§ LORD LOVAINE
rose and said: Sir, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne which has just been read, I confess that I wish the task had fallen upon some abler, some more experienced Member of this House, who would have been able to give due weight to the many important topics which it contains. I feel, Sir, the more embarrassment when I consider that the first subject of that Speech is one which must awaken in the country as well as in this House, feelings of the deepest sympathy, affection, and regret. I allude, Sir, of course, to that part of Her Majesty's Speech in which, with Her usual kind and affectionate regard for the wishes and feelings of Her people, Her Majesty invites us, their representatives, to join in making provision for the funeral obsequies of the late Duke of Wellington. Sir, I believe this House will excuse me if I approach with awe an event which has cast a shadow of grief and dismay over the mighty empire which obeys the sceptre of these realms—the quenching of that light which for nearly half a century has been the beacon to every Englishman to light him on the path of duty and honour. No obsequies that we can give—no funeral pomp that we can bestow—can be adequate to express the love and veneration which this House and the country bore to that great man—a love and veneration, Sir, which was not founded upon the mere evanescent and vulgar admiration of military glory. It was not that in his early 57 career he had already given to England the supremacy of the vast empire of India —it was not that, from triumph to triumph, he had raised the name and glory of England to the highest rank amongst the na-tions—It was not that he seemed to have chained victory to his standard, that he finally became the conqueror of the conqueror of the world—it was not, Sir, I say, so much for these things that this country loved him, as because, not dazzled or blinded by the brightest effulgence of those glories that war had shed around his head, and undeafened by the earthquake voice of victory which hailed him the saviour of the nations, he was able to discern the true end and object of war—an honourable and lasting peace. And when he had brought this country out of the most tremendous struggle that ever nation was engaged in, for existence, as well as for victory, he used all the powers that his successes had given him to effect the permanent establishment of that pacification which his arms had obtained—and that, by every means of conciliation, by every counsel of moderation that was consistent with the safety and honour of this country. How well he succeeded, the history of the last thirty-seven years can tell. We loved him, Sir, because, though he was the intimate and counsellor of the monarchs of Christendom, he used his power for no purposes of selfish aggrandisement, but took his station amongst us, ambitious to prove himself the most faithful and devoted servant of the Crown, the surest and most vigilant protector of the rights and welfare of his fellow-citizens. I believe, Sir, his political opponents will bear witness that his counsel was always ready in the darkest hour of danger and difficulty, and that they could always rely on his honour and sincerity, no less than on the far-seeing and intuitive sagacity which could descry the path of safety, hidden to less gifted eyes. His name will descend to posterity, not only as that of a great statesman—of the greatest warrior —but as a colossal example of unswerving obedience to the calls of duty, of truth, of loyalty, and of honour. I thank God that he went down to the grave with undimmed intellect, conscious of the love that his country bore him, conscious how well he had deserved that love, conscious that he had performed his last duty in warning his country against the danger arising from the intoxication of security, into which her very peace and prosperity had plunged 58 her. And I think, Sir, that when we have closed the tomb over his remains, when we have left him alone in his glory, it will be for the House to consider his last warning, to recollect that we have no longer the protection of that name, which was an omen of victory to us, and of terror and defeat to our enemies—"a lion in their path," which the boldest never ventured to approach; we must remember this, we must muster our resources, and prepare for the advent of that day of adversity which comes to nations not less than to individuals. But it is time for me to quit this subject. I am well aware how poor and inadequate my expressions are to represent the feelings of this House and of the country; but trust that the House will bear with me in its sympathy in the spirit in which I have ventured to pay this last and feeble tribute to the immortal memory of the greatest of Englishmen. Passing then to the other subjects mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech, I perceive that She graciously acknowledges the readiness with which the population of this kingdom have come forward to volunteer for the defence of the country. Sir, though I was not a Member of this House at the time, I perfectly recollect the evil auguries with which the Bill passed at the beginning of the last Session was received—how we were told that Englishmen, unapt to war, were disinclined to undergo the discipline requisite to fit them for the defence of the country, and were unwilling to come forward as volunteers. Sir, the paper that I have here is a sufficient answer to those auguries of evil. I believe that the levy of men was calculated at 50,000, and that in the short space of six weeks (or hardly so much) which has elapsed since the beginning of the enrolment of volunteers 30,000 men have already enrolled themselves for the defence of their country. I think it but just to read to the House the names of those counties which have already furnished their full quota of volunteers, many of whom are at present exercising—they are Bedford, Buckingham, Dorset, Essex, Gloucester, Hertford, Oxford, Huntingdon, Lincoln, London, Northampton, Denbigh, and Montgomery. I can bear witness, from my own personal experience, to the great docility and aptitude for learning their duties, to the good conduct, and to the very remarkable proficiency in the use of arms, which those volunteers now in the field have shown; and I can state that it astonishes even those who like me have 59 passed part of their lives in the service of the regular Army. Before passing to the next subject, I must observe that if the necessity of a defensive force hears the slightest proportion to the value of that which it is established to defend, it is undoubted that never was a country so much in need of such a protection as ours. Besides the evergrowing wealth, and the immense prosperity already created by the industry of the country, in addition to all the wealth which its commerce has conferred upon her—of which we behold ample testimony in the structures with which private enterprise has covered the land, and which excel as much in the grandeur of their conception as in their utility the boasted edifices of antiquity—in addition to these large sources of prosperity there has been lately poured into the lap of England treasures that exceed almost the wildest fictions of the poet. And, Sir, when one considers the immense emigration this mine of wealth has given rise to, and that the consequent increase in the value of labour has caused the labouring classes in this country, already prosperous, to enjoy a degree of comfort previously unknown I believe in the history of England—when one remembers these things, one is the more struck at the patriotism which induces so many to accept the slender pittance which this country pays to its defenders. Sir, Her Majesty congratulates us upon the peace and tranquillity that prevail on the Continent, and on the friendly relations that continue to subsist, and which guarantee fresh sources of wealth to England, inasmuch as fresh outlets for the products of our industry will he developed by means of that peace and order. The mighty waters which wash the plains of the vast continent of Central America are now open to our fleets, and in their train must follow all the blessings that commerce can confer; and it is to be hoped that the advantages of peace and civilisation will be restored to those countries that have suffered hitherto under all the horrors of civil war. Then, Sir, the success that has attended our arms in the war with the Burmese, will open another pathway for the traffic of nations, by giving us access to the great capital of Burmah. Our trans-Atlantic brethren certainly have conceived against us some feelings of displeasure from the manner in which the acknowledged rights—rights acknowledged by treaty—of England had been enforced; but Her Majesty congratulates us that 60 those differences will soon cease, and that these two nations will pursue in regard to each other a peaceful rivalry in commerce, injurious to neither, but beneficial to both, and which this slight disturbance may have interrupted. Portugal also has shown at last some signs of a disposition to relax her tariff, in the abolition of those duties by which she oppressed our wine trade— and in doing so she will confer not less a benefit on herself than others. But, Sir, there is one species of traffic which, contrary to all others, it has been the pride and glory of England to endeavour to annihilate—I mean the slave trade. Long has she laboured through good report and through evil report to effect that object. Many are the sacrifices she has made of blood as well as of treasure; and now, at last, she sees success within her grasp. The conduct of Brazil has been such as to warrant the hope that we may now look forward to the final extinction of the slave trade. Cuba, and Cuba only, is still a plague-spot on the face of the earth; but when that trade is restricted to so small an island, I cannot see how it is possible that that accursed system can be long maintained in that country. It appears from the returns that the number of slaves landed in Brazil has sunk from 60,000, in the year 1848, to 3,287 in the year 1851—a sufficient reply, I think, to those Gentlemen who are anxious to abolish the blockade which we have so long maintained on the coast of Africa. I am sorry to say that the same cannot be affirmed of Cuba, the number of slaves imported having increased, and that 1,500 more were imported in 1851 than in 1850. I shall now, Sir, refer to another topic, namely, the slavery that exists in all countries— the slavery of crime. I am sure it will be most gratifying to us as well as most cheering to our colonial brethren to hear that the system of transportation to Van Die-men's Land will soon cease; but it is not to be denied that this will involve the mother country in considerable embarrassment if transportation must altogether cease to other countries. I trust, however, that exertions will be made to devise the means by which crime may be checked in the outset, whereby the vast establishments we are obliged to maintain for its punishment may be reduced. Sir, I shall allude no further to the subject of law reform than to express my joy that that which was so happily begun in the beginning of the last Session, is likely to be 61 continued to a practical issue in this. I have a few words more with which I must trespass on the kindness of the House. I have already mentioned the overflowing prosperity of the country—I have already indicated some of the sources from which that prosperity has arisen—I am ready to profess my conviction that the commercial policy which has existed for the last few years has also contributed to that prosperity. I speak now in this House as the representative of an agricultural constituency —I speak now what I spoke on the hustings when I was a candidate for the suffrages of that constituency. I draw a very broad distinction between what is commonly called free trade and the abolition of duties upon corn. I have always believed, and I am ready to assert my belief, that the reformation of the tariff, which abolished all prohibitory duties on all articles of foreign produce whatever, and considering all duties as means only of finance and revenue, was a judicious and unexceptionable course. But the abolition of all duties upon corn, stands altogether upon another footing. It must be argued upon other principles—it must be defended upon other grounds, and sustained by other reasons. When that measure became law, I applied myself to ascertain its effects on the classes that seemed most obnoxious to injury from it. I found that that repeal did inflict considerable misery and suffering on a large and most important class; but I found also, according to the statements of those persons who were best qualified to judge—-I found, according to the opinions of that most numerous class which subsists solely on the labour of their own hands—that they had received, in the abolition of the corn duties, a great and practical benefit. Therefore, Sir, I drew the conclusion that it was both impolitic and impossible to retrace our steps in our commercial policy, and that our efforts should be directed as much as possible to the relief of the suffering class from the burdens of which they complain, and to remove from them all restrictions by which they are impeded, and to place them unfettered in the arena in which they have to run the race of competition with foreign countries. I do not think that this House will or ought to turn a deaf ear to the complaints of any class of Englishmen who believe they have a just cause of remonstrance against any measure that may injuriously affect their interests. I believe there are many Gentle- 62 men on both sides of the House representing large and powerful interests, who, in conjunction with ourselves, are ready to raise their voices in the same demands. The sufferings of those classes are not new; they are not for the first time mentioned in the Speech from the Throne; they have been mentioned, and commented upon, at a period when the Government of the country was entrusted to Ministers who were most opposed to the ancient system; and I trust that a conciliatory policy may now be applied—that the present opportunity will be taken to heal the breaches that have been made; to conciliate and to remove those differences that have prevailed hitherto between class and class, and interest and interest. I cannot conceive that the House will turn a deaf ear to the conciliatory policy which has been recommended in Her Majesty's Speech. Hitherto this House has been the place in which the injuries of Englishmen have been redressed, and I trust it will be so still. At least I know it was so of old—when the agricultural interest was the most powerful in this House—for the Statute-book teems with legislation adopted at the instance and under the guidance of the manufacturing, commercial, and shipping interests of this country. I can only hope that by the adoption of such a policy all the dissensions at present existing amongst us will come to an end, and that the internal condition of the country will bear as ample testimony to the reciprocal good feeling between class and class, as its external signs of wealth to the prosperity and welfare of the great mass of its citizens. And, if, Sir, by such measures rest can be given to afflicted and storm-vexed Ireland, I think the Minister that can perform the task will pass to posterity with all the blessings that in heaven and earth are promised to the peacemaker. And now, Sir, I shall conclude by thanking the House for the indulgence it has shown me, and the attention and patience it has displayed in listening to this my first attempt to address it. The noble Lord then moved—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey to Her Majesty the Thanks of this House for Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, and to assure Her Majesty of our participation in the deep sorrow which Her Majesty, in meeting us, has been pleased to express, that our deliberations can no longer be aided by the counsels of that illustrious man 63 whose great achievements have exalted the name of England, and in whose loyalty and patriotism the interests of Her Majesty's Throne and People ever found an unfailing support; and to assure Her Majesty, that we cordially desire to join with Her Majesty in taking such steps as may mark our sense of the irreparable loss which the Country has sustained by the death of Arthur Duke of Wellington:To thank Her Majesty for Her Majesty's gracious acknowledgment of the readiness in which Her Majesty's subjects in general have come forward, in pursuance of the Act of last Session, to join the ranks of the Militia; and for the expression of Her Majesty's confident trust that the force thus raised by voluntary enlistment will be calculated to give effective aid to Her Majesty's regular Army for the protection and security of the Country:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty continues to receive from all Foreign Powers assurances of their anxious desire to maintain the friendly relations now happily subsisting with Her Majesty's Government:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for the information that frequent and well-founded complaints on the part of Her Majesty's North American Colonies, of infractions, by citizens of the United States, of the Fishery Convention of 1818, have induced Her Majesty to despatch, for the protection of their interests, a class of vessels better adapted to the service than those which had been previously employed; that this step has led to discussions with the Government of the United States; and that while the rights of Her Majesty's Subjects have been firmly maintained, the friendly spirit in which the question has been treated induces Her Majesty to hope that the ultimate result may be a mutually beneficial extension and improvement of our commercial intercourse with that great Republic:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the special mission which, in concert with the Prince President of the French Republic, Her Majesty deemed it right to sent to the Argentine Confederation, has been received with the utmost cordiality; and that the wise and enlightened policy of the Provisional Director has already opened to the commerce of the world the great rivers, hitherto closed, which afford an access to the interior of the vast continent of South America:To assure Her Majesty, that we receive with satisfaction the announcement, that the sincere and zealous efforts of the Government of Brazil for the suppression of the Slave Trade, now nearly extinguished on that coast, have enabled Her 64 Majesty to suspend the stringent Measures which Her Majesty had been compelled reluctantly to adopt, a recurrence to which we in common with Her Majesty anxiously hope may be proved to be unnecessary:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Government of Her Most Faithful Majesty have fully recognised the justice of the claim which Her Majesty's Government have long urged for the abolition of the discriminating Duties on the export of Wine, and have passed a decree for giving complete effect to the stipulations of the Treaty on this subject:To express our humble concurrence with Her Majesty, in the opinion that it will be advisable to resume the inquiries which were commenced by the late Parliament, with a view to legislation on the subject of the future government of Her Majesty's East Indian Possessions:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Estimate for the ensuing year will in due time be laid before us:To assure Her Majesty that we readily recognise that the advancement of the Fine Arts, and of Practical Science, is worthy of a great and enlightened Nation; and to thank Her Majesty for having given directions that a comprehensive scheme shall be laid before us, having in view the promotion of these objects, to which Her Majesty invites our aid and co-operation:To assure Her Majesty that we participate in the pleasure which Her Majesty is pleased to express at being enabled, by the blessing of Providence, to congratulate us on the generally improved condition of the Country, and especially of the industrious classes; and humbly to thank Her Majesty for Her Majesty's gracious recommendation, that if we should be of opinion that recent legislation, in contributing with other causes to this happy result, has, at the same time, inflicted unavoidable injury on certain important interests, we should dispassionately consider how far it may be practicable equitably to mitigate that injury, and to enable the industry of the Country to meet successfully that unrestricted competition to which Parliament, in its wisdom, has decided that it should be subjected:To thank Her Majesty for the information that Her Majesty trusts that the general improvement, notwithstanding many obstacles, has extended to Ireland, and to assure Her Majesty, that while Her Majesty may rely with confidence on our aid, should it be required, to restrain that unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence which produces many and aggravates all of the evils which afflict that portion of Her Majesty's Dominions, we shall readily attend to Her Majesty's 65 gracious recommendation that we should adopt such a liberal and generous policy towards Ireland as may encourage and assist her to rally from the depression in which she has been sunk by the sufferings of late years:To thank Her Majesty for informing us, that Her Majesty, anxious to promote the efficiency of every branch of our National Church, has thought fit to issue a Commission to inquire and report to Her Majesty how far, in their opinion, the Capitular Institutions of the Country are capable of being made more effective for the great objects of Religious Worship, Religious Education, and Ecclesiastical Discipline:Humbly to thank Her Majesty, for directing that the Reports of the Commissioners for inquiring into the system of Education pursued at Oxford and Cambridge, should be communicated to the governing Bodies of those Universities for then-consideration; and to assure Her Majesty, that Her Majesty may rely upon our readiness to remove any legal difficulties which may impede the desire of the Universities at large, or of the several Colleges, to introduce such amendments into their existing system as they may deem to be more in accordance with the requirements of the present time:Humbly to concur with Her Majesty in opinion that the system of Secondary Punishments has usefully occupied the labours of successive Parliaments; and to assure Her Majesty that we shall rejoice with Her Majesty if we shall find it possible to devise means by which, without giving encouragement to crime, Transportation to Van Diemen's Land may at no distant period be altogether discontinued:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the subject of Legal Reform continues to engage Her Majesty's anxious attention; that the Acts passed in the last Session of Parliament have been followed up by the Orders necessary for putting them in operation; that inquiries are in progress, by Her Majesty's direction, with a view of bringing into harmony the Testamentary Jurisdiction of Her Majesty's several Courts; and that Bills will be submitted to us for effecting further improvements in the Administration of the Law:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that to these and other measures affecting the social condition of the Country, we shall give our earnest and zealous attention, and that we join in Her Majesty's prayer that by the blessing of Almighty God our deliberations may be guided to the well-being and happiness of Her Majesty's people.
§ MR. E. C. EGERTON
Sir, in rising to second the Motion that the House 66 should agree to the Address just read by the noble Lord—when I take into consideration the deep importance of the occasion which has called us together—when I take into consideration the nature of the topics to be submitted to us, I feel more than ordinary occasion to solicit from the House its never-failing indulgence and kindness. Ably as the noble Lord has spoken on that topic which now is most in the hearts of Englishmen, I trust the House will pardon me if I indulge in a few additional remarks. I feel the fullest conviction, Sir, that this House, whatever difference of opinion there may be upon other parts of this Address, will entertain none but the deepest sympathy for the sorrow, the attachment, and high affection evinced by Her Majesty in that part of Her Message to Parliament in which She deplores the loss of Her ablest and most devoted servant. To the Sovereign, to whom his ready and disinterested counsels were ever open—to the Senate, whose deliberations his matured judgment so often guided—and to the nation at large, who saw in him the highest example of the purest patriotism and most inflexible honour, the loss is indeed irreparable. Sir, it would be presumptuous in me to attempt the praise of his glorious deeds in arms; they will stand recorded as long as time shall last in the glowing pages of history, which will tell for the admiration of future ages how, in two quarters of the world, the great commander, by his brilliant strategy and indomitable labour, after a series of matchless victories, unclouded by a single reverse, succeeded in obtaining for his country that noblest end of war, a lasting peace. Sir, at the close of those labours, with unabated energy, he brought to the civil service of his Sovereign the same devoted loyalty and unflinching sense of duty; and has thus presented to the world an unparalleled example of greatness unsurpassed alike in peace and war. But, Sir, I will not dwell any further on this topic, for I know that in the course of the debate there will be opportunities given to others whose eloquence would better befit the noble theme, and who have enjoyed the high privilege of his friendship, to pay their tribute to his imperishable renown. This only I will add, that while this House and the country unite in mournful veneration to do honour to his memory, we at the same time do homage to our free institutions, which have in him added another to the long line of Eng- 67 land's sons, who, though born in a private station, have by their own unaided exertions raised themselves to the highest dignities and offices of the State. I will now pass on to the next topic; and here I am sure the House will learn with satisfaction the success which has attended the raising of the militia. Called for as that measure was in the opinions of successive Ministries, by no feelings of groundless panic, but of ordinary prudence for the necessary defence of the country— sanctioned as it was by the high authority of the illustrious hero, whose last words in the House of Lords bore testimony to its absolute necessity—it has, notwithstanding the gloomy predictions of some Gentlemen on the other side of the House, been most cheerfully responded to by the loyalty of the nation, which has thus fully testified its consciousness that in prompt preparation for war consists the best security for peace. I will merely observe, that this House will, I am sure, participate in the satisfaction with which Her Majesty is able to announce the successful results of the late diplomatic negotiations with the Government of the United States; that the differences which had for a time disturbed the harmony of the two countries on the subject of the fisheries, have been brought to a satisfactory termination, and that, without concession on our part of the just right's and privileges of our North American colonies, we have been enabled to maintain those amicable relations which the well-wisher of each must be so anxious to preserve between nations owning one common language and origin, and still further to extend our commercial intercourse. But there is a topic alluded to in the Royal Speech to which the noble Lord has not adverted, and on which I will say a few words—I mean that in which Her Majesty calls the attention of the House to the question of extending education by the advancement of the fine arts and of practical science. Sir, it has long been matter of experience, which was fully confirmed by the late Great Exhibition, that, unbounded as is the energy of our manufacturers, and unrivalled as are the productions of our artisans in many cases, yet that in some branches of art, which require mechanical skill and taste, they have been excelled by the artisans of foreign countries, where greater facilities are given for instruction in the more scientific branches of trade. It is to remedy that, to put the Englishman on the same footing with the foreigner, 68 and to give a more enlightened instruction with respect to some branches of trade, that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to put this paragraph in the Speech. That this is a fact of which our own manufacturing population is sensible was evident from their strongly-expressed desire for increased means of instruction. Many hon. Gentlemen could, no doubt, bear testimony to the rapid increase of mechanics' institutes in our large towns, to the gratitude with which the establishment of schools of design has been received, and to the increased demands for those artisans who have in those schools received their instructions. And when I remember that one of the greatest benefits which the Exhibition of last year conferred on society was the opportunity which it afforded to the inhabitants of the whole civilised world to meet together and to inspect together the various natural and artificial products of their relative countries, thus by a happy interchange of practical and scientific knowledge, by the communion of mind with mind, creating a friendly and generous rivalry between nations, likely to conduce to the common prosperity of all —when I remember these things, I may, perhaps, be permitted to indulge the hope, that as it has been the lot of former Ministers to afford to that portion of our manufacturing population whose daily labour administers to our physical requirements and tastes, the inestimable blessings of cheapened food, increased enjoyment of air, light, and drainage, I say, that as it was the lot of two former Governments to administer to their physical wants and requirements, it may be reserved to be the privilege of the present Government that they first secured, on an extended scale, to the industrial classes that sound education in the scientific principles of their trades which will enable them to compete in the race of civilisation with the world, and thus, by a further development of our manufactures and commerce, tend to our increased national greatness and prosperity. That the greatest activity exists in all branches of commerce, that public and private prosperity are on the increase, that, in spite of large reductions, there is no falling-off in the amount of taxation, are matters of sincere congratulation; and that congratulation is much enhanced by the knowledge that in that increase of prosperity the working classes have had a large share. It is impossible for any one who has had personal testimony of the increased com- 69 fort of their homes, after the experience of the last two years, to deny that that result has, in a large measure, arisen to them from the late commercial legislation, which has brought not only cheapened food, but the increased enjoyment of the other necessaries of life. That boon once given cannot now be withdrawn; and I think the time has come when, an appeal having been made to the electoral body of the country, the verdict which has been given should be acquiesced in, that the question of the unrestricted food of the people should be settled; and that with that question merging those differences which have so long divided classes and contributed to mutual irritation and discomfort, we may find it a fitting opportunity for Parliament to consider dispassionately, and in no spirit of class legislation, whether any injustice has been sustained by other interests who are admitted to have been long suffering; and if any injustice can be shown under which those interests are peculiarly sufferers, I am sure that the sense of justice which this House has always evinced will prompt it to give its best attention to the remedy. There are other topics to which I will make only a short reference. I congratulate the House and the country on the advantages which have been derived from the adoption of the legal reforms of last Session, and on the prospect that further legal reforms are to take place. I hope the progress already made in law reform will encourage the House to persevere in further progress in the same useful direction—the further, I think, we go over that road, the better— and it may confidently be hoped that in a short period the abuses in the Ecclesiastical Courts will be remedied, so that we may thus be enabled to see the administration of the law stripped of all unnecessary delay and technicalities, and made more conducive to the wishes of the community at large. My noble Friend has spoken so fully on the subject of transportation that I will not touch upon it at all; but, thanking the House for the very kind and patient indulgence it has accorded to me, I will, in conclusion, express my trust that a wise and beneficent Providence will direct all our legislation to the advancement of true religion, sound education, and good government, and that we may thereby present to the world the spectacle of an united and a happy people. I will not further trespass on the House than to thank it for its forbearance and courtesy, and to second the Address.
§ MR. C. VILLIERS
said, he hoped the House would not think him very presumptuous if he rose thus early in the evening to make a few observations on the subject of the Address, and on what had fallen from the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman by whom it had been moved and seconded. He could assure the House it was with great reluctance that he did so, because he was entirely of a mind with those who thought that it was desirable upon the occasion of receiving a Message or a Speech from the Crown, that they should, if possible, respond to it with unanimity. He believed that to be the feeling of the House generally—he had observed it to be so, since he had been in Parliament; but he need not say that it depended entirely on the discretion of the Minister what tone would be taken, and what turn would be given, to a discussion on the Address, because he was responsible for the Speech: he selected the topics contained in it; he chose the Members who were to expound his policy, and he knew well the requirements of the House as to the matters on which it desired to be informed, whether as regarded the state of the country, our foreign relations, or any of those great matters that might be at issue in the country, on which it was desirable to know the opinion of the Government. There would be no Amendment proposed to an Address, or any objection taken to it, unless there was some omission of what it was known to be the desire of the House to be acquainted with, or a statement of some policy which was sure to be opposed. It was under these circumstances that he rose to complain somewhat of the Address that had been moved that evening. He did not, of course, complain of all that was contained in the Address. There were certain matters that spoke for themselves, and with respect to which they were all agreed. And, first of all, he might name that passage which had reference to the late national bereavement. He was sure the House would respond to everything that referred to the great man and the great mind that had recently been lost to them, with sincerity, cordially with a deep emotion of regret. But there were some matters of very deep interest to the country at large, and of which the country had been anxiously waiting for information, on which they had not, as he thought, been sufficiently informed on the present occasion. They had met together at a very unusual 71 season, and there was hardly a man in the country who required to ask why they were so assembled. The facts were so notorious as to the causes why the last Parliament was dissolved, and why the present Parliament was now assembled, that it was hardly needful for him to refer to them; but, to establish the grounds on which he intended to complain of what he considered defective information in the Speech, it was necessary to mention the facts as they occurred, which took him back to the formation of the present Government. It was well known that when the Government acceded to power there was an avowal on the part of the Minister that he held opinions which he was not willing to abandon, and which he admitted were at variance with those held by the majority of the House of Commons. That Minister—he alluded to the First Minister of the Crown—admitted also the justice of the doctrine that it was not constitutional for any man to administer the Government whose opinions did not coincide with those of a majority of that House. But the Minister said—"Without abandoning my opinions, or doing violence to the constitution, I am ready to take the course that will be approved by all men under existing circumstances; I will not interfere with any policy that is now established; I will only advance the business of the House that is actually required; I will put the country to as little inconvenience as possible; but I will dissolve this Parliament, and ascertain with the least possible delay whether my opinions are in accordance with those of a new House of Commons." These were the facts as they occurred; and though this was not exactly the earliest moment at which the House might have been called together, yet they were met at an unusual season, in obedience to the declaration of the Minister, that he would call Parliament together to see whether or not they regarded him as a fit Minister to govern the country. Now, there were two ways in which the difficulty admitted by the Minister might be overcome. One was, that a majority of that House should coincide with him in opinion; the other was, that the Minister should declare some change of opinion on his own part. They were met that evening, and the country was expecting generally that they had so met, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the coincidence of opinion to which he had referred existed. They looked to the Speech from the Throne, 72 and listened to the Mover and Seconder of the Address, to ascertain whether there was that coincidence between the country, between the majority of that House and the Government, and he complained that they were not informed. They had no information on the subject. There was a paragraph that referred to the subject on which the difference existed, namely, the commercial policy as it existed at present, and the change that had taken place of late years. That is the point of difference, or was the point of difference, between the Administration and the majority of the House of Commons. There was a reference in the Speech to recent legislation, and to the present condition of the people; but he could not find a distinct, clear, tangible avowal on the part of the Government that they were reconciled to that policy, or reconciled in a way that might give them an assurance that in one way or other they would not attempt to reverse or modify that policy, or make the House feel uneasy as to its permanency. To relieve himself from any charge of presumption in intruding thus early on the House, and in calling for explanations, he might state to the House—which contained many Members not in the last Parliament —that from the great interest he had taken for many years back in this question, on the first accession of the present Government to power, knowing the opinions they had propounded, and knowing the active part they had taken throughout the country in condemning the policy of the late Parliament, and the pledges they had given to reverse that policy, he, under the apprehension that they would use the enormous influence of the Government to carry out their views, and reverse or modify that policy, did put a notice on the books pledging Parliament to a continuance of its free-trade policy. He put that Motion on the paper at the request of the large party who for so many years had energetically and perseveringly attempted, and eventually succeeded, in changing the policy of the country; but, at the request, he might say, of the whole House he withdrew that notice, having consented to do so after the speech of the First Minister of the Crown, accepted and assented to by the Ministers in that House, in which the noble Earl the First Minister of the Crown avowed that he was in a minority on this subject, that he would not change his opinion, but that he would take the opinion of the country on the subject. On that ground he with- 73 drew the notice. He anxiously awaited the assembling of a new Parliament, for the purpose of having this matter decided, because it was the promise, the assurance, of the Minister at that time that he would call an early Session for the purpose of deciding it. The enormous importance of this subject was admitted on all sides of the House. Gentlemen opposite said that unless our policy was reversed, inevitable ruin would follow; but those on his (Mr. Villiers') side affirmed that the prosperity of the country was conditional upon its continuance. The First Minister of the Crown, Lord Derby, said the question was of too great importance to be left unsettled, and that it must be decided finally; and everybody throughout the country knew that it was for this purpose they were assembled at the present unusual season. He rose now, not to depart from what he know to be the custom, and what he believed to be the wish generally of the Members of that House—not to move an Amendment on the Address. That was not his purpose, but he must call attention to the fact that up to that moment, though they had heard the Speech from the Throne, and speeches from the Mover and Seconder of the Address, they did not know whether the Ministers of the Crown had abandoned their opinions on the subject of protection. And he asserted that in which he had the concurrence of the First Minister of the Crown, when he said that it was essential this subject should be decided. It could not, however, be decided by the language of the Address, for the language was vague; and, though he should be sorry to introduce angry feelings into this discussion, he could almost say that it was deceptive. There was an allusion to the prosperity of the industrious classes, but there was also a reference to injury inflicted on certain interests, and to some, relief to be afforded to the industry of the nation. Why, if the working classes were well off, what was the meaning of the statement that something required to be done to relieve the injury inflicted upon the industry of the country? Moreover, whether any injury was done at all was one of the great points at issue on this matter. The opinion advocated on this side of the House was, that protection was an unqualified mischief—that it was not only an enormous mischief to the community at large, but that there was no exception to its being mischievous, 74 and that it was an evil to the interests said to be protected. Protection to the landed interest meant a monopoly in supplying the food of the country; and, therefore, to talk of injury done to industry, by destroying what was a monopoly of its food, was a statement which he did not like to characterise. It was an insult to the people of this country to talk of persons being injured by the removal of a mischief to them that had been inflicted on them for a period of thirty years. But the whole phraseology of this paragraph was indistinct, vague, and, in his opinion, intended to confuse. He thought it depended a little on the tone that was assumed by Gentlemen on the other side of the House, what interpretation might be put on it by his side. It was said there had been "recent legislation." That was a very curious expression. Why not speak plain English? Why not use language that would be intelligible? If great advantage had been derived to the working classes from the repeal of the Corn Laws, why not state it? If it is intended to be said that injury had been done to any class by repealing the Corn Laws, let that be made clear; at any rate clear, distinct, without question, and unequivocal, they (the Opposition) would have the decision of the House on the great subject for which they had met. He had only risen for the purpose of saying that he, for one, who took a great interest in this matter —and he believed others, who had taken a far more effective interest in it, concurred with him, and felt wholly dissatisfied with the passage in the Queen's Speech in which reference was made to the state of the country, and to the causes of its improved condition. They wanted to know distinctly the opinions of the Government on the great question which had been put in issue, namely, the policy of protection, or the policy of free trade; and they were disappointed, for there was no information on that head; he, therefore, without detaining the House farther, would give them distinct notice that he would submit to the House a Motion, putting the question on such clear and intelligible grounds that at least their fellow-countrymen out of the House should be left in no doubt with regard to the opinion of Parliament respecting it. This Motion he would bring forward on the 22nd of the present month, that being, he understood, the earliest convenient oppor- 75 tunity for the purpose, as certain arrangements were likely to engage the attention of Parliament previously.
said, he had waited with great patience in hopes that, in accordance with the usual practice of the House, some individual on the opposite side would have risen to notice the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. His hon. Friend had thrown out a challenge, hut there seemed to he a want of spirit on the other side, and an indisposition to answer the statements which had been made. He thought the Queen's Speech very unsatisfactory to the Commons of England, who had been sent to their different contituencies in order that the people might decide on this important policy of free trade. He was, however, delighted to hear it acknowledged that that policy had been productive of such immense benefits to the working classes. He could recollect his opponents on this question declaring that the desire of the landed interest was not to benefit themselves, but to improve the condition of the agricultural labourers. They had then their wish, for the condition of the agricultural labourer was admitted by the hon. Gentleman opposite to be overflowing with abundance. Had not a single man on the opposite side the manliness to stand up, and to acknowledge that this arose from the repeal of the Corn Laws? This certainly was admitted by the seconder of the Address, who, indeed, was a free-trader, though the mover might not be one; for here, as at the elections, the same rule seemed to prevail, and the Ministerial supporters declared themselves, one for free trade, and another for protection. The House, however, ought to bear in mind the object for which it had met at this period of the year, and he considered Her Majesty most unfortunate in not having a Cabinet Council able to make up its mind on this subject after about nine months' deliberation. Why did Ministers not acknowledge in intelligible language that they were wrong, and declare themselves now ready to keep up a policy which had been productive of such overwhelming benefits to the working classes? He must express his great disappointment that the Ministers had not distinctly stated and defended the course of policy they intended to pursue. He liked a fair, upstanding fight, but not one beneath hedges, or carried on by equivocal phrases which he did not comprehend. He confessed that he 76 himself did not always make his meaning as clear as it should be—it was not every man who had the talent to do that—and he sometimes made use of a wrong phrase: his object was, however, to make himself understood by the House; and if he had the writing of a Queen's Speech, he would endeavour to do what he thought it was the duty of the Government to do—make the Speech clear and intelligible to all classes. He therefore approved the notice of Motion which had been given by his hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers), for the country must have a decision on the question of free-trade, as suspense was creating a paralysis in the whole affairs of the nation. He knew, with respect to a great number of farmers, that their opinions on the policy of free-trade had changed, that they admitted the improvement which had taken place, and would be sorry to retrograde. But still there were others who thought that the Government were in possession of some secret to do them good, and that they were to be benefited by some measures which the Government would introduce. A clear explanation and decision on this point therefore was absolutely necessary. He had also to complain of an omission in the Queen's Speech. The preceding Parliament had declared that certain taxes were most unjustly and unfairly levied (that was in his opinion a wise declaration), and it was a great neglect that all allusion to this topic was omitted in the Speech. Our whole system of taxation rested on no unintelligible basis, which any one taking a comprehensive view could readily explain. He claimed the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an advocate on his side with respect to this point, for his (Mr. Hume's) Motion, for which the right hon. Gentleman voted, limiting the income tax to one year, had not only in view the removal of an unjust portion of that tax, but also the affording an opportunity for revising the whole system of taxation, and considering whether the large burden of taxation could not be imposed in a much less oppressive manner. He did not understand why the Queen's Speech should not have alluded to the subject of the continuance of the income-tax, which was a matter equally important with the East India Committee; and he trusted the Government did not intend to refuse to go on with the inquiry to which he had alluded. There was another point to which he wished to make some reference. Many people 77 had been so simple as to believe that a large measure of Parliamentary Reform would be proposed by the present Ministers, and that they would actually go much further than the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), or any of his Colleagues, were prepared to go. He was sorry to say that disappointment at the silence of the Queen's Speech on this subject was not great with him, though it might be with others. However, as the noble Earl at the head of the Government had declared that he took office to prevent all further democratic progress, why was not some distinct statement to this effect put in the Queen's Speech? The proceedings which had taken place during the late elections had led to a strong opinion that they were not altogether consistent with that freedom which should characterise them; and, while ready to save the privileges of other bodies, yet he must say that he was anxious to see our Constitution prevailing as a really representative one, and to see the people possessing the power and influence they ought to have in that House. He regretted the Government was not ready to come forward and make these reforms in time, thereby preventing the adoption of those hasty measures which were always taken when things were driven to the last. There was another important omission in the Speech. What had become of the clamorous outcry for the repeal of the Malt Tax and other taxes which were peculiarly odious to farmers? The silence of the Speech declared that there was no intention to repeal them. He regretted that the question of taxation was entirely omitted. In conclusion, he wished to tell hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they were not aware of it, that there was a strong opinion in the country that elections could not be conducted in future as they had been lately. He wished to see established a regular Representative Government; he wished to see popular power exercising that influence which it ought to have in the proceedings of that House, while at the same time the just privileges of the different classes of society were properly guarded; and he regretted that in a time of peace and quiet the Government did not seem prepared to come forward and propose those reforms which the country required. The question of free trade must soon be settled one way or other; and the time would then come for introducing other questions of great national importance.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, I did not rise, nor did any other Member of the Govern- 78 ment rise, immediately after the observations which were made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), because it was our duty to wait and see whether any Amendment to the Address was likely to be moved, before we gave any opinion in reply to the remarks which fell from that hon. Member. As, however, the hon. Gentleman himself, and also the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Hume), has not thought fit to move an Amendment, and as no one else has risen to do so, it appears at present unlikely that any Amendment will be moved; and I am therefore desirous of offering thus early a few remarks, with reference to the observations which the hon. Gentleman has made. Now, I certainly agree with him, that we are met together at an unusual season of the year, and for a special purpose. That purpose unquestionably is, that the financial and commercial policy of this country shall be finally settled and declared. The hon. Gentleman complains that in the Address there is a certain passage referring to that subject in terms which are ambiguous; and I think he called it evasive and deceptive. Sir, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that no evasion and no deception was intended by that paragraph; but it has been worded carefully in that way— which makes it coincide with the opinion entertained by the hon. Gentleman himself —it has been worded carefully in that way to prevent at this moment what might possibly be a warm and heated discussion, and so as to avoid the necessity of any Amendment being moved to the Address either on this or on that side of the House. By taking this course we have only acted in strict conformity with the usual custom that is observed on these occasions. The custom is to avoid, if possible, the necessity for any Amendment. I think: the hon. Gentleman himself admitted that such was the custom. I believe it is recognised to be a good custom—and certainly we wished as far as possible that this custom should not be departed from on the present occasion— but we are prepared, if the hon. Gentleman opposite desire it, to take the discussion at the present moment. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton went on to remark, and so also did the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that Her Majesty's Ministers ought to have declared their policy in the Queen's Speech, and that they ought also at the same time to have been prepared with the measures which they in- 79 tend to propose. Now, I tell the hon. Gentleman that we are prepared with all those measures; and I tell him that we intend, and have always intended, to take the earliest opportunity of submitting those measures to the consideration of the House. But there are circumstances with reference to our present meeting which have certainly made it unadvisable that that business should be taken in hand until the funeral of the Duke of Wellington shall have taken place. As soon as that tribute of the nation is paid to the greatest of its heroes, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bring before the House the views and opinions which the Government entertain of the financial and commercial policy which ought to be established and perpetuated in this country. In the mean time I must take the liberty of adding that there is sufficient in the Speech from the Throne, and in the Address in answer to it, for everybody to draw this inference, that we are not going to propose to reverse the recent legislation which has led to those improvements in the condition of the industrial classes of the community to which the Speech so plainly refers. More than this, I think, the House will not expect me to say, because it would, in fact, be expecting me to announce the different measures which my right hon. Friend will, on a future occasion, have to bring forward, and the views which we take with reference to that subject. I therefore forbear from saying more. But I thought it right to make this declaration in the first instance—for it is a declaration by which the Government intend to abide —and I do say that those measures which the Government think it necessary to introduce will be brought forward on the earliest opportunity.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, it appears to me that on an occasion when we have to consider an Address to the Crown, which begins with a paragraph in which we are called upon to condole with Her Majesty on the loss of that great man the late Duke of Wellington, we should not be obliged to enter into any lengthened debate upon topics on which the House is divided, and still less to be compelled to take a division on these topics. In respect to the first part of the Address, I shall not add anything to what has been said by the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman who moved and seconded the Address. I feel that upon the subject of the late Duke of Wellington eulogy is superfluous. It re- 80 mains for history to record his great genius. It remains for us, unfortunately— for Her Majesty and for Her Majesty's Ministers—for the House of Lords and for the country at large, to deplore the loss of that eminent man, who was inspired by the purest principles of loyalty and the most ardent patriotism, and who had earned the undying love of his country. One only task remains to us—namely, in conformity with the invitation we have received from the Crown, to show that we are not an ungrateful people, and that we duly appreciate the services rendered to the country by that illustrious man. Passing from that subject, I am glad to find that the Ministers can congratulate the country on the readiness with which the people had come forward, to the amount, as stated by the noble Lord who moved the Address, of 30,000 to serve in the militia; and I trust that Her Majesty's hopes will not be disappointed, but that this force will prove an effective aid to Her Majesty's regular troops. With respect to the other measures deemed necessary for the defence of this country, I can assure Her Majesty's Ministers that I shall be prepared to give a favourable consideration to the subject; and I hope that such measures as Her Majesty's Ministers may think advisable to effect that object, in which we all concur, may be from time to time submitted to the House. I know not that there is any other topic in the Speech to which I need now particularly address myself; but I must say a few words in regard to that paragraph in the Speech which refers to the commercial policy of late years. I must say I participate in the diappointment expressed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers) in the vagueness of the language here used, and I heartily concur in the course which that hon. Member has proposed to take. It seems to me that there were two courses which would have been plain and clear for the First Lord of the Treasury and his Colleagues to have adopted—the one was to maintain the opinions which from 1846 to the present time—or, at least, until February last, when he took office—Lord Derby constantly expressed, and which he expressed with such energy and earnestness that he declared that any departure from the principle of protection to which he adhered, would be a departure from his own consistency, and involve the loss of personal respect. That would have been one course. The other was, that finding 81 he had been mistaken in those views, that the country had prospered owing to the operation of measures which he thought would be ruinous to it, and that the beneficial effects of those measures were acknowledged throughout the country—finding this, he could have manfully declared his adoption of these measures, and his readiness to act upon their principles for the futnre. Sir, I conceive that, whether he had adopted the one or the other of those courses, the House and the country would have been prepared to form their judgment upon such a declaration; but instead of either of these courses, we have a continuance of that perplexity, of that ambiguity, of that doubt, which for the last nine months has filled men's minds, and made it difficult to know what were the real intentions of Her Majesty's Ministers with regard to our future commercial policy. If one Minister has appeared to be in favour of free trade, we have immediately had the declaration from another that the principles of protection were not to be abandoned. If a Secretary of State has spoken at the hustings, although he may not have said the principles of protection were to be resumed, yet, in speaking of the state of crime, or some other subject, he has endeavoured to throw out some slur by way of depreciating the system of free trade, and thereby induce the country to believe that it was not intended to depart from the principles of protection. And even now, continuing to the end, we have in this Address some parts of the sentences favourable to free trade; we have other parts of the sentences favourable to the theory of protection; and, to complete the whole, the noble Lord who moved the Address was himself one of the adherents of the protective system, whilst the hon. Gentleman who seconded him, spoke out boldly, and declared himself to be in favour of free trade. Well, Sir, if such is the ambiguity, then I say it is full time that we should come to a settlement of this question—that, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke (Mr. Walpole), the financial and commercial policy of this country should be finally settled and decided. Well, let us have some declaration which shall be a point of departure for the Ministers of the Crown by which they can regulate their future course. The country has been appealed to—the result of that appeal is known —it is for you then to declare what are the opinions you now entertain upon this 82 great subject. And when I say "this great subject," I am reminded that there is one in this strange and doubtful sentence that has not been alluded to. Consider what has been done within the last ten years. In the first place you have had the whole system of Corn Laws, upon which the country had reposed for a considerable time, totally repealed. You have adopted a tariff by which many duties which were excessive and exorbitant in amount, have been reduced within moderate limits. In short, during the whole of that period your system of taxation has been subjected to the process of revision. Gentlemen talk of a "revision of taxation," but they seem to forget that a revision of taxation has been going on from the time of Sir Robert Peel's assumption of the reins of power in 1841. And it has operated in this manner—that whilst a tax which has been reduced left for a time a void in the revenue, in a very short time that void was filled up by the natural buoyancy of the industry of the country; you were then enabled to abolish or reduce other taxes, and thus continue a process by which the industry of the country was relieved and stimulated. Let us add to this that the differential duties on sugar have been equalised, and the prohibition— for it was a prohibition, although it was not so in law—of foreign sugar has entirely ceased. In that manner alone the people have consumed their 200,000 tons of sugar at a price upwards of 5,000,000l. less than they did when these duties existed, and the consumption of sugar has so increased that, in a very few years, it will be double what it was in 1849. Add to this also that the Navigation Laws have been repealed; and thus I have enumerated a whole system, not only, I will say, of great importance but as great a change of policy, adopted by a great country, as is recorded in the history of the world—a change of policy than which nothing, since the Revolution of 1688, has been more important in its effects, and that, be it observed, not only in its effects on this country, but, as I trust, hereafter, in its effects upon the whole system of commercial policy of all civilised nations. Although I was not one of those who were so sanguine as to expect that immediately we declared by a majority in this House that we adopted free trade and abjured protection, all the nations of the world would at once follow our example, yet, on the other hand, it is my confident belief that if this 83 country continues to profit under that system, and if the Government of this country declares that it is satisfied with its importance and with its consequences, and that they mean to persevere in it, other nations will, from free discussion and debate, come to the same conclusion you have arrived at, and thus will be derived not only a great increase of wealth and trade, but great increased security for the peace and the harmony of the world. If such, then, is the importance of this system, if such is its gravity, and if, on the other hand, many persons still maintain that it is a system which is entirely ruinous, is it enough to say that it is one of the causes, put In with a parcel of nameless other causes, from which the industrious classes have received benefit? I affirm that we ought not to evade the question in this way; and that, however much we could wish to avoid a division to-night, it is necessary that the House of Commons should give its verdict upon that question. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) says, that there is no intention to revert to the policy which prevailed previous to the year 1846. I was very glad to hear that declaration from such authority. But there are certain words in this paragraph in the Address which look like giving artificial prop, and creating, therefore, artificial prices, which is only the principle of protection disguised in another shape. Therefore, for this reason alone, I think it is necessary that we should have something clear and decided, and that we should not allow ourselves to be enveloped in that mist in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, like some of the goddesses of old, loves to conceal himself. With regard to another sentence in the Address—that relating to Ireland—I am glad to see that it contains recommendations of a liberal policy towards that country; but in the previous part of the same paragraph there are words to which I own I feel myself unable to attach any precise meaning. I allude to the reference which is there made to "an unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence." That there was a spirit of insubordination and turbulence during the general election in Ireland cannot certainly be denied; but that there is any spirit of insubordination and turbulence at present existing in Ireland, is a statement to which I am not prepared to give my assent. With due execution of the ordinary laws of the country, I believe 84 that the state of Ireland may be considered as a state of tranquillity; and I must say, I think that that country having suffered so severely from the famine of 1847, is now about in some measure to recover, and that there are symptoms which encourage us to hope that at length the labourers of Ireland will obtain that reward for their exertions which has hitherto, up to the present time, been so inadequate to the labours of that class of the people. With regard to the reports of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, I am rejoiced to find that those Commissions, which were stigmatised by the noble Lord at the head of the Government as illegal Commissions, are now acknowledged as productive of fruit; that it is proposed that their recommendations, instead of being cast aside as the productions of an illegal body, are to be referred to the Universities themselves, and that we are to be asked to pass laws to enable those Universities to carry into effect improvements which cannot now be legally adopted. Whether or not the measures contemplated on this subject will be sufficient, I, of course, cannot presume to say, but I am glad to find that the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers has been directed to the subject. I am sure there is nothing more important at the present time than the whole question of education, beginning with the education of the higher classes at Oxford and Cambridge; considering likewise the education of the middle classes, and their means of obtaining those scientific aids which are often so useful to their progress in life; and comprehending also the education of the whole of the poorer classes of the country. Upon one part of this subject, though it is but a part—the advancement of the fine arts and practical science—I am much rejoiced to find that it is proposed to extend the means by which those who wish to acquire information in these branches of knowledge may attend schools for this purpose. I am likewise glad to find that, on the subject of secondary punishments, a hope is expressed in the Speech from the Throne that measures will be adopted by which transportation to Van Diemen's Land may at no remote period be altogether discontinued. There are two circumstances which have undoubtedly tended to give a new aspect to that subject—the one is, that we have given popular institutions to the Australian Colonies; the other is, the recent discoveries of gold in certain parts of those 85 Colonies. It is quite obvious that these two circumstances make it necessary to revise the whole subject; and I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies (Sir J. Pakington), to whom I took the liberty of speaking upon this subject soon after his entrance on office, has come to a conclusion which appears to me a wise one. I hope, however, it is not intended to confine the operation of the contemplated measure to Van Diemen's Land alone. I think the whole of the Australian Colonies ought to be relieved in future from the reception of convicts under sentence of transportation from this country. There are other subjects connected with our penal laws which also seem to me to require attention: but to these I will not further allude on the present occasion. The subject of legal reform, I see, occupies the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and upon this, too, measures are to be introduced. Upon the whole, then, I am rejoiced to find that, with the exception, certainly, of that great question of our commercial policy—the great and important question as between the principles of free trade and the principles of protection—there is nothing in the Speech from the Throne, or in the Address in reply to that Speech, which needs more than the slight remarks I have now made; and I trust that, when we have adopted a policy on that subject, we shall be able, in the present Parliament, to pass measures which will be of permanent advantage to the country at large.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I cannot help fancying that if the only paragraph of which the noble Lord disapproves in the Answer to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne were really so evasive as some hon. Gentlemen have described it to be, that an Amendment to the Address would at once have been moved. I do not think that the constitutional delicacy of my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hume) would have deterred him from taking a course which I doubt not his well-stored memory and his ample experience would have furnished him with sufficient precedents for adopting. I cannot say that I agree with the noble Lord or his friends in the version they have given of this paragraph which they describe as evasive. It appears to me to be one perfectly adapted to the circumstances under which we meet to-day. I think the paragraph is framed in a manner which can leave no mistake in any impartial mind 86 as to the intentions of Her Majesty's Ministers; for the only point which is laid down positively in this paragraph, respecting which there can be no evasion, is the description of the principle upon which the commercial system of this country is recognised to be established by Her Majesty's Government, and that is the principle of "unrestricted competition." That is the distinct declaration in this paragraph, which is described as evasive on this particular topic. It is very true that Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that the legislation which has gradually produced that system of "unrestricted competition" has in its operation caused injury to certain classes in this country; and the noble Lord says that is a protectionist declaration. But I recollect having read an address of the noble Lord's which was published just before the dissolution of the late Parliament—a letter addressed by the noble Lord to the constituency of the greatest commercial city in the kingdom—and there I find that the merchants and shipowners of London were reminded that they were subjected to great burdens and unjust restrictions—burdens and restrictions that could only be considered such by the action of recent legislation. Therefore, the noble Lord was then of opinion, when he was a candidate for the City, that it was quite possible to maintain and preserve our commercial system upon a principle of "unrestricted competition," and yet remove those burdens and those restrictions which one great interest was suffering under, and which suffering, by his own acknowledgment, was virtually occasioned by recent legislation. Was that a protectionist declaration of the noble Lord? Was that a piece of protection, as he has described a similar expression in the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech? Well, I myself have recently had representations made to me by bodies of merchants and shipowners—gentlemen of extremely liberal opinions upon all subjects connected with the commerce of the country, some of them sitting at this moment on the side of this House opposite Her Majesty's Government; and certainly as far as I could collect their opinions—as the representatives of one of the great interests of the country—they would be dissatisfied if the restrictions under which they suffer, and the burdens they have to bear, are not taken into consideration by any body of men, of any side, who may happen to form the Government of the day. Well, is that 87 a desire to abrogate the laws which have recently been carried into effect as the foundation of our commercial system? Is that a protectionist movement? I ask the House whether the noble Lord has any further foundation for the charge he has made of evasion than the allusion to those suffering interests which he has himself endorsed by his own example and his own words, when a candidate for the City, and of which many hon. Gentlemen sitting in this House, on the other side, are themselves the principal patrons and promoters? Sir, I shall not on the present occasion pursue this topic further—the occasion will soon arise when we may enter into those questions. All I can say is, that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take such claims—such and similar claims —into their consideration, to endeavour to mitigate the injury which has been occasioned by recent legislation in the particular instance to which I have referred, and similar ones; and we believe that we can produce measures which may do all that is necessary in that respect, or all that can reasonably be required, without in any way departing from that principle of "unrestricted competition," which we recognise as the principle of our commercial legislation. Then the noble Lord has found it very convenient to adopt the course of describing himself and his friends as the representatives of a new and enlightened system of commercial policy, which has been invariably and bigotedly opposed by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen, though they have changed sides, have not lost one of their weaknesses—an amiable one, I confess—which is, to cheer too soon. The noble Lord has given us an emblazoned catalogue of the great feats of that liberal commercial party of which he is the acknowledged chief; free trade in corn, free trade in sugar, repeal of the navigation laws — these are the three enduring pyramids which have been created by the energy and the enterprise of the party which the noble Lord leads, and the different individuals of the different sections who are associated with the noble Lord. But if we look historically into the question—and I am only in self-defence making these observations, for I had thought from the tone of the debate that we had already terminated it—I cannot help remembering this, that the Prime Minister who earned free trade in corn, was himself opposed to free trade in sugar; 88 and then, that the Prime Minister who followed him, and who was in favour of free trade in sugar, was not at all disposed to free trade in ships—that, in fact, that question was not taken up by the Government, but that it was an independent Committee of this House, moved by an independent Member of this House, which placed this question in a prominent position—that two Sessions were allowed to pass away before the noble Lord consented to the abrogation of the navigation laws; and when they were abrogated they were abrogated in so loose and unsatisfactory a manner that the noble Lord, at a subsequent period, as I have already reminded the House, when he was a candidate for the suffrages of the citizens of London, confessed that the shipping interest, though deprived by recent legislation of the protection it had enjoyed, had been left with the burdens and restrictions for which that protection was a compensation. Now, Sir, neither myself, nor any of my colleagues, have any intention to propose any policy which will give artificial prices, or attempt to give what an hon. Gentleman on the other side has mentioned as compensation for losses which have been occasioned by changes in the legislation which heretofore regulated the commerce of this country. But what we do say, and say in a manner as distinct as I can succeed in expressing it, with I hope none of those cloudy words for which the noble Lord has given me credit, is, that we think these commercial changes have been effected without at the same time effecting necessary and corresponding changes in our financial system. And, notwithstanding what the noble Lord has asserted, and notwithstanding the sympathising cheer which we received from one of his late colleagues, who is certainly well acquainted with that branch of the subject— I say, it is our intention, believing that a proper revision of our taxation has not taken place—it is our intention to place before the House a policy which will make our financial system more in harmony with our commercial system; and if the noble Lord calls that protection, why the noble Lord will not, I think, be successful in establishing his position when he favours the House with his opinions on the propositions of Her Majesty's Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), in that friendly way in which he sometimes administers a castigation, even to the Government he patronises, has made 89 a most weighty accusation against Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion. The "evasive paragraph," respecting free trade, which my hon. Friend caught up from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), appears to have really impressed him with a very little amount of importance. The whole mind of my hon. Friend seems to have been engrossed with the income tax. My hon. Friend says there ought to have been a paragraph inserted in the Speech, announcing that there was to be a continuation of the Committee of Inquiry into the Income and Property Tax. Why, we have already had that Committee sitting for two years inquiring into the subject. My hon. Friend appears to be a perfect glutton in this inquiry. I admit there is not a paragraph with regard to the Committee on the Income and Property Tax in the Speech, and for this reason—that Her Majesty's Ministers have made up their minds upon the subject— that subject which seems still to vex the mind of my hon. Friend—Her Majesty's Ministers have arrived at certain conclusions on that subject. They do not, therefore, think it necessary to investigate it any further, and they are perfectly prepared to bring those conclusions immediately under the consideration of the House of Commons. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has adverted to the reasons why we have not to-day fixed the exact hour at which we shall solicit the attention of the House to these questions. There are reasons which have prevented us—reasons which really render for a few days the arrangement of business in this House less clear and evident than they would have been under ordinary circumstances; but I believe, if I am not misinformed, my noble Colleague at the head of the Government has already announced in another place that I shall, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, take the earliest day of which we can avail ourselves to lay our entire policy before the House of Commons and the Parliament, in order that it may be submitted to their solemn and serious consideration, and that the verdict of Parliament and of the country may be obtained upon it. The Motion of which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton has given notice, would be in reality a Motion almost of inquiry into the state of the country. Certainly I have no wish to place any obstacle in the way of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman; but if the right hon, Gentle- 90 man feels it to be his duty to persevere in it, let him do so by all means; but I do not think that with my utmost exertions to promote the convenience of the House, it would be possible for me to name a Government day for that or any other purpose earlier than the 22nd inst. If the right hon. Gentleman think fit to persevere in the course he has proposed to himself, it is of course competent for him to do so; but he will forgive me for saying that it occurs to me that it will be much fairer to the Government, and much more satisfactory to the country if, before taking any step of the aggressive character he contemplates, he were to permit the Government an opportunity of laying their policy before the country. The debate to which the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman would give rise, must necessarily resemble in character and tendency that which would arise in this House on occasion of our submitting our policy to the consideration of Parliament; and it appears to me that the more convenient, the fairer, and in all respects the better course, would be to blend the discussions together, and not allow the energies of the House, and of the country, to be wasted and frittered away by two debates—one of them —that proposed by the hon. Gentleman— certainly of a loss practical character than that which I shall have the honour of bringing forward. The hon. Gentleman can easily introduce his Motion by way of Amendment on the proposition which it is my intention to submit on the part of Her Majesty's Government; and if he should be of opinion that the views and intentions of Her Majesty's Government are not such as are likely to be satisfactory to himself and his friends—if, in fact, he should he of opinion that our policy is one which is not calculated to promote the welfare and prosperity of the country—nothing can be more easy, nothing more conveniently practicable, than that he should bring forward any other policy which he may deem preferable, in the shape of an Amendment on the propositions which we intend to submit. It will then be competent for the House, by one discussion, as long and as elaborate as to its wisdom may seem fitting, to decide between the plan of the Government and that of the hon, Gentleman, and to come to a distinct decision upon all the branches of the question. Nothing can be more remote from my intention than a desire to dictate to the hon. Gentleman—I trust that he will not misunderstand my feelings in making this suggestion—but I confi- 91 dently appeal to his own sense of propriety, and to that of the House, whether it would not be the more convenient and in all respects the more desirable course, that we should avail ourselves of an early opportunity to explain our policy, and that there then should be one discussion, and one only, on a subject which so closely concerns, not only the present condition of the country, but the future and permanent principles on which the financial and commercial systems of this country are to be established. I cannot at this moment fix a day—but I should imagine that between this time and Friday the 26th instant, there would be sufficient interval to enable Members not now in town to attend here without inconvenience; and if so, I would propose that Upon that day I should take occasion, on the part of the Government, to call the attention of the House to our present financial condition, so that I may then explain to the House the measures which, in our opinion, ought to be adopted in the present position of the country. I will not trespass on the attention of the House with any general observations on the Speech from the Throne. The noble Lord the Member for London has himself admitted that there is only one paragraph in it which merits his disapproval, and I am not without hope that I have satisfied the House that even in the case of that one paragraph his disapproval was not well grounded. If the paragraph in question had been of the evasive character which he describes, I cannot think that the House would have acquiesced with such alacrity in the suggestion that there should be no Amendment on the Address. More I will not say upon the present occasion; but it is my intention to avail myself of an early opportunity to vindicate the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government, and to lay before the country, with a distinctness not to be mistaken, the policy which, in our opinion, ought to be adopted in the present juncture of affairs. In conclusion I can only assure the House that no one can be more anxious to meet this great controversy than the individual who has now the honour to address them.
Sir, so much has been said, and said so well, on the solemn subject of the first paragraph in the gracious Speech from the Throne, that I shall do no more than express my entire concurrence with those who have preceded me, and to state how high a privilege I feel it to have been permitted to be one of 92 those who on the part of the people, carried to the foot of the Throne their tribute of admiration and sorrow for the illustrious man we have lost. I will venture to repeat the sentiments expressed in another place, and upon another occasion, by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and say—While many of the actions of his life—while many of the qualities which he possessed are unattainable by others, there are lessons which we may all derive from the life and actions of that illustrious man. It may never be given to another subject of the British Crown to perform services so brilliant as he performed; it may never be given to another man to hold the sword which was to gain independence for Europe, to rally the nations around it, and while England saved herself by her constancy to save Europe by her example; it may never be given to another man, after having attained such eminence, after an unexampled series of victories, to show equal moderation in peace as he had shown greatness in war, and to devote the remainder of his life to the cause of internal and external peace for that country which he had so served; it may never be given to another man to have equal authority, both with the Sovereign he served, and with the Senate of which he was to the end a venerated member; it may never be given to another man, after such a career, to preserve even to the last the full possession of those great faculties with which he was endowed, and to carry on the services of one of the most important departments of the State with unexampled regularity and success, even to the latest day of his life. These are circumstances, these are qualities which may never again occur in the history of this country. But there are qualities which the Duke of Wellington displayed of which we may all act in humble imitation:—that sincere and unceasing devotion to our country; that honest and upright determination to act for the benefit of the country on every occasion; that devoted loyalty which, while it made him ever anxious to serve the Crown, never induced him to conceal from the Sovereign that which he believed to be the truth; that devoted-ness in the constant performance of his duty; that temperance of his life, which enabled him at all times to give his mind and his faculties to the services which he was called upon to perform; that regular, consistent, and unceasing piety by which he was distinguished at all times in his life, —these are qualities that are attainable by others, and these are qualities which should not be lost as an example.The noble Member for London has adverted briefly to a subject on which, as a Member for one of our Universities, I may be forgiven for offering a single sentence. I am one of many Gentlemen, then in the House, who considered that the noble Lord was venturing upon a stretch of power in the adoption of an inquiry into our Universities; but, the Commissions having been appointed, I do not think that I am guilty of inconsistency in admitting that the results of those inquiries must be considered 93 on their merits, wholly irrespective of abstract discussions, or practical discussions, as to the strictly constitutional nature of the tribunal before which those inquiries were instituted. I now come to the main question—to the question important above all others, and it appears to me that much has been gained for that question by the discussion arising out of the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers); and I, for one, tender him my warm thanks for that speech. I do not doubt that it was previously the intention of the Government to announce to the House what has, since that speech, been declared by two prominent Members of the Government, but at the same time it must be confessed that until just now we were left quite in the dark as to those intentions. We have before us a paragraph of the Speech from the Throne, and of the Address in answer to that Speech, in which the important—I must say, considering all the circumstances, the all-important—subject of our commercial policy, is touched, and that paragraph, I must confess, excited in my mind, as in the minds of others who have spoken, dissatisfaction and disappointment. I thought, and I still think, admitting with all respect the reasons alleged in connexion with the solemnities of the next week, that, considering we are now upon the winding up of a great controversy which has had its conspicuous place in the politics of the day, and which will have its place also in the pages of cur history—that, considering this question is the final issue on which the policy of the country has been placed, and that the Speech from the Throne is the great constitutional occasion for recognising the great object and principles of the Government—I say I think, bearing all these things in mind, Her Majesty's Ministers would have acted wisely, would have done no more than their duty, had they given us in the course of the Speech a declaration on the subject of their commercial policy which would have placed for ever beyond dispute the intention of the party which now holds the reins of Government. I am confirmed in this impression by the defence which has been set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for it appears to me that the Government, in defending that paragraph, defend it on two principles, which are not only not in unison, but which are flatly contradictory to one another. The right hon. Secretary of State for the 94 Home Department says that this was a paragraph suitable for the occasion—suitable for the occasion!—with the view— with the especial view—of obviating the necessity for an Amendment, either on that side of the House or on this. Well, then, if this paragraph was devised simply to obviate the necessity for an Amendment on either side of the House, by declaring nothing that could raise the question of protection, I want to know what becomes of the other defence of the paragraph which is in the mouth of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is not ambiguous, that we may easily draw one inference from it, namely, that it is not the intention of the Government to revive the policy of protection? Nay, the right hon. Gentleman goes much further, for he says there is but one theme which is categorically declared in the Speech, and this is, that unrestricted competition shall from this time forward be the rule of the commercial policy of this country. But, if unrestricted competition is to be the rule, and that is categorically declared in the Speech—the only thing categorically declared there—I want to know what becomes of all the tenderness suggested by the other right hon. Gentleman for the scruples of those who still adhere to protection? Supposing the Government prepared to adhere to the proposition so categorically declared, that unrestricted competition is to be the rule of our commercial policy, if these Gentlemen do not stick at that, what in the world will they afterwards make a difficulty of? Here, then, we are called upon to accept two defences of the paragraph; but, in my opinion, I am bound to adopt only one of two defences which are so clearly irreconcilable with each other, and the first defence, good or otherwise in itself, may be the best of the two. But the question for us is, do we know the special purpose for which the people have returned us to Parliament; and are we prepared to say that this purpose shall not be fulfilled? Ambiguous the paragraph undoubtedly is. The great question to which so much of our recent legislation had been applied, is left in greater uncertainty since the paragraph than before; that great and all-important topic, instead of being put forward prominently into the light of this paragraph, is drawn into the shade. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer says that any Motion with which he may be met by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, must 95 necessarily partake of the nature of an abstract proposition. I admire the extreme generosity of the right hon. Gentleman, who, having announced—and most properly announced, and I give him full credit for it—his intention of immediately submitting his commercial and financial views and plans to the House, recommends to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton to meet his measure, of a practical and financial character, with the proposal of an abstract resolution: but I hope we shall not be drawn away from the purpose which was essentially contemplated by the constituencies of the country in returning us to this House, and by Her Majesty in dissolving the Parliament, by any abstract propositions whatever. If you ask me what the people want, it is the full, final, and solemn sanction by Parliament of the system of free trade. They want that the party which is now responsible for the conduct of public affairs, shall, once for all, declare its views on this subject. When we consider that for six years past the controversy of free trade has not only entered into but disturbed the whole political action of our representative system, when we consider the uncertainty connected with it, when we consider the maturity which public opinion has now attained with regard to the controversy—it is not too much to ask that now at least, after so much waste of the public time, after Ministries overturned, and parties disorganised, they should now make up their minds on the issue defined by the First Minister of the Crown in February, 1851, and place the question of free trade high and dry on the shore, where the tide of political party strife could no longer reach it. Not that I think there is any doubt about the permanency of any of the great measures which have been adopted by Parliament in the sense of free-trade system. My firm belief is, and has ever been, that since July, 1846, the return of the Corn Laws has been, 'not a mere difficulty, but an impossibility; and I have ever thought it a great misfortune for the country that a great party in this House, containing many men of the highest honour and the highest intelligence—a party representing some of the most valuable and essential elements of which a constitutional system is rightly framed—should stand together on the basis of objects, the attainment of which has become beyond the power of man to carry. I feel that this is an evil which should be put an end to on the one hand, and that, on the other, 96 the people should understand what is the measure of doctrine of protection put forward at a time when it is just as impossible to restore protection as to repeal the Bill of Eights, or to reconstitute the Heptarchy. We want no abstract Motions, such as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to desire, to establish this proposition. We want to set the public mind at ease by the solemn and uniform acceptance on the part of this House of the measures of free trade which have been already adopted by Parliament, and likewise by a declaration that future measures bearing on trade and bearing on finance shall be framed in consistency with the principles that have guided our recent legislation on those subjects. I do not call such a declaration an abstract resolution. I call it laying down a rule of conduct; and it is a rule of conduct which, in my opinion, the interests of this country require should at once be established beyond the reach of further doubt or cavil. Is it unreasonable that we should be anxious on this subject? I think not, for we cannot forget the composition of the Government. We cannot forget the declaration which have been made by various members of that Government as to protection and free trade. I will go at once to the case of my right hon. Friend opposite, the man who, of all others, has shown the greatest courage and maintained the greatest consistency in adhering to what he thinks right principles, I mean my right hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Christopher). Did my right hon. Friend hear the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which that right hon. Gentleman said that there was one thing, at least, categorically declared in the Speech from the Throne, and that this was, that unrestricted competition was from henseforth to be the rule of commercial policy of this country? If he heard that speech, what construction does he put upon the exposition of the right hon. Gentleman? I will advert to the recent declaration of my right hon. Friend to his constituents, and ask, what we are to consider the force and effect of that declaration, not taking merely its words and expressions, but its whole spirit and tenor? They cannot be mistaken. My right hon. Friend says—"I am here to maintain unchanged all those opinions of financial and commercial policy which for the last twenty-five years I have maintained." Do not let my right hon. Friend think that I should represent it as an of- 97 fence for a man not to adhere pertinaciously to an opinion. I am in no condition, I have no right, to taunt any man for a change of opinion. Like other men, I inherited in respect to this question the traditions of a party. When I came to examine these traditions for myself, I found them give way under me, and I abandoned them. But my right hon. Friend says, he adheres to the opinions he has held for the last twenty-five years; and what one desires to know is, how, as a Member of the Government, he receives the declaration now made by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. I ask nothing from the Government which is dishonourable to them, personally or politically. I want no professions of internal conversion to free-trade principles. I ask no man's abstract opinions about protection, which is now a matter of past history, any more than I want to know his opinion about Jacobitisin; but what I want is this, that those who now hold power in this country—who exercise the influence which belongs to the administration of public affairs—who represent this great country in the face of foreign Powers and of the world—I ask that these persons shall be persons who have definitively, unequivocally, and finally abandoned the idea of proposing a return to protective policy. More I do not feel bound to ask; with less, it seems to me, this House cannot honourably be content. But I am sure my right hon. Friend will feel that we are placed in a position of difficulty, if we are to understand that the Government is formed on a principle under which it is competent to the leader of the House of Commons to say that unrestricted competition is from henceforward to be the rule of our commercial policy, while one of his colleagues, sitting by his side, is to tell us, as he told his constituents elsewhere, that he was a Member of the Government, in order to defend there the principles he had always advocated out of office, and to use his influence | to procure the reincorporation of those principles into our commercial code. Sir, my hope is, that whatever decision may be come to by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton as to the resolution to which he has adverted—whether he shall think, or whether he shall not think, that the necessity for that resolution is at the present moment obviated by the declaration of the Government, that their propositions will be immediately laid before the country—whatever decision he may come to in that respect, I trust that this House will never, in 98 the discussion of secondary and incidental questions—questions of the form, and time, and manner of proceeding—lose sight of the great end we have in view; and that, whether before the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or after it, we reserve to ourselves the liberty of putting into clear words, at a future day, the principles we entertain in case his measures should not afford a sufficiently practical exposition of our sentiments; whatever decision may be come to, or whatever course may be followed, on any question of this nature, I trust that this House will recollect (and that, too, wholly without reference to party combination, which, important as it is, is far less important in my mind than the great issue which we are now discussing) that the country will justly expect of us that we should remember the peculiar circumstances to which we owe our birth, and the especial object for which we have been sent here. I trust that we shall rest content with nothing that is open to argument, and construction, and inference, this way and that way; that we shall not rest content with a paragraph which, instead of settling the question, itself stands in need of glosses and interpretation; but that we shall have it stated in plain English, intelligible to every class of the community, beyond the reach of cavil or dispute, not at the present moment only, but at other times which may come, when a portion of this House might find it convenient to revive the question of protection, that we shall have it stated in language, I say, which shall for the present time, and shall for all time, give an assurance to the people of England that there is no party in the State prepared to defraud or to deprive them of the inestimable boon which has by the legislation of late years been conferred upon them; which boon, so conferred upon them, has not only conduced with other causes, but which has been the main and great cause of the present prosperity of the country, and which, in increasing the prosperity of the country, has spread abroad a satisfaction, a contentment, a confidence in the spirit of Parliament, a firm attachment to our institutions, and has strengthened the foundations of that Throne from which Her Majesty to-day addressed us.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
begged to tell the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in reply to his question, that, as an independent Member of that House, he did not intend to move an Amendment upon the Address, 99 and that he did not believe that any independent Member on his side of the House would do so; and further, that so far as he (Mr. Newdegate) was aware of the determination of those societies which had been organised for the promotion of the great cause of procuring justice to native industry, it was their resolve—be the declarations of Her Majesty's Government what they might—that until the Government had submitted their commercial and financial measures to the consideration of the Commons of England, they would not pronounce any opinion upon the policy or upon the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. This they considered no more than just; and, although it might suit the tactics of the Opposition to try to force the Protectionist body from their determination, and to arrive at a decision upon the abstract merits of the protective system, as contradistinguished from unrestricted competition, he could tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that they would fail in the attempt to move the Protectionist body from their position. There were some minds so constituted that they were never at ease unless they rested upon some arbitrary dogma; and he believed that the intellect of the right hon. Member for Oxford was one of these; but he could assure that right hon. Gentleman, and those who had preceded him in the debate, that it was as utterly beyond the power of Parliament to establish any arbitrary rule which should for ever hereafter bind the people of this country, as for them to mortgage the intellect of posterity. Be the decision of that House what it might, they could not abdicate for the people of this country, now or hereafter, their claim that the legislation of the country, financial or commercial, should be adapted to meet the exigencies and conveniences of their industry according to the changing requirements of the age, whenever the people should decide upon enforcing that right. He had no more to add than to say, that he believed he expressed the opinion of the protective societies of the kingdom when he stated that they were determined to await the announcement of the policy of the Government, and that they did so in the full confidence that the measures to be propounded would, as far as possible, meet the just requirements of all the interests of the country.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
said, that if it had not been for the pointed allusion that had been made to him by the right hon. 100 Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), he should not have ventured, after all that had taken place that evening, to intrude himself on the attention of the House with any observations. But his right hon. Friend had addressed himself to him (Mr. Christopher) in a manner so pointed and personal, that he felt it would not be consistent with his position and character in that House were he to refrain from making a few brief remarks on that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which related to himself. He could not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman could have meant to impute to him that he would venture to express, in the presence of his constituents, opinions which he would not be perfectly prepared to uphold in that House. In addressing his constituents during the last contest in which he was engaged, he had invariably expressed his conscientious opinion with regard to the injustice done to the agricultural interest by the repeal of the corn laws, and by all the proceedings that accompanied that repeal. He told them that his opinions on that subject remained entirely unchanged; but at the same time he warned his constituents that it did not depend upon the opinion of any individual Member of the Government, but rather upon the opinion of the country at large, expressed through their representatives in that House, whether the principle of unrestricted competition or of protection was to prevail as to the governing principle of our commercial policy; and when his right hon. Friend taunted him with expressing opinions at variance with those uttered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Earl at the head of the Government, he would take leave to assure his light hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) that he should ever be found prepared, upon fitting occasions, to maintain the opinions which he had always entertained with regard to this subject; opinions which he had always fearlessly expressed since he had had the honour of a seat in that House. But, if he found that the people, being appealed to for their decision on two successive occasions, had, on two successive occasions given a verdict which proved that the doctrines he had heretofore advocated were not in accordance with the feelings of the majority of the country, he should feel himself bound to bow to the decision of the country thus unequivocally expressed—[Laughter] —and in spite of the taunts of his right hon. Friend and of 101 the cheers of the benches opposite, he believed it the safer and more constitutional practice to adopt a course of this kind, when the country had solemnly pronounced its verdict; and in this opinion he was strengthened and encouraged by the example of the right hon. Gentleman himself, who had bowed to the decision of the country on the question of Parliamentary reform and other subjects. He (Mr. Christopher) as an individual, still entertained the same opinion, that the policy of Sir Robert Peel, in proposing the repeal of the corn laws was not a wise one; but at the same time that he held this opinion he might be clearly sensible that the state of public feeling might render it impossible to return to the principle of protection. What he had said to his constituents was this—and he had never swerved from it— that if the country should decide against the recurrence to protective principles, Her Majesty's Government would come forward and propose some system with respect to the taxation as a measure of relief to the agricultural interest. This was what he had said; and he trusted that, upon a future occasion, when the proposals of the Government should be discussed, he would again have an opportunity of defending himself from such accusations. His only motive for rising on the present occasion was, to prevent any impression prevailing in the House that he had acted in an unworthy manner towards those whom he had the honour of representing. With regard to his own position in connexion with the Government, he had no hesitation in saying that he accepted office under the Administration of his noble Friend from a sincere conviction that, of all statesmen in the country, the noble Lord now at the head of the Administration was the most fitted, from his admitted talents, position, and high principle, to conduct the affairs of a great empire. He had, however, told his noble Friend when he accepted office, that although he felt deeply gratified at the honour of becoming a Member of his Administration, still that he was prepared to place the office he held entirely at his disposal, whenever his noble Friend could strengthen his Administration by the introduction of another more qualified person. In conclusion, he had only to observe that, after what had taken place, he would never be the person to sow discord among the great party with which he had been connected, under the leadership of the late Lord George Bentinck; 102 and that he was prepared to defend himself on a fitting opportunity against any accusations that might be made against him for deserting the constituency which he represented.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, it seemed to be generally admitted on both sides of the House that the debate on the Queen's Speech was to be a sort of shake hands preparatory to the great political conflicts which were to ensue; that the lion of Montrose was to lie down with the lamb of North Essex, and that nothing was to be said, but that they were to welcome every paragraph of the Speech with a loyalty which bordered, he might say, upon servility. In a constitutional point of view, he thought it was a pity that the course which was adopted in 1849 and 1850 had not been practised now. If he remembered rightly, the right hon. Gentleman who now deprecated any interruption to the harmony which prevailed in that "happy family," and who had attained to the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, owing to the advocacy of the doctrines of Protection, upon that occasion moved an Amendment upon the Address, for an inquiry into the burdens upon agriculture. That Amendment, after a night's discussion, the right hon. Gentleman did not think it prudent to press to a division; but in 1850 another right hon. Gentleman, who he supposed would give in his adhesion to free trade that evening—he meant the present President of the Poor Law Commission—also moved an Amendment to the Address upon agricultural burdens; and he had greater faith in his principles upon that occasion than his right hon. Leader, for he pressed his Amendment to a division, in which he was disgracefully beaten. He (Mr. B. Osborne) merely alluded to this in order that new Members might dispel from their minds the notion that it was not a constitutional proceeding on the part of the House, when they felt an objection to a paragraph in the Speech, to move an Amendment to the Address; and he thought they would have better done their duty to the country, and advanced the interests of free trade, if they had at that, the earliest opportunity, moved an Amendment upon that paragraph in the Address which had been dictated by the genius of rigmarole, and traced by the hand of mystification. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to tell the House and the country that he had given in his adhesion to free trade, and the Cabinet had 103 gone along with him, what was the occasion for that studiously evasive and deceptive paragraph? Would any Englishman when he read the papers in the morning he able to gather more from that paragraph, so carefully worded to delude Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and to give no information, than that the whole question of free trade was reopened in this country? It might be very well for the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department to tell them, in smooth and dulcet accents, that the policy of free trade was not to be reversed; but how did he reconcile that with his speech before his two-and-twenty electors at Midhurst— or whatever the number might be—when he told them that crime and poor-rates were inversely increasing with the practice of free trade? If the policy of free trade were not to be reversed, as the right hon. Gentleman now with "bated breath" assured them, why had it not been distinctly stated in the Speech from the Throne? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had screwed up his courage to many points, take his physic like a man—why make so many gulps in swallowing this free-trade potion? Why did the right hon. Gentleman, who was the genius and soul of his Cabinet, condescend to be tied together with a bundle of incompetent marquesses and men who were at least questionable as to their principles, however honourable they might be in other respects? Why did he not say, "I am a free-trader; I hunted Sir Robert Peel to his grave; I maligned Sir Robert Peel; but I see that I committed a grievous error, and I am now a free-trader?" Don't let them talk in a vague manner about the spirit of chivalry in the heart of the noble Lord at the head of the Cabinet. Why did the noble Lord in 1846 stand by in the presence of that great man whom he might designate the "Wellington of peace," and listen to those bitter and envenomed attacks which were levelled, not only against the principle of free trade, but against the person of Sir Robert Peel? For himself, he stated at once that he had no confidence in the chivalry or high principle of the leader of the Administration; and sorry was he to add that he had no great trust in the sincerity of the creator of the party who sat in the House of Commons. He must congratulate the House upon the course of the debate. He had no doubt that in a short time every one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite would take 104 the very manly course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and bow to the decision of the country. He had nothing to say to that graceful bow which the right hon. Gentleman had made to the decision of the country, except that he thought he would have consulted his own position and his high character, of which he had told them, better, if he had made that bow in the days of Sir Robert Peel, and had not waited until he himself came into office. He knew that office was no object to the right hon. Gentleman. He knew that he had been dragged into this by the mischievous love of party; but still he must bear the imputations which would be made by persons out of that House, who would regret that he had delayed until the eleventh hour making his bow to the decision of the country. The paragraph with reference to free trade imperatively called upon the leaders of the Opposition to decide at once. When the measures of 1846 were passed, they had no notion of compensation to any interest. He denied that injury had been inflicted on any interest, and he denied that compensation should be paid to any interest for the robbery which it had committed on the public for so many years. He was surprised that hon. Gentleman had not seen it in that light. It might be desirable, as an object of party tact, to delay this question; but he was convinced that it would have been better for the country to have met this insidious and evasive paragraph by an Amendment upon the very first opportunity. So much for the doctrine of free trade. As to what was "looming in the future," as to the bottled problems that they were by and by to see enunciated, he would say nothing on the present occasion. But he would warn the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), and he would warn the country Gentlemen generally (of whom so much had been said in 1846 and 1847), that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might, after all, turn out to be the Flying Dutchman of the agricultural party; that the right hon. Gentleman having led them on so far—and he begged the farmers of England to mark this—that, having led them on so far for no other object but to elevate himself, would probably be found to have been deluding them once more on the subject of protection. [Cries of "No!"] Aye, but "Yes." He was not using his own language: he was giving them a paraphrase of the language which 105 the Chancellor of the Exchequer used towards the late Sir Robert Peel. He (Mr. B. Osborne) remembered well the words of the right hon. Gentleman, for they strongly impressed themselves on his memory at the time. The right hon. Gentleman said that he could see a great difference between the leader of the Opposition and the head of the Ministerial party—that he would not contrast too strongly the hours of courtship with the hours of possession'—and he moreover said that he had the satisfaction of proclaiming that the policy of the Conservative party was "an organised hypocrisy." The right hon. Gentleman had taunted his opponents on this occasion with having carried some of their weaknesses into the present discussion. He (Mr. B. Osborne) left the House to judge whether the right hon. Gentleman had not carried a certain degree of "organised hypocrisy" into it as his contribution. Away then, he said, at once with their speeches and their "chivalry," for he, for one, had confidence in neither, believing, as he did, that they had only used them that they might thereby get into power, and that the result would be that they would as soon as possible kick down the ladder by which they rose. He had no heart, and he believed the House had no inclination, to go into the other petty paragraphs of Her Majesty's Speech. He believed, as had already been said, that eulogy had been exhausted on the character of the Duke of Wellington, and on that topic he would only say that his Grace was a truly illustrious Englishman—an Englishman worthy to take his place among the Pantheon of great men— by the side of Sir Robert Peel. He must, before he sat down, make an exception with reference to the paragraph relating to Ireland. There was, at any rate, no deception there. He observed that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not take the opportunity, even when his attention was drawn to it, of disclaiming that he did not mean to involve the whole of Ireland in the "unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence" which was referred to. He (Mr. B. Osborne) denied that there was any "insubordination and turbulence" on the part of the people of Ireland. There might be a certain amount of agrarian crime, and no man regretted it more than he did. But was there no crime in this country? He believed that for one crime in Ireland, there were fifty in England; and it was, to say the least of it, not becoming in a Minister of the Crown 106 who wished to avoid an Amendment to the Address—who desired to see them all a happy, united family on that occasion—it was not becoming in him to cast a slur like this on the people of Ireland in Her Majesty's Speech. He would not now dwell on this topic, as other opportunities would doubtless occur of discussing it; but he could not help observing that when the Government talked of adopting a "liberal and generous policy towards Ireland," it would not have been out of place to have heard when the promised Landlord and Tenant Bill would be introduced; whether the Government intended to propose any inquiry into Maynooth; and whether they had any intention of interfering with the noblest and best institutions in Ireland? He alluded to the system of national education in Ireland. He confessed that when he saw the recent appointment to the episcopal bench in Ireland of a rev. gentleman who, whatever might be his other qualifications, had always been remarkable for his hostility to the national system of education, he (Mr. B. Osborne) could not but tremble for the result. It was true that Lord Derby had formerly instituted the system; but it was possible that some new light had beamed into his mind upon that as upon other subjects, and that he was now disposed to alter and destroy that which the House had taken such pains to promote. He hoped that before the discussion concluded, the House would be favoured with some intimation of the views of the Government upon this subject from the law officers, or some other official, connected with Ireland. Of this he was quite sure, that it was by no means "a liberal and generous policy towards Ireland" to be introducing paragraphs into Her Majesty's Speech maligning that country; and he was sure that it would not conciliate the affections of the people of Ireland to find that the right hon. Gentleman had studiously avoided noticing the point after his attention had been specially called to it. The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech which he had delivered that evening, had, with his usual ability, raised one of those thick mists which he had found so successful with the country Gentlemen who had been returned to Parliament to promote protection. And, speaking of the country Gentlemen, he wished to ask what had become of them? Were they content to hear that there was to be no reversal of the system of free trade? He saw an hon. Gentleman opposite who he had always understood 107 was a Protectionist to the back bone, and who told his constituents at the last election that he should be the last man who would give in his adhesion to the doctrines of free trade. What had that hon. Gentleman to say to the declarations of Government on this occasion? Surely the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Christopher) would not be allowed to be only penitent. If Protection was really to be given up, let hon. Members swallow the dose and become free-traders at once— and, what was more, without looking for compensation; for they (the free-traders) were determined that there should be no compensation, believing, as they did, that no injury had been done. If they wished to remain in power, and to be infamously contented, let them do so if they could. He had done his duty in warning them of the consequences. Such was in effect the kind of speeches which had been directed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite against the late Sir Robert Peel. He (Mr. B. Osborne) had not attempted to emulate the glowing language of the right hon. Gentleman; but of this he was sure, that he had spoken with greater sincerity and with greater devotion to the cause which he professed to advocate.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
did not rise for the purpose of throwing any light upon the intentions of Government, for he was not in their secrets, and had no more means of understanding their views than any other hon. Member; but, as an independent country gentleman, and as representing a large constituency, partly agricultural, but quite as largely manufacturing, he was anxious to state his views to the House on the points which had been raised on the present discussion; and, in the first place, he deprecated the repeated attacks which had been made on Her Majesty's Government by hon. Members opposite. Such attacks must recoil upon the heads of those who made them; and he appealed to those hon. Gentlemen whether it would not be more consistent, if not with their own character, at least with the character of the House, to wait until they had really something to attack, instead of making an onslaught which was simply based upon a spirit of malevolence. It might do very well for certain organs of public opinion, in the absence of direct information, to fabricate their facts and deal in wholesale fiction for the purpose of damaging the Ministry; but such tactics ill became that House, where there was 108 not the same excuse for their adoption, or the same licence allowed as in the case of the press. He repeated that he had no means of arriving at an interpretation of Her Majesty's Speech beyond what any other Gentleman unconnected with the Government had; but on reading the paragraph which had been so much discussed, he had come to the conclusion, which, with all their mystification, even those Gentlemen who had attacked the Government had themselves clearly come to—namely, that Her Majesty's Government had for ever, as far as they were concerned, given up any notion of attempting to reimpose any protective duties upon corn; but that at the same time they were resolved to put it to the House whether they thought that the removal of those duties, while conferring advantages upon one class of the community, had not inflicted injury upon another class; and, if so, whether they were not prepared to adopt measures to mitigate the injury? But did this satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite? It did not; nor would they, he believed, have been a bit more satisfied had the language of the Speech been even still more explicit, or had it even been drawn up in their own language; for, from the first moment that the Government had been placed in their present position, the same identical attacks had been directed against them de die in diem, and were now repeated usque ad nauseam, however strong the necessity for the despatch of business. What had been said by hon. Members opposite that evening? What did the hon. Member for Montrose complain of, for instance? It would be remembered that nobody rose immediately after the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; that there was a total silence for a few moments in the House; and that then up got the hon. Member for Montrose and denounced all the Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House—and for what? Simply because they had not replied to the Motion which was to be brought forward by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton on Monday week. Really when the hon. Gentleman was in such an unreasonable mood, it would not be wisdom on the part of the Ministerial Members to attempt to allay dissatisfaction grounded on such an unfathomable feeling of hostility. Then, what did the hon. Member for Wolverhampton himself say? He complained on constitutional grounds of the paragraph in the Queen's Speech referring to free trade. He laid down the broad constitu- 109 tional principle that the opinions of the Minister of the day must be in consonance with the opinions of the majority of the House—about which there could be no doubt—and that, in order that the Minister should be able to maintain a constitutional position, he must follow one of two courses—he must first ascertain whether the opinions of a majority of the House were the same as his own; and if not, he must either recant his own opinions or resign. Now, he (Mr. Addcrloy) would take leave to say that there was a third course that might be followed, and that was to allow any opinion which he had formerly held, but which he was now unable to carry out, simply to remain at rest. He saw no need for an absolute recantation. When Sir Robert Feel took office in 1835 it was not found necessary to ask him to make an affidavit that he would never attempt to repeal the Reform Bill of 1832; neither did the noble Lord the Member for London think it advisable to come under any pledge with reference to the celebrated "appropriation clause" when he became First Minister of the Crown. The noble Lord found it more convenient to let that subject pass away sub silentio, though he had turned out a strong Government expressly upon it. The noble Lord and his friends, therefore, were not the men to ask that an affidavit, security, or guarantee should be imposed upon the present Government—that in no circumstances whatever should they attempt to revive the question of free trade. He observed that there were three sections of the Opposition united in calling in question the paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech on the subject of free trade. There were—first, the immediate predecessors of the present Government; second, the leaders and staff officers of the Government of Sir R. Peel, strangely hostile to the remainder of their own party now in office; and, third, the free-trade party, to whom the whole credit should be given of the free-trade measures which were now the law of the land—he meant the hon. Member for Wolverhampton and his friends, to whom alone, he repeated, belonged the full credit of being the friends of the poor on this question; and he must say that he thought it gross presumption on the part of the party which called themselves by Sir Robert Peel's name to attempt to take to themselves the credit of a measure which they had tried so long to delay, obstruct, and keep down. He denied, however, that cither of these three 110 sections were entitled to bring the charge of inconsistency against the present Government. Was the noble Lord, the late Prime Minister, consistent on the Appropriation Clause, coming into power expressly upon it, and never alluding to the subject after gaining office by it? or on the Militia Bill of last Session? or was he consistent in telling Her Majesty that it would be a disastrous course to resort to a dissolution of Parliament, and then immediately afterwards pressing the present Government to adopt that course? or was he consistent when, opposing the Militia, he suggested supplying our homo defences by troops drawn from the Colonies; a measure which, when he (Mr. Adderley) proposed it on other grounds, he denounced? And, with regard to the Colleagues of Sir Robert Peel, what sort of a recantation was it that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) and his Colleagues wanted from the Government, after they had stated, as plainly as language could, that they had no intention of raising the question again? Was it a recantation such as Sir Robert Peel himself made in 1846, when he all at once announced his intention of introducing a measure in direct opposition to every argument he had formerly used, and reversed not only his policy, but avowedly every principle on which he had based it? Was it a recantation like that which had been made by the right hon. Baronet himself? He was sure that many hon. Members would recollect how the House was electrified by the rapidity with which the right hon. Gentleman reversed all his former arguments, and how, to use his own phrase, he swept whole volumes of Hansard away by one single word. If it was a recantation of this kind that was wanted, he could only say that it was unreasonable to ask it of them, and that it would not at all meet their views to accede to the request. Then, with regard to those whom he might call the apostles of free trade, they seemed to him like the children in the market-place—there was no pleasing them. If the Government and their friends declared themselves to be Protectionists they were not satisfied; and if they called themselves Freetraders they were equally dissatisfied. He denied that the Government had reversed any principle on the subject of protection, or that it had ever been held by them as a principle at all, It was, indeed, based upon a principle—and principles are of eternal obligation, essential and fundamental, and are never to be reversed—he 111 meant the principle of equal justice—the principle that all classes should be taxed alike; but the system which was known as Protection was only an artificial arrangement based on that principle. He had always said that if protection meant the favouring one class at the expense of another, he would not defend it for a single moment; it was only to be justified as a balance of unequal taxation. Protection, however, having been withdrawn, the same principle called upon them to adjust the inequality which the removal of protection had produced. The party which was at present in power was the same party which was formed by Sir Robert Peel in 1841; and the cause of the indignation which had been expressed against them by their late colleagues, now in opposition, was, that they had not been able to follow their common leader equally in opposite directions. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesex (Mr. Osborne) sneered at the want of independence shown by the country Gentlemen; but if following a leader one day in his advocacy of protection, and being ready the next day to share in his advocacy of free trade, was his idea of independence, he differed from it toto coelo. He had always admitted that the conduct of Sir Robert Peel on that occasion was highly honourable to himself: the rapidity, ill-adjustment, and inconsistency of his change of policy was at least not selfish, but a great personal sacrifice; but he thought it rather hard that his party should be blamed for not following him in the last phase of his political career, simply because their minds had been too ineffaceably impressed with the arguments which he had urged upon them just before. The hon. Member concluded by protesting against the House being called upon to give the guarantee which the proposed Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton implied. It appeared to him to be a dangerous precedent, and he hoped the House would not assent to it: that any measure, however inappropriate and set aside for the present, should be put under a perpetual ban of excommunication from all future discussion—a ban which, moreover, would not be binding on any single Member of the House the hour after it had passed into a resolution.
§ MR. COBDEN
I don't know that I should have trespassed upon the attention of the House, had I not wished to impress upon my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), the propriety of 112 not listening to the advice which comes from the other side, with respect to his intention of bringing forward a substantive Motion on the question of free trade. I think my hon. Friend has duly appreciated his position before the country with reference to that subject. He has long been the faithful representative of the principle of free trade in this House; and the country is deeply interested in our discussions on that subject, and they will expect that those discussions shall be brought to some definite result. Now, I ask, is it possible that the plain, honest, and simple-minded people, of this country can consider that this clause in the Queen's Speech is a sufficient solution of the fourteen years' controversy which, within my knowledge and experience, have passed away upon this question? Why, if I read the passage aright, it is put into that form with an intention that it shall not mean anything. It begins with an "if." A right hon. Gentleman has said that the "if" is intended to be a peacemaker; and Shakespeare has said that "your if is a great peacemaker"— but, if this passage be hypothetical and means nothing, how can we come to any decision on the question, or how can it he said that we are satisfying the country, or convincing them that the views of the House of Commons are in harmony with those of the great majority of the people out of doors upon a question so interesting to them? I think, therefore, my hon. Friend has pledged himself most wisely before the country that within a fortnight of this time he will bring this question substantively before the House. Supposing, however, what the Chancellor of the Exchequer says be true—and I understand that a noble Earl in another place has made a statement confirmatory of his opinion—supposing it to be true that the Cabinet have resolved to adopt the principle of unrestricted competition, where can be the difficulty, or where the delay, arising out of the Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhamption? I undertake to say that his resolution will do no more than affirm the principle of unrestricted competition with a view to carrying it out. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that is the opinion of the Cabinet, Then the right hon. Gentleman will only have to second the Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and in one night—nay, in one short hour—for I promise him he will not be troubled with many speeches—this question will be disposed of for ever. But it 113 must not be mixed up with other questions, it must not be mixed up with questions of finance. I think the hon. Member for Wolverhampton has had too much experience of this House, and has seen too much of what is required for success in the advocacy of any measure, to allow one grave question to be mixed up with any others. We must have the pure and simple free-trade principle affirmed, and that is a principle not to be based upon the casual prosperity of the present day. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last is most anxious that we should allow this question only to be settled for the present. Yes, yes, there would be great convenience in that—because hon. Gentlemen might then go down to the farmers' tables a month hence, and say, "We only assent to this for the present. You have only to agitate. Get up meetings, subscribe to protection societies, and the time will come when the manufacturers, instead of being prosperous, will be suffering, and then we may reverse this principle, and adopt again the policy of protection. ["Hear!"] Ay, but we don't intend to act upon that principle at all. We say that the principle of unrestricted commerce is true, and sound, and politic, and just at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. If it be a truth it will answer to all these conditions; and if it be not, it is not worth the fourteen years' struggle to establish it by legislation. I have no objection to see a financial scheme brought forward. I think that, apart altogether from the principle of unrestricted commerce—apart from abolishing protective duties—there is a very great field open to any ingenious Chancellor of the Exchequer in the modification of our system of taxation. That is a process which I invoke quite as much in the interest of my constituents, the woollen manufacturers of Yorkshire, as you who are opposite can do in the interest of the landed proprietors; because my constituents in West Yorkshire, the manufacturers of woollens and stuffs, are open to the unrestricted competition of the whole world, and are equally interested in the question of taxation. Therefore I cannot allow you to go into the question of taxation with the view of remedying what you call an injury done to certain interests in 1846. I know what those interests are. You mean the parties engaged in agriculture. Well, but that will open a very wide question. In the first place I deny the injury you talk of. You will have to prove your case. You 114 have not proved it. I could mention two or three circumstances that would stand in your way at the outset. Some of the largest landowners in the kingdom have declared that their rents have not suffered in consequence of free trade. Last year we heard this stated by the Duke of Buccleuch and Sir James Graham. Fanners have not all suffered either. Those engaged in grazing, in raising wool, and in dairy farming, have all been profiting by the prosperity of trade which has arisen from the changes which have taken place. But when you talk of relieving landed property, you are going not only to relieve wheatgrowers from taxation—you contemplate not only a modification of taxation for the benefit of wheatgrowers— but you relievo railway property, house property, and, in fact, more than half the real property of the country, which does not come under the denomination of agricultural property at all. Besides, what are you going to do with the 7,000,000l. or 10,000,000l. worth of property in Ireland bought under the Incumbered Estates Act, since the free-trade measures passed? These parties have bought their land under free-trade conditions. Are you going to give compensation to them? There are many millions' worth of property sold every year. On what principle, then, are you going to make your remission of taxation? I deny the loss; but I say it would be a most clumsy thing to attempt a compensation which must cover all the owners of real property, when, avowedly, you only want to reach the growers of wheat, and the owners of two or three other descriptions of property. I deny that even your agricultural proprietors— your owners of laud—can show a loss. Is the land worth less now that it was when Sir Robert Peel made the change in the law? I say, then, that you must begin by showing your case. Where is the injury—the loss? You must then show your right to compensation, because I can point you to other people who have sustained losses. You don't intend to compensate lawyers, who are now suffering great losses, because you have abolished their "John Doe and Richard Roe," and other expensive processes. No; they may emigrate to the "diggings." I lay down this rule—that when a class of the community has been benefiting under the operation of laws, such class can have no beneficial interest in those laws; and if the laws are abrogated, the class can have no 115 right to compensation for their loss. If the corn laws entitle anybody to compensation they will hold it with bloodstained hands; for I will on a future occasion give you some recitals of what took place in 1816, in 1819, and in 1829—of riots, of murders, and of executions—and I will distinctly trace them all to the operation of your corn laws. If you bad now in force the law which existed in 1815, I am convinced that in the last autumn, when the harvest threatened to be a failure, you would, instead of contentment and happiness, and a well-affected state of mind among the people, have witnessed the misery and crime which prevailed at the periods to which I have referred. I say, then, you are wrong in meddling with this question at all. Why, you surely don't expect that the country, and the majority of this House, will go into a discussion on the financial state of the country with the foregone conclusion that certain interests are entitled to compensation? That is the very thing we (the Opposition) have been fighting about, and you ask us to reopen the whole question! The first thing my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton must do is to see that we are put in as good a position as before the elections; and if the Members of the House of Commons pledged to free trade do their duty, as I believe they will, we shall have free trade recognised by a vote of this House, and without its being in any way alloyed by the question of compensation. The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone), who is perhaps more difficult to follow in his speeches than any one in this House, appeared to me to fail in what I should have thought of all other points he would have been least likely to err—I mean his casuistry. He laid down the principle that we might call upon a Government for a declaration of their policy, but that we had no right to put them in the crucible, in order to extract from thorn a declaration of their opinions and convictions. Now, if I were engaging an agent or steward, I should like to know what his views were upon the business I wished him to perform; and, knowing his views, I should conclude that, if he were an honest man, his practice would be in accordance with those views. It is upon the same principle that I wish to know the sentiments of the Ministry; because they are the agents, or stewards of the people at large; and I believe that, whatever their convictions 116 may be, their policy will be in accordance with them, if we give them the opportunity of carrying those convictions out. Can it be supposed that right hon. Gentlemen would take office, holding certain convictions on the greatest question of the day, and that, notwithstanding those convictions, if you will let them remain in office, they are perfectly willing to carry out the very opposite policy? That would be a very compendious mode of dealing with party politics; it would simplify proceedings very much. There would be none of those migrations from one side of the floor to the other which occasionally take place. Once "in," and whatever the demands of the country might be, the convictions of Gentlemen in office would never be any obstacle to their acceding to such demands. Now, I could more easily tolerate that doctrine, provided the Gentlemen opposite had never given their reasons for the faith that is in them. I cannot forget, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us, not in the heat of debate in 1846, but as lately as 1849, the reasons why he was in favour of protection, and why especially he was in favour of reciprocity. He has given most elaborate arguments to show that free trade, according to the "Manchester school," as he was pleased to call it—that is, free imports in opposition to hostile tariffs—are calculated to degrade the labourer, to lower the rate of wages, to diminish capital, and to increase pauperism. He has told us all that within the last three years. I am the last person to wish to go back to Hansard to quote statements which have been made in this House; but when I find the right hon. Member for Oxford University asking me to leave the Ministers in office, whatever their convictions may be, I cannot separate those arguments of right hon. Gentlemen to which I have alluded from what I believe to be their present convictions, and which, I have no doubt, they would carry out in practice if they could do so. We cannot forget the last time the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded to this subject of free trade—last May—when he told me very indignantly,"1 deny that I have come to this side of the House to betray the principles I held on the other side. On the contrary, I am here, and I say it emphatically, to carry out, if I have the power, all those principles which I have hitherto advocated." I think, then, I am justified in asking right hon. Gentlemen 117 opposite what are their present convictions on this question? I would not subject them to the ordeal to which they subjected the late Sir Robert Peel when he changed his opinions. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke has talked about the way in which Gentlemen on this side of the House are constantly assailing those on the other side. I imagine he must have been mistaken, and have been thinking of what happened four or five years ago. The late Sir Robert Peel avowed changing his opinions, and yet he was not allowed to remain in peace with his new convictions, though he abandoned office as the price of his conversion. I don't think the Gentlemen opposite have any reason to complain of the restribution with which they have been visited. I have often felt, and I have often been on the point of saying, what I will not hesitate to say now—that the personal friends and political Colleagues of the late Sir Robert Peel have, in my opinion, shown more forbearance towards his assailants than ever I could have done with the Christian temper I aim at possessing. But if the Gentlemen opposite will come forward when my hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers) makes his Motion, and will give in their adhesion to free trade, and declare that they have changed their views upon that question, I give them my solemn pledge that from that moment they will never hear one taunt or one single reproach from me. If we have not that declaration, others may be inclined to trust Gentlemen who profess one set of opinions, and who carry out another set in practice; but I can only say for myself that, representing a constituency the largest in the Empire, and a population of a million and a half, whoso opinion is unanimous, unless right hon. Gentlemen opposite do avow a change in their opinions, they shall not remain in office one day with my consent, or a day beyond the time that I can turn them out. I have only to repeat to my hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers) what I am sure he does not re- quire to be cautioned about—namely, that he should take the earliest opportunity of bringing forward his substantive Motion. Let it cover the whole ground. Let him declare emphatically the right of the people of this country to free trade in corn; let him avow that principle as just and politic, and one that must be maintained, enlarged, and extended in every practicable way. If the Gentlemen opposite will endorse that resolution, they will have a truce 118 for ever for me. If they resist it, I shall be their opponent as long as I remain in this House.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, that though he stood alone in the House, he would still declare his conviction, in spite of all that had been said on both sides, that protection was the best and wisest policy for this country and for all nations to adopt. He might be ridiculed for maintaining such a doctrine; but he had some consolation in the knowledge that there was not a single nation of the earth, save Great Britain, that did not adhere to the principle he advocated. He had the satisfaction of knowing that all the greatest men of America, France, and the whole Continent, agreed with him, maintained his views, and carried out in their several countries those principles which he believed to he sound and right: and he believed that, under the guidance of a gracious Providence, this country had attained its greatness and its superiority over all other nations by the maintenance of that protective policy which many Members of that House now despised and condemned. It had been very properly remarked, that they had arrived at a period when it was necessary for all men and for all parties distinctly to avow what their opinions were. But the Homo Secretary had truly said, that this was not a night to be devoted to political and party discussion, but one on which they had met unitedly to testify their honour and attachment to Her Majesty, by receiving and responding to the Royal Speech. ["Hear!"] Surely the ease was not so urgent, or the matter so pressing, that it was necessary to enter upon the question of the Ministerial policy immediately; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had asked only for a delay of a few days, the denial of his request must be promoted rather by party spirit than by any desire to benefit the country by extracting now an opinion from the House. The noble Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) had stated that there was one paragraph in the Royal Speech of which he could not approve—a paragraph so mystified and unintelligible, one part of it professing one principle, and the other part another, that he was much disposed to take the sense of the House upon it— meaning thereby the paragraph which related to the question of free trade. Now, he (Mr. Ball) could very well understand how a particular policy might be very good for one portion of the people, while it was 119 not equally good for another. He could easily understand how free trade might have advanced some interests in the community, while it had damaged others. If they only looked back two Sessions ago, when the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was Prime Minister, they would find that the noble Lord admitted, through the Speech from the Throne, that there was one class in this country which had not been benefited by free-trade measures—that there was a body suffering great distress; and Her Majesty suggested to the House of Commons the propriety of taking the condition of that class into consideration. That Speech, like the present Speech from the Throne, acknowledged that certain principles which had been attended with great and certain good to some parties, had been adverse and injurious to the interests of others. But, though the noble Lord at that time recognised the injuries the agricultural interest had sustained, they had not to thank him for having done anything to redress those injuries. The hon. Gentleman who had last spoken (Mr. Cobden), and who had told them that he represented a million and a half of people, among whom there was no dissension, but that all opinions were in accordance with the principle of the late measures, asked how, when no party was suffering, could any one come to that House and ask for redress? and he added that the wool producers and farmers were in a prosperous state. But the very fact that the wool farmers were now selling their sheep at a profit, was destructive of the policy of free-trade principles. Why was it that these classes were making profits? When the system of free trade was first adopted, sheep were brought into this country in such numbers that a panic was created among the sheep breeders. These foreign sheep brought the disease with them; they introduced the smallpox into this country. The consequence of importing these horrible animals in such numbers was, that the sheep breeders killed off their stock; they ceased to breed to the same extent as before; the supply had fallen off, and prices had advanced to a remunerative point. This was the reason the sheep trade was remunerative. He believed the same consequence would result with regard to other branches of trade from the adoption of free-trade principles. Everybody knew that this country now grew less wheat than was produced before free trade was established; and if the growth of wheat proved unremunerative it 120 could not be expected that farmers would give much attention to its production. They would then have a decreased supply at home year by year; and if mildnew, or blight spread over the Continent they might have cause to regret that they had abandoned those principles under which the country had attained prosperity. He did not intend, however, to go into the question on that occasion. He had risen merely to assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that he had nothing to conceal, and nothing to disavow, and that he stood in that House just as much a Protectionist as he had been on the hustings before his constituents. He had the honour to appear in that House because he had advocated the principle of protection; and the very fact of his having a seat in Parliament proved how permanently and universally that principle had taken root in that part of the country in which he resided. He would not deny that free trade stood in a different position from what it was a few years back. Things did not look so gloomy as they did a year and a half ago; but that was not owing to free trade. That was the result of free trade alone? Did free trade discover the gold of Australia? It was to the vast and unforeseen influx of gold that we owed our prosperity, in spite of free trade. It was the wealth poured into the country from the newly-discovered gold regions, which had prevented the otherwise certain mischief of free trade. It was the goodness of Providence that sent us this wealth to relieve us from our sufferings. He had seen in the Quarterly Review, three years of free trade contrasted with three years of protection. He would read them an extract from that article to show the effects of free trade. A comparison was made of the results of the four years since 1846. In 1845–6 the poor-rates for England were 13,500,000l.; in 1849–50 they were 15,000,000l. In Scotland the increase was greater. Another fact was brought forward, relative to crime.
In 1845–6 the number of cases were—
In 1849–50 the number of cases were—
For England 35,500 For Scotland 7,600 For Ireland 15,700
Here were a few of the benefits which had flowed from cheapness occasioned by free trade. A more important fact was also to be 121 noticed—the deposits in the savings banks; in 1846 the amount was 62,000,000l., but in 1849 it had declined to 55,000,000l. He knew but one inference that could fairly be drawn from these facts, and these facts gave him more confidence in the opinions which he held. He recollected it was a great point of the free-trade advocates that those nations from whom we took corn would become customers of our manufactured commodities under a free-trade system, and buy so much of our manufactures as would add wonderfully to the wealth of the country. He believed, without exception, that the reverse was the case. If he were correctly informed, France, Germany, and the corn-growing countries from which we took such large quantities of corn of late, took less of our manufactures now than they did before free trade. If these were facts, why should he be asked to justify the principles which he had always professed, and why should he be asked to abandon them? He could never consent to be the advocate in that House of principles which he repudiated out of the House. Nothing would be more painful and more repugnant to his feelings than to read a recantation of opinions which he had elsewhere expressed when his convictions were unchanged. He repeated, he was a Protectionist, and he would not abandon the flag so long as it floated under a commander that he could follow, or a party in whom he could confide.
For England 41,000 For Scotland 8,000 For Ireland 38,000
§ SIR J. V. SHELLEY
congratulated the House that they had found one man bold enough to avow the principles of protection. He trusted, that when the hon. Member for Wolverhampton brought forward his Motion, that hon. Gentleman, whatever Her Majesty's Government might do, would give them an opportunity of having a discussion, and that he would oppose that Motion. He must say he gave the hon. Member credit for the manliness with which he had stated his conscientious opinions; but the hon. Member would allow him, as an old free-trader, entirely to disagree with the reasons he had given for those opinions, and especially that the stock of sheep was rapidly diminishing. He believed the agriculturists of Cambridgeshire were unfortunate enough to have the small-pox among their sheep; but he thought the hon. Member's constituents would laugh when they heard the cause to which he attributed the increase in the price of mutton and wool. To all persons having anything to do with agriculture, it 122 was notorious that, instead of the number of sheep bred in the country having greatly decreased, the contrary was the fact, and that the prices of both mutton and wool had advanced in consequence of a great increase in the demand; and, moreover, in consequence of the improved method of farming, the supply of lean sheep was insufficient to meet the demand. When also the hon. Gentleman took upon himself to say the quantity of corn grown was less than in the days of protection, he was equally inaccurate; and he (Sir J. V. Shelley) could take upon himself to assure him that never were such improvements being carried out in agriculture as had been carried out since the introduction of free trade. After they had been told, as they had been to-night, that never again would the Government attempt to lay protective duties upon corn, he trusted the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire would be prepared to give his opposition to Her Majesty's Ministers. With regard to the question to be brought before the House by the Member for Wolverhampton, he entirely agreed with those who thought the country looked to this House that the question should at once be settled either one way or the other. For himself, he was satisfied nothing had done so much injury to agriculture, had so truly been the bane of agriculture, as that protection to which? the hon. Member even now adhered, and whenever that subject should be before the House, he would take an opportunity of entering more largely than at present into the arguments by which that opinion was supported.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I wish to make one or two observations upon the Address and the Speech prepared by Her Majesty's advisors; and I cannot refrain at the outset from joining my voice to those who have spoken already, in bearing testimony to the good taste and good feeling which have led Her Majesty Ministers to place in a prominent part of the Speech a just tribute to the memory of that great man whom we have just lost. Of him at present I shall content myself with saying, that I believe that never was there any other man, in any country whatever whose lot it was to render such great and important services to his country, or who had the good fortune to live so long in the enjoyment of the universal and unbounded love, respect, and admiration of his countrymen. Sir, I am glad to find, talking of the principle of protection, that at least 123 one application of that principle has succeeded, and that Her Majesty's Ministers have been able to realise the expectations held out as to the voluntary enlistment of men for the militia service. I certainly feel peculiar gratification on that point, inasmuch as it always was my opinion that voluntary enlistment would answer the purpose, and that a sufficient number of men could be found ready to join the ranks of the militia, on the terms which the Government were prepared to offer. I have received, Sir, great satisfaction from the statement which the Speech contains in regard to the acquiescence and co-operation of the Government of Brazil in measures taken by this country for the suppression of the slave trade. I am happy to think that the suspension of those measures by which that co-operation was obtained—stated to be only temporary and contingent on that co-operation—will not be of a more lasting character. I should have been glad if Her Majesty's Government had been able to state that the Government of Spain had equally co-operated in putting an end to the importation of slaves into Cuba, and I trust that either this evening, or on some future occasion, Her Majesty's Ministers will be able to inform us in what degree, during the year now expiring, the Cuba slave trade, by the good faith of the Spanish Government, has either been reduced or put an end to. Sir, on that great question which has been the main topic of debate this evening, I think if any doubt could have existed when we met to-day as to the necessity of some declaration on the part of this House, aye or no, on the question of protection or free trade, that which has passed in debate this evening would have removed that doubt altogether; because, although it appears that Her Majesty's Government thought the question might be passed over sub silentio, and disposed of in a paragraph in the Speech, which resembles, in its ambiguous terms, the oracle,Aio te, Æacida, Romanos vincere posse,and which, according as it is construed, may be taken either one way or the other; and although I do not blame the Ministers for the arrangement of that Speech, after the excellent reason given by the Secretary of State, "that it was known there were Gentlemen who might have objected to a frank and explicit declaration as to the policy to be pursued;" yet, Sir, we have heard to-night that there are protectionists 124 still in the House: and if the verdict of the country is to be inferred simply from the debate this evening, it may go forth that doubts may be entertained what is the opinion of the majority of the House of Commons on that great question. Now considering the formal manner in which that question was by Her Majesty's Ministers referred to the decision of the country at the late general election, I do think it is necessary for the public interest that there should be some formal declaration of opinion—not simply by the Members of Her Majesty's Ministry, satisfactory as that has been, so far as we have heard them this evening—but a formal declaration by the House itself, establishing permanently and decidedly that which no doubt will be established—the concurrence of the Commons' House of Parliament in the soundness of that system of commercial policy on which legislation of late years has been founded. And, Sir, I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke on the other side, that free trade is a measure, and not a principle. No doubt the imposition or repeal of duty on a particular article such as corn may be a measure—a measure emanating from a principle; but the principle of free trade is of larger and more extensive application—it is one which ought to be consecrated by the vote of this House as the foundation of all our future legislation. And, therefore, I heard with great satisfaction that the question is to be brought distinctly and separately under consideration. That being the case, and feeling that I shall undoubtedly join my vote with others who are prepared to affirm that principle, I shall not further intrude upon the time of the House, but only express my concurrence, not only in the propriety, but the absolute necessity for such a proceeding.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, that he had intended to express his great disappointment, if he had not used the expression disgust, at the course adopted by those whom it was his great wish and anxiety to have supported. He thought himself called upon, after being so many years a Member of that House, to express briefly, independently, and fearlessly his opinions. He was from heart and soul a protectionist; he came into that House as a protectionist, and he would continue in that House alone as a protectionist. When he could dare to change those opinions which he had so often professed in that House, he would at once resign that sit- 125 nation, and confess his constituents had reposed an unworthy confidence in him. He regretted deeply being called on to express those feelings. He said most distinctly he was unchangeable in opinion and unchangeable in conduct. He confessed he was astonished at the manner in which that party, to which he had been proud to attach himself, had ventured to express themselves in that House. He had heard the word "duplicity." He was sorry to say that was his opinion. He quarrelled with no man for his political opinions, whether they be free-trade or protectionist; but let him know who his man was, and on which side of the House he was called on to take his seat. He knew he ought not to have trespassed on the House; but, as an honest man, he was anxious to do his duty fearlessly, and he could not have retired to rest without expressing his disappointed feelings, and his determination to uphold his own principles.
§ Resolved accordingly.
§ Committee appointed, "to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:" Lord Lovainc, Mr. Edward Egerton, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Walpole, Sir John Pakington, Mr. Herries, Mr. Henley, Lord John Manners, Sir John Trollope, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Solicitor General, The Judge Advocate, Lord Naas, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Mackenzie, Mr. Stafford, and Mr. Wilson Patten, or any five of them.
§ Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at half after Nine o'clock.