HC Deb 22 March 1809 vol 13 cc765-9
Mr. Foster

moved the second reading of this bill.

Mr. Baring

objected to it. He said it proposed to give 20,000l. to the Linen Company of Ireland, for the purpose of encouraging the growth of flax-seed, which he considered a useless grant. The climate of Ireland, though good for the cul- tivation of flax, was not calculated for the cultivation of seed, which was sufficiently proved by its always having been imported. He considered the interference of government, by introducing acts of parliament for the regulation of trade, and granting bounties, to be injurious to the country in general. The right hon. gent, had promised to do something for the people of Ireland, and therefore proposed giving them the 20,000l. which was no way likely to answer the ends proposed, as the seed was wanted by the month of May, and if any scarcity existed, it was the likeliest way to make it more felt.

Mr. Foster

expressed pleasure at the hon. gentleman having made his objections, as they arose from his misunderstanding the object; and he had thereby the opportunity of explaining it. The object of the bill was to render Ireland independent of America for seed, by inducing her to grow her own seed. The soil of Ireland, and the climate, he conceived so well calculated for its production, that he entertained the strongest hopes she would eventually be able not only to supply her own consumption, but also to supply England. Experiments had been tried, and not the smallest doubt existed of their being able to grow seed. The bounty was to extend to 15,000 bushels, which, according to the bill, was to be perfectly sound, or the parties furnishing it would subject themselves to existing penalties.—He hoped this explanation would be completely satisfactory to the hon. member.

Mr. Horner

said, that notwithstanding the strong assertions of the right hon. gent, he did not believe Ireland capable of producing flax-seed, which was manifest in her not having already done so. The hon. gent, then generally condemned the acts of the present administration for the regulation of trade, particularly the Orders in Council; and thought this one of those measures which served to throw commerce into a state of barbarism. The idea of its making Ireland independent of America he considered ridiculous, for if the American embargo was to be taken off, they would immediately be plentifully supplied, and would of course revert to their usual mode of traffic. He supposed, too, from what he had heard, that this was to be an annual burden upon the people; in whatever way he viewed it, he condemned it; as a temporary measure it was nugatory; as a permanent measure it was bad.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that the hon. gentleman who had just sat down had carried his objections to the hill to too great a length. He had argued against its becoming a permanent measure, of which his right hon, friend had not given the least hint. Particular circumstances warranted a deviation from general rules; it was narrow pedantry to adhere to given practices, without any modification or trifling deviation, He considered it wise to provide, even at a risk, against the detriment and inconvenience of trade, rather than endanger the security of the whole manufacture; but this was to meet a case of actual necessity, a necessity which really existed; and although it could not immediately be relieved, the bounty would have the effect, in the hands of the Linen Board of Ireland, of encouraging the growth of seed for the subsequent year, when parliament could determine upon the expediency of continuing it. He was not now recommending what he would in ordinary times, but, under existing circumstances, he trusted the house would see that this measure ought to be adopted.

Mr. Parnell,

though he might incur the censure of his right hon. gent, in common with his hon. friend, of being a pedant in the science of political economy, would nevertheless oppose the doctrine of the right hon. gentleman, that the Navigation Act was a wise exception of the established maxims of that, science: he could quote the authority of Dr. Smith to shew that before that act had begun to operate, the navy of England was superior to the united navies of Holland and France, and that the trade of England was then very great, and every day becoming greater; circumstances which induced him to doubt the policy of that measure. He condemned the general policy of commercial regulation, adopted by the present administration, the principles of which operated against a policy which every one had understood; and deprecated giving bounties, as originating in erroneous policy. He conceived that if any part of our trade could bear interruption with less injury than another, it was the linen trade, for the manufacturers were not exclusively employed in it, but were also agriculturists, and could consequently convert their lands and labours to other uses. He also deprecated the policy of foreign manufactures in Ireland by legislative protections, thus drawing from the improvement of the land that capital which would be more advantageously employed on land.

Mr. Rose,

entered into a general defence of our commercial laws, and said, that many found fault with them, who did not understand what they were. They confined to this country the monopoly of our own produce, and the produce of our colonies, which was perfectly commendable. Since the present administration had been in power, they had made no alteration in those laws; the measures they had brought forward were merely temporary, and were in no way injurious to any country. If all countries were to adopt similar regulations, this assertion would become evident. The present bill was nothing more than to encourage the growth of flax for seed. If we were completely free with America tomorrow, the measure would be a wise one, as it was extremely desirous Ireland should have the seed, independent of any other country, it being the foundation of her staple manufacture.

Mr. Grattan

said, that the country depended on the leading manufacture; the leading manufacture depended on the seed; to secure a supply of that seed, a bounty was necessary—it was a measure of necessity; if they had no linen, they had no trade; and he agreed with the right hon. gent. (Mr. Foster) upon its propriety. Though America might raise her Embargo, and we rescind our Orders in Council, still the same circumstance might occur; it was therefore wisest to depend upon ourselves, and, in that view, as a measure of necessity, he would vote for the Bill.

Sir John Newport

approved of the proposed measure, and would continue to do so if the American Embargo were immediately removed: he would not have Ireland's manufacture depend on the caprice of any other country; and he certainly agreed with the right, hon. gent, opposite, that if the measure should prove an expedient one, it ought to be resorted to.

Mr. Baring

explained. He did not condemn the motive, but thought the plan proposed would not have the desired effect.

Sir George Hill

said, that the value of the lands and the high rents depended upon the manufacture of linen; if that failed, they must consequently fall in value. It was owing to the intercourse between the two countries in this trade, that the rate of exchange had fallen to its present standard, which he represented as unprecedentedly favourable.

Mr. Sharp

condemned the interference of the legislature, as an unnecessary mediation.

The Bill was then read a second time, and ordered to be taken into consideration by a committee of the whole house tomorrow.