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first place, endeavour to explain to the committee how the account of the 3,600,000l. Irish treasury bills stood. The House would recollect that before Easter there had been a grant of 4,2000,000l. for repaying certain Irish treasury bills. Upon communication with the bank of England and the bank of Ireland (the whole of the treasury bills being held by them), it was found that the directors of those establishments were disposed to exchange the bills they held for new bills. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds had however already been paid to the bank of Ireland, and as that body required 5 per cent. interest, it was not thought adviseable to renew the whole sum now outstanding, but to pay off, as occasion offered, such bills as were held by the bank of Ireland. Only a small part of the Irish treasury bills in their hands were however due till December and January next, and it would therefore be time enough to make arrangements for paying them off after the next meeting of parliament. The remaining sum of 9,000,000l. he proposed, as he had already stated, to raise by exchequer bills; and he was the more induced to take this proportion of the deficiency in that way, as the bank of England in its negociations would be satisfied with a more moderate rate of interest than was paid in Ireland. Before the meeting of parliament he could have borrowed twelve millions by an advance upon exchequer bills from one set of contractors, and on terms which then appeared favourable; but from the appearance of the money market, he
thought it better not to avail himself of it, and to take the chance of making a more advantageous arrangement, in which he had succeeded even beyond his expectations. He had indeed found the state of the market such, that by issuing exchequer bills gradually in preference to borrowing in one sum upon the same sort of security, he had saved 300,000l. in annual interests. The power of the money market to take off 9,000,000l. of exchequer bills, he thought could not be questioned, when it was considered, that of the 42,000,000l. previously granted by parliament 27,000,000l. had already been put into circulation in the course of the present session. There were, therefore, only bills to the amount 15,000,000 l. further to be issued. The 9,000,000l. he now proposed to add would make 24,000,000l. and, all things considered, he apprehended that there would not be more thrown into the market than could be easily absorbed. It ought at the same time to be recollected, that as the interest had been reduced from 5 per cent. to 34, there was a saving in that respect of 1 per cent. From the measure he proposed, he therefore had reason to expect great advantage both to the agriculture and commerce of the country, and he doubted whether it would have been possible to derive equal benefit from any other arrangement. Although the revenue, from causes over which his Majesty's ministers could have no control, had fallen short six or eight millions, there had been an evident improvement in our public credit. It might be recollected,
that when he addressed the House last year on the financial situation of the country, the three per cent. consols. were only between 62 and 63; at present they were above 74. This was an improvement of twelve per cent. on 62. which, calculated upon 100l. stock, was equal to nearly 20 per cent. The exchequer bills were then at an interest of 5 per cent., and were sold at par. Those now in circulation bore an interest of only 3 per cent.; and on this very day those bills bore 12s. premium. These were circum'stances which proved the manifest advantage of the system he had pursued, and now proposed to continue. But it was not in the money market only that the beneficial influence of that system had been felt. A proportional improvement was experienced in every description of property in the country. Large sums had already been sold out of the funds, and applied in aid of the landed interest, in purchases of real property and advances upon mortgages.
had been for every practicable purpose resumed. He could not but congratulate the House and the country upon the removal of the doubts and alarms which had been entertained on this subject. None of the evils which had been so profusely foretold, had occurred; and this great change had been accomplished without any shock or danger to public credit. Those who had with regret anticipated these mischievous consequences, he was sure, would now ioin with him in rejoicing at the state in which our country was now placed. The notes of the Bank of England had even during the restriction been preferred to those of every other bank in Europe. What then must be the effect of the removal of that restriction? A third circumstance, to which he could not but call the attention of the committee with peculiar satisfaction, was that, with regard to the public debt, the expectations he held out last year had been more than alized. He had stated an expectation that it would be reduced at least 3,000,000l.: the balance of debt repaid exceeded this sum. The amount paid in 1816 had been stated by the committee on finance at 9,400,000l.; but from this sum it might be fair to make a deduction of 6,000,000l., which formed part of the loans raised for the service of 1815, but which had not been paid into the exchequer till 1816; so that the actual balance discharged was 3,400,000l. This was most satisfactory: but it was not all; for since the 1st of November 1815, which time the national debt stood at its highest amount, thirty-two millions
Similar accommodation had been afforded to the commercial interests of the country by the increasing facility and cheapness of discount. Another most important improvement in the situation of the country had taken place since his last financial statement in the virtual resumption of cash payments by the bank. When he had suggested that the bank might be enabled to pay in specie in the course of two years, his statement was received with ridicule and incredulity. The suggestion which he threw out had, however, been completely realized; for the payments in cash
millions of capital stock had actually been purchased up. If, instead of borrowing exchequer bills, he had funded capital stock, it would have been impossible to have operated a reduction of the debt to the same extent. Whether there would be an equal diminution of debt in the present year as in the last, was what he could not pretend to assert. He did not wish to state a positive opinion on the subject; but he estimated that, with some addition to the 12,600,000l. he had already mentioned, he might have to borrow altogther about 14,000,000l., and that it was probable there would be paid off about 164. There might, therefore, be a diminution, not of 3, as in the last year, but probably of 24 millions.
With the improvement of our finances, he looked forward to a speedy improvement in the internal comfort and prosperity of the country. [Hear, hear!] He did not consider this expectation unreasonable. A great part of the public distress arose, not from any derangement in our domestic affairs, but from the general state of Europe. At a time when all over the continent many were struggling for the mere necessaries of life, it was not to be expected that there could be a great demand for our manufactures. This country fortunately had not been reduced to so low a state as some others had, but we could not expect to escape without sharing in the general calamity. If, however, Providence blessed us with a favourable harvest, he should confidently hope to see a
steady restoration of our revenues and our former prosperity. He had taken the liberty of stating this much, merely to impress on the recollection of the committee, that even under the unfavourable circumstances of the last year, all the benefits which he had held out as likely to result from the plans he had proposed had been more than realized. He anticipated a still more sensible improvement; but he sincerely trusted that the country would never find it necessary to resort to any of those desperate and dangerous remedies which some persons had thought it proper to recommend. It was alone upon the firmness of parliament and the loyalty of the people, that the security of public credit and the restoration of national prosperity depended. He had now only to state, that he estimated the amount of the interest of the exchequer and treasury bills necessary to meet the supply at 450,000l. and he contemplated that that sum would be saved by the reduction which had taken place in the interest of unfunded debt since the last session of parliament. Thus the public would be subjected to no new charge whatever. He concluded by moving, "That, towards making good the supply granted to his Majesty, there be issued and applied the sum of 15,749. 15s. 2 d. remaining in the receipt of the exchequer of Great Britain of the surplus of the grants for the year 1815."
The several resolutions were agreed to.
Continuance of Irish Insurrection Act.-Mr. Wilberforce's Motion for an Address to the Prince Regent relative to the Foreign Slave Trade.-Parliament closes.-Prince Regent's Speech.
IRISH INSURRECTION ACT.
N June 13th the order of the
going into a committee on the bill for continuing the Irish Insurrection Act, Sir Henry Parnell rose to move that it should be referred to a committee for this day se'nnight, in place of this evening, for the purpose of the appointment of a committee to inquire whether there existed any necessity for such a measure. The chief secretary for Ireland had laid before the House, in the last and present session, certain documents referring to disturbances in Ireland, the latter of which mentioned outrages which had occurred in the county of Louth. It was upon the last of these documents that the right hon. gentleman had called upon the House to continue these most severe and unconstitutional measures; but it was incumbent upon the House to exercise its inquisitorial powers, and to examine whether the disturbed state of only four baronies in one county of Ireland was a sufficiently strong case for such an expedient. The law was one of uncommon seve-, rity it went to create six new transportable offences; to enable the magistrates at sessions to proceed to trial without either grand
or petit juries; and to sentence persons guilty of no greater crime than being absent from their
ported for seven years. But the right hon. gentleman, in palliation of his case, says, "the law is not general; the House may depend upon the moderation of the magistrates in requiring its enforcement, and upon the forbearance of government." But the occurrence in the county of Louth fully proved the disposition of the magistrates; for they were led to apply to government in consequence of a single outrage, which, though not of great enormity, had the effect of producing a compliance with their wishes. The continuance of the Insurrection Act appeared to the hon. member particularly objectionable, because it seemed to be one intended to complete the new system for the future government of Ireland. Though we were now in a state of peace with all the world, the right hon. gentleman had proceeded just as if we were in the midst of a war. He had first obtained an arms bill; he had then made his own particular law, the peace act, stronger than before; and he now aims at the continu ance of the Insurrection Act.
The hon. baronet would not go so far as to say, that the facts produced
produced showed that the Insurrection bill was not necessary; but they certainly proved the propriety of making some inquiry before the measure was adopted. If a committee were appointed, he should himself be prepared to point out some means for strengthening the civil power. He concluded by moving, "that the bill be committed this day se'nnight." Mr. V. Fitzgerald said he could see no good ground for even a day's delay. The act had been
passed by several successive parliaments, and no gentleman could be supposed ignorant of its contents; and being now near its expiration, it was thought neces. sary to revive it, lest the government of Ireland should be divested of its present powers. The government proclamation applied only to Louth, but the outrage was to be considered as coupled with the general state of the country. Every day produced fresh outrages; and at length there was an unanimous request from the magistrates, and from a county meeting, after which the procla mation was issued.
Mr. Peel said, that he was led to attend to the county of Louth more particularly, because the disturbances which called for its exercise there, were more recently laid before the House, and the atrocities with which they were accompanied had made the deepest impression on the country. His argument was, that though the country was generally tranquil, yet if there was one part of it so disturbed that the laws could not be executed in their usual course, it was necessary to arm the government with this act, to
be exercised on its responsibility when the emergency arose. The hon. baronet proposed that the bill should be suspended till farther inquiry should be made by a committee. For his own part he saw no reason for the appointment of such a committee. If there was a measure brought before Parliament on which it was competent to decide, without the delay of a committee, it was the present. There never came before Parliament a case in which government had more clearly offered the grounds on which it called for permission to act upon its responsibility, and on which the House had received better means of judging whether it ought to be granted. The hon. baronet had said that the Insurrection Act was an evil, in which he (Mr. Peel) fully concurred; but unhappily there was now only a choice of evils; and was it better to give to government the power of preserving tranquillity even by a severe measure, or to allow the country to be converted into a scene of confusion by withholding the present act?
Sir W. Burroughs entered into an examination of the several clauses of the act, and commented in strong terms on its severity. He particularly dwelt upon the great disproportion between the numbers apprehended and the numbers convicted in the several counties; and argued, that as it was to be presumed that the petty sessions had done their duty, therefore all those acquitted had been justly acquitted, and had consequently been wrongfully arrested.
After some further discussions,