The MARQUESS of GRANBY
rose to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. The question, he considered, was one that affected all who were concerned in agriculture. Before entering into the main question, he would make a few observations on the manufactures of the country. The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) had already said that the agricultural interest did not desire to see manufactures decline in this country. He wished to see the stream of manufacturing prosperity conducted into channels safe and useful. He did not wish to see it decline—he wished to see it flow like the noble river outside these walls—in one full and constant stream, never drying up or running into unprofitable channels. The protectionists did not wish to see manufactures flourish at the expense of agriculture. They thought that manufactures properly regulated would tend to the prosperity and benefit of the country. The agriculturists wished to see the calm waters of manufacturing prosperity reflect the image of their own prosperity. The agriculturists only desired to live and let live. But now to the question of the repeal of the Corn Laws. The object of the Corn Laws had been much misrepresented. The Anti-Corn-Law advocates said the Corn Law supporters wished to starve the people. He denied it. He asserted the object of the Corn Law supporters was to supply corn to the people at a constant and a moderate price. They proposed to do this by the assertion of two great principles. First, to raise the people's subsistence, as far as they could, from our own soil; to give employment to as many of our own people as they could in the healthy and manly employment of agriculture; and to render this country thereby independent of foreign nations. And, second, that as we knew 331 scarcity must arise occasionally—when it did arise, and after using our own stock as far as it would go, then to open our ports and to admit foreign corn. One reason for not altering the present laws was, that the price of corn under them was gradually diminishing. There was one important point which he believed had not been mentioned in the debate—it had been touched upon in Mr. Alison's work on Population, and he would read the extract. Mr. Alison wrote:—Speculators purchase up grain largely on the Continent during years of plenty, and store them in the British bonded warehouses, in anticipation of the rise of prices on the first unfavourable season. There the ample store lies innocuous to the British farmer during seasons of prosperity, when its aid is not required by the British consumer; but no sooner does the expected period of adversity arrive, than it issues forth in vast quantities to avert the calamity, and diffuse the stream of plenty through every village and hamlet in the realm.He then alludes to 1838, and continues—And it is particularly worthy of observation, that this fortunate effect in 1838 could not possibly have taken place if an unrestricted trade in corn had existed, and that it is the creation of the corn law, and the corn law alone. If a free importation of grain were permitted between Great Britain and the Continent, these great bonded reservoirs of grain in the British harbours would not exist. Food would be provided for a large part of our population by the foreign, instead of the British, cultivators. The temptation of sale, at a present profit, would prove irresistible to the foreign importer; and the British warehouses (of Dantzic wheat) would be emptied as rapidly upon the first rise of prices, as the stackyards of the British cultivators. The home supply being greatly diminished, and the foreign proportionably augmented, the average supply would just be about equal to the average demand, and no reserve store would be accumulated in any quarter to supply the wants of the people in seasons of scarcity. But while a free importation of grain could not provide such a reserve store, for the same reason that it cannot be provided by the domestic growers in the British islands, it is effectually secured by the present Corn Law; which, prohibiting importation in ordinary seasons, yet permits any quantity of foreign grain to be stored up in our bonded warehouses, and thus permits the surplus produce of the Continent, in years of plenty, to be set apart as a reserve for the British population in periods of scarcity.They had been told by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) that those laws which he once considered impolitic, he now considered unjust. The right hon. Baronet's argument would be sound and perfect, if money rained from the skies; but, in the existing state of things, it was erroneous and mischievous. But it was said that protection was the bane of agriculture, and that agriculturists required compete- 332 tion to excite them to economy and industry. If protection was the bane of agriculture, it was not less the bane of manufactures. Was there any reason why it should be the bane of one interest, and not of the other? If so, what a great injustice was the right hon. Baronet about to inflict upon those manufactures, on which he was going to keep a duty of ten per cent. The right hon. Baronet said it was for the sake of revenue, and he could not help it; but he would recommend a plan which would clear away all the right hon. Baronet's difficulties. Mr. M'Culloch, in his first chapter on Taxation, said, "Moderate taxation stimulates industry, makes the people more economical, and is an advantage." That was the very thing that was wanted. And he (the Marquess of Granby) contended, that protection was a great benefit. On that point he would refer to an opinion expressed by Lord Francis Roos, in the year 1610, at which time there were no Corn Laws:—Sir—I doubt not but by this time you are very deep in the faculty of law-making. I desire much that if any laws be passed, we may have the heads of the heads of them (the titles of the chiefest).I had some conference with Sir R. Buller (to whom, I pray, and Sir T. Wise remember my service), concerning a Bill that no corn should be imported until it came to some extraordinary price. Of this, having since consideration, there seems to me many reasons very strong for the converting of this Bill into a statute.A first is, because the importation of corn is an exportation of money, and that, even in case of necessity, is a hurt to the commonwealth, though then tolerable for the avoiding of a greater hurt, but in unnecessary cases altogether inexcusable.Secondly, if importation be unlimitedly allowed, the cheapness of corn will take away the benefit of husbandry; and the benefit being taken away, husbandry itself (which is usually undertaken for benefit) will decay. And if husbandry decay, there are likely to grow two main inconveniences. The one, that the poor must starve for want of work, the effect whereof hath too much appeared in the conversion of tillage into sheep pasture. A second, that in a short time, this kingdom to be set to a rent, will be less worth per annum many thousand pounds; for I think, within this twenty years, husbandry hath, in many places, doubled the yearly value of land, which, if tillage decay, is likely to return to the ancient means.And whereas there is a seeming objection that importation makes cheapness, and cheapness seems to favour the poor, I affirm that this importation will especially hurt the poor, and for their sakes especially it is to be forbidden. For if corn be cheap, and the poor man have no money, what avails it to him that corn is cheap when he cannot buy it? If money be carried out of the country, and the poor man be not set on work by reason of the decay of tillage, I wonder how he shall buy this cheap corn without money? I think it were better that 333 corn were for 7s. a bushel, and yet by reason of tillage the poor man should earn 18d. or 2s. a week, than, corn being at 5s., he should earn 12d., or perchance nothing. For, without question, half of the work at least will be abated. Besides, there are two inconveniences at this time which accompany cheapness, and make it unprofitable to the poorest sort of men. The one is, the wickedness of bakers, of whom I hear it reported that at this time they make their bread after 10s. the bushel. A second, of the town merchants, who buy ship loads of corn, and sell it so much under the ordinary price as may serve to undo the husbandman, and yet so near the price that the poor hath far less benefit by it than the commonwealth, yea, themselves have harm.Thus I have expressed to you the considerations which entered into my thoughts upon this business, which, if you think them worth the mentioning, I pray you to communicate to Sir R. Buller, which I do not to add to better judgment, but rather to submit them to their approbation. And I wish that this letter may be prevented by a statute before it comes to your hands.And so wishing you the direction of the Highest, and that the hand of the Almighty may be with you all unto the making of laws wholesome and restorative for this poor and sinful land, I take leave, ever resting, yours most assuredly to be commanded, (Signed) "F. Roos.April 30.(Addressed) "To my loving and much-esteemed cousin, Richard Carey, Esq., London.He now came to the consideration of the proportion which wages bore in relation to the price of food. The right hon. Baronet could no longer support the Corn Laws, because he was of opinion that the price of corn and the wages of labour did not vary in the same proportion; and one of the principal objects in the repeal of the Corn Laws was to enable this country, by reduced wages, to compete with the foreigner. The right hon. Baronet said, that the price of corn had varied 38s. between the years 1837 and 1844, whereas the wages of labour had only varied from 10s. to 11s. Now, if that were the case, there would be a good reason for no longer supporting the Corn Laws; but there must have been some mistake in that argument. He thought the variation could not have been so great, and that the labourer had been paid in other ways than by actual wages. He held in his hand a return which had been presented to the House of Lords, drawn up by a near relative of his own, which would throw some light on the variation between the prices of corn and the wages of labour in his own neighbourhood. That return showed the amount of wages received by forty-two labourers in the neighbourhood of Belvoir, in the month of April, in the years 1838 and 1839. In 1838, the price of corn was 60s.; and 334 in 1839, it was 72s. In 1838, the wages averaged 11s. 7d.; and in 1839, the average was 12s. 6d. Now, whilst the difference in the price of corn was 12s., the difference in the price of labour was only 11d.; but, in addition to that, allowances were made to the labourer in various ways. In April, 1838, the average consumption of meat in each family was 3 lbs. 11 oz.; in April, 1839, 3 lbs. 6½ oz. The average consumption of flour in April, 1838, was 39 lbs. 6 oz.; and in April, 1839, the consumption was 42 lbs. As far as flour went, the labourer did consume in that year a great deal of barley instead of wheaten flour; and he (the Marquess of Granby) suffered the same penance, for he was not allowed to eat wheaten bread. But even supposing the calculations of the right hon. Baronet to be true throughout the whole of England, no argument could be founded upon them. The cheapness or dearness of corn was generally owing to its abundance or scarcity; and it was the same thing to the farmer whether he sold fifty quarters at 40s., or forty quarters at 50s.; because, although the price of corn might fall, he would still be enabled to give his labourers the same wages. But let the Corn Laws be repealed, and the produce of other lands freely admitted, he would no longer be able to pay the labourer the same wages. If the poorer sorts were thrown out of cultivation, the labourers must be thrown out of employment, and the increased competition in the labour market would reduce the price of wages still lower than they were at present. If the right hon. Baronet had so chosen, he might still have defended the Corn Laws. If the hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench wished to prove that the poor man would be better off for having cheap bread, he would tell them how to act; let them give up their salaries for the space of a year, and still enjoy the luxuries which they enjoyed at present. He should then begin to believe in the impossible, and that there was something in the doctrines of free trade. But even then the cases would not be parallel, because they would have something to fall back upon besides their salaries, whilst the labourer had nothing but his labour to depend on, and when deprived of that, he would be deprived of everything. He deplored the distress which existed in Ireland, which had been made the foundation for the repeal of the Corn Laws. It had been said, if the ports were opened, it would be impossible to close them again. 335 Now, he could not understand the soundness of the argument founded on the failure of the potato crop; and he believed that Her Majesty's Ministers began to fancy that the doctrine was unsound, and that they had rather changed their ground since the commencement of the debate. He believed their real argument now, was, "we think the same kind of distress may exist for many years, and we do not like the people of England to be continually called upon to subscribe their money to feed the people of Ireland." He regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not, in conjunction with the Coercion Bill, introduced some measure calculated to ameliorate their distress. And if it was supposed that the repeal of the Corn Laws would relieve that distress, he would quote the observations of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, who said that it would throw out of employment upwards of 500,000 families, and add to the two millions at present destitute upwards of three millions more. That statement had not yet been contradicted; and while the people of this country would have to feed double the number they were at present called upon to support, their power to do so would be materially diminished. He now came to the encouragement held out to induce the House to consent to the repeal of the Corn Laws. It was said the people could get their bread cheap. Immediately afterwards he was told, in some instances by the same person, that the people were not born, that the countries were not yet discovered, from which this great supply was to come. In his confusion, he naturally turned to the projector of these measures to find some consolation; but alas! the shades of evening only ended in the depths of night—confusion became worse confounded, and the right hon. Baronet would tell nothing about it, because he could not. He asked the right hon. Baronet and the House, whether it was fitting to pass a measure which would produce so great a social revolution on such statements as those which had been laid before the House—a measure which would rend asunder the ties which had existed for centuries—a measure which would tend to aggravate the great evil of the present day, the love of money, no matter how it might be made—a measure setting man against man—a measure which, under pretence of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market, would unite our manufacturers with foreign agriculturists, 336 instead of strengthening the ties which now existed between them and their agricultural friends. On such statements as those which had been adduced, he asserted that it was not becoming for the House of Commons to pass such a measure. In default of information on which to found his arguments, he was compelled to have recourse to the only arguments he had heard on the subject—the arguments of his hon. Friends around him. From them he had learned that the price of wheat, in the event of the Corn Law being repealed, would probably be from 35s. to 40s. a quarter. If that were true, he had a statement in his hand which would show how the farmer would be affected. The statement had been made at an agricultural meeting; and in order to be sure of the figures, he had written to the person who had made it for a copy. It was founded on what was called the three-field system; and related to a farm of 300 acres—100 acres wheat, 100 acres oats, and 100 acres green crop. Under the present system 100 acres of wheat producing 450 quarters would be worth 51s. a quarter—
Which would be the value of wheat and oats together, under the present system. But under free trade the value would, be—
In all £1,147 10 0 100 acres of oats would produce 800 quarters at 20s. 5d. a quarter 816 13 4 £1,964 3 4
So that suppose the farmer paid no rent under a free-trade system, that calculation would show that he would still be a loser by 15l. when compared to present prices. He had several other statements of the same kind, but he would not trouble the House with them. In case an objection should be made to that which he had stated as being based on the three-field system, he would take one on the six-field system. The farm was one of 300 acres of clay land, and the rent 30s. an acre. A hundred acres of wheat would produce 400 quarters, which, at the present average, 55s. 6d. a quarter, would yield 1,110l. With the value of the barley and beans the amount which would be received under the 337 present system of Corn Laws was 1,841l. 5s., while under a free-trade system it would only be 1,316l., leaving a difference of 525l. As the rent was only 450l., it followed that the farmer, even if he paid no rent—which he did not suppose the free traders intended—would be a loser to the amount of 75l. He was sorry to trouble the House with these statements. He had endeavoured to prove to the House that the repeal of the Corn Laws would be against all the principles of policy and of justice. But he would go further, and say that, if it was right and necessary—if the time had come for a repeal of the Corn Laws, they could not have a permanent and satisfactory settlement of the measure proposed by the present Government. In order to prove what he asserted, he would refer to some remarks in the Quarterly Review of September, 1842, written almost immediately after the Tariff measures of the right hon. Baronet were introduced. He was justified in saying that the present could not be considered as a permanent settlement of the question, because the right hon. Baronet had come into power, and had received the support of the agricultural party, for the purpose of maintaining the Corn Laws. The article to which he referred was written in the defence of the right hon. Member. Referring to the speech of the right hon. Member in May, 1840, it stated that he repeated early in the Session of 1841, and again more fully in the debate on the Address on the 28th of August, 1841—on which occasion the vote was taken which decided the fate of the Whig Ministry, and placed the right hon. Gentleman in power—his opinion on the Corn Law question, and stated the grounds on which alone he could accept the confidence of Parliament in these words:—
450 quarters wheat, 35s. £787 10 0 800 quarters oats, 14s. 560 0 0 £1,347 10 0 Suppose the rent of the land to be 2l. an acre, which was higher than usual, it would amount to 600 0 0 £1,947 10 0Previous to the late dissolution of Parliament I said, and I now repeat it, that I think the sliding-scale a preferable method of settling the duty. I then said that I could not pledge myself to the details of the existing law; but that I would reserve to myself an unfettered power of considering and amending these details. I hold the same language now: I still prefer the principle of a graduated duty; but if you ask me whether I will bind myself to maintain the existing Corn Law in all its details, and whether that is the condition upon which the landed interest give me their support, I say that, upon that condition, I will not accept their support.That was in 1841; and he thought it was evident that the right hon. Baronet had accepted their support on the condition that he should maintain a Corn Law, though not the details of that which then 338 existed; and that remarkable declaration, the reviewer states, was enforced by many illustrative details, and was followed by that celebrated division, in which 352 Conservatives, including Sir R. Vyvyan himself, accepted the right hon. Baronet's conditions, and called him, by the unexpected majority of 91, to execute as Minister inter alia the amendment of the Corn Laws, to which he had so emphatically alluded. Need we, or indeed could we, add any argument to give strength to this statement and this fact, that Sir R. Peel declared boldly, almost arrogantly, the conditions on which alone he could accept the support of his party? Those conditions were accepted, and support was given to him with the most unexampled enthusiasm. Such were the reviewer's remarks; and, for himself, he could only say that, seeing that the right hon. Baronet had now proposed a repeal of the Corn Laws, that the measure was not to come into operation till 1849, and that a dissolution of Parliament must occur before that time, he could not see what chance there was of expecting that the proposed repeal of the Corn Law would be a permanent and satisfactory settlement. They had been told that they ought to have discovered the intention of the Government at an earlier period, and they had been told that Earl Grey had discovered it. But were they, the conscientious and unsuspecting supporters of the right hon. Baronet to be compared to Earl Grey, the determined but honest opponent of the Government? He would now turn to those 112 Members who had supported the right hon. Baronet in the proposed change. He presumed there was a point at which they were determined to cry, "hold, enough," and to say they had gone far enough. Let them remember they might soon arrive at that point, and that their remonstrances might be met by the right hon. Baronet, turning round upon them and saying, "You should have discovered this sooner." He had no wish to taunt them; but if they supported the Government in consequence of their confidence in it, and not on account of their belief in the justice of its measures, he beseeched them to remember the facts he had stated, and to act as their consciences dictated. They had been told that it was unwise and unworthy of the aristocracy and the landed interest longer to maintain those laws. He did not understand that assertion. Either the Corn Laws were right or they were wrong. They had sup- 339 ported and did support them, because they believed them to be right. He did not deny that their interests might be concerned in the maintenance of the Corn Laws; but he denied that they could injure one class without injuring another. Those who would suffer in the first instance would be the poorer tenants and the labourers. That was his belief; and he thought he had the authority of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government for saying, that the repeal would cause much suffering among men who had not skill or capital. The right hon. Baronet seemed to think that the aristocracy, the landed interest, and those who had capital and skill, would not suffer at all; but his belief was that they also would suffer. They could not injure the root of the tree without injuring the branches. He had yet to learn that they were not to defend the rights of a class, because in defending them they might be defending their own rights also. The aristocracy and the landed interest would be unworthy the compliment paid to them the other night by the right hon. Baronet if they feared any such taunt. But even if the right hon. Baronet should be right in his opinion that the aristocracy and the landed interest would not be injured, what a poor recompense that would be for the loss of the yeomanry of England—And you, good yeomen,Whose limbs were made in England, show you hereThe mettle of your pasturage; let us swearThat you were worth your breeding, which I doubt not,For there are none of you so base and meanThat hath not noble lustre in your eyes.I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,Straining upon a start. The game's afoot;Follow your spirits.Among whom he would class the noble Lord the Member for Lynn.And with this charge,Cry 'God for the Queen, England, and St. George.'He could not believe that the present measure would pass the Legislature; but if it did he hoped their anticipations of its evil effects would prove incorrect, and that the anticipations of the right hon. Baronet, however vague and uncertain they were, might be verified. The right hon. Baronet had said, that he would not consent to remain at the helm unless that helm were allowed to traverse freely. He feared, if the right hon. Baronet should succeed in altering the course of the vessel, from the 340 praiseworthy motive of desiring to reach, in a more direct manner, the port of plenty and prosperity, he would meet the fate of many a mariner—be driven by storms and tides he little dreamt of, and leave his vessel a helpless wreck on the barren and inhospitable shores of free trade. If such should unfortunately be the case, he had no doubt the noble Lord the Member for Lynn and his crew would come forward and do what they could to get the vessel off, and he only hoped they would not be too late. He thanked the House for the indulgence they had shown him, and begged to conclude by moving that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.
§ MR. MILNES GASKELL
said, he rose to second the Amendment, though it was no small disadvantage to follow the admirable speech which had just been made by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Granby). He felt, however, that the obligation to perform this duty was one from which he could not honourably shrink; and in his (Mr. Gaskell's) opinion, it was imperative upon those who were unconvinced by the arguments which had been addressed to them, to state fairly and frankly before the House, and before the country, the grounds upon which their opinions remained unchanged. If he had come to a different conclusion upon this subject since the proposition of the Government had been first brought forward, he would have called upon his constituents either to record a change of opinion upon their own part, or to select some other Gentleman better qualified to represent them than himself—he would not have taken advantage of the privilege which they had conferred upon him for the purpose of promoting measures which he had been returned to that House to combat. He knew it had been said by very high authorities, by the noble Lord the Member for London, and by others, that this was a doctrine not recognized by the Constitutution, and subversive of the legitimate functions of Members of that House. Now, he (Mr. Gaskell) was one of the last men to assert a principle tending to impair or limit them. He differed even from his noble Friend the Member for Newark (Lord J. Manners) in the opinion that the Parliament of 1714 had not been justified by a great State necessity in the passing of the Septennial Act; but surely there was a broad and intelligible distinction between the legislative competency of Parliament, and the equitable right possessed by its Members to break engagements which they 341 had themselves voluntarily made. H could conceive no course more likely to weaken their just authority than that of acting in disregard of such engagements on great national questions. The present measure had been ostensibly introduced on account of the failure of the potato crop in Ireland. He apprehended that, without the aid of some such pressure, it could hardly have been expected that a majority of that House would assent to it, and still less that those Members of the Cabinet who had resigned their offices would so easily be induced to resume them. He doubted whether the extent of the potato failure was so great as had been stated; but admitting, for the sake of argument, that it was so, he saw no grounds for the assumption which had been made so largely in these debates, that if the Government had once opened the ports, it would have been impossible again to close them. That might have been legitimately tested; and he (Mr. Gaskell) must say that it would have been more creditable to the House of Commons, and more satisfactory to the country, if the sense of the people had been constitutionally ascertained. Four years only had elapsed since the enactment of the existing Corn Law. There had been a prevailing impression at that time—an impression to which the language of Her Majesty's Ministers gave additional weight—that that settlement would not be lightly disturbed; and it was difficult to understand how the experience of the last three years—years of prosperity and abundance—of good harvests and high wages—could justify the Legislature in upsetting it. He had heard nothing in the course of these debates to shake his opinion upon this subject. It still appeared to him that a law which in time of low prices protected the producer, and which in time of high prices protected the consumer, was neither impolitic nor unjust: he still believed that the free importation of foreign corn into this country would have the effect of checking the cultivation of the soil, and of throwing out of employment a large proportion of the agricultural population. It had been impressed upon their minds by Her Majesty's Ministers, in former years, that it was not so much the property of the landlord or tenant-farmer that was at stake, as the daily subsistence of the great body of the people. They had been told that, with the price of labour at present paid in this country, it would be impossible for the farmer to cultivate his land, and 342 that, consequently, a large portion of it must go untilled. They had been told that the price of labour was so low in the north of Europe, that there could not be an unrestricted importation of corn from the Baltic without a serious injury to the home grower; that the foreign grower would be the party who would reap the greatest benefit from the change; and that, instead of its increasing the demand in foreign countries for our manufactures, it would leave more capital at their disposal for the improvement of their own. The noble Lord who had just sat down had most truly said that they were constantly met by two arguments upon this question, which were utterly inconsistent with one another. When it was sought to enlist the passions of the operative, it was said, this is an odious monopoly—a bread tax—the landlords are intercepting the supply of food to the people; but when it was the agriculturist who was to be persuaded that his apprehensions were delusive, he was told there would be no serious diminution in the price of corn; and the calculations of Mr. Wolryche Whitmore and Mr. M'Culloch were referred to in support of that assertion. It was the opinion, he believed, of those gentlemen, that corn could not be permanently introduced into this country at a less amount than 52s. or 53s. a quarter. If this were so, what became of the charges of inhumanity that were so largely dealt in? On the other hand, if you could introduce corn into this country at a much lower rate, and if by the reduction in the number of farmers and agricultural labourers, the competition for manufacturing labour became increased, then surely the price of labour must fall, and great hardship must accrue to the agricultural population. He owned, also, that in his opinion it would be most unwise to place this country in a position of dependence on foreign nations for its supplies of food. He knew it was the fashion to deride such apprehensions now; and men were branded as destitute of common sense, if they held the opinions of Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson on commercial questions; but he (Mr. Gaskell) could not forget that in 1842 the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had expressed his opinion that this risk would be imminent; and he was at a loss to understand how the experience of the last three years could have proved an argument to be fallacious, which was based upon great national considerations. They had been told, too, by Her Majesty's Go- 343 vernment, in former Sessions, that the withdrawal of protection would be tantamount to a great social revolution; they had been warned in pathetic language by the Secretary of State against the severance of old ties, and the breaking of old associations. They had been told that this was a struggle to amass wealth and power, not to feed the people; that the subscription of immense sums of money to political associations was not consistent with the allegation of manufacturing decay: they had been told that this was an aggressive movement against the occupiers of land; that its object was to give an ascendancy to the inhabitants of towns over the rural population. They were told by the same parties now, that the maintenance of the Corn Laws was no longer possible; and that those with whom he acted were embarked in a hopeless and unavailing struggle. He (Mr. Gaskell) would give no opinion upon this point; he knew that a powerful combination of parties had declared against the continuance of these laws. He knew that a section of the party opposite—of which he wished to speak with all the respect due to its able and consistent advocacy of this measure—had acquired a predominating influence in that House. He knew, also, that the leaders of what had once been a great party had appropriated and adopted the arguments which they had so long resisted. The measure, under their auspices, might be successful. If its triumph should be completed, either in that or in a future Parliament, he trusted that it might be followed by all the benefits which the Gentlemen opposite had so long predicted, and not by the evils and the dangers which they (the protectionists) could not help anticipating. But be the result of that triumph what it might, they would at least have the satisfaction of reflecting that it had not been the experience of a small or doubtful good which they had preferred to speculative advantages; but a system under which it was universally admitted that this country had risen to the highest pitch of fame, of prosperity, and of power—that they had thought an adherence to fixed and settled principles was not a thing to be lightly regarded in the government of a great people—and that conceding one day what you had described as mischievous the day before, was a sure means to alienate from public men the confidence and good opinion of their fellow citizens. Lastly, they would be consoled by the reflection 344 that at a time of great difficulty and trial, when party attachments had been broken up, they had refused to separate the maintenance of public engagements from the furtherance of the public good, and had neither abandoned nor betrayed the interests committed to their care.
§ MR. SHERIDAN
rose with great reluctance to bring before the House a matter of a somewhat private and personal nature; but, at the same time, intimately connected with the subject then under discussion. It would be in the recollection of the House that on Friday last the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, in reply to the senior Member for Dorsetshire, suggested to him that he would be more properly occupied in comparing the condition of the agricultural labourers of Dorsetshire with that of the Irish peasantry. With all due submission, and without intending any disrespect, he (Mr. Sheridan) must say that this was sound and wholesome advice; and he trusted that the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, as well as his Colleagues, would take it into their consideration. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Floyer), in reply to the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, stated, that so far as regarded his own neighbourhood around the county town of Dorsetshire, and in other parts of the county, the statements of the noble Lord, founded on what he (Mr. Sheridan) had stated, were directly at variance with truth. Now, that was a strong expression; but, at the same time, he felt confident, from his knowledge of the character of that hon. Gentleman, that he would not so far forget what was due to him as a personal friend as to say anything offensive. He would not attempt, nor would it be congenial to the House, nor in good taste, to attempt to controvert that assertion by one of an opposite character. He would not go upon his own responsibility at all; but he would produce to the House, and for the satisfaction of the hon. Gentleman, statements made by gentlemen connected with the county, clergymen of the Established Church, men whose names were well known, and who were familiar with the condition of the poor. Last Friday he had addressed letters to several gentlemen on this subject, and he had received replies, which he would read to the House. The first was from the rev. Mr. Scott, brother of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire:—Maiden Newton, Dorchester, May 10, 1846,My dear Sheridan—You ask for an answer by 345 return of post, and therefore I write; but three full duties, besides Sunday school, give me so little time that I shall only say two words, and write again to-morrow. I certainly do not understand Floyer saying that he never knew wages so low as 7s. per week, for I have known many such instances, and his means of information are much more extended; and if you have got below the mark in stating 7s. as the average rate of money wages, I am convinced that you are only 6d. under the usual terms, for at this moment I know several instances of able-bodied and good labourers having received barely 7s. 6d. per week, without any other advantages, during the whole of the last winter, i. e. from Christmas up to this time. Some occasionally get a day or two task-work, which they consider a great advantage. I have no time for more to-day; but you are perfectly at liberty to use my name for all I have said.—Yours ever faithfully, "WILLIAM H. SCOTT.
§ The next document was from the Rev. Sydney Godolphin Osborne:—
§ "May 11, 1846.
§ "My dear Sheridan—I have read with much astonishment the speech of Mr. Floyer. I enclose for your perusal a statistical return of the wages, &c., in this, the Blandford Union. It was made for me three years ago—I believe it to be true of the present year—at the time I happened to be chairman of the board. I tested its truth myself, and am ready to defend it anywhere. I will give you, in confidence, the name of the individual who took it for me, which will, I think, be a sufficient guarantee for its correctness. I have no hesitation in saying it gives the most favourable view possible of the case of the labourers in the Blandford Union. In the year in which it was taken, 1843, between a seventh and eighth of the whole population of the union were paupers; and it will not be denied that a very large sum was then and is now collected in the shape of private rate, which does not appear in any tangible public shape. The Blandford Union has two districts. In the first, you will observe the wages vary from 8s. to 9s., except in Stourpaine and Crawford, where they are returned, in the former at 7s., the latter from 7s. to 8s. In the No. 2 district you will find seven or eight parishes returned at 7s. wages. Pray pay attention to the observations in red ink; they are those of a well-informed man. I have paid a great deal of attention to the subject, and I have no hesitation in saying that, taking males of 21 years of age to be men, the average pay of the union—the best, I believe, in the county—does not average 8s., including carters. I believe our board of guardians to be as humane and liberal as any in the kingdom—the guardians chiefly substantial yeomen. I have heard again and again relief granted, on grounds admitted to be evasive of the Poor Law Commissioners' order, to able-bodied men, because their wages were only 7s. or 8s. a week, and they had a large family. The usual course is to put it to the account of a sick child; for instance, a few weeks ago I saw relief in the shape of six loaves, and, I think, 6d., given to an able-bodied man, on account of a sick child. I turned to the medical officers' book, and found it was an infant of ten months with mesenteric disease! The relieving officer at once admitted that this was only an excuse, as the man's family was so large he could not live on his wages. As to the food of the poor, its staple is potatoes, some 346 get a little pig meat; their bread made from grist. I am ready to corroborate your statement of the iniquity of the grist system. I send you, for your private information, the name of two individuals who ought to know, if anybody ought, the truth on this matter; they have both assured me that the corn sold to the labourers, as grist, at sums varying from 6s. to 7s. a bushel, was, much of it, unfit for human food; none of it would have fetched 3s. a bushel in the market. If I mistake not, I can furnish you with some samples, which you may lay on the Table of the House. Do not be humbugged about piece-work; it is always so arranged, that the men working hours which would make up a week of eight days do not earn 1s. 6d. a day, very seldom 16d. My opinion of the condition of the Dorsetshire labourers is simply this—that owing to custom and combination they are, with the exception of a few favoured districts, brought to the lowest possible state of existence, physical and moral. If they ever were worse off than they are now, I can only say that the owning and occupying ancestry of the county deserve a reproach on their memory more bitter than I am to-day inclined to write. My earnest wish is, that a Commission, with power to examine on oath, should be granted by the Crown to investigate their condition; before that Commission we will easily prove the Soper case to be only one of 10,000. I will only now add my poor thanks to you, and the expression of my own determination to leave no step unturned to force the public to look into the state of the poor in these counties.—yours, in haste, "S. G. OSBORNE."
The hon. Member (Mr. Floyer) further stated that he actually knew no case in which wages were so low as 7s. per week. Now, he (Mr. Sheridan) took the trouble to write to the relieving officer of Dorsetshire on this subject; and Mr. Burt's letter was as follows. But before he read it, he begged to say that it did seem strange that a gentleman so highly respected, and so well known as the chairman of the board of guardians, should come forward and assert in his place in Parliament that he did not know a single case in Dorsetshire where wages were so low as 7s. per week, when day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, he had affixed his name to the relief and application book in which the cases appeared where relief was given on the ground of such low wages. Mr. Burt's letter was dated May 10, 1846. He says—
In compliance with your request I have sent you a list of all the able-bodied labourers who have received or applied for relief through my books during the two winter quarters. I believe the average rate of wages in my district not to exceed in money from 7s. to 7s. 6d. a week, and I think the extract I have sent you fully bears me out in that opinion. I cannot recollect the names at present, at least to speak with certainty, but I know there are numbers of labourers working for from 7s. to 8s. per week, and paying their own house-rent.
He had also asked Mr. Burt a question
which he likewise wished to ask the hon. Member (Mr. Floyer)—whether he could cite a case in the county of Dorset where a man was paid by the day more than 8s. per week. Mr. Burt said—
I find I have not answered your question, 'If I know of an instance of a labourer working by the day earning more than 8s. per week?' I believe I can very safely say I do not, neither do 1 believe there is a single instance in my district.
So much for the hon. Member's assertion that he did not know a case in the county of Dorset where a labourer received so little as 7s. per week. But, to make his case still more clear, he would read extracts from the document which had been sent him by the relieving officer, showing the names of those who were in receipt of 7s. per week. He would not read the names of those who received more than 7s., because the question turned upon the statement whether there were labourers receiving so low as 7s. per week. The document was entitled—
Extract from the relieving officer's book of applications in the district of Maiden Newton, Dorchester Union, of applications from able-bodied labourers for relief, either from insufficiency of earnings, or illness of themselves or families, in the quarters ending December, 1845, and March, 1846, with the amount of their earnings.
The first case was that of David Legg, Ann Legg, his wife, and two children, residing at Charminster; they received 8s. a week, and paid 2s. 6d. per week for house rent.
This application was on account of insufficiency of earnings." "William Dare, Mary, his wife, and five children, from Vanchurch, wages, 3s. per week; pays 1s. 6d. house-rent. This man's earnings have not averaged this winter more than 7s. per week. The relief was given by the relieving officer, on finding the family in a state of destitution." "Richard Legg, Mary, his wife, and five children, from Vauchurch, wages, 7s. per week, house-rent 1s. 3d." "Elijah Wheller, Elizabeth, his wife, and four children, from Vanchurch, wages, 7s. per week, house-rent 1s. 3d." "Luke Bridle, Mary, his wife, and three children, from Vanchurch, wages, 7s. per week, house-rent, 1s. 6d." "Reuben Wells, Elizabeth, his wife, and two children, from Maiden Newton, wages, 7s. per week, house-rent, 1s." "Job Smith, Charlotte, his wife, and three children from Maiden Newton, wages, 7s. 6d., and a house, fuel, and potato ground. This man applied for medical attendance when his wife was confined, which was refused by the board of guardians; a midwife attended her, and she died in childbirth.
He begged the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to this last case, which ought to be investigated. (The hon. Member having quoted six other cases of a similar kind, continued): He held in his hand a statement which showed the amount of wages and the ge-
neral position of the labourer in the parishes in the Blandford Union. They were as follows:—
In Almer—Population, 194; houses, 38; permanent paupers, 8, special cases, 9; wages, 8s.; houses, rent free; potato ground of occupiers, free; carriage of fuel, free; women and boys, generally employed. In Anderson—Population, 43; houses, 12; paupers, nil; wages, 7s.; carriage of fuel; potato land of occupiers, free; house-rent, free. In Charlton—Population, 3297; houses, 90; permanent paupers, 18, special cases, 19; wages, 8s.; house-rent, high; fuel, scarce and dear; potato land of occupier, at 6d. per perch. In Hilton—Population, 731; houses, 133; permanent paupers, 31, special cases, 27; wages, 7s. and 8s.; house-rent, low; allotments, at 1d. per perch; fuel, moderate. In Milboines — Population, 577; houses, 118; permanent paupers, 30, special cases, 19; wages, 7s. to 8s.; house-rent, 1s. 6d. to 2s.; allotments from owners; potato ground—men, 15 perches, free for occupiers; boys, 5 perches, ditto; employ for women and boys. In Milton Abbas—Population, 845; houses, 113; permanent paupers, 18; special cases, 36; wages, 7s., 8s., and 9s.; house-rent, 5s. per room per annum; allotments from owners, 40 perches at 1d.; fuel easily obtained, and cheap; women and boys generally employed; many labourers work in woods, and at piece-work. In Spetisbury — Population, 654; houses, 135; permanent paupers, 19, special cases, 22; wages, 7s. to 8s.; house-rent, 1s. to 1s. 6d.; allotments from the owner; boys and women generally employed; fuel, at moderate price. In Clenston — Population, 99; houses, 17; permanent paupers, 7, special cases, 2; wages, 8s.; house-rent, free, and carriage of fuel; good allotments from owner; women and boys employed. In Houghton—Population, 305; houses, 55; permanent paupers, 17; special cases, 9; wages, 8s.; house-rent, 1s.; allotments from owner; employ for women and boys, allowed to cut fuel on the common. In Kingston—Population, 569; houses, 144; permanent paupers, 26; special cases, 23; wages, 7s. to 8s.; house-rent, high; allotments from owner, good; constant labourers, potato ground, free; fuel, scarce and dear. In Stickland—Population, 383; houses 81; permanent paupers, 26, special cases, 16; wages, 7s. to 8s.; house-rent, from 1l. to 3l.; good allotments from owner; boys employed; fuel moderate. In Tomson — Population, 48; houses, 8; permanent paupers, nil; house and gardens, free; wages, 7s.; potato ground of occupier free. In Whitchureh — Population, 543; houses, 108; permanent paupers, 15; special cases, 3; wages, 8s.; house-rent, low; good allotments from owner; boys and women employed; fuel reasonable. In Zelston—Population, 223; houses, 48; permanent paupers, 10; special cases, 3; wages—single men, 6s. married men, 7s.; house-rent, high. In Turnwood—Population, 89; houses, 15; no paupers; wages, 8s.; potato ground of occupier, free; and many other advantages.
Now, he really thought his hon. Friend had scarcely done him justice when, in the face of these facts, his hon. Friend had declared the statement which he had made was not in accordance with the truth of the case. His hon. Friend had, however,
gone further, and maintained that there never had been a time when the labouring population of Dorsetshire were so well off as at present. It appeared, however that in the union to which he referred, the number of paupers last year was 120, while the number now was 148. This, surely, was no proof that the labouring population were better off. His hon. Friend, however, had gone still further and stated that, although in some spot in the county the wages might be as low as they had been stated to be, yet that he believed the fact might be accounted for by some peculiar circumstance—as, for instance, that the labourer was not thoroughly up to his work. Why, how, in the name of Heaven, could a man be up to his work upon horse-beans and turnip-tops, with residences ill-drained and over-crowded, and generative of disease? He maintained that, on the contrary, the wages of the labourer were scandalously low and insufficient to maintain himself and his family. Those were not his mere assertions: they were corroborated by the clergy and gentry of the county. They were repeated also by Lord Ashley at the meeting at Sturminster; and he believed that the noble Lord lost his seat for the county in consequence of the declaration he there made. The prudence of the hon. Member in not following in the noble Lord's footsteps was to be admired; but the hon. Member certainly had not done justice either to his constituents or to the subject. He was well aware of the odium he should incur by the course he was taking, but he disregarded it; and as long as he had the acknowledgments he had received from the clergy and the gentry of the county, that he was really doing good, so long would he continue to agitate this question. He would have been content here to sit down, and to say no more; but he well knew that his hon. Friends on that side of the House, and the Members of the Lcague, would ask him how, with these opinions, he could oppose this measure for the repeal of the Corn Laws? He had yet to learn, however, that the withdrawal of all protection would improve the condition of the labourer. It was still argued that the price of labour depended on the price of corn; though he would have thought that the right hon. Baronet had set that question for ever at rest. On the other hand, he had heard it asserted by Mr. Farquharson, whom his hon. Friend well knew to be a gentleman possessing great influence in the county of Dorset, and of great practical
experience in agriculture, that, long as he had been a farmer, which was for a period of twenty of thirty years, he had never known wages to vary in Dorsetshire, whether wheat was 20l. a load, or 10l. He firmly believed that wages in Dorsetshire were fixed, by custom, combination, and the tyrannical use of the New Poor Law; and he was confident, as long as that law was administered in the way it was at present, so long would the labourer remain in the same degraded and suffering condition. He would produce a case to prove what he said. It very frequently happened (and he was proud to be able to say it) that the labouring poor came to him for advice when they were persecuted under this law. Amongst the cases brought before him was the following. It was in February, 1846, and was stated thus:—
William Rendall, living at Nettlecombe, in the parish of Poorstock.—He has a wife and seven children. His earnings per week are 7s.; the eldest boy, 15 years of age, is working for Mr. Roper at 2s. per week; and the fourth child, a boy, earns 1s. per week. The youngest child is only two years old. The wife nets a little; so do two of the children. Their united earnings amount to 10s. per week. Out of this they are compelled to pay 4l. per annum for house-rent, to purchase fuel, and are not allowed potato ground. The relieving officer of the Beaminster Union has been applied to for an order of the house in consequence of William Rendall's earnings not being sufficient to support his family, but he refuses to grant the order, saying that William Rendall is an able-bodied man, and telling him to do as he could.
The answer of the relieving officer when applied to about the case was as follows:—
Respecting the case of Rendall, belonging to the parish of Poorstock, I beg to inform you I brought it before our board. His application was refused by the guardians, he having an opportunity of bettering himself, which he refused to avail himself of, because he did not think proper to take any situation out of his own parish. I have no doubt in his present situation the parish will assist him with a little bread for a short time.
Now, here was a case where the guardians thought the wages not enough, and relieved a little, but for a short time only. What was the alternative? Why, that the labourer was obliged to go back and take these scandalously low wages, which were a disgrace to the country. It would, however, be argued by the economists that the price of labour depended in a great measure on the demand, and that the surplus of the agricultural districts would be drawn off to the manufacturing. He admitted that free trade might cause an increased demand; but that demand would be confined to the manufacturing districts—it would not reach the rural districts in the
south. Therefore, he contended, the agricultural labourer would not be benefited by that increased demand. If proof were wanted, he apprehended it was to be found in the fact that, at a time when trade was flourishing, and the demand for labour was greater than it had been in former years, and even when two railroads were in course of construction in the district, there had been no increase in the wages of the agricultural labourer in Dorsetshire. Wages, now that wheat was from 56s. to 60s. a quarter, were no higher than last year, when it was 47s. a quarter. He would not, however, further trespass on the House on the general question; and he begged to thank them for the attention they had afforded him.
§ MR. FLOYER
thanked the hon. Member for Shaftesbury for the courtesy he had shown, and he trusted he had too high a sense of admiration of his hon. Friend's object, to question for a moment his veracity or his truth. When he entered the House on Friday night he had no intention of trespassing on the indulgence of the House; but when he heard the statements put forth by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, he did think some wrong impression would go forth to the world as to the condition of the poor in Dorsetshire. No doubt that noble Lord was referring to the authority of the hon. Member's letter, but he stated that wages in the county of Dorset were generally 7s. a week, out of which the labourers had to pay their own rent. His own experience led him to believe that the impression would be an unfair and an unjust one; and, therefore, he rose and appealed to the House; and he asked them whether that would not be the impression upon their minds? He believed in his own neighbourhood the lowest rate of wages in common was 5s. a week, a house free, a garden, some fuel, and some potato ground. He thought it was not unfair to consider, therefore, the common rate of wages to be 9s. a week. He also stated, and he believed he was right in stating, that in his own neighbourhood, and in other parts of Dorsetshire, if the wages were put at 7s. it would be unjust towards the employers of labour. In confirmation of his statement he might appeal to his hon. Friend's own letter, in which he referred to a case brought before the board of guardians the last day he had the honour of meeting the hon. Gentleman there. That case was the following: The person who made the application was a poor man, with wages of 352 7s. 6d. per werk. He applied for relief, but the board decided that they would not give it, because his rate of payment was below the usual rate of wages in the neighbourhood, and, therefore, if they did, that they would be giving the employer the opportunity of getting labour at a less rate than they were entitled to do. They would be saving their own pockets at the expense of the ratepayers of the county. If 7s. per week had been the usual rate of wages, would the board of guardians have given him an order for admission? It was not the custom for them to give orders to those who received the common rate of wages in the county; and that was stated at the board of guardians, and acted upon for that reason. There might be instances in the overseers' book where labourers had but 7s. a week; but this was the exception proving the rule, for those labourers who had but 7s. a week would not have applied for parochial aid if their wages were not lower than their neighbours'. He had stated on a previous occasion that he believed the labourers in Dorsetshire were as well off at present as they had been for some years. He now reiterated that statement. He did not hold a farm in his own hands, but he had some labourers engaged who earned by measure work at from 10s. to 11s. a week; and even at this rate of wages, such was the demand for labour, that many of the labourers had quitted the district. There was at present more demand for labour in that part of the country, than there had been for many years at the same season. As regarded the state of the poor-house, he did not think it necessary to enter at any great length, as it formed no criterion of the state of wages. The greater part of the inmates of the workhouse in his locality consisted of aged persons, and of single women with illegitimate children. There were not more than four or five able-bodied labourers in it. As respected the condition of the potato crop in Dorsetshire, he might add, that potatoes were now selling in Dorchester market at from 7s. to 8s. a bushel. His labourers had assured him that their stock of potatoes had by no means deteriorated, or in any way become diseased since they were stowed up. He did not mean to say that the condition of the Dorsetshire labourer was as good as it might be; but what he would say was, that it was much better than had been represented. He did not mean to give any opinion as to the propriety of the custom 353 of paying the labourer partly in money and partly in provisions; but it prevailed to a very considerable extent in Dorsetshire, and advantage was taken of the system to make out a case against the farmers and landlords of that county. The lowness of the rate of wages had been complained of in and out of that House; but it had not been stated that when the money rate of remuneration was low, there were other kinds of remuneration, such as a bushel of wheat every fortnight, which ought to be taken into calculation. He could not see how the proposed measure could in any way ameliorate the condition of the labourer. It might as well be said, that supposing a town on the Continent, at present exclusively supplied with our manufactures, we would benefit the manufacturers who supplied it by sending into that town the same kind of goods at a cheaper rate from another quarter. How could it be if we imported foreign corn largely, that we would not displace a quantity from our own soil? The principal question that was discussed was, to what extent the people of this country could consume corn. This question had been fully entered upon by his noble Friend the Member for Lynn, who had proved irrefragably that the present law was quite compatible with an abundant supply of food. In the course of the past year, when there was a bad season in foreign countries, when, in fact, foreign Governments had thought fit to close the ports against exportation, yet, notwithstanding that, we had in bond at present 1,500,000 quarters of corn, which, probably, before the end of the year would be increased to 2,000,000. If this was the case during a year such as the past, what must it be in the generality of years when foreign countries, from abundant harvests, were able to export largely? The hon. Member concluded by expressing a hope that he had satisfied the hon. Member for Shaftesbury and the House in the explanations he had made, and by declaring, that however inadequate to the task, he could not patiently sit by and hear such exaggerated statements respecting the condition of the labourers in his native county, without endeavouring to set the House and the country aright on the subject.
§ SIR J. EASTHOPE
So far as the wretchedness and misery of the Dorsetshire labourers were allowed to affect the question before the House, he thought they had no longer any ground for debate or controversy. They had had a somewhat 354 angry contest as to whether the Dorsetshire labourers earned 7s. or 7s. 6d. or 8s. a week; and they had been gravely told by the representative for the county that for the life of him he could not find out how the importation of foreign corn, and the consequent reduction of the price in this country, could work any benefit to those poor creatures. He must humbly but earnestly entreat those luminaries from Dorsetshire to put the question to the poor beings themselves, with whose condition they affected to be so familiar; and if the poor creatures had life enough in them to answer it, he would stake his existence that they would never reply that it made no difference to them whether corn was 5s. or 7s. a bushel. It was really much too like trifling to say, that it made no difference to a working man with a wife and four or five children, whether the price of his corn was low or high. This assertion was doubly ludicrous when made by those who boasted that they wished for protection to the land, chiefly, if not solely, for the sake of the labouring poor. The way this topic had been handled in that debate, would, he hoped, at all events, save the House from its introduction into their discussions in future. He could very truly say, with the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, that he had not intended to take up the time of the House during this debate, which was, he hoped, now drawing to a close; but he must take that opportunity of expressing, on behalf of working men, who, though not so badly off as the Dorsetshire labourers, were far from being in a prosperous condition—he meant the population of the large manufacturing town which he represented—the deep sense of obligation which they felt to the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) for the introduction of this measure; a measure which would, in his opinion, confer the greatest benefit on the country at the present time, and the advantageous effects of which would be felt for ages to come. No words he could employ could adequately express the gratitude felt by his constituents to the Government for this great and comprehensive measure. Sure he was that those Gentlemen who exhibited such sensitiveness as to the condition of the labourers, contending that they would be worse off on account of this measure, would soon discover their mistake, and find that the labouring poor had no sympathy with their opinions. The poor knew too well that they became poorer and poorer as corn rose in 355 price. It was nothing less than an insult to their common sense and understanding to tell the people it was of no consequence to them whether corn was cheap or dear, when the farmers' friends, on their own showing, proved that the agricultural labourers could not earn more than 6s., 7s., or 8s. a week in the years of great comparative prosperity. He should not attempt to debate this question. It had been already worn threadbare. The feeling of the country was that it had been already fully discussed, and that the sooner it was finally settled the better. He could not conclude without again thanking the Government for the bold and manly front they had assumed with respect to it.
§ MR. W. MILES
said, that after the able speeches of his noble Friend, and of his hon. Friend who moved and seconded the Amendment, he must express his surprise that no Member of the Treasury benches had yet thought fit to reply to them. He was not so surprised at the three last speeches remaining unanswered; as, had it not been for a misunderstanding relative to the wages of the Dorsetshire labourers, they might not have been favoured with them; and those hon. Members did not enter at any length upon the subject of the night. But he must again express his wonder, that no Member of the Government had replied to the speeches of his noble Friend, and of his hon. Friend; not only because of the excellent matter with which these speeches abounded, but on account of the position of the speakers who left the Government on a point of principle. Before entering upon the subject, he would premise by saying once more, that this was not the selfish case of the landlord, but of the tenant and of the labourer. He thought that as regarded this aspect of the measure—namely, as it affected the tenant and the labourer, something remained to be said, and he would endeavour to fill up the void, and thoroughly to enter into the subject as a farmer would. He would undertake to prove—and he challenged confutation—that the measure would not only injuriously affect the landlords, but much more the tenant, and still more than all the labourers. He would studiously avoid touching on the home trade, and would confine himself as much as possible to the purely agricultural part of the subject, and the interests which the measure would peculiarly affect, in case it became the law of the land. His observations would be first directed to the 356 law of 1828; next, to the present law; and lastly, to the state of things when corn would be freely imported. He thought it would be necessary to set forth the quantum of protection enjoyed at present, in order to show the improbability of a British cultivator being able to cope with the foreigner under a system of perfectly free trade. He would, in viewing the third period to which he had adverted, namely, a perfect system of free trade, make no account of the three intermediate years during which it was proposed there should be a diminished protection. He would simply take the year 1849, when a perfectly free trade in corn might be supposed to exist. By the spirit and words of the Act of 1842, a fair and moderate protection was meant to be given to the British agriculturists. He need not say that his hon. Friends cordially concurred with the right hon. Baronet in passing that law, because whilst it did away with a very high nominal duty, useless to the farmers, and harassing to the manufacturers and the great body of the consumers, it also corrected the averages, and gave a check to gambling and improper speculation. It afforded to the farmer a fair moderate protection, to which he was justly entitled whilst the disparity between taxation here and taxation on the foreigner existed, and whilst there was so great a difference in the wages of labour here and on the Continent. He regretted that the Report of the Committee of the other House to inquire into the Burdens on Land, which had been moved for, was not then before them; for, as far as he could understand, it would prove that the landed interests were subject to burdens of a peculiar and onerous nature, and, he was led to think, something further, to show that if they abolished the Corn Laws, the rest of the community would be placed in very perilous circumstances. But he would not refer to that, and he would merely go into the case of the English as compared with the foreign agriculturists. He took it for granted that the spirit of the sliding-scale, which they were now about to abolish, was, that whilst it gave to the English farmer almost a monopoly of the home market when prices were low, it afforded to the consumer, when prices rose, a gradual supply of foreign corn, the duty being easily paid by the foreign merchant when the grain became necessary to the home consumer. Thus the consumer was relieved from all apprehension of scarcity, and the farmer was secured a proper re- 357 muneration for his produce. It had been said that during the present year the sliding-scale refused to slide, and that that was one of the reasons which, together with the potato disease, had determined the Government at once and for ever to abolish the present law. That was not supported by arguments or by facts. He admitted that the price of corn the growth of 1844 and the growth of 1845 was very different. But then it was necessary to consider the difference of seasons. 1844 was a year of extraordinary abundance; the harvest was particularly good, and the corn had been housed in admirable condition. In 1845, the harvest weather was precarious, and the corn was generally put away in a damp condition. But was not, he might almost call it, the inestimable advantage of protection conspicuous by its effects in these years? For so well was the matter regulated, that there was at the end of 1845 four months' supply untouched. There was, he admitted, great variation in the quality of the wheat. That which sold for 48s. in 1844, had undoubtedly produced this year from 70s. to 72s. a quarter. He had himself sold wheat the growth of 1844, weighing 66 lbs. a bushel, and such as was fully equal to the finest Dantzic, to the milling trade, for mixing. Under every circumstance they still found that under this system they obtained every thing they wanted in their own country; and he defied any person to say that the quality of the bread in London was bad. They had at least for two or three months this year very little of foreign corn brought in for consumption. There was, however, a very large quantity stored up, ready to be brought into the market when the 4s. duty would come into operation. The law of 1842, compared with that of 1828, was good, both as to the consumer and the producer. But what had it done for the revenue? Because upon such a question as this it was highly necessary in the state of the public revenues of the country, not only to consider that if in the years 1849 or 1850 they were determined upon abolishing all indirect taxation and on adopting a system of direct taxation, they should also look with an eye of jealousy upon the repeal of any law that gave so good a revenue, and at the same that secured a remunerative price to the farmer for his produce. He found, by the law of 1828 there were 13,626,315 quarters of wheat imported, which paid an average duty of 5s. 3d., and the average 358 price of which for fourteen years was 58s. The revenue collected under this Act was 3,576,907l. for a period of thirteen years. Dividing, then, that amount by thirteen, they would have the revenue, under the law of 1828, 255,493l. per annum. Under the law of 1842 there had been no less than 4,576,000 quarters introduced into this country, at the average duty of 7s. 4d. He found the average price of it to be 46s., so that it was introduced into this country, inclusive of duty, at a sum of 53s. 4d. By a Parliamentary Paper he found that the duties received under that law amounted, per annum, to 690,368l., so that they had here a lower price to the consumer, which under the law of 1828 was 58s. per quarter, and under the law of 1846, 53s. 6d., and a greater revenue to the State, being 255,493l. at the former period, while 690,368l. was received as annual revenue under the law of 1842. Therefore he thought, from the short sketch which he had given, he had proved that the law of 1842, as compared with that of 1828, while it gave a fair and moderate protection to the farmer, was better for the consumer, as it gave him bread at a lower price, while it was at the same time infinitely better for the revenue of the country. That finished this part of the subject. All he had to say farther with regard to it was, that he wished they would let well alone. They had a law which was not only a good revenue law, but which was also good for the consumer, and with which at the same time the producer was perfectly satisfied. Now it would be necessary for him to look at that part of the subject which went to a total reduction of duty in the year 1849; and to do this it would be necessary for him to show what the prices of corn were likely to be with a perfectly free system of free trade existing in this country. Her Majesty's Ministers had declined to prophesy on this question—notwithstanding the information which they must have—notwithstanding all the information which was open to any individual who would take the trouble to examine it. For his part he would not go into the old hackneyed sources of returns from Hamburgh or Dantzic—he would take the statistics of the world, because it must be remembered it was from the world at large they were to be supplied. Not from Europe alone, but from America, Asia, and Africa, England was to draw her supplies; and in looking to these he would direct the attention of the House to 359 those two great sources from which, on a former occasion, he stated his opinion that this country would derive her chief supplies—Russia and America; and he was happy to say, that since the period when he had last addressed the House on this subject, he had had the most extraordinary confirmations of his opinion from those parts of Germany which were most contiguous to this country, and which now had the first chance, when corn was dear, of throwing wheat into our markets; but they expressed their fears that, by a total system of free trade in corn, Russia would in all probability have the advantage over them, while it was well known that Russia herself looked to America under such a system as entirely cutting her out of our markets. This he gave on the authority of letters received on the one side, and from communications of the highest possible authority received on the other; and seeing this, he thought it was necessary to establish what would be the probable price of wheat in this country under a perfectly free trade in corn, before he described its effects upon the farmers of this country. His noble Friend (the Marquess of Granby) had already given the receipts of two farms, and showed what he thought would be the loss to them under free trade; his noble Friend referred to farms under the three course and the six course system. He would refer to farms under the four and five course system, so that he thought between them the House would have every system of agriculture which was adopted in this country; and though from the calculations adopted by the noble Lord, he seemed to place the price of wheat lower than he was disposed to place it, yet they came both nearly to the same conclusion, which was, that supposing they totally destroyed agricultural protection, even if the rent of land was entirely given up, it would not be a compensation to the farmer for the protection which he had lost. Now, then, let them see quite clear—at any rate let the public be quite clear as to the influence of rent on the price of corn. He knew there were hon. Members who maintained that cheapness was the prime element in the question, and who argued—as an hon. Baronet had already argued—would not the poor be benefited if their bread could be materially reduced; quite forgetting, at the same time, how much wages would be lowered in that case; but let it be clearly understood how much rent enters as an ingredient into the price of a quartern loaf. 360 The average rent of land in England is 19s. 11d. He took it at 20s. an acre, and would go into Lincolnshire, where the farmers farmed very high—where there were thousands of farms he knew let at 20s. per acre, and where each produced four four quarters of wheat to the acre. He was speaking of wheat cultivation under the four course system. He would not go into the question of barley at all. It was impossible for him to do that—he would detain the House for ever were he to refer to every item. Well, then, one quarter of wheat produced 500 lbs. of bread; and taking the quartern loaf at 7d., if hon. Members referred to their arithmetic, they would find that the element of rent raised the price of the quartern loaf by the large sum of less than one halfpenny. That was his statement. He would be glad to be shown where it was wrong; he had tried many experiments in regard to it, and he believed his statements would be fully borne out. Well, so much for the rent of land, as bearing upon the quartern loaf. He hoped, at any rate, that that would now be considered to be settled, and that the public would now know from his estimate, as well as the estimate of those who had a thorough knowledge of the milling trade, that that was the precise sum by which rent raised the price of the quartern loaf. Now, let him go back to those statements, by which he had endeavoured to gain a knowledge of the probable price of wheat when imported into this country. And, first of all, he would take the prices of wheat at Odessa, in 1845, the spring prices of wheat, from February to June, of that year; and he would also give the freight on February 1829, of that year. The price of good Odessa wheat, weighing from 60 lbs. to 61 lbs. per bushel, was from 16s. to 17s. per quarter; and the freight was 7s. 9d., making in all 24s. 9d. The next return was dated the 14th of June, in the same year, by which he found that wheat had risen to 20s. and 21s. per quarter—the freight remaining the same—so that there they had, during four or five months only, a rise in the Odessa market from 24s. 9d. to 28s. 9d. He found likewise—and he mentioned this only to show how the prices of wheat corresponded at different foreign ports—he found, that in the months of March and April the prices of wheat at Stettin and Rostock were 25s. and 26s. per quarter, the freight being from 3s. to 4s. per quarter, amounting to 30s. in all. This was previous to the very general 361 feeling that was afterwards entertained that the harvest would be deficient. The price certainly rose afterwards, and rose considerably; but it never rose above 34s. per quarter. He did not know whether his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead were present, who had acted as Chairman of the Bonded Corn Committee, and with whom he had had much pleasure in acting; but that hon. Member would recollect some curious evidence that was given before the Committee. Among others, Mr. G. Freyn stated, that the price of Egyptian wheat, taking one year with another, would be 36s. per quarter. Mr. Philip Taylor, who explained the bonded system of France, stated in his evidence that three-fourths of all the foreign wheat imported into Marseilles came from the Black Sea, and that he had imported into Marseilles from the Black Sea wheat at the price of 26s. 8d. per quarter. Well, but now it was in his power, from different statistical returns, to give the prices of wheat at Odessa for the last ten years; and he had brought it down to the latest period he possibly could, from 1834 to 1843. The returns contained the highest and the lowest prices obtained in each of these years. He had taken a medium; he had afterwards taken the several averages of the whole of these years, and he found that the general average was 24s. 10d., the freight being 7s. 9d., making in all 32s. 7d. But a curious fact had come out of these statistics, which was, that the difference of price in Odessa was greater than the difference of price in England; and that the year of the highest price in Odessa was not the year of the highest price in England; and without troubling the House with details, he would state that he found that the highest price in England during these ten years was in 1839, when it was 70s. 8d., while the year of the highest price in Odessa was in 1840, when it was 27s. 8d. But let the House look at this—let them look at what was the average price at Odessa during these ten years, and what, during the same period, was the average price in England. The average price in this country was 63s. 10d. with a fraction, while, for the same period at Odessa, it was 26s. 0¼d. He would ask then, how the House could possibly suppose that cultivation would be supported when prices were to be reduced to such an extent? The next quotation of prices he would give would be those from America; and he would own at once that, on some occasions, they were high, and on 362 others very low; but then it would be in the recollection of the House that America did not grow wheat for exportation—that they only sent their surplus wheat into this country. Then he would take a work which had been put into his hand the other day, written by the well-known Mr. Ellsworth, one of the Commissioners for Patterns, and this pamphlet he would recommend every one to read. He took up the question of freight and of price, and in every possible view of the subject he showed that America would be able to compete with Russia. But there was one of his statements so extraordinary, that he would bring it before the notice of the House; and it might be as well to state that it related to the harvest of 1842, which was remarkably good, while that of 1845 was very bad. He proposed to take wheat from the State of Illinois to New Orleans; and he calculated the price of it in American currency, which, when reduced to English prices, would give 29s. 2d. per quarter. But it was further to be recollected that there could be no doubt whatever, the greater portion of their supply from America would not come in bulk, but in the shape of flour, in barrels; so that it would be injurious not only to the agriculturist, but to the millers also. But he had more evidence on this subject, which, as it came from a practical man, he could not help alluding to. He did not observe the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland in his place; but, at the late election for Nottinghamshire, his noble Friend had been asked to fix the price of wheat under the new system; and though his Colleagues had refused to do so in this House, yet his noble Friend, in that assemblage of farmers, and in the presence of a gentleman who had been engaged in the foreign corn trade for the last forty years, had fixed the price at 48s. The gentleman to whom he had alluded, Mr. Barrow, it seemed, had spoken before the noble Lord, and therefore could not reply to him; but he had published a letter upon the subject afterwards, and in that letter he had published the most sporting thing which he had ever heard come from an old corn-importer. He said—I will contract to deliver in London, within three years after the opening of the ports of England to foreign grain free of duty, 50,000 quarters of wheat, weighing at least 61 lb. per bushel, at 40s. per quarter. If that wheat should cost me, as I expect, only 32s. per quarter, I shall gain 20,000l. If wheat should still realize 48s., as the noble Lord would lead you to expect, the noble Lord or his friend would gain the same amount. 363 My stake in this country (worth about 50,000 quarters of wheat at foreign prices) is ready to be pledged against any security of equal amount, for the fulfilment of my part of the contract.Now, allowing that the operation of this law would have a tendency to equalize prices, he should be disposed to fix the average price of corn, under a perfectly free system of importation, at 40s. per quarter. Now, upon this calculation, he would show to the House what were the receipts of farms under the present system, and what the receipts would be under a perfectly free trade in corn. He would not go to low cultivated farms, he would take a farm in Nottinghamshire, near Newark, and another in the richest part of Lincolnshire, in the neighbourhood of the Fens. First of all he would take the Nottinghamshire farm, which was a farm of 400 acres, and under the four course system. The rent was 1l. per acre, and it was cultivated 100 acres wheat, 100 acres barley, 100 acres turnips, and 100 acres clover. But he neither took into account the turnips nor the clover, because he gave them credit for the sheep fed on them, and therefore he took into account the sales of sheep. He found, then, that 100 acres of wheat, at three quarters four bushels an acre, which sold at 52s. per quarter, produced 965l. 100 acres of barley at four quarters four bushels per acre, sold at 32s. per quarter, produced 670l. 400 hoggets and ewes bred, on the farm, sold in the wool at 36s. each, produced 720l.—in all 2,355l. Now, look at what the receipts would be under a system of free-trade prices; that he had endeavoured to establish, because he took it as a matter of course that barley and oats would both fall in equal proportions to wheat. Supposing, then, the produce to be the same, 100 acres of wheat at 40s. a quarter, would give 700l.; 100 acres of barley, at 25s. a quarter, would give 562l. 10s.; and 400 hoggets and ewes would give 560l.—in all 1,822l. 10s. This would be a loss to the farmer, under the free-trade system, if he was not wrong in his calculations, of 532l. 10s. Of course all depended upon their accuracy. It was only a question of calculation; but he had shown the documents on which he relied, and therefore he hoped and trusted that those hon. Gentlemen who differed from him, would show the documents on which they relied for coming to a contrary conclusion. He said, then, that under the free-trade system the receipts of the farmer would be reduced a 364 little above one-fifth; and he found that even suppose the landlord were liberally to reduce his rent one-fourth, that is 100l., still what would remain a loss to the tenant, to be divided between the profits of capital and the wages of labour, would be 532l. 10s., or a reduction of 1l. 1s. 10d. per acre. So much for the Nottingham farm. He would now come to the farm in Lincolnshire, which was cultivated according to the five course system. The rent of this farm was 2l. per acre, and its extent was 200 acres. The course of husbandry consisted of turnips, oats, wheat, beans, and wheat. The turnips were not valued; forty acres of oats, at ten quarters per acre, at 21s. per acre, produced 420l.; forty acres of wheat, at five quarters per acre, at 52s. per quarter, produced 520l.; forty acres of beans, at six quarters per acre, at 33s. per quarter, produced 395l.; and forty acres of wheat again, at five quarters per acre, at 52s., produced again 520l.—in all 1,855l. Now, what would it be under the free-trade system? Supposing the land to produce the same quantity: forty acres of oats, at 16s. per quarter, would give 320l.; forty acres of wheat, at 40s. per quarter, would give 400l.; forty acres of beans, at 28s. per quarter would give 336l.; and wheat again would give 400l.—in all, 1,456l. So that 399l. would be lost to the farmer under the free-trade system. But, again, deduct one-fourth of the rent, and they would find that the loss to the farmer would be 299l., or 1l. 10s. per acre. Now, all he could say was, that in these calculations, based as they were upon the present prices, and on the prices contemplated under free trade, he had endeavoured to show the House on what he had endeavoured to found his calculations; and it would be for those hon. Members opposite, who professed that they perfectly understood the question, to show how, under a system of free trade, it was possible that the cultivation of the poorer soils should go on, as it was acknowledged on all hands that the lower the quality of the land and the less price that was paid in rents in England at any rate, the greater was the amount of outlay in farmer's capital and in labour. Now, he asked, if under the system of protection this cultivation had gone on—if under a system of protection cultivation had ascended from the valleys to the tops of the hills—he would ask them, whether, by this law which they were now asked to enact, it would not immediately retrograde in its course, and place the farmer in such a 365 situation as that he would be utterly unable to continue his cultivation. If they considered that a farmer expended 1,000l. upon every two hundred acres, they would find that they were playing with two hundred and fifty millions of capital; and, therefore, it was a question they ought well to consider; and, considering it, he trusted they would reject this measure, which was so inimical to the interests both of the farmers and labourers. They had been told—and he was sick of the statements made, particularly at Christmas, by gentlemen who attended farmers' meetings, and who knew nothing whatever of farming—their cry was, "Cultivate, cultivate, cultivate; farming is yet in its infancy, and by greater exertions you will reap greatly increased produce." Now, the importation of guano had been referred to by one hon. Friend of his; and that was, of itself, sufficient to show, that with the moderate prices which had existed from 1842 down to the present time, the farmers had been induced to cultivate, not only with that manure, which was very costly in price, but also with bones, and with every kind of artificial manures; so that it was plain the farmers were willing to apply their capital in every fair mode of cultivation. Now, in order to show that England reaped the benefit of this production, he held in his hand a paper which he thought would show the immense increase of production of late years; he alluded to the number of coombs of wheat sold in Norwich market for the last thirty-seven years—from 1805 to 1843. He would not trouble the House with reading the returns year by year; but he found, that in 1805 there were 50,844 coombs sold, when the price of wheat was 92s. per quarter; in 1810, 55,521, wheat being 100s.; in 1811, 61,122 coombs, the price being 82s.; in 1812, 54,560 coombs, the price being 120s.; in 1839, 174,176 coombs, the price being 64s.; in 1840, 207,274 coombs, the price being 63s.; in 1841, 201,750 coombs, the price being 60s.; in 1842, 235,620 coombs, the price being 52s.; in 1843, 241,644 coombs, the price being 48s.; so that the produce had nearly quintupled, while the price had been reduced one-half. Then he must remind the House, that a great deal of land had been enclosed; and he was proud to say that there had been a continually increased application of labour to the soil. He held in his hand a statement of the average price paid for labour per acre, in periods of five years, from 366 1785 to 1840. This return gave, from 1785 to 1790, 7s. 2d. per acre; to 1795, 8s. 2d.; to 1800, 11s.; to 1805, 15s. 6d.; to 1810, 19s. 6d.; to 1815, 1l. 2s. 4d.; to 1820, 1l. 3s. 9d.; to 1825, 1l. 1s.; to 1830, 1l. 6s.; to 1835, 1l. 3s. 2d.; to 1840, 1l. 6s. 7d.; so that the amount of labour, estimated by the price paid for it per acre, had nearly quadrupled. He knew these would be considered as dry details; but he wanted the question to be thoroughly understood by the country; and though at the risk of delaying the House longer than he wished, they would permit him to show the data, however erroneous they might consider them, on which he had founded his conclusions. But then they were told of the wages of labour in Dorsetshire. He was living in the west of England, and he lamented to say that wages there were too low; but at the same time, if they went to a district of the country which was purely agricultural, which had not rested upon manufacturing industry, now lost by the progress which the north had made, injuring the ancient clothing and silk districts—if they went to a purely agricultural district that never had been manufacturing, they would find that the price of labour, he would not say kept pace with the price of wheat pari passu, yet, more or less, the price of wheat had an effect on the price of labour. In reference to that, he held in his hand a return from a farmer of the name of Healy, who had been a farmer for fifty years in Lincolnshire, and he sent him a return of the average prices of his wheat at septennial periods, and the sum of money he paid for labour during the same periods, which gave the following results:—From 1817 to 1823, the average price of wheat was 3l. 8s. 5d., the average rate of labour 13s. 5d.; from 1824 to 1830, wheat was 3l. 5s., labour 12s.; from 1830 to 1837, wheat was 2l. 9s., labour 10s. 3d.; from 1837 to 1844, wheat was 3l. 2s. 6d., labour 12s. 8d.; that person showed that wages had risen and had fallen with the price of wheat to the extent of 3s. 2d. per week. That view was confirmed by an account from Norfolk, which proved that wages had been as high as 15s., with wheat at a heavy price, and as low as 9s. when wheat was at a low figure. He had been induced to show this state of things in confirmation of what his noble Friend had stated — namely, that although in some counties the wages of labour did not follow the prices of wheat, yet in the purely agricultural counties they certainly did. He 367 was greatly desirous of showing the expense of cultivation in England as compared to that of other nations. This, however, he found himself unable to accomplish; but as he spoke in the earlier part of his address of the amount of taxation upon the British farmer, he would follow out his observations by showing, that a great difference existed between the farmers of this country and America, and prove that although corn might be made cheaper in England, and that the prices of other commodities might be made less, yet that the position of the farmer and the labourer was, nevertheless, not so advantageous in comparison. He would take the State of Ohio, and he would give the average rate of taxation per head. Two sorts of taxation were to be considered—the taxation of the State and the general taxation. The result appeared to be this—that the general taxation was 6s. 9d. a head, and the State taxation 5s. 8d. The taxation of this country was much higher; indeed he thought that the average amount was 1l. 7s. 9d. Look also at the difference in the amount of rent. The cost of some descriptions of land in America was not more than 5s. an acre, which, if considered in the light of thirty years' purchase, would give the annual rental not more than 2d. for the quantity. The rent of land in England was as high as 20s. per acre. Add to that the large tithes, 5s. per acre, and the small tithes 1s. 6d., and the amount of other burdens, and the cost of land in this country would not be much less than 1l. 11s. per acre—a difference, really of 1l. 10s. 10d. between England and America. It was quite plain, therefore, that this country could not enter into competition with America. He had wearied the House, he feared, when referring to Russia on a former occasion; but he could not avoid on the present occasion to quote a slight portion of the statistics of that country. From these figures it would be seen that much cause for alarm existed. Looking at the returns from the year 1828 to 1835, of the amount of grain consumed, and then left over for the next year, after deducting the necessary amount for seed, it appeared that Russia had an immense surplus. He found the produce which remained in seven years amounted to the extraordinary quantity of 28,000,000 of quarters. [An. hon. MEMBER: In the whole of Russia?] Yes; the whole of Russia. This was given in certain Russian statistics, by a person whose name he could not pronounce, but 368 the information might be found in Macgregor's Tables. The last work he had read upon the subject of the Russian Empire fully entered into the question of her prodigious powers, and as the extract was not of a lengthy character, he would read it to the House. The author of Revelations of Russia said—A prodigious extent of the territories of European Russia is wonderfully fertile. Its produce is such, that there must always be an increasing demand from abroad, and partially of a nature sufficiently various and useful to enable the country to thrive and prosper on it, if driven to consume it at home. Corn, tallow, hemp, hides, wool, and wine—her staple articles—she might easily produce in tenfold abundance, and so cheap as to undersell all the world.Thus Russia presented herself to this country upon this question; nor could it be denied that the prospect of competition was, as respected her, of a tremendous nature. He need scarcely allude to the United States of America more particularly than he had done. Land in that country was of such extraordinary fertility, that it would continue to produce without the application of manure for a century. In the State of Virginia, corn had been raised on land which had been left without manure for one hundred years. The land was cleared or disforested, and three or four crops were taken from it successively. This would show that this country had much to fear from America. It had been attempted to be shown that this Bill would cause a large increase in the exports of this country to America, and so keep down its increase of manufactures in that land. If, however, it could be shown that this effect could not follow, then he would say, that the principle and interest of the measure stood indeed upon fallacious ground; for not only would agriculture be destroyed, but also the labourers injured to an incalculable extent in addition. On this very point, indeed, what did Mr. Elsworth say? At page 585 of his book stood this passage:—Had the Corn Laws been absolutely repealed in 1825, the establishment of manufactories in the United States might have been procrastinated many years; but no change in those laws can now materially change the course of production in this country, and any alteration made will not be considered as a boon to agricultural nations, but as a measure forced upon the Government by the wants of a population increasing more rapidly than agricultural productions on a limited extent of land, and in an uncertain climate.So it would be seen at once that no chance of reciprocation existed with America. He had attempted, imperfectly he would ad- 369 mit, to draw the attention of the House to the condition of the landlord, the farmer, and also the labourer: and if hon. Members would only apply the same process of reasoning to this question which had been applied to the Ten Hours' Bill, the conclusion would be identical; competition must inevitably attack the profits of capital, and this must react on the wages of labour. It was stated that the difference would, on the Ten Hours' Bill, amount to ten per cent; but on this question of a free trade in corn came in the competition of a whole world with Great Britain; and no one, on this view, could arrive at any other conclusion than that the profits of farming capital would indeed be lowered, and that the labourer would be more deeply injured than any other portion of the community. The hon. Member for Oxford had on a previous occasion spoken of the injury that would accrue to the holders of tithes by the operation of the Bill, though he had as yet heard no hon. Member follow out these observations. He would say that this measure would inflict a great injury upon the clerical titheowners, if passed into a law. When the noble Lord on the other side brought forward the Tithe Commutation Act, he conferred a great benefit upon the titheowner. He did not allude to the saving of money alone, but the improved footing upon which the clergyman was placed with his congregation and tenants. Look at this tithe question for a moment. The Act passed in 1825, and the lowest price of corn for that year was 39s. Had the Government commuted tithes upon the prices of that year, they would have committed a great injustice to the titheowner. They were forced to take an average upon a series of years; and it had been shown by a return which had been moved for by some hon. Member, that only a very small difference of prices had ever arisen in the septennial series of years, not more, he thought, than 1s. per quarter. Seeing that a parish was indebted for much of its charity to the clergyman, it would be as great an injury to the locality, as well as to the titheowner himself, to reduce the averages one-fifth in amount. There was one topic more on which he desired to say a few words, though he feared he had already trespassed too far on the attention and time of the House. It appeared to him, that if all land available for the purpose had been brought into cultivation, and that all better means of cultivation having been tried—that these failing, 370 a source of supply was still open for trial before the country was thrown defenceless to the competition of the world. In a few words, what had become of the Colonies? What reward had this country returned for the fidelity and resources of the Colonies? What were her engagements with them? In the year 1842 only had an Act been passed, which conferred a kind of free trade on Canada. He had opposed that Bill, and he had done so conscientiously. But though reasons existed against the measure to which he referred—the contiguity of Canada to the United States, for instance — these objections did not exist with respect to Australia. The Australians had loaded the Table of the House with petitions; but they were left with the agriculturists of Canada to the free competition with those nations who only rewarded us for our generosity by meeting relaxation with hostile Tariffs. He had referred a few nights since to the feeling existing in the Canadas upon the question of free trade, and he would trouble the House with a short extract of a speech made by Mr. Sherwood, the Solicitor General, for an indication of that opinion. Mr. Sherwood said—He did hope, however, that the commercial class would maturely weigh all the consequences which must result from the substitution of the United States' markets for those of the mother country. It would be impossible but that such a change in our commercial relations would very soon bring about a change in all our other relations. Our interests would cease to be identified with the interests of the parent state; our mental associations would assume new forms; our customs, and laws, aye, and our institutions too, would be assimilated to those of the people with whom we cultivated mercantile relations. There was a time, the hon. Gentleman said, when he believed that patriotism had no connexion with self-interest; but he had lived long enough to change his opinions on that subject, and he did think that loyalty had some relation to pecuniary considerations. If, however, by a course of Imperial policy, over which the people of Canada can exert no possible control, they are forced into a new sphere of social and political attraction, they are not the culpable party.Such was the opinion of the Solicitor General, given, he believed, at a free-trade meeting at Montreal. It had been stated, that the United States took the manufactures of England in proportions so large above the Colonies of Great Britain that this country must foster the trade with that country. How stood the fact? He would take the two items of printed and plain calicoes. The export of plain calicoes to the United States had only increased in four years 455,928 yards, while of printed and dyed 371 calicoes, the export of 1845, as compared with 1841, had decreased 12,927,430 yards. The export of plain calicoes—mark this—to British America had increased, in four years, 4,655,649 yards, and of printed and dyed calicoes, 2,658,758 yards. This was the official return:—
In 1845, instead of 15,321,866, against in 1841.
Plain Calicoes to United States in 1841 11,957,053 yds. Ditto to British America 7,757,332 Balance in favour of United States in 1841 4,199,721 Calicoes, printed and dyed, to United States in 1841 26,025,281 Ditto to British America 10,703,415 Balance in favour of United States 15,321,866 Plain Calicoes to United States in 1845 12,412,981 Ditto to British America 11,580,586 Balance in favour of United States only 832,395 Printed and dyed Calicoes to the United States in 1845 13,097,851 Ditto to British America 13,362,173 Balance in favour of British America 264,322
So, to the other advantages held by Colonies, must be added the capability of taking the manufactures of the mother country. Then take the amount of manufactures absorbed per head in different countries, and mark the importance of the North American Colonies:—Russia took 8d. per head; Prussia, 8½d.; Germany and Switzerland, 2s. 9d.; France, 1s. 7d.; Holland, 31s. 6d.; Belgium, 7s.; Denmark, 2s. 10d.; Sweden and Norway, 1s. 3d.; United States, 7s. 11d.; and the North American Colonies, 37s. 4d. per head. It appeared clear, therefore, that if this country bound her Colonies by the bond of true affection, that they would prove of the greatest benefit to her best interests—that of her trade. Yet it would appear, that a greater reliance was placed on foreign countries, though they met England with hostile tariffs. Russia met this country with taxation on her seaboard, and yet the Government of the land was mad enough to attach themselves to a system for the benefit of foreigners, though in doing so they ran the risk of bringing ruin upon the middle classes, and also on the labourers. Then the House had been told of compensation. Oh that that word had not been uttered in the House! He would quote the amount of compensation in the 372 county of Essex, and from that the House could make a calculation with reference to other counties. The following were the returns:—
Medical relief in the county of Essex, years ending March, 1844, 7,871l. 12s. half £3,935 16 0 Schoolmasters and mistresses.—I can find no returns. Witham Union, 55l. There are I7 known in the county would make 935 0 0 Auditor for county 350 0 0 Subsistence of prisoners, including bedding, clothing, and other expenses incidental on their imprisonment in all the prisons in the county 3,319 5 8 Expenses of prosecutions—assizes, quarter sessions, adjourned sessions, and Central Criminal Court, 4,317l. 10s. 10d. Half of this is now paid out of the Consolidated Fund 2,158 18 5 Total of local taxation proposed to be paid out of the general taxation of the country £10,698 17 1
Calculation showing what relief the proposed payments would afford to the country, or on an acre of land in the county of Essex:—
1st. County rate raises 4,569l. 0s. 1½d., a 2½d. rate would therefore raise 10,422l. 10s., (very nearly the same as the sum above.)
Or take it another way. The number of acres in the county are computed at 980,480; but by the admeasurement of parishes it is more, about 1,000,000
1,000,000 hence is 4,166l. 13s. 4d.; 2½d. an acre would produce 10,416l. 13s. 4d., as nearly as possible as the sum above. So the compensation proposed is about 2½d. per acre, and on a farm of 100 acres would amount to 1l. 0s. 10d.
N.B. It ought to be borne in mind that this is not all relief, it is only a shifting of taxation.
The amount of this compensation reached 2½d. per acre! A great deal had been said by the friends of the Government out of doors upon the subject of what reduction or changes would take place with the reduction in corn. He did not notice the worthy Alderman who represented the borough of Stoke-on-Trent, in his place; but he held in his hand a printed paper, a "free and easy letter," which he would read to the House. It was addressed to John Ridgway, Esq., and was signed, "W. T. Copeland." This document commences—
I have ever been a free trader, but I am opposed to a repeal of the Corn Laws unless accompanied with such a relaxation of our fiscal regulations that we may enjoy free trade in all things. This opens the door to a wide discussion. The
limits of a letter will not permit me to state a great deal. But, for example, abolish the Corn Laws; in so doing, put the poor, county, police, and highway rates on the Consolidated Fund; the whole nation to bear the expense. Do away with the law of settlement, which would save all the law expenses, little short of a million sterling, expended in contesting the settlement of the unfortunate pauper, who, having laboured hard in a manufacturing district, and having been located for years, in his old age is sent to his parish, not knowing a soul, but to die in the parish workhouse. Reduce the import duties upon our own peculiar manufactures of earthenware, and upon printed cottons, silks, &c. Levy only an import duty, for statistical purposes, on the foregoing and following articles, tea, sugar, &c., and impose a Property Tax and a modified Income Tax; and, this done, I have little doubt but faith can be kept with the public creditor, and that the entire classes of the people, whether agriculturists or manufacturer, landed proprietor or operative, will be benefited; but a partial free trade must be conducive to ill, at least in my judgment. My remarks are crude, but I feel confident, ere long, there are parties who will put them into a proper shape, and adopt something very like them.
Now it appeared from that, that though 110 and 114 Members of that House adhered to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, yet it was clear that some of the friends of the Government had wider notions of taxation to be repealed than others. Who had heard of these reductions except through this letter? But another cry existed, to which he would briefly allude. Many persons had no doubt read a pamphlet written by Messrs. Morton and Trimmer. Of its merits he would say nothing; because, founded on false data, he should not use its arguments. But to show the opinion of free traders themselves upon the change necessary to be made if protection were removed, the pamphlet was of value, and he would read a portion. Messrs. Morton and Trimmer, at page 61, say—
With the total repeal of all duties upon corn which the agriculturists have a right to expect,"—they then say—"Let the agriculturists (rather) agitate for a total repeal of all duties on malt and hops, whether for revenue or protection, and the reduction of the duties on tobacco and sugar to one-half of their present amount; and there can be little doubt, with the aid of the great mass of consumers of all classes, they will succeed. It cannot be for a moment doubted that the removal of all protection duties, whether colonial or manufacturing, will accompany the discontinuance of protection to agriculture. This the agriculturists have a right to expect.
He had not quoted one word from Hansard, upon the recorded sentiments of Members of the Government upon this question of a repeal of the Corn Laws. If hon. Members had turned their backs on old and apparently long cherished opinions, he could
not help that. He would not, however, quote their speeches against them. But in the absence of quoting these matters he had fallen upon the words of one who so well expressed the opinions he held, that he should take the liberty of reading them to the House. The passage he should read was published in Hunt's Magazine, an American publication. The article was written after the last hostile tariff in 1833. It was as follows:—
We are in favour of the protective system, because we believe it is calculated to promote the interest of our country, and our whole country. We believe that there is no one question of national policy in which the people have so deep an interest as the one we have been considering. We are in favour of it, because it will promote the interest of the manufacturers, and save from ruin the 300,000,000 dollars of capital invested in that useful department of human industry. We are in favour of it, because we believe that it is protective of the commercial interests. We are in favour of it, because we regard it as essential to agriculture, that great and paramount interest, which is the foundation of every other. But above all, we are in favour of the protective system, because it promotes the interest of the labourers of the country. This, after all, is the interest which requires the most protection. The rich man can rely upon his money for his support. If the times are hard, his money becomes more valuable, as it will command a better interest, and furnish him more of the comforts and luxuries of life. But to the poor man, the labourer, who has no capital but his ability to toil—to such a one a prostration of business is absolute ruin. Now, as the protective policy is calculated to revive business, and give the labourer the due reward of his toil, we regard it as the poor man's system—as his rightful inheritance.
Such were the sentiments of an American; and he (Mr. Miles) believed this to be the best and truest mode of placing the system to which the pamphlet made reference upon record. Protection was indeed a system adapted to benefit the labourer; and let those who opposed the present measure never forget this. It was for the lower classes—it was for those who had only industry on their side—who had not capital to support them—it was for the labourers of England, that they took up their strong ground, and declared that they would throw what opposition they could in the way of the Bill. He had now done; and, thanking the House for the attention with which they had on all occasions listened to him, he did think that they had held up a good moral lesson to those who might succeed them, because, when deserted by their leaders, they had not flinched from the principles which they had previously maintained. They had shown no self-interest in their advocacy of this cause: they were
equally ready to protect the industry of the manufacturing labourer and that of the agricultural labourer, whose cause was now in their hands. Though calumniated, they were still undaunted; though they might perhaps be defeated in that House, they were still unshaken amidst the wreck of principle and party. It had been said that they had delayed this measure; but he thought that was no heavy charge, when so great change was under consideration; when they were deserting the policy which had been acted upon for years, and were going into new and theoretical principles; more especially as that measure was brought forward by one whose talents all admired, but who wanted that political firmness and constancy which were the attributes of every great statesman. He knew that he might be told that in this fleeting world it was difficult to carry out those higher principles; but what were the great difficulties which had caused the right hon. Baronet to turn his back upon his former friends and supporters? Ireland would no longer be thrown in their teeth—for the present distresses of that country they were willing to yield a present remedy; but, recollecting the time when sitting with the 150 men who backed the right hon. Baronet in 1844, and hearing him advocate principles which he then silently admired, and was determined to maintain, he now felt the difference of their deserted position, when the whole argument was thrown upon those who before silently supported it. But it showed also that there was a moral force in Englishmen, which spurned to be led into a course of political tergiversation. Whatever might be the result of their struggle in that House, he thanked God that there was another ordeal through which this measure must pass—a tribunal, he believed, unawed by popular feeling, and unswayed, as yet, by the principles of political economy—which would thoroughly sift the policy on which this measure was founded; and that other assembly would pause, he thought, before it sanctioned the measure, and at any rate would interfere between the people and that Minister who now held office at the will of his former opponents.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
The House, Sir, is evidently weary of this protracted debate; so also I believe is the public, and an opportunity of finally—as far as we are concerned—deciding this most important question, which now for nearly three months has been pending here under dis- 376 cussion is generally and anxiously desired; and having already on several previous occasions addressed you on this subject, I am most unwilling needlessly to trespass upon your time and attention. But still more unwilling should I be to appear wanting in respect to the noble Lord and the hon. Members who, in the course of the present evening, have addressed you on the Motion now before the House, and I fear this might be the case did I leave unnoticed many of the statements which they made in speeches of remarkable ability. Sir, my hon. Friend who has just sat down—the hon. Member for Somerset—has declared that firmness and consistency are great qualities on the part of a Minister; and though he has studiously avoided the use of those strong terms of vituperation in which other hon. Members have not hesitated to indulge, he nevertheless took occasion to censure Her Majesty's Ministers for their tergiversation, as he styles it, upon this most important subject. Now, I will give my hon. Friend the benefit of the admission, that in discussions which took place formerly in this House, there was no one who more warmly advocated the measures for which he contends than did I myself. I will also say, that I am quite as deeply sensible as he can be of the value and advantages of the qualities to which he has alluded; but being charged with responsibility as a servant of the Crown, at a time of public difficulty, and, as I verily believe, of public danger, I was not reluctant to profit by an enlarged experience; nor did I hesitate to give effect to the opinion which I deliberately and maturely formed, upon the great question which now awaits our decision. The hon. Member for Somerset has expressed his belief that the measure which has been introduced by Her Majesty's Ministers, whatever may be its issue in this House, will not pass into law, on account of the opposition it is likely to encounter in another place. Sir, I will not venture to indulge in any predictions or in any prophecies as to what may occur elsewhere; but I may be permitted to express my individual views, and to state that my anticipations are very different indeed from those of the hon. Gentleman. It is my conviction, as the result of the discussions which have taken place in Parliament and out of Parliament, that this question is now virtually settled; and I have a very strong opinion that the measure under consideration will in a very short time become 377 the law of the land. Indulging in this anticipation, and having as deeply at heart as any man can possibly have the welfare of the agricultural classes and of the landed interests, I find it impossible to concur with the noble Lord the Member for Lynn in the opinion that either the farmer or the landlord will derive the smallest benefit from protracted discussions on this important question; and if I were called on to say whom the delay which has taken place has most injuriously affected, I should declare that none have suffered by it so much as the farmers and the agricultural classes generally. Remember, there is at the present moment in bond in this country an accumulated stock of foreign wheat amounting to fifteen hundred thousand quarters. That accumulation has been gradual and progressive. My belief is, that when we assembled in January, the quantity which was then accumulated might have been brought into the market with signal advantage to the consumer, and without the least detriment to the home growers. Four months have since elapsed. The accumulation has, of course, become very much greater in that period. The quantity now on hand is very large indeed. It should be borne in mind too that we have already arrived at that period of the year when a new harvest, though not immediately at hand, cannot be said to be very distant: now, if my anticipation should prove correct, and, notwithstanding all this protracted opposition, the present measure should become law, the inevitable effect of your long delay will be a large and—as in time past under the operation of a law which I condemn, and the worst feature in which was the probability it created of such a contingency—a sudden influx on the market of an accumulation long increasing. That influx will be sudden and large; and though I do not apprehend that on the present occasion the operation of that influx will be so injurious to the producer as on former occasions, yet the danger of an influx, and the uneasiness arising from the fear of a possible, though perhaps not a probable, evil, must be all set down as the inevitable consequence of this protracted debate. Before I proceed to touch on other topics having reference to this question, I should wish to notice a few of the points adverted to by the hon. Member for Somerset. That hon. Gentleman declared that the present Corn Law was valuable, and of great advantage as a financial measure. I differ from him en- 378 tirely, and have ever done so. I admit that I may be fairly charged with inconsistency upon this question of the Corn Laws, in its general bearing; but with reference to my opinion of its operation in a purely financial point of view, I have not changed in the least. I have invariably announced it as my opinion that, regarded as a fiscal measure, the existing Corn Law is not defensible; and I am of the same opinion still. The hon. Member alleges that the producers are satisfied with the existing Corn Law. He has given us, however, no evidence in confirmation of this assertion. I do not think that the farmers have any reason to be particularly well satisfied with the working of the system; but even though the fact were otherwise, it should be remembered that this is not a measure for the benefit of the producer. I mean it is not a measure for the producer alone. The great body of consumers—the millions—are deeply interested in this matter; and surely it is evident that their welfare ought to be the primary consideration. The hon. Member for Somerset takes credit to himself and his party for having, under present circumstances of great difficulty, maintained their old opinions with great stedfastness and manly purpose. Sir, I admit that on the present occasion they have fought their fight manfully: but I must be excused if I hesitate to accord them all the praise the hon. Member would claim for them. I remember what occurred in this House upon this question during the last three or four Sessions. The strain against this measure was very strong; but until the present Session the cause which they now advocate with such unexampled zealousness, though it had the benefit of their votes, had not, unless in very rare cases indeed, the advantage of their eloquence. I will be perfectly frank with the hon. Member. It has been my fortune to argue this question for many years. Yes, and I may boast that I fearlessly at all times declared my sentiments and detailed the results of my experience; but I can with truth aver that, owing to the force of public opinion, I have seen, from time to time, arguments which were urged successfully in favour of protection, some years ago, gradually abandoned one by one as no longer tenable—yes, and surrendered by the very Members who were most zealous in using them. When a debate in former times occurred on this question, arguments used to be urged with reference to landed proprietors exclu- 379 sively, and their interests in relation to their private fortunes and their political position, which are now by universal assent abandoned — arguments which no hon. Gentleman would venture to urge upon this House now; nay, more, which I do verily believe not even the most enthusiastic amongst the protectionist party, knowing that the public observation is centred upon them, would venture to propound even at the meetings in Old Bond-street. Sir, I am glad that the issue of this question is now narrowed to a point. It cannot be put more clearly, or more explicitly, than it was put on Friday evening last, by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. He said with great truth, that the question which awaits our decision is in reality this, whether the contemplated measure is for the interest of the multitude—for the advantage of the people at large. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury used these words:—If the measures of the Government have not a tendency to occasion a great displacement of labour, a displacement of that kind of labour which is of the most permanent character—if they have not by that displacement a tendency to occasion great social suffering, and ultimately great political disaster, then, I say, they are good measures; and I for one am not prepared to oppose them.Nothing can be more just or true than this statement of his case. The question is, indeed, narrowed to this point. What we are to consider, therefore, is not whether the interests of the landlords are maintained by this protection—the question for deliberation, and which awaits our decision, is this—are laws restricting the importation of corn into this country conducive to the happiness, comfort, and welfare of the tillers of the soil—of the multitude? That is the whole question—that is the issue we are to decide on. The hon. Member for Somerset commented on a pamphlet of Messrs. Morton and Trimmer, and made this remark, that the data on which their statements are made not being admitted, the arguments resting on these data were utterly worthless. Now, I beg leave to take advantage of this doctrine in common with the hon. Member. He has gone through a great variety of details concerning farms in Nottingham and Lincolnshire, with a view to justify the inferences he is anxious to draw from data; but I deny his data altogether. He assumes that under the present protective system a steady price of 52s. for corn may be reckoned on; but he forgets that under a more restrictive system than the present, it 380 fell in one year to 39s. Again, he assumes that with free trade 40s. will be the price. On what grounds he ventures to make this assumption, I am sure I am at a loss to conjecture; but, in the absence of all good grounds for his assumption, I must be allowed to apply to his own inferences the doctrines which he applied to those of Messrs. Morton and Trimmer; and not admitting his data, I repudiate his arguments. The hon. Member indulged in prophecy as to the fate of the Bill, and denounced it on arguments which cannot be admitted. But his predictions, and the result of his reasonings, were not half so fanciful as some of the information which he has recently collected and detailed to the House. He says that in Russia there is every year an accumulation of corn over and above the wants of the people, and available for the purposes of exportation, of 28,000,000 of quarters. Can a more forcible argument be urged in favour of this measure, that year by year there is produced in Russia, over and above the consumption—my hon. Friend was most specific—he said not only beyond consumption, but beyond what was required for seed and consumption, nearly 28,000,000 of quarters available for exportation? That was sufficiently alarming for my hon. Friend; but what was his description of the quantity of land in America? He says that he has read somewhere an account from Virginia where some land was cultivated, year after year, for wheat, without manure, and continued to grow wheat annually for a century. Land, he said, was there cultivated for a century, year after year, for wheat without manure. If those statements be true, if Russia have 28,000,000 quarters of grain ready at all times for exportation, and if in America they grow wheat for a century without manure, every attempt to protect this country by Corn Laws must be worse than useless. No duties that can be imposed would be sufficient to protect our farmers, unless we were to cut off all communication with those countries. Then, Sir, the hon. Member referred to the question of tithe; and he stated that my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, in his absence, had previously touched upon this particular subject. It is true my hon. Friend did; and, as I had the honour of following my hon. Friend, I endeavoured to reply to him. I gave on that point an answer that certainly, to my judgment, is conclusive; and I really am unwilling again to repeat 381 my arguments, though they are short, to the House. So far from thinking that the present change in the law will be injurious to the titheowner, my opinion is, that if there be any injustice done by it, the party to whom it will be injurious is the tithepayer. The number of quarters of grain payable for tithes was fixed at the time of the commutation, and therefore the apprehension entertained by my hon. Friend and the hon. Members around him, that the tithe owner will be injured by the land being thrown out of cultivation, is unfounded; for the titheowner, by the Commutation Act, is guarded against that risk. He is only exposed to danger from the variation in the price. Before the Commutation Act, when the titheowner had his right to draw the tithe in kind, he was then liable to be affected by any variation in the quantity; but now, except there is a variation in the price, his position is permanently secured. He is necessarily bound to submit to any alteration arising from a variation in the price; and so he was formerly, when he drew his tithe in kind; but by this antecedent law he is secured from any alteration arising from a diminution of the quantity, which is the great risk to be incurred. So far, therefore, as relates to the titheowner, it will do him no injustice whatever: it appears to be perfectly clear that he is not exposed by our proposition to the slightest risk. Now, with regard to the Colonies. With reference to what my hon. Friend has stated with respect to Canada, I think that my hon. Friend was an opponent of the proposition of the Government, which placed Canada on the same footing as an integral part of the United Kingdom in respect to importation. If I mistake not also, when my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt) brought forward his Motion last year, that the Colonies generally should be admitted to equal importation with this country, my hon. Friend was found among the opponents of that measure; and I must frankly say, that looking back to the past with reference to all the discussions that took place with respect to the Corn Laws, if I were to mention the discussion in which the necessity for their abolition was sustained by argument more signally triumphant than another, I should refer to that very occasion when my hon. Friend resisted the proposition of the hon. Member for Gateshead. Although I voted with my hon. Friend, his arguments did not appear to me to predo- 382 minate. There is another topic to which my hon. Friend has referred — he has alluded to the insignificant sum that was offered as compensation to the landed interest on the part of the Government. Now, Sir, I absolutely disclaim, on the part of the Government, that the term "compensation" was ever used. I say, if it be necessary for the public good that this measure shall be carried, it is unworthy—it would be disgraceful, on the part of the Government to propose—it would be still more disgraceful on the part of the landowners to accept—compensation for an act of justice due to the entire people. All that ever was said was this—that, incident to the passing of this measure, other measures would be proposed by Government, which in their judgment would be conducive to the agricultural interest, and consistent with his public good, and which at the same time would alleviate the pressure of the burdens on land. I would now beg leave very shortly to advert to another portion of this extensive subject, I allude to what has been said by various Members with reference to what they call the case of Ireland. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn, on a former evening, stated that Her Majesty's Government had acted with bad faith—that they gave no information that sustained their own assertions and views—and that they kept back other official information of an opposite character; and the noble Lord stated that the Commander of the Forces in Ireland had given information on the subject at variance with the information we produced. He stated that the Poor Law Commissioners had also given information different from that which we produced; and I think he said also the prison inspectors—I have made every inquiry in the proper quarter. With respect to the information alleged to have come from the Commander of the Forces, I have seen no information from him of the character described by the noble Lord. I applied in the proper quarter at the Horse Guards, if any such information was received from Sir Edward Blakeney, and I am in a condition to give the most positive contradiction to that assertion of the noble Lord. Now, with respect to the Poor Law Commissioners. In the month of November I thought it right to advise Her Majesty to appoint a Poor Law Commissioner—a superior officer specially delegated to preside over the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland. That appointment took 383 place in the month of November; and since the month of November I have been in constant communication wlth that superior officer. He is a member of the Scarcity Commission, from which weekly returns are made to the Lord Lieutenant. He signs each of those weekly returns, and I have laid on the Table of this House four of his Reports. These reports bring the information up to the latest period, with the exception of two reports since received, which I am ready to produce, and they sustain in the strongest manner the assertions made by Her Majesty's Ministers with reference to the danger and extent of the scarcity in Ireland. It is possible that the noble Lord may have referred to Mr. Gulson's mission to Ireland. Now, Mr. Gulson was never delegated to make an inquiry on this subject. He left Ireland in the month of November—he visited various workhouses in different parts of Ireland in the months of October and September—he made no visit later than about the beginning of November, and at that time the Commission for inquiring into the disease in the potatoes was not complete. He was ordered to investigate another matter. Any information he received on the subject of the potato disease was not official information; he never has officially communicated on the subject; and he himself left Ireland in November, having visited those workhouses in the months of September and October. With regard to the prison inspectors, I never received any communication with reference to any inquiry they have made; and I am quite ignorant of the information to which the noble Lord referred. I have caused inquiries to be made on the subject, and when I receive an answer to those inquiries, I shall not fail to mention it to the noble Lord and to the House. The noble Lord has said that we represented to the House that the scarcity was universal in Ireland. Now I appeal to the House, and I ask them if that be a correct statement of the information we have given them? I never said that the distress in Ireland was universal; I said it was wide-spread. I said it is scattered throughout various localities, in almost every county in Ireland, and that the difficulty of dealing with it mainly arises from its being so scattered through an infinite number of small districts, and from the intensity of the distress where it prevails. To that statement, Sir, I adhere in the most decided manner. I know not whether the hon. Member for Armagh 384 (Col. Verner) is in his place. I have here a letter signed by the hon. Member himself, dated not very long ago, in which he depicts the distress in his immediate neighbourhood in the most glowing terms. It is an application to Government for pecuniary assistance, to which he has signed his name. It is a letter which certainly does describe the distress in Ireland as of a character deserving the intervention of Government and the aid of Parliament in the shape of a pecuniary grant. This letter is addressed to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and states that the undersigned, being deeply sensible of the calamity with which Ireland is threatened, by the failure of the potato crop, and considering that in such an emergency it is the duty of every man to do his utmost to avert the frightful evils that might be expected, recommended the outlay of a sum of money in draining Lough Neagh; and the last paragraph is in these terms:—That a grant of 38,000l. by the Government would be met by 118,000l., raised by the proprietors of the neighbourhood, and others, and that the result would be a mighty improvement to the north of Ireland, and to the health of the district; and that it would afford an opportunity"—let the House mark this—"of employing the labouring population, whose condition it would be frightful to contemplate unless industrial measures of this kind were applied.This memorial bears the signatures of the Lord Primate, Dr. Crolly, Lord Charleville, Lord Acheson, and, among other names, that of William Verner, M.P. But, Sir, although the Irish case is a case of decided pressure, the extent of which, from day to day, is more apparent, and forces itself more and more painfully upon our attention, yet I am bound to say that I have never rested my support of this measure upon the Irish case. I have stated that which I am ready to repeat, that the urgency of that case did precipitate the necessity for the reconsideration of the law that regulates the importation of grain; but I frankly avow that from the moment that reconsideration became necessary, views of general policy — views bearing on the general condition of the people of this country, did convince me that the repeal of the existing restrictions had become indispensably necessary. I wish not unnecessarily to trespass upon your attention by repeating the arguments that have brought me to that conclusion. But I wish to refer to something which was said, I think, by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury on a former even- 385 ing, with reference to the injurious effects which he anticipated from the export of the precious metals, consequent upon a constant and large importation from abroad. Now, Sir, amongst the reasons that lead us to think this change of our policy necessary, is a view the converse of that taken by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. I agree with him that, considering the present state of our monetary system, a large exportation of the precious metals is inconsistent with the well-being of trade and the interests of the community; but my own belief is that if our ports be open for the steady and uniform importation of grain from abroad, so far from those exports of the precious metals taking place, except in seasons of unexampled or rare scarcity, so far from its taking place in ordinary years, as under the existing law, it will be prevented by the measure we now propose. The corn taken by this country will, when the trade has become an established trade, be mainly paid for by barter; and the result, I think, will be that trade will be extended, and that the injury which the export of the precious metals, to meet distress suddenly arising from failure of the home production, causes, will be prevented. I shall now, with the permission of the House, state shortly my opinion as to the effects to be apprehended on our foreign trade from this measure. But I cannot separate the question of the home trade from the foreign trade. My opinion is, that the foreign trade and the home trade, in a series of years, will be found to be indissolubly connected. Now the foreign trade can only be maintained by our having the power of consuming the articles taken in exchange for our exports; but a high price of provisions disables the consumer from taking those articles. He cannot go into the home market, consequently the home market is paralysed; and what is the result of that? A stimulus is given for the forced exportation of goods for the foreign market; the foreign market in consequence becomes glutted, the exporter is injured, and the result is, again, diminished power of consumption at home; and thus it is proved, both by reason and by experience, that the foreign trade cannot be injured without the home trade suffering also. Then as to procuring wheat in the foreign market, I conceive wheat is more universally consumed in this country than in any other country in the world; and whatever the price or scarcity is, it is found that the quantity consumed varies 386 less with the price than that of any other article that is consumed in this country. All those who are in easy circumstances, whatever is the price, always consume the same quantity of wheat; and the labouring poor are so much attached to wheat, that they will forego almost all other articles approaching to articles of first necessity, rather than go without wheaten bread. If the quantity of the article purchased be the same after the price is raised, the surplus of money which would be available for the purchase of other articles is exhausted in exactly the same ratio as the price has increased. Suppose when wheat is raised wages remain the same, while the consumption of the wheat is not varied: the surplus that would remain for the purchase of other articles is affected exactly in the ratio of the rise in the price of wheat. A labourer purchases wheaten bread when it is dear nearly to the amount of his entire wages, and he is then prevented from consuming any other article. The effect on the home market is instantaneous: that affects our foreign trade, by stimulating export of goods, and the disarrangement of our whole system of commerce is the effect of this increase in the price of corn. This brings me to the point which, after all, is the point of primary importance, namely, what is the effect of the present state of the law on the condition and happiness of the nation. Now, Sir, it is said, that although the manufacturing labourer may gain by a prosperous trade and a low price of provisions, that this is not equally applicable to the agricultural labourer. And this is the pith of the whole argument. I admit the great number of the agricultural labourers—I admit the importance—I will not say the paramount, but I will say the great importance—of this class of society; and if you can show, as heretofore I thought you could show, that this portion of the community would be injured by an alteration of the Corn Laws, then the argument against a change would be strong, if not conclusive. But having given the matter mature consideration—it is true the noble Lord the Member for Lynn says I am lapsing into a sexagenerian imbecility—but having given the matter my best consideration, I am bound to state it is not true that the agricultural labourer's condition, with reference to the high price of provisions, is different from that of the manufacturing labourer; their interest is identical, and both the manufacturing la- 387 bourer and agricultural labourer suffer severely from the high price of provisions. I do not know if my hon. relative the Member for Shaftesbury is in the House. I know the condition of the Dorsetshire labourers has received his attention; his kind and warm heart has been touched by their position; and, knowing this, I am surprised at the conclusion at which he has arrived with respect to the Bill. What does he state? He says that under no circumstances do the labourers of Dorsetshire receive more than 7s. or 7s. 6d. a week; and I understood the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, who followed the hon. Member for Shaftesbury, to go further than the hon. Member for Shaftesbury, and to admit that there was a weekly deduction from the wages of one or two shillings for house-rent, making the net wages something between 5s. and 5s. 6d. weekly. My hon. relative stated that in his opinion this rate of wages does not vary with the price of provisions, and if provisions rise in price, the wages do not also rise, so that their condition is hopeless. Now, Sir, I say it is anything but hopeless. Try this experiment—if you cannot raise the rate of wages, you can perhaps reduce the price of wheat. Other interests, I admit, may suffer—possibly the farmer may suffer—possibly the landlord may suffer; but I defy you to demonstrate to me that the condition of the Dorsetshire labourer will be deteriorated by lowering the price of corn. I understood my hon. Friend to say that not only was this their condition at present, but that it had been so for a long period, and that for at least thirty years they had been in this condition. Now we are not debating Magna Charta, or any great principle of the British Constitution, but we are discussing a law which happens to be about coincident with this deterioration in the condition of the Dorsetshire labourers, and which is about thirty years old. And when my hon. relative despairs of procuring any rise of wages in Dorsetshire, let him try the experiment of lowering the price of food. I was about to state that I think that it is quite clear that the effect which would be produced on the manufacturing workmen and the agricultural labourers by a fall in the price of food must be the same. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Granby) brought under the view of the House the situation of the agricultural labourers in the reign of Elizabeth; but we must look at things as they now exist, and Parliament must deal with 388 them accordingly. This can no longer be regarded as only an agricultural country. I repeat it: if you attempt to legislate for England as purely an agricultural country you will fail; for this country—be it for weal or woe—is also a great manufacturing country, and you must legislate now with regard to its manufacturing and commercial interests. Therefore you must look to the connexion of manufactures and commerce with agriculture and land, and see how their interests are blended. You cannot have great manufacturing or commercial prosperity without creating a great demand for labour in the neighbouring agricultural districts. At the present time, for instance, you have the Birkenhead docks in progress; you have railways, and other great public works carried on in different places; your manufacturers call for an increased supply of labour; a demand arises in the agricultural districts, and a great number of labourers are attracted from the most remote and rural parts of the country, to those great marts of industry. The effect, then, in the rural districts is, that when manufactures are nourishing, wages rise in all parts, from an extra demand for labour. Now, what is the condition of the labouring classes? Let us be sincere on this point. I appeal with confidence to the reason, and judgment, and candour of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, and if I establish the fact that even in the agricultural districts the rise of wages is coincident with cheapness of food, and if you wish to legislate for the welfare of the labouring classes, the case can be so easily established, and made so clear, that you cannot resist passing of this Bill. Wages do depend upon demand and supply, and when a demand for labour operates among the agricultural classes, and raises wages, provisions being plentiful, they obtain the three greatest advantages which a working man can simultaneously enjoy—full employment, high wages, and a low price of provisions. Oscillation again comes; production has been unnaturally stimulated; with a diminished quantity of food the price is enhanced, the ports are closed, the home market is destroyed, the foreign trade is injured, the exportation of the precious metals caused by the sudden demand for corn operates upon prices, and wages fall. What is then the condition of the labouring man, whether engaged in manufactures or agriculture? In the first instance, he enjoys three of the greatest boons that can be conferred 389 on him—full employment, high wages, and a low price of provisions. Now look to the reaction; there is deficient employment, low wages, and a high and artificial price of provisions. I do not wish unnecessarily to prolong this argument; but it has convinced my own mind, and I am satisfied that this effect of low prices and plenty of food in the manufacturing and the agricultural population is invariable, and certain to lead to their comfort and their happiness. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury put the whole case on the effect which the repeal of these laws will have on the labouring classes. Now I am willing to take the issue on this. I have therefore thought it necessary to show, at length, that for the well-being of the labonring classes, no other course is likely to be so beneficial as to pass this Bill. No sophistry or ingenuity of argument will satisfy the people of this country that they ought to consent to the continuance of a state of things by which the price of food must be raised, and the wages of labour must be reduced. No cajolery will satisfy the people of this country that this kind of legislation is calculated to promote the general interests, however good the intentions and anxious the wishes for the well-being of the labourers of those who urge us to continue the protecting laws. Now, let me shortly glance at the next portion of the subject. Is it the interest of the working farmer that this law should be continued? In the Committee on Agriculture, over which you, Sir, presided in 1836, many witnesses gave evidence on this point. I should be unwilling to detain the House at any length, by referring to much of the testimony then given; but I will merely call the attention of the House to the evidence of two tenant farmers as regards the influence of the corn laws on their interests, and they spoke clearly and distinctly on the subject. The witness to whose testimony I shall first call the attention of the House, is that of Mr. Ellis, a large tenant farmer in the neighbourhood of Leicester. The first question put was by my right hon. Friend now Paymaster of the Forces (Mr. B. Baring):—It is for the advantage of the farmer to raise prices, is it not?—I do not think so; I am not of that opinion. I do not think it is to the advantage of the farmer to have very high prices.What do you consider most advantageous to the farmer?—A steady price; that the farmer when he goes to take land should look to some steady price, and not look to adventitious circumstances to keep him out of a difficulty.390Do you think the present scale (that was the law of 1828) has had the effect of creating greater fluctuations of price than there would have been under a more reduced scale?—That is a question that I cannot answer, not having been in the corn trade; but I am certain that the Corn Laws have raised delusive hopes in the farmers.Then the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) asked—You are decidedly of opinion that steadiness of price is the circumstance most important to the farmer?—My opinion is not in accordance with that of most people with respect to the interest of landlord and tenant. Up to a certain point I hold that they go together; that it is the interest of the tenant to keep the land in good condition, as it is of the landlord that he should do so; but his landlord's interest is to have a high price to enable him to pay a high rent. I do not think it is the tenant's interest to be clamorous about a high price; it makes very little difference to me whether I pay a high or a low price; and I think the country thrives better all round me, if the price is a moderate one; it is better for me not to have a high price, provided my expenses are in proportion.The farmer is a capitalist, and it is of importance to him to be able to calculate the returns upon his capital?—Just so.He would do that better, and feel more certainty, if he were sure of a steady price of wheat?—Yes, he would.Suppose that the present system, or any system of Corn Laws, tends to produce fluctuations in the price of wheat, that must be ruinous in its consequences to the farmer?—There is no doubt of it.Then the witness was asked by the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. Miles)—Do you think you could do without protection altogether?—Not in the present state of things. I think we must come to that ultimately; but we, must go by easy steps.These questions were put in 1836; and recollect that in 1842 the protection was reduced one half, and under the present measure there is to be a less duty, which is to endure for three years, and so we shall arrive, by easy steps, at what this tenant-farmer, in 1836, forewarned you was inevitable, and which he considered desirable. Again, he was asked—But you think that the poorer class of farmers at present look at 60s. as the price at which wheat can be maintained?—Yes.Is it your opinion that, upon the average of years, prices can attain to that height?—It is my opinion that they cannot, and that they will not attain 50s. with fine seasons.And the consequence is, that the poorer farmers have fallacious hopes raised?—Yes.This was the testimony of an English farmer. I now come to that of a farmer of the Lothians, who I believe is not now living. I had the pleasure of his acquaintance; and I know that he was one of the most successful agriculturists in that dis- 391 trict, where so many improvements have been made in agriculture. I allude to Mr. Howden, who was asked by the hon. Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cayley), whom I see opposite—"If you had been sold off in 1820, do you think you would have been better off than you are now?" Now, observe the answer which Mr. Howden gives, after twenty years of protection. He replied—I do not know that mine is a fair case to be taken as a general case, because I started very poor in life, and I have had a hard struggle, and other circumstances that contributed to depress me. I am the only remaining farmer in the parish where I was brought up. Except myself, there is not a farmer, nor the son of a farmer, remaining within the parish but myself.This was brought out still more clearly by the next question put by the hon. Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire:—What is the reason of their having all gone away?" Mr. Howden replied—"The money rents that were exacted of them; they all conceived that they were to have 80s. a quarter, and their calculations were made upon that: it soon appeared that that could not be realized, and they were not contented, and ruin has been the consequence.Then there has been a great change of tenantry in your neighbourhood?—There has been.And that has been caused by the fall of prices?—Yes, and the want of accommodation on the part of the proprietors.The proprietors have not reduced their rent in proportion?—They now have generally done so; but they were loth in doing it when the circumstances required, and therefore the tenantry fell.Thus it appears that it was calculated, on the part of both tenant and landlord, that the price of 80s. would be uniformly realized; and that by the first Corn Bill that price would be guaranteed to them. The landlords took tenants on this presumption; and they were disappointed in the result. The landlords thought, under the operation of that Bill they were justified in thinking, in communibus annis, this price would be realized. I know that the landlords in that part of the country are generous and highminded men. I have known them from my youth; and I am convinced they would not take an unfair advantage; but they postponed reducing their rents too long. Mr. Howden was next asked—In your opinion, did the Corn Law that was made in 1815, deceive both the landlord and the tenant?—It did. I believe that the calculation upon which they took at that time was almost universally 4l. a quarter.The general impression was, that the Corn Laws then made would have the effect of keeping wheat at the price of 80s., and both landlord and tenant were deceived in that?—Yes.If the Corn Law had not the effect of keeping 392 up the price, something must have reduced the price?—It did reduce; but as to the cause, I shall not pretend to say.The Corn Law, having promised a price of 80s., failed to perform it?—Yes.Such is the state of the tenant-farmer. I have also shown you what is the effect of these laws on the labourers, and also what is the effect on the tenant in regard to his relations with his landlord, and that whatever amount of protection was promised on any given price of produce guaranteed, the result has been failure and disappointment. This was the inevitable result in every instance. What Mr. Howden described as the case of the tenants in his district was that of 10,000 others; and this arose not from any want of generosity on the part of the landlord, but from the defect of the law; and I believe that it is as much for the interest of the tenants and the landlords, as for that of the consumer, that there should be steadiness in the price of corn, which would be obtained by the removal of restrictions. I will now take a short glance at the situation of the landlords. But before I do so I must observe—and I hope that I may say it without offence—that it is too much for hon. Gentlemen below the gangway to assume that they only are the landlords of the country, and that they alone represent the landed interest. I confess that I know not where to find a very prosperous landed property in which great improvents have been made in the cultivation, and where the rental has been greatly increased, where the happy result may not be traced, either immediately or indirectly, to its connection with commerce and trade. This also I believe to be the opinion of a large body of the most influential Members of that class. Now let me try this question in connection with our manufacturing districts. I will take the county of Lancaster, the seat of the cotton manufactures. Who are the great landed proprietors in that great district? The Earl of Derby may be considered as one of the greatest. What is the opinion of the Earl of Derby on this subject? Is he hostile to the repeal of the Corn Laws? But I may be told that that nobleman's property is in immediate approximation to the manufacturing districts; I will therefore refer to the instance of the Earl of Burlington, whose property is purely agricultural. The Earl of Derby and the Earl of Burlington are not bad instances, and they both are adverse to protection. Again, I will take the case of Lord Francis Egerton, whose property is connect- 393 ed with commerce and agriculture; and the inevitable effect of experience has made him a strenuous advocate for a change in these laws. What is the case in the West Riding of Yorkshire? What is the opinion of one of the largest landed proprietors there—Earl Fitzwilliam? Is he opposed to a repeal of the Corn Laws? Take Scotland: go to the chief seat of the cotton manufactures there. The county most engaged in manufactures is that of Lanark. What is the opinion of the Duke of Hamilton, the chief landed proprietor there? You may treat this argument with contempt if you please; but it is impossible for you to say that you represent exclusively the agriculture of this country. This is an assumption which the facts will not bear out. The hon. Member for Somersetshire mentioned an extraordinary fact, that the average price of wheat in 1805 was 92s., and that it was now 50s., and that the produce of the country had at the same time increased to supply equal to the wants of a largely increased population. Now, it is a curious fact that, coincident with the commercial and manufacturing prosperity of that period, the rent of the land has risen, and not the rent of the land only, but the fee-simple of the land has increased in value, while, as the hon. Member has shown, the produce of the soil itself has increased. If you pass this measure, no great fall of price may take place below that which we have known for the last three years; but I am satisfied that the great body of the people will obtain this inestimable advantage—that they will have an ample and perfect security against a sudden rise of price to any great height. Now I may take shame to myself, but I am bound to say that, although late, I have arrived at this conclusion after a more careful consideration of this matter, combined with experience; and I say that the real truth of the whole argument, as it appears to me, is summed up in a masterly manner by Lord Grenville, in 1815, and I believe that what he says is undeniable. I cannot persuade myself that the laws which regulate the importation of corn tend to produce plenty, cheapness, or steadiness of price. As far as they operate at all, my belief is, that when carefully examined in practice and tested by experience, they produce the very opposite effects. Lord Grenville lays down the general principle which is the converse of this. Lord Grenville said that monopoly is the parent of dearness, scarcity, 394 and uncertainty. I believe that the proposition is true. I believe that it is impossible to cut off sources of supply, and increase abundance. You cannot cut off a supply from these markets where you can get an article at the cheapest rate, without enhancing the price. To say that the people shall not obtain articles of first necessity unless they are the produce of their own soil, would be, in the words of Lord Grenville, to deprive them of the advantages to be derived from those great arrangements of Providence which could secure them against the failure of crops or varieties of seasons. I am, therefore, most anxious that this measure which we are now discussing should pass unmutilated and entire; and I have a strong conviction that, if it becomes the law of the land, it will have the effect of protecting the labourer against the high price of articles of the first necessity for his subsistence, whilst it will give security to the farmer in his speculations and his profits; and, more than all, I believe that this measure will be the only means of reconciling the prosperity of the landlords with the interests of the community at large. I believe that it will extend our commerce, that it will increase the prosperity of our manufactures, and place our foreign relations on the surest and most stable foundations of amity. It is my conscientious belief that it will be memorable in our history. [Cheers.] Yes, memorable in our history, as securing the prosperity, the peace, the contentment, and the happiness of the great body of the people, without injury to the exclusive interests of any particular class.
§ MR. CAYLEY
, in reply (to Sir James Graham) contended that when Lord Grenville said that monopoly was the parent of scarcity, he did not apply the remark to the present Corn Laws. Lord Grenville's observations applied to the Corn Bill of 1815, which prohibited the importation of wheat until the price rose to 80s. the quarter. The present Corn Law was protective, not prohibitory; it protected the farmer, and thus protected the labourer, who was employed by the farmer; and protected the consumer by securing the cultivation of the land. With regard to the remark which the right hon. Baronet made respecting the hon. Members who sat below the gangway, he must say that he thought it ungenerous. These Gentlemen did not assume to themselves the exclusive representation of the landed interest; on the contrary, it was given to 395 them from every quarter of the House except their own. The right hon. Baronet appeared to attach great importance to the authority of the large landed proprietors who had declared in favour of the Government measure; but it should be recollected that they formed precisely the class least likely to be seriously affected by the intended alteration in the Corn Laws. The small proprietors, the statesmen of Cumberland, the yeomen of the dales of Yorkshire, the men of few acres, would be the greatest sufferers. Low prices for the produce of land would be ruinous to them; for, as the right hon. Baronet must well recollect, they did not pass unscathed through the terrible period of distress occasioned by the low prices shortly after the return of peace. The idea entertained at the present time by many hon. Gentlemen appeared to be, that only the most skilful farmers were to be allowed to cultivate the land. If, indeed, by a stroke of the legislative wand they could at once convert all the small farmers into men of large capital and the highest order of education, the land might doubtless on the whole be better cultivated. But where were they to find all these pattern farmers? Not in England; for the majority of England were hardworking smock-frock farmers: many of them, or their immediate predecessors, had been labourers, who, by persevering industry, and the accumulation of small savings, had risen into the class of small farmers. The measure before the House would strike at the very existence of this class of men. And yet these men had the same taste for the occupation of land as the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Cobden) professed he would have, and that all manufacturers had, after they had made their fortunes in trade. Why were those men, the Members of this most valuable class, to be denied access to the object of their honourable ambition, and the means only to be left to men like the hon. Member for Stockport to gratify their desires? Did the country owe no debt to the farmers of England, large and small—the latter forming the great majority? Yes; by the indirect acknowledgment even of the head of the Government himself. He had stated, that during the last forty years prices had rather fallen than risen. If this were true, then it was equally true that at no period of our previous history had the population increased so fast; but notwithstanding this enormous increase of population, such had been the growing skill of the farmers of 396 this country, that their increased produce had more than kept pace with the increase of population. If this had been the effect of protective laws, what better evidence could we have of their advantage both to the producer and the consumer? What madness, therefore, would it be to entirely alter a system that had led to such beneficial results! The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, tells us of various great landowners who are in favour of the repeal of the Corn Laws. But the House should remember that in all changes of this kind, it is not the wealthiest who are doomed to suffer, but the poorer members of the community—men who can just struggle on under present circumstances; and the class living under these precarious circumstances, is a far larger one than the wealthy class. It is the man of small means who suffers the most under changes of this sort; and yet this measure was introduced under a pretext that it was for the benefit of the poorer classes. And then, with a strange inconsistency, it was stated that corn was not to fall in price. The Government affirmed this. The Whig party also affirmed that corn would not materially fall. They, therefore, in their advocacy of free trade, could not pretend to be advocating the cause of the poor. If, however, the repeal of the Corn Laws should produce low prices, as he believed it would, he would, in the sequel, show that low prices had, by experience, been proved to be the reverse of beneficial to the working classes. Great pains had been taken by the economists to separate the interests of producer and consumer; but, the fact was, that except fixed annuitants, whose interest was in low prices and low wages, and who might abstractedly be considered as enemies to production, all classes of the country, although consumers, were also producers. The interest of all producers was to have a remunerating price for their produce; and this, under heavy burdens and taxation, they could not have under low prices. When they had fair prices, each formed good customers to the others; whereas, under low prices, no classes of producers getting profits, none could afford to buy from their neighbours: hence stagnation of trade and distress. The Corn Law was not so important to the landlords as to the labourers of this country. If the advocates of this change placed confidence in the speculations of one author more than another, that author was Adam Smith, and he said that the interests of the landlord 397 and the labourer were inseparable from the interests of the community; whereas the interests of the manufacturer and the merchant were not always so inseparable from those of the community. Instead, therefore, of making manufactures the foundation of the commercial edifice, as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to do, he (Mr. Cayley) would, on the contrary, make agriculture its foundation. Agriculture had always, heretofore, been considered the basis, and upon that foundation had arisen the superstructure of our present commercial greatness. The produce from the land was far greater than that from manufactures, while the cultivators of the land formed far the surest market for our manufactures. He (Mr. Cayley) was glad the right hon. Baronet had referred to the Agricultural Committee of 1836. He had had the pleasure of sitting on that Committee with him, and also on that of 1833. What were the chief complaints on those two Committees? The havoc and destruction to farming capital from a series of years of low prices. The right hon. Gentleman had adduced the evidence of Mr. Ellis, one of the witnesses, as favourable to moderate prices. He was not in favour of high prices, but only of such prices as would remunerate the farmer sufficiently to keep the labourer in employment, and the land in cultivation. Eighty shillings might be required under the heavy taxation of the war. In 1825, we saw that 64s. a quarter gave prosperity to all classes—commercial as well as agricultural. Perhaps 50s., or a little above in average seasons, for an average quality of red wheat, might now be sufficient to maintain the land in cultivation. He was no enemy to fair competition; but competition which, if moderate, might stimulate to energy and improvement, might, if immoderate, lead to utter ruin and despair. But who was Mr. Ellis, to whose evidence the right hon. Gentleman had referred? He could scarcely be called a regular farmer. He (Mr. Cayley) remembered being surprised at his evidence being so unlike that of most who had come before them, and had been at the pains to ascertain who he was; and, as far as he remembered, his entire occupation was not that of a farmer, but he was connected with the trade of Leicester; his farm was just outside of the town, and was rather a large market-garden than a farm. Mr. Ellis, therefore, could not be considered in the light of a regular farmer. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: The hon. Member 398 has not referred to Mr. Howden's evidence.] There were many points in the right hon. Baronet's speech he should have wished to have replied to; but at that late hour of the night he feared to obtrude himself too long on the indulgence of the House. With respect to Mr. Howden's evidence, he perfectly well remembered his, and that of almost all the Scotch witnesses in 1836. But he thought that evidence was altogether on the side of good prices. He (Mr. Cayley) had found that most of the Scotch witnesses had been picked out to speak in opposition to the distress which had been almost universally in 1836 deposed to by the English witnesses. After the first two or three witnesses, therefore, he had asked them all this question: "Taking any district to which you can speak from personal observation, do you think the farmers in it are a richer or a poorer set of men thanthey were fifteen years ago?" The answer universally was, "They are a poorer set of men." During this period low prices had been the rule—high prices the exception; under the former there had been ruin—under the latter, comfort, and relief from the pressure of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman might say, if the Corn Laws did not save the farmer from low prices, where was their virtue? But no one knew better than the right hon. Gentleman the cause of those low prices; and no one had more clearly and pathetically described them. It was the change in the value of money which caused the decline in prices; and the variations from that decline—when better prices and prosperity had prevailed, were attributable to nothing else than to tamperings with the currency. When money was plentiful, as in 1817–18; in 1824–25; in 1836–37; and in 1844–45 — there was comfort and employment; when it was scarce, as in 1815–16; in 1820–22; from 1826 to 35; and in 1840 and 1846—there was stagnation and distress. What the Corn Law did, when lowness of price existed—whether arising from scarcity of money, or from abundance of produce—was to prevent foreign importation from still farther depressing the price. Then the right hon. Baronet had said that the present measure would tend to steady prices. Now he recollected that there was no other point in the two Committees of 1833 and 1836 which the right hon. Gentleman had laboured so earnestly to make out, as that the operation of the Corn Law had been in 399 this country, above all others, even where importation was free, to produce steady prices. He (Mr. Cayley) had thought so too, and he had seen no reason to change his opinion. All evidence went to show that this year there had been less scarcity and less variation of price in England, than in any other country of Europe. No doubt there had been a great variation of quality; but prices had varied less than could have been expected under the circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman had said that this measure would produce high wages, full employment, and low prices; but experience showed that full employment and high wages were not compatible with low prices. What had been the experience of this country on repeated occasions under a state of low prices? Take the period since the general peace. During the high prices of the war, great prosperity for the most part prevailed. The two years succeeding the war, 1815–16, were accompanied by a great fall of prices. Distress was universal; riots and outbreaks in the manufacturing districts were the consequence; great losses in trade and farming, and a great disemployment of labour. In 1817–18 and the first part of 1819, prices greatly rose; this rise of prices was accompanied by great and general prosperity among all classes of the community. Towards the middle of 1819 prices began rapidly to fall; that fall in prices continued progressively till the end of 1822, when wheat was reduced to a price of 40s. a quarter. What was the state of the country and of the working classes during these three or four years of low prices? Stagnation of trade, ruin in the agricultural districts, misery, starvation, and a revolutionary spirit evinced in the more populous districts. 1819, June 14, a large meeting was held of unemployed workmen, on Hunslet Moor, near Leeds, seeking for annual Parliaments and universal suffrage. June 6, a meeting was held of the weavers, at Glasgow, for similar objects. Aug. 16, was the Manchester Reform meeting. Nov. 30, Lords Sidmouth and Castlereagh brought in the Six Acts for preventing seditious meetings. In 1820 was the Cato-street conspiracy. Dec., 1820, the Constitutional Association was formed to oppose disloyal principles. 1822, Lord Brougham said distress was universal except in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Now he was just old enough to remember this period, and could bear witness that the North Riding was no exception to the general rule of wretchedness which then pre- 400 vailed. Did the great and overwhelming distress then existing under a state of low prices, look like low prices being favourable to the productive interests and the working classes of this country? and yet recollect that it was low prices with which, by their measures, they were again threatening the country. In 1823, prices revived — 1823 and 1824, and 1825, were years of great and general prosperity. High prices, then, were not injurious, as experience would prove, to the best interests of the country. He (Mr. Cayley) was not advocating high prices, but moderate remunerating prices; he was contending that a system, which would drive the labourer and even the tenant-farmer to the workhouse, was a system which could be beneficial to no one; and he was apprehensive the present measure would lead to that. This was not a question immediately affecting the larger landowners or the larger manufacturers; they were almost above the effect of low prices. But legislation should always be for the weak; the strong could take care of themselves. He repeated that low prices had almost invariably been accompanied by distress, and high prices by prosperity. After the end of 1825, prices again fell, and remained low for several years, although three or four years of scarcity in 1828–9–30 and 1831 made them appear higher than they really were. In 1827, he remembered that barley and wool were a perfect drug on the market, and threatened to throw the wolds again out of cultivation. In 1830, such was the pressure on the farmers from insufficient prices, under adverse seasons, that they were obliged to give up very generally employing labour. The effect of that state of things—as one of the blessings of low prices — the House would remember, was the dreadful system of "Swing" fires and the burning of stacks. It was this state of general distress that prepared men's minds for that great moral revolution, the Reform in Parliament, which was expected to be a panacea for all difficulties. Low prices, however, still continued; and what was the consequence? Mr. Fielden, in 1833—then, as still, Member for Oldham, gave an account to the House of a district in his neighbourhood, comprising thirty-five townships and 200,000 inhabitants. One quarter of these were visited by a charitable society; wheat was 52s. a quarter; the wages of the workmen 3s. 8½d. per week; and the average income per day of those visited, including wages 401 and poor's relief was 2¼d. The price of corn went on decreasing; and in December, 1834, the operatives of Preston, when wheat was 46s. a quarter, issued an address to their brother workmen in the manufacturing districts; and their principal complaint was of excessive labour, poverty, ignorance, and vice. In 1835, wheat fell to 39s. a quarter; and such a state of agricultural desolation as we then witnessed may a merciful Providence prevent our ever seeing again! To this long period of depression and distress under low prices succeeded the reaction of 1836 and 1837, which were periods of higher prices and almost universal prosperity. Towards the close of 1837 came a temporary fall, which produced a striking embarrassment in commerce, from which there was a partial reaction; but in 1839 there came again another prostration of prices, and consequent distress: then they heard of the hon. Member for Stockport; but how? Did he then call for a repeal of the Corn Laws to effect a fall of prices for the benefit of the working classes? No; his complaint, conjointly with Mr. Smith, of the Chamber of Commerce at Manchester, and others, was, that the fall of prices had caused the loss of 40,000,000l. in the cotton trade alone. In 1840 the Manchester men obtained a Committee of that House to inquire into the cause of that great loss. They attributed it to the malign operations of the Bank, and to the money laws; but Mr. Cobden and Mr. Smith were reported to have floundered in their examinations, and failed to make good their accusations against the Bank. It was reported at the time that then Mr. Cobden stated—It is no use attempting to get rid of this most mischievous bank influence, unless we can get the country gentlemen to help us. Let us attack the Corn Laws, and when they are repealed, the country gentlemen will be ready enough to help us to put the monetary operations of the country in order.So that the agitation for a repeal of the Corn Laws did not originate in any desire to help the poor, but in a desire to uphold the profits of the wealthy manufacturers of Manchester. In the year 1842 Sir Robert Peel referred to that loss sustained by the cotton trade as a probable cause of the depression then still continuing. If, however, that depression was, soon after the introduction of the right hon. Baronet's measure of 1842, succeeded by a period of prosperity, that prosperity was to be attributed, not to those measures, but to that 402 natural reaction which in so many instances had been shown to follow periods of adversity, stimulated as it was by great railway outlays. This was shown at periods succeeding 1793, 1810, 1816, 1828, 1834–35, as well as after 1842. If those measures were really good, and if they caused the prosperity of which the right hon. Baronet boasted, why did it not still continue? The famine panic, which was one of the grounds assigned by the right hon. Baronet for the present measure, was prospective; and the prosperity, if produced by the former measures, ought to have continued till the famine actually showed itself. Yet the fact was, that in the early part of this year there was great depression. The condition of the people was always better under high prices than under low. It was not that the labourer preferred to buy a dear loaf, but that he had better means of purchasing. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Devonshire had shown that at times of low prices, there was a greater number of persons dependent on the poor rate than at times of high prices. This statement of the Member for Devonshire was taken from all the unions of that large county. He (Mr. Cayley) was confident the same result would be found in other agricultural districts. He would read a letter to the House from a farmer of great skill and capital, not a heavily rented farmer, for he was a tenant under the Duke of Cambridge—who was well known as a liberal landlord—his rent was 500l. or 600l. a year, his farm was not even situated in a purely agricultural district; for it was only two miles from Kingston-on-Thames, which might almost be called a metropolitan township, being only seven or eight miles from London. This letter was pretty conclusive as to the injurious effect of low prices of corn on the condition of the labourer.
§ "Coombe Farm, Kingston-upon-Thames, 24th Feb., 1846.
§ "Sir—Having had forty years' experience in farming, perhaps you will allow me to give my opinion in regard to Sir Robert Peel's Corn Law question.
§ "In referring to my books of the prices of wheat, I find, upon examination, that whenever the price of bread was cheap, we had the most misery and destitution in our parish.
§ "For example, in 1822 I sold my wheat, the average price being 40s. per quarter. I generally paid from 90l. to 100l. per annum poor rates; in that year I paid upwards of 300l. poor rates. In the same year, being one of the select vestry, and meeting on Thursday evenings, I have frequently found from one hundred to one hundred and fifty able-bodied men willing and begging for work, applying for relief; but from the low price of corn, 403 the farmers had no means of giving them employment.
§ "In the year 1835, when the corn was at the same value, the same thing occurred: we had more destitution and misery than you can possibly imagine.
§ "Being a guardian of the Kingston Union, I am happy to say we have not an able-bodied man on that establishment, and very short of the usual quantity of poor in the house.
§ "The Corn Law League has done us (the farmers) the injustice of maligning our characters, without any just cause; and in the year 1822, and every year for the last forty years, I have never paid less than 12s. per week; and I believe that I can safely aver the average has been 15s. for the same time, as well as my neighbours.
§ "If Sir Robert Peel carries the present Corn Law Bill, the farmer must be inevitably ruined; for, independent of low prices, if the farmer cannot employ the labourer, he must keep him.—From your humble servant,
§ "FRAN. GARNER."
§ The agricultural system was, as Mr. Garner had properly observed, one under which landlords and tenants considered themselves united by peculiar ties with the labourers on their properties and farms. They felt themselves under more than the obligations of a temporary contract; they felt themselves under obligations in reference to that class whether the labourers could be profitably employed or not. If the property of the landlords and tenants were destroyed, it was impossible to say what would be the ultimate effect on the interest of the labouring classes. It was on these grounds that he upheld the opinion he had always entertained, that this was a dangerous experiment which had been proposed by Ministers. Indeed, he considered it so full of risk, and so deficient in support by sober evidence, authority, or experience, that of all the bubble speculations of the last autumn, he could call to mind none so purely chimerical and visionary as this legislative speculation of Her Majesty's Government. After the details into which his hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) had just gone, it was unnecessary for him to go into much evidence to show the grounds of his impression that corn would sustain a serious diminution in price. His hon. Friend had already referred to Mr. Barrow's (of Nottinghamshire) challenge to any one to take his offer to lay down good red wheat, of a certain weight per bushel, at 40s. a quarter in London, within the next three years. If, as the Ministers and the Whigs thought, wheat would not fall below 48s. a quarter, any Whig or Minister would gain 20,000l. by accepting the offer to lay down 50,000 quarters at 40s. If wheat fell, as Mr. 404 Barrow believed, to 32s. a quarter, Mr. Barrow would win 20,000l. This was a fair wager; and Mr. Barrow being an old cornfactor, ought to know something of the matter. He would now advert very shortly to the opinion held by Mr. Sandars, a large cornfactor of Wakefield, as to the prospective prices of wheat under the operation of the present Ministerial measures. Mr. Sandars writes as follows:—
§ "As to the effect of the proposed measure on future prices, I expect to see wheat settle down in average seasons at 30s. to 35s. per quarter; but it won't surprise me to see the price at 25s. in 1849, if we have good harvests between this and then. We shall be overwhelmed with supplies, and shall become, from cheapness, an exporting country. I confess I cannot see how our farmers can survive this competition—it will cause a revolution amongst them—numbers must be ruined, and a vast many estates must change hands—say from the present lords to the cotton lords.
§ "GEORGE SANDARS.
§ "Wakefield, 10th March, 1846."
Such opinions, from such authorities, he must say, were enough to make a man of circumspection tremble for the consequences of the measure proposed; especially when he saw its advocates under a sort of infatuated delusion that no fall or scarcely any fall in price would take place under it. Then the right hon. Baronet seemed to imply that it was an acknowledged fact that the people were in favour of the proposed measure of free trade. It had been boldly asserted that the people were in favour of the measure. If such were indeed the case, he should bow with deference to the general desire in such a matter; but he had yet to learn that the people were in favour of the measure. The history of the Anti-Corn-Law League was, that it had circulated tracts, held meetings, sent persons round the country to make speeches, and in the progress of its agitation it was almost entirely unopposed. In consequence of the energy, the activity, and the agitation of that body, the tendency of opinion at this moment among two-thirds of the middle classes was rather in favour of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel). But where the question had been fairly put to the working classes, three-fourths took an entirely different view. How had the question been put in general to the working classes? "If we have free trade, your wages won't fall, and you will have bread at a much lower price; are you for free trade?" What working man to such a question, so put, would or could answer "No?" But was this the fair and honest way of putting the question to the working
classes? The workmen of England had already, however, disavowed that that was the true question. The true way of putting the question was this:—"Free trade in the abstract appears a true doctrine; for to buy in the cheapest market appears to be the natural desire of every man. But this country for some centuries has been in a very artificial state. Very few of its present trades and manufactures were indigenous to it. Most of our manufactures, if not all, have been fostered by laws to protect them from foreign competition, until at this moment, if it were not for heavy public and local taxes, there is scarce any branch of British production, agricultural or manufacturing, that could not, from the inherent energy of the British character, compete without any protection with any foreign rivals. Even in spite of our taxation, there are some of the simplest branches of manufacture, i. e. where machinery does almost all the work, and human labour enters into it scarcely at all, or if at all, through the instrumentality of a child—in such cases as the manufacture of yarns especially—in spite of taxation our produce need not at present fear an unrestricted competition; and so some of our most fertile lands might safely be left even at present, perhaps, to a perfectly unrestricted competition with the produce of foreign lands. If all the producers of England were of this superior class, no branch of trade need be alarmed at the idea of free trade. But it happens that the majority of the lands and the majority of the manufacturers and handicrafts of this country are not so superior to foreign rivalry as to be able, under the heavy pressure of our taxation, without great risk, to undergo an unrestricted competition. If the agricultural labourers, the silk weavers, the hosiers, and many classes of operatives and handicraftsmen, were, by free trade to be thrown out of employment—they could not buy so much cheap bread as they now do of dear bread, and the general rate of wages in the labour market would fall—"are you, the working classes, willing to run the risk of so dangerous a contingency as this?" To the question so put, and fairly put, the operatives have, with characteristic good sense, for the most part, preferred the practical smaller loaf they now possess, to the visionary larger loaf which an unfair and one-sided free trade promises to them. The League have appeared to be so convinced of this common sense view of the masses, that they have
never, as far as I have heard, dared to hold open meetings in Manchester and the manufacturing districts in favour of a repeal of the Corn Laws. Meetings had been held in Manchester which were called public meetings, but had no title to the name. He had been informed of instances in which tickets were distributed in the factories, and the overlookers were stationed at the doors of the meetings to see that the workmen attended them. At spontaneous meetings of the working classes the current of opinion ran in an opposite direction. The sentiments held by the working classes, as he was advised, were either in favour of protection, or against the measure of Sir R. Peel, unless the reductions he contemplated were accompanied by corresponding reductions in taxation and debts. Whatever might be the views entertained by philosophers, or by those who thought they were philosophers, it had not yet been received by the majority of the working classes as a truism that competition, to its full extent, was an advantage. So far as the silk weavers were concerned, they had held about a dozen open public meetings in various parts of England, denouncing foreign competition as the greatest injury to their trade. These meetings had been held since the announcement of the Ministerial Tariff. Within the last three or four weeks, various meetings had been held in the cotton and other districts—most of them in the open air—where the freest discussion was invited and allowed; and, almost universally, the expression of working men's opinions was in favour of protection to native industry. At Leicester, at Birmingham, at Leigh, at a meeting of the surrounding nine large manufacturing parishes, at Sheffield, and various other places, numerous meetings were held, and either a total apathy on the subject of free trade existed, or the resolutions carried were strongly in favour of protection to labour, and against a system of relentless competition. Competition, indeed, no doubt stimulated to improvement; but to healthy competition there were limits, and in excess it produced incompetency to carry on a profitable business. But there was one system of competition into which he (Mr. Cayley) and the protectionists were ready to enter—a competition to ameliorate the condition of the working classes. He anticipated that from the discussion on the question of the Corn Laws, whatever might be the final result
of that discussion, one great benefit would be derived; it might lead them, on both sides, to consider more than hitherto they had done—with a more earnest purpose, and with more Christian feelings—the condition of the great body of the people. He was convinced that, notwithstanding the sneers thrown out on that side of the House, there was no sacrifice to improve, to better the position, and to add to the comforts of the working classes, which the landlords of this country were not ready and willing to make. Was it likely, he would ask, primâ facie, that the members of a class who, from generation to generation, had been the hereditary stewards and distributors of wealth, would now be guided by any mean, base, or unworthy motives in their political course, where the interests of the poor were concerned? He could affirm from his own observation, that the country gentlemen of England, as a body, and their families, considered no duty so paramount as an attention to the comfort and welfare of the neighbouring poor around them. Some, however, were more able than others to effect all they desired in this respect. He did not desire to cast any reflection on, or to make any disadvantageous contrast with, any other class; but so much he would in justice say for the landlords of England. It was such a competition as that he had mentioned, which should be the aim of all their legislation. It was not profit alone they should seek: it was the comfort and the welfare of the people for which they should chiefly struggle; and it was only in reference to the latter result that free trade should be considered. And who that had witnessed the privations, the domestic martyrdom which the poor had frequently to undergo, and the manly fortitude, and the Christian forbearance with which they endured the hardships to which they are exposed, but would be glad to join in any legislation or in any expedients by which their condition might with permanent safety to themselves be relieved? The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had prophesied that, should this country adopt a free-trade policy, the example would speedily be followed by other nations. But what hopes had been held out? Mr. Huskisson, with a similar object, had in 1825 and 1826 prophesied the same thing; but instead of that, manufacturers in other countries having grown and extended more and more, they had become less willing each year to reciprocate such a policy as that
then and now again recommended. They could not judge of the general feeling in America from the expression of opinion from any individual member of Congress; and it was quite certain that the free States of New England, and Mr. Webster, the leader of an important party, would not be in favour of any relaxation of the existing code, which should endanger the manufacturing progress of the Northern States of the Union. If the greatness, the commercial greatness of England had been the consequence of a free-trade policy, then, indeed, M. Guizot might point out to the French Parliament the example of England. He might say—"See what free-trade England has attained: let us do likewise." But the very reverse had been the fact. England had not become great through free trade; and neighbouring nations, when they desired to imitate her, would read her history, and find in the pages of that history the indisputable truth, that it was under a long course of protection to her domestic industry that England had arrived at her present pitch of greatness, commercial and political. He (Mr. Cayley) knew the trite assertion that was used by some in relation to this fact—that it was in spite, and not because of protection, that British commerce and agriculture had thriven. As well might they say that the civilization which had gradually grown up to humanize the Christian world, had grown up in spite, and not on account, of the progress of Christianity. There was no evidence whatever to show that any great nation on the face of the earth had become great and remained great under a system of free trade. All evidence and all history pointed the other way. Had any nation ever been greater in commerce and agriculture than England? Protection, and protection alone, had been her policy. And now we were, without any sufficient cause, to rush headlong into an opposite course. The present measures of the Government could be considered in no other light than that of a political speculation—in his opinion, a great bubble speculation. Although he placed no great reliance on his own individual conclusions, he (Mr. Cayley) still placed great reliance on the experience of centuries. From all that fell from the free-trade side of the House, and from the confidence of their assumptions, a stranger to our history would imagine that our experience had all been the other way; that every nation in the world had beaten us in
manufactures, in agriculture and commerce—and had all thus beaten us by following the system of free trade, while we had followed, the system of protection; and that their object merely was to persuade us to try an experiment that in every other case had proved successful; while the truth was, that the experiment had never been tried before on a large scale with success; and that all success in industrial operations had arisen from following the opposite system of protecting domestic labour. Now let us see the fate of those who would venture upon the unknown sea of experiment without chart or compass. He (Mr. Cayley) was one of the deputation of 200 Members who waited upon Lord Melbourne in 1837 to urge the policy of the penny postage. Adjourning from Downing-street to that House, Members naturally discussed the probable results of the proposal made by the deputation. He sat near the hon. Members for Montrose and Kendal (Mr. Hume and Mr. Warburton), great advocates now, as always, of free trade. In a conversation, by no means confidential, he heard both those Members say that they would be willing to join a joint-stock company to farm the postage revenue at the old rate under the proposed system of the penny postage. What would have been the result of that bold speculation on their parts? The revenue from the postage under the penny charge had fallen off somewhere on the average about 700,000l. or 800,000l. per annum; and although gradually increasing at the rate of, he believed, about 30,000l. a year, it might be at least twenty years before the revenue under the new system equalled that under the old: causing a loss to the joint-stock company of which the two hon. Members would have formed a conspicuous part, of about 12,000,000l. before they began to receive a shilling of interest on their capital. Had those hon. Members been taken at their word, and the Government had held them to their bargain, the workhouse and not the House of Commons would before this have become their portion. And that was exactly the portion, viz., that of the workhouse, he so much dreaded from the proposed experimental measures of the Government, for thousands of the industrious classes of this country, whose labour had hitherto been protected. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, however, had consoled them with the assurance that the two Sicilies had consented to reciprocate with us on the
principle of free importations. Indeed! What an example! Happy Sicily! Happy Sardinia! fertile islands in the wide waste of waters! once in great part the granary of mighty Rome! but now embarrassed with little of the incumbrance of agriculture, and with less of the incumbrance of manufactures!—a prey and a sport to every passing gun-boat! you have yet treasured up for yourselves the inestimable satisfaction of having been the first nation of modern Europe to put into solemn practice the whimsical chimera of a perfectly unrestricted system of imports! Perhaps the strongest objection he (Mr. Cayley) felt to the measure before the House, was that it ran counter to the principle of all law. We were all slaves to the law, to the end that we might all be free. We had been in like manner the servants of protection, to the end that none should thrive at the expense of another. The object of all law was to protect the weak against the strong. What was the objection to the feudal system? That it was a government of the strongest. What were the natural laws of the forest? That the larger beasts should devour the smaller. What were the objects of this measure? An absorbing, relentless, he might call it a savage, competition for work and for bread between human beings. And this fierce scramble was to go on without restriction or control on the part of the Government. As well might they abolish all law; since the main objects of law were to protect the property and life of the defenceless from the violence of the powerful. But this measure seemed to him (Mr. Cayley) to restore in its worst form the lawless tyranny of the strong over the weak. It was not, as he had said before, the rich and the powerful who need be alarmed for the immediate consequences of this measure; the great landlord, the rich capitalist, the powerful manufacturer, might be greater by contrast, than before, from the decline in the fortunes of their humbler neighbours. But those who would suffer, were exactly those whom the law ought to protect: the poor manufacturer, the small landowner, the yeoman, the small farmer, the average workman, or the inferior artisan, would be crushed in the remorseless encounter. Was there a weak trader, a weak manufacturer, an operative past his prime, a labourer verging upon his decline—this measure promised to them degradation and ruin. It was a law to assist the strong to demolish the
weak. As if any necessity existed for legally aiding in a consummation too common under all circumstances. This measure, carried into operation, would, in fact, be a law to hasten the weak in going to the wall. And what was most strange was, that it was done under the pretence of helping the poor. Up to a certain point the cheapest market principle might be true; but it had its limits. The free operation of capital was certainly a system which led in its results to a great neglect of the poor, whose circumstances frequently required moral intervention. It was a system which he could characterize in no other terms that of the "Devil take the hindmost." But the political economists said that this system must be left to work itself out. Why, then, were those philosophers not consistent with themselves and their own doctrines? It was said, capital ought to be left to its free operation; then why did they object to Irish absentees? Why did they object to the Irish ejectments? They complained of the conduct of the Irish landlords: had they not a right to manage their estates as they pleased? Had they not a right to the free operation of their capital? Why did they support the Poor Laws? Were they not a disturbance of the free operation of capital? The philosophic system was that of the physical check of Malthus, which left redundant human beings to starve down to fit and proper numbers. Then with regard to banking: why was not every man allowed to open a bank? Because it would create inconvenience. Yet that was an interference with the free operation of capital. Why were they interfering with the affairs of railways? Why did they prohibit slavery? If a man could purchase a cheaper labourer, why, on their own principle, did they restrain the free operation of his capital? Why did they object to the Duke of Newcastle doing what he would with his own? Surely that objection was an interference with the free operation of capital! The free traders, in addressing the landed body, were very fond of telling them that property had its duties as well as its rights. What did this mean from their mouths? What an inconsistency and an interference with the free operation of capital was this! But the fact was, that moral considerations could neither be left out of this system or that, but must equally form a part, and a principal part, of all systems. For that reason, believing that capital had its duties
as well as its rights, the protection party, as a body, had been in favour of limiting the hours of labour in factories, when the occupation or the atmosphere produced sickness, emaciation, and distortion. But you—said the hon. Member (Mr. Cayley) turning to the free traders — think turning off a workman immediately after his prime, and going into a cheaper market, the duty of capital. You think free trade, and profit and cheapest markets, most important matters. So they are; but they are not all-important. There are greater and worthier things for a nation's consideration than these. Yes, believe me, religion, virtue, loyalty, patriotism, deeply-rooted associations, social affections, local attachments, are of infinitely greater value than mere commercial theories. A nation's virtue and a nation's happiness are far worthier objects of your care than mere profit, except as profit conduces to comfort; and in all cases the mere earnings of capital should bend to the higher considerations of a people's moral and social welfare. But your abstract views, now proposed to be absolutely carried into effect, leave out of the estimate these higher considerations. Your cheapest market principle dreams of profit and profit alone. Your theory is to consider man as a machine by which you are to make a profit; and the moment the prime of his years is passing or passed, your system bids you go to your cheaper market for a younger and stronger man—to forsake the servant who has spent the best of his days in your service, and to leave him to the accident of fate. This system, we believe, is not in accordance with the Christian religion—nor in conformity with the duty to our neighbour—it has not been the practice either of the English aristocracy or of the English agricultural districts. You there, under what has been elsewhere called a remnant of the patriarchial system, see old men working on the land, and old retainers and pensioners whiling away a cheerful old age around the premises on which through a laborious life they have toiled. You see old tenants or their widows on farms, who have been old servants, who have the same taste for the land as the hon. Member for Stockport proclaims that he and you entertain; these tenants would not have been placed on their farms merely on account of skill. Are we on all occasions to go like you to the cheapest market? Are we to turn off old tenants because their husbandry is not the new-
est and most skilful? Are we to turn adrift old servants, because in our servic they have become less strong, and because it is cheaper and more profitable to get rid of these incumbrances on our money profits? And yet these are the legitimate results to be drawn from your doctrine of going always to the cheapest market, and of acting on a system of unrestricted competition. Those, however, have not been the principles in which we have been brought up, or the practice of our lives. They are alien to our sentiments, and revolting to our sympathies, as we believe them to be repugnant to Christian duty. Hard fortune, severe trial, dire necessity, cruel laws, may tend to teach us a different lesson, and the sterner and harder lesson of practising it; they may force upon us a system so painful to contemplate; but if that evil day should arrive, it would not then be our own fallen fortunes that we should the most deplore, but that our country had by its own fatuity committed the suicidal act which had eradicated from out its bosom those best treasures—more precious than all your profits, and all your gold—of loyalty, virtue, patriotism, of the social affections, and of deep-rooted, devoted attachments, which have hitherto been the moral foundations of the nation's strength, and the chief pillars of the people's hope. But if the system of cheapness alone is to govern all our legislation, I would ask, where it is to stop? And I would now venture to address those independent Members of the Conservative party who at the first outset of this struggle, when two-thirds of his supporters left his ranks, still with a view of retaining him in office, even at the sacrifice of their consistency and of their own convictions, still gallantly and chivalrously adhered to the right hon. Baronet in that crisis of his fortunes. Do they still believe the right hon. Baronet can be maintained in power? I think not; for I am convinced there are scarce a dozen Members of the House who do not consider the Government of the right hon. Gentleman at an end. Let those hon. Members, then, pause to consider the ultimate tendencies of this cheapest market principle. They still at least venerate our ancient institutions. I ask them if the Church is based on the cheapest principle? Are the Colonies and our colonial system—the foundation of our widely-extended Empire—are they founded on the cheapest system? Rely upon it this system applied to our Colonies will be the
signal for their separation from the mother country. I have shown that the weakest and the poorest will be the greatest sufferers from this measure; but will the greatest and the most illustrious escape its ultimate operation? Her Majesty, I am bold to say, has not a more loyal and devoted subject than myself; but I cannot help anticipating that this system may, in the end, be equally applied to the Crown, and that some wretched spirit of economy may one day suggest that a retired ex-President of the United States, at a salary of 4,000l. a year, might make as useful and a cheaper head of the State than the descendants of the proud line of the Monarchs of England. You may, therefore, at this critical moment, maintain to us, in their present integrity, the Church, the Colonies, the cottage, and the Crown; but in office the Minister you cannot maintain. If these considerations will not weigh with you, save us, at least, from becoming "an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word," an object of mockery and of scorn to the nations of the world—save to us, at least, I implore you, the liberty and the labour of a free, a faithful, and an industrious people.
That old familiar tree,
Whose glory and renown
Are spread o'er land and sea,
Say, would'st thou hack it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke;
Cut not its earth-born ties;
Oh, spare that aged oak,
Now towering to the skies!
The hon. Member, turning to the manufacturing Members, went on:—
'Twas thy forefather's hand
That placed it by his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thine axe shall harm it not.
Woodman, spare that tree;
Touch not a single bough;
In youth it shelter'd thee,
Do thou protect it now!
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at One o'clock.