§ Mr. Labouchere
brought up the report of the committee on commerce and navigation, as follows—That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a bill, to enable her Majesty to carry into effect certain stipulations contained in a treaty of commerce and navigation between her Majesty and the Emperor of Austria, and to empower her Majesty to declare, by Order in Council, that ports which are the most natural and convenient shipping ports of States, within whose dominions they are not situated, may in certain cases be considered, for all purposes of trade with her Majesty's dominions, as the national ports of such States.The right hon. Gentleman moved, that the resolution be agreed to.
§ Mr. Herries
thought that some explanation would have been given by the right hon. Gentleman for such an extraordinary motion, especially as he had given notice of motion of certain resolutions, the effect of which would be some such measure as that which the right hon. Gentleman now professed his desire to bring forward. The immediate effect of the present motion would be, to interpose between his motion, which was for an address to her Majesty, praying her to take some steps to put an end to the state of things now existing. He had thought, that the right hon. Gentleman would have explained under what circumstances and for what purposes he came forward in the year 1840, and asked for a power to be placed in the hands of Government, enabling them at their discretion to set aside the Navigation Act, for the purpose of carrying into effect a treaty with Austria made two years ago. He would venture to say, that it was an unexampled circumstance for a member of the Government to come down and propose a measure of such an extraordinary character, without saying a word in its support. Was it for hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House to explain why this extraordinary power was requisite? Yet it was necessary that he should state to the House that which the right hon. Gentleman was unwilling to stale. Two years 470 ago a treaty was concluded between this country and the government of Austria, having for its object that which all persons who took a just view of the interests of the two countries must concur in facilitating to the utmost of their power. No individual felt more than he did the importance of drawing closer the ties of friendship, and of intercourse between this country and Austria. There was no state with which at all times and under all circumstances it was more important or more desirable that this country should be united; but in the present state of the continent, and in relation to passing and future events, the importance of this connexion was still further increased. In 1838, her Majesty's Government took great praise to themselves for having surpassed all their predecessors, and for having, by their superior skill, effected a commercial treaty with Austria, and thereby opened a new way for the extension of our trade. He concurred in the object, but with others he lamented that they had taken unskilful means to carry their intentions into effect. Instead of the treaty being an improvement on the treaty negociated by the Earl of Aberdeen, it had been the subject of continued difficulty; and, instead of producing a better understanding between the two countries, it had led to long protracted and hitherto unfinished negotiations. There were two articles in the new treaty which differed from the previous treaty, and embodied, or were intended to embody, one of the great principles of the commercial treaties with other countries, and which was called "reciprocity." This principle was embodied in Articles 4 and 5, and to them he would call the particular attention of the House. Each of these articles was in contravention of the laws of this land. The first was a direct violation and contravention of the navigation laws; the second was also at variance and deviation from that same law. He mentioned both together, because it was necessary that the House should bear in mind that with respect to the 5th Article the difficulties which the navigation laws threw in the way of the execution of that article had' been removed by a special application to Parliament. At the end of the Customs Bill of last year, and on the third reading, a clause was introduced enabling the Government, notwithstanding the Naviga- 471 tion Act, to give effect to the 5th Article of the Austrian treaty, which provided,In consideration of British vessels arriving from other countries than those belonging to the high contracting parties being admitted with their cargoes into Austrian ports, without paying any other duties whatever than those paid by Austrian vessels, so also the productions of the soil and industry of the parts of Asia or Africa situated within the Straits of Gibraltar, which shall have been brought into the ports of Austria, may be re-exported from thence in Austrian vessels directly into British ports, in the same manner and with the same privileges as to all manner of duties and immunities, as if these productions were imported from Austrian ports in British vessels,The clause enabling the treaty to be carried into effect was smuggled through Parliament; if he had been present, and the purport of the clause had been mentioned, he would have made no objection. The 5th Article being thus disposed of, they came now to the 4th Article, and if it had not before that time been made the subject of particular observation in that House by any independent Member, the neglect might well be excused, because if any one read the article alone, it was impossible to be understood to construe at first into a contravention of the Navigation Act. It had not, however, escaped the notice of the Earl of Aberdeen, who called the attention of the public to the latter part of the clause which required much explanation. It was so ambiguous that it could not be understood by any person not aware of the spirit with which it was framed. But an instance had occurred since, which gave a practical illustration of what was intended, and showed that it was a direct violation of the navigation laws. An Austrian ship had arrived, and attempted to do that which this article professed to give it the right to do. In consequence of this, the parties making the attempt were guilty of a violation of our navigation law, the ship and cargo were seized, and after much negotiation with the public departments they were released, on the payment of a small fine, such small fine being expressly imposed to prevent the assumption that the importation was authorized by the existing law. Now, though the Austrian ship had acted against the navigation law, it had acted according to the treaty of commerce. By the 4th Article of that treaty it was declared, that 472All Austrian vessels arriving from the ports of the Danube, as far as Galacz inclusively, shall, together with their cargoes, be admitted into the ports of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of all the possessions of her Britannic Majesty, exactly in the same manner as if Such vessels came direct from Austrian ports, with all the privileges and immunities stipulated by the present treaty of navigation and commerce.It then went on to say,In like manner, all British vessels, with their cargoes, shall continue to be placed upon the same footing as Austrian vessels, whenever such British vessels shall enter into or depart from the same ports.Here was an authority given to the English to go with equal advantages to the Austrians, and enter ports in which Austria had not one foot of land. The reciprocity which Austria gave was the right of English vessels to go into Turkish ports in the same manner as Austrian ships. This most extraordinary provision did not fail to attract attention. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Tamworth, had endeavoured to obtain an explanation, and that explanation he certainly did not obtain. The same question being asked in two different places, it was said in one place "it is true, there certainly does appear to be a difficulty on this account, but a treaty will very soon be made with Turkey, by which effect will be given to this article, and undoubtedly something must be done before the Austrian treaty that has been ratified can be executed. But in that House, when the same question was asked, the reply was, that no such treaty with Turkey was necessary. The noble Lord, at the head of the Government, had said in another place, that a treaty would be formed, and in that House, the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department said, that a treaty was not necessary. No doubt it was not necessary, unless some effect were intended to be given to the stipulations of the treaty. The fifth article of the treaty contravened the Navigation Act, and needed a legislative measure to give it effect; and it now appeared by events which had since disclosed the fact, that the fourth article was even more at variance with the Navigation Act. Why had not the Government, in fairness and justice, asked the House at the same time that the fifth article was remedied, for an authority by which the fourth could be carried into effect? That was what he expected the right hon. 473 Gentleman to explain, and not merely to put a paper into the hands of the Speaker in the careless way in which he had just done. The right hon. Gentleman had not only to explain why he did now ask for this power, but also why he had not asked for it long ago? Lord Melbourne had said, that he might be asked why this had not been done before, and that his reply was that the right hon. Gentleman formerly at the head of the Board of Trade, knowing that a treaty with Turkey was on foot, had thought it better not to come twice to Parliament. But the Government had already come once, and by the course they were now taking they had come twice. He had a right to ask those who applied to the House for powers to enable the Government at their own will and pleasure to set aside the navigation laws to state the grounds for the application. He had himself given his notice of motion because it was a matter of notoriety in the commercial world; and if this motion had not intervened, he had intended to move resolutions declaring that what had been done had been in contravention of the law, that the Government officers had interfered to mitigate the effect of the law, that such a state of things in respect to a treaty with a foreign power was unbecoming us as a nation, and that, therefore, the House would address the Crown, praying it to take such steps as were necessary to put an end to a state of things which was alike unsuited to the regular administration of the law, and to the punctual fulfilment of her Majesty's engagements with foreign powers. He was not prepared to say, that lie would oppose the bill; but he doubted whether this was the best course for applying a remedy to the evil to which the want of flue caution on the part of those who had had the care of our foreign and commercial affairs had exposed this country. The reason why the attention of this country had not been so much directed to these articles was, that it was possible to conceive that the vessels might arrive with an Austrian cargo, and if so, it would be consistent with the Navigation Act, because Austrian ships might bring an Austrian cargo from any port; it was not necessary that it should come from an Austrian port. It might have been thought that the Government never would have given a power to any state to bring into our ports the produce of any 474 other state, The navigation laws were passed for the very purpose of preventing such a power, and it would have been deemed almost incredible that without submitting any measure to Parliament, and without any apology or explanation, the Government should have entered into and allowed a treaty to remain on the Table of the House without any notice, which was impracticable to give the concession which was intended to be made, except by a repetition of those favours, which the court of Vienna seemed to think would be granted to each succeeding vessel. The Government, however, incredible as it appeared, took no pains to reconcile the two things, either by altering the treaty so as to fit the law of the land, or by altering the law of the land to fit the treaty. How long the present state of things might have continued, if no notice had been taken of it on that side of the House, he could not say. It was clear, from the correspondence which had been laid on the Table of the House, that up to September, 1839, there was no intention to take any steps. That was ten months after the treaty was framed, and up to the first intimation of its violation. Here was a vessel, alleging that she came on the principle of the treaty, seized by us. The Treasury had referred the matter to the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade gave this reply: —Board of Trade, Whitehall, 12th Sept., 1839.Sir—The Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade have considered the application of Mr. John Routh, of the 2nd instant, transmitted by you, on the subject of a cargo of Turkish corn, imported from a Turkish port in the Danube in an Austrian ship; and their Lordships having adverted to the language of the 4th article of the Austrian treaty, referred to in your letter, have directed me to state their opinion, that although there may be no concurrent law for carrying that article into effect, according to the construction put upon it by the shippers at Galacz, it would be pro-per to give some relief in this and in similar cases. I am, therefore, to request that you will inform the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury, of the opinion of the Lords of this Committee, that such cargoes should, for the present, be admitted to entry for home consumption, upon the payment of a moderate fine, which they think should be demanded, in order to prevent the assumption that the importation is authorised by the existing law.There was no recommendation for altering the law to make it fit this state 475 of things. There was no "concurrent" law, said the Board of Trade. It was rather an ingenious way of putting it. There was no "concurrent" law. No; there was a distinct law against it. That was what ought to have been stated. Yet this did not cause the Government to alter the treaty that had been negociated, or to come down to the House for means to carry it out. They did neither one nor the other. He asked, then, who was responsible for this act? Was it the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who had framed this treaty in direct violation of the law of the land? Was it the Board of Trade? Because there were many particulars in relation to these treaties on which the Board of Trade used to be consulted, and he presumed still was. Did the Board of Trade advise the passing of the 4th article, and its being ratified without any means existing for carrying it into effect? Suppose the Foreign-office had forgotten, as commercial matters sometimes escaped diplomatic characters of the highest character, could not the Board of Trade recollect the state of the laws? The year 1838 passed. The year 1839 passed over without any step being taken by the Board of Trade. Then, again, were the law officers forgotten? The custom used to be, and he presumed it was the same now, to submit all treaties before they were ratified, to the law officers of the Crown; these legal functionaries were conversant with the law of the land. Did they not know the extent to which the treaty went in consequence of its ambiguous wording? Did they think it was no concession? Did they think, that there was no harm in a treaty, by which we gave Austria what we could not do by laws, and Austria conceded to us what she had no power to concede? Perhaps, under these circumstances, the law-officers considered the article of little or no value, and so gave no opinion upon it. Still, all those three departments were responsible for an article, which was a direct violation of the law, and which could only be acted on by an alteration of the law, or, as was now proposed, by giving the Government the power to dispense with the law. He objected to the latter mode, and he thought that the objection was good, unless the treaty was admitted by the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman to be of no avail. The 476 measure which was proposed was, to give a power to the Government to deal with ports which were not within the power of other countries, with which the treaties were negociated, but which might be convenient, and to declare them to be deemed material ports. It was giving to the Government the power to become the judge of any alteration in the navigation law. He thought, that their object might be answered without giving any such power. It might be right to stretch the Navigation Act in favour of Austria, in consideration of something being conceded. But what he feared was, that if we gave Austria this exemption, other nations which by treaty were entitled to be put on the same footing as the most favoured, might claim similar exemption. The noble Lord should have been anxious to show that if Austria, by the concluding part of the 4th article, did give something substantial in return, then there was an end to that objection. If it was a concession on the part of Austria to enable English vessels to enter Turkish ports on the same terms as Austrian vessels, then it might be right to give Austria this exemption from our navigation laws. But supposing that this offer was something that Austria had not the power to fulfil, then the right hon. Gentleman felt the difficulty, and made this application to Parliament to give to the Government a general authority to fortify them against the claims that might be made upon them by other countries. He trusted that he had said enough to show that the course which he had taken was not altogether unnecessary. In all respects this treaty was inferior in its framework to that which preceded it. He admitted that it contained much which was new, and much which was good; but unfortunately, the new was not good, and the good was not new.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that he had made no exposition of the grounds upon which he had made this motion, because he had thought that it would be better to wait until he saw the nature of the accusations brought against the Government before he attempted to make any explanation of his conduct, or of the conduct of those with whom he had had the honour to act. With regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he must say, that he had never heard more fallacious observations addressed to the House, or observations founded on more unstable grounds, and 477 he could well conceive that the right hon. Gentleman was averse to have those fallacies exposed. The right hon. Gentleman began by making an assertion similar to one which had been made in another place by a very high authority, that there was no difference between this treaty and that of the Earl of Aberdeen, except in the single article which was now under the consideration of the House; and that there were no advantages gained by this treaty to the commerce of the country beyond those which had been obtained by the treaty of the noble Earl. It became his duty, in answer to that observation, to show the advantages which in reality, were derived from the treaty, together with the particulars in which it differed from that formerly made, and to lay before the House those proofs which he possessed of the recent increase of trade and commerce, and he was soothed, under the sufferings produced by the hard words which the right hon. Gentleman had applied to him, by the certain prospect that a very great and almost indefinite extension of the trade of this country would take place in consequence of the provisions which had been made. He had been astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman declare, that there was no important distinction between this treaty and that of the Earl of Aberdeen. With regard to the important points of this treaty, and in respect to this subject, he rejoiced to say, that we had gained no additional advantages but upon terms of mutual reciprocity, which were best calculated to maintain the friendly relation of nations, he could himself claim no share of the merit due to those by whom it had been framed. The advantages derived under its provisions were obtained through the exertions and the zeal of his noble Friend who sat near him, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and of his right hon. Friend Mr. Poulett Thomson, whose situation he now so unworthily occupied, and he must say, also, that they were considerably owing to the zeal and ability of Mr. M'Gregor, by whom it had been negociated. To proceed, however, to the provisions of the treaty. The first important advantage which it obtained for this country had been granted by no other European state. It was that of a free admission for all British ships with cargoes carried direct from all parts of the world into the Austrian ports. This was a 478 most important stipulation, and one which had been most anxiously looked for by our trade and commerce. It was true, that it was practically enjoyed before, but those who were acquainted with the subject well knew, that unless this security were afforded, that direct trade, which was so important, could not be secured, and those who were engaged in this species of trade would have no hesitation in assuring the House, that the advantage which was obtained was one of no ordinary importance. In this provision, alone, therefore, there was a wide distinction between the treaty signed by Mr. M'Gregor and that of the Earl of Aberdeen, and although he did not mean to deny, that the treaty of the noble Earl was one of undoubted merit, he thought that it was exceedingly improper to assert that the other was identical with it, except with respect to a few breaches of the navigation laws. But there was another point of still greater importance to which the right hon. Gentleman had not referred at all. Was there nothing obtained at the same time with the treaty? There was. For there had been a most important alteration in the tariff of Austria, which operated most advantageously to the trade of this country, and which had produced a vast augmentation of our exports to Austria. This did not apply to the treaty it was true, but it was effected at the same time. The late tariff of Austria was one of the most prohibitory in the world, but he was happy that that enlightened statesman, Prince Metternich, had seen the importance—the necessity of some alteration and revision being made. The principle of prohibition had now been entirely removed, and that of duty had been substituted for it. Those duties still remained very high, but in many instances changes had been made of a most liberal description, materially affecting the commerce of the country. The following, among other articles of British growth and manufacture, which are now exported by the Adriatic, Genoa, and the Rhine, and Elbe, into the Austrian dominions were, until those changes, prohibited, viz. woven and printed cottons, linens and woollens, hats of all kinds, manufactures of brass, copper, iron, steel, pewter, and tin, painters' colours, Cape wines, ale and porter, &c. &c. The duties at which these were now admitted varied from 5 to 10, 15, 20, and in some instances, as on cotton woven goods, to 50 per cent., ad valorem. 479 Cotton twist paid formerly 60 to 80 per cent.; it was now admitted at 15 florins the centner of 123lbs., or from 5 to 8 per cent. On linen yarns the duty was reduced to 10d. per centner—from 5 to 8 per cent. On leather manufactures, the duties were reduced to 20 per cent. Fish, such as cod-fish and herrings, to 2 florins the centner. Fish oils and train oils to about 7d. the centner. Muscovado and refined sugars had both been reduced, the former from 21 florins to 15 florins, and for the use of refineries to 7½ florins. Numerous other reductions had also been made. He contended that the House must look at this treaty, together with the reduction which had been obtained in the tariff at the same period, and he believed that it would be found that no proceeding had ever been presented to the House of the same character, which produced more practical benefit, or which better deserved its support and assent. A great increase of British trade to Austria had been the effect of this stipulation. A great portion of the exports of this country to Austria found its way through the Elbe and other northern rivers, and he was not at present possessed of the means of showing what the increase had been in that respect; but with regard to the commerce of this country and its dependencies, carried on through the medium of British ships entering Austrian ports, he could make a statement to the House of the most gratifying description. The year before this treaty was made, (1837) the number of British ships which arrived with British cargoes in Austrian ports was 97, measuring 17,338 tons; in 1838, the number of ships was 164, measuring 28,669 tons. In the year 1839, the number of vessels was 147, measuring 27,066 tons. A great increase of trade, therefore, had taken place since the signing of the treaty, and he thought that commerce mutually advantageous would spring up; and he believed that there could be no interest more binding or more likely to encourage a friendly feeling than that produced by a system of mutual trade, carried on upon terms of reciprocal advantage. He would now come to the subject more immediately under the notice of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that there was nothing new in the treaty which was good, and nothing good which was new. He thought that he should be able to shew, that there were 480 things both good and new, as well in principle as in effect, in the treaty. He should now proceed to show what concessions had been made by this country to Austria in return for these advantages, and he was prepared to maintain, that they were either beneficial to England, or, at all events, that they did not produce any injury to this country. These concessions amounted to two, contained in two articles numbered 4 and 5; and these were undoubtedly in contravention of the strict letter of the navigation law. The fifth article went to allow Austrian vessels to import into this country cargoes of the produce of Asia and Africa within the Straits of Gibraltar, provided those cargoes had been previously landed in Austria. He should have been prepared to show how reasonable it was, that such a concession should be made; but, as the right hon. Gentleman had admitted its propriety, he thought it would be wasting the time of the House to detain them with its consideration. He should, therefore, go at once to the fourth article, which was more properly before the House. He would frankly admit, that there had been some difference with regard to this part of the subject. Discussions had taken place between the Austrian and the English Government; but they had been carried on with feelings of the most amicable and conciliatory description. He was not able to speak with confidence upon this subject, as the arrangement had been made by Mr. Poulett Thomson before he (Mr. Labouchere) had the honour of holding the station which he now filled, and he believed that it was in consequence of the discussions which were then pending, and of the difficulty of forming an opinion upon the subject, that that right hon. Gentleman was unwilling to bring the subject before the House at that time. On the 12th of September, just one week after he had had the honour of receiving his appointment, it so happened that an Austrian vessel containing Turkish corn arrived in this country. That, having come from Galacz, he thought that we were not bound to admit that cargo; but it having been made clear to him that they were bound under treaty to admit it, without a moment's hesitation, he recommended to the Treasury that the Government ought to interfere, and to direct the cargo to be received. The right hon. Gentleman said, what a state of things was this, where an 481 act being done in contravention of the navigation laws, the authority of Parliament was not sought upon the general subject ! The House must suppose, upon this observation, that this was not an isolated case, but that there was a constant stream of commerce between the ports of the Danube and this country. This, however, was the only cargo which had arrived under these circumstances, and he thought that the right hon. Gentleman need not have been in such a violent hurry to make a complaint to the House. The right hon. Gentleman was mistaken if he supposed that he had intended to allow this Session to pass over, without obtaining from it its opinion as to the construction of this treaty. The subject had been discussed by him with his noble Friend, and it was agreed that this question should be brought before the House before the conclusion of the Session. He apprehended that the meaning of the treaty was, that ships coming from all ports of the Danube, down to Galacz, should be admitted, just as if they came from Austria, and that British vessels should, upon terms of reciprocity, be admitted to all ports on the Danube, within the same district. It might be said, however, that these were Turkish ports: but he apprehended that the first and second parts of the article were dependent on each other, and if Turkey prohibited the admission of English vessels into her ports, it would be a question whether England would not, in return, prohibit the entry of Turkish vessels into her ports. But the House would observe the principle which had been acted upon. He held, that this country had the deepest interest in extending its commercial relations, and in giving every facility to a continual intercourse between the merchants of this empire and those of the vast continental powers, which, from their situation, could never be considered maritime powers, which occupied the centre of Europe, but which, from the introduction of steam navigation, had, by means of large rivers, obtained all the advantages of sea-ports; and he held, that, if the expediency of relaxing our navigation laws were shown, it became our duty to adopt that course. Austria had no ports within its own dominions into which sea-going ships could procure admission, and it was necessary to favour all those ports to which access could be obtained, in order, as far as possible, to extend our commercial relations with that country; 482 and he had heard, with much satisfaction, that although the right hon. Gentleman, had objected to the precise words of the treaty, he had been unable to point out any practical evil as resulting from it. He believed that nothing but practical good could be produced by the treaty, and he believed, that in adopting the course which had been taken, we were producing material advantages to Europe. Then the right hon. Gentleman suggested, that under the fourth article of the treaty, this country must be placed in a position of great difficulty with other great powers, with which we had reciprocal treaties. He was satisfied, however, that no such result could be produced, for no other country but Austria had a river placed in a position so peculiar as that of the Danube. He hoped he had said enough to show, in the first place, that this treaty, taken as a whole, was highly advantageous to this country; that it was founded upon just principles; that, although in the two instances pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman, it departed from the strict letter of the navigation laws, yet that it adhered to the spirit of those laws, and that while we had sacrificed what was no loss to us, we had obtained, in return, most valuable privileges to our own merchants.
§ Mr. Herries,
in explanation, said, that the right hon. Gentleman had mistaken him. What he objected to was, that the right hon. Gentleman, having made his motion, had not thought right to support it with any statement. He would thus have been afforded an opportunity to reply. But, instead of doing that, the right hon. Gentleman had put him in the condition of making a statement, whilst he had himself the opportunity of reply. With respect to making general provisions to enable the Government to grant similar advantages to other states, he thought that no more powers ought to be given than were shown to be necessary. If it was shown that those powers were more than were necessary, they ought not to be asked for by the Crown, nor conceded by the House of Commons.
said, that he felt ready to offer the meed of his congratulation to her Majesty's Government for the general scope of this treaty, which he thought calculated to increase the trade of this country. When so much had been said of reciprocal advantages, be was anxious to 483 call the attention of the House to a point which had not been adverted to with sufficient clearness by the right hon. Gentleman. When this country had to contend with a country which possessed cheap timber and low wages, it was impossible that this country could succeed in the competition. In stating this fact, which was of great importance, he would be able to prove it by returns which he held in his hand. Mr. Huskisson considered, that the increase of shipping between this and other countries with which we had reciprocal treaties would be in our favour, but the contrary was proved to be the fact. With respect to the eight countries of Europe, with which we have treaties of reciprocity, taking the three years from 1821 to 1824, before the passing of these treaties, and the three years from 1836 to 1839, since the signing of these treaties, it appeared that in the three former years there were 910,000 tons of British shipping employed in her trade with those countries, and 771,000 tons of foreign shipping. In the three latter years, ending 1839, the amount of British tonnage had increased to 1,588,000 tons, whilst the foreign shipping had increased to 1,168,000 tons. There were, on the other hand, six countries with which we had no reciprocity treaties, in contrast with which our tonnage was rapidly increasing. He thought that these facts demonstrated most clearly, that this country, when competing with countries which possessed cheap timber and low-priced labour, could not possibly succeed. That was, however, no reason why reciprocity treaties should not be adopted. If they did not exist, what Mr. Huskisson had called conflicting duties would be the consequence; and their fruit would cause incalculable injury to trade. He contended that no reciprocity treaty was useful in which care was not taken to obtain advantages for our manufacturers; and, certainly, that point had been attended to in the Austrian treaty, for in that manufacturers were included. With respect to the 4th article in the treaty, which was the principal subject in discussion, he thought that Government had left it very imperfect, they not having secured the trade of the Danube by a treaty with Turkey. While we were without a treaty with Turkey, the fourth article of the Austrian treaty was of little or no use. The objection urged by his right hon. Friend (Mr. 484 Herries) had been two, and he did not think the answers of the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade at all satisfactory. The first was, that Government, having by the treaty violated the Navigation Act, had afterwards taken no steps towards getting the consent of Parliament to that measure. There was no personal blame to be attached to the present President of the Board of Trade for the omission, but certainly Government, as a body, were responsible. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that no great inconvenience had arisen from the conflict between the treaty and the law. He could tell him that he knew a gentleman who, on the promulgation of the treaty, was most anxious to open a trade with Austria, but who, on the seizure of the vessel at Gloucester, immediately abandoned the idea. The fact was, that the imperfect state of the treaty precluded all attempts at increasing the trade. The other objection of his right hon. Friend was, that in consequence of neglecting to include Turkey in the arrangement, our trade would be left at the mercy of any foreign power who could successfully intrigue at the Turkish court for the closing of the ports of the Danube. He trusted, that the right hon. Gentleman would use his best endeavours to remove those imperfections from a treaty which, generally speaking, was likely to prove beneficial to the trade of this country.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that the object of the framers of the fourth article in this treaty had been to interest Great Britain in maintaining the free navigation of the mouth of the Danube and the Black Sea, and the ports there. It was observable, that since this treaty had been concluded there had been an increased activity in the trade between this country and Austria. It was highly desirable, therefore, that the Government should be empowered to enter into similar treaties with other powers, and so far to relax the strictness of the navigation laws. He rejoiced to find that this bill had received such a degree of attention, and that there was a prospect of some relaxation of those laws.
§ Mr. A. Chapman
objected to the principle of the treaty. He was old enough to remember when reciprocity treaties first came before the House, and, at that time, had stated that their effect would 485 be to increase the tonnage of other countries, and to diminish our own. The returns produced by his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilmarnock, proved that his (Mr. Chapman's) prophecy had been correct, because now if it were not for our colonial trade our tonnage would be small indeed. Now, we carried no coffee from Batavia to Holland, nor was there any trade from the Baltic to this country, except in foreign ships. The hon. Member for Lambeth had made a comparison between our trade at the present time, and that of 1814, alleging, that in 1814 this country was carrier to all the world. The hon. Member had forgotten, that in 1814, the Berlin and Milan decrees were promulgated, and consequently that then we had no trade in Europe from the North Cape to Gibraltar. The most flourishing period of our trade was from 1816 to 1822, the last being the year in which the unfortunate reciprocal treaties were introduced. He trusted, that the noble Lord would not proceed with any more of those treaties, but would preserve those laws which had created nurseries for our seamen, and had led to the victories of a Howe and a Nelson.
§ Mr. Sheil
There was this advantage gained from the treaty, which distinguished it from that of Lord Aberdeen—that at present British ships could go from any part of the world to Austria. Formerly they were confined to Great Britain. This was a change essentially distinct, which the hon. Member for Harwich must admit, on consideration, to be a change for the better. What was the result? In 1837, the number of British ships which went into Austria were 95; in 1838, the year of the treaty, they increased to 164; and in 1839, there were 144. It was a curious circumstance, that of the latter there were 59 which came not direct from Britain, but from various foreign ports, and this in virtue of the present treaty. Another advantage from the present change was the alteration of the tariff and the shortening of the period of quarantine.
§ Sir E. Sugden
said, the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten the 5lh Clause, which gave to Austria great advantages. The complaint of his hon. Friend was, that the Government had not come earlier to the House for the power to carry the treaty into execution, inasmuch as the treaty was in violation of the Navigation Laws. As to the allegation that fifty-nine 486 of our ships had taken advantage of the clause and only one Austrian vessel, that was an additional reason why the Government should have come down to the House earlier, as it looked like a breach of faith with the Powers with whom we had entered into a treaty. The construction of the treaty according to its terms was very doubtful. Under all the circumstances, what the House was bound to do was to ascertain that Austria had the power to give that entry to the Turkish ports which she professed, and that the Queen's Government should not be authorised to infringe the Navigation Laws until it was satisfactorily ascertained that Austria had the power to give that which they professed to give.
§ Mr. Hindley
observed, that the advocates of free trade in that House did not at all relish the principles of the bill when they affected their own constituents. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last was in favour of the repeal of the Corn-laws, but was strenuously opposed to any change in the Navigation Laws. He was favourable to the principles of free trade, and should, therefore, support the motion.
§ Sir S. Canning
The framers of this treaty were certainly, in his opinion, entitled to credit for the spirit which prevailed in it. At the same time he must say, that in the encomiums bestowed on it sufficient attention had not been paid to that which preceded it. He certainly could not bestow unequivocal praise on the distinctions of a treaty which resting on the ground of mutual advantages refused to allow the entrance of the ships of the foreign power. The discussion, however, would be advantageous.
§ Viscount Palmerston
felt great gratification at perceiving that the opinions of almost everybody who had taken part in this subject were in accordance with the principles upon which this treaty was framed. He thought that it would prove exceedingly useful to the commercial interests and relations of this country for it to go forth that all parties were agreed in favour of the liberal principles on which this treaty was framed. It had been objected that some of the articles of the treaty were not so clearly drawn as they might have been. He did not admit this objection to the extent it had been made, 487 and be thought that the right hon. Member who urged it showed that he fully understood the article to which he referred. He would admit, that the 4th Article was not quite so clearly worded as it might have been. The fact was, that during the negotiations at Vienna on this subject this article was frequently altered and copied, and it was in the course of these proceedings that this slight obscurity crept in. When the treaty came to this country to be ratified the question was, whether it should be sent back again for verbal amendment, or signed at once; and the latter course was adopted, as it was not considered that a trifling obscurity in one or two expressions would be a sufficient ground to postpone the adoption of so important a principle as the treaty involved. With respect to the objection that the advantages conferred upon Austria by this treaty were clear and evident, but that those intended for England were absolutely nugatory, he did not think that it was borne out by the fact. The right hon. Member would bear in mind that by the terms of this treaty, Austria was precluded, not only from asking, but also from accepting if offered, any greater advantages in the ports of Turkey than were enjoyed by England. With respect to the objection, that fully to realize the advantages contemplated by this connexion, a subsequent treaty with Turkey would be necessary in order to prevent that power from excluding us altogether from the Danube, he would only remark, that by virtue of existing treaties, English ships had a right of trading in any Turkish ports, and therefore to all parts of the Danube comprehended within the Turkish territory, whilst the freedom of the remainder was guaranteed by the treaty with Austria. He agreed that it was of vast importance to give every possible development to the commercial energies of Turkey and Austria, and the opening of the navigation of the Danube, by affording a water communication with those great and productive countries, could not but afford very great facilities for that mercantile intercourse with Great Britain, which on every account was so desirable.
§ Mr. Herries
had not intended to say anything against the general scope and principle of this treaty.
§ Report agreed to.