§ The Marquess of Abercorn
rose for the purpose of moving, that a humble Address be presented to her Majesty, in answer to her most gracious Speech; and in Join, so, he said he had to claim from their Lordships more than an ordinary share of their indulgence; for, in addition to the embarrassment which he felt in addressing their Lordships for the first time, he was fully sensible of his inability to deal with the important topics which were touched upon in the Speech from the Throne, and of the responsibility which attached to him in venturing to address their Lordships upon them. He was anxious also that nothing which fell from him should, in the slightest degree, tend to disturb the unanimity which he trusted would be evinced on this occasion. The first paragraph of the Speech was one of peculiar interest, and in his view was paramount to all others. It was one to which he was sure not only their Lordships, but the whole of the people of this country, would fully and cordially bear assent. The announcement of the birth of an heir to the Throne of England, associated as it was with the history of the past, and connected as it also was with the future welfare of the country, was an event at all times, and even under circumstances of an ordinary character, calculated to form the subject of great congratulation, and of a lively demonstration of loyalty and respect. If at such an event, apart from other considerations, these feelings were drawn forth, how great must be the national joy, how unbounded the loyalty of the people on the present most auspicious occasion at an event which came before them under such peculiar circumstances of interest. He was sure their Lordships would most gratefully participate with her Majesty in the prayers which she had offered up to the Almighty 6 for his goodness. He was sure also, that their Lordships would join with her Majesty in the satisfaction she had expressed at the presence in this country of her august ally the king of Prussia, and at the office which that illustrious person had taken upon himself, in becoming sponsor to her Majesty's son, the Prince of Wales. Their Lordships would, no doubt, see great cause of satisfaction at the selection which had been made by her Majesty. Nothing had been wanting on the part of the people of this country to express, by the most public marks of esteem, how fully they appreciated his Majesty's presence on this interesting occasion; and his Majesty must have been gratified at witnessing the universal respect which his enlightened exertions for the prosperity of his own dominions had demanded and drawn forth. It must also have been matter of considerable pleasure to that illustrious person, not only to have received the tribute of respect towards himself, but to have witnessed how deeply the affections of the people of England were centered in the happiness of their queen. There never had been any period at the birth of an heir to the Throne of these realms in which the promise for the future was so clear and unclouded as the present, or which more powerfully called forth a people's gratitude to Divine Providence. It would not be becoming in him to dilate more upon this subject, but if a bright example in the parents of the future sovereign of this empire, if talent, guided by benevolence and devoted to the welfare of the country and the happiness of a people, were fit models for a prince, and for insuring his future excellence, then surely he might boldly say that at this time, more than at any former period in the history of this country, were there those illustrious examples from which such excellence might be derived. Their Lordships must be gratified to hear that her Majesty had received from all princes and states the continued assurance of their earnest desire to maintain the most friendly relations with this country, and that, in furtherance of that desirable object, a treaty had been entered into by her Majesty in conjunction with the Emperor of Austria, the King of the French, the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Russia, together with the Sultan, which could not fail to insure the tranquillity of Europe, and maintain the stability of the Turkish empire. Looking at the unsettled state of affairs in the East, 7 and considering the disastrous results that must arise from a dismemberment of the Ottoman empire, they had reason to congratulate themselves on the conclusion of a treaty which, it must be admitted, insured a permanent settlement of the Eastern question. Other beneficial results were expected to arise from that treaty in the extension of our trade and the development of our commercial resources. The announcement of the success of another treaty which her Majesty bad concluded with the powers of Europe, for the more effectual suppression of the Slave-trade, would be received with much satisfaction, seeking to accomplish, as it did, an object so desirable. After the sacrifices which this country had made, and after the efforts which had been so successfully followed up for the suppression of that detestable trade, it was most gratifying to find that this treaty would complete all that diplomacy could accomplish for that desirable object. It would deal a final blow, and extinguish for ever that stain upon our common humanity. In re-establishing friendly relations with the court of Persia, and concluding a commercial treaty with that power, their Lordships might justly expect an extension of our commerce, and an important increase of the influence of this country in that part of the globe. On the subject of China, it was a matter of regret that it had not been in the power of her Majesty to renew a friendly intercourse with that empire; but as this was a subject which had already been discussed in Parliament, be would not detain their Lordships further than to remark that the justice of our claims upon that country having been universally recognized, and the success of our arms having proved that no effort on the part of China could for any long period resist those claims, there was every reason to expect, not only a satisfactory settlement of our dispute with that country, but that such an indication of our power would have been given, as would ultimately place our commerce with China on the most advantageous foundation. He had thus briefly gone through the topics of the Speech which related to our foreign affairs. He would now call their Lordships attention to that paragraph in which the state of the revenue was recommended to their consideration. For some time past the revenue of the country had been exceeded by the expenditure to an extent which rendered it necessary that some 8 new measures should be taken to remedy so great an evil. It had been thought practicable by a former Government, to provide for this deficiency by continued reduction, and retrenchment had accordingly been carried out to the utmost limit which was consistent with the proper maintenance of the State. Notwithstanding those reductions, the expenditure had still continued to exceed the revenue to an alarming extent; and experience having proved that no such reduction could be made as would bring them to the necessary level, it was expedient for the public safety that the revenue itself should be raised to such an extent as would meet the exigencies of the case. He had no doubt that whatever measures her Majesty's Government might be induced to submit to Parliament they would be found based on principles, and on a policy conservative of the great interests of the country, and such as their Lordships would feel it their duty to approve of. There was another paragraph in her Majesty's Speech which would be regarded with deep interest by their Lordships and by a great part of the country, he meant that which alluded to the law for regulating the importation of foreign corn. It was most desirable that a question of such serious importance—a question affecting not only the agricultural portion of the empire, but bearing such immediate relation to the commerce and manufactures of the country—should be approached with the utmost caution; and that no experiment should be hazarded which had not received the fullest and most serious consideration. It was one of those questions which, from obvious causes, could only be brought forward with advantage by the Government of the country, and he was glad to see that it was likely to receive from her Majesty's Government that mature and sound consideration which the importance of the interests affected by it and the present state of the country demanded. He confidently anticipated, notwithstanding the difficulties which surrounded the question, that some satisfactory settlement would be made, and that a measure would be so adjusted as to prevent too great a fluctuation in the price of corn, while the interests of the grower and the consumer would be respectively attended to. And he must be allowed to express his sense of the great error which those persons had fallen into who had thought fit to place the interests of the manufacturing, the commercial, and the agricul- 9 tural community at variance with each other. It was his firm belief that there was nothing more untrue than the supposition that a due protection of the farmer was incompatible with the success and advancement of the manufacturer. On the contrary, he believed, nay, he had no doubt, that the prosperity of the manufacturer depended, in a great degree, on the prosperity of the agriculturist. These interests, then, being thus closely connected, any long-continued depression of the one, or ill-advised withdrawal of protection from the other, would operate in the end with equal disadvantage to both parties. The distress which had prevailed to so alarming an extent in many parts of the country, and especially in the manufacturing districts, must be a subject of sincere regret to their Lordships, as it bad been of feeling allusion in her Majesty's Speech. The occasional recurrence of distress in a country like this, where so large a proportion of the population depended upon manufactures, was one of those evils which the Government could not entirely prevent: and however wisely the laws might be made, it could never be expected, that prosperity could entirely prevail. He would not attempt to enter into the causes of the distress, or the proper measures of relief, but he was confident, that whatever alleviations could be proposed consistent. with the general interests of the country would not be withheld. There were just grounds for hoping, that the negotiations by which our commercial relations with foreign countries had been extended, and the measures to be brought forward, would have the effect of restoring the manufactures of this country to that state of prosperity from which they had fallen. If anything could render the distress now prevailing, more imperative upon our attention, or enhance the anxiety and desire which existed for devising an amelioration of the sufferings of the people, it would be the exemplary patience with which those sufferings had been borne, and the total absence of disturbance in the immediate seats and scenes of that distress. Whatever might be the result of the measures that might be submitted to the consideration of Parliament—whatever might be the degree of beneficial change that might arise, he would venture to remind their Lordships, that all ill-considered changes, that all rash and hazardous experiments, bearing, indeed, a semblance of expediency, but full of unsoundness within, 10 were much to be avoided in the settlement of these important questions; and that though a transitory appearance of relief might be obtained from such sources, yet in the end they might be found to aggravate the evils they were intended to remedy: He would not now detain their Lordships longer, but should conclude by thanking them for the attention and patience with which they had heard him. He begged to move, that a humble Address be presented to her Majesty, thanking her Majesty for her most gracious Speech. His Lordship then read the following Address:—
§ MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
§ WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to return Your Majesty our humble Thanks for Your Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ WE most cordially join with Your Majesty in expressing our deep Sense of Gratitude to Almighty God on account of the Birth of The Prince, Your Majesty's Son; and we beg leave to offer to Your Majesty our heartfelt Congratulations upon an Event which is so well calculated to complete the Measure of Your Majesty's domestic Happiness, and which we, in common with all Your Majesty's faithful and loyal Subjects, have hailed with every Feeling of affectionate Attachment to Your Majesty's Person and Government.
§ WE rejoice in the gratifying Prospect that under a Prince whose youthful Mind will be formed by the Instruction and Example of His illustrious Parents, the Civil and Religious Liberties, the Glory, the Commerce, and the Power of this Kingdom may he transmitted to Posterity.
§ WE assure Your Majesty that we entirely participate in the Satisfaction which Your Majesty has derived from the Presence, in this Country, of His Majesty the King of Prussia, who, at Your Majesty's Request, undertook in Person the Office of Sponsor at the Christening of the Prince of Wales,11
§ WE have learned with much Satisfaction that Your Majesty receives from all Princes and States the continued Assurance of their earnest Desire to maintain the most friendly Relations with this Country.
§ WE assure Your Majesty that we rejoice to learn that Your Majesty has concluded, with the Emperor of Austria, the King of the French, the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Russia, a Treaty for the more effectual Suppression of the Slave Trade: and we beg to express to Your Majesty our Thanks for Your Majesty's gracious Intention, when the Ratifications shall have been exchanged, of communicating the same to Parliament.
§ WE humbly thank Your Majesty for the Directions given by Your Majesty, that there shall also be laid before Parliament a Treaty which Your Majesty has concluded with the same Powers, together with the Sultan, having for its Object the Security of the Turkish Empire, and the Maintenance of the general Tranquillity.
§ WE are much gratified by the Information that the Restoration of Your Majesty's diplomatic and friendly Intercourse with the Court of Tehran has been followed by the Completion of a Commercial Treaty with the King of Persia; and we thank Your Majesty for having directed this Treaty to be laid before us.
§ WE desire to express to Your Majesty the lively Satisfaction with which we learn that Your Majesty is engaged in Negotiations with several Powers, which, we trust, by leading to Conventions founded on the just Principle of mutual Advantage, may extend the Trade and Commerce of the Country.
§ WE regret that Your Majesty is not enabled to announce to us the Re-establishment of peaceful Relations with the Government of China.
§ WE beg to express our Satisfaction that the uniform Success which has attended the hostile Operations, and the Confidence which Your Majesty places in the Skill and Gallantry of Your Majesty's Naval and Military Forces, 12 encourage Your Majesty to hope that our Differences with the Government of China will be brought to an early Termination, and our Commercial Relations with that Country placed on a Satisfactory Basis.
§ WE desire humbly to acquaint Your Majesty that we shall direct our immediate Attention to the State of the Finances and of the Expenditure of the Country.
§ WE have seen with Regret that, for several Years past, the annual Income has been inadequate to bear the Public Charges; and, fully sensible of the Evil which must result from a continued Deficiency of this Nature during Peace, we will carefully consider the best Means of averting it.
§ WE assure Your Majesty that we will give our serious Consideration to the State of the Laws which affect the Import of Corn, and of other Articles, the Produce of Foreign Countries.
§ PERMIT us to express our Acknowledgments to Your Majesty for informing us that Measures will be submitted for our Consideration for the Amendment of the Law of Bankruptcy, and for the Improvement of the Jurisdiction exercised by the Ecclesiastical Courts in England and Wales.
§ WE shall also be ready to consider, with a view to their Revision, the Laws which regulate the Registration of Electors of Members to serve in Parliament.
§ In common with Your Majesty we deeply regret the continued Distress in the Manufacturing Districts of the Country, and the Sufferings and Privations which have resulted from it, which have been borne with exemplary Patience and Fortitude.
§ WE thank Your Majesty for the Expression of Your Confidence that our Deliberations on the various important Matters which will occupy our Attention, will be directed by a comprehensive Regard for the Interests and permanent Welfare of all Classes of Your Majesty's Subjects; and we join most fervently in Your Majesty's Prayer that they 13 may tend in their Result to improve the National Resources, and to encourage the Industry, and promote the Happiness of Your Majesty's People.
The Earl of Dalhousie
felt great pleasure in rising to second the Address in answer to her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne. Its various topics had been already so fully alluded to, and the ground before him had been traversed by his noble Friend with so much more skill anti ability than he could pretend to, that he felt himself relieved from the necessity of occupying very much of their Lordships' time upon that occasion. It was, perhaps, the less necessary, that be should enter at any length into the topics alluded to in the Address, because he flattered himself with the belief, that there was nothing contained in it, which could necessarily cause that division of opinion which it was always held desirable should be abstained from on an occasion like this. He hoped the Address would carry with it to the Throne the additional recommendation of having been adopted with the unanimous approval and the entire concurrence of their Lordships' House. But if lie should be mistaken in that opinion, he would, nevertheless, enter with the most perfect confidence and tranquillity upon the consideration of the lint topic, which presented itself in the Address—a topic upon which there could he but one opinion—upon which there was but one unanimous feeling in the House and the country — their Lordships would anticipate that he alluded to the congratulations to her Majesty upon the birth of a Prince of Wales. It was very true, that the time had long since passed away when the birth of an heir to the Throne was a matter of anxiety, as well as of joy to the country, inasmuch, as then depended upon the event, the future destinies of the country, and the happiness and tranquillity of the people. But it was, nevertheless, an event even now, of the most auspicious kind, and worthy of all acceptation, inasmuch as it secured the succession to the British Throne in a direct and unbroken line, and continued the royal authority in the hands of that illustrious family who had so long and so prosperously swayed the sceptre of these realms. Their Lordships would find matter for still further congratulation in seeing, that it was from parents whose public conduct and private life had hitherto earned 14 the respect and attachment of the people, that the future Sovereign of this country had sprung. One of those illustrious personages having been placed upon the Throne of these realms in most extreme youth, had discharged the duties of that high station—laborious and important as they were—with an attention, an industry, and a patience which must have entitled her to the approval and gratitude of all. She had acted with a strength of character, with an ability, and with a resolution to act up to the line of constitutional duty marked out as the course for the Sovereign of these dominions to pursue, that afforded the fairest promise of the prosperity and good government of this country. The other was a Prince who, during the years lie had lived amongst us, had displayed such unspotted purity of character, such consummate judgment and integrity of conduct, that not one breath of slander, subtle and penetrating as it was, had ventured to tarnish his name even with a single whisper. He was well aware, that any man who had ventured to speak in such terms as those he had used, laid himself open to unfavoured conclusions. He knew, that many would be ready to say, that compliments paid to persons in such exalted stations, were either flourishes without any meaning, or that they betrayed in a greater or less degree a design to flatter for some ulterior purpose. His words, however, were neither the one nor the other. In adverting to the birth of the Prince of Wales, lie had ventured to allude to the character and conduct of his illustrious parents, inasmuch as upon the character of those who had the training of that child up to manhood, whose example would constantly stand before him, and from whom he would first catch his impressions, must, in a great degree, depend whether that Prince, who was destined to become the ruler of these realms, would hereafter be its pride or its aversion. He was sure, that their Lordships would feel pleasure in the birth of a Prince, not merely as a matter of national but also of personal consideration He knew, that their Lordships felt the loyalty which warmed the heart as well as that which bent the knee, and that, actuated by these feelings, he was convinced, that they would all hasten to offer their congratulations on an event which her Majesty had declared had filled up tee measure of her domestic happiness. Could any circumstances add to the auspiciousness of such 15 an event, they would be found in the visit of his Majesty the King of Prussia, who not only had become sponsor on the occasion, but by undertaking a long journey to this country, at an inclement time of the year, had evinced, by his presence, the interest he felt in it. That illustrious personage had conducted himself in such a manner during his residence among them, as justified the high character which be had always borne, and had confirmed all those feelings of kindly attachment which had so long existed in this country towards one of her oldest and most constant allies. In all these circumstances their Lordships would surely find abundant cause for echoing the sentiments contained in the Royal Speech, and for expressing their acknowledgments to Almighty God on account of the birth of the Prince. This their Lordships would do, not because precedents might require it, but because they were sincerely desirous of expressing their gratitude to that Almighty Being for the birth of a Prince under such circumstances, and who, associated in the first days of his infancy with his august parents, would, he believed, prove a glory and a blessing to the empire. Their Lordships would also learn with satisfaction the assurance conveyed in the Speech, that her Majesty continued to receive from all foreign powers the assurance of friendly relations with this country, and their Lordships would all recognise the practical evidence of the sincerity of their intentions in the announcement, that her Majesty had concluded important treaties with the different powers on matters of great national interest. Foremost among these was the treaty with the Emperor of Austria, the King of the French, the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Russia, having for its object the more effectual suppression of the Slave-trade. Although this treaty merely embodied the principles contained in the treaty which had existed between France and England, it had nevertheless extended the limits within which these principles were to be brought into operation; it had multiplied the means for carrying those principles into effect, and it went to show to the world that Austria, Prussia, and Russia were in direct hostility to that disgraceful trade, which Great Britain had made such great exertions and sacrifices to destroy. Their Lordships would recognise as a result of the friendly feeling among these great powers, the treaty having for its 16 object the security and independence of the Turkish empire by which the various questions which had threatened the peace of Europe had been settled, and the authority of the Sultan confirmed. In this complete co-operation of the great powers would be found the best guarantee that the Turkish empire would continue to remain in the condition in which it had so long existed. Their Lordships would be gratified to hear that there would be laid on the Table a commercial treaty between the King of Persia and this country, and that there was every reason to believe, that the general state of affairs between the two countries would return into that pacific state which existed previous to the late dissensions. In the midst of all these satisfactory circumstances, their Lordships would no doubt regret, that her Majesty had been unable to announce the termination of the war with China. He would confine himself to his proper task by expressing his congratulations on the success that had attended the British arms. He would not say that the success of the forces employed in that country had been as brilliant as, perhaps, that of other forces in other countries, but they had done their duty bravely, and were deserving of the highest praise. While they had fully done their duty in the face of the enemy, they had also done it in the face of such disheartening trials as sickness and suffering, and in spite of the temptations to disorder and to crime which surrounded them, which were quite as formidable as any enemy. Whatever success might attend their Lordships' negotiations, they could rest assured, that as far as force could avail, everything had been accomplished that it was possible to accomplish by the combined forces in China, guided by the abilities of the distinguished officers in command. Their Lordships he did not doubt, would also feel satisfied, that the attention of Parliament had been called to the great questions connected with the finances of the country. It was in vain to shut their eyes to the alarming fact that for several years the annual revenue had not been sufficient to meet the expenditure. He felt persuaded that their Lordships would give their instant attention to this great evil—that they would institute a rigid inquiry into every branch of the public service, and that, after having made such an inquiry, they would be prepared to adopt such measures as Parliament might deem fit. He hoped their Lordships would 17 also be ready to assure her Majesty that they would take into their consideration the law affecting the import of corn. The question of a duty on corn had, during the last year, been the cause of great excitement, and he would not then enter into the discussion of a subject which might create a difference of opinion on the present occasion, when unanimity was so desirable. He should, on all occasions, hesitate to obtrude his poor opinion on a question in which all their Lordships were equally interested, and with which many were more familiar than he was. He would, therefore, merely express his satisfaction at learning that measures relating to the import duty on corn were to be introduced, and that they were to proceed from the only quarter from which they could profitably come, namely, the Government. When the details of these measures came to be unfolded, he felt assured that their Lordships would be prepared to give them their calm consideration, both as regarded their intrinsic merit and their bearing on every class of her Majesty's subjects; their Lordships would also be ready to pay the closest attention to the proposed measures for the amendment of the bankruptcy law, to those for the improvement of the ecclesiastical courts, and also to those which regulate the registration of electors of Members of Parliament, in order that all constituencies might be enabled to exercise their right of voting without any unnecessary expence or delay. There was no part of the Speech in which their Lordships would more concur than in that part which expressed her Majesty's regret at the continued distress in the manufacturing districts of the country, unless it was in that part which stated with what patience and fortitude that distress had been borne not with standing the aggravations of a long winter, and all the temptations attendant on poverty and privation. He felt also certain that their Lordships would take into consideration the best means to relieve that distress. He feared that it was beyond the power of human wisdom to prevent altogether the recurrence of distress, but he felt confident that their Lordships' deliberation would be directed by a comprehensive regard for the interests and permanent welfare of all classes. He had thus endeavoured to discharge his duty, although he felt sensible that no man could be more deficient than he was; but lie trusted that their Lordships would pardon him if, in treating of these impro- 18 tant subjects, he had unnecessarily wasted the time of the House.
§ Viscount Melbourne:
I am happy to be able to follow the course which has been justly and truly laid down by the noble Lord who seconded the Address, and to agree with him, that it is both desirable and satisfactory that, upon occasions like the present, unanimity should prevail, and that we should express with one voice our concurrence, both in the Speech which her Majesty has been advised to deliver from the Throne, and in the Address which has been moved by the noble Lord. And if there is nothing in the Speech and Address calculated to provoke any difference of opinion, certainly there has been nothing in the speeches of the noble Mover and Seconder, which could, by possibility, produce this effect, as I do not know that I ever remember to have heard the duty which they have undertaken tonight, discharged with more ability, or in a manner more suitable and becoming, and more appropriate to the occasion. With respect to the noble Lord who seconded the Address (the Earl of Dalho sie), we have witnessed from him in a former Session of Parliament an exertion of great talent and ability, and for the Mover of the Address, I can assure him, that both from personal respect and from ancient acquaintance with his family, there is no one of those, who are the most closely connected with him, and the most deeply interested in his success, who has heard him with more satisfaction, than I have upon the present occasion. With respect to the matter which forms the first paragraph of the Speech, there can be but one feeling —one voice of congratulation expressed to her Majesty on that event, and, in connection with that event, on the arrival in this country of that illustrious monarch, whose coming here has been hailed with so much satisfaction, and whose character has been made the subject of so much just eulogium. I have always looked with peculiar interest to the country over which that illustrious individual reigns; and without meaning any offence to other nations, it has often been to me a subject of deep concern and regret, that so many causes of discord and alienation should have at times arisen, and should have prevented us from acting in unison and harmony with that power with which we are so naturally connected, by the intimate relationship of the two royal families, by the profession of the Reformed Religion, and by the unanimity and agree- 19 ment of great interests. I trust, therefore, that what has happened on this occasion will be an additional guarantee for the future union of both countries, and for their both acting together on all occasions for the advancement and benefit of the human race, and for the preservation of the peace of Europe.
My Lords, it always appears to me to be a good omen for a country when those who have the government and management of it seem to have a good opinion of its affairs. It is impossible for me not to congratulate the country on the much more favourable and comfortable view which Ministers now take of the state of the nation compared to that which they expressed on the 24th of August last. It is impossible for me not to rejoice, not to feel some degree of pride, that a more intimate acquaintance with the actual position of affairs—that a more intimate knowledge of the transactions then and still going on, has convinced her Majesty's Ministers that affairs were not quite in such a desperate condition as they were then represented to be by noble Lords opposite, more particularly by the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade, who took the most desponding view of the subject. Knowing as I do his extreme anxiety for the welfare of the country, I cannot but congratulate him on his finding affairs in many quarters of the globe in a much better condition than he anticipated. My noble Friend on that occasion said, that on looking to the anomalous war which we were carrying on in China, he saw no hope of our being able to bring it to a conclusion—that we were engaged with an enemy who would not fight; that we were baffled in our negotiations; and that he saw no hope of this country being able to finish the contest. Now, we are told in the Speech from the Throne, in the drawing up of which I suppose my noble Friend joined, that we may encourage the hope that our differences with China will be brought to an early termination, and our commercial relations with that country placed on a satisfactory basis. The relations of this country with Persia are, I apprehend, also a subject of peculiar interest to the noble Lord, and, as communications recently received from Persia inform us that our affairs there have taken a more favourable turn than was expected, I cannot but congratulate the noble Lord on his finding his situation more comfortable and more agreeable than he anticipated, and that he is not surrounded by the hopeless difficulties 20 and the interminable embarrassment which he at that time expected.
I am also glad to hear a promise held out in the Speech, similar to the recommendation made in August last, for a consideration of the Corn-laws, and also for a general consideration of the subject of import duties. I suppose the measures are intended to be produced to Parliament without any committee of inquiry; and, if so, I beg leave to say that I do hope Ministers will give the sliding-scale their serious re-consideration. Do abandon the sliding scale. Never mind your having pledged yourselves to it. You have done so, to be sure, with great formality and great solemnity, but no solemnity or formality can justify such an absurdity—an absurdity greater than ever has been imagined by Rabelais, or by any of the writers of political satire and romance. I know there is hardly any absurdity so great, that men may not be driven to it by the force of circumstances, by the urgency of party interests and party influences. But this is too much—only consider it, as it really is. In the last session of Parliament, the course of the public affairs made it necessary, that the leaders of the great Conservative party, great in numbers, great in talent, great in property, great in weight and influence of every description, should come down to Parliament, and make something of a declaration upon the subject of the Corn-laws. Well, they consult, they lay their heads together — the right hon. Baronet at the head. of the Government, my two noble Friends, Lord Stanley and Sir James Graham —down they come with their minds made up, and they cry, you cannot ask us for such declaration—we have been long out of office, we have not had time or means of forming our opinions upon these matters; but one thing we will tell you—and then with a studied agreement in sense, and a studied difference in language, they proceed to say, that come what may, they will abide by the sliding scale. That is, they pledge themselves to the only part of the present Corn-law, for which nothing can be said, which is entirely indefensible. You Will never do anything with a sliding scale. You will never do anything by altering the mode of taking the averages. You will not obviate the insecurity and the instability of trade by such means—you will never get the better of fraud and contrivance, and therefore it is that I take the present opportunity to beg of the noble Lord to give the sliding 21 scale his re-consideration before the intended measures are brought under the consideration of Parliament.
The last topic in the Address is that in which her Majesty has been advised to express her deep regret at the distress prevailing in the manufacturing districts of the country. Upon this feeling, and upon the propriety of its expression, there can be no difference of opinion. Whatever can be done by human means either to alleviate or to prevent a return of the distress, ought to be done with the greatest care and the utmost promptitude. I feel the truth of what the noble Lord, who moved the Address, said on this point. But I cannot be a party to any measure or any language which pretends to hold out a permanent remedy for the present distress, and an effectual prevention of its recurrence—the manufactures and commerce of this country depending so much on various circumstances—on demand, taste, fashion, foreign competition, and a hundred other causes; and having such masses of the people engaged in those pursuits and occupations, I fear that we shall only be parties to holding out a delusion, if we said that any measure which we could devise would prevent a recurrence of frequent distress, frequent difficulties, great vicissitudes in wages, and of that misery and destitution consequent on want of employment. I know there are some who attribute the difficulty to the Currency, some to the Corn-laws. I cannot agree with either of these opinions. Whatever portion of the distress the Corn-laws may have caused, I believe that the difficulties and the destitution of the manufacturing population are inseparable from, belonging to, and inherent in that condition of industry and of capital engaged in manufactures which exists in this country; and though I am ready to consider any measure for the purpose of alleviating that distress, I can never bold forth that this can be produced by changes in the Constitution, or by changing the persons who administer the public affairs, I am greatly opposed to this, because, if the existence of national distress is to be looked on as a reason for organic changes in the Constitution, or in the individuals who compose the Government, there is an end of all stability in public affairs. In every state of the country, I fear it will not be difficult to make out such a case of poverty and suffering, as may upon such principles support an argument for great and immediate alteration. We have lived 22 lately in a time of great change and of many new measures. It is supposed that these measures have produced disappointment, and that the Catholic Emancipation, for instance, has not ended in the tranquillity which was expected from it, and that the Reform-bill has not improved the condition or situation of the people at large, and that those who have recommended these measures do not enjoy with the country the same popularity that they formerly did. How this may be, I know not. But this I do know, that if there is disappointment, it does not arise from the vicious principles, or the ill-working of the measures themselves but from the wild, unfounded, exaggerated expectations of their effects which were indulged in and anticipated. A man does not know himself, nor is lie a safe judge of his own conduct. But I believe myself never to have contributed to the raising of these wild and illusory hopes. What I have not done before, I will not do now, because 1 feel certain that measures from which great, extended, and permanent benefit is intended, will be very likely to terminate in failure, and consequently in general discontent.
§ The Earl of Ripon
said, that the noble Viscount must, indeed, be well pleased with the Speech from the Throne, inasmuch as lie had not found anything on which to hang his observations, except by a reference, for the second time, to some remarks made by him on a former occasion. He was afraid that the noble Viscount was rather sore at the result of those remarks, inasmuch as it had had the effect of placing his noble Friend on that side of the House on which he (the noble Viscount) now sat. If so, lie was sorry for it; but he begged to assure his noble Friend, that in moving the Amendment referred to, he was influenced by no personal feeling as against his noble Friend, but solely from a sense of the extreme difficulties in which the course pursued by her Majesty's late Government had placed the complicated interests of the country. The noble Viscount had said, that the affairs which were represented in August last to be full of such difficulties, were now found on an examination to be in a much better condition than was anticipated, and that the war in China was not likely to have the unfortunate issue which be predicted concerning it. He admitted that he did say that he thought it a ridiculous war, but he never said that he saw no prospect of its being brought to an early and satisfactory termination. He had said, that the war was one 23 of a peculiar character, because it was one in which the enemy did not even fight. Had not all the circumstances proved this to be the character of the war? The noble Viscount stated that he had also said that there was no prospect of the re-establishment of peace with Persia. He said the very reverse; he stated that lie was glad that peace had been restored, and that he hoped the exertions of their diplomatic agent would restore the former relations between the two countries, and he did not see anything inconsistent between what he had said on that occasion, and what was stated in the Speech from the Throne. In regard to another part of the Speech, the noble Viscount invited the Government to reconsider certain opinions given by certain Members of that Government in the other House of Parliament. "Do not be afraid," said the noble Viscount, "to change your mind, or to abandon principles which you have laid down so positively. This advice came naturally enough from the noble Viscount, for if the Government were to follow that advice, they would only imitate the examples which his own Government had set. He was not called to say more on this subject, and as the measure would soon be before Parliament, any incomplete explanation would be worse than useless; these were subjects which could not be debated on to a good purpose, if they did not endeavour to keep their minds in a calm and equable state. If they introduced passion and violence, instead of reason, they would never obtain that which every one said he wished to have, and which it was the interest of Parliament to effect, namely, a satisfactory settlement of the question alluded to. He would only add, that in the last sentiment expressed by his noble Friend, he most entirely concurred. He thought that it would, indeed, be a fatal delusion if the Government or the Parliament were to take upon themselves to hold out to the people that any course of legislation upon so complicated a piece of machinery as that exhibited in the present condition of England, would he a panacea for the various evils which, from time to time, to a different extent, and under different forms, affected the wellbeing and prosperity of the country. To that species of delusion he would never allow himself to become a party, because he was satisfied that it could only lead to those fatal consequences which his noble Friend had so emphatically described, and in which he fully concurred.
§ Lord Beaumont
would not trespass upon their Lordships' patience for more than a single moment; but having, on a former occasion, expressed a very decided opinion upon the question of the Corn-laws, he felt that lie could not properly allow the reference now made to that subject in the Speech from the Throne to pass by without a remark. He owned he was glad to find that her Majesty's Government had determined to take this question into their consideration. He believed that the effect of that determination would be to set many strong feelings of animosity at rest, whilst it would afford to the farmer the advantage of knowing upon what ground his business was to be conducted. He would even make another concession. He would allow that it was not only necessary that the question of the Corn-laws should be taken into consideration, but that there were certain evils in the present system which might be remedied. The evils to which he alluded consisted chiefly in the existing means of taking the averages. Upon that point he thought great ameliorations might be made. It was certainly true that the present returns were false; they were founded upon fictitious scales. It was well known, that a very great number of quarters of corn were returned as having been sold in Hull, and afterwards resold at Wakefield, whilst in point of fact, not one single quarter had been delivered. Instances of this kind were not unfrequent. He admitted that some modification was necessary; but whilst he made that admission, he was far from agreeing with the noble Viscount, that the present scale was an absurdity, and that it was absolutely necessary to abandon it. On the contrary, he regarded it as the only means of preventing a very great fluctuation in price. Therefore, whilst he was willing that this important subject should be reconsidered, he did not think that the deliberation of Parliament upon it should result in anything more than a very slight modification of the present system.
did not rise to enter into all the topics referred to in the Royal Speech, but there were one or two matters involved in it which he did not think he should be performing his duty to the House if he did not take that opportunity of adverting to. Their Lordships would naturally suppose that one of the most important of those subjects was 25 the great, and though (as he earnestly hoped and believed) not any thing like universal distress, yet, the very severe distress which unquestionably prevailed in several important districts of the country. He was far from wishing to present an exaggerated view of it. He believed, indeed, that in respect to some parts of the country, it not only was not necessary, but it would not be possible to give any account which should be liable to the charge of exaggeration. He referred particularly to some parts known to his noble Friend opposite, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and he might, perhaps, refer still more painfully to the almost unprecedented distress which afflicted some districts of Lancashire, and the west of Scotland. He hoped, as he had already stated, that this distress was anything rather than universal, and that, its present severity was only temporary. But he feared he must agree with what had been stated by his noble Friend (Viscount Melbourne) behind him, that great fluctuations of prosperity, great reverses of fortune, great and not unfrequent periods of suffering, were almost necessarily incident to the highly artificial state of things which had grown up in this country, a country in which, although its agriculture would always, no doubt, constitute the most important branch of its industry, was yet in a scarcely inferior degree dependent for its prosperity upon the success of its manufactures. He felt apprehensive, too, that a country manufacturing to so great an extent as England, for years, he might almost say for ages, had done, not only for its own consumption, but for the consumption of a great portion of the world besides, might well expect a gradual decline in certain branches of its industry, in proportion as branches of industry of the like kind should be planted, grow up and flourish in other countries. Nevertheless, this afforded anything rather than a reason for the Government and Legislature not applying themselves, by all the means in their power—by every practical exertion of which they were capable, to stay the decline of those manufactures —to prevent a falling-off in any portion of our trade—to open by every imaginable means, by all the resources of negotiation, still more by all the efforts of legislation—markets now closed against us, and to widen the approach to those which hitherto had not refused to receive the products of our industry. It was in this point of view especially that he per- 26 ceived with the greatest satisfaction the indication held out in the Speech from the Throne, that her Majesty's Ministers were about to undertake a revision of the Corn-laws, the worst operation of which, in his opinion, had always been their tendency to stunt the manufacturing industry of the country by obstructing the channels of foreign trade. He had always considered that the only effectual way of dealing with this subject, indeed the only safe way, was to legislate for a total repeal of the Cornlaws—gradual and progressive, if you will, but entire and unconditional in its ultimate result. This was the character of the measure he thought would alone do any substantial good; but to correct the errors of those who, on the one hand, thought that the consequence of such a measure would be to lower exceedingly the price of food, and in order to quiet the alarms of those on the other hand, who feared that it would reduce the rent of land, he might refer to the authority of a noble Friend, who he regretted was not here now, connected with the counties of Nottingham and Northamptonshire (Earl Spencer), who moved the Address last August, and who, in recommending the entire repeal of the Corn-laws, stated his conviction that such a measure would neither lower the price of food nor reduce the rent of land. But his noble Friend stated and in this view, at least, he fully agreed, that it would have the effect of opening new channels of foreign trade—of staying the decline of our commerce—of arresting the downfall of our manufactures. That those effects would be the result, he had no more doubt than that lie was at that moment standing there and having the honour of addressing their Lordships. Until he saw what measures his noble Friend opposite (the Duke of Wellington) was about to propose, lie would only say he hoped the noble Duke and his noble Friend at the head of the Board of Trade, (Lord Ripon), saw the absolute necessity of relieving commerce, not by regulating the Corn-laws alone, but by regulating generally those duties that pressed upon consumption and production. He proceeded now to another matter of great moment. The prospect held out in her Majesty's Speech of the agreement of the various Governments of Europe, with which this country was in negotiation upon some important subjects, must be infinitely cheering to their Lordships. With respect to one of these subjects—the Slave-trade—it was 27 necessary, in consequence of what had recently passed, that he should for a moment solicit the attention of their Lordships, and upon this point he would especially beg the attention of his noble and learned Friend upon the Woolsack to the law on the subject. It was understood that a negotiation was about to be entered into with the United States of America. He purposely abstained from touching upon the general question supposed to be at issue between the United States and the Government of this country with respect to the right of search. He purposely avoided that question at the present moment, not on account of any doubt or difficulty that he felt upon it; for he deemed its importance very much greater than its difficulty; but he was anxious to lend his aid in removing the embarrassment and misunderstanding which had arisen between the two countries, from the capture of the American ship, Creole, and the carrying of that vessel into the Bahamas. Before the negotiation upon that subject was commenced, he thought it would be well to remove all doubt as to how the law of this country stood, in reference to such cases. He was desirous to do this in order that it might be seen how utterly impossible it was, whatever disposition the Government might have, of which he knew nothing, and respecting which he had no right to predicate anything; but whatever disposition they might have to do what it was alleged had been demanded of them, he thought it well that it should at once be clearly understood that do it they could not, for the law of England prevented the possibility of its being done. The case was this: the slaves, on board the Creole, or a portion of them, rose upon the captain and crew on a voyage perfectly legal, according to the law of the nation to which the vessel belonged, slavery in that nation being unhappily up to this hour recognised as lawful. The vessel was engaged in a voyage perfectly lawful, from one port of America to another, with what was called, in the language of the American law, a cargo of slaves. We, in this country, had no right to complain of their being so called, because it was only eight or nine years ago that we by our own law must have called the same persons aboard an English ship trafficking from one port of the English colonies to another, a cargo of slaves. Therefore, it would little become us, from whom the stain of slavery had so recently been wiped 28 out, to turn round upon the Americans, and affect a horror at cargoes of human beings being spoken of, when we, ourselves, only eight or nine years since, were by law bound to use the self-same language. The Creole was sailing with this cargo of slaves from one American port to another. In the course of the voyage, the slaves, as by natural right they had, in his opinion, a title to do—as by natural right every human being had a title to do when a fellow-creature presumed to hold him in bondage against the law of nature, the rights of man, and the will of heaven—rose upon the captain and crew, seized the vessel, and took her into an English port. In the course of the seizure a scuffle took place, and a life was lost. Upon arriving at the English port 120 slaves were landed and liberated, and the remaining eighteen of the slaves thus engaged in the capture of the vessel were taken into custody upon a charge, partly of murder and partly of piracy. Now, if it were demanded that we should give up the slaves, not so charged, every one must immediately perceive that this would be utterly unlawful. By the law of this country, if a slave come to any part of our dominions, in which slavery does not exist by law, either into the United Kingdom itself, or since the 1st of August, 1834, into any of our West-India possessions, from that moment, in whatever way he might have come, whether by leave of his master or against his will, whether by his own free will or brought by force, it signified not which, from that moment he was free, and by the law of this country could not be detained or given up. There was no doubt that such is the law; it had always been so, but it was solemnly so ruled in 1772, in the case of the negro Somerset, as regarded slaves coming away, brought into this country, and since the act of 1833, declared slavery in the West-India colonies, to be utterly unlawful from the 1st August 1834, such is now the law in those colonies so that there existed no power in the Government by which slaves on coming into the port of Nassau could be given up by the Government, or could be dealt with otherwise than as free British subjects. That being the case, the Government of Great Britain had no power by law to give up one of these slaves, or to detain one of them, or to interfere with any one of them in any way whatever. Then the question arose as to the eighteen who were said to be wrong doers, and 29 were charged with felony—with the offence which led to the loss of the life of one of the persons on board, and the seizure of the vessel. Now he ventured to state, that by the law of this country, no person, whether he were a British subject returning from abroad, or an alien coming to our shores, no person charged with having committed an offence out of the jurisdiction of Great Britain could be seized, or detained, or given up to any foreign government whatever, which might demand to have him given up, in respect of the offence with which he was charged. For example, if an Englishman in France were to commit a felony—say even a murder—and return to this country; or if a Frenchman in France were to commit a murder, and escape to this country, the French government might in vain demand of the English Government to have the alleged murderer given up for the purpose of being tried for his offence in France. There had, at different times, no doubt, been treaties between this country and France, and at one time there was a treaty between this country and the United States of America, for the mutual surrender by each government, on the requisition of the other, of persons charged (according to the American treaty of 1795), with the two offences of murder and forgery; and (according to the treaty of 1802 with France) of persons charged with the three offences of murder, forgery, and fraudulent bankruptcy. But before those treaties could be carried into effect in this country it was necessary to pass especial Acts of Parliament, to enable the Government to perform the obligation which it had incurred by the treaties; and accordingly, the 37th, George 3rd, gave the powers required for executing the treaty with America and the 42nd George 3rd, commonly called the Alien Act, not satisfied with the general powers of the Alien Act, had a clause, referring to the French treaty, and arming the Government with the power to arrest, detain, and surrender parties. He hoped that their Lordships would excuse his entering into these particulars, on account of the great importance of the question. There was no lawyer who could entertain any doubt upon the subject. It was clear that the surrender of any of the slaves, or even of any of the persons charged with the felony, the alleged murder having been committed beyond the territory of Great Britain, would be utterly without warrant, and by the law of this country, could not 30 possibly be accomplished, even if the Government were disposed to do it. A doubt may possibly arise as to whether the act committed on board the Creole might not be piracy. The facts as stated, did not appear to constitute piracy. If there were any, who considered that a doubtful or debateable point, then he apprehended, that the true course of proceeding would be to put the matter in to a course of investigation—to have a judicial inquiry, so that all the facts and circumstances might be fully ascertained, and that the legal import of those facts might be determined. But even if the circumstances connected with the seizure of the Creole amounted to piracy, it did not follow, that those who had been guilty of it should be given up by the Government of England to the government of any other country. If the facts amounted to piracy the parties, though aliens, were triable in our courts. If any doubt lingered in his mind, it was as to the right of delivering up aliens charged with piracy; and if any persons held that such a power of surrender existed, the question might be put in a course of judicial investigation. He would fain hope, that this accidental occurrence of the capture and brining into port of the Creole, when rightly understood in America, would have no effect in delaying the successful accomplishment of that most important mission upon which his noble Friend opposite (Lord Ashburton) was about to proceed —greatly to the advantage of the negotiations, greatly to the benefit of the two countries, which had a high and an equal interest in perpetuating the friendly relations so essential to the prosperity of both, and greatly to his own honour, in having undertaken, in the circumstances of the case, this most important service. Before sitting down, he must add his congratulations to those of all who had that night addressed their Lordships, both upon the happy event which was announced to the House in the introductory part of the Speech, and upon the auspicious visit to these shores of his Majesty the King of Prussia. He (Lord Brougham) entirely assented to all that had been said in praise of the manner in which that illustrious Sovereign had been received by the people of England — independent of his great merits, such a reception was certain, because he did not believe that there ever was a people inhabiting any part of Europe, whose affection to the Crown, and whose love of royalty exceeded that of the people of England at all times, and never more 31 than at this day. He would go further, and say, that he knew no people—and he had been amongst the inhabitants of almost all countries in Europe—he might say, that he had travelled in, and mixed with the inhabitants of every country in civilised Europe, with the exception of Russia and Spain, and in no country had he ever seen a people so fond of royalty, so devoted to the Throne as the people of England. How did he fortify that position? By referring to the past. When his Prussian Majesty was here in 1814, he might well remember the same overflowing and over-abounding loyalty and devotion; and yet, although the sovereigns whom he then accompanied had returned triumphant with the illustrious warrior in whose presence he (Lord Brougham) had then the honour to speak, and whose ally they had been in those great exploits which immortalized his name, and secured the peace of the world; even on that occasion he (Lord Brougham) would venture to say, his Majesty, when lie cast his eye back to it, would not recollect any one indication of greater devotion to the Crown, or greater love of royalty, than he had seen in this year 1842, during his present visit. If it had so happened, that his Majesty had come to this country only a few years after his former visit, he would have found a different state of feeling, he would have seen all our joy turned into sorrow; he would have found the whole people of England plunged into affliction, by the death of the Princess Charlotte, which was positively felt in every family of this country, as if each house had lost a child. Now, his Majesty came to us in the year 1842, and found, that upon the birth of an heir to the Throne, there was as universal an exultation prevailing all over England, as if an heir had been born into every family. Two conclusions might well be drawn by the Prussian monarch, from these circumstances, and in one of them at least, the people of England had an interest. Since his former visit great changes had taken place in the constitution of this country; a very large increase of the privileges of the people had been effected; an ample extension of the representative system had been consummated—an extension which some had called a revolution. He denied, and always should deny, the accuracy of that expression: but a very great reform, a great change, an extended application of the popular principle, an ample increase of the representative power, a liberal admission of the peo- 32 ple to the privileges, and within the pale of the constitution, had been effected in the interval between his Majesty's former and present visit to this country. Did his Majesty now find, that there was any ground for the fears entertained, both here and on the Continent, as to the effect of Parliamentary reform? Did he see any of those dangers which the world was told beset the path of the reformer, lest he should overset the balance of the Constitution—lessen the dignity of the Crown — impair the loyalty of the subject—and shake our institutions to their foundation? On the contrary, does he not now find, if any change at all, an increase of devotion and loyalty to the Crown, notwithstanding all the extension of the privileges of the people? Then, peradventure, one conclusion might be drawn by that illustrious Monarch, with respect to his own country, and another conclusion by us with respect to ours. There was not at this time—he believed there never was—a more philanthropic, a more kindly-disposed Prince, upon any of the Thrones of Europe—a Prince of liberal views—a Prince universally beloved by his own people, universally respected abroad, and, unlike many Princes (at least in former times) of him it might be said, that he was the more beloved and the more respected, the better he was known. He hoped and believed, that the result of that Prince's observations in this country would encourage him in the prosecution of those most beneficial reforms which he was making in the constitution of his own country, because it would show him that there was no danger, but only safety, in the fulfilment of the promises made by his predecessors —promises on the faith of which those predecessors raised the Prussian people, and were enabled, by their aid, to repel the invasion of France and to restore the independence of the Prussian crown. Yes, his Prussian Majesty would gather from his observation of this country, that the giving a representative constitution to his own people, would be safe and beneficial, and even tend to the security of the Crown and the monarchy itself. He drew the same conclusion with respect to the franchise in this country. Those who, ten years ago, had been alarmed at the idea of permitting its extension, would, ere long, have to consider how the franchise could be yet further reasonably, judiciously, but effectively extended, so as to admit within the pale of the constitu- 33 tion the great bulk of the working classes. He had concurred with his noble Friend the noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne) in an argument he used upon the Corn-laws on the first day of the last Session. His noble Friend warned their Lordships and the landed interest generally, against allowing a state of things to continue that was neither safe for them nor for the Constitution. Here, said the noble Viscount, was a code of lass made by one House of Parliament wholly composed of landowners, and by another in great part composed also of landowners. That was not a safe state of things. That, said he, was a state of things liable to suspicion and jealousy. That, said he, ought to be altered for the safety of the landowners, and of the two Houses of Parliament themselves. So he (Lord Brougham) thought it was not a safe state of things either for the two Houses of Parliament, or for the Crown, or for the general stability of the Constitution, that there should be a representative system, framed by two Houses, both of which consisted wholly of proprietors of some kind, a system so framed as to exclude all save those who happened to be the owners of property. In what way they ought to admit the other classes—by what degrees—by what slow degrees if their Lordships pleased—but in what way they should break down the line of distinction which placed all the property of the country on one side, and all the numbers, not being possessed of property, on the other, if not in conflict, at least in opposition to each other—by what rule, by what means, by what steps, he cared not, how slow and gradual the operation, and what was the best and most effectual way safely to get rid of this state of things which thus divided the country, and endangered its institutions, he would not now stop to inquire. But that something must be done, and that speedily, to shew they were not determined to maintain that line of distinction, he was as perfectly satisfied as he was of any of the propositions of law or of fact to which he had had the honour of directing their Lordships' attention that night. These were topics upon which, he well knew, he had not the happiness of agreeing with the majority of their Lordships, or possibly with any considerable body of their House. But that difference of opinion did not extend to the point on which he had before addressed their Lordships—namely, the negotiations with foreign powers, and 34 the slavery question; and he could now only repeat his hope, that the negotiation to which he had particularly alluded might be brought to a speedy and a happy termination.
§ Earl Fitzwilliam
felt somewhat anxious to say a few words on the present occasion, and the more so because he was apprehensive if he remained altogether silent, motives might be attributed to him which in reality had no influence on his mind. He felt entire gratitude to her Majesty's Ministers for the course they had taken, as far as he was able to divine what that course would be. He felt entire gratitude to her Majesty's Ministers for having drawn the attention of the House to that particular law to which, under auspices less favourable, it had been his lot during several preceding sessions, but with no great success, to bring under the notice of a majority of that House. Although he had had devoted friends to the cause in which he had embarked, both he and they had alike failed in impressing the importance of that question upon a majority of their Lordships' House. A large majority, indeed, had negatived the proposition he had ventured to propound to them, and yet in less than three years since the time he had first endeavoured unsuccessfully to draw attention to this subject, he had the great satisfaction of hearing that question recommended to the consideration of Parliament, first by the Administration in power six months ago, and subsequently by an Administration composed of those noble Lords who had overturned the former Government, not merely by their power in this House—for by that power alone they could not have effected it—but by the assistance they were enabled to obtain from the agricultural classes—from the landlords down to, he believed, the agricultural labourer, for they had enlisted even the labourers in their cause, though it was clear that their interests were diametrically opposed to them. So it was, however; the land-owners had succeeded in impressing upon the minds of tenants that they were interested in the maintenance of the Corn-law, and yet he had now the satisfaction to hear that the Ministers recommended the Corn-law to the consideration of Parliament. He did not precisely know in what relation to the Government, or what was the exact position in the Ministry of a noble Duke of great authority in this country, whom every man regarded with the highest re- 35 spect. That noble Duke had been for many years the leader of the party now in power; and though he held no public office, was a sort of viceroy over the Ministry; but he confessed it was a marvel to him, exemplifying the old adage, that "marvels never cease," that that noble Duke, the presiding genius of the Ministry, holding a seat in the Cabinet without office, whose particular affection for the Corn-laws was well-known, should concur with his Colleagues in recommending tile Corn-laws to the consideration of Parliament. After all he had heard from the noble Duke relative to the good working of that law, he confessed it astonished him that the noble Duke should concur with the other Members of the Administration in their present recommendation. Something, it was to be presumed, was to follow from that recommendation. Was that something to be so small, that it would require a political microscope to discover it? He felt no assurance that the measure was not to be exceedingly small, because another noble Duke had within a short period ceased to be a Member of her Majesty's Government. He wished to know, and he apprehended that a great number of persons out of doors would also be desirous to know what was the difference between the Ministers and the noble Duke who had just quitted the Government—most honourably and conscientiously, no doubt. The noble Duke had quitted office without looking to favour or reward, that he might go forth free, as a man who had sacrificed power and office that he might adhere to and protect those whose interests were his especial regard. He confessed he felt also some curiosity to know the particular point of difference in opinion between the noble Duke who had retired and his noble Friend (the Duke of Buccleugh) who had succeeded to the office, because his noble Friend had distinguished himself too—with great propriety no doubt—as a leader of the agricultural interest, and one most anxious to protect it. The noble Duke (Buccleugh) was anxious, no doubt, to protect the agricultural interest, and yet, he had come into a Government on the eve of proposing a measure which the noble Duke, who had quitted office, thought so injurious to agriculture that he had found himself absolutely under the necessity of retiring. If the noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham) had evinced complete indifference as to office, which he (Earl Fitzwilliam) believed was not the case, for he 36 had not heard that the noble Duke had been particularly pressed to become a Member of the Government by those who formed the Administration; —if he had been an unwilling labourer, then it might easily be understood that he might have seized upon some light and trivial occasion as an opportunity for retiring. But he had not heard that was the case, and he was, therefore, of opinion, that some great and important change was in contemplation. The greater the better. He hoped it would be a large and comprehensive measure; he hoped that the noble Duke, the inspiring genius of the Cabinet, was about to deal with the Corn-laws as he did with the Catholic question. He hoped the noble Duke was about to commence a campaign in legislation as useful and as important as any of those he had successfully carried on upon the continent of Europe. He hoped the noble Duke was about to begin a campaign in 1842 similar to that he carried through in 1829. The cases were parallel. Many of their Lordships, who were yesterday perhaps two hundred miles away from that spot, and were by the power of art and mechanical science enabled to reach the scene of their duties with such wonderful rapidity, little thought, while in the retirement of their country seats, that upon their arrival in town they were to be regaled with an invitation to consider the Corn-laws. It would be a great sacrifice to many noble Lords, even as it was in 1829, when they were called upon to swallow that large measure of Catholic Emancipation. He did not wish it to be supposed that he was one of those who considered the repeal of the Corn-laws as a nostrum for all the evils that were complained of. He had never stated that, nor did he believe it. But his opinion upon the Corn-law was, that of all the various causes which could be assigned for the evils that now prevailed in this country, there was no one cause that was anything like so influential in having produced them as the Corn-law. That was his opinion, but he did not say that even a large measure of alteration would remedy all those evils, nor, indeed, did he believe that all the evils were remediable by any means. He believed they had gone too far. He did not think that the country could go back in all respects to the state of commercial and manufacturing prosperity that had once prevailed. The decline of prosperity had not been sudden—it had been a gradual declension. Each 37 succeeding year had been worse than its predecessor; and even at the present moment, he had understood, from authority which he need not name, that there was not the slightest manifestation of improvement. The Government had gone on too long in an exclusive commercial system, and they could not now recover the position they had lost. But that was no reason why they should not do their best, and try to arrest the rapidity of that decadence that was going on. He had often urged their Lordships to look this question boldly in the face, and devise some remedy for the evils which the system had entailed. At last, not, of course, influenced by anything he had advanced, but by the importance of the subject—at last pressing itself irresistibly upon their minds, their Lordships did apply themselves to the question. And what was the consequence? A majority of the House had said to the late Government, you shall not be allowed to do this—you are the few, and we are the many, and we will do it ourselves. When be alluded to the great change that had recently taken place in the Cabinet, he was convinced, that the majority of that House, and the individuals composing that majority were not persons to think that it was of no consequence who were Members of the Government, and to say we must look to measures and not to persons; because he remembered, that about five months ago, at the opening of the first Session of the present Parliament, the noble Lord now President of the Board of Trade, presented an Address to her Majesty, containing a paragraph to this effect:—We feel it to be our duty humbly to represent to your Majesty, that it is essential to the satisfactory result of our deliberations, that your Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of the House and of the country, and respectfully to represent to your Majesty that that confidence is not reposed in the present advisers of your Majesty.That was a pretty pregnant proof that the majority sometimes looked to men as well as to measures. It was right so to do, and therefore he thought that great curiosity would be expressed to know what had been the cause of the important change that had taken place in the Cabinet within the last few days. He would repeat that the larger the proposed measure the better. Above all things, he would say, with his noble Friend "no sliding scale." The sliding scale was a principle 38 of protection, and the principle of protection was the principle of exclusion, and exclusion was inconsistent with the commercial prosperity of this country. Their Lordships must at once make up their minds — they must not oscillate between protection and non-protection. They must not hesitate—if they did, they would be only patching and darning the wretched rag of a garment in a mannner that would only render it more miserable and noxious. He presumed they would at no distant period be informed what the measure was to be. He trusted it would be large and efficient, and not framed upon the principle of protection. If it were framed upon such a principle it would fail in accomplishing the objects in view— the lowering the price of the first necessary of life, and encouraging a constant commercial intercourse between this country and those who had no other commodity to interchange with us but the raw produce of their own soil.
§ The Duke of Wellington:
My Lords, I wish to be permitted to say only a few words as to what the noble Earl seems to consider my want of consistency in having agreed to the paragraph relating to the Corn laws in her Majesty's Speech from the Throne, after having voted against his motion upon the same subject in a former Session of Parliament. I beg, my Lords, to decline saying a single word, or adverting to a single topic which might have the ' effect of suspending for a moment the good temper which so happily prevails in your Lordships' House on the present occasion. I beg leave, my Lords, not to enter into any detail at present on the measure which is intended to be submitted to the other House of Parliament by her Majesty's servants. That measure will come in time before your Lordships, when those who concur in bringing it forward will be able, I doubt not, to show that they have acted consistently, and will be able to give us reason as well for the retirement from office of the noble Duke to my right as for the acception of office by my noble Friend on my left. I think, on all these points, they will be enabled to give entire satisfaction to your Lordships and to the country. I do not think that I ought to say more to this House now, and, at least, I am sure that I cannot say more with any advantage to what seems to be the object of your Lordships, which is, that we should depart from this debate 39 Without acrimony of feeling, and with perfect unanimity.
The Duke of Buckingham
said he should satisfy, as far as possible, the curiosity of the noble Earl opposite. The noble Lords on the other side were aware of the opinions which he had ever expressed on the subject of the Corn-laws. Those opinions still remained the same, and totally unchanged. He had the misfortune to differ with the Cabinet on the measure which they had thought it their duty to bring forward in Parliament, and he had immediately felt it to be his duty to retire from the office he had held. By this conduct he had not forfeited the opinion he held from the country. Since he had the honour of holding a seat in the Cabinet he had not the misfortune of differing on any other point—and the Government might be assured that, although he differed from them on the details of this measure, and that he was determined to give his opposition to it, they should have on all other subjects his sincere and honest support,
§ Address agreed to.