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tricts of the country, and those classes of the community, which were already suffering so much from the languishing state of manufactures and trade, was of itself sufficiently alarming; and the fears thus excited were increased by the accounts which were daily arriving from the north of Europe, that the demand was every where increasing for that species of grain. But although the price which oats had reached by the beginning of September was above the importation price, the system of averages disabled government from legally applying any remedy to the threatening evil. Until an average price above the importation price should have been struck, the ports must remain closed; and the first average that would be taken would not be struck till the 15th of November, an interval during which all the calamities of a famine might have overtaken the country. From this prospect ministers had no means of escaping, except by violating the law, and taking upon themselves the responsibility of permitting importation without waiting for the arrival of the quarterly average under which alone it could legally be allowed. They very properly chose the latter course; and on the 1st of September an order in council appeared authorizing the immediate importation of oats, oat-meal, rye, pease, and beans, and the bringing them into market if they were in bond, but imposing a duty of 2*. pet quarter on oats, 2«. 2d. per boll on oatmeal, and 3s. 6d. per quarter on rye, beans, and pease. The duty was necessarily made conditional, and was not payable at the moment. Security only was required from the importers and holders of the grain to make
payment of those duties, if confirmed by parliament.
The necessity of confirming these duties, and obtaining an act of Indemnity for ministers who had thus gone beyond the law, occasioned the assembling of the new parliament at a much earlier and more inconvenient season than usual. The same gazette which contained the order in council, contained a proclamation summoning parliament to meet for the despatch of business on the 14th of November. On that day, about an hundred members of the new House of Commons appeared at the bar of the House of Lords. The lord Chancellor, as one of the royal commissioners, addressed them in the following terms :—
"My Lords, and Gentlemen of the House of Commons; "We have it in command from his Majesty to inform you, that, as soon as the members of both Houses have assembled, his Majesty will declare the causes of summoning the present parliament; and as it is necessary that a fit and proper person be chosen Speaker of the House of Commons, it is commanded by his Majesty that you return to the place where you are to sit, and then proceed to the choice of a proper person as Speaker; and after such choice, that you present such proper person for his Majesty's royal approbation."
The Commons having returned to their own House, Mr. Manners Sutton, on the motion of Mr. Sturges Bourne, was unanimously re-elected to the chair. On the following day, he was presented, with the usual ceremonies, to the royal commissioners, who declared his Majesty's approval of the choice made by the House; and the Speaker, in the customary form, craved and obtained assurance of all the ancient rights and privileges of the Commons of England. Till the 21st, the only business done consisted in the swearing in of members. On the 21st his Majesty himself proceeded in state to the House of Peers, and opened the new Parliament in person with the following Speech from the Throne:
"My Lords and Gentlemen,"I have called you together at this time, for the special purpose of communicating to you the measures which I judged it necessary to take in the month of September, for the admission into the ports of the United Kingdom of certain sorts of foreign grain not then admissible by law.
"I have directed a copy of the Order in Council, issued on that occasion, to be laid before you, and I confidently trust that you will see sufficient reason for giving your sanction to the provisions of that order, and for carrying them into effect.
"I have great satisfaction in being able to inform you that the hopes entertained at the close of last session of Parliament respecting the termination of war in the Burmese territories have been fulfilled, and that a peace has been concluded in that quarter, highly honourable to the British arms, and the councils of the British government in India.
"I continue to receive from all foreign powers assurances of their desire to cultivate the relations of peace and friendly understanding with me.
"I am exerting myself with unremitting anxiety, either singly, or in conjunction with my Allies, as well to arrest the progress of existing hostilities, as to prevent
the interruption of peace in different parts of the world.
"Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"I have directed the estimates of the ensuing year to be prepared, and they will in due time be laid before you.
"I will take care that they shall be formed with as much attention to economy as the exigencies of the public service will permit.
"The distress which has pervaded the commercial and manufacturing classes of my subjects during the last twelve months has affected some important branches of the revenue; but I have the satisfaction of informing you, that there has been no such diminution in the internal consumption of the country, as to excite any apprehensions that the great sources of our wealth and prosperity have been impaired.
"My Lords and Gentlemen,
"I have deeply sympathised with the sufferings which have been for some time past so severely felt in the manufacturing districts of the country.
"I have contemplated with satisfaction the exemplary patience with which those sufferings have been generally borne.
"The depression under which the trade and manufactures of the country have been labouring has abated more slowly than I thought myself warranted in anticipating; but I retain a firm expectation that this abatement will be progressive, and that the time is not far distant when, under the blessings of Divine Providence, the commerce and industry of the United Kingdom will have resumed their wonted activity." In the House of Lords the Address was moved by earl CornwaU Ks, and seconded by lord Colville. The only opposition to it proceeded from lord King, who, mistaking, as so many do, or pretend to do, the real nature and object of a speech from the throne, complained that although it was very well so far as it went, it did not go far enough; and, after expending a great deal of very indifferent wit on the character of the late parliament, and the dulness of ministers as being the greatest "doubters" out of Chancery, amply compensated for the deficiencies of the address, by moving an amendment, twice as long as the Speech together, and embracing every difficult and disputable question—taxation, the national debt, the civil and military establishments, import duties, the Corn-laws, and the state of the currency. These topics were regularly brought out in it, as an exposition of the sentence with which it commenced: "we hope that a steady adherence to just and liberal principles of policy will prevent a repetition of those distresses, which in the course of the last ten years, have repeatedly and severely afflicted all classes of your Majesty's subjects." The amendment was negatived without a division.
In the Commons, the address having been moved by Mr. Liddel, a new member for the county of Northumberland, and seconded by Mr. Wynn, Mr. Brougham, following the example of lord King, complained that the speech consisted of nothing but blanks: he had never, he said, listened to a speech which said so little, and omitted so entirely what it might have said. Among the omissions of the speech, of which he had to complain, there were two subjects of paramount importance ; the one, the present state of Ireland; the
other the necessity of retrenchment. It did strike him as a most extraordinary circumstance, that, at a time when, in the minds of all men, there was but one prevailing opinion as to the aspect of public affairs, and that an urgent demand was felt by every one that the affairs of Ireland should be earnestly and speedily, though maturely, considered, yet that, in the King's Speech delivered from the throne at this time, the name of Ireland should never once be mentioned. He hoped there was nothing ominous in it, but it must be confessed that it was in the last degree surprising. It was a singular fact that, just before the breaking out of the American war, at a moment when all men's eyes were pointed towards America, and when America was the word which hung upon the quivering lip of every man who thought or felt at all, neither mention nor allusion was made to it in the Speech from the throne. In a time of scarcely less anxiety, Ireland was omitted in the Speech which had been just read to the House. No man living could believe, knowing what had been doing in Ireland for the last six months, what was doing there now, and what ought to be done here, that the King's Speech contained no mention whatever of the condition of that country. For obvious reasons, he would not now enlarge on this subject; but he protested against the omission, and he earnestly expected to hear the reasons, if reasons could be given, why that omission had occurred. The most satisfactory proposition his majesty's government could make, would be some measure of sound and enlightened policy which should do justice to Ireland, save that country from the combined
horrors of civil and religious warfare, and protect it in what were now its weakest points, but which, well managed, ought to be its strongest, and which would impart strength to the whole united empire. As to retrenchments, it might be said, that, when the estimates came to be submitted to the House, it would be time enough to discuss this topic; but, taking into his view, circumstances which forced themselves upon his attention, and listening to the reports which were abroad, and which were evidenced by certain outward and visible signs, he saw one reason why no pledge of retrenchment had been made. He alluded to the report that a certain proposition might be expected to be made to the House, savouring of any thing rather than necessity, and entirely opposed to the just feelings and expectations of the people of this country. It might be hazardous to prophecy what might happen in this House; but the measure to which he alluded, if carried, would be carried with the unanimous and loudly-expressed reprobation of the people of England. These were not times to trifle with the people. The distress of the country was admitted to be great: one means of alleviating it could alone be effectual, and that was retrenchment. The saving the public money, the reduction of the taxes, the cutting down the estimates, not merely lower, but as low as the necessities of the people required,—these were what the duty of the government prescribed, and what they must resort to, if they expected to retain the obedience of the people. Talk of new palaces while the country is thus situated. New palaces! Good God! is this a fit time to discuss the propriety of Vol. LXVIII.
adopting this or that order of architecture? If the House possessed the proper feelings of a British House of Commons—if it was not quite dead to those impressions by which on other occasions it had been influenced, it should know and feel that the purest and most ornamental order that art and science could invent and combine, would appear far less gratifying than to see palaces unfinished, while the people are suffering from want and starvation. Without any wish to excite the displeasure of those whom he (Mr. Brougham) had now the honour of addressing—many of them for the first time—he nevertheless felt it to be his imperative duty, on the first night of this new parliament, to express his deep conviction, that the House would best fulfil its duty to the country, by admitting Ireland to a full and free participation of those rights from which she had been too long excluded, and by reducing the public expenditure of the nation.
Mr. Canning said, it ought to be remembered, that parliament was not called together at this unusual and inconvenient season for purposes of general legislation, but because it was necessary to provide an indemnity for those who, under the pressure of a grievous necessity, had been forced to violate the existing laws; and if any complaint were made, that no notice of the corn question was to be found in the King's Speech, beyond a recommendation to grant the indemnity referred to, he would at once declare his decided disinclination to state, at this early period of the session, the opinions entertained by his majesty's ministers on the subject of the Corn-laws, and the way in which those laws operated.
on the country generally. He
of Portugal should not be crossed by a hostile army; and the House would learn with satisfaction that, during the last three anxious months, the appearance of the naval force, which we maintained in the Tagus, had prevented acts that might have involved all Europe in war. In that very force, who would take upon him to say, that the seeds of safety were not sown, and the wisest and best economy exhibited? It was not, therefore, for the purpose of an unnecessary display of the strength of this country, that the present naval establishment in the Tagus was kept up; and there was no branch of the policy of great Britain, that he was not equally prepared to go into, and defend. In regard to Ireland, it was the full intention of his majesty's ministers to bring that subject before parliament, but he would not be tempted by the hon. and learned gentleman into the discussion of a subject, which must, of necessity, be brought forward in the course of the present session.
Mr. Hume delivered a long speech, on the necessity of an immediate reduction of expenditure and taxation, an immediate revision of the Corn-laws, the immediate emancipation of the Irish Catholics, and an immediate reform of Parliament; and moved an amendment, which pledged the House instantly to proceed to execute these various measures, and thanked his Majesty for having called them together at so early a period, as to leave them time to make all requisite inquiries into the estimates before voting the supplies. This amendment, which form required to be moved as a substitute for the original Address, was seconded by Mr. Marshall, one of the new members for Yorkshire.