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system of corn laws into a nearer approximation to those wholesome principles which govern our legislation with respect to other industrial departments. It was, how ever, his conviction, that suddenly and at once to throw open the trade in corn would be inconsistent with the well-being of the community, and would give such a shock to the agricultural interest as would throw many other interests into a state of convulsion. The object of every Government, without distinction of party, for the last twenty years, had been to substitute protecting for prohibitory duties, and gradually to reduce protecting duties where it had them to deal with. He approved of this as a safe principle, and showed that it was the keystone of the policy of Sir R. Peel. Mr. Villiers had stated that the corn law of 1842 had not been introduced with any view of diminishing the protection attached to the agricultural interest; but he read an extract from the speech of Sir R. Peel in proposing it, to prove that he proposed it explicitly as a decrease of the protection which the home-grower previously had. Mr. Villiers had talked of the delusions practised on the farmers, but he reminded Mr. Villiers that there could be no greater delusion than to hold out to the people, that they would in the long run gain any considerable advantage in the price of food from the repeal of the corn laws. He also combated the doctrine of Mr. Villiers, that under a system of protection no improvement had taken place, or could possibly take place, in the agriculture of the country. He showed that England, with a population the double of that which it possessed fifty VOL. LXXXVII.
years ago, now provided for it with greater ease than it did formerly for half the number. If Mr. Villiers could show him that free trade with open ports would produce a more abundant supply to the labourer, he would make him a convert to the doctrine of free trade in corn. He confessed that he placed no value on the fixed duty of 48. proposed by Lord John Russell; it would be of no avail as a protection, whilst it would be liable to all the obloquy of a protecting duty; and he therefore agreed with Mr. Mitchell, that if they got rid of the present corn law, they had better assent to a total repeal. He thought that the probable quantity of corn received with open ports was greatly underrated, and argued from statistics that it would displace one-eighth of the produce of Ireland, and in England the clay land, which was most costly in cultivation. The displacement of the labour expended on that land would in itself be very disastrous; but it was also the oldest land in cultivation; it had been cultivated for wheat, and it was therefore liable to a very heavy annual charge for tithe. If it were converted into pasture, its value would be very inferior, and the tithe imposed upon it would be more than its rental. He proceeded to demonstrate at considerable length other injurious consequences which would result from the sudden change proposed by Mr. Villiers. It would produce not only great panic among the agricultural interest, but also a great diminution in the demand for agricultural labour. If 500,000 or 800,000 labourers should be thrown out of employment by it, all the machinery of Government would be so thrown [H]
out of order, crime and pauperism would increase to such an extent from destitution and distress, that the shock must be of a most convulsive character. He concluded by giving his decided negative to this motion.
Mr. Bright was at a loss to discover whether the speech which Sir James Graham had delivered, was intended to give more hope to the Opposition, or more consolation to the Ministerial side of the House. Sir James had evidently been endeavouring to say one thing in one part of his speech, and to unsay it in the next. In the commencement he had been a furious free trader; in the close he had brought forward in a mass all the fallacies of the Protection Society. It was time that this imposture should cease; for, so long as it prevailed, the country would be involved in a perpetual agitation. The question of the repeal of the corn laws was now only one of time. He would score off every part of Sir J. Graham's speech after that sentence of it which contained the enunciation, that free trade was the keystone of Sir Robert Peel's policy. Let the county members reflect upon that, and let them remember, that if Sir R. Peel gave the word for the repeal of the corn laws, they had no power to prevent it. He then gave a history and eulogized the proceedings of the Anti-Corn Law League, the annual contributions to which had increased from 50001. in the year of its birth to 110,000l. in the present year. He knew that when they went to a division, they would be in a minority, but minorities in that House had often become majorities; and he did not despair of seeing that result produced again, knowing, as
he did, that the corn laws benefited nothing, and blighted every thing.
Mr. Stafford O'Brien retorted upon Mr. Bright with some sarcastic and humorous allusions to the theatrical displays of the AntiCorn Law League.
Dr. Bowring supported the motion, as did Mr. Cavendish and Lord Ebrington. Mr. Cobden desired the House to stick to the real question, whether or not they had a law to diminish the supply of food for the people; such being the effect of the artificially raised prices. And he pointed to the state of the poor in Dorsetshire, Lincolnshire, and Somersetshire, of frame-work knitters in the Midland counties, of the poor in Scotland. and of 5,000,000 of the labouring population in Ireland, as no theoretical tests of the ill effects of the past policy. The fact was, that wherever you came to a class in the country not employed on new machinery, their condition was disgraceful. He believed that with free trade in corn, so far from injury to the agricultural interests, every mortgage and marriage settlement would be better paid than under the present system; and so far from Mr. Villiers's proposition being rash, the rashness was in neglecting the present opportunity for effecting the change in peace and safety.
Mr. G. Bankes defended the existing law. He attributed the alleged deteriorated condition of the labourer to the successive diminutions of protection. He also showed that the fluctuations in the price of corn had been still greater when the trade was free than under a restricted system. He attributed the burdens which now pressed upon the land to the expenses of the wars carried on by
William the Third, and considered it very unfair in the manufacturers to attempt to take away from the landowners the protec tion which they had enjoyed for
Lord John Russell avowed his intention of supporting the motion for going into committee, with a view to consider what would be the best way of relaxing the protection, himself arguing in favour of fixed duty. But he suggested, that Sir Robert Peel might make a step towards free trade without abandoning the policy to which he was committed, by contracting the scale to a range from 1s. to 10s. instead of 20s. And he warned the House against braving the invidious charge that the present law was maintained in order to keep up rents. "I do believe that this corn law, as it at present stands, cannot long be maintained. I see its fall signified, not only by the ability of the attacks made upon it, but also by the manner in which it is defended in this House. I cannot conceive, unless it be better defended than it has been hitherto, that it is likely to last for many years to come. Well, then, if that be the case-if there is any truth in that representation, why should not the landed gentlemen take advantage of the present situation of things? Why not avail themselves of a moment of quiet and calm to make an alteration with coolness and deliberation?"
Sir Robert Peel opposed the motion at some length. He said that he would not taunt Lord John Russell with being able to vote for the motion this year, though he could not vote for the identical proposition last year. "But I think we must be fast approaching
that period when the noble Lord will not only give his support to the first two parts of the resolutions of the honourable gentleman, but cordially concur with the others. And when the noble Lord says that the effect of the existing corn law is to increase the rents of the landlords, and advises them to consider what must be the invidious effect of that in the eyes of a scrutinizing and intelligent population, let me remind him, that that objection applies with equal force to his own proposition."
Sir Robert contended, that the increased consumption of divers articles proves the people to be in an improving condition. If he could believe in the confident predictions hazarded by Mr. Cobden and his friends, his objections even to the repeal of the corn laws, would be greatly weakened, but he thought that the advantages to be expected from repeal were greatly exaggerated; and he firmly believed that, establish what system of corn laws you please, you must expect to find such differences in this country, and in a state of society like this-you must expect to find the extremes of wealth and poverty; they existed in every country on the face of the earth; and indeed, the more civilization and refinement increase, the greater seemed the tendency to those extremes. If the corn laws were repealed, very little way would be made towards the cure of such evils. Sir Robert wished to reconcile the gradual approach towards sound principles with a full and cautious consideration of the relations that had been established, and the interests that had grown up under a different system; and he maintained that his recent commercial alterations
constituted such progress, both with respect to the corn laws and the importation of foreign products. “I must claim a right to continue the application of that principle. I am bound to say, that the experience of the past, with respect to those articles on which high duties have been removed, confirms the impression founded on the general principle. But, Sir, with the strong opinion I entertain, that in the application of this principle it is necessary to exercise the utmost caution, for the purpose of insur
ing its general aceeptance and stability, I cannot consent to give my vote for a proposition that implies the total disregard of such considerations in the application of the principle of free trade."
Lord Howick observed, that had Mr. Villiers's resolutions been for gradual abolition, both Sir James Graham's and Sir Robert Peel's speeches would have been unanswerably in favour of the motion.
The House divided, and the motion was negatived by 254 to 122; majority, 132.
Affairs of Ireland-Maynooth Improvement Bill-Objects and Design of this Measure-And State of Public Feeling respecting it-Sir R. Peel explains the Nature of his Plan for improving the College and increasing its revenue— -Sir R. Inglis and several Conservative Members declare their opposition-Lord Francis Egerton, Lord Lincoln and Lord John Russell support the Motion-On a Division, leave is given to bring in the Bill-Agitation in the country, and great number of Petitions against the Bill-Debate on the Second Reading-Mr. Colquhoun moves that it be read on that day six months-The Discussion is continued for six nights in succession-Speeches of Mr. Grogan, Mr. W. E. Gladstone, the Earl of Arundel, Mr. D'Israeli, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Fox Maule, Mr. Stafford O'Brien, Mr. Macaulay, Mr. Shaw, Mr. Sidney Herbert, the Earl of Lincoln, Mr. Byng, Mr. G. A. Hamilton, Lord Ashley, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Bright, Lord John Manners, Mr. Smythe, Mr. Cumming Bruce, Sir George Grey, Colonel Sibthorpe, Sir James Graham, Mr. Ferrand, Mr. S. Crawford, Lord John Russell, Sir R. H. Inglis, and Sir Robert Peel-The Second Reading is carried by 323 to 176-Subsequent discussions on the Bill, and various amendments, all of which are rejected-Mr. Ward moves a resolution for the application of existing ecclesiastical funds in Ireland to the purposes of the Bill— Discussion respecting the Irish Church-Important declaration of Lord Howick on this subject-Mr. Macaulay strongly condemns the establishment-Speech of Sir R. Peel-Mr. Ward's Resolution is rejected by 322 to 148-The Third Reading is carried on the 21st of May by a majority of 133—Mr. T. Duncombe moves to add a clause limiting the operation of the Bill to Three Years—It is negatived by 243 to 145-Protracted Debate in the House of Lords on the Second Reading of the Bill, which is moved by the Duke of WellingtonSpeeches of the Duke of Newcastle, the Duke of Cambridge, Lord Roden, the Duke of Manchester, Lord Beaumont, the Earl of Winchelsea, Lord Stanley, Lord Charleville, Lord Monteagle, Lord Brougham, Earl Spencer, the Archbishop of Dublin, and the Bishops of Exeter, Cashel, London, Norwich and St. David's-The Second Reading is carried by 226 to 69-Discussion on the committal of the Bill-Declaration of Lord Wharncliffe on Roman Catholic Endowment-The Third Reading is opposed by the Bishop of Llandaff, the