§ On the question, that the Order of the Day for the House to go into Committee upon Piers, Harbours, and Railways (Ireland), be read,
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, it was with great reluctance that he addressed the House for the purpose of submitting a Motion for their consideration. He begged, in the first place, to assure noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, that the question which they were called on to debate, was itself fairly before the House, and he was anxious to take the first favourable opportunity of engaging in its discussion. It was said, that he too frequently yielded to a disposition to cavil at the measures brought forward by Her Majesty's Government; and it was true that he frequently found it necessary to make them the subjects of censure and animadversion; but he denied, that in pursuing that course he was destitute of support out of doors; and he could sincerely say, that he never opposed anything which he conscientiously believed the exigences of the country required. By the present proceeding, what was the House asked to do? They were asked to go into a Committee of Supply, for the purpose of doing that 209 which the present Ministers of the Crown had over and over again assured them would he in the highest degree inimical to the interests of the country. He begged to recall the circumstances of the case to the recollection of hon. Members. At the commencement of the present Session, the noble Lord the Member for Lynn proposed to the House a measure for establishing railways in Ireland. He hoped the House would also recollect, that at the time that proposition was brought forward, this country was in a very different condition from that in which it was at the present moment. There was then much apparent commercial prosperity. There was no pressure upon the money market. According to the plan of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, there certainly was to be an advance for the Irish railways of 16,000,000l.; but then it was to be advanced in sums of 4,000,000l. each year. There was at that time, he repeated, considerable prosperity; there was no alarm; and yet the Government opposed the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn in a manner the most unqualified and unyielding; and now, what did the Chancellor of the Exchequer propose to do? Nothing less than to lend 620,000l. to three railway companies. Yet what was the language which he held when the noble Lord the Member for Lynn brought forward his Motion upon a similar subject? The hon. and learned Gentleman was proceeding to quote the precise terms which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had used upon the occasion in question—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Member cannot quote reports of debates which occurred during the present Session.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
If he quoted in any respect erroneously, it would be from want of memory, and not in consequence of the least wish to misrepresent the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman might, on that occasion, have used such arguments as these, viz., that it did not become the Government to enact the part of a great money lender; that it formed no part of the duty of the Government to provide 16,000,000l. for the use of any set of public companies. Amongst the arguments which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might use was this—and probably he had—that the railways which it was thus intended to support, were pre-eminently prosperous, and therefore worthy of confidence; but that 210 argument might be made use of in a totally opposite direction, because, if they were so prosperous as he thought proper to represent them, they did not stand in need of any pecuniary assistance. The fact of their prosperity was the best possible reason why the money should not be given to them. It was said, that if the Government interfered in matters of money lending, they might go into the market against any private parties, and with the power and influence of Government might very materially operate upon transactions with which they had no right to interfere. If those were the circumstances, and those the grounds upon which the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn was rejected, what were the circumstances that had since arisen that could justify Her Majesty's Government in taking that course which, during the present Session of Parliament, they deeply condemned when it proceeded from the noble Member for Lynn? At all events, the proposition of the noble Lord was not a peddling measure; it was a bold, if not a wise plan; but the present scheme possessed nothing of the recommendations which attached to that of the noble Member for Lynn. Let the House look at the circumstances. They had certainly undergone a great change in the interval; but it was a change which made much more against the plan of the Government than in its favour. The changes which had occurred were most vital and important. At the time which he had been describing there was no alarm, no danger; but what was the situation of the country now? There was excitement and apprehension throughout the country. Was it not a fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer received daily communications from Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds, and the other great towns? Had he not received several alarming communications from the Bank of England? Was it not a fact, that even within the last twenty-four hours the difficulties of the money market had increased; that no money could now be obtained for the best bills, or at all events that the rate of discount was so enormous that prudent men hesitated to convert any paper into money? That, then, was the time at which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to add to the burdens which the country already endured. Why did he not, on the contrary, consent to the proposition long ago made, when an hon. Member of that House told him that he alone could set 211 15,000 men to work upon the Irish railways? What distinguished this case from the former one, except that we were now in greater danger? And it appeared, too, that the companies were to have this money from the Government at a rate of interest at which they could not obtain it anywhere else. Was it the situation of Ireland that the right hon. Gentleman urged as his reason for this advance? In what respect was that situation changed from what it was when the right hon. Gentleman opposed the noble Lord's proposition? The argument used in Mr. Trevelyan's letter, then so much relied on, applied equally now. He said, that what was wanted in Ireland, was relief for the destitute, the aged, the women and children, and that measures introduced with a view to promote employment would not meet the emergency. Upon that letter it was argued by the Government at that time that the noble Lord's proposition would do no good; but the Government had themselves since attempted the employment system, and it had broken down; so that they were obliged to resort to the system of giving actual food, because the other system had deranged the whole of the ordinary transactions of life. They were called on to vote 620,000l. for Irish railways, after not only deranging the whole social system of Ireland by pecuniary advances to that country; but also the whole social and monetary system of England. For it was of no use to ascribe the disorder of our finances to what was called Sir R. Peel's Bill. It was caused by the Government having taken the money of the people of England in large masses; they had pushed into the market and deranged the whole monetary system. And yet, in the midst of this hubbub, when to the state of things impending might almost be applied the phrase of the French orator, "a hideous bankruptcy," down came the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his smiling face and gay demeanour, to make this pitiful proposal, to add the last feather to the weight that was crushing the suffering people of this country. He appealed to every Gentleman who valued consistency— and especially to those who used not long since to talk so much about it—he appealed to those who formed the majority against the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn—to support him in his present attempt to prevent the House from going into Committee. If his opposition proved successful, they might depend on it they 212 would never hear any more of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition. If he failed, and the money were afterwards voted, he believed that the people of this country would read to that House and the Ministers a lesson they would not soon forget. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving as an Amendment, "That the other Orders of the Day be now read."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he considered that he should be setting a very bad example if, by going into the discussion of the question raised by the hon. and learned Member, he were to adopt the irregular course taken by him. The hon. and learned Member had not only replied to a speech made by him in a former debate, but he had also been arguing on a proposition which was not substantially before the House. The hon. and learned Member ought to have waited till the House went into Committee. The course he had proposed to pursue was, to have asked the House to go into Committee, and in Committee to have made his statement. He hoped the House would agree to that course, and go into Committee, so that the proceedings might be carried on in accordance with the usual forms of the House.
§ On the question that the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the question,
§ The House divided:—Ayes 203; Noes 14: Majority 189.
|List of the NOES.|
|Collett, J.||Phillips, M.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Duncan, G.||Williams, W.|
|Escott, B.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Gisborne, T.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Duncombe, T.|
|Pattison, J.||Roebuck, J. A.|
§ Main question again put,
§ MR. HUME
expressed his great surprise at the division that had taken place. He was surprised that there should be so many in that House who were prepared at the present time to vote away the public money. His hon. and learned Friend had, he conceived, taken the right time to put his objection to the grant of any money whatever for the purpose proposed. Every Member who had just voted for going into Committee, had pledged himself to vote some money for that purpose. ["No, no!"] Yes; it was now a question of "how much?"—not a question whether any at all should be given. Any one who had voted with 213 the majority, who should afterwards vote against any grant for Irish railways, would have stultified himself, by having first voted for, and then against, such proposition.
§ House in Committee.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I believe that it will be convenient, before going further, that I should make a short Statement to the Committee; because, although I had an opportunity on a former occasion of addressing the House, it was at a very late hour of the night, and I have found that no inconsiderable misapprehension prevails as to the views and intentions of the Government on this subject. Sir, the question now before the House divides itself into two distinct subjects, which I do not say are unconnected; but it is clear, from what passed three or four nights ago, that we shall have to consider the question of the monetary state of the country—that we shall have to consider the operation of the laws regulating the currency, as well as to consider the propriety of voting a sum to be placed at the disposal of the Exchequer Loan Commissioners for the construction of railways in Ireland. As to the first question, that of the monetary condition of the country, I have already had an opportunity of making a statement which I hope may have been sufficient to set right the misapprehension under which many hon. Members laboured; and to lead them to a more correct appreciation as to the facts, and also as to the conduct of the Government. I endeavoured to correct that misapprehension, and to prove to the House, that, so far as the law relating to the currency is concerned, the present state of the money market is owing, not to the operation of that Act, but to a neglect of the sound principles on which that Act was framed. I think it is expedient that I should now make a short statement in reference to the state of panic and alarm—for I can qualify it by no less strong terms—which has prevailed for some days past in the city, and also in several parts of the country. The extent to which this panic and alarm have prevailed, does seem to me, Sir, to be utterly and altogether without foundation. Extreme caution and care may be required at the present moment, not only on the part of that great establishment the Bank of England, but also on the part of the country banks. But the present apprehension, in my opinion, goes far beyond any measure of caution and prudence, and 214 is calculated to produce the very effects which it would endeavour to prevent. Hon. Gentlemen have been in possession of documents which show that since the last publication of returns, the condition of the Bank of England has materially improved. They will find that the returns of April 24, as compared with those of April 17, show a considerable improvement in that condition; that the liabilities of the Bank have diminished, and her means of meeting them have increased. This morning I have had an interview with the Governor of the Bank of England; and I was glad to learn that even since Saturday last the condition of the Bank has considerably improved. I am informed that the Bank has been enabled during the last week, on two separate days, to give increased facilities in the money market; and I am also happy to say, that the deputation who had an interview with my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) and myself, two days ago, to represent the distressed state of affairs in the north of England, were much better satisfied today than when they came to us two or three days ago. I have even been told by one person who participated in the alarm which has prevailed, that there are more bank-notes in circulation than he thought necessary; and that if the pressure had been much greater than it has been, we might have gone through it and sustained it without any serious consequences, if it had only come upon them less suddenly. It is clear that the effort which the Bank of England thought it necessary to make, has been made. It is now over; and, although the returns show that prudence and caution may be necessary, I think I may congratulate the House on the fact, that the extreme pressure of the last fortnight may be said to be at an end. The increased price of stocks to-day may be said to be owing to a circumstance which was perfectly unforeseen, and on which no one could have calculated. We ought not, perhaps, to build much upon this. [The right hon. Gentleman was understood to refer to the announcement of the intention of the Emperor of Russia to make large investments in English Government Securities.] But we may build something upon the fact, that our exchanges with Europe are more favourable; that the advices from America are of a far more satisfactory character; that the Bank of England does not expect that it will be obliged to continue that extreme 215 pressure which it has recently felt to be necessary; and that the demand for gold from America is likely to be less than was expected. I do not say this to prevent persons from still taking all possible care and caution, but to remove the excess of alarm, which is quite unfounded, and likely to prove more disastrous than the real evil. Sir, turning from that part of the subject, I now approach the course which the Government intend to take respecting Irish railways, and upon which misrepresentations have taken place, not only as to the nature of the assistance to be given, but it has also been said that they intended to raise an additional loan for the purpose. Nothing is further from their intentions. In the statement which my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) made early in the present Session, and which I, to a certain extent, repeated in the course of the same debate, we described the course which the Government had taken, and were about to take, for the relief of distress in Ireland, and for providing employment for the people. My noble Friend stated, that we had had in the autumn no other course to take, and, indeed, no option on the subject, but to pursue the same mode of relief which had been commenced by the late Government by employing persons on relief works, advancing the whole of the money necessary for that purpose, a moiety of which is to be repaid by the Irish baronies. Subsequently we proposed to substitute relief of distress by the distribution of food instead of employment on the relief works. But I said, also, that the Government thought it advisable to foster private enterprise as much as possible, and to give employment to the people in that way. Two Bills were introduced relative to Ireland: one a Bill which has passed the House, a Bill for the improvement of landed property, for which 1,000,000l. of money was voted; and another a Bill for the reclamation of waste lands, which would have given another 1,000,000l. to carry that Act into effect. The result of these two measures, if they had passed, would have been, that the sum of 2,000,000l. would have been voted by Parliament for the encouragement of private enterprise in Ireland, and for employing the people. And I stated further, that I proposed a loan of 8,000,000l. for the purpose of assisting the relief of distress in Ireland, and that a part of that sum would be apportioned to the objects I have stated. I never said, that the whole of that loan 216 would be devoted to the relief works, but that advances for all the purposes of relieving Irish distress, and all advances for employing persons, would be so much taken away and subtracted from the relief funds. And having made this statement on more than one occasion, I do not understand how anybody can fancy that I intend to issue additional Exchequer-bills, or to raise an additional loan for Irish purposes. Of the two measures I just now alluded to, the most advantageous was felt to be that for the improvement of landed property in Ireland. It was felt that the sum advanced was insufficient; and before the Bill left the House, the sum was increased from 1,000,000l. to 1,500,000l., leaving 500,000l. only available, instead of 1,000,000l., for the reclamation of waste lands in Ireland. But hon. Members know that great differences of opinion existed as to the advances necessary for reclaiming waste lands; and it was the opinion of many hon. Gentlemen that it was inexpedient that it should be a compulsory measure. We felt doubtful of the reception of the Bill with compulsory powers. After discussing the subject, we determined to abandon the compulsory provisions of the Bill; but in doing so we abandoned a great portion of that which had rendered it most available for practical purposes in those parts of the country in which employment was most wanted. We then made an attempt to put the Bill into a practical shape, as a voluntary measure; but after consulting with several lawyers and other hon. Members of experience, the result of our deliberations convinced us that it would be so exceedingly difficult to put the Bill into a shape in which it could be made to work this year, that the Government were compelled to abandon any intention of passing that Bill through Parliament this Session. I do think it would have been impossible to pass a Bill which could have been brought into operation this year. I know that there are many persons who attach great importance to that Bill. But my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Poulett Scrope) who cheers me, would not be, I think, so attached to that Bill, if he was aware of the immediate difficulties in the way of carrying it into effect. Well, the Bill for the reclamation of waste lands having been abandoned, the sum of 500,000l. applicable for that Bill is released from those purposes, and is therefore available 217 either for the purposes of relief works, or for any mode of encouraging private enterprise in Ireland which may be considered most desirable. With regard to relief works, the House is aware that they have been discontinued as rapidly as possible; and upon this subject I am able to make a statement to the House which I hope will be considered satisfactory. The number of persons employed on the public works in March was 734,000. A reduction of 20 per cent was made at the latter end of March, which was effected without the least difficulty, and which reduced the number to 579,000. A further reduction took place also without any difficulty, and another reduction will take place on the 1st of May; which will bring down the number of persons employed in Ireland to about 280,000. Thus we have a maximum number of 734,000 in March, which we shall be able to reduce to probably not more than 280,000 by the 1st of next month. Sir, I stated on Monday night how considerable the reduction was in the amount of wages paid to these persons; a reduction of about one-half in the weekly amount having taken place since the beginning of March, as compared with the end of April. An hon. Gentleman has asked me what increase has taken place in the sums placed at the disposal of the relief committees in Ireland? I am now able to say, that a very small sum has been advanced for these purposes, and that the persons discharged from the public works have been mainly absorbed in employment upon the land. The seed time and the setting of potatoes are now nearly concluded; and, from the accounts we receive from Ireland, we have strong reason to believe that a much larger quantity of wheat, of spring crops, and of green crops, has been sown than might be supposed; and that in parts of Ireland nearly the ordinary quantity of potatoes has been planted. In some parts of Ireland, indeed, we are informed there has been found an adequate quantity of seed, and that sufficient potatoes have not only been reserved for seed, but some have been left as an article of consumption. We propose to reduce the employment on the public works, but we do not propose to discontinue giving employment to the people in parts of Ireland, because the works in some places would be left in a useless state, and it is necessary to finish them; and there are many works, in various parts 218 of Ireland, which it is exceedingly important to execute. In many parts of Ireland, especially the wilder parts, the works executed have been of the most beneficial character. An officer of the Board of Works, writing from Cork, says—The works, as far as the character of them is concerned, are beautifully executed, and reflect credit on all employed in them; and this, too, in the remotest and most neglected districts. The roads I visited are all of the greatest importance as reproductive works, and, I do not hesitate to say, will have advanced the civilization of those parts at least thirty years; whilst, by opening some thousand acres of remarkably fine mountain, the future means of subsistence to a large extent will be increased, and which must become a very important object.I have another account from the county of Kerry, equally satisfactory:—The great bulk of the roads in this barony that have been passed (I know it as a magistrate who was present when they were passed) are useful and productive undertakings, opening mountain tracts and facilitating the transit of sea manure and fuel; most of them roads that, sooner or later, the country would have had made at their own expense, and certainly for not so small a sum as the moiety of their cost, which is to fall on the cesspayers of this country.The general character of the Government works has been useful; but where we propose to continue them it will be as public and beneficial works, and not merely as relief works. Parties will be paid, reverting to the old system, according to the work actually done. We propose to abolish the vicious system in which public works and relief are so mingled, that it is impossible either for the works to be well done, or the relief to be well administered. There are, however, parts of Ireland in which works are not so readily to be found, and there we are obliged to have a substitute for them. Sir, one of the great railway lines in Ireland is of so peculiar and so exceptional a character, that it would be advantageous to make that company an advance under any circumstances. The larger portion of the advance it is now proposed to make, is to the Great South Western Railway—the great line of communication which connects Dublin with Limerick, and Dublin with Cork. When that line was first proposed, a communication was made to the right hon. Baronet opposite, who was then First Lord of the Treasury, and the right hon. Gentleman sitting near him, who then filled the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, who replied as follows, in a document which has been laid before Parliament:— 219When a portion of the line shall have been so far completed as to become productive, and thereby to offer sufficient security for an advance of public money by way of loan for the execution of another portion of the line, it will then be open to the company to apply to the Treasury to sanction such advance; and it appears to us highly probable, that in the case supposed, the Treasury would be disposed to give to such an application the most favourable consideration in their power.It is quite true that, on a subsequent occasion last year, the railway directors applied to the Treasury to advance a loan of 500,000l. to enable them to continue their line, which request was not acceded to; but the application was referred to the Exchequer Loan Commissioners. An offer of a loan of 250,000l. was made, which the railway company declined to accept, because they were then able to raise the money at as low a rate of interest in the money market as that at which the Government were then willing to lend it to them, and in consequence the money was not advanced. I am not stating this as disapproving of the course they pursued, but to show that this was a line the importance of which has been from the first acknowledged; and that a loan for the, construction of lines of this description, the importance of which has been admitted, is a very different thing from advancing money for the formation of railroads in any part of Ireland. On the application being made to the Treasury, we immediately referred the applicants to the Public Works Loan Commissioners, desiring them to deal with the application as they would in any other case. The Public Works Loan Commissioners reported that they thought the undertaking one that ought to be promoted; that they considered the security ample; that the portion of the line already constructed offered sufficient security for the whole of the advance which was applied for; that they would be disposed to make the loan themselves if they had funds at their disposal for the purpose; but that the sum allotted to them by Parliament for making advances during the year, was not sufficient to enable them to afford assistance in this case; and that they could not make any advance unless additional funds were placed at their disposal. I think, Sir, there is some difference between the Government themselves appearing as money-lenders in the market, and their advancing a sum to the Public Works Loan Commissioners, in addition to the amount annually placed at the disposal of those Commissioners by Parliament, for the purpose of enabling them to 220 make loans for the construction of works of this description. Now, the state of the South Western Company is this: the whole of their line is about 200 miles in length; fifty-six miles, to Carlow, are already open, and the traffic upon that portion of the line has been so great that the ordinary returns pay a sufficient rate of interest to afford ample security. It is no doubt in consequence of the present high rate of interest in the money market of London, that this company is not able to carry on its works as rapidly as it might otherwise have done; and, if the directors do not obtain an advance, the consequence will be that they will be obliged to discharge a considerable number of persons whom they have employed throughout the winter, as they say—and I believe truly— not altogether with a view to their own advantage, but in a great measure for the purpose of affording employment to the distressed poor in the county of Cork. With this view, I believe they have engaged gangs of workmen on those portions of the line where they thought it most advisable to afford employment to the people; and unless the company obtains some advance, a large body of workmen, to the number I stated on a former evening, will necessarily be discharged. The calls hitherto made by the directors have been paid up, and many parties have paid their calls in anticipation of the exercise of the power intrusted to the company by Act of Parliament; and indeed they have, to the utmost extent of their ability, done their best to complete the railroad. They hope, if this advance is made to them, to be able to complete about 110 miles more, to the point of junction with the Limerick and Waterford Railway, which is nearly completed; and they hope to have the line open to Limerick early in the autumn, and that it will be completed to Mallow before 1848. There are difficulties, I understand, connected with the line of road between Mallow and Cork, which will cause some delay in the completion of that portion of the line; but, as I have said, the directors hope to open the line to Limerick early in the autumn, and to Mallow before the end of the present year. They have entered into contracts for the work; and the whole sum advanced by the Government, as well as that paid by the shareholders, will be employed in the actual construction of earthworks and brickwork on the line. They have already bought and paid for their engines, car- 221 riages, and for the rails required to continue the line to Mallow; and, consequently, the whole expenditure will be employed in the encouragement of labour in Ireland— not merely the 500,000l. which it is proposed the Government shall advance, but the same sum to be raised by calls upon the shareholders. We stipulate that for every 100,000l. advanced by the Government, the company are to lay down a similar sum, and that the second advance of 100,000l. by the Government, is not to be paid until the company prove that the first sum of 200,000l.—one-half of that amount raised by themselves, and the other half advanced by the Government—has been actually expended. These are the circumstances under which we think it not a disadvantageous proposal to make the advance I have mentioned to this company. It must be remembered that there is this difference between advancing money for relief works and for the construction of railways—that in the former case one-half only of the amount advanced will be repaid, while in the latter the whole will be returned. The Public Works' Loan Commissioners have also recommended Her Majesty's Government to make advances to two other railway companies—the Waterford and Kilkenny Railway Company, whose line passes through a part of the country which has suffered very materially from distress, and to which we propose to advance the sum of 83,000l.—and the Dublin and Drogheda Company, to which we intend to advance 36,000l. I will now state the purpose of the second resolution which I propose to put into the hands of the Chairman. At the end of the last Session of Parliament, a vote of this House was taken for 50,000l., to be advanced by way of grant for the purpose of promoting useful works in Ireland, on condition that one-half of the amount required for such works should be contributed by their projectors, to meet the grants to be made by the Government. I find that no applications have been received for grants from this vote, with the exception of an application for aid to improve the navigation of the Hiade and of the upper part of the Shannon. It is believed that it would be most advantageous to the county of Roscommon and to Sligo, if the navigation of the Hiade and that of the upper part of the Shannon were improved, so as to enable a larger description of steamers to go further up the river than they can do at present. It is proposed, therefore, 222 to apply to this purpose 10,000l. from the vote I have mentioned, leaving a balance of 40,000l. undisposed of. Now, as we have not received any application for grants from this vote, we do not believe that it is advisable to continue that sum applicable to the purposes for which it is voted. We find that of all the works constructed under the Bill introduced by the Government early last Session, none hare been so advantageous as the fishery piers. No works are, I believe, so generally useful, or will contribute so materially to increase the supply of food in Ireland. By the establishment of curing houses on parts of the western coast, the people have been induced to use salt fish very extensively as an article of food; a considerable fishery has been carried on, large supplies of fish have been provided; and the people have been enabled as nearly as possible to pay their way. On a reference to the Board of Works, who have the administration of the funds, I was told by the chairman that there was no purpose to which money could be so well appropriated as to the construction of these piers. We propose, therefore, to grant no money whatever, beyond this 10,000l., for improving the navigation of the Hiade and the Shannon, for the purpose contemplated by the Act of Parliament, but to devote the balance of 40,000l. from the sum voted last year for useful works to carrying out the objects of the Fishery Piers Act of last Session. There will, therefore, be no addition to the sum already voted by Parliament, but merely a different appropriation of the money. My object has been to state what the views of the Government are, that hon. Gentlemen may come to this discussion under no misapprehension of our intentions. I do not wish to enter at present into any controversial argument, or to attempt any reply to what has been said. It may be necessary for me to do so afterwards, but at present I merely wish to state to the Committee what are the views and intentions of the Government.
Question again put as moved on Monday:—That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to direct Advances to be made out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to the Commissioners for the issue of Loans for Public Works and Fisheries, &c., to an amount not exceeding 620,000l. in the whole, to be by them advanced towards defraying the expense of making the following Railways in Ireland, Viz.: — The Great Southern and Western Railway; the Wa- 223 terford and Kilkenny Railway; and the Dublin and Drogheda Railway.
§ MR. GOULBURN
I am glad, Sir, that I had not an opportunity of addressing the House on Monday; for, if I had then followed the right hon. Gentlemen who has just sat down, I should have taken a view of the proposition then submitted to the House very different from that which I am now disposed to take of it after the explanation he has given; for I certainly was not aware that the right hon. Baronet had proposed the limitation—or rather the withdrawal — of those funds which it has already been announced were likely to be appropriated to the cultivation of waste lands in Ireland. I saw upon the Paper a Notice from the Secretary for Ireland that that subject was to be brought under discussion; and I naturally imagined that, in addition to whatever charge might result from the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the House would be called upon to provide the 1,000,000l. originally announced as necessary for the cultivation of waste lands. I believe that if that scheme had been prosecuted at all, it would have led to a much more considerable expenditure. I am extremely glad, therefore, that I had not an opportunity of addressing the House till after the speech the right hon. Gentleman has made to-night. I partake, in common with this House, in the satisfaction which they must have derived from the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman in the early part of his observations, that the panic which has prevailed in the money market is, in a degree, subsiding; and that the Bank, having acted with less caution than was requisite in the management of the great transactions committed to it, is again placed in a situation to afford relief, to a considerable extent, to those who are suffering from its too great laxity in the first instance, and too great contraction afterwards. It is not sufficient for us to inculcate upon the Bank great prudence in the administration of the affairs that are committed to it. It is the duty of the House to take care that we ourselves adopt no course which is liable to the charge of imprudence, or which may lead to difficulty; and it is equally incumbent upon the House —without throwing censure upon those who have the administration of affairs, without at all doubting the difficulties in which they are placed, or cavilling at the means they may adopt to meet those diffi- 224 culties—to point out to the Government the necessity of acting with that prudence which it is their duty not only to enforce upon others, but to set the example of observing themselves. If I feel any difficulty with respect to the Motion now before the Committee, it is from a consideration of the consequences which may follow from that Motion as regards the financial situation of this country. I think it the fairest course—not in a spirit of censure or of cavil, but with a view to ultimate precaution—to state the apprehensions I entertain, in order that being forewarned we may be forearmed, and that we may not involve ourselves eventually in serious pecuniary difficulty. Now, Sir, the proposition which the right hon. Baronet has made, purports to be merely an advance to three particular railway companies of a sum of 620,000l.; and as it is now explained by the right hon. Gentleman— though I was not aware of the circumstance when he addressed the House on the subject before—this sum of 620,000l. is not to be a grant in addition to those already made, but is to be taken out of the amount proposed to be raised by loan applicable to the general relief of the population of the sister country. In the first place I would observe, that what the right hon. Gentleman has stated with respect to this being merely an extension of the principle applicable to public works in general, appears to me not to be supported by the fact. The system upon which advances for public works in this country have latterly been made, is this: — a regular annual sum has been devoted to the purpose of assisting such public works, without distinction, as were able to afford sufficient security for the sums advanced; the advances so made are no burden whatever upon the Consolidated Fund. They do not in any way detract from the sums available for the public service. The Act of 1842 allotted 360,000l. a year for the purpose of making advances in cases in which they might be requisite; but the annual repayments on account of advances previously made have been amply sufficient to meet the new issues out of the fund; and consequently the advances for public works, confined within the limits prescribed by the Act, affected in no degree the financial arrangements of the country, as they, in fact, imposed no charge on the Consolidated Fund. The right hon. Gentleman, however, proposes, in consequence of the difficulty of 225 raising money on private security at the present moment, to make a large addition to the fund at the disposal of the Commissioners; and this is done to meet a particular case. I confess I do not contemplate this arrangement without some degree of apprehension. Of all things which I think this House ought most to guard against, there is nothing more important than to be careful how they give their sanction to grants out of the Consolidated Fund, either in the way of advances, or of positive grants; because it necessarily follows, that if, in addition to the annual charges which devolve upon the country, you make advances of large sums from time to time out of the Consolidated Fund, you reduce the balance in the Exchequer, and by that reduction you produce an augmentation of the quarterly deficiency bills, which, so far as they operate to divert to the assistance of Government the sums which might otherwise be available for the purpose of affording accommodation to trade, are, in periods of difficulty especially, a source of additional embarrassment. It is on this account that I view with peculiar jealousy any question submitted to the House for the augmentation of charges upon the Consolidated Fund; and if I had spoken on this subject on a former occasion, considering the very largo charges to which that fund has been subjected during a recent period, it would have been one of my strongest arguments in derogation of the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he was imposing upon that fund such a charge, in addition to those already made upon it, as must inevitably entail, if not immediately, at least at some not very remote period, the difficulties which arise from an increase of the deficiency bills, and the consequences they produce upon the trade of the country. Although I am now relieved from this alarm, so far as regards the 1,000,000l. granted for the cultivation of waste lands, and the charge of 620,000l., for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us he has already provided, I cannot but think there is just ground for inculcating upon the Government yet more prudence with regard to their future arrangements. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) proposes to make an advance to a particular railway company, which has paid up half its capital, and has complied with all the conditions imposed upon it. Now, I would ask, if the right hon. Gentleman 226 makes this advance in the present case, can he refuse it to other railway companies which may come before him under similar circumstances? What is the advantage you are conferring upon those particular companies? They have arrived at a period when they are in a situation to borrow in the market, and when they may raise the money necessary to complete their works upon the terms on which money is to be procured in the market. It is their interest, as it is that of every railway company in the same situation, that their railroads should be completed within the shortest possible period; and with a view to the completion of the roads, they are prepared to make sacrifices, in order that they may obtain some return for the capital they have already expended. Now, if one of these companies were to go into the market at the present moment to borrow the 1,000,000l. which it requires, it would probably be required to pay 8 per cent. But the Government comes to its aid, and says, "We will lend you one-half this money at 5 per cent." What would be the effect of this proceeding upon a competing company—upon one which might have equal interests, which was in an equally prosperous condition, and which was equally ready to avail itself of such accommodation—if it was obliged to go into the market and borrow at 8 per cent? Is it not obvious that in the case of two competing lines, unless you extend your bounty to both equally, you give one an advantage over the other which is little consistent with justice? I think, therefore, that if the right hon. Baronet (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) consents to make the advance he now proposes, he will —unless he very distinctly proclaims to the contrary, and adheres to the proclamation when made—be pressed to make corresponding advances to all other similar undertakings which have fulfilled the conditions imposed upon them; and if this be the case, I know not to what amount I am pledging myself by supporting the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. But if this system were extended, the greatest inconveniences would result from it. Railroad companies when assisted by the Government, by the loan of half the amount they require, at 5 per cent interest, when otherwise they could not obtain the money at less than 8 per cent, will be enabled to go into the market, and offer a higher rate of interest for the rest of the money that they want. For instance, if they obtain a certain 227 sum from Government at 5 per cent, they could afford to go into the market and offer 9 per cent for the remainder. This must have the effect of raising the rate of interest against other competing bodies in the market; and, therefore, if the system be adopted, you cause additional difficulties to other parties, by compelling them to come up to the terms which the company, assisted by the Government, may thereby be enabled to afford. It is particularly necessary, at the present moment, to inculcate, with a view to the future, maxims of great caution and prudence in transactions of this kind. We know how ready persons are to avail themselves of the slightest hope of assistance. We know with what weight they come down on the Government, and press claims capable of being supported by antecedent precedents; and we know how difficult it is, unless there be great determination on the part of the House and the Government, to resist claims so advanced. But if they are not resisted— if the present proposition, instead of being a solitary instance, is to be the origin of a series of measures of the same description—I fear for the Consolidated Fund, and I dread the consequences which may ultimately be produced by an acquiescence in these claims. This is a time for caution, independent of the panic which at present prevails. I, with the right hon. Gentleman, believe the present to be an exaggerated alarm arising from some misconduct on the part of those to whom the management of the monetary transactions of this country are committed. It was stated the other night by those best competent to form a judgment on the subject, that trade is in a healthy state—that there never was a greater absence of undue speculation. These circumstances lead me to believe, that whatever may be the amount of the present pressure, it will shortly subside. Still I see enough in the circumstances of the country at the present moment to induce me to enforce the greatest degree of prudence with respect to the future, lest we should involve ourselves in difficulties, not merely of a temporary character, from which it would not be possible to provide an easy escape. This country is in a peculiar condition, arising from a combination of causes, which combination, I believe, was never in any antecedent period known to exist. It is notorious that we have sustained from the hand of Providence the greatest of calamities which can afflict a nation. Part of the country 228 has been visited by absolute famine, in consequence of which there has arisen a necessity to import a quantity of provisions beyond what in any antecedent period was ever imported. This calamity, too, has not been confined to this country alone, but has operated upon other countries in our immediate neighbourhood; and that circumstance has greatly contributed to enhance our difficulties. But added to this, there is another cause for monetary difficulty, which I gee in prospect, and against which it is essential to take every possible precaution. The railway system in this country has prevailed to a most extraordinary extent. That system, productive as it is of a great increase of employment, and ultimately of great advantage to those who are embarked in it, does, however, in the first instance, operate prejudicially on the monetary interest. It is neither more nor less than converting the bulk of the floating capital of the country into fixed capital, thereby depriving the country of that return which the floating capital, if not locked up, would bring with it, and locking it up in that which for a considerable period cannot return even interest on the sums applied; and though at the present moment we are only dealing with the amount of railway speculation provided for in antecedent years, yet we cannot put out of consideration that the amount authorized by Parliament in the last year to be expended in railways, will come into operation at a future period, and increase the difficulty arising from the change of floating capital into fixed. It must be remembered, then, that we stand pretty much in the situation of a banker, who having a large capital at disposal should lock it up in the purchase of reversions, rather than apply it in the ordinary course of trade. The locking up of this capital and withdrawing it thereby from the manufacture of exportable articles, leads to a still greater demand for bullion to pay for the commodities which we are obliged to import. The application of the large sum which we have in prospect to undertakings of this kind, does for a time diffuse prosperity to the class employed on those works. But it withdraws from the manufacture of exportable commodities that sum which might otherwise be so employed; while, at the same time, it gives to the persons employed more ample means than ordinary of purchasing food and other articles of consumption. All this tends, in a time of scarcity, materially to enhance the imports, 229 and to render you, therefore, less able to provide, otherwise than by bullion, for the imported articles. Looking, then, to the results which may occur in ensuing years from the application to the railways of the large sum authorized to be so expended in the last and present Session, there is ground for caution as to how we interfere with the balances in the Exchequer. I ought also to add, that there is another circumstance which operates with scarcely less severity than the deficiency of food, and that is the deficiency of the cotton crop. The price which that commodity has reached, has materially added to the amount which this country must pay for an article hardly less necessary than of food. All these circumstances combined make me anxious to press on the Government the necessity of looking forward to what the state of the country may be, and of applying to themselves that advice which they so properly enforced on the Bank, of "being wise in time," and not letting their available resources get out of their hands, in the hope that they may afterwards, when a difficulty occurs, recover them. From these considerations I have been induced to press on the Government and the House the importance of extreme caution with respect to the charges which we impose on the revenue of the country. We are already under deep engagements, either for the support of Ireland, or for other necessary services. For draining, under the Acts of the last and present Sessions, we have authorized the issue from the Consolidated Fund of 3,500,000l. How far the extent of the demand on account of Ireland, arising either from employment on the public works, or from the necessity of making provision for the relief of the poor, or against fever and disease—all sources of considerable expense—how far they may be covered by the loan already made by the right hon. Gentleman, I have no means of calculating. If I am to calculate on the experience obtained previously to the April quarter, I might be apprehensive that the means provided by the right hon. Gentleman would not satisfy these demands. But he must be a better judge on this point, In addition, I would observe that the expense of the ordinary services of the year has increased beyond that of antecedent periods; that the balances in the Exchequer, which in January were 9,000,000l., were in April little more than 5,000,000l., and that any large demand on the part of the Government for loans from the Bank, 230 would incapacitate that establishment from making the usual advances to traders. I trust, after the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, that there is no cause for apprehension. I have only in conclusion to add, that in making these observations, so far from being actuated by any desire of embarrassing the Government, I have simply done so with the view of inculcating on the House and on the Government the necessity of timely prudence, in order that we may avoid real difficulties at a future period.
MR. FRENCH, in allusion to what fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, complained of the manner in which the adjoining counties to the Shannon had been assessed for the improvement of the river, which, after an expenditure of 400,000l. had, as an experimental drain- age, turned out a failure—the floods were as high last year as they had ever been; nor would he consent to any further outlay, unless on the express condition that the counties were to be no further taxed— that no corresponding sum was to be raised off them for this 10,000l., for the improvement of the upper part of the river near Lough Allen. On this understanding, the vote would not be objected to by him; if otherwise, he should take the sense of the House on it. He had heard the statement of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with surprise and disappointment. He did not credit the statement that the sum at present required by the Irish railways — the 620,000l., then before the House—had been included in the amount calculated as requisite to meet the distress in Ireland from March until October; on the contrary, he asserted that no such item formed part of the estimate; and of the correctness of his assertion he should require no more convincing proof than their present deliberation. Had it been included in the eight millions, where was the necessity of again bringing it before the House? Those eight millions having been voted, and the loan actually raised, was this a time, without any necessity, to bring forward a money vote? He would acquit his right hon. Friend of such gross folly. The facts were, three railways in Ireland, the Cashel, the Drogheda, and the Waterford and Kilkenny—half their capital paid up — having, in common with all railways in England and Scotland, a right to borrow, applied for loans to the Exchequer Loan Commissioners, who have but 360,000l. at their disposal. The three
loans were, on investigation, approved of. With the two latter there would not have been any difficulty, the funds in the Commissioners' hands being more than sufficient, as their united demands amounted but to 120,000l.; but of the 500,000l. required for the former, little more than one-third could be lent at present; the remainder would have to stand over till next year. In the present condition of Ireland, it being necessary to promote as much as possible the employment of the people, 15,000 of whom would be thrown out of work, if the Cashel company did not succeed in obtaining the money they required, Government proposed to enable the Exchequer Loan Commissioners to anticipate their next year's resources, and to make at once the loan they had agreed on. It was a matter of no great favour; the companies were entitled to borrow; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tam worth had last year offered the Cashel company a loan of 250,000l.—a debate ensued, which was adjourned; the matter was taken up by the press, the effect of which was, that his right hon. Friend, alarmed at the state of the money market, and perplexed at the murmuring of the Gentlemen behind him, proposed to silence the clamour by abandoning the 500,000l. promised for the reclamation of waste lands in Ireland; and by taking the 620,000l. from the eight millions of money apportioned to feed the starving population of Ireland—acts which were, in his opinion, not only unwise and impolitic, but positively unjust. If the principle of this measure was, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Ministers, such as had been declared, he could not see why the proposal of the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Bentinck) had not three months' ago been carried into effect; it was at least a fair, comprehensive, and impartial proposal, which, as the principle of the present measure was not to be extended to other lines, no person could affirm this was entitled to be considered. He found his right hon. Friend was too sanguine in supposing the state of Ireland was such as to hold out the slightest expectation of having half a million to spare. His right hon. Friend had given the House to understand that the Soup Kitchen Act was working more economically than he anticipated. Why it had not, except in the case of one of the Dublin unions, as yet come into operation. So far from being an economical measure, it would be more expensive than the public works system;
and there would not be a return of any kind. Under the public works system much money had been wasted, but some useful works had been constructed. Now they had nothing to look to. Under this Soup Kitchen Act, for the support of the people for the next four months, a rate of 10s. in the pound was about to be imposed on the property of Ireland. How it was to be collected was beyond his (Mr. French's) comprehension. Then came the poor rate. To finish the public works now on hands —and which the Indemnity Act required should be done—a sum of three millions sterling would be required. If he was making any misstatement, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland could put him right. He was aware an estimate of the kind had been made by the Board of Works, which, of course, was in the hands of the Irish Government. How could this taxation be supported? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had prided himself on the diminution of the labourers employed on the public works, as if it was the result of his political measures. Let him recollect that Government had issued peremptory orders for the dismissal of 40 per cent of these poor people, some of whom, he was assured, had, in consequence, perished of want; 300,000 had been turned off the works; task-work was put a stop to, and those who were retained were not permitted to earn reasonable wages; 200,000 more were to be discharged on the 1st of May; and the remainder were to be kept at the miserable wages of 8d. a day, for which 3d. value would not be given. He knew from the officers of the Board of Works in different parts of the country, where the men were working by task, and earning from 1s. 4d. to 1s. 8 d. a day— the works were well and permanently executed, and ample value given for the money expended. A Treasury Order put an end to all this. It was not the case that those dismissed from the works had been absorbed in private labour; on the contrary, not one-half of the destitute persons were employed, and of those dismissed many had perished from famine. In some few cases the persons turned from the roads had gone to till their own small holdings; but the farmers had diminished, in place of increasing, the number of their labourers. In the west, many of them had converted their property into capital, and emigrated to America. As for the landlords augmenting employment, it was out of the case; in the province of Connaught not a shilling
of rent was to be had. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that he had placed a million and a half of money at the disposal of the landlords of Ireland, to be by them used in the employment of the people, and the improvement of their estates. Such, however, was not the fact; 1,000,000l. of this money had been voted a year ago on the recommendation of the late Government, in common with 2,000,000l. to England and Scotland, as a compensation for the injury done to the landed interest by the repeal of the corn laws. From a technical difficulty this sum was not available for Irish improvement; and, owing to the bungling manner in which the Act had been framed, this sum had been lying idle ever since. To this sum the right hon. Gentleman proposed to add 500,000l.; for that, and that alone, was he entitled to take credit; but he begged to inform his right hon. Friend that unless an alteration was made in the 16th Clause of the Improvement of Property Bill in the other House of Parliament, the intentions of one Government would be as valueless as the other; and, as far as the west of Ireland was concerned, the House might have been spared the trouble of passing the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had declared he would not sanction any outlay under it, unless the immediate return amounted to 6½ per cent. This return, according to the opinion of the Commissioners of Public Works, owing to the low value of land in Con-naught, could not be expected; though on the eastern coast, on improvements of the same kind, it might be hoped for. Now, this, his hon. Friend the Member for Louth, in the way the board's calculations were made, doubted. But let it be understood that where destitution was most rife, where employment was most needed, where the people were daily perishing from famine—this, the sole remedial measure brought forward by Her Majesty's Ministers, was not to be made available either to the proprietors or the people. The improvement of the waste lands of Ireland—a measure which, if carried on with spirit, would have added tens of millions to the yearly value of the agricultural produce of the empire—was, they were that night informed, to be abandoned, notwithstanding the repeated assurances up to the last few hours in both Houses by Cabinet Ministers, that it was to be immediately proceeded with. The other Bill, which had not yet come down to them,
would increase the evils it proposed to remedy. He wished to be informed if the afterthought of his right hon. Friend, to which he had been driven by the present monetary crisis, that the expenditure for the construction of railways should form part of the loan which had specially been devoted to the relief of Irish distress, extended itself also to the fever boards, the cost of which would be enormous, now that pestilence was increasing so much throughout the country. In Sligo, the typhus fever was getting worse from day to day; it had spread from the environs to the leading streets, and there was not a street in Sligo free from it; in Ballina workhouse, there were 500 in fever—and since the 8th of October 730 persons died in it; in Ballinrobe, there were 700 in fever at one time, and the medical man sent down by Government had taken it, and he feared lost his life; at Castlerea there were 830 in fever at one time out of 990 inmates. This workhouse fever was most fatal. The Erne Packet states—
Fever is making dreadful ravages in the county of Fermanagh—many persons who have left the poorhouse, have spread contagion amongst their relatives in the rural districts— in one instance twelve persons are lying in a wretched hovel, having taken fever from the late inmates of a workhouse.
In Dungarvon, he found from the Waterford Mail, fever was rapidly on the increase, and that the mortality was dreadful. In Battevant there were 450 in fever in the workhouse hospital—both hospitals crowded, and hundreds attacked through the town—Rev. Mr. Wilson, Mr. M'Bride, &c. In the King's County, the master of the workhouse, Mr. Hart was lately dead, the clerk and several of the clergymen were in fever. In the Mallow workhouse there were 400 ill; in Cork thirty-six bodies were buried in the same grave; 300 coffins were sold in the parish of St. Nicholas in the course of a few days; an additional hospital, the Catsfort, was opened, and so soon filled, that four persons were, on the first day, with physicians' certificates, left lying at the gates for want of room to take them in; and the next morning forty-nine additional patients arrived. The deaths from fever amounted to 500 weekly. Belfast and Limerick were nearly as badly off. The same was the case in every portion of Ireland; and it was clear that the danger must be resolutely met, for, if steps were not taken to stop it, the pestilence would soon extend itself to England; and he called upon English Members, for their own
safety, to see that the Government did its duty. England was deeply interested and concerned in putting forth the utmost efforts to alleviate the sad condition of the Irish people; and, had his right hon. Friend not shrunk from his original proposal, and abandoned his own measures, there was little to apprehend for the success of both.
§ MR. MONTAGUE GORE
intended to support the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but wished to mention some reasons why upon general grounds he was inclined to support public grants for the construction of railways in Ireland. The objections commonly were, first, that such grants would interfere with private enterprise; and secondly, that they would entail expense upon the country. As to the first point, there were in Ireland immense resources—agricultural and mineral, and fisheries—which had long been totally undeveloped and unworked; and at the same time there was in this country great wealth, and no want of private enterprise, which was extending itself to distant parts of the globe. The reason why this private enterprise had not been directed to Ireland, was want of security. Now, one efficient way to give security would be by Government grants, in the first instance, for public works, such as the construction of railways. Private enterprise would then follow; and, so far from such grants being injurious to private enterprise, they would be subsidiary to it, and lay a foundation for it. When the Poor Law was introduced here, in the time of Elizabeth, grants for public works, such as the drainage of the fens, were resorted to, in order to remove the immediate pressure attendant upon the change; and, in the same way, a system of public works was had recourse to when the Irish Poor Law was passed. As to the other argument, that expense would be entailed, that would apply to every grant of public money; but it was natural to ask whether Ireland was not at present costing us something? If, by a proper system of public works, we could lay the foundation of future prosperity and tranquillity, should we save no expense in the items of troops and police? In a period of hostilities, would it be of no advantage to have railways? Why, the Governor General of India, in his Minute of July 28, 1846, stated, that "he estimated that the value of moving troops and stores with great rapidity, would be equal to the services of four regiments of in- 236 fantry, and that this reduction of military establishment would be a saving of 50,000l. a year;" in addition to the commercial and agricultural advantages. It was sometimes said, that railways could only succeed by traffic between large towns which they might connect, and that they were better suited for the seats of commerce and manufacturing industry than for agricultural districts; but, as appeared by the report of the Committee on Railway Acts Enactments, in 1846, Mr. Peto stated as the result of his experience, "that the people in manufacturing districts did not travel anything like so much as an agricultural population;" and that it had been ascertained in Belgium, "that the traffic of the small towns and villages along a line was proportionately greater than the traffic between two large cities at the termini;" and this latter remark might be confirmed, also, by some cases in England. The facility of communication called into existence new branches of industry, and made agricultural produce more valuable, and land productive which was before of no value. Such too had been the case in Belgium; so that upon that ground there was no reason to fear the success of railways in Ireland. In a Committee, last year, upon a line of railway running through Lincolnshire, it was proved that the value of corn was often less there than in Mark Lane and the other great markets; and it was used as an argument in favour of a railway, that from improved communication the price of corn would rise in those agricultural districts to a level with the London and other principal markets. He doubted not that railways would tend to develop the resources of the country; and it would help to remedy the great misfortune of Ireland, viz., the immense number of small holdings, and the want of a substantial yeomanry. The difficulty was to know how to find occupation for those who were now small farmers, and ought to fall into the class of labourers; and by the aid of railways that might be accomplished. The small holdings might be consolidated, and a substantial body of yeomary created. With respect to fisheries, in the promotion of which he felt a strong interest, it was unquestionable that railways would tend to increase the profits of fisheries. He could give a strong illustration of this position. Mr. M'Culloch, in his recently published Account of the British Empire, says—We beg leave to lay before the reader an ex- 237 tract from a letter which appeared in the Morning Chronicle by the Birmingham correspondent of that journal: 'In the year 1820 there were but ten fish merchants in Birmingham; but since the opening of the various railways which now centre in or communicate with the town, the number has increased to forty, exclusive of several dealers of small note who reside in the suburbs, The increase in the quantity consumed is shown to be as follows:—
Tons. Population. In 1829 … 400 150,000 1835 … 2,000 160,000 1840 … 2,500 180,000 1845 … 3,910 200,000This amazing increase had not been occasioned by the Tariff of 1842, but by the facilities afforded by means of railways for the transfer of fish.'He could not omit to notice here the great importance of the construction of piers and harbours of refuge on the coast of Ireland. 5,910. Some remarks made by the intelligent "Times' Commissioner" bore upon this subject; and his authority was of the more consequence, because in some parts of his work he was not so favourable to railways as some gentlemen. Mr. Foster said—Provide suitable piers and harbours for the accommodation and safety of the fishing craft; this would be a direct encouragement to industry, and would leave laziness in sight of an abundance of fish without an excuse. These people are fed by the money of England, which Would already have built twice over all the piers and harbours they wanted, and have enabled them independently to earn their own food.It had been said in another place, and sublished in a pamphlet, that the Irish were so lazy and idle that it was of no use to attempt to make them independent; and the fisheries were particularly mentioned. Now, he had a letter from Dr. Rush, the Roman Catholic clergyman, written in November last, respecting the state of Claddagh, the well known fishing colony; and Dr. Rush stated—For the last month no herrings of any consequence have been taken in the Bay of Galway; they have passed from our bay to Westport and the more northern bays, but our poor fishermen were unable to pursue them from not being able to provide themselves with provisions on a coast where they might be wind bound for three weeks or a month, as well as from the worn-out and imperfect rigging of their boats. Many of the fishermen told me the severity of the weather during the late gales had no terrors for them if they had good strong ropes, sails, &c, to enable them to get round the north-westerly points of out coast. …. During the late harvest herring fishery there was a lamentable want of salt to cure this perishable article of human food.Very great praise was due to the Government for what they had done in respect to curing stations. But what was the condi- 238 tion of these people now? On the 5th of March last Dr. Rush wrote—As a proof of what may be done in the reproductive way, I will tell you what myself and a few others have been enabled to accomplish with 100l., which we received from the Society of Friends to assist the poor fishermen of this locality I commenced with holding out premiums of provisions to every boat's crew that contrived to put the first-class boats in some sailing order. The result is, I have sent to sea within the last twelve days no loss than sixty-four boats manned with five and six men to each. These have returned, bringing into market fish, worth about 800l., which the country people have eagerly bought up.The Irish were not destitute of energy and spirit, but would earn their livelihood in an honest and respectable way if the means were placed within their power. The fact that an Irishman in Ireland, leading an idle life, had often a brother, a hard-working man, in England, proved that there was nothing in the character of the Irish people, which prevented their working as actively as any other people. In Scotland, at one period, there was great want of spirit and energy; and one way by which industrious habits were introduced, was the construction of roads and the improvement of internal communication. Wales was once such a disturbed and disordered country, that Burke said an Englishman would be "likely to be killed if he ventured away from the high road, and that it was known to us only by invasion;" but what country was more orderly, and peaceable, and tranquil now? Wise legislation and good counsels might do the same for Ireland. It had been stated by Spencer, that in his day some persons attributed the bad state of Ireland to the stars, or to the bad dispositions of the people; and that, in terms similar to those used more recently, it was said it would be a good thing for England if Ireland were sunk into the sea. "No," remarked Spencer, "these are the opinions of desperate men, rather than of wise counsellors;" and, he says, that, in his opinion, the miseries of Ireland were owing neither to the stars, nor to the soil, nor to any peculiarity of the people, but to the want of wise and sound legislation. Many years had since elapsed; but the causes of Irish wretchedness were still a subject of speculation; and it was remarkable that so very little change had taken place in its condition. He would give his support to the proposal of Her Majesty's Government; but he could not sit down without expressing the hope that the present calamity, severe as it was, might not be 239 without its use. The feeling of a common calamity, the sense of a common danger, might subdue those angry passions and heal those dissensions which had so long distracted the sister island; and he trusted that the noble and generous sympathy which Great Britain had shown towards Ireland in the moment of her distress, would exercise no transitory influence, but that from it would spring the fruits of lasting good will between the two countries, and that the hearts of the two races might long be knit together by the ties of reciprocal and cordial esteem. Considering how the public attention had been directed to the requirements of Ireland, and the feeling that had been expressed in her favour, he trusted that they had seen the dawn of a brighter and better day; when Ireland might enter on a career of improvement, though late, among European nations; and at last attain the same eminence and prosperity which this country had so long happily enjoyed; when "the many dowries of nature," in Lord Bacon's language, "with which Ireland is endowed, should be no longer neglected; whereof we in our day may, by the good pleasure of Almighty God, receive more than the first-fruits; and our posterity a growing and springing vein of riches and power."
§ MR. W. R. COLLETT
said, that he should not feel it necessary to trouble the House at any length, as every thing for which he had before contended was now admitted. He had said, that if the Government would undertake a plan for the construction of 500 miles of railway in Ireland, 50,000 men might instantly be sent to work; and now that the Government had only undertaken a scheme embracing 150 miles, instead of 500, 15,000 men would be employed according to their own statement. He thought, therefore, that his assertion was completely verified. But, as he had said, every thing was now admitted; even the security was admitted; for the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that Irish railways were a perfectly good security. At the same time he must observe, that there were other lines in the same position as those which had been selected for Government assistance; and he trusted that before long the same principle would be carried out still further, and that the sum of l,700,000l. would be voted for the purpose. He wished to know why, in the case of the Waterford and Limerick line, an exception had been made to the general rule, and that line had been 240 allowed to take the money offered by several baronies? With regard to the number of men who ought to be employed upon 500 miles of railway, it ought to be 75,000; but not quite half that number were now employed in Ireland. As chairman of the Chester and Holyhead line, he had witnessed the beneficial results which the employment of 4,000 men in the island of Anglesea had produced: there had been no distress there, although the potato crop had failed to as great an extent as in Ireland. The statements made by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, when advocating his Irish railway scheme, had been amply verified by results which had recently occurred. It was a remarkable fact that travelling in Ireland had not diminished during the period of suffering to which that country had been exposed. It was also extraordinary that in no country where a single line of railway was laid down, had war occurred. He was not prepared to assign a reason; but it was certainly somewhat remarkable that a system which tended so directly to promote the prosperity, the wealth, and the comfort of a people, should also have had the effect of averting the greatest of all calamities— war.
§ MR. CAYLEY
then rose and said: Sir, I wish I could consider it my duty to confine the few observations I shall make to the Committee to the subject nominally before it. Considering, however, the course the discussion took on the last sitting of the Committee, and considering the present critical situation of the country with respect to its commerce and its credit, I find it impossible to preclude myself from entering upon those all-important topics. Not that I underrate the importance of the proposition made to us, viz., to apply some portion of the 8,000,000l. loan already granted to Ireland, towards the assistance of some of its railways. On the contrary, I thought the proposal made by my noble Friend the Member for Lynn (Lord George Bentinck) at the commencement of the Session, in reference to Irish railways, would have been a practical and reproductive measure, and that it was introduced to our notice in a statesmanlike manner. But when I reflected on the terrible calamity that had befallen Ireland, the earnest purpose which the Government had exhibited in meeting it, and that on them the responsibility devolved of protecting the country from the impending disaster, as far as human means could do 241 it, I felt it impossible to withhold my confidence in Her Majesty's Administration. For the same reason, I cannot now oppose the measure introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Irish railways, indeed, is the subject nominally before the House. But what is the subject on the tip of every tongue, and which has possession of every man's thoughts at the present moment? It is the stagnation of trade, the disemployment of industry, the suspension of credit, the shock given to confidence—not only in the metropolis, but throughout the country. How has this state of things arisen? No one denies that it is caused by a derangement in our monetary system. The question, then, before us is, Which is to blame for the derangement: the Bank Charter Act of 1844, on which our system of currency is based; or the Bank of England, which is supposed to have the management of the currency? The first question, then, is, Has the Bank Charter Act of 1844 answered the purpose for which it was enacted? The second question is, Has the Bank of England been guilty of mismanagement? Now, the object of the Bank Charter Act, so far as I understand it — for I was too ill then to attend to its progress through this House—was threefold, viz., to give the most perfect confidence in the convertibility of bank notes, to increase the stability of the Bank of England, and to protect the country from those ruinous fluctuations in prices which had heretofore led to such disastrous effects upon our agriculture and trade. Have these three objects been accomplished? I won't deny that the convertibility of the bank notes is secure; it is almost too secure; for, like Midas, we are in danger of starving in the midst of a hoard of gold. But is the Bank more stable than it was; is it more capable of administering aid to suffering commerce than before? On the contrary, instead of being competent to support legitimate commercial enterprise in a difficult crisis, has it not been in actual need of assistance itself? Has the system of 1844 protected trade from the revulsions to which it was boasted by its promoters that it would prove so efficient an antidote? Let the present melancholy condition of the country return the reply. No elaborate columns of figures need be introduced to puzzle and embarrass the question; nor can blame now be thrown, as heretofore, on over-speculation—on country banks and joint-stock banks—as the 242 causes of the present calamity. The plain matter before us is, Has the Bank or the system done the mischief? No doubt the promoters of this system will blame the Bank as the managers of the system, instead of the system itself. What impostor ever confessed that the patient died of his nostrum? My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who took an active part in supporting the measure of 1844, when before Parliament, last Monday joined those who attribute the blame to the Bank directors. In pursuing this course, I do not think my right hon. Friend has done justice to the conduct of those gentlemen; nor, in making his charge against them, did it appear to me that he rightly appreciated the causes of the present difficulty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that there were alarm and panic; but, in connexion with that alarm and panic, he asserted that they were unnecessary and without foundation, because there was abundance of money; and he quoted the amount of notes in circulation as proving his assertion. As I have already remarked, I do not think my right hon. Friend has duly appreciated the causes of the existing difficulty; nor has he explained how it happened that, with the amount of notes which he stated to be in circulation, money could not be procured to carry on the legitimate trade of the country. From the official accounts which appeared, the public saw that a drain had set in on the means possessed by the Bank for condncting its banking business; and, at a critical moment, it was also seen that the Bank was obliged to go into the money market to enable it to accommodate the Chancellor of the Exchequer in respect of his deficiency bills—a proceeding which necessarily excited alarm. Mercantile men naturally reasoned in this way: "If the Bank is so weak as to be under the necessity of going into the money market to obtain the means of accommodating the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will it have sufficient means to meet the purposes and the necessities of trade?" A progressive diminution of bullion and of the reserves at the command of the banking department, were seen to be in operation; and was not this sufficient to create alarm? Then occurred what had never occurred during any previous crisis: the Bank refused all applications for discounts. Was not this sufficient to add to the alarm? The result is, that although the circulation appears full, all holders of money are afraid to part with it. Every 243 one retains as much of it as he can keep, for he now knows that he cannot go to the Bank in case of need, as in former times. Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that there are 20,000,000l. of notes with the public, he has not told us how much is in active circulation. Under a feeling of panic, a large amount has evidently been hoarded; which is the reason why in the midst of an apparent abundance of money a scarcity of it is experienced. Then are we led to believe that the Bank of England requires for its own till, and those of its twelve branches about 4,000,000l. notes. Is this obtained from the notes with the public, or from the reserve with the Bank? If from the latter source, it is evident that at the time the Bank was supplying my right hon. Friend for his deficiency bills, their till must have been virtually empty. Then the London, the country and joint-stock bankers in Great Britain and Ireland require, it is said, not much less than 12 or 14,000,000l. out of the notes said to be with the public, to keep their tills supplied; so that when 20,000,000l. notes are said to be with the public, not more than 6 or 7,000,000l. perhaps are in active circulation. A diminution of the circulation, when the Bank reserve of notes is at its lowest ebb, must necessarily, therefore, be an abstraction of its notes really in active circulation with the public for the purposes of trade—that is to say, it is a diminution from an amount of something like 6,000,000l. rather than from (say) 20,000,000l., and falls heavier on the public in that proportion. Commercial men, therefore, seeing that the Bank refused all discount—even when the circulation was full —naturally reflected, "How will the matter stand when the drain of gold for imported corn shall have decreased the circulation with the public two or three millions more?" This put an end to confidence; and was the proximate cause of the panic which has begun, and which, despite of the sanguine anticipations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I fear, is far from having come to an end: for the whole superstructure of our great commercial enterprise is based upon credit, and credit cannot exist without confidence. The confidence of the mercantile body hitherto has been, and with reason, that in any dead-lock of the commercial machine from a temporary suspension of credit, they had the Bank of England to look to in the last resort, as a great power having the 244 means at its command to uphold the credit of the country. But the prestige of the Bank of England is gone—your Act of 1844 has reduced it to the condition of an ordinary banking establishment—and credit has now nowhere to look for that confidence on which its existence depends. And under what circumstances has this state of things occurred? Without an undue expansion of the credit system, with stocks remarkably low, when merchants have been proverbially cautious: it has been produced only by a drain of bullion to pay for imported corn. But is it to be endured, that to carry out an abstract principle, the business of this great country is to be brought to a stand at a time when more than ever it is essential that it should go on? Is it to be tolerated that the working classes should, by your system of currency, be thrown out of employment at a moment when the high prices of provisions renders it more than ever necessary that they should be fully employed? Can a system, for righting the balance of trade, be suffered to continue, which can only accomplish its end by causing ruin and starvation to the country? But my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of objecting to a system which has produced such unfortunate results, has blamed the management of the Bank of England. Now, I have always observed, that when monetary crises have occurred, some cause or other different from the real one was assigned for their occurrence, Thus, in 1825, over-trading and over-population were blamed as the causes; in 1826, the country banks were blamed; in 1836, the joint-stock hanks; and now, instead of attributing the blame of the present derangement to the Bank charter of 1844, the blame is thrown upon the shoulders of the Bank. I readily admit that the issue department of the Bank is safe for the present; but was the charter of 1844 intended simply to prevent the issue department from being in an unsound state? Was the system now in operation devised for the benefit of the country; or were the interests of the country to bend to the success of the system. The philosophical gentlemen who guide the destinies of the nation in monetary affairs, are too apt to imagine that the welfare of the country is to be cramped and tortured to fit the Procrustean bed of their theoretical system. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has attributed blame to the Bank directors; hut, with all deference to his superior information, for 245 it ought to be superior to mine—and making allowance, too, for his superior knowledge—it appears that the Bank directors have worked a most difficult machine in a moat admirable manner. But this system of 1844 was to be like some beautiful automaton, that would act of itself without any one's interference. Then why blame the Bank—which was told to conduct its business like any other banking establishment? and which has been prevented doing so, only by the Chancellor of the Exchequer claiming assistance from it at an eventful crisis, when, according to strict banking rules, the Bank would have refused it; whereby commerce was deprived of the aid it had always been accustomed to receive; and the Bank exhibited to the world as utterly powerless to sustain the credit of the country. One objection which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made to the management of the Bank, the other evening, was, that the notes withdrawn in consequence of the efflux of 6,000,000l. or 7,000,000l. of gold, should have been from the notes with the public, and not from its reserve. I need scarcely stop to inquire how this would have affected the condition of the country. But in point of fact all i the notes issued by the Bank, whether nominally with the Bank, or with the public, are virtually all with the public. For the tills of all the other banks of the country are supplied from the notes nominally with the public, and are no more in active circulation than the notes apparently reserved by the Bank of England. The latter, indeed, may be considered a more active part of the circulation; for when the public see a large reserve of notes with the Bank of England, it gives a strong impression of the Bank's power to assist commerce in a time of need. Whereas the reserve of notes with other banks is unknown. How, however, was it possible, in a period of a gradually approaching pressure, for the Bank of England, without from the first refusing all discount—which it was driven to at last only by the Act of 1844—to preserve undiminished its reserve of notes? As the public became more pressed, they applied more for discounts — even at a higher rate; and the Bank could not refuse without abdicating its functions. But my right hon. Friend says the Bank should have turned the screw, and produced a tightness in the money market at an earlier period than it did. Now what has been the conduct of the Bank since August and September last? According to the Bank 246 Charter Act of 1844, the notes issued from the Bank were to be in exact accordance with the amount of bullion received into the Bank. The more bullion, the more notes—the less bullion, the less notes. And in conformity with the statements of the framers of the Act, the Bank — in reference to its banking department, as distinguished from the issue department— was to be allowed, nay encouraged, to compete for discounts with other banks. In September last, the bullion in the Bank was at its maximum. The spirit of the Act of 1844, said, "push out notes." But a failure in the crops threatened us with a large import of corn, and consequent drain of gold, with a pressure in the money market. Prudence, therefore, suggested not to push out notes. The Bank having 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. of notes in reserve, might, by lowering the rate of discount to 2 per cent, have pushed out 24,000,000l. or 25,000,000l. with the public, and still have reserved 4,000,000l. for its till, which is said to be its proper complement. Hovering between the spirit of the Act which said push out, and the prospect of a bad harvest which said pull in— they lowered the rate of discount to only 3 per cent, and issued only 21,000,000l. notes to the public. It would have been more prudent, indeed, to have kept to the rate of 4 per cent for discount; but how much worse would things now have been if the Bank had only regarded the Act of Parliament, and not the prospect of the harvest before them. For this escape we have to thank the discretion of the Bank, which caused it to act in opposition to the dictates of the system on which our currency is based. Next it was complained that the Bank ought to have applied the screw more tightly early in the present year. They did increase the rate of discount in January to 3½ per cent; the very next week to 4 per cent. Then in February, it was said they should have turned the screw still tighter—so said the system —for then bullion was beginning to ebb faster from the Bank. But what said the wants of the country, and what said the safety of the Bank? It is very well for the advocates of the system to say, when bullion is going out, then "at all risks and hazards trades must be crippled, and imports stopped—for the safety of the monetary system." But the country wanted imports—the population demanded to be fed, and their food depended on the importation of grain remaining unchecked, for 247 it was a season of famine; and there was great fear lest the supplies of all the world would not be able to meet the demands for food in all countries. At this moment, if the Bank had too stringently applied the screw—the effect and intention of which is to diminish imports, and to promote exports—they would have aggravated the scarcity of food. As it is, the importation of food has been checked by the pressure of the money market arising out of your system. Then again, in February, or early in March, the Bank of France was distressed; with sorrow be it spoken, the Bank of England was so crippled as to be unable indeed to relieve her sister establishment, which in her hour of need in 1839, came, as it has been said, to her rescue; but she did all she could—she abstained from increasing the difficulties of the Bank of France by too rapidly appreciating the value of money here. And it was for her own interest that she so acted —for had the Bank of France failed in sustaining its credit—double would have been the pressure and the difficulties which would have surrounded the Bank of England. But in acting with this discretion, she acted against the rigid inflexible spirit of the Bank Charter Act. That is to say, on two occasions, within a few months— when the spirit of the Act would have counselled a wild and dangerous course, the Bank resisted that spirit, and pursued a more discreet and moderate course. Which then has been to blame? the system, or the Bank of England? It appears to me, from a dispassionate view of the operations of both, that the system has not only signally failed, but that it is a pregnant cause of ruin and disaster to the country, and has materially aggravated the miseries of famine. But the Chancellor says "Money is really plentiful!" More shame to the system which wont allow it to come forth, and compels it to be hoarded. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says, "Trade is sound!" Yes! merchants have been cautious, and stocks are low; more shame to the system which rewards this prudence and caution of the mercantile body by a ruinous fluctuation in prices, and a no less ruinous rate of discount. But is the present a sound and wholesome state of things? What constitutes the sound and wholesome in a philosopher's mind? A panic in the city! stagnation in Lancashire! India bills undiscountable, or only at a rate approaching 16 per cent. Even the ordinary bills of the home trade, having from three 248 to four months to run unsaleable! Exchequer bills at 10s. discount! Stoppage of payment staring the mercantile world in the face, and a state of barter hanging over us, with all reliance vanished on the power of the Bank of England to support the credit system, on which all our trade is founded! If these be the tests and evidences of the sound and wholesome— the sooner we betake ourselves to an unsound and unwholesome state, even if accompanied by half the plagues of the catalogue — the better, the happier, the healthier for the people.
said, that he was a holder of 200 shares in the Great Southern and Western Railway, and unless he understood this question right, he should not feel at liberty to decide upon it. As he understood it, the money which was proposed to be lent to certain Irish railways, was to come out of the 8,000,000l. which had been appropriated to the welfare of Ireland. If he was right in this, considering that the security offered by the railway with which he was connected was unexceptionable, he should support the measure.
§ SIR W. CLAY
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House (Mr. Cayley) had asserted that if the Bank had pushed out its notes in August and September last by reducing the discount to two per cent, the directors would only have been acting agreeably to the expressed intentions of the authors of the Act of 1844, and in accordance with the spirit of that Act. He (Sir W. Clay) did not know in what part of the Act the hon. Gentleman had found any authority for such a statement, or by whom he had heard the doctrine advocated that the Bank ought to push out its notes when they were not needed for the legitimate purposes of trade. The drain of gold had already commenced in the autumn, although nothing material occurred till Christmas; and in January the Bank showed that it was aware of what was going on, by raising the interest from three and a half to four per cent. But instead of husbanding its means by increasing the rate of interest in proportion as the bullion decreased, the Bank continued giving accommodation, as though nothing like a crisis was to be apprehended. The hon. Gentleman had failed to clear the directors from the charge of indiscretion made against them by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but the hon. 249 Gentleman had made a vigorous attack on the banking system as established by the Act of 1844; and as he had borne a humble part in supporting that measure, he trusted the House would bear with him for a few moments whilst he endeavoured to show what the real effect of the measure had been. It had been already remarked by the hon. Member for Cambridge, that there were now in operation causes of the greatest efficiency in disturbing the monetary system. Any of them in his (Sir W. Clay's) opinion was able of itself to cause derangement; but when taken in combination, they formed an aggregate of disturbing elements such as their monetary system had not been exposed to for the last half century. In the first place, there was the necessity of providing a supply of food, to meet a failure in the crops, to the money value of 16,000,000l. Now, what had been the result with respect to the importation of food to meet that calamity? The quantity of grain imported in 1846 was unparalleled. The average quantity of grain imported in the three years preceding, namely, 1843, 1844, and 1845, was 1,600,000 quarters; but the quantity imported in 1846 amounted to 4,780,000 quarters. A large importation had also taken place of other articles of consumption, as appeared from a comparison of the receipts for customs. In 1846 the revenue derived from Customs amounted to 22,500,000l. and upwards, whilst in 1845 it was only 21,840,000l. On referring to the items, it appeared that in 1846, as compared with 1845, there had been a great increase in the importation of articles of food and luxury. Thus the imports of butter in 1846 were 255,000 cwts. against 240,000 in 1845; those of cheese in 1846 were 327,000 cwts. against 257,000 in 1845; those of cocoa in 1846 were 2,860,000 lbs. against 2,589,000 in 1845; those of coffee in 1846 were 36,780,000 lbs. against 34,300,000 in 1845; those of tea in 1846 had been 46,700,000 lbs. against 44,195,000 in 1845; those of sugar in 1846 had been 5,230,000 cwts. against 4,800,000 in 1845; those of currants in 1846 had been 369,000 cwts. against 309,000 in 1845; those of raisins in 1846 had been 238,000 cwts. against 205,000 in 1845. The diminution in our imports of articles of raw produce constituting the staple of our manufactures, in the same year, was, however, still more striking and significant. Our imports of indigo, silk, and sheep's wool considerably 250 declined, whilst those of cotton, the most important of all, were 4,176,000 cwt. in 1846, against 6,440,000 in 1845. Thus, then, it was evident that whilst there had been an increased importation of articles of food and luxury, there had been a diminished importation of those articles of raw produce which, when converted into manufactures, added to the national wealth. In consequence of the diminished supply of raw materials, prices had advanced, in some cases, fifty per cent, and in cotton at the latter part of the year more than that. We had no means of paying for our imports except by gold, or the manufactures and produce of the country. We did not produce the precious metals, and therefore, when a portion of our gold was taken to pay for our imports, instead of our giving manufactures or produce in exchange for them, the operation created a pressure in the money market. The pressure would continue until we received orders for our manufactures and produce sufficiently large to turn the balance of trade in our favour; and, even then, it was necessary we should have time to execute the orders. Nothing which the Legislature or the Government had it in its power to do, could remedy the inconvenience which was experienced from the contraction of the circulation. It was necessary to wait patiently for a reduction of prices, which would check importation and encourage exportation, for that was the only mode in which the precious metals could return to this country. It might be asked why the deficiency of gold should not be supplied by notes? Because that would aggravate the evil. It was his belief, that if the Bill of 1844 had not been passed, the situation of the country would have been much worse than it really was. Had it not been for that Bill, we should not have been so well prepared as we were to meet the approaching storm. If the country should escape a severe monetary crisis, it would be owing to that measure; and if the crisis should come, it would be the means of mitigating the disastrous results to be apprehended from such a state of things. The object of the Bill of 1844 might be briefly stated. The great measure of 1819 asserted the legal convertibility of paper into gold, and repressed the circulation of small notes; but, experience from 1819 to 1844 proved that mere legal convertibility was not a sufficient guard against abuse; and therefore the Bill of 1844, taking the amount of paper money then in circulation as sufficient for 251 the wants of the country, enacted that no more should be issued except upon the security of gold. He believed that the passing of that measure had prevented speculation from being carried to a ruinous extent. Another advantage which the country had derived from the Bill of 1844 was, that it caused greater publicity to be given to the transactions of the Bank of England; and he believed that banking had been much better conducted since the passing of the measure. The country, he had no doubt, would get through its difficulties; there were indeed already symptoms of a better state of things; but he was disposed to think it would be long before they again witnessed a rate of interest so low as had prevailed for the last few years. In this he should see nothing to regret. A low rate of interest was by no means an unfailing indication of national prosperity; on the contrary, it might be the concomitant of decline. A low rate of interest indicated a low rate of profits; and a low rate of profits was not consistent with a state of advancing prosperity—scarely, perhaps, with a stationary state. But the only condition of a nation in which the well-being of the people was certain, was a state of progressive prosperity. During the whole of the last century, in Holland, during her long and slow decay, the rate of interest was invariably lower than in any other country in Europe.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that to point the moral of this story, he must recall to the House the facts of the case. A proposition had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the application of 620,000l. to Irish railways, whereupon various discussions had branched out of the main question upon matters connected with our monetary system, one speaker after another endeavouring to show what he believed to be the cause of the present state of affairs. A great difference of opinion existed among those Gentlemen; but as to the actual state of the facts there was no dispute at all. There was no dispute as to the alarming state of our monetary system, at the present moment—as to the great depression in the money market, the great difficulty in the manufacturing districts, and the great disturbance altogether throughout the mercantile world. Among the various causes which had been presumed to create this state of affairs, and of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets had enumerated several, the right hon. Member for Cambridge 252 had endeavoured to impress upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the consideration, that when all these causes of alarm and disturbance existed, he was himself introducing another element of danger, and was enhancing the very mischief that everybody was deploring. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge had puzzled him not a little. The right hon. Gentleman had that evening made a speech the most convincing he had ever heard—clear in exposition, and consecutive in argument; and the conclusion to which it conducted was so plain and palpable that everybody saw it except the right hon. Gentleman himself. The conclusion to be drawn from the right hon. Gentleman's speech was, that he ought to vote against the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposition. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out the danger of the Government becoming a money-lender in the present condition of affairs; and he also showed that it would be unjust not to extend to other railway companies in Ireland the aid which it was proposed to give to three of them. It was natural to suppose that a proposition which the right hon. Gentleman designated unjust and impolitic, would receive the practical censure which was capable of being conveyed by a vote; but, instead of that, the right hon. Gentleman intended to vote in favour of the proposition. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he would have voted differently but for the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made that evening. Now, it was remarkable that the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made that evening was very different from that which he made on Monday. He did not blame the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having reconsidered his proposition—for that he had done so there could be no doubt. The proposition, as explained that evening, was quite distinct from that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained, not once, but twice, on Monday. The right hon. Gentleman now proposed to give the sum of 620,000l.. to certain Irish railway companies out of the sum of 8,000,000l.. already voted by the House for the relief of Ireland. It was not easy to understand that part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech in which he talked about the Government intending to give up the 1,500,000l.which was intended to be expended under the provisions of the Waste Lands Bill. The right hon. Gentleman created some obscurity by mixing up this 253 topic with the 8,000,000 fund. He wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer to state whether the 620,000l. was to come out of the 8,000,000l. fund, or was to be taken from a sum of money intended to be appropriated to the reclamation of waste lands in Ireland? For the present, he would assume that the money was to come out of the 8,000,000l. already voted for the relief of Ireland; and he begged to remind the House of the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made when he asked for that grant. The right hon. Gentleman stated the expenditure which was then going on in Ireland, and calculated that it would go on gradually diminishing until August; and he estimated the amount which was absolutely required up to that period for the relief of the destitute at 8,000,000l.. He wanted to know why the right hon. Gentleman was now introducing a fresh item of expenditure, and applying to a different purpose part of a sum voted specifically for the relief of distress. What circumstances had arisen to enable him to do so? Had the right hon. Gentleman stated that anything had occurred different from that which he anticipated? Not at all. He had not shown that he had at his disposal a single farthing more than he anticipated he would have. What grounds, therefore, had the Chancellor of the Exchequer given for the extraordinary demand he made, namely, that they should divert from the relief of the people of Ireland a sum of 620,000l., to be employed by the Government as a moneylender? He would suppose, as a sort of hypothesis, that an argument had been used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this kind:—I have heard nothing to convince me that the benefit to be derived by the destitute persons in Ireland by the provisions of this Bill (a certain Bill) are at all commensurate with the money which it is proposed to raise. Still less have I heard anything to convince me, that in the pro- sent state of the finances of the country, and with the distress which prevails here too, as well as in Ireland, to an extent far greater than I could wish —I say, I have heard nothing to convince me that I should be justified in imposing burdens on the people of this country for such a purpose. For the purpose of relieving the distress of the people of Ireland, and of preserving them from starvation and death, I would not hesitate to ask the people of this country, burdened as they are, to provide means of alleviating that dreadful condition; but before I ask the people of this country, suffering as they themselves are under great pressure, to submit to any further burdens of this kind, at least I must be assured that the money so raised would go directly and effectually for that purpose. Now, with respect to the first point, I 254 confess I am not of opinion that the State should become a great money-lender. On the contrary, I think it would be exceedingly wrong and mischievous, except in cases of an extraordinary character, that the State should become a lender of money in competition with private interests. I know that the measure has made an immense impression on the minds of certain Gentlemen in this House; but it appears to me that Irish distress and Irish notions of money have in their case subverted all sound principles on this subject.When was this said? Everybody knew; and could the right hon. Gentleman now justify in any way the imposition of this new burden, for such it was in the circumstances in which they must view it. He agreed with every one of the premises of the right hon. Gentleman, with all the necessary deductions from them; then how could he, consistently with his notions of justice and propriety, determine to vote in favour of the proposition the right hon. Gentleman now made? As he sincerely believed there was in principle nothing to justify the proposition, so he believed the state of this country to be very dangerous, in spite of all the sanguine expectations that had been held out to them. He believed a great struggle would have to be made by the people of this country during the coming months of this year; and as they were not yet certain what the coming harvest was to bring, he contended it was jeopardizing all that was great, and good, and safe, in this country to deal in this hasty and unstatesman like manner with all its interests. He was not justified in supporting the proposition by the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that evening; the right hon. Gentleman said the House had been entirely mistaken in the views of the Government as to the Drainage Act, and therefore it was about to substitute this new plan. As occasions arose, something was done, something to be busy about, but nothing distinguished by that care and prudence which ought to belong to those who had to deal with the lives and happiness of all the people of this country. He felt himself perfectly justified in calling on the Committee to divide on this question. The people would not deem the reasons adduced by the right hon. Gentleman in support of this pitiful scheme for obtaining their money, a justification of supporting him. They were to consider whether, in this time of present distress and doubt as to the future, they could thus play with the resources of the people, as if they were counters, with their well-being and their subsistence won by the sweat of their brow, their care and intelligence— 255 whether, for such purposes as those proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, supported by such arguments as he had adduced, they might squander that wealth which was the very life-blood of the nation.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
considered the proposition, in principle, as nothing more nor less than the plan so ably brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck). He was fully aware of the perilous circumstances under which the late measures of the Government were proposed. He fully conceded their good intention, though they were somewhat wanting in comprehensive near and distinctness, and were rather of a bit-by-bit character. He had taken considerable pains with the subject, and he was sorry he could hold out no hope that the lavish manner in which money had been expended, had been accompanied by anything else than disaster. An extension of the Poor Law had been passed; and, considering the state of the country, he was justified in asking the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) what plans he proposed to adopt, in addition to that Poor Law, for absorbing the surplus labour of Ireland? Was this grant of 620,000l. to Irish railways to be the maximum of the assistance to be afforded to that unfortunate country? Let them test the proposal, and see how far it would absorb the surplus labour. The 1,500,000l.proposed to be given—["No!"] —well, to be lent, to the Irish landlords for draining, would employ 50,000 men for two years; the number that had been employed on the public works was 700,000. The noble Lord might say, the draining would give a permanent impulse to the labour of the country, and that the people would be more employed upon the land after it was drained. He did not think more than 100,000 could be employed out of the 700,000. The noble Lord had to-night given up the Waste Lands Bill, and on that the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) had given his support to the 620,000l. grant. He had made a speech against it; but—a phenomenon not uncommon in that House—he was going to vote for it. Repeated reference had been made to the Drainage Act, and to the beneficial results to be expected from its operation; but he very much questioned whether it would tend to absorb surplus labour. On the contrary, he feared that it would have the very opposite effect. The effect of improved agricultural systems in England, had ever been to lessen rather 256 than to increase the demand for labour. In England, four men, or at most five, were sufficient to keep a hundred acres in a state of high cultivation; whereas in Ireland, where improved systems of agriculture were not brought so much into play, double, nay treble, that number was requisite for the same extent of land. In England 790,000 persons cultivated 25,000,000 of acres; while in Ireland 970,000 cultivated 12,000,000. This fact showed clearly how different were the condition and circumstances of the people of both countries. He would take leave to ask what other plans did the noble Lord at the head of the Government contemplate to introduce for the purpose of absorbing the surplus labour of Ireland. This was a question in the answer to which the Irish people were deeply interested. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge would have the Committee believe that the 10 per cent who had been dismissed from the relief works had been already absorbed by the farmers in agricultural labour, and that the 10 per cent who were to be struck off on the 1st of May would infallibly be disposed of in the same manner. The statement was important, and would be exceedingly gratifying if it were strictly correct; but it was to be regretted that it was not at all consistent with the representations contained in those blue books to which hon. Members were so fond of referring, when it suited their own purpose to do so. He would take the liberty of reading a few passages from the reports of the inspectors, from which the Committee would see what amount of credit should be attached to the representation that 10 per cent, already struck off, had been absorbed by agricultural labour. The hon. and gallant Gentleman read extracts from the reports of Mr. Thomas Ross, Captain Hill, Captain O'Brien, Captain Kennedy, and others, the general substance of which was uniformly, that in the counties of Cork, Clare, Waterford, and Meath, either no such absorption had at all taken place, or it was very partial. The reason generally assigned was, that the absence of the potato crop necessarily caused a much smaller number to be employed this season, than was usual in former years. The fact was, that the necessary agricultural operations were now performed by the farmers themselves, and by the male members of their families. But if things were in this disheartening position now, what was to be done when the green 257 crops were really put down? Again, he asked what other plan was the noble Lord at the head of the Government prepared to propose, now that he had thrust upon the country a poor law without any counterbalancing check to absorb the surplus labour? The probable expense of upholding relief committees and soup kitchens had, he feared, been greatly understated. No adequate estimate of it had as yet been made. He held in his hand a statement of the first rate that had been struck under; the soup system. The soup-rate of the union of Clonmel had been struck within the last three days, and the calculation was that for three months it would yield 8,975l. —if paid. Taking that as a fair average, the cost to the country generally on ac- count of the soup system, would be on this average about 4,752,000l. per annum. Add to this the probable cost of out-door relief, which might be estimated at two and a half millions, and the aggregate amount of moneys required for the purposes of relief in Ireland would be 7,000,000l.—about half the gross rental of the country. Under these circumstances what would the noble Lord do? He would have to come down to Parliament next year and demand still larger grants and additional concessions. Much better would it be for him to come before the House at once with that courage which was so characteristic of him, and to state unreservedly the whole truth of the case. Did the noble Lord think that this grant of 620,000l. would be sufficient to absorb the surplus labour of Ireland? Or did he imagine that the Irish people would be content with it. ["Hear, hear!"] He knew that that significant cheer awaited the question; for when a Member connected with Ireland rose in that House and endeavoured to depict the dreadful state of destitution in which the Irish people were plunged, it was too much the custom to meet Gentlemen connected with Ireland with derisive cheers and invidious sneers. He would not hesitate to support the Government in their proposition for the grant now under discussion. The only fault he had to find with them was, that they did not go far enough. He was prepared, if necessary, to show that the grant would be money well laid out; that it would be repaid; and that the making it would be attended with advantage to England, as well as to the sister country, The Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland was a most thriving and prosperous establishment. Its prospects were most pro- 258 mising, as might be inferred from the fact that although not more than fifty-six and a half miles of it were as yet open (the distance from Carlow to Dublin), the weekly traffic amounted to 1,580l. The only fault he had to find with the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that, regard being had to the importance of such an establishment, and to the general requirements of the country, he gave too little. Whoever should have the luck to sit in the next Parliament, would have the pleasure of seeing the noble Lord at the head of the Government stand up in his place, and of hearing him declare that there was no use in going on in this little peddling way, and that if they wished to preserve Ireland, and to have a real union between the two countries, the House must make up their mind to back him boldly in some great and comprehensive scheme of legislation for that country. He wished the noble Lord had not been deterred by any false pride from taking up the plan of the noble Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck). The whole process, the whole remedy to be brought forward for Ireland, seemed to be very easy: the noble Lord contemplated that the present race of landlords and farming tenants would be swept away. They were, in fact, in process of being consumed already, and it would not be much longer before we finished them. Some hon. Gentlemen thought, no doubt, that this was a consummation devoutly to be wished for; and it might, indeed, be all very well if they could get other proprietors. But what Englishman, or what capitalist of any country, could they get to step in and take estates which were eaten up with enormous poor rates, and encumbered with heavy Government debts? They would not succeed in getting one single capitalist to make such a purchase, though all the estates in Ireland were in the market. A gentleman, a magistrate, residing in Clare, had informed him that in one parish in that county there had been a rate struck of 20s in the pound, and that not 10d. in the pound was to be collected. It was very find to talk of the Irish landlords, to halloo on the people, and to tell them these were the men to whom they must look for support; but was there any Gentleman in that House who would take Irish property when he heard of such a circumstance as this? He had never been one of those, though it had not been for want of invitations, who had made it a habit to hold up the Government of this country to exe- 259 cration in Ireland. He had never joined in that unfair system of declamation pursued by some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the Channel, against what was called the tyranny of England. He was of opinion that if Ireland was left to herself, and deprived of the supporting arm of Great Britain, she might as well be at the bottom of the sea. He would at the same time beg the noble Lord to recollect that the events which had followed the Union, had not been of that character likely to conciliate the Irish mind into confidence in this country. They had formerly ruled in favour of Protestantism and the landlords: they had seen their mistake, and had given that up; but they had not conciliated the people even by this course. The democracy disliked the English Government. What class then did the English Government propose to conciliate? He would ask, in the name of common sense, what class they would conciliate by the measure they now proposed? He had held out as long as he could against the cry of repeal; but though his support or opposition could he of little consequence to the noble Lord, he must say to his Government, or to any Government that might be in office, that unless they were disposed to look this Irish difficulty in the face, and come forward with a great and comprehensive measure— much as be (Mr. B. Osborne) disliked connecting himself with any party in Ireland, knowing how little dependence was to be placed on Irish confederations —he should at last be compelled to think that none but an assembly of Irishmen would be capable of legislating for that country.
§ MR. SPOONER
recapitulated the arguments before the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked them to apportion part of a grant already made for the support of certain railways; and it had been also remarked, that was not the only subject to consider, but that the ability of this country to grant that money ought also to be considered. The real position of this country with regard to its monetary system was therefore an element of the deepest importance in the question, and ought to be brought before the House in all its hearings. On the last occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken a different view of this part of the subject to the one he took to-night. He had said, "Why talk of a diminished circulation? Why blame the Government for diminishing that circulation, when it is not di- 260 minished? The ordinary circulation is 20,000,000l.: and the circulation is now about that." To-night, however, he said the panic was over; the exchanges had turned in our favour; the Bank would no longer keep up the restrictive measures to which they had been obliged to have recourse. What, then, were those restrictive measures? There was no deficiency in the circulation —if it really were full and complete? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night it was, and now he said it soon would be, because the Bank was at liberty to abandon its restrictive measures. What really then was the position of the circulation? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was amply sufficient—it amounted to 20,000,000l.; but he did not know that what was sufficient in times of confidence, was not sufficient when alarm and want of confidence prevailed. True it was that 20,000,000l. were nominally the circulation of the Bank; but where was that 20,000,000l.? The prudent man, who in ordinary times kept 10,000l. in bank-notes by him to meet all demands, would in times of pressure keep 20,000l. Of the 20,000,000l. too, 620,000l. was to be taken for Irish railways. Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the panic was over and the circulation undiminished, he should have considered these circumstances. He should have looked, too, at the balance of trade, and the probable sum of money they would have to pay for the importation of corn. He (Mr. Spooner) had made inquiries of the men who had the means of obtaining sound and correct information; and from all he had heard he believed the balance of trade could not be less than 8,000,000l., and that ultimately must be paid in gold. The present restriction and want of confidence forced gold to be substituted in payment for manufactures; because they had. checked the manufacturing power of this country, and prevented the making of goods which might otherwise have gone out in payment of the balance of trade. This showed more and more that the notes in circulation were insufficient, and that 20,000,000l. were totally inadequate for the requirements occasioned by a pressure. Did not this, moreover, account for the panic? And would the right hon. Gentleman say it was over, because the exchanges were now in our favour? But was the danger really over? He feared the statements of the right hon. Gentleman on this subject were like his stories of sup- 261 Plies of potatoes being brought to market in Ireland, which had been exposed by the hon. Member who had last spoken — he feared they were all a delusion, and that the House must not trust to them. What, the danger over, with the balance of trade not less than 8,000,000l., which must be paid in gold! And gold from the Bank of England could not be obtained without withdrawing bank-notes out of circulation. Hitherto the Bank had gone on with the means at their own command. The Bank had not adopted restrictive measures until they were obliged in self defence. They had been told to conduct their business on banking principles; they were told not to regard the interests of the public, but to look to their own interests and to their proprietary. The Bank had therefore carried out the principle, as they were compelled to do by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and afterwards by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and because they had so acted—because they had not exercised, as was said, a more timely control over the! circulation — because they had been so foolish as to lower the rate of interest when they ought not to have done so—be- cause they had not foreseen the drain of gold, and regulated their conduct by that foresight—they were highly blamed by the Government. Now, would such conduct have been consistent with banking principles? What were they to do when there was an abundance of money? Why, if they were to compete with private bankers, i they must reduce the rate of interest when the market rate was reduced. The Bank had acted strictly on the principle laid down by the Government. The Government had said, "We will regulate the circulation—we will issue notes on a fixed principle. You shall issue only in return for gold, except on 14,000,000l. of securities;" and in accordance with this, the Bank had acted. He would now look to another part of the subject, namely, the limitation to 14,000,000l, He should like to know what magic there was in the number 14? Why was it 14,000,000l.? He supposed that had been fixed upon, because it was thought large enough always to be sufficient for the wants of the country; but had it proved so? It had not yet been tried. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had not told them what the Bank was to do when they came down to the 14,000,000l.—when there was no gold left. The question had been put by 262 his hon. Friend and Colleague on a former occasion to the right hon. Baronet; and he replied, that he did not like to answer speculative questions which could only exist in the imagination. But recent events had made it appear not quite so speculative. He believed, notwithstanding the turn spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as having taken place, that a change might be accounted for by the Emperor of Russia having come to their aid. The Emperor of Russia's ambitious views had caused him for a long time past to hoard bullion— a fact which everybody knew, and which, with his despotic power, was rendered easy, as by that power he made his subjects carry on their trade with paper roubles, while he hoarded the gold. He would not, however, say that the transaction was not dictated by a fair and legitimate desire to invest his money advantageously; but it was possible that the Emperor had some vague ambitious view, by which he was prompted to think it would prove advantageous to him to have France, England, and Holland all in his debt. He might think it easier to meet our armies and our fleets through the trammels of financial difficulties; and thus, when thwarted in any of his views, instead of appealing to arms, to throw the whole weight of his 7,000,000l. of debt— 2,000,000l. before, and 5,000,000l. now —on their respective money markets; a far easier and cheaper method of discomfiture than commanding fleets or marshalling armies. Far be it from him to say, that such were the sentiments of the Emperor of Russia; but was it not probable that such were his motives in helping the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had charged hon. Gentlemen who sat near him, with having cheered the speech of the hon. Member for Yorkshire (Mr. Cayley). So they did; but that speech did not recommend the removal of the present difficulties by pushing out notes. Such a policy would have the effect of postponing the evil; and when it did come, it would only fall on them with greater vigour. But what was the moral of all this? Why, that they had a system which did not maintain a sufficient circulation of notes to meet a pressure. He hesitated not to say, that the Bill of 1844 was essentially a Bill to maintain the integrity of that of 1819. He had told the right hon. Member for Tamworth as much, when, with a deputation of bankers, he had waited on the 263 right hon. Baronet at his own house. He (Mr. Spooner) then said, that if the right hon. Baronet wished to preserve his Bill of 1819, that of 1844 was essential; but that it would not have the effect desired, nor place the country in the situation it ought to be in. It was curious, however, to see how many causes had been assigned for its non-success; and even the blessings of Providence were in the number. They now laid the blame on the Bank for the present crisis; but what were the causes on which that blame had before time been laid. First, the blessings of peace and the cessation of the costs of war; then the plenty with which in abundant harvests it pleased Providence to crown that peace; then the country banks were to blame, and the joint-stock banks were set up to correct them; in 1836, however, joint-stock banks became the object of the vituperation of the right hon. Baronet; and in 1844 he brought in a Bill to make a pound intelligible. "What does a pound mean?" asked the right hon. Gentleman in 1844; and by his Bill the right hon. Baronet said, that in future in all speculations, they should have a sure and certain return for the pound. The right hon. Baronet said in private— [Sir R. PEEL: But what do you say the pound is?] The right hon. Baronet was exceedingly cunning in debate, and he acknowledged his talent; but he had sat in Parliament long enough to know that it was extremely dangerous to answer interlocutory questions. But he could tell the right hon. Baronet something. If, when Mr. Pitt came down to that House in 1797—when he stated that the safety of the nation was at hazard, and declared that whether we should yield to France and become the vassals of France, hung upon that very question, he had been met by the interrogation, "What is a pound?" and the House had refused to carry out the measure he recommended— the question would not have now been, "What is a pound?" but "Where is England?" He had not the slightest hesitation in saying, and he had the highest authority for it, that without the measure which the hon. Baronet had called a fatal one, they would never have been able to carry on the war, to resist the power of France, to defend the liberties of Englishmen and the world, or to dictate the terms of peace within the walls of Paris. But he begged to ask the right hon. Baronet a question, "What was the pound in the time of the Conqueror?" [Laughter.] 264 They were perfectly welcome to their laugh; and all he could say was, that he hoped and trusted the time would come when they might have some more appropriate subject to laugh at, than that which now occupied their attention. He asked the right hon. Baronet what had been the pound through the entire of its history? If the principle of the right hon. Baronet went for any thing, it was to prevent any change, alteration, or depreciation of value. What was the pound in which the eight hundred millions had been contracted? Let them pay off the debt in that pound, and then they would be able to ascertain what was that pound. If it was intended to carry out the Bill of 1819 in all its bearings, and with all its consequences, he told them that it had not been done yet. The financial affairs of this country were so often disarranged, that on many occasions society was on the eve of dissolution; and it was never nearer to it than at the present moment. They were often told to look at the bullion in the Bank of England, as a fair index of the position of the country in a financial point of view. It was said, that when the Bank had a plentiful supply of bullion all was safe, and that no danger whatever was to be apprehended. Such was the argument used; but implicit reliance was not to be placed upon the amount of bullion in the Bank. There were, at this moment, nine or ten millions of bullion in the Bank of England; but what was the position of the country? He had been asked in that House why they did not use it. The only use of the bullion was to meet the notes when they came in. When notes to an equivalent amount were sent in, then gold was sent out of the country. He did not wish to be understood as arguing that the state of the currency before the year 1819 was good, neither did he wish to justify what had been done after that period; but he was convinced at the time that something ought to have been done; and he was sure that what had been done was not right. The drain of gold had put the country in danger; and the right hon. Baronet was quite right in his endeavour to do something to avert the evil consequences which were to be apprehended from its operation. The Bill of 1819 was followed by the Bill of 1844, which had not answered the purposes for which it was intended. The difficulties which it had entailed were many and serious. The present difficulty might be got over; but it would still haunt them 265 with a sense of impending danger. He had told the right hon. Baronet that the first drain of gold would overthrow his measure; but in answer to that warning he had been told that he was wrong, for that the Bank would exercise such a discretion; that the drain for bullion would not cause any injury. He would just read an extract— ["Oh, oh!" and "Divide!"]: He was not in the habit of troubling the House very often, and then seldom at any length; and he could assure the hon. Gentlemen who appeared so anxious for a division, that he would not on the present occasion detain them very long. He would not be deterred by cries for a division; neither would he, upon an occasion of so much importance, content himself with giving a silent vote, nor omit that which he considered to be his duty, namely, to warn the Government and the House that danger was impending. That danger might be stayed; its consequences might be averted for a while; but it would most assuredly return with greater force and with more lamentable consequences if they did not endeavour to remedy the evil while they bad the power. What was the history of the Bill of 1844, given by the right hon. Baronet himself, in reply to a memorial sent to him from the inhabitants of a town in Prussia, congratulating him upon the success of his free-trade measures? In answer to that memorial the right hon. Baronet said, that the Bill having for its object the limitation of paper currency, had not affected public or private interests, nor deprived the country of the advantages of its paper currency; but that in placing the issue of this medium of exchange under certain moderate restrictions, it had checked abuses in times of great critical importance, as well as occasional speculation, and that it had given paper money a settled value, making it at all times exchangeable into specie. Now, although the right hon. Baronet had thus claimed for his measure the merit of giving paper money a settled value, he begged to say that since the introduction of the Bill of 1844, the rate of interest charged by the Bank had varied no less than eight times. Before he concluded, he could not refrain from calling attention to a fact which he was certain had been already communicated to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and also to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was, that in the manufacturing districts, many orders had been suspended by merchants 266 and manufacturers, in consequence of the difficulty in obtaining the money required to execute them, and the consequent apprehension of inability to pay their labourers. The consequences of that apprehension were most injurious to the prosperity of the manufacturers. The suspension of the orders injured the merchant, and, of necessity, injured the operative; and injured, in addition, almost all classes of society; because, as the orders could not be completed, the food which was to have come in exchange would be withheld from the country. He warned them against the principle of a system which was merely intended to keep the gold in the country. They might keep their gold, but they would disorganize society, and throw out of employment those who depended for support on manufactures; they might keep their gold, but they would starve the people.
§ MR. MUNTZ
would give his vote for this grant for Irish railways, as he should have voted for the proposed plan of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), if the noble Lord on that side of the House had not declared that, should the Motion be carried, he would go out of office, and he could not consent to leave Ireland without any preparation for the wants of the people. He believed that the Government were wise in the course they were taking. They said that they must be guarded in what they did, as the finances were in a bad state. Why, Ireland was in a wretched state; and if the finances of this country were in a bad state, it was the fault of this and of former Governments, and it was owing to that fault that the country could not get relief without the Government calling upon the House to be careful of the finances. He did not wish to discuss the question of the finances; the time was not come when that question was ripe for discussion. The country had not yet come to such a state of pressure that the people understood their real interests. The right hon. Gentleman was right in bringing forward his measure of 1844; for it was necessary to work his Bill of 1819. What was the cause of the present distress, but because the Bill of 1844 carried out the Bill of 1819? So the right hon. Baronet praised it, and so did the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was the moon to the right hon. Gentleman's sun, and reflected his light by echoing all that he said upon financial subjects. It was said that the Bank of England issues were to be regulated by that Act; and he 267 declared that the Bank had acted on that principle: it could not do otherwise. The Bank was safe, and sound, and right; and the people were wrong because the Bank was right. Now, let them go on and try the Act. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman and the Government would carry it out and allow of no relaxation. He was sure that it would do extreme mischief; but let them go on, and so prove whether it were right or whether it were wrong. Till it was proved to be thoroughly right or wrong, he hoped there would be no interference. At present it was said that there was a sound, a prosperous, and a healthy state of things. He never before had heard of the refusal to discount at the Bank of England when sub had in her coffers 8,000,000l. or 10,000,000l..; and he did not think any one else had ever heard of such a thing. What was the use of bills if they could not be discounted? Fault was found with the Bank for not sooner altering the rate of discount; but it could not alter that rate unless to prevent a speculative trade; and it was declared that the trade now was quite sound. When the Bank would not discount bills of any length of time to run, and refused to discount any beyond sixty days, then came the pressure; the increased rate was only a charge on the discounter and a benefit to the Bank, but could not prevent discounting except when there was speculation going on. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was now over; but he had said so six weeks ago, and in six weeks hence it would be as bad as ever. Well, then, what was the present state of things? Were they to suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right this time, because he was wrong last time? Generally speaking, they would reason the other way; and he would say, i that he had seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer incorrect ever since he had known him, and particularly as to the last transaction. He, therefore, had no confidence in anything that the right hon. Gentleman was going to do. It had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge, and also by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, that a great deal of the prosperity of the country was owing to railways. He remembered, when he stated that, in 1843 and 1844, it was doubted; but still, how had it worked on the present time? It had a great effect upon, manufactures, in consequence 268 of persons investing their money in railways instead of laying it out in legitimate trade; and, by artificially raising the rate of wages above its relative level, had, by raising prices here, prejudiced foreign export trade. He would merely make one more observation, and it was this—that for the last thirty-five years that House had been legislating for one interest, and for one particular class—the money interest—and he did not see why that should be done at the expense of the many.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
wished, before the question was put, to say a few words on the subject immediately before the House. He did not object to the principle of the noble Lord's (Lord George Bentinck's) proposition for assisting the resources of employment by making railways in Ireland; but experience and reflection had since confirmed the opinion which he entertained when the Motion was before the House, that by making such large demands for the purpose, he had done great injury to his cause. If the noble Lord had asked for an advance of one million a year, instead of four millions, he might have done much more for the success of his plan. He did not intend to go into the question raised by the two hon. Members for Birmingham, for he thought that it would be much better to bring the subject forward in the shape of a substantive Motion. If these hon. Gentlemen thought that the laws regulating the currency were wrong, it would be much better to bring forward a proposition to that effect, rather than introduce the subject in a discussion on Irish railways. He wished to address himself entirely to the Irish part of the question. He rested his support of the present proposition on very different grounds to those urged by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn in favour of his Motion. The difference between the two propositions was, that it was now proposed to aid the completion of railways which were before them at present; and it was not intended to give an undefined assistance to railways only in contemplation. They were now merely called upon to aid those railways which were before the public, and upon which a large amount of capital had been expended; and which, therefore, could give good security for the money advanced on them. He was totally unconnected with any railways beyond having local interest in their formation; but he hoped and believed that the proposition of the Government would not be rejected by the House, 269 as these railways now before the House were worthy of the assistance which Her Majesty's Government proposed to afford them. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. B. Osborne) had alluded to the Southern and Western Railway of Ireland, with reference to which he was also anxious to make a few observations. On a former occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer was led too far into a course of opposition to the noble Lord the Member for Lynn's Motion, in throwing discredit on the prosperity of Irish railways. The hon. Member for Wycombe had that night shown, from the weekly returns of the railway between Dublin and Cashel, that last week the returns amounted to 1,500l. He was prepared to justify this statement to the fullest extent. The length of that railway was fifty-six miles; it had cost 12,000l. a mile in its construction; and the whole cost, including the expense of erecting stations, was 670,000l. He held in his hand, returns on the capital for some months past. In October last, the returns were 650l. a week; since then they had been gradually advancing, and that not in a feverish manner, for they had increased in the course of a few months from 650l. to 800l. a week. For the last six or seven weeks the returns had averaged more than 1,000l. a week; until last week they amounted to 1,588l. When there was such a return of profits on only a portion of the great line of Ireland, it was hard to say that the proposed advance was not made in a safe prospect of an adequate return. This country had agreed to advance a very large sum for Ireland, namely eight millions, for the support of the Irish people; but he still felt that those must be rigid economists indeed who refused such an advance for such a purpose as was now proposed. [Mr. ESCOTT: Hear, hear!] The hon. and learned Member for Winchester (Mr. B. Escott) cheered; but if he opposed such grants, why did he not oppose the resolutions for the large advances which were proposed and carried on a former occasion? To have been consistent, the hon. and learned Gentleman should have opposed the loan for eight millions for the relief of the Irish people. The present proposition was merely for the employment of the labouring classes on railways which were now in the course of construction in Ireland. He could not understand the objection to the withdrawal of labour from other descriptions of work in such a case as the present. They had heard much of 270 the great distress that prevailed in the neighbourhood of Mallow; and most serious charges, some of which he feared had not been refuted, had been brought against the landlords; but he was sure the House would be glad to learn that at the present time upwards of 3,000 persons wore now employed on either side of that place in the construction of the Southern and Western Railway. He wished to make a few observations on a communication made tonight for the first time on the part of Her Majesty's Government. They had promised at the beginning of the Session a project for the reclamation of waste lands in Ireland; and they had heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the first time that night that Her Majesty's Government proposed to withdraw the notice for a measure for that purpose. He was anxious to express his deep regret that they had come to such a determination. He did not mean to say that they might not have found great and unexpected difficulties in their way; but in fairness to the people of Ireland they should have made up their minds sooner; and this he was sure was an opinion not confined to himself. How stood the matter? The notice of a measure on the subject of waste lands in Ireland had been on the books for some weeks. From day to day, from week to week, from notice-day to notice-day, this subject had been postponed; and that night, not the Secretary for Ireland, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated that it was not intended to proceed with that measure. He did not understand that step on the part of Her Majesty's Government; and he did not think the people of Ireland would understand it. He perceived in the Notice-book for the day that the matter stood No. 7 on the list, as postponed from a previous day; and it was marked as to have been brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. What new arrangement Her Majesty's Ministers might have made, or what new counsel they might have taken, he did not know; but this he would say, that they ought not to let that notice pass over as a mere dropped one. They ought to give some reasons for their change of conduct, in other and fuller terms than the very curt and cursory notice given that evening by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, in the whole course of the discussions that have taken place upon measures intended for the relief of 271 the people of Ireland, the last wish I have had was to throw any difficulty in the way of Her Majesty's Ministers. I have been fully sensible of the magnitude of the danger they have had to encounter. I am fully conscious of the extreme difficulty there is in forming any sound judgment as to the measures that are best adapted to meet the present crisis—how easy it is to err with the best intentions, and how indulgent all of us ought to be, considering the magnitude of this crisis, and the greatness of the task to be undertaken. Sir, it is then with very great reluctance that even now I express my dissent from the course which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to pursue in respect to this vote. I differed, Sir, from the noble Lord the Member for Lynn some weeks since, when he proposed his measure for the encouragement of railway enterprises in Ireland. The measure of the noble Lord was, however, free from some of those objections which I think apply very forcibly to the measure before us now. The noble Lord's proposition was a general and impartial measure, giving facilities without any distinction to all railway enterprise in Ireland. Sir, I think our objections are as applicable to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if we regard it either as a Motion involving a principle in itself indefinite —namely, as applying to all railways which fulfil the conditions which these three railways particularly referred to have fulfilled; or if we view the proposal as exhibiting partiality in selecting three particular railways, and giving some of the public money for their encouragement alone, excluding at the same time all other railways that may hereafter entitle themselves to the same encouragement by the performance of the same conditions. Now that which makes me hesitate in giving a vote for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman is this—that, in 1844, I thought it my duty on the part of the Government to make a proposition to that railway company, which I must say had first set the example in Ireland, of great personal exertions and great enterprise. I did, Sir, in the year 1844, make such a proposition to that particular railway, as to justify them in the expectation, that if they completed a portion of their line by their own exertions—if they opened it to the public, and thus entitled themselves to give full and ample security to the Government, that the Treasury would be willing to re- 272 ceive favourably any applications on their part to the Government for assistance. But that railway company declined to accept the aid of the Government, as they thought they could borrow money under more favourable circumstances. And, therefore, finding now that other railway companies must borrow money, paying 8 per cent on the principal advanced—having declined the offer of the Government when the money could have been advanced without material loss—I do not think it right, Sir, that this particular railway company should now come to the Government, at a time when the interest has advanced to 8 per cent, and ask them to fulfil their original offer. Then with respect to the two other railway companies to which the right hon. Gentleman proposes loans. What is the principle involved in respect to them? Although the sums proposed to be advanced to them may not amount to more than 100,000l., yet still I think that there are evil consequences to be dreaded from selecting two railways in particular for Government aid, unless we are prepared—if other railways fulfil the same conditions which these two have complied with—to expend the same amount of money in their favour. But the objection which weighs with me especially, is the particular moment that has been selected for bringing forward this proposition. I must say that I concur in opinion with my hon. Friend near me in thinking that this is a time of peculiar and special embarrassment. We are aware, Sir, that the Bank of England has thought it necessary to reduce the amount of her securities by 3,000,000l. I am of opinion that this sudden reduction in the public securities has led materially to the present panic. I think, however, that this panic is entirely unjustified by any real cause. But still, it is important to remember, that since the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn was made to this House, Exchequer-bills have been hovering between a premium and a discount. Since that Motion was made, there has been an increase in the interest of Exchequer-bills. Now, notwithstanding that increase in the Exchequer-bills, within the last two or three days they have varied between 2s. and 10s. discount. The loan, too, which the right hon. Gentleman has so recently obtained, is at present at a discount of a per cent. Are those persons to be subjected to loss who were willing to come forward and aid the Government—for a 273 profitable return to themselves, it may be urged—but still they were willing to come forward and aid the State. It is rather hard upon them to subject them, without previous notice, to a loss. I believe it is highly necessary that the Government should receive general confidence with respect to the particular measures they propose for arresting the famine in Ireland. It may be said that in respect to these railways there is made out a special case for Government assistance, which is peculiarly called for in the present awful emergency in Ireland. But against that argument I urge this objection—that the labour to be given on these railways is not an effectual mode of relieving the distress that prevails. I thought, in the first place, it was admitted that the true policy of railway contractors, even if the State lends its aid to them, is to employ the best skilled labour that can be found in the neighbourhood; and that it would be unwise to bring from a distance the father of a family, from Connaught to Minister; and I thought that it was generally admitted that the labour employed on railways was not the most efficacious mode of relieving the distress. This objection applies with still greater force to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. It is not, however, so much on that account that I dissent from the proposal, as on account of the present peculiar crisis of the country. It was of importance to Ireland, as well as to the other parts of the empire, to maintain the public credit. I am, therefore, sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary to make this proposal. Desirous as I am to give my support to the present Government during this crisis, and do all I can to maintain public credit, I do find it impossible to give my vote in favour of the present proposition. I did venture to intimate an opinion against the policy of the measure proposed for the culture of waste lands in Ireland. I told the noble Lord that he would find greater difficulties than he anticipated in attempting to deal with this question. The announcement made this; night by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has rather confirmed me in the impression I entertained. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may use the specious and captivating argument—namely, "We have given 8,000,000l. for the relief of Ireland. I will not say anything now of the public works. The soup-kitchens will not cost 274 as much money as we supposed; let me then spend a portion of the public money upon the Irish railways." Now, I confess I always hear such an argument with the greatest suspicion. If you have this money to spare, then, I say, it is your duty to increase the balance in the Exchequer; and to dispense with the necessity of asking assistance from the Bank of England. Nothing can be more dangerous than an argument like this—namely, "I have got 8,000,000l. for Ireland. There are not as many demands to meet as I expected; therefore, I. need be less economical than I otherwise must have been. I expect, then, that the House of Commons will listen to this application for a loan of 620,000l. on behalf of Irish railways." It is because the House of Commons has been willing to give way—because they have been liberal—it is on that very account that it is more incumbent on you to apply every saving you have, not to another species of expenditure, but to diminish the public liabilities. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for withdrawing the Waste Lands Bill, if he found that from unexpected difficulties he was unable to bring it forward in such a shape as to entitle him to support; on the contrary, I think he acted a manly part in taking that course. It is on other grounds that I object to the present measure. I think that if you give any advance of this kind, it should be an advance in which all parts of the United Kingdom should share, giving the same security for repayment; and I must object to any grant from which Scotland and England are excluded. I do not see how you can withhold the same assistance from the proprietors of Scotch railways, who are making great exertions, and whose works are earned on in a country suffering under great distress. But the proprietors of this southern Irish railway will not have not think that they are dependent solely on Irish capitalists, but tell us that a large proportion of their shares are in the hands of great English capitalists. Now if this be the fact—if this Dublin and Cashel Railway does really belong, not to these destitute shareholders, on whom the right hon. Gentleman was so severe on a. late occasion, but to the right hon. Gentleman behind me-— [Mr. Hudson made a gesture of dissent.] I know the right hon. Gentleman always disclaims having a share in any Irish railway; but if it belongs to men like the right hon. Gentleman—sagacious men, men of 275 substance, not resident in Ireland, but good speculators with a view to gain—if these are the men who hold the chief shares in this railway company, upon what possible ground do you propose that they should be allowed to borrow money at 5 per cent, when all the world besides are paying 8? Upon these grounds, though not without reluctance, I must record my vote against this proposition. With respect to another proposition brought under discussion, that of the currency, I think I could have resisted the temptation of a single Member for Birmingham; but the spur in each flank is too much for me. I think this a very inappropriate occasion for a general debate on the currency and monetary system. [Mr. SPOONER: I did not begin it.] No, but the hon. Member sanctioned it by following the example set by others; besides he is a high authority, and represents a constituency having the strongest feeling on the subject. I do not wish to be provoked into a general discussion; but it is impossible that I should preserve an entire silence. The hon. Member made me a sort of promise that, if I would tell him what a pound was at the time of the Conquest, he would tell me what he, or any other banker, means when he issues a note to the public, and says, "I promise to pay 5l." I ask him what are the 5l. which you promise to pay? It seems a simple question, particularly for a banker; but he says I am an insidious man, and he cannot trust himself to answer me. A pound at the time of the Conquest—and various other times since the Conquest—I can tell the hon. Gentleman, may have varied in the quantity of metal; but it always meant this, a definite quantity of the precious metals. Originally it was a pound in weight, from which I presume it took its denomination. There may have been a silver standard and a gold standard, and the coinage may have been defective and worn. I know there are advocates of a worn coinage as well as of 1l. notes; but since the time of Elizabeth, the policy and intention of the law has always been that the standard of value should be a given weight of the precious metals. The hon. Member says that if Mr. Pitt had been asked what a pound meant, and had attempted to have given an answer, in 1797, the consequence would have been that this country would have been lowered in the scale of nations; and. to cap the climax, I should not be sitting where I am. I am satisfied, how- 276 ever, that if anybody had asked Mr. Pitt, when he proposed the Bank Restriction Act, "Is it your intention to establish an inconvertible paper currency?" his answer would have been, "God forbid!" The restriction placed on the Bank in 1797, was never intended to continue beyond the war; but see the evils of a first departure from principle. That the glories of that war were owing to the issue of inconvertible paper, I will not undertake to say; but this I will undertake to say, that the social condition of the country was most materially impaired by it; and I can tell the hon. Member that the class which suffered most from it, was that class which receives the wages of labour. [Mr. SPOONER: NO.] Not the class which receives the wages of labour? Why, I could prove most decidedly to the hon. Member, that while the wages of labour nominally remained the same, their command of the necessaries of life was greatly reduced. But my hon. Friend confesses that, notwithstanding all the glories of the war, the currency before 1819 was most imperfect. In what respect? It was inconvertible. What course would my hon. Friend then have taken in 1819? The hon. Member referred to a letter of mine to the inhabitants of Elbing, declaring that the value of paper money should be equivalent to that of coin; and I believe he has correctly represented the sentiments expressed by me on that occasion. "Equivalent in value to coin!" exclaims my hon. Friend triumphantly, "why I will prove to you that at eight different periods the rate of interest has varied." Was there ever such an argument heard as to assert that, because the rate of interest varied at eight different times, the intrinsic value of money varied also? I quite understand my hon. Friend arguing that, in 1819, it was unwise to restore the gold standard. My hon. Friend must say, that the debt during the war was contracted in paper, and that paper is not an equivalent for gold, although nominally it professes to be so; and that, therefore, when you made the arrangement of the currency, you ought to have adopted as a standard, not gold at 3l. 17s. 10½d. an ounce, but gold at 5l. an ounce, or something or other, which, according to my hon. Friend, might represent the depreciation of paper which took place during the war. That argument I understand; but, with the exception of pecuniary engagements, it is a matter of utter indifference, provided you pay your promis- 277 sory notes in coin, whether you adopt the gold standard of 3l. 17s. 10½d. an ounce, or 4l.; and it would be no relief to the present difficulties—it would be no relief to the embarrassments under which commerce is labouring—if the standard were 4l. or 5l. instead of 3l. 17s. l0½d. Foreigners would know the value of your currency, and would make a deduction. You may debase coin as you please for the payment of internal debts; but it is a matter of utter indifference to the pressure on the Bank in a time of commercial difficulty, provided you have, instead of an inconvertible paper currency, an obligation, at some time or other, to pay in coin the holder of the note which promises to pay. Would my hon. Friend now undertake to revise the arrangement of 1819? because that is the question. If he would not do that, and deprecate an inconvertible currency, my hon. Friend has no remedy whatever to propose. If, indeed, you will issue 1l. notes, and will encourage the export of your gold circulation, that for a time will give some relief; but if you maintain convertible paper, and are not prepared to revise all the transactions—not only those which preceded 1819, but the countless mass of transactions which have taken place since 1819—no proposal which my hon. Friend made or hinted at to-night will have the slightest effect in diminishing such difficulties. Every transfer which has taken place in the funds since 1819—the purchase of funded property—is paid for according to the appreciated currency; and every man who has bought an estate, or made a mortgage, has acted on the same basis. The transactions since 1819 infinitely exceed in value and amount those before 1819; and is it possible that the most strenuous opponent of the propriety of the arrangement of 1819 can now advise us to a totally contrary adjustment of all the money transactions? With respect to the Bill of 1844, my hon. Friend admits that, in order to maintain the standard of 1819, the Bill of 1844 was necessary. He has not a fault to find with the Act of 1844, unless you are prepared to supersede the arrangement of 1819. The object of the Act of 1844 has been completely misunderstood. The main object of that Act was to secure the convertibility of paper into gold. Another object was to have such a currency as should ensure to the holder of paper a full equivalent for the nominal value; and, at the same time, not to restrict the ordinary operations of com- 278 merce in this great country. My firm belief is, that the Act of 1844 has imposed no such restriction. It is a perfectly erroneous view of the Act of 1844 to say that it contains some self-acting principle, and relieves the Bank of England from all responsibility. I totally deny the right of the Bank of England to relief from responsibility in carrying out the Act of 1844. The issue department works itself. That is quite clear; there is a self-acting principle there. The amount of notes issued from the issue department of the Bank is governed by law, and in that respect the Bank has no discretion; but the Bank has a discretion to exercise in the banking department. The Bank is responsible for the general superintendence of the monetary concerns of this country; the Bank has the power, by foresight and caution, of preventing ultimate embarrassment; the Bank has the power of unduly increasing the circulation, and of unduly restricting it; and I do understand that the Bank recognised the principle upon which the Act of 1844 was founded, and acknowledged the obligation to conduct its concerns with some reference to the exchanges. The Bank directors require no testimony from me of their high honour. I never can speak of the Bank of England, without bearing my testimony to the honour of those concerned. I speak of any conduct of the Bank with great hesitation; but I am bound to say that so far from thinking anything which is now occurring to be an impeachment of the Act of 1844—I say that both the time of prosperity and this present time of adversity convince me that the principles of that Act are founded in sound policy, and that they ought to be, as far as we are aware, strictly maintained on that account; and that as to the present difficulty in which the commercial world is placed, the rigid observance of the general principles on which that Act is founded would have prevented it. The Act of 1844 never professed to teach the people of this country—at least not to inculcate upon them as a duty —the necessity of caution; and I must say, that I think there has been, on the part of almost all the community, a great disregard of indications of danger which have been perfectly legible since the month of August, 1846, when there was the notoriety of a great failure in the harvest, and the perfect assurance that an unusual and almost unprecedented quantity of food would be required, not to be provided for 279 by the ordinary operations of commerce— those ordinary operations being themselves impeded by circumstances which have been referred to—viz., the enormous amount of capital devoted to railways, laying, it is true, the foundation of prosperity; but accompanied with these disadvantages. Everybody has been desirous of a share in the profit of railways. I think it most important that the capital of the country should rather be employed in railways than in foreign speculations; but still it has a tendency to derange commercial transactions. What is now the fact? Why, the community have become all borrowers, and have not been, I think, sufficiently attentive to the signs of the times. Allow me also to say, with all deference and respect to the Bank, that I think the Bank also was unmindful of the signs of the times. The Bank, at the beginning of this year, in the month of January, was exposed to a drain from the Continent for a period of not less than twelve months. It was the special duty of the Bank, as superintending the monetary concerns of the country, to make early provision for the danger. I cannot understand why the Bank should not have raised the rate of discount; and I totally differ from the hon. Gentleman as to its being the duty of the Bank to put out as much money as they can. I should be exceedingly sorry if that were the principle on which the Bank acted. If the Bank may at all times issue large sums on discount, charging only 2 or 3 per cent, what does the Bank do? It draws from the money-broker and discount houses; it attracts to itself a great portion of their valuable custom. They are induced to deal with the Bank from their respect for the concern, and its undoubted credit; but they establish a claim on the Bank; and you cannot draw from great houses their commerce without preferring a claim for accommodation from the Bank. If the Bank were suddenly to turn round and refuse that accommodation, it would appear to act with great harshness, and in a manner opposed to the true interests of its proprietors. But, as I said before, the Bank is not relieved from the peculiar obligation imposed upon it. The Bank would be offended with any one who should say that it might remain as indifferent as a private bank to the state of the currency, and that it had no right to exercise any influence over the monetary affairs of the country. As far as I can judge, I am inclined to think it would have been much 280 better if the Bank had raised the rate of discount in January last to 5 per cent, or to 6 per cent, or to any other amount which the necessity of the case might have required, rather than impose any arbitrary restrictions on the date of Bills. I believe that, with a timely precaution on the part of the Bank—such as would have been fairly justified by the indications of the times—the difficulties which have since arisen, would have been, if not altogether prevented, at least very materially diminished. The Bank may have a statement to make which would be a sufficient justification of the course it has pursued; hut, speaking from the information I now possess, I must say, with all respect for the Bank authorities, that their continuing their rate of discount for several weeks at 4 per cent, with a great and uninterrupted drain of gold taking place—I must say that I do not think that was a wise course; and I believe that it has precipitated, and indeed that it has been the chief cause of, the embarrassment of the last few weeks. If you are to have a bank for regulating your monetary affairs, you must be prepared for relaxations and fluctuations in its transactions. It is quite evident that no monetary regulations, that no Act imposing restrictions on banks of issue, will prevent the natural consequences of excitement and speculation; and unless our banks make timely provision—unless they disregard clamour—unless they take early precautions—depend upon it, if your currency be convertible, the necessity for restriction will return in an aggravated form, increasing the difficulties under which all classes of the community labour. That is inevitable. Sir, I may be supposed to speak with a natural prepossession in favour of the Bill of which I was the immediate author; but I can say with perfect truth, that if I thought that any meddling with that Bill—that any relaxation of the Bill—would be any real remedy for the present embarrassment, or any effectual cure for the present panic, no paternal regard for that Bill would prevent me for one moment from advising its relaxation. But my firm belief is, that no relief would be derived from any meddling with that Act. Your exchanges would not bear any great increase of your paper currency. You have now 9,000,0000l. or 10,000,000l. of gold; you are at all events free from that which you had at former periods of commercial embarrassment—you are free from any internal panic as to the solvency 281 of the Bank. Take care that, in the hope of relieving present difficulties by an increase of paper, and an advance of Exchequer-bills, or by permitting the Bank to issue 16,000,000l. instead of 14,000,000l. on securities—take care that you do not incur the further dangers of depreciating your currency and causing a demand to be made on the Bank, not in consequence of any import of food, but in consequence of the discredit of the Bank. Sir, if it be true that the present state of trade—I mean of course speculative trade—is satisfactory; if it be true that the Bank is perfectly solvent, and that the value of your paper currency is fully maintained—if it be true that the wages of labour are paid in a medium which ensure to the holder a full equivalent in articles of subsistence for his labour—I do earnestly entreat the House not to be tempted by any hope of solving present difficulties to encounter the infinitely greater danger than any now existing, which you must incur if you so depreciate your currency that the Bank will not be able to maintain the payment of its paper in gold, as it professes to maintain it. I do earnestly hope that you will not again expose yourselves to all those evils from which you have escaped since 1819, with so much pain and suffering, and which you cannot again encounter without shaking the foundations of the prosperity of the country, and greatly lowering the condition of all classes of the people.
LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and especially after that part of it which went to the merits of the resolution in your bands, I must ask for a short time the attention of the House, in order to place before them what I consider to be the difficulties of the position of the Government, in order that they may consider the merits of the case before them, not absolutely as a question solely affecting general principles, but as a question relatively connected with the present condition of Ireland, and the enormous calamities that afflict that country. Sir, the hon. Member for Wycombe has asked me—"Seeing the immense amount of surplus labour there is in Ireland, how do you propose it shall be absorbed? "Now, I must decline, on the part of the Government, assuming the responsibility of providing for the absorption of any great excess of labour that may now exist in Ireland. We have had in the course of time—whether owing to the effects of legislation, or to the faults of the 282 landlords, or to the faults of the tenants with long leases, or to the disposition of the people themselves, or whether it be owing to all those causes together—we have had causes, from which there has arrived a state of things in Ireland in which there is an immense mass of people living on agriculture, and yet not paid by the wages of labour sufficiently for their subsistence. Take the proportion put by some Gentlemen, eight labourers where there are three in England, or, according to others, eight to four in England, still the result is nearly the same. An immense calamity has happened in that country—the destruction of the produce of that country to the extent, according to the calculation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland, of 18,000,000l.—of the produce, which, to a great part of the population, stood in the stead of wages. What is to become of them in future? I deny, on the part of the Government, the responsibility of completely, still less suddenly, resolving that question. I say that a more difficult problem never came before the Legislature. I say, you may mitigate the misforture arising from that calamity —you may pass through the transition with more or less of misfortune—and you may at last arrive at a more happy state of things; but no one will say that this state of things, which has been growing for ages, and which has been suddenly brought to a crisis by the destruction of the potato crop in Ireland, can be completely arrested by the Government, so as to avoid very great suffering, and place the people at once in a state of very great prosperity. That is a solution which neither we nor any other Legislature could undertake to provide. What we can do, and what we, the Government, have endeavoured to do, is to mitigate present suffering—to save, as far as possible, the destruction of life imminently impending, and to facilitate in some degree the advent of a better order of things. I need not enumerate the measures we have adopted to accomplish the first of these objects. They have been very costly, and to meet the expense of them has caused considerable difficulty in the finances of the country and suffering to the people. But when the alternative was, as I am told some philosophers put it with great calmness, whether the Government and the Legislature should not interfere, or whether 2,00,000 of people should be allowed to perish without interference, I say it would be repug- 283 nant to the feelings, not only to the present House of Commons, but of any House of Commons, and of any Ministers who might sit on these benches, not to have attempted to mitigate the evil. Well, we introduced measures which we hoped would be effectual to that end; and I believe that the maintaining 730,000 persons on public works, during the severe months of winter, was conducive, though with some waste and mismanagement, to the preserving of the lives of a great number of the people of Ireland. Sir, the next question, and the most serious question, is one which I separated from the others in the course of the exposition of our general policy which I gave at the commencement of the Session —how we were to attempt, by measures of a practical nature, to facilitate the transition of the people of Ireland to a better order of things, and to promote the future prosperity of that country. I am bound to say at once to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Mr. B. Osborne), that I could not pretend, and did not pretend, and I will not now—I say not what he might do, or what others might do— but I say we do not pretend to force a compulsory measure, or a set of compulsory measures, which, without modification, should be proposed all at once, to be adopted by Parliament, in the hope that they would work beneficially to the end in view. I am not so Quixotic as to expect to carry such measures. I considered it expedient that we should propose measures which were generally well calculated for the end; and I did expect that some of those measures, with modifications, would be adopted by Parliament, and be attended with benefit—and considerable benefit—to the people; but with regard to others, I expected that we should be obliged to change or even to abandon them. In my statement at the commencement of the Session, I said that we proposed to advance 1,000,000l. for the improvement of landed estates in Ireland, and 1,000,000l. for the purpose of the reclamation of waste lands. In introducing the former measure, which was but an extension of a measure passed last year, we thought it advisable to advance half as much more, and to make the sum 1,500,000l., instead of 1,000,000/. With regard to the other measure, I have little more to say than to repeat what was stated by my right hon. Friend this evening. The virtue of that measure consisted in its great power to effect good independent of its compulsory 284 provisions. But after this measure was introduced into the House, we heard from various quarters that, to take from the possessors private property belonging to them—assuming for the State a power to dispose of private property—would be considered so violent a measure in this, but especially in the other House of Parliament, that the measure was not likely to meet with sufficient support. This led. us to consider, shortly before the Easter recess, whether the measure, without the compulsory clauses, could not be so modified and adapted as to effect a very considerable good, though not with the same amount of benefit as if it contained the compulsory clauses. The measure was taken in hand to be so adapted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland; but the more he went into it, the greater appeared the difficulty of adapting the measure, shorn of its compulsory clauses. I then stated frankly to the House our feeling with regard to this measure; and when my right hon. Friend brought it forward, he stated the general purport of it, and said he would lay it upon the Table of the House for its consideration; but he would not pledge himself to carry it through the House during the present Session. With respect to the 2,000,000l. which I stated was applicable to the improvement of the soil in Ireland, half a million is no longer proposed to be applied to that purpose. That is an answer to one of the observations of the right hon. Baronet, that it was unfair to those who contracted for the loan to bring forward a new expenditure upon which they could not reckon. We had stated in January that there would be 2,000,000l., and, according to my right hon. Friend, 2,120,000l. Surely this is not such a breach of faith as that the loan-contractors could have a reasonable ground of complaint against us. But the right hon. Baronet has another objection to the proposition now before the House. He says that this is a measure which depends upon a principle that will oblige you to increase very heavily the national burdens, or risk the finances of the country for works which would be only partially executed. It appears to me that this argument, if carried to the full extent, would apply to the advances made every year. Suppose (as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge said) as 350,000l. is devoted every year to loans for these purposes—to drainage and to railroads—suppose the whole 350,000l. was to be lent to 285 a railroad, there would be no more left, and when the next railroad company came, they would find that there were no more funds available. In the same way, we may very fairly say we find ourselves in the same circumstances; that Parliament has placed at our disposal this year 620,000l., but we do not bind ourselves to advance any farther sum. Railroad companies apply to the Loan Commissioners, and when they come to them the Loan Commissioners say, they are willing to advance the money to them, but have no money in their hands. It is fair to say that money shall be advanced, and if any peculiar circumstances shall arise, to say, "The pressure is too great; we have gone as far as the circumstances justified us, and we cannot put the country to any further pressure;" that is, taking into consideration the peculiar state of Ireland. I grant to the right hon. Baronet that if this was a common case, and the case was in England, and the loan of 620,000l. was to be made to England, the objection might have full weight. But this case is one peculiar in its nature and of the last magnitude. The people of Ireland are forced to adopt another kind of food than that to which they have been hitherto accustomed, and are forced to relinquish their small holdings; and the question is, what are the means legitimately at the disposal of the Government by which we may make the transition easier? And for this purpose we do not risk success by trusting to a single remedy. I am not aware of any single remedy, of any panacea, that can cure the evil. I believe it is only by trying different measures and various resources that we can hope, I do not say to conquer, but to moderate and mitigate the evil; and if we make advances of money for constructing harbours, for the encouragement of fisheries, so as to give employment to a portion of the people whilst they are enabled thereby to obtain a good and wholesome and cheap food, that, I think, will be a great advantage; and by advancing money to landlords to reclaim waste lands, and thereby increase the agricultural produce of the country, we shall likewise effect a great good. And the same with respect to railroads; for though I thought that the plan of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) of advancing 16,000,000l. for the construction of railroads in Ireland would be too great a drain upon the finances of the country, yet I am not at all opposed to the advance of money for pub- 286 lic works, and none are more important than railroads in Ireland. In conformity with the opinion I expressed in 1839, I gave my adhesion to the plan of my noble Friend, then Secretary for Ireland, when he proposed an advance towards the railways in Ireland; and I have regretted to the present day that that plan was not received with greater favour by the House. I think that if, in 1839, we had acted on the plan proposed by my excellent friend, Sir John Burgoyne, and by the late Mr. Drummond, the condition of Ireland would have been far superior to what it is at the present moment. There are arguments very ably stated in this report, to which the right hon. Gentleman has more than once referred. The argument is, that by means of railways you give the means of bringing the agricultural produce of Ireland to England. By that means you enable them to get a better market for their produce—you increase the agricultural wealth of Ireland—and you thereby increase the profitable and useful labour of Ireland. I think it is stated in that report, that you have 1,200,000 tons of agricultural produce brought yearly from Ireland to England. With regard to the railway from Dublin to Cork, it is stated in that report, that this railway would go through a country of average fertility, some parts of which are very rich indeed in agricultural produce; that the communication between Dublin and Cork would improve the harbour of the latter city; and that a great amount of agricultural produce would be brought by means of that railway. I have never been of opinion that employment upon railways would be of any use in mitigation of the present distress in Ireland; but I have always contended, on the other hand, that the construction of railways might he a great remedy against the future misery of the country—against that misery which we have seen during the past year; that it would be the means of increasing the agricultural wealth of Ireland, and thus of giving food to thousands, and, in future years, to millions of the population. Considering, therefore, the peculiar state of Ireland — considering the difficulties which we have to meet in that country— considering that the sum which we now propose is scarcely larger than that I proposed on the 25th of January—I think, Sir, we are justified in asking the House to consent to the vote now in your hands. We do not argue, as the right hon. Gentleman appears to think, that because we 287 have 620,000l. in the Exchequer, we ought to devote it to Irish railways. I agree with him, that would not be a reason for such a proposal; but the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that the state of Ireland, during the present year, forms an exception to almost every rule, and that it does impose very great difficulties upon this House and upon the Government; and also that some measures trenching upon the ordinary rules of finance may be justified when the prosperity of a country so closely united with England is the object at which you are aiming. On these grounds, Sir, I think the advances we propose to make to these railways may be justified. I feel very heavily, I have felt all the year since the failure of the potato crop became certain, the very great responsibility which rests upon the Government on this question. I am aware that attacks have been made upon us on various grounds— that attacks have been made upon us in this House, in the country, and also in Ireland. Some have affirmed that we have been the cause of a great waste of the public money—that it is an unjust demand upon the people of England to ask them to raise the suffering poor of Ireland, and to preserve them from perishing. Others, again, have exclaimed in Ireland against the heartlessness of a Government which has allowed persons to perish, while food could and ought to be supplied to every famishing person in Ireland. Sir, we have steered between these two opposite courses. I cannot think that either of them is right. I do not think it right that we should stand by with arms folded, and assume an attitude of dignified indifference during the present calamity. I do not think it right, on the other hand, nor just, that we should attempt to feed all the people of Ireland, and that we should hope by that means to prevent that state of suffering and of death by starvation, which cannot but occur during such a famine as exists in the present state of Ireland. Indeed, Sir, with regard to the last question, I believe that the declaration we made that we did not intend to interfere with the supply of food from abroad, has been the means of bringing forward a greater quantity of food for Ireland than would otherwise have been done. There is now no part of the continent of Europe in which provisions are found to be cheaper than in Ireland. It does not follow from this statement that many have not died from the want of food and from the effects of fever. Sir, I feel the diffi- 288 culty of property in Ireland bearing the whole burden of the present famine. We have, therefore, proposed that advances of the public money to a great amount should be made to help the people of Ireland and the proprietors of Ireland in their present struggle. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Mr. B. Osborne) has asked whether we intend by our Irish measure to destroy the landlords of that country? Sir, I reply that our best hope of getting through the present difficulties is in the landlords of Ireland being both able and willing to assist in that work. There may be many landlords in that country whose estates are so encumbered that their best course may be to avail themselves of the facilities we have afforded them, and get quit of their present titles of proprietors. But with regard to many proprietors of land in that country, we feel that our best chance of getting through its present difficulties is in their being able in future years to bear the burdens put upon them; that they should look to the improvement of their lands as a source of income to themselves, to their tenants, and to their labourers; and that it is by the cordial union of the three classes, the landlords, the tenants, and the labourers —not by a violent convulsion, but by more kindly knitting together the various orders of society—that we are to look for the regeneration of Ireland. I will now say a few words on a question which has been raised to-night with respect to the commercial state of the country, and especially as to the state of the money market. Upen this subject I will remark that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say to-night, as he had been represented to say, that the danger was passed, and that there was no longer any danger. Far from it. He stated various circumstances which induced him to take a more cheerful view of the monetary state of the country than it was possible to take a week or ten days ago. These facts cannot be denied, and there are others of a more general nature which induce us to look with more hope to the future. In the first place, there is no depreciation of our currency from excess. Our commercial exchanges with the continent of Europe are more favourable, and show that there is no depreciation of that kind, or that our currency is in excess. In the next place, there is not that over-speculation in trade and in goods as to produce such an accumulation of stocks that it is not likely any 289 profitable trade can be carried on for a long time. On the contrary, the course of trade has been healthy; and, as far as I can get information, the stocks are not larger, if so large, as they have usually been at this season of the year. The manufacturers are not working without orders, nor have they suspended work altogether for want of orders. Undoubtedly there are causes fir the depression to be found in the state Of the Continent. The high price of food makes a great difference with regard to the demand from the Continent. But I am informed there are large orders from America in the manufacturing districts, with which we may be enabled in part to pay for the food which we have requited from that country. These are all circumstances favourable to the future commercial state of the country. That there have been great difficulties—that there are difficulties still—is what I am obliged to confess. There are difficulties both from the circumstances detailed by my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and there are difficulties from this general cause, that there has been a general drain for food, and no one is in possession of the exact amount of food which may be necessary to supply the present deficiency. There is information upon this subject; but, though I have considerable reliance upon that information, I do not think it is such as would justify me in stating to the House that I have any knowledge on the subject. Such, then, being the state of things, hon. Gentlemen have taken this occasion to repeat denunciations they have made in former days against the present state of the currency, and against any payments in specie. I have heard, both in private and in this House, many statements and many speeches, all pointing out the evils of the present state of things, and all speaking vaguely as to the remedy: but I think a very few observations will show the House that I am not wrong in the observation I have just made. It has been said that the Act of 1844 was a necessary complement to the Act of 1819, and indeed that it was an improvement upon that Act. Well, then, I will take the statement that the Act of 1844 was a necessary complement to the Act of 1819. For my own part, I think the Act of 1844 is an improvement upon the Act of 1819, because, whereas by the latter Act the pressure would not have come till very late—till we were in a state of very considerable danger—till we might have had 290 only about 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. of bullion in the Bank; the consequence of the Act of 1844 is to bring on the pressure a good deal earlier, when we are in a state of much greater safety, and when we have, therefore, much more time and means for preparation. But if the Act of 1844 is a necessary complement to the Act of 1819, what is the Act of 1819 itself? What is it but an Act for the resumption of cash payments? What is it but an Act making the currency convertible into gold? I cannot understand what medium the hon. Member for Birmingham or his hon. Colleague, or any of those Gentlemen who agree with them, would find between payment in specie—a currency based upon bullion, and an unlimited and unconvertible paper currency. Those hon. Gentlemen find great fault with the Act of 1844; they find great fault with the Act of 1819; and the resource upon which they would land—the measure to which they would have recourse—would be a Bank Restriction Act—a restriction of payments in specie, and the establishment of a paper currency unlimited in amount. [Mr. MUNTZ: No!] Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take some other occasion of explaining what that measure is which is to make us so peculiarly safe, and upon what the currency is founded which he would propose to establish; but, for my part, I can see no other alternative than payment in specie, that payment in specie being guarded by certain provisions; whether by the provisions of the Act of 1819, or of the Act of 1844, is not now material, but guarded by some provisions of a similar nature to those contained in those two Acts. That, in fact, as far as I have understood all along, is the controversy between those who would have our currency based upon bullion, and those who are in favour of a paper currency not based upon bullion. With regard to the minor question—whether the Act of 1819 is sufficient in effect?—that is not now the question, because the hon. Gentleman himself allows that the present Act is a necessary complement to it. Upon that question, then, I will only say, that I believe our present measures with regard to the currency are founded upon sound principles, I believe that the measure now in operation has had the useful effect of inducing the Bank to begin earlier than they would have done under the Act of 1819 in taking measures of precaution, and that the adoption of those measures of precaution at present will save us from much 291 pressure and much distress in future. I do not believe that any measure proposed on the part of the Government, or adopted by this House, would be so safe as allowing the Act of 1844 to have its legitimate operation. This is the first occasion on which it has been brought into actual operation, for, the amount of reserve fund in the Bank having greatly diminished, so that there was some danger of that reserve fund being entirely exhausted, it has led to measures of precaution. I believe those measures of precaution were necessary. I think the Directors of the Bank will in future have the means of watching the operation of this measure, and of either adopting such stringency, or giving such relaxation, as they may deem useful or necessary. Although a currency founded upon bullion is a currency which may be accompanied by inconvenience in times of commercial pressure, I do consider that it is the safest and best currency this country can adopt; and I believe there is no measure we can take that will be so safe or so wise as to declare that we will not alleviate the pressure at the present moment, with a certain prospect of making it more severe hereafter.
§ MR. HUME, amidst marks of impatience, said, he differed from the opinions which were expressed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, both of whom appeared to him to blame the Bank directors as being the cause of the present state of things. When the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth introduced the Bill of 1844, he said he thought that 14,000,000 of bullion would be sufficient for the currency of the country; but he did not think so, and he stated his opinion at the time. He did not see how the Bank directors could be blamed for the present state of things, for if they had only done what they were empowered to do by the Act of 1844, he ought not to blame them; and it appeared from the public accounts of issues and securities that they were not deserving of that blame. The hon. Gentleman read, in the midst of the expressed impatience of the House, a series of figures tending to show that the Bank of England had not issued more notes than it was authorized; and contended that it was, consequently, not to blame for the monetary crisis which had occurred.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
Sir, I am sure no one can complain of the right hon. Gen- 292 tleman the Member for Tamworth for the course which he has taken on this occasion. It is perfectly consistent with that which he took three months ago, when I introduced a measure of a somewhat similar character to the notice of this House. The right hon. Gentleman has not exaggerated the difficulties in the state of the money market now, as compared with that which existed when I had the honour to introduce a scheme of this description. The right hon. Gentleman might have added that, in the interim between the period when this House rejected that measure, and the present, Austria has raised a loan of 80,000,000 of florins for the purpose of constructing railways in her empire; and this, of course, must be to a certain extent a drain upon our money market. But, Sir, it is because I look upon the call for money to be employed in productive works in this country as having a very different bearing on the finances of the country, and a very different bearing on the money market, from that which is sent out of the country to purchase the produce of other countries, that I think we may, without imprudence, advance 620,000l., and that we may do so without its being felt as any additional pressure on the money market. It must be clear to any reflecting man, that every sovereign that goes out of this country must operate in a pressure of at least ten-fold, if not twenty-fold, degree, more than the sovereign which is borrowed to be expended in this country. I believe it is commonly reckoned that 5l. bank-notes, upon an average, are turned over thirteen times at least in the course of a year; and if this be so, a sovereign, at all events, must be turned over much oftener than that. The sovereign we send out of the country to purchase corn or sugar, or any other commodity, the produce of foreign countries, cannot return, and does not, in fact, return for twelve months, at the least, and during that time visits no English pocket. Let any one follow in his own mind the course of a sovereign which is sent to America—when shall we get that sovereign back? Certainly not for a year at least. Well, Sir, if I am right in these views—and I believe they are those generally entertained by reflecting men—I am justified in saying that a loan of 620,000., to be employed in Ireland, would create no greater pressure on the money market—would diminish the circulation of money at home no more 293 than a thirteenth part of that sum, were it sent abroad to purchase the produce of foreign countries. But, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is justified in the course he is taking, so was I justified in the course which I proposed to take. The principle is the same; and myself and my Friends who sit near me accordingly propose to support the proposal of Her Majesty's Ministers. And though we may think the Government have taken but the fag-end of the greater measure which I had the honour of bringing forward, still the principle is the same; and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) and the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) that all other railways in Ireland, after this concession, ought to be placed on the same footing, and that they are entitled to ask for, and to receive, a loan from the Government. We have got the sharp end of the wedge in, and we shall do our best hereafter to drive it home as best we may. This is, after all, sound and just policy— it is for the permanent advantage of Ireland—it is, in fact, the only measure which has been proposed this Session which is calculated permanently to improve the condition of that country; and therefore, Sir, it has my cordial support. I am not swayed by the information communicated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he has abandoned his Waste Lands Bill, although I am inclined to think with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, that this is but an after-thought, resolved upon in the course of this evening; for if it be otherwise, then we have been rather cavalierly treated, and there has been a great want of frankness among the different Members of Her Majesty's Cabinet. None of us can help seeing what is published in those daily publications which we all read; and I noticed in the papers of this morning that the noble President of the Council (the Marquess of Lansdowne) very much induced the other House of Parliament to assent to the seconding reading of the Irish Poor Law Bill without a division, by the declaration last night only that Her Majesty's Ministers had other measures which would assist in working out that Bill; and amongst them (so it is ascribed to the noble Marquess) was one for the reclamation of waste lands. Well, Sir, at all events, my Friends must be now considered as fully justified in the 294 course which we took; for surely there is some difference in a scheme by which 8,000,000l. is advanced by this country for relief works, only 4,000,000l. of which is asked to be paid back — if ever that is paid—and a plan by which the whole loan is to be repaid, with interest; for let it he remembered, the Chancellor of the Exchequer argues in favour of this measure —that the money he asks for will he certainly paid back, whilst only one half, he tells you, of the money advanced on relief works is sought to be reclaimed, and the other half only doubtfully promised. Why, Sir, that was just my argument three months ago. I said the 4,000,000l. I asked for were not to be added, but to be deducted from that 8,000,000l. which the Government are expending upon useless works. I said the difference between the loan which I ask for, and that which the Government were granting to Ireland was, that whereas the one would in effect cost England nothing, and would permanently advance the welfare of both countries, the Government loan was to be distributed in a manner that would confer no lasting service on Ireland, and was only to be partly repaid. But I must say, if we are to compare the two measures, the present does inflict a great hardship upon the counties of Mayo, of Sligo, and Galway; and as I see the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland in his place—the Member for Galway—I wish to ask him what must be the feelings of the county of Galway upon this subject? Complaining of the hardship, he might well say to the noble Lord—Nor would I have it long observed,That one mouse eats while t'other's starved.This is the case with the county Galway. It would have been very different under my proposition. I wonder where the hon. Member for Mayo is (Mr. D. Browne), who rejected my measure because he feared that, if he did not, he would lose the Waste Lands Bill. I wonder where he is now, and what his feelings will be when he finds that he, the Member for Mayo, as well as the Member for Galway, and the Member for Roscommon, too, in thus grasping at the shadow of a Waste Lands Improvement Bill, they have lost the substance which three months ago we offered them, of a railway through the counties of Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo. There is another reason why I regret that now, instead of three months 295 ago, this measure should have been adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers, and that is, because during that time we have been spending at the rate of a million a month upon useless works, the half of which will never be paid to the people of this country. I won't detain the House longer; but I feel bound to notice the observations of my right hon. Friend, who has thrown blame upon the Bank of England for its conduct during the present crisis, and has ascribed to that establishment the greater part of the present monetary crisis. It is said "corporations have no souls." I do not know whether they have souls or not; but, if corporations have no souls, I am sure Cabinets have no hearts; for never was such ingratitude as that the Bank of England should now be condemned by the Ministers of the Crown for conduct, mainly to be attributed to the difficulties under which she was placed through her desire to accommodate the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Let me ask, if the Bank of England had put the screw on sooner—if she had put the screw on before Christmas or January last, at a time when she had 13,000,000l. of bullion in her cellars, and 7,000,000l. more of reserve—what would then have been the price of his Exchequer-bills; or, more than that, what would have been the price at which he would have raised his loan of eight millions? But the Bank, by postponing the evil hour of putting the screw on the money market, also postponed the hour of distress to the trade of this country; and after my right hon. Friend has thus seduced the old lady in Threadneedle-street, and had his wicked will of her, it is a little too bad immediately to turn round upon her, kick her out of bed, and turn her out of doors:—In common justice, Sir, there's no manThat makes the whore, but keeps the woman.I must say a few words as to the Bank charter, and as to its pressure upon the trade of this country. We have heard much with regard to its operation; and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth has given us his opinion that it will save us from seeing such scenes of pain and suffering as were witnessed in 1819. Why, those scenes of pain and suffering did not occur from the over-issues of the Bank, but from their contraction; in short, from that change in the currency by which— unawares, I believe, to those who passed the measure—25 per cent was added to the debts and taxes of the country. How 296 did we then get over our difficulties? Why, by a fresh issue of notes. And as to 1825, I well remember — and I think the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) was one of them—that the Cabinet Council of Lord Liverpool's Adminstration sat in Fife House till twelve o'clock at night, while the directors of the Bank of England were at the same time sitting in their bank parlour, debating what was to be done—it was the crisis when Mr. Huskisson said the country was within twenty-four hours of barter. And how did you get out of your difficulties then? Was it by contracting the issues of the Bank of England? Far from it. There were not at that time two millions of sovereigns in the Bank; yet confidence was restored, and trade revived, by the issue of little short of eight millions of notes, one million at least of these being one-pound notes. Therefore, to say that there is no security for trade except in the Bank Charter Bill, is, I think, a great fallacy; and such a statement is the more extraordinary, because the right hon. Gentleman having been obliged lately to come and ask the Bank of England to lend him the sum of three millions, that he might meet the dividends, the Bank of England, in consequence of this law, was placed in this predicament, that if she had not succeeded at eight and forty hours notice in borrowing two millions sterling, the dividends would not have been paid. That is my reason for doubting the efficacy of this Bank Charter Bill, and for disputing that it can be any more right that the Bank of England should be tied down beforehand to a particular amount of issues under such various circumstances, than it would be right to pass a law obliging ships at all times, and in all weathers, to carry either studding-sails or tri-sails. It seems to me that by this law, we are placed in this extraordinary position, that though trade is in danger of being destroyed for want of the assistance of the Bank, whilst the Bank is most anxious and willing to give trade that assistance, she is shackled by the operation of this inconvenient law. It is just as though when one strong man were standing on the bank of a river, in which another was drowning, the law were to step in and bind the willing and ready arms of him on the bank to make it impossible to save the other who was drowning. I will conclude by saying, that I altogether deny the efficacy and object of the policy of this system.
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 208; Noes 75: Majority 133.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Acland, T. D.||Ferrand, W. B.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Finch, G.|
|Aldam, W.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Floyer, J.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Fox, C. R.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Fox, S. L.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||French, F.|
|Frewen, C. A.|
|Bailey, J.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Gladstone, Capt.|
|Baillie, W.||Gore, M.|
|Baine, W.||Gore, hon. R.|
|Baldwin, B.||Granby, Marq. of|
|Bankes, G.||Granger, T. C.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Baring, T.||Grogan, E.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Halford, Sir H.|
|Bateson, T.||Halsey, T. P|
|Bell, J.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Bennet, P.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hawes, B.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Hay, Sir A. L.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Henley, J. W.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Heron, Sir R.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hindley, C.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Broadwood, H.||Hollond, R.|
|Brooke, Lord||Hope, A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hoskins, K.|
|Browne, R. D.||Houldsworth, T.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Howard, hon. J. K.|
|Buller, C.||Howard, P. H.|
|Buller, E.||Hudson, G.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Callaghan, D.||James, W.|
|Cavendish, hn. C. C.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Chapman, B.||Jones, Capt.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M.||Knight, F. W.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Lambton, H.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Langston, J. H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Collett, W. R.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Conyngham, Lord A.||Lawless, hon. C.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Lawson, A.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Layard, Maj.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Le Marchant, Sir D.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Craig, W. G.||Lennox, Lord G. H. G.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Loch, J.|
|Denison, W. J.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Denison, J. E.||Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.|
|Disraeli, B.||Macnamara, Maj.|
|Dundas, Adm.||M'Carthy, A.|
|Dundas, F.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||Maitland, T.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Evans, W.||March Earl of|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Rutherford, A.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Miles, W.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Monahan, J. H.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Morgan, O.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Muntz, G. F.||Smith, J. A.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Somers, J. P.|
|Newport, Visct.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Newry, Visct.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Norreys, Lord||Stanton, W. H.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Stewart, J.|
|O'Brien, A. S.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|O'Brien, T.||Stuart, J.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|O'Conor Don||Tancred, H. W.|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Ord, W.||Thornely, T.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Towneley, J.|
|Parker, J.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Perfect, R.||Turner, E.|
|Philips, G. R.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Phillpotts, J.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Pinney, W.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Plumridge, Capt.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Powlett, Lord W.||Walker, R.|
|Price, Sir R.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Prime, R.||Ward, H. G.|
|Protheroe, E. D.||Watson, W. H.|
|Rashleigh, W.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Rawdon, Col.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Reid, Col.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Wyse, T.|
|Rice, E. R.||TELLERS.|
|Rich, H.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Rumbold, C. E.||Tufnell, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Antrobus, E.||Gardner, J. D.|
|Arkwright, G.||Gill, T.|
|Barkly, H.||Gisborne, T.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Glynne, Sir S. R.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Cardwell, E.||Hamilton, W. J.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Hastie, A.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Hope, Sir J.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Hope, G. W.|
|Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Clive, Visct.||Johnstone, H.|
|Collins, W.||Leader, J. T.|
|Colville, C. R.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Cripps, W.||Lindsay, Col.|
|Currie, R.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Deedes, W.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Marsland, H.|
|Dodd, G.||Martin, C. W.|
|Drummond, H. H.||Masterman, J.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Moffatt, G.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Morris, D.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Mure, Colonel|
|Duncan, G.||Nicholl, right hon. J.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Patten, J. W.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Peel, J.|
|Entwisle, W.||Pennant, hon. Col.|
|Escott, B.||Phillips, M.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Spooner, R.||Williams, W.|
|Sutton, hon. H. M.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Tollemache, J.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Trelawny, J. S.||TELLERS.|
|Trotter, J.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Wakley, T.||Hume, J.|
Resolution agreed to; as was also the Resolution—
That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to direct Advances to be made, out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to an amount not exceeding forty thousand pounds, to be applied to the purposes of an Act of the last Session of Parliament, for encouraging the Sea Fisheries of Ireland, by promoting the construction of Piers, Harbours, and other Works.
§ House resumed, and adjourned at Two o'clock.