House of Commons. – June 4

Sir J. Mackintosh presented a petition from Mr Charles Buck, complaining that managers of theatres were allowed to perform dramatic pieces without the knowledge or leave of the writer, and without any profit to him. The hon. member said that Lord Byron and Mr Millman had made similar complaints, and that every person who had given that subject consideration admitted that literary property was not sufficiently protected in this country, and that the decline of dramatic writing was to be attributed to the state of the law.

Mr G. Lamb thought it a very serious grievance that if a man wrote a tragedy it might be taken by any manager, and performed on the stage, and the writer brought to the miserable condition of a damned author nolens volenns. ( A laugh. ) The decline of dramatic writing in this country was to be ascribed to the unprofitable nature of that description of writing, as compared with other branches of literature ; and it would be very desirable if a dramatic author had power to sell his play like any other description of property, and that no manager should perform it without paying the writer, which was the system in France.

The petition was ordered to be printed.

Birmingham Petition.

Mr Brougham rose to present a petition from a very respectable body. It had been agreed to at a numerous meeting of manufacturers, artisans, and other inhabitants of Birmingham, and was signed by 8000 persons without solicitation. they contended that the distress which now prevailed, not only had reference to that poorer classes of society, but spread itself over the whole system of society. This distress the petitioners ascribed to the tampering that had taken place with the currency. Their opinion was, that too much stress was laid upon the panic which had taken place in 1825 ; for, though it was true that a great number of failures had taken place among the bankers, yet it was no less true, that of about 70 bankers who had failed, as many as 80[?] had subsequently paid 20s in the pound. If such were the case he was very glad to hear it. The opinion of the petitioners rather was, that the present distress arose from the speculations and over-trading which had taken place ; and that such might have been the case topitally[?], there could be no manner of doubt, That a great deal of the distress of the nation had arisen from the depreciation of the currency, by which people were now paying taxes at a rate that had never been intended when they were originally imposed, was extremely likely ; but whether it operated to the extent that the petitioners described was another question. In the year 1819 he had been one of those who had resisted the imposition of new taxes, because he thought that that was the very worst time that Ministers could have chosen for such an object. His opinion, however, had been over-ruled, and the taxes had been increased. That the effect of this must be to cripple the industry of the country no man could doubt ; and what he wished was to see a remedy for t ; but the misfortune was, that after making every possible retrenchment–by reducing salaries, and dealing in the best possible way with all the payments which the nation had to make–the Dead Weight would still remain round the neck of the country, and press it down to the effectual injury of its best interests. How were they to get over the 800 millions of debt, and the 30 or 40 millions of interest annually payable thereon? In the latter part of the petition he entirely agreed, and hoped that every thing would be done to give the people as great relief from the pressure of the taxes as might be consistent with a due regard to the public credit, and the service of the State ; and so far from treating this remedy lightly, the more he thought that the petitioners were wrong in their observations on the tampering of the currency, the more he was inclined to listen to that part of the petition which appeared to him to be founded on truth.

Mr Bennett was of opinion that the forced restoration of a metallic currency was one of the principal causes of the present distress. The taxes were now paid in money, and it now required twice the produce to pay them which it did before the year 1819. That was nothing less than a robbery, but how it was to be remedied he really was at a loss to know. He would never break faith with the public creditor, and the only means to pay off our public debt would be to impose an income tax. If the public debt were once removed, then free trade could take place in every branch of trade, but not till then. Such was the opinion of his late friend, Mr Ricardo, and sooner or later he thought some such measure would be resorted to.

Mr Alderman Waitham observed that it was strange that while the public distress was admitted to be extreme, no effort was made to reduce the public expenditure. He was ready to prove that the export trade of the country had fallen off to the amount of from nearly nine to thirteen millions, although he knew that in saying this he was encountering serious adversaries. He did not under-rate our export trade ; it was valuable but for a period of thirty-one years it had fallen off at the rate of six millions per annum ; and this could be shewn from Parliamentary documents. With respect to the petition now before the house, he mainly agreed with its statements, while at the same time he could never consent to any thing like a breach of faith with the public creditor.

Mr W. Whitmore heard with astonishment that our foreign trade had greatly diminished, the reverse being so notoriously the fact. Since 1814 there was certainly a fall in the value of our manufactures, but so there was in the raw material, and the vast increase of machinery should also be taken into account. It was said that our exports had declined, but facts would prove decidedly the reverse. From 1790 to 1799, the exports were L17,000,000 ; from 1800 to 1809, L,26,000,000; from 1810 to 1819, L36,000,000 ; from 1821 to 1826, L45,000,000 ; in 1827, L51,000,000 ; and in 1828 the amounts of exports rose to L52,000,000– So much for the alleged decrease of our export trade, as stated by the worthy Alderman, ( hear, hear, hear. ) In 1819[?] the currency was in the greatest state of depreciation ; but he begged pardon for having said so much, and he was induced to offer a word in order to counteract the danger which might arise if the statements of the worthy Alderman remained unanswered.

Mr Sec. Peel observed, that, whenever any change, however calculated to be ultimately beneficial, was made in the system of our currency, it must be attended in the first instance with considerable inconveniences. The more he considered the subject, the more was he convinced that the best interests of the nation required that we should strictly adhere to the law of our currency now established. ( Hear, hear. ) He hoped he should never see the time when the restrictions on cash payments should be renewed. When, however, the petitioners declared it to be expedient to increase the amount of our currency by an issue of paper, he would ask them what they would, in that case, do with the Exchanges? If the Exchanges fell, the gold would go out of the country. What would they do? They must renew the restriction on cash payments by the Bank. It was not any change in the value of the currency, but the prosperity of Manchester that had occasioned the depression in Spitalfields. In 1820, the number of factories in Manchester were fifty-four, and they were assessed at the annual value of L16,816 ; in 1823 they were 56, assessed at L18,293 ; in 1826, when the small notes bill passed, the numbers were 72, assessed at L24,034 ; in 1828, the year before the small notes bill took effect, the numbers were 73, and they were assessed at L25,245. The hon. gentleman opposite had said that no fresh capital had been employed in this trade, but that persons would work at a loss rather than let their machines stand idle. But if this were the case, it would not account for the erection of 12 new factories, the establishment of which was irreconcileable with the idea of general stagnation. With respect to the silk trade in Manchester, in 1823 there were 2500 looms, and in 1828 there were 8000 ; and there were between 3 and 4000 looms working manufactured articles of silk mixed with cotton. He had had a letter from Manchester, dated 1st of June, upon which he could rely, and it stated that all the silk weavers were, or might be, in active emply. For the last ten years at Manchester, machinery had improved in powers of production in the ratio of 10 per cent, per annum. Few persons had attributed enough to the importation of labourers from Ireland. A greater number of Irish labourers in the manufacturing districts were out of emply than people could imagine, and the Magistrates relieved them rather than pass them to their parishes, reflecting that as they had contributed to the prosperity ot the places, they had a right to relief when in distress. Where the passage was so low, and this country possessed the advantage of a legal provision for the poor, it was impossible to check the influx of Irish labourers, and this fact would suggest important alterations in the state of the law. ( Hear, hear. ) He felt convinced that any alterations with respect to the values of the currency would be attended with the greatest evils to every class.

Mr W. Horton observed, that some honourable gentleman considered the distress of our artisans and manufacturers to arise from the state of the currency ; but he (Mr Horton) was at a loss to see how the redundant labour at Shipley could have been affected by the change of the currency. Another class were the antipodes of these–they imputed our distress to the corn laws. But it was idle to talk of altering the corn laws; we should look to practical remedies. As long as a redundancy of labour existed in England, which was aggravated by the condition of the Irish, who flocked to England, and operated a still further prejudice to the labouring class of this country, the distress would continue. The remedy which he proposed for the evil he had pointed out was emigration, in the manner proposed in the report of a committee of which he had the honour to be the chairman, by parishes advancing a sum of money to locate pauper labourers in our North American colonies. The right hon. gentleman then read opinions in approbation of his plan, from Mr Tooke, Mr Malthus, Colonel Torrens, and others, and observed that he had the opinion of the late Mr Ricardo to the same effect, in a lette which had been published. He then entered into a calculation, to show the saving to parishes by this plan, and he challenged any member of the house the show the fallacy of the calculations.– There was, however, an answer so easy, that it was constantly made–” The vacuum would be filled up immediately.” This was a delicate subject to touch upon, for he knew not how the vacuum could be filled up but by the introduction of young gentlemen and ladies. ( A laugh.) But was it supposed that fifty labourers would be replaced immediately by fifty children? Or did these objectors suppose that labourers would be brought from Russia or elsewhere ? The right honourable gentleman then adverted to the remarks in Mr Sadler’s work, wherein it was stated that is appeared from the official documents that the mortality amongst the emigrants to North America had been in the unprecedented proportion of 4 in 14, whereas, in Wales, the proportion was 1 in 69, and in England, 1 in 57. This, he would assert, was an incorrect statement. So far from the proportion being 1 in 14, it was only 1 in 40, the same proportion which existed in Carlisle, the healthiest place in England. The emigrants, it should be recollected, carried out children, and the mortality amongst children was in the proportion of 1 in 12, and in London much greater ; for it had been ascertained that out of 1,000 infants amongst the poor, only 542 survived the period of nursing. The right hon. gentleman concluded with reading his last resolution–” That it is expedient that such measures should be adopted in the next Session of Parliament as may furnish the most safe and effectual means of producing the desird improvement, by a judicious application of both these principles, and at the same time under conditions which will prevent the probability of a recurrence of similar evils, and also effect a material saving of the national income, instead of producing an increased charge thereon.”

Mr Huskisson contended that colonization ought to be encouraged. Had it not been for emigration, this country could never have reached its present state of importance and prosperity, nor would our language have been extended to the United States, and been adopted in more distant countries. If there were one circumstance more striking than another, it was the prodigious increase of consumption, a proof of the growing wealth and resources of the country. In the year 1814, the exchange in trade was against us ; now it was in our favour. This country would carry on its great affairs with as small a portion of metallic currency as possible, but let them guard against a system which had led to depreciation of the currency, and the panic which was felt in 1825. He had heard somewhere a metaphor respecting paper currency. Like a skyrocket, it rose with splendour, but lost its brightness, and when its fire was extinguished it fell in darkness, like the shaft of the rocket, upon the heads of those who had raised it.

Mr Secretary Peel said, in consequence of the course of policy which he had deemed it advisable to adopt in the previous Session, a series of unfounded calumnies had been levelled at him, which, however, he had despised too much to condescend to notice. But there was one which, as it reflected on his public and official character, he would, with permission of the house, allude to on that occasion. The report to which he alluded was, that he had used his influence as Secretary of State to procure an enormous grant of land for a relative of his. ( Hear, hear, hear. ) In consequence of seeing this report in the public newspapers, he had requested his right honourable friend to move in that house, for the production of certain papers calculted to explain the whole matter. Those papers had in consequence been produced, and were now printed ; he trusted, however, that the house would excuse him for again alluding to the subject. ( Hear, hear, hear. ) He hoped that the consequence of those papers being printed would have been, that some member would have asked some questions on the subject ; but though this was not the case, he had received a communication which made him think that some one out of doors had been imposed upon by the calumny, though no member of that house had been so deceived, ( cheering.) He begged in the first place, to state most distinctly that he had procured no grant of land for any brother of his, ( hear ) A gentleman, whose name was the same as his, and who was his second cousin, had had a grant made him by his right hon. friend ; but in that grant he begged to state to the house, upon his word of honour, as a gentleman, he had had no participation whatever, ( hear.) With respect to the settlement on the Swan River, he was ashamed to say that he had neither heard nor knew of it, till he received a letter from his cousin, announcing to him that he had abandoned the idea of going to New South Wales ; and that from the circumstances of Mr Twiss informing him that government would be disposed to afford assistance to any settlers going to the Swan River, he and three other gentlemen had been induced to send in a proposal to that effect. With respect to the other calumnies which had been promulgated against him, they rather went to private matters, and he had therefore not condescended to notice them ; but as this one had reference to the public department in which he officiated, he had thought it so far a public concern, as to venture to ask the attention of the house while he trespassed on it to disclaim any participation in the grant that had been made, ( hear..

Sir Geo. Murray –The house would probably think, after the statement of his right honourable friend, that it would be unnecessary for him to rise to address them, ( hear.) He was satisfied that the house knew that his right hon. friend was incapable of proposing anything that would come under the designation of what was vulgarly called a job, ( hear.)


Mr Secretary Peel gave notice that he should tomorrow move the adjournment of the house to that day week. The right hon. gentleman at the same time presented a petition from the Apothecaries Company of London, in favour, as we understood, of the bill regarding dissection.

Mr Wilmot Horton rose to propose the resolutions of wich he had given notic relative to the state of the labouring poor.

The firt resolution having been put from the chair,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved as an amendment that the order of the day be now read.

Mr Bennett opposed the resolutions.

The amendement was agreed to without a division.

Mr Labouchere postponed until to-morrow his motion respecting Canada.

Slave Trade.

Mr Otway Cave moved the following resolutions:

“Resolved, 1st. That no human legislature has any lawful power to abridge or destroy the natural rights of life and liberty, unless the owner shall himself commit some criminal act that amounts to a forfeiture.

“2d, That although neither the government nor the legislature of the county have arrogated to themselves the power of destroying the natural rights of innocent British subjects, or of delegating any such power to other authorities, it is a notorious fact, that in many British Colonies lying remote from the immediate observation of the Government, innocent British born subjects are, from the time of their birth, robbed of their natural rights, and converted into slaves.

“3. That it is the especial duty of this House, as the Representatives of the people, to take effectual measures for protecting all British subjects that shall be born henceforward in the West Indian Colonies, from similar violations of their natural, inherent, and paramount rights as human beings.”

The motion being seconded by Mr Lumley,

Mr W. Smith said, he could not give his support to these resolutions, because they were connected with a question of too much importance to be agitated in such a manner, and at such a period of the Session.

Mr Huskisson was of opinion that resolutions of such a description as those brought forward by the hon. member, ought to be met by a direct negative.

Strangers were then ordered to withdraw. The resolutions were declared to be negatived without a division.

The other orders of the day were then disposed of, and the house adjourned at half-past one o’clock.

Citation: Scotsman (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 10 June 1829, available at the Scissors and Paste Database,