Page images

ment, and can earn sufficient for their country. That a measure which desupport; therefore they are worthless. prives a large part of the working elasTo evidence against us of the most ses of the comforts proper for their stagrave and conclusive pretensions, we tion, which takes from them the means have nothing to oppose; we are destin of sending their children to school, tute of defence; we can only offer a and which binds them to penury and simple negative, which no one will ignorance, is a most injurious one to believe.

the country, if it have no other effect What sacred duty to our country whatever, is a truth which will be ir. rests upon us here? Inquiry, immea resistible against any speeches or endiate, impartial, and unsparing; In- actments that we may make against quiry that shall ascertain whether the it. We have no evidence to prove silk manufacture has not been serious that these changes have had no such ly injured, and placed in danger of effect; but, on the contrary, we have ultimate ruip--whether the manuface the most powerful evidence of an opturers have not been subjected to great posite character. Here again the ina loss of property, and their workmen terests of the country imperiously call have not been ground down to wages upon us for Inquiry: which must keep them in penury, suf- That agriculture has been long in a fering, and the inseparable attendants state of suffering, is a notorious truth ; of penury and suffering. The inte- and that we have had the chief share rests of our country, sir, solemnly and in producing its suffering, is another loudly, demand from us sueh Inquiry; truth, equally notorious. Mr Huskis« and we cannot refuse, without acting son himself has admitted in this House, the part of traitors to these intee that our measure of last year brought rests.

such a quantity of foreign corn into We have made changes which have the market, as did great injury; and had the same , operation on various this is equivalent to an admission, that other manufactures and trades; and what the agriculturists have suffered We have manifested the same disregard since the last harvest, has been produs touching their consequences. We have ced solely by ourselves. When I renot asked a question ; we have acted member, sir, how those who opposed as though we could not err; or as qur measure were treated by the Right though any evils, no matter how gia Honourable Gentleman, his colleagues, gantie, which our acts might produce, and their eulogists, I think his admis. ought to be produced. These maa sion goes very far towards forming a aufactures and trades have brought confession, that those opponents were against us similar charges, of having I need not say by whom--very vileinjured the interests of our country, ly slandered. We may find in it a very and plunged great numbers of our ina beneficial lesson ; it may teach us to noeent fellow subjects into loss and renounce the doctrine, that all who suffering ; and we are in similar cir, differ from us must of necessity be cumstances in respect of reputation. both knaves and fools; and to speak The Minister has furnished us with no of them somewhat more courteously defence, and we have none. His assere than we have done. Here, then, we tion, sir, that these changes have caused have conclusive evidence that we have ao evil, because they have brought no erred greatly; and that our errors have material quantity of foreign goods ins deeply injured the country, and an to the country against these manu, immense number of our fellow-sub. factures and trades, is of no value. jeets. What is the irresistible infeWhatever lamentable proofs of inca, rence? Inquiry, in order to discover pacity we may have given, there can, and apply the necessary remedies. not be a man in this House so desti. On what, sir, have we been legisla. tute of understanding, as to be igno- ting respecting the Currency ? Mere rant, that, if they have so far lowered individual opinions. The speeches of prices, as to take away the profits of Mr Peel, and the Duke of Wellington, the masters, and render it impossible amounted to nothing more. Have we for the workmen to earn what will any solid reasons for believing that support their families in comfort, they these opinions are correct? We have have produced mighty evils, even none whatever. Mr Baring bas conthough they have not brought a shils fessed that we yet know, comparativeling's worth of foreigu goods into the ly, nothing of the Currency question ; and that we have thus far done little tion which we owned was of the very more than flounder on from one error highest importance to its interests to another. Such a confession, from which affected in the most serious a man of his ability, independence, manner the property of every man, and acquaintance with the subject, rich and poor, it saw us bewildering ought to have made us pause, and in- ourselves with the unsupported asserquire if we could not find something tions of this writer or that, of one Mibetter than opinion to proceed on. It nister or another, when it was in our has had no effect on us. We have power to obtain authentic information owned that on former occasions we by inquiry. It treated an assertion, acted on fallacious opinions; but we that the Currency governed prices, have held it to be impossible for our with ridicule; because it saw us voting present opinions to be fallacious. We constantly on other occasions that prihave declared that Mr Horner and

ces were governed by the corn-laws Mr Ricardo erred greatly; and we restrictive commercial laws-anything have acted as though the Duke of except the Currency. It laughed at us Wellington and Mr Feel were inca. when we gravely declared that the pable of erring. We have acted on notes of Country Banks caused the spemere opinions, which had not even culations of 1825; because it knew that plausibility to recommend them— these speculations were almost wholly which were apparently at variance confined to places in which they did with fact, when it was in our power not circulate. It knew, in contradice to act on evidence. Had we any proofs tion to the Premier, that the suppresthat Mr Goulburn's estimate of the sion of small notes would contract cao amount of small notes in circulation

pital very mischievously ; because it was correct? No.--Proofs were offere knew that the abundance of capital of ed us that it was grossly incorrect, but which he spoke, was confined to Lonwe refused to receive them. Had we don, and two or three other large any proofs that his estimate of the places, and would not go to replace amount of gold in circulation was cor, that, annihilated by the annihilation rect ? No.-His own speech proved of these notes. it to be highly erroneous, by leaving If a Country Bank call in ten thouout of calculation a large amount which sand pounds in small notes, it will must of necessity have been exported. not borrow ten thousand sovereigns in Did Ministers accompany their asser- London to replace them with; it will tion that the notes of Country Banks call in ten thousand pounds which it caused the speculations of 1825, with has lent to the trade and industry proofs ? No.—They made it in de around it-it will take permanently tance of both probability and possi- ten thousand pounds from the capital bility. Did Mr Peel prove his assere of the trade and industry around it tion that the Banks were prepared for for the purchase of the sovereigns. the suppression of small notes? He The country knew this; and it of did not attempt it. Did the Duke of course knew that the Premier was in Wellington prove his assertion that error. It knew that in 1825, as many the measure of 1826, for suppressing London Banks, which did not issue these notes, was necessary? No.-All small notes or notes of any kind, failthe proofs that are known show it to be ed, in proportion, as Country Banks ; erroneous. Did the Duke justify his therefore it held us and the Ministers opinion by proof, that the suppression to be more simple than school-boys, ot' the small notes would cause no in- when we charged the failures of that jurious diminution of capital? No.- year upon small, or any other notes. He even offered nothing worthy of It saw that we were grossly ignorant being called argument in its favour. of facts, which since 1825 had been

Boast of the knowledge and wisdom rendered perfectly notorious--that we of Parliament-Alas! Where were they had not studied the question-and during the debates of this session on that, instead of seeking proofs, we the Currency? If any member of eie wilfully closed our eyes to such as ther House can now read the debates were before us. It knew, in spite of without a blush, he is but miserably all our foolish declamation concerning qualified for being a lawgiver. high prices, and over issues, and con

The country, sir, was not to be des tractions, and depreciations, that it Juded by these opinions. On a ques. had enjoyed infinitely greater pros perity with its small notes, and slan- foreign silks and other manufactured dered Country Banks, than it had ever goods; and here it took place, to the enjoyed without them; and it knew, injury of the country. An increased too, that they had never produced import of wool and certain other ara such great and destructive variations ticles, may be taken as evidence of in the value of property, as we had public loss, rather than of the conproduced by our blind changes of law. trary. If, sir, the increase of imports It saw and knew all this, therefore it did not consist of such articles as the treated our Currency opinions with country really needed, if it took place scorn; and it treated us but little in any degree to the injury of the better for entertaining them.

community, and if it was not attend.. When it is matter of demonstration ed by a corresponding increase of con. that the Currency question affects vic sumption, taking into account the intally the collective and individual in- crease of population; it proves nothing terests of the community-that it af, in our defence whatever. fects as deeply the poor' man's bread, With regard to exports, did the inas the rich man's fortune ; and when crease arise from the proper demand it is equally matter of demonstration, and consumption in foreign markets, that we have erred on it very greatly, and did it take place without imposing and have followed mere opinions, any evils on the community? It which the country believes to be falla- proves nothing for us, if this question, cious, I trust I need not insist on the cannot be answered satisfactorily. duty of Inquiry. If there be any man What then is the answer? The inin this House who believes that we crease to a very large extent, only ought to adhere to these opinions, in- formed additional stock in foreign mara stead of seeking for proofs—that we kets; it arose in part, from speculaought to content ourselves with what tion caused by an expected change of we have done, instead of sifting the law in the United States; and it arose question, and calling for all the evi- in no inconsiderable degree from spedence within our reach—he is in a culative exports made by the manu.. place which he ought never to have facturers, without even a cause like entered.

this to justify them. To many of the But then, sir, the late Minister, to exporters, it has yielded not profits, prove that our conduct in late years has but heavy losses. Public distress was done no injury, tells us, that in the last to a great extent its parent; it could year there was a considerable increase not have taken place, had it not been: of imports and exports. Alas ! for our through the privations and sufferings, own character, and alas! for our coun- of the working classes; it practically try, if we mistake such an increase for prohibited the manufacturers from oba a proof of such a nature. With regard taining profits, and their workmen to the imports, their increase consiste from obtaining adequate wages; it ed in part of the increased import of incited foreign countries to raise their foreign corn. The increase here was protecting duties against us; and it is, but a temporary one ; it proved that now operating to produce public disthe country was sustaining loss, and tress. The increase of exports does it caused public injury in a part of its not in the least benefit our cause. operation. The increased import of It is time, sir, that this vulgar, dritallow probably arose in part from the velling error of judging of the state of, diminished production in the United the country solely by the amount of Kingdom, caused by the heat of the imports and exports, should be aban-, seasons, the reduced export of salted doned, not only by us, but also by the provisions, and the inability of the executive. Foreign trade can only be working classes to procure so much beneficial, in so far as it yields beneanimal food; it manifestly arose in fits to the population; if it injure the part from the activity and extension latter, it must be a source of evil. This of machinery, which consumes much is an axiom which we must admit to of it; and it doubtlessly arose in part be unassailable. We and the governfrom the increased stock of it held byment have, however, in late years, the community. The increase in vad been taking the reverse for our guide. rious articles was added to stock, and we have been intentionally and.conwent not into consumption. In part, fessedly distressing the population to it arose from the increased import of increase foreign trade. We have been

openly taking away the capital and have by law practically prohibited the profits of employers, and restricting agriculturists from raising their prothe labouring classes from earning a fits, and of course their wages, we sufficiency of common necesearies, on have done the same to the manufac. the sole pretext that foreign trade turing and trading interests; we have would be benefited by it. I cannot, made it the general rule by statute. sir, mention such tremendous errors We cannot charge it upon the old and follies, without being almost de causes ; we can no longer plead that prived of utterance by shame and sore it has arisen from overtrading, wild row.

speculation, and bank-notes ; blind are Let us then turn from the imports we as the inanimate stone, if we cane and exports, to look at the state of the not see that it is impossible for it to population. Putting occasional fits of be better, unless our own laws lose loss and distress out of the question, their operation. Appearances indis this state is, and has been, for the last cate the reverse of improvement ; they eighteen months, worse than the pre- shew but too clearly that it is on the sent generation ever knew it to be. eve of resolving itself into a state of In agriculture, manufactures, trade, general and severe distress. and commerce, profits have been rea If this continue, what must it pro. duced almost to nothing; and wages duce? The inevitable operation of have been brought down to a point continued bad profits is, to destroy the wholly inadequate for the comfortable capital of all but the rich. Agriculsubsistence of the labouring classes. tural capital in late years has sustaina The mass of the population is in worse ed enormous diminution ; it is still circumstances than it has been in for diminishing ; and if it continue to dia many years, excepting, as I have said, minish, our farmers will soon be in occasional fits of loss and distress. general an extremely poor body of Even in these fits, the loss and distress men. Manufacturing and trading capiwere seldom felt by the body of the tal has likewise sustained great diminu. community; if agriculture suffered, tion, and it is still diminishing: anmanufactures perhaps escaped the suf- other fit of distress amidst merchants fering ; if manufactures and commerce and manufacturers would bave the were in distress, agriculture perhaps most fatal consequences. If this gewas reasonably prosperous ; if wages neral decline of capital, amidst all the were excessively low in agriculture, less wealthy, continue, it will at po they were perhaps good in manufaca distant period strip all of capital save tures; or if they were bad in the late the very wealthy. It is admitted that a ter, they were perhaps good in the lamentable change for the worse has former. Agriculture would have sufa already taken place in the feelings and fered very little in 1825 and 1826, conduct of the lower orders; that notwithstanding the manufacturing penury into which they have sunk, and commercial distress, had it not has, we know, had its natural and been for our measures. But at prea certain fruits; if the cause continue sent the baddess of profits and wages to operate, the consequences must be -the impoverishment and privations come more comprehensive and appal--the decline in circumstances, are ling. If these orders continue thus to felt in nearly an equal degree by all retrograde, they must soon be in a the interests of the empire-by nearly condition and display characteristics, the whole population. This House which no friend of his country can cannot be, and it is not, ignorant of reflect on without affliction and disthis. We know it to be unquestion. may. able, that profits are in general very This will suffice to shew that we bad that wages are in general very can find no defence in the amount of low-that the labouring classes are in imports and exports ; at any rate it general in great penury that paupere establishes the imperious necessity for ism has increased and that there has inquiry. Such inquiry as it is our sa. been a fearful increase in vice and cred duty to institute, will exhibit to crime,

us the exact operation of the imports We cannot, sir, call this a temporary and exports; we can ascertain in what state of things the mere exception to articles the increase has been ; we can the rule; we have clear proof that it can take each article separately, and trace not amend, in our own enactments; we its effects upon the population.

But, sir, conceding every thing that ers loudly condemned ; and we have the Minister can claim in favour of been very recently assured that the the imports and exports, there still is condition of part of the Irish people, that in the circumstances of the popu. as described by the evidence of the lation which commands us by all that Committee of Inquiry, and the Emia we owe to ourselves, as well as by all gration Committee, needs no remedy. that we owe to our country, to inquire Looking at this in conjunction with rigidly into the causes. We have been the opinions which we are countenanfor some years laboriously occupied in cing, touching the Poor Laws, and sweeping away by wholesale, not only the cheap labour opinions on which laws and systems, but even the regu- we have been so long legislating, lations and feelings of society; and as I am very far from being convinwe have advanced in this, the wealced that this House may not deem it and character of the community have wise to act on the doctrines, that the declined. That our labours have not cheaper labour is, the better; and that produced, what we declared they it must be beneficial to a country if would produce, is matter of demon its population can be made to feed on stration; that they have produced die potatoes. I, therefore, holding as I tectly the reverse, is rendered almost do, that such doctrines are alike false certain by the appalling fact, that the in political economy, barbarous in reverse has been produced since we feeling, and iniquitous in morals-socommenced them. We declared that lemnly disavow all participation in, We should benefit trade and manu- and record my decided hostility to factures; they have been more dis- them, before my God and my coun. tressed than they even were previous try.. I protest against being implica ly. We declared we should serve agri- ted in their dissemination, and against culture; it has fallen into a state of having the suspicion fixed on me by constant suffering. We declared we the words or acts f any man, or any should better the condition of the la- men, that I am other than their con bouring classes ; they have sunk into scientious and zealous opponent. But, the worst condition they ever were sir, if this House collectively think fit placed in. We declared we should to act on such doctrines, I fervently promote the spread of knowledge and hope that it will not do so without good conduct; ignorance and bad con- ample inquiry. If the comfort of the duct have gained ground fearfully labourer and his family are unworthy amidst the body of the people. While of notice if they are to be treated this is the case, our labours are very worse than the brute which labours far from being terminated; we have for us, in being denied a sufficiency of been as anxious to prosecute them du- food for their labour-still let us not ting the present session, as we were lose sight of the interests of the em, when we commenced them; and they pire, and of ourselves as individuals. contemplate even greater changes than Let us ascertain what benefits Ireland we have yet made. If we advance a draws from its cheap labour; and step farther-if we make a single al- what advantages it would reap from teration or abolition more, without its potatoe food, if it did not fortufirst making ourselves thoroughly ac nately happen to have Britain to send quainted with what our past labours its corn and cattle to. Let us inquire have produced, we ought to be, not whether penury in the lower orders, merely confined for life as lunatics, be not poverty and evil in the higher but expelled from our country as men ones,-whether privation and want to who seek its ruin.

the labourer, be not ignorance, vice, With reference to what I have said crimes, outrage, and insubordination touching the working classes, I may to the state. observe, that we have been told dus I must now, sir, turn to a subject, ring this session, that the cheaper la- different in its nature, but of equal bour is, the better, and that we ought importance. to make it as cheap as possible ; it has Several years ago we adopted what been stated in pamphlets on Irish af we called a new system of governing fairs, that it is beneficial to a country Ireland : we reversed the principles if its population can be made to feed on which that part of the United Kingon potatoes. I have seen in print, the dom had previously been governed. bacon and beef fare of English labour. According to our predictions, sir, this

« PreviousContinue »