House of Lords Debate on the Corn Bill

Hansard, XXX, col. 175- 205, 15 March, 1815. House of Lords Debate on the Corn Bill.

 

Earl of Liverpool: … He now came to the principle of the Bill, with respect to the policy of rendering ourselves as independent as possible of foreign supply, as he had already he thought stated there could be no doubt. It was not a question in this case as to the interests of the English landlord or the Irish landlord, nor did he profess to move the second reading of the Bill upon any such ground. The great object was the interest of the consumer; and this, he contended, would be effectually promoted by the present measure, the effect of which would be to render grain cheaper instead of dearer. The important point to attain was a steady and moderate price. In ancient times, when the system of granaries, in order to give extraordinary cheapness to grain, could only be followed by one of dearness, unless measures were adopted to insure a regular domestic supply, and by this means a uniform, steady, and moderate price. The great object was to prevent that fluctuation in the price of the first necessary of life which was so injurious to the consumer. This had been the object of the measures of this nature that had been before resorted to; but there was now a most important consideration which had not then been entered into, he alluded to the supply from Ireland. Since the Act of 1806 for allowing free intercourse of grain with Ireland, it had become evident from the supply sent from thence here, that it was only necessary to permit capital to flow there, and that there was then no limit to the quantity which might be raised cheaper there than in England; but this circumstance, which formed the basis of an argument of a noble earl (Grey) on a former night, presented no objection to the present Bill. The object was not the protection of the English or Irish landlord, but the general interests of the empire, the general interests of its agriculture, and the general interests of the great mass of consumers in the whole United Kingdom. Even if the consequence must be to lower the rents of the English landlords, and raise those of the Irish landlords, still he contended that this formed no argument whatever, in his view of the question, against the Bill, which embraced the whole interests of the empire…. It had been urged against this measure, that it would have an injurious effect upon this great metropolis, by greatly increasing the price of grain in London compared with the country districts. The returns upon the table, however, proved that it was decidedly an error to suppose that the price in the London market was above that in the country, it being rendered evident, that for a series of years, except in a few instances, the price in the London market was actually lower than the average of the twelve maritime districts… He had thus gone through the principal arguments applicable to the question. He must, however, observe, that the agricultural labourer, who had not the same means of making his complaints known as the labourers of other classes, was fully entitled to their lordships attention, as the distress of that class of persons must be a serious evil to the country. It was with these views of the subject that he moved the second reading of the present Bill, convinced that a reasonable protection of the agriculture of the country was essentially necessary to the general welfare. He did not mean in the least to undervalue our commerce or our manufactures; but when first put in competition with the immense resources to be derived from the certainty of a domestic supply of the first necessaries of life, they were comparatively trifling. To those who said that we might always obtain a supply from foreign nations, he need only remind them of the immense advantages of being enabled to rely upon our own resources… At the close of the American war, it was said that the sun of this country had set never to rise; but events had proved, that, relying upon our own resources, we had been enabled to carry on successfully a twenty years war, and to cover ourselves with glory and renown. It was of the greatest importance that we should look at home for those resources which the country was so well able to furnish, and by extending the fostering hand of protection to render those resources available to all purposes of national greatness….

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