HC Deb 25 March 1835 vol 27 cc218-21
Mr. William Roche.

—Sir, deeming the Petition which I hold in my hand to be one of very considerable importance, to both the com- mercial and agricultural interests of Ireland, I felt it advisable to give notice of my intention to present it. Sir, this Petition comes from the Chamber of Commerce of Limerick, a most respectable, intelligent, as well as chartered body, under whose judicious auspices, the commerce of that city has doubled, within the last ten years.; its exports alone, now amounting to 1,000,000l. per annum. If, Sir, the complaints which the petition embodies, were of an isolated nature—if they were confined to the locality of Limerick alone—or, if they did not involve such important and general interests—I might not have deemed it necessary to introduce the subject, by the formality of a previous notice; but, extending as this complaint does, to every port and part of Ireland, embracing, also, the two most essential elements in the prosperity of that country, or, I should rather say, the sole elements of its prosperity; (for divested as it is of any significant manufacturing interest, those of agriculture and commerce constitute the solid basis of our resources) therefore, anything calculated to mar or retard them, merits our most serious attention. Sir, the petitioners state, that they, and every Irish exporter of grain to the port of London, are exposed to three fraudulent operations, in consequence of the corn which they purchase, and ship from Ireland by weight, being unshipped, stored, and sold here by measurement. The result is, that as measurement is no adequate or accurate test of quantity, in reference to weight, plunder or pilfering may take place during the voyage hither, without the Irish merchant being able to ascertain the fact and fraud, or define its extent; whereas, if the cargo were weighed out here, as well as weighed (as it is) into the ship in Ireland, this corresponding test would either deter from fraud, or ascertain its extent, and render the captain or ship-master responsible for the loss. Now, however, the captain says he gives what he got; and as there is such a difference between the two tests of weight and measure, there is no opportunity of ascertaining the fact or fallacy of his allegation. Then, again, Sir, when the cargo is thus measured out, and placed upon the factors' loft, defalcation may occur there, too, and still the Irish owners have no opportunity of detecting or defining it. The ship-master and factor may both be men of honesty and honour; but the crew of the one, or the labourers of the other, may not be so. Thirdly, Sir, when the cargo is finally sold, the measuring depends so much on the skill, the strength, and the animus of the operator, that a very considerable loss or benefit to the seller or buyer may arise, according to the prevalence of these qualifications in the measurer, and thus, again, the Irish exporter has no check whereby to ascertain whether the cargo is fairly or unfairly dealt by. Moreover, Sir, I believe most practical men now agree, as an abstract question, that weight is a much safer and more perfect criterion of quantity, than measurement, from the reasons I have assigned—namely, the variable influence of the skill, strength, and intentions of the measurer. As regards this point of view, I have seen the matter placed thus:—An Irish merchant sends two cargoes, suppose of oats, to the London market—say of 1,000 bolls each, and each boll weighing 1961bs. These two cargoes have been taken from the same bulk; and, therefore, if measurement were an exact criterion, they should measure the same; but on receipt of sales, the merchant finds that one vessel's cargo is made to weigh 411bs. per bushel, and the other 421bs. per bushel, which creates the following loss to him—

1,000 bolls, weighing 196 lbs. each boll, turn out by measure 41 lbs. per bushel, or 597½
1,000 bolls weighing 196 lbs., each boll, turn out by measure 42 lbs. per bushel, or 583¼
Difference and loss to the Irish shipper - 14¼
which at 30s. per quarter, come to 21l. 7s. 6d., arising from one cargo having been measured in even a slightly heavier manner than the other. Now, Sir, this is what occurs every day; and the House may, therefore, judge what an enormous difference it is calculated to make annually, and in the aggregate. Sir, I beg to say, that the petitioners do not intend to arraign or abridge the corporate revenues of the port of London, by the desired alteration from measurement to weight, as they are willing to pay the same charges they now do, if the latter be resorted to. All they seek for is, that as they buy corn by weight, it may be similarly treated and disposed of here, not only for their protection, but as, in the abstract, a far better standard for all such purposes than measurement; and they have the stronger claim, when they state, that the port of London is the only principal one where measurement and not weight, is used; Liverpool, Glasgow, Bristol, &c. &c, adopting the latter. Why, Sir, we ourselves have recently recognised this preference by enacting that coals should be weighed, not measured; and I believe experience has proved this to be a wise and salutary change.

Petition to be printed.

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