Page images
PDF
EPUB

oods rice. rket,

55.,

bout our; is of rice.

this hers, ance d to was vere

not forould sing e of e to hem was

he now bad ed:

both, and that, if both were again referred to the directors to combine their views, it might lead to a unanimous petition. He felt strongly on the subject of the corn laws, and not without occasion ; for the welfare of the establishment with which he was connected, the support of his family, and the continuance of his business, all depended upon the continuance or the repeal of the corn laws. (Hear.) Therefore, though differing from many present upon political questions, he did not differ from them upon this, which was not a political question. He had been informed by a gentleman of respectability, that a gentleman who transported himself to Belgium some years ago with his capital, and commenced the cotton business, wa

over here a fortnight ago, engaging hands, and purchasing machines, which he found no difficulty in doing, and he said, “We (meaning foreign manufacturers) have nothing to fear except an alteration in your corn laws. (Hear, hear.) If you let them alone for ten years to come, we can do without you; we can then set you at defiance." (Hear, hear.)

Mr James Fernley would second the motion of Mr Hoole for adjournment. (“No, no;" “ Question.”)

The Chairman said it seemed to be the wish of the meeting that the discussion should now close. He had been requested to state, that both Mr Fletcher and Mr Neild had been called from home to a distance by private business, which prevented their presence. One word as to the statement he had made, , that the resolution of the day before was passed nem. con. Mr Smith had stated that he was there, and did not vote against it; and therefore, he (the chairman) apprehended that practically he was to be considered as assenting to it. He should consider it the duty of every one present to hold up his hand against a motion if he did not wish it to be adopted.

Mr J. B. Smith thought, after he had explained how he had dissented, by stating that he would neither vote for nor against it, it was most unfair in the chairman to represent him as approving of it.

The Chairman said, he had no desire to act unfairly towards any gentleman, but was guided solely by the minutes of proceedings. He had listened to the discussion with very great interest, and considerable advantage ; his anticipation that the subject would be duly taken up, had been more than realized by the proceedings of the meeting; and whatever their differences of opinion as to the most effective and stringent mode of conveying their sentiments to the legislature, no one could

say

that the inhabitants of this town, and the merchants and manufacturers who constitute its Chamber of Commerce, were indifferent to the question, or that they did not

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

see in it a question involving the prosperity of the country, and the well-being of the working classes. His feeling and conviction were as strong as any gentleman's present, as to its being a great and enormous evil, which must eventually, if not remedied, weigh us down. He believed consequences had already arisen which it was now too late to avert; and all he hoped was, that measures might be taken to prevent their being aggravated. Having confidence in the justice of the cause, and in the integrity and intelligence of the chamber, he did not see the wisdom or necessity of assuming either a threatening or a bullying tone. Let them express their sentiments with manly firmness and independence ; but let them not assume the attitude either of the threatener or the bully. He knew not whether it became him to answer any observations addressed to them reflecting upon the conduct of one of their representatives in parliament, in the discharge of his public duty: observations giving him credit for the efficient discharge of his duties had also been addressed to them; and he (the chairman) should not have alluded to the subject, had he not had occasion, as their president, to hold much intercourse with that right honourable gentleman upon questions of this nature; and believing that he (the chairman) knew thoroughly the prevailing views of his mind, and what course of policy he thought it right to pursue, he would say, that he had never found the slightest difference of opinion between Mr Thomson and himself respecting the great princples of free trade, and especially respecting the corn laws. As one of that right honourable gentleman's constituents, he had watched with great interest and anxiety his course, as a public man and a minister of the crown, in reference to those principles here entertained upon these and corresponding subjects; and it did appear to him that Mr Thomson had rendered important services to his country, in various measures which he had carried through parliament, and in the principles he had there avowed; and that in no circumstances had he compromised those principles by language or act. What he had done, had been performed quietly, and without boast; its amount may be small, but it was done upon sound principles and efficiently. He (the chairman) was very loath to draw comparisons between one public man and another ; but when a comparison was drawn between the late Mr Huskisson and our own right honourable representative, to the disadvantage of the latter, he (the chairman) could not help feeling a strong desire that the gentlemandrawing that comparison would do Mr Poulett Thomson the justice to read Mr Huskisson's speech in 1828, when he recommended to the adoption of the House of

Commons the very corn laws this chamber was now met to deprecate, and the reasons he avowed for the adoption of that law, and compare them with the speech delivered by Mr Poulett Thomson in 1833, while holding a responsible office under government, that of vice-president of the Board of Trade—but not a cabinet minister, and not allowed by those rules which regulated even governments, to give currency to those opinions, as a subordinate minister of the crown, in opposition to the cabinet ministers. He did then make known to the premier of that day, and the members of the cabinet, that he should feel it his duty, in the discharge of the solemn trust he held as the representative of this great manufacturing community, to declare his opinions adversely to the cabinet on the question then under discussion. He rose and delivered a reply to a cabinet minister, directly refuting the statements and arguments of that minister, and he (the chairman) would ask Mr Cobden to read and compare those speeches. (Applause.) He apologized for dwelling on this subject; but he had felt it his duty, having had much official communication, as the president of the chamber, with Mr Thomson, to bear his testimony to the fidelity with which that right honourable gentleman discharged his duties. (Applause.)

Mr R. H. Greg explained, as to the terms threatening and bullying, that what he meant was that no great act of justice was ever granted to bodies of men, except through the influence of fear; and he believed without such influence we should never get the repeal of the corn laws.

Alderman Cobden said, he rose in a spirit of conciliation. The president had avowed the petition of the directors to be from his pen. He found himself therefore in the situation of a rival towards him for the honour of writing a petition. (A laugh.) As his superior in wisdom and senior in

years,

he would yield to the president. He had no peculiar regard for his own bantling ; but would give up entirely the phraseology and composition, if the facts were incorporated in the petition of the directors. (Cheers.) But he thought, after the important revelations that had been made during their discussions, the chamber would fail in an important duty if it did not communicate the facts directly to the government and legislature. (Hear.) And he would just add, that he thought it quite relevant to the subject under discussion to discuss the public conduct of their representatives in parliament. He Înew Mr Thomson there as a public character only. He had shared his hospitality and kindness, but that was not the place for discussing his private opinions or conduct. Upon public grounds he claimed the right to complain of Mr Thom

son, with reference to his exertions in the cause of free trade, and on the corn laws. He claimed the right to comment freely upon his public conduct in public assembly, without being subjected to the rebuke, remark, or criticism of any individual, whatever his position might be. (Cheers.) He was present in the gallery of the House of Commons, at the last debate in parliament on Mr Villiers' motion for a repeal of the corn laws, and listened to all the nonsense and absurdity uttered by the landlords on the occasion, whose followers shouted down Mr Mark Phillips ; and he felt his blood boil and tingle too on Mr Thomson sitting silent upon the treasury bench, instead of wielding the influence which, as a cabinet minister, and as their member, he possessed ; and he was almost ready to rush from his seat, as he saw him leaving the house before the debate had closed, to entreat him to refute the fallacies of such speakers as the Marquis of Chandos and Mr D’Israeli. For this he complained of Mr Thomson. Probably if he were anxious to be received by Mr Thomson with smiles, to visit at his table, or to ask personal favours, he should have been able to quote passages in his past life deserving of eulogy. He had no such object to serve ; but as one of his constituents he claimed for himself and for every one of the electors the right of calling in question the public acts of their representative. (Cheers.) They had been told by Mr Pearson, that Mr Thomson had himself declared that he knew the corn laws to be the sole obstruction to a profitable commerce with Germany, which corroborated the fact he had previously mentioned upon the best authority in Berlin. Now what he complained of was, that when the ministers are taunted in the house by their Tory opponents with the decline of our trade with that country, Mr Thomson is silent, and does not tell the house and the country that a repeal of our corn laws would enable him to effect an alteration in the German tariff, by which the duties upon our goods would be reduced one-half-the cotton goods from 150s. to 758. the cwt.-by which, as he was informed by the first merchants in Frankfort, all our trade in manufactured goods with those quarters would be restored to us. For this conduct, for shrinking before a landed faction, he was dissatisfied with Mr Thomson, and he claimed the right of publicly saying so. (Cheers.)

Mr H. Hoole here said he should press his motion for adjournment, and it was accordingly put and negatived by a large majority.

The President said, that he should now proceed to put the question, and he believed according to the custom pursued in parliament it was usual to put it in the form,“ that the words of the original motion do stand part of the question.”

Mr. J. B. Smith wished to know if the president meant to put the original motion or the amendment first.

The President said, by the mode he proposed to adopt, which was usual in parliament, the original motion would be put first, and if rejected, the amendment would then be before the meeting.

Alderman R. Roberts said, with all deference he thought the most regular course would be to put the amendment first. It might be usual to pursue the course proposed by the president in the House of Commons, but in this chamber it was customary to put the amendment first.

Mr. J. C. Dyer said he had no feeling about the matter, and did not care whether his amendment was put first or last. The usual way he believed was to put the amendment first, but so long as the chamber came to a dispassionate vote upon it he did not care.

The President was persisting in putting the motion in the form he had first proposed, namely, that the “ original motion do stand part of the question,” when Alderman Cobden and Mr J. B. Smith and several other gentlemen said they did not really understand the way in which it was about to be

put.

Mr Greg certainly did not see why it could not be moved in the usual form. (Hear, hear.)

Alderman Roberts said, though the course pursued by the president might be that of the House of Commons, yet as we here were merely men of " common understanding," and liked to know precisely what we were about-hear, hear)-he would suggest that the amendment be put first.

The President said he was of course in the hands of the meeting, and proceeded to put the amendment accordingly, when Mr Cobden's petition was carried by a large majority, only about four or five gentlemen besides the directors opposing it. The result was received with loud cheering, and the meeting, after the mayor had been called to the chair, and a vote of thanks given to the president, separated soon after four o'clock.

« PreviousContinue »