Page images

the welfare of the country. To all who had looked to his future career with such hopes and feelings, his death appeared like-another link in that fatal chain of accidents which had constantly deprived Canada of its ablest friends at the moment when their advocacy would have been most effective. These sentiments naturally found an echo in the public press, which from one end of the province to the other gave utterance to expressions of sincere regret over the untimely fate of their late governor. With scarcely a single exception, the public journals exhibited on this sad occasion the most creditable feeling—they laid aside for the moment their personal and party politics, and united in one general testimony to the services which Lord Sydenham had rendered, and to the loss which the province had suffered.


Of the many luminous orations of Mr Poulett Thomson, in the House of Commons, we select that of 1834, on Mr Hume's motion for a fixed duty on foreign corn, instead of the sliding scale of 1828. Manchester, peopled by the sons of those who had burned the Prime Minister, Pitt, in effigy, because of his free trade measures of 1785, had changed its commercial creed. It was no longer the stronghold of the monopolists. Yet it made few signs of sympathy, and gave an acquiescence, rather than an active support, to its illustrious representative, while he, a member of a hostile cabinet, with a hostile House of Commons before him, contended for the principles, and scattered upon political society those seeds, which afterwards took such vigorous root in Manchester.

Often as it had fallen to his lot to address the house, which he always did with feelings of great anxiety, yet he could unfeignedly assure it, that he never rose to address it under stronger feelings of trepidation than those which he experienced at that moment. He had the misfortune to differ in opinion upon this subject from many of those friends with whom he was in the habit of acting, and, above all, he had the misfortune to differ from his right honourable friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty.” It would, however, be unworthy of the little character which he trusted that he had been enabled to obtain—and he should be unworthy of representing that great constituency which, unsolicited, had done him the honour of sending him as its representative to the House of Commons—he should be a traitor to the opinions which he had always expressed, and the votes which he had always given upon this subject, if he did not, unhesitatingly, but still with great diffidence, proclaim the views which he entertained upon it. “I must first,” said the right honourable member, “correct a statement made by the noble lord who had just sat down.” That noble lord has stated, if I understood him correctly, that he had withdrawn his amendment, because it was the desire of the government that the motion of the honourable member for Middlesex should be lost in as small a minority as possible.” I deny that. The circumstance of my being here as a member of the government, and yet voting with the honourable member for Middlesex, is at once an answer to the statement which the noble lord has made. The Earl of Darlington: On what authority does the right honourable member deny my statement? Mr Poulett Thomson: The authority upon which I deny the statement is this—that it is an open question in the government, for the truth of which I appeal to my noble friend sitting near me, and it is on this ground that I am here as a member of his Majesty's government, though not in the cabinet, advocating the opinion, and voting for the motion of the honourable member for Middlesex. The Earl of Darlington: What I said was this: I said that a communication, sent as an appeal to me to withdraw my amendment, came from a high quarter in his Majesty's government. I had it, in point of fact, in writing from one who is not only a member of the government, but also a member of the cabinet. Mr Poulett Thomson: If that be all the statement of the noble lord, it does not at all impugn my assertion. What may be the opinions of the individual members of the government, be it the head of that government, or any other member of the cabinet, is a different question; but if I misunderstood the noble earl in supposing him to say, that it was the wish of his Majesty's government, taken collectively, to leave my honourable friend, the member for Middlesex, in as small a minority as possible, then I hope he will excuse me for such an unintentional misinterpretation of his meaning; but if I did not misunderstand him, then the very fact that I am here, a member of the government, holding the official situation which I do, advocating and prepared to vote for a change in the corn laws, is, I think, a sufficient answer to his assertion. —The right honourable gentleman then proceeded to observe, that he was sorry that this circumstance had given rise to any heat, as his object in discharging the duty which he had to perform was, to keep in mind the example of the honourable member for Middlesex, who had introduced this subject with the utmost good temper, with calmness, and with the absence of every topic which could excite anger and animosity in those ...}. addressed. He felt the necessity of following that example the more, because he could not disguise from himself, from the appearance of the house last night, that he was about to speak to an unfavourable audience. At the same time, he felt bound to urge upon the majority, if he had the misfortune to differ from the majority in opinion, that every thing which he had to say could only put weapons into their hands to be used against him ; and being the strongest, although they differed from him—nay, because they differed from him—he was sure, that they would feel bound to extend to him an indulgent and patient hearing. He had stated, that he would endeavour to keep his share in this discussion within the bounds of moderation and good temper. If anything, in the course of his remarks, should fall from his lips which might seem to reflect upon personal interests—and this question, unfortunately, appeared to have been mixed up with personal interests—he trusted that what he had already said —namely, that he differed on this subject from his best and nearest friends, would be sufficient to convince honourable gentlemen, that such an offence on his part must be unintentional, and that he could not mean any personal disrespect. e agreed with every gentleman who had yet addressed the house on the other side of the question, and particularly with his right honourable friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty, that it would be most desirable that now should be the time to bring this question to a final issue. He wished, in the utmost sincerity of heart, that it was possible to bring it to such an issue now. Above all, he agreed with his right honourable friend in thinking that this question ought not to be argued on the individual interests of one class or another; it was with regard to the general interests of the community at large that the house was bound to legislate. Upon these grounds, in spite of what had been said last night, he should not find any fault with those who were to be the judges on this question. Whatever might be the individual interests mixed up with this question, so far as it regarded the landlords, he was satisfied to place the decision of it in the hands of the gentlemen of the House of Commons; being quite convinced that, though they might, in his opinion, form an erroneous judgment, they would still act fairly, honourably, uprightly, and conscientiously. In the course of the debate, his right honourable friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty —to whose speech he must refer as being the most able which he had yet heard on that side of the question—had stated that, in arguing the case on the oil. of the general interests of the country, he must go through the various interests, and shew that the corn law was advantageous to them all. His right honourable friend had certainly made what he should term rather a landlord's speech—a speech which, whatever might be its merits in other respects, was certainly calculated to catch as many stray votes as possible. He did not quarrel with his right honourable friend for that, although he should presently venture to criticise it ; but he hoped that, after his disclaimer of all intentional offence, and after his acknowledgment that he should be guilty of great impropriety were he to say anything imputing motives of personal interest to any speaker, he might be permitted to submit the arguments of his opponents to a close examination, without exciting their animosity and ill-will. He hoped, too, that the question would be argued without any of those sneers against political economy, and those declamations against philosophy, which did not enforce argument, though they might gain cheers. He had heard, he owned, with much regret, his right honourable friend indulge a little in such sneers; in that his right honourable friend only resembled other honourable members, for he believed that there was no man who came down to that house prepared to talk on a question like the present, who was not, in his own opinion at least, the very beau ideal of a political economist. It might be that, like the man who talked prose all his life without knowing it, there might be some honourable members who, talking against political economy themselves, talked political economy without knowing "it; though, perhaps, none of the best. His right honourable friend should have recollected also, that a sneer at philosophy might be in his hands a double-edged weapon which might cut both ways, for unless he was very much mistaken, he had seen propounded in pamphlets, not very foreign from the question, doctrines which qualified their author for taking out his diploma in the university of Lagoda, with the unani

* Sir James Graham.

* Earl of Darlington, afterwards Duke of Cleveland.

mous approbation of the philosophers of the celebrated island.

of Laputa. He trusted that they should hear no more of such observations, but that the question would be argued on its own merits.* .

His right honourable friend, the first lord of the admiralty, and other honourable members who had followed him in the debate, had very fairly and candidly divided in their argument the various interests concerned in this question. His right honourable friend had said, that he would divide the country into four classes—the landlords, the farmers, and the agricultural labourers on one side, and the consumers on the other. (Cries of “ No.") He said yes ; he gave his honourable friend credit for it; for nothing could tend more to the eliciting of truth, than that honourable members should understand each other clearly as to the terms they used. The landlords, they were told, were mainly interested in the decision on this subject. His right honourable friend, at the close of his speech, had told the house, that a political consideration entered into the question that it was necessary to maintain the landlords in the position which they occupied at present, and that the continuance of the existing relations between them and their tenants was indispensable to the tranquillity and well-being of the country. Be that as it might-and for the present he would not dispute it-he thought that, in the exposition of the view which he took of the subject, he should be able to shew that the interests of the landlords were not involved in the continuance of the corn laws as they at present existed, but that those interests would be better consulted by a change of those laws. He had no occasion to argue that point at length, for he had only to refer to the speech of the honourable member for Surrey, whose observations last night elicited so much applause from a large portion of the house, and seemed to be accepted by them as a correct representation of their case. In speaking of the condition of the landlords, the honourable member, speaking from his own knowledge, and from the experience afforded by his own farms, said—“Forty years ago I was receiving 20s. an acre. The charges upon it at that time were so and so; the charges on it are the same now, with an addition of 6s. more. I receive no more rent now than I did then. The only difference in my condition as a landlord then and now is, that then my rents were well paid, and now they are ill paid.” Now he wished the house to recollect that forty years ago there was no corn law save one, and that was inoperative, for the importation of foreign corn was free; and yet, on the statement of the honour

* Sir James Graham's own pamphlets against the corn laws were here referred to.

« PreviousContinue »