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Parliamentary Debates

During the Sixth Session of the Fourth Parliament of the

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Kingdom of Great Britain the Twenty-first, appointed to meet at Westminster, the Seventh Day of January, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twelve, in the Fiftya second Year of the Reign of His Majesty King GEORGE the Third.

HOUSE OF COMMONS. | merce; and that the Petitioners have
Tuesday, March 17, 1812.

been kept at restricted employ by the va

rious speculations which have been carried PETITION FROM THE FRAME WORK on by their employers, in the hope that KNITTERS OF LEICESTER AGAINST THE the Orders in Council would be repealed, ORDERS IN COUNCIL.) Mr. Samuel Smith and that ultimately a good understanding presented a Petition from the Frame Work might be brought about between this Koitters of Leicester, praying for the Re. country and America ; and that, from this, peal of the Orders in Council, in as far as it is clear that the measure prayed for is regarded America, and also against the the last hope of the Petitioners; and, renewal of the East India Company's though they would not presume to dictate charter. The hon. member assured the to the House, yet they cannot but conHouse, that the present Petitioners had sider America as placed by the bellige. uniformly conducted themselves in the rents in a most critical situation, and, as a most orderly and becoming manner, and war with one of the contending powers now came to the House, praying that the may be the result, a repeal of the Orders final stab might not, by a war with Ame- would, in fact, be a stumbling-block to rica, be a ruin to their manufactures. The France, and America would probably present Petition was signed by 11,000 open her ports to our vessels, and throw persons.

herself on our protection ; and that the · Mr. Babington concurred in bearing Petitioners see with much concern the testimony to the temperate and orderly charter of the East India Company about conduct of the manufacturers in Leices- to be renewed, seeing they engross the ter hire, who cast their eyes only to that whole of the trade to the Eastern seas, House for relief. They now trusted to the without any advantage to the country, but wisdom of that House to avert from them, | only to themselves ; and praying the in the words of their Petition, the greatest House to take their Petition into early of all calamities, starvation in a land of and serious consideration, and to adopt plenty.

such measures thereon as to them shall The Petition was then read, setting seem meet." forth “ That the Petitioners feel them Ordered to lie upon the table. selves sorely aggrieved on account of the sad depression in their trade: and that it l PETITION FROM BelPAST RESPECTING most clearly appears to them that the Oro Coin.) Lord Castlereagh presented a Peders in Council, as they relate to America, tition from the inhabitants of the town and are the cause of this falling off of our com- neighbourhood of Belfast, setting forth, (VOL. XXII.)

(B)

“ That the Petitioners have suffered, and | nience arose from the present practice in continue to suffer, much inconvenience Ireland. and expence in their dealings, arising The Petition was then brought up and from the excessive price and scarcity of read, and was ordered to lie on the table. guineas : and praying, that they may be put on the same looting with Great Briat Golb COIN AND BANK Note AMENDtain, in any future Bill which may be MENT Bitz.] The Chancellor of the Era introduced into parliament respecting chequer rose for the purpose of moving, payments in specie." The noble lord that the act of last session, making Bank said, that when the Bill passed last ses Notes a legal tender, in certain cases, be sion, he had opposed its being then ex- contined under certain amendments, and tended to Ireland, because there were that its provisions be extended to Ireland. scarcely any Irish members at that tinie It was not necessary, he observed, in this in attendance at the House; and it would stage of thre proceeding, to make many not have been right to pass an act of that observations, but looking back to the dismomentous importance, and to make it cussion that took place last session when binding on Ireland, in the absence of al- be introduced a similar measure, he was most all its representatives. Since that time, aware that the Bill (if the House permitted however, goineas bad become so scarce bin to bring it in), would not pass withthere, that they could not be procured un- out occasioning very considerable discusder 4s. 6d. and 58. premium, making an in- sions. He would shortly state the course crease of 25 per cent. besides the time lost, which he would propose the House to and trouble acquired by those who had ab- 1 adopt on the present occasion. He had solute occasion for them. He was glad to no intention whatever of hurrying the Bill understand that his right hon. frietid (the through the House, as 'many gentlemen Chancellor of the Exchequer) intended members for Ireland were at present nein the Bifl which he was this night to move cessarily engaged in that kingdom, and for leave to bring in, to continue the act from the nature of their engagements at of last session, to extend the provisions of the different assizes would not be enabled it to Ireland; but he still thought he was to attend the discussions for some time; oply fulfilling his duty in bringing for- he should therefore propose to read the ward this Petition, which had been trans. Bill a first and second time before the ho. mitted to him from an apprehension that lidays, to have it printed, and then to ap. such was not to be the case. The high point some day after the recess for the premium for guineas bad pressed very commitment of it, in order that gentlemen hard on such tenants as were obliged to from Ireland might be present at the dispay in gold, by rendering it difficult to cussion of the various provisions. He procure the cash for their rents in time. would now barely state the nature of the Indeed, under such circumstances, the circumstances which induced him to recountry could not have long carried on commend the continuance of the measure. any branch of business, had it not been He did not intend to make any other al. for the bumanity and liberal sentiments of teration in the provisions, further than exthe greatest part of the landlords. But tending the operation of the Bill to Irethere were still some exceptions, which land, and providing that payments of Bank occasioned individual oppression, and it notes into court, out of court, and in prowas the object of the Petition to remove cess of law, should be deemed legal paysuch.

ments. Since the passing of the last Bill, Mr. Wellesley Pole agreed that there he had ascertained that in the courts of would be great injustice, if the enactments King's bench, Common Pleas, and Ex. of the Bill, which had been passed as ap- chequer, there had been but three actions plicable to England, during ihe last year, brought on the question of legality of were not now extended to Ireland. He tender. One was an action of replevin was happy, therefore, that his right hon. tried before lord Ellenborough, where a friend, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) tender in Bank notes was proved ; but in had determined to extend the provisions the present state of the law that was of the Bill which he was about to move deemed not a sufficient answer to the acfor leave to bring in, to Ireland, thereby tion. The other was an action of my lord communicating the same advantages to King against one of his tenants for the one part of the empire as to the other. small sum of 451. the object of which was

Mr. Stewart allowed, that great inconve- evidently merely to try the question : the

money was paid into court and the pro- | expressing his astonishment at the very ceedings were stayed, the noble lord hav- flippant manner in which the right hon. ing previously given notice that he would gentleman had introduced and argued the not receive notes, as legal tender. The present motion, when the question was acatber was also an action for a small sum tually neither more nor less than that of wbich was paid into court, and no subse making bank-notes a legal tender. The quent proceedings took place. These language of the right hon. gentloman when were the only cases which he had been the Bill was originally brought forward, able to find upon record. According to towards the close of last session, and the provisions of the Bill, it did not occa. on the spur of a pretended occasion, was sion any impediment to prosecutions if the very different. He then said it was merely publie bad been inclined to quarrel with an experiment called for to meet a partiit, therefore he was justified in saying that cular exigency, and it was generally unthere was no great disposition to resist the derstood that the Bill was not intended to measure, nor did the public feel much op, be renewed, until at least it had been duly pression from it, because if they felt ag- examined in all its various bearings. Yet grieved, actions in many instances would wishin nine days before the expiration of have been brought. The circumstance that Bill, the right bon. gentleman came of so few being instituted, shewed that the down to propose nat only its revival but publie were not anxious to procure mo- an additional prevision, wbich it was obney in payment of their demands. He vious, would have exactly the same effect was, of course, confirmed in the opiniop as making Bank.noles a legal tender. he had expressed when the matter was Besides this, there were other circumlast before ihe House, that hostility to the stances that had passed this night, which measure wag nat a sentimont generally ought, in his opinion, to determine the prevalent in the country, and that there House to pause before they gave leave to were but few who would be inclined to bring in this Bilt. The noble lord oppofollow the example of the noble lord site (Castlereagh) had last year objected (King). It might be said, if the evil was particularly to the extending of tbis Bill of so very limited an extent, there was no to Ireland, because bargains in the north need of a remedy. In this he qould not of that country being made for payment concur; for if men ance found that they in gold, it would have the effect of de could, by oppression against their neigh- frauding the creditors. It would consebours, promote their own advantage, there quently be well to consider whether the wero, he was afraid, many who, if not re- present petitioners from Belfast, who comstrained by law, would not scruple to do plained of a loss of 25 per cent. on the pay. so; but the rarity of the attempt to comm ents in gold, were debtors or creditors mit an evil afforded consolation when a re tenants or landlords? Whether they meant medy was sought to be provided against it: to relieve themselves from their obligaand the present measure was only giving tions by a cheaper mode of payment, or security to that species of payment which whether they were impelled by genethe great body ofihe people were evidently rosity to relieve those who were indehted willing to receive. With these few observa- to them. It seemed that all contracts for tions be should content himself, and move, lands in Ireland had been made for pay“ That leave be given to bring in a Billment of the rent in gold ; and now, if to continue and amend an act of the last these petitioners were tenants, it would sassion of parliament, for making more shew elearly they were desirous to pay in effectual provision for preventing the cur- a medium af less value than gold. He rent gold coin of the realm from being thought the House would be wary how paid or accepted for a greater value than they admitted this: if the contract was the current value of sueh coin, for pre made expressly for a gold payment, which venting any note or bill of lbe governor had, as he was informed, long been the and company of the Bank of England custom in Ireland, forcing the party who from being reecived for any smaller sum had a right in virtue of his contract to rethan the sum therein specified, and for ceive gold only, to accept of paper in its staying proceedings upon a distress by Stead, would be highly unjust, and was a tender of such potes, and to extend the good argument against the Bill being exname to Ireland.”

tended. One of the main reasons adduced Lord Folkestone said he was unable, even in favour of the Bill of last session was, the in that early stage of the business, to avoid increased and increasing price of gold. Now if he was rightly informed, gold was, (lord C.) and his right 'hon. friend bad diminishing in price, and therefore the stated. The reason which he had for not attempt to continue the Bill only shewed extending the measure to Ireland last that ministers were determined to have session, was on account of the absence such a Bill in all cases, and at any rate. of many Irish members, and not from Though the price of gold was now actu any view that it would not be desirable ally diminished, it was however by no for that country. He had stated that it means in consequence of the Bill of last was his opinion that the circumstances of session, because gold rose in price for Ireland, in a certain degree, varied from some months after it passed, and the those of England, so as to exclude at that greatest distress was experienced in the time its introduction. As to the supposed western parts of England, particularly for pledge of his right hon. friend, he apprewant of silver to carry on the common hended, that he had stated quite the reconcerns of trade; and in most towns the verge of what the noble lord had imputed inhabitants were under the necessity of to him ; for his right hon. friend had issuing out tokens of their own, to avoid a stated, that if nothing short of making total stagnation of the most ordinary bu- Bank notes a legal tender would serve to siness. Another reason against renewing correct the evil, a remedy to that extent the Bill, was, that it had failed in one of its must be applied. He thought, tbat so principal objects, viz. that of preventing long as the Bank of England were probi more ihan one-and-twenty-shillings being bited by law from paying their notes in given for a guinea. The Bill only pro- gold, the legislature owed it to the subvided against giving more than a Bankject to protect him against any demands note and a shilling for a guinea ; but by which were not under these circumstances changing the Bank of England for coun. equitable ; because, by not affording that try bank-notes, you might add as many protection, great injustice might be done shillings to those as you pleased, and to the subjects of the realm. In that opicould not be hurt for it; so that it was nion his right hon. friend had coincided. daily and hourly evaded with inipunity. With respect to the practice in Belfast and As a proof of this, there had only one its vicinity, the noble lord was misinformed, conviction taken place since passing the for the practice was the reverse of what Act, and that was of a man seduced into he had stated; contracts were made there the transaction by a police-officer sent on to pay in pounds sterling, and not in gold. purpose to trepan him into the fact. The Guineas had ceased to be the circulating provisions of the Act had not been ac- medium, and therefore the subject.could complished, nor would be accomplished : not pay his debts in gold; and ought to and he hoped, therefore, the House would be protected by law from being called exercise its discretion, before it gave a opon to do that which it was totally out of sanction to the renewal of such a Bill. his power to effect. As lo the new clause proposed by the Lord Folkestone explained, that he had a right hon. gentleman, and which went not clear recollection on both the points, in only materially to alter the Bill, but also which the noble lord had supposed him to to substitute a fictitious circulating medium, | be in error. as a legal tender for payment, in lieu of Mr. Tierney would not oppose the mothe standard coin of the realm, he conjured tion for leave to bring in the Bill, but obthe House to pause before they consented served that it was very evident from the to entertain a proposition so ruinous to the speech of the right hon. gentleman himcredit and to the vital interests of the self, that the country was already in the country.

situation which had been predicted last Lord Castlereagh was not disposed at session, namely, in a situation of moving present to go into any arguments on the from bad to worse. He asked in what reBill, as frequent opportunities would here spect did this measure fall short of making after occur for the discussion of its merits. Bank notes a legal tender? The answer He should only notice that the noble lord was, that they were to be legal tenders seemed to adhere to the opinions enter- only in a court of justice. But what law tained by him last session, and to press his was there which could compel any man to opposition before the Bill was brought in. part with his goods or property.contrary He wished to correct him in two points, to his inclination! The fact was, that this in which he appeared to be under misap- Bill went to affect immediately all inteprehension with respect to what he rests and every class of society. If be were to buy 1,000l. worth of plate, would every man of property pause before he he not be perfectly secure in paying for any longer placed his confidence in parthe commodity in Bank notes? If the sil- | liament, which was now about to sanction versmith brought an action in a court of a measure that must necessarily prove a law, the payment into court of 1,000l. in mortal blow to the credit of the Bank its Bank notes would be an acquittal of the self. The Bank had now no other interest defendant. And how then could this Bill than the interests of their own monopoly be said not to go the full length of making to attend to. The time once was when these notes a legal tender? He implored their corporate interests went hand in the House to consider well this subject be- hand with the commercial and financial fore they came to a decision upon it. Un- interests of the country ; but they had less he could himself perceive an altered now become distinct and separate, and no disposition in the House, he should deem other security remained for the public but all endeavour at argument superfluous and the forbearance of the Bank. He meant unnecessary, for, after the protracted and no reflection whatever on the individual lucid discussion which the measure of last characters of the directors with many of session had undergone, after the able re- them he had lived in habits of personal port which had been presented by the confidence ; for some of whom he had the committee on the subject, nothing could highest personal esteem. But as a corpo: be expected from opposition but obloquy, rate body their conduct had no claim on and the man who stood forward against the his respect-they had in that capacity de. Bill would be accused of a wish to subvert served no confidence, except the confipublic credit. At the same time, he had dence of the right hon. gentleman, wbom that opinion of the right hon. gentleman's they were always prepared to accommogood sense as to believe, that he had expe date. He knew of nothing that they had rienced no small degree of pain in coming done for the promotion of the public into a resolution to submit such a proposi- terests, but he knew of much for the grati. tion to the House. He knew indeed that fication of their own thirst and eagerness the right hon. gentleman dared not meddle of gain. It was now incumbent on them with the Bank.He knew that the go- to shew what they had hitherto pertinavernment had proceeded so far, that the ciously concealedhe meant the real Bank had become its masters, and the amount of their profits since the suspenmasters of the finance of the country. It sion of cash payments. As soon as the remained therefore for that House to re- immediate question should be disposed of, sume ils character and exercise its duties, he would take the liberty of moving for by shewing to the Bank that at least par- this account, as well as for a committee to liament was above them, and was deter- inquire into the state of the affairs of the mined to protect the credit of the country. Bank. This might serve to shew that He could not see in what manner it would there were some who did not shrink from fall short of a direct fraud, to compel the doing their duty on this occasion, and who subject to take in payment for goods of wished to warn the House upon the new real value a paper, the value of which it and perilous crisis to which they were arwas impossible for bim to ascertain. There riving. He would at least not be one of had been much talk of the French as- those to lead the people of this country ad signats, but in one point of view their ignotum per ignota to a situation in which forced circulation was less atrocious than the establishment of a legal tender would that of Bank-notes, inasmuch as the as- leave no other security than the gold and signats were grounded on some sort of silver in the actual possession of the Bank. pledged security, on national domains, the He did not mean to say that for every property of the state. Here the Chan- note that was issued a corresponding sum cellor of the Exchequer smiled. The should be kept in its coffers, but when he right hon. gentleman smiled at his ven- saw the directors and the right hon. gen. turing to contrast the enormous issues of tleman in league together to give a forced the French government with those of the currency to Bank notes, he had a right to Bank of England; but he was prepared to satisfy himself about the intrinsic value of contend that the French did at least seek those notes. He recollected that one of to save appearances, wbich was more than the governors of the Bank had last segthe right hon. gentleman thought it worthsion represented bimself as entertaining his care to do. This new manifestation of considerable objections to the measure of his views and intentions, ought to make a legal tender, and he should be now

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