§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
presented a petition from that part of the united kingdom, where there was the most condensed population employed in manufactures—the parish of Bethnalgreen. That parish contained 50,000 people, dependent on the silk manufacture for support. The petition was signed by 7,000 persons all housekeepers, who stated that they apprehended their entire ruin from the abolition of the restrictions on the importation of Foreign silks. They expressed themselves in temperate language, thanked the House and the chancellor of the Exchequer for the postponement of the day of their destruction till 1826, and prayed that it might be further postponed till 1829.
presented a petition from the retail silk dealers of Westminster, praying that their claims for compensation-might be considered. These petitioners stood in a situation of peculiar hardship, and he trusted their claims would be taken into consideration by the right hon. gentleman opposite. Most of these retail dealers had large pieces of silk on hand, to the extent of 160, 170, or 180 yards, from which what was technically called the fag-end, consisting of a piece of two or three inches appended to a small portion of the silk, had been cut, as a pattern to show their customers. Now, whatever might be the dimensions or the value of a piece of silk, if a small portion at the fagg-end were cut off in this way, the whole was considered as a cut piece, and the holder was consequently precluded from availing himself of the drawback to which he was entitled for uncut pieces of silk. In many cases, retail traders would not, from this cause, receive one-fourth of the allowance to which they were equitably entitled. The only answer which had been urged against granting compensation to the petitioners was, that it was not usual to make allowances to retail dealers, but it should be recollected, that it was competent to these retail dealers to deliver their goods into the 1313 warehouse and to receive an allowance for that portion of silk which was uncut. The hon. member for Coventry had, with his accustomed zeal and attention to the interests of his constituents, obtained a compensation for the holders of such a piece of ribbon as he (Mr. C.) now held in his hand, consisting of 18 yards at 2d. a yard. Now, if the holders of a piece of ribbon of 18 yards, of the value of 3s. had been considered entitled to an allowance, surely the holders of pieces of silk of the value of 10l. or 15l. ought not to be precluded from compensation, merely because a small portion at the fag-end had been cut off by way of pattern.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought that, as the House was shortly going into the committee on the silk trade, it would be better to reserve the discussion of this subject for that committee.
said, he had been instructed by that part of his constituents interested in this measure, to support the prayer of the petition. He begged to observe that, up to Friday last, the petitioners were wholly unaware that the provisions of the act would have such an operation. They were anxious that the whole subject should be discussed, and he was quite sure, that when that discussion took place, the right hon. gentleman would see the fairness of their claims, and be ready to accede to them. As two classes of traders had received compensation, it would be extremely hard on these petitioners, if an allowance were not extended to them. He approved of the general principles of the proposed measure; at the same time he thought the claims of these petitioners justly entitled to the equitable consideration of the chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Ordered to lie on the table.
§ The House then resolved itself into a committee upon the Silk-trade bill, and counsel were called in, and heard at the bar, in behalf of the petitioners against the bill.
opened their case. He recited the various acts of parliament by which the trade had, up to the present time, been regulated and maintained that the present was not a proper period for altering the laws by which the silk manufacture was protected, because the manufacturers in this country possessed none of the advantages which were essen- 1314 tially necessary to enable them to compete with the foreign manufacturer. In the first place, labour was not free from restriction in this country: the committee were aware, that the attempt which had been made last session to repeal the 13th Geo 3rd. c. 68, had not been successful, and that a considerable branch of the silk manufacture was consequently still confined to a particular district. This was not the case in France, for, in the year 1786, the regulations of a similar description at Lyons were repealed, and labour was now subject to no restrictions in that country. In this respect, therefore, the English manufacturer would be wholly unable to compete with the, foreigner. He humbly submitted, on the part of his clients, that some protection was essentially necessary to the throwsters, that they might not be left at the mercy of foreign countries for the material which they required in their manufactures. It was generally admitted, that our mills were superior to those in Italy, and yet such was the difference of the price of labour between the two countries, that the article which it would cost eight shillings in the pound to produce in this country, the Italians could furnish for four. Now, France grew the article, and she could come into this country, purchase Bengal silk, carry it duty free to Italy, and change it into organzine, and actually place it in the loom four shillings in the pound cheaper than England. The question, then, to be considered was this—would the material be put in the hands of the manufacturer, under the new regulations, upon such terms as would enable him to meet the competition which would be opposed to him? He submitted that this would not be the case, and that the throwsters were entitled to some protection, until such time as the improvement in our manufactures would enable them to overcome the disadvantages arising from the low rate of labour in other countries. He would beg to direct the attention of the committee to the evidence of Mr. Hall, who was examined before the House of Lords. He stated, that he had been at Lyons, and had there seen a machine, which greatly facilitated the manufacture of the article, and on his return to this country it obtained the approbation of many persons in the trade, and shortly after he obtained a patent for the improvement. Considerable efforts were since made to increase the use 1315 of these machines, but, with all his exertions, only sixty of them had been introduced into operation. According to the evidence of Mr. Hall, this machine was of as much consequence to the silk trade, as the invention of sir R. Arkwright had been to the cotton trade. It must therefore be obvious, that it would be impossible to compete with the French market, whilst they possessed this valuable machine, and we were without it. Now this machine could not be carried into full effect by the time the bill before the House would come into operation. The manufacturer, therefore, would still require protection. What he had been instructed to submit to the House was, that, if the measure were carried into execution at the time specified, it would be productive of the most serious injury; and that further time should be granted, in order to enable them to meet the competition with which they would have to contend. In France, where silk was raised, no monopoly was given to the silk grower, and the manufacturers could purchase, in whatever country they got the commodity, on the most advantageous terms; and through the means of the machine to which he had adverted, and the comparatively low rate of wages, they could put the material into the loom at four shillings in the pound cheaper than England. If our machinery had undergone a considerable improvement, still the difference in the value of labour would give them a great advantage. What, then, must be the superiority whilst they were in possession of this machine, and we were without it? The inference which he wished to draw from these statements, and which must be obvious to the committee, was this, that some additional time was essentially necessary to enable the English manufacturer to compete with the foreign market. The English and the foreign manufacturers do not at present stand upon equal terms; and until that equality could, in some degree, be accomplished, so extensive an alteration should not be carried into execution. It might be said, "this evil is provided for, there is a protecting duty of thirty per cent." But the Committee would allow him to state, that, according to the evidence of Mr. Hal!, there was very little difficulty in evading the payment of these duties. If the article were allowed to be introduced into this country, under any system of protecting duties, any quantity might be 1316 brought over, and under circumstances which would render it hopeless for the English manufacturer to attempt competition. Mr. Hall states, that when he was at Paris, an offer had been made to him to supply him with any quantity of manufactured silks he might choose to select, and to deliver them in any part of London, for an insurance of 10 per cent; so that, instead of being an advantage, the protecting duties operated as a boon to smugglers. Another great objection was this—it was well known, that the manufacturers of China could manufacture the article at one-half less than any country in the world, in consequence of which the Americans would naturally resort to that market. On behalf of his clients he submitted that some enlargement of the time should be granted; five years at least would be required, and perhaps even two years more would be necessary. The great manufacturing supply commenced at the close of the year, and continued till the following spring; so that in the present year, the operation of the measure could have little effect, as the season was far advanced. In the next year its effects would be more felt, but in the July of 1826, what manufacturer would embark his capital, with a certainty that in a short period a most formidable competition would be raised up against him, and when the competitors would commence under circumstances highly favourable to them? It would not be the mere chance introduction of the commodity in 1826 that would be to be apprehended; but a great quantity of the article would be previously prepared, and large supplies of silks would be kept in a state of readiness in warehouses, until the moment had arrived for their introduction. The capitalists, whose property was at present embarked, would receive the drawbacks now, and would have time to make arrangements for retiring before the measure should come into operation; but there would not be time for other capitalists to prepare for embarking their capitals. He was prepared to support the statements he had submitted to the Committee by the most incontrovertible evidence. He had anxiously endeavoured, by a close examination of all the details of the subject, to compress what he had to say into the smallest possible compass, in order to bring under the view of the Committee all the prominent points of the subject, that they might the more easily see the objects to winch he 1317 had been instructed to solicit their serious attention.—The learned gentleman then withdrew from the bar.
§ The five first clauses of the silk-trade bill were then read and agreed to, without any amendments.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
then informed the committee, that the next clause was that to which the petition presented by the hon. member for Wareham particularly adverted. The clause was as follows:—"And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for any person to bring and deposit, on or before the said 25th day of March, 1824, in any warehouse to be approved of by the commissioners of Customs, any raw silk, or any thrown silk, on which the duties of Customs shall have been paid (not being less in quantity than three hundred pounds weight), there to be kept and received in such manner as the commissioners of Customs shall direct, until after the said twenty-fifth day of March, 1824." Such was the provision of the bill as it now stood. The committee therefore perceived, that there was no specific provision between cut and uncut goods, and that no quantity under 300lbs. weight would be received. He had already stated it to be his view of the question, that some distinct line should be drawn, and his original impression was, that the natural line should be, to confine the bounty or draw-back to uncut silk goods. He felt, however, that any such line of distinction would be accompanied with difficulties. Amongst these he admitted the case put by the hon. member for Wareham, namely, that pieces of silk large in quantity were cut, but merely cut for the exhibiting of patterns and not for sale. He had no objection to the introduction of words into the clause that he had read to meet that case; and in expressing his willingness to provide for that case, he trusted that the House and the parties interested would admit, that he had gone as far as reason and fairness claimed. If the draw-backs were to be granted on every piece of goods merely because it amounted to thirty yards, the committee must feel that the principle would go further. On pieces cut for sale, no matter what number of yards, it should be recollected that the dealer had already sold at a profit. In the impossibility of meeting every case, the reasonable course was, to adopt some definite principle. Acting upon that impression, he had no objection that after 1318 the words "three hundred pounds weight," in the clause recited, there should be introduced the words "and in entire pieces, or such as have been only cut for exhibiting patterns thereof."
expressed his satisfaction at the very frank manner in which the chancellor of the Exchequer had met the objection to which he had alluded, when he presented the petition from the mercers of Westminster that evening. That attention and promptitude were in unison with the right hon. gentleman's general conduct whenever the interests of any part of the community were concerned, and reflected the greatest credit upon him. He, therefore, did not despair, that having gone so far to relieve the great body of the trade in question, the right hon. gentleman would proceed a step further. If he would grant the drawback to cut pieces of silk of thirty yards, he would afford great relief to the dealers, and by so doing put an end to every complaint.
§ Mr. Wallace
apprehended, that if the Committee once departed from the definite principle, as laid down in the suggestion of his right hon. friend, namely, to limit the drawback to pieces uncut, or such as were cut merely for the exhibiting of patterns, a very undue preference would be given to the dealer in London, and denied to the dealer in the country. With the latter description, the stock on hand consisted of cut pieces under thirty yards; and on what principle could relief, if afforded to the London mercer, be denied to them? The best principle was, to refuse the bounties altogether to pieces cut for the purposes of sale.
Mr. Alderman Wood
hoped, that the relief would be general, and extend to the whole of the retail trade, whether in town or country. He suggested to the chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was the practice of the silk trade to get pieces cut from the loom, and that, as the provision now stood, the relief of drawbacks would not be applicable to such pieces.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
adverted to the exaggerated impression that had been circulated abroad with respect to the a-mount of these drawbacks. It had been stated most erroneously at a million. He had been informed by a very eminent person in the silk line, on whose veracity he could repose the fullest confidence, that it would not exceed from 250.000l. to 260,000l. Indeed, he believed he might take upon himself to say, that if the allow- 1319 ance of drawbacks was extended to cut pieces of silk of thirty yards or under, the increased amount under that head would not exceed 25,000l. That amount, though little to parliament to grant, was, when thrown upon thirty or forty persons in trade to bear, a considerable pressure. He thought the House was bound in duty not to overlook the interests of the London retail dealers. He trusted the member for Wareham would move an amendment to allow the drawback to pieces of thirty yards.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
observed, that the statement of the hon. member who had just sat down went to justify the chancellor of the Exchequer in removing all bounties whatsoever. He did not think the regulation now proposed was of such a nature as would effect the whole object which the right hon. gentleman intended. He ought to lay down some principle, some distinctive line, and to abide by it. He said he would admit cut articles to draw the bounty. Now, he asked whether there was any specific quantity up to which he would allow the bounty to be paid?
§ Mr. W. Williams
said, that the hon. member for Nottingham was not at all inconsistent in the argument he had used. His assertion was, that the drawback would be of no service to the public, but would benefit the mercer, who would put the amount in his pocket. He was precisely of the same opinion. The mercer's profit was at present so considerable, that on large orders he could abate 3d. or 4d. per yard, and not sell at a loss; and by this provision they were about to increase his profit. He conceived the measure originally introduced was a wise one; and, fully impressed with that idea, the chancellor of the Exchequer should have his strenuous support. In his opinion that right hon. gentleman had been too anxious to meet the wishes of those who opposed this measure; and he thought it would have been much better if he had stood firmly on the proposition first made to that House. It would be wise to make no farther concessions, but to act up to that which seemed to be just towards all parties. The right hon. gentleman must know, that it was totally impossible to please every body. He ought to stand upon a great principle, and bid defiance 1320 to opposition. By looking only to the general advantage of his country, he would be certain to command the approbation and gratitude of all disinterested, persons.
said, that the argument of the hon. member went to an extraordinary length. According to him, the chancellor of the Exchequer ought to adhere to his first proposition, be it good or bad. The hon. member ought, however, to recollect, that the chancellor of the Exchequer had already altered his plan. The importation of foreign silk was to have commenced on the 5th of July, 1824; but the right hon. gentleman had reconsidered the matter; and, in conformity with representations which had been made to him on the subject, the importation of foreign silk was postponed till July 1826. Such evil counsel as had been given by the hon. member was sufficient to corrupt even a chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. member said, that at present, the mercer could afford, on large orders, to give up 3d. or 4d. of in the yard. What, then, would be the effect, if this drawback were allowed? Why, he would then be enabled to abate 7d. or 8d. per yard. He hoped the right hon. gentleman would carry his measure of relief a little further, and that it would be extended to remnants of silk, consisting of thirty or forty yards.
§ Mr. W. Williams
said, he had never argued, that the chancellor of the Exchequer should persist in a measure when once brought in, whether it was right or wrong. He had stated, and he would again state, that the right hon. gentleman had anxiously attended to all parties. He had conceded more than enough; and the more he conceded, the more would be demanded. He should be ashamed of himself if he acted like some of those gentlemen who were continually goading ministers to adopt the principle of free and unfettered trade, but who, the moment an attempt was made to act upon that principle, immediately turned round and thwarted the experiment by every means in their power. He believed the measures proposed by ministers were calculated to serve the best interests of the country; and impressed with that feeling, he should be ashamed of himself if he did not give them his humble but strenuous support.
The amendment suggested by the chancellor of the Exchequer, extending the 1321 drawback to such pieces as had only been cut for exhibiting the patterns thereof, was agreed to.
professed himself at a loss to comprehend what the hon. member for Weymouth meant by advising the chancellor of the Exchequer to make a stand. The only object which any man could have in view on this subject Was, to endeavour to do his duty to all parties concerned. With respect to cut pieces, it ought to be recollected, that a great portion of the stock of the country dealer consisted of cut pieces. And where would be the greater difficulty of making a return of the duty on cut pieces of thirty yards in length, when sent to the warehouses, than on whole pieces? To limit the measure to cut pieces of that length would exclude all scraps, remnants, &c. He hoped the right hon. gentleman would not adhere so rigidly to his principles as to deny this concession. He strongly recommended also, that the valuation of the duty to be allowed as drawback might take place in the shops of the dealers in silk. The country dealers declared that nothing could be more easy than for the excise officers in the different towns to take the stock of the dealers in silk at their respective shops. Such a proceeding would save much of the trouble and inconvenience that must result from sending the goods to the warehouses.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the paramount difficulty in this, case had been, to carry the principle into effect with as little inconvenience as possible to the dealers. If the suggestion of the hon. gentleman were adopted, government would be obliged to send Custom-house officers to every town in the kingdom, and heaven knew where they were to find them? Officers had been sent to Nottingham, because the silk-manufacture was carried on there, and they had also been stationed at all the sea-ports. Persons, therefore, who were included in his amendment, would naturally find their way to the officers at the nearest station. With regard to the amendment, it was quite clear that the further the principle of remitting duty was pushed, the more would the difficulties in carrying the measure into execution be multiplied. He therefore felt it his duty to oppose it.
Mr. R. Smith
expressed his doubts, how far it would be practicable to ascertain that pieces professing to be cut merely for exhibiting patterns, had not been cut for sale.
observed, that in the first place there was the declaration of the dealer; from which, if doubted, there would be an appeal to the officer. But the fact was, that the general length of the pieces was well known. If the amendment were adopted, every piece must be measured, which would be productive of the greatest trouble and inconvenience.
remarked, that the trouble and inconvenience would be on the part of the owner of the goods. If he thought they would not be compensated by the allowance, he would not undergo them.
§ The Committee divided, for the Amendment 30; Against it 76: Majority 46.
§ On the clause being read which fixed the 5th July, 1826, as the period at which the prohibition on the importation of foreign silks was to cease,
begged to be allowed to say a few parting words. The committee had heard, in a speech from counsel, which to him seemed to be most satisfactory and impressive, although he was sorry to observe that it did not appear to have produced much effect on the committee, that the manufacturers were decidedly of opinion, that the period at which the competition of foreign manufacturers was to be admitted was much too early. With a view of recording his opinion, rather than with any hope of inducing the committee to adopt his proposition, he should move as an amendment, to substitute "the fifth of July 1829," for the words, "the fifth of July 1826;" thereby complying with the wish expressed to that House by a number of petitioners on the subject. Even supposing the measure a right one, those who were deeply interested in it conceived that five years were indispensable to enable them to meet (if meet they could) the competition with which they were threatened. With regard to the policy of choosing the silk trade as that on which this first experiment of liberal commercial policy was to be tried, he could not help remarking, that it seemed somewhat extraordinary, while the linen and woollen and other trades were allowed to remain untouched, that his majesty's government should select, for the purpose, of making 1323 an experiment of the principles of free trade, an article of which it was well known that, in this country, it had always laboured under great disadvantages. For himself, he was persuaded that the experiment would be unsuccessful. The hon. gentleman then proceeded to read a letter addressed by the committee of the silk trade at Derby, to the committee of manufacturers in the metropolis, in which it was stated, that while they wished for compensation on the stock in hand, the trade in Derby was dissatisfied with the measure of the chancellor of the Exchequer. Of this he was quite certain, that the representations against it from all parts of the kingdom would, before long, become both numerous and serious. Many persons, it was true, would be willing to take the bounty now, though perfectly conscious of their inability to maintain a competition with France; and it was not unreasonable to suppose, that these persons would afterwards turn round upon the measure, when they had secured the temporary advantage which they had in view. The right hon. gentleman had taunted him with inconsistency; but he was not aware that he had so committed himself. His opinions had been always in favour of free trade, and they still remained so; but in carrying the principle into effect, he was anxious that they should proceed with caution. To select this trade, with all the advantage on the side of the French, for the purpose of trying the experiment of free trade, was little short of absolute folly. Besides, they had not the opinion of any body of men to induce them to believe, that the competition could be maintained against the French manufacturer. The limitation of time was another point to which he objected. It appeared to him, that the present limitation was the most inconvenient that could be assigned. He would rather that it should be taken earlier or more remote. As it was, the whole trade would be paralysed for two years; for those who thought they could not meet the competition would draw in; those who doubted would proceed with diffidence; and nobody would enter with spirit into the trade. If they were quite sure of the soundness of the principles Upon which they were about to legislate, he would have them wait, until they could ascertain, from some satisfactory source, that our machinery was equal to the machinery of France Then would be the 1324 time to challenge competition, and to throw the trade as open as the most liberal advocate for free trade could require. But, the fact was, they were proceeding without any information; and government had done the same. The right hon. gentleman and his coadjutors thought they had done enough when they talked of free trade and liberal principles; and one hon. gentleman, a true political economist, was so enthusiastic in his praise of the measure, as to say, that he liked it better because there was no reciprocity. If such was the hon. gentleman's opinion, he had no hesitation in saying, that he differed from him, in a case where there was so much to be hazarded. Though he was far from expecting, that any thing he could say would influence the opinion of the committee, he should feel it his duty to move an amendment, chiefly with a view to record his own opinion upon the subject. The hon. member accordingly, concluded with moving, that, for the 5th of July, 1826, should be substituted the 5th of July, 1829, as the period at which foreign silks should be allowed to be imported.
Mr. R. Gordon
said, he could not help remarking that many of the advocates for free trade drew a very strange distinction. They were all friends, cordial friends, to the principle of free trade; but, the moment any particular measure was attempted, which affected their interests, or the interests of their constituents, the principle of free trade was opposed without any hesitation. He had often heard the hon. gentleman who spoke last, quote Adam Smith with 'applause, though he was now disposed to cavil with the political economists.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he did not wish to prolong the discussion, but there were some observations in the speech of the hon. member for Taunton, to which he was desirous to offer some reply. The hon. gentleman wished the House to understand that there was no acquiescence on the part of the trade to this measure, and had alluded to a letter from the manufacturers at Derby, to shew that their opinions were unfavourable to the experiment. With the permission of the House he also would read a letter which he had received from the trade established in Derby, in which they enclosed a copy of the letter quoted by the hon. gentleman and sent to the committee in London. In that letter it was stated, that though a few of the body in that 1325 place had doubts as to the possibility of maintaining a competition with the French, they were all ready and willing to make the trial at the time assigned by government, approving as they did of the principle upon which the measure was founded. He was also desirous to allude to the opinions expressed by the silk trade in Manchester, where there existed as sound a knowledge upon such subjects as in any part of the kingdom. It was stated by those persons in the most distinct manner, that they approved of the reduction of the duties alluded to, but felt a lively alarm at the opposition which the measure might encounter in parliament. They moreover impressed upon government the importance of persevering in it, as a measure fraught with the most decided advantages to the silk trade of this country. These facts, he submitted, were a sufficient proof, that the Objections among the trade were not so general as the hon. gentleman would seem to insinuate. As to the duty on organzine, he would allow that it was higher than was consistent with the principle applied to the duty on raw silk; but, whatever alarm might be felt in this country, he understood that the manufacturers in France were still more alarmed, when they considered the advantage which the adoption of this free principle was likely to afford the British manufacturer in the foreign markets. He did not mean to say, that the alarm was well founded on the part of France: it might or it might not, but the existence of it was a proof of the different Opinions entertained on the subject at least.
repeated, that those who consented to the measure were misled by a desire for the present bounties.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
said, he was ready to take his share of the obloquy which might attach to those who opposed the present measure. In the reply of the right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer, he had not heard one word as to the essential point, whether the period was to be postponed from the year 1826 to the year 1829 or not. He looked at this question principally with a view to the interests of the labouring classes, who were the people most concerned. This experiment of a free trade had been already tried. In 1761 the prohibitions had been repealed for five years; but, at the end of that time, such a quantity of misery had resulted therefrom, that they were again imposed, and were afterwards 1326 continued from five years, to six years, until the year 1780,: when they were imposed for a period of fourteen years, and then they were found so advantageous that they were made perpetual. He wished that the persons engaged in the silk trade should at least have a period of five years allowed them to make preparations. If they were not entitled to this as a matter of right, they were as a matter of indulgence. He highly respected the motives of the chancellor of the Exchequer, and had no doubt he proposed the present measure with the best intentions for the public service; but it was a most unpopular measure, and would lead to a revolution in a trade which now gave employment to many thousand people. He thought more time should be granted, that prejudices might be removed if the opposition was founded in error, and an opportunity afforded of detecting the fallacy of the measure before it led to ruin, if it should turn out to be founded on false principles. He was not a convert to those principles of political economy which were at present prevalent; but one thing was quite clear, that if the House were now so enlightened, our ancestors must have been most profoundly ignorant [hear, hear! from Mr. Hume]. The hon. member called "hear!" but under this ignorance the country had not gone to ruin; on the contrary, the principles which were now sought to be set aside had conducted the country to ft pitch of commercial greatness which no other nation had ever attained. The manufacturers he understood, had proposed to the chancellor of the Exchequer, if he would resign the period to five years, they would resign the drawback, which would probably amount to 500,000l. By extending the period too, the country would gain 750,000l. of revenue, making a total of 1,250,000l. which the country would save by granting the prayer of the manufacturers. This was an argument which he thought should have some weight with the hon. member for Aberdeen. The measure would also give satisfaction to all classes; and therefore he thought it worthy the attention of the chancellor of the Exchequer.
said, that the silk trade had not been improved, in point of machinery like other trades, because it had wanted the stimulus of competition. He had observed, that up to a very late period, the towns in Cheshire and Stafford shire, where this manufactory was established, had not in- 1327 creased. Now, however, they were increasing, and he had no doubt that if the restrictions were removed, the trade in a short time would make a still greater progress. One difficulty in the way of the manufacturers was the Spitalfields acts; and he hoped the chancellor of the Exchequer would not allow what passed last year to prevent him from again bringing forward a measure to repeal those acts. In consequence of them, an article which was made at Manchester for 6d. per yard, could not be made in London under 14d. Another difficulty arose from the manner in which the East India Company administered the government of India. At present, it was not possible to send; out a confidential clerk to India, and in consequence, the silk trade with that country could not be conducted with advantage. At present, he knew that in Lancashire there was a greater demand for machinery, than could be supplied. Taking these difficulties into consideration, and thinking, as he did, that it would enable us better to meet them, he hoped the chancellor of the Exchequer would extend the time for one year.
explained the conduct of the Board of Control in having refused the application of a young gentleman, spoken to on a previous evening, to be allowed to go out to the East Indies to trade in silks. He knew positively that no such application had ever been made. An application had indeed been made to permit a clerk to go to the house of Palmer and company, which was refused; but no application whatever had been made to allow a clerk to go out for the special purpose of promoting the silk trade.
§ Mr. Haldimand
explained, that it was not expedient to send out a clerk for this special purpose, as it added much to the expense. He thought our advantages were greater than those possessed by France. The silk of Italy might be brought from that country at an expense which was very trifling compared to its value. We derived great advantages from our trade with India; and he had no doubt that, in a few years, we should export India silk both to France and Italy. He was Convinced, that the stimulus now to be given to the silk trade would, in a short time, make our machinery superior to that of France. The silk merchants, who trade on commission, did not wish for an extension of time. He had received a letter from some of them, begging 1328 him to state in his place that they did not concur in the prayer of the petition presented a few days ago, and thought that any further extension of time would only be an injury. The greatest injury which the trade could suffer would be from vacillation on the part of the chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Littleton,
on behalf of the silk trade of Staffordshire, disowned any participation in the compromise offered by the hon. member for Taunton; not that the manufacturers would object to the extension of time, if given to them, but they would not give up the remission of duties promised them to obtain it.
§ Mr. Ellice
asked the chancellor of the Exchequer, if it would not be possible to extend the period from July to October, 1826, as that would give the trade the benefit of a whole year? Like the hon. member for Staffordshire, he was instructed not to consent to the compromise recommended by the hon. member for Taunton. It was his opinion, that we might, in a short time, successfully compete with France. In some branches we were certainly behind that country; but he had no doubt, if the principles of free trade were extended to the necessaries of life, that we should in a short time, be able to surpass her.
§ Mr. Hume
assured the hon. member for Taunton, that his fears as to our being deficient in point of machinery were wholly groundless. He had lately seen evidence to prove that, in every branch except the silk trade, our machinery was decidedly superior to that of every nation in Europe: and he was quite convinced, that we were behind in this particular branch, only in consequence of the restraints and shackles which had been imposed on that trade. He trusted that the chancellor of the Exchequer would proceed steadily in his project.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
was for postponing the operation of the measure till October, so as to secure the manufacturers and dealers in the transactions of the summer trade.
§ Mr. Alderman Bridges
thought the letter read by the chancellor of the Exchequer of little consequence, as Manchester was not a large silk manufacturing place.
§ The amendment was negatived.
§ Mr. Ellice
then rose to call the attention of the chancellor of the Exchequer to what he had before suggested, and to ask, if it would not be possible to postpone the time till October 1826.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
replied, that first of all he had intended that the 5th of January 1828, should be the period; but, on communicating with the trade, they had suggested the 5th of July, to which he had acceded, and they had expressed themselves satisfied. New they asked for three months more; and he had no doubt, if that were granted, that they would then wish for another three months to get rid of their winter stock, as they now wanted to get rid of their summer stock. The hon. member had stated no sufficient reason why his request should be acceded to; and he therefore should adhere to the period now fixed.