§ MR. ST. AUBYN
brought up the Report of the Address in reply to Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, that for many years it had been his practice to give a tacit assent to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, believing that nothing could be wiser or more proper than to maintain the utmost unity between the Houses of Parliament and the Sovereign, and that the House should express its loyalty in the form prescribed by ancient usage. Nor should he, on this occasion, have deviated from that course were it not that the Address to which they were about to agree seemed to require, in one point at least, some explanation. He had always understood that these documents pledged no Member of the House to anything; that they were meant to be mere courteous demonstrations. It did seem to him, however, that on the present occasion, with regard to China, there was a deviation from that course. As to the paragraph respecting the Italian question, he would only say that it committed this country to nothing, but indicated at the same time that we wished well to the Italian people, and that the Government were watching with a friendly interest the course of events in the Italian Peninsula. But he was sorry the answer to the Speech did not contain something like an expression of regret that Her Majesty's Government had thought it necessary to prepare a hostile expedition against the Empire of China. He believed we were committing a grave mistake in so dealing with that large portion of the human race, and that neither commerce nor civilization could be extended by such a course. If ever there was a question requiring the deep consideration of that House, it was the commencement of a war with 300,000,000 of half-civilized people, 15,000 or 18,000 miles from our own shores. The House was called upon by the Address to thank Her Majesty for the information that She had prepared an expedition; but let it be remembered, that when an expedition had been prepared, the expense had been incurred. What, then, became of the constitutional doctrine of the control of Parliament over the finances? The manner in which the Estimates were treated in that House had often struck him as being altogether farcical; for it was quite clear that vast sums were constantly being expended in these hostile preparations—sums for which this House was responsible to the people, who sent them there as their representatives. Now, if there was one class 120 of wars with respect to which the country should be peculiarly alive, it was the wars into which we had been so frequently precipitated by the collision of subordinate functionaries with native authorities in the East. For example, there was first the Affghan war. What a monstrous proceeding was that! It cost £15,000,000 of treasure—was the origin of the disorganization which had since taken place in Indian finance, and the cause of thousands of our people being slain. He should like to see the Gentleman who could rise in that House and point out a single advantage which we had gained from that proceeding. One thing which was quite clear was, that that war had been entered upon without the sanction of the Parliament of that day. True, the constitutional doctrine was, that the prerogative of making peace or war rested with the Crown; but then it was also a constitutional doctrine equally sound, and to be as rigidly maintained, that the means of carrying on wars had to be provided by that House. In a certain sense, therefore, the House possessed, and might exercise a control over, what might appear to them an unjust war. Had he been able to collect the words of the Address, when it was read by the hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. St. Aubyn) who had so ably and gracefully moved it, or by the right hon. Gentleman in the chair, he should have been inclined to move the insertion of words expressive of deep regret on the part of that House at the information conveyed in the Speech from the Throne that it had been deemed necessary to prepare an hostile expedition against China. The House was promised further information upon the subject; but he believed that the way in which we had become involved in these Chinese troubles was totally inexplicable. If the noble Earl who was supposed to have managed matters so well in arranging the treaty of Tien-tsin (the Earl of Elgin) thought that it was right to get the treaty ratified at Pekin, why did he not go himself? Why leave it to a subordinate? Surely it was a mistake that he did not conclude his diplomatic career in China by going to Pekin, assuming that it was really necessary to go there at all. It was likely that we had been led into this Chinese difficulty by sending a little man to complete a treaty which a great man had concluded. To leave the ratification to a "subordinate button," as the Chinese would term Mr. 121 Bruce, was to infuse a suspicion in the mind of the Emperor and the people that they were not treated with the respect to which the "Flowery Land" was entitled, and thereby create an exacerbated feeling. Nor did he know why our representatives in China were compelled to ascend the Peiho, nor why a peaceable Minister should be attended by an armed force. Moreover, the House, by expressing an opinion in favour of the expedition, would also imply approval of the operations being carried on conjointly with a neighbouring country, which he (Sir H. Willougliby) confessed he would rather not see. In giving his vote for the Address, therefore, he should do so under protest; but he considered that he was not bound in any way, nor did he presume that any other Member regarded himself as hound, to an opinion in favour of the policy which was pursued towards China. He believed the result would he the derangement of our finances, and the setting aside of all control by this House over the public purse. He owned, too, that he felt rather surprised that at a very critical period in British finance the word "economy" found no place in the Address. He entertained very great respect for the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Lord had great administrative abilities, and in many respects had carried on the government of the empire very well; but he owned he thought that the noble Lord was a very extravagant Minister, and that a duty devolved upon the House to watch, with more than ordinary vigilance, the course of the noble Lord's Government in matters of finance, for he (Sir H. Willoughby) believed serious expenditure was now being incurred and about to be incurred, which, of course, could only result in increased taxation. For these reasons he gave his vote for the Address under some sort of protest that we were about to enter into hostilities with 300,000,000 of half-civilized people, to whom we ought rather to set an example than launch against them all the inventions and appliances of modern warfare.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
I indulge the confident hope that the House will not consider that I should offer an apology for rising as a naval officer, to observe on a matter which nearly affects an individual brother officer, and my profession at large. I acknowledge with satisfaction the gracious allusion made in the Speech from the Throne to the action of the Peiho, as well as the graceful and generous tributes of- 122 fered in the same spirit by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire and the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I am truly happy to be thus assured that the ancient judgment with regard to unfortunate bravery has not been reversed by the country, and that the conduct of a forlorn hope is no subject of dishonour to those engaged in it. I feel sure that the sight of the heroic Admiral, stretched wounded and bleeding on the deck, but undaunted under that terrible fire of the enemy, and calm in the midst of onerous responsibilities, conveyed a moral influence with his officers and crews, which no amount of success would have exercised without it. The victory for the time remained with the Chinese, but the impression that was lasting was wrought by the intrepidity of the Admiral in that hour of severe trial, for a brave man enduring adversity, if the saddest, is the grandest spectacle under heaven; and, "what will they say in England?" is a question which daunts and perplexes the weak mind, but strengthens and nerves the heart of the courageous. I hope that the breasts of those men, who were worthy followers of the Admiral, will not remain without their merited decoration. It is a debt we owe to the memory of the dead. It is a debt we owe injustice to the living—and a pledge of acknowledgment which we should hold out to those who shall hereafter bear the arms of England. We owe it to these gallant men, for I believe that the story of that unwavering struggle through the treacherous marsh, that intrepid passage across the moat, that reiterated attempt to scale the walls under a withering fire, and the murderous cannonade of foes who were unassailable, will one day be recorded in a page as full of honour as that which commemorates the ride of the immortal six hundred in the valley of death at Balaclava—upon the graves of those who fell we may write the epitaph of old, "we could not conquer but we died." The bravery of the survivors will not prove in vain; it did not cease when they turned in slow and sullen retreat, and with a magnanimity greater than heroism, a noble resolution equal to the highest acts of bravery, raised the dying and wounded comrades as they fell, and bore them on their shoulders to their boats, although the delay more than redoubled the likelihood of their own death. The memory of their invincible fortitude and of their daring, that never quailed when defeat was trembling on the verge of 123 annihilation, the deaths that were met for the glory of saving the lives of others, will in the coming hour of signal retribution yet strike dismay into the hearts of their enemies. Meanwhile, I will hope that hon. Members and the country at large will adopt the sentiment of the great soldier of Rome, that if it was ordained that the victory should rest with his foes, that cause which was lost commended itself to him.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON,
before the Address was put, wished to ask a question of the Government with regard to that part of Her Majesty's most gracious Speech which referred to the commercial treaty with France. Before doing so, however, he could not refrain from expressing his concurrence in the remarks just made by his hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Admiral Walcott). He could not help expressing the satisfaction which he felt at the circumstances that both in the discussion yesterday and to-day, justice had been done, though rather late in the day, to the conspicuous gallantry which had been displayed by Admiral Hope in the action in the Peiho. There had been previous occasions on which the Government might have recognized that gallantry, but it was not done. Nevertheless, he was glad that at last the distinguished service of the gallant and heroic Admiral, and of those who fought under him, had been recognized. For his own part, he believed that no more heroic conduct had ever been exhibited by the navy of England than that of Admiral Hope and his forces at the mouth of the Peiho. He would not then enter into the state of our relations with the empire of China. He would only say that he regarded the state of those relations with the greatest possible anxiety, and he hoped the day was near at hand when Her Majesty's Government would feel themselves at liberty to state what was the course which they meant to pursue in respect of that difficult and important matter. He would now address to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the question to which he had alluded. For the sake of those parties who were interested in the approaching changes in our commercial relations with France, he wished to express a hope that the Government would, at the earliest possible period, state to Parliament and the country the nature of the changes in the duties which were thus to be brought into operation. It had been represented to him that trades, whose interest were likely to be affected by those changes, were already 124 experiencing great difficulties from the uncertainty which prevailed on the subject. He himself had received a communication from the glove trade of Worcester, complaining that the trade was completely paralyzed; that goods to a very great value had to be arrested at Folkstone, and that the manufacturers were unable to decide what course to take. It was most important to that trade, then, and equally so to others, that they should at the earliest possible moment be informed what were the intentions of the Government, and what would be the actual changes affecting their interests. The present uncertainty was operating most injuriously; and he hoped that no time would be lost in giving the necessary explanation upon the subject.
§ MR. HADFIELD
protested against the course that was about to be pursued with regard to China. We call them semi-barbarians, but they called us downright barbarians; and he was sorry to say that in many respects they had too good reason to say so. We were raising up in China a military feeling, and teaching them how to contend with us in war. They had already gained one victory over us, and if the military spirit of so vast an empire were roused, there was no telling what the consequences might be. He hoped the papers would be presented full and entire, and not mutilated as in the case of the Affghan papers, which it had lately been demonstrated were in the first instance presented to Parliament in so mutilated a condition, that to this day our knowledge of the transactions which then occurred was incomplete. That war was undertaken without the consent of Parliament, it cost us24,000 lives, and £15,000,000 of money, and to this day the causes of the war had never been investigated. The Americans had managed their affairs much more reasonably, and were now on terms of friendship with the Chinese Government.
§ SIR MICHAEL SEYMOUR
was desirous to add his testimony to what had been said with regard to Admiral Hope, his gallant successor in the Chinese seas. He could speak of him, not only as his friend, but as an officer of great experience and high professional qualifications, as well as undoubted ability and gallantry; and he should be sorry to lose the present opportunity of expressing his most cordial concurrence in the meed of approbation which had been extended to him by others. As to the policy of this country in sending an armed force, in conjunction with France, 125 to readjust our relations with China, he would only observe that, from his own experience and knowledge of affairs in China, he did not understand how any approach could be made to that Power otherwise than by the accompaniment of an armed force. He concurred in the wish that had been so often expressed, that our dispute with that country might have a peaceable termination. Personally, that would be highly gratifying to him, but he repeated that he did not understand how it was possible, after what had occurred, to approach China without being accompanied with an armed force.
§ MR. SLANEY
said, he was delighted to find that the commercial ties between this country and France were about to be drawn closer by the means of freer intercourse: it would be of vast importance to both countries and to the cause of peace. But he desired to learn at the earliest moment what alterations of duty were to be made affecting the various industries of the country. With regard to the Worcester manufacturers and their low state referred to by the right hon. Baronet, he remembered that some years ago when it was stated in that House that those manufactures had been injured by foreign imports, the late Mr. Morrison, a great authority on trade matters, declared that their want of employment arose not from any foreign importations, but from recent improvements in other branches of our own manufactures. He heartly congratulated the House on the prospect of changes which would be beneficial to both countries.
§ LORD FERMOY
protested against the delay which was to take place in the introduction of the Reform Bill. This was understood to be pre-eminently a Session for considering the question of reform; but instead of having the Bill brought forward in the first week it was delayed for a month. He was one of those who cared very little what position this subject occupied in the Queen's Speech, provided that he saw in office a Government who were sincerely desirous of carrying it to a successful issue, but when he found that it was not to be brought forward for a month, he began to think that either the Members of Government were not agreed among themselves, or that they were recklessly wasting the time of Parliament. The result would be that the Bill would not be brought in till late in February; the country must be allowed some time to consider it; the Bill must 126 afterwards pass through the House of Lords, and, after undergoing some alterations, it would return to that House in the latter end of July, and might perhaps fall through altogether. It would then have to be reintroduced and debated over again in another Session, to great public inconvenience. He hoped that the Reform Bill for Ireland would be brought in along with the one for England, so that the two measures might have equal justice done them. Another thing he complained of was, that while congratulating the country on the general armament of volunteers, Ireland, which was nearly one-third of the United Kingdom, had been entirely overlooked. We were all proud and glad that the people of England were voluntarily arming and drilling to defend their country; but Ireland was entirely disarmed; and why? Because it was distrusted; and why? Because it was discontented; and why? Because its affairs were not dealt with in a wise and statesmanship spirit. They ought to deal with Ireland as they would with England; but they had not done so. Nobody had seen with more regret than he the late agitation in Ireland. The Ultramontane party there were strong and violent, and no one regretted it more than himself; but the Government must address themselves to that matter as practical men and as statesmen. What had the Ministers done during the recess to encourage the moderate party in Ireland; Don't let Hon. Members suppose that because the Ultramontane party were noisy and violent, the majority of the people of that country went with them. There was a very large and powerful party of moderate men—Roman Catholic laity— who did not wish to sever the connection between England and Ireland, and did not look to Rome and Rome alone for directions and orders. What had the Government done with regard to mixed education in Ireland? His belief was that they did not owe to them the non-surrender of that excellent system to the Ultramontane and violent party in Ireland. They owed it to the celebrated letter written by the Primate of Ireland, and read at the meeting at Coleraine, and in which he said that the Protestant Church in that country was not disposed to adopt another system. Until that letter was made public the Government gave no proof whatever that they were prepared to stand by the system of mixed education. Great credit was due to the Protestant party in Ireland—who in 127 past time had no doubt been extreme in their views—for the moderation they had shown during the recent agitation in that country. If the Government really wished to deal with Ireland in a statesmanlike manner, they ought to rally round them the moderate party, who were disposed to keep up the British connection and to see the country governed upon free and enlightened principles. On the previous evening the Government gave notice of a number of measures relating to England, but not of a single measure for Ireland; although there was no country in the world which more required legislation, not upon political or religious, but social and financial questions. Her fiscal taxation was levied in a most unjust way, and her poor law required reform; yet there was not a single word in the Royal Speech about these or any other subjects touching Ireland. With regard to the question of the representation, he hoped that if the promised Reform Bill for England was introduced, the Irish Reform Bill will be brought forward at the same time. If they passed an English Reform Bill first there must be a dissolution immediately after wards, and the Irish Bill would have to be considered in the next Parliament; so that the unfortunate Irish Members would be subjected to two elections instead of one, and great injustice would thereby he done both to them and to Ireland.
§ MR. CARDWELL
should have hoped that the absence of any special reference in the gracious Speech from the Throne to Ireland was a subject for congratulation rather than regret. It was undoubtedly true that no particular reference was made either to Ireland or Scotland in the Speech; but in that congratulation in which Her Majesty invited all of them to join, the United Kingdom and the possessions beyond the seas were all included as belonging to one common country. If his noble Friend thought that the non-raising of volunteer corps in Ireland was a proof that the loyalty of the people of Ireland was distrusted, he might dismiss that feeling from his mind. The Act under which volunteers were raised in England was peculiar to Great Britain, and did not apply to Ireland. Her Majesty's Government had not the power to come to the determination of enlisting rifle corps in Ireland under the same regulations under which they were enlisted in England. There was, however, an old Act of the Irish Parliament, confirmed by the Act of 1802, 128 which enabled them to receive offers of volunteer service; and the Secretary for War had before him now an offer of the voluntary service of an Irish artillery corps, which he believed it was his intention to accept; hut there had been no pressure of applications from Ireland for the establishment of rifle corps. This might arise partly from the belief or knowledge in Ireland that the Government had not the statutory power which existed in Great Britain; and it might also partly arise from the feeling of the moderate party, to which his noble Friend referred, that there were special considerations of an internal and social character to be borne in mind with regard to Ireland before they had recourse to anything like a general arming of the country; but undoubtedly it had not arisen from any distrust on the part of the Government of the loyalty of the people, and he did not believe it arose from any want of patriotism or zeal in the people of Ireland. His noble Friend complained that they did not encourage the moderate party by some "timely declaration" on the subject of mixed education. He did not know what his noble Friend would call a "timely declaration," but he thought he could satisfy him that no less than three declarations had been made on the subject. At the close of last Session he stated, as plainly as his command of the English language permitted, that it was the firm determination of the Government to adhere to the mixed system of education in Ireland. Again, about the middle of the recess, the declarations of the Lord Lieutenant on the occasion of distributing prizes to successful candidates at the Queen's University, on the same subject, were not ambiguous or few: and only last night he (Mr. Cardwell) laid on the table of the House the answer of the Government to the representation of the Archbishops and Bishops, which his noble Friend would see contained a distinct declaration of their steadfast adherence to the system of mixed education. His noble Friend also said that they gave no notice on the previous evening of measures for Ireland; but a number of important measures relating to that country had already been prepared, and he sincerely hoped that if not all, at least some of them, would be passed in the course of the present Session; but he should not be dealing respectfully with the House generally, or the Irish representatives in particular, if he were to give notice of mea- 129 sures when there was no prospect of commanding an immediate day for their consideration, and especially when the great commercial interests of the country were about to be brought under their attention. With regard to the Irish Reform Bill, his noble Friend's wish would be gratified, because at the same time, or immediately after, that the Bill for England was introduced, the Irish Reform Bill would be laid on the table, so as to enable the House to have a full view of both together.
§ MR. W. EWART,
as one of the oldest free traders in the House, wished to express his cordial approbation of the measures taken by the Government for promoting our commercial intercourse with France. Last Session he gave notice of a Motion for the reduction of the duties on foreign wines, and he then thought that, without reference to any treaty or system of reciprocity, they might proceed in a straightforward way to lower the duty on various articles imported into this country. He did not wish to detract from the advantage of treaties, if they were the best means of accomplishing that object, and he had no doubt that the Government, in arranging the particular treaty which had recently been entered into with France, had taken care of the interests of this country. But, as regarded the wine duties, any reduction of them would be utterly futile unless the consumption of the wines was brought down to the lower substratum of the population who never drank them before, and, in order to do this, there must be an alteration in the system of licensing. He therefore hoped that that point had not escaped the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Nor did he see why, when they repealed the duty on the importation of foreign corn, they should yet retain a duty on foreign cheese, butter, and eggs, which entered so largely into the consumption of the labouring population. If there should be a Congress of European Powers, he ardently hoped Her Majesty's Government would bring before it the question of the immunity of commercial shipping from acts of hostility by the Powers at war. If property on land were excepted, so ought property at sea; otherwise, during a maritime war, the whole carrying trade would be thrown into the hands of neutral Powers. He repeated his thanks to the Government for re-establishing our trade with France, which had so long remained in a disgraceful state, French wines being still dealt with under the enactment of William III., which 130 declared that our trade with France was a pernicious thing and ought to be put down.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, it appeared probable at one time that the discussion would be closed without any allusion having been made to the commercial treaty between this country and France, and if that had been the case it was not his intention to address any observations to the House on the subject; but the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had thought it his duty, as a consistent free-trader, to congratulate the House on the formation of this commercial alliance with France, and to tender his thanks to the Government for entering into a treaty of reciprocity. He (Mr. FitzGerald), as one who acquiesced also in the policy of free trade which had been adopted by this country must, in opposition to the hon. Gentleman, enter his protest against this commercial treaty, which, in every point of view, whether as political or as a question affecting the privileges and rights of the House, or whether as solely a free-trade question, was as objectionable a measure as had ever been introduced to Parliament. He had always thought that a primary principle of free traders was that they distrusted commercial treaties of reciprocity. They were told that reciprocity was protection in its worst guise, and certainly on that ground any treaty of reciprocity so objectionable as this one could not well be imagined. If the Government had carried out this measure by a treaty of reciprocity, then they had done it in the most clumsy and objectionable manner; and if not by a treaty of reciprocity, then they had taken a course most adverse to the interests of the country. He would take it, however, that it was a treaty of reciprocity; and it was on this ground that the noble Lord at the head of the Government last night recommended the adoption of the Treaty to the House, and said, in fact, it was absolutely necessary they should enter into it, because otherwise, owing to the peculiar position of the French, it would be impossible to secure the advantages which it gave. Let the House understand exactly how England stood towards France. We were going to make certain immediate concessions in reference to French productions, and in return we were to receive certain advantages at a distant period of eighteen months. But how stood the case of the wine duties as regarded other nations of Europe? First, with reference to Spain, Portugal, and Naples, it had always been the great 131 object of the commercial classes of England, and especially of the commercial department of Her Majesty's Government, to obtain a reduction of the duties levied upon British commodities imported into those countries. Negotiations had taken place between us and the Governments of those kingdoms upon that subject, and the answer we received was—"We will ad-admit your produce, but we must have a reduction of the duties which you levy on our wines." The reply of England to this was—"The duty imposed on your wines is not a protective duty, but one solely for the purposes of revenue, and as it produces a very large sum we cannot enter into any reciprocal arrangement, which would involve the sacrifice of a large amount of revenue, even for the sake of securing to a certain extent the admission of our own productions." The consequence was, we had not reduced the duty on the wines of those three countries, and they had not admitted British commodities. Again, Austria was willing to admit our wool and cotton, and various other articles of British produce; but she said our tariff was such that the wines of one portion of her empire— Hungary—were virtually excluded from this country; and, accordingly, we had remained also without a treaty of reciprocity with Austria. He could understand the position of the Government, if they had declined from beginning to end to enter into a treaty of reciprocity, as being in consistent with the great principles of free trade which this country had adopted with such great success. But instead of employing any argument of this kind, the Government were actually claiming credit to themselves for having effected this reciprocal convention. And now he would ask what was the position of the Government and the country with regard to this treaty of reciprocity? By it we were to receive a certain concession; instead of prohibitive, there were to be high protective duties on certain articles of English produce imported into France, and we were to reduce the duty on French wines; but, at the same time that we did this, we in fact reduced the duties on Spanish, Portuguese, Sicilian, and Hungarian wines, and we altered the whole system of our revenue, arising from duties on wine, as regarded all the countries of Europe; and while Spain, Portugal, and Austria might claim to them selves the credit of entering into reciprocity treaties, we received no reciprocal concession from them. By entering into this reciprocity 132 treaty the Government, in the first instance, abandoned that free-trade policy in which they had before prided themselves. Their treaty was an anachronism altogether; it was a retrograde measure; and so far, it met with his most decided opposition. But if it were to be viewed as a reciprocity treaty, then it was a most clumsy proceeding, because it reduced generally duties on foreign produce, while we received from the various foreign nations interested in this matter none of those tangible benefits which they were willing to afford, and that on the promise only of some return from France some eighteen months hence. The treaty was also objectionable because of this delay of eighteen months in its operation as to British produce—a delay which might possibly lead to misunderstandings, and perhaps complications. And he would tell the House why. No doubt if the duties on French wines were lowered there would be a much larger consumption of those wines in England, and the French producers would be largely benefited; but the moment they reduced the duties on all other foreign wines the proportion of French wines consumed would probably remain the same; while, in fact, a large increase would take place in the importation of those wines to which the people of this country were more accustomed, namely, the wines of Spain and Portugal, which possessed greater body and strength, and were probably more adapted to this climate and atmosphere. Now, if that should prove to be the case, what would be the result when the time came for France to perform her part of the agreement? He feared French producers, disappointed in their expectations during the eighteen months, would say, "We have entered into a bargain in which England has overreached us. They proposed to admit our produce, and led us to believe that there would be a great increase in the consumption of it. After eighteen months' experience we find there has been no great increase in the consumption of French wines, and yet we are called upon to carry out that which will probably very much injure our producers." This would, he believed, lead to misunderstanding, and possibly to contention. The French indeed believed that the introduction of this system would blow out all the forges in the north of France. He must, for himself, confess that he could not see the slightest necessity, in a commercial sense, for making immediate concessions to Franco for the sake of 133 a prospective return at the end of eighteen months. But when he came to look at the question as a question of revenue, the position of the Government appeared to him infinitely more objectionable and unjustifiable. It appeared to him that, as regarded commercial treaties, the position of the House and the Government entirely changed after the adoption of the free-trade policy, and the moment they declared that there were no import duties levied in this country, except for the purposes of revenue. In the clays when it was considered a part of the duty of the executive to watch over the industry of the country and to promote this, to repress the other branch of the trade, the Government were, no doubt, at liberty to enter into any commercial treaty by which certain restrictions on articles of foreign commerce were modified in return for concessions from abroad; but the position of the Government was entirely changed when it was laid down as a rule that there should be no duties in this country save for the purposes of revenue. And yet, within a week of the meeting of Parliament, the Government had thought proper to enter into a treaty which would affect the permanence of revenue to the amount of three millions of money. Supposing a deficiency should occur under the new system—and whatever it might be ultimately, that could hardly be avoided during the first year—some new tax must be imposed to make up for it. It might be perfectly true that the wine duties were a tax not in the best state; but it was quite clear that if there was to be any considerable reduction in these duties, they must be replaced by some new tax. What was that tax to be? The wine duties chiefly pressed on the higher and opulent classes who could afford to indulge in such luxuries, and as a substitute for them, were they to have a continuance or an increase of the income tax, which touched many who did not drink wine? If so, the Government would levy a tax on those who did not drink wine for the benefit of those who did—a tax on those who did not consume luxuries for the benefit of those who did. Or were they to continue the war duty on tea and sugar? Did the Government contemplate taking off a duty on stimulants in order to maintain an increased duty on that which formed the beverage of the frugal and temperate? Those were questions which ought to be put fairly before the House before the Government embarrassed themselves and 134 the House, and to a certain extent, embarrassed the Crown, by entering upon a treaty which, subject of course to the approval of Parliament, involved a reduction of revenue duties. But in another point of view the treaty was very objectionable; and this applied to commercial treaties generally. It was quite possible that the duty on wine at the present moment might not be in the best state, and that when reduced the increased consumption might lead to a larger revenue. It was an experiment, however, and they could only conjecture what the result would be. But in entering into a commercial treaty of this sort they prevented any return to an increased rate, should there be a falling off. They had often before had deficiencies of the revenue which rendered it necessary to put an additional ten or fifteen per cent upon the Customs' duties; but the result of this commercial arrangement would be to throw the additional percentage, if found necessary, upon all articles except wine, to raise the price of articles of ordinary consumption among the poorer classes of the community, and to exempt one of the chief luxuries of the rich. These were the main objections to the treaty; but beyond these he could not help thinking there was some special reason why the treaty was to be entered into just then, and he felt as confident as he could be upon any subject, where he had no documentary evidence, that it was with a political, and not a commercial object, that the convention had been got up. It was done with the object of diverting the attention of this country from the political relations of Her Majesty's Government with the Government of France, and it was assumed, no doubt, that as a nation of shopkeepers we should at once become engrossed in anything which wore a commercial aspect, and give no heed to what required the closest and most anxious scrutiny on the part of the House and the country—the political relations of the noble Viscount's Government and the Government of France. There was no man more anxious than he (Mr. FitzGerald) to maintain the most intimate relations between England and France. He believed it was for the benefit of both countries, and necessary for the peace of Europe and the world; but there was a great deal of difference between having the most friendly feeling between the two nations and having an understanding between the two Governments which should amount to an identity of policy. 135 He believed that the policy the noble Lord was prepared to adopt, and the language lie was disposed to hold to Europe, was this—"We and France are agreed, and you may do what you like." Now, such a policy could only be met by a combination of the other Powers who entertained different views, and the result of it could only be to divide Europe into two camps, and the maintenance of peace solely by the preponderance of power on the part of England and France. That was a most objectionable position to be held by this country. He thought so for many reasons. In the first place, if he understood the feeling of this country at all it was this, that we should not needlessly interfere in wars on the Continent; and this feeling arose not from mere commercial reasons, but he hoped and trusted from a higher and Christian view of our national responsibility. If, however, that policy was to be enforced when there existed this entente cordiale and this identity of policy between the two countries, it must end in this way: the Government which had the active military power, and put that policy into execution, would be the Power to lead, and it would only be for England to follow humbly in its wake. This was a position equally inconsistent with the honour and dignity and with the feelings of the people of this country. He was perfectly satisfied that it was possible for this country to maintain most amicable and friendly relations with France and the rest of Europe, and yet hold her own position, make her opinions and weight felt, and have the example of her liberal and enlightened policy followed. But he was perfectly certain that if there was one policy which, more than any other, would detract from the interest and lessen the influence of England, it was that of not maintaining the dignified independence which he had described, but attempting to preserve an identity of policy between the two Governments. There were many reasons why there should not he such an identity of policy. The English were not the people to go to war for an "idea." We regarded the reason and necessity for war in a very different light from that in which our neighbours regarded them; but, without entering into the many points of difference which must exist, looking to the form of our Government and the spirit and genius of the people, there were reasons why, without any identity of policy, we might maintain the most friendly relations and the most intimate alliance with France; but the 136 moment they had that identity of policy which he believed it was the object of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to establish, they would jeopardize the whole prestige and influence of this country, and endanger that alliance which he believed it was the wish of the people of England to preserve.
§ MR. W. EWART
wished to explain. He disapproved of the policy of a commercial treaty, because he thought it was opposed to the principle of free trade; but if the treaty in question could be reconciled with that principle, he should be glad to see such a a treaty concluded.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he wished first to notice an observation, though a very slight one, made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), which he thought ought not to be allowed to pass entirely without notice. The right hon. Baronet said he was glad that justice had at last been done by the Government to the gallantry of our naval forces in the action at the mouth of the Peiho, because it appeared to him that other and earlier occasions of doing that justice had been allowed to pass by without advantage being taken of them. On the part of the Government, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) ventured to say that they had always entertained that feeling of unqualified admiration which was expressed by his noble Friend at the head of the Government on the previous evening. He was not aware of any occasion which they had lost for giving expression to those sentiments; but if there was, and the right hon. Baronet brought it to their knowledge, they would at once express their regret for having overlooked it. But, of course, he rose principally to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and who had discussed very much at length a treaty which was not yet on the table of the House. The first question which would suggest itself to the mind of any man who had listened to the hon. Gentleman was, how in the world had that singular and fortunate Member of the House of Commons attained to such a minute and accurate knowledge of the character of the treaty— which had not yet been published to the world—as to be enabled to express his opinion upon it in so copious a manner, and in every possible point of view. Although his hon. Friend was incapable of a dishonourable action, he was almost led to the suspicion that he had secreted himself, after 137 the ancient fashion, behind the tapestry of the room where the negotiations wore going on, and in that extraordinary and not very creditable manner, obtained that knowledge of which he now gave the advantage to the House. In one respect he was very sorry for his hon. Friend; for he had put himself at a disadvantage by thus forestalling and anticipating the occasion for his objections, because—although due weight must attach to everything that fell from him, even under the most unfavourable circumstances—his sweeping denunciations of this unfortunate instrument—this disastrous convention— would have come with greater force, because they would come to the minds of an audience better prepared to receive them, if he had waited for the few days which must elapse before the treaty could be in the knowledge of the House. He had, however, emptied the budget of his objections, and when the treaty was actually laid on the table he would have no more objections to urge; or, even if his ingenuity found others, the freshness and bloom would have been taken off his criticisms, and his charge would have lost a great portion of its edge, because he had dealt with the matter in every possible and imaginable relation. His hon. Friend had endeavoured to show that the Government, in entering into the treaty, had been guilty of some grave violation of the constitutional rights of that House; but this he had done with rather more fulness than prudence, after the statement of the noble Lord at the head of the Government the previous night, that the treaty was framed in such a manner as to preserve intact and entire every right and privilege of the House, and that if it was to take effect it must do so only in virtue of the deliberate vote and decision of the House. If his hon. Friend considered the position of the Government weak in that respect, his mind must be, though probably unknown to himself, influenced by an adverse prepossession against the Government, which prevents him from delivering a perfectly impartial judgment on the subject. The hon. Gentleman had shown the House what an objectionable document this treaty was with regard to the principles of Free Trade; and he regretted to say he was not at liberty to follow him in his discussion. He must be content to wait, as I hope the House will be also, until, in compliance with the necessary forms of diplomatic proceeding and the principles of the constitution, which he could assure his hon, Friend the Govern- 138 ment had not altogether forgotten, the treaty could be produced, and they could have ample discussion of its merits, not in their present state of ignorance as to what it really was, but in the clear light of day and in the full knowledge of all its particulars. For the present he must beg to adjourn the defence of the principles of Free Trade and the establishment of the relation in which this treaty stands to them. Notwithstanding the denunciations of the hon. Gentleman, he could assure him that he entertained a full and perfect confidence that when Parliament should have obtained a knowledge of the subject on which it was to pass judgment, and when on one side and on the other they had come to a clear and comprehensive understanding of what the treaty was to effect, the verdict of Parliament would be favourable to the proceedings that bad been concluded. His hon. Friend had told them that the treaty was bad as regarded Free Trade and commerce, hut far worse as regarded revenue. It was monstrous, he says, to take up a subject of this kind after we have declared that we have no duties but those for the purposes of revenue. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) must confess his ignorance of the time when they had made any such assertion. He should like to know whether his hon. Friend would pledge himself to the fact that we have no duties but those for revenue, and whether he will maintain that the 15s. a gallon on brandy, compared with 8s. on spirits, was a duty solely for revenue. If he would, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) must join issue with him upon that matter. In point of fact, it was not true that we have no duties but those for revenue. It was true that we had been engaged for a great many years in a gradual, and he was thankful to say, sweeping purgation of our tariff, but though that task had gone far it was not yet fully accomplished; and he would soon invite his hon. Friend, as a man ardently attached to the principles of free trade, to join with the Government in congratulating the country upon another great step made towards the accomplishment of that object. He was afraid that his hon. Friend, who was so learned in things he did not know, had not taken adequate pains to inform himself of things he might know; because, however he might stand with respect to the future— and that the best of them could not conceive or conjecture—he was not accurate in his estimate of facts belonging to the 139 past. He went back to the history of former negotiations for commercial treaties, which he said had proved abortive, and declared that our negotiations with Spain, Portugal, and Austria broke down because, as the duties we were desired to reduce were levied for revenue, we could not make the concessions which those countries demanded from us in return for the reduction of duties on articles of our manufacture. Well, he would not dwell on the history of those negotiations, but he had a large part in them, and his noble Friend who sat near him had likewise a large part in them; and so far from its being the fact that we always reserved the wine duties as duties on revenue, and were unwilling to touch them as being levied for purposes of revenue, there was not one of those negotiations, whether with France or Portugal, or Spain—and those were the great cases at issue—in which we did not offer large reductions of those very duties. Perhaps the real reason why those negotiations did not succeed was, because the two parties looked at the matter from different points of view, and could not agree as to the relative value of the concessions to be made on either side. Probably we did not proceed on that large and comprehensive basis on which alone such arrangements could be carried out. Then his hon. Friend said, that the wine duties were not in the best state. Now, he must say that was a very mild way of stating the case. The wine duties were not in a good state, but his hon. Friend did not support that opinion of his at all; and he (Mr. Gladstone), should rather have said, according to his hon. Friend's speech, that they were in the best state. For what did the hon. Gentleman tell them? He told them what, if it was true, was a very high eulogy indeed on duties that yielded £1,700,000 a year. He said they were duties that pressed only upon the rich. Well, he presumed his hon. Friend's words had a definite meaning. He said that the main pressure of them was upon the rich, and not upon the middle classes or the poor. But why did not these duties press upon the poor? Simply because they prohibited wines from being used by the poor. The wine duties did not press upon the poor because, with those duties, wines never came within their reach. The duties stood like a wall of brass between the poor man and a glass of wine. That was the reason why the wine duties fell only upon the rich; that was to say, the rich paid the duty and never thought of it; 140 the poor never drank wine, and therefore the hon. Gentleman said those duties did not press upon the poor. This was the way in which the hon. Gentleman dealt with the treaty that he had not seen, as respected the principle of free trade, and as respected the revenue; and then he ascended to still higher matters, in which he was loth to follow him. Although it was bad in respect of free trade—although with regard to revenue it was infinitely worse, to say nothing of its being a breach of the constitutional privileges of that House— the hon. Gentleman had not yet come to the climax. The climax of the case was this—there was a latent intention of drawing closer, in some mysterious way, the relations between this country and France, and, great as were the other evils, this was the weightiest and most dangerous offence of all. The hon. Gentleman said it would be very objectionable to maintain the peace of Europe by the preponderating power of England and France, and he said that the Government were aiming at an understanding that should bring us in all cases to an identity of policy between the two countries; and he said it was their object to divert the attention of the House from the political relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of France. If it were so, the plot had most signally failed, and they had that day had the proof; for on the very first day of the Session there had come down an hon. Gentleman, than whom no one had more completely detected them, exposed this clandestine procedure, and entirely blasted whatever hopes they might have entertained of concealing their infamous intentions. Well, then, his hon. Friend must feel that if this detestable policy had been concocted by Government, he had rendered a great service to the country, because at any rate now they should not succeed in diverting attention from the political relations between Her Majesty's Government and France. His hon. Friend was afraid of too close an understanding between the Government of England and the Government of France. In former times there had been individuals, even, perhaps, in that House, who had felt an ineradicable and incurable jealousy of a close amity between France and England. He had hoped that those times were passed, and yet he could not say he felt assured of that, after listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman said lie wished for an intimate alliance with France, but not for 141 identity of policy; he was afraid of identity. Is there any other man in the House who is afraid of an identity of policy with France? Is there any other Member who believes in the possibility of an identity of policy, in all cases and at all times, between the policy of England and France? Now the practical question at issue was this— did any of them believe that there could be, in the nature of things, too close an understanding between England and France? The hon. Gentleman believed that there could. It was the fear of this too close understanding that had roused his hon. Friend's apprehensions and unloosed his tongue upon the present occasion. He said, in answer to his hon. Friend, that there could not be too close an understanding between England and France; because it lay in the nature of the case, it lay in the circumstances of the two countries, it lay in the circumstances of Europe, that it was hardly a possible contingency that France and England should ever be associated in policy except for objects that were laudable of themselves and beneficial for mankind. He knew of no occasion in our own clay—he knew of no occasion in history—with regard to the policy of Europe, when England and Franco had been in alliance for a bad object; and therefore he wished—and he might say for his colleagues that they wished—the alliance to be drawn closer and closer, not only on account of its intrinsic value, but because they felt that it contained in itself nothing that could, by any possibility, be hostile to the interests of the other Powers of Europe. The best proof of this was— and his hon. Friend could not fail to have perceived—that though there had been of late years close association between the Governments of France and England, yet that association had not provoked the jealousy or suspicion of other Powers—because it was known and felt to be an association which could only be applied to good ends. He was far from thinking that he had offered a perfectly satisfactory answer to all the objections of his hon. Friend, because he did not like to proceed to a detailed argument of the case till the treaty was in the hands of the House, and therefore he would here notice a question which was put by his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) as to the period when the practical proposals contained in the treaty would be submitted by the Government to the House. Now the treaty was signed 142 the day before yesterday, and it was provided in it that the ratifications should be exchanged within ten days, which was a very short time for the necessary review of so important an instrument. That brought them to the latter part of next week, and at that time, about that time, it would be practicable to present it to the House. And when the treaty was presented to the House, it was the view of Her Majesty's Government that the propositions it contained should be submitted to the judgment of the House upon the very earliest day on which it would be convenient for Members to take them into consideration. But Her Majesty's Government had likewise felt that, as those propositions had an important connection with revenue, as they entered into questions bearing on the general financial arrangements of the year, they would therefore not be doing full justice to the House unless with the particular propositions contained in the treaty they combined the general statement of the revenue and expenditure of the year. With regard to the introduction of that statement, it was their desire that it should take place upon the earliest possible day. They felt quite satisfied that the House would permit any deviation of form that did not involve a violation of principle, in order that they might attain the great and principal object in view in the manner that was least inconvenient; because it was perfectly true, though he had never stated one particular with regard to the provisions of this convention, that impressions had gone abroad which might be more or less well-founded, which were exercising a paralyzing effect upon certain important branches of trade. They would have to consider some questions connected with the forms of the House, with relation to the different modes of procedure with regard to votes of money and votes of supply; but his hope was that they might be able to make arrangements which would enable them to lay the treaty on the table of the House and subject the general financial statement for the year on Monday week. It was their desire that not a moment should be lost in bringing these questions forward, and that there might be the fullest discussion in regard to them.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he was not actuated by the zeal of a convert to the doctrine of free imports, and he was not prepared to condemn unseen a commercial treaty which had been referred to by Her Majesty in Her gracious speech from the 143 Throne; but he wished at this, the earliest opportunity, to call attention to the heavy duties imposed by the Government of France on thrown and coloured silks. In the silk trade the French possessed a monopoly, not only through having command of the raw material hut of the fashions. A duty of 15 per cent. was therefore retained by Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Goulburn, and the ablest disciples of the doctrines of Adam Smith, as the only means to place our manufacturers upon a par with their competitors in France. He respected Adam Smith far more than some of his modern disciples, and was not adverse to Free Trade, understanding by that term equality of exchange, when that principle was fairly carried out on both sides, though he thought it often needed modification according to circumstances; but he was no advocate for the blind adoption of a system of unrestricted imports, which might and had been grossly taken advantage of by France, to the damage of our commerce. If Her Majesty's Government had induced France to make some concessions in return for the great boons which England had conferred on her commerce in past years, he should not reproach them for acting on principles of common sense.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
explained that he did not say we levied no duties except for the purposes of revenue, but that the adoption of free trade implied an intention to levy duties only for the purposes of revenue.
§ MR. HORSMAN
asked permission to remark upon the important statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had just made to the House. He did not wish to make any allusion to the commercial treaty which was not yet before them, nor to our general relations with France, except so far as to answering, in passing, the question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether there was any one who could conceive it possible to have too close an approximation to that country. He said that we could be in too close approximation only in one way, which was, when approximation to France meant separation from the rest of Europe. The policy of England should be to have amicable relations with all the great Powers of Europe, but not to seek separate or exclusive alliances with any. But what he principally rose to allude to was this: —The Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirming the declaration of the noble Lord 144 at the head of the Government, which they had heard with much satisfaction last night, that the conditions of the treaty were contingent on the approval of Parliament, stated that the decision of Parliament would probably be invited about the 6th of February. He had watched with some interest the desultory discussion which had taken place upon a variety of topics, and he had come to the conclusion which the announcement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had confirmed that great practical inconvenience was likely to be caused, and their discussions likely to be embarrassed by the unnecessary and unexplained postponement of the Reform Bill of the Government for four weeks. He said the postponement was unexplained, because he never in his Parliamentary experience remembered so scanty a budget of Ministerial measures announced to the House on the first night of a Session. It consisted of a measure for the reform of the Corporation of London, a Bill on the Annuity Tax, a Bill in reference to Mines in Cornwall, and a Committee to consider the Acts relative to the Consolidated Fund. The House could not for some days go into Committee of Supply. Many questions had been asked, and satisfactorily answered by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, but he should like to hear the noble Lord give the reasons which had induced the Government to put off for a whole month the introduction of the Reform Bill, which, as was said by the Mover of the Address, had been long promised and often delayed. Whatever differences of opinion there might be in the House and in the country on some points—and some persons were for a large, some for a small, and some might be for no measure at all, there was one point on which all were agreed— that the question should be speedily settled. The best means of arriving at a speedy settlement was an early introduction of the Bill, and unnecessary delay was a sign of apathy, or indecision. He had some right to say this, as he ventured to tell the House last year that postponing the question was likely to embarrass the party with whom he acted, and that they would find it easier to defeat a Bill of their opponents, than to construct one of their own. He predicted then that a delay of twelve months would occur, but he was told that a Bill would be brought in and laid on the table before the recess. The Session closed without the introduction of a Bill; an autumnal Session was then promised 145 but gradually lost sight of, and then they were told that it would be the first measure introduced by the Government in the present Session. Parliament had now met, and so far from being the first measure that was brought forward a number of insignificant measures were to have precedence, and it was put off for a whole month. As has noble Friend near him had said, the Government might have taken the course of introducing the Bill next week, and allowing the country three weeks or a month to consider it. The second reading might then have been taken before March. At any rate they would have seen the measure and the constituencies would have known what was proposed. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby), had gone to-day into the question of the war with China, and it was possible that a Motion might be brought forward in regard to that question. There were some indications also that this country would be invited to go into Congress on the affairs of Italy. That was a question upon which he expressed decided opinions last year, and those opinions were unchanged. They had had to-day a discussion of the commercial treaty with France. The decision of the House might before long be asked on one or all of these questions; and it was obvious that the fate of the Government might depend upon that decision. Two years ago a Reform Bill was promised by the Government, and was expected to be introduced; but, in the meantime, a question occurred with France; the Conspiracy Bill was brought in; a majority of the House, of which he was one, rejected the Conspiracy Bill, and the Government was changed. The reproach was then made that the majority on that occasion deprived the country of the advantage of a Reform Bill. He felt on this occasion that there was nothing in connection with the question of Reform so important as having the Bill introduced, that they might know what it was which the Cabinet were about to propose, which the Liberal party were ready to accept, and which the country, therefore, was expected to endorse. He should be sorry to see the House come to a vote on China, on the commercial treaty, or on the Congress, if the carrying a vote against the Government should prevent their seeing the Reform Bill; and he felt that their deliberations would be embarrassed, and votes to some extent affected, by the consideration that the non-production of the Reform 146 Bill would be a great misfortune. It did not matter so much whether it was a large Bill or a small Bill—they ought to know, for the sake of future Governments, what was the Bill which the present one was prepared to recommend, and then, under any Government, the House would, he believed, see its way. The present Government enjoyed advantages which no other Government had or was likely to possess. All parties wore prepared to accept such a measure as was now expected. Among advanced reformers never was there such a spirit of moderation, and among the Conservative party never was there so general a disposition to acquiesce. But at the same time he could not help expressing his apprehension that if there were a change of Government those who were now prepared to follow Ministers in moderate measures, while they were on this side of the House, might not unsuccessfully invite Ministers to follow them in more extensive changes if they were sent into Opposition. That was the danger which he apprehended, and it was, in his opinion, a calamity which should be avoided. Therefore it was that it was important that they should know the character of the measure that was to be proposed. Whether the measure was large or small, the House ought to know what was the maximum which the Government were prepared to give and what the minimum which their followers would allow to be carried. When they had once seen the Bill and accepted the second reading, they would be disembarrassed for the consideration of other questions. He felt that of all questions it was one upon which the Government ought not now to exhibit anything like indifference, or to leave themselves open to the suspicion that a Bill was not introduced because it was not ready. If the introduction of the measure was postponed to the 20th February, they might possibly not get into Committee before Easter; in the meantime other important measures would come on to be considered; and he believed there were Members on both sides of the House who would regret a vote that would prevent their seeing this Reform Bill. He had always held the same language, that an early discussion of the measure and an early settlement were now desirable; and it was not so much with the view of raising any discussion as of protesting against delay, which he only did consistently with the opinions which he had before expressed.
§ MR. J. C. EWART
said, he was anxious that the question of reform should he settled as soon as possible, but he had no hesitation in saving that he believed the general feeling of the country at present was more in favour of getting some of the great commercial questions settled than in settling the question of Reform in Parliament. He believed that there were many classes of French wines which, if the duty were reduced, would come considerably into consumption in this country, and that if we should make that concession to France, France would meet this country in reference to the duty on hardwares and other articles. He could not help expressing his anxious wish that Government would take into its consideration the importance of establishing the principle that the flag covered the cargo. When there was a danger of a war with France the Liverpool merchants were obliged to send out orders to India not to bring cargo in British vessels.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
wished to put a question to the noble Lord with regard to the period when it might be expected the debate on the Chinese question would be entered upon. He thought the House should have an opportunity, as early as possible and before the operations in China were decided upon, of expressing an opinion as to the extent to which operations should be carried on, or whether they should he carried on at all. Some expressions of the noble Lord, hinting at the possibility of our being relieved from the necessity of any extensive operations, had given considerable satisfaction, but they were of rather an indefinite character. There had been great congratulations expressed in both Houses upon the triumphant success of our diplomatic and naval and military proceedings; but last night it was stated in "another place" that those proceedings were not at all conclusive, and that the present state of affairs was a mere continuation of our operations against Canton. A very important question, which ought to be very early considered, was, whether the proofs of fitness given during recent diplomatic transactions were such as to acquire for the gentleman who had the charge of our affairs in that country, that degree of confidence which justified his being continued in that important position. There was also a personal question upon which he felt strongly, and that was with regard to the conduct of the Admiralty towards Admiral Hope. Admiral Hope was placed in a most peculiar 148 and disadvantageous position in conducting the operations in China. He did not select the place of attack. He was there to escort the Minister Plenipotentiary, and without being allowed any option or the exercise of his own judgment, he was given to understand that he was expected to open by force a way to Pekin. He had no option, and that was a rather hard measure of responsibility to put upon any Admiral. Our diplomatic representative who refused any intercourse with the representatives of the Chinese Government at Shanghai, appeared to have been in entire ignorance of the obstacles prepared, and the consequence was that Admiral Hope, having no option, made an attack with an inadequate force. In a cursory discussion like this, he would not enter upon the point whether Admiral Hope had shown all the skill and prudence required in the management of the task imposed on him, but there was abundant evidence that as representative of our naval forces and our naval glory Admiral Hope gave almost the highest proofs of personal heroism of which this country had any record. The French had a small force, and strictly speaking, suffered as much as ourselves. They were unsuccessful. But what did the French Government do? They considered the merits of their officers, and rewarded them accordingly. Although there was the testimony of both French and Americans to the unexampled honour of Admiral Hope, he did not find that either the Admiral or the gallant men whom he commanded had received the smallest particle of distinction or approbation from Her Majesty's Government. There were many Gentlemen who understood the subject infinitely better than he did, and he hoped an early opportunity would be afforded of vindicating in public opinion the conduct of our naval commander in China, and the officers under him, and at the same time of fully elucidating our prospects as to the extent and character of the operations about to be commenced in that part of the world.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
wished to know whether we had ever been at war with China. During the first and second series of hostilities, there was no declaration of war, and trade was going on in the north, so as to supply the Chinese treasury with funds to fight against us in the south. Mercantile contracts all contained a clause, excepting the operations of the Queen's enemies. What he wanted to know was whether Chinese junks, which seized Eng- 149 lish cargoes, were the Queen's enemies or not?
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had the highest possible respect for the opinion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). His right hon. Friend felt that any discussion of important questions taking place anterior to the introduction of the Reform Bill would peril that great measure by perilling the position of Her Majesty's Government; but he (Mr. Bentinck) confessed to being one of those who unfortunately recollected all the evils that accrued to this country from the first Coalition Government, and he could not very deeply lament the fall of a second. The point to which he wished to allude particularly was this. His right hon. Friend had said, with great truth, that although a certain number of persons in this country might be anxious for a large measure of reform, and though others might be equally anxious for a much more moderate measure than was at first expected, there was also a large proportion of the country who did not consider the question of Parliamentary Reform an important question at all. Now he quite agreed with this view of the subject, except that, in point of fact, he thought the great majority of the people of this country felt an entire indifference to the question of reform, and his right hon. Friend did not argue with his usual logical force, because he admitted that there was among a certain portion of the people a great indifference to reform, while at the same time he found fault with the noble Lord at the head of the Government for not postponing all other questions to the question of reform. But whatever might be the amount of eagerness on the question of reform, there could be no doubt that in the other great questions referred to in the course of the debate universal interest was felt, and therefore the charge brought against the Government of acting unwisely in postponing a question upon which numbers of persons in this country were totally indifferent, for the purpose of first discussing questions which were of deep interest to all parties, could hardly be sustained. His right hon. Friend had shown that personal zeal in the question of reform which all who knew him gave him the credit of possessing; but at the same time he thought it must occur to the House that there were other questions still more important than this question of reform. The country had been able to get on very 150 well for the last nine years without reform, although it had been repeatedly promised. He could not help thinking that the noble Lord had taken a most satisfactory course in postponing a measure on which there was no general interest manifested throughout the country, for the purpose of discussing measures far more important. For these reasons, he hoped that the noble Lord would not be induced to alter the determination which he had come to respecting the time at which he intended to introduce the Reform Bill.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
said, that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed them showed that delay was the game of the party who wished to obstruct reform, and therefore wished the noble Lord would introduce his Bill at an earlier period than the 20th of February. There could be no great difficulty in laying the Bill upon the table of the House. It might be introduced in an uncommonly short speech, and the country could then form an opinion upon it. There was a great deal of force in the remark of the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). It was pretty clear there would be a debate upon the Chinese war, and if the Government were placed in a minority it would be said, "What a dreadfully cruel thing of you Reformers to turn out the Government upon the Chinese question, and so strangle them and their Reform Bill together!"
strongly advocated the immediate placing of the Reform Bill on the table of the House. If the Cabinet was agreed upon it he could not conceive why, after its long process of incubation, the Bill should not at once be laid before Parliament. It was clear that there was to be a great debate upon the Chinese war; and if the Reform Bill were not brought in before, and the Government should happen to go out, they would be charged with stifling the question of reform altogether.
§ MR. JOSEPH LOCKE
denied that the people were not anxious for reform. The opinion of the people had been expressed upon it over and over again. They were most anxious for reform—not only that the suffrage should be extended, but that bribery and intimidation should be prevented. If the Reform Bill to be brought in by the Government should have its shortcomings, or was as distasteful even as the Bill of the late Government, why then it could be thrown out, and the present 151 Government would of course fall with its Bill; but he thought it would be hypercritical for hon. Members to find fault with the Government for not bringing in the measure sooner, for there would be abundance of time after the 20th of February to discuss the provisions not only of the Bill for England but for Ireland also.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
—I will only trouble the House with a few words. With regard to the observations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), as to the time at which the Reform Bill is to be introduced, I beg to remind him that it is impossible for the Government to satisfy the wishes of all Members as to the course of public business. My right hon. Friend and others who agree with him are desirous that the Reform Bill should be the first measure proposed; but others do not think so. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans), seemed to attach great importance to the early decision of questions connected with China; other Members feel that, whereas a treaty of commerce has been concluded with France, involving the regulation of our commercial system, that that ought to be the first measure taken into the consideration of this House; other Members attach great importance to the general view of our finances, and would prefer giving my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer an opportunity of bringing on his Budget. Thus, it may be at once seen that Her Majesty's Government cannot meet the wishes and opinions of all the Members, but must endeavour to arrange so as to create least disturbance in the course of public business, and to bring the various matters submitted to the House to a satisfactory and useful result. I can assure my right hon. Friend that there is no reason whatever for supposing that the Reform Bill being brought in on the 20th February, there will not be time for discussing all its details, and, as I hope, passing it into law in the course of the present Session of Parliament, My right hon. Friend indirectly intimated that until this Bill be discussed—indeed, I think he said passed; his reasoning went so far—we might not expect anything like a hostile vote from him which would at all affect the existence of the Government. I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for that information. I think it would be ungenerous to seek strictly to hold him to the letter of his promise—the Government can only take it for an indication of his intention to give us 152 fair play until the measure of reform is safely harboured in the receptacle of the statutes at large. With regard to China, I think it would be out of place in me to enter into any arguments as to these transactions until the papers be laid before the House, which will be at an early period; and then it will be proper to enter into details, and examine the course which the Government have taken in regard to these operations. But my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Buchanan) wishes it to be explained whether we are at war with China or not. He said, very correctly, that as regards the relations between the Queen and the Emperor of China, we never have been during the late transactions "at war;" that is to say, the Emperor of China has never thought fit to consider the operations at Canton for the purpose of obtaining satisfaction for the outrage there committed upon us a rupture in the relations between the two empires; and accordingly we continue to trade with Amoy, Foo-chow, Shanghai, and the other ports. And such is the position of things at present. If the treaty had been ratified, no doubt the relations between the two countries would be on a more satisfactory footing than they have hitherto stood; but the ratification not having taken place, we are in the same state exactly as before Lord Elgin went to negotiate that treaty with the Emperor of China. It was made known that the Chinese Government did not wish the commercial relations between the two countries to be disturbed on account of what took place in the Peiho River, or of the antecedent proceedings at Canton. If a declaration of war had been issued it would have been impossible for us to have carried on commercial transactions at Shanghai and elsewhere, and which intercourse is now proceeding at those places; and it will be a matter for the grave consideration of the House whether, in consequence of outrageous acts of this sort, those commercial relations should be disturbed as long as they can be carried on consistently with the commercial advantage of the two countries.
§ Address agreed to: —To be presented by Privy Councillors.