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tiful season; and how were they to dispose of the surplus? Where was that country in which corn was to be made dear by law, to dispose of its surplus produce? That surplus could not, in fact, find a market in any other country, and there fore must remain on the hands of our farmers. Thus the object of this Bill was likely to be defeated, and the farmers become more distressed than they probably were at present. Thus the farmers would be rendered unable to sell cheaper, while they would be also rendered unable to export, through the operation of this measure, for forcing an increased price of corn.
But the fallacy of the arguments, or rather the assertions, adduced in support of this measure, was in no case more gla ring than in that which referred to the danger of our dependence upon foreign supply. That such apprehension was utterly groundless was quite evident, from the experience of the last twenty years, when the general state of the country, and especially the improvement of our agriculture, afforded the most conclusive answer to those who professed to entertain the apprehension of such a dependence. He not only deprecated this apprehension as quite visionary, but some observations connected with it, which he deemed illiberal; for he protested against the language used to excite a prejudice with regard to what was improperly called our "natural enemy," because he saw no reason why we should not be as ready to open a just and liberal intercourse with France as with any other nation. But further, as to the idea of dependence upon France: it has been stated by the noble earl, that the price of corn in France was 47s. a quarter, and that its export was prohibited when it arrived at 49s. Now, if this country were so dependent upon France, how came it that our demand had not been such as to raise the price from 47s. to 49s.? But the fact was, that our import from France was insignificant, not exceeding 145,000 quarters, while our national consumption was from 13 to 15 million quarters. How, then, could it be rational to entertain any fear of our dependence for supply upon what was called our natural enemy? The idea of such dependence was, in fact, quite nugatory. We had, indeed, usually a much larger supply from Poland and Holland; but was it therefore to be inferred that we were dependent upon either of these countries? They were
entirely ignorant of the principles of commerce who could entertain such a notion, for it might be as well said that those countries were dependent upon us. But every commercial trausaction was an exchange of equivalents, in which both parties were equally interested. It could not be pretended that we were dependent upon Russia because this country afforded the principal market for her produce. On the contrary, Russia was by that circumstance so dependent upon us that this dependence notoriously occasioned that effort on the part of Russia which had led (God grant that it might lead!) to the deliverance of Europe. The fact was, that the interest which the Russian landholders felt in their commercial intercourse with this country, was the great cause of the restoration of the pacific relations of Russia; and why should not the landed interest of France feel equally well disposed towards this country, if our market were opened to their produce through a free trade in corn. Such a cir cumstance must indeed serve to excite a strong interest in France in the maintenance of peace with this country. But could it be supposed, that because France would thus feel an interest in selling her produce to us, we should therefore become dependent upon her? The idea was absurd, quite as absurd, indeed, as the wild maxim prevailing among some politicians on the continent, that we were dependent upon those nations to whom we sold our manufactures; the buyers in such cases being just as dependent as the sellers. Yet from this absurd measure it was often assumed that this, the most independent nation in the world, was dependent upon its customers, who were its customers only to supply their own wants. But if it were maintained that we were dependent because we brought from other countries, then we must contrive to supply all our wants at home, in order to guard against the imaginary danger of dependence. This supply was, however, impossible. Some of our most essential articles must be had from other countries-naval stores, for instance. But this apprehension of dependence upon other nations, because we purchased from them, was quite a new notion. We must, in fact, buy, or we could not sell; we must export, or we could not import. And here he took occasion to observe, that the old maxim, that the balance of exports over imports constituted the wealth of a country, was
quite fallacious; that wealth being, in fact, created by the profit arising out of the exchange of those articles which one country could produce cheaper than another, and which, exchange must of course, be mutually beneficial. But if this country endeavoured to supply herself with corn and manufactures, she must possess a double capital, enough to supply the loom and the plough, or one or the other must be neglected. Now, the question was, whether it would be wise on our part to . abandon or to hazard the loom, which was found so productive of national wealth, in the speculation of becoming a great agricultural country. The country had been hitherto found incompetent to grow sufficient corn for its consumption; and the question was, whether by pursuing our prosperous system of manufacture, we should not be able, through the disposal of that manufacture abroad, to procure corn considerably cheaper than we could possibly grow it at home."
those conveniencies, which, from our peculiar circumstances, their means could not reach at home. If the Bill passed, there was no labourer who had a family of three children, who would not be obliged to apply for parochial relief: the manufacturers' would be reduced to this resource, which was at present but too generally resorted to by the agriculturist; and even the artificer, if the reward of his toil did not increase in the same proportion as the price of bread, would be reduced to the same painful resource. The noble baron concluded by observing, that he had studiously avoided every thing which might be construed into an imputation of improper motives to the supporters of the measure, and by thanking the House for the attention with which he had been heard.
The Earl of Lauderdale said, there was not one thing which the noble lord who had just sat down had offered to the House, which he had not anticipated. Adverting to the petition from the city The noble lord had throughout argued of London, the noble lord forcibly pressed upon a false view of the present situation the necessity of inquiry upon the im- of the country, as well as upon a false portant point referred to in that petition, view of the measure on which they were namely, as to the influence which this Bill that day proceeding. This measure had was likely to have upon the price of bread. for its object not only a system by which He asked their lordships, whether they the price of grain would be diminished, could reconcile to their sense of justice, to and by which the country would heredecide upon the merits of this measure after be secured that article at a fair and without hearing both sides? And it was to moderate rate, but it had in view the rebe recollected, that as yet only one side lief of the agriculturist from the distress had been heard, no evidence whatever under which he at present laboured. He having been adduced on the part of the said he had given his mind as much to manufacturers and the other petitioners this subject as any man-he had consiagainst the Bill. In his opinion, the ten-dered it in all its bearings; and the result dency of this Bill would be to raise the price of bread above its natural level; and considering the influence of the price of provisions upon the price of labour, he conjured their lordships maturely to inquire and deliberate, before they determined upon such a question. The consequences to our national wealth from any considerable check to our manfactures he thought it unnecessary to dwell upon, for those consequences must be obvious to their lordships judgment; but he begged to impress upon their minds the serious injury likely to result from that provocative to emigration, which must arise out of any enhancement of the price of provisions, especially combined with the known pressure of our taxes. Indeed, it was a lamentable fact, that numbers even of the higher order of our gentry had already felt it advisable to seek in other countries
of his deliberations was, that so far from being injurious to the community, it would prove in the highest degree beneficial. With respect to the argument urged, of a high price of provisions being injurious to the manufacturers, he could only say, that the evidence of those individuals went directly to refute it. When those individuals were examined three years ago upon the question of the orders in council, he had distinctly asked them whether their distresses were not attributable to the high price of provisions? And their answer was, that they never experienced any inconvenience from the high price of provisions, provided trade was brisk. And the fact was, that the extra employment which was given to the labourers by this briskness, amply compensated for any increased price of provisions. The Bill, he observed, was
price of agricultural produce; but in the present state of the revenue of this country, and the way in which it was managed, no man could say what our taxation would be, and that it would not press heavier than it had done on the agriculture of the country. He had argued throughout, that the measure ought to be adopted as one which was beneficial to the consumer. There was not one of the general principles contended for by the noble lord (Grenville), that he was not deeper pledged to than most men; but it was necessary to look at the real situation of the country at this time, in measuring the application of these general principles. He was careless of present popularity-he looked alone to the welfare of the country; and he knew that when they came to feel the beneficial effects of this measure, the people of this country would not be deficient in gratitude to their real benefactors.
no new measure; it was only rendering | be obliged to hold back their supply. effectual the old laws, which had been The small quantity which we now imenacted for the protection of our farmers, ported, might be very well supplied by and which had formed the system of this our own farmers. Capital was not wantcountry ever since the reign of Edward ing, nor was the capital required to pro3, who had prohibited importation when duce 1,200,000 quarters, in addition to wheat was below 6s. the quarter. Far the present quantity, great. All that was from burthening the manufacturer, it required was security; for the farmers would relieve him by relieving the farmer; would not employ their capital without for from the prosperity of the farmer, the that security being afforded to their occulabourer would be employed, the shop-pation, which was given to all other lines keeper would thrive, and would create a in which capital was employed.-The demand-the most material and safest de- noble earl then contended, that the lowermand on the manufacturer for his com- ing of rents would be attended with a modities. The supply of grain from fo- comparatively trifling reduction in the reign countries was very small in propor- price of grain. It had been argued, that tion to that from our own soil. The whole from the reduction of taxes, a correspondquantity of grain consumed in Great Bri-ing reduction ought to take place in the tain was estimated at 40 million of quarters, of which only 1,200,000 on an average were imported. To produce a cheap supply, would it not be wiser to encourage the producers of the greater quantity than those who supplied the lesser quantity? The price of 80s. would be a maximum; for if the price rose above that sum for six weeks, there would be a most abundant importation from the opposite side of the Channel. It was a great mistake to proceed on the supposition that the trade in grain was free, while there were so many taxes which pressed on our agriculturists. If the importation were open, there would be a bounty on foreign growers to import into our markets. Five million of quarters might in that case be imported. Such a state of things laid our subsistence at the mercy of foreign powers, and they might raise a navy against us by limiting the trade to their own ships. If our manufactures were to be destroyed by high prices, foreign states might, in such a state of things, put an end to them at once by stopping importation. On the other hand, they had experience that encouragement would produce low prices-as, for instance, in the cotton trade, the iron trade, and even in the trade of grain itself, the price of which, under a system of efficient protection, and with a bounty on exportation, had continued to fall for a whole century. It was chimerical to suppose that the farmers could combine to raise the price of corn, when they could not combine in any one thing. The consequence of a free importation would be, that in abundant years the market would be overstocked with foreign corn-in scarce years foreign nations, for their own preservation, would
The Earl of Selkirk contended, that however desirable it might be that a free trade should universally exist, it was well known that no state acted upon this principle; and while we were most in want of a supply of food from other countries, we might open our ports in vain for it. He entered at some length into the connexion between the price of food and the wages of labour, and contended that the present measure would have the most beneficial effect, in so far as concerned the labouring classes. He argued also, that a regular supply of food, at an equal price, was greatly preferable to the sudden rises and depressions of price which would follow from such an extensive country as Great Britain being in any way dependent on foreign countries for any considerable part of her food,
Agricultural Taxation. The House then divided on the question f for the second reading: Contents, 92; Proxies, 52, 144; Not-Contents, 15; Proxies, 2, 17: Majority, 127.
The Bill was then read a second time and committed for Friday.
HOUSE OF LORDS.
Thursday, March 16.
TREATY WITH AMERICA.] The Earl of Liverpool laid on the table the Treaty of Peace with the United States of America, and gave notice of his intention to move the consideration of it on Wednesday.
Earl Grey wished to know whether it was the intention of ministers to lay before the House any information as to the previous negociations?
The Earl of Liverpool answered in the negative.
Earl Grey observed, that it had been the practice to communicate information respecting negociations which had terminated to the House; and that it would be impossible to come to the proper consideration of the Treaty without knowing what had been the previous demands, and in what manner those demands had been persisted in or retracted.
Earl Grey again urged the impossibility of properly considering the Treaty without having information of the previous negociation, particularly if it should turn out, as he believed was the case, that we had rejected moderate overtures in the hour of elation and success, to which we had afterwards acceded when the time came of reverse and defeat. He did not know at the moment, whether any precedent of such a communication existed; but he thought the information he sought for of so much importance to the proper discussion of the question, that he should take an opportunity of moving for its production.
CORN LAWS AGRICULTURAL TION.] Earl Stanhope rose to bring for ward his promised motion on this subject, which he prefaced with a variety of ob servations. The line of the noble earl's argumentation and detailed reference, were similar to those which he used on moving his resolutions last session pro forma, which he now proposed for the adoption of the House. He approved of the principle advanced last night by a noble earl high in office-that it was essentially necessary to encourage the agriculture of the country; in this he cordially agreed with him, and it was one of the principal objects of what he was about to propose to encourage agriculture, by relieving the farmers in the only way they should be relieved, and to enable them to sell bread at a cheap and reasonable rate to the consumer, by relieving him from those parts of taxation that bore the heaviest on his agricultural pursuits. This principle was recognised by many of the petitions with which their lordships table was loaded; but more especially by that of the corn growers of Peterborough and its vicinity, in which his proposed resolutions were adverted to in a way worthy the most serious attention of the House. In illustration of his positions, the noble earl referred to certain parts of the evidence given before their lordships committee; but more particularly to that given by Mr. James Buxton, who, among other very material points, stated, that in 1792, the whole expenses of his farm for labour was 274l. 14s. 4d.; that, in 1812, those expenses came to 816. 18s. 6d.; and that upon the same quantity of land, and for the same degree or scale of im
The Earl of Liverpool denied that it had been the practice to communicate information respecting negociations that had terminated happily. On the contrary, he believed there was no precedent whatever of that nature. With respect to those negociations that had broken off, it undoubtedly had been the practice to communicate information to Parliament. In the present instance, however, there was no necessity for any such communication, and therefore none was intended to be made; nor was it intended at all to recur to the negociation, but to ground an Address to the Prince Regent, on the terms of the Treaty being satisfactory and ad-provement. That the poor's-rates of the vantageous to the country.
same farm were in 1792, 174. 19s.; that in
in that way as far as the same could consistently be done, he must say he had never yet seen any plan for the reductions alluded to which could be carried into effect. When such a plan could be produced, then would be the time for considering such propositions. At present the adoption of the proposed resolutions could be attended with no good whatever, but might be of mischievous tendency. He should therefore beg leave to move the previous question.
1812 they amounted to 1661. That his navy, the army, &c. was necessary to be other farming expenses were increased in kept up. They might be certain, howproportion. How was it possible, then, ever, that those establishments would not that a man so circumstanced could go on be kept up on a scale higher than the in his business, but by increasing the price necessity of the case exacted. But would of his commodity? What was the cause it be wise or proper, or did it stand to of all this, but the crowding tax upon tax reason, that hopes should be now held out, upon the farmer, and consequently upon when they could not be realised? With the labouring poor of the community? respect to the weight of taxation so partiAfter some farther observations in this cularly adverted to by the noble earl, he beprinciple and spirit, the noble earl pro-lieved the inconveniencies, whatever they posed his resolutions, viz. "That to pro- might be, resulted more from the extent vide for the public an ample supply of of the taxes than from the mode of their provisions, is at all times a national object distribution. With every disposition to of the very first importance:-But this am-relieve all classes of his Majesty's subjects ple supply of provisions, cannot at all times be provided, unless due encouragement be given to the growers of corn in Great Britain and Ireland, so as to enable them to carry on the improved system of agriculture, and to enable them to sell the produce of the same on moderate terms to the consumers. That in order to procure these essential, united objects, it is expedient that those taxes which bear most beavily on agriculture on the one hand, or on the labouring part of the community on the other, be repeated, as far as the return of peace may enable the same to be done, consistently with the keeping due faith to the public creditor, and providing for a sufficient peace establishment." He submitted these resolutions, after what had passed, with great confidence. He thought the principle laid down should he supported, not only by all those who were inimical to, but by all those who voted for the Corn Bill; and were their lordships to record the principle, he thought it must have its due weight in deterring the Commons from sending up tax bills of the nature contemplated.
The Earl of Liverpool felt it is duty to object to the adoption of the resolutions, referring to expedients which noble lords must know could not be carried into execution. The impropriety must be plain to all, of deluding persons by holding out hopes of repeal which it was impracticable to realise. Their lordships all knew what the situation of the country was with respect to its revenue and system of taxation, now that the interest of the national debt, including the sinking fund, was little less than 40 millions; and that in the present state of affairs and the world, a certain scale of establishment in respect to the
Earl Grey had no doubt of the purity of the motive which actuated bis noble friend in proposing this motion; but he agreed with the noble earl opposite, that no practical good could result from adopting it, and that it might be holding out expectations to the public which could not be realised. If his noble friend could practically point out any improvement in the system of taxation, he would go along with him in supporting it, as well as in advocating retrenchment and economy, particularly as they regarded the peace. establishment. Whilst upon this topic, he could not omit the opportunity of expressing his hope that no injudicious interference on our part in the affairs of France would have the effect of interrupting that peace which so recently promised to be of long duration.
Earl Stanhope reprobated the tameness of submitting to all the forms of taxation put on them by the House of Commons, declared he wished all the House had as much resolution as himself, and called for a division, in which he said he would persevere, if he had but a single vote on his side.
The House then divided. On the previous question. Contents, 30; Non-contents, 1.