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July the prices were rapidly rising. About | for a supply of food for the great mass the middle of Jnne, when the price ought of the people. During the whole of his to be at the highest, as the old stock would experience, never did the country appear at that time be nearly exhausted, the in a situation more alarming. To add to average price was 22s. Ild. On the 4th the grounds of apprehension, the hay crop, of August, taking the average of the whole in the richest parts of England, was in a kingdom, it had risen to 27s. 3d., and had condition to call forth fears of the utmost considerably exceeded that price in many scarcity, and the fact was, that at the seadistricts. The House were aware that the son of the year in question, such was the two weeks from that date were the only miserable state of vegetation, that it was weeks which were left to be included in absolutely necessary to feed cattle with the general quarterly average. The last green fodder, as in the depth of winter. of those two weeks it had risen 1s. 6d. In such a condition of the country, with above that price, at which, if it were the such prospects, could there be the slightest general average of the quarter, the ports hesitation in taking any step that might would be open for the importation of be requisite for securing to the country a foreign oats. With this information as to supply of the first necessary of existence ? the general deficiency of the crop, and the could his Majesty's ministers, for a single consequent apprehended scarcity, they moment, entertain a doubt that their first waited to see what would be the price in duty was, at whatever risk, to guard the two remaining weeks. In the week against the impending scarcity, by the adending the 18th, the general average price mission of peas, beans, and grain? The was 28s. 2d.; in that ending the 25th, it statements he had made, verified as they was 29s. 4d.; and in the last days of the must have been by the observation of hon. month it rose above 30s. On the 1st of gentlemen, fully warranted him in asserting September it was 30s. 7d., and was con- that had ministers waited till the 15th of tinuing to rise rapidly. The committee November, when by law the ports might would bear in mind, that in several districts have been opened, the consequences would where oatmeal, and not flour, constituted probably have proved most calamitous. a very large proportion of the food of the From the rapid rise of prices before the people, its price rose very much above that first of September, their continued elevawhich had been quoted as the general tion subsequent to that period, the condiaverage. Besides the knowledge of these tion of the crops at home, and the prosfacts, his Majesty's ministers had also the pects of supply from abroad, he had not information, that the crop of oats was in the slightest difficulty in saying, that the general a failure in several foreign countries minister who should hesitate to advise the from which oats were usually imported. admission of foreign grain, would be unKnowing this, and seeing that great worthy equally of the favour of the moscarcity was to be apprehended at home, narch, and of that fair and liberal confinot merely from the deficiency of the oat dence which was reposed in the ministers of crop, but from the general failure of legu- the Crown, while parliament was not sitting. minous productions throughout the country, He put it to the committee, whether it could owing to the great drought which pre- for a moment be thought, that any minister vailed, it became necessary to take steps deserved to be trusted by the Crown, or to obtain a timely supply of food, not supported by parliament, who could for a merely for the cattle, but for that large single instant hesitate to choose between portion of the people who were dependent a breach of the law on the one hand, or on oatmeal for food. But another circum- the risk, nay the certainty, of famine on stance which operated on his Majesty's the other. Having submitted to the comministers was, that the accounts from Lan- mittee these observations, he trusted he cashire and from Ireland were of such an had said enough to justify the measure alarming nature, as almost to excite despair; that had been adopted, so far as it related and if the drought had continued, if Pro- to removing the prohibition, which would vidence had not lent its aid by a timely have excluded grain until the 15th of fall of rain, the potatoe crops must have November, and he would have contented been ruined. In that case, they would himself with having said thus much, had have had to fall back on the scanty supply that measure been confined to simple reof oats which remained, and must have found moval; but there was another feature of themselves in a state of the utmost distress the case which required notice. He als
luded to the duty to be imposed on the little doubt that the importers would have grain admitted, or rather, he should say, waited until the 15th of November, and undertaken to be paid thereon. The ad- taken their chance of being then able to visers of the Crown, on this occasion, had introduce it at the nominal duty of 4d. departed as little as possible from the per quarter. In confirmation of this, he spirit of the existing Corn-laws. They would observe, that of the quantity imrequired the parties importing to pay cer- ported, 600,000 quarters of wheat, 150,000 tain duties ; that is, the order in council were actually overheld, the owners deimposed upon the importers the necessity clining to pay the duty of 2s., and rather of entering into an engagement to pay a desiring to take their chance on the 15th specified duty, provided that duty should of November. In the last week, the prices be sanctioned by parliament; and, in pur- were 29s. and 30s., in thirteen or fourteen suance thereof, bonds had been entered counties out of the twenty-four, from which into. Therefore, the act necessary to be he had received reports ; and these repassed on the present occasion, should ports, he could inform the committee, not merely indemnify the parties who in- were from counties where the great mass of curred this responsibility, but should, if the population were, in a considerable deparliament took the view of the subject gree, dependent on oats for their food; which he did, empower the Crown to re- amongst which might be included Durcover those duties. Honourable gentle- ham, Cumberland, Northumberland, Chesmen might differ as to the amount of duty ter, Gloucester, and Lancashire, and a few to be imposed. The principles upon which others. In Lancashire the price was 35s. ; ministers had acted in settling these du- affording another strong proof of the neties, he would now explain. It was enact- cessity there was for opening the ports, ed already, that if the price of oats was and of obtaining a supply of that article. above 28s. the duty was to be two shil- Under all these circumstances, he trusted lings permanently, and two shillings addi- he had made out a case to justify ministional for the first three months.
ters in taking off the prohibition, and in It must be obvious, that the only inten- securing the country from the dangers by tion for which the additional duty of two which it was threatened-dangers, from shillings had been imposed for the first which, he trusted, the decision of the three months was, to check the amount House would encourage the advisers of the imported, lest it should exceed the wants Crown, at all times, to guard the country. of the country, and thus be injurious to What, in addition to the indemnity, he the home-grower. If they had taken a intended to conclude with proposing to right estimate of the harvest of the year, the committee was, that the duty specisuch a check would have been deemed un- fied in the order in council should connecessary. The whole oat crop had hard-tinue till the 15th February, when the ly exceeded one half of an average crop. next averages would be struck, and, in the Instead, therefore, of checking the import- mean time, that corn should be permitted ation of this species of corn, ministers were to be introduced on the payment of that called upon to give encouragement to the duty, as it had been done since the issue largest importation. On the 8th of Sep- of the order in council. When the comtember, the average price of the whole mittee looked at the price of grain genekingdom exceeded 30s. a quarter ; on the rally, and of wheat in particular-when 5th of August it had exceeded 30s. 4d. they considered the scarcity of food for in not less than six districts. If no foreign cattle, and for the great mass of the popucorn had been introduced into the country lation—they would, he was satisfied, conuntil the 15th of November, the time at cur with him in thinking, that not only which it might have been imported by law, had a sound discretion been exercised as it was impossible to conceive that the to the past, but that a continuation of the price would not have gone on rapidly in- system would be highly expedient. He creasing, until by the 15th of November, would conclude by moving, the return would have been very consider- “1. That all persons concerned in isably above the legal importation price.- suing, or advising the issue, or acting in On the subject of the amount of the duty, execution of, an Order of Council of the he would observe, that he thought it 1st day of February, 1826, for allowing should not have exceeded 2s.; for had 4s. the importation of certain sorts of foreign been imposed, there could have been but corn, shall be indemnified, VOL XVI,
“2. That the importation of foreign exacted rents that their tenants could not oats, oatmeal, rye, pease, and beans, be pay. He trusted, that all declamation permitted for a time to be limited, on pay- addressed to the passions of the people ment of the duties hereinafter mentioned : would be avoided, and that the question that is to say, for every quarter of oats would be discussed without any mixture 28. ; for every boll of oatmeal 2s. 2d.; of prejudice. He did not think this a for every quarter of rye, pease, and beans, proper time for entering upon the question 38. 6d. ; and that all bonds which may of the Corn-laws, and he was glad that: have been taken for the payment of such ministers had confined themselves to the duties shall be duly discharged.'
immediate question before the House. Sir E, Knatchbull said, that in looking Mr. Whitmore did not rise to oppose at the situation in which the country was the measure now under consideration. placed at the period alluded to, his He believed it was the only course minisMajesty's ministers were perfectly justified ters could have pursued. But it was in the course they had adopted. This most desirable, without now attempting was his own opinion, and it was also the to enter on the merits of the great question opinion of many gentlemen with whom of the Corn-laws, that an early settlement he concurred in the general view of the of it should take place. He could not Corn-laws. But, in saying this, he begged help pointing out to the House the strange not to be understood as meaning to retract nature of the law by which the corn trade any thing he had formerly said with re- was to have been regulated. They were spect to that question. His sentiments now deliberating upon the third instance remained unaltered on that subject; but of its infraction within the last three he thought the case now before the com- years. Could a heavier censure fall upon mittee formed no part of that general any law than that simple fact? They question. He was ready to admit, that passed a law which suffered repeated ina sufficient case had been made out for fractions from the executive government : the measure adopted by ministers. In they were suddenly convened to consider expressing that, he believed that he only of the infraction, and they all felt satisfied spoke the feelings of the landed interest that the breach of the law was the only He would go further, and say, that he safe conduct which government could only spoke their sentiments in declaring, adopt. The year before last they adopted that all the country gentlemen were greatly resolutions in direct contradiction to this indebted to ministers for that which they law: they did the same last year : and had done. He made this observation, now they were assembled to pass an act because it was asserted, most unjustly, of indemnity to ministers for breaking that the landed interest were the only through it. He put it to the House, if persons who differed from public opinion such a law ought any longer to disgrace upon this most important subject. He the Statute-book. He was prepared to knew it was a principle generally admitted show, at the proper time, that it was not among persons concerned in commeree, only in hostility to the general prosperity that, after any unusual depression, they of the country, but that it acted most were at liberty to seek for a remuneration injuriously on that interest for whose of their losses in advanced prices. That benefit it had been enacted. He concurwas, as he understood, a general principle red with the hon. baronet in hoping, that in trade and manufactures, and it was not no recrimination or angry feelings would at all unfair. But it was not applicable, be allowed to mix themselves up with at all times, to the agricultural interest. the consideration of this question. It That interest had been as depressed as was one of vast importance to all interests, any class in the kingdom, and no good affecting, as it did, not only the prosperity could result from exciting jealousy between of the agricultural, but the manufacturing them and the manufacturers. The best and trading classes. It was likewise a remedy for the evils of the country was question of great difficulty, which it beto look them fairly in the face, and not came all to approach with calmness; and to enter into any recrimination between he trusted, the passions and interests of the different classes of society. When individuals would not be mixed up in a the great question came under considera- matter so intimately affecting the universal tion, he hoped the House would not be safety and well-being of the state. With told that landlords were oppressive, and respect to the recent act of ministers, it
was one forced on them by circumstances, | This had been a subject upon which the : and of which the strongest advocates of press had been incessantly at work for the existing system did not venture to six months, and such was the misreprecomplain.
sentation to which they had recourse to Colonel Wood wished the hon. gentle bring down the Corn-law. The arrangeman had followed the example of the hon, ment made by that law went to give the baronet who preceded him, and refrained home-growers a remunerating price, and from any animadversion on the Corn-law. the command of the home-market, while As he had made many allusions to it on enough grain was produced to feed the different occasions, it would have been whole population ; and the average price well if the hon. gentleman had taken the had been, during five or six years past, not trouble to ascertain what that law was. 80s., as it had been assumed by the opAmong the various publications which had ponents of that time, but 60s. The price appeared upon it, he had perused one of bread for four or five years past had not which had been put forth by the hon. been complained of nor could it be gentleman. In that pamphlet he found complained of. As to the measure now it asserted, that the principle of the law under consideration, he agreed, that of 1815 was, to cut off all intercourse, as there was not the slightest objection to the to the trade in grain, with foreign coun- step taken by government, in opening the tries; that the trade in com was rendered, ports on their own responsibility. There was by that law, the exception, and not the one thing which he did not exactly underrule; and that the object of it was, to stand in the statement of the right hon. gen-i screw up the prices at home to an un- tleman. He did not know, as oats had risen natural elevation. Now, so far was the to 30s. at the time of publishing these or- ! trade in corn made the rule of the law in ders in council, why the ports had not 1815w.so far was it from being made the been opened at once at the duty of 45. exception, that it was established, that Again, as on the 15th of November, about when the averages were at 63s. and under, the time of striking the averages, the ports the import duty should be 258., and when had been opened till forty days after above 63s., then the import duty was to the opening of parliament, were they to be only 2s. 6d. He would leave it, then, remain open, as under the operation of to the House to determine, how just had the law in opening them they would have been the assertion of the hon. gentleman, been, till February, the next period for that the object of the law and its effect striking the averages ? Upon that question had been to cut off all intercourse in depended another ; namely, whether there foreign grain. He begged the committee was any necessity for passing this bill of to look at the three resolutions then pass- indemnity now, or whether it could not ed; the first of which declared, that all have been as well done in February? He corn, come from where it would, should deprecated the aggravating attempts of be landed and housed for exportation the press to dissevet the manufacturing duty free, and that it should be exported and agricultural interests, and hoped that also duty free. He noticed this to show the House would adopt measures which how necessary it was for those who under- would have the effect of putting a stop to took to write upon any law, first of all to them. understand it. This most valuable regu- Mr. Warburton, member for Bridport, lation they owed to the late Mr. Rose ; expressed a hope, that the intimation and the declared object of it was, that thrown out by the Foreign Secretary of whether the country was engaged in war State would be rigidly adhered to, and on her own account, or remained neutral that any measure relative to an alteration in the wars of other countries, there should of the Corn-laws would be brought forstill be a resource for times of difficulty, ward in that House without any previous in the importation of foreign grain; that intimation elsewhere ; so that every memthe factors of the Baltic might be induced, ber would come equally unprepared and as it were, to transport their warehouses equally unprejudiced to the discussion of from Dantzic to our own shores. So much this important subject. for the design of cutting off all trade in Colonel Torrens, member for Ipswich, grain. Now, as to the second argument, said, he was aware it was irregular to althat of screwing up prices. This was a lude to any discussion which had taken charge made by the hor. gentleman. place in that House on a previous occa
sion, but he might, perhaps, be allowed to Mr. Calcraft thought that ministers
any measure which national prosperity. The difference be- tended to uphold one of them exclusively, tween the agricultural gentlemen and him- was certain, in the long run, to be injuriself was, that he would surround it by ous to that very interest. In avowing a natural and congenial atmosphere of himself friendly to some alteration in the national wealth, while they were anxious Corn-laws, he did not consider himself to occasionally to make the mercury ascend be seeking the advantage of his own conin the scale, and to preserve its precarious stituents at the expense
other class elevation by an artificial pressure. If the
If the of the community. He fully agreed with prices of land should, by these means, be an hon. gentleman who once represented brought so high as to raise the prices of the city of London, that he was not so grain and cattle much beyond the level much sent to parliament to guard the of the European markets, capital would interests of the city, as to guard those of emigrate to more happy climes, and leave the country at large, and, indeed, he might the agriculturist to lament over the deso- say, of posterity. In conclusion, he would lation which he had brought upon him not compliment ministers on the policy self. It would not be the pulling down which they had pursued with regard to alone of the trade and manufactures, but this question, for he thought that if they it would resemble the last effort of de- had any feeling, they must be nauseated spairing frenzy, which would drag down with the compliments they had received the pillars of the temple, and bury itself in already. However, this much he would
. the ruins.
say, that they would have been highly Mr. Western said, he considered that mi- criminal if they had abstained from acting nisters were justified in the course they as they had done. had pursued, and that, seeing the temper Mr. Hume asserted, that, both in the and feeling of the House, he would not at House and out of it, there was a unanipresent enter into the general question of mous opinion, that the question of the the Corn-laws.
Corn-laws ought to undergo immediate Mr. Wodehouse concurred with the last discussion. Such being the case, the speaker in approving of the conduct of conduct of ministers appeared very extraministers. It was his intention to have ordinary. There were hundreds of petigone more at large into the general ques- tions to be presented from the manufacturtion of the Corn-laws, but, observing the ing districts against those laws; and no temper and disposition of the House on gentleman would perform his duty in the subject, he forbore doing so for the presenting them, if he did not state fully present.
the nature of their contents. Discussion