HC Deb 24 June 1808 vol 11 cc1056-62
Mr. Barham,

after enumerating the various measures that had been adopted and recommended for the relief of the West India interest, and commenting upon their value and efficacy, moved, pursuant to his notice, "That the house do resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, to take into consideration the second and third Reports of the West India committee."

Lord Binning

rose to second the motion, and regretted that it should have been made in so thin a house, as the subject was of sufficient importance to entitle it to a fuller attendance.

Mr. Rose

regretted that the hon. gent, should, at this stage of the session, have thought proper to bring forward a question of this description. The hon. gent., from his speech, seemed to have brought forward the motion with a view to give himself an opportunity of stating that the measures which had been taken for the relief of the West Indies were not effectual to their object. The right hon. gent. then entered into a statement to shew that the measures adopted would be beneficial to the West India interest, and cautioned them against importuning the house with their case lest they might indispose it towards their relief!

Mr. Marriot

and the Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed the motion, on account of the protracted period of the session, and thought the measures already adopted would be sufficient till next session.

Mr. G. Hibbert

said, that although neither his eyes nor his ears had been gratified in the present debate, (the thin attend- ance on a subject so interesting being matter of almost as much discouragement as the expressions which he had heard from the right hon. gent. (Mr. Rose); yet that he was not one who would undervalue what had been done towards the relief of the colonists in the present session. The permission to use Sugar in the Distillery, for a time however short, must add to the consumption of that article and open another market for it. The Regulation, of the Duty on Spirits he had not at first seen in the important light in which it now appeared to him; but as it took away from spirits imported, what is called the Privilege of Escape (or a remission of duty on the overproof strength as far as ten gallons in the hundred) and, as he was satisfied upon enquiry that all the brandy and foreign spirits were contrived to be escapes, while a very inconsiderable part of the Rum imported was of that description the Regulation must in fact prove a tax upon foreign and consequently an encouragement to the consumption of colonial spirits. He could not see what objection there was to the carrying this principle farther, in compliance with the recommendation of the committee up stairs, by a more decisive discouragement of this traffic in the produce of the enemy, in favour of that of our own subjects and possessions. Brandy, to a certain extent, would be consumed, even if the tax were doubled; and he was informed that, under the present circumstances, the revenue could not suffer much from smuggling. The reduction of the duty on Coffee was another wise measure which he trusted would eventually promote the interests of both the coffee and the sugar planter, and also prove a source of future benefit to the revenue. In this instance, however, he feared that the principle had not been carried far enough; the present revenue in the home consumption of coffee was a matter contemptible in itself, and while we were seeking to establish a change in the habits of the public, it might have-been well to have made the encouragement, in the first instance, more decisive. The postponement, too, of the time when the reduced duty was to take effect appeared to him to be injudicious, and he was persuaded that the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer had somewhat hastily committed himself upon that subject, and that he would have been glad, upon farther reflection, to have given that act an earlier operation. From these mea- sures, however, when combined, he expected benefit, and was sincerely thankful for them. He believed that his hon. friend (Mr. Barham) was so also; and that the expressions he had used, if fairly understood, would not warrant the comments they had occasioned. His hon. friend had very properly said that little or nothing had been done for the permanent benefit of the Sugar Planters, since the use of the Distilleries was professedly temporary. The committee, who recommended it as an expedient suitable to the present circumstances of the country, expressly deprecated either its long continuance or its recurrence, and there was a large portion of that house most anxious to seethe West India trade relieved by other means, if for no other reason yet that its distress might neither be the motive nor the plea for any future interference with the Distillery from grain. The committee, whose labours appeared to have met the approbation of the house, had therefore, in conformity with its promise, suggested measures of permanent relief. And he thought it hard that he and others nearly interested should be accused of ingratitude, or of impolitic importunity, when they were anxious to press those measures upon the early consideration of the house and of his majesty's ministers. The case of the West Indies became more, perhaps, a question of the time than of the amount of relief. Another year like the last would bring on a crisis for which it would be difficult to find a cure. The estates had hitherto been supplied with necessaries, and while that was the case, peace and subordination were preserved there, and the shipping and manufacturing interests at home did not feel the weight of the evil which was approach-ins: but the resources from which this had been done were nearly exhausted, and would not bear out against such another losing year as the last. The consequences he dreaded to contemplate; but the house might rest assured that they would be felt most extensively.—The right hon. gent. (Mr. Rose) had warned them against importuning the house with their case, lest they might indispose it towards their relief; as if their case was not the case of that house and of the country. What could he or his hon. friend say more in illustration of the importance of the colonial trade, than what had fallen from the right hon. gent.? that it was now almost the only trade that was left to British shiping! and was it, then, wise or politic to risk this, almost the last resource of our commercial greatness and power at sea, for the sake of paltry and partial interests, either of the Ship Owners or the Revenue? Was it to be brought as a valid objection against one of the measures proposed for the relief of this trade by the committee, that it would occasion some sacrifice of the revenue, or against another, that it would interfere with that monopoly which the Ship Owners claimed, when it was proved to the house, that the colonies themselves, the substratum of these interests, were on the brink of destruction? The hon. gent, who had just sat down, had confined his observations to the matter of that Report of the Committee which related to the licensed trade in spirits, the produce and manufacture of the enemy; he would therefore make a very few remarks upon that other subject, recommended by the Committee to the attention of the house—the extension of the barter in American shipping to the articles of sugar and coffee. It was true that circumstances, at present out of our controul, seemed to throw to a distance any proceeding on that Report, but if the disposition were ascertained, the moment for acting might occur before that house should meet again, and it was the purport of his hon. friend's motion, that his majesty's ministers should not in such a moment have their hands tied up or their authority questionable. The policy appeared to him so clear and striking, of weakening during the war the colonies of the enemy, which ever had been and must again be the chief sources of her naval power, that he wondered how either this or any former administration should have suffered minor objects to interfere with it. The advantage of pushing a few of our manufactures, through America, into the consumption of the enemy's colonies, was, surely, not to be brought into comparison with so great an object. We had unwisely relaxed the rule of the war of 1756, until we appeared to have lost sight of it altogether, and menu time the colonies of the enemy were thriving while our own were falling rapidly into decay. To have returned again to the policy of that rule of 1756, and to have softened its operations in respect to America, by permitting her, during the war, to take away in her own shipping that surplus produce of our own colonies which we could not find the means of throwing into consumption, and could only persist in monopolizing to their destruc tion, would, as he must continue to think, have been our wisest proceeding, whether in respect to the colonics or to America. We had right and necessity and precedent also, to plead in its defence; and he wished the house to look back and see what had been in former wars the consequences of our adherence to or departure from this policy.—It appeared from the authentic Tables given by M. Arnould, in his "Balance de la Commerce," that on the average of Seven years of peace, from 1749 to 1755, the colonial trade of France in round numbers of francs, was thus:—Colonial Produce,

Imported, value 65,000,000
Exported 35,000,000
Consumed at home 30,000,000

In the course of the Seven Years War, while we acted upon the Rule which bears the name of the Rule of 1756, say from 1756 to 1763, the average of the eight years was reduced to these amounts:

Imported 15,400,00O
Exported 12,200,000
Consumed 3,200,000

After that war, followed a peace of 13 years, say from 1761 to 1776 inclusive, during which France had assiduously studied to restore her colonies. The average of this period was,

Imported 112,000,000
Exported 37,700,000
Consumed 74,300,000

Then followed the American war, in which we had relaxed our former rule, and the average of seven years of their trade from 1777 to 17S3, both inclusive, was

Imported 108,700,000
Exported 50,000,000
Consumption 58, 100,000
The house would see that during that war France, though she was compelled to consume less at home of her colonial produce, yet greatly increased her foreign export thereof beyond the average of the preceding peace; and upon the return of peace, commencing with a colonial trade so little checked or impeded, he begged the house to remark that in the succeeding five years of peace, from 17S4to 1788, (immediately before the Revolution) she had arrived at the surprizing increase of an Import equal in value to 193,200,000
Export 93,000,000
Consumption 100,200,000
The consequence of this accumulation of her colonial trade in a period so short, had been attended with a proportionate extension of her naval power, which, at the moment of the Revolution, was very formidable; and, without precisely knowing what was the state of her intercourse with her colonies at this time, he yet could assert that those which remained to her were in themselves flourishing, and must, whenever a peace should occur, become chiefly instrumental in furnishing her with experienced seamen.—To the object thus considered, he earnestly intreated the attention of ministers. The shipping interest should reflect that we were adding to the monopoly of our own, that also of the trade of the conquered colonies, which at a peace we could not expect to retain; and on this ground, therefore, the support and encouragement of our own colonies during the war, by a temporary concession to the American shipping, was the more politic. Such a concession was compensated now by our trade with the conquered colonies; and whenever, on the return of peace, we resumed our monopoly, we might find, in the increased prosperity of our own colonies, which this concession had occasioned, a counterbalance for that share of the foreign colony trade which we should then be called upon to relinquish.—For these reasons, he must approve and support his hon. friend's motion, should he think fit to take the sense of the house upon it.

Mr. Ellis

contended, that in the present situation of G. Britain the importation of brandy and foreign spirits into this country, ought to be, by all means, discouraged, as tending to overturn the interests of the corn-growers of this island, and the sugar merchants of the colonies, by the deficiency in the consumption of the article of rum; whilst it was serviceable to the enemy, by encouraging the importation of their commodities, by indirect means, into this country.

Lord H. Petty

gave notice, that early in the next session of parliament he should take an opportunity of attracting the attention of the house to the destructive consequences of the Orders in Council; and should, therefore, abstain from entering into the course of argument which had been pursued by the gentlemen who had preceded him.

Mr. Barham

briefly replied, and contended that he had not undervalued the remedial measures resorted to by this country, for the relief of the West India merchants: he concluded with informing the house, that he should not proceed to a division on the question then before it.— The motion was accordingly without a division.