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noble lord has certainly not done great justice to his clients; because, although he commenced by stating that he should proceed to show to the house the various evils under which these petitioners were suffering, the grievances which were afflicting them, and the anxieties which deprived them of their repose both by night and by day, yet to the close of his speech not one single word was said about the petitioners, and it was not until a question was put by my noble friend near me that we even elicited from the noble lord who those petitioners were, or what was the foundation of the question of the noble lord.
“ Well, now, the noble baron was kind enough to allow me a sight of this petition after he had given notice of it. I speak with every respect of the petitioners. I have no doubt they are men of the highest respectability, but undoubtedly in point of numbers they are not exceedingly extensive. These, as the noble lord has stated, are petitioners who are not confined to a single district or a single township, but a certain number of them I find are from the township of Snaith and one or two others from adjoining districts. Well, now, what is the numerical force of these petitioners who are in this state of unparelleled uncertainty? What interests do they represent? What great bulk of property has come forward to complain to your lordships of their unparelleled state of anxiety, the agitation into which the country is thrown, and the total confusion of all agricultural affairs which arises out of this protracted uncertainty? Why, my lords, the petitioners are just thirteen in number, and they thus speak of themselves :- The humble petition of the undersigned owners and occupiers of land in the county of York. The noble earl near me has been kind enough to sum up the extent of the occupation of these petitioners. One of them, no doubt a highly-respectable farmer, occupies five hundred acres of land ; but the whole thirteen, including that gentleman, own and occupy only to the amount of 1,841 acres. I see that some of them are farmers—some of them very respectable gentlemen. Mr. Langley is one of them; but amongst them I see Mr. J. Wright, the auctioneer at Snaith, and his occupation is twelve acres. Mr. Pickering, the surgeon of Snaith, is another, and he occupies twenty acres of land. These, then, are the petitioners who come before you on the present occasion. The noble ford has not plainly stated their grievances. I am happy to find and even there the noble lord correctly stated the fact when called upon to read the prayer—that the injuries and grievances of these petitioners are not injuries and grievances in esse, but injuries and grievances in posse. They do not feel any grievance or annoyance now; but they anticipate that hereafter they may, and consequently they petition your lordships to remove their anxieties relative, not to what they actually feel, but to what they anticipate. Now, take the case of the surgeon or auctioneer-one occupying twenty and the other twelve acres of land. Take the auctioneer, who is a highlyrespectable man, no doubt-I dare say he has made some money in his business as an auctioneer—and no doubt he has a snug little villa, shrubbery, and kitchen garden, with three or four cows; and he lives very comfortably, not on his farm, but on his business as an auctioneer.
What is the amount of wheat, I should like to know, which is grown by Mr. Jonathan Wright, the auctioneer of Snaith, which is to be deducted from his house, his pleasure grounds, his kitchen-garden, and his lawn-the whole to be taken out of twelve acres of land ? Yet that gentleman cannot sleep night nor day.
He cannot rest for a single hour, oppressed as he is with his grievances, alarms, and anxieties ! He cannot tell how to estimate the value of his land : he cannot take a lease : he cannot agree upon the covenants which are necessary for conducting his cultivation and his husbandry, because he does not know whether or not we are going to put on a moderate duty on the importation of corn at some distant and indefinite period. Why, to talk of the postponement of the final settlement of this question for a period of eight, ten, or twelve months, as interfering with all the operations of agriculture and preventing arrangements between landlords and tenants, is--without any wish on my part to depreciate or diminish the magnitude and importance of an ultimate settlement --to attach un exaggerated and fictitious importance to that which the noble lord demands—that is, an immediate and categorical explanation of the course which her Majesty's Government intend to pursue. Why, in the cultivalion of a farm do you not know in March, and may you not know in November, what is to be the course of proceeding ?-what alteration in agriculture would be made by the postponement of any declaration as to what is to be the import duty on å quarter of foreign wheat? I presume that even at Snaith they do not sow their wheat in March or April, and that the cultivation of wheat in that neighbourhood will not be affected by a declaration now, rather than at the next harvest, of what are the intentions of her Majesty's Government, or, what is of more importance, the intentions of Parliament on this great question. Does the noble lord suppose either that the imposition of any such duty as could be carried by any Government would produce such an alteration in the relations between landlord and tenant as materially to interfere with the arrangements which subsist between them as to rent and the covenants under which they hold their land? I have not supposed any amount of duty as being the duty that ought to be levied; but the noble lord has taken the sum of 79., or 5s., indirectly referring, I think, to wliat was said in a speech by a right hon. friend of mine in the county of Buckingham the other day. Now, I am not going to speak with regard to the amount of the increase of price which would be produced in the home market by any possible alteration of the duties on foreign corn. I am not going to re-open the subject upon which a noble earl opposite put a question to me the other day, when he contended that whatever increase takes place in the price of corn or other articles in consequence of the imposition of a duty falls not only upon the price of that which is imported, but upon the whole amount of the produce of the country. What I contended for then was, and what I contend for 110w is, that whatever the duty may be, it is not the whole amount, but a small portion of that amount, which must be added to the price in consequence of the addition of the duty. Take
a duty of 43., 5s., or 7., or whatever you please let us take, for instance, that with which we are the most familiar--a 5s. duty on the import of corn—that is, an addition of 4s. to the present existing duty. Now, suppose the utmost possible extent of the augmentation of price in this country consequent upon an increased duty of 4s., to be ls. 6d. or 2s. a quarter, will any man tell me that to doubt whether that amount would or would not be imposed, and the subsistence of that doubt for some eight or ten months, could introduce the smallest amount of uncertainty with regard to the relations of landlord and tenant, and the permanent arrangements between them?
“My lords, I certainly have seen a statement, and I read it with some surprise, which was made by a friend of mine the other day, that he should take care to inform his tenants that if they obtained a 5s. duty upon wheat he should immediately put on half-a-crown, I do not know whether per acre or per quarter, upon their rents. Now, I do not think this is a very generous course of proceeding. That gentleman is himself a farmer, and an extensive sheep-owner; and he is at this moment canvassing the city of Westminster upon the ground of his extreme liberal principles ! Now, I confess that it appears to me the sheep are not the only portion of his property which this gentleman seems disposed to fleece. But I believe the example he has set, or has announced his readiness to set for I do not believe he would do it—is an example which would not be followed by country gentlemen generally. I grant, however, that this question should remain in abeyance no longer than is absolutely necessary. I admit that most frankly. But with regard to the uncertainty--my lords, there is a very large party in this country, as is well known, who have declared in the most emphatic terms that it is not until the next election that that uncertainty should be removed—that at the next election the question must be settled and settled definitively, and to that election they refer on their own part, confident in the strength of their case, but ready to submit to the judgment of the country should it be pronounced against them. So that whether the change of Government had or had not taken place, that uncertainty as to the final decision of the country, and of Parliament following the country, must have equally remained, but with this difference, that in consequence of that change of Government the period of the duration of the uncertainty will be diminished, and the dissolution of Parliament, which might have been postponed for a period of two years in the ordinary course of things I trust I need not offer any apology for alluding to it-must take place within a period of six or eight months from this time. Therefore, my lords, so far as uncertainty is concerned with regard to the final decision of the country, the period of that uncertainty is not extended, but diminished. The change of Government, remember, has not taken place upon any question connected with the subject of the land. And I go further, and say that the period ought to be as short as possible, and that the appeal to be made to the country ought to be made as early as a regard for the great interests of the country will permit. But I say further, that so far as it depends on me, no taunt, no challenge, no difficulty to which I may be subjected, and no mortification to which I may be ex
posed, shall induce me to recommend to my Sovereign that that dissolution of Parliament, however anxious I may be for the decision, shall take place one hour sooner than regard to these great and paramount interests renders necessary.
“ Let me venture to look back for a moment to the circumstances under which her Majesty's present Government have assumed—the noble lord was good enough to say have taken upon them-power. I would correct the expression, and say, have assumed the responsibilities and the duties of office. The late Government fell by no adverse motion of ours. Least of all did they fall by any adverse motion involving the question of protection to the lauded interest. Patiently and steadily we have abstained from pressing that question in the shape of direct Protection upon the attention of Parliament. The noble lord will not, I think, venture to say that from those who sit opposite to him in this house, or from those wlio sit opposite to his party in the other, the late Government had been encountered by a factious opposition or by a desire to eject them from office. By what did they fall? They fell by their own internal weakness: they fell by their confessed and notorious inability to conduct the business of the country: they fell by the absence of their friends : they fell by having quarrelled with their colleagues: they fell by their inability to muster one hundred and thirty gentlemen in the House of Commons to give them support upon a question which they declared to be fatal to their existence. My lords, it was under these circumstances that we called
upon to assume office; and I for one, and I thank my noble friends and my colleagues in the Government for the readiness with which they answered to the call, felt that in the then state of this country, internally and externally, the country ought not, and should not, be left without a Government. My lords, I ask for no one measure—I ask but for justice-not to me or my colleagues--but justice to the great interests of our common country. I ask not to be precluded from making the necessary financial arrangements for the public service. I ask not to be precluded from placing this country in a permanent state of internal organization against the danger of foreign invasion. I ask you not to permit any unnecessary interruptions to the progress of public or private business, or any interference with those useful law reforms which have been already so ably sketched out and upon which the hearts and the minds of the people are fixed. I call upon you, my lords—indeed, I ought to beg pardon of my noble and learned friend on the bench below me (Lord Lyndhurst) in alluding to this subject, because the noble and learned lord the other day, in dwelling upon these important questions, made a most able and elaborate statement, in which he showed all the inconveniences of a dissolution at this period of the year—and I am conscious how incapable I am after such an eloquent and unanswerable speech to press those topics upon your consideration, and to enumerate the evils that must arise from a premature interruption of these proceedings. If noble lords opposite, and honourable and right honourable gentlemen in the other House of Parliament, have really no objection to wait for the pronouncement of the verdict of the country, I ask where is the anxiety
VOL. XXXI.K K
-where is the alarm-where is the uncertainty that are said to prevail in the public mind as to the policy of the existing Government? I have alreadly told your lordships that in regard to financial measures I do not intend to make any proposition that could in any way disturb the present state of things. I tell you now, as I have told you before, that the next election must finally and conclusively decide the course which we shall take, and that in the meantime we shall not propose any measure that could call for such opposition as is now threatening us. I shall say no more ; but if the business of Parliament be interrupted-fuctiously interrupted--in this house I have no fear of any such interruption, and I trust that in the other house better councils will prevail --but I repeat, if the Government are to be interrupted by discussions upon mere abstract questions—if the necessary measures waiting for our consideration are to be impeded in their progress—then, I say, the just censure of the country must fall upon the heads of those who have so wantonly interfered in preventing any Government being carried on. But we are told that there is much anxiety, alarm, and uncertainty prevailing in the public mind as to the intentions of her Majesty's Ministers. Where, I ask, are there any indications of such feeling ?
The country appears tranquil, peaceable, and contented. Is there a more accurate barometer of public apprehension than the public funds at this moment? And yet will the noble lords opposite point out a single moment during the whole period in which they held office when the public securities were so steady or had shown a greater tendency to advance than at this moment? Yet, according to the noble lord's statement, the country is in a perfect panic” (hear, hear).
After stating that he will go to the country when he feels that it is consistent with the due discharge of his duty to that country and his Sovereign to do so, and not one moment sooner in consequence of either menaces or manoeuvres, coaxings or threatenings, Lord Derby declared the grounds on which he wished his appeal to the country to rest in the following animated peroration
“When I appeal to the country I shall appeal to it in such language as this—Will you—be you Free-traders or Protectionists, who value the interests of your country--will you place confidence and give your support to a Government which in the hour of peril and danger did not hesitate to take the post when your helmsman had left the helm ? Will you support the Government which is endeavouring to place your country in such a position as will render it perfectly capable of resisting any hostile attack and to maintain the peace of the world?
Will you support a Government which is determined to uphold the Protestant institutions of this country, and to spread to the utmost of their power religious and moral education throughout the land, and which will exert itself, I do not hesitate to say, to oppose a barrier against that current of continually encroaching democratic influence which threatens to overwhelm the whole power and property of the country-an influ.