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not altogether denuded of protec- iterating his opinion that the extion. In conclusion, he denied that change and the value of British it was the intention of the Govern- industry had diminished; he con. ment to treat with the slightest trasted the conclusions of the right disrespect the agricultural interests, honourable baronet with the result or to dispute the fact that severe of elaborate calculations in the distress did exist amongst the own. Economist, showing that during ers and occupiers of land; but the last four years the manufacnothing could be more injurious to turers of Manchester had been them than to hold out an expecta- manufacturing at a loss; and he tion of a return to a system of pro- endeavoured to demolish the intection, and thus to divert their ference drawn from diminished attention from the proper means of poor-rates. Passing then to the improving their condition.
special burdens upon land, he Mr. Disraeli rose to support the asked the Manchester school if, amendment. There was no ques- they averred, land was only a raw tion now in the House, he observed, material, why it was taxed-why that what was called agricultural they did not extend to land the distress prevailed in England, Scot- same economical principles as to land, and Ireland ; he wanted no the other raw materials ? The better evidence of this fact than the cultivator of the soil, he mainadmission of Mr. Villiers that tained, had a right to two things : within a brief period, a principal 1st, to be put on the same footing branch of national industry had been as his fellow-subjects; secondly, deprived of between 90,000,0001. to be placed in his own market and 100,000,0001. by changes in upon an equality with the foreigner. our laws. Yet this distress was The object of the amendment was noticed in the Speech as not to abrogate recent laws, but to plaints,” the justice of which was obtain a recognition by that House studiously not acknowledged. Was of a distress that was notorious, it reasonable that Parliament, after and an expression of its sympathy what was passed, should refuse to with the distressed. He counselled acknowledge the existence of this the Prime Minister of the Crown to distress-should not deem it their do justice to the land, and he might duty to express their opinions of then rely upon the support of that its cause and their sympathy with interest, which would be a surer the sufferers ? The first proposition source of strength than a combinain the amendment being admitted, tion of parties that should place a nothing could be more legitimate Jacobin on one side of him and a than that those who were convinced Conservative on the other. that this calamity had been occa- Lord John Russell professed sioned by recent legislation should that he did not understand the respectfully express that opinion drift of the amendment. Sir J. to the Sovereign. He cared not Trollope, the mover, had avowed whether dukes or peers gave their that it was to lay a ground for adhesion to this view of the ques- reconsidering recent legislation; tion; the cause was the cause of but Mr. Herries and Mr. Disraeli labour, or it was nothing. Mr. had given expositions of its object Disraeli then addressed himself to entirely different. Lord John re. the arguments of Sir C. Wood, re. peated the disavowal given by Mr.
Labouchere, that any insult or disrespect was intended to the agricultural interest by the paragraph in the Speech, which abstained, as it should do, from expressing an opinion upon a subject of recent legislation. He explained shortly the views he had entertained for some years past on the subject of the Corn Laws, resulting in the conviction that they should be repealed; and after a short experience of free-trade measures, the state of the country, in respect to shipping, trade, revenue, and the increased comforts of the great body of the people, vindicated the soundness of this policy. Assuming the prices of corn to continue as low as they were then, which he did not expect, the cost of farming materials and stock would adapt itself to those prices. The real question was, whether the House should take the first step to return to protection; in other words, whether the producers of corn should be secured a price for it by Parliament, which they could not otherwise obtain; and this was a question which concerned not the landed interest only, but the whole body of the people. If a contest were renewed upon this question, who could say what subjects might be mixed with the discussion, and what institutions they might not be called upon to protect? He asked the House to be content with the present state of legislation upon this subject. If any measures of relief could be suggested for the distress of the landed interest, without injustice to other classes, let them be considered; but let no attempt be made to disturb a question now decided, the revival of which would create a doubt as to the stability of their decisions.
Mr. Cobden said, an impression
prevailed out of doors that the question of free trade had not been settled in that House, which was prepared to reconsider the subject of the Corn Laws; but no honest man could desire to keep this question suspended; he would be the greatest enemy of the country at large. The question must some day be decided, and decided against protection; and he could not understand upon what rational principle those persons acted who kept up this hopeless and suicidal agitation. He complained of the vagueness of Mr. Disraeli's speech, and called upon him in the name of the farmers of England to give notice at once of the time when he would discuss the question of protection.
Mr. Henry Drummond and Colonel Thompson addressed the House shortly amidst strong symptoms of impatience.
The House then divided, when the Address was carried by 311 against 192.
Immediately on the reassembling of Parliament Mr. Disraeli had given notice of his intention to bring the claims of the agricultural classes under the consideration of the House of Commons, with a view to inquire whether by some remission of local taxation the grievances endured by that depressed interest might be capable of alleviation. On the 19th of February the Hon. Member for Bucks redeemed his engagement by moving for a Committee of the whole House to consider such a revision of the Poor Laws of the United Kingdom as might mitigate the distress of the agricultural classes. He began by observing that the depression amongst those classes continued, nay, became darker and more
lowering; the value of the fee- castically remarked, had been simple of the soil was deteriorating, solved the other night, when Mr. the factitious employment of the Hume rested his support of a relabouring population in the rural presentative system of county godistricts was daily diminishing; vernment upon the assumption and that it was necessary to in- that the occupier paid the rates. quire into the best course to be But the moment the protective taken in order to remove or miti. laws were repealed, and the land gate this depression. He and his of this country was forced into friends believed that it had been competition with all the soil of all caused by recent legislative enact- the quarters of the globe, the Lements-by the repeal of the laws gislature was estopped from conregulating the importation of fo- sidering the relative interests of reign products, and that the surest occupier and owner; it had only to and most efficacious remedy would deal with the interests of the land be to re-establish those laws; but itself. Some persons held that there they could not shut their eyes to was a distinction between land and the practical conclusion that a large other species of property, in assomajority in Parliament refused to ciation with political qualification ; disturb at present a settlement re- others maintained that there was cently arrived at. If, however, the no difference that land was only Legislature thought fit to repeal to be considered as a raw material. those laws which had so long regu. If the latter opinion were correct, lated the industry of the country, he had asked, and had not been the agricultural classes felt that answered, why the same principles as they were deprived of that were not extended to land as to system of protection under which other raw materials? The facts they had enjoyed their property, he had laid before the House upon and pursued their industry, their a former occasion, as to the relaposition should be adapted to this lation of the agricultural interest altered state of circumstances, and to the general taxation, had not the system of taxation revised, with been controverted. He had shown reference to a more equal and just that the classes connected with the distribution ; they demanded to be soil in England, independent of placed upon an equality with their their contribution to the general fellow-subjects, and upon equal revenue, contributed to local taxaterms with foreigners in our own tion (including the land-tax), in market, in regard to the peculiar England alone, 12,000,0001. It taxation to which they were sub- had been argued that real property ject, and to the fiscal restrictions had been inherited or acquired which prevented them from exert- subject to the poor-rates, but this ing to the utmost their energy was not true as regarded Ireland and resources. When the sub- or Scotland, or many portions of ject of rates had been discussed land in England. The family of the in that House, there had been a noble Lord opposite him (Lord John considerable controversy as to the Russell) had not acquired its broad particular class, whether pro- possessions subject to the 43rd Eli. prietors of the soil or occupiers, zabeth. But, if true, as a matupon whom the burden of the im- ter of principle, under recent legis. post fell; but the problem, he sar- lation, was it just? The resolu
tions he should propose in the Committee to mitigate agricultural distress were the following:-1st, That the Poor-Law establishment charges in the United Kingdom (about 1,500,000l.) should be transferred to the general revenue. 2nd, That certain miscellaneous rates which, generally speaking, it was convenient to raise by the machinery of the Poor Law, but which had nothing to do with the maintenance of the poor, such as registration of births and deaths, preparation of jury lists, &c., should also be defrayed by the Consolidated Fund. 3rd, That the charge for the casual poor throughout the United Kingdom should likewise be transferred to the general revenue. These propositions, he contended, were just and practicable; they required no new machinery and destroyed no old; and the bulk of the amount could be furnished by the balance in the Exchequer.
Sir George Grey expressed his satisfaction at the admission made by Mr. Disraeli, that a return to our former system of commercial policy was in the present Parliament impossible. Although it had been assumed by him that there existed extensive and deep distress throughout the agricultural districts, there was no proof that such distress, which had arisen from a combination of causes, still continued; on the contrary, trying the condition of those districts by the tests applied to other classes -crime and pauperism-that condition appeared to have improved, though wages had been in some parts unduly reduced. Mr. Disraeli had made a grave omission in passing by without notice an allimportant question as respected the Poor Law, affecting the great bulk of the agricultural popula
tion, namely, the Law of Settlement. In endeavouring to show the unjust operation of the poorrate, as falling exclusively upon real property, Mr. Disraeli had fallen into the same error he had committed last year, in confounding the contribution to the poor-rate by the great bulk of real property with the portion contributed by the landed interest, as if the classes connected with the soil bore exclusively the burden of the rate. Real property had been held to be liable to the rate ever since the reign of Elizabeth, and stock in trade had practically been exempted; but Mr. Disraeli had omitted to notice the decrease of the burden of poor-rates upon real property, and the larger proportion which fell upon other real property in comparison with land. With reference to the propositions intended to be made by Mr. Disraeli in Committee, Sir George admitted that there might be items in the union establishment charges which did not properly attach to the local administration; but if the local check were removed from the expenditure, by its transfer to the Exchequer, there would be the greatest extravagance. So, with respect to the second proposition: without prejudicing the consideration hereafter of the question as to the expediency of transferring a part of the charges to the Consolidated Fund, he could not recommend their transfer at present. As to the last, the relief of the casual poor, Mr. Disraeli had not given even an estimate of the expense of this item. The whole amount of relief afforded to the agricultural classes from all these sources would be trifling, and nothing could be more injurious to those classes than to encourage them to
expect relief from Parliament, they had trusted, and treated with and from the removal of minor indifference, they saw the manufaccharges, instead of applying their turing and trading interests, when capital and energies to the land; whining suppliants, listened to with for if they did so, it would be un. sympathy. Parliament had annijust to these classes to suppose hilated half the capital of the they could not, like other classes, tenant-farmers, and reduced the successfully compete with foreign value of land one-half; the result countries. He opposed the motion. of which was that every tenant
Mr. Charteris, Mr. Seymer, Sir who had borrowed his capital must John Tyrrell, and Lord John Man- fail, and every estate that was ners supported the motion, con- mortgaged must be sold. He riditending that it involved a measure culed the hollow pretexts under of justice to the agriculturists, which, he alleged, the free-traders without any injustice to other had deluded our labourers, who classes. The last-named speaker were now superseded by foreigncontroverted Sir George Grey's in- ers; and he warned them against ferences drawn from the state of a coming struggle between capital crime and pauperism in the rural and labour, between wealth and districts, which he considered to life. be fallacious.
Sir James Graham agreed that Mr. Anderson, Mr. Rice, and Mr. this question was a very large one; Hobhouse opposed the motion, al- if he thought it could be narrowed though admitting to some extent within the limits prescribed to it the inequalities of taxation, but in Mr. Disraeli's speech, he should strongly discountenancing the idea be willing to rest his vote upon the of returning to protection. Mr. arguments of Sir George Grey. Bright spoke on the same side. But the question under debate was He said he did not dispute the fact not less than this—whether we of agricultural distress, although should commence an entire review Mr. Disraeli had stated no case in of the whole fiscal burdens of the which the fee of the land was de- country; for Mr. Disraeli had preciated, or rent had been perma- avowed that this was but one of a nently lowered. Unless the pro- series of transfers; it was but a fragposition could stand by itself, with-ment of the large measure brought out connection with protection, it forward last Session in gross. Mr. was inadmissible; it was, he ad. Disraeli had frankly said that he mitted, practical and simple, but excluded the land-tax only “for the the result would be that the occu- sake of argument;” other Members piers of the soil would add so much had hinted at the malt tax; so that to the rental of the proprietors as really the question was whether was subtracted from their rates. 18,000,0001. or 20,000,0001, should The time, however, was gone by be transferred from the land to the for Parliament to transfer taxes Consolidated Fund.
This was a from real property to industry and question of immense magnitude, consumption, and he would not be affecting our whole fiscal system, a party to such a measure. involving a revival of the policy
Mr. Henry Drummond said, the of the last five or six years; and farmers felt themselves deeply ag- more than this, it was a question rered; betrayed by those in whom of a change of Administration, for