§ On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,520
§ Mr. Ward
said, that it was with very great reluctance that he offered any opposition to the further progress of a bill which the House had already sanctioned by repeated and large majorities. But he had a public duty to perform. His motion was the proper preliminary to any legislation on the subject of the Corn-laws, and it was not his fault that it was not so brought forward. The moment the House gave its assent to the resolutions on which the bill of the right hon. Baronet was founded, he took the earliest notice day which was open, on which to fix his discussion. His hopes of submitting his motion on the day he had selected were certainly disappointed, not from any fault of his, but in consequence of the very unusual appearance of the benches opposite—an appearance which he admitted was ac counted for by the natural desire of hon. Gentlemen to give the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) a day's relaxation before submitting the important financial statement which he had since laid before Parliament. He (Mr. Ward), however, had always looked upon the motion which he wished to bring before the House as absolutely essential to the proper consideration of the question of the Corn-laws. It had legitimate claims to attention from is intrinsic importance, and it derived ten-fold weight from the views which had been broached in the late debates, and from the opinions of men who were of the highest authority on economical subjects. He found that the noble Lord the Member for London made the existence of certain peculiar burdens specially affecting the agricultural interest his measure of compensation. He found the noble Member for Sunder land assuming the existence of those bur dens. He found Mr. M'Culloch going into the subject very largely, and assuming throughout, as the basis of his argument, that there were burdens which pressed upon the land to the amount of 5s. per acre; and he saw the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government absolutely taunt his opponents with a want of straightforwardness, and explicitness in not stating the grounds of their 8s. duty, and challenging them, if they wished to enlighten the House and the country as to their motives, to discuss the basis of the protection which they proposed. But the right hon. Baronet himself was not much more specific in his arguments at least in that House. Out of that House 521 he had gone at considerable detail into this subject, and the right hon. Gentle man's opinion being a matter of incalculable importance, since his very errors were the basis of legislation, he thought himself justified in alluding to it, especially as he had been much more reserved upon the subject, since the discussion on the Corn-laws had commenced in Parliament. He should first advert shortly to the opinions given on this subject by a high authority on political economy, Mr. M'Culloch.We believe that land is more heavily taxed than any other species of property in the and if so, its owners are clearly entitled to insist that a duty should be laid on foreign corn when imported, sufficient fully to countervail the excess of burdens laid upon the land." If," was said to be a great peace-maker; but not in this instance, for Mr. M'Culloch assumed what he was bound to prove, that land was more heavily taxed than any other kind of properly. He then proceeded—So long as taxation affects all classes equally, none of them has any peculiar right to complain; nor can it, however heavy, justify any attempts to protect either one or more classes from foreign competition. But when ever it ceases to be equal, whenever it presses more severely on some than others, that moment do those that are most heavily taxed ac quire a legitimate claim to an equivalent protection. It is impossible to refuse them this, without trampling on every principle of justice. Such protection is not given them as a favour, but to keep them where they have a right to be kept—on the same level as the other classes of their countrymen. If they be relieved from these peculiar burdens, the necessity for the countervailing duties will of course cease, and they may, and indeed should be repealed forthwith; but the equalization of taxation at home must, in all cases, precede the equalization of the duties on importation from abroad. Land is a species of property that cannot be concealed; it is visible to every one; and the fair presumption consequently is, that it will be more heavily taxed than the capital of the manufacturer or merchant, which it is frequently very difficult to trace. Any one indeed, who will compare the amount of poor-rate, county-rates, and such like burdens paid by the land, with that paid by other sorts of property will be satisfied that the former is charged far beyond its fair proportion.He quite agreed with the doctrine, that land in England had a considerable share of the public burdens to bear, but the question was, not whether the land was highly 522 taxed or not, because they all knew it was: but whether it was more highly taxed than property derived from other sources of industry and labour. They could not make a comparison between the land of England and that of Poland, and say that one paid a larger duty to the revenue than the other; but in order to entitle them selves to a protecting duty, the land-owners must show that they bore peculiar burdens, as compared with other classes of English subjects. They must show that they were subjected to those burdens not for their own benefit, but for that of the other classes who did not contribute to them. If those burdens were proved, they had a legitimate right to protection; if not, a double injustice was done to the other classes. He now came to the speech of the right hon. Baronet,—I now come, I repeat, to a most important question— that of the introduction of foreign corn. I must repeat to you here the opinion which I have declared heretofore, which I have declared to you, and also in the Commons' House of Parliament, that I cannot consent to substitute a fixed duty of 8s. per quarter for the present ascending and descending scale. I prefer the principle of the ascending and descending scale, and I do not consider, when I look to the burden which land in this country is subjected to, that a fixed duty of 8s. per quarter on corn brought here from Poland and the north of Europe will afford sufficient protection to the land of this country. The proposition of buying corn in the cheapest market, is certainly tempting in theory; but before you determine that that is just, you must ascertain the amount of burdens to which land in other countries is subjected, and compare them with the burdens imposed on land in this country. Look at the amount of poor-rates levied from land in this country, compared with the amount levied from the profits of manufactures. Who pays the highway-rate? Who pays the church-rate? Who pays the poor-rate and the tithe 1 I say not altogether—but chiefly— the landed occupier of this country; and if there be corn produced by other land not subject to those burdens, it would clearly be not just to the land of this country to admit that corn on equal terms.The convictions entertained by the right hon. Baronet at present on this subject were somewhat new. At all events the opinions of gentlemen connected with the agricultural interest, as to the bur dens which pressed on land, were by no means fixed or unanimous in 1834. He re collected a curious debate in that year on the subject of agricultural distress. The 523 subject was brought forward by the Marquess of Chandos, who drew a heart-rending picture of the agriculturists. He said—Their savings were gone, their credit had failed, their resources were exhausted, their condition was becoming worse every day.They were said to be weighed down with heavy burdens, but the cause of them was perfectly mysterious. There was a great deal of vague talk as to the pressure on the land; but neither the right hon. Baronet, nor any body else, defined or specified very accurately the peculiar imposts levied upon it. Tithes and poor-rates were by no means so generally insisted on as the fact of the distress. The malt duty was slightly alluded to. The surcharges on horses and labourers employed occasionally as house. hold servants, were spoken of; and not unnaturally, every speaker dwelt on the extraordinary increase of poor-rate which threatened to swallow up the land. Lord Spencer agreed in this.Nothing that could be done with regard to other taxes, would afford half the relief that would be derived from a better administration of the poor-law.The only way he knew of to promote the prosperity of agriculture was to promote the prosperity of those who became the purchasers of agricultural produce. This difference of opinion was characteristic of the whole debate. A great number of gentlemen connected with the landed interest took part in it, but instead of the deep conviction which the right hon. Baronet announced at Tam-worth that he entertained, there was the greatest possible conflict of opinions as to the causes of agricultural decay. Every speaker had his own nostrum. Every man was his own burden-maker. Lord Ashburton alluded to beer-shops, and dwelt upon the impossibility of the land-owner taking up and laying down labour with the same facility as the manufacturer. Mr. Cobbett attributed the evils which pressed down the agriculturist to the malt-tax and a standing army. Mr. Maxwell proposed a tax on absentees. Mr. Cart-wright said that distress was not confined to titheable parishes, and Mr. Cayley maintained that his constituents who did not pay 1s. 6d. in the pound for poor-rales were just as much distressed as the Bucks farmers, and added, "nothing that the 524 Government can do will remedy or penetrate, as it were, the interstices of our distress," of which the currency was the cause, and must be the cure. Was he not justified in saying that at that period no sort of unanimity prevailed as to the existence of any peculiar burdens. With regard to the malt-duty, he thought they were indebted to the Speaker for having dissipated many erroneous views on this question, by asking a party of barley growers amongst his constituents, every one of whom was ready to make oath that the whole amount of the malt-duty came out of his own pocket, "whether they had never heard of such a person as the consumer, who certainly paid nine-tenths of the tax?" The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) confirmed this opinion in a debate on the malt-tax, which followed shortly after that to which he had alluded, and in which the Marquess of Chandos maintained that the malt-duty amounted to 70l. or 80l. a-year on every farm of 250 acres. The farmers were said to be unanimous in their cry for an alteration, and the noble Marquess certainly took care that it should be sufficiently sweeping, for he proposed the entire extinction of the duty. Mr. Handley also said that the malt-tax "was the most injudicious, partial, and unjust of all possible imposts." The right hon. Baronet rode the storm gallantly on this occasion. He said,If you repeal this tax, to a property-tax you must come, and I congratulate you gentlemen of the landed interest, on finding your-selves relieved from the pressure of the malt-tax, and falling back on a good, comfortable, property-tax, with a proposal, probably, for a graduated scale. And you, who represent the heavy lands of this country, I felicitate you on the prospect which lies before you. If you believe that the substitute will be advantageous to your interest, be it so; but do not blame those who offered you a timely warning, and cautioned you against exchanging the light pressure of the malt-duty for the scourge of a property-tax.The right hon. Member for Dorchester also went into the whole question, and seemed to have considerable doubts as to the real amount of his burdens, though, as a landowner, he thought it necessary to assume their existence. He said,It must not be dissembled that heavy and grievous burdens press upon the landed in terest—and what are they? First, there are the ' poor-laws,'—but means have been re- 525 cently devised for lightening their pressure. What is the next in importance? 'The tithes,' but there is reason to hope that something will be done to lighten the weight of them by an equitable system of commutation. Then there are the * county-rates.' Now, a reduction in the amount of that tax has likewise been distinctly promised to the landed interest. The only unalleviated burden on that interest, that would then remain, would be the malt-tax, and if that were removed, the repeal of the Corn-laws would be urged upon the House to-morrow.He (Mr. Ward) should now take the bur dens on land as they were enumerated in the Tamworth list, which was, he believed, the last published. They were the poor-rates, county-rates, highway-rates, church-rates, and tithes. These were the burdens for which the right hon. Baronet thought that the noble Lord's duty of 8s. was a most inadequate compensation, an act of miser able parsimony and injustice on the part of the Whigs. Most of the grievances which the right hon. Member for Dorchester had alluded to were remedied in the manner in which he had hinted. They had therefore only to deal now with peculiar burdens. Take that of poor-rates. The most prominent feature connected with it was its progressive diminution. In 1834 they amounted to 6,317,254l., and in 1840 they fell to 4,576,965l. A most important question arose, as to the amount for which the land claimed compensation, for in 1818 the poor-rates amounted to 9,000,000l. Now, did the landed interest rest their demands on the large or the small amount? But compensation for such a charge appeared to him peculiarly objectionable, for it was holding out an encouragement to abuse to say that none could be remedied without lessening the claim to public indemnity. Besides, the compensation tax could never work fairly if given in the shape of a protecting duty on corn. A poor-rate was levied on every species of property— houses as well as land, and in proportion as you added to the price of corn, in order to benefit the landholders, you increased the burdens of the rest of the community who contributed their due share to the public revenue. In 1801, the number of inhabited houses (according to the statement of the right hon. Baronet the other night) was 1,875,456; and in 1841, it was 3,464,007. The right hon. Baronet gave the rental of land at 39,400,000l., and he showed the rental of 526 houses, tithes, and railways amounted to 33,400,000l.; and though the latter description of property contributed to all the burdens of the State, and poor-rates amongst them, in an equal proportion to the former, a claim was now made on the one-half of the rateable property to indemnify the other half, because it happened to be held by landowners. Again, the rate was assessed not on the actual but the annual value, so that a man having 1,000l. in houses which yielded 7 per cent., but constituted a property of a perishable nature, paid twice as much as the man holding the same property in land yielding 3½ per cent, but being of an improving and permanent value. The landholders gave no encouragement to the formation of railways. They only held a very trifling proportion of shares, but the moment these works were formed they were heavily rated. He was fully justified, therefore, in stating, that whatever may have been the proportions in 1826, considerably more than one third of the poor-rate was now paid by property unconnected with land, and yet the holders of it claimed no compensation for their burdens, though every shilling that raised the price of corn constituted a double tax upon them. There was no end to petitions from boards of guardians, praying for the admission of corn duty free, at all events, for the use of the poor in work houses. Land bore a somewhat larger share of the burdens of the country, only because it was the most widely extended property.- It was constantly shifting its population, and its supply of unemployed poor to the manufacturing districts since 1831 was300,000. The landholders were no more entitled to indemnity for poor-rate than Marylebone or Westminster were to charge their rates on the consolidated fund. To the county-rates precisely the same reasoning applied. They were raised for the purpose of administering justice, without which property could not exist. The land did no more than every borough town did for itself, and even as regarded the land itself, compensation could not be given without injustice in the way proposed, for there were 15,000,000 acres of pasture, and about 20,000,000 acres of arable land, and the duty on corn compensated the arable at the expense of the pasture land, for both were equally liable to the county-rate, yet by every shilling that the price of corn was 527 raised, the price of every thing the grazier used in feeding his stock was enhanced. He came next to the highway rates, which might be considered one of the conditions of property. They formed the streets of the agricultural community, and should be no more paid for by the community than the paving and lighting of the City of London. The main trunks were paid for by the public through tolls; and it was the interest of the agriculturists to keep up the connections with them, not for the sake of the public, but their own. What was a farm worth without a road to it? And what would be the first act of a landlord when property was so situated, but to make a road as the most certain way of adding to his rent? The want of roads was an absolute curse to the landlord. Had Spain good roads to the coast, a most valuable corn trade might be opened to this country. The amount of highway-rates in 1832 was 1,169,891l., while the tolls collected on main trunks were 1,532,956l. As to tithes, he denied they could be called a burden on the land. They constituted a co-proprietary right, and were a distinct property arising out of the land. Land was bought either tithe-free or titheable. If tithe-free, so much more, if titheable, so much less, was paid. It might as well be said, by a man holding 1,000 acres, that he was aggrieved because he did not get another farm of 100 acres adjoining his own. They might differ as to the character of the property, or as to the purposes to which it might be most advantageously applied; but the landowners had no more right to claim compensation for its burden than he had to the estates of hon. Gentle men opposite. Upon this point Mr. Deacon Hume said,A corn law granted for the purpose of relieving the land from tithes, is a deliberate transfer of a charge from one party who is liable to pay it, to another party who is under no such obligation; and nothing but an in crease of population, which has added greatly to the value of the remaining nine parts of the field, could have enabled the owner of it to execute a device for making the people pay him also for the tenth part, which never was his property.The tenant, not the landlord, had a claim upon the State in respect to tithes, and the tenant's claim had been satisfied by the Commutation Bill, which was now 528 being carried into effect. Tithes taken in kind were unquestionably a heavy tax upon the profits asising from the application of his capital and stock, but for this a commutation act, not a Corn-law, was the remedy. Another point alluded to in the Tamworth speech was Church-rates. He found that the charge on this account amounted to the miserable sum of 506,312l. upon a rental of forty millions, and one-third of that sum, at least, was paid by Dissenters. How often, in the course of the discussions which had taken place in that House upon the subject of Church-rates, had the payment of that charge been represented as a sacred duty. That was the language which the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford was in the habit of employing upon the subject. A few nights since the hon. Baronet presented a petition from the Bath Lay Association, which contained the following passage:—That while your petitioners rejoice in witnessing the great exertions which have been made to enlarge our old churches, and to raise new ones to the honour of Almighty God, they lament to see a very small but highly discontented portion of their dissenting fellow subjects again agitating the country, in order to deprive the Church of England of her ancient, her just, and most undoubted rights of property, by endeavouring to abolish those Church-rates without which it would be impossible to keep our sacred edifices, whether new or of ancient structure, in repair, and thus are striving to work a grievous public injury, especially to the poor of our rural districts.He could not consider Church-rates as bearing the character given to them in the petition, but those who did so represent them at one moment, ought not, at another, to call them a peculiar burden upon land, and call upon Parliament for compensation in respect to them. The petition went on to say—Your petitioners humbly represent that Church-rates are an ancient impost, not levied on persons but on property, and that, consequently, whoever refuses to pay the same is guilty of a non-fulfilment of a clear engagement, which he made when his estate or house was rented or purchased.He did not subscribe to this doctrine; on the contrary, he believed that Church-rates were a personal impost, and were justly felt as a great grievance by those who did not belong to the Church. But, however that might be, it was unworthy of English landlords, having given that de- 529 scription of Church-rates, afterwards to turn round and call them a peculiar burden upon themselves. He now came to the actual amount of all the burdens, as they were called, which he had enumerated, and which he must try to reduce to figures. In 1839 the county and poor-rates amounted to 5,412,865/. From that sum he would deduct one third, 1,804,286/., as the portion assessed upon houses, factories, &c,. leaving 3,608,579l. for the whole amount paid by the land for the support of the poor and the administration of justice on a rental of forty millions. The amount of the Church-rate paid by the land was 337,875l., and of the highway rates (one half) 534,936l., making a total of 4,481,370l., contributed by the landed interest. Thus, then, he arrived at the conclusion, that the sum of 4,481,390l. included all that the landed interest paid in the way of local taxation, as well as for the support of the poor and the administration of justice throughout the kingdom. Now, with respect to gene ral taxation. The gross revenue of the country for the year ending the 5th of January, 1841, was 53,182,586l. Towards this amount the customs and excise and stamp duties contributed 45,415,330l., the land tax only 1,817,341l. Adam Smith stated that the land-tax was imposed by the 4th of William and Mary, and it was originally intended as a substitute for feudal rights of the Crown. And a capital bargain the landowners had made of it, both in amount, and by the dexterity with which they had contrived to shift a large portion of that burden from their own shoulders. Adam Smith said,The tax upon each district does not rise with the rise of rent. The landlords, there fore (he says), have almost all gained the difference between the tax which they, according to the present rent of the estates, ought to pay, and that which they do pay, according to the ancient valuation. A very considerable part of the produce of this tax arises from the rent of houses, and the interest of capital stock. The land-tax of the City of London amounts to 123,399l. 6s. 7d.; Westminster, 63,092l. 1s. 5d.; the parishes of Whitehall and St. James's, to 30,754l. 6s. 3d. A certain proportion is in the same manner assessed upon all the cities and towns corporate in the kingdom, and arises almost altogether from the rent of houses, or of what is supposed to be the interest of the trading and capital stock.The produce of the land-tax, redeemed and unredeemed, paid last year upon 530 lands and tenements, was 1,877,341/., while 1,117,243/. was assessed upon other property. A great proportion of the house property, upon which the tax was levied, had sprung up within the last 150 years. If the tax were now levied as originally intended, on actual rent, it would produce about eight millions annually. The tax, however, had never been altered, although rent had quadrupled in value, and wherever house property had grown up in agricultural districts it was heavily rated, whilst the pressure upon land was being gradually diminished. It was important to compare the taxation borne by the land in foreign countries with that contributed by the landed interest of England. Although the return moved for by the hon. Member for Bolton had not yet been laid upon the Table, there were data sufficient to enable the House to arrive at a tolerably accurate conclusion upon that point.
|In Prussia, the whole revenue derived from land-taxes, customs, excise, salt monopoly, post-office, &c, amounted to.||51,740,000|
|Of which amount land-taxes yield altogether||26,630,000|
|In Austria, the whole revenue from land-tax, customs, tobacco, and salt monopolies, lotteries, stamps, &c, amounted to, in round numbers||164,000,000|
|Of which the taxes from lands and domains yielded||87,000,000|
|Balance from all other taxes||77,000,000|
|In France, the gross revenue amounted to||1,018,750,000|
|Of which lands paid direct 359,499,000||579,669,000|
|Woods & registry, & domains 220,170,000|
|Difference for all other taxes.||438,081,000|
|Of this balance which does not fall upon land the Customs and Excise yield||165,103,000|
|Other indirect taxes||177,205,000|
|Post-office and post-horses||36,380,000|
|Stamps and other taxes||59,393,000|
§ In Belgium, the gross revenue was 3,282,239l., and the amount of the land-tax was 778,0721., or about one-fourth of the whole. In England the land-tax did not amount to one-fourth of the duty on sugar or tea. It was about one-third of 531 the tax which was derived from the poor man's tobacco, and not much more than was obtained from soap. He now came to the assessed taxes. The chief of those taxes was the window-tax, which no one could say was a peculiar burden upon the land. The produce of the window-tax was 1,404,642; of which the landowners paid, perhaps, 140,465l.; for dogs, game duties, and armorial bearings, they paid 397,000l.; for their share of the duties on houses, carriages, &c, they paid 275,356l.; for their share of the land-tax, say 1,000,000l. This would give 1,812,821l. as the sum which the landowners contributed to the direct taxation of the country. He had almost outraged probability in order to arrive at this result, for the landowners did not number more than 60,000, and there were in Great Britain only 187,075 occupiers of land employing labourers. The gross sum paid by this body in local and direct taxation was —for the former, 4,481,370l.; for the latter, 1,812,821l.; making a total of 6,294,191l. Against that he must set the special exemptions which the land enjoyed, some of which were of the most formidable character. In the first place, the landowners enjoyed exemption from the stamp duties which were payable by all classes but themselves. In 1841, the probate duty amounted to 897,705l., and the legacy duty to 1,200,371l., making together 2,098,076l. During the same period, not one shilling was levied upon landed property. But it would be said, that there was a stamp-duty on the transfer of real property. It was difficult to get at the precise amount of duty derived from stamps connected with the sale of land, but it must be borne in mind that such transfers were only occasional, whilst the other operations were perpetually recurring. Even as it was, however, the stamp-duty on the transfer of land was by no means equitably apportioned, as the following statement would show:—
|"Landed property" of the value of 750l. and not reaching 1,000l., is liable to a 1,000l., is liable to a stamp, on transfer, of 9l.||"Personal property, of the value of 8001., and not reaching 1,0001., is liable to a probate duty of 221., and also to the legacy duty.|
|"Again, landed property of the value of 8,00011 and not reaching 10,000l., is liable to a stamp, on transfer, of 85l.||"Personal property, within the same limits of value, is liable to a probate duty of 240l., and also to the legacy duty.|
With a similar disproportion in all other amounts.
If he were to deduct half a million for stamps on the transfer of land, there would still remain one million and a half of special exemptions to set against the special burdens on land. The amount upon which probate and legacy-duty had been paid since 1797, at rates varying from 1 to 10 percent., was 1,081,368,027l. It should not be forgotten, too, that when the stamp-duties were originally proposed by Mr. Pitt, in 1796, they were intended to affect both kinds of property equally. The bill to effect that object was brought into the House, and passed with great difficulty. It was carried, on the third reading, by the casting vote of the Speaker; but was afterwards dropped, as a peace-offering to the country gentlemen, and since that time no Minister had brought it forward. He (Mr. Ward) was sorry to find, that even the right hon. Baronet did not consider him self powerful enough to propose it. He (Mr. Ward) had heard nothing of a proposal for the extension of the probate-duty and the legacy-duty to real property in the right hon. Gentleman's statement of Friday. The exemptions upon a smaller scale enjoyed by the landed interest were innumerable; he might multiply them almost ad infinitum. Assurances upon farming stock were subject to no duty; a farmer whose rent was less than 200l. per annum paid no window duty; no duty was payable upon dairy windows in any case, or on brood mares, bailiffs' horses, shepherds' dogs, or the drainage tiles; and no tolls were claimable upon lime, manure, or agricultural implements. He had discovered something new during his researches upon this subject, which was, that no assessed taxes could be claimed for a house occupied by a bailiff. He had paid window-duty for the house occupied by his bailiff last year, but he should do so no longer. The case of Lord Middle-ton's bailiff had been referred to the judges, and the point was now settled, and if the hon. Member for Knaresborough were in his place, it would horrify him to hear that the agriculturists were specially exempted from the operation of the laws directed against the truck system— they were allowed to pay their labourers in kind. There were a
hundred other cases of exemptions all decided recently by the judges in favour of the land. He found in the assessed tax cases, just published, that the house of a farmer, who was also a brick-maker, paid no duty. The brick-maker would pay, but the farmer was exempt; and the exemption of the farmer covered the liability of the brick-maker. The same decision had been given in the cases of wheelwrights, land-surveyors, and cattle-jobbers, who united farming to their other occupations. This state of things was producing the worst possible effect in the public mind. Persons felt jealous of the exemptions which they saw neighbours enjoying merely because they happened to belong to a particular class. Upon this point he would take the liberty of reading to the House a letter which he had received from a person in business near Edinburgh. It was as follows:—
Living a little distance from Edinhurgh, I occupy a house, the rental of which is 20l., and in which there are ten windows; for these I am assessed 1l. 10s. My neighbour, a farmer, renting a house with fifteen windows and land. with a rental of 190l. per annum, pays no thing.
Again, on my stock-in-trade, I am assessed 3s. of duty to government on every 100l. I insure against fire. The farmer, my neighbour, insures likewise at the same office on his stock, but he is a privileged person; he has the same protection from the fire-office that I have, but being a farmer, he pays no duty.
Again, I am assessed for my saddle-horse 1l. 11s. 6d.; my fortunate neighbour, being under 500l. yearly rent, pays nothing.
Should my neighbour require to sell his potatoes, turnips, carrots, &c. by public auction, as is generally the case in this part of the country, he may, being a privileged person, auction them himself, without a licence, and without any duty being payable on his crops; should I attempt the same, I must either employ an auctioneer, or take out an auction licence costing 5l. 15s., and every article of my stock would be liable to pay a duty to Government of 5 per cent.: but I would tire you were I to go over all the exemptions which the landed gentry have created, such as exemptions from tolls on lime, manure, &c.; no duty on drain tiles, on shepherds' dogs, taxed carts, &c. When we think on these things, is it not wonderful to look at the patience of the people enduring this class-legislation. Their eyes, however, are now opening to these unjust privileges, and I hope the discussion raised on your motion will still further confirm their determination to get these privileges quickly abolished, which can
only be effected by an union of the commercial and working classes.
I am, with respect, yours, &c, "3rd March, 1842.
§ He was actuated by no ill feelings towards the farmers. On the contrary, he was a farmer himself, and he considered them in general as forming a most meritorious class, and deserving of all fair encouragement; but the exemptions to which he had directed the attention of the House were not fair. If the principle upon which those exemptions proceeded were fair, why was it not carried further? Why was it not applied to wool, cotton, and iron, as well as to land? At all events, those who enjoyed these exemptions had no right to complain of peculiar burdens. It was very easy to call everything a peculiar burden. He had no doubt that before another year had expired, they would hear that the income tax was a very peculiar burden on the agricultural interest. As he had before stated, the amount of all the burdens upon the land, peculiar or not, was 6,294,191l., from which he must deduct a million and a half on account of the exemption from probate and legacy duty, and 500,000 for minor exemptions, which would reduce the burden upon land to 4,294,191l., and that sum was levied upon a rental of thirty-nine millions and a half. He had endeavoured to ascertain the comparative rating in agricultural districts and in towns. For this purpose he had taken two farms with which he was acquainted, situated at a short distance from London, and he found the following to be the charges to which the tenant was subject:—
|Rent, £204 15s.|
§ In the second case the charges were:—
|Consolidated, as lighting, cleansing, &c.||3||10||0|
|Sewer rate and minor rates.||3||0||0|
|Windows (including 10 percent.)||£6||12||6|
|Poor, 11½d.; Police, 6d.; and County rate, 3½d.||5||1||6|
|Windows (with 10 per cent.)||£4||14||3|
|Poor, police, and county rate||4||16||3|
|Windows (with 10 per cent.)||£5||12||3|
|Poor, police, county, paving, &c.||7||18||4|
|PARISH OF ST. JAMES, WESTMINSTER.|
|Paving, lighting, &c.||59||15||10|
|*Assessed taxes (one sixth).||72||12||9|
|PARISH Of MARYLEBONE.—-OXFORD-STREET.|
|Rent of shop and workshops, £900.|
|Assessed taxes||£ 9||1||0|
|Parochial rates (not one tenth)||73||2||6|
|ST. JAMES, WESTMINSTER.—MARYLEBONE-STREET.|
|Rent of premises, £105.|
|(under one fifth)||£23||8||4|
The rates varied according to the different parishes, and the better or worse parochial management in each; but so
* Land-tax not included.
they did in the case of the farms, in one of which, the amount of the meanest item, the poor-rates, was swelled by the fact, that the union to which it belonged had I exceeded its estimate in building the new workhouse; while, in the other, which was a very small parish, 56l. was spent in one case of ill-advised litigation. But, with these proofs before them, that there was no great disparity between the assessment of land and house property, and that the charges upon each were very similar in their nature, how could hon. Members talk of the peculiar burdens which entitled the agriculturist to a higher protection than an 8s. duty on the importation of foreign corn? For his part, he could not see in what the difference between agricultural and town property consisted, or what claim could be founded upon one species of property which would not be equally valid for the other. Above all, he could not see upon what ground one class of the community was to be fostered at the expense of all others. A duty upon the import of foreign corn raised the price not merely of the quantity imported, but of the whole quantity consumed in the country. Supposing we consumed 20,000,000 qrs., an 8s. duty would add 8,000,000l. to the price. The right hon. Baronet calculated that he duty at which corn would be imported under his scheme would be between 12s. and 14s., which would enhance the price of corn to about twelve or fourteen millions. He should be told, perhaps, that these questions of finance and political economy were not fit subjects for the inquiries of a committee; that they were too vague, too undefined, and could never lead to any practical conclusion. He must remind the House, however, that there had been committees on very analogous subjects. They had had committees on county-rates, by which the land had benefitted considerably, for it had recommended the transfers to the consolidated fund of one-half the expenses of gaols and prosecutions in the counties; and upon the general question of agricultural taxation. He was glad to adduce a very high authority in support of the motion with which he was about to conclude. In 1834, when the Marquess of Chandos brought forward the motion to which he (Mr. Ward) had already alluded,' the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tam-worth, said,—
The noble Marquess has consented to remit the surcharge upon horses employed for agricultural purposes. I wish he would consent to appoint a committee of intelligent Members of this House to consider the whole question of those taxes that bear directly or indirectly upon agriculture, and to inquire whether the whole system of local taxation, including the costs of criminal prosecutions, county-rates, poor-rates, in short all the items of local taxation, be fairly appropriated. I very much doubt whether the local taxation of the agricultural district is fairly appropriated. All this requires to be made matter of minute investigation.
He (Mr. Ward) now asked for the appointment of such a committee for the sake of all classes of the community. Agriculture was now prosperous, and trade depressed, but that did not alter the force of the right hon. Baronet's argument. He wanted to have something tangible, something with which they could grapple, something which would form the basis of legislation. He wished for that information for the benefit of others; but, for his own part, he was satisfied that land paid no more than its fair proportion of the public charges; and if it paid largely in comparison with other interests, it was only because of its greater value. In conclusion, he thanked the House for the patience with which they had listened to a statement, a great portion of which had, he was aware, consisted of dry details. He concluded with moving—
That a select committee be appointed to inquire whether there are any peculiar burdens that specially affect the landed interest of this country, or any exemptions enjoyed by that interest, and to ascertain their nature and extent.
said, that he apprehended the motion with which the hon. Gentleman had concluded his speech, was not that of which he had given notice, and, there fore, that the forms of the House would prevent its being made. If the House would permit him, however, he would address to them a few observations upon it, and they should be very few; for on a question that had been so exhausted, he did not think they would be disposed to listen to a speech of any length. The hon. Member seemed to think, that there were no peculiar burdens on the land. He would not follow him through the figures he had quoted in support of his proposition, for he confessed he did not clearly comprehend them. But he held 538 in his hand papers which had been laid on the Table of the House, which he thought would show the House and the country the burdens for which the land was peculiarly liable. He found from these, that in the year 1826 the amount of money levied for the poor and county-rates was no less than 6,966,000l., which was divided under the following heads: —Land, 4,795,000l.; dwelling-houses, 1,814,000l.; mills and factories, 259,000l. So that while the land paid 4,795,000l. for the support of the poor in 1826, mills and factories paid only 259,000l. He was unwilling to drag before the House this sort of contrasts, for he did not stand there to support the laws regulating the importation of corn merely because the landowners were interested in them, but because he felt that an undue importation of corn would put in jeopardy the land, and thereby seriously injure the poor of this country, because he maintained that all classes were deeply interested in the subject. The hon. Gentleman had said, that he would put out of view the price of cultivating land in foreign countries, be cause that was a question on which the House was not called upon to inquire. Why, the main feature of this question, in his opinion, was whether or not the corn in foreign countries could be cultivated at so much less cost, that if it were allowed to come in free of duty it would throw out of cultivation the greater portion of the land of this country. He thought it was a great mistake to object to these laws, that they gave the grower of corn peculiar advantages. That was not the object with which the Corn-laws were enacted 150 years ago, but to pro vide that whenever the average price of corn should intimate that that quantity was equal to the demand, the importation of foreign corn should be subjected to a prohibitory duty. That had ever been the principle of the Corn-laws, and from that principle he hoped they would never depart. Whatever Gentlemen on the other side might say respecting this measure, he believed, the great mass of the community thought it a great amelioration of the present system, and one which held out the fairest prospect of giving a regular and uniform supply. Of this he was quite certain, that if hon. Gentlemen wished to do good to this country, they would no longer oppose this measure. The effect of retarding the progress of the bill would 539 be exceedingly injurious. At present the trade in corn was suspended, and he was sure they could not do a greater injury to the poor than by preventing this bill from passing into a law.
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
said, he could not agree with the hon. Member who had not spoken, that this question had been al ready sufficiently discussed. On the contrary, it was his belief that the question relative to the peculiar burdens on land had not been discussed half enough. The sliding-scale had been discussed, and so had the fixed duty, but on the question now before them there had as yet been no discussion whatever. Why, in speaking of the poor-rates, had the hon. Gentleman selected the period of 1826? Why not come to a nearer period? At that time the wages of labour were paid out of the poor-rates. The question had now been brought forward in a most legitimate form, and the country was much obliged to the hon. Member for Sheffield for bringing it forward in the way he had done. People complained that they were pre vented from following the trade or occupation most advantageous to them. This was a great evil. There might be reasons for such a course, but it lay with the Legislature to show the existence of those reasons. The manufacturers said they had as good a right to produce corn and cattle through the agency of their looms, as the landholders through the medium of their land. They had as good a right to bring the produce of their looms to market, as the landholders had to bring the produce of their land to market. All that was now asked was, that they (the landowners) should show a reason for keeping up the sliding-scale and the duties on corn, in order to prevent a fair exchange of the produce of industry. The right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government talked of the necessity of keeping the country independent of foreign corn; but if that were his principle, his own Corn-law could not be defended, for if the policy were to keep England independent of a foreign supply, in proportion as the population increased the protection ought to increase, in order to force from our own soil the increased supply required for a larger population. It was clearly acting against the right hon. Gentleman's own principle to decrease protection in proportion as the demand increased. He must say, that he thought 540 the right hon. Gentleman was merely pandering to prejudices when he put forward such arguments. He did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman really thought that England could be kept independent of foreign countries for a supply of food. With respect to the peculiar burdens said to rest on land, if the question lay between the land of this country and that of foreign countries, and if the object was to give protection in proportion to the degree in which foreign land was less heavily burdened than land in this country, then it would be necessary to have a different scale to regulate our corn-trade with every different country. Over the burdens to which foreign countries were subject that House could have no control, but it had a control here, and should equalise the burdens so as to make them fall equally on all classes. The hon. Member for Sheffield was right, then, in describing these peculiar burdens on land as the only plausible pretext of the landed interest for maintaining the Corn-laws. It might do very well to make vague and indefinite assertions, that land was the foundation of all the wealth of the country; it might do very well to assure a meeting of farmers that they were the people who paid the bulk of the taxes; but it would not do to come down and say so in that House, or to make such assertions in any meeting of reasonable men. With our great colonial empire, and our vast commerce, it was absurd to say that the prosperity of this great country depended on keeping a few acres of sand or of wet clay in cultivation for wheat. If they refused this motion, they would lay themselves under a suspicion that they could not make out their case if they went before a committee. Every one knew that to increase the price of corn had the effect of raising the revenue of the owners of land; and if they refused this committee, they would strengthen the suspicion that to increase their own revenues was the only object in view. At a period of distress like the present, it would be particularly ill-judged to strengthen such a suspicion. Even if the state of the country were a flourishing one, it would be dangerous; but how much more incumbent was it on them, at a time like the present, to give a satisfactory reason for what they did in a question like this. The right hon. Baronet admitted that the Corn-laws caused a little of the distress 541 that prevailed throughout the country; but why, without a good and sufficient reason should they do what had the admitted effect of inflicting a little distress upon the people? Refuse the committee, and the landowners would confirm the suspicion that they were legislating for their own interests. It was notorious that land-owners had done so in former times. The landowners about the metropolis petitioned Parliament at one time against the construction of turnpike roads, on the ground that they were prejudicial to the interests of the land near town. The question was exciting a feeling among thinking people, such as had never been known before. People began to express a belief that the object of these laws was to degrade the commercial and manufacturing interests. The people believed that there was a de sire to uphold agriculture by keeping down trade—that there was a wish to favour one class at the expense of another; but they might be assured that the people would not be satisfied till all classes were put on an equal footing.
§ Mr. Darby
said, that the present motion was very different from that of which the hon. Member for Sheffield gave notice for Thursday last, and he was glad the House did not sit on the day referred to, because It bad induced the hon. Member for Sheffield now to develope his views. It was plain that the hon. Gentleman shrunk from his former motion. His motion was for an inquiry into the peculiar burdens on land, and what he said was, that on less peculiar burdens on land could be shown he could not consent to the existence of the Corn-laws. If that were the hon. Gentleman's object he could not accede to his proposition, al though he had no fear of a full inquiry; but it was manifest that the hon. Gentle man mistook an element in consequence of the Corn-laws for these laws them selves. It had been proved by Mr. Huskisson and others that starvation prices were compatible with a free-trade in corn; and the great object of the Corn-laws was, at the same time, to prevent great fluctuations and starvation prices. Viscount Melbourne had indignantly declared that no new facts had been elicited by the import committee, and this showed the absurdity of partial inquiry. Land was affected, indirectly as well as directly, by taxation, and this was proved in the instance of the malt tax. Hon. Gentlemen opposite 542 seemed to mistake the purpose of the Corn-laws altogether. The object was to secure a constant and regular supply of corn. They had the authority of Mr. Jacob that, if even a small part of their supply failed them, the whole world would be unable to make it up. It was on the land at home that the population of the country must be dependent for their supply of food, and if any large portion of the land in England was thrown out of cultivation, the people of England must be subjected to great fluctuation and to starvation prices. The object of the Corn-laws was not to keep up the price of corn to an extravagant height, but to secure a supply of corn by preventing land from being thrown out of cultivation. If they went into a committee to inquire into the burdens borne by land, the range of inquiry would be much too narrow, and they would find themselves obliged to go into the whole subject of land. The impediments to the malting trade, and the prohibition of growing to bacco or beet-root, must be inquired into; but even then, if a principle were set up that they ought not to legislate on corn, unless they could show the existence of burdens on land, he must repudiate such a principle. It was his solemn belief, that with a fixed duty, or with such a duty as should not be found a sufficient protection, there would very soon be famine prices. Unless they encouraged the growth of wheat, land must be thrown out of cultivation, and then all the world would be unable to furnish the wheat that this country would require.
§ Dr. Bowring
said, that if he had understood the hon. Member for East Sussex he had expressed a wish to see the inquiry proposed by the hon. Member for Sheffield's motion extended to the whole subject of landed burdens and exemptions, a proposal which, doubtless, the hon. Member would willingly accept. There was no doubt that to throw impediments in the way of this or that manner of cultivating land was a burden on land, and this would form a legitimate subject for inquiry in the committee now moved for. He (Dr. Bowring) could not but think, that if the whole question were gone into, the fears as to the danger of a decrease in the value of land in England, by the admission of corn at a low duty, would be shown to be groundless. The hon. Member had gone out of his way to blame the Import Duties 543 Committee, but the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had paid homage to the labours of that committee in the propositions he had laid before the House. In almost every country but this, land formed the chief source of revenue. Mr. M'Culloch estimated the land-tax of France at one-fifth or one-sixth of the whole revenue of the country. He believed it was much more. The impôts fanciers amounted to 262,000,000f. or 10,480,000l. and the registration to 175,000,000f., or 7,000,000l. In Belgium the whole revenue was 3,300,000l., while the land-tax amounted to 1,163,000l. If a land-tax in this country was raised in the same proportion, it would amount to 17,000,000l. In Prussia the direct taxes upon land were extremely heavy. The whole revenue of Austria was 16,000,000l.; and of that sum 8,000,000l. were paid by the land. In Denmark the total amount of revenue was 1,500,000l., of which 300,000l., or one-fifth was the produce of the land-tax. If the landed property in England were taxed in the same proportion, it would pay 10,000,000l. towards the national revenue. Four-sevenths of the revenue of Greece was derived from land. If the land in England were taxed in a similar proportion it would pay 30,000,000l. sterling instead of 1,250,000l.; and they must bear in mind that our land was far more productive, and therefore, far more able to endure heavy burdens, in the shape of taxation, than that of most of the countries he had mentioned. In some of the cantons of Switzerland the taxes upon land produced nearly one-half of the whole revenue. It seemed to him, that instead of hon. Gentlemen opposite being able to prove that the agriculturists were subjected to peculiar burdens, it would appear that the legislation of the country was a history of exemptions granted to the landed interest especially. That was easily accounted for: a landed interest had been predominant in the Legislature, and it was in human nature that the effect should be as he had stated. When the hon. Member for Stockport had appealed to the right hon. Baronet to state his views with respect to the burdens on land, he replied that it was a philosophical point, upon which much division of sentiment existed, and he was not able to express a decided opinion. Parliament had a right, there fore, to call for results which could be recorded upon paper of those peculiar 544 burdens which had been so much talked about, and he could not believe the country would be satisfied without the fullest information.
§ Mr. Scarlett
was prepared to resist the motion, because it was a motion for an inquiry into an abstract question. He would remind the hon. Member and the House that landed properly was constantly the subject of legacy—in this way, that the land was required under the will to be sold, and its proceeds distributed by the executors under the will. The land, so far, contributed to the state through the medium of the legacty duty. He thought it was quite clear that the great bulk of the taxes was ultimately paid from the land. Hardly any one would deny, that the greatest consumers paid the greatest portion of our taxation, and also that the landed interest were the greatest consumers, and therefore were those who paid most. Indeed, this was so strictly true, that the landlords in effect, paid not only the taxes on the luxuries, but also the necessaries of life. [A laugh, and ironical cheers.] Hon. Members might question this assertion, but they were not to attribute the discovery of the facts on which it was made to his own genius, for the assertion and the argument on which it was made were to be found in that able writer Dr. Adam Smith. If this question were to be permitted to be sifted thoroughly in a committee above stairs, he was persuaded it would appear very clearly that the land bears all the burden of taxation; certainly, in the proportion of four to one. Another important consideration should not be lost sight of—namely, that the price of corn must affect the price of labour, and the price of labour that of corn, reciprocally. The rent of the land of this country had been taken by a high authority at 40,000,000l. a-year, without including the interest payable upon mortgages, which, might, perhaps, be estimated at 10,000,000l. sterling. The whole rent paid might fairly, then, be taken at 50,000,000l. yearly. Now, the total produce was taken, by the same authority, to be about 250,000,000l sterling. The House would see that if it agreed to reduce the price of commodities one-fifth, this reduction would be really equal to 50,000,000l., or to the whole amount of the rents payable throughout the kingdom. Again, with reference to quently in the habit of being estimated 545 the national debt and its pressure upon the public, it was very important for the House to consider the effect which a diminution of the price of corn would have upon the public debt; for as everything might be estimated, and was now frequently in the habit of being estimated, for purposes of argument, by a corn price, it must follow that if they agreed to diminish the price of corn to the extent of one-fourth, the debt of the public would then represent a greater number of quarters of corn in the same proportion; or, in other words, would increase the public debt in the same proportion as the price of corn had been depressed.
§ Mr. Childers
said, it was frequently contended, that in consequence of certain burdens being specially imposed upon land, a more extensive protection ought to be afforded to the landed than to the other interests of the country; and this protection had, of course, the effect of raising the price of corn. He thought that a clear distinction had not been drawn between the burdens on land and the burdens on agriculture. The burden of taxation had, in all countries, naturally fallen upon land; but he denied that the landed interests of England had been peculiarly affected by taxation. If he were asked why this was, he would reply that the landed interests had always been so powerfully represented in that House, that they had never permitted the imposition of any burden upon land which they could possibly avoid. In those countries where despotic power was exercised, land had been found the most easy subject of taxation; but, although England produced an immense revenue, a very small portion was raised directly from land. In Denmark one-third of the revenue was raised by direct taxes on land; in Austria one-half the whole amount of taxation was paid by the landed interest; in Belgium upwards of one-third of the taxation was obtained from land and in France the proportion of the whole taxation borne by the landed interest was about one-fourth. In England, however, the landed interest contributed towards the revenue, not more, he believed, than 1,250,000l., or only about one-fortieth part of the whole amount of taxation. In the countries to which he had alluded the agriculturists might, according to the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite, justly put forth claims to very extensive protection. Such, however, was not the 546 case; for in Holland, where the land was so highly taxed, the trade in corn was nearly free. With regard to the local burdens which hon. Gentlemen on the other side had dwelt so much upon, he thought that as it was contended that the object of the pre sent Corn-law was not to keep up rent, but to give such a remunerative price as would prevent land from going out of cultivation, it might be proved, that all those local taxes fell upon the rental, and if they were done away with, not the farmer would be benefitted, but the landlord. If there were neither tithes nor poor-rates, the farmer would pay more rent, and would not, therefore, receive the advantage. There might be taxes upon agriculture which would prevent corn from being raised at as low a price as might be, but upon that score the farmers had no claim to protection, inasmuch as those burdens had of late been very much mitigated, and he might mention tithes in kind as an ex ample. The Tithe Commutation Act and the Poor-law, had contributed also to lighten these burdens. He thought the only real burden that now existed upon the land was the Corn-law itself. That law was the greatest injury to the landed interest. He believed if the Corn-law were abolished, they would soon see in England what was seen in Scotland, where they were adopting the newest and best principles of cultivation, and were able to raise corn without the fear of Corn-laws before their eyes.
§ Mr. G. Palmer
was unwilling to make any observation which reflected upon the objects or motives of the manufacturing interest upon this occasion, and he felt an equally strong objection to suffer the impeachment that had been made against the agricultural interest to be unrefuted—namely, the imputation of the agriculturists, for their own interests's sake, were disposed to starve the manufacturing classes. That accusation was totally without foundation. The interests of the two were essentially interwoven, and there was no one interest in this great country the welfare of which was not affected by and did not affect the interest and welfare of the other; and more particularly was the welfare of the manufacturer dependent upon that of the agricultural body, which was the first consumer and best customer of the manufacturer. The manufacturer and the merchant had many advantages which the agriculturist had not; and he 547 believed he spoke the truth when he said, that many English manufacturers had invested their capital in manufactures in Belgium—which, far be it from him to say, that they had no right to do—and it was well known that large quantities of machinery had been manufactured in this country and exported to other countries, and yet the manufacturers came forward and complained of the competition of manufactures established in those countries. Look at the facilities of manufacture which the manufacturers enjoyed. It had even been boasted that cotton brought into Liverpool on the Monday had been manufactured and re-exported before the following Saturday night. The agriculturist had no such facility; he could not prepare his land, sow the seed, and reap his crops in so short a time, or anything like it. The manufacturer could turn his capital twenty times in a year by means of the system of credit which had of late years been established in this country, which enabled him, in the course of ten or twelve days after the shipment of his goods, to get the bills discounted with which they were paid, where as the agriculturist could only turn his capital once in the year. But there were other parties whose interests must be considered. The small tradesman, the shoe. maker, and the mechanic, were manufacturers also; and if, by withdrawing all protection, agriculture were to be discouraged and destroyed, how were those persons to be maintained? He had no wish to keep up any one individual interest at the expence of others; but he knew that the prosperity of the country depended upon the cultivation of the soil. That which, under the providence of God was produced by the land to support the life of man was that which, when reduced into the currency of the country, formed the capital of the country; and if, by any regulation, they reduced the value of that capital, which now entered into manufactures as well as agriculture, and set the whole engine in motion, would it not have the same effect upon the whole trade and interests of the country as would be produced upon any manufacturer or merchant if they deprived him of a portion of the capital which he bad embarked in his trade? He could have wished that a committee had been appointed to consider what were the burdens, not upon any one particular interest, but what were the burdens upon every interest in the country which re- 548 quired protection as against other countries. He would encourage foreign trade, but he would not sacrifice the home interest for the sake of it. We must guard that we had; and if this country was but true to its own interests, no power on earth could injure it. There was no want of resources in this country. Mr. Pitt had raised from it hundreds of millions of money, and yet the country prospered. The country had not become poorer in cones sequence, and he trusted that equal prosperity would result from the measure now proposed by the Government.
§ Sir R. Peel
I wish, Sir, to call the attention of the House to the time at which, and the circumstances under which the motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite is made. This is, I believe, the fourteenth night we have been kept in discussion upon the Corn-law, and as yet we have not been allowed to go into committee, There are some hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who differ from this bill, who object to the principles of this bill, who are adverse to the details of this bill, and yet who—seeing the large majorities by which it has been affirmed in this House, and considering that the sense of the House has been fairly and fully taken,—considering also that the trade of the country in general, and the corn-trade in particular, is affected and embarrassed by continual de lay—seeing also that this bill is admitted to be a great improvement of the law, seeing that it is admitted to be a considerable mitigation of the existing evils derived from the present state of the law —have come to the conclusion, consistently and most wisely as I think, that the sense of the House having been so unequivocally manifested, the sooner the ad vantages of the bill are reaped the better. The question for them to consider is, whether there be any prospect of overruling the sense of the majority of this House, and if there be not, whether, upon a comparison of evils and advantages, it is wise to go on with a protracted, and in the end, useless discussion. The hon. Member had the whole of last Session to consider his proposal: he knew the Corn-law must come under discussion, he had full and ample opportunity for proposing his committee, yet he permits us to have thirteen nights of discussion, five of which were upon a subject identical with the present —the preference of an absolute repeal over 549 the proposal of the Government—and yet on the Fourteenth night the hon. Gentle man comes forward and proposes, that the whole proceeding On the Corn-law be suspended until his committee shall have made their report. What I call upon the hon. Gentleman to do is, to adhere to his own notice. The object of giving these notices was not to mislead. The object is to instruct the House, and to inform it of the nature of the motion which it is in tended to bring forward. But here, the hon. Gentleman also has been spending his time in ransacking hustings speeches —who has been looking over all the de bates of 1834, after thirteen nights of de bate, with the country expecting, that the House will at last decide what is to be the law regulating the importation —here the hon. Gentleman comes down and occupies our time, not with reference to the existing debate, but with a recitation and comparison of all that the Duke of Buckingham has said, all that I have said, and all that other persons have said, in the year 1834. And this the hon. Gentleman thinks will satisfy the impatience of the country! This, he thinks, will afford a gratification to the people, who ate anxious to have the question settled and the law determined! He satisfies the country and gratifies the people, not by discussing the question properly before the House, but by leisurely reviewing the proceedings which took place six or seven years ago. I ask the hon. Gentleman, who has given so much time and attention to this subject, at least to make up his mind as to what his motion shall be. I came down to the House to-night expecting that he would, at all events, adhere to the motion of which he had given notice. That notice of motion, no doubt, is a perfectly legitimate and fair one. It was in these terms:—On the motion that Mr. Speaker do leave the chair to go into committee on the Corn Importation Bill, to move, That it is in expedient to impose any duty upon the importation of foreign corn until this House shall have inquired whether there are any special burdens peculiarly affecting the landed interest of this country, or any special exemptions enjoyed by that interest, and shall have ascertained their nature and extent.According to that motion the issue fairly brought before us is this—shall the Corn Importation Bill be postponed till this committee which the hon. Gentle- 550 man would appoint shall have concluded its inquiries and made its report? I ask the hon. Gentleman to stand by his own notice, and bring that question to issue. I ask him to claim leave of the House to withdraw the motion with which he concluded his speech, and adhere to that of which he gave notice. Let me under stand, as I have a right to understand, whether the House of Commons is now of opinion that the Corn Importation Bill shall be pursued to its completion, or whether it shall be suspended indefinitely, until the hon. Gentleman's committee shall have reported. I ask the noble Lord who sits on the hon. Gentleman's right hand whether it be not consistent with the usages of Parliament that I should ask the hon. Gentleman to adhere to the motion of which notice was given upon the paper? The hon. Gentleman originally gave notice for the appointment of a committee. It was competent to him to renew that notice. But, instead of doing so, he alters the terms of his motion, and expressly joins issue with me as to whether I will assent to the appointment of a committee, or take the sense of the House upon the question that no Corn-law shall pass until a committee of inquiry shall have reported as to the existence or non-existence of any special burdens upon the land. I say that, consistently with fair ness, and with all the usages of Parliament, he ought to bring forward the motion of which he gave notice. He had ample time to consider his course, and determine what it should be before he placed his notice upon the order paper. It is something perfectly novel for the hon. Gentleman to give a specific notice of motion-—not to offer one word of intimation to those opposite to him of his intention to change that motion—to make the whole of his speech without saying that he had altered his mind, and then, at the close of a long address, quietly to put into the hands of the Speaker, not the motion which the House, from his notice, expected from him, but another motion of a very different character. I will not now stop to inquire whether, in this stage of our proceedings, it is fitting or not that a committee should be appointed to consider this question. But this I say, that I for one will not consent to a suspension of the Corn Importation Bill until such a committee shall have been appointed, and have made its report. I separate the ques- 551 tion of the fitness or unfitness of appointing a committee, from the question of whether this bill shall be suspended or not suspended. The appointment of a committee, considered by itself, may be pro per or not proper, but I maintain it is not proper if adopted for the purpose of suspending this bill. Depend upon it you will not carry public opinion and public favour with you in the attempt to pursue this course of obstruction and delay. You knew last Session of the intention of the Government to deal with this question. I never taunted the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) for not stating exactly what were the burdens upon the land which he regarded as a justification of his proposal for placing a fixed duty of 8s. upon the importation of foreign corn. What I said was this, that the noble Lord would labour under the same difficulty as I did in specify ing the exact amount of burden upon the land, in consideration of which he proposed to give a protection of 8s. I was challenged to show why a maximum of 20s. was necessary to protect the landed interest. I said, that that objection would apply with equal force to any specific amount of protection that might be proposed, whether fixed or graduated. I rested the claims of the land to protection, not upon its peculiar burdens alone, but upon other grounds. I said, that protection to the produce of the soil had been afforded for the last 150 years—that large capital had been invested on land under that system of protection and that nothing, there fore, in my opinion, could be more unwise than to risk the disturbance of the interests embarked in agriculture by the sudden withdrawal of the protection which had so long been afforded to them, under which the existing relations of society had, in a great degree, been formed, and in reliance upon which so much wealth had been directed to the cultivation of the soil. You have a perfect right to differ from me in that view, and to tell me, that my opinions are mistaken. I said, that another ground for affording protection was, to in sure the cultivation of the land, and such a growth of domestic produce as should prevent the risk, the imminent risk, as I thought, if all protection were discontinued, of placing the country in a position of entire, unqualified dependence upon foreign countries for a supply of corn. To make insurance against such a calamity, I said I thought it necessary to 552 continue protection to a certain extent to our domestic agriculture. I said, also, that I firmly believe, that there are special and peculiar burdens affecting the land as compared with the other great interests of the country. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ward) scoffs at the notion of tithes being a burden upon the land, and expresses his astonishment, that any man on this side of the House should be weak and absurd enough to suppose, that tithes have really anything to do with the burdens borne by the landed interest. The hon. Gentleman may be a very great authority upon matters of political economy, but I must ob serve, that there are others, nearly equal to him, perhaps, who have entertained a very different opinion upon this question of tithes and their relation to the land. They wrote, perhaps, in times comparatively barbarous, and their names, perhaps, may not be so eminent as that of the hon. Member; but Adam Smith, for one, expressly declares, that he regards tithes as constituting a burden upon the land. The superior intelligence of the hon. Gentle man may induce him to discard the notion, and to discard it with contempt; but Adam Smith was certainly weak enough to look upon tithes as a burden upon the soil. Adam Smith expresses himself in these words: —Taxes upon the produce of land are, in reality, taxes upon the rent; and, though they may be originally advanced by the farmer, are finally paid by the landlord. When a certain portion of the produce is to be paid away for a tax, the farmer computes, as well as he can, what the value of this portion is, one year with another, likely to amount to; and he makes a proportionable abatement in the rent which he agrees to pay to the landlord. There is no farmer who does not compute beforehand what the church tithe, which is a land-tax of this kind, is, one year with another, likely to amount to.But the hon. Gentleman says—There has been a commutation of tithes of late years, which alters the whole question, be cause formerly the amount of tithe was uncertain, and varying from year to year according to the quantity of produce, whereas, it is now comparatively fixed and certain; therefore, whatever the opinion in former times may have been, it is now clear, that tithes no longer constitute a burden upon the land.It may be so, but Adam Smith differs from the hon. Gentleman upon this point also, for Adam Smith distinctly says: —When, instead either of a certain portion 553 of the produce of the land, or of the price of a certain portion, a certain sum of money is to be paid in full compensation for all tax or tithe, the tax becomes, in this case, exactly of the same nature with the land-tax of England. It neither rises nor falls with the rent of the land. It neither encourages nor discourages improvement. The tithe in the greater part of those parishes which pay what is called a modus in lieu of all other tithe, is a tax of this kind.I must say, when in any country you throw the whole burden, or the great part of the burden, of maintaining the Established Church upon the land, if you collect that burden by an uncertain rate, varying with the produce of the soil, it acts, no doubt, as a greater discouragement to agriculture than if it were com muted to a modus or fixed sum. It is clear that the commutation of such an uncertain tax as tithe into a fixed and definite sum, must operate as a great benefit to the land—a great encouragement to the improved cultivation of the soil, and an increased stimulant to the application of capital to the purposes of agriculture. I do not deny that; but I say, that Adam Smith and Mr. Ricardo both of them distinctly declare, that they consider tithes a burden upon the land. There cannot be a question as to what the opinions of those writers were upon the point. Mr. Ricardo says: —If the importation price of wheat was 60s. a quarter in England, and it was 60s. a quarter on the continent, and in consequence of the burden of tithes wheat was raised in England to 70s. a quarter, a duty of 10s. ought also to be imposed on the importation of foreign corn.These were the opinions of Mr. Ricardo. They may be entirely wrong, but they certainly differ very much from those of the hon. Gentleman. Don't let the hon. Gentleman suppose, that three or four days will settle this question in commit tee. I am not now saying, whether it may be proper or not to appoint a committee for the purpose of inquiring into the bur dens of the land; but this I may say, that as far as I have had any communication with the landed interest, they have evinced no apprehensions as to the result of such an inquiry as that proposed in the hon. Gentleman's original notice of motion. I confine myself to that original motion, because it is the only one that the hon. Gentleman can properly bring under the notice of the House. The landed interest, as far as I have communicated with 554 them, have not told me, that they thought it essential to their interests, that inquiry into the nature and extent of the peculiar burdens borne by them should be absolutely precluded; but I assure the hon. Gentleman, that such an inquiry would be of rather longer continuance than he appears to think. Coming here himself, and laying down his dicta as an authority upon the subject, he will be met by others who may differ from him, and whose opinions, though opposed to his own, may yet be regarded as worthy of some consideration. I for one am not prepared to be governed by all the conclusions at which the hon. Gentleman has arrived upon this subject. The question "What is the exact amount of the special burden imposed upon the land? is in my estimation an extremely difficult one upon which to form an accurate opinion. It is a question which, according to my view of it, must be determined rather upon general reasoning, than upon the positive dicta of any twelve or fifteen gentlemen who may be formed into a committee to consider of it. Tithe, church-rates, in short pretty nearly the whole of the maintenance of the Established Church, is imposed upon the land. I do not deny, that in towns a very considerable sum is raised towards the support of the church in the form of church-rates; but, upon the whole, I cannot help thinking that the land pays a very full proportion of the amount which is levied generally for the payment of church-rates. That, of course, would be one subject of inquiry before a committee. Another subject of inquiry would be, how the stock and profits of trade were now allowed to escape the payment of poor-rates. Because there can be no doubt that the original policy of the law was, that stock-in-trade and the profits of trade should contribute equally with the land to the support of the poor. It was found so difficult, however, to collect a fair and proper quota of the rate from stock-in-trade and the profits of trade, that you passed, not many months since, an act directly at variance with the original object of the law, relieving trade from this contribution to the poor-rates, and, of course, placing the burden upon the land. I believe that of late years there has been a more equal apportionment of the poor-rate; but if I take the whole of the contribution now made for relief of the poor, I think I shall still find, I do not say in 555 what proportion, but certainly that a very large proportion of it is levied upon the land. I do not think that my hon. Friend meant to insist upon it that the return of 1826 afforded an exact view of the relative proportion in which the different interests of the country contributed to this burden at the present moment. But I will tell you what the relative proportion was in 1826. The proportion levied from the land in that year was 4,523,000l.; from dwelling-houses, 1,788,000l.; from mills, factories, &c. 255,000l. As I said before, I do not quote this as an exact indication of what the proportion is now; but I still think if you refer to the original policy of the act of Elizabeth, you will find that the sum contributed from other sources is proportionately far less than that contributed by the land. Looking to other burdens that bear upon the land, I know that there are many, who contend, and to a certain extent their argument is true, that these burdens are borne not by the land itself, but by the consumer of the produce derived from the land. This argument has been specially applied to the article of barley. The revenue derived from barley, including the malt-tax and the duty upon spirits, may be taken at 10,000,000l. a-year. I know that the consumer pays a very large proportion of that amount of taxation; but I know also that in manufactures the doctrine is this: if you have a duty upon any particular article of manufacture you diminish the consumption of that particular article. I am constantly told, (and I am going to act upon the principle in some degree), "reduce the duty upon any article of great consumption, and the consumption of that article will increase." True; and if I were to reduce the duty on barley I should, no doubt, promote the consumption of it; but what I contend is this: if I levy a duty amounting to nearly 10,000,000l. a-year upon one particular article of agricultural produce, although it is perfectly true that a considerable pro portion of that duty is borne by the consumer, yet it is difficult to estimate what proportion falls upon the consumer and what proportion upon the land. It would be most difficult to determine where the land ceases, and where the consumer begins to pay this tax. I say, then, that I cannot prove to you, as you call upon me to do, what is the exact and precise amount of the special burdens imposed upon the land. It would require a wiser 556 man even than the hon. Member for Sheffield to perform such a duty. Admitting that commerce, to a certain extent, may be injured by the protection given to land, yet if a minister, who sees the justice of continuing that protection, is called upon to state precisely what he conceives to be the particular and special burdens which render such a protection justifiable, he will find himself in a very embarrassing and difficult situation. You say, "If these special burdens exist define them—specify them, let us know what they are." 1 tell you that that is very difficult, and after all the research of a committee, I believe it would be very difficult still. These are the general impressions under which I speak; but they are distinct considerations from the present question, which is this, shall I postpone indefinitely the Corn Importation Bill until the committee proposed by the hon. Gentleman shall have made its report? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say, "I only propose a committee, and if the landed interest, as you say, are not afraid of inquiry, why should that committee be opposed?" It is true, that the hon. Gentleman, in his original notice of motion, pointed only to the appointment of a committee, but in his speech of this evening he talks of that committee as a necessary preliminary to the passing of the Corn Importation Bill; and speaking of the labours of the committee, supposing it to be appointed, he says, "It may be a very tedious business." Foreseeing this, I ask the House to decide upon the question before it as practical men, acquainted with the interests and feelings of the country. I ask what the country would think of me if I were to say to the hon. Gentleman, "I think this is a very reasonable motion." I have been for a long time considering, not this question only, but all the questions which I brought forward the other night, connected with the finance and commerce of the country. I have endeavoured to suggest, with respect to all of them, as fair and practical a settlement as I could. What would the country think of me if I now said "Here is a very plausible motion for inquiry, brought forward by. the hon. Member for Sheffield? I will leave the corn-trade, I will leave the landowners— the tenantry, all men who derive their income from the sale of corn or the production of corn in a state of utter uncertainty, and go with the hon. Member for 557 Sheffield into an inquiry which may possibly terminate some three sessions hence." 1 leave it to the country to decide whether my objection to the hon. Gentleman's motion is not a reasonable one. To that motion I shall certainly give my decided opposition.
§ Mr. Strutt
could not but think that there was one very obvious fallacy in the speech of the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down. The right hon. Baronet said, that tithes were a burden upon the land, and he quoted Adam Smith in sup port of that view. No doubt, in one sense of the word, they were a burden upon the land, inasmuch as they were payable by the land; but the question the House had to consider, was not whether they were a burden upon the land, but whether they were a burden upon the landowner. The right hon. Baronet must have changed his opinion upon this point within the last few years; for if his previous speeches were to be relied upon, he did not formerly consider the burden of tithe as chargeable upon the land. Neither could he (Mr. Strutt) reconcile the opinions now ex pressed by the right hon. Baronet with the opinions which he uttered to the House two years ago, when the question of church-rates was under discussion. The right hon. Baronet then contended that the dissenters had no right to com plain of the payment of church-rates, because they had purchased their property with the full knowledge that it was subject to such an imposition. Having used that argument against the claims of dissenters in reference to the question of church-rates, he was at a loss to conceive how the right hon. Baronet could now turn round and say that the landowners had a claim to compensation, or protection, in consideration of tithes, poor-rates, and other burdens, which fell heavily and exclusively upon them. If the dissenter bought his property subject to church-rates, did not every man who bought land buy it subject to tithe, or to land-tax, or to poors'-rates? If the dissenter had no claim in respect to church-rates, what claim had the land-owner in respect to tithe or land-tax, or poors'-rates? It appeared to him that the hon. Member for Sheffield had made out a prima facie case for inquiring into the special burdens borne by the land. Many gentlemen on the opposite side of the House objected to the hon. Member's motion, because it was too definite—too 558 precise. They said, if it embraced a wider field—if it embraced the burdens upon manufactures, the restrictions upon commerce, and a multitude of other matters, they would not object to it. But he appealed to the House whether, if the hon. Member for Sheffield had shaped his motion in that way, precisely the contrary argument would not have been used against him? He would then have been told "your motion is too vague, too general, it would never be brought to a conclusion, it would last over a number of years, therefore it is impossible for us to support it. Would not that have been the language of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel)? Thinking that a sufficient case had been made out to warrant an inquiry, he should give his hearty support to the motion of the hon. Member for Shef- field.
§ Mr. Cobden
thought it would not be difficult to show that the delay which had arisen in the discussion of this question was not owing to the proceedings of that (the Opposition) side of the House. He begged leave to recal to the recollection of the right hon. Baronet his own words in opening the discussion of the corn duties. The right hon. Baronet said on that occasion—" You are entitled to place such a duty on foreign corn as is equivalent to the special burdens which you impose on agriculture, and any additional protection to agriculture can be vindicated only on the ground that it is for the interest of the country in general." Now he (Mr. Cob den) asked the right hon. Baronet, after the speech which he delivered on the 9th of February, to state his views with respect to these burdens, and the answer which he got was, that instead of having a formal and official enumeration of them, it would be more consistent with the forms of the House to state them in the speeches de livered during the debate. They had gone into committee; debate after debate had taken place; the right hon. Baronet had been asked again and again to state what were these special burdens; but he had declined to do so, and he (Mr. Cobden) therefore thought his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield perfectly justified in adopting his present course. His hon. Friend had given notice of his intention to bring his motion under the consideration of the House on Thursday last. He came down to the House at a quarter to four o'clock, and found between thirty and 559 forty Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House; but the opposite benches were empty; rumours were abroad among the opposition ranks, that there had been "a whip" not to bring hon. Members down to the House, but to keep them away—in vulgar parlance, the mea sure was to be "burked." Hon. Members renowned for their punctual attendance at the devotions of the House were absent— even the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford was not in time for prayers. It semed that they were not to be permitted to discuss the question. He could not understand why the right hon. Baronet refused to entertain it to-night. They were told that the law must be passed, because the corn-dealers were anxious that it should come into operation. He could only say, that, as far as his constituents were concerned, no such anxiety existed. He had in his pocket a resolution agreed to at a public meeting, in the open air, with the Mayor in the chair, to make every opposition to the measure of the right hon. Baronet consistent with the forms of the House. He knew that his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester had received a similar request. It was not his intention to comply with that request, for he did not mean to offer any factious opposition, but, at the same time, if he was to be forbidden by the right hon. Baronet, in a speech partaking strongly of the character of a lecture, from further discussion of this question, because a majority had decided upon the second reading of the bill, he would take leave to tell the right hon. Baronet, that he did not come there to bow to the will of that majority without endeavouring to make them listen to reason; nor would he, until the measure became law, cease to urge every argument which could be found against it. Notwithstanding the refusal of hon. Members opposite to meet them on the question, it would be their object to show, not only that the landowners sustained no special burdens which entitled them to tax the rest of the community; but that, on the contrary, it was the opinion of the whole civilised world that they had been employing themselves as legislators in placing the burdens on others for the purpose of exempting themselves. He could read them the opinions of Frenchmen and Americans, who could have no interest one way or the other, [Cries of "Oh, oh"]. Why, an hon. 560 Member on the other side had read a long series of Presidents' messages the other evening, and there were no "oh, oh's" then. With respect to the four or five burdens which had been spoken of, every one knew that they were liable to them by the common law of the land which had been in existence for centuries and centuries. Hon. Gentlemen claimed exemptions on account of maintaining the public roads and paying the poor-rates. Why the land had borne those burdens before Corn-laws were thought of. The only tax which was a real burden on land was the land-tax, an example of legislative fraud scarcely surpassed by the Corn-laws. An hon. Member had alluded to the fact that, in despotic countries, taxation fell chiefly on land. It certainly was only when the power of the state had fallen into the hands of a landed oligarchy that the people were taxed in order to exempt the landowners. At the time of the conquest, and for the succeeding 150 years, the proportion of tax contributed by the land amounted to nineteen-twentieths of the whole revenue of the kingdom. From that period down to the reign of Richard the 3rd, the proportion contributed by the land was nine-tenths; thence, to the time of Mary, it was three-fourths; to the end of the Commonwealth it was one-half; to the time of Anne one-fourth; in the time of George 1st one-fifth; of George 2nd one-sixth; for the first thirty years of George 3rd one-seventh; from 1793 to 1816 one-ninth; and from that time to the present only one-twenty-fifth. The land-tax was a fraudulent evasion, for it was in reality a substitution for feudal tenure. The land was formerly held by right of feudal services. The hon. Gentleman quoted a passage from Blackstone, describing the commutation of feudal services into a land-tax of 4s. in the pound on the real rental. Now could any one suppose that land would always remain at the valuation of 1692? And yet it was upon that valuation that the land-tax was charged. Was there, he would ask, anything analogous to this in any other part of our system of taxation? Take the case of the assessed taxes; there the collector went round every year, and diligently noted any increase in the number of windows, in the number of carriages, and other articles subject to assessment. So strict had been the practice in this respect, that they had lately refused to 561 allow any compositions for three years. How stood the case with the lords of manors? Lingard justly accused the landowners of refusing to extend the benefits which they had derived from the commutation of feudal services to their tenants. Did they suppose that the ad vantages derived by Sir Oswald Moseley, as lord of the manor of Manchester, which were now worth 150,000l., were the same as those enjoyed by other lords of that manor years back? The hon. Member alluded to the inequalities of the land-tax as shewn by the different assessments paid by several counties and towns, taking the valuation for the Property-tax of 1816, as the standard in all cases. Middlesex paid 10d. in the pound, Lancashire only 1½d., Yorkshire 4½d.., Buckinghamshire 1s. 2d., Rutlandshire 10d., Staffordshire 8d., Hertfordshire 11d., the county of Norfolk 2¾d., Sussex 1s. 2d., Westmoreland 1s. 2d., Bedford as much as 1s. 2½d., and Cumberland, being the lowest, only 1¼d.. In Marylebone the tax was 1s. 6d., while in Liverpool it did not amount to a tenth of a penny. In Oxford it was 1s., in Bath 1½d., and in Winchester 3½d. The reason of this difference was obvious. In some counties towns had grown up, but was this any reason why they should be exempted from paying their fair proportion of a tax to the State? Why should the consumer be called on to pay an increase of taxation, and rental alone to be exempted? Adam Smith said, that the subjects of every state were bound to contribute in proportion to their ability, and the land-tax of England was a violation of this great principle. This subject had been already before the House, and the inequalities of the tax and the expense of collecting it were fully shown in the evidence of Mr. John Wood, of the Board of Stamps, examined by the committee which sat on the state of agriculture in 1836. In order that there might be a proper adjustment of the tax, it was the opinion of that gentleman that the assessment ought to be made annually. Though this subject might not be discussed in the House, hon. Gentlemen might rest assured that it would be eagerly taken up out of doors. They were on the eve of a new taxation. The budget of Friday night would at least have the effect of calling the middle classes back to their political duties. It would be discussed among the shopkeepers, whose 562 profits it was proposed to assess, and the House might depend upon it that they would very soon become a little inquisitorial as to the progress of rentals. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who relied so much on their majority, hardly gave sufficient credit to the power conferred by the Reform-bill on the middle classes; they had never yet tested them, because they had never yet applied to their pockets. Depend on it, they would resist to their utmost this attempt to tax their profits for the sake of upholding these monopolies. If the right hon. Baronet had come down with a proposal for a property tax, for the sake of relieving the working classes, he would have gone with the right hon. Baronet to the utmost extent. When, however, the right hon. Baronet came down and told them that the means of the working classes were exhausted— that they had taken from them their last farthing—and, when instead of proposing some plan for their relief, the right hon. Baronet told them he meant to apply the screw to the middle class, would they not say, "We will inquire why it is we are taxed;" and would they not be justified in doing so, when they found the monopoly of bread, and its kindred monopoly of sugar, remaining intact? In the in stance of these monopolies they would see the cause of this additional taxation. The right hon. Baronet opposite said, that his proposed alteration of the Corn law would better trade, and ameliorate the condition of the working classes; but he never heard any one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite contend that the new was anything but a very little better than the old sliding scale; it was not quite so bad as the old one. But was that making the law consistent with justice? The fact of hon. Gentlemen opposite advocating the proposed alteration in the Corn-laws was a suspicious feature in the case. All the complaints of obstructing the measure came from the other side, while, if the measure was really a beneficial alteration of the Corn-law, the advocates of it ought to be found on that (the Opposition) side of the House. There was nothing in the measure of Government to reconcile him to it. He could tell the right hon. Baronet that, as far as he knew the feelings of the manufacturing classes, they did not regard the alteration of the Corn-law as at all calculated to restore prosperity, nor would it have this effect until corn was 563 put, as a mercantile article, into the hands of the merchants generally, and not given up exclusieely to the corn dealers.
§ Lord Worsley
said, that when the hon. Member for Sheffield gave notice of his motion he imagined that his object in moving for a committee was to inquire into the special burdens of the landed interest, and if any should be found from which the agriculturists were exempted, that there should be an adjustment of taxation. It appeared now that the hon. Member had put forward his motion as an obstacle to the measure of the Government on the subject of the Corn-laws; and although no one in that House had opposed the measure more than he had done, still he did not think it fair, after having decided on the principle of the bill, to offer any opposition to its progress. He had been informed (for he was not in the House at the time) that the hon. Member for Sheffield had again altered his motion, and it now had assumed the shape of those motions which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton used to bring forward on the subject of the Corn-law with the object of obtaining its repeal. He could not, therefore, support the motion. Had it been for a committee to inquire into the special burdens of the agriculturists, with a view to equalize taxation throughout the country, he would not, as he was connected with the agricultural interest, have objected to the motion; but, viewing it as brought for ward avowedly for the purpose of obstructing the alteration of the Corn-law, he could not give it his support.
§ Mr. Villiers
said, that he did not believe, as the noble Lord supposed, that the hon. Member for Sheffield proposed his measure for any purpose but the one he had avowed, though he (Mr. Villiers) was obliged to doubt whether the noble Lord could say, that he opposed the motion merely upon the ground he assigned. He could not but think that he opposed it for the reason that it was opposed by Gentlemen on the other side, namely, that they were afraid of inquiry; that they had a just idea of what, the result of inquiry would be, and as upholders of the Corn-law, they wished the thing to remain in doubt. He could assure the noble Lord, that he should not vote for the motion for his own information, for he did not consider that such a law as a Corn-law ought to depend on any burdens being shown to attach to land for local purposes, for if there were such, and 564 they prejudiced the land, they ought to be differently distributed; but he should sup port it, simply because, after listening to arguments and allegations on behalf of Corn-laws for four years past, there was nothing that he had ever heard so frequently repeated by Speaker after Speaker, night after night, by men who were for a fixed duty and by men who were for a scale, as that there were certain peculiar burdens bearing upon the land which gave the landowners this peculiar right of taxing the food of the community. Considering, then, the great importance of the present moment, on the eve, as they were, of fresh taxation, he thought that every obstacle and every pretext should by every means be removed for relieving the people from needless taxation; and he thought that the inquiry would show that these burdens offered no ground for the Corn-laws. He was not going to argue the question any further, after the able manner in which it had been discussed by his hon. Friends—after hon. Gentlemen opposite had refused to offer any reply, and after the right hon. Baronet had refused to grant the Committee. In deed, his hon. Friend, the Member for Sheffield, had exhausted the subject in bringing it forward; for he had stated all the burdens that were alleged to be borne by the land—had made the nature of them clear to the House, and shown the futility of the argument which sought to justify the Corn-law on such ground: but, as he believed his hon. Friend had included in the purpose of his inquiry the exemptions of the land from taxes borne by the rest of the community, he would just state them to the House distinctly, that the country might judge of the justice of the plea of these peculiar burdens, and motives for refusing the inquiry; the exemptions were upon the following articles:—Horses, servants, carriages and carts, dogs, houses, and windows, fire insurance, and he would read the produce of those taxes during the years when they were repealed. In 1816, 281,695l.; 1819, 3,868l.; 1822, husbandry, horses alone, 470,108l.; 1823, 52,792l.; 1824, 6,876l.; 1825, 49,659l.; 1832, 8,710l.; 1833, 10,110l.; 1834, 52,000l.; 1835, 50,000l.; total, 985,824l.; and in 1836, a sum equal to 60,000l. a-year, chargeable to the county-rate to which they were liable, was cast upon the consolidated fund. Now, of course, when so much was taken from the general contribution to the revenue, either the rest of the community had more to bear, or they were 565 not equally favoured by a reduction of duty; and most surely it did not show that there was any ground for a tax like that of the Corn-law upon the community. He held also in his hand the amount of agricultural property which had been insured since the remission of the stamp duty on insurance, and the amount of duty received upon the personal property that had been insured. The amount of farming stock insured was 51,977,751l., upon which no duty has been levied. The duty collected upon other property insured., was 975,610. He would only detain the House for one minute more in referring to one of the burdens which were alleged to press upon the land peculiarly, in order that they might see the justice and the character of the indemnity which the Corn-law afforded for it— he meant the poor-rate. He would just show by the case of Marylebone, that this very burden was regularly aggravated by the effect of the Corn-law, which made food dear. It was the amount of the rates in that parish, and the price of wheat since 1832, showing that as wheat rose so did the rates, and the contrary.
What happened in one town, of course happened in another in this respect, and he thought it would be difficult to persuade the people of Marylebone of the justice of a Corn-law. He might state as a proof of the absurdity of saying that the poor-rate was a peculiar burden upon land, that the amount of rate paid in London was greater than that paid in all York shire, He thought that the present was a time peculiarly fitted for such an inquiry as that proposed by his hon. Friend, the Member for Sheffield. Now that they were about to impose a new tax upon the nation, it became them in every way to in quire into the burdens of the people, with a view, if possible, to their mitigation. He did not think any decision which the House had come to on the subject of the Corn-law itself, could equal in injustice a 566 refusal to grant the inquiry now moved for.
Years. Rate per £ Amount of Rates. Average Rate on each House. Average number of Poor relieved The cost of flour The cost of butchers Meat. The Gazette average price of Wheat. s. d. £ l. s. d. £ £ s. d. 1831 4 1 91,144 7 16 11 66 4 1832 4 4 97,672 8 8 3 58 8 1833 3 11 93,834 8 1 8 52 1 1834 2 11 57,259 5 15 10 5,027 1,672 2,455 46 2 1835 2 3 53,487 4 12 1 3,458 1,540 2,216 39 4 1836 1 11 44,573 3 16 9 3,222 1,827 2,837 48 6 1837 2 4 59,806 5 3 0 3,254 2,865 3,171 55 10 1838 2 6 61,091 5 5 0 3,385 3,392 3,185 64 7 1839 2 9 63,221 5 8 11 3,758 4,295 3,637 70 8 1840 3 3 76,355 6 11 6 4,100 4,605 4,120 66 4
§ Viscount Howick
before the House proceeded to a division upon the motion under their consideration, wished to say a few words upon the subject. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Sheffield, that it was a point of very great impartance to determine what were the exclusive burdens borne by land, since so. much stress had been laid upon it during the various debates with respect to the Corn laws. He was also willing to admit that it was a very fair topic for parliamentary inquiry; although he thought there might be some doubt as to whether a parliamentary committee would be a body which could satisfactorily institute the proposed inquiry. But still he was willing to assume that point; he was willing to suppose that a committee could sift the question, and present a satisfactory report to, the House with regard to it. But even making these two concessions to the hon. Member for Sheffield, he confessed he could not satisfy himself of the propriety of supporting his motion. He was bound to admit the force of the arguments which the right hon. Baronet had urged against the time and manner in which the motion was brought forward. He thought that not only the Government, but that the public had a very great interest in pre venting those days set apart for the trans action of public business by the Government from being interfered with by the interposition of motions, which, according to the forms of the House, ought to be discussed on those days assigned for the motions of individual Members.. He thought, that would be a very great public inconvenience, because it was well known that by the practice of that House only two days in the week were set apart for the transaction of that vast amount of public business which it was the duty of her Majesty's Government to bring under their notice. They well knew the extreme difficulty which every Government experienced, whether it were composed of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House or the other, in obtaining the necessary time for the proper discussion of measures deeply affecting the public interest. They knew perfectly well that by delaying and obstructing the discussion of those motions, they necessarily limited the number of useful and important measures which it was in the power of the Government, to bring forward. As the Member of a former 567 Administration, he had himself frequent occasion to feel the extreme injustice of having complaints made against them, of neglecting many important subjects while, at the same time, the days required for the discussion of those subjects were taken from them by the interposition of other motions. He had a very strong opinion upon that point. It was not for the interest of the public—he said nothing of the interest of Government — that motions should be made which would tend to interfere with the regular progress of parliamentary business, except in cases of some great and special emergency. Now he could not imagine that such an emergency existed in the present instance. He really did not understand the ground upon which they were called on to adopt the motion in the manner in which it had been brought forward. The hon. Member for Sheffield said, he had given notice of his motion for Thursday, but on that day there was no House. Now he did not think that the hon. Member could urge that as a ground of complaint against the Government. It was a usual practice with Members upon all sides to absent themselves when notice was given of any motion they did not like to have discussed. No doubt there were more than forty Members who took an interest in the motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield; but if they did not come and form a House they had none but themselves to blame. He agreed with the hon. Member that the subject was one deserving of serious consideration; but was it, therefore, necessary that they should immediately and at once accede to his motion? He did not think it was. The change which the hon. Gentleman himself had introduced into his motion proved, as the right hon. Baronet had justly observed, that he had himself abandoned as untenable the position that the further consideration of the Corn-bill should be postponed until the report of the committee, for which he moved, had been presented to the House. But if the course of legislation upon the Corn-laws, was not to be interrupted by the motion of the hon. Gentleman, then it followed that the present was not one of those cases of emergency, on which it was desirable that such a motion as that of the hon. Member should be brought forward in this particular shape, preventing the further consideration of a measure which the House and the country must desire to see settled in one way or the other. Those 568 were the reasons which would now induce him to give his vote against the motion of the hon. Member, although, if it had been brought forward on Thursday last, it was his intention to have supported it. He could not, for the purpose of acting with those hon. Gentlemen, with whom he usually acted, lend his sanction to a practice which, upon public grounds, and with a view to the permanent interests of the country, he considered extremely pre judicial. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman in disapproving of the Corn-law introduced by the Government; and, in desiring to see the time when sounder and wiser views would be generally entertained upon the subject, he firmly agreed with him in those views and wishes; but he firmly believed, that the course which the hon. Gentleman was now taking was not calculated to promote the object he had in view. He did not believe, that a motion of this kind was calculated to con ciliate the opinion of dispassionate people out of doors. He did not believe that that was the manner in which they would be most likely to make a favourable impression upon public opinion, or to obtain that support from the country at large, by which alone the principles of the hon. Member for Sheffield, and of those who thought with him, could be carried into effect.
§ Mr. Wakley
would trouble the House with a very few words on what had fallen on the subject from the right hon. Baronet opposite, and from the noble Viscount who had just sat down. He confessed he was not pleased with the doctrine laid down with respect to motions of this description. It was one which he held to be pregnant with danger to various ancient practices, as well as to the spirit of the constitution. The noble Viscount the Member for Sunderland said, speaking as having been a minister, that he had often felt his progress impeded by motions of this kind. So much the better! Very glad he (Mr. Wakley) was to hear it, and he thought it would have been more for the good of the country if the noble Viscount and his brother Ministers had been still more completely obstructed by them. This motion had, it seemed, been some little obstruction to the right hon. Baronet. He was very glad of that too, for facts had been elicited in the course of this discussion which would spread over the county and that knowledge would be beneficial to 569 the public at a future time, if it could not be made use of now. The right hon. Baronet opposite had reminded them last Session of the dictum of Mr. Tierney, who had said, that" the duty of an Opposition was to oppose every thing and propose nothing." That was a Whig's notion of the duties of an Opposition; but the noble Viscount who had just sat down, although a Whig, had, nevertheless, repudiated that doctrine of Mr. Tierney: and it appeared that they were now to have some new doctrine. But what were they who opposed a Government proposition to do? If they objected to them, must they remain silent and allow them to be passed, and the public to be op pressed and persecuted? That was quite a new course for that House, and one to which he (Mr. Wakley) could not sub scribe. He thought, on the contrary, that when a bill was considered bad and objectionable in that House, it ought to be publicly and perseveringly opposed; and even after it should have been decided to be the law of the land, still he thought that a manly, open, and consistent condemnation of it might fairly and legitimately be pronounced. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that the course pursued by the hon. Member was objectionable. He thought the motion intended to be made should have been fairly put upon the paper, and not another species of notice. The hon. Member was not in the habit of pursuing such a course, certainly, but the assumption was, that finding that the motion as originally worded would not be exactly suited to the object, he had found it expedient to alter it. He must say he did not think that a division upon the question as it now stood would be very expedient. He wanted to see a compromise. He wanted to hear the right hon. Baronet say, "I will give you a committee another time, but don't divide the House now." For his hon. Friend would be sure to be beaten by a very large majority, and they would not be able then to get what they wanted—an account of the special burdens bearing on land. No doubt the landed proprietors of the country were not now in the state of luxury and independence in which they had been. These were not the times when, as the hon. Member described them, "Darby and Joan rode side by side on one horse together from the West of Eng land to the metropolis." No; the landed 570 proprietors for the last forty years had been calling upon the people to make sacrifices. The people had made those sacrifices. The people had been in a condition, from time to time, of great privation and misery. He would like to know what sacrifices the landed proprietors had made in return at the time of these emergencies? While their luxuries had not been touched, the poor had not had the common necessaries of life, and he, as a humane man, inclined to reflect upon the possible condition of the lower classes of his countrymen, maintained that they were bound to take a fair view of the real condition of the country, and not impose those taxes which could the least easily be borne; and every one must see that the operation of the Income-tax would be to lay new burdens upon the industry of the country, while the wealth of the country would go scot free. But as the only effect of the hon. Member for Sheffield going to a division would be that he would be defeated and the inquiry suppressed, he did hope the hon. Member would ask permission to withdraw his motion.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
begged to say a few words on the noble Viscount the Member for Sunderland's declaration, viz., that had this motion been brought on on Thursday last, he would hare voted for it; but as it had been brought on on the following Mon day, he should vote against it. Now, he did not exactly see the bearing of this distinction, nor could he say what the constituency of Sunderland would say to their representative disapproving on the Monday of the proposition for which he would have voted on the previous Thursday. But he would leave the noble Viscount and his constituents to settle that matter together. Another question altogether had arisen, however, out of the discussion. He wished 'to know, after all that he had heard from the noble Viscount and from the right hon. Baronet, who was really responsible for "making a House?" His hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield seemed to have suffered on this occasion by the difficulty that existed, the consequence of which had been that there had been no House on Thursday. He (Mr. Duncombe) was one of those Gentlemen who had come down to the House on that day in the full expectation that he should have witnessed the landed interest groaning and borne down as they were under the burdens which pressed upon 571 them, flocking down to the House to assist his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield in his inquiry, but not a single one of those hon. Gentlemen was present on the occasion. He remembered that when a discussion like the present upon the subject of who was responsible for making a House occurred in Mr. Canning's time, that right hon. Gentleman said, that it was always considered the duty of the Government to make a House. Now, the noble Viscount the Member for Sunder land complained that there should be any motions of this sort interrupting a Government measure on a Government night. But, surely, if that were a well founded objection, the Government ought on motion nights to give every facility for the bringing forward such motions; and certainly it was not Fair for noble Lords and hon. Members Who made use of this argument to refuse to vote for such motions as this, although they admitted that they supported them, availing themselves of the "whip ping out" on the other side of the House on a motion night. Mr. Canning had also said that he considered the most important duties of a certain class of Gentlemen connected With the Government, such as Lords of the Treasury, Under Secretaries of State and of the Board Of Control, and Gentlemen of that genus, were divided into three parts. Their first duty was to make a House; their second was to keep a House; and their third was to cheer the Minister. The right hon. Baronet opposite, he was sure, Would feel that it Was a very delicate matter for him to hint to those hon. Gentlemen what their precise duties were in this respect, and therefore the right hon. Baronet would no doubt be very much indebted to him for thus recording them. But at the same time he really thought that there ought to be some understanding on Whom rested the responsibility of making a House, so that hon. Gentlemen Who were independent Members, and had motions to make, should not be defeated in their object, and then afterwards be told by those on Whose support perhaps they counted, "Oh, your motion is a very good one, I admit; but as you have brought it on on a Government digit 1 must vote against you." He had intended to vote for the hon. Member for Sheffield on Thursday, and not being like the noble Viscount the Member for Sunder land, he should do so now although it was Monday.
§ The House divided On the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question.—Ayes 230; Noes 115: Majority 115.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Dowdeswell, W.|
|Ackers, J.||Drummond, H. H.|
|Acton, Col.||Duffield, T.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Duncombe, hon. A.|
|Allix, J. P.||East, J. B.|
|Antrobus, E.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Archdall, M.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Arkwright, G.||Egerton, Sir P.|
|Baillie, Col.||Eliot, Lord|
|Baird, W.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Bankes, G.||Escott, B.|
|Baring, hon, W. B.||Esmonde, Sir T.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Fellowes, E.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Fltzroy, Capt.|
|Beckett, W.||Fleming J. W.|
|Bell, M.||Follett, Sir W. W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Ffolliott, J.|
|Bernard Visct.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Boldero, H. G.||Gladstone, rt. Hn. W.E.|
|Borthwick, P.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Botfield, B.||Gore, M.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Gore, W. O.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Broadley, H.||Goring, C.|
|Broadwood, H.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Granby, Marquess of|
|Buck, L. W.||Greenall, P.|
|Buckley, E.||Greene, T.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Campbell, A.||Grogan, E.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Hale, R. B.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Halford, H.|
|Cholmondeley, hn. H.||Hamilton, W. J.|
|Christmas, W.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Hardinge, rt.hn. Sir H.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Hardy, J.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Cochrane, A.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Collett, W. R.||Henley, J. W.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Hepburn, Sir T. B.|
|Compton, H. C.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Copeland, Mr. Ald.||Hill, Sir R.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Hinde, J. H.|
|Courtenay, Visct.||Hodgson, R.|
|Cresswell, B.||Hogg, J. W.|
|Cripps, W.||Houldsworth, T.|
|Crosse, T. B.||Holmes, hon. W.A'Ct.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Darby, G.||Hope, G. W.|
|Dawnay, hon. W. H.||Howick, Visct.|
|Dick, Q.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Dickinson, F. II.||Johnson, W. G.|
|Dodd, G.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Jones, Capt.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Kemble, H.||Richards, R.|
|Knatchbull, right hon.||Rolleston, Col,|
|Sir E.||Round, C. G.|
|Law, hon. C. E.||Round, J.|
|Lawson, A.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Leicester, Earl of||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Liddcll, hon. H. T.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Lindsay, H. H.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Lockhart, W.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Lygon, hon. General||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Sheppard, T.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Shirley, E. P.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Smith, A.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Smyth, Sir. H.|
|March, Earl of||Smollett, A.|
|Marsham, Visct.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Martyn, C. W.||Somerton, Visct.|
|Master, T. W. C.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Masterman, J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Stanley, E.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Stewart, J.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Stock, Mr. Sergeant|
|Miles, W.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J.||Thompson, Mr. Ald.|
|Morgan, O.||Tollemache, J.|
|Mundy, E. M.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Murray, C. R. S.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Neeld, J.||Trotter, J.|
|Neville, R.||Turnor, C.|
|Newry, Visct.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Nicholl, rt. hon. J.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Norreys, Lord||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Northland, Visct.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Villiers, Visct.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Packe, C. W.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Paget, Lord W.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Pakington, J. S.||Welby, G. E.|
|Palmer, R.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Palmer, G.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Wood, Col,|
|Peel, J.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Pigot, Sir R.||Worsley, Lord|
|Pollock, Sir F.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Power, J.||Wyndham, Col.|
|Praed, W. T.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Price, R.||Young, J.|
|Pringle, A.||Young, Sir W.|
|Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Reade, W. M.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Blewitt, R. J.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Bowes, J.|
|Aldam, W.||Bowring, Dr.|
|Barclay, D.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Brotherton, J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Buller, E.|
|Bell. J.||Busfeild, W.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Cavendish, hon. C. C.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Cavendish, hon. G. H.|
|Chapman, B.||O'Brien, J.|
|Childers, J. W.||O'Connell, D.|
|Clay, Sir W.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Clive, E. B.||O'Connell, J.|
|Cobden, R.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Colebrook, Sir T. E.||Ogle, S.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Currie, R.||Parker, J.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Philips, G. R.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Philips, M.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|D'Eyncourt, right hon. C.T.||Ponsonby, hon. J. G.|
|Duncan, G.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Duncombe, T,||Rice, E. R.|
|Easthope, Sir J.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Ellis, W.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Scholefield, J.|
|Forster, M.||Scott, R.|
|Fox, C. R.||Scrape, G. P.|
|Gill, T.||Smith, B.|
|Gordon, Lord F.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Somers, J. P.|
|Guest, Sir J.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Harford, S.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Harris, J. Q.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Hastie, A.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Hawes, B.||Strutt, E.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Hindley, C.||Thornely, T.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Towneley, John|
|Holdsworth, J.||Turner, E.|
|Horsman, E.||Villiers, hon. C. P.|
|Humphery, Mr. Ald.||Vivian, hon Capt.|
|Hutt, W.||Wakley, T.|
|Jardine, W.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Johnson, General||Williams, W.|
|Johnstone, A.||Wilshere, W.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Wilson, M.|
|Langston, J. H.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Larpent, Sir G. de H.||Wood, B.|
|Layard, Capt.||Wood, C.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Wood, G. W.|
|Mitcalfe, H.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Morison, General||Yorke, H. R.|
|Napier, Sir C.||Ward, H.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Gibson, T. M.|
§ House in committee.
§ On the second clause being proposed, enacting that corn may be imported from foreign countries,
§ Sir V. Blake
rose to move (in consideration of the increasing and unexampled depression of trade, and the destitution con sequent thereon, which now unhappily prevails throughout the entire of the manufacturing districts) the insertion of words to suspend the payment of all the specified duties till from and after the 1st day of April, 1843. He felt disposed to attribute the distress which prevailed throughout the 575 country in some degree to the noble Lord the Member for London, who had lost while in power not only one, but several opportunities of alleviating that distress, by the introduction of useful and popular measures. He was greatly disappointed with the noble Lord, who, by his neglect of those opportunities, had handed over thousands of his fellow-subjects to the tender mercies of the right hon. Baronet opposite, who had only to shake his ambrosial locks to carry what measures he pleased. He was induced to make the present proposition to the House, because he felt convinced that we had the materials of inexhaustible production within ourselves; and that, if properly developed, we need not, after a short lapse of time, have recourse to foreign countries for assistance. He wished by his motion to afford immediate relief to the distressed portion of the population, but eventually he thought the same object might be effected by rendering the land six-fold more productive than it was at present. He was convinced that there were sufficient resources in the country to feed its population. One of these resources he would suggest might be found in the cultivation of the growth of flour—he meant potatoe flour. The soil of Ireland was particularly adapted to the produce of that excellent root. So also was its atmosphere. The quick succession of sunshine and showers, added to the natural fertility of Ireland, produced in that country a most prolific species of potatoe. It was known even to have a prolific tendency. He would not ask the House to depend solely upon his authority with reference to the excellent qualities of the potatoe, but would quote that of the British Cycloæedia. The hon. Member read an extract from that work upon the subject, and concluded by moving, that instead of from and after "the passing of this act," these words ahould be inserted, from and after" the 1st of April, 1843."
§ The motion was, however, not persevered in.
§ Mr. Parker
rose to propose a clause which he believed would have the effect of correcting one of the great objections of the sliding-scale. The hon. Member was understood to contend that the sliding-scale in its present form, rendered regular trade with distant ports almost impossible. The trade thus became of a very speculative character, and it precluded any trader from carrying on a regular system of commerce with those countries. The object of his 576 clause was to place the United States of America on the same footing with other countries nearer home. That an advantage was offered to these latter countries was evident from an extract of a letter from Hamburgh, which appeared a short time since in a journal favourable to the interests of the right hon. Baronet. That article spoke of the advantages which the proposed measure would afford to Germany and the countries on the Baltic, and congratulated the former country on the fact that the result would be more favourable to it than to the United States. With respect to the clause of which he had given notice, he was not much enamoured of it, and he would be happy if his object could be effected by any other means. There was some difference of opinion with respect to the distance of the voyage to America, but he was convinced, on the authority of a gallant commodore, who had shown himself conversant with the question, that the out and home voyage, including loading and unloading, would consume sixty-five days, and allowing fifteen days more for New Orleans, it would make altogether eighty days. The time occupied, he might also observe, in sending a vessel to Odessa, freighting her and the voyage back, was not less than four months, and he could not include Odessa unless he extended the period in his clause to that time. He therefore moved—That it shall be lawful for any person, on payment of the duty on any quantity of foreign corn, or on giving bond for the payment of the same, at the rate of duty then ruling, or on giving bond for the payment of such duty at the rate which shall be ruling on the day of clearing out such corn from any foreign port, to enter the aforesaid quantity of corn, or any part thereof, for home consumption, although not actually in bond, provided it be imported within a limited number of days from the time of such entry.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the hon. Gentleman himself seemed to admit that the clause was obscure, and that he was not himself very much enamoured of it. The purport of the clause, as he apprehended it, was, if the duty were down to 1s., any individual might give a bond for the payment of that duty, and thus be enabled to speculate to an unlimited amount. For instance, at the shilling duty a person might give a bond for 20,000s., thus enabling him to introduce 20,000 quarters of wheat, and allowing him four months' time to conduct his speculation. Such a proposition was very extravagant, and would offer a great 577 discouragement to the bonding of corn, as nobody would place corn in bond when he could have four months for conducting such speculations, which would be abandoned in the event of a failure. The proposition was somewhat similar to one proposed by the hon. Member for Paisley. It was to be wished from these specimens, that those hon. Members would devise a corn bill of their own, and they then perhaps would perceive the difficulties by which the question was surrounded. The present proposition would be attended with no advantage, whilst, on the contrary, it would tend to introduce a new element of fraud, and he could not agree to a proposition which was adverse to the general character of the bill.
§ Viscount Howick
said, he should support the clause. The object of it was to break up a monopoly of corn, to allow some ad vantage to distant countries, and thereby to lower the price to the consumer. It was true there were some difficulties, but it was because the bill of the right hon. Baronet was not founded on some more reasonable, simple, and intelligible principle, and therefore the hon. Member for Sheffield could not cut deeply enough. The taunt with respect to the difficulty came with a bad grace from the right hon. Baronet, for the more his own bill was looked at, the more contrary it was found to every principle which should govern commercial legislation. It was a principle which the right hon. Baronet did not attempt to apply generally, for though he proposed a sliding scale for corn, he did not make a similar proposal with respect to income.
§ Mr. Hastie
denied that one of the causes to which on a former occasion the right hon. Baronet had attributed the commercial distress could have operated to any great extent. According to the right hon. Baronet, our imports to America, which in 1839 were 8,000,000l., had, in 1840, fallen to 5,000,000l., and in 1841 the defalcation continued the same. Now taking the whole amount of imports at 52,000,000l., it was an absurdity to say that a falling off of 6 per cent, was one of the great causes of the distress of the country.
§ Mr. Parker
would not divide the House on the clause, but he hoped something would be done to enable us to carry on a reciprocal trade with America. He thought, however, that the right hon. Baronet might have been more courteous in his observations on the clause.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, if there was any ap- 578 parent want of courtesy, what he had said referred merely to the clause before the House, and not to the hon. Gentleman who had brought it forward.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ Mr. P. Scrope
moved the following addition to the clause: —That foreign corn entered for consumption from ship be admitted on the request of the importer, at the duties ruling on the day on which such ship cleared out from the port whence the corn was exported.A time, he said, might come, when there would be a scarcity of corn and no supply could be obtained from the Baltic. If the clause as proposed by the right hon. Baronet remained without alteration, it would be impossible to procure any from America. If the right hon. Baronet wished to en courage trade with the United States, he ought to give some facilities for that purpose.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he would not object to the clause, if he were convinced of its utility; but it would act as a positive discouragement to warehousing in this country.
said, it was a disadvantage incident to all sliding scales, that under them you could not import corn from the more distant grain countries; but the right hon. Baronet seemed determined so to construct his scale as to let in the minimum quantity of corn. The clause would intro duce greater certainty into the trade, but it seemed the object of Gentlemen opposite to encourage excessive speculation by all means.
§ Mr. S. Wortley
did not approve of the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud. He thought it would only introduce the new element of uncertainty into the calculations of the trader, and on that ground it was extremely objectionable.
§ Mr. C. W. Howard
believed that if the bill had been framed with a due regard to the interests of their trade with the United States, that it would be met in the same spirit by the Americans, and that they would be willing to extend their trade with this country. It would appear, however, as if the object of the right hon: Baronet was that they should have no trade with America.
§ Mr. P. Scrope,
would not divide the committee, but he hoped the right hon. Baronet would still give his attention to the point.
§ Amendment withdrawn, original clause agreed to.579
§ On clause 5 being proposed,
§ Mr. Labouchere
wished to call the attention of the Vice President of the Board of Trade to the clause which was copied, word for word, from the existing law. On the ether evening the right hon. Gentleman had stated that a great portion of the Canadian flour imported into this country Was the produce of American wheat. He had considered that the wording of this clause was sufficient to prevent any such surreptitious introduction, but on inquiry he found that such was not the case, and, therefore, he would suggest the propriety of amending the clause in such a manner as to remedy the abuse complained of.
§ Mr. Gladstone
agreed that the words of the clause appeared sufficiently stringent to prevent the introduction of American Wheat under the guise of Canadian flour, but according to another of the Gustoms Acts, manufactured goods were always taken to be the produce of the country in Which they were manufactured, and under that clause the flour had been introduced as Canadian flour. If it should be thought advisable to introduce words, enacting that no flour should be considered as colonial flour that was hot manufactured from wheat grown in the colony, they might be introduced into this clause.
thought it would be by no means desirable to re-enact a clause which had already proved inoperative;
Mr. S. O'Brien
wished to ask the Secretary for the Colonies, or the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government if there would be any objection to permit colonial corn to be imported duty free, or at a nominal rate of duty, provided the colonial legislatures would place a duty on foreign corn imported into the colony, equal in amount to the protection given to home-grown corn?
§ No answer was given to the question, —clause agreed to.
§ On clause 8,
§ Captain Pechell
proposed the following amendments:That every vessel importing foreign corn, and which shall export British manufactured goods, shall, upon proof of such exportation, be entitled to a drawback of such part of the duty which was payable upon such corn at the time of its entering into port as hereinafter mentioned—that is to say, if the value of the goods so exported shall, according to the fair market price thereof, be equal to or exceed the value of the corn so imported, according to the average price of corn at the time of its entering into port, a drawback, of per cent 580 on the amount of such duty; and if the value of the goods so exported shall be less than the value of the corn so imported, then the same proportion of duty in respect of the value of the goods so exported as the whole value Of the corn imported shall bear to the whole duty payable on the importation as aforesaid.
§ Sir JR. Peel
said, it seemed to him that the only result of the amendment would be to give a preference to foreign shipping. He thought it would be far better that the trade should be carried on according to the interest of those engaged in it, than by offering any inducements to any particular classes. If the hon. Gentleman desired to cure the sliding-scale, surely he might devise some better method than by giving a preference on account of the character of the cargo.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On the 9th clause being put,
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, he really must now object to the House sitting any longer. It was nearly half-past twelve, an hour at which it was clear that such a measure as this could not be conveniently or properly-discussed. He should move that the chair man report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
An hon. Member
on the Ministerial side objected to the interruption of the debate. When the Whigs were in office, the hon. Member for Salford could go up stairs, or be asleep when the clock struck twelve, but now he found it convenient to obstruct the legislation of the country. He hoped the House would go On.
§ Mr. Brotherton
indignantly denied, that he was actuated by factious motives. He was present in his place as frequently as any hon. Member, and, so far from offering any factious opposition to any Government, he had always been steady and consistent in his motion for adjournment after a certain hour of the night. It was quite impossible that the House could go on with the discussion of the next clause. It involved a great principle, and could not be disposed of in an empty House, at an hour-unfitted for discussion. He should certainly press his motion.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, it was certainly true they had arrived at a point of the proceedings where a debate Was likely to Occur. He regretted, however, that they could hot proceed, as he was most anxious to get this measure through Parliament. He would give notice that he should take every oppor- 581 tunity of pressing this measure on the attention of the House. On Friday, of course, he should proceed with the question of the income-tax, but on every other night he should take advantage of all the opportunities open to him of pressing the consideration of this measure. Of course he should not object to or impede any discussion upon it, but he should expect hon. Gentlemen who took an interest in the question to be in their places, and not to occasion any delay.
§ Mr. Labouchere
would certainly have been glad if they could go on for a short time, but when his hon. Friend the Member for Salford was charged with having gone up-stairs to enable the late Government to proceed with their measures after twelve o'clock, he must remind the House how stern and inexorable the hon. Gentle man had been on several occasions when the late Government desired to proceed. Indeed, it often happened that when the hon. Member did not move, there were loud calls for "Mr. Brotherton" from the other side, and he was forced to make his motion, however, important the subject before the House.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the fact of there being any necessity to call for Mr. Brotherton, proved that that hon. Gentleman was sometimes slow to move. Now, he would really put it to the hon. Gentleman whether they could not go on for one hour longer?
§ The Committee divided on the question that the Chairman do report progress. Ayes 89; Noes 64: Majority 25.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Acton, Col.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Drummond, H. H.|
|Barclay, D.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Ellis, W.|
|Baskerville. T. B. M.||Eliot, Lord|
|Beckett, W.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Bell, J.||Ferguson, Col.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Botfield, B.||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Gill, T.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Gladstone. rt. hn. W.E.|
|Childers, J. W.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Grimston, Visct.|
|Compton, H. C.||Grogan, E.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Hardinge.rt. hn.Sir H.|
|Cripps, W.||Harford, S.|
|Dawnay, hon. W, H||Hawes, B.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Hill, Lord M.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Hindley, C.||Power, J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Hope, G. W.||Richards, R.|
|Howard, hn. C.W. G.||Ryder, hon. G. D.|
|Johnson, W. G.||Scott, R.|
|Johnston, A.||Stanley, Lord|
|Knatchbull, rt. h. Sir E.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Tennent, J. E.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Thornely, T.|
|March, Earl of||Tufnell, H.|
|Marsham, Visct.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Masterman, J.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Morris, D.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Napier, Sir C.||Wood, B.|
|Newry, Visct.||Wood, Col.|
|Nicholl, rt. hon. J.||Wood, G. W.|
|O'Brien, J.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|O'Brien, W. S.||Young, J.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||TELLERS.|
|Palmer, R.||Bowring, Dr.|
|Parker, J.||Brotherton, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Ackers, J.||Lockhart, W.|
|Aldam, W.||M'Geachy, F. A.|
|Allix, J.P.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Antrobus, E.||Martin, C. W.|
|Baird, W.||Martyn, C. C.|
|Bankes, G.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Baring, H. B.||Morgan, O.|
|Borthwick, P.||Neville, R.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Norreys, Lord|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Northland, Visct.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Packe, C. W.|
|Cochrane, A.||Peel, J.|
|Collett, W. R.||Pringle, A.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Crosse, T. B.||Redington, T. N,|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Duff, J.||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Escott, B.||Sheppard, T.|
|Fitzroy, Capt.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Smith, A.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Somerton, Visct.|
|Greenall, P.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Hale, R. B.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Henley, J. W.||Trotter, J.|
|Hinde, J. H.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Hornby, J.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Jones, Capt.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Legh, G. C.||TELLERS.|
|Leicester, Earl of||Biadshaw, J.|
|Lindsay, H. H.||Forester, hon.G.C.W.|
§ The House resumed. Committee to sit again.