§ On the Motion that the Amendments made by the Committee be now read a Second Time,
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: Sir, I rise to oppose the second reading of the Report on this measure, founded as it is on the principle of remitting duties of the customs instead of the excise. So long, Sir, as we levy the enormous amount which we derive from the excise, I think there is no good reason why we should remit these duties of customs, amounting to no less than 2,400,000l., which amount of reduction could be applied more beneficially to excise duties, pressing as they do more inconveniently and severely on the people of this country. This is one strong though simple ground upon which I object to proceeding with this report. Another ground is, that if we are to reduce customs duties in preference to excise, we ought to apply ourselves to the reduction of the duties on the produce of those countries which take most of our produce—that we should give the preference to duties on articles which do not come into competition with the industry of this country. By a return laid on our Table by the First Minister of the Crown, it 820 appears, that when excise duties are reduced, we are able to save an enormous sum in the expense of collection, reducing the number of officers employed therein, while at the same time we are relieving trade of many restrictions and inconveniences, and giving a spring to industry. When the excise duties were reduced on auctions and upon glass to the extent of 900,000l., the cost of collection to the amount of 52,000l. was reduced, and the salaries of 450 officers saved to the public; whereas it appears that when customs' duties are reduced, the expense of collection is not reduced, for not a single officer can be dispensed with. Therefore, as you reduce the customs' duties the amount of revenue so lost is greater, and the extent of relief to the country is in the same proportion less than in the case of similar reductions in excise duties. These would be sufficient reasons, did none other exist, for not reducing the customs' duties in preference to the excise. But there is another reason, perhaps even of greater force. When you reduce customs' duties, the foreigner shares with the consumer in this country the benefit of the reduction. This has been shown in the case of the timber duties, on which at least one-third of the reduction has gone into the pockets of the foreigner. But if you reduce the duties on excise articles—soap, malt, bricks, &c., &c.—the whole of the benefit is derived by the subjects of Great Britain. I cannot understand upon what principle, so long as there are any excise duties to be reduced, the Legislature should prefer to levy these duties, and to reduce the duties of customs. The excise duty on soap, for instance, amounts to 36 per cent ad valorem; and it is admitted on all hands that soap is an article which, next to the absolute necessaries of life, adds more than anything else to the comforts of the poor; and it is equally important in manufactures. Then there is an excise duty upon hops—a duty realizing to the revenue only some 200,000l. or 300,000l., but yet not less than 2d. per pound, and levied with restrictions most inconvenient to the producer, as the hop-grower cannot dry his hops without twenty-four hours' notice to the excise officer to attend the process. Then, Sir, as to the malt duty. As it amounts to 5,000,000l. per annum, it would not be possible, with a surplus of 2,400,000l., to remit the whole of that duty; but at a future period the surplus might be larger; and there are some reasons for contemplating the possi- 821 bility of remitting this duty; as, for example, there might be a tax, perhaps, on beer, which might realize half the amount of the malt duty, and thus the House might be enabled to take off altogether the other half of the duty, and entirely relieve the maltster and farmer from the restrictions which press so heavily upon them. Mr. Huskisson well said, that the malt duty amounted to 60 or 70 per cent on the value of the barley, and that the restrictions and inconveniencies incident to the excise were equivalent to at least 50 per cent more. The malt duty is fixed, whatever the quality of the barley; the result of which is, that the malting is almost restricted to the superior barley. The regulations of the Excise impose the most severe restrictions on the farmer to prevent him from steeping his barley. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, indeed, declared that experiments had been made by learned professors, not by agriculturists, proving that raw barley was as good for the fattening of cattle as malted barley. But the opinion of these learned professors is utterly at variance with those of practical agriculturists; and Mr. Hudson, one of the largest graziers and farmers in the country, who expended 10,000l. a year in oil-cake alone, has challenged the Government and their professors to a trial of the virtue of malted barley, at the rate of five quarters malted to seven quarters of raw. I find that as Her Majesty's Ministers like small numbers of examples in financial matters, so they like short numbers in examples on cattle. [The noble Lord quoted two examples from the Report of the Commissioners to inquire into the effects of Malt in fattening Cattle, of the feeding of two cows and two bullocks with malt and with barley.] The noble Lord proceeded — I think, Sir, when I come to analyse the report of 102 pages, I shall find that the experiments there mentioned are not worth a great deal more than the three years' experience of the present Government. I think it must be admitted, at all events so far as the inconvenience is concerned which these restrictions impose upon the farmers, that the question remains just where it did before any experiments were made. Having dealt with this part of the question, I am unwilling to occupy the time of the House upon the subject of silk manufactures. I object to the measure before the House on the ground that it is an unnecessary interference with the due protection to all these interests. I 822 have never been in favour of any prohibitory duty; but I cannot understand why, as long as you consent to levy a duty of 70 per cent upon malt—as long as you levy a duty upon the grain of this country before it is distilled into spirits, making it altogether a duty of 400 per cent before the barley, or any grain, whatever it might be, can be converted into spirits—as long as you levy a duty of 36 per cent, ad valorem, upon soap — and as long as you levy a duty of something like 25 per cent upon bricks, I cannot understand upon what principle you abolish duties on foreign commodities when imported, none of them exceeding the 30 per cent which you have hitherto levied upon corn, and yet levy, generally speaking, upon silk. I am aware there are some articles on which the First Minister of the Crown remitted duty amounting to 147 per cent. It is upon caps and turbans. I believe that is one of the compensations offered to the agriculturists. I do not know to what portion of the agriculturists this relief will apply. I know not whether Her Majesty's Ministers intend that the wives of the agricultural labourers, or the labourers themselves, or the farmers, or their wives, are to deck themselves out in these turbans and caps of French manufacture. As far as the agricultural interest is concerned, we would rather see the bonnet makers, and hatters, and dressmakers of this country undisturbed in the enjoyment of their present monopoly, than accept any such compensation at the hands of the Government. Then, Sir, I will refer to the article of timber. The duty reduced upon Baltic timber already has amounted to 30s. per load. What has been the result? Why, that while the price of English oak was reduced 12s. a load, upon an average of the last three years, compared with the three years that Baltic timber was admitted into competition, and whilst the price of Canada timber was also reduced, the Baltic growers were enabled so far to increase their price, that they have put 10s. upon each load into their pockets for the last three years; and this last year they have profited to the amount of 17s. 6d. upon each load. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the Baltic growers have now got a monopoly given to them by your measures; and you are proposing now to increase that monopoly, by giving them the advantage of 10s. a load more. They are amply protected by the difference between the freight from Canada and the Baltic of 20s. a load; and, there- 823 fore, it is impossible for the Canadian timber growers to compete with the Baltic growers. It is impossible for them to afford to sell their timber at a lower price than they sell it now; and the result will be, that the Baltic growers, not being exposed to competition, will be able to maintain the high price their timber now bears. Perhaps it will be argued that it is the reduction of the price of foreign timber that has caused the great consumption lately; but we have had the authority of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) that there would not be one foot less of timber consumed on the railways in this country, whether the duty was 55s., or whether it was reduced, as you now propose to reduce it, to 15s. Upon an average, there is now consumed upon railways in this country 5,000,000 cubic feet of timber. This would be equally consumed, whether the price was 10s. a load more, or 10s. a load less. If the consumption had remained the same as it was formerly, it would have given an enormous increase of revenue to this country. In the year 1841, there were imported from the Baltic 561,313 loads of timber. This was composed of timber of all descriptions. In the year 1845, the timber so imported had risen up to 1,105,224 loads. This great increase in number was occasioned by the great railway speculation; and I am sure it never entered into the consideration of any railway company whether the price of timber was 4l. 10s. or 4d. The price was never for a moment taken into calculation in any discussion before the railway companies. Taking 30s. as the duty, the loss to the revenue would amount, upon the quantity of timber I have mentioned, to 1,725,336l. This is the amount of duty which, if it had been received, might have enabled you to reduce a very great number of those excise duties that are now inflicted. You might have remitted the soap duties, brick duties, and hop duties, if you had such a sum of money as that to deal with. Well, then, let us see whether the reduction of these duties has had the effect which the manufacturers of this country anticipated it would have—which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton imagined it would have in 1839. That hon. Gentleman thought that the reduction in the timber duties would have induced foreign countries to reduce their tariffs, and take more of our manufactures in return. None of these foreign Governments have as yet reduced their tariffs. We are told 824 that Prussia will; but it has not yet done so. Has the remission of duty on our part induced them to take any more of your cotton manufactures? I find in a statement that has been made, upon the accuracy of which great reliance can be placed—I mean a pamphlet I have quoted before, entitled "The Free Trade Policy Examined, by a Liverpool Merchant," and certainly one of the ablest pamphlets written upon the subject—it says, as regards these countries, Denmark, Prussia, Sweden, and Norway, the export of plain cottons in the year 1843 amounted to 2,212,936 yards; but in the year 1845, far from increasing, the export of cottons only amounted to 2,048,678 yards, being a decrease of 10 per cent on the amount of plain cottons exported from this country. On printed cottons, I find there was an export to those four countries of 1,207,198 yards in 1843; and in the year 1845 the quantity decreased to 971,156 yards, thus showing a decrease of 20 per cent. Then it seems it is vain for you to attempt to entice foreign countries to take your manufactures by importing their produce either free or at a low reduction of duty. You cannot, as has been ably said by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli), break down their hostile tariffs by your free imports. This was not the policy of Pitt. His policy was by treaty and negotiation to obtain reciprocal advantages for the commerce of the country. In his great measure of commercial regulation with France, Mr. Pitt distinctly founded that measure upon a ground the very reverse of the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers. He distinctly founded his policy upon this ground, not that the free air of competition was good for the producers of this country, but that the great manufactures of France, and the great productions of France, should not clash with the great productions of this country. Mr. Pitt compared the French and English to two traders, in different spheres of life, not at all interfering one with the other; and the policy of his measure was this, that whilst the duties upon French goods were reduced, especially upon French brandy, about 100 per cent, he bargained that the duties upon the manufactures of English production should on no one article exceed 15 per cent; 15, 10, and 5 per cent, were the duties levied by the French Government upon articles of British manufacture. Mr. Pitt argued, that for every 1,000l. France gave to England, she must have given a million. His 825 language, in speaking of France, was that it was ridiculous to imagine that the French would consent to yield up advantages without any idea of a return. But Her Majesty's Ministers have now put it out of their power to give any return. They have given away all they had to give. France will take, Russia will take, Prussia will take, the United States of America will take, all the boons you have offered them, and kindly thank you for the same, and in return they will give you nothing. You should have held back these advantages and bargained with them, and then you might have induced them to reduce their tariffs. Mr. Pitt did not propose to admit the grain of France or any other produce which would clash with the policy of this country. That was a sound principle of a great Minister; and did that policy differ from the policy of Mr. Huskisson or that of Mr. Canning? Why, when the United States of America raised their duties on rolled iron in the year 1823 or 1824, did Mr. Canning sit down in silence and endure that the manufacturers of this country should have higher duties placed upon their manufactures without a return of any value? No. He issued an Order in Council, and took immediate means to be avenged upon them for the high duties they had placed upon the manufactures of this country. What was the statement of Mr. Huskisson in that House, in the year 1828, when speaking of the American tariff? When that tariff was raised upon cotton, and especially upon woollen, the Americans entered into a nice calculation to know how much they would be affected by our reduction of 5d. a pound upon wool, and having ascertained that it would make a difference of 14 per cent, in the practical protection which the manufacturers of the United States received, they raised their duty immediately. Mr. Huskisson, referring to that tariff and the proceedings of the United States Government, said that if they persevered in their course he would take measures to retaliate. That Gentleman asked, how should it be expected, that if you submit passively to such proceedings as those on the part of the United States, you can expect that other countries will continue to allow your produce and manufactures to enter their markets at low duties? Mr. Huskisson even, in the article of cotton, said, you must put a duty upon cotton at once and for all, and encourage the growth of it in your own East Indies. He referred to what protection had done 826 for indigo; and said, that the time was when you had to seek your indigo from foreign markets, but by the cultivation of indigo in the East Indies, we had been enabled to supply ourselves, and so it would be with cotton. That Gentleman advised them to give to the East Indies a protecting duty on cotton, and it would then supply us with the article, and we should be no longer obliged to obtain it from America. It is very clear that Mr. Huskisson's notions of free trade were not for us to have free trade without any reciprocity. If the right hon. Baronet pretends to be a disciple of Mr. Huskisson, he is certainly not walking in the true course pointed out by that Gentleman. Neither is he walking in the course of policy followed by Mr. Canning or Mr. Pitt. But what is the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government? They appear to take a pleasure in reducing the duty on the products of those countries which have hostile tariffs. Their reductions are chiefly upon the products of the United States, of the countries of the Zollverein, of Russia, Prussia, Norway, and Sweden; and these are the countries which have the highest protective duties. It appears to me that the wiser policy would be to reduce the duties upon the products of those countries which take our manufactures at a low duty, and to reduce the duties more especially upon the products of those countries, which having no ships of their own would be obliged to carry their produce in the ships of this country. Thus China, with a population of 300,000,000—China, which levies a duty of 6½ per cent upon our goods—China, which has no ships of her own to carry her produce—China, which is removed to such a distance, that it requires a Chinaman thirteen months to make a voyage from this country to China and back—there is an opportunity, if you are determined to reduce your customs' duties—there is a great opportunity for you to encourage your trade with China. You raise 250 per cent of duty upon tea, which, next to bread, has become one of the necessaries of life to the poor in this country. On what principle do you say that you will not continue to levy a duty which never since 1842 has amounted to 27 per cent on foreign corn, and yet continue to levy a duty of 250 per cent upon tea, which is paid by the poor? We have in the reports of the Canadian newspapers which were received two days ago, an example of what the reduction of the duties on tea will do in the 827 way of consumption. I see it stated in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, that the consumption of tea in Canada has risen tenfold since they reduced the duty. Well, then, it is clear that if we reduce the duty on tea in this country, where the taste for tea has increased to a greater extent than it can possibly have done in the colder climate of North America, there can be no doubt that here also its consumption would be greatly increased. But, instead of that, you reduce the duties on the produce of those countries which will not take your manufactures in return, and which already engross the greater part of the carrying trade. Take the United States for example. I find by a report that the clearances from the port of Liverpool to ports in the United States, Boston, Charleston, Baltimore, New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia, in the year 1845, consisted of 127 British vessels, measuring 79,417 tons, and no less than 463 vessels of the United States, measuring 305,229 tons, so that four-fifths of the whole tonnage employed in that trade belong to the United States of America. By another statement, which appears to be well authenticated, it seems that of the whole shipping trade of Liverpool half is employed in the trade to our own Colonies. Therefore I think that the policy which is pursued in the measures before the House, is one which is not conducive either to the maritime strength or to the national prosperity of the country. I have said on former occasions, and I think it cannot be too often urged upon the House, that the disadvantage of the trade of this country being carried on in foreign ships, is not limited to the freights or to the crews employed, or even to the shipping interest itself. It is not limited to the shipowners, or even to the sailors, but it extends much further. The provisioning of those ships amounts to an enormous sum in the course of a year. It is perfectly clear that when a British ship comes home, and the men are paid off in a British port, all the wages earned by the seamen are spent in that British port. The publican, the baker, and the slopseller, the tailor, all come in for their share. But if the goods of a foreign country are carried in the ships of a foreign country, the sailors spend none of their money in this country. They return home—they are paid in a foreign country, and in that country they expend all their wages. Therefore, I think that many of those classes who now cry out 828 for free trade will find their own profits greatly curtailed, if the policy of Her Majesty's Ministers should issue in more of the carrying trade of this country being transferred from the shipping interest of this country to foreign ships. I am well aware, that when I urge the question of the shipping interests upon the notice of the House and the country, I shall be told in return, that though it is perfectly true that the shipping interest in the Baltic has increased threefold within the last five years, yet our own shipping has increased also. But what is that, if all other nations beat us in the race? It is no good to us that we progress at a certain pace, if all other nations should far outstrip us; and when we reflect that the number of seamen employed by us in the trade with the United States so long ago as 1769 was 28,000, and that now they only amount to 9,000, it must be admitted that the great falling-off in the employment of our seamen in those countries which from Colonies have become independent States, is matter for very important consideration. Coupled with that comes the question of the Canadas. I am aware an impression has gone forth, that notwithstanding the untoward appearance of Her Majesty's Ministers being in a minority in the Canadas, which I noticed on a former occasion—an impression has gone forth that Her Majesty's Ministers have obtained a great triumph, and that the Canadas are entirely satisfied with their policy. I confess that after having read the debates and the Canada newspapers, I am at a loss to discover on what those who take this view of the question ground their opinion. True, it is, that the first minority in which Her Majesty's Ministers were put in the Legislative Assembly of Canada has been overcome; but how has it been overcome? It has been overcome by the measures which have been introduced not coming up to the measures which were recommended by the right hon. Secretary of State for the Colonial Department. They have declined to adopt free trade; but they say there is a 3s. duty, which has been placed upon the frontier for the protection of the agriculture of Great Britain; and we consent to remove that duty. They say if you desire it we shall remove that protection; we shall consent to allow wheat to pass in bond, as it were, for exportation to the mother country. But we will not consent to adopt measures of free trade as the policy of our country. But does that express satisfaction with the measures of 829 Government? None whatever. They say, looking at our hopeless position—looking to the two parties in this House, and seeing that each of them threatens to annihilate the interests of Canada, we consent only because we feel that we have no power to resist. What is the language that is held, not by the party of M. Papineau—not by the party of M. Baldwin—not bye the Opposition; but what is the language that is held by Her Majesty's servants themselves in Canada? What is the language that is still held by Her Majesty's Solicitor General? At a meeting in Toronto that gentleman had formerly said that if the object of the Imperial measures was by gradual degrees to attach the Canadian colonists to the United States of America, that they would not be the culpable parties, but that the Imperial Legislature, over whom they had no control, must bear the blame. Is he converted now? Does he think that the measures which he formerly denounced, now to be for the benefit of the inhabitants of Canada? Far from it. This is the language, even whilst he advocates them, which he holds concerning the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers. He says, if ever there was a time when the trade, the commercial existence, the means of revenue, and the credit of Canada were in danger, it is this. What satisfaction with the measures of Her Majesty's Government is to be found in language like this? Then what says Mr. Draper, the Attorney General? He says the effects of these alterations threaten evils of the greatest consequence. What satisfaction is there to be discovered here with the measures of Her Majesty's Government? Can any one discover contentment with Her Majesty's Ministers, and approbation of the Imperial policy in language such as this? But here is the reason which he assigns for supporting the measures of free trade; that is to say, for reducing the frontier duty on wheat. I see it coming, and I tell the people of this province, it is no use shutting their eyes to the fact, that if we cannot make our works pay for what they have cost, we had better declare for bankruptcy and repudiation at once. Well, then, what is the feeling of the trade? I hold in my hand a letter from Mr. Young, of the firm of Buchanan, Hamilton, and Co., the largest firm in Canada—a firm whose capital, as I am informed, amounts to the sum of a quarter of a million sterling, whose business is entirely what is called commission business 830 —that is, the exportation of goods of all descriptions to Canada—what is the language which he holds? He writes from Hamilton. He says, that the drawback bill which the American Congress have passed, and the bill permitting the warehousing of goods which is before them, show that the Americans are alive to the new importation trade which is about to be opened up, and to take advantage of it; that the Erie Canal Company have reduced their dues on goods to the lowest point, and that offers have been made to carry goods from New York to Hamilton through the lakes by steam at the following rates—pig iron, 22½ cents, that is 11¼d.; sugar, 28 cents, or 1s. 2d.; fine goods, 33 cents, or 1s. 4½d. per 100 lbs. each. This was a cost with which they could not compete in conveying goods to Hamilton by the St. Lawrence; and the writer goes on to say, this will make New York a much more important point than it would otherwise be, and it will greatly lessen the importance of Montreal. This is the trade with which we were told Canada West was not concerned. The writer went on to say, this, of course, will be a great injury to British shipping, and a corresponding benefit to the Americans. The practice of a great trading interest is worth more than a hundred statements, or a hundred arguments. I gather from the last paragraph of this letter, that this great trading firm, whose capital amounts to a quarter of a million sterling, hold the opinion that, in consequence of the alteration in our commercial policy, they must prepare to wind up their business. Having read the paragraph, the noble Lord proceeded: Having thus dealt with the Canadian question, I look to Germany—to the Zollverein—and I ask what prospect is there of our obtaining any beneficial return for the generosity with which we have opened our commercial arms to them. I look at the results of the Zollverein, which was established in 1836. I find that the net revenue from the tolls levied by the Zollverein in 1834 amounted to 1,826,840l In the year 1844 the revenue had grown to the sum of 3,781,710l. It had more than doubled in the course of ten years. These are the results, not of free trade, but of restricted trade. I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen are well aware that the mode of distributing this revenue is according to the population in each country—that is to say, it is divided, as it were, by a poll tax upon the number of the inhabit- 831 ants. The result is, that the revenue averaged 1s. 6¾d. per head during the first period, whilst it had risen to 2s. 9½d. per head during 1844. Now, I ask whether it is reasonable to expect, when the policy of the Zollverein has answered so admirably, that the people will consent to a reduction of the tariffs from which the taxes are levied in a way so satisfactory to themselves, especially when you have no longer anything to offer them in return. Had you retained your duties—had you said we will reduce our duties on corn, on timber, or on the hosiery of Saxony; if Saxony will allow our iron, our cutlery, our hardware, our cotton, or our woollen manufactures to be imported at low duties, then that would have been a reasonable ground why our duties should have been relaxed. But you have given them all they could ask. You have opened wide your markets to them, and have left them no more they can desire, while they are prepared to protect their manufactures; and by their protection they have nursed their manufactures almost into a rivalry with our own. Their policy is this—to take your yarns and your twists—your raw manufactured articles, and then to manufacture them into valuable goods. That is the policy which they have pursued. I find that in 1836 they imported 95 centners of iron—that is, 100 lb. in weight; in 1841 they imported 98,600 centners; but they will take none of your cutlery or hardware. Of bars of iron, in 1836 they took 172 centners; which increased to 550,000 centners in 1844. I find that, in like manner, of raw yarn, in 1838, they took 363,000 centners; in 1841, they took 464,000 centners. I find that they spun at home altogether 561,000 centners of yarn, which, taking into account the difference in value between raw yarn and cotton, the average value of cotton being three or four times that of yarn, would amount to 12,000,000l sterling. And to show how protection has succeeded in nursing their manufactures, I may state, that in 1841 they exported no less than 87,000 centners of cotton hosiery goods. On these grounds, seeing no just reason to hope, in the present mode of proceeding, that you will induce foreign countries to take your manufactures — that by your course of free trade you will obtain reciprocity in return—on these grounds I have opposed the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers. I think that the result of these proceedings will be to give a benefit, a 832 great benefit, to foreigners, and to inflict a corresponding injury upon ourselves. I wish, when the circumstances of this country will admit of a reduction of taxation, that you should reduce those taxes of which the entire benefit of the reduction would go into the pockets of the people of England. I wish to see those duties reduced—if you can afford to reduce duties—which bear upon the produce of those countries which will consent to take our manufactures in return. I wish to see duties reduced in favour of those countries with which you will have an opportunity of employing your own shipping, instead of reducing duties on the produce of those countries which have ships of their own in which to convey their produce; and, above all, I object to the policy which seems to be adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers, of dealing with nations as they deal with their Friends in this House, bearing hard on those which deal kindly with you, and of making concessions only to those who oppose you. I object to their policy, that it is based on the principle of making concessions to hostile rivals, to enemies, to those who are opposed to us and to our interests; and that it refuses concessions, and turns the cold shoulder to those countries which manifest towards us a friendly feeling; and on these grounds I move that the Report be taken into further consideration this day six months.
§ MR. LAWSON
said, it was with great reluctance he had agreed to follow the noble Lord, longe sed proximus intervallo, in seconding his Motion; but he did so with the greatest sincerity, as the noble Lord's views were in accordance with the principles which he (Mr. Lawson) had entertained all his life, and particularly in 1842 when the amended Tariff was proposed. He had opposed that measure, and had he then been supported as he ought to have been, he would have pressed his Amendment to a division. However, he was glad now to find that after three years' experience of the policy of the right hon. Baronet, his Protectionist Friends agreed with him in their opinions of its injurious effects. The present dissensions in the party had been alluded to as if those who were called the country party were really acting against the principles which they had formerly supported. Now, to his certain knowledge, the opinions of his hon. Friends at that time were as much opposed to the free-trade system as they are now. The only reason why they then supported the 833 right hon. Baronet was the expectation held out to them by the right hon. Baronet, that those concessions then made would avert the necessity of further innovations, and would afford a permanent settlement of the question of free trade. He would now refer to the measures immediately before the House. And, first, as respected manufactures; he had at several previous periods stated his objection to the lowering of duties which had been for some years levied on articles of foreign manufacture. The bad effect of reducing the duty had been strongly shown by a return moved for by the hon. Member for Warwickshire. From that return it was shown that by the relaxation of duty the imports of foreign boots and shoes had been doubled, and in some cases trebled, thus displacing the profit of trade, and the wages of workmen to that amount. He was sorry that such an effect should take place under the sanction of the present Government. The next fact to which he was desirous of drawing attention was connected with the linen trade. He had stated before, that the home growth of flax was of essential service. Since he had made that statement, a Paper had been laid upon the Table of the House, fully supporting the doctrines of protection which he advocated. That Paper stated to the effect, that it would not be too much to expect that a large increase of the linen trade would take place in Ireland—a trade that, properly fostered, might run parallel with the cotton manufactures of another part of the kingdom, with this difference to the advantage of the linen trade, that whereas the raw material in one case was brought from abroad, in the other it might all be produced in this country, and the whole return be expended in labour at home. As it stood, however, five or six millions were sent out of the country annually, to the benefit of foreigners, for the purchase of that which might be grown at home with profit to the farmer, and advantage to the labourer. He would now advert to potatoes; and if the subject was distasteful to the House, he hoped the House would recollect that the whole argument of the right hon. Baronet had once been based upon the failure of the potato crop, or the appearance, as it had been called, of the potato rot, or the potato famine. The right hon. Baronet had said, with respect to the failure of the potato, "wait till May." The House had now waited until May; and what did they hear? Why, that the right hon. Baronet, in a 834 speech not long time since delivered, had said, that the loss of the potato crop was not the cause of the introduction of his free-trade measures. So these measures could now go unfettered to another House, stripped of all that maudlin sentimentality with which they had been invested by the alleged failure of the crop of potatoes. He could not avoid objecting to the use which had been made of the name of Providence, during the progress of the debates, ascribing to it the afflictive calamity which had been exaggerated for a party purpose. It has been even asserted by a noble Lord the Member for the West Riding, that "the stars in their courses fought for" free trade, thereby implying that Providence had been the author of evil, that presumed good might come—a doctrine abhorrent from just sentiments of a mild and benignant overruling Power. After this late favourable season, he would rather exclaim with the Roman historian, "Benignitate Dei, et modestiâ hiemis rebus extremis subventum est." The assertion he had made on a previous occasion as to the great fluctuations in prices since the passing of the first free-trade measures in 1842, and as to the low price at which Yorkshire potatoes had been offered in vain for sale in London, were fully borne out by facts. In respect to foreign potatoes a duty had existed in 1842 that was nearly prohibitory — he believed it amounted to 2l. If they looked to the returns connected with that article, since 1842, they would find a fair specimen of what they might reasonably expect in case they should have a free trade in corn. He would ask the following questions: Had the price of potatoes been lowered since 1842? Had their law made them independent of seasons? Had it made them receive an ample foreign supply? And lastly, had the prices been steady? In respect to the last question, the returns which he held in his hand stated that the prices of potatoes had fluctuated in 1842, 1843, and 1844, from 40s. to 90s. And in the present season the prices varied from 10s. to 150s. If that was so, what a contrast this afforded to the benefit of the sliding-scale, under which prices had been perfectly steady, and the greatest variation had been only 33 per cent. As that statement had been cheered from the Treasury Bench, he would state now, that when the greatest rise in potatoes took place, it was in December last. In December, 1843, the highest average of potatoes was 58s.; in 1844 the highest 835 average was 58s.: and in December, 1845, the prices rose to 90s. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would cheer this. The moment that Peel's Tariff came out, from 90s. they went up to 150s. It appeared by the reports that up to the 1st January, 1846, the greatest increase in any article of export was in potatoes, the declared value having been before that 5,000l., and for the year ending January, 1846, it was 23,000l. He presumed that 23,000l. would purchase 10,000 tons of potatoes. If that was the case, what became of the declaration of the Premier, that he could not find vessels to import 10,000 tons of potatoes? If there were vessels sufficient to export 10,000 tons of potatoes, there would certainly be vessels sufficient to import them. It had been said that potatoes were plentiful in Yorkshire, and he could quote from two respectable local journals, the Leeds Mercury and the Leeds Intelligencer, in corroboration of this. One paragraph which gave the information was headed "Important Fact." In this paragraph it was said that 600 bushels of potatoes were offering weekly at 2s. a bushel. They had also been sold at 5d. and 6d. per peck. A gentleman, an inhabitant of that county, had also told him that potatoes were 2s. a bushel in Yorkshire. He had also written to his man of business in Yorkshire upon this subject, and he had found that potatoes were selling near Ripon, from 20d. to 2s. and 2s. 4d. a bushel. At Knaresborough the price was 2s., though they were now becoming scarce for seed. The same person also said, that so large a quantity of potatoes had been set this year, that the produce would be extremely large, and the price low. He (Mr. Lawson) had also stated, that a cargo of potatoes had been brought up to London from Yorkshire, and could not be sold. He was now prepared to show that this was really the case. He held a letter in his hand, detailing all the circumstances. The potatoes came from Howden. They were in quantity fifty tons, had cost 88s. a ton, and, after being dressed for the London market, they probably cost 96s. per ton. The cargo was kept in London six weeks, and could not be sold even at 50s. per ton. This very cargo was now at Selby, on its way to Leeds. [Sir R. PEEL: Was the cargo good?] Yes. He feared that if the measures of the right hon. Baronet passed, which he trusted they would not, corn would get into the hands of factors, as potatoes had done. He would now refer 836 to the progress of the measure in another place. After the arguments which had been addressed to the fears of the Members of another House, he should say, that if any one of those noble persons possessed the spirit of their ancestors, they would not yield that to clamour which they have refused to argument. If, however, any of the aristocracy should truckle to any Government in power, and should betray that want of moral courage and fortitude the presence of which, in his opinion, was one of the highest ornaments of those who were of the highest birth in this country, then he would say—What will ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards?Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards.Although in one instance it had been attempted to reanimate that blood by an infusion of curry-powder, he thought the blood of the Howards would fail in gaining the respect of the country if they were found truckling or subservient to Ministers. He trusted, however, that there was not the slightest chance of the passing of this measure, which, in his opinion, would be as destructive of individual interests as it would be productive of national degradation.
§ ALDERMAN HUMPHERY
said, the hon. Member must have been wofully deceived to suppose that potatoes bought in Yorkshire at 88s. a ton, and raised by other charges to 95s., could be sent to London, kept for six weeks, and then offered at 50s. a ton. It so happened that from 20,000 to 30,000 tons of potatoes passed over his wharf annually; and therefore he must know something of the matter. He did not believe that at any time there had been potatoes at 50s. a ton, except in a very abundant season, when they had been sold for the cows. This year potatoes had come to London from Yorkshire and Scotland; and in the result they had been found to be very bad; many cargoes having been thrown overboard because they had been spoiled. At the present moment, and he believed through the whole winter, potatoes grown in Yorkshire, and known as the Scotch reds, had fetched 5l. to 6l. per ton at the water side; in fact, they had been dearer this year than any year within his recollection. No potatoes had been sold of the quality spoken of by the hon. Member, the Yorkshire reds, under 4l., and even these were not of first-rate quality. If the hon. Member would only let him look at those letters, he should be able to prove that it was a perfect hoax from first to 837 last. He should think that the potatoes must have been rotten; and it being found that there was no chance of their being sold they were taken back. [Mr. LAWSON handed the letter to the worthy Alderman.] The potatoes must of necessity have been in a state of decomposition; and the only way in which he could explain the case was by supposing that the owner of the ship was determined to get his freight for them, and not being able to get it in London took them back to Yorkshire.
The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
did not wish to prolong the discussion on the subject of which his hon. Friend had spoken. He had heard his hon. Friend's statement with very considerable surprise, for he could not, any more than the worthy Alderman opposite, account for a Yorkshireman having resorted to so singular an expedient with his potatoes, unless he were to suppose it possible that they might have been intended as a screen for the conveyance of some smuggled article, a circumstance which would take away any wish he might have to examine his hon. Friend's correspondence. The observations of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn appeared to him to be directed to two points: one was, a general objection entertained by the noble Lord to the removal of customs duties as compared with excise duties; the other referred to the inexpediency of making any reduction of duty on articles introduced from countries which did not give us a corresponding advantage. In dealing with the financial part of the question, the noble Lord, he must say, did lay down some principles of finance which at least had the merit of being entirely new, but were of such a character that he thought there was no chance of seeing them carried into effect by any persons who might be responsible for the conduct of the public finances, unless, indeed, the noble Lord himself should be in a situation to induce the House to accede to principles as novel as those which he had announced. He must say, also, that the noble Lord had stated some principles applying to trade not less extraordinary than those he had recommended the House to adopt with respect to finance. But there was one consolation to those who had heard the noble Lord—the one part of his speech was an effectual answer to the other; so that those who heard the noble Lord had the advantage at once of hearing his objections, and of hearing them completely answered. The noble 838 Lord laid it down as a general principle that excise duties ought to be repealed; that by the total repeal you offer a great relief to persons dealing in excisable articles, and get rid of the establishments employed in their collection. He gave the noble Lord the benefit of the whole of that argument; he admitted that if you could repeal all the excise duties you would both give great relief to the consumers, and get rid of establishments which must be maintained so long as you retain any part of the duties. But when the noble Lord proposed to raise the whole revenue by an augmentation of the customs duties commensurate with the reduction in the excise, he attempted a system of revenue which could not be carried into effect with advantage to this country. If there were arguments in favour of customs duties on particular articles, parallel arguments might be adduced with respect to excise duties on certain articles, or with respect to other taxes, which might, nevertheless, operate unfavourably on particular classes of persons. The adoption of one or other class of duties was, after all, a mere question of apportioning an inconvenient burden in the manner least obstructive to the progress of trade, and least prejudicial to the general interests of the community. If we, having a large revenue to maintain, took on ourselves to repeal the greater portion of the excise duties, the necessary consequence would be the imposition on the foreign trade of this country of a greater burden, which would injuriously interfere with its progress, and would lay an unfair burden on persons consuming articles of general use imported into this country. Balancing the inconveniences and benefits which would result to the trade of this country, he believed the system of the noble Lord would be prejudicial. The noble Lord gave a statement of particular articles, the duties on which he thought it would be advisable to repeal, beginning with soap, the duty on which he described as being so heavy as to prevent the consumption of the article among the body of the community. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had never disputed that the repeal of the soap duty—provided the revenue would bear it—would be a great advantage to the community; nor had he denied that the removal of a portion of the same duty some years ago did produce great benefit. But let him remind the noble Lord that the price paid for soap by the community generally, had hitherto been compounded of several ele- 839 ments—partly of the duties levied on imported commodities of which the soap was made, and partly of the excise duty on the manufactured article itself. If they had not repealed the excise duty, and given relief to the consumer by that reduction, they had at least given the public this advantage—the duty on the tallow of which the soap was made had been reduced one-half, that on the oil of which the soap was made had been reduced. ["Hear."] Ay, but give him leave to say these were the modes in which the industry of the country had been stimulated, and foreign trade encouraged; and they had conferred advantages more than equal to those which would have been derived if a corresponding reduction in the excise duty on the manufactured article had been made. Considering these things, he did not hesitate to say that the public had benefited more by a reduction of duties on the articles of which the soap was made, than they would have done by the repeal of an equal amount of the excise duty. The tax imposed on the raw material of manufacture necessarily enhanced the price of the manufactured article beyond the amount of the tax; whereas the excise duty being levied on the last stage of the manufacture, and credit being allowed for the duty for a considerable period, the manufacturer had an advantage, and was enabled to impose no greater burden on the public than the amount actually paid into the Exchequer. He did not mean to undervalue the benefits that would result to trade from a revision of the excise laws; he was only setting off against the inconvenience of the excise laws, the inconvenience of exorbitant customs duties. In a period of general peace, when trade must be encouraged, and the amount of benefit to the community in general must depend on the extent to which it was encouraged, he did not think it would be wise to depart from the principle hitherto followed in England of dividing the duties levied on articles between the customs and excise. In another part of his speech, the noble Lord paid a tribute, in which every man must concur, to the merits of former finance Ministers—Pitt, Canning, and Huskisson. But did the noble Lord ever hear from them that it was advisable to transfer a larger portion of the revenue from the excise to the customs? Quite the contrary. The wisest course appeared to him to be to divide between the two branches such remissions of taxation as could be afforded. It was impossible to deny that such a course had 840 hitherto been advantageous to the revenue, and had more than answered the expectations that had been formed of it. With respect to the duty on malt, the noble Lord had estimated it at five millions, and acknowledged the difficulty of replacing that amount of revenue, but recommended the reimposition of duty on beer. That any one professing the horror of the excise which the noble Lord had expressed should propose such a course, appeared a most extraordinary financial proceeding. How would it operate? Either the excise officer must be introduced into every dwelling where beer was brewed, or only into the public breweries and places where beer was sold. It had been an object with benevolent persons to encourage homebrewing by small farmers and the poorer classes, and such a course had been deemed beneficial to the agricultural interest. But if the tax on beer was to be general, every cottage and farm must be brought under the control of the excise officer. But if the visits of the excise were to be confined to the public breweries, upon whom was the tax imposed? Upon the lower classes, who bought their beer; while those who had the means of brewing for themselves would be exempt. He had been instrumental in removing this duty; and he should indeed regret if the House were induced by the arguments of the noble Lord to reimpose it. Certainly, to collect the malt duty there must be a supervision of the parties who were to pay it, and that supervision did interfere in some measure with the trade. But weigh that inconvenience against the consequences that flowed from the beer duty, and every one who had paid any attention to the subject would agree that the malt duty was more equitable in its operation, and less liable to abuse than the excise on beer. The noble Lord had thought proper to be jocular upon the report of a gentleman who had taken the trouble to conduct some experiments upon the fattening properties of malt, and had complained of the process not having been intrusted to a gentleman conversant with agriculture; but why the experiments of weighing the food and weighing the cattle, and observing the results, should not have been conducted by the gentleman who had so kindly undertaken the task, could not well be conceived. The result of those experiments had been long known, and he had not yet heard of any agricultural gentleman having undertaken experiments to 841 show that that result was erroneous; and until some experiments had been made with equal accuracy to those the report of which had been laid on the Table, the noble Lord would excuse him if he were a little incredulous upon the objections which the noble Lord had raised to the latter. With respect to hops, the grower had had the monopoly of the market; the foreign grower was subject to duty on his hops when imported, and it did not appear to him to be one of the articles calling now for a removal of the duty. Then with regard to the 400 per cent on spirits, Parliament and finance Ministers had agreed that spirit was an article which should be subject to the highest duty of which it was susceptible; and if it were so subjected, it was satisfactory to know that in this country at least the duty was not beyond what the article would bear without creating illicit manufacture. He did not know, when the noble Lord proposed the reduction of the duty on home spirits, whether he intended to retain the duty on the foreign article, and thus produce the evils which would proceed from a low price of the former, while the latter would practically be excluded from the market. The noble Lord referred to the objection he had formerly made to the reduction of the duty on timber. The noble Lord made the most extraordinary financial proposition on this point that he had ever heard. The noble Lord admitted distinctly that there had been a great increase in the timber trade since the period when the duty was reduced. But he said, "See what a benefit the revenue would have derived if you had not altered the duty; in the year 1841 the timber introduced was only 500,000 loads, whilst in 1845 it was above 1,000,000 loads; and if you had retained the old duty of 55s., instead of 25s., you would have made 1,500,000l. of additional timber duty;" forgetting, most, unaccountably, that the large increase of importation was the result of the reduction of the duty. And the noble Lord said the consumer had not got the whole of the benefit of the reduced duty, because part of it had gone into the pocket of the grower in Denmark. He was willing to admit that with respect to the last year; in the preceding year the consumer got the whole benefit of the reduction of duty. In the latter year there had been an increased demand for timber, and the demand having been greater than the supply, there had been a rise in price. But would 842 not that have been equally the case if the theory of the noble Lord was correct according to his doctrine? If the duty had not been reduced there would have been the same demand on the foreign grower, and the same advantage would have been derived by him in a pecuniary point of view. But there was one great error running through the whole of the noble Lord's calculations. The noble Lord supposed that in matters of trade the necessary advantage of one country was the disadvantage of another; and he could not understand how in matters of trade the advantages were mutual. In ordinary life, it frequently happened that the prosperity of one man depended on that of his neighbour. With respect to trade, he was confident that was the case; and he did not admit that because the Northern Powers might have profited by the reduction of duty and the increased introduction of the articles of their produce, that this country had therefore suffered, or had not been equally benefited. How did the noble Lord show that this country had not been benefited? The noble Lord said, "You have not exported to Prussia or Russia a quantity of cotton corresponding with the amount of timber you have received." But that was no proof that this country was a loser by the trade. If cotton had not been sent, how did it get paid for? If they looked at the general mass of manufactures sent to foreign nations, they would observe in that mass that although Russia or Prussia refused to receive some goods direct from this country, they did receive the value of those articles which were sent to other countries; and the only effect was that instead of Prussia or Russia taking them directly, they were sent to a distant country, and exchanged for other commodities which suited Russia and Prussia. Then as to the remarks of the noble Lord with respect to shipping. If the shipping of Prussia had increased, the shipping of England had increased also, having more than doubled since the year 1822. We ought rather to look with thankfulness on the increase of our own resources, than with jealousy on the increase of the commerce of other countries. The noble Lord had adverted to the situation of Canada, and intimated that the measures which had been recommended to the House were calculated to damp the loyalty of that portion of Her Majesty's subjects, and lead them to encourage the prospect of separation. He had 843 this day laid on the Table the despatches which had been moved for a few nights ago. And what was the result? It was said, at an early period of the discussion, that there would be a great outcry in Canada for a reduction of the duties on timber; that the reduction would annihilate the produce, and create universal dissatisfaction. But what was the prayer of the Legislative Assembly in their recorded address to this country? Did they object to this reduction of the timber duties as a matter likely to affect their interests, and alienate their affections from this country? Not at all. They did not say one syllabic on the subject of the timber duties; they prayed only that instead of levying a duty of 1s. on corn, the duty might be 1d. It had been said that the House of Assembly in Canada had opposed the measures of the Government, and carried an adjournment against the Government by a majority of seven. Now, what was the fact? The instructions given on the subject of the 3s. duty on the import of corn was this — that the Colony should be at liberty to pursue the course they might think most conducive to their own colonial interest; and the representative of the Government in the House suggested the repeal of that duty. A proposition was made to adjourn the debate, and that adjournment was carried by a majority of seven; but on a subsequent and no distant day a reduction of 3s. was proposed, and, so far from the Government being in a minority, there were two divisions, in one of which there was a majority of sixteen, and in the other a majority of twenty. The noble Lord had mistaken the point on which the debate arose. The United States had completed a canal to Lake Erie, by means of which the produce of Western Canada could be taken to New York, and Canada be supplied by articles from thence by that canal; this measure had been favoured by the United States Government. The parties who were debating the question in Canada said they had spent 1,500,000l. in completing the water communication by means of the St. Lawrence and the canals attached to it, and if the American Government conveyed that produce to New York, the canals would be useless; they must, therefore, exert themselves to bring the trade down their own canals. That was the object to which the attention of the House of Assembly was directed. There could be no doubt that Canada 844 had derived a great and permanent advantage from her connexion with this country. Her trade had been extended—her capital increased—her improvement promoted—and if the sense of the province could be taken, man by man, as to the improvement of her situation by a connexion with the United States, he believed the party in favour of such a connexion would be small indeed. The great principle laid down by the noble Lord was this, that where a foreign country imposes a duty on our commodities, we are bound to impose a similar duty on the commodities of that country: he recommended a perpetual war of tariffs between countries. To a course of this kind he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) entertained the most decided objection. It was the duty of every nation to do all in her power to promote the continuance of peace, and the blessings which peace bestowed. By hostile tariffs, a state of complaint, dissatisfaction, and jealousy, was begotten; which, however dexterously it might be softened for a time, must, in the end, give rise to animosity and a dissolution of the ties of amity and friendship. History showed that some of the most disastrous wars had arisen upon commercial subjects—the imposition of duties, and the contests for monopoly — such as the noble Lord recommended. In such a course he could not acquiesce; he protested against the doctrines the noble Lord had laid down; and so far from sharing in the apprehensions he had expressed regarding the present Bill, he recommended it to the House as a measure calculated not only to produce the best financial results, but to promote amity and friendship with the nations with which our trade was carried on.
§ MR. BANKES
complained that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had misrepresented the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, into whose mouth he first put a speech which that noble Lord had never delivered, and then addressed himself to the task of replying to it. The right hon. Gentleman would appear to have misconceived and misunderstood every proposition the noble Lord had submitted. But the protectionist party, sitting where they were, were placed in an unfortunate position for opposition, for they could reach but one ear of the Minister, and, as had been facetiously remarked, that ear was stuffed with cotton. The noble Lord had never, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to suppose, made any such proposition as that all excise duties should be 845 abolished, and that the revenue should be derived from the customs alone. He had objected to the mode in which the customs were sought to be treated by this Bill; and he had called upon the Government, before they proceeded to show favour to countries which maintained hostile tariffs, to consider whether a better mode of lightening the burdens on this country, and of supplying the necessary wants of our people at a cheap rate, might not be obtained by lowering some of the excise duties. The better and wiser course surely would be to keep up some customs duties, for the purpose of commercial dealing, if for no other reason, and in order that when we came to negotiate on mercantile matters with other nations we might have something in our hands wherewith to barter and make an interchange. This doctrine had been advocated by Mr. Huskisson. The noble Lord had urged it upon the consideration of the Ministers; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not considered it worth his while to devote one thought or one observation to it. The right hon. Gentleman had also treated hops very cavalierly. He had in general terms denied the statement of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; but he had not dislodged him from his position, nor adduced a single reason for disputing the benefit which was sure to result to all classes from the reduction of the duty on hops. He (Mr. Bankes) opposed the reception of the report on this Bill, because he felt convinced that the alterations and modifications which the measure proposed, would prove injurious in a very fatal degree to the interests of the operative classes in this country. He had received authentic intelligence from Manchester, which went to show that the reductions of duty which had been already adopted under the resolutions of that House, had tended to the disadvantage and injury of the working man. A reduction of twopence or threepence a gross had been made in silk hatbands, and it had already led to a reduction of 2s. a week, or thereabouts, in the wages of the operative. Again, in the article of that description of silk used in parasols, a reduction of a halfpenny a yard had taken place, which had caused a diminution in the wages of the operative of 2½d. a day—that was to say, 15d. a week, or 60s. per annum. These were but small matters to be sure, but they showed what the general effect of the measure would be. With respect to Canada and the disfavour with which the 846 Canadians viewed these proceedings of the Ministers, he must say he had heard nothing on the subject to contradict or disprove the statements made by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. No demonstration whatever of approval of the Ministers' policy had been made by the Assembly of Canada. The fact was that a solemn silence appeared to reign through that Assemby, whose members, he verily believed, were full of amazement and discontent at the measures proposed to be adopted in the mother country. Reference had been made in the course of that debate to the price of potatoes in England. He had always inclined to the belief that much unwarrantable alarm had existed on this subject; and he had made inquiries, the result of which justified this impression. He had recently received a letter from a respectable party in Nottingham, who stated that, allured by the representations of coming scarcity in this article of provision which had been made in that House, especially by Ministers, he had been induced to purchase 450 sacks, which he supposed would prove a very profitable speculation; but this anticipation had been completely frustrated; and he found that so far from being a gainer, he would be a loser by the transaction to the amount of 40l., for he found it impossible to get more than 4d. a stone for the best kidney potatoes. This did not look very like scarcity. Statements received from Ireland showed that in very many districts of that country the price was not unreasonably high, and that there was then even an inclination to fall. It appeared to be the unhappy destiny of the Ministers "to see the right, and yet pursue the wrong." The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had declared his conviction that the quantity of corn which had accumulated in bond in January last might have been then liberated with great benefit to the consumer, and without injury to the producer. Why, then, had it not been liberated? The Ministry had the power to do so in their own hands. They thought, too, that it would have been proper to have called Parliament together in November last; but they had neglected to do so. They had a strong conviction that it would have been a wise proceeding to have opened the ports; but this too they had neglected to do. And yet they were in a position to have done all these things, for it appeared that the protectionist party would have been unable to control them, however desirous 847 they might be of doing so. Let not that party, therefore, be blamed if evil arose, as it would unquestionably arise, from the sudden influx of an enormous inundation of grain. The hon. Member concluded by expressing his determination to oppose in all their stages the measures of the Government, which he said were viewed with dislike and distrust out of doors. The Ministry might rest assured that there was throughout the country, even in the manufacturing and commercial classes, distaste for the measures of the Government, and a doubt as to their policy.
§ MR. HAWES
was not prepared on that occasion to follow the hon. Member who had just spoken into a new discussion on the Corn Bill; neither was he prepared to go into the question as to whether they ought to repeal the excise duties, and impose other duties in lieu of them; but he did wish to call the attention of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn to one circumstance. In answer to the hon. Member who had just spoken, he would ask if there were such a distaste of this measure throughout the country as the hon. Member asserted there was, how did it happen that, affecting as the measure did (he meant the Customs duties measure then before them) so materially the commercial and manufacturing interests of the country, no one connected with the commercial or manufacturing interests had risen to support the views of the noble Lord? He inferred from that circumstance, that the mercantile interest did not regard the measure with distaste; but that, on the contrary, they believed it calculated to promote the general trade and the general interest of the country. He might add, that so far as his own experience went, the measure was highly acceptable to the country, and that the only thing unacceptable about it was the delay which it had encountered in that House. The evil effects of that delay could not be overrated. It was all very well to say, that in consequence of the Treasury Order the articles included in the Bill were practically free of duty; but when it was remembered that the parties who gave the bond required by the Treasury were still responsible for the duties, and when the House considered the number of transactions that were daily taking place in reference to those articles, he thought it would appreciate the uneasiness these parties felt when they believed that it was just possible the measure might not pass. Mr. Pitt had been claimed by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn as a 848 friend to protection; but he would mention a circumstance which would show the House whether Mr. Pitt's policy were really in favour of protection or of free trade. Soon after the American war of independence Mr. Pitt introduced a Bill into that House to put the trade of America on the footing of the coasting trade of this country. The Bill, he was sorry to say, was opposed by the liberal party of that day, and lost; but, had it passed, we should long ago have had that state of free trade and free intercourse with America which we were only now struggling to obtain. Mr. Pitt's authority, then, so far as it was worth anything, was decidedly in favour of free trade. In conclusion, he begged to impress upon the House the importance of allowing this measure to pass as rapidly as possible.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
said, the hon. Member observed that the manufacturing and commercial interests were not represented by any opposition in the House to the proposed measures. Need he remind the hon. Member for Lambeth that the place which the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) near him represented was a commercial town. The noble Lord did not represent an agricultural constituency. But he would venture to say, that the Parliamentary history of this country had shown in neither House of the Legislature an hon. Member who had proved himself so worthy the gratitude and respect of the labouring classes of his fellow countrymen—a gratitude and respect which were freely recognized, as the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. And whether the noble Lord pressed his Motion to a division or not, it must be admitted that the principles upon which it was framed were broad, comprehensive, intelligible, and just. He contended that the principles upon which the present Bill was framed, of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market, however they were applicable to private individuals, were not at all applicable so far as nations were concerned, in which a great variety of important interests were to be consulted. It was the duty of every nation to protect its own productions and industry from foreign competition; and he maintained that to compel the highly-taxed agriculturist of this country to enter into an unfair competition with the cheap labour of other countries, was an injustice which could not be defended. It was to relieve his countrymen from this grievous wrong that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn was di- 849 recting his efforts. Whether the noble Lord the Member for Lynn divided the House or not, the labouring industry of this country would be his debtor to a very large extent for the stand which he had made in their behalf.
§ MR. PLUMPTRE,
adverting to the charge which had been made against the protectionist party, of having delayed the measures of the Government, said that they were called upon to break down a system under which this country had long flourished; and if, therefore, instead of a few weeks, Parliament had been for the whole Session—nay, for the whole seven years of its duration, employed in discussing the measure, he would have been ready to pronounce the consumption of their time perfectly justifiable. The question was, whether they would sanction a system by which the commerce of this country would be ruined? One of his chief motives for addressing the House was in order to correct a misrepresentation connected with the produce of the county which he had the honour to represent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, alluding to the subject of hops, said that the home producer would be placed by the Bill in a more favourable position than the foreign grower. He had had an opportunity of looking into the subject, particularly as connected with tithes. He found that in one parish the ordinary charge in lieu of tithes was 15s. per acre, and the extraordinary charge 12s.—making together 27s. per acre. He found also that in a neighbouring parish the ordinary charge was 14s. 6d., and the extraordinary 12s. He had also received, in answer to a letter addressed by him to one of the largest growers of hops, near Canterbury, a reply stating that for the best soils the ordinary charge was 12s., and the extraordinary charge 14s. per acre; and in the inferior soils the ordinary charge 9s. or 10s., and the extraordinary charge from 10s. to 12s. The tithes were equivalent to a charge of 5s. per cwt. on hops, which, with other charges, amounted to nearly 20s. of certain payments, exclusive of poor rates and other local and indirect taxes, to none of which the foreigner was subject, but which the farmer must pay whether he sold his hops or not. The foreigner ought not to be allowed to import hops without paying a sum equal to these charges. The writer, moreover, stated his conviction that the effect of this measure would be to throw out of plant the culture of 850 many acres in East Kent, the best part of the county for hop growing.
§ DR. BOWRING
said, it had been to him a source of the greatest gratification that the failure of the many attempts which had been made to coerce foreign Governments by a system of restrictions, menaces, and reprisals, had been succeeded by a wiser policy—that of conciliation and free trade. It was far better to welcome foreigners to our ports by inviting imports, than to alienate and repel them by hostile tariffs. The policy of peace was sure in the long run to be successful—and to be permanently and advantageously triumphant. The sagacious and amicable legislation of the present Government had already made its way to the friendly co-operation of many countries, and it would ere long influence all. If we welcomed imports we should force exports—if we bought from foreigners they would be compelled to buy of us. We should create advocates and allies in the countries where now we had only opponents and rivals. We should teach lessons that would everywhere be learned. Our reforms would reform the world. It was gratifying to look round and watch the effect—the already visible effect of the measures of the Ministry. They had found a response more or less audible in every part of the civilized world. That selfish policy which had been supposed to be the groundwork of the whole of our commercial system, was felt to be no longer reconcileable with the well-being—with the prosperity—with the augmented wealth of other nations. He had had the satisfaction of receiving from every quarter of the compass testimonials to the popularity of the right hon. Baronet. It was at last seen that we were giving practical assent to the lessons of political economy, which we had been accused of being willing to teach others, but which we neglected or refused to apply to ourselves. He would ask leave to read to the House a passage from an interesting and eloquent letter he had that day received from Elihu Burritt, than whom no man had been more instrumental in encouraging and strengthening the pacific spirit—the cultivation of friendly relations between his country and ours:—When (he says) free trade shall be ushered in to sweep from the face of the earth the mountainous ranges of prejudice and nationality, which have made enemies of nations, there will be no questions of disputed territories to embitter them, no narrow-minded policy to feed international jealousy, or dam the currents of fraternal and commercial intercourse. The smallest nation 851 may then say—the whole boundless earth is ours, where we may buy, sell, and trade in the commerce of good-will, without any to molest or make us afraid. If by free trade, England should lose Oregon, and even Canada, she would gain in the United States what would be worth to her a dozeu of either of those countries. For one, I regard free trade as the commercial harbinger of the millennium which shall beat all swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks. Even in anticipation of the partial triumph of this gospel economy, in the opening of your ports to corn, and other productions of our great West, the warlike people of that region are even now fulfilling that blessed prophecy in a degree—they are breaking their swords into ploughshares, and driving those ploughshares deep into their Eden soil, inspired with the hope of feeding the British. I devoutly hope that the coming seed time, in that vast region of unequalled fertility, will be a better seed time of feelings towards Great Britain. I cannot find words to express my sense of the importance to humanity at large, of annexing that rich universe of land to your crowded shores, by opening your ports to its produce. The moral influence of such a measure on the labouring people of both countries cannot be meted out in words: there are thousands and thousands in that region of our country, living in the rudest state of civilization with regard to every article of furniture, dress, and the other comforts and elegancies known to a cultivated society, while at the same time they are surrounded with breastworks of golden corn and wheat. On the other hand, are there not thousands and thousands of ill-fed labourers in your country, pining amid fabrics that would adorn princes—articles of clothing and comfort, which, if exchanged for food, would fill our great West with the paradise of comfortable homes, transformed from the floorless log cabins of Western wheat-growers. What an effect it would have on the morals of your manufacturing population, if the fountains of American food should be broken up to feed them from our granaries!The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) had represented the project of free-trade principles as likoly to alienate the Canadian provinces. But they knew their interests far better, and began to feel that emancipation from all commercial fetters was calculated far more to serve them than any restriction upon their trade. Had he read the proceedings of the public meeting at Montreal, held so lately as the 9th of last month? Many resolutions were vehemently debated—some were rejected; but what was the resolution passed by an overwhelming majority? It was this:—Moved by Mr. Glass, seconded by Mr. Holton—That, in order to render the application of free-trade principles thoroughly effectual, it is necessary to embrace them in all their comprehensiveness in this Colony; that protection and regulation in every form should be repudiated, and the commerce of the Colony approximated as nearly to perfect freedom as the exigencies of the public revenue will permit.Could the friends of free trade desire a stronger testimony? Could the principles 852 of free trade be more clearly laid down and recognized? No! And we were willing, while we claimed for ourselves the right to buy in the cheapest, and to sell in the dearest market, to allow the same privilege to our fellow countrymen, wherever they were placed. Recognizing no monopolies—repudiating all differential duties—we wished not to impose monopolies on others, or to require preferences for ourselves or our Colonies. We enact no reservations. We demanded freedom, absolute freedom, for labour and capital. The good work was everywhere progressing. France, so long the model of all that is narrow and restrictive—France, that had carried the doctrines of self-dependence, and abhorrence of free-trade principles, to the extreme—was already beginning to feel the absurdity of her legislation, and to agitate for its change. The Vine-growers' Committee of the south were again in a state of active exertion. Paris was creating a League for the emancipation of commerce, whose influence was already making its way to the Chambers. The Tariff which we were now discussing answered, and answered most emphatically, those who told us that before administering to others, we should heal our own diseases. That is our immediate mission—that is our present occupation. We are giving the best evidence of the sincerity of our purposes. We leave the reform of the faults of other nations, not to our representatives, not to our negotiations, but to a sense of the interests of those whom hostile tariffs were intended to delude and to pillage. The deluded and the pillaged consumer will awake, ere long, to recognize how much he has been betrayed; and there is no country where the awakening will be more complete than in France. In Germany the reaction has already begun. The legislation upon which we were entering has already enabled Prussia to resist the demands for increased duties upon British manufactures, which has come from the Southern States of the Zollverein. The doctrines of List—one of the most mischievous and untrustworthy of men—are beginning to be exploded, though an immense circulation had been given to them by the manufacturers of Germany. Under the names of patriotism and nationality, the German people have been cozened into a system which, after all, is but a robbery on a large scale, disguised under false names. No doubt the earlier adoption of free-trade principles would have prevented much of the absurd and hostile legislation 853 of the Zollverein. If the act done cannot be repaired, at all events its progress will be arrested now. Italy is also moving in the right direction; the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, after having been long the victim of the protective system, to use the words of a high authority whose report he (Dr. Bowring) was now reading, is already entering upon commercial treaties with France, England, Austria, Sardinia, and other States, and, encouraged by the results of liberal legislation, is moving boldly forward in that direction. The Papal Government, which has pushed protection and prohibition to their very extremes, has at last acknowledged that these are "economical heresies," under whose influence its commerce has perished; its manufactures have not prospered, and the steps it has taken in the way of liberal commercial legislation have already been rewarded by an increase of revenue, and an obvious augmentation of the public prosperity. The Sardinian Government is also making progress. It cherished with pertinacity the protective system; but that system failed. Modifications have been introduced, and one has been the parent of another. Every tendency towards commercial liberty has been fruitful of good—has strengthened the desire for more facilities to trade—for a wider field of intercourse—and, to use the words of an Italian writer in an essay which has just appeared at Turin—The time is now matured for important commercial changes; Sir Robert Peel will succeed. The first nation in the world must act upon all others; and her policy, which is already bringing the various Italian Governments into co-operation, will, through the numerous channels of her political and social influences—by successful modifications of hostile tariffs—create a general tendency towards, and prepare a not distant triumph for, the universal emancipation of the world.Even in Spain a ray of hope is visible. The Report of our Import Duties' Committee has been translated into Spanish. The proceedings of the League have there attracted much attention. The newspapers are beginning to enlighten the Spanish mind on these important questions. In a word, whichever way we look, the signs of the times are encouraging. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) has found much to invite him forward; and while so proceeding forward, to remove every impediment, every difficulty in the way of the freest intercourse, he will be hailed, in the proportion to his merits, as the benefactor of his country and of mankind.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
thought that the 854 House was fully entitled to the foreign experience of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, seeing that he had been paid 13,500l. for his services on various roving commissions. The hon. and learned Member had called the right hon. Baronet the most popular man in Europe: the Lord deliver him from such popularity! Perhaps if the right hon. Baronet would again avail himself of the hon. and learned Member's services, the latter would consider him the most popular man in England. The hon. and learned Gentleman's language was, "Give us the friendship of France, Tuscany, Spain, and Italy, and we should care nothing about our own people." The hon. and learned Gentleman was so enamoured with the conduct of the right hon. Baronet, that he had better at once come over to the Ministerial side of the House. Whatever might be the immediate result of the Government measure in the end, he was sure in the end the truth would prevail, and the country would know who were their friends. The right hon. Baronet would have cause, ere long, to repent of the course he had adopted. All he would say was, that if he wanted to find an instance of apostacy, hypocrisy, and perfidy, he would point out the right hon. Baronet. He should, from a sense of duty, support the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ MR. HENLEY
censured the conduct of the Government in repealing taxes in deference to agitation. It was only those who made a noise about a tax who got it repealed. Turnpike-gates were not suppressed in Wales till Rebecca came; the gentlemen of the League had kicked up a row, and had got their object. The agriculturists wished for the repeal of the malt tax; but they repressed agitation instead of encouraging it, and, consequently, got no relief. This was not treating the agriculturists quite fairly. He would not enter into the great question whether customs or excise duties ought to be taken off; but when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that they ought to be taken off equally, he begged to say that was not the course pursued; a much larger amount of customs than excise duties had always been removed: if excise duties were taken off they must do away with a great deal of patronage; but by repealing customs duties they were always told that not a single custom-house officer less would be required, and that was the reason why the latter duties were taken off, and not the former. To all Governments it was as natural as 855 eating their breakfast to keep up patronage—it was a part of the system and mystery of Government. He did not impute it in particular to the present Government; it was common to all Governments. There was another matter at which he could not help looking with apprehension. At present the taxation of this country was spread over a vast surface: they had learnt by experience that indirect taxation had run its limits, and they had had some experience also that direct taxation was in nearly the same state; the property tax was not now nearly so productive as at first; but it was evidently the intention of the Government to reduce the revenue to as few heads as possible, and he did not deny that some expense of collection might thereby be saved; but he recollected the agitation against the income tax, then producing 1,000,000l. The Minister said that he could not do without it; but the people would not pay it, and the Minister did without it. Now, when the mass of the revenue was collected from a few heads of taxation only, they might have a run against one of those heads, and some fine morning suddenly find themselves short of the money to pay the national creditors. The hon. and learned Doctor (Bowring) had said that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was the most popular man in Europe; it was possible that his present measures tended to make him so, as they were more calculated to benefit foreigners than Englishmen; but, for his own part, he should prefer that the right hon. Baronet was the most popular man in England.
§ MR. HUDSON,
in addressing a few words on the subject of this measure, said, in reference to the silk question, that the mere consumption of a greater amount of the raw material was not the proper test of the state of those employed in that manufacture; but that the real test was, whether those employed were better paid for their labour. He contended that they were worse paid than previously. Again, in regard to what the Government was doing with timber, it would have been preferable to have reduced the excise duty on bricks; for, in the one case, the advantage went into the pockets of the foreigner, whilst, in the latter case, the benefit would be on the side of their own countrymen. He and his Friends around him objected to these measures of the Government because they were of an un-English character. They put, too, 10, and, in some instances, 15 856 per cent of protection on manufactures, whilst they deprived the land of all protection by their Corn Law Repeal Bill—at least, within a very short period; and, though he might be met with the argument that this was a question of revenue, he could not see why the revenue argument should not be equally applied to the produce of the land as well as of manufactures. With these views, if the noble Lord pressed his Amendment, he would divide with him against a measure which he considered was unjust, unwise, impolitic, and dangerous.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment read a second time.
§ Bill ordered to be read a third time.