§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
presented a large number of petitions, complaining of agricultural distress, and praying legislative relief. The noble Earl said, that, although he presented these petitions, as he was in duty bound to do, complaining, as they justly did, of agricultural distress, and the backwardness of Her Majesty's Government in relieving that distress, he felt it to be impossible for him to hold out any hope to the petitioners that they would be listened to for any useful purpose by Her Majesty's Ministers. All the attempts hitherto made to obtain some alleviation of the sufferings of the agricultural interest had been unsuccessful, being treated by them with indifference or neglect. This was exemplified in the course taken with respect to the Budget. In his original statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed the remission of the duty on agricultural seeds, as well as the adoption by the State of half the expense of maintaining pauper lunatics. This was not much, certainly, when it came to be considered how slight the first was, and how unreasonable it was, as regarded the second, that the land alone should be burdened with the support of lunatic asylums for the poor; still it was a step, though a small one, in the right direction. But, in the second and amended Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the ground that the agricultural interest had not received these boons in a sufficiently thankful manner—that they had not been "sufficiently appreciated"—now proposed to withdraw them altogether. He did not know what the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant, or what he expected; whether he expected the House of Commons would go down on their knees to thank him, or the agricultural interest would present him with a memorial for what he had done? Whether, however, it was from temper, or whether it was to pass a bad Parliamentary joke, he could not say; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in point of fact, withdrawn the only parts of his financial plan which were in unison with the recommendation contained in Her Majesty's Speech at the opening of Parliament, and, by so withdrawing them, had shown the animus of the Government to which he belonged against the class in question—a class to which the country owed more than 1352 any other. Why Her Majesty's Government, however, should entertain such a feeling, or why take such a course, he could not fancy; but it was well at least for the agriculturists to know what they had to expect from those at present in power in this country.
§ Petition read, and ordered to lie on the table.