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CHAP. VI.

Agricultural Distress Discussions on this Subject--Mr. Whitmore's Motion for a Reduction in the Import Price of Corn-Improvement in the Situation of the Agricultural Interest Mr. Western's Motion on the Currency Equitable Adjustment of Contracts

--Re-appointment of the Committee on Foreign Trade-Warehousing Bill-Reciprocity of Duties Bill-Beer Bill-Attempted Repeal of the Laws regulating the Silk Trade.

OM

N the 14th of February, the at a price with which the home

report of the committee of grower could not compete, and our supply being brought up,sir Thomas return to a metallic currency, Lethbridge said, that, although he were the main causes in which was gratified to find that in the agricultural distress originated. last paragraph of the royal speech The hon. baronet thought himself the landed interest was character- entitled to call the attention of goized as the most important in the vernment once more to the subject. country, he regretted that govern- Mr. Canning, while he was far ment had not pledged itself to give from finding fault with the hon. the great question of agricultural baronet for having availed himself depression that attention which its of the opportunity, which had preimportance seemed obviously to sented itself, of alluding to the demand. He was afraid that the question of agricultural distress, landholders of England were to be thought he did his majesty's minisleft during another session in the ters injustice, "In supposing that depressed situation of which it was they had not, on all occasions, been impossible for government not to anxious to adopt any practicabe fully aware, unless they had ble measure of direct relief, and forgotten the five hundred petitions not still look with the most which had been laid, last session, on sincere sympathy to distresses, the table of the House. He pro- which every one must acknowledge fessed the most unqualified respect and deplore. If ministers had for the talents and character of been able to devise any practicable ministers, and yet could not but plan of relief, they would have view their having failed to propose been the first to propose it; but as sonne specific measure on this sub- they were convinced that no such ject as a dereliction of their duty. plan was within their reach, they He conceived the depressed state of were surely justifiable in not dethe landed interest could be ascrib- luding the country, by making ed only to the impolitic conduct of promises which they knew they the legislature. The importation could not perform. He assured the of produce, from foreign countries, House, that the subject had never to be sold in the English market been lost sight of by the members of administration. He had for a of amelioration except from a time been sanguine of success; but direct remission of the taxation having been ultimately compelled which immediately affected the to abandon a certain measure, which landed interest, and, for this purhe once imagined might have been pose, he proposed charging the beneficial, he resolved not to agitate funds with a fair proportion of again, what could end only in dis- the poor rates. He maintained appointment, and have the effect of that this would be beneficial exciting hopes which it would be

even to the holders of funded proimpossible to realize. Accordingly, perty, in as far as it might possibly while he professed that govern- avert a crisis, which, once arrived, ment did not see their

way

to
any

would be more fatal to the funddirect measure for immediate relief, holders than to any of the other he assured the hon. baronet that interests taken singly. He allowed, any proposal of his own, bearing that some benefit would arise from on the question, would be received a diminution of taxation, but he on the part of the government, as

insisted strongly on the necessity it certainly would on the part of the and justice of making the burdens House, with the most anxious and fall equally on all classes of the deliberate attention. The hon. people. He thought it much betgentleman was unwilling to enter ter to have this done at once, than into the disputed point, whether to wait till the agricultural inte the remission of taxes would afford rest should be ruined. He thought direct relief, or whether its remedial that the present distress arose, net effect on the agriculture of the from over production, but from country would only be collateral. lessened consumption, which would He said that government had, at all operate a diminution in the quanevents, thought it their duty to tity produced, till that would be consider this question, and conse

insufficient for the demands of the quently, that the only measure di- country. In the course of these rected to the relief of the agriculture remarks, the hon. gentleman stated of the country would be comprised more than once, that he, by no in the intended remission of direct means, wished to break faith with taxation, which would soon be sub- the public creditor. He only mitted to the consideration of the thought it unfair, that one interest House. And he trusted, that, as the in the country should be overladen, landed interest was the foundation while another bore no part of the of all others, it would gradually ad- burden. vance with them, and that the relief Mr. Robertson went into an thus brought, though not so rapid argument, to prove that the sysand immediate as might be desired, tem of borrowing on ruinous would be steady and permanent in terms, which had been adopted by its operation.

this country for many years, was Mr. Curwen lamented that minis- one great cause of the evils the ters could promise no relief to the people were now labouring under. agricultural interest.

Although It was quite evident to him, that it he did not hesitate to say that the was this system of credit, which had country was in a more perilous plunged the country into those diffisituation than any in which it had culties of which all classes were hitherto stood, he saw no prospect complaining: and he intimated his intention of bringing forward a Thus it appeared, that such a law motion for the reduction of the could only operate, either in prointerest on the national debt. ducing a superabundance and glut,

The discussion was resumed, which brought ruin to the farmer; however, on the 26th of February; or a great scarcity, which, in the when Mr. Whitmore brought under end would be as injurious to the the consideration of the House farmer as to other classes of the the laws relating to the trade in community. He drew this state Corn. Having stated that he dif. of things with respect to Holland, fered entirely from those who and pointed out the analogy which thought that the discussion could his supposed case bore to that of tend only to increasc the despon- England. Besides, he had docudency which had already diffused ments to establish a fact, of which itself so widely, and having remov. he had long been persuaded that ed the objection as to the time of the consumption, now apparent and discussion, he went on to show that arising out of the low prices, was the main feature of the question going on at a rate which could not affecting the agricultural interests, be long supported. He referred to a was the principle of fluctuation. In letter which he had received from a illustration of his view, he supposed Mr. Cropper of Liverpool, to prove that a law, similar to the corn bill, that the consumption was going on had been adopted in Holland, at a far greater rate than the which was an importing country, growth. He thought the political to a considerable extent. Ther, tendency of the present law was to in Holland there would be high subject the country to the greatest prices for some years a great ap- peril. If it did not answer its propriation of capital to agriculture purpose, it was contemptible. If -poor soil brought into cultivation it did answer its purpose, the effects -the breaking up of old pastures. of it would be totally at variance Supposing the extent of territory with all that had hitherto been sufficient,

there would at length be, considered as practically beneficial. in average years, a produce suffi- With regard to the operation of the cient for the consumption of the existing law upon trade, the effects country; and, it was quite obvious, of it must be in the highest degree abundant crops would give consi- injurious to those manufacturer derably more than the necessary

which it ought to be our object to consumption. The superabundant promote. T'he alteration, which quantity so produced would fall he proposed should take place in back on the market; the produce the present law, was a reduction in would, in consequence, fall in the import price of two shillings a price, until it came down to that year, until it should fall to sixty of the corn in the exporting mar- shillings; because he was convince kets. The result would be very ed that the quantity of foreign corn, considerable distress

destruction which might be brought into our of capital destruction of soil on markets, when the price was so account of the abstraction of ma- low as 60s., would be but trifling. nure-poor land forced out of Mr. Curwen condemned the uncultivation and, instead of abun- wise course, which the hon. memdance, there would be in two or ber had taken in introducing this three years a positive deficiency. question. Though he by no means VOL. LXV

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approved of the law as it now stood, the motion. Mr. Huskisson did yet, he believed it to be the best not attempt to follow the very dewe could have under existing cir- sultory discussion which had taken cumstances. He thought what had place since the speech of the hon. been suggested by the hon, gentle mover. He expressed his satisfaom man would effect no sufficient relief; tion at the fact, that the country but that a remission of those taxes, could, consistently with public crewhich bare most heavily on the dit, make a considerable remission poof, would be the surest nieans of of the burthens which weighed re-establishing the prosperity of upon the people; but he thought the country, " Take off the cans the hon, member for Cumberland dļe-tax," said the hon. gentleman, had been very unfortunate in the " which is one of 10s. yearly to selection of his two cases of taxevery poor man in the country. ation. The tax upon candles was Then instead of the cottager's very inconsiderable, and the labeing compelled to give 7d. for bourer in agriculture, unless his his candles, he would pay only house had more than six windows, 3d. for the pound. Take off, paid no window tax at all. So also, the tax from the windows of that the window tax, and the tax his cottage. It should be entirely on candles, of which Mr. Curwen remitted to every cottage of a proposed the repeal, were far from rental under 5l.; and this mea- being severe in their operation. sure would relieve almost every He did not think the present a fit labouring cottager. Then take of time for making any alteration in the remaining tax on malt. The the existing corn laws. The pretaxation on the preceding articles sent system might possibly, by a would amount to about 18$., and great alteration in prices, be proadding the malt, you would cause

ductive of serious consequeiices; so material a reduction, that the but all immediate fears of such effect would soon be to call into evils were groundless. He becultivation millions of acres that lieved we had seen the worst of are now unprofitable.” He did the low prices; for with the depot wish for great protecting prices, terioration in cultivation (which but he wished to see every acre of he considered the most serious evil land, that could be made available, to the country), and the increase under cultivation. He hoped that of consumption, he thought there funded property would be made to was a fair prospect of that rise contribute its quota to the neces- of prices which would materially sities of the state in the shape of serve the agriculturists without taxes.-Mr. Bennett, of Wilts, being a disadvantage to the other çould not accede to the motion. portions of the community. He He laid before the House the re- thought a system of law which sult of some very careful calcu- would continue the monopoly, lations, to show what beneficial would not be a permanent advaneffects were to be derived from per- tage to the agriculturists, severing in a reduction of taxation. would considerably increase the -Mr. Wodehouse argued, that any burthens of the manufacturers. We calculations as to the price at which should wait for the re-action of corn could be imported must be one of the causes of the low fallacious. He could not agree to prices; and then, by a malification,

but

of the law, we might have a re, duty, corn would be introduced as gular and moderate importation, it was wanted, and not in the which would be the best regulator enormous quantities poured in of prices that could be adopted, under the existing law, when the Fully impressed as he was with price rose to a certain height. He the justness of the principles of should recommend, that the law, his hon, friend, he entreated him, for the amendment of the corn for the present, to withdraw his laws should come into operation motion,

long before corn had reached 80s.; Mr. Ricardo hoped his hon, and he should likewise recommend friend would not withdraw his a system of duties and bounties, at motion. For his own part he cer- first, in deference to those preju. tainly would not oppose it, because dices of which he thought we he should be glad of any approach were too tender, higher than the to a free trade in corn. But he amount of the peculiar burthens thought his hon. friend did not go of the agriculturists, and gradually far enough; for he had left the diminishing to an equality with mischief of a fixed price. Both the computed amount of those his hon, friend and the right hon. burthens. He thought the hon. gentleman had laid down the true member for Wiltshire quite erroprinciples of a corn law; namely, neous in the calculations which that a protecting duty should be he had entered into, to shew imposed on foreign corn, equal to that the agriculturist paid taxes the peculiar burthens borne by the to the amount of 67 per cent. grower of corn in this country. His mistake arose from

his But, when this was done, a fixed reckoning this per centage, not on price should be done away altoge- the expense of growing corn, but ther. In fact, his hon. friend bad on the rent. This he conceived to seemed a little uncertain as to his be a most unwarranted mode of fixed price. He had taken it at calculation. 60$. ; but he had stated, that if After Mr. Attwood and Colonel foreign corn could be imported at Wood had expressed their opinions 558., he should have reduced it to against the motion, and Mr. Monck that. He thought he had come in favour of it, Mr. Hume des mitted a great error in taking any clared his intention of taking the fixed price at all. A duty should sense of the House upon it. When be imposed on corn imported, equal the House divided, there was a to the peculiar burthens borne by majority of 78 to 25 against the the grower of corn ; and, in his motion. opinion, a drawback or bounty to These complaints of the agrinearly the same amount should be culturists, though uttered so incesallowed on corn exported. Then, santly, and with so much confiand then only, would corn be kept dence, were rather the result of at a price nearly equal in this, to recollection of what was past than what it was in other countries. of observation of present cireum, If there was ap abundant harvest, stances. The evils which called it would find a vent by means of forth their murmurs, were evi. the bounty; and, on the other dently diminishing; and by the hand, if there was a deficient sup- beginning of summer, so evident ply, under the influence of the was the amelioration to all, that

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