§ The Order of the Day being read, for the House to go into a Committee on the Four-per-cent Annuities Acts,
§ Mr. Robinson
rose to propose an Amendment. He observed, that he saw the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies suggesting to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He rose for the purpose of moving for certain papers connected with the passing of a decree by the Portuguese Government which materially affected our commercial relations with Portugal. He was sorry to see the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, smiling at the very mention of it. The subject was, perhaps, beneath the consideration of a Minister so deeply engaged in diplomatic relations.
§ Lord Althorp
must, at once, protest against the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. He thought, the course the hon. Member was pursuing was most inconvenient. The Amendment which the hon. Member proposed to bring forward had no relation whatever to the four per cents.
§ Mr. Robinson
admitted, that the course he was pursuing was a most inconvenient course, and confessed that there was no excuse for his Motion except the fact that he had sought all manner of opportunities from the Government to bring the question forward at such time, and in such manner as might be agreeable to them; but he could obtain no assurance with respect to any particular period on which he could depend. In adopting an unusual course of proceeding, which he maintained had been imposed upon him by the Government, he felt he had a right to claim the indulgence of the House.
thought, that if the hon. Member had not some legislative enactment to propose—if he had only to pronounce a censure upon this Government or some past Government—he would not be justified in persevering in his Amendment.
§ The Speaker
said, that according to the forms of the House and the law of Parliament, there was no necessity that the Amendment should be akin to the question. However, it would be much better if the House should always know upon what subject it was likely to be engaged, and, accordingly, he thought it would be incumbent upon the hon. Member to show, either that the Amendment related to a matter of pressing importance, 786 or else that it bore upon the question before the House.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, he was perhaps the least connected with party of any man in that House, and therefore he could not call for that adventitious support, the value of which was so well known to hon. Members connected with party in that House. If the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would name any day in next week, he would be happy to give way on the present occasion. He understood from the noble Lord, that he could not. Well, he must proceed. He had the authority of the Speaker for proceeding. The case he had to urge, was one of pressing importance. By a late decree of the Portuguese Government, we had been placed in a less advantageous position with respect to our commercial relations than we had been in for the last 125 years. He did not quarrel with the Portuguese Government for this measure; they had the full right to pass it, although he thought the course they had pursued was an extraordinary one, and not very conspicuous for its gratitude towards the present Ministers of England. He would state to the House, without hesitation, that his conviction was, that this decree was brought about by the imprudent and injudicious conduct of the Government in 1831. The noble Lord had no excuse for his conduct at that period; he was warned by all connected with the Oporto trade, by him (Mr. Robinson) among others, that it must bring about such a result as that which they now had to deplore. The noble Lord expected three advantages from the equalization of the duties upon wine. First, that the revenue upon wines would be increased. The fact was, the revenue was diminished. Secondly, that the consumption of French wines would be increased. On the contrary, the consumption had rather diminished. Thirdly, it was supposed, that the spirit of commercial liberality, and of reciprocity would have greatly increased, but no such event had yet taken place. M. Thiers had certainly made some remarks upon the subject at Havre, which no doubt found favour in the eyes of the people there. The right hon. the President of the Board of Trade had also, he entertained no doubt, received, upon the occasion of his late visit to Paris, very flattering compliments from the French Government: but, notwithstanding all the laudable and strenuous exer- 787 tions of the right hon. Gentleman and Dr. Bowring, he begged to ask if anything tending to the commercial advantage of England had yet been adopted. He believed, indeed, there was a proposition to diminish the duty upon English coals, and on cotton-wool; but surely it must be obvious to all Gentlemen, that those reductions were for the advantage, not of the English, but of the French manufacturers. He admitted, that it was desirable that we should extend, if possible, our commerce with France, but he did not think our Government were taking the right way to the attainment of that end. He believed, that our Government had no just ideas of foreign policy, so far at least as the commercial interests of Great Britain were concerned. Although the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, might be a great protocolist—although he might be a person most potent to arrange the most tortuous diplomatic processes—the affairs of Greece or Belgium—he was convinced, the noble Lord was entirely ignorant, he meant not the word offensively—of all commercial matters. In common with the majority of noble and hon. individuals connected with the Government, the noble Lord had an aristocratic contempt for commercial pursuits, and those attached to them, and therefore he, for one, did not wonder that they remained unattended to. He had to ask the noble Lord one question, and that was, whether the noble Lord had received the decree of the Portuguese Government affecting British commerce, and whether any remonstrance had been made against it. He must protest against the system of suspicious neutrality which had been observed by the Government of this country with respect to Portugal, the effect of which had been to disgust and to estrange both parties from England. The decree which had been lately passed in Portugal was an insult, not to the country—that he did not say—but certainly to the Ministry, who had done more than they ought, more than they were justified in doing, to support the prevailing Government in Lisbon. We had lost commercial advantages in Portugal; but it was by no means unlikely, that we should yet be called upon to contribute from the funds wrung from an overtaxed population to the establishment of Don Pedro's Government in Portugal. If the Acts lately done by the Administration of Don 788 Pedro in Portugal had been done by Don Miguel, there would have been a grand manifestation of feeling upon the subject on the part of the Government, through the medium of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston). But now all Acts of oppression, violence, and injustice, were passed over without comment, because they were the Acts of what was called a liberal Government. If Don Miguel were now in Lisbon, and such things had been done, the noble Lord would be but too glad to come down to that House with the view of exciting the popular indignation against the tyrant. For himself, he spoke without any feeling of favouritism on this subject. He did not care one farthing which of the brothers succeeded in the contest. They were each equally worthy of a Throne. He believed, however, that the object of the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was to make a mere puppet of Donna Maria; and to have the appointment of her Administration. This, he was convinced, was the opinion of Don Pedro, and of his Ministers, and therefore was it that they had passed that decree. The original cause undoubtedly was the equalization of the duties on wine, by our Government, and against this he inveighed as most impolitic and most unjust. He did not know what course he could now pursue, except to move for papers connected with the decree to which he had alluded. The conduct of this Government in all commercial affairs had tended to offer a premium upon the throwing of impediments in the way of British commerce. He did not wish to use any expression which might appear offensive, but, in all courtesy, he would observe, that he thought there was a flippancy in the manner of the noble Lord, when alluding to the Prussian league, which was, in his mind, exceedingly to be deprecated. He thought the moral of the whole bearing and speeches of the noble Lord upon our commercial policy was, that foreign countries were to understand, whatever they might do to obstruct or injure us, that no reprisals on our part would be made. He complained, also, that there was a want of communication between the Board of Trade, and the ambassadors abroad. He had nothing to say against the right hon. Vice President of the Board of Trade, whose diligence in attending to his duties was remarkable, and the arrangements of whose office were 789 most praiseworthy; but infinite evil arose from the circumstance, that all communications from the Board of Trade to ambassadors abroad had to pass through the soporific medium of the Foreign-office. Justice was not in consequence done to recommendations favourably accepted, and transmitted from the Board of Trade. He had no confidence in the noble Lord, dexterous as he might be in diplomatic intrigues, so far as the commercial interests of the country were concerned. Without detaining the House further, he would conclude by moving, "that an humble address be presented to his Majesty, praying, that he will be graciously pleased to lay before the House copies or extracts from the correspondence between the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and the British authorities in Portugal, relative to a decree on the part of the Portuguese Government, by which certain commercial advantages heretofore enjoyed by Great Britain were withdrawn; and also for a copy of papers relating to a vexatious interference with British subjects in their legal commerce with Portugal."
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that he thought the House would agree with him that the course adopted by the hon. member for Worcester was a highly inconvenient one, and the reason the hon. Member had given for pursuing it was most unsatisfactory. The hon. Member said, that he had interposed this Motion between the House and the usual course of its business to-night, because his noble friend did not consent to fix any day next week at which he might have a more convenient opportunity of calling the attention of the House to this subject. That argument might just as well be used by any other Member of the House who wished to bring forward a Motion, and he had no doubt, that there were many present most anxious to bring particular subjects under the consideration of the House, but who were prevented from doing so in consequence of the great number of Motions already standing upon the books. If each of them were to adopt the course which the hon. member for Worcester had pursued this evening, (and they would have just as much reason for doing so), it would become impossible that the regular business of the House should proceed. He should be justified, therefore, if, instead of answering the speech which 790 the hon. Member had made upon this occasion, he had sat still and allowed his noble friend to proceed with his statement upon the subject of the four per cents, or if in rising, he had addressed himself to that question, instead of speaking to the Motion with which the hon. Gentleman had concluded. But he should be sorry to be wanting in that civility to the hon. Gentleman, which he appeared to be so little disposed to exhibit towards others; and he, therefore, assured, the hon. Gentleman, that he was induced to answer his observations, not so much from a sense of public duty, as in courtesy to him. He must say, however, that the hon. Gentleman had exhibited a little waywardness upon the present occasion. He, first of all, found fault with his right hon. friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, for not looking sufficiently pleased, and then the hon. Member took him to task for looking too much in good humour; now, really, if the hon. Gentleman could be satisfied neither by the gravity of the one, nor by the gaiety of the other, he had better turn his eyes to Mr. Speaker, and take no notice of any other person in the House. He certainly wished, that the hon. Member had so far followed his example as to have spoken in a spirit of better temper. Perfect indifference, flippancy of manner, aristocratic contempt, and many other charges of a similar description, were hurled forth against him (Lord Palmerston) with great velocity and fervency, but those were modes of expression generally resorted to by Gentlemen when their argument failed, or when they were irritated at finding that there really was not quite so much in their case as they had imagined. The hon. Member, among other things, had accused him of indifference to the commerce of England amongst the rest, and this arguing as it did a want of common sense upon his part, was, he thought, rather a reflection upon the common sense of the hon. member for Worcester, since it was scarcely possible that a man destitute of common sense could have attained to the situation which he (Lord Palmerston) had the honour to fill. With regard to the question itself, the only charge against the Government was, that an important decree had been passed by the Portuguese Government, of which notice had not been given to the British Government. This, he admitted, was the fact. He did not 791 stand there to defend the Ministers of Donna Maria more than he might the Ministers of Don Miguel. He thought that, upon this occasion, the Portuguese Government ought to have given due notice to the individuals concerned in commerce with that country when it was their intention to make an alteration in the commercial relations between Portugal and Great Britain. But there was nothing in the decree against which, upon the faith of treaties, Great Britain could reclaim, and he did not believe, that it would have the injurious effect which might be anticipated upon British commerce, and especially that branch, the Newfoundland fish-trade, with which the hon. Gentleman was connected. In Spain we had no peculiar advantage over France, America, or Norway, and yet our trade had still maintained its pre-eminence. [Mr. Robinson observed, that our trade with Spain had fallen one-half within the last twenty-years.] He was aware, that our general trade with Spain had fallen off, but he believed that our fish trade had not declined equally to our other trade, and certainly not equal to the fish trade of other nations. At all events it must be admitted, that the Portuguese Government, at all events, had a right to make the decree in question, and there was nothing in the treaty of 1810 which enabled us to reclaim against it. He repeated, however, that he considered they should have given this Government notice of the projected alteration. The hon. Member had attacked him (Lord Palmerston) for being, as he said, ignorant and incompetent: if the attack had been openly made against him as a political opponent of the hon. Member, he could have at once understood him. He did not, perhaps, pay the same minute attention to the matter as the hon. Member desired, because he had no fear, that British commerce would not be able to compete with that of any other country. The hon. Member had described this as another instance of the way in which this Government were imposed upon by the arts of the French Ambassador. He (Lord Palmerston) would venture to say, however, that the French Government had been taken quite as much by surprise at the announcement of this decree as had the English Government. The hon. Member was equally mistaken in his assertion, that the French Govern- 792 ment were making no advances towards liberal commercial arrangements between the two countries. The hon. Gentleman must have heard of the Report made by the Chamber of Commerce to the French Government, in which they strenuously recommend many very liberal arrangements as to the duties imposed on mutual commerce. He had no objection to furnish the hon. Gentleman with a copy of the decree, and of the correspondence relating to it. As to the latter part of his Motion, he did not think the hon. Member (Mr. Robinson) had made out any Parliamentary grounds or shown any case of hardship on which his demand could be founded. Doubtless, there had been several cases in which British subjects had complained of the Portuguese Government; but, in all those cases in which it was thought that the complaints were just, our Minister at Lisbon had felt it his duty to make representations on the subject to the Portuguese Government, and in almost every instance in which such representations had been made, redress had been obtained, so that there was no ground for calling upon the House to accede to the latter part of the Amendment. If the hon. Member had thought proper to state what the case of Mr. Roberts really was—why our Minister at Lisbon did not support his claims, and why he (Lord Palmerston) had not been requested to interfere in his behalf, there might then be some ground for calling for the production of papers, but at present there was none. He must confess, that he was rather surprised at the matter of the hon. Member's speech, inasmuch as he had declared that it would compromise no political topic. If that speech was to be taken as the measure of the hon. Member's capacity to distinguish between commercial and political topics, he was not at all surprised that the hon. Member should think that he (Lord Palmerston) was, in the discharge of his duty, totally indifferent to the commercial interests of the country.
said, that he thought the hon. member for Worcester was entitled to the thanks of the country for having brought this important subject under the notice of the House. When he found the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs standing so much on a point of order, and so evidently anxious to get rid of the question, he immediately concluded, that 793 his Lordship was unable to offer anything like a tolerable answer to the case of the hon. Member. When he found a person so well versed in Parliamentary tactics as the noble Lord occupy nearly a quarter of an hour in prefatory observations upon the manner in which the Motion had been brought forward, he was convinced in his own mind, that he must have a very lame answer with respect to the substantial merits of the Motion. His anticipation had been verified. He asked hon. Gentlemen what answer the noble Lord had given to the substance of the complaint of the hon. Member? The statement of the hon. member for Worcester amounted to this—that the Portuguese Government had, in the exercise, certainly, of an undoubted right, deprived this country of certain benefits which she heretofore enjoyed; but then he alleged, that this was the consequence of the course of policy pursued by the British Government. It really was too much, after the manner in which we had been coaxing the Government in Portugal, and after the interference of this country—for nobody except Gentlemen connected with the Administration, but was perfectly aware that the British Government had been working changes in Portugal—had been busy in overthrowing one brother and setting up another the character of each being equally estimable, and one quite as much, or rather as little, entitled to our favourable opinion as the other—it was, he must say, too bad, that Don Pedro should requite our kindness in the way he had done. There was not a man of common sense in Europe who did not perceive, that our Government, in connexion with its present alliance with France, had been busy in forcing a Government upon Portugal in opposition to the declared opinion of the people of that country—that the contest was between a whole nation on one side, and on the other, a band of adventurers of condottieri collected from different parts of Europe, to fight for hire. This was the sort of conflict which was carried on under the auspices of the British Government. Under these circumstances, was not the hon. member for Worcester entitled to say to Ministers, "Enjoy your predilections if you please,—hug Pedro to your bosoms, and make war upon Miguel, but tell the merchants of England, tell the English people, what we are to gain by all this." The fact was, 794 that this most objectionable person, Don Miguel, had been some years in Portugal; that, during that time, he had it in his power, as the noble Lord had stated (in consequence of the improvident alteration in the wine-duties), to act in a manner offensive to this country, yet he not only abstained from doing so, but gave a preference to our commerce, and favoured us in every possible way; whilst the very morning of the day when it was announced that a quadruple alliance had been formed for the purpose of forcing a Government on the Portuguese nation brought the intelligence that our good friend Don Pedro had issued the injurious decree in question. Without wishing to say anything offensive to the noble Lord's feelings, he must declare, that his Lordship seemed to have prosecuted his views of foreign policy with an utter forgetfulness of the commercial interests of this country, which, after all, it most behoved the Government to consider. For his part, he cared not a straw which of the two Dons reigned in Portugal; but if one of them were disposed to act favourably to the commerce of this country, and the other were not, he would say, let us have the former. The noble Lord admitted, that the decree was unfavourable to our commerce; but he said, that Don Pedro had a right to issue it. Certainly no one could deny, after the imprudent alteration which had been made with respect to the wine-duties by our Government, that the Portuguese Government had the power to promulgate such a decree. It was admitted, not only that the decree had been issued, but that it had been published in the most unfriendly manner; it came upon the noble Lord at his office, on the very day when it was announced to the world, that the Government of this country was determined to put an end to the contest in Portugal, by forcing Don Pedro upon an unwilling people. The noble Lord had confessed the whole of this case, and therefore he was not surprised, that in his attempt to answer the hon. member for Worcester, the noble Lord should endeavour to amuse the House by observations upon every thing except the point at issue. He thought the charge which had been made against the noble Lord, namely,—that throughout the whole course of his diplomatic relations, he had neglected the commercial and industrious interests of the country, was well founded. If the noble 795 Lord was not to blame in this respect, he certainly was one of the most unfortunate Ministers who ever held office. The House had been made acquainted to-night with the result of the noble Lord's diplomacy in Portugal; and it was well known that whilst his Lordship had been busy intriguing in the affairs of Belgium, Prussia had been as diligently occupied in negociating for the exclusion of our manufactures from Germany. He had been informed by persons who were incapable of deceiving him, and who had been in different parts of the continent, that no effort had been made by our Government to avert what he maintained would in a short time be felt to be one of the severest blows ever inflicted upon our commerce. If the noble Lord had condescended to take the slightest interest in this subject, and had interfered with the free towns and small principalities, nothing could have been more easy than to avert this blow. He considered the treaties which had been formed in Germany as a more decided blot upon the administration of foreign affairs than even the Portuguese transaction. The cases he had mentioned, however, were not the only instances in which the noble Lord had exhibited a disregard of the industrious and commercial interests of this country. Last year he had occasion to make a representation to the noble Lord on the conduct pursued by the French fishermen, which tended to drive our own fishermen entirely out of the Channel. The noble Lord caused an investigation to be made on the subject; but nothing had resulted from it. The noble Lord accepted the denial of the French authorities, but afforded the persons aggrieved no opportunity of substantiating their case. If the French Government denied the facts which were alleged, why did not the noble Lord call before him the persons who could refute that denial? He was informed, and he believed correctly, that a few days ago, there were no fewer than thirteen English fishing vessels seized and carried into French ports, because they had happened to run during a fog, or been drifted in a calm, into what were called the French bounds. This, too, happened at a time when the French vessels were taking fish almost in our very harbours.—[Lord Palmerston: The facts are denied.]—He took it for granted, that the French government would deny every 796 word of the statement. All he could say was, that he believed the fact to be as he stated. The crews of the fishing boats were kept for months together in France, and then sent home in a state of destitution. The right hon. first Lord of the Admiralty knew well, that the result of the want of protection which our fishermen had experienced, had been to give the French and Dutch fishermen, but particularly the former, almost a monopoly of fishing in the Channel. This branch of the national industry was absolutely perishing for want of protection. If the noble Lord were to wait until the French Government ceased to deny the charge before he interfered, the poor fishermen would be long enough without redress. Taking all circumstances together, to whatever point of the compass he turned and looked at the conduct of the British Government in its foreign relations, he perceived striking evidence of that indifference to the commercial and industrious interests of this country which had been charged upon the noble Lord; and in conclusion, he would observe, that so far from regretting the Motion had been brought forward, he thought that Gentlemen connected with the commercial interests were obnoxious to reproach for not having forced the subject on the attention of the Government at an earlier period.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
expressed his regret, that the Motion had been brought before the House in so inconvenient a manner, that it was impossible to enter upon the subject to which it referred so fully as the importance of that subject would justify. For his part, he should be glad to have the conduct of the Government with regard to our commercial policy brought under discussion, in order that he might have an opportunity of meeting the charges which had been unjustly brought against it. On the present occasion, however, he would confine himself to the subject of our commercial relations with Portugal. The charge of the hon. member for Worcester had been reduced to almost nothing, even upon his own showing, and the Motion could produce no result except, perhaps, the expression of the opinion of the House on one single point—namely, the conduct of the Portuguese Government in issuing the decree which had been referred to without giving the Government of this country previous notice. The hon. Mem- 797 ber could not do otherwise than admit the right of the Portuguese Government; but contended, that it had exercised it in an improper manner. His noble friend allowed, that it was an impropriety in the Portuguese Government to issue the decree without notice; but, as regarded the practical consequences of the decree, they were just the same as if notice had been given. The Portuguese Government determined to place its Custom-house regulations on a different footing, by equalizing the duties levied upon the goods of all nations, and had a perfect right so to do; and, therefore, we had no power to remonstrate. The hon. member for Essex said, that this step never would have been taken by the Portuguese Government if the Government had not neglected to follow his advice years ago, upon the subject of the wine-duties. That had nothing whatever to do with the case; and he was surprised that the hon. Member was not better acquainted with the subject, than to suppose that Portugal obtained the power to issue the decree complained of in consequence of our abandoning the article in the Methuen treaty—the treaty of 1810. All that the Methuen treaty said was, that in the event of our departing from it, the Portuguese might prohibit our woollens. The treaty of 1810 was for the general purposes of trade, and involved this condition, that the merchandise of this country should never be taxed more than fifteen per cent; but it said not a word about the necessity of taxing the produce of other countries to a larger amount. At the expiration of that Treaty, which was to last for fifteen years, it was really in the power of the Portuguese Government, on giving a certain notice, to cancel its obligations. Accordingly, M. de Carvalho, in his statement of the reasons on which the decree was founded, made not the slightest reference to the equalization of the wine-duties or the Methuen Treaty. He was obliged to admit, that the manner in which the Portuguese Government had issued the decree, intimated unfriendliness to our commerce. He certainly regretted the circumstance; but, at the same time, he was bound to say, that the Government had been taught it in this country, and had only acted on the principles upon which this country had been acting for years and years. In our transactions with foreign countries, we conferred no peculiar favours upon them, and we asked for none from them; and it 798 was precisely upon this principle, that the Portuguese Government had acted. We had no right to complain of them for acting in the same manner in which we had for years been acting ourselves. Those who preceded the present Ministers in office acted on this principle in 1821, 1825, and every succeeding year, at least as far as he had been able to find traces of their sentiments. The hon. member for Essex stated, that the commercial interests of this country had been more neglected by this Government than any other, and adduced particular instances in support of his general charge. A compliment had been paid to him, indeed, in the course of the discussion; but he was not disposed to accept it at the expense of his noble friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He knew, that his noble friend had exerted himself unremittingly to carry into effect the objects which the Government had in view. The hon. member for Essex, had adverted to the Prussian system, and said, that it had grown up in consequence of the neglect of the British Government. Would the hon. Member say, that any and what representations had been made when that system first began to germinate? The present Government had followed up representations where they had been previously made, and he could assure the hon. Member, that those made by the present Ministers, were more urgent than any which had been made before they entered office. That all the efforts of the Prussian Government had been turned to perfecting that system, no man acquainted with the Continent could doubt; but as far as England was concerned, equal efforts had been made to check that system. The hon. Member must have been grossly misinformed when he said, that we might have made arrangements with the different German States, but thought it beneath us; for we did conclude a treaty with Frankfort with the very object of checking the system; and although it had not had any material effect, it showed that our efforts, at least, had not been wanting. If they had proved ineffectual, it was because those efforts were not begun at an earlier date; because the commercial system of this country did not hold out to Prussia in 1817, in 1821, and in 1822, the advantages which Prussia had a right to expect. The hon. member for Essex had likewise touched upon the subject of the fisheries 799 in the Channel. He begged to ask the hon. Member, whether he had examined that subject attentively, and made himself acquainted with the difficulties by which it was environed? The fact was, that the subject was mixed up with some most intricate questions, the solution of which was extremely difficult. As soon as his noble friend was put in possession of the complaints of our fishermen, a representation was made from the board at which he had the honour to sit, requesting that some means might be employed to bring the question to an amicable settlement, by the only means by which a question involving the rights of nations could be amicably settled. His noble friend lost no time in entering into arrangements with the French government. Then, again, it was said, that we had sacrificed our trade with Portugal for the sake of France; and it was asked, why should that be done, when France was so unwilling to do any thing for us? We had not sacrificed our trade for France, neither was France unwilling to enter into commercial treaties with us. The French government had manifested a strong disposition to introduce into their country the commercial principles which regulated this. Already a report had been laid upon the table of the French Chamber, which not only recommended the removal of the prohibition with respect to several important articles produced in England, but also that the King should have power to effect that object by ordinance whilst the Chamber was not sitting, in order that no time might be lost in removing prohibitions. It had been stated, that we had obtained no concessions from France; but this was at variance with the fact, as he would prove. It would be recollected, that the principal complaint of our silk manufacturers had been, that they could not compete with France, because she maintained a monopoly of the raw article, and would not allow it to be exported. Last year, however, the French government was prevailed upon to permit the exportation of raw silk, and, in the report lately presented to the French Chamber, the duties on iron, cotton, twist, and other important articles were recommended to be changed. From the present state of public feeling in France, he was satisfied, that if the government of that country should hesitate to pursue the course which had been recommended by the report, they would ere 800 long be compelled to do so by the voice of the people. He would not trouble the House further upon this occasion, but if another opportunity should be taken for bringing forward charges against the commercial policy of the Government, he would be prepared to meet them to the best of his ability, and he was confident, that he should succeed in proving that it was not deserving of the censure which had been cast upon it by the hon. members for Essex and Worcester.
§ Mr. George Young
was astounded by the argument which had been used by the noble Lord (Palmerston). The noble Lord appeared to contend that, inasmuch as British commerce maintained a superiority over other nations, it was a matter of perfect indifference to us, whether we lost or preserved the advantages that we possessed. This might be a very convenient argument for the noble Lord, but the people of this country—the merchants, manufacturers, and shopkeepers—he would find, would repudiate it as equally adverse to their interests, and as incorrect logic. The argument of his hon. friend who brought forward this Motion, seemed to have been mistaken by the noble Lord. It was not—if he (Mr. Young) understood it right—that there had been an infraction of any treaty, but that the Government of this country had pursued an impolitic course in reducing the duties on French wines, which had induced Portugal to enforce the restrictions of which we complained. The obligations of the treaty that had been entered into between this country and Portugal ceased to be binding after 1825, when it became open to either party to take the course that each might consider most beneficial. Acting on this principle, England, in 1830, withdrew from Portugal the advantages the Treaty had secured to her; and Portugal had, as regarded us, followed our example. He recollected that his hon. friend, the member for Essex (Mr. Baring) stated, almost prophetically, on the debates which took place at the time of the proposed alteration in the wine-duties, that he did not expect the proposed change would provoke a retaliation on the part of Portugal at that time, but he had apprehensions as to the consequences, in case the liberal party ever obtained the ascendancy in Portugal. The noble Lord replied, that he admitted it was possible Portugal might impose the restrictions anticipated, but he did not 801 think she would do so. The right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade also stated, that, in his opinion, no such course would be followed. The predictions of his hon. friend had been verified to the very letter, and, of course, the counter-expectations of the noble Lord and of the right hon. Gentleman had been falsified. If Portugal withdrew certain advantages from this country, they ought not to forget that the advantages she possessed under the Treaty were concessions to her at that time.
§ Mr. Warre
wished the right hon. Gentleman, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, had been more explicit as regarded the fisheries. He had said, it was a question of international law. He was aware of the circumstances of the case, and he would observe, that he could not see any good reason why, or on what grounds of justice between two nations at peace, the French boats should be allowed to come to our shores and cast their nets where they pleased, and our fishermen should be interfered with if they cast their nets off the French shores. Much conflicting testimony was delivered before the Committee last year, and, taking the whole of the evidence, it certainly was not easy to make out the case between the two parties. Amongst the other difficulties, there was the difficulty of determining from what points the distance should be measured—whether from beach to beach, or from headland to headland. The case was well worth consideration; and if a case of aggression were made out, the proper representations ought to be forwarded.
§ Dr. Lushington
said, that, under the Treaty of 1815, the French government set up a claim to the exclusive right of fishing on their coast. In 1817, the Government conceded to them the exclusive right to fish within one league. In consequence of representations made in 1821 to the then Government, the distance was extended, in 1822, to six miles from the coast. The result was, that our fishermen, who had been accustomed to fish nearer the coast where oysters were in great abundance, thought they were treated unjustly in being deprived of the right they had enjoyed, and they did not observe the line, but, when they thought they were not watched, passed beyond it. The French Government, jealous of the encroachment, and desirous of enforcing 802 the regulation, omitted no opportunity of seizing vessels within the prescribed distance, whatever the cause of their being there, even though they were driven there by the wind, or drifted there by the tide. Such, then, was the state of the question. He had never said a word to the noble Lord on the subject; his information did not come from the Government. He had seen the papers, and he could say, that it was a complicated and very difficult question, involving the right of France to the exclusive fishery of that line of coast. He wished to guard himself particularly against giving any opinion as to the matter in issue; but he knew, that an application had been made to the noble Lord on the subject, and he had reason also to know, that it had met with very great attention from him. In his judgment, this was an affair that never could be settled on strict legal principles, but must be the subject of negotiation.
said, that our severe Custom-laws, under which large boats were seized by our cruisers, occasioned our fishermen to use smaller boats than were used by the French fishermen, their Custom-laws being more indulgent. Our fishermen ought to be enabled to have larger boats, that they might meet the French fishermen on an equality. There was another point to which he wished to advert. He recollected the opprobrious epithets which the late Government had bestowed on Don Miguel. Whatever might be said of Don Pedro, it would be admitted, he believed, that the present Regent of Portugal was not to be put on a level with the usurper. He must object, however, to the terms in which the hon. member for Essex, and others, spoke of the British officers in the service of the contending parties in Portugal. Was not Sir J. Campbell, for instance, on exactly the same footing as the officers on the other side? These individuals were but following their profession for want of military employment in the service of their own country.
§ The Motion was withdrawn, and the House went into Committee on the