§ Order read, for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [23rd November],"That it is the opinion of this House that the improved condition of the Country, and particularly of the Industrious Classes, is mainly the result of recent Commercial Legislation, and especially of the Act of 1846, which established the free admission of Foreign Corn; and that that Act was a wise, just, and beneficial measure:"—(Mr. Charles Villiers:) — And which Amendment was to leave out from the first word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House acknowledges, with satisfaction, that the cheapness of provisions, occasioned by recent Legislation, has mainly contributed to improve the condition and increase the comforts of the Working-Classes; and that unrestricted competition having been adopted, after due delibera- 531 tion, as the principle of our Commercial System, this House is of opinion that it is the duty of the Government unreservedly to adhere to that policy in those measures of Financial and Administrative Reform which, under the circumstances of the Country, they may deem it their duty to introduce,"—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer,) —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I hope the House will allow me to make a remark as to the course Her Majesty's Government are prepared to take. With respect to the Amendment which I proposed, and that which has been proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), I have to say that I shall defer to what appears to be the feeling of the House. I shall not press the Amendment I have given notice of, and the question may now be taken on the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers), and the Amendment of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston).
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he wished to say by way of explanation, before the House began the debate, that in his speech the other night he had referred to the fact that the Lord Advocate of Scotland had gone as a candidate to Lisburn, and had stood for that borough under the patronage of the Marquess of Hertford. It had been stated in at least one of the papers that he had asserted the gentleman in question had gone to Lisburn under the patronage of the Marquess of Londonderry; and as he did not wish to be supposed capable of making a mistake on such an important question and matter of fact, and as he had received a letter from the son of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Londonderry), who sat in that House, in reference to it, he wished to make that statement, and to correct any erroneous impression which might prevail on the subject.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
As a matter of form I wish to observe, that I understand the Amendment of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) was to be moved in case the Amendment of Government was withdrawn. The noble Lord's Amendment has not yet been moved.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I intend to move— [An Hon. MEMBER: Do you 532 move it?] Yes, I do. I beg leave to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.
To leave out from the word 'Country,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words and especially of the Industrious Classes, is mainly the result of recent Legislation, which has established the principle of unrestricted competition, has abolished Taxes imposed for the purposes of Protection, and has thereby diminished the cost and increased the abundance of the principal articles of the Food of the People,' instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BOOKER
Before I proceed to discuss the important question now before the House, I will beg to assure the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Palmerston), of the high and grateful sense I entertain of the kindness and consideration which prompted him to step forward, under motives and feelings towards this side of the House which he has so well expressed, to make the conciliatory proposition which he has made, and which has been accepted by the Government. I hope, however, the noble Lord will not receive it as any mark of public or personal disrespect, if I, and those who act with me, feel ourselves unable to assent to his Amendment. Sir, there is no Member of this Assembly more thoroughly convinced of the hollowness and unsoundness of that system of commercial legislation now attempted to be forced permanently upon us, or who is more deeply but voluntarily committed to the opposite system, to which I still firmly adhere, than I am: and, notwithstanding I escaped the lash of the hon. Member for Manchester the other night, I desire to avow this—that there is no one who more deeply deplores than I do the course which Her Majesty's Government have been compelled, or have felt it their duty, to pursue, on this question of our future legislation. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have been a triumphant vindication of the Government—certainly it was a masterly exposition of the position in which the Government have found themselves placed. But in that speech there was no vindication of the course which I have openly and consistently pursued. I have been a member of that great party which has been called the Country party, which I have ever understood to have been united together by a principle, and that principle 533 was, and is, protection to our native industry and capital. That principle, on the platform and the hustings, as well as in this House, I have endeavoured, to the utmost of my power, to maintain. I have done so, through good report and evil report, under much of obloquy, some of which I may have justly merited, hut much of which I have felt was harsh, and not justly deserved. Before, then, I can consent to read a recantation, and abjure the principles of a whole life, I trust the House will grant me its indulgence, while I give my reasons for the faith which is still in me. Now, Sir, I have always understood that the system of free trade, now to be extended to free and unrestricted competition, was ushered in by a system of relaxation of our commercial tariff in the year 1842. I admit that, under the circumstances of the country, that was a wise and beneficial measure, and that great advantages flowed from it to the country at large. I will also allow, what indeed it would be foolish and idle to deny, that the years 1843, 1844 and 1845, were years of great national prosperity. Let me, however, pause here for a moment, and inquire what financial and commercial measures passed the Legislature during this period: in 1844, the Charter of the Bank of England was passed, and in 1845 those of Scotland and Ireland followed: in the year 1844 money was abundant, and as easy of attainment as it is at the present moment; the Bank of England fixed its rate of interest at 2 per cent, and advances could be had, as now, from private sources at 1¾ per cent. And now, Sir, what followed? The year 1846 was confessedly a period of the wildest speculation ever known in the annals of the country. In addition to private and joint-stock adventures of every sort and kind, railway speculations, requiring capital to the extent of nearly four hundred millions, received the sanction of the Legislature. In 1846, too, the Corn Laws were repealed; and now commenced in earnest, and without restriction, the application of the principle, and the development of the effects, of your boasted system and policy of free trade. Well, Sir, the very next succeeding year, 1847, brought a collapse in the commercial world, and a convulsion which shook commercial credit to its very centre. In the crash, mercantile and commercial capital, to the extent, I think, of upwards of fifty millions, in a few months was swept away, and many of the highest, and some 534 of the oldest of our commercial firms were levelled to the dust. Money, wealth, prosperity, all disappeared; the Government fixed the rate of interest for advances by the Bank of England at 8 per cent, and in private transactions it rose to 12, 15, and even, under the severity of the pressure, to 18 and 20 per cent: and this was under your boasted system of free trade. It certainly was an extraordinary and unexpected retribution, that trade and commerce should have felt and staggered under the first shock. You persevered in your system, and our domestic agriculture next reeled under the blow. During the succeeding years an amount of agricultural depression was experienced never before known. Agricultural capital was swept away by millions, as we have a ready witness in the hon. and learned Mover of these Resolutions. This, too, occurred under your boasted system of free trade; and the pressure continued with increased and accumulating violence from year to year, until Providence opened to us those vast regions and stores of mineral wealth, whence have flowed, over since, riches to an enormous extent. Providence, Sir, and not human legislation, nor any efforts or results of human wisdom, has removed the pressure, and produced these blessings under which the country is now beginning to revive; and, Sir, if the principle of protection to our native industry and capital were now prevailing—firmly maintained and prudently extended or relaxed, as occasion justified—I know of no limit within which our national prosperity would now be confined. Sir, I have felt this, and still feel it, that it is incontrovertible and true. I have endeavoured to fight the battle of protection honestly and manfully, but I am perfectly willing to admit that we have suffered defeat. I am willing to admit that Manchester has proved too strong for us. But I am of opinion, as the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton seems to be of opinion, that, if we are vanquished and acknowledge it frankly, to require of us to abjure and surrender all the fixed opinions of our lives, and to give a flat denial, by our votes, to our own past career, is going much too far. Under the existing prosperity of the industrious classes, I, for one, have no intention to attempt to reverse or alter that policy which, after a distinct appeal made to it, the country has now unequivocally confirmed. I will give it a fair trial. My own convictions remain unaltered, and are not by force and vio- 535 lence to be eradicated; but the battle has been fought in the country, and I acknowledge my party to be beaten. I utterly deny, however, that it is to that policy of free trade that the improved condition of the country is to be ascribed. I wish to be accurately informed of the extent to which that metallic wealth which Providence has disclosed to us, has flowed, and is continuing to flow, into this country. I believe it to be to an extent perfectly astonishing. The discovery of these gold regions, too, has had a double effect on the condition of the country. It has opened avenues and outlets for the outpouring of a redundant population; and it is my opinion that it is to this in-pouring of metallic wealth, coupled with a vast out-pouring, in a continuous stream, of masses of our people, that the prosperous condition of the working and industrious classes, and those who employ them, too, is to be mainly attributed. This conviction, Sir, is so impressed on my mind, that I deeply regret I cannot concur in the Amendment of the noble Lord; still less can I give my assent to the original Resolutions of the hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton. But, Sir, I feel as little disposed to embarrass the Government, in whose general policy I most fully concur. Although, then, upon the great questions of free trade and protection I lament the policy they have adopted, and the surrender they have made, and I must differ from them, yet upon all the great constitutional questions that must force themselves on the consideration of Parliament —in upholding inviolate the safety, honour, and dignity of the Crown,—in protecting and purifying the Church, in maintaining the Christian character of the Legislature; in defending our Protestant institutions in Church and State, both in this and the sister island, against that monstrous confederacy which, under the guise and watchword of religious equality, has reared its head—on all these questions of public policy they will have my earnest, zealous, and unflinching support. And, Sir, on the question of free trade, or, as it is now to be, free and unrestricted competition, they will not need my support, for if Gentlemen opposite are true to their ancient professions, of regarding measures and not men, they must command theirs. I rose, Sir, at this stage of the debate, to record my unaltered convictions on the subject of protection to our native interests; to declare my determina- 536 nation to vote against the Resolutions of the hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton; and at the same time to express my deep regret, on every ground, that I cannot record my vote in favour of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, he apprehended that the supplemental debate which they had witnessed that evening was about one of the most irregular things that had probably ever been witnessed in that House, and he should hope that the commencement of a new Parliament hon. Members would not make a precedent of a debate in which he did think the distinguished order of Baronets had not cut a very distinguished figure. Now his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) was a very gentlemanly man —he was a man of very fine and sensitive feelings—and the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers) had gained upon his susceptibility. His…"native hue of resolutionSeemed sicklied o'er by the pale cast of thought;but he must say, if the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets brought these fine susceptibilities into the House, he would be more qualified to weep over the Sorrows of Werter, than to discuss the principle of Free Trade. He (Mr. B. Osborne) lamented that the hon. Baronet had thought proper to put the question to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; he lamented that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) should have originated that debate, which he thought Mr. Speaker would be of opinion had been completely out of order. But what was the position they stood in at the present moment? They had no less than four Resolutions before them. No; one had been withdrawn, and there were only three. [An Hon. MEMBER: NO! only two.] fie believed there was a third; or else, what had become of the Resolution proposed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle? [An Hon. MEMBER: No, no! that's gone too.] What, had hon. Gentlemen opposite swallowed that too? ["No, no!".] Oh, then, it was not moved, but was intended to be a supplemental Resolution. But, if he understood the confusion of to-night, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had moved an Amendment to the original Resolution, which had been improved by the right hon. Gentleman the 537 Member for Carlisle, and adopted by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the name of the Government. But for himself he had no hesitation on reading the original Resolution, to say that it was the one which the House ought to adopt, nor did he think the country would be under any mistake as to its terms or appearance. This was no question of words: it was not a matter to be left to the etiquette of the Pump-room of Bath, or to a master of the ceremonies. It was the vindication of a policy—a policy which Sir Robert Peel commenced in 1842, and completed in 1846. It might be all very well for some Gentlemen to indulge in nice criticisms, and he must tell the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton that they were there to consider what was just and right: it was a great question of political morality, and not a question of what was agreeable to Gentlemen on the other side of the House. He was therefore very much surprised at the noble Lord's Amendment, but if he was surprised at the Amendment, he was still more surprised at the speech with which it was accompanied. He was aware that some people were of opinion that it was quite natural in the noble Lord—who might be considered as a sort of wet nurse to the present Administration—who attended them in their infancy, and cherished them in their adversities last Session—to step in to relieve the British Protectionist when he was almost choking with their endeavours to swallow a crust of Free Trade bread. Some people thought it was quite natural for the noble Lord, at such a conjunction to pat them on the back, and administer a mixture of his own creation. But if he took exception to the terms of the noble Lord's Amendment, what was he to say to his speech? He had a strong impression that the sympathies of the noble Lord would hereafter be enlisted more by the Tory benches than by his old and tried friends. He entertained a great respect for the noble Lord—he had a great admiration for him; yes, he proved that by his vote when the noble Lord on a memorable occasion was exposed to the danger of a vote of censure which his new friends wished to pass upon him: on that occasion, as an independent Member, he gave the noble Lord his humble support; he approved of the noble Lord's policy on that occasion, and, therefore, he had a just right now to speak his honest convictions as to the course pursued by the noble Lord now. It might be all very well for 538 the noble Lord to say of his new friends and connexions on the other side of the House, that they were pursuing a politic course; but he thought that the noble Lord went rather too far when he said it was a course that was creditable. He might consent to say that it was a politic course; but he must dissent from the noble Lord in to to as to the credit which the noble Lord appeared to attach to that course. And when the noble Lord, forsooth, taunted his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), and told him that he was making a great national interest a party question, he must take leave to ask the noble Lord who it was that had made it a party question for six long years? Who was it indeed? Was it the Free Traders in the House, or out of the House? No, it was the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his associates on the other side; and he thought there was little room for any man to talk about the credit of their course. For his part, no honest politician could say that the conduct of the Protectionist party had been a credit to themselves. But the noble Lord had taken his own line; he had chosen to move an Amendment to the original Resolution, thereby endeavouring to break up the united opinion of the liberal side of the House. It was very natural that the movement of the noble Lord should be viewed with suspicion by those who had hitherto been his friends; but if the noble Lord surprised him by his Amendment and his speech, what was his surprise to hear the speech of the Atlas of the Administration and the Proteus of protection, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He thought the House would agree with him in saying, that the fluency of the right hon. Gentleman's dictum was only equalled by the hardiness of his assertions. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the audacity of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell). Why, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to him to have taken a leaf out of the book of a great French character. [Laughter.] Oh, but he did not allude to M. Thiers. He spoke of the great French character at the time of the French Revolution—Danton, who, when he was asked to give a reason for his success, said, "Audacity, always audacity." Well, now, what was the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. Gentleman actually had the face to tell the House, the other night, after the course he 539 bad pursued for six years, that neither the Earl of Derby nor himself had endeavoured to reverse the system of Free Trade. True, the right hon. Gentleman never had the courage to make a direct or specific attempt to reverse the Free Trade policy, but the House must recollect the course which he allowed his friends and followers to pursue. The right hon. Gentleman the other night favoured the House with his own history of the Protectionist party and their course during the last six years. Then the right hon. Gentleman reminded him somewhat of another history, or rather a romance, namely, Hume's Apology for the Stewarts. But the right hon. Gentle man's history was nothing more nor less than an apology for his party, or rather for himself. But what course did the right hon. Gentleman really pursue? He would have them believe that he had stood by ever since 1846, and never even attempted to refute the doctrines of Free Trade. But was there no external agitation in the country? Was there not a house taken in Bond-street for disseminating tracts and conducting the whole business of the Protectionist movement? Why, if he was not mistaken, the hon. Gentleman who was now Secretary to the Admiralty was Secretary to the Bond-street Association. Well, now, what was the first movement of this gang? If the House would bear with him for a few minutes, he would show them by a few quotations. There had been a good deal of quoting in the course of this debate, but he would promise them that what he read should be new matter. He would not trouble them with the notions of ancient county Members, who were men to be pitied, but he would draw upon the fountain-head of the party. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that neither he nor the Earl of Derby ever was engaged in the Protectionist agitation; but if they were not, some of their principal supporters were, and he would take leave to mention an incident in proof of this, which no doubt the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty would well remember. In the year 1849, on June the 26th, a meeting was held in Drury-lane Theatre, which the party had taken at the time. At this period the Duke of Richmond was in the chair, and very active; indeed, it might almost be said that there were six Richmonds in the field —for his Grace was here, there, and everywhere; now in Sussex, now in Essex, then in London, and in any announcements of Protectionist meetings you were always 540 sure to see Mr. Ellman and the Duke of Richmond in red letters in the Bill. The Duke of Richmond invariably took the lead in opening the ball; for instance, he took the chair on this occasion, and the meeting was held to receive the Report of the Committee of the Central Society. The first Resolution for receiving the Report was moved by a Cabinet Minister. But before mentioning his name, the House should see what he said. These were the men, mark you! who never attempted to reverse the policy of Free Trade. This speaker thought the country was going to be ruined by a free trade in gloves, and then he went on to say—He was not one of those who wished a Minister to he obstinate in details, hut he wished him to be obstinate in principle; a man without firmness of principle was dangerous, unfitted for office. Three months before (the repeal of the Corn Laws) Sir Robert Peel spoke strongly in favour of this Bill of three years before.…What a blow to the character of our public men, and, through them, to the character of this country in the face of Europe '. It was not too late to retrace steps so rashly made. He hoped to God the time would never come when the free-trade theory would be consummated; hut, should it please God, in His anger, that it should he effected, then would this great kingdom soon return to her normal and natural state, a weather-beaten island in a northern sea.And who did the House think was the speaker of this eloquent and moving address? Who was it that was afraid Free Trade would reduce this country into a weather beaten island in a northern sea? No other person, indeed, than the noble Lord the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (the Earl of Malmesbury), a colleague of the right hon. Gentleman, who had never done anything to reverse the doctrines of Free Trade. But was the noble Lord of that opinion still? He wished they had him in that House. The Motion for the adoption of the Report was seconded by another Minister, but not a Cabinet Minister. It was seconded by a gentleman not of so many words as the previous speaker; he took a passage from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Well, the Chancellor of the Exchequer quotes, and why should not other people quote him? The gentleman said, "the flower of the country were with him, and therefore the cause of protected and regenerated England must triumph." He went on to observe—and the British lion was never taken such liber, ties with as in this passage—"The British lion is a loyal lion; he is a bold one, when 541 you do put him on his legs; he may be easily put up, but he is an awkward animal to put down." A Mr. Bosanquet was the gentleman who said this, but who he was he (Mr. B. Osborne) did not know; but Mr. G. P. Young, whom the Earl of Derby wished to make Vice-President of the Board of Trade, concluded a Motion at the same meeting for passing a vote of thanks to the noble Chairman by counselling the farmers what to do. They were to "agitate, agitate, agitate!" So much, then, for 1849; but let him follow these loyal Protectionists up. That assiduous Gentleman the present Secretary to the Admiralty was at this time Secretary to No. 17, Bond-street, where he was everything. He was everywhere, and did all sorts of things. He took the Crown and Anchor, where he got up a meeting in 1850. Well, the Crown and Anchor was taken, and who was in the chair? He did not know what had become of him, for lately he had not heard of him. The chairman was a noble Duke, and the man who threatened to make and unmake Peel. What had become of the Duke of Richmond? Nothing had been heard of him in the other House lately. Well, the Duke of Richmond was in the chair, and the meeting was attended by a few Ministers—men who now professed that they had never done anything to reverse the doctrines of Free Trade. The Earl of Eglintoun was there, Major Beresford was there, and so was poor Mr. Christopher. The Earl of Malmesbury was there, Mr. Forbes Mackenzie was there, Lord John Manners was there, and so was Sir John Trollope and Mr. Chowler. Now let the House listen to the speech of this last-named individual, and remember that the Duke of Richmond was again in the chair, and opened the proceedings of the day. He said—If this country wore to continue great and; free, moderate import duties must be established; I the experiment (of free trade) had been tried and failed; common sense always said it would tail. He recommended the tenant-farmers to persevere; let each, when they returned home, tell their neighbours to persevere, and justice would sooner or later take place.There were several Resolutions moved, and the first was proposed by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Booker). Unless the House wished it, he would not read the hon. Gentleman's speech, because it was very much like the one he had made that evening. This was, however, the Resolution moved by him:—That the difficulty and intolerable distress of 542 agriculture, and other great interests of the country, and the state of deprivation and suffering to which large masses of the industrial population are reduced, are fraught with consequences most disastrous to public welfare, and, if not speedily remedied, must prove fatal to the maintenance of public credit, will endanger the public peace, and may even place in peril the safety of the State.This Resolution, which was pretty well for Mr. Booker, was carried with great enthusiasm, and it was seconded by that notorious and valiant gentleman Mr. Chowler. He did not know if the House would wish to hear what Mr. Chowler said; it was the famous horse speech, and Mr. Chowler (whom he looked upon as a very ill-used man) spoke to the following effect:—Mr. Cobden says, if you attempt to reintroduce protection, what he will do, and what will become of the landlords; but I say, if the landlords will stick to us, we will stick to them."[Here—this was the reporter's description of the scene—the assembly rose, and cheered vociferously. Earl Stanhope struck the speaker on the shoulders in approbation of the sentiment, and all on the platform rose and cheered.]"But we will go further—we have got nine-tenths of the horses of the kingdom, and men to ride them.…ֵ We will protect Her Majesty, if She will protect us. (Vociferous cheering.)The next Resolution was moved by a Mr. R. Ball. He hoped it was not the hon. Member of that name. [Mr. BALL here nodded his head acquiescingly.] He was happy to see the hon. Member looking so well after what he had said at the Crown and Anchor. He said, and he spoke out as he did the other night honestly and straightforwardly, for which he respected the hon. Member:—It was painful to speak of the landlords in terms of disparagement, but was it not true they (the farmers) had fallen, not by the League, not by the treachery of Sir Robert Peel, but because their landlords, the aristocracy, had swerved from their duty?What did the hon. Member say now? Let the House listen to what followed, and then look at the hon. Gentleman:—Would they tell him, a brokenhearted man, passing into a state of poverty, that he was to fear the threats of a demagogue?Then followed something rather obscure:—They, the tenant-farmers, would be prepared to take those terrible steps, which it was most frightful to imagine, but which necessity was driving them to contemplate. [Tremendous cheers, it the close of which a gentleman upon the platform proposed three groans for Sir Robert Peel, the archenemy of the human species.]Yet these were the Gentlemen who had done nothing to reverse Free Trade; and hon. Members were told to be careful not to wound the feelings of Gentlemen who 543 had proposed three groans, as the greatest enemy of the human species, for the greatest Minister who ever lived! The proceedings were concluded by the Earl of Eglintoun, the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, proposing a vote of thanks to the noble Duke in the chair, "for his manly and consistent maintenance of the cause of protection on all occasions." This was seconded by a Cabinet Minister —Lord John Manners. And would the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell him that he did not stand by and pat them on the back, or that they would have gone to these meetings if they were not agreeable to the Earl of Derby, or to their present master, Mr. Disraeli? There must be plain speaking to-night; they must not have the politeness of diplomacy introduced for the evasion of a principle. Protection was the only thing upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been consistent. On the 22nd of January, 1846, the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech on the Address—To the opinions which I have expressed in this House in favour of Protection I adhere. They sent me to this House, and, if I had relinquished them, I should have relinquished my seat also."[3 Hansard, lxxxiii. 112.]Then the right hon. Gentleman introduced his famous parallel of the Turkish Admiral steering his fleet into the enemy' sport; and what did he say of a Ministry, honest and able, which he (Mr. B. Os borne) should be glad to see now in office? He said—Who does not remember the 'sacred cause of protection, the cause for which Sovereigns were thwarted—Parliaments dissolved—and a nation taken in! When one looks at the Ministry, seeing of what they are composed, one is hardly certain whether 'the future' of which they are thinking is indeed posterity, or only the coming quarter day."[Ibid. p. 115, 119.]In his speech on the Corn Laws on May 15, 1846, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the conversion of the Saxons by Charlemagne in battalions, and their being haptised in platoons. He then said of Sir Robert Peel—' His life has been one great appropriation clause,' and he concluded,' I believe the country will not long endure this huckstering tyranny of the Treasury bench—these political pedlars, that bought their party in the cheapest market and sold us in the dearest.'"[Ibid, lxxxvi. 675–76.]In 1849, on the 1st of February, the right hon. Gentleman moved an Amendment on the Address, and withdrew it. 544 He then said—"In my opinion the new commercial system has had a trial, a fair trial, and has failed." And the right hon. Gentleman looked forward to a time when it might be revised. On the 8th of March, 1849, the right hon. Gentleman moved for a Committee to inquire into the burdens on land. He then said, "I still believe our new commercial system is founded on erroneous principles." On the 15th of March the right hon. Gentleman made that allusion to "protected and regenerated England." On the 1st of February, 1850, the right hon. Gentleman voted for the Amendment to the Address moved by the right hon. Member for South Lincolnshire (Sir J. Trollope). He said he never made a direct Motion in that House against free trade, but he took advantage of a Motion in 1850 for a moderate fixed duty to speak and vote for it. On the 14th of May, 1850, the right hon. Gentleman said—I ask you to protect the rights and interests of labour generally—in the first place, by allowing no free imports from countries which meet you with countervailing duties; and, in the second place, with respect to agricultural produce, to compensate the soil for the burdens from which other classes are free, by an equivalent duty."[ 3 Hansard, cxi. 86.]And then the right hon. Gentleman came to the House in a November Session in 1852, and, with a face which he never saw equalled in the theatre, he dared to tell the House that he had never attempted to reverse the policy of Free Trade! He said, too, that the Earl of Derby had never done so. Of the two he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a much safer and more discreet man. The Earl of Derby affected to be affronted the other night in the House of Lords about his personal honour. He (Mr. B. Osborne) said this was gross affectation, and he would prove it. In 1846 the noble Lord broke up the Government of Sir Robert Peel.'I had placed before me,' he told the House of Lords, 'the choice of separating from my colleagues, or of sacrificing my own individual opinion, and what I conceive to be my own personal consistency and honour. I had to consider the course which, in my opinion, my public duty and my private honour required. I tried to school myself into the belief that, under certain circumstances, the interests of the country might require even the sacrifice of a public and personal character. My Lords,' he exalaimed, 'I could not bring myself to so humiliating a conclusion.'It was lamentable to see what a love of 545 party would bring a man to. ["Oh, oh!"] Did hon. Gentlemen opposite want any more? Was not every man satisfied that the noble Earl at the head of the Government had done all he could to reverse Free Trade? He knew that what he was saying was disagreeable to hon. Gentlemen opposite. He did not wish to hurt the feelings of hon. Members opposite, but he must tell them that he did not sympathise with the fine sensibilities of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay). He had farmers for his constituents, and he spoke on their behalf. [Lord BURGHLEY: Bethnal-green.] This noble Lord—a Lord of the Bedchamber —who represented a snug borough, might well be proud of such a large and honest constituency as that of Bethnal-green. He would now refer to the noble Lord's (the Earl of Derby's) famous "Up-guards-and-at'em" speech: he was now gone into the Rifles. When the noble Lord had come into power, several gentlemen waited on the noble Lord to learn what he intended to do. Here was his answer. It was very important:—If there be any who are of opinion that I am flinching from, or hesitating in the advocacy of, those principles which I held in conjunction with my late Friend (Lord George Bentinck), I authorise you to assure one and all that those who represent that, in my case will find no hesitation, no flinching, no change of opinion. I only look for the day when it may be possible for me to use the memorable words of the Duke of Wellington, on the field of Waterloo [words, by the way, which he (Mr. B. Osborne) believed the Duke never did use], and say, 'Up, Guards, and at' em!'Such were the speeches of the Earl of Derby; and was there any Member so young, any Member so inexperienced in Parliamentary debates, that he would believe the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that neither he nor his colleagues in the other House ever took any steps to reverse Free Trade. He would now refer to a speech made by a right hon. Gentleman of high character—the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Christopher). [Lord BURGHLEY: Hear, hear!] Ah! the noble Lord must listen: it might be disagreeable, but Lords of the Bedchamber must listen. He could well imagine that all this was very disagreeable to hear; but, perhaps, the noble Lord would answer him on his legs after he had done. Now, could anybody imagine that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North 546 Lincolnshire would have gone to his constituents with this address if he had not been authorised to do so by the Earl of Derby—the address which he issued when he accepted office. Here was an address sent to him (Mr. B. Osborne) by one of the right hon. Gentleman's constituents in Lincolnshire—a constituent who had hitherto supported the right hon. Gentleman, but was now disgusted with him. The right hon. Gentleman said—Her Majesty having been graciously pleased to entrust to my care the Seals of the Duchy of Lancaster, I accept office under the administration of the Earl of Derby, from a conviction of his sincere desire to reverse'—[let the House mark the word 'reverse']—'to reverse that financial and commercial policy which is so injurious to native industry and capital.'Had he (Mr. B. Osborne) made out his case? Was the House of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his Colleagues, had from first to last, in season and out of season. been consistent in this one particular, their strenuous exertions and endeavours for six years to reverse the policy of Free Trade? It might be said, "Hon. Gentlemen wanted a cry; Protection was taken up, and therefore it was that all these honest men and deluded farmers were taken in." He did not know what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer's future course would be; probably next month he would have an invasion, or something of that kind, to talk about; but there could be no doubt that the course which had been pursued on this occasion was not one which would conduce to the advancement of the great cause of public morality. They were told, however, that Protection was one of those things which were exhausted and obsolete. Was the House sure of that? Was it quite sure that the sudden conversion of these Gentlemen was sincere? He feared that it was not. He had there a very extraordinary speech, made within the last fortnight, by a Minister—a penitential Minister—the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Christopher). The right hon. Gentleman went down to his constituents within the last fortnight—and this was very material, because it gave them the inference which was drawn by the supporters of the Government as to the course now taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It seemed that there was a dinner given at the Angel Inn, Wainfleet. The right hon. Gentleman was present, and the account of his speech was copied from 547 the Boston Herald. The right hon. Gentleman said—At the time when I accepted office there was a great struggle going on in the country for the maintenance of Protestant and Protectionist principles"—Why the two were put together he (Mr. B. Osborne) could not understand, unless it was because both began with "P."—"I trust the present constitution of Parliament is such as to leave no doubt that they will fully uphold our Protestant institutions; and with regard to the other subject—Protection—I have only emphatically to assure you that I entirely adhere to the opinions and principles I have always expressed. I can see nothing in the present aspect of affairs to alter my conviction that that which is called 'the Protectionist policy' is a true and wise policy for this nation to adopt. At the general election I stated that if the Government were unable to carry a Protective system, which would not except foreign corn—if the complexion of the new Parliament should be such as to prevent Her Majesty's Government from carrying out the principles which would raise from the foreign grower a large portion of revenue, and at the same time afford relief to the suffering class—then it would be their duty to establish such an equalisation and readjustment of the burdens of taxation as"—to do what?—"as indirectly to some extent to effect the same object.This was on November the 13th. Here was an explanation by a Minister of the Queen's Speech—"You will have seen by Her Majesty's Speech that we" —speaking of the Ministry—"we have been compelled to adopt the latter alternative." Why, could there be a doubt in the mind of any man, after hearing that Speech, that it was a cut-and-shuffle transaction? Could there be any doubt that Her Majesty's Ministers were about to do indirectly what they had not the courage to do in the face of that House? They had seen, or at least they had got an inkling of the meaning of "unreserved adherence" to the Free-Trade policy; they had seen the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire confessing what that was. He believed it was an "unreserved adherence" not to Free Trade, but to their seats. But he did take exception, and he believed the House would take exception, as a matter of principle, to men carrying on the Government of this country who were opposed, in their hearts, to the principles of Free Trade. In spite of what had been said by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, as to the indifference of the great public out of doors, to the private opinions of Members of Parliament and of Ministers, he did take exception to the committing of any cause to the hands of men who were 548 opposed to it in their hearts. What was the great theory of Parliamentary government by an Opposition, which was so frequently dilated upon, and in fact first denunciated, by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer? What was his complaint— his argument—against Sir Robert Peel? That he had no business to remain in office to advocate principles which were first advocated and maintained by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden)? What was the basis of his opposition to a Bill, to which, in itself, he said, he had no objection? Why, that it was brought forward by men who, he contended, had no business to bring it forward. He (Mr. B. Osborne) now alluded to the Maynooth Bill of 1845. There was one passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech on that occasion which was really so remarkable, that much as he had quoted, he thought it would not be unacceptable to the House. In the year 1845, Sir Robert Peel, as the House well knew, brought in his Motion— a just and wise Motion he (Mr. B. Osborne) thought it—to render the establishment of Maynooth more consonant with the feelings of the Irish people. What was the course taken on that occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, forsooth, was now carrying out principles to which he was in his heart opposed? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, then simply Member for Buckinghamshire, said—I oppose this Bill on account of the manner in which it has been introduced. I oppose it also on account of the men by whom it has been brought forward, &c.; and to be told, because these men have crossed the House, and have abandoned with their former seats their former professions, these men's measures and actions are to remain unopposed, &c. You have permitted men to gain power and enter place, and then carry measures exactly the reverse of those which they professed when in opposition. I say that the Parliamentary course is for this House to have the advantage of a Government formed on distinct principles, &c, not a Parliamentary middleman, who bamboozles one party and plunders the other. Let us have no party question, but fixity of tenure. Let us dethrone this dynasty of deception by putting an end to the intolerable yoke of official despotism and Parliamentary imposture.Now, he (Mr. B. Osborne) maintained that the man who had based his opposition on that ground had no right to hold office for one minute to carry out principles which he had stolen from other people. He must say that, since the lamented demise of that celebrated Oriental juggler, Ramo Samee—a gentleman who was equally known 549 for his dexterity of hand and his great courage—a gentleman who could alike cut for himself a hand of trumps and swallow a broadsword—he had known no individual with so many ingenious devices, and such inordinate capacity of swallow, as the right hon. Gentleman, the creator of his party in that House. But, at the same time, he called upon that House not to be deluded by a great State conjuror—but in giving its vote to do what was right and just. [An Hon. MEMBER: Shame!] Yes: but no one on the other side called out "shame" when the late Sir Robert Peel was abused. They (the supporters of the Government), who acknowledged that night that Sir Robert Peel was a great and good man—a truth which all the country acknowledged out of doors—they who made that acknowledgment now did not call "shame" at the period to which he referred, but they stood by and hounded their man on, and now they cried "shame." He (Mr. B. Osborne) agreed with the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (the Marquess of Granby) that something was due to the past; and when the new Members of that House were appealed to, and told to recollect their duties, he would ask them not to be behind the working and other classes in this country who had raised monuments to the late Sir Robert Peel, but to pay a tribute to his memory on that occasion, and not to hesitate for one moment in declaring by their vote that the policy of 1846 was wise and just. They need not be alarmed at the threat of resignation. That was an old threat, and sure he was, that if they did resign, the country would bow to their decision. The time had gone by when there need be any difficulty in creating a Ministry, and one use of the present one was to show how a Ministry might be improvised. The House might depend upon it, that so long as the cholera did not carry off the Government clerks, the Government would be carried on. For his own part, he had no confidence in the principles of the right hon. Gentleman or his party. He had alluded to their conduct in 1846, and probably their Protestantism might be on a par with their Protectionist principles, but he called on the House not to give their confidence to a gang of political latitudinarians who had no belief, politically speaking, save on the Treasury bench, no hope but in the perpetuity of place. He could feel no doubt as to how his vote should be given. He could not follow the noble Lord the 550 Member for Tiverton in his Motion, but should give his confidene in all sincerity to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, that he rose under very great disadvantages, for he could not pretend to the possession of that quality of audacity, which the French authority quoted by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had declared essential to success— he could not, however, help subscribing to the truth of the sentiment from the example the House had been witnessing. He (Mr. Ball) felt that he had a right to trespass on the attention of the House, having attended many of the meetings to which hon. Gentlemen opposite had referred, and which it seemed to him they ought not to treat with such contumely, inasmuch as they appeared to have furnished the hon. Member, and the hon. Member for Manchester with the subject-matter of their speeches. It struck him that, having derived so much amusement from the proceedings at these meetings, they ought to refer to them in a very different spirit from that in which they did. [Laughter]. Not having anything of the ludicrous in his composition, wherewith to amuse the House, he (Mr. Ball) would proceed to address himself to the real question before them. The hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton stated the other night when he introduced the Resolution, that "the farmers of England were not quite so quick as other persons, and that it was, therefore, very wrong for the landlords to take advantage of their ignorance." That statement he repudiated. He asserted that the farmers of England were not deficient of intelligence. Of course, he was not going to measure the intellect of the farmers with that of the legal or professional men, but, compared with their equals in society, they would not be found beneath them. If he took the orators, the historians, and general literati of the country, and compared them with those of the Continent, he had no doubt that their equals, it may be their superiors, would be found; but throughout the world —as far as the science and practice of agriculture went—the farmers of England had no superiors. The great theme of the hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton was, that they should not have protection because it advanced the prices of all necessary commodities, and because cheapness was a desideratum, and influenced the happiness and prosperity of a country. He (Mr. Ball) disputed the assertion "that 551 cheapness was a desideratum." Cheapness was no proof of national prosperity and welfare; hut, on the contrary, in proportion as things were cheap the nation was impoverished. Cheapness, as he understood the term, signified much work and little wages. If he were convinced that it would he for the benefit of the poor and the labouring classes that there should be no protection, he protested most solemnly he would not think of advocating it. But he looked on it as the duty of all Governments, and the first and most paramount duty, to protect the poor. The man who neglected the poor did that which parted society, and which finally recoiled on himself with terrible effect. He had no hesitation in declaring that, in his opinion, the man who defrauded the labourers was a shedder of blood; and consequently, if a duty on corn injured them, he would not be its advocate. The late Sir Robert Peel had been frequently referred to in the present debate; and therefore it could not be out of place to give the House an illustration of that right hon. Baronet at one period of his career, for the purpose of showing that people were not happy in proportion to cheapness. Sir Robert Peel, on one occasion, when referring to the corn laws, said—He had looked about over the world, and had endeavoured to ascertain the proportion in which the people of various countries consumed, in order to ascertain whether they get more for their individual consumption of the necessaries of life, where these commodities were cheap, as compared with where they were dear. He found that in Poland and Russia the consumption was about five bushels of grain to each individual per year; Germany, where corn was dearer, six bushels per head; in France, where corn was dearer than in any other country excepting England, seven bushels per head; but in England the average consumption was eight bushels per head, and nearly the whole of that consisted of wheat.Now he should like hon. Gentlemen, instead of acting for the amusement of the House, to bring forward something that the mind could comprehend and the reason conceive. It had been stated several times in that House, that the entire community —particularly the working classes—were in favour of free trade, and that scarcely twenty persons could be found who entertained a different opinion. That he also denied, and in substantiation of his denial he hoped the House would permit him to read the Resolutions unanimously adopted at a meeting of the metropolitan trades' delegates held in London a few days since. The document and Resolutions were as follow:— 552PROCLAMATION OF THE WORKING CLASSES OF GREAT BRITAIN.Free Trade v. Protection.Whereas a notice of Motion has been given and a Resolution placed on the journals of the House of Commons by Mr. Villiers, seeking to pledge the Legislature to an unqualified approval and a further extension of the miscalled free-trade policy, otherwise unrestricted competition; and whereas it is desirable that publicity should be given to the real and deliberate sentiments of the working classes in respect to the effects of that policy on their interests: Now, be it known that at a large meeting of the working classes convened to discuss the relative merits of free-trade and protection, the following Reeolutions were unanimously adopted, viz.—
- "'1. Resolved—That the science of political economy as now taught, believed, and practised by those who advocate 'cheapness,' by means of unregulated universal competition, miscalled 'free trade,' has a most pernicious effect on the minds and actions of statesmen, is destructive of honest dealing, subversive of morality, ruinous to the national resources and character, tending to slavery, murderous in its operations of humanity, and therefore ought to be entirely abandoned.
- "'2. That the principle of protection to humanity, to the products of labour, land, and capital in Great Britain and her colonies, is the true basis of political and social economy, calculated to give employment and fair remuneration for labour, profit on capital, promote the development of the national genius, energies, and resources, and thereby secure the peace, prosperity, independence, and happiness of the whole British empire.
- "'3. That this meeting sympathises with all who are suffering under the miscalled 'free-trade' policy, and hails with great satisfaction the efforts now making to reverse the present system of universal competition, and the introduction of a sound practical protective policy for native industry and capital, and will cheerfully co-operate with all classes to obtain legislative enactments for its realisation.'These resolutions being founded upon the following address of the Metropolitan Trades' Delegates:—'Fellow Countrymen—As it is now admitted by all classes that labour is the source of wealth, it evidently follows that the prosperity and independence of Great Britain and her colonies will be best promoted by employing and protecting the greatest number of a healthy, industrious, intelligent, and moral population, that can be educated and comfortably maintained by their own industry; therefore it should be the first and most important duty of a wise Government to adopt such measures as will best secure employment to the entire population, and for their labour an abundance of the necessaries and comforts of life. We, therefore, fearlessly assert, that the unrestricted foreign cheap labour policy which has been for a series of years encouraged by the Legislature of the kingdom, and greatly extended by the late Parliament, is theoretically wrong, and, under the existing constitution of society, practically injurious to the working classes, by compelling them to enter into stimulated, unregulated, and hopeless competition at 553 home and abroad, which is opposed to independence and happiness, dangerous to the country, and destructive to the general prosperity of the whole British people.'While reiterating the opinion which we formerly expressed against the present unfair system of reckless competition called free trade, from which its advocates promised so much good, especially to the working classes, but which has only proved "a mockery, a delusion, and a snare," we will not now impute blame on account of the experiment, nor do we desire to awaken in your minds angry feelings or enmity against any class of legislators or politicians; but we boldly call upon you to demand from any party that may hold the reins of office, a protective policy for native industry against unfair competition, so that you may be enabled to live by your labour, and give a rational, practical, and useful education to your children, without which the security and prosperity of the empire are impossible.'Now, he believed the great masses of the poorer classes who had been deluded by the question of the "big loaf" readily subscribed to that document. It really appeared to him to be not only an absurd but a cruel thing to represent cheapness as a blessing. ["Oh, oh!"] Let it be remembered that every article they ate, every beverage they drank, and every article, whether of dress or furniture, in daily use, was manufactured by the poor; and then to say that these things should be cheap, was, in his opinion, opposed to common sense. As to the reparation to be made, as well to the character of the late Sir Robert Peel as to the agricultural classes, he should say there was no man in this country who more loved to listen to Sir Robert Peel than he did, or who gave to the statements of that right hon. Baronet a more ready credence. He not alone believed in his statements, but he acted on them; and recollecting the triumphant manner in which the right hon. Baronet had defended the principle of protection in that House, he thought himself entitled to put in a claim for compensation on behalf of the agricultural classes, who had undertaken responsibilities on the faith of the laws under which they came into occupation of their holdings. Sir Robert Peel once said—When you tell me that corn is 60s. a quarter, I ask, Is there not a paramount necessity for maintaining the obligations of public faith? Can I shut out of my consideration altogether the operation of the malt tax, the operation of the poor-law, the operation of the county rate, and of all those bnrdens which press so heavily upon the landed interest?On another occasion that right hon. Baronet declared that—If these laws were repealed, land would be 554 thrown out of cultivation to such an extent that the question would not alone be one for the landlords, but also for the farmers and even the labourers.He (Mr. Ball) could adduce many other passages in which Sir Robert Peel had as strongly and clearly avowed his intention to maintain and uphold a protective policy. On another occasion he said—I do think that 8s. a quarter on corn coming from Poland will afford sufficient protection. Who pays church-rates? Who pays poor-rates? Who pays tithes? I say, not altogether, but chiefly, the landed proprietor; and if there be corn produced by land not pressed by these burdens, it would be clearly unjust to admit it on equal terms.That right hon. Gentleman had been his (Mr. Ball's) great preceptor in political science. He had believed him to be one of the most distinguished and upright men that ever lived; but when reparation was now asked for his memory, he (Mr. Ball) would also ask for reparation for the farmers. The very faith which he had reposed in that statesman had taken many thousands of pounds out of his pocket; and when they talked of raising trophies to his name, every child of his (Mr. Ball's) would know that his position in this world had been damaged and diminished by his father's faith in Sir Robert Peel. The hon. Member for Manchester had said that he had always maintained that we should have corn cheaper than it had been before the repeal of the corn laws. Now he (Mr. Ball) denied that assertion. It had been the argument of the hon. Member, which was also sustained by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, that by taking away the protective laws of this country corn would not be made cheaper. And not only had that been the opinion of those hon. Members, but when Sir Robert Peel was asked in that House what would be the effect of the repeal of the corn laws, his answer was, "I do not enter into that subject, for I do not anticipate any diminution of price." And when the hon. Member for the West Riding was traversing the country, he had said on one occasion, "the argument of cheap bread was never mine;" and upon another occasion, "when free trade prevails, bread will be no cheaper than it is now. If the corn laws could be abolished by a secret edict, the farmers would not discover the fact by any injurious effects produced upon their interests." There was hardly anything which the free-traders had said that had not been falsified by the event; and 555 scarcely a prediction that had turned out as they had anticipated. Mr. Cobden had asserted that if the unnatural corn laws were repealed, no Briton need any longer emigrate, and that emigration was created altogether by landlords and the corn laws. He had even said that those who were driven to emigrate were men condemned to transportation for the benefit of the landowners. Now, what was the result? Poverty had driven our poor by hundreds and thousands from Britain, and hundreds and hundreds of broken-hearted farmers had been condemned to a premature grave. More than that, hundreds and thousands of farmers were so hopelessly damaged and ruined by what had been done, that they could never be reinstated again. He had heard unmeasured abuse cast on the noble Earl at the head of the Government, and he had also heard some compliments passed on the right hon. Gentleman the leader in that House (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), which flattered his talents at the expense of his integrity. He (Mr. Ball) fancied that the right hon. Gentleman could not feel very much flattered by those compliments. Those compliments were not, he was satisfied, paid in sincerity, but because they believed that the best mode of fighting their battle was to create division on his (Mr. Ball's) side of the House. He (Mr. Ball) would now tell the House and his constituents what he intended to do. He never would be a party to approve of any Resolution which went to say that the happiness of the people and the prosperity of the country had been the result of free trade. He did not believe it. But he would say this, that after the country had showed itself determined to have free trade, when he saw what was the result, and what had been the response of the country, he was bound, as one of those who went there to make laws, to maintain and uphold the laws; and there was nothing more necessary for all parties to observe than that when the people of this country spoke through the majority in that House, the minority were bound in duty to submit:—and therefore he was compelled of necessity to say that he must submit. But he would not abandon the field if he were not to take with him the honours of war. He would not go out of the field if he were to be insulted as he was going; and therefore he would never accept the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. If the carrying of 556 that Resolution should be destructive to Her Majesty's Ministry, he believed that that would be one of the most unhappy, one of the most fearful events that could befall us. This very week a gentleman who perhaps employed more hands than any man in London had said to him, "Mr. Ball, it is madness to stand out; you must give up protection principles; but I hope the consequences will not displace the Ministry; for though opposed to you in politics, I must confess that all the citizens, manufacturers, and shopkeepers of London would be distressed beyond measure at such a result, for they are the only body of gentlemen who are looked upon with any confidence." He maintained that that was true; and was he not bound, when about to give a vote which would determine the fate of the Ministry, to ask who should be their successors? Where was he to look for an answer? Was it from the hon. Member for Montrose, who, in a letter he had published, had referred to the jealousies and want of harmony which the Opposition exhibited, and who, if they were successful that night, would to-morrow diverge and separate? Notwithstanding all that had been said and written of Lord Derby, he would put it to the House, if in all classes of society everybody did not speak of that nobleman as of an upright, highminded, and honourable man? Then there was the testimony of Gentlemen opposite themselves as to the necessity of keeping the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Gentlemen opposite told them that he was the light of their party, the centre of their system, and the soul of their body. Well, then, if he were so extraordinarily clever as he was represented, what extraordinary fools they (the Ministerialists) must be to give him up. They said that Lord Derby and his Ministry had reacted the conduct of Sir Robert Peel when he threw over his party. The best proof that this was not so was, that when Sir Robert Peel sat down to ruin thousands who loved, cherished, venerated, and almost politically adored him, there were multitudes of his best friends who were obliged to violate all the kindlier feelings of human nature, and to separate themselves from him. But next look at Lord Derby. Was there one Gentleman amongst them (the Protectionists) —disappointed though they might be— grieved though they might be—lamenting as they did that they must abandon the view which they had so honestly, and as 557 he believed so wisely, entertained—was there, he asked, one Gentleman among them who would cast one word of dishonour or reproach upon Lord Derby because he had been obliged to give up the contest? When the historian recorded the lives of the two men, he would say that the one statesman went down condemned and reprobated by those who had been his nearest and dearest friends; but that the other nobleman, amidst the disasters and trials, amidst the clouds and tempests that overcast his political horizon, had not one friend who abandoned him, and not one who charged him with their misfortune. They (the Protectionists) had been necessitated to surrender the principles which they had advocated— they acknowledged that they had been beaten; but he hoped that their opponents would remember that even the Indian who scalped his fallen foe did not lacerate his dead body, and that they would in their hour of triumph not forget the kindly and generous feelings which so universally distinguished the English character in such circumstances. And he said further, that if their real object was to obtain a settlement of this question, they would evince kindlier feelings and a better grace, and endeavour to win their opponents over by harmony and good fellowship, so as to have a united testimony given to their principles. Then they would better deserve their triumph by the magnanimity of their conduct; whereas, by trampling on those whom they had defeated, and by manifesting such bitterness of feeling, and pouring ridicule on those who had fought them valiantly and foot to foot, and would have beaten them if they had been able, they were only irritating the wound which they ought to seek to heal.
§ MR. PHILLIMORE
said, that he should claim the indulgence of the House whilst in a very few words he stated the reasons why he should give his vote that night most decidedly in favour of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. He regretted that in the speech which had just been delivered, the hon. Member for Cambridge should have been so hurried away by his feelings as to have spoken with such unnecessary disrespect of an eminent man whose memory was revered by many; and however he might differ from him as to some parts of conduct, it was scarcely generous at this moment to press with great severity on those points which might be open to ex- 558 ception. It might be said of him and his party, Sint inepti, sceleris vero crimine liceat multis aliis liceat Cneio Pompeio mortuo carere. The inconsistency, moreover, of the hon. Member was most extraordinary; for what was there exceptionable in the conduct of Sir Robert Peel which was not far surpassed by that of Lord Derby and the Chancellor of the Exchequer? With regard to the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, every suggestion coming from such an authority in that House, ought to be received with attention; yet he (Mr. Phillimore) could not but feel that his Motion frittered away the most material and important part of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and omitted the very expression upon which it was, in his opinion, the especial duty of the House to insist. If the recent commercial legislation had really increased the comforts of the industrious classes, if it had really strengthened their attachment to the Throne and the other institutions of the country, must it not necessarily follow that such a policy was wise and just? How could they grant the premises, and then refuse to admit the conclusion which inevitably followed from them? He could not but observe that throughout the Resolution of the noble Lord the words "free trade" did not occur so much as once; and he must say that he preferred the words "free trade" to those of "unrestricted competition," on which it was possible that something they did not anticipate might be hereafter founded. It was said that they had nothing to do with the former opinions or conduct of the Government; but it was forgotten that the case of the Government had been rested upon the character of those who now occupied the Treasury benches; and, without entering into any invidious or malignant discussion, he thought it a most constitutional and legitimate course to inquire what had been the principles and professions of the present Government. No principle had been better recognised by the constitution, and it had received the sanction of the highest authorities. Now, it was beyond a doubt that the Members of the present Government had for years past pursued a course of most unremitting and declared hostility to the principles of free trade; and the noble Lord at their head had but very recently asserted that his predilections for the opposite policy were unchanged. Yet they 559 (the Free-trade Members) were told that they were malignant and offensive, because they hesitated to entrust the guardianship of a policy to those who all along had been its determined and most inveterate enemies. They all recollected the credit acquired by the Judge who discovered the mother of a child; but if the question had been as to its education, and it had been proved that the one claimant had cherished and supported it, while the other had repeatedly endeavoured to stifle it in its infancy, and had predicted that if ever it came to manhood it would be a scourge and pest to society, the wisdom of Solomon would not be requisite for the decision. He would not trespass any longer on the time of the House, but simply state that, as a Free-trade Parliament, he thought they ought to have an Administration irrevocably bound to adhere to and extend that great and important principle.
apologised for rising at a time when the House was probably looking for much more able and eloquent arguments; but said, that having the honour of holding a seat in that House for the first time, and being the representative of one of the most important agricultural districts of England, he hoped that in the peculiar and somewhat anomalous state of public affairs, he should be allowed to make a few remarks. On a former occasion the hon. Member for Middlesex gave most affectionate advice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and recommended him, in language the most classical, and in phraseology, the most courteous, "to take his physic like a man." The hon. Gentleman proceeded to animadvert on the position of the Members on that side of the House who had hitherto held Protectionist opinions, and were favourable to the present Government; and the hon. Gentleman said, that either they (on the Ministerial side) must cease to support the Government, or give their support in a shameful silence; but he (Mr. Bentinck) did not believe in the existence of any such difficulty. Credat Judæus now ego. The hon. Member for Manchester had done him the honour of referring to a speech he had delivered on the hustings, at the same time appearing to doubt the accuracy of the report of it from which he quoted. Now, after that lapse of time, he (Mr. Bentinck) was not able to say whether what he was reported to have said was strictly accurate; but he begged to tell the hon. Gentleman that whatever he 560 had spoken on the hustings, be it correctly or incorrectly reported, he was ready to maintain at all times and under all circumstances. With regard to the comparative merits of Free Trade and Protection, the hon. Gentleman who made this Motion (Mr. Villiers) evidently had not derived the information with which he favoured the House from the most reliable sources. The hon. Gentleman, he was sure, was under a great misapprehension as to the present condition of the agricultural interest. He was ready to admit that there might be cases where want of industry or want of capital had formerly prevented the land being properly cultivated, and where free trade had proved a stimulant; but the hon. Member had omitted to state that free trade had pressed hardly upon those farmers who had carried the application of capital, industry, and talent to the farthest possible extent in the cultivation of the soil; and that that class was still suffering from the present financial policy. The very short experience he had had of that House taught him that the most disagreeable thing to hon. Gentlemen opposite was anything that could possibly be construed or misconstrued into ambiguity of expression. Therefore he would endeavour to avoid anything of the kind by stating that he held, as he always had, to the merits of the principles of a protective policy. He would not enter into details with regard to the principle of protection; but this he would say, that he was prepared to rest the defence of that principle and of the views which he now held, not upon any feeble arguments of his own, but upon the arguments and speeches of the late Sir Robert Peel—upon the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for London—he was content to rest their defence upon the glowing and brilliant eloquence of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. He remembered the time when these high authorities treated as little better than lunatics the men who could gravely talk of the total repeal of the corn laws. But he should ill discharge his duty to his constituents if he limited his view of the present question to one of mere financial policy— he regarded it in a much broader light. He looked at it in two points of view— first, as to the spirit in which, and the object for which, this Motion was brought forward; and next, as to the probable effect of this Motion on the fate of the Ministry, should it be carried by a majority. In the first place, he did not be- 561 lieve that it was brought forward in a fair and straightforward spirit—the object of it was not to defend a principle, but to upset an Administration. After the gracious Speech from the Throne, and the declaration of the noble Lord at the head of the Government in another place— after the clear and lucid statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did any man really pretend to say that the principle of free trade was in danger? And if no one would pretend that, what, then, was the object of this Motion? He could not recognise any patriotic motive for its introduction—he saw in it nothing but the eager aspiration of expectant placemen. This, he believed, was the opinion of reflecting men throughout the country. Supposing they were successful in this Motion, and that they displaced the present Ministry, who was there to take their places? His attention was naturally called to that party which formed the late Government; but he confessed that he could not look with confidence to that quarter. After the weakness and internal dissensions which had marked their previous tenure of office, and the amputation of their ablest Member, he saw no hope of the reconstruction of the late Cabinet. Well, he next turned to the party on the other side, at the head of which stood the hon. Members for the West Riding and for Manchester. The country had been told by the hon. Member for the West Riding that he and his friends were ready to sacrifice their own private feelings for the benefit of the public, and to take upon themselves the highest offices of State. He had no doubt that, if the hon. Member for Manchester were once fairly installed in office, he would be well inclined not only to put down the haughty aristocracy, but to put down with them other higher and more revered institutions in Church and State; but he much doubted whether the people of this country were prepared to go hand in hand with the hon. Gentleman in the rapid strides he was prepared to take. He saw before him also a very small but distinguished band of able statesmen and Members who aspired to hold the reins of office; but he could not help thinking that the friends and followers of Sir Robert Peel overrated the estimation in which they were held by the public: they had lost sight of the old and truthful adage, that those who love the sin do not necessarily love the sinner. He much doubted that were those hon. Gentlemen restored 562 to office they would be able to perpetuate throughout the country that spirit of subordination, of obedience to the law, of peace, tranquillity, and order, for which there was so much necessity both in this country and Ireland. So long as he sat in that House he should give his warm support to the present Government, they having accepted office at a time when, if they had declined, the country would have been thrown into the utmost difficulties.
§ SIR WILLIAM PAGE WOOD
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had stated, and stated most, truly, that that which appeared at all times to create the greatest disgust and indignation at that —the Opposition—side of the House, was any ambiguity in the expression of sentiment by hon. Members. It was on account of his own strong disgust at such ambiguity that he felt it impossible to avoid saying a few words—and they should be but few— which should at least indicate that he had not sat there wholly unimpressed with the extraordinary scene which took place the other night when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was delivering his address-—a scene that to him was the most surprising, since it exhibited the House sitting to listen, in a state, as it appeared to him, of the deepest humiliation at the gauge which the right hon. Gentleman had taken of their intellect, the appreciation he had made of their moral sentiments, when he could suppose that it would be tolerated in that House, in a society of Gentlemen, as the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had properly reminded them — that he should venture to state, in the presence of so many who had been witnesses to the whole transactions of the last several years, that the line taken by the Protectionist party was one accepting free trade as an established fact, making no attempt to disturb or reverse that policy, and that that course had been pursued by them up to the time when the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government was called upon to accept office, in 1851, when, as he expressed it, that noble Earl found himself at the head of a large party who had made up their minds that that policy should not be reversed. He felt great respect for the hon. Member who had last spoken, and so distinctly disclaimed all ambiguity in the expression of his sentiments. Unfortunately he was not able very clearly to collect those sentiments; but he understood the hon. Member to advert, towards the close of his observations, 563 to the state of parties in that House, and to characterise the proposition before them as one intended to produce the calamity of the secession of her Majesty's Ministers from office; and looking round the House to see what assistance could be afforded in that case to a desolate country, he referred to the small but distinguished party of the former supporters of Sir Robert Peel. Had it never occurred to the hon. Gentleman to ask himself the question, why those hon. Members had come to that—the Opposition—side of the House? Had it never occurred to the hon. Gentleman to ask himself the question, what it was that separated those hon. Members from the great party with which they were associated? They were separated from friends and supporters because they adhered to Sir Robert Peel in that policy in which the present leader of the Ministry stated it was now his determination to imitate him. There was another hon. Gentleman, the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball), who had made a very manly and straightforward speech. It was a great comfort in these days to hear a straightforward speech; at the same time, he must confess he was a little puzzled with some portion of that speech also—for the hon. Gentleman told them of farmers annihilated by hundreds, of peasantry shipped off by cargoes, owing to the dreadful state of destitution in which this country was at present placed; and yet the hon. Gentleman told them, in the conclusion of his speech, that he had come to the resolution of supporting a Government which told them that they meant now to carry out heartily and honestly that very policy which had produced these disastrous results. He would not, at that late hour, enter into any examination of the hon. Gentleman's argument on the subject of protection; but, really, when they were considering how they could best express their almost universal concurrence in the principles of free trade, he thought he might leave the hon. Gentleman's whole argument on the subject of the working man and the destitution of the labourer to be answered in the next speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because that right hon. Gentleman told them, in the Resolution he proposed, that the labourer's condition had been decidedly benefited by that policy. He would leave the right hon. Gentleman, then, to answer the invectives or complaints of his own zealous supporters; but he would observe to the hon. Member, if he did not presume too 564 much in saying so, that he thought the hon. Member had not yet learned the precise line of duty which it would become one entertaining such decided opinions to follow. Surely it had not been by always bowing to majorities that great principles had made their way in this country. He (Sir W. P. Wood) belonged to a family, some members of which sat for twenty-eight years in that House. During most of that time they were in minorities; but they never bowed to a majority, and were at last successful in finding themselves in large majorities in favour of the principles which they had so steadfastly supported. If the hon. Member conceived, as he said, that the policy which his leader was now about to support was fraught with the mischiefs he described; if ruin and beggary had driven thousands of his fellow-subjects from these shores, and sent down others brokenhearted into the grave, it seemed to him that the hon. Member would be better doing his duty, as one of the farmers' friends, if he persevered in the policy he had conscientiously adopted, and were to continue to advocate and support it until he succeeded in its ultimate restoration. But what was the position they were placed in by the question before them? They had a Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, met, in the first instance, by an Amendment brought forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the conversation which took place in the early part of the evening finally eventuated in the right hon. Gentleman accepting the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. They had heard to-night the history of these Resolutions, and he was not sorry that the discussion of that evening had taken place. They had heard clearly and distinctly that, instead of that factious resolve which the right hon. Gentleman attributed to the supporters of the Resolution to encumber and clog in every possible way the movements of the Government, the greatest pains and caution had been taken to render the Resolution such a one as it would be reasonable and honourable for them to adopt. He could understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he told them that to move any Resolution at all indicated a want of confidence in Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman certainly said—but in a very faltering and hesitating manner.—that after the declaration made by the noble Lord in another place, and that which he had himself made in that House, and after the em- 565 phatic language of the Queen's Speech, it was impossible for anybody to mistake the policy of Ministers; but if so, there was no need of any Resolution at all, or, if any were proposed, the right hon. Gentleman should have treated it as one of want of confidence. But that course the right hon. Gentleman did not take; and when once he had adopted his Resolution, that ground was cut from under him, so that he was astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should attempt to treat this movement as a factious one. They had heard to-night that, by some means or other, they did not know exactly how, there was produced before the meeting in Downing-street a Resolution in certain words, and that after a determination being come to on the part of Her Majesty's Government to accept it—["No, no!"]—the Chancellor of the Exchequer said distinctly, that after that determination had been come to—and he said that he should not mind its being known at Charing-cross— to accept the Resolution, three odious words had been added, pronouncing the free-trade policy of 1846 to have been wise, just, and beneficial. He could fairly understand that there might be an impression on the right hon. Gentleman's mind, if those words were added in consequence of the Government being willing to accede to the first proposition, that this was done with a factious purpose; but they had heard to-night that those words were proposed by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, long before the Resolution had come to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government. But the question for them to decide to-night was, would they adopt that Resolution or the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton? If they had no Motion before them but the Resolution moved by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, or rather the original Resolution of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, with that very essential passage in it respecting free trade being beneficial to every large interest of the community, then they might well have adopted and voted for that Resolution. But the hon. Member for Wolverhampton having first propounded his Resolution, and having thought it better to propose a Resolution in the shape he adopted, and the House being obliged to choose between the two Resolutions before it, the necessary consequence was that every one who rejected the first Resolution must be taken as recording his opinion, that the measure of 1846 had not 566 been wise, just, or beneficial. They had to choose between the two, and if they chose a Resolution omiting those words, he asked if any individual in the country would have the least doubt in his mind that a Parliament assembled now for the purpose of discussing and deciding this very question, had come to a Resolution by a majority, though it might be a small one, that the measure was neither wise, just, nor beneficial? If that were the case, by adopting the Resolution of the Government, and rejecting that moved by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, they would only be performing a solemn farce. They were called upon to express the feeling which all professed to be unanimous in entertaining, that the free-trade policy of the last few years was sound—so right and proper that it ought to be adhered to—and not merely adhered to, for the Resolution of the noble Lord went a little further than adherence—it went on to extend it, and that was not an unimportant difference. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had now, under pressure, accepted a Resolution— and it was important to remark this point of difference in the new position of the Government—pledging them not only to adhere to that policy, but to extend it; they were called upon, therefore, to declare it proper to adhere to, and even extend, the policy on which was founded that measure which the Ministers refused to admit to have been either wise, just, or beneficial. He could not conceive any course by which the House would more stultify itself than this. The only argument he had heard against the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was, that it would be ungentlemanly to press it on the other side. He was not willing to incur censure for un-gentlemanly conduct from any man; and least of all from the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, whose urbanity and politeness were acknowledged, not only by every one in that House, but in his extensive communications throughout the whole world. He did not wish to have it supposed that he was taking an ungentlemanly course on the present occasion, but they could not stand bandying compliments on a serious discussion like that, when the House was met to consider a great public measure, and in some degree, owing to the line of conduct pursued by Her Majesty's Ministers, the character of public men also. He held it of the deepest importance that the Legislature of the country should maintain its high character, not only for ability, 567 but for integrity, and that men high in office should hold an equally high place in the general estimation of the country. Because, when representative institutions were, as at present, in some peril throughout Europe, if that House failed for one moment to secure the respect of the country at large; if they failed to maintain their representative institutions at an elevated standard; if it was held for one moment that it was matter of indifference to them in what manner public men conducted themselves, great danger must ensue to political liberty. Was it indifferent whether they expressed themselves in clear unambiguous language, or had a policy, not only vacillating, but actually differing according as it was propounded by the different Members of the Government, who, instead of openly and frankly avowing that their convictions had undergone a change, attempted to colour and palliate that change by telling the House that no such thing as a Protectionist party had existed since 1846; that all those magnificent speeches they had heard from the other side of the House upon the subject of protected industry; that all those eulogies in the Morning Herald which saluted the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the morning, and all those paragraphs in the Standard which soothed his slumbers in the evening; that all the meetings at Drury-lane; that all the speeches made by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, Mr. Chowler, and others devoted to the cause, were all to go for nothing; and that the House were now to be told, "we have not changed our opinions in the least, we remain where we were, although we are about to pursue a policy opposite to every principle we ever advocated;"—he maintained that in such a state of things there was great danger to the character of public men, and to free institutions. What had, in fact, brought the Resolution before the House? It would not have been brought forward if there had been anything like a frank declaration from Her Majesty's Ministers at however late a period—even in the Speech from the Throne; but instead of that, even the statements in that document were all under the condition of an "if," the only admission being that mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had told the House that Her Majesty had admitted that Parliament, in its wisdom, had sanctioned the free-trade policy. Certainly, the bare admission that an Act of Parliament had 568 been passed did not do much credit to its authors for frankness; but if there had been such a declaration open, manly, and conclusive, instead of the miserable "if" which characterised the Speech, the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend would not have been heard of, because it would have been unnecessary for the public advantage. The Government came into power, not as they had represented it, from the falling away of the previous Ministry, but in consequence of their own act. They had up to that time been a great and united party banded together on the one point of protection; and although they had not brought forward any Motion for the reversal of the free-trade policy, because their leader was too great a master of parliamentary tactics not to know that it would be inexpedient, yet all their energies were devoted with great success to obtain such a majority in the House as would render it difficult, if not impossible, for their opponents to continue any longer to carry on the Government. They had a more dexterous mode of attaining this end than by bringing forward motions for the repeal of the free-trade measures; they endeavoured to render every Member of the Government then in-office an object of obloquy and of public censure. And they did this in a peculiar way; for if a Member of the Cabinet was in the House of Lords they attacked him in the House of Commons, and if he was a Member of that House they brought forward their Motions in the other House. Who would forget the attack on the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and the good policy by which it was commenced, where he had no opportunity to answer it? Who would forget the attacks on Lord Torrington, the Governor of Ceylon, or that on the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the House of Commons; or that, only a few days before they came into office, the party now in power had threatened an attack, in the House of Commons, upon the noble Earl who then presided over the Colonial Office. Those were their weapons, and they were welcome to them; although he (Sir W. P. Wood) would certainly not have liked to have used them. Was it, however, supposed that Earl Grey, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, or Lord Torrington, were the real objects of attack? No; the attacks were directed against the then Government: and their object was to force them from their position, and to place their opponents on the Treasury bench, that they might then 569 carry out the promises which they had made to those who had so zealously supported them. But what did they do when they entered office? We had then for the first time in the annals of statesmanship in this country a noble Lord taking high office, who would not tell the country whether he had any principles at all; while the noble Lord the Member for Sussex (the Earl of March) a prominent supporter of theirs in this House, told us that the principles of his followers were confidence in Lord Derby. He (Sir W. P. Wood) had heard of men representing principles—he had heard of Foxites, who represented the great principles of Mr. Fox; of Pittites, who represented the policy of Mr. Pitt; and of Peelites, who supported the policy of Sir Robert Peel; but he never before heard of substituting a man for a principle. A man might be the symbol of a principle, but could not be substituted for it. That, however, was done in this case; for we had no principle, but we had Lord Derby in its stead. We were simply told that the country were to have confidence in Lord Derby, and that his supporters had given him their entire confidence. He (Sir W. P. Wood) did not, however, know what part of the noble Lord's history induced them to give him this entire confidence. Was it because he was in 1832 a member of a reforming Cabinet? He did not think it could be; for he remembered that his right hon. Friend the Member for the county of Oxford (Mr. Henley) had, in a speech delivered not long since, stated that one great object of the policy of the present Government was to resist anything like a creation of now Peers, and the noble Lord was understood to have given his assent to such a measure in 1832. Again, was it the noble Earl's policy, when he entered or when he left the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel which had gained him the confidence of his supporters? If we were to have a Veiled Prophet, we should at least have some of his oracles; but we had never heard what the noble Earl's principles were. As far as could be gathered from his declarations, they were opposed to free trade. It was only a few weeks before or after he was invited to take office in 1851 that he declared that he had never abandoned the principle of protection—that if such a notion had gone abroad it was erroneous, and that he only waited for the moment to say "Up, Guards, and at them!" Again, when he entered office in 1852, he said that although he was not 570 prepared to carry out his principles to the utmost, he still held them, but that he would appeal to the country and see what it said to them. He did not say that he would reverse the policy of free trade, but that he would wait and learn from the decision of the country what his own policy was to be. He (Sir W. P. Wood) never witnessed conduct more humiliating than this for a man who had undertaken to govern a great country; it amounted to a declaration, "I have no policy of my own—I have no foresight—I do not know what to decide upon; but I am content to take the reins of Government, and to accept a policy from the constituency of England as soon as they will be kind enough to inform me of their wishes." The noble Earl had been very stout in his speeches against the democratic principle. He did not complain, nor ever should, of the noble Earl's confidence in the sentiments of the country; but he did say that it was the worst of all democratic principles not to make a distinction between the Legislature and the Executive, and not to have an Executive that should have the manliness, courage, foresight, and vigour to devise a line of policy and the determination to carry it out; or that, if the Legislature were against them, would say—not,"I make my bow to the constituency,"but—"I make my bow to office." He was shocked and ashamed when he heard of these things first. He had hoped, however, that after the time for reflection and thought which the recess had afforded, the noble Earl would have advised Her Majesty to make an explicit statement in Her gracious Speech. We had not, how-over, had the slightest avowal of any principle, but a continued misleading of the public mind by one Minister saying one thing, and another the reverse. Encouragement was given in all quarters, the result of which must be that all would be equally misled and disappointed when the result came to be known. The noble Earl's declaration about "Up, Guards, and at them!" was made to correct the impression produced by an unfortunate speech at Aylesbury, which had alarmed the protectionists; then we had last Session a statement of the advantages of the free-trade policy from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which highly delighted every one on the Opposition side of the House, and was thoroughly understood; but then, a few days afterwards, the noble Earl made a speech at the Mansion-house in favour of a policy of 571 compromise. In this way, at the elections, while speeches were made on the one hand about the readiness to bow to the decision of the country, on the other an officer of the Government, when canvassing the county of Suffolk, told the electors that the time was coming for the restoration of protection. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Seymer) told them the other night that there was something peculiar in the atmosphere of the House of Commons, for while there everybody professed to be in doubt, nobody in Dorsetshire had any doubt as to the policy that was to be established; but, on the other hand, they had read a protectionist speech made by the other Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes), who was connected with the Government, and he would defy any one to say that in his part of the county, at all events, the farmers of Dorsetshire could have been free from doubts. He (Sir W. P. Wood) could assure the House that the farmers of Suffolk, at all events, were not clear upon this subject; they had little doubt that they were to have protection restored, either directly or by what was called compensation. Now, that last word showed the vast importance of carrying the Resolution in the form in which it was proposed. If the House declared that a measure was wise, just, and beneficial, they could resist a claim for compensation for an act which was just and beneficial. Compensation was not, as stated by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, a separate question, but was one involved in the very question of free trade, and in the grounds on which alone it had proceeded. If free trade were right, it was because it was founded on just principles. It was essential to the support of free trade that the question of compensation should not be admitted, for free trade had always been advocated on the ground that it would benefit every class of the community; that it would, in fact, even benefit the farmer himself, for by teaching him not to lean on those factitious supports on which he had before depended, but to trust to his own energies, it would make him able to meet any rivals who might endeavour to supplant him. If that was so, was it right or not that this principle should be asserted? The House was compelled to do so after the back-wards-and-forwards statements of Her Majesty's Ministers, which rendered it utterly impossible to know what policy they would finally adopt. It was marvellous that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of 572 the "audacity" of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, in doubting the intentions of Ministers, he did not see that it was impossible to gather from the speeches of the various Members of the Government any precise conclusion as to the view which they took on the question of free trade, and whether they thought the farmers were entitled to compensation. He (Sir W. P. Wood) said, let the House of Commons, at least, speak with a clear and definite voice. It was not becoming in that House now to speak with a faltering voice. They were the representatives of a straightforward truth-loving people. If, therefore, they hesitated to say the measure was "wise and just," and if the Government succeeded in carrying a Resolution which really meant none of those things, they would be again tampering with the people, with whom they had tampered sufficiently long already. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford—who seemed inclined to favour the principle of compensation—could not now, if it were only on the ground so feelingly put forward by the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire, of paying a just tribute to the memory of the late Sir Robert Peel, hesitate to acknowledge that the measure was "wise, just, and beneficial." If the measure did not deserve that character, then was Sir Robert Peel open to all the odium to which he had been exposed—not, indeed, of being the arch-enemy of the human race, but—for having been the cause of public disaster, by using his great power to carry into effect a measure which was unjust. He would ask whether any man respected Sir Robert Peel the less—if, indeed, he did not respect him the more— for his frank avowal of the change his opinions had undergone on the question of the corn laws? He (Sir W. P. Wood) felt the Government had made a fatal mistake to palliate, and almost deny the change in their principles. But with respect to the House generally, he trusted they would now speak out in a manly honourable, and straightforward manner, as became the representatives of the English people, and so pronounce that to be "wise, just, and beneficial," which was now acknowledged on all hands to deserve all the three appellations.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, if the House will indulge me for but a very few moments, I can assure them that, at this late hour, I will not trespass upon them 573 longer. I should not have asked their indulgence, even for that short space, had it not been for some of the expressions which have fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. Indeed I had no desire to address the House at all. I did not feel that I had much to say, and for this very simple reason—that it appears to me there is no question before the House. After what took place in the early part of the evening—after what was submitted by the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton on Tuesday night—after the manner in which my Friends on this side of the House met that overture—after the explanations given by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), I certainly cannot approach this question, or discuss it, in that language and in that spirit which I should have done had I addressed the House on Tuesday evening, and before those explanations were given, and that understanding was come to. Sir, after that understanding I think this debate ought not to have proceeded. I am sorry, deeply sorry, that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton has felt it his duty to force on this discussion. I am the more sorry for it, because I have felt from the first, and I feel it now as strongly as ever, that this discussion as it stands is not creditable to the House of Commons. Sir, I am sorry that the new Parliament should commence with its first debate being addressed, not to any question of principle—not to any question of politics—not to any great measures submitted to us—these are the subjects to which Parliament generally devotes its attention in great discussions; but in the present instance the question before us concerns Resolutions which have been admitted by almost all the Members who have yet spoken to be in spirit, intention, and object, precisely the same; and I know of no good purpose to be accomplished by your discussing whether you shall on that side of the House cast more or less of vituperation and abuse upon Gentlemen on this side of the House. You profess to desire the settlement of a great principle—a principle interesting, I grant, to every man in this great community, and a principle which, I fully admit, after the circumstances of the late election, ought to be entertained and ought to be decided. But, instead of doing that, you are questioning whether you shall accompany the settlement of that principle by the insertion of 574 words that are painful and unacceptable to this side of the House. Now, I think in the words used to-night by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, even for the promotion of your own object, you could not have taken a more unwise course. You wanted the settlement of a great question, and we have met you frankly. We have no concealment. ["Hear, hear!"] I am speaking the earnest, the sincere sentiments of my heart. We acknowledge that the verdict of the country is against the principles that we have hitherto supported; and if you wanted nothing but a fair settlement of those principles, you should have taken the line indicated by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and been contented with that assertion of those principles which he proposed. The noble Lord said, and said wisely and with truth, that all the country cares for, and all the country has a right to care for, is what is to be the future commercial policy of the Government, no matter in what hands that Government may be placed. That is, for the moment, a subordinate question; but if you want to raise that question, let me beg of you to do it openly. You do not profess to raise that question now. If you did, we would meet you fairly. But you say your great object is the settlement of the question, upon what principles the future commercial policy of the country is to be carried on, whatever the hands which hold the reins of Government. You ought, therefore, to have been content with the admissions and advances which have been made on this side of the House. What said my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone), on the very night of the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech? If I remember aright—but I speak entirely from memory—he said, "I do not ask you for your opinions—I do not ask you for an internal conversion. All I ask you for is that which the country has a right to demand—on what policy do you intend to proceed hereafter?" Upon that subject, then, we have fairly met you; and therefore I say there is no question now at issue, unless it be whether you shall be permitted to force upon men on this side of the House, as honourable and as sincere as yourselves, a Resolution humiliating and offensive to them. As far as my own opinion goes, I cannot accept the terms of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Resolution, which I am sorry to say appear to have been studiously introduced so as to be 575 offensive to us; and let me tell you that, although I am willing to join in the opinion entertained unanimously by my Colleagues in the Government, that we must how to the decision of the country—and we do so cheerfully—yet I, for one, cannot concur in the words contained in the Resolution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and I cannot admit that the measure of 1846, when it was first passed, was either just or wise. It is very easy to argue from results, and to cast censure and odium upon men who find themselves in the position of being obliged to confess that, in some respects, they have been mistaken; hut I think you will admit that, upon these great questions of commercial policy, there is nothing more difficult than to, foretell with anything like accuracy what their effects will be. It was remarked to-night with great truth, that there was hardly a single prophecy indulged in on this great subject on either side of the House which has not been found to be mistaken. I remember that we, on this side of the House, prophesied that, if free trade in corn were carried into a law, the importations would have to be paid for in gold, and that the Bank would be drained. But who can deny that since that period there has been more gold in the Bank than was ever known before? I do not shrink from making that avowal. On the other hand, I remember the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) prophesying what would be the price of corn, and what the effects on price of a repeal of the corn law would be—and has proved to be equally at fault. Another prophecy he indulged in was, "Don't be afraid of a repeal of the corn laws; the very freightage will act, pro tanto, as a duty on foreign corn." To what extent these prophecies, too, have been verified, we are all well aware—the ships that have brought corn to. this country have gone back in ballast. For myself, I may say that in 1846, and from that period to the present day, I have always been of opinion that it would have been a wise settlement of the question to have adopted a moderate fixed duty for the purpose of revenue as well as protection; and I was one of a very few Members in this House, who, in 1846, wished even then to bring about such an arrangement as that. But it could not be done. When, therefore, you say. that the measure of total repeal was a just and wise measure, I beg you to recollect that the noble Lord, opposite (Lord John Rus- 576 sell) introduced in the Speech from the Throne several years after that measure passed, an admission of the great distress under which the farmers laboured—at all events, their distress was recognised on the occasion to which I allude. Then, again, with regard to another question of free trade, I mean the sugar duties—into which, however, I cannot enter at this late hour—nobody can dispute the enormous amount of distress that that measure has produced in our Colonies—and surely nobody can deny, with regard to the agricultural interest, that the repeal of the corn laws has been the cause of great distress. Why, within my own limited circle, I myself know of the most painful cases of men who have held up their heads for generations as respectable farmers, and who are now reduced to the position of day labourers. We treated the question, I remember, very much as a labour question; but we also treated it as a question which affected the general interests of agriculture. As a labour question, I have not the slightest hesitation in admitting that we were mistaken. I have no hesitation in admitting that the prices of provisions have fallen in a much greater ratio than wages have fallen; and that although in some agricultural districts the labourers are not so well off as in others, yet, speaking generally, the condition of the labourer is far better than it had been previously to the repeal of the corn laws. That is, undoubtedly, a most important branch of the subject, and one to which Government cannot and ought not to shut its eyes. That, as a Government, we are bound honestly to admit. But upon this very ground I must pause before I also concede that it is "just" to benefit the working classes at the expense of the interests of another class of the community. With these views, then, I think that to compel Gentlemen on this side of the House to adopt expressions at variance with their views, inconsistent with their principles, opposed to their past conduct, and grating to their feelings, is taking an unwise course, and, above all, unwise on the ground that you must recollect that even Gentlemen on the other side of the House do not all stand in the position of the hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton. That hon. and learned Gentleman has been for years the able and consistent advocate of free trade; but. the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) said the other 577 night, with great candour, and I honoured him for the expression, that he was in no condition to throw stones at other men for their change of opinion on this question. And what, let me ask, is the position of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Graham) on this question? And what is the position of the noble Lord the Member for London? I have been long: enough in Parliament—and it does not require a man to have been very long there—to remember the day—it was indeed only as it were the other day—that I followed the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham), and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), and other statesmen with whom I was then acting, into the lobby time after time in defence of protection. And what is the position of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell)? I am sure that the noble Lord will admit that his conversion is of very recent date. It was only in 1841 when those great struggles were taking place between my late right hon. Friend Sir Robert Peel and the noble Lord, that the noble Lord and the Liberal side of the House were advocating a fixed duty of 8s. Under these circumstances, looking at the position of the whole House and the recent date of the conversions of the most eminent statesmen in it—the recent date even of the conversion of my late right hon. Friend Sir Robert Peel, I think that all men must feel that this is not the moment for one small handful of Gentlemen, whom, however, I respect for their consistency and undoubted sincerity upon this question, to throw odium upon other men, because they have retained their principles for a rather longer period. We shall have occasion before long to discuss other questions connected with the great principles of our commercial policy; and I, for one, will never shrink from avowing—no taunts from the other side of the House will deter me for one day or one hour from confessing, frankly to the House any change which may have taken place in my views. And here, in connexion with the question of change of views—there have been allusions this evening by different Gentlemen, and among others by my noble Friend the Member for North Leicestershire (the Marquess of Granby), to the late Sir Robert Peel. My noble Friend spoke in a frank and an honourable spirit on that subject. The Members of Government have been pointedly alluded to on that subject since; and therefore I cannot and will not shrink from 578 saying that no single word of disrespect to Sir Robert Peel ever has escaped or ever will escape my lips. It was my misfortune in 1846 that I could not concur with Sir Robert Peel; and in opposing him on that occasion I made a great sacrifice of both party feeling and personal feeling. I op-posed the right hon. Gentleman then; and, with whatever degree of diffidence I did so, I never shrank from voting against him when my conscience would not allow me to vote with him. But I agree with my noble Friend that a purer patriot never lived. I always received kindness and friendship from that right hon. Gentleman, and I shall always entertain feelings of kindness and friendship for his memory. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the Member for Oxford (Sir W. P. Wood), used one expression to which I must advert. He spoke of the disgust with which he had heard the ambiguous language used on this side of the House, and of the manner in which it had been contended, that from 1846 till now, we had never advocated a return to the principle of protection. What we have said is this: that from that day to this we have never proposed protection to this House in connexion with land. We did not come into office last year on the question of protection. On the contrary, my noble Friend Lord Derby, in 1851, and again in 1852, when he took office, uniformly and consistently declared that the settlement of this great question must be referred to the determination of the people at a general election. There is no man more free than I am with regard to the use of such language as has been imputed to us; for I challenge any hon. Gentleman opposite—let him search Hansard as he pleases—to find that I have ever said anything inconsistent with what I now state. [An Hon. MEMBER on the Opposition side: Sugar.] I know not who it is that interrupts me; but if any hon. Member thinks I have any intention of shrinking from anything I have said, or of prevaricating in regard to any statements I have made on the subject of the sugar duties, he will find, when the proper time comes for the discussion of the question, that he is very much mistaken. I was speaking, however, upon the question of the corn laws, which we are now debating, and I say that from 1846 to the present time the language I have held, both in the country and in this House, has been uniformly the same— that, after such a great change of policy as then took place, it would be absolutely 579 impossible for us to retrace our steps, unless in deference to the general voice of the country. That is the opinion I have always entertained, and which I still entertain. The hon. and learned Gentleman has alluded to my noble Friend Lord Derby in terms which I was very sorry to hear him employ. I think the expression of the hon. and learned Gentleman was, that it had been reserved for my noble Friend now at the head of Her Majesty's Government to be the first Minister who acceded to power in this country, avowing that he did so without principle. I really don't wish to say anything disrespectful of the hon. and learned Gentleman, for whom generally I entertain the utmost respect, but I can only treat such a declaration as an absurdity in itself. I deeply regretted to hear him use such language. I do not believe that any statesman ever more distinctly enunciated principles— [Derisive cheers and laughter from the Opposition, and loud cheers from the Ministerial benches.] I do not think any statesman ever enunciated principles more distinct or better defined, more worthy of his high and noble character, than my noble Friend Lord Derby did when he took the reins of office. The hon. and learned Gentleman has asked a question which I think we might rather have asked him—why has this Resolution been brought forward? I admit that is a matter I cannot understand, except upon the painful principle to which I have before adverted. The noble Member for the City of London has this evening again dwelt upon what he calls the ambiguity of the language in the Queen's Speech. I most distinctly say that I cannot concur in his opinion. I fully admit that this House had a right, after the circumstances of the last election, to know what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the great question of free-trade; and I contend that the announcement of those intentions was conveyed in the Royal Speech with as much distinctness as was consistent with the language which Ministers are in the habit of advising the Sovereign to use. I know not what language you could have more distinct, or what expression could be more intelligible, than the expression of "unrestricted competition," which was the phrase used in the Speech delivered from; the Throne. The noble Lord then spoke of the Resolution moved by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a supplement to the Queen's 580 Speech. No, Sir, it was no supplement to the Queen's Speech; but it was a step which I think we were bound to take after the language which had been held by hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to Her Majesty's Speech. They have complained of ambiguity; but, I must say, I am rather disposed to think they have only arrived at a foregone conclusion, and that they wished to consider the language of the Speech ambiguous. As the announcement in the Queen's Speech was not held to be sufficiently distinct, hon. Gentlemen opposite moved a Resolution declaratory of their principles; and we felt it to be our duty to move a Resolution showing that we do not desire to shrink from a plain announcement of our intentions. I must say, however, that I think there is another answer to the question why the Resolution of the hon. and learned! Gentleman opposite was proposed. I cannot help thinking that it is very much the same Resolution with which we were threatened in April last. It was not considered politic then to bring that Resolution forward; and I cannot help suspecting that it has been brought forward now in the hope that four distinct parties on the opposite side might be combined in one vote, it being very difficult; perhaps, to find any other subject on which they could be combined. It seems, further, to have been thought desirable to effect this combination before Her Majesty's Government had had the opportunity of bring their measures before Parliament. By the good spirit which has been shown, however, and by the readiness with which hon. Gentlemen opposite have subscribed to the arrangement that has been suggested, whatever schemes might have been entertained have signally failed; and I believe and hope that the country—who look not to these petty personal matters, but to the great and important question of what is to be the future policy of the Government—will have the satisfaction of seeing that future policy affirmed by an overwhelming majority, and by a Resolution free from the objectionable language and the objectionable purposes which, in my judgment, lurk in the Resolution which has been moved by the hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton. Sincerely apologising to the House for having detained them so long, I will only express my earnest hope that the majority upon this occasion may be an overwhelming one, and that the House will not be disposed to join in a form of vote which, in my 581 mind, is unworthy of those who are parties to it, and derogatory to the character of this House.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.