Imatges de pàgina
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trary, that it was calculated rather to sessing landed property, need not demake 80s. the maximum price ; and sire to see him situated otherwise than so the event had proved. But as to the beneficially: if, he said, that price observation of the honourable gentle- had been sufficient to enable him to man, he could only say, that if the cultivate his ground with spirit, and bill in question had failed to produce with advantage to himself and to its a price of 80s, to the farmer, it had owners, he really saw no ground for failed to do that which, in truth, it contending that it was not calculated never was intended to do. He did to produce, during the last five years, say, that the advantage contemplated something like the same beneficial was that of removing from the farmer results. They had heard a great deal the terror of an influx of foreign corn of the existing distress as connected at all times, which it was hoped would with this measure in some degree, lead to such an extension of capital but how could that distress be possito be employed in agricultural objects bly charged upon the corn laws? No -he did not mean to say an unwise foreign corn had been imported since or extravagant extension—but such February 15, 1819, and he supposed an increased cultivation of land, that there was scarcely a quarter of fothe quantity of corn raised in this reign corn now in a private warecountry should be adequate to its house. However low the price of consumption. It was strange, that corn might now be, he conceived that those who expected that the corn-bill it was impossible to change that prewas to produce a price of 80s., and sent low price by legislative enactdeclared that the agriculturists were ments. The honourable member (Mr ruined because it had not done so, Holme Sumner,) in his opening, had would find that the price in the last said, that the petitioners asked for no five years averaged not less than 78s. specific remedy. He hoped that they 10d. If they looked at the imports of did not: it gave him great satisfaccorn from the year 1792 to the year tion to find, that the specific reme1812, they would find the average dy, which every agriculturist had been importation (of wheat) to have been, told was the only

one that could save as nearly as possible, during those 20 him, had not been touched upon by years, rather less than 500,000 quar- his honourable friend—he meant that ters annually ; and it so happened enormous, that monstrous, that outthat the average price, for the same rageous proposition, the laying on a period, was about 78s. 6d. It did permanent duty of 40s. per quarter therefore appear, that during the last upon corn imported. On the subject five years the annual average price of averages, he was convinced that a had been much the same with that of great delusion prevailed. He had the other period he had mentioned. particularly examined the different If, then, the average price of corn, methods which it was proposed to taking it from 1793 to 1812–a term substitute, and had ascertained that of 19 years—had been sufficient to none of them would make any sensiinduce the employment of additional ble difference. He would not object, capital in agriculture, and to place however, to an inquiry into this subthe farmer, in point of his price, inject, as there might prevail, he beliethat situation which they must all. ved, some local abuses. The best perwish to see him stand in; and he, in sons were not always chosen for the common with overy other person pos- office of inspectors; for instance, in

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one of the Welsh counties a lady had system on which a great country been appointed. If any measure could moves and acts. It had now proved be proposed, which would render the totally inadequate to its objects, and existing law less liable to abuse, he, had shewn the inipossibility of putting for one, would give it his support. a permanent artificial price on a neBut he really felt that he should aban- cessary of life by any legislative exdon the duty which he owed to his periments. In what situation would country, to that house, and to the the poorer, the industrious and lacharacter of the office with which he bouring classes, find themselves, if the was connected, if he did not protest price of corn were now at 40 or 50 against every change in a law which, per cent higher than it actually was ? while it could extend no relief to this His honourable friend (Mr Western) class of the community in the present had not stated to what extent he instance, was calculated to occasion would wish the price to be carried ; much general inconvenience and in- but what, he would again ask, must jury by being unnecessarily altered. become of those multitudes, those

Mr Western, notwithstanding his beehives of population, that were to indisposition, made a short speech in be found in our manufacturing towns, support of the motion. He insisted if any considerable addition were to particularly on the dependence of the be made to that price? Already we manufacturing interest upon the agri- stood at double the price of the rest cultural. It might be proved, by fair of the world, but with this some horeasoning, supported by facts, that nourable gentlemen were not satisthe depressed state of agriculture was fied : would they then wish it to be the primary cause of the distresses of trebled ? It was true that the farmer the manufacturer ; in all cases the was now suffering ; so was the manufarmer first had been embarrassed, facturer, and indeed every class of the and the difficulties of the manufac- community. His honourable friend turer had followed as a consequence. seemed to think that the cause of all He need refer no farther back than the evil was, that the farmer could to 1815 and 1816 for proof of what not purchase from the manufacturer ; he had advanced ; while, in the begin- but so it might be represented the ning of that period, wheat was 120s. other way, that the manufacturer was per quarter, the manufacturers were not able to deal with the farmer, or Hourishing; and when the price fell find consumption for his produce. It to 65s. or 70s., then they began bit- had been recently shown to the house terly to complain. In 1817 it was by a great proprietor at Birmingham known that agriculture began to re- (Mr Spooner,) that there had been vive, and with it, of course, the ma- a falling off from 56,000 to 48,000 nufacturing districts felt the allevia- cattle in the consumption of that tion.

The great decrease in the Mr Baring, a leading representa- demand for landed produce, arose tive of the commercial interest, ex- from the inability of people to pay for pressed his high satisfaction with the it. He admitted that there was much view which had been taken of the suffering, particularly among the class subject by Mr Robinson. He himself of smaller landed proprietors, but had opposed the corn bill in the first conceived it was in vain to look for a instance, but had said no more on the remedy. Prices had been forced up, subject since, being convinced of the and they must inevitably come down. general impolicy of disturbing the Mr Frankland Lewis was inclined

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to support the plan of a protecting They could not shut their eyes to this duty, but on a principle opposite to fact, and declare that that which was that adopted by the agricultural lead- right in 1815 ought, under very difers. He wished a duty moderate in fouent circumstances, to be consideramount, as a milder measure, and as ed right now. He could not but peraffording less obstruction to trade than suade himself that the time was not an absolute prohibition. The mode in far distant when it would be found which protection was at present given necessary for them, in some degree, was very inconvenient. "He concei- to retread their steps, and to adapt ved that the adoption of a prohibition the protection to the altered state of was a worse course of proceeding, expense; when, instead of increasing with reference to the protection of that protection, they would feel a sinthe agriculturist, than a positive duty. cere desire and an anxious wish to The existing system operated as a examine this question, with a view to prohibition to a certain extent; and, the alteration and amendment of the as it so operated, it must occasion a existing system. sudden alternation from a prohibition Lord Milton generally concurred to an unlimited supply-a state of in Mr Robinson's views, but could things the most mischievous that could not agree in the expediency of that be imagined. The country was not limited inquiry to which he had shewn now in a situation, with regard to cul- a disposition to assent. If there was tivation, including rent, perfectly dif- an inquiry at all, it ought, he conceiferent from that in which it stood in ved, to be on the broadest and most 1815, when the corn law passed. He extensive scale, and to include the believed the expense of cultivating a employment of the people, the means farm was diminished nearly one-third. of subsistence, trade, the currency, This he stated as the result of inquiry; and all the means of national subsistand he was in the hearing of those who could contradict him if he erred. Mr Curwen was for a fair and full If the fact wanted corroboration, it inquiry, which should take into conwas to be found in the manifestos of sideration the general interests of the the agriculturists themselves, where community, and the mode of equali. the reduced price of labour was sta- zing the burdens upon each class. ted over and over again. That, how- He wished the fundholders to bear ever, was not all; there was likewise

the public burdens equally with the the reduced price of horses, and of landholder, and would therefore be almost every thing necessary for farm- inclined to support a modified ining. This created a very essential come tax, instead of the taxes on salt, difference. Then what was the re- leather, soap, &c. which pressed disult? It was this—that those who had rectly on the poor. invested capital when the prices were Mr Ricardo opposed the bill, and high, must be nominally losers at this all restrictions on the corn trade in time; but that, if any persons now in- general, upon those principles of povested fresh capital in agricultural litical economy which he had so propursuits, they would stand at a charge foundly studied. It became the leone-third less than they formerly could gislature, not to look at the partial do. The protection recommended in losses which would be endured by a 1815 proceeded on the expense of few, who could not cultivate their cultivation, including rent. That ex- land profitably, at a diminished remupense was now every way diminished. nerative price, but to the general in.

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terests of the nation; and, connected evils—the national debt and the corn with this, he would look to the profits laws. of capital.

He would rather have a The motion was supported by Mr great quantity of produce at a low Bennett and Mr Coke, and opposed rate, than a small quantity at a high. by Mr Huskisson, Mr Ellice, who The right honourable gentleman op- moved the previous question, and by posite (Mr Robinson) appeared in- Lord Castlereagh. But the speech consistent, when he denied a commit- which excited most interest, was that tee to inquire into the more impor- of Mr Brougham, who espoused the tant question, and yet agreed to one side of the question opposite to that for discussing such trifling matters as which might have been expected from striking the average.

This was not his views of political economy, and what the petitioners wanted: they his adherence to the popular cause. declared that they could grow as It appeared to him that it would be much as the home market required, indecent to turn a deaf ear to a moand they demanded a monopoly of it. tion founded on the petitions of such The soil of the country could pro- a numerous body as the agriculturists duce as much as the consumption of of this country. Entertaining some the country, but could it be done as doubts as to the present motion, he cheaply as in other countries? We supported it, because there was no might as well grow beet-root for the other before him. His honourable purpose of producing sugar, because friend (Mr Ricardo) seemed to argue it was possible, as grow grain suffi- this question as if he had dropped from cient for home consumption, because another planet -- as if this were a land it could be done. With respect to of the most perfect liberty of tradeeconomy, nothing could be said in fa- as if there were no taxes no drawvour of restriction. But it was argued backs—no bounties—no searchersthat, in war, dependence on foreign on any other branch of trade but that countries for supplies of corn would of agriculture; as if, in this Utopian be most dangerous. But an interrup- world of his creation, the first meation to such commerce would be more sure of restriction ever thought on disastrous, if possible, to the export- was that on the importation of corn ; ing than to the importing country.

as if all classes of the community When the supply became greater than were alike-as if all trades were on the demand, the effect was more in- an equal footing ; and that, in this jurious with respect to corn than any new state, we were called upon to other article. It could not be pre- decide the abstract question, whether served for a more favourable season. or not there should be a protecting What then must be the situation of a price for corn? But we were not in country who found their exports in this condition—we were in a state of corn returned on their own market ? society where we had manufacturers The distress, agricultural and com- of almost every description, protected mercial, in this country, was not one- in every way, even to criminal enacttenth of such a case. Besides, were ments, to prevent the raw material we to be at war with all the world at from going out of the country, in orthe same time? - This would be the der thereby to assist the native manuhappiest country in the world, and facturer. He complained of the little its progress in prosperity would be regard which was generally paid to beyond the power of imagination to the agricultural, in comparison of the conceive, if we got rid of two great manufacturing interests. Sir Robert Walpole had compared the agricul- necessary for them to remain in the turists to a flock of sheep, and said house till the division, he had told that, like sheep, they were shorn with- them that nothing was so unlikely, out repining : but the complaints of from the temper which the House had the commercial and trading classes, evinced during the debate, as an effecwhen any thing affected them, he had tive support of the motion. If he had compared to the noise of another ani- thought that it would have had so mal, which, out of regard to that re- many supporters, there would have spectable body, he would not name. been a very different attendance of The circumstances in which the members, and a very different result country was placed were such, that from that which had taken place. even poor land was eagerly sought On the motion of Mr Baring, the and diligently cultivated. It was nomination of the committee was adhedged, and ditched, and improved so journed to the following day. as to become the depositary of a large This delay passed not unimproved portion of British capital —that capi- by the opponents of the motion. The tal had been so employed this land vote indeed once passed, could not was now under cultivation—it con- be rescinded ; but Mr Robinson, fol. tained the capital, he might almost lowing up an idea originally thrown say the life, of the cultivators—and it out by him, proposed, that the inquiwould be as reasonable, under such ries of the committee should be dicircumstances, to refer back to the rected solely to the mode of striking period he had mentioned, or to say the averages. This motion was sup: that they should go for their grain to ported at considerable length by Lord Poland, where the serf cultivated the Castlereagh. It was vehemently, insoil for his lord-because at Poland deed, opposed by Mr Brougham, who it could be got cheaper than they asked : Was the result of the debate could now produce it. If the trade last night no vote of the House? Right were now thrown open, the inevita- or wrong, he considered that by that ble consequence would be, that, in vote they had pledged themselves. the next season, 7 or 800,000 of acres Ministers found themselves in a miwould be thrown out of cultivation, nority where they had calculated upand those dependent on them out of on a certain majority; and they, there. employment." Was there any man fore, were now endeavouring to get bold enough to look such a difficulty rid of the result of a solemn debate as this in the face ?

by a sort of side-wind, by an unfair The question being called for at a manæuvre. It was said that the agilate hour, the original motion was tation of the question was spreading carried by a majority of 150 to 101. an alarm through the country. He ap

This result caused universal sur- pealed to those gentlemen who were prise, even in the supporters of the so much alarmed about alarms; to measure, and general dismay in its those whose terrors terrified the land; opponents.

whose fears were excited at one time Lord Castlereagh deplored and la- about the price of bread, at another mented from the bottom of his heart time about the price of bullion, and the decision of the House. So little at another about the law of the land, had he anticipated such a result, that, as established-ever since 1815; at being asked by several persons whe- one time about this thing, at another ther he thought there was such a dif- about that—he appealed to them on ference of opinion as would make it the present occasion. He called on

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