spoke to the following effect:—Sir, under ordinary circumstances I should have requested the indulgence of the House in order to enable you at once to leave the Chair, and to permit me to make in Committee the statement with which it is my duty, on the part of the Government, to preface the resolutions which I shall eventually have to propose. But the motion of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton has given notice is one which, according to the rules of the House, cannot be submitted when the House has resolved itself into committee; and I therefore deem it more satisfactory to the House, and more fair towards the right hon. Gentleman, that I should give him the opportunity of moving his amendment after he shall have heard my statement, rather than leave him to propose it without any previous explanation on our part as to our objects and intentions. And, Sir, I must confess that I am the more desirous of giving such an explanation, and have thought it desirable, to place on record the grounds and motives of the Government, more fully than is usual in a merely preliminary resolution, on account of the very general misapprehensions which exist, and the gross misrepresentations which have been made with regard to the intent and scope of our measure — misapprehensions which have been probably increased by the sensitive condition of the agricultural interest at this moment, which have produced, and no 578 doubt may produce a very unfavourable impression, but which I will undertake to show are merely the consequence of misunderstanding. Sir, with respect to this matter, I charge no one with misrepresentation; but at least I am not in error in saying that on both sides of this House the objects of this measure have been much exaggerated; that, on the one side, the most exaggerated expectations have been raised as to its probable benefit to the consumer—and that, on the other side, a most exaggerated apprehension as to its probable effect on the agriculturist, has been widely and generally entertained. I am aware, Sir, of the difficulties I must encounter in dispelling these fears. I am aware that the arguments I may use in addressing myself to the one side of the House will probably deprive me of some support from the other. Her Majesty's Government are, in fact, open to a sort of cross fire, and I feel that there is hardly any argument which I can address to one party which will not deprive me of some support from Members on the other side. But be this as it may, I am determined to avail myself of no considerations of temporary advantage. I shall use no trick to obtain support; I shall employ no artifice to pervert the facts; I shall not seek to exaggerate; on the contrary, it will be my object to diminish apprehension; and, to prove my sincerity, I will at once frankly acknowledge, that if I did not feel myself bound by a sense of duty—if it were not for the implied promise which was last Session held out to the Legislature of Canada—and for the obligation which rests on the Government to fulfil that promise to the best of its ability, I should consider the measure I mean to submit—in reference to the immediate interests of this country—in reference to the interests of the consumer as well as of the producer— of such slight and trivial importance, that, knowing as I do the impolicy and inconvenience of disturbing a great settlement, and knowing too well what are the sensitive feelings of the agriculturists at this particular time—if it were not that we are bound by faith and honour, I should have considered the measure I am about to submit of such comparatively trivial import, that I would not have interfered with that interest by asking you to re-open the question of the Corn-law for the purpose of assenting to a bill of a scope so limited and so confined. [Cheers.] I hear hon. Gentlemen opposite cheering that avowal. 579 I know I am exposed to their sarcasms; but I state again, and distinctly, that I do not seek to magnify the importance of this measure, and that my sole object is to place it in its true light—in a light in which it has not yet been placed before either the House or the country. I do not desire to conciliate for my proposal any support on the ground that it is an extensive measure, or that it is a great advance in free-trade principles; for it is no such thing. I do not put it forward as a means of admitting an almost unlimited supply of American corn upon conditions more favourable than at present; for it will do no such thing. I shall not on the one side claim support, or on the other yield in silence to opposition, founded on any mistake as to the real scope and object of my measure. I do not bring that measure forward as a measure of free-trade; I do not submit it to you as a bill for facilitating the admission of foreign corn; but I do bring the measure forward as a great boon to one of our most important colonies. I submit it to the House as a colonial and not as a fiscal question. If it was brought forward as a measure affecting either the fiscal or commercial interests of the country, it would more properly be the duty of either my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, or of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, to propose it to your notice. It is because the measure is purely a colonial measure, that, as the Colonial Minister of the day, I now ask the House to grant to Canada a boon, which though insignificant to you to concede, it will be important to them to receive—a boon which they have solicited for at least five and-twenty years a boon to which they attach the greatest importance—which you can grant without sacrifice of your own domestic interests, and which her Majesty's Government have on their part pledged themselves to grant in the event of certain conditions being complied with on the part of Canada, which conditions she gratefully accepted and has faithfully fulfilled. Sir, that is the sum and substance of the measure I am about to submit. It is a measure apart from the Corn-law—apart from any question of free-trade. It lies in a narrow compass; but although it does so, believe me, if it be a measure of pecuniary insignificance to you, believe me that your refusal to adopt it in its effects on the feelings of the people of Canada, and through them on the interests of that country the 580 measure is not insignificant. Sir, the measure I propose has for its object to give an encouragement to the agriculture of Canada, by admitting wheat the produce of Canada, grown as well as ground in Canada, into consumption in this country on more favourable terms than at present, without varying, in any material degree, the effect of the existing law with regard to the produce of the United States. I propose to reduce the duty on Canadian wheat and wheat flour; I also propose to substitute, on American wheat passing through Canada, the fixed duty of 4s. per quarter (for the present varying duty of from 1s. to 5s. per quarter. I do not propose any alteration whatever in the distinction at present drawn between wheat and wheat flour the produce of a foreign country. I do not propose to admit American wheat on terms different from those on which it is now admitted; but what I propose is, to admit American wheat ground into flour in Canada at a duty of 4s. instead of the present varying duty, and that is the sole effect of the measure, as far as American wheat is concerned. Now, Sir, as an hon. Gentleman has particularly directed my attention to the state of the law as regards the importation of wheat and wheat flour from the colonies, and as I know that misapprehensions prevail on this point, perhaps the House will permit me to state how the case now stands, how it has stood, and how it has been practically acted on since the year 1828, farther than which period I think it will be unnecessary for me to go back. Up to last year, wheat was allowed to be imported from Canada at a fluctuating duty varying from 5s. to 6d. per quarter; by the law of last year it is admitted at a duty sliding from 1s. to 5s. per quarter, according to the state of the British market. Flour has been imported from Canada at all times, liable to bear a proportionate amount of duty according to the rate of duty levied on wheat. On the import of foreign wheat into Canada no duty has been imposed to the present time. From every part of Europe and from the United States wheat has been admitted into Canada perfectly and entirely free from duty, and that wheat so imported and manufactured into flour in Canada, has ever been considered, if exported to this country, to enjoy all the privileges attaching to colonial produce. Now this is no new regulation; no new rule regarding United States or Canadian 581 wheat alone; it is a general principle which has been acted on, with regard to manufactured goods, from time immemorial in the Customs of this country, namely, that manufactured goods, no matter whence the raw material might come, should be regarded as the produce of the country in which the manufacture takes place. This question, indeed, was brought under discussion at an early period of our fiscal history, in a case which is not a little curious as showing the extent to which the principle is carried. In the 18th of George 3rd.—the year 1788 — a question was argued in the Exchequer Chamber, as to what should be the duty on ostrich feathers dressed in France, the said ostrich feathers being claimed as French produce. Now it was clear—it needed no certificate to prove it—that ostrich feathers were not a French production; but these feathers having been dressed in France, it was argued that they were a French manufacture, and the point having been discussed in the Exchequer Chamber, it was determined by the judges that the ostrich feathers So dressed in France were entitled to come in and to be charged duty as French goods. I mention this as a curious case bearing strongly Upon this Subject. In the year following, an act— the 19th Geo. 3rd.—was passed upon the subject. What did that act do? Did it deny the principle? By no means. It provided that the principle should hold perfectly good except With respect to the produce of Asia, Africa, and America; and With this pretty large exception, this act continued in operation until It was repealed by the 3rd of George 4th, and 6th of George 4th. But, under the 6th of George 4th, this broad principle was laid down, "All manufactured goods shall be deemed to be the produce of the country in which they are manufactured." A broader principle it would be almost impossible to lay down, and this was the principle established under that act. But it will, no doubt, be questioned that this principle applies to corn? Now, on that point, we have certainly no judicial decision, because the question Was never raised so as to be brought under judicial consideration; but in 1830, after the act of 1828 was passed, by which, for the first time, Canadian flour was admitted into this country, the question was raised by the Comptroller of the Customs at Liverpool, who, having some doubts as to whether United States wheat ground in Canada could be admitted as 582 colonial produce, referred the question to the solicitor of the Customs, who gave an unhesitating opinion—That flour made in Canada from wheat, the produce of the United States, was to be deemed the produce of Canada, and was entitled to enter this country as the produce of a colony, upon the production of the inspector's certificate applying to colonial produce, and required by the Act of Parliament.This was the opinion given by the solicitor of the Customs on a question raised by a collector and comptroller of Customs, who asked for a legal authority upon which to act. This is the single case in which the point has ever been raised; and I must next remark, that, to whatever question the law may be open, be the interpretation right or wrong, in the first place, the practice has been without exception to admit United States grown corn, coming from and manufactured in Canada, as Canadian produce—that has been the uniform and unvarying interpretation and practice of the law—and, in the next place, be that law right or be it wrong, this bill does not touch that question—this bill does not refer to that question, and it leaves the law precisely as it now stands. This, then, being the case, and the sole object we have in view being the substitution of a permanent fixed duty on American wheat. [Cheers.] I understand that cheer, and I shall come presently to the meaning which it conveys —I say that the object of this bill is the substitution of a permanent fixed duty on American wheat imported through the province of Canada, at the rate of 4s. a quarter, for a duty on such wheat varying from M. it was formerly, 1s. it is now, to 5s. per quarter. I say, Sir, that that is the sole alteration I propose; and such being the only alteration, I think that her Majesty's Government has cause to complain of the misrepresentations which have been sedulously disseminated amongst the farmers as to the introduction of United States corn," which," say some hon. Members, " the Government are seeking to bring in by a back door, not daring to open the front." Now, Sir, let me here say, once for all, that neither in this bill nor in any other bill with which I am connected, nor with which my colleagues are connected, will her Majesty's Government seek to introduce furtively or by stealth that which they dare not introduce broadly, plainly, and openly. This " back door," as you are pleased to call it, has been open for a space of not less than 583 fifteen years, that is to say, if by the " back door being open" you mean that United States corn can be admitted into Canada duty free, and as flour ground in Canada can obtain admission into the ports of England. From 1828 to 1843, that door has been open — through that door a considerable portion of American grain has been admitted, and instead of opening that door wider, our proposition is now to take a toll of 3s. upon every quarter of corn that must pass it. And then we are told—I hear it at county meetings—that we are doing an injury to the agricultural interest. The hon. Member for Rutland presented this evening a petition, praying that there might be no diminution of agricultural protection; and Gentlemen talk, and farmers are told, that they have grievous reason to complain of her Majesty's Government, for seeking to introduce United States' wheat into Canada at a duty of 3s., forgetting, of course, to put the counterpart, that up to this very moment, there is no duty at all, and that, instead of paying 3s., United States wheat enters Canada duty free. Again, I know it has been stated at several meetings, that we are about to inflict, by this measure, a grievous injury on the milling interest of this country—that we are going to introduce United States wheat in the shape of flour whilst we reject it in its unmanufactured condition. My answer to this is, that we make no alteration whatever in the present state of the law. Reject this law altogether, and the milling interest will be in precisely the same condition as if you passed it. You afford the milling interest no protection, whatever by its rejection, because, even now, flour from Canada, ground from wheat of the United States, is imported at the colonial rate of duty. This bill, therefore, as to the agricultural interest, or as to the milling interest, can produce no effect whatever if the fixed duty we propose be only equivalent to the existing rate. I shall now endeavour to prove that it is so. The present rate of duty—and for the convenience of the House I will refer throughout to the duty on quarters of wheat, without reference to the barrel of flour, and assuming that the due proportion is maintained between wheat and flour—the present rate of duty on United States wheat is precisely the same as on colonial wheat. [Mr. Roebuck: " Do you mean wheat or flour?"] I mean that, by the law, as it at present stands, 584 wheat imported from the United States into Canada, cannot be imported here except as flour, nor will it be imported in any other way by the law we propose. As flour — as manufactured produce—it will be admitted at the new rate of duty, which, as I said before, we consider equivalent to the old rates. The present duty levied on flour in this country, varies from 5s. per quarter, when the price is below 55s., to 1s. per quarter, when the price rises as high as 58s. Up to 55s., there is a duty of 5s. per quarter. By the measure which I propose there will be levied, at all times, and under all circumstances— [Cheers.]—hon. Gentleman may have the advantage of another cheer, if they please, at the idea of a fixed duty—by the measure which I propose, there will be levied, at all times and under all circumstances, a fixed duty on wheat imported through Canada of 4s. per quarter, whether the price be 40s. or 60s., instead of a duty which at present amounts to 5s. up to 55s. and thence falls to 1s. as the price rises to 58s. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen may say, that a reduction of even 1s. per quarter, that is to say, from 5s. to 4s., in the duty, is, in the present state of agriculture, a matter of considerable importance; but let it be observed, as appears, indeed, from a paper laid on the Table of the House, upon the motion of the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent, that during the last five years, the average amount of duty levied on colonial corn has not reached 4s. In one year, the average was 4s., but in another year it was only 6d.; and the average amount of duty for the whole period has been 2s. 1d.upon American wheat imported through Canada in the shape of flour; for which, by this bill, I propose to substitute a duty of 4s., whatever the price of the market may be. And let the House observe this, that the present duty is chargeable only on the fine flour imported, and only when brought into home consumption in this country; whereas three-fourths of the duty proposed to be levied, is to be levied on the whole bulk of wheat imported into Canada, which may not be brought into consumption for six, eight, ten, or twelve months, according to the state of the market; and we impose this duty upon the whole amount, including seconds, inferior flour, and the refuse. I do think, that 4s., to be so levied, is a fair, just, and ample equivalent for the existing duty. [Sir C. Napier: " It is more than ample."] The hon. and gallant 585 Gentleman says, it is more than an ample duty; but let him recollect that at the present moment a duty of 5s. attaches invariably till the price of wheat is 55s. I know by what objection I shall immediately be met here. I have anticipated it in the cheer I have already heard from the other side of the House, when the subject of a fixed duty was mentioned. " After all," it will be said, " you are coming down to a fixed duty of 4s. upon wheat." I beg to say I am not coming down to any such thing. I am coming down to no fixed duty of 4s. on wheat. I should have been glad to know how the noble Lord opposite, who proposed a fixed duty of 8s. per quarter on wheat, would have dealt with this particular article, and whether he would have subjected to an 8s. duty wheat, the produce of foreign countries, imported through our own colonies, and there undergoing the process of manufacture. Unfortunately, the noble Lord had not the opportunity of submitting his plan in detail to the consideration of the House; his project was cut off in the bud; but I should like to know how he would have dealt with that question. I have no hesitation in saying, that whatever may be the advantage of the sliding-scale over a fixed duty, setting other objections apart, the fixed duty has the merit of simplicity; and if I could adopt that which, under all circumstances, and under all seasons, and with reference to all countries, should strike n fair average of duty, of course, I should prefer, as any man of sense would—I don't think there would be any difference of opinion on any side of the House—I should prefer the simplicity of a fixed duty to the complication inseparable from a sliding-scale. Let the noble Lord or any person propose a sliding-scale, the extreme point of which shall be 8s. on one side, and 12s. on the other, and I tell the House very frankly, that rather than take a sliding-scale, the extreme of whose protection should be 8s. the minimum, and 12s. the maximum, and for that variation rendering necessary the complicated machinery of the averages, I would infinitely prefer the average between these two amounts, and take the fixed duty of 10s. rather than the fluctuating duty. The advantage of a sliding-scale arises from the extent of range which it must cover; you can take no amount which shall fairly represent an average of a duty ranging from 20s. to 1s. If the scale vibrate only for 3s. or 4s. you may dispense with the unnecessary complication 586 of the sliding-scale and collecting averages, but if you have a scale with a protective duty of 20s. at one end, and a comparatively free admission at 1s. at the other, proportioning the protection to the varying exigencies of the case, no average can be struck. Therefore, I say, it is perfectly consistent in me if the duty is to vary from 1s. to 4s., to say I prefer a fixed duty, whatever it may be, between those limits, and at the same time to reject it when the minimum and maximum duties are so widely different as to promote at one time comparatively free importation, and at another, amounting to an almost prohibitory duty. I prefer the sliding-scale in such circumstances, because you can have no fair average of the protection required. But, again, suppose a distinction is to be drawn in favour of Canadian wheat—that Canadian wheat imported into this country is to be subjected to no duty, or only a nominal duty, and American wheat to a protecting duty, I want to know, if the duty is to be levied in Canada, in what manner it is even possible to have a sliding scale from 4s. down to 1s? In what manner will you on the Canadian frontier fix the sliding-scale, and declare the averages with reference to the price in this country? If you are to draw the distinction between Canadian and American wheat, you must levy the duty on the Canadian frontier, and not in this country. If you are to levy the duty on the Canadian frontier, and not in this country, then the sliding scale is impracticable. The sliding-scale is too inapplicable to a duty only varying 2s. or 3s., and without departing in any degree from the principle of protection as applied to the agricultural interest in this country, you have no resource but a fixed duty between the very narrow limits to which your scale would fluctuate to one side or another. I have answered this argument to the best of my ability; but I confess I do not lay much stress on it as an argument. It may do very well to excite a Parliamentary cheer, or to raise a taunt of personal inconsistency; but against the measure, as I propose it, it is no argument at all; and I have shown that it is not an argument, that, on the ground of inconsistency, can fairly be urged against those who support a sliding-scale. I now come to a more important point; that is, can the duty in Canada be levied? Be the duty what it may, it would be levied in the Custom-house in this country; and I am ready to admit, that if any reasonable 587 apprehension can be entertained that the duty cannot be levied in Canada, it would be a strong argument against the measure which I propose. Never was there a more chimerical apprehension entertained than that wheat will be smuggled into Canada to escape a duty of 3s. per quarter. I will prove it to you from circumstances, from probability, from practice. Hon. Gentlemen are very much in the habit of saying that the boundary between Canada and the United States is for a long distance a mere river, that there is no difficulty in passing it, and that you might easily throw a biscuit across it; but what is the real state of the case? I put Lower Canada out of the question altogether, because it produces little or no wheat; certainly very far short of what is required for its own consumption. The whole of the wheat of which the Canadas have any surplus, of their own produce, is grown in Upper Canada. A large portion of that which comes into this country is not the produce of Canada at all, but of the United States, the great states of the west — Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. From the point at which the St. Lawrence becomes the boundary between Canada and the United States to Kingston, the distance is seventy or eighty miles, up a very rapid and broken river.
There is not a single rapid from Prescott to Kingston. I know the place well. I have gone up the river in a canoe hundreds of times.
Be it so; but that is not the district in which the wheat is produced. Above Kingston comes Lake Ontario, about 150 miles long; it is united by the Niagara River to Lake Erie, a lake 200 miles in length, both of these lakes varying from sixty to seventy miles in breadth. There is, therefore, a distance of from 350 to 400 miles, connected only by a river for the space of twenty miles, that river including the rapids above, and the whirlpools below, the falls of Niagara being perfectly impracticable. The wheat-growing districts are, in the first place, the Canadian districts on the north of Lake Erie, and the great American districts to the south-west. These are the districts— Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, from which corn is brought to Cleveland, the principal shipping port of Ohio, and thence the trade is carried on partly in steamers, but principally in large schooners built for carrying cargoes of this nature; passing through the Welland Canal and a success- 588 sion of British locks into Lake Ontario, and thence to Montreal, whence shipments are made to this country. There is a distance of above five hundred miles between the ports of shipment. The north side of Lake Erie is cultivated to a certain extent, and grows Canadian corn; the south side is cultivated by the Americans. The schooners engaged in the trade are all perfectly well known — they earry on their operations as a regular systematic trade—their owners are all known; the north coast, on the Canadian side, is singularly destitute of harbours; the Jakes they have to cross are about four times as wide as the Straits of Dover if it were attempted to run a cargo of wheat, and laud it on the Canadian side for the purpose of saving 3s. per quarter duty, the mere expense of landing and conveying it again to a wharf, and transhipping it, would very materially exceed the duty which it was the object of this not very wise smuggler to evade. I would ask any of my hon. Friends the Members for Kent and Sussex—did you ever hear of French wheat being smuggled and landed on your shores No—and why not? Because, first, although the duty is much higher, the risk more than counterbalances it; and, next, for this very good reason, which equally applies to Canada as to Kent and Sussex—that the shore to which the smuggler must come is occupied by persons whose direct and immediate purpose it is to prevent the possibility of smuggling that particular article. It is quite true, that it is in some cases easy enough to smuggle from Canada to the United States, and from the United States to Canada—it is easy for fugitives from justice—it is easy for deserters from the service—it is easy to carry over a pound of tea or silk in a canoe—but to carry over a quarter of wheat at great risk, and where there are no harbours and few roads, to re-ship and tranship it, for the purpose of evading a 3s. duty, is the most chimerical apprehension ever entertained. Does practice bear us out in this view? From 1825 to 1831 there was imposed a duty of, not 3s. but 8s. a quarter on United States wheat imported into Canada. I have not been able to ascertain the precise amount of duty which was collected; it is included in the general revenue of the colony; but in the Blue Books of the colony, although they are not altogether to be depended upon for accuracy as official returns, I find that in every year a certain amount of 589 American wheat was imported and brought to charge; and in no one year from 1825 to 1831, while 8s. per quarter was charged, was there any allegation from any quarter whatever that a single bushel of wheat had been smuggled into Canada or had evaded the duty. Here, at least, is negative proof—no such allegation was ever made. But perhaps hon. Gentlemen may say they will smuggle flour into this country; why don't they smuggle flour now? I will tell you why. The duty is sufficiently high to tempt them; but it is with flour as it is with respect to corn—the interest of the whole population is against the smuggler of flow, and in favour of collecting the duty. Let the House recollect that the duty on American flour imported into this country is 20s. per quarter; on Canadian flour it is 5s. Under the existing law, therefore, the temptation to smuggle flour into Canada, for the purpose of having it introduced as Canadian flour into this country, amounts to 15s. per quarter, or 300 per cent. on the duty; and yet to this hour I never heard the allegation made that one single barrel of flour had been smuggled into Canada; nor do I believe that a single barrel has ever been introduced without a bona fide certificate. On the practice, therefore, of six years, during which an 8s. duty was levied on the clear interest of all parties on the spot to prevent smuggling—on the physical impediments standing in the way—in the absence of any allegation that it has ever existed —on all these grounds, I say, no apprehension of smuggling need be entertained. This was the view taken before the 8s. duty was enacted both by Lord Dalhousie in Canada, and Lords Liverpool and Bathurst in this country, when it was said we should be inundated with American wheat and flour; and when that duty was taken off in 1831, as part of the Customs' regulations of the year by Mr. Poulett Thomson, not a single allegation was made that it had been evaded. I have endeavoured to deal with this question with reference to the apprehensions which have been entertained as to the importation of American wheat under the name of Canadian wheat: with the permission of the House I will now consider the question as it affects the importation, at a reduced rate of duty, of bonâfide Canadian produce—the growth as well as the manufacture of Canada; and here I say distinctly, that it is our wish to give encouragement to colonial produce, to the agriculture of 590 Canada; that as a Government we are pledged to do so, and that we may safely do it without detriment to any interest in this country. This is an object which Canada has had at heart for the last twenty or twenty-five years; and I have in my hand a succession of despatches from governors, and memorials from boards of trade and from both branches of the Legislature, from the year 1821 to the present time, all urging the propriety of acceding to their prayer in this respect. If there be one subject of legislation upon which Canada from one end to the other has been and is unanimous, it is in urging that, in order to enable them to consume more largely the manufactures of this country, you will treat them as part of the parent state and admit on easy terms the bonâ fide produce of their agriculture, I say you may safely grant this boon. I know not whether I ought to argue on a question of this kind, because if the boon ought to be granted, I am satisfied there is sufficient public spirit in the country not to weigh too nicely the possible disadvantage to our own interests; but, I say, you may safely grant it without any injury to agricultural interests—without any reduction in the existing price of agricultural produce. Let the House recollect, that hitherto the import of American wheat into Canada has been wholly free; and what quantity has been imported into this country? In the course of the last thirteen years, from 1830 to 1843, the amount of wheat and wheat flour imported into this country from Canada, including what was imported from the United States, was only 1,153,968 quarters. That is to say, somewhere about 90,000 quarters of wheat is the whole amount, which, upon an average of thirteen years, Canada has been able annually to export to this country; not, be it remembered, from her surplus produce only, but that being absolutely the whole of her surplus produce, supported and backed up by all that she could import from the United States free of duty. And this brings me to the question, at what rate can this Canadian corn be imported and brought into consumption here? This is not an unimportant point to keep in view, in the discussion of any measure having for its object to give greater facilities to the trader. Now I find that, of the 1,153,968 quarters, there were imported at and above 67s. 387,389 quarters; at and above 55s., and under 7s. 566,748 quarters; making in the whole above 950,000 quarters, out of 591 1.153,000, imported and brought into consumption here, when the price in this country exceeded 55s. a quarter. At lower prices than these, about 93,000 quarters were imported when the prices ranged from 50s. to 55s., and the whole amount brought into consumption, when the prices were under 50s., scarcely exceeded 106,000 quarters during the whole thirteen years' importation.* But this is not all. I will go further, and will show you how, and when, and under what circumstances the importation took place when wheat was below 50s. in price. I hare not the returns as to flour; but I have a return as to wheat, and I find this result:—There were three years, and three years only, in which wheat was brought into consumption from Canada, at a rate of price below 50s. in this country; and those were the three years—1834, 1835, and 1836. Now, I beg attention to these facts. 1831 and 1832 were years of very high prices, and accordingly wheat from Canada, imported and brought into consumption, was, in the first year, 110,000 quarters, and in the next
§ *The following Table was referred to by the noble Lord.
§ Wheat and Flour, the produce of British North American Colonies, admitted to Home Consumption between the 5th of Jan. 1830, and the 5th of Jan. 1843.
|Wheat.||Wheat Flour.||Wheat and Wheat Flour stated in quarters.|
|When the average price of wheat was under 50s||74,438||111,626||106,332|
|50s. and under 55s||75,123||62,217||93,459|
|55s. and under 67s||270,186||1,037,965||566,748|
|67s. and upwards||166,579||772,838||387,389|
year, 164000 quarters. The next year, 1833, was a year in which the price varied from 49s. 10d. to 55s.; and in that year the import fell from 164,000 to 61,501 quarters. The three next years were years of constantly falling prices. In the first year prices fell to 41s. 10d.; in the next, to 36s. 10d.; and at the commencement of the third year prices for a considerable period averaged 36s. 8d. Now, in these years, so hopeless did the Canadian merchants consider the prospect, that, by referring to the returns moved for by the hon. Member for Bristol, and now upon the Table of the House, you will see that not a single quarter of wheat was imported from Canada in the years 1835, 1836, and 1837; and that the merchants who had brought large stocks into this country upon the faith of the high prices of 1831 and 1832, and who held back in 1833 in the expectation that they would yet be able to realise a profit by prices rallying, were obliged, at last, in 1834, 1835, and 1836, to bring their stocks into the market at a very considerable loss, and the wheat sold under these circumstances constituted the whole of the Canadian wheat ever brought in any year into the British market at prices below 50s. per quarter. This, then, at least, is satisfactory evidence—in the first place, that no great importation of Canadian corn is to be apprehended when the average prices in this country are low; and next, it is satisfactory proof that Canadian wheat cannot be profitably introduced and sold here unless prices range at least from 50s. to 56s., nor, probably, unless they are higher even than the latter average. And mind, these prices were under a system of free importation from the United States. When there is a duty of 3s. per quarter on the importation of that corn into Canada, will it not necessarily follow that prices at Montreal must rise? [Lord Howick: "Hear."] The noble Lord cheers me, and I understand his cheer; but let me remind him, that I do not seek by this measure to establish any system of unlimited free-trade. Sir, I do not bring this measure forward as a measure of free-trade, and I give the noble Lord the benefit of that admission. With his notions respecting unlimited free-trade, he has quite a right to resist my motion. If he desires to sweep away all distinctions—if he wishes to deprive the colonies and the agriculturists of the mother country of all protection—if he wishes to put all nations on a perfect equality with re-
gard to the introduction of corn—he is quite justified in opposing my motion. He is justified in doing so, because, as I repeat, this motion is not a motion for free-trade; it is not founded upon that principle—it is founded upon quite a different principle-it is founded, 1 tell the noble Lord, upon the principle of giving encouragement to the agricultural industry, and to the produce of our colonies, leaving the protection of our native agriculture, as respects the United States of America, as nearly as possible in the same condition in which we find it, neither increasing nor attempting to reduce it. I stated at the outset, and I will again repeat it, that it is as a measure of encouragement to our colonies, and of undiminished protection to the home grower, and not as a measure founded on the principles of free-trade, that this measure has been brought forward by her Majesty's Ministers. Now, Sir, I laid upon the Table of the House, in the course of the present Session, a number of calculations, with which, however, I will not fatigue the House, because I do not rest any part of my case upon them. They are calculations which proceeded from the committee of the Legislative Assembly of Canada, and which were laid before the assembly of that province. They were not received by the Government, nor laid upon the Table until after the announcement of this measure; but, however favourable for my purpose, I do not quote them as part of my case, because, whilst I do not in any way discredit their accuracy, the measure I am about to propose is wholly independent of such calculations, and they were indeed laid before Parliament simply because her Majesty's Government would not allow it to be said, " You have information from Canada which you promised to lay upon the Table, and which you now withhold, because you think it does not bear out your views." But, Sir, I will call attention to a document laid upon the Table with reference to the current prices at Montreal and Quebec at the present time. This return is certainly not as full as we might desire, for this very good reason, that there are no accurate returns, no law being in force in Canada to regulate the taking of the averages. But, incomplete as it may be, you will still be able to derive considerable information from the return to which I am referring. You will find, on the authority of the persons best able to give you information, that the prices at Montreal and at Quebec, under
no circumstances, fall below 40s. a quarter. They generally range at from 45s. to 50s. the quarter; and by making inquiry of any merchant, you will find that the lowest amount at which the importation from Quebec, independent of any profit, can be made, is 12s. 6d., 13s. 6d. or 14s. a quarter, which charge must of course be added to the price of 45s. to 50s. a quarter, before you can introduce in average years any Canadian wheat into the home market. I have several returns from merchants in support of these calculations, but I will not trouble the House with any of these statements, as they might be supposed to proceed from parties whose interests might bias their judgment; but I have a statement here which is not open to any objection of that kind; it is taken from a Boston paper, the Boston Courier, where it is published in the shape of an extract from the communication of a correspondent of the Cleveland (Ohio) Herald, and who says fairly enough:—
The object of the British Ministry is evident on the face of the measure. It is to promote the emigration of British farmers to Canada, where as good wheat lands exist as in any part of the world; to give protection to the Canadian millers; to provide employment for the British shipping connected with Canada, recently deprived, by their imperial tariff, of the lumber trade, and, in times of scarcity in bread stuffs in England, to give their own subjects a pre-eminent advantage over foreigners in operating;under a fixed duty, whilst others have the hazard of a sliding-scale of duties.
The correspondent then goes into very minute calculations, by which he arrives at the conclusion, that in the present state of, or without a considerable rise of price in, the British market, the Canadian merchant cannot afford to go to Ohio as a purchaser of corn, with a view to take any advantage of the facility which this law will give him of importing United States corn through Canada into this country. This correspondent also refers, in a striking and convincing manner, to the expenses of shipment and tran sit from Montreal to this country, placing the expense of such shipment at a dollar and a half the barrel of flour, that is to say, at about 6s. 2d., or 6s. 3d., making, as nearly as possible, the amount per quarter at which I have already calculated the shipping expenses. He concludes by saying:—
A sale of flour, therefore, in England at 30s. per barrel, would only leave the Montreal shipper, as a profit, the current difference in
exchange between Montreal and London, say 7 per cent, on 5 dols. 19 cents, which would be 35 cents a barrel profit. Any person having experience in the trade will readily admit, that 35 cents margin is not sufficient where flour is up to 30s.per barrel—it will not cover the hazard of a decline in the present appearance of the English market.
Now I do not wish to weary the House by going over these minute calculations, nor, indeed, is it necessary that I should do so at present, though I may be compelled to return to them at some future occasion. But what is material for us to consider, and what I beg to impress on the House is, that though this may not be a measure of free-trade—immaterial as you may consider it—immaterial as I consider it—to the consumer in this country—and insignificant as I think it must be admitted to be when it is considered as a measure affecting the British agriculturists, yet, the introduction of Canadian corn at a 1s. duty, while not encouraging nor fostering any more than the present law, the importation of wheat from the United States, will be, to all intents and purposes, in its practical effects and moral results, a measure of inestimable value to Canada, and if to Canada, to the empire at large. Sir, this measure is an object for which Canada has long contended and anxiously hoped. This is not the first time the proposition has been submitted to Parliament; this is not the first time I have expressed my opinion on the subject. In the course of last Session the question was brought before the House in a tangible and definite shape. In the course of the discussion on the Corn Bill then under consideration, the hon. Member for Limerick proposed to permit the introduction of wheat, the produce of British possessions in North America, or elsewhere out of Europe, at a fixed duty of 1s. per quarter. I objected to that amendment, but I stated only one single objection to it. In the face of the House and the country I stated, as my only ground of objection to the adoption of the proposal, that, by consenting to it, we should clearly be importing free of duty, not Canadian, but American wheat, and that I was not prepared to introduce American wheat free of duty, though prepared to give encouragement and support to the agriculture of Canada. But perhaps I may be excused if I cite my own expressions on the subject. I quote from "Hansard's Debates," and this is the language I then used:—
It was not just to call upon them, under the plausible argument of giving encouragement to Canadian agriculture, to relieve from the bnrthen of duty all the corn and flour which passed from America through Canada, taking, at the same time, no means to prevent ourselves from being inundated with American corn. This was the ground on which he, for one, could not concur with the motion of the hon. Gentleman. If there were any alteration of the law which regulated the importation of wheat into Canada—if there were such a restriction on wheat going into Canada as would free this country from competition with American corn, under the name of Canadian corn —then the Canadians would be entitled to a greater relief.
That is the language which I, as a Minister of the Crown—as a Minister charged with colonial affairs, used as the main ground for resisting the hon. Gentleman's motion. A number of the friends of the agricultural interest were present in the House at the time, and no objection was taken to the grounds upon which I rested my argument. Not a single gentleman contravened the position I laid down; The motion was rejected on those grounds, and simultaneously with that rejection, a despatch was sent from this country, which, by my directions, was laid before the legislature of Canada, inviting them in terms not to be mistaken, to qualify themselves, by imposing a duty on American wheat, to receive the boon which they had long demanded at the hands of the British Government, which I, on the part of that Government, was ready to extend, and which I did not believe the British Parliament would refuse to confirm. And here let me entreat the House to recollect what was the position of Canada when that despatch was transmitted. At that time you had just accomplished a most perilous experiment: you had quelled a most serious revolt in that country—you had recently consolidated the interests of that country by the perilous experiment of a union of the two provinces—you had, for the first time, met a united legislature; and it was under circumstances such as these that Sir Charles Bagot was authorized to make, as his first communication to that united legislature, a tender of good-will—a promise that the country should be treated as an integral part of the British empire, and that it should send its produce home at a nominal rate of duty, provided it gave a certain security,
*Hansard, Vol. lx p.1232
which it was necessary for your interests to demand. That tender of good-will— that proposition on the part of the British Government—was received with unanimous approbation and gratitude. A bill was introduced into the Canadian Legislature to carry out the views of her Majesty's Government, by imposing the required duty on American corn. In its progress through the lower House, that measure led to division on one point, and on one point only. A proposal was made to tack to the bill imposing a 3s. duty on American wheat, a condition that it should not be of force unless the British Parliament granted the promised boon. Some gentlemen professed a doubt of the intentions of the British Government, and urged that it was necessary that the Legislature should take securities against a failure on our part. But the Legislature refused to entertain any such doubt. " We will not indulge," they said, " in any such unworthy suspicions. We never had such a doubt, and we will imply no such bad faith. We believe that the Minister intends what he speaks. His language is not to be mistaken. We will not indulge in unworthy suspicions." The proviso was accordingly negatived by a very large majority, and the bill passed unanimously through both branches of the Legislature of a colony which not long before had been convulsed by internal dissentions and hostility against the mother-country, from one end of it to the other. That bill, Sir, is sent home for the sanction of the Crown. Of course I have not advised the Crown to sanction that act of the Canadian Legislature, nor shall I advise the Crown to sanction it, until the House of Commons shall have enabled me to perform my part of the contract. I hold myself in personal honour bound—I hold the Government in good faith, as well as in good policy, pledged to omit no exertion to carry into effect the convention we entered into with the Canadian provinces, in the face of Parliament and of the country. I hold that we are bound to strain every nerve to preclude the possibility of expectations being blasted, which we were so instrumental in exciting. I hold that it would be the basest conduct on our part to say to the Canadian Legislature, "You have, it is true, vied with each other in expressions of gratitude for this boon. The prospect has been held out to you of improvement to your country, by renewed and closer connexion with Great Britain; you have evinced your
anxiety to improve that connexion—you have complied with our conditions—you have expressed your gratitude—but have expressed it too soon, for boon shall not be conferred on — not because we entertain any apprehension of its effect, but because there are some in this country who do entertain such fears, and, unfounded though they may be, unfounded though they are, to those fears and apprehensions we must and will defer." I ask you, then, as Members of the House of Commons—I ask you, as legislators, responsible for the conduct of the affairs of this mighty empire—do you believe it wise—do you believe it politic—do you believe it just—do you believe it generous—do you believe that it is safe thus to trifle with the feelings, the expectations, and the hopes of those who unanimously acceded to your terms, and who gratefully accepted your proffered boon? Will you accept the responsibility, and tell the Canadians, " We will not give you this boon: the cup of rejoicing shall be struck from your hand, and dashed in mockery from your lips?" No, Sir, I do not believe the House of Commons will take such a course. I know not what may be the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, in moving that the House do not advise her Majesty to consent to the Canadian bill. But I tell him, whatever the intention, that it is needless. If the House reject this measure, I tell him frankly that the first official measure I shall perform, even if it be the last, shall be to advise her Majesty to disallow the bill; that is, if I find, as I trust I shall not, that this House does not enable me to fulfil the conditions upon which alone that bill was passed by the Canadian Legislature. But do not think that, in that case, matters will remain as they are. Do not believe that, in that event, the people of Canada will rest satisfied, as if you had never made them this offer do not believe that you can so trifle with the feelings and wishes of the population of that great and important colony. And even if you could so trifle, is it wise for you—and I now address myself to those who are the most intimately connected with the agriculture of this country—is it wise for you to set up this line of distinction between yourselves and your fellow-countrymen in Canada? You desire protection against the free importation of ail foreign corn, from whatever quarter it may come. I do not say, that your home
produce, on an average of years, is likely to be at all times insufficient to supply your home demand; but I cannot help reminding you that, notwithstanding the emigration that is now going on to the extent of 100,000 per annum, the population that remains is increasing at the rate of 300,000 a year. And if your population at home should outgrow your average supply of home production, I ask, where, in the first instance, is it wise to look for the means of supplying the deficiency? I ask you, would it be wise to look for it, with an equal and impartial eye, to all quarters of the globe, without considering the prices at which the supply may be introduced, without reference to the amount which may be forced in upon you, without reference to the circumstances under which this country may be placed, or without regard to an increase in the demand for the products of British industry? If you desire a source of supply made to your hand, which should meet all the conditions that a prudent agriculturist would desire, and to which any one regarding the interests, whether agricultural or commercial, of this great country, would be disposed to look, I would direct you to that great area, which, with a climate not very dissimilar to your own, is cultivated by your own countrymen, which is capable of producing an increased supply, but which is not capable of furnishing that supply, unless prices should rise to such an amount as to indicate a deficiency in the home produce. The supply in that case will be furnished you by a province with which it is important you should continue the most intimate relations; which is the main and chief hold upon that vast continent for British interest, feeling, and affection; which is the refuge of your surplus labourers, where they may still labour in their accustomed art, and furnish supplies to their accustomed market—where they may still look to England, not as a country from which they are banished, but as a country to which they cling and feel that they belong; which is capable of supplying your deficiencies, though not of supplanting your productions; which must consume your manufactures, and which has only this one desire, to possess additional means of paying for them. It is a country which is subjected to no hostile tariff—a country which realizes all the recommendations that were lately made in
the most forcible and eloquent terms by the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, (Mr. C. Buller)when he told you to increase, by promoting the intercourse with your colonies, the area for providing for your home consumption, and where you could command a market for your manufactures in return, If you have apprehensions that, in the course of years, your supply may gradually fall short of the demands of this country, I say that, free from all the objections which attach to an unrestricted importation from foreign countries, you have the means in your own hands of meeting the deficiency; and at the same time commanding the trade, maintaining it in your own hands, supporting your shipping interest, improving the condition of your own fellow-countrymen, knitting closely to yourselves, by interest and affection, that portion of the great continent of America which you may hold with signal benefit to yourselves, but not so unless you hold it by the good-will and affection of the people of Canada;— say, on all these grounds, agricultural, commercial, and political — upon the ground of justice and expediency —. on the ground of the faith which her Majesty's Government have pledged to Canada, and which I confidently believe the House will enable us to maintain, I submit with all confidence to the House the plain statement I have made, without exaggerations on the one side or the other, in the full assurance that the House will enable the Government of her Majesty to redeem the implied contract into which it has entered. With these feelings, Sir, I appeal to the House in the fullest confidence; and I shall now, in the first instance, submit a proposal that you, Sir, do leave the Chair, in order that the House being in Committee, I may introduce the resolutions of which I have given notice, and which are to form the groundwork of the bill I intend to introduce as a Member of the Government, and for the principle of which, whilst in all its details it will be open to your fullest discussion and consideration, I confidently anticipate the sanction of Parliament.
§ Mr. Labouchere:
In any observations, Sir, which I may feel it my duty to submit to the House, I shall endeavour to imitate the calm tone which distinguished the greater part of the speech of the noble Lord who has just addressed you. I agree with the noble Lord that much misrepre- 601 sentation and many exaggerated statements on this subject have been circulated through the country; and I shall certainly not seek to conciliate agricultural Gentlemen opposite, by pretending to share in their alarm, that the consequence of the measure proposed by her Majesty's Government will be to affect the home market, by flooding it with corn either of foreign or colonial growth. I agree with the noble Lord, that in that respect the apprehensions of the agricultural Gentlemen are quite unfounded. But while the noble Lord stated, and stated truly, that the apprehensions of the agriculturists on this subject were without any solid foundation, I hope that Gentlemen on this side of the House who listened to his speech with the attention it deserved, will not suppose that a single word of that speech was addressed to them, for the noble Lord, with the frankness that is natural to him, said that he did not advocate the measure as a free trader. As a friend to free-trade, therefore, I feel that I am acting consistently in opposing a measure which, said the noble Lord, no one who advocated the principles of free-trade could support. Before I come to the consideration of the measure itself, I must allude to the footing on which the noble Lord has put this question. The noble Lord said, that we are not free agents in this matter; that we are fettered by what took place in the coarse of an incidental discussion on the Corn-laws at the end of last Session, when perhaps not more than ten Members were in the House listening to what the noble Lord said on that occasion. Are we then to be precluded from considering this question because the noble Lord told the House that he had made a declaration in the House of Commons that such a measure would be introduced? Are we to be told that the noble Lord has a right to say that the House of Commons is precluded from objecting to this measure in consequence of the bargain which has been entered into, and that we are to discuss this question, not on its merits, but with reference to the dissatisfaction which the rejection of it will produce in the minds of the people of Canada? If any danger is to be apprehended from such a course, the responsibility rests with the noble Lord. On the part of the House of Commons I claim for them the free and unfettered right to consider this question on its merits. I shall now proceed to state the reasons which compel me to give my dissent to 602 the measure brought forward. The practical question before the House is whether they should give their consent to an arrangement made with the legislature of Canada, one part of that arrangement being that we are greatly to reduce the duty on flour imported from the St. Lawrence into this country, and the other part being that a Corn-law is to be enacted by the Parliament of Canada for the protection of the people of Canada in the introduction into that province of American grown wheat. If it were in my power to have taken one part of that arrangement, if I could hope to persuade the House to reduce the duty on corn and grain brought from Canada to this country—such a reduction being, in my opinion, desirable for the interests both of the people of England and Canada—then I would have given such a proposal my warmest support, as I believe that it would tend to mitigate one of the most mischievous consequences of the sliding-scale. I have always felt the warmest interest in that colony, and it is extremely painful to me to feel myself bound to oppose any measure supposed to be for its advantage. It will be necessary for me to ask the House to recollect the course of legislation which had been pursued on this subject of late years. In 1831, the Government of Lord Grey brought forward a measure, the most important feature of which was the abolition of duties on all the principal articles of export from the United States to Canada. That, at least, Mr. Poulett Thomson declared was the chief advantage which he proposed to himself from the measure. He went so far in stating his opinion, which I will read in his own words, as to say that the measure would have the effect of sweeping away all the custom-houses along the whole line of the St. Lawrence. He said:—The greatest advantage which results from it, however, in my opinion is, that by the arrangement respecting the admission of flour and salt provisions, duty free, into the northern colonies, we destroy the whole range of custom-houses on the St. Lawrence, and open at once that vast outlet to the productions of the states of Maine and Ohio. I need scarcely dwell upon the advantages which must result, in a political point of view, from rendering these fertile provinces, daily increasing in cultivation, dependent on us for an outlet for their produce. Any one who will reflect on the subject for a moment must be aware of this.These were stated by Mr. Poulett 603 Thomson as the effects which he anticipated from the measure of Lord Grey's Government; and certainly I did expect that the noble Lord, then a Member of that Government, would have availed himself of this opportunity to explain the grounds that have led him to alter his opinions, and which have induced him in this Session and in the last to revive that system which it was the object of the law of 1831 to throw down. If the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was also a member of Lord Grey's Government, have altered their opinions, I would be the last man to make it a matter of reproach to them that they avow that alteration o but I think some explanation is due from them to the House, to show why they now adopt a course so very different from that which they adopted then. The first step in this direction, and the first blow struck at the measure of 1831 was the present bill by which last year the President of the Board of Trade proposed an import duty on salted provisions crossing the border of the United States. I have a strong feeling that these duties, on a frontier of 1,500 miles, are highly impolitic. Any revenue to be derived from them must, I believe, be very insignificant, while the expenses necessarily incurred by the establishment of custom-houses must be very great. For these reasons I opposed the imposition of those duties last year, and for the same reason I think I may now with perfect consistency oppose the imposition of a duty on American wheal and flour imported into Canada. I will now approach the scheme of the noble Lord, and I will first consider it on the supposition that smuggling can be prevented, and that a duty of 3s. on American corn will operate as a protection. I am not prepared by any means to do away with all duties favourable to colonial produce in this country. I have always been opposed to such a course. But, on the other hand, I am very fearful of the consequences of raising up new protected interests, particularly when I see the exaggerated use which is made by some parties of the principle of protection. I am extremely averse to laying the first stone of an edifice which must lead to an unsound and artificial system of legislation, disfigured by those abuses which, in this country, it has cost so much to lessen. I resist it as much for Canada as for England. Believing that the Corn-laws cannot 604 last long in this country without being subjected to a general revision, and being regulated on more rational principles than those on which they are at present settled, I am greatly afraid of fostering and encouraging by any artificial means an agricultural interest in Canada, which may prove a serious obstacle to any rational alteration of the Corn-laws in this country, and lend the weight of its influence to impede measures which it may be the duty of Parliament to adopt with reference to the general interests of the empire. I must also observe that this proceeding is in the nature of a bargain. Suppose the Canadians should find that this Corn-law is not successful, and that its effect should be to produce disappointment and discontent in that colony, shall we be at liberty to alter it? We have encouraged the provincial parliament to pass this law, and it cannot be altered without their consent, as well as the consent of this country. I cannot help thinking that at no distant period, whatever may be the feelings existing at this moment in Canada, which we are informed are favourable to such a measure, the sentiments of the inhabitants of that country may undergo a great change, and that this favourable opinion may not last long. What is the fact? Lower Canada is a corn-importing country, and a corn-law of this description must raise the price of corn to the consumer in Lower Canada. There are large mercantile cities in Canada, which are growing in population and importance. Why, I cannot but believe, that at no distant length of time the inhabitants of these countries may not feel great dissatisfaction at having to pay an increased price for their food, and being prevented from importing corn and flour from the United States at the cheapest rate, merely to foster an agricultural interest in the upper provinces. I think all these are reasons why we should be cautious before taking such a step as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. I have hitherto regarded this question as if I believed that smuggling across the border could be prevented. I have no doubt the Government believe that it can; I am quite satisfied they never would have passed a measure which will be a mere juggle and deceit on the country, if this 3s. duty across the frontier was to be a mere paper duty. I have found some free-traders disposed to support the Government because they believe that a duty of 3s. across the border will be a mere 605 farce, that corn and flour will come in absolutely free, and be brought to this country as if it had paid the 3s. duty; that that duty is all very well to satisfy the fears of the agriculturists, but will turn out to be nothing at all; and that we shall have an absolutely free-trade down the St. Lawrence, in American flour, by the proposal of the Government. Now I say at once, that if I am satisfied that the duty of 3s. across the border will not be operative, and a mere paper duty, I for one will not advocate and support a measure founded on so dishonest a principle. That is the view, I believe, of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bath, who has much personal experience in Canada. I at once fairly own I have not the means of forming any decided opinion on this point. I have consulted many persons connected with Canada, and have received the most various opinions respecting it. I am inclined to think this will be the result, that at first, especially, this duty will be effectual for the most part. I believe that on some particular points there will be some slight smuggling; as the United States become cultivated my belief is, that there will be more and more smuggling, and I believe we shall have contrived to unite the inconveniences and disadvantages of two absurd systems, namely, that there will be some protection and a good deal of smuggling besides. At any rate I must say, with respect to this question of smuggling, the reasons given to us for supposing that there will be none, appear not to be very good reasons. I will shortly examine those reasons. The first reason given is, that it will be the unanimous interest of the people of Canada to prevent smuggling across the border. Now, I am by no means of opinion that it will be. It may be the interest of the Canadian farmer, though I am not quite sure of that; but will it be the interest of the corn-factor and the miller? Why, it is quite clear that a large class of persons —a very influential class—most of them Americans, having connections in the United States, I believe, will have a very opposite interest. I own, I think, as far as my observation has gone, that when the interests of corn-factors and speculators clash with those of farmers, the merchant or factor is apt to outwit the farmer. The noble Lord did not make use of an argument which I expected to bear from him with, respect to 606 the possibility of preventing smuggling— I mean that derived from the revenue raised on other articles of consumption. I should be very glad to see a return of that revenue, in order that the House might have the means of comparing the expense of the line of Custom houses established from Canada to the United States, and the revenue which the province derives from that establishment. I thought the noble Lord would have referred to the duty on tea, silks, and other articles, and that he would have argued, that it would be highly absurd to suppose if you could levy imposts on such articles as these, you could not levy a tax on so cumbrous an article as that of corn. But there is this material distinction between the cases. If a chest of tea, for instance, be in possession of a person in any town or village of Canada, you can go to him and attempt to trace the cargo of tea; you can ask him whence it came, and how he got it into his possession. That is the way in which smuggling generally is prevented. But you cannot ask that question with respect to wheat; when you find wheat growing all about him, it would be absurd to ask him from what place it came. You cannot quite argue from the duties on other articles, so as to be quite sure that there will be no smuggling in that of wheat or flour. The mention of tea reminds me of what happened on that subject. Until lately, there was a prohibitory duty on tea crossing from the United States into Canada. What was the consequence of the imposition of that duty? Lord Sydenham sent a despatch, which must be now in the records of the colonial office, describing the state of the country in reference to the importation of tea. He said, everybody is a smuggler; there is not a pound of tea that pays duty; not only the regular smugglers practise it, but Members of the Legislature, magistrates, and all, are engaged in smuggling tea. With respect to the injury done to the sense of moral and legal obligation in society by this smuggling, nothing could be worse than the picture he drew. He recommended, that we should try the experiment of reducing the prohibition to a very moderate rate of duty. That experiment has been tried; but I am very doubtful of its success. I should be curious to learn if the right hon. Gentleman has examined this matter; but I entertain fears that the experiment has proved a failure, and that nothing will attain the object of suppressing smuggling 607 but the entire abolition of the duty. Even if it could be proved, beyond doubt, that this duty was good, as respects the importation of tea, I do not think the argument will apply, for reasons which I have given, to the article of corn. I have stated my opinions on this subject as far as I am able, without considering whether any particular argument I may have used may appear to favour the one side or the other of the question. Although I may be of opinion that the prevention of smuggling is not so wholly satisfactory as the Government seemed to believe; yet I do not think that any real danger to the agricultural interest in this country need be apprehended from this measure, I wish I could believe that it would greatly promote the importation of wheat and corn into this country, especially from the continent of America. When I consider the unfortunate operation of the sliding-scale, the immense importance of our being able to take the wheat, flour, and other staple agricultural produce of that great continent, and inducing them to take our manufactures in return, if I could believe that this measure would have the effect of promoting that result, I confess I should be inclined to waive my objections, and give it my support. It is because I do not believe that the objections of agricultural gentlemen have any foundation, because I do not believe that this measure will have any sensible effect in increasing the importation of America, while it appears to me to involve principles the most erroneous, that I am constrained, however reluctant I may be to oppose a measure of the provincial Parliament, to give my opposition to the scheme which her Majesty's Government have laid before us. I am not prepared to give my assent to a measure which, if not by direct legislation, yet indirectly, obliges the people of Canada to impose a duty on themselves, which is to be levied through the medium of a line of Custom-houses, and thus to erect an artificial and unnatural system of protection for certain interests in Canada. If it can be proved to me, that the machinery of Custom-houses is insufficient, and that it will be totally inoperative, I will not be induced, under a dishonest pretext, to support a measure founded on a mere delusion. If it is operative, on the other band, I say, that you are taking a step which will establish a protected interest in Canada, much more easy to establish than to get rid of afterwards. In looking at the 608 papers on the Table, I see that the Canadians are already amusing themselves with drawbacks, and involving themselves in all those questions which a Corn-law, once established, brings with it. Sir, I feel satisfied that we are consulting the real interests of that colony by doing nothing on our part, at least, to induce them to take the first step in a system which I believe will have most unhappy consequences. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies said, he viewed this as a colonial question only. How can it be for the interests of Canada to have Corn-laws? All the best arguments for a Corn-law in this country are entirely inapplicable to Canada. No one will say there are any peculiar burthens on the agricultural interest of that colony. My right hon. Friend reminds me that the Canadian farmers have not been settling their daughters' portions with reference to the prices of agricultural produce. I really should not have introduced so trivial a point on this occasion, if gravity had not been given to it by its being mentioned by a Minister of the Crown. There has been no long continuance of a Corn-law in that country—no great capital has been vested in it—no immense population has been employed under an artificial system, which, by a sudden return to a better system, you may fear to throw out of employment. All this being so, it must be admitted that all those considerations which have been regarded as justifying the maintenance of a Corn-law in this country, are totally inapplicable to Canada, and have no foundation in that colony. I am told, that all the disadvantages which I have mentioned are to be compensated by the inestimable advantage of sending the produce of the Canadian soil at a low duty into this country. If that could be effected to any extent, and without those disadvantages which accompany the scheme of the Government, I should be most glad to give my support to a plan for admitting grain coming from America, or indeed from any part of the world, on more reasonable terms than at present. I have now mentioned my main objections to the proposition of her Majesty's Government. There are, however, one or two minor points, which, though I do not lay very great stress on them, yet I think ought not to be thrown out of consideration. The first is, the effect which this plan will have on our inter-colonial duties. We heard a great deal last Session, of the injustice of giving any advantage to one colony at the expense of 609 another; The duty, then, for the first time imposed on American flour going across the border into Canada, was justified solely on what were termed intercolonial grounds. We were told, that it was solely on account of the indirect effect on the people of Newfoundland, who, the right hon. Gentleman said, were not to be taxed by a differential duty in favour of Canada, for the benefit of the Canadians, that we were asked to sanction that duty. Now, I ask the Government, how we are to reconcile the principle on which they then proceeded, with their conduct on the present occasion. For what will be the effect of this bill on the colonies that receive corn and flour from Canada, on Newfoundland, Jamaica, New Brunswick, or other colonies? Recollect what your system is. You lay a tax on foreign flour imported into those colonies, you do that for the purpose of inducing the colonists to take their flour from the St. Lawrence; therefore you oblige them, in a certain sense, to go to Canada and the St. Lawrence for their supply of flour. What will be the effect of the alteration of duty on those colonies? Every barrel of flour sent from Quebec to Newfoundland or Jamaica will pay a duty of 3s. per quarter to the Canadian treasury—that is perfectly obvious. Now I must say, that while I entertain every good wish for the prosperity of Canada, I do not wish to make our other colonies tributary to her in this respect. Considering the importance assigned by Government last year to a very minor colony, I think we ought to have some explanation of the grounds on which they propose doing an injustice to other and more considerable colonies. There is another point, of no great weight — to which I do not attach much importance, though, in point of principle, it appears objectionable. I mean the effect of this plan on the revenue of this country. You pay a fixed duty of 4s. a quarter on corn and flour coming from the St. Lawrence to this country. That, of course, is paid by the English consumer, and I think it but fair to let it go to the English treasury. I know Gentlemen opposite are not very fond of a fixed duty, and now they are putting it forward in a manner to depreciate it as much as possible; but I think it rather hard that the English consumer should have to pay a duty of 3s.on every quarter of corn and flour imported into this country by the St. Lawrence. If there were any real, palpable advantage to 610 be derived by the colony from this measure, it might be worth the sacrifice. Considering the immense importance of this colony, and what it has cost us, I quite admit that it would be wrong to allow any paltry consideration of revenue for a moment to interfere; but when we find a measure which Gentlemen opposite represent as of no very great consequence after all, I think we ought not wholly to disregard that consideration. Now, I come to deal with a position I have often heard repeated of late, which has a very catching and popular sound, and meets with great favour in this House when mentioned, respecting which Gentlemen opposite profess much anxiety—that our colonies should be treated as English counties. Under that vague word I should like to know what is really meant—it may mean anything or nothing. It does not mean evidently that the produce of all our colonies is to be admitted into this country like the produce of Ireland. Jamaica does not grow corn, it grows sugar and coffee, but I am afraid the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have very serious objections if any hon. Member were to propose to admit the produce of that colony into England without paying any duty. You say you ought to treat Canada and other colonies as integral parts of Great Britain. As long as your fiscal system is confined to England and Ireland, and different from that of your colonies, it is utterly impossible. Government may say, on a question which is not a matter of revenue, we can treat our colonies as if they were so many counties. I should be glad to know whether Government means to carry out this principle in other cases. There are other colonies in North America beside Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward's Island. I believe some of these have petitioned that their produce should be admitted at 1s. duty into this country. I think the House has a right to know what are the intentions of Government with regard to those colonies. I want to know if we are to expect a Nova Scotia bill next year, a New Brunswick bill, and a Prince Edward's Island Bill? In case the Legislatures of those other colonies should be willing to accept the terms which the Legislature of Canada professed their willingness to accept, do the Government mean to propose to Parliament to let in corn the growth and flour the manufacture of those colonies at the same rate of duty which will apply to Canada? I think this question the more im- 611 portant from the tone and manner in which the noble Lord has argued this question; for we really must attend very closely to every word that drops from a Minister of the Crown hereafter; because, if a single sentence is to conclude Parliament, and if we are to find that we are then tied and bound by a pledge, and that we are not at liberty to discuss those questions on their own merits, but that we are concluded, by not having heard or not having listened to some sentence in the speech of a Minister, I must say it behoves us to take care to do all we can to ascertain the intentions of Ministers, lest we should fall into one of those traps for the unwary. This is a question of much importance. Nova Scotia may not grow much corn, but it can grind corn, and I should be glad to know whether her Majesty's Ministers intend to apply this principle to that colony; at any rate we have a right to a clear expression of their intentions on this subject. If not, see what a beautiful system you will have; see to what the perfect simplicity of your Corn-laws will come. You will have a great sliding-scale for the world in general, a small sliding-scale for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward's Island, and the, other British Colonies, and a fixed duty for Canada alone. Is that what you mean? Is it really the intention of Government to place the Corn-laws of this country on this footing? I hope that in the course of this discussion, the doubts and difficulties which I have ventured to express on this subject will be cleared up. But it is said Government now propose to try the experiment of a fixed duty; and, as I have frequently expressed my opinion in this House, that a fixed duty would be the system best suited to the circumstances of this country, I am taunted with inconsistency, because I now oppose the proposition of Government. I do not think I am open to any such charge. In the first place, I do say that the trial of the principle will be made in the most unfair and disadvantageous way. I do not believe that a fixed duty thus applied will have any of the advantages over the sliding scale which it would have if applied in the proper way. First, take the case of the exporting merchants of Canada. The advocates of a fixed duty have always stated that one of its great advantages over a sliding-scale would be that the ex-porting merchant would know the duty corn would have to pay on its arrival in England, and might, therefore, calculate 612 the price it would fetch and the profit he would make. Will that be the case if the fixed duty be confined to Canada? The merchant will know the duty he himself will have to pay, but he will not have the least idea what will be paid by any competitors from another country, whether 6s.or 21s. There will be the most absolute uncertainty on this point, and my firm belief is, that if you maintain a sliding-scale, while you induce the Canadians to become on any large scale speculators in the grinding and importation of corn to this country, my belief is, that you will introduce a trade into that country full of gambling and hazard. What do we find by the papers on the Table? The Canadians say that all the corn speculations in that country have been for the most part ruinous to the parties who have been engaged in them. They are so to those in other countries who engage in grain speculations to England, and they must be so to the Canadians also. I have now endeavoured to state my reasons for disapproving of the scheme proposed. I oppose it because in either of the alternatives—whether it produces a smuggling trade across the border, or creates a protected interest in Canad.a—I fear the effects of the, measure will be mischievous. I oppose it because it will certainly build up and establish a system which I thought the policy of this country of late years had been wisely directed to abolish—I mean the maintenance of custom-houses along a frontier of three thousand miles. I oppose it because it appears to me unjust to the consumer of wheat in other British colonies, and because it applies the principle of a fixed duty in a partial, and, I think, in a most unfair manner, because I see no countervailing advantage which can be set in opposition to the violation of principles with which it abounds. I entreat Gentlemen who are free -traders, with whose opinions I agree, to pause before they give their support to a measure which even on the confession of the noble Lord who brought it forward, is founded on principles of which they cannot approve. They may say that though false in principle, it is of no great importance. I do not wish to represent this bill to the House as likely to be attended with, any great immediate danger—that is not the view I take of it. I think its immediate and present consequences, either for good or evil, have been greatly over estimated; I think the fears of the agriculturists, and the hopes which 613 some free-traders have founded upon these fears, are equally exaggerated; but this I will say, that it is founded on a principle which I cannot assent to, and which is quite inconsistent with those which I have supported as necessary to place the general trade and commerce of the country on a sound footing. For these reasons I oppose it- If the sense of the House shall be clearly pronounced for the measure I shall offer it no pertinacious or vexatious opposition. But I could not have satisfied my sense of duty if I had not taken the first opportunity of protesting, as far as I am able, against the principles it involves. I beg to more that—An humble address be presented to her Majesty, humbly praying her Majesty to withhold her assent from an Act passed in the last Session of the Provincial Parliament of Canada for the imposition of a duty on the importation of foreign corn.
§ Mr. Thornely
was so entirely opposed to the scheme of the noble Lord, that he had not the least hesitation in rising to second the motion of the right hon. Gentleman. He was aware it might have a very ungracious appearance to oppose an act passed by the people of Canada, and if they had come to that House to complain of restrictions on their trade he would have been one of the first to give them his aid in removing these restrictions; But the object' now sought was that wheat might be brought from Canada to this country at a very trifling duty, and in order to that he was asked to assent to, a duty of 3s. a quarter on the wheat imported into Canada. He had too much regard for the people of Canada to vote in support of that measure, and thought too highly of the prospects of any country emancipated from the operation of the Corn-laws to give his sanction to the imposition of such laws where they did not exist. Canada did not produce sufficient corn for the consumption of the British possessions in America. The origin of this measure was to be found in the meetings held at Toronto and other towns, of persons connected with the agriculture of Canada, who had urged on the people of that country the imposition of a protective duty. He did not think that smuggling could be carried on to any great extent in Canada; the whole of the wheat from the upper part of the country must pass from the state of Ohio and the adjacent territories down the Welland canal. He, was in that part of the country in September last, and saw at 614 the town of, St. Catherine's, many vessels discharging wheat from the United States?for the purpose of being ground and brought to this country. The vessels laden with wheat being required to pass through this canal, there would not be the least difficulty in levying a 3s. duty; what it might be on Lake Onterio and the St. Lawrence, he could not say. In considering this proposition, we must also look at its operation on the disposition of the people of the United States. It was most important to make a favourable impression on them. The high tariff party in ingress, in place of the duty which, under Mr. Clay's Compromise Act, had fallen on the 30th of June last to 20 per cent., had imposed prohibitory duties on many articles of British manufacture. Mr. M'Duffy, a very enlightened member of Congress, had laid on the table of the House to which he belonged a series of resolutions which were to be proposed in December next, for reducing all duties to an amount merely sufficient for the purposes of revenue. How important, then, was it that we should do nothing which should unfavourably influence these proceedings in America. Now, although the quantity of wheat that might pass through Canada would be small, yet of this the House might rest assured, that the shipowners an Congress would take advantage of the measure now proposed and describe it as indicative of bad feeling on the part of England towards the United States, in as much as they would say it was a scheme to admit American wheat converted into flour, but confining the carriage entirely to British ships. If we wished to increase the imports from America to this country, and so lead to a corresponding increase of our exports, we ought to take the wheat of America in the cheapest manner it could be brought over. We ought not to restrict ourselves to the narrow channel which Canada affords—a channel frozen up for six months in the year. Let the wheat be brought down to the Hudson, the Mississippi, or by any other way the Americans chose. He was strongly alive to the importance of impressing the American people with good feeling towards us; but that would not be effected by the course they were then pursuing; but, on the contrary, they were Strengthening the hands of the high-tariff party there. It ought to be conceded that America was our best customer, and it was our own fault she was not a better one, 615 for we refused to take her corn and flour. He objected to the measure because it did not remove the restrictions on our commerce; but, on the contrary, it imposed a new corn-law upon Canada; he objected to it because it did not apply to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, but placed one of our North American colonies upon one footing and another upon another; he objected to it because he thought it calculated to impress upon the minds of the people of America a sense of our unwillingness to deal with them, and he intended to offer his opposition to it in every way.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
had no objection to state to the principles enunciated by the noble Lord, the Secretary to the Colonies, and acquiesced in by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the more especially as they were principles which deeply affected the interests of one of our most important colonies. Agreeing in those principles, he could not offer any objection to the preliminary motion of the noble Lord. It was difficult for him to understand why the right hon. Gentleman had offered his amendment to the House, because it appeared to him to be inconsistent with the affection and respect due to so important a colony, to move in that House that her Majesty should withhold her consent to the first important measure which had been passed by the united Legislature. He could not have any hesitation, whatever his opinion of the measure might be, in giving a negative to the amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. He could not join in any address to the Crown, praying her Majesty to withhold her royal sanction from a measure which had passed the Colonial United Assembly almost, as he understood, with unanimity. He should feel hesitation in taking that course, even if there were no other mode in which he might offer his opposition; but should his duty require him to oppose the measure of the noble Lord, plenty of opportunities must necessarily be afforded to him, and he would give it in conformity will the rules and usages of the House, and in a regular manner. Like the right hon. Gentleman, he regretted to hear some of the observations of the noble Lord, and he must take leave to say, when the noble Lord complained of the exaggeration and clamour which prevailed in the country respecting the measure, that the chief origin of that exaggeration and clamour 616 was the manner in which the measure had been introduced to their notice. On no matter was it so desirable that complete information should have been prepared and published, in order to satisfy the public mind; and it must be lamented, that some course had not been resorted to, previous to the introduction of the measure, which might have prevented the fear which it had created in the minds of those engaged in agriculture. He believed he was not incorrect in supposing that the outline of the measure was conceived in the minds of her Majesty's Ministers last year, and that the reason why it was not then submitted to the House was, because the Legislature of Canada had not then passed the bill which was to be preliminary to its introduction. Now, the measure might have been a very good one last year—it might have been supposed that it would not injuriously affect the agricultural interest, considering the state that interest was then in; but circumstances had very much altered. Whatever might be the cause or causes, it was most undeniably the fact, that the value of agricultural produce had sunk below the estimate any one had yet made of remunerating prices—certainly far below the estimate of those who framed the Corn-law and tariff of last year; consequently, those engaged in agricultural pursuits had some reason to conclude, at all events to hope, that the Ministers would have taken that fact into consideration. The measure was planned and framed under circumstances which did not now exist, and he had hoped that her Majesty's Government would have adopted a different scale. Before introducing the measure, he regretted that her Majesty's Government had not resorted to the usual expedient adopted in matters of much less importance—viz., the appointment of a select committee to inquire into and report upon the whole circumstances of the case; such a course would have been both just and prudent, and would have tended to prevent the wide spread alarm which now existed. He was quite ready to grant that the noble Lord fully believed that all the statements he had made were perfectly correct. He gave the noble Lord full credit for his talents and research, and he further believed that the noble Lord, as far as was possible, had dismissed from his mind all preconceived opinions; but in matters of such importance, in which it was plan that 617 a step forward could cot be easily retraced, and therefore it was not too much to ask that before the Government had come to a decision, they should have instituted a searching inquiry, and communicated the result to those who were so deeply interested in the matter. In respect of the question of smuggling, it turned not on the fact whether there were 1,500 miles of frontier, or whether there was more or less facility for landing goods in a secret manner; but it turned, as they had known on very recent occasions, upon the honesty or dishonesty of those employed to prevent it. Now, he believed, that these waters offered peculiar facilities for smuggling, and had a committee been named, plenty of evidence upon the point could have been obtained within the House itself. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere), the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. E. Ellice), could have given valuable information upon the subject, and the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool was most intimate with the whole question. But the Government had acted without information themselves; even on the 1st of February of the present year, the noble Lord addressed a despatch to Sir C. Bagot, in which the noble Lord said—Referring to a despatch of the 11th of November, in which I stated, that I was desirous of hearing further, especially with regard to the Wheat Duty Bill, and urging you to obtain such information as would assist the Government in forming an opinion, I am aware that the state of your health has been an impediment to your proceedings; but as the time for decision is now rapidly passing away, and I cannot proceed without the in. formation I was led to expect, I must ask you to request the Executive Council to enter on the duty, and furnish me with information, and particularly with reference to the exemption from wheat duty, and how far it has affected the question of frauds on the revenue.Even so late as February, then, the noble Lord pressed for information, and from all the papers they were in possession of upon the subject, it did not appear that he had ever obtained any. The House was bound to believe that the noble Lord had received no satisfactory information, as none had been laid before the House. The question, then, was, were the agriculturists of this country to be compelled to compete with the wheat of America, admitted into this country at a 1s. duty? Although it was admitted by fraud, still 618 the competition would be the same, and as severe. Previous to the introduction of the Corn Bill last year, every information was prepared by returns and reports, and now the House was called on, without any such information, to proceed to the completion of this bill, because it was considered part of the original measure. All that he meant to say was, that when this additional bill came before the House for its adoption, they had a right to ask for as much information on that as on the other parts of the scheme, and while that information was incomplete, they had a right to ask for better satisfaction than the assertions of the noble Lord, whatever might be the respect they felt for them. Some of the statements on which the noble Lord relied were contradicted by the papers on the Table. The noble Lord said, that he did not rely on those papers, as they were moved for on the other side of the House, and were not officially produced; but what he complained of was, that there was no official information with respect to the average duty paid on Canadian wheat. The noble Lord had stated, that in five years it was 2s.1d., and that there was no cause for complaint when he offered a fixed duty which made the average 4s. But in those papers it was stated by the Canadians themselves that the general average was 5s.; and they go on to say that such a duty could form no substantial protection to the English farmer. By this, the statement that the average was 2s. 1d. was contradicted. It might have been so for the particular five years in question, but the average at large was 5s. The question of smuggling was no doubt a most important one, but hitherto he had heard nothing very satisfactory from any hon. Gentleman who had alluded to that part of the subject. There were two branches of smuggling to be apprehended. The one was by secret landing, or fraudulent entries, and the other through the fisheries; and certainly he could not comprehend what, under the proposed system, would be the difficulty of bringing corn in those fishing vessels free of duty. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to another point worthy of grave consideration—namely, how far the colonies of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, especially Newfoundland, would be affected by this measure. It did seem to him that Newfoundland, not being a corn-growing country, would suffer most un- 619 justly from this measure. The noble Lord had spoken of the insignificance of the difference between the duty under the present system and that which was now proposed; and perhaps the difference might be inconsiderable, if there were any prospect of a return to high prices; but when they considered that the probability of a return to high prices was very remote, arid that the agriculturists of this country could now only look to a maximum price of 55s., the difference would be very considerable. Besides, there was this great difference between the present and the proposed law—that under the proposed law the 3s. duty was to go in ease of colonial taxes, instead of the 4s. going, as under the present law, in ease of the taxes upon the English farmer—a matter which, in the present times, they could not throw out of consideration. He agreed with the noble Lord, that they should do what the could to promote the interests of their Canadian colonies, but he wished he could emulate the eloquence of the noble Lord when he appealed to that House, and asked whether there were not other parties, whose interests they were bound to protect, when he appealed to the House to remember the promises made to the farmers of England, perhaps not in words —not promises extracted from hon. Gentlemen, but the promises of an honourable mind that, to the best of its power, it would exert its faculties to insure that for which promise had been extracted, if any doubt as to their intentions had existed. He would not, as he had already stated, offer his aid to resist the introduction of this measure; he saw no objection to the principle; but he felt that it was his duty to watch its peculiar provisions, and, if he found that they interfered with the real interests of English agriculture, to do all that in him lay to prevent their becoming law.
§ Mr. G. Heathcote
did not believe, that such mistaken notions had been entertained of the bill among agriculturists as the Government appeared to imagine. It was known, that American grain could not come into this country, but in the shape of flour after having been ground in Canada. The bill was, however, objected to on general and important grounds. A great measure had passed last Session which had been represented as a "settlement" of the Corn-law question, and it was too bad, after so short an interval, 620 to come forward again with new experiments. The whole loss would fall upon the agriculturists, and any gain would be reaped by other and minor interests, if ever there was an inopportune period for such a measure it was the present. The distress of the country was most lamentable, and that of the manufacturing interest he most deeply regretted; but it was exceedingly aggravating to the agriculturists to know that the costly sacrifices to which last year they had submitted, had produced, as it was said, so little benefit, and had been received with such unkind-ness and ingratitude. They found, in fact, that submission did but pave the way for larger concessions and more sweeping demands. The position of agriculture now was as bad as it had been in 1835—the worst year for some generations, perhaps; and was this the time chosen for a new experiment in corn bills? There was a very bitter state of feeling upon this subject in the agricultural districts; not that the farmers were such fools, however, as to be willing to throw themselves into the arms of the Anti-Corn-law League. If others had been untrue to them it was no reason why they should be untrue to themselves; and if they had lost one-fourth of their capital it was no reason for throwing away the remainder. There was, however, a very sore and wounded feeling among the agriculturists; they had lost trust in every party, and entertained confidence in none. How different had been their treatment in 1835? Their petitions, then, had been received with every attention and regard, and two committees had been appointed to inquire into their complaints. Now, their complaints were met by demands for further concession; and there would soon be a cry of distress from one end of the country to the other, which the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues would find it hard to silence. Yet all the agriculturists asked was to be let alone. He earnestly protested against a continuance of the compromising and conceding system which had been carried so far last year. If, against any party, the measure of the preceding Session should be a final settlement, it surely should be so against the right hon. Baronet who had so represented it. But the principal objection to the measure was its being founded on the principle of a fixed duty. What? after all that had been said on this subject last Session—after the short 621 lapse of eighteen months since the speeches of last election, a fixed duty proposed by the Government! It was said to be so small a matter as not to be worth discussing. But a thing might be small in amount and yet important in principle. If the measure Were insignificant and immaterial, why was it brought forward? Unless it were important, was it not folly to risk any serious consequences? Pledges to the colonies had been talked of, but it hah been well replied, there were pledges given to the English counties? He wished not to say anything painful to Gentlemen opposite, many of whom he was aware must be in a peculiar position; but he would ask, would their constituents have nothing to complain of on the score of breach of faith, if this measure were carried? The next point to which he objected was the transfer of revenue from this country to Canada. After the painful view of the revenue of this country afforded by the budget, he could not consent to the removal of any money from the Treasury of this country to that of Canada; and it was also with him a matter of grave objection that the machinery for collecting these duties should be taken out of the hands of the English Government and transferred to the authorities in Canada. Now, he would look a little to the details of the measure. And first as regarded American corn, he must say that be objected altogether to the fixed duty. He liked the sliding-scale given by the measure of last year infinitely better than a fixed duty, and the transfer of the machinery of collection to the Canadian authorities increased his objection. He believed, too, that a great deal of smuggling would be the result of the plan proposed, and be was confirmed in that opinion by the high authority Of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton. Again, would the proposed duty stand? He found an ominous paragraph in a speech in the Canadian Assembly, intimating that whenever the price was above 30s., there must be a drawback. [Lord Stanley: " The Legislature did not pass that proposal."] No! not the opinion was expressed, and it might hereafter be carried out. The noble Lord had set out on a fiscal tour with the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Bath; but they had quarrelled and patted company at the first stage. In the midst of aft these differences of opinion the farmers of this country 622 might well look with apprehension at the proposed change. Now as to grain grown in the United States and admitted as flour manufactured in Canada, one of the evils of the bill was that it perpetuated that system. [Lord Stanley. " The bill does not refer to it at all."] No! that was the very thing. He thought it a very dangerous system, and he trusted that the House would take it into its consideration in dealing with this subject. Then, as to Canadian corn, he must ask, why was Canada to have that favour which was withheld from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward's Island, and Newfoundland? Lord Sydenham had said, that the Canadians had "no right to complain of the footing on which they now stood;" and he was very high authority; but they were told that a very small portion of corn was to come from Canada. The same thing had been said to the agriculturists last year; but if. the quantity were limited now, how long would it remain so? He had seen a memorial from the Canadian committee of the British North American Association, expressing a strong opinion that Canada could send as much corn as this country would receive. When they found such contradictory statements, he could not but entertain very considerable fears on that subject. Under the proposed law the Canadians might import for their own consumption and export their own produce. Why was Canada to be placed on a better footing than any other English county? Why were the peculiar burthens under which the English agriculturists laboured to be thrown out of consideration? He spoke not now of the large landed proprietors, but he pressed upon the attention of the House the case of the thousands and hundreds of thousands of small proprietors in this country who were ground down by the burthens upon the land. He regretted extremely that a measure of that sort should have been so soon introduced after the supposed settlement of last year; and he felt it his duty to oppose that measure, and take every fair means of impeding its progress through that House.
could not help contrasting the principles that were advocating last year by the noble Lord on this subject with those that were advanced by him on this occasion. The noble Lord then stated broadly, that it was notorious to all that every atom of Canadian flour sent to this 623 country was actually the produce of the United States, but now he called upon them to aid the Canadian agriculturists by this measure. But there was this difficulty. He thought it exceedingly hard that those hon. Members who represented agricultural constituencies, agreeing as they did, and some of them with the greatest difficulty, to the measures of the right hon. Baronet last year, having looked, of course, to the developement of his plans in his own speech, and having supported him upon the second reading, should now be told that the Government had pledged their honour to pass such an act as this, and that, therefore, they were now to redeem that pledge, and at the same time, the House was to recollect that they were doing an immensity of good to the Canadian colonies. He, for one, should be delighted to do good to those colonies, because they would open new markets to our manufactures. But last year the right hon. Baronet had determined to adhere to the sliding-scale, and to place foreign and colonial corn upon the same principle; and he should like to know what alteration had taken place since that time, to render necessary the change proposed by these resolutions. He was perfectly aware that in taking the course which individually he found himself bound to take he was laying himself open to reprehension from those with whom he had been associated for many years, and whose political principles however estranged from them upon this particular point, he should always have pleasure in supporting; but he could not forget that he represented a large constituency, and that the interests of the farmers in his county were committed to him. He was himself perfectly unpledged, but at the same time, he was proud to say, perfectly trusted. And although he never would abuse the confidence reposed in him, he would, when he thought it his interest as far as his constituents were concerned, and his duty so far as his conscience was concerned, equally dissent from those who sent him there, or from those with whom he was associated. Now, disagreeing as he did with the measure brought forward by the Government—although the object of the right hon. Gentleman's opposition might be very different from his, yet if the resolution were only carried against the Government, things would remain possibly in the same condition as at that moment—he should vote for the motion of the right hon; Gentle- 624 man. It was not as if the noble Lord had asked them to go into committee first of all, without laying the resolutions before the House, but the whole country understood the of those resolutions, and the tenour of them was an alteration of the principle of last year and therefore one which he could not but humbly condemn. At the same time he was told it was but a little thing, and surely so small a measure he would not vote against. But a year had scarcely elapsed since the adjustment of the Corn-laws, and yet they were now called upon to give up a little without the least resistance; but if they did that, would it not be difficult to resist the next advance upon the sliding-scale? He was quite sure the noble Lord acted from the highest principle. The noble Lord believed that he was pledged to Canada, and he thought that as a Minister the noble Lord was quite right in perfectly fulfilling his pledge. But at the same time he was pledged, as a Member of that House, to give his independent vote upon the subject; he believed the principle of the noble Lord was wrong, and he should therefore vote against the motion.
§ Viscount Howick
was anxious to take the first opportunity of stating to the House what his opinion was upon this subject. He differed entirely from the last three hon. Gentlemen who had spoken because he believed that two of them only were going to vote against the motion, and that the third, although his vote would be in favour of it, had spoken very strongly against it. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Dorsetshire, seemed to be in a dilemma, for which he very sincerely pitied him, and from which he was afraid he could not congratulate him upon extricating himself, even after the great ingenuity he had shown in attempting to do so. The hon. and learned Gentleman found, on the one hand, a very strong feeling on the part of his constituents against the motion, and, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Gentleman had an extreme desire not to abandon his Friends on the Treasury Bench. Therefore, although the noble Lord said, that the Canadian act and the English act were, in fact, one measure, to stand or fall together, yet the hon. Gentleman would not vote against the Canadian act, but reserved his opposition to a future stage, when he expected his opposition might be fully understood. He had no 625 doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituents equally understood such tactics, and would admire much more the ingenuity of the hon. and learned Gentleman than his practice. With respect to the measure before the House, the noble Lord fairly told them that it was, in fact, a proposition for the admission of American corn, subject to a fixed duty, because it appeared on the face of the papers before the House, that Canada did not produce sufficient corn for the supply of British North America. She had no surplus, and, therefore, whether she imported American wheat, to supply her own consumption, and sent her own corn here, or imported American corn, ground it into flour, and then sent it to this country, it was substantially one and the same measure, and the object of that measure was to create a transit trade through Canada, in flour derived from American wheat.
thought he distinctly said, that no part of this measure was to increase the transit trade as it now existed.
§ Viscount Howick:
The object was not to increase the present transit trade. Then, if Canada did not grow enough for her consumption, and that was admitted on the face of the papers before the House and by his noble Friend. [No, no.] It was rather important to see what was said upon this subject, and upon what authority. The noble Lord had laid before the House various papers, and among them was a very important report from a committee of the Assembly of the united provinces of Canada. In that report, it was said—All the grain grown in Canada would not supply the consumption of British North America.What was the noble Lord's commentary upon that? The noble Lord said—Lower Canada produces little or no wheat and clearly less than her own consumption.That was the statement of the noble Lord; and then the noble Lord might talk as he would about the object of the bill, but with that admitted fact, that the country did not produce enough for her own consumption—[Lord Stanley: " No, no."]—Yes; because Canada was so intimately connected with British North America, that British North America must be almost considered as identified with Canada. But Canada did not produce enough corn for British North America, and there was a large and thriving trade in American produce now with 626 Canada, and with that circumstance in view, he would ask the House, was not this measure for the purpose substantially of creating a transit trade in Canada of American Corn? Because, as to any surplus Canada could have beyond what she required for her own consumption, when Lower Canada produced little or nothing, it must be trifling and inconsiderable. The trade, then, derived its importance from the transit of American wheat in the shape of flour ground in Canada. And how would it come here? The first thing was at a duty of 4s.; and the next, which was the material point of consideration, and which he thought had been left too much out of the question, was at an increased charge in consequence of coming by the most expensive route. They had, fortunately, the calculation of the House of Assembly upon this subject, and there the extra price of American produce, coming to this country, through Canada, in the shape of flour, was estimated at about 9s. a quarter. Unless, therefore, the price in this country was such that there should be a difference in the rate of duty upon American flour coming direct, and upon that coming through Canada of 9s. or 10s. a quarter, that flour could not come through Canada. [No, no.] His hon. and learned Friend behind him should listen before he condemned his argument. The report of the committee of the Canadian House of Assembly clearly showed that flour would rather go by the natural and direct route than by the circuitous Canadian route to this country. That was the statement of the House of Assembly, and he thought it would be found that the measure of his noble Friend would be equivalent to the admission of American wheat, subject to a charge of 11s.; that was 1s. in duty here, 3s. Canadian duty, and the remainder made up in the charge of conveyance and other things in Canada. If the price of grain here were under 55s. the Canadians could not afford to send it at all, in consequence of the competition with flour going by the Erie canal. If they turned to last year they would find, that at the price of 61s. the duty raised on Canadian corn was 1s., and on foreign corn 11s.; that was a difference of 10s. in the duty between flour coming direct from the United States, and flour that came through Canada; and he would ask if he had not now made out, according to the calculations of the House of Assembly—but he would not assume that these calculations 627 were correct—that American flour according to the measure now proposed, would come to this country subject to a fixed charge of 12s. viz., 3s. Canadian duty, 1s. home duty, and the remaining 8s.made up in the intermediate charge of conveyance? So far as the pleasure was one for the introduction of American flour at a fixed rate of duty, it was one which would have his most cordial support, though at the same time he confessed, that it did appear a most Strange measure for her Majesty's present Government to bring forward; they must indeed, be faithless to the charms of the sliding-scale, to which he thought, they were so indissolubly wedded. He was, indeed, surprised to hear his noble Friend talk of the simplicity and consequent superiority of a fixed' duty as compared with a sliding-scale. He had heard it certainly with extreme astonishment after what he heard from his s noble Friend last year: But, unluckily, the benefit that might be derived from such a measure was entirely neutralized by two circumstances; first, the fixed duty was a great deal too high; and next, it was to be raised in a manner which be did think was really quite preposterous. If they were to tax the bread of the people of this country the revenue ought to go into their own treasury. Was it not natural, that those who paid the tax should profit by it? But before he entered into that, he would return to the calculations of the House of Assembly. He had said, that he did not assume the correctness of those calculations, nor did he; they clearly contained an exaggerated estimate. It was quite evident that the committee had made out their case with a view to satisfy the hon. and learned Member for Dorsetshire, and other Members on that side of the House; they knew, that from them they had to fear opposition; and they therefore coloured their case rather highly to meet the views of the friends of agriculture here. But, at the same time, it was perfectly clear, that the Canadian route, did very considerably raise the price of Canadian produce. Whenever the average price of Corn in this country was such as to enable corn to come direct from America, it always did come direct from America and they found that when it could come in at 58s. the amount of importation was very small. He wanted to know if they were to allow American wheat to come in in this manner subject to a fixed rate of charge? if so, ought not that 628 charge to be imposed in the shape of duty raised in our own ports, allowing the wheat to find its own way in the most natural manner? It was American wheat they looked to consume; and, if so, was it not common sense that it should come by the direct route, and the tax be raised in this country? It was a general principle that those who paid a tax should have the benefit of it, and surely there was nothing in the relative situations of Canada and this country which should intervene to prevent that general principle being carried out. Canada was the lowest taxed country on the face of the earth. Already this country eased Canada of her principal burthens; almost the whole of her military establishment, part of her clerical establishment, and the whole expense of a naval establishment she was relieved from. In this country, on the other hand, he was afraid no man could say, we were so lightly taxed; we had not so much to explain of as some gentlemen seemed to think, but he could never say that this country was lightly taxed. From whom were those taxes raised? In a great degree from the labouring population of this country, for a large proportion of them fell upon those articles of comfort, necessity, and luxury, which were consumed by the great body of the people. But more than that, the Government said their financial necessities compelled them to keep up taxes limiting the employment of the people. There were, for example, the taxes upon coal and upon wool, which went far to destroy two thriving branches of trade. They were taxes which only produced about 200,000l or 300,000l a year, a sum which would be more than compensated if they would allow American corn to come direct to this country. Let them calculate what would then be the xpense—conveyance by Canada, 9s or 10s. duty proposed to be levied, 3s., and 1s levied here—and let them make of that aggregate a fixed duty, and impose it on the importation of American corn direct to this country. They would then have a sum which would enable them to relieve the labouring population of this country of those taxes which pressed most heavily upon them. Arid he asked with what justice that could be refused, looking at the relative position of the English and the Canadian labourer? It was only yesterday he received a statement, which his noble Friend had very properly directed to be circulated, showing the 629 state of things in the British colonies in Upper Canada, and he found from that document that the farm labourer there received 2s. 6d currency, or rather more than 2s sterling, with his board and lodging, for his days work. Let them compare that with the condition of the labouring men whom his lion, and learned Friend the Member for Dorsetshire might see on his own estate, earning 9s. a week,and then he would ask, was it just to allow the British labourer to consume American wheat, subject to a certain charge imposed in such a shape that it should go to benefit the Canadian labourer, already well off, and not to benefit the English labourer? He would beg of the House to look at the inconsistency involved in this measure. Such was the inequality of the two labourers, that it was one of the greatest boons that could be conferred upon an English labourer to afford him the means whereby he might be enabled to rend asunder the ties that bind him to his native land and the relations of his youth, to encounter the perils and hardships of a long voyage to a distant land, with all the difficulties of establishing himself in a new and unknown country, in order to place himself in the position of the Canadian labourer. And yet in that state of things they proposed to impose a tax upon the English labourer, and say that it should not go to relieve him by diminishing the price of the articles of his consumption or extending his trade, but should go to increase the revenue of Canada. Was that just or reasonable? It was unjust to divert the revenue they might raise by this charge upon corn from the British Treasury; it was equally unjust and absurd to raise the price still more by the useless expenditure of money and labour in bringing American wheat into this country by the most expensive and difficult route. What was it but a gratuitous waste of money and labour! He could not but express his astonishment that a measure of this kind, allowing the people to receive American flour in the manner only which added to the expense of conveying it to them, should come from Gentlemen whom he had heard discuss so learnedly and so well —the great advantage of making labour productive by removing all artificial re-, strictions—from Gentlemen who had told them of the impolicy of establishing such, a system, and who were agreed that the principles of free-trade were the principles of common sense. For his own part, the 630 proposal appeared to him to be worthy of that statesman who once gravely informed the House that workhouse paupers might be advantageously employed in digging holes one day and filling them up. the next. He could understand such a measure coming from a Gentleman like that who thought it desirable to create useless labour, but coming from hon. Gentlemen opposite it did seem ludicrously preposterous. But even that proposition, shocking as it was, was not so revolting to common sense as the present proposal of her Majesty's Government. Then there was a redundancy of labour—there were labourers here that we did know what to do with—but that was not the case with Canada; in Canada there was no deficiency of profitable employment. Canada possessed one of the richest soils of any country in the world; she had by nature almost unexampled facilities of internal communication, and she possessed a mild and temperate climate. What was there wanted to render all these great national resources available?—nothing but the judicious application of labour and capital; and he would say, that if they were properly applied with energy and spirit, Canada could not fail to advance with giant strides in the career of wealth and civilization. And how did the, Ministers now propose to assist her? By establishing that artificial system which would divert the labour, industry, and capital of Canada from their natural and profitable employment and by bolstering up that artificial trade by placing restrictions upon the introduction of American Wheat into this country. What would be the consequence of this as far as Canada was concerned? They all knew that the existing Corn-law —it was not owned distinctly on the other side of the House, but no one who had heard the debate on a recent question but must have felt Convinced of it—could not continue. Its existence might perhaps terminate m the first, or perhaps in the following year. It was just possible, but he thought it was highly improbable, that its life might be extender to an equal duration with the preceding measure of 1828. That was the most favourable view he had heard any Gentleman take of its prospect of longevity. However, when that act should be swept away and gathered into that lumber of old, absurd, repealed measures, what would be the condition of the Canadian merchant who, by the measure the House was called upon to sanc- 631 tion, had been induced to invest his capital in extensive mills for grinding corn, and in making arrangements for forwarding flour to this country? In his opinion the Canadian would have a very good claim upon the Government of this country for compensation. And he could not help thinking that hon. Gentlemen who attached the same importance that he did to the principles of free trade and to the repeal of the Corn-laws, would do well to think twice of the consequences before they supported the proposed measure. But with respect to Canada, he must say, he thought that by far the most injurious part of the measure was that which had been adverted to by his right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton, viz., that it was the commencement of a system of protection in Canada. No doubt there was a strong party in Canada in favour of protection, as there was a strong party here; no doubt that fallacy had currency in Canada, as it had currency here; and one great objection to the measure was, that it gave sanction to protection in the face of the world. But till his noble Friend threw his weight into the scale, that belief was not in the ascendancy. His noble Friend in writing to Sir Charles Bagot had made this statement,Looking back to the proceedings of last Session, I find that such an impost was considered, and ultimately rejected.The Assembly of Canada rejected the proposition of a duty upon American corn, till they were induced to adopt it by the bait held out by his noble Friend, when he said to Sir Charles Bagot,If you tax American corn, we will let yours in free to England.He was not surprised, then, at the report of the committee of the House of Assembly. One main object of this act was, not merely to obtain an advantage in the markets of this country, but also to build up that most fatal system of protection in Canada. Let them look at the statement of the committee of the House of Assembly. They said,One of the sterling advantages which this measure confers on the Canadian grower is, that though he cannot, for reasons already assigned, compete successfully with the growers in England, still, he would realize the home market as well as that of British North America, from which he has hitherto been too successfully excluded by his more fortunate rivals.The House would see, therefore, from 632 that statement, that one of the main objects was not merely to secure the English market, but also to tax the Canadian consumer and the consumer of British North America for the benefit of the Canadian grower, and to build up a system of protection in Canada. And now he really did hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade would explain how he could defend such a proposition on those principles which he had so ably stated in that House. Why did the grower in Canada want protection, and against whom? Was he more heavily taxed than the American grower? No such thing. On the contrary, this country paid for him many of the burthens which fell upon the American. Had he a worse climate than the American? Not at all; as a wheat-growing country, Canada yielded to no country in the world in soil and climate. Why, then, on the showing of the Government, did he require protection? It could only be from some deficiency in his skill in cultivation; and did they think that it would be for his interest, or for the interest of the great colony in which he lived, to encourage him in those habits, and take from him the stimulus of competition? The right hon. Gentleman ought to have considered that he had this question to defend when he spoke upon the Corn-laws, because every argument which her Majesty's Government made use of to maintain the Corn-laws failed when applied to Canada. Where were the exclusive burthens upon the Canadians? They had not even the duty on bricks, which the hon. Baronet the Member for Kent, to his amazement, and by a strange process of reasoning beyond his comprehension named as a peculiar burthen upon the agriculturists. For his own part, he always thought bricks were more used in the erection of factories than in the cultivation of corn, and he remembered that rough and drainage tiles were exempted from duty. Not even that fell upon the Canadian grower; nor the duty upon malt, which the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government had discovered by a new light since 1834, fell upon the grower and not the consumer. No they had no exclusive burthens, nor had they the vested interest of a sinecure. The Canadian landlord, luckily for himself and the community, was not a sinecurist, though they endeavoured to make him so. He found a statement upon the papers which his noble Friend had produced from 633 the Quebec Board of Trade; it stated that formerly foreign wheat and flour had been permitted to be imported into that country free of duty, and that by far the greater part consumed had been so imported. That was the state of the case. Canadian agriculture was flourishing, and the Canadians were carrying on a valuable transit trade in American produce—a trade it was to be remembered, employing an immense number of persons engaged in the navigation of the rivers and lakes, and whom it was the highest policy in the British Government to encourage, because if ever we should be engaged in another contest with America, the issue, it was well known, must depend upon the aid we should derive from the hardy population connected with that navigation. Well, then, it was this flourishing trade that they now proposed to cut up by the roots for the purpose of encouraging Canadian agriculture, which, upon their own showing, did not require it. His noble Friend said, that it was not a fiscal but a colonial and political question. He agreed with him. He believed the expense of bringing corn through Canada would be so great that the quantity we should receive would be trifling, and, as regarded the consumers in this country, he was of opinion that it was a measure of very little importance. But, as a colonial and a political measure, it was one of the deepest mportance—it was one that would lay the foundation in Canada of a system from the incubus of which it had hitherto been free—that of protection. It was a measure that would destroy the valuable trade that was going on upon the rivers and lakes—a measure that would materially interfere with the intercourse between British America and the United States, and one that would deprive them of the power of defeating the absurd provisions of the American tariff. Those were the objects of the measure, and it was not as affecting the interests of this country, but as affecting those of Canada, that he gave it his decided opposition. But really the measure was so completely void of all consistency, that there was no point of view which he could look at that he did not find equally objectionable. His noble Friend said, that he had introduced the measure, because it was politic that the trade with Canada should form an integral part of the trade of this country. If that remark applied to Canada did it not equally apply to New Brunswick? His hon. Friend the Member for Taunton 634 asked was it just and reasonable to give to Canada—separated by almost an imaginary line from New Brunswick—a boon that you refused to the latter country. If the Legislature of New Brunswick were to pass an act similar to the Canadian act then under discussion, could her Majesty refuse her Royal assent to the Act, or could her Majesty's ministers refuse to come down next year and propose resolutions like the present? They might talk of preventing smuggling, between America and Canada, but how could they prevent it between Canada and New Brunswick? And then they talked of treating Canada as an integral part of this country. He was surprised that his noble Friend could keep his countenance — that he did not laugh himself when he was urging such an argument. If they were to put Canada on a footing with this country, why not destroy the boundary altogether—why not let them have the benefit of the sliding-scale? He was sure there ought not to be the 3s. duty. There should be a fair trade between her and this country, and she should have the benefit of the sliding-scale on her own frontier. More than that —she should have the benefit of all other taxes. What, however, did the Canadian Legislature propose to do with reference to the duties on British manufactures? They did not say—"If we have our corn admitted free into Great Britain, British manufactures shall be admitted free of duty into Canada." They did not say that"; but the words of the Legislative Assembly were—
We will take the earliest opportunity of recommending the removal of all duties at present imposed upon the manufactures of the mother country when admitted into Canada.So that we gave them the benefit of being an integral part of this country, but they would not confer on us a similar advantage. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade would recollect what he had spoken with reference to the necessity of reciprocity. He said we were not to take off duties upon foreign produce admitted into this country till foreign nations took off the duty on our manufactures. He begged to recommend that principle of reciprocity to the consideration of the House. The Canadian Legislature had, it was true, made a promise, but they all knew what such promises meant. Such, then, was the measure they were then called upon to decide. His noble Friend opposite said, that the act of 635 the Canadian Legislature and the resolutions he proposed must stand or fall together. He said if the House would not agree to the resolutions, the Ministers of the Crown would not advise her Majesty to assent to the Canadian Act, and he likewise told the House that if the Canadian Act had not passed he should not have proposed these resolutions. The measure, therefore, must be considered as one, and on the principle of the whole arrangements it was that the House was called upon to pronounce an opinion, and it certainly did appear to him that his right hon. Friend had raised the question in the fairest way. Once more, he could not help expressing his regret and astonishment, after all he had heard of the principles of free-trade from the right hon. Baronet opposite, that such professions should end in the proposal of such a measure. It was a measure which was inconsistent with the principles that the Government had laid down, and it was calculated, to be deeply injurious to the welfare of Canada.
§ Mr. Liddell
said that the interest which this question had excited was not greater than its' own intrinsic importance demanded. He supported it, in the first instance, because Government had introduced a system of colonial policy which was in many respects new and which, in the same proportion that it had excited the opposition of the noble Lord, secured his support. The right, hon. Gentlemen, a late Member of the Government, in arguing against the measure, had given a. number of reasons why he considered the proposition of the noble Lord objectionable. It might be sufficient to say in answer that the Legislative Assembly of Canada had passed, by unanimous vote, a bill in compliance with the wishes expressed by Government, and had called on the Government at home to confirm the vote by a measure similar to that now brought forward. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, in speaking of opening a free-trade with America, and throwing aside the protection which it was proposed to extend to the colonies, often expressed a desire to see the corn of America brought here in American vessels,, Now he owned that the employment of the shipping interest actuated him powerfully in his support of this measure. If there were a considerable trade by American ships, it would, to that extent, diminish the trade of the ports of England. "He held in his hand a return, from which it appealed that the number, 636 of British and foreign ships laden with corn, entered inwards at the ports of London, Hull, Newcastle, and Leith, from any ports of Europe, from the 1st of August to the 1st of October, 1841, were:—
|Being a total of||1,088||501|
§ Or, a good deal more than two to one in favour of the foreigner, all the ports of Europe being included. Again, he consulted a return of the number of ships laden with foreign corn, entered inwards at the ports of the United Kingdom, between Jan. 5, 1842, and Jan. 5, 1843, specifying the ports of lading and the ports of discharge, and whether the ships were British or of any other nation. Here, although upon the whole the British shipping maintained a fair share of this carrying trade, he could not avoid being struck with the great preponderance of foreign vessels from the Baltic ports. As this return went into divers particulars, he would content himself with a general reference to it. But when he turned to the general returns, which were to toe found in Porter's tables, of the number of ships with their tonnage, entered inwards and Cleared outwards from the ports of Great Britain, distinguishing British from foreign, the found the following startling results an comparing the employment of British ships with that of the ships belonging to the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Prussia, with whom reciprocity treaties had been concluded. He took only the returns of the years 1831 and 1840, premising that no additional Consolation can be drawn from the returns of the intermediate years, and he found as follows:—
|Entered Inwards.||Cleared Outwards.|
§ It appeared from these figures, that in spite of all our natural advantages—in spite of the great increase of our population, our enormous imports, and our augmented trade—the British shipowner was unable to compete with the cheaply-built, cheaply-equipped, cheaply-manned, and untaxed ships of the Baltic ports; that as far as the shipping trade was concerned, the ruinous results Originally predicated of the reciprocity treaties had been fulfilled. Let them now turn to the trade with the North American colonies, and here they found a field open to British enterprise and British navigation. Here, at least, they possessed the privilege of exclusive trading; here they had protection; and the increase of British shipping engaged in that trade formed a gratifying contrast to the returns just quoted. From the same tables, he found the following returns, which showed that the employment for British shipping, had nearly doubled since 1831, going on with a steady and progressive increase: —
|NORTH AMERICAN COLONIES.|
§ He therefore, called upon the House to support the Government in a change, which would increase the trade of the colonies and the employment of British ships. In his opinion, also, a demand would be created for our manufactures It was pot only from a feeling that the interests of our North American colonies were best consulted by the measure brought forward by the noble Lord, and in favour of which we had the double evidence of the opinions of the Legislative Assembly and of her Majesty's Ministers, that he supported it; but he also supported it on the very grounds on which it was objected to by hon. Gentlemen opposite—viz.: that it was an increase of protection to British interests. However muck hon. Members might talk of free-trade, protection to 638 British interests was yet popular in this House and in the country; a large majority of the House and of hon. Gentlemen opposite were in favour of protection, as well as a large majority of the population. He regarded this measure as a stay and strengthening point in favour of the present system of the Corn-laws, which he had always supported not only because there were certain burthens on the land, and that the large amount of capital vested in agriculture was entitled to protection, but because it could be demonstrated that under the present system of protection, a constant, regular, and cheap supply was given to the consumer of this country. That was the strong ground on which the Corn-laws were to be supported, and on that ground alone would he consent to support them. If this measure passed you enlarged the area from whence you derived your supplies. Under the fostering protection which this measure afforded, we might turn to Canada for a supply as unlimited as the increase of the population of this country Would require. On these grounds the measure ought to be supported by those hon. Members who were devoted to the cause, of British agriculture. But the hon. Member for Dorsetshire had suggested that it should be referred to a select committee. After the explanation of the noble Lord, he could not comprehend how any one could propose the delay of a select committee. What were you to gain by a select committee? The capabilities of Canada were boundless, and as the demand for her produce increased, so would the, interchange of her corn with our manufactures increase. A great deal had been said about smuggling. He was content to leave that to the Canadians themselves whose deepest interests were concerned, in maintaining inviolate their frontier. He was willing to admit that this measure was proposed under somewhat unfortunate circumstances, at a period when great doubt and uncertainty prevailed among the agricultural interests. The agriculturists of this country were extremely susceptible of first impressions; they saw that prices were this year in a state of unusual depression, and they, somewhat hastily, jumped to the conclusion that this depression was occasioned by the alteration in the law adopted last year; but under the old Corn-law, with a greater amount of protection than was now afforded, the price of agricultural produce had been much lower 639 than it was at present; and he would I almost venture to predict that under certain circumstances which might arise before long—if an increased demand arose for manufactures, which would give a stimulus to the productive interests of the country—the value of agricultural produce would be materially increased. He admitted, then, that this was not the most fortunate time for proposing such an alteration; but he thought that the conduct of certain parties, who, instead of endeavouring to allay the unfounded alarm of the agriculturists, had adopted a course calculated greatly to increase it, was deserving of the strongest censure. In every other respect, except that of time —and even that was not left to the discretion of Government—he conceived that Government were entitled to the greatest possible praise. They had followed out their principles in the measures they brought forward, and they were entitled to praise for the way they had acted. So far then were hon. Members from being justified in attacking Ministers for their inconsistency because of giving a preference to a fixed duty over the sliding-scale on Canadian corn, that he felt astonished at the remarks of the noble Lord opposite. He asserted that the Government in this proposition, as in all the others they had brought forward, were entitled to the highest commendation. If, in some portions of England, apprehension had been created by this proposition, he had the satisfaction of stating that in those northern parts of England which he was connected with, the agriculturists had never expressed the smallest uneasiness as to the measure. They were quite willing to leave it in the hands of Government, and to acquiesce in every other measure which Government might choose to introduce for the benefit of our colonies or the security of our empire. These, amongst other reasons, induced him to call on the House, if they desired power to remain in the hands which now wielded it, or if they were alive to the state into which this country would be plunged if an unfortunate change in the Ministry took place— the complete social and civil revolution that would ensue—these reasons urged him to counsel the House not to be carried away by any vague notions of ill-founded alarm, but to give their support to the motion of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies.
§ Mr. C. Buller
said it could not be de- 640 nied that hon. Members had imparted some variety to the debate, and the course which he intended to adopt might add to the variety, for it was at variance with that pursued by most hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House. It was almost impossible to judge what course several hon. Gentleman who had spoken during the debate intended to take on this question, and in what manner they intended to vote. Among the country Gentlemen who had addressed the House, the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles), had, imitating the example of Canute, declared to the Government—" Thus far shall you go, and no further;" but the tide of Ministerial influence still rolled on up to his very feet, and threatened to overwhelm him, and his faithless courtiers seemed to have been dispersed by the fury of the storm. He (Mr. Buller) meant, as a free-trader, to give his support to the measure proposed by the Government, though he certainly could not characterise the address of the noble Lord who had introduced this measure as a free-trade speech. He would state to the House the grounds upon which he conceived that the friends of free-trade ought to give their support to the proposal of the noble Lord, and vote against the motion of his right hon. Friend. When it was proposed last year, in the duties on colonial produce, to impose a duty upon American wheat, he strenuously opposed the proposition; and, if such a proposal were now brought forward in the same manner, he would still oppose it. That measure was proposed merely to afford protection to the Canadians—to prevent the importation of American wheat into Canada; and he objected to it on the ground that it established a restrictive system in Canada. He thought it was exceedingly impolitic to place such restrictions upon trade with the United States; and he would object to the proposal on the same ground now, if it was not brought forward in a mode which deprived it of its restrictive character, and as it seemed to him conferred a boon upon the people of Canada and of this country. It was proposed to impose a new duty of 3s. upon American wheat imported into Canada; while upon all wheat in the shape of flour imported from Canada into this country, the duty was reduced from 5s. to 1s. Now, the main question for free-traders to consider, was, whether this change in the law would in fact increase 641 or diminish the duties in the importation of American wheat. As an hon. Gentleman near him observed, they were adopting a sliding-scale; and he (Mr. C. Buller) entirely concurred in the views of the operation of the sliding-scale which had been taken by the hon. Members for Rutlandshire and Dorsetshire. He had gone, with some care, through the calculations which had been laid before them in the reports of the Canadian legislature, and it seemed to him that some extraordinary confusion had taken place in those calculations. He had, therefore, taken the figures and added them up for himself: and the result at which he arrived was this,—that the present law imposed a duty of 5s. upon Canadian wheat and American wheat imported through Canada. The noble Lord the Member for Sunderland (Lord Howick) said, that by the papers laid before the House, it appeared that there was a difference of 9s. between the cost of transit by the Erie canal, by way of New York, and the cost of transit by the St. Lawrence, including the 3s. duty. He (Mr. Buller) found that it was stated in the first sentence of Appendix, No. 5, that the cost of transit on a barrel of flour by the Erie Canal was 3s. 1½less than by the St. Lawrence. A few lines further it was stated:—After the completion of our communications a reduction will be made in the transit, of 2s. 6d. per barrel.These communications would be completed this very summer, and they might, therefore, calculate on this reduction of 2s. 6d. in the transit coming into operation immediately on the law being adopted. In comparing the measure now proposed by the Government with the law as it at present stood, he would view the present duty as a fixed duty of 5s. upon all wheat imported into this country from Canada. It was now proposed that a duty of 1s. per quarter should be imposed upon all wheat of Canadian growth imported into this country. He would say, then, to the free-trader, "Here you obtain a considerable advantage." Then it was proposed to impose a duty of 3s. upon American wheat brought into Canada, which, when ground into flour, might he imported into this country at 1s. per quarter. If, therefore, they deducted this sum, 4s. from the present duty, 5s. there was an advantage gained to the consumer of 1s. per quarter. He did not mean to contend, that this was any considerable advantage; it was, in- 642 deed, a very small gain but he did not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite need entertain much alarm at the reduction of 1s. per quarter in the duty on American flour, while the free-trader could not object to gain this reduction. It was said, however, that the average duty had been 2s. 1d., and the very same argument had been advanced by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House against the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London (Lord J. Russell) for an 8s. duty. Hon. Gentlemen said, "The average has been 5s. 9d; how cruel, then, of the noble Lord, to raise the duty on corn from 5s. 9d. to 8s." That argument was, however, treated with perfect contempt; it was said that it was absurd to measure the operation of the sliding-scale by the average amount of duty, and that the virtue of a sliding-scale consisted, not in the duty that was collected, but in the duty that was never paid—the duty which was so high that it prevented importation altogether. He had shown, then, that on every quarter of colonial wheat there would be a gain to the consumer in this country of 4s. a quarter, and on every quarter of American flour they would gain 1s. He would call upon them now to view this question in its bearing upon the interests of the Canadians. It had been objected to the measure of the noble Lord, that it would establish a protected interest in Canada, and that its effect would be to raise the price of provisions in that country. He thought that they might allow the Canadians, who were so strongly interested in the question, to be the best! judges on this point; and to all the arguments grounded on the injury which it was argued this measure would inflict upon the Canadians, he simply answered, that the Legislature of Canada had passed this bill. But it was said, " It is the agricultural interest of Canada which has passed this bill." He might reply, that putting the town members out of consideration, the whole province of Lower Canada could have no interest in the question. It did not grow wheat enough for its own consumption, and therefore its interest must be in favour of free-trade but it had joined in sanctioning this measure. But how did this measure stand as one of free-trade or restriction? Nothing could be more pedantic or childish than, when a practical question of this nature was raised, to endeavour to detect some principle to which they were adverse, and 643 to oppose all amelioration because it might imply the recognition of a principle to which they were opposed. He called upon hon. Members to deal like men of common sense. All their talking about principle would not shake the determination of the majority of that House to keep up a protective duty against the importation of foreign corn. This question was settled for the present [" Oh"]; he repeated it — it was settled for the present. The majority of that House had determined to maintain a protective duty, which, to a considerable extent, excluded foreign grain from the country. " Then," said the Canadians, "We do not care whether you have Corn-laws or not, but you have determined to exclude foreign wheat; and all we ask of you is, that you will not treat us as foreigners, but that you will admit our wheat as if it were the produce of England." The Government, representing the majority which had determined to maintain the Corn-laws fairly said— " We shall be quite ready to admit Canadian wheat; we are ready to extend to Canada the same principles of free-trade which we recognise in any English county; but we must take care that foreign wheat —American wheat—is not smuggled into this country, and imposed upon us as Canadian produce. Give us some security that you will protect, not yourselves, but the English agriculturist, against the introduction of American wheat, and then we will admit your corn at a nominal duty." He thought, the question had been fairly put to the Canadians—they had the option of adopting one of two courses: they were told, " If you wish to have free-trade with England, you must submit to something analogous to our own Corn-laws to prevent the importation of American corn; but if you do not submit to those restrictions, we can make no alteration, and you must continue to pay the present rate of duty." This question had been put to the Canadian Legislature, and they had preferred free-trade with England to free-trade with the United States. Suppose a fortification was in course of erection round a considerable tract of country, and that the inhabitants of a village in the vicinity of this fortification, who would by its erections be excluded from their customers, said to the authorities, Do not exclude us from your fortifications; include us within them, and we will submit to all inconveniences for the sake of retaining our trade with you." Such was the case with the Canadians 644 in this instance; they had their choice between two restrictive systems; they chose free-trade with England, and he must say he did not think they had adopted an unwise decision so far as their own interests were concerned. He thought they had formed a wise and prudent determination, and one which would prove most advantageous, as well to the people of this country as to themselves. He would put it to his right hon. Friend and to the noble Lord, with whom, he was sure, he could not differ in principle on a question of this nature, whom did they mean to benefit by thus thwarting the Government, measure? Was it the British consumer? No; because the proposition of his right hon. Friend, if carried into effect, would deprive the British consumer of the benefit of 1s.reduction in the duty. Was it the Canadians? No; for, by the proposition, they flew in the face of the Canadian Legislature, who were the best judges of what was for the interest of the Canadian people, and who had unanimously passed the measure of which the Government measure was the complement. With such opinions, then, he could not but adhere, on this occasion, to the general principle which he had laid down for himself, that it was not for the House to interfere between a law as passed by the Canadian Legislature and the sanction of the Crown. He would not enter into the question of etiquette and dignity between the two Legislatures, and of the passing of acts by the Canadian Legislature contingent upon the sanction of the Parliament here. The Government bad now announced a measure which was no part, it was true, of the measure of the Canadian Legislature, but which in fact formed the ground on which they were induced to pass their measure. It would be with the greatest reluctance on any occasion that he should consent to address the Crown to place its veto on a measure passed by the Canadian Legislature, and he could not now depart from that general principle with reference to a measure which he was convinced would be of the greatest advantage to the people of both countries. But there was one objection to the measure of the Government which he weald notice—namely, that the duty was to go from the pockets of the people of England to enrich the people of Canada. Those who thought corn to be the fairest subject for a portion of revenue to be raised out of could not fairly make this objection, and at any rate he 645 thought that the people of England should not be made to imagine that a duty was raised by the state out of the price of their bread, But if the proposed law left the price where it was, the only consequence would be, that we should pay a part of that price to the people of Canada, and he had just as soon that the Canadian Legislature should eke out their scanty finances by this means, as that the money should be paid to our landlords. In fact, there was a great advantage in allowing the Canadian Legislature to recruit their finances by this means. The whole argument of the opponents of the measure was a dog-in-the-manger argument; because as we, in this country, got no revenue from American corn, it was grudging the Canadians that which we would not take ourselves. In fact, there was no, ground for opposition to the Government measure on the score of the poverty of our revenue; because the Canadian Legislature had given a pledge for taking off the duty on British manufactures imported into that country, and it would be greatly, for the advantage of Canada to take off those duties. At least as one argument for allowing this duty to go into their revenue, they held out a ground for hope that it might lead to a material reduction in their duties on the importation of British manufactured. That was very; material and important to our commercial relations with Canada. He had thought It necessary to address himself at some length-he feared at too great a lenth—to the Rouse, because, having viewed the question in a commercial British and Canadian point of new,' he was unable to agree with his right non. Friend and the noble Lord in their views of the question, and So far from looking: upon it as being derogatory from the principles of free-trade, he considered it as adopting and carrying out those principles.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, "that the House had already been treated with the peculiarities of hon. Members; but be should emulate all In peculiarity, for he not only differed in Opinion from his Mi. and learned Friend Who had just sat down, as that hon. Gentleman differed from all who had preceded him, but he differed also from all others at the same time. This question as it now stood had assumed, he thought, a constitutional character. On this occasion he should vote against the motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton; though hereafter he should also oppose the motion of the noble Lord (Lord 646 Stanley). He objected to the mode of interfering with the royal prerogative which was proposed, and he very much doubted whether if he had brought forward such a motion, when arguing on behalf of the Canadian people, he should not have had strong opposition from hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to defeat the measure of the noble Lord, he was prepared to go with him, but he would not seek to gain this object in a manner, offensive to the Canadian people. They had given to Canada a legislature, and the Crown possessed the power to veto or sanction any measures which it should pass. This was a state of things sanctioned by act of Parliament, and there must be a great, important, and serious ground laid for their entertaining a motion such as that of the right hon. Gentleman, before they went to the Crown and asked that the prerogative vested in it by the Legislature should not be exercised. Had such grounds been laid? He contended that, looking at the question as a mere matter of constitutional law or of policy, as regarded the people of Canada, the amendment was improper and offensive to the people of Canada. He did not want to make this a party question; he was prepared to argue it on its own merits; he should oppose the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, but when the time came he should also oppose the measure of the noble Upon, and he hoped successfully. Upon the economical part of the question, he was prepared to argue the case upon a comparison between the existing law and that which was now proposed, and he would assert, on his own responsibility, that not only did not Lower Canada grow more corn than was sufficient for itself, but that it hardly grew any at all. There was hardly a wheat field throughout the country in Lower Canada that had at all repaid the labour which had been bestowed upon it, the fly having utterly destroyed the whole of the crops during the last five years; and it had now come to this point, that they were discussing among themselves whether a law should not be introduced to prevent the sowing of wheat in Lower Canada, in the hope of killing out the fly. He defied contradiction on this point. Then this was the state of the case. There were in Lower Canada three-fourths of the population of the whole colony, and they did 647 not produce sufficient corn for their own support, but must actually import corn from America. Under the present law corn was imported duty free; and he asserted that it would be utterly impossible by any system of certificates to ascertain from whence the corn came which should be introduced into this country. If his hon. and learned Friend would refer to the return, he would see that the duty last year was only 1s.11d. Last year corn was lower in price in Canada than it had been at any period since 1834-5, the returns, as he had just said, the average rate of the duty on Canadian flour was 1s. 11d. Now was it any advantage to the English consumer that the import duty should be increased from 2s. to 5s.? If, then the import duty was 2s. now [An hon. Member: " No, no."] It would not do to say " No, no," because he referred directly to the figures in the return Mr. Hume made an observation]. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, who was always correct to a halfpenny, had corrected him, and he found that the duty was 2s. 1d. Again, the hon. Member said that corn would be smuggled from America into Canada, and that this corn would come from Canada. Now he would say this—that Canada exhausted all the corn she grew herself, and would not get this 4s. duty on all exported. He should like to have it explained to him how, when a nation bought and exported corn with a 3s. duty, that it could be said that the purchaser did not pay that duty. He did not think it could be explained in any other way. He felt that the noble Lord's bill was a capital landlords' bill, and he was astonished how it could excite anyone for a moment on the other side of the House, and he wished that the alarm of hon. Gentlemen rested on some more stable foundation. The noble Lord wished to levy a 4s. duty in the place of one of 2s. 1s. The noble Lord said, that he was going to put on a 4s. fixed duty, which would be about equivalent to the present sliding-scale. His hon. and learned Friend differed from this statement, and said that it was equivalent to a 5s. duty, but the return only gave an average duty of 2s. 1d. He was not then going into a dicussion of the sliding-scale, for they might have a very good argument across the Table between the opposite Benches, he therefore should leave that matter to the right hon. Gentleman sitting there- 648 One great peculiarity of the noble Lord's measure, with regard to this country, wag, that there was no one to interfere with flour coming into Canada at present, but it was brought in, and would continue to be brought in and mixed with the produce of that country; and the result was that American corn was really introduced, and would continue to be introduced as Canadian corn, into this country. Under this bill persons would be set to watch, so as to prevent the introduction of American corn over the frontier without the payment of the duty. Some, no doubt, would be caught; but a great deal would not be caught, and a great smuggling trade would be created, and all the enormities of such a trade would grow up. Along the whole of the American frontier there was no important impediment. There was a capital river also running from Lake Champlain, and it was impossible to prevent corn coming from that quarter. But by this measure, you would make the people commit criminal offences, not only at Montreal, but all along the frontier, and he would ask whether this was not a very grave and serious matter? When they touched the river St. Lawrence, there was a small part full of rapids, but as soon as they came to the town of Prescott, they got into a smooth stream, which he had repeatedly crossed in a bark canoe, in an open boat, and by other means. For some months in the year, the river at that spot was as flat and as hard as the table, and it would bear with ease loads of corn passing over, and therefore he said, that they were creating a smuggling trade which it would be impossible to put down. The chief portion of corn that would be introduced would come from the state of Tennessee, and would be carried across Lake Ontario, and there, again, smuggling would be created with all its attendant evils. He therefore should oppose, as connected with Canada, the bill of the noble Lord; and he should also oppose on the ground that he had stated, the resolution of the right hon. Gentleman. And here he must express his surprise at the language of the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport, both of whom had stated, that if we had a free-trade, we should obtain great quantities of corn from the Mississippi. Now, the experience of the last few years did not tend to confirm 649 this opinion or to lead any one who looked into the subject to expect much corn from America. The truth was that the greatest exaggerations had been uttered on this point. As far as American corn was in question, why, he would ask, had not a much larger portion been brought from Canada, for nothing could be safer than sending it from Tennessee into Canada and down the St. Lawrence? The reason was obvious, because the price could not be obtained that was demanded for it, including the cost of carriage. Therefore, before hon. Members frightened the farmers, they should make themselves acquainted with the fact, that you could not get corn one iota cheaper in consequence of the quantity likely to come from America. His hon. and learned Friend had said, that corn would come from Upper Canada in consequence of the improved communication that had been made down the St. Lawrence, by the completion of the canals and other means. He wished his hon. and learned Friend joy of his discovery; but although this country had expended large sums on these canals, no great improvement had taken place, and we might give millions without producing any great change.
said, that it would be a most difficult task to endeavour to reconcile the various arguments and inconsistencies which had been urged against his noble Friend's proposition in the course of this evening; and certainly he thought that it might vie in this respect with any discussion which had taken place for many years. Gentlemen who had spoken in opposition to the measure had literally fulfilled their pledges to oppose it, and no two of them appeared to agree together in their grounds of objection. He would proceed to deal with some of the objections that had been urged against this measure of her Majesty's Government. And, first, with respect to what fell from the right hon. Member for Taunton, who commenced his speech with an observation which, if well-founded, involved a most serious charge against the government which introduced this measure. The right hon. Gentleman said, that his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies had represented that the Parliament were not free agents in this matter, but that its hands were tied and fettered, by the government arrangement which had already been made. His noble Friend was much misappre- 650 hended when he was described as giving utterance to such an opinion. It must be known to every one at all acquainted with the administration of public affairs in this country, that no one in that House, that no administration, could pledge Parliament to the adoption of any particular measure or course of policy; but he had understood his noble Friend to say, that the Government had given the people of Canada a pledge, and by that pledge, so given, the Government must abide. With respect to Parliament, it was clear that it could not be considered to be bound by the pledge of the Government, but it was for the House to say how far it would sanction that pledge on its own merits and on the grounds that had been urged by his noble Friend, and how far it had already been a party to sanctioning the principle involved in the measure. His hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire, indeed, stated that something had taken place with respect to the introduction of a proposition of this kind in an interlocutory debate, and the hon. Member for Dorsetshire said, that there had been but a casual mention of the introduction of a Canada corn bill last year. But let him state to the House what was the casual mention of this subject. The hon. Member for Limerick made a motion for admitting Canadian corn, of which ample notice had been given, that motion was discussed, not in a thin House, or in one inattentive to the discussion, but in one where it excited considerable interest, and upon which he believed upwards of 200 members recorded their opinions. On that occasion his noble Friend declared, on the part of the Government, and it was recorded in the debates of that House, that if Canada would undertake to make certain provisions, with respect to the importation of American grain into Canada, the Government would take steps to recommend the Imperial Legislature to make a provision to entitle it to certain advantages as regarded the importation of corn, the produce of Canada, into this country. The Canadian Legislature had fulfilled the conditions proposed by the Government. No objection was made to their being proposed to Canada, when they were stated in the House, and it, therefore, was for the House to consider how far the expectations and anticipations which had been excited in the minds of the people of Canada less by the declaration of his noble 651 Friend than by the tacit assent of the House of Commons, should now be frustrated. The right hon. Member for Taunton, in a speech of which he admitted the general candour and fairness, stated his objections in detail to the measure. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the expense of custom-houses on the line of the American frontier, which, he said, would be required if the measure passed for imposing a duty on the importation of American corn into Canada. But he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not require to be told that custom-houses were already in existence in Canada on the American frontier, and that custom duties, to a certain amount, were now levied; no increase of custom-houses, he believed, would, be required in consequence of this measure. The right hon. Gentleman said it was true the Canadian Legislature had passed a bill, but that it was probable that in future there would be divisions of opinion in Upper Canada, and that there would be an inclination to recede from the enactment to which the Legislature had now assented. He would, however, request the House to notice this, that this measure had passed through the House of Assembly in Canada with the utmost cordiality, and indeed, unanimity, which considering the agitated state of party spirit in that country, was a most remarkable circumstance. The fact was still more significant and gratifying when they recollected that on a great many subjects the Canadian Legislature was divided into contending parties. Again, the right hon. Gentleman went into the question of smuggling American corn into Canada. He was surprised that any hon. Gentleman accustomed to public business should give currency, by such observations, to apprehensions that there could be any extent of smuggling in such an article as corn when the duty was as small as 3s. There was, however, a great difference of opinion as to the probable extent of this smuggling amongst the gentlemen who opposed the measure. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the amendment guarded himself against giving a decided opinion on the question; but still he said that smuggling would prevail, while the hon. Member who seconded the amendment said that any alarm on such a ground was perfectly chimerical. The hon. and learned Member who spoke last spoke of the facilities of carrying American corn 652 across the St. Lawrence at Prescott. At the same time, however, that the hon. Member said this, he observed that there were no apprehensions to excite fear that corn would come in great quantities from that part of the country. Some persons also, who were connected with the revenue department in America, had told him that no com was to be expected from the territories to the east of Lake Erie; but that from the great corn-growing states of America, namely, Ohio, Michigan, Tenesse, and Indiana, they might expect a supply, which would come through the Canadian canals and rivers on which there was every facility for levying the duty to Lower Canada. He had been assured by those who were entrusted with the collection of the customs in Canada, that they entertained no fears as to corn being brought into that country without paying the duty. But he might tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that no immaterial change had taken place in Canada since the hon. Member was in America, and that the customs establishment in Canada was now much improved. Some years ago there was great laxity in levying the customs in Canada, but the local legislature had paid great attention to the subject, and had established a sound system. A few years ago the whole amount of the customs duty paid on goods coming into Canada did not exceed 20,000l.; but they now amounted to 45,000l. " and this increase had taken place in consequence of an improved system of collection. He fairly admitted, that in calculating the probable extent of smuggling, it was impossible to adduce anything like demonstrative evidence on one side or on the other; but the same conditions which governed trade in other respects would apply to the trade in corn. It was clear that corn would not be Smuggled except in proportion to the profit it was likely to realise; for the smuggler had no hostility to the lauded interest which would induce him to sacrifice his own gains. Now, how was the smuggler to be governed in his choice of the articles which he should smuggle? By the amount and value of the article in proportion to its bulk. With a population favourable to the law and friendly to the duty, which was the best security for any revenue law, let the House reflect whether there was any considerable amount of duty which the smuggler would save. He had just stated that the amount of custom duties 653 paid on other articles than corn in Canada was 45,000l.,what impediment was there to put the importation of corn in to Canada under the control of the Custom-house there. Every one must be well aware that corn was one of the most difficult articles to smuggle, as its bulk was enormous when compared to its value. Now, take the case of tea imported into Canada. He understood that the most sanguine anticipations were entertained there, that under the present arrangement a complete stop would be put to the smuggling of tea over the American frontier into Canada. There was formerly an enormous duty on that article, which was reduced by the law of last Session to a comparatively small one. At present there was a duty of 1d. per pound imposed by the general Government on the importation of tea, and a small additional duty was imposed by the colonial legislature. The import duty on 480 lbs. of tea would amount to 2l. and if it were practicable, as he believed it was, to levy this duty of 2l. on this bulk of tea, why was it not practicable to collect 3s. on the importation of a much larger bulk of corn, and at the same time to prevent its being smuggled. He, indeed, should like to know how there could be a smuggling trade in corn, under any fiscal regulations that existed. They had never found an instance of corn being smuggled into Canada when there was an 8s. duty on its importation over the American frontier, and if they had found no instance of an evasion of the fiscal law as regarded this article, when the customs establishment in Canada was so much less efficient than it was at present, he would ask—was any increased danger of smuggling to be apprehended from the present proposal? On the contrary, the hon. Member for Bath allowed that the evil would be limited by the law which it was proposed to pass. If there were any serious apprehension as to the smuggling of American corn, why had there not been apprehensions of the smuggling of American flour? Could any hon. Gentleman assign a single reason why, if wheat would be smuggled at 3s. a quarter, flour should not be smuggled at 2s. a barrel? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) said, that tea was altogether a different case, because they might know that tea was not grown on the spot; that might be so, but how were they to know whether the tea bad paid duty or not? At this moment there was a duty of 654 5s. per barrel on American flour on its admission into all our American colonies but Canada, and it had never been found that a smuggling trade in flour had taken place. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire seemed to have an apprehension that American corn would be landed at Montreal under the pretence of being for the fisheries, and that when landed it would be exported to this country as Canadian corn or ground and imported as Canadian flour. But if the corn were landed at Montreal it would be landed under the supervision of the Custom-house officers, and could not leave the ports without a certificate declaring its origin; and of all cases on which it would be easy for the revenue officers to decide, these cases would be the most free from difficulty. So far as the evidence of the duties already levied in Upper Canada went upon articles much easier to smuggle than corn, there was no reason to apprehend that a smuggling trade in corn would exist; but if this consideration were not sufficient, he would refer to the argument used by his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) and ask how it was possible for such a miserable saving as 3s. a quarter, that any smugglers should incur the extra expense of landing corn on the sea coast in bulk, subject as it would be to be injured, and the expense of additional carriage? These expenses would, most probably, far exceed the 3s. a quarter duty. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to object that the effect of passing this law would be to make other colonies tributary to Canada, and to increase the price of Canadian corn to the other colonies. This argument was a fallacy. The price of Canadian corn must be governed by the price at which the foreigner could supply the other colonies with corn subject to the duty which the foreigner paid. The same law which now determined the cost would hereafter determine it, and the consumer would pay precisely the same price. The Canadians might, indeed, lose some advantages in the markets of our other colonies, by the duty imposed on American com, but as the principal supply was not derived from them, the price would not be altered by the duty. The right hon. Gentleman then objected to the disadvantage at which he alleged this measure would place the national treasury, as the 3s. duty must go to the colonial treasury. He (Mr. Gladstone) thought that there was much 655 in the argument of the hon. Member for Liskeard, that whatever surplus was created in the colonial treasury by this measure would be applied in the reduction of duties on British manufactures. He (Mr. Gladstone) thought it would be unworthy the wisdom of Parliament to set the consideration of a few thousand pounds a year against the consideration of the welfare of a province so important to the British Crown as the great province of Canada. The right hon. Gentleman had then proceeded to another difficulty. He stated that other colonies had petitioned for the grant of similar measures, and that whenever any colony acted up to the same conditions we should be called upon to extend to it similar favours. He believed it to be inaccurate to say that any other colony had petitioned. No other colony, that he knew of, had expressed such a desire. He admitted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman's question was independent of that fact, and he would proceed to state what was the intention of the Government if such conditions should be complied with. His noble Friend had stated that, although he believed this measure would be beneficial to Canada, it would not produce effects of so electric a nature in promoting the interests of Canada as to entitle the Government to disturb the agricultural interests at home except on the ground of an engagement having been entered into stringent and binding upon the Government, although not upon Parliament. Canada was the only one of our colonies to whom this question possessed more than a very minute importance. There was no other colony whose exportation of corn gave it a similar claim, and he apprehended, therefore, that his noble Friend's answer, with reference to the communication of similar privileges to any other colony complying with the same conditions, was sufficient. There was no engagement with any other colony and no one had so large an interest in the exportation of corn as to warrant any alteration in our laws. He had now, he believed, nearly enumerated the objections of the right hon. Member for Taunton. He came now to the speech of the noble Lord, and he must say he had never heard a speech with greater astonishment. The noble Lord appeared to have totally mistaken the nature of the question at issue; and he should call the noble Lord to his aid against the noble Lord himself, 656 because at the close of his speech the noble Lord contradicted the fundamental proposition with which he set out. The noble Lord's argument rested upon the proposition, that this measure would create a transit trade from America through the province of Canada—that its object was to encourage and force, by bounty, a transit trade through Canada, but the noble Lord went on to argue that the expense was so great that it would be vain to attempt the creation of such a transit trade, and towards the end of his speech, in summing up his objections to the measure, the noble Lord said that it would destroy the beneficial intercourse between Canada and the United States, and put an end to that trade (the transit trade) which was so beneficial to both. These arguments were utterly contradictory of each other, but he (Mr. Gladstone) was convinced that neither of them was true. The measure would not put an end to the transit trade—it would have no sensible effect upon it whatever, and its object was not and its effect could not be to stimulate a transit trade. The noble Lord was himself open to the objection he had himself made. His object was to refuse assent to the colonial act imposing a duty of 3s. What would be the effect if that act were annulled, and an act passed at home imposing a fixed duty of 5s. on all corn imported from Canada? If that were done, then we should be giving a bonus of 3s. on the noble Lord's shewing, on drawing American corn from its natural and its cheapest channel through the channel of the St. Lawrence. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton had said, and with truth, that there was the greatest jealousy in the United States upon the subject of any effort that might be made by the country to establish a colonial depÔt close to the border of the United States to draw the produce of the United States into the dépÔt, by offering advantages in the shape of a reduced duty, and thus to bring it under the effect of British navigation, and thereby defeat the reciprocity treaty between this country and the United States, as to the terms agreed upon to regulate the carrying trade. If they reduced the duty on Canadian corn to 1s. without imposing any duty upon the import of corn from the United States into Canada, they should, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had stated, excite a hostile feeling on the 657 part of the shipowners of America, and lead to fresh complaints from that country on a subject which had already given rise to innumerable complaints, and been made the subject of representation in documents of no less importance than the reports of the committees of Congress. There was also another distinct objection to which such a measure was liable, inasmuch as the intimation of a design on the part of the Government to reduce the duty on corn brought from Canada had already given rise to some speculation and excitement in foreign countries, and intimations had been thrown out that if Parliament should adopt measures to grant privileges to the corn of America which it did not grant to the corn of other countries, such a course would be a justification for the imposition of new and increased duties on the import of British productions into the countries of Europe. It was not the object of this measure to force a transit trade between America and Canada, nor to offer an increased inducement for it, and it would be most grossly unjust to the inhabitants of other countries if, under the semblance of giving a boon to a colonial population, the Government were to depart from the spirit of its treaty with a friendly country now in alliance with this country. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire objected to the measure, on the ground of supposed ill effects on the agriculture of this country. It was said there were great discrepancies in the statements which had been made as to the probable expense of bringing Canada corn into this country. Such was, no doubt, the case; but taking the lowest estimate, it was clear that corn could not be taken to Montreal for less than 8s. or 10s., nor imported from Montreal to this country for less than 12s. or 14s., which amount would give an immense advantage to the producers in this country over the colonial importer. The hon. Member for Somersetshire had read some papers respecting the recent importation of corn from Canada. Now he would beg to state to the House these facts:—Taking the four first months of this year, as compared with the four first months of the two preceding years, the fall in prices would be found to nave produced a remarkable effect. In the four first months of 1841, there were imported into this country 33,900 quarters; in the four first months of 1842, 35,000 quarters; both of which years 658 were years of high prices—while, in the four first months of 1843, a year of low prices, there were imported only 14,900 quarters. Then again the entries for home consumption were, in the period he had stated, in 1841, 42,800 quarters; in 1842, 51,000 quarters; and in 1843 they decreased to 23,400 quarters; so that it was clear that a somewhat high standard of price was necessary to maintain the present trade between this country and Canada. The hon. Member for Rutland asked, why alter the Corn-laws, at a time when prices were so depressed as at the present period; and it was said, further, that if there were such a chance of a return of high prices, there ought not to be so much reason to complain of a measure which went to enlarge the sources of supply. It was true that prices were now low, but it was impossible to guarantee the continuance of low prices. Because there had been four or five yeas of high prices, now followed by five or six months of low prices, it did not follow that we were to have these five or six months of low prices extended to four or five years. It appeared to him that the wisdom of Parliament, considering the increase of population, would be best shown by assenting to a bill like this, which gave a promise of encouraging the most desirable mode of a supply of corn for this country at those periods when there was the greatest need of it in our own markets. As to the importation of American Hour, upon a strictly true description of this measure, it would be found that it left the importation of American corn ground into flour in Canada much in the same state as at present. There was not even a reduction of 1s. in the duty as the hon. Member for Liskeard supposed, but the duty would be, in fact, as high as at present. The only opposition which he observed between his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) and the hon. Member for Liskeard was apparent, not real. The only opposition between them was, that one said it was a measure of free trade, and the other said it was not a measure of free trade. Now, that might really be, without there being any great difference between them. It was not a measure of free trade, as his noble Friend stated, in the general sense of that term, and it was a measure of free trade between the mother country and the colony. It was a measure of free trade in respect to the relations between Canada and England, and it was 659 not a measure of free trade as regarded England and America. Another great argument against the proposition was, that the quantity of corn imported from Canada would materially affect the prices here; but he did not believe that prices would ever be sensibly affected by the importation of corn from Canada. There were differences of opinion whether that colony grew enough for its own consumption. The hon. Member for Bath maintained that it did not grow enough for itself, and could have none for exportation. That difference of opinion showed that though the quantity might be too insignificant when exported, to affect the English market, it might be of great advantage to the trade of Canada to be able to export that quantity. He believed that the exportation from Canada to England I would give a great stimulus to the agriculture of the colony, extend the commercial relations between the colony and England, and be beneficial to the trade of both countries, at the same time it could not exert any injurious effect on the productive industry of the English agriculturists: That was the kind of trade, independent of foreign countries, mutually beneficial to two parts of the same empire, which could not be disturbed by hostile tariffs, which it was perhaps the duty of Parliament to encourage mote than other trade. With respect to the importation of corn from Canada, he would quote an authority not liable to suspicion. Lord Sydenham said in 1840, when the colony was not dissatisfied, that he was not indisposed to advise an alteration in the duties. Lord Sydenham was not a Friend to the colonial system. He was hostile to the system of protective duties, and held opinions extremely favourable to free trade. Lord Sydenham, however, holding those opinions on the 21st of January, 1841, wrote to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) then holding a responsible office in the Government, a despatch, from which he would quote two short extracts. In the first, Lord Sydenham said—There can be no doubt of the great effect that would be produced in these colonies, if Parliament could be prevailed upon to admit the agricultural produce of the Canadas free of duty for consumption in the United Kingdom.And then after expressing an opinion against a protective duty in Canada he went on to say this— 660The real means of affording advantage to Upper Canada would be to permit the importation of its produce free of duty into the United Kingdom, and the opinion that prevails among them certainly renders it a measure at this moment of the utmost importance.He quoted that opinion as fully substantiating the allegation that although this might be a very small question with reference to this great country, its immense I productions and growing demand, yet it was a very considerable question as regarded the agricultural interests of Canada, and the increase of its productions, and consequently of the trade between Canada and Great Britain. The hon. Member for Rutlandshire objected that the Government was about to apply a fixed duty, when a sliding-scale had hitherto prevailed. But there was a difference of opinion among authorities on that subject, and he would quote from page 46 of a corrected speech of Lord Monteagle, in Which his Lordship said—Those who have the object of exciting alarm among the agricultural interests of this country, and wish to show how unsafe it is to trust the Government, exclaim against the dangerous and new schemes they are introducing, as being unfavourable to the agricultural interests of the country.And then, in page 42, the noble Lord complains that they are about to introduce a bill, allowing American corn to come into this country subject to a fixed duty of 3s. But singularly enough, in a second portion of his speech, his Lordship wished to show that the operation of a sliding-scale was most irregular with respect to the introduction of foreign corn, and in order to prove that, he undertook to show that when there was a fixed duty the introduction of corn was very regular, and he referred to the foreign duty as an example of the sliding scale and to the colonial duty as an example of a fixed duty. If then the principle of the present protective law was a fixed duty on colonial corn, surely that was a sufficient answer to any objection to the Government on account of their being supposed to be introducing a new principle into the law and setting aside a graduated scale. It was perfectly true, as the noble Lord had stated, that there was a fixed duty until 1842, and moreover a fixed duty of that peculiar description for which the noble Lord declared so strong a preference the nominal duty being 5s. when the price was 60s., and then falling to 6d But in 661 point of fact, what did the question between a, sliding-scale of such dimensions, and a fixed duty amount to? The objection to a fixed duty on this side of the House, in the sense of a protective argument, was this, " that you cannot maintain a fixed duty when prices are high; that it then becomes burthensome upon the consumer, and the agriculturist loses the benefit of the protection that would be taken away from him and never restored." The question therefore, whether there should be a fixed duty of 4s. or a sliding scale of duties betwixt 5s and 1s. was altogether a minor question, and devoid of practical importance. He thought that a sufficient answer to any charge of inconsistency which was made against the Government for adhering to the sliding scale, for the purpose of protecting the agriculture of England against foreign competition, and adopting a fixed duty, when there was no question of such, competition. The noble Lord the Member for Sunderland bad asked a question about reciprocity, and had said, why should they reduce the duty on colonial, corn without making sure that a reciprocal reduction would-be made in the colony of the duty on our manufactures? The answer to that question was, that the colonial duties at present were only 5 per cent, on British manufactures. With respect to our own colonies, he thought that the proposition was now very generally acknowledged that the produce of those colonies, with certain exceptions, should be admitted at a nominal duty. The hon. Member for Rutlandshire objected that the present measure would give additional facilities for the admittance of corn from the United States; but he thought that the objection on this score was not sufficiently supported. The hon. Member admitted that this proposition would not give any additional facilities for the direct transmission of com from the United States but would only operate in respect to corn ground in Canada, and imported thence as flour into this country. Now, he would ask hon. Gentlemen who voted for the Corn-bill of last year, and who considered that the question of the Corn-laws was settled by that measure, whether they were prepared to disturb that settlement by altering the state of the law by which corn ground in Canada was now admitted into this country. For his part, he thought that at this time nothing would be more 662 unsatisfactory to the colony, and that nothing could be so disadvantageous to the commerce of this country as to raise subtile discussions as to how far the foreign raw-materials manufactured in the colony, or the produce of one country manufactured by another, should be admitted as the produce of the manufacturing colony or country. He would call upon hon. Members, before they demanded pf Parliament to give a decision upon this question, to consider how far it would affect OUT own foreign commercial relations. For instance, we were exporters of flax, of the value of 10,000,00l. in the shape of yarns, yet of a very small proportion of that amount could. it be shown that the flax was British produce. He was prepared to admit, that America would derive some advantages from some provisions of the measure now proposed, but those advantages were only such as to counteract to a certain extent the disadvantages under which she necessarily laboured from her geographical position; disadvantages which, as the population of America moved year after year further to the westward, were continually increasing. Upon all grounds, he thought it would be unfair towards America, and inexpedient as regarded the commerce of this country, and particularly fatal to the settlement of the Corn-law question effected last year, that the Government of this country should go for the first time out of its course to declare that the produce of corn grown in a foreign country, but ground in a British colony, should not be admitted as the produce of that colony. He felt that he had troubled the House with many points of detail which, at this time of night, must prove wearisome to them. He did not feel it necessary to enter further at length into the important general considerations which were involved in this measure, as he trusted that the able statement of his noble Friend on this subject was sufficiently in the recollection of all who heard him, to render such observations on his part quite unnecessary. He hoped, that enough had been stated to show that whilst this was a measure of relaxation, it was one of safe relaxation; that it would constitute, as the hon. Member for Liskeard had said, a boon to the people of this country in respect to the enlargement of their commercial relations and of their general resources; whilst it would also, though limited in extent, prove a boon to Canada, which had 663 been desired there for years, which was particularly called for now, upon high authority, as a measure of great national importance; and that upon all these considerations it could not but prove a bond of additional mutual attachment between that colony and the mother country.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at one o'clock.