UK, House of Commons, “Address—Answer to the Speech”, vol 45, cols 49-125 (5 February 1839)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Address—Answer to the Speech“, vol 45 (1839), cols 49-125.
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ADDRESS—ANSWER TO THE SPEECH
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The Royal Speech having been read,
Mr. E. Buller rose and said, that after the most gracious Speech which they had heard, he had to bespeak the indulgence of the House, in venturing to move an humble, dutiful, and loyal address in answer to the Speech. He felt deeply impressed with the difficulty of his situation, as under any circumstances, he should have felt his utter inability to undertake this duty, but particularly on the present occasion. Considering the numerous and important subjects that were embraced in the Speech from the Throne, subjects which were in a very great degree foreign to his habits, upon which he had no great knowledge, and which he was not competent to discuss, in throwing himself upon the indulgence of the House, he would endeavour, to the utmost of his power, not to weary their patience. He would endeavour, moreover, as far as he possibly could, to avoid the inconveniences that arose from protracted discussions upon the Address; and, above all, he would endeavour to avoid saying anything that could occasion asperity, or give rise to an acrimonious debate. He would then proceed to make a few short observations upon the different topics referred to in the gracious Speech which they had heard that day delivered.
It could not but be a matter of sincere congratulation to the House and the country that her Majesty still continued to receive assurances from foreign powers, of their anxiety to maintain our alliance, and the most friendly relations; and that the peace which had been purchased at the expense of so much treasure and blood continued to our advantage, and the advantage of our commercial interests. It was also a subject of sincere congratulation to him, looking at the state of the manufactures of this country, to see so wide a field opened to British enterprise and capital. It was, indeed, in his opinion no matter of slight importance that we should have succeeded in entering into treaties with Austria and Turkey, which were calculated to open those vast countries to British enterprise and capital.
The treaty with Austria had placed our merchants on the same footing as the most favoured people of that empire. The Turkish treaty also destroyed those vexatious regulations and restrictions that tended to cripple the trade, and to prevent the free circulation of the manufactures of this country with that portion of the world. Looking at the particular attitude in which Turkey stood—looking at the social state of that country—looking at the vast resources which she afforded for internal navigation, looking, also, at her vast undeveloped agricultural resources, her large and indeed inexhaustible commercial resources, he felt that it was scarcely possible to exaggerate the advantages that must be derived to the commerce of this country, from the treaty which had been entered into; it was of the highest importance to connect with a nation so peculiarly calculated to benefit us, a country possessing such undeveloped agricultural resources, possessing as we did such means of capital to manufacture, and deliver our produce in every quarter of the world.
Independently of this, not only were our means and resources enlarged, but if we looked at the state of the public mind, and public opinion in that country, we should find a large population strongly prejudiced in favour of British connection, prejudiced in favour of our arts and manners, and receiving gladly such articles of luxury as we were able to furnish to them. The next subject that attracted attention was, the statement that a treaty had been concluded between the five powers for settling the differences between Holland and Belgium. It was a matter of congratulation that an answer had been received announcing the accession of the King of the Netherlands to the terms of the treaty. Considering that that treaty was based upon stipulations which had previously received the consent of the King of Belgium—looking at the great importance of finally establishing the independence of the country, and with a view to the true interests of Belgium itself,
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he was sure that some concession would be made by the people of that country even of their own interests and feelings, in order to meet the wishes of the great powers of Europe, and to place themselves on a footing of national independence.
The next subject referred to in her Majesty’s Speech was one to which there was much less pleasure in directing attention. It could not but be a matter of deep regret and disappointment to look forward to the seemingly distant prospect of effecting a settlement of the unhappy differences that existed in Spain. The state of Spain was to this country a matter of the most serious consideration, and one to which they must all look with great anxiety. He trusted that at no distant period tranquillity would be established in that great country, and the peaceful enjoyment of liberal principles under a liberal and enlightened government. He regretted to learn that some differences had existed between her Majesty’s Ministers and the court of Teheran, and that the Emperor of Persia had not as yet fully complied with the proposals of the British Minister, and which the security of British interests required. He hoped, however, that the Emperor of Persia on reflection would see the necessity of acceding to the reasonable proposition which had been made to him, and would also see how deeply he would endanger his friendly relations with this Government by persisting in a refusal of it.
The Governor-general of India, it appeared, had found it necessary to make extensive military preparations for protecting British subjects in that quarter of the world, and was now prepared to meet any exigencies, and to repel any aggressions which might be contemplated, and to maintain in every respect the integrity of that portion of her Majesty’s dominions.
He had now passed in review the chief points of foreign policy alluded to in her Majesty’s Speech. The subject was one which he confessed his utter inability to do justice to, and he felt no better adequate to the task on the present than on any former occasion. He would now turn to matters connected with our domestic policy. The first subject alluded to by her Majesty was, the necessity for a reconstruction and reform of the Municipal Corporation of Ireland. Considering the loyal character and feelings of the people of that portion of the empire, he trusted that the House would see the necessity of conferring upon that people to the fullest extent, the rights, privileges, and immunities which
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are enjoyed in this country. He trusted, that after the pledge contained in the Address of 1834, the House would redress all just grievances, and adopt all well-considered measures of reform, and particularly bearing in mind what had been thrown out by several influential Members both of this and of the other House, that when the difficulties of the poor-law and the tithe questions had been satisfactorily adjusted, the time would come for conceding to Ireland the reform of her corporations.
Considering all these circumstances, he did now most earnestly hope, that the present Session would not pass over without conferring upon Ireland a just measure of corporation reform. It also appeared, that her Majesty contemplated the prosecution and completion of measures for the purpose of carrying into effect the recommendations of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. These measures had already been on the table of the House, and be felt convinced, that whilst their general provisions were such as the population of the country much required, there was nothing contained in them at all calculated to weaken the position of the Church. On the contrary, that they would tend considerably to augment its strength, and maintain its influence and stability. If the funds of the Church were honestly and. faithfully applied, be saw no danger that its important labours would be interrupted on that ground.
From the large sums of money which he had seen subscribed in the metropolis and elsewhere, for the building of churches, it appeared that the appeals which had been made to the people on this score, had not been made in vain; and that funds were forthcoming which must considerably extend the useful labours of the Church. The next subject to which her Majesty’s Speech referred, was the present state of the West India Islands. It was with sincere and heartfelt congratulation that he learned that the period fixed by Parliament for the emancipation of the negroes, had been anticipated by the local legislatures, and. that at the present moment slavery, even in a modified form, did not exist in any of her Majesty’s dominions. However humble a share he might have had in the passing of the Slavery Abolition measure, it would ever be a subject for lasting gratitude with him that it had fallen to his lot to bear a small share in it. He had great gratification in reflecting, that the negro was now released from the cruel bondage which he had so long endured, and that, considering the smallness
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of his wants, and the largeness of his wages, he ranked now amongst the most prosperous labourers in the world. He had much satisfaction in looking forward to the ultimate prosperity of these colonies, and results he thought would show, that this great measure was as conducive to the interests and wealth, as it was to the honour and character of Great Britain.
There was another topic upon which he felt a deep and more painful interest—he alluded to the province of Lower Canada. It was too true, that in that province there had manifested itself an extensive spirit of insurrection; but the rebellion had been promptly suppressed by the valour of the British forces and her Majesty’s loyal Canadian subjects; and it must be a subject for congratulation, that the revolt had not been more extensively joined, nor generally connived at. It was true, however, that predatory incursions had been made into Upper Canada by certain lawless inhabitants of the United States, but these proceedings, he was happy to say, had met with neither sympathy nor support from the inhabitants of that province. Still, however, he must admit, that it would be impossible to look to the state of these provinces with entire satisfaction.
As they were now in a state of submission to the powers of Great Britain, and of expectation and reliance upon her justness and the fidelity of her promises, he would venture to express a hope, that whenever measures might be brought forward for the settlement of their affairs, the Legislature of this country would bear in mind the peculiar situation of the French Canadians; that it would bear in mind that Great Britain depended more upon opinion than any other nation in the world, and that it was not so much on her power as on the confidence of her colonies that she had to depend. It was with regret that he came now to refer to the efforts which had been making of late in some parts of the country to excite her Majesty’s subjects to disobedience of the law, and to recommend dangerous and illegal practices.
He much regretted the excitement which had been so industriously kept alive in various parts of the country upon different projects, upon which he could not refrain from expressing his firm conviction, that if the professed objects of the parties were fully obtained, they would not in the least conduce to the benefit of the country. He was perfectly satisfied, that neither universal suffrage nor vote by ballot would have any such results as their
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advocates seemed to expect. He trusted, however, that whatever petitions might be sent in on these subjects, the House would receive them in a spirit which would show that it was prepared to listen with willingness to arguments and fair representation, but that it would yield nothing to clamour or intimidation.
There was one subject upon which, though not mentioned in her Majesty’s speech, he felt called upon to say a few words. The Corn-laws was a subject which had caused a violent agitation throughout the country; indeed, it was scarcely possible to overvalue the deep feeling and anxiety which existed throughout the country, not for extreme or violent measures, but a feeling of the necessity which existed for the modification of this enactment. He trusted that whenever this question came before the House, it would be met in a spirit of fairness, and with a determination to do justice to all parties; that it would be discussed with candour and earnestness of deliberation, not as a question between two hostile parties, but as one in which the interests of all parties were equally concerned. He trusted, that there would be a strong feeling amongst both the agriculturists and the manufacturing interests that they were mutually dependent upon one another, and that they were mutually each others best customers; and that, consequently it would be inconsistent with their own respective interests either to reduce the wealth of the one, or diminish the numbers of the other.
For his own part, the facts which he had observed during the last four years made him very much doubt whether it would be expedient for the agriculturists themselves to maintain these laws in their present state. He thought it would be impossible by any such means to force up prices for any long series of years, but that an unnatural elevation in one year might be followed by depression in the next. It was also a question with him, whether any attempt to force prices, might not defeat its own object by stimulating production whilst it limited consumption. He had merely thrown out these few observations without intending to express in them any decided opinion on the subject. He should always be most willing to listen to any observations or arguments which others might make on the subject, with an earnest desire to consult, as far as possible, the interests both of the agriculturist and the manufacturer.
Amidst the numerous grounds which existed for congratulation
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in the present aspect of public affairs, there was undoubtedly, much cause for serious consideration, and perhaps, somewhat painful apprehensions. He could not, however, but look forward with confidence to the result, and he sincerely trusted that the dangers and difficulties which now beset the Throne, would be met and overcome by the wisdom of Parliament supported by the efforts of a loyal and attached people. He thanked the House for the indulgence with which they had allowed him most inadequately to discharge the duty imposed on him, and begged to move an humble Address in answer to her Majesty’s gracious Speech.
Mr. G. W. Wood rose with great pleasure to second the Address which had been moved by his hon. Friend near him, in reply to her Majesty’s most gracious Speech from the Throne; and he felt quite as much, or more occasion for the indulgence of the House as his hon. Friend, being aware that on this occasion he should have to go over those topics to which his hon. Friend had previously called the attention of the House. It must be to all a matter of the utmost satisfaction, that her Majesty was able to assure the House, that she had perfect confidence in the preservation of peace on the footing on which the great powers stood in relation to each other. That after we had enjoyed the blessings of peace for so long a period, we should again have the assurance that there was no danger of the infraction of that peace, must be a subject of pleasure to this House, and all her Majesty’s subjects; and in the two treaties that had been concluded with the Emperor of Austria and the Sultan of Turkey, to which their attention had been specially called by her Majesty, they had an additional basis for the preservation of peace.
These treaties were of a character becoming the parties, and such as a commercial nation might justly be proud of having entered into. They contained provisions which were in the highest degree honourable to the Monarchs in whose names they had been concluded, and the statesmen through whose instrumentality they had been accomplished. They were treaties not entered into with a view to conquest, but with a view to call forth the latent wealth of the countries to which they related, and particularly the industry of their inhabitants. They were treaties which though they conferred advantages on the people to whom they had relation, did this without interfering in any degree with the
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rights of other states; they were treaties which, so far from having any selfish object, the more universally they were acted upon, the more beneficial they would become.
Standing there as he did, the representative of a manufacturing borough, he felt particularly called upon to congratulate the House and the country upon these topics. With respect to the treaty with Austria, it was founded upon the justest basis. It did not, perhaps, offer any great accession to our commerce at once, but it laid the foundations broad and deep of the future prosperity of the two states. Coupling, also, the terms of this treaty with the alterations in the plans of that country, he did hope, that it would be found that she was entering with earnestness into a new system of commerce. With regard to the treaty with Turkey, whilst founded upon principles equally just, its immediate advantages would prove still more considerable. There existed a large commerce between this country and Turkey, which had long been impeded by the want of that freedom in Turkey itself, which was necessary to success in all trading proceedings. In this treaty we had a guarantee that all these impediments should be removed, and that an equality of rights and privileges should be established, from which advantages of a large and extensive character, could not fail to result.
Such were the individual advantages which were held out by these treaties, but if they were taken together, he thought they gave assurance of still further advantages. They held out a promise that the latent energies and wealth of the southern portion of Europe, which had hitherto been too much bound up, were likely to be set free in throwing open the navigation of the Danube. When it was considered that this mighty river passed through a great extent of country, and rich as that land was in its native wealth, there was a prospect that it would become one of the great highways for the commerce of the world, Nor was this treaty important in its commercial relations only. It likewise conferred political advantages of no ordinary description. If it ever entered into the contemplation of Russian statesmen in times present or past, to recover the sovereignty of Constantinople, he thought that the independence of Turkey, secured as it was by the treaty which her Majesty had concluded, placed that object completely beyond their power. It was gratifying to see that those nations, through whose combined
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counsels in the year 1831, the blessings of peace were preserved in Europe, by preventing any hostile outbreak, were also instrumental in guarding against the disturbance of peace as a consequence of the separation of Holland from Belgium.
With respect to Spain it was to be lamented that such a state of things as existed in that country should still prevail; but he trusted that the powers which had exerted themselves so successfully in securing the peace of Holland and Belgium, would use their best efforts to put an end to a war which was a disgrace to Christendom. With respect to the interruption of our amicable arrangements with Persia, whatever were the views in which they originated, or the objects of those who caused them, it was satisfactory to see the promptitude and vigour which marked the counsels of our Indian government; and let what would happen in that country, we were able and prepared to protect the peace of India, and to afford security to our subjects in that part of the empire.
With regard to the Irish corporations, to which the attention of Parliament had been called, he would add his earnest hope to that already expressed by his hon. Friend, that this Session would not be brought to a close without putting an end, on satisfactory terms, to this vexatious question. He trusted that both sides of the House would lend their best endeavours to arrange the almost only remaining ground of anxiety with regard to the condition of Ireland. He repeated, that this was the only remaining practical measure of those which had been already undertaken, with a view of rendering justice to Ireland; and he hoped, that when they came to deal with its details, they would not be unwilling that our fellow subjects in Ireland should have the same measure of justice, and the same share in political rights, which, a few years ago, they had conferred on our fellow countrymen in England.
It was extremely satisfactory that, throughout the West Indies, the great measure of negro emancipation had taken effect in a quiet and satisfactory manner, with the concurrence of the local legislatures. It was to be hoped, that the legislature of Jamaica would be willing to lend its assistance to whatever enactments might be necessary for securing the peace and rights of our negro fellow subjects; but if it should persevere in that conduct which had brought on it the condemnation of so many, it would be found that there was energy enough in this country to enforce
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that protection which the slaves of the island might require. As to the occurrences in Canada, it was not his intention to enter into any discussion with respect to them; but he could not do otherwise than express his satisfaction at the loyalty which was evinced by the inhabitants of Upper Canada in defending themselves from the hostile aggressions of their neighbours of the United States. He felt that they had discharged their duty to themselves and to the mother country, and he trusted that we should be prepared at all times to afford them that support and assistance which they might require at our hands, for securing to them their liberty, and perpetuating the connexion between Canada and this country. It was to be regretted that any of the inhabitants of the United States should have been tempted, by views of plunder, or by whatever motive they were actuated, to invade Canada, and to interfere with the internal government of that province.
On the pacific intentions of the government of the United States he placed the fullest reliance. In the honourable feelings of the people of that country, and in their friendly disposition to England, he had equal confidence, but occurrences had taken place, undoubtedly, which brought disgrace on that country. It behoved the government and people of those states to show that they possessed the means, not only of protecting their own liberties, but of securing the neighbouring countries, living in amity with them, from any hostile inroads. The concluding paragraph of her Majesty’s gracious Speech referred to circumstances which had occurred in this country, and by which the people were considered to have been excited to acts of disobedience and resistance. Speaking with reference to that part of the country to which he had the honour of belonging, he felt happy in being enabled to assure the House, that the feeling here referred to was not carried to a very great extent, or affected any large number of persons.
Undoubtedly great efforts had been made to mislead the people, and to produce excitement, by tempting them to do things which no one could approve of, as they were injurious to themselves and to the tranquillity of the country; but he felt quite assured that a vigilant administration of the existing law would be quite effectual for the suppression of any disturbances which might have occurred. He was happy to have it to say, that the agitation which prevailed some time ago had subsided. He
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trusted we should not see it renewed. But if it should unhappily be revived, he could fearlessly assure them, that on the loyalty and pacific intentions of the great mass of the people in that part of the country to which he referred, the House might place the most implicit reliance. In all stations there existed an anxious desire for the preservation of the public peace, and for the maintenance of the law. The House would perhaps, indulge him for a short time, whilst he referred to the present state of the manufactures and commerce of the country.
Two years ago great commercial distress and the utmost uneasiness prevailed in all branches of trade. The House would be glad to hear that this state of things had passed away, and that the commerce of England at the present moment was in a most satisfactory condition. He did not recollect any former period of commercial embarrassment at which the return to a state of healthy commerce, and of comparative prosperity, followed so rapidly on the depression. A question arose in connexion with this peculiarity which it would be unbecoming in him to enter upon, but which was well worthy the consideration of those who were conversant with such subjects. He thought an investigation of the question would prove that there was no great over-trading in our manufacturing community, or they could not so soon have recovered their healthy condition. The cause of that derangement he believed to have been a vicious system of banking. The legislature no doubt would feel it incumbent upon them to examine the causes of those calamities which brought ruin and
Declared value of the principal articles of British Produce and manufactures exported from the United Kingdom.
|ARTICLES.||Average of Four Years 1834, 1835 1896, 1837||Amount in 1838, in round numbers.||Increase in 1838.||Decrease 1838.|
|Hardware and Cutlery||1,739,000||1,507,000||232,000|
|Metals, Iron and Steel||1,845,000||2,531,000||686,000|
|Metals, Copper and Brass||1,067,000||1,226,000||159,000|
|Metals, Tin in bars||51,000||103,000||52,000|
|Coal and Culm||304,000||484,000||180,000|
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distress on multitudes of their fellow-subjects, and to provide a remedy against their recurrence.
The commerce of the United States had been deranged to the same, or to a greater extent than our own; but that country like this, had in a great measure recovered from its embarrassment, and had now to a considerable extent resumed its beneficial commerce with this country. He considered it to be in the highest degree creditable to the people of the United States, that they made such prompt, vigorous, and successful efforts to discharge the heavy amount of debt due to this country. It spoke, in his opinion, volumes for the power, internal resources, and aggregate wealth of the United State, that if they suspended cash payments for a short time, they quickly secured to themselves the inestimable advantage of a correct standard of value. The opinions which he had stated to the House on the present position of our commerce he was happy to find borne out by documents which exhibited the amount of the exports of this country during the last year, and the comparison which they bore to those exports of the four preceding years. He feared to trouble the House with statements of this kind, involving as they did many details, and yet they appeared to him so important with reference to the exact position in which our commerce now stood, that he trusted the House would indulge him for a few moments whilst he endeavoured to convey an impression of them. The hon. Gentleman referred to the principal articles in the following list:—
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By this table it appeared that the aggregate increase in the export of the principal objects of British manufacture of the year 1838, over the average of the four preceding years, was 3,112,000l., or seven and three fourths per cent. In the cotton manufactures the increase was four per cent over the average of the four preceding years. In the export of cotton yarn the increase was no less than 20 per cent. With regard to our woollen manufactures there was a decline of six per cent.; a circumstance which was entirely attributable to the very large portion of our woollen manufactures which were sent to the United States, and that country not being able to take in so large a quantity as it did in previous years, there was a depression which he had no doubt would be removed during the present year. In linen the increase was nineteen per cent. In silk two and a half per cent. In hardware and cutlery there was a diminution of thirteen per cent. In earthenware the increase was ten per cent. In glass the diminution was thirty per cent. In refined sugar twenty-five per cent. In metals, iron, and steel, the increase was thirty-seven per cent.; in copper and brass fifteen per cent. In lead there was a diminution of thirteen per cent. In tin in bars the increase was ten and a half per cent., and tin in plates twenty-three per cent. In sheep’s wool the increase was fifty-seven per cent. In salt thirty-four per cent., and in coal and culm fifty-nine per cent. In the four great staple manufactures of clothing the increase was seven per cent. On the five metals enumerated the increase was twenty four per cent. He did not think’ that 1838 was an improper year to contrast with the four preceding, in order to show that the depressed state of our manufactures no longer existed. The years 1834 and 1835 were years of steady prosperity; 1836 was a year of over-trading, and 1837 a year of great depression. He had also had his attention called to the shipping interest, and he was happy in having it in his power to lay before the House particulars exhibiting the state of the shipping trade of England, which, though it was represented a few years ago to be in a state of great embarrassment and adversity had now assumed a vigorous condition, and was rapidly extending. The hon. Gentleman read the following statement:—
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FOREIGN AND COLONIAL TRADE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM—SHIPPING TONNAGE INWARDS
|Average of years, 1834, 5, 6, 7, and Year 1838.||Increase.|
|British||2,226,998||2,464,020||237,022||10½ per cent.|
|Foreign||808,609||3,036,932||228,323||28 per cent.|
|Total||3,035,607||3,500,952||465,345||15 per cent.|
To come from foreign commerce to home consumption, the increase in cochineal was 30 per cent., and that in indigo, 20 per cent.; in timber 24 per cent.; in coffee and cocoa, there was an increase, whilst in rum and brandy there was a considerable decline. His hon. Friend, the mover, had adverted, at the close of his speech, to another subject of great interest. That was a topic not embraced in her Majesty’s Speech, but from the degree of public attention which it attracted, it was not unbecoming that he should advert to it. The subject would undoubtedly call for a large share of their consideration at an early period of the Session. He alluded to those laws which regulated the importation of human food.
The tranquillity of the country for some years back, with reference to this question, did not arise from any indifference to its great importance, but from a fortunate cheapness in the price of food. It was not to be expected, that when the price of food was double what it had been in some years past, the same quiet would continue. It would ill become him to enter into a discussion with the view of producing a collision of open war on this topic. Opportunities would, no doubt, soon occur when hon. Gentlemen ranging themselves on the one side, and the other, would support their respective views which they entertained on this question with facts and arguments. He should only add the expression of his anxious hope to that delivered by his hon. Friend, that whenever
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this discussion began, they should enter upon it with calmness and temper, and with a feeling of what was due to the magnitude of the subject. There was one peculiarity in the proceedings which had taken place throughout the country, with reference to this subject, which it behoved the House to consider. They should recollect that the excitement which had now sprung up was not an excitement of a temporary nature arising from a casual advance in the price of bread—it was not a cry proceeding from those who suffered from famine—it was the demand of the intelligent middle classes, of the merchants, manufacturers, and traders of Great Britain. It was the voice of those who had great intelligence, integrity, and patriotic feelings, of those who had a stake in the country, and who were as anxious for the prosperity of agriculture as for that of the manufactures by which they lived.
It was not likely, then, that even if favourable seasons should again reduce the price of bread, the question which was now started could be laid aside. Twenty years of peace had given a spring to the industry and encouragement to the commerce of all nations. It had been seen how great this country had become through its commerce. It no doubt filled the minds of the people of other countries with wonder and astonishment to see how we had borne up against the long suspension of our commercial intercourse which the war had occasioned. Their statesmen must naturally have been anxious to procure for their people an opportunity of imitating our successful career. And this should not be a matter of annoyance to us, for it was natural that other countries should employ their resources in the occupation of industry and in the acmulation of wealth. So far from looking on this as an evil, he thought it was a great good, and the surest means to preserve peace, the blessings of which they had so long enjoyed. But the encouragement which these countries had given to those of their inhabitants who were engaged in manufactures, was now beginning to produce its effects by a successful competition with this country, not only in the nations of the old world, but in the remoter markets, where our exports were seriously interfered with.
A deep alarm was entertained by our manufacturers, that our prosperity as a manufacturing country would thus be seriously endangered. If such apprehensions were well founded, the manufacturers felt, that there was no means
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of amending their condition, but by an attempt which, even if it were practicable at all, all must deplore, to depress the wages of labour. Whether that became necessary or not it was the duty of the Legislature, in his opinion, to place the manufacturers of this country on a footing as nearly equal as it was possible to that on which the manufacturers of other countries stood. With these remarks he should close, expressing his concurrence in all that had fallen from his hon. Friend, particularly in the hope that this Address would be adopted with cordiality and unanimity by the House. He trusted, too, that in all their future deliberations they should regard more the public good, and the prosperity of the people, than the topics of party strife, which in his opinion were too frequently indulged in during the debates of last Session.
Mr. T. Duncombe—If those two hon. Gentlemen who had just addressed the House, and who had performed their task with so much ability, felt it necessary to pray the indulgence of the House whilst they discharged what might be to them a sort of labour of love, how much more incumbent was it on him, an humble individual, to make an apology, when he presented himself to their notice for the purpose of communicating, not only to her Majesty’s Ministers, but to the House, what must be unpalateable and unpleasant truths. But this was no time for empty apologies; and the best apology he could make, was not to occupy too much of their time. If it should, unfortunately, be his fate to cause pain to any party, he could only promise them, that their suffering under the operation should not he very long. He rose, then, for the purpose of moving an amendment to the address which had been moved and seconded by the two hon. Gentlemen who had preceded him. It was an addition, rather than amendment, and it was to this effect:—
“That the amendment of the representative system enacted in 1832 had disappointed the people; that it was not, and could not be a final measure, and that it was the duty of this House to take immediate steps towards its further improvement.” He should feel it his imperative duty to take the sense of the House on this amendment. To the Gentlemen opposite, he had no right to look for any support. They were not responsible for the Reform Bill. They were only responsible
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for having failed in their endeavours to strangle it in its birth, and for aiding her Majesty’s Ministers to cramp and impede it in its growth; but he did look with confidence to those of his side of the House for support; he did look to those who were returned on Reform principles with a confident expectation, that they would do their duty, and who would reap this consolation from such a course—let the consequences be what they might—that, however lightly their exertions were treated in that House, the public, at all events, would pass a different sentence upon their conduct—and that to the judgment of that public, the decision would ultimately belong.
He was aware, that he was fulfilling a prediction which was made last year, he believed, by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, that some of those who were the loudest advocates of the Reform Bill would be found the foremost to assail it. He admitted it; and he would go further and say, that he should not be doing his duty, if he did not so assail it, because he maintained, that it had disappointed the people both of England, Ireland, and Scotland. At the same time, far be it from him to detract from the merit of the Ministry who carried the Reform Bill in 1832. But, whilst he admitted the merit of the measure, and the merit of those who carried it, he did not believe, that any man, at the time it passed, was vain or sanguine enough to imagine, that a bill so comprehensive in its general character, and so complicated in its details, could all at once arrive at positive perfection. In the first year after it passed loud complaints were made, not only of the imperfect working of the bill, in many of its details, but particularly of its exclusiveness. The country was then told by the Ministers of the Crown, and also by many well-meaning Reformers, that it was precipitate in complaining. “You are impatient,” said they, “wait at least a short time—give the bill a fair trial.”
That argument could no longer be resorted to; the bill had had a fair trial—a trial of seven years, during which period three general elections had taken place, and he maintained, that the bill so tried, so tested, had neither fulfilled the intentions of the Parliament which passed, nor satisfied the hopes and wishes of the great body of the people who supported it. Why, he would ask, had it disappointed the people? Because it had not conferred
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upon them a full, fair, and free representation; because, at this moment, nomination, intimidation, and corruption, were as rife as ever. In the first place, he would ask the House, “Whom do you represent?” Did the majority of that House represent the feelings and wishes of the majority of the nation? He answered, no. Did the majority of that House represent the feelings and wishes of the majority of the working and industrious classes? He answered, no. Did the majority of that House represent the feelings and wishes of the majority of the middling classes? Again, he answered, no. In fine, did the majority of that House represent that which ought to be represented by a House of Commons, if there were any meaning in that term—did it represent the democracy of the nation? He said, no. If, on the other hand, he asked, “Do you, the majority of the House of Commons, represent the exclusive feelings of the aristocracy?” He was compelled, most painfully, to answer, yes. What was promised to the people at the time of the passing of the Reform Bill? It was promised that, by the operation of that bill, nomination, intimidation, and corruption, should for ever cease. Had the bill succeeded in achieving that desirable end? Far from, it—it had in that respect, most lamentably failed.
Whilst the measure was under discussion they were told, over and over again, “Only pass the bill, and the House of Commons will, in future, become a sort of mirror, affording, at all times, an accurate reflex of the public mind. Only pass the bill, and agitation shall for ever cease—the voice of complaint shall be for ever hushed—all men shall follow their occupations contented and at rest, leaving to you, their representatives, the safe custody of their wants and wishes.” He asked, if that prediction had been fulfilled—if the sanguine picture drawn by the supporters of the Reform Bill afforded any thing like an accurate illustration of the state of men’s minds at the present moment? He would ask the Government and the House whether they did not know that there were at that moment two additional Parliaments sitting in this very town? Was there not, in the first instance, a sort of Corn-law Parliament, composed of delegates sent up from the great manufacturing districts of the country to stimulate the languid regards of that House to the
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people? Was there not also a Chartist Parliament assembled within a stone’s throw of that House, representing upwards of three millions of the working classes, and sent up for the sole and express purpose of telling the House of Commons that the great body of the industrious classes of the people had no confidence in its councils? There was scarcely a topic which disturbed or excited the public mind, whether it were the Corn-laws, Church-rates, or any other general grievance, upon which delegates had not been elected and sent up to represent the actual feelings of the people.
Was this a state of things which betokened content and satisfaction in the public mind? Besides, did they not see large masses of the people convening together on particular occasions with the view of petitioning the House of Commons upon particular questions? They met; and what was the result? Why, they passed resolutions; and one of those resolutions was, that the House of Commons was not worth petitioning. Would that be the case if the House of Commons afforded a full, fair, and free representation of the people? He knew the great difficulty against which he had to contend, but it was one with which he was ready to grapple. He knew that there existed in the minds of some of the Ministers of the Crown a sort of delusion, or crotchet, with respect to the finality of the Reform Bill. That was the great difficulty against which he should have to contend, supposing the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) to adhere to the declaration he made last year upon the subject of further reform. But he maintained, that before there could be any improvement in the country—before the people could be at all satisfied, the barrier raised by the noble Lord against the extension of the principle of reform must be swept away.
It was, indeed, a barrier rotten in itself—a barrier founded neither in truth nor justice, nor even in common sense; for was there a rational man in the empire who would come to the conclusion that any human legislation ought ever to be regarded as final? The noble Lord spoke of a compact entered into at the time of passing the Reform Bill, and endeavoured to persuade the House that it would be guilty of a breach of faith with some party if it lent its countenance to any proposition for an extension of the suffrage. Moreover, the noble Lord stated, that there was an understanding
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when the Reform Bill became the law of the land that it was to be a final measure. Having been present, and given his humble assistance in the debates which took place while the bill was under discussion, he could only say that he had no recollection of its ever having been considered or treated at that time as a final measure. He remembered that some hon. Friends of his, whom he had now the pleasure of seeing behind him, were over and over again taunted by the hon. Gentlemen opposite with the question, “Will this satisfy you?” They gave no indirect or evasive answer, but said distinctly and at once, “No, we consider this measure only as a means to an end.”
The hon. and learned Member for Dublin (Mr. O’Connell) made that assertion not once, but frequently; and was the assertion ever contradicted by Lord Althorp, who at that time held the post of Ministerial leader in that House? On the contrary, it was notorious that Lord Althorp’s opinion of the Reform Bill, when it was first introduced, was that it was a very moderate measure. Then he wished to know where the noble Lord entered into his compact—in what hole or corner he concluded this arrangement with the hon. Gentlemen opposite? Where was the record of it? He had seen none—he had heard of none; but even supposing that there were a record of it, he did not despair of bringing the noble Lord round to the conclusion that his previous opinion was one which, if the occasion required, might be safely departed from.
If the noble Lord wanted a precedent for such a course, only let him look to the appropriation clause of last year. Year after year, did not the noble Lord and his Colleagues pledge their allegiance in the face of the nation to the appropriation clause, as involving that which they called a great principle? He had always his own private opinion with respect to the appropriation clause; but that was not now the question. It was enough to remind the House that Ministers always told them that the appropriation clause involved a great principle, and one to which they were determined to adhere; and it was certainly a proud sight to see those great men coping for a time with the great principle they had raised, and from which they were never to depart. He need not tell the House the sequel, it was too painful, too disgraceful to be repeated. He would
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leave posterity to judge of it; and, if faithfully recorded, he had no doubt that posterity would scarcely credit it. With respect, then, to the finality of the Reform Bill, he said to Ministers, “as you got rid so easily of the appropriation clause, to which you were pledged, in like manner lend us now your support in getting rid of the argument, which has been erroneously advanced with respect to the finality of the measure for reforming the representation of the people.” When that measure was under discussion, they were told (surely Ministers will not deny this) that representation and not nomination was the object of it.
He should like to hear any Gentleman say, that nomination did not exist now; he should like to hear any Gentleman say, that as many Members were not now returned to that House by and through the influence of certain particular individuals, aye, and by the influence of Members of the other House, as there were in the old borough mongering Parliaments which preceded the passing of the Reform Bill. If that position could not be denied, he had the noble Lord’s (Lord John Russell’s) authority for saying, that the Reform Act could not be regarded as a final measure. The noble Lord, in a speech which he made in 1832—it was, to be sure, upon an occasion when there was a sort of doubt as to whether Lord Grey had not resigned, and whether the Tories would not accept the reins of Government, and carry the Reform Bill (for that measure was not so formidable in its character but that the Gentlemen opposite were ready to undertake it, provided they were admitted to the sweets of office—upon that occasion the Tories being twitted and reproached for their apparent inconsistency, immediately recriminated by reminding the noble Lord, that he had not previously been so great a Reformer, and that in his work upon the constitution he had recommended, that a part only of the corrupt boroughs should be disfranchised; “Oh,” said the noble Lord, “if the Reform Bill were to be granted, and if you should have seats in this House, which would avowedly and openly be at the disposal of individuals, there would remain the seeds and beginning of another necessary and reasonable reform.” If that doctrine were true, who would say that there did not now exist the seeds of other necessary reforms? If it were denied, that nomination or intimidation did
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now exist, he would undertake to prove, at the bar of the House, that there were many persons in the country who would rather be without the privilege of voting than be degraded by having their franchise invaded and abused as it was by Members of the other House of Parliament.
But that was not all. The country required not only an extension of the suffrage—not only another Schedule A—but an extension and equalization of the constituency throughout the kingdom. This was not a time to enter into details of figures upon the subject, but here was a case so glaring, that he could not help mentioning it. He had taken six large boroughs and ten small ones; the ten small boroughs returned twenty Members, the six large ones returned twelve. The six large boroughs were Westminster, Liverpool, Finsbury, Tower Hamlets, Marylebone, and Manchester, having a population of 1,417,479, registered electors 71,560, and contributing to the assessed taxes 1,017,897l. The ten smaller boroughs were Harwich, Thetford, Chippenham, Andover, Totness, Tavistock, Marlborough, Knaresborough, Richmond, and Huntingdon, having a gross population only of 45,116; registered electors only 2,317; and contributing to the assessed taxes no more than 13,020l. When the people saw statements of this kind—statements which could not be contradicted, was it likely that they would remain satisfied?
If the occasion were a fitting one, he could mention other boroughs which were in fact nothing more nor less than nomination boroughs. When he alluded at all to the subject, it was only just that he should state, that he believed this class of boroughs preponderated most upon that (the Ministerial) side of the House. As the matter, however, could not then be discussed, it would be invidious if he were to point them out, and he should, therefore, abstain from doing so. What arguments could be urged against his motion he was totally at a loss to conceive. When his hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Wakley), at the commencement of the last Session, proposed an amendment to the Address, a strong appeal was made to the gallantry and forbearance of the House, perhaps not without reason, for perfect unanimity upon the first Address voted in the first Parliament of a new Queen. But that appeal would not serve either the Ministers
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or the Reformers now, unless they were to be told, that during the present reign the House of Commons was never to approach the Throne except in the unmeaning and measured terms of Ministerial adulation. Whether the old, stale story of the unseasonableness of the moment for the discussion of reform were to be resorted to upon the present occasion he did not know; but this he would observe, that it never could be out of season to do justice to the people.
Her Majesty, in the Speech that day delivered from the Throne, had asked the House for advice. The House, therefore, was now in communication with the Crown. What reason was there why, in that communication, the House should not claim justice for the people? The vote of that evening would afford an index to the people of who were their friends, who were real and who the sham reformers—who were finality, and who anti finality men. He did not ask the House to pledge itself to any remedial details—he only asked it to assert, that there was in the representative system a great and universal grievance, which it was its duty to remedy. He took the liberty of warning Ministers, that this might be the last hour of their existence as a Ministry, for by their vote that night the country would know whether they really intended to advance or to resist reform—whether they meant to govern the country by force or by affection, by arrogance or by conciliation.
They might, if they liked, increase their army—they might overrun the country with their police—but he told them, that by such means, although they might obtain a temporary triumph, or knock out the brains of some of their fellow-subjects who differed from them, they would not be able to restore to that House either the affection or the confidence of the people. He begged leave, also, to remind the Government of what was once said—that although nothing was more certain than death, nothing was more uncertain than the hour of our dying. Even so in the present unsettled state of parties and of politics might the Ministry, sooner than they expected, he called upon to account for their stewardship upon the hustings. He entreated them, therefore, not only on their own account, but as they valued the rights of property and the institutions of the country, to be wise in time, and by their firmness and independence that evening to
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prove to the country, that it was wrong when it charged them with supineness and indifference to the real interests of the people. He entreated them to consent to his amendment, and so prove to the people that they were not deaf to their cries, nor insensible to their just and reasonable demands. He thanked the House for the patience with which it had listened to him whilst he performed his painful duty. He would conclude by moving his amendment, which was merely to add these words at the end of the Address:—”And to assure her Majesty, that as the amendment of the representative system, enacted in 1832, has disappointed her Majesty’s people, and as that measure is not, and cannot be final, her Majesty’s faithful Commons will take into early consideration the further reform of the Commons’ House of Parliament.”
Mr. Ward rose to second the Amendment of his hon. Friend, and in doing so he felt called upon to express the obligation which he felt the hon. Member for Finsbury had conferred upon the House, by affording them an opportunity of expressing their opinions at so early a period of the Session on the important subject of Parliamentary reform. He felt, that there was an absolute necessity for such a motion at the commencement of the pressent Session of Parliament, and he thought the time which had been selected by his hon. Friend the most appropriate and the most constitutional. He had heard on the Treasury bench a cheer when his hon. Friend had stated, that the present was not the moment for entering upon details; but the object of his hon. Friend was not to pledge the House to any specific measure of reform, and his views would be fully answered by the acknowledgement by that House that reform was necessary, and that the House would adopt measures to secure a fairer representation of the wishes of the people.
Now it was upon that point, of the time chosen for the present motion, that he anticipated the greatest objection. Many hon. Members said, that the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury was an excellent one, but, that it was wrong in point of time, and that it ought to have been brought forward as a substantive proposition in the regular course of business. He had heard a comparison drawn between the present motion and the motion which had last year been made by another hon. Friend of his (Mr. Wakley), but he would beg leave to remind
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the House, that there was no sort of analogy between the two propositions. Last year there was a general disposition to avoid a division on the Address, and to secure unanimity in replying to the first Speech of her Majesty to her first Parliament. There was also a feeling that the present Ministers appeared for the first time as free agents before the representatives of the people, and that time ought therefore to be given them in order to allow them full opportunity for laying before the House a full statement of the line of policy which, under such circumstances, it was their intention to pursue. But that time was now gone by. The policy of the Government had been fully developed, and the House of Commons were now called upon to assent to that policy, or to state wherein they differed from it, and what the measures were which they considered it necessary to adopt.
On the meeting of the second Session of the first Parliament of the Queen, it was incumbent on the representatives of the nation to say whether they adhered to the scheme of policy which had been sketched out by the noble Lord (J. Russell), and in the olden times, and in the unreformed House of Commons, hon. Gentlemen were never found wanting to oppose such measures as might be considered at variance with the wishes or the interests of the people. Both in that House, and in the other House of Parliament men had always been found to support the wishes of the people, no matter what party might have been in power; but the people now complained, that their representatives in the reformed House of Parliament dared not to say in that House what they had stated upon the hustings, and when they were soliciting the suffrages of their constituents. In the old Parliament there had been nothing of this kind, but for his own part he considered, that they were bound to support their individual opinions, and they ought to thank the hon. Member for Finsbury for having afforded them at so early a period of the Session an opportunity of expressing their opinions on a subject which their constituents had so much at heart, and in which they felt so deep an interest.
The hon. Gentleman had directed the attention of the House to the whole policy of the Government, and to that policy their attention was called by that paragraph in the Address which alluded to the present state of some parts of the country, and called upon them to enforce with rigour the laws
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against the proceedings therein spoken of, and to support the Crown. He admitted the propriety and justice of that appeal, founded as it was on the present state of things in those parts of the country to which the paragraph more particularly referred. But he would ask, were hon. Members prepared to deal with the manifestations of opinion recently made throughout most of the popolous districts of the country, without inquiry into the causes of those movements? What were those causes? He could ascribe the existing agitation to nothing less than the deep disappointment of the expectations raised by the Reform Bill. For, since the passing of that Bill, what had been done? Look at the whole course of legislation during that period. What, he repeated, had they done for the poorer classes of this country since they first met after carrying the Reform Bill in 1832? What remedial measure, as applicable to the wants and condition of the working classes, had they brought forward? Had they given the people cheap justice? Had they given them cheap education? Had they attempted to interfere with the laws that now controlled and prevented the exchange of the produce of labour with other countries? They had done nothing of the kind.
They had given the people the Poor-law Amendment Act, and that was the only act which they had passed immediately affecting the interests of the working classes of this country. It was true, that he had always supported the principle of the Poor-law, believing it to be a sound and rational. principle, aad a law conducive to the welfare of the working classes; but he must declare it to be also his belief, that the Poor-law and the present Corn-laws were utterly irreconcileable. The hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House could not reconcile them. The landlords could not do so. If they expected to do so, they would find themselves grossly mistaken. He believed, looking at the whole course of their legislation, that it was to the narrow and exclusive spirit of that legislation—to the sympathy with the few and the want of sympathy with the many—their regard to some particular class in all they did, and the want of broad and intelligent principles in their legislation, that a great portion of the lamentable excitement and agitation now pervading the country must be ascribed. What had been the result of the system in which they had persevered for upwards of five years? Look at the present
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state of the country for the reply. Let any man who had really considered it say, whether any civilized country had ever presented itself in so singular, and he would add dangerous, a situation. There existed throughout the whole of England and Scotland a combination of a striking character. Throughout all the larger towns there existed an agitation most formidable in its nature and objects, comprehending all those, almost without exception, who were not included in the present franchise, arrayed together against those who were included by the authors of the Reform Bill within the pale of constitutional rights. It was a combination of a peculiar character,—one from which emanated the wildest theories, which contemplated a severance between the working and middle classes, and by which the rights of property were openly and positively attacked.
Such was the organization which was spreading throughout all the large towns of England and Scotland. There was a national convention, a national press, and a national rent. Why, then, were they told that these were matters that were hardly worthy of any very serious consideration, or that, at least, they would require no particularly strong measures to rectify them; or, in point of fact, that it would be quite sufficient, in answer to the Speech from the Throne, to say that they were ready to assist her Majesty in supporting the dignity of the Crown, by enforcing the laws wherever it might be necessary to do so? But the evil was not one to be disposed of in an answer to a speech from the Throne. It was an evil which they should sift to the bottom for the purposes of seeking out and applying a remedy. He would ask, whether any such thing could occur in a country celebrated hitherto for practical, good, sound sense, unless there had been some substratum of political suffering, enhanced by the defects of the Reform Bill, and of the legislation which had succeeded it?
He traced the present state of things to bad laws in the first instance, and then to political causes, and in some measure to that speech of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, made by him at the beginning of the last session of Parliament. It was to that declaration of the Government as to the finality of the Reform Bill, that the whole of the agitation which had since ensued was to be attributed; and it was only by widening the representation and reforming the Reform Bill, they could
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hope to apply an efficient remedy for it. It was that declaration that first gave force and influence to those who now acted as the leaders of the working classes in this country by putting under the ban of perpetual exclusion of the political franchise those very persons by whom, in a great measure, the present Government had been called into power. If the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, had any doubt as to the effect of that declaration, he would ask, where was that tranquillity of which he boasted in the year 1837—that general, nay universal, tranquillity to which the noble Lord so proudly appealed when contrasting the existing Government with their predecessors, in his speech to his constituents at Stroud? What had been the reply which the whole country had given? They saw it in the organisation now existing; and if the House was not prepared to adopt a very different course to that which it had pursued, it would be impossible for any man to calculate upon the effects.
But it was not to England and Scotland only that this agitation was confined. Look at Ireland. They were told last year when they paid the price, as they thought, for tranquillity in Ireland by that discreditable concession—that most dishonourable and unhappy concession to which his hon. Friend had alluded, upon the principle of keeping the present Government where it now was—they were told of the tranquillity of that country. Where was it now? Why, the very first act of his hon. Friend, the learned Member for Dublin, was to authorise a new system of agitation, and the tithe question, respecting which he understood his hon. and learned Friend to have said last Session that they should hear no more of it for three years, had been used by him as the lever of agitation in the formation and progress of the Precursor Society.
Some Hon. Members—No, no!
Mr. Ward—He had understood his hon. and learned Friend to have said so; at all events that question had lately been converted into an instrument for rousing the whole population of Ireland into agitation. The concession which had been made to Ireland was a most unhappy one, for it had only produced that effect which was the natural result of eternal concession to what was called Conservative policy. That was the policy upon which the House was called to pronounce its judgment. Did they mean to sanction and support it? Or did they mean to say that the time was come when
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that policy must be abandoned, and that they must have recourse to a new system of dealing with questions which were the natural offspring of the Bill of 1832? This country he believed to be in a state of transition, and be wished to see the changes which he knew must come properly worked out. He detested mob law and mob violence. He was not a supporter of what was called the “Chartist Agitation;” and he always separated what was wild and impracticable from what was practicable and just, and that which ought to be conceded.
While he was opposed to every thing of the former kind, he was ready to give his aid in carrying out those measures, which ought to be conceded, because they were just. He did not see how any man who supported a popular representation, and who wished to extend protection to voters and to widen the basis of the franchise by shortening the duration of parliaments, could vote against the amendment of his hon. Friend, the Member for Finsbury. Feeling, as he did, the most entire conviction that they were in a state of transition towards further reforms, and believing, that those reforms were not only desirable but just, and that the only thing they had to mind was, that they were legally, peaceably, nod constitutionally worked out, he declared his belief, that, without further Parliamentary reform, those changes were unattainable; but he, for one, was prepared to concede them.
The Earl of Euston expressed his cordial agreement with the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, that the Reform Bill of 1832 could not possibly be considered as a final measure. He, in his humble situation, had opposed the Reform Bill; he could not, therefore, be supposed to be a very great Reformer. His objection to the Reform Bill was this: that the disfranchisement of the boroughs was either too small or too large, and he thought that the facts which had since occurred bore him out in this objection. What was it that brought about the Reform Bill itself? It was the opposition given to small beginnings, Was not the population of towns and boroughs continually fluctuating—some increasing, others diminishing? And was it wise, or consistent with the principles of the constitution, to refuse members to those towns whose populations increased. He intended to support the Amendment. He thought there was one great omission in the Speech form the Throne, inasmuch as no reference
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whatever was made to those blessings which this country had received from a gracious Providence, especially on a late occasion; he alluded to what he conceived to be a most extraordinary intervention of Providence, in giving this country a harvest, which, though not a particularly good one, was such, that if we had been without, the people would at this moment have been in a starving condition.
Mr. Handley observed, that the reason expressed by the noble Lord for supporting the Amendment was, that it pledged him to nothing. Now, that was the precise reason why he should oppose it; but in doing so, be protested against being held pledged as to any opinion he might entertain respecting the finality of the Reform Bill. When he recollected the first motion brought forward by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) on the first night of the last Session, and now considered that it was the other Member for the same borough who brought the Amendment forward, on the first night of this Session, he could not help thinking that it was a sort of anodyne, compounded, perhaps, by one of those hon. Members, to be administered by the other to allay some turbulent spirits that agitated the borough of Finsbury. He could only view it as a Finsbury farce, to be enacted by those hon. Members on the first day of every Session. He should, therefore, vote against it, because it pledged the House to nothing, and also because he considered it at once useless and unmeaning.
His hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Address had alluded to there being no mention made in her Majesty’s Speech respecting the Corn-laws, and each of them expressed his hope that the House would lend its support to some alteration or modification of the present law. He would not enter into the question now, but would merely state that he really should have been much surprised if any mention had been made of those laws, after the opinion expressed in the other House of Parliament by the noble Lord at the head of her Majesty’s Government, towards the close of last Session, and after the opinion expressed in a letter attributed to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in answer to his constituents the other day, namely, that it would be unwise to interfere with laws of this nature unless under circumstances of the most pressing emergency. The hon. Member who seconded the Address, gave them an elucidation of how much the prosperity of
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the State depended upon the landed interest of the country being protected, in a speech which must have been heard with unmixed satisfaction by Gentlemen on both sides of the House. He could have wished that that Speech had been delivered before those who were known by the style and title of the Chamber of Commerce, at Manchester. Had that been the case, the hon. Member would have furnished sound and cogent arguments why this agitation, which, by the way, was said to be confined to the intelligence of the country, should never have been raised.
He begged however to remark, that this intelligent body chiefly consisted of mill-owners and manufacturers. It was not like the agitation of 1815, in which the labourers took part. Those men did not now join in the cry against the Corn-laws; for they had found by experience that cheap bread meant low wages. He therefore thanked her Majesty’s Government for not having alluded to that subject in the Speech from the Throne. He had met a large mass of his constituents, who entertained but one opinion on the question, and in which he cordially concurred—namely, that the Corn-laws were defensible upon the only ground on which any monopolies were defensible, that was to say, in their contributing not merely to the interest of one exclusive class of the community, but to the interest of the entire body of the people; and they believed that the present Corn-laws were in principle and in practice the best that had ever yet emanated from any government.
Mr. Hume was glad that the hon. Gentleman had fairly and openly avowed, that the Corn-law system was a monopoly, because he wished to ask to whom was that system a monopoly? It was a monopoly in favour of the landlords against the whole nation. The hon. Gentleman, had therefore, in fact, contended that one small class of the people had a right to rob the rest of the community. If there was any meaning at all in the last sentence of the hon. Gentleman’s speech, that must have been what he wished the House to understand. Now, it was because the Corn-laws were a monopoly that he, for one, would most strenuously oppose them. If there were any doubt as to the meaning of the statement made by the Seconder of the Address, he thought it admitted of this very easy explanation—that whilst the exports of this country were increasing in quantity, the profits on capital and the wages of the
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working man were decreasing, and that the country at large was becoming impoverished by the operation of the Corn-law monopoly. Proof of these facts could be adduced at the bar of the House of Commons, on the evidence of every intelligent manufacturer in the country. If so, was it not a strong argument why such a state of things should no longer be suffered to continue?
He did not mean to say, that the manufacturers themselves were not able to carry on trade with a fair profit upon the capital they employed; but he wished to ask what was the condition of the labouring men? Were there not abundant proofs to show, that the high price of corn and other articles of food had been productive of the most lamentable consequences? Those high prices pressed down the industrious man—they diminished the amount of reward which he was fairly entitled to receive for his labour, and compelled him to eat bread twice as dear as that which his foreign competitor in manufacture was able to obtain. If there were any doubt of the truth of this proposition, he would undertake to demonstrate it by the most unquestionable testimony. And this was the state of things after twenty years of peace—that peace which they were told would bring with it the blessings of contentment and plenty to the country. Where were those blessings? Did the disturbances that every where existed bespeak contentment? Did the state of the people—who were now famishing in thousands by the worst of all deaths—gradual starvation
Some Hon. Members—No, No!
Mr. Hume—yes, that was the truth—it was within his own observation; they might conceal it if they pleased—they might call things by different names from what they deserved—hut he would venture to assert, that the late high prices, without any adequate increase of wages, had been productive of the most serious and lamentable consequences. Men were only able to get half a loaf instead of a whole one, while the women could only give half a meal to their children. And this was the state of things which the hon. Gentleman who preceded him in the present debate wished to continue; and for not mentioning these things in the royal Speech, he complimented and praised her Majesty’s Ministers. The hon. Gentleman had said, that the Amendment pledged the House to nothing. Why, if ever anything in the shape of a pledge had been at any time proposed to the House, he thought it was the Amendment of his hon. Friend. Nothing could have been more satisfactory than the
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statement of his hon. Friend; he must, therefore, suppose that the hon. Gentleman was not in the House when his hon. Friend made his plain and distinct statement. His hon. Friend stated, that at the commencement of the last Session, the noble Lord at the head of the Government in the House of Commons declared, not once, but twice, that he considered all organic changes at an end—all changes in the Reform Bill impossible; and that, as far as he was concerned, it was a final measure.
Then came the question of his hon. Friend—and which he (Mr. Hume) also joined in asking—whether that House was to stand still, and no further amendment to be made in the Reform Bill, which every Reformer believed did not answer the purpose for which it was intended? He was not one of those who could be called a finality man. Neither could the noble Lord be so called formerly for he said in introducing the Reform Bill, that he would not at that time speak of the ballot and of the shortening of Parliaments, but would leave them to be considered at some future time. With what consistency, then, could a man, who was the leader of a great body in this country, after making such a declaration, come forward and say, that the Reform Bill was a final measure? In the very second sentence of the speech of the noble Lord, to which he was alluding, the noble Lord observed, “that he was aware that many both in and out of that House, expected that he should say something about the ballot and the shortening of Parliaments, but he felt that those were very distinct questions from what were then under discussion, and he should, therefore, leave them in reserve.”
Now, did the noble Lord mean honourably to tell the House, that those questions were to be in future considered or not? If not, then those who believed him to be honest and sincere had been deceived, and the declaration of the noble Lord had proved the reverse. Could anything be more important, in the present state of the country, than that they should ascertain whether they had a Minister who would go on to correct abuses, or who, on the contrary, was determined to set himself against all further changes? He put it to any man whether it was not absolutely necessary that this should be ascertained. He would put it to the hon. Gentleman opposite, of whom (they having always opposed reform) he and his Friends had no right to complain. It was to them a great triumph.
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They now saw that the men who brought in the Reform Bill, had not courage to carry it through. Ministers talked indeed of being stopped; but they stopped themselves. There was no reason for their stopping, if they had not been stopped by their own fears; and were they, he would ask, who had hitherto supported the Ministry, as a reforming and progressive Ministry, to be fastened to the chariot wheels of those who would not go on? The Reform Bill stood still, and they were to stand with it in order to keep the Ministers in office, and in the enjoyment of all the advantages that appertained to office. He was fearful that they had lost the opportunity of benefitting the community by those changes that ought to have taken place. The amendment proposed by his hon. Friend, would test every man upon these points, and he trusted that it would not prove to be so wanton and useless as the hon. Member who last spoke conceived it to be.
There were two paragraphs in the speech from the Throne, which he considered, made it still more important that the House should sanction the Amendment of his hon. Friend. One of these paragraphs called the attention of the House to the discontent that prevailed in the country, and pointed out the necessity on the part of the Crown to maintain the law. The other paragraph called upon the House to increase the establishments of the country, and make them more efficient. These two paragraphs were reasons why the House should adopt means to ascertain whether, when the Ministers were calling for an increased expenditure to keep the country quiet, the real cause of the existing disquiet was not that for which the Ministers themselves were answerable? His hon. Friend who seconded the motion, bad told them, that there was great discontent prevailing throughout the country: was it possible, he would ask, that there should not be discontent, when between three and four millions of the people were unrepresented? What was the distinction between a freeman and a slave? Every Member ought to consider this question before he voted against progressive reform. A slave was one who had laws made for him, and whose income was regulated by others, over whom he had no controul. A freeman was a man who shared in the legislation of his country, by having a vote for those who made the laws under which he lived. Now, were the four or five millions of working men in this country, who had no vote, any
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better than slaves in this respect? They had no voice in making the laws, nor any power to correct the abuses in the large establishments of the country, which, nevertheless, took the money from their pockets: so that in fact, they were no better circumstanced than the slaves of the West Indies before the Act of Emancipation was passed. Was that no ground of discontent with the people Was that House to stand aloof, beholding the sufferings of the people and the refusal of all redress of their grievances by the Government? His hon. Friend had taken the proper time for ascertaining whether the Parliament would consider those grievances. The people had already discussed them, and now demanded that they should be listened to by that House.
As Englishmen, they had a right to state their demands upon the Legislature, and they would unquestionably exercise that right. Here was one paragraph telling them that discontent existed, and another asking for money to enable the government to maintain the laws. Would it not be the act of wise men and of christians to ascertain whether there were any grounds for this discontent; and if so, whether those grounds could not be removed, and the parties relieved and placed in a situation which would put an end to their discontent? The people complained of the inequality of legislation in its application to them and to the rich. He was one who considered this complaint to be well founded, and who thought that the laws were made to favour the few, and not the many, and that threw on the shoulders of the many the chief burdens of the State. He thought that his hon. Friend had shown great judgment in not pressing on the Government many of those matters which he might very fairly have done, He considered the Amendment well-timed, and should give it his cordial support.
He wished to say a few words upon the Address itself. He had not objected to the Address, because he took it for granted, according to the usual parlance, that in suffering it to pass, he should not be hound by any of the allegations it contained. If he were held to be bound by them, he should most undoubtedly have objected to some of the paragraphs. He did not hear whether there was any clause introduced into the Address, assuring her Majesty, that the House would take into its early consideration, the present Corn-laws. Both the Mover and Seconder of the Address had stated their opinions upon the subject; but he believed, no allusion was
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made to it in the Address itself. It had been for some days his full intention to have taken the present moment for submitting to the House an Amendment, in which he should have stated the reasons why he considered this a fit and proper time to introduce the subject of the Corn-laws before Parliament; but, believing that he might have been in error, and that his friends about him might think it better that so important a question should be kept separate and distinct from the proceedings of this night, he waived his right of bringing it forward, though he was not certain that he had acted wisely in refraining from pressing that question in the Address to her Majesty. There was no question more importantly connected with the happiness and prosperity of this country. On that question depended not only the interests and welfare of the labouring classes of the community, but the wealth, power, and greatness of the empire itself. It was in vain for Gentlemen to talk about the landed interest being the most important interest in the State.
Let them look to other countries where the land was the principal source of wealth, and observe how unfavourably those countries contrasted with this in all that constituted the greatness of nations. This was essentially a manufacturing country, and where one-third of the manufacturing population were employed in producing articles of external commerce. This being the state of things, it was impossible to over-estimate the evils that might ensue should that commerce be destroyed by the mischievous operation of the Corn-laws. He agreed in the eulogies that had been passed upon the commercial treaties which had recently been effected with Austria and Turkey. They would, as it had been justly said, increase the channels of commerce.
But why not take the decisive step at once? Abolish the Corn-laws, and they would have channels enough for their commerce; the whole world would be open to him. If those treaties were of any value—and he admitted that they were—it was because they were a step towards promoting the general happiness of mankind by extending the commercial relations of the countries that were parties to them. For that he valued them. This, however, was but a distant prospect of good. If the Corn-laws were repealed, and free ingress were given not only to corn, but to every description of food—if, in short, the people were allowed to obtain cheap food wherever they could get
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it—then would the advantages of an extended commerce be immediately felt, not by the manufacturing population alone, but by every interest in the country: and were he A landowner he did not think he should be one farthing poorer than he was now. On the contrary, he believed, that such a course of policy would give security, certainty, and regularity to the market prices of every article. It would place Englishmen on an equal footing with men in other countries. Was it not monstrous that men should be supporting the Corn-laws, with the full knowledge that the effect of those laws was to make Englishmen labour for fourteen, fifteen, and even sixteen hours, to obtain those means of subsistence which, in other countries, could be obtained at two-thirds that amount of labour? Some temporary injury might possibly be sustained from the repeal of those laws, by men who had a precarious interest in land, but to the landlords generally—to those who had a permanent interest in the soil, he was satisfied the repeal would be most beneficial.
Were those laws abolished, the field of commerce would be extended in all directions. America would import corn in exchange for British manufactures; but other countries, which could not grow corn, would, were trade wholly free, gladly obtain corn itself from England in barter for their own productions. Let any man read the accounts of what was now going on in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. It was proved beyond the possibility of doubt, that they would import corn from this country, if England would consent to take their timber in exchange. At present the people of those countries had no market for their own productions; they were, therefore, left in a state of poverty, and were unable to purchase either manufactures or corn from us. Here, then, was another opening for British commerce. With respect to the Belgian question, he felt greatly disappointed at the course which the Government had thought it fit to pursue. He did not expect, that in this age they should have found any liberal Whig Minister, joining with any military despots, in handing over no less than 450,000 souls to a country which they hated and abhorred.
Such a policy showed great indifference and want of attention to the wishes and interests of mankind. It was a sad thing to reflect, that now-a-days men were to be transferred like sheep from one potentate to another; and, that this was expected to be submitted to without
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discontent expressed, or discord created. Her Majesty had been made to say—and he was sorry to see it—that under the guarantee of the five Powers peace was warranted, and that the integrity of Holland would be maintained. Did not these five Powers give Belgium to Holland in 1815? But did they, by that act, give peace to Holland? No; then, what could they expect would follow the attempt at giving upwards of 400,000 people who occupied Luxemburg and Limburg to a country which they hated? Was it possible, that the peace of that country could be permanent? Was it possible that discord and future war could be prevented? Would it not have become a British ministry and a liberal Government to have considered, whether, as they had abrogated that part of the treaty of Vienna which gave Belgium to Holland, it might not have been as well to have abolished also that part of the treaty which gave Luxemburg, and Limburg to Holland? It had taken Holland six years to consider whether it would adopt the arrangements proposed by the five Powers. If then, Holland at length had given a tardy consent to those arrangements, was it necessary, that the Parliament of Great Britain should hastily pledge itself to this unnatural union—this transference of so many human beings from one state to another?
This, however, was the course which they were now called upon to approve of and adopt. He sincerely hoped, that her Majesty would reflect on the advice—the ill advice which had been given to her—the bad policy which she had been counselled to pursue—a policy in breach of all laws, human and divine. Yes, it was a breach of the law of God. God’s law never made any man the slave of another, and human laws were made for the benefit of mankind. It was never intended to sanction that policy which handed over between three and four hundred thousand men to a government which they despised and abhorred, and this without any benefit whatever to be derived by them from it. Therefore, against this paragraph in the Address, so far as it sanctioned that proceeding, he entered his strongest protest. He hoped, at all events, since Holland had taken six years to consider the propositions, that the British Government would never concur in any attempt immediately to force the arrangement on the Belgian people, with, out giving them time to consider and consent to that which they had not courage
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to oppose in the first instance. It was said that the five Powers had guaranteed this arrangement. But those powers had heretofore differed and quarrelled among themselves. With regard to the Peninsula, did they not see three of those Powers standing aloof, and the two others interfering? If there was disgrace attaching to this country for the policy which handed over the people of Poland to other nations, what must be the disgrace that would be incurred by the measure which transferred the people of Limburg and Luxemburg to Holland? The voice of the whole world would be raised against them; and the connection itself could not possibly last. He hoped he should never live to see that reproach upon England. It was a disgrace from which they ought carefully to protect themselves. Papers were to be laid before the House relating to this important question. He hoped, when that was done, that some hon. Member would bring the matter forward, and take the deliberate sense of the Commons of England, whether they would sanction the principle of a proceeding so atrocious.
There was another question arising out of the Address—he meant the state of Canada, on which it would be premature to say much. The Speech from the Throne directed the attention of the House to the present state of that country; but did the House know that military law had been proclaimed there, and that courts-martial were sitting to try every criminal case, and that the judges had been suspended for offering a protection through the screen of the law against such enormities? He hoped, that the House would have early information upon all points relating to that country, that they might see the grounds for the present proceedings; for he believed, that there was not a man in that House who would sanction such proceedings, unless they were taken from overwhelming necessity.
In conclusion he must express his regret, that after England had been at peace for twenty years, they should hear of more taxes. The revenue had been insufficient last year to meet the expenditure, and he believed that it would be found to be also deficient this year. He regretted, therefore, that they had not enforced economy, and that they should now be called upon to vote sums for increased establishments, which must, in the present state of financial affairs, necessarily lead to increased taxation. On the whole, he was of opinion that the House would act
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wisely in supporting the motion of his hon. Friend, as a test and as an assurance to the country, that the House would take into its consideration the necessity for further reform—by which he meant organic reform—and as a means for allaying discontent, and for enabling the nation at large to obtain wise laws. On these grounds alone he would vote for his hon. Friend’s Amendment.
Mr. Brotherton would not have risen had it not been for some observations which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had seconded the Address, and which might lead to misapprehension. With regard to the Amendment then before the House, he might state, that there were five million men in this kingdom above twenty-one years of age, and that only one million of these had the elective franchise; that the people of this country conceived that the laws were partial, and that they were made for the benefit of the few, and not for the benefit of the many. The hon. Member for Lincolnshire had defended monopoly, and he conceived that monopoly always meant robbing somebody else.
He had risen, however, to prevent the House from being led away by the flattering statements of the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address. Coming from the same neighbourhood, he (Mr. Brotherton) knew something of the feelings of the people there, and he would put it to the common sense of the House to say whether they were prospering. Since the price of corn had doubled, would they tell him that wages had doubled? The manufacturers received small profits, and if they had received any, it was out of the wages of the labourers, who were forced to work long hours at trifling wages; and he would then ask, whether reform would not benefit the country? The exports might have increased in quantity. The exports of coal might have increased fifteen per cent.; but the exports of machinery had also increased; they were put down at 5,000l. a year; but he had no hesitation in saying, that they were ten times that amount.
Tools, also, had been exported in large quantities, and other exports might be larger now, but the exports were now greatest where least labour was required, and they were least where much labour was necessary. We had lost the export of such goods as required much expenditure of labour, and we had an increase in such articles as long yarns. The exports might be far greater than they were in quantity,
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but the price was not the same as before. He had no hesitation in saying, therefore, that the manufactures of this country were by no means in a favourable state. But, even if our manufactures were improving, this would not take away the great evil under which the country laboured—that they were legislating for one class only. He had no hostility to the landed interest; but he firmly believed, that an alteration of the Corn-laws would be beneficial to all classes. He believed, that it would not lower the value of land, that it would increase the profits of the manufacturers, and that it would increase the profits of the poor, and if they proceeded with just and impartial legislation, he had no fear for ‘the prospects of the country.
Mr. Heathcole said, that although the Mover and Seconder of the Address had deprecated an immediate discussion of the Corn-laws, yet they had entered fully into the matter, as had also the hon. Members for Kilkenny and Salford. The latter had referred to the old and often-refuted argument, that the abolition of the Corn-laws would not benefit the manufacturers alone, but the landowners equally. Those who were connected with that part of England with which he was more immediately concerned, were so far from thinking that they would be benefitted by the abolition, that he had received instructions to give to the proposition a positive and conclusive denial. He would not then enter fully into the question, but he knew the feeling of the county with which he had been connected for the last nineteen years, and he never knew any feeling so strong and so unanimous as it was upon this subject; a feeling pervading persons of all classes, contrasting greatly with what had taken place at meetings elsewhere, particularly in the manufacturing towns, where there was much violence and contrariety of opinion.
The feeling did not less pervade persons of all political opinions than all classes of the community; not only was it entertained by the landowners, but he assured the House, that it was participated in by the tradesmen in the small towns, and by the labourers themselves. He believed, that he would have to present many petitions to that effect, numerously signed by the labourers, and he believed also, that from every parish in Lincolnshire would come a petition so signed. Hon. Members could not, therefore, say, that the landowners stood alone; for all classes were willing to
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enter into the contest against an oligarchy of millowners. Hon. Gentlemen always argued as if this were a question having reference only to a certain number of landowners, but let him assure the House, that the most numerous class affected by it was the small proprietors of land. There were tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of these small proprietors, and he hoped that hon. Members would look at this question with reference to them; let them consider that there was no class of people in the Queen’s dominions who suffered so much when times were bad, and now, when times were better, they ought to be allowed to benefit by the change. And if he possessed, as he did, the confidence of the large landowners, and he was proud of it, he was still prouder that he possessed also the confidence of these small proprietors; and he declared, that all they wished was to be let alone. Not only were they for no surrender, but they would consent to no compromise; they were decidedly against a fixed duty—they would not hear of a fixed duty; and by a fixed duty he understood, that when corn was low it should come in at a low duty, and that when it was high it should come in at no duty.
He mentioned this for the information of the noble Lord, because it was supposed that all parties might consent to a fixed duty. The hon. Member for Salford had opposed a monopoly; but was the woollen trade no monopoly? Was the silk trade no monopoly? Was there no monopoly in the glove trade? Why, a considerable manufacturing town connected with the silk trade bad, in the same Session, and he believed by the same post, sent two petitions, one praying for more protection for the silk trade, and the other for a total repeal of the Corn-laws. This was the kind of one-sided justice which some hon. Gentlemen wanted. And if the question were to be submitted to the consideration of the country, if the country were to decide upon it, it ought not to be submitted as a question of free trade in corn, but as a question of free trade in every thing.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, Hear.
Mr. Heathcole—Hon. Members might cheer; but he should like to see, if they went to an election on the question of free trade what would be the result. The fact was, every one was for a monopoly himself, but for a free trade in what every other person dealt in and many Members who now sat for boroughs and cinque ports would not again be returned if they
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voted for a free trade; many hon. Gentlemen opposite would be thrown out; and he wished hon. Gentlemen opposite to cheer after the next general election, and not now. He had great pleasure in finding that the word Corn-laws was not to be found in the Address; but he supposed from the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen who had moved and seconded the Address, that it was the intention of the Government to remain neutral upon this question. If there were a neutrality, he hoped that it would he real, and not apparent; that, under a semblance of neutrality, no intimations would be given to Members connected with the Government; if the Government maintained an apparent instead of a real neutrality, there might be bodies of men in the country who would resent it. On the question before the House, moved by the hon. Member for Finsbury, he thought that what that hon. Member said was wrong at all times, and that he was still more wrong upon the present occasion.
Mr. James said, that he was the advocate for progressive reform, and he regretted as much as any man any declaration of the finality of the Reform Bill. Whenever any hon. Member should make a distinct motion for the extension of the suffrage, for shortening the duration of Parliaments, or for the ballot, he should have his vote; but he did not think it an appropriate manner of bringing it forward by inserting it in the Address, and he thought that the hon. Member for Finsbury would show more respect to her Majesty by abstaining from pressing his motion upon the present occasion. If the Amendment were carried, it would be a sort of censure upon the present Administration, and he, for one, would be sorry to see it passed. It might have the effect of turning Ministers out of office, and of bringing in the Gentlemen over the way. He would, therefore, vote for the Address.
Mr. O’Connell said, that the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury involved no amendment, and raised no question on the Address; it was simply an addition. So far they were all agreed. And it was an addition involving matter so true, that no vote of that House could lessen its truth. It stated, that the reform of the British House of Commons had not satisfied the people, and it ought not to have satisfied them. How, then, could it be called final? That the people were dissatisfied with it
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was manifest, from one end of the country to the other. When they talked of petitioning against the Corn-law, the people declared, in more than one place, that they must first seek to enlarge the suffrage, and that they would not petition for a repeal of the Corn-laws, having no confidence in that House. They were most affected by the Corn-law, they wished for its amendment, but they would not petition that House. Having expressed an opinion against a somewhat similar motion last year, he now stated his determination to vote for the present motion. It was precisely so. Last year he apprehended that such a resolution would have disturbed existing relations; but, in the present year, he had no such apprehensions; and, in the interval, what had occurred in the country?
Last Session there was no expression of popular feeling; there had since been a popular expression: he bowed to it, and he would vote in conformity with the popular feeling. He was sorry to find that the cause of Belgium had been so much neglected. We had enforced a treaty, by which the Dutch had at first refused to abide; and we had enforced it against persons who were no parties to it. He could see no worse principle on which to act, than compel a people to quit a government of which they approved, and to join a nation and a government of which they entirely disapproved. Why should we compel any people to do that? What right had we to do it? It was said, that we must respect the treaty of Vienna; but if they went back to the treaty of Vienna, what became of the question? What had we done under that treaty? We had not enforced it in all instances. Had not the Emperor Nicholas violated the treaty with regard to Poland? Did not that treaty guarantee a constitution to Poland? And had we not refused to interfere to maintain it? He believed, that there was nothing more dangerous to the monarchical principle than these attempted transfers. He believed, that it would give rise to considerable irritation.
We hoped to obtain assistance from the king of Prussia, but the king of Prussia had differed with a large class of his subjects, and whilst our Government thought they were avoiding a war, he feared their acts might eventuate in many a war of the worst description. With respect to Canada, be could not allow the Address to pass without one
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observation. We were originally wrong with respect to Canada. Out of a notion of economy, we took the money of the Canadians without the consent of the Canadian Parliament, but he would like to know what economy we had found in that? He was not there to advocate the cause of those who had urged Canada to revolt, but he could not read of the quantity of blood which had been shed, and of the courts-martial, which ordered it, without protesting against it. He had hoped, that the day had arrived, when the shedding of blood would have been prevented. In this country the punishment of death for capital offences had, in almost all instances, been abolished, and he did not see why this humanity should not be extended beyond the Atlantic. And why had punishment of death been abolished here? Because it was found that other punishments were more effectual. It had been found in practice, that the punishment of perpetual banishment was quite as effectual as death, and it had not the evil consequence of habituating the people to the sacrifice of human life. Again, with respect to the employment of courts-martial for the trial of prisoners, why did they not bring them before a jury? They were told that the juries would acquit; but in the Address they were told, that the people of Canada were loyal.
If the Canadians were loyal, they were fit to be jurors; hut if they were not fit to be jurors, they were not loyal, and they stated what was not true in the Address to the Crown. When they said that juries would acquit, did they mean, that courts-martial would not acquit? But if they did, it bespoke a foregone conclusion. In his opinion, there was nothing worse, nothing more opposed to the feelings of officers, than to have them fighting one day against wretches in the field, and the next day, at a sort of a mock trial, sentencing the same parties to the gallows. It might be said, that courts martial were required to try the persons who had come over the American frontier; but why did they try by courts-martial those men who were not taken in arms? And when they added to this, that three of the judges had been superseded after decisions given in courts of law, he thought that they ought to make some efforts to relieve the officers. He trusted, that they would not rival the Cabreras of Spain, and that they would prevent every unnecessary waste of blood. He implored the Government
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to take speedy steps to stop the horrors of these proceedings. He would vote for the Address, protesting against the part relating to Belgium; he hoped, that Belgium would not acquiesce in the arrangement; he trusted, that they had sufficient power on their borders to repel any hostile movement; and he opposed the principle of arrangement, without consulting popular opinion.
Sir Robert Peel said, that there were three classes of topics which were under discussion in the debate of that night. First, the topics which were introduced into the Speech and the Address; secondly, those which were omitted from the Speech and Address, but which had been referred to by the Mover and Seconder; and, thirdly, those which were introduced by the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Finsbury. Although it was not his intention to move any amendment to the Address, yet he would shortly advert to the several topics introduced into the Speech and Address, omitted there from, and proposed to be added by the hon. Member. Whatever omissions, however, there might be, Parliament never met under circumstances of such great importance, or which afforded so much cause for deep anxiety in several quarters of the globe.
Whether they referred to the affairs of Canada, to the disputes between Holland and Belgium, to the state of France, or to our Indian possessions, they would find that there were topics in all of these suggesting grave consideration, and which they could not regard without deep anxiety. The first reference which had been made in the Speech from the Throne was to the treaties which had been concluded with Austria on the one hand, and Turkey on the other; and though he concurred in the general policy of those treaties, he could not concur in the extravagant panegyric which had been passed upon them by the hon. Gentleman who had seconded the Address. He concurred in the policy of the Austrian treaty, but it was nothing more than a continuance of the treaty of the year 1829, which had been concluded by his noble Friend, the Earl of Aberdeen. The opening of the Danube and other circumstances would of course suggest the extension of the principle of that treaty, but the reciprocal principle of the present treaty was the basis of the treaty of 1829. He concurred also in the policy
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of the treaty which had been entered into with Turkey; but he did not concur in the opinion that it would produce all the advantages which some hon. Members anticipated. These treaties were held out as an effectual guarantee against the encroachments of Russia; but the treaty with Turkey appeared to stand thus—that where as the powers of Europe had agreed to the importation of Turkish goods at a low rate of duty, which, in practice, had been found to give rise to illicit imports, an attempt was now made, by the substitution of a more reasonable and higher rate of duty, to establish a more legitimate entry into the various ports. The former duty on goods was, he believed, an ad valorem duty of three per cent., and it was now a duty of twelve per cent.
Mr. P. Thomson remarked, that the former duty was three per cent., the rise was two per cent., making the whole duty at present five per cent.
Sir Robert Peel feared, that in the present state of the internal government of Turkey, the superior authority would be so little attended to by the inferior persons over whom it had little control, that we should not reap all the advantages which we expected, and that we should find ourselves thwarted, not by the superior government, but by the inferior authorities. He would next advert to a subject of far deeper interest—to a question which had for too long a time escaped the attention of that House—to the subject of the British empire and the British interests in India. When they considered the immense importance of diverting the attention of the inhabitants of India from war, and of teaching them the acts of peace, and when they contemplated the evil consequences of a great financial expenditure, imposing the necessity for an additional taxation, he was bound to say that he could not consider this question without the greatest anxiety. He hoped that her Majesty’s Ministers would give them the fullest information—that the House would be informed of the causes which had led to the interruption of our amicable relations with Persia. When they saw the large accumulation of force, amounting to several thousands, on our Indian frontier, and when they saw the encouragement which this accumulation of force, causing a necessary withdrawal from other parts, would give to
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other governments—he trusted to receive such information as would afford satisfaction to the public mind in England. He would not then state his opinion of the course pursued by the Governor-general, or her Majesty’s Ministers; he would not then utter one word in condemnation of it; but he required that the House should be furnished with every particular which could be communicated consistently with the interests of the country. If we feared incursion from Russia, we should have reason to apprehend greater evil if we took a wrong view of the intentions of Persia. If we converted Persia, which had been a friend to England and an enemy to Russia, into an enemy to England and a friend to Russia, we were raising up difficulties in that quarter of our empire. He need make no apology to the House for entering into these details—the whole subject was too important to require any apology from him.
The attention of Parliament had not been sufficiently drawn to the state of our interests in India. There had been much squabbling on matters of domestic interest, but of comparatively trifling importance, whilst these vast questions involving peace and war, and on which the fate of nations depended, had escaped observation. The Speech from the Throne made the following announcement respecting the relations between Persia and England:— Differences which have arisen have occasioned the retirement of my Minister from the court of Teheran. I indulge, however, the hope of learning that a satisfactory adjustment of these differences will allow of the re-establishment of my relations with Persia upon their former footing of friendship. Events connected with the same differences have induced the Governor-general of India to take measures for protecting British interests in that quarter of the world, and to enter into engagements, the fulfilment of which may render military operations necessary. For this purpose such preparations have been made as may be sufficient to resist aggression from any quarter, and to maintain the integrity of my eastern dominions. He knew full well that whatever might be said in the British Parliament about the necessity of confining our conquests in India within our present limits, would be replied to by an assertion of the irrepressible tendency of our empire there to extend itself; he knew that it would be extended beyond its present limits, and that it would be said that it must go on extending
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itself in a geometrical ratio; but still he did not find in any public document a justification under that head of the proclamation of the Governor-general of India, nor could he discover any connexion between that proclamation and the Speech from the Throne. The proclamation of the Governor-general of India seemed to have more in view than the mere resistance of aggression. This he thought was a fair inference from this passage of the proclamation—”After a serious and mature deliberation, the Governor-general was satisfied that pressing necessity, as well as every consideration of policy and justice, warranted us in espousing the cause of Scháh Soojah-ool-Moolk, whose popularity throughout Afghanistan had been proved to his Lordship by the strong and unanimous testimony of the best authorities.
Having arrived at this determination, the Governor-general was further of opinion that it was just and proper, no less from the position of Maharaja Runjeet Singh, than from his undeviating friendship towards the British Government, that his Highness should have the offer of becoming a party to the contemplated operations. Mr. Macnaghten was accordingly deputed in June last to the Court of his Highness, and the result of his mission has been the conclusion of a tripartite treaty by the British Government, the Maharaja, and Schah Soojah-ool-Moolk, whereby his Highness is guaranteed in his present possessions, and has bound himself to co-operate for the restoration of the Schah to the throne of his ancestors. The friends and enemies of any one of the contracting parties have been declared to be the friends and enemies of all.”
That was to say, that the friends and enemies of Runjeet Singh and of the Schah Soojah should be the friends and enemies of England. Now, to that sort of engagement on the part of British power in India he did not agree. It would further appear from the proclamation of the Governor-general, that the force assembled on our western frontier had more for its object than the mere resistance of aggression. He said, “The Governor-general confidently hopes that the Schah will be speedily replaced on his throne by his own subjects and adherents, and when once he shall be secured in power, and the independence and integrity of Afghanistan established, the British army will be withdrawn.” Now he should require that the
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fullest information should be laid before the House on this subject. Here was a sort of guarantee given by the Governor-general that the British army would not be withdrawn until Schah Soojah-ool-Moolk should be restored. That prince was deposed from his throne in 1809, and had been kept out of it ever since, though on one occasion he had endeavoured to recover his authority, at the head of an army of 20,000 men, and failed. Yet this was the prince whom the British Government in India was about to restore, by the aid of an immense and most expensive military force, and when restored, no doubt another British force would be required to keep him on the throne. The principle was the same in the attempted restoration of the Schah Soojah as it would be in the attempt to restore Charles 10th to the throne of France, with this difference, that the Schah had been thirty years dispossessed of his throne. In the years 1831 and 1832 the government of India had sent officers of great intelligence and industry to report on the state of Afghanistan; and what were the characters given by one of those officers (Captain Burnes) of the present occupier of the throne, and of him who had been dispossessed of it, not by the hostile interference of other nations, but by the dislike of his own subjects? Captain Burnes said, that the total overthrow of the dynasty of the late king was universally attributed to his misplaced pride and arrogance, and that he might have regained his power but for his rash attempts to exceed the authority belonging to the station which he had assumed before he was firmly seated on the throne.
The whole of the wealth of the country was in the hands of those who were inimical to his interests, and the bulk of the people believed that be had drawn down the mischievous effects upon them which had been produced; and from these circumstances, Captain Burnes drew the inference that the restoration of the late king was an event which it was most improbable would occur. That was the account by this gentleman, founded upon facts which he had collected in the course of a tour made in the years 1831, 1832, and 1833. That was the only account which was in existence, possessing any authority, of these territories, and that stated that it was impossible to replace the late Schah at the head of the country again on account of the feeling which existed
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against him; and yet the Governor-general informed Parliament that he had entered into a guarantee, under which, by the interference of British force, the sovereign should he restored. He must say, that in the present state of India, the entering into that guarantee, to be supported by such a course as that which was suggested, required an explanation which had not yet been given—which might be given—but which, to be satisfactory, must be of a character very different from any which had yet appeared; for it must be obvious that the passage in the Speech of her Majesty to Parliament did not correspond with the proclamation of the Governor-general. With regard to the case of the siege of Herat, that stood upon very different grounds, and he would say nothing on that head; but a very different question arose, whether it was politic to enter into a guarantee by treaty to restore the Schah.
The next subject to which it was necessary to refer was, the important matter of the Canadian affairs, and although he had nothing to object to the general purport of the Speech, according to the construction which he placed upon it, yet he must say, that he thought the House would do well in its Address, to express in very strong terms the sympathy which they felt in the sufferings and wrongs to which the British subjects had been exposed in that part of the possessions of this country by the unjust and severe acts of aggression to which they had been exposed. He could not express his admiration for them too strongly—his admiration for the sacrifices which they had made, and for the valour which they had displayed in maintaining their connexion with England. They had not resisted from any cold calculations of pecuniary interest, or of their own immediate aggrandisement or security; but they had been influenced by the purest principles of loyalty, by their preference, after experience, for the monarchical form of government over the democratic; by their love for the British name, and by their determination to maintain their share in the liberties and glory of Great Britain; and for their exertions, he wished that in the last Session (now it would come, perhaps, with less effect) this House had expressed, in stronger terms, its sympathy in their sufferings, and its admiration for their loyalty and courage. When her Majesty, in her Speech from the Throne,
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called on Parliament to support her in maintaining the authority of the Crown in Canada, he took it for granted that that meant to intimate an intention on the part of the Government to maintain the sovereignty of her Majesty in the North American possessions of this country. He took it for granted, that that was tantamount to a declaration, not only that the maintaining that sovereignty was intended, but that after all that had passed the honour of this great country was concerned in supporting that authority; and he imagined that her Majesty intended to manifest her determination, whatever might be the result, to support those gallant men who, far separated from this country, but aided by its troops, had been able to resist the insurrections of the disaffected, and had proved themselves worthy of their connexion with England, and of their right to the language which they spoke in common with Britons, by their noble exertions, and by the sacrifices which they had so gallantly and so disinterestedly made.
Lord J. Russell—Hear, Hear.
Sir Robert Peel —The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) assented to what he said, and that established the authority which he had attempted to deduce from the passage to which he had referred, and it was a declaration to the world, directed to the people of Canada more particularly, intimating that when any persons might attempt to molest them, it was for the honour of the British Throne that support should be given to British subjects. If that were so, then it meant to declare, and by that declaration to cheer the spirits of those who might be doubting, perhaps, as to the course they should take, that their sacrifices should not pass unnoticed if they were again called from their homes in order to repel any new aggressions of the same character as those which had been already made, and which were the most expensive and dreadful that had ever been inflicted on the people of any country. They might however rely on the protecting power of Great Britain being extended to them. It was important also that the declaration should be understood by those misguided inhabitants of the United States who had been the main cause of these aggressions. He was bound to say that he had never spoken but in this way—he had never spoken of the United States in the whole course of his political career with any other feeling than
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that of deprecation of any sentiment inimical to the Government of that country; and he thought it important, for the sake of humanity, and for the sake of the civilized world, that the friendship of the two countries should be maintained without any interruption of the best feelings; but that consideration should never prevent him, as a Member of the House of Commons, from expressing freely his opinion with respect to their conduct.
Her Majesty, in her gracious Speech from the Throne, did certainly—he knew not whether it was intended as such—give as faint praise as possible to the efforts of the government of the United States. He was glad that her Majesty had spoken the truth. All that she said with respect to the President of the United States was this:—”The President of the United States has called upon the citizens of the Union to abstain from proceedings so incompatible with the friendly relations which subsist between Great Britain and the United States.” Why if that were all that the President had done—if all that bad passed were considered—all that appeared to have been done was to issue a Proclamation, calling on the inhabitants of the United States to abstain from any interference with the Canadians; and the very limited panegyric was justifiable, but he was still dissatisfied with it. He could not conceive anything more grievously unjust, than that the inhabitants of a country standing in a position of friendly relationship with another adjoining country, should keep the subjects resident in that country, without any cause of quarrel, in a state of danger of hostile interference; and be could not conceive anything more dangerous than that such an example should be allowed to continue in existence.
Let hon. Gentlemen imagine the inhumanity and injustice which would arise in the event of it being admitted that the people of one kingdom were justified in making an entry into the adjoining territory with armed forces, in destroying its villages and massacring the people, and that the only reparation which could be obtained, was an answer that the government of that country, by whose inhabitants the insurrection was made, was weak or was disinclined to interfere, or that it should only call upon its subjects to desist from such proceedings and nothing more. Had anything more been done here? What had been done with respect
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to those persons who had broken into the arsenal belonging to the United States, and, having taken away the armd contained therein, had turned them against the British people? But what doctrine had the United States laid down under similar circumstances? When the Indians of Florida had entered upon and had attacked the United States, did General Jackson satisfy himself by adopting that course? Did he not, on the contrary, march into the territory of the Spanish, and seize the forts, and hold them for the United States? And when the Spanish government complained of it, what was the answer? It was, “If you cannot maintain order among your subjects, we will.” That was the doctrine to which he appealed from his confidence in its justice, and the American government which he was sure acts on the principle of doing as it would be done by. The Spanish answered that they were weak, but the United States did not say that they were in the same condition, and could not repress the inhabitants. Mr. Adams foresaw the possibility of such a case arising, and he said, in his answer to the Spanish minister who demanded satisfaction, He took possession, therefore, of Pensacola, and of the fort of Barrancas, as he had done of St. Mark’s not in a spirit of hostility to Spain, but as a necessary measure of self-defence; giving notice that they should be restored whenever Spain should place commanders and a force there able and willing to fulfil the engagements of Spain towards the United States, of restraining by force the Florida Indians from hostility against their citizens.….
But the President will neither inflict punishment nor pass a censure upon General Jackson for that conduct, the motives for which were founded upon the purest patriotism; of the necessity for which he had the most immediate and effectual means of forming a judgment, and the vindication of which is written in every page of the law of nations as well as in the first law of nature, self-defence.…. If, as the commanders, both of Pensacola and St. Mark’s, have alleged, this has been the result of their weakness rather than of their will—if they have assisted the Indians against the United States to avert their hostilities from the province which they had not sufficient force to defend against them, it may serve in some measure to exculpate individually those officers; but it must carry demonstration irresistibly to the Spanish government that the right of the United States can as little compound with impotence as with perfidy, and that Spain must immediately make her election either to place force in Florida adequate at once to the
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protection of her territory and to the fulfilment of her engagements, or to cede to the United States a province of which she retains nothing but the nominal possession, but which is, in fact, a derelict, open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilised or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them. It was in order that the inevitable consequences of the continuance of the existence of the present system might be avoided that this matter was of importance, for there was the risk of men taking the law into their own hands, who were constantly exposed to sufferings of the description experienced by the Canadians, and it was to avert that event that he trusted that the United States would be zealous in co-operating with the British Government now. The sentiments of the nation must be known, and it was for the general interests of all countries to prevent the repetition of such conduct.
Supposing 200 citizens of the United States were to collect and enter Canada, and seize upon a village, the result might be, that before assistance could arrive sufficient to expel them, a great number of others might take advantage of the stand which they had made, and of the temporary victory which had been gained, and might pour in upon the country under circumstances so advantageous as to prevent their being expelled without great difficulty. It was his duty, therefore, as a Member of the British Parliament, to call on the Government to make an appeal to the United States against the injustice of such a course. There was one other topic introduced in the Address on which he had a wish to speak. He was willing to put that construction upon it which it had received from the hon. Member for Kilkenny and the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that it pledged those who voted in support of it to nothing, and to acknowledge, that it need not be criticised with any great accuracy, and therefore he did not object to it; but he would now come to a topic which had been omitted in it, and which was not adverted to. It was evident, that the hon. Member who had seconded the Address to her Majesty had prepared the speech which he had addressed to the House under the impression that the subject of the Corn-laws would be alluded to in her Majesty’s Speech. He thanked the hon. Gentleman for the opinion which he had expressed, and the views which he had taken upon that
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important topic, and which he believed would carry the greater weight from the high authority which the hon. Member was known to be upon such a subject from his knowledge of the facts connected with the matter, and he was exceedingly obliged to him for the clear manner in which he had expressed himself, and certainly for the very able speech which he had delivered in favour of the existing system.
His hon. Friends who sat near him, when the hon. Gentleman was addressing the House upon this subject, had called upon him to cheer for the arguments which the hon. Member had advanced; but he declined to take such an advantage of the hon. Gentleman, because he was fully persuaded, that before he concluded his speech he would proceed to the demolition of his own premises; but when the hon. Gentleman sat down, he never was so much surprised as at the termination of what he said; for he had never heard any speech delivered as this was, not only by the seconder of the Address, but by the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce at Manchester, which went so far to confirm those in their adherence to the present state of things who had been favourable to its continuance, and to awaken the doubts and suspicions of those who were opposed to it.
His argument was quite complete in all its points; for if he had said, that he would prove that there had been a progressive increase in the exports of England, he would have been answered, that it was true that the quantities had increased, yet that the relative value had diminished, and therefore that argument had no weight; if he had said, that he would give the official valuation, then he would have been called on to say what was the declared value; but to silence all opposition, he at once said,— I will give you the declared value; I will institute the best comparison; I will not take former years when other systems were in operation; but I will select the years 1835, 1836, and 1837; and I will compare the exports of 1838 with those of those four years under the same system of Corn-laws, and I will show you a progressive increase, not only in manufactured commodities, but in the real declared value, which amounted to three millions and a half; and I will show you, that there is a reasonable way of accounting for the depression which has taken place. In 1837, it is true, you had a depression; but that is not attributable to the Corn-laws. The years from 1834 to 1836 would afford fair tests
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upon which to decide the question, but the year 1837 would not; for it was not the Corn-laws which caused the depression in that year; but it was the operation of the banking system; and the instant that was removed, the instant that the ligature which bowed us to the ground was cut, in 1838, we rose buoyant. The hon. Gentleman proposed to produce quantities, and he (Sir R. Peel) was also prepared with quantities which presented matter of grave consideration, whether it were proper to tamper with the existing system, and to show the House, that since that system had been in operation, a progressive increase of exports had taken place which was almost unheard of.
The expert of cotton yarn in 1829 was fifty-seven million pounds; in 1830, it was sixty-two millions; in 1831, it was fifty-eight millions; while in 1838, it was one hundred and thirteen millions of pounds; so that there was an increase to the extent of double the quantity in 1838, as compared to the quantity exported in 1829. A similar increase had taken place in the cotton-thread exported, which, in 1829, was 1,074,000 lbs., and in 1838, 2,362,000 lbs, or more than double the quantity exported in 1829. But this increase had not been confined to cotton alone. In hosiery, the quantities exported for three years, 1829,1830, and 1838, were—1829, 363,000 lbs.; 1830, 346,000 lbs.; 1838, 447,000 lbs. In calicoes, there had been an immense increase since 1829, the amount then was 128,000,000 yards printed and 179,966,000 plain. In 1830, 159,432,000 printed and 190,262,000 plain. In 1838, 264,724,000 printed and 282,847,300 plain. In silks, also, the increase had been great.—
Mr. Wood—An average of four years.
Sir Robert Peel—He begged the hon. Gentleman would speak with the tone in which he before spoke of the average of four years, and remove any gloomy apprehensions which it might convey to his mind. In silks, the quantity exported in 1839, was 80,710 lbs, and, in 1838, 146,293 lbs.; of silk and cotton, 27,410 lbs, in 1837, and, in 1838, 52,863 lbs. This was the state of our commerce under the present. Corn-law, and he begged it to be recollected that there was an increase of 3½ millions not only upon the quantity but upon the declared value.—
Mr. Wood—An increase of only 7 per cent.
Sir Robert Peel—Yes, 7 per cent.; but he did not perceive the same loudness
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now in the tone of the hon. Gentleman’s voice which he had observed when he first made the declaration which he had repeated. It was not only this argument, however, which the hon. Gentleman had advanced which was in his favour, but he had said, also, that he had reason to know and believe that our trade was in a sound, healthy, and improving state. The hon. Member’s account of the shipping interest, was equally satisfactory, and shewed that, under the existing system, that department of commerce had an equal right to boast of its stable and firm position.
The question now therefore was, whether the British Parliament should be so alarmed by that which was the inevitable consequence of a bad harvest; and he hoped, that the House would pause before it acceded to any proposition which would have the effect of changing the law, and which would materially affect the agricultural interests of this country, having received from the President of the Chamber of Commerce at Manchester, the account which he had given of the stable and secure position of the commerce and manufactures of the country, exposed, however, as it was to the disadvantages of a bad bank system; and he trusted, that they would hesitate before they run the risk of needlessly undermining the foundation of that system which had been attended with such good effects. He now came to the last paragraph of the Address. Her Majesty, in her Speech, said— I have observed with pain the persevering efforts which have been made in some parts of the country to excite my subjects to disobedience and resistance to the law, and to recommend dangerous and illegal practices.
He had no hesitation in saying, that by whomsoever or for whatever purposes these practices were resorted to, they would at all times meet with his most decided opposition. He cordially agreed with the expression which her Majesty used, and he hoped that that high authority not introducing any new penalties of the law, but warning her subjects against being misled by the practices of designing men, and expressing her determination to enforce the existing laws, would have the proper effect upon all loyal subjects, and would tend to frustrate the designs of these men; but the noble Lord must excuse him, if he said that he wished that steps had been taken at an earlier period to prevent the continuance of attempts which were now
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complained of. He found, certainly, that during the autumn, there had been language used most improper and exciting. He cared not by whom that language was used, or upon what subject, whether it was against the Poor-laws, or the Corn-laws; but he said that the language, considering the state of life of the individual who used it, was highly improper. It was calculated to excite the people to violence, and to endanger the safety of property, and by that means to call down upon the heads of the offending parties the severest penalties of the law. The noble Lord, however, must again excuse him for saying, that when he thought fit to advert to the subject of these meetings, he used language which was so capable of perversion, of being misunderstood, as to be dangerous in its effect. He would state the grounds on which this allegation was founded.
On the 17th of September, a public meeting was held in London; and he found that a speaker there made use of the sort of language he complained of. Speaking of the men of the north, he said, They were armed. He had seen the arms over their mantel-pieces. But the national petition had come opportunely, and they would not have signed it had it not demanded universal suffrage. If they should fail in the present instance, he would not attempt to say what would be the consequence. The rifles would be loaded—that would be the next step, no doubt; and he defied the power of any government, or of any armed Bourbon police, to put them down. It was no use to disguise the matter; secrecy was the ruin of all things. Everything would be done openly by the people of Lancashire, and it would be done constitutionally and legally. Now for the people’s charter. They demanded it because it contained universal suffrage—because it gave them a voice in the choice of representatives—and they were justified in asking for this. Was it too much for those who produced all the food, all the clothing, all the necessaries of life—who fought all the battles of the country, to ask for a voice in the choice of their representatives?
He would state what the people of Manchester were going to do. They intended, on Monday next, to hold a great meeting at Manchester—an aggregate meeting, where they expected no less than 300,000 men, two-thirds of whom were fit to bear arms. A person named Wade, a clergyman apparently, afterwards spoke. He said— He would now say a word as to the convention. One advantage of it would be, that the people would have an executive power to
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watch the government. If any unjust aggression were made on the people by the convention, they would have the power of calling a great convention, and those who did not agree with it might go about their business. Mr. Feargus O’Connor (formerly a Member of this House) said, They had had a taste of physical force in the north a short time since. Some of the metropolitan police were sent down to Dewsbury, but the boys of that noble town sent them home again. His desire was to try moral force as long as possible, even to the fullest extent; but he would have them always bear in mind that it was better to die freemen than to die slaves. Every conquest which was called honourable had been achieved by physical force; but they did not want it, because if all hands were pulling for universal suffer age, they would soon pull down the stronghold of corruption. The Whigs had not only deprived the poor of their rights, but they had robbed the middling classes of theirs also, and all for the purpose of putting the power into the hands of the three devils at Somerset-house.
The rev. Mr. Stephens, on the 24th of September, used this language:— If the borough reeve and constables had not made the declaration which they had made, and if these parties had not given the command of the police to be vested in the hands of the marshals of the day of that meeting, he would have come upon the ground armed, and would have brought 10,000 armed men with him to the meeting, and he would have moved an adjournment. He would have moved an adjournment of the meeting of the people of South Lancashire for one month, and he would have advised every one in the meantime to use all his influence over his friends and fellow workmen, to flock towards the standard of the national charter. Now, when the noble Lord spoke of these meetings in the language he had used, though he not did doubt that his object was good, yet he must say, that be thought the expressions which he used were capable of being misunderstood. He would read a report which had been published of the noble Lord’s speech, and which had not been contradicted nor controverted. The noble Lord said, at a dinner at Liverpool, on October 3rd:— He alluded to the public meetings which were now in the course of being held in various parts of the country. There were some, perhaps, who would put down such meetings; but such was not his opinion, nor that of the Government with which he acted. He thought the people had a right to free discussion. It was free discussion which elicited truth. They had a right to meet. If they had no grievances,
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common sense would speedily come to the rescue, and put an end to these meetings.
Lord John Russell —I added a qualification.
Sir Robert Peel —The noble Lord, from that very expression clearly felt the justice of the remark which he had made. But suppose a mill was burned, and suppose that, in. stead of giving him assistance, it should be said that the mill-owner had duties to perform. He was prepared to say that, although the sentiments which the noble Lord expressed might be just, they might be truisms, but even the unseasonable expression of truth in times of public excitement might be dangerous, and, therefore he exceedingly regretted, that when the noble Lord did accompany that declaration which he had made in favour of these meetings with a qualification, that qualification did not receive equal publicity with the other parts of the speech. I will now (said the right hon. Baronet) say one word with respect to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury. The hon. Gentleman anticipates that it will be impossible for this side of the House to assent to it, and I certainly, for one, will give a cordial vote against it.
But with respect to the first portion of the Amendment, that the measure of 1832 had disappointed the expectations of her Majesty’s people, as the hon. Gentleman and others on that side of the House are such good judges of the disappointment that has taken place, I will defer to that authority most readily, and as I prophesied that disappointment would be the result, I certainly do not dissent from that part of the Amendment. I did dissent from the measure; I told you the English people in the mass were not deceived—that they did not place much confidence on the legislative power of a new Parliament to redress their grievances—I told you that you overrated the extent to which Many a gem of purest ray serene The dark unfathomed caves. of the reformed Parliament would turn up. I did not suppose that “a phalanx of able and eloquent men,” who had been hitherto languishing in obscurity, would be brought before the public. Supposing I had prophesied in 1830, when you drove me from power—when you made me responsible for every fire that took place—when you told me that public discontent would not, could not exist without evident indication of misgovernment—that the people would
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not complain without good reason, and that the existence of dissatisfaction, and the prevalence of crime, were proofs of the bad legislation of those who held the reins of power. Suppose I bad said at that time, “Yes, but you have not two conventions sitting then as there now are;” Suppose I had said, “You will have the same fires and the same outrages in 1838, making every allowance for the excitement in France;” I do not consider, as regards the prevalence of excitements, you are at the present moment in a better condition than we were in 1830. If I had said that this measure you are clamouring for—the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill—if I had said, you that are calling for this, and you will neither permit abatement or addition to it—if, whatever you may think of its finality now, you then held it to be the second charter of public liberty—if I had said, in 1838 you will be clamourous for a reform of this measure as you now are, and that it disappoints the public expectation, and that you must be dragged upon the wheels of that which is ever to be stationary, it would rot have been received with the good-humoured laughter with which you now greet it, but with a scowl of indignation at throwing any doubt upon the introduction of more popular opinions into the British Constitution.
I should have been denounced as a false prophet; I should have been told that there would be nothing but perfect satisfaction under the new Parliament—under the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill. It would have been said, these are the prejudiced views of a Tory who clings to ancient abuses, and who will not look on the bright day that is now approaching. I may now be asked, why, then, do you support this bill, which according to you is deserving of reprobation, and has been productive of disappointment? Because I take warning from experience, and because I find it has not produced satisfaction—because I know that a demand for further reform, in the expectation of producing satisfaction or finality, would be only aggravating the disappointment, and that in five years more, after having extended the suffrage to four millions of people, you would come again and say, you have only given us household suffrage, when you should have given us universal suffrage. You will argue, it is quite clear, that whoever contributes by
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his labour to taxation, is entitled to a vote. I am confident, according to the hon. Gentleman’s own showing, that if all men are slaves who are not entitled to exercise the elective franchise, that nothing short of universal suffrage, in its most unlimited degree, will satisfy you. Why should it be limited to the age of twenty-one? Why have any limitation as to age, as in the case of the militia? Thus you will go on infusing popular principles into the Constitution until it ceases to be a Monarchy, and then, when you are suffering under the bitter experiences of the change, you will, perhaps, tell me that you were not a false prophet. Would to God that we bad continued under the old standard of our ancient institutions, and that the country may yet preserve the inestimable institutions of a mixed and mild Government.
Mr. Villiers said, nothing could be conceived more likely to favour the views of the party calling themselves the “Chartists” than the speech of the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, and, indeed, the whole tenor of the debate from beginning to end. He had been in hopes that those Gentlemen, representing the landed interest, would have had at least the decency not to proclaim their intention of maintaining the monstrous monopoly of the Corn-laws. He had expected that the right hon. Baronet would have attempted, in the course of his speech, to suggest a remedy for some of the prominent grievances which oppressed the country; but, instead of that, he had commenced by reading the House a lecture, because they had undertaken the consideration of some matters of domestic policy; then another lecture about our affairs in India on Runjeet Sing and Kam Ram; and then another lecture because they had not given sufficient support to the mild and discreet individuals representing the British party in Upper Canada.
Upon the subject of the Corn-laws, he thought that there could be but one feeling of disappointment throughout the country, that the right hon. Baronet had consented to take up the miserable and fallacious arguments of the hon. Member for Kendal. Yes; such he must style them; and he could not help thinking that it was unworthy of the right hon. Baronet to take such a course, betraying at once a want of ingenuity, or ability, or unwillingness to find something better to address to the House, Sure he was that
- (col. 112)
the right hon. Baronet, at the very time he was using that argument, saw clearly through the fallacy of the statements which he was quoting from the hon. Member for Kendal; because they were statements which had so often been repeated, and so often been refuted, that he could not conceive the possibility of any one again seriously advancing them. The case was simply this;—The hon. Member for Kendal referred to the increase of our exports, and inferred from them that trade was flourishing. The right hon. Baronet then took up this argument, and endeavoured to deduce further from it that the Corn-laws had not endangered our foreign trade; and he saw from the cheer which that argument drew down, and from the manner of the right hon. Baronet in advancing it, and in making use of those statements, that such was the effect intended to be produced by it.
What the opponents of the Corn-laws alleged was, that our competition with foreign markets was endangered by the high price of provisions in this country; that in all articles requiring manual labour we could no longer compete with foreigners in other markets than our own; but that in articles manufactured by machinery we could still compete with them, and maintain our preeminence; that in consequence, our exports in the former class of articles were decreasing, but that of the latter increasing to a certain extent. But the consequence of the last circumstance was, that machinery was being exported from this country, and our artisans leaving their homes to become dangerous competitors with us abroad. Now, in his opinion, there was nothing inconsistent in their views with the trifling increase in our exports which had been referred to by the hon. Member for Kendal. But the hon. Member, moreover, had not told the House whether these increased exports had found their way to the European markets, or to our colonies; for if the matter had been fairly stated, he had no doubt it would turn out that many markets which we used to supply now supplied themselves, whilst in neutral markets we were supplanted by others. He was very glad, however, that this was the point upon which the question was to turn, because it came in support of the motion of which he had given notice, for hearing evidence at the bar of the operation and effect of the Corn-law monopoly, an investigation
- (col. 113)
which he thought would hardly be refused by those who pretended to enter upon this view of the question. For his own part, he owned that, after all that had been said in the course of the present debate, particularly by the hon. Member for Lincolnshire, and the right hon. Baronet opposite, he should feel bound to give his vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend, although at first he had entertained some doubts as to the propriety of introducing such an Amendment at the present time.
Mr. G. W. Wood said, that some of the observations which had fallen from him having been so pointedly alluded to both by the right hon. Baronet opposite and the hon. Member who had just sat down, he felt bound to say, in explanation, that he saw nothing in the statements which he had made, inconsistent with any arguments for a change of the Corn-laws.
Lord John Russell said, that important as were the various topics alluded to in the Speech of her Majesty, and important as were those topics which had not formed part of that Speech, but had been brought forward in the course of the present debate, he felt that he should have so many occasions for addressing himself to these several subjects when they were respectively brought forward, that he did not now think it necessary to do more than to give that explanation upon one or two points which might seem clearly called for by the speeches of the right hon. Baronet opposite, and others, who had spoken in the course of the debate. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin seemed to suppose that it was a great act of oppression and injustice on the part of the great powers of Europe that certain territories, which had been held for some years by the King of Belgium, were now about to be placed under the King of the Netherlands.
But it should be borne in mind that these territories did originally form part of the dominions of the King of the Netherlands, and that when the kingdom of Belgium was formed, the King of Belgium consented to the present territorial arrangement. Neither did he think that any act of injustice was done by it to the inhabitants of this territory, who he did not think were in that state of hostility to the King of the Netherlands which the hon. Member for Kilkenny seemed to suppose. He must say, looking back at the labours and objects a the great Powers
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of Europe who had taken part in the treaty of Vienna, and whose intention it was that Belgium should be an independent kingdom, with the means of internal security and defence, and of extensive commerce combined, he must say, that, looking at this object, which was held in view from the first, he thought that every one who was concerned in these negotiations had cause for congratulation upon the result which had been come to. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, in the course of his comments upon the Speech, had referred to the affairs of India—a subject more particularly difficult to be treated of in the debate upon the Address, and which he thought, therefore, should form the subject of a separate debate. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that the proceedings which had been adopted by the government of India tended to extend the bounds of our empire. Now, such was not the case: the differences in which we were concerned arose purely out of an act of aggression on the part of the King of Persia against the city of Herat, when we came to the assistance of the chief Kam Ram, who was defending his city against the aggressive force.
Therefore this proceeding was not to extend our territory, but to support the possession of one on whose fidelity we had always had reason to rely. With respect to the terms in that passage of the Address wherein the word “aggression” was used, this passage referred to certain engagements entered into during Lord Auckland’s government, and alluded to an altogether distinct transaction from the former passage. He need only add, therefore, that this passage of the speech ‘was completely in accordance with the proclamation of the Governor-General of India, and if the position which had been taken up were wrong, it had not been adopted without due deliberation. In confirmation of this statement he would add that when the first dispatches upon this subject arrived from Lord Auckland it was agreed that it would be proper to send out instructions to the Indian government on the subject, and in return they received dispatches from Lord Auckland, giving the gratifying intelligence that his Lordship had consulted all the local authorities whom he could refer to, and that they had all come to exactly the same conclusions as those which the Government had adopted.
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The right hon. Baronet had referred to the state of Canada, and he was glad that in doing so he had particularly dwelt upon the necessity of maintaining the authority of the Crown in that portion of her Majesty’s dominions; and although he admitted that in regard to the past transactions of Government it was not usually advisable to call for an expression of opinion on the part of this House in a debate of this kind, yet he thought that in respect to the question whether the authority of the Crown and of the House should be maintained in a part of the British dominions it was a question upon which the House might very fairly be expected to give without hesitation a distinct opinion.
It was a subject upon which they could not allege that they were taken by surprise; it was a subject upon which every man must have already made up his mind—namely, whether it would be prudent, honourable, and wise on the part of this country to stand by British subjects in Canada, who had hitherto at their own cost and risk stood by the Government of this country, or whether they should consent to give them up into the hands of any other power. On this subject he apprehended he was entitled to ask for an expression of the opinion of the House, that the honour, no less than the interests of the Crown, demanded that the British subjects of Canada should be defended against all aggressions; and, be the expense great or small, they, the Ministers of the Crown, were ready to encounter it; and rather than do that which could not but be injurious to the empire, in the scale of nations, and a disgrace to the Crown of England. The right hon. Baronet, in connection with this subject, had particularly alluded to the reference which had been made in the Speech to the proceedings adopted by the President of the United States, in reference to these outrages. Undoubtedly he should have been very glad if he could have recommended her Majesty to have stated, that the President of the United States had called upon all the people of America to unite in repressing these aggressions upon a neighbouring State, and that that proclamation had been promptly responded to by the American people. But referring to the accounts received from Canada, he thought it would be impossible to say with propriety that the efforts of the President had been attended
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with that effect which, looking at the character which the United States ought to preserve in the scale of nations, should have been expected from them. In not expressing this opinion, however, it was by no means intended to be inferred that there was the least ground for suspicion of the existence of bad faith on the part of the President of the United States. On the contrary, considering the state of the frontiers of the United States, and the weakness of the executive, he thought that every thing had been done that could be expected of him. But the fact was, the people of the United States were so jealous of putting authority into the hands of the executive, that they did run the risk of the reproach of not observing those relations which every other State in the world wished to maintain towards its allies. He certainly could wish that the executive of the United States were strengthed in this particular, as nothing could be so distressing as their barbarous, vexatious, and continual aggressions.
The right hon. Baronet had referred to a speech which he (Lord John Russell) was reported to have made at a public dinner at Liverpool. With respect to that speech he would observe, that there having been no persons present on the occasion who were professionally able to report speeches, the report did not give that passage in his observations which the right hon. Baronet suggested he ought to have used, and which, in fact, he had in substance repeated, as he (Lord John Russell) had himself said on the occasion in question; namely, “that whilst the Government was disposed to give every latitude to the free discussion of public questions, yet that this liberty must not be used to the infringement of the laws of the country, or the infringement of the liberties of her Majesty’s subjects.” Those were his sentiments; his object being that nothing should be done which should deter, through intimidation, the expression of opinion on the part of those who wished to participate in the privilege. He had particularly in view at the time the subject of the Poor-law, which being considered capable of being represented, that it was not a measure of hardship to the poor, he was anxious that the utmost latitude should be given to free and open discussion on the subject. But when attempts were made to abuse this liberty, to excite people to physical violence and
- (col. 117)
the use of arms against the laws and subjects of the Crown—no sooner was this the case than he consulted the law officers of the Crown, and by their advice had adopted the proceedings which had been taken against a certain party, in all the subsequent stages of which he had acted entirely by the advice of those functionaries.
Several topics had been alluded to in the course of the debate which had not formed part of her Majesty’s Speech. Of these he would very briefly refer to one, namely, the Corn-laws. He had certainly been of opinion in 1828 that a modified fixed scale of duties would be better than a fluctuating scale; but at the same time be thought the new law a great improvement upon the former system, and therefore he gave it his support. But he now thought, however, that the time had arrived when it should be considered whether that law had acted beneficially or not. He was not prepared at the present moment to enter into a discussion of the subject; but he thought, that the respectability and importance of the interests calling for the repeal of these laws entitled them, not perhaps to be heard at the bar of the House, but to the most patient investigation on the part of the House of any facts which they might bring forward, so that it should not go forth, that the House had shown itself indifferent to any subject so deeply affecting the interests and welfare of the people at large.
There was another subject which was embodied in the amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury, to which he would say a few words, although he would not now go into all the details connected with it. He had cheered him for not bringing forward details. He had done so, because he thought the word was a singular one to introduce, when it was not intended to state the course that was about to be adopted. He did not ask of the hon. Gentleman to go the length of entering into details of the measure he proposes; but then the hon. Gentleman should give the House some notion of the nature of it. He did not tell whether he would be satisfied with household suffrage, nor whether he would be satisfied with the charter and universal suffrage. Now giving to them this in formation, would, he conceived, be no more than complying with a reasonable request; but as the hon. Gentleman had not done that, then he could only say, that he and other hon. Members who had
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proposed the Reform Act, with a view of establishing a different mode of representation from that which had previously existed; he could say, that they were prepared to enter into the whole subject of the Reform Act, to state the grounds and the principles on which it rested, and also the grounds why he should think, that they ought to rest now, not merely from a dislike of change, although a dislike of perpetual change would be, in his opinion, a rational objection; but he was prepared to show cause why they should abide by the principles of that act. At the same time were they to be surprised, that some hon. Gentlemen should have given, by their expressions, that which was eagerly seized upon as a triumph by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that they should have expressed themselves discontented and disappointed with the Reform Act. But for him neither surprise nor disappointment were occasioned by the expression of these opinions.
When the Reform Bill was proposed by Lord Grey, and by Lord Spencer, it was proposed as a permanent settlement of the question. It had been repeated both in that House and in the other House of Parliament, that it was proposed as a permanent settlement of the question, and that they wished to make it a permanent settlement. Those on the other side of the House opposed the measure as a dangerous innovation, but there was a third class, who said they accepted the measure not as a complete measure, but only as an instalment. They said, “We do not consider that it goes far enough—we support it as far as it goes; but we shall look for further changes in the representation.” Was it, then, to be to him a matter of surprise or of disappointment, that those persons wished for further alterations in the representation? He admitted the consistency of these persons—he did not blame them; but he should consider himself as blame able if he took that course.
They did not conceal at the time their wishes for a greater measure of change. They determined eight years ago to be disappointed, and he was not surprised to find, that they were now dissatisfied. As to the noble Lord, the Member for Thetford, he had in 1830 voted for universal suffrage; he had supported the motion of the hon. Member for Dublin to that effect. Could one, then, be surprised to find, that the noble Lord still entertained opinions of the same kind, and that
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he should now be for universal suffrage? But then the hon. Gentleman had certainly got rid of a most difficult question, when he only asked them to change, and did not tell them what the change was to be. Did the hon. Member propose to divide the country into districts, and each of them to return one Member, which he thought was the plan proposed by the chartists. If the hon. Member did so, although he might talk of nomination now, he must certainly have it then. In these districts it would be found, that where persons were proprietors of very extensive property, their influence would be used in the return of Members. Did not hon. Members know, that that would be the case where persons had very large property? This proposed change would lead persons to look for other changes, until at length they came to look for a change in the property of the country. They would look to divide the property of the country into smaller divisions, so that no power of nomination might be vested in individuals. They must look for such changes in conformity with their plan, for if they did not do that then they could not put an end to that which they called nomination.
The noble Lord continued by saying—I have been blamed in this House and out of this House—I have been blamed a great deal more for a declaration which I made last year. I must beg pardon of the House for troubling it on this subject; but really, as the speech I then made has been so much abused, and as it has been made the object of attack during the whole of the recess, I trust I may be allowed to advert to the circumstances under which I made that declaration. Upon that occasion the hon. Member for Kilkenny, along with others, called for a declaration from Government. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had made a speech in which he put it forth as a matter of grave accusation against the Government, that it had not followed the example of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and stated our minds upon reform, declaring how far we were prepared to go, and fixing the certain point at which we were prepared to stop. Why, it was said to us, will you not tell us how far you are inclined, and when it is you mean to stop? It was then, in answer to that call, that I made the declaration which has been so much referred to. Will any one say, that it was an uncalled-for declaration, when
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such sentiments were expressed by a supporter of the Ministry? Should I not have been justly attacked if I had given any one reason to suspect that we were about to support or countenance measures to which we were adverse, and to which we meant to give our opposition? Let me ask, if I had said, (as the hon. Member for Kilkenny proposed), that we meant to support the ballot, does any one believe that, seeing what has since happened, we should, without further supporting other measures proposed with respect to the franchise, have done that which would now be satisfactory to those who are the friends of change? Does any one think that satisfaction would be produced in the country if I had said, that the ballot should be an open question? Does any one believe this would have been a wise and a just course for the Government to have pursued? I think, then, that whatever dissatisfaction may have been caused by that declaration, it was far better to make that declaration, and let the policy we were about to pursue be understood, than leave it in any obscurity, or let it be supposed, that we should give a half support to the ballot, or encourage the hope, that by interfering with the franchise, any thing might be done to unsettle that which had been already settled; that all should be unsettled without having any new or rational plan on the subject.
Therefore, it is, that whatever dissatisfaction my expressions have called forth, I consider that, under the circumstances I have stated, I was called upon to make it. There are, I know, expressions to be found in that speech which have been greatly tortured, and made the subject of misrepresentation, and which were made to appear, not only offensive on my part, but, in some respects, injurious to this House. For instance, I have been made to say, “That the Reform Bill was intended to give to the landed interest a preponderating influence in this House.” What I referred to was the speech, or more properly speaking, the few words that I uttered at the end of the discussion on the Reform Bill. At the end of the discussion on the Reform Bill, and after it had been attacked, and declared most injurious to the landed interest, and when strong language was applied to it by Lord Ashburton, I said, that in reality, so far was that bill from being destructive to the landed interest, that, in reality, it gave a preponderance to
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that interest. But was that the same bill which had first gone up to the Lords? Was the bill which went up a second time to the Lords the bill which had been originally introduced? Had not a very great alteration taken place in the bill? Was there not one particularly, by which all the 50l. tenants at will were introduced into the constituency of the counties? Lord Althorp warned the House of the consequences of that introduction. Lord Althorp repeatedly told them, that however respectable a class of men were the tenants at will, and no man knew them better than Lord Althorp, yet he assured the House, that they were a class whose disposition was, upon all occasions, to rote with their landlords; and, therefore, introducing them would give immense power to the proprietors of land.
In spite of this objection, the House adopted, by a large majority, that proposition, and, amongst those who supported it, were many of the Reformers. There were many Reformers who supported it, and I am not sure but that the hon. Member for Kilkenny supported it also. And yet, because I, seeing what was the fact, and in reply to another, stated what had been done, the hon. Gentleman writes a letter to his constituents, in which he declares (upon my authority!), that the original intention of the Reform Bill was to give a preponderance to the landed interest. I must be allowed to tell the hon. Gentleman that there is a very great difference in saying, that the Reform Bill, as it was on the third reading, gave a preponderance to the landed interest, from saying, that it was the original intention of the Reform Bill to give that preponderance. I know not whether even the hon. Gentleman understands me yet. With respect to the original intention of the Reform Bill, I speak before many who aided in introducing that bill, and who were present at its formation, and, I think, I shall be corroborated by them when I say, that the intention was to give the representation to all interests in the community. There was no wish to favour or uphold any particular party. An equal number of counties, and an equal number of manufacturing towns, were taken for the purpose of securing equality. I thought it would have been unnecessary to state this, from the explanation which was given a few weeks subsequently to my speech, by the under Secretary of State; but I find it, nevertheless,
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constitutes the stock-in-trade of those who attack my former speech. I really do think, that the declaration which I then made was not at variance with the general opinions of the country. The opinion of the majority of the people of this country, I do believe, is against progressive reforms in the representation, leaving the representation every year uncertain, and leading to contests, and to all those agitating circumstances which, it may be recollected, impeded all the operations of commerce in the years 1831 and 1832.
My opinion, then, is, that the general sense of the country was with me when I made that declaration. I do not say, that it agrees with me in my conviction respecting the Reform Bill generally, or that greater benefits might not be derived from another mode of representation, but I do believe that they think, that having gone through the struggle for the Reform Bill, they do not believe it would be beneficial for their interests to adopt some other changes, to be made the foundation for other alterations, and also to end in a plan for universal suffrage. As to the hon. Member for Sheffield, I find it reported, that he said, that he was ready to go three-fourths of the way for universal suffrage. I think that was a great concession, and as it was said to him, “if you are ready to go three-fourths, why do you not go the other fourth and put an end to the matter?” I am of opinion with the interrogator; for if he were to go three-fourths of the way, why not go the other fourth and take up the charter at once; and whatever be the peril, and whatever may be the danger, better is it to encounter all than demand continual changes and never ending fluctuations, which the hon. Gentleman is an advocate for. In this opinion I am convinced the country coincides with me. We, as a Government, think it right to stand by the declarations of Lord Grey, and to stand by the declarations of Lord Althorp. We are not ashamed to be the followers of such men, and by their principles we are contented to abide.
Mr. C. Buller must beg leave, in the first place, in addressing the House, to thank the Gentlemen on each side of the House who had spoken, for the cautious abstinence they had shown that night, in respect to the affairs of Canada. He thanked them not only on the ground of the public, but on personal grounds.
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Nothing could be more proper in fairness than the conduct of Gentlemen to wait for that information, which would vindicate those whose conduct must come before the House. He did not shrink from any inquiry; he courted inquiry, and was prepared for it. He thought the House had a right to have that information as speedily as possible. He wished to call the attention of the House to this fact, that his noble Friend the late Governor of Canada had discharged his duty, in giving what he believed to be a final statement of the affairs of Canada, which had been contained in the report presented to her Majesty’s Ministers,—all he wished to state was, that his duty was discharged, and he only hoped that her Majesty’s Government would not delay very long the opportunity of judging of that which he believed would be the means of ample vindication. He should say nothing more on this subject, but would detain the House a few moments on some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Tamworth on the conduct of the government of the United States.
The right hon. Baronet, taking for his text the information contained in her Majesty’s Speech, a document which he never looked upon as containing all the information upon any subject,—the right hon. Baronet had spoken that night upon an extremely delicate subject, namely, our foreign relations. A very erroneous impression would go forth to the country if he allowed what the right hon. Baronet had said to go uncontradicted. The right hon. Baronet had stated, that he would not be satisfied with all the government of the United States had done as to issuing a proclamation. The government had done, in his opinion, all that a government could do. He would tell them what they had done; they had passed a law of neutrality, and bad kept that law more strictly than we had done. They had prosecuted and convicted several gentlemen who had infringed that law; and they had doubled their army in order to keep that law. When a government had done this they ought not to say they had done nothing but utter unmeaning words. He was particularly anxious, that this should be contradicted, because he thought that the statement of the hon. Baronet might be productive of the worst effects. The government of the United States was a free government. He supposed the right hon. Baronet did not
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mean to upset the executive. Ought they not, in dealing with them, to work by all possible means on that government, and get it to exercise its powers in the most effectual way? What was the most effectual way? Gaining the opinion of the American people. The opinion of the people, from one end of the country to the other, was decidedly with us. The Americans dared not hold a sympathiser’s meeting in any town in the United States, and in the country they had held anti-sympathising meetings. Those who had invaded the Canadas had been a set of robbers and marauders, and no government could restrain such men from going on such lawless expeditions. Would the right hon. Baronet forget that marauding expeditions had been fitted out in despite of the English Government? The right hon. Baronet’s Government could not be suspected of having a very good feeling towards the government of Don Miguel.
What had the right hon. Baronet’s Government, with all the good intentions and power of monarchy done? Had they prevented two vessels loaded with arms and persons going to invade the Portuguese territories and had they caught those vessels before they had got twelve days sail across the Atlantic? He thought the United States could not, then, be blamed so very much because steamers had contrived to get over a half hour’s sail without being stopped, or that persons should have contrived to cross an imaginary line. This conduct on the part of the United States government ought to be generously acknowledged, and they ought to thank it for the liberality with which it had endeavoured to fulfil its duties, and they ought to encourage the good feeling of the people of the United States, and not to provoke their national pride by not giving a due acknowledgment to what they had done. He would only add two or three words, certainly not more than two or three sentences, more. He was exceedingly averse, as a man of principle, in dividing on an Amendment to an Address to her Majesty’s Government, to which he was hostile—to which he was not hostile.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
Mr. C. Buller—When he said, that the present motion of his learned Friend expressed his own idea so perfectly that it was impossible for him to add more to it, he only wished to have it perfectly understood that he was not anxious to take an opportunity of opposing the Government.
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He thought the principle put in force that night was one of very great importance; it was the question whether the Reform Act had satisfied the expectations of those who supported it. His learned Friend’s motion went to this simply. The noble Lord had little right to say, that those who supported it had the ulterior object of cutting up everything afterwards. He must say a more startling assertion he never heard in that House. The noble Lord might put himself perfectly at rest on that subject, and he assured him, that no man that voted for the Address that night had that view. But as this was the only principle to which he wished to give his assent, he wished to carry out the principle of the Reform Bill, and the principles that were announced by the proposers of the Reform Bill; they said the object of it was “to abolish nomination and substitute representation.” His noble Friend simply said, that the Reform Bill had not produced this effect, and that it ought to be carried out to the extent to do so.
The House divided on the original question—Ayes 426; Noes 86: Majority 340.
The House divided on the question, that Mr. Duncombe’s Amendment be added to the Address—Ayes 86; Noes 426: Majority 340.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Easthope, J.|
|Aglionby, Major||Etwall, R.|
|Attwood, T.||Euston, Earl of|
|Barron, H. W.||Evans, Sir De L.|
|Blake, M. J.||Evans, G.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Fielden, J.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Fenton, J.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Finch, F.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Brotherton, J.||Grote, G.|
|Brown, R. D.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Bryan, G.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Buller, C.||Hawes, B.|
|Bulwer, Sir L.||Hector, C. J.|
|Butler, Hon. Col.||Hill, Lord A. M.|
|Chalmers, P.||Hindley, C.|
|Chapman, Sir M. L. C.||Hume, J.|
|Chichester, J. P. B||Jervis, J.|
|Codrington, Adm.||Jervis, S.|
|Collier, J.||Johnson, Gen.|
|Collins, W.||Langdale, hon. C.|
|Conygham, Lord A||Leader, J. T.|
|Currie, R.||Lister, E. C.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Lushington, C.|
|D’Eyncourt, C. T.||Maher, J.|
|Duckworth, S.||Martin, J.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Dundas, C. W, D.||Nagle Sir R,|
- (col. 126)
|O’Brien, C.||Somers, J. P.|
|O,Callaghan, hon. C.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|O’Connell, D.||Style, Sir C.|
|O’Connell, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|O’Connell, M.||Thornley, T.|
|O’Conor Don||Vigors, N. A.|
|Pattison, J.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Wakley, T.|
|Power, J.||Wallace, R.|
|Protheroe, E.||Warburton, H.|
|Ramsbottom, J.||White, A.|
|Roche, E. B.||Williams, W. A.|
|Roche, W.||Wood, Sir M.|
|Salwey, Colonel||Duncombe, T.|
|Scholefield, J. P.||Ward,—|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abercromby, hon. G. R.||Blakemore, R.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Blennerhassett, A.|
|Acland, T. D.||Boldero, H. G.|
|A’Court, Captain||Bolling, W.|
|Adare, Visct.||Bradshaw, J.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Bramston, T.|
|Alford, Visct.||Briscoe, J. I.|
|Alsager, Capt.||Broadley, H.|
|Alston, R.||Broadwood, H.|
|Andover, Visct.||Brodie, W. B.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Bruce, Lord E.|
|Anson, Sir G.||Bruges, W. H. L.|
|Arbuthnot, H.||Buller, E.|
|Archbold, R||Buller, Sir J. Y.|
|Archdall, M.||Burr, H.|
|Ashley, Lord||Burrell, Sir C.|
|Attwood, W.||Burroughes, H.|
|Bagge, W.||Busfield, W.|
|Begot, hon. W.||Byng, rt. hn. G. S.|
|Bailey, J.||Calcraft, J. H.|
|Bailey, J., jun.||Callaghan, Danie|
|Baillie, Col.||Campbell, Sir J.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Canning, Sir S.|
|Baines, E.||Cantilupe, Visct.|
|Baker, E.||Cartwright, W. R.|
|Bannerman, A.||Cavendish, hon. C.|
|Baring, hon. F.||Cavendish, hn. G. H.|
|Baring, H. B.||Cayley, E. S.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Chetwynd, Major|
|Barnard, E. G.||Childers, J. W.|
|Barnehy, J.||Christopher, R. A.|
|Barrington, Lord||Chute, W. L. W.|
|Barry, G. S.||Clay, W.|
|Bell, M.||Clayton, Sir W. R.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Benett, J.||Clive, E. B.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Clive, fion. R. H.|
|Berkeley, hon. H.||Codrington, C. W.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Cole hon. A. H.|
|Bernal, R.||Colquhoun, J. C.|
|Bethell, R.||Compton, H. C.|
|Bewes, T.||Conolly, E.|
|Blackburne, J.||Copeland, Alderman|
|Blackett, C.||Corry, hon. H.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Courtenay, P.|
|Blair, J.||Cowper, hon. W.F.|
|Blake, W. J.||Craig, W. G.|
- (col. 127)
|Crawford, W.||Goring, H. D.|
|Crawley, S.||Goulburn, H.|
|Cripps, J.||Graham, Sir J.|
|Crompton, Sir S.||Granby, Marquess of|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Grattan, J.|
|Darby, George||Greene, T.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Davenport, J.||Grey, Sir G.|
|Davies, Col.||Grimsditch, T.|
|De Horsey, S. H.||Grimston, Lord|
|D’Israeli, B.||Grimston, hon. E. H.|
|Divett, E.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Dottin, A. R.||Hale, R. B.|
|Douglas, Sir C.||Halford, H.|
|Douro, Marquess||Handley, H.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Harcourt, G. S.|
|Duff, J.||Hardinge, Sir H.|
|Duffield, T.||Harland W. C.|
|Dugdale, W. S.||Hastie, A.|
|Dunbar, G.||Hawkes, T.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Duncombe, hon. W.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Heathcote, J.|
|Dundas, hon. J. C.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Dundas, F.||Heneage, G. W.|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Henniker, Lord|
|East, J. B.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Eastnor, Visct.||Herries, J. C.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Hillsborough, Earl of|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Hinde J. H.|
|Edwards, Sir J.||Hobhouse, Sir J.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Hodgson, R.|
|Eliot, Lord||Hodgson, F.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Hogg, J. W.|
|Ellice, A.||Hollond, R.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Holmes, W.|
|Ellis, J.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Erle, W.||Hope, H. T.|
|Estcourt, T.||Hope, G. W.|
|Estcourt, T.||Hotham, Lord|
|Evans, W.||Houstoun, G.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Howard, F. J.|
|Farrand, R.||Howard, P. H.|
|Feilden, W.||Howard, Sir R.|
|Fector, J. M.||Howick, Lord|
|Fellowes, E.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||Humphery, J.|
|Ferguson, R.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Hurt, F.|
|Fitzpatrick, J. W.||Hutton, R.|
|Fitzsimon, N||Ingestrie, Lord|
|Fleetwood, Sir P. H.||Ingham, R.|
|Fleming, J.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Forester, hon. G.||Irton, S.|
|Fort, J.||Jackson, Sergeant|
|Fox, G. L.||James, W.|
|Fremantle, Sir T.||James, Sir W. C.|
|French, F.||Jenkins, Sir R.|
|Freshfield, J. W.||Johnstone, H.|
|Gaskell, Jas. Milnes||Jones, J.|
|Gibson, T.||Jones, T.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Kelly, F.|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Kemble, H.|
|Gordon, R.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Gordon, hon. Captain||Kirk, P.|
|Gore, O. J. R.||Knatchbull, Sir E.|
|Gore, O. W.||Knight, H. G.|
- (col. 128)
|Knightley, Sir C.||Parker, M.|
|Knox, hon. T.||Parker, R. T.|
|Lascelles, W. S.||Parker, T. A. W.|
|Law, hon. C. E.||Parnell, Sir H.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Parrott, J.|
|Lefroy, rt. hon. T.||Patten, J. W.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Lennox, Lord G.||Peel, J.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Pemberton, T.|
|Leveson, Lord||Pendarves, E. W.|
|Liddell, hon. H. T.||Perceval, Col.|
|Litton, E.||Perceval, hon. G.|
|Lockhart, A. M.||Phillips, Sir R.|
|Long, W.||Philips, M.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||Philips, G.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Phillpotts, J.|
|Lucas, E.||Pigot, R.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Pinney, W.|
|Lynch, A. H.||Planta, rt. hon. J.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Polhill, F.|
|Mackinnon, W.||Pollen, Sir J. W.|
|Maclean, D.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Macleod, R.||Powell, Col.|
|Macnamara, Major||Power, J.|
|Mactaggart, J.||Powerscourt, Visct.|
|Mahon, Lord||Praed, W. M.|
|Maidstoue, Visct.||Praed, W. T.|
|Manners, Lord C. S.||Price, Sir R.|
|Marshall, W.||Price, R.|
|Marsland, H.||Pringle, A.|
|Marton, G.||Pryme, G.|
|Master, T. W. C.||Pusey, P.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Maule, W.||Rice, E. R.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Rice, rt. hon. T. S.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Rich, Henry|
|Mildmay, P. St. J.||Richards, R.|
|Miles, W.||Rickford, W.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Miller, W. H.||Rolleston, L.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Round, C. G.|
|Milton, Visct.||Round, J.|
|Monypenny, T. G.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J.||Rushout, G.|
|Moreton, hon. A. H.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Morgan, C. M. R.||Russell, Lord C.|
|Morpeth, Lord||St. Paul, H.|
|Morris, D.||Sanderson, R.|
|Murray, A.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Murray, J. A.||Sanford, E. A.|
|Neeld, J.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Neeld, Jos.||Seale, Sir J. H.|
|Noel, W. M.||Seymour, Lord|
|Norreys, Sir D.||Shaw, F.|
|Norreys, Lord||Sheil, R. L.|
|O’Brien, W. S.||Sheppard, T.|
|O’Ferrall, R. M.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Ord, W.||Sinclair, Sir G.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Smith, J. A.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Smith, A.|
|Packe, C. W.||Smith, G. R.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Smith, R. V.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Smyth, Sir G. H.|
|Palmer, R.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Palmer, G.||Speirs, A.|
|Palmerston, Lord||Spencer, hon. F.|
|Parker, J.||Spry, Sir S. T.|
- (col. 129)
|Stanley, E.||Waddington, H.|
|Stanley, Lord||Walker, R.|
|Stanley, W. O.||Wall, C. B.|
|Staunton, Sir G. T.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Stewart, J.||Welby, G. E.|
|Stock, Dr.||Westenra, hon. J. C.|
|Stuart, V.||Whitmore, T.|
|Stormont, Visct.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Strangways, hon. J.||Wilbraham, hon. B.|
|Strutt, E.||Wilde, Sergeant|
|Sturt, H. C.||Wilkins, W.|
|Sugden, Sir E.||Williams, R.|
|Talfourd, Sergeant||Williams, W. A.|
|Teignmouth, Lord||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Tennent, J. E.||Winnington, T. E.|
|Thomas, Col. H.||Winnington, H. J.|
|Thomson, C. P.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Thompson, Alder.||Wood, C.|
|Thornill, G.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Tollemache, F.||Wood, G. W.|
|Townly, R. G.||Wood, T.|
|Trench, Sir F.||Worsley, Lord|
|Troubridge, Sir E. T.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Turner, E.||Wyndham, W.|
|Tyrell, Sir J.||Wynn, rt. hn. C. W.|
|Vere, Sir C. B.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Verner, Colonel||Young, J.|
|Vernon, G. H.||Young, Sir W.|
|Vivian, C.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Vivian, J. H.||Steuart, R.|