Miscellaneous Reports (June 30, 1855)

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 30 June 1855


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First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 303, July 3, 1855
Marked with the sign x
Published in English for the first time in MECW.
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.320-322), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
Collection(s): Neue Oder-Zeitung
Keywords : Parliament, Bill, England

London, June 30. As Lord Grosvenor refuses to withdraw his Sunday Trading Bill[1] voluntarily, posters have appeared in London's busiest streets today inviting people to attend another monster demonstration in Hyde Park tomorrow afternoon. When Grosvenor asked whether the sudden change in opinion of the majority was inspired by the mob in Hyde Park, the House was childish enough to reply with a vigorous No! No![2]

In passing, replying to the question of a Tory peer, Panmure mentioned that the Ministers had issued a proclamation to the army in the name of the Queen, according to which certain corps and certain regiments, those at present in the theatre of war, are to receive (not only for the duration of their present service but also back-dated for several months) a significant increase in pay and an increase in their pensions[3]. This announcement has, for the time being, been made in the name of the Queen[4], while the House of Commons was in session and without the Ministers giving the House any information. Thus the Ministers are arrogating to themselves a right which constitutionally is the exclusive prerogative of the House of Commons, that of fixing the pay of the army. However, they have to go before the House in a few weeks' or days' time to have their promised increases passed. But the proclamation anticipated the vote of the House. If the House were to reject the demand it would come into conflict with the army. This is the answer to the finding of the Roebuck Committee to the effect that the Ministry was responsible for the misfortunes endured by the army. A step in the direction pointed by Prince Albert.[5]

Bouverie's Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Commons yesterday[6], is significant as far as English commercial law is concerned. In England up to now anyone receiving a definite share of the profits of a business was regarded as a partner and as such was liable with the whole of his possessions for the commercial commitments of that business. Bouverie's Bill, tabled in the name of the Ministry, aims to abolish this legal obligation. Even more important is his Bill concerning joint-stock companies. Up to now every member of a company of this kind was liable not only for the sum of his own share but also to the full extent of his possessions for all the obligations of the company. According to one of the Bills the liability of the individual shareholder is to be limited to the amount of the shares he holds but this applies only to companies whose total capital amounts to at least £20,000, the articles of association of which are signed by shareholders whose shares total at least £15,000, and where at least 20 per cent of the total capital has been paid up. The mere necessity of a law of this kind proves how much the legislature has been in the hands of high finance until now, which has succeeded, in this the first trading nation in the world, in subjecting commercial contracts to the most absurd and arbitrary legal restrictions. The new Bill claims that it is its principle "to place labour and small capitalists on an equal footing (in terms of commercial law) with big capital." And how is this to be done? By excluding share-capital amounting to less than £20,000 from the benefits of this law and allowing it to remain subject to the old restrictions. Nothing proves more conclusively than the English legislation on joint-stock companies and commercial companies in general that big capital, not content with the superior economic weapons with which it fights the competition from the small capitalists, in England also resorts to legal privileges and exceptional laws. Until a few years ago, for example, a bank was not allowed to comprise more than six partners. It was a long time before joint-stock 'companies acquired the right to take legal action in the name of their boards of directors or have actions brought against them. In order, however, to enjoy this privilege they must be registered or incorporated, and a law dating from 1837 declares that the Crown has the right to incorporate only on the basis of a report from the Board of Trade[7], so that whether a company is incorporated or not depends on the grace and favour of the Board of Trade. Banks, benevolent and mutual aid societies, etc., are completely excluded from the effects of the new Bill.

One of the newspapers today publishes the following parliamentary statistics: there are 327 constituencies[8]. A number of these constituencies are controlled by electoral magnates. One magnate controls 9 constituencies, 4 magnates control each 8, 1 magnate controls 7, 3 magnates control 6, 8 magnates control 5, 26 magnates control 4, 29 control 3, so that 72 magnates control 297 constituencies. There remain 30 so-called "independent" constituencies. The House of Commons comprises 654 members, 594 of whom are elected by the 297 dependent constituencies. These 594 include 274 people who are directly related to peers or belong to the aristocracy.

  1. Marx uses the English name.—Ed.
  2. Marx uses the English words "No! No!". It was on June 26, 1855 that Grosvenor asked a question in the House of Commons about the demonstration in Hyde Park on June 24 (see Anti-Church Movement. Demonstration in Hyde Park).—Ed.
  3. Panmure's speech in the House of Lords on June 28, 1855, in reply to a question by Richmond. The Times, No. 22093, June 29, 1855.—Ed.
  4. Victoria.—Ed.
  5. For an account of Prince Albert's speech see Napier's Letters. Roebuck's Committee.—Ed.
  6. June 29, 1855. The Times, No. 22094, June 30, 1855.—Ed.
  7. Marx uses the English term.—Ed.
  8. This figure does not include the 72 constituencies in Ireland.—Ed.