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Mr. Tierney's Motion for a Committee on the State#. the Circulating
Medium, and on the Continuance of the Bank
Castlereagh's Motion for a Select Committee.
N the 2nd of February, Mr. Tierney rose, in pursuance of a notice he had given, to propose to the House a resolution for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the effects produced on the exchanges with foreign countries, and the state of the circulating medium by the restriction on payments in cash by the Bank, and to report whether any and what reasons exist for continuing the same beyond the period now fixed by law for its termination. It would be recollected that, from time to time, ministers had promised that cash payments should be resumed; and from time to time the hopes of the country had been disappointed by renewed restrictions which had now continued for more than one and twenty years. The preamble of the last bill stated that various unforeseen circumstances rendered the continuance of the restriction necessary, and the nation had been within a few days informed that various other unforeseen circumstances made it expedient that the issue of specie should be again postponed until the 20th of March 1820. Having already spoken of the importance of the question, he would not trouble the House with another word
upon that point. It had pressed itself forward by its own weight, and was now looked to with anxiety by all classes of society.
The first part of his motion had been rather dictated by a sense of fairness than by any other consideration. For his own part, he was ready frankly to avow, that the principles laid down by the bullion committee, of which his late excellent friend, Mr. Horner, had been chairman, constituted his creed, and that he had as yet heard or seen nothing to lead him to forsake it. The question, indeed, had now become one of a totally different nature : it was no longer one of exchanges on the transmission of geld from one country to another, or on the dangers to which the Bank might be exposed: the only real point of decision was, whether the old circulation ought or ought not to be restored to those limits to which legitimate circulation was formerly confined in this kingdom. The doctrine on this subject he had heard without surprise, because it was a doctrine which had been foretold not only by himself, but by much wiser men : the House had been warned, over and over again, not to proceed in such a destructive system: it had ".
told, that if the restriction were prolonged, it would be impossible, without great hazard, to return to the point whence it had started: and it now turned out, by the confession of all, that the habits of the patient had been so vitiated, that he had not strength to bear the only remedy for his disorder. There existed in this kingdom a strong money o whose only object was, to avail themselves of their wealth to continue the present system, and whose ultimate view was, to control the deliberations of the legislature, and the acts of the Bank itself. This party was composed of persons of different descriptions. Some of them were men of the largest fortune, and of the most undoubted integrity, who lent themselves to this object most conscientiously, thinking they were doing what was right. The others were men of a different description, and who might be considered as the tail of the party. It was against this tail that his present motion was directed; and he was this night declaring war with the whole body of gamblers, speculators in the funds, stock-jobbers, and all those who were living upon the , losses of the honest and industrious. In what he was doing he could have no possible view but the public good. He had taken upon himself a duty not less laborious than painful, but it was a duty which he was bound to perform for his country. Alluding to the money speculatists, Mr. Tierney said, that their hour of extinction would arrive at the moment the circulating medium was brought back
to its legitimate state; but unfortunately, that hour had been so long postponed, that those who, a few years ago, were merely contemptible, had grown bolder as they acquired wealth, and confident as they procured allies. This introduced him to the person against whom their operations had been carried on with too much success—the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. gentleman (he said) had not acted voluntarily, but upon compulsion: he had merely been an instrument with which others had worked their ends, while his own good understanding had been cowed and subdued into subserviency by their machinations. His whole course of finance—for system it was not—had rested solely upon paper. What was the country to think of a finance minister, who, year after year, had done nothing but resort to contrivances to glide over from session to session without inquiry. His object had been constantly to hold out the expectation that things would mend;
that if the House would but wait
the right hon. gentleman and his friends should be brought to their senses; if it was ever fit to look our situation in the face; could a better time be chosen than a period of profound peace? If, after four years of peace, we were still blindly to proceed with this paper system without inquiry, let any gentleman lay his hand upon his heart, and consider how dreadful would be the consequences to the nation, if a war, or even an armament, were to intervene P What resource had we but paper; what means of supporting ourselves, but by one piece of paper piled upon another? Surely these were matters well deserving the most deliberate consideration of the House. Was it not high time to take some steps that should put an end to a ..". which secretly destroyed the foundations of national prosperity? The most obvious and rational course for overcoming these difficulties was the appointment of a committee; and he should be glad to know if any mode of reference could be more distinct, or more likely to acCOmplish the object of gaining every species of information, than that he was at present urging. He did not wish to inquire merely into the state of the Bank, but into the effects produced by the operation of the various laws passed during the last one-andtwenty years, for continuing the restriction upon cash-payments. When stocks were at 84, it was asserted, that the right hon. gentleman and the earl of Liverpool were impressed with the notion, that the good of the country did require a return to a metallic
currency: even the directors of the Bank seemed to concur in that opinion. In order to enable the Bank to do so, the right hon. gentleman gave notice, that he would pay off a certain amount of exchequer bills. The Bank reduced its issues, and stocks began to fall in proportion. No sooner had this been done, than one of those mysterious deputations waited upon the ministers, and were told that the city was absolutely starving for want of money, and that ruin must ensue. Ministers still seemed desirous of carrying their point; but being from day to day besieged with dismal deputations, a promise was extorted from their fears, that the Bank restriction should be con
tinued for another year. Mr. Tierney proceeded some time longer in a similar strain. At length he said, that the next question to which he thought it necessary to advert was, what sort of committee would be most eligible for the purpose he had in view. Ought it to be a select, or a secret committee ? Now he would fairly state, that he should feel very little anxiety upon this point, were it not for the circumstance of the latter being chosen by ballot. His own motion had for its object to institute a general inquiry; but if the right hon. gentleman wished also that the affairs of the Bank should be investigated, he had no objection whatever to the appointment of a secret committee for that purpose. If, on the other hand, his determination was, that because there was a small inquiry which required secrecy, a great inquiry ought to be con: ducted ducted in the same manner, and ought to be chosen by ballot, he should certainly persist in his intention of taking the sense of the House upon such a proposition. He further said, that if the hon. members whom he now saw in the House for the first time, were willing to discard the words of his motion for the vague ones proposed by the chancellor, they would give the most conclusive proof of their entire devotedness to the minister. He concluded by moving the same words in which his first notice had been given. The Chancellor of the Exchequer regretted, that the right hon. gentleman had so soon laid aside all the ideas of conciliation and unanimity which a few days since he had professed, to adopt the language of mere vulgar party feeling. He then made a comparison between his own notice, and that of his antagonist, in which he found his own much more correct in its form, and distinct in its object, than that of the other. He then challenged the right hon. mover to the proof that the financial system of the country had been unstable and injudicious; and he showed that in no period o in duration to that which had elapsed since the conclusion of the war, so much had been done, either in diminishing taxation, or in reducing the public debt. With respect to the proposed committee, he much wished, that gentlemen would go into it with unbiassed feelings, and with minds unfettered by any previously declared opinions. The real question before the House was “Is inquiry
necessary?" It was now on both sides agreed, that it was. That had not been the impression of his majesty's ministers on the first day of the session, who then thought that it would be expedient, without the institution of any inquiry, to propose a bill for a short extension of the restriction of cash-payments. Among the causes to which the oright hon. gentleman attributed the want of money in England, were the amount and nature of the foreign loans, especially the protraction of the French loan, which being over-rated in France, and proving insufficient when brought to the test, recourse was had to other countries, and especially to this, which naturally o a rate of exchange against us. In this case, his colleagues and himself had not thought it wise, or safe, to call on #. Bank to resume its payments in cash, but had proposed to continue the restriction till the 1st of March 1820. This was on the 21st of last month ; but on the following day, lord Liverpool and himself had received a communication from the Bank directors stating an opinion different from that which he and his noble friend had previously understood them to entertain ; namely, that they wished for an inquiry, in preference to so short an extension of the restriction. In cono of this application, he and his colleagues, without at all abandoming their own opinion, felt that an inquiry so demanded, could not wit propriety be refused. The necessity of an inquiry being therefore acknowledged on all sides, the only uestion that remained was as to e manner in which it should be conducted. After some pretty severe reflections on Mr. Tierney, he submitted to the House an amendment which he thought fully comprehensive, for it would call on the committee to consider every part of the question in all its bearings. In this inquiry would be examined, not only the rate of foreign exchanges, and the state of the circulating medium, but the condition of the Bank, with every collateral topic that had any relation to the subject. It was clear, however, that a committee appointed for such extensive and delicate purposes, ought to be secret; and, notwithstanding the opinion of the right hon. gentleman, it should be appointed by ballot, in conformity to the ancient and uniform custom, from which he had never
therewith, and to report to the House such information relative thereto as may be disclosed without injury to the public interests, with their observations,” instead thereof. Lord Castlereagh said, that though the grounds of difference as to the object of the motion between the righthon. gentleman and his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were few, yet he should support the proposition of the latter, because his motion was more precise, and went more directl to the purpose. After *: of considerable length, his lordship declared, that he was not obstinately attached to his own opinion; far from it: he would change it, and would avow that change, not with shame, but with an honest and manly pride, if reasons were produced, which would render such a change necessary. Mr. Canning subsequently rose; and although §e thought that all the general argument on the great question connected with the present motion might be advantageously postponed till the report of the committee, about to be appointed, should give a more favourable opportunity of treating it, he should not deal fairly, either by himself, or by the House, if he did not shortly state the grounds on which he should give his vote on the present motion. It would be superfluous for us to inquire on which side of this motion his attachment lay, for all his severity and ridicule were heaped without mercy upon Mr. Tierney. Mr. Manning said, that the Bank