Imatges de pÓgina

perating, I think, than that-the West Sus- penny. He told her she should have that sex Advertiser and South Coast Observer, paper for a penny, and perhaps her husband published by Mr. Mitchell, of Arundel. would give twopence afterwards. Neither If those long Cabinet meetings which have she nor her husband came again, and he recently been held had been devoted to a lost that customer. I ask, then, knowing consideration of Mr. Mitchell's complaint, how much we all waste daily in our perI think the public would have been much sonal enjoyments, how can any man with more advantaged. He lives in a district 8s., 10s., 12s., or 14s. a week, or any sum with a population of 100,000 persons, re- which is the fair average wages of the turning nine Members, without a single pa- great bulk of the population, contrive to per to enlighten one of them. [Laughter.] purchase a newspaper at all without much So much the better for the Members, says closer calculations than we are accustomed to my hon. Friend. The House does not exist give to our concerns. Here is a man of this for the sake of the Members, but for the kind, labouring all day, earning a moderate sake of the people. So much the worse for amount of wages, anxious to learn somethe people, say I; and I do not think thing, whether he can get better wages elseMembers of Parliament are any the worse where, whether it is worth while to emigrate, because their constituents see a newspaper whether he can turn his hand to anything which sometimes says what they are doing. to earn a trifle more to educate his children, Look at the size of this newspaper, and and the law denies him the means of incompare it with the Times. They both formation. If he had his newspaper, would pay a penny. The gentleman who pub- he not ask his children, as we do have I lished this West Sussex Advertiser took not done it myself this very day—to read care to publish it on the first of every a paragraph, to see how they are going on month, and at the end of every fortnight with their lessons at school? Would it he published another paper under a differ- not form a grand family college, at which ent name. The law would not allow him children would find their power of reading to publish a newspaper without a stamp, gradually improved and sustained? And unless it was on the first of the month, or then we should not find, when these people within two days of the first of the month. came to be married, half of them, or twoThe Secretary of the Board of Inland Re-thirds, have to sign their names with a cross. venue writes one of those polite notes to this gentleman, telling him that he is all wrong, that he is violating the law, that he has rendered himself liable to certain penalties, and they will only require him to pay 51. and put a red stamp on the corner of each paper. The price of the paper is a penny. The stamp makes it twopence. Where, I ask, can you find an article of food on which the law puts 100 per cent, much less an article like this, which is not merely aliment for the body, but aliment for the mind. This gentleman states that in three little villages forty-one copies of this paper at a penny were sold-three little villages in which three copies of a newspaper had never before been regularly taken in. But the Board said, "Stamp it;" and what was the result? Out of the forty-one persons, thirty-seven discontinued the paper. In an admirable letter which I defy the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or any one else, to read without being convinced of the evil of the law, Mr. Mitchell said a woman came into his shop for a paper, and offered a penny. He said it was twopence, and explained the cause of the increase of price. She said her husband told her she would get it for a

I ask the House, apart from all matters of financial consideration, looking at this small paper which I hold in my hand, suitable to small towns and villages, suitable to the capacity and time for reading as well as the pocket of the labouring classes, whether they will consent that the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall permanently place a penny tax on that small paper, and place the same tax on the large sheet of the Times. It is contrary to common sense. It is contrary to every principle this House has recognised, and I advise the Attorney General not to expend his legal acuteness in endeavouring to cobble up this law, which he knows he never can work according to the Statute. Let him, and the Solicitor General-not less distinguished for legal ability-let them both persuade the Government that the thing is a blunder; that in the time of Queen Anne, when you had two civil wars within a short period of the passing of that Act, and men in both Houses of Parliament sworn against the reigning dynasty, there might be some excuse for putting down the press, to prevent its exciting the people; though I must observe that it was denounced very much by hon. Gentlemen when that was

done in France not long ago; but I assert | United States. Every week, what is there is no reason for doing so now. Is known here is known there, and what is there any dispute about the dynasty? Is known there is known here. Every workthere any talk of overturning the institu- man there has the same powers as a Memtions of the country? In no country in ber of Congress to read everything pubthe world are the people more united upon lished in the public papers. In this coungeneral principles of politics, more disposed try the very opposite takes place. You to place confidence in the Legislature and see in the public-house or beer-shop a in the Crown, and to conduct themselves in newspaper doubled up in the bar winobedience to the law, as becomes citizens dow to tempt the working man to come of a free country. from the street into the house to read My hon. Friend the Member for Dum- it. You deny him the right to have fries (Mr. Ewart) has referred to the Re- that paper in his own home. You port laid before the House, of gentlemen say, "Leave your wife and childrenwho went out as a deputation from this be no longer the husband and the father country to the New York Exhibition. I enjoying the social comforts of your home, have not read all Mr. Wallis's Report, but but go down the street, and enter some I have carefully read Mr. Whitworth's. public-house-some place in which they Mr. Whitworth is a very distinguished burn a great deal of gas. There you will civil engineer, living at Manchester; and find a newspaper, which the Government he went out as one of the deputation to says you shall not have in your own house; New York. I should like to read to the and while you are reading that newspaper, House the paragraph with which he con- and taking in a portion of some Parliacludes his Report-not a paragraph written mentary speech, you must imbibe a cerfor any special object, not written by a po- tain, or an uncertain, quantity of gin and litician, for Mr. Whitworth, though a very water, or of some other equally objectionsound politician, is not so distinguished in able mixture." That is the effect of this that line as in his own profession. This is law; but that is not the state of things in the concluding paragraph of his Report. the United States. I have a notion, Sir, He saysof the balance of power, and I referred to it upon a recent occasion. I rejoice at every extension of the power, the greatness, the intelligence, and the industry of the United States. I believe that it will be no loss to us, that is, if we choose to take as wise a course as we may take. But if we distrust our population-if we say that we dare not trust them with political knowledge-if we have no regard for what an intelligent people can do for a free country-if we will not let them have access to the great instrument of knowledge

"It rarely happens that a workman who possesses peculiar skill in his craft is disqualified to take the responsible position of superintendent by the want of education and general knowledge, as is frequently the case in this country. In every State in the Union, and particularly in the north, education is, by means of the common schools, placed within the reach of each individual, and all classes avail themselves of the opportunities afforded. The desire of knowledge so early implanted is greatly increased, while the facilities for diffusing it are amply provided through the instrumentality of an almost universal press. No taxation of any kind has been suffered to interfere with the free development of this powerful agent for promoting the intelligence of the people, and the consequence is, that where the humblest labourer can indulge in the luxury of his daily paper, everybody reads, and thought and intelligence penetrate through the lowest grades of society. The benefits which result from a liberal system of education and a cheap press to the working classes of the United States can hardly be over-estimated in a national point of view; but it is to the co-operation of both that they must undoubtedly be ascribed."

There are many things in Mr. Whitworth's Report which have startled the manufacturers of this country, showing, as he does, that in many trades, especially in certain departments, there is that which threatens, not only to equal, but to excel, anything which exists in this country. Now, bear in mind, we are close to the

Mr. Bright

the greatest of all instruments now existing, and that which we ourselves use freely, then I say that we are hypocrites to the last degree, if we speak, as we sometimes do, of the ignorance and depravity of our countrymen, I know this-from observation among those whom I have myself employed-that if newspapers could be laid before them, which are just as enticing and just as alluring to them as they are to us, they would read them with eagerness, discuss them with fairness, and come to conclusions just as reasonable as those which would be come to by Members of this House. I know, further, that they would abstain from going into the publichouse, and would get rid, by reading the newspapers, of some of those false, and

mischievous, and evil economical principles, which are, unfortunately, only too apt to be accepted in all countries by all persons whose condition in life is not the most prosperous. I would ask the House, whether, on the ground of finance, not only to accept the Resolution, but to go much further, for I believe the finances of the country would not suffer from the change whether, on the ground of giving political knowledge to our countrymen-and without political knowledge where would stand the free institutions of the country?whether, on the ground of common education and of all those high grounds of morality which Parliament cannot overlook-I ask the House to say whether the time has not come when the stamp ought to be abolished as a stamp, and changed into a postage duty? You would thus set free hundreds of newspapers throughout the country in the course of a single year; and by that mode, I believe, would do more for all those objects which we profess to care very much for, both in speeches in this House and in the blue books, than by any other machinery whatever which human ingenuity can contrive or the powers of the Executive Government can enforce.

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON: Sir, I think it is a rule deserving to be followed that when different persons concur on some points and have a difference on others, it is for the mutual advantage of all that they should endeavour to confine their action to those points on which they agree, and avoid, if it be not necessary, entering into collision upon those points on which they differ. Now, Sir, on the general scope of the Resolution proposed by my right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson), I apprehend that the House will have seen from what has passed in this debate that there is no fundamental difference of opinion. It is admitted that the law in question requires to be considered, and that it is a fit subject for revision; but the Resolution of my right hon. Friend contains assertions not bearing necessarily on the points he has in view, and on which a difference of opinion has been stated. My right hon. Friend's Resolution asserts that the law is ill-defined. That is a question of legal opinion on which a difference has been stated, and I apprehend that it is hardly necessary for the purposes of my right hon. Friend to insist upon the assent of Parliament to that statement. The Resolution of my right hon. Friend also

asserts that the law has been unequally enforced. Now, in the sense in which, by his speech, he has interpreted that part of the Resolution, the assertion is perfectly true and undeniable. There has been an unequal enforcement of the law, but anybody not cognisant of the details connected with the execution of the law, and who simply reads the Resolution, would infer that the Resolution means to imply that the law has been enforced with partiality, with favour, and with intentional injustice. [Mr. M. GIBSON: No, no!] That I apprehend has been disclaimed. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Well, but surely that is no good reason for adhering to words which are liable to an interpretation that is not meant. I should therefore submit to my right hon. Friend, that he will accomplish his purpose and render his Resolution free from objections that might be urged to it, if he will so far alter it as to content himself with the assertion, that—" The laws in reference to the periodical press and newspaper stamp demand the early consideration of Parliament, with the view (going further, perhaps, than the right hon. Gentleman) to their revision." I should submit to him that such a Resolution would answer his purpose, and it will not render the Board of Inland Revenue liable to a Parliamentary imputation, which he says he does not wish to inflict, while it steers clear of the debateable question as to whether the law is ill-defined-a matter of legal opinion which I really do not think we are called upon to decide. The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Bright) was chiefly directed to matters which are not involved in the Resolution, and which indeed my right hon. Friend studiously abstained from entering upon. The hon. Gentleman, following his own opinion, in language often well expressed, has argued at great length for the repeal of the stamp duty. But that is not the object of this Resolution, and my right hon. Friend stated that he did not mean to apply the Resolution to that point, and that it would not be fair to have done so in the absence of the Chancellar of the Exchequer. Therefore I do not enter upon a discussion on that subject; all I say is, that I entirely so far concur with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester that I think it must be an object of desire to everybody, and that it would be a great public advantage, to afford to the lower classes of this country

all those means of general instruction that can well be brought within their reach. The abrogation of this peculiar stamp is only a matter of financial consideration, and it can only be maintained as a matter of finance. Undoubtedly everybody will admit, that the larger we open the field of general instruction, the firmer the foundations on which the order, the loyalty, and the good conduct of the lower classes will rest. On that subject I will not enter, as it is brought forward separately and distinctly. The present question refers to the resolutions of my right hon. Friend, and I really ask him, whether he does not think that the Resolution I suggest will perhaps better answer his purpose than that which he has proposed?

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MR. MILNER GIBSON: I really, Sir, do not exactly see why there should be this great objection on the part of the Government to the Resolution I have proposed. I well considered that Resolution before I submitted it to the House, and knowing the great adroitness of the noble Lord-I beg his pardon for the expression-and his experience in the conduct of these Parliamentary affairs, I confess that I feel some reluctance to give it up, and to assent to the words which he has suggested to me. If he agrees with what I have said, why not take my Resolution? If he disagrees with what I have said, that seems to me to be a ground for making an appeal to the House. I heard the word "revision.' Now, I do not want to bind myself to what is called "revision." My position is this. I complain of certain laws as illdefined and unequally enforced, and I call upon the Government of the country to take their own course, and to come to us with some mode or other of meeting the evils which I complain of. When they submit their remedy, I shall be prepared to give my opinion either in favour of or against it, but I decline, for one, to be a party to revising this particular law, because I am in favour of the repeal of it. All I ask the House to do now is, not to vote in favour of repeal, but to go so far with me as to say that the law is ill-defined and unequally enforced, and that it is the duty of the Government to submit to the House some plan or other of meeting those evils. I throw the responsibility upon the Government. The noble Lord now asks me to share that responsibility by talking about "revising." My wish, however, is to leave it to the Government to decide Viscount Palmerston

whether they will revise or whether they will repeal; and on these grounds I can be no party to the alteration which the noble Lord has proposed.

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON: I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether I clearly understand that his Resolution as he proposes it is not meant to imply any censure, any accusation of unfairness, or partiality, against the Board of Inland Revenue? If that is clearly understood, I do not think the difference of wording is a matter of any great importance.

MR. MILNER GIBSON: I thought that, in my opening remarks, I had distinctly guarded myself against being misunderstood upon that subject. I bring no charge whatever against the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue or his officers, I only attack the system, which I say is calculated to cast unmerited odium upon them.

Previous Question, by leave, withdrawn.
Original Question put, and agreed to.


CORN AVERAGES (IRELAND). MR. BLAND, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill "for a better and more general mode of taking the average price of Corn and other agricultural produce in Ireland," said, it was his desire to assimilate the law in England and Ireland. England the averages were collected from 290 market towns, while in Ireland the corn averages, which regulated the rentcharge in lieu of tithes, were collected by an officer from the corn averages of Dublin alone. This officer had no power to enforce returns, and he acted on the voluntary returns of persons who might have an interest one way or the other in affecting the averages. Mr. Ford, one of the officers of the city of Dublin, stated that none of the averages taken in that city were correct. No means existed, as in England, of distinguishing whether the corn, on which the averages were based, was Irish or foreign, and, in 1839-40, when there was a considerable quantity of damaged Irish corn in the market in consequence of a bad harvest, the foreign corn which was imported and sold at a high price was taken into account in the calculation of the averages. He wished by this Bill to assimilate the law of Ireland, with regard to the taking of averages, to that of Eng land, and to appoint Inland Revenue officers, who would confine their returns to Irish corn and other agricultural produce,

for the publication of such returns would be useful for statistical purposes.

SIR JOHN YOUNG said, he was of opinion that some Bill of this kind was necessary, and he should have introduced one himself if the hon. Gentleman had not done so. He did not understand how the hon. Gentleman meant to exclude foreign corn from the averages, unless intricate calculations were gone into as to the effect of foreign corn upon the markets, and that portion of the Bill would require serious consideration; but he would now offer no opposition to the introduction of the Bill.

MR. FRENCH said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would notwithstanding lay his Bill on the subject on the table of the House, and that by some means or other the averages would be brought into working order and rendered serviceable to the


the matter stood upon a very different footing in the two countries, and the measure would require very serious consideration before it could be passed into law.

MR. V. SCULLY said, that means ought to be taken to secure greater accuracy in the corn averages in Ireland. The present system with respect to tithe rent charges was very defective, and he would recommend that some plan should be adopted similar to one which had been proposed twenty years ago by the present Lord Derby, so as to make those charges redeemable at a certain number of years' purchase.

MR. FRENCH said, he did not concur in the suggestion of his hon. Friend, for he thought that the difficulties of the question, great as they were, might be overcome if they were properly inquired into.

MR. G. A. HAMILTON said, he also thought it was possible to meet the diffi

MR. THORNELY said, he wished merely NEL to correct an impression of the right hon.culties of the case. Gentleman (Sir J. Young), that the corn Leave given. Bill ordered to be brought averages in England did not exclude fo- in by Mr. Bland, Mr. FitzGerald, and Mr. reign importations. He could assure him Francis Scully. such was the fact, and that the inspection in all cases had reference only to English produce.

Leave given. Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bland, Mr. FitzGerald, and Mr. Francis Scully.

TITHE RENT CHARGE (IRELAND). MR. BLAND said, he would now move for leave to bring in a Bill "to provide for the annual variation of Rent Charge in lieu of Tithes in Ireland, with reference to the averages of the then next preceding seven years. His object here, again, was to assimilate the law of Ireland to that of England. The fact was, in Ireland they had no adequate machinery to carry out the intentions of the law, which were thus rendered nugatory. He simply wished to have justice done between the landed proprietors and the clergy, and that the latter should be paid upon the average price of corn for seven years.

SIR GEORGE GOODMAN said, he hoped that the Government would press forward the inquiry as to the means of obtaining statistical information on the subject of agricultural produce throughout the country.

SIR JOHN YOUNG said, he did not object to the introduction of the Bill, but he must observe, with regard to the hon. Gentleman's wish to assimilate the laws of England and Ireland on this subject, that


MR. MALINS said, he begged to move for leave to bring in a Bill" "to enable Married Women to dispose of Reversionary and other Interests in Personal Estate." This was a question, he considered, of great public importance, in respect to which it was necessary that there should be a material improvement made in the law of the country. The House was aware that the alteration which took place in the law in 1833 was in consequence of the recommendation of the Real Property Commissioners of 1828. By that alteration a great improvement was made in the alienation of real property by married women, by the substitution of a simple deed for the inconvenient and tedious practice that had previously prevailed. But by a singular anomaly in the law a married woman was utterly incompetent to make any alienation of her interest in personal property. A married woman may, for example, have an interest in the sum of 1,000l. or 2,000l., which may be payable to her upon the death of a relative; and though the exigencies of herself and her family may make it desirable to have this property made immediately available, yet as the law now stands it was impossible that this advantage could be gained. If the husband make an assignment, it was not binding upon the wife; and if an as

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