§ Mr. George F. Young
rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice, for leave for "a Bill to repeal the Act 4th George 4th, c. 77, commonly termed the Reciprocity of Duties' Act,' with the view of restoring to Parliament its constitutional control over all treaties with foreign Powers, involving the commercial interests of the British community." He could assure the House, that it was not his wish to occupy, by any Motion of a speculative character, that time which he fully admitted ought to be devoted as much as possible to practical measures. His object was purely practical; and if the House would give him its indulgence, he would endeavour to prove, that the Reciprocity of Duties Act, as it was called, ought not to remain longer on our Statute-book, that even the present session should not be allowed to pass without repealing it, which would afford a proof of the anxiety of Parliament to redress the grievances of the people. In urging this on the attention of the House, he would take up as little of their time as possible. He felt his own inadequacy to the task which he had undertaken; but though he did, he was urged to it by a sense of duty, from which it would be weakness or affectation to shrink. He had formed his opinions of this Act on long experience and careful inquiry; yet he owned, that he came to the task with a full confidence of his incapability to impress upon the House his own firm conviction of its injustice and impolicy. The subject had occupied the attention of the greatest orators, writers, and statesmen, of our times. The Reciprocity of Duties Act gave the Crown the power of contracting Treaties with foreign Powers, by which their vessels might be admitted in certain trades, and on certain conditions, to enter our ports on an equality with our own vessels. The first Treaty which was contracted under this Act, was that with Prussia, concluded on April 2nd, 1824, which was to continue in force for ten years; and, after that, either of the contracting parties might put an 186 end to it by giving a year's notice, so that it would expire on the 2nd of April. The country had it now in its power, therefore, to annul or repeal the Treaty, should it be injurious to the national welfare. He impugned the Act on which that Treaty was made, as unconstitutional, impolitic, and unjust. The Act had signally failed, which was proved in the distress of the shipping interest, caused in great part and aggravated in all by the Treaties concluded under that Act. The direct tenddency of those Treaties was, to discourage British shipping, and to injure the various classes connected with British shipping to such an extent, that to delay further the proposal for the Repeal of the Act, would be a direct neglect of duty, and injurious to the best interests of the country. The policy of our Navigation-laws was the encouragement of our shipping, which was sometimes effected at the expense of those connected with shipping, though counterbalanced by granting them certain privileges. The first statute connected with the protection to British shipping was the first of Henry 7th., c. 8. It granted them exclusive privileges, but it said, that all mariners navigating them should be British. The fifth of Elizabeth excluded foreigners from our fisheries, the thirteenth from our coasting trade, and, in 1646, an Act was passed which excluded foreigners from our colonial trade. These and other Acts, embodied by Cromwell, and renewed and consolidated by the 12th of Charles 2nd., constituted what were called our Navigation-laws. The hon. member then quoted the authority of Sir Josiah Child, Dr. Adam Smith, Lord Wallace, Mr. Huskisson, and other eminent men, in favour of the principle and effect of the Navigation-laws. The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, had, on May 7th, 1827, quoted the work of Sir Josiah Child, against the Navigation-laws. He was surprised at that, for he could state from a careful perusal of the book which he held in his hand, that there was not one word in it, from beginning to end, against those laws. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would be more particular in his quotations in future.—[Mr. P. Thomson: I never quoted Sir Josiah Child.]—The right hon. Gentleman was so represented in Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, and an hon. friend of his told him, that he heard the right hon. Gentleman quote the work; but, of course, after 187 the right hon. Gentleman's denial, Hansard must be wrong. It was true, that the late Mr. Huskisson altered the Navigation-laws in several particulars, and he was a high authority. He had come frequently in contact with that eminent man, and, though he differed from him widely on this question, he could never doubt his vast extent of information, his profound judgment on all subjects connected with the trade and commerce of the country, and his anxious desire to promote what he conscientiously believed the interests of the country. Never could he join in the abuse which was poured upon that able Minister, and on the occurrence of the lamentable accident which deprived that Gentleman of life, he had deplored that event as one of the most serious losses which the shipowners could suffer. He thought Mr. Huskisson wrong; but that Gentleman had intellect to detect his error, manliness to avow it, and honesty enough to retrace his steps, when the conviction flashed upon his mind. He could have confided in the administration of Mr. Huskisson, leaving events gradually to develope themselves. He wished that, he could place the same confidence in those in whose hands the care of our commercial and maritime interest was now reposed. His successors had grasped at the mantle of the prophet, expecting to imbibe also his inspiration, but they had obtained only a worthless covering. The first object of our commercial policy was, to rear a body of hardy sailors for the defence of the country. And it had accordingly, been provided by the Navigation Act, that every British registered ship should be navigated by a crew, of which three-fourths, at least, were to be British seamen; and, that every British registered ship engaged in the coasting trade, and fisheries, should be navigated by a crew of which the whole was British. That, among other Acts, had been consolidated last Session and formed part of the 2 & 3 Will. 4th, cap. 54. No British registered ship was suffered to depart from a British port, without a crew consisting of three-fourths natives of these islands. The shipowners were compelled also to take on board a certain number of apprentices in proportion to the tonnage. These enactments entailed on the shipowners great expense, owing to the high rate of wages, and the high price of provisions in this country. Another object 188 was, to exclude foreign ships from those departments in which they were prohibited from engaging by the Navigation-laws, by affording a ready means of distinguishing such as were really British. Again, our foreign trade and our shipping had been made subservient to our home manufactures. In the 5th section of the Registry Act, it was enacted, that the registry should be restricted to ships which were wholly of the build of the United Kingdom. The 7th clause also limited the repairs of British ships in foreign countries to 20s. per ton. He held in his hand a list of articles of essential importance in ship-building, all of which were liable to heavy duties upon importation into this country. First of the ship itself was wholly prohibited—it must not be imported at all. Then there was a duty of fifty per cent on iron, thirty-three per cent on copper, fifty per cent on casks, forty-four per cent on sailcloth, 2l. 15s. per load on oak timber, and so on. Live cattle were taxed; grain was prohibited at a low price and protected at a high one; fruit and vegetables paid a duty varying from forty to fifty per cent;—in one word, all the articles required by the shipowner to build and provision his vessels paid a heavy duty. He did not complain of the imposition of those duties, which was founded on a wise policy, but they increased the cost of ships and the cost of navigation, and proved onerous in the pursuit in which he and others were engaged. In the pursuit of that policy, the Legislature had justly extended to navigation certain protections. The coasting and colonial trade was confined entirely to British ships. That protection had been continued for the most part up to the present hour, though some relaxations had been permitted, which had done considerable injury to British navigation. The Navigation Act declared, that no goods or commodities whatever of the growth, production, or manufacture of Asia, Africa, or America should be imported into England, except in ships belonging to English subjects, and of which the master and the greater number of the crew were also English. It also declared further, that no goods of the growth, production, or manufacture of any country in Europe should be imported into Great. Britain, except in British ships, or in such ships as were the real property of the people of the country or place in which 189 the goods were purchased, or from which they could only be or most usually were exported. By the Navigation-laws' Amendment Act, and by the Warehousing Act, these enactments were altered. The enumerated articles, as they are called, may now be imported either in British ships, in ships of the country of which the goods are the produce, or in ships of the country or place from which they are imported into England, and, by the Warehousing Acts, they may be imported in arty ships whatever. Another mode by which British navigation was protected was, by imposing upon foreign ships charges for lighting and port dues, beyond those imposed upon British ships. That regulation had been abrogated with those countries with which we had entered into treaties of reciprocity; and it was not unworthy of attention, that this had been a costly permission to foreign, as well as an injurious permission to British, navigation. The amount of duties thus remitted to the foreigner had been paid out of the Consolidated Fund; and since 1825, had reached the sum of 261,000l. The amount would have been still higher, had it not so happened, that some individuals had not claimed the dues to which they were entitled as the owners of lighthouses. In the last Session of Parliament, an Act had been passed for paying 160,000l. to the Corporation of London for the claim to charges upon foreign shipping, which they had remitted. He would not have blamed the Government for redeeming those dues, if the Corporation of London had been entitled to them in perpetuity; but the fact was, that they were contingent on the Reciprocity Act, which he now called upon the House to repeal. If the House should deem it expedient to repeal that Act, it would have purchased from the Corporation of London in fee, duties to which that Corporation had only a contingent title. Another mode in which protection was extended to navigation was, by the imposition of discriminating duties on commodities imported into this country in foreign ships, beyond those imposed on the same commodities imported into it in British ships. These discriminating duties had been abrogated, so far as regarded all countries with which we had entered into reciprocity treaties. And as they had constituted the most important protection which British navigation possessed; he would briefly explain 190 their nature and effect. It was obvious, that there could not be two prices for the same article in the same market. Now, if that were the case, and the same species of article were imported in a foreign and in a British ship, as the foreign ship was liable to heavier charges than the British ship, the British shipowner obtained in freight the difference between what he and the foreigner had to pay in charges. Discriminating duties, prudently imposed, contained nothing unfriendly or unjust to foreigners; and those which our Legislature formerly imposed had not, operated unjustly either on foreign or on British interests. At the instigation of Prussia, as Mr. Huskisson had candidly admitted at the time, our discriminating ditties, so far as Prussia was concerned, had been done away with; and the British shipowner, burthened as he was already, had been told, "You, the heaviest taxed of all nations, must carry on trade in free competition with a nation the least taxed in the world, and in which all the commodities for provisioning ships, and materials for building them, were very cheap, or you must give up navigation altogether." That the expenses of navigation had been increased by the disqualifications to which he had just alluded, no man could doubt; never was testimony more concurrent than the testimony which had been given on this point last Session, before the Committee on Trade and Navigation. It appeared, that upon the cheapest calculation, the expense of building a ship in this country was not less than 12l. a-ton; while upon the highest calculation the expense of building a ship in Prussia did not exceed 8l. a-ton. Thus in the production of our ships the cost was fifty per cent more than that which fell upon the foreigner. In the cost of navigating the ship the disparity of expense was still more visible. Our wages for seamen varied from 40s. to 60s. a-month, the average being 50s. a month. In Prussia the average was 25s. a-month. In point of wages, then, Prussia had an advantage equivalent to 100 per cent over the British shipowner. In the cost of provisions the disparity was even still more striking. Not only was the cost of victualling a ship dearer in England, but from the habits of our people they required a more plentiful supply of better and costlier diet. The laws of Great Britain prevented the shipowner from provisioning his vessel with 191 foreign grain. Such grain was stored in British warehouses, but the shipowner was prevented from taking it out by the protection which the Legislature thought fit to give to the agricultural interest. He did not blame the Legislature for giving to the agricultural interest that protection. It was, in his opinion, wise to do so, for when he claimed protection for the interest with which he was himself personally connected, he could not be so absurd as to deny it to others. If he was right as to the causes of the disparity of expense incurred by the British and foreign shipowner, it was unjust in Parliament to expose the British shipowner unprotected to such a competition as he had just described. That injustice was of a double character. As subjects of the same Government, governed by the same laws, and exposed to the same burthens with the rest of their fellow-subjects, the shipowners were entitled to the same protection as was afforded to the other interests of the community. In every species of article which was requisite for the production of ships they were peculiarly taxed. Let any man turn to the consolidated duties of the customs, and he would there find, that the duties upon the importation of all foreign articles intended for domestic consumption were heavy. Affording a protection to tie home manufacturer greater even than was afforded to the agriculturist. The duty on wax candles, for example, was 120 per cent, on tallow candles 100 per cent; on tin ware the duty was 100 per cent; on manufactured steel the duty was twenty per cent. In the more important articles of our production, the duty on cotton goods was ten, on woollen fifteen, on silk thirty per cent, and on linen forty per cent. Among the many productions of British manufacture he had been unable to find one which was not protected against foreign competition. In the 6th of George 4th, which contained various prohibitions on importation, there was an express recital, that those restrictions were not for the benefit of the revenue, but for the better encouragement of trade and manufactures. It was said when the consolidating act of last Session was introduced, that it was only intended for purposes of revenue, and not for purposes of restriction. He did not know how it happened—he did not suppose, that it was intentionally, but it was an ominous circumstance, that this 192 recital was omitted in the new consolidating act. If he looked at the most expensive or at the most trifling articles, even toys, he found that there was no article produced by the skill or industry of British artisans which did not meet with legislative protection, save British shipping only. This was a gross act of injustice to the British shipowner; for the Legislature not only took away from him the protection which it granted to every other class of the community, but inflicted upon him an exclusive burthen. For the protection of the British landowner, the shipowner must build ships of wood the growth of this country, and a heavy duty was accordingly imposed on foreign timber;—for the benefit of the British artisan, the shipowner's property was liable to forfeiture if he expended more than 40s. a-ton, in repairs in a foreign country;—for the benefit of Ireland, and he by no means objected to this enactment of the Legislature, the shipowner was prevented from importing grain and provisions from the north of Europe;—for the benefit of the British navy he was compelled to navigate his ships by British sailors, to whom he must pay 50s. a-month, when he could get foreign sailors at 25s. a-month, and then he was calmly told to go and compete with the foreign shipowner. "Sir, we cannot." Sooner or later, the conviction which he had just stated in the briefest terms which he could use, would force itself on the attention of Parliament, or, if not, that British navigation would sink into utter ruin. If it was no longer necessary for the purposes of defence to encourage our commercial navy, he hoped that with such a conviction, would come a conviction of the necessity of releasing the shipowners from their present disqualifications. Let the House be consistent and be just. Either repeal the Navigation Acts and the Registry Acts—either leave them to build and navigate their ships as cheaply as they could—or give them a protection equal to the disqualification imposed upon them. Whilst protection was given to every other interest, no protection was given to the shipowners. It had been admitted by Mr. Huskisson,—and the position had been affirmed by every minister who had succeeded him,—that, in all cases where the interests of commerce and navigation came into collision, the interests of commerce must give way, and those of navigation must be protected. He recollected 193 well, that when this doctrine was first advanced, the House was indulged with flourishing anticipations of the advantages which the general interests of the country would derive from this new system. But he should be able to show, that the concessions made by our Government had failed in producing the consequences which had been promised. Not only had injustice been done to the British shipowners, but also injury to the interests of British navigation. He thought that he should be able to prove, that none of the benefits anticipated had been realized—that foreign nations had not been incited by our example to relax the severity of their restrictions against us, but, on the contrary, they had increased them. In corroboration of this statement, he would beg leave to draw the attention of the House to a few lines from the speech which Mr. Huskisson had made in introducing his measure for giving the authority of the Legislature to this reciprocity system. 'In July, 1821, the United Netherlands, said Mr. Huskisson, passed a law allowing a premium of ten per cent upon all articles imported in Dutch vessels. Prussia had also raised the dues on our vessels, and had intimated, in a manner not to be mis- taken, that she would more fully adopt the retaliatory system if we continued our present policy. We must, therefore, adopt a perfect equality and reciprocity of shipping duties. Its effect, he was persuaded, would lead to an increase of the commercial advantages of the country. He had no doubt that when England abandoned her old principle, the United Netherlands and the other powers who were prepared to retaliate, would mutually concur in the new arrangement.' * Now, had the United Netherlands given up that premium of ten per cent? No such thing. Far from those expectations having been realized, we were now proceeding to retaliate upon the Dutch the discriminating duties they yet kept up, and there were yet other countries equally hostile to our commercial policy, on whom we were not prepared to retaliate. This was the first falsification of the prediction of Mr. Huskisson. The Spanish trade proved the same thing, for the enormous discriminating duties which the Spanish Government had imposed on allHansard (new series),vol. ix. p. 796194 productions imported in British ships into Spain had nearly driven British shipping out of the trade with Spain. In the three years between 1823 and 1826, one house, which he knew, loaded sixty-four sail of British ships for ports in Spain, but did not load a single Spanish ship. But, from 1826, when the discriminating duties of Spain came into operation, they had loaded thirty-eight Spanish ships, which had procured freights averaging 2l. 12s. 10d. per ton, whilst the British ships which continued to sail had been reduced to fifty-one in six years, obtaining only an average freight of 13s. 6d. per ton. He knew a recent instance of a Spanish and English ship taking in their cargoes alongside of each other, in the river Thames, and although the English ship was, through the preponderating influence of the merchant concerned, loaded, it was at less than one-third of the freight obtained by the Spanish ship, and for this reason, that the goods landed in Spain from the British ship would be subject to a duty so much greater than those landed from the Spanish ship, as to render a shipment in a British bottom almost impossible. This had been repeatedly urged upon the Board of Trade, but the right hon. Gentleman answered, that it was not worth attention, as it only affected some half-dozen ships; but, on referring to the documents in the Library, he found, that no less than 14,000 tons of Spanish shipping had cleared outwards in the preceding year. The same was the case with regard to France, and on that subject he would quote the very edifying report on the commercial intercourse between England and France, which had been recently presented to the House by Dr. Bowring. The hon. Member read various passages of this Report to show, that British commodities were yet subjected to very heavy discriminating duties in France. This, then, was the return which England was to receive for tendering the right hand of fellowship to every country in the world! The hon. Member continued to read further extracts from the Report, for the purpose of showing the determination of the French Government to give every encouragement to home production. Here, then, was an exposition of the commercial policy of France, supplying an irrefragable proof of the error of those parties who declared with so much confidence that, if we once 195 passed the Reciprocity Bill, France would immediately be found competing with us in the race of liberality. Had Prussia treated us with greater liberality than France? He was unwilling to trouble the House with details, and would, therefore, only allude to the efforts which it was well known that country was making to establish a cordon not only round her own territories, but round all the states of Germany, for the express purpose of excluding British productions. He could not avoid mentioning another fact connected with navigation, as affording an instructive elucidation of the liberal disposition of Prussia towards this country. The principal article of export from this country to Prussia was salt; and yet it was a fact, he believed, that not a single cargo of salt was carried there in English ships, though, in conformity with the stipulations of the Treaty, English ships were only to be subjected in the Prussian ports to the same charges as Prussian ships. Such being the fact, how was it to be accounted for? By the circumstance of salt being a royal monopoly, and consequently being permitted to be imported by none but native ships. Thus the only article which it was worth our while to send to Prussia, the Government of that country, notwithstanding the treaty of reciprocity, would not allow to be carried there in English vessels. What, too, had been the conduct of America with respect to reciprocity? It had been, indeed, found impossible to carry the tariff fully into effect, and it consequently received certain modifications; but Were they favourable to British commerce? Were they framed in the spirit of liberality, and did they exhibit a disposition to extend the commercial intercourse between the two countries? On the contrary, those modifications were calculated to exclude from America, as far as it was possible, considering the situation of that country, arising out of the conflicting interests of the southern and northern provinces, British productions and manufactures, for the purpose of giving encouragement to the productions and manufactures of America. He would only mention another instance of a similar kind, having reference to the town of Stade, situate on the river Elbe, in the Hanoverian dominions, on the opposite side of the river to Hamburgh. All ships going to Hamburgh must pass that town, and though the King of England was 196 King of Hanover, yet it was a fact that a duty was there exacted on British ships which was equal to the whole amount of the freight received by them for sailing from this country to Hamburgh, from which duties Hamburgh ships were wholly exempted. It would be necessary for him to go into some statistical details; but his apology was, that this case was founded upon statistics, which he averred to be mistaken, and, therefore, he asserted that the Parliament and the country had been misled in the regulations which had been adopted. He averred, that the shipping interest, contrary to the statements which had been so confidently set forth as to its prosperity, was in a very depressed and declining state, partly owing to the effects of the reciprocity system, and partly, as he acknowledged, owing to other circumstances, by which our navigation must have suffered to a certain extent, but which in themselves rendered it the more important that the hand of encouragement and protection should be held out instead of being withdrawn at the very crisis when it was most needed. He averred, that the total of British tonnage had not increased since the passing of the Reciprocity Acts. The shipowners felt, that they were ruined, although from the circumstance of a few ships being yet built, some persons argued that the trade must be prosperous. He said, that our shipping engaged in foreign trade had not increased in proportion with that of other countries; on the contrary, that in the countries with which we had reciprocity treaties it had diminished, while the foreign tonnage was augmented. He also asserted, that British shipping was deteriorating in quality, and was losing the estimation in which it had been held in the various quarters of the world. He first said, that British navigation was in a depressed and declining state. To prove this proposition, he should quote a few of the answers given to questions put to Gentlemen examined before the Committee which sat to inquire into trade and navigation last Session, and he would assure the House that he had selected these opinions rather from the testimony of individuals whose opinions were opposed to his views than leant towards those who concurred in his notions on the subject. The hon. Gentleman read extracts from the evidence of Joshua Bates, Esq., James Cook, Esq., Mr. John Astle, of Dublin, Mr. John Spence; of Sunder- 197 land, Mr. W. Richmond, of North Shields, Robert Anderson, Esq. of South Shields, Mr. Samuel Cooper, of Hull, Mr. Robert Benton Roxby, Mr. Allen Gilmour, of Glasgow, Mr. Henry Turner, of Sunderland, and Robert Abraham Gray, Esq. all representing the shipping interests to be in a declining state. He had next to show, that freights had declined in a far greater degree than the expenses of navigation, which was an evidence of depression. For this purpose he read the evidence of Robert Carter, Esq., John Diston Fowles, Esq., Robert Anderson, Esq., John Nicolls, Esq., R. A. Gray, Esq., Kirkman Finley, Esq., G. Larpent, Esq., John Innes, Esq., and James Aiken, Esq. He had also stated, that a great loss of capital had been incurred. In support of this assertion, he referred to the testimony of Mr. Nicholls who stated, that three or four ships, of which he had the accounts since 1825, exhibited a total loss. The balance was nil—there was nothing to divide after the vessels were sold. Mr. Barry stated, that a ship of the value of 7,000l. built in 1825, and one of 8,000l., built in 1826, exhibited each a loss of forty-eight per cent. Mr. Nelson stated, that eight ships which cost 37,500l. paid dividends averaging two and one-eighth per cent, per annum, for six years. The ships were not fully insured, and the freight not at all. If the freight had been insured, there would have been nothing to divide. And at the time when he gave his evidence there bad been 10,000l. sunk upon them. The amount of tonnage mortgaged would also lead to important conclusions. In the four years from 1825 to 1828, there had been 248,566 tons wholly or partially mortgaged. In the four last years, the amount was 306,971 tons, being an increase of 69,442 tons beyond the preceding four years. This Return showed, that a fourth part of the entire tonnage of the empire had been wholly or partially mortgaged within the last eight years, and that the annual average generally mortgaged in the latter half of that period exceeded that of the former half by nearly twenty-five per cent. It appeared, also, that formerly mortgages were taken upon ships as an investment for money, but that practice had now almost, entirely ceased, and ships were now mortgaged to tradesmen for the payment of debts. An individual, through whose hands a vast number of such mort- 198 gages passed, said, that he never knew a single instance of a mortgage upon a ship being redeemed. The next statement which he had to make possessed a good deal of importance, and in impugning public documents and statements which had been very confidently made in that House and elsewhere, be knew that he was taking upon himself a responsibility which, he trusted, he should be able to justify. The hon. Member then read the following statements.
were both erroneous, to the extent of 90,394 tons of colonial shipping, extinct in 1827, but not struck off the registry until 1828 and 1829. Thus we had upwards of 40,000 tons less than in 1827, and considerably less than at the conclusion of the war, when those statements demonstrating the flourishing state of the British tonnage were made by Mr. Huskisson. He had before stated, that our foreign carrying trade had not increased since the passing of the Reciprocity of 199 Duties Bill, and he was borne out in this statement by an official paper which he held in his hand, showing the number of British and foreign ships, entered inwards, in 1817, 1824, and 1831. From this paper it appeared, that during the seven years previous to the commencement of the reciprocity system, the increase of British tonnage entered inwards, as compared with the foreign, was 22 per cent greater, but that for the seven years succeeding the establishment of reciprocity, the increase of foreign tonnage entered inwards, exceeded that of the British by 183 per cent. This difference in favour of foreign nations had progressed in an accelerated proportion, for in 1831 and 1832, the increase of the foreign tonnage exceeded that of the British 213 per cent. Within the same period of time the amount of Prussian shipping increased twenty-six per cent; the shipping of other foreign countries twenty-three per cent, while British shipping increased in amount only sixteen per cent. He had felt it his duty thus to make special reference to Prussia, because that country had taken the most prominent part in effecting that course of policy which Mr. Huskisson declared had compelled him to adopt the reciprocity resolutions. How the anticipations as to the results of the reciprocity system were borne out, would be ascertained by a reference to the returns of the official value of imports and exports, and the amount of tonnage entered inwards during periods antecedent as well as subsequent to the adoption of the Reciprocity system of policy. These returns exhibited a complete falsification of the statements which were made, that from the concessions, British tonnage would have nothing to fear in point of competition, and that if even British navigation suffered, British commerce would be benefited in an immensely greater degree. The returns to which he alluded, extended from the year 1820 to 1831, and showed, that in 1820 the total exports to Prussia amounted to 1,317,181l., while in 1831 the amount of exports was only 829,303l. On the other hand, the total official value of imports in 1820 was 729,683l., and in 1831, 1,200,150l. During the four years which preceded the passing of the reciprocity Acts, the excess of the official value of the exports to Prussia beyond the imports was, in 1820, 587,498l. That excess, he admitted, diminished from that period, 200 but still in the year 1823 amounted to 129,934l. [From the hurried manner in which the hon. Member read his statements, the accuracy of the figures is not guaranteed.] The hon. Gentleman proceeded to state, that up to 1823 this country continued to export to Prussia a greater amount in official value, not only of British and Irish manufactures, but also of foreign and colonial produce, than was imported from Prussia, but that the moment the reciprocity treaties were completed, the tables were turned, and in 1824, the very first year the new system came into operation, this country imported of the cheap and almost worthless productions of Prussia, to the amount in official value of 151,824l. more than was exported to her from this country. The excess of imports over exports continued increasing till in the year 1831 it amounted to upwards of 370,800l. He had shown, then, that the exports to Prussia had diminished, while the imports had increased, and that the period at which the change took place, was that very period when the Reciprocity Acts came into effect. He had also shown from these returns, that the results which had been anticipated had not followed. It had, however, been said—nay, it had been promised, that the mercantile navigation of this country, would not be injured by these concessions which were made by the Reciprocity Duties Act. But what, however, was the fact? The returns to which he had already referred, stated, that the amount of British ships entered inwards, was 87,451 tons, and of foreign ships 60,450; while in 1831, the entry inwards of British ships was 84,921, and of foreign 141,532 tons. The simple statement, then, stood thus—that from the year 1820 to 1823, there was an excess of exports to Prussia over imports, amounting in official value to 376,913l., while the excess of imports over exports from 1824 to 1827, amounted in official value to 384,765l. The next document to which he should call the attention of the House, was curious and novel in its kind, but was one which he thought would not be entirely deficient in answering the purpose for which he quoted it. It was a statement of the population returns according to the census taken in 1821, and also in 1831, of the official value of imports and exports, and of the amount of tonnage entered inwards, British as well as foreign, distinguishing, under the latter head, the ton- 201 nage of the northern reciprocity countries. In the year 1821, then, the number of the population of the United Kingdom was 21,193,000; and in 1831, it was 24,271,000, thus showing an increase of 3,078,000, or fourteen and a-half per cent. The state of the importations of the United Kingdom at present was very remarkable, and showed, that the change of system that had been adopted had led to a great increase in the importation of foreign produce. In 1821, the official value of our imports was 30,792,000l.; in 1831, it was 49,713,000;l.; being, in point of fact, speaking in round numbers, an increase to the amount of 18,900,000l. in the imports of the United Kingdom in the course of ten years. Thus it appeared, that there was an increase to the amount of sixty-one and a-half per cent. In order to comprehend the assertion, that there had been an increase in the tonnage of the ships engaged in the trade, and the Baltic trade in particular, it was necessary to recollect, that the commerce generally speaking, was carried on with very bulky articles; and, therefore, a larger number of ships than would otherwise be the case was employed, and there was an apparent increase of tonnage. It was by merely listening to the assertion with respect to the increase of the tonnage of our shipping, without taking into calculation the circumstance he had mentioned, that the nation had been cajolled into the belief; that the shipping interest was in a most prosperous state. The advocates of the new system had lumped together the Returns respecting the imports, exports, and the navigation; and thus the country had been lulled into a false belief on these matters; and he feared, that as far as regarded the navigation of the country, the result might be fatal. In 1820, the whole amount of the tonnage that entered British ports was 1,995,530; and, in 1831, the amount was 3,241,927; showing an increase of sixty-two and a-half per cent, which certainly would make it appear that navigation had increased in a very remarkable degree. But, if it was an increase of navigation, was it an increase of British navigation? What had fallen into the hands of the subjects of Great Britain, and what into the hands of their rivals? In 1821, the amount of tonnage of British vessels entered inwards was 1,599,274 tons, and the tonnage of foreign ships was 396,256. In 1831, the amount of 202 British tonnage entered inwards was 2,367,322; thus showing an increase of British tonnage to the amount of 76,000 tons, or an increase of forty-eight per cent. Between 1821 and 1831, however, the foreign tonnage had increased from 396,256, to 874,605 tons; being an increase of 478,000, or 120 per cent, which was a result not to be regarded without alarm. The aggregate increase in the amount of the tonnage in the Baltic trade was ninety-eight per cent. The tonnage of British shipping engaged in that trade, however, had decreased to the amount of twelve and a-half per cent, while the increase of foreign shipping engaged in the same trade amounted to not less than 210 per cent. Did not this show, that there was great reason for alarm at the competition to which this country was exposed with the chief nations of the North of Europe? After what he had said, he trusted that the House would no longer be led away with the belief that British tonnage had increased. He had shown, beyond any doubt, that the greater part of the increased commerce of the world had fallen into the hands of those whom we so justly feared as rivals. If reference were made to the whole of the reciprocity countries, it would appear that there was a great falling-off in the amount of British tonnage engaged in trade with them. He would take the tonnage of the vessels trading to the four Northern countries in 1817, and in 1831. He found, that in the former year the amount of tonnage of British vessels entered inwards from those countries was 428,000 tons, and, in 1831, 404,923 tons; thus showing a diminution in the tonnage of British shipping from the reciprocity countries to the amount of 24,000 tons. The tonnage of foreign shipping entered from those countries in 1817 was 372,293 tons; and in 1831, 717,710 tons; thus showing an increase in foreign shipping to the amount of 345,422 tons. The document which he held in his hand also showed, that, in the trade to Prussia during the years intervening between 1826 and 1831, there had been an average increase of the tonnage of British ships equivalent to six and three quarters per cent on those five years; it also showed, that during the same period the increase of the tonnage of foreign ships was equal to 105 per cent, and there had also been a diminution of our exports to that country to the amount of thirty- 203 seven per cent. In the trade to Denmark the increase of the tonnage of British ships was sixty-nine per cent, and of foreign ships 703 per cent, and a diminution of exports to that country to the amount of twenty-seven per cent. It also showed, that in the trade to Sweden the diminution in the amount of the tonnage of British ships, was equal to forty-one per cent, while there had been an increase in the tonnage of foreign ships engaged in that trade of not less than eighty per cent, and an increase of the exports to the amount of thirty-two per cent. In the Norway trade the diminution of the tonnage of British shipping was fifty-five per cent, and the increase of the foreign shipping in the same trade was fifteen per cent; there had also been an increase of the exports to three and a-half per cent. The trade of Germany be had also taken, because it had often been said, that it was mixed up with the trade to Prussia, and that a large portion of the exports to that country were sent through Germany. It appeared that, in the trade to Germany, there had been an increase in the tonnage of British vessels to the amount of thirty-seven per cent, while the increase of the tonnage of foreign ships in the same trade was 307 per cent. At the same time, there had been a diminution of the exports to that country to the amount of twenty per cent. Thus, he bad shown, that, upon the whole, in the trade with the five Northern countries, namely, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, with which we traded in conformity with the principles of the Reciprocity Act, there had been on the average an increase in the tonnage of British shipping to the amount of thirteen per cent; on foreign ships to the amount of ninety-seven per cent, and there had also been a diminution in our exports to those countries to the amount of twenty-one cent. He recommended those who supposed that British commerce had greatly increased to take these matters into serious consideration, and see whether the time had not arrived when, even for their own interest, it was necessary to reverse the policy which had been pursued of late years. He had no doubt that those who induced the Legislature to adopt this system of commercial policy, at the time believed, that they were acting in a manner to promote the best interests of the country; but he had shown from the documents he had referred to that the result 204 had been very different from what they had anticipated. The next document to which he was anxious to call the attention of the House was one of very considerable importance as regarded the shipping interests. He could not help drawing very painful prognostics from the deterioration in the quality of British ships, arising from the privations to which the shipowners had been subjected, and which prevented them constructing ships in the manner on which they should be built, or keeping them up in that manner in which they formerly were kept up, and which gave them advantages and a preponderance over the ships of all other nations in the world. Since, however, the change in the law as regarded our system of navigation, foreign competition had deeply affected our shipping interest, and from admitting foreign vessels to so large a share in our trade they now succeeded in obtaining freights in the various markets of the world, in preference to our own vessels. The document to which he was about to refer, was one of great importance, and to which he was most anxious to obtain the attention of the House. In 1819 there were 14,034 ships registered in Lloyd's books; 6,216 were of the first or superior class. They were called A 1 class, which was the mode in which the best class of ships were described in Lloyd's books. The number he had just given made it apparent that the proportion of ships of the best class was forty-four per cent of the whole. In 1832 there were 15,607 ships in Lloyd's books, of which only 5,000 were marked as belonging to A 1 class; that was thirty-three per cent. It appeared therefore, that there had been a falling-off in the best class of ships in the proportion of thirty-three per cent to forty-four per cent. The next class of ships were marked A 2; that was, that they were good ships, but not well supplied with stores. This circumstance was another proof of the distresss amongst the shipowners, and showed that, from the competition of foreigners, they obtained so low a rate for freight that they were unable properly to provision their vessels. In the class A 2, there were 163 in 1819, and there were 635 ships in 1832, insufficiently supplied with stores. In the class E, or the ships very indifferently supplied, there were in 1819, only 309, and in 1832, there were 800. In the class 1, or those ships out of repair, that was not seaworthy, there were 205 in 1819, 91; but, in 1832 there were 246. The inferior class of ships were insufficiently supplied with stores and provisions, and the great increase of those classes in the books at Lloyd's showed the distress that existed amongst the shipowners. Feelings of alarm must be excited at the decay that was taking place in the character of British ships, and which had been gradually going on since the passing of the Reciprocity Act. But the deterioration of British shipping was unfortunately corroborated by other evidence. It was distinctly proved by the testimony of several gentlemen who were examined last year by the Committee to which he had already referred—[The hon. Member quoted at some length the evidence of Mr. Gray, Mr. Gibson, Mr. Richmond and M r. Kelly to show the comparative deterioration of the character of British and improvement of that of foreign shipping.] The hon. Member again apologized for occupying for so long a time the attention of the House, and said, that nothing bid his conviction of the immense importance of the subject, and a consequent feeling of duty, compelled him to trouble the House. He had endeavoured to draw up and make his statements as fairly as he possibly could, and he trusted, that hon. Members would examine them, and he was satisfied that they would be convinced of their accuracy and they would be convinced, that he had not exerted himself to give an exaggerated force or weight to the opinions he had uttered. He hoped he should not be considered as going too far in saying, that he had demonstrated that British commerce had not increased since the adoption of the principle of reciprocity in 1824. He thought that he had also demonstrated the depreciated state of the shipping interest since that period, and had traced such depreciation to that measure. He thought that he might appeal to the sympathy of hon. Members on that subject, as the House had always expressed a strong feeling of the importance of upholding the shipping interest. He would not, however, appeal to the sympathy of the Legislature, but would take a higher ground, and merely demand, that justice should be done. He did not ask favour for the interest which he represented, but merely required that it should receive impartial justice. He only asked what he considered every interest in the country was entitled to; he challenged 206 any one to show him any powerful interest in the country to winch the Legislature had not given some protection of one kind or another; and surely he was entitled to demand an equal protection for the shipping interest at the hands of the House. He protested against the gross injustice inflicted on the shipowners, who had been harshly treated because they had not the same influence and power as other bodies. He demanded, that the Government and the legislature should take one of these two alternatives, either protection to the shipowners against foreign competition, equivalent to the extent they at present had burthens imposed on them, or that they should at once take off from them those restrictions and burthens to which they were at present liable. They were come before the House to demand that protection to which every interest in the country was entitled, and every hour's delay in withholding that protection increased the evils under which the shipping interest laboured; and he feared, if relief were not speedily afforded, the utter ruin of that interest would soon come to pass. He would propose, if protection were not afforded, that the House should repeal the Register Act. He did not call for the removal of trifling imposts affecting that interest. He did not demand, as it were, farthing reductions. He would not be satisfied with the reduction of the duty on timber. He went much further, and called upon the House to let the shipowners import, their own ships, why should they not. If the House consented to that—and it was but justice—the shipping interest of this country might maintain its ground. In addition, he demanded that the shipowners should be at liberty to man their ships in the cheapest way they possibly could. To grant this would only be acting in conformity with the principles which Parliament professed. In common justice the shipowners were entitled to the same extent of protection, and to the same rights, as the manufacturer. The manufacturer was at liberty to import his machine. The ship was the shipowner's machine, with which he worked, and why was he not allowed to obtain it where he could purchase it at the cheapest rate? The truth was, however, that the Government and the Legislature dared not consent to such a proposition. He would caution the Gentlemen of England to be politic in time, and not to act upon principles 207 which might so deeply affect them. It had long been the policy of this country to attack the weakest interest, and to sacrifice that to the clamour and selfishness of more powerful interests. The shipping interest had been so treated; and there was little doubt, if the same policy was pursued, that other interests would be sacrificed in a similar manner. He would ask the country gentlemen whether they were prepared to agree to the demands of the manufacturers? Were they prepared to sacrifice the protection they at present had, and to give up the Cornlaws? He must, however, assert, that the existence of the Corn-laws depended on upholding the principle he advocated. He contended, if the principle acted upon towards the shipowners were generally acted upon, that it would lead to the repeal of the Corn-laws; and he was satisfied, that neither the landed interest nor any other powerful interest in the country was prepared to be stripped of the protection it at present enjoyed. He asked, then, for the votes of country gentlemen that night, on the ground, that he was not advocating the claims of an interest or body of men who were prepared to obtain what they demanded by pulling down the country gentlemen, or to sacrifice the agriculturists, for the purpose of relieving themselves. On this part of the subject he was anxious to call the attention of the House to a circumstance that occurred some time since. The right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, desirous of enabling the British shipowners to maintain that strong competition which at present existed with foreigners, was anxious to afford all the relief in his power, as far as he could do without contravening those principles of commercial policy upon which he professed to act, and, therefore, brought forward a proposition for that purpose. The right hon. Gentleman introduced a Bill two years ago, which received the sanction of the Legislature, by which shipowners were allowed to obtain provisions from foreign ports for the purpose of victualling their ships. He believed, that the circumstance he was about to relate was founded in fact, at any rate, he knew that the Act he had just alluded to had not been brought into operation. It was well known, that beef and pork were, together with flour and biscuit, the most important articles in victualling a ship. Had the shipowners 208 been allowed to procure those articles from foreign markets, it would have operated as a most sensible relief to them, without contravening any of those principles to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Poulett Thomson) felt himself bound so pertinaciously to adhere. To the point he was about to mention he particularly begged the attention of hon. Gentlemen from the sister kingdom, as it, in some degree, affected them. An intimation was given to his Majesty's Government, that, if they allowed British ships to victual from foreign markets, and if this led to the diminution in the consumption of beef and pork from Limerick, they would have an opposition of such a nature to contend with, that it would not be very agreeable to them. The result was, the issuing a Treasury order, directing, that the operation of the Act should be suspended for a time. He was no lawyer; but he believed, on the authority of those much better versed in the law than himself, that the proceeding was altogether illegal. It was his firm belief, that his Majesty's Ministers, at the present moment, required an Act of Indemnity for the extraordinary course they had adopted. They had suspended the operation of an Act of Parliament by which a very great boon would have been extended to the shipping interest. By the course they had pursued, the whole kernel had been extracted, and the husk was left as the extent of what they would grant. He (Mr. Young) did not thank them for what they allowed under the Act of Parliament—namely, that salt, pepper, and mustard might be obtained. He would ask hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, whether they thought that they could hope to continue to supply ships with provisions if this Act came into operation, when owners at present had to pay fifty per cent more than they would have to pay in the foreign markets. The shipowners were fully alive to the boon held out by this Bill, but it was snatched from them by the intervention of a more powerful interest. For years past, notwithstanding their repeated representations, the House had turned a deaf ear to their complaints; they had been decrying for years the policy which had injured them, and they would not purchase indemnity for themselves by consenting to have wrongs inflicted on others. They deprecated the line of policy which had been acted upon with regard to themselves, and would not consent, that similar 209 injuries should be inflicted on any other class. He trusted, that he had made out such a case as to justify his demanding the support of the House. He felt, that he had trespassed at very great length on their attention, and regretted, that the subject had not been taken up by one who would have argued its merits more fully than he had done. He was rejoiced, however, that he should be followed by Gentlemen who took the same view of the question as himself, who would be able to supply his deficiencies. There was another point to which he wished shortly to refer. Mr. Huskisson, in the celebrated speech which he (Mr. Young) had already quoted, in allusion to the effect of the system that had been adopted in America, said, that perfect reciprocity was necessary to the arrangement which he desired. He recommended a course which a wise man as well as a wise nation would always take, namely, the abrogating those restrictions which were useless. This was the foundation of the system of reciprocity with America. Mr. Huskisson, after pointing out the importance to the commercial countries that their respective ships should, instead of returning in ballast, be at liberty to take freights, observed such was the arrangement with America; and then, singularly enough, he went on to say, that Prussia acted on the same principle as America had formerly done, namely, by imposing a duty on tonnage. This was a complete non sequitur, for America had never imposed any duty on British shipping. The only restriction was, that the return voyage must always be in ballast, and that principle was acted upon in this country. Prussia, however, had nothing to export to this country, and therefore to have insisted on all British vessels returning in ballast would not have countervailed as it did in America. Retaliation on the part of Prussia could in no wise injure the navigation of this country, nor could retaliation on the part of this country affect the interests of Prussia. The whole advantage went to the carrying trade, and that trade was now almost entirely monopolized by foreign nations owing to the restrictions which had been placed upon the shipping of this country. This he asserted was neither reciprocity nor justice. That the Government of this country had a right to make Reciprocity Treaties with other nations, Mr. Huskisson had distinctly proved, and 210 Treaties of the kind had been entered into with both Portugal and America. In the Reciprocity Treaty with Portugal—that of 1810—as Mr. Hyde Villiers observed, it was stipulated that the monopoly of the Oporto Wine Company should be abolished, and that as an equivalent for this advantage, the English Navigation-laws were to be repealed, so far as Portugal was concerned. A Treaty like this, undoubtedly carried the principles of reciprocity into full effect, for here was the quid pro quo. Portugal gave up certain domestic advantages, and England reciprocated by relaxing her Navigation-laws. Here, then, were Treaties of Reciprocity with two nations; and if they had treated with America and Portugal, why might they not be able to treat with every other country in the world in the same way? He should be asked, no doubt, where was the necessity for repealing this Act; but before he answered such a question, he should like to know what the benefits were that had accrued from it? He knew of none; and, believing that it had been productive of injury rather than advantage to the shipping interests of this country, he desired its repeal. According to the principles of the Constitution, the Crown had not the power of levying taxes; but this Act, in effect, conferred upon it such a power. The sum of 268,000l. had been levied under it since 1825; and he therefore asked, whether it would not be better to repeal the Act, and leave such matters under the control of the Government, than to continue it, as in that case the Government could enter into Treaties when and with whom it pleased? This was the only proper way of regulating matters of commerce; and it was his opinion that, so long as they did not infringe upon the obligations of religion, morality, and social order, they were bound to protect their own interests in preference to all others. The result of such a system, he was persuaded, would be not only for the advantage of all, but best for individual States. He denied that this Act had in any way answered the intentions of the framers of it; and although it was his desire to do everything that was likely to conduce to a proper system of reciprocity, to freedom of intercourse among nations, he still must insist, that an end should be put to the present system. He, therefore, called upon the House to pass sentence upon this absurd, 211 this foolish, and, he might add, this iniquitous Act, by agreeing to the Motion with which he should conclude, and which was, for leave to bring in a Bill to Repeal the Act of the 44th George 4th, c. 77, commonly called the Reciprocity of Duties Act.
Tons. In 1817, the tonnage belonging to the British empire was, per returns 2,664,986 Ships built up to 1826 1,189,322 If, therefore, no losses had occurred, the tonnage at the end of 1826 would have been 3,854,308 But, according to the returns, it was 2,635,644 Thus remained the aggregate loss written off during these ten years 1,218,664 Forming an average of 121,866 On registering ships do novo there appeared to have accumulated no less than 346,966 tons, which were really extinct, and as this had arisen forty-one years, one year's proportion was 8,463 Making the real annual losses to be, tons 130,329 In 1827 it appeared the returns made the tonnage of the British Empire to be 2,460,500 Since then there had been built 624,226 Then in 1832, if no losses had occurred, the tonnage would have been 3,084,726 Average losses for five years, at 130,329 tons annually 655,645 Showing the real tonnage in 1832 to be 2,433,081 Instead of 2,618,068 Leaving a fresh accumulation on the registry of tonnage actually extinct of 184,987 Mem.—The tonnage in 1227 of 2,460,500 And that for 1832, corrected as above of 2,433,081
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, he was sure, that neither the hon. Mover, nor any other hon. Gentleman who had witnessed the attention with which the hon. Member was heard throughout his speech, would be disposed to say, that the important subject on which he spoke at such length had been treated with disrespect by that House. However much the hon. Gentleman might differ from him, and from those who sat on his side of the House with respect to this Act—the hon. Gentleman must admit, that the claims of the great and important interest of which he had spoken—an interest which was, at the same time, the foundation of our naval defence and the basis of the welfare and prosperity of our national commerce, had never been treated otherwise than with anxious and deep attention. He could assure the hon. Gentleman, that, however he, and those who viewed the subject as he did, might differ from him, both he and they took just as deep an interest, and were just as anxious, concerning the shipping interests of the country, and as desirous to benefit that interest in every possible way consistently with the national welfare, as either the hon. Gentleman or those who acted with him could be. The only complaint he had to make against the hon. Gentleman was, that, in giving notice of his Motion, he had so closely defined his object, that no one could suppose it would enable him to enter into the—certainly very able—but very general, statement which the hon. Member had laid before the House, involving numerous questions which had little or no relation to the actual subject under consideration. He could not say, indeed, that the hon. Gentleman, in taking so excursive a course, had proved that he was well acquainted with the operations of this Act, and the hon. Gentleman had probably wandered into extraneous matter to conceal his want of accurate knowledge. Not anticipating so extensive a line of argument, he was not prepared to follow the hon. Gentleman through all the various topics on which he had touched; but, although it was not in 212 his power on this occasion to compete with the hon. Gentleman in documentary evidence, he still hoped for the indulgence of the House, and to be able to point out the fallacy of his arguments. "Well," said the hon. Gentleman, "all I ask is, the Repeal of this Act." But if it were repealed to-morrow, what would be gained by it, except that the Crown would be deprived of the power it now possessed of imposing restrictions by means of Orders in Council? The Crown would not be deprived of the power of relieving foreign shipping from those imposts to which they were liable; for, whether this Act existed or not, treaties might be made by his Majesty without the Parliament being at all consulted respecting them, and any differential duties taken off by Order in Council, without any reference to the Legislature. Formerly the Customs' duties book had been loaded with distinctive and differential duties. Those duties were, of course, higher on articles imported in foreign bottoms than in British ships, and they continued so down to 1825, when Mr. Huskisson brought in his Bill to consolidate the Customs' duties, and swept away the whole of those differential duties, in order to place foreign and English ships, under given circumstances, on an equal footing. This Act had a double operation; on the one hand, it enabled the Crown, by means of Orders in Council, to remove the duties and dues payable by foreign ships on information being received, that British vessels were admitted into the ports of a foreign country on the same footing as ships bearing the national flag; while, on the other, it empowered the Crown to impose duties and dues in all cases in which that equality did not exist. Of this latter power, (the former having been rendered useless, by the subsequent removal of all distinctive duties,) the hon. Gentleman would fain deprive the Crown; but, while it was exercised in a salutary way, while it was used as a means of compelling foreign nations to act upon the principle of equality towards this country—and he was prepared to show, that it had been wisely exercised—it ought not to be taken out of the hands in which it had been placed. It was not under this, but under another Act, that power was given to the Crown to conclude treaties with other nations for the removal of any 213 high rate of charge that might exist upon foreign goods or foreign ships; and, therefore, as the Crown possessed such a power independently of this Act, and without the intervention of Parliament, he could not see the advantage of repealing it. It would not indeed be possible for the Crown to impose additional duties without this Act, and, therefore, the hon. Member would merely deprive the Crown of the power which it possessed, and had exercised, to protect British shipping against the competitions of those nations which would not admit us to a reciprocity of advantages. His noble friend might, to-morrow, though this Act was repealed, enter into a Treaty of Navigation or Commerce with a foreign country with which no Treaty had previously existed, for either the increase or diminution of duties and dues; and it was only in the event of no such treaty being made, that it could be of any use to enable the Crown to reduce differential duties—a circumstance of but rare occurrence; whilst, on the other hand, were the Act repealed, no other gave the Crown the power of imposing duties, and that privilege would be entirely lost. How stood the case with regard to present circumstances? Treaties of reciprocity now existed between this country and twelve other States, and the Repeal of the Act would make little or no difference in our relations with those States. There were only two of the smaller States with which there were no Reciprocity Treaties. These were Oldenburgh and Mecklenburgh; and our commercial intercourse with these States was, under the operation of Orders in Council, conformable to the provisions of this Act; so that, if this Motion were carried, its operation would only affect those two States. He had heard with astonishment the declaration of the hon. Gentleman, that this Act had never been acted upon with any advantage to this country. To disprove such an assertion, he would take the case of France. In 1823, this country had no Treaty of Navigation with. France, and the Government of this country proposed, with a view to such an arrangement, to reduce the duties payable by French ships in English ports. France, however, did not take advantage of this offer; but, on the contrary, imposed a higher rate of duty on British ships in French ports than French ships paid. Well, what did this Government do? Why, in 1824, making use of the powers given them by this Act, 214 they issued an Order in Council imposing a distinctive duty on French ships; and the result was, that, in three years afterwards, a Treaty of Convention was concluded with France, by which it was arranged that British ships should he placed on the same footing as the ships of France; and yet the hon. Member said, that this was not reciprocity, because dues were still levied by France. He knew that some tonnage dues were levied in French ports, but the principle on which they were levied should be taken into account, which was this:—In France our ships paid no local duties, which French ships paid in our ports; and our ships were subject, in French ports, to a small tonnage duty to balance our local dues. It had been proved, that the charge was too high, and he had remonstrated against it. The French Government had already reduced the clues from 3f. 50c. to 1f. 50c.; and the last mail, he was happy to say, winch had arrived from Paris, brought with it an Ordonnance of the French Government, by which a further reduction to one franc was made, being, as he believed, the fairest possible rate of duty that could be imposed. The hon. Gentleman must perceive, therefore, that by repealing this Act, he would only be defeating his own object; inasmuch as it placed in the hands of Government a means of coercing other countries into a salutary system of intercourse, as was the case with respect to France.—[Mr. G. F. Young: France is not in reciprocity with us.]—France did, he asserted, act reciprocally with this country since 1826, so far as dues were concerned. British ships, entering the ports of France from the United Kingdom, paid no more than French vessels; and if the hon. Gentleman could furnish him with a note of any greater charge having been made, twenty-four hours should not pass over until the matter was put in a train for investigation. British vessels, he admitted, coming to France from other countries, laboured under a disadvantage in consequence of Mr. Huskisson being unable to induce the shipowners to consent to an extension of the Treaty, and for that disadvantage, therefore, they had themselves to blame. But was France the only instance in which this Act had produced a salutary effect? A paper, said to have emanated from the hon. Gentleman himself, or from his friends, called upon the Government 215 to use the provisions of the Act to coerce Spain into a more liberal commercial intercourse with this country. The state of the public mind in Spain, however, rendered any attempt of the kind useless at that moment; but he hoped that the period was close at hand when the desires of the hon. Gentleman would be accomplished—when an arrangement could be entered into with Spain much to our advantage, by means of this very Act, which the hon. Gentleman called upon the House to abolish. But let the hon. Gentleman take away from the Government the power of coercing states to meet us on a fair field, and Spain, as a country consuming our productions, would be almost lost to us. Looking, therefore, to the hon. Member's motion only, he should be somewhat at a loss to discover his real aim, but it was evident that his object was, to attack the reciprocity system altogether. Now, he knew the feeling which influenced that hon. Gentleman on this subject; but the principle on which the Reciprocity Duties Act was grounded, appeared to him (Mr. Poulett Thomson) so clear, that he was surprised to perceive by the cheers which followed certain portions of the hon. Member's speech, that be did not stand alone in his opposition. The hon. Member had declared himself an opponent to any thing like the present system; he summed up his speech very eloquently by saying, "Give us protection. Throw its shield over every interest. Guard the particular industry of every individual from any interference by foreign competition, and then one state of happiness and comfort will unavoidably follow." The hon. Member might feel these sentiments in reference to every matter of trade; but how he could do so in regard to the shipping interest was to him perfectly unintelligible. We might, if we chose have a protection to exclude any isolated branch of foreign production—wine, cotton, oil, and all the various articles which our habits or necessities demanded. We might return to hips, and haws, and acorns, or build a wall of brass around our country—we might exclude all the means of enjoyment, all the accessories of luxury,——this might we do—we might maintain the colonial and the coasting trade. Here it was in our power to have a monopoly; but a foreign trade must be carried on with a foreign country; our ships must enter 216 foreign ports; and if we imposed differential dues on their shipping, they had it in their power to retaliate. He could understand how individuals' minds might be in a state to induce them to advocate protection or prohibition at home; but to attempt to legislate in regard to places where we had no power, appeared to him an impossibility, not to say an absurdity. The hon. Gentleman had adverted to the United States of America, and on that ground he was quite willing to rest his own argument. Now, what was the case of the United States of America? Did we not try the opposite system with them? With the United States, the reciprocity system was not carried into effect for a series of years, till both countries were convinced, that the course they pursued had produced not only incalculable evil, but great pecuniary loss to both. The shipping interests of both countries were seriously injured, and bad feelings, animosities, and jealousies, which never ought to have existed, were generated in the minds of each party towards the other. What was then done? Why, in 1815, they were both compelled to admit, that they had been in the wrong in waging a commercial warfare, and that the best thing they could do was, to establish a system of reciprocity between the two nations. So much, then, for the argument respecting the United States, and the same observations would apply to all other countries. It was not until 1824 that the system of reciprocity began generally to extend itself. During the war, undoubtedly, the vessels of this country obtained a monopoly, and, owing to the power of her fleet, and the acknowledged superiority of her merchantmen, became carriers for the whole world; but so soon as the war had ceased, this monopoly was destroyed. Other nations naturally entered into a competition with us, and, without provoking at all events an attempt at retaliation, we could not keep up distinctive and differential duties. The advantage of the reciprocity system was, however, greatly in favour of this country, possessing, as it did, large capital, extensive business, and a priority of custom over every other State. The reputation of our sailors, and the character of our ships, were in themselves a strong inducement to give British vessels a preference over all others. But, in proof, that the advantage was in favour of this country, he would state the case 217 of Prussia, and show that, so far from our shipping having suffered from the competition in that quarter, it had at least retained the place which it had always held. But he would take the case the hon. Gentleman would wish to see arrive. Suppose the Reciprocity Duties were at an end; suppose we laid ten per cent on the ships and goods of foreign countries more than we made our own pay. Well, they would naturally immediately levy the same on our ships and goods. This would make an equality of duties; but, as long as there was equality, we could gain no advantage from the discriminating duties the hon. Gentleman would have us thus impose. We might then go on to twenty per cent; they would follow our example; until, pushing the principle to its extreme length, we arrived at the case supposed by Mr. Huskisson as the climax of absurdity—namely, that our ships would go abroad empty to bring back the goods of the country to which they went; and, that the ships of that country would come to us simply to fetch the goods required of us. He had been putting the case as the case of the shipowner only; but what would become of the consumer?—and when he talked of consumers, he did not mean it in a restricted sense; but what would become of the great industries of the country? Suppose it was proposed to levy a heavy tax on cotton imported in American, instead of British bottoms, if they retaliated, as they certainly would, what was to become of the hundreds of thousands, nay, the millions of persons, who depended upon the manufacture of cotton, not for the consumption of this country only, but for the supply of almost all the markets of the world? If the principle were acted upon at all, it must be carried out, and such would be its consequences. If there were a country in the world to which such a course would be dangerous and peculiarly unsuited, it was this; where so large a proportion of the people depended upon foreign trade, and exposed, as they now were, to a competition with other nations, in which they were close run. He contended, that, while to the shipowners themselves the Motion would be detrimental, to the general interests of the country it would be injurious to a deadly extent. The hon. Gentleman referred, with great applause, to the wisdom of our ancestors upon this point. He had certainly spoken with great courtesy of 218 him (Mr. Poulett Thomson); and all that he had brought against him was a charge unfounded in fact—namely, that he had improperly on a former occasion, called to his aid the authority of Sir Josiah Child. As the hon. Gentleman admired ancient legislation, he would refer him to that very reign to which he had referred with so much pleasure, in which he stated the acts were wise, because the Sovereign was wise. He would refer him to an act passed at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Would to God that her policy had never after been altered! The coasting trade having been secured, and so justly secured to the shipping of this country, an attempt had been made to carry into effect that protective system with regard to foreign trade proposed by the hon. Gentleman. The Acts, however, which attempted it were repealed in 1558, the first year of the reign of Elizabeth; and the reasons were recited to be, 'that, since the passing of those statutes (that 'is, the statutes which proceeded on the principle of the hon. Gentleman, and prevented foreigners from bringing their goods here in their own ships, except at higher duties than when brought in ours), other Sovereign Princes finding themselves aggrieved by the said Acts, and thinking the same were made to the prejudice of their country and navy, had made the like Penal-laws against the ships of this country—whereof (continued the preamble) there has not only grown great displeasure between foreign princes and the Kings of this realm, but also the merchants have been sore aggrieved and damaged.' The hon. Gentleman went to the reign of Elizabeth in favour of his cause, but the single sentence he had read from an Act of that reign must answer all the hon. Gentleman's arguments better than anything he could say, for it was clear, that the consequences then described would follow his system now, as it did then, only with more terrible effect, inasmuch as we had more at stake now than we had then, and interests of far greater amount would be involved in ruin. But the hon. Member, in referring particularly to Prussia, had said, that these countries were too poor, and could not afford to tax our ships, for that they must sell their goods, and could not retaliate upon us. He had shown, that they would retaliate, and that they did retaliate. But it was urged, that the 219 retaliation would not be to the same extent; but what a principle was that for a nation to act upon! What an argument to urge that, although there were some countries strong enough to compel us to act upon a system of just equality, as the United States, for instance, there were other countries placed in such circumstances, that we were not compelled so to act towards them. All he could say was, that any laws based upon so ungenerous a principle could not but fail. But it was a mistake to suppose, that the Treaty was so favourable to Prussia, as the hon. Member seemed to suppose. If the hon. Member went into that country, he would hear the Prussian merchants complain of it just as much or more than the shipowners here, and, he must take leave to say, with a great deal more reason; for what was the Prussian system? The Prussian government said, "We levy dues upon British ships, in order to compensate ourselves for the duties and dues levied upon Prussian ships in England." They did so; and what became of the amount thus raised? We put it into the pocket of the State, and thus a portion might be returned to the consumers; but the Prussian government gave it to the shipowners, saying, "As you are subject to these unequal dues in England, we make you a present of all we have got by the duties levied on the British." The Prussian shipowners had a ground of complaint then beyond that of the hon. Gentleman, and the same discontents were heard from the Prussian shipowners of Dantzic, Memel, and Konigsberg, as in some of the ports of England. The hon. Gentleman was aware that the Treaty with Prussia might now be put an end to, at a year's notice from either party; and he could assure him that there was not that ardent desire—that intense wish—on the part of the Prussians to continue it, which ought to be engendered if the opinions of the hon. Member were correct, that the interests of the shipowners of this country had been so completely sacrificed to those of the Prussian shipowners. He should not follow the hon. Gentleman through all that part of his speech which referred more to commercial subjects than to the specific matter of the Motion; but he could not pass over what had fallen from him with regard to France. The hon. Member had quoted a Report laid upon the Table of the House upon that 220 subject; and, in doing so, it would have been better if he had attended a little more to the dates of the document. The quotations cited by the hon. Member were from the evidence of a French commission which sat long previously to the making the Report, and that even was eighteen months ago. Now, the hon. Member must have observed very little of what was passing in France, if he had not perceived the rapid change in public opinion upon such matters which had taken place since that time. The proof of this was in the Ordonnance which he held in his hand, and which he had already mentioned as having received by the mail that day. By that Ordonnance, the Government having lately been authorized by the Chambers, took off prohibitions on a variety of articles which it could not before take off by law. That Ordonnance was a relief to British commerce; and though it did not touch the articles of iron or coal, he would state the reason why. The Commission had recommended, that the import duties on iron should be reduced from twenty-five to nineteen francs; but public opinion appeared so decided, and the hopes of all the friends of free-trade were so great, and the opinion of Government itself was so strong, that as, coupled with this concession, there was a declaration that no further change should be made until 1840, it was deemed advisable by all parties not to press that reduction now, but to leave it to another Chamber, because it was not doubted, that greater concessions would be made by it. With respect to what the hon. Gentleman had said, on the subject of public opinion in France, he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) did not mean to deny that there were vast numbers who contended for the exclusive system; but as he was intimately acquainted with that country, and had followed the course of opinion there for some years, he must say, that the change in opinion had been such, that, advocate as he was for the principle of freedom, it greatly exceeded any expectation he could have formed a few years back. The hon. Gentleman had, however, referred to one particular point connected with the policy of France, upon which he felt himself bound to make an observation. The hon. Member had said truly, that we still paid higher duties upon British iron and coal than Belgium. But this was not because the articles were British. 221 The French had long had two different sets of duties, one for articles imported by sea, and the other for those corning in by land; and when the difference was complained of, the answer of the French Government was, that we had the advantage upon other articles which were charged less by sea than by land. But he had contended, and he still contended, that this difference ought not to exist, and the attention of the Government bad been for some time directed to this subject, and Ministers were not without hope that they should ultimately succeed, unless, indeed, the hon. Member were allowed to step in, and by repealing this Bill, prevent all their expectations from being realised. If, however, this should not be the case,—if the power were not taken out of the hands of the Government,—he for one should he ready to advise the exercise of the powers possessed, to impose additional duties on French goods which had been relaxed. But it was his confident hope, that the duties on such articles of British produce would be equalised. With respect to the duties levied at Stade, he believed we should be compelled to pay them. He admitted, that they were onerous, but, till the King of Hanover thought proper to alter these duties, we should be obliged to pay them. He hoped, however, that some compromise might be come to. The hon. Gentleman had referred a good deal to the evidence taken before the Committee on Shipping, Manufactures, and Commerce. He (Mr. Poulett Thomson) was the last man to deny the existence of considerable distress in the shipping interest; but if it were not invidious to do so, he thought he could assign other causes for it than the passing of this Act. But he would be satisfied with endeavouring to prove that the cause assigned by the hon. Gentleman was not really the cause of their distress. The hon. Member stated, that the evidence of all the Gentlemen called before the Committee went to prove the general and great depreciation of shipping, which he seemed to think would end in total ruin. He (Mr. Poulett Thomson) could not go that length. There were eases of considerable distress brought forward; but it must. have been in the recollection of the hon. Gentleman himself, I hat one of the witnesses—he thought Mr. Aiken—gave a sufficient answer to those statements of individual 222 distress, and the loss accruing from particular ships. He was asked, whether it would not be easy to put in an account, showing a flattering result, or the reverse, just as he was called upon? "Precisely," he replied, "I have only to turn to my ledger to prove either case." He (Mr. Poulett Thomson) did not deny the existence of general distress, but he referred to this piece of evidence to caution Members against considering the general case proved by particular instances. There was the evidence of Mr. Hedley to show, that the shipping with which lie was connected, was not in a depreciated state. There was evidence of large capital being continually invested in shipping, and that almost everywhere the building of ships had increased. It could not but be supposed, that those who had furnished the capital, had found their advantage in it. With regard to the falling-off of British shipping, as compared with foreign, in our trade, since the adoption of these reciprocity treaties, in order that Gentlemen might not go away with wrong impressions as to the ruined state of our shipping on their minds, he would refer to two of the documents on the Table to show what the real state of the case was. He would take the foreign and colonial trade, showing the tonnage which had entered in and cleared out in each year, from 1819 to 1832, dividing the time into periods of seven years each. The tonnage of vessels entered inwards and cleared outwards in the seven years ending in 1825, was—
In the seven years ending in 1832, the amount was—
Tons. British 12,381,000 Foreign 4,055,000
giving exactly the same proportion of foreign to British, namely, one-third, in the two periods. It was thus clear, that we had not gone hack. What right had we to expect to do more than keep our ground? It was absurd to suppose that, after the war was at an end, and the commerce of other countries came to be set free, that we should keep all the commerce of the world. He would say, that we had maintained our ground. The aggregate shipping engaged in the trade of the country had increased, and our share of the aggregate had not been diminished. Al- 223 though, therefore, the profits of the shipowners might, like those of all other capitalists, be low and precarious, he had shown, that our shipping interest was not in so lamentable a condition as the hon. Gentleman would make out, but had remained in as favourable a state as could possibly be hoped. The only other return with which he should trouble the House, in reply to the hon. Gentleman, was that which referred to his assertion, that the British shipowners could no longer compete with those of foreign states in the carrying trade. He maintained, that they could; and he founded his assertion on the return which showed the number of neutral voyages performed by them,—that was, voyages between one foreign country and another,—in which British ships did engage with success. He alluded to the return of the number of British ships and their tonnage passing to and from the Baltic through the Sound in the year 1832, as made up by the consulate at Elsineur. There were 175 British ships of 28,000 tons passed up the Baltic from foreign ports to foreign ports; and seventy-three ships came down, with a tonnage of 11,000; thus making a total of 40,000 tons of British ships employed in a trade where those of other countries would have been engaged, if they could have been obtained at a cheaper rate. The hon. Member, in speaking of what he called the injustice done to the shipowner, had stated, that the shipowners were the only interest in the State not protected; and asked why they were not enabled to sail as cheaply as the foreigner? In answer to this, he would ask the hon. Member, had the British shipowner no protection? Was the exclusive monopoly of the colonial trade nothing? Was the exclusive monopoly of the coasting trade nothing? But with respect to the foreign trade, of which it was impossible to give him a monopoly, how did the matter stand? The hon. Gentleman quoted the duty at 100 per cent, while it was only fourteen; and he quoted the duties on other necessaries of life; but he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) would be most happy in assisting him to take these off. He, however, would not have them taken off; he said he wanted protection, and he would join the protectionists. Besides the above advantages, had the shipping interest derived no relief from the reductions which had been effected on many articles which came within their 224 expenditure, and especially by taking the duty off hemp? But there was a great difficulty in meeting the wishes of the hon. Member and those he represented, who exclaimed—"Take off the restrictions; we only want to be free!" Now, in 1832, a great relief or boon was offered them, giving them what they said they wanted to obtain,—cheap provisions,—which, however, they had declined, because it was not all they asked, and because, if they, as they said, were to be caught in that trap, it would neutralise those complaints, of which they had heard so much this evening. A strong reclamation had been made from Ireland; but it was probable that would not have prevailed, as prevail it did, but for the indifference and coldness with which those intended to be relieved received the intimation of the intention of Government. Again, the hon. Member had argued "Give me the privilege of building and manning my ships where I like, or let me buy them ready built and equipped for me." Well, so the hon. Member might at this moment; but if he did so, he must be content to forego the advantages resulting from trading in ships British built. He could not participate in the colonial or coast trade, which by law was confined to British-built shipping. It was too much, that the hon. Member should expect to secure to himself all the advantages which foreigners possessed, and, at the same time, secure to himself all the monopoly of the colonial and coasting trade. Again, if our shipowners did not enjoy the same advantages as were possessed by foreigners with regard to one of the most material charges in ship-building, he begged to ask, whose fault that was? Whose fault was it that, instead of fetching good and cheap timber from Memel, they fetched the worse and dearer article from the Canadas? Was this the fault of the Government or of the shipping interest, who had themselves opposed the relief offered to them? When it was a fact, that this system of duties was advocated and maintained by the strength of the shipping interests in that House in 1831, with what justice could those very parties now come forward to complain of the burthen they imposed? Take away the duty on timber, and he was not aware of any very heavy duty which particularly pressed upon the shipbuilding interests of this country. If the hon. member for Tynemouth knew of any 225 such duty, let him point it out, and he would be most happy to afford all the relief that was in his power. The fact was, that the present system of Timber-duties was a source of great loss to the country; and if the hon. member for Tynemouth would couple a recommendation for their reduction with the other alterations he had proposed, he had no doubt his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be willing to listen to his suggestions. He would not detain the House at greater length upon this question; but, before he sat down, he would most earnestly entreat them to reflect maturely upon the very important principles which were involved in the speech they had just heard from the hon. member for Tynemouth. The principle to be decided—and this was involved and avowed in that hon. Member's speech—was,—whether the commercial system, which was forced upon us in 1815, and voluntarily adopted in 1824—a system which offered to treat other nations in the same manner as that in which they treated us,—should be still pursued, or whether they should adopt a different one, and, by so doing, overturn the whole system of commercial policy upon which, for some years past, we had been acting, and re-enter upon that course of commercial warfare and hostile retaliation which had been carried on too long under the vain denomination of "protection." In conclusion, he would make but a very few observations in reply to what the hon. member for Tynemouth had said relative to himself. The hon. Gentleman had stated, that he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) had been removed from another sphere, and placed in his present situation, where, by his advocacy of certain principles, he had obtained the means of amassing wealth. The hon. Gentleman knew that such was not the case; he knew, that to serve the public was not the road to riches. If he felt proud of the situation which he had the honour to fill, it was only because it gave him the opportunity, in conjunction with those friends with whom he had been associated, of acting on the principles he had always advocated in Parliament, and afforded him the means of carrying, humbly but zealously, into effect, measures adapted to the present state of things, on which he rested his hopes of promoting the commercial interests of England. This was the only consideration which attached him to the situation which he held; and 226 deeply should he regret if the decision of the House should tell him, that his occupation was gone, and that he could no longer hope to see those principles, which he had ever advocated, adopted and carried in the House of Commons. Bitterly should he regret it as regarded the House of Commons itself, and his estimate of it; but far more deeply should he regret it (and upon this point the hon. Gentleman would give him credit for as much sincerity as himself) as regarded the best interests and welfare of this commercial country.
British 15,049,000 Foreign 5,064,000
Mr. Alderman Thompson
supported the Motion. He considered, that the Reciprocity Act had been most injurious to our commercial interests; since it passed, our trading position had been altogether changed. In the carrying trade, the advantage we had formerly enjoyed over Prussia had been transferred to that country. Most of the ships we had formerly employed in the Baltic had been thrown out of that trade, and being put on the coasting and colonial trade, these two latter branches had become overstocked. He thought there was much to complain of in the conduct of Prussia; not only had that country raised the duties on British manufactures herself, but she had induced other German Powers to imitate her example; and, influenced by Prussia, Hanover and Brunswick, as he had just heard, were about to adopt the same course. As to the United States, that Power was well aware that it was to her interest to keep up their cotton trade with us under any circumstances being as well aware as we were that from the increasing growth of cotton in South America, India, and Egypt, we should at no distant period be quite independent of the United States for our supply of cotton. It was absolutely necessary that some protection should be afforded to the shipping interest. He had lately presented a petition, signed by several hundreds of seamen at Sunderland, stating that from the bad state of the shipping trade they were in the utmost distress; had been obliged, sometimes without success, to apply to the parish for food, and that many of them, after fighting the battles of their country, were obliged to cleanse the streets. Another letter he had had from a shipowner, stated that the writer, finding it cheaper, under existing circumstances, to employ Prussian shipping than 227 to employ his own ships, had laid up the latter. He (Mr. Alderman Thompson) heartily concurred in the Motion, and was sure that if it were rejected, the disappointment and vexation would be very sorely felt by the whole shipping interest.
§ Mr. Hutt
thought, that the hon. Member had entirely failed to show that the evils he complained of had been produced by the reciprocity system. The hon. Member bad represented the whole trade of British shipowners as having fallen away: that while foreigners were rolling in wealth, the shipping interest of Britain was in a state of the most dreadful poverty and was declining into absolute decay. Much of this statement appeared to him to belong to that species of hyperbole and extravagance which people suffering distress but too often indulged in. No doubt, the shipowners' property had suffered depreciation, but so had the property of mill-owners, of manufacturers, and of every person who had fixed capital. The hon. member for Tynemouth had asserted that the tonnage of foreign shipping had increased, whilst that of British shipping had decreased. He had an official document in his hand, which completely disproved that statement. From that it appeared, that since the reciprocity treaties had been entered into, the quantity of British tonnage had increased in a considerable ratio over the foreign tonnage. But they had what was, perhaps, more convincing than even figures, and that was the conduct of the shipowners themselves, to prove that navigation was not a peculiarly losing trade. It was impossible to suppose, that the shipowners would go on investing fresh capital in their business, unless they found it profitable so to do. A part of the evidence given by Mr. Ewart, of Liverpool, was particularly illustrative of this view of the question. That Gentleman stated, in answer to a question as to whether the shipping trade had been profitable during the last seven years, that if the shipowner calculated in each year what his ship originally cost him, it would appear that he was losing each year; but if he merely calculated what ships might be bought for now in each year, the profits of the year would appear to be sufficient. On being asked whether he would invest capital in navigation, he said, that he would not, because he did not understand the business, but that he saw many very clever and rich 228 men did continue to invest capital in it, and, therefore, he inferred that it was profitable. Another witness, a shipowner, on being asked if he thought men would continue to navigate ships at a loss, said, he had sent out a losing ship a second time, but he would sooner burn her than send her out a third time without a tolerable certainty of getting a freight. This he (Mr. Hutt) was convinced was the feeling of all commercial men in the conduct of this business. With respect to the question of reciprocity, reciprocity of some kind was unavoidable. The only question was, what kind of reciprocity you would have. There was the choice of high reciprocity duties, or of low reciprocity duties. You might have low reciprocity duties as with the United States of America, or you might have high reciprocity duties as with Holland, in which each party ran a race in doing one another the most mischief they could. He was persuaded that the suffering the shipowners were really undergoing, was too great to make it possible to convince them of their error by any arguments that could be advanced. The only mode by which they could be convinced would be by letting them have their own way; and then, the utter ruin which would soon overtake them, would too late convince them that it was not by getting our ships loaded with duties by foreigners that our prosperity was to be promoted.
§ Dr. Lushington
said, that if he thought the proposition of the hon. member for Tynemouth could produce the slightest beneficial consequence to the shipping interest, he should feel it his duty, representing the constituency he did, to give it his sincere support. He was, however, firmly convinced, that the reciprocity treaties had not produced the distress of which the shipowners complained, and that the repeal of the Act authorising them would not afford the slightest alleviation to the distress complained of. He could not consent to the adoption of a measure which he conscientiously believed would endanger the great commercial interests of the country, without offering any prospect of diminishing the difficulties or of restoring the prosperity of navigation. England could make fiscal regulations for the government of her home commerce, and that she had done to the fullest extent the shipowners could desire, but she could not make regulation for 229 the government of the trade in which they were exposed to the rivalry of the world; for it was clear that whatever steps we took for the imposition of discriminating duties, could be also taken by every foreign nation with which we had dealings. Upon what were we to rely in such a contest with foreign and rival states? Upon our wealth, our power, our prosperity, upon our resources of all kinds. He acknowledged the wonderful magnitude of them; but it was their very vastness which would make us of all nations in the world suffer most from any temporary interruption to the regular course of trade. Nothing could be more disastrous to the manufactures, the trade, the shipping of this country, than the course pointed out by the hon. member for Tynemouth. Gentlemen had talked to-night as if trade was not the parent of navigation, and had assumed that it was only necessary to have ships in order to secure full cargoes for them. The doctrine which he conceived to he the true one was, that it was the want different countries had for the surplus productions of other countries that created the demand for shipping. Had the hon. Mover pointed out one atom of benefit to be derived from the repeal of the Reciprocity Act? He had not attempted to do so, nor could the hon. Member be mad enough to think of going back to the old system of restriction and prohibition. All the hon. Member could really want, then, was to have every treaty of reciprocity brought before this House for discussion, instead of being left, as it constitutionally ought to be, to the wisdom of the Crown and of its advisers. But they had had some experience of the evils of running a race of prohibition. He remembered that they attempted, by Orders in Council, to retaliate for the Milan Decrees, and actually swept the seas of the neutral marine, and filled its place with British shipping. The consequence was that we now suffered, not merely from the transition from war to peace, but from the acts he would not characterise, but by which we outraged the rights of other nations. He should not be an Englishman, he should not be worthy to represent the place he did, if he did not deeply feel for the distress of the shipping interest, and he was prepared to vote for any measure which would be of practical benefit and advantage to it. He was prepared to do that which the hon. mem- 230 ber for Tynemouth was not prepared to do—he was prepared to abolish those monopolies under which, in common with every other interest in the country, the shipowners so bitterly suffered. He was prepared to give them cheap pork and cheap beef, notwithstanding the outcries of all Ireland. He was prepared, too, to allow them to bake biscuits from foreign flour, notwithstanding the outcries of the agriculturists. But he was not prepared to flatter the agricultural interest, and attempt to obtain from the House of Commons by assistance which the hon. member for Tynemouth ought to be ashamed to have sought, a concession, which so far from conceiving to be a benefit, he was satisfied would be deeply injurious to the shipowners themselves.
§ Mr. Aaron Chapman
thought, that the hourly increasing strength of the United States as a maritime power required the deepest consideration. He had himself heard the first partner in the first commercial house in England declare, that the United States were twenty years in advance of this country in the art of shipbuilding. The distress and difficulties with which British shipowners had at the present moment to contend was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman; but no specific plan of relief was proposed by him. Surely that was not what the country had a right to expect from the executive Government, responsible as that Government was, to the nation at large for the faithful and effective administration of its affairs. Nothing, in his opinion, could be more evident than the decline of British shipping and the advance of that of the United States. No one in the habit of reading the messages addressed to Congress by the American President, but must remember the frequency of his allusions to the extent of their commercial marine. His Majesty, who took a warm interest in all that related to the naval strength of England, would, if he could, have been most prompt to advert to such an object of national security and triumph as the prosperity of the shipping; but never was there to be found in any of the speeches from the Throne the remotest allusion to anything of the sort. In whatever point of view he looked at the Motion brought forward by the hon. member for Tynemouth, he could but regard it as well-timed and judicious: it should therefore, have his cordial support.
§ Mr. Ingham
supported the Motion, and contended that what were called the reciprocity treaties were in fact treaties for putting down the navigation of that country which was once unrivalled in its maritime strength.
§ Lord Sandon
supported the Motion, and contended that in our discussions with Foreign Powers, respecting commercial interests, the question was one merely of policy, of bargain and sale. Other countries had no right to receive from us commercial advantages, unless they agreed to yield to us commercial advantages in return. He was inclined, therefore, to bring the matter back to the state in which it was before the Reciprocity of Duties Act was passed; and hereafter to proclaim to the world, that commercial arrangements with other Powers should be made the subject of special negotiation. Much, in the course of the present discussion, had been said of the advantage to the shipping interest which must arise from carrying into practice those principles of free trade and reciprocity which had been so much esteemed and advocated within the last few years. He thought there was but little value in setting what was called a good example; so far from following that practice, their aim should be to secure commercial advantages without committing themselves or making any concession antecedent to an equivalent benefit: for the ministers of foreign States ought to be armed with that ground for proposing charges which could alone be derived from the result of bargain and negotiation, not from what was called good example. Local prejudices were difficult to be overcome, and nations were like individuals, if they did not make good terms for themselves, they must lose in the affairs of life. It was vain to hope that the progress of liberal principles in politics would lead to liberality in trade; for the nation which enjoyed the greatest amount of political freedom was that which was the least liberal in matters of commerce. Had not other countries, instead of making any concessions, screwed up their commercial restrictions as high as possible? Look at the conduct of Prussia. Look at the conduct of America. In proportion as we had relaxed our commercial system, theirs had been rendered more rigorous. He should support the Motion of the hon. member for Tynemouth.
§ Mr. Hume
contended, that the argu- 232 ments of the noble Lord did not bear upon the question. The noble Lord had asserted, that in proportion as our commercial restrictions were diminished, the commercial restrictions of other countries bad been increased. But that was not the case. The noble Lord had instanced America and Prussia. But it was well known, that the cause of the American Tariff was the refusal of England to receive American corn. And with respect to Prussia, we imposed a duty of 250 per cent upon her timber, and yet complained of her, because she laid a duty of ten, twenty, or thirty per cent upon articles of English manufacture. If ever there was a position which, in his mind, was more distinctly established than another, it was, that by the Reciprocity of Duties Act, much evil had been avoided, and much good had been accomplished. He was prepared to show, that the shipping interest in the continental countries was in a much more depressed state than in England. Of this he was convinced, that it was the object, and that it ought to be the object of England, to remove all commercial restrictions. For one foreign ship which at present entered English ports, two English ships entered foreign ports. It was clear, therefore, that unless commercial restrictions were abolished, England would suffer twice as much in that respect as all the other countries together. What ought to be the chief consideration of that House? To discover the principles on which the prosperity of the country at large might most securely be founded. It ought to be recollected, that other parties ought to be considered, besides the shipowners. The consumers should not be overlooked. The great body of consumers had derived extensive benefit from the Reciprocity of Duties Act. His advice was to open all our ports at once, and to let every ship come in with perfect freedom. In relaxing our commercial system, we had not given up a single farthing for which we had not got two in return. He well remembered, that in the year 1828, when General Gascoyne brought the subject under the consideration of the House, the downfall of the British commercial marine was confidently predicted as the necessary consequence of the liberal system of commercial policy. It should be remembered, that a constant improvement was taking place in navigation, and 233 that the voyages of ships were made with more rapidity and safety than formerly. If, therefore, we kept up the same amount of tonnage afloat as formerly, it was a proof that our commercial prosperity had increased. What was it as compared with other countries? What was the extraordinary state of ruin and destitution into which the commercial marine of this country had been thrown, as compared with the commercial marine of other countries? He held in his hand papers which proved that, in the same period of time, while there was only a diminution of twenty-seven or thirty thousand tons in the commercial marine of England, there had been a diminution of no less than four hundred thousand tons in the commercial marine of America. General freedom, he was perfectly satisfied, would be generally advantageous to all countries. But although he was opposed to the Repeal of the Reciprocity of Duties Act, he was equally hostile to the continuance of the various monopolies which were allowed to exist. He was sorry to observe the vacillations on that point of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The right hon. Gentleman had yielded to the importunities of Ireland a monopoly to which she was not entitled. He (Mr. Hume) wished Ireland well, but he did not wish that she should have more than she was entitled to. On that ground, on the ground of monopoly, he thought that the hon. member for Tynemouth, and those who supported his Motion, had fair grounds of complaint. Some of the arguments, however, of the hon. member for Tynemouth were strangely inconsistent. What right had the shipping interest, after having declined the boon which was offered them in the diminution of the duty on timber, to complain that they were unable to build their ships at the rate at which ships could be built in foreign countries? The monopoly occasioned by our corn-laws, he (Mr. Hume) freely acknowledged was most injurious to our shipping, in common with all our other interests. On the whole, the speech of the hon. member for Tynemouth appeared to him to be an admirable one in favour of free trade, which certainly the hon. Member did not mean it should be. Against monopoly the hon. Member had made out a strong case; but he had made out no case at all for the Repeal of the Reciprocity of Duties Act.
§ Mr. Robinson,
who spoke amidst interruption from cries of question, maintained that the arguments of the hon. member for Middlesex were perfect fallacies. If the speeches of that hon. Member, and of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, were to be taken as answers to his hon. friend, the member for Tynemouth, the shipping interest might sit down in hopelessness and despair. He had not expected the taunt of the hon. member for Middlesex, that the shipowners, having refused the Repeal of the Timber-duties, should not now be heard to complain. They felt that they could derive no advantage whatever from a mere change of duties, which might at the same time deprive them of the carriage of the colonial timber. He admitted most candidly that much had been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which operated materially against the assumed argument of his hon. friend near him, who was unjustly charged with advocating the shipping interest at the expense of the other interests of the country. Why, the shipping interest was the only interest in the country which was placed on disadvantageous terms, with the most onerous restrictions, and without any protection whatever. The hon. member for Middlesex spoke of the Corn-laws; but that monopoly was kept up, not for the shipping, but for the agricultural interest. The hon. Member had referred to the state of the American tonnage, and stated that, within the last few years, it had decreased 400,000 tons. There could be no doubt this was a great blunder,—a very natural one for the hon. Member to fall into, thereby mistaking an actual increase for a decrease. This was a question, he was ready to admit, of considerable difficulty; but he would support the Motion of the hon. member for Tynemouth, because he denied the right and power of the Crown to form treaties of commerce with foreign powers independent of that House. He wished Parliament to be the judge on such an occasion. Sure he was, if this Motion was negatived, and if there was no assurance from Government that some other remedial measures were about to be proposed, in order to relieve the shipping interest of the country, that most important branch of the commercial greatness of the country would soon dwindle into insignificance, if not perish in ruin.
insisted upon his right to speak on a question in which his constituency were deeply interested; and more especially as it was one in which Irish Members could not be taunted with taking up views merely local, as the question was completely imperial. As it was so late, he would content himself with observing, that the hon. member for Middlesex should not grudge Ireland the little advantage she derived from the provision trade, when her shipping was no more than 137,000 tons.
§ Mr. George F. Young briefly replied, and the House divided—Ayes 52; Noes 117; Majority 65.
|List of the AYES.|
|Arbuthnot, General||Miles, W.|
|Attwood, T.||Perceval, Col.|
|Attwood, M.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Bell, M.||Ross, H.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Rumbold, E. C.|
|Bethell, R.||Ruthven, E.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Sandford, Sir D. K.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Sandon, Lord|
|Cayley, E. S.||Seale, Col.|
|Cayley, Sir G.||Shaw, F.|
|Chapman, A.||Thompson, B.|
|Chaytor, Sir W.||Tullamore, Lord|
|Copeland, Ald.||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Corry, Hon. H. T.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Darlington, Earl of||Wallace, R.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Duncombe, Hon. W.||Wilks, J.|
|Ewing, J.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Ferguson, Sir R.|
|Ferguson, G.||Egerton, Tatton|
|Cordon, Capt. W.||Fielden, J.|
|Halcombe, J.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Hay, Sir J.||Stewart, J.|
|Hay, Col. Leith||Stewart, Sir M. J.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Talbot, J.|
|Hodgson, J.||Warre, A.|
|Irton, S.||Yough, G. F.|
|Jones, Capt.||Thompson, Ald.|