Mr. Alderman Waithman rose
, he said, to present a Petition which was very important and well deserving of the attention of the House, it being a Petition from the Ship-owners of London, very numerously signed, and by men for whose respectability he could vouch. The petitioners complained of the heavy grievance they suffered, from being obliged to enter into competition with the shipping of other countries not so heavily taxed as this country. He could not pretend to do justice to their claims by any language of his own, and he would therefore state their case to the House in their own words. The petitioners say that "They approach your hon. House, to represent that, in the general distress which affects all classes of the Empire, there exists none more intense and unmitigated than that of the Ship-owners, and to pray that the Legislature will grant them that encouragement and protection from foreign 454 competition, the withdrawal of which, by the alteration in the Navigation and Colonial Laws, and entering into the Treaties of Reciprocity, have reduced the capital of your petitioners to nearly one-half its former value, and have reduced freights to so low a rate, as not to leave any remuneration for the capital of your petitioners, even in its diminished value "That their freights were diminished he believed other persons who pretended to know better than the Ship-owners themselves contended was not the case, but that their capital was reduced to half its value was a matter of certainty. The petitioners went on to say "That, when addressing your hon. House, they cannot but regret that the great principle so necessary and so long maintained, of giving a national protection to native industry and capital, in order to the support of the different classes of society, should ever have been surrendered to foreigners—a protection which had received the sanction of ages, as the best bulwark and security of the State, and its widely-extended colonies and commerce; and in its practical effects, had increased the wealth and prosperity of the people—and they cannot, but call to mind, that when the alterations alluded to were pending, the Ship-owners submitted to the Legislature and the Government, in the most constitutional mode, their firm and decided conviction, that if those alterations were persisted in, the consequences would not only prove highly injurious and ruinous to the commercial marine, but eventually destroy the means on which the naval ascendancy of the country rested." This was a statement, he begged to say, of great importance, because it shewed the House that those alterations had been made against the wishes, as they had since turned out to be against the interests, of the petitioners. They had foretold the consequences which had now overtaken them, giving a warrant for the accuracy of their judgment, and throwing censure on those who had repeatedly refused them the inquiry and redress they had demanded. That might satisfy the House of the propriety of attending to the suggestions of practical men. The petitioners further state, "That so much cheaper are foreign shipping navigated, that the Alien duties, even when imposed on cargoes imported in foreign bottoms, were never equal to the higher expenses 455 incurred in navigating British ships, so that foreign ships had always an advantage over the British; but when the miscalled Treaties of Reciprocity were brought into operation, the duties so collected no longer found their way into the Exchequer, as the national check upon foreign competition, but were left in the pockets of foreigners, to act, and is now acting, as a bounty against the British. That your petitioners had conceived, before these alterations were inflicted upon them, that it was morally impossible that illusion and theory could triumph over practical testimony, when borne out by long experience, in the soundness of the laws regulating the foreign trade of the country, and had persuaded themselves that a sense of justice must continue to them a protection, so long as restrictions were imposed to build, equip, victual, and man their ships in England, thereby forcing them to purchase all materials, and employ the native labour of this highly-taxed kingdom; although your petitioners are perfectly satisfied that the restrictions imposed are for the wisest purposes, and that common prudence ought to forbid the abrogation of those restrictions." The House had heard much of sound principles, but he was sure that it was not consistent with justice to compel the British Ship-owner to man and victual his vessel in England, and at the same time allow the foreigner to compete with him. If the House were determined to act on theoretical principles, they ought to be carried throughout, and the Shipowner ought to be allowed to build, repair, victual and man his ship in the cheapest market. That would be extending to him the benefits of that Free Trade of which he now knew nothing but the disadvantages. The petitioners however said, "That while they admitted in principle the propriety of the restrictions compelling them to employ the labour of their own country, they cannot but feel acutely the injustice of exposing them unprotected to a competition at once ruinous in its present results, and hopeless as to future prospects. Your petitioners, therefore, in justice to themselves, claim what all other classes actually enjoy—they claim an equal measure of the protection which is given to all other classes of the community, as it is quite evident no protection is now extended to them, the unmitigated severity of Free Trade having been placed in operation on the Ship-owners alone, 456 and the consequences to your petitioners have been a ruinous sacrifice of their property. And your petitioners will have much reason to complain if they are to continue the single exception to the general rule of a protective system, their claim being equal to others; but, if the time has arrived to break down the system of protection, then let common justice be administered to all classes. Your petitioners are aware that the coasting and the direct colonial trades are still reserved, but from this reserve British shipping derives no support as regards remuneration, as the foreign tonnage, admitted into the freight market, levels all freights to the same standard of depression; and so eager were Ship-owners to escape from the evils of the Reciprocity System in the European trades, that the Indian and all other seas have been crowded with British vessels in search of employment, and the same ruinous consequences have followed to the most distant parts of the globe." He was not surprised at this result, the Ship-owners, when driven out of one employment, sought another, and undertook voyages that turned out to be ruinous. To say that they did not undertake these voyages without making a profit by them would be incorrect; and the House could no more judge of the profit of the Ship-owners by the number of voyages they made than it could tell what were the profits of coach-masters by counting the number of stage-coaches, or the number of passengers. The petitioners further say "That they are prepared to prove, that all the consequences predicted from such a system have been fully realized; that such sacrifices have been made as no set of men ever before either made, or were called upon to submit to—that of competing, unprotected by duties on foreigners, who can navigate at so much less expense. And that this competition has ruined great numbers of Ship-owners, and will eventually involve in ruin all those who are so unfortunately situated as to be compelled to carry on so unequal a competition; and without carrying on that competition their ships must be laid up to rot. That your petitioners are sorry to observe, that whenever they crave a consideration into the very peculiar situation in which they are placed, the amount of the shipping tonnage is held out as a sufficient answer to their claim; but your petitioners submit, that whether 457 the amount of tonnage be great or small, it cannot alter their right to have the common protection of the realm. Your Petitioners know that the repeal of the Combination Laws induced Ship-owners and ship-builders to take apprentices, and that this, with the great excitement held out to those who were credulous enough to believe the miscalled Reciprocity System an improvement, had the effect of keeping up the tonnage against the natural depression caused by foreign competition; but those impressions have now given way, and the Ship-builders have suffered with the Ship-owners; for, notwithstanding the increased population, and the consequent demand for colonial and foreign produce, the amount of tonnage is decreasing, the stimulus of remuneration is taken away, and few or none will be found embarking on so hazardous a profession without that stimulus. That the decrease on tonnage, while the population and consumption are on the increase, is perhaps the strongest proof that can be adduced of the depression of the Shipping Interest, particularly when the interest on money is so low, that if any return was to be had, capital would be employed in keeping up tonnage. Your petitioners therefore earnestly pray, that your honourable House will immediately take into your consideration the depressed stale of British Shipping, and afford them encouragement and protection." There was ample proof, he thought, of the sufferings of the petitioners. They must be supposed to know their own case better than any other class of persons. They shewed that their shipping was not employed, but if it were all employed, it was shown that the quantity had diminished. But he could prove by the returns laid before Parliament, that the employment of British Shipping had decreased, while that of Foreign Shipping had increased. Thus he held in his hand a return of the number of Ships that passed the Sound in 1827, 1828, and 1829, and from that he found that the numbers were as follow:—
458 This return proved then that the decrease of British Ships in two years was 982, while there was an increase in the number of foreign ships of no less than 3,695. He held other returns in his hand relative to the number of vessels built and registered within the last four years, which confirmed the fact of the decay of the British shipping interest. The number of Vessels built and registered in the last four years was,—
British Ships. Decrease. Foreign Ships. Increase. 1827 5,099 6,901 1828 4,426 673 8,821 1,920 1829 4,790 309 8,676 1,775 Total Decrease 982 Total Increase. 3,695 Average Decrease of last two years compared with 1827 491 Average Increase of two years 1,847
Here then was a gradual falling-off through three successive years of the number and tonnage of our ships, and if that were not a proof of decay, he did not know what would be so considered. But other proofs could be brought of the sufferings of the shipping interest. Last year the quantity of Corn imported was 3,500,000 quarters, and it was asserted, that if we took corn and other things from foreigners, they must take our goods in return. Was that however, the fact? He held in his hand an account of the Cotton Goods exported, which would shew that our exportations had not increased in value in proportion to the quantity. The Parliamentary Return of Cotton Goods exported in 1815, and to 1830, was this,—
Vessels. Tons. Decrease in Ships. Decrease in Tons. 1826 1,719 207,088 1827 1,440 163,946 279 43,142 1828 1,135 128,752 584 78,336 1829 1,005 110,681 644 96,407 Shewing a Total Decrease in Ships and Tonnage since 1826. 1,507 217,885
Much had been said, from the very beginning of the Session, of the increase in our exports; but this shewed, as he had long ago stated, that though the quantity had increased, the value in proportion to the quantity had decreased, and that we were actually working at a cheap rate for foreigners, who were working at a dear rate for us; in fact, we had given away 80,000,000 yards of Cotton, for which we had not received one shilling, and that accounted for the immense quantity 459 made, which had lately been quoted as a proof of our prosperity. He knew that some persons contended that the more we sent out, and the less we got for it, the more prosperous was the country: but those persons were unacquainted with business, and no trade could be profitable which did not bring back at least as much value as it took away. There was a better criterion, however, of the comforts of the people than the exports and imports, and that was the consumption, as shewed by the Revenue. Now notwithstanding the sum of 1,700,000l was received last year for the duty on corn imported, the revenue had fallen off at least 2,000,000l., shewing a decrease in consumption, and a great degree of suffering on the part of the people. Thus, as compared with 1826, the consumption of Candles was less than at that time, by two million pounds; of Beer, 766,000 barrels; of Soap, five millions of pounds; of Starch, one million and a half pounds; of Leather, two millions of pounds; of Paper, five million pounds; and ten million yards of Printed Goods. He would not go further into the items at present, bat would merely state, that the consumption of other things had diminished in the same proportion, and that the Shipowners, who had suffered with the rest of the inhabitants of the country, had besides especial and urgent reasons for complaint. The Navigation-laws, as the petitioners stated, were formerly the bulwark of the kingdom, the great means by which safety was obtained and prosperity secured; and he therefore, though not himself a Shipowner, could have no doubt that the Shipping-interest of the country ought to be upheld beyond every other interest. The Navigation-laws, however, which were in an especial manner the bulwark of that interest, had been materially changed, against the evidence of the parties who had most experience on the subject. The House of Commons appointed a committee, several years ago, to inquire into the Navigation-laws, in consequence of a petition then presented to it by some speculative merchants on which the House legislated, though it had never given any relief to the interests it had injured by so acting. That petition stated, that "Trade if carried on free from restrictions, would be, as it ought, an interchange of commodities between all the nations of the earth, who would supply each other's wants like brethren." That 460 was very line, and it had formed the basis of several fine speeches, but it had plunged the country into distress. The petitioners he had just referred to said, that "the presumption was, that the distress was aggravated by the restrictive system then in force:" that restrictive system had however been done away, and the distress was augmented ten-fold. The Ship-owners protested at the time against their interest being sacrificed to speculation and theory; but they protested in vain, and their interests were sacrificed. What they then predicted had come to pass, and they had a right to claim something at the hands of those who had caused their distress. Even the committee which made a report in 1820 or 1821, in consequence of the petition he had alluded to, said that "that at once to abandon the prohibitory system would be of all things the most visionary and dangerous." That was his opinion also, but notwithstanding the opinion of the committee, the House had acted on a principle directly the reverse. The reasons given by the committee for its opinion were as satisfactory as the conclusion. The committee stated "that the prohibitory system had long subsisted as the law, not only of England, but of every State in Europe; and that therefore a sudden departure from it was forbidden by every principle of prudence, safety and justice." The course thus forbidden, however, was the very course which had been adopted, and it had been followed up by measures, which had struck at the root of our naval prosperity, and our mercantile greatness. The committee positively declared that it had no such object in contemplation, but such had however been the result of the Acts of the Legislature. When facts were stated to shew that the Ship-owners were in distress—when that distress could be traced so clearly up to its cause would any person still be found to attempt to shew, by some official documents, that there was no such thing as distress amongst them, and that they did not know what they were complaining of. Persons once embarked in trade must go on; they were like drowning persons, when that trade was going to decay they caught at straws; one month's sunshine elated the hearts of the manufacturers, they eagerly set to work, they multiplied employment, and then the country heard many times repeated of its great prosperity, and of its cheering prospects. If sending out goods, and bringing none back, was a cheering 461 prospect, certainly we had many such prospects. The difference between the official and the real value of all our ex- ports, during the last year, was not less than 50,000,000l., shewing that all other nations were getting our goods at a cheap rate without giving us an equivalent in return for them. Could the House believe, that the distress was caused by machinery, by the pence, or by any other of the causes usually assigned for it? We had no new machinery of any consequence for the last three years; but still commodities had fallen greatly in value. It was said, indeed, that we should not continue to export if we did not import in return; that might be true, but we were exporting two or three for one that we imported, shewing that all the advantages of our machinery and skill belonged to the foreigner, whom we allowed to come into competition with our highly-faxed people, If we formerly gave fifty bales of goods for 100 hogsheads of wine, and if we were now obliged to give 150 bales, the trade was a losing one to us, and only advantageous to the persons who now received 150 bales of goods for the wine that was formerly worth only fifty. By such an extravagant exchange, capital was annihilated, families were ruined, and our Bankrupt list swelled in a few years, from containing 4,000 to containing 18,000 names in the course of one year. If the wealth of a country consisted in the comforts of its inhabitants, the bulky lists of exports, quoted by hon. Members could only be compared, not to the growth of health and strength, but to the bloated and florid appearance of the body which was a symptom not of health but of disease. A great deal was said also of the increased quantity of the raw material used in our manufactures; but what was the good of working up more, and getting less for our labour? Was the evil lessened by giving a large quantity of the raw material, as well as the labour employed to work it up, for nothing? Some relief, it was said, was to be given by the reduction of taxes, but the greatest amount of relief contemplated, by abolishing the taxes on Beer and Leather, did not amount to more than 3d. a week to each person of the labouring classes. In fact, a reduction of taxation could not remove, though it might slightly relieve distress; but it was a miserable delusion to hold out to the country that the evils it suffered would be remedied by the Beer Bill. 462 In conclusion, the hon. Alderman said, that he felt highly honoured, by having had this Petition intrusted to him, although he was not engaged in any trade connected with the Shipping-interest. Most of the individuals whose names were subscribed to the Petition he knew to be most respectable men; and it was some consolation to him also, to know, however unfavourably the principles he had advocated had been received in that House, that these respectable petitioners, who understood the state of trade, conceived them to be correct, and that he was indebted to the favourable opinion they entertained of his exertions for the honour of having their Petition intrusted to his care. He moved that the Petition be brought up.
Official Value. Real Value. Excess. Jan. 5, 1815. 17,655,378 20,033,132 2,377,754 Real Excess Official Ditto. Jan. 5, 1830 37,269,395 17,394,584 19,871,811 Total depression in value since 1815, considerably more than cent per cent. £23,252,565 The depression in value in the last year only, was about three millions and a half, or about 17½ per cent.
§ Mr. Sadler
supported, the Petition, and bore testimony to the sufferings of the Ship-owners. The Ship-owners, Shipbuilders, and others interested in this important branch of our national industry, had frequently approached the House with petitions for redress, as at present did the Ship-owners of the greatest mercantile port of the world. They were not like other bodies of men, who came forward to complain of the course adopted by the Legislature, without themselves pointing out any different course. The Shipowners had most clearly and distinctly stated what was the course which they thought the Government ought to pursue, and their recommendation was fully deserving of attention. It was almost an insult to talk to British Ship-owners of the benefits of Free Trade. It was impossible that this country could go on under a system of Free Trade, while it was oppressed, with burthens much greater than were felt by any of the nations on the Continent. He did not mean to deny that the amount of British tonnage had increased within the last three years—he admitted that to be fact—for the English merchants had done all that English skill, industry, perseverance, and activity could effect, but. still they were unable to carry on a competition with foreign nations with any hope of success. He should make no apology for trespassing on the patience of the House while he stated a few prominent facts, prefacing them by the observation, that he had not entire confidence in the documents on the Table in the shape of Returns. The hon. member for Worcester, on a former occasion, had stated the depreciation and di- 463 minution in the ship-building interest of this country at thirty per cent; but on a close investigation of the subject he had found, that since the year 1828, there had been a diminution of shipping to the amount of thirty-five percent; and taking various contingent points into consideration, the reduction was not less than fifty per cent, as compared with former years. If he looked to the registered vessels in 1830, as compared with the registered vessels in 1828, he found a great declension, both in the number of vessels registered, and in the amount of their tonnage. This was the case, notwithstanding the increase of population which was going on all the while. If he saw that England was nevertheless maintaining her station among the nations of the world, he might be able to fortify his mind against this condition of her shipping interest. If it were seen that the internal navigation of the country had been augmented to the extent stated, he wished to know why her external navigation had not in some degree participated in the advantage? He knew that there had been an increase of British shipping, since 1828, of 1½ per cent inwards, and of two per cent outwards, in tonnage. But what, he asked, was the increase of tonnage amongst the foreign shipping? In 1828, the tonnage of the foreign vessels entered here amounted to 634,620 tons; in 1830, the amount had advanced to 710,303 tons; being an increase of twenty per cent. Where, then, was the boasted advantage of this same principle, which had increased the foreign shipping arriving in the ports of this kingdom twenty per cent in the course of a single year. He begged to direct attention strongly to this great fact, and this he would add, that the man who treated it with indifference was no true Briton. He looked back to the times when the greatest Minister this or any other country had ever produced, had promoted the general prosperity, by consulting the benefit of particular interests; under him the Shipping-interest had flourished beyond example, and he never dreamt, of repealing the Navigation Act, which was justly considered the Magna Charta of the shipping interest, and which even Adam Smith himself pronounced a stupendous effort of human wisdom. Of late years it had been torn to atoms, with as little respect as he felt for an old ballad. What term was ap- 464 plied to any man who ventured to speak in behalf of the industrious poor—the labouring classes? He was called a declaimer. If this were to be a declaimer, he avowed himself one; but he declaimed not in empty words, but in convincing figures—figures declaimed for him; he showed an increase of only between two and three per cent in the commercial shipping of this country, and an increase of twenty per cent in the foreign shipping arriving in our ports. This statement left no room for declamation, in the ordinary sense of the word. What were called most triumphant answers had been often given when Distress became the subject of debate, and over and over again it had been asserted, that the nation was enjoying the most unexampled prosperity; it was like insulting a man who was suffering under a powerful and consuming disorder by telling him that he had nothing the matter with him. Sometimes it was admitted that partial distress prevailed, but then it was charged upon too great activity and over-production in a particular interest; and latterly it had been urged that the population of the country was too great. For this the remedy was said to be the exportation of the people; it was the favourite principle of the new scheme of political economy, that the population was redundant, and that the redundancy was 'to be corrected by sending the industrious peasantry from their homes to a distant colony. Proofs of the working of the new principle were beginning to accumulate, and its ill effects were visible in every branch of trade. A year ago they were told, for example, of the prosperity and activity that prevailed in the silk-manufacture. But what was the fact? In the year ending the 5th of April, 1828, 4,828,000lb. of raw silk were imported; in the year ending the 5th of April, 1829, 4,133,006lb. were imported; but in the year ending the 5th of April, 1830, the importation had fallen to 2,899,092lb. Let this fact be heard, and let it be treasured up in their minds, as a proof of the little dependence that was to be placed on statements hastily and inconsiderately made. It would be endless were he to go into detail of proofs of distress in particular parts of the kingdom; he would only refer very briefly to the condition of the shipping interest of Whitby. Formerly there were eight large ship-building establishments there, employing 1,000 hands 465 and feeding 4,000 souls. Three of these j ship-building establishments no longer existed: it was found not worth while to carry them on; and he was assured that two others were on the point of declining business. The people there had done all they could, to compete with foreigners, but it was found impossible: the materials they used were too heavily taxed, and they were called on to contribute too largely to the expenses of Government. He did not mean to bring any accusation against Ministers upon this score; but he must say, that high salaries could not be maintained in conjunction with low prices. No demonstration could be clearer than that, if the value of labour were deteriorated, the public establishments could not be kept up at their present scale. Good God! in what a position was this country, at the present moment, placed? Was its mercantile marine, at last, put upon its defence? Was that interest which, in our wholesome days, had been favoured and fostered, now compelled to plead for its existence? It had flourished under the old system, until it had placed in the hands of Great Britain the sceptre of the world. To our mercantile shipping was owing the glory of our military marine. Surely, then, it deserved some little regard—some slight protection—some monopoly he would call it—hateful as the word might be in these days of new light and strange principles. Once desert the commercial marine of Great Britain, and she must for ever lose her rank among nations, and stand degraded to all posterity. If the worthy Alderman would move that the Petition he had brought up be referred to a Select Committee, he (Mr. Sadler) would gladly support him.
§ Mr. Liddell
remarked, that if Members did not take advantage of the opportunity of speaking when petitions were presented, they would have to wait long before they had an opportunity of expressing their opinions. He should, therefore, state his conviction that extension of trade was the only mode by which relief could now be given to the shipping interest in its present depression. He earnestly hoped that the intercourse with the East Indies would be thrown open. Then means might be adopted of restoring the prosperity of other branches so as to render emigration needless, which only weakened our own country, while it strengthened the United States. He trusted, before this discussion 466 terminated, that Ministers would say something to afford hope, if not consolation, to the ruined shipping interest.
believed that the shipping interest looked entirely for relief to the reduction of taxes, and the removal of East India monopoly. He hoped that, in the next year, Government would be able to give them some relief with respect to the first point.
said, he should have great pleasure in supporting the Petition which had just been presented by the hon. Alderman opposite. He did not feel himself competent to enter so minutely into the subject as he had done, nor indeed would it be necessary for him to do so, as it was impossible to transact business, or hold communication with respectable shipowners, or to look at the state of the shipping now lying in the river Thames, without being convinced that the shipping interests of the country were reduced to the lowest possible ebb, and although the more opulent ship-owners might still for a time be able to struggle on, the poorer class must, he feared, at no very distant period, be reduced to utter ruin, unless some favourable change speedily took place. In corroboration of what was stated by the hon. Member opposite, as to the state of the building establishments at Whitby, he would beg to read a short extract of a letter from that place to a most respectable ship-owner in the city of London, from whom he received it a few days ago. It was written the middle of last month, and was as follows:—"There are four new ships lying here without purchasers; four out of seven of the extensive ship-building establishments are laid down; a vessel has sailed with part of our population for America, and another goes in May." This, he had reason to believe, applied to most of the ship-building establishments in the kingdom. What might be the best remedy for this state of things, he certainly felt diffident in suggesting, but he entertained strong doubts as to the expediency of the reciprocity system now in force; indeed, he doubted much if there could be any fair reciprocity between a country overwhelmed with debt and taxation and other independent states whose burthens were comparatively light and trifling. At all events, it seemed certain, that under the present system, the British ship-owner was unable to enter into suc- 467 cessful competition with the foreigner; nor could he ever do so whilst the cost of building, maiming, and equipping ships in foreign states was not one-half so much as in this country, unless the legislature were so far to retrace its steps, as to import every article for home consumption in ships bearing the British flag, and Jet foreign nations, of course, adopt the same plan with regard to their shipping. He confessed he should be well pleased if a committee were appointed to inquire into the subject matter of this petition, for there could be nothing more important, or more entitled to the consideration of Government, than the shipping interests of the country. At present he believed the ship-owner had only a choice of evils—either to lay up his ship, which necessarily caused great deterioration of the property, or to let her on freight, at a rate which must subject him to considerable loss. Mr. Sykes rose, to confirm the statement as to the depressed condition of the shipping interest. He felt bound, therefore, to support the prayer of the Petition which had been presented by the worthy Alderman. But although he entirely agreed in the worthy Alderman's conclusions, he by no means agreed in the argument by which the worthy Alderman had arrived at them. With respect to the various commercial treaties to which the worthy Alderman had alluded, as several of them had some years to run, this was not the time lo press the consideration of that subject. Without entering into any discussion of the question at the present moment, he would simply say, that he had made up his mind that the reciprocity system was a sound and wholesome system. He was satisfied that, with reference to the commerce of other countries, we must be either in a state of reciprocity or in a state of retaliation; and that if we were in a state of retaliation, the shipping of this country would soon be reduced to our coasting and to our colonial trade. Now, would the worthy Alderman wish it to be so limited? Yet that, he was satisfied, would be the inevitable consequence of our changing our present system of reciprocity for a system of retaliation. The shipping interest, however, was always entitled to the greatest attention, and never more so than in its present condition; and he should be most happy to hear that it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to consent to an inquiry into the subject.
said, that he was glad he had not risen before the hon. member for Hull, because the observations of that hon. Member would relieve him from saying anything on one part of the argument that had been used by the hon. Alderman and the hon. member for Newark. In the situation, however, in which he was placed, he felt that he should not do his duty, and that he should be deficient in proper respect to the hon. Alderman, who, after so many postponements, had gone at such great length into this very important subject, were he entirely to abstain from making any observations upon it. Into the wide field of our general commercial policy he would, however, by no means enter. The hon. member for Newark had frankly allowed that opinions were by no means unanimous on the subject. If the hon. Alderman had been equally diligent in his inquiries, he would have found that the same was the case with respect to his constituents. He (Mr. Herries) had been informed, that many of the hon. Alderman's constituents had declined signing the Petition, because they could not concur in the opinions which it contained. Among the topics lo which the hon. member for Newark adverted, he was very much astonished to hear the article of timber mentioned. The very name called up the recollection of the particular duties levied on that article with a view solely to give employment to our shipping; and yet that was one of the articles on which the hon. member for Newark had rested his argument against Free-trade. He was at a loss to know whether the hon. member for Newark gave credit to the public accounts or not; as he sometimes appeared to doubt them, and sometimes founded his argument upon them. He, however, was quite prepared to vindicate those accounts. He believed them to be honest, faithful, and accurate. The hon. member for Newark had compared two years without reference to any antecedent period. It would have been more fair had he taken a series of years, some before and some after that change in our commercial policy which he supposed to be the cause of great commercial evil. To set this matter right he would go further back, and show the comparative activity of our shipping at different periods. He would go back to the period of three years before the peace; and he would state the average amount of our shipping 469 during periods of three years from that time down to the present. As the simplest mode of doing this, he would state the shipping which had entered inwards; and he would take the amount of tonnage as the only criterion. The average annual amount of tonnage of British shipping entered inwards in the various ports of the United Kingdom for the three years ending in 1814, was 1,290,000 tons; the average amount of the three years ending 1817 was 1,470,000 tons; the average amount of the three years ending 1820 was 1,787,860 tons. To the average of the next three years he begged to call the particular attention of the House, because they preceded the alteration in our commercial policy, to which the hon. Member had alluded. The average annual amount of British shipping entered inwards during the years 1821, 1822, and 1823, was 1,668,100 tons. The next period was that during which the change in our commercial policy was beginning to take place. The average annual amount of British shipping entered inwards during the years 1824, 1825, and 1826, was 1,964,182 tons; being a considerable increase over the last period. But what was the average amount during the last three years, when the new system of commercial policy was in full operation? No less than 2,121,930 tons. As a proof that it was still increasing, the amount in the last year, 1829, was much the largest of the three years. It was the largest ever known. There had never been anything like it in the history of the activity of British shipping, either since the peace or before it. Nothing that had taken place in the course of the war could be compared to it. In order to satisfy the House on this point, he would state what had been the highest average of a period of three years in the course of the late war, and thus show that there had been a constant and regular increase. He repeated that he would not now enter into the wisdom of the policy which we had adopted; but he would show that the inference which the hon. member for Newark had endeavoured to draw from the public accounts on this subject had entirely failed. The highest average of British shipping entered inwards during three years of the war was during the years 1810, 1811, and 1812; and it amounted only to 1,570,498 tons. The average amount during the last three years he had already stated was 2,121, 930 tons, being 470 an increase over the highest average previous to the adoption of the present system, of 551,432 tons, or one-third. Thus it appeared that there had been a constant increase of British tonnage entering our ports subsequently to the adoption of a system which it was now said was the cause of decay and embarrassment to our shipping interests. He was not going to enter at large into the consideration of the new commercial policy, for it was not the time to do so, he was merely answering, upon the authority of public accounts, a few of the objections of those who said that it had failed; and it would be admitted that he had satisfactorily shown, that since the adoption of the present system, British ship-owners had greatly increased in activity. With respect to foreign shipping, the opponents of our commercial policy assumed that it had been favoured to the direct injury of the home interest: the inference was, that its activity and amount must have; been increased. But what was the fact? The average of foreign tonnage entering British ports during the three years of the war when the amount was highest, was 793,000 tons, whereas in the last three years it only reached 698,000 tons. Thus there was a diminution of 100,000 tons in the annual average of foreign shipping, while we had an increase of 550,000 tons in that of British shipping entered inwards in the last three years, as compared with the three years previous to the adoption of the present system, when the amount of tonnage inwards (British and foreign) was highest. To exhibit the progress of foreign shipping in the three years preceding the alteration in our system, during the alteration, and in the three years ensuing, he would state, that in 1821,1822, and 1823, the average of foreign tonnage entered inwards, in our ports, was 482,000 tons: in the next three years there was a great increase, and the average amounted to 803,899 tons; but during the last three years (the new system having come into full operation) the average fell to 698,900 tons. So that while British tonnage had greatly increased, the amount of foreign tonnage had decreased. How were these facts, plainly stated and (he pledged himself) faithfully extracted from official tables, reconcilable with the complaints now made? Our coasting trade exhibited the same activity as our foreign trade; there had been a great increase generally from 1823 up to 471 the present period. In 1823 the amount of tonnage was 7,899,000; in 1824, 8,101,000; in 1825,8,300,000; in 1826, 8,316,000; in 1827,8,611,000; in 1828, 8,700,000; and in 1829, 8,932,000 tons. But in order to show more strikingly the effects of the policy to which so much evil was attributed, the House ought to examine the progress of other nations over whom our treaties of reciprocity were supposed to have the greatest effect. Our trade was divided in the Finance accounts into commerce with the North of Europe, with the South of Europe, with the United States of America, British Colonies, and with foreign Colonies. He would first take commerce with the North of Europe alone, and he would state the amount of that commerce in English and in foreign shipping. It was well known that in the trade with the North of Europe our system of reciprocity had been most tried and most complained of in England. To shew its effects he would take the average of three years' trade with the North of Europe before and after the adoption of the present system, and see the result. The average annual amount during the first period, namely, 1821, 1822, and 1823, of the tonnage of British shipping entered inwards in the ports of the United Kingdom, from the various ports of the North of Europe, was 514,135 tons: the annual average amount, during the same period, of the tonnage of ail foreign shipping entered inwards in the ports of the United Kingdom from the various ports of the north of Europe, was 314,969 tons. The annual average tonnage of English shipping so entered during the years 1824, 1825, and 1826, was 711,959 tons; the annual average of foreign shipping was 615,109 tons. The annual average of English shipping so entered during the years 1827, 1828, and 1829, was 839,541 tons; the annual average of foreign shipping was only 504,249 tons, showing a relative increase in British shipping more than in foreign shipping, and this on the very field of battle in which it was prognosticated that, in consequence of the change in our commercial policy, British commerce would be annihilated! Let the House examine the number of vessels that had passed the Sound in the same periods. The hon. Alderman had already referred to this, but he had for his own view wisely limited his comparison to three years, when the trade was subject to great fluctuations. It ap- 472 peared that in the years 1821, 1822, and 1823, 8,854 vessels passed the Sound, of which 2,907 were British, and 5,947 foreign, of all descriptions; the British proportion being about fifty per cent of the whole. In the years 1824, 1825, and 1826, 11,581 vessels passed the Sound, of which 4,152 were British, and 7,429 foreign; the British proportion being about fifty-six per cent of the whole. In the years 1827, 1828, and 1829, 13,241 vessels passed the Sound, of which 4,722 were British, and 8,519 foreign; the British proportion being rather more than fifty-six per cent of the whole. He would pursue this subject no further, but he would strongly recommend to hon. Members the perusal of Mr. Cambreleng's admirable Report to the American Congress from the Committee on Commerce and Navigation. After describing in the most able and perspicuous manner the advantages which Great Britain had derived from the adoption of a liberal commercial policy, the Report went on to say—"These fundamental changes in her policy have regenerated the British Empire, given a wide range to her commerce, and an active impulse to her power and resources, infinitely more beneficial to that nation than any questionable honour she might have acquired in an attempt to limit the boundaries of an Empire, reaching through half the longitude of the globe, or in any alliance to perpetuate the dominion of an unenlightened and absolute government over the commerce of nations with the rich countries of the Euxine." He apologized to the Members for having thus trespassed upon their attention; but he was apprehensive that his silence might have been construed into an assent to statements the validity of which he utterly denied. He had, therefore, felt it necessary to call upon the House to weigh the proofs which he had adduced of the increasing employment and activity of our shipping with the assertions of its embarrassment and ruin. He was persuaded that the statement which he had made would indispose the House to listen in future to vague assertions hostile to our commercial policy. Whenever the proper occasion should arrive, however, he should be perfectly prepared to argue the question more fully. The hon. member for Newark had been quite erroneous in several of his statements, and in none more than in the inference which he had drawn respecting 473 the silk-trade, from grounds from which most other persons would have drawn an opposite conclusion. The silk-trade he (Mr. Herries) was happy to say, and he spoke from the best authority, was, at the present moment, the least distressed manufacture in the country. There was greater activity in that branch of trade at the present moment than in any other. Whenever the hon. member for Newark chose to bring this question formally before the House, he (Mr. Herries) should be perfectly prepared to meet him.—He was happy, however, to learn that there was a great and rapidly increasing improvement in this important branch of our trade. This he knew from the most recent information; and it was amply confirmed by the returns now found on the Table. He begged, however, to declare, that he felt deeply for those who might be labouring under unavoidable distress in this as well as in other branches of our trade; and if any means could be suggested for their relief—if any hon. Gentleman could point out any plan through which their condition might be altered—if the labours of a committee could devise any possible remedy for the evil of which they complained, he would be one of the first to support it—if he was satisfied that it could be productive of the good which they anticipated.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to answer complaints as to the falling-off in the amount of British tonnage built and registered, by a reference to the amount of British and foreign tonnage entering inwards. This was any thing rather than a satisfactory-answer. The right hon. Gentleman talked of increased activity in the shipping interests,—a fact not denied by those who supported the Petition, but arising, as the ship-owners said, from the necessity of entering more strongly into competition with foreigners. Would the right hon. Gentleman like the same argument to be adduced as a proof of the prosperity of the other interests of the Empire? Would the right hon. Gentleman, for instance, like it to be said that the agriculturists were prosperous, because they were compelled to give two or three crops in order to contend against the effect of the introduction of foreign corn? In the river Tyne, the hon. member for Northumberland well knew, that since the use of steam vessels for the purpose of assisting the 474 navigation of the river, vessels were able to make four voyages a year, where they formerly made only three. But the question did not rest on this, nor had it been' fairly argued. There could be no question that the shipping trade of the country had been most lamentably diminished. In 1826, the number of vessels employed was 24,625—the tonnage of which amounted to 2,635,614 tons. During the last year, the number of registered vessels employed was 23,453, and the tonnage 2,517,000; so that in three years there had been a falling-off of 1,172 vessels, and 118,644 tons. The petitioners complained that freights were so reduced as to deprive them of the means of deriving advantage from their capital. Something should be done to remedy the evil; if we could not depart from the system we had adopted (and perhaps we were pledged to it for some years at least), we might endeavour to reduce the price of the materials used in ship-building to a par with the prices paid for them by foreign builders, and adopt other measures to lessen the inequality that at present existed between British and foreign ship-owners, so as to enable the former to compete successfully with the latter. The right hon. Gentleman had gone into an elaborate statement of figures, but did not say one word of an intention to reduce the duties on the importation of timber. It seemed not to be considered by any one, that protection was afforded to all the other interests of the country, but none to the shipping-trade. The silk-trade was protected; the corn-trade was protected; every other interest was protected, and to none but the shipping-trade was a committee ever denied, when they demanded inquiry, and complained of the grievances under which they laboured. The right hon. Gentleman had cited the opinions expressed in the Report of Mr. Cambreleng to the American Congress; but the government of America had not yet adopted the recommendations of that Report; and when the Americans and other nations had done so, it would be time enough to augur from the consequences of that adoption, in favour of our adherence to such a system.
was proceeding to explain the manner in which the number of British ships and the amount of tonnage was apparently reduced, by the new system of registration adopted in 1825 or 1826, when an Act was passed directing the 475 future omission of ships that had been previously improperly registered, when
§ Sir J. Newport
rose to order, and deprecated the continuance of such a discussion as this at such an hour, and brought on merely by Petition, when there was so much business appointed for the House.
, who rose, he said, to confirm the statements of the hon. member for Newark. He did not mean to gather stories from the moon, but to state a few plain facts, which he found in the letter of a gentleman from Hull, who had been fifty years in trade. The hon. Member accordingly read the following Letter:—Proceeding to reply to the subject of your letter at once, of so momentous a nature, I feel great delicacy in hazarding or shaping my answer. I shall confine myself lo a brief statement of a few simple facts, that in the course of my experience have come under my own knowledge, and first:—The deplorable condition of British Shipping. I am owner of two British ships and one Foreign ship; the former, since the Reciprocity Act, I have been unable to employ without loss, the latter has invariably left me a remunerating profit. I pay wages 60s. per month to my British sailors, to the others 30s. Beef for the one 6d. per lb., the other is supplied abroad for 2½d. per lb.; sails, cordage, and building materials, in the same striking proportion: and I would here notice the duty on Dantzig oak plank, much used in building and repairing British ships, being no less than 4l. per load of fifty cubic feet, and the selling price to the builder here 9l.. 10s. to 10l. per load; so that when the freight, insurance, and charges are added, it will be seen that the foreigner works his material for building at the rate of 3l. to 3l. 10s. per load, whilst the British ship-builder has to pay 9l. 10s to 10l. per load; and although lessening the duty would create many importers, to my personal prejudice, having been for many years the only regular and constant importer of Dantzig; oak plank to the port of Hull, it cannot be denied how utterly impossible it is for the British ship-builder, under such circumstances, to compete with foreigners. On the other hand I have had the melancholy conviction of witnessing, on my repeated visits to Holstein and Denmark, bow decidedly the reduction of duty from 10l. to 10s. a last for Rape seed, and from 6d. to 1d. per lb. on Wool, has operated to the prejudice of the British farmers and our own revenue. Has the British manufacturer been benefitted by it? No such thing. The Danish and Holstein farmers have alone been enriched by the sacrifice; for formerly we purchased Rape seed from the foreigner at from 10l. to 14l. per last, but immediately on the alteration of the duty they increased their price to 20l. and 24l. per last, and the like proportion on Wool: and here it 476 may not be irrelevant to remark, that I have often had the galling mortification to witness their exulting taunts, and ask if we believed them such fools as to allow the advantage to the English? As respects the relative general state of trade of our port of Hull, a considerable increase of traffic must be admitted, increased population creating the necessity of greater activity and enterprise, and a competition so extended, that I am persuaded a large proportion of our imports have been productive of loss, that capital has generally been diminished, and with it. I fear the high and honourable character of the British merchant; overtrading and over-living producing a lamentable abandonment of truth. Permit me to observe, that I cannot imagine the distress of the country so thoroughly general as the great out-cry would convey. Partial distress must always prevail; and confining myself lo this town and neighbourhood, I do not perceive; any alarming want of employment, but a great hardship exists to various classes in the continuance of the high price of labour. Neither the wages of the cartman, the coal-carrier, the truckman, the staithman, or those of the sailor, have undergone any reduction, nor is any disposition shewn to submit to the least alteration. I have thus, in obedience to your wish, submitted a few observations for your consideration, feeling, however, and deploring, that I must fall so very far short of satisfying the object of your inquiry; but be assured, that as far as I am able, I have cheerfully observed the call.P. S. I will just state, in addition to the above, a conversation I happened to have the other day with a merchant of Dantzig. I observed to him the strong probability of some relief to our suffering Ship-owners, by an extensive traffic in grain, of which this country will need a large supply before the next harvest. His answer was, 'I have obtained many orders for wheat, but we charter our own Prussian ships for grain; we only take British ships for loading timber, timber-deals, staves, &c.' Now I have seen the day when British ships not only commanded the preference in all valuable cargoes, but it was a common rule to pay them 6d. to 1s. per quarter more freight than any other flag on the face of the globe could obtain, on account of the superiority of conveyance that was yielded to them. I do verily believe that we should not have lived to see and bear this mortification but for the unwise Reciprocity Act. I have mentioned the great benefit that might result by taking off the present high duty on oak-plank. It may be said the high price of plank would directly rise proportionally higher abroad: unquestionably it would do so, but it will he found to apply differently to the other articles I have enumerated, and in this way the foreign shipbuilder will have to pay the advanced price of plank, and he thus loses one powerful advantage which he now enjoys over the British ship-builder. The increase of foreign tonnage 477 is as decided as it is alarming. Looking at this overwhelming competition, the increased value of the currency, the surrounding difficulties the British Ship-owner is exposed to, when every farthing of saving; becomes a serious consideration, it is perhaps a matter of surprise, that no attempt has been made to obtain a modification of the Sound-dues imposed by Denmark. We are not able to pay the same tax as we did when we stood on different ground, and would it not be fair that that power should suffer along with us?'The hon. Member observed, in conclusion, that the writer of the letter was a very respectable man, and that he was quite ready and willing, if required, to come to the Bar and prove the facts he had slated in his letter. He trusted, therefore, that the House would allow its statements their due weight.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
expressed his sincere regret that a subject of such immense importance, so deeply affecting one of the greatest interests of this country the Shipping interest, should have been brought on in such a manner, and at such a time as the present. He regretted it, because he was convinced that the question, if it had been allowed a fairer and more ample discussion, would have afforded a triumph to many of those Gentlemen, who had not been, but were now, of the same opinions as himself. He regretted it too because the subject ought, to be more amply discussed than it could be when there was only partial attention given to it; and he regretted it also, because it was neither fair towards the particular interests concerned, nor to the credit of their supporters; and still less was it fair towards the House, to bring such a question before it, at a time when it was not possible fully to discuss it. That the petitioners should come before this House with their petitions he was the last man in the world to complain, but he would ask those hon. Members who conceived that the views of the petitioners were correct, and their statements well founded, whether some time and some manner more fitting than the present, ought not to have been chosen for the discussion of the question. If the hon. Member who presented this Petition, which represented, as he thought, a case of very great hardship, would introduce a motion into this House for a Committee of Inquiry, or state, what is far more important, what such committee is to do, he would be acting more in consonance with 478 the general feeling of the House, than by raising a long discussion on the presentation of a petition. If the worthy Alderman complained of the Reciprocity Bill, or wished to repeal it, or to censure the Government—if he conceived that the Shipping interests were suffering from the effects of the clauses in that bill, and if, in spite: of all the statements that could be made, founded upon official documents, he would persevere in his opinion, that notwithstanding our navigation was greatly augmented, and our tonnage increased, there was still no profit for the Shipowners—let him give the House an opportunity of fully and fairly discussing the question, by making a substantive motion, and taking the sense of the House upon it. He could not, and he regretted it after the statements which had been made, then go into the. question, but he was satisfied that all the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite might have been confirmed, and would have struck the House in an infinitely stronger light, if they had been put forward upon such a motion as that which he wished the worthy Alderman to introduce. But when he heard that the Ship-owners were suffering a sort of tyrannical plunder from the Reciprocity laws, he was astonished, and felt justified in calling for some facts in proof of that assertion. In his opinion, the Shipping interests were suffering from those laws not having been carried far enough. In proof of that assertion he would refer to the treaty with France, by which the interests of the Ship-owners were protected. We would not allow to the ships of France that free and equal reciprocity which the French government wished; we would not permit them, in order to protect our own Shipping interest, to bring to our ports from their colonies the produce of their Transatlantic possessions, lest we should lose the advantages of the long voyages. What, he asked, had been the consequence of that step? Before that measure took effect, we were the carriers of colonial produce for France; her ships came for it to the ports of Bristol and Liverpool, and conveyed it to the Continent; and previously to the passing of that Act there were only three ships at Bordeaux, and three at Havre, engaged in the India trade. But by our anxiety to reserve the long voyages, and our refusing them the reciprocal advantage of bringing the produce of their colonies to this coun- 479 try in their own ships, we had driven them to be carriers for themselves, and last year there were no less than thirty ships, large vessels, at Bordeaux, engaged in the Indian trade, and twenty-five vessels at Havre, employed in the same trade. So that by the step our Government took, and it was a sacrifice made by the right hon. member for Liverpool—most unfortunately made—to the interests he endeavoured to protect—we had lost the whole of that trade, or at least a great part of it, which we previously enjoyed. These were statements which one would like to bring forward at a more favourable opportunity than the present. The hon. member for Worcester referred to the increase of the tonnage of foreign ships, as a proof of the distressed state of our Shipping interests, and said that our ships are now obliged to go four voyages instead of two, to attain the same object. Did he forget then that in these four voyages the profit that the Ship-owner receives is derived from the employment of his ships; they must bring home double the quantity, and of course have double the employment they had before? Did he forget too the return that was made two or three years ago? Did he forget the amount of shipping registered at that period? Did he not know that, there were 100,000 tons of shipping stated in the registry, long after the ships had ceased to exist and had been broken up? These facts could be proved satisfactorily to the House, if the worthy Alderman, or the hon. member for Newark, who had for the first time addressed the House on the state of the Shipping-interest, would introduce a motion on which this great question might be fully and fairly discussed; or if he did not like to pursue that course, let him take some other, but let him bring the matter fully and fairly before the House. There was another subject on which discussion would be most beneficial to the country—he meant the Silk-trade. But when the hon. member for Newark said that the Silk-trade was an unfortunate and depressed trade, he must tell him that he knew nothing about it. He must know, if he had any correct information on the subject, that within the last two or three months it had been in a state of great activity; he must know, notwithstanding the alteration of the law, that the silk manufactories were fully employed, and that silk goods in great quantities were at the present moment exported 480 to France. He knew that 6,000l. worth of silk manufactured goods had been bought within the last week, for the purpose of being sent to that country; that there had been almost a battle in Spital-fields within the last two months to obtain possession of these goods; that every loom was employed, and goods could not be made fast enough to comply with the urgent and frequent demand. He might perhaps be told, that this was a mere temporary demand, and that might be true; but it was a real demand, and was a proof that the trade was not at the moment depressed. At the same time the House must know, that a great quantity of such goods would be required to supply the Spring demand. It might also be said, that a great portion of the goods sold were French; but he could state to the House, that they were sold as English goods, and that they would not have fetched the price they did if they had not been sold as. English goods. He must again repeat his wish that this question should be brought forward in the shape of a motion; and he would conclude by saying, that if that were done, the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman would have a much greater effect upon the House than they had had on the present occasion. He would not any longer stop the business of the Mouse, but would wait until he had the power of entering fully and fairly into the question. Mr. Alderman Waithman said, that it was not his intention to take up any more of the time of the House, but he could not allow some of the observations that had been made, to pass without offering a reply. That this was a question of great importance he knew, and he would venture to say that there had not been a more important subject under the consideration of the House during the present Session, and he should not be deterred by the observations of any hon. Members from going into the question, if he thought it necessary, particularly when he had sat, night after night, to hear unimportant debates, until two or three o'clock in the morning. The hon. Member for Dover who had just addressed the House, had taken upon himself, as he had frequently done before, the office of lecturer, and had, in a dictatorial manner, questioned the propriety of introducing so important a subject to the notice of the House on presenting a petition, and without having given special notice; he had however given notice, 481 but he knew of no regulation of the House which required him to abstain from the one, or to do the other. Of the lecture of the hon. Member he must say, that were he of riper years, and possessed more experience, his admonitions would have more weight, and would be of still more importance had he not been frequently rebuked for indulging in similar dictatorial lectures. The hon. Member had talked a good deal about the silk-trade, but either that hon. Member or himself knew nothing of that trade. He indeed was in daily intercourse with persons connected with that trade, he understood a little of what was going on, and he had some wish to profit, like other people, by his own industry. He did not mean to deny that there was activity in the trade at this moment, but it was to meet the Spring demand, and to comply with a change in fashion, and he could assure the House that prices and wages had been reduced one half, and that, the trade had ceased to be profitable since our manufacturers were brought into competition with foreigners in our home markets. The hon. Member had told the House a great many extraordinary things about our exports, and about 6,000l. worth of silk having been a short time since exported to France. But he could tell the hon. Member that France had not taken 200,000l. worth from this country in the course of the whole year, while we had imported from France to the amount of two millions and a half: what the French took principally from us was our colonial produce, and our East India raw silk. With respect to the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman over the way (Mr. Hume), he did not mean to quarrel with the mode and manner in which they had been brought forward, but he must assert, that nothing which he had said could be construed into the least imputation upon the present Administration; that Administration had acted most fairly, and from the best of motives, and had only followed the errors of their predecessors, but when men fell into errors, and saw that they had so fallen, they ought immediately to retract them. He had told the right hon. Gentleman from the first moment that he was aware of those documents, and knew that he would advert to them; but the right hon. Gen-man had gone thirty years back for his facts, always forgetting that we had an increasing population; how much it had increased 482 since 1810 he was not prepared to say, but a considerable increase had taken place. Notwithstanding these documents, he thought that his hon. friend, the member for Worcester, had satisfactorily answered the right hon. Gentleman; but when he came to the story of the registry, which, by the by, formed a fine subject of declamation for the hon. member for Dover, he entirely failed. With respect to those and other documents he must own that he was against adverting to official documents at all; they had so misled the country, that persons who were obliged to complain, because they had been aggrieved—who came and said, "We are suffering, and we want inquiry"—were always answered by "That cannot be the case, we have official documents to shew that you never were in so flourishing a condition." Now in his opinion petitioners ought not to be required to do more than state that they suffered, and it was the duty of Parliament to inquire into their complaints. It was plain to him, that the Shipping interests were in distress, and notwithstanding the declamation of the hon. member for Dover, neither he nor the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had attempted to deny the existence of distress. That fact was not disputed, and though the hon. Member would have the House think otherwise; he did not say that the Ship-owners were not distressed. Only allow the hon. member for Dover an opportunity, and he would prove that there was great prosperity, and convince the House that it had only to encourage foreign competition to make the Ship-owners happy and flourishing. He thought that he had referred to better documents than the right hon. Gentleman, and he would tell the House why. The right hon. Gentleman had only given accounts of the ships entered inwards; but whether they were full or empty, whether they made profitable or ruinous voyages, he said not. With that, the right hon. Gent. had nothing to do; he gave the House the official documents to shew the number of ships entered inwards, but he passed over all the information which could satisfy the House that numbers and profit were the same thing. The right hon. Gentleman had objected to his statement, because he had taken only one or two years; but he had done so because he found that account in the papers laid before Parliament. It was, in his opinion, a most important fact, that 483 there had been a decrease, in two years, of British ships passing through the Sound, of no less than 900. An increase, however, had taken place within the same period, in ships of foreign build, of more than 3,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us to go on, and we should find that the number of British ships would increase; but in the number of ships built, a decrease, to the extent of 1,500, had also taken place within the last three years, and many ship-builders had been obliged to part with their dock-yards. When a man gave up that sort of business, it was utter destruction to him. He knew one man who spent 15,000l. in erecting a manufactory, and when he wanted to sell it it would not fetch 500l. When manufactories or ship-yards ceased to be used, they were worth little or nothing—like stage-coaches they must go on, whether they had employment or not. Having stated these facts, he would only further allude to the part taken by the hon. member for Kingston-upon-Hull, and another hon. Member; he did not recollect the place he represented, but the constituents of both these Gentlemen must think that they were "miserable comforters"—and will no doubt say to them, "Call you this backing your friends?" They had been the best friends that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had found that night. They had declared themselves friendly to the Reciprocity System, and all the hopes that they held out to their constituents was, a reduction of taxation, which, in his opinion they would not get in sufficient amount to be of any service to them. The House was told to look to some distant benefit; but if South America were to pour her treasures into our lap, we must look to another generation to enjoy them, and the present shipowners must be ruined. To those who followed, it might be beneficial; but whatever might be the result, he would venture to say, that it would be attended with great loss to parties at present engaged in trade. All the petitioners asked for was inquiry, notwithstanding all the statements which had been made. He rejoiced that he had been selected to present the Petition; he knew that this was not the only Petition which would be presented on this subject; others would follow equally, perhaps, but certainly not more respectably signed than the one he had presented. The 200 individuals, of the first con- 484 sequence in trade, on account of their respectability and property, who had signed that Petition, were ready and willing to come to the Bar of the House, and prove the great injuries they were suffering from the present system. Having said thus much, he would no longer detain the House, but conclude by thanking it for the attention it had bestowed on him. The Chancellor of the Exchequer thought that no hon. Member present could doubt that the worthy Alderman and his supporters had had ample opportunity of discussing the subject, and that they had not let the opportunity escape them. He could assure the worthy Alderman that many Gentlemen who entertained views widely different from his on this subject, and who were as deeply impressed with the importance of the subject as he could possibly be, had refrained from offering themselves to the notice of the House on the present occasion, in consequence of an understood arrangement with respect to the business of the evening. He hoped that now they should be allowed to proceed to the question which regarded the Administration of Justice, and which it had been arranged should certainly be brought on this evening.
§ Mr. Sadler
said, if he refrained from answering the somewhat uncourteous observations of the hon. member for Dover, it was only in obedience to the wishes of the House. He begged, however, to say that what he had remarked about the public documents was, that they were not always to be trusted. With respect to the silk manufacture, the President of the Board of Trade had stated that it was in great activity, and he had proved that by documentary evidence, though it was contradicted by complaints of the manufacturers. Notwithstanding such evidence, he could positively state, that our shipping had decreased fifteen per cent, while that of other countries had increased twenty per cent.
§ Mr. Fyler
also observed, that he knew from evidence which he valued more than documentary evidence, that the silk trade was not flourishing—the exports having fallen off nearly a million sterling, and the trade being at that time condemned to make a desperate struggle in order to continue in existence.
§ Petition to be printed.