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ral interest to the extent of 200,000l. or 300,000l., to say nothing of social and moral improvement likely to be effected in the condition of the labouring classes by the reduction of the glass duty. Other peers objected to the measure, on grounds similar to those advanced by the Duke of Richmond. The Earl of Malmesbury declared, that the reduction of the timber duties would be a heavy blow to the agricultural interest. The noble Earl (Lord Dalhousie) had talked of that measure as if timber were not the produce of this country: did not the noble Earl know that in a bad year, when the seasons were unfavourable, the landed proprietor might redeem his loss by a fall of timber? And as to repairs, why, wretched and poor indeed must that estate be which was obliged to go abroad for timber for repairs.
Lord Monteagle objected to the Bill, as selecting for remission a tax which did not appear to be
oppressive, since it had been increasing from year to year, to the extent of 50,000l. in ten years. He also objected, because the supposed surplus revenue had vanished; for Government had been disappointed in obtaining an excess of 28. 4d. on 75,000 tons of the higher classes of sugar, which formed part of the calculation on which the surplus was estimated.
On a division, the amendment was negatived by 33 to 15, and the Bill passed the committee.
The motion to go into committee on the Customs Duties Bill was met by the Duke of Richmond with the amendment, “that it be committed that day six months," which was negatived without discussion or division, and the House went into committee. The Duke of Richmond moved to omit some of the articles specified for reduction of duty. But this amendment also was negatived, and the several clauses of the Bill were affirmed.
Corn Laws and Free Trade-Mr. Cobden moves for a Committee to inquire into the Effects of Protection upon Agriculture-IIis Speech -He is answered by Mr. Sidney Herbert-Speeches of Viscount Howick, Mr. Stafford O'Brien, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Woodhouse— The Motion is rejected by 213 to 121-Mr. W. Miles brings forward a Resolution pledging the House to a Relief to the Agricultural Interest The Motion is seconded by the Earl of March; opposed by Sir James Grraham, on the part of the Government-Mr. Newdegate, Mr. Darby, and Mr. Bankes speak in favour of the Motion, which is resisted by Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Mr. B. Escott, Mr. D'Israeli, and other Members, and is negatived by a Majority of 136-Mr. Ward's Annual Motion for an Inquiry into the Special Burdens and Exemptions affecting Land-Speeches of Mr. Sidney Herbert, Mr. Cobden, Mr. Vernon Smith-Resolution negatired by 182 to 109-Lord John Russell's Resolutions respecting the Condition of the Labouring Classes-Debate continued for two nights-Long and comprehensive Speech of Lord John Russell on the several Heads comprised in the Resolutions-Sir J. Graham answers him, and moves "the previous Question"-Mr. Sharman Crawford moves an Amendment-Speeches of Sir John Tyrrell, Mr. Villiers, Viscount Pollington, Mr. P. Howard, Mr. B. Escott, Lord Howick, Sir John Hanmer, and Sir Robert Peel-After a Reply from Lord John Russell, the Resolutions are lost by 182 to 104; and Mr. Crawford's Amendment is also lost, by a Majority of 220Mr. C. P. Villiers brings on his Annual Motion for a Committee on the Corn Laws on the 10th of June-He is supported by Mr. Oswald, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Bright, Lord Howick, Lord John Russell, and Mr. Cobden; and opposed by Sir James Graham, Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Christopher, Mr. Stafford O'Brien, Mr. Buck, Mr. George Bankes, and other Members-On a Division the Motion is rejected by 254 to 122.
TT is proposed to comprise in
the ensuing chapter some notices of the more important debates which took place during the session of 1845, affecting the much controverted question of protection to agriculture, freedom of trade,
and the condition of the labouring classes. These topics, indeed, were from the beginning to the end of the session continually appearing on the surface of the debates, and scarcely a week passed in which they were not incident
ally brought into the arena of discussion. They came, however, on some special occasions in a more formal shape before the House of Commons, and the debates which we have selected for notice appear to be those in which the conflicting views and interests on the question came most immediately in contact, and such as will best illustrate the state of opinion and parties in the Legislature at this period. The first occasion which led to a general discussion of the policy of the protective laws as regards agriculture, was furnished by a motion proposed by Mr. Cobden, on the 13th of March," for a Select Committee to inquire into the causes and extent of the alleged existing agricultural distress, and into the effects of legislative protection upon the interest of land-owners, tenant-farmers, and farm-labourers." Mr. Cobden undertook to prove the existence of distress among the farmers by quoting the declarations of some of the highest authorities in the agricultural interest, that half the farmers in the country were in a state of insolvency, and that the other half were paying rents out of their capital, and were fast hastening to the same melancholy condition. This was, therefore, the proper time for bringing on a motion for inquiry. The doubts as to the cause of this distress were also sufficient reasons for instituting it. Sir R. Peel had said that the distress was local, and did not arise from legislation. Bankes, on the contrary, maintained that the distress was general, and did arise from legislation. It had also been said that the corn law had been successful in keeping up the price of corn; but to this it had been replied, that
the price of wheat when the present corn law was passed was 56s. per quarter-that it was now only 45s. a quarter-and that it would only be 35s. a quarter next year if we had another plentiful harvest. Under such circumstances, might it not be well to inquire what was the benefit of protection? He then proceeded to show that the first great evil under which the farmer laboured was his want of capital. Ten pounds an acre was the capital which a farmer ought to apply to his land. At present he did not apply 51. an acre. Capital was constituted of, and produced, manure, labour, cattle, and crops; and he left the House to conjecture what would be the condition of the labourer, when there was a deficiency of all those ingredients. But it was said that more capital would be applied to land, if it could be profitably employed. Why could it not be profitably employed? Because there was no security of tenure, and capital shrunk from insecurity of every sort. Was it not, therefore, worth inquiring how far this insecurity of tenure created the want of capital? of capital? He then contended that not only did the want of security of tenure prevent the application of capital, but that it also kept the land in a bad state of cultivation. The farmer without a lease was afraid that, if he made any improvement in his farm, he should be called upon for a higher rent; and he proved this fact by reference to the language used by many distinguished members of agricultural associations. In England leases were the exception, not the rule; but he was sorry to say that farmers with leases were in a still worse condition than farmers without them; for the covenants in
their leases were quite antediluvian, and were not fitted for the present state of agricultural science. He amused the House by reading the covenants of a Cheshire lease, and contended that such covenants were nothing more than traps to catch the unwary, and fetters to bind the honest and intelligent. Why should not land be let on the same conditions as manufactories? Manufactories were let with a schedule of the state of the manufactory, and when the tenant left them he was bound to make compensation for any damage which it might have suffered. He advised the Anti-Corn Law League to purchase a model farm-ay, and to take it even in Bucks. There he would erect a model farm, a model homestead, model cottages, and model gardens; but he would also have a model lease, and a farmer of intelligence with sufficient capital. To such a man too great scope could not be given. He would let him into possession of the farm with a schedule of the state of its tillage, and of the homestead. If, on his leaving the farm, it should be inferior in any respect to the state in which he entered upon it, the damage should be valued, and the tenant should pay; but if, on the contrary, it were superior, he should receive compensation. But it was said that farmers would not now take leases. What did that mean? It meant that by the process which the landlords had adopted, they had rendered the farmers servile, and therefore not anxious to become independent. He read an opinion of Professor Lowe confirmatory of that position, and inferred from it that wherever the tenantry were servile and impoverished, the peasantry must be VOL. LXXXVII.
servile and degraded. Having thus shown that the great evil of the farmer was the want of capital, and that the want of security of tenure was the cause of the want of capital, he quoted the opinion of Mr. Hayter, that the cause of all this evil was the existence of the corn laws. He would not say that it was so, but he would call on the House to en quire into the fact. He had shown them what their legislation had been for the last thirty years, and what its effect had been on the landlords, farmers, and labourers; and he challenged them to examine whether his statement was correct or not. He then proceeded to contend that a free trade in corn would be more beneficial to the farmers and to the labourers than to any other classes of the community. He had so thought before the tariff; and he contended so now with tenfold confidence. Sir R. Peel had admitted foreign fat cattle by his tariff; but he had refused to admit the raw material which was necessary to make cattle fat. In that respect he had not followed the course which Mr. Huskisson had adopted with respect to manufactures, but had absolutely reversed it. He maintained that all grazing and arable farmers were interested in having a large and cheap supply of provender. They were sending out vessels every day to Ichaboe for guano as manure, when the importation of cheap provender, which was now prohibited, would give every farmer a cheaper and more valuable species of manure, produced upon his farm. He then described the lamentable condition of the agricultural peasantry at the present moment, and asked the landlords after they had [F]
brought their labourers to such a melancholy state, whether they could have anything to fear from risking, he would not say this experiment, but this inquiry. After proving to them that they had no reason to fear any danger from foreign competition, he asked them to consider what it was that Government had proposed to do for them in their financial scheme.-Nothing that was calculated, if he had heard aright, to benefit the agricultural population. Well, then, what would they do? Protection had been a failure when it reached a prohibitory duty of 80s. a quarter; it had been a failure when it reached the pivot price of 60s.; and it was a failure now, when they had got a sliding scale, for they had admitted the lamentable condition of their tenantry and peasantry. Let them accede, then, to his proposition for a committee, and he would pledge himself to explode the fallacy of agricultural protection, and to put an end to the present system within two years from the day of the publication of its report. The country gentlemen should, if they pleased, have on that committee a majority of members of the Central Association. They should have the widest range of inquiry allowed to them; for all he wanted was a full and fair investigation of his case. He called upon all the country gentlemen who entered that House, not as politicians, but as the farmers' friends, to support his motion, which was intended for their benefit, and not for their injury.
Mr. Wodehouse rose to propose an amendment, but gave way to Mr. S. Herbert, who stated that he was anxious for the convenience of the House, to state to it at once
the course which Government intended to pursue on this question. It would meet Mr. Cobden's proposition with a direct negative. It would not grant this committee, because several had already sat on the subject of agricultural distress, and had never led to any useful result. They had sometimes come to conclusions which were not adopted, and which it was very fortunate for the country that the House had not adopted; and they had at other times made no reports from the impossibility of coming to any conclusion, but had only laid upon the table huge blue books full of the most contradictory facts, and the most conflicting evidence. The last committee which sat had come to a conclusion very different from that to which Mr. Cobden wished to lead the House that evening; for it had reported, first, that some protection was necessary to agriculture, and, secondly, that notwithstanding the charges to which the farmer was exposed, great improvement had taken place in the cultivation of land. If that were true in 1833, was it not still more true in 1845? When he heard it said that there was no improvement in the land of England because no capital was expended upon it, and when he saw the palpable improvement which was now taking place in every part of the country in the cultivation of the soil, he put the evidence of his eyes against the evidence of his ears, and inferred that there was capital spent on the land, because improvement was made in it. He showed that there was no insecurity in the tenure of land, and said that he could amuse the House as much by reading the conditions of obsolete indentures, as Mr. Cobden had by reading the