Thatching% in Varliantent.
OPERATION OF THE NEW CORN-LAW.
In the House of Peers, on Tuesday, Lord MONTEAGLE moved for a Committee to inquire into the operation of the existing Corn-law. He began a speech of great length by a reference to discussions in former times, in order to show, that before 1827 the Corn-laws had not been treated as a party question ; and he disclaimed all connexion between his motion and the proceedings of certain parties out of doors, who were called the Anti-Corn-law League. If, however, the House could take one step more calculated than another to add to the influence of those the sale of foreign securities, no such sales now taking place. Having thus traced the distress to the Corn-law as a cause, and showed that in- quiry could do no injury to the great interests of the country, he pro- ceeded to compare the present with the previous Corn-law. The act of 1828 was said to give too high an amount of internal protection ; but by the present law only that part of the scale had been removed which was practically inoperative from its excess. It was alleged against the old law, that it caused excessive fluctuation of prices, induced the- holder to withhold corn from the market while the price was rising and to admit it when the price was about to fall, subjecting the farmerjust at harvest-time to a forced and unnatural competition with foreign corn.. The present Corn-law was an amendment of the previous law : the principle of the sliding-scale, however, was common to both ; and it was a logical inference to impute the common evil consequences to that. Lord Monteagle illustrated these positions by statistical documents. He quoted several circulars issued by members of the corn-trade in 1838, '39, '40, '41, and '42, which showed that during August and September, with favourable weather and the prospects of the harvests improving, the price of corn continued to rise, and large quantities of foreign corn were admitted kith as the duty reached its maximum. In 1842, indeed, the bulk of corn was ad- mitted at 8s. duty; but noble Lords opposite repudiated corn as a source of revenue. Lord Monteagle produced several tables. The first, extending from 1837 to 1842, showed that the proportion of foreign corn entered during the harvest-month in each year, as compared with the admission for the whole of each year respectively, ranged from 30 to 83 per cent, the proportion in 1842 being 79 per cent : the next showed the proportion of a single week's admis- sion in each of those years; which ranged from 47 to 83 per cent, the propor- tion in 1842 being 55 per cent. A third table showed the difference between the highest and lowest prices in each of the years 1839, '40, '41, '42; the SUM of difference being respectively 6s. 9d., 10s. 2d., 4s. 7d, and 14s. 11d.: front 1828 to 1842, the fluctuation was less in nine cases, greater in four, and equal in one. Another table showed that from 1784 to 1789 the fluctuations ranged from 2s. 4d. to 7s. 11d. Another table exhibited, among other things, the effect of speculations in the English market on the price of wheat at Dantsic: from 1833 to 1837, the importations into this country of wheat and wheat- flour ranged from 43,000 to 544,000 quarters—the difference of highest and lowest prices at Dautzic, from 4s. 4./. to 13s. 4d.: from 1838 to 1840, the im- portation ranged from 1,355,000 quarters to 2,284,000—the difference of prices at Dantzic from 23s. 9d. to 35s. 2d. The effect of the duty on Colonial corn was also remarkable : that duty had been, until the recent law, 58. a quarter,. or 6d. in certain cases:; but for the seven years the 5s. duty had always been levied, and it had therefore practically been a fixed duty ; in the year when the proportion of foreign corn imported in the one month amounted to 78 per Cent of the impottation of the whole year, the importation of Colonial corn in one month amounted only to 24 per cent on the whole year ; in the year when foreign corn was 83 per cent, Colonial was only 22; and so throughout : and he would undertake to prove, that in the one instance they had a regular sup- ply just when the country wanted it, in the other instance they had sudden and large importations at a time when they were least needed by any class. If this state of things was unsatisfactory to the manufacturer or the agriculturist, was it not so to the merchant-importer? Their losses had amounted to between two and three millions : wide-spreading ruin had overtaken the town of Wakefield ; losses literally the consequences of the sliding-scale. Lord Monteagle cited the opinion of Mr. Ricardo against sliding scales, and of Mr. Haskisson and the Committees of 1821 and 1822 in favour of fixed duty ; and after various further argu- ments against the Corn-law, he moved that a Select Committee be sp- pointed to inquire into the operation and effect of the 5th Victoria, c. 14, entitled "An Act to Amend the Laws for the Importation of Corn."
Lord WHARNCISPFE did not deny the existing distress ; but he could not trace it to the Corn-laws, though he conceived that some of it was owing to gambling speculations in corn. He did not maintain that the existing law is perfect ; but its repeal would place the farmers in a worse- situation than they are in at present. For the last four years there had been an average importation of 2,000,000 quarters of corn ; and it did appear to him that if they could obtain such a supply of foreign corn, and at the same time support the agricultural interest by a system of protective duties, they would be acting unwisely to adopt Lord Mont- eagle's proposition and substitute a fixed duty for the sliding scale— especially before the measure of last session had been fairly tested. A fixed duty of 8s. would operate to a certain extent as a protection;. in times of a bad harvest it would be impossible to maintain a fixed duty ; and in; case of a universally abundant harvest, under a fixed duty, prices would be beaten down by foreign importation. The year 1842 was by no means a fair year to test the operation of such a mea- sure; for about the beginning of May there was nearly 1,000,000 quar- ters of corn in bond ; it was generally supposed that we should have a bad harvest ; and when it was supposed that we should have a better harvest, corn was brought to market in larger proportion than at a simi- lar period of almost any previous year : from May to August in 1841, 316,031 quarters had been entered for home consumption, in 1842, 624,321—nearly double. Besides, the bill itself operated powerfully on the averages; and those who had been accustomed to tamper with the sliding scale made the discovery that the additional towns rendered it useless to put such attempts in practice : he himself had heard one of those parties say, "Peel has done us I" He did not think that prices had undergone very great fluctuations : the average price was soon reduced from very high rates to 51s. or 52s.: and having reached that point, it did not descend lower than 47s. 9d. during the whole year. He be- lieved that if the measure were allowed to continue, existing evils would be lessened, and much steadier prices would be secured.
The debate was continued, in favour of the motion, by the Earl cif CLARENDON, who sarcastically insisted upon the expediency of taking evidence to produce in the minds of the Opposition the same impres- sions that prevailed with Ministers ; by Earl Frrzwussest, and Lord Baotrouan: against it, by Lord ASHBURTON, who imputed the distress to the failure of the American market ; by the Duke of RwassoteR, Earl St. VINCENT, and the Earl of MOUNTCASHEL. In the course of his speech Lord FrrzwiLuax observed, that Sir Robert Peel had held out the prospect that 56s. would be the steady price of corn ; whereas- it had been as low as 46..; which ought to read his noble friend (tlie- Dake of Richmond) an instructive lesson—Never," interposed the Duke of RICHMOND, "tn agree.to another alteration ! "
With his advocacy of the motion Lord Baouosem blended a castigal tion of a portion of the Anti-Corn-law party out of doors; whose arta obscured the truth, and obstructed the progress of "the cause." 'fflt Robert Pool introduced an amendment of the Cons-lawa-40201,4nSts• step in the right direction—followed up by the further step of the Tariff: how were those measures received by those who assumed to lead " the cause "—the leaders of " the people," whom the people would not follow ? Sir Robert Peel found himself in this extraordinary predicament, that the honest zealots of Monopoly and of Free Trade equally attempted to run him down. Another less honest class were actuated by mere party zeal— Animated purely by personal and party rancour, they were more enraged, more impatient, more intolerant towards the right honourable gentleman at the head of the Government, when he " took a leaf out of their book," as they called it, than with the most determined of their agricultural opponents. They actually appeared to complain of the steps taken towards free trade. (Laughter.) "Take a leaf out of our book l—why, it's flat plagiarism, it's theft, it's piracy ! What right have you to these principles?—what right have you to talk of free trade ? Talk of selling in the dearest markets and buying in the cheapest !—why, that's ours. You have no right to these doc- trines; you must not use oar principles." (Much laughter.) "And thus, my Lords, 1 beard last session greater praise bestowed by these persons—not in words and sentences perhaps, so much as in action and in clamour—upon those who opposed all change, than upon the statesman who was occupied in working out some of their favourite doctrines. Not here, not within these walls was this attempted, or it would have been demolished in the twinkling of an eye ; but out of doom, the constant cry, the burden of every factious, every party speech, was, Government doing the very thing their predecessors (in vain) attempted l'—spurning thus the objects of which they had formerly been so much enamoured ; longing for the very things they had cast away ; boiling over with impatieoce at seeing their own opinions adopted, their own prin- ciples worked out, their own measures executed !—changing through very con- trariety: what others have pulled down they seek to build up; what others have constructed they must pull down ; making their whole lives one picture of inconsistency self-repugnance, contrariety, and contradiction to the course of all ordinary conduct and all ordinary proceedings, but most of all incon- sistent with and repugnant to themselves." (Atuch cheering and laughter.) He alluded to an attack upon himself in the Bread- Tax Circular, which he characterized as a breach of privilege. That paper had de- scribed him as endeavouring, in July last, to thrust his services upon the deputation then in London ; whereas Mr. Stansfield of Leeds and a deputation waited upon him, and urgently pressed him to make a mo- tion on the subject ; and he agreed to present a petition, saying, that if be met with encouragement in doing so he would make a motion. His account was corroborated by a letter from Mr. Stansfield; to whose respectability Lord Brougham bore ample testimony. He disclaimed connecting the respectable part of the League with the foul assassina- tion-speech of Mr. Bayley : yet they had not repudiated it, after having had abundant opportunities— The only disclaimer was in a speech full of ribaldry and jest, turning into laughter the counselling to murder, dealing with incitement to assassination as A matter of merriment and jest, and attempting to run down his right honour- able friend, (Sir Robert Peel,) by contrasting him with an illustrious indivi- dual, and painting him as wanting in that energy and nerve which was pos- sessed by that illustrious individual although of the other sex, because of the feeling shown by him when reminded of the tragedy which had so lately been enacted.
On a division, the numbers stood thus— Content : Present, 31; Proxies, 47 ...... 78
Non-content : Present, 82; Proxies, 118 200 Majority against the motion, 122 PECULIAR BURDENS ON LAND.
In the House of Commons, on Tuesday, Mr. WARD moved,
"That a Special Committee be appointed to inquire whether there are any peculiar burdens specially affecting the landed interest of this country, or any peculiar exemptions enjoyed by that interest ; and to ascertain their nature and extent."
He admitted that in bringing forward a similar motion last year he had been guilty of some mismanagement; but now, in proposing it as a substantive motion, he had avoided that. He assumed the Corn- laws, which put money into the pockets of the growers at the expense of the consumers, to be an evil ; and he adopted Sir Robert Peel's prin- ciple that the real interest of the country was to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest. He glanced at the history of the Corn- laws ; remarking, that for the last hundred and fifty years the opposite party had been begging the question in favour of the landed interest. He mentioned instances in which the peculiar burdens on land were adduced in justification of the Corn-laws,—by Lord Lincoln, lately, at Newark ; and Mr. Gladstone, who quoted a statement, as from Mr. M`Culloch, that land was more heavily taxed than any other species of property in this country, and that if so, a countervailing protective duty ought to be laid on foreign corn. The question should not be viewed with reference to the taxes paid by land in this country as compared with other countries, but with reference to the manner in which tax- ation pressed upon t1s4e various classes at home. Mr. Ward suc- cessively investigated the alleged burdens which pressed upon the land; beginning with some of the rubbish of such allegations— They were told, for instance, of buildings and repairs: but such outlay formed a part of the ordinary expenses of property, and could no more be classed under the head of "burdens" than a similar claim with respect to factories and ma- chinery. According to Mr. M'Culloch, cotton cloth could now be had at a quarter of the price which was given in 1814; yet no one talked of bringing in a bill to indemnify the manufacturers for that diminished price. Poor-rates Were said to be another burden : but, from returns moved for by the Member for East Norfolk, it appeared that of 444,000,000/. paid for poor.rates during the last ninety-four years, the land paid only 55.000,0001.; whilst houses, mills, and factories paid 240,000,000/. The laying down of railways, which are some- times rated at 1,500/. per mile and in other cases at 600/. per mile, had proved a greet relief to the landowners. Highway-rates were said to be a burden : but highways are indispensable adjuncts to landed property, which would be almost valueless without roads ; the City of London might as well call for a tax upon Cornwall to pave Cbeapside, as the landed interest call upon the public. The Church-rates amount to 500,000/., of which two-fifths are paid by Dissenters ; and when they complained, they were told by Sir Robert Peel that they took their property subject to the tax. The same answer would apply to the landowners; who, belonging for the most part to the Established Church, Should be the last to complain of Church-rates. Lord Stanley, in 1833, speak- 1ng of Irish tithes, declared them to be a public fund, set aside for a public pur- poses, without claim on the part of the landlords. Mr. Ward entered at some length upon the question of the land-tax, originally granted to indemnify the Crown, and commuted in 1689 for a uniform tax of four shillings in the pound on an assessment then fixed; the effect of which was, that with the increase of property the tax, although in some counties still amounting to nearly four ehil- liugs in the pound of the real value, is in many instances as low as five far- things, and in others As low as one farthing. He compared this burden with the corresponding impost upon land in Austria and France ; where the land- tax is respectively one-half and one-fourth of the indirect tax, while in this country it is only one twenty-fifth.
He then turned to the exemptions of land,—remissions of duty of farm- servants, horses for husbandry, windows, insurances, auction- duties, tax-carts, shepherd's dogs, &c.; exemptions which fall princi- pally upon farmers, stewards, or bailiffs, overseers, or clerks under them, persons belonging to the proprietary of the soil. In respect of the probate and legacy-duties, the land had enjoyed an exemption : if the duties had teen paid since 1797, the amount would have equalled that actually paid by personal property ; but they had enjoyed an exemption equivalent to 78,000,000/. In conclusion, Mr. Ward depre- cated the double debate which would be raised by the amendment of which Mr. George Bankes had given notice.
Mr. GEORGE BANKES said, that if he were not prepared to negative Mr. Ward's proposition, he should not have taken that opoortunity of offering another subject for the consideration of the House. He corn- veined, that, whereas Mr. Ward and others professed to be ready to give up protection in all cases, one interest had been insidiously singled out ; and he objected to be the first stone removed. He quoted Mr. Cobden, who said that " the law of England gives the poor of England the right of subsistence on the soil, and he is the first mortgagee on the landlords' estate" : " but the landowner is not only pledged to bear that, but the national creditor also." Mr. Bankes believed that the land-tax in Germany and France is liable to burdens, such as the maintenance of the poor, which are imposed upon land separately in this country, under the names of county-rates and poor-rates. He adverted to the attacks of the League upon the landholders, and more especially to Mr. Cobden's attack upon himself. Mr. Cobden had said that he did not pay more than 8s. a week to the labourers: but Mr. Bankes quoted several letters from tenants on his Dorchester estate, spontaneously written, and showing that the rate of wages for various kinds of labour ranged from 10s. to 25s. or more ; with a variety of other contingent advantages, such as beer, wheat at the fixed price of 6s. per bushel, cottages rent-free, and gratuities of money. He men- tioned an occasion in November, when he went to a part of his property where he did not usually reside, in order to minister to the wants of the poor during an anticipated hard winter. Mr. Cobden had said that the people in Dorsetshire were ill-clothed and ill-educated : their clothing came from Manchester, Mr. Bankes having spent many hundreds in clothes and other necessaries ; two schools bad been established in the parish, and at the head of the subscription-list stood his own name for 250/, with 500/. money lent, without interest, and not to be called for until payment should be convenient. Mr. Cobden had called upon him to prove what benefit the Corn-law conferred upon agriculturists : he replied, that thousands upon thousands of acres had been brought into cultivation in his neighbourhood, which never could have been culti- vated if the protection of that law had not been given. In the parish, comprising an area of 14 square miles and a population of 15,000 or 16,000 persons, there was not an able-bodied person who was receiving relief. Mr. Bankes then assailed the League ; sneering at. the great meeting which was to take place at Drury Lane Theatre on Wednes- day; asking Mr. Cobden where the money levied by the LOnsue was lodged ; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would charge it with the Income-tax ? He quoted remarks by Mr. Goulburn in 1825, de- claring the Catholic Association an unconstitutional and dangerous body, and objecting especially to its levy of money ; and by Sir Robert Peel on the same occasion, against the assertion of Mr. O'Connell that the grievance alleged by the Association prevented the House front interfering. He also alluded to the Protestant Association, Lord George Gordon, and the riots of 1780, when there was not a Member of the Commons believed that he could leave the House alive ; and he begged the House to look at the steps by which the Association arrived at those dreadful results, beginning in a comparatively harmless and innocent manner, but holding their meetings in such vast numbers that they were obliged to adjourn to the open air—for they had not then arrived at the dignity of a theatre. Tfie sole object of the League appeared to be to create excitement : when they had obtained sufficient notoriety, they would propose a repeal of the Corn-laws in that House ; in the mean time, they sent their emissaries and spies into the country to dis- turb the peace and comfort of the peasantry. "I beseech her Ma- jesty's Government," said Mr. Bankes, " to protect us : as a faithful and dutiful subject of the Crown, I request it, I beg it, nay I demand it." He concluded by moving, "That it is expedient, as a remedy for a state of anxiety embarrassing and unfair to the agriculturists and injurious to commerce, that the attention of this House he directed to the continued existence of Associations which, in matters affecting agriculture and commerce, pretend to influence the delibera- tions of the Legislature, and which, by their combination and by their pro- ceedings, are at once dangerous to the public peace and inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution."
Mr. COBDEN said, that he had not attacked Mr. Bankes individually, nor had he charged him with giving less wages than other people ; but he had good reason to know that able-bodied labourers in Dorsetshige could not get more than 7s. a weeek for their labour. He could pro- duce documents showing a very different state of things on Mr. Bankes's estate from any thing he had represented to the House— Why, there were people living in the Isle of Purbeck, occupying cottages that were more like rabbit-huts than fit residences for human beluga—cottages that had been complained of by the Surgeon to the Union as likely to recline disease. There was one startling fact, supported by official authority, ,asel which the honourable Member had not grappled with—one out of every seer of the people of Dorset was a pauper; and yet, with this fact staring him isa the face, the honourable Member got up and read to the House letters OW, that there were no people in Dorsetshire wanting employment.
Turning to the subject before the House, Mr. Cobden said, tbatif the inquiry were refused, the country would at once decide that it was because honourable gentlemen opposite knew that they couly1 not make out their case. He vindicated the peaceable agitation of the League, and mentioned a course of meetings which he was holding in-she ark- cultural counties, and at which were farmers from a distance of thirty or forty miles, who dared not attend meetings in their own districts.
Mr. WTHERAII MARTIN, opposing the motion, said that Mr. Ward had forgotten the heavy tax on the transfer of landed property. Mr. WILLIAM WILLIAM, on the other hand, contrasted the cost of mort- gages on personal and real property ; the maximum mortgage-duty paid by the landowner is 251.: a noble landowner had lately mortgaged an estate to a great Metropolitan Corporation for 300,0001. at a cost of 251.; whereas the duty to a tradesman would have been 6,000L: and he en- tered into a variety of calculations to show how generally unequal is the pressure of taxation on the poor. Mr. WODEHOUSE argued that the Committee would do no good. Mr. Bum.= COCHRA.NE followed up Mr. Bankes's attack on the League.
Mr. MILNER GIBSON asked, what Mr. Bankes would do if his reso- lution were carried ? would he advise the Government to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act ; or, like Lord Castlereagh, declare the meetings of the League illegal ? He reminded the House of the Corn-law League in 1822, at which the usual nostrums for agricultural distress were lauded,—exclusion of foreign corn Parliamentary Reform, aboli- tion of tithes' and a forcible reduction Of the interest of the National Debt He had a letter addressed by the Secretary of the Agricultural Society, of which the Duke of Buckingham was President, to the Secre- tary of the Anti-Corn-law League, requesting the members of the League to desist from their agitation and unite with the Central Society for the Protection of Agriculture in a joint crusade against the public creditor. The letter was signed " R. Brown, Honorary Secretary," and dated 27th December 1839, from Wigmore Street, Cavendish Square. Mr. Gibson proceeded with some general arguments for the motion.
Sir ROBERT PEEL said, that he could not vote for the amendment ; on two grounds,—that it had no immediate connexion with Mr. Ward's motion, which merited a direct affirmative or negative ; and he decidedly objected to the dealing with acts that the House might reprobate by way of resolutions, which constituted no law of the realm, and could not affect acts or associations. If the House thought the law improperly administered, it could move an address to the Crown to put the existing law in force, which would be a censure on Ministers ; or if it thought the law defective, it could amend it by legislation : but resolutions could be binding on no one. He must, however, objecCto the Committee ; because, fairly to represent the House, he might claim that the Minis- terial side should have a majority in the Committee, and then would it be satisfactory to Mr. Ward ? What would be the nature of the evi- dence? and how prevent the Committee from exhibiting a mere conflict of opinion ? Mr. Ward, for example, said that land was exempt from the probate and legacy-duty: Sir Robert denied that, for all leasehold pro- perty is subject to it : Mr. Ward and he differed, and how was the point to be settled ? Not by referring it to a Committee, but by volunteering to give returns tending to show the proportion of public taxation borne by the land ; to the production of which Sir Robert had no objection. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had shown that the land con- tributes 1,600,0001. to the State in stamps on deeds and conveyance ; the amount of the legacy-duty being 1,700,000/. Form:rly, profits and stock in trade were assessed to the poor-rate ; but the difficulty of ascer- taining the value had caused those sources to be exempted : the land, however, was tangible, and on that the burden remained. It might be raid that thoegh rrorld be influenced by the report of a Com- mittee, People would be influenced by the facts collected : but those facts cotild be as well obtained by returns. Adam Smith and Mr. Ricardo idmitted that tithes were a charge on the land : but how could the question be settled in Committee, whether Mr. Ward, or Adam Smith and Mr. Ricardo were right ? But Sir Robert did not rest the claim of the land to protection exclusively on the plea of special bur- dens: last year he stated, that after protection had endured for a hun- dred and fifty years, and capital had been invested on the faith of it, the protection must not be rashly or suddenly withdrawn. Besides, there was an immense population dependent on the land, whose interest must not be lightly disturbed. He bad uniformly accompanied the maxim, "Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest," with the qualifi- cation, that regard must be had to so artificial a state as ours in the ap- plication of that abstract principle. And if Mr. Ward had obtained this Committee—whose inquiry might last for two or three sessions—was he prepared to vote next week for total repeal of the Corn-laws ? Mr. Ewart had a resolution on the Notice-paper that the question ought to be settled without delay : Mr. Ward's settlement of the question was to tranfer it to a Select Committee, whose labours could not close with the present session! If he were convinced that it was for the interest of the country at large that the law should be altered, he should not one moment hesitate to adopt that course ; but he was not so convinced. The change of the Corn-law, the Tariff, and the undue panic, had already had a tendency to disturb the application of capital and suspend employment, and the continuance of doubt must hive evil conse- quences: therefore he could not consent to the appointment of the Committee.
Lord Howiee rose, chiefly for the purpose of contending, that Sir Robert Peers juseification of the positions which Mr. Ward had chal- lenged proved the necessity for a Committee to set forth the whole case : and he remarked, that at the time when Mr. Ricardo wrote, tithes were a substantive charge upon production, which they are no longer. Mr. BLACKSTONE (whose statement was corroborated by several other Members) denied that Mr. Brown had any connexion with the Society for the Protection of British Agriculture : he had intruded him- self at one meeting of the Society, as Secretary ; but he was told that he was not wanted, and that he had better retire. Mr. Blackstone
esyvv ' tisfaction f-om Sir Robert Peel's declaration ; and hoped that hreat with respect to a free importation of American wheat gitr:714a• ada would not be followed up.
T PEEL said, that his determination to maintain the exist- was made with the full reservation of the intention of
1,4 pes ecting Canada.
l oint the impatience of the House for a division rendered sultory and disjointed. Dile BROTHERTON moved an ad-
;the debate ; but the motion was not carried. Mr. CHARLES supported Mr. Ward's motion ; and some speakers on the . .„ de—Lord HENNIKER, Mr. FITZROY, and Mr. DARBY—rose to repudiate the sentiments of Mr. Brown. About one o'clock, Mr. Bankees motion was negatived, without a division ; Mr. Ward's, on a division, by 232 to 133.
The Commons resumed on Wednesday the debate on the Solicitor- General's motion, " That Sir William Gossett, Knight, the Sergeant at Arms attending this House, have leave to appear and defend the action brought against him by Thomas Burton Howard, for trespass." It was taken up by Lord Jose Rtisseee; who first desired the Clerk at the table to read the resolution of May 30th 1837, declaring that the House had sole and exclusive jurisdiction to determine the existence and ex- tent of its privileges; and that the institution of any action to bring them under discussion in any other tribunal was a high breach of pri- vilege, rendering the parties concerned amenable to punishment. Lord John, who entered at large into the merits of the general question, said that it might be right in the present instance to plead to the action ; but it should be done in a more solemn manner, and the Solicitor-Ge- neral should at the same time have moved for a Select Committee to alter the resolutions of 1837, and to devise some other mode of defining the privileges of the House. Lord John illustrated the importance of the privileges claimed for the House by supposing, that Mr. Thomas Duncombe's motion for inquiry into the conduct of Lord Abinger had been carried : if the House consented to yield its privileges to the de- cision of the Courts of Law, the prisoner might be set free on the ground that the House had exceeded its privileges, and the Judges would thus be saved from all inquiry. He proposed, in the first instance, to call Mr. Howard to the bar of the House to inquire whether he questioned the validity of the warrant, some excess in those who had executed it, or the authority of the House? It was his opinion, that although some persons might proceed in order to obtain notoriety and damages, most of them would be deterred from bringing such actions by an exercise of the authority of the House. He moved, "That Thomas Barton Howard be summoned to attend at the bar of the House tomorrow."
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL adhered to the original motion, and also to the opinion, that the House was the sole judge of its own privileges ; but he thought that it would not be becoming in the House to deal with the question by committing the plaintiff, attorney's-clerks, or sheriff's- officers : he would reserve the assertion of the substantial and constitu- tional power possessed by the House for necessary occasions; calling to mind, that at the last trial Lord Denman distinctly told the jury that the plaintiff admitted the authority of the House. Sir Frederick Pol- lock warned the House, that if Howard were called to the bar he would come before them with the intention of insulting them and provoking committal, so as to get as much money as possible from the officers.
Mr. ELPHINSTONE supported the amendment.
Sir ROBERT PEEL discussed the question at considerable length. He remarked, that Lord John Russell's proposal of a Committee might have been very advisable some time back ; but now the subject had been nearly exhausted. There were three courses open to the House,—to plead ; or to plead and commit the plaintiff; or to refuse to plead. The current of precedents was in favour of pleading : and Sir Robert enlarged upon the difficulties which would accrue from committing innocent men, and from the recess interrupting the power of the Muse to detain persons in custody. He remarked, that the conflict of parties in the House, when such motions as the committal of people were carried only by a narrow majority of ten or twelve, practically limited the power and authority of the House. No one saw more clearly than he the paramount importance of the House's privileges : in the case of impeaching a Minister, for instance, it might be necessary to exert them in detaining an important witness who was about to leave the country. He had not the confidence which Sir Frederick Pollock ex- pressed that the Courts of Law would respect those privileges ; for the Judges naturally view with jealousy a body which had the power to address the Crown for their removal, and to exercise a control even to the paralyzing of their authority. On those grounds, he feared that the decision of the Courts might be such as materially to interfere with their functions : but if so, he was fully prepared to vindicate their
Mr. CHARLES WYNN contended for the strongest assertion of privi- lege, and the committal of iufractors. Mr. Bierman" ESCOTT supported the original motion. Sir THOMAS WILDE, in a long and vigorous speech, crammed with precedents and authorities, contended for the high privilege, even to summoning the Judges to the bar of the House to answer for their conduct ; or at least for a Committee to investigate the subject. He was answered, with corresponding leagth and ability, by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL who remarked that Sir Thomas Wilde pointed out the evils of pleading to the action without showing how they were to be avoided : he said "Don't plead," but did not say what they were to do. Lord Bowleg declared his entire concurrence with Sir Thomas Wilde, the only man who had been right throughout the whole of the proceedings ; and he suggested, that, in order to avoid the release of persons in custody by terminating the session, the House might take the recess by way of adjournment instead of proro- gation! Mr. THOMAS DUNCOMBE supported the amendment Sir ROBERT INGLIS and Mr. Haney, the original motion. On a division, the amendment was rejected, by 157 to 84; and on a second division, the original motion was carried, by 135 to 71.
PLEA. OF INSANITY IN CRIMINAL CASES.
The Loan CHANCELLOR drew the attention of the Peers, on Monday, to the late trial of M•Naughten, the circumstances of which had created a deep impression in the House and among the public. A gentleman in the vigour of life, of most amiable character, incapable of giving offence or doing an injury to any individual, was murdered in the streets of this metropolis in open day : the assassin was secured ; was com- mitted for trial ; that trial has taken place, and he has escaped with ial- punity ! The general impression was, that the laws relating to the subject ought to be revised, to remedy some defect, and to prevent g repetition of such outrages. The subject was the more difficult since it was alleged that the nature of partial insanity was but imperfectly understood. To establish the existence of such a malady, Lord Lynd- Ihurst mentioned the case which had been cited at the trial, of the lunatic opposed by Lord Erskine as counsel, who said that he was Chriit ; and another similar case related by Pinel, of a lunatic who signed his cer- tificate of liberation from the Bice ire, as a sane man improp.rly con- fined, "Jesus Christ." The result of examiniag a great variety of such eases in several countries, would be the conclusion, that any attempt to define or describe the particular sort of disease would be altogether Mile. Nor did Lord Lyndhurst think that the existing law should be altered. He examined in the statements of Judges what is that ex- isting law ; beginning with Mr. Justice Le Blanc, who laid down the law in a case at the Old Bailey in 1812, soon after the trial of Bel- lingham— " Tbe prisoner had entertained a great antipathy for a person named Bur- rowes. There was no foundation for it—in fact, he had never given him the slightest cause for offence : with great deliberation he loaded a blunderbuss and shot him : fortunately, however, the man was not killed. He was tried under the act for shooting—a capital offence. The defence set up was insanity : be had epileptic fits, which not unfrequently do produce that infirmity of mind. He had about a month before had a commission of lunacy issued against him ; a jury was impanelled, and found a verdict of insanity. Mr. Warburton, the keeper of a lunatic asylum, a man of great experience in these matters, gave evidence that in his opinion he was insane; and said, that insanity of that description often led to creating and harbouring the strongest antipathies with- out any cause against particular individuals. This was the substance of the case presented to the Jury. The learned Judge, with respect to the main point, summed up in these words: It is for you to determine whether the prisoner, when he committed the offence with which he stands charged, was or was not incapable of distinguishing right from wrong—whether he was un- der the influence of an illusion with respect to the prosecutor which rendered his mind at the moment insensible of the nature of the act he was about to com- mit, since in that case he would not be legally responsible for his conduct. On the other hand, provided you shall be of opinion that when he committed the offence he was capable of distinguishing right from wrong, and not under the influence of such an illusion as disabled him from distinguishing that he was doing a wrong act, he would be answerable to the justice of his country and guilty in the eye of the law.' The prisoner was afterwards found guilty, and I believe executed. That, my Lords, is the law of the land, so far as relates to men labouring under some delusion ; and, while it is upon them, acting under its influence—if it be so powerful as to render them incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, or knowing that they are doing wrong in murdering their fellow-creatures—in such cases they cannot he considered responsible in law for their actions. All the decisions show this to be the law."
The Lord Chancellor cited similar opinions expressed—in the case of Bellingham, by Chief Justice Sir James Mansfield ; in the ease of Had- field, by Mr. Erskine, (the defending counsel,) and Lord Kenyon, with the concurrence of the other Judges ; in Oxford's case, by Chief Jus- tice Denman, with whom Mr. Justice Patteson and Baron Alderson concurred. To alter the law and render such persons amenable to punishment, would be impossible ; for the common feeling of men would revolt against its being carried into execution Lord Coke de- clared that to execute an insane person was murder ; and the laws of Scotland, France, and other civilized countries, supported the same view. Archbishop Whateley, indeed, had argued, that punishment is inflicted to deter others, ard that if an insane man knew the effect of his act—that the firing of a pistol, for instance, would kill a man— there was ground for his execution ; and the Archbishop illustrated his position by the punishment of a dog for habitually worrying sheep, though he had no "moral sense." But on whom was the example to take effect? on those who are incapable of committing crimes: in the ease supposed, the dog is punished for his own correction ; and before penalties can be inflicted the person chastised must at least deserve punishment. If the rule of law were right but it had not been well ad- ministered in the recent instance and the Jury had drawn a wrong con- clusion from the facts, the House could not remedy the evil—legislation would not reach it. The Chancellor, however, recapitulated the circum- stances of the trial, to show that it had been conducted by an advocate of the highest skill and distinction ; that the Judges were among the most eminent and enlightened that adorned the bench ; and, although he re- gretted that the evidence had been stopped by the Judges, the verdict could not have been otherwise : two medical men who had examined M`Naughten on the part of the Crown were in court but were not ex- amined, and the necessary inference was that their evidence would have corroborated that adduced for the prisoner. For the stopping of the trial there was the precedent of Hadfield's case, where the Chief Justice asked the prosecuting counsel if he had means of rebutting the evidence for the defence ; and upon receiving an answer in the negative, he said at once, that "it was impossible to doubt the verdict of the Jury." From these premises, Lord Lyndhurst drew the conclusion, that no alteration of the law was practicable, and that it was not desirable to alter the mode of its administration. The only thing left in the way of legislation was, to see whether any measures of precaution, stronger than those at present existing, could be adopted to prevent the recur- rence of similar evils ; and in a few days he should be able to introduce a bill for such a purpose.
Lord BROUGHAM declared his strong regret that the trial had been stopped before the evidence was exhausted ; and expressed his belief that he must have seen an incorrect report of the proceedings, because improper questions to witnesses were permitted, and statements were 'drawn from them which were not admissible in evidence. Lord Hard- wicke, presiding as Lord High Steward at the trial of Earl Ferrers, in 1760, prevented questions put to witnesses as to whether the facts sworn to by other witnesses were proof of insanity ; saying, "you shall ask what are the indications of insanity, and then judge for yourself." It was not legal to transfer the witness from the witness-box to the jury-box. Lord Brougham contended that a man who broods over in- juries actually received, the process acting upon some maleconforma- tion of the mind, ending in insanity, is accountable to human law, and must be made an example to deter others. He regretted that Judges did not al ways use the same language in laying down the law of re- sponsibility— Generally the Judges said, that in order to make a man responsible he must be capable cf knowing right from wrong; that was the usual way in which it was left to juries. But again, some of them said a man must be capable of distinguishing between good and evil; a most difficult thing for many to do : ,Inat there was a variation, and a very large one too, which was deeply to be lamented. Then came a third distinction—a man must know what is proper or wicked, lie knew what the learned Judges meant by right and wrong, but lie was not sure that juries did, and he was certain the public did not. First of all came the question—did the unfortunate individual know.what he was about ? did he know that he was killing a man, that he was depriving a fellow- creature of his life; or might he not fancy be was destroying some evil spirit, or shooting a bird, or any of the other many delusions which they knew had existed in men's minds? A man in such a case was not a subject for punish- meat either at a human or the Divine tribunal But the difficulty always arose after they had ascertained the fact that he knew what be was about, that he took those precautions which a rational man would do to accomplish a particular purpose : then arose the question—did he labour under such a delusion as that he could not distinguish between what the learned Judges called right and wrong ? A man might be possessed of such peculiar notions that he might think it a perfectly right thing to prostrate to the ground a man of whom be had formed a prejudiced or extravagant opinion. Bellingham, who persisted to the last that he did right to shoot Mr. Perceval, whose death he actually deplored, furnished a case in point. Here was an end of his know- ledge of right and wrong ; he could not distinguish between them. But what was the true distinction which the law drew between right and wrong ? Why, lawyers told us that that which was according to law was right, and what was contrary To law was wrong. Then, why not say so in so many words ? That was the test he suggested.
He told a story to illustrate the mischief of allowing persons to enter-
tain the idea that lunacy placed them above the law : in the Lunatic Asylum at York, Martin's setting fire to the Cathedral had been dis- cussed, and the inmates observed that Martin was like themselves, one of whom the law took no notice : an opinion which persons at large might entertain. He quoted the opinion of Sir Henry Halford, that madmen may be controlled by fear. If Mr. M`Naughten knew that he was killing a man, and that it was an act which the law had forbidden, that was a test of his sanity; and he believed that it was the sound, con-N„...„... sistent, and true test.
Lord COTTENHAM concurred with Lord Brougham as to the vague- ness of the terms " right " and "wrong."
Lord CAMPBELL agreed with the previous speakers in regretting that the trial had been stopped, and generally in the opinions which they expressed. He desired, however, a more authoritative decla- ration of the law ; and he wished Lord Lyndhurst to take the opinion of the Judges. He deprecated the hasty construction put upon certain criminal acts— The public were now inundated with medical works on the subject of insa- nity, and on the responsibility incurred by insane persons. Those books were read by persons, and their minds became filled with discussions about homi- cidal tendencies and homicidal propensities, and men but too readily caught up the idea that persons very prone to homicide were in a state of insanity. The acquittal of such persons is attended with another evil conse- quence— Unfortunately, it so happened that persons acquitted under those circum- stances at once became public characters. To hundreds and thousands they became objects not only of curiosity, but of courtesy and respect ; they were the envy of many who were confined in the same places, often enjoying more comforts and indulgence than their companions in confinement. It was quite bieopinion that such persons should be removed from the public eye—that they should be heard of as little as possible ; that the treatment they received should render the example effective upon the public mind, deterring others from like offences.
The LORD CHANCELLOR said, that as to the mode of confinement, persons so acquitted might be disposed of in any manner which the Crown directed: and in future they would be confined, not so that no one shoula have access to them, but it would not be permitted to make public spectacles of them. If it were their Lordships' pleasure to re- quire the opinion of the Judges, he should take the earliest possible opportunity to carry that object into effect.
NEW Wens were ordered, on Monday, for the borough lasC Ripon in the room of Mr. Pemberton, who had accepted the Chiltern (Hundreds, and for the town of Cambridge, in the room of Sir Alexanffier Grant, who had accepted the office of Steward of the Queen's Manor of Poynings.
THE REGISTRATION OF VOTERS BILL was taken in Committee On Monday. Sir JAMES GRAHAM stated, that he had framed somic addi- tional clauses to prevent the personation of voters. On clause 5, \which authorizes Overseers to prepare lists of claimants and to make objection, Mr. Turmas DUNCOMBE proposed that it should be compulsory on th* Overseers to specify the bona fide grounds of objection ; and he moved an amendment to that effect. The SOLICITOR- GENERAL objected, that the Overseers, especially in the agricultural districts, are often illiterate men, and incapable of accurately setting forth bonafide objections. The amendment was rejected, by 57 to 47. On the 7th clause, which autho- rizes any person on the list or register of voters to object to any other person, the discussion was renewed, without result. An amendment moved by Mr. TUFNELL, to oblige the Overseers personally to see that parties receive notice of objection, was rejected, by 91 to 38. Mr. ELPHINSTONE moved an amendment on the 11th clause, which autho- rized Overseers to make public declaration as to the payment of rates and taxes by occupiers. Sir JAMES GRAHAM stated, that when the Reform Bill was proposed, a higher franchise than that of 10/. would have been insisted on by its authors, if it had not been for these very provisions of the payment of rates and the occupation by the voter of the same iden- tical premises for which he was registered. The amendment was sup- ported by Mr. BROTHERTON, MT. HUME, and Mr. EWART ; but the clause was carried in its original form, by 118 to 58. Colonel SIB- THORP moved to reduce the maximum of costs allowed to claimants or objectors, from 5/. to 3/. : rejected, by 154 to 34. Clauses up to 48 were agreed to, and the Chairman reported progress.
ECCLESIASTICAL COURTS. In consequence of there having been "no House" on Friday, the House of Commons necessarily met on Satur- day, and sat for two hours. A conversation arose respecting the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, which was to have been discussed on the previous evening. After some talk of a slightly acrimonious nature, the second reading was fixed for April 10th, and the House adjourned.
MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS. Lord JOHN RUSSELL obtained leave, on Monday, to bring in a bill to dissolve certain Corporations, and to regu- late certain Municipal Corporations in England. His object was to dis- solve some Corporations in places which were too small for such bodies, and to place the funds at the disposal of the Overseers of the Pew, vesting the power of election in the householders of the borough. He
introduce ntroduce special clauses with reference to Queenborongh and its fisheries.
WAYS AND MEANS. In Committee of Ways and Means, on Mon- day, the CHANCELLOR of the Exemegran took a vote of 8,000,000/. out of the Consolidated Fund ; promiting a future statement respect- ing it.
BARTZ:WAKE IN THE WEST. INDIES. Replying to Mr. MACKINNON, OD Monday, Lord &rester said, that if money assistance were asked of Government for the sufferers in Antigua, it would be rendered in the shape of a loan, not of a grant.
Arden-Law. Mr. Hurr moved, on Wednesday, for a Select Com- mittee to inquire into the state of the law affecting aliens and other residents in this country, not native-born subjects of the British Crown, with a view to alterations for facilitating the naturalization of foreigners. The motion was agreed to.
FUGITIVE CRIMINALS. A convention entered into between Queen Victoria and the King of the French, for the mutual surrender of fugitives from justice, was laid on the table of each House on Tuesday.
OPIUM-TRADE. Lord ASHLEY has given notice, for the 28th, of a resolution against the continuance of the opium monopoly and trade, on religious, diplomatic, and commercial grounds.
Rowiason HILL. Mr. Hurr gave notice, on Saturday, of his inten- tion to move for copies of the correspondence that may have taken place relative to Mr. Rowland Hill's appointment and removal from the Post-office.
The Nottingham Election Committee assembled on Wednesday, and proceeded to inquire into the two petitions against the return of Mr. Walter. They prayed that the election might be declared null and void, on the ground of corrupt compromise at the previous election, bribery and corruption ; and in opening the case, Mr. Kingslake said, that if those charges failed, he should contend that Mr. Walter was no t returned by a majority of legal votes. "On the part of Mr. Sturge " (Mr. Walter's opponent,) he said, "there never was a more pure election there was no treating, no bribery, no intimidation." He described a curious method of attempting to disguise the treating among the poorer voters— They were invited to meet at different public-houses; when one of the par- tisans of Mr. Walter took the chair ; then some one, placed in the room, would call out, "Billy, order some ale." The Chairman would then indignantly ex- claim—" Bow dare you address me in such a manner? Billy, indeed ! I fine you half a gallon of ale." The ale was brought; and as often as more was wanted, any person present had only to address the Chairman as "Billy," and it was supplied. In fact, the word " Billy " was synonymous with half a gallon of ale.
The Athlone Election Committee opened its inquiry on Thursday. The candidates in 1841 were Captain Beresford and Mr. Farrell; Cap- tain Beresford was returned ; but the return was petitioned against, on the ground that the returning-officer had improperly rejected a number ef votes; and Captain Beresford was unseated by the Election Com- mittee, iu favour of Mr. Farrell, leave being given to petition against the new Member. Two petitions were accordingly presented, alleging bribery, treating, and the illegality of the votes constituting his appa- rent majority. Mr. Farrell declared that he would not defend his seat ; but other parties undertook that enterprise; and the Committee now met to inquire into petitions against his return.