard to the resolution proposed by the right hon. Baronet, as a resolution affecting the constitution—putting aside the merits or demerits of the present Administration, I think it is not rightly founded in precedent, and, above all, ill suited to the present condition and state of our constitution. As regards the Administration, I think, if it means that the present Ministers are not entitled to advise the Crown to dissolve the Parliament, it is an unjustifiable interference with the royal prerogative. If it is not so intended, then you have our confession, that we should not think it right, after the decision of the House upon the sugar question, to continue for any longer time to hold office with this Parliament, than is absolutely necessary, in order to pass those measures which are essential for the financial service of the present time, and for the purpose of assembling, as soon an public convenience would admit, a new Parliament, to decide upon the whole question at issue. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, approves of the precedent of 1831; and yet he would condemn us for following that precedent; and that entirely upon the ground, that it did so happen that the sugar duties then expired in March, and therefore there was no obstacle to a dissolution; whereas they do not now expire till July, and therefore require to be continued, The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, stated at that time his opinion upon the subject. He said:—If, however, a set of Ministers, who brought forward a measure to which they were solemnly pledged, for the good of the country, found that that measure was defeated, it certainly might not be improper, in such a case, 1215 that a reference should be made by them to the opinion of the public.Such was the opinion of the noble Lord in March, 1831; and I know not why that opinion should be departed from in 1841. What makes the difference between the two periods? The noble Lord assents to that opinion; why, therefore, press this resolution upon the House. If we admit, that we ought not to continue in office with the present Parliament, where is the necessity, and where is the justification of the resolution. Upon the whole state of the case, and upon the whole case of the Administration, I beg the House to consider, that this is a resolution supported and made out by reference to various legislative measures,—the Ministry having brought forward more legislative measures, and having carried more legislative measures of useful reform than perhaps any other Ministry, with the exception of Lord Grey's Administration, from 1831 to 1835. With respect to the state of affairs, and with respect to the administration of the executive, I beg the House to consider, that during the whole of this debate, no delinquency has been proved, no weakness has been shown— no want of vigour demonstrated either at home or abroad. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, on one occasion, accused us of wishing to abandon the vessel of the state, when we found that we were no longer able to guide it Now, I must say, that with regard to the present state of affairs—apart from the evil of the equal division of parties—I see nothing which should induce any Minister to desire to quit office, or any Gentleman to be unwilling to accept office. On the contrary, I think the state of affairs, at home and abroad, is such as to give great facilities to any Administration who may have to conduct the affairs of the country; and, if left by those who now hold the reins of Government, their successors would find the character of the country standing as high as it ever did among the nations of the world, with peace and security at home. Your only difficulty is from your unwillingness to deal with interests, which are opposed to measures useful for the future welfare of the country. If you can deal with those interests with just caution, giving them every consideration which is due to their long establishment, and taking upon yourselves the responsibility of reforming your present laws, and yet pro- 1216 ceeding upon sound principles, and being determined to go on with the application of those sound principles,—then I say, that if you, the Parliament and the Government, do that, there is no difficulty whatever in the Administration of the country. But if you will not do that—if you will undertake to protect vicious legislation—to consider the interests of separate bodies, rather than the well-being of the whole—then, indeed, you may enter upon a protracted struggle, but it will be a protracted struggle against measures which are founded upon sound policy, and which are certain of ultimate triumph.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Mr. Speaker, A great portion of the speech of the noble Lord has been occupied by the information, kindly conveyed to me, as to the measures which I should discover to have passed, in case, after the lapse of ten years, I should be called to office. And I have not the least doubt, that, if there should be in the House at present, as there was some time since, some eminent stranger, to whom the speech of the noble Lord should be translated, and who may not be very conversant with the parliamentary history of this country, that eminent stranger would suppose that I was a person to whom it was necessary for the noble Lord to convey information as to the measures that have been passing during that period, that I have been excluded for ten years, from any parliamentary proceedings—and that I had taken no part whatever in those measures which the noble Lord was detailing. I can assure the noble Lord that his reminiscence was unnecessary. With many of those measures I have been fully conversant. I think I know something of the consolidation and improvement of the criminal law. It is true I did not appoint a well-paid commission, of five Gentlemen, sitting for years. I effected those improvements with no other aid than the ordinary official assistance; and after the testimonies which I have heard borne to the utility of those improvements from the Ministerial side of the House, I think it is hardly necessary for the noble Lord now to claim exclusive credit for them, and to remind me that such a thing had been effected, as an improvement in the criminal laws. Then, with respect to Dissenters' Marriages, why, during the short period that I was permitted to hold office, in 1835, one of the measures which I introduced was the measure for the removal of 1217 grievances of which the dissenters complained, both in respect to marriage and to baptism; and, on my statement of that measure on the part of the Government, I well recollect that to the principle of it, and to the spirit in which it was conceived, ample testimony was borne by those who then occupied the opposition benches. With respect to the English Tithe Commutation bill, I think also I need not be reminded of it in this House. For, although it is true the noble Lord did super add, after the lapse of three years, the compulsory commutation—and I admit it was an important improvement; I never contended it was not, nor when I brought that measure forward, did I say that I would exclude compulsory commutation;—yet, with that addition, the whole of my own measure was copied, and introduced by the noble Lord into his bill, and I did all that I could towards promoting its efficiency and perfecting it." Then again, with respect to the Irish Commutation Act, —all I know is, that after a lapse of three years, after much confusion, disorder, and bloodshed in Ireland,—for which I was not responsible — but after an intervening delay of three years, the self-same measure, which I had introduced in 1835, was tardily and reluctantly assented to by her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord says, "Dont feel too confident as to the permanency of that settlement." O ! no, I feel no such confidence. I know that the noble Lord has the power to disturb it. God forbid that the pressure of political necessity should ever induce him to disturb it; but, I own, I shall feel much greater confidence in its permanence if I can have the assurance that no political necessity can occur, than I now feel that, if a necessity should occur, it will not be submitted to. With respect, likewise, to the Irish Poor-law Act,—why, do I not recollect the bitter, the envenomed opposition to that law, which the noble Lord met with from him who is the chief supporter of his Government? Do I not know, with respect to that measure, and with respect to half the measures which the noble Lord has thought it necessary to recal to my recollection, that, without my aid, the noble Lord could not have carried them? Next is the English Poor-law Bill. Does the noble Lord really think it necessary that he should inform me, as if I had been banished from this House, that a Poor-law 1218 Bill has been under consideration? Then comes the Jamaica Bill. The noble Lord says, I have no right, whatever, to taunt the Government on the subject of Jamaica. I am not conscious that, in discussing the subject, I ever did taunt him. I said this, that the noble Lord had been compelled to adopt the suggestions I offered with respect to the Jamaica Bill. The noble Lord says, that the amendments I proposed were slight and unimportant, and that they involved no difference in principle, but that their adoption simply referred to time; and that, if the House of Assembly in Jamaica proved refractory, the time might come when he himself, might assent to those amendments. But, if those alterations were a slight and unimportant difference, why did the noble Lord, in consequence of their adoption, abandon the functions of Government? The noble Lord seeks refuge under the authority of the Duke of Wellington; but I think, without much bettering his case. In the course of this Session, the noble Lord was compelled to admit, that it was well that our counsels had prevailed; that our predictions had been verified; and that it had not been necessary to sacrifice popular Government in Jamaica, and thereby set an example for the forfeiture of popular Government in every other colony which had liberated negroes. The noble Lord, instead of disturbing the peace of society, throughout the West-India colonies, and shaking the security in representative Government, in consequence of differences which he now says were unimportant; but which were important enough, in his opinion, at one period, to justify the abdication of his trust—has been compelled to admit, that, by taking our advice, he has secured every object to which he could have looked, and has prevented that confusion and disturbance which would have followed an adherence to his own system. I recollect, then, not only the measures which have been passed, but I recollect also the dangers which have been averted, through our interference—dangers which without our assistance, the noble Lord had not the strength nor power to avert. What would have become of the question of the Ballot? What would have become of the New Reform Bill? Would the noble Lord, by the mere strength of his own hand, and without our help, have had the power to prevent, in the midst of the storm, "the raising of the anchors by 1219 which the British monarchy was moored." What would have become of many of the prerogatives of the Crown, if it had not been for our intervention? Have I not seen the noble Lord abandoned, not only by those who are giving him their support to-night—they voting in direct opposition to him—but have I not seen him seated almost alone, when some of the most important prerogatives of the Crown have been under consideration,— with scarcely one of his official colleagues to assist him in the vindication of them? And, therefore, it is that I recollect, not only the measures which have been prevented by our opposition, which have been modified at our suggestion, and which, when good, have been carried exclusively by our aid; but I recollect, likewise, the important changes in the British constitution, which have been attempted—the revolution, once a year, which the noble Lord had to deprecate, which has been sought to be effected; I recollect all this, and I know that it has been by the aid of the Conservative party that the noble Lord has been able to avert them. The noble Lord has described his Government, as a Government successful abroad, possessed of the confidence of the Crown, and having its measures discussed by a House of Commons, the constitution of which was framed by the noble Lord himself. With all these glories, and all these advantages—according to the noble Lord's own statement— will he permit me to ask him, why it is that he does not possess more of the confidence of the House of Commons? The noble Lord has said, that all I promised was to take a calm review of certain matters. True, I did so; but I did not allude to those legislative and political measures which, night after night, I have been reviewing. But, among other differences which I should find, and have to review, when restored to power, one would be this, that whereas I, who, on quitting office, left a clear surplus of two millions of revenue—I, who belonged to an administration which, in three years, had reduced the public debt by twenty millions—I, who belonged to a Government that had reduced the interest of that debt by one million annually—should have to deal with a state of things which presents a deficit of nearly eight millions, under an administration of fire years. True, I should find reforms, true, I should find a Poor-law; true, I should find the Jamaica 1220 constitution—defective but for our recommendations; true, I should find that I had introduced into the preamble of a certain Canada Bill, an amendment, which the noble Lord told me, if adopted, would be fatal to the bill—nay, would be fatal to the Government; but that amendment was introduced, and notwithstanding its introduction, and notwithstanding1 the predictions of the noble Lord, the same Government has still preserved its vitality. Among all these discoveries which I should make, still my satisfaction, certainly, would be somewhat abated, on perceiving, notwithstanding all this success, that such is the melancholy state of our finances, that there has occurred, within five or six years, a deficiency of not less than 7,600,000l.;—and it was with reference to the means of supplying that deficiency and of determining upon what system the financial administration should be placed, that I declined to accede to your preposterous demand, that I should at once come forward and suggest what those means, and what that system should be stated, that I would promise nothing but a careful consideration of the causes which had led to this deficiency, and of the measures by which that deficiency might be supplied. That was the calm review which I promised; and it is not too much for men who have all control over every public department, who have the means of collecting efficient information from able public servants, in every department of the revenue, whom they may call to their assistance;—is it not rather too much, that they, who have been the immediate cause of involving the country in that deficiency, should tell me that, without such official aid, it is my duty to suggest the means of supplying it. I come now to the constitutional objections which have been made to the resolution which I have proposed; and I must say, that it has been impossible to discover any objections, on constitutional grounds, to the proposal involved in that resolution, without abandoning every principle for which the Whigs have hitherto contended. I begin with the objections urged by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to War. That right hon. Gentleman says, that my resolution involves a mere abstract dogma—that it is a mere declaration of constitutional law. Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that any man will construe that resolution without 1221 references to the circumstances on which it bears? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that I am really proposing a resolution to this effect,—"that any Minister, who is in a minority upon an important legislative measure, ought to resign? "Is that the resolution I am proposing? Do I contend for that principle? Do I say, that any Minister, on the first formation of his Government, and who is obstructed by a powerful opposition, is bound to resign after the first defeat he encounters? Of course I do not, or I should condemn myself for the example I set in 1835. Do I, again, say that it is the duty of a Minister, having proposed certain financial measures, and having met with obstruction, at once to resign office, and abandon the reins of power? No such thing. I lay down no such principle; and I trust no Government will ever consider itself bound by it. I do not hesitate to say, that you might taunt me as long as you please with this resolution, but I should not feel myself bound to resign upon any single defeat. Of course not. I construe that resolution with reference to the circumstances in which the Ministers are placed. If the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are dissatisfied with respect to their own confessions and declarations of their inability to carry on the Government, why, I ask, did they resign on the Jamaica question? The noble Lord now says, that it is a monstrous doctrine, that a Ministry ought to resign on the failure of legislative measures proposed by themselves; and he has gone through a long series of precedents, showing how Ministers had retained office in defiance of the Legislature. Sir Robert Walpole, the noble Lord says, was defeated upon the Excise scheme;—Mr. Pitt was defeated upon the question of the Fortification of Portsmouth and Plymouth; and Lord Liverpool was defeated on the Property Tax;—.and yet none of these Ministers resigned. No doubt all this is perfectly true. But do I affirm it was their duty to resign? No. The propriety of resignation depends upon a combination of circumstances. But I ask the noble Lord, of what avail are his precedents, with reference to himself? He cannot deny that there may be circumstances in which it may be proper for a Ministry to resign, on being defeated on their own legislative acts. [Lord John Russell: Hear, hear !] The noble Lord recollects the 1222 Jamaica case now. For there was a case where the Government was not defeated— where the Government had a majority of five, and yet they considered their victory so indicative of the want of confidence on the part of the House of Commons, that they resigned. I ask, then, is this a fair proceeding, that the Government shall have the power of selecting any legislative measure, on the rejection of which it may resign and abdicate its functions; but that the House of Commons shall have no power of deciding, under other circumstances, what shall be the duty of that Government in respect to resignation? Is it fair, that the Government shall take the particular measure on which it may be convenient for them to resign; but that the right shall be denied to the House of Commons of determining whether the rejection of other measures constitutes a case on which the resignation of the Government ought to take place? Why, Sir, the very admissions of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, are sufficient to justify the House in demanding a resignation. Did I not hear that right hon. Gentleman say, not only that the Government had not the power to carry the alteration of the Corn-laws, but that they proposed that measure without the expectation of carrying it? Has the right hon. Gentleman a right to say, that I confine the Government to a single case —to the Irish Bill, or to the Sugar Duties Bill—when he himself has told us, that he did not expect success when it was proposed to agitate the House and the country upon the subject of the Corn-laws? Again, did he not say, that his Government had been subjected, by parliamentary defeats, to a series of humiliations, to which nothing could reconcile them but an overwhelming sense of public duty? What did the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, tell me two years since? After summoning up all his energies, that noble Lord made the frightful announcement that the Government had at length determined to exist no longer on sufferance. Yes, the noble Lord, stung by a sense of that humiliation to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, two years ago, told us, that their situation was intolerable, and that the Government had at last determined that they would exist no longer upon sufferance—but you have had some humiliation since [Cheers.]—and you 1223Still have borne it with a patient shrug;For sufferance is the badge of all your tribe.Therefore, don't tell me that this resolution has reference to a single defeat—that it is to constitute a rule to future Governments—that you are to suppose the politicians of future times will take the dry bones of this resolution, and say, "Here is a precedent which is to govern posterity !" No: they will look at your long series of defeats—at your inability to carry the measures which you have proposed— at your own admission that your situation is become intolerable; and the construction which they will put upon the resolution will bear reference to your own measures, your own acts, and your own confessions. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) has argued, at the close of this debate, as if the Government has the confidence of the House of Commons. Yet almost all his colleagues who have preceded him have admitted that, at length the time was come when the want of confidence was sufficiently manifest, and that it was impossible that they could retain power with the existing House of Commons. All his colleagues who preceded the noble Lord have admitted that. They admitted that the Government had but two alternatives—resignation, or the dissolution of Parliament. Now, under what circumstances did I give notice of this resolution—this unconstitutional resolution—the facts contained in which, and the inference drawn from those facts, being both denied?—although, notwithstanding that denial, I have got this important admission, that, after the defeat upon the Sugar Duties, following other defeats, the Government are at length placed in a situation in which they have no alternative but resignation, or dissolution. I have that admission from the whole of them. After this, all your doctrine about retaining office, notwithstanding legislative defeats, is at an end. And, Sir, in passing, I must refer to that doctrine. The doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, is this, — that it is the duty of the Government to administer certain executive functions; and that that Government may submit to legislative defeats, may survive those defeats, and be indifferent to them. So unconstitutional, so dangerous a doctrine I never heard maintained. A doctrine so discouraging to public men, so fatal to 1224 the energies of a Government, I never before heard advanced; and it rather convinces me that the resolution I have proposed is not quite so unconstitutional, is not quite so open to objection, as hon. Gentlemen opposite assert it to be, when I find that high and learned authorities are obliged to resort to such unconstitutional grounds for the purpose of opposing it. Why, can any man survey the course of Government in this country, and not see that acts of legislation are so interwoven with acts of administration as to render it utterly impossible to draw a line of distinction between them? Nay, I go further and say, that the character of an administration, that their claim upon public confidence, is infinitely stronger on account of their legislative measures, than on account of their administrative acts. If mere departmental administration, not liable to question, is a sufficient ground for a Government to retain office, and to be regardless of legislative defeats, it is pretty clear that there need be no union or concert among Ministers. I dare say, in ordinary times, when questions of peace or war are not in agitation, it may be tolerably easy to fill the departments of office with honest, respectable, and sufficiently competent men, who, each in his department, would be able to conduct the duties devolving on him, in such a manner as not to be much liable to question by the House of Commons. And no matter what opinions such men may entertain upon the legislative policy of the country. They may either avoid legislation altogether, or take the safer course— propose measures, and being defeated, fall back upon their acts of administration. But I say, survey the course of the legislative and executive administration of this country, and look at the great measures which the Government have had to consider of late years, and see whether the character and vigour of a Government do not depend upon its legislative more than upon its executive administration. Take the measures which the noble Lord has referred to, with so much pride and satisfaction. Take the removal of the Roman Catholic disabilities, as affecting Ireland. Take the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, as affecting this country. Take the Reform of Parliament—take the Poor-law Bill—take the Municipal Bill—take the proposition for the repeal or alteration of the Corn-laws;—are not these the great 1225 questions by which the character of administrations has been judged and determined? And is it possible to contend, in a reformed Parliament, with these great measures in our view, that a Government can be safely indifferent to the success or failure of its legislative acts? See what the inevitable consequence would be, if such a doctrine were to prevail. See what an inducement would be given, both to the Crown, and to the House of Commons, to depart from the sphere of their proper respective functions. The Crown would, or might, be constantly attempting to place the House of Commons in the wrong, by proposing popular legislative measures, and throwing upon the House of Commons the odium of rejecting them. The Crown might constantly labour to place the House of Commons in opposition to the constituent body, and to lower the character of the House of Commons, by inducing it to reject popular measures, purposely proposed with that view. If the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman were to prevail, all that the Crown would have to do, in order to stop the useful functions of the House of Commons, would be to say—" Legislative measures are matters of indifference; the Government I have chosen shall remain in office in spite of the rejection of the measures they have proposed; and we, the Crown and the Government, shall have credit with the country for propounding popular measures which you, the House of Commons, have rejected." Such would be the effect as regarded the Crown. Then see what an inducement you would give to the House of Commons to step beyond its functions, and thwart the executive. If the Government say,—"We are independent of the legislative measures and decisions of this House; that which is your peculiar function we will disregard; our fate shall not depend upon your decisions; nothing but your interference with our executive administration shall influence our retention of power;"—what an inducement do you not hold out to the House of Commons to interfere with the prerogatives of the Crown! The House of Commons, then, knowing that the only way in which it could influence the fate of the Government was by interfering with its administrative functions, would press for the production of despatches, the production of which, possibly, may be injurious to the public service, or would protest against appoint- 1226 ments made by the Crown ! In short, knowing that, by the exercise of its ordinary legislative control, it could not affect the Government, the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman would present to the House of Commons, the greatest inducement to depart from its proper sphere, and to interfere with the most important functions of the executive. The hon. Member for Lambeth says, that history is to constitute no precedent for us now; that, in consequence of the passing of the Reform Bill, he is indifferent to all precedents of former times. I should have thought that an advocate of the Reform Bill would have contended, that the House of Commons, being now a more exact image of the popular mind, should exercise a greater influence over the Government than an unreformed Parliament had ever done. But for the hon. Gentleman to contend, that a Government may be independent of Parliament, and that Parliament is to exercise no influence because it is reformed, is a doctrine I never conceived would have been advanced by any man professing himself to be a Reformer. But these are the shifts to which you are driven. You seek some plausible objection to my resolution; and you are obliged to abandon every constitutional principle for which you have hitherto struggled, in order to show me that that resolution is at variance with the spirit of the constitution. The noble Lord affected to be surprised that the Vice-President of the Pitt Club, and a professed admirer of Mr. Fox, had come forward to advocate the motion before the House, because, as he asserted, both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox repudiated the doctrine laid down in the resolution. I read some extracts the other night from a speech of Mr. Fox, and I showed that Mr. Fox recognised the principle, that the confidence of the House of Commons is necessary to enable a Minister of the Crown to carry on the Government of the country. [Lord John Russell: Nobody denied it.] But the noble Lord read an extract from a speech made by the same statesman, which he seemed to think countenanced another principle. Out of the same volume, nay, out of the same page, I will produce an authority from each of those great men, to show that, my view of the question was, in their estimation, the correct one. Mr. Fox said, upon this subject, thatHe wished to conceal nothing. He had 1227 a suspicion that Mr. Pitt had an opinion, that the Crown might appoint a Minister, and persist in supporting him, who had not the confidence of the House of Commons. He wished the suspicion might be ill-founded, but he dreaded it to be true.Those were the words of Mr. Fox. Mr. Pitt's opinion was to this effect: —He would, however, admit, that the confidence of the House of Commons was necessary to an administration, and he would be the last man to oppose that doctrine.These were the opinions of Mr. Pitt and of Mr. Fox upon this subject. If, then, I have, as I have, the admission of her Majesty's Ministers, that they have so far lost the confidence of the House of Commons, that they ought either to resign or to dissolve—if they thus admit the truth of my first proposition; on what ground I ask, do they object to the second proposition—namely, that a Ministry who have lost the confidence of the House of Commons ought not to continue in office? I have already inquired, on what ground it was that I gave notice of this resolution. These were the circumstances:—On Tuesday the 18th of May, the noble Lord was defeated by a majority of 36. The noble Lord then proposed an adjournment to Thursday, the 20th of May, in order that the Government might calmly review their position, and decide on the course they meant to pursue. The universal impression was, that her Majesty's Government intended to resign. The noble Lord has admitted that it was a subject of grave deliberation. My first proposition, then, cannot be so utterly remote from the truth. On Thursday, the 20th of May, the Chancellor of the Exchequer quietly moved, that the House should, on the Monday following, vote the existing sugar duties for the year. That was the whole of the information that was then conveyed to us. A question was afterwards put to the noble Lord, as to when it was that he intended to bring forward the Corn-laws. The answer of the noble Lord was, that he intended to bring forward his motion on that subject on Friday, the 4th of June. That being the answer given by the noble Lord on the 20th of May, what right had I to infer that the Government meditated a dissolution? From what circumstance could I suppose that her Majesty's Government— notwithstanding our having had the formal assurance of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, that a 1228 state of sufferance was no longer to be borne—that they would no longer exist upon sufferance—from what circumstance could I infer, that her Majesty's Government did not intend to pursue the usual course, and conduct the business of Parliament to the end of the Session, in the ordinary way? Under circumstances so peculiar, I also took time to deliberate on the course I should pursue; and having no reason to suppose that the Government meditated an immediate dissolution; and at the same time thinking that it was a violation of the principle of the constitution —that it was not doing homage to the representative principle, after the long succession of defeats which they had experienced that her Majesty's Ministers should remain in office, and continue to conduct the ordinary business of the country, I determined to give the noble Lord every advantage which a direct, intelligible, and straightforward course could afford him, and, on the Monday, I gave notice, that, on the earliest opportunity, I should move a resolution, that her Majesty's Government had not the confidence of this House, and that their continuance in power was at variance with the spirit of the constitution. And it was then, and not till then, that the fact was elicited from the noble Lord, that it was in the contemplation of her Majesty's Ministers to dissolve the Parliament. Up to that period, not a word had fallen from the noble Lord, not only which pledged the Government to a dissolution, but which even indicated any intention on their part to dissolve. But after I had given my notice—about tea minutes after—the noble Lord got up, and said that her Majesty's Government did not intend going on with the Poor-law Bill in the present Session, on account of the temptation which it might offer to Members to make speeches intended for the hustings, and with a view to recommend themselves to their constituents, rather than for the purpose of influencing the deliberative judgment of Parliament. It thus appeared that the noble Lord preferred the alternative of a dissolution, which he admitted to be inevitable, if he should relinquish the other alternative—that of resignation. But it was then, for the first time, that the noble Lord gave any intimation of his intention to adopt that alternative. If, therefore, my motion, has done nothing else than thus to force her Majesty's 1229 Government to determine which of the alternatives it would adopt, still it has done good, because, it has, at any rate, gained this admission from the Government—that for them to retain the power of governing and conducting the affairs of this country, under the circumstances in which they are placed, without either resigning or dissolving, would be at variance with the spirit of the constitution. But does the mode of their dissolution reconcile me to the act? Not at all. I do say, that having; made their election, it was the duty of Government—not, certainly, to dissolve without passing the annual sugar bill, and with respect to that no obstruction would have been offered to them—but having adopted the alternative of dissolution, and not of resignation, it was, I say, the duty of the Government to resort to a dissolution at the earliest possible moment. It is inconsistent with all usage, and inconsistent with the sprit of the constitution, that a Government should be enabled to select the measures which it thinks proper to submit to the consideration of a condemned Parliament,—that it should withdraw some, and submit others,—that it should tell the Parliament—" an immediate dissolution is in contemplation; but, before we dissolve, we will just bring forward those measures, the rejection of which we think most likely to damage the House of Commons in the eyes of their constituents;— we will propose popular votes, such for example, as that of advancing money for the construction of railways in Ireland;—we will bring forward particular measures, which, we are of opinion, may aid the party cause of our administration;— but, respecting every measure which we have hitherto described as essential to the welfare of the country,— measures, the principle of which, has been affirmed by large majorities in Parliament, but the further discussion of which may prejudice our cause at the hustings,—respecting these, we will exercise our own discretion as to whether they shall be brought forward or withheld." Now, although the hon. Member for Lambeth will, doubtless, utterly disregard the circumstance, yet I do affirm, that there is no precedent for any Government to adopt such a course as this When Mr. Pitt got the Mutiny Bill, after some slight obstruction experienced from Mr. Fox, that moment he dissolved the Parliament. Laid Grey, I apprehend, took the earliest 1230 opportunity of dissolving in 1831. But whether there be any precedent or not, I say it is unconstitutional, and contrary to Whig principles, to condemn a House of Commons, and then to exercise your own discretion, for party purposes, as to what measures you will bring forward, or what you will withhold. Nothing has surprised me more, than the desperate fidelity with which a Whig Ministry seem to cling to the opinions of Mr. Pitt, while the opinions of Mr. Fox upon the subject they utterly despair of, if not despise. But they have got the precedent of 1784, and they bring it forward on all occasions as a justification for the course they are pursuing. With all personal respect for them, I must say, that it does appear rather ludicrous to see them stretching forward with so much eagerness, in order to place their feet in the gigantic footsteps of Mr. Pitt. First, there is the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War; then, the right hon. Member, the President of the Board of Control; and, lastly, comes the noble Lord himself,— each trying to plant his shoes in the footsteps of Mr. Pitt. It is only under the refuge of the mantle of Mr. Pitt that they can seek safety. They seem to exclaim with Trinculo in the play—"Alas ! the storm is coming, and I have no retreat except under his gabardine;" and it is under the gabardine of Mr. Pitt that they seek shelter. But the moment they depart from that gabardine—the moment they thrust their heads from beneath it, that moment they utter some unconstitutional doctrine,—such as declaring that there is a clear distinction between the administrative and legislative functions of a Government. I think I have shown that the two propositions contained in my resolution are true,—first, that the Government by their own admission, have not the confidence of the House of Commons, and secondly, that it is in conformity with all constitutional principle and precedent that a Ministry not having the confidence of the House of Commons should relinquish office. I admit, that if there be a clear intention forthwith to dissolve the Parliament, that may be a vindication of the Government, but that a dissolution ought to be immediate. The House of Commons has no other mode of marking its sense of the unconstitutional tenure of power, than by passing some such resolution as that which I have submitted to the House, and which I most 1231 properly submitted to its decision, because I could not know, and did not know, the intentions of her Majesty's Government with respect to a dissolution. If any thing could more thoroughly convince me of the wrong position of her Majesty's Government, I must say, the humiliating position, on account of their tenure of power, in defiance of all constitutional principles—it is the appeals which have been made, throughout this debate, to an individual Member of Parliament, like myself. I will notice first, the unjust imputations that have been thrown upon me by some of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I must say, I was surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. He said, that he claimed for himself the most perfect freedom of speech; and he also said, with truth, that in his parliamentary conflicts with me, he had maintained all due courtesy; but he contended, that that courtesy was perfectly consistent with the utmost latitude of speech, and with the freest criticism on the conduct of men, holding a public character. I perfectly admit all this. No one more readily admits the right of any man to criticise, in the strongest terms, the public conduct of any Member of Parliament, whether in an official or in a private capacity; and I believe it is perfectly in the power of any hon. Member to reconcile the exercise of that right with all the courtesy which ought to preside over the debates in an assembly of Gentlemen. I do not ask for courtesy from the right hon. Gentleman, but I do ask for justice. And I ask, whether the charge he has made against me is just? He said, he would review my proceedings as a Minister, and he charged me with having excited religious animosities in the election of 1835.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Why, then, when speaking of my acts, as a Minister—why with reference to my administration, did you dig out of this forgotten appendix to the report of the Orange Lodge Committee, a report of the proceedings of some Orange Lodge, if it were not for the purpose of having it presumed that I had encouraged the animosities and the feuds to which the orange lodges had given rise? The right hon. Gentleman read an extract from some grand Orange Lodge report, in which it was stated that there were, in the various parts 1232 of Ireland, three thousand Orange Lodges. On looking at the report, I found it was dated the 12th of November, 1834, at which time I was at Geneva, on my way to England. Why did you make me responsible for those proceedings? Would it not have been more just and fair, to look, not at what the records of an Orange Lodge might state, but at what were the opinions I expressed, and what was the course I took, when the proposal was made to address the Crown respecting Orange Lodges? It was not fair, on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, to bring such a charge against me. I do not deserve it from persons of his religious faith, that such unjust imputations should be thrown upon me, for the purpose of creating an excitement in Ireland, and of propagating the belief, that it is my wish that that country should be governed through the influence of religious party feeling. Why, if, at that election of 1835, I had encouraged religious animosities, I suppose I should have incurred some obligations to Orangemen, and when, in 1836, a proposal was made to address the Crown to discourage Orange Lodges, and those who should belong to them, I presume, that that might have been the occasion—I being in opposition at the time, and therefore under no obligation to take any particularpart—when I ought to have given my support to my friends on this side of the House, many of whom entertained strong opinions upon the Protestant side of the question. But what was the course I took on that occasion? The House will permit me to refer to the debates on that question:—a reference which the right hon. Gentleman himself ought to have made, if he really wished to know what were my public declarations, and my sentiments on the subject, instead of referring to the acts of some individual Orange Lodge, for which it is impossible I could be responsible. In 1836, these were the opinions I delivered. I beg pardon for trespassing on the indulgence of the House, but it is necessary I should do so, for my own vindication; for did not the right hon. Gentleman refer to the appointment of Lord Roden, and was it not the whole intention of his speech to show, that, in 1835, I had a design to encourage Orange Lodge Associations, to promote party spirit, and foment religious animosities in Ireland? This, then, was the opinion which I delivered:—" I am deeply impressed with the conviction, that 1233 it would tend to the welfare of Ireland to see the extinction of all secret associations." Let me observe, I was not in power at the time. I was expressing my own sincere opinion—an opinion upon which I acted—and I was risking some parliamentary disapprobation by expressing it. I went on to say, that however laudable might be their intentions; however sincere their professions of loyalty, I still thought that the existence of societies having secret signs, was a bad precedent for other organised bodies, and that, therefore, I wished not only to see the Orange Lodges suppressed, but the angry spirit which had so long distracted Ireland, extinguished; without which, there is very little to be gained by the mere suppression of external forms. I did everything I could for the purpose of procuring the abandonment of those Orange Societies. The right hon. Gentleman may think what he will, but I venture to say, that no man has given advice which has been more effectual. It was strictly attended to, and has been most honourably acted upon. Those to whom it was given, have strictly kept the promises which were then made. I thank them for it; but I think it rather hard, after the course which they and I have taken, that we should be now taunted with a desire to provoke religious animosity in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Lambeth, said, that he supposed I had brought forward this motion in consequence of finding a clamour against the Poor-law prevail; and another hon. Gentleman, the Member for Lincolnshire, asked me what my opinions were with respect to the Charter. He said that I had stated my opinions with respect to the Ballot, and with respect to the Franchise, but that I had not yet given my opinion with respect to the charter, and that that was one of the grounds on which the hon. Gentleman withheld his confidence from me. May I ask the hon. Gentleman, whether the doubt he would imply by that statement, is an honest doubt?—whether he considers that the course I took the other night, with respect to the release of political prisoners, was such as to justify him in supposing that I have done anything to court the Chartists? Whether, in fact, that is really one of the grounds on which he withholds his confidence from me? Whether, although I have declared my Opinion upon the subjects of the Ballot and 1234 Franchise, yet that he really entertains a doubt as to whether or no I have not some secret understanding with respect to the objects of the Charter? Then again, with respect to the course which I would pursue;—charges and conjectures, of the most inconsistent nature, have been indulged in by hon. Gentlemen on this point. At one time, your charge is, that lam clearly the advocate of all monopolies; that, when you inquire into my political life, you find such has been my opposition to all popular rights, such my resistance to every species of reform, that no man, looking at the course I have hitherto pursued, can entertain the slightest doubt as to the course which I must henceforth pursue, should I attain to power; and that, upon that ground, you withhold your confidence from me. At another time, the charge is, that I have withheld or concealed my opinions on every point; that I have reserved to myself such a latitude of action upon all subjects, political, commercial, and financial, that there is not one upon which I am not perfectly at liberty to act according to that course which I may conceive to be conducive to the advancement of my party interests. How is it possible for me to reconcile these contradictory charges? I believe, however, upon the whole, that my political principles are pretty well known. I think the course I have pursued is tolerably clear; and that those hon. Gentlemen who believe that I am not prepared for the purpose of acquiring popular favour, to introduce into the working of the British constitution so much of democracy as shall disturb the other elements of which it consists, place the proper construction on my sentiments. Then you say—tell us your details. I ask, whether a more absurd or preposterous demand could be made? Take the Corn-laws: I should like to know, who has stood forward more than I have done, in defence of the existing Corn-laws. I should like to know, whether any man, looking at these debates, can really have a doubt that my desire is to maintain a just and adequate protection to the agricultural interest? Have I not contended for this, while I admitted, and I always will admit, that there may be some details of the present law which require alteration, The fact is, you are so disappointed at the course I have taken, that—[No, no !] Yes, you are You want roe to pursue 1235 the course which you are yourselves pursuing. You wish me to call a public meeting, and to move some resolution, to the effect, that no adjustment of this question can ever be satisfactorily arrived at, that no settlement can be effected, unless we pledge ourselves irrevocably to adhere to the present law in all its minutest particulars. If I had done this, would not the charge have been preferred, that for the purpose of obtaining a party triumph, I had tried to create a division between the agricultural and the commercial interests; and that, for the purpose of procuring agricultural support, and of getting the votes of the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Lincolnshire, and of his noble colleague, I had irrevocably pledged the House to the maintenance of everything in its present state. But the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Lincolnshire, has a new doctrine. He says, that I owe him some gratitude for his vote on the sugar duties. Gratitude ! owe the hon. Gentleman no gratitude for his vote. What ! gratitude from one Member of the House to another, on account of a vote, upon a question involving the interests of large classes of the community The hon. Member considers I am guilty of ingratitude, because I move a resolution of a want of confidence in her Majesty's Ministers, which has placed him in a difficult position with respect to his vote. The hon. Gentleman thinks, that this resolution is some trap, or rather some immense pit-fall, laid especially for him, that it has been moved for the purpose of involving him in some difficulty. I must say, that the hon. Gentleman somewhat overrates the authority and importance, that are attached to the vote he may give on this occasion. Let the hon. Gentleman take his own course. One would really suppose, that the hon. Gentleman, had lapped the milk of Whiggism from his earliest years. And then, when the hon. Gentleman made that touching appeal about Ireland, I could not help asking, what Used to be his sentiments respecting that country? I rather believe, I lost the confidence of the hon. Gentleman, by proposing the bill for Roman Catholic Emancipation. I think, that when he was in Parliament, in the year 1820, he voted, as I did, against the repeal of Roman Catholic disabilities. The hon. Gentleman should have recollected this, before he asked me what would be 1236 the opinion which I should have of him, if he were now to write himself down a "recreant Tory." And now, with respect to the Corn-law, As I said before, look at the course which I have hitherto uniformly pursued with respect to that important law. I cannot say, that the hon. Gentleman opposite has put any wrong construction upon my intention. I have always contended, that the two great interests of this country—the manufacturing: and the agricultural—have a close and reciprocal relation and influence to and upon each other. It is impossible to say what must be the influence of such a town as Liverpool, upon the rents of the land in its neighbourhood; or what the effect of such a town as Manchester or Birmingham upon the interest and prosperity of the agriculturist residing in those districts. It is still more impossible to close one's eyes, and not to feel that the prosperity of our manufactures is one main sourse of agricultural prosperity. I attach all due importance to the manufacturing interest; but I do not wish to appear as the partisan of one interest or the other. While, therefore, I admit the important influence which the manufactures of the country have upon the agricultural interest, I, on the other hand, maintain that agricultural prosperity is essential to the prosperity of our manufactures. If one should fail, there would not be merely a cessation of demand for the produce of the other, but that failing interest, being no longer able to discharge the burdens imposed upon it, those burdens would inevitably be transferred to the other. It is said, that I reserve to myself the details of any measure which I would support relating to the importation of corn. I do so; and why? Because I am constantly receiving, from the best friends of the agricultural interest, communications as to the improvements that may be made in those details. If I were to say, I will support a Corn-law against a fixed duty, and made no reservation as to details, why, such is the manner in which you fasten me down to every expression I make, that do I not know you would at once turn round upon me, and say, that I had incurred some positive obligations of honour to stand by every detail and every letter of the present Corn-law; and that the question was, not as to maintaining the principle of a graduated duty, but that the question was, as to maintaining, per- 1237 manently and unalterably, every detail of the existing Corn-law—nay, that I was not at at liberty to correct the admitted abuses of the present system—that I was not at liberty to prevent any sudden inpouring of foreign corn, arising from the objectionable mode of taking the averages? I know, if I had made some such declaration as that, I should have been told, that I had committed myself, not only to the principle, but to the very letter of the existing law, and that I was precluded from making any alteration whatever in its details. The hon. Gentleman has asked me, and he has a right to ask me, whether I intend to maintain the present protection for agriculture. I know what he means. [" No, no.!"] Yes, I do. He would require me to pledge myself to some specific details. That was his object, when he asked me what were my intentions upon the subject of the Corn-law. I will not give a specific answer. I state as much as any man can expect, or reasonably require, from an individual Member of this House. What I say is, that I prefer the principle of a graduated duty to a fixed duty, and that I think protection to agriculture, perfectly consistent with manufacturing prosperity. I do not attribute the present distress of the manufacturing interest to the protection which is given to the agricultural interest. It is you that have attempted to show that, I have not. At the same time, I will not bind myself irrevocably against any improvement in the details of the existing law. Supposing I undertook to give an answer on the details how should I act. "Tell me the pivot," said the hon. Gentleman. Why, was there ever anything so preposterous? If, indeed, I had followed the precedent, that has been set me, I may well have ventured to enter upon details; and if, after having given them, I should have altered them, we will say in the proportion of five to eight, no doubt, I should have had credit for it to-morrow. Why, here is a Government that had ten months to consider the question on which they wished to legislate, and that no less a question than one concerning the franchise in Ireland— a Government that came forward with a declaration of details, and yet who, immediately preliminary to the introduction of their bill, altered those details in the proportion of from five to eight; and this is the Government which thinks it decent 1238 to call upon me to commit m self to details Supposing I had given details, and supposing that afterwards, just before the discussion in Parliament, I, for the purpose of conciliating the votes of two or three agricultural friends—or four or five at the most, without any public objection or discussion, had altered those details, I know what imputations I should have been liable to. But these "chartered libertines," they may alter their details at pleasure; they, the Government ! with full opportunity of considering their measure before propounding it ! But every sort of imputation is to be thrown upon me, because I content myself with stating the general principles that would guide my conduct; and refuse, not being in office, to say what is the system of taxation I would propose, or what are the details of a bill on the importation of corn which I would support. Yes ! here is a Government, who alter the details of one of their own most important measures from a 5l. to an 8l. franchise, with no other reason than to conciliate two or three votes, charging me with the concealment of my intentions, because I do not bring forward details Now, allow me to ask the question, why were not these three great subjects, corn, sugar, and timber, brought forward at an earlier period of the Session? What pretence is there for not having named any one of them in the Speech from the Throne? If you bonâ fide intended to bring them under discuss on, why, I ask, did you not mention them in the Queen's Speech? Is this the reason—that it is contrary to all precedent to refer to the details of measures until you are prepared to introduce them; that it has only a tendency to agitate the public mind, to disturb commercial enterprise, to divert the application of capital, and induce precipitate speculations? If these were your reasons, upon what principle do you demand of me, an individual Member of Parliament, without the responsibility of office, to make a declaration of my opinions as to details of such measures as these? You say, that the sugar and the timber duties formed part of the budget; but the Corn-laws formed no part of the budget. That might have been mentioned in the speech from the Throne, and the attention of Parliament might have been called to it at an earlier period. Nor was there any reason why the timber duties should not have been mentioned in 1239 the Queen's Speech. There is a strong suspicion abroad, that you had two budgets, one for fair weather, and the other for foul; and it was not until foul weather had overtaken you, that you produced your present plan. To have prevented such an impression being formed, you should have alluded to these important questions in the Speech from the Throne, at the commencement of the present Session. You describe these measures as involving important considerations, as affecting the prosperity of the country; and you say, that the principles which you now avow, are the principles which must be ultimately adopted. Why, then, in justice to those principles, did you not urge them at an earlier period? What was the course you took with respect to the Import Duties Committee? Your measures are founded upon the report of that committee. But was that committee moved for by her Majesty's Government? Were the Members of her Majesty's Government aware of the intentions of those by whom that committee was appointed? Did any one Cabinet Minister attend that committee? Was any one question asked, by any Member of her Majesty's Government, of a single witness examined before that committee? Did the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, attend the sittings of the Import Duties Committee? No, not one day. And yet the report contains all that relates to the practical application of those great principles which her Majesty's Ministers now propound. Surely you must have been aware of the pressure of your finances as far back as from the middle of last year at least; and yet so little were you convinced of the soundness of those principles, which you now affirm to be necessary to the salvation of the country, that you permitted the Import Duties Committee to be appointed, without knowing well what its object was, and without thinking it necessary for any Member of the Government to attend upon it. If you thought it desirable to affirm the principles recommended in the report of that committee, why did you not make that announcement from the Throne? Or, if you thought that further inquiry was necessary, and additional evidence was required, why did you not, at an earlier period of the Session, move that that committee be reappointed? You 1240 did neither one nor the other; nor did you take any step till the month of May; and then you brought forward, in a time of pressing political necessity, three great measures, founded upon the evidence, and exclusively upon the evidence, taken by that committee. It is this which compels me to say, that the manner in which you have brought forward these great questions, is one by which you neither do justice to yourselves as a Government, nor to the importance of the measures you propound. And again I say, if these principles are so excellent; if these measures, founded upon them, are so absolutely necessary for the salvation of the country, is it not most unfortunate that you should have incumbered them with your help, not on account of your actions as Ministers, but on account of your position as the executive Government. There is, depend upon it, a prevalent feeling in the country, that these measures could not have been passed in the manner in which they were propounded. Your object being to remove the commercial distress, and relieve the financial embarrassment of this country, to restore confidence, and to find means of profitably employing capital, I must say that you are striking the severest blow conceivable against the industry of the country, by leaving these three great questions in doubt for an indefinite period; by setting party against party, upon such a question as that of the Corn-laws; by stirring up society to its foundation; and by arraying against each other, in bitter discord, classes of the community whose harmony is essential to their own welfare, as well as to the happiness and safety of the State. You are now about to dissolve Parliament upon the cry of "cheap bread." You promise the substitution of a fixed duty for the present fluctuating one. My firm belief is, that a fixed duty will give no effectual protection to the agriculture of Ireland, or of many parts of this country. What the effect of it may be, is entirely doubtful. I believe it to be fraught with the most serious consequences. I do not believe, that you can paralyse agricultural prosperity, by a fixed duty of one shilling a bushel upon corn, without seriously affecting other interests connected with agriculture. But my firm belief is, that the course which you have taken, the appeals which you have made, the mode in which you have conducted this ques- 1241 tion, and the excitements to agitation have been incurred through that mode of its introduction, will make it, when the time of difficulty shall come, impossible for you to resist the application of the same appeals, and to maintain that duty which you now state to be fixed and immutable. This is my firm conviction; and I now take my leave of the discussion of this question, and place it in the hands of the House, content, whatever may be the issue, with the course which I have pursued, which has been less with a view to any party advantage, than to the vindication of the just authority of the House of Commons, and to uphold the great principles of the constitution. Many may think that it would have been much better to have permitted you to go on with the discussion of the Corn-laws, and to have had three successive debates, and three successive minorities, each decreasing in numbers. That may have been a better and more political course, in respect to party. I know the advantages which I give you by bringing forward this motion. I am content to give you those advantages, because I think I should have been abandoning my duty, after the declaration you made, of its being your intention to continue in the ordinary performance of your official functions, notwithstanding the defeats you had met with, if I had acquiesced in that principle, and not asked the House of Commons, by some distinct declaration, to affirm or to deny the proposition, that you do not possess the confidence of the House, and that your retention of power, under such circumstances, is at variance with the spirit of the constitution.
§ The question was put as follows:—
That her Majesty's Ministers do not sufficiently possess the Confidence of the House of Commons, to enable them to carry through the House measures which they deem of essential importance to the public welfare; and that their continuance in office, under such circumstances, is at variance with the spirit of the Constitution.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 312; Noes 311; Majority 1.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Alford, Viscount|
|Acland, T. D.||Antrobus, E.|
|A'Court, Captain||Arbuthnott, hon. H.|
|Adare, Viscount||Archdall, M.|
|Alexander, N.||Ashley, Lord|
§ Lord John Russell
, in moving that the House at its rising adjourn till Monday said, that he would reserve himself with respect to the course the Government would take until that day. All he would say now was, that he proposed to take a vote of supply on Monday, and take only such of the miscellaneous estimates, the necessity for which was so immediate that any delay would occasion great inconvenience to the public service, if not granted at the present moment. [" The Corn-laws."] He would state on Monday what course he meant to pursue on that question, but the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) having though t proper, in his reply, to bring new charges against the Government, which ho had never heard of before, he must take till Monday to consider what steps he could best take to vindicate the Government.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that a great part of the speech of the noble Lord consisted of an attack upon himself, but he would be exceedingly sorry if it were possible for the noble Lord to impute anything unfair to him, or that he had taken any advantage in his reply to bring forward fresh charges against the Government. It was not his intention to do so, and knowing that the noble Lord had no right of reply, he had not said one word upon the foreign policy. He would not deprecate the course which the noble Lord might think desirable, and he might take it for granted that the noble Lord would not bring forward the Corn-laws on Monday.
§ Mr. Hindley
did not care twopence for the charges against the Government, but he was exceedingly desirous of having the discussion on the Corn-laws; and he hoped the noble Lord would be prepared on Monday to name the day for the discussion.
§ Mr. Hume
trusted the noble Lord would that night fix the time. Ample time had been allowed to consider this question. There was no doubt entertained by any one that the discussion on the Corn-laws must come on. As Tuesday was the first day, the noble Lord ought at once before he left the House to fix that day.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned.