§ General Gascoyne,
on rising to bring forward his motion for a Committee of Inquiry into the state of the Shipping Interest, observed, that a subject of more importance could not engage the attention of parliament. He was aware of the feverish state of the times; but he denied that this question had any connection with the political events of the day; and those who considered the period when he first gave notice of the motion would, he was sure, acquit him of any intention of inflaming the heated spirit of parties. The petition which he had presented on this subject, from Liverpool, was signed by a numerous body of respectable shipowners; two hundred of the principal constituents and supporters of his right hon. colleagues. [The noise which prevailed in the House, from the commencement of the gallant general's speech, at this time nearly rendered him inaudible.] He was aware that he had, personally, no right to claim the attention of the House; but he trusted they would hear what he had to say, in consideration of the importance of the subject. He had the greatest admiration of the talents of his right hon. colleague, and on any other subject would 593 not presume to contend with him. But, so decided was the conviction of the shipping interest, that there was not one port, from one end of the kingdom to the other, that had not represented the grievances it was suffering. He feared, however, that his right hon. colleague was so identified with his principles, that it could hardly be expected he would or could separate himself from them; yet, in any observations he might make, he had no intention of applying any thing he might say personally to his right hon. colleague. The House would remember, that a few years ago some material alterations were made in the Navigation laws. The maxims which had been venerated for centuries by our ancestors, and handed down from generation to generation, had been not only questioned but subverted. When the Navigation laws were passed, England and the different ports of the continent were on a par as to their situation in respect of money. This country had then no great funded debt—no heavy taxation; and if its condition were minutely examined, it would be found to have been as poor, if not poorer, than the rival nations with which it had to compete in commerce. The Navigation laws were enacted to promote the navy of this country; and they had fully succeeded in their object. How it could be thought that, with a heavy debt, we could bear the repeal of those laws, and enter into free and open competition with other states, he could not understand; and that was one of the objects he had in moving for this Committee of Inquiry.
There could be no doubt as to the distress that existed among the shipping interest; however different might be the opinions, as to the causes, extent, and remedies of that distress. On the admission of the Board of Trade itself, the existence of the distress was an unquestionable fact. Let the House now look to the character and importance of the shipping interest. The capital embarked in navigation amounted nearly to seven millions in shipping alone; that was to say, in tonnage. This estimate was founded on a calculation of 8l. per ton. There was, besides, a vast property closely connected with the value of the shipping. He might safely state the whole at not less than thirty millions. If he were allowed a committee, he would prove, beyond all doubt, that this property had 594 undergone a depreciation of twenty-five per cent. There was a loss to the country of upwards of seven millions. When the alterations in the Navigation laws were proposed, the gentlemen who then constituted the Opposition, and who were once styled "His Majesty's Opposition," as they might now, with great propriety, be called "The King's Own" [a laugh]—those gentlemen encouraged, as far as possible, those theories to which he ascribed the injuries done to the shipping trade. The approbation of those theories was not confined to them alone; it was shared by the cabinet, by this House, and by the community at large. Those who were affected by the changes petitioned parliament; but their complaints were not listened to, and they were stigmatised as obstinate and prejudiced in defence of imaginary interests. Their prayers were almost rejected by acclamation. They complained also to that Board from which these measures had originated, and to which, after appealing in vain to that House, they ought to have looked for redress. He believed that six months had never elapsed without his right hon. colleague being assailed, either by the ship-owners of the out-ports, or those of London, to remove and remedy their evils. Every session a considerable number of petitions had been presented; but they were left unheeded. He was sure, that if he were to read one of these able memorials of the ship-owners of London, he should do more to further their interests than by any thing he could himself say. But he would not trouble the House with them, as they were too long for reading in that place; and he trusted the House would not separate without granting the committee; and, in that case, they would have all these documents before them.
His chief objection was to the Reciprocity act; but he was of opinion that that might be amended so as greatly to mitigate the evils it had produced. The Reciprocity act was falsely so called. It was impossible there could be any reciprocity, on those terms, in our shipping trade with foreigners. It was impossible we could gain any advantages equal to those we had abandoned. [The gallant general then read some passages from a speech of the President of the Board of Trade last session.] Now, he maintained that the measures of the right hon. gentleman were unjustifiable on his own showing. 595 In the case of Prussia, the new duties were levied, not on the goods, but, in a more hostile manner, on the shipping. The consequence of the yielding of the right hon. gentleman in that instance was, that he was assailed with representations from other quarters. He maintained, that, from the beginning to the end of these negotiations, the British ship-owners had never ceased to warn his majesty's government what ill effects would follow. Their condition now was more ruinous than that of the Prussian ship-owners before the concessions made to them. How far superior to this would have been the policy of holding out against them! The necessity of finding a vent for their goods in this country would soon have compelled them to have ceded these points; and meanwhile, we could have been supplied from other quarters of the world. The right hon. gentleman had contended, that he was justified by the inquiry that had taken place before the Committee of Foreign Trade; who, he had alleged, had recommended these measures. [The gallant general then read several passages from the Report of this Committee, which, he asserted, contradicted the principles on which the right hon. gentleman had proceeded, and were essentially at variance with his whole system.] He would not read the Report through, on account of its length, but he hesitated not to say, that there was not a line, nor a syllable, in it, that would justify the Reciprocity act, much less the permanence that had since been given to it. He admitted that the lapse of time, and the change in the commercial relations of the country, might have rendered some alteration necessary; but he thought it could be clearly proved in a committee, that there was no necessity for the sweeping alterations carried into effect by the right hon. gentleman's suggestions; and carried into effect, too, without any request on the part of those countries which were now so largely benefitted. Prussia had not required this country to make any alteration in her navigation system; but yet she had been benefitted to an immense extent by the alteration. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were all following in the same course; and, he had no doubt, would avail themselves of the advantages of their situation at the expense of the trade of this country.
He would ask the right hon. gentleman 596 if there was nothing in the state of the country, with regard to any other nation, which ought to have induced him to pause? Was there nothing resulting from the Treaty concluded with America which ought to have led him to weigh the consequences of such concession? Let the House look at the effect of that treaty upon British shipping. In the year 1815 there had been an improvement in the number of ships and tonnage belonging to Great Britain engaged in the American Trade. In the year 1816, when the treaty was concluded, the Americans had ninety-one thousand, nine hundred and fourteen tons of shipping engaged in the trade with England, while Great Britain had forty-five thousand, one hundred and forty tons employed in the trade with America. Now let the House look how the treaty had worked during the short period of ten years. In that time the tonnage of American ships, engaged in trade with this country, had increased to one hundred and eighty-one thousand, arid thirty-three tons, while the tonnage of the ships of Great Britain had dwindled down to thirty-seven thousand, eight hundred and fifty-nine. The Americans had, therefore, been put in possession of four-fifths of the carrying trade of this country; and he would ask, on what principle had such a boon been conceded to them? It was admitted on all hands, and he believed the right hon. gentleman could not deny it, that the cost of building and fitting up, and navigating an American ship, was nearly the same as that of an English. He believed, indeed, that the difference, as he could prove in the committee, was a mere trifle. On what principle, then, he asked, was such a boon in the carrying trade conceded to America? But if there was little reason for such a course with regard to America, how much less was there to conclude similar treaties with those northern powers, where a vessel could be built at an expence of 8l. a ton, while no English vessel of the same size could be built at an expence of less than 28l. a ton? That, to be sure, was the London price, and included the cost of the India vessels [Mr. Huskisson here made an observation across the table]. Well, then, continued the gallant general, taking the coasting price, it may be very well allowed, that the difference between British and Prussian vessels in the cost of building, is as 18l. to 8l. That was not a statement upon con 597 jecture, or from hearsay. No: extraordinary as it might appear, it was actually founded upon papers at that moment on the table of the House. In these papers it was stated, that the price of ship-building in London was 28l. or from that to 26l. a ton; but that price was so extravagant and exorbitant, that he would leave it out of the question. Taking again, therefore, the inland or country price of 18l. a ton—let the House mark the relative difference of the prices in those various northern countries, placed by the late treaties in a situation to contend with this country upon terms of perfect equality. In Prussia, it appeared that the cost of building a ship was 8l. 8s. a ton; in France, 11l.; in Sweden, 6l. 15s.; in Holland, 10l.; in Denmark, 9l. 10s.; and in Russia, only 4l. 15s.
But it was not the cost of building only which made a British ship so expensive to the owner. The wages of those who navigated them was nearly double the amount of that paid to foreigners. A master, for instance, received ten guineas a month for twelve months; a carpenter four guineas; and a seaman, 2l. 10s. Now, in a Prussian ship, of the same size and tonnage, and carrying precisely the same number of men, the master received for four voyages, one hundred guineas a voyage of twelve months; the mate, two guineas a month for the same period; and the seamen 26s.; so that the British ship might be said, on a calculation, to be navigated at a difference of 660l. to 389l.; the difference being if not quite one half, at least equal to forty per cent. in favour of the foreigner. It might be said, there was some difference in the cost of insurance, but he denied it; for, although the insurance might be less in this country, the difference was fully compensated to the foreigner by the value of the vessel he has to insure being only half of the value to be insured by the British ship-owner. There was before the House at that moment a certificate from the principal brokers in England, declaring that there was not one advantage alleged to be possessed by a British vessel, which was not equally possessed by the ships of foreigners. These Brokers who were in the habit of chartering vessels, declared they were able to state from experience, that foreign vessels make as many voyages, and with quite as much despatch, and security, while in harbour as the British ships themselves. 598 Another consequence of the alteration of the system of this country was, that foreigners had very much improved their vessels since they had engrossed so much of the trade of this country; they even entered into a bond to perform their voyages in a certain time, wind and weather permitting. Possessing thus every advantage in their own country trade, they injured the shipping of this country in another way; they were, from the cheapness of their outfitting and cost, enabled to go up the Mediterranean, as the treaty permitted them, with only half a freight, while our British ships could not venture on the same voyage unless fully laden. The Prussian, or foreigner, however, could even do that at a profit; while, if a British ship was to attempt such a speculation, it must be at a dead loss. These were a few of the circumstances which accounted for the fact, that the ports of this country were filled with the ships of foreigners, while those of the merchants of Great Britain were rotting in their harbours. In the port of Liverpool, with which he was more immediately connected, there were at least ten foreign ships for one British. He would take that port, for the purpose of illustrating the consequences which had resulted from the Reciprocity system, and beg of the House to look for an instance to the returns at one period and at another. He did not mean to include in his comparison the ships which entered from America; because, as three parts of all the trade with America were carried on through the port of Liverpool, he thought the adding the returns of the American trade might not in that port allow of a fair comparison. He would therefore take the northern powers only, and first Prussia. In the year 1822, the first year of the Reciprocity system, there entered that port seventy-seven Prussian ships from Prussia, having a tonnage of seventy-seven thousand, three hundred and forty tons; of British ships from Prussia, in that year, not one. From Sweden there came, in the same year, twenty-four ships; of British, from Sweden, none. From Norway, there entered four ships; British from Norway, one. He would pass over the year 1823, which presented nearly the same result, and look at the year 1824, when there entered the port of Liverpool, from Prussia, ninety-nine ships; British, none. From Sweden, thirty-eight ships; British, none. And from Norway, five; British, one. 599 While the carrying trade of this country was thus sacrificed for the sake of exports, those exports were diminishing every hour. The whole of them he believed did not amount to one million. So that, for the paltry amount of a million of exports, the right hon. gentleman had thought it wise policy to give away the carrying trade of England. In taking away the prohibitory duties, for the purpose of more effectually securing the object of this country, it was necessary to relieve foreigners from the Light and Harbour duties. In consequence of that repeal, however, there was a deficiency in the amount of those duties to be made good to the Trinity House; and the country had therefore to pay 70,000l., besides the ruin of its shipping, in order to secure that paltry million of exports.
The gallant general then observed, that he would trouble the House with but one other statement on the subject of the Baltic Trade, in order to shew the workings of this Reciprocity system. In 1822, there entered the ports of Great Britain two hundred and twenty-one British ships from the Baltic, and one hundred and forty-two foreign. In 1823, the year after the repeal of the laws, there were one hundred and ninety-three British, and two hundred and thirteen foreign. In 1824, there came from the Baltic one hundred and eighty-nine British, and three hundred and sixty-eight foreign; and in 1825, three hundred and thirty-three British, and four hundred and ninety-four foreign: the tonnage of the British being two hundred and nine thousand, and that of the foreign three hundred and fifty two thousand tons. But, was further evidence wanted, he would ask, to prove that the northern powers could build cheaper than we could, than the fact of their having so far succeeded in driving British vessels from the seas? The state of the Baltic trade sufficiently showed what he asserted to be correct. By the returns before them, they would find, that the Prussian shipping had trebled in that trade, whilst ours had, for years past, been sensibly diminishing. By the last accounts he had been able to obtain, it would appear, that in 1826, there was a diminution of British shipping to the amount of one thousand three hundred and fifty-six vessels. He dared to say, that the right hon. gentleman would tell them, that a similar falling-off had taken place in the shipping of other nations. He would not attempt to deny 600 that the vessels of other countries had diminished last year; but nothing nearly in the same proportion as had the British. The Swedes had fallen off thirty-nine vessels, and the Prussians three hundred and ninety-one. This statement could not be denied; for it was drawn from documents laid before the House by the right hon. gentleman himself; and although he could not state what he had to say with the clearness and precision he desired, he trusted the House would not on that account, overlook the real importance of the subject which he, in so incompetent a manner, had attempted to bring before them.
But, he begged to say one word more relative to the comparative cheapness with which the vessels of foreign countries could be built and navigated. It being established, that foreigners could sail their ships forty per cent cheaper than we could, it must of necessity follow, that we could enter into no manner of competition with them, if the vessels of both were placed upon an equal footing. The decline of our commercial marine of late showed that to be the case; and he had no doubt, that, if the present system was persevered in, the destruction of British shipping must ensue. What advantage did we gain by such a sacrifice? If we were to be considered as a nation of shopkeepers merely, we should certainly have it said, that we had the advantage of having our goods carried to market at a cheaper rate than our own ships could do it. But he was ready to contend, that that was not the only light in which the question was to be regarded; so constructed a view was unworthy of a British minister. The right hon. gentleman, he had no doubt, would refer to the returns before them, to shew that the quantity of registered tonnage was increased rather than diminished; but that, he would tell him, was of no avail. The right hon. gentleman must shew that the shipping was not only employed, but that it was employed at a profit. If he could not shew that, all his arguments drawn from the increase of the register tonnage would go for nothing. Now, he was prepared to prove, that, so far from ships being employed at a profit to the owners, it was at a dead loss. There was a book, which was not before the House, but which he had had an opportunity of examining in a committee, showing that all the principal ships of the port of London were deeply mortgaged; and that they had not, in consequence, yielded their owners 601 any thing like a return upon their capital. The ruin which was thus in progress would be better imagined, when they remembered the perishable nature of that species of property; that vessels, upon an average, did not last for more than from ten to fifteen years. It was ridiculous to talk of employment, if it did not yield profit.
Our colonial possessions, if properly managed, would always maintain a certain portion of shipping; but it was to be feared, that the measures pursued, with regard to our islands in the West Indies, would have as ruinous an effect upon the shipping that was employed in conveying colonial produce from this country to the continent, as it had upon that carrying on the direct trade with the northern powers to which he had already alluded. He might be referred by the right hon. gentleman to the documents, to see the number of ships sailed out from this country, belonging to Great Britain, compared with those belonging to other countries. He looked, then, to the "comparative statement of British and foreign tonnage cleared outwards from the ports of Great, Britain, distinguishing the several countries, for the year ending 5th January, 1827;" and what did he find there? He found the number of tons cleared outwards for the British northern colonies to be three hundred and thirty one thousand two hundred and fifty, and that all of British shipping. There was another item, which gave two hundred and thirty-six thousand one hundred and nine as the number of tons cleared outward for our West-India islands. This he complained of as being any thing but a fair statement. The coasting trade might as well have been included in "the comparative statement," as these colonial items; for foreigners had just as much competition with us in one as in the other. If the five hundred and sixty-seven thousand, three hundred and fifty-nine tons, of which these items consisted, were included, it would reduce our superiority, as it appeared in the return, from nine hundred and seventy-nine thousand, one hundred and sixty-seven tons to four hundred and eleven thousand, eight hundred and twenty-nine; the total of British tonnage, cleared outwards, being stated at one million, six hundred and twenty thousand, three hundred and ninety-three, whilst that of the foreign was put down at six hundred and forty-one thousand, one hundred and six only. This comparative statement was evidently, then, unfair; as 602 every body must see that the shipping trading to the colonies ought to have been excluded.
But, he had no doubt that he should be told, that a superabundance of shipping had been built, and that it was the fault of his clients, if they had been injured by excess of building. But if there had been an excess of building in late years, there would also have been an excess of tonnage: yet the fact was, as appeared by the returns before them, that the years 1816, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21, were years of greater tonnage than any since that period. We now actually registered one hundred and forty-nine thousand, two hundred and ninety-six tons more than we did ten years ago. The speculations of 1825 could not, therefore, affect the question at all; although he must say, that that speculation had been very much encouraged in that House, and, as far as responsibility could go, his majesty's ministers were more liable to be called to account than his clients. His majesty's ministers encouraged these speculations, by the manner in which they talked of them, as being indicative of permanent prosperity. Did they not all remember how the Chancellor of the Exchequer had talked to them of the mighty things that were to be done with his surpluses?—so many hundred thousands to these churches, so many to that palace, and so many to this, that it was evident he expected them to keep flowing in upon him in a manner which would make it difficult for him to find employment for them. He did not recall this circumstance as a reprehension, but merely that it might not be thrown in the teeth of his clients, that the distress they felt arose from their own speculation. The fact was, that there was a demand for shipping, and it was supplied. Those whose cause he advocated were not aware, any more than the ministers, that the demand was only temporary. The whole nation was deceived: every body thought the commencement of a state of unexampled prosperity was at hand. It had, however, turned out otherwise, and he could assure the House, that he knew of several instances occurring of late, in which ships built in 1825, for 15,000l. were lately sold at Liverpool for 6,000l. There were many instances of this occurring; and he was confident that, upon an average, every ship that had been sold since 1825 was at a loss of from twenty-five to thirty-five per cent. 603 Was there the least hope that this state of things would be mended? The Corntrade, which the new bill, if it passed, had been alluded to as likely to have an effect upon the shipping, would not, as it appeared to him, make a difference of five thousand tons in British shipping; as every grain, in all probability, would be brought in the vessels of the country from whence the corn was brought. The British shipowners could never expect to be employed, except when freight rose to an extraordinary height by the foreigners not being able to supply the demand. He should, in all probability, be told, that this question had been brought prematurely forward; that the ship-owners ought to have waited a sufficient time, to give the experiment a fair trial; and that then the result would appear to be favourable to them. But he would put it to hon. gentlemen, whether it was possible for persons situated as his clients were, to wait longer than they had done? They daily saw their property wasting away, and were in expectation of seeing the whole vanish from their grasp. Could they act otherwise than they had done? He hesitated not to say, that between the presenting of the petition and the present time, there had been a diminution in the value of their property, of from five to ten per cent. Were they to wait another year, he was confident it would involve their total ruin. He regretted that he could not so clearly express himself, as to convey his feelings to the House in the manner he desired; but, he trusted they would rather look to the real importance of the question, than to the manner in which he stated it. There was not the least necessity to give to Prussia this ten years' trade. Before it was done, why was not the effect of similar concessions to America looked at? But he should deny that they ever did grant them to America. There was a kind of traffic allowed to America between our colonies and her; but that was now put an end to, and he hoped the privilege would not again be granted.
If a naval armament became necessary, the right hon. gentleman would not only find a diminution of the trade, but of the sailors. The number of men employed in 1816, was now diminished by eleven thousand. This appeared from the right hon. gentleman's own statements, and must of course be depended upon. But the diminution that was still going on was 604 even more alarming than that which the documents had skewed. To judge this part of the subject correctly, they must not look at the number of registered vessels, as it by no means followed that they all employed men. Another very alarming fact was, the manner in which the building trade was rapidly deserting us. Nearly one third of our shipping was now built in Canada. A very short statement would show the progressive decrease of building in this country. In 1825 there were five hundred and thirty-six vessels built in Canada, and nine hundred in England. In 1826 there was four hundred all but seven built in Canada, whilst in England there was only four hundred and forty-five. That was the amount of the violent speculation which had been entered into. He had endeavoured to ascertain what number of ships were actually building in England; and, from the best information he could procure from those interested, and likely to know, it appeared that there were only one hundred and seventeen ships building in all the docks of this country, and that, out of these, twenty alone were from order, the rest being built for speculation. It might be asked, why were they built if employment could not be procured? He must remind the House, that many shipbuilders had great numbers of apprentices and others, whom they were obliged to keep at work, and that they were obliged also to use up their timber; and, when they came to consider, that eight hundred out of the twenty-four thousand ships, which composed their commercial navy, were rendered every year unfit for service, they would see how rapid must be the decrease, when that number was to be replaced by only one hundred and seventeen. There ought to have been as great an increase of the shipping as there had been of the wealth and population of the country. He spoke not of the prosperity of one particular year, but generally: he repeated, the tonnage ought to have increased in a corresponding degree with the wealth and population of the country. It had not done so. The diminution of the employment of shipping was proved by another fact. He learned, from Hull, and other places, that the sailors, in great numbers, were obliged to have recourse to parish relief, although able and willing to work, if it were possible for them to find employment. If he might judge, from the manner in which our shipping were 605 leaving our shores, for America, they would soon see our docks empty of ships, of British ships at least. Some seemed to think, that it mattered not, whether they were filled with foreign or English vessels—but he was not one of these—their arsenals deserted, and their whole marine extinguished.—Even, within three months, they would see the decrease becoming more apparent. Besides the arguments he had urged against the alterations, he thought that, having been made, foreigners ought, at least, to have borne part of the expense attending them. Had a colonial duty been laid on the produce they carried away, it would have been sufficient; but, as it was, our Islands in the West Indies were of very little advantage to us as colonies. The result of this experiment had already been sufficiently injurious to British trade; but he did not hesitate to say, that it would be ultimately the ruin of it. It would have been but fair, had a committee of inquiry been granted, previous to these concessions, when their policy might have been discussed. Certainly there could be no reason to refuse an inquiry now, when such great interests were at stake. The trade report, to which he had alluded in the early part of his address, had recommended caution and deliberation; but, whether a due degree of either had been practised, it was for the House to judge. The merchants of Liverpool had expressed their approbation of the right hon. gentleman's proceedings in a very handsome manner; but it must be remembered, that they were not ship-owners, and did not, therefore, suffer so much as that class by the alterations that had been made. It was the merchants of Liverpool, part shipowners, perhaps; but, gaining in the former capacity what they lost in the latter, the changes did not affect them. It was impossible for him, in the course of one evening's debate, to urge all the arguments that might be adduced in support of his cause; but, were the committee he prayed for granted, he would there explain every detail in full. The inquiry could not then be refused, without laying the right hon. gentleman open to the charge of being afraid of the result. He should not so much have objected to an experiment of two or three years, but to make treaties to last for ten years—to abolish the Navigation-laws, and all without a trial, was as unfair to his clients as could be imagined.
But, they were to look at the question 606 in another light. Were they treading upon safe ground? Were they not undermining the safety of the country, by exposing their naval power which ensured that safety, to extinction? If there was any class more entitled to consideration than another, it was the ship-owners. Their interests were not to be put aside by the mistified figures of the right hon. gentleman. Last year the right hon. gentleman terminated a speech, in which he defended his measures, by moving for numbers of papers; but, from what he had been able to learn, but few of them had been returned. The exports of 1826 were not there; at least they only came up to October instead of January. They might be told, that these measures would tend to the ultimate good of the shipowners; but there was not a practical man, who had the least connection with shipping, who would not contradict that statement. Was it to be supposed, that the complaints of all the petitions that had been presented on this subject, were without foundation? Had not the right hon. gentleman been told by his constituents when he was last among them, they were all going to ruin? His being returned their member might be supposed to indicate that they held the same opinions as himself; but the fact was, that they respected his talents, but believed him to have taken up some erroneous opinions, which they hoped he would abandon, when he saw their ill effects. But they would never be satisfied until the inquiry they prayed for was granted. If the investigation were not granted, they would think that the right hon. gentleman was afraid of the result. The gallant general concluded by urging, that this was no party question, and that it ought to be considered by itself, without any reference to the side of the House from whence it came. He then moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the present distressed state of the British Commercial Shipping Interest."
§ Mr. Liddell,
in seconding the motion of his gallant friend, hoped that the petition of one of the greatest commercial towns in the world would not be opposed by his majesty's government. He had been long aware of the distress and sufferings of the shipping interest; and, feeling the deepest commiseration for their situation, he was determined to lend his feeble aid in endeavouring to procure for the petitioners 607 that inquiry which they sought. Before he entered more fully into the subject, he had one or two observations to offer, which the present occasion and the peculiar circumstances which had lately taken place seemed to call for. Feeling every disposition to support the present administration—and he should do so on principle—he owned he felt considerable pain in seconding the present motion, because that motion involved the first great question which was brought forward in that House under the new administration, at the head of which was that enlightened statesman, who for years had succeeded in securing his confidence and that of the public. In his defence, if defence it could be called, where there was no accusation, or rather, he should say, in the explanation of his conduct with which that right hon. gentleman had favoured the House, there was something so satisfactory, so candid, so dignified and so patriotic, that it must have brought conviction, even to those who were unwilling to be convinced. Under these circumstances, he should support, from choice and conviction, the present administration. At the same time, his duty told him, that the question which was now before the House was one which he was also bound to support. He denied that it was a party question. It was one which was open to every individual to discuss, and on which to express an honest and open opinion. Having seen a number of individuals, who before the passing of those acts were in prosperous circumstances, but were now men with broken trade and fallen fortunes, he trusted he should be excused, if he supported a motion which had for its object the consideration of some means by which they might be relieved.
There were two points in this question to which he had to direct the attention of the House. The first was, to establish the claim of the shipping interest to the consideration of the House; and the next, to meet the great talent which he knew the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade would bring to bear on the subject. He did trust, however, that that right hon. gentleman himself would see the fairness of the course he was now taking; as the right hon. gentleman had, in the course of his celebrated expose on this subject, about twelve months ago, observed, that if any hon. member should have cause to differ from the course then pursued, it 608 would be open to him to point out his objection by a specific motion. It was not denied, that the great body of ship-owners had viewed the measures then adopted with a jealous eye; anticipating that they would, in the result, prove greatly injurious to their interests. It was true, that the body generally did not at that time petition against those measures, but they were not allowed to go altogether without remonstrance. This would be seen by a few extracts from the petition of the shipowners of North Shields, which he would read to the House [Here the hon. member read the extract; which pointed out the advantages which must result to foreigners, and the injury to British shipowners, from the then proposed alterations].
The apprehensions then entertained were, he would contend, since fully borne out by the result. He would not say that the consequences which had taken place could be proved to demonstration to be the result of the causes, which were then supposed; but he thought it was going far in the proof to be able to show, that since then the amount of foreign shipping had increased, while British shipping had declined in the same proportion.
With this view, he would beg to call the attention of the House to the comparative state of the commercial marine 1816, and at the present time: and he wished to be understood, that he spoke of the amount of tonnage. In the year 1816, the amount of tonnage belonging to all the ports of the United Kingdom was 2,783,949. In 1826, it was 2,635,653,being a decrease since the time of the war, of 148,296 tons, while there was, in the same time, a decrease of from 11,000 to 12,000 seamen. Now, considering the situation which we occupied during the great part of the war, as the carriers of the greatest portion of the trade of Europe, which we did not hold at present, it might be to some a matter of surprise, that our commercial marine should still stand so high as it did: but then it should be recollected, that there had been, since the war, an immense increase in our imports and exports; and by these the extent of our foreign trade could be justly estimated. In 1816, sixty millions of pounds of cotton had been imported into this country; but in 1826, the amount had increased to a hundred and fifty millions of pounds. That a corresponding increase had not taken place in our tonnage was owing to the fact of the void having 609 been filled up by foreigners, who could afford to furnish freight at a lower rate than British ship-owners could. It was from the Baltic that the competition had arisen. He regretted the necessity of troubling the House at such great length, but he felt it to be indispensable. He held in his hand two tables which had been most accurately prepared from parliamentary papers, and in which it appeared, that the amount of foreign tonnage entered inwards in the ports of the United Kingdom from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Prussia, was as follows:—In 1821, 91,457 tons; in 1822, 132,251; in 1823, 202,000; in 1824, 322,816; and in 1825, 395,843 tons [Mr. Huskisson asked, what the amount was in 1826?]. He had not received an account of the amount entered inwards for the year 1826; but the amount cleared outwards was 207,861 tons. If the excesses of the foreign tonnage, cleared outward, over the British, were looked at, it would appear that, in 1821, the excess was 23,911 tons; in 1822, 40,420 tons; in 1823, 86,720 tons; in 1825, 127,318 tons; and in 1826, 153,723 tons. This he considered a very strong case.
He was aware it might be said that, whether the changes which had been made in our commercial sytem had or had not taken place, the result would have been the same. But, surely, it was a very singular proceeding at the moment when our trade wanted more protection, to deprive it of the little which it enjoyed. Let the accounts of ships building in the several ports be examined, and the depreciation would be distinctly manifest—a depreciation occasioned by the competition of other countries, who, it was universally admitted, could build and equip ships at a lower rate than we could. The excitement which had occurred in 1825 had its effect on the returns for 1826; a part of which consisted of contracts made in the preceding year. It appeared, that in 1823 the number of ships building in the different yards of the kingdom was 3,700; in 1824, 6,000; in 1825, 6,213; and in 1826, 2,213. At the present time, there was not a single ship building, or contracted for, in ports in which formerly numerous vessels were built. At Chepstow, where formerly many vessels were built, not one was now building. At Hull, no ship had been contracted for; and only one was building, in order to give employment to the men in the yards. All the accounts from 610 the North were of the most desponding description; and he was sure that such honourable gentlemen as were connected with that part of the Island would bear him out in the assertion; and he understood that it was the same at Yarmouth, &c.
What was the meaning of all this? However ingeniously the new commercial system might be defended, was it not evident, that it operated injuriously on the trade of the country? The whole trade of the country, and more especially the shipping interest, was suffering distress, and depression. The table was covered with the complaints of petitioners on the subject. Were they to close their ears and understandings against those complaints; or ought they not rather to deliberate temperately on the best mode of remedying the grievance? The political situation of this country was so different from that of every other, that no real reciprocity in commercial matters could be established; and every bonus which we gave to foreign commerce was a sheer and uncompensated loss to our own.
But what remedy was it practicable to apply to the evil? His gallant friend had already alluded to the report of the parliamentary committee of 1825, which certainly afforded a fair ground for hope, that if the new arrangements proved injurious, they might be modified. Complaints were, at that period, made of the tendency of those arrangements. Among others, a very sensible and energetic remonstrance against them had been sent from North Shields. For himself, he confessed that he was not altogether without hope, that some means might be devised of diminishing, if not entirely removing, the grievance. He was persuaded that to our colonies we must look for the means of giving a new impulse to our shipping interest. If his majesty's government remained firm in their interdiction of American trade, he was persuaded that the trade with the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and with the West Indies, would prove most beneficial. Other advantageous measures might be adopted. Some of the duty on North American timber might be repealed. Some modification might be introduced in the bonding system. The duties on deals might be equalized, as recommended in the report of the committee of the House of Lords, in 1825. A return had been made of the amount of duty paid on American timber within the last ten years; 611 and from that it was endeavoured to be shown, that we might have obtained a much higher duty, if the same quantity of timber were imported from the Baltic, and that the difference was the amount of protection given to American timber. But it should be recollected, that, if the duty were not thus low, the same quantity would not be imported. It was now imported in such quantities, that some of it was cut up for fire-wood; which in itself was an advantage to the poor of the country.
The hon. member then proceeded to contend, that the colonial trade was that which ought to be particularly encouraged by the country; as, besides the employment it gave to the capital of the British ship-owner, it was one of the best nurseries for our seamen. If he were called upon to support his argument of the benefit to be derived from the cultivation of our trade with the colonies, he would refer to the very able work, published twenty years ago, by an hon. and learned gentleman, whose extraordinary abilities enabled him to master every subject to which he applied himself [The hon. member here read an extract from Mr. Brougham's "Colonial Policy," enforcing the importance of cherishing our trade with the colonies, as the means of enriching and aggrandizing the mother-country]. Such, the hon. member said, appeared to him to be the only means of restoring our commercial marine to vigour and employment. He had endeavoured to show the great increase of foreign shipping in some parts of our trade; but there were other parts on which he had not glanced. He understood, however, that the trade to the Mediterranean and to the colonies, and the fisheries, were as much depressed as the branches of trade to which he had alluded. He might be accused of opposing himself to an enlarged and liberal system of commercial policy: such was not his intention. He only begged the House, with great deference, to recollect, in the midst of all this effort to introduce liberal feelings, that there was one central spot, Great Britain, whence blessings emanated to every part of the globe; and that if, by too hasty a progress in liberality, her interests were to suffer, her energies to be impaired, or her maritime power to give way, it was not herself alone but the whole universe that would have to deplore the calamity. On these grounds he felt it his duty to second the motion.
§ Mr. Poulett Thompson
said, that, in rising to oppose the motion of the gallant general, he felt the greatest apprehension lest it should be supposed that he did so from any fear or any doubt of what the result of the labours of a Committee on the subject of Shipping would be. On the contrary, he felt certain that, as nothing but truth could be elicited by such an inquiry, the cause to which he was attached, the liberal principles of policy, as applied by the right hon. gentleman to the shipping of this country, would only be made more manifest, and be more than before confirmed. On this account he should rejoice at the establishment of a committee; because he felt that the principle of the right hon. gentleman would come out lighter than before, after having passed the ordeal of inquiry. Still he was bound to oppose the motion for two reasons, because he conceived that two evils might result from its being granted: one, that it might be construed into something like a doubt, on the part of his majesty's government, of the expediency of the principle: the other, that it would necessarily raise delusive hopes in the minds of the ship-owners and their friends. There was yet another reason which induced him to oppose it—that he did not think a committee should be granted on any subject, unless a sufficient case could be made out; and certainly, in his opinion, the gallant officer had failed entirely in doing so. He thought he should be able to shew to the House, that the hon. gentlemen who had supported the motion were equally unfortunate in their facts and their conclusions. He did not accuse them of having wilfully made mis-statements: all they had done was to believe a little too implicitly what had been stated to them by others. And, certainly, there was nothing in their credulity which astonished him so much as the extraordinary—he might almost call it unblushing—effrontery with which they were supplied with those distorted statements, by those who must have known how much they were so. The same hands which had supplied the gallant general had supplied the documents which were upon their table; and he should proceed to shew in what manner these statements had been compiled.
And, first, with regard to the case of distress, the only part of the gallant general's statement in which he could at all agree, and in that he only partially coin 613 cided: but the bare instance of distress was not sufficient to institute a claim for a committee; especially when the cause of that distress was obvious. He agreed in the existence of distress amongst the shipowners; but he would ask the gallant general, in what class of men, in what line in which capital was employed, did distress not exist at present? Did it exist solely amongst the ship-owners? Was not the manufacturer of cotton, of wool—the merchant whose capital had been invested in iron, in any other goods whatever, labouring under distress? The hon. gentleman had talked of a depreciation to the amount of five arid twenty or thirty per cent in shipping. Let him run his eye over the general price current, and he would find that, in many other departments of our trade, there had been a fall of above five and twenty per cent. He might, perhaps, be told, that the distress in those classes was becoming daily less, whilst that of the ship-owners was increasing: this he denied; but if it was so, it was easily to be accounted for. In those businesses, such as ship-building, where capital expended cannot be withdrawn and transferred, except by an almost certain sacrifice, it was natural that the distress would last longer than in others not in that situation. But the cause of the distress in the shipping was the same with that in other lines of business—the over-speculation and over-trading. The papers on the table shewed what were the Returns of ships built in the British empire during the last few years:—
Here was, in 1825, an increase of nearly two hundred per cent on 1823, and in 1826 of one hundred per cent. Was it, then, to be wondered at, that there should be difficulty now in employing all this increase of shipping, when, owing to the over-speculation in other branches of trade, the amount of goods to be transported had likewise fallen off?
1819 111,000 1823 85,000 1820 84,000 1824 143,000 1821 74,000 1825 204,000 1822 67,000 1826 178,000
But we were told by the gallant general, and by his supporters, in their correspondence with the Board of Trade, that the distress was now owing to the competition of foreigners. And how do they attempt to prove this? Not by a reference to the amount of respective shipping em 614 ployed; not by shewing that a decrease had taken place in the amount of British shipping, because, as he should presently shew, they could not; but by a reference to statements of the cost, time of sailing, comparative durability of foreign ships, in which it was easy to impose upon the credulity of those who were not well versed in the subject. These attempts were so open and so barefaced, that they deserved to be exposed; and he should certainly do so. First, with regard to the cost of building: the parties left out of their calculation altogether the difference of the admeasurement, owing to the registry regulations of this country. The foreign ship was built at so much "per ton burthen," the English vessel at so much "per ton register," and the British vessel so built, carried one third to one half more tonnage burthen than her registry admeasurement. This the ship-owners attempted to meet by a declaration, that "the capacity of ships built abroad was equal to that of English." This was a most miserable quibble. Now, taking the proportionate rate of capacity, it appeared from the best returns which could be obtained, that the cost of building was, during the last six or seven months, as follows per ton, British register:—In London, 20l.; in Hull, 17l.; in Newcastle, 16l. to 17l.; if wood sheathed, 12l. to 15l.; in Norway, fit only for timber, 10l.; in the Baltic, 12l. to 13l.: if fit only for timber, 9l. to 10l.; in Holland, France, and Hamburgh, 13l. to 16l.; if coppered, 18l. to 20l. Undoubtedly, there was here a difference in the cost price; but this was more than accounted for by the comparative durability, the time they each commenced the voyage, and the difference of the number of men.
An attempt, and a most unworthy attempt, had been made by the body of ship-owners, to shew that in no one of these particulars did the British ship enjoy an advantage. First, to prove that the durability was not greater, they had given what appeared, to any one not conversant with the subject, a fair comparative statement, taken from Lloyd's books. Now, what was the truth of this? Why, it was the most unfair that could be, and shewed anything but the truth. British ships were registered at Lloyd's the moment they were off the stocks; and if any accident happened to them, they were instantly effaced. A foreign ship was only registered when she came into this country, 615 and no account was taken of accidents which might have happened to her, so that very probably half the foreign ships selected by the ship-owners as a proof of their longevity might have ceased to exist altogether. Secondly, with regard to the time. A certificate was given by two brokers on this subject; but it was not the better for that.—He would appeal to any man—any member in the House, who, like himself, was in the habit of employing shipping—whether the foreigners were not, proverbially, dilatory in their voyages? Lastly, with regard to the difference of the number of men. Here a statement in figures was given, in which it would be difficult to have erred unknowingly; but here these gentlemen actually went against their own figures; and, after giving us a calculation, which shewed that there are five men employed to every hundred tons of British shipping, and six to every hundred tons foreign, actually told us that there were only four to every hundred tons foreign. But these were mere matters of calculation; it remained now to see, whether what the ship-owners said ought to have occurred, had really occurred; and whether we were undersailed by foreign ships, as according to their calculations we ought to be. The House had already heard the immense increase of British ship-building in 1824, 1825, and 1826, since the Reciprocity acts had come into force. Now, what was the statement as laid upon the table of the House, of the British and foreign tonnage entered inwards in those years?
1818 2,457,779 tons. 704,511 1820 2,270,400 408,401 1822 2,390,238 419,694 1824 2,364,249 694,880 1825 2,786,844 892,601 1826 2,478,047 643,922
From this account, strange to say, it did not appear that foreign shipping had increased in proportion to ours since the alteration in the law, although he certainly expected it would; but this was only a further argument against the assertion of our being undersailed.—He would now turn to the state of the Baltic trade. What was the return of the number of ships, British and foreign, that had passed the Sound?
1821 2,819 6,358 1822 3,097 5,386
1823 3,016 6,187 1824 3,540 6,978 1825 5,186 7,974 1826 3,730 7,335
Comparing 1826 with 1824 and preceding years, it did not appear that we had lost any thing of our relative proportion. It did not then, in fact, appear that we were undersailed by foreigners. If it were true that it were so, why did they not obtain all the carrying trade of the world? How happened it that British shipping retained so large a share of it? He would appeal to any merchant, whether he did not always find it to his advantage to give the preference in a neutral port to a British ship? A statement had been made in 1823, by the ship-owners, that in that year, out of two hundred and eight vessels arrived at Hamburgh between the 1st January and 1st June, only twelve were British—that was before the alteration in the law. What was the case in 1826? By a return he held in his hand, out of eight hundred and two vessels, seven hundred were British? Did this look as if the carrying trade was lost to us?
He had said thus much, to show the fallacy of the statements of the shipowners. But, for a moment admitting them to be correct, he would ask the gallant general what he proposed doing? Re-enact the Navigation-laws? Was that his remedy? And what must follow? Of course retaliation by those powers which would be attacked by our doing so. And, supposing that such barbarous measures were actually commenced in this war of prohibition, which would, of course, be carried to the extreme length by both parties, who were likely to be the greatest losers—this country, which possessed an immense commercial marine, and had such an enormous capital employed in shipping; or that country, whose marine was yet scarcely formed; whose extent of capital employed in this branch was very trifling?
He had now shewn that the gallant general, and those who supported him, were wrong, as far as their own interest and the interest of the shipping itself were concerned, in their exclamations against the Reciprocity acts. But he now turned to the wider field—the general interests of the people of this country, and of commerce generally. When the ship-owners talked of sacrificing the trade with Prussia, as being of little moment, were they aware what that trade was? Did they know 617 what the amount of British goods exported to that country was? Was it a question of a few thousands? In 1823, according to the account laid on the table of the House, the imports into Prussia, of British produce, amounted to 7,465,000l. And was this immense amount to be sacrifice—to what too? To a supposed good which the very parties interested could not shew to be one. And, did the country pay no tax for the ship-owners already? What was the difference between the amount of duty on Canada and Baltic timber? For whose supposed interest was that? and what was the amount? By the returns laid on the table, it appeared, that the difference between the duty which was levied on Canada timber, and that which would have been levied on Baltic, was, in 1824, 1,226,000l.; in 1825, 1,409,079l.; in 1826, 1,278,591l. This was a tax on the country for the benefit of that class. He was far, however, from opposing the reasonable demands of that class, when those demands could be complied with, compatibly with the general interests of the mass of the nation. The duties on hemp, on linens, on iron, on copper, might be further reduced. That was a just claim, and such a one he would support.
This was not the time for entering into the question of the Navigation-laws; but if he were inclined to do so, and to state his opinion of their having been, from the beginning, prejudicial instead of advantageous to British commerce, and even to British shipping, he might do so, and fortify his opinion, by quoting that of the most illustrious persons, all of them contemporaries of the introduction of the system—sir Roger Coote, sir Josiah Child, and after them, sir Matthew Dukes, who expressly recorded their opinion of those laws as unfavourable to this country.
He had, he now thought, sufficiently answered the gallant general and the hon. member for Northumberland. He must apologise to the House for having trespassed upon their attention at such length. Nothing but the importance of the subject could have induced him to do so; but he considered the present attack as not merely one upon the principle of the alteration of the Navigation-laws, but as one on the principle of free trade generally; and he conceived that on such an occasion, when an attempt was made—if he might borrow from the eloquence of the right hon. gentleman opposite—to "arrest the march of 618 human improvement and beat back the tide of civilization," it behoved every honourable and independent man in that House, more especially if connected by circumstances with the commerce of the country, to stand forward to oppose it. He should never be found wanting, he hoped, on such an occasion; and, however feeble he was aware was his voice, however little worth his support, the right hon. gentleman should have all he could do. But more than that, he would venture to say, that if the right hon. gentleman only persevered in his course—if he only persisted in his liberal policy, the voice of the country would be with him: his country's applause would be his meed; and he would assure the right hon. gentleman that "Nec quidquid habet fortuna tua majus quam ut possis, nec natura tua melius quam ut velis servare quam plurimus." The hon. gentleman sat clown amidst loud applause from both sides of the House.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
said, that in endeavouring, as a British admiral, to defend the interests of British commerce, he trusted he should meet with as much patient attention to the two or three brief observations which he had to offer on this question, as he had frequently met from the House, on former occasions when he had risen to address it. The present motion involved matters of the deepest interest to this great island; surrounded as it was by waters which conveyed its commerce to every corner of the habitable globe. Without being at all a party man, he must beg leave to doubt the able and elaborate speech of the young member who had just sat down. That hon. member came from a quarter, which made him suspect the argument he used. He was connected with those northern houses which were enabled to sail ships at a much cheaper rate than the rest of the country could do. When he perceived the brooms at the head [a laugh], not of that House, but of ships—when he saw seamen walking about our ports with their hands in their pockets, and nothing at all to do—when he knew that it was the fashion for brokers to be ranging through our docks recommending an amiable Prussian to one customer, a fine Russian to another, and a sweet Swede to a third, he doubted that the doctrines of the right hon. gentleman below him, though beautiful in theory, were by no means reducible, with safety, to practice. The 619 case appeared to him to lie in a nut-shell. He should therefore vote in support of the gallant general's motion for a committee, and should feel that in doing so, he was taking the most effectual measures to support the honour and welfare of the country. He trusted that the House, notwithstanding the speech which it might hear that night from the right hon. gentleman, would not be led away by words which were calculated to make "the worse appear the better reason," but would confine itself to practical facts, and discard theoretical arguments. For his own part, he was satisfied of the propriety of appointing a committee to ascertain whether the abridgment of the Navigation-laws—which, if it had been proposed thirty years ago, would have been deemed a qualification for the proposer's admission into Bedlam—had or had not proved injurious to the commercial marine of the country?
§ Mr. Huskisson rose,
and spoke, in substance, as follows:*— I do not regret, Sir, that, by giving way to the gallant admiral, I afforded him an opportunity of cautioning the House not to be misled by arguments calculated to make "the worse appear the better cause." The House will know how to appreciate the value of the gallant admiral's advice, and to apply it to the speech with which he has just favoured us.
Before I proceed to those observations which it will be my duty to make on the motion of my honourable colleague, the House, I trust, will allow me to offer my unfeigned acknowledgments for their kind consideration towards me, in having, more than once, postponed the discussion of this important question before the Easter recess, when I was unavoidably absent from their debates. Those who have witnessed my conduct in former parliaments will give me credit when I say, that I always feel deep regret, if, from any cause, I am prevented attending my public duty in this place. My regret has, in the present instance, been greatly increased, by the consideration, that this House was occupied before the recess, with another very important question—I mean the Corn-laws; in the course of the discussions upon which, frequent reference was made to the opinions which I had professed, and
*From the original edition, printed for Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly. 620 to the part which I had taken on former ocsions upon that subject.
Neither of that reference, nor of any animadversions which may have accompanied it, have I a disposition or a right to complain. I admit that, in thus referring to my conduct and opinions, honourable members have done no more than they were called upon to do by their own sense of public duty. They were the less called upon to be scrupulous in this respect, as they were aware that, at some future time, an opportunity would, in all probability, be afforded me, of defending myself, if necessary, against any imputations which might be east upon me, and of making that defence, in the presence of those by whom my conduct had been arraigned, and before the same tribunal by which the charge had been heard.
Whilst I feel, therefore—as I sincerely do feel—nothing but thankfulness for the consideration with which I have been treated during my absence, by all parties in this House, I must say, that I cannot but take a very different view of an attack, altogether unprovoked, which was made in another place, upon my public character and conduct, at a moment when I was wholly disabled by illness, from taking any notice of that unwarrantable proceeding:—in a place, too, where, neither in sickness nor in health, neither now, nor at any time hereafter, can I be permitted to meet, face to face, the individual making that unjust attack, or be afforded an opportunity of repelling it before the assembly to which it was addressed. It may have suited the taste, it may have been congenial to the feelings, of that individual, to represent me, under these circumstances, as a "wild theorist, ready at all times to attempt any experiment, no matter how hazardous." It may have been deemed justifiable by that individual, to charge me with having palmed measures upon the House and upon the country, under false pretences. It may have been—
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham rose
to order. He observed, that the right hon. gentleman was out of order, inasmuch as he was alluding to expressions which had been used in debate, in the other House of Parliament.
§ Mr. Huskisson.
—If an allegation—an unjust and unfounded allegation—be made against me, I must answer it when I can. If my character is attacked and calumniated in another place, in which I cannot 621 be heard, I must avail myself of the opportunity of defending it in a place when I can be heard. It has been asserted of me, in a place to which I allude, that I have palmed upon the House and the country measures of great public importance, under false pretences, and that I have been guilty—neither more nor less—of a gross political fraud.
It is an old observation, and not the less true because it is old, that those who are the most ready to indulge in tortuous courses themselves are usually the most ready to charge that species of conduct upon others. An indignant denial is all the answer which I can give at present to the accusation brought against me. Were I to enter into particulars, I fear I should depart too widely from the question which is at present before us; but this I will say, I have now, for more than thirty years, had the honour of a seat in this House, during the whole of which period, down to the present hour, I have always acted under a sense of that moral responsibility to public opinion and the judgment of my country, to which every man, be his rank or station what it may, is liable, for the part which he takes in the votes and proceedings of parliament. That moral responsibility which, in fact, constitutes public character, I am not afraid to encounter. I am equally ready to meet the more direct responsibility which attaches to me as a minister of the Crown, not only for the measures which I have brought forward in this House on the part of his majesty's government, but also for every other measure in which I have concurred since I have had the honour of serving his majesty in that capacity. I make this declaration without the slightest reserve, and I trust without any unbecoming arrogance. Further it would be improper to speak of myself. But, with regard to the individual who has thus attacked me, without the slightest provocation on my part, I must be allowed to remark, that I have been an attentive observer of his public career for the last five-and-thirty years. I have done more. I have read all the multifarious works which he has published during that period, whether on general politics, political economy, or political philosophy—all the theoretical lucubrations with which he has enlightened the world, down even to his last "Chart of the Corn Laws." I have read them all; and, in saying this, I am aware that I have exe 622 cuted a task, of which very few men besides myself can boast. The conclusion to which I have come—a conclusion not of yesterday but now of some years standing—is that, among the many mercies which have been vouchsafed to this country, since the breaking out of the revolutionary war in 1792, there are few for which she ought to be more thankful, than for those fortunate occurrences which, on more than one occasion, have disappointed the aspiring ambition of that individual—occurrences which have hitherto prevented his being placed in any station of power, in which he might have been enabled to inflict the application of his own extravagant theories—and theories more extravagant were certainly never conceived by man—either upon the people of this country or upon that far more numerous, but more helpless, population, which is placed under our protection in another quarter of the world. Having escaped so long, I trust there is now no risk, that any part of the British empire will ever fall under such a visitation.
To come, Sir, to the question more immediately under discussion, first begging pardon of the House for this digression, upon matters principally personal to myself. I rejoice most sincerely, that the gallant general, my honourable colleague, has brought forward his present motion: not only because it affords me an opportunity of defending my own conduct, but because it has given to the hon. member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), an occasion for a display of the clear and able manner in which he can state his views on an extended and intricate subject, and of talents for business which cannot fail of being duly appreciated by the important county which he represents. It has also afforded to the hon. member for Dover (Mr. Poulett Thompson), an opportunity of manifesting an extraordinary degree of acuteness and knowledge, in respect to the commerce and navigation of the country, and of stating his information in a manner which must, I am sure, have made the most favourable impression upon the House.
Among the many extraordinary statements which fell from my gallant colleague, there was none which I heard with more surprise than his remark, that, for the last two or three years, the table of this House has been overwhelmed with petitions from the ship-owners of all the ports 623 of Great Britain, complaining of their distressed condition; and that his majesty's government had never condescended to pay to them the slightest attention. Now, what is the real state of the case? In the course of the last session, but not till the last session, some petitions were presented to the House on this subject. And what became of them? The hon. members who presented these petitions, contented themselves with moving, that they should be laid on the table of the House, and be printed. These formalities fulfilled by those immediately intrusted with these petitions, they would have been forgotten, if I had not felt it my duty minutely to investigate the allegation contained in them, "that the shipping, and carrying-trade of the country were in a rapid state of decay." Having satisfied myself that the allegation was unfounded, it became my further duty to endeavour to dispel any unfavourable impression, which it was calculated to make upon the public mind. With that view, I did, uncalled for, bring forward an exposition of what I knew to be the real situation of the commercial marine of the kingdom. I made that statement for the purpose of removing any apprehensions, needlessly but industriously excited, with respect to an interest so nearly connected with the honour and the safety of the empire. In submitting that statement to the House, about a twelve-month ago, I availed myself of the opportunity which it afforded me, of explicitly declaring the principles which I entertain on the subject of our Navigation-laws; of explaining and vindicating the measures which had been adopted by his majesty's government, in reference to those laws; of bringing fully and fairly before the country the present state of our commerce and marine; the great increase in their amount since the year 1792; and of comparing our present means of sustaining and manning our military marine with those which we could command at former periods; as well as with the means possessed, both now and at former periods, by the powers which have been, and may again be, opposed to us in maritime warfare.
This statement, which I submitted to the last parliament, is now before the public, and in a shape, I am ready to allow, which entitles any gentleman who may do me the honour to refer to it, to hold me responsible for its contents. It has been made the ground, or pretext, of so many 624 misrepresentations out of doors, that I feel thankful for this opportunity of setting myself right, and, what is of far more consequence than any personal consideration, of setting the government, and the late parliament right, in the judgment of the country, upon this important subject. If the House will favour me with a patient hearing, and my own physical powers will permit, I trust that, before I sit down, I shall be able to expose those misrepresentations; and, if I succeed in that object, I shall feel equally confident of relieving myself from the calumnies which, with no sparing hand, have been heaped upon me personally, in the course of the last year. Let not the hireling authors of those calumnies suppose that I am about to retort upon them, the low and vulgar abuse which they have attempted to cast upon me. The only punishment which they shall receive at my hands is, to show them, that their venom has fallen innocuous upon me; that I am not infected by it; and that, however unjustly attacked, I feel too much respect for this House, and, I might add, too much self-respect—to resort to such base engines in my defence.
But, if I abstain from noticing personal abuse and malignant insinuations, I cannot extend the same degree of forbearance to the arguments, the mis-statements, the sophisms, and, I must add, the falsehoods, which have been brought forward, I wilt not say by the ship-owners, but by their advocates, in the present controversy. Even with respect to the ship-owners themselves, although great allowance is to be made for the irritation of men suffering under pressure and difficulties, I cannot consent to flatter their feelings, and to purchase their good-will, at the expense of compromising the claims of truth, and the permanent interests of the country.
I am not unaware, Sir, of all the disadvantages under which I approach the discussion of this great question. Many honourable gentlemen may think it necessary—and for this I do not blame them—to yield to the solicitations of their constituents. I am riot ignorant that, even amongst those gentlemen who have no constituents immediately connected with the shipping interest, an active canvas has been carried on, and that ex parte statements have been industriously laid before them by the delegates from the out-ports, with a view to influence their judgment, 625 and to secure their votes on the present question:—a question upon which it is the more easy to excite alarm, from its being so intimately connected with the maritime power of the country. When this paramount interest is represented to be in jeopardy, it is natural that hon. members should listen with attention to those who, in pointing out the supposed danger, are ready, at the same time, to suggest the course by which it may be averted.
I know, likewise, what active and incessant efforts have been made to influence the feelings, if not the votes, of all who entertain opinions, in any degree, or upon any particular point—the Corn-laws, for instance—at variance with the general principles of our domestic and commercial policy; to array those feelings under the popular banner of the Shipping Interest, and to enlist the most laudable impulse of national pride and maritime glory, on the side of that general struggle which is now carried on, in certain quarters, against every attempt at improvement.
Notwithstanding all these considerations, and making every allowance for those hon. members who are, in a manner, obliged to vote in favour of the gallant general's motion, in deference to the wishes of their constituents (conduct, for which, be it remembered, I am far from imputing any blame), I still feel it to be my bounden duty, however much these circumstances may tell upon the division, to state fully and fearlessly, the grounds upon which I stand, trusting that the great majority of this House do not come to the discussion of this important question, as members are sometimes said to attend upon a private bill; that their votes are not pledged to some petty and local interest; that they are not flocking here to-night, for the purpose of redeeming any such pledges given out of doors; but for that of pronouncing an impartial judgment, after hearing both sides of the question now under consideration.
Now, I feel myself, at the very outset, I own, rather at a loss how to deal with that question—a difficulty not created by any thing which I have heard for the first time this evening, but arising out of the statements and arguments resorted to by those who have had the management of the question out of doors. These parties—I mean the ship-owners and their advocates—appear to me to employ a mode 626 of reasoning quite peculiar to themselves, and which I know not how to designate, unless I describe it as resembling that philosophy which prevailed during the middle ages. To reason from facts, observation, and experience—to draw conclusions from what is passing before them—is a system not yet adopted by those who claim to be exclusively practical men. In their method of induction, indeed, facts are precisely what they are most disposed to overlook. Thus far, at least, their wisdom is in accordance with the wisdom of their ancestors, the philosophers of those middle ages, who, setting their faces against all improvements denied all facts which they could not reconcile to their own preconceived doctrines. Of this philosophy we had something like a sample last year, in the question of the silk-trade. All that was thought necessary, on the part of the advocates of prohibition, was to assume, as incontrovertible, that the silk manufacture of this country would, necessarily, be altogether ruined, root and branch, by the then pending change in the law. Here was the theory of practical men. That theory once admitted, the inferences were not difficult to draw. Those inferences were stated as so many undeniable facts—the total annihilation of a capital amounting to many millions sterling—five hundred thousand industrious people, women and children, deprived of all means of subsistence—and I know not how many other horrible consequences; all so much taken for granted, that I was pointed out as a "cold-hearted, callous metaphysician," who, worse than the Devil, could contemplate unmoved the certainty of so much wretchedness and distress.
In spite of this frightful denunciation, the House resolved to abide the result of the alteration, which was then about to take effect, in respect to the silk-trade of this country. The new law came into operation last July, at a period of peculiar pressure and difficulty, in every branch of our manufactures. Yet, nevertheless, I have now the satisfaction of stating, that there is no one extensive manufacture which has suffered so little from the distress of the times, as that of which the total ruin and annihilation had been so confidently foretold. Nay, more; I am enabled to add, that the result of a free competition has been this—that more real improvement has been made in the silk 627 manufacture of this country, within the last twelvemonth, than had been made for half a century before. I assert this, on the authority of the manufacturers themselves; and I say, that at this moment, those manufacturers are not only fearless of the rivalry of France in foreign markets, but, in some articles, are able to undersell the French manufacturer even in his own market: and, so little do they dread the competition of Bandana handkerchief's, against which no rate of duty, however high, we were assured, could afford protection, that silk handkerchiefs are now actually weaving in England, for the purpose of being sent out to the Indian market.
But, Sir, the ship-owners go even a stage further than the silk manufacturers. They are not content to assume what will be the inevitable result of the measures adopted by government for the regulation of our Navigation system; they positively assert that those results have already taken place. They maintain, that the shipping interest of this country is at the present moment, in a state of rapid decay. This is the burthen of all the petitions which have been presented on this subject. I have been at the pains of reading them all; and there is not one which does not proceed upon the assumed fact, that foreign shipping resorting to our ports has increased in an alarming degree, and that the shipping of this country has decreased in the same proportion. From this assumption it is inferred—and, if the premises be correct, there is no disputing the conclusion—that the shipping of other states will, ere long, supersede our own shipping in the foreign trade of the country.
Now, upon this point rests the whole question between the ship-owners and his majesty's government. We are at issue upon a fact; and that issue is what the House is called upon this evening to try. If the fact shall be established, it will then be our duty to examine how far the inferences are correct; and, if they are correct, to lose no time in considering of the best means of averting from the country the evils involved in these inferences. But, if the pretended fact should be altogether unfounded—if the true state of things should turn out to be the reverse of what is alleged by the petitioners—surely we may dismiss the inference, and save ourselves the trouble of any further proceed 628 ing. Upon the shewing of the petitioners themselves, there would be no ground for the committee proposed by the gallant general; and to grant it under such circumstances, would only tend to raise a doubt, both at home and abroad, upon the disposition to persevere in our present system of commercial policy:—a system which, his majesty's government are persuaded is calculated to advance the general interests of the country, without creating any prejudice to the separate interests of the ship-owner.
The gallant general has stated, that it is not his fault that this question was not brought forward at a much earlier period of the session. If there be blame anywhere, I am afraid I am the principal cause of this delay. But I own that, for the fair discussion of the question, I cannot regret that it was deferred. If we had gone into this subject previous to the recess, we could not have had before us the annual accounts of tonnage and shipping, which are never laid upon the table till the 25th of March. Without those accounts, we should not have possessed any authentic means of examining the assertions, upon the validity of which we are now to decide.
I will not affirm of the petitioners, who have complained of this delay, any thing so offensive as that they were aware, that when these accounts should be produced, they would overturn all their statements: but I will say, that those statements have been made at random; although I am ready to concede, that they were according to the best of the belief of the persons who have signed these petitions. They have taken the allegations upon credit, from those who have had the task of what is called "getting up the petition,"—a practice, I am afraid, become very common of late years, and by which the value of one of the most important rights of the subject, and the influence of petitions in this House, have been rather impaired than strengthened.
The truth of this observation, I own, has been somewhat confirmed to me by the attention which I have found it my duty to give to the allegations in the petitions now under consideration—allegations which have surprised me not a little. The confidence, not to say the credulity, of the petitioners must, indeed, have been largely drawn upon; seeing that, of their own personal knowledge, it was scarcely 629 possible for them not to have been aware how inconsistent some of the statements were with occurrences which came under their own immediate observation. In the petition from Scarborough, for instance, which I take because it is the first which was presented this session, I find it stated, to the great regret and alarm of the petitioners, that there has been a great increase in the entry of foreign vessels, and particularly of vessels from the Baltic, in all the British ports during the last year. This, Sir, is the grievance complained of by the inhabitants of Scarborough, on the 16th of February, 1827. As far as their own port is concerned, they must naturally be supposed to be, of all persons, the best acquainted with the real state of the case. As far as other ports are concerned, they were probably speaking only from hearsay. Now, by referring to the returns to which I have alluded, I find that, in the year 1825, there entered into the port of Scarborough nineteen British vessels, amounting to 2,451 tons, and seventeen foreign vessels, amounting to 998 tons. I find also that, in the next year, 1826, the year adverted to by the inhabitants of Scarborough, the year in which the foreign shipping has made much alarming progress towards superseding the shipping of this country, there entered seventeen British vessels, amounting to 2,349 tons, and only two foreign, amounting to 149 tons. So much for the petition from Scarborough! And so much for the practical information which these petitioners have brought to bear upon the question!
The next petition I shall refer to is from Greenock, a much larger port than Scarborough. The petition contains the same general allegations, and complains more particularly of the loss of the timber-trade with the British provinces in North America. It states, that, in consequence of the protection afforded to foreign shipping, so decided a preference is given to foreigners in the timber-trade, that the petitioners can no longer compete with them, and that the British trade to Canada will soon be wholly destroyed. How far this allegation is correct, as relates to this particular branch of trade, I shall have occasion to notice hereafter: but, as the petitioners also proceed upon the assumption, that the increase of foreign shipping has been alarmingly great in the last year, I will show the House, from the returns, to what degree of credit this assumption is 630 entitled. In the year 1825, there entered into the port of Greenock two hundred and one British vessels, amounting to 51,249 tons; and twenty-one foreign vessels, amounting to 6,229 tons. In the year 1826, the number of British vessels was one hundred and ninety-seven, and their tonnage 54,037 tons; while the number of foreign vessels was only eight, and their tonnage 2,380 tons; being an absolute increase in the British tonnage, accompanied by a very great decrease in the tonnage of foreign vessels, in the very port from which the petition proceeded!
Were I to go on to other ports from which petitions have been presented, I should, in most instances, have to exhibit similar comparisons from similar returns. But this course is unnecessary, and would occupy too much of the time and attention of the House.
There is, however, one more petition to which I will briefly refer, because it attempts, by exciting the prejudices of the poorer classes of the community, to bring their feelings to bear upon the present question. This petition comes from the artificers and labourers connected with the port of London, and employed, in various departments, about the shipping. They state that, in the year 1825, they were in a prosperous condition, and had plenty of employment; but that, in the year 1826, owing to the great influx of foreign shipping, they are, at this moment, destitute of employment, and in a state of the deepest distress. Now how stands the fact? I find, by the returns to which I have just referred, that in the year 1825, the foreign vessels entering inwards in the port of London, amounted to 302,122 tons; and that in the last year, the year 1826, they amounted only to 215,254 tons. If, then, the distress of these petitioners be occasioned by the amount of foreign shipping, the aggregate of that distress ought, as a matter of course, to have been less, by nearly one third, during the last year, than during the year 1825. Is it not evident, therefore, that the effects complained of must have arisen out of some other cause? Yet, Sir, these petitioners are actually "overwhelmed with dismay"—I use their own words—at the increase of foreign shipping in 1826; and to that circumstance they attribute all their present difficulties!
I am afraid I am detaining the House too long; but, as it is with assertions of 631 pretended facts that I am dealing, it is necessary for me to exhibit facts, in order to show how entirely groundless are the charges which have been brought against me, and against the system which it is my duty to defend. It is the more necessary, as it has been imputed to me, that I was guilty of exaggeration in the statement which I made last year, and that I attempted to support such statement, and to deceive the public, by returns purposely prepared to lead to false conclusions. I have been accused of the "pitiful trick" of jumbling together the foreign, the Irish, and the coasting trade, for the purpose of concealing that there had been a great decrease in the British shipping employed in the foreign trade of the country. I knew the falsehood of this charge, and so, I have no doubt, did those by whom it was made; but, since it had been made publicly, it became my duty, before the House was called upon to discuss the subject in the present session, to call for returns, prepared in such a form as would remove all suspicion that I had attempted so miserable and unworthy a delusion. I called, therefore, for the return which I now hold in my hand, showing the comparative increase of British shipping, in what, in the Custom-house books, as kept up to the year 1823, was considered the foreign trade of the country. Up to that year, the trade with Ireland was included under that head. And why? Because, by a long-mistaken policy—a policy which, happily for both countries, is now abandoned—up to that year, we treated the trade with Ireland as a foreign trade, subject to all the impediments and regulations imposed on the intercourse with foreign countries. Therefore, it becomes necessary, for any purpose of fair comparison with years antecedent to 1823, to include the Irish trade under the head of foreign. I hold in my hand a comparison so made, for each year, from 1814 to 1826, both inclusive, shewing the total tonnage of British and foreign ships, which have entered inwards and cleared outwards from and to all parts of the world. And what is the result?—that, with the single exception of the year 1825 (and although the trade of the year 1826 was necessarily depressed, in consequence of the excessive and wild speculations of the preceding year)—there appears to have been a greater amount of British shipping employed in the last, than in any former year since 1814. 632 Here, then, is my first proof in refutation of the allegations of the petitions. Let hon. gentlemen cast their eyes down the column of this return, from 1814 to 1826, and they will see, that there is no year, 1825 always excepted, which stands so high, since the restoration of peace. The amount of tonnage of British vessels entered inwards, in the year 1826, was 2,478,047 tons. In the year 1814, it was 1,846,670 tons; shewing an increase of more than 600,000 tons.
But, inasmuch as our intercourse with Ireland is now separated from the foreign trade, and considered, as it ought to be considered, a part of the coasting trade, a return has been prepared, from 1814 to 1826, both inclusive, in which the trade of this country with Ireland is omitted for the whole of that period. And here I find the comparison at least as favourable as in the first return. The tonnage of British vessels entering inwards from foreign ports, in 1826, considerably exceeded the tonnage in any one year since 1814, with the exception of 1825; whilst there are not fewer than four years of the thirteen (three of them before any treaty of reciprocity with the northern powers), in which the foreign tonnage exceeded that of 1826.
Last year, in addressing the House on this subject, I admitted that, looking to the excessive over-trading of 1825, a proportionate decrease in the employment of British vessels was naturally to be expected in 1826. As the first of these years, 1825, from excessive excitement, could not, taken by itself, be considered as affording a fair estimate for the future, so in like manner, I stated my apprehension, that the latter year, 1826, from the natural consequence of preceding excitement, would exhibit an unusual depression in our navigation. This apprehension, as the House now perceives, has fortunately not been realized. What, then, becomes of the lamentations over the ruin of our foreign trade?—of the bold assertion, that it has been transferred to the shipping of other countries?
The decrease of British shipping in 1826, as compared with the preceding year, was 231,219 tons: the amount of tonnage in 1825 being 2,027,469 tons; and in 1826, 1,796,250 tons. The foreign shipping, in the same period, had fallen off 248,679 tons: the amount of their tonnage, in 1825, being 892,601 tons, and in 1826 633 only 643,922 tons. Taking the ships entered inwards and cleared outwards, the positive decrease in the British was less than that in the foreign shipping by 136,922 tons. If we compare the relative decrease in the foreign tonnage, it amounted to about two sevenths: while the decrease in the British tonnage was only one ninth.
This result of the comparative employment of British and foreign shipping in the two years 1825 and 1826; the first a year of great excitement, and the second of great depression, in the foreign commerce of this country, is the best answer to the theory, so dogmatically laid down by the practical men and their advocates; that henceforward it was only at intervals, "short and far between," during some temporary flush of trade, for which foreign tonnage might not be immediately adequate, that British shipping would be able to procure freights in the foreign trade of this country. This was the explanation of what they could not deny; the great demand, and the extravagantly high freights paid for British ships in 1825. It was the answer of these theorists to the facts stated by me in May 1826; but what will they say to the facts of May 1827? I am afraid there was no flush of foreign trade in 1826 which they can call in aid to bolster up their theory of last year.
This, Sir, is my first answer to the petitioners, as to the increase of foreign over British shipping in 1826.
It has been objected to these comparisons that, instead of selecting particular years, I ought to have taken averages, formed upon a certain number of years prior, and subsequent to, the late changes in our Navigation-laws. Those who have made this objection do not scruple to affirm, that these averages would prove their charges against me. My adversaries might have made this comparison for themselves; but, as they prefer dealing in vague assertions, I have done it for them. They will see that I am a disciple ready to adopt their suggestions, and that, by so doing, I am only furnished with a further proof against themselves. I have, therefore, taken the average; first, for a period of five years, subsequent to 1814; secondly, for a period of ten years from the same date; thirdly, for the last three years, during which the changes complained of have been in operation. The result is as follows:— 634
I have only to thank my opponents for having forced me to this mode of comparing the past growth,with the present decay, of our foreign carrying trade, and I now leave it in their hands, that they, in their turn may reconcile it, as they can, with their assertion that, since the peace, the increase of foreign, when compared with British tonnage, has been in the proportion of four to one. I may be told, however, and, if I stop here, I have no doubt I shall be told, "All this is very true; but, if from this comparison were excluded the British tonnage which is engaged in carrying on the trade between this country and our own colonies, the result would be found widely different. As foreign competition is not allowed in this trade, the vessels employed in it ought, in fairness, to be excluded from the comparison." My answer is shortly this.
The amount of tonnage of British and Foreign shipping which entered inwards in the ports of the United Kingdom, upon an average of five years, from 1814 to 1818, both inclusive, was 1,517,918 590,156 The average amount for ten years, from 1814 to 1823, both inclusive, was 1,607,940 539,062 The average amount for three years, from 1824 to 1826, both inclusive, was 1,963,678 804,366 The amount of British and Foreign ships entered inwards in the ports of the United Kingdom, for the year 1826, was 1,950,630 694,116 The increase of British shipping, therefore, in 1826, as compared with the first average of five years, is Tons 432,712 Ditto of Foreign 103,960 ——— Excess of British increase above Foreign 328,752 ——— Increase of British on the average of ten years 342,690 Ditto of Foreign 155,054 ——— Excess of British increase above Foreign 187,636 ——— Decrease of British on the average of three years 13,048 Decrease of Foreign on ditto 110,250 ——— Excess of decrease of Foreign above British 97,202 ———
I am perfectly willing to abide the issue of the present question, tried by a reference to this test, new and unfair as I hold it to be, in an inquiry of this nature. That it may be strictly applied, I have called for the following returns:— 635 First.—An account showing the total tonnage of British and Foreign ships which have entered inwards and cleared outwards from and to all foreign countries in each year, from 1814 to 1826, both inclusive, excluding the British colonies and possessions in all parts of the world out of Europe.
Secondly.—A return of the number of British and Foreign ships, and of the total amount of the respective tonnage, which entered the ports of the United Kingdom from all parts of the world out of Europe (exclusive of the Mediterranean, and exclusive of the British ships from his Majesty's colonies and plantations in America), between the years 1814 and 1826, both inclusive.
Thirdly.—A return of the total number of loads of timber imported into the United Kingdom in each year, from the year 1784, from the British provinces in North America, and from the Baltic respectively; distinguishing the quantity imported in British from that imported in Foreign ships:—also, a return of the total number of loads of timber imported into Great Britain in each year, from the year 1784, from the British provinces in North America, and from the Baltic respectively; distinguishing the quantity imported in British from that imported in Foreign ships:—also, a return of the total number of loads of timber imported into Ireland in each year, from 1784 to 1826, inclusive, from the British provinces in North America and from the Baltic respectively; distinguishing the quantity imported in British from that imported in Foreign ships:—and also, an account of duties levied upon timber, deals, and other articles of wood, imported from North America in each of the last three years; and of what would have been paid upon the same articles had they been imported from the Baltic.
Fourthly.—A return for the United Kingdom, of the total number of British ships, together with the total amount of their tonnage, which entered inwards and cleared outwards from and to his majesty's colonies and plantations in the West Indies, and on the continent of America south of the 35th degree of latitude, from the year 1814 to the year 1826, both inclusive, distinguishing each year.
Fifthly.—A like return from his majesty's colonies and plantations in America, north of the 35th degree of latitude.
Sixthly.—A like return from the pos 636 sessions of his majesty, or of the East India Company, to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, including New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land.
Seventhly.—A like return from any possessions, settlements, or territories, on the West Coast of Africa, including the Cape of Good Hope.
Eighthly.—A return of the number of vessels, with the amount of their tonnage, which cleared out from the ports of Great Britain, for the Deep-Sea Fishery, to any part of the world, between the years 1814 and 1826, both inclusive, distinguishing each year.
Ninthly.—An account of the tonnage of vessels employed in the coasting trade, which have entered at, or cleared out from, the ports of Great Britain, from the year 1823 to the year 1826, both inclusive.
From this last return, to which I shall presently have occasion to refer, hon. gentlemen will see, whether I can justly be charged with having "jumbled" the foreign with the coasting trade, for the unworthy purpose attributed to me. I shall first advert to the other documents, which embrace what, in the strictest sense, may be termed the Foreign trade of the country.
By the return which I now hold in my hand, and which, I am sure, will afford my gallant colleague the greatest satisfaction, I find the total tonnage of British vessels which have entered inwards and cleared outwards from and to all foreign countries, in the year 1826, excluding the British colonies and possessions in all parts of the world out of Europe, exceeded that of any former year since 1814—always, with the exception of the extravagant year 1825. There is not a single year besides, which is not below 1826. This is one evidence, truly, of the total ruin that has befallen our foreign trade! In the year 1814, the amount of British tonnage was six hundred and ninety-six thousand six hundred and ninety-one tons. On the average of the twelve years, including the year 1825, it was eight hundred and sixty five thousand three hundred and seventy-seven tons; and in the last year, it amounted to nine hundred and thirty-four thousand four hundred and ninety-one tons.
In the tonnage of foreign ships entering our ports during the same period, there has also been an increase. But there are no less than three years, antecedent to the Reciprocity system, during which the ton 637 nage of foreign vessels exceeded the tonnage of last year.
But is there in this increase of foreign shipping any just ground for regret or alarm? If, in a time of peace, we are increasing our trade in a much greater proportion than our rivals, are we, forsooth, to allow ourselves to be carried away by a miserable feeling of jealousy, and to resort to prohibitory or hostile measures, merely because some augmentation may have taken place, simultaneously, in the trade of the neighbouring countries of Europe? I have looked into this subject with great attention, and have carefully sifted it to the bottom. I have been induced to do so, because I felt, that not only my own reputation, as a public man, was at stake, but—what is of far more consequence than the reputation of any man—that the welfare and safety of the country were involved in the maintenance of our commercial marine.
Of what description of vessels does the House suppose a great proportion of this increase in the amount of foreign tonnage to consist? One-fourth of them is under fifty tons burthen; and the whole, upon an average, falls short of one hundred tons each. They are chiefly employed in carrying on the daily intercourse from the opposite coast of France, the Netherlands, and other adjacent ports, with this country. This mighty commercial marine may be seen at Dover, Ramsgate, Southampton, Rochester, and the other sea-ports, from Plymouth to Hull, bringing, besides passengers (for all the passage and steam vessels are included in this return), eggs, butter, vegetables, poultry, fish, fruit, and other trifling articles which find a market in our sea-ports, and many of which are sent from thence to the markets of the metropolis. Such is the character of about one fourth of the tonnage which helps to swell the numerical return of foreign ships, which threaten to overwhelm the commercial marine of this country! Many of them come with one tide, and return with the next. Is this the nursery for foreign seamen, which is to dislodge us from our rank among the maritime powers of the world? Are the men trained up in this school to be for a moment put in comparison with those who navigate our ships to the remotest extremity of the globe? As well might you compare the establishment of a stage coach plying between Paddington and the Bank, with that 638 of the mail between Edinburgh and London. But if this petty traffic is of little value to the marine of the countries from which it is carried on, and if it ought to be quite as little an object of jealousy to this country, let it not be supposed, that it is not a source of considerable comfort and accommodation to a great part of our population. Gentlemen, I am convinced, have no notion to what an extent this daily interchange with our neighbours is carried. I will only specify one article. The House will be astonished to hear that, during the last year, the number of foreign eggs imported into Great Britain was sixty-four millions, five hundred and three thousand, seven hundred and ninety; the duty upon which amounted to 22,416l. 3s. 3d.
There is, Sir, one other article on which I wish to remark, as accounting for the employment of a considerable amount of small foreign shipping. During my unavoidable absence from this House, my right hon. friend, the vice president of the Board of Trade, adverted, in one of the discussions on the Corn-bill, to the quantity of foreign bones imported into this country, for the purpose of manure. The value of this article yearly imported from the coast between the Scheldt and the Eider exceeds 100,000l. It is collected from all the ports and creeks of that line of coast. Will the ship-owners pretend, that they feel any alarm at this trade, in which nearly forty thousand tons of shipping are employed? Would they have a British merchant ship sent to Hamburgh to lay along side the wharf, waiting to collect a bushel of bones here, and a bushel there, until she was able to complete a cargo of manure? This manure must be a valuable article to our agriculturists, otherwise they would not lay out their money upon old bones. It constitutes a new branch of trade which can only exist by low freights, and by being managed with the strictest economy. With a system of discriminating and retaliatory duties, this traffic, like many others, would not be transferred to British shipping, but would be annihilated altogether. Why have I referred to it particularly on this occasion? It is to shew, that if new branches of trade are springing up in consequence of the removal of the discriminating duties, such trade, even if carried on principally in foreign bottoms, must nevertheless be incidentally productive of advantage to the 639 general interests, as well as to the shipping, of the country. By an advance of between one and two hundred thousand pounds expended on this manure, is it too much to presume that five hundred thousand additional quarters of corn are produced? This corn must be sent to market; and I have no doubt that a great part of it finds its way, by sea, to London, and other great towns; and thus our coasting trade, the most beneficial, as well as the most extensive, nursery for seamen, is increased.
I now proceed to that part of the subject which relates to the trade with all parts of the world, strictly foreign, out of Europe. In the year 1814, the amount of British tonnage employed in this trade was four hundred and sixty-five thousand, eight hundred and nine tons. In the year 1826, its amount was five hundred and three thousand, and twenty four tons; exceeding the tonnage of any one year, since 1814, except 1818: whilst, with the single exception of the United States of America, there has been no increase at all in the amount of tonnage of foreign vessels trading between this country and ports out of Europe. And even allowing for the increase of American shipping, there are seven years out of the thirteen, from 1814 to 1826, in which the amount of foreign shipping entering the ports of this country, from places out of Europe, was greater than in the year 1826.
I now come to that portion of our foreign trade which is more immediately under our own control: I mean the trade to the colonies. And here a heavy charge has been made against me, by my gallant colleague,—that I have gratuitously, unwisely, and unnecessarily, opened to the competition of the shipping of other countries this trade, which had previously been exclusively our own. I admit that the trade of the colonies has been thrown open; but I have the satisfaction of stating to the House, that we had not thereby, in the slightest degree, injured our own trade, or decreased the amount of British shipping to which it affords employment.
I will first take the trade with the West Indies. In the last year the amount of British shipping engaged in that trade was greater than it had been in any year subsequent to the peace, excepting 1814 and 1815; during which years we still retained several colonies which have since been restored to the powers, from which they had been taken during the war. In 640 this branch of trade, therefore, the shipping of this country has suffered no diminution.
Next comes the trade with our North American colonies. I hardly know in what terms to describe its growth. It has increased in a proportion that may truly be called gigantic. Instead of the tonnage employed in it amounting, as it did in 1814, to eighty-eight thousand, two-hundred and forty-seven tons, in the year 1826 it had increased to four hundred and seventy-two thousand, five hundred and eighty-eight tons. This trade, therefore, has been more than quintupled in twelve years, and exceeds in the last any former year, 1825 excepted, the tonnage of which was four hundred and eighty-nine thousand, eight hundred and forty-four tons.
In the trade to the British possessions in the East-Indies, as well as in that to the coast of Africa, there has been a considerable increase since the restoration of peace. Indeed, I am at a loss to find a single branch of our trade, foreign or domestic, in which there has not been more or less of augmentation, with the exception of the Deep-Sea Fishery, in which there appears a trifling diminution. This diminution is, however, in my mind, easily and satisfactorily to be accounted for. It must be recollected that, during the war, we had nearly the exclusive possession of this fishery, and supplied all the other nations of Europe with oil. Since the peace, several of those nations have prohibited the importation of fish oil. It was not, therefore, to be expected, that we could continue to employ our shipping in that trade so extensively as heretofore. Besides, there is another circumstance, as connected with this subject, to be taken in to consideration; namely, that the demand for oil has been considerably diminished, in consequence of the new mode of lighting cities and towns with gas, adopted throughout this country.
With regard to the separate trade of Ireland, it is highly gratifying to find, that there has been a considerable increase in her intercourse with all parts of the world, and particularly with the Baltic, and the British provinces in North America. I rejoice exceedingly at this improvement. I hail the great increase in the consumption of timber in Ireland; not only as it regards the general interests of our maritime relations, but as creating a strong presumption, that an increased 641 proportion of the population of that country possess the means of improving their habitations, and of affording themselves those comforts and enjoyments, to which the use of timber is, in a great degree, conducive.
I have now, I think, shewn in detail the part which British shipping enjoys in every branch of our trade, and proved that, in the participation with foreign states, our aggregate share has been increased, instead of diminished, since the change in our Navigation-laws.
It now only remains for me to refer very shortly, but more specifically, to the timber-trade with the Baltic; because, upon the misrepresentations industriously circulated with regard to this trade, the ship-owners have endeavoured to bolster up their case. That part of their case, like every other, I am prepared to meet by facts. I have called for a return of the state of this trade for every year since the year 1784: and if any one piece of evidence can be more conclusive than another of the rapid growth of wealth, and of the general power of consumption, in this country, it is to be found in the comparison of the quantity of timber which we now import with the quantity imported in the year 1874. In that year, we received from the British provinces in North America seven hundred and thirty-nine loads of timber, and from the Baltic one hundred and five thousand, two hundred and twenty-seven loads. In the year 1825, the quantity imported from the British provinces in North America was four hundred and seven thousand, and twenty loads, instead of seven hundred and thirty-nine loads; and from the Baltic two hundred and seventy-two thousand, seven hundred and sixty-four loads, instead of one hundred and five thousand, two hundred and twenty-seven loads. So that the increase from British North America in forty years has not been ten-fold, or fifty-fold, or a hundred-fold, but almost a thousand-fold, whilst, instead of there being any proportionate decrease in the supply from the Baltic, that also has been increasing. Every one knows that the whole importation from Canada is exclusively confined to British vessels; so that, even if we did not receive a single plank from the Baltic in British shipping, the Canada trade alone would afford a substitute for employment of that shipping, to a greater amount than it ever possessed in the Baltic trade. 642 This new and extensive opening for the employment of our second-class ships would not leave the owners of them without resource, even if their most exaggerated prediction—"that, in a few years, they shall be wholly driven out of the timber-trade with the Baltic," should be realized. I do not share in this apprehension, for a reason to which I now invite the attention of the House, and especially of the honourable mover and seconder of the present motion.
I have applied to the timber-trade with the Baltic that same test which, taunted to it by my opponents, I had applied to the other branches of our trade. I have taken the respective averages of five years, we ten years, and of the last three years; I have compared these several averages with the year 1826. The following is the result:—
If this result shall prove as satisfactory to those who were the first to call for it, as it is to myself, who have yielded to their call, both sides will be equally gratified. In this case, as in the former instance, I have taken the averages between 1814 and 1826. In all three, the foreign tonnage employed in this trade exceeds that of this country. Let the House compare these averages with the year 1826, in which the proportion of British to the foreign shipping is nearly as four to three, and then let them say, whether this comparison warrants the assertion, that we have been deprived of our fair share of this trade by the reciprocity system, or justifies the petitioners in appealing as they do, to the experience of the last year, as furnishing the proof of that assertion.
The average Nunber of loads of timber imported from the Baltic for five years from 1814 to 1818, both inclusive, was 49,226 61,803 The average Number for ten years, from 1814 to 1823, both inclusive, was 54,190 58,904 The average number for three years, from 1824 to 1826, both inclusive was 100,467 112,483 The quantity imported in 1826, was 87,576 68,501
I had nearly forgotten one most materia part of the present subject: I mean the coasting trade; which, like the colonial, we are enabled to keep entirely to ourselves. It was by "jumbling up" this with the foreign trade of the country, that I was enabled, according to certain sapient 643 gentlemen, to boast last year of an aggregate of British shipping, entered inwards, amounting to upwards of two million seven hundred thousand tons; I will now tell these gentlemen what has been the amount of shipping entered inwards in the coasting trade alone, for the last four years.
In the year 1823 it was 7,899,602 tons. In the year 1824 it was 8,101,337 tons In the year 1825 it was 8,300,756 tons In the year 1826 it was 8,368,812 tons
Such is the amount of our coasting trade—a trade surpassing all others, for the formation of brave and hardy seamen. It is a trade, too, with which the policy of Foreign States can in no way interfere; but which must increase with the growth of the manufactures, the agriculture, the wealth, and the population of the country.
Let the House compare the total amount of this trade with that portion of our intercourse with the continent of Europe which is carried on in foreign shipping. The latter is about five hundred thousand tons—the former upwards of eight millions. Again, let them compare the nature of these two trades, as schools for the formation of experienced and danger-defying seamen. The trade from Norway, and from the Baltic (at least as far as foreign ships are concerned) is a fine-weather navigation, carried on during the summer months. The greatest part of the intercourse with the Elbe and the Weser is of the same character. Nearly the whole of the remainder is from the ports of Holland, or those of France within the channel. When we talk of trade as the nursery of seamen, and the foundation of naval power, will any man place in the same scales any part of this navigation with that which, at all seasons, and in all weather, is carried on between Great Britain and Ireland, and round the coasts of both these islands? Yet it is this carrying-trade, comparatively insignificant in amount, and of no importance in any other respect, divided between six or seven different states in Europe, some of them not possessing, or likely ever to possess, a single ship of war, that is to undermine and destroy the maritime greatness of this country! It is to avert this danger, that we are called upon to persevere in restrictions which, if retaliated (as we know would be the case), would be ruinous to the interests of our manufacturers, and our commerce—and to punish that re 644 taliation, if persisted in, by resorting even to the extremity of war!
There is another speculative grievance much dwelt upon in the petitions now before the House:—The act passed in the year 1825, by which the ports of our colonies were opened, on certain conditions, and within specified limits, to the shipping and trade of all friendly nations. For having introduced this act, I have been greatly blamed by the shipping interest, and other parties who have joined in their clamour. Having, at the time, fully explained to the House the grounds on which I submitted this measure to parliament, I will not now revert to them at any length. It is enough for me that, in so far as it affects the British possessions on the continent of North America, this relaxation of our ancient colonial system was recommended, not only on sound commercial principles, but by views of a higher nature, by the lessons of experience, and by considerations of political expediency. The change has been highly gratifying to his majesty's loyal subjects in these provinces. It cannot fail to contribute to the more rapid growth of their prosperity; and no proof has been offered, none can be adduced, that it has in the smallest degree, injured any British interest. It is impossible that it should; it is not in the nature of things, that whatever tends to increase the wealth and population of these valuable provinces, should not, at the same time, conduce to the general prosperity of the mother country, so long as they continue a part of the British empire.
It is by liberal treatment, and by admitting the inhabitants of this extensive territory, as much as possible, into a participation of all the benefits of our own navigation and commerce; and not by treating them as we might a small sugar island, interdicted from all intercourse with other countries, that we may expect to insure their attachment, and to maintain them in a state of colonial connexion, alike beneficial both to us and to themselves.
It may be said, however, "whatever good reasons there may be for these measures of indulgence to British North America, why extend them to our sugar colonies in the West Indies? Surely to them you may prescribe any conditions however exclusive, which the interests of the parent state may require. They can 645 not help themselves, however rigid the rules of monopoly or dependence under which you may place them; and to open their ports, therefore, to the ships of other European nations was, on your part, a wanton and gratuitous injury done to the shipping interest of this country." Admitting that we possess the power which this argument assumes, and without stopping to inquire how far, because one party is weak, and another strong, it is just to exercise such a power, if to the injury of the former, I maintain that, for the protection and security of British property in the West-Indies, for the sake of the commercial interests of this country, and in strict furtherance of the true principles of our Navigation-laws, as those principles were understood and acted upon by our ancestors, the government of this country was called upon, under the present circumstances of the world, to allow the nations of the north of Europe, subject to the conditions laid down in the act of parliament, to trade directly with our sugar colonies.
It is well known that, ever since the separation of the United States of America, the West Indies have drawn from that country their principal supplies of lumber, flour, biscuit, and other articles of which they stand in need. At first, this intercourse was carried on under orders in council, and was confined to British shipping. But the government of the United States, by degrees, imposed upon the British ships engaged in this trade such restrictions, that, of late years, they have been nearly excluded from it, and by far the greatest proportion of it has been transferred to American vessels. Yet, so necessary are supplies of this description to our West-India colonies, that, in the year 1822, an act of parliament was passed, legalizing the intercourse in American ships; which, till then, had been carried on by connivance, or under the sufferance of temporary orders in council.
The principle being thus established, that our West-India colonies were to be at liberty to draw their necessary supplies from foreign states and in foreign shipping, the questions naturally arose:—Why are the United States to be exclusively favoured in this respect? Why are the states of Europe to be shut out from attempting a competition in furnishing the like articles? There appeared to me no reason for this exclusion, and many ob 646 vious ones why it should not be persevered in.
In the first place, it was reported from all our colonies, that the United States, instead of taking, in return for their produce, rum, molasses, and other products of our islands, had ceased to afford this relief to the planters; and that specie, or bills upon England, were, of late years, the only terms of payment upon which American cargoes could be procured. Upon this ground alone, would it not have been worth while to try whether other countries dealing in the like cargoes, would not be satisfied to take in payment a part of the surplus produce of our colonies? And, at any rate, where could be the mischief of such an experiment?
In the second place, nearly the whole of the supplies from the United States, as I have already observed, were conveyed in American vessels. By an authentic account published in the United States, it appears that, in the year 1825, this trade gave employment to one hundred and one thousand six hundred and four tons of American shipping—an amount not much short of one half of the total tonnage engaged in the trade between this country and our West-India colonies. And here it may not be amiss to observe that, by this same account, it appears, that the whole American tonnage trading to the West Indies (where the United States do not possess a single colony) exceeds the whole tonnage employed by this country in that trade—not less than one hundred and fifteen thousand four hundred and eighty-one tons of American shipping being employed in the trade of Cuba alone. Now, I have always understood that the primary object of the Navigation-laws being to maintain for ourselves a great commercial marine, the next great principle of those laws was, to prevent too great a share of the foreign carrying-trade being engrossed by any one particular country. Was it, then, a subversion of our Navigation system to invite such powers as Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, the Hans Towns, &c. to participate with the United States in the trade which we had permitted to the latter with our sugar colonies? Which of those powers is aspiring to raise a commercial marine, to preponderate over that of Great Britain? Which of those states is, year after year, augmenting its military marine, by building ships of war of the largest 647 class? Which of those powers possesses a formidable navy, and is looking forward to the time when it expects to wrest from this country its sway upon the ocean?
In the third place, was it prudent that the supply of our West-India colonies, in articles of first necessity, should depend upon the good-will of any one power, and that they should be exposed to the risk of all the inconvenience which a sudden interruption of that supply might bring upon them?
These considerations were surely sufficient to induce his majesty's government to extend to other powers, the same facility of trading with our sugar colonies which had been granted to the United States. In doing so, it became our duty to revise the whole system of that trade. It appeared to us, for reasons which I have stated on a former occasion, that, without prejudice to any British interests, the colonies would be relieved and benefited by affording a greater latitude to the trade between them and foreign states. To this trade we annexed conditions, alike for the United States and for all other countries. The United States did not think proper to comply with these conditions; and all intercourse between them and the colonies has, in consequence, ceased. This was their choice in declining our terms; but, since they were declined, I cannot say that, with a view to the interests of our navigation, I regret the course which the policy of the American government has forced us to adopt. It is with no unfriendly feeling towards the United States, that I make this statement. There is nothing in what has occurred which ought to give rise to such feelings on either side. They might have enjoyed, like others, the boon which we tendered equally to all, when we opened the trade with our colonies. We have no right to complain that they adhered to terms incompatible with the conditions on which we tendered that boon; neither can they complain, having made their option to decline our conditions, that the boon is withheld from them, and granted to other nations, by which those conditions were accepted.
"But," say the ship-owners, "you have done right in shutting out the shipping of the United States from this trade. It is not of the order in council, issued for that purpose, that we complain. Our grievance is, that the interdiction is not equally ex 648 tended to the shipping of all other countries." Do these gentlemen recollect, that this would be placing our sugar colonies under a more severe system of exclusion, than has been applied to them at any period since the independence of the United States:—a system which, in spite of the wishes and policy of the government, after the close of the first American war, it was found impossible to enforce. To enforce such restrictions now, would be to expose the British sugar colonies to the greatest distress. It is vain to contend that, because we grant to them a monopoly of the British market for their staple productions, they ought in return to draw all the articles of which they stand in need, exclusively from this country. The monopoly granted to the West-India planter is of little or no advantage to him. By conquests made during the last war, by cessions obtained at the last peace, you have extended your sugar colonies in such a degree, that the quantity which they now send to this country exceeds by sixty thousand hogsheads (about one-fifth of the whole supply), the consumption of this country. This excess must be sold in the general market of Europe. The price which it will command in that market, it is obvious, must be regulated by the rate at which other sugars of like quality (those of Brazil, Cuba, and the East-Indies) can be afforded in the same market. It is equally obvious, that the price of this excess must determine the price of the other four fifths consumed in the United Kingdom. The monopoly, therefore, affords little, if any, substantial advantage to those upon whom it is conferred. They must be able to produce sugar in competition with the foreign grower.
But, if they are exposed to this competition, the House will at once perceive, that it becomes necessary to afford them every reasonable facility in procuring at moderate charges, those articles immediately necessary for the cultivation of their estates, which this country cannot supply with sufficient regularity, and except at prices greatly exceeding those which are paid for the like articles in other countries, their rivals in the growth of sugar. It is the duty of the government to endeavour to regulate and balance the conditions of this foreign supply, on the one hand, with a reference to this last consideration (in which is involved the well-being of our 649 colonies); and on the other, to the interests of our own navigation. It is on this joint principle, that the law of 1825 was framed and submitted to parliament. I have already shown that, since the passing of that law, there has been an increase, instead of a decrease, in the British shipping trading to our sugar colonies. Of the law, as far as it has hitherto operated, the ship-owner, therefore, has no right to complain; and it cannot, I think, be denied by any reflecting man, that, in the present state of our colonies, we could not adopt towards them a more exclusive system of commercial policy, without the greatest risk of aggravating their present difficulties; and that to aggravate those difficulties, and to involve the planters in ruin, is not the best mode of permanently protecting and upholding the shipping interest of this country.
If these considerations cannot be lost sight of in reference to our sugar colonies, they apply still more forcibly, to Newfoundland. The indulgence of trade granted to that settlement has been denounced, in the most severe terms, as amounting almost to criminality on the part of the government. What is the real state of the case? The value of this settlement, it is well known, is derived altogether from the fishery. The right of fishing on the coasts of that island, and in the adjacent waters, is shared with us both by France and the United States. Now, a very inconsiderable portion of the produce of the British fishery is consumed in this country. It is principally sold in foreign markets, where we have to encounter the competition of the Americans and the French, but more especially of the former. Our only chance of sustaining that competition, it has been found by recent experience, depends upon our giving every facility for supplying all the wants of our own fishermen upon the cheapest terms. It is upon this principle that we have allowed a free trade, without duty, to Newfoundland. We had to make our choice between this sacrifice, and the loss of the fishery. By the alternative which parliament has adopted, some injury, it cannot be denied, is sustained by those trades which heretofore had the exclusive supply of the Newfoundland fishery with articles of British produce. These articles are now furnished from the cheaper markets of the continent. This will be manifest from the return which I hold in 650 my hand, of the goods exported from Hamburgh to Newfoundland, in the first six months of the last year, consisting of flour, biscuit, salt provisions, &c. But then this export took place in British ships, amounting to five thousand four hundred and fifty-six tons, which were despatched from this country to Hamburgh for that purpose. This export, therefore, was of no injury to our shipping. That the Newfoundland fishery is one of its best means of encouragement is, I believe, generally allowed; and with this understanding, I think I have now said enough to prove, that the relaxation of our Navigation-laws, in the instance of Newfoundland, was necessary for the preservation of the fishery, and was made, consequently, in furtherance of the shipping interest, however much at variance with the rigid regulations and prohibitions of our ancient navigation and colonial system.
Another charge which has been adduced against me by the shipping interest is, the having opened the ports of British India to foreign ships. This charge is almost too ridiculous to be noticed. Do those who make it consider the East Indies as they would some small insular colony, from which they could exclude all the rest of the world? Do they forget that other European nations have settlements on that continent, some of those settlements situated even on the shores of the Ganges itself? To have brought forward such a charge, only proves the monopolizing spirit, as well as the gross ignorance, of those by whom it has been made. This permission to foreign states to trade with British India, instead of being one of the rash innovations of the present day, has existed, I believe, at all times, but certainly ever since the year 1797, when it was specifically provided for and regulated by an act of the 37th of the late king, with a simple reference to which I shall at once dismiss this part of the subject.
When it is recollected, that the tonnage of our mercantile marine was nearly doubled in the course of the last war; that during a great part of that war, but especially in the latter years of it, there was the greatest excitement to shipbuilding; that whilst the profits of freight were very high, little regard was paid to economy in the construction and repair of ships; and that upon the unexpected 651 cessation of the war, between three and four hundred thousand tons were discharged from the public service; it cannot be matter of surprise, that we had more merchant ships than could find profitable employment, under all the changes in our situation produced by the restoration of peace. It must also be borne in mind, that our merchant ships were, from that time, no longer subject to the restraints and delays of convoy; and that other nations, of which the navigation had been altogether suspended by the war, not only resumed their former share in the commerce of the world, but began to use every means in their power to increase and promote their shipping. The wonder is, not that the profits of shipowners have been diminished with the diminution of demand, but that, under all these circumstances, this country has been able to maintain, up to the present time, its mercantile tonnage, at an amount so very little below that at which it stood at the close of the war. That this is a fact cannot be denied. In my opinion, there would have been a much greater falling-off in our tonnage, and a much greater degree of distress among ship-owners, if those alterations had not been made in our commercial policy, of which they short-sightedly complain; and it would have been better for their relief, if they had been adopted, at an earlier period after the restoration of peace. So far from their being innovations, rash and uncalled-for, I maintain, that they are either the necessary adaptation of our ancient principles to the new circumstances of the world; or real and substantive improvements, such as would have been made twenty years sooner, but for the general subversion and confusion which grew out of the French war. They are only the following up of those principles of good-will and liberal commercial policy between nations, which Mr. Pitt inculcated, and, as far as possible acted upon, from 1786, till he was forced into war by the progress of the French Revolution. With the restoration of peace to the world, and of a settled order of things in Europe, it was fit, and for the interest of this country, that those principles and that policy should revive. That they were not lost sight of by those who had the greatest interest to see them adopted, I mean the enlightened merchants and ship-owners of this country, I could prove, 652 by abundant references to their proceedings, in 1814, 1815, and 1816. I shall content myself with quoting only one important document. I wish those who are now so clamorous against the general warehousing system, and the other changes in our navigation and commercial policy, which became necessary to carry that system into effect, would only read the letter addressed to the Board of Trade by Mr. Buckle, so early as the 13th of July 1814. Mr. Buckle was then chairman of the Brazil Association of Trade: he has since been chairman of the Shipowners' Association. The letter is too long to be read by me on the present occasion; but every sentence of it is well worth perusal. Honourable members will find it annexed to the first report of the committee on Foreign Trade, made in this House on the 18th of July 1820. The only thing to be regretted is, that the excellent suggestions contained in this letter were not sooner adopted. I do not mention it as blame to any one, that they were not. I am aware of the prejudices which, in many branches of our manufactures and commerce, stood in the way of the warehousing system. As far as the manufacturers and merchants were concerned, they have since seen their error; and, owing principally to the exertions and perseverance of my right hon. friend, who with so much ability presided over the committee of Foreign Trade in this House (Mr. Wallace), the warehousing system, and most of the other improvements growing out of the labours of that committee, have since been carried into effect.
It is not necessary for me, on this occasion, to explain more specifically the nature of these improvements. This duty has been so ably discharged in the several reports made by the committee, and by another committee which sat on the same subject in the House of Lords, that I shall merely refer to the reports themselves, not only for the best justification of the measures which they recommend, but as entitling the authors of those reports to the approbation and gratitude of the country. I may, however, be permitted to observe, that to criticize these improvements as so many insulated measures, without reference to their bearings, the one upon the other, as parts of one connected system, is a most unfair mode of dealing with those reports. For example, the hon. 653 member for Northumberland has told you of the great boon which has been gratuitously granted to foreign ships, by lowering the Light and Harbour dues to which they were liable, and of the expense which has been incurred out of the public revenue for that purpose. But, how could we expect to make this country the emporium of the commerce of the world, if these heavy exactions were to be levied from all foreign vessels visiting our ports; especially if there exist other emporia, equal, or nearly equal, in convenience (Antwerp for instance), where such exorbitant dues are not demanded? Indeed, I am surprised that any gentleman, who has ever looked into the evidence taken before the committee on this subject, should for a moment object to the reduction of these charges. They there stand condemned by almost every merchant and ship-owner examined, on grounds more cogent than those of mere commercial policy. It was proved that, from the dread of these enormous dues, foreign ships, sailing along our coasts, or through the Channel, were deterred, even when in distress, from putting into a British port; that shipwreck, attended not only with the loss of property, but of lives, was frequently incurred in struggling with adverse weather, because the captains of foreign ships were forbidden by their owners to expose them to the ruinous expense contingent upon seeking shelter from a storm, within the inhospitable limits of any English harbour. Is this a state of things, which, for the honour of England, any man is anxious to see revived? If there be such a man, let him read the evidence a little further, and he will see that, upon the most selfish calculation, there was more lost than gained by this repulsive system. But, as it stands condemned for its inhumanity, I should be ashamed of urging any further argument against it in a British House of Commons.
It may, however, be said, that the discriminating duties upon goods imported in foreign ships rest upon a different footing from these Light and Harbour dues; and that, in giving up the latter, there did not exist the same necessity for abrogating the former, under what is called the Reciprocity system. I grant that the necessity was not the same; but if the principle be admitted, that other powers have a right to retaliate these discriminating duties, either upon British goods, or Bri 654 tish ships visiting their ports; if the fact cannot be denied, that some of these powers, Prussia in particular, had actually exercised this right of retaliation, and that there was no reason to expect that she would desist from that exercise, or that other states would not follow her example, then I say, that the interests of this country required of us to put an end to this system of commercial hostility, by acquiescing in an arrangement for the mutual abrogation, on both sides, of these discriminating duties.
As I have already, more than once, both officially, and in my place in this House, stated the principles which have guided his majesty's government in these transactions, I will not now dwell upon them. I shall content myself with noticing one or two mistakes which have been most prevalent upon the subject, among the ship-owners and their advocates, and which have been more or less pressed into the service of my gallant friend this evening. It has been assumed, that I am the author of the Reciprocity system, and that Prussia was the first power with which we stipulated for its adoption. I agree with those who have fallen into this error that, if you once consented to the removal of the discriminating duties in respect to one power, you could not, upon principle, refuse it to other powers. But when I add, that we stipulated for this removal; first, with Portugal and Brazil in 1810; secondly, with the United States of America in 1815; those who cast all the blame upon the treaty with Prussia, which was not entered into till 1824, will see how little I had to do with creating either the first or second precedent, whilst they admit that one was sufficient to take away all fair ground for refusing to enter into a like arrangement with all other powers. I am the more glad to have had an opportunity of recalling to the recollection of the House the course of these transactions, as it has been recently observed, in another place, by one nearly allied to a late noble lord, who held a very prominent situation in the councils and diplomacy of this country from 1810 to 1822, that, during his administration, the shipping interest was protected from the ruinous innovations which have since been so rashly introduced into our Navigation-laws, and our reciprocity treaties. I can only say, that the two first reciprocity 655 treaties were entered into under the administration of that noble lord; that all the changes, without any exception, made in our Navigation-laws, in furtherance of the reports of the committee on Foreign Trade (and these include all the principal changes which have taken place), had his entire concurrence and support in this House, as they had, I believe, of every other member of the cabinet to which that noble lord belonged. In respect to any further alterations which have been made, either in the laws of commerce or of navigation, since I have held my present office, I boldly affirm, that I am not aware of there being any difference of opinion between my colleagues and myself respecting them; and of this I am quite certain, that they were cordially approved of by my noble friend, till lately at the head of his majesty's councils.
I have thought this explanation, Sir, just to others, as well as due to myself. In my judgment, all the measures in question were called for by the circumstances of the times in which we live, and by a due regard to the true interests of the country. But, whatever be the merits or demerits of the system which I uphold, I owe it to truth to claim in it no more than my own share. That share consists in having followed, according to the best of my judgment, the path which I found chalked out by committees of parliament, and by other and more able men than myself who had preceded me in the administration of the commercial concerns of this country.
To revert to the Reciprocity Treaty with Prussia. My gallant friend has talked of it as a gratuitous concession to that power, for the making of which I had, on a former occasion justified myself by this childish reason—that without it, "the Shipping of Prussia would have been ruined." A more complete, and, let me add, foolish perversion of any argument never was attempted; and I am only surprised that my gallant friend should have condescended to borrow it from the miserable scribblers on this subject, who have not scrupled to use it out of doors. Does my gallant friend mean to adopt their insinuation, that I sacrificed a great British interest to a morbid feeling of compassion, or—what some of those hirelings would fain wish to have understood—to a corrupt sensibility for Prussian ship-owners? Prussia issued her edict 656 imposing discriminating duties, not upon British shipping, as British, but alike upon all shipping belonging to countries which levied discriminating duties upon the ships or goods of Prussia. Great Britain was not even specifically adverted to in the edict—neither was it communicated to us at all by the Prussian government. The communication came from our own minister and consuls, accompanied with the loud complaints of our merchants. We addressed remonstrances to Prussia. Her answer was: "This is a municipal regulation with which you have no right to interfere. The discriminating duties of other countries are ruinous to our shipping. In the port of Dantzig, which some years ago, had one hundred and eight large ships, there now only remain fifty-five of smaller dimensions. We have followed your example, to protect this remainder from ruin." It was with a reference to this reply that I stated, there was no hope of procuring the repeal of the Prussian discriminating duties, so long as we persevered in our own.
This reply has been characterized as the "insolent dictation of a petty German prince," to which our rejoinder should have been from the mouths of our cannon, rather than submit to the cowardly sacrifice of any of our commercial monopolies. Those who hold such language, and recommend such expedients, have a very different notion of what becomes the dignity and honour of this country from the feelings which I, and, I trust, those whom I am now addressing, entertain upon this subject. I pass over, as unworthy of notice, the indecorous expression applied to a sovereign in alliance with this country, and with all the great powers of Europe. But I hope I shall never bear any share in the councils of England, when a principle shall be set up, that there is one rule of independence and sovereignty for the strong, and another for the weak; when, abusing its naval superiority, England shall claim for herself either in peace or war, maritime rights which she refuses to acknowledge in other states, or shall, under any circumstances, either neutral or belligerent, impose upon others obligations, from which she claims, under the like circumstances, to be herself exempt. To act as if there were one rule of international law for ourselves, and a different rule for other states, would be not only monstrous injustice, 657 but the only course, I verily believe, by which our maritime power could be brought into jeopardy. Such a pretension would call for and warrant a combination of all the world to defeat it; and it is only from such a combination, acting together in a just cause, that this country can have any thing to apprehend.
The same parties who are so flippant in recommending retaliation and violence against Prussia, tell us, that our commerce would sustain little or no loss, even if we were to interrupt all intercourse with that country—that the whole annual consumption of British produce and manufactures in the dominions of Prussia does not exceed 400,000l.; and that, owing to prohibitions and high duties upon our goods, even that paltry amount is diminishing every year. All this statement is founded either in wilful misrepresentation, or the most gross ignorance. Within these few days there has been laid upon the table of the House a document, showing that the value of British goods which entered the Prussian dominions in 1823, instead of being 400,000l., was upwards of seven millions sterling. This account, it is true, is formed upon the price of the goods at their entrance into Prussia; and is therefore, necessarily higher than their declared value upon exportation from this country, by the expenses of freights, carriage, insurance, mercantile profit, &c. But the quantity, as well as the value of the goods, is given in the return, and upon those quantities it is easy to ascertain the English valuation; which, after inquiry, I am warranted in stating would have been at least five millions for that year. The reason of this great difference between the actual entries of British goods at the Prussian Custom-houses, and the declared export from this country direct to the ports of Prussia in the Baltic, is so fully explained in the Prussian document to which I have referred, that it is unnecessary for me to dwell upon it at present. But I cannot help observing that, from the geographical position of the Prussian territories, this power, in a great degree, commands the navigation of the Vistula, the Niemen, the Oder, the Elbe, the Weser, and the Rhine—that is, of all the great water communications by which the productions brought by sea are distributed over Germany, and through most of the central and eastern states of Europe.
But then, Sir, we are told of the 658 Prussian prohibitions against, and high duties upon, British merchandize. What are the facts? First, the transit duties in Prussia are very moderate, not exceeding one half per cent: secondly, the duties on the internal consumption of British goods are what we should consider very low—upon most articles fluctuating from five to ten per cent—upon no one article, I believe, exceeding fifteen per cent: and, thirdly, there is not, in the whole Prussian Tariff, a single prohibition. I trust that the time will come when we shall be able to say as much for the Tariff of this country. Then, Sir, to crown the whole, it appears by another document, laid upon the table within these few days, that, even in the last year, the tonnage of the British vessels which sailed from the ports of Prussia was equal to much more than a moiety of the whole shipping of Prussia which sailed from those same ports—and yet, in the madness of the spirit of monopoly, we are called upon to go to war, because we have not the other half, and to forego the benefits of a commerce such as that which I have now described! The population of Prussia, in its turn, is crying out for monopolies, and prohibitions against the manufactures and produce of this country. The government, as we well know, has been beset by these clamours for many years; and if it has not yielded, it is, I am convinced, because it has been expecting (and, as our recent policy has proved, not in vain) rather a gradual relaxation, than the addition of fresh restrictions, in our commercial system. Let the advice of the shipowners be followed, and our commerce would not be long without feeling the baneful result.
I think I have proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction, that, if our shipowners be in a state of distress, it is not a diminution of employment which has brought them into difficulty. It may be, and probably is, that there has been overbuilding in shipping, as there has been over-trading in so many other branches of our national industry. I do not believe that there is a greater diminution in the present money-value of shipping property, compared with its money-value in 1825, than there is, measured by the same standard, in all the fixed capitals vested in our manufactures—than there is in the raw materials consumed, or in the goods created, by those manufactures—than there is in 659 houses and buildings of every description—than there is in the wages of the manufacturing labourers, taken upon an average throughout the kingdom. Among those artisans whose labour is their only capital, recollect the case of the hand-loom weavers. They tell you, not that the profits of employment are diminished, but that they are thrown out of employment altogether, in consequence of inventions which they could not foresee when they were brought up to this mode of gaining a livelihood. To those who are thus left destitute and without employment, by no fault of their own, you refuse a committee—and will you give it to those who complain not of want of employment, but only that their employment from causes which you cannot control, is comparatively unprofitable? When I say comparatively, let it be recollected, that it has been stated in this House that, in 1825, the profits of the ship-owners, particularly in the Baltic trade, were very large; and that they, at least, had the good fortune to realize those profits, whilst the extravagant ventures which so much raised freights, have, in almost every instance, left nothing but heavy loss or total ruin to those who incautiously embarked in them.
As the course of my argument has led me to advert to the suffering and stagnation which have now existed for so many months in the manufacturing districts, it will not be irrelevant to the immediate subject of our consideration, if I implore this House to be cautious how it listens to any suggestion, the effect of which might be to raise the cost of the raw materials employed in our principal manufactures. Let them recollect, that England is no longer the only country in Europe, in which the capitals embarked in great manufacturing establishments are considered to be secure—no longer the only country in which commerce and industry are respected, and even honoured by the government—that France, which, in 1817, imported only sixty thousand bags of cotton, had an import of two hundred and sixteen thousand in 1826—that a formidable rival to our cotton manufacture has recently sprung up in the United States of America, which already boasts of consuming nearly one fourth of the cotton grown in those states—and that, whilst our manufacture of this article is exposed to the growing competition of France and America, it is with great difficulty that we 660 are enabled to keep our ground against the hardware, the woollens, and the linens of the Netherlands and Germany, in the general markets of the world.
It cannot be too strongly impressed upon our minds, that, whatever increases the agriculture, the trade, or the manufactures of the country, must eventually afford increased employment to our shipping; whatever impairs or destroys those great interests, all connected, and dependent as they are, each upon the other, must, at no distant period, and by no doubtful consequences, undermine and weaken our commercial marine.
I could wish these truths to be seriously considered, not by the ship-owners alone, but by others who are equally disposed to find fault with that enlarged system of commercial policy which, recommended from the Throne, has of late years been steadily persevered in by parliament. There are, I know, gentlemen in this House, who condemn that policy; but I have never had the good fortune to hear from them any better argument, or any stronger objection, than is to be gathered from their authoritative declaration —"that they are decidedly against Free Trade." I wish that some of these honourable members — the hon. baronet from Kent—the hon. baronet from Somersetshire—or the hon. baronet from Suffolk, for instance, all of whom must have thoroughly considered this whole question, before they pronounced their judgments against it—would have the goodness to tell us what they understand by "Free Trade." I think myself entitled to make this claim on their courtesy, if not on my own part, at least on the part of the House; because I have distinctly stated to these honourable members, over and over again, the object, the drift, and the limits, of the plan, upon which his majesty's government is acting, in respect to all matters connected with our national industry and trade. These honourable members must be aware, that much valuable time is often lost in useless discussions, from want of preliminary explanation. Let them, then, give us their definition of "Free Trade," to which they object, and tell us fairly what is the opposite policy — call it "fettered Trade," or what they please—which they recommend. Are they desirous to limit trade and industry, as formerly, to Guilds and Corporations? Do they wish them to be confined to 661 chartered companies and monopolies? Are they anxious to restore some thousand or fifteen hundred laws of absurd regulation and vexatious interference, which have been repealed? Is it their object, that the most experienced merchant should again be driven to the necessity, in conducting his ordinary business, of having a lawyer always at his side, to construe those confused and discordant statutes—that, escaping the penalty of one law, he should fall under that of another, imposing conditions incompatible, or contradictory, with the first; and that it should be left to the discretion of the revenue officer, either to punish these contradictions of the law, or to overlook them? In short, let them point out what it is that has been abolished, which they would restore—what it is that is now permitted to be done, which they would no longer permit—and what (if any thing) not now permitted, they would permit to be done.
An explanation on these points might bring us to a better understanding; and, at any rate, if the three honourable baronets, who are so conspicuously opposed to free trade, would favour us with that explanation, coming from such quarters, it might, by throwing new light upon the subject, tend to enliven a very dry debate.
But, whether these honourable members condescend, or decline, to answer these questions, I do entreat of them, and of others who may be co-operating with them, not to entertain the visionary expectation, that improvement, either in the civil or the commercial policy of the state, can be arrested by their efforts. This country cannot stand still, whilst others are advancing in science, in industry, in every thing which contributes to increase the power of empires, and to multiply the means of comfort and enjoyment to civilized man. This country cannot stand still, so long as there exists a free press out of doors to collect and embody, and a free discussion in parliament to guide and direct, the influence of public opinion.
When I speak of improvement, I mean that temperate and gradual melioration which, in every complicated and long-settled state of society, is the best preservative and guarantee against rash and dangerous innovation. To improvement of that description it is the duty of each of us to contribute to the utmost of his power. It is by acting steadily upon this 662 principle, that we shall maintain the lofty position which we now hold in the civilized world. That position, with all the fame and influence which justly belong to it, England has acquired by having hitherto taken the lead in this noble career of usefulness and distinction. In that career we must go forward, impelled by the retrospect of past associations, by a just sense of our present greatness, and by a due regard to the obligations which both the past and the present impose upon us, towards those by whom we are to be succeeded. If there be any man, either in this House, or in this country, insensible to these higher claims of public duty, and to be moved only by sordid considerations, even to that man I would say that, upon the most selfish calculation, England cannot afford to be in arrear of any other nation in the progress of useful improvement.—On the ground, that no case has been made out for granting a committee, I shall feel it my duty to take the sense of the House against the present motion.
§ Lord Milton
said, he could not add to the detail of those important facts which had been so ably stated by the right hon. gentleman who had just resumed his seat; but his opinion was nevertheless most decidedly formed, and he trusted the House would not concede the motion to the gallant general. He thought the object, or as he might say, the animus, and intention of the motion was, to do away with that system of liberal commercial policy, for the introduction of which the country had reason to be grateful. England must go backward or forward; and, as it seemed to him, she could only avoid the former alternative, by adopting those sound principles of commercial policy which did not expose her to any sudden or disastrous change, and which might always be kept in operation. He was of opinion, that the opponents of the right hon. gentleman ought to be grateful that the proposed committee would not be granted them; for, after the statement they had heard, they must be convinced, that they could not go into an investigation, without having it proved to demonstration that they were in error. The losses they complained of having suffered this year seemed to him only a consequence of the general decadence, and part and parcel of that distress which had pervaded every class in the country. He thought, that if the committee were granted, it would only go 663 to unsettle men's minds upon a question, in which their immediate interests appeared to him to be bound up with the present system. He himself had many doubts, whether the Navigation-laws had ever produced that benefit which some seemed inclined to attribute to them; but which he thought arose more from our geographical situation, than from any effect of acts of parliament. In fact, the sea was the proper element of this country; and if unfettered by commercial restrictions, she must always be great. Restrictive acts of parliament only tended to limit the exercise of her natural power. He was strongly opposed to the motion.
wished to say a few words in explanation of the vote which he should give upon this question. He was opposed to the proposition of the gallant general. He was not prepared to acquiesce in granting that committee, if it was meant by the means of the committee to pronounce the condemnation of a system to which he stood pledged. If this motion had been discussed a month since, at the time that notice of it was first given, he should have voted against it as one of the ministry; and the change of his situation had not changed his opinions. But he should rest his vote on other grounds than those of consistency. He thought that no case had been made out which required investigation; and was of opinion, that the appointment of a committee at this moment would be in itself a great practical inconvenience, without producing any practical benefit. There were already sufficient documents before the House, to enable them to form a more satisfactory judgment than could be formed by any private examination of individuals interested, or who believed themselves interested, in the question. Although he felt bound to admit the existence of the distress of the shipping interest, yet he must say, that he thought it arose from the same causes which had produced distress in the other branches of the manufacturing and commercial classes. In the years 1824 and 1825, a great number of ships had been built, in the spirit of that speculation which then universally pervaded the country; and the proportion built then so greatly exceeded the demand, that the necessary consequence was a langour in the trade in the course of the following year. A full examination of the papers to which reference had been made, had 664 satisfied him, that every necessary information was in the possession of the House; and that feeling, combined with the fact, that a month ago he should have resisted this motion, made him concur with his right hon. friend in giving a decided negative to the motion.
§ Mr. Curwen
said, that he had pledged himself to support the motion for this committee, and he should therefore do so, if it was pressed to a division; although he must confess that it was utterly out of his power to controvert any one fact stated by the right hon. gentleman opposite. He was convinced, too, that if a committee was granted, its members must feel the same conviction as that to which his mind had now arrived. But, if the gallant general would persist in dividing the House, he must in conformity with his pledge, support the motion, although it would be against his own opinion [hear! and a laugh].
§ Mr. Ellison,
as the representative of a commercial body, must support this motion. If he could flatter himself, that the statement of the right hon. gentleman would produce in the minds of the people generally that impression which it had done in that House, and in his own judgment, he should vote against the committee; but he knew they wanted an investigation, and in deference to their wish, he should support the motion.
said, he had come down to that House with a strong impression of the great importance of affording full protection to the interests of the British shipowners, even as disconnected from any ether class of men in the country. There could be no doubt that the distress they had suffered was extreme. Whether what they proposed was capable of affording a remedy to that distress, or whether it was to be properly assigned to the cause which they supposed, were questions that he did not now intend to discuss. The fact that they did suffer distress was enough to make him wish to vote for a measure to which they looked for a degree of relief. He must, however, say, that he did not think a case had been made out; and he was aware, that even if a committee was appointed, they must be governed by the same proof which was now in the possession of the House; since they could only look to papers, and could not be guided by the speculative opinions of individuals. If they anticipated evils from 665 the system now in operation, they certainly ought not to call upon the House to act merely on their anticipations; but ought to wait till experience had in some measure justified them. On the other hand, though he did not think the shipowners had established a case, yet his anticipations of the success of the present system were not as sanguine as those of the right hon. gentleman. He confessed, that though in the papers now laid before parliament there did not appear any well-founded ground of complaint, yet he could not see how, on a system of perfect reciprocity, we could continue carriers for other nations. He did not go upon experiments in one quarter or another quarter; but it seemed to him impossible for one nation to compete with another in the carrying-trade, or to enjoy it in concurrence, when every article relating to the ship was, in the latter, at half the price which was paid in the former. He had his doubts upon this subject; but still he would not act on the representation of the ship-owners alone, but would wait for facts. As to the general principles stated by the right hon. gentleman, he begged to express his entire concurrence with them; and, when the right hon. gentleman complained of having been unfairly attacked and abused, he must say, that he thought the complaint could not refer to the shipowners of London, who were, certainly, too intelligent not to be aware of the obligations they owed him.
§ General Gascoyne
said, that seeing the feeling of the House, and understanding that the session was not likely to last long enough to enable the committee to do any practical good if it were appointed, he should, with the leave of the House, withdraw his motion.