§ Mr. Courtenay rose, and being called on by the Speaker, though Mr. George Robinson rose at the same time, went on to say, that he was sorry to interfere with the hon. Gentleman, but as the hon. Gentleman had had an opportunity on a former occasion of addressing the House on the subject at great length, he must then take the liberty of saying a few words on that important question. In opposing the second reading of the Bill, he begged to be understood as not opposing the principles of the noble Lord. In the situation in which he stood, as well as when he was in office under the Government, he had given this subject a great deal of attention, and, though holding principles somewhat similar to those adopted by the Government, he had come to the conclusion that it was not possible to alter these duties without acting inconsistently with treaties. Before, however, he noticed the treaty, he would beg to offer one word with respect to his own consistency. In the course of the Session before last, an hon. friend of his, now the Secretary of the Board of Control, brought forward a motion touching grievances with respect to the wine trade. It fell to his lot to be the organ of Government on that occasion; and he did then certainly state, that he agreed, to a considerable extent, with his hon. friend, but he also stated on the part of Government, that it was placed in this difficult situation—that it could not interfere with the wine duties, without a communication with the government of 426 Portugal, and the difficulty lay in Portugal having a sovereign whom we had not acknowledged. The argument of his hon. friend was reiterated and reinforced by Mr. Huskisson; but so far from taking a different view of the subject to that taken by the Government, it was, he said, its duty to consider the question, whenever the state of diplomatic relations with Portugal would permit. It was no new opinion of his, that the Methuen Treaty was in the way of the arrangement of the noble Lord. A legal gentleman, extremely well versed in these matters, had given his opinion as to the propriety, according to the law and customs of nations, of departing from that treaty without previous discussion; and he said, that there was no way of getting out of the difficulties raised by the treaty, except by putting upon it that construction for which the noble Lord contended, but which would be a practice so exceedingly sharp, it would be so pettifogging a construction, that it would not become the dignity of an honourable Government to resort to it. This advice was received when he was in office; and he trusted, therefore, that the House would at least believe, that he was sincere in his opposition to the Bill of the noble Lord. The noble Lord, in speaking on the subject of the compact, said, that this question depended entirely upon the Methuen Treaty. The noble Lord, in support of his argument, read a part—but a part only—of that treaty, and omitted to read the first Article, which was as follows "His sacred royal Majesty of Portugal promises, both in his own name and that of his successors to admit for ever hereafter, into Portugal, the woollen cloths and the rest of the woollen manufactures of the Britons, as was accustomed till they were prohibited by the laws: nevertheless, upon this condition." The second Article was this, "That is to say, that her sacred royal Majesty shall, in her own name, and that of her successors, be obliged for ever hereafter to admit the wines of the growth of Portugal into Britain; so that at no time, whether there shall be peace or war between the kingdoms of Britain and France, anything more shall be demanded for these wines, by the name of custom or duty, or by whatsoever other title, directly or indirectly, whether they shall be imported into Great Britain in pipes or hogsheads, or other casks, than what shall be demanded from the like quantity or measure of French wine, 427 deducting or abating a third part of the custom or duty;" and then there was this proviso, upon which the noble Lord relied. "But if at any time this deduction or abatement of customs, which is to be made as aforesaid, shall in any manner be attempted and prejudiced, it shall be just and lawful for his sacred royal Majesty of Portugal again to prohibit the woollen cloths and the rest of the British woollen manufactures." It would be quite impossible to find in any treaty words more decidedly of a permanent character than these articles—"for ever," and "at no time;" nothing certainly could well be stronger than those words. It certainly was intended to be as binding, and to last as long, as any treaty that ever was made. But the noble Lord endeavoured to get over the difficulty, on the principle of retaliation. He said, if Great Britain should at any time depart from this treaty, Portugal might also depart from it. It was a treaty that might be put an end to at any time, by either party. That was certainly the effect of what was said by the right, hon. the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, although the noble Lord, indeed, did not say "either party." The noble Lord said, we might at any time commit a breach of this treaty, provided we were ready to bear the consequences. He was astonished to hear the noble Lord argue as if there were no moral obligations to be borne in mind, but simply taking this circumstance into consideration, and at once coming to the conclusion, that, we might, on the ground of any diplomatic policy, violate a treaty, provided we were ready to abide by the penalties imposed on us for pursuing such a course of conduct. He was astonished to hear that doctrine from the noble Lord, considering him a straightforward, single-minded, Englishman; but he was more astonished to hear such doctrines, when he recollected, that the noble Lord was Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it was precisely the argument used by those who committed breaches of the revenue-laws. "Oh!" say the smugglers in high life, "there is no harm in doing this, because, if we are found out, we are perfectly willing to pay the penalties.'' That view of the subject could not be taken by an honourable man, and still less by the head of the Revenue Department. The noble Lord devised his measure with the ingenuity of a pettifogger, and justified it 428 with the sophistry of a smuggler. The noble Lord said, that the view he took of the Methuen Treaty was also taken, first, by the Lords of Trade, who made an elaborate report, in the year 1767, which was laid upon the Table of this House last year, and afterwards by Mr. Pitt. He was at issue with the noble Lord as to both these authorities. If the noble Lord would turn to the report, he would find only one passage which touched at all upon this part of the question; and it would appear from this passage, that the Lords of Trade were of opinion, that nothing would justify us in breaking the Methuen Treaty, but the government of Portugal departing from its specific terms. Therefore, if this had any bearing whatever upon the subject, it would act against the view taken by the noble Lord. He contended, however, that it had no bearing upon the question. With respect to Mr. Pitt's opinion, he admitted, that Mr. Pitt was very anxious—quite as anxious as the noble Lord—to get rid of the Methuen Treaty, and to open an intercourse with France; he admitted, that Mr. Pitt even went so far as to propose Resolutions in this House for equalizing the duties on wines; but he never did for one moment admit, that we were at liberty to depart from the words of the Methuen Treaty. He then made use of these expressions, "I have every reason to expect the negotiation with Portugal will prove successful; if, however, it should fail, in either case, I will come down to the House, and, in one of the two situations, will move a Resolution to lower the duties on Portugal wines, one-third below the duties on French wines; in the other, I will lay before the House the grounds on which the Administration consider the Court of Lisbon as no longer willing to comply with the Methuen Treaty." Mr. Pitt considered himself bound to adhere to the Methuen Treaty, so long as the Court of Lisbon expressed its determination to abide by it. He challenged the noble Lord to produce any passage, to prove that it was in the contemplation of Mr. Pitt to commit a breach of the Methuen Treaty. It was stated, that Mr. Pitt, in a letter read by the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, threatened, that if Portugal persevered in committing breaches of former treaties, we might be induced, on our parts, to depart from the treaty of 1703. He was ready to admit, that, if 429 we could make out against Portugal a case of a breach of other treaties, that would authorise us to break the treaty of 1703. But how stood the case before the House, with respect to those breaches of treaty? Why, upon the motion of his hon. friend, the Secretary for the Board of Control, they had a long statement of grievances up to the year 1813, but nothing of a subsequent date; and the House of Commons was called upon to act in a particular manner, in consequence of grievances, of the existence of which it could know nothing. If it were attempted to justify breaking the treaty, by alluding to grievances of recent date, he should answer, that we had the highest possible authority for saying, that the grievances caused in this, or the course of the last year, had been redressed. It was true, we were told, in the Speech from the Throne, that we had sustained a series of unexampled insults from Portugal; but it was also true, that the Speech said, that, on satisfaction being demanded, those grievances were redressed. The House knew nothing of the existence of any grievances, of later date than the year 1813, and we had no right or title whatever to break a treaty—a solemn compact with Portugal—on account of acts done by her so long ago. It was like the wolf and the lamb in the fable, to say to defenceless Portugal, you shall suffer for injuries done to us by your fathers or your grandfathers. It would be necessary, if this solemn treaty was to be broken, on the ground of misbehaviour on the part of Portugal, that his Majesty's Ministers should lay before the House the facts on which they rested their accusations, in order that they should be clearly and explicitly made out. The stipulation was made for ever, or until the two parties should agree to put an end to it; if one party put an end to it without the consent of the other, that produced a cause of quarrel; but, in this case, one was a very strong, and the other a very weak party. The stipulation, therefore, with respect to what Portugal might do, stood on these grounds:—England, being the stronger party of the two, it was introduced for the protection of Portugal; if Portugal broke the compact, we could protect ourselves; if we broke the treaty, Portugal had no other resource than to dissolve the treaty. But, the more it was out of the power—and we had had a recent public instance of the weakness of Portugal—the 430 more it was out of the power of Portugal to make war against this country, the more England was bound, by every principle of humanity and justice, to adhere rigidly to that part of the treaty. Referring the question, then, as the noble Lord referred it, solely to the treaty, that treaty was a perpetual treaty, and could only be altered by mutual consent, and mutual consent could only be obtained by previous discussions; and, if our relations with Portugal were unfortunately so mystified as to prevent discussion, we were bound, as an honourable nation—bound by every consideration of justice and equity—to adhere to that Methuen Treaty until this Government should come to some final understanding with the government of Portugal. He would now say a few words as to the operation of the more recent Treaty of 1810. The 26th Article of that treaty said, "The two parties agree and declare, that the stipulations of former treaties, concerning the admission of the wines of Portugal on the one hand, and the woollen cloths of Great Britain on the other, shall, for the present, remain unaltered." It was quite certain, that this Article did not in any manner affect the argument deduced from the Methuen Treaty. It never could be supposed, that on the next morning after entering into the agreement, or at any subsequent time, without previous discussion, the treaty should be revoked. These arrangements certainly added nothing to the force of that argument, but they did not detract from it. There was one other article in the Treaty of 1810 which alluded to the Methuen Treaty—the thirty-second—by which it was agreed that the obligations of the Government, expressed or implied, should be perpetual, and should not be changed or affected in any manner. The next Article, however, gave to the two parties themselves, after fifteen years, the right of separately examining, discussing, and revising the several articles of that treaty, and of making such amendments or additions respectively, as the interests of their respective subjects might require. It was a matter of doubt whether the agreement extended or not to the Methuen Treaty, but it might be contended that the expression "expressed or implied" must extend to the Methuen Treaty, and he had understood, that the negotiator of the Treaty of 1810 stated that such was the intention with which it was framed. A 431 very great authority in another place had said, that the sense of an Act of Parliament was not to be construed by the understanding of those who introduced it. That was perfectly correct in respect of an Act of Parliament, but the case was exceedingly different with respect to a treaty. It was, however, a matter of no great importance whether the thirty-third Article of the Treaty of 1810 were called in aid or not, because if the construction he had put on the Methuen Treaty was correct, all that Article did was, to prescribe a mode of proceeding in case of any proposition being made for altering it. He was sorry to go back again to the Methuen Treaty, but he wished to add, that it was laid before the House accompanied by a letter from the negotiator; from which it would appear, that he considered his country to be placed under a binding obligation. Mr. Methuen did not think, as the noble Lord did, that this was a mutter from which Queen Anne or her successors might, at any time, depart, and he took great credit to himself for not having imposed any unnecessary restrictions. He concluded his letter by saying:—"By these means, her Majesty is under no restriction at all with respect to the duties on French wines, except that they must always continue one-third higher than the duties on the wines of Portugal." The negotiator most distinctly laid it down, that the treaty was to last for ever. He had already said, that he did not disagree with the noble Lord in principle. He was for equalization in all cases. At the same time he agreed with the hon. member for Worcester, so far as to admit, that there was no pressing necessity for adopting this measure now, considering the present state of our relations with Portugal, and the commercial conduct of France. Neither did he expect any great increase of our trade with France from it. At all events, however much he might approve of the Bill as a financier or political eco-mist, yet he was bound to oppose it as a man of honour.
§ Mr. George Robinson
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had made an extraordinary use of his statements, and he confessed he thought the opponents of the measure would not derive much advantage from his arguments. The right hon. Gentleman placed the whole question on the perpetual character of the Methuen Treaty; but it must be recollected, that at the end of fifteen years after the signing 432 of that treaty, either party was at liberty to put an end to it if they thought fit. Dismissing it, therefore, he meant to apply himself to the purely commercial part of the question, and on that he believed the Government had committed a very dangerous error. The Vice-President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Poulett Thomson) had asked, with an air of triumph, if they thought that the Portuguese would deprive themselves of some of the most necessary articles of consumption, purely because this country admitted French wines on better terms? He would ask, in his turn, however, what was to prevent the Portuguese from equalising the duties on all the articles of export from England? According to the returns of 1830, it appeared that the exports to Portugal on official value amounted to two millions and a half, in addition to 200,000l. worth of cod, shipped from our colonies of Newfoundland. The fish which Portugal took from the fisheries of Newfoundland amounted to 300,000 quintals. The transport employed 100 sail of vessels, and it was received at a duty of fifteen per cent, while the fish brought by our great rivals, the Americans and the Norwegians, paid a duty of thirty per cent. The consequence was, that we enjoyed the monopoly of the market, in spite of the active competition of the Americans and the Norwegians. If the duty should be equalised, we should be driven out of the market. The noble Lord said, that if the duty should be equalised, we could compete with the Norwegians and Americans in Portugal, as we now competed with them in Spain. He would tell the noble Lord what had been the effect of that competition in Spain. Twenty years ago we imported into Spain 80,000 quintals of fish, whilst the Norwegians imported only 10,000. Now, the case was exactly reversed—we imported the 10,000 quintals, and the Norwegians imported the 80,000. Were the noble Lord, and those who advised him, acquainted with the state of our export trade to Portugal, as compared with that to other countries? Our exports to Portugal alone exceeded those to France, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, collectively. At the same time, our imports from those countries were ten times more than those from Portugal. But the noble Lord said, that by taking off part of the duty on French wines, we should induce the French to take more of 433 our commodities. Experience might have instructed Ministers on this point. A few years ago we reduced the duty on French wine 6s. 6d. per gallon. It was now proposed to reduce it only 1s. 9d. per gallon. Our imports from France were now twice as much as they were at the time the duty was reduced, and our exports were only half as large as they were at the same period. If the large reduction of duty had failed to induce the French to take our commodities, it was but reasonable to expect that the small reduction would fail also. Unfortunately, many persons advocated what was called free trade, without considering the consequences to which that system would lead. Foreign nations knew what we meant by free trade. They knew that we wanted to obtain the monopoly of their markets, and to prevent them from becoming manufacturers for themselves. The United States of America, one of the most enlightened nations in the world, inferior to us in hardly any respect, repudiated the doctrine of free trade. She knew that she could get manufactured iron and cotton goods cheaper from us than she could make them herself. But she would not deal with us notwithstanding. She legislated for the future, and, knowing that she had an increasing population, determined to take measures for becoming a manufacturing nation herself. Already America was making rapid progress in manufactures, and from the information which he possessed on the subject, he believed, that in twenty years she would be altogether independent of English manufactures. He was at a loss to conceive what motive could have induced the noble Lord, embarrassed as he was with the Reform Bill, to trouble the House with this subject at the present time. Had the drinkers of French wines complained that they could not pay for their burgundy, champagne, and claret? If so, he would tell the noble Lord not to attend to them. The measure now proposed was a departure from the noble Lord's own principles. The noble Lord had always professed a desire to relieve the poorer classes. He was now relieving the wealthy, and placing an additional burthen on the poor and the middling classes. Whether he looked at it as a question of finance or of commercial policy, he considered it one of the most unfortunate measures ever proposed by a Ministry. If the noble Lord should succeed in transferring 434 the wine trade from Portugal to France, he would add to the prosperity of a country which must always, to a certain degree, be our rival, and diminish the power of a nation which never could injure us, but had, on many occasions done us good service. It was, however, impossible to increase the consumption of French wines of the first growth, owing to the limited quantity of them which was produced. In 1828, when the Americans, by a new tariff, placed almost prohibitory duties on British goods, what did the late Mr. Huskisson say? He stated, that this country might, and would perhaps, be driven to import cotton from the Brazils, in order to show the Americans that this country was independent of them. Was this a hasty observation, or was it not rather the deliberate opinion of a statesman, founded on the principle that where a country acted in opposition to us, it became our duty to deal with other nations which were ready to act towards us on a fair principle of reciprocity? He now called on the noble Lord to apply this principle to the case of France and Portugal. He knew very well that the hon. member for Middlesex dissented from the doctrine which he laid down. That hon. Member would say, "Let us go where we can get any article at the cheapest rate," without looking to any collateral circumstances; but this case was connected with collateral circumstances that ought not to be overlooked. If they did not draw a proper distinction, in their intercourse with friendly and unfriendly Powers (he spoke in a commercial sense) the situation of this country would be greatly deteriorated. During the late war, this country might be said to have enjoyed the commerce of the whole world, and there was an abundant market for her manufactures. This was not now the case; and both in France and in America they were rapidly improving their manufactures. It was, therefore, important that we should retain whatever market we at present possessed. But yet, though the state of commercial affairs was such as he had described, Ministers were adding to the evil, by throwing open the home trade to an extent that was never before thought of; thus accelerating that distress and difficulty which would by and by assail us, when it would be utterly impossible to prevent or to guard against it. In saying this, he was not actuated by any feeling 435 of despondency. He believed the resources of this country to be almost exhaustless; but still he feared, if the line of policy which he deprecated were persevered in, that this country would, in time, be brought on a level with the poorest nations of the continent. The agricultural interest would be the next to suffer; for it appeared to him, that a free trade in corn would, in the end, be called for. But if we procured corn from Poland, silk from France, and other articles from various places abroad, he admitted, that the consumers would be benefitted, the few would reap a certain degree of advantage, but the many would be ruined. And then he would ask the noble Lord, who was to pay the taxes? The next thing would be, to come down on the Funds; for he would contend, that the system which was now introduced would be found incompatible with paying the interest of the Debt and supporting such establishments as ours. He should conclude with moving a number of Resolutions, as an amendment to the second reading of the Bill. In doing so, however, he despaired of making any converts to his opinion; but still he deemed it necessary to place his sentiments on the Journals of the House. The hon. Member concluded by moving, as an amendment, the following Resolutions.
"Resolved, that it appears, by official statements, that the exports of British and colonial merchandise, and of British manufactures, from the United Kingdom to Portugal and her dependencies, with a population of about 2,500,000, have amounted to the sum of 11,906,622l. official value, during the past five years, independently of exports of about 1,000,000l. during that period, from the island of Newfoundland, averaging 2,581,324l. per annum; the imports from Portugal and her dependencies into the United Kingdom not having exceeded 3,023,277l., averaging 604,654l. per annum.
"That this beneficial commerce, the fruits of more than a century of close and intimate connexion with Portugal, is carried on almost exclusively in British shipping, the proportion being about seven to one, thereby affording employment to a large portion of our commercial marine, adding essentially to the naval strength of the empire, and promoting the interests of British commerce and manufacture, and the employment of the labouring population of this country.
436 "That, during the same period of five years, the exports of British and colonial merchandise, and of British manufactures, to France, with a population of about 30,000,000,have not exceeded 4,387,357l. official value, or 867,470l. per annum; the imports from that kingdom having amounted, during that time, to 11,282,190l. or 2,256,438l. per annum; and that, notwithstanding these imports have greatly increased since the late reduction of duty on French wines, silks, &c., the exports to France have materially diminished.
"That this limited commerce with France is carried on indiscriminately in French and British vessels in the proportion of about three to two only in favour of the United Kingdom, exhibiting a remarkable contrast with the trade of Portugal.
"That the magnitude of our exports to Portugal, as compared with France, is owing mainly to discriminating duties to the extent of about fifteen per centum in favour of Great Britain, giving almost the exclusive supply of her markets to British capital and industry; whilst the limited extent of our exports to France may be attributed to her discouragement of British produce and manufactures, by high protecting duties in favour of domestic capital and industry, to the exclusion of British competition:
"Therefore, that it is highly inexpedient to make any alterations in the relative duties now payable by law on wines imported from Portugal and France for purposes of revenue only, which might be attained by an equal increase of duty on all foreign wines, thereby hazarding the loss of a steady and valuable market for our surplus produce and manufactures, diminishing our naval resources, and incurring the risk of transferring our remaining fisheries in Newfoundland to rival nations, without a reasonable hope, that further concessions to France will be productive of any corresponding benefit to our commerce, as long as that government, notwithstanding the liberal example we have before shewn, continues to maintain her present system of commercial policy."
§ Mr. Courtenay
complained that the hon. member for Worcester had brought a most extraordinary charge against him—that of having spoken before the hon. Member. If he had done wrong in taking that course, he was extremely sorry for it; 437 but he was not aware that the hon. Member had a greater right to speak than he had, because the hon. Member had given notice of his intention to move certain resolutions.
Mr. Hyde Villiers
said, that, after the protracted and discursive address of the hon. member for Worcester, he should endeavour, as briefly as he could, to state his opinion on the question then before the House. The objections which had been raised went either to the policy of the measure altogether, or to the manner in which it was proposed to carry that policy into effect. He was surprised, that the right hon. member for Totness (Mr. Courtenay) should have endeavoured to re-construct an argument on a point which had formerly been introduced, and which had been successfully rebutted. The noble Lord, he believed, could easily satisfy the House, that the interpretation now put upon the Methuen Treaty was precisely the same that Mr. Pitt and other statesmen of his day had affixed to it. As to the notice required by the stipulations of the Treaty of 1810, that was only contemplated in the event of some peculiar change in this trade which did not exist at present. The stipulations of the Methuen Treaty and of the Treaty of 1810, remained just as they originally were. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think, that the stipulations of the Methuen Treaty were not now in force, but that Treaty was at present as much in force as ever. If Portugal pleased, she might, under that treaty of alternatives, entirely change the duties on the few bales of woollens we now sent to that country, which proved that the Methuen Treaty was still in operation. He would not go into the history of the immense injury which this country had sustained from the great wine monopoly in Portugal. It was not an unimportant topic; but, on account of the lateness of the hour, and having formerly stated his opinion on it, he did not think it necessary to advert further to it on this occasion. As to the general policy of the proposed measure, he entertained not a doubt. The miserable and declining state of Portugal, in every point of view—the necessity which existed for securing markets for our immense population—the change which had taken place in the political 438 system of Europe since the period of the Methuen Treaty, and the manifest propriety of strengthening the bond of good will between this country and France—these different considerations, as it appeared to him, perfectly justified Ministers in adopting the course which they had followed on this occasion. These considerations had only received their just and proper weight in the Bill now before the House. The commercial relations of this country with France had, for a long time, settled down unsatisfactorily, which was, he believed, chiefly to be attributed to England. An unjust feeling towards the exports of France, and an unwise preference for those of Portugal, had existed for 130 years. By now equalizing these duties, we should place ourselves in the right with France, whereas we were before decidedly in the wrong, by the preference we had given to Portugal; but he hoped, that it was now beginning to be understood, that strict commercial amity and alliance with France ought to be the chiefest care of statesmen who desired to preserve the peace of Europe, and who wished their country to pursue a career of prosperity and honour. In his opinion, an independent legislation, and an active diplomacy, founded upon the knowledge of the internal wants of the French people—a knowledge but too little cultivated hitherto, but which might be easily acquired—would give us a party in France always favourable to our commercial interests. A great effort would thus be made to place the commercial interests of the two countries on an improved footing. To maintain peace with France must be one of the chief cares of every wise and just statesman; and he knew no surer mode of effecting that object, than by the encouragement of an extensive commercial connexion. If this liberal course of policy had been adopted long before, the ports of France would be now open to us, and we should have had a ready market for our woollens, our cottons, our iron ware, &c. But, instead of that, the two countries had persevered in a system of mutual prohibition and restriction. As we were the first to adopt that pernicious system, he was very happy to find, that, by this Bill, we should now be the first to depart from it. The resolutions of the hon. member for Worcester appeared to be framed with so little knowledge of true commercial principles, and with so little acquaintance 439 with the real facts of the case, that he did not feel it necessary to descant on them. It appeared to him, that the great fear of the hon. Member was, lest this measure should have an injurious effect with respect to the exportation of fish from Newfoundland to Portugal. But, were the people; of this country to be content to suffer under, and to inflict on themselves, all the evils and mischiefs of the Methuen treaty, political as well as commercial, lest, by any chance whatever, the fish that was carried into Portugal from Newfoundland should, in future, be admitted into that country, at a rate of duty, to a certain degree, less favourable than at present? He was himself anxious for the prosperity of that trade; and it was a remarkable fact, that no apprehension of the kind which was entertained by the hon. Member, had been put forward by the inhabitants of Newfoundland. There was no reason whatever to suppose, that this measure would inflict any injury on the trade in fish. Portugal would scarcely attempt any thing of the kind, knowing, as she did, that we had in our hands, the means of immediate and ruinous retaliation. The hon. Gentleman had argued, that our imports from France were greater than our exports to that country, and that the reverse was the case with respect to Portugal. Now, many things that seemed to be imported from France were not so imported. Thus, silk, which came from Italy, through France, appeared to be an importation from France, though it really was not. Again, much of our exports to France was effected through the medium of a smuggling trade, and could not, therefore, be entered in the regular returns. He could not, therefore, subscribe to the accuracy of the hon. Member's calculations. The hon. Member complained, that the trade was at present restricted, and yet the specific which he prescribed to cure the evil was calculated to confine it within still more narrow limits. He regretted that the member for Worcester—a place of so much commercial importance—should withhold his support from the King's Government, in their praiseworthy exertions to extend the principles of free trade, and the division of labour, which was, in fact, the soul of trade, which would prove advantageous, in proportion as they were extended, and which were always attended with the most salutary effects, whenever they were acted upon.
§ Mr. Sadler
did not think, that indulging in general arguments, as had been done by the hon. Member who had just sat down, was the best way to deal with a subject of this description, materially affecting the industry of the country. Such a subject should be discussed in a more practical manner, at a period when the agricultural and manufacturing interests were in a state of unparalleled distress. He should shortly have to lay petitions on the Table, from persons connected with the industrious classes, which would tell a different tale from those who declaimed upon the prosperity of the country. If the new system of universal liberality was to be adopted, without caring upon what system other countries acted, he should be glad to know, what was the use of the cumbrous and expensive Board of Trade, and of the other Boards, which were so well paid for considering commercial treaties. The treaty with Portugal was said to be the last vestige of the system of illiberal commercial regulations. That system, however, he contended, had exalted the commerce of this country to that gigantic state of health and prosperity, which had few prototypes in the history of nations. For the sake of encouraging a good understanding with France, it was now thought necessary to succumb to that country, by adopting a new commercial system. The experiment had been already made, however, with respect to France, but no beneficial result followed, for the principle of reciprocity was not acted upon by that country, and every attempt to conciliate her had been attended with a signal failure. It was not one of the features of the times least to be deplored, that ancient treaties were looked upon as little better than rotten parchment bonds; and in following some imaginary interest, to which Ministers were guided only by crude and abstract principles, the House was now asked to abandon the commercial treaty which so long united this country to Portugal. The hon. Member concluded, by expressing his concurrence in the Resolutions proposed by the hon. member for Worcester.
§ Lord Althorp
denied, that under the Methuen Treaty, this country was interdicted from placing the wines of France on the same footing as the wines of Portugal. By such an arrangement, this country would be no longer bound to Portugal, nor Portugal to this country, 441 Portugal stipulated to admit our woollens so long as we admitted her wines at a duty inferior to that which we imposed on French wines; and, so soon as we increased the duty on Portuguese wines to the same amount as that on French wines, Portugal was no longer bound to admit our woollens. The right hon. Member (Mr. Courtenay) seemed to think, that he had not correctly quoted the opinions of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox on this subject, in 1787, when the commercial treaty with France was under consideration. Mr. Pitt then said, that admitting the wines of France would not amount to a breach of the treaty with Portugal, but that it might be considered as virtually putting an end to that treaty, for, that Portugal only stipulated to admit our woollens so long as we admitted her wines at a lower duty. He said, therefore, that, though the proposed treaty with France would be an alteration, it would not amount to a breach of the treaty. Mr. Fox was strongly opposed to the treaty with France; and, in looking back to the arguments used on that occasion, he did not hesitate to say, that he agreed in the views taken by Mr. Pitt, and was opposed to those of Mr. Fox. As Mr. Fox was very warmly opposed to the treaty with France, he could not assent to the principles laid down by Mr. Pitt. In the commencement of his speech, however, he distinctly conceded, that admitting the wines of France would be patting an end to, rather than a breach of, the Methuen Treaty. Both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, therefore, took the same view as Ministers took, that it was competent for either Power to put an end to the treaty. Considering the immense resources of France, the circumstance of our trade with that country being so limited was a strong proof of the impolicy of the system adopted in our commercial relations with that country. The great export trade this country enjoyed with Portugal, did not arise from the commercial advantages which we enjoyed in Portugal, but because this country was the great consumer of the productions of Portugal. The reason why so large a quantity of the wine of Portugal came to this country was, not because of the advantages this country had in the Portuguese market, but because Portuguese wines were not much to the taste of other countries. The hon. member for Aldborough (Mr. Sadler) had stated, correctly 442 enough, unfortunately, that great distress and difficulty now existed in the country; but what had that to do with the wine trade? As to the distress of the agricultural interest, this measure had nothing to do with it; and, though the manufacturing interests were pressed upon at the present moment, it was not the consequence of the principles of free trade. The manufacturers were not suffering from anything done of late years, but from the consequence of long wars. On the whole, he had not heard a single argument from the other side, which he conceived should induce the House to reject the proposition now submitted to it.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
did not object to this measure on the ground of its being a breach of treaty with Portugal, but simply on the ground of its inexpediency as a measure of commercial policy. He should willingly agree to the reduction of the duty of 1s. 9d. a gallon on French wines, if he thought that reduction would open the ports of that country to our commodities; but since the previous reductions of duty on French wines, our exports to that country had not increased. Perhaps the fairest mode of settling the question, so as to protect our own interest, and keep faith with our old and firm ally, Portugal, would be, to impose an ad valorem duty on all wines. He did not share the common opinion as to the Oporto Wine Company, and thought it contributed to keep down the price of port wine. He wished to say a few words as to the effect which this Bill would have on the cultivators of Cape wines. It would not be denied by any person acquainted with the Cape of Good Hope, that the noble Lord's Bill would have the effect of completely ruining the wine trade of that colony. He would remind the House of what took place in 1821 with respect to Cape wines. At that period, every encouragement was given to the cultivation of the grape at the Cape. Premiums were held out for the best wines produced. A proclamation was issued in the colony, calling the attention of the merchants and capitalists to the cultivation of the grape, as one of the most important branches of industry to which the capital of the colony could be directed; and as a further encouragement to the colonists, it was stated, that no higher duty should be imposed on Cape wines than on those of British manufacture. In a statement of 443 those engaged in the trade, this proclamation is thus noticed:—"By a Government Proclamation of 19th December, 1811, the merchants and cultivators of the colony of the Cape of Good Hope, were directed to the subject of the wine trade, as 'a consideration, above all others, of the highest importance to its opulence and character;' and such Proclamation, after authoritatively demanding from the settlement a serious and lively attention to their interests, promised the most constant support and patronage on the part of Government, and that no means of assistance should be left unattempted to improve the cultivation, and every encouragement given to honest industry and adventure, to establish the success of the Cape commerce in this her great and native superiority." This proclamation was followed by another, offering premiums to those who planted most largely, and those who produced the best wines, by the promise that the old channels of this trade should be re-opened, and new ones formed, and by a variety of regulations, all strongly evincing the lively interest which Government felt in promoting the trade, and which was fully ratified and confirmed by the Act of July, 1813, admitting Cape wines to the British market at one-third of the duty then payable on Spanish and Portugal wines. He had now before him the Report of the board of Commerce, which pointed out the ruinous effects which must follow from the increased duties. The increase of the duty to 5s. 6d. per gallon, even though the operation of the Bill should be deferred as to Cape wines for two years, would involve the ruin of those engaged in that branch of industry. The Board of Commerce said:—"The present state of the Cape wine trade is a subject requiring the utmost reflection of every well-wisher to the colony. For several years past a large proportion of the wines exported have been sold at a loss, while those of the very best qualities have barely realized a remunerating price. But now every market that is open—but particularly that of Great Britain—is so exceedingly depressed from various causes, that no sale can be effected except at the most ruinous sacrifice. By accounts received within these few days from the Chairman of the Cape Trade Society, your Committee were informed, that his Majesty's Ministers had resolved on the 444 measure of equalizing the duties on all descriptions of wines to 5s. 6d. per gallon, which was equivalent to a prohibition of Cape wine altogether in that market. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, however, been prevailed on, in consequence of the immediate and strenuous exertions of the Home Committee, and other friends of the colony, to abandon his original intentions in part, and to agree that Cape wines should be admitted at 2s. 9d. per gallon for the space of two years, when the duty is to be raised to the same rate as upon foreign wines—namely, 5s. 6d. per gallon. The Committee congratulate their constituents and the colonists at large, on a respite from a measure which, if persisted in, would have caused immediate bankruptcy in the wine trade of this town, and eventually the total ruin of the cultivators in the wine districts. Although it is so forcibly declared, that no further protection will be given to the produce of the colony after the expired limits, your Committee would strongly recommend the necessity of sending repeated petitions on the subject to both Houses of Parliament, pointing out the injustice and inhumanity of destroying so extensive a branch of colonial industry, as well as the inconsistency of putting this colony out of the pale of the general system of protection granted to all the rest of the possessions of Great Britain. So long as the sugars of the West Indies and the Mauritius are admitted at 24s. per cwt., whilst foreign pays 63s.; Jamaica rum at 9s. per gallon, when foreign spirits pay 1l. 2s. 6d.; coffee 6d. per pound, foreign 1s. to 1s. 3d.—there can be no just reasons for excluding protection to Cape produce." He hoped that the Government would reconsider this subject, which would, in his opinion, have such great influence on the state of our trade with Portugal. He presumed that it was not the wish of Government to encourage the consumption of ardent spirits, but there could be no doubt that such would be the effect of this increased duty on Cape wine. At present, the labouring classes consumed a considerable quantity of Cape wine. A pipe, of ninety-two gallons, might be had for 10l., and to which was to be added 11l. duty, so that it could be sold at a profit for 1s. per bottle. If the duty were increased to the extent proposed by the noble Lord, this article would be placed wholly out of 445 the reach of the labouring classes, who, instead of wine, would consume ardent spirits. When the House considered, too, the situation of the inhabitants of the Cape, who had embarked their capital in the cultivation of the vine, on the faith of the encouragement they received from this country, in the year 1811;—when the House considered, also, that the Cape paid all its own expenditure, to the amount of 30,000l. or 40,000l., while the whole patronage of the colony was in the hands of the Government here, and that it was treated as if it were a colony which did not pay, but was a heavy burthen to the mother country; when the House took these circumstances into consideration, it must admit, that the course now proposed by the noble Lord, with respect to Cape wines, was one of great injustice. He meant, therefore, to give his most strenuous opposition to this Bill.
would take a future opportunity of fully expressing his opinions on this measure. But he begged leave to advert to one observation which had fallen from the noble Lord. The noble Lord had alluded to the conduct of Mr. Pitt with respect to the Methuen Treaty. But did Mr. Pitt abrogate that treaty? No; he entered into negotiations on the subject, and the treaty was confirmed. The noble Lord had argued the question, as though the Methuen Treaty was the only commercial and political engagement between this kingdom and that of Portugal. By other treaties, as well as by the Methuen Treaty, we had a preference in many things over others of the most favoured nations, and we possessed civil and municipal rights of our own, with Judges and Courts peculiar to the subjects of Great Britain, which were advantages enjoyed by no other people. And what had Portugal thrown to her as her share or equivalent in return? Nothing but the right to succour and protection, Portugal should suffer from invasion or unjust aggression. How had we recently fulfilled that condition? But on the impolicy and inutility of our late proceedings with respect to France and to Portugal, in the present circumstances of those countries, he would take another opportunity of speaking. He could not however, help designating this measure a this time, when our relations were so critical with both of these countries, as highly impolitic and dangerous.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, he should confine himself to a single observation, in reply to the hon. Members who had assailed the measure of his noble friend. The state of things, it should be remarked, lad materially varied of late years, in respect to the close and intimate intercourse between this country and Portugal. That country, even in Mr. Pitt's time, and in the period succeeding the Treaty of 1812, when Portugal was eminently indebted to his nation, for powerful exertions in her behalf, was found unwilling to observe strict faith in its stipulations, though Portugal had so many valid and solid reasons to be grateful and attached to Great Britain. But, since then, it had been found impossible to inspire Portugal with a sincere disposition to meet England fairly in negotiation, for a period now of nearly sixty years, and there could, therefore, be little indelicacy in this country now adopting a line of policy independent of the existing treaties. Indeed, Mr. Pitt had formerly intended to have done this, and pay the penalty defined and limited by treaty—namely, that our woollens should have no preference in the Portuguese market. The present Bill only adopted the principle of that great man, who was certainly eminently qualified to decide on an occasion like that which had since arisen.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, that if he wanted a proof of the assertion which had of late been frequently made, that the business of the country was not properly discharged, he should find it in the manner in which the present proceeding was carried on. Here was a measure, involving the most important principles, involving our interest as a trading nation, and our national honour as a moral people, and yet see how it was managed. It was arranged that the second reading should be moved at ten o'clock, and when that time arrived, the benches were thin, and they had continued to be so, and little attention had been paid by the few Members present. For this he laid the blame on Ministers. The impression out of doors was, that there was very little chance of the business of the country being followed up, or transacted with any spirit or sagacity, whilst the whole time of the House, and the whole energy of the Ministry, were directed solely to one question, that of Reform. Under these circumstances, he should, like his immediate predecessors, 447 be very brief, He felt himself in rather a difficult situation. A string of Resolutions had been proposed by the hon. member for Worcester, in hostility to the Bill. He, like that hon. Member, was opposed to the Bill; but, it was quite a different thing to be opposed to the Bill, and to support the hon. Member's Resolutions. To the substance of those Resolutions he strongly objected. With all deference to the hon. Gentleman by whom they had been proposed, he must say, that he had never seen any Resolutions, comprehending more misrepresentations, or so many allegations, not borne out by the facts. Whenever the discussion on the Bill should come forward, he would oppose the measure; but not on the grounds stated by the hon. member for Worcester.
had never witnessed a measure brought into that House, upon commercial matters, which reflected greater disgrace on its authors, than that part of this Bill which seemed intended to carry distress and ruin on one of our finest colonies, the Cape of Good Hope. He felt most keenly the injustice Government was about to commit on these colonists, and when the proper time should arrive, he would take the earliest opportunity to submit a case, which was so demonstrative of the injustice of this measure, towards the colony, that it must expose the scandalous misconduct of the Ministry, to all who were not totally blind, or totally prejudiced. In his recollection, he had never witnessed the infliction on British subjects of such an iniquitous and heartless atrocity. Words failed him to characterise this monstrous and most atrocious violation of the public faith, and the faith of the Government of this country. He felt, the Committee on this measure would be a peculiarly fitting opportunity to make a stand against the present Government, for its total disregard of former solemn pledges, made by the Government of this country its colonies, and of all sound principles of colonial policy. The Bill should have his most unqualified and unmeasured opposition in the Committee.
§ The Amendment negatived without a division, and the Bill read a second time.