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at finding that her diplomatists had betrayed her into exacting no more than 15 per cent. importduty on British produce, while we excluded her produce; it would be most advisable to anticipate the approaching expiration of the treaty with that country by placing our commercial relations on a sounder footing; and he thought that this Government would be more powerful for obtaining further commercial advantages, and for advancing the cause of humanity, after Brazil had tasted the benefits of a sounder and a fairer commercial treaty between the two countries. Mr. Gladstone said, when it was complained that the relaxations in the Tariff bore so little on articles of subsistence, they should recollect what it was that Government had the power to give; and he thought that the best discretion had been exercised in relieving from taxation imported articles connected with the industry of the country. He then entered into an elaborate calculation by which he found that Mr. Labouchere's proposal would entail a loss to the revenue of 600,000l., even supposing that there were an increase in the consumption proportionate to the reduction of duty. The present price of sugar being 62s. 4d., Mr. Labouchere's duty would give a price of 54.s. 6d. a difference of 7s. 10d. the cwt. Had Mr. Labouchere included the month of May in his account of this year's imports, he would have found the deficiency to be only 6,500 tons, and that would be more than made up by vessels already on the voyage; and if the estimate of the Government were as correct this year as in the year preceding, the total quantity would not be less Vol. LXXXIV,
than 218,000 or 220,000 tons; so that the price would be diminished, while, in fact, the quality of the sugar would be better. He did not agree with Mr. Labouchere that it would be expedient to make any sacrifice on our part before we required concessions from Cuba and Brazil. He quoted a recent work by Mr. Bandinel, which showed that the efforts of England to check the slave-trade had been so far successful that the insurance on slave-ships had risen in Cuba to 40 per cent., while the yearly importation of slaves had decreased from 40,000 in 1832 to 14,470 in 1840. Mr. Hume said, that he demanded fair treatment on behalf of the people of England. Mr. P. M. Stewart made the same requisition on behalf of the WestIndia proprietors, meaning thereby a differential duty of 15s. to protect them, after negro emancipation, from being forced into competition with the produce of slavelabour in other countries. Lord John Russell ridiculed the pleas successively put forth for particular duties. Former Parliaments had granted relief on various articles of importance to the working classes, salt, leather, coals, and candles; but now they had great articles of subsistence under consideration. With respect to those great articles of consumption which the House had now to consider, and which formed the mecessary articles of consumption among the labouring classes, they had begun with bread, and they had found they could not make any great reduction. They had found that it was necessary to be independent of foreign nations— that, unfortunately, much as they wished to relieve the people in
that first great article of food, they were not able to make a great and important alteration. They had then come to articles forming part of the weekly expenditure of the people, such as cheese and butter; but, unfortunately, they had found that the interest of the revenue was so much concerned that it was impossible to make any alteration. There was one article, indeed, in which they had been able to make an alteration-in the article of cattle and meat they had been able to exchange high and prohibitory duties for those which were lower; but, with respect to cattle, they had unfortunately heard the assurance that the people were not likely to derive present benefit from the reduced price of meat. Another article of great consumption was then before them, namely sugar; an article most important, considering the improved habits of the people—habits which the Legislature undoubtedly ought to encourage. He was sorry to hear that upon this article the people must be contented with the good wishes of the Legislature, and the proclamation that had been made of an anxious desire to reduce the price of subsistence. Although Mr. Gladstone had made light of the proposed reduction in the price of sugar, saying that it would only amount to #d. a pound, yet even that was an important consideration in the weekly expenditure of a poor family. Lord John Russell could not comprehend the humanity which admitted coffee or copper produced by slave-labour, but refused to receive slave-grown sugar: it was not immoral to encourage the slavetrade in the one case, but it was denounced as inhuman in the other. He trusted that the people, in sub
mitting to the Income-tax, would not find the promise that the Tariff would reduce the cost of subsistence to be illusory. Mr. Roebuck blamed Lord John Russell for speaking as if the party in power alone were chargeable with retaining the high price of food; whereas, the Whig party were not in favour of free-trade in corn, but merely advocated one of those mystifications so common on their side—an 8s. fixed duty. He himself had tried to equalise the duties on sugar, but Lord John Russell supported a 10s. discriminating duty—a proposal very like the 8s. corn-duty; for if it would be effectual as a protection, it would be effectaal in shutting out competition. Mr. Roebuck then launched out into a vehement condemnation of the sacrifices that had been made to the West Indies. Of what advantage, he asked, were those colonies to us—a set of barren islands dearly bought with the pith and blood of this country? Jamaica at the bottom of the sea —aye, and all the Antilles after it—and where would be the loss to Great Britain 2 What benefit did the weavers of Yorkshire and Lancashire derive from these boasted possessions ? Mr. Bernal said, he had always been taught to believe that the welfare of the whole empire depended on the prosperity of its parts; and he enquired, if Mr. Roebuck was prepared in his submersivo projects to sink the East Indies also with the West? Sir Robert Peel interposed to pour oil on the troubled discussion, by suggesting that the House should come to the practical conclusion to vote for the Government proposition; for it was evident that the adoption of either of the rival suggestions would cause no satisfaction whatever. Mr. Roebuck's enforcement of his principles at the cost of submerging Jamaica in the sea, did not need to be met by reasoning; nor would it be reasonable to settle the value of our colonies by asking a distressed weaver what individual advantage he derived from them. The proposal which he made was to continue the existing duties for one year. He hoped he should not be understood as precluding the House from the consideration of this question in another year. Lord John Russell had complained that nothing material had been done with respect to meat; that noble Lord had been ten years in office, and yet had never proposed any alteration in the Tariff. When he heard that the apprehensions were so great that the price of cattle had fallen 25 per cent., he thought it was time to interfere. He adverted to this because the noble Lord had talked of his fearing to offend a powerful interest; and he wished to contrast the course which he had pursued with that of the late Government—a course in which he ran greater risk than any Minister ever ran– (Cheers)—for he saw that nearly a hundred of those Members who had given him their confidence were on this particular point prepared to vote against him; and he thought that in adhering to his resolution, he had given sufficient proof that he was prepared to incur the risk for the purpose of benefiting the people. He admitted that the reduction of three farthings per lb. in sugar would not be a small matter, but those questions were not to be looked at separately; if he were asked whether in the abstract he would reduce the duty
on wool, he would say, Yes; and he would say the same on cottonwool, glass, or sugar; but if they were to make all such desirable reductions, they would still have a large deficiency, in spite of the Income-tax. He doubted whether our colonies, where we had suppressed slavery, could compete with slave-countries, and the same doubt was entertained by Mr. Deacon Hume. “I cannot conceive,” said Mr. Hume, “that having thirty years ago abolished the slave-trade, and having now abolished slavery itself, any question of free-trade can arise between Jamaica and Cuba: Cuba, with an abundance of fresh and rich soil, not only having the advantage of employing slaves— whatever it may be—but notoriously importing the enormous amount of 40,000 or 50,000 slaves every year; having, in fact, the slave-trade and slavery ; and as the laws of this country deprive the planter of Jamaica of that means of raising his produce, I consider the question as one taken out of the category of free-trade.” The honour of the country would be compromised by admitting slavegrown sugar without seeking a concession from the growers. And the late Government had by no means followed the mode of negotiation proposed by Mr. Labouchere, granting concessions first, and asking for equivalent afterwards; in Texas they had made a slave-trade treaty preliminary to a commercial treaty; in France they stipulated for reduced duties on manufactures before making reductions on wine and brandies. Lord John Russell said, he doubted much whether during any ten years which had passed since
the revolution, any legislative
acts so important as those adopted during the period of his administration had been carried out. He believed that if, when in office, he had brought forward the measure now proposed by Sir Robert Peel, it would have been opposed and, perhaps, defeated; but now he
had the pleasure of enabling him to carry it.
The House then divided, when there appeared for Mr. Labouchere's amendment, 164; against it, 245: majority against the amendment, 81.
Debates on the State of the Country and Public Distress—Prevailing topics of the Session—Mr. Wallace proposes a Series of Resolutions and Address to the Queen on the State of the Nation—Speeches of Sir James Graham, Dr. Bonoring, Mr. M. Altnood, Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Ellice, Lord Palmerston, Lord Stanley, Mr. Roebuck, and other Members—The Debate is continued by Adjournment for three nights—On a Division the Resolutions are negatived by 174 to 49—The same Subject comes under Discussion a fen nights afterwards on a Motion by Mr. Williers for a Select Committee on the Corn-lan's—Mr. Fielden seconds the Motion—It is opposed by Mr. P. Honard and Sir C. Napier–Sir Robert Peel complains of the Obstruction offered to Business by the Opposition–He vindicates the Nen, Corn-lan, and Financial Measures, and states his Opinions respecting the Effects of Machinery on the Employment of ihe People, and his Prospects of the Improvement of Trade-Speeches of Lord John Russell, Mr. Cobden, and Lord Hon'ick—Mr. Williers' Motion is rejected by 231 to 117–Lord Brougham introduces the Subject of the National Distress in the House of Lords in moving for a Select Committee—He discusses at large the Principles of Commercial Policy—Speeches of Earl of Ripon, Earl Stanhope, Lord Kinnaird, Marquis of Clanricarde, Wiscount Melbourne, and Earl of Radnor—Lord Brougham's Motion is rejected by 61 to 14—The great Chartist Petition is presented in the House of Commons—Its vast Bulk and Number of Signatures—Procession of Petitioners and singular Spectacle at the Presentation—Debate on the Petition introduced by Mr. T. Duncombe who moves that the Petitioners be heard by Counsel at the Bar-Motion seconded by Mr. Leader, aud supported by Messrs. Roebuck, Hume, Wakley, Williers, O'Connell, and Muntz—Opposed by Mr. Macaulay, Lord F. Egerton, Mr. Hanes, Mr. Osnald, Lord John Russell, and Sir Robert Peel—The Motion rejected by 287 to 49. *
1842. These were the Corn-Im
T REE great measures, each portation Bill, the Income-tax
involving matters of much
complexity and importance, engaged a very large preponderance of the time and attention of the Legislature during the Session of
Bill, and the Customs-duties Bill, or New Tariff. A reference to the Debates of Parliament during the entire Session will show how very