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Whether it be in reference to the King of Hanover, or to the French-fishery Commissioners, or to the United States, or to Akhbar Khan, they seemed to be prepared to act on a system of submission: but in that course they would be jealously watched by the same Opposition. Much cheering followed Lord Palmerston's speech.
Sir Robert Peel rose to second the motion, which Lord Palmerston, he said, had copied, even in the very wording, from one by Colonel Sibthorpe on the 25th of May, 1841; though without giving credit to his predecessor for the example. He thanked him for the opportunity of comparing the efforts of the two Governments. Following Lord Palmerston in the historical review of the state of parties since the peace, and beginning with the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, he said:-The result of that attempt was perfectly known to us when we felt it our duty to propose that measure to Parliament. We were aware what its inevitable result must be: it was foreseen that it must cause a temporary forfeiture of confidence among those who had been our supporters. When, however, the noble Lord reflects on his own conduct respecting Parliamentary Reform-conduct which I am sure was dictated only by the most honourable motives-I think that the noble Lord ought to be one who would have some toleration for changes of opinion. The noble Lord, till the death of Mr. Canning, the bitter opponent of Parliamentary Reform, was the faithful adherent of that right honourable Gentleman. In 1832, the noble Lord was as faithful an adherent to Lord Grey, the great
Minister of Reform. If the noble Lord did not, under Mr. Canning, see those clear indications in the country that Parliamentary Reform was close at hand, he ought at least to have some toleration for those who with only equal blindness overlooked the coming necessity.
Sir Robert Peel denied that the necessity for Commercial Reform originated in the change produced by Parliamentary Reform. In years long prior to that, Mr. Huskisson and others maintained the true principles of commercial reform. Nay, in the ten years preceding the Reform Bill, there was a greater application of commercial reform, and much larger abolition of monopolies, than took place during the ten years which followed the Reform Bill. But if from the era of Parliamentary Reform ought to have been dated the necessity for commercial improvements-if that be true, then the noble Lord passes the most severe censure on those to whom the Reform Bill gave political power. "Why, when you were strong-when you were, as you would represent, convinced of the necessity of commercial reform— when you saw, as you say, that Parliamentary Reform necessitated a new course of commercial policy, not only by the reason of the thing, but by the coincidence of great events-how can you justify yourselves for having left commercial reform to utter neglect at the very time when you had most power to secure it? Then, when you had powerful majorities, you might have disregarded any opposition of ours to measures you proposed. Parliamentary Reform had nearly annihilated the Conservative party you, who tell us you had
been long convinced of the necessity for such a course-why, you neglected it altogether for the first five years of your predominance in political power; and when you were in the last conjuncture of distress the direst emergency of difficulty, distress, and despair then you came down with your tardy, penitent-like confessions. [Long-continued cheers.] How were you spending then the leisure of the recesses? In reading Adam Smith and Malthus? in trying to reconcile the opinions you professed during the first fifteen years of your public life with those you have declared in the last? [Great laughter.] But if you were so thoroughly convincing yourself of the wisdom of the doctrines promulgated by the Smiths and the Ricardos if you, at the time you were possessed of the predominance of political power, were satisfied of the necessity of setting the example of liberal policy in commerce-how can you now account for your own conduct in having then utterly neglected all these things? How have you registered your own condemnation! You have shown that either you were not convinced of the truth of the principles, and that you had not made progress enough in the doctrines of political economy; or else, that having mastered those principles and embraced those doctrines, you, when you had perfect possession of the requisite power, neglected the opportunity of effecting that which you now represent as having been of such vast moment."
Even when their power began to wane, the late Ministers did not act on the principles to which they now professed such adhesion. "When Mr. Robinson or Mr.
Hutt brought forward the Bonding Corn Bill, you taunt us with having opposed it: you opposed it, and the leader of your Government in this House voted against it. Why did not the noble Lord, if he had then become a convert to the philosophy of the free-trade writers-why did he not then come forward to read us a great lesson in political economy? Then again on the sugar question, you, who now cannot tolerate a doubt as to the propriety of admitting slavegrown sugar-you who call it hypocrisy to profess a dread of encouraging the slave-trade-you opposed Mr. Ewart; and when, even in 1839, he proposed to reduce the duties on foreign sugar, he divided with some twenty-five, and the whole strength of the Government against him.'
Sir Robert Peel then turned to the fulfilment of the declarations in the Address at the opening of the Session. He had presented proposals for equalizing the revenue and expenditure, for reducing the duties on foreign corn, for removing the prohibition on foreign cattle, and for making extensive alterations in the Tariff: all those measures gained the approbation of the House. He was charged with having proposed measures that had taken his agricultural friends by surprise, and which they believed would undermine agricultural prosperity; and then it was made a charge, that his measures utter delusions, and that the agriculturists were not alarmed: which of the two accusations was it intended to urge, since the two were clearly inconsistent with each other? Lord Palmerston seemed to insinuate that Sir Robert Peel had deceived his friends as to the conditions on which they were to
give him their support. His answer was this: "I deny that I ever received support in such a manner. My public opinions were distinctly put on record in 1835; I have ever avowed the same principles, and no one can justly accuse me of having deceived my friends by measures inconsistent with what I formerly have held. Why, when last in office I was taunted with being more liberal than my colleagues, and when I have proposed in office measures in accordance with the very principles I then avowed, I ought not to be charged with inconsistency or deception. The noble Lord talked, forsooth, of my having adopted his principles. Why, where could I have found them? [Cheers and laughter.] The noble Lord himself has told us that we could not have inherited our measures from him or his colleagues ;-that we could not have found them in the red boxes-that is quite true. Truly did the noble Lord say, that we could not (according to the Indian fable) have imbibed the spirit of the last occupants of the seats we now fill. We derived no assistance from the principle or practice of our predecessors. But let me observe (for I never would withhold credit from those to whom it is due), those who first paid great attention to the state of our import duties were not the late Govern❤ ment-it is idle to talk of their efforts for the liberalization of our commercial policy, merely on account of some trifling remission of duties on timber-but who brought forward that investigation which led to the consideration of the restrictions on commerce? Why, the hon. Member for Montrose [A laugh]; and my noble Friend the Member for Monmouthshire
to whom it was said at the time, that there were some slight inequalities in the Customs," which the House might be usefully engaged in remedying. Was this committee brought forward by the Government? Was there, on the part of the Ministry, manifested any interest at all in the approach ing liberalization of our commercial system? Not at all. There was a bare acquiescence in the appointment of the committee. There never was a question which excited less of support from a Government. No Member of the Government was even in the chair. Did any Cabinet Minister sanction by his presence the inquiry? Did the President or Vice-President of the Board of Trade attend at all constantly? No. There was only one subor. dinate Member of the Government who (little foreseeing the sequel) gave something like an attendance. As to the late Government, then, claiming any degree of credit for the appointment of that committee, or for the consideration of the evidence, or for the production of the results, nothing could be more perfectly preposterous. There could not be a more unjust attempt to defraud other men of their just credit; and then the defence of the noble Lord for not bringing forward these measures when his Govern. ment was weak, is no better than his defence for not having brought them forward when he was strong. For what does this defence of his neglect during the period of weakness amount to? Says the noble Lord, "We had not strength to carry out our principles." Then why did you not risk a dissolution or a resignation? [Loud cheers.] You declare that the public feeling
was with you; why then did you not depend upon it? That is the true way of carrying out principles. But now, when you have lost office, you come forward and take credit, forsooth, for courage and resolution which you might have shown, but which you did not show. Your not having made any sacrifice in vindicating the great principles you had (it should seem) adopted-does not this convict you of having been satisfied with being merely in office, and with having, while responsible for the exercise of power, preferred the retention of place to the defence of your professed principles? It was not only the being passive; you did all the evil you could possibly do by retaining place without taking any pains, or risking any sacrifice, to enlighten the public mind, or enforce principles you pretend to have believed interwoven with the prosperity of the country. You feared even to appeal to public opinion in behalf of principles you say you believed just,—and you make a defence now. I saw the Member for Stockport's countenance fall wofully when the noble Lord was occupied full a quarter of an hour in proving that the Corn-laws had nothing to do with preventing the progress of national prosperity. The noble Lord, in his enthusiastic defence of himself, attributed everything to the exclusive merits of his Administration, and referred every improvement in the social condition of the country, not so much even to general administration as, to his own labours at the Foreign-office. I will give the noble Lord all the credit of his Mocha coffee, and for thinking that the sending armies to ravage and waste a country is the best way of engendering a taste for the peace
ful intercourse of commercial relations. [Laughter.] But what did the noble Lord prove? That under the old system of the Cornlaws-such is the omnipotent effect of a really good Government in correcting the defects of legislation -the noble Lord was enabled to augment our exports by millions."
The House had now devoted some forty-eight nights to the consideration of the three great measures of the Session. They might try to depreciate those measures, or under-rate the difficulties of carrying them; but he should have liked to see them essay such an achievement. He did not see why he should not take credit for the contrast which his Government presented to theirs.
"When I was last in office, I was threatened with the defection of 150 of my supporters on the malt-tax. I said directly, 'This tax is necessary for the maintenance of public credit, and I must go down to propose it.' I risked my Government upon it, and what was the consequence? My friends were generous when they saw I was in earnest; difficulties vanished, and I carried the tax by a triumphant majority. I do not wish to deny it was with some support from Gentlemen opposite, but not enough to have secured success, had there been defection on the part of my own followers; and I made up my mind, with the full persuasion that I should fail. That is the course which a public man ought to adopt when he has satisfied himself as to the justice of any course-he should determine to abide by the issue. You may depend upon it that this is the only course by which a Government, convinced of the soundness of certain principles, can ever carry
them. Then, upon the importation of cattle, if I had been told by some 100 of my supporters that they must withdraw their support in the event of my pressing forward that measure, I might, following certain examples, have said, Here is a plausible proposition about taking duty by weight instead of per head, I can manage, perhaps, to make an escape by means of this;' or when Members from different parts of the country were prepared only for the admission of liberal principles in all other cases but their own, I might have yielded; but I should have compromised the principles for which I was contending. I adhered then to my propositions, and carried them, partly by the support of Gentlemen opposite, because they were aware I was acting honestly, and that while I was dealing with small interests, I equally grappled with the great. Now the noble Lord said, we had not proceeded with the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and the Registration Bills. We were prepared to proceed. There surely were no difficulties in our way, after having overcome the obstacles in the way of those great measures. But I was sure that after the labour of the Session the measures mentioned could not have secured proper attention. Was I not right in that expectation? Why, when the noble Lord has been passing his panegyrics on his late colleagues and himself, where are they? Where have they been for the last month? All the important business of the Session, after the three first great measures, has been carried on during that period. Perhaps we have made, indeed, too much hurry in our anxiety for securing practical improvements; VOL. LXXXIV.
but certainly there has been more of business during the last month; and where have been the Members of the late Cabinet? What a decisive refutation is their absence of all the assertions of the noble Lord! What a decisive mark of public confidence! Do you say that the absence of such men, during all the press and sweat of Parliamentary business, argues indifference as to their public duties? No. But it argues entire, unqualified confidence in the Government. They have left the noble Lord (as was once said of another Gentleman here)
The last rose of summer, all blooming
His lovely companions all wither'd and gone'
Left him to waste his sweetness on the desert air' [Laughter] with the injunction to bottle up a great speech' [Renewed laughter] no matter how thin the House' [Laughter]-let it explode at the end of the Session all of itself.' [Continued laughter.] 'Yes,' said the noble Lord,' but am I to move a vote of want of confidence, or something expressive of distrust?' 'Oh no!' said his colleagues, follow the example of Colonel Sibthorp [Laughter], and move for returns which the most jealous and sensitive of Ministers could not find it in his heart to oppose, but, for Heaven's sake, don't risk a division! Speak about America and Affghanistan, and everything else, only avoid any motion which may issue in a division of three to one against us. All this, however, does not diminish the force of the compliment which the noble Lord thus at the close of the Session pays us, and which I gratefully acknowledge, feeling, of course, [Q]