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counties in which they resided, into the state of the agricultural interest, because he was certain that, were this attended to, it would, in most instances, be followed by the greatest benefit.
The Marquis of Camden said, he felt it his duty, from the first moment he came into the House, to present himself to its notice. He had yesterday attended at Maidstone, and he should be sorry to enter into a controversy with his noble friend opposite (Winchilsea), such as he was compelled to enter into in the last Session of Parliament, nor should he be seduced then to discuss whether more distress prevailed in the last year than in the year 1822; but he would say, that the distress now prevailing was not in any degree comparable to that which existed last year. If that were so, why should there not have been more outrages, while the people were said to be starving in the severity of winter, than now, when we enjoyed what was undeniably a genial autumn? The fact was, that what had taken place on the other side of the Channel had sent forth many evil-disposed spirits. He pitied the wretches who caused fires and broke machinery; but, if misery and hardship were the cause of these outrages, their pressure was more severe in the last than in the present season; and he, therefore, attributed these outrages to the spirit now abroad. He did not mean to say that there was any individual concerned in these proceedings who meant anything against the Constitution of the country; but he believed, in that part of Kent where the noble Earl resided, they were the consequences of a prejudice against the use of machinery, and not of distress. He believed that there were parts of Kent, as there were parts of other counties, in distress; and in some parts of that county there was an ad • ministration of the Poor-laws which was not wise. He did not suppose that so extensive an inquiry as was necessary could be had in a fortnight or three weeks; but he saw a spirit in the farmers, and he was sure it was in the gentry, which would induce every one to look to the management of their farms. He therefore thought, whether Parliament adopted any measures or not, that there would be a union of all classes to put down the outrages that prevailed. As to the conflagrations, he was sorry that the inhabitants of the county of Kent could be capable of devising or executing them; at the same time that
the manner in which they were effected showed that they were done more to excite terror than any other cause. The barns and stacks of all classes were burned, and the fires were not confined to those of harsh landlords or greedy overseers. Hitherto there had not been an adequate spirit of inquiry; but now, so anxious was the desire to investigate the causes—and he was sure the Government was convinced of the necessity of giving every assistance for the discovery of the offenders—that these excesses would very soon be put down. He trusted, that, ere long, the alarm of his neighbours would wear away, and the reputation of the county be freed from the odium at present brought upon it. He was sure that the best way to effect this would be for the yeomanry to come forward, and offer their services. He was one who thought that in times like these every one ought to do his utmost, and there was no one more desirous than he was to alleviate the distress that existed. As to the other topics of the King's Speech, he thought it would be more decorous not to enter upon them, and therefore he would not further detain their Lordships.
The Duke of Richmond said, it was net his intention to take up more than a very short portion of their Lordships' time, but he was anxious to take this opportunity of expressing a hope that Parliament would no longer delay—that it would not put off until it might, perhaps, be too late— an inquiry into the state of the labouring poor. He hoped the subject would be taken up with a view to a fair inquiry He assured their Lordships that he said this, not in the spirit of faction, for it was admitted by the noble Marquis (the Lordlieutenant of the county of Kent) that great distress did prevail in that county, though he had added that that distress was not so great in that particular county as it was last year. The noble Marquis seemed to think, that the outrages which existed in that county were not the result of the distress that prevailed. He (the Duke of Richmond) would not say what was the cause of those outrages; but whatever might be their origin, it could not be denied, that last Session the Tables of their Lordships' House were covered with petitions, complaining of the distresses of the labouring poor. The subject of those petitions their Lordships had not thought it necessary to take into consideration, and he believed that that circumstance had taught the labouring poor not to look to Parliament with that confidence which they had been accustomed to feel towards the Government and Legislature of the country. He believed a feeling did prevail amongst the labouring classes, that the upper classes were their foes, and not their friends. That this was a most serious error on the part of the labouring poor, he fully admitted. He knew that their Lordships, and the other House of Parliament, were the friends of the poor, and he knew that the cause of the delay of inquiry last Session was to be found, not in the indifference of Parliament to the poor, but to incredulity as to the extent of that distress; but, seeing what had since occurred, he must say, that it would be criminal to delay the matter any longer. The county of Kent had since then spoken in a language which was disgraceful; but, while he said this, and while he admitted, that the outrages to which he alluded should be put dawn with a strong hand,—for no distress would justify such violations of law,—he still must impress on their Lordships the necessity of no longer postponing a fair and full inquiry into the state of the labouring poor. For himself he would say, that he felt no alarm for the ultimate state of the country, for he knew that Englishmen possessed too much good sense, and too much devotion to the institutions of their country,—too much loyal attachment to the person of their gracious Sovereign, who had that day, for the first time, met his people at the opening of a new Parliament, and who, from the moment of his accession to the Throne, had on every occasion evinced the most paternal regard for the interests of his subjects— Englishmen, he repeated, possessed too much wisdom and good feeling—to allow themselves to be led away into errors dangerous to the security of the State. Whatever was the condition of the country at present, there could exist no reason for alarm as to the ultimate result; but it was necessary that the inquiry to which he alluded should not be further delayed. He spoke this, not with a view of creating any excitement out of doors, but to impress on their Lordships that conviction which he strongly felt, of the necessity that the inquiry should be speedy. On this he trusted their Lordships would be unanimous, and while they put down dangerous acts of riot and insubordination by force, if necessary, they should not delay adopting
such other measures as might tend, by relieving the distresses of the poor, to restore to them that confidence in the Legislature which was so necessary to the tranquillity of the country. He would not offer any opposition to the Address moved by the noble Marquis, but he must express a hope, that before the close of the debate, he should hear from the noble Duke (Wellington) that he should be ready with some measure, having for its object that to which he had adverted. It was necessary to the tranquillity of the country, during the winter now coming on, that the confidence of the labouring classes in the Legislature should be restored by the adoption of every possible means to improve their condition.
The Earl of Darnley said, he would detain their Lordships only a few moments. The state of the country had, in the course of the last Session, been several times the subject of discussion, and on these occasions, believing as he did that the distress which prevailed was only partial, he had deprecated any exaggerated statements respecting it, and had also opposed the motion for inquiry, on , the ground that it would tend to no practical good. With respect to the nocturnal outrages which had since taken place in the county of Kent, he was of opinion that they ought to be put down by the strictest application of the law; and when that was done, he thought it would not be unbecoming their Lordships to make the experiment of an inquiry as to the cause of the distress, and the condition of the poor. He himself had been visited by some of those nocturnal depredators, and he agreed with his noble friend in believing that none of the nightly outrages that now disgraced the county of Kent were committed by the industrious working classes of that county. They were the work of, he believed, persons who did not belong to the county. He wished to take that opportunity of correcting a mis-statement which had been made in one of the Kent news-papers, and which had been copied from that into most of the London papers. It was stated, that on the occasion when some of his property was burned, the peasantry looked on without any attempt to assist in extinguishing the Hames, but that they rather seemed to enjoy the spectacle. Now, the very reverse was the fact. He had suffered only to a trifling extent; but so far were the
peasantry from refusing their aid, that not only his own labourers, but those of others came and voluntarily assisted and worked, heart and hand, to put out the flames. Some of them were for nearly two hours up to their middle in wateron the occasion. He was not present himself, but his son and others who were, and on whose testimony he could implicitly rely, stated the fact, that these men worked with the greatest alacrity, and without, as far as he knew, any hope of reward. It was a great satisfaction to him afterwards to address sixty of them after they had been paid for their exertions, and to thank them for their excellent conduct on the occasion. , He felt it necessary to say this, in justice to the character of the peasantry, and in corroboration of what had been stated by his noble friend, that the peasantry of Kent were not the authors of those outrages. He thought that this was also a proof that the noble Duke (Richmond) was not correct in supposing that these outrages were the result of there having been no inquiry last Session into the condition of the labouring poor. He would admit that distress did exist in some parts of the country, but it was not general. Whatever was its extent, one fertile source of misery might be found in the very erroneous system of paying the wages of the pbor out of the parochial rates. He would admit that distress existed,and he thought one of the first steps foritsrelief—and that whichhebelievedthe noble Duke was disposed to take—was reduction of the public expenditure. Of this reduction he believed the Sovereign, who for the first time appeared there today to open a new Parliament, and who on every occasion since his accession had done that which would well deserve for him the title of the patriot King, was disposed to set the first example. He trusted it would be so, and that his Majesty's views in this respect would be ably seconded by that House; for he was sure that their Lordships would not obtain that respect which for the sake of the country it was so necessary they should command, if they did not earnestly set themselves about those necessary reforms, which must begin with the upper classes to be generally beneficial.
The Duke of Leinster said, that he had just come from that portion of the United Kingdom, to the condition of which allusion had been made in the Speech from
the Throne; and he was anxious to say a word as to the feeling which existed there on the subject of the repeal of the Union. That feeling had not, he believed, yet gained much ground in Ireland. He was present a few days ago at a private meeting of gentlemen deeply interested in the prosperity of that country, which he had felt it necessary to call together, and it was the general opinion of those present, that the repeal of the Union was a measure which would be most injurious in its effects to both countries. But while he expressed his opinion, that the feeling in favour of that measure had not proceeded to any great extent, he must say, that unless Government adopted some measures,—he did not mean strong measures, but some plan for the employment of the poor—some plan to reform the Grand-Jury system, and other matters to which he would not, at that moment, allude more in detail,—the project for a repeal of the Union would get a-head, so that it would be extremely difficult to deal with it. He repeated, he would not, at that moment, point out in detail the particular plans which it would be advisable to adopt; but he had no doubt whatever, that some plan for the relief of Ireland, by giving employment to the poor, ought instantly to be devised.
Lord Farnham said, that the present moment was one of the most important at which a Parliament had met for many years, whether considered with relation to our foreign or domestic policy. There were dangers from within and without, and the best way to avert them was to look them boldly in the face. The Speech from the Throne informed them that this country continued on terms of peace and amity with the several Powers of Europe; but who were the Powers of Europe at present? He knew that the illustrious Prince who now sat on the Throne of Franee was strongly disposed to continue the relations of peace and amity with this country; but who knew whether affairs in that country might not take a turn which would oblige its Sovereign to adopt measures towards this country which he himself could not approve 1 As to Belgium, to which the Royal Speech had adverted, and which had been alluded to by the noble Marquis who moved the Address, were we not a party to treaties respecting that country, which might bring us into unpleasant collision with some of the Powers of Europe? But when all Europe was in arras, was England to be the only one with her bosom open? He agreed with other noble Lords in thinking that there could be no ultimate fear for this country if her energies were well directed. The greatest difficulty with which we had to contend arose from the state of our finances. Taxation was already stretched as far as it eould go, in relation to our agriculture, our commerce, and manufactures. These interests were burthened with as much as any, and more than some of them, could well bear. In fact, the landed interest was too much burthened, while another, for the support of which all the others had hitherto been too heavily taxed, was comparatively without any burthen, he meant the monied interest. He would have that interest pay its share by a tax on all income derived from money. He meant not the Funds alone, but on mortgages and other species of annuities, which were almost untaxed, while land was borne down with taxation of every kind. He would suppose a man with an estate of 10,000/. a year, of which 5,000/. was paid to a mortgagee; this mortgagee received hisincome without deduction, whatever was the change in the value of land, while the owner of the estate had to pay so many demands in taxes, tithes, and poor-rates, out of the remaining produce of his estate, that he had not a nett income of more than 2.000L a-year. This was an inequality of pressure which ought never to have been inflicted, and ought not now to be continued. The land, therefore, should be relieved from some of its burthens, and they should be transferred to those who were better able to bear them. This was a question which would not be met by economy. Economy was necessary, and would do good as far as it went; but they must go further. They must go back, and alter the system of taxation. The country was called upon to make extra exertion,—to put itself in a firm and imposing attitude,—when they saw that in several of the counties around them there was a disposition to upset all that was near and dear to man. As to what had been said by the noble Duke (Leinster) on the state of Ireland, he would only observe, that in what was passing in that country their Lordships were now reaping the bitter fruits of their own conduct, in having yielded too much
to popular clamour. The consequences were now before them in the cry which was raised for a repeal of the Union. jje agreed in the opinion that the feeli n favour of that measure was not general in the country, but he could not conceal the fact, that there was in Ireland a growing want of confidence in the Legislature. The consequence partly of the resentment and indignation at the course which his Majesty's Ministers had pursued two Sessions ago, on the important subject then brought forward. It was necessary that this feeling should be removed by the future conduct of the Legislature. As to the Union, he was one of those who, in Ireland, had most strenuously opposed the carrying of that measure. He thought it was unjust, and he knew the base and unconstitutional means which were resorted to to carry it through; but while he said this he must also declare, that to the way in which the repeal of that measure was sought to be brought about, and indeed to the repeal itself, in whatever way it might be proposed to effect it, he was decidedly opposed; because he felt if that measure were carried, it would sever the connexion between the two countries, and tend to the ruin of both. He hoped that the feeling which existed on this subject in the minds of some persons in Ireland would give way to a more rational way of thinking. He hoped, too, that the Legislature would act in such a manner as would tend to create renewed confidence on the part of the people in Ireland, that it would, above all things, shew no indifference with regard to Irish business, no readiness to yield to the language of intimidation, and the agitation for the repeal of the Union would, he was convinced, soon die away.
Earl Grey spoke to the followingeffect:— I feel great satisfaction that I gave way to the two noble Lords who have preceded me, for I have heard, with much pleasure and full concurrence, what fell from the noble Duke behind me; and I heard also, with similar feelings, a considerable portion of what was delivered by the noble Lord who followed him, though differing from that noble Lord in a great many of those observations which he made while addressing himself to the more extended and general question, which the Speech from the Throne has raised for the consideration of your Lordships and the other branch of the Legislature. I entirely agree with the noble Lord who spoke last, that for centuries Parliament has not been called on to deliberate respecting matters of greater importance, or perhaps of greater danger, than now present themselves. They are circumstances which will demand at our hands all the caution—all the wisdom—all the fortitude—that we can possibly exercise. But I have, at the same time, a full confidence that, with the stedfast and honest application of the qualities which have belonged to the English nation and Legislature, those dangers will disappear, and those questions which all men must feel to be of the deepest importance, will be decided in a manner becoming their momentous character, and calculated to avert the dangers by which we are surrounded. I have, I repeat it, the fullest confidence in the good sense, the honourable feeling, and the unabated loyalty of the people of England. I have no doubt, that if both Mouses are forced to do their duty, there will be nothing to fear for the safety, honour, and happiness, of the British nation. Had I risen earlier, I perhaps should not have said even so much as maybe comprised within the few brief observations which I propose to address to the House, and which I intend to commence, by adverting, in the first place, to that topic which I conceive to be of the very first importance— I mean the state of Ireland. I have no hesitation whatever in adopting, with reference to that condition, the language which your Lordships have this day heard from the Throne. I do partake most fully in those 'feelings of " grief and indignation" expressed by our most gracious Monarch in reference to those measures which have been adopted in another part of the empire, for the purpose of alienating the affections of a brave and loyal people in a manner that must lead to the separation of the two countries, and. finally to the certain destruction of both. Concurring, my Lords, most fully in those sentiments, I need not, I trust, add, that 1 shall most cordially, as far as my humble means admit, lend my assistance to any proceedings which his Majesty's Ministers may find it necessary to adopt, consistent with the spirit of the sentiments just expressed from the Throne, and in conformity with the fundamental principles of the laws and Constitution of the country. I make this qualification, because, upon the S| il stands, I would desire especially as I find in it
new laws. I think the laws as they exist at present, ought to be put in force, and I am deeply impressed with the conviction that they will, if energetically executed, be found abundantly sufficient to meet the present exigency—to accomplish the proper and effectual punishment of those who would divert the subject from his allegiance, and to terminate those animosities and mistaken views of the true interests of that country from which those disturbances take their rise. Regarding, then, the intentions of his Majesty's Government, as I find thern this day developed in the Speech from the Throne, I confess I look with great confidence to the course to be followed by the noble Duke behind me (Leinster); I look also with great confidence to the exercise of that sense and discretion which I trust will not be wanting in the sound and influential portion of the people of Ireland; and I sincerely rejoice that that noble Duke, taking the lead which naturally belongs to his great name, and availing himself of the ascendancy which attaches to his station in that country, has put himself at the head of that part of the population of Ireland in which the greatest influence and the soundest judgment may be expected to reside. I rejoice that the noble Duke has put himself at the head of those who have resolved to stem the torrent which, if not energetically and decisively resisted, will lead to the destruction of all that man in a social state could deem worth contending for. 1 would therefore entreat and exhort the noble Duke to place himself at the head of the sound part of the community, and save the country from those fearful calamities with which others, who seek to divert the people from their allegiance, would inevitably superinduce. But inorder to save the country, what is to be done must be done quickly and decisively. In saying all this, howe° er, my Lords, I find it impossible to agree with the noble Lord who spoke last, that circumstances which have recently occurred go at all to fulfil his prophecy of the Session before the last. I can never agree with him, or with any man, that the great and healing measure of that Session could have been productive of any such effects. That measure was one to which I have ever given my most cordial and devoted support through good and through evil report—for the advancement of that measure I made sacrifices of which it does not now become me to speak, for I made