§ Mr. Labouchere moved the Order of the Day for a Committee of the whole House, to consider the Customs duties in the West Indian and North American Colonies.
§ House in Committee.
§ Mr. Labouchere
, pursuant to notice, rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to that system of duties, which had been established under the authority of the imperial Parliament, in the western portion of the dominions of her Majesty. He should likewise have some observations to make on the manner in which the trade of those colonies had been conducted. Although the subject was not of a nature to excite party feeling, and although it would necessarily oblige him to enter into many dry details, yet he was satisfied that he need not solicit the attention of the House to a subject of such vast importance, involving the interests, not only of the colonies, but of the whole empire. He also relied upon that indulgence which the House was generally pleased to extend to one who, in the discharge of an official duty, was compelled to address them at some length on a question of this nature. He would not detain the committee by entering at 149 any length into the former proceedings of Parliament in regard to colonial duties. The old system confined the trade of the colonies to the mother country. Even Ireland was then considered a dependency of Great Britain, and was prohibited to have any direct trade of her own with the British colonies. This system was maintained in all its rigour until the year 1780. The first inroad upon it was then made. That was after the close of the American war, when it became necessary to look to the rising spirit of discontent in Ireland, much fomented by the illiberal and unjust policy of this country in respect to commerce. By the first relaxation Ireland was put, not on the same footing as England and Scotland, but she was able to export her own produce to the colonies and to receive colonial produce direct in return. The next great change did not occur until the year 1822, when the present Lord Ripon, then Mr. Robinson, was President of the Board of Trade; he introduced some important measures on the subject of colonial trade, by which he greatly relaxed the rigour of the navigation laws. In lien of prohibitory duties he established a system of regulating or protecting duties. As many of the duties then imposed by Mr. Robinson still subsist, he Was anxious to read the views that gentleman entertained; in imposing a new scale of duties, such as he had described, Mr. Robinson thus spoke:—That protection can, in this instance, be afforded to them in no other way than by imposing a moderate duty upon the importation into the West Indies of those foreign articles, such as grain, flour, and lumber, which are equally the production of our own dominions. I shall not now trouble the committee by going into details further than to state that the duties should be so moderately calculated and so justly apportioned, as not to deprive the people of the United States of their fair proportion of this necessary supply, or seriously to enhance the price to the consumer.Such were the principles on which Mr. Robinson declared his measure to be founded in 1822. He now came to the year 1825, when another still more important step was taken in the same direction, under the auspices of Mr. Huskisson. That right hon. Gentleman had brought forward large measures of colonial reform, and procured the passing of an act which, with a few immaterial exceptions, is still the law regulating colonial trade. Mr. Huskisson therefore still further relaxed 150 the navigation laws, and in the next place he established bonding warehouses in the colonies—a measure productive of the greatest advantages, both to the mother-country and to her foreign possessions. In the third place, Mr. Huskisson removed those prohibitory duties which Mr. Robinson had permitted to remain. In his speech upon that occasion, Mr. Huskisson stated so clearly his views and principles, that he (Mr. Labouchere) could not do better than read a short extract from his speech to the House; he should do so partly for the intrinsic value of the opinions and principles he stated, and partly because he was glad to shelter himself under the authority of a man whose measures had entitled him to the gratitude and admiration of his country. The following was the mode in which Mr. Huskisson described his measure:—I am prepared to open the commerce of our colonies to all friendly states, upon the same principle (though of course with some difference in the detail of its modifications) upon which they are at liberty to trade with Jersey or with Ireland. With the exception of some articles, which it will be necessary to prohibit, such as fire-arms and munitions of war generally, and sugar, rum, &c., in the sugar colonies, I propose to admit a free intercourse between all our colonies and other countries, either in British ships or in ships of those countries, allowing the latter to import all articles the growth, produce, or manufacture of the country to which the ship belongs, and to export from such colonies all articles whatever of their growth, produce, or manufacture, either to the country from which such ship came, or to any other part of the world, the United Kingdom and all its dependencies excepted. All intercourse between the mother-country and the colonies, whether direct or circuitous, and all intercourse of the colonies with each other, will be considered as a coasting trade, to be reserved entirely and absolutely to ourselves. By this arrangement the foundation of our navigation laws will be preserved, whilst the colonies will enjoy a free trade with foreign countries, without breaking in upon the great principle of those laws in respect to foreign trade—that the cargo must be the produce of the country to which the ship belongs, leaving the national character of the ship to be determined by the rules which apply in like cases in this country. The importation of foreign goods into the colonies I propose should be made subject to moderate duties, but such as may be found sufficient for the fair protection of our own productions of a like nature.These were the simple principles or which the bill of Mr. Huskisson was 151 founded. Before, however, he proceeded to state the principles of the measure which he was about to introduce to the House, he could not help reminding hon. Members that every one of the measures for the relaxation of the restrictions on our colonial trade, every one of the steps taken to substitute fixed duties for prohibition, or for the lowering of duties, and every attempt to indulge in a liberal course had been encountered by the violent opposition of many important interests in this country, who fancied that they would receive some injury. The very first measure, allowing a trade between the colonies and Ireland, was strongly opposed by these interests, and those persons who recollected the speech of Mr. Huskisson, would remember that he stated that there were petitions against the change from Manchester and from Bristol; nay, that the merchants of Liverpool declared that if Ireland were placed on the same footing as England, the port and town of Liverpool would speedily fall back to its former state. The next measure of Mr. Robinson encountered a storm of opposition not less severe. And with respect to the bill of Mr. Huskisson. hon. Gentlemen who were in the House at that time, would perfectly recollect that the shipowners, a most important interest, and Other interests, declared that his were speculative free-trade principles, and perfectly impracticable. In short, all the opposition to those changes was based on the avowal that the plan of a perfect free trade was quite fallacious, and yet the effect of those very measures had been not only to ward off those imminent dangers which a perseverance in the old course was calculated to produce, but to confer great benefits on this country. When, therefore, every step which had been taken had been attended with the most perfect success, it ought to be an encouragement to the House to persevere in the same course. No doubt, in dealing with great and complicated interests, it was necessary to proceed with great circumspection and great caution, and that they ought not to take any means of progress till the course had been clearly marked out; but though care and circumspection were necessary, yet it was the duty of the Legislature and of the Government, when they were satisfied that the danger was vastly exaggerated, to go on with firmness and decision in the course 152 they had adopted. This, as he conceived, was at all times the duty of the Government and of the country, but it was now more than ever necessary that this duty should not be disregarded by the Legislature. When he stated the regulations affecting the trade of our West-Indian colonies and our North-American possessions had undergone no material alterations since 1825, that circumstance would alone suggest to the House, that it was not surprising that a person placed in the situation which he filled, and having necessarily brought under his consideration, questions of this kind, should find it necessary to come forward and propose such a modification in the system as should appear to him to be desirable. When he considered that there had since been the most important revolutions in the trade of the West-Indian and North-American colonies, when he considered the most important change which had been since made in the social, political, and financial condition of these colonies, he said it was the duty of the House and of the Government to take these matters into their serious attention; to weigh well the complaints that had come from the West Indies and from Canada, and to apply a proper remedy to whatever might be the real grievances of those colonies. Mr. Huskisson proposed that there should be an open trade directly between the colonies and foreign countries; but he did not so enact by his bill, but he gave power to the Crown to adopt the open trade whenever foreign countries were willing to meet us on equitable terms, giving in exchange corresponding advantages. Acting upon this power, the Crown had entered into treaties with several foreign powers who had availed themselves of the act; but there were many other foreign countries; as Spain, Portugal, and Naples, who had never been enabled to offer to us any commercial concessions, and with which, therefore, the Crown had never been enabled to have an open trade. With respect to France, although the system of trade was in some respects open, yet that country, acting upon what he must consider mistaken views of policy, had prevented the trade with our colonies from being extended, except under great limitations and restrictions. He said, then, that it was the duty of the House and the Government to carry the propositions of Mr. Huskisson into effect whenever fo- 153 reign countries were disposed to give an assurance that we should have an open colonial trade with them. He would now proceed to consider what was the system which was established by the bill of Mr. Huskisson. And, upon examining that bill, the first thing that must strike them was the very high rate of duties imposed upon foreign goods imported into our own colonies. No doubt Mr. Huskisson had made a very important advance, and so had Mr. Robinson, by substituting duties, however high, for a system of prohibition; but he was sure that the House would see that if the duties were so high as to be, in fact, prohibitory, there was little difference whether they retained prohibition in name, or whether they imposed these high duties that were in reality prohibitory. He could not but think, after he had read the speech of Mr. Huskisson, and had Compared it with the very inadequate manner in which the principle was carried out in the tariff Mr. Huskisson had proposed, he could not but think that in the measure that Gentleman was actuated rather by a consideration of the difficulties he had to encounter in carrying that principle into effect, than from any doubt as to the merits of the principle itself: and he thought that if they could at that moment have the inestimable advantage of the presence in the House of that great man, there would be no more efficient supporter of every measure for carrying that principle into effect. What were the duties imposed by the bill of Mr. Huskisson on all foreign goods imported into our West-Indian or into our North-American colonies? The first article was fish; that was one of the most important articles of sustenance of the West Indies; yet fish was absolutely prohibited, if it were not the produce of one of our fisheries. He found next, with regard to lumber, staves, and other articles absolutely necessary for the manufactures of the colonies, and with regard to flour and provisions which formed the food of the people of those colonies, that they were subject to a duty which he could not help thinking very immoderate, for it was a duty varying from thirty to forty per cent, upon the ad valorem value; and he could not bat believe that an ad valorem duty of from thirty to forty per cent. put upon the food of the people, and in a country where the people were obliged to depend for their food upon a supply from foreign coun- 154 tries, because they could not grow it for themselves, could not but be very objectionable and injurious. When he came to the duties which were nominally ad valorem duties on foreign manufactures, what scale did he find? He found a duty of thirty per cent. He found that British silks were protected in the West Indies and in Canada by an ad valorem duty of thirty per cent. imposed upon silks manufactured in foreign countries. There was another class of goods on which there was a protection of twenty per cent.; among these were glass and cotton goods. English cotton manufactures were protected by a duty of twenty per cent. The idea that it could be necessary to protect British cotton manufactures by an ad valorem duty of this amount! There was also a third class of goods, wares, and merchandizes, not otherwise charged, but from which all important articles were excluded, which was admitted at a duty of fifteen per cent, ad valorem. He had already stated, that he thought there were various circumstances in the political, social, and financial condition of these colonies which peculiarly required that the attention of the House should be directed to this subject at the present moment. Hitherto it had been the policy of that House to prevent as far at possible the colonies from imposing any duties on the importation of our own manufactures. The fact now was, that many old taxes in the colonies, which I had been formerly very productive, could not be any longer endured. For instance, the poll-tax, which in a state of slavery was a sort of a tax upon property, was not at all applicable to the altered position of the West-Indian colonies; and many other sources of income to the colonies were now dried up. The House could not forget that whilst this alteration bad been going on, the colonies had been called upon to provide for the improvement in the judicial system, in the police force, in the Houses of Correction, and far increased Church Establishments, calculated to raise the character of the negro population, and to provide institutions fitted for a free people. He might quote, as an instance, the expense which subjects of this kind had cast upon the colony of Jamaica alone during the past year. He found that the expenses created by the new laws in Jamaica for those provisions in the year 1839–40 was, for— 155
But when the colonies were called upon to contribute towards these expenses, they hid a right to say, "You prevent us from raising any income, you oblige us to pay all these heavy expenses, and whilst you tax foreign goods so high that they produce very little revenue, you prevent us from taxing your goods." The alteration in the condition of the West-Indian colonies, therefore, rendered it imperatively necessary that the home Legislature should revise the system on which they were at present placed with regard to the Customs duties. On the other hand, with respect to Canada, he was sure that there was no one who did not feel that it was at the present moment peculiarly necessary to apply themselves without delay to the consideration of what there was of justice in their complaints of the onerous burdens and restrictions, placed upon their trade. An address bad teen lately submitted to his noble Friend, Lord sydenham, by the last Assembly that had sat in Upper Canada, asking that they might be left almost to themselves to deal with these questions, liable to have their laws disallowed by either House of Parliament, but not to be subject to laws passed in that House. Although he did not think it advisable to comply with this request of the Assembly, yet they ought to consider what changes the colony required, and to comply with them so far as was consistent with the general interest of other parts of the empire. The true principle was, that they should place the colonial legislatures under as little restriction as possible. The home Government and the House should tell them what they absolutely required by way of general regulations, rendering them as little onerous as possible, and then permitting the colonial legislatures to make such other regulations consistently with these as they might thick best for themselves, and which they were sure to do infinitely better for themselves than others could do for them. Another point, which struck 156 every one who considered these subjects, was the vast difference in the principle that was acted upon in the western colonies and our eastern possessions. Nothing could present a greater contrast. He had already stated what were the high and onerous duties imposed upon foreign manufactures in the West Indies and in Canada; he would now state what were the duties imposed on the same manufactures in India, in Ceylon, in Australia, and in other portions of our eastern possessions. They were of the most liberal description. In the Cape of Good Hope the duty on foreign goods was ten per cent., ad valorem and the duty on British goods was three per cent., ad valorem, so that the differential duty between foreign and British goods was only seven per cent., ad valorem. Yet did any one ever hear British manufacturers or British merchants complain of our trade at the Cape suffering? Was there any check upon the importation of British goods? And if he showed that this liberal policy adopted in our eastern possessions had been quite successful, what British object could be gained by imposing enormous duties on the same manufactures when imported into the West-Indian and North-American colonies? What good was conferred on British manufactures by fixing these high duties, which were so extremely onerous to the West Indies and to Canada? In Ceylon the duty imposed on foreign manufactures was ten per cent., and the duty upon British manufactures was four per cent., making a differential duty of six per cent, ad valorem in favour of the British goods. In New South Wales and in Van Diemen's Land foreign manufactures and goods were admitted at a duty of five per cent., and there was no duty upon British manufactures or productions. In India there was a very light differential duty; silks and cottons manufactured in Great Britain were admitted at a duty of three and a half per cent. ad valorem, and foreign manufactures were admitted at an ad valorem duty of seven and a half per cent. These statements showed how much more liberal the Crown had dealt with the colonies than Parliament. The restrictions imposed by the Crown had been of the lightest description, whilst, when the House had dealt with the colonies, it had imposed the highest differential duties, with the fancied object of protecting our own manufactures and the interests of 157 Britain. Wherever the duties were light and the goods of this country met those of foreign manufacture, we always found that we could produce them cheaper and better, and maintain our position in the market. Why had they not applied the same principle to the West Indies and to Canada: We had omitted to do so for no purpose except to excite discontent without producing any advantage to British manufacturers. For it was absurd to suppose that when our manufacturers can compete with foreign manufacturers in their markets, they would in our own colonies suffer from any competition. If our goods were carried to one set of markets they would soon find their way to the others. There was no course that was more calculated to strengthen the ties between the colonies and the mother country, than by placing our colonies in an enviable position with respect to foreign trade and commerce, He would be glad, indeed, if the Canadian, looking across the border, should see that whilst the American was burdened and taxed with heavy duties, the Canadian was himself able to receive his goods from all parts of the world, upon the payment of the lightest duty. By leaving them, therefore, cheaply taxed, with the power of carrying on a free trade to all parts of the world, the House would not only he adopting the best means of advancing the prosperity of the colonies, but would also eminently contribute towards the union between them and this country. Having, then, stated to the House the general principles on which he proposed to alter the tariff, he would read the new tariff which he would himself propose to substitute in lieu of the present in our West-Indian and North-American colonies.
ADDITIONAL EXPENSES UNDER NEW LAWS. Immigration £84,000 Judicial system 50,000 Clergy, extra 8,000 Curates, extra 6,000 For the erection of a penitentiary 30,000 For the erection of houses of correction 10,000 Making a total expense of £188,000
158 There was also a considerable class which embraced a large number of articles, but from which almost every thing of importance was excluded, which bore a duty of 7½ per cent., and these he proposed to leave untouched. For the old tariff of duties, therefore, which now varied on different articles from 30 to 20and 10 per cent., he would substitute a single duty of 10 per cent., ad valorem, leaving untouched the lower duty of 7½ percent.; but these new duties, like all other duties to be over and above any duties imposed upon similar articles by the colonial legislature themselves. For instance, if the colonial legislature, for the purpose of revenue, should impose a duty of 3 percent. the whole duty levied upon foreign manufactures in that colony would be 13 per cent. What he wanted to do was to untie the hands of the colonists, and to leave them as much as possible to themselves,—to permit them to undertake their own management, making their general duties as light and simple as possible—telling them that these must be preserved as differential duties; but as for all the rest, the colonies must manage for themselves. He now came to by far the most important class of duties, affecting the interests of the West Indies, the special duties laid upon particular articles of general consumption. He found that the duties imposed upon wheat flour, upon salted pork and beef, upon shingles, upon oak slaves, upon lumber, varied from 20 to 40 per cent., ad valorem. Now, when he considered that these were either articles which constituted the food of the people, and necessary for them to procure from foreigners, or of such articles as were absolutely required for the cultivation of the soil, and for the sole manufacture that was carried on in these islands, he thought that such a range of duties was perfectly immoderate and excessive, and especially when he recollected that the House was already taking steps—which he sincerely hoped to see followed—which would place the produce of the West Indies on the same footing as that of the East Indies. And as he had asked the House to do justice to the East Indies by doing away with those higher duties which it was a injustice any longer to continue, so he confidently urged upon the House the present proposition for placing the West Indies in a not less favourable position than the East Indies. He, there- 159 fore, proposed to reduce all these special duties considerably. At the same time he confessed that he was not dealing with these matters precisely in the same way as if they were to be dealt with for the first time. Had he done so, he would undoubtedly have put these differential duties on a different footing; but considering that other interests had become involved in these duties, he was bound to take these into his consideration. He believed that the duties which he proposed to substitute for the old duties would amount to 12 or 15 per cent. ad valorem. The following were the present duties, and those which he proposed to substitute.—
ARTICLES. Present ad valorem Duties for every £100 of the Value. Proposed ad valorem Duties for every £100 of the Value. Clocks, watches, leather, and linen manufactures, musical instruments, wires of all kinds, and books, and payers, silks, &c. £30 0 0 £10 0 0 Glass and cotton manufactures, soap, refused sugar, sugar candy, and manufactured tobacco, &c. £20 0 0 Together with any duty levied at the same time upon similar articles, the produce of or imported upon from the United Kingdom or other British possessions. Goods, wares, and merchandise, not otherwise charged with duty and not declared free of duty by the 3d and 4th Will. £15 0 0
Together with the amount of any duty levied at the same time upon any similar articles the produce of, and imported from, the United Kingdom and other British possessions. He came now to an article which was of the utmost importance to the support of the West Indies, and which was absolutely prohibited; he meant fish, the produce of foreign fisheries. He meant to do away with this prohibition. He was no friend to prohibitions in general. He wished for all commercial purposes that the word were erased from the statute-book, or that it should not be acted upon as a general principle, but very sparingly used under any special circumstances, though he could not see any that would well justify it. Recollecting that fish constituted the principal food of the West Indies, it was most unjust to limit those colonies to a single and often a very narrow supply. But he said that, connected as our own fisheries were with our prosperity, if high protecting duties were justifiable anywhere, they would be justifiable in giving protection to British fisheries, which were of such importance to our maritime power. When, therefore, he proposed to substitute a duty for the present prohibition, he 160 felt bound, on account of the considerations to which he had alluded, to propose a higher duty than had been imposed upon any other article. The duty which he proposed to put upon fish he was satisfied would not be less than an ad valorem duty of 25 per cent. The duty in the tariff would be for fish, dried or salted, not the produce of British fisheries, by the cwt. 2s. 6d., and for pickled fish, by the barrel 5s. This also would be in addition to any duty levied in the colonies upon fish, the produce of British fisheries. He would also add, with regard to wine, that was now subject to a variety of duties, some of which were very capricious, the duty changing according to the place whence it was brought, that he would abolish all the present duties, and substitute a single ad valorem duty. He proposed, that there should be a duty on wine, in lieu of all other duties on wine, whether in bottles or not, the sum of 7l. 10s. In addition to these alterations, there were certain other particular points on which he meant to take this opportunity of making an amendment. The first was tea. The House would be aware that tea could not be imported into the West Indies, or into our North-American colonies, from any place east of the Cape of Good Hope, or it must come from England itself. The object of this regulation was to give the benefit of the long voyage to British ships. But there were circumstances existing in British North America which completely defeated the object of the Legislature. From information which he had received from his noble Friend Lord Sydenham, it appeared that three-fourths of all the tea consumed in Upper Canada were smuggled from America. A great loss to the revenue of the colony was the consequence; but this was not its worst effect. It raised up a regular smuggling system, established for the sake of the tea, but which extended itself to other articles, demoralising the country, and producing the worst possible results. The subject had for a long time occupied the attention of the Board of Trade, which, he confessed had for a lengthened period lent to the complaints an unwilling ear, because the Board thought that the evil arose rather from the duties imposed upon this article by the Colonial Legislature; they could not conceive why tea could not be obtained as good in London as in New York, and why it could not be 161 carried as well from London to Quebec as from New York to Quebec. But from what had been since learnt, it appeared that the tea consumed in Canada consisted of the coarser kind of green tea, such as was hardly ever consumed in this country, and consequently the London market was not a place to obtain a good supply, and of course it was dear; whilst, on the contrary, in America, this tea was very generally drank, and New York was necessarily the place where it could be best procured. It then found its way across the border, and pass whatever navigation laws or revenue laws the House pleased, the smuggler would step in and defeat the intentions of the Legislature and the enactments of the act of Parliament. The course which he proposed to adopt to remedy this, was that recommended by his noble Friend Lord Sydenham. He proposed to allow the importation of tea, as well by land carriage as by water carriage, placing upon that taken overland a slight differential duty. He intended to provide that tea should be legally admitted by land into the provinces in British North America, upon paying an additional duty of one-tenth the amount of duty imposed upon tea by the colonial legislature: it was not an ad valorem duty of the tea, but a slight addition of a per centage to any duty that might be fixed upon tea imported by water carriage. And Lord Sydenham had assured his noble Friend near him (Lord J. Russell) that if this proposal were carried into effect, he was satisfied not only that the present system of smuggling would be putdown, but that the duty derived from tea in Canada would be treble its present amount. The next point to which he would advert was the question of the duty upon rum, which had been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge. It appeared that, owing to some accidental circumstance, he believed a blunder in an act of Parliament, West India rum introduced into Canada paid 6d. a gallon higher duty than that brought from the East Indies. He was for putting rum, the produce of the West Indies and of the East Indies, upon the same situation in all places, and he would take this opportunity of reducing the duty on West India rum introduced into Canada to the same amount as that brought from the East Indies. There were also some questions of detail, 162 which would be better discussed when the resolutions were upon the Table of the House, when he would explain their object seriatim. There was, however, one additional point to which he mast advert. He would alter an anomaly which existed in the law as to the trade of the Channel Islands. Whilst they were allowed to send their own produce, the growth of the Islands, into this country without payment of duty, they were prohibited from doing the same into the colonies. He could not think that there was any reason for allowing this distinction to continue. If it were right that the produce of the Channel Islands should be admitted into this country, it was equally right that it should be admitted into our colonies; and he thought that that feeling of jealousy which had induced the distinction to be drawn, should long since have been forgotten. The distinction was a matter of complaint in the islands, and it was right that they should be put on the same footing with the mother country. He did not know that it was necessary now for him to detain the House at any greater length. The main principle upon which he would confess he was anxious that the proposals which he had made should meet with favourable consideration and adoption at the hands of the House was, that he believed that they would be advantageous to the colonies themselves. He always considered that the privileges which that House enjoyed, and which it was necessary that they should sustain, of regulating the trade of our colonies, was one which they should exercise with the greatest self-examination and liberality, and with a spirit of the most complete justice and impartiality. They were sent there, no doubt, to represent the interest of their constituents, but they had also still higher and nobler functions to fulfil. They had to legislate for a great empire, whose interests were deeply affected by the trade regulations which they laid down, and it was important that the empire should know that the spirit in which they legislated for it: was not a feeling of narrow jealousy, watching only the peculiar interests of those whom they represented, but a wide and comprehensive desire to confer equal benefit on all parts of the empire and on all the various classes of its multifarious people. He could not forget that it was by a perseverance in a system of monopoly and 163 exclusion that other great colonial empires had fallen to pieces. A great colonial empire was indeed glorious, but it was at least uncertain, and the only way in which colonial possessions were to be kept together was by acting towards them all in a spirit of equal and impartial justice, treating them all with parental kindness, not allowing any favorite in the family, and considering their greatness to be our greatness, and their prosperity and happiness our prosperity and happiness. It was upon these grounds that he wished above all things to secure the adoption of the measure which he had proposed to the House; but he must also say, that he was perfectly satisfied that no British interest of any sort would be injured by the proposals which he had made being carried into effect. He would advert to one or two points in reference to this opinion, in order to show the House the change of circumstances which had taken place of late years. The provision trade was one which had been of very great importance in the south of Ireland. He had had many memorials sent to him under the idea that that trade would be injured, but the House must consider the great alteration which had taken place in the south of Ireland since the existing duties had been established. The south of Ireland, not many years ago, was the cheapest place in the world for meat provisions. The graziers carried on a large trade, and in fact, had no other means of disposing of their stock. The communication with this country was then uncertain; and, unless they could salt the produce of their farms and export it, they did not know what to do with it. But that state of things had now entirely changed. The steam communication with England had produced this effect—that the agriculturist in Ireland was now able to send to the manufacturing districts of South Wales, to the Bristol market, and even to London itself, that produce which before he was compelled to dispose of as he had described. This had been productive of the very highest advantages, both to Ireland and to England, and he rejoiced that it had had that result. But what had been the effect upon the prices of the articles in the South of Ireland? It had raised them considerably, and the particular district to which he had referred had entirely changed its character as a cheap place of purchase for provisions. The price of pork had risen from 20s. or 164 25s. per cwt. to 30s. or 35s., while that of beef had increased from 10s. to 15s.; and instead of provisions being cheap, they were actually dear at the prices demanded. There was also one consideration of so much importance that he could not help saying a few words on it before he sat down. He meant the effect which the alteration might have upon the interests of some of our North American colonies, he meant Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Nothing, he could assure the House, would give him greater pain than to do anything, at this moment especially, which should affect the interests of colonies which deserved so well of this country, and which that House was bound to pay for their loyalty by treating them with the utmost favour and kindness; but he was satisfied that when the question came to be discussed, it would be shown that no such effect would be produced to any extent. There were many classes of woods, timber and staves, in reference to which, so far from the United States having any advantage over New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, he heard that such could not be the case under any circumstances. Therefore, while his propositions would greatly benefit the West Indies and relieve Canada and the North American colonies from many onerous and vexatious burdens, they would not impose any difficulties on the North American colonies, or on the mother country. He had felt it to be his duty to bring the subject before the House, and he was sure that it would receive their dispassionate and calm consideration. He had stated the objects which he had in view, and the principles which he proposed to carry out; and he would take this opportunity of observing that every one in his situation must be subject to this disadvantage, that it was extremely difficult to obtain precise information. He could not go to the trade at large and say, "I mean to do this or that, and I wish to know the effect it will have," and, therefore, he was bound to obtain information in a circuitous manner. He might have fallen into error in some instances, and if it were so he should not have the smallest scruple in correcting his mistake, and in submitting the table of duties as altered to the House, saying this now, he should not hereafter be charged with having listened improperly to any representations which in consequence of his propositions might be made. It was not his 165 intention to ask the House at this time to express any opinion upon the subject which would require patient consideration, and his only object was to lay his propositions on the Table, and to ask the House hereafter to decide upon them. He would only, in conclusion, thank the House for the attention with which it had received the observations which he had felt it his duty to make.
ARTICLES. Present Specific Duties. Proposed Specific Duties. £ s. d. £ s. d. Wheat Flour (except into Canada which is free), the barrel 0 5 0 0 2 0 Beef and Pork, salted, the cwt. 0 12 0 0 4 0 Shingles, the 1,000, of 12 inches 0 7 0 0 3 6 ——above 12 ditto 0 14 0 Oak staves and Headings the 1,000 Red 0 15 0 0 7 0 White 0 12 6 Wood Hoops, the 1,000 0 5 3 0 2 6 Pitch Pine and other Lumber (one inch thick) the 1,000 feet 1 1 0 0 10 6
§ Mr. George Palmer
said, that no one could doubt that this question was one of the greatest importance. The propositions of tile right hon. Gentleman, if they were were adopted, would, in effect, carry out to its full extent the system of free trade, and would withdraw every possible protection from British interests. Since the year 1825, the House had had plenty of opportunity to prove the effect of the measures of Mr. Huskisson, but he had no hesitation in saying that their results had been most disastrous. He conceived that, before these proposals were acceded to, the whole subject should he submitted to the strictest inquiry before a select committee of the House, or such a committee as might fairly state to the public the result in every case from which this protection was withdrawn. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that a petition had been presented from British North America in reference to this subject, but he did hot farther describe what it was or from whom it came, and the House knew that ant petition which fostered or supported free trade would have the protection of the noble Lord who was now at the head of the Government in those colonies. He agreed that every interest which was unprotected should be untaxed; but that was the very principle upon which he held that the people of this country, who performed all the services Which the state required, should be deemed entitled to protection. He hoped that a select committee would inquire into this subject, and that they would recommend that the colonies of Great Britain should receive the same protection as a child would receive from its parent.
§ Mr. Ewart
thought that such a committee ought not to be appointed, because its labours would be almost interminable. He believed that every year more and more tended to develops the profoundness of the wisdom of the measures advocated by Mr. Huskisson, add he felt that a system of colonial reform having been 166 commenced, that House could not long resist the necessity for a commercial reform in our tariff. With regard to the measures proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, he thought that the deduction which he proposed of ten per cent, on the ad valorem duties would be insufficient, and that the proposed duty which the right hon. Gentleman estimated at twenty-five per cent upon fish, would in effect be a prohibitory duty; but these were matters hereafter to be determined upon by the House, It seemed to him that the only real way of securing the connexion between the mother-country and her colonies, was to emancipate the latter from all the shackles of commercial difficulties by which they were surrounded, and that that was the true method of preserving those amicable relations which a too restrictive system would destroy. He deemed these propositions to be in conformity with that principle, and that they were of the highest importance, both in a commercial and political point of view; and he trusted that they would lead, not only to the future improvement of the system with regard to the colonies of this country, but that it would prove the forerunner to those alterations in our own commercial system, which by reason of expediency, and the necessity of the case could not be long Withheld.
§ Mr. A. White
would not have said a word upon the present occasion, had it not been for the remarks which fell front the right hon. Gentleman respecting the Reciprocity Acts. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that the ship-owners were now convinced that those treaties had not been injurious to the shipping interests; but if he had consulted the shipowners, he would have come to a very different conclusion. He (Mr. White), as the representative of the fourth port in the kingdom, could State that the ship-owners of that port were by no means satisfied with those treaties, especially as regarded Sweden, Norway, Russia, and the other Baltic Powers. Our trade had decreased in that part of the world, and if it had not greatly increased elsewhere, it would now have been greatly distressed. The British could not, owing to the timber duties, build their ships so cheaply, nor with our present Corn-laws, could they victual them so cheaply as the foreigners, and therefore they could not compete with foreigners.
§ The House resumed, the chairman reported progress. Committee to sit again on March 26th.