HC Deb 06 August 1839 vol 49 cc1388-98
Mr. Hawes

rose, pursuant to notice, to move for a copy of the tariff, agreed upon by the Commissioners appointed under the 7th Article of the Convention of Commerce and Navigation between, Turkey and England. There were one or two topics to which he wished to call particular attention. In a letter from Teheran, dated 1st March, 1838, it was expressly stated, that The customs are a source of great oppression, and the trade being chiefly carried on by Georgians and the native Christians (Armenians), they are often much bullied; their resource in such cases is to declare themselves Russian subjects, and claim Russian protection, which is omnipotent here. It is of great use to the Russian minister and agents, as bringing them innumerable bribes, and to Russian policy as giving them innumerable subjects of complaint against the Persian government, and which they are ready at all times to bring forward, and to back any demand they may choose to make, while, at the same time, no more effectual means could be found of displaying their power and extending their influence all over Asia. The object of his motion generally, was to induce her Majesty's Government and the country to pay more attention to our relations in this quarter of the globe; as it was extremely important, that as we became shut out from the ports of France, and other European powers, we should take advantage of the new fields of commerce which offered themselves to us in the East. He was of opinion, that in the whole of the Black Sea our commercial interests ought to be further protected, and that every effort ought to be made to extend English commerce. A statement made by the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, the other night, showed that the proportion of goods exported, on which a great degree of British labour was employed, had lately diminished with respect to the whole quantity of exports; the sort of goods which required but a small consumption of British labour for their preparation having much increased of late among the exports. The proportions stood thus:—

Of goods, with the smaller proportion of labour, compared with goods with the greater proportion of labour, exported to—

1827. 1830. 1834. 1837.
Russia 31.17 to 68.83 27.16 to 72.84 21.31 to 75.69 18.53 to 81–47
Prussia 67.91 to 32.09 63.20 to 36.80 55.09 to 44.91 47.53 to 52.47
U. States. 95.83 to 0.417 95.57 to 04.42 93.31 to 6.69 86 to 13

Thus, whilst our trade increased, the quality of that trade was undergoing a change. Still our trade increased, perhaps, in the gross, between 1827 and 1837, about 14 per cent. Our trade ought to increase in proportion to our population and our capital. But if the increase of capital, compared with the increase of trade, were taken into consideration, using the population tables, and taking the ordinary calculations, it would appear that of the age of 30, one person in 3,755 dies annually, or about 85,512 heads of families, out of a population of 15,324,720 souls. Now, the capitals subjected in 1838 to probate duty, were by wills 45,624,540l., and by letters of administration, 4,797,475l., making ff together the annual sum of 50,422,015l., which multiplied by 3,755, the number of persons living on an average of 30 years of age, gives 1,893,346,663l., as the personal property in Great Britain only. But not above 23,819 wills and letters of administration are registered. Hence, as there are 62,965 heads of families living whose property is unaccounted for, and who are worth something each, this property of 62,965 persons must be added; therefore he would assume 2,000 millions pounds sterling to represent the personal property of Great Britain. Taking, then, the same data to estimate the value of the personal property in periods of five years since the peace in 1814, it will be seen that this property was in 1814, 1,200 millions; in 1819, 1,300 millions; in 1824, 1,500 millions; in 1829, 1,700 millions; in 1834, 1,800 millions; and in 1838, 2,000 millions, or an addition of 800,000,000. But as the war expenditure was 83 millions per annum, and the average of the peace expenditure had not exceeded 50 millions, the difference between the two amounts would account for this difference from this cause alone. Hence, capital had increased 75 per cent., and trade only 14 per cent., which measured, in some degree—the check and injury of prohibiting tariffs—navigation laws—and the mischief of the laws regulating the trade in corn, timber, and sugar. He hoped that the House would express its disapprobation of the existing state of things. With regard to the quarantine laws, there had certainly been considrerable improvement; but a vast deal more remained to be done. He had felt it his duty to direct the attention of the House to these matters, and he hoped that her Majesty's Ministers would see the propriety of acting upon the suggestions he bad thrown out. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for a copy of the tariff agreed upon by the Commissioners appointed under the seventh article of the Convention of Commerce and Navigation between Turkey and England.

Viscount Palmerston

felt that the House would feel obliged to his hon. Friend for having drawn the attention of the House to the subject before the close of the Session. Much had been done, but much yet remained to accomplish. He could assure the House, that this was a point that occupied the incessant attention of every Member of the Government, and that no opportunity was lost of extending the sphere of the foreign commerce of the country. With regard to the extension of the Turkish treaty, it would have been unusual and by no means expedient to make a treaty with a Sovereign, and to exclude a portion of the dominions of that Sovereign from the treaty. A doubt might arise whether it was desirable that England should claim the application of the treaty to Moldavia and Wallachia, because it was doubtful if the same abuses existed in those principalities as in the rest of the Turkish dominions, and that question had not yet been determined on. As to the right of England to do so, there could be no doubt. It was wrong to suppose that any new stipulations were necessary to secure the free navigation of the Danube, as that river was clearly included in the provisions of the Treaty of Vienna. Therefore, any new stipulations would weaken instead of strengthen those rights. He was not aware that the commerce of England stood in need of any protection in the Black Sea which it did not enjoy at present. A great and increasing trade with Persia, until the occurrence of the late differences, had been carried on in the Black Sea, under the protection of the British flag. An attempt had been made to hold a conference of European nations on the subject of quarantine. Many persons were of opinion that quarantine was useless, and if these opinions were correct, this was an additional reason why the European nations should re-consider the subject. It was the duty of the Government to open new channels for the commerce of the country; with this view a person had been sent to the Commercial League now sitting at Berlin, with a view to enter into some negociation with them; and he could assure the House, that the great object of the Government in every quarter of the world was to extend the commerce of the country. This was not to be done by the commercial treaties alone—the maintenance of peace was also necessary, not only of this country with others, but among all the nations of the world; and he was happy to say, that the efforts of this country in this respect had been hitherto successful. He could have no objection to the motion of his hon. Friend, but in justice to Austria he must state that, independent of the papers called for, there was published last year in Austria a new tariff, lowering duties and removing prohibitions, admitting certain goods on a fair rate of duty; among these articles were brass ware, cotton manufactures, earthenware, glass, leather, oil, tin, and pewter, and woollen manufactures of all kinds. Thus while this tariff did high honour to Austria, it exhibited a desire on the part of the Austrian government to extend the relations between the two countries.

Mr. Hume

felt, that the noble Lord was entitled to the thanks of the House and the country, for the pains he had taken in extending the commercial relations of the country. He hoped the time was coming when the restrictions on the importation of corn, timber, and other matters into this country would be removed.

Mr. Villiers

did not rise to question the title of the noble Lord to the gratitude of the country, for directing his attention to the commercial interests of this country, for, when he considered how those interests had been attended to by his predecessors, and the care which was bestowed upon them by this House, he was ready to allow that they ought to be grateful for what had fallen from the noble Lord that evening; for though this country was indebted for its name to commerce, it appeared as if the Members of the Legislature were ashamed of the subject; and he was indeed diverted to see, when he ventured very often to offend the taste of the House by broaching such matters, how ungenteel and how unfashionable such topics appeared—how Members shunned them, and how beside the business for which they were deputed there, such matters were thought. He was, however, glad to hear that the noble Lord took interest in such questions. He was glad to learn that he thought it the policy of this country to extend and to liberate its commerce, and that he wished that he had the power to give effect to his opinion. It was, of course, not for him to suggest to the noble Lord the manner in which he might promote his views; but as the noble Lord had manifested his zeal for a wiser policy, by deputing an agent to the north of Europe, there to represent the commercial interests of this country at this most interesting moment, when the States united under the German League were met to deliberate on their future relations in commerce with other nations, he trusted, that that person had directions to demand and to receive from those States the precise terms on which they would be ready to negotiate with them, should they be disposed to remove the mischievous restraints which were imposed on our intercourse with them; because he hardly knew a way in which the cause was more likely to be served, than for this agent to bring back to this country an authorised statement of the advantages that they were ready to offer; it would be attended with this good, that they should then be able to spew the precise amount of evil which they endured from their own restrictions; and they could meet the monstrous fallacies that were usually urged in opposition, that free trade is injurious to this country, by at once exhibiting the privations to which they were submitted by the present system. He was eager to seize at everything which could convince the people of this country of the danger and the folly of the present system, for he considered, that there never was a more interesting or more critical period in our history than the present. For though they seemed on the eve of confusion and embarrassment, they yet possessed the means of continued prosperity. Their whole system was based upon commerce, and its existence seemed to depend upon the continuance of their present relations, and yet from the rivalry that had arisen in other countries, and from their own impolitic restrictions, their former superiority was in jeopardy, which would not only be the loss of greatness, but the chance of every evil which financial embarrassment could entail upon them. It was, indeed, one of those astounding illusions under which people seemed to be in this House, that the revenue of this country was independent of foreign trade, and it was common to hear in the House, that the principle of free trade was perfectly sound—that it was attended with all the advantages which was professed, but that the revenue would not admit of its application—that it was the debt that prevented the application of these sound principles—that if they were not burdened by taxes, free trade would be admirable. This it was that must astonish any man who had bestowed even a passing thought on the sources of the revenue of this country, for it was the very ground on which he claimed free trade as a matter of necessity; it was because they were burdened by debt that they could not afford the additional burden of monopoly; it was because the taxes were so heavy, that it was essential to make production easy, and increase the facilities of consumption, in the view of making their burdens weigh lighter upon them. Were it otherwise—had they no debt, or only a small one—they might indulge in the luxury of maintaining particular classes at the expense of the community, that they might make some bear double weight, that others might go unencumbered; but unfortunately they could not indulge in this fancy, and also keep faith with the national creditor. The revenue, on which the maintenance of credit and security in this country depended, could not be raised without the foreign trade, and the revenue could not be exceeded, nor could our present expense be maintained, without extending their trade, and that could only be effected by removing those absurd and mischievous restrictions which cramped their energies, limited their industry, and deprived the people of free access to the comforts and necessaries of life. He heard, then, with satisfaction at this moment, when all men were alarmed at the present state of the country, that those who were entrusted with the administration were alive to the real interests of the country, and that they were applying their minds to the silly and suicidal policy which regulated their commercial intercourse with the rest of the world; and he was glad of this incidental discussion on the subject, as of any other discussion which might lead men to think on the matter, for there could be none more important to this country, and no better way out of our present difficulty could be devised than liberating commerce and. giving new employment to the industrious classes.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

said, that the meet- of the German Union was not for the purpose of entering into any negociations; and, therefore, the utmost the gentleman sent thither could do, was to collect opinions, as the Union was not empowered to enter into negociations. The question of commerce with us was a question of life and death—we were essentially a manufacturing nation, and could only maintain our position by remaining so. He thought throughout Europe there was a much greater disposition to liberalise their commercial relations than had existed a few years ago, and wherever the free trade principles had been acted on they had invariably succeeded. France had recently been acting on the restrictive system, which he was convinced, if continued for a few years, would throw her back for fifty years in the list of commercial nations. But however averse he might be to meet restrictions by restrictions, if France continued her present system, he certainly should refuse those concessions to her which he was inclined to grant to other nations. If this country had the power of fully developing her commerce, he feared nothing from the burdens which might be imposed upon her.

Mr. Ewart

said, whatever might be the difference of opinion among reformers as to the conduct of the ministry, as long as they maintained peace and free trade, they would have a strong hold on the support of all reasonable men.

Mr. Warburton

thought that the conduct of this country with regard to the admission of French brandy might be a key to the conduct of the French government with regard to the restrictions imposed on British commerce.

Mr. T. Attwood

said, that this country was differently situated from all other countries as to free trade, in consequence of our taxes and debt. He protested against adopting the notion, that in buying from foreign nations we were increasing our power or our wealth. There is one subject of my recent lucubrations, continued the hon. Member, which will be anything but gratifying to the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and on which I must ask him a few questions. I was, indeed, truly glad to hear the noble Lord express this evening such interest in, and such desire to extend, the commercial relations of this country,—but if the noble Lord is really earnest, how is it be has allowed British trade to be ex- cluded from the Black Sea. How is it that he has allowed the Circassians, a gallant people, who alone brave the whole power of Russia, to be cut off from all intercourse with England? Why does he not enter into commercial treaties with the Circassian chiefs, who have an extent of 300 miles of coast. He knows the importance of that country as a barrier to India, and as the only means of arresting the designs, and effectually opposing the aggressions of Russia in that direction. The noble Lord surely cannot sanction the treaty of Adrianople, by which Russia claims the Circassian territory, as he has that of Unkiar Skelessi, by which the British flag is dishonoured by its exclusion from the Black Sea. I have heard the noble Lord say in this House, that he did not recognise any claim of Russia to the possession of Circassia,—that Russia had no right to receive Circassia,—that Turkey had no right to give it, as it was never subject to her,—that Russia had not actual possession, and therefore could not establish custom-house regulations in a country which she did not hold;—indeed, in the disgraceful affair of the Vixen—that burning shame to England, he only justified the capture of that vessel under the pretence that Russia had a fort in the Bay of Soudjeukkale—a pretence by which he attempted to throw dust in the eyes of the country. Why, then—I ask the noble Lord—why does he not extend British commerce by opening communications with the Circassian chiefs, who look to England with hope and for protection. Where could he find better or important allies? If Circassia falls, the supremacy of Russia is thus established at once in the East: how long then will he guarantee to this country the continuance of her trade with Turkey and Trebizonde? If the noble Lord would imitate in the West, the energy displayed by the Indian Government in the East, matters would soon be brought to an issue. Why, indeed, is not the British fleet now in the Black Sea to protect our commerce with Circassia?—The noble Lord has said Russia possesses Anapa and a few other places or forts on the coast; but the Circassians have 300 miles of coast; and supposing Russia to hold fifty miles of it, is it any reason why we should allow her to possess the remainder, and thus forward the views of Russia, who has that obstacle to remove before she seizes the Dardanelles and eventually drives us out of India. I again call on the noble Lord to know why he does not recognise the independence of Circassia? It has been thought and said, that Russian gold has found its way into this House. I do not mean to accuse the noble Lord of having received Russian gold, but the idea has gone abroad that Russian gold has found its way into this House. The noble Lord cannot but be aware that charges involving criminality of a serious nature have been put forth against him in print too—not alone in the daily and weekly press, but in pamphlets and works, some of which I now hold in my hand—not the productions of obscure and unknown individuals, but respectable gentlemen, having filled high offices—Secretaries of Embassy—Employés and Protogés of the noble Lord himself,—Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Parish, have brought forward these accusations, and supported them by documentary evidence. God forbid that I should say that they are true; but they are uncontradicted, they have gone forth to the country, and why is it that the noble Lord has not instituted legal proceedings against these gentlemen? I think it right to state to the noble Lord, that the country expected that he would have taken such a course as a means of self-justification. Why have not the parties who bring forward such charges been prosecuted for libel? I have not brought this forward to the notice of the House from any unpleasant feeling to the noble Lord, but in fulfilment of a duty; I have a right to call attention to this subject

Mr. Thornely

thought that this discussion, if it went forth, would give great satisfaction to the public. He alluded more particularly to the speeches of the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, and the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade. From what he knew of the constituents of the hon. Member for Bir- mingham, he felt convinced that they would very little approve of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member. He thought that the country was deeply indebted to Government for the treaties of commerce they had concluded with foreign nations. However, in his opinion, the great want of the country was, not treaties of commerce with foreign countries, but the removal of restrictions at home. He hoped that next Session something would be done in promoting free trade.

Mr. John A. Smith

begged to ask the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether he had received any direct intelligence from China, in respect to the recent events which were reported to have taken place there.

Viscount Palmerston

said, he had received to-day a dispatch from the British superintendent, Captain Elliot, dated Macao, 23rd March, at which time he had received a printed copy of the edicts, published by the Chinese authorities, relative to the suppression of the opium trade, stating that he was then ready to proceed to Canton for the purpose of communicating with the Chinese authorities upon the subject. Since that date he had received no intelligence whatever; but he had put into his hands this morning, by a gentleman connected with India, an extract from a Sincapore paper, containing intellingence up to the 6th of April, the nature of which he had n o doubt was known to the hon. Gentleman; but his information was not of a more recent date than the 23rd of March, from Macao.

Motion agreed to.

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