NEWS OF THE WEEK.
OUR task as historians of the Great Council of the nation draws to a close for the year. The chief business of the last week has been a debate on the currency ; an attempt to impose an additional duty on wool; an effort to procure a reduction of the sugar-duties ; and, as connected with our expenditure, and our taste in architecture, some strictures on the management of the affairs of Buckingham Palace.
Even at this late period of the session, petitions are occasionally pre- sented to both Houses against the Corn Laws. Lord KING presented three or four on Tuesday night ; and recommended the repeal of these laws, as the most effectual means of relieving the country.
Earl CARNARVON, in presenting the Birmingham petition, to which we formerly alluded, took a more enlarged view of the causes of the public distress. With the petitioners, he ascribed a part of the distress to the state of the currency, but most of all to the national debt.
" The larger part of the national debt was contracted in a depreciated cur- rency ; and it was neither just nor equitable to pay that debt in a currency of the full value. He thought he might assume that one-half of the old debt had been transferred during the eighteen years subsequent to 1800. We ought either now to reduce the national debt to the extent of the deprecia. tion, or to take off taxes to an extent to countervail the increase of burdens occasioned by the reformation of the currency. Every contract made, for example, and every debt incurred between 1800 and 1819, was made and in- curred its a depreciated currency ; and the reformation of the currency vir- tually imposed on the debtors an obligation to pay a greater sum than they bad contracted to pay."
The nation's resources had been greatly impaired by prodigal ex- penditure during the war. A reduction of taxes was looked to ; but the reductions had only been nominal.
" The revenue in 1815, while the property-tax existed, and all the war taxes, was sixty-eight millions and a fraction ; and in 182f;, it was fifty-two millions and a fraction. One would think at first that here was a reduction of sixteen millions, but, in point of fact, the real revenue had increased by an addition of 552,0001. during the peace."
The abolition of the small notes had increased our distress, without any countervailing advantage. The expiration of the Bank charter, now near at hand, would afford an opportunity of returning to a paper currency, under proper modifications. He also thought that silver should be made a legal tender.
The Duke of WELLINGTON replied, that even were it true that the whole debt of the country had been contracted in a depreciated cur- rency, the national honour required that it should be paid in the exist- ing currency.
" I am convinced that the alteration of the currency has had little, if any- thing, to do with the actual distress of the country. Notwithstanding a re- duction of taxation to the amount of twenty-seven millions—whether real or nominal I do not at present stop to inquire—the revenue of the country has increased. It is higher now in real currency than it was when these taxes were taken off, which is a proof of a real increase of prosperity."
The Premier referred much of the present distress to these two causes-1st, The immense increase of machinery, which enabled the manufacturer to produce more in one year than was formerly done in five years, or than can be taken off his hand in two. 2nd, The immense capital sent out of the country in the shape of loans to foreign. states ; the principal of which never will be paid, and in some instances not even the interest. This has occasioned a loss of capital, and consequently of employment, in all parts of the country, besides having created a glut in the foreign market by the exports made in advancing these loans. He could not admit the effects ascribed to the calling in of the small notes; for the currency in Bank of England 51. notes and sovereigns was at present greater than the currency had been at any period during the war, or previous to the abolition of the small notes. The effect of the measure has been to put an end to the facility with which men could raise money and engage in speculations who had neither capital nor credit ; and this is all that was intended. As to the prevailing difficulties, " I can sincerely promise," said the Duke, " that whatever measures may occur to me likely to alleviate the distresses of the country, I shall most eagerly and gladly adopt them.'
The Duke of RICIMOND, on Tuesday night, moved resolutions on the distressed state of the wool-trade. His object was to impose a small duty on Continental wool, which he thought would stimulate the trade without injury to the home manufactur:T. The Duke of NOR- FOLK and the Earl of MALMESBURY were the only peers who sup- ported the resolutions. The Earl was for a large import duty on foreign wool, because the wool-growers did not receive equal protec- tion with other trades. The Earl of HAREWOOD and Lord WHARN- CLIFFE admitted the distress, but denied the virtue of the proposed remedy. The woollen manufactures of England could not be carried on without foreign wool to mix with wool of our own growth ; and any tax would therefore have the effect of lowering instead of raising the price of woollens. Lord ELLENBOROUGH ascribed the diminished price of wool, not to increased importation of foreign wool, but to an increased demand for cotton. The labouring classes, who were for- merly clothed with wool, were now in a great measure clothed with cotton manufactures. Put a higher tax on wool, and the poor would resort to a more extended use of cotton until it was reduced. The resolutions were negatived by 88 to 35.
The Earl of HADD NGTON has brought the question concerning the records of the Kirk of Scotland, retained in Sion College, before the House of Lords. The %slim, of LONDON, in defence of the College, states that the President and Fellows act on the Solicitor-General's construction of the deed of gift, as to keeping the books; but it appears that there is no bar to the Scotch Church obtaining a copy of them, if they choose to be at the expense. There is a doubt of these being the original records—a point which must he cleared up before the Church can claim them. If they can prove them to be the originals, Lords LAUDERDALE and ELDON concur in opinion that the College may be compelled to give them up.
The House of Lords are still in Committee on the London Bridge Bill. They heard counsel on Monday against the production of the City accounts, as ordered by their Lordships ; but decided that the reasons of refusal were not satisfactory, and again ordered that they should be forthcoming.