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be the state of the agricultural interest if it were to be left without similar encou ragement. Under such circumstances, not to protect the agricultural interest, would be in reality to discourage it; and no one, he presumed, would contend that this species of industry ought to be directly discouraged. This argument as to the expediency of reciprocal protection, was not confined to the case of commerce and agriculture as viewed in connexion with each other. It was also to be considered, that one branch of agricultural produce was already protected. The importation of foreign cattle was prohibited; and if protection was to be afforded to any description of agricultural produce, he conceived that the chief encouragement ought to be given to the production of grain. If their lordships could alter the whole system upon which the country had hitherto acted, that was one view of the subject; but if it was impossible to alter it, or if it was thought expedient to continue rather than to encounter the hazard and inconvenience of alteration now that the plan had been so long acted upon, their lordships, he apprehended, must in justice afford protection to the agricultural industry of the country; for he repeated that, under such circumstances, not to protect was to discourage. He had said that the exceptions to the general principle ought to be as few as possible; and there were some who thought that whatever the exceptions might be in other cases, the commerce of grain ought to be free and unrestrained: but so totally did he differ from that opinion, that even if an entire new system were to be adopted, he should say, that as far as respected the interests of the corn-grower, and the navigation of the country, some protection ought to be given. Though every other species of industry were left free and unrestrained, these, in his opinion, ought to receive particular encouragement, if other countries acted on the same system.
importing country. During the first of these periods, the agriculture of the country had been protected by a strong duty on importation, nearly amounting to a prohibition. That system was given up during the second period, though it might be said to have been renewed some time since, but in a very relaxed degree. One naturally looked back to a period when the situation of things was so different from what they were at present. He knew there were a number of persons who thought that such a state of things, in any country, was by no means beneficial. It had been contended, that an exporting country was always a very poor one. With respect to this he wished to ask, during the first of these periods, from the reign of Charles the 2nd to 1766, when we were an exporting country, if we were in other respects deficient in commerce or industry, or if our manufactures were decreasing? So far the contrary of this, while we were an exporting country we were also increasing in our population, our commerce, and our manufactures, as much as we had increased since. If they looked back, and took only the period from the Revolution to 1750, they would find that our foreign commerce had during that time trebled; they would find that the exports of our merchandize, which at the Revolution amounted only to 4 millions, in 1750 amounted to 12 millions, and before 1756 to between 14 and 15 millions. They would find that our shipping, during the same period, had nearly trebled; they would find that our population, though on this subject they had not the same exact data to go on, was increasing rapidly; that our domestic industry of all sorts was also increasing rapidly. It could not be said that this arose from the absence of national debt, or from the exemption from taxes; for during the period to which he was alluding, and at one time in particular, our national debt was nearly as great in proportion to our wealth, as it was at present; and the taxes were also very high. If the state of things when we were an exporting country, could be shown to be upon the whole unfavourable, if the prosperity of the country could be called in question, then they might also question whether the general poverty of the country in all other respects did not more than counterbalance the comparative advantage of being an exporting country. But whilst this state of things continued, our con
Then in looking at this measure with a view to the commercial as well as the agricultural interests of the nation, he had been induced to examine what had been the effect of the policy which had at different times been pursued by this country with respect to the subject now under consideration. For nearly a century, up to 1766, this country had not only grown a sufficiency of corn for its own support, but even been an exporting country. From 1766 downwards it had
merce, trade, and manufactures were flourishing, and the price of grain was more uniformly cheap than had ever been known either before or since. This proved that the policy of affording protection to our agriculture, was not inconsistent with the flourishing state of our trade, manufactures, or industry, in all other respects.
He now came to the principle of the Bill, with respect to the policy of rendering ourselves as independent as possible of foreign supply, as he had already he thought stated there could be no doubt. It was not a question in this case as to the interests of the English landlord or the Irish landlord, nor did he profess to move the second reading of the Bill upon any such ground. The great object was the interest of the consumer; and this, he contended, would be effectually promoted by the present measure, the effect of which would be to render grain cheaper instead of dearer. The important point to attain was a steady and moderate price. In ancient times, when the system of granaries was acted upon, this was necessarily the object. To have exhausted the granaries, in order to give an extraordinary cheapness to grain, could only be followed by scarcity and dearness; so, where the supply was fluctuating, a year of extraordinary cheapness must necessarily be followed by one of dearness, unless measures were adopted to insure a regular domestic supply, and by this means a uniform, steady, and moderate price. The great object was to prevent that fluctuation in the price of the first necessary of life which was so injurious to the consumer. This had been the object of the measures of this nature that had been before resorted to; but there was now a most important consideration which had not then been entered into, he alluded to the supply from Ireland. Since the Act of 1806 for allowing the free intercourse of grain with Ireland, it had become evident from the supply sent from thence here, that it was only necessary to permit capital to flow there, and that there was then no limit to the quantity which might be furnished from Ireland for the supply of this part of the United Kingdom. He admitted that grain might be raised cheaper there than in England; but this circumstance, which formed the basis of an argument of a noble earl (Grey) on a former night, presented no objection to the present Bill. The object
was not the protection of the English or the Irish landlord, but the general interests of the empire, the general interests of its agriculture, and the general interests of the great mass of consumers in the whole United Kingdom. Even if the consequence must be to lower the rents of the English landlords, and raise those of the Irish landlords, still he contended that this formed no argument whatever, in his view of the question, against the Bill, which embraced the whole interests of the empire.
It had been said that there was no evidence to justify the price of 80s. The fact was, that the evidence upon this point varied from 72s. to 96s. The medium of these prices, according to the weight of the evidence, might perhaps have been accurately calculated by a noble lord on a former night at 85s. ; but under the circumstances of a diminution of taxation and of other burthens upon agriculture, the price of 80s. had been fixed upon, and that he maintained was a fair protecting price. It had been argued most fallaciously, as he contended, that this import price of 80s. would be the minimum price of the market. This was negatived by all experience, it appearing by the returns that the market price had been uniformly below the import price, except in years of scarcity, and the following years, when the consequences of scarcity were necessarily felt. Instead of being the minimum, the import price had been generally more the maximum in the market. There was, therefore, no ground for believing that the import price of 80s. would be the minimum price in the market, except in years of scarcity and those years which followed, when the consequences of that scarcity were of course felt. Even admitting, how, ever, that the price would be SOs., still he contended, that the price of the quartern loaf ought not to be more than 18., a price which could not now be felt by the consumer as an evil. Much misrepresentation had gone forth upon this subject; and from the quarter through which it had come, that the effect of this measure (still taking the import price of 80s. as the market price) would be to raise the price of the quartern loaf to Is. 4d., it certainly was not to be wondered at that such should be the belief. He had no doubt from the information he had received, that many of the petitioners to that House against the measure, had been induced to petition in consequence of this erroneous impression,
and that they would not persist in complaining of it, were they convinced that the price of the quartern loaf, even if the market price of grain should equal the import price, would not be raised above 1s. That the price should be above that under the present measure, taking the market price of grain at 80s. was to be attributed to the erroneous system of the assize of bread, which had no connexion with the present Bill. He by no means admitted, that the effect of the present measure would be to raise the market price of grain to 80s. as the minimum. On the contrary, reasoning from all experience upon the subject, he was convinced that it would have a tendency to lower the price of grain, and keep it steady and moderate. It had been argued, that the effect of this measure would be, by raising the price of provisions to raise the price of labour, and thus compel our manufacturers to emigrate, by enabling foreign nations to undersell them. He contended, however, that the success of our manufactures did not depend upon cheapness of labour, but upon capital, credit and fuel. The superior advantages we derived from capital and credit were well known, an inestimable advantage was also our abundance of fuel. The importance of this latter article was clearly shewn by the thriving establishments of manufactories in those countries where wcoal as plentiful; our great excellence in machinery gave us likewise a decided superiority. Cheapness of labour was, therefore, a secondary consideration, and they had the evidence of the manufacturers themselves at the bar of the House with regard to the Orders in Council, that they considered cheapness of labour as comparatively of little consequence. As to the labourers themselves who were employed in manufactures, he had no doubt that if they had to choose between cheapness of bread and a reduction of wages, and bread at its present price with their present wages, they would not hesitate to prefer the latter. With regard to the effect in the rise of the price of grain, compared with that of wages, there was no doubt that wages, particularly of labourers by the day or week, had risen in proportion to the rise in the price of grain, the wages of those who worked by the piece had not perhaps risen in the same proportion. What, however, was there in other countries of superior cheapness? They had the evidence of a communication made to the French Legislative Body by a member of
the Executive Government, that grain in that country had risen in 32 years, from 1756 to 1758, from 26s. to 50s. a quarter. Thus, therefore, the rise in this country from 1756, from 42s. to 80s. was only in the same proportion as that in France; and let it be recollected, that during the period of 32 years our principal manufac tures were brought to perfection, to that state in which their productions were so decidedly superior to those of the manufactures of other nations.
It had been urged against this measure, that it would have an injurious effect upon this great metropolis, by greatly increasing the price of grain in London compared with the country districts. The returns upon the table, however, proved that it was decidedly an error to suppose that the price in the London market was above that in the country, it being rendered evident, that for a series of years, except in a very few instances, the price in the London market was actually lower than the average of the twelve maritime districts. It was therefore evident that the measure could not have the effect imputed to it of so greatly raising the price in the London market, still less of raising it so far above the import price, which was erroneously assumed as the market price. London also, it should be recollected, was a port, with a great number of advantages with regard to importation, and itself situated in the midst of corn counties, with a great facility of supply. If, therefore, any momentary inconve nience was sustained in consequence of the vast supply required for the consumption of this great metropolis, it was soon amply compensated for by a supply more than adequate to the demand.
He had thus gone through the principal arguments applicable to the question. He must, however, observe, that the agris cultural labourer, who had not the same means of making his complaints known as the labourers of other classes, was fully entitled to their lordships attention, as the the distress of that class of persons must be a serious evil to the country. It was with these views of the subject that he moved the second reading of the present Bill, convinced that a reasonable protection of the agriculture of the country was essentially necessary to the general welfare. He did not mean in the least to undervalue our commerce or our manufactures; but when put in competition with the immense resources to be derived from
the certainty of a domestic supply of the first necessaries of life, they were comparatively trifling. To those who said that we might always obtain a supply from foreign nations, he need only remind them of the immense advantages of being enabled to rely upon our own resources. The article of naval stores, for which we were partly dependent upon foreign nations, it had been said we could always procure-but what was the effect of this dependence? The article of hemp had been raised during the war from 40l. to 607. and afterwards to 100%. per ton. This, it was true, was of comparatively little importance, making merely a difference to the country of 200,000l. in the naval estimates; but what would be the effect if we were dependent in the same way upon foreign nations for the necessary articles of subsistence, the price of which they might raise, or altogether withhold them at pleasure? It was unnecessary to enlarge upon this, the dreadful consequences of such a policy must be obvious to every one. At the close of the American war, it was said that the sun of this country had set never to rise; but events had proved, that, relying upon our own resources, we had been enabled to carry on successfully a twenty years war, and to cover ourselves with glory and renown. It was of the greatest importance that we should look at home for those resources which the country was so well able to furnish, and by extending the fostering hand of protection to render those resources available to all the purposes of national greatness. By agreeing to this Bill nothing was risked, but in what a dangerous situation might we not be placed if the measure were rejected! If the Bill were passed, and any inconvenience were found to arise from it, a remedy might be immediately applied; but if the measure was rejected, and capital in consequence withdrawn from agriculture, fifty years might be necessary to replace us in our present situation. A great and alarming evil might thus be produced by rejecting the Bill and discouraging and diminishing agriculture, by rendering us dependent upon foreign nations for a supply which they might withhold or increase the price of at pleasure; whilst by passing the Bill, encouragement and support would be given to the agriculture of the country, tending to the material increase of our own resources, and consequently of our prosperity; and if any evil practically arose from the Bill, a remedy
might be promptly and immediately ap plied. His lordship concluded, by moving the second reading of the Bill.
The Earl of Carlisle lamented that the motion of his noble friend near him (earl Grey) had not been acceded to, as, in that case, their lordships might have been put in possession of more ample information on this most difficult subject. He contended, that the greater part of the argu ment of the noble earl who had just sat down was fallacious. The noble earl had contended, that a high price of corn, producing a high price of labour, was by no means injurious to the labouring classes of the community. This might be true to a certain extent; but there could be no doubt that, to the lowest rank of those classes-to the individuals who worked by task, a high price of corn would be productive of infinite misery, as it would not be attended by any circumstance of alleviation. He was far from thinking that legislative interference was demanded by the great mass of the agricultural interest of the country. This he knew, that in the county in which his own possessions were situated, not a single tenant of his had expressed any wish on the subject. Further north, it was well known to their lordships, that wool was the article in the produce of which the community at large were most interested; and unquestionably no depreciation had taken place in the value of that article. He remembered himself having sold wool at 7s. a stone; he had lately, however, sold it at 24s. a stone; and had he been as sagacious as some of his neighbours, he might, by waiting a little longer, have procured 32s. He was firmly persuaded that the measure before their lordships was one which ought not to be precipitated; and he intreated them to pause, in order that, if possible, the cloud which rested on the subject might be dispelled by the production of further information.
Earl Fortescue observed, that he cer tainly was one of those individuals to whom it had been most unjustly imputed that they were biassed by their interest in their proceedings on this subject. The whole of his life had unquestionably been spent in connexion with the agricultural part of the community. He paid the highest compliment to the liberal, enlightened, and comprehensive view of the subject which had been taken by the noble earl who had moved the second reading of the Bill, and he confessed that
his own private opinion had originally been in favour of the measure; but on a full consideration of all the circumstances of the case, and particularly on account of the very general sentiment which had been expressed by petitions from all parts of the country-petitions which he was happy to observe were couched in the most temperate and becoming languagehe was disposed to decline giving his assent to the Bill passing into a law.
Lord Grenville rose to state his opinion on this question-a question of the highest national importance as relating to an article of the first necessity-a question respecting which no consideration, no feeling, no intemperance either of one party or of another, should prevent him from discharging his duty. He owned that the first moment he heard that such a measure as that before their lordships was in contemplation, he had formed a decided opinion that if the project were carried into effect, it would be productive of infinite mischief to the community at large. At that time he conceived that it originated with a very few individuals; but when he discovered that it was not founded on the insulated opinion of a few individuals, however respectable in character, but that it had been adopted by his Majesty's Government, and was to receive the support of all their influence, he felt the seriousness of the occasion; he felt that the interval which would elapse before the measure would come under the consideration of their lordships would be too short, even with all that previous know. ledge of which an attentive examination of it at former periods had possessed him, to admit him even satisfactorily to review that previous knowledge, and the grounds of that original opinion, in a way com. mensurate to the importance of the subject, much less to acquire all that additional information which recent circumstances had rendered so indispensably necessary to a wise and deliberate decision upon it. But while he thus lamented the unbecoming precipitation which had been manifested on this occasion, he begged that that regret might not be attributed to any new doubts which had arisen in his own mind, or which had been produced by any thing which he had seen or heard in that House or elsewhere, or by the mass of enlightened discussion which had been in various ways submitted to the public on the subject. On the contrary, his original opinion had been strengthened by all that he
had thus seen and heard, and most of all by that which had just fallen from the noble earl on the opposite bench. He was now no longer left to conjecture the reasons by which the supporters of the Bill were influenced. The noble earl had detailed the motives by which they were actuated; and be must say, that the decided conclusion to which that detail had brought him was, that the motives were inadequate to the support, not alone of a measure of the extent proposed, but of any legislative interference whatever on the subject. Precipitate as had been the steps taken by the advocates of the Bill, and much as it was to be regretted that so little time had been allowed for investigation and discussion, it was some consola-tion to their lordships that no inconsiderable information was to be derived from the report of their lordships committee. Any one who looked at that report, as well as at the report of the committee of another place who recollected the conversations which had occurred among their lordships on the subject last year, and who had read the publications which had appeared upon it, must allow that he would not be guilty of any great mis-statement, if he declared that he had conceived the arguments of the advocates of the Bill to rest principally on the urgent distress of the agriculturist, and of the indispensable necessity of relieving him from the pressure which the diminution of the price of corn had brought upon him. It was an unquestionable principle of domestic policy, that a legis lature had no right to relieve one class of the community at the expense of another class. To do that, would be not to distribute that equal justice which they were bound to distribute to all classes. If it were possible to relieve the distress of one class (and he could assure their lordships that no one felt more sensibly than himself the distress of any large portion of the people) without throwing the burthen on any other class, a measure by which such an effect would be produced, should receive his cordial concurrence; but on the contrary, in a case in which gain could not be created, in which loss could not be avoided, in which all that could be done was to change the pressure from one body of people to another body of people, he would earnestly deprecate any legislative proceeding whatever. If, therefore, the measure under their lordships consideration had rested on these latter grounds, he must have characterised it as one utterly