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[53 measure of precaution to meet actually carried into exercise, it probable contingencies. During would not only cure any inexpedisixteen of the last twenty-five ent rise in price, but the importayears, the average price of corn tion would effect still greater good had been 758.; and during eight by reviving industry. “A person", of them, it had been 90s. If, said the hon. member, "extensively therefore, corn should rise to 90s. engaged in the commerce of Manin the present circumstances of sochester, told me this morning, large a portion of the population, we are prepared to go on again the consequences must be misera- immediately, even under the preble; and when this had actually sent circumstances, if we could get happened eight times out of twenty- our returns from abroad. But, in five, it was impossible to look upon the present state of the exchanges, it as being so remote a contingency, that is a matter of great difficulty, thata prudent governmentoughtnot unless we incur a very serious loss. to provide against it. Prices have If, however, we were enabled to been regularly rising for the last six import foreign grain, we could imweeks; the harvest of last year be- mediately set to work. This diffigan a month earlier than usual; the culty was universally felt ; and harvest of the present year might, the importation of even 500,000 very probably be a month later quarters would be beneficial to a than usual; and so, between both, much greater extent than merely the produce of the year may have lowering the price of grain." to supply the consumption of four- The motion, “ that it is the teen months. In ordinary times opinion of this committee, that it we might risk the inconvenience is expedient to empower his mawhich would result; but there was jesty, by any order or orders in something in the present state of council,'to permit, under certain the country, which would make circumstances, and for a time limitthis a matter of more than ordinary ed, the entry of corn for home hazard. The rise might happen consumption, subject to the duties so suddenly, that, within a very which may be agreed on," was short period of time, a relaxation carried without a division. The of the Corn-laws might become opposition of the most stubborn absolutely necessary, and scarcely champions of the landed intime for deliberation remain. Since, terest had been soothed down by then, in such circumstances, to be the intended limitation of the able to use a discretionary power quantity to 500,000 quarters, and would be desirable, the simple of the time to two months after question was, whether it were bet- the ports should have been opened. ter that government should use The quantity, which, in such cases, this discretion of itself, and trust must be, in a great measure, arto the subsequent approbation of bitrary, was taken, as equalling, parliament, or should first receive when added to the bonded corn to it as, a trust deposited in their be let loose, one half of the greathands by parliament? And surely est importation ever made. This the latter was the safer and more limitation of the quantity, leaving constitutional course to pursue. unfixed the price and duty at Mr. Phillips said, that if the power which it might be imported, had of admitting foreign grain was for its object to meet the views,
and soothe the apprehensions of the have said nothing regarding either landed interest. The repeated the price or the duty.” In this asseverations of ministers, that the spirit they continued their opposipresent measures were not to be tion till opposition was hopeless, and considered as having any connection there was occasionally even some with the final adjustment of the bitterness in the taunts which they question, could not convince the directed against ministers, for what defenders of agriculture, that any they call this undermining of the duty or price which might be at- Corn-laws. One adherent of gotached now, was not intended to vernment declared, that, since such be the one that should be finally were to be their measures, he for adopted, or, at least, that the people one, should feel himself bound, if would not view it in that light- he had the honour of a seat in the regard it as a tacit legislative de- next parliament, to take care, that claration of what was right and all the public establishments were propers and thus disable the land- brought down to the lowest possiowners, when the great question ble point. In short, as in the case came to be discussed, from claiming of the small-note bill, ministers a higher price, and a higher duty, were opposed by some of their without exposing themselves to friends who did not wish the Cornpopular odium. The dread of this laws to be touched at all, and were measure operating, and being re- supported by some of their oppogarded, as an incidental decision nents who wished to see them reupon the . Corn-laws themselves, moved altogether. The bill passed was the origin of all the hostility by large majorities, without alteraof the land owners, and the reason tion; and to the bill for letting out why, rather than agree to it, they the bonded corn no serious opwere willing to enter into a full position had been made. investigation and revision of the
The same difference of opinion whole system. Accordingly when prevailed in the House of Lords. colonel Wood moved a clause, that There the bill for permitting the importation should not commence importation of 500,000 quarters of till the price had reached 65s., and foreign grain, was met by lord then only under a duty of 12s., Malmesbury with an amendment to the land owners successfully joined the effect “ that their lordships, in prevailing him to withdraw it, though always anxious to contrion the ground that no mention bute to the alleviation of the sufferwhatever should be made of fixed ings of the labouring classes, do prices or fixed duties. They were not think it expedient that any better pleased that it should be a alteration or modification of the matter of pure discretion, for which existing Corn-laws should take ministers alone should be liable. "If place, so far as relates to the administers are to have the discre- mission of foreign corn, without a tion they wish for,” said sir Thomas previous inquiry into the probable Lethbridge,
“ I do not wish them effects of such a measure on the to state the price at which corn is interests of the grower and conto be imported. The measure is sumer of British produce.” The theirs, and it is right that they noble lord contended that the bill should take all the responsibilitý. was both unnecessary and misI am glad, therefore, that they chievous; and, at all events, in
quiry was indispensable before prove that such necessity exists, adopting it as being necessary and while both the stock in the counuseful. There was no scarcity of try, the falling price, and the corn in the country, nor any pros- 300,000 quarters which are impect of such a scarcity. The al mediately to come out of bond, leged small stock of grain in the prove the reverse. hands of the dealer was no proof Lord Ellenborough said, that it whatever of the smallness of the seemed to him impossible to oppose stock in the country; it only the motion, for it just meant this shewed that the farmers had not that having only four years ago yet sold their stock at under prices, passed a certain act relative to the but, according to the old custom, corn trade, they would now enter earried it to market, month by into an inquiry of the same sort, month as they happened to need before they proceeded to alter the money; Empty warehouses were provisions of that act. Even the no evidences of a want of grain in letting out of the bonded corn last the country. During the last year furnished no precedent for eleven months 528,000 quarters of letting it out this year. foreign corn had been imported, viz. let out last year had been a long 433,000 let out of bond, and 95,000 time in bond, and was limited to imported from Canada. The re- what had been bonded within a sult of this had been, that the price certain time; in the present inwhich, in Nov. 1825, had been stance, the privilege was unlimited; 658. 4d., was now, in May, 1826, it let out, not only all corn actually only. 60s. 4d. ; and if 800,000 warehoused, but likewise all corn quarters additional were thrown “ reported to be entered to be into the market by the measures warehoused before the 2nd of May. now in progress, the farther de- Last year, also, prices had been pression of prices must be ruinous rising, not for a few weeks, but for toʻthe farmer. The bill, therefore, two years. Ministers were insidiwas not only unnecessary but mis- ously creeping on against the Cornchievous. The Corn-laws had not laws. Last year they made an the remotest connexion with the attack upon them, though it was a existing distress ; but the very in- justifiable one. This year, howtroduction of these measures had ever, they were making another ; unwittingly countenanced and sup- and their lordships ought to rememported the vulgar prejudices against ber, that, in public affairs, what that system. To know that 500,000 was innovation in one year, became quarters of wheat might be poured precedent the next, and rule the into the market before the 1st of year after: nor would he be astoJune, was of itself sufficient ground nished, if it should be established for apprehension, and for inquiry, next year, upon this measure as a were it with no other view than precedent, that bonded corn should that the measure might be so always be let out into consumption. modified, as to remove the grounds The Earl of Liverpool entreated of alarm. The discretionary power their lordships not, by a hasty asked by government, can be justi- decision, to prejudge the measures fied only by necessity; and govern- which might shortly come up to ment, therefore, is bound to go them from the other House ; and, into a due course of inquiry to above all, not to act under the im,
pression, that it was not competent price of wheat was 53s., and before for their lordships to introduce the end of the year it was as high whatever alterations they might as 110s. Should such a circumthink fit into the two bills, except stance now occur in June or July, as to the amount of duty. The it would be impossible to open the grounds of the proposed measures, ports before the 14th of August ; he thought, could not be resisted by and if the averages were not then any fair and reasonable mind, or by sufficiently high, the ports would any person who was not prepared continue closed until the 14th of to shut his eyes to the dreadful November. Such a calamity it consequences which might result became parliament to guard against. from a scarcity of corn during the Whatever objections might be urged
He never believed, nor against the measures in another insinuated, that the high price of year, was it right, with present corn was the cause of the present distress before our eyes, to leave the distress. But, without stopping country in such a state, that, if we to determine what the cause was, did not admit foreign grain, the could it for a moment be said that price of wheat might be up to 140s. the price of food was not a great or 150s., before three months? It aggravation of it? It was well
was no argument to say that this known to such of their lordships as might occur in any year, for we had read the documents on that were not now legislating for ordisubject laid on the table, that the nary times, but for a present average growth of this country emergency. He had heard it said, was not more than sufficient for that the people wanted work, not its consumption ; but when they bread. He feared that they were considered that fact, and looked at without work, and many, he knew, the effect which the quality of the worked at the lowest rate possible. harvest might have on the subsist. He did not allude to those who ence of the people--on the agri- were usually paid high or extravacultural, too, as well as on the gant prices, but to those whose manufacturing classes their lord- wages were from seventeen to ships ought to bear in mind, that, if eighteen shillings a-week: those an unfavourable season should come poor men were now reduced to the erop
would fall far short of subsist on seven or eight shillings. our wants. He had looked over do Could it then be said that it cuments relating to the state of the mattered not to men, under such harvests for thirty-two years; and circumstances, whether the price he found that, between 1790 and of the quartern loaf was high or 1822, there had been eleven defec- low, when it was clear that their tive harvests, during which a great situation was more or less, bad, importation of grain became neces- according as they could procure sary. The question, too, of plenty more or less of food for their supor scareity, was often that of a day port? What, then, did his maor a week: and it might happen, jesty's ministers ask?-a power that though in June our prospects which, if it was unpleasant to their were the brightest, all our hopes lordships' to give, it was not less might, in one day, fall to the ground. disagreeable for
ministers to This had occurred in June, 1816. receive. Why not place the In the beginning of that year the same confidence in the present
ministers as in any other? For if manufacturer. This enactment ministers did not enjoy the confi- was to come into operation in the dence of parliament, they must month of July of the present year; cease to hold their offices. Let and the manufacturers and their them therefore not be tried by the workmen found, in the supposed confidence which was generally tendency of this enactment, what reposed in them, not by their was to them a much more popular characters, but by their own and feasible explanation of the deinterest;
for ministers must in the cline of their trade, than in the end come to parliament, as there tracing of causes more universal, was no discretionary power for but which did not come so readily which they were not responsible.
within the reach of vulgar compreLord Bathurst opposed the mo- hension. Perhaps, too, in point of tion, and moved as an amendment, fact, some manufacturers may have that their lordships do now adjourn. actually limited their operations, On a division, the amendment was thinking it prudent to wait till carried by a majority of 166 to 67, something should be known of the and both bills passed the House on “ untried state of being"-while the 26th of May.
still more of them joined in saying That depression of manufactures that it ought not to be tried. The which universally prevailed, had truth is, that little opposition had been felt in some branches more been made to the measure when it heavily than in others; and it had passed ; and, if other circumstances, naturally acted with greater effect which that measure in no way upon the silk trade than on those affected, had not brought distress, which
more exclusively that measure would never have native. Thepoverty, which existed, been blamed. A decay of the trade, among the weavers of Spitalfields, however, having taken placé, nohad attracted, much notice ; large thing was easier, and nothing more sums had been liberally subscribed consonant to old opinions, or more for their relief, anda particular com- congenial to inveterate prejudices, mittee had watched over their distric than to ascribe this decay to the bution. But neither the mere arti- impossibility of meeting a cheaper sans themselves, nor yet their better- foreign competitor--cheaper by his educated masters, were willing to paying a lower price for the raw find the causes of their distress and material, and for the labour emembarrassment merely in pre-ex- ployed in working it up. Accordisting relations, which affected the ingly many petitions were presentwhole kingdom and all its interests.ed from the persons and districts In 1824, the legislature had begun interested in the silk manufacture, the application of what are called praying for a repeal, or at least the principles of free trade, by re- some further modification of the moving the absolute prohibitions provision of 1824, for a total prowhich prevented the entrance of hibition of foreign fabrics, or a foreign silks, and enacting that higher duty upon their importation. they might lawfully be imported On the 23rd of February, Mr. for home use, upon payment of a Ellice, one of the members for certain duty, which was thought Coventry,moved, that the petitions, sufficient for every purpose of which had been presented on this prudent protection to the native subject, should be referred to a se