§ Mr. G. Bankes
complained that this bill had been allowed to proceed to its present stage without some explanation on the part of the Government as to the precise objects of the measure. That portion of the bill to which he and other Gentlemen around him attached the most importance, was the last clause, which had reference to agricultural produce. He should be glad to know whether the former portion of the bill had been framed with a view to remedy that extensive system of fraud which had lately been discovered connected with the Custom-house—which had forced itself on the attention of the public by the great loss which had resulted to the revenue, and the loss which it had occasioned to our trade and manufactures. There was no reference in the preamble of the bill to this effect, or to lead any one to suppose that this was the object of it. Certainly the first part of the bill had reference entirely to 297 the management of the Customs; and perhaps, therefore, it might be considered as applying to those circumstances to which he had just alluded, but he wished to be informed on the point. The first enacting provision of the bill related to the increased power which was to be given to the Commissioners' of Customs to administer oaths. Now, he wanted to know how this provision could be defended, for it had been the policy of the Legislature for some years past to endeavour as much as possible to diminish the power of administering oaths in our public offices, and, above all, in the departments connected with the receipt of the public revenue. The next section referred to goods entered to be landed or examined by bill of sight, with a proviso that a deposit was to be made equal to the duties. Were not the duties, then, paid directly on the goods being taken out for consumption? He was not aware of a different mode of payment. The second head in the bill was entitled smuggling. Now, he found no regulation in the bill respecting the illicit introduction and landing of goods by parties who were appointed to prevent such illicit landing. He believed that it was a matter of perfect notoriety that the smuggling carried on in the silk-trade on the coast had only been resorted to as a disguise to cure the frauds that had been carried on in the Customs' department. He should have previously referred to a most objectionable provision in the former part of the bill respecting the report of the prohibition of foreign clocks and watches in an incomplete state. This clause related to a subject which had been discussed in the early part of the present Session. [Mr. W. Gladstone; The clause will be withdrawn in committee.] He was glad to hear it. He now came to the last clause of the bill, which he was more particularly anxious to refer to as it related to agricultural produce. He entertained such a strong opinion with respect to both the impolicy and the injustice of this clause, that he should vote against it, if any one would divide with him. This clause, 25, which proposes to enact that the produce of the forest and agricultural produce of those parts of the State of Maine watered by the river St. John and its tributaries should be treated, as respects duties, navigation, and custom laws, as the province of New Brunswick, affected 298 to be introduced into this bill for the purpose of carrying out an article in the treaty of Washington. It had been said, that as that treaty had been adopted, it became the duty of the House to take steps to insure its provisions being fairly and fully carried out. If that were to be the doctrine to be held by Parliament, then they would sit to very little purpose with reference to those treaties, because those treaties were generally passed when Parliament could have no cognizance of their provisions—when they had no power either of withholding or giving their consent to them. He thought this clause in the Customs Act, which was intended to carry out an article of the treaty, went very far beyond the words contained in the treaty itself. He might be told that, having concurred in the vote of thanks to Lord Ashburton for having completed this treaty, that the House had specifically pledged itself to the perfection of that treaty, and that it would be most ungracious to withhold its sanction from this clause, which was required to carry it out. Now, in looking into the correspondence which took place between Lord Ashburton and the American Minister previous to the completion of the treaty, he found nothing that referred in any way to agricultural produce, and he presumed, that he should be told by his right hon. Friend, that in the interpretation or elucidation of the treaty, they would be bound to the meaning of many expressions in the correspondence which preceded it. He had looked over the correspondence most attentively, and, as far as regarded timber and staves, he lamented that the letters of Lord Ashburton fully bore out and justified the words in the clause: he admitted that as far as related to these articles, they could not take exception, but there was nothing in the correspondence relating to agricultural produce, or anything which could justify its introduction. He would particularly refer on this point to the letter of Lord Ashburton dated the 11th of July, in which the subject of the navigation of the St. John, and the introduction of produce from the disputed territory down that river, was particularly dwelt on, and he could find no reference whatever with respect to the introduction of corn into New Brunswick from this district. He confessed that he was astonished at the suggestion that had been made, that the introduction of corn from Maine 299 into New Brunswick was to be justified by this letter, which referred to the regulation of the navigation of the St. John, and the articles which might be introduced into New Brunswick after having been sent down that river as British produce. As far as regarded timber staves, shingles, and timber, he could not deny that Lord Ashburton had agreed to its admission into New Brunswick when it was to be treated as colonial produce; but he distinctly denied that there was anything in the correspondence to justify the introduction of corn from the State of Maine into New Brunswick. There was another point to which he must refer. There was a particular provision against the introduction of manufactures; nevertheless, this act would permit the introduction of staves or shingles which, as they were hewn, must be considered as manufactured goods. There was nothing in the correspondence of Lord Ashburton to justify such a clause as he found in the bill before the House. This matter involved a very important consideration to those who looked to what remained in the shape of protection to agriculture. He could not help remarking that it was a very different thing, as was said by Lord Ashburton in his letter, the admitting an article of foreign produce, and above all, such an article as corn, under the provisions of a treaty on the same footing as the produce of our colonies, and the making the admission depend on a mere matter of municipal temporary arrangement. His right hon. friend might say that there was no agricultural produce which could be imported into New Brunswick, and thence into this country from the State of Maine, as they had not sufficient produce for their own consumption; but what was to prevent the produce of other states being sent into Maine, and thence sent down the river St. John into our colonial possessions, where it would be treated as the produce of that country? He did not see why they had not extended to New Brunswick the same benefits that they had lately conferred on Canada by the Canada Corn Act. It had been said on a former occasion by the right hon. gentleman that the reason why the provisions of that act were not extended to New Brunswick was, because that colony was not qualified to receive the act, and also that it did not desire it. Now, suppose that New Brunswick did desire to qualify tself to have the provisions of that act 300 extended to it, by imposing a duty on the importation of foreign corn into its territory, what would be the result? Why, they had deprived New Brunswick by the treaty, of the power of levying any duty upon the introduction into it of American wheat, and thus, whatever New Brunswick might desire in the matter, would be in reality of no avail. He hoped the right hon. gentleman would be able to give a satisfactory explanation on those points. Should he, however, remain unconvinced by the statement of the right hon. gentleman, he must oppose the clause.
§ Mr. W. Gladstone
observed that the hon. gentleman had complained that no exposition had been given to the House as to the purport and object of this bill; but this arose from the very circumstances of the case. In bills such as this, which formed a part of a general system, it was necessary that an exposition given of its objects must be in general terms. In the present case it would not only be difficult, but almost impossible to give a general explanation of the bill. If his hon. Friend asked the intention of the bill he would reply, the intentions of the bill were as numerous as the clauses of it. There were twenty-five clauses, of which there were scarcely two connected, or had any relation the one to the other. When he introduced the Customs' Bill, he stated, as clearly as he could, the various provisions in it. With respect to the clause on which the hon. Gentleman laid so much stress, he had also stated its purport on the introduction of the bill, and any discussion upon it he thought must be postponed till they got into committee. His hon. Friend stated that the first clause in the bill had reference apparently to the recent frauds which had been committed on the customs, and he had asked whether it was anticipated that the Government would be enabled to check smuggling, and to prevent the recurrence of similar frauds, by means of such clauses? No doubt there were clauses in the bill which had that object in view, so far as they went; but he did not mean to say that those clauses provided a comprehensive and adequate remedy for the evils to which they referred. Those frauds had been investigated by two tribunals—by the commission appointed by the board of customs, and by the commission appointed by his right hon. friend, on his accession to office, for the purpose of examining the entire state of the cus- 301 toms revenue. The information obtained by the latter tribunal was of such a varied and extensive character, that it had been found impossible to digest the whole of the evidence with the view of adopting effectual steps for the prevention of fraud. The clauses, therefore, which had been introduced into the bill with the view of preventing smuggling, were only partial, and touched upon isolated points, and by no means constituted anything like the comprehensive change which the Government intended to bring forward with a view of preventing these frauds. At present there was in the customs department a power of examining upon oath, but, by a singular anomaly, that power was vested not in the commissioners, but in the subordinate officer—the surveyor-general. That defect was intended to be remedied. With regard to the 25th clause, he should be loath, even apparently, to slight anything which fell from his hon. friend, but he must suggest that it would be more convenient to abstain from discussing it until they regularly arrived at it in committee.
§ House in committee.
§ The clauses up to clause 10 were agreed to.
§ After a desultory conversation, clause 10 (repeal of prohibition to import clocks and watches not having foreign maker's name on the frame and face, or in an incomplete state) was struck out of the bill.
§ Clauses to the 14th agreed to.
§ On clause 14 (manufactures of Gibraltar, Malta, and Heligoland, made of materials of foreign origin, to be charged as foreign) being put,
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
objected to the introduction of such a clause. He could not conceive why our colonial possessions in Europe should be put on a different footing from those in America. Why should they not allow foreign corn to be ground or manufactured into flour in Heligoland, and imported into this country, as well as allow American corn to be imported into Canada, and there ground? He should divide the committee against this clause.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
did not see why they should not apply the same principle to the small colonies of Malta and Heligoland which they so readily allowed to Canada. He presumed, that the Government would not have the courage to extend this clause to Canada.
§ Mr. W. Gladstone
had no objection to the introduction of the bonâ fide manufactures of the colony, but certain manufactures appeared to be taken up for the purpose of affording facilities to evade the revenue laws. The clause was brought forward with the view of putting a stop to the introduction of articles made from sugar into this country from Malta and Heligoland, which were manufactured there with the view of evading the payment of duty. It would be in the recollection of the House that last year steps were taken to prevent the importation of certain articles made from sugar from the Channel Islands, which were afterwards re-manufactured into sugar. This trade, it appeared, had been put a stop to in the Channel Islands, but had been transferred to Malta and Heligoland, and more particularly the latter island, and the object of the clause was to put an end to this fraud on the revenue.
§ Mr. Hawes
contended, that some specific ground should be given for the introduction of the special clause. It was absurd to suppose, that it was done in consequence of the re-manufacture of sugar from sweet-meats imported from the Channel Islands. He did not believe, that any sugar had been made, or that it would be worth while for any one to attempt to produce sugar by such means. The introduction of such a provision showed that there was a constant desire on the part of the Government to interfere with trade, and to impose more petty paltry restrictions on it.
§ The committee divided on the question, that the clause stand part of the bill. Ayes 87; Noes 14;—Majority 73.
|List of the AYES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Chapman, A.|
|Allix, J. P.||Christopher, R. A.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Arkwright, G.||Clive, Visct.|
|Baldwin, B.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|Bankes, G.||Cripps, W.|
|Blackstone, W.||Darby, G.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Denison, E. B.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Borthwick, P.||Douglas, J, D. S.|
|Bothfield, B.||Duncombe, hon. A.|
|Bramston, T. W. S.||Duncombe, hon. O.|
|Broadley, H.||East, J. B.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Eliot, Lord|
|Buck, L. W.||Escott, B.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Fitzmaurice, hon. W.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Forman, T. S.||Northland, Visct|
|Fuller, A. E.||Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Peel, J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Pringle, A.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Rose, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Round, J.|
|Hardy, J.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Henley, J. W.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Hodgson, R.||Sheppard, T.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Hope, G. W.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Ingestre, Visct.||Stanley, Lord|
|Johnstone, H.||Stuart, H.|
|Kemble, H.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Knight, F. W.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Trotter, J.|
|Lockhart, W.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Wood, Colonel T.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Mc Geachy, F. A.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Manners, Lord C. S.||Young, J.|
|Maxwell, hon. J. P.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aldam, W.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Brotherton, J.||Wall, C. B.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Forster, M.||Wyse, T.|
|Morris, D.||Gibson, M.|
|Scott, R.||Bowling, Dr.|
§ Clause agreed to, as were also the clauses up to 19.
§ On the 19th clause (so much of 5 and 6 Victoria, chapter 47, as requires bond on exportation of wine, repealed), being put,
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
objected to making alterations for the benefit of one trade, and excepting all others. He could not see why a difference should be made in favour of wine. Drawback was refused on timber and other articles, and why was wine to be an exception to the rule? Was this to be looked upon as the first step to the abandonment of that principle upon which the Government of this country had so long acted? If the rule were good, it should be made general; if it were bad, it should not be adopted in any case.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the wine trade had been made an exceptional case, because that trade had of late been placed in a peculiar position. A change had, during the last three years, 304 been anticipated in the regulations affecting the wine trade, and a large quantity of wine had thus been left in bond which would otherwise have been taken out. Great inconvenience had thus been created to the parties engaged in the trade, as well as to the public; and it was to remedy that inconvenience that the present clause had been introduced. It should be remembered, that in the year ending January, 1842, there had been a falling off in the course of the year, of wine taken out of bond for home consumption, of not less than 300,000 gallons. This, however, was not the most remarkable falling-off in this trade, for he found, that in the year ending January the 5th, 1840, the number of gallons of wine which were taken out of bond for home consumption was 3,000,000 while in the year ending June, 1843, the number of gallons was only 1,400,000, which showed a reduction of less than half the quantity of the former period. As for the making general rules, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman, that it was necessary to make regulations for the protection of the revenue, as well as for the promotion of trade. It should be recollected also, that wine was taken out of bond two years, at least, before it could be brought into consumption, and therefore it was differently circumstanced from other articles, which could at once be taken out of bond into the market for consumption. By the proposed enactment, the public could sustain no loss, and at the same time it would be attended with great convenience to the wine trade.
§ Mr. Hawes
observed, that it might be said of other trades as well as of the wine trade, that they had of late been placed in considerable embarrassment. He would remind the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, that on the motion of the Member for the City of London, to allow a drawback for the timber in hand, he distinctly refused, and declared that he did not conceive that a Government was justified in departing from a general rule.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, when he had refused to accede to the motion of the hon. Member for London on timber, and in that refusal he had been supported by the hon. Member (Mr. Hawes), he had not laid down one general rule, that under any circumstances whatever, no drawback should be allowed. Certainly, in a case 305 where, from particular circumstances, the trade was crippled and the revenue injured, he had never intended to lay down a rule that should prevent the Government taking steps for remedying such an evil. He conceived the present circumstances of the wine trade fully justified the proposition which was now made.
§ Clause agreed to, as were the clauses to the 25th.
§ On cause 25 (Produce of the forest, and agricultural produce of those parts of the state of Maine watered by the river St. John and its tributaries, to be treated, as respects duties, navigation and custom laws, as the produce of New Brunswick) being put.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said, he would take this opportunity of stating his views upon the points raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes) in reference to this clause. The hon. Gentleman had said that the House could not be held as bound to legislate to give effect to a treaty, in the negotiation of which they were not parties, and upon the stipulations of which they had had no opportunity of expressing any opinion until it had been ratified by the Government. Certainly it was for the House to determine what course it would take in maintaining the national honour. The Government had no right to call on the House to protect them from the consequences of their constitutional responsibility. That was a principle he fully recognised. But this was a peculiar case. Here they were not dealing merely with a treaty which had been ratified by the Government, but they were dealing with a treaty which had been the subject of an express vote of thanks of the House of Commons. But then his hon. Friend said this 25th clause put a construction upon the 3rd article of the treaty which was not borne out by the terms of that article. Now, as to the construction of the 3rd article, taken by itself, he believed opinions had varied whether it was sufficient to include agricultural produce, but it must be taken in connection with the whole circumstances, and with the explanations given as to what the intention was of the parties by whom the treaty was effected on behalf of their respective Governments. Parliament, he apprehended, must be bound by its own judgment, which having all the correspondence and all the explanations before it, it had given in 306 favour of the treaty. His hon. Friend had referred to Lord Ashburton's letter to prove that the produce of the forest only brought clown the St. John's and its tributary waters was, under that treaty, to enter the British markets, and had contended that to that extent, and that only, did that letter go. But it was distinctly intimated in the letter of the 11th of July,That the concession would cover the introduction of the goods privileged under the treaty, and whatever they might be they were to have free access to the British ports.In the letter of the 27th of July, addressed by Mr. Webster to Lord Ashburton, there was this passage,When the proposed line shall be properly described in the treaty, the grant by England of the right to use the waters of the river St. John, for the purpose of transporting to the mouth of that river all the timber and 'agricultural products' raised in Maine, on the waters of the St. John, or any of its tributaries, without subjection to any discriminating toll duty, or disability, is to be inserted.In the former letter of Lord Ashburton, it was stated thatThe admission of those products was to be allowed in the British markets.And Lord Ashburton's letter of the 29th of July proceeded,I have attentively considered the statement contained in the letter you did me the honour of addressing me the 27th of this month, of the terms agreed to for the settlement of boundaries between her Majesty's provinces and the United States, being the final result of the many conferences we have had on this subject. This statement appears substantially correct in all its parts, and we may now proceed to draw up the treaty.This he thought completed the chain of evidence, and showed clearly that the two plenipotentiaries were agreed as to the privileges to be given and the articles to be included in those privileges, and of all those papers Parliament was in possession at the time when the vote of thanks to Lord Ashburton was passed. Mr. Webster's letter stated that all agricultural produce was to be included, while in the treaty the words were "raw produce." The treaty, therefore, kept within the terms of the agreement. But there could be no doubt in the mind of the House as to what were the intentions and objects of the treaty in regard to agricultural produce, because at the commencement of 307 the Session the point was raised in specific terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, who on the 10th of February asked his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies the following question:—Whether under the treaty of Washington it was intended that, the pro duce of the ceded, lately the disputed, territory, should be admitted into this country at the same duty as if it were the produce of the colony of New Brunswick; and if he should be answered in the affirmative, he would then ask whether it would not be necessary that the sanction of Parliament should be obtained to carry the arrangement into effect?To which his noble Friend replied—That the intention of the treaty was certainly to legalise what practically was hitherto the case. Timber was the only produce of the territory alluded to; it was cut in the winter, was laid on the ice, and when it broke up it was floated down altogether, and it was impossible for any one to say whether it had been grown on the right or left bank of the river, and it was proposed by the treaty to admit it all as colonial produce. If there was any doubt of the legality of the proceeding, of course it would be the duty of the Government to introduce a bill to carry the intention of the treaty into effect.The noble Lord, also, the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) at a subsequent period of the Session, in his speech calling the attention of the House to the treaty of Washington, dilated at great length upon this third article, and, as he thought, very much magnified its importance. The noble Lord said,He admitted with regard to the navigation of the St. John, that the admirers of free-trade, who objected to duties and customs of all kinds, would feel pleasure at the concession. For, by the article in the treaty, the corn and timber of Maine were to come not only into New Brunswick, but even to Great Britain.It was quite an error to say that the object of the clause was to give admission to the produce of the state of Maine at the colonial duty. It had no relation to the produce of the state of Maine, as such, but to the produce of a district which had been British, which had hitherto enjoyed the advantages of a British colony, but which had, in consequence of a treaty passed under the sovereignty of a foreign nation, carrying with it all the privileges of a British province. It was by no means uncommon in treaties ceding territory to provide that the country ceded should continue to enjoy the rights and privileges 308 it had previously possessed. He contended that the produce of the district in question was not foreign produce and never had been, and the effect of the treaty, if it had contained any thing to stop the communication with the interior down the St. John's, would have been absolutely ruinous to its inhabitants. Then as to the effect of this clause. He did not apprehend that in regard to the facilities it afforded for the admission of agricultural produce it was of much consequence one way or the other. It was known, and the statistical accounts of the United States proved the fact, that the state of Maine was, as regarded corn, an importing and not an exporting country, and that it imported more than half the bread stuffs required for the consumption of its own population, The population of Maine was about 800,000, while the quantity of corn grown was about 100,000 quarters annually, and about an equal quantity of Indian corn, which the people mixed with the wheat. Mr. Featherstonhaugh, who, he thought, upon such a subject was qualified to give an opinion, had said, in reference to Maine, that from the peculiarities, the extreme severity of the winter, and the want of communication, there was not sufficient corn grown in that state to supply its inhabitants, and it must necessarily be dependent on foreigners for its supplies. He was prepared to justify the clause in the Customs Bill then under consideration, on the fact that it was necessary to give effect to a treaty entered into with a foreign power, which treaty had been ratified by the British Government and the Government of America, and had received the approbation of the British Parliament pronounced on full information of all the circumstances connected with or leading to that treaty.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
said, it appeared to him, that by the third article in the treaty of Washington, certain privileges were granted to the agricultural produce of that part of the debateable territory which, by the treaty had been given up to the Americans. He had some doubt about the construction of the article, and, therefore, he should be glad to learn whether corn and timber, the produce of that part of the territory described in the article of the treaty, might be introduced into this country at the same rate of duty as if they were the produce of the North American settlement at New Brunswick? 309 If that question should he answered in the affirmative, he should then desire to be informed whether it would not be necessary to give legal effect to the article by an Act of Parliament?
thought that the intention of the article of the treaty, which the right hon. gentleman had referred to was obvious. The right hon. gentleman had spoken of corn; but he must be well aware that no corn was grown in the district, and therefore his answer would he confined to the timber which was grown there. It was perfectly well known that the timber cut on the banks of the St. John had at all times been practically introduced into this country as British American timber, without reference to the side of the river on which it was cut. From the nature of things, it was impossible that it should he otherwise; for the timber cut in the winter was left upon the ice, and when the ice melted, the timber floated down the river; all attempts to ascertain the side on which it had grown would be fruitless. The timber once brought into the port of St. John was treated as British-American produce. What had heretofore been the custom was now confirmed by the treaty of Washington, and the timber, without reference to the side of the river on which it grew, would be entitled to the privileges accorded to timber the produce of our North American colonies. Whether it would be necessary to alter the Custom's Act passed last year in order to give effect to the treaty, he could not now undertake to say, but if that should prove to be necessary, her Majesty's Government would bring in a bill for the purpose. Could any one say, then, that explanation was not explicitly given on this subject in the early part of the session? Again, the noble Lord, the member for Tiverton, dwelt on this topic, and much magnified its importance, when he brought his motion forward respecting the Ashburton treaty. This treaty must, however, be regarded as nothing to the state of Maine, as such, but as merely relating to those districts which formerly constituted what was called the disputed territory, and which were essentially British, and as such, enjoyed the same privileges as other colonies of Great Britain; and now, although it had passed under foreign sovereignty, it had claims upon this country, and these had 310 been confirmed by the treaty of Washington. By this treaty it was held that the produce of this district, which now formed a portion of the state of Maine, should never be held to be foreign, but that it should be allowed to enter the colonial possessions of this country as if it came from one of our colonies. The effect of this clause of the treaty also would insure to the large town of St. John, in New Brunswick, a large share of that trade which she now possessed, and to which a stop would have been effectually put, if this free trade down the river St. John was not continued by the treaty. The question also was, whether upon this new basis it was not better to allow the produce of this district to be introduced as British produce, instead of giving the Americans the right of admission at all times to the harbour of St. John to carry away their produce. He believed, however, that the effect of the clause had been greatly magnified, and he confessed as regarded the agricultural produce of Maine, he did not regard it as of much consequence one way or the other. It appeared from a statistical account of the State of Maine, drawn up in America, that it was an importing instead of an exporting country, and that it imported more than one half the bread stuffs that were used there. The people were compelled to be almost entirely dependent on other parts for a supply of corn. He did not justify the clause on this ground, but he supported it, and he called upon the House to adopt it, because it was the fulfilment of the stipulations of the articles, because it was conformable to the provisions of the treaty of Washington, which had been ratified by both America and England, and which had been approved of by the Parliament of this country when it was acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
said, he was by no means satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. gentleman. He felt that if those who thought that they had reason to complain of this matter, did so now, that they should not be liable to blame, for they had had no other opportunity afforded them either of obtaining explanation or of stating their objections. He should propose as an amendment, that in the 24th line of the clause "except the produce of agriculture" be inserted. His right hon. Friend had not explained what 311 was intended by the terms "reasonable evidence, if required" of origin. He should like to hear an explanation of this.
§ Mr. Gladstone
replied, that reasonable evidence in the treaty would not be construed exactly in conformity with our legal interpretation of the term. According to our own law, we might call for similar certificates of growth as were required under the enactments of the Customs' Acts of last year, but special provisions would be made under this treaty to distinguish between colonial and foreign produce.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
would be glad to know, whether Sweden and those countries with whom there was a reciprocity of treaties, would not have a right to demand the same advantages, that their produce should be placed on the same footing as the produce of this portion of the State of Maine, He did not see distinctly how the produce of the latter district could be called British produce—if it was so, what necessity was there for coming to Parliament?
§ Mr. W. Gladstone
observed, that it was British produce according to treaty, but foreign produce according to law.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
very much doubted, whether the most favoured nations, by treaties of reciprocity, had not a right to complain of such a provision as this. There no doubt were very peculiar circumstances attendant upon this district; but he confessed that he did not see how they could draw the distinction. He also thought, that it was a very dangerous doctrine to lay down, that they might apply an exception in the case of a reciprocity treaty in such a case as the present. He very much doubted, also, whether they had the power of giving to any territory which had been added to another power by treaty, the rights and privileges of a British colony.
§ Mr. Henley
thought they were perfectly justified in opposing the clause, which went further than the treaty, though they had previously given approbation of its provisions.
§ Sir R. Peel
thought that it would be rather hard, after the House had expressed its approbation of the treaty, and an expression favourable to the Government which had completed it, if it determined to reject a clause which was absolutely necessary for the carrying out the treaty. What would be the consequence if they left out 312 this clause which related to the importation of produce of certain districts into our colonial possessions and which we had guaranteed by treaty should be done on certain terms. Neither by the terms of the treaty, nor in the correspondence was any distinction made as to the quality of the articles to be admitted under the stipulations of the treaty. If the committee struck out the words referring to agricultural produce, the Government could not maintain good faith with the United States, for nothing could be more clear than the words of the third article of the treaty. The hon. Gentleman sought to make a distinction as to agricultural produce, when it was obvious that the treaty made none. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would clearly consider the consequences of his amendment before he adopted such a course as calling upon the House to sanction it.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
did not mean to say, that there should not be a literal adherence to the provisions of the treaty, and that we should fulfil it to the very utmost, but what he contended was, that the provision proposed in this clause, was not necessarily the true construction of the treaty.
§ Sir R. Peel
observed that the treaty made no distinction between agricultural and other produce; but if such an objection as that raised by his hon. Friend was pressed, the United States would have good reason for saying that you are willing to preserve the treaty as regarded timber, but you have some peculiar sensitiveness regarding corn, therefore you wish to leave it out. The fair way was to consider what was the meaning of the parties when the treaty was agreed to, and gathering that meaning from Mr. Webster's and Lord Ashburton's letters, he had no doubt that his interpretation of it was the right one. Mr. Webster, in summing up the whole subject in his letter of July the 27th, said:—When the whole line shall be properly described in the treaty, the grant by Great Britain to use the waters of the river St. John, for the purpose of transporting to the mouth of that river, all the timber and agricultural products raised in Maine, on the waters of the St. John, or any of its tributaries, without subjection to any discriminating toll-duty or disability, is to be inserted.Lord Ashburton, also, in one of his letters, says:—That the great advantage to the state of 313 Maine would be that her produce would be admitted into New Brunswick on the same footing as the produce of any other colony.Lord Ashburton, in his last letter on this part of the subject, says:—This statement appears substantially correct in all its parts, and we may now proceed without delay to draw up the treaty.With reference, also, to the opinion of Lord Ashburton, he could state that he had recently had a communication with him on this subject, and his noble Friend had distinctly stated, that the view which he had just given, was the construction which he put on the treaty. With respect to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of treaties of reciprocity, he would observe, that it was impossible to say, as parties to these treaties so closely watched each other, what might be claimed under reciprocity treaties. In the present case, he thought that the peculiar circumstances of the case, should be considered; it should be recollected that this territory had, until very recently, been British territory; the inhabitants were desirous of remaining British subjects, and when we passed them over to the foreign state, we certainly were justified in securing to the produce the same privileges as if it had continued to be British produce. Besides, the port of shipment for this produce was a port in one of our colonies, and it would be ruined if deprived of this trade.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ House resumed. Report to be received.
§ House adjourned at half-past five o'clock.