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cheap, and iron cheap, and then make timber cheap, and you will have free-trade l’ You now have timber cheap.” He now came to articles of provision. On cattle and meat the prohibition had been altogether removed, and a totally unobjectionable moderate fixed duty imposed. “Cattle and meat can now be brought freely into this country; and yet you cry out that the tariff has afforded no practical advantage to the country—that it is all a mockery and a delusion. And when I hear such language held with regard to the chief articles of subsistence, I am compelled to think that you may also overrate the advantages you expect to derive from that freetrade in corn of which you are now the advocates.” Mr. Baring had said that Government owed their majority and the removal of those prohibitions to the forbearance of the Opposition. What the right honourable Gentleman said might very possibly be true; but could a greater proof be afforded of the desire of the Government to do what lay in their power for the public interests, and rather to run the risk of losing their own supporters than not remove those prohibitions? It was said that the new Corn-law would not lower prices; but prices had been lowered. “It is very difficult to say to what cause the reduction is to be attributed; but at all events they cannot deny the fact of there having been a great fall in the price of corn. To what this is to be attributed I will not say: the main cause, no doubt, is the productive harvest which it has pleased God to send us, and which we have publicly acknowledged. But the price is reduced.
I will compare the prices during six years. On the 2d January 1836, wheat was 59s. the quarter; on the same day in 1838, it was 52s. 4d. ; in 1839, it was 78s. 2d.; in 1840, 56s. 5d.; in 1841, 61s. Sd.; in 1842, 63s. 1d.; and in 1843, it is 46s. 11d. It is now said that this reduction is no benefit at all to the consumer. But let us compare that argument with the arguments formerly used in favour of a change in the law. You then argued, that the cause of the distress was the high price of provisions, whereas you now contend that the price of food, which is low, has nothing to do with it. (“No, no!") Yes, but your argument bears that interpretation, or none. When the price of food was high, you attributed national distress to that cause ; now that the price is low, you say that our distress will not be relieved till the Corn-laws are repealed.” Sir R. Peel repeated his declaration respecting the maintenance of the present Corn-law. The Opposition taunted the Ministers with not adhering permanently to the present Corn-law; but he reminded the House of the vacillating conduct of the late Ministers, who proposed a fixed duty on Corn, and even before the Bill came before the House, totally changed the details of their Measure. . And would a fixed duty “settle”, the question? He ob. jected to it because it would press with peculiar severity when Corn was high, because it could not be maintained, even for revenue purposes, for two months, i. if imposed merely for revenue purposes, and not for protection, it ought to be imposed equally on home-grown corn. He replied to
the taunt, that they had unsettled everything and settled nothing; by comparing the course of the late Government in 1840 with that of the present Government in 1843. “You say we have made allusion in Her Majesty's Speech to the distress, and yet have done nothing to alleviate it. You did the same. On the 16th January, 1840, Her Majesty was advised thus to address Parliament — ‘My Lords and Gentlemen: I learn with great sorrow that the commercial embarrassments which have taken place in this and other countries are subjecting many of the manufacturing districts to severe distress;' words not very far from those Her Majesty made use of in 1843. Now what great measure of commercial relief is there that you brought forward in 1840? You, who taunt us with abandoning our principles and not pushing our principles to their legitimate extent, what was your course in 1840? ... You, who say to us, ‘You don't deal with the Sugar question, you refuse to permit the importation of foreign sugar,’ what course did you take with respect to sugar in 1840? A Motion was made on the subject; and then it appeared, no doubt, that you were straining every nerve and making every sacrifice to obtain a free importation of sugar. You were ten years in office, and during all that time you were deeply convinced of the principles of free-trade; but notwithstanding this conviction, you did not think that 1840 was the time to carry them out. Even in that great article of consumption, sugar, you still continued to leave the mind of the country unsettled. Every one of those who now advocate the princi ples of freeVol. LXXXV.
trade was opposed to the Motion; and the reasons which they gave for voting in the majority was, that foreign sugar was the produce of slave-labour. You charge us with keeping the public mind in a state of uncertainty with respect to the Corn-laws; and you do it in a manner as if for the last seven or eight years you had been its manly, constant, and consistent supporters—as if you had held it out as a panacea for all our political evils. When the question was debated in the House of Lords in 1840, what was the course adopted by Government? was it one calculated to remove uncertainty The Corn-laws were made an open question.” Replying to the question, “What had they done to relieve the distresses of the country,” Sir Robert Peel reviewed what the Ministers had effected during the sixteen months they had been in office. They had succeeded in terminating two wars. The forthcoming Estimates on the three great branches of Naval, Military, and Civil Service, would show a reduction of 850,000l. ; the first, he hoped, of a series of reductions. “We have been enabled to reduce the military force in Canada about 4,000 men, and we trust that peace has been established in that colony. We are delighted with the prospect of establishing a perfect amity with France. We have diminished the duties upon Colonial produce in every case where it entered into competition with our own ; and we have thus made some advance towards the system of treating our Colonies as integral parts of the empire. We have laboured to effect, and I trust successfully, an adjustment of those differences with the United States which had
continued for forty years, which have only been exasperated by delays, and which were the main causes for apprehending the disturbance of our peaceful relations with that country. We tried to settle those differences without any compromise of British honour, and, on the other hand, without exciting such a feeling of hostility towards this country as appears to exist in some portions of the French nation. For the origin of that hostility we are not responsible. These two countries, however, now present a most remarkable spectacle to the civilized world. It is a remarkable thing to see two men who hold the most conspicuous offices in the Government of their respective countries — the most distinguished in each for their military achievements and military character—men who have learnt the art and miseries of war on the fields of Toulouse and Waterloo, and who have been opposed to each other on the field of battle— *—Stetimus tela aspera contra, Contulimusque manus:”
It is a remarkable thing to see those two men exerting all their influence in each country—they being the best judges of the sacrifices which war imposes—to inculcate the lessons of peace; it is a glorious occupation for their declining years. The life of each has been continued beyond the ordinary period of human existence, and I sincerely hope that the life of each may long continue, in order that they may be spared to exhort their countrymen to lay aside their national jealousies, and to enter into the rivalry of honourable competition for increasing human happiness. (Cheers.) When I compare the position, the exam
ple, and the efforts of these men, who have seen the morning sun shine on the living masses of embattled hosts that were to be low in the grave before that sun was set—when I see them inculcating those lessons of peace, and using their salutary influence respectively to discourage their countrymen from war, I do trust that upon each side those anonymous and irresponsible writers in journals, who are doing all they can to exasperate the public mind, to misrepresent every action between the two Governments, which are desirous of cultivating peace,—representing to France that the Minister of France is the tool of England, and representing to England that the Ministry of England are sacrificing the honour of England through fear of France—I do trust that those persons will profit by the example of two such illustrious warriors, and that that example will neutralise the influence of efforts such as those to which I have referred—efforts not directed by zeal for the honour of the country, but for the base purpose of encouraging national animosities or promoting some party or personal interest. (Loud cheering.)
He closed with this exhortation to the House:—“You may approve of our foreign policy, you may think that we have laid the foundation of peace in Canada, you may hear with satisfaction that the public expenditure will be diminished, you may hope, that although all differences with the United States may not be adjusted, yet, that those differences which were the principal cause of apprehension have been satisfactorily and honourably arranged; but if, while you feel disposed to acknow
ledge those services and approve of this conduct, you, nevertheless, believe that the adoption of this Motion will have the effect of relieving the public distress, let no consideration, I say it with perfect sincerity to those who sit on this as well as the other side of the House,_let no consideration of party interest, no attachment to party, no predilection to particular men, interfere for an instant with your vote, or prevent you from supporting the Motion, if you conscientiously believe that it is calculated to diminish the distress, to lessen privation, and lay the foundation of commercial prosperity, and the permanent welfare of the state. (Loud and continued cheering.) Lord John Russell, in a few words, justified the form of the present Motion, and the fitness of the time at which it was brought forward. Foreign nations were induced by the example of this country to restrict their own codes of commerce : and thus England, by excluding the great articles in which those nations dealt, precluded herself from all chance of getting favourable treaties from them. He could have understood the
arguments for keeping up high
duties upon articles of food if they had come from the opponents of free-trade ; but he could not understand then when they came from a Government by whom the principles of free-trade were adopted and proclaimed. It might be that a fixed duty of 8s. would not now satisfy the people. It would, he believed, have satisfied them when it was first proposed; but if statesmen allowed the time to go by when a moderate boon would suffice, a larger amount must be eventually conceded. The ultimate repeal of the Roman Catholic disabilities, without any of the securities originally proposed to accompany it, was an illustration of this tendency in political affairs. Mr. Cobden again rose to disavow the meaning which had been imputed to him in the employment of the word “individually.” Sir Robert Peel accepted the explanation. After a few words from Mr. Roebuck, Lord Howick replied, and the House then divided. Against the Motion 306 For it - - . 191
Majorityagainst the Motion 115
Further Debates on Domestic Affairs. On 28th Feb
Ashley moves an Address to the Cronun on behalf of E. the Working-Classes—He enters into some shocking de Moral Condition of Great Towns–Speech of Sir Jas. G propounds the Intentions of the Government respecting 1 Remarks of Lord John Russell, Lord Sandon, Sir R. In Buller, and Sir R. Peel—The Motion is agreed to un Mr. C. Buller proposes on 8th April a Plan for System zation—His copious and able Speech—Concluding with , an Address to the Crown—Lord Ashley seconds the 1. Sharman Cranford opposes it, and moves an Amendme by Mr. John Fielden—Mr. Gally Knight supports th Lord Stanley expresses his concurrence in Mr. Buller's but opposes the Motion as uncalled for, on the ground ti sive system of Emigration nas already carried on under —He moves the previous Question—Remarks of Lord
R. H. Inglis, Lord Francis Egerton, Lord John J Howard Douglas, and Mr. Stuart Wortley—Mr. C. B. and nithdraws his Motion—Mr. S. Cranford's Amendi nvithdranwn.
HE discussion on the distress- following Resolution in the House
ed state of the country, of which a summary has been given in the preceding chapter, will be appropriately followed by a notice of some other debates which took place subsequently in this session, relating to cognate topics of domestic policy. , Lord Ashley, whose philanthropic exertions on behalf of the neglected population of the great manufacturing towns have been already recorded in former volumes of this work, resumed early in the present session his labours in the same field. On the 28th of February, he moved the