§ LORD G. BENTINCK
resumed the Adjourned Debate on the Navigation Laws, and said: Sir, in asking the indulgence of the House while I make some observations on the great and important subject which is now under discussion, I would wish, in the first place, to proceed to remove some of those prejudices created against British shipowners, or rather, I should say, the captains of the British mercantile marine, by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson). It is not my intention to impute to that hon. Gentleman, who I regret is not now in his place, the slightest wish or desire to misrepresent the true state of facts as regards the captains of British merchantmen, whom he described as being unable to obtain freights from Rio Janeiro on account of the bad character which they bear for carelessness in the carriage or 574 delivery of the goods entrusted to them. I do not say that the hon. Member intended to convey a general libel on the shipowners and captains of the British mercantile marine; but I am in a position to give a special contradiction to the facts of his statement as regards certain British ships at Rio Janeiro; and I believe I shall be able without any imputation on the honesty of the hon. Member for West-bury, to offer a solution for those great mistakes which he has made. I had the honour of sitting on a Committee with the hon. Member for Westbury; and I may say in his absence that I never acted with one more fair, honest, or straightforward than the hon. Member, and I never met on his part with any disposition to misrepresent or take unfair advantage, and I am sure intentionally he would never have cast the imputation which he has cast on the character of British captains and shipowners. I am in a position, however, to refute the hon. Member's allegations, having in my posession an extract of a letter from the agents for one of these very A 1 ships, which were represented, for the reasons imputed by the hon. Member for Westbury, to be utterly unable to obtain freights. I have been favoured with a letter from Mr. R. Wynn, of Liverpool, the agent for the ship in question. She arrived at Rio Janeiro on the 10 or 11th of March. So far from being unable to obtain a cargo on account of the carelessness of her captain, she had refused freight at 75s. for Hamburgh, for Cowes, and for Stettin. Finally, she left Rio, not because she was unable to obtain a cargo from the badness of her character, but because, while foreign vessels were taking cargoes at 57s. 6d. from Rio, she was not content to take even 80s.; and on the 4th of April she left Rio for Bahia, where there is not the least doubt that Captain Young, the master of the vessel, has been able to prove to his employers at home that he was wide awake to their interests, by getting a still better freight than that he refused at Rio Janeiro. With regard to the fact stated by the hon. Member for Westbury, of eight British ships being unable to obtain freights at Rio, I find that while twelve or thirteen British ships had all obtained freight, there were eight foreign ships which had not got freights; and among them I observe two American ships, though the Americans have means of obtaining freights which are not held to be consistent with 575 the honour and morality of Englishmen. I find that out of those American ships which obtained freight, five were for the African coast slavers no doubt. This being the case I must conclude that the simple solution of the story, which is totally unfounded in fact, is that some jealous rival of the hon. Member for Westbury must have sought to practise a joke upon him by making an "April fool" of the hon. Gentleman. The letter hears date the 1st of April.
With reference to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman, that shippers would not take British ships because their captains were careless of the cargoes, I will read to the House a letter from Messrs. Le Breton and Wakling, dated Bahia, 10th April, 1848. [The letter stated that there was a great want of vessels there at that time; that there were 22,000 packages of sugar waiting at Bahia to be exported; and that there were not ships to carry one-sixth part of that quantity. It said that the British brig Herald went away for Hamburgh with a cargo at 87s. 6d.; that the British barque Golden Fleece left with a cargo at 80s.; that another followed with a cargo at 87s. 6d.; and that the British brig Hibbert had just arrived from Rio, and would no doubt immediately depart from Bahia with a full cargo at 90s. for Cowes.] Therefore it would appear that these incapable and careless captains were looking sharp after the interests of their employers and obtaining the highest freights. The reason that they did not get freights at Rio was, that they were not such fools as to accept 57s. 6d. freight when they might run before the trade wind and got 90s. at Bahia. But what do Messrs. Le Breton and Wakling say? They state, that after these vessels were freighted, nothing would remain at Bahia but a Hanoverian schooner and a French brig; so that all the English vessels were cleared off, and those remaining behind unemployed were one French and one Hanoverian ship.
I now take the liberty of addressing myself to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade; and I fully give him credit for sincerity when he declared, "that if he thought any risk would arise to our mercantile marine, or the naval glory of England, in consequence of the repeal of the navigation laws, he would rather cut off his right hand than lay those resolutions upon the table of the House." The right hon. Gentleman having 576 made this declaration, proceeded to prove, to his own satisfaction at least, as well as that of his friends around him, that all our alarm on this point was utterly futile, and that neither the naval glory of England, nor her mercantile marine, would suffer by the proposed alteration. The right hon. Gentleman drew a comparison between the shipping of this country and that of the United States in the years 1827 and 1846, to show that the British mercantile marine had increased 44 per cent beyond the increase of the mercantile marine of the United States; and well might the right hon. Gentleman scoff at the fears of those who apprehend competition with the United States of America, if such were really the fact. But again, without impugning the right hon. Gentleman's good faith; I shall be obliged to show that he is entirely mistaken in the facts which he has alleged. I shall also be obliged to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, and with the length of his measure, because the right hon. Gentleman was not only mistaken in his calculation, the data of which he gave to the House, but left out of view that when he measured the increase of tonnage of the British mercantile marine engaged in the foreign trade, he measured it by the new method of admeasurement, which was introduced by the late Lord Sydenham, and by which something like 20 per cent was added to the tonnage of ships engaged in foreign trade. Under the new law of tonnage, a ship that measured 400 tons under the old system, now measures nearly 500 tons. But the mode of measuring the tonnage of the United States' ships remains the same, and therefore when the right hon. Gentleman took an ell measure to gauge the tonnage of the United States, and only a yard to measure British ships, it was no wonder that he made it out that British tonnage had increased 44 per cent, in comparison with the tonnage of the United States. The right hon. Gentleman stated that British shipping, which measured 2,460,500 tons in 1827, had risen in 1846 to 3,817,112 tons. But if an allowance be made for the new measure, which I can show the House (though there is no exact or official report of the difference) amounts to nearly 20 per cent more in appearance than the old, it will be seen that these 3,817,112 tons of shipping, showing apparently an increase of 1,365,612 tons, or 55 per cent, by reducing the new measure to the old 577 standard, stand at 3,053,690 tons, being an increase not of 55 per cent, but of 24 per cent. I will not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman because he took a different period of the year for the United States shipping from that which he took for the British shipping. I will not quarrel with him because he took the 30th of June, 1846, for the United States, and the end of the year for Great Britain, which was a time when there was a great increase in the amount of shipping of all kinds, as well American as British engaged in the carrying trade with the United States. I will only say, that if he had taken a year later for his data, the difference would not have been more than 11 per cent. Had he taken the 30th of June, 1847, the increase in American ships would have been 276,965 tons. But taking his own figures, it appears that the United States' shipping had increased since the year 1827, from 1,620,607 tons, to 2,62,084 tons; being an increase of 941,477 tons. Now that is an increase of 58 per cent. According to the right hon. Gentleman's own figures, the increase of English shipping had been only 55, while the increase of American shipping had been 58 per cent; and how he could make out that the British shipping had surpassed the American shipping, I am utterly at a loss to understand. But the real fact is this—that measured by the same gauge—not measured by a short gauge for England, and a long one for the United States—the shipping of the United States has increased 58 per cent, while British shipping has increased only 24 per cent. I therefore maintain that the British shipowner, without showing any pusillanimity, any want of energy or enterprise, has good reason to fear the rivalship of the shipowner of the United States, if the latter should be admitted to our colonial trade.
I shall now proceed to show that I have not on light grounds stated the difference between the new and the old system of measuring vessels in this country. I hold in my hand an account of vessels measured under the new and under the old system, in the port of Liverpool. There are nine of these vessels, five of which belong to Mr. Chapman, and four to Mr. Bold. Mr. Chapman's five ships measured, under the old scale, 3,928 tons, and under Mr. Poulett Thomson's scale, 4,768 tons; showing a difference of 840 tons. Mr. Bold's four ships measured under the 578 old scale 2,974 tons, and under the new scale 3,508 tons, showing a difference of 534 tons. The total increase of measurement in the nine vessels, under the new system, as compared with the old, amounts to a fraction under 20 per cent.
It is said that the British mercantile marine has nothing to fear from the rivalry of America in our colonies. Sir, the American Almanac gives an official account of the trade of the United States with all the nations of the world; and I shall take from that almanac a statement of the American trade with the British empire and our transmarine possessions. I find that there entered in the year 1846 into the ports of the United States, 1,360,374 tons of American shipping; and there entered in the same year only 801,321 tons of shipping belonging to Great Britain and her colonial possessions. But as I am on this point I should wish to draw the attention of the British West India planters to the benefit which they are likely to derive from a repeal of the navigation laws. The inter-colonial trade has been thrown open to its present extent about twenty-four years; and the result is that the trade between the United States and the British West Indies in 1846 was carried on by 124,135 tons of American shipping, and only 23,342 tons of British shipping. Now let us see how the case stands as regards Cuba and the Spanish West Indies. We are told that the United States make reciprocity treaties with Bremen and the Hanse Towns. But what portion of the trade with the Spanish colonies have the United States got? I find that in the year 1846 the trade of the United States with the Spanish colonies was carried on in 208,189 tons of American shipping, and 23,891 tons of foreign shipping. I have also a statement of the value of the merchandise so carried, and from that statement it appears that the value for the merchandise carried in American vessels amounted to 2,500,000l., while the value of the merchandise carried in foreign ships amounted to no more than 27,000l. When, therefore, America proposes to foreign States to divide with them their colonial trade, we can judge pretty well from these facts which party will get the larger share of the spoil.
Sir, I am at a loss to learn from all the speeches I have heard, any just ground for making this great change. We have, to be sure, heard of petitions from Canada and from the British West Indies. But I believe 579 that on more calm consideration Jamaica is not very anxious for the repeal of the navigation laws. True it is that in a moment of excitement, suffering under your free-trade experiments, like drowning men catching at straws, the British West India planters asked for a repeal of those laws. I have reason, however, to think that their opinion on the subject has of late undergone a considerable change. Within the last few days I received an extract from a letter addressed by the President of the Chamber of Commerce at Kingston—the only chamber of commerce in Jamaica—to his agent in London; and that extract I shall now read to the House. I must, first, however, observe that the writer of the letter is one of those who, about six months or twelve months ago, petitioned in favour of a repeal of the navigation laws. The extract in question is as follows:—The Chamber is inclined to agree with Lord George Bentinck and yourself that the repeal of the navigation laws is calculated to confer an equal benefit on our opponents and on ourselves, with this additional circumstance in favour of the Cuban planter, that much greater despatch is attainable there where slave labour ensures regularity in the crops, while in Jamaica the comparatively few vessels that now trade to the island are detained many months before a cargo is obtained. It is not unlikely, therefore, that the competition to be opened by a repeal of the navigation laws would be of more service to the Cuban than to the British planter.Further to show the effect of the proposed change on the West India interest, allow me to quote from a letter written by Mr. James Cooke, an extensive sugar broker in the City, a gentleman well known to the Members both of the late and of the present Government; he gives an account of a number of ships now lying in the river or in the Channel with cargoes of sugar. They carry, altogether, 16,927 boxes of Cuban sugar. They are unable, under the navigation laws, to land that sugar here, and therefore it must be sold for foreign markets, or refined for exportation. I must remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that this is a question for the conciliation of the West India colonies, and that they propose to pass this measure in order to preserve the affection of those colonies. Mr. Cooke says "that he is trying to dispose of those cargoes, but that the price of the sugar will be diminished by 2s. per cwt., in consequence of its being in a foreign and not in a British bottom, and on that account not admissible for consumption into this country." If, 580 therefore, those among the West Indian planters, who are foolish enough to ask for a repeal of the navigation laws, could have their will, they would have to meet in the British market 16,900 additional boxes of Cuban sugar, which could be sold at 2s. less than at present. But Mr. Cooke is not the only evidence I have upon this point. Mr. Joshua Wilson, of Sunderland, one of the Society of "Friends," was examined before the Committee in the House of Lords. He has four or five ships, and is, I believe, largely engaged in the grocery trade. He is strongly in favour of a repeal of the navigation laws; but when asked to specify the disadvantages and injury to the commerce of this country arising out of those laws, he answered, "his trade was very much with the Baltic, and he was not able to say he knew of any great injuries that had arisen." It appears, however, that in the year 1846 he did suffer considerably from the operation of the navigation laws. There were, at that time, a number of American and Spanish ships lying in the river, loaded with Cuban sugar. The Sugar Duties Act had just been passed—it was in the month of July or August; and the witness, who gave his evidence with great candour, stated that he purchased a parcel of slave-grown sugar out of one of these American bottoms, under the impression that the law would permit him to sell it again as ship's stores. The navigation laws foiled him. That was the only great grievance he had to complain of; "Friend" Wilson was consequently obliged to keep, and is still obliged to keep, that sugar unsold, its value being reduced to the extent of 6s. or 7s. per cwt, by the operation of the navigation laws. The effect of the repeal, then, of these laws, concurrently with the alteration of the sugar duties, would have been, according to "Friend" Wilson, to lower the average price of slave-grown sugar between 5s. and 6s. per cwt. Now, if the West India planters should be fools enough to ask for a repeal of the navigation laws, when they are told by those who seek their repeal, that this would be the effect of such a measure, I can only say that they will deserve their fate. Mr. Wilson was afterwards asked "whether he believed that the West India planters would get freights much cheaper if the navigation laws were repealed, and whether that would be a great benefit to them?" His answer was, "that, if that was the opinion of the West 581 India planters, they would find their mistake." So it appears, that the British West Indians would not get freights any cheaper, while the planters of Cuba would be able to sell their sugar here at prices between 5s. and 6s. per cwt. lower than at present.
There is another petition which I think it necessary to notice. It is one on which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade lays the greatest stress—a petition from the city of London. I am not surprised, in the paucity of petitions in favour of the Government proposal for the repeal of the navigation laws, that the right hon. Gentleman should have done so. I believe there are only about half-a-dozen altogether, signed by about 3,000 persons. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should make much of a petition from the city of London, although it had but 292 signatures. No petition, I believe, ever came from the city of London so shabbily signed. Among the signatures, I am told, there are not more than seven or eight names that anybody knows; and that the only really distinguished names attached to the petition are those of the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. When Gentlemen have read the evidence reported yesterday to the House, and learnt the weight given by the Secret Committee upstairs to the opinions of the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, opposed as they are to the evidence of seventeen witnesses on the other side, it will be able better to judge of their comparative value. The fact of the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank having signed the petition, is no doubt a matter worthy of some consideration on the part of the House. But when the House has read the petition to which, after seven months' consideration, the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank have appended their names, it will be more surprised that any attention should have been given to their opinions in the Commercial Distress Committee, than that any great weight should have been attached to the sentiments expressed in the petition for the repeal of the navigation laws, because to that petition are attached the names of the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. That petition, it appears, has been the means of withdrawing from our (the Protectionist) ranks the new Member for West Somersetshire (Mr. Moody); and I am not at all 582 surprised that the petition, signed by the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, should have led the hon. Member to desert our ranks and join the other side of the House; for, according to the statements of this petition, the navigation laws have done nothing for us, but everything against us. The petition say, "that these navigation laws have been the means of lessening the supply of cotton from India, not only to England, but to all Europe, and have taken it from India, giving the culture of cotton wholly, to the United States and Brazil." Now, according to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson), 2s. 6d. a ton was the outside of the increase to the cost of freight caused by the navigation laws; 2s. 6d. a ton is the eighteenth part of a farthing per lb., and this, it is represented, has driven the cultivation of cotton from India to the United States of America. Mr. Burke, in former days, found amid all the difficulties of Government one of the greatest to be 3,000 miles of sea that intervened between it and the colonies. That difficulty yet remained, but the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England were going to pump the sea dry. They said in their petition—Under circumstances so invigorating, the extension of manufactures, navigation, colonial production, trade, warehousing, and emigration, together with their subsidiary employments, would be illimitable, and the social and material benefits accruing there from to this great and densely populated empire would be boundless; their effect might be truly compared to lessening the extent of the intervening seas and oceans, not only between Great Britain and surrounding nations, but between the former and her numerous colonies and dependencies.Now if the repeal of the navigation laws could produce such an effect, the advantages that would be conferred upon our commerce would be even much greater than those set forth by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown will probably expatiate upon other unknown advantages to be derived from the passing of this measure at a later period of the evening; but until I read the petition of the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, I confess I was at a loss to know what the nature of those advantages were which the country was to gain for making this great change in her laws and national policy, It appears, then, that these are the advantages which we are promised by the 583 repeal of the navigation laws; and I am ready to concur in this sentiment, that when the seas are dried up, as these 292 petitioners from the city of London anticipate, the elements of immeasurable wealth will be brought into operation; and those distant countries which only suffer from the want of labour will offer a field for the enterprise of our labourers, and a home to countless numbers of the poor of this country. The petition proceeds to say of these countries—Many possess all the means of immeasurable wealth, but suffer only from the scarcity of labour, offering in their settlement the most bountiful and congenial fields for the enterprising capitalist, and a happy home, with employment, for any conceivable number of our industrious but unoccupied poor, who, by the repeal of the navigation laws would have much greater facilities of bettering their condition by emigration, instead of being maintained out of parochial and other eleemosynary funds in a hopeless and daily increasing state of destitution, the redundancy or the scarcity of labour being alike a great social evil, and demanding prompt and serious consideration.Now, Sir, I can well understand why the millowners are so very anxious for the repeal of these laws. I saw, Sir, that a memorial had been presented to the Board of Trade from fifty millowners, praying that the numberless operatives unhappily thrown out of employment within the last two years may be—I will not say transported, but—deported to foreign countries to grow cotton, employment being no longer to be found for them here in our manufactories. This memorial has been presented to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who, no doubt, looks forward to the deportation of thousands of these unemployed operatives from Lancashire. Such a deportation of unemployed operatives being in their contemplation, these Lancashire millowners must doubtless feel a great desire to shorten the intervening distance between England and her colonies.
I am now going, Sir, to make a speech for the other side of the House, inasmuch as they have not as yet said anything for themselves. I will show to you upon the authority of 292 city of London petitioners, the real mischiefs of these navigation laws, little as you seem to think them. Sir, hero we have the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, who at least ought to know pretty well what the amount of the national debt is, saying that—By the discouraging and restrictive tendency of the navigation laws upon British commerce, 584 vast sums of capital are invested without any advantage to this country, because they are diverted to certain foreign loans and schemes, and are often totally lost to the owners. These would otherwise be profitably embarked in extending British manufactures, British industry, colonial productions, our navigation, and free trade.So that if 150,000,000l. were invested and lost in foreign loans and schemes in the manner described last year by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it is the opinion of the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England that that loss has been incurred entirely through the mischievous operation of our navigation laws. They say—Had not those navigation laws existed, those grievous social sufferings which for ages past have been periodically endured by our unemployed poor and their families would not have occurred; nor would those astounding annual sums which have been exacted for more than two centuries from the property of the country, added to the overwhelming amount subscribed in charity, making an aggregate exceeding the amount of the national debt, have been sunk in unproductive, unprofitable speculations, nor would millions have been spent in the punishment of crime; but much the larger portion of this money would have been more usefully employed at home, and would have fructified in the hands of the people.Now, Sir, I have stated more fully than any of the Members of the Government opposite the advantages that are likely to accrue from a repeal of the navigation laws. And, certainly, we, the Protectionist party, left, as you see, in rather a small minority, have much to answer for in thus interrupting the further progress of free trade, and preventing the benefits which are likely to result from a repeal of the navigation laws, if by their repeal we could dry up the ocean, and save in the next 200 years more than 800,000,000l. of money by the employment of our starving poor, and hundreds of millions more in the prevention of crime.
Sir, I regret I do not see the noble Lord the Member for Windsor (Lord J. Hay) who has taken a prominent part in the debate in his place. That noble Lord has joined in the clamour against the seamen, the marines, the captains, and the mates in our mercantile service. I did not exactly understand a portion of his observations; but I understood him to say, that he had had 270 merchant ships under his control when employed in command off the coast of Portugal in 1839—"that many disputes had then arisen between the captains and men in the mercantile service, which were most difficult to settle—that the 585 captains were always in the wrong—and that fifty of these men had retired from the mercantile navy, and sought refuge on board the Queen's ships." Why, Sir, one of the causes of dispute arises from the circumstance, that whenever a ship of war is at hand, the merchant seamen, having the privilege of leaving, without notice, the service of the merchantman in which they are engaged, and of enlisting on board the Queen's ship, practically have the captains of the merchant ships always at their mercy, and knowing it, they say, "If you do not satisfy us, we will go and volunteer into the Queen's ship;" and out of this very circumstance disputes which would not otherwise arise, do continually arise between a mercantile captain and his crew.
I see by a return laid upon the table of the House, that out of 202 ships of the Royal Navy in the years 1844 and 1845, there were in the one year 1,000 different punishments inflicted, and in the other year 1,400 different punishments, notwithstanding all the discipline of the Royal Navy. So that, with all our discipline, the number of punishments thus inflicted in the Royal Navy, has exceeded, four or fivefold, in proportion to ships, the number of alleged quarrels between the masters and mates in our mercantile ships. But the noble Lord, when he called attention to the conduct of the captains and mates of the mercantile service, astonished the Members on this side of the House more by the statements which followed his charge, than by the charge itself. The noble Lord, in answer to the able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), who so well analysed the reports of the consuls, said, with an emphasis and an action upon the red box suitable to the occasion, "that he was prepared to verify every sentence in the blue book." So that it appears the noble Lord is prepared to verify every sentence expressed by seventy consuls, many of whom have given the most contradictory reports. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire, the other night, told a good story for the purpose of illustrating the course pursued by hon. Members on the other side of the House. He said it reminded him of the conduct of a certain British seaman, who, when asked to give an opinion upon any particular subject, said "I don't know anything about it; but if Dick said it was so, I will swear to it." We have now actually a live Jack 586 tar, in the person of the noble Lord, ready to swear to every sentence in this blue book. If the noble Lord had been here I should have liked to ask him to reconcile the contradictory statements that are herein contained. One consul, who it appears had only 200 or 300 seamen under his observation, writes his opinion thus:—" They are the most ignorant and brutal set of people I ever saw in my life, in the Baltic." Another consul, Mr. Brooker, says, "that for a period of fifty-nine years he has been consul at Cronstadt, and in the course of his consulate there came under his surveillance 25,000 ships, manned by 290,000 men; and," he adds—I am bound to say that there have been very few quarrels of the people connected with these ships during all these fifty-nine years—there have only occurred two cases in which there was any occasion to send the parties up for trial. These parties were the captains and mates; and in both instances they were acquitted.Consul Macgregor, from Elsineur, says, in the most frank and just manner, that—Consuls, by the nature of the situation in which they are placed, can only see the shady side of the proceedings on board of ships. It is their duty to record accidents that happen in vessels upon their voyage. The seaman has an arduous duty to perform—to war, as it were, with the elements, to contend against which requires, sometimes, almost superhuman exertions.But what does he say further, in respect to the cases which came before him?—Shall a shipwreck or one dispute be made the grounds for the condemnation of this whole class? Scarcely twenty shipwrecks have happened in the Baltic within my experience, so that of the amount of the shipping which has passed to the Sound, scarcely twenty vessels have been lost out of 4,000 vessels that annually frequent these seas.So that it appears by this gentleman's statement that scarcely twenty cases came before him, although the number of British seamen that annually passed through this part of the world was 30,000. Then we have 30,000 at Elsineur, and 290,000 seamen at Cronstadt, whose conduct has been thus reported upon. Are we, then, to be put down by the small talk of idle consuls? On almost every occasion, not the repeal of the navigation laws is sought for by those officers, but more power, and sometimes more pay. But recollect that the letters of the consuls were written in reply to a circular from Mr. Murray, which did not raise the question as between the two sides of good and ill conduct for their consideration. Mr. Murray appeared as the attorney-general for the prosecution, against the British mercantile marine as 587 defendants. He asked nothing in regard to the good conduct of the seamen; he only desired to know of their misconduct. I do not hesitate to say that a letter, in my opinion, more atrocious, and one more calculated to libel and slander the British mariner of this country, could not have been written, and has never gone forth from the Foreign Office. But, Sir, after all, what do these consuls say? Why, that "the deportment of these seamen is inferior to that of the foreigner—that their orthography is bad, and their spelling all on a par." Why, good gracious! are we to condemn the seamen of England because they have not French manners, because they possess not the grace of Italians, of Sicilians, and of Sardinians? But when the noble Lord the Member for Windsor says "he is prepared to verify every sentence of these statements," I ask him is he prepared to verify those sentiments which contain encomiums upon the British seamen, and the contradictory sentiment expressed almost in the same breath that they are "utterly ignorant, drunken, and worthless?" But we have also a consul, Mr. Barclay, at New York, who says that the great difficulties standing in the way of the captains and mates whose conduct is so much impugned, arise from the want of proper discipline. He says that the contrast between the mercantile marine and the American marine is this, "that the latter still retain the power of inflicting corporal punishment." Now, I ask the noble Lord the Member for Windsor, is he prepared on the part of the Government, as well as to verify this information, to carry out the sentiment which accompanies it? Is the Government prepared to impose corporal punishment upon our mercantile navy? For, according to the suggestion of this gentleman, whose statements and sentiments the noble Lord, I presume, will readily verify, there ought to be the same kind of discipline adopted in our mercantile navy as they have in the American mercantile navy, to render the conduct and condition of our seamen equal to those of foreign seamen.
Sir, as I have heard no reason assigned, nor any grounds shown, for this great alteration in our laws, I am at a loss to understand the inducements which hon. Members opposite have for supporting this measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) has made a very ingenious 588 speech, as he always does; and, but that it happened in the outset that he announced his intention of supporting Ministers, I confess that if I had only come into the House after the commencement of his speech, I should have thought that he was arguing in favour of our side of the question. To be sure I was a little surprised at hearing him say, "that reciprocity was the rule of action in this country." I was surprised to hear fall from the right hon. Gentleman a condemnation of the Government, "that they had gone hand over head, and had proposed to repeal the navigation laws without first bargaining for reciprocity." Why, good God! what was the Act of 1846? Was it not free trade without reciprocity? What were we here, in opposition, striving for and complaining of, but that we were giving to foreigners free trade without securing reciprocity for ourselves? It was the good old rule in former times, but was abandoned in 1846, and we are now reaping the true consequence in a ruined trade and a starving population. Sir, I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not here in his place; indeed, it appears that none of those Gentlemen who have taken an active part in this debate, except the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the President of the Board of Trade, have condescended to hear what their opponents have to say in answer to them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford has discovered that, whilst, in his opinion, the British mercantile marine could compete with any other mercantile marine in the world—that the position of the British merchant and seamen, as regards steam navigation at all events, is entirely unapproachable. He is, I think, about as well informed on this subject as he is respecting the prices of timber and other articles of commerce. It appears by a return that has been laid on the table of this House, with the name of Mr. Wawn on the back of it, that the steam tonnage, built and registered in the United Kingdom, was—
§ I have a return of the ships and tonnage of the United States, by which I find that there were built there, in 1844, 103 steamers; in 1845, 163; in 1846, 235; and in 1847, 198 steamers. Now, I am not able to state what the tonnage of these steamers is, because as regards them they are 589 mixed up with sailing vessels; but I find in the corresponding years, excluding sloops and canal boats, there were built in the United States of America—
§ Thus in the course of those four years there have been 699 steamers built, with 3,119 two and three masted sailing vessels, measuring 615,929 tons. I am not able to tell the tonnage of the steamboats generally, but I am able to tell the tonnage of twelve sea-going steamers that were built and launched at New York in 1847, and that of fourteen others to be launched in the current year. Those twelve ships built at New York measured 16,288 tons. So that in 1847 alone, in sea-going steamers of 600 tons and upwards—I have taken no river steamers, and none under 600 tons—there were 12 built and launched at New York exceeding the united tonnage of all the vessels built in the United Kingdom in 1847. The 14 steamers now on the stocks have a united tonnage of 23,000 tons, so that in the course of two years there have been, or are being built at New York alone twenty-six sea-going steam ships, with a tonnage of 40,000 tons. Now what does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford say to this statement, after coming down with his authority to assist the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and to assure us, misleading the House by his assertion, "that this country is unapproachable in the matter of steam vessels built and building?" This is the very point of all others in which the United States is now outstripping us.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Milner Gibson), I am also sorry to say, is not here. He was pleased to allege that I had charged him with some fraud in the arrangement or getting out of certain returns which were laid on the table of the House by command of Her Majesty. Sir, I took the liberty of interrupting him when he made this charge, denying that I had ever laid such an accusation against him; it must have been some inward monitor that accused him—"that conscience" which "doth make cowards of us all." He might exclaim—
I would forget it, fain,
But, Oh! it presses to ray memory,
Like damned guilty deeds to sinners' minds:
and the right hon. Gentleman may know that it was he who gave instructions to Mr. Porter of the Board of Trade "to take" the Queen's name "in vain" and put it to a document which turns out fallacious, and having done this may have justly felt that he was guilty of no slight offence in the eyes of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade endeavoured to explain it away, and the ex-Vice-President, Sir George Clerk, with a fellow feeling, followed in the same track: he said these returns were prepared as continuations of the returns prepared by Mr. Young, in 1844, although these returns drawn up in 1844 were substantially and practically different. Mr. Young had nothing in his returns of such headings as "protected and unprotected trade "—he studiously kept out the steamboat navigation, indeed it was one of his special objects to distinguish between the steamboats and the sailing-boats. Now, it stood on evidence given by Mr. Porter, on his oath in the House of Lords, that he made those returns by order of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, whilst he admitted that the terms "protected and unprotected trade" were wrong terms. It was said that Mr. Young perfectly understood it. Yes, Mr. Young, when he saw the return, did perfectly understand it, and pulled it to pieces. Any one acquainted with the trade of the country, indeed, must have at once seen that this return was fallacious. But it deceived the country for the time, and made food for the Edinburgh Review and the free-trade newspapers for months, and the whole country was taken in by this return, which now bears the character of deceit upon its very face. This is the evidence given by Mr. Porter before the House of Lords. [Mr. GIBSON: Read the whole of it.] He justifies the returns by certain questions put to Mr. Young; but he acknowledges that the terms "protected and unprotected trade" are wrong, the distinction drawn not being correct. He admits that China should be struck out of the list of unprotected trade. He admits that Russia should be out of it—that Brazil should be out of it; and then comes a question put to him—if Brazil should be omitted, perhaps the other South American States should be struck out? The answer is, "Well, perhaps, they might." "And Turkey should be omitted?" "Yes, Turkey also." Well,
then, if I take out Russia and China, and Brazil, and all the South American States, you will find that the result will be a very different one. The right hon. Gentleman pretends to say that the difference would Be still the same; but I utterly deny the fact. I think but for these countries and the steam-vessels engaged in the trade to France and the United Netherlands, the tables would be entirely turned, and, so far from the unprotected trade showing a larger increase where it is exposed to the competition of other countries, the increase upon the exclusively protected trade would prove far beyond that in which there is free competition. Now, is the House so ignorant or so uninformed on this question as to be led away by the statements made of the tonnage and voyages of British steam-vessels, when we find that one of them is set down as having made 145 voyages in one year, figuring as 145 ships? Why not at once take the river steamers—why not take the steamboats from London to Margate and Ramsgate, equally with the steamboats from Dover to Calais? If they took the river steamers and the halfpenny boats, which run each way every quarter of an hour, and if each entry be set down as a new vessel and a new voyage, I will undertake to say that the navigation of the Thames between Richmond and Margate will turn out to be threefold that between England and France, and England and the United Netherlands conjointly. And yet this return is deliberately put upon the table, showing, as it were, a fair criterion by which the public of England are to judge of the effects of free trade and open competition as regards our shipping with other parts of the world. I have here a statement showing what would be the result taking out the countries in which the steamboats are retained and pressed into the service to make up the returns of the unprotected trade, and the result will be found very different indeed. There are two classes—the British West Indies and the British fisheries—which show in Mr. Porter's table on the protected side: these two of all others have the most right to be taken out of the list, and put on the "less protected side;" because, in this interval, between 1824 and 1846, by the emancipation of the slaves, and the consequent total destruction of the business of those colonies, you have, by an Act of Parliament, quite independent of the navigation laws, totally ruined
the British shipping trade of the West Indian colonies; while, at the same time, the free-trade admission of the United States into the lumber and provision trade, destroyed the British North American as well as the Irish trade with the West Indian colonies. As to the whale fisheries, they were protected by a bounty—you took that away from them; they were protected also by a high duty on competing foreign oils—spermaceti and vegetable oils—but you reduced these duties, and by the removal of these, without any operation of the navigation laws, you destroyed the whale trade; and now, instead of your 13,000 men employed as heretofore, you are reduced to 2,500—while the Americans have got 20,000 seamen in the whale fishery. This is the result of your recent free-trade legislation. I put then the British West Indies and the fisheries on the other side as being clearly "less protected" now than in 1824. I shall take out Russia, for Mr. Porter admits that it ought to be taken out—I shall take out China, because he admits that it should go; and Turkey also, for the same reason—I shall exclude the steamboat navigation between the United Netherlands and France; and then, on the other side—on the bonâ fide "less unprotected" side—there will be found, in addition to the British West Indies and the fisheries, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Prussia, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Gibraltar, Malta, and the United States of America, and I find the result to be, that the real bornâ fide protected trade of Great Britain, apart from steamboats, has advanced 145 per cent, while the "less protected trade" has only advanced 93 per cent. There is the difference. And is that no fraud committed upon the country, worked upon and brought into play for the last twelve months? It might be said, that it was a mistake; but, singularly enough, the blunders and errors and mistakes are all on one side.
§ I have here a return placed upon the table of the House, just about the time the navigation laws were suspended last year, and well calculated to excite the passions of the people. It bears the name of the Secretary of the Treasury, but he is perfectly innocent of it, and declares he knows nothing about it. It goes to show that the country is indebted to the suspension of the navigation law for no less than 63,555 tons of corn, imported in 538 vessels inadmissible under the navigation laws; but it turns out that the 63,000 tons 593 of corn were in reality only 28,000 tons, and the 538 ships were only 304, as shown by the statement I now hold in my hand, namely—
|First false Return.||Corrected Return.|
|Ships 538||Ships 304|
§ These are the tricks which continually sway the conduct of the Legislature, and these are the shifts which the free-traders have recourse to. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester said, "that the clamour for the suspension of the navigation laws came from this side of the House." Why, I want to know what it is that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House do not say? The only remarkable move that was made on this side of the House was—that I moved that the Bill for the further suspension of the navigation laws be read a second time that day six months; that is the only move that was made on this side of the House; and then we are gravely told that the clamour came from this side. Sir, I am greatly rejoiced to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester say, that he condemned all legislation which was carried by clamour. I always thought he had been one of those who had been wafted into power and place upon the turbid waters of agitation and clamour and I certainly never expected that the right hon. Gentleman who had been obliged to run away from Suffolk, and who had been returned for Manchester by the agitation of the Anti-Corn-Law League, would be the man to condemn clamour and agitation, and all legislation that might arise therefrom.
§ The learned Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring) who made a speech upon the navigation laws, and had expressed his opinion that the repeal of them would be for the benefit of the shipowners and mariners and sailors of Great Britain, told us that a little competition did a great deal of good. We used to hear that the free and invigorating air of competition and free trade were for the benefit of, and would encourage these interests; but we have had from the learned Doctor, in the course of this debate, a new phrase, and it is the more valuable as it was said in perfect sobriety and calmness—we are now told by this great apostle of free trade, that it is "the iron hand of competition we must have." It is no longer the free and invigorating 594 air of competition, but things are now called by their right names—the election is now over, the hon. Gentleman has been returned, and we now have the truth told—it is "the iron hand of competition"—the phrase is a happy one—" it is the iron hand of competition" that has doubled the pauperism of the borough which the hon. Gentleman represents, bringing it from 9,000 in 1846, to 17,000 in 1848. It is "the iron hand of competition" which has ruined the British colonies, and dragged down the merchants of England, and the home-manufacturing interests which are dependent on them, and has deprived them of employment. It is "the same iron hand of competition," which we were told by the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire would reduce the price of flour in the borough of Stockport, "from nine farthings to six farthings the pound." I do not complain much of that statement. He has brought down the price of flour, it appears, at Stockport, to seven farthings; but he has increased the paupers on the parish from 5,500 to 25,000. Yes, he who promised them high wages—he who promised them bread—he who promised them cheap bread, and told them if they could not eat it all, they would have so much more out of the overgrown wealth of the Duke of Buckingham and of the right hon. Gentleman who sits there (Sir J. Graham), to be saved, or expended on sugar, tea, and coffee! How have these promises been fulfilled? He has so ground down wages by "this iron hand of competition," that there are now 25,000 paupers in Stockport, when formerly, previous to free trade, there were only 5,500.
But we had the truth spoken in the Committee upstairs, that has been sitting, as you all know, whose proceedings are reported to the House, and amongst others you will, no doubt, have read the resolution which stands in the name of Mr. Wilson, proposed on the part of Her Majesty's Government. That Committee has, in fact, been what the French call the Palais de la Verité. I will do the Committee the justice to say, that never were there men who tried harder to get at the truth, and to frame resolutions upon their different views, according to the evidence; and these are the doctrines of free trade that were propounded by the hon. Member for Westbury, and the people of this country are not so dull but that they will easily be able to ring the changes upon sugar and corn, upon sugar
and manufactures, upon sugar and British shipping, freights, and wages; and these are the doctrines laid down, and though rejected by a majority of the Committee, unanimously agreed to by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, the hon. Member for Dartmouth, the right hon. Member for Manchester, and, I need not say, by the right hon. President of the Board of Trade. The doctrine is, that one of the effects of the protecting duties levied upon foreign sugars has been to promote undue competition for labour in our colonies, and to raise the wages of labour. Of course, that there may be no mistake, the converse of the proposition is put, and the 4th Resolution contains this expression—
That the late fall in the price of sugar has already led to a very considerable diminution in the wages of labour; that if the protecting duties were now to be increased, and the price of sugar artificially raised, the efforts to lessen the cost of sugar by a reduction of wages would be impeded, and wages would again be raised in the colonies.
Though truth lends a grace to the natural deformity of the sentiment, we have here the sentiments of the free-traders and political economists laid bare, "that it is protecting duties that raise the price of the produce, and the price of produce creates competition in labour, which raises the wages of labour. Remove the protection, and it leads to diminution of the wages of labour; increase again the protective duties, raise the price of the commodity, and it follows as a matter of course that the wages of labour will rise." Now, let that go forth to the country, and the next time the right hon. Gentleman the late Vice-President of the Board of Trade goes down to Manchester—the next time the hon. Member for the West Riding goes down to his constituents—let each operative take him gently and tenderly by the button-hole, and ask him to explain what difference there is between protection to sugar and protection to corn, protection to the silk manufactures, protection to the woollen manufactures, and protection to the cotton manufactures? And if he can bamboozle the operatives again, the operatives of this country have not half the sense for which I gave them credit. But what said the hon. Member for the West Riding in his letter to the electors of Stockport? He said, "No one could be found so unblushing as to say that cheap corn meant cheap wages." I do remember the time when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir James Graham) used to say
cheap corn meant cheap wages, and he is right. Cheap corn is come, and have you not cheap wages in Stockport and in Bolton? Have you not cheap wages in Bradford—Bradford, which, notwithstanding what the hon. and gallant Colonel (Colonel Thompson) who represents it stated the other evening, of its changing its pantaloons for the silks of France, presents a worse picture than most others in this distressed county? There you have people, their beds and chairs being taken from them, and all their comforts and superfluities at the pawnbroker's, driven by penury and starvation to desperation, and brought into collision with the police force. And how stands the case as regards Manchester? In 1846, there were 27,000 paupers in Manchester, and within the last six months they have increased to 94,000. Is this then the time, above all others, to select for proceeding in this headlong career? Are we to make further progress in free-trade measures at a time when we are experiencing the evil consequences of what we have already done in that direction? Are we to drive the sailors of this country to seek protection in a foreign country, and under a foreign flag? They tell you in their petitions, "the country that protects them, and the flag that flies over them, will become their country and flag, and they will not be likely to come back in the time of war to fight the battles of a country that neglected them in a time of peace." In the same way we shall lose our shipwrights. Is it a time to discourage those classes, when thrones are tottering, when empires are dissolved, when the whole of the continent of Europe is in commotion—is this a time to add a new ingredient to the sufferings which disfigure and disgrace the land? If ever there was a time to stop, it is now; and I counsel the Government not for the sake of these abstract principles, when they do not pretend to show any greater good as likely to arise from them than the cheapening of freights by 2s. 6d. a ton, to pause before they pursue this headlong course further. For whose good is it? For the good of the foreigner. The free-traders tell you freights will not be so much lower. The free-traders tell you there will be an equalisation of freights; that foreign freights will rise, and British freights fall. But let us profit by the unanimous opinion from the same Committee upstairs I have already quoted. I have read to you the free-trade resolution—the resolution in which the political economists
were unanimous; now let me read you a resolution in which the whole Committee was unanimous. This was not the suggestion of any Protectionist, but was ushered in under the patronage of Mr. Moffatt. You will find it stated in the eighth resolution, in which we all unanimously agreed—
That a share of the advantages of a higher price in this market by the foreign producer, is a consequence inseparable from the policy of reduced protection.
§ That I think a great doctrine and a great principle, and it was unanimously concurred in by every Member of a Committee in which there were but three Protectionists besides myself. I think when this broad principle is boldly set forth before the country, "that reduced profits will reduce the wages of labour, and that reduced protection means the transfer of a higher price to the foreigner," the country will certainly open its eyes, and doubt whether it is altogether wise to put another great interest of 40,000,000l sterling into the crucible to see what may come up out of it.
I do not see the hon. and learned Member for Bolton in his place; but the hon. and learned Member said, he thought a closer investigation ought to take place into the conduct of British sailors, masters, and mates. I think the masters and mates might be disposed to retort the compliment upon the hon. and learned Doctor, if they recollected how highly he was paid for his pleasure trip to Germany, and were closely to examine into the value of the fruits of that misssion. I think they would have a right to say, "We ought to examine a little more closely into the conduct and efficiency of our diplomatists before we pay them and send them upon their pleasure enterprises to carry on the affairs of the State." Dr. Bowring was sent in 1840, and before, into different parts of Germany for the purpose of examining and reporting upon the commercial relations of that country with this country. The other night the hon. and learned Gentleman warned us, like the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford, to take the step in time before it was too late; for, he said, "if we did not, Prussia might retaliate." Looking back to the reports made by the hon. and learned Doctor in 1840, I cannot see that Prussia has so much right to complain of our conduct towards her. The learned Doctor then informed us that—
The subjects of primary interest in the German
States as connected with their English commercial relations, are its corn and timber duties. Their existence is the great impediment to a change in the commercial policy of the Prussian and German States, and their removal or modification will, I am assured, bring about a considerable reduction in the tariffs of the Zollverein, which press most heavily on British produce.
This was a service for which he was paid just as much as a sailor was paid to reef a topsail or heave up the anchor. The learned Doctor, writing to Lord Palmerston, continues:—
I am only able to state to your Lordship that I have obtained official assurances, and they will be confirmed by the official reports of Her Majesty's Ministers at Berlin, that the Prussian Government not only consents but desires to enter upon formal negotiations, the object of which will be the mutual and progressive lowering of the tariffs of both countries, with a view to more extended and beneficial commercial intercourse. The friendly disposition of the Prussian authorities I have every reason to believe most cordial and sincere, and that our moving forward in an earnest response to meet such amicable purposes would be most earnestly hailed by the most intelligent functionaries, and by the great body of the German people.
Just let us see what the Governments of Germany think is the degree of free trade to which they are entitled before they make any response. The learned Doctor said—
I am bound to confess that it is not expected by the advocates of the Zollverein that Great Britain should admit foreign corn duty free. A moderate tariff on importation with a tendency towards commercial emancipation, would satisfy the most intelligent and influential of those who desire the extension of trading relations with Great Britain. 'It is not to be expected,' (says Osiander,) 'that England, in her advances towards a more liberal commercial system, should by the import of corn leave agriculture unprotected. The most earnest advocates of commercial liberty would hardly expect to accomplish this; for independently of regard for the agricultural interest, the statesman would naturally desire that the import of corn should be made to assist the public revenues. The most enlightened political economists are of opinion that a duty of 6s. or 8s. per quarter would be an ample security to the British grower, an opinion in which we cordially concur.'
Evidently misled by the great learning of that great philosopher of whom I have just spoken, the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), in 1842 and 1846, made one of those earnest moves in advance, and without any reciprocity treaties whatever reduced the duties on timber and corn, in 1842, quite equal to the reduction proposed—namely, 6s. or 8s. a quarter. What was the result? Germany got all she wanted without giving anything in return. She made no attempt, no step in advance, gave no response, but forthwith
raised all her duties; and what was the language held to Prussia by Lord Aberdeen in the year following? Lord Aberdeen, on learning that it was the intention of the Prussian Government to raise the duties on British iron and mousseline de laines, addressed the following letter to Lord Westmoreland:—
Foreign Office, June 28, 1842.
Her Majesty's Government, relying upon the language recently used by the Prussian Government upon the subject of certain additional duties which it was reported were to be imposed by the German League upon manufactures of iron and steel, are unwilling to give credence to the report referred to in these communications. If, however, their expectations should be disappointed, it will be with deep regret that they will learn the intention of Prussia to adopt measures so opposite to the enlightened principles which she has constantly professed. Her Majesty's Government are most unwilling to enter upon a war of tariffs, and have given proof of their desire to extend and improve their commercial intercourse with all nations.
But if their endeavours in this respect meet with no reciprocity, and only lead to increased restrictions, it may then be absolutely necessary for the British Government to have recourse to retaliatory measures, and even to revise those portions of the new tariff framed in a spirit of liberality which appears to be so little appreciated.
§ Sir, that was language which became a British Minister bent on taking care of the interests of his country, Did he, in 1843, hold the language of pusillanimity? Did he say if Prussia threatens we must give in for fear of consequences? No, he said if Prussia has deceived us, if the hon. and learned Member for Bolton has misinformed us, if our Commissioner has misled us, we must have recourse to retaliatory measures. That, however, is not the policy now pursued, for the more exacting Prussia became, the more disposed we showed ourselves to surrender. If, however, as my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Hildyard) well showed the other night, you can injure Prussian shipping four to one more than she can injure you, if Prussia dares to threaten, and now too that she has invaded territories which by treaty England is bound to defend, is this the time for England to cringe and crouch to her dictates?
Sir, I do not undervalue the power of America. I know her rising greatness; but you have already given her a great share of your colonial trade, for which she has given you nothing in return. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford says, we ought to have bargained for her coasting trade. Why, we cannot keep our intercolonial
trade against her; what chance, then, have we against her on her own coasts? Don't imagine that the United States will take away the coasting trade from us, or that we can take hers from her; but, inasmuch as they have got between fourfold and fivefold their due proportion of our colonial trade, if you now repeal the navigation laws, you will deeply injure our shipping interest in their trade with the colonies, and also the interest of our fisheries. We should say to the United States, "Your trade with us and the colonies amounts to 1,400,000 tons, whilst our trade with you is only 800,000 tons; take care what you do by any measures of restriction, for recollect that we take your cotton, your corn, your flour, and your rice free; that if we put a high duty for revenue purposes on your tobacco, we give you a monopoly of the trade. It is no injustice to you, because we forbid tobacco to be grown in this country, and no duty is imposed upon your tobacco that is not placed equally upon that grown in our own colonies. We take all your produce, and yet you do not let in our manufactures, but are now levying a duty of 26 per cent upon them. Allow us free imports before you ask us to give you free trade with our colonies." Then there is the trade with Cuba. At present the carrying trade with Cuba is confined to British ships, and the ships of Cuba and Spain; but if we let the United States into that trade, how will the matter stand? British ships have now virtually a monopoly, for they carried seven-eighths of the sugar from Cuba to this country; but the United States would then get it into their own hands. Recollect that Cuba depends for supplies of provisions and lumber upon the United States, and you have made no treaty with Spain enabling your ships which may bring away sugar from Spain or Porto Rico to carry the lumber and provisions of the United States to the Spanish West Indies. Now, if your ships go to fetch sugar from Cuba, they must go out in ballast, because the colony is supplied with all it requires in the shape of provisions and manufactures by America, and therefore the American vessels would have a double freight, or a freight two ways, whilst British ships would only have a freight for the single voyage; and therefore what chance would there be on the part of England of success in the carrying trade, if she were placed in open competition with the
United States in the trade with Cuba and Porto Rico? None whatever. The rates of freight from those colonies would in such a case be lowered far beyond those from the British West Indies, and thus the competing system would touch us most keenly. Sir, I have heard no argument in the course of this debate concerning the fate and prospects or interests of those 226,000 seamen in the prime of life who represent a population, with their wives and families, nearly equal to those engaged in the cotton trade of this country. I want to know what is to become of them? The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. M. Gibson) quoted a petition from Manchester, which said—
That ships did not make commerce; that manufactures made ships; that the trade of this country is not indebted to her shipping for her manufactures.
§ Now, Sir, I am not one of those who say that shipping can flourish without manufactures; I think that manufactures and commerce are so closely bound up together that neither can flourish unless the other prospers. But, Sir, I want to know what the Manchester manufacturer would do if we had no ships? How would he get his cotton if there were no ships? If cotton manufactures created shipping, how were America and India discovered? I think, therefore, that those Manchester manufacturers—that those Manchester millowners who signed this petition—have, by asking for the repeal of the navigation laws, greatly overlooked their own interests, and greatly exaggerated their own importance over those engaged in the shipping trade of this country. I think, Sir, that now is the time above all others when we should foster the commercial marine of England. Not because I am one of those who think that the repeal of the navigation laws would for the purposes of to-morrow strip our mercantile navy of all its power and utility in manning the Royal Navy; but because I am of opinion that the effect in a few years would be to diminish that mercantile navy which has always been, and must continue to be, the chief support of the Royal marine.
In giving evidence before the Committee which sat last year, Sir James Stirling said that not more than one-tenth part of the Royal naval force was furnished by the merchant service. No doubt that may be the case in time of peace, but in time of war the fact stands in a different position; and I think the
gallant officer was mistaken in the view he took of it. Because, Sir, it seems, by official returns, that of 22,000 seamen entered for the first time in the Royal Navy during the last ten years, from the merchant service, 7,000 had been in the Royal Navy before; but it does not follow that they had not originally learned their business in the mercantile marine, and if it did it would still follow that two-fifths of the Royal Naval force are still in these times of peace provided from the merchant service. Sir James Stirling proposed that we should have a great peace establishment of 40,000 able seamen, exclusive of landsmen and marines, which could be extended by landsmen and marines, in the time of need, to what we had in 1811, a force of 120,000 seamen and 25,000 marines; but I wish to know whether the House is prepared—whether the free-traders, the right hon. Member for the West Riding of York, and his Colleagues, who are for reducing 17,000,000l. a year in the military and naval expenditure of the country, are prepared—if the navigation laws were repealed, to increase the naval force of this country to 40,000 able seamen, because, if they are, they must also be prepared to add some 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. to the estimates. Well, then, unless we hear from Her Majesty's Ministers—and none has yet attempted to show how the Navy is to be recruited—it appears to be an act of rashness and insanity at such a moment to weaken the mercantile arm of the country. Not that I am one who fears for this country. I have as much confidence in the vigour, energy, and gallantry of her defenders as any other man can have, and when the struggle conies, I will not, for one, believe that they ever will be found wanting; but if we are not to be found wanting for the struggle, we must be found prepared for the emergency. The great security for peace is great providence for war; and the greatest providence for that, with our insular position and our extended colonies, thousands and thousands of miles apart, is, and ever must be, the strength and attachment of our seamen to their native country; but if "the iron hand of competition" is to be put upon them, and they are to be ground down to cheaper wages—if the 1½lb. of beef and pork is to be exchanged for the ½lb., the rations of Swedes and Norwegians—if they are to have black bread instead of wheaten—if they are to be driven from their homes to seek an asylum in foreign countries—
then, indeed, I shall fear for my country.
England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
But if we discourage and dishearten our seamen—injure them in their pockets, wound them in their feelings, and show them that in time of peace we are indifferent about and careless of them—shall we be able to press them into our service in the day of difficulty and danger? I fear not, Sir; but let us cherish our brave seamen; show them that alike in peace and in war we will provide for them; that we scorn to weigh in the balance with the comforts, the prosperity, and happiness of our gallant defenders the miserable saving of 2s. 6d. a ton upon our shipping, and the one-eighteenth part of a farthing per pound on our sugar and coffee, and then we may again, as heretofore, boldly challenge and safely defy all the nations of the earth:—
Come then, ye nations,
Shroud old Ocean with your hostile sails;
By her own sons defended and beloved,
England shall stand unshaken and secure,
And only fall when time itself expires.
§ MR. HUME
would not follow the noble Lord who had just sat down over the long course of arguments which he had brought before the House; but he was anxious, before this question was decided, to offer a few remarks, and give expression to opinions altogether different from those of the noble Lord. He believed he should be able satisfactorily to show in a few minutes that the object of those who advocated the repeal of the navigation laws was by no means to destroy the Navy or commercial marine of this country, but the reverse. There was no man in that House, not excepting the noble Lord himself, who was more anxious than he was to see that Navy and commercial marine in a state of prosperity; and he would venture to say that, long before the noble Lord raised his voice in favour of our marine, his (Mr. Hume's) opinion stood recorded as to the injustice which the Legislature had inflicted on that department of our commerce. And it was on that ground that he wished to bring-back the House to the subject really before it; for the noble Lord had introduced topics altogether foreign to the question then under discussion. He would not enter into a controversy with the noble Lord as to the accuracy of the figures of his hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson), or of his hon. and learned Friend 604 the Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring). But he would say this much, that if the noble Lord had made better use of the facts brought forward by those two hon. Gentlemen, he was perfectly satisfied that the noble Lord would not have committed himself in the manner in which he had, as to the reports and opinions to which he had alluded. The noble Lord had dwelt on the conduct of Prussia; but the Prussians had shown their sincerity in favour of a more unrestricted trade with this country ever since 1817. The correspondence between the Prussian Minister and Mr. Canning had been invariably in favour of reducing the restrictions that pressed on the trade between Prussia and this country; but when the Prussian Minister called on Mr. Canning, and said that his Government were willing to enter into an arrangement by which the whole trade between the two countries should be made completely free, or a duty imposed only for purposes of revenue, what was Mr. Canning's answer? He said that, notwithstanding any reductions Prussia might make, England never would consent to repeal her corn laws, as they were inseparably connected with the prosperity and welfare of this country. There the correspondence closed, and Prussia was obliged, in self-defence, to retaliate, until she forced England to yield, and to abandon the restrictions that she had imposed. The noble Lord would find, therefore, that if at that time the landed interests had consented to meet the views of Prussia, and if they had been wise enough to have agreed to a permanent duty of six or eight shillings a quarter on corn, there was scarcely a doubt but that the opponents of the corn laws would hardly, at this time, have effected their repeal. And ought not the noble Lord to take that as a lesson which taught him to alter his course on this question? But it really appeared that all lessons of experience were lost upon those who held the arguments of the noble Lord. They considered that nobody had a right to urge complaints and just demands but England. What right had we to lay down the law exclusively on such questions as these? The noble Lord had talked of the "iron hand of competition." Now, he (Mr. Hume) would ask, what right had we to lay down the iron rule that we should act as we pleased with regard to other countries? We were not in a condition justly to do so. No treaty could exist or ought to exist between us and the European world, 605 or with America, but that which was mutually beneficial and advantageous; and did our experience warrant us in affirming that the rule which we had hitherto laid down could possibly be allowed to continue? He was surprised to hear the noble Lord appeal to the House and to Her Majesty's Ministers, and exclaim, "Don't make this immense change which you are now going to make." Why, they had already, in 1815, made a great change in the navigation laws with regard to America. They had made still further changes in 1820, 1824, and 1826. Why, they had almost repealed half of these navigation laws already. Instead, therefore, of making "a great change," they would, if they adopted the present proposal, only remove a little of the detail, as he might call it, of that obnoxious system, the navigation laws, in order to do away with a great deal of discontent with respect to them, and to give the country the full benefit which it must derive from repeal of those laws. The noble Lord had asked, "Is this the time to make the change which you propose? "His (Mr. Hume's) answer was, "It is the time." The noble Lord had endeavoured to impress upon the House and the country that the free-trade measures which had been already passed, had produced the distress that had recently happened in this country. But he (Mr. Hume) could point out to the noble Lord periods when the distress in this country was much greater than at present, notwithstanding we had, in the same periods the corn laws, and other monopolies, in full force. In 1816 those laws existed untouched, and yet there prevailed in that very year greater distress than he had ever seen, either before or since; and the noble Lord might as well (and he believed with more reason) attribute the distress which prevailed at that time to those laws, as the present distress to the operation of the late free-trade measures. The truth was, the late free-trade measures had not yet had time to operate. We had not free trade yet carried out to the full extent which he desired. We had a great many impediments yet to remove; but he believed that the removal of commercial restrictions effected by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had placed this country in a situation to prevent a recurrence of the calamities of 1816; and he believed that the distress at present existing would have been much aggravated if those restrictions had not been abolished. 606 It was on these grounds, therefore, that he (Mr. Hume) advocated the entire repeal of those laws which had hitherto impeded exchanges between this and other countries. The noble Lord spoke as if he were the only true advocate of the commercial interests of this country. Why, could any man convince him that the effect of putting impediments in the way of exchange between country and country, was not to diminish commercial transactions? Would the noble Lord undertake to prove that the impediments which the Legislature placed upon those exchanges, were not, in fact, in the language of his right hon. Friend the late Vice-President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Gibson), direct injuries upon the community at large? Such impediments operated as checks upon commerce; they prevented employment, and diminished the general prosperity of the country. Was it then really fair for the noble Lord and those who adopted his arguments to attribute the present distress to the late measure of free trade? The noble Lord had appealed to the free-traders, and said, "Will you destroy this, and will you destroy that; will you destroy the commercial marine?" His answer was, "No, we will not destroy it; we will increase it." And that such would be the effect of the repeal of the navigation laws he was perfectly convinced. Nothing appeared more evident to him than this, that, if the navigation laws had not existed, our commerce and commercial marine would have been much greater than they now were. He was confident that those laws had impeded their increase. He would not then enter into a contest with the noble Lord with regard to figures, on which the noble Lord differed from his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gibson) and Mr. Porter; but he would venture to say that the charges of falsity against Mr. Porter's figures were altogether groundless. He paid attention to them whilst serving on the Navigation Laws Committee, and he had looked into them on subsequent occasions. He told Mr. Porter that insinuations had been made in certain quarters that those figures had been got up improperly under the direction of the President of the Board of Trade; and he (Mr. Hume) wished to ascertain whether such was the fact. Mr. Porter replied that the charges were altogether without foundation. He believed that Mr. Porter's figures and the Committee's report were perfectly correct. He would as soon trust Mr. Porter's statements 607 as any man's in the Government service. The noble Lord, then, was not acting fairly when he based his arguments on the assumption that all these statements and reports were mere fictions, got up for the purpose of serving the views of the Government. He did not, therefore, see anything in the argument which he had made upon his mistaken supposition. The noble Lord had asked for what purpose it was that they were now about to make this proposed change? Why, it was that they might be consistent with the free-trade principles which they had already adopted on other questions; it was that they might strike off the fetters that bound down our commerce with the whole world. Free trade could not exist where navigation laws existed. It was really a matter of duty, consistency, and principle, that they should abolish those laws which impeded and checked the growth of that commerce which they all seemed anxious to promote. Now, with regard to their fisheries, which the noble Lord had dwelt so forcibly upon, what were the facts? The noble Lord had said that there were at one time 700 British ships belonging the South Sea fishery. [Lord G. BENTINCK: I stated the number to have been at one time 726.] Did the noble Lord know that in 1834, his Friend Mr. George Frederick Young, who had been then a Member of that House, and who had so prominently come forward with evidence on this question, gave a different account of the matter? did the noble Lord know what were Mr. Young's views as to the decline of the South Sea trade? Would the noble Lord take Mr. Young's testimony of the causes which then existed, tending to the depression of that trade? Mr. Young, in moving on the 5th of June, 1834, for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the Reciprocity of Duties Act, entered into a statement of the grievances of which the British shipowner had to complain. Mr. Young, who was well acquainted with shipbuilding, said, on that occasion, that in consequence of the heavy duties which were paid on every article used in the construction of a ship in Great Britain, none of which attached to those articles in other nations, it was impossible for the British shipholder, unprotected, to compete with the foreigner. There was no one in that House more anxious than he was to remove the burdens on the shipping interests which still remained; but he thought that they had a right to complain of those who now put themselves forward 608 as the friends of the British shipowner for the course that they had taken on former occasions. When Lord Althorp, in 1833, brought in a Bill for removing the duty on timber used in shipbuilding, the noble Lord and his party actually rejected the Motion, and compelled the Ministry of the day to give up a measure which he believed would have been attended with the most beneficial results to the shipping interests of this country. And yet that very party had now the effrontery to say that the advocates of free trade sought to injure the mercantile marine, whereas they had themselves sacrificed that interest, and injured the prosperity of the country to an enormous extent. But did he rest his view on that ground alone? He recollected having heard Mr. Young state, on the occasion to which he before alluded, that foreign ships could victual from 40 to 50 per cent less than British ships, amounting to from 9 to 15 per cent on the expense of the whole voyage. Mr. Young called upon them either to repeal the Navigation Acts and the Registry Acts, and to leave them to build and navigate their ships as cheaply as they could, or else to give them a protection equal to the disqualification imposed upon them. He agreed fully in all that Mr. Young had said about the burdens on shipowners, but he differed from that gentleman as to the remedy to be employed. Mr. Young was for repealing the Act under which the reciprocity treaties had been entered into; but he (Mr. Hume) could not agree in such a view of the subject. For his part, it was a matter of surprise to him how their commercial marine had been so long able to bear up against the injuries imposed by the navigation laws, and the restrictions of which the shipping interests so justly complained. Of the various grievances which Mr. Young had quoted in 1834, the principal that still remained was that relating to the manning of ships; but even in that respect it should be recollected that the men were paid higher wages in America than in this country, and that, as far the United States were concerned, England had the advantage in this particular. As to the building of ships, they had it in evidence before the Committee that the Swedes and Norwegians were obliged to come over to England for numerous articles used in the construction of vessels. And as the duty was now taken off hemp, iron, tar, copper, ropes, sails, anchors, and other articles, which had to pay duty at the time that Mr. Young had 609 made his statement in 1834, there could be no doubt but that the British shipbuilder would be able to compete with the shipbuilder of any part of the world. He would say, let English shipowners and English capital have the advantage of the material wherewith to work; and was there a man who heard him who could say that ships could be made up cheaper in any part of the world than in this country? The ten grievances stated by the shipowners in 1834, were directed against the Reciprocity Acts; but since that period, all the complaints then made had been removed. He wished to know, therefore, what it was they now wanted? As he gathered from the speeches of their organs in that House, they wanted a monopoly of trade: they wished to prevent foreign ships coming into competition with theirs. This was impossible under a system of free trade. Already had it been determined that foreign manufactures should be brought into competition with our own; and upon what principle of reason or justice could the House refuse now to cheapen freights? The rate of carriage was of more importance to English manufacturers than to the subjects of any other country in the world, because we imported the greatest quantity of raw materials. He would put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who contended for the maintenance of the existing system, whether it was not of great importance to have the price of raw materials for manufactures cheapened? There could be no doubt about it; and it was on this ground he contended that the shipowners, who insisted upon retaining the navigation laws instead of seeking to promote the welfare of the country, were seeking to impoverish it for their own profit. He firmly believed that if these laws had been removed in the year 1815, there would have been a progressive increase in our shipping to a much greater amount than had taken place, and that its owners would have been far more prosperous than they were; and he likewise firmly believed that a better time could not have been chosen than the present for adopting this policy as part of the great system of free trade. Various objections, however, were urged, none of which had, in his mind, the least soundness. Amongst them it was alleged that Sir James Stirling had given his evidence hastily. He denied that allegation. He believed Sir James Stirling's opinions were based upon mature reflection—that they would be found correct, and impossible 610 to be shaken. Was it not a fact that so far from the navigation laws tending to increase the number of seamen for the Navy, they had actually rendered them more scarce? Was it not also a fact that the apprenticeship system had thrown men from our shores just at the moment when they were of most value? Then with regard to the loss of the South Sea fisheries, the facility with which the Americans had obtained that trade had arisen partly from the distance and partly from the operation of our own legislation; but there was every reason to believe, that if these laws were repealed, our Australian Colonies would very soon take from the United States a large portion of that trade. So far as the experiments had yet been made, they had been successful. On these grounds he called upon those hon. Gentlemen who asked for the maintenance of the navigation laws, to act upon their own principles, as enunciated in 1834. Let them join with his (Mr. Hume's) side of the House, in urging their repeal, and in pressing upon the Government the necessity of removing every burden upon British ships to which foreign vessels were not liable.
§ ADMIRAL BOWLES
It is always with reluctance that I take up the time of the House; but I trust I may ask for their indulgence on the present occasion, which is of too much importance to justify an officer of my rank in contenting himself with a merely silent vote: and differing, as I do, from Her Majesty's Government, it is my duty to state my opinion to them honestly and fairly. I believe, Sir, I shall best consult the wishes and convenience of the House by confining my observations to the naval part of the question, avoiding as far as may be possible a repetition of the arguments which have been already urged during this protracted debate, and addressing myself to the main question, namely, the effect which the proposed changes will have on our maritime superiority, and on the supply of seamen for the Royal Navy during war, or on any sudden emergency when this calamity may be averted by a rapid display of force. But, Sir, it is impossible to do this without pausing for a moment to ask the reason why measures of this extreme importance are thus urgently pressed forward at so late a period of the Session, and when au inquiry, left unfinished last year by this branch of the Legislature, is now in progress in the other House of Parliament. If Her Majesty's Ministers have no intention 611 of doing more than to place their plan before the country for consideration during the remainder of the year, my objection to going into Committee would be very materially diminished. I am fully aware that many improvements and modifications of our present system have become necessary, and more especially with respect to our colonies; but what I most dread is, any rash and hasty legislation at so critical a period; for most critical I cannot but consider it, notwithstanding the observations of the right hon. Member for Oxford University, when the whole world is convulsed around us, and we know so little what another month may bring forth; and I consider those as incurring a most fearful responsibility who add, at such a moment, to the distress and dissatisfaction already too prevalent, and give an additional shock to public confidence by alarming great and important interests. Let me, Sir, recall to the recollection of the House the fatal consequences of a similar course taken by Her Majesty's Government not two years since. Anxious, apparently, to outstrip their predecessors in the race of liberality, they rashly brought forward those measures which have proved so destructive to our West Indian colonies, and of which the results are so well described in the report of the Committee recently laid on the table. All our sacrifices in the cause of humanity have been rendered abortive, and the negro population, which we had hoped to christianise and civilise, are in imminent danger of relapsing into heathenism and barbarism, by the withdrawal of all the means of education and religious instruction. And yet, Sir, what sanguine predictions were hazarded in 1846 with respect to these measures! Let me read two very short extracts from speeches of that period, and then ask the House to pause before they again rely on oracles so signally deceptive. Lord J. Russell said—Impelled by energy, and invigorated by the spirit of freedom in commercial transactions, my belief is that the colonists will gain and not suffer by this great change in our policy. I believe that the cultivation of sugar will be itself advanced to a greater extent when the colonists know that they must compete in the market of the mother country with the productions of other nations.Sir C. Wood said—I believe they will ultimately triumph in the great experiment which we are about to try. With all that skill, energy, and power, which belong to the merchants and planters of those colonies, it will be a measure of benefit, and not of 612 injury. To all others—the merchants and manufacturers of this country—I entertain sanguine hopes it will be most beneficial, and more especially to the shipowners, to whom it will be most advantageous.But, Sir, I will, as I promised, avoid enlarging further on this part of the question, and confine my remaining observations to the probable effects of these changes on our national Navy; and here I cannot hesitate to declare my own decided opinion that the two marines are inseparably and indissolubly united—that they must stand and fall together—and that any measure which may impair or injure the one, will equally affect the other. Where can fifty or sixty thousand seamen be found to fit out and fight our fleets except in our mercantile marine? Even during peace a perpetual interchange of men is going on between the two services, to their mutual advantage; and, notwithstanding my regard and respect for Sir J. Stirling, I cannot but say, after the appeals that have been made to his opinions and authority, that scarcely a second officer in the Navy could have been found to corroborate them; and when it is considered that, after all, his only plan for rendering the Navy independent of the merchant service is, to keep up something very like a war establishment during peace, I should like to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer says before I offer any further remarks. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford considers, on the contrary, the abundance of seamen in the merchant service to be so great that a sufficient supply may always be obtained, and refers to 1793 in support of his assertion; but he should recollect that at that time nobody dreamed of calling in question the propriety or necessity of impressment, and that 50,000 men were in those (perhaps more barbarous, but certainly more vigorous) days, easily raised—but now let the House consider the outcry that has been raised, and the endeavours made to excite irritation and resistance against it, and reflect whether we can safely depend on procuring men by the same means with the same rapidity. I therefore earnestly entreat once more of the House, to pause before they enter on a course which may lead to a serious diminution of that reserve force on which the safety of the country must always depend. I perceive that the destruction of the apprentice system is also contemplated. Surely, Sir, when it is considered that this is a school in which from 20,000 to 30,000 boys are 613 annually training, to supply the void which the casualties inseparable from a sailor's life are daily creating amongst our seamen, it would be more prudent rather to modify than to destroy so valuable a part of our system, if we really have any reason to apprehend that our supply of seamen exceeds the demand for them. I was yesterday at the Marine Society's office—an institution which annually takes about 1,200 boys out of the streets of London, and renders them valuable members of society. This charity will be rendered useless if the apprentice system is abolished. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester may ridicule my apprehensions, and impute them to age and professional prejudices. He, we know, thinks that the golden age has already arrived—that the hon and lamb are lying down together—that wars and rumours of wars have ceased for ever—and that the "spirit of the times" demands the sacrifice of our Navy and maritime superiority before that golden image of Mammon, which he would fain persuade us is the only object of adoration amongst his constituents at Manchester. But I am persuaded, Sir, that he greatly misrepresents them; that they are fully aware of the importance of protection and defence to their widely (and often hazardously) extended commercial interests; that they will estimate as it deserves all this wild declamation, and have sufficient intelligence to appreciate the value of a reserve of 230,000 British seamen to strengthen the Royal Navy in time of need. That Navy, Sir, has only very lately recovered, under the wise and vigorous administration of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), from the effects of ten years' ill-judged and overstrained economy. I trust it will not be subjected to any new experiments; and that the warning voice of an old officer, who has witnessed its most glorious days, and trusts he may never live to see those glories dimmed or obscured, may not be raised in vain.
The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn has travelled through a wide field of topics; but I do not feel it incumbent on me to follow his example. The noble Lord and I start from totally opposite premises. He is for protection to all, or, in other words, he wishes to tax all for the benefit of all; I wish to tax none for the benefit of any. We therefore proceed from two opposite principles to the discussion of the question before the House. It is hardly fair in the 614 noble Lord to say that dissatisfaction exists as to the consequences of free-trade measures. I believe that the country is satisfied with those measures. I do not mean to say that the country is satisfied with the present state of commerce and manufactures; but whatever hallucination may prevail on that subject in this House, I believe that the country generally attributes the present suffering to causes totally distinct from those to which the noble Lord always refers it. There is one point to which I wish to call the noble Lord's attention, because I think that he will, with his usual candour, admit that it presents a difficulty in the way of the establishment of his premises. The noble Lord wishes for protection for everybody; but we annually export 50,000,000l. worth of manufactures, the producers of which have no protection whatever. I found that this circumstance supplied me with a powerful argument when I was advocating the repeal of the corn laws. The exporters of those 50,000,000l. worth of manufactures and produce sustained their share of public burdens, they gave employment to millions of the population, and yet they enjoyed no protection. Since the alteration of the corn laws the free-traders have enlisted on their side the agriculturists as well as the manufacturers, and now we purpose to take another step in free trade. It remains for the opponents of the repeal of the navigation laws to show what special ground exists for continuing a tax on the carrying of commodities for the interest of shipowners. That is the whole question before us to-night. Strong as I found myself in advocating free trade in corn, I find myself infinitely stronger in advocating free trade in shipping; because nearly all the arguments on which a free trade in corn was opposed, have vanished when we come to consider the question of free trade in shipping. When we asked for the repeal of the corn laws, we were told of the exclusive burdens which pressed upon the agricultural population, and of the heavy taxes upon their consumable articles. Those arguments cannot be applied to the shipping question. Why should not the sailor in his ship, as well as the workman in the factory, or the labourer on the farm, be able to compete with foreigners? You have applied free trade to the manufacturer and the agricultural labourer; why not apply it to the sailor? He has infinitely the advantage over both. When a sailor gets into work and goes 615 abroad in his ship, he pays no duty on his sugar, or his tea, or his spirits, or his wine—he gets all these duty free. And what also is the position of your shipowner? I used to hear a great outcry by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they talked of the great burdens that were thrown upon the landowner—the county rates, the highway rates, the poor-rates, the church rates—but the shipowner pays none of these; he is exempted from all such burdens. Therefore, on the score of taxation, the shipowner and the sailor are infinitely better able to compete with the foreigner than any other class of the community. What is the principle of free trade? You will admit that if it means anything it is the bringing of more commodities into this country than would be otherwise imported, and that is what you dread, although it is obvious that it must be advantageous to the shipowner. Now take the shipbuilder, the shipowner, the sailor; take the whole community of consumers—for we are all consumers—and let us see what is the effect of this principle. Take the shipbuilder, to begin with; you say he cannot compete with the foreigner. Why cannot he compete with the foreigner? It has been proved over and over again that you have built ships here—taking the whole ship equipments into account—cheaper than in any other part of the world, quality for quality. I am not going to take a Canadian-built ship, which may have stood on Lloyd's books for four years, and compare it with a British-built ship. Hon. Gentlemen engaged in agriculture have run away with an idea that a ship is built entirely with wood like a box. Why, the wood is not the half of the cost of a ship; though the British shipbuilder has an advantage even with regard to the timber, without taking into account the superiority of the workmen. But I take the ship altogether. You have one fact mentioned in the evidence before the Committee by a witness who stated that he built a ship in Sunderland cheaper than at Dantzic. I took the blue book with me to Dantzic, where great interest was taken in this question, and I asked whether the statement was correct? I said, can you build a ship at Sunderland cheaper than you can at Dantzic? and the answer I got was confirmatory of the evidence given in the blue book. We hear much of the high wages paid to shipwrights in this country—it is true their wages are higher than in many countries, but they do more work. But 616 we all know that our greatest rivals, the Americans, pay far higher wages to their shipwrights than we do; and why? Because the American shipwrights are better educated; they are harder working men than ours are in England—work a greater number of hours, and take shorter time for dinner. They work more intently and with more diligence in America than in England; they therefore get higher wages, but that is not paying more money for the work done. Then we come to the shipowner; now, if he can buy his ship here as cheap as any where else, why should he not compete with the foreigner in the sailing of his ship? Here, at the threshold, is one difficulty, which ought to be fairly met. In comparison with American ships, our ships are not so well worked; the crews are not so quick; the captains do not so readily despatch business in port, nor do they take the same care of the cargo. But that is a great difficulty which may be got over, and does not affect the inherent qualities of our sailors. We have heard a good deal about the reports of our consuls abroad in regard to the conduct of our sailors. I will not say anything upon my own authority in depreciation of the character of our sailors; but it is mentioned in the evidence of Mr. Young and Mr. Somes that our sailors are very insubordinate and disorderly in their conduct in port. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire has said a great deal respecting Mr. Booker, our consul at Cronstadt. It is perfectly true he has been fifty-nine years a consul, and is a highly interesting man of his age. I visited him. I entered his office on the 25th of September last. I found him engaged; he came to me and said he had been engaged on some very disagreeable business in settling a dispute between some sailors, and that that was the third case he had had to deal with to-day. We had a little more conversation on the subject, and he told me the last July he had sixty-one squabbles between sailors of that port and their officers to settle in his counting-house. He then said that there had been issued a circular, addressed to the masters of ships, dated July 11, 1847, which was to the following effect:—That in consequence of the serious and unbecoming riots which had broken out last Sunday in more places than one, the masters of ships were desired to warn their men to conduct themselves with more propriety, and to caution them not to resist the soldiers or police.It was also suggested that, if possible, the 617 sailors should be paid their money on the week days, in order to prevent their coming on shore on a Sunday, thereby causing a great desecration of the Lord's day. From what I heard from Mr. Booker, it corroborated the allegations contained in the circular. He did not tell me that the sailors committed robbery, and it may be perfectly true that during the fifty-nine years of his experience there might have been only two British sailors sent to St. Petersburgh to be tried for such an offence. But that is not the question: the question is whether the English sailors in port were given to habits of intoxication. I believe there is too much of it. Is it wise that we should shut our eyes to that fact, and lavish praises upon British seamen, rather than tell them plainly what are the complaints that are made against them? I believe that the English sailor is a much less sober character than the Mediterranean or the Adriatic sailor. I believe that he is much less educated than the sailors from the northern countries, and certainly less educated and sober than the sailors in the American service. These are very serious disadvantages in navigating a vessel, and it is highly desirable that these evils should be corrected. You could not do better service to the country than to tell the British seamen of these faults. I never heard but one opinion expressed in every part of the world where I have been, that the English sailor has natural qualities superior to those of the sailors of all other nations. None could go aloft better in a gale of wind; none in the greatest danger could show such calmness, courage, and energy, as he. These are his natural qualities, which will always belong to him, in spite of all moral disadvantages. But let us try and educate him morally, in addition to his physical superiority, and so improve the man as to render him less vulnerable to competition than he now is. If then we are agreed that we can build ships cheaper here than abroad, and if our sailors are naturally of as good quality as any in the world, then I ask why we should not be able to compete with foreigners, as it is called, on the sea? I see no danger to our mercantile marine excepting in the system which calls itself, and falsely calls itself, a system of protection. The effect of that system is to make both the men and the captains trust to some peculiar privilege and protection from the English flag; and induce them to look to your legislation for assistance rather than rely on 618 their own energies and exertions. I maintain, that if you repeal the navigation laws, you will do more to bring out those natural qualities of the British seamen than by any other means you can pursue. But the question, after all, is this, whether you are to put any impediment in the way of our receipt of commodities from foreign countries, with a view to benefit this or that interest? Our old question about protection was in respect to the revenue. It was said, that protecting duties were required for the sake of the revenue; but the navigation law never was a question of revenue—it is a pure prohibition of the right of freely carrying commodities. I contend, that both the manufacturers and the agriculturists of this country have in fairness a right to get their raw produce as cheap as it can he brought from any place on the earth. The agriculturists will have free trade in corn on the 1st of February next year; but what is now their case? Some time since a Swedish ship, coming from America with a cargo of bones, arrived at Yarmouth; but, as the law stood, the captain was not allowed to land the cargo, because they were not brought from Sweden, or in an American vessel. "No," say the farmer's friends, "you shall not have these bones to manure your farms in Norfolk." The captain then goes to Hamburgh, lands the bones there; they are then laid on a Holstein farm; a crop is grown upon that farm: and that crop comes here next summer duty free, in competition with the Norfolk farmer. Apply this to guano, oil cake, clover seed, I and what is it that the farmer's friends are in effect doing? Cannot they see that, having applied the principle of free trade to the article of corn, they cannot do a greater injustice to the farmer than by putting an obstacle in the way of his receiving every other article as cheap as he can get them? I was rather amused that the noble Lord opposite should make an attack on the Statistical Board; for, if there is any one department of Government which has the confidence of the country and the world, it is the statistical department against which the noble Lord has levelled his attack. But my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester has sufficiently vindicated Mr. Porter and the Board from the aspersions which have been cast upon it. It is a fact clearly established by statistical returns that our tonnage has been increasing in a greater ratio than that of any other country, But I do 619 not put my argument on that ground; for if I could not support that argument, still I should advocate free trade in shipping; for if there be anything we cannot do cheaper than other countries, then I am for buying an article from any other country which can produce it cheaper than we; and if that article be the freight of shipping, I will then take that shipping in preference to our own. But don't let me be misunderstood. We have especial advantages in shipping over all the world, for however good bur manufacturers may be, or our farmers may be, there can be no doubt that from our peculiar insular position we are of necessity a maritime people. It is the inherent nature of the British race—it is our passion. As the camel is to the men of the desert, or as the horse is to the Tartar, so are ships to the English people. We could not live without ships—we should be barbarians if we were not sailors. With regard to the coasting trade, I am sorry that the Government has not thrown it open altogether. I do not believe any foreigners would come on our shore. The language itself would be an obstacle, besides the many local interests that would make competition impossible. I also regret that the power of retaliation should be given to the Queen in Council, not that I believe it will be ever acted upon. I will say one word only on the naval view of the question. I have heard with regret much of that which we are apt to stigmatise as the doctrine of physical force when used by our poorer fellow-countrymen. I dislike these incessant boasts of our maritime supremacy and maritime greatness. But, believing that a change in our navigation laws is not destined to weaken the force of our mercantile marine, so neither can I suppose that it will diminish our naval supremacy. But what I object to is, that you should be constantly harping upon the string. Is this the time to be always singing "Rule, Britannia?" [Laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen who laugh were on the Army, Navy, and Ordnance Committee with me, they would have a more just sense of the cost of that tune. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester has been a good deal attacked for the pacific sentiments he uttered at the conclusion of his able speech the other night. I beg to express un-feignedly my sympathy in his sentiments; but I must observe that he did not say what has been attributed to him—that we were going to enter upon the millennium of universal peace. What he said was, 620 that you should not treat war as the normal state of this country, for that the country is in favour of peace. He said that this is an age in which peaceful principles prevail, and in that sentiment I most fully corroborate him. If you doubt it, let only a word be expressed in this House which indicates that you are going to war, and then you will feel the full force of public opinion in favour of peace. The ground on which I object to this constant assumption of warlike supremacy is, that it provokes kindred passions on the part of other nations; and the conviction of my hon. Friend near me, and my own conviction, is, that if we enunciate the doctrines of peace, we shall draw forth similar sentiments from the rest of the world. Whilst we are as much interested as any Members of this House can he in the maintenance of every just right of the English people, we are anxious to identify ourselves with the principles of peace, and to identify the question of free trade, and especially that of the repeal of the navigation laws, with those principles, believing, as we do, that by removing the obstacles to free communication between nations by shipping, we are doing more to blend and interweave nations one with another that can be done by any other process. If you adopt the principle of free trade in navigation, should war at any future time arise, you render it almost impossible for the system of maritime warfare—especially by privateers—to be carried on; for when ships under all flags are carrying the commodities of all nations, you will defy armed cruisers to find the commodities of which they are in quest, and you will put a strong obstacle in the way of war by removing one of the greatest inducements which has hitherto led mankind to engage in war.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I remember that the noble Lord opposite used sometimes to tell us when we attempted to defend that cause of protection which we have not yet deserted, that we were reasoning in a vicious circle. The noble Lord was apt to say, "True it is that the interests you are now advocating may probably profit by the injury of another interest; that other interest may also, in its turn, by some exceptional legislation, profit at the cost of its neighbour; but you are, in fact, moving," as the noble Lord well expressed it, "in a vicious circle. Interest after interest receives an exceptional advantage, but the result is, when you go 621 round the circle, that the multitude are injured." We have now, Sir, a new vicious circle introduced into our debates. A new interest is attacked in this debate; and it is said with an air of calmness by those who have come forward to develop this new philosophy, "It is very true the present proposal may inflict a great injury upon this interest; but because other interests have been injured, the vicious circle must be completed, and we can only go round. Here is one more interest left; we may even find another; but after having deprived so many interests of their advantages—after having pursued a course of theoretic legislation that has terminated in so much practical misery, it is only in accordance with every principle of reason, of justice, and of that candour and fairness so characteristic of Britons, that we should deal out to every other interest the same merciful interposition that has produced such beneficent results." The first vicious circle was a sufficiently disagreeable circumstance in the history of this country. What men think of the second vicious circle I leave with confidence to that irritated public opinion which, I believe, will not long hesitate in expressing its convictions upon the subject. The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us is the principal author of the first vicious circle. Had it not been for him that thesis would never have been adopted by a Minister and accepted by a Parliament; and now, after a lapse of two years, the hon. Gentleman has to rise in his place in this House and to become the advocate of the new vicious circle. Before, he promised us general advantage; now, he says it is only just that you should all take your share in the universal disaster. With regard, Sir, to the unfortunate interest which is now before us, which is now laid upon the dissection table of that Assembly which was called together to watch over the interests and guard the rights of Englishmen—with regard to the new victim, this I will say, that if the question before us were an inquiry into the comparative expense of building a ship at Stettin or at Sunderland, I should consider it, as far as I am concerned, an act of the utmost presumption to offer my opinion upon the subject. I have listened with, I believe, constant attention, to the course of this debate; I am sure that I have studied, with as much power of abstraction as I 622 could command, the evidence that has been submitted to the two Houses of Parliament; but to presume to rise and offer my opinion to this House as to the relative price of cordage or of sailcloth, would be an act of arrogance of which I trust I never should be guilty. I confess at once that I am inextricably involved in the coils of such a controversy. The pitch and tar of the details of such an argument conceal and discolour all the great principles that are really at stake. I leave the power of adjudication upon such a topic to the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. I should have thought, myself, that this House was not exactly the tribunal competent to decide upon such a topic in a satisfactory manner. But the hon. Member for the West Riding has immense advantage. He is a friend of Mr. Brunton, who has told him that he has had personal experience of the cost of building ships, both at Sunderland and at Stettin; and that some years ago, when he communicated with the hon. Gentleman, he had no fear of the competition of the ports of the Baltic. I bow with great respect to the opinion of Mr. Brunton; but as his views have been referred to, I may state that I have in my hand a paper containing a much more recent opinion of that gentleman than the one quoted by the hon. Member for the West Riding. This is a paper which was sent to me in common, I dare say, with many other hon. Gentlemen; and I find from that, at a meeting on the subject of the navigation laws held at the Exchange in Sunderland, a few days ago, Mr. Brunton was the principal orator, and moved a resolution. It seems that a Mr. Wilson—not the hon. Member for Westbury—who gave evidence before the Committee of this House, expressed his opinion at that meeting upon this important subject; and Mr. Brunton, in alluding to that gentleman's speech, said that he did not mean to charge Mr. Wilson with telling a falsehood, but that he would adopt a milder term. [The hon. Gentleman read an account of the meeting, which stated, that Mr. Wilson having said that the repeal of the navigation laws would make little difference to British shipowners, Mr. Brunton observed, that he considered such a measure would depreciate their property 30 or 40 per cent; that it would drive the purchaser of ships to foreign countries; and that all artisans concerned in the shipbuilding trade must suffer very severely.] Mr. Brunton sat down amid 623 loud cheers, after proposing a resolution expressing the opinion of the meeting that if this measure of the Government is car-lied, it will be fatal to British shipbuilders and to British shipowners, and calling upon those who are favourable to the interests of native industry to rally round the British shipbuilders and shipowners at this moment. Now, I beg the House to observe, that it was not I who introduced the name of Mr., Brunton into this debate, nor should I have done so; but when I found so great an authority brought before our notice by the hon. Member for the West Riding—when I saw that Mr. Brunton was evidently the authority upon which the hon. Gentleman had formed his opinions—I think the House will agree with me that it was my duty to give them the last opinion of Mr. Brunton upon this very same subject. Before I enter into the general question, I cannot but notice some observations of the hon. Member for the West Riding respecting our commercial marine. Anything that falls from that hon. Gentleman always commands considerable attention from the public; and after the journey which the hon. Gentleman made through Europe in a moment of almost unparalleled triumph, anything he may say in this House will probably be re-echoed, even at this period of distraction, throughout the Continent, and will no doubt influence public opinion. I listened with great regret to what that hon. Gentleman said with respect to British mariners and to British captains. We all know that the British seaman, or any Englishman under any circumstances, is not like the drilled slave of countries where the population have not been educated under the influence of institutions similar to our own. There is no doubt that in any establishment, and among any body of men, you will always find very troublesome fellows to deal with; but that is not any evidence against the character of the race, as the hon. Gentleman calls it, or against the system under which they are educated and employed. It is rather an evidence of the consequence of free institutions and of those liberal principles which the hon. Gentleman admires. Now, I have some evidence before me of the conduct of Englishmen, not in a ship, but in an establishment scarcely inferior to it in national importance. The person by whom the statement is made is Mr. John Brooks, a gentleman well known to the Select Committee on the Navigation Laws, and to hon. Gentlemen opposite. 624 He was asked by Mr. Alderman Thompson—If the navigation laws were repealed, of course you would repeal that part of them which prohibits English ships from navigating with less than three-fourths of English seamen?Mr. Brooks replied—I do not much understand that question; but my belief is, that there is a fourth of foreigners allowed to come in an English vessel; but the English ships do not keep up that fourth, for this reason, that the sailors cannot agree: I have had a good deal to do with the management of my men in Lancashire.(That was in his mill)—I have fought several battles with my men. There are men there called 'Flints' and 'Knob sticks.' I have had sixty soldiers and three officers for nine months at my works, and I understand therefore a good deal about that, and when they are mixed together they do not agree.Now, suppose I were to come forward with that evidence and say, "You see the state of the working population in the most favoured districts of the country; some are called flints and some knobsticks; the British Parliament must immediately interfere, for you see that one of the most eminent of our manufacturers is obliged to have sixty soldiers and three officers on his premises for nine months, in order to keep them in order." If I were to draw-that deduction, as any man might, from these circumstances, would it not be an entirely false deduction? And is it to be tolerated, when there is such evidence given before a Parliamentary Committee, and a Committee, too, on the navigation laws, that a manufacturer should rise in this House and deduce from other evidence given before the same Committee, that the conduct of our mariners is disgraceful to the country; that they are an ill-disciplined, unruly, disorderly crew; when there is just as much evidence on which to build a theory equally well-founded with respect to the factory workers? I will not notice any observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire of a minute nature, because I wish not to trespass too long on the time of the House, and am desirous to advance at once to the real merits of the case. I must, however, make a single comment on one observation of the hon. Gentleman, not certainly of great importance, but it is right that the truth should be accurately known; and when an erroneous impression is produced in this House by a master of rhetoric, as the hon. Gentleman certainly is, it is useful to correct it. The hon. 625 Gentleman said, with respect to the coasting trade—" Who wants protection? The native tongue of England is a protection—we need have no fear of foreigners—our language is a protection." Now, the hon. Gentleman, I dare say, is not aware of a circumstance which, I assure him, I now state accurately to him, namely, that no man is allowed to be a captain in the marine of Sweden or Norway who is not master of the English language. I admit that this is not a point of great importance, and should not have adverted to it but for the argument of the hon. Gentleman, yet I think it is a fair answer to the conclusion built on the circumstances stated by the hon. Gentleman. I said before that, if I thought that the question before the House was the relative expense of shipbuilding in English and foreign ports, I should not only consider it a presumption on my part to offer an opinion on the subject to the House, but I should certainly consider that this tribunal was very little qualified to arrive at an accurate result on that point. I do not consider that the question before us is that. It is some consolation to me to believe that those circumstances have very little to do with the question we are called on to decide tonight. I understand the question before us to be this: that the Government have asked us to abrogate an ancient national system with respect to our navigation—a system founded on definite principles, and aiming to arrive at definite ends. None of these ends are the protection of shipbuilders and shipowners, and, therefore, if I can show that the principles on which the national system is founded are sound principles—that they are principles which, in their action, are advantageous to the country and beneficent to the State, then I say that the question of the ability or inability of British shipbuilders and shipowners to enter into competition with foreigners is really not an element of the argument before us. Therefore, I shall be prepared to meet the question totally irrespective of that point which has been brought forward. I will meet it on the broadest ground, and debate it in reference to the very principles which are actually involved. Still, it is duo to the tenor of the debate, and respectful to those who have preceded me, that I should not altogether evade that point; and, though I shall not weary the House with details, which, after all, none of us can presume to decide upon (the evidence 626 being so contradictory, so complicated, and so conflicting), and though I will not presume to decide whether the English shipbuilding can compete with foreigners, this I may say, that I am an advocate for an established system, which I maintain has worked with great advantage to the State; and all that is necessary for me to do (and this is a perfectly gratuitous argument on my part) is to show you that your arguments to prove that the British shipping interest can compete with the foreign, are utterly unsubstantial and invalid. What is the first argument brought forward in reference to this matter? It consists in a popular remark, which has been made with an air of candour and fairness on more than one occasion, and has a plausible aspect. It is said that an Englishman has not a protection in the export trade—why then is it necessary that he should be protected in the import trade? That seems a good argument. He is not protected, it is said, proceeding with the argument, in the export trade, and yet he competes successfully with the foreigner; why should he not, then, if unprotected in the import trade, beat the foreigner also in respect to that? But I deny that in the export trade he competes with the foreigner with advantage. I deny that you have produced any evidence on the subject. I deny that there has been any evidence produced in debate with respect to the export trade as to that point. The little we know (for we have no documents of authority and of detail in respect to the export trade) leads me to an opinion exactly the reverse. I should like to see, for instance, a Member for Liverpool get up in his place and tell us that his constituents had competed with foreigners in the export trade with advantage. That would have been a matter pregnant with instruction. But no Member for Liverpool has done that; and every Member of this House, whether he respresents Liverpool, or is a merchant connected with the trade of Liverpool, knows that practically our export trade is in the hands of foreigners. We know very well, for we observe it every day of our lives, that if in respect to America, for instance, the Government there sends an order for iron to England, it makes it a condition that the iron shall be exported in American ships, I learned an instance to this effect within a day or two; and there is 627 a Gentleman in this House, acquainted with and interested in the order. Within this day or two a large order was given by the French Government for coal, and the condition was that it should be exported in French ships. I am not blaming the Government of the United States or the Government of France for this; but when I hear it said that we are not protected in our export trade, and yet we compete with so much success with the foreigner, and when I find no authentic documents to guide us on this point, I am obliged to ask—"Where is your evidence?" In want of such evidence, I must avail myself of information which is open to everybody; and I cannot help arriving at a conclusion totally different from that come to by those who promulgate the opinion that we compete successfully with the foreigner in the export trade. There is another point on which I will not dwell long; but I should not be acting with fairness towards the House if I evaded the question; though I will avoid as much as possible going into details. It has been laid down over and over again in this debate, as a circumstance which ought to decide the question—that England in an open market can compete with any State. How often has it been said during the four or five nights' discussion on the present question, that while the shipping interests are trembling at the idea of competition on the Thames, yet when the Atlantic is only once crossed, or the Adriatic reached, then, at Rio de Janeiro or at Trieste, English shipping carries everything before it. That I admit to be a fair test; and though it has nothing, according to my views, to do with the great question before us, yet it is important in discussion that the test, as it has been offered, should be uncompromisingly accepted. It is in my power to accept it, and I do accept it; and I will show how utterly unfounded is that which is the foundation of the principal argument drawn from the state of the trade with Rio and Trieste. Hon. Gentlemen who have turned their attention to this subject will remember the evidence given before the Committee respecting the trade of Rio. The hon. Member for Stoke seemed somewhat astonished at the results then placed before him, and appeared to doubt whether there was any official evidence of the circumstances offered before the Committee, detailing the trade for the year 1846 at the 628 port of Rio. Now, I have a statement of the trade at Rio in 1847, which has just arrived; and of this document I can say, that, though it has not been offered to the Committee of the House of Commons, it has, before I read it to you, been offered, I believe, to the Committee of the House of Lords on oath. It is a document, the authenticity of which I can venture to affirm. It has at least been placed before the Committee of the House of Lords, under that sanction which we all respect; and though not yet in the papers delivered to this House, it will very soon appear among them. This document is very short, but significant. The hon. Gentleman here read the following statement with respect to the trade of Rio de Janeiro:—In the year 1847, 659 ships, amounting to 198,308 tons, cleared from Rio de Janeiro with cargo, of which were—British, 31,735 tons, and foreign, 166,563; total, 198,308 tons. Of the above 31,735 tons British shipping, 15,388 tons cleared for British ports and possessions, and 16,347 tons for foreign ports—total, 31,735 tons. Of the 659 ships cleared with cargo, 63,753 tons were American, 31,735 tons British, 14,547 tons Brazilian, 13,149 tons Danish, 13,738 tons Swedish, 13,407 tons Hamburgh, 11,283 tons Portuguese, 9,844 tons French, 6,959 tons Sardinian, and 6,409 tons Belgian; 13,484 tons consisting of Austrian, Spanish, Norwegian, Russian, and other foreign ships—total, 198,308 tons.Thus it appeared that out of a tonnage of 198,000 tons, British shipping commanded only 16,000 tons; for of the 31,000 tons put down for British shipping, more than 15,000 tons cleared for our ports and colonies, and are, therefore, taken out of the bearings of the discussion, and there remain something more than 16,000 tons for foreign ports. This is the return for 1847. Is it possible, in the face of such a document as that, to pretend that British shipping could carry everything before it; and that in open ports it competes successfully with all the nations of the world? Now, I will take the case of Trieste. I take these two instances purposely, because they have been perpetually appealed to in this debate, and because it has been assumed as a fact which no one could deny, that British shipping at Rio and Trieste could compete with the shipping of all the world. I have a return with respect to Trieste, which, though not of a very recent date—not so recent as the return I have just quoted in respect to Rio—I am informed by a house having extensive transactions with Trieste may be taken as correct at the present time in reference to the relative proportions of the shipping. The 629 hon. Gentleman read the following statement with respect to the shipping at Trieste:—A Statement of all the Ships which entered the port of Trieste during the year 1833, each assigned to its proper country. There came from—The United States.—21 American, 6 Austrian ships—no British.Sumatra.—2 American ships—no British.Marseilles.—I French, 22 Austrian, 4 Neapolitan, 7 Roman, 4 Sardinian ships—but no British.Bordeaux.—4 French, 1 Swedish ship—no British.Spain.—9 Spanish, 1 Austrian, 1 Russian—no British.Hamburgh.—3 Austrian, 3 Prussian—no British.Holland.—2 Austrian, 1 Danish—no British.Sweden.—2 Swedes—no British.St. Domingo.—1British vessel, which has this vast trade all to itself.Norway.—4 Hanoverian, 1 Danish, 1 Dutch, 1 British vessel.Cuba.—6 American, 2 Spanish, 1 Belgian, 2 British.Portugal,—7 Austrian, 2 Sardinian, 1 Danish, 2 British.Gibraltar and Malta, our own possessions.—9 Austrian, 1 Roman, 6 British.Brazils.—11 Austrian, 4 American, 3 Danish, 3 Spanish, 3 Sardinian, 1 Hamburgh, 1 French, 1 Neapolitan, 1 Swedish, 42 British,Thus it was only in reference to one country that there is a majority, and a large majority of English shipping. Now, when we recollect that England exports to Brazil 4,000,000l. worth of goods per annum, and receives in return only 1,000,000l. of produce per annum, it is clear that the ships which take the 4,000,000l. in goods out must be chartered to take 3,000,000l. in goods from Brazil to some other ports; and it is to the port of Trieste to which that produce with which Brazil does not directly pay us, is chiefly forwarded. So much, then, for these two cases, which have been appealed to with so much triumph and so little foundation. Before I come to the question of competition, I ought to notice the speech of the hon. Member for Westbury, who is the great champion of the virtues of competition. The hon. Member for Westbury told us, in his speech on the first night of the debate, to show the immense advantage of a relaxation in our system of navigation, that from the year 1817 to the year 1823 British shipping was not only stationary, but absolutely on the decline. The hon. Gentleman said, that in 1817 the tonnage of shipping belonging to the United Kingdom and its dependencies was 2,664,000 tons, and that in 1823 it had declined to 2,506,000 tons. "See, then," said the 630 hon. Gentleman, "notwithstanding the increase of your imports, the consequences of your too strict navigation scheme; see the absolute decline of British shipping. But the moment you passed laws of reciprocity—the moment there was even an approach to the principles of free trade—there was a rapid improvement, and it is from that time that you must date the advance of British shipping." Now, let us look to facts. I do not ask the House for a moment to consider what must be the consequences of peace after a long war of thirty years. I do not even mean to urge, that at the moment selected by the hon. Member for Westbury we had been the carriers of the world, and that the nations of the world resumed their share of the carriage of the world when war ceased. I do not take any advantage of such political or social considerations. The hon. Gentleman referred to the decline of 160,000 tons in the years between 1817 and 1823, and pointed to this as indubitable evidence of decay, while the year 1823 was assigned by him as the date from which the prosperity of our commercial marine began. But the hon. Gentleman forgets that, though the date of the Reciprocity Act was 1823, no increase whatever took place in the tonnage of the mercantile marine of England until 1830, exactly seven years after that Reciprocity Act had passed; and it was only in 1834 that the slow increase of British shipping had arrived at the same amount to which it had reached in 1817. Yet, what is the language of the hon. Gentleman? I must read it to the House—for, mind you, this is the speech of one who is called a master of the subject. These are the subjects, too, which effect changes in opinion—which alter tariffs—which create Ministers. Listen, then, to the language of the hon. Member for Westbury. He said—As he had shown that, when a strict monopoly was maintained (namely, from 1817 to 1823), the shipping trade was in a declining state, and that, immediately after the approach to free-trade principles, there was a rapid increase in the amount of tonaage, it would be admitted that there could be no doubt of the ability of British shipbuilders and British shipowners to compete with foreigners.The hon. Gentleman then proceeded, and compared the trade of this country, and of all other countries with which we are now on terms of reciprocity, prior to the Reciprocity Act, and the present time, and drew, of course, a conclusion wonderfully 631 conducive to his argument. But the hon. Gentleman took care never to give the name of a single nation, or the date of a single treaty. Our treaty of reciprocity with Russia is only of the date of 1843, and yet the increase of our tonnage in trade with Russia was from 239,000 tons in 1824, to 452,000 in 1846, so that in nineteen out of the twenty-two years, the increase of 200,000 tons was owing to that monopoly which the hon. Member denounces. So, again, I cannot allow his speech to pass without adverting to the great climax of his oration, when he compared our trade with the whole world at the periods of 1824 and 1846. He said that—With regard to our trade with the whole world, he found that in 1824 the tonnage of British shipping entered outwards was 3,291,000 tons, and the tonnage of foreign ships entered inwards 1,385,000 tons. It was true that in 1816 the tonnage of foreign ships had increased to 3,727,000 tons, but the tonnage of English ships had also increased to 8,620,000 tons.But is it to be credited—I will not stop to say is it creditable—that the ships clearing inwards and outwards are in the second period taken together, while in the first period they are studiously separated? Who can resist the force of such evidence? Who can resist—for it is very difficult to do so—the boldness of such evidence? But this is the evidence which for many years has governed England. This is the evidence which, when brought forward in documents and speeches, has changed the laws and governed the country. It is by a, reliance on these documents, and the statistical genius of the country, that you have troubled it to the centre, and filled it with dismay and consternation. I think I have tasted these waters before, and I strongly suspect that the hon. Member for Westbury fills his goblets from the tainted fountains of the Board of Trade. I make no attack upon any one. Since Mr. Porter was before this House he has been cross-examined before the House of Lords.
§ MR. DISRAELI
As this is the last night of the debate, I thought it but fair to refer to evidence which, if not on the table of the House, ought to have been delivered. I will now read some questions put to Mr. Porter, and his answers:— 632In a previous answer you give a statement of the progress of British shipping, and you show an increase in 1846 over 1821 of British shipping of 1,256,000 tons. You were led to the inference that there was a much larger increase in British tonnage than there was in American tonnage; but, if the Committee understand your statement now, the increase of the one is an increase upon the whole of the British tonnage, and the increase upon the other is an increase only upon a part of the American tonnage?—It is so.Consequently those two are not to be taken as compared together as showing in any degree the comparative increase of British and American tonnage?—Certainly not.Have you any means of making an addition with regard to the tonnage of the United States which may lead to a fair comparison with the statement in Return No. 1?—I am not sure that I have; I rather think I have, but I am not certain.In the explanation given in your last examination relative to the return of protected and unprotected trades, you stated that if the tonnage to which objection had been made were removed from the unprotected and placed on the protected side, the result would show a greater advantage in favour of unprotected trade than was exhibited by the return in the form in which it was presented; you stated the proportions then were 99,82 per cent on the protected, and 219 per cent on the unprotected?—I have no doubt that is perfectly correct.In the whole of that explanation comprised in your answers to questions 75 and 79, you deduced your conclusions from per centage calculations?—I did.Do you think that is a fair mode of exhibiting such facts, or one that is likely to lead to just conclusions on such inquiries?—I must confess I am not very fond of using centesimal proportions, but I am driven to do so because other persons have more liking to them than I have, and I am called on to do it. I think the fair and proper way is to take the actual numbers.You made a statement before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, did not you, throwing overboard centesimal proportions? Will you read your answer on that subject?—I say, 'I think there is a great deal of fallacy lurking under returns of the description you allude to. It is stated that there is a larger percentage of increase of foreign than of British tonnage. I think I remarked, in reference to one of the tables which I ventured to bring before the Committee, that it sometimes appeared that there was a percentage diminution in the proportion of British ships when there was an increase in the actual amount. It may be very well in a country which has 100 ships, when it gets an increase of 50, to state the increase at 50 per cent; but if a country has 1,000 ships, and there is an increase of 100, that is an increase of only 10 per cent. I think it involves a fallacy when you reason from the per centage,'Will you explain to the Committee why, with a conviction that this mode of reasoning was fallacious, you employed it without explaining that possible fallacy in your last examination?—I drew up this table at the desire of one of your Lordships, and in the form that was required?Is not the supposed correctness of that enumeration the main argument on which the writer of the article in the Edinburgh Review 633 relies for the maintenance of the position it is intended to support?—I believe it is relied on.I must not pursue this inquiry further, as it might be tedious. I merely wanted to show Mr. Porter's opinion—his own statement. But I will ask the House what additional confidence they had after that evidence in the returns which were before the House, and which had been so boldly vindicated by the late Vice-President of the Board of Trade. I myself do not think these returns have anything to do with the real question at issue; I shall altogether pass these monstrous returns unnoticed, did I not look upon them as part and parcel of a subtle and dangerous system. It is all very well for men in office to disregard these comments, and to suppose that when an official return is made to this House, no possible objection can be raised to it; but I remember the time when the Poor Law Commission used to be defended in the House in the same manner and by the same means; and yet I have seen, before the slow progress of public opinion, even that mighty tribunal fall. I don't think any person can possibly deny, when he remembers all that has occurred during the last two years—I care not what may be the motive—but I don't believe any one can deny that there has been in the officials of the Board of Trade a bias against the opinions that we, a minority of this House, but I believe not a minority in the country, advocate. There has been, at all times, and under all circumstances, a convenient return ready for any Minister who had some preposterous project to propound. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: No!] The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade seems to demur to that opinion. Having cleared the outworks of my case, I will now approach that of the right hon. Gentleman. I shall certainly, if only from the respect I have for him, not misrepresent him. The right hon. Gentleman not only made a speech, always a dangerous thing—[Sir J. C. HOBHOUSE: Hear!] No one can say that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control often indulges in that sort of thing. In the course of his time he has charmed and excited us; but of late years he has retired a veteran from the field; the result of his experience is now confined to a cheer. But, if it be dangerous to make a speech, it is much more dangerous to publish it, because your speech then becomes a manifesto, and you meet your antagonist on 634 grounds which cannot be misunderstood. The right hon. Gentleman divided the case of the Government under four heads. I will follow him briefly. The right hon. Gentleman first called for this change on account of the claims of the colonies. The right hon. Gentleman was not particularly rich in the evidence with which he favoured the House on that subject. It was meagre. There was a memorial of a suspicious character. No one knows who moved or who originated it; and it was a remarkable circumstance that, like the document quoted by my noble Friend to-night, it bore the date of the 1st of April. But, taking it as it is, the memorial is not of such a puissant nature that one may be afraid to encounter it. Then there was an extract of a despatch from the Governor of another of our colonies (Lord Harris), and another document which is not a memorial. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: It is an address from the Assembly in Canada.] As far as the colonies are concerned, the Government have clearly not made out their case; and, considering how often we are told that the sun of our empire never sets—considering the vast number, I will not say of of our colonies, but at least of our Governors, I think I am justified in saying that the evidence is most meagre. And really when we recollect the Canada Corn Bill of 1844, and the Corn Law Repeal Bill of 1846—when we recollect the Emancipation and Apprenticeship Bills of 1842, and the non-Apprenticeship and Sugar Duties Bills of 1840 and 1846—when we recollect the amount of capital invested in our colonies upon the faith of solemn Parliamentary pledges—upon the faith of an established and prolonged course of legislative protection, how suddenly those who invested a large amount of capital in mills and the cultivation of the soil were disappointed of the fruits of their enterprise before they could get their first returns, by a revolution which we ourselves created amongst all who were concerned in those interests—are we to feel surprised that men so treated should cling to the first straw that presented itself? But we are told, and I see in the evidence before me, that the island of Antigua demands this change in the navigation laws. Somebody asked why the people of Antigua wanted those laws to be repealed; and no precise motive for their demand could be discovered beyond this, that everything they had been taught to believe 635 important to the mother country having been changed, the inhabitants of Antigua were determined to have a try at this. The evidence gives a faithful representation of the condition of the people of that colony; nor is it wonderful that men in fact ruined and excited by the idea of proceeding in the vicious circle of the Prime Minister, should believe that pouncing upon the navigation laws, and devouring them, might afford them some momentary sustenance. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that in addition to the applications which the Government received from Antigua, and from Canada, they had an application from Australia. Now, I will, with the permission of the House, read a return, the accuracy of which cannot be doubted, as it rests upon statements made by the harbour-masters of the ports from which the vessels referred to sailed. From this it appears that—Between the 1st of January, 1846, and the 30th of June, 1847, sixty-one ships cleared from London for Sidney, of which eighteen loaded cargoes home, and the remaining forty-three proceeded to other places in search of freights. Within the same period twenty-seven ships cleared from London to Hobart Town, of which fourteen loaded home, and thirteen left in ballast. Twenty-five ships cleared from London to Port Philip—twelve loading and thirteen leaving without cargo. And from November 21, 1846, to June 30, 1847, twenty-one ships cleared for Port Adelaide from London, of which seven only obtained cargoes.I ask you, in the face of that document, who can pretend that our Australian fellow-subjects are suffering by the navigation laws from high freights or want of shipping? But I entirely dismiss on this part of the subject all these considerations. I look to the time when, in the reform and reconstruction of your colonial empire, based on a great system of colonisation, you will find the best source of imperial power and of imperial prosperity; and with that view I would cherish all that remains which is a tie between the mother country and the "colonies. Independently of the fact that it is impossible to show that the colonies are suffering from these laws, if I thought there was some partial inconvenience and some slight injury sustained, still I would not relinquish that tie which might be made the foundation of greater interests. Moreover it is quite clear, so far as the West Indies are concerned, that they at first thought the navigation laws would be repealed only so far as regards our own colonies. But the moment it was shown to them, as may 636 be seen by the evidence taken before your Committee, that the repeal must be universal, they felt that Cuba, Brazil, and Manilla would profit more than them; and from that moment they never sought the boon, which they felt to be one utterly inadequate to their views and wants. The next point on which the right hon. Gentleman relied was the long voyage. Now, on this point I cannot arrive at the same conclusion as the right hon. Gentleman. I have ventured to describe the navigation laws as a system founded on fixed principles, and aiming at certain results. It has been said that they have been changed at least a hundred times in the course of 200 years; but I draw from that circumstance an argument exactly the reverse to that intended by those who made the remark. I find that during all that time they have been subjected to a salutary criticism; that their objects have been carefully looked to, and that accordingly they have received those improvements and modifications that they required; and that is the very reason why, instead of having a prejudice against the navigation laws, on that ground I am entitled to assume that they are in a state suited to the necessities of the times. The Chancellor of the Exchequer offered last night an argument of a more sweeping character still. He said, these laws were suspended last year; and therefore what are they worth? But supposing the Chancellor of the Exchequer had suspended the Habeas Corpus Act—[An Hon. MEMBER: Or the Bank Charter Act.] Ay, or the Bank Charter Act, which the right hon. Gentleman suspended last year. How would he argue then? If I could only hold the right hon. Gentleman to his principle in some other cases, he might perhaps be reconciled even to the repeal of the navigation laws. But the navigation laws being a system designed to produce certain results, all I have to ask myself, were the principles on which they were founded equal to the end, and was that end beneficial? That is the only question about which I am concerned. Now, as regards the long voyage; what is the general character of what is called the long voyage? It aims at two objects: the first, to employ your sailors by a voyage, it may be, of 20,000 miles, and that is the maritime question. But there is a commercial question concerned—it aspires to make this country the great depôt of the world. Now, are these objects achieved? There cannot be a doubt 637 that the raw material must be cheaper when brought here by a direct process, and not only cheaper but fresher. It would seem that the result of such a system must be that we should become the emporium of the world. What evidence have you of the reverse? All the cases against the long voyage are exceptional cases. I will refer to the evidence on this point of one individual, a British merchant of high character—Mr. Aylwin—a gentleman who ought to have been examined before the Committee of the hon. Member for Stoke, but who was not examined. Mr. Aylwin published a pamphlet, in which he stated the evidence he intended to have given; and, since then, he has been examined before the Committee of the House of Lords. This gentleman states, with regard to the raw materials of the great peninsula of the East, with which he was most connected, that during his whole experience of that Indian trade, he never remembers but one article, the raw produce of Asia, that on the continent of Europe could be purchased at a lower rate than in England; that this only took place once, and at a time when in that particular article immense speculation had occurred. It was in the year 1824, and the article was indigo, which might then have been purchased at Hamburgh lower than in England. Now, it is always said by the advocates of repeal, that when the raw material may be purchased at a low rate on the continent of Europe, it cannot be brought thence to England. But when you have evidence before your Committees to show that there is only one instance known where a raw material of India could be purchased cheaper on the Continent than in England, what is the practical value of the argument? [An Hon. MEMBER: The cotton of Havre.] Oh, the cotton of Havre! Well, I expected to hear that case brought forward. It is really curious to see how different opinions are adopted by different men on the same subject. I would not venture to give my own opinion on such a topic; and if I did, I should probably only make some general observations, and urge that the case was an exceptional one, where you must weigh the conveniences with the disadvantages—and that in truth is all you well can say, when you do not know too much of a subject. I always endeavour, however, from respect to the House, when I do give my opinion, to 638 make myself master of the subject. But here is a gentleman who knows something about the subject under consideration a gentleman who was Secretary of the London Docks, and who was particularly examined on the point. The gentleman I refer to is Mr. Powles, and he is asked the following question:—Wherever things would be cheap you think they would be sent to England, and you consider that would be a disadvantage to England?—It really is sometimes a great disadvantage to the merchant of England to have goods brought here that he has no reason to calculate upon. Within the last few weeks, to my great surprise. I must confess, and to the surprise of all of us in the City, it was stated that it was a grievance that certain cargoes of cotton which were turned aside from Havre because of the troubled state of France could not be brought into this country and sold for home consumption, but must be warehoused for exportation. At the time that occurred cotton was in a more depressed condition in this country than it had been for years. I received last week the cotton circular from Liverpool, in which the writer says that within the memory of man cotton has never been so low as it was that very week; and yet the merchants importing this cotton for the use of the Lancashire manufacturers were to have forced upon them a certain number of other cargoes upon which they could not by any possibility have calculated, and then it was said that the not being able to do this was a grievance arising out of the operation of the navigation laws.I think that is very apropos. He is then asked—Are you as a merchant desirous of repeal, or an important modification of the principles of the navigation laws, as likely to conduce to the advancement of the commercial interest of the country?" His reply is—"I, for one, have no such desire whatever." Then, again—"What do you find the prevailing opinion with regard to the navigation laws in the city of London?" and his answer is, "that there is no desire for a change.Now, I think I have met the views of the right hon. Gentleman regarding the long voyage, when I show that it is founded on a principle that must produce great advantages; when I produce one merchant who establishes the fact that, so far as India is concerned, one article of raw material, only one, and that in 1824, was at a lower price on the Continent than in England; and when I give the evidence of a practical man, the Secretary of the London Dock Company, to show what is the feeling of the city of London as to this cotton we have heard so much of as lying unsaleable at a French port. Having thus noticed two points to which the right hon. Gentleman called our attention, I will now briefly notice his third point, and that is the indirect carrying trade. Now, remember 639 that the point I wish to impress on the House is, that the navigation laws, right or wrong, form a system founded upon certain principles, and producing certain results, and that they are not like many other laws we have been called upon to discuss, which have been, directly or indirectly, formed for the benefit of a particular interest. I want, then, to know whether, on the point of the indirect carrying trade, there is any principle involved? The object of the indirect carrying trade is to prevent any third Power from appropriating to itself the carrying trade of the world. I never heard the abstract argument on that head fairly met. No one can deny that it is a contrivance in its theory admirably adapted to attain its object. No one can deny if the principle were carried completely into effect that the result intended would be inevitable. But the argument brought against it, is an argument against it, not in theory, but in practice. It is said to be impossible, because it is in the power of other countries to cause you to break through your principle; and the right hon. Gentleman has on that subject exhibited considerable eloquence, and entered into very great detail. It, in fact, formed a most important part of his speech. He confessed that he had acted on pressure from Prussia and the United States; and his general tone was that of a man who had submitted to some degree of menace. It is important that the House should understand our position with Prussia. The right hon. Gentleman had indeed fairly described it, though he afterwards tried to soften down his own description. He would not say that Prussia had used a menace, but he said that he had been warned. But another right hon. Gentleman, who was not now in office, though in the secrets of the Government, let the cat out of the bag. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) said the Prussian Minister had delivered a threatening notice to the Government. Let us see what Prussia can do in this respect. What I am going to read is a very brief statement, but it is a statement very well worthy of attention. It is not a threatening notice by a foreign Minister, but most interesting evidence given before a Committee of the other House of Parliament. The gentleman who gives the evidence has been, and his family before him have been, shipbuilders for upwards of 150 years—a period almost as long as that for which the navigation 640 laws have endured. It is one of those families of which this country is as proud as of any of our great patrician houses. Mr. Tindall is a shipbuilder and shipowner at Scarborough. He received his education in Prussia, and no doubt was master of all the details. He is asked—Are not British ships able to import cargoes from all parts of the world into Prussia?—Yes; but it is of no use. Prussia has no ports to import into. There is one port, Pilau, with 11 feet of water over the bar. There is also Memel, but Memel bar prevents all ships from entering with cargoes. They load at the open roadsteads. They take in 50 or 100 load to keep them stiff, that is, upright, and then they go into the roads to fill up. At Dantzic they have only six feet of water over the bar, and have, therefore, made an artificial entrance, by which they go above the bar, and are enabled to take small vessels up to Dantzic. By this artificial entrance, a hole in the mud, they have 11 or 12 feet depth of water.Although this law has existed for so many years on the part of Prussia, it has never been of the smallest use to us?—Never.This is the law they are going to abrogate, which is the foundation of the menace of Prussia.Has not Prussia threatened to withdraw the law if we do not repeal our navigation laws?—She has; but it is of no consequence, the thing is quite ridiculous. Would it be of the least importance whether that treaty of reciprocity with Prussia existed or not?—Not a bit.Would it not be of importance if Germany were to follow the example?—That is quite another thing. If Prussia were to get possession of Hamburgh, which I suppose she is aiming at, and getting possession of the ports in the North Sea, that would be quite a different thing. To Cuxhaven they may get up the river with any draught of water; and then, if they could get possession of the Elbe, they would have the possession of the inlet into Germany,The motives to the invasion of Denmark might be inferred. It must be a source of great satisfaction to every Member of this House to see with what spirit and energy that gallant little nation has opposed their unscrupulous invasion. You see, Mr. William Tindall, who is acquainted with the subject, knows the Prussian object exactly. If the Prussians could get up the river at Cuxhaven, and get possession of the ports in the North Sea, then they would be able to manage the President of the Board of Trade. Such is the opinion of a practical man on this bugbear, which in debate after debate, and discussed, as it has been, in article after article, is to frighten us into changing the ancient maritime charter of our country? These are the right men to have before you for examination on such a subject, not a parcel of foreigners, 641 Continental clerks, and American captains. The House of Lords had chosen a different class of witnesses. Then there was the evidence of Mr. Anderson:—Are you aware that Prussia has given notice to the Government that she will impose the last-age or tonnage duty afresh?—Yes, I have heard so.It is perfectly competent for the Prussians to do so, if they choose?—Yes; and I wish they had never been asked to take it off. They would soon have done it themselves. It would have drawn all their trade to Courland and Livonia.Those ports are not accessible all the year round?—No; neither are the Prussian ports.Stettin is?—No; there is very little difference in that respect. Memel and Dantzic and the mouths of the Oder are blocked up with ice in winter, perhaps not so soon as Riga.Yet now we are told, that whether the anvigation laws are right or wrong, we cannot retain them, because, if we attempt to do so, we shall lose the benefit of our treaty with Prussia. Is it possible, after such an opinion expressed by a most competent witness, to listen with calmness to such suggestions? A gentleman whom I formerly quoted, Mr. Powles, is asked—Suppose that Prussia and the German League were to pass a navigation law against us, restricting us in all our dealings as we restrict them, could we go on then as we are?—Since we have established with Prussia, which we did in 1822, the Reciprocity Acts, I am not aware that Prussia has any grievance to complain of.Are you not aware that Prussia has given us notice that she means to put an end to these reciprocity treaties, and to pass restrictions against our commerce, in retaliation for those which we have passed against her?—We receive timber in a Prussian ship at the same rate of duty that we do in a British ship.You have not seen the letter of Chevalier Bunsen on the subject?—No.Assume that they should pass these retaliatory acts against us?—I think we are quite competent to fight our own battles.Should we be in the same position as we are now?—If we just maintain our own position, and continue as we are, we are able to do it against all the world, so far as the navigation laws are concerned.642Then are the Committee to understand you to say we should not be in the same position we are now?—It is stated that Prussia proposes to abolish the Reciprocity Act, which Reciprocity Act was of her own seeking; she insisted that her timber should come in her own ships at the same rate of duty that it did in our own ships; we have conceded that; and, therefore, why she is to complain of the Act that established that perfect reciprocity I am not able to comprehend.Can you state in what way she could retaliate?—I do not believe she has the power to do it.What trade is there between England and Prussia in which she could retaliate to our injury?—None that I am aware of.Who is the man that says this? The Secretary of the Docks in London—the greatest emporium in the world. Then we are to give up the indirect carrying trade because there is this menace of Prussia, which I have shown on the best evidence to be the most preposterous and ridiculous threat that could possibly be held out. I am quite astonished that Her Majesty's Ministers could submit to anything of the kind. Had it not been pressed in a glow of rhetoric by the right hon. Member for Manchester, acknowledging that at his office they were in the habit of receiving threatening notices in this behalf, I could not have believed it. Then there is the message of the United States. That is not a menace. It is only an invitation. They will give little if we give little; they will give much if we give much; they will give all if we give all. I have no doubt the United States will give little if we give little. But I defy them to give us much if we give them much. What can they give us? It is in fact a very remarkable message, because exactly as the hon. Member for Liverpool said yesterday, putting the case very properly, it involves the very principle of reciprocity which you would abjure. The offer of Mr. Bancroft was an offer of reciprocity. It was that or nothing. I do not mean to touch on the "most favoured nation" clause; but it will be a singular spectacle to see a Minister of the Crown abjure reciprocity on the one hand, while he advocates retaliation on the other. That will be one of the most extraordinary specimens of official logic which the House has ever known. The House will, perhaps, remember when I impressed the late Government with the propriety and the prudence of 643 making themselves maters of the difficulties they would have to encounter before they entered into such treaties; but here we have Ministers who tell us that the principle of reciprocity is to be accepted; the Chancellor of the Exchequer gives his adhesion to the principle; but although they are ready to adopt the principle, they acknowledge that they are totally ignorant of the consequences of adopting it. If, then, the Government which has ceased, and the Government which exists, are both in favour of the principle of reciprocity, and both are ignorant of the difficulties they will have to contend with in carrying it into effect, don't you think that under the circumstances it would be more prudent to keep to the present system until you are better acquainted with the position we are in, and Her Majesty's Ministers are more familiar with the facts? Is it not monstrous that we should have a message from Mr. Bancroft, making an offer involving the commercial interests of England, and that we should be recommended by a Minister of the Crown to accept that offer, and that before the debate upon it was over, another Minister—a Cabinet Minister—should abjure the principle of reciprocity? This is trifling with the national interest in a reckless manner—in a most reckless manner, for nothing is more fatal than the recklessness of ignorance. Everything that is clear and known we can meet; but a Government or a Cabinet which calls upon us to legislate without knowing the circumstances under which the measure will place us, proposes a legislative anarchy, a course which must eventually involve us in inextricable confusion. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman quitted an office which brought him into contact with a Foreign Minister who sent threatening notices to him. I do not wonder that he should be glad to leave. It was, rather singular, however, that, deprived of the services of so eminent a civilian, the Government should have had recourse to such an expedient as making the Master of the Buckhounds the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. If they wanted some one to defend them, why not have appointed the Commander-in-Chief? Though, to be sure, if an angry Foreign Minister were to call upon them, a Master of the Buckhounds, booted, spurred, and equipped at all points, might offer a formidable appearance. It was difficult to resist picturing the perplexing position of 644 the Vice-President between the rival Muses of Prussia and the United States. On one side, the bland smiles and the winning accents of Mr. Bancroft; on the other, Mr. Bunsen with the dagger and the bowl. Before we come to a decision upon this question, let me remind the House of the nature of the vote we are about to give. It has been said that the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford, is an Amendment hostile to any change in our code of navigation. Now, let it be understood that we do not oppose going into Committee quâ Committee; but we do oppose it when the Minister comes forward and tells us that he is going into Committee to abrogate the navigation laws. What we say is, that after such a declaration, it is a mockery to ask us to go into Committee. We are ready to go into Committee to improve the navigation laws, but we will not go into Committee to abrogate them. There is one thing more which, after what has been said, it would be scarcely respectful to the House to pass by, and it is, I think, due to the tenor of the debate to notice it; it is the question of our national defences. I shall not go into the evidence of Sir James Stirling. I understand the plan he has suggested is a very ingenious plan; it is a plan of manning the fleet without men; nor am I going to sing "Rule, Britannia," because that must be distasteful to the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. Since I began to address the House a document has been put into my hand, which I hope the House will indulge me by allowing me to read, and it is the last thing I will read. In the New York Sun is a statement which is represented as coming "from Jamaica," and which gives a short and lively account of the state of society there:—A correspondent of the Courrier des Etats-Unis, under date of the 12th of April, says that even in that city (Kingston) symptoms of discontent are showing themselves. A petition signed by 300 persons was presented asking the convocation of an extraordinary Colonial Parliament to reduce taxes and protest against the proceedings of the mother country (England). The Governor received the deputation very coolly, and read them a severe lecture; they were to meet in the public square on the 13th, and 500 persons were to go in person to the Governor, in order to secure his acquiescence in their demands. At the 645 theatres 'Rule, Britannia' was played in meaning silence, and 'Yanke Doodle' loudly called for and encored.To-night we, too, have had "Yankee Doodle" called for; but I hope that, though loudly called for, it will never be encored in this House. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester the other night, in a glowing peroration, dwelt upon the blessings of peace; and I can account for that peroration being delivered in 1848, by reference to the two years' silence imposed upon him in this House from peculiar circumstances. Had that peroration been delivered when it was composed in the hall of Manchester, or in the hired seat of the Muses which the labours of the right hon. Gentleman have contributed to render so classical, it would have had an admirable effect. The right hon. Gentleman has described the present age as one of commerce, peace and internal improvement. I had no idea previously that such were the characteristics of the age; I thought that instead of commerce, we had no trade; instead of peace, impending war; and as for internal improvements, my only idea of them is a band of Communists tearing up a railway. I cannot help thinking, after what has occurred since the beginning of this eventful Session, and, since the announcement of that millennium in February which produced such a sensation throughout the land, that in the present state of affairs—after all that has occurred in Europe—with Naples in a state of siege; Paris in insurrection; Vienna in revolt; and Berlin barricadoed; with four pitched battles fought in Europe in eight weeks, and the Baltic and the Adriatic alike blockaded—I cannot help thinking that even the hon. Member for the West Riding himself can scarcely be so devout a believer as he was in the quies gentium sine artnis. I do not pretend—I have not any claim—to that prophetic power which the hon. Gentleman and his school so pre-eminently possess; but in reading the past we may sometimes find some guiding admonitions for the conduct of the present. And certainly in reading our annals I find no reason for withdrawing my allegiance from that arm of military power, which, in this country, has at the same time created empire and cherished liberty. Amid the fall—to which my noble Friend has referred—amid the fall of thrones and the crash of empires around us, I know of no circumstance more remarkable than that strange anarchy and 646 that mysterious demoralisation which have lately fallen upon those vast armies which were once considered the best mainstay of power and authority. I cannot help thinking that when we have, heard the startling accounts of those hosts of France, Austria, and Prussia, which have deserted their masters in their hour of need—I cannot help thinking that an Englishman mutt have remembered with pride, and perhaps with satisfaction, that our legions reposed upon the waters. At least I will not incur the responsibility, by my vote, of endangering that empire, gained by so much valour, and guarded by so much vigilance—that empire broader than both the Americas, and richer than the farthest Ind—which was foreshadowed in its infancy by the genius of a Blake, and consecrated in its culminating glory by the blood of a Nelson—the empire of the seas.
rose for the purpose of correcting a statement of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He was quite sure that hon. Gentleman would not willingly misrepresent the statements of another; but in speaking of his (Mr. Wilson's) speech the other evening, wherein he referred to the amount of tonnage entered outward and inward in 1846, as compared with 1824, the hon. Gentleman said that he (Mr. Wilson) took in the latter year only the amount of tonnage entered outwards, while in the former he took the amount of tonnage both outwards and inwards. He begged to correct the hon. Gentleman in that assertion. If the hon. Member would refer to the Custom-house returns—not to those of the Board of Trade—he would find that he had in both cases referred to the aggregate amount of tonnage inwards and outwards. As the hon. Member stated he was anxious to make himself thoroughly acquainted with all the facts he mentioned, he (Mr. Wilson) could not but express his regret that he had not done so in the present instance.
§ SIR R. PEEL
was met on rising by cries of "Divide!" The right hon. Baronet said: After the speeches made by the noble Lord, the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and the other hon. Gentlemen who have addressed the House during this debate, anxious to explain the grounds on which their votes will be given, I do not make any unreasonable claim on the indulgence of the House if I ask leave to occupy a very much smaller share of your attention for the same purpose. If I could fully acquiesce 647 in the opinions avowed by the noble Lord, and by those who concur with him, that the experience of the last two years has been sufficient to demonstrate the impolicy of those principles of legislation on which in the years 1842 and 1846, the commercial tariff of this country was reviewed and regulated, I should not be surprised at their unwillingness to apply the same principles to the commercial marine of the empire. But, Sir, notwithstanding that experience of the last two years, my opinion remains unshaken as to the principles by which your commercial intercourse should be regulated with other countries. If, indeed, you altogether reject from your consideration that peculiar combination of circumstances which has prevented the possibility of any fair trial of the principles then acted upon—if you will shut out from your consideration that in addition to many other causes of commercial derangement, all operating simultaneously, not only your own country, but every other country of Continental Europe with which you have commercial dealings, has been visited by the infliction of famine—if you will omit from your consideration the fact that the surplus capital which has been heretofore applied to the purchasing of luxuries or of conveniences, has been necessarily absorbed in averting the sufferings which famine engendered—if you will reject all those considerations, it will be easy to draw such conclusions as those to which you have come. But I say it is incumbent on you to show in what one respect there is any connection between the present suffering of this country, which I admit and deplore, and the principles which regulated your commercial policy in 1842 and 1846. It surely is not because you have admitted raw material without duty that—[Interruption.] Surely this is not a matter to be disposed of by clamour, but by deliberate reason. It is possible the opinions I avow may be erroneous; but, depend on it, you show no confidence in the strength of your own, if you have no better answer to give me than boisterous clamour. Answer me, if you can, these arguments. The principles on which the House acted in 1842 and 1846, in the first place, removed restrictions from the importation of corn, and reduced the duties on raw material. They enabled you to enter into competition with foreign rivals at great comparative advantage—they simplified your commercial code with respect to the entry of all articles 648 necessary for your manufacturers; and it will, I presume, be impossible for any one to contend that the altered tariff injuriously affected the manufactures of the country, so far as these provisions of the new law were concerned. You will say that these provisions might be wise on abstract principles, but that we erred in that we admitted the competition of foreign manufactured articles. That is the ground of objection. You contend that every single article of foreign manufacture introduced in consequence of the new tariff, has contributed to throw out of employment hundreds of those in this country who were engaged in manufactures of the same kind. What a doctrine to hold in this great manufacturing country! Here is a country exporting in declared value manufactured goods to the extent of 58,000,000l. annually—a country which, by the exports of its manufactures, is interfering with the employment of every other country on the face of the earth; and in this country such a doctrine is to be established! If other countries were to adopt these principles, they would naturally look on you, not as the benefactor of mankind, but as the greatest impediment to human happiness, interfering with their labour, and destroying their means of industrious occupation. A small quantity of silk, of gloves, of cotton, and of woollen manufacture, is brought into this country of the declared value, probably, of one million per annum. You contend that the countries which send here those comparatively small quantities of manufactured goods ought to be denounced, because they are throwing out of employment a number of manufacturers, who would otherwise be employed. But in the first place, you must deduct all the manufactured goods of the same kind which came in illicitly, in consequence of your vain attempts at prohibition—you must deduct the quantities of silk, and of gloves, that were smuggled, in spite of and in consequence of those prohibitory duties of 40 and 50 per cent, which you appear anxious to restore. There appears to be an increase in importation, but it is only apparent, not real. You kept up at your ports a great army of custom-house officers, vainly attempting to prevent the illicit introduction of silks and gloves and other articles which came in without the payment of duties—which, though subject to the enormous duties of 30 or 40 per cent, were guaranteed to be delivered from Paris at a charge of 10 per cent. By the adoption of a wiser 649 policy you permitted those articles to enter upon the payment of reduced duties, and there is, in consequence, a nominal increase of imports. But there is no real increase in the competition which some hon. Members so much deplore. In these papers there is the proof that you are exporting 1,315,000l. worth of brass and copper goods, 1,000,000l. of earthenware, 1,000,000l. of haberdashery goods, 17,000,000l. of cotton goods, 6,000,000l. of cotton yarns, woollen, linen, and silk—all interfering with the industry of other countries; and yet you complain of other countries, because they ask you to permit them to supply you in some very inferior and subordinate degree with certain articles which they can manufacture cheaper than you. How is it possible when you export 58,000,000l. in declared value of articles of British manufacture—how is it possible that the import of any such quantity of silk, cotton, and woollen goods, as has been introduced since 1846, can be assigned as the cause of the distress under which the operatives in some parts of the country are at present labouring? Let us look at the general results. Do not take a single year, but look what is the progressive increase of your exports under the system of free trade. Take successive periods of five years since 1827, and then judge whether there is cause for despondency, although from a combination of extraordinary causes we have been suffering severe distress. Beginning with the year 1827—twenty years ago—I find that in the first period of five years the average declared value of our exports amounted to 37,000,000l.; in the second they amounted to 43,000,000l.; in the third, to 49,000,000l.; and in the fourth to 55,000,000l. Now, in the year 1847—a year of severe distress—what was the declared value of our exports? It is said that we do nothing but import—that we have no corresponding amount of exports—and that we purchase all our imports with gold. But what was the declared value of our exports in the year 1847? Observe that in the five years ending 1846, the declared value of our exports was 55,000,000l. Well, in the year 1847 they amounted to 58,971,000l. They increased from 37,000,000l. in the first series of five years to 55,000,000l. in the five years ending 1846; and in 1847—the year of severe distress—they increased to 58,971,000l. Now, just recollect what the state of the country was; what were 650 the impediments to our usual exports in consequence of the sudden demand for food. I confess I am surprised to find such an amount of exports under circumstances so unfavourable. I am only referring to these things because some Gentlemen have stated that they founded the vote they were to give to-night upon the assumed failure of the principle of free trade. So far from admitting that failure, the experience of the last two years has served to convince me, that it is upon the diminished price of food, and upon that guarantee of its continuance, which unrestricted import affords, that we have to rest the hope of our prosperity.
I am sorry I have been tempted to depart, even for a few moments, from the subject immediately before the House; but I will now strictly address myself to it. Her Majesty's Government proposes that we should listen to a proposition for considering the present state of the navigation laws, with a view to extensive and important improvements. In my opinion, we are arrived at one of those periods when, as heretofore, it is desirable to take this matter into serious consideration. If I look to the position of our colonies, in consequence of the application of the principles of free trade to many articles of their produce—if I look to the fact that many European countries have found out that they have a fair claim to insist on those privileges in navigation which we insist on for ourselves—if I look to our reciprocity treaties, and to the various complicated claims arising under them—if I look to the mutilated and shattered state of the navigation laws, as they now exist, I find a number of concurrent reasons for the conclusion that those laws cannot stand on their present foundation, but that we must consider them with a view to extensive change. In the whole course of the able and ingenious speech of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire—from the personal allusions of which the House derived so much amusement—I must say, that the hon. Gentleman scarcely touched the question really before us. If the hon. Gentleman could have shown that the relaxation of the navigation laws would diminish the means of our national defence, or endanger our national security, I think, differing in that respect from the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden)—that there would be a fatal objection to any proposal accompanied by such a risk. But it is absolutely necessary for those who maintain the navigation laws to show that their maintenance 651 is necessary for the purpose of national defence. Surely all presumption is against them. ["Oh, oh!"] Why, the great authority whom you quote in their favour—Adam Smith—begins with an admission fatal to the navigation laws, unless you can show that they are necessary to our defence. In an emphatic sentence he declares that the navigation laws are unfavourable to commerce, and to the growth of wealth, which is the product of commerce. Surely this is a condemnation of these laws so far as commerce is concerned. How can we doubt that in this great seat of manufacturing industry—the greatest commercial country in the world—how can we doubt, I say, that upon all ordinary commercial principles, obstructions to the free interchange of products are injurious to prosperity? Prove if you can that this being a country with an extended colonial empire, with a small military force kept up for our protection, depending altogether on our marine defences, must encourage a commercial marine without reference to commercial considerations; and that is an argument which I will listen to. But will any one contend, apart from the question of national defence, that to throw obstacles in the way of sending our manufactures abroad, and to prevent other countries from dealing with us by enhancing the cost of conveyance, is consistent with sound commercial policy?
The practical question before us is, whether we shall assent to the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, or to the proposal of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Herries), who moves not a direct negative to the question, but a resolution that it is expedient to maintain the fundamental principles of the existing navigation laws. While he moves this resolution, he distrusts his own doctrine, for he goes on to say, "subject to such modification" as the House may think fit. Where then is the difference between the two propositions? I can understand the object of the right hon. Gentleman if he had moved an instruction to the Committee; but he says," I will permit you to go into Committee—I will give you no instructions, but I will fetter you with a previous resolution, that you shall not infringe on the fundamental principle of the navigation laws." What, I ask, are those fundamental principles? What was the object which they originally contemplated? According to Adam Smith, national animosity had effected an object which consummate wisdom might have 652 aimed at—namely, the destruction of the naval power and maritime influence of the Dutch. What is the present bearing of your navigation laws upon the marine of those formidable rivals? You deprive yourselves of any intercourse with America, excepting that which comes direct to this country. You can, it is true, take the produce of your own country out to the United States. But the Dutch, whom the navigation laws were intended to injure, can, under the present system, take their produce to the United States, and your produce also, and have a direct advantage over you in your intercourse with America. The whole of the commerce of the United States is open to them. One half of the whole consists in British commerce: that of course is open to them; and, therefore, to those formidable competitors, whose maritime power you sought to destroy by your navigation laws, you have given the whole of the trade with the United States, restricting yourselves to that part of it which consists of direct commercial intercourse with this country. The restrictive principle of the navigation laws, as laid down by Adam Smith, is justly applicable to the coasting trade—the fisheries—the direct carrying trade—and the colonial trade. Well, the coasting trade and the fisheries are to be reserved by Government. The carrying trade with other countries—the navigation laws reserved exclusively to British vessels, or foreign vessels importing the produce of their own country. Now, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Herries) says that he concurred with Mr. Huskisson in the introduction of reciprocity treaties. Nay, he says that he is prepared to carry them further than they go. Then I reply, that the fundamental principles of the navigation laws are opposed to those treaties. There never was a wider breach made in the navigation laws than that effected by these treaties; and yet my right hon. Friend, who is prepared to approve of them, moves a resolution, pledging the House not to permit any infringement of the fundamental principles of the navigation laws. But my right hon. Friend says that he is willing to carry the reciprocity treaties still further. Now, I will convince him that those who rely upon his assistance have given a very decided opinion that the introduction of reciprocity treaties was a violation of the principle of the navigation laws fatal to British commerce. In the Committee Mr. Young was asked— 653Do you consider that the navigation law, as it now stands, affords adequate protection to British ships?—No, I don't think it does, because the principles upon which it is founded are entirely abrogated with reference to direct trade with all the countries with which we have reciprocity treaties.And Mr. Richmond says, in answer to a question—I cannot consider that the navigation laws afford us much protection now; they are completely mutilated. Every reciprocity treaty has taken something away. I was not aware that there was so little left as there is. In fact, I consider the navigation laws virtually repealed now.This is the evidence of a gentleman of the highest respectability, one who has been examined no less than four times before Committees of this House. He and Mr. Young are the two witnesses put forward as men of experience and practical knowledge, on whom the greatest reliance can be placed, and they declare that those very reciprocity treaties to which my right hon. Friend was a party, and which he is prepared to extend, have so mutilated the navigation laws that hardly a remnant of them is left. And yet my right hon. Friend will not allow you to go into Committee unless we are fettered with the resolution that we will maintain the fundamental principle of the navigation laws. If in Committee we should propose to touch the colonial trade, my right hon. Friend will exhibit his fundamental principle, and scare us back within the proper limits to our interference. But why should not Mr. Richmond exhibit his fundamental principle also, and show you that the reciprocity treaties are the fatal breach in the navigation laws. The coasting trade, whether wisely or not, is to be reserved, and the fisheries are to be reserved; and my right hon. Friend being ready to extend the reciprocity treaties, there only remains your colonial intercourse to be considered. Now, with respect to that intercourse, what changes have not been made? Since the day when Adam Smith wrote, your colonial intercourse has been constantly modified according to the necessities of the case. It is on a perfectly different footing from what it was then, and necessarily so. Adam Smith, writing about the year 1775, did not foresee the separation of the North 654 American colonies from this country, and the changes consequent thereupon. From the time in which he wrote, scarcely three years had passed without a very considerable violation of the main principle of the navigation laws; and at every period of unavoidable change we find the same predictions of ruin to British shipping which I hear on the present occasion. In 1782, when you proposed to admit Ireland to a direct intercourse with the West Indies, the House of Commons resisted the proposition. In vain the Government urged the House to agree to the Motion; the port of Liverpool declared that if the privileges of dealing directly in coffee and sugar with the West Indies, were granted to Ireland, she would be reduced to her original insignificance. So it was with every other relaxation. Sir, it was in 1825, when Mr. Huskisson, not acting as a theoretical speculator, but driven by the necessity of the case, proposed the reciprocity treaties. He proposed those treaties, because the alternative offered was either reciprocity of intercourse or retaliation of exclusion. That period is again fast approaching; for foreign countries will ere long retaliate upon you the exclusive system you establish in your own favour. You will then be driven either to retaliation, which is the war of differential duties, or to place other countries with respect to shipping and duties upon shipping upon the same footing with yourselves. There have been continued relaxations of the navigation laws; and it is well to inquire whether or no any one of these relaxations have clipped the wings of British shipping, and diminished the naval power of the nation. In 1833 there was raised a warning cry; and let me quote it here to put the House upon its guard against those gloomy predictions of approaching ruin, of which we have heard so much. In 1833 the Shipowners' Society, talking of the state of British shipping under the navigation laws, declared—That the declining quality and estimation of British tonnage, and the approaching decay and ruin of the British shipowner, may now be viewed as incontrovertible positions.Be it so. If the ruin and decay of British shipping under the navigation laws are "incontrovertible positions," shall we run much risk in modifying those laws? But in point of fact the Shipowners' Society was wrong. In 1833, 655 the very time when the ruin and decay of the shipowner might be viewed as "incontrovertible positions,"—in that very year the British tonnage on the register was 2,634,000 tons. In 1846, after the progressive application of the principle of reciprocity treaties, and consequent infraction of the navigation laws, the amount of British tonnage was no less than 3,817,000 tons, showing an increase of 1,183,000 tons. Mr. Richmond says—I am sure that I do not exaggerate when I say that one-half of the capital embarked in shipping during the last twenty-five years has been lost, and that the other half, to a very great extent, is totally unproductive of profit. Indeed, so little is there left of the navigation laws, that I look upon them as virtually repealed.Now, this gentleman is a great authority on these matters. According to him, under those very navigation laws, the fundamental principles of which you won't let us change, one-half of the capital embarked in shipping during the last twenty-five years has been lost, and the other half remained almost wholly unproductive. Such is the opinion of him who was four times examined before Committes of this House; such statements are made, not merely to excite your sympathy, but to enlighten your judgment; and if one-half the capital embarked in the shipping trade has been sunk, and the other half is unproductive of profit, can it be for the benefit of your commerce, or your manufactures, or your shipping, that such a state of things should continue? Will the discontinuance of it affect other and equally important interests? Will it endanger our maritime superiority? I find, from returns on the table, that notwithstanding the repeated breaches in the old navigation laws, there has been a progressive increase in the number of our ships, in the tonnage, and in the number of men employed. I will only go into the general facts; I will not detain the House with details. I will take the year 1836 that I may not subject myself to the charge of selecting a year favourable for my own views. In 1836 the tonnage of British shipping was 2,792,000 tons; in 1842 it was 3,419,000 tons; and in 1847, a year when free trade, according to the predictions of some, ought to have been fatal to our commercial marine, it amounted to 3,952,000 tons. Then take the number of seamen. The number of seamen in the British commercial marine, 656 in 1814, was 172,000; in 1827 the number was 154,000; in 1842 the number was 214,000; and in 1847 it was 232,000. It is upon the extent of your commercial marine and number of your seamen that your main reliance must be placed in the event of war. As to the question of impressment, the difficulty inherent in that question applies equally to your system whether you maintain the navigation laws or abrogate them. In either case you may resort, if you think fit, to impressment; but is not the time arrived when it is important to consider whether you can safely rely upon impressment? I do not say one word in favour of the abandonment of that system. It may be necessary at the breaking out of a war to resort to it; but consider the material changes that have taken place in your naval marine as well as in your commercial marine; consider that, after the duration of a very long peace, the men whom you impress will be much less qualified to perform the duties of a man-of-war than they used to be when there was only a short interval of peace—when there were rapid alternations of peace and war. Consider how much more important it will be for your naval security to have skilled and experienced mariners. Consider the progress steam navigation has made; how little reliance can be placed on mere impressment to supply the means of navigating steam ships. All these things are deserving most serious consideration. If the repeal of the navigation laws would impair your commercial marine, this would be a powerful argument against their repeal. But my opinion is that this country, without such factitious aid, can enter into competition with any country in the world. Mr. Richmond says that under the system of protection the shipowners have lost half their capital, and derived no profit from the other half. The Member for Buckinghamshire, speaking of the Baltic trade, remarked, that the Baltic Powers have ports that are closed with ice for four months of the year. Compare, then, the favoured position and climate of this country with that of the Baltic Powers; consider the enormous natural disadvantage under which as maritime Powers they labour in having their ports for four months of the year closed with ice. With those Powers, as to the general commerce of the world, you surely have no need to fear competition. Then take France; France has a strict system of navigation laws, and what 657 has it done for her mercantile marine? Do you fear competition with that country? Does not the state of the mercantile marine of France suggest a doubt whether maritime superiority does not depend upon natural causes, upon the the habits, position, and necessities of a country, and not upon navigation laws? No navigation laws, however exclusive, can give to France a commercial marine that can enter into competition with yours. Now, take the United States. The evidence of your increasing marine as compared with that of the United States, in all cases wherein you enter into fair competition, has been most satisfactory as to the ability of this country to compete with America. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire referred to the trade with Rio Janeiro, and added that in that port there was a larger number of American ships as compared with British ships. With great deference to the hon. Gentleman, I do not think that that has anything to do with the question. There is a direct intercourse between Rio Janeiro and the United States. Rio Janeiro takes her sugar to the United States, and they in return send their wheat to Rio Janeiro, and there is no doubt a special intercourse between them with which it is impossible for us to compete; but it is no proof of our general inability to enter into competition with the United States, that in a port where there is a large direct trade with the United States, we should have fewer ships than that Power. I will not venture into statistical details, but I must refer to the evidence of one witness who made a deep impression on my mind. That witness was Captain Briggs. He was master of an American liner, and employed in the direct communication between the United States and England. I never saw a witness whose evidence appeared to me more entitled to credit. If there was an exception, it was in his unwillingness to give an answer unfavourable to the marine of this country, as compared with his own. We examined him on the important point, whether or no we are unable to compete with the United States, on account of any circumstance that can justly entitle our marine to protection? We are told, that we cannot compete with the ships of some countries on account of the low rate of wages paid to the shipwrights. In the first place, I believe that a shipwright in this country at 6s. a day is worth three times more than the shipwright of some 658 countries who receives only half the sum. It is impossible to estimate the value of labour by the amount of wages paid to the labourer. We went through the whole of this question with Captain Briggs. We asked him, "What are the wages of a shipwright in America?" His answer was—" They are 10s. a day—two dollars on the average have for the last four or five years been paid to an American shipwright." It is quite clear, therefore, that if you rely on the fact that Norwegian ships can be built at less expense than yours on account of the comparative lowness of the wages paid to the Norwegian shipwrights, you must admit that you, who pay only 5s. or 6s. a day for a British shipwright, a first-rate workman, can compete with great advantage with the Americans, who pay 10s. a day to an American shipwright. Then the wages of seamen have been relied on. We asked Captain Briggs what wages he paid? He said—to an American seaman 64s. a month. Those were very high wages; but we asked him whether he always employed American seamen? He answered that he did not, but constantly took English seamen from Liverpool. We asked him whether he paid them 64s.? He said, No; he took English sailors at Liverpool, and paid them 50s.; consequently, an American seaman receives 14s. a month more than English seamen: the wages, then, both of shipwrights and seamen are greatly in our favour. We then proceeded to examine him as to the comparative expense of shipbuilding in the two countries. Now, the Member for Buckinghamshire says, he detests the tar and pitch of this question; but the tar and the pitch and comparative expense of building are most important elements of the question. It may be very agreeable to select this or that Gentleman and hold him up to ridicule; but the real points of this case that are worthy of the consideration of rational men, alarmed about our national strength, are not whether this or that Gentleman has involved himself in some inconsistency, but whether we can compete with foreign countries without exclusive privileges, unfavourable to commerce; and you must listen to some of these details if you wish to form a sound judgment. As to the Baltic trade, I think you cannot be under any apprehension. I want to show that there is no fear of France, who, with her strict navigation laws, has a dwindling marine; and I want also to show you that the prosperity and increasing shipping of America are not inconsistent with 659 your own; nay, that they are rather the indications of your prosperity. Open a free commercial intercourse with the United States, and there will be a reciprocal benefit. The increase of your prosperity will, as a natural and necessary consequence, promote the prosperity of the American marine. But I return to the question whether you are able or not to compete with the United States. We asked Captain Briggs," How do you stand in respect to timber? "Captain Briggs said," The timber comes from South Carolina and from Florida—there is a shipment and an unshipment;" and he very much doubted whether or no, as this country was a great emporium for timber, the Americans had any great advantage over us. We asked him, "Where do you get your sails and canvass from?"—" From England." "Your ironwork?"—" We import that from England." "Your copper?"—"From England." "Your cordage?"—"We make cordage in the United States, but we import the hemp from Russia; and cordage is 10 per cent higher in America than in England." What is the general result of this comparison? There are shipwrights' wages, 10s. a day, seamen's wages, 14s. a month higher than your own, timber nearly on an equality; and if there is any inequality, you have the power to redress it; in sails and canvass you have the advantage; in ironwork the advantage—nay, they take their ironwork from you; in copper you have the advantage; in cordage an advantage of 10 per cent. Why, then, should you be afraid to compete with America, either in the building or the navigation of ships? We asked Captain Briggs, "What is the cost of building a 12-years' ship in England?" Every Gentleman present, I presume, knows what a 12-years' ship A number one is. Captain Briggs said, "I calculate that a 12-years' ship can be built and fitted in England as cheaply as a 10-years' ship in America." Still there were points in which the American had an advantage over us, which it was impossible for him to conceal; and let me ask you to consider seriously what are the points in which that advantage consists. We asked Captain Briggs—"Do you make your passage quicker?" "Yes, by some days quicker than an English ship." "How do you account for that?" He said, that the American captains were better paid than the English; that they were paid in a different manner; that the English captains 660 were paid by the month, while the Americans have a commission on the amount of freight; that they have a double interest in quick voyages, because they are paid, not by fixed periods of time, but by the voyage, and because they have a direct interest in keeping the cargo clean and dry. He told us that he never permitted spirits to be drunk on board—that he had introduced the temperance system—that he found all the men willing to conform to it; and in stress of weather, when it was necessary to be on the rigging all night, temperance men were better able to bear it than men who were accustomed to drink spirits. Now, as to those particulars in which the American captain has an advantage, what claim have you for protection. If, indeed, you had to bring your canvass from America, and your copper and your iron, and to pay 10s. a day to shipwrights, and 64s. a month to seamen, you might have some claim; but you have no right to claim protection on account of the superior skill or conduct of either American captains or men. Nay, consider this: if the effect of your protective system has been to induce your mariners to place a false reliance upon it; if they thought, "We are protected, and therefore we may neglect the precautions which other men take;" then not only is there no pretence for giving protection, but protection is the cause of your inferiority. If you neglect habits of temperance—if you will not pay attention to the stowing of the cargo—if you will not give the captain a direct interest in making a rapid voyage, and in landing his cargo dry and clean; be not surprised that the British or American merchant gives a preference to an American ship; and do not ask the House of Commons to continue to you protection, raising the rate of freight against the manufacturer and the consumer in this country, because you neglect the precautions which ensure the superiority of your rivals. If this evidence be true in these details as to copper and ironwork, as to sails and canvass and cordage, is there any reason to fear competition with that Power which you must admit to be your only formidable competitor? Now, take the case with respect to your own colonies. Can you long resist the claim of Canada? If the freight from New York is so much lower than the freight from Montreal, that the citizen of the United States brings his produce to this country at a cheaper rate—nay, he seduces Canadian produce to come by New 661 York instead of down the St. Lawrence—how long can we resist the claim of the Canadian to be admitted to equal privileges in British ports with the American? Is it fair? Consider the peculiar position of that country. Can we subject Canadian produce to a disadvantage in British markets unless it can be proved conclusively that for the purpose of national defence we must retain the exclusive possession of this colonial trade? I believe we cannot in justice maintain that principle. Yet to abandon it will be a violation of a fundamental principle of the navigation law. Now, will you consent to enter into the Committee with a previous restriction that shall prevent you from doing that which the interests of Canada, and justice to Canada, require? Would it not be a farce to enter into that Committee with a pledge, which my right hon. Friend will construe into an obligation, that you shall not admit the produce of Canada on the same footing with respect to freight as you admit the produce of America? Upon these grounds I come to the conclusion that it is befitting this House to consider the state of the navigation laws, and with a view to an extensive alteration of them. I shall reserve for separate discussion many—I am loth to call them details, because they are in themselves of the utmost importance; but I wish to confine myself as far as possible to the main question. With respect to the policy of opening the coasting trade, or continuing the restriction, I shall reserve that point at present. With respect to the policy of requiring from a British shipowner that he shall have three-fourths of his crew composed of British seamen, upon that point, also, I should wish to say nothing at present. With regard to the mode of making the alterations which the right hon. Gentleman proposes, I wish to reserve that most important matter for that mature consideration which it fully deserves. That mature consideration cannot be given without a full inquiry into the operation of the principle by which our reciprocity treaties are regulated; but I will throw out one or two observations—they are for consideration only—upon this subject. I think, with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), that the first impression is in favour of proceeding by reciprocity treaties; the first impression is, that the Crown should be empowered to grant concessions to any Power which is willing to make equivalent concessions to us. But on the other hand it 662 is deserving of consideration whether or no these reciprocity treaties are not in themselves sources of very great difficulties. Reciprocity treaties are of two kinds—the one comprehending that which is called "the most favoured nation clause;" the other requiring that you shall extend to a certain Power the same privileges which another Power possesses, provided the former will make the same concessions to you which have been made by the latter. This seems simple enough; but when you come to act practically upon those treaties, you find they involve very great difficulties. My right hon. Friend says—and there is some truth in the observation—that there is a difference between the case of differential duties on navigation, and on the import of goods under a tariff. I admit there is; but still it is most difficult to determine whether the concessions which a given country is willing to make, or, in fact, has the power to make, are equivalent to the concessions which have been made by some other country, the commercial demands and commercial produce of which may be of a totally different nature. And with regard to reciprocity treaties, I foresee the risk of great difficulty in the event of war. The power which the Government proposes to retain of reimposing restriction, it will be found very difficult to exercise. The system would be an inversion of the relations between the Crown and Parliament. Under it the House of Commons will he the source of favour—the House of Commons will relax, the Crown will restrain. The House of Commons will give universal privileges, and in the course of four or five years the invidious and difficult duty will be thrown upon the Crown of withdrawing the privileges which the House of Commons has granted. I wish the Ministers to consider the policy of giving a temporary duration to the Act, so that at a certain period the privileges conferred by Act of Parliament would terminate without the Crown being called upon to fulfil the painful duty of re-imposing restrictions. Suppose the trade were to be opened for a period of five years; at the end of that period the privileges given would necessarily expire, and every country would have notice that they had the means of averting the re-establishment of restrictions by entering into some arrangement with this country. I would rather see the object effected in that manner than by new reciprocity treaties. I 663 had rather that other countries reserved to themselves the right of independent legislation—that America, for instance, should do what she has to do by voluntary legislation than by treaty. The same difficulty applies to the power which the Government wishes to take of reimposing restrictions. ["Divide!"] I am aware that the argument is exhausted, and feel obliged to the House for the attention which it has afforded me. I advise hon. Members, before they determine to exclude all improvement of these navigation laws, to consider that this great shipping trade and the increase of the commercial marine are dependent, not on the navigation laws, but on the prosperity of commerce. Whatever tends to promote that prosperity tends to increase your commercial marine. You rely on the authority of Mr. Huskisson. You confidently predict that Mr. Huskisson would never have consented to the proposed relaxation of the navigation laws. But Mr. Huskisson dealt with the necessities of the times, and went as far as he safely could in relaxing these laws. Mr. Huskisson may have said at the time that the colonial intercourse and the coasting trade must be preserved intact; but he felt the necessity of making those modifications in the fundamental principles of those laws which were rendered necessary by the change of circumstances and the demands of British interests. Instead of relying upon a particular observation of Mr. Huskisson with regard to the colonial trade or the coasting trade, let us rather advert to the broad principles which he laid down of permanent and universal application. This is an extract from Mr. Huskisson's speech on colonial policy, which contains truths applicable to the altered circumstances of the present time, and applicable to your colonial intercourse and colonial empire at all times and under all circumstances. Mr. Huskisson said—These, it may be objected, are but vague and speculative improvements, which may never be realised. It may be so; but if I am called upon to point out specifically the precise mode and course of operations by which the benefits of this new system are to make their way into the West Indies, I have no hesitation to avow that I can do no such thing. Yet, in making this avowal, let me remind the Committee that in 1813, when, upon the renewal of the East India Company's charter, their monopoly of trade was greatly relaxed, the wisest and most experienced men in 664 that trade could not point out, precisely, what new channels of commerce could be opened with the East Indies. Nay, they denied that any new channels could be explored by the private trader, or that any benefits could accrue to India from the relaxation of the former monopoly. But new channels have been explored, new benefits have been conferred; proving, as the history of all modern commerce proves, that whenever you give a free scope to capital, to industry, to the stirring intelligence and active spirit of adventure which so strongly mark the present times, you are in fact opening new roads to enterprise, and affording new facilities to the interchange of the productions of the different regions of the earth—that interchange, of which the advantages must be reciprocal, and of which the extension to new countries is, perhaps, the surest harbinger of their improvement and civilisation.These are great truths, the recognition of which is calculated to promote the prosperity of your colonies, to extend their commercial relations, to bring them into contact with European countries. Under such a system the ties which bind to you your colonial dependencies would be strengthened, not by the exercise of power, not by restraint, but by the conviction that England was prepared to abandon that principle of colonial policy hitherto adopted by every country in the world, namely, to make the interests of the colonies subservient to the interests of the mother country.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I find myself relieved from the necessity of troubling the House at any length by the able speech which we have just heard. I am also relieved from that duty by finding that, after hearing in the course of the night various speeches of two hours' duration professedly directed against the measure of the Government, those speeches contain much in relation to other matters—much invective and sarcasm against individuals, but with respect to the proposition before the House, and particularly as regards a defence of the navigation laws, very little, if any, argument has been advanced. The noble Lord who opened the debate this evening entered into his own peculiar line of argument with respect to other measures of free trade. He spoke at some length upon measures not at all affecting the navigation laws; and, according to his view of foreign commerce, all the advantage of free trade goes to foreigners, and none to the people of this country. But 665 the noble Lord's views with respect to foreign commerce are so narrow and confined, that is impossible for me to agree with him upon questions of this nature. Speaking of our trade in America, he said, we took ice from the Americans as some sort of return for our trade; as if our taking ice was a great favour to the Americans, and not a thing done for our own benefit. Why, Sir, ice is an article of luxury with us. [Lord G. BENTINCK: I said rice, not ice.] Well, whether rice or any other article, it is the same. All commerce is a reciprocal benefit to the parties engaged in it. Each party takes the articles which he wants, and does nothing from motives of gratuitous generosity. If it were not for considerations connected with the question of naval defence, no one would stand up and say that it would not be an advantage to admit into our ports the ships of foreign countries, bringing us produce in exchange for our commodities. There can be no doubt that the measure is for the advantage of our commerce; and the question merely turns upon this—whether it will in any way reduce or injure our naval supremacy. The hon. Gentleman has himself expressed a doubt whether these laws were not originally adopted by the Protector Cromwell more in hostility against rival commercial nations, than with a view to benefit the interests of this country. I believe that they were intended, and that they answered their object, to injure those rival nations, but without conferring any real benefit on England. It was not a question of conferring an advantage on ourselves; on the contrary, it was rather an injury to ourselves, but done for the purpose of inflicting a greater injury on our rivals. That object was effected; but I very much doubt whether the Protector Cromwell, if he could hear the question discussed to-night, would think it advisable to keep up these restrictions, in order to prevent the descendants of those Englishmen who went to North America in those times from trading in the most unrestricted manner with the people of this country. But, in fact, in treating this question as a question of naval defence, we must consider those circumstances which would enable foreign Powers to supplant our commercial marine by their commercial marine in the trade of this country. Now, in considering this question, there are evident indications that we have no reason to fear any such competition. In the first place, in respect to the building 666 of ships, in the articles of iron and copper we certainly should have an advantage over every other country. In the next place, in regard to labour, it is most true that English labour is not dear, because the work done by the English labourer is superior to that which is done by the people of other nations. For instance, in regard to the case of wages paid at Bombay—what is the difference to the shipbuilder whether he pays 6s. to one English workman for a certain quantity of work, or 1s. to each of six workmen at Bombay for the same quantity of work? But it is a fact that the quantity of work done in this country is greater than that which is done by the same number of men in other countries; it cannot, therefore, be said that labour in England is dearer than in other nations. Then, again, with regard to the United States of America, it is proved that their shipbuilding must be as dear as ours, and that the wages of their seamen are higher than the wages of ours. But there are other indications upon this subject. There is a great test as to the power of British ships competing with foreign ships, and successfully too, in what is done in the carrying trade to St. Peters-burgh and Hamburgh from various ports of Europe. In that trade British shipowners have no advantage—no navigation laws—no protecting duties, and yet, as I have said, they compete successfully with foreign nations. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire has said that there are a greater number of American ships at Rio than British ships; but I might as well take the case of Hamburgh, where, in the year 1846, there were 995 British ships entered, and only 12 American ships; and so on with regard to other years. But that is no criterion, because this country has the same natural connexion with the trade with Hamburgh as the people of the United States have with Rio. There are, therefore, these two indications—first, with regard to the building and the navigation of British ships; and next, in regard to the state of the actual commerce of the world. But I think there is another and a stronger reason for believing that our naval strength will not be deteriorated, or decline by the repeal of the navigation law, and that is—what I regard as a main consideration—the character of the British people, and the capital which this nation enjoys. I can imagine a country having great capital for carrying on commerce, but with a people having no turn for maritime 667 pursuits, and I can imagine a people having a great turn for maritime pursuits, but the country possessing no capital. Neither of these people can carry on trade with other nations. But where I find a nation possessing at once great capital and great commerce, proverbial for their attachment to and habits for maritime pursuits, I cannot doubt that such a nation, if admitted to free competition with other countries, would always be capable of maintaining a large commercial navy. But what is the consequence as presented to us by experience? It has been said, and I believe most truly said, that Mr. Huskis-son abrogated the greater part of the navigation laws so far as regards those countries with which he entered into reciprocity treaties. From all the examination I have been able to make, I am led to the belief that wherever reciprocity treaties have been established, the benefits of the Navigation Act were in effect simply nothing but the bark of the oak whose trunk had entirely disappeared. I have a statement of the trade of this country during the twenty-one years before the year 1823, and the twenty-four years since that period; and I find that in the twenty-one years from 1803 to 1823 that the tonnage of our commercial marine was 339,000 tons, and the number of men employed was 12,000; while during the twenty-four years since 1823, the tonnage was 1,446,000, and the number of men, 67,890. Such was the comparison between the twenty-one years before the reciprocity treaties were formed, and the twenty-four years since the Reciprocity Act was passed. This being the case, I cannot have the smallest doubt that if we abrogate the principal part of the navigation laws, our commercial marine will increase further than it has already done. I cannot doubt that those restrictions being removed, we shall continue to maintain that which I believe to be the foundation of a great and powerful Navy—I mean a strong commercial marine. I quite admit, with my right hon. Friend, that if there was the least reason to suppose that our maritime strength would not be—destroyed, but—diminished by a measure of this nature, that it would be unadvisable for this House to adopt it; but my belief is, as I think we have seen it proved, that every measure tending to relax these restrictions has increased our commercial marine; and I cannot but believe that the tendency of this measure will be 668 likewise further to increase it. An hon. and gallant Admiral who has spoken in this debate, has said, that one of the securities for having our Navy well manned, is being destroyed by the proposal of my right hon. Friend for doing away with the apprenticeship system. I think that no more fallacious mode for keeping up the strength of the Navy ever was invented than that of putting restrictions and imposing a tax on our commercial marine by obliging the shipowner to have a certain number of apprentice boys on board his ship in order to furnish the Navy with seamen. I cannot understand how the shipping interest of this country should come forward to defend a restriction which is so entirely, so grossly, adverse to their interests as not to leave them at liberty to employ either ablebodied seamen, or to adapt their crews to suit the convenience of their ships. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshise (Mr. Disraeli), has made what I consider an attack unworthy of a Gentleman of his position in this House. I allude to that part of the hon. Gentleman's speech in which he laid such blame on certain officers of the Board of Trade, who had made returns to this House and the other House of Parliament, and who had given evidence before the Committee on this subject. I think, considering that those gentlemen furnished the returns which were asked for, whether by Ministers in their several departments, or whether by Members of this House, in the terms in which they were required; and considering that they gave most intelligent evidence upon the inquiry which this House instituted, and also considering that they have no means of defence in this House; I think that an attempt to turn the indignation of this House upon them, and to accuse them of making unfair statements, is conduct unworthy of a Gentleman in the position which the hon. Member holds. And then the reason he assigns for it is—what I think to be a very weak excuse—that these gentlemen of the Board of Trade have a bias to wards what is called the principle and doctrines of free trade. I believe it is not possible for the hon. Gentleman, or any one else, to show that they have not stated the facts fairly and truly; but if they were asked their opinions, what could be more natural than that they should declare those opinions openly and honestly? With regard to this general subject, upon which the hon. Gentleman makes an accusation against us, and against 669 the majority of this and the late House of Commons, he might as well say that the University of Cambridge was to be blamed for entertaining a bias towards the Newtonian theory, as that the officers of the Board of Trade are to be blamed because they have a bias towards free commercial principles. There may be very great and very fair differences as to the application of those principles; but I conceive those general principles to be the principles of science upon this subject established now by sixty or seventy years of discussion, and by the opinions of all enlightened men who have considered the question. The hon. Gentleman, however, has accused us of acting with a recklessness of ignorance, because we have proposed to the House to go into Committee on the navigation laws, with a view to ascertain if those laws cannot be amended. I will not now enter into the discussion whether our proposition is the best that could be made; but our proposition is, to act as if the navigation laws had not existed. We propose that all ships of all nations shall be received in our ports in the same manner as British ships, with the exception of the coasting trade and of a certain part of the fisheries; a power being reserved to the Sovereign, by Order in Council, to impose conditions and restrictions upon those nations who impose conditions and restrictions upon us. I think the principle is a right one, and I am quite sure that, so far from being the sign of ignorance which it has been represented by the hon. Gentleman, it is on the other hand a sign of ignorance in him, and in those who act with him, that they still persist in maintaining a theory which is contrary to all acknowledged principles, which is contrary to all the features of the age, and which is contrary to the views taken by men who have studied this subject in the closet—by Mr. Pitt, Mr. Huskisson, and the most enlightened statesmen who have given their attention to the question. I consider that it is the duty of this House, if they mean to lead opinion in this country, to act according to the knowledge of the time; but if they refuse to go into Committee—if they keep up these restrictions because they have been enacted in former times—then to this House will properly apply the phrase of the "recklessness of ignorance;" whilst, on the contrary, by removing these restrictions, you will draw closer the bonds of amity with foreign nations, which are ready to act in bonds of amity and friendship with you; and you will thus give a 670 proof that that you are equal to the destinies that await you.
§ The House divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 294; Noes 177: Majority 117.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Cowan, C.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Adair, H. E.||Craig, W. G.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Adare, Visct.||Currie, H.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Currie, R.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Dalrymple, Capt.|
|Alcock, T.||Davie, Sir H. R. F.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Denison, J. E.|
|Anson, Visct.||D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Divett, E.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Drummond, H. H.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Duncan, Visct.|
|Barkly, H.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Baring, H. B.||East, Sir J. B.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Ellice, E.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Enfield, Visct.|
|Bernal, R.||Esteourt, J. B. B.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Evans, J.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Evans, W.|
|Blake, M. J.||Ewart, W.|
|Boiling, W.||Fagan, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Fergus, J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Fitzpatrick, rt. hn. J. W.|
|Boyd, J.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Brand, T.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Bright, J.||Fordyce, A. D.|
|Brotherton, J.||Forster, M.|
|Brown, W.||Fortescue, C.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Fortescue, hon. J. W.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Fox, W. J.|
|Buller, C.||Freestun, Col.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Callaghan, D.||Grace, O D. J.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Cardwell, E.||Granger, T. C.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Greene, J.|
|Carter, J. B.||Greene, T.|
|Caulfeild, J. M.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Grenfell, C. W.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Grey, R. W.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Childers, J. W.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Clay, J.||Haggitt, F. R.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Hallyburton, Lord J. F.|
|Cobden, R.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Hastie, A.|
|Coke, hon. E. K.||Hastie, A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hawes, B.|
|Conyngham, Lord A.||Hay, Lord J.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Courtnay, Lord||Headlam, T. E.|
|Heald, J.||O'Brien, J.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Heneage, E.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Ord, W.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Oswald, A.|
|Heywood, J.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Hindley, C.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Paget, Lord G.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Patten, J. W.|
|Hodges, T. T.||Pearson, C.|
|Hogg, Sir J. W.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Hollond, R.||Perfect, R.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Philips, Sir G. R.|
|Hope, H. T.||Pilkington, J.|
|Hope, A.||Pugh, D.|
|Horsman, E.||Pusey, P.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Raphael, A.|
|Howard, hon. E. G. G.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Reynolds, J.|
|Hume, J.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Ricardo, O.|
|Keating, R.||Rich, H.|
|Keogh, W.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Roche, E. B.|
|Ker, R.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Kershaw, J.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Kildare, Marq. of||Russell, hon. E. S.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Rutherford, A.|
|Langston, J. H.||Salwey, Col.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Sandars, G.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Scholefield, W.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Seymour, Lord|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Littleton, hon. E. R.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Loch, J.||Simeon, J.|
|Locke, J.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Lockhart, A. E.||Smith, J. A.|
|Lushington, C.||Smith, M. T.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Maher, N. V.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Mahon, The O'Gorman||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Maitland, T.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Marshall, W.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Martin, J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Martin, C. W.||Sullivan, M.|
|Martin, S.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Matheson, A.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Matheson, J.||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Matheson, Col.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Tennent, R. J.|
|Milner, W. M. E.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Milton, Visct.||Thompson, Col.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Thompson, G.|
|Moffatt, G.||Thornely, T.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Towneley, C.|
|Monsell, W.||Towneley, J.|
|Morgan, H. K. G.||Townley, R. G.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||Traill, G.|
|Morison, Sir W.||Tufnell, H.|
|Morris, D.||Turner, E.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Turner, G. J.|
|Mowatt, F.||Tynte, Col.|
|Norreys, Lord||Vane, Lord H.|
|Nugent, Sir P.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Villiers, Visct.||Williams, J.|
|Villiers, hon. C.||Wilson, J.|
|Vivian, J. H.||Wilson, M.|
|Wakley, T,||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Wall, C. B.||Wood, W. P.|
|Walter J.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S|
|Ward, H. G.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Watkins, Col.||Wyld, J.|
|Wellesley, Lord C.||Wyvill, M.|
|Westenra, hon. J. C.||Young, Sir J.|
|Westhead, J. P.||TELLERS.|
|Whitmore, T. C.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Willcox, B. M.||Parker, J.|
|List of theNOES.|
|Alford, Visct.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Farnham, E. B.|
|Arkwright, G.||Farrer, J.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Fellowes, E.|
|Bailey, J.||Floyer, J.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Forbes, W.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Forester, hon. G. C. W.|
|Baines, M. T.||Fox, S. W. L.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Bankes, G.||Galway, Visct.|
|Baring, T.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Gordon, Adm.|
|Bateson, T.||Gore, W. R. O|
|Benbow, J.||Goring, C.|
|Benett, J.||Granby, Marq. of|
|Bennet, P.||Grogan, E.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Gwyn, H.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.||Hale, R. B.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Halford, Sir H.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Hall, Col.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Bourke, R. S.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Harris, hon. Capt.|
|Brackley, Visct.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Henley, J. W.|
|Bremridge, R.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Brisco, M.||Hildyard, R. C.|
|Broadley, H.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Brooke, Lord||Hill, Lord E.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Hood, Sir A.|
|Buck, L. W.||Hotham, Lord|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Hudson, G.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Burghley, Lord||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Jones, Capt.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Kerrison, Sir E.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Clive, H. B.||Knox, Col.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Lacy, H. C.|
|Coles, H. B.||Lascelles, hon. E.|
|Cubitt, W.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Curteis, H. M.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Davies, D. A. S.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Deedes, W.||Lockhart, W.|
|Dick, Q.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Disraeli, B.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Drax, J. S. W. S. E.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Manners, Lord G.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Masterman, J.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Dundas, G.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Edwards, H.||Miles, W.|
|Moore, G. H.||Smollett, A.|
|Morgan, O||Somerset, Capt.|
|Mulgrave, Earl of||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Spooner, R.|
|Mure, Col.||Stafford, A.|
|Neeld, J.||Stanley, E.|
|Neeld, J.||Stephenson, R.|
|Newport, Visct.||Stuart, H.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Stuart, J.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Packe, C. W.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Palmer, R.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Pattison, J.||Thornhill, G.|
|Pigot, Sir R.||Tollemache, J.|
|Plowden, W. H. C.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Powell, Col.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Powlett, Lord W.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Prime, R.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Reid, Col.||Villiers, hon. F. W. C.|
|Renton, J. C.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Richards, R.||Waddington, D.|
|Robinson, G. R.||Wadington, H. S.|
|Rolleston, Col.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Rufford, F.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Rushout, Capt.||Williams, T. P.|
|Sadlier, J.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Scott, hon. F.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Seaham, Visct.||Worcester, Marq. of|
|Seymer, H. K.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Shirley, E. J.||TELLERS.|
|Sibthorp, Col.||Beresford, W.|
|Smyth, J. G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
§ House went into Committee; Navigation Acts considered.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to Three o'clock, till the 15th.