§ MR. CARDWELL
I rise to bring under the notice of the House the report of the Select Committee appointed in the year 1847 to take into consideration the present state of our commercial relations with China; and I hope, Sir, not with standing the lateness of the hour, that the House will allow me to bring forward the Motion of which I have given notice for this evening. And, in doing so, I must say that I regret it cannot be introduced to the House by my noble Friend (Lord Sandon), who, in the last Session of Parliament, presided over the inquiry, and who prepared this able report. I have also to apologise to the other Members of the Select Committee for taking or appearing to take the subject out of their hands. But, considering the early period of the Session at which the financial statement, as has been announced by the noble Lord opposite, will be made, and finding that no notice upon this subject has as yet been given, I thought it was one which should not be allowed to slumber, and that there should not be a consideration of the financial prospects of the year without any reference whatever being made to the evidence and report I hold in my hands. To the importance of the subject it cannot be necessary for me to call attention. It cannot be necessary for me to call the attention of the House to the expectations that were entertained with respect to the prospects that were to be opened to our traders and manufacturers by the establishment of free intercourse with the great empire of the East, for the House is fully conscious of the necessity of finding continually fresh and increasing outlets for the productions of our great manufacturing powers. And we are also, too, conscious that it will be necessary, if our large manufacturing population are to be kept in a condition of employment and increasing comfort at home, that we must go beyond the limits of Europe, and the supply of the demands of civilised nations, and seek still further outlets for British manufactures. In some respects the trade with China did appear to bear out the expectations that; had been formed of it. The export trade which, in the year 1827, amounted to 610,000l., had in 1843 grown to nearly 1,500,000l., and in 1845 it amounted to 2,394,000l. But this was not all that we were encouraged to expect from the opening of the trade with China. When fifteen years ago the trade with the eastern 426 empire was opened to general competition, we were told that the population of an empire like China, represented generally as amounting to 300,000,000—a population comprising a very large portion of the entire population of the globe—a people not by any means deficient in civilisation, and, though existing under such different circumstances from ours with regard both to production and consumption, abounding in industry and the spirit of commerce—and with such a people we promised ourselves that our export trade would have greatly exceeded 2,400,000l. before this time. We have not, however, been in that respect gratified; but such as the trade with China has been, a very large portion of it has fallen to this country; and it is important to our domestic interests that we should, so far as we possibly can, encourage and increase it. Let us take the returns of 1845. They show that, of 20,000,000 of dollars value of ordinary trade, no less than 16,000,000 were imported into China in British ships, and 3,000,000 in American ships, leaving not 1,500,000 dollars worth of imports for the ships of all the rest of the world. There is, besides, another large branch of trade not included in these returns—I mean the trade in opium—the larger proportion of which belongs to the dependencies of this country, and which amounts in addition to 23,000,000 dollars. So that out of imports to the amount of 43,000,000 of dollars, little more than 4,000,000 belong to other countries. Now, Sir, this is not a trade that can be disregarded by those who have any interest in the commerce of this country. But this trade, as the House will observe, sustained about the year 1843 a most remarkable increase; for while our exports to China had never before exceeded about 1,000,000l., they suddenly rose at that period to a million and a half, and from that to two millions. Sir, I am sorry to say that we found in this Committee, as stated in the first page of the report, that that increase of trade has been attended with no corresponding benefit to England—that the great increase of trade which has taken place has been attained by carrying on trade at a loss, which may be stated on the whole to amount to from 35 to 40 per cent. Now, notwithstanding this loss, the increased trade has now gone on for three or four years. This circumstance, I believe, may be thus explained: The trade was at first in the hands of British merchants, who, when it ceased to be remunerative, discontinued it. But it 427 was then taken up by the manufacturers, anxious to find a market for the increasing produce of their manufactories. It turned out unsuccessful in the hands of the manufacturers; and it was then taken up by the natives in China, with the view of finding a market for their teas. It was also un-remunerative to them; and the consequence naturally to be expected was the diminution of the trade, until it reached that point when it would be profitable to the merchant. The result was such as necessarily follows, for unless trade can progress profitably it must necessarily contract, and after being carried on an extensive scale it will invariably go down again until it reaches a limit at which it can be a remunerative trade. But why have we found the trade with China to be an un-remunerative trade? What are the returns that China has as yet made for the commodities which she has received? These returns comprise three principal articles. They are—silver, of which about 2,000,000l. is annually exported; silk, which to the value of l,500,000l. is annually exported; but, after you have done all you can in the way of returns by silver and silk, you come to what must always be from China the great article of export—I mean, of course, the article of tea, of which about 6,000,000l. worth is annually exported. In a despatch from the British Consul at Canton, dated the 15th February, 1847, I find these words:—Assuming that the American and the trade of other foreign nations leaves an excess of exports over imports of about a million sterling, the approximate balance of trade against China would be nearly two millions, constituting the sum annually drawn from this country in specie to pay for opium. How long the Chinese will be able to sustain this continual drain of the precious metals is impossible to determine; but the fact being now well established that the export of tea to England cannot be increased under the present system of duties, it is not difficult to foresee that unless a new opening be found for a larger consumption of China exports in our markets, a gradual reduction must take place either in the quantity or in the prices of our imports in China until they come to a proper level. On the other hand it is beyond calculation to what extent the Chinese would purchase our woollens and cottons, were we enabled to take their produce in return, especially after having obtained the legalisation of the opium trade.He further states, that in this he is borne out by Sir John Davis, by whom his words are quoted:—It must be borne in mind that the import trade is regulated by, and depends wholly on, the export trade, and that therefore only an increase of exports can cause a corresponding increase in 428 imports. The China trade being essentially a direct barter trade, it is obvious that unless means can be found to take from the Chinese a larger amount of their principal export, tea, there seems to be but a limited prospect of deriving for the British manufacturing interests all those advantages which the new position which we hold in this country consequent upon the late war might lead them to expect.Now, why is it that we have been unable to take a larger quantity of tea? The House will not be unprepared for the discovery of the Committee on this matter, that it is the rate of duty which we have been obliged to levy on tea which has retarded the export trade from China to Great Britain. The import duty on tea in this country may be taken as averaging upwards of 200 per cent on the export cost of the article. An instance was lately brought under my notice of a quantity of tea of a very inferior kind purchased in Liverpool, and which I believe ultimately went for the supply of a poorhouse in Cork, on which the duty paid was 1,000 per cent on the price of the tea. But it is not merely the amount of duty levied, but the fact that the levying of a high rate of duty requires a greater amount of profit on the capital employed, which presses injuriously on the trade. It has been stated by competent authorities that a duty of 2s. 2d. a pound to the revenue, is equivalent to 2s. 9d. a pound to the consumer. So that, independent of the duty, the ordinary profit on the amount paid in the shape of duty, is, in the instance of the inferior article, actually double the value of the tea. As I before said, we do enjoy in the Chinese market a larger proportion of the trade than any other nation; but observe who are our closest competitors in the trade—the people of the United States. Now, in the colder parts of China, the articles of manufacture most in request are the coarser kinds of cloths, in which articles the Americans have the greatest advantage in competing with us. There is, I believe, no duty upon the importation of tea into the United States; and I ask the House to observe the disadvantageous position in which the manufacturers of this country are consequently placed in competing with American manufacturers in the Chinese market. England imposes a duty upon tea varying from 200 per cent, up to 1,000 per cent, in exceptional cases, upon the value of the article; while the only rivals we have in that particular branch of manufacture impose no duty at all. I hold in my hand a commercial cir- 429 cular, dated the 31st December, 1847, from the house of Hollinshead and Tetley, of Liverpool. They state, that in 1837–8 the exports of cotton from the United States to Great Britain were 1,165,000 bales, while in 1846–7 the exports were 830,000 bales, and that in the same time the quantity consumed in the United States rose from 246,000 bales in 1837–8, to 427,000 bales in 1846–7. The circular further states—This year will be memorable in the annals of the cotton trade—it has been disastrous to all interests concerned in it. The decrease in the consumption has been without parallel; and as the case is wholly different in France and in America, the contrast affords matter for serious reflection.Now, I call attention to this circumstance for the purpose of showing that it is not unimportant to watch with vigilance in this important market of China the degree in which we may be able to supply the market by our exports. But we find that there is one very serious obstacle to any alteration in the duty on tea, and that obstacle is expressed in the sentence of the report:—The revenue derived from tea in the last year amounted to 5,110,897l., and although this amount of revenue cannot be permanently relied on, being founded on a consumption which has been carried to that extent by prices not remunerating to the importers, and which are therefore not likely to be continued, yet it is no doubt so important an element in the income of the country, that under present circumstances it cannot be lightly dealt with.Now, I am as much alive as anybody can be to the importance of revenue considerations; but we also found on inquiry that it was by no means certainly to be concluded that five millions of revenue would, under the existing duty, continue to be received from tea. We find, as I have already stated, that since 1843 the tea trade has been a losing and not a remunerating trade. But I find that in 1842 the revenue received from tea barely exceeded four millions, and that in 1843 it did not equal four millions and a half. I have not seen the official returns for 1847; but I have some reason to believe that in that year the revenue from tea will barely have amounted, if indeed it has amounted, to quite five millions, it having in 1846 been 5,110,000l. But, as I before remarked, our trade with China was considerably diminished since 1843, for I find that while the exports of cotton cloths in the year 1844 to China were l,464,000l., and in 1845 1,543,000l., being on the average of the two years one million and a 430 half, the exports of the same description of goods in 1846 had fallen to 940,000l. and in 1847 to 888,000l.; and I am afraid that we can scarcely venture to hope that there is a better prospect for the year 1848. In proof of this, I may allude to a return which I received this morning from a gentleman who is well known in this House, and who was Member in the late Parliament for Sandwich. He states that whereas in January, 1845, the exports amounted to 91,000l.; in 1846, they were 78,000l.; in 1847, they were 117,000l.; in 1848, they were 304l. I find also that with regard to the shipment from Liverpool to China, the amount of exports for 1845 were 112,372,565 yards; in 1846, this had gone down to 76,035,749; and in 1847, to 56,789,486, or just one-half of what they had been two years before. But if this be the case, it must of necessity follow that the exports which are to insure these imports into China, must diminish also, which of course must lead to a corresponding diminution of revenue; and, therefore, while we reported that so important an element in the revenue of the country could not be lightly dealt with, we also found that there was the strongest reason to believe that under the existing state of the law that amount of revenue cannot be permanently maintained. We found it necessary to consider what the effect on the revenue would be of any change in the rate of duty. Some important statistics were brought before us to show, in regard to the past year, what the effect of a change in the rate of duty would be upon the revenue. They will be found at page 443 of the report. From the table there given it appears that in 1782 the duty was 66 per cent, and the quantity of pounds consumed 6,202,257. In 1784 the duty was 12l. 10s. per cent only, and the quantity of tea consumed rose to 10,150,700 lbs. That rate of duty continued down to 1795, when the consumption had risen to upwards of 21,000,000 lbs., the total increase in the twelve years being 350 per cent, of which, in the two first years, the increase was no less than 113 per cent. I quote this for the purpose of showing that we have some reason to believe that by a judicious change in the rate of duty some increase in the consumption of tea, and, therefore, of increase to the revenue, might be secured. I find in the evidence brought before' this Committee, with regard to the quantity of tea con- 431 sumed, that in families where expense is not an object, the consumption of tea may be taken at from 12 lbs. to 13 lbs. per head; in workhouses the average consumption amounts to 3¼ lbs. per head; for emigrants the amount is 4 lbs. 3 oz. per head; in the Navy it is 5 lbs. 4oz., besides cocoa and other articles; in the Channel Islands the consumption averages 4 lbs. 4oz. per head; in Australia there is reason to believe that the consumption is rising to 8 lbs. or 9 lbs. per head; while in the United Kingdom we find that the average consumption is not more than 1 lb. 10oz. per head, or somewhere about half the consumption allowed in workhouses. I think it cannot be contended, after these returns, that there is not a capability of increasing the demand for tea among our own population at home, provided you can bring it within the limits of their expenses, when we find that in the Australian colonies, where there is no duty on tea, the average consumption is 8 lbs. or 9 lbs. per head, while in the United Kingdom it is but 1 lb. 10 oz. per head, or only half the quantity allowed to the poor in our workhouses. Some calculations were made and presented to the Committee, showing what the effect on the revenue would be of an increased consumption of tea under a lower duty. Those who desired to see a reduction of duty wished that it should be reduced from 2s. 4¼. to 1s. per lb., and they calculated the probable effects of a reduction to that amount. Supposing that the same quantity of tea were consumed as at present, the revenue at the 1s. duty would be 2,300,000l. If the same sum of money continued to be expended on tea as at present—and that I think of all the calculations is the most reasonable, for no one will, I think, be found to say that that is a rash mode of framing the calculation—there would be an additional consumption of 24,000,000 lbs., and an increase of 1,200,000l. to the 2,300,000l., giving in the whole a revenue of 3,500,000l. as received from tea in the first year of the reduction. But into this account is also to be taken the average quantity of sugar which would be consumed for that extra consumption of tea, according to the proportion now used; and if you take 32,000 hogsheads of sugar as the additional quantity required for the 24,000,000 pounds of tea, you will, taking the lowest rate of duty, have an additional revenue from sugar of 455,000l., leaving a total of 3,962,000l. on which you may count under your exist- 432 ing trade with China. On referring to the returns for 1842, you will find that this calculation exhibits about the same amount of revenue as was received in that year from tea, and that, it should be borne in mind, was the last year in which we had a remunerative trade with that country. What guarantee have you, I would ask, that you will be able to maintain your amount of revenue from this source beyond the amount at which it stood when you had a remunerative trade? Another calculation which was brought before us, but which I will not take as the basis of my computation, as the result would be more sanguine than I am disposed to give, was this. It was stated in evidence that in the year 1844 a change took place in the mode of levying the duty on tea in the Isle of Man. As the mode of levying the duty in that island was of a very complicated nature, I will not enter into any details with regard to it; but the practical effect was to diminish the cost of tea to the consumer by 1s. 6d. in the pound. The consequence was, that while in 1844 the consumption of the island was 75,000 lbs., it increased in 1846 to 133,000 lbs., or very nearly double. Now, though I admit that it would be exceedingly rash in the Committee to have made that the basis of a computation for the whole of the United Kingdom—and I, for one, would be no party to such a proceeding—still I think that, as I am laying before the House a calculation based on principles of caution, I should not act right in closing the case without calling your attention also to this, the most recent instance which we have had, of the effect of a reduction in duty on that article. But then you may ask where are the resources to come from to purchase these 24,000,000 lbs. additional of tea, and the additional sugar which was to be used at the same time to make up the amount to the revenue? The reply is obvious. The money now spent in tea alone would, as I have said, if the duty were reduced to Is., provide for the purchase of the additional quantity of tea; but if we imported 24,000,000 lbs. additional of tea, we should have a largely increased export trade to China; and the value of these exports would go to a great extent in wages to the operative classes, and would give a great increase to the means of the labouring population for the purchase of both tea and sugar. And if you thus stimulated industry, and added to the exports and imports of the country, and to 433 the interests of your artisans and of your shipping, you would of course; stimulate the demand for other articles, not only among the necessaries but the comforts of life, and you would thus also tend to increase the receipts of the Exchequer. By that means the Exchequer, sympathising with the community, would be benefited, and the increase thus obtained, ought not to be left altogether out of consideration. But we are told by some of the witnesses that the supply of tea from China might be expected to fall short, and that therefore an increased demand from England might have the effect of raising the price in China, and the public here would not get the full benefit of the reduction. On that point we took great pains to examine witnesses at great length; and if any hon. Gentleman will turn to the index to the report under the head, "Supply of tea," he will find that we had the advantage of men of the highest experience and judgment on the subject. Among them were Mr. Fortune, a gentleman who resided for some time in China, where he was engaged in inquiries of a botanical character. We had also the advantage of examining an hon. Member of this House, who has been most intimately acquainted with the Chinese trade. The hon. Member for the borough of Ashburton (Mr. Matheson), and also my hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Brown), whose knowledge of trade on this as well as on all other matters is most valuable, together with the hon. Member for Dartmouth (Mr. Moffatt), and many other eminent men of the greatest experience and knowledge on the subject. The uniform result of their evidence is, that there is not the slightest fear that any additional demand we could make on China for tea would occasion anything like a scarcity or an increase in the price of the article in that country. On the contrary, it was stated that the enormous population of that country were far greater consumers of tea than we could ever hope to become in this country—that the greater portion of the 300,000,000 of inhabitants in China were in the habit of making constant use of that beverage—and that the small increase in our demand would be felt as nothing in their market. We were also told that an increased demand for tea in China has always had the effect of producing an increased production; and that whatever failure might result in our calculation, it certainly could not arise from any dearness in China caused by an increased consump- 434 tion in this country. In China the land used for the growth of tea is most abundant, and there is every facility for the cultivation of that article, so that with any degree of increased demand there will be an increased supply. There is one article on which I acknowledge we may produce a deficiency of revenue to the Exchequer; but about this article very little was said in the Committee. My hon. Friend the Secretary of the Treasury gave us the advantage of his presence; and he very naturally directed his attention to questions of revenue. But he said very little about the diminution we were likely to occasion in the duties raised upon spirits. I was not at all astonished at the discretion and good sense exhibited in that particular by my hon. Friend. In the course of the last Session he moved for a return in connexion with this very subject, from which it appeared, that in 1841, the population being 26,700,000, they consumed no less than 24,000,000 gallons of spirits; whilst in 1845 the consumption was raised to 26,672,000 gallons; and he showed us the extent to which the population of Scotland, in many respects so very commendable for the qualities of industry, sagacity, and thrift, had, in this particular article of spirits, contributed to this result. In 1841, the population of Scotland being 2,628,957 persons, the quantity of spirits entered for consumption was 6,078,719 gallons; and in 1845 that quantity had risen to 6,525,489 gallons. I do not know to what extent the duties in Scotland may have affected that calculation; but I know, that for the whole United Kingdom, with a population of 26,700,000, the consumption of gallons of spirits was upwards of 24,000,000. All I can say is, that having (as becomes me) most special regard to Her Majesty's Exchequer, if there be one source of revenue I should see decline with unfeigned satisfaction, it is that which flows from the duty upon ardent spirits; and I should be exceedingly well pleased if the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have it in contemplation to make a reduction in the tea duties this Session of Parliament, to find he had calculated upon a falling-off in the duty of spirits. And however sorry I should be to hear the statement with regard to any other article, so far as the revenue is concerned, I can only say I would cheerfully go with him into Committee of Ways and Means, in order to enable him to supply the deficiency by a 435 duty upon almost anything else to compensate him for the loss he had sustained upon the diminished consumption of spirits. Having so considered the question of revenue, let me now ask you, are you satisfied with the exhibition of the trade between Great Britain and China? You see a very large population of China—a large proportion of the whole population of the globe—having many of the things you want, and wanting everything you have. The population of China is 300,000,000; yet your exports to them have never risen, except when the trade has been unprosperous to us, beyond the value of 2,000,000l. 2,000,000l., the value of our exports to 300,000,000 of people Why was that? Was it from any want of sagacity on the part of the Chinese? They are proverbial for it. Is there any ignorance on their part of commercial principles? They are alike distinguished for industry, and for a desire to promote their commercial interests; they are exceedingly keen dealers, and exceedingly fond of money. Is it then that the Chinaman, having strained notions of his own civilisation, and a peculiar contempt for the foreign barbarian, has raised up some obstacle to intercourse which your practised ingenuity has not enabled you to pass? There was a day when apprehensions of that kind were seriously entertained. We used to be told fifteen years ago their prejudices were insurmountable. In 1844, the treaty was concluded with China, which allows your imports to enter at very moderate duties; and you can now export your manufactures to China at duties varying from five to ten per cent. But there is one obstacle, and it exists not with the uncivilised, but with the civilised, not with the barbarian, but with the refined people. I have shown you, by the most unanswerable arguments, by the testimony of your own Consuls, vouched for by your own Governor, that there is but one limit to your trade with China, and that is the amount to which you take their exports. I have shown you, by irrefragable testimony, which has been given before the Committee, that there is but one appreciable limit to the consumption of tea, and that is the duty which the wants of your revenue have compelled you to put upon it. Now, although the Chinese are called by us an uncivilised people, they have sagacity to learn, and I much fear you have been teaching them the lessons of civilised people, which they will put into use to your injury. On reading the 436 accounts received from China we have too much reason to believe they are becoming apt proficients in the arts of reciprocity; and although you have bound them by a treaty from charging upon your imports at the port of import a higher duty than I have specified, I believe it is the Chinese exporter who, as I showed you, has been the last link in that chain by which the losses of our over-exportation was sustained, who has been the means of communication between your tariff and his Government. I believe if they cannot lay on duties at the port of import, there are inland and transit duties which may be the means of making your imports available to their revenue; and I doubt, if this state of things continue long, whether you will not find that, although prohibition has begun with the civilised, and not with the uncivilised people, that the uncivilised have been apt scholars in your school. You will have a hostile tariff upon the other side, and there will then exist in China, what does not exist yet, a hostile legislation upon a subject which your provisions in this House of Parliament will have no power to alter. I have endeavoured to compress my observations into the smallest possible compass. It is not for me to divine what may be in the breast of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Of those parts of the case which are known to the public, of course I cannot be ignorant; but, as I said before, we should be wanting exceedingly in our duty if we, the Members of the Committee, permitted the able report of my noble Friend (Lord Sandon), and this large mass of testimony, to slumber upon the table. I do not think the House ought to wait for the financial statement before discussing this important subject. It is not for me, however, to anticipate what the right hon. Gentleman may have to offer. In former years we have seen a deficiency of revenue made the occasion for relieving the springs of industry. If the right hon. Gentleman have any schemes of that kind to expound to the House, I am sure he will be thankful to me for having been a useful pioneer, and for having, by a mere statement of the facts mentioned in this report, laid the matter before the House. If the necessities of the case shall prevent his holding out that expectation, I shall have the satisfaction of feeling that we who were connected with this inquiry, have, so far as time and circumstances and ability enabled us, with brevity, but as clearly as we could, laid 437 the case before the country and the House; and I think we shall approach the financial statement with a great degree of information, without which we should not have been able to judge of it. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That there be laid before this House, Copies or Extracts of any Documents relative to the state of our Commercial Relations with China, which may have been received from the Governor or fro many of Her Majesty's Consuls in that country since the 1st day of July, 1847.
§ MR. EWART
seconded the Motion, and said that for many years he had taken a deep interest in this question, connected as it was with the vital interests of our commerce and manufactures. For a considerable time he had thought the period had arrived when an enlarged view should be taken of our general system of taxation; and on the questions of the tea, tobacco, and wine duties, he conceived it became a Minister who took a comprehensive view of the interests of the country to consider how far he could reduce our high customs duties, in order to encourage the importation of such articles in exchange for our manufactures; and how far the excise duties could be reduced to encourage our industry at home. Among the mercantile and manufacturing communities great anxiety was felt with regard to the changes about to be proposed; as a general supporter of a liberal Government, he looked, therefore, with considerable interest to the policy which was about to be pursued. He had been a Member of the Committee on our relations with China. He entirely concurred in the views of the hon. Member (Mr. Cardwell). To his able speech there was little to add. But there was one point on which he (Mr. Ewart) wished to dwell. It was the severe manner in which the tea duties pressed upon the poor of this country. Whilst we taxed the rich man's tea but 100 per cent, the duty on the poor man's tea was 300 per cent, and on some sorts 350 per cent. This was not the view taken by Mr. Pitt in 1796, when he altered the tea duties. In a speech which he made on that occasion, he said—It was his intention that the tea duty should in no degree be allowed to bear hard on the poorer classes of the community. He, therefore, meant to exempt from this tax the whole of the coarser sorts of tea which was the beverage of the poorer classes.Besides which, by means of an ad valorem duty, levied through the instrumentality of the East India Company, he made the duty upon tea proportionate to its sale 438 price. The next point to which he (Mr. Ewart) desired to allude was, the effect of the reduction of the duties upon coffee and cocoa, as compared with the effect of the non-reduction of the duty on tea. Within a few years the duty upon coffee had been reduced from 9d. to 4d. per lb.; and on cocoa, from 1s. to 2d.; the effect of this reduction had been, that the consumption of coffee had increased 500 per cent, and that of cocoa 1,000 per cent. On the consumption of tea, however, the increase had only been 130 per cent. Our consumption in this country was only between 1 lb. and 2 lb. per head, while it was 2 lb. in the Isle of Man, 4 lb. in Jersey and Guernsey, and in Australia 9 lb. Lastly, he asked, why should we allow this trifling barrier of a customs duty to obstruct the enormous intercourse of two great nations? On the one hand, there was Great Britain, able to consume an immense amount of tea, and China, perfectly able to produce that amount; on the other hand, there was that same China, capable of consuming an almost unlimited amount of our manufactures; yet by this fiscal embargo of a high duty the extension of commerce was forbidden, and changes were refused which would have been fraught with benefit to the poor. He (Mr. Ewart) repeated that duties such as this on tea should be very seriously considered by the Government, and that a comprehensive review should be taken of the excise duties also. Since 1830, when the late Mr. Poulett Thompson brought the whole subject of taxation under the consideration of the House, the excise duties had been seldom mentioned; but the time was now come when the propriety of their revision must be considered. He was ready to support additional taxation upon accumulated property if it were necessary; he would not say the same as to the income-tax; he thought that ought to be considerably lessened; but realised property ought to bear a larger proportion than it did of the burdens of the State. By such a course alone the commerce and manufactures of the country could be relieved, and the prosperity and safety of every class eventually promoted.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am sure the House will agree with me when I state that we are deeply obliged to the hon. Gentleman opposite, for the able statement he has made in calling our attention to the report of the Committee which sat to inquire into our commercial relations with China. I think, 439 however, we must not argue too much from the statements he has made, though believe those statements are perfectly true, as to the present depressed state of the trade with China. I think the statements which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) has just made, are in themselves sufficient to account for the depression which at present prevails in the trade to China. Those statements were, in effect at least, that the merchants had from the first opening of the trade found they were carrying on a losing concern. This, I believe, is almost universally stated to have been the case upon the opening of any new trade. It was notoriously the case with the States of South America. The whole mercantile world rushed at once into that trade; the exports increased to a great amount, the markets were glutted, prices fell, and great disaster was the consequence. This appears to have been exactly the case with the first exports of British manufactured goods to China. The hon. Gentleman stated, the merchants had found it a losing concern: the manufacturers too had found it a losing concern; the manufacturers having given it up, the native merchants, not deterred by their example, adopted it, and they too found it a losing concern. I believe, as I have said before, the fact to have been, that the Chinese markets had been glutted, in the first instance, with the vast quantities of goods exported from this country; and however lamentable it might be that such a check should have been put upon the trade, the present depression is the undoubted result of an over-exportation in the first instance. It was remarked years ago that this would be the case should the trade with China be opened; and that judgment being founded upon the results in similar cases, was found to be correct. I mention this because some stress has been laid upon a diminution of the trade with China in one particular year, without looking at its permanent condition. In 1843, there was an addition of 500,000l. suddenly to a trade which in the year before was only valued at 1,000,000l. In the next year, it rose to 2,300,000l.; and in the next, 1845, to 2,400,000l. In the years 1843, 1844, 1845, the trade more than doubled its amount in the preceding years; and if in subsequent years there was a falling-off, it was not more than might have been expected. With regard to the general positions laid down by the hon. Gentleman, I entirely agree with 440 them. I have not the least doubt that if we could lower the price of tea in this country, the consumption would be extended, and in time the revenue be maintained. I have not the least doubt, again, that the quantity of goods we send to China must materially depend upon the amount of returns we can get from that country; and that to take their tea would considerably extend our exports to China. I have not the least doubt, again, that the result of this proceeding would be to benefit the consumer, the manufacturer, and the ship owner of this country. Nor am I afraid, though the loss of revenue might in the first instance he very considerable, that it would not in time be made up by the increased consumption of tea in this country. That will be true of tea, I have no doubt, which has been true of coffee, and of the other articles to which my hon. Friend (Mr. Ewart) alluded. The same arguments may be used with regard to tobacco. They are true of all articles upon which high duties prevail; lower the duties, and in time the increased consumption will make up for the loss of revenue. Whether a larger consumption of tea would diminish the consumption of spirits, I do not know. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, that if there is any article in the world from which I should like to see a reduction of revenue, it is spirits. Probably an increased consumption of tea might lead to that result; but I am afraid the supposition of taxation depending upon profit and loss would not be altogether acceptable in this case, because if you only set the diminished consumption of spirits against an increased consumption of sugar, there must be an increase of profit from some other source in consequence of the loss by the reduction upon tea. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) said, this loss was not likely to happen. The recommendation of the Committee is, that the duties on tea should be reduced to Is.; and my hon. Friend (Mr. Ewart), who spoke of an ad valorem duty, concurred in that recommendation. An ad valorem duty, then, would not be advisable; the opinion of the Committee was decidedly in favour of a moderate fixed rate of duty upon all sorts, as much more equitable than ad valorem duties. If, then, the duty is to be reduced to anything like the amount recommended by the Committee, it is impossible it can be done without risking some 2,000,000l. of revenue, and that is not a matter to be lightly disposed of. The hon. 441 Member alluded to the distressed state of the country; and no doubt we may go to a very considerable extent if such a course is begun, whether in the reduction of the tea duties, or in taking off that tax of which the House has heard this evening, as "the most iniquitous tax which can be imposed"—the window-tax, or the reduction of the tobacco duties, or any others; but it must be made up from some other source. Whether they are to look to an additional income-tax or property-tax I will not pretend to say; but the House will hear in a few days' time the statement of my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) on the subject of the finances of the country, and then you will be able to judge more clearly how it will be possible to meet so large a reduction of the revenue as nearly two millions. That such a diminution of the resources of the State will be very severely felt for years to come, I think no one will deny. I feel that I shall be discharging my duty if, on the present occasion, I abstain from saying one word more on that part of the subject. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, I have not the slightest objection to it; I believe it to be merely for certain consular returns; and I conceive the object of the hon. Gentleman chiefly to have been to call the attention of the Government to the subject. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it has occupied the attention of Her Majesty's Government for some time; and what the effect of our deliberations has been my hon. Friend will discover on Friday week, till which time I shall refrain from saying anything more on the question.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell) appears anxious to extend the doctrine which has been set forth to-night—that the true mode of remedying deficiencies of income is to take off the burdens from the springs of industry. I think he has had some little experience of that mode of improving the revenue of the country. I recollect that a Committee of the House of Commons upon the Post office duties reported in 1838 that by lowering the postage to one penny per letter, in the course of three years the deficiency of the revenue would be entirely made up. Ten years have now elapsed, and that which in 1838 amounted to 1,800,000l., I believe now does not exceed 900,000l. net revenue. And when the hon. Member for Liverpool made the able speech which we 442 have all heard with so much pleasure to night, and when he told the House that the uncivilised Chinese were taking a lesson from us, and were likely to discover the advantage of reciprocity treaties, he did not appear to remember that that was exactly the argument I made use of about two years ago. The hon. Gentleman and his friends have devoured the entire pasture of the revenue, by taking off the duties on timber, which have gone into the pockets of the Norwegians, the Swedes, and the Prussians; by taking the duties off cotton, which have gone into the pockets of the Americans; by taking the duties off grain and brandy and silk, all of which have gone into the pockets of the different producers of these articles, so that no power is left for us to take off the duties of 250 per cent on tea, levied upon a country which is quite content to raise but 6½ per cent ad valorem duties upon the produce of Great Britain. About two and a half years ago I recommended the House to look to China instead of to free trade in cotton, in silk, in timber, and in grain, and to seek an extension of our whole foreign trade by cultivating our commercial intercourse with 300,000,000 of people who are so well disposed towards us. But when the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) told us how the consumption of tea may be increased, and how greatly, from some change of duties in the Isle of Man, the consumption of tea had increased there, he forgot to tell us that there was a great deal of smuggling in the Isle of Man, and that the increase of consumption there is entirely superficial; that, in point of fact, the consumption was just as great as before, and that the reduction of the duty has only enabled the revenue to take the duty, instead of its going into the hands of the smuggler. When the hon. Gentleman calculated so surely upon the reduction of 1s. 2d. per pound in the duty on tea raising the quantity annually consumed in this country by 24,000,000 lbs., and thereby increasing the revenue derived from that article, he forgot to tell the House, by way of illustration, what the consumption of tea in the United States of America really was. The United States contains a population of 20,000,000, and, I as the hon. Member justly told us, up to this time there has been no duty at all upon tea; but the hon. Gentleman forgot to tell us that it is a question now of raising the revenue in America by a duty upon that article, and that the entire consump- 443 tion is but 19,900,000 lbs. a year, being something less than one pound per head per year for that prosperous community. But my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Hudson) reminds me that there are other examples where the reduction of tariffs does not so entirely succeed, as it was generally supposed it would do two years ago, when everybody was gone free-trade mad, though now people are getting a little more sane, and thought that the sure mode of raising an increased revenue was to reduce the tariffs. My hon. Friend reminds me that there was a reduction of the tariff on railways. I unfortunately mixed myself up with certain free-trade directors, and took shares in the North Western railway. Mr. Glyn, the chairman of that railway company, was one of those who thought that a reduction of tariffs and low fares was quite sure to raise the revenue; and I am here one of the victims reaping only 91. per share. [Mr. HUDSON: Eight—only eight.] Well, I am not so rich by a pound a share as I thought I was—but reaping only 8l. per share interest instead of 10l. per cent, and all in consequence of lowering the tariff of prices; whilst my Protectionist Friend here, of the Midland Counties, stoutly resisted any such new fangled doctrine of economy, and maintained his high tariffs, and his constituents still continue to enjoy their full receipts. Under these circumstances, sorry as I am to oppose the reduction of the duty upon tea, anxious as I should be to see the reduction of the tea duty made up from those old duties which were so lavishly thrown away upon timber and corn, and French brandies and silks, and a variety of other articles from Prussia and elsewhere, with their high tariffs, which we were told would be shaken by the generous and gracious way in which we admitted their produce, yet unless I can hear from the hon. Gentleman that he proposes to make up the revenue from those articles which are now admitted free—unless I can hear from him that he is prepared, instead of an increased income or property tax, to lay on a fresh duty upon foreign timber, foreign grain, foreign brandy, and foreign silks—I am afraid I cannot back his prayer to the right hon. Gentleman, just at the time when we are losing revenue at the rate of 4,000,000l. a year, to take off another million or two, and trust to the success of that new doctrine of remedying deficiencies by relieving the springs of industry.
thought the House and the country were deeply obliged to the hon. Member for Liverpool for having brought this subject under their consideration. The hon. Gentleman had laid the matter so well before the House that he was unwilling to add one word to what the hon. Member had said; but as he had some acquaintance with the trade, perhaps he might be excused for trespassing upon the attention of the House for a few moments. Before, however, touching upon the question, he must beg to make one or two remarks on what had just fallen from the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck). The noble Lord had said, that by adopting a free-trade system we had given our money to the growers of cotton. Now, the fact was, that the price of cotton had never been so low for the last ten years as it was in the autumn of 1846. The noble Lord asserted that we had sacrificed revenue by reducing the duty upon French brandy. The noble Lord would find, however, that since the reduction the increased consumption had been such as to go far towards remedying the loss of revenue. Again, the noble Lord referred triumphantly to the Post Office. When the postage duty was reduced to 1d., it was prophesied that in five years five times as many letters would be carried through the post as would make up the loss of revenue arising from the reduction. At present the gross revenue of the Post Office, though the measure was not yet carried out completely, was within five per cent of what it was previous to the reduction. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was no fair argument against a reduction of these duties to allude to commercial losses; those who went into commercial adventures must be content to bear those losses. This subject ought to be considered on higher grounds. He thought it resolved itself into two questions—a question of justice to China, and of expediency towards our own people. In the year of the great treaty with China, we dictated the terms (3 to 6½ per cent ad valorem duty) upon which they should accept our goods. At the cannon's mouth that treaty was signed, and the Chinese were in no position to enforce a system of reciprocity. The consequence was that this country maintained a duty of upwards of 200 per cent upon their staple commodity of export. He thought, then, that as a matter of justice to China this measure was required. As a matter of expediency towards ourselves, the mea- 445 sure was equally desirable, looking at it as a means of improving the morals and social comforts of the people, and giving a stimulus to the manufactures of this country. Upon these grounds he hoped the proposition would receive the serious consideration of the Government. He admitted that the question of revenue was a serious one; but he could not admit that a loss of 2,000,000l. would result from the proposed reduction in the tea duty. He was quite satisfied that such a reduction might be made as would prove a great and permanent relief to the people of this country, without causing any equivalent loss to the revenue. He believed, indeed, that a great advantage might be conferred upon trade by incurring only a very slight loss to the revenue.
§ MR. W. BROWN
rose to give in his adhesion to the opinions which had been expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool. The hon. Gentleman was quite correct in asserting, that in the article of tea, as in all other articles, the reduction of duty would lead to an increased consumption. That had been invariably found to be the case; and the converse of the proposition was equally true, that an increase of duty would lead to a decreased consumption. It became then a mere question for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider how far he could reduce the duty upon tea, and yet maintain the revenue. He was glad to find that in a great measure his right hon. Friend coincided with the hon. Member for Liverpool, and he hoped that at no distant day he would have the courage to take the bull by the horns; and if he could not obtain sufficient revenue from tea, to procure it from some other sources. He thought there were plenty of other commodities which it would be quite as just to tax as tea. Why not, for example, extend the legacy and probate duty to estates? He hoped, however, that the whole subject of taxation would soon be taken up and revised, and put upon a more permanent footing than at present. Looking to it as affecting the moral welfare and condition of the people, he thought the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool was entitled to the best consideration of the Government.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
rose to express his satisfaction that this matter had been brought forward, for it would at all events have the good effect of bringing it under the consideration of the House. He feared it would be very difficult to levy an ad 446 valorem duty when all the sales did not pass through one channel; but he must repeat his satisfaction that the subject had been introduced, and he had no doubt that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer should find any revenue to spare, he would apply it towards reducing the duty upon tea.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, that there could but be one opinion as to the importance of a reduction of the duty on tea; and he hoped that whatever reduction might be made, the public would have the benefit of it. It appeared, from the returns on the table, that in 1815, 19,000,000 lbs. of tea were imported, and that the cost in China was 3,500,000l.; and that in 1846 the price paid for 46,000,000 lbs., was 3,000,000l., being 500,000l. less for 46,000,000 lbs. than for 19,000,000 lbs. in 1815. If the duty was reduced to 1s. per lb., the consumption, to prevent loss of revenue, must increase to 90,000,000 lbs. Now, could that increase in the consumption take place without causing a reduction in the consumption of coffee? One pound of tea was equivalent to three pounds of coffee; and as the duty on foreign coffee was 6d. per lb., if the tea, duty was reduced to one shilling per pound, it would encourage the consumption of tea in preference to coffee. If the reduction of the duty would have the effect of reducing the consumption of spirits, he considered it would be a great benefit to the country, and he would vote for the reduction, whatever loss it might be to the revenue. If, however, the increased demand for tea could not be supplied, the reduction of the duty to 1s. would either increase the cost price in China, or the selling price in this country; in either case the public would not get the benefit, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would lose the duty. It was said that the reduction of the duty on tea would increase the exports of cotton and woollen goods from this country to China, which of late have decreased, and did not amount to more than 2,000,000l.; but we now imported from China tea, silk, and silver to the amount of 8,000,000l. How did we pay the difference? With opium. If anything could be done to put an end to that infamous traffic, they might then expect to increase the export of manufactured goods. The tea used by the poor was taxed three times as much as that used by the rich; and if they wished to give cheap tea to the poor, and increase its consump- 447 tion, they should adopt the principle of an ad valorem duty.
§ DR. BOWRING
said, that if his hon. Friend who had just sat down had read the evidence given with respect to an ad valorew duty on tea, he would no doubt have come to the conclusion, as he had done, that, however just the principle was in theory, it never could be reduced into practice. The most experienced tea merchants and tea brokers had declared that it would be utterly impossible to impose an equitable ad valorem duty. His hon. Friend had referred to the opium trade; but that drug had invariably been paid for in Sycee silver. The demand for opium in China was, unfortunately, so great, that for that, and for that alone, they paid in metal, while in every other case the operations of trade were carried on by means of barter. The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) would allow him to say, that he was incorrect in the statement which he had made with respect to the smuggling in the Isle of Man. He denied that there had been any smuggling of tea into the Isle of Man, or out of it. The noble Lord had referred to a failure of the experiment of the diminution of duties. If necessary, he could show that the diminution of duties had led to a very considerable augmentation of the revenue.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
said, that there were some fallacies in the arguments as to the augmentation of the consumption of tea. He had looked carefully over the report of the Committee, and found from that report that in 1801 the consumption per head was 1 lb. 3 oz. In 1844 the price was not one-third of what it was in 1801, and still he found the consumption only augmented to 1 lb. 10 oz. There was no doubt that if the duty on tea was lowered, the consumption would increase, and the profits of the merchant would also materially increase. At present they had great cause to complain of the unfavourable state of the trade with China. The question, however, was one for the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he asked him to pause before he expected the consumption of 24,000,000 lbs. of tea to augment to 46,000,000 lbs. To have such an increased consumption, the quantity per head must amount to 2 lb. 7 oz. He ventured to say, that we must live for another half century before we could prevail on the people of this country to consume such an enormous quantity of tea. He was practically engaged in that branch of business, and he begged to say, that he differed from the 448 hon Member for Liverpool in his statement that in a respectable family the consumption of tea was 13 lbs. per head. The thing was altogether fanciful. Some old women—washerwomen for instance—who lived upon tea, might consume this amount; but any gentleman taking half a pound per week would find his nerves so unstrung that he could not enjoy the blessings of sleep.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, that no one expected an increase of consumption to take place amongst those to whom price was no object; but' they expected an increase of consumption to take place by those using tea who did not at present enjoy the article at all. It was a fact well ascertained, that but a small portion of the population of Ireland consumed tea; and he could not doubt that the increase of the consumption of tea consequent upon a reduction of the duty would materially diminish the consumption of spirits. He congratulated the House on the unanimity which prevailed on this occasion, and thought he was able to point out a way by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer might relieve the country without endangering the Exchequer. In 1846 the consumption of tea was 46,700,000 lbs.; in 1847 it fell to 45,500,000 lbs.; and no larger consumption could be reckoned on for the present year than 44,000,000 lbs. If there was one article more than another which had shown a tendency to decrease in price, it was tea. In 1831 the consumption of tea was 31,000,000 lbs.; the price per lb. being 10d. higher than it was last year. In that short period we saw an increased consumption of 15,000,000 lbs. This consumption of tea had gone on pari passu, with a corresponding consumption of all other articles. He did not agree with the hon. Gentleman who had called the attention of the House to this subject, or with the report, that so large a reduction as 1s. 2½d. would be either desirable for the interests of commerce, for the benefit of the consumer, or the interests of the Exchequer. The stock was too small to bear such an increased consumption without a large augmentation of the cost price in bond. At the same time, he believed that a reduction from 2s. 2½d. to 1s. 6d. might be made without any material augmentation of the first price in bond, and without any reduction of the revenue even in the first years. The basis of the calculation was a consumption of 44,000,000 lbs. which, at 2s. 2½d. would give 4,858,000l.; 449 and as the largest portion of the tea used was sold at 4s. per lb., there could be little doubt that a reduction of the duty of 8½d. would lead to a reduction in the price of tea of 1s.; so that the same tea which was now sold at 4s. would be sold at 3s. Calculating that the same amount of money was spent as at present, the consumption would rise to 59,000,000 lbs. the first year. That was an increase of 15,000,000 lbs.; the same which had taken place on the reduction of 10d. during the last eight or nine years. This would give a revenue of 4,450,000l.; and adding the increased quantity of sugar which would be required for the increased quantity of tea, it would give a gross revenue of 4,912,000l.; whereas if the present duties were maintained, there would not be a revenue of more than 4,858,000l. He had merely taken an opportunity of throwing out this suggestion, that there might be a reduction made in the duty upon tea without a loss to the revenue, whilst the increase in the consumption would be no more than the present stock of tea would supply. The stock on hand was now about a year and a quarter's consumption, and there were 6,000,000 lbs. coming from China. The stock on hand and the quantity on the road would, therefore, be sufficient to meet a demand for an additional 15,000,000 lbs. of tea.
§ MR. HUDSON
hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be induced by the specious arguments which were addressed to him to fall into the speculative projects recommended by the hon. Member for Liverpool and his Friends on the other side of the House. We might go on reducing duties; but we must not expect, from such reductions, an increase of consumption or of the revenue. To attempt to reduce the duty upon tea, in the present state of the finances of the country, would occasion great inconvenience, He was happy to see that the hon. Member for Salford had found out that a reduction of duty did not always lead to an increased consumption of the article. This question must be considered at some future day, when the revenue could better afford a reduction. The hon. Member for Salford was somewhat retreating from his free-trade principles. He must take that Gentleman's speech as an indication from that important district that those principles were not quite so popular there as they were sometime ago. Reductions of this kind had not always tended to the advantage of the conusmer, 450 for the amount of the reduction had almost invariably gone into the pockets of the foreigner. We had already sacrificed large sums for the benefit of the foreigner, and what return had we received? Had the reduction which had taken place in the duty on cotton, for instance, or in the timber duties, been attended with any beneficial results? He had an account of the quantity of cotton exported from Hull. In 1846, there were 45,000 bales of raw cotton exported; and in 1847, 75,000 bales. Of cotton twist, in 1846, there were exported 81,000 bales; and in 1847, 46,000 bales. Did not this show that other countries were becoming manufacturers themselves? China was one of the nations he was most anxious and ready to trade with; but we were not in a condition to sacrifice revenue in order to increase that trade. The House had been taking off duties one after another, and had prevented the Chancellor of the Exchequer from carrying his principles any further. He dared him to do it. His Exchequer-bills would soon go to a discount if he did. The hon. Member for Salford now came forward, and avowed at once that this principle would not do. He admitted that the effect of the principle was not so much to cheapen the article as to put a larger sum of money into the pockets of the foreigner. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Wilson) had spoken of a 15,000,000 lb. increase, which he attributed to the reduction of 10d. in the pound; but the House must not forget that during the last thirteen years the population of this country had increased to an enormous extent. The hon. Gentleman had said, "Oh! give the people more tea, and they will buy more sugar." But where was the money? A poor man, who with a large family had to depend upon 12s. a week, had not much money to expend in tea and sugar. It was all very well to make a speech about increased consumption of these articles in the event of a reduction of the duties, and the consequent increase to the revenue; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find that the difficulty was not so trifling as the hon. Gentleman would have him believe. The free-trade mania, which raged to such an extent a few months ago, appeared to be subsiding. Not long ago there was scarcely a railway board in England that was not all for free trade; and he had to be continually reminding those with whom he was connected of the great danger of losing a certainty in their attempt to get a speculative gain. The fact 451 was, that at the present moment there was scarcely a railway hoard that was not convinced, by experience, that low prices would not do in all cases, and that the system of cheap fares must he used with great discretion and judgment. He believed that if they had maintained the timber duty, it would have been of no disadvantage to the country. But, with regard to the duty on tea, he believed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no power to reduce it. He had at present a deficiency of 4,000,000l.; and he (Mr. Hudson) wanted to know what the hon. Member for London would say if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to propose to take off a very large amount of the duty upon tea, which might have the effect of causing a further deficiency in the revenue of 1,500,000l. He wondered what that hon. Gentleman's friends in the city of London would say to such a proposition. Indeed, he did not believe that the hon. Member himself would support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in such a course. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had objected, and rightly objected, to any such proposition, notwithstanding the sort of indemnity which the hon. Member for Salford was always prepared to give on such occasions, viz.—" Manchester says it's all right; never mind the revenue; its sure to right itself." He would be one of the very first to reduce the duty on tea as soon as the state of the country could bear it; but at present he felt bound to offer to the proposition for reduction his strongest opposition.
MR. CARD WELL
, in reply, congratulated the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the great amount of support he had received on the present occasion. He had never read or heard of an instance in which a Chancellor of the Exchequer had received so general and so gratuitous support from all sides of the House. First, came the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) who contended that not a particle of the duty ought to come off tea; and afterwards the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) laid his royal mandate upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and dared him to take the duty off tea, at the same time taking care to tell him that, in refusing to do so, he was turning his back on his own principles. Next, came the hon. Gentleman behind him (Alderman Sidney), who got up and gave the result of his great experience on this question. The hon. Gentleman wanted no alteration in 452 the duties. He preferred to have the tea trade select rather than numerous, and therefore the duty should not he taken off. The hon. Member for Salford, too, whose services had often proved so valuable, but who seldom thought it any part of his duty to take a share in the debates, had risen not once but twice this evening, first to sustain the window-tax, and now to protest against any interference with the duty upon tea; and, indeed, hon. Gentlemen on all sides and of all shades of politics had got up to say, some in mild and some in strong language, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought not to take the duty off tea. He might well congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the wonderful unanimity with which he had been supported; and he was glad to seize upon this ground of offering him his congratulations, for he feared that when he came to consider the arguments which had been used, he should not have many compliments to offer. The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) had said that those only were consistent who opposed such reductions, and he said all the rest of the world had gone mad in favour of free trade; but he was inclined to think that all the rest of the world were likely to return the compliment. The noble Lord enumerated certain articles in which there had been free trade—viz., cotton, corn, brandy, and timber. Now, with regard to corn, he had yet to learn that the taking off the duty had caused any depression to the British farmer. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hudson) had no doubt prophesied that the result of that step would be, that they would have corn selling at 36s. in twelve months, [Mr. HUDSON: I never said so; but that in times of abundance corn might be at 36s.] Certainly the hon. Gentleman had led the House to believe that most disastrous consequences would follow to the farmer; but such had not yet been experienced. Then, as to brandy—the duty was reduced from 22s. 10d. to 15s., and the immediate result was so great an increase in the importation as to replace the revenue. [Lord G. BENTINCK: No, no that's a mistake.] If the noble Lord would be kind enough to inspect the returns, he would find the facts to be as he had stated. The returns showed that the quantity had risen from a million to a million and a half. Then the noble Lord referred to the case of cotton; and he was supported in his arguments by the hon. Member for Sunderland. In spite of the experience of last year with regard 453 to cotton, the noble Lord spoke of the change in the duty on that article as the mistaken application of free trade. Well, in taking the duty off cotton, they had had the advantage of the noble Lord's support. The hon. Member for Sunderland had got up and read to them a paper to show that the exports of cotton from Hull were larger during the last than the previous year. If he perceived the drift of his argument, it was to show that more cotton had gone to the Continent last summer than had gone in the corresponding period of the preceding year. Did he suppose that more manufactures would have been produced here, if in addition to the other difficulties with which we had had to contend in competing with the cotton manufacturers of the Continent, we had also laboured under the disadvantages of burdens in the shape of duties, which the foreigner had not to bear? He was extremely happy to hear from the hon. Gentleman that the exports of cotton had increased from our English ports; and he trusted they would continue to increase. He trusted that the German manufacturer might long continue to employ some of his friends in Liverpool as their brokers for furnishing them with supplies of cotton. He knew that that was the case at the present moment. If it would pay the German to buy his cotton at Liverpool and to take it to Germany, to be manufactured there, what would be the position of the Manchester manufacturer, who bought the cotton at Liverpool, and had merely to carry it thirty miles to his mill at Manchester? So much for the madness of free trade in corn, in brandy, and in cotton. Reverting to the subject of tea, all he ventured to state to the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that a falling-off in the revenue there must be. The trade which was carried on at an average loss of 35 or 40 per cent would not last. If it could not be increased and made profitable, it would diminish till it became remunerative. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think he had given him a triumphant answer, when he said there was over-trading to China. The China trade had been open fifteen years; and when it reached 2,000,000l. of exports for 300,000,000 of people, the Minister ventured to censure it as over-trading Well, but if it was over-trading, the trade would be less in future, and in that case the revenue from tea must be expected to diminish at all events. And the question which he had submitted to the 454 Chancellor of the Exchequer was simply, whether, taking the subject in connexion with all the matters which would fall to be considered, the right hon. Gentleman thought such a reduction could be made in the duty on tea as would encourage the consumption and sustain the revenue?
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at One o'clock.