HC Deb 08 June 1848 vol 99 cc510-59

Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Navigation Laws read.


said, that those hon. Gentlemen who had on that occasion inscribed free trade on their banner, had taken up a somewhat different position from that which they had previously occupied whenever subjects of that kind had been brought under the consideration of the House. On all former occasions when a great interest had been attacked in the name of free trade, whether the miners or the glove-makers, or the farmers, or the West India planters, the language held by those hon. Gentlemen was this—"Protection is altogether an abuse; protection to you is a wrong inflicted on the rest of the community. You have enjoyed a protection which has been a robbery on all other classes; we can no longer allow you to enjoy it. We hope that when you are deprived of a privilege which you have long been permitted wrongfully to enjoy, you will be able to support the competition to which you will be exposed. We do not wish to crush you to the earth; we shall be rejoiced to find that you will be able to withstand that competition. But we tell you fairly and frankly, that as you have no right to protection, so if you cannot withstand competition you must resign yourselves to absolute and irremediable ruin." It had, in fact, been hitherto laid down, that "buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest" was an unalterable principle, to which every opposing consideration ought to be sacrificed. But on the present occasion no such language had been held. Almost every Member who had addressed the House in favour of the resolution of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, had declared that he never would support it, if he could conceive for one moment that the adoption of that resolution would tend to destroy the maritime supremacy of England, and that the ship owner would thereby he exposed to a competition with which he would not he able successfully to contend. Now, it was a most important point for the House to remember, that even in the estimation of the advocates of the measure, the repeal of the navigation laws was only defended on the ground that it would not injure our maritime ascendancy. Taking a lower tone than they had adopted on former occasions, they admitted that the superiority of our marine was the more important matter, and all their arguments went to show that the navigation laws might he repealed without risk of destroying or impairing it. But ascendancy is relative, not positive. Measures which disproportionately exalt a rival, impair it, as well as those which directly diminish our own strength. It was their duty carefully to inquire, not only whether the measure before them might not tend to injure our own marine, but whether it might not tend, in a disproportionate degree, to afford a stimulus to that of rival States, which might at any time become our foes. It appeared, that under the reciprocity treaty with Prussia, concluded by Mr. Huskisson, the tonnage of that country had increased in a sevenfold proportion as compared with British tonnage. For his part, he was anxious to see all nations prosper; but whenever the interests of other countries might come into collision with those of England, he should give a preference to the interests of his own country. He believed that our maritime superiority had enabled us to confer important benefits on mankind at large. It had enabled us to open to all nations the trade of the East, and had thus become a powerful instrument for the advancement of the happiness and civilisation of man. Some hon. Gentlemen had attempted to prove that no intimate relation subsisted between our commercial marine and our Royal Navy, or at least that the dependence between them was not so great as was commonly supposed. In the Committee which had been moved for by the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Ricardo), the only witness examined upon that subject was Sir James Stirling. Now that fact afforded a striking proof of the hasty manner in which they were called upon to deal with one of the most important questions that could occupy their consideration. There had been only one naval officer examined on the point to which he had referred. And who was that naval officer? He understood that he was an officer of great eminence and of distinguished character in his profession; but he had been assured that he was also one of those who had on that particular subject a sort of pet project. The principal feature of that project was, that by having a larger peace establishment we should render the Royal Navy independent of the aid of the commercial marine. It appeared to him that the fallacy of that position was evident at first sight. Sir J. Stirling had not taken into consideration the necessity which must often arise in case of a sudden war of a large and immediate augmentation of our naval foree. How could it be said that they had 70,000 or 80,000 landsmen, who would he prepared at once to co-operate with ablebodied seamen to carry out their naval operations? In point of fact, it would be found that when such inexperienced persons were sent to sea they could do at first little more than vomit. The mercantile marine in time of war must be their great reliance for the manning of their Navy. This body was, as it were, a great national guard, always ready for the defence of the commerce and the liberties of the country. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) was quite independent of the plan of the Government, and was of such a character that he thought his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Labouchere) could hardly look to the right hon. Gentleman for support in the future stages of this measure. If he were to express a choice of either alternative, he should be disposed to give a preference to the plan brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford. Their coasting trade would incur a great risk by the adoption of this measure. It required vessels of small burden, drawing little water, and which could be managed with few hands, to carry on this trade effectually. The Dutch galliots were peculiarly adapted to our coasting trade, and would, therefore, come into serious competition with our vessels, if permitted to enter, inasmuch as our vessels were sharper built, and required a larger draught of water. Here then was an obvious difference between these two coun- tries in respect to this trade—such a difference as would tell seriously against us in the race of competition. It appeared to him that nothing could be more absurd than to give all those advantages which this country now enjoyed to other States, without the possibility of receiving any compensation from them in return. He regretted exceedingly that this, too, should be the time chosen by the Ministers for the introduction of a measure of this importance, the results of which were, after all, so problematical. He was well aware that a Ministry now-a-days could not well go through the Session without some pet measure, to serve as a sort of rallying point for their party. If Her Majesty's Ministers could have foreseen the events of the last three months, he did not think that they would ever have chosen this particular period for the introduction of a measure of such a speculative character, in the face of that general confusion in which all Europe was involved. At such a moment as this, were they to be permitted to indulge in such rash and untried theories? He scarcely thought that the Government would have ventured upon such a course now, but that they felt themselves hampered by the expressions which they had used in the Queen's Speech. The recent revolutions had changed the whole aspect of Europe. The risk of war, which had heretofore been considered so remote as to be scarcely worth contemplating, must now be ever present to our thoughts. Where were those Utopian theories which they had heard so often urged, that war was entirely banished from the globe, inasmuch as mankind were becoming too wise and too enlightened to terminate their disputes by a recourse to war?—were those theories proved to have been built on a good foundation? On the contrary, had they not been vanishing away into air? Had they not received sufficient evidence to convince them that they must always rely upon their military and naval forces for the defence and the independence of this country? He trusted that this would not be the period when the House would be found disposed to sanction these experiments, which he thought would peril the interests of Great Britain. He trusted that they should always be prepared to defend that power which was the foundation of the strength of this country, and that they would not suffer to be filched from their grasp by any legislative enactment that trident of the ocean which had been so truly called the sceptre of the world.


felt assured that the arguments which had been adduced against this proposal of the Government were at variance with all experience. Hon. Gentlemen had said, if the resolutions received the sanction of Parliament, the immediate consequence would be utter ruin to the shipping interests, and to the maritime power of this country. He had not the slightest doubt as to the error of such a prophecy. He had more scepticism as to the sagacity of those who indulged in such a prediction, than as to its being fulfilled. He had endeavoured to ascertain the leading and prominent facts as to the shipping interests of this and other countries; and he was satisfied that the result as regarded this country could not be such as had been described. He was satisfied, if the measure of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade received the sanction of Parliament, that it, in connexion with the measures of free trade carried by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), would produce such effects as to render the ports, the docks, and the warehouses of the United Kingdom the greatest emporiums which ever existed of the produce of the whole world. The connexion between the present prosperity of our commerce and the navigation laws was most remote, and had as much to do with each other as the Nile had to do with the Pyramids of Egypt. As for the assertion, that the greatness of our Navy was owing to the existence of the navigation laws, he begged the House to remember that our Navy was the most powerful in the world long before those laws were enacted; and he believed it would been have just as powerful if those laws had never been carried. He would not go back to the time of Alfred; but in the time of Edward III. it was well known that our fleet took or destroyed 400 ships with 30,000 men on board. In 1416 also, the Earl of Warwick destroyed a powerful fleet on the coast of Holland. In 1545 also, Sir Edward Howard defeated the French fleet in the Channel with very great loss. He would not refer to the Spanish armada, and to other well-known occasions when our fleet manifested its prowess; but he might observe that up to 1653, our fleet was almost uniformly victorious. It should be recollected the navigation laws were proposed by Oliver Cromwell in 1651. About that period we were continually at war with the Dutch; and it was impossible the navigation laws could have aided in any way in the support of our Navy. There were many countries which never had any navigation laws at any period of their history. When the people of Holland were driven into the country they now occupied, and which then might almost be said to be floating in water, they proceeded to erect cities which became hives of industry and wealth, and that country of marsh and bog became a great mercantile nation in the absence of all navigation laws; and that country also had produced some of the greatest statesmen, philosophers, and men of science and learning in Europe. They had such a powerful fleet without any navigation laws, that it swept the tyrants which oppressed them from the ocean, and ultimately they became almost the first maritime Power in the world. So it was with Denmark and Sweden, whose commercial navies were in a flourishing condition. It appeared also in other instances, the mercantile navies of other countries began to decay shortly after passing the navigation laws and the imposing restrictions. Spain had more stringent navigation laws than any country in the world; and notwithstanding that country received the wealth of Mexico and Peru, it gradually went to decay, and its treasury was generally the poorest of any State in Europe. Holland, notwithstanding the difficulties it had constantly to contend with, was stronger than Spain and Portugal together. He did not believe that we should suffer in the slightest degree in our shipping interest if we abolished the navigation and registry laws altogether. Since 1840 also, with the exception of France, and excluding some few articles in the Prussian tariff, there had been a general relaxation of the system of restriction. The tariff of America had been reduced one-half, and similar changes had been made in other countries. In the Italian States, such as Tuscany, Rome, and Sardinia, great modifications of the tariff had taken place. Austria also since 1838 had not only met us most fairly, but had gone to the extent of abolishing the whole of the prohibitory system of Maria Theresa and Joseph II. Austria, also, at the instigation of England, had relaxed the quarantine laws to one half their former extent; and since then other steps had been taken to reduce these restrictions, so that they would in a short time exist only to one quarter the extent which they formerly did. He believed also, if this mea sure passed, that, in addition to the reduction which had already taken place in the charges on our ships in the ports of Russia, Sweden, and Norway, and to a certain extent in the ports of Denmark, those States would follow the example which we had set them. He would not go into detail on the present occasion, but should reserve himself until they got into Committee. He would now only refer to what had occurred between this country and the United States in 1782, when General Washington was President, and Mr. Jay, Secretary of State of that country. Washington sent Mr. Adams to this country, to propose to the Government of England that vessels from the United States should be regarded as British ships, and mutual concessions were to be made as regarded navigation and commerce. The proposal was received with approbation, and Mr. Pitt, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, under the Government of Lord Shelborne, announced his intention of obtaining the sanction of Parliament; but being defeated in the debate on the Peace, the Government resigned, and the proposition fell to the ground. So matters rested until 1805, when measures of retaliation were adopted by the United States. He contended, if ever there was a moment for bringing forward such a measure as the present, this was the time, when the Government of the United States were prepared to meet us in every way which we could desire. If this country and the United States adopted unrestricted principles of navigation and trade, every other country would be compelled to follow our example; not from any attachment to this country or the United States, but from the stern laws of necessity they must do so, if they did not wish to see their finances ruined. He should give his cordial support to this measure, as the representative of a place which, next to London, was most deeply interested in shipbuilding and shipping of the highest character; and he believed his constituents would not be injured, or have any reason to complain at being exposed to fair competition with the ships of the whole world. It should also be remembered, that the materials for the construction of ships could be as cheaply obtained here as in any other country. They had been told that this country, in this respect, could not compete with the Northern States of Europe, as the wages of artificers were there so much lower. This, however, would not prevent successful competition on our part, for although wages were nominally cheaper, money was much dearer and more difficult to be got than here. He believed nothing could be more injurious to the shipping interest than the retaining the navigation laws. In 1813 great complaints were made on the proposal to admit Indian-built ships into our ports on the same terms as British ships; and they were told that the consequence would be that all the shipbuilding yards on the Thames and other rivers would be closed, as ships could be built in India at a very cheap rate. This was distinctly stated to be the case by Mr. Harrison, the counsel for the shipbuilders of London, before the Committee of the whole House, on the renewal of the Charter of the East India Company. It appeared from the result, that these predictions were altogether erroneous; for it appeared from the report of the shipbuilders of Calcutta and Bombay for 1847, that the shipbuilders of these ports declared that they could not contend against the splendid ships sent out from England, such as the Queen, the Maria Somes, the Africane, and a great number of other vessels built on the Thames, the Mersey, and the Clyde. He thought that other measures besides the resolutions under consideration were necessary. He believed that the whole of the customs duties should be altered, and that they should make regulations with regard to the masters of ships. He also agreed with the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, that no duty should be charged upon timber used for shipbuilding. Indeed he (Mr. M'Gregor) wished to see the timber duties abolished altogether; but that could not be done at present with due regard to the public treasury. The opening of the coasting trade to foreigners, he thought, would have an injurious effect upon the revenue, although it would not injure or endanger the shipping interest. But it would endanger the revenue, in consequence of the great inducements that would be held out to smuggling. As to the arguments which had been urged against the measure on the ground that it would prevent the proper manning of the Royal Navy, he need only say, that by the present rule of proportion of British subjects in the crews of British vessels, there might be 35,000 or 36,000 foreigners in our Navy, whereas the fact was, there were not more than 3,500.


had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow very atten- tively, in hope of hearing some argument from that hon. Gentleman, which should appear at least to justify him, and that section of the House with which he was acting in concert, in the course they were pursuing. But he should confess he felt great disappointment. The hon. Member for Glasgow would excuse him if he declined going on the journey to which he had invited him, to Grand Cairo and Suez; and if he refrained from going back to the reign of Alfred the Great, or to the condition of the Navy from the reign of Edward III. to the Commonwealth. He (Mr. Miles) had heard no convincing argument used throughout the entire debate in favour of the proposed alteration in the navigation laws. It had, indeed, been urged that owing to the extension of intelligence and to the progress of the people, it had become necessary to extend the means of commerce, and to remove restrictions upon trade. But, excepting in the year 1846, he had never heard the slightest complaint of the want of freight from foreign ports; and, at all events, he thought the preference should be given to British bottoms. As it seemed to be agreed on all hands that details should be reserved for Committee, he would only touch generally upon the matters which had been presented for their consideration; and, after the many and various reasons that had been adduced by those hon. Gentlemen who supported the resolutions, he thought they ought, if they had really nothing to fear from competition, as they alleged, to propose the doing away altogether with the navigation laws at once. But the fact was, there was great difficulty in arguing the question under the circumstances at present existing, They had had a Committee of their House. which had sat for a length of time, had received a great deal of evidence, and had come to no decision after all. They examined but one naval captain amongst all their witnesses, and had come to no result. A Committee of the House of Lords was now sitting; and from the proceedings of that Committee they had obtained in some degree some means of refuting what had been stated before the Committee of the House of Commons. Much stress had been laid upon the testimony given by Sir J. Stirling; but, as he should have a good deal to say upon that subject, he should first address himself to the question of cost of shipbuilding. He should found his arguments on that head upon the evidence of an English gentleman who had been brought up to the sea—who had been impressed into the Royal Navy—who had served in his youth in the merchant service—and who was well acquainted with the north of Europe trade especially. He meant Mr. Whitworth. It would be as well to state that Mr. Whitworth was now a shipbroker at Bristol, and that he had frequently sailed to the various Danish and Norwegian ports. That gentleman stated, with tears in his eyes, what were his feelings as an old British seaman, and that he could not reflect without regret upon the great injustice they were about to inflict upon British seamen. Prom his evidence as to the cost of shipbuilding and outfitting, ready for sea, it appeared that a ship of 500 tons copper-fastened, built in Norway and coppered in this country, and a British ship of the same tonnage, built, coppered, and copper-fastened in this country, would bear the following relative proportions. The Norwegian vessel would cost 4,000l.; add her coppering, 500l.: total, 4,500l. or about 8l. a ton. The English ship would cost about 16l., or from that to 20l. a ton—consequently about 9,000l., exactly one half more; or rather exactly double what the Norwegian ships would cost. How, then, was it possible that the proposed plan could help having an injurious effect upon the shipbuilding interest, by throwing out of employment a vast number of shipwrights and artisans? Let them next see what was the comparative condition of the crews. English rates of wages—captains, 10l. a month; mates, 5l.; second mates and carpenters, 3l. 10s. to 4l.; sailors, 2l. 10s. a month. He should observe that he was stating the lowest prices of British wages, and he was about to give the highest rates of Danish. The Danish captains had about as much, if not rather more wages than English; but Danish mates had from 2l. to 2l. 5s. a month, second mates and carpenters, 1l. 12s. to 1l. 15s.; and common sailors, 1l. 8s. to 1l. 10s. a month. The cabin allowances on board British ships were, for common sailors, 1s. to 1s. 2d. a head; on board Danish they were only 7d. In the officers' cabin a similar disproportion existed. So that the entire wages of the British vessel amounted to 72l. 10s. per month, whilst the wages of the Danish were only 44l. 15s., being a saving of a difference of 27l. 15s. The cost of provisions on board the British vessel was 36l. 8s. for the twenty-eight days; on the Norwegian it was only 21l. 19s. 8d.; so that so far as cost of victualling and wages went, the odds were all in favour of the Dane, to the amount of no less a sum than 42l. 3s. 4d. a month. As to American ships, they would cost very little less than English, whilst the payment on board American vessels was higher than on English. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie), when addressing the House, had stated that the only part of the globe in which the English and American navies came into fair and open competition, was in the South Sea. Now, if that were so, he (Mr. Miles) was sorry to say that the effect had been, that in that trade, which of all others made the best seamen, the British had dwindled down to nothing, whilst the Americans had no less than 17,000 seamen engaged in it. In 1820 the bounties that were paid on every vessel fitted out for the South Sea whale fishery were reduced, and high duties were put on. In 1842 the duties were lowered. In 1846 they were lowered still further, until, he believed, the 1st of January, next year, they were to sink down to nothing. But the Americans had high protecting duties, and they did all they could to foster their trade. The hon. Gentleman then read several extracts of letters from captains of vessels trading to Calcutta, and from mercantile firms in India and at Bordeaux, to show that French vessels were likely to absorb a large portion of the long-voyage trade from Bristol, and that the British trade with India was nearly destroyed by the new custom-house regulations at Calcutta. But the effect of the proposed measures upon the manning of the Royal Navy in time of war, was the main question. Heaven knew, the complaints made by people of all descriptions within the last two or three years, had been little regarded by the Legislature. The complaints of the agriculturists had been disregarded, so had the complaints of the mercantile classes; and it would, therefore, be little wonder if they disregarded the prayer of the shipowners. But let them see what the mercantile men had done in manning the Royal Navy, and in defending this island from foreign invaders. What was their condition now? It was stated by Sir J. Stirling, that of 46,000 men who were in the Navy, there were not above 10,000 ablebodied seamen. Suppose, then, that a war were to break out suddenly. Suppose they had war tomorrow, and that there were no registry to point out where they had their 250,000 seamen, he wished to know what they would do? He wished that all they had heard in the course of the debate to the derogation of British seamen had not been said. Sir J. Stirling had said that nothing could be finer than the character of those men who were engaged in the long-voyage trade. And notwithstanding what the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Hay) had said about the conduct of the seamen in Spain, he had no doubt the noble and gallant Lord would be willing and happy to go into action with a crew of such men. He would answer for it, the noble and gallant Lord would be happy, on an emergency, to take a crew of them. [Lord JOHN HAY dissented.] The noble Lord said no; but he believed, after all, those men would do their duty gallantly. To proceed to the question of the coasting trade, Sir J. Stirling had said, that— If protection were to be given to any branch of our shipping trade, it ought to be to that; but that he doubted whether the navigation laws gave any protection at all. He did not think that foreigners could compete with Englishmen in their marine. Where were the petitions in favour of this measure? In the absence of any expression of public opinion in support of it, let them not tell him that it was looked upon with favour by the commercial classes of the country. Having stated this much, and thanking the House for the attention with which they had listened to him, he begged to say in conclusion, that he should be very happy to give his support to the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford.


confessed that, having heard such a variety of opinions expressed on this subject, he should not be surprised to hear any view whatever with regard to it supported by hon. Members. After having listened to all the arguments that had been adduced on both sides, he felt bound to give his vote in favour of the original Motion in preference to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford. It appeared to him (Mr. Moody) that if the whole of the restrictions imposed by the navigation laws continued, there could not he any effective working out of the commercial measures of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth; but at the same time, he felt that they were quite at sea as to what the effect of the proposed alterations would be. They had heard the most diametrically opposite views expressed with regard to them by hon. Gentlemen who ought to have been able to form a sound judgment upon such a subject. Looking to statistics, they had the right hon. President of the Board of Trade founding his arguments in support of his proposition on statistics, while other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen made use of the same statistics to controvert the right hon. Gentleman's views. They would probably have some other hon. or right hon. Members this evening taking other totally different views. Looking at the state of opinion out of doors, he saw no more satisfactory means at arriving at the truth. From the port of London they had one lengthy petition, signed by a great number of gentlemen of much practical experience, in favour of the measure; but then they had another petition from the same quarter, of equal weight and respectability, against any alteration whatever in the navigation laws. They had in other petitions laid before the House on the subject, quite enough to bewilder any person who had not been engaged in mercantile pursuits, and who was not thus able to perceive how the measure would affect his own interests. Under these circumstances, he feared that it was very difficult for any hon. Member unacquainted practically with the subject to form a correct view upon matters of this kind; and he thought that was one reason why they ought to let the measure go forward, in order that the details might he considered with more care in Committee. He did not wish to delay the House, but he would beg to observe that there was one other reason which influenced him in giving his vote in favour of the original Motion. The House unfortunately presented very great divisions on both sides. There could be no doubt, therefore, but that some hon. Gentleman on his side of the House would go over to vote in favour of the Government, while other hon. Members would be found coming across from the Ministerial side to vote on that—he was going to say the Opposition side of the House, but the House was so divided that it was difficult to say where the Opposition now sat. Some hon. Members who had entered the House as freetraders, now found influential portions of their constituency crying out to them that the craft was in danger; and he should be sorry to sec the difficulties thus created increased by adverse decisions of the House, and Her Majesty's Government embarrassed by such a variety of opposition. In conclusion, he begged to guard himself by observing that, in supporting the Motion for going into Committee, he did not consider himself as pledged to support all the details of the Bill.


would support the Motion that the Speaker leave the chair for going into Committee to consider the present state of the navigation laws, and their effect upon the trade and commerce of the country. He was a Member of the Committee of that House which, during the last Session, sat on this important question; and the effect of the evidence on his mind was, that extensive changes and alterations should be made in the existing system of the navigation laws. If he were to vote for the Amendment, it would be equivalent to a declaration of opinion that there was nothing in the present state of the law which rendered it necessary to go into inquiry on that important point. He knew that his right hon. Friend (Mr. Herries) was not prepared to say that those laws required no alteration. He (Sir G. Clerk) believed that many hon. Gentlemen who would support the Amendment were not prepared to maintain the navigation laws as they stood at present. He thought the practical effect of carrying the Amendment would be to lead the country to think that it was the opinion of the House that no alteration should be made in those laws. Those who opposed the original Motion argued that those laws had for two centuries remained unchanged—that they had been the preservation of our country's greatness, and the cause of our naval supremacy. The real effects produced upon our system of navigation laws were to be found in the changes which had from time to time been necessary, in consequence of the altered state of our relations with the other nations of the world; such as the immense changes consequent upon the Declaration of Independence of the United States in 1783, the Declaration of the South American Colonies of Spain, &c. All these changes had rendered it incumbent upon us to take a different view of the question of navigation law. In addition to that, our increased intercourse with the other nations of Europe, had rendered great changes absolutely necessary. According to a law which was originally introduced in the time of Charles IL, all trade was prohibited with this country in foreign ships, unless the ships were of the same country as the goods which they carried. But since 1825 most important changes had been made in the law. The old restriction was then taken off a great number of articles, although he must say that the list of favoured articles was most arbitrarily chosen. Any hon. Member who would take the trouble to inspect that list would find that whilst several articles of vast importance were admitted to be imported without restriction, there were some of the most unimportant articles on which the old fetters were still allowed to remain. For instance, we took very great care that no figs should be introduced into this country except in British vessels, or vessels belonging to the country in which those figs were grown; but with regard to metals, with regard to our importations of pig iron, amounting to 34,000 tons in the course of the year, there were no restrictions whatever. Any vessel might import iron, or any metallic ores, or any metals, without reference to the country to which she belonged, the manner in which she was navigated, or the port from which she came. We took very good care to enforce the law of restrictions with regard to the importation of barilla, of which there arrived about 1,500 tons in the course of the year; but, with regard to butter, of which we imported ten times as much, or 15,000 tons in the course of the year, any ship might bring butter into this country free from all restriction; and that was the case with regard to many other articles which he might enumerate. He was sorry to hear the statement of the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdcgate) the other night with regard to the measures of Mr. Huskisson on the navigation laws. He (Sir G. Clerk) believed that the rapid increase and prosperity of the trade of this country during the last few years were to he attributed in a great degree to the alterations effected in the navigation laws by Mr. Huskisson in 1825. And when he considered the glowing anticipations that were entertained at that time with regard to Mr. Huskisson's measures as to what would be their probable effects, he confessed that there was no circumstance which relieved him more from the apprehensions which one might be disposed to entertain regarding the present proposed change in the navigation laws, than the eminent success of the changes effected by Mr. Huskisson in 1825. He believed that there was no person in this country (however much he might have been disposed hitherto to attribute the occasional depressions which our shipping interest had suffered to the reciprocity treaties of 1824), who would for one moment recommend the House to retrace its steps, and reimpose upon foreigners those alien duties to which they were formerly subjected. Indeed, he believed, from the discussions which had taken place on this subject, that he might take for granted that every one admitted that it was to the operation of the changes introduced by Mr. Huskisson in 1825, that we must attribute the rapid rise and prosperity of English trade. And, looking to the importance of our trade with Asia, Africa, and America, he must say that it was impossible for us any longer to permit the present restrictive laws on navigation to remain on the Statute-book. He did not think that, with regard to that part of the subject, the necessity of an alteration in our law with regard to our trade with Asia, Africa, and America, there would be found one dissentient voice in the House. He had not heard any one say that it was not expedient that a very great change should take place in our law in that respect; that, in fact, the law with regard to our trade with Asia, Africa, and America, should be put upon the same footing as that which regulated our European trade. But those who made that admission stated, at the same time, that they entertained the most serious apprehension that if those restrictions were taken off, we should throw into the hands of foreigners the greatest share of what was called "the long-voyage" trade with this country. Now, he thought it was necessary to inquire upon what foundation that apprehension rested. They had had several detailed calculations with regard to the comparative cost of building ships, rate of wages, expense of navigating, &c. in Great Britain and abroad; but they ought to look at what had been the experience of British shipowners, &c. for a long series of years with regard to the particular branches of trade in which they had been exposed to a free and open competition with foreign countries, and particularly with those Northern States, with respect to whom he was surprised to find, in certain quarters, the greatest alarm and jealousy entertained. Certain parties said that if this proposed alteration were carried into effect, those Northern States would become our most formidable rivals, and would materially injure the shipping interests of this country. We had for a long while been on equal terms with Russia with regard to navigation laws, and we imported into Russia not only the manufactures of Great Britain, but also articles from every other part of the globe. He contended that this question of the Russian trade showed the groundlessness of the alarms entertained by certain parties with regard to the "long voyage" trade. That single fact ought at once to remove their apprehensions. As the law now stood, goods the produce of Asia, Africa, and America, might be brought into this country in the ships of any nation, if they were not intended for consumption in this country, but were to be warehoused for exportation. And was it not self-evident that if any other country could have carried on that trade at a cheaper rate than Great Britain, such a country must have monopolised the whole of that trade. If the Danish, the Swedish, or the Prussian vessels, of which some persons were so much afraid, could have carried on that trade in any large branch—in sugar, for instance, from Brazil or Cuba—with advantage to themselves, and more cheaply than British vessels; then, indeed, British shipowners would have been obliged to allow foreigners to monopolise that trade, even as regarded sugar imported into British ports for home consumption. But the truth was, that not only was the sugar used in this country conveyed hither by English bottoms, but even that which was consumed in Russia and various other countries was carried by British vessels. Then, he would ask, what injurious effect, up to the present moment, had our law which placed the Northern States on the same footing as ourselves? He found that a large part of the goods imported from Brazil into the ports of the Mediterranean was carried by British vessels. With respect to that trade, foreigners, to say the least, had an equal chance with ourselves. If foreigners could indeed navigate their ships so much more cheaply than ourselves, why was it that, up to the present moment, we had absorbed so much of the shipping trade, even in their own seas? By the official returns it appeared that the amount of tonnage which entered the Baltic in 1844, exceeded 800,000, which was nearly one-third of the whole of the shipping trade of the Baltic. Now, that fact might certainly have relieved the minds of those persons who entertained such great alarm for the safety of British shippers from the invasion of foreigners. He had shown that where British shipowners had come into competition with Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, &c, shipowners, the former had come off victorious. It was said by some that foreign sailors were fed on a very coarse description of bread, &c., and that, from that and other circumstances, British shippers would have to yield if put into competition with foreigners on equal terms. But the evidence which was given before the Navigation Committee might have set any fears on that ground at rest. A specimen of the rations served out in the ships of foreigners was exhibited in the Committee, and he would venture to say that there were many merchant ships in this country in which the provision was neither superior in quality nor equal in quantity; and with regard to the Prussian ships, the allowance of beef and pork was greater than in English vessels. One of the witnesses that was examined before the Committee appointed to inquire into the depressed state of the shipping interest of this country, in 1844, admitted that, owing to the facilities which had been granted to the masters of ships to get provisions of any kind out of bond, for the purposes of victualling their ships, the actual cost of navigating the ships of this country had been reduced 30 per cent. Therefore, taking into account the fact of our tariff having been reduced, whereby the articles required in the victualling of ships had been considerably cheapened—and taking into account the alteration in the duties upon all raw materials necessary for the construction of ships—taking into account the slight difference between the expense of building a ship in Norway, Sweden, or Denmark, and the expense in Great Britain—taking into account the superior quality of the material used in the construction of our ships, and the consequent greater durability of them (our ships lasted double the time of foreign ships);—they might safely say that, taking quality for quality, the ships of this country could be built and navigated as cheaply as in any other part of Europe. And he begged leave to ask the House, was it from a small commercial State such as Bremen, Norway, Denmark, or Prussia, that this country was to entertain any alarm? Were they afraid of the rivalry of the commercial or military marines of such countries as those? No; they must look to another quarter of the globe if they were to look for that power, energy, and enterprise, which were to become formidable rivals to this nation. We must look to the United States, a people of the same blood as ourselves. And could ships be built or navigated by them more cheaply than by ourselves? Why, he found that the ordinary wages of a shipwright at New York were two dollars, or 8s. 4d. a day—a higher rate of wages than was usually paid in the most extensive shipbuilding houses along the river Thames. And, last year, owing to a greater demand for ships, 10s. a day were actually paid by the same shipbuilders in America. Now, under such circumstances, he would ask whether it was possible to build ships cheaper at New York, Baltimore, or Boston, than at Liverpool, or any other British port? On this subject he would refer them to the evidence of an American captain, as given in the report of the Navigation Laws Committee, who stated that he could repair his ship more cheaply at Liverpool than at New York. And as to the wages, &c. of American seamen, it must be evident that the hundreds of seamen who had left our vessels to go into the American service must have been induced to make the change from the higher recompense held out to them. The wages of able seamen at New York were fifteen dollars a month; and, taking a dollar at the lowest calculation, the American sailor would receive 3l. 4s. per month, whilst able seamen in England could be obtained for 2l.10s. And with regard to the materials used in the construction of the best American ships, a portion had actually to be purchased in England. So much with regard to the fears to be entertained from our most formidable rival. But, laying aside these considerations as to the comparative cost of constructing and navigating British and foreign vessels, the greatest "rival" that they had to fear was the superior conduct of foreign captains and sailors to our own. The superior intelligence, sobriety, and courtesy of foreign captains, induced many of even our own merchants, against their will, to employ foreign shipowners in the transit of their goods. Of that they had abundant and painful evidence in the report of the Navigation Laws Committee. Here he must briefly refer to the correspondence of our consuls, in consequence of the severe animadversions of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, a few nights ago, and the wish expressed by the right hon. President of the Board of Trade that that hon. Member would read the date of a letter he referred to, in order to fix the blame, if any, upon the late Government. But the fact was, that the late Government were not responsible at all for the communications between Mr. Murray and some of the foreign consuls. Mr. Murray had acted of his own Motion, and had sent the result of some inquiries he had made to his superior in office, Lord Canning, for the information of the Government; but Mr. Murray himself said that he had addressed "private letters to several consuls with whom he was personally acquainted." The late Government were not answerable for the terms of Mr. Murray's communications; and if there was any blame at all it rested not with the late, but rather with the present Government, who had laid the papers upon the table without any qualification or explanation. The evidence before the Committee with respect to the education and manners of the masters of our merchant vessels, proceeded from some of the greatest shipowners—men greatly desirous of protection, and who were in fact unwilling witnesses; and it was impossible to look at that evidence without being much struck with its nature. Refraining from quoting the testimony of Captain Fitzroy, who might perhaps be challenged as a prejudiced witness, he would first call the attention of the House to the evidence of the agent to the underwriters of Glasgow, who deposed to the number of ships he had known to have got on shore, owing to the ignorance, carelessness, stupidity, or want of education of the masters. The next important evidence was that of the greatest shipowner in the country, and a stanch Protectionist; he meant Mr. Somes. That gentleman said that thirty years ago the masters of English vessels maintained a great superiority compared with foreigners; but that superiority existed no longer, and the foreign masters were quite equal—Mr. Somes would not admit that they were superior—to the English. Mr. Somes was asked whether preference was not given to masters of foreign vessels, on account of the greater care they took of the cargoes; and he answered that he had seen great neglect in some cases on the part of English captains in respect to the care of their cargo. That was a very important admission as coming from Mr. Somes. The same gentleman also declared that the Prussian sailors were a superior class, and that their commanders were well instructed in navigation. He would only quote from the evidence of one more witness, Mr. Wilcox, managing director of the Oriental Steam-packet Company,. who admitted that preference was given to foreign masters. This was a most important part of the case, because if competition was really to he dreaded, let the true source and cause be discovered. Mr. Wilcox further said, that foreign masters were superior in their address to the English—a fact which told very much abroad. The English captains were not equal to the others in civility and courteousness of manner, and that was a ground for preference. At the close of the war British captains had been preferred, but that prestige was now gone. That was the evidence of Mr. Wilcox; and another witness said, "Foreign masters were preferred because they were better conducted and steady men." Such evidence showed the effect of monopoly in this instance; and he (Sir G. Clerk) believed that in all other cases similar effects would follow. At the end of the war we had all the carrying trade in the world; foreigners had to create a commercial navy, and they bestowed great pains upon it, and they introduced a system of education for masters and mates, whilst we remained with our arms crossed. He did not say that we made no progress; he did not say that we were worse now than we were thirty years ago; we were making slow progress, but foreigners who could not compete with us thirty years ago, by means of a better system of educating their masters and mates, had so improved them, that when British and foreign vessels met in a foreign port, the preference was given to the foreigner at an equal rate of freight, on account of the greater care which the masters took of the cargo. Was this a prejudice confined to foreign countries? He was sorry to say that it was a feeling participated in by British merchants. Messrs. Gladstone and Co. had given instructions to their agents at Rio to ship their goods aboard foreign vessels, as the masters would take more care of them than our own masters; and he (Sir G. Clerk) believed that similar directions had been given by other houses at Liverpool. With respect to the quickness of voyage, Captain Briggs said a preference was given to American vessels on this account. The masters had an interest in the vessel; and in order to make quick voyages they found it necessary to obtain a bettor knowledge of the currents of the ocean; and in a note appended to the consular returns it was stated by Mr. Murray, that the master of an English vessel, by his scientific knowledge, had been able, through his acquaintance with the currents, to perform a voyage from this country to New Zealand in ninety days, and the homeward voyage in ninety-one days. It was most important to the merchant that his cargo should arrive at the shortest possible period, and he would naturally choose the quickest means of conveyance. Sailing vessels had now to compete with the power of steam, and were obliged to employ the greatest exertions. The late Government attempted to remedy the evil of the want of education for our masters and mates; they instituted a system for the examination of persons for these situations, in order that they might possess some scientific knowledge as well as practical seamanship. In 1845, with the able assistance of Sir G. Cockburn, then a Lord of the Admiralty, he (Sir G. Clerk) drew up a scheme for the examination of masters and mates before competent authorities at the outports, where they were to receive certificates. That scheme had not been carried out to the extent he wished; but he was happy to say that, during the last year, there had been a great increase in the number of masters and mates who had tendered themselves for examination; and it must be borne in mind that the discipline of the crews depended upon the character of the masters. The best crew would be spoiled if placed under the command of a negligent and intemperate master, who treated them in a coarse or harsh manner. He had endeavoured briefly to show that, looking at the experience we had had in trade, we were able to compete with the ships of foreign countries, and that our foreign trade had increased quite as much as our colonial trade, which was confined to our own ships. This appeared from the amount of our trade in 1844 and 1846, comparing the protected (our colonial trade) and the unprotected, or foreign trade. Some observations had been made with reference to those returns upon an able and zealous public servant, Mr. Porter, as if he had prepared unfair returns, calculated to make erroneous impressions. He did not attach much value to those returns; but whatever their value might be, or their unfairness, the fault was not Mr. Porter's; the returns were not so framed by him, but by Mr. George Frederick Young. [Mr. HERRIES dissented.] Mr. Young had acknowledged, in his evidence, that he had prepared those returns up to 1844; and all that had been done by Mr. Porter, was the bringing the returns down, prepared on the same principle, to 1846. The hon. Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) had just asked, "Who is Mr. Young?" He should have supposed that the hon. Gentleman had not been ignorant of who Mr. Young was; he had supposed the hon. Member had been in communication with him; he was President of the Committee of Shipowners, and formerly a Member of that House—a man of great acuteness and ability. He thought, therefore, that Mr. Porter had been unfairly attacked. He had endeavoured to show that there was no very great reason to apprehend danger from competition with foreigners; that we had advantages which would enable us, if we threw open the trade with foreign countries, to keep our share not only of the direct trade, but even of the indirect trade. But it might be said, why change at all? He thought it would be easy to show that the navigation laws had not been effectual for the object for which they were enacted, and that they placed us in a position of disadvantage. The navigation laws had been enacted on account of the jealousy entertained by this country, two centuries ago, towards Holland; the commercial marine of most other nations was then in a state of infancy. But see what had been the effect of our navigation laws. They had forced and extended the commercial marine of those countries, and principally those countries whence we imported the largest amount of raw produce. The United States now had navigation laws; and we stood now in an analogous position with regard to the United States as Holland, 200 years ago, did with us. But Great Britain being the emporium of the world, we ought to be ready to import and export the produce of every part of the globe, without restriction. The Americans said, their goods should be brought in American vessels only. What was the consequence? Look, in the first place, to the import trade of America with this country; and he would quote the figures used by the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). Last year there were imported into the ports of England from the United States goods to the value of 42,500,000 dollars, or between 10,000,000l. and 11,000,000l. sterling. Of this amount the value of 31,000,000 dollars was brought by American vessels, and only 11,000,000 dollars by English ships. This was a very unfair proportion; but look at the return trade. There were exported from England to America goods to the value of 44,000,000 dollars, of which amount 37,500,000 dollars went in American vessels, and only 6,000,000 dollars, or not one-seventh, in English vessels. So that our trade with one of our most important customers was injured by the operation of the navigation laws. Why should vessels from Hamburgh and other places not participate in the trade between this country and America? If it would occacasion a displacement of tonnage, it would be only American tonnage. But he denied that there would be any displacement at all. If we removed these disqualifications, the increase in our trade would be in an equal ratio. It had been said that the Americans were so convinced of the advantages they would derive from the combined operation of the English navigation laws and their own navigation laws, that they never would relax theirs. But this was not the opinion of witnesses who had been examined before the Committee. Mr. Dunbar, of Sunderland, Chairman of the Shipowners Society, was opposed to our repealing the navigation laws, because he feared there would be, as far as America was concerned, no reciprocity. He would read a portion of his evidence before the Committee on the Navigation Laws:— How is it then that you consider that a depression will follow from the opening of the trade generally?—Because the repeal of the navigation laws would he no reciprocity; if I had a ship loading in Canton, and an American had a ship there, he would come to London with his teas, but I could not go to Now York with mine, therefore there would he no reciprocity. If we had a fair competition upon principles of reciprocity, I should not be so much afraid of it. If there were a free trade in shipping all over the world, you would have no fear of competition?—I do not say no fear, but not so much fear. But would you have any fear?—Yes. What amount of fear would you have?—It is almost impossible to say; every competition must injure the shipowner. If I had a ship loading in Canton, alongside of an American, if he could come to London he would reduce my freight; but if I could not go to New York, I could not reduce his; whereas if I could go to New York, I could reduce his as well as he reduce mine. In case there was an alteration of the navigation laws of America, you would not object to an open trade?—I would object; I should not like it; but I would not be so much afraid of the competition in that case. Do you think that it would be a worse state of things than the present?—I think it would. But how is it that you obtain an advantage, because you enjoy a protection in respect of those countries with which you are on fair terms of reciprocity?—We do obtain an advantage; for instance, an American ship cannot go to Canton and bring teas to London, but I can go to Canton and bring teas to London. He believed, contrary to Mr. Dunbar, that, instead of losing by throwing open the trade between this country and America, upon a balance we should be gainers by it. He knew that there were persons who said that it could not but be injurious to both countries, and that it would be better for the trade of this country and America that the import trade should either be confined to our own ships, or that the ships of this country should go in ballast from America, and the American ships go in ballast from hence to their country. These persons, however, were not likely to make many converts to their doctrines. Many nations of Europe had a much more liberal code of commercial policy than ourselves, and therefore we must look at the notice we had received from Prussia, and consider what would be the effect of the European nations all retaliating upon us by adopting the restrictions which many here considered essential for us to have in force. It was impossible to conceive of more serious injury to the commerce of this country, or anything more utterly destructive of our warehousing system. It might be said that other Powers would themselves suffer by taking such a course; but had we never submitted to a great annoyance ourselves for the sake of inflicting a blow upon our enemies or rivals? On the other hand, the removal of existing impediments would increase the commerce of the world; foreign nations might increase their commercial navy; but it would not be by displacing British ships; the effect of a further relaxation would be similar to that which was now admitted to be the result of Mr. Huskisson's alterations. He freely admitted that whatever advantages might be gained in a commercial point of view from the repeal of those laws, they would be too dearly purchased if such repeal was accompanisd with a diminution of the number of merchant seamen. Nothing, in short, would compensate for such an irreparable injury; for he looked to the mercantile navy of this country as the source whence a supply of men was to be drawn in time of war to man our fleet—a supply which could be had nowhere else unless by constantly keeping up a war establishment; for experience from boyhood was required in order to make a good sailor. The profession of seaman required a longer service than any other. They must, therefore, look to the mercantile marine, which was essential to the preservation of the country itself. By the present law merchant vessels might, in time of war, be manned by one-fourth of their usual number, thus mating provision for the manning of the fleet from the merchant service. He had endeavoured to state as briefly as he could, his reasons for the line he took; and would now say a word or two upon another question. Pie must say that he did not think the House had been fairly treated by the Government, who had upon this subject departed from the usual course upon important measures like the present. The usual course was to lay before the House a series of resolutions, embodying the main principles of the projected alterations, so that the House might consider them in detail, and have the whole question before them in a plain and intelligible form. If that course had been taken, this discussion would have been avoided, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford would at once have gone into Committee. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: No, no!] He was certain that his right hon. Friend would then have gone into Committee, because there he could have dealt with the propositions in a tangible shape, by affirming, perhaps, the first, negativing the second, modifying the third, and so on. And, indeed, as there was now no hope of making any progress with the measure, at least before the holidays, he thought the Government ought still to adopt the course of laying the propositions before the House. If they had taken this course on the 15th of May, the measure might have had some prospect of being passed; but it was impossible at this period of the year for the Legislature to make any change. He would ask the noble Lord, now that they were about to go into Committee to consider the propriety of introducing a Bill involving so many complicated details in the middle of June, what hope was there of being able to carry it through during the present Session? He, therefore, thought the Government ought to lay the measure now before the House in a series of tangible propositions, which the House and the country would understand much better than when put in the technical form of a Bill. He gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and from the letter of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in reply to Mr. Bancroft, that he was willing to adopt the principle laid down by Mr. Bancroft, that if America conceded little, we were to concede little; if America conceded much, we were to concede much; if America conceded all, we were to concede all, That was, at least, an intelligible proposition; but then, if he understood their plans from the sketch given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, Government proposed to proceed in a directly opposite course. The right hon. Gentleman proposed, in the first place, to sweep away the whole of the navigation laws, and then to vest in the Crown the power of re-enacting them, at least in so far as to prevent the ships of those countries that would not favour us, from enjoying the benefit of their repeal. That was an extremely inconvenient course; and though the right hon. Gentleman said there were precedents for it, he (Sir G. Clerk) must confess he was not acquainted with them. But he objected to this course, because he thought nothing was more likely to embroil us with foreign countries than such a power being vested in the Crown. This was not the course which Mr. Huskisson followed in 1825, when he established the reciprocity system, though even in establishing that system Mr. Huskisson proved he was trenching somewhat upon constitutional principles; but he defended it on the ground that he was not vesting in the Crown the power of imposing new taxes. That was a very different thing from the course which it was now proposed to pursue, which was first to take off all existing restrictions, and then to give the Crown the power, at its will, of imposing customs duties. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford had recommended the sound rule of proceeding in suggesting a more cautious mode of proceeding on the part of the Government, though eventually the same end would be reached—that was, to accomplish their object rather by means of treaties with foreign Governments, than by first repealing the law and then giving the Crown the power of renewing it. It might be said that they had repudiated the principle of reciprocity in revising the tariff. But he considered there was a clear ground of distinction between the two cases. The ships of countries were in the same class—they were in pari materia—and, therefore, it would be comparatively easy to allow foreigners privileges, with regard to navigation, on condition that they allowed the same principle to us. But, in the case of the tariff, the articles were of every variety of character—they were articles which were needed for the benefit of the people of this country; therefore we could not wait until foreign countries should agree to admit our goods. He begged pardon of the House for going into so many details; but it was a question on which he had not made up his mind without great difficulty and much distrust of his own opinion. But, after listening to the evidence which had been given before the Committee appointed by this House last Session, and after reading the evidence taken by the Committee of the House of Lords during the present Session, he was satisfied that Parliament might remove the restrictions imposed by the navigation laws, without, in the slightest degree, injuring the shipping of this country, while the trade of the country would be extended, and the English mercantile marine would increase in future as they had increased in the past, and in a far greater ratio than the ships of other countries. On these grounds he had come to the conclusion of voting in favour of the House going into Committee.


said, that the question which the House had now to decide was, not how far it should adopt the proposition of the Government—that question would be submitted on a future day—the question the House was now invited to decide was, whether or not it would consider the laws relating to the navigation of this country? At the commencement of the Session, Her Majesty, in the Speech from the Throne, recommended to Parliament the consideration of those laws; and, in an unanimous address, this House assured Her Majesty that it would take them into its careful consideration with a view to ascertain whether any changes could be effected in them without danger to the maritime strength, or prejudice to the colonial and commercial interests of the empire. Since that time documents had been laid upon the table from two of the most important countries with which we had commercial relations—Prussia and the United States of America, intimating on the part of Prussia, that the advantages which we now enjoyed in Prussian ports would be withdrawn unless we were prepared to give corresponding advantages to Prussia in our ports; and intimating on the part of the United States that they were prepared to make relaxations in favour of our trade, if we, on our part, were prepared to make corresponding relaxations to their advantage hero. There had also been laid papers before the House, in the name of several of our most important colonies, beseeching Paliament to consider the grievances under which they alleged themselves to be labouring from the operation of the navigation laws. It was under these circumstances that his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford interposed an obstacle to the Speaker's leaving the chair, which, would prevent the House from fulfilling its pledge to the Throne by taking the navigation laws into consideration. Upon these grounds alone—if there were no others—he felt it impossible to give a vote for his right hon. Friend's Amendment. If the House would extend its indulgence to him, he would endeavour not to trespass upon its attention for an unreasonable space of time whilst attempting to express an opinion on the difficult and complicated subject of the navigation laws. It was with peculiar satisfaction he observed, that whatever differences of opinion existed amongst parties in that House upon other points—however various were the roads by which they proposed to walk—they were entirely at one in respect to the guide whom they were prepared to follow. The policy of Mr. Huskisson was appealed to, and the success of his measures stated by the hon. Member for Westhury, who supported the proposition of the Government; and a similar course was taken by his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford, who would not permit the Speaker to leave the chair until he had taken what he conceived to be effectual security for the good behaviour of the House when it should get into Committee. What, then, was the policy of Mr. Huskisson, in whose footsteps the House was invited to walk? The policy of that statesman in 1823 was based, not on theory, but on practical considerations of public exigency. Perceiving the change which had been made by the transition from war to peace, he proposed to obviate the difficulties in which trade and navigation were involved in consequence of foreign nations having determined on retaliating the hostile system which we had established; and he did not hesitate to avow his confident belief that if Mr. Huskisson had lived until the present day, so far from seeing reason to repent the course on which he had entered, he would have been encouraged by the light of experience to go forward in the same direction with greater confidence and a freer step. Nor for a moment could he admit the truth of the assertion that the shipowners, seamen, and others engaged in that branch of British industry, had any true reason to fear any competition in which they might en- gage on equal terms, provided only it were a real and not a nominal and unsubstantial equality. We were the countrymen of Drake and Raleigh—we descended from the men who carried the enterprise of Great Britain to the most distant parts of the world, and resisted the Spanish armada, and we could not consent to date the maritime supremacy of England from a regulation established by Cromwell, or an Act of Parliament passed in the reign of Charles II. To rest our title to maritime supremacy upon an Act of Parliament, was as irrational as for the Spaniards and Portuguese in former times to found a claim to the exclusive navigation of a portion of the globe upon a bull of the Pope. The elements of maritime success were energy, skill, aptitude for nautical pursuits, and the possession of a large amount of capital. What country possessed those requisites in any degree comparable with our own? Did not the right hon. Member for Stamford, when submitting his Amendment to the House, assert that the proposition of the Government would endanger no less than 60,000,000l. of capital invested in the shipping trade? What other country had 60,000,000l. of capital embarked in the same trade? Since, then, we possessed the greatest amount of capital, and energy and skill equalled by no other nation, why should we fear to enter into a race of real open competition? If he looked to actual results and existing facts, was he compelled to retreat from his position? He was told—and he had communicated on the subject with persons who had had great experience, and whose opinions were entitled to every consideration—that shipbuilding was cheap in the Adriatic—that seamen were hardy and skilful, and satisfied with moderate wages—and that we had great reason to fear competition in that quarter; but when he looked to the free port of Trieste, and saw the amount of British commerce carried on there, he could not but believe that the apprehension entertained on the score of competition was groundless. Again, it was said that there was great reason to fear the effect of competition from the Baltic; but when he looked to the statistics of the trade of Russia, and saw the way in which we maintained our superiority in the free port of Hamburgh, he saw no reason to believe that the spirit and enterprise of British shipowners would succumb to any competition. Let the House look to the great increase in shipping which had taken place in the ports of Great Britain. The amount of tonnage in Liverpool in 1816 was 642,063; in 1845 it had increased to 2,819,014. The total increase was 2,176,951 tons, the increase of British tonnage being 1,414,659 tons, or nearly two-thirds of the whole. It had been said that this was under a system of reciprocity. He held in his hand a protectionist document, issued on the other side of the Atlantic, which bore upon this subject. It was an address delivered to the American Institute by the Hon. James Tallmadge, who was the Mr. George Frederick Young of the United States; and when he found what apprehensions were entertained in the United States, he was relieved from the fear that succesful competition could be carried on with this country. Mr. Tallmadge said— In 1830 the British tonnage which entered our ports from all countries amounted to 87,281 tons. In 1835 it had increased to 529,922 tons. Upon these astonishing facts a Committee of Congress remarks, 'The existence of such a trade, under such circumstances, is a remarkable commentary upon the want of sagacity and foresight in the administration of our commercial concerns, and makes a powerful appeal to the consideration of Congress. The enterprise of this country is thus made subsidiary to the wealth, revenues, and navigation of the British colonies, and in the same degree prejudicial to our own, through the policy of our Government. It appeared, then, that the apprehensions entertained in this country were not peculiar to this side of the water. He found from a report presented to the American Congress in 1846, that in 1815 the whole registered tonnage of the United States was 854,000 tons; in 1818 it went down to 606,000 tons; and in 1846 it had risen to 1,130,000 tons. The registered tonnage of Great Britain had in the same period risen from 2,500,000 tons to 3,800,000 tons. He also held in his hand a return which showed how much of this tonnage was engaged in the fisheries. Hon. Members were aware that, during the war, there was no American registered tonnage employed in the fisheries; but he had been startled to find that if the American tonnage employed in fisheries in 1846 were deducted, the amount of registered tonnage in 1846 was not greater than it was in 1815. The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) had read, in the course of the powerful speech he had made on this subject, the declaration agreed to by the shipowners in 1833, with regard to their prospects; and the right hon. Gentleman also read returns which had since been made, to show how little reason there was for their despondency. He had referred to the proceedings before the Committee of 1833, to ascertain what were the opinions then entertained by ship owners, and, with the permission of the House, he would read the opinion of a gentleman well known to hon. Members opposite of the free-trade party, who was deservedly regarded as a high authority upon commercial matters in general, but whose testimony he more particularly called in aid on the present occasion, because he had taken a conspicuous part in opposition to this measure of the Government—he meant Mr. Aikin of Liverpool. This question was put to Mr. Aikin:— You are aware that there have been very general complaints made by the parties engaged in shipping of the general distress in that branch of business? To what do you attribute that complaint chiefly, as you say that you yourself have been tolerably well off? Mr. Aikin replied— There has been considerable stir made among shipowners with regard to the reciprocity treaties; but I am not aware of any trade that I have been deprived of, and I do not know in what instance I should be benefited by the abrogation of those treaties. He was then asked— Would it not be a great relief to the English shipowner to be allowed to build his ships abroad?" "No. If I were allowed to build ships at Hamburgh or Bremen I would not do so, because I should still have to get certain descriptions of timber from different places. If I could have foreign timber at a low duty, I would sooner build in England than in any other quarter. Mr. Aikin then went into details to show that the repeal of the timber duties, and not the reciprocity treaties, was the proper mode of relieving the shipowner from the difficulties under which he laboured. Among other questions put to Mr. Aikin were these:— If the British navigation were all conducted in the very best description of ships, do you think we could possibly compete with nations whose ships were not so durable, but still capable for a time of doing the work?" "I find that we are beating them in many places where we enter into competition. The Americans are beating us in the bringing of cotton. You stated that you do not fear competition from foreigners; do you find that in an indirect trade, for instance the trade between the Brazils and any part of Europe, our ships are able to compete successfully with foreign ships?" "The very low rate of freight from the Brazils of late has held out little inducement to go there; but British vessels of the first class are preferred, and in general from the Brazils and elsewhere compete successfully. If from Liverpool we have or- ders to charter vessels from St. Domingo, from the Havannah, or Brazil, and back to the Continent, the British ship invariably gets it. Is not that a voyage which might just as well be performed by an American ship?" "Yes; no law of ours could prevent it. And as no law of ours can prevent the employment of the foreign ship, so no law of ours could be effectual in promoting the employment of the British. This was not the occasion on which the House was called upon to consider in detail all the propositions of the Government; but he could not help observing that there were, at least upon the face of the measure, some provisions which it was exceedingly difficult to reconcile with the principles and policy of this country. For instance, although it was proposed that the British shipowner should enter into free and unrestricted competition with the whole world, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) also proposed to lay upon him an obligation with regard to the manning of ships from which those with whom he was to compete would be exempt. The right hon. Gentleman had also told them that the British shipowner was to be free to obtain ships wherever he could obtain them cheapest; but he had not informed the House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had any proposition to submit to them with regard to the duty on timber. He understood, then, that if the plan of the Government was adopted, British shipowners might import foreign ships duty free, but the raw material for constructing ships was still to be subjected to a considerable amount of duty. He believed that they might search the tariff of this country in vain for another instance where raw material was subjected to duty, while the manufactured article was altogether exempted. The right hon. Gentleman also proposed to except the coasting trade from the operation of this measure; but the right hon. Gentleman had told the House that he did not think this was a matter of any great importance. He (Mr. Cardwell) understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, that he did not consider this provision of any value in itself, but that he believed the proposal to open the coasting trade would occasion great alarm and consternation among the parties interested. He wished he could congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having avoided exciting such alarm; but, as far as his experience went, the proposal of the Government had occasioned great consternation among those whose interests were at stake, and he did not think the exception made in favour of the coasting trade had at all tended to diminish that feeling. He believed the general opinion had been, that if the Legislature were going to establish freedom at all, they ought to have looked for compensation from the Americans with regard to their coasting trade, and that the reservation made on this point by the right hon. Gentleman would run the risk of defeating the object he had in view. These were the grounds upon which his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) appealed to the Government to introduce measures of relaxation in the way of reciprocity, and not in the way of retaliation. He must confess, he had felt much surprise that no Member of the Government had thought it necessary to allude to the speech of that right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Cardwell) only knew, therefore, by what he had heard from other sources, what were the reasons which had induced the Government to abandon the mode of reciprocity. He was told, they considered that there was, in the favoured nation clause of the treaties with particular Powers, an obstacle to proceeding with a general relaxation of the navigation laws by the mode of reciprocity, especially with reference to the relations existing between this country and Holland and Spain. Now, if this were the case, it was particularly unfortunate. He held in his hand two statements on the subject—the first from an authority which he believed to be unquestionable; and the other from evidence taken before the Committee. The first of these statements, speaking of the state of trade in Surinam, mentioned that a proclamation had been issued by the Governor of that colony, by which an ad valorem duty of 3 per cent was to be charged on all goods imported into the colony, if introduced in Netherlands vessels, and double that amount when imported in foreign bottoms. The importation of certain articles was to be free under the Dutch flag, but under a foreign flag to be charged 6 per cent ad valorem. It was also stated in evidence before the Committee that the differential duty in the Havannah upon cotton and linen goods was 10 per cent; that what paid 23 per cent in a Spanish vessel, paid 33 per cent in any foreign vessel. The hon. Member for Westbury had appealed to the advocates of the tariff of 1846, and had said, "If you go back to reciprocity, you are making a retrograde step, for you lay it down as a principle that it is not wise to be waiting on the pleasure of foreign cou- ntries; and therefore you should take that course which you think best for yourselves, and leave foreign countries to perceive the wisdom of your steps." But there was a great difference between the two cases. If by taking largely the raw material of the Baltic ports we could compel them to take our manufactured articles, we manifestly obtained a considerable advantage; their exports to us could not be paid for except by the import of our manufactures. But this applied only to the interchange of commodities different in kind, when it was true that to stimulate the import of the one, was virtually to stimulate the export of the other. It did not apply to the endeavours by a foreign Government to stimulate their shipping at the expense of ours: for if any artificial system of distinctive duties was established on the part of foreign countries, and not on ours, in the matter of carriage, it must operate disadvantageously to our shipping, and to the benefit of theirs. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite thought there was nothing in this argument, as applied to reciprocity, he would ask how the right hon. Gentleman proposed to deal with it as it applied to his own proposal with respect to retaliation? If this proceeding, by way of retaliation in such cases, was not to be a valid and effectual provision of the Bill, it ought not to be a provision of the Bill at all, for it would only be what was called "a tub thrown out to the whale." He found that the demand made by Prussia and America was for reciprocity. In the words of Mr. Bancroft, "universal reciprocity was called for, as the only basis of intercourse between two great nations." The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in his reply to Mr. Bancroft's communication, said that he and his Colleagues intended to propose to Parliament measures which would enable them to deal on the most liberal terms' with all countries which would give us corresponding advantages. He thought, therefore, that the writer of this letter certainly contemplated proceeding by way of reciprocity, and not by way of retaliation. He thought the House might fairly conclude that this was the intention of Her Majesty's Government when they framed the Speech from the Throne. He was unwilling to occupy the time of the House, particularly at this period of the discussion, with anything of a statistical kind; but, as he was invited by the right hon. Member for Stamford to testify his desire for recipro- city by joining with him in a general resolution, the substantial effect of which would be to interpose an obstacle to any change whatever in the laws of navigation, he should be obliged to refer to some facts as the grounds upon which his vote would be given. He thought that the resolution of the right hon. Gentleman was open to the charge of being very vague; but some of the witnesses examined had been less mysterious. One of these, Mr. Richmond, a most respectable gentleman, on whose opinion great stress had been laid, in the course of all the inquiries on this subject, distinctly said, that he regarded the "Asia, Africa, and America Clause" as one of the essential elements—he presumed, therefore, one of the "fundamental principles"—of the law. Now what was the operation of this clause? He remembered an instance in which an English gentleman shipped, in a British ship, a cargo of hides from South America to Antwerp. At Antwerp he again shipped them, in another British ship, to London, and petitioned the Treasury to allow the hides to be landed. He was, however, as the servant of the Lords of the Treasury, obliged to toll him that the provisions of the navigation laws were too sacred to be interfered with; and the party was therefore compelled to send his hides back to South America, to be imported again into England. There was a discussion the other day in the House on the subject of importing cotton from Havre in English ships. It was true, that cotton was cheap in England at the time, and there was no great demand for cotton at the moment. But let the House observe the manner in which the navigation laws operated in that case. If the cotton had been manufactured in France into stockings, it might have been brought in a French ship into England. As a raw material it might have been re-exported to Now Orleans, and from thence imported in an American bottom to Great Britain. In either of these cases, we would have received it in a foreign, but as raw material wanted for the employment of our own manufacturers we would not allow its importation from France even in a British vessel. There were innumerable anomalies and absurdities of the same kind in these navigation laws; and yet we were invited by the friends of the shipping interest to maintain their fundamental principles—to refuse to consider them at all. He thought that the House would do a most unfriendly act to those whose interests they were bound to consult, if they did not proceed to consider the navigation laws, in compliance with the Speech from the Throne, and the demand made by Prussia and America. That was the question for the consideration of the House, and not whether the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) should be adopted or not. When he looked at the increased tonnage of this country, as well as the increase of its imports and exports, and when he considered how important it was that we should become—what we were in a fair way of becoming—the emporium of the world, he thought the time was come for a judicious relaxation of these laws; and he did not hesitate to declare his belief (speaking with a due reservation as to the mode in which real freedom of competition was to be attained) that it was a libel on the British name to say that we were not qualified to compete, and in competition to succeed, against every other nation in the world. With fair play and a real equality, an unrestricted intercourse between nations must be of the greatest benefit to this country. He had only one word more to say, and that was, he earnestly desired that such a settlement might be effected during the present Session of Parliament as would guard these interests against the apprehension of injudicious changes, and which might place them upon a firm and satisfactory footing; for he knew nothing more calculated injuriously to interfere with those interests than a prolonged state of doubt as to the measures that might be adopted by the Legislature. For these reasons—reserving to himself the right of giving the measure which the Government might propose the fullest consideration—he should now vote for the House going into Committee.


entirely concurred with what had fen from the hon. Gentleman opposite that this was not the proper opportunity discussing the details of the measure; should therefore abstain from going into those points which the hon. Gentleman had very properly reserved to himself to consider at a future stage of the discussion. That hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who had preceded him in this debate, had gone at such length into the reasons for supporting the measure generally, and had stated so many facts and statistical details upon the subject, that it was unnecessary for him (the Chancellor of the Exche- quer) to weary the House by entering into any lengthened details, or of urging arguments which had already been so fully and ably expressed. Indeed, very little argument had been advanced, especially to-night, against the measure. Only two hon. Gentlemen had spoken against the proposition of Her Majesty's Government. They had heard a succession of Gentlemen differing in opinion upon various minor points, but at the same time unanimously concurring in supporting some description of change in the present navigation laws. With the exception of the hon. Member for East Suffolk and the hon. Member for Brecon, there was not a single Member who had spoken in the course of that night's debate who did not think that some change of the law was necessary. Indeed, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) knew not upon what general grounds the measure could be opposed, unless it were contended that it was advantageous to enhance the price of those foreign articles which were required for the consumption of the population and for the employment of the manufacturers of this country. It was only about a year since that this country required a large supply of foreign corn to feed the people, when by common consent they suspended the navigation laws to give facility to the importation of corn, and to cheapen the cost of its conveyance to this country. This was a complete acknowledgment of the effect to be anticipated from relaxing the provisions of the navigation law; and he knew not how they could refuse to adopt a similar measure if they were anxious to increase the importation of those articles which were constantly required, as articles of consumption and materials of manufacture in this country. With regard to the shipowners and shipbuilders, he believed that the facts stated by the hon. Member for Liverpool and the hon. Member for Westbury were proofs sufficient that the British shipowners could successfully compete in open trade with any shipowners in the world; and he considered it had been abundantly proved that this country could build ships as cheap—taking into consideration the time British-built ships lasted—as any other country, not only in Europe, but in Asia and America too. It was urged, indeed, as an argument against this proposition, that other countries possessed an advantage over the British shipbuilder, inasmuch as the latter was obliged to import the timber wherewith to build ships; but had it not been clearly proved that almost all foreign-built ships were completed and equipped mainly by articles carried from this country? He did not, therefore, think that the British shipbuilder required any further advantages by the admission of foreign timber free of all duty for building ships in this country. It had been abundantly proved that with the duties as they were the British shipbuilder could successfully compete with the shipbuilders of the most favoured countries in the world. It was true, perhaps, that ships could be built cheaper in our own colonial possessions than here; but it had been shown that, taking into consideration the duration of the vessels, the English-built ships were in the end cheaper than those built in our North American colonies. The hon. Gentleman opposite had adverted to the invitation given to us by America, and also to the invitation—for he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would not use a stronger term—which had been given to this country by Prussia to relax our navigation laws in order to open to them a trade from which they were at present debarred. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) believed that in our trade with the United States we should be clear gainers by the change proposed. He believed that, so far from America gaining an advantage over us by a relaxation of the present system, the balance would be clearly on our side. The importations from America were chiefly of American produce brought indifferently by American and British ships; a largo portion of that which is carried to America is the produce of other countries in order to make up an assorted cargo; and under the existing law of the United States, such goods were only admissible if imported in American bottoms. At present British ships brought back goods from America the produce of that country, in exchange for which they could only take out British-manufactured goods: they could not take out the goods of any other nation; but American ships could take from Europe the goods of other nations. America, therefore, had a decided advantage over this country in the carrying trade to the United States. If the navigation laws of the two countries were relaxed according to the liberal proposal of the United States, their vessels would be on the same footing of equality in carrying goods from hence to America, as they were now on, as regards importations from that country. With regard to Prussia, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford had animadverted in very strong and unmerited terms on what had taken place between that country and the British Government. It was notorious that those reciprocity treaties to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, and which were effected by Mr. Huskisson, were forced upon this country by the conduct of foreign States, and that they were not concessions made voluntarily by England. Mr. Huskisson felt it absolutely necessary, in order to retain those advantages which this country possessed, that similar advantages should be granted to all foreign States. What was then given by those treaties was sufficient for the time; but Prussia now felt that she must have something more, and she had intimated her wish in terms of which it was impossible to complain. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) must say, that it was exceedingly hard and unjust to Prussia to complain of her conduct. She had a fair right to demand from us that which she had demanded; and, so far from having proceeded in a hostile or obnoxious manner, he must say, that if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) had referred to the letter addressed by the Minister of Prussia to the Government of this country, he would have seen that Prussia had proceeded in a most courteous manner, and had given us warning of what her future course would be. She said, that she gave the notice which enabled her to put an end to the present arrangement by treaty, which she considered unfair to her shipping, but that she would not hastily withdraw those privileges which had already been conceded to us, but would leave matters to stand as they were, the advantages being all on our part—she would wait until we had further considered and determined what course we would pursue with regard to our navigation laws. He was of opinion that this country would lose infinitely more than Prussia if matters were placed strictly upon a footing of equality between the two countries, so that we were deprived of the advantages which we now enjoyed in Prussian ports, but which we denied to Prussian vessels in our ports. England at present enjoyed a large portion of the carrying trade to European ports. About 200,000 tons of British shipping in the year 1846 entered into the principal ports of Europe, excluding France. That was our share of the European carrying trade. From the whole of that we should be debarred if foreign nations acted upon the principle of retaliation; should England retain her navigation laws. With regard, therefore, to the foreign trade, he thought it was essential that England should make a concession, which, in truth, foreign countries had a right to demand of us. It was impossible for us to maintain our present position, and retain the carrying trade of Europe. It did not depend upon ourselves, or our legislation; foreign nations had it in their power to deprive us of it; and this they certainly would do, unless we conceded to them what, after all, was only fair between the two parties, the same privileges as we enjoyed in their ports. With regard to our colonial trade, that did not stand on the same footing. We had proposed to relax the carrying trade with the colonies, not on the principle of reciprocity with foreign nations, but because we believed it would be for the advantage of the colonies. The colonies would derive great benefit from those relaxations of the law. It was disputed by no one, that Canada, South Australia, and Ceylon, were anxious for the removal of the restrictions on their trade, and had urged on us the relaxation of the navigation laws. So indeed had Jamaica and Trinidad; and he thought that the evidence which was given by a single Member of the House of Assembly in Jamaica was not an answer to the representations made by that Assembly, and by the Governor of Trinidad, that the further relaxation of the law would be an advantage to those colonies. The Governor of Trinidad had pointed out various ways in which such relaxation would be beneficial to the trade of that, island; and he mentioned one instance, where the importation of the Coolies by American vessels, if it had been possible, would have reduced by one-half the cost of conveying those labourers from the East Indies. Without trespassing unnecessarily on the time of the House, he wished to advert to the ground which had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), and also by the hon. Member for Dover (Sir G. Clerk), and the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), and that was as to the mode of proceeding adopted by the Government, as compared with that of proceeding by way of reciprocity treaties, and not by direct enactment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford said, that he was prepared to go the full length of the measure proposed by the Government; but that he would proceed by treaty upon reciprocal terms. So also the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford had said that he too would relax the law relating to the carrying trade, and that he was prepared to enter into treaties with foreign Powers upon the principle of reciprocity. The hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House had alluded to the letter addressed to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by Mr. Bancroft, in which he offered to enter into a reciprocity treaty with this country; and the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that he derived evidence from that correspondence that the Government had changed its mind on the subject. But what was the fact? Mr. Bancroft offered to enter into a reciprocity treaty; and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs replied that it would be improper to enter into engagements which would be at variance with some of the most important principles of the existing navigation law without the previous sanction of Parliament, but at the same time said, that it was the intention of the Government to propose to Parliament measures which would enable them to meet the offer made by the United States of placing our commercial intercourse on the most liberal basis. He was far from saying that much argument, and good argument too, might not be advanced in favour of proceeding by reciprocity treaty; and he fairly admitted that, looking at the possible facility of passing a measure of that kind through Parliament, he at one time was not disposed to entertain that proposition. It might be the most convenient mode of proceeding; but the more they looked into the question, and considered the difficulties with which it was beset, the more they were convinced that it was unadvisable to proceed in that mode. The Government came to the decided conviction that the best mode of proceeding would be to legislate directly with regard to the great majority of cases, reserving some special cases to be dealt with by Order in Council. The main inducement for their adopting this course was the experience they had derived from the occurrences which took place under the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, when he attempted to proceed by way of treaty to effect a relaxation of the customs duties. ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord cheered. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was aware that the noble Lord drew a distinction which in his opinion was based on no solid and real difference in principle, though he did not mean to say that the two cases were precisely identical. In 1842 the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) proposed to reduce the customs duties on obtaining a reduction of foreign tariffs; but he utterly failed in accomplishing his object. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford bore the most unequivocal testimony to the failure; but he had placed the difficulty of proceeding in that form on what he called the incommensurable quality of the articles. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could not understand why a reduction of the duty on wine might not be met with a corresponding reduction of duty on any article of manufacture, if they were really anxious to make mutual concessions for the sake of mutual advantages. The right hon. Gentleman said, there was no difficulty as regarded the reciprocal admission of shipping, for the privileges to be conceded on both sides were precisely of the same description, and could be made strictly equal. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not think that this was quite so simple or quite so easy. It was quite clear that the admission of the ships of other countries to our colonies on the condition that they admitted our ships to their colonies, appeared in phraseology an equality; but if England were to open the whole of her wide-spread colonial trade to Denmark, on the condition that Denmark opened her colonial trade to England, would any one pretend that this, in point of fact, was an equal transaction? It might be so, speaking with strict technicality, but it would not be an equality in reality, nor would England by such a transaction receive a tenth or a hundredth part of an equivalent. It seemed, then, to him, that the difficulty was just as great in the attempt to obtain precisely equal advantages in the case of reciprocal advantages to shipping as in reciprocal reductions of customs duties. But there was great difficulty in dealing with any one country by means of treaty, because we were hampered and bound by treaties with other Powers, which rendered this country incapable of carrying out particular views with respect to any single country. They had had experience of this fact in 1844, when the Government of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, finding the price of sugar brought from our own colonies high in this country, determined to open the trade to foreign sugar; but, retaining the feeling which had been so long predominant in this country—maintaining in favour of the exclusion of slave-grown sugar a lively recollection of recent debates not long previous on this subject—they were unwilling to admit slave-grown sugar into the markets of this country, and attempted to restrict the importation of foreign sugar to such as was the produce of free labour. Were they able to carry out their own principle? They found themselves unable to do so; and, bound by treaty, they were obliged to admit the slave-grown sugars of Venezuela and the United States. His right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth told them, that they were bound by treaty to admit the slave-grown sugar of the Danish colonies, if they admitted it from any other country. A question also arose about the admission of Spanish sugar, and long communications took place on the subject between the Spanish Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and he certainly thought that the Spanish Minister had the best of the correspondence. This mode of proceeding by treaty led precisely to what the hon. Gentleman alluded to as a great difficulty in our way of proceeding, namely, to angry and disagreeable correspondence with foreign Powers, which the hon. Gentleman thought would be avoided by proceeding by way of treaty, but which he considered would be inevitable if they proceeded in the way Government proposed, by throwing open the trade as a general rule, keeping at the same time a retaliatory power. The hon. Gentleman mentioned a case in which, in order to get rid of some difficulty, in respect to the trade with Austria, under a treaty and Act of Parliament, the strange conclusion was come to that a port in Turkey was a port in Austria. The States of the Zollverein claimed a similar privilege; and we had declared that Prussian vessels might bring goods from the mouths of the Elbe and Meuse, as if they were ports in Prussia. Russia claimed the same privilege for her vessels in the mouths of the Niemen and Vistula, both of them in Prussia; and accordingly we declared the Prussian ports of Dantzie and Memel to be Russian ports. Hamburgh and Hanover, in whose territory the mouth of the Elbe is situated, complained that it was unjust to them to allow Prussian vessels to compete with their vessels in their own ports, We could not deny the injus- tice, and accordingly we have allowed Hamburgh and Hanover vessels to bring goods to this country from Prussian ports, as if they were ports in Hamburgh and Hanover. Next came the claim of Oldenburg and Mecklenburg. They said that they would obtain the privilege of using the Elbe and the Meuse, or Prussian ports, as their own, if they joined the Zollverein; but that, as they already gave us more privileges than the Zollverein did, it was unjust to refuse them the same privileges: we could not deny this, and we conceded them the privileges they asked for. What could be stronger proof of the absurdity of our navigation laws, and the impossibility of maintaining them, than this? We actually have declared that Memel—almost at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland—is the most convenient port for the exportation of Oldenburg produce, whose territory is entirely on the shores of the German ocean. Then came the claim of the Dutch. They said, as Hamburgh and Hanover had said, that it was unjust to allow Prussian ships to compete with Dutch vessels in their own port of Rotterdam on the Maese, and not to allow Dutch vessels to compete with Prussian vessels at Dantzie and Memel. What answer could we make to the Dutch? They were entitled to the privileges of the most favoured nation; and in justice we could not refuse their claim, as indeed we had intimated to them. The result was, that as regarded the greater part of the European trade our navigation laws had been broken down, and could not be maintained. They might proceed by treaty or by law, but the same end would be reached in either way—that was to say, that, as regarded the trade with by far the greater number of foreign nations, certainly with all those whose rivalry we had been taught to fear—the United States, Prussia, and the Baltic Powers—our navigation laws would be a dead letter. It seemed to him far bettor, then, to proceed in the simple manner of repealing laws which could not be maintained in practice, and to throw open by law to other nations that trade to this country which at present we enjoyed by law with them. After all, with respect to the expediency of proceeding by one way or by the other, the question was—and this was an answer to the argument of the hon. Gentleman—was it or was it not an advantage to this country to have cheap conveyance and low freights? If it were an advantage, then it would be an absur- dity to debar themselves from that which was a benefit, unless it should please other countries to pursue a particular course. Let this country take the advantage whenever it could get it; and let not the option be left to other countries of debarring this country from enjoying it. It was not difficult to put a case to show the advantage of the mode of proceeding adopted by the Government. Not above a month ago an importer of corn applied to the Treasury, under somewhat similar circumstances to those under which the importer of hides mentioned by the hon. Gentlemen applied to the late Government. He stated that he had a cargo of Indian corn in the river, imported in a foreign ship, which was inadmissible under the Navigation Act. Under the existing law, any ship might bring any goods, and warehouse them in this country; but they were admissible or not, for consumption, under the Navigation Act, according to the shipping which brought them. Now, circumstances might have occurred, and did occur last year, in which it would have been exceedingly desirable and necessary to admit that corn. Now, supposing the reciprocity system adopted, and that that corn had come in a ship of a country with which we had no reciprocity treaty, then no Order in Council and no order from the Treasury could without infraction of the law admit that Indian corn; and the Government would be debarred from doing that which might be clearly beneficial to the country, because some other foreign Power had not been willing to enter into a reciprocity treaty with us. He had thus shown a clear ease of the advantage to this country of admitting from warehouse goods which, under the existing law, or under the proposed law of the hon. Gentleman, would not be admissible. It was a different thing to infringe the statute law, and to dispense with an Order in Council; and he was against maintaining a law which, under such circumstances, would operate so prejudicially to the country. As a general rule, he would admit foreign ships of all countries, because it was for the advantage of this country to have commodities brought cheaply here. That was the general rule; but he would not say that there might not be particular and special cases, in respect to which it would he desirable to retain the power of excluding foreign ships, in order to force the countries to which they belonged, if they should be unwilling, to come to a recipro- cal concession of advantages. The right hon. Member for Dover had enlarged very much on what he termed the unprecedented and unconstitutional provision by which it was proposed to give to the Queen in Council the power of regulating these matters, and of imposing and relaxing, as he said, restrictions. Really, the right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten the experience he acquired at the Board of Trade, for it was almost the exception to the rule that such things should be done by law and not by Orders in Council, though, undoubtedly, these Orders in Council were given under the general sanction and principle of the law. The general practice has been to pass an Act empowering the Queen in Council to impose or take off duties in certain cases, and under certain limitations contained in the Act. This was sometimes exercised to give effect to treaties, but very frequently without any reference to obligations of that kind. He would shortly refer to one or two instances in point. And, firstly, to a case in which the proceeding was by treaty. The Act 59 Geo. III. cap. 54, was passed to enable His Majesty to carry out the treaties with the United States and with Portugal. It provided that equal duties should be paid on the importation or exportation of goods in British or American vessels, and that no higher dues should be levied by the Trinity House, or other corporations, on American or Portuguese than on British vessels. These provisions were extended to vessels of other Powers with which similar treaties might be concluded by the 8 & 9 Vict. cap. 90. Without going into further detail as to the provisions of these Acts, the result was that on the conclusion of a treaty with a foreign Power, the export duty on coal, for instance, would cease on coals shipped by the vessels of such country; and not only would the higher light-dues usually charged on foreign shipping cease to be payable by such vessels, but the Treasury would he rendered liable in some cases to make compensation to the parties entitled to such higher dues. In this case, therefore, the Queen has the power, without any fresh enactment, not only of taking off a duty, but actually of imposing a charge on the public revenue. The second class of cases are without reference to treaty. The Act of 4 Geo. IV. cap. 77, authorises the Queen in Council to order that no higher charges shall be laid on goods imported or exported in the ships of a foreign country, than on like goods in British ships. The Act 8 & 9 Vict. cap. 90, empowers the Queen to impose an additional duty on articles the produce of any country in which higher duties are levied on British than on foreign produce; and to prohibit the importation of, or to lay one-fifth additional duty upon any manufactured article imported from a country which prohibits the export of the raw material from which such article is made. So with regard to our colonial trade, the 8 & 9 Vict. cap. 93, provides that foreign ships shall not trade with our possessions, unless they be ships of a country which gives similar privileges to our vessels, or places us on the footing of the most favoured nation, or unless Her Majesty shall grant them such privileges whether they fulfil those conditions or not. The case, however, most precisely in point, and the one which we have in fact exactly followed as a precedent in the present case, is an Act of the year 1822, which was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Member for Oxford was mistaken in supposing that the Act referred to was that of 1825. Previous to the year 1817, vessels of the United States were not allowed to trade with our West Indian colonies; but vessels of other countries in America belonging to a foreign European State were under certain circumstances admitted. About the year 1817, the United States passed certain Acts, prohibiting British vessels from trading with the United States. The Act of 1822, to which he had referred, namely, the 3rd George IV. cap. 44, opened the trade of the West Indies to the ships of all countries in America, whether under the dominion of a foreign European Power or not, including of course the United States. In this self-same Act, however, thus opening for the first time by law the trade to independent American States, the 15th Clause enabled the King by Order in Council to prohibit such intercourse to the ships of any country not treating us on the footing of equality. The result of this was, that the Americans took off their prohibition upon our shipping, but imposed a higher tonnage duty upon British ships, and a higher duty on goods imported in them. In the next year, therefore, 1823, an Act was passed to amend the Act of 1822, authorising the King to impose additional tonnage duties; and in the year 1824 a further Act was passed empowering the King to impose additional duties on goods imported in American ships. Tak- ing, then, these amending Statutes with the first Act of 1822, we opened the trade for the first time to American vessels with the West Indian colonies, retaining powers in the same Acts to prohibit such trade, or to impose additional tonnage or customs duties, which is precisely the course which we propose to adopt in the Bill of this year. But not only were these powers so retained, but they were actually exercised. Orders in Council, in 1823 and 1826, were issued, levying countervailing duties on American vessels, and goods imported in them; and the exercise of these powers was successful; for, after these Orders in Council on our part, and countervailing proclamations on the part of the United States, arrangements were soon after entered into, by which the goods and vessels of the two countries were admitted on equal terms into the ports of the United States and of our colonies respectively. The case which he had thus quoted appeared to him to be not only a precise precedent in point of law, but one which showed the advantage which might be derived in some cases from the exercise of the power which it was proposed to retain in the Bill. The general principle upon which we proposed to act was laid down by law, and was applicable to the great majority of cases; but a special power was retained to meet particular cases, which he trusted we should not have to exercise, but of which he did not think it advisable that the Crown should be divested. He would not go into the other questions raised on this subject. He would simply say, as to the manning of our ships, in which subject, from old Admiralty recollections, he took the deepest interest, that he did not attach much importance to the point whether the vessels were manned wholly by Englishmen or in part by foreigners. It was quite clear that foreigners serving in British ships must be paid the same wages as other seamen in the same ship; and it was equally clear, that if other nations had their seamen taken away in consequence of their finding higher wages elsewhere, foreign shipowners must raise their wages in order to retain their crews; the raising of wages in foreign vessels would bring them to a level with our own, and thus deprive them of their supposed advantage of low wages to their men. A great portion of the Amecan navy was manned by English seamen; and it was quite clear from that fact, that we bred more seamen than we could employ. But, after all, he believed the real question was, whether this measure was or was not for the general advantage of the commercial marine of the country. He believed it was so—that it would tend to improve and develop the energies of British seamen—and that it would to the same extent tend to the advantage of the whole commercial marine. If this were so, it would precisely to the same extent improve the nursery of the Queen's naval service. Without going further, he would only express his firm conviction that the British marine, so far from being injured by any measure of this kind, would still retain the high position it had hitherto occupied in comparison with the marine of other countries.


next addressed the House, but in so low a tone of voice as to be scarcely audible. He protested against the measure of Her Majesty's Government as a most dangerous one. In the present state of Europe it was hopeles to expect anything like reciprocity.

Debate adjourned.

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