Lord Goderich ,
in rising to move the second reading of this bill, said it was not necessary for him to trouble their lordships at any length, by going into observations on the general subject of the Corn-laws; a subject so often discussed, and upon which the views of their lordships were so well known. He wished, however, to offer a few remarks explanatory of the ground on which his majesty's ministers had proceeded; first, as to the bill which had not been read a third time; and, secondly, as to this measure, which had recently come up from the other House. With respect to the former bill, if he considered that the alteration which their lordships had made in it was of small importance—if he considered it an alteration with regard to which any reasonable doubt could be entertained of its affecting the whole measure, he should have been most unwilling to abstain from letting it pass into a law; but, having stated what appeared to him to be convincing grounds against the propriety of adopting the clause introduced by his noble friend, he did not feel it possible for him to call upon the other House to say whether or not they would acquiesce in it; and he conceived that the course he had taken was the least likely to produce any inconvenient or unpleasant collision. On the fullest reflection, he felt persuaded that he had not taken any other course than that which was most consistent with his own duty, and most conducive to the public benefit. In the mean time, he also felt that it was impossible to leave the 1381 subject without legislation; and there were only two modes on which ministers could proceed. The first mode was to accede to a recommendation which came from a noble earl opposite (Malmesbury), and which was enforced by a noble baron on the same side. It was by that recommendation proposed to substitute an amendment of the existing law, retaining, however, the principle, and merely doing away the clause which prevented importation until the price rose to 80s. Now, as he never could sanction the principle of that law, it was quite impossible for him to acquiesce in any proposition that recognized it. He believed it to be a principle which, from its very nature and essence, was calculated to produce much mischief, and he could not help thinking that that was the opinion of the country at large. As, then, he could not accede to the recommendation of the noble earl, no other course was open to him than to see whether it would not be possible and advisable to confine legislation to that particular portion of foreign corn now in this country, independent of any considerable influx at any future period. That alone was the object of the present bill; and he was quite sure that even those noble lords who were opposed to any change in the Cornlaws would not consider it inconsistent with their views to sanction this measure. One of the great evils of the existing law was, its tendency to admit foreign corn at a time when, of all others, its admission might be most injurious to the landed interest. At present there was a prospect of as fine a harvest as ever was known; therefore, no scarcity could reasonably be apprehended; but, last year, the crop of barley failed, though the price never rose high enough to admit of a supply from abroad. The supply at home, however, was quite inadequate to the demand, as was every where evinced by the state of the markets, the price being 40s. or upwards. Now, if an alteration of the law of 1822 were substituted in the manner proposed, foreign barley would be admitted on the 15th of August, provided the average price for the six weeks preceding was 35s. But as the average price was now 40s., and as the ports might be opened at 35s. with the limitation stated, they might, if there was a good harvest, have, under these circumstances, to contend, not only with the hundred and eighty thousand quarters of foreign barley now 1382 warehoused here, but also with an influx from every part of the continent for the next three months. The effect of this bill would be, to provide a remedy for that evil, and thereby to regulate the market. He might say, that the view he now took of the subject was not altered by the law of 1825. The present measure was for a fixed period, and their lordships might, on a future occasion, legislate upon what might be a permanent system of Cornlaws. His majesty's government collected the best information they could obtain on the subject, and framed such a plan as they thought would satisfy even the most timid and scrupulous agriculturist. That bill, however, had failed; and the present one was introduced as a temporary substitute. He had been rebuked, on a former occasion, for presuming to express his sincere and anxious hope, that no feeling of party found its way into the discussion. He sincerely assured their lordships that neither he nor his colleagues entertained any feeling of that sort. They manifested no ill humour whatever at the loss of the measure; and if all parties were to separate now with something like good humour, they would do that which would be creditable to themselves and advantageous to the country. He would now move, that the bill be read a second time.
The Earl of Malmesbury
said, that his noble friend misunderstood his recommendation as to the bill of 1815. What he had proposed was, to withdraw the restrictive clause, so as to allow the bill of 1822 to come into operation; for it had never yet been in operation. He had recommended it, supposing it was the intention of government not to bring forward any other measure this year; and he supposed it would be better under the bill of 1822, without the clause, than as we were at present. What his noble friend said, as to barley being imported in August, might be correct; but why not bring in a bill to apply only to barley; and why bring in a bill which applied to wheat? His noble friend had good ground for his measure as to barley; but he had no ground whatever for his bill as it applied to wheat. It appeared, that there were upwards of six hundred thousand quarters of wheat in bond, and there was also a quantity of flour.
§ Viscount Goderich.
—Seventy six thousand hundred weight of flour.
The Earl of Malmesbury. That was 1383 equal to 20,000 quarters of wheat in addition; and there was, besides, all the Canadian corn. If his noble friend's observations were correct, he might be justified in letting in barley, but not in letting in wheat. If wheat had lately been, on an average, 58s. 4d. per quarter, there was no probability of the averages rising by the 15th of August, or the 15th of November up to 80s. His noble friend had stated one reason which made it imperative on him to object to the proposed measure. He had stated, that he could not accede to the late amendment, because it was opposed to the principle of that bill, and he offered this bill to their lordships as carrying that bill into effect. On this ground he could not accede to the measure. If he acceded to it, he should compromise his opinions. He considered this bill as the connecting link between the lost measure of his noble friend and the measure that would be brought forward next year. On this ground, he would reject the bill. He would argue the question another way, and say, that no ground had been laid for this temporary measure. His noble friend, in introducing it, had not said one word in explanation of the necessity for the measure. For the last two years they had passed bills to let in the foreign corn that was in bond; and their lordships would recollect what quantities had been thus introduced. Their lordships would also remember, that when the earl of Liverpool brought forward his measures for letting out the bonded corn, he began by taking out five hundred thousand quarters. He at first proposed a duty of 12s. the quarter; and then he had admitted it on such a duty as the government had thought fit to affix. He should deviate from the course which he had hitherto followed on the subject, if he were to agree to the measure under consideration. Were their lordships aware of the quantity of foreign bonded corn which had been let out at former periods, and the inferiority of that quantity to the quantity, the entrance of which into the country the present bill would sanction? Were they also aware of the difference in the average price of wheat at former periods and at the present? In 1825, the average price of wheat was 69s.; now the average price was 58s. The quantity of foreign corn which had been let out in 1825 was four hundred and thirty thousand quarters. The quantity let out last 1384 year was two hundred and ninety thousand quarters. It would be utterly impossible to say what might be the effect of letting out so large a quantity as seven hundred thousand quarters; which would be one hundred thousand quarters more than had ever before been admitted. With respect to the letting in of Canadian corn, it had been said, that under the circumstances of the case, it would be very hard on our North American colonies if they were not allowed to send their corn to this country under the terms now proposed. It must be notorious, however, that the act which was passed on the subject two years ago, would expire in the present session; and therefore he could not see any hardship in the case; as the admission would be a matter of courtesy, and not of right. A similar argument was applicable to the owners of the bonded corn. It was said, that many of them had rested their capitals on the faith of the bill which had been introduced by government, but which had failed. He should certainly be sorry if they suffered loss; but that was no argument for the measure; because they ought to know the constitution of this country better, than not to be aware that government could not do any thing upon the subject without the consent of the legislature; and therefore, they ought not to have run any risk. In his opinion, instead of any bill of this nature, it would have been infinitely better if government had taken upon themselves to issue whatever order in council respecting corn the circumstances of the case might seem to require. It could not be supposed that they would think such a course objectionable; because it was the course which they bad taken nine months ago, and afterwards received indemnity for the proceeding. Certainly he was not one of those who would deny them indemnity for a similar act, if they could make out as good a case with respect to wheat this year, as they had made out with respect to oats last.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, he could not agree with his noble friend that it would be right to throw upon the government the responsibility of admitting foreign corn for consumption. On the contrary, he fully agreed with ministers, that it was expedient that some measure of the kind now proposed should be agreed to after the disappointment which had been experienced relative to the other mea- 1385 sure which had not been carried. He was therefore disposed to give the present bill his support; more particularly as he considered it to he the same in principle with that measure, with the additional advantage of ascertaining, by experiment, what would have been the effect of that measure if carried; at thesame time that it was limited as to quantity, so as to prevent any injurious effect. Under all the circumstances, therefore, he thought the present measure advisable, and strongly recommended it to the House. At the same time he could not help expressing his regret that it was not accompanied by the other measure, which had been before their lordships. Upon that subject he would say, that he never considered that what he did in any way militated against the principle of that bill, and would contend, that that principle might be carried into effect, even if the system of warehousing were not touched at all. His majesty's government, however, thought that a system of prohibition was inconsistent with that principle; although he begged the House to consider what was the difference, or whether the effect of a duty was not similar to what they contended against. If that were so, then, in fact, prohibition had existed during the whole period, up to which corn was allowed for consumption. It had existed in 1773, and from 1791 to 1815, when what was done, was by the imposition of a duty; and the same might be again done in such a manner as to afford satisfaction to the country. Under these circumstances, then, he should consider the noble lords themselves responsible for the loss of the bill; which it had been said was lost by his amendment. He had been accused not only of proposing a measure, which was inconsistent with the principle of the bill, but of doing so from private and party motives. But he must say, that ever there was a man who had proposed a measure individually, and without any knowledge whether he would be supported in it or not, he was the person. He would repeat, that he proposed that measure to the House, not only believing that it would have the support, but that it actually was the suggestion of one of the ministers of the Crown. He did not mean to say that he did not labour, in that instance, under a mistake; but if he did, he could assure their lordships that he was so mistaken with a great many others, who had both before and 1386 since the amendment, read over the letters of the President of the Board of Trade, and who still attached to them the same meaning which he did when he proposed the amendment. He should observe, too, that if that measure were inconsistent with the principle of the bill, it was not more so than others which had been admitted into it. He thought it right also to say, that during the discussion upon the subject, he had endeavoured to impress upon the government the necessity of taking it out of his hands, and of carrying it themselves. That he had done not only by the correspondence, part of which he had before read to their lordships, but by other communications, not only with the President of the Board of Trade, but with his noble friend the Secretary of State then present.—His grace then read the following letters:—
"London, June 4, 1827.
"My dear Huskisson: As you say that I misunderstood the meaning of your letter of the 24th, I must have done so. But I certainly never entertained a suspicion that I had misunderstood you; and even now, after referring to my letter of the 24th to you, and examining your letter to me, I cannot but think that I should have sought out for a difficulty, if I had affixed to your letter the meaning which you state that you intended to convey.
"I stated to you an evil, permanent in its nature, resulting from the operation of the warehouse system on that of the proposed Corn-law; and I proposed a permanent remedy. In answer, you stated very good reasons against what I had proposed, and you tell me, that, 'had my proposal been, that no corn bonded after the passing of the present bill should be allowed to be entered for home consumption till the average price had reached 66s., and that thenceforward all corn so bonded, or thereafter imported, should come under the regulations of the bill, individually you would not object to such a proviso:' and you add, 'It (this proviso) would insure, that no quantity beyond that now in bond should be thrown upon the market, unless, in spite of that quantity, the price reached a level which might be fairly taken as an indication of our being in want of a further supply from abroad.'
"It thus appears, then, that having stated to you a permanent evil, the existence of which is not denied, I was to con- 1387 skier the word 'thenceforward,' not in an unlimited sense, but applicable to time only, and having no reference to circumstances, notwithstanding what followed in the succeeding sentence of your letter; and I was to believe that you intended I should be satisfied, and that the public should be satisfied, with a temporary remedy for a permanent evil.
"However, I am ready to admit that I did not understand your letter as you have now explained it; and you may rely upon it, that if I could have entertained any doubt respecting your meaning, that I should have gone to you, or have written to you again.
"Lord Goderich must do me the justice to acknowledge, that I put into his hands the proviso which I had drawn, together with your letter. He did not at first understand your letter, and he thought it related solely to corn now in bond; and I begged him to peruse it again. He did so; and he came to me and returned the papers, without saying a word. I concluded, therefore, that he concurred in the proposition which I certainly considered as suggested by you; and I made it to the committee of the House of Lords, in the mode and at the time most likely to be of service to the government, by preventing a division on a proposition of lord Rosslyn's, which had for its object to lay the duty upon corn upon introduction into warehouse.
"I shall be sorry if this proviso should be inconvenient to the government; and, I must add, that if lord Goderich had expressed to me a wish that I should delay to propose it till on the report, I should have done so.
"In your letter of the 24th, you spoke with doubt whether the measure proposed by you would occasion the rejection of the bill. You write with more confidence on that which has been adopted by the committee in the House of Lords in your letter received yesterday. But what do you say to the amendments agreed to by the government in the House of Lords?
"Surely the omission of the word (British) in the second clause, with a view that the Scotch, Irish, and foreign, corn may be included in the averages, and the alteration of the term of the averages from one to six weeks, will make a material alteration of the duties, and must equally occasion the rejection of the bill.
"You will recollect my opinion upon 1388 the measure proposed by lord Liverpool; to the principle of which, notwithstanding that opinion, I consider myself a party, and I have accordingly supported the government in every division that has taken place in the House of Lords. I don't consider the amendments proposed by me to be at all contrary to the principle of lord Liverpool's measure, which was, to protect home agriculture by the levy of a duty on foreign corn imported, and to regulate this duty by the price of corn in England, discovered by averages taken weekly, and not by six weeks' averages. Since lord Liverpool's plan was formed and agreed upon, a committee has sat in the House of Lords, before which it has been proved, that nothing can prevent frauds in taking the averages, nor the abuse of the existing warehouse system, for the purpose of carrying into execution the objects of those frauds.
"The warehouse system then must be reformed; and as lord Liverpool's principle might exist even if the warehouse system were abolished in relation to corn, or under whatever modification it may be allowed to continue, it is no departure from that principle to adopt a moderate prohibition, applicable only to corn in warehouse, as 'the' modification.
"I declare that this impression is so strong upon my mind, and, considering the subject in all its bearings, it appeared to me that the proviso agreed to by the House of Lords, so completely met the evil, and was so just towards all parties, that you must have calculated it exactly upon the 'basis' of the price of 62s. the imperial quarter, and the expenses of carrying corn from the warehouses in Holland to this country. Believe me, &c.
"Eartham, Petworth, 5th, June, 1827.
"My dear Duke:—I have received by the post, of this morning, your letter of yesterday's date.
"I regret, on every account, that the proposition which I wished to convey in my letter of the 24th ult., was so stated, as to lead to your misunderstanding my real meaning. So little did I, before last Saturday, contemplate any risk of having been misapprehended, that when I received (whilst in the House of Commons, on Thursday evening) the inclosed note from lord Goderich, I immediately sent him an explanation, from thence, to the same effect as that which I have since given to 1389 you. I am sure, if lord Goderich is referred to, that he will do me the justice to confirm this statement.
"From the moment I was informed that you considered your amendment as originating in my suggestion, I was satisfied that there had been some misunderstanding; and as the nature of it is now cleared up, I will not trouble you with any controversial argument upon the true construction of the words which you have quoted from my letter of the 24th. The sentence (indeed the whole of that letter) was hastily written, and, I admit, might have been more clearly expressed; but when, in the latter part of that sentence, I state, that the regulation to which I saw no objection would insure that no quantity' beyond 'that now' in bond should be thrown upon the market, unless, in spite of that quantity,' the price reached a level (namely 66s.), which might fairly be taken as an indication of our being in want of a further supply from abroad,'—I must avow myself at a loss to reconcile the construction of words which appear to point to this meaning, namely, that the specific 'quantity now' in bond should be protected against competition with 'any further supply from abroad,' until the average price at home should have reached 66s.; with your proviso, which leaves the supply from abroad free 'at all times' to come into the British market, without reference to any average price; whilst it locks up any wheat which may hereafter be 'bonded in this country,' up to the same price as that at which it was the drift of my proposition to keep foreign wheat locked up in the warehouses abroad,' until the 'quantity now in our own warehouses' had been disposed of.
"How then could your amendment and my suggestion be convertible propositions?
"The real truth is, that what was uppermost in my mind, when I threw out this suggestion, was the inconvenience which might arise from letting into consumption further supplies of wheat, hereafter to arrive, until the greatest part of the quantity now in bond should have been disposed of. The limiting the supply, in the first instance, to the 'now' bonded corn, was a question which had been mooted in the Cabinet, if I recollect right, by lord Westmoreland. I own that I thought (as I understood him to think) that, within certain 1390 limits, there were reasons for giving priority to that corn, before we suffer fresh supplies to come into the market from foreign countries—an arrangement temporary in its nature, but in its operation, by the bye, the very reverse of what your amendment contemplates as a permanent system.
"You will, therefore, perceive that in writing the unlucky paragraph, which is the origin of of this confusion, I was no longer thinking of the 'permanent evil,' your proposed remedy for which I had discussed in the former part of my letter.
"Having no copy of the Corn-bill with me here, I am quite incapable of forming any opinion as to the effect of the word 'British' in the second clause of the bill, an amendment of which I was not aware till I received your letter this morning.
"I shall, for many reasons, be sorry if this bill should be lost, and nothing done in respect to our Corn-laws in the present session of parliament. But, whatever may be the fate of the bill, or however produced, I never for a moment can doubt, that, in the part which you have taken, your anxious object has been to render the proposed measure as free from objection as the nature of the subject, dealing with such complicated interests, and through such a variety of transactions, will admit. I remain my dear Duke of Wellington, ever faithfully yours,
§ "W. HUSKISSON."
His Grace continued to say, that he only entered upon that correspondence, in order to prove beyond any possibility of cavil, the reasons and the motives which had influenced him in the cause he had pursued. Any feeling of party, or of faction, or of the least desire to embarrass, he utterly and entirely disclaimed: nor had he any other than the one view of making the measure more palatable to the country; as he believed would have been the case, had his amendment been agreed to.
disclaimed any intention of uttering a syllable which could, by the remotest possibility, impute to his noble friend any but the best motives for his conduct; and he was sure, on the other hand, that his noble friend would do him the justice to believe that he had opposed the clause which had been proposed by his noble friend on no other ground but his conviction that it would not effect the purpose required. It was undoubtedly true, that before the committee on the bill his noble friend had communicated to him the 1391 letters that had passed between his right hon. friend and himself, as also the purpose which he had had in view. If, under such circumstances, he had hesitated, it would not have been surprising. As well, however, as he could recollect, he had handed the letters back to his noble friend, without making any observation upon them; having distinctly declared his opinion on the subject at a former period, and conceiving that his noble friend was in perfect possession of that opinion. As to what had subsequently taken place between his noble friend and himself, it was true, that his noble friend had over and over again urged him to take that particular question into his own hands. He had felt a disposition to make any sacrifice that he could make, consistently with the principle of the bill, to meet the views of his noble friend. He had devised what means he thought calculated to obtain that end; and he had even delayed his last answer, in the hope that either by some suggestion of his own, or from some other quarter, their respective differences might be removed, and something acceptable to both be proposed. He did not desist from his endeavours, until he saw it would be a farce to hope for the accomplishment of such a satisfactory adjustment. It might be from want of knowledge of the subject—it might be from error; but seeing that his fundamental objections were not reconcilable with the opposition of his noble friend, he could not conscientiously consent to abandon them. There was no subject in the course of his public life that had given him more pain. He imputed blame to no quarter: he felt that both himself and his colleagues were perfectly blameless for the result, and he only considered that result as arising from the differences, that would prevail at all times among men legislating on difficult subjects. Thus much he thought it necessary to say to protect himself and his colleagues from unjust reproach in the late unfortunate transaction.
§ Earl Grey
said:—My Lords, it is not my wish or intention to prolong the discussion of a subject which has already been too much agitated in this House and throughout the country. I am the more unwilling to do so from the tone of moderation—if not of apology—adopted by the noble viscount who introduced the bill; and, in imitation of his example, I am anxious to abstain from any expression 1392 that may be calculated to excite angry feeling in any quarter—a feeling, which, trust, is now fast subsiding. I have also the satisfaction to feel and declare, that it is the more unnecessary for me to trespass at any length upon the attention of your lordships after the statement of the noble duke, so remarkable for its propriety and clearness, and which placed the motives of those who acted with him on a late occasion in so perspicuous a light, that it would be presumptuous in me, or in any man after him, to attempt his vindication; or to justify the motives by which those noble lords were influenced who concurred with him in a late amendment—an amendment sanctioned by a majority of this House. After what has fallen from the noble duke, I am sure there is no man with a spark of candour and honesty who can say that that amendment was proposed with the intention of defeating the bill. This has been, I know, calumniously asserted; but the calumnious assertion had been met by the indignation that it merited. It had been admitted by the President of the Board of Trade, that the amendment might possibly originate in an ambiguous expression of a letter written avowedly in haste by that right hon. gentleman to the noble duke. The mind of the noble duke became impressed with a conviction of the utility of introducing that proposition into the bill, as he understood it; and he persevered in it, not for the purpose of defeating the bill, but for the purpose of furthering it, by the introduction of such regulations as he saw incident to the completion of its regulations. Yet for such a course of conduct was the noble duke, and those who acted with him, visited with the most calumnious aspersions—aspersions, however, which no one had the indecency to cast upon him in this House. Yet were those aspersions most insidiously and industriously circulated throughout the country; so that no person could take up a newspaper without meeting them. Yes! the calumnious aspersion had been widely spread, that our object in the introduction of an amendment into a bill, lately before this House was, to defeat, by indirect means, that which we dared not openly to oppose. It had been alleged, that it was our object to procure the rejection of that bill, and thereby refuse relief to the poorer classes, in one of the first necessaries of life. By the admissions of the noble viscount, we stand acquitted a entertain- 1393 ing such purposes; and in the deliberate judgment of the whole country, I am satisfied it will be admitted, that we should have acted inconsistently with our duty as legislators, if, from the apprehension of such calumnious aspersions as I have alluded to, we had hesitated in the adoption of such amendments as we conscientiously conceived to be an improvement of the bill, and a corrective against possible dangers. But if this bill has been lost, it was not by this amendment. We were disposed to adopt the bill with this amendment. The bill was lost by the refusal of the noble viscount to persevere in carrying it through with this amendment annexed to it. For his refusal to persevere, I have no doubt the noble lord had reasons which were satisfactory to his mind, as to the propriety of the course upon which he determined. The noble lord had it in his power to choose between two courses—either to carry through the bill, and submit to an amendment which did not meet with his approbation, or to withdraw the bill rather than have it encumbered with it. But this I must say, that I myself, and those by whom that amendment was supported, had no apprehension that the noble viscount would be reduced to this alternative, and it was with the greatest surprise that we saw him placed in such a predicament. As to the present bill I shall support it; and I am induced to do so, as I find there is nothing in it inconsistent with the late amendment proposed by the noble duke. Although I own there has not been, in my opinion, a case of necessity made out to warrant its introduction, yet I will give to it a reluctant assent, as it contains nothing necessarily detrimental to the general interests; because it is but a temporary measure; and because, during the interval of its operation, an experiment will be tried upon the scale of duties, which will enable us to come with the advantage of enlarged information to the discussion of a measure which we are told is to be submitted upon this subject next year. I would now ask, what does the present bill propose to do, as compared with the late amendment? Is it not proposed by this bill to remedy any alleged evil that might be consequent upon that amendment? No such thing. There is nothing in this bill inconsistent with what that amendment proposed. Yet it was given out that this bill was rendered necessary, in consequence of the 1394 passing of that amendment in this House. What is this, I ask, but a wilful misrepresentation? A mistake may be set right—a prejudice may be removed—an argument may be combated by reason—but a determined spirit of misrepresentation could not be fairly encountered; for its malignity was only excited by every exposure of its falsehood. I say first, then, for the thousandth time, that it is a gross misrepresentation to assert, that the amendment was adopted in this House with a view of defeating the bill; and, secondly, I say that this bill is not rendered necessary to correct any evil that it is asserted would result from the adoption of that amendment. Have they who make this assertion read this bill and the amendment? Have they compared them; and in what do they find an inconsistency between them to consist? For my part, as far as any feeble words of mine may reach and may have influence—I wish it to be known, that I support it, because there is no part of its provisions inconsistent with that amendment. The object of that amendment was, to prevent too great an accumulation of corn in bond, and to prevent frauds, by providing that no "Wheat should be taken out of bond, so long as the average price, within this kingdom, as settled by virtue of this Act, shall be less than 66s. a quarter." Now, from the correspondence between the noble duke and the President of the Board of Trade, from whose opinion it was to be presumed ministers would not dissent, it was admitted to be a desirable thing that "no Corn bonded after the passing of the present Bill should be allowed to be entered for home consumption, till the average price reached 66s., and that thenceforward all Corn so bonded, or thereafter imported, should come under the regulations of the Bill." This was acceded to by the right hon. gentleman, no doubt for the desirable purpose of checking the accumulation of corn under bond; which was also the purpose of the noble duke in proposing the amendment. The opinion of the President of the Board of Trade was conformable with the amendment of the noble duke, and the only difference between that amendment and the present bill was, that as the present bill is from its nature temporary, those regulations are temporary also to which the noble duke's amendment would have affixed the character of permanency. One reason for 1395 withdrawing the late bill it is alleged, was, that the amendment would be fatal to it in the other House of Parliament, and it was desirable that the privileges of the two Houses might not be brought into collision. The present is recommended to us, however, not from an apprehension of such a collision, but on its own merits [hear, hear! from lord Goderich]. I know the advantage which the noble lord may be disposed to take of an admission which he may suppose to weaken my argument, but as I have touched on the question of privileges, and as it is one on which great misrepresentation has gone abroad, I must remark, that the late bill was somewhat unaccountably sent up to this House as a Bill of Supply; in which it is not permitted to us to make a greater alteration than the correction of a verbal error. As that bill was to have an effect upon the duties, it partook of this character. This was an apparent difficulty, which was easily removed, as may be shown from a case which is termed by lawyers " in pari materiâ." In the committee on the Cornbill in this House, an amendment was carried against the opinion of the noble lord, who then presided here; by which amendment, according to the jealous tenacity with which the House maintains its privileges— the bill was formally lost. What was the course then pursued? Though that bill was lost, another on the same subject was introduced, in which the amendment of the House of Lords was included, and thus the difficulty of interfering with the privileges of the other House was got over, and the bill in this amended shape passed both Houses of Parliament. Thus were the full powers of deliberation by this House reserved. Was it necessary, therefore, on the ground of privilege, that this bill should be rejected? No. And, although knowing this amendment to be formally inconsistent with the privileges of the other House, I did not suppose it would have necessarily occasioned the loss of the measure. I assert, upon the honour of a peer, that I did not support that amendment in the expectation or the wish, that by its adoption the whole measure should be defeated. What had been done on a former occasion might have been done on this; but I must say, that besides the disadvantages in other matters to which the calamity that has befallen a noble lord (Liverpool) has subjected us, it is not the least of those disadvantages, 1396 that his majesty's councils should not be marked by the same discretion and the same temper which distinguished them when he presided over them. The noble lord proceeded to comment again upon the amendment, which, whilst corn was now at 57s. or 58s., would not probably come into operation at all--at least from the prospects of the ensuing harvest, or from any probable or almost possible circumstances that could occur, there was no likelihood of the price reaching 66s. certainly not for the next year; and until it had reached that price, the amendment was inoperative. Indeed, from all that was probable to occur, and from the late measures of interference with the state of our currency—measures which, though they afforded a temporary ease, only prepared us for a future panic—it was much more likely that corn would shortly be at 46s. rather than 66s. a quarter. After having repeated, that the difference between the noble duke's amendment and the opinions of the President of the Board of Trade had been calumniously misstated, and the consequences of that amendment exaggerated by persons who owed their very existence to the noble duke—he spoke not now of his great military services, but of services of a different kind—he proceeded: I have little more to say, after having fulfilled the purpose for which I had risen the attempt to set myself right with the House and with the country as to the part I have taken upon this subject; and, what is more important, to vindicate the character and uphold the propriety of the proceedings of a majority of this House. I support the bill now before us, as I do not apprehend it will be detrimental to the agricultural interests; but, should any such bill, in the ensuing session, be presented to us, I do trust we shall resist it with moderation, with discretion, but at the same time with firmness; not for the sake of the agricultural interests, but for the sake of those interests that are bound up with and inseparable from them. It may be that for the agricultural interest, I entertain a partiality of which I am not conscious, but to which, from my situation, I acknowledge I am liable to entertain. However that may be, I do believe that in the landed interest is to be found, more than in any other, the foundation of the strength of the constitution of this country; and, therefore, to that interest, more than to any other, is it the interest and the duty 1397 of this House to extend due and fair protection; for, beyond this, God forbid that any interest should either expect or obtain any protection whatever! I maintain, that it is due to that interest that this country should render itself as independent as possible of foreign supplies in corn; and that to all interests of the community, and to none more than the commercial and manufacturing, is it essential that as much of the land of this country as is capable of it, should be brought into cultivation. These principles I maintain, regardless that for maintaining them it may be unjustly imputed to me, that I uphold the interests of the rich to the sacrifice of those of the poor. The most eager advocate of liberal principles cannot shake the soundness of those principles, which were so admirably enforced in a letter, the writer of which, I trust, still maintains them. "If (said that writer) they effect the throwing open our ports to a free trade in corn, the consequence will be that of throwing a great part of our land out of cultivation, and risking all the inconvenience of sudden changes and convulsions in our relation with foreign countries: though, for a time, we may have cheap corn, yet, upon the long run, the price of this first necessary of life will increase, and the profit, as well as the power, of supplying us as they please, will be in the hands of foreigners." The maintenance of such sentiments is not at variance with popular rights, but essential for public prosperity. Popular rights I have ever upheld, whenever and by whomsoever they were assailed. I have made some sacrifices for them. I am ready to make more. At the same time, when I have met wild and extravagant claims and doctrines under the name of popular rights, I have not flinched from the obloquy to which an opposition to them may have exposed me. To that obloquy I am as ready again to expose myself, as I am to endeavour to retrieve the constitution from those invasions which I have considered as most dangerous to popular security. But at the same time that we should be anxious to uphold the dignity of the Crown, and to protect the just rights of the people, we should remember that we, as well as they, have rights and privileges given to us, not so much for our benefit as for theirs; that we are an intermediate body, forming a link of connexion between both, and standing as a barrier to resist the 1398 encroachments of one upon the rights of the other. These respective rights, in their legitimate exercise, I am anxious that all should enjoy. Animated by these motives, and acting upon these principles, I hope we shall all come to the dispassionate consideration of this important question in the ensuing session, and trust that it may be settled on a basis, which shall give general and permanent satisfaction.
wished to be allowed to make one observation with respect to an expression which fell from the noble earl. The noble lord, in alluding to the tone in which the motion had been brought before the House, said that it conveyed something of an apology. He must take leave to tell their lordships and the noble earl, that he made no apology. He made no apology, because he did not think there had been any offence. If, however, their Lordships should ever find him deviating from that course of duty and respect, which he was equally bound as a peer and as a member of his majesty's government to observe towards their lordships, then they would be entitled to call upon him for an apology, and then it would be his duty to make that apology. In this case, he repeated, he made no apology; because, whether the measure which he proposed might prove right or turn out to be wrong, it was his duty to bring it before their lordships; and he claimed the privilege of maintaining his opinions and his measures with the same earnestness as the noble earl or any other member of their lordships' House.
§ Earl Grey
said, he did not intend to offend the noble viscount by the use of the word apology. Perhaps he ought rather to have said the noble viscount made an apologetic explanation; for such it might be called. He repeated, however, that he did not mean to use the expression in any way which the noble viscount might deem offensive; and although he was not a person in the habit of retracting what he had once uttered on such occasions, yet he would say, that if any expression which fell from him had offended the noble viscount, he was sorry he had used it.
—I have not a word more to say.
The bill was read a second time.—Lord Goderich then moved the order of the day for the third reading of the Corn Averages bill. The noble viscount introduced a clause, giving his majesty, by an order in 1399 council, permission to take averages at certain towns in the kingdom. This clause was proposed, in lieu of the one which had been lost by the singular divisions which had taken place on Friday. The clause was agreed to, and the bill passed.