§ On the motion of Sir R. Peel, the Order of the 335 Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, on the Duties affecting the Importation of Foreign Corn, was read. On the question, that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,
Lord J. Russell
rose and said,—Sir, I feel I should in no wise diminish the difficulties of the task I have undertaken, nor increase my own power of performing it, were I to commence the address which I have now to make, by any preface or apology. I shall, therefore, at once beg to call the attention of the House to the position in which we now stand. The question of the Corn-laws has been submitted to the House by the First Minister of the Crown for reconsideration; and he has not only done so on the authority of the Government to which he belongs, and over which he presides, but he has also informed us, that having collected opinions on the subject from those most interested in land, there are only a very few—only a very small proportion of that body—who object to some modification of the Corn-laws. We, therefore, now stand in the situation of considering the Corn-laws, with a view to their alteration, by almost general consent. The cry is no longer that of, "No surrender;" the question now is as to the terms of capitulation. Sir, if that be the case, if we are prepared to condemn the present Corn-laws as unfit to be longer continued on the statute-book, and if the House has now met for the purpose of legislating for the regulation of the trade in corn, then, I say, without fear of contradiction, that it is of the utmost importance, that you should make the change on sound principles; that you should endeavour to make it such as will give, as much as possible, general satisfaction, especially to that distressed portion of the community, of whose condition we have heard such lamentable accounts from both sides of the House; and, lastly, that it should be such a law as should not be liable to cause an immediate fresh agitation of the question, but that all who live under that law, all who have transactions in that most important of all articles of trade—the article of food, comprehending, in fact, in their various classes, the whole community, should be fully aware of the actual state of the law, under which they are to live, and be prepared to feel, that for some time it will not be disturbed. Because, Sir, though it may be wise to concede, yet, 336 when we concede, we ought to look for the fruits of conciliation. It may be wise to disturb the law as it now exists, but when we make that disturbance of the law, we ought only to do so for the purpose of settling it afresh upon a better foundation: to concede, but not to conciliate, to disturb the existing state of things, and yet to settle nothing, would be, I conceive, of all courses that could possibly be pursued, either by the Government, or by Parliament, that which would be the most imprudent for a Government to propose, or for Parliament to adopt. I shall think it necessary, Sir, however I may be obliged to trespass on the indulgence of the House, in stating my reasons for opposing, at this early stage, the measures of her Majesty's Government, to present to the House, as briefly as I can, the general principles which ought to guide the Legislature in deciding on this subject, because, although in one part of the principles laid down by her Majesty's Government, I concur, yet there are other points, on which I entirely differ. I suppose it will be agreed, in the first place, that with respect to corn, as with respect to everything else, the general principle is that of not legislating at all on the subject. The general principle as to all commodities is, that the producer or the seller endeavours to produce or to bring to market that article, and in that shape, which will be most likely to find a ready and immediate purchaser. The general principle with regard to the purchaser, I apprehend in like manner, is that he will go where he expects to get the goods he wants the best in quality, and the cheapest in price. Therefore, speaking generally, legislation has no natural place in those matters. The community themselves, are far better judges on such subjects, than the wisest senate, that ever deliberated upon them. The community themselves, in regard to the several commodities choose those articles of which they stand in need, and also the place to which they will go in order to purchase them; and those who are looking to get a profit from the production of such articles can choose themselves the particular goods which they will produce, and to what market they shall take them. This, Sir, is a principle which is generally understood in the present day; but, unfortunately, like many other great and generally understood principles, it is one 337 which is most exceedingly violated in practice. Now, there are, no doubt, limitations and exceptions to the application of that principle, and as to its application to the article of corn in particular, I should say there are two limitations and exceptions which I have had occasion to state myself at meetings in public, and in this House, and which have also been stated by great writers on the subject— exceptions on which, I think, reasonable allowances should always be made. In the first place, if you have unduly or disproportionately taxed one branch of industry, you should, if it be possible, make some equivalent in other arrangements for the unequal burden on that particular branch. With regard to general taxation, however, as Mr. Ricardo ably distinguished, however severe may be its pressure, you have no right, on that account, to tax the corn of foreign countries, because the people at large bear the burden of that general taxation. General taxation applies to the manufacturer, to all classes engaged in industry, as well as to agriculturists. But with regard to particular taxation — without entering into it, as I do not mean to enter into the question of what is, or what may be its amount—I think, if Parliament finds, that the landed interest, the farmers, and those who cultivate the land, are peculiarly taxed, it would be unjust, that they should bring their products to market, burdened with such peculiar taxation, and allow the merchant from foreign countries, to send in his corn not subject to similar burdens. That would be a violation, not of free-trade, but of every fair principle of trade, against your own people. There is another principle which is laid down by Dr. Adam Smith, and as the quotation is not long, it may be satisfactory to read it; though it applies to manufactures, it is also very applicable to the subject of corn. Dr. Smith says:—The case in which it may sometimes be a matter of deliberation how far, or in what manner, it is proper to restore the free importation of foreign goods, after it has been for some time interrupted, is, when particular manufactures, by means of high duties or prohibitions upon all foreign goods which can come into competition with them, have been so far extended as to employ a great multitude of hands. Humanity may, in this case, require, that the freedom of trade should be restored only by slow gradations, and with a good deal of reserve and circumspection. 338 Were those high duties and prohibitions taken away all at once, cheaper foreign goods, of the same kind, might be poured so fast into the home-market, as to deprive all at once, many thousands of our people of their ordinary employment and means of subsistence.Such was the principle laid down by that high authority, and it is so reasonable in itself that I do not conceive much objection can be made to it. With respect to corn, if it has been the effect of your regulations to cause the cultivation of certain lands, and the employment of labour on them which ought not to have been so employed, then a change in those regulations should be gradual rather than sudden, and protection of some kind should be given to those of your own people who are so situated. I cannot now say what the limits of that protection should be; but if it be found, on discussing the subject in committee, that the undue burdens of the agriculturists are considerable, let the protection be made proportionate. If there are no such burdens, or if they be trifling, let the protecting duty be regulated accordingly. But the Government, in proposing the plan now before us, have laid down a principle which is far more doubtful—though it is a principle which has indeed been sanctioned by one great writer, I mean Mr. Malthus, and acted upon by the Legislature on former occasions—namely, that you ought to make this country independent of foreign nations. Thais the principle on which the existing law and the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman opposite are framed, and which tends to prevent, by prohibitory duties, other nations from sending food into this country. I confess that although that principle might be an excellent one for some remote and sequestered state, such as that city which is supposed to exist somewhere in Mexico, which is said to have no communication with the rest of mankind, I cannot conceive how it is applicable to this great commercial country. But, supposing it to be desirable, in what manner could you establish such independence? Recollect that, even with respect to corn, you are not now independent of foreign nations. The right hon. Gentleman stated the other night that for four years we had on an average imported 2,300,000 quarters of corn; that is to say, two millions of our people have been dependent on foreign countries for their annual supply of food. But with respect to other commo- 339 dities likewise we are dependent. The employment and, therefore, the subsistence of those who are engaged in manufactures is as much dependent on the supply of the raw material from foreign countries, as on the supply of food itself. If the supply of cotton from America, or of foreign wool, or foreign silk, were entirely stopped, I believe I do not exaggerate in saying that not less than five millions of our people would be deprived of employment and the means of subsistence, There have been, therefore, for four years, under this law, which goes on the principle of making this country independent of other countries, seven millions of our people dependent upon foreigners. For that period, seven millions of our people, while we have been acting on the principle of preserving ourselves independent of foreign countries, have been fed by their means, and these people have existed in defiance and despite of that principle. May we not conclude therefore, that the very means by which you attempt to make this country independent of foreign supplies of food have failed, and necessarily must continue to fail. The consequence, indeed, as pointed out in a report of a committee of 1821, said to have been written by Mr. Huskisson, is, that while you raise the price of food in this country beyond the price of continental countries you do for a time give a stimulus to agriculture, but that stimulus in favourable seasons produces a glut, which it is impossible to remedy by disposing of the produce. In that way there was agricultural distress in those years to which the right hon. Gentleman referred as years during which the country completely fed itself. Those years you will find by the King's speeches, by the appointment of committees, and by speeches in this House, were years in which there was a constant complaint of agricultural distress, complaints which, I must say, it was natural to expect would have been made, because there was no outlet or vent for the surplus agricultural produce of those years, which had been forced into the market by the existing law. What followed? There was naturally a check to that production, and when you came to unfavorable seasons you then found that you had not the quantity of food necessary for your supply, and you were obliged to make large importations, so that your object has been entirely defeated. The very law you have made for your protection is 340 of no use as a protection, and rather tends the other way, as it prevents you from enjoying that constant supply which, it is desirable to have in all years and in all seasons. The only ground I can conceive for entertaining such an object, would be the case of a war with a foreign country; and yet I cannot imagine a war, by which we should be placed in a position of greater danger than that which we occupied when this country was struggling against Napoleon. But what was the fact? No less than 2,000,000 quarters of corn were imported into this country in a single year of that war, the year 1810. That importation was gradually diminished in subsequent years, but still the fact remains, that in that dreadful war this country existed for some time by means of the foreign supply, and not by means of its being excluded. Is there any chance —is there any probability—that you would have a greater danger from continental war than that which you then had? If you had, resting as you do on commerce, resting as you do on manufactures, I think you would not incur much danger, because I cannot conceive there would not be some part of the world from which you might draw your supplies. Therefore, I should say, the remedy should be quite the reverse of that which has been proposed to the House. The remedy proposed to the House, as it was stated in the right hon. Gentleman's argument, is to endeavour, as much as possible, to protect your native farmers, and to make such a law that you will never have any supply except from the northern ports of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman in his argument said, that we should have corn from countries nearly in the same latitude, that their seasons would nearly resemble our own, and, therefore, when they had abundance we should have abundance, when they had scarcity we should have scarcity. But all that argument went on the supposition that we are to make a law such as the present law, which confines the supply of foreign corn to particular times and particular countries, which does not seek a remedy for existing evils by laying open the market of England at all times and to all the world. That is your true resource. Not to restrict or stint the supply—not to endeavour to confine yourself to the production of one country; but to have corn not only from the countries of Northern Europe, but from the Black Sea 341 and from America. Let your commerce in grain, like all your commerce, stretch its arms over the whole world, and then rely freely and entirely on the operation of that commerce for those supplies of food of which you so greatly stand in need. Sir, the proposal made to the House by the resolution of the right hon. Baronet maintains the principle of a sliding scale and the principle of a high duty. In opposing the sliding scale, the first objection I take to it is that a high prohibitory duly always forms part of the scale. I could understand a scale of which the highest term was ten or twelve shillings, and which then descended to 4s., 2s., or Is.; but I find that whenever the right hon. Gentle man or others speak of a sliding scale, it always includes a prohibitory duty. Let us see what is the first duty of his scale:—the first duty is, when the price of corn is under 51s., a duty of 20s. I wish to show that that duty is prohibitory. I have looked over the papers which contain the latest information. I mean those presented by the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-president of the Board of Trade. In those papers we have, first, the consuls' returns, made up from papers presented to Parliament last year. We have next the result of inquiries made, by direction of the present Government, by a gentleman who was sent expressly for the purpose to the north of Europe. He seems to have had communication not only with official persons, but with several merchants on whom, he states, he could entirely depend. I must own I was surprised, that in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that having collected this information, he did not make any use of it for his argument; but when I came to look at the papers myself, my surprise altogether ceased, and I only found in the silence of the right hon. Gentleman another proof of his discretion. I find, in the consular return, the price of Dantzic wheat, stated at 40s. free on board; that the freight in Dantzic was from 3s. 6d. to 4s.; and it appears again, in the information collected by Mr. Meek, that the price at Dantzic was from 40s. to 45s., free on board. There are charges which they say must necessarily be incurred, and as to which, of course, I need not go into detail, but which I could satisfy any Gentleman would be from 4s. 6d. to 5s., making in all l0s 6d. to be added to the original price; that is to say, the original price at 342 Dantzic, when brought from the interior of the country being 35s., they say that with the addition of 10s. 6d. the corn would be sold in England. That would be making the price 45s. 6d. in ordinary years. Add to that 20s., it would make it 65s. 6d. when the price here is 50s.; which, of course, is a prohibitory duty. In the same way at Odessa, it is stated in the corn returns that the price would he 26s., and the freight 10s. Of course you must add to that sum further charges, which I think you could not take at less than 5s., and then the price will also be 61s. without the profit of the merchants. Therefore, with respect to these lower sums, although we say there shall be a duty of 20s., and a duty of 19s., and at 53s. there shall be a duty of 18s., yet, in all these instances, it is perfectly clear that the duty would be necessarily prohibitory; that when the prices ranged at 55s. and 56s.—the price at which the right hon. Gentleman says he is pleased to see corn—that when that chosen price (nobody can tell why) should prevail, there would then be a prohibitory duty on foreign corn. The right hon. Gentleman says, and says most truly, I think, that 20s. is quite sufficient, and no doubt he is perfectly right. The duties in the present law of 45s. and 47s. when corn is 39s., are, as the right hon. Gentleman says, so much odium unnecessarily incurred. I quite agree in that, and I think it would have been far better in 1828, to have said, with the right hon. Gentleman, "20s. duty will exclude foreign corn, and you don't want to carry anything stronger than will keep corn out. You have no need to put on iron plates and additional locks if the door which I gave you be strong enough to close the entrance." If such a proposition had been adopted, it would then have made the law a little more plausible; but I hope we are come to a period when the question is of some greater change than one which would make the law look "a little less exclusive, and appear less odious to the country, without giving any real relaxation. I have mentioned the prices at Dantzic and Odessa. I have seen it stated by a gentleman, who from his speeches at Anti-Corn-law meetings, appears to be well informed with respect to America, that the price of corn from America in Liverpool would average 43s. to 47s., which (taking 45s. as the aver- 343 age), with the 20s. duty, would be 65s.; therefore, with respect to American, as well as all other corn, that duty would be prohibitory. It is not possible for me to say, although I have endeavoured to ascertain, at what price the duty would cease to be prohibitory. There is in the scheme proposed the double advantage to the merchant, which the Government still retain, that if the price increases, and the merchant gets a better price, the duty falls. According to the statement I have made, I do not think corn could be imported at the present price, which is about 61s. It appears to me that this corn, which would be 45s. at Dantzic, with the profit that is required by the increased price, would hardly be sold at the present price of corn — 61s.; perhaps at some price about 62s., and from 62s. of course at all higher prices the merchant will import it; but if he is told that after incurring great expense — that after making himself liable to large sums of money, in order to bring an article from foreign countries, he may find, that when he has brought it to this country, a prohibitory duty will stare him in the face, and prevent him from taking the article out of the warehouses, there arises an insuperable objection to the trade which he has undertaken. Such is the impediment actually existing. Therefore it is that the sliding scale, containing a prohibitory duty, is in the first place, and in its nature, essentially inimical to trade. It seems too, that when you do admit foreign corn, there is an unnecessary advantage given. Suppose it comes in at 62s., that price enables the merchant to pay 11s. duty; when the price is 65s. the duty is 8s.; and you give him a bonus equal to the difference, where there is no advantage to the public. He gains by higher price; why should he likewise gain by lower duty? What has been the consequence of the fluctuating duty during the last year? It has been very well stated in two pamphlets written on the subject by Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Greg. One shows that on the 5th July last, the price of Dantzic corn in bond was 48s. It might have been admitted and sold at 56s. with an 8s. duty. It was not admitted, and on the 5th of August, the price had risen to 60s. a quarter. You still did not admit it; your law gave the speculator reason to believe; hat he could obtain a better price: and 344 in two months, that is in the beginning of September, the same corn was sold for 70s. a quarter, being an addition of 22s. a quarter to the price, without the slightest benefit to the farmer or landowner, and with no advantage but to the foreign speculator. Such, then, I say, is the effect of your law. You lower your duties for the purpose of admitting foreign corn at a high price, with very little advantage to the revenue, and none at all to the consumer or producer of corn in this country. If you bad had a low fixed duty you might have secured an advantage both to the revenue and the consumer. Mr. Greg states —but I think his calculation exaggerated—that the money uselessly paid to the holders of foreign corn, for 10,000,000 quarters, amounted to not less than 6,000,0001. I think that an over-estimate, but I think that not less than three or four millions have been unnecessarily paid, in order to obtain the benefits of the sliding scale—a sum entirely lost to the public for the sake of that inimitable invention. I have received to day a statement, which discloses another evil in the sliding scale. You say you will take the price according to averages, as before. The right hon. Gentleman says, I do not say whether wisely or not, that he does not propose to alter the system of averages, but they are to be taken much in the same way as heretofore. and therefore liable to the same faults. Now, take the averages as you may, there is a defect inherent in them. They do not tell you the quality of the corn. During the present year, it happened that a great portion of the corn was much damaged. Some persons, well acquainted with agriculture, thought, that one-fifth of the whole crop was damaged, be that as it may, there was a great diminution in the average price of corn. But did the people get their bread cheaper? No, the apparent cheapness was not cheapness to the consumer, for he paid as much for his bread as when the averages were higher. This has been made out clearly by a gentleman who has sent me the figures. He shows, that in January, 1841, the average price of wheat was 61s. 2d. In 1842, it was likewise 61s. 2d. You would, therefore, say that, with precisely the same average and the same duty, the people obtained their bread at the same price. Far from it. The price of the best town-made flour, according to 345 the Mark-lane returns, during the first four weeks of 1841, was 55s. per sack, and during the first four weeks of 1842 61s. per sack—making a difference of no less than 6s. in the sack of flour from which bread is made; while the averages have not altered a jot, nor the duty varied a shilling. That is a defect which you cannot get rid of by changing the system of averages twenty times over, nor by introducing 150 more towns than are now proposed to be introduced. It is a fault which, by keeping up a high duty, makes the labourer of this country pay a high price for his bread, and excludes foreign corn upon a false assumption, that the price of corn in the English market is lower than it really is. There is another defect which is likewise inherent in this scale, or in any scale, that it compels you to seek foreign corn at particular times, and when you are unable to pay for it with other articles in the regular way of trade. You have a prohibitory duty for two or three years, and then just after a harvest —the price rising in August, and the averages getting up—you find that a large supply will be required. The price rose rapidly, as I have shown you in one case, 22s. a quarter in two months. Many millions must be paid, and you have no means of meeting that demand by sending out goods, because you have no regular trade. You are obliged to send gold from your stock of bullion to pay for the corn. The Bank of England then naturally and inevitably contracts its issues. If it did not, its notes would come back, requiring more gold. That contraction is made at a time when the commercial world is in a state of embarrassment—when manufacturers ought to be enabled to give employment to the artizans, and when those artizans are paying a higher price for the articles of subsistence. That cannot he wholly prevented by the freest system in the world. If you were getting supplies from all quarters of the world, it would not prevent variations in price—it would not prevent corn being much dearer in some seasons than others. I admit that. I do not tell you that you can always have a perfectly steady price of corn; but I do say, and I do ask of you—if there be difficulties which nature has placed in our way—that you will not exaggerate those difficulties by bad legislation. Do not you heap embarrassment upon embarrassment; do not put difficulty upon difficulty. 346 That, at least I think, should not be the object of your legislation. The general welfare that ought to be sought for is totally incompatible with prohibition at one moment, and free admission at another. Next, with respect to fraud, in making up the averages, I cannot think with the right hon. Gentleman that it is of little consequence, or that there have not been very serious frauds at particular times, and that there will not be very serious frauds even still, under his scale of duties. Put it as you may, a rise of price is accompanied by a lowering of the duty, and as long as that continues, you must look for the consequences of that temptation which you offer, and that every one knows has been acted upon. In the year 1820, I think a committee of this House investigated and exposed the frauds committed with respect to the averages. That committee devised, as they conceived, a remedy for this fraud. You find the same frauds, however, were committed last year. In the years 1838 and 1839, frauds existed, and an instance of this was, that in one market the price of corn differed to the extent of nine shillings in a single week. That, at least, it must be admitted, is a bad system of law which gives encouragement to fraud and to gambling speculations; and that, too, where you ought to have an honest and a wholesome trade. But, if I were to state all the defects of the sliding scale— and there are many more still behind, it would occupy too much time, I come, therefore, to that which is the most serious of all, namely, that it confines the supply of this country with corn to the north of Europe. You have a deficient harvest, there is then a high price for corn, and you are obliged to send, as you did last year, orders for corn to be shipped at Dantzic, and to be shipped at all the ports in the Baltic. They take advantage of the low duty, their corn comes in, and you have to remain satisfied with this supply, which is only given to you at a high price. But, then, suppose a merchant were to say, the price of corn is now high—the duty is low—I know markets in North America in which there is an abundant supply of corn, and from which the corn can be shipped here. But if the merchant does send his orders, by the time the cargo arrives the prohibitory duties stand in his way—the price has fallen—the duty is high; and then, perhaps, he 347 finds that for two or three years his cargo remains on his hands, and he is a loser by the transaction. That is a defect which must be in any law which does not permit you to go to all the markets that will deal with you; and, above all, that will not permit you to go to such a country as the United States of America. In the present state of this country, as regards its commerce and general resources, there is nothing which ought to be considered as of more importance than retaining, extending, and improving our business and connexion with the advantages which the American markets hold out to us, and more especially those which are offered by our trade with the United States and the Brazils. It is most important for you to look to this; for a great portion of your exports of manufactured goods are sent to those markets. It would be no difficult matter by adopting a proper rule—the known rule of common sense—to retain, improve, and enlarge, to an almost indefinite extent, the trade you already carry on with those countries. But no, says the Legislature; we will not avail ourselves of these large outlets for our commerce; we will continue to tie ourselves down by restrictions; we will again shut the door upon the American markets; we will again refuse to receive her produce in return for our manufactures. I have got here a statement which I have taken from Mr. Buckingham's work on America. it gives an extract from a report of one of the States of the Union—that of New York—with regard to the extent of territory, and the produce from it in that country, which I hope the House will excuse me for reading, because it is of so much importance:—The western termination of the Erie canal looks out upon Lake Erie, the most southerly and central of that great chain of navigable lakes, which stretches far into the interior from our western boundary. Around these inland seas a cluster of five great states is rapidly rising. The territory which they comprise, and which is to become tributary to the canal, embraces that great area, extending from the lakes on the north to the Ohio on the south, and from the western confines of this state to the upper Mississippi, containing 280,000 square miles. To measure its extent by well-known objects, it is fifteen times as large as that part of the state of New York, west of the county of Oneida—nearly twice as large as the kingdom of France—and about six times as extensive as the whole of England. It contains 180,000,000 of acres of arable land, a large portion of which is of surpassing fertility. In the brief period of twenty-one years, such has 348 been the influx of population into this great district, that Ohio, the eldest member in this brotherhood of nations, now numbers 1,400,000 inhabitants, Indiana upwards of 600,000, Illinois and Michigan (both of whom have organized their governments and come into the Union), 700,000; while west of Lake Michigan, not only is Wisconsin rapidly rising, but even beyond the upper Mississippi, 30,000 citizens have already laid the foundations of yet another state, Such is the onward march of this population, that the amount of its annual increase alone exceeds in number the white inhabitants of ten of the states in the Union. The population already embraced within the district in question falls short of three millions, and if the same rate of progress shall be maintained for the twelve years next to come, by 1850 it will exceed six millions.There, then, you have a great population with whom you might carry on a most profitable trade. You have them placed in a fertile district, and yet removed at such a distance from this country, that, as it was stated by Mr. Curtis, from 43s. to 47s. the quarter must be the price of the wheat sent from there at Liverpool without a duty. They could not then be such competitors that the English farmers should fear to meet them, and yet they could become great consumers of your manufactures. I cannot but believe that six millions of people inhabiting that fertile district would prefer the continuance of agriculture rather than abandon such an occupation to devote themselves to manufacture. They would be glad to receive your manufactures in exchange for the food which they sent you. However rising may be the manufactures of the United States, there is not enough of that species of industry, and probably there will not be for a long while to furnish this great population. It is not possible to say how long you might continue to furnish them with manufactured goods, and you might, it is apparent, carry on with them a commerce of the most extensive, of the most useful kind. Doing this, you would be feeding your own people, and giving them employment. Doing this, you might see in future years those who are now in that horrible state of destitution which has been described, comfortable and independent, living on the fruits of their labour, and consuming the produce of a distant country. Sir, where are those who would say, because we have the power of legislation in our hands, to stop this trade, we will forbid this mighty 349 augmentation of human wealth and human happiness, and because we have the power we will undertake to place a barrier against it. Such, however, Sir, would be the effect of your continuance of the sliding scale. So long as the merchant has the fear before him that he will be unable to part with the produce he receives, he will be unwilling to enter into speculation, he will consider it a gambling and speculative trade which it would be better riot to interfere in. You have a contrivance even now for augmenting these difficulties, but I am glad to find the right hon. Gentleman hesitates as to whether he shall finally impose the additional obstacle— you have a contrivance even now for putting obstacles upon the importation of corn into this country, by a fixed duty upon all the flour which would come from these western states by the canals and the St. Lawrence. Sir, I trust the right hon. Gentleman, having hesitated, will give up that part of his scheme. But, even without that additional obstacle, is it not a most monstrous and unwise legislation, that as regards the corn trade, we are not to legislate for all countries equally, and that the inhabitants of the Black Sea and of America are not equally free to send their produce as the other parts of the world? Observe, too, that the objection does not apply to America which was made by the right hon. Gentleman in bringing forward his propositions to a dependence in foreign countries. Observe, that if you have a trade in corn with America, it is not like the countries from which we may now expect a supply nearly in the same latitude, and subject to the same climate as our own. In a corn country, extending from thirty-six to forty-three degrees north latitude, it often happens, and I believe it did happen last year, that while there was a wet summer here, and the harvest had been much injured, there was great dryness in that portion of the globe. You have before you a choice of different climates, and you have but to say the word—you have but to reject the plan of the Government, and adopt one more consistent with the maxims of trade, and the wants of a great commercial country, and more consistent too with the deductions of science and the lessons of experience—one more in accordance with the prayers and petitions of a suffering people—you have but to say this, and the ports of the world will be opened to you, and you need not fear 350 either the frequent recurrence of scarcity, or the interruptions to your trade, by foreign nations. Depend upon it, Sir, if you have free and universal commerce, protected by your great and formidable navy (and your navy always must be formidable), and if you have these two elements you need not have the smallest fear for your independence. Opposed as I am to the plan of the sliding scale, I shall, if that plan is rejected, be ready to enter into discussion with those who are opposed to any duty at all. What I propose is this, if the plan of a sliding scale is rejected —if it be found that there are no exclusive burdens borne by the agriculturists, then, I say, make only a provision for the maintenance of a duty, to prevent a sudden change, which might be so injurious to the agriculturists as to cause them to fall into distress. But if, as I believe, there are peculiar burdens borne by the agriculturists, then I propose that there be a low duty, a moderate duty, in consideration of their peculiar burdens. I would have the duty equal to these burdens, but to rise anything beyond that, not to say a shilling, but a single farthing beyond that, would be absolutely unjust and injurious. The right hon. Gentleman has said, that a great advantage in argument enjoyed by those persons who support the free admission of corn, and who declare they will have no restrictions upon trade, no protection which can impede it. Not only do they enjoy an advantage but they are invincible, unless you can show good and sufficient reasons for the duty that you impose. For a small fixed duty I think such reasons could be given; but if you have a prohibition through the instrumentality of a sliding scale, then, I think, you cannot possibly give any such reasons. It must be said in favour of a fixed duty, that it has been recommended at different times by persons of great authority. It was first recommended by Mr. Malthus, in 1815, when the Corn-law was proposed. Mr. Ricardo proposed that after a certain time a 10s. duty should be imposed. He proposed that the duty should be 20s. and then fall 1s. a-year until it descended to 10s., and there to remain. Mr. M'Culloch maintains, that, instead of 10s. the burthens of the agriculturist would be fully protected by a 5s. duty. A committee of this House in 1821, which was composed of many eminent agricultu- 351 rists, and amongst others the right hon. the Paymaster of the Forces (Sir E. Knatchbull) and of which Sir Thomas Gooch was chairman, recommended a fixed duty. They thought the best course, it would seem, was to impose a moderate fixed duty.
Lord J. Russell:
Does the right hon. Gentleman dispute the statement? I refer him to the recommendation of the committee itself. It begins by expressing its opinions with respect to a fixed duty with great modesty and diffidence, which, there is no doubt was perfectly proper, considering the persons to whom it was submitted were agriculturists. It says this—Your committee may entertain a doubt (a doubt however, which they wish to state with that diffidence which a subject so extensive naturally imposes upon their judgment) whether the only solid foundation of the flourishing state of agriculture is not laid in abstaining as much as possible, from interference, either by protection or prohibition, with the application of capital in any branch of industry.It then goes on to state why, with a reasonable duty, agriculture might flourish—Assuming, therefore, that under present circumstances, Parliament would not now deem it expedient to abandon entirely the principle of the existing law, your committee have anxiously directed their attention to the possibility of, in some degree, modifying its operation, so as to remedy that inconvenience to which they have more particularly referred in the earlier part of their report, which consists in the sudden and irregular manner in which, in many cases, foreign corn may be introduced upon the opening of the ports, under circumstances inconsistent with the spirit and intention of the law. They conceive that this object might be attained by the imposition of a fixed duty upon corn, whenever, upon the opening of the ports, it should become admissible for home consumption.Permit me now to observe, that although that committee recommended a fixed duty, still I cannot but think that the parties who wrote this, looked forward to the time when there should be a free trade in corn, and rather thought that the fixed duty would be a temporary measure—that a future period might be reckoned upon, in which all protecting and prohibitory duties would be at an end. Of course, Mr. Hus- 352 kisson was a party to the present measure. He was a party to the bill of 1827; he was a party to the bill of 1828; but in 1830, the last time he spoke on this subject, although he did not maintain a fixed duty, yet he supported that principle, which from time to time he supported, when he considered it advisable or thought it prudent—I mean the principle of free trade. I have stated that I am ready to consider the propriety of a fixed duty. I think there are various points connected with a fixed duty, and that not only as to its amount, which are matters for grave consideration. I was taunted for saying that I thought that one of the best courses to pursue with a fixed duty, in times of scarcity, was to leave to the Crown the power of opening the ports a certain time before the assembling of Parliament. I think, perhaps, it would be better that when the price of corn rose to a certain point—when the price averaged from 73s. to 74s., that then there should be a 1s. duty. I state that as a matter for consideration. I proposed before that, in cases of scarcity, there should be a discretionary power in the Crown; or say, as an alternative, that should the price be very high, then there should be a nominal duty, or the duty should cease. But among other objections, the right hon. Gentleman stated to us, the other night, that when you had corn cheap here, it would be in such abundance in foreign, countries, that if the foreign corn came in competition with the produce of the English agriculturists, they would be ruined by it; while, if corn is very dear, you cannot keep a fixed duty. Now, with respect to the farmer—as to the cheapness of corn abroad, you do not find it at a less price than 26s. at Dantzic. You have to add the cost of importation, and then, if there be a moderate duty, you will find it at a price which exceeds the lowest price of corn here since 1831. Then with respect to dear years, what is, it you do? You give an advantage rather to the foreign merchant than the English agriculturist. And you must consider, that by the maintenance of a fixed duty, you prevent corn from rising here to a very high price, or, if it did do so, if it were desirable to relax the amount of that duty, it might be done either by the authority of the Executive, or the authority of Parliament. As I originally proposed, it should be by the authority of the Executive. That which I think 353 most essential is, that there should be a constant trade; that there never should be a duty which should shut out corn at a certain price, and let it in more easily at another; that on certain occasions it should not produce frauds, nor encourage gambling speculations, nor continue the same evils, the fruits of the existing system, and to be continued by the present scale proposed by the Government. There is another part of the subject to which I have not adverted, and upon which the right hon. Gentleman in his address to the House dwelt but very slightly—I mean that painful portion of the subject which relates to the great distress so extensively prevailing in certain quarters of the country. That that distress exists to a great extent—that it exists in Leeds, in Manchester, in a great portion of the cotton districts, and in some parts of Scotland, is now by no person denied. It was stated in the strongest terms by the hon. Member who seconded the Address. The right hon. Gentleman says, that he does not Corn-laws as any remedy for this distress, nor does he think that the Cornlaws, as they at present exist, are at all answerable for it. Now, Sir, I certainly shall not say, that they are the cause of the whole of this distress, but I think they tend very considerably to aggravate it. I think, moreover, that a considerable relaxation of your Corn-laws will tend greatly, though not, perhaps, immediately to mitigate the distress. What is now said by persons who are conversant with the cotton trade residing in Manchester? In a circular which they have addressed to the wholesale houses of London, they state, that while the foreign exports, profitable or not, have increased during the past year, the sale of their goods for domestic use has decreased 3,000 bales a week. They draw a conclusion which I think is very natural, and borne out by all the other evidence on the subject — that the want of means in the labouring classes to purchase clothing and other articles, as well as food, has been the cause of that diminished consumption; that a much greater part of the earnings of the labouring classes than hitherto has during the last two or three years been applied to the purchase of food. This statement is supported by all who have had communication with the labouring classes, and indeed by their own decal- 354 rations in various parts of the country. I presented a petition to-night, in which the petitioners affirm, that they now pay much more than formerly for their bread, that they are not able to consume sugar at all, and that with respect to other articles their consumption has greatly diminished. Well, then, if you had a freer admission of foreign corn one consequence which would follow would be, that those great and numerous classes, being able to purchase their food at a cheaper rate would be able to consume a greater quantity of manufactured articles. Another consequence would be, that the manufacturers would find a better market for their goods, and send those goods abroad in exchange for the food sent to this country, Therefore, while I do not say, that the whole distress of the country is caused by the Corn-laws, or that it would be immediately removed were those laws totally repealed, this I do say, that I think those laws have tended to aggravate the distress, and that you would mitigate it by relaxation of them. It appears to me, Sir, that the situation in which the country is now placed, is different form that in which the right hon. Baronet supposes it to stand. He considers the position of its commercial affairs to be similar to that which has already occurred at various periods, when there has been much distress in the manufacturing districts, produced by different causes,—as over-production, increase of machinery, and in the establishment of joint-stock banks, which have always ended by a reduction of the excess of those establishments, and a restoration of the former state of things. Now, Sir, that is not, according to my belief, a true view of the state of the country. I believe, that although the number of joint-stock banks and the production of manufactured goods may have been somewhat in excess, yet, if there had bee no other cause in operation, the distress would have passed by, and the evil would already have been corrected. And let it be observed, that the evil is stated by the right hon. Gentlemen in a manner that is inconsistent and contradictory. One part of that evil, he says, is the building of so many houses, and the bringing a new and increased population into the manufacturing towns. Another pert, according to him, is that machinery diminishes employment. There may be some truth in the first branch of 355 the statement, but with respect to the increase of machinery diminishing employment, our whole history, since the introduction of manufactures into England, contradicts that supposition. Wherever manufactures have been established, where-ever new machinery has been invented, wherever means have been found of lessening the quantity of human labour requisite to produce a particular article, it has always ensued that markets have been created or have been extended, and thereby the whole number of persons employed has been increased instead of being diminished. And, indeed, had it not been so, what could have called into existence those great towns of Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, and Birmingham, growing from year to year, in proportion as the ingenuity of our countrymen has added new processes for the abridgment of labour to those which were before known? If the establishment of machinery had diminished the field of employment, the progress would have been the other way. Those great cities would have become smaller and smaller, and the machinery, almost without the employment of human hands, would have furnished sufficient produce for the consumption of the whole country.
§ Sir R. Peel
was understood to say, across the Table, that he had not maintained that machinery decreased employment.
§ Lord John Russell;
I certainly understood, and I was very sorry to hear it, that the right hon. Baronet in some degree assented to a doctrine which I think very erroneous, but that has been held in some quarters where it was said great support was to be given to the Government—that the increase of manufactures and the power of machinery diminished employment. I believe, on the contrary, that if we pursue a wise policy, we may look forward to a still further increase of our manufactures. I believe we have not yet reached the point to which our manufactures and our commerce may attain, if we do but add to their freedom instead of imposing new restrictions. The people think that some relief may be obtained by a change in those laws, and by a freer admission of corn. If you are not prepared to grant that total repeal which the great majority of those petitioners ask for, I should advise you, at all events, to make a considerable step in that direction. I should advise you to show, by some mate- 356 rial advance, that you wish to meet their wishes as far as you think consistent with their interests, and that this House has a sympathy with the sufferers who are now petitioning you for relief. But the right hon. Baronet says, that the Corn-laws have not produced the distress, and that an alteration of those laws will not relieve it. Why, Sir, I agree to that description, when it is made applicable to the measures proposed by the Government. I agree that it is impossible to hope that any material alleviation of distress should result from a measure which is only made to look apparently a little better than the former one, which keeps up all the vicious principles of the old law, which forbids the import of corn by a prohibitory duty, which encourages speculation, which cramps your commerce, and prevents your resorting for food to the Black Sea and the United States. To such a measure, the description that it will do nothing to relieve the distress is strictly applicable. Do whatever you may, this let me advise you—not to agree to such a measure as this. If you think that the present Corn-laws are framed on sound principles, and that they tend to the prosperity of the country, do not mind some of the minor defects, but stand upon them as a good and useful system. Do not innovate, except you innovate for some wise and beneficial end. Lord Bacon said, with a wisdom which has been often admired, that the froward retention of custom is as turbulent a thing as innovation. But he never dreamt that there might be a measure which should have all the evils of a froward retention of custom, and yet contain within it all the mischief's of innovation — a measure which should change and therefore disturb, but which should not improve, and therefore not alleviate distress—a measure which, having caused much speculation, and excited great hopes for a long period, should be in appearance a change, and yet in reality be founded on the same principles, and produce similar evils, with that which has been condemned by the public voice. Such a measure I consider is that which is now proposed. I cannot conceive that you will legislate to any purpose unless you in the first place reject that measure. If you reject it, you may hereafter consider to how great an extent you may set free the trade in food—you may consider how far you may concede to the wishes of 357 the petitioners. It will be open to you to give due weight to every view of the subject that may be presented, to consider the interests of the agriculturists, the quantity of land that has been brought into cultivation, the peculiar burdens that affect agriculture. If it be true, as the right hon. Baronet says, that there is as much odium attached to a fixed duty as to a sliding scale, and it' there be any odium in imposing such a duty as is fair to the agricultural part of the community, from that odium I am not disposed to shrink, for I will rather incur any odium than not do justice to the agricultural as well as the manufacturing classes. But if you adopt the scheme now proposed to you, do not think—although among a people who have attained that degree of civilization to which the people of England have now arrived, I do not believe you will have those scenes of tumult which occurred in a former century, and even in the year 1815—but do not think that you will not call up a formidable spirit of discontent, a dangerous spirit of disaffection to the constituted authorities of the realm. They will not be satisfied with being told that you gave undue favour to no particular class, that you did not enact this law for a class, but on a well-considered view of the interests of the whole community. It cannot fail to strike them, that speculative and abstract writers, that commercial men, that indifferent spectators have all agreed that a sliding scale is the worst basis upon which you can construct a Corn-law. They cannot fail to perceive, that what you propose is condemned generally by the persons and classes who are most impartial and best informed. How then shall they believe that the proprietors of the land alone take an impartial view of this question? How shall they think, that the very class who have a pecuniary interest in it are, contrary to the experience of all mankind, the only persons who on the present occasion take a disinterested and impartial view? Depend upon it they will not so reason; they will attribute, unjustly, perhaps, but they will attribute to you a bias in favour of those interests which are favoured, of those persons who the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, is reported to have declared enjoy an increase of income, an increase of rent, by the maintenance of the present system. They will be- 358 lieve that those interests have not been indifferent to you, and that you have taken a partial and not a dispassionate view of the interests of the whole corn-Funnily, Anything, Sir, will be better for the Legislature than this. Be in error if you will. Enact laws which partake of the ignorance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries upon matters of trade; if it is mere ignorance, you will excite no feelings of hostility by such a course. But if you allow it to be proclaimed, that the Commons of England have acted on this question, which concerns the food of the whole community, with a selfish end, it is impossible but that the Legislature must stiffer in estimation. Such, Sir, being the light in which I see the present proposition, I only hope that you will come to such a decision as wilt show that you have large and enlightened intentions with respect to the present state of trade and commerce, that you have considered agriculture as well as all other interests, and that you have determined to pass a law which men will regard as a blessing to the community, and for which they will thank you in the gratitude and fervour of their hearts as a wise and beneficent Legislature, That such may be your decision is my most anxious prayer, and I cannot think that you can legislate thus unless the present measure is rejected, and you proceed upon totally different foundations. I have now to move,That this House, considering the evils which have been caused by the present Corn-laws, and especially by the fluctuations of the graduated or sliding scale, is not prepared to adopt the measure of her Majesty's Government, which is founded upon the same principles, and is likely to be attended by similar results.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said, while he endeavoured, with the profoundest respect for the talent and station of the noble Lord, to discharge his duty in following him in this debate, and urging on the House the rejection of the motion which the noble Lord had made, his first object should be to disembarrass this question of all topics which did not belong to the immediate issue before the House, and to remind them on what ground it was that Gentlemen on his side of the House were in conflict with that of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had concluded his speech by a representation of the sinister impress- 359 sions which would be entertained throughout the country, if that House should accept the measure tendered by her Majesty's Government. And the noble Lord apparently grounded his anticipations on the feelings so strongly manifested in many parts of the country with reference to the present Corn-law. But the noble Lord, as the advocate of a fixed duty on corn, had no right to take advantage of that feeling, with the view of throwing disparagement on the plan of her Majesty's Government in comparison with his own, or for the purpose of assuming, that in case he should succeed in inducing the House to reject the proposition of his right hon. Friend, the adverse sentiments which it had called forth would be at all mitigated, or that the agitation which had lately been excited would be allayed. The noble Lord had not scrupled to come forward as the advocate of protection by the Legislature. The noble Lord declared that it would be unjust at the present moment to enact a free trade in corn. The noble Lord had given two grounds for that opinion, and it seemed to him, if the noble Lord acted consistently with the reasons he had himself alleged, he ought to accept the measure which had been tendered by her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord said, and in this he differed from a large number of those who were his ostensible supporters, that there were special burdens which exclusively affected agriculture, and in consequence of which, according to the measure of the strictest equity a certain amount of taxation ought to be imposed on the food of the people. But the noble Lord did not stop there, he took another, a distinct, and in his opinion, a most valid ground for the imposition of a duty on the importation of foreign corn; for the noble Lord stated that during a long series of years—he might have said for many centuries—the Legislature had maintained a system differing in the form and the amount of protection, but always imposing some duty on the importation of foreign corn; that upon the faith of this restrictive system an enormous capital had been invested; that under this investment millions of the population had been employed; and the noble Lord justly held that to destroy in a moment the foundation on which such a superstructure had been raised, to create an agricultural panic, and to displace 360 from their present employment large numbers of the agricultural population, would be a step so disastrous and so disgraceful, that no British Legislature should be induced to entertain it. The noble Lord then, as well as those on his side of the House, was obnoxious to the clamour of those who contended, with a conference held upon the subject of the Corn-laws, thatThe free importation of corn was not a subject for the deliberation of the senate, but a natural and inalienable law of the Creator.And the noble Lord was amenable to the further censure (joined in by many of those to whom he looked for the support of his motion that night)That they who interfered with the exchange of the produce of labour for the food of other countries, impiously obstructed those advantages of commercial intercourse vouchsafed for the benefit of all nations.Now, the real question was not which side of the House could enlist in support of its arguments the greatest array of prejudice and passion. If that were so, there were passions and prejudices enough to which an appeal might be made on either side; but the question was, looking to the constitutionally represented sense of the people—looking to the course of legislation which had been always pursued on this subject—looking to the burdens which the noble Lord affirmed, and he (Mr. Gladstone) believed justly, were laid exclusively on agriculture; looking to all the circumstances of the case, and searching for that which was most practicable and best under all the considerations to which any man desiring to be really useful to his country must direct his regards; whether, on a review of all these points, it was best to accede to the scale of duties proposed by his right hon. Friend, or to adopt the proposition which had just been made, and which, in substance at least, was similar to that last year submitted by the noble Lord.
There was, indeed, one ground for the protection of agriculture which the noble Lord disavowed, and that was, an intention on the part of the Legislature to make this country independent of foreign supply. The noble Lord asserted that a great writer and authority, Mr. Malthus, was in favour of the principle of independence of foreign supply. With respect to 361 this topic, and without discussing its abstract validity, he was surprised that the noble Lord, when referring to authorities, did not bear in mind a far higher name, or that, if he recollected, he did not quote the sanction of Mr. Huskisson, who had held that, not indeed to all extremities and for all circumstances, but within moderate bounds, it was a legitimate design for Parliament to pursue, to render the country independent of foreign supply. Mr. Huskisson strongly supported this proposition in 1815. It was true, that at a subsequent period he modified some of the opinions which he then expressed; but the question arose was this opinion amongst those upon which his judgment was altered? In 1827, six years after the publication of that report which the noble Lord had made the subject of such high, and he must add in his humble judgment such just commendation, when on some occasion the question before the House turned upon the independence of foreign supply, he declared in his place in Parliament that he adhered unequivocally and unreservedly to the opinion which he had announced in 1815.
He would now contend, with respect to the general subject of debate, that the evils attributed to the existing law were only owing to it in a limited degree, and that the statements made upon that head were full of very gross exaggerations. He would further contend, with reference to the terms of the noble Lord's motion, that not only the evils said to be caused by the Corn-laws were exaggerated; but that the noble Lord was not altogether justified in saying that the present proposal of his right hon. Friend was founded on the same principles as the existing law. He admitted that the word principle was subject to a variety of senses in their discussions; there was perhaps no word to which it was so desirable they should attach a fixed and determinate meaning, and yet unhappily there was none which was used with greater laxity, or greater ambiguity in debate. If by the principles of the plan were understood a graduated scale as opposed to a fixed duty, he could understand the doctrine of the noble Lord; but if it were meant to be contended that the structure and calculation of the scale of duties (to which he believed it could be shown that a great portion of the existing evils could be traced) in the present measure of his right hon. Friend were identical 362 or akin to those of the existing system, then he denied that this plan was founded on the same principle as that now established.
He would now proceed to argue as he had stated, that many of the evils ascribed to the present system were inseparable from the nature of things: that of those which were avoidable there was a rational hope that many would, under the new scale, be avoided, and that to a fixed duty, on the other hand, insuperable objections must attach. He thought the noble Lord would concede, and he thought every man who endeavoured to apply his mind with calmness to the subject would concede, that under present difficulties, and under our present circumstances, we could not proceed as if, viewed at large, this was a new country, or as if no legislation had ever been attempted on the subject. He, at all events, was of opinion, that either a graduated scale, or a fixed duty, or a perfectly free trade in corn, was open to serious objections; that what lay before them was a choice of difficulties, and a choice of evils, of which it was their duty to choose the least. He was ready to admit that the present law had not operated in the way in which it was thought it would operate, but that it had pressed with very considerable severity on the consumer, with a severity which the experience of recent years could alone convince its authors that it was calculated to act. But let them consider with fairness the charges which were made against the present law, and the degree in which it was fairly open to them. There had gone forth a denunciation—and he believed some hon. Members in that House would be found to be among the supporters of the doctrine—against the present system of Corn-laws as the main source of the existing distresses of the country. Now it was wonderful, and almost incredible, that dispassionate and able minds, that men of searching and acute understanding, should attribute to the Corn-laws evils which were evidently traceable, not to human causes, but to those dispensations of Providence which ordained the hazards of a periodical defalcation in the food of man. He referred particularly to the writings of Mr. Wilson—a gentleman he could not name without bearing testimony to the great talents he brought to bear on the subject, the great light which he threw on it, and the value of his information. But, it 363 Would hardly be believed that Mr. Wilson, so far as he could understand his meaning, and he sincerely hoped that he misunderstood it, saw no means of accounting for the difference in the supply of corn in the years 1834 and 1839, but through the Corn-laws, and appeared to be of opinion that the seasons of these respective years had nothing to do with the price of food. This gentleman contended that the habits of the farmer were formed by the price of food. This gentleman contended that the habits of the farmer were formed by the price procured for corn in different years; that the high prices of 1829-31 induced him to sow an excessive breadth which produced a glut, that the consequent low prices of the years 1833-6 induced him so much to restrict his breadth sown in wheat, that there followed a scarcity of four years. And this change in the breadth of wheat cultivation Mr. Wilson really put forward as the main or sole cause of the recent high prices. Now, if the House were prepared to go that length, and strictly to adopt the principle that the varieties of the seasons had nothing to do with the price of wheat, he should despair far more than he did at present of a satisfactory and amicable adjustment of the question of the Corn-law. And here he might refer to the noble Lord's representation of what his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) had said as to machinery. He did not know whether the noble Lord was singular in his impression, but he certainly never understood his right hon. Friend to contend that the effect of machinery must be the ultimate diminution of employment; but that machinery, with all its countervailing, and more than countervailing advantages, must occasionally glut the market. It was worth observing, that as long as labour continued manual, the producing and the consuming power continued on an equality, and supply would, as it were, maintain an ordinary relation to demand; but when we came to the times when, by some wonderful invention, a machine could do the work of twenty or of fifty men, it was, perhaps, almost a law of nature that there should be periods of excess in supply as compared with demand, and producers must be content with demand and producers must be content, he feared to wait for the relief and revival of the markets. He could not conceive any man looking at this question with temper and good faith, who could deny—taking into account the population and consumption of this country, and the possible surplus of corn in the rest of the world—that four 364 bad seasons in succession must, under any circumstances, have a powerful effect on the price of wheat. But then the charge made against the Corn-laws was, that they aggravated the natural fluctuations of supply. Now was that true? He admitted that, in many respects, the operation of these laws was inconvenient; he did not despair to see fluctuation restrained so far as this country was concerned, within narrow bounds; but was the -proposition true that it aggravated the natural effects of the scarcity and abundance of the seasons? There were several ways of applying a test to the allegation. If they looked to other articles they would find, that they were subject to the same variations in price. If they took the price of wheat for the last fourteen years, in 1835 when it was cheapest, and 1839 when dearest, they would find that the difference was 79 per cent. Now, he had received a statement showing the prices of cotton, in which there was an almost entirely free trade, and which was not more subject to uncertainty in production than food; and yet he found the fluctuation in the price of the United States cotton 85 and 86 per cent. But Mr. Wilson had asserted that the price of wheat ought to be steadier that that of wheat ought to be steadier than that of any other article in extensive consumption. He believed the very reverse to be the fact. What said Mr. Huskisson in his report of 1821?There is one consideration to be constantly borne in mind, most material to enable the House and the country to arrive at sound and safe conclusions on this important subject—namely, that the price of corn fluctuates more than that of any other commodity of extensive consumption, in proportion to any excess or deficiency in the supply.So that in wheat of all other articles, steadiness of price was most desirable, and least attainable, but, to continue, he would not compare the price in the home market with the contemporaneous price in foreign markets affected by the British demand; because it might be said, and fairly said, that the foreign markets were unnaturally stimulated by the state of the British market, and that the variation in the price of wheat abroad, were caused by our fluctuating demand, and the high premiums offered by a rapid diminution of duty. But, in palliation, at least, 365 of the charges brought against the existing Corn-laws, he would refer to the prices of wheat in former periods in this country, and under other circumstances. It appeared from the papers which he had lately laid on the Table, that in the fourteen years of the present Corn-law, the fluctuations had been 79 per cent. From 1816 to 1828, the fluctuations had ranged from 44s. 7d., the lowest, to 96s. 11d., or 117 per cent. From 1806 to 1815, the price of wheat had varied from 65s. 7d. to 126s. 6d., or 92 per cent. From 1796 to 1805, the fluctuation was from 51s. 10d. to 119s. 6d. or 130 per cent. From 1786 to 1795, a period during which very considerable freedom of trade prevailed, together with an absence of disturbing causes from general war interrupting national intercourse, he found, that the fluctuations had been from 40s. to 75s. 2d, or 87 per cent. Under the present system, the fluctuation would be only 79 per cent., and it was not till we got back beyond the year 1785 that we found even a decennial period in which the fluctuation in the price of wheat was less than in the fourteen years now just elapsed. But there was another point of view in which this subject might be regarded. His right hon. Friend had alluded the other night, but not in detail, to the fluctuations in the price of rye in Prussia, which held pretty much the same place in the Prussian markets, forming, as it did, substantially, the food of the people, as wheat did in this country. The price of rye was not stimulated by British demand; there was no quantity of rye brought to England that could influence the price in Prussia, and he had a right, therefore, to show by the fluctuations in the price of that main article of food that fluctuations might be expected in English wheat, and that as the rates here exhibited less fluctuation than prevailed in that article in the Prussian dominions, that was pro tanto in the nature of a testimony in favour of the present law. He took the price of rye from the Prussian Gazette, which he supposed would be admitted to be perfectly accurate, and the comparative fluctuation in the price of wheat in England and rye in Prussia, was as follows:—The right hon. Gentleman then read the following table, shewing the per centage amount of difference between the highest and lowest annual prices:— 366
If he took instances of double fluctuations in five years, a considerable rise following a considerable fall, he found that
Wheat in England. Highest. Lowest. Per Centage Difference. s. d. s. d. Per cent. Between 1821 and 1828 66 6 43 3 53 Between 1829 and 1837 66 4 39 4 68 Rye in Prussia. Highest. Lowest. Per Centage Difference. s. d. s. d. Per Cent. Between 1829 and 1837 22 7 10 9 102 Between 1829 and 1837 29 0 15 5 88
Here, then, was a difference in the comparative fluctuation of rye in Prussia and wheat in England of 155 per cent to 77 per cent. These figures, as he believed, might be trusted implicitly, and when they referred to a country where the price could not possibly be acted on by the demand for England, they did show that the fluctuations in price experienced in England were not altogether, nor even chiefly, in the main chargeable to the present law, but were to be ascribed to the nature of the commodity, and the difficulty from the want of elasticity and a power of self-accommodation in the demand of adjusting it to the supply.
Wheat in England. Highest. Lowest. Per Centage Difference. s. d. s. d. Per Cent. From 1820 to 822, fall 65 10 43 3 ߞ34 From 1822 to 1824, rise 43 3 62 0 + 43 From 1833 to 1835, fall 52 11 39 4 ߞ 25 From 1835 to 1837, rise 39 4 55 10 + 41 Rye in Prussia. Highest. Lowest. Per Centage Difference. s. d. s. d. Per Cent. From 1823 to 1825, fall 21 7 10 9 ߞ 50 From 1825 to 1827, rise 10 9 22 0 + 105 From 1829 to 1831, rise 20 4 29 0 + 42 From 1831 to 1833, fall 29 0 18 1 ߞ 37
Then again it was urged, that one effect of the present Corn-law was to give the foreigner, when we did make a demand on him, too high a price for his corn. It had been ingeniously stated by a Mr. Blacker, in a recent letter to The Times, that the position of England in the foreign 367 market purchasing corn was like that of a person at an auction, who, after passing all his competitors, went on biding against himself. It might be urged that the successive and rapid diminutions of duty taking place in a region of price where we might be supposed under ordinary circumstances to have already outstripped the competition of other importing nations, must operate, on the foreign merchant, not as an inducement to sell, but to retain corn, in the expectation of still higher prices. Now, with reference to corn supposed to be at any given time actually in the markets, this undoubtedly was an evil, but it was not without its benefits. No one could deny, that such a state of things must have the effect of bringing corn to us from greater distances—thus enlarging the radius of that circle swept for the British markets; and, therefore, if it set out by giving a premium to the foreign holder, its ultimate effect was to obtain a larger supply for the necessities, and thereby contribute effectually to the relief of the consumer at home.
It was also said, that the arrangement of the scale caused the holder in this country to keep wheat back till it rose to 73s., with a view of liberating it at a nominal duty. He did not defend the existing law against the charge; but if the price of the article was forced up to 73s., at least one effect of the operation would be, that a very great abundance was brought into the market. The noble Lord, judging from some of his published opinions, in such a case entertained great sympathy for the farmer. He was not quite so tender on that point as the noble Lord. He was not aware that at any period, not even last year, when the prices were driven up so high that no less than 2,300,000 quarters of foreign wheat were liberated at 1s. duty. Any such introduction of foreign grain had taken place as to give the farmer just ground of complaint; and certainly the entry of the large quantity had made the relief to the market more effectual. Undoubtedly, it might be true, that great inconvenience would be inflicted on the consumer until prices reached that height; but even here, the question was, whether, upon the whole, under a fixed duty, the matter would have been materially better. Allowing that the noble Lord had carried his 8s. fixed duty, was it quite certain that at this moment prices 368 would have been so moderate as they now were, or as they had been since September last, or as they were likely to be in the coming months? He could easily conceive that under the 8s. duty, a certain portion of the corn which came in at the low duty of 1s., and gave immense profits to the importers, might have been brought in, and sold at an earlier period; but the great bulk of the corn that came in was brought from the continent under the spur of the moment. It was brought by the high prices, and without the high prices they had no right to assume that the corn would have come. He did not think there were more than 300,000 or 400,000 quarters in bond at the time when the rapid rise of price, and the prospect of the low duty began. But suppose that by a fixed duty they had brought out a certain quantity of it, what would have been the effect as the winter came on? If the large supply had not been admitted in the summer, it must have come piecemeal during the winter, when, the Baltic being closed, insurances high, and charges heavy, the market would still have continued in a feverish and continually rising state, and instead of the pressure on the consumer coming in the summer, when employment was abundant, and the wants of the people comparatively few, it must have come in the dead of the winter, when the charges of importation were increased, employment diminished, and the necessities of the people were more severely felt. If this appeared to be a fair view and a just palliation with reference to the operation of the existing law, which he admitted was a defective specimen of the working of a graduated scale, much more was it reasonable to conclude, that they need not despair of seeing a better specimen of such a scale under the proposal of his right hon. Friend conduce to the relief of the consumer and protect the grower, without being incompatible with steadiness in the corn trade, and with an increase of demand for our manufactures.
But further the noble Lord appeared from his announcements to-night, to have made considerable progress. He was glad to observe, that in the additional maturity of the noble Lord's views, from his experience during the last two years, the noble Lord now approximated to the ideas entertained on (the Ministerial) side of the House. The noble Lord was nine parts 369 out of ten, nay altogether, a convert to the minimum duty; he was not even alarmed at the system of averages, although he declared them to be incapable of being rendered inaccessible to fraud. Now, let the House consider the operation of this minimum duty of the noble Lord, and let them judge it, not by comparing his doctrine with the old scale, which as the noble Lord truly said, was about to be abandoned by general consent, but by comparing it with the new scale proposed by his right hon. Friend. He would not take into consideration matters comparatively unimportant to the consumer, for it was of small consequence to him when the price of wheat was 50s., whether the duty was 8s. or a larger sum; but when the market was in a critical state—when the price was 64s., 65s., or 66s., and threatened to rise higher, let the House judge whether the nostrum of the noble Lord, which he was unable to carry, would have been a greater boon to the consumer than the measure proposed by his right hon. Friend, and which he trusted would soon pass into law. The noble Lord suggested, that there should be a fixed duty of 8s. or thereabouts, (so, at least, he presumed he might still understand the noble Lord,) up to the point of 73s. or 74s., and that the duty should fall at that point to 1s. only. His right hon. Friend's plan was to have a descent of duty of 1s. by 1s. from the point when wheat was 56s., and the duty 16s., until the duty became 6s., wheat being 66s. Then there was a rest of the duty, while wheat rose 3s. in price, when again there was a descent of duty of 1s. by 1s., until wheat reached 73s., at which point the duty was 1s., and where the noble Lord's proposition at last coincided with his right hon. Friend's plan. Now, supposing he was an importer of corn, under the scheme of his right hon. Friend, when the price of wheat was 64s., at this point his right hon. Friend and the noble Lord met, these two great planets were, as might be said, in conjunction; the duty being, according to the proposition of both, 8s. But what would be the operation on his mind as an importer, with reference to the two schemes? And what would be the comparative temptation to commit fraud and to influence the averages? Under both schemes alike, of course the importer knew when the price of wheat was at 64s., that there was a chance of getting the duty down to the minimum by holding out for a rise of 9s. 370 If wheat rose to 66s., it would become a matter of considerable uncertainty, certainly one of more than an average and ordinary chance, whether the price would rise so as to bring the duty very much lower. At this point, under the scheme of his right hon. Friend, the holder of foreign grain would already have realized a portion of his premium by having got the duty down to 6s., he would thus have an inducement to relent, the more powerful as until the price had risen to 69s., he could have no further diminution to hope. So that the consumer would have a chance at least of relief. But the importer, under a fixed duty of 8s., would know, that he had no chance or any diminution of duty unless he could work the averages up to 73s., when he would get his corn in at 1s. duty. When, therefore, there was a short supply of corn in the country, there was almost an absolute certainty that the price would go up to 73s., and in proportion as the premium of the importer would then be large, he would set to work with zeal to starve the market and torture the consumer; to revive and increase, indeed, all those means of fraud which the noble Lord was so desirous to prevent.
So that in point of fact the proposition he now made, would have the effect of substantiating one of the most forcible objections that could be urged against the principle of the existing law. Then, the noble Lord said, and it certainly was one of the most serious objections to the working of the present law, that it narrowed the markets of supply, by excluding the more distant countries. The United States was especially mentioned as one of the excluded countries. Now, it appeared to him, that there existed some degree of error with regard to the relative position of the United States. He was informed, that owing to the facilities of transit, and the speedy communication of intelligence, the period of bringing corn to this country, from the time of its being ordered at Liverpool, was not so long as was commonly supposed. A gentleman of Liverpool in. formed him that, a period of six weeks might be counted on as the average period for bringing corn, when dispatch was requisite, to this country. [" From what port?"] From New York. [Cries of "No."] The gentleman to whom he referred described himself as an enemy to a graduated scale, and he believed the estimate was. pretty correct. However, he was not using 371 this as an argument against the noble Lord; but he wished to know how the noble Lord's scheme of 8s., up to 73s. and 1s. over 73s,, would work for America. When wheat was going down to 1s. duty, then those who sent to the nearest port of the continent, might have a chance of getting it into a British port before the duty should rise again to 8s.; but the American would have, comparatively, no chance of doing so; for, before his corn arrived in this country, the duty would almost certainly have leaped from 1s. up again to 8s. Therefore, the noble Lord proposed, by his scheme, to continue another of the most forcible objections against the present law. Now, let the House try his right hon. Friend's plan by applying its operation to the same country—America. If, when the American importer brought his corn to this country, he found the price of wheat fallen from the highest point, he would only have to pay a duty in proportion to the fall; and, even if the price had got so low as 66s., the duty would not then be higher than 6s,, instead of Ss., as proposed by the noble Lord. Considering any amount of fall which could be rationally expected within a period of six weeks or thereabout, after the price of corn had been driven up to the highest point and had begun to recede, his right hon. Friend's plan was more favourable by some shillings to the importer from America, than the scheme of the noble Lord. In point of fact, when it was said, that the present law operated unfavourably as respected America, the objection did not consist in the fact of there being a variation of duty. That circumstance taken alone did not act more adversely against America, than against any other country. The objection was the enormous rapidity of the variation, so that after the ports were open at a duty of 1s., in four or five weeks, or whatever time might be necessary to bring corn from America, the averages were down again by 4s. or 5s., and the duty up to 16s. 8d., 18s. 8d,, or 20s. 8d, a point of virtual exclusion under the circumstances. This was the valid objection to the present law, and this was the very reason why the House should adopt a measure which was brought forward with every prospect of its being carried, to amend the inconvenience. But this objection in no way applied to the measure of his right hon. Friend; for, supposing, as he had a right to do, that 372 before corn was imported a fall of 6s. or 7s. had taken place, to state the utmost, from the price of 73s., the duty would then be only 6s, instead of 20s. 8d. This small addition of duty was not, then, calculated to baffle the proceedings of merchants, but might, on the contrary be matter of foresight and calculation, and might prove compatible with the steadiness of commercial transactions.
The noble Lord, in one portion of his speech, stated, that the change proposed by his right hon. Friend would work well for the purposes of evil, but as for beneficial purposes, it was doing nothing. Now, if her Majesty's present Ministers were doing nothing, he was not aware, that doing nothing was very different from proposing a measure which the pro-posers knew they had no chance of carrying. But let the House consider whether this charge were true. According to the best evidence which experience afforded, he thought there was every reasonable ground for hope, that under ordinary circumstances, the proposed scheme would have a different operation when wheat was already high, and the price rising, and the state of the weather critical and threatening, from the present law. He would not speculate on this subject, for he wished to lay before the House as small a portion as possible of anything so valueless as his own opinions; but he was not altogether without practical evidence bearing on the question, whether the new scale, with a gradual and moderate diminution of duty, would be attended with the evils of the other scale, having changes of enormous rapidity. Wheat had not been the only kind of grain affected by the present law, but, with respect to other grains, the operation of the scales of duty on them had not been the same as on wheat. He thought, however, in the first place, there was a great paradox in assuming, without proofs, as the noble Lord had done, that the new scale would have the same effect as the old in encouraging speculation. Taking the price of wheat at 66s., the importer might gain 5s., in duty under the new scale by waiting until the price reached 73s.; but, under the existing law, he would gain 19s. 8d. It was, therefore, too much to assume, that the chance of gaining 5s,, Would operate the same in inducing the importer to take the chance of the market as a bonus four times the amount. Or, again, 373 if his price were taken at 70s., there was now a bonus of 9s. 8d. in duty against a rise of 3s. in price, whereas the new scale would give 3s. instead of 9s. 8d.; and it was certainly a proposition requiring to be sustained by evidence that the operation of these two amounts, so different as they were, upon the corn market, would be the same. He would, however, state to the House the opinion of persons particularly acquainted with the corn-trade, on this subject; and would refer to a circular of Messrs. Kingsford and Lay, which had been put into his hands that morning. He believed their house was one of the most prominent in the corn trade of London, and the circular was addressed to their commercial correspondents, and intended, of course, for their guidance in commercial transactions. The document contained the following paragraph:—As regards the ultimate operations of the proposed law, it must, in our opinion, with fair average crops here, cause the prices on the continent to rule low, and it would not be safe to purchase there without calculating on the wheat being subject to a duty of 14s. to 18s. per quarter, on being entered for home consumption in this country. There being no longer the same inducement to hold back for the lowest rate, as has hitherto been the case, the importers would prefer paying the current duty and selling ex ship, to incurring the expenses of landing. It would seem probable, that the average price will range between 50s. and 60s., and that importers will very seldom have an opportunity to avail themselves of the minimum duty.Such was the opinion expressed by these gentlemen, and he did not think they could have said so much on behalf of the plan of the noble Lord, as announced tonight. He next proposed to test, by reference to every other kind of grain, excepting wheat, the question how a more gradual and equable descent of duty was likely to operate on the holders of foreign corn. The average rate of duty paid on wheat' from July, 1828, to December, 1841, had been 5s. 7d. The duty on barley, if it had paid in the same proportion to its value, would have been something less than 3s., whereas the average duty actually paid was 4s. 8d. The duty on oats, if they had paid in the same proportion, would have beep 2s. 2d. whereas the average duty was very nearly three times that amount, being 6s. 2d. With regard to rye, the demand for it being limited, it became 374 worth the while of individuals, being large importers, to act on the averages by making real purchases. It therefore happened that rye paid, on the average, 3s. 1d., within a fraction of the same relative duty as wheat. The duty on peas and beans, if paid according to the average duty on corn, would have been 3s. 2d., whereas it was, on the first, 5s. 9d., and on the second, 6s. 11d. These higher ranges of duty, attaching of course to prices pro-portionably lower, showed that when the descent of duty was gradual and uniform, as it was on other grains, the same temptation, in great probability, would not be felt to hold back the grain until an extreme point, and then to glut, the market.
Again, one of the objections urged as insuperable against the plan of his right hon. Friend was, that it contained a maximum duty, and the noble Lord undertook to show that the maximum duty was a prohibition, by referring to the price of wheat at Dantzic during the period when Mr. Meek was on the continent. It was stated that there was no wheat at Dantzic under 35s. per quarter, and that to that price was to be added 10s. 6d. for charges. He thought this allowance for charges exorbitant, or if not quite warranting so strong an epithet, yet excessive. But add 10s. 6d. for the charges; that elevates the price to 4 1s. 6d. and then, said the noble Lord, add to that amount a duty of 20s., and it would be absolutely prohibitory. Even, however, taking that amount of charges, (which, notwithstanding, he believed, was above the average rate), and taking also the maximum duty, still he would deny it to be prohibitory. But, in the first place, What did the noble Lord mean by a prohibitory duty? Would not the fixed duty of 8s., which he had proposed, be at certain periods a prohibitory duty? Could there be any given fixed duty which in certain states of the markets would not be prohibitory? One material portion of the question then was, whether the price to which that maximum duty was applied was a reasonable price—whether it was a price indicating plenty, because if it were a price indicating plenty at home, then, as long as Parliament main, tamed the principle of the Corn-laws, the principle of protection, he trusted that they would also maintain such a duty, as, without amounting to absolute prohibition, would secure the agricul- 375 tural interest of this country, and the enormous masses of labour dependent upon it, from the competition of large quantities of foreign corn imported at times when it was not required for use, which would give the importers possession of the market, while the state of the market itself would prove the ability of the home-grower to furnish an adequate supply. But the noble Lord said, that this duty of 20s., when the price was 50s. or 51s., was a prohibitory duty. Upon that point he joined issue with the noble Lord. He denied that even with a duty of 20s. it was a prohibitory duty. With regard to the average price of corn at Dantzic, he did not think the noble Lord was correct when he stated that 26s. was the lowest average of that market. [Lord J. Russell: That was the lowest since 1830.] There were some years of lower average before that date. He thought, however, that the farmers of this country often fell into error when they referred to those low years in the continental markets; for, when they found that the price of wheat at Dantzic was as low as 26s. or 22s. in any given year, they were apt to assume that that was the natural price of corn at Dantzic, and everything over and above it was unnatural, and ascribable to the stiamlus of foreign demand. It was said, accordingly by some, that the real and remunerating price to the shippers of corn at Dantzic ought to be taken at somewhere about 24s. He did not hold that doctrine. He believed, on the contrary, that that was a most unnatural price of food; but at the same time he believed that a certain quantity of foreign corn was grown which they might expect to get at a very low price, in consequence of the system that prevailed in foreign countries, where rents were paid in kind, where the difficulties of holding over from want of capital were great, and the consumption of wheat very limited amongst the numerous classes of the population. Those circumstances convinced him that they must be prepared to have a certain quantity of corn always disposable in the foreign markets at what might be called an unnaturally low price; and it was against those unnaturally low prices that the agriculturists of this country, so far as a system of protection could be reasonable at any time, claimed with reason to have it applied. But when the noble Lord said that 35s. was the price of corn Shipped at Dantzic, that, on the other 376 hand, was with some reference to the present prices. He did not mean with reference to the top prices of the summer months, but it was with some reference to the state of the markets in this country during the last three or four years. Presuming it otherwise, he did not know that we were absolutely bound by a statement which some council might have made to Mr. Meek. He could not consent to forego all reference to prices such as they had actually been in periods when foreign demand was slack, because, undoubtedly, there were certain quantities of corn to be had at and about those prices. But if the price was 26s., and if, as he knew perfectly well to be the case, wheat might, under favourable circumstances, be imported from the Baltic ports at 6s. or 7s., or at the most 8s. per quarter, that would raise the price only to 34s. and then they would be able even with a duty of 20s. to sell it at 54s. or with an allowance for profit at 56s. in this country. If, however, they took the price at the average of 35s., he would not shrink from the argument. The noble Lord had said, that the proposed duties would be prohibitory at present prices. He again joined issue with the noble Lord, and he would try the noble Lord by his own statement. He did not know why wheat should not be bought at Dantzic at 35s., and yet sold in this country. Now, the present duty average of wheat in this country was from 61s. to 62s. The London price was commonly somewhat higher than the average price of the whole kingdom, and taking the average for the entire country at 62s., the London average price would be about 64s. or 65s. But the scheme of his right hon. Friend, with an average price of 62s., would give only a duty of 10s., and that amount of duty would have, therefore, to be deducted from the London price obtainable for wheat imported from Dantzic at a cost of 45s.; that would leave the cost of such wheat to the importer 55s. And yet, what was the statement of the noble Lord? Why, that the importer could buy wheat at Dantzic at 35s.; that he could import it for 10s. or 10s. 6d., thereby raising it to 45s.; and yet, though a price of 64s. or thereabouts, might be had in the London market, and the duty payable would be only 10s., that the importation could not take place under the scheme of his right hon. Friend at the present scale 377 of prices. It appeared to him, then, that the statements of the noble Lord himself convicted him of error. Again: the noble Lord seemed to speak as if in proposing the maximum duty of 20s., his right hon. Friend was introducing a new imposition to be laid on the operative classes, or on the commercial world, in favour of the landed interests. He did not know whether the House had observed it, but they might easily learn from a document drawn with great care by Mr. Porter of the Board of Trade, on the basis of a work by Mr. H. Thornton, and contained among the papers which had been recently laid on the table of the House, that since the year 1704 there never had been a period when there had not been a maximum duty on the importation of foreign wheat of at least 20s. In the latter part of the last century that maximum duty was considerably raised, and during the war he apprehended the limit of price to which that maximum duty applied was gradually raised to 66s., while the maximum duty itself was increased from 20s. to 30s. and upwards. He quoted these facts, not merely or chiefly to show that the agriculturists had a prescription of nearly 140 years with respect to a maximum duty of at least 20s., although that taken alone was not unimportant, but because there was a period included in that 140 years to which all the friends of freedom in the corn trade were fond of referring. It was that period to which the committee of 1821 adverted as exhibiting the operation of a liberal system with respect to the importation of corn. It was a common and true allegation that not indeed au entire, but a very considerable freedom of the corn trade had prevailed from the year 1764, and that for a considerable period. From the year 1765 until towards the end of the last century no war had occurred of a nature to operate materially on the price of wheat; and there were nearly thirty years to which the opponents of the Corn-laws referred, as showing the beneficial effect of the system of freedom in the importation of that article, during which time they said, with truth, the manufactures and commerce, and likewise the agriculture of this country advanced with rapidity, and had advanced moreover hand in hand. It was during the period to which those persons referred with such triumph that there existed a maximum duty of 20s. And his right 378 hon. Friend, in now proposing that maximum duty which he was told by some would be found to operate so injuriously to the country, was only proposing the duty which existed during the time to which the same persons appealed, and which they themselves admitted was characterized by a healthy state of the Corn-trade.
Again, it was charged against the present law, that by causing intermission of demand, and then sudden and sharp revival, it first deadened trade, and checked the export of goods, and then left the country liable to a sudden and extensive drain upon the currency, thereby deranging commerce at home. He would not deny that there was a degree of truth in that representation; but in answer to such charges against the present system he would say, they should, in common justice, endeavour to look at the whole of the facts of the case. It was not quite true that the British demand stopped during the year 1832, and up to 1837. Those were certainly extraordinarily low years, fur the average price for the six years from 1832 to 1837, both inclusive, was only 50s. 3d., and the average of four years 1833-6, was only 46s. 9d. That was the lowest average price of any period of four years, since the years 1786-9, when the average was 45s. 5d. He was, however, to some extent, gratified to find that even during those six years there had been an importation of 3,375,000 quarters of foreign corn, he did nut mean for consumption, but for the purpose of bonding. That was between the years 1832 and 1837, both inclusive, and it showed an average demand for this country of nearly 600,000 quarters per annum, including nearly 250,000 quarters of wheat per annum. He should be glad to have seen that it was greater; but he meant that it was not quite true that there was no trade in corn if such a quantity was imported. The trade of re-exporting from the warehouses was not so inconsiderable as might be supposed. He hoped they would never see a recurrence of such years in the corn-trade; but even during those years, and without any facilities being given by Parliament to the export trade from the warehouse, there was still an exportation of 266,000 quarters, including all grains, annually. But though he said that the demand was not absolutely stopped under the old scale, yet he did not stand upon the old scale. 379 He had already adduced facts to that House in the nature of experimental evidence, and the opinions of those who were skilled in matters of the kind, to prove that the operation of the new scale now proposed would be better and more mitigated than that of the old one, and in proportion as it was more mitigated, as it escaped the charge of interrupting the demand of foreign corn, and as it rendered the demand, instead of being irregular, continuous and steady, in the same proportion would it encourage the export of our manufactures, and avoid the risk, and diminish the extent of any drain on the currency.
But he now came to consider that part of the case in reference to the proposition of a fixed duty. For at this point he was met by the advocates of that system who contended that it was to maintain a steady, continuous, unvarying demand for corn, and that in consequence of such demand, we were to pay for foreign grain in our exports, and that it would, therefore, extend the export trade of the country, in the same degree as we might import foreign corn, and thus avoid the evils arising from a drain on the currency. That was the pleasing picture drawn by the advocates of the fixed duty; they contrasted it with what had taken place in the last four years, and plausibly averred that a fixed duty would prevent the recurrence of such a state of things. Let them, however, examine whether a fixed duty would really lead to that end. A fixed duty was one thing in theory and in the distance, it might be very different in practice. He did not now refer to the inadequacy of the protection that would be afforded by any fixed duty, low enough to be maintained at all times; but he confined himself to the question whether it would obviate the recurrence of the evils which had been alluded to. And here it would be found that the benefits of a fixed duty had been as greatly exaggerated as the evils ascribable to the present law. In the first place, he did not deny that a fixed duty would, to a certain extent, encourage the exportation of British manufactures. But, at the same time, it was too much to suppose there would of necessity be any very close relation between the quantity of corn which we might ordinarily and regularly take from foreign countries, and the quantity of manufactures which they would take from 380 us. It had been argued, that the depression of the British export trade with America, which had been so severe, had arisen from our not taking American corn. But on looking to the year 1840 he found that we had imported no less than 1,000,000 of barrels of American flour, whilst our export trade had amounted to 5,500,000l.; and in 1836, when we scarcely imported any corn from America, our export trade was nearly 12,000,000l. Let them look also to other countries. They must not too readily assume that other countries would be ready to keep abreast of them in sudden and considerable changes in their commercial system. Take, for instance, the case of Russia. Did they suppose, that if they took Russian corn, she would greatly enlarge her demand for British manufactures? It was on the principle of obtaining that return that the fixed duty was to proceed, and it was contended, that it was from want of means in other countries to pay this country unless in corn, that our trade with them was narrowed and depressed. But what was the state of things under the existing system? The imports from Russia had been nearly 6,000,000l., our exports to that country were actually less than 2,000,000l., and of that amount a large share consisted of yarn and a very small share of manufactured goods, and the Emperor of Russia, by way of encouraging us to proceed in the work of removing restrictions, and of welcoming Parliament, as it were, on its meeting, had just published a new tariff even more restrictive than the one that previously existed. But it would be said, that the restrictive disposition on the part of foreign countries had arisen from the kind of policy which this country adopted, that they were led by us, and only followed the bad example which we set them. He was not then concerned to defend the form of policy of the Corp-laws adopted in 1815, or of those at present existing in this country; but whatever might be the origin of that disposition on the part of continental nations he conceived that we must now deal cautiously as regarded it. If it were true that they had been incited by our example, he must say, that from their present course they bid fair to outstrip their masters. He fully agreed in the position, that we ought to lead them forward in the course of relaxation, but he protested against the doctrine, that we were to advance to 381 sudden measures of legislation, assuming as our ground only the wild speculation that foreign countries would completely, and in a moment, change a course which they seemed so resolved so follow. But passing on from that subject, he would proceed to argue that it was not true, that all the evils which had occurred in connection with the drain on the currency for the last three or four years, were attributable to the existing Corn-laws. They must in substance have occurred under any system of Corn-laws. Without tying the advocates of a fixed duty to any particular statement, he supposed on the whole they would be satisfied if there were a steady and certain demand for foreign corn of about 2,000,000 or 2,500,000 quarters in ordinary years. This was a large supposition. But suppose there was such a demand, and suppose the demand for our goods to be in the proportion of that demand. Suppose this country were through a diminution of agricultural labour, and a diversion of that labour to other branches of trade, instead of raising twenty million quarters of wheat to raise only eighteen millions, what would be the consequence under a fixed duty, if they were to suppose that the case should again occur which had recently occurred, of a succession of four bad harvests? In such a case how should we stand? It appeared that the quantity of wheat and wheat-flour together entered during the last four years amounted to nearly ten millions of quarters, indicating a deficiency in our crops to that amount, or of about one-eighth on the average. Now if there had been a fixed duty, and a fixed import of two millions of quarters, this deficiency would have fallen upon eighteen instead of twenty millions. It follows that the amount of our necessities would in that case have been nine instead of ten millions. A small fraction of the difficulty charged would have been removed, but the bulk would have remained, with an unwonted call for nine millions, as with one for ten, we must have been required to pay largely in bullion: the drain upon the currency would then as now have deranged the money market, the derangement of the money market would then, as now, have restricted production and employment, the restriction of employment would then, as now, have deadened the home demand, thrown the surplus upon our foreign trade, 382 and forced down the prices. We must have had the very same catalogue of evils and upon a scale not very different. Glad indeed, would he be to be met with proof that under a system of fixed duty, that as to the substance of their difficulties and distresses, they would not have too much resembled what the country had recently been called to endure. Upon the whole then, it could not but appear that the faults of the present system had been greatly exaggerated; and that evils had been charged upon it of which it was not the parent. In point of fact many people had worked themselves up to a frenzy on the Corn-laws, and it had been made the scapegoat of all the mischiefs that had occurred. If anything had gone wrong, it was in consequence of the Corn-law; if anything had gone right, it was in despite of the Corn-law. But now let the House consider the positive objections attaching to the principle of a fixed duty, because all reasonable men must make up their minds by comparing the different systems, which presented only a choice of difficulties. In the first place, it as an altogether new principle of legislation. We have had Corn-laws for 500 years; but the principle of a fixed duty, beautiful as it might be in theory to some, mischievous as it was in the opinion of others, was at all events entirely new. In the table of former Corn-laws, which had been laid before the House, hon. Members would find that the principle of a maximum duty, at some particular point of price, was the ground-work of almost every Corn-law that had been passed since the year 1660, whilst the distinctive character of a fixed duty was, that it had no relation to price whatever, by which it got rid altogether of averages. A glance would be enough to shew that under all of them different rates of duty were affixed at different prices, until 1815, when for the first time import was prohibited up to a certain point. Thus as to the principle of these laws, it approximated in substance to that of the law now proposed, while the proposition of the noble Lord for a fixed duty to be levied on foreign corn was altogether a novel principle in our legislation. The noble Lord had, indeed, said, that the committee of 1821 had recommended a fixed duty. But a fixed duty from a fixed price upwards; a fixed duty from a very great price upwards. [Sir James Graham: at 80s.] A very different 383 thing this from the fixed duty scheme of the present day. There was, indeed, a passage in the report, to which the noble Lord had referred, more favourable to the noble Lord's plan, than that which he had somewhat infelicitously quoted; the committee to which the noble Lord alluded, did in another part speak of a fixed duty, not, however, as a positive practical proposition, but as a measure which might at some time or other be considered. A state of things was just anticipated in which such a measure might be proposed; and the measure suggested, as a substitute or a corrective for existing evils, was a fixed duty to apply only when corn had reached a certain price, and that price a considerable one. Granting, however, that a fixed duty had been proposed in 1821, on whose authority was it made? On the authority of Mr. Huskisson: and a higher authority, in his opinion, upon commercial subjects could not be found. But Mr. Huskisson had changed that opinion. Mr. Huskisson subsequently saw reason to concede, that a graduated scale was susceptible of a more favourable operation than that which he had suggested previously. If it were said, then, that the report in 1821 was to over-ride his letter of 1815, so, assuredly, the measure, the conduct, the opinions of Mr. Huskisson in 1827 ought to over-ride the authority of his report in 1821, showing, as the latter circumstances did, that he then held a graduated scale to be capable of such adjustment as to be preferable to any fixed duty. This was not brought forward, of course, by himself as an authority for the existing law at the present period, but merely as an evidence, not easily, as he thought, to be disproved, of Mr. Huskisson's adhesion to the principle of a graduated scale. But what, now, was the real objection to a fixed duty? It was not merely that its advantages were much less than were pretended; it was not merely that it did not actually attain any of those objects which were represented as its inevitable result; but it was this—that it was, in point of fact, a delusion, that it could not be maintained; for this reason, for this one single reason—that it was impossible for the legislature to sustain anything much beyond a nominal duty on corn when prices rose to a high rate. The noble Lord opposite, (Palmerston) whom he did not wish to disturb, had said, and in the nature of a fair compromise between had amused the House by saying, that a 384 sliding scale was a very slippery thing. But a fixed duty, under certain circumstances, was a still more slippery thing, because under the pressure of high prices it would be impossible for the Legislature to retain such a duty and it must vanish altogether. Appreciating as he did the authority of Mr. Canning (the representative and organ, as he might justly assume him to be, of Mr. Huskisson's commercial views in 1827), he would declare in that statesman's language, that when you have famine in the workshop and in the cottage, it is out of the question for any Government to dream of levying a tax upon that food by which alone life can generally be supported. But why indeed, should he appeal to authority so distant? Why should he not satisfy the House by an authority added to the proposition of the Government, and added too, in the most gratifying manner to night? It now stood recorded upon the admission of the noble Lord himself, courageous as the noble Lord was in debate, skilful as he was in the tactics of that House, able as he was in support of his arguments, be those arguments what they might, the noble Lord himself had said that night, that he abandoned the position of a genuine inflexible fixed duty. The noble Lord had declared, and most truly, that it would be impossible to levy a duty beyond a certain price. There must be a provision, said the noble Lord, enabling the Government to fix a point of price for reducing the duty in case of great necessity; the only question was in the mode of adjustment, and, notwithstanding the noble Lord's dislike to averages, notwithstanding the noble Lord's abhorrence of frauds, notwithstanding all the noble Lord had said and written upon the subject of a permanent fixed duty and its excellencies, the noble Lord now was ready, it appeared, to embrace,—to swallow entire—the average system, and to have a minimum duty fixed when the price should reach some given point. The jumps of the present scale, as they were called, were great, by 2s. and 3s., but the noble Lord far surpassed them all in jumping and positively leaped 8s. at once. Now, he admitted, that the maximum of 20s. was greater than could be justified on any of the ordinary principles of commerce as applied to other articles. But it seemed to him that this excess was in the nature of a fair compromise between the state and the agricultural interest. 385 The agricultural interest had a demand for protection on two grounds, upon which those on his side of the House had the assent, not of the Anti-Corn-law leaguers certainly, with whom the noble Lord, from his speech that night in favour of protection could have no sympathy, but assuredly, the assent of the noble Lord himself. These grounds, were first, the peculiar burthens upon land; and, secondly, the immense investments which had taken place under the present system, and which would be ruinously affected by a sudden and violent change. Now, how did these claims stand according to the graduated scale? Its substance was admitted. The article in question was, of all others, the most fluctuating in its price, with reference to its supply; it was at the same time, the most necessary in this country (he hoped it would always be so) for subsistence; and it was further one as to which the grower had a strong claim, not of favour, but on the score of absolute justice, for a protection up to a certain point correlative to the burthens on land, and a further claim in equity to a consideration of existing investments on so vast a scale. Yet the fact stood admitted, by the noble Lord himself, that in high prices no protection could be given to the grower of corn. The state then being unable to give to the grower of wheat what is afforded to the producers of all other protected articles—a uniform advantage independent of price relatively to his competition with foreigners—entered into a compromise and compounded for this inability, by giving when the price was low (and when consequently there could be no injury to the consumer), a higher rate of protection than in ordinary cases. In the principle of this arrangement he (Mr. Gladstone) could see no injustice; but he could understand how it might be one liable to some inconveniences, and the success of which depended on the adjustment of the details; still to compromise with the grower of wheat for the inability on the part of the state to keep up the duty when prices were high by levying higher duties when prices were low, was in principle at least a fair arrangement between the state and the agriculturist. He had now argued, at great length he feared, [" loud cheers in which both sides of the House cordially joined,"] and for the attention with which he had been heard he most warmly thanked the 386 House. He bad endeavoured to argue, that with reference to the practical question now before the House—whether the protection which both the noble Lord and the Government agreed ought to be given to agriculture, should be extended to it in one particular form or in another—he had argued that the evils of the existing law had been greatly exaggerated; that certainly there was no ground to argue from the defects of that law against every law involving a graduated scale; that, on the contrary, there was every probability, judging from experience, and from the opinions of practical men, that these defects might under ordinary circumstances be neutralized by the new arrangement. And he had further argued, that a fixed duty, so far from being a corrective, would prove impracticable; and that it was, in fact, a fraud and a deception, seeing that under any pressure it could not possibly be maintained. He had now to press, moreover, upon the consideration of the House, that the measure proposed, be it what it might, was one of practical relief. He trusted, he hoped, he believed it was a measure which many would be found willing to accept, although, as in most measures, involving detail, dealing with a variety of interests, and rousing necessarily a variety of jealousies, it was not to be expected that any measure would command at once anything like universal satisfaction. But this he would say of it, that it ought to be received, not only in the opinion of those friendly to it, but of those opposed to the principle of the present Corn-law, as a great improvement; an improvement, too, it was which there was an opportunity of seeing carried into speedy and full effect, and without incurring any of those great and countervailing evils which must follow a great change in the Corn-laws brought about against the views of the whole agricultural community. To point out the monstrous evils attending even an agitation for changes in the Corn-laws, he might be allowed to read a most impressive lesson from the words of the noble Viscount lately at the head of the Government—a lesson delivered at a recent period, when, notwithstanding the pressure that had occurred, notwithstanding the high prices, the derangement of the currency, the depression of trade, the diminution of employment, Lord Melbourne, in June, 1840, used the following remarkable words on a 387 motion of Earl Fitzwilliam. He was not now about to quote the celebrated imputation of insanity to agitators who aimed at the total repeal of protection, but language peculiarly applicable to the present period, inasmuch as it applied to any and every change in the law. The noble Viscount said—My noble Friend carefully abstained from stating what it is that he means to do—whether his object is to have a fixed duty, or a diminution of the present ascending and descending scale; but whichever of these alternatives be his plan, as I see clearly and distinctly that that object cannot be carried without a most violent struggle—without causing much ill blood and a deep sense of grievance —without stirring society to its foundations, and leaving behind every sort of bitterness and animosity; I do not think that the advantages to be gained by the change are worth the evils of the struggle, by which, your Lordships may depend on it, the change could alone be effected. We have seen great changes at no distant period—changes which have almost convulsed society to its centre, which have excited man against man, divided the whole country into parties, and left behind the deepest feelings of discord and enmity. I for one, am not for again adding to the force of those feelings by rashly adventuring to revoke and agitate them; and, upon these grounds, I feel myself justified in saying 'No' to the motion of the noble Earl.Now the noble Viscount had said "no!" to a motion which had for its object none of those violent changes to which he had alluded, but the admission of this single proposition, that some change ought to be effected in the Corn-laws. That, however, which Lord Melbourne thus denied and repudiated, the present Government had —not conceded, but offered—not with the view of merely disturbing the existing system without settling it, but producing an important legislative plan, which was likely to be carried without the risk of those evils which Lord Melbourne had expected, and which he hoped would be, upon the whole, satisfactory to the various great interests of the country, represented in that House. In some points it might not be so to all; but he would ask, were they to go on Session after Session, debating different plans for reform of the Corn-laws, each man dwelling on his own favourite theory, and all allowing, meanwhile, the evils of the existing law to remain? Let the House hear now the sentiments expressed by either of the extreme parties. Those who called themselves the Anti- 388 Corn-law Convention (representing, he was sorry to say, the feelings of considerable numbers) had met on Wednesday evening last, at half-past seven, when the right hon. Baronet's speech was scarcely closed, and had resolved, thatThe measure just announced was an insult to a patient and suffering people, and that it was only to be taken as an indication that the landed aristocracy were destitute of all sympathy for the poor, and resolved, if permitted by an outraged people, to persist in a course of selfish policy, which will involve the destruction of every interest in the country.That was the half-past seven declaration, adopted perhaps in heat; but on subsequent consideration, meeting again at nine o'clock, they passed another resolution—That having further deliberately considered the proposition of her Majesty's Government, they deemed it their duty on their own behalf and in the name of their constituents, to record their emphatic condemnetion of it, and their solemn protest against it, as a total denial of the just demand of the people of this country.If, now, he referred to the sentiments of other parties standing in the opposite extreme, lie found, indeed, opinions expressed in a far different manner, in a manner entitling those who entertained them to be heard with the utmost respect. In resolutions passed at a meeting in Boston, on the evening of the same day, the 9th of February last, the farmers thus expressed themselves in a tone certainly entitled to respect and attention, though making demands which the Legislature would probably deem excessive. They stated—That a repetition of fraudulent proceedings cannot be effectually prevented unless all sales by merchants to merchants are excluded from the returns on which the averages are founded. If this were done, and several large towns, such as London, Hull, Wakefield, Liverpool, &c., were no longer permitted to make official returns, a sufficiently near approximation to correctness would take place. And again they urged, that to afford fair remuneration to the farmer, the average price of wheat should not be less than 60s. per quarter. They then proceeded to declare, that as the expense of conveyance from Ham-burgh to London was not greater than from Boston or Lynn, the British farmers had no protection, except in the amount of duty payable by foreign grain. They further expressed their views as to a maximum duty: declared 389 that such a maximum as 20s. would be wholly insufficient, and that if such a duty were adopted, it ought not to be less than 30s. per quarter.The Lincolnshire farmers, then, did not deem the differences between 20s., 30s., 40s., and 50s. duties, which, at certain times, had been actually payable under the existing law, as so much mere surplus age, but as a part of their substantial protection, which they did not find in the Government measure. What, then, was to be done between these conflicting extremes—the extremes of parties assimilating in nothing but that honesty which probably was in a great degree common to both, and in expectations occasioned by hope on the one side, and by alarm, equally excessive, on the other—what was to be done between parties maintaining these propositions so remote from one another, and neither of which could be acceded to with any prospect or probability of arriving at a legislative settlement of the question? But he did fervently trust and believe, that the House, indicating and adhering to its wise and practical character, would adopt, and by a large majority, the measure which had been recommended by the Government, as a great practical improvement — as a change, considerable, and beneficial to the entire community, while maintaining that great principle which the House was pledged to maintain —a reasonable protection to the agricultural interests of this country, and to that large, he would even say, that decidedly preponderating proportion of the population which was directly or indirectly, but essentially connected with, and dependent upon those interests. For his own part, he believed that a great majority of Members, considering all the circumstances, and all the difficulties of the question would give, for his own part he was certainly prepared to give, a ready and a conscientious assent to the proposal of the Government. And satisfied he was, that if Ministers should succeed in carrying this measure, they might reasonably entertain the lively hope, that it would be found to give relief to the consumer, to introduce increased steadiness into trade, to augment our foreign commerce, and the demand for labour, connected with commerce, without the countervailing evils of disturbing the vast capitals invested in agriculture, or the immense masses of labour 390 employed by them: and, however, if this were the case then, however the measure itself might fail at once to realise the desires and impressions of every individual mind, however both it and its pro-posers might be misapprehended and misrepresented, and their motives maligned, they might rest well contented with a great and successful effort to render service to their country, and await in patience the universal approbation of the people.
§ Mr. Charles Wood
said, he had certainly not expected, nor probably had his noble Friend, that the right hon. Gentleman, on sitting down, would give such indisputable proof, that the measure now proposed would give no satisfaction to any one. It was condemned as utterly abortive by the Anti-Corn-law League, and the agriculturists proclaimed that they considered the maximum duty as altogether an inadequate protection. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side might naturally have endeavoured to prove this, but they could hardly have anticipated such an admission from the first right hon. Gentleman that rose on the other side. In the commencement of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that they ought to do everything to avoid expressions that might inflame the passions and prejudices of the people. In that sentiment he (Mr. C. Wood) entirely concurred, and in the few remarks he should address to the House he would carefully abstain from every inflammatory topic. He held it to be most mischievous to irritate one class of the community against the other. In the beginning of his speech the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have been in doubt what the principle now brought into question by the motion of his noble Friend really was. On the one side, the principle was duty independent of price; and, on the other, it was a variable duty governed inversely by the fluctuations of price. It had given him (Mr. C. Wood) great gratification to hear, not only the right hon. Gentleman, but the right hon. Baronet, in his able speech the other night, disclaim any vindication of protection to agriculture on the plea of securing a "remunerating price" (a thing which the right hon. Baronet justly called utterly unintelligible and impracticable)—this was not, said the right hon. Gentleman, the ground of protection; but the principle for which Gentlemen opposite appeared to contend, or rather alleged that they contended, was this— 391 not for the protection of one class, but for the purpose of rendering this country independent of foreign supply. Now, to him it seemed that any attempt to render us wholly independent of foreign supply was a matter purely visionary. During the whole of the present century we had not at any one time been independent of other countries as regarded the article of corn. He begged of the House for a moment to look at the course of importation from the year 1800 to the present time. The annual average importation during the first 20 years, beginning with 1800 was not less than 500,000 quarters. In the time that elapsed between the years 1820 and 1829 the average importation was not less than 400,000 quarters. From 1830 to 1839 the average annual importation of wheat and wheat flour was about 1,000,000 quarters; and the right hon. Gentleman had stated that for the last three or four years the importation of foreign corn amounted to as much as 2,000,000 quarters per annum. For these reasons it appeared to him most absurd for any one to imagine that this country could be rendered independent of foreign supply. It was notorious, that during the last ten years England had produced nothing like a sufficient supply of food for the people. That that inability existed was indisputable—it was equally indisputable that the inability was increasing, and had been increasing for a considerable time. The question was, not whether this country should be independent, but in what way, by what terms, and by what regulation could the foreign supply which must be brought into this country be rendered most advantageous to all classes. The question that debate was to bring to all issue was, whether that object could be best effected by a sliding scale or by a fixed duty. He apprehended that the conclusion to which the noble Lord wished the House to come, was, that the evils complained of relative to the importation of corn were aggravated by the sliding scale, and would be obviated by a fixed duty. He (Mr. Wood) did not mean to say that the effect produced on the price of corn by the difference of seasons could be prevented, or counteracted altogether: but such was the object of the sliding scale, and he was of opinion that the effect of the sliding scale had been, instead of diminishing, to aggravate the fluctuations of prices in corn. The right hon. Gentle- 392 man opposite had made many statements to show that the variation in the price of corn had not been so great as had been alleged, but he had not made out his case. When the House was told by the right hon. Baronet that the object of his scale was to keep the price of corn between 54s. and 58s. a quarter, and that his expectation was that the price would be kept at about 56s., he (Mr. Wood) asked hon. Gentlemen how far the last Corn-law had succeeded in effecting the object it professed to have in view? How far had that law operated in keeping the price of corn within bounds much wider than those now laid down by the right hon. Baronet? If it could be shown that the present law had failed in its object, what reason was there to suppose that the right hon. Baronet would be more successful in his new project? Mr. Canning had stated, that the object of the bill was to keep the price between 55s. and 65s.—a much larger margin—limits much more easily kept than the limits prescribed by the present proposal of the Government. A noble Lord, who was then a Member of that House, and took a prominent part in the debates of that time, said, after the experience of five years, that the price had been and would be kept steady at 60s. Perhaps the House would allow him (Mr. Wood) to state what the fluctuations in price had been: those fluctuations had exceeded 70 or 80 per cent., which had been stated as the amount. The allegation was, that the price would fluctuate between 55s. and 65s., but that the average price would be kept at about 60s. Now, he would read to the House the prices of corn during a few years, taking always the same time of the year, namely, the winter months. At the beginning of the year 1831, in February, the price of corn was 75s.; in December of the same year it was 60s.; in December, 1832, it was 53s. 7d.; December, 1834, 40s; December, 1835, 36s. Let the House remember that the object of the law was to keep corn steady at 60s., yet in 1835 the price was lower than it had been for seventy years. In the following winter, 1836, the price was 61s. 9d., being a rise of 70 per cent. With in twelve months. In 1838 it was 78s. 4d., and in 1839 it was 81s. 6d., being more than 100 per cent over the price in 1835. He would now take the yearly averages, still bearing in mind that the object of the law was to keep the price between 55s. 393 and 65s. Had it done so? That the House might be convinced it had not, he would read the averages for ten years, beginning with 1831:—
Now, let it be observed, that out of these ten years there were only three in which the average yearly price of corn had been kept within the range of 10s. prescribed by Mr. Canning. He (Mr. Wood) was, therefore, justified in saying, that Mr. Canning had failed in his design, even with the large limit he had assigned for the range of the price. It should also be borne in mind that at these prices there were none of those extraordinary "jumps" that had lately been so much alluded to. He asked the House, then, whether it was likely or probable— whether they had good reason to suppose that the scale now suggested would have the affect alleged when, a similar scale, with limits so much larger, had failed. The right hon. Gentleman truly said, that it was not fair to compare the variations of price in England with those at the ports on the continent from whence corn was generally exported to this country, and that opinion was entirely confirmed by the reports lately laid upon the Table. A gentleman, as the House already knew, had been sent to the continent for the purpose of collecting information on the subject of the prices and the supply of corn. To the industry and the competency of that gentleman he was ready to bear most willing testimony—no one could be better qualified than was that gentleman to discharge the duties which he had undertaken. The information collected by that gentleman was highly valuable, although he (Mr. Wood) was not surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not think it so for their views. By those reports they would find that it was impossible to state what the price in the ports of export would be, as it depended entirely upon the demand from this country. The right hon. Gentleman had seemed to insist very
much upon the variations in the price of rye in Prussia. but he (Mr. Wood) could not think that the variation of the price of a staple article of food in Prussia, was a fair criterion of what the price of food in this country might be. It was not fair to test the variations in the price of corn in a highly civilized and rich country, having a great command of markets, and with the greatest facility of communication, with those of corn in Prussia, a country not more advanced at the present day than England was half a century ago. They might as well compare the variations of price now in this country with those which occurred a century or two ago—a period, by the by, to which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to refer with no little pleasure — when the means of communication were imperfect, when the roads were bad, when canals were not cut, and corn could not be readily conveyed from one point to another. If they took the price of corn in any poor country, and found it to vary more than in the larger markets in rich countries, it was no ground for saying that the variation in this country might not be expected to be considerably less, enjoying the peculiar advantages she did. There was a statement in one of the pamphlets to which reference had been made, framed from papers moved for by Sir Charles Lemon, in order to show that the variations were greater in foreign countries than at home; but the papers so moved for, failed in showing that to be the case. A table was formed by taking the lowest and highest average price in England, and at nine different ports, Dantzic, Odessa, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Memel, Hambro', Brest, Bordeaux, and Ancona; for the ten years from 1829 to 1838, and the variation was much greater in England than any one of those places. He attributed the variation to the operation of the sliding scale, and to that alone. The fair way was not to take the difference per cent. on the lowest price at each place, which led to most fallacious conclusions, but to compare the real difference between the highest and the lowest price. That he had done, and found that in England the difference was 15s. 4d. between the highest and the lowest, while in Dantzic the difference was 14s. 9d. In the other ports the difference varied from 13s. 8d. to 7s. 4d. The papers to which he had alluded not
only showed these variations in foreign ports, but also that the operation of our fluctuating scale was sufficient to produce them. The inducement to the holder of foreign corn to withhold his stock till the latest possible moment when the duty was at the minimum point, was certainly not so great in the scale now proposed as it was before, and that really appeared to him to be the only advantage gained. The right hon. Gentleman had truly stated, that the advantage to the owner of foreign corn in holding over his stock during a rise from 60s. to 73s., was 38s., whilst to the owner of English corn, it was only 13s. but even under the proposed scale during a rise from 50s. to 73s., the person who held English corn would gain 23s., while the person who held foreign corn would gain 42s. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that last Summer was as favourable a period as could have been selected for the opponents of the Corn-law, to show the disadvantages of the sliding scale. The accounts for the present year were not published, but he (Mr. Wood) had no doubt, that what took place, was much the same as in the preceding year. In 1840, the duty fell, between July and September, from 16s. 8d. to 2s. 8d., and by a reference to the accounts, it would be seen that in the week ending 30th July, 1840, 470 quarters of wheat were imported; in the next week, when the duty was 13s. 8d., 1,370 quarters were imported; in the following week, with the duty at 16s. 8d., 1,400 quarters were imported; the next week, duty at 6s. 8d., 11,000 quarters imported. In the week ending August 27, 2,400 quarters, also at 6s. 8d.; and in the week ending Sept. 3, when the duty got down to 2s. 8d., the importation was 1,217,000 quarters. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the high price was not ultimately maintained last summer, because corn came in at the 1s. duty; but, surely, the advantage would have been much greater, if the foreign grain could have come in a month before at the 8s. duty. Nobody would have lost anything, except the speculators in foreign corn, for whose sole advantage he (Mr. Wood) believed the sliding-scale to work. The average duty in July, August, September, and October last, was 16s. 8d., when it would have been an advantage to have had even the fixed duty of 8s. A statement had been made of the price of the best
Dantzic wheat in bond in London, and the price of the best English wheat in London at the same time, for 13 weeks ending September 10, 1841. Add 8s. to the price of Dantzic wheat, and they would have the price at which it would have been sold in the metropolis, had the proposal for a fixed duty been acceded to. Now, he asserted, that up to the week in which wheat was admitted at 1s. duty, it would have been clearly advantageous to the consumer to have had corn admitted at 8s. duty. And he knew of no better argument, that could be adduced for the purpose of showing the possibility of maintaining a fixed duty, than to show that a benefit to accrue to the consumer. In the thirteen weeks preceding the 10th of September, there were only three weeks in which the price of Dantzic corn in bond, with 8s. duty added, was higher than the price at which corn was selling in London. Would it, then, be contended, that it was advantageous, that corn should have been locked up for ten weeks out of thirteen? It was not a little remarkable, that in all the illustrations which the right hon. Gentleman gave of the workings of the scale, he always took a minimum price, higher than that which had been stated was to be the maximum tinder the proposed scale. The price was to vary from 54s. to 58s.; 58s. being the maximum; and yet there was no case in which the right hon. Gentleman, when stating the advantages of his scale, took a price under 64s. It was a strange way of recommending the advantages of a scale, that before the benefits could be pointed at, it should have exceeded the maximum it professed to fix on the price of corn. The case put by the right hon. Gentleman (the Vice-President of the Board of Trade), to show the advantage of his system, had failed. When the right hon. Gentleman wished to show the advantage of a sliding scale, he was obliged to begin with a minimum price of 64s. He said, that at that price, the 8s. fixed duty, and the duty under the Government scheme coincided; and he then pointed out, as he thought, the advantage of the latter over the jump which might be made according to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell's) notion of 1s. duty, at a price of 73s., by the forcible operation on the market by the speculators, in order to effect a reduction of duty to 1s. Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose, that any speculations
could raise the average price of England by 9s.? The right hon. Baronet had stated his opinion that the frauds, to which nobody had ever attributed such a rise as this, had been much exaggerated; and yet the right hon. Gentleman, before he could point out any advantage in the Government scale, was obliged to assume a price, exceeding by 6s., the maximum price which the scale professed to allow, and then, so enormous an effect as raising the price of corn in England to the extent of 9s., by the operations of speculators. The right hon. Gentleman was not less fortunate in his dealing with the advantages of his scheme, as regarded the trade with America, for he was obliged to begin at a minimum price of 64s., and thus again exceeded the maximum of the right hon. Baronet. But to come at once to the proposed duty, he was convinced that it would be a prohibitory duty; that it would be sufficient to exclude the importation of foreign corn. He hoped, that in the course of the debate, the House would hear why 56s. had been fixed upon as the proper price of wheat. It was thrown over as a remunerating price the other night, and, therefore, it remained to be shown why that price of 56s. was likely to be the price, and the best price, for the good of the country. Doubtless, a change would take place, and so there would be a great change if the actual prohibition were changed into a prohibitory duty; but if the effect of the duty was to exclude all importation of corn, it would not be worth while to make the change. It was proposed, that when the price rose to 56s., the duty should be 16s. Now, if any faith could be placed in the official returns, as to the price at which foreign corn could be imported into this country, looking at the average of all the returns of prices, the probable price at which any quantity of wheat could be brought to this country would be about 45s. The consular returns made the price 40s. 6d., and 4s. 9¾d. for freight, making together 45s. 3d. According to Mr. Meek, taking the average prices at different places, it would amount to about 45s., exclusive of any insurance or profit to the, importer, and a duty of 16s. upon 45s., would give 61s, as the price at which foreign corn could be sold in this country, when English corn might be sold for 56s. That price of 45s., he believed, would include all the wheat, good and bad, that
might be sent from abroad; and comparing that wheat with English wheat, it would be found that wheat at 45s. was far below the average quality of English wheat, and that no foreign wheat whatever could be imported until the price in England came to 63s. or 64s., at least 6s. or 8s. above that price at which the Government proposed to keep corn in this country. The right hon. Gentleman had referred a good deal to the past. Now, looking at the last ten years, it would be found that no great quantity of corn had ever paid a duty of 10s.; at the utmost not more than 500,000 quarters of foreign wheat out of 13,500,000 had paid duty amounting to more than 10s. on being imported into this country, It must be clear, then, that anything above that amount of duty must be a prohibitory duty. The great bulk of the corn which had been imported, had paid a less duty than 8s. per quarter. In 1830, there were 1,400,000 quarters imported, nearly 1,200,000 of which were imported at under 8s. duty. In 1831, 1,000,000 of quarters of foreign corn were imported, of which 963,000 paid a duty of less than 8s. In 1838, there were 1,700,000 quarters imported, out of which 1,500,000 paid only 1s. In 1839, of 2,500,000 quarters imported, only 55,000 paid a duty above 10s. In 1840, a duty of 13s. 8d. was paid upon 340,000 quarters, but nearly all the rest were imported at less than 8s. The right hon. Gentleman was mistaken as to the price of Dantzic wheat, the price could not be less than 45s. The wheat at Warsaw cost 25s., the carriage to Dantzic amounted to 10s., and 10s. more was the cost of sending it to England from Dantzic. He had thus stated what was the probable price; he would now refer to the present prices. Taking all the ports laid down as being most convenient from which to import foreign corn into England, the average lowest price was 45s. 9d., and the highest 53s. 5d., and adding to that the average freightage, without any other charge whatever, the price at the port of export, together with the freight, at the present moment was 54s. 5¼d. Taking the duty which the right hon. Gentleman would have at the present price of wheat i. e. about 12s., the price would be 66s., and this again would act as a complete prohibition. He apprehended that the probable duty, according to the statements of Messrs. Kingsford and Lacy, which the right hon.
Gentleman himself had quoted, would range from 14s. to 18s.; and this would be a prohibitory duty, making the price of foreign corn from 59s. to 63s. on the lowest computation. So that, upon the price of grain in the foreign market, the proposed duty—whether tested by past experience, or by the documents now furnished to the House, and upon which the right hon. Baronet's plan professed to be based—would operate as a positive prohibition. It was not necessary to go into any statement of arguments in favour of any particular amount of fixed duty. It was convenient to the right hon. Baronet, and he was perfectly justified in so doing, to argue his case upon the amount of fixed duty proposed by the late Government, namely, a fixed duty of 8s. Into that branch of the question he (Mr. Wood) would not then enter. He had shown that to the consumer a fixed duty of 8s. would have been a decided advantage as compared with the present law in the course of the last summer, which was the instance selected by the right hon. Baronet when the prices were high, and, therefore, that the argument of the impossibility of maintaining a fixed duty at a high price of corn, did not hold good. All that was aimed at by the present amendment, and all that it was now necessary to argue was, that a fixed duty would be better than a sliding scale. In his opinion, the advantage of a fixed duty to the consumer, under all circumstances, was indisputable; for, when the price of corn in this country was high, the fixed duty, would take only from the profits of the holder of foreign corn, and in no degree whatever would add to the price of corn to the consumer. As long as no great quantity could be procured elsewhere, and the main portion of the supply of this country was derived from wheat grown within its own shores, so long must the price of that wheat necessarily regulate the price of all wheat sold in the British market. If the price of foreign wheat were considerably lower than that of wheat grown in this country, it would be absurd to suppose that the holder of foreign wheat, of equal quality, would consent to take a lower price than that which the British market offered. That being the case, it was perfectly clear that the protecting duty, whatever its amount, would be taken out of the pocket of the holder of foreign corn, and not out of the pocket of the consumer. But the
great ground for maintaining a fixed duty as against a sliding scale was this, that without it, it seemed utterly impossible to obtain that which he (Mr. Wood) held to be the greatest of all advantages, and which the right hon. Gentleman himself had alluded to at the close of his speech, namely, a regular, constant, and steady trade. Foreign merchants were desirous that the English Corn-laws should remain unchanged, because it was under the present fluctuating scale that they obtained the greatest amount of profit. This was evident from the report of Mr. Meek. He (Mr. Wood) confessed that he did not think that his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell), had pushed the argument which he so ably founded upon the statement of the right hon. Baronet, as to the similarity of price at the same seasons between England and some of the countries of the continent, so far as he might very justly have done. The argument of the right hon. Baronet was this:—
You cannot protect yourself against an influx of foreign corn, when your own corn is cheap, because the same circumstances which produce an abundance with you, will operate also to produce an abundance in those countries where the climate is similar, and in which seasons similar to those of England generally prevail. Therefore, if it be a dear season with you, it will be a dear season abroad; or, if corn be cheap and plentiful here, it will be equally so in those countries to which, in times of scarcity, you would look for a supply. Consequently, no fixed duty could be a protection against the importation of foreign corn when the harvest in England was plentiful and abundant, and the price of corn correspondingly low.
He (Mr. Wood)
was sorry to find, that the greatest evil contemplated by the right hon. Baronet was the occurrence of a plentiful harvest in this country. The evils of a bad harvest and of dear corn appeared to be nothing as compared with the mischiefs of low prices to the agriculturist when the harvest was abundant. But, surely if the right hon. Baronet's statements were true—if, when the seasons on the European continent were bad, the seasons in this country were bad also—if when the price of wheat was high here, the price in those countries was high too, a stronger argument could hardly be found for extending our law in such a way as not necessarily to confine our supply to those countries which were contiguous to ourselves. Surely it would only be wise and 401 prudent to extend our view from these neighbouring states to other and more distant countries where a different climate prevailed, and which were not likely to be affected by the same seasons which affected us. The right hon. Gentleman said, and said very truly, that the difficulties of our commercial relations with America did not arise from our refusing to take American corn. But from whatever cause the derangement of our intercourse with that country might have arisen, this most absurd state of things had undoubtedly existed, that we had been drawing the precious metals from America when she could ill afford to spare them, and when she was able to supply us with abundance of corn, and this bullion we had sent to other countries to be exchanged for corn. Who could doubt that this process was attended with a mutual disadvantage to both countries? Such incongruities would be corrected and prevented by the adoption of a fixed duty, and the establishment (consequent upon a fixed duty) of a regular and constant trade. The whole effect of the present law was, to throw every advantage from ourselves into the hands of foreigners—to put great profits into the hands of the parties who held foreign corn—to drive traffic from our own shipping to the shipping of other countries—to render the price of corn uncertain and variable—in short, to prejudice every interest in the nation. It was said, that no remedy for the present derangement of trade would result from an alteration of the Corn-laws. The statement no doubt was, in some measure, true; he (Mr. Wood) did not believe that even a total and immediate repeal of the Corn-laws would afford a remedy. But the repeal of them, or the substitution of a fixed duty, would produce a widely different state of things. It would lower the price of corn, and lead to a great alleviation of the sufferings of a vast portion of the manufacturing classes. To contend that a regular trade in corn would not be a great advantage to the maker and exporter of our manufactured goods, was a paradox so strange that he (Mr. Wood) owned he was surprised to find any one in that House bold enough to advance it. A statement had been made, showing the enormous sum of money which must be expended by the consumers of corn in this country in dear years as compared with cheap years: he believed it was in one of 402 those pamphlets of Mr. Wilson, from which the right hon. Baronet had quoted, that that gentleman stated the annual consumption of corn in this country to be 16,000,000 of quarters; but Mr. Wilson understated the case, the consumption was much greater; it had been stated by some at 24,000,000 quarters, by the right hon. Gentleman at 22,000,000; but take it at 20,000,000, mark the effect of the fluctuation in price. In 1835, the price of wheat in England was under 40s.; in 1839, it was upwards of 70s., being a difference between those two years of 30s. a quarter. Assuming the consumption of corn then to be 20,000,000 of quarters, the difference in the price paid by the consumers in 1839, as compared with 1825, was no less than 30,000,0001. Of course, the same quantity of corn would not be consumed in the dearer year, because the higher price would put it out of the power of many to consume as much as they required. But that was a privation —a privation to which they ought not to be subjected. The 30,000,0001. represented, as he (Mr. Wood) contended, the amount of privation and sacrifice entailed upon the consumers of this country by the high price of corn as compared with low. No doubt he had taken extreme points—30,000,000l. was an extreme case; but make what reduction one would—reduce it to the amount stated by Mr. Wilson reduce it to 15,000,000l., and would anybody gravely state that the sufferings of a large population, a considerable portion of whose earnings were expended in the purchase of necessaries, must not be greatly aggravated when the price of corn was increased by 15,000,000l. in one year. It was very easy to talk loosely; but take the earnings of any one family, of a family not in actual distress, a family earning fair wages; deduct from these wages the amount expended in the purchase of corn when corn was cheap, and then deduct the amount expended when corn was dear. Mark the difference, and see how it operated to diminish the means of purchasing the other necessaries of life. Take the case of a family earning 1l. a-week, or 52l. a-year (this was the case of a family well to do in the world); in 1825 10l. would be expended for the consumption of ten persons, but in 1839 the same quantity of corn would cost them 17l. 10s., so that whilst in the one year they would have 42l. to expend in the 403 other necessaries of life, in the other year they would have only 34l. 10s. Take the case of a family earning less than 20s. a-week, and in 1839 the residue of their wages after the purchase of the corn necessary to their existence would amount to little more than nothing. He knew that in former times it was contended that it was immaterial what the price of corn might be, because the price of labour rose in proportion, and consequently gave the labourer the command of the same portion of corn. Directly the reverse was the fact for the last few years; for whilst the price of corn had been materially rising, the price of labour in the manufacturing districts had been regularly falling. He spoke now not of towns like Leeds, which his hon. Friend opposite represented, and in which the existing distress was so excessively severe, but of such towns as Halifax and Huddersfield, where, though the distress was great, it was not so absolutely appalling. In those towns, wages, since 1835 and 1836 had faller, at least one fourth. If, then, the price of corn since that period had risen 70 per cent., and wages fallen 25 per cent —if the increased price of corn were to be deducted from the diminished wages—what wonder that the distress should be so great and prevalent as it was. True, the repeal of the Corn-laws would not be a complete remedy; but it was absurd to say that a lower price of corn than that which we had had for the last few years would not be a great and material alleviation of the distress which was now so generally felt. The whole of the manufacturing classes, constituting as they did the greater portion of the population, were generally speaking, in a state, he would not say of actual distress, but of great privation. Their means of consumption were reduced—their means of paying tradesmen for articles producing revenue were diminished, and still diminishing. Unless some measures were taken—some measures similar to those proposed last year for invigorating trade, and enabling the masses to bear the burthens imposed upon them—there would come with irresistible force the absolute necessity of resorting to direct taxation. It was said that no burthen was so severe and so intolerable as direct taxation. He would not then stay to discuss that question. Upon the whole, in time of peace he believed that indirect taxation was the 404 only mode by which a large revenue could be raised. As he had stated, however, he did not intend to enter upon that point now; because the discussion was properly confined to the consideration of whether a fixed or fluctuating duty upon corn was the fittest to be adopted. He owned that, under all circumstances, a moderate fixed duty was in his estimation the only fit one to establish. He believed that a fluctuating scale could never give the country the advantage of regularity of trade, which a fixed duty undoubtedly would. He believed, too, that the objections which the right hon. Baronet and other gentlemen had taken to the fixed duty were utterly untenable — and that without prejudice to the consumer, or to any interest in the country; and with advantage to the revenue such a duty might be maintained.
§ Mr. Liddell
—The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had commenced his speech in a tone of triumph, stating that his right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade had admitted that the Government measure would not give general satisfaction; because the right hon. Gentleman had thought fit to contrast the language of parties holding extreme opinions on this measure. The hon. Member for Halifax inferred that it was not likely to give satisfaction to either party. So far as his experience went he was enabled to dispel the notions which the hon. Member seemed to entertain; for he believed that the Government measure would be generally pleasing to the agricultural interest, and not only to that, but that it would be gratifying to a large portion of the manufacturing and commercial interests, who saw in that measure a decided improvement on the present law, without any risk of disturbing existing interests, to disturb any one of which was, as none knew better than commercial men, to bring ruin upon the whole. If it were not so what could induce the general feeling that commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural interests were so closely interwoven that no measure that affected the one could fail to affect the others. Believing, therefore, as he did that the Government measure was an improvement upon the present law, and likely to be attended with great benefit to the country generally, and that while benefiting commerce and manufacture it would also contribute to the interest of the agriculturist, 405 he should support it. The hon. Member for Halifax had gone on to show the absurdity of the attempting to keep this country independent of foreign countries for its supplies. When he should like to know had such a proposition been put forward by that side of the House? The hon. Gentleman had first made his giants and then he slew them. As he understood hon. Gentlemen near him, their opinion was that this country could not for any long period be entirely independent of foreign supplies; but they at the same time maintained that, taking a fair average harvest, the country could, if not altogether, at least very nearly, provide sufficient corn for its population. A reference to past experience and facts would prove the correctness of that opinion. When, however, from a scanty harvest, the deficiency of the home supply occasioned a rise in the price, then was proved the value of the sliding-scale, which admitted the foreign corn at a gradually decreasing duty—and, in spite of four deficient harvests in succession, we had never failed in obtaining a sufficient supply of corn to meet the wants of the people. The hon. Gentleman had also advanced the same argument which a noble Lord (Lord Howick), whose only follower in that House the hon. Member had formerly been, had addressed to the farmers of Northumberland—viz., that founded upon the fluctuation of prices. That noble Lord had asked the farmers of Northumberland, as the hon. Member had asked the agriculturists in that House, how they thought their interest could be maintained by a law under which so much fluctuation existed? He greatly lamented that that noble Lord, whose great abilities he had always admired, was not now present in the House; but if he were, he would tell him, as he now told the hon. Member, that while the agriculturists were fully conscious of the fluctuations in the price of corn, and to the inconvenience to which they were thereby subject, they were at the same time conscious that whenever depression of price existed under the present law it was not caused by foreign competition. And if in consequences of the competition at home or unusually productive harvests the price of corn was low, the consumer had the advantage while the farmer had but little right to complain. The noble Lord opposite had recommended that when changes were made they should proceed only upon 406 sound principles; but the very gist of the question was, what were sound principles? Were those sound principles on which the noble Lord had appealed to the country; for which he had fought and bled and fallen! Or were those sound principles which the right hon. the First Lord of the Treasury had propounded, and which he (Mr. Liddell) believed he would triumphantly carry? That was the question for them to decide. The noble Lord (J. Russell) had thought proper to propound some general principles on which all changes should proceed, and he had contended that one of the main objects of change was conciliation on the part of the Government to popular opinion. Now, believing, as he did, that the scheme proposed by Ministers had been most judiciously arranged, and that it had been brought forward with a view to conciliate, he could not at the same time concede to the doctrine that the principle of all change was to be conciliation on the part of the Government to the popular opinion of the day. Many changes had taken place within his memory which had failed to prove the correctness of that theory. The concession of the Catholic claims had failed to give satisfaction to those whom it was meant to conciliate. Again, in regard to parliamentary reform, they had been told by the party opposite previous to the passing of that measure that the people would be satisfied with that, but with nothing less. They had, however, seen since that period how little satisfaction that act had given to the movement party. Had they not seen the noble Lord in that House exert himself as strenuously to maintain his finality doctrine against the ultra section of his supporters, as he had formerly exerted himself in breaking down the system of nomination boroughs? And if the noble Lord were now to succeed in his proposition of an 8s. fixed duty, the party by whom he was surrounded would not thereby be prevented from agitating for total repeal; for the doctrine of the majority of that party was, that no tax whatever ought to be laid upon the food of the people; and they, therefore, would come forward next year and demand the repeal of that 8s.duty. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him, that the course the Government ought to take was precisely that which had been adopted by the right hon. Baronet; viz., carefully to con- 407 sider the bearings of the question, and having done so, to lay the result of their deliberations before the country as the opinions of the Government, and he trusted that the same arguments which had induced the Government to submit this measure to the House, would not fail to obtain for it the assent of that House and the country. Those who brought forward measures merely to conciliate popular opinion, would always find themselves, in the end, as the noble Lord had found himself, miserably disappointed in the result. When the noble Lord spoke of an impediment thrown in the way of regular trading by the present Corn-law, he looked chiefly to the interests of the merchants who were engaged in foreign trade. Instead of considering the parties engaged in agriculture on the one hand, and the commercial interest on the other, his, the noble Lord's views were confined to the merchant, who should always take care to calculate his profits before he entered upon the venture. Admitting the importance of commercial enterprise, it must not be forgotten that the merchant traded for his own benefit only, and not for that of the community at large, and, therefore, his interest was not to be considered to the prejudice of other interests. The noble Lord had already brought his proposition fairly before the House and the country, and the country had rejected it at the last election, he, therefore, could have no very sanguine hope of carrying it now. The simple question now before Parliament was, whether the sliding scale or the fixed duty was the most beneficial to the public at large? He agreed with the right hon. Member for Tamworth, that it was necessary to give protection to the agriculturist, and that it was indispensable to adhere to the principle of the sliding scale. By the sliding scale to the home grower was secured a fair price for his corn, and provision was also made for a deficient harvest. He thought that the thanks of the country were due to her Majesty's Government for the care and deliberation they had bestowed on the question. He was happy to say, that as far as he had been made aware of public feeling on the subject of the new measure, he felt he was fully justified in giving his cordial support to the Ministerial measure. He considered it was a decided improvement on the law as it now stood. It removed many evils, which for some years he had not 408 been blind to; and had any party in whom he could have placed confidence, brought forward a similar alteration at any period within the last ten years, he should have given the measure his support. With respect to the allegation of fraud in the mode of taking the averages, and by untrue returns, he believed a good deal of trickery had taken place. He had made inquiry into frauds alleged to have been committed at Newcastle, and he had several times received distinct information that large sales had been fraudulently made at Newcastle for the purpose of raising the averages; but there was so much reserve in the parties who made the disclosures about giving up their authorities that he was not able to lay the facts before the House. It was, however, quite notorious that frauds had taken place respecting the averages in that town. He thought the present bill was in its provisions, quite adequate to repress such frauds in future. The widening the range of towns and the change in the ratio of the ascending scale would remove temptation to fraud, and would tend to prevent individuals from combining for purposes of fraud. The Vice-President of the Board of Trade had gone so fully into the various arguments in support of this measure, that it was not necessary for him to go over the same ground. The prevailing manufacturing distress had been referred to various causes, and the derangement of the currency had also been noticed. The export of bullion in payment of foreign corn, imported after a deficient harvest, was a matter perfectly unavoidable. If there should happen to be a deficient harvest the country would, at all times, call for a great importation of foreign corn —and as this was a matter extrinsic to the ordinary dealings in trade—it must be paid for in gold, and this must produce inconvenience and derangement of the currency. If there was a great deficiency in the harvest in any one year, there would be a great deficiency of income, for the income of a country is based upon its agricultural produce. If a farmer grew 400 quarters of wheat one year, and only 300 the next, he would be poorer in money to the extent of the sum represented by 100 quarters. That which was true of an individual was true when applied to the nation at large. It was not fair, therefore, to impute to the sliding scale the deficiencies which had occasion- 409 ally occurred in the currency, for even without a Corn-law, the deficiency resulting from a bad harvest must be supplied by the importation of foreign grain which, at such periods, must be paid for in bullion. He had heard a great deal about the distress prevailing in the country. The circumstance must naturally be so, for where there was less money to expend—owing partly to the money paid away to the foreigner, and partly to a deficient harvest, there would be a corresponding degree of privation. A portion, therefore, of the public distress must be attributed to a deficient income, created by a failure in corn produce. It was impossible to doubt that all trades were liable to experience periods in which prosperity ebbed and flowed. If one branch of commerce were discovered to be remunerative, capital immediately flowed into it, profits were then lowered, and eventually the capital so poured in, created an over-production, glutted the markets, and caused a stagnation of trade. He hoped, however, that the present unfavourable circumstances would shortly cease. He hoped, by treating the subject calmly and with deliberation, that measures would be produced capable of invigorating the resources of the country, restoring confidence, and reviving prosperity.
§ Dr. Bowring
felt called upon to address a few remarks to the House in consequence of the unexpected honour paid him by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, by his attaching some authority to a report of which he was the author. He wished to say that he could not agree in the deductions which the right hon. Baronet had drawn from that report. The right hon. Baronet had sought to establish that the people of England enjoyed a greater amount of comfort than the people of Prussia; but even were it so, was it not the duty of the legislator to provide for, all the community the greatest possible sum of enjoyments.; and would a less happy condition of other nations be any apology for the diminished and diminishing comforts of our own? For the fact was, that while the condition of the Prussian labourer was daily improving, that of the British artisan was constantly getting worse. Nor would the evidence that the average consumption of certain articles was greater in England than in Prussia, prove that the 410 working population was better off. Such statistics required to be analysed—and only by being analysed could any correct inferences be drawn. Now though the right hon. Baronet had quoted a passage from the report concerning the consumption of various articles in the Prussian states, he forgot, or omitted to state, that there was a great diversity in the consumption of different places and different persons; the right hon. Baronet forgot to state that while in Rogasen, in Posen, the yearly average consumption of bread was 93lb., at Oels, in Silesia, 192¼1b., it was in Berlin, 268¾1b., in Spandau 472¾1b., and in Ehrenbreitstein it was 1,128¾lb. Now the average consumption through 124 towns of the Prussian League is 306lb. per individual, and the great diversity of consumption in different districts shows of what very various elements that average may be composed. The documents he held in his hand showed that in Prussia the consumption of animal food was 34216. per head per annum in the rural districts, while in the large towns the consumption was 100lb. per head. Of sugar, the average consumption in this country was 71b. per head annually; in France, it was 41b.; in Prussia, it was 3½1b.; and in the other European countries, the average was 4lb. 5oz. Many articles, which were objects of extensive consumption in North Germany, were consumed in this country to a very small extent. Spirits were consumed in Prussia to two or three times the extent that they were in England; and the consumption of wines and vegetables was also much greater in the former, than in the latter country. The money spent in books, and in the business of instruction, in many parts of Prussia, was very considerable; and he was bound to say, that throughout Prussia, he had found the working classes in the habit of saving comparatively large sums from their earnings. In the report to which he had alluded, he found this passage with reference to the stocking-workers of Saxony:—They are frugal in their food and drink. A great proportion of them are the owners of the houses in which they dwell.The cases were few, he regretted to say, in which the most industrious artisans in this kingdom could call themselves the owners of the houses they occupied, or 411 the proprietors of the gardens they cultivated. The report proceeded to state, that, when their work was not plentiful the artisans employed themselves in their gardens; and it added, that the state provided gratuitous instruction for them, which produced a happy effect on their industry and frugality. He had taken the pains to ascertain the consumption both in continental countries and at home, of some of those articles to the consumption of which the right hon. Baronet had referred, on a late occasion, and the returns would show, that while the consumption of the higher and opulent classes was greater here than in any country of the world—that greater consumption would reduce the average consumption of the working people far below the Prussian standard. He had applied to the conductors of an extensive establishment in this metropolis, for the accuracy of whose accounts several hon. Members in that House could vouch. They stated, that 145 persons—and he considered this consumption to represent that of the middle ranks—consumed of animal food 1 9/40 lb. per day, or 4471b, per annum; and of bread l 1/10 lb. per day, or 401 lb. per annum. The average consumption of food per head in opulent families, including the waste which habitually accrued, was not less than 4501b. per annum; in the middling classes it was from 300lb. to 400lb. The average consumption of poor and rich, in the metropolis, was 107lb. per head. The consumption of the whole country was taken by Lord Ashburton at 1341b. per head, while his (Dr. Bowring's) estimate was only 501b. Let it be considered, then, that in the very proportion of the extra consumption of food in this country is the amount of sacrifice made—of tribute levied from the consumers by a protective and prohibitory system. The returns from various parts of the kingdom differed considerably as to the amount of food consumed annually in the several places. An hon. Baronet, who was for a long period a Member of that House, had taken great pains to ascertain the annual consumption of meat in the county of Cornwall, and it was there estimated at 451b. per head. In many of the poorhouses of this country, however, the consumption greatly exceeded that average. According to the dietary of the Reading workhouse, the average consumption of animal food was 1171b. per annum; the 412 allowance of meat alone being 2¼lb. per week. In that House, therefore, the average allowance of meat was 5¼1b. per head per week; and, in one of our colonies, Hobart Town, the assigned servants were allowed 10½1b. per week, or 546 lb. per year. Supposing the population of this country to be 26,000,000, and their average consumption to be 501b. per head, of animal food, per annum, the whole consumption would be 1,300,000,000lb. per annum. Taking the wealthy classes at 4,000,000, and valuating their consumption at only 200lb. per head, per annum, which gave 800,000,000lb., there remained only 500,000,000lb, among 22,000,000 of inhabitants, which gave an average of less than 241b. per head, while in the poorhouses of this country the amount of food averaged from 52lb. to 97½lb. per head. If, then, the more prosperous and wealthy classes of the country consumed 200lb. per head, per annum, which he considered a very low calculation, the average consumption of the labouring classes, would be only 241b. per head, which was a much less average than that of the working population in the civilized states of Europe. It appeared from returns made to the Government in France, that the annual average consumption in that kingdom was 44lb., English, per head. In Paris, the average consumption was 46 kilogrammes, or 102lb., English, per head. In Belgium, the consumption was 931b. per head. The Belgian army was allowed at the rate of 1¾ kilogrammes per week, per man, or 2001b. per head, per annum; and the navy at the rate of 2 kilogrammes, per week, per man, or 228lb. per annum. These documents, then, showed, that though the consumption per head, in this country, was somewhat higher than the consumption in some other countries, the quantity consumed by the lower classes was undoubtedly less. He would now come to the immediate subject of their consideration on the present occasion. In voting for the motion of the noble Lord, he should be grieved if it were supposed, that he concurred in any argument favourable to a fixed duty on corn. The time once was, when the fixed duty which had now been proposed by the noble Lord, would have been welcomed by that public opinion, by which, in his conviction, it would now be repudiated. He thought the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, had done well in giving the noble 413 Lord a lesson on the subject of finality, for no settlement, short of the universal repeal of the duties on food, would now satisfy public opinion. Such had been the consequences of delay, that this question was now thoroughly understood, and nothing but the free importation of food, would dissipate the public discontent. Reference had been made to the effect on the sliding scale on our relations with foreign countries. The right hon. Gentleman, the Vice President of the Board of Trade, had said, that such a measure would not operate upon our relations with the United States in an unfriendly or pernicious manner. However this might be—however it might be contended, that the improvements in navigation had brought the United States to be commercially as adjacent as the Baltic—which he did not admit—the position could not be maintained with regard to Egypt, Odessa, and other corn-producing countries, yet more remote. He held in his hand a letter from a respectable merchant at Leghorn, who stated, that us an article of speculation, so desperate was corn considered under the regulations at present existing in this country, that even were corn 80s. or 90s. the quarter here, no prudent man would run the risk of shipping a cargo. The fact was, that many cargoes had lately been shipped from Egypt for this country in the expectation that they would be admitted into our ports at a moderate duty, and the undertaking had proved most disastrous to the speculators. He had heard strong expressions in favour of the scheme of the right hon. Baronet opposite, which had been described as advantageous in comparison with the existing Corn-laws. The impression on his mind was, however, very unfavourable to that measure, even, as compared with the now existing law, for it seemed to him, that it would, from beginning to end, be more stringent and despotic. It was well known, that there were frauds under the old bill, but they were frauds of which the people reaped the benefit, for every fraud led to some reduction, in the price of corn, and every reduction in the price of corn was undoubtedly a popular benefit. There were no doubt confederacies and schemes by which the law was to some extent defeated; and from the best opinions which he had been able to meet with it appeared, that the law which professed to admit foreign wheat only, when the price 414 of home-grown wheat was, according to the averages at 73s. being that which allowed the minimum rate of duty did, in fact, admit it at 65s. or 66s. It was plain, that on the side of the individuals who by confederating produced this result, the public sympathies and the public interests were, in a great degree, enlisted. But now the returns were intended to be accurate; the execution was to be put into the hands of a department of the Executive, against whom a certain degree of ill-feeling existed, and who were likely to do their duty in a stringent and effective manner. The addition of 150 towns to those from which the returns were now made up, would have the effect of lowering the averages by bringing the returns more adjacent to the places of production, and so they would increase the duty on foreign corn by elevating the averages. Now, the most important question with the public was, on what conditions they should be able to receive their corn from abroad on the lowest duty; and he thought that on the conditions proposed the public would not be able to get their corn from abroad at so low a rate as at present. Now, at the home price of 65s. or 66s., corn was admitted on the payment of 1s. duty per quarter; under the proposed plan it would not be admitted till the home price was really 72s. or 73s. It appeared by the returns laid upon the table on the 11th instant, which had been moved for by the right hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and it was admitted, that the amount of quarters on which the average price was now collected formed but a very small proportion to the amount of the actual sales. In 1836, which was the year of the greatest amount since the present law came into operation, the average was calculated on 4,393,026 quarters. In 1829, which was the year of the lowest amount, the average was calculated on no more than 2,516,129 quarters. Thus on an annual average of about 3,600,000, the amount of duty payable had been regulated. But the extension of the number of quarters on which the average was to be calculated under the new bill would lower the average prices, and augment the duty. As to the maximum duty on corn, he thought it quite a matter of indifference whether the amount was 20s. or 25s. and, therefore, he felt exceedingly little anxiety as to the fate of the motion of the hon. Member for Lin- 415 colnshire (Mr. Christopher), and he was quite willing that the right hon. Baronet, if it would be any gratification to the hon. Member, should make him a present of the difference between the 20s. and 25s. maximum. The right hon. Baronet had appeared to consider 56s. as about the average-price for some years past, and he had said that he thought a reasonable remuneration to the grower might be had if the prices were maintained at from 54s. to 58s., and this being the case, be could not understand what the character of that legislation could be that fixed the price at 73s. If 56s. were a remunerating price to the home-grower, on what plea was 73s. established by this corn-repelling law—and why, was there any alarm? Mr. Meek estimated that only 2,250,000 quarters of wheat could be obtained from the whole of the shipping ports of Europe at a moderate duty, and he himself thought that the whole world could only furnish about double that quantity; nevertheless, for several years we had been importing at an average of 2,500,000 quarters; and he was moreover perfectly convinced, that with a free trade in corn that quantity would be consumed, and no less a quantity than at present would be grown at home. It appeared he thought most clearly that fur some years past we had had a demand for the surplus quantity of corn grown in the corn exporting countries of Europe, and his apprehension was, if speedy steps of amelioration of the present state of things were not taken, we might soon not have a sufficiency for our own wants. We must not long look for that supply from those quarters. Not a sufficiency from our own resources added to the surplus production of the countries to which we look for supplies. There was a growing indisposition among the continental nations to export their corn. They had made many endeavours to obtain modifications in our tariff, so as to enable them to export corn to us on more advantageous terms. They had uniformly been met with refusals from our Government; not, he was bound to say, owing to indisposition on the part of the late Government to meet their reasonable wishes, but because (the late Government) had been obliged to reply, that if any sacrifices on the part of the agricultural interests of this country were to be called on for the purpose of improvement in our commercial relations with other countries, that body would not be willing 416 to make those sacrifices. From the United States of North America he had received communications on which he placed great reliance, and which he believed to be of good authority, which stated that the manufacturers of England are gradually supplanted. An enormous emigrant population (three millions) beyond the Alleghany mountains is becoming not the producers of agricultural articles to be supplied in exchange for our manufactures, but rival manufacturers, and forced to be manufacturers by our present system. The United States would be a boundless field of demand under a fair system of importation. Our own emigrant-settlers would be consumers — their affection for England strengthened and established by intercourse—but they are made manufacturing rivals. The Western States must become the predominant influence—will not the great American people—shall we repudiate or encourage commercial relations with them? The cotton manufacturers of the United States are already one-fourth of those of Great Britain—emigration will reduce the value of labour, and a large expansion of manufacturing production must follow, thus adding to the advantages possessed by that country, and giving a large accession of productive persons. The question, then, which ought to be seriously considered by the House was, whether the importation of corn was to be a source of prosperity to the people of this country, or whether they were to be debarred effectually from the advantages which extended importation must carry with it. We ought not to forget the influence of our legislation on the property of other countries—in the reflection of whose well-being we might and ought to trace the progress of our own. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) would, perhaps, excuse him for reading a passage to which, though it was contained in that report of his to which the right hon. Baronet had done him the honour to refer, he had not quoted, but which had notwithstanding a direct bearing upon the subject before the House. That passage stated, that,The present English Corn-laws are eminently prejudicial both to the agricultural and commercial interests of the states comprising the league. Instead of assisting in the establishment of regular prices by a regular demand, they communicate other German mar- 417 kets all the fluctuations of our own, and make the pursuits of agriculture a perilous lottery. Indeed, they produce even greater vicissitudes of price abroad than they create at home, for when, on the one hand, there is no buyer in the markets to take off the surplus produce, the prices fall far beneath those of which we have any experience; while, on the other, when the English grower is unable to supply the consumer, it is to the foreign agriculturist that the maximum price of our markets is paid. The consequence is, that the small continental cultivator, who cannot wait for the elevated prices of the fluctuating British market, but must speedily realize the amount of his crops to provide for his necessities, obtains in general only the ordinary low prices of his own market, while inordinate profits are frequently the lot of the wealthy proprietor, or speculative merchant, whose purpose is answered by hanging on in expectation of the inordinate profits which are exacted by sudden but uncertain demand. In this way the benefit of British importation is minimized to the German farmer, and whenever we are compelled to import, the prices are enormously raised to the consumer, as our purchases are necessarily made from a comparatively small number of dealers in corn, or opulent land proprietors. But the effect on the labouring population of Germany is calamitous, interfering not only with their enjoyments, but their means of existence. Nor do our Corn-laws affect injuriously the farmer and the labourer alone; they disturb the whole commercial interests of Europe. Wherever England is a large importer of corn the exchanges are disjointed, so as to bring uncertainty and risk into all trading combinations. In the hostile state of the tariffs of different nations there is no provision whatever for such an interchange of exports and imports, as would regulate a balance of debt and credit without serious shocks. On the contrary, the hostile and absurd legislation which has obtained in most of the commercial countries of Europe, so dams up and confines the natural tendencies of commerce to level and arrange its own transactions, that, whenever a sudden and large demand for any article occurs, it is accompanied by a pecuniary crisis, often perilous in the highest degree, and this crisis injures, not merely the importing country, but spreads its baneful influence over every other with which that country is in communication. All prices are affected—credit is shaken —the value of money is subjected to sudden changes, and no prudence can foresee or provide against the consequences.If the history of the exports and imports of wheat into this country were looked to it would be seen what was the extraordinary increase in the value of lands which had been affected, and how great were the increased profits which had been put into the pockets of the landlords. From 1697, up to 1766, ex- 418 portation of wheat had been the rule, amounting in one year (1750) to 950,000 quarters, and frequently exceeding500,000 quarters of home-grown corn. Between 1766 and 1817, sometimes there had been exportation and sometimes importation. From about the period of the introduction of the cotton manufactures the tables turned in favour of importation. From 1817, importation had been generally varying from 424,000 quarters, the minimum in 1823, to 3,100,000 quarters, the maximum in 1839, and upon the average importation of the last four years had been 2,500,000 quarters. See, then, what were the benefits and acquisitions of wealth which had accrued to the proprietors of land under these circumstances. There had been gradually brought about a change by which we had become an importing instead of an exporting country—and all the differences in the price which these changed circumstances had produced were profit to the landlords. While we exported, the price of wheat in this country must be lower than that of the country to which we exported, by at least the cost of transport—which could not be less than 6s. per quarter, and we would not import unless the price of wheat in this country were at least 6s. higher than that of the country from which we imported. There then in the progress of less than a century was an increased value of 12s. per quarter on all the produce of our land. That produce had been estimated to represent at least 45,000,000 quarters of wheat, and this enormous increase in value would give to the landed interest a yearly augmentation of not less a sum than 27,000,000l. sterling. Taking the fee simple of their property as equivalent to thirty years' purchase this would amount to an increase of the value of their fee simple of not less than 810,000,000l. sterling. Yet they were told of the peculiar sacrifices made by the landed interest. He had hoped that before this debate came on they would have been afforded some opportunity of comparing the amount of tax levied upon land in this country with the amount levied in other countries, but the only official document they had, was the statement of the budget of Belgium for the year 1841. It appeared that the amount of the budget for that year was 3,300,000l. sterling, of which the direct tax levied upon land yielded 1,163,000l. sterling, or nearly the whole amount of 419 the land-tax levied in this country. From other sources, not official, but which would no doubt be confirmed when the documents were laid on the Table, he had derived some statements of the amount of taxation on land in certain countries of Europe. In Prussia, the revenue of which was 7,700,000l. sterling, the amount of taxation levied direct upon land was 4,000,000l. sterling. In Austria, where the revenue amounted to 16,000,000l. sterling, there was out of it a sum of 8,000,000l. sterling derived from a direct tax on land and domains. In France, where the revenue was 40,000,000l. sterling, the amount derived from direct taxes on land was 14,000,000l. sterling; in fact, it was so heavy in amount that they were obliged to distribute it into twelve collections, and receive it once a mouth. Yet in this country the land-tax was not one-fortieth of the whole revenue. Now, and then, they had some opportunity of ascertaining what had been the progress in value of land,—and what the augmented burthens on land, while the taxes on labour and the labourer had been enormously increasing. It would be found that these burthens had been stationary notwithstanding the incredible increase in the value of landed property—while the taxes on consumption—the taxes paid by the community had fearfully augmented. What proportion had the taxes paid by the landlord borne to his income as contrasted with the degree in which taxation pressed upon the poor man's wages? On a return of 100 parishes in Scotland the rental in 1791 was 287,824l., which in 1841 had augmented to 744, 273l., which in 1660, nearly three-fourths of this number (of which the rentals had been made up) being seventy-two, gave only a rental of 17,878l. per annum. The land tax continued stationary — not a farthing had been added to the direct claims upon these estates—though their value had increased more than thirty-fold. This was a state of things that manifestly would not long be tolerated. It was idle for hon. Members to suppose that this question could he disposed of out of the House, as it was within the House, with a better understanding of the question,—a keener sense of the injustice inflicted,—was associated a determination to have the injustice removed. The feeling was growing, gathering, becoming terrible. The voice of the country was not yet heard, but it would make itself 420 heard. It was not for the advocates of alteration in the Corn-laws to menace, but it did become them to foretel, and he (Dr. Bowring) would venture to prophesy, that the hon. Gentleman would find him self ere long in a path in which danger and darkness would encompass him, and then there would be no solution of his difficulties but by the recognition of the great principle, that the bread and provisions of the people ought not to be taxed.
§ Mr. Ferrand:
In rising, Sir, to address the House, I feel deeply sensible of the awful responsibility under which I am placed; for I have been requested, by the working, classes in the North of England, to plead their cause before you in the presence of, and to ask for protection from, their oppressors. But, I feel fortified by the recollection, that when during the last Session I rose to address this House, I had only to preface my remarks by appealing to hon. Members on behalf of the working classes, to obtain from them a most indulgent hearing; and, Sir, I feel convinced that a similar kind reception accorded to me this night will again obtain for the House the gratitude both of the manufacturing operatives and of myself. Sir, it has been my lot, from my youth upwards, to reside in the very heart of the manufacturing districts, and the first public act of my life was to respond to the request of these operatives, that I would assist them in bursting asunder the bonds of their oppressors. Sir, the working classes deny the allegations contained in those petitions which have been lately laid on that Table with so much stage effect, they declare them to be false; nay, more, they assert that the promoters of them have never dared publicly to appeal to themselves in masses, to give their assent; they declare them to be a fraud upon, as well as an insult to, this House; that they have been got up by making a mockery of religion; and that their masters have exacted their signatures to these petitions with a tyranny and oppression that is an outrage upon the liberty of the subject. But before I bring the question in which I am so deeply interested more particularly under the notice of this House, I will just allude to what the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) has to-night asserted, that the question now before the House is one for the country and not for the Legislature to decide. I thought that the noble 421 Lord and his Colleagues had dissolved the late Parliament, and appealed to the country upon this very question. Sir, the majority sitting upon these benches is his answer. He appealed to the country in support of his fixed duty, the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) in favour of the sliding scale. It is certainly true that the noble Lord was returned to the House, backed by a majority of (some said) nine dead men; but the right hon. Baronet had taken his seat by a majority of ninety-one living representatives of the people. The noble Lord, boiling with rage at his ignominious defeat, had asserted that his majority was gained by fifty different false statements. But what said Lord Morpeth on the hustings at Leeds, in the presence of the two hon. Members for the West Riding, and of the hon. Members for that borough. He declared that there could be no mistake between the propositions of the Whig Government and those of the right hon. Baronet and his supporters; the one party was for free trade and protective duties; that the handwriting was upon the wall, and that he who ran might read it. Sir, the electors did read it, and sent my two hon. Friends to convey their answer. Mr. Baines, too, in his paper (an authority with hon. Members opposite) had asserted that it was not the landed interest, but the manufacturers who had returned the two hon. Members, and that they had, by so doing, declared themselves in favour of a sliding scale, instead of either a fixed duty or the abolition of the Corn-laws. Sir, during the recess, I thought it my duty to watch the proceedings of the Anti-Corn-law League, who were agitating the country by the most violent and infamous placards, headed in large letters—" the base, bloody, and brutal landlords keep the bread of life from the poor;" and who were sending forth agitators, uttering falsehoods even more horrible than this, to pay whose expenses they have lately been exposing their wives and daughters at Manchester, to the insolence of every coxcomb who chose to pay a shilling for his amusement. I also made inquiries into the truth of their assertions that the Corn-laws were the cause of the depression of trade, and of the misery and starvation of the working classes; and I found, that during the operation of the Corn-laws in the last twenty years, the Messrs. Marshall, flax spinners of Leeds, have accumulated two millions in money, 422 and have purchased immense landed estates, but this firm were not satisfied with this enormous wealth; they must carry out, by themselves, the principles of free trade, and set up mills in Belgium where there are no Corn-laws, and where labour is at a starvation price; and as some Gentlemen opposite may wish to follow their example, I will give them the opportunity. On the 29th of January, 1842, there appeared an advertisement in the Leeds Intelligencer, from a person in Brussels, who was desirous of meeting with a partner of commercial experience. He states himself to be "possessed of a splendid estate of 100 acres of land, situated on the banks of the river Dyle, within three miles of the Louvain railway; —that there were plenty of populous villages in the neighbourhood; that wages were considerably lower than in any other part of the country; that an exact estimate had been made of the number of operatives necessary to be employed in a flax mill of 10,000 or 14,000 spindles, at a saving of 2,000l. annually; that Belgian flax mills are protected for the home market, by an inward duty upon foreign yarns of about 10 per cent. and in all probability also an export duty of 6 per cent will soon be laid upon raw flax, and of 25 per cent. upon tow. A flax and tow-mill in the locality, with its hydraulic power and cheap wages, will, in all probability, yield 25 per cent. per annum." I will add a few more instances of the injurious effects of the Corn-laws of Anti-Corn-law League manufacturers. I am credibly informed, and the House will rejoice to hear, that the credit of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Philips) stands as high as ever on the Exchange in Manchester;—that he is still a man oimmense wealth, and has purchased extensive landed estates. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) it is true, had long since retired from trade; but so horror-struck was he with the cruelty and oppression of that factory system, by which his enormous fortune was amassed, that he had determined upon spending the remainder of his life in assisting to amend it. The hon. Member for Stockport, too, (Mr. Cobden,) had during these last twelve years accumulated half a milhon of money, and when, night after night, during the last Session he was asserting that the Corn-laws had ruined the trade in Lancashire, he was actually, at that 423 very time, running his mill,* both day and night; but, Sir, I must admit that the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring) has produced the only argument in favour of a repeal of the Corn-laws; for his opposition to them has enabled him to practise his principles of free-trade on the public purse to such an extent, as very fairly to have entitled him to the character of a freebooter. [Laughter, arid cries of order.] I beg pardon, Sir, if I have used too strong a word, but the working classes cannot understand upon what other principles the learned Doctor has pocketed 17,000.l of the public money. In my own neighbourhood, too, I made enquiries into the state of trade, and I will call the attention of the House to a placard which I hold in my hand, dated the 8th of May, 1841. At the commencement of that month, her Majesty's late Government (tottering to their fall), issued a circular throughout the country calling on their friends to agitate for a moderate fixed duty on corn. One of these circulars found its way to Bingley, and a meeting of Anti-Corn-law land and mill-owners was immediately held,—W. Ellis, Esq., in the chair. They agreed to resolutions, stating,That the cotton and worsted trades carried on in that parish had been in a most depressed state for the last three or four years, —that such depression had reduced to poverty and distress great numbers of the working classes, who were wandering through the day in search of work in a state of miserable despondency.And they attributed this distress to the Corn-laws. The remainder of the petition is full of cant phrases similar to those generally used by the Anti-Corn-law League, such as "navigating the earth," "trading at the antipodes," "exchanging Manchester cotton-balls and Sheffield needles for cheese, and St. Bernard dog-skins on the tops of the Alps, &c." There were thirteen signatures to this precious document, one copy of which was transmitted to the House of Commons, another to the House of Lords, and a third to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to be used by him and his Colleagues in a certain quarter to obtain a dissolution of Parliament. I will now, Sir, give a brief history of these thirteen 424 petitioners. The chairman of this meeting, since these ruinous Corn-laws came into operation, has purchased a mill, and a very valuable estate in the parish, and during these very three or four last years, whilst the cotton trade has been in so depressed a state, he has actually erected one immense mill, taken another, and filled them with power looms. The second signature is that of a gentleman, who is partner in a firm, which has, during the last thirty years, purchased landed estates, valued by them at 18,000l. a year, besides realizing 25,000l. a year, in money; and has also, during most of this period, as well as during the whole of the last three or four years, been working four immense cotton mills. The third signature is that of a person who, five years ago, retired from the linen-drapery business, and who has, during these last three or four years, purchased one mill, taken two more, filled them all three with power looms, and is carrying on what is called in Yorkshire, "a rattling trade." The fourth on the list was a few years back an operative paper maker: but he has, during the last three or four years, purchased one of the largest paper mills in that part of the country, a very pretty landed estate adjoining to it, keeps his carriage and pair, and lives in dashing style. The fifth name is that of a worsted manufacturer, who is supposed to have during these last twenty years made 30,000l. or 40,000l., and he, too, during these last three or four years, has erected one of the largest worsted mills in the country, has filled it with power-looms, and he also is carrying on "a rattling trade." The sixth is a grocer in the town, he has saved a pretty income and educated his family well, but being a Dissenter, and anxious to show his hatred towards the Established Church, has brought up one of his sons to enter that church and receive a little of its wool. The seventh on the list, three or four years ago, purchased a very large cotton-mill, and a quantity of land surrounding it. He also has filled it with power-looms, and is carrying on "a rattling trade." The eighth man has also during these last three or four years, filled his mill with power-looms, whilst the ninth has purchased considerable landed property in the parish, and retired altogether from trade. The remainder I believe to be either sons or persons connected with those whom I have already mentioned. 425 [Hear, hear, and laughter.] But, Sir, wish this were all I have to bring before the House, connected with this placard. It is my painful duty now to mention a fact that will soon stop the derisive cheers of hon. Members opposite. The chairman of this very meeting, the man who placarded the parish of Bingley with these resolutions, pointing out the landed proprietors as the persons who had brought misery and distress on the work-people, — this man was at the time on the point of taking a fresh mill. He soon after fitted it up with power-looms; but did that gentleman go into the market-place, and say to the people, "Why stand ye idle all the day long? why eat ye the bread of idleness? Come into my mill and I will give you work! "—No, Sir, he did not do this, but he sent into the county of Lancaster, where that infamous conspiracy bad been entered into between the Poor-law commissioners and the Greggs, Ashworths, and Anti Corn-law League for the purpose of equalising wages, and reducing the 10l. per cent. that had been advanced upon the wages of the poor starving hand-loom weavers. Sir, I say, he sent into the county of Lancaster, and there picked up a large number of poor starving families, families who had been reduced to such a state of misery and distress by their former task-masters, that they had been thankful (as the hon. Member for Bolton, Dr. Bowring, asserted) to eat their food from off the very dung-hills. Yes, Sir, he brought these unfortunate and ill-treated families to Bingley, there to amass another fortune in another mill, and then, no doubt, again to be driven away and left to wander through the day "in search of work, in a state of miserable despondency." [Hear.] In his anxiety to reduce wages, he forgot the claims of the working classes of Bingley, he forgot those men whom he had excited to a pitch of desperation — he forgot that he, along with other manufacturers, had reared and bred them in the parish; he forgot those very men for whose sufferings he himself had just been petitioning the Legislature.— Hon. Members opposite do not now cry "hear, hear," and laugh. No, they blush at such a disclosure; —they tremble at such an exposure;—for this man has sprung the mine too soon for the Anti Corn- law League, at Manchester:—he has laid bare the secret of this great Anti Corn? 426 law excitement throughout the country. He has let the working classes in the North of England know their real motives, and what would be the real consequence of a repeal of the Corn-laws,—that consequence would be the reduction of their wages,—to the same level as wages on the Continent; the filling of the mills with power looms, and the casting off the work-people, "to wander through the day in search of work, in a state of miserable despondency."—Sir, these Anti-Corn-law agitators, assert that great numbers of the manufacturers in the country are insolvent, and that the Corn-laws are the cause of that insolvency. Sir, I have enquired into the truth of this assertion, and I am sorry to say that as far as the insolvency goes, it is but too correct. The Corn-laws, however, are not the cause, —the reason is,—these men were never solvent in their lives! I will now, Sir, endeavour to describe to the House, who are the manufacturers in the north of England in the present day. They are a remnant of that high minded and honourable class of men, who raised the trade of this country to the highest pitch of commercial respectability;—a remnant of those men who walked the streets of their market towns with an erect front, and stood upon change, with honour written in their countenances, whose word was their bond, and whose dealings were as unsullied as those of the nobles of the land. There are a few, Sir, who still endeavour to tread in their steps, but they have to contend against men, who are gambling speculators in trade, and who know no bounds to their insatiate thirst for wealth, a body of men trading with false capital under the shelter of Joint-Stock Banks, many of which are themselves little better than societies formed for the protection of swindling. These men get their names entered in the books of one of these banks, they then wait upon a wool stapler, and offer to purchase a quantity of wool, making use of this Joint-Stock Bank as a reference for character and capital,—the reply of course is:—" Oh, they are highly respectable,— then. have their accounts in our books,—you are quite safe." They then purchase the wool at three months credit, have it converted by their power mills into goods, and dispose of it at market during the ensuing week for ready money. The consequence is, that they have to sacrifice a 427 large amount, not only to the merchant, but also to the wool stapler, who is not paid in cash at the end of the three months, but in two months bills. These men go on very prosperously so long as there is a brisk demand for the goods in the market, but when there is a stagnation in trade, caused by their recklessly overglutting the market, they inevitably become bankrupts: — and what scenes are witnessed in the bankruptcy courts!— Numbers of honest manufacturers and tradespeople of various callings, who for years have bean industriously saving up their honest earnings with frugal care, find themselves in one moment ruined, by the artful villany and a swindling of one man, — it is no unusual thing to find that the money which some confiding neigh-bour had, on his death bed, placed in their keeping, in the fond, but alas, deceitful, hope, that his property would be considered a sacred trust, and administered to the uses for which lie left it,—it is no unusual thing I say to find that such money has been risked, and lost, in their own private trade by speculating manufacturers of this description. Well, these men become bankrupts, but they have scarcely crossed the threshold of the bankruptcy court, before they again start in trade,—their previous capital had been the labour of their work people; the capital they now possess has been obtained by some friend's having been the petitioning creditor, to a large amount, under their former bankruptcies, and by these means obtaining a dividend on the sums claimed, which ought to have been divided amongst their bonâ fide creditors. I will now, Sir, inform the House what are the ultimate designs of this Anti-Corn-law league. They commenced their operations three years ago. At first they only attempted an alteration of the Corn-laws; but finding very few supporters in the country, they held out a promise to the enemies of the Established Church, that if they would assist them in obtaining a total repeal of these laws, they would then join them in an attack upon that Establishment,—a treaty being ratified between these parties, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell) was immediately invited over to take a seat at their first banquet. They there declared that the League was possessed of sufficient capital "to buy up" the landed property of the whole English nobility: and the hon. Member 428 for Cork asserted that "the landlords" venison was moistened with the widow's tears, and that their claret was dyed with the orphan's blood,"—rather a cool assertion, Sir, for a man to make, who has himself existed for many years on the pence exacted by the priests from the poorest peasantry in the world !But, Sir, I would ask, what have the farmers to expect from these cotton Lords, when they have bought up the landed property of the country? It is their practice when they purchase land to have it immediately re-valued. They carry the principle of the ledger into their rent-roll, —the rents are doubled; and I have known many families in my part of the country ruined by the oppression of these men. I remember an instance where a poor farmer, (the father of a large family) had his rent raised in this manner. He struggled for a few years to meet the additional demand, for he could not bear to leave the spot where his forefathers had dwelt before him. The few hundred pounds he had saved during a long life of industry, under his former kind arid indulgent landlord, were soon exhausted, and when the time approached that his cattle and his corn were to be seized to pay the exorbitant demands of this "new proprietor of the soil," he died of a broken heart. His wife soon followed him to that 'bourn from whence no traveller returns.' Their eldest son, just bursting into manhood, endeavoured still to keep the family together, but the last time I heard of him, reason had lost her empire o'er his brain, and he had become the inmate of a lunatic asylum. The manufacturing members of this league also want to increase their profits by reducing the price of wages; they also want to become the corn merchants of England; to convert one floor of their mills into a granary, and employ part of their machinery to grind the corn. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but you cannot deceive the working classes; you have tried to make them believe differently, but all your hired agitators have failed to do so. Yes, the poor of England would have to go down to these men in the manufacturing districts with money in their sacks' mouths to buy corn, for there would be a great famine in the land. But this was only a part of their designs: now mark what would follow. Have hon. Members never been told of the Truck 429 System? Have they never heard of the labourers being paid their wages in goods? Lest they should not, I will now explain more minutely the manner in which the poor are treated by many of the manufacturers, &c.; and 1 will expose to the House such a system of tyranny, oppression, and plunder, committed on these half-starved operatives, as is a disgrace to any Christian country. Sir, when the poor labourers go to receive their work from these manufacturers, they now find that it generally consists of a very inferior article. They find the wool difficult to comb, and the warps full of flaws. On the Saturday evening—that period which ought to be the sweetest hour of the week to the working man—when the reward of his labour—the worth of his hire—the price set upon the sweat of his brow—ought to be as freely given as it would be ever gratefully received—when the honied drop should sweeten the bitter cup of gall which the poor man has so often to drain to the very dregs—even this is pilfered from him. He takes his work to the mill, and who do you think receives it? Not the master of the mill—no; but an over-looker, who pretends carefully to examine it, and, of course, finds fault with it. He says to the poor fellow, "You have done this work ill: I must deduct so much from your combing." And the poor weavers, who are perhaps only receiving 3s. 6d. or 4s. a-week are constantly mulcted in this manner by these overlookers, who have their own wages paid out of what they can deduct from these plundered wretches, and a per centage on the amount. Then, again, mark what follows; they have not even the small amount paid in money,—it is paid in goods—in rotten corn—in "cheap flour;" and when the poor man carries it home to his wife and family, after in vain endeavouring to induce his master to pay him his wages in money, he finds that the flour which he had received as wages in the previous week still unconsumed, the quality being so bad, that the stomachs of his sickly children had been unable to retain it. [" Oh, oh, from the Opposition.] Sir, I assert that all this is true, for I have heard these statements during the course of my life from hundreds of the working classes; and what is more, they say that they have no hope of relief or succour from the Anti-Corn-law League: the only chance they have of being rescued from their oppressors is, by 430 the landed interest rallying around them, as they ever had done, and warding off the deadly blow. Sir, these are the men for whom the landed interest of England is to be destroyed! — these are the men for whom the yeomanry of Great Britain (their country's strength, and England's pride), are to be driven from their home! these are the men who are to become the possessors of the English soil! these are the men who are ruining the character of the British merchants and manufacturers on the continent! men who live, and move, and have their being, for money alone; they care not how they obtain it; what cruelty and oppression they inflict, so long as they amass wealth from the sweat of the poor man's brow, They refuse him the price of his labour; they look for nothing but enormous profits; they declare, that there is no religion in trade; in short, they are, to use the emphatic language of Mr. Burke, a set of men whose ledger is their bible, whose counting-house is their church, and whose money is their God! Sir, I have heard a great deal said to-night, on the blessings of free-trade, and that by it alone, this country can be saved. It happened, that during the recess, the two noble Lords, the Member for the City of London, and the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) like the poor Bingley operatives, were wandering through the country "in search of employment in a state of miserable despondency." Some charitably-disposed persons at Bridgenorth and Plymouth took pity on them, and presented them with addresses of condolence. I have not a copy of the one presented to the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, nor his reply; but I recollect he asserted, that the principles of free-trade were sound, and that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) would have a very easy task in governing the country, as the Whigs had left nothing for him to do. I suppose, Sir, the noble Lord has been trying to prove the correctness of this assertion, by his own conduct during these last few days. But, Sir, I have the address to the noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton, and his reply. The former said, "We confidently hope, that the period will speedily arrive, when it will please her Majesty to restore you and your colleagues to power." The noble Lord, no doubt, hoped so too, but he said, "we have attempted to apply to commerce those principles of trade, 431 which mankind have acknowledged as the only sure foundation for permanent prosperity." Now, Adam Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, M'Culloch, and other leading advocates of this theory have admitted that the subject was one involved in the greatest difficulty and obscurity; but it was reserved for the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) to dispel the clouds, it was left for the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring) and the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Scrope) to become bright constellations, it was destined for the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ewart) to become the evening star: ever singing, as he twinkles, "the blessings of free trade," and for the two noble Lords to become the sun and moon, in this expansive, well-defined, social system. With the permission of the House, I will give them M'Culloch's contradictory opinions as to the soundness of free trade. In page 13 of his work, entitled "Commerce;" he says:—It is clear, therefore, that in estimating the comparative advantageousness of the home and foreign trades, it will not do to look merely at the number of transactions in each. The real question is, which occasions the greatest subdivision of employments, and gives the most powerful spur to industry? This, however, is a question that does not, perhaps, admit of any very satisfactory resolution.Adam Smith, too, in the second chapter of his 4th Book on the Wealth of Nations, asserts, thatBy restraining, either by high duties or by absolute prohibition, the importation of such goods from foreign countries as can be produced at home, the monopoly of the home market is more or less secured to the domestic industry employed in producing them. Thus the prohibition of importing either live cattle or salt provisions from foreign countries, secures to the graziers of Great Britain the monopoly of the home market for butcher's meat. The high duties upon the importation of corn, which in times of moderate plenty, amount to a prohibition, give a like advantage to the growers of that commodity. The prohibition of the importation of foreign woollens is equally favourable to the woollen manufacturers. The silk manufacture, though altogether employed upon foreign materials, has lately obtained the same advantage. The linen manufacture has not yet obtained it, but is making great strides towards it.In the 7th chapter you will find the following passage, referring to the following policy of the country;—Secondly, this monopoly has necessarily con- 432 tributed to keep up the rate of profit in all the different branches of British trade, higher than it naturally would have been, had all nations been allowed a free trade to the British colonies. The monopoly of the colony trade as it necessarily drew towards that trade a greater portion of the capital of Great Britain than what would have gone to it of its own accord; so, by the expulsion of all foreign capitals, it necessarily reduced the whole quantity of capital employed in that trade below what it naturally would have been in the case of a free trade. But by lessening the competition of capital in that branch of trade, it necessarily raised the rate of profit in that branch. By lessening, too, the competition of British capitals in all other branches of trade, it necessarily raised the rate of British profit in all those other branches. Whatever may have been at any particular period since the establishment of the Act of Navigation, the state or extent of the mercantile capital of Great Britain, the monopoly of the colony trade must, during the continuance of that state, have raised the ordinary rate of British profit higher than it otherwise would have been, both in that and all the other branches of British trade.Malthus, too, in his "Principles of Political Economy," revised by himself, just before his death, states that,Since that era of these distinguished writers, the subject had attracted the attention of a greater number of persons, particularly during the last twenty or thirty years. All the main propositions of the science have been examined, and the events which have since occurred, tending either to illustrate or confute them have been repeatedly discussed. The result of this examination and discussion seems to be, that on some very important points there are still great differences of opinion. Among these, perhaps, may he reckoned, 1st. The definitions of wealth and productive labour; 2nd. The nature and measures of value; 3rd. The nature and extent of the principles of demand and supply; 4th. The origin and process of rent; 5th. The causes which determine the wages of labour and the profits of stock; 6th. The causes which practically retard and limit the progress of wealth; 7th. The level of the precious metals in different countries; 8th. The principles of taxation, &c.And at page 418, he adds:With regard to these causes (alluding to the causes of distress), such as the cultivation of our poor soils, our restrictions upon commerce, and our weight of taxation, I find it very difficult to admit a theory of our distresses so inconsistent with the theory of our comparative prosperity. While the greatest quantity of our poor lands were in cultivation, while there were more than usual restrictions upon commerce, and very little corn was im. ported, and while taxation was at its height 433 the country confessedly increased in wealth, with a rapidity never known before. Since some of our poorest lands have been thrown out of cultivation, since the peace has removed many of our restrictions upon commerce, and notwithstanding our Corn-laws, we have imported a great quantity of corn, and since seventeen millions of taxes have been taken off from the people, we have experienced the greatest degree of distress both among capitalists and labourers.Had it not been so late a period of the evening, I could have quoted Mr. Huskisson to show that during the last few years of his life, he too clearly perceived, that the principles of free trade, as defined by hon. Members opposite were wild and visionary; he even went so far as to declare in his last speech on the Corn-laws, that the farmer is not only justly entitled "to remuneration and protection," but that "a permanent fixed duty was out of the question." The noble Lord has quoted these "enlightened men" as his authority to show that the "soundness and truth of the principles of" free trade have long been demonstrated in reasoning;" but, Sir, I think they prove quite the reverse, and I have therefore trespassed thus on the time of the House, in order to correct his error; as my doing so may be beneficial to himself as well as to the country. Before I sit down I will once more appeal to the landed proprietors of England. I ask you whether you intend to join in assisting the anti Corn-law League in their deep design of tyranny and oppression against the working classes. The labouring poor have never yet appealed to you in vain—you have ever been ready to relieve them in their distresses, and to stand by them in their necessities. They now look to you;—to you, and the right hon. Baronet, so long as he continues to walk in the light of the Constitution,—and I feel convinced that they will not look in vain; I feel convinced that they will find you now as they ever have done, their best friends and protectors.
§ Debate adjourned.