Page images
PDF

time his Majesty, in his Speech from the Tnrone, expressed his sorrow at the unfortunate state of the country. He now begged to remind the noble Earl, at present at the head of his Majesty's Government, that when the Address in answer to the Speech was moved, that noble Ear! desired that some expressions of a stronger nature than those inserted in the Address should be employed, for he asserted that those expressions, strong as they were, were not strong enough to express the feelings of that House on the subject of the distress of the country. He was satisfied that it was quite impossible to find a stronger instance than that he had just alluded to of the fact, that when the agricultural interest was depressed, the manufactures inevitably suffered along with it. He wished now to mention another circumstance, not less important than the flourishing or decayed state of the trade of the country—he meant that of the danger of famine if the agriculture of our country should be suffered to go without its full support. That danger had existed when agriculture was in a better state than now. In 1817, if we had had Cornlaws such as those now in force, that evil would have happened, for, instead of corn being 105s. a quarter, he believed that a great part of the people would have perished from famine. The same causes which produced a scarcity in England would produce it abroad. We ought not, therefore, to trust to the foreign market, buttoencourage our own agriculture generally, so that the deficiencies of one year might be supplied by the abundance of another. He was sure, that unless care was taken to accomplish this object, some dreadful famine would fall on the country, and the fault would be on their Lordships' heads if that occurrence was not fully provided against. In the course of his professional life he hail become a little acquainted with the matter of Exchanges, and, from what he had learnt, he was of opinion, and he believed others agreed with him, that the exchanges of the country ought to be kept as uniform as possible; at least, that they ought not to be allowed to go against us. That which he regarded as an evil—the exchanges being against us—was a matter always determined by the importation or non-importation of corn. During two of the years which he had before referred to, when corn had been imported, the exchanges were

against us, in one instance, to as great an amount as 6 per cent; when the importation ceased, the exchanges rose, and in a very short time were actually in our favour. In his opinion, protection ought equal!? to be given to every species of labour; and he was quite sure, that in any measure that would have that tendency the people would find as great a blessing as the Legislature could bestow. The sarce cause which depressed the agriculture! interest deprived a part of the industry of the country of that protection which it deserved. The agricultural produce of this country was, in consequence, nc! equal now to what it had been in some former years. In what he had already stated he had not mentioned all the causes of ihe present distress, but all thosethinp which were usually described astbecasse* of it. He asked "their Lordships to elam ine all these, to see whether tbey were all, or whether there were others, that contributed to produce the distress, and whether that distress was what it was described to be. He should rejoice if it turned out that the distress which was stated toed* did not reallyexist, for such a circumstance would be the best answer to those people who availed themselves of the distresses of the country to commit the excesses of which they had lately heard so much. Ht would not diminish the security of the fund-holder; be would not deny that person's just demands upon the State; but he was persuaded that if things went on as they did, though the fund-holder might now have his full dividend, the security of his property would be worth nothing. He would not appeal to their Lordships on the score of interest—that would be the last motive which would influence their conduct; their only motive was, to exert themselves in the best manner possible for the good of the country for the protection of others, not of themselves. Their Lordships held their high situation to protect the interests of the poor, who could not protect themselves; for their sakes he implored the House to adopt some course of inquiry, in order to discover some means of remedy for present evils. If a course better than that he now pointed out could be shown, he was not so bigotted to his of" opinions, nor so prejudiced against those of other people, as to refuse to yield W own to a better plan. All he wanted was some effort to relieve the country from i<s present distresses. For that he appw^

to their Lordships—for that he appealed to his Majesty's Ministers; and he could not make that appeal in language so eloquent, nor in any so likely to affect them, as that which had been used by one of themselves. Sir James Graham, in a most excellent pamphlet lately published, had uaed these striking expressions, addressed to another Government, indeed,butequally as applicable to the present Government as to any other. The noble Lord then read the following extract:—

"Let me entreat them to depart from their usual course of awaiting the event: a great and an immediate effort is necessary to burst the cord now drawn so tight around them ;—if they hesitate, they will be entangled in such complicated difficulties, that resistance and escape will soon be alike impossible."

His Lordship would not further weary the patience of their Lordships, which he had already tried at so great length, but returning them histhanks for the attention they had vouchsafed to shew him, would at once submit the Motion of which he had given notice—" That a Committee should be appointed instantly to inquire into the causes of the present state of the Distress in the Country, and, as far as might be, into the nature of the remedies to be adopted."

The Earl of Rosebery, having been a warm supporter of a Motion made by a noble Duke (Richmond) on a subject somewhat analogous to this, although between the two there was certainly a broad line of distinction, and although the noble Baron opposite had not stated whether he moved for a Select Comm ittee, or fora Committee of the whole House, [Lord Wynford signified that he left that to their Lordships]; but putting that difference out of the question, having been in the course of the last Session a warm supporter of a Motion of this sort, he felt bound now to state why he dissented from the present Motion; and, in doing so, he should declare that he was not conscious of any inconsistency in conduct or opinion, for he asserted then, as he believed now, that the strictest inquiry should be made into the causes of these periodical returns of national distress. The first reason on which he objected to the present Motion was, that a few days ago a Committee on the Poor-laws had been appointed; and thinking, as he did, that the mal-adminiitration of those laws was a principal

grievance of the people, and therefore one of the causes of the present distress, by bringing a redundancy of population into the market, to compete for employment, and by causing a constant interference with labour, breaking the spirit of the labourer and destroying all his feelings of independence, inducing him no longer to trust to himself and his own industry— thinking this, he could not but feel satisfied, that if that Committee did its duty, and the Government did their duty (of which he had no doubt), by co-operating with the Committee, the evils now in existence would progressively, and he trusted not with a slow pace, be removed. It must be a subject of great grief to their Lordships that the state of the labouring classes was, in this as in many other countries, deteriorated within the last few years; and what was of more importance, the depression of these classes was co-existent with the elevation of their minds by the diffusion of knowledge, and by the vast strides which education and the power of reading had made within the same time. He therefore thought, that the time was come when every man who bad a heart to feel, or an understanding to comprehend this state of things, must be filled with the deepest anxiety to discover the cause of the present evils, and to apply a proper remedy. The first objection he made to the present Motion was, that the necessity of it was in a manner superseded by the committee having been appointed to which he had already alluded. The second objection which he had to this Motion arose from the recent change made in the Government, and from the circumstances which had led to that change, and from the pledges which his Majesty's Ministers had made tothe Parliament and tothe country. The noble Earl now at the head of the Government had, immediately upon his taking Offire, —on the very first night of his appearing there in his present station, not only agreed to a Motion made by the noble Marquis for a Committee on the state of the Poor-laws, but he made a most solemn declaration, that he and his colleagues would take the whole state of the country into their most serious, unceasing, and deliberate consideration; that they would use their utmost efforts to relieve the country, as far as retrenchment could effect its relief, and, as far as their power went, would do their ut

[ocr errors]

most to restore present conbdence, and to lay the best foundation for the future prosperity of the country by Reform in Parliament, and in every other department of the State. Under these circumstances, he asked whether it was fair and courteous to persons who had so recently been called to fill their situations to interfere iu this manner, not only with the duties they were called on to discharge, but with those which they had expressed themselves willing aud ready to enter upon? >Such an interference consumed time and disturbed their !a!>ours by compelling them to attend a Committee, when they had as good, if not better, means of examination in their hands, and when they might, in a few weeks, state their own plans to the House. It appeared to him that such a course, so far from accelerating that relief, which every man desired to see given, would be destroying much of the good that might l>e derived from the Committee already appointed. The noble Lord had stated, that not merely the state of the law with reference to the poor ought to be considered, but that the distress was so general and prevalent as to demand immediate attention, and required immediate relief. He agreed with the noble liaron, that the present administration of the Poor-laws was an evil of itself, and the cause of many others—that the present distress was very extensive and dreadful, and that thesu matters ought to be the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. Me should he sorry, either by what he said, or by the vote he should give, to stirle a parliamentary inquiry; but he thought it would be better for them to wait, since ho believed it was in the power of Ministers to submit a more effectual measure than could now be submitted by any noble Lord in particular. He only wished that the inquiry should be postponed, not altogether rejected. It was not his iutention to trespass longer on the attention of their Lordships, if the noble Lord would withdraw his Motion; but as he found that was not likely, he should take the liberty of saving a few words on some topics introduced by that noble Lord. The noble Lord seemed to imagine, that the right hou. Gentleman now no more, had asserted that the capital of this country was locked up in strong boxes, or lent out to usury. Although he did not mean to enter into the circumstances of the distress of the country, he had no hesitation in

repeating what he

that one of the causes tna: eontrras to the distress had been the amsari improper, and incorrveniem dstrituca the capital of the country; ma E -ma require more than the hnagmaicn. s. i right bon. individual alluded to. a c pose that any part of the capiu. J country was hoard ■ed in surar sea It was an idea impossible to be bey? and certainly one which that npr :i Gentleman had never entertained, "j noble Lord had gooe at length isc J subject of rents, and had stated tii: *r throughout the kingdom had Buhtl lowered since the Peace; and he 3 been understood to say, that if r»were more lowered, the dirties ~ might ensue to the landlords, especa. those on whom the encumbrances of r antecedent period were still cbxzz would be such as they could not ten His belief was, that rents had been m siderably lowered, but he would not: the length of saying, that they had be: universally lowered to that level whicis price of produce and the expense of hrt ing made necessary, and he did not ays in the inference that the distress of £ landlords was such as they could not her for if the farmer was unable to pay t& present rents, they must be reduced v the price of produce. At the same tm he must be allowed to say, that in hs judgment the distress among the agrkiiltural population did not arise from th high state of the rents. He believed there might be some particular instance in which distress arose from that cause, but he believed also, that distress W greatest where low wages existed from the competition of the labourers, arising ffl» the excess in the number of labourers above the demand for them— an excess which was mainly attributable to the miladministration of the Poor-laws. In reference to the general internal state of the country, and, perhaps, more particularly with respect to the observations of the noble Lord with regard to the increase «' crime, he could not dose the few observations he had to make without adrerttoe; to the state of the Game-lavs. He convinced that the Game-laws of Enzted demoralised the people, whik no r°°^ was obtained from their continuing!. They had had and thev now had a jrest tendency to produce ill will and enmity where formerly there existed respect; «*l

,y led., moreover, to habits of violence, -i.^a roving and predatory character, and j^ased a disposition to tumult,, to which ^jme of the scenes recently acted in dif,.r , ,ent parts of the country might be attriited. He was sorry to say, that their . ^ ordships were responsible for this state "the law, for more than once a bill had ^aen brought from the other House with '* view to place the Game-laws on an uni'jrm, rational, and sound principle; but hese bills had always been thrown out or

— njuriously modified, by their Lordships. ■ • Vs V\e saw by the votes of the other House

"^vichat a bill on this subject had lately been ^introduced with enactments similar to those ? which had formerly passed that House, - he trusted, that this Session would not

- i~ pass away without a total alteration of sz those laws—an alteration from which he f: anticipated the most beneficial results to

the peace, the happiness, and the tran3: quillity of the people. He should trans:tr gress the rule he had laid down if he did ■xi more than state, that he opposed this Motion because a committee on the most .-, important part of it was now sitting. He felt the greatest confidence in the rectis tude of the feelings of the noble Lord now at the head of the Government. He believed that the Ministers would co-operate with the Parliament, and do not only as much as Parliament required, but more; and would lend their utmost ability, and all their faculties, to ascertain the causes of the distress—a matter more easy than to discover a remedy. He believed that they would do their utmost to discover v and apply a remedy to existing evils ; and if the noble Lord would withdraw his Motion its object might be better accomplished by the Committee already granted.

The Earl of Eldon said, that their Lordships would perhaps be surprised to hear that, timid as he generally was in coming to a decision, he was now fully and deeply impressed with a sense of the necessity that existed for a parliamentary inquiry into the causes of the distress which pervaded the country. Whether he was right or wrong in the conviction which he entertained, he would not pretend to say; but having such a conviction as he had, he felt compelled to give his consent to the Motion of his noble and learned friend for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the causes of the present lamentable condition of the country. Some two or three years ago several dif

ferent causes were assigned for the nature of the distress which then prevailed. The first was stated, in no less important a document than, a King's Speech, to be the nature of the season, over which it was alleged that the Government had no control—a truth as obvious as any that was ever uttered either in that House or any where else. Their Lordships were also informed, in the same document that other causes were in existence; but they were neither told what those causes were, nor permitted to inquire into their extent and magnitude. His noble and learned friend had stated in his speech various causes for the present distress. He was sorry to say, that he differed from his noble and learned friend as to the capability of many of those causes to produce the results which he attributed to them; but in any assembly less dignified than that of their Lordships, the difference of opinion between himself and his noble and learned friend, would be considered as a reason, not for prohibiting, but for promoting inquiry. With respect to what had been said on the subject of machinery, he would only observe that he could not agree either with those who called upon the Government to alter the state of the law regarding machinery, or with those who recommended them to put an end to the employment of it. Let their Lordships consider for moment what would be the consequence of following such impolitic advice. Till machinery was invented, arms and hands were the implements with which men worked. Arms and hands were found, however, unable to compete with machinery, and machinery was in consequence employed, not only in our own country, but also in foreign nations. Now, if we were to put an end to the employment of it, and to return to the labour of arras and hands alone, the consequence would be, that the arms and hands of foreign nations, supported also by foreign machinery, would supply our markets with goods, and reduce our labourers to a worse condition even than that in which they were involved at present. He hoped that it would not be supposed that in supporting the present Motion, he was either casting a censure upon the late, or expressing distrust of the present, Administration. He was doing neither: he was only expressing his conviction that the state of the country demanded parliamentary inquiry, and under that conviction he should

support the present Motion, which he con- i locked up in a strong- box: hot then lfei ceived was rather calculated to assist than strong box is as larg* as the Island ■ embarrass the consultations of the new Great Britain,and in that strong box I b%

they will long remain. The noble Lor: quoted, I think, part of a speech mate h Sir Robert Peel in another piaee. tpjuar his opinion upon that point; hat he fit not acted quite fairly by that speech, h he has given us part of a line out of t. and has omitted tbe remainder of it. H:

Administration.

Lord King spoke as follows:—The noble
and learned Lord,—for learned I must
call him, and learned I have no doubt he
is in his own profession, but learned he is
not in the information which is wanted
here, or at least he has thrown no light on
the opaque atmosphere which a learned , says, " Sir Robert

that its capital
box," and
pound note
its fastenings
speech of

r the bar told us pervaded this House,—the noble and learned Lord has moved for a committee to inquire into the causes of the distress which now pervades the country, to devise remedies for it, and to report its opinion thereapon to the House. Taking the view of this qaeauoo that the noble and learned Lord has taken. I am surprised that he does not see that the committee for which he awves w-oald. it granted to him, be aoth!~; aaor* than a mere ijnis fntmms.— that tt wvxt*i ca t

s axto conjure h cw. if I recollert Use FeeTs correct*,

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Now, Sir Robert followed up the declaration which m noble and learned Lord just quoted y putting down that verv circnlaiion wtc the noble and learned Lord reconuDeaffs Another p»rt of the noble and learas Lard's political eeonomv » embodied x i complaint, that the Russians, the Das. and the Americans are all running n» bis in the production of manufactures. tbe noble and learned Lord know w they are running ns hard? If he I will tell him. The reason is. we will not take their raw pt-odoct t return for onr manufactures. Tbe w* and learned Lord says, that tbe reasoa* their producing manufactures is. beca» they pay for their thmjrs in paper; ht the reason is, that we compel them to produce themselves, rnstesrf" it into our warehouses, and reio ured poods in exciuEP Does tbe noble and learned Lord snpw* that any thhur is civen for nothing? D"8 be suppose that they will grve ns ri*f raw produce without receiving anv thin? in return? Their raw prod nee n>vft w paid for in manufactured roods: we rt not permitted to take tberr raw prodncrand therefore thev will not take oar Mi* factnred produce. That is the »sab into which all the deriders of theory, v*5 an generally the least of practical men and the most of theorists that can hr fr*^ are always falling; thev never will nadS"

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »