Page images
PDF
EPUB

vailed in some parts of the United Kingdom of a scarcity ; but upon this point, he must say that, in his opinion, the alarm went much beyond the real danger.

Mr. Coke hoped that ministers would not press sa mcl. sure, when their majorities were so very suall, aid wher the minority was so respectable. It was true, that pers haps they might derive more support from the manufacturing and commercial interests, but he hopes that consideration would not prevent them from doing justace to the landed interest. If he had ever used the term “ grambling speculations" to the cultivation of the col nies, he had certainly never meant to apply the term n an offi:ne sive sense; but he was surprised that none of the West India gentlemen ever spoke without using the word monopoly, which was a term that had not been applied to them; and yet he could not conceive how there could exist any great monopoly of corn in this country; wheras there might easily be a inonopoly of sugar, as that wi's an article which was kept in few hands. He thought it was absolu’e nonsense to think of fixing a maximum in the price of corn. The bad effects of attempting a minimum in the price of labour had been already felt. As to the profits of farmers, he thought it but reisonable that if one part of their crop failed, as it notoriously did at the last harvest, they should charge something more on that part which had not failed. This was the only mode by which they could pay their rent, taxes, and other expences.

Mr. Eyre said, that if he thought the measure before the house were at all calculated to affect the interests of agriculture, or to produce that scarcity which it was Intended to prevent, he should be one of the list men in the world to vote for it. The baded inferest had taken a false alarm on the subject. He highly approved of relieving the West India merchants, from which the landed interest would ultimately derive the greatest benefit.

Mr. Wilberforce was of opinion that the internet of 'be planter and the interest of the farmer were not only compatible, but inseparable. The manufa turers of the populous county which he had the honor to reprezni, were enlightened enough to be completely convinced of this fact. So far was this froin a rub and injilicius interference with the interests of agriculture, that he was satisfied the measure under consideration would operate as a protection to them; and he felt, and believed the country at large would feel, that his majesty's ministers had exercised a suund discretion in the support of this bill.

Nir. Calvert, adverting to the clamours about high prices, observed, that if we were to raise our own sup. plies, the farmer must bave a price that might render it worth his while to cultivate poor as well as rich land.

Sir John Newport deprecated the tampering with the agriculture of the country, and declared, that this measure would be of the most fatal consequence to the tillage of Ireland, which was becoming a great source of supply to Great Britain. Every thing that he had heard only confirmed his objcction to tbe measure. To prove that there was no actual scarcity, he stated from competent authority that the price of grain was falling in those places where, from the stoppage of intercourse with the neighbouring districts, it had risen to the greatest height.

Mr. Manning spoke in favour of the bill, which was absolutely necessary to prevent the ruin of the colonies.

Mr. Loreden. After all the aitention in my power to be to on this subject, and after mature consideration of every argument that has been urged in its favour, I can. not, sir, say that it appears to me either necessary or ex. pedient. No case whatever has been made out to justify such a dangerous intert'rence with the agriculture of the kingdom; it has not even the ground of probability to su; port it, and rests its depen:lance solely on the apprehension that a measure of this kind may become necessary bereafter. Now, sir, if merely upon the bare possibility of a change becoming necessary in the law of the land, we ar:: to proces and mahe a most serious innovatoi I on conjecture alone, not on any established fact, are genilemen aware of the mischievous consequences that may and will rise from the establislument of such a fatal precedent ? To sanction this bill we ought to have a strong case before u ; none such apprars, and I must contend that it has not probability in its favour. All the accounts from he country afford reason for us to expect a ple tiful harvest, and in addition thereio we hear from ali pars of the cy ler chin'ies, that the produce of apples end

is likely to prove abundant. Every one knows

1

that a good cyder year depresses the barley market, that
corn therefore is not likely to bear a price adequate to the
'expence of cultivation ; if, contrary to all these more fa-
vourable expectations, an unforeseen calamily should
happen to blast the ensuing harvest, then the mi.
nisters may avail themselves of the king's prerogative to
stop the distilleries by proclamation, and no member of
this house will object to a bill of indemnity. I cannot
help noticing, sir, the ch:rge of inconsistency urged
against the farmers. All the bad consequences they
predicted are said to be imaginary, because corn has
risen in price since the discussion of this measure. Why,
sir, it is in consequence of such discussion within these
walls that an advance has taken place, and every man
expected it who knew any thing of ihe subject. The dis-
tillers have bought an unusual quantity; speculators have
been at work; the advance is temporary ; serious mischief
will follow, and depression take place at the next harvest.
The last harvest was in many places scanty with respect
to barley and pulse, yet we have gone on well : it has
given us a sufficient supply, and at a moderate price.
If we let the farmer alone, we shall provide sufficient corn
without any importation. With respect to wheat, we
have obtained a very considerable increased sunply from
the introduction of threshing machines. Much corn
used to be left in the straw when the fail was only used;
it was wasted; now every grain is brought forward in aid
of the consumption. Being therefore of opinion that no
justifiable reason has been offered in support of this bill,
ihat it is adverse to the true interest of our country, it
must have my decided opposition.

Lord Burghurst stated the fact, that in February 1802, the price of wheat was higher at the opening of tbe distilleries than now when they were to be shut; and then there could not be a prospect of an abundant harvest, which we at present had. This fact was a complete answer to all that had been said about a scarcity.

Sir James Hall said, we had been told from the throne, that the eyes of Europe are upon us. The landed gentle men who sit in this house will do well to recollect, that the eyes of the British empire, the eyes of their constituents, are upon them. He had not the honour to represent a county, but his feelings were the same as if he did. Were lie to acquiesce in this measure, or willingly to iniss

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

any opportunity that occurred of opposing it, he should be conscious that he had abandoned rights which he was bound to defend, and that he had contributed to lay the foundation of future famines.

Mr. Western had not heard one word in answer to the observation, that in 1802 the price of wheat was higher at the opening of the distilleries than now, when they were to be shut. lle contended, thai from the state and steadiness of the prices of grain in generul, there was not the least foundation for the apprehension of scarcity. Nothing like a case had therefore been made out, that could justify this measure. The moment would come, when the house would grievously lament the discouragement given to the agriculture of the country.

Lord William Russell expressed his surprise at the silence of ministers on a question of this importance, and especially of the right honourable gentleman (Perceval), who had risen on a certain occasion, and spoken against time for an horr without saying a word that applied to the point in hand. He wished to know, whether ministers considered themselves as responsible for this measure, which was brought forward under such suspitious circumstances. He asked, whether it was wise or politic to restrict agriculture in the present circumstances of the country ? The proposition appeared to him inconsistent with common sense. The house then divided : For the second reading

90 Against it

39 Majority

51 The committee on the Dublin police bill was postponed till Thursday nexl.

COFFEE. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave notice, that immediately after the holidays he will submit a proposition to the house, respecting the propriety of reducing the dus ties on coffee.

LOCAL MILITIA. Lord Castlereagh moved the order of the day, for the further consideration of the report on the English local militia bill, after which the bill was ordered to be re

committed, so far as related to the two clausos reserveil on a former night. On the clause for requiring persons who claim exemptions in conséquence of having paid the fine under the act, to sign a declaration that they had not paid by means of any insurance, or otherwise than with their own property, being read,

Mr. Bankes objected to the clause, on the ground that it would make the measure bear heavily upon the lower classes, whilst it would operate lightly on the higher classes. If personal service were entorced in every instance, the measure would not operate so unequally. But as substitution was not allowed, he thought that the lower classes should be permitted to relieve themselves from the pressure of the fine by insurance, as otherwise the measure would be olious in the country.

The Secretury at Var was surprised at the opposition made to this clause, because it would go to the whole of the bill. This clause was absolutely necessary to render the bill operative, as, if insurance was allowed, the bill could never take effect. The burthen of the service could not be heavy, or tlfe number of volunteers who offered themselves to serve as local militia, would not be so great as the fact proved it to be.

Mr. Indham thought this clause most highly objectionable, because it imposed a heavy partial burthen upon individuals of the lower class for the public service, without allowing them to secure themselves against it by insus rance. The measure ought either to enforce in every

in stance personal service, or insurance sliould be allowed, because in every case the lesser evil will be preferred. In the lower classes the fine will be a greater evil ihan personal service, and they of course must serve, whilst with the higher classes the fine will be the lesser evil, and they, of course will pay the fine, and not subinit to their personal service. The service will be ruin to many persons in business, who must serve, and if the service be ruin, the fine which is to compellit must equally be ruinous. No option therefore was given, as was stated by the noble lord, because either alternative must be ruin to the industrious classes, whom it would be most desirable to protect.

Lord Castlereagh stated, that there were only two ways of mitigating the severity of conscription by ballot; ini. tigation by fine, or mitigation by substitution. He pre

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »