HC Deb 14 February 1849 vol 102 cc680-741

The Order of the Day for the Committee on the Navigation Laws having been read: On the question that Mr. Speaker do leave the chair,


said: I am sorry to interpose, for a few moments, between the House and the discussion which is coming on, and I do so only for the purpose of putting a question to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) the President of the Board of Trade, or the noble Lord at the head of the Government, on a matter which I take to involve a principle of the highest public importance, or I should not trespass on the House. I will make no other statement than is necessary.


Docs it relate to the navigation laws?


It does; and I will make no other statement than is absolutely necessary to make the question intelligible. It arises out of a speech reported in the Morning Post, to which my attention has been called within the last two or three days, and which purports to have been delivered by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baines), a more manly and straightforward speech than which was never spoken, in which the hon. Gentleman explains himself to his constituents on the subject of the navigation laws. The hon. Gentleman is reported, in the Morning Post of the 9th February, to have used these words:— Then there was the subject of the navigation laws. It is perfectly well known that Ministers introduced a measure with respect to that Bill, against which I voted. I divided against Ministers in every stage of that Bill. I thought it my duty to do so, and although I differ from many of my constituents on this point—gentlemen of very great intelligence—who think that the navigation laws ought to be repealed, yet I must say I am not satisfied that they ought to be repealed. On the contrary, I am of opinion that the principle of the navigation laws ought not to be repealed. This being so, I voted accordingly, and opposed Ministers in every stage. And it appears, on reference to the division lists, that the hon. Gentleman did oppose Ministers in one of the divisions which took place as to the question of time, and on the only division as to the merits of the measure. I have no means of knowing whether the report is a perfectly correct report or not. It is a question of the utmost public importance. I do not wish to provoke a discussion on the principle which is involved. I hope the answer which I may receive will be such as entirely to remove any further discussion; but the question I have to put is, whether the measure which was recommended from the Throne by Her Majesty, and which is to-day to be introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, will have the support of those Members of this House who hold office under the Crown?


In answer to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), I will state the facts as they have occurred. The hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Baines) was offered by me, in the name of Her Majesty, the office which he now holds. He declined to take it. He said that he should be ready to take the office, but that he could not do so, if he were not to be at liberty to oppose the repeal of the navigation laws, his opinion being against that repeal, and he having already voted in conformity with that opinion. My answer to him was, that I considered his services of such importance that I should not in any way interfere with the free exercise of his opinion and his vote on the subject, understanding from him, as I did, that upon every other subject he agreed with the views that Her Majesty's Government entertained. I know not whether it is necessary, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) has spoken of the conduct of such a proceeding, that I should mention that, a good many years ago, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire accepted office, but having always voted against the Alien Bill, he did, after accepting office, vote against the policy of the Government. I remember, likewise, that on a question of very great importance, the repeal of the Roman Catholic Disabilities Bill, Lord Lonsdale, holding the office of Privy Councillor, voted against the repeal, and yet continued to hold office. It will not be denied that the Duke of Wellington, who was then at the head of the Administration, exercised a right discretion in allowing Lord Lonsdale to hold office. He (Lord J. Russell) mentioned those as instances that had occurred within his own recollection, and the cases were as he stated, He had now described the circumstances connected with the hon. Member referred to (Mr. Baines), and he should only add, with regard to the other Members of Her Majesty's Government, that they had all voted last year in favour of the measure for the repeal of the navigation laws, and that the rule which applied to the hon. Member for Hull did not extend to any other Member of the Government.

The House then went into Committee: Mr. BERNAL in the chair.


said: Mr. Bernal, the duty has again devolved upon me of calling the attention of the House to the laws which regulate the navigation of this country, and I rejoice that I am able to do so at such a period of the Session as will insure to the House a full opportunity of discussing this important question, and which, I trust, may lead to the solution of a problem, which, I am sure, cannot he longer left undecided without producing consequences most injurious to the commercial and colonial interests of this empire. We had long discussions upon this subject during the last Session of Parliament; and, although they did not lead to any practical conclusion, yet I trust the time devoted by the House to the question has not been altogether lost. I trust we shall be able to approach the discussion this Session, having already cleared away many preliminaries; and Parliament having then expressed an opinion upon points on which this measure mainly rests, we shall, I hope, be prepared, without any protracted preliminary discussions, to approach the question which it will be my duty to submit to the House to-day. I am glad that the country and the colonies have had time to consider this question, the magnitude of which I am not disposed to underrate to the House. I am glad that the House will have to discuss and to decide upon it after the country and the more distant branches of the empire have had an opportunity of forming their judgments and expressing their opinions on it to the House. Under these circumstances, I shall at once proceed to state the case within the briefest possible limits that I can. And I will remind the House, in as few words as possible, what were the principal provisions of the measure which I had the honour to propose last Session, and what were the principal reasons by which it was supported. Sir, with regard to one great branch of the navigation laws—I mean that which regulates the coasting trade and fisheries of the country—I did not propose in the measure of last year, with the exception of a modification in the laws that relate to the fisheries, to which it is not necessary that I should more particularly advert, to make any alteration. I shall have occasion to return to this part of the subject hereafter; but at the present moment, when merely reminding the House of the provisions of the Bill of last Session, it is not necessary that I should say more. I stated, at that time to the House, that I considered our navigation laws to rest upon three main principles—to borrow an expression from the right hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Heries)—three fundamental principles. The first of these, is that part of the navigation laws the object of which is to secure to this country a monopoly of our colonial trade. The next is, that which attempts to secure to this country what is called the long-voyage trade. The third is, that part of the navigation laws which attempts to secure to this country what is called the carrying or indirect European trade. Now, with respect to the first of these, I then stated to the House, and I now repeat that statement, that it did appear to me that, after the policy which this House had adopted with reference to free trade—after depriving our colonies of the protection which secured to them the markets of this country—he that policy right or wrong, which on the present occasion we are not called upon to discuss—but believing, as I do, that the great majority of this House I am now addressing, are not prepared to retrace their steps upon it, seeing that the protection which our colonies had heretofore enjoyed in the markets of the mother country had been gradually but finally and entirely withdrawn; it appeared to me, under these circumstances, the height of injustice to refuse to the colonies the withdrawal of those restrictions upon their navigation, under which they had always chafed. When we tell them, that neither for their benefit nor protection shall the restrictions which hitherto secured to them our markets he continued, it would be the height of intolerable injustice to maintain those restrictions upon their trade which prevent them from enjoying the advantages of foreigners—an injustice which I think absolutely incompatible with the continued connexion between the most important of our colonics and the mother country. These were the arguments, which I stated at much greater length and with more minute detail than I shall now use. I produced complaints that we had received from Canada and the West Indies; communications from Lord Harris, the Governor of Trinidad, telling the Government what advantages would result to the trade of that island, and especially the sugar growing, if the navigation laws were so altered as to allow them to trade directly with France and Spain, These were the circumstances which I stated during the last Session, and of which I beg to remind the House on the present occasion; and I ask whether, as our colonial empire developes itself—as New Zealand and Australia become flourishing and mercantile communities—it is to be supposed that these communities of Englishmen will rest satisfied with restrictions of this description? and is it not part of true wisdom, in time, before exasperation prevails, before irritation has grown up, to look forward and place this question upon a footing that we can justly maintain with regard to the claims and complaints of our colonists? With regard to these complaints the interval which has been allowed to elapse since last Session has only brought additional proof of their sentiments upon the subject. I hope the attention of the Committee has been given to the important documents which were lately laid upon the table of this House, relating particularly to the colony of the Canadas. The evils which that colony feels from the restrictions imposed upon her by the navigation laws are there set forth, as well as the anxiety of her inhabitants for the speedy removal of them; and the opinion of the Earl of Elgin is given that those restrictions should be removed without delay, and as speedily as possible, which affect revenue and trade under the present system of our navigation laws. There is one document to which I would most par- ticularly call the attention of the House. It is a statement of the moat striking description, sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies by Lord Elgin. It was made to Lord Elgin by gentlemen whom he describes as the most active and intelligent merchants of Montreal, who tell him that they had attempted to trade with what is called the far west of North America, which means the lakes and the western States of the Union, as well as of our territories in North America. They called the attention of Lord Elgin to this point; and they said they would be able, even with their natural disadvantages, to compete successfully with New York in the supply of the far west, if they were not impeded by the navigation laws. They express their confident opinion, founded upon the instances which they give, that if those restrictions were removed, it would be in the power of the inhabitants of Montreal and other places in Canada to compete with New York in the supplies for the States of Ohio and Illinois, and the great lakes of the west. That is proof irrefragable—proof which I defy hon. Gentlemen to controvert, that if, as far as Canada is concerned, we give up these navigation laws, we shall confer a boon of incalculable value on our North American colonists, and rivet them by ties of gratitude to the mother country, in a manner in which I am satisfied no other course we could pursue could equally effect. I stated at the outset that I thought there had been advantages in the delay which had taken place on this occasion; but, speaking for Canada, I cannot contemplate that delay without the greatest possible regret. We ought to be sensible of the patience and good feeling which the people of Canada have shown under the most trying circumstances; and we should ill repay that patience and good feeling, if we did not embrace the earliest opportunity and show ourselves anxious to set right a system so impolitic and unjust; which destroys the trade of our own North American colonies; which destroys the trade of the inhabitants of the United States of America, for no earthly object; which diverts the trade from Canada to the United States of America, without effecting any benefit in return; and which injures the revenue of Canada, by preventing the full use and employment of those canals which have been made there at so great an outlay, but which are now completely useless and unproductive, and must remain so as long as we keep up our navigation laws: for at present the rates of freight from Quebec are very far higher than from the United States. This branch of the subject, Sir, is one of very great importance; but I shall not go at any great length further with it. I shall merely read an extract from the document to which I have already referred. It is a statement made to the Inspector General of the province, Mr. Hincks, by a most respectable and enterprising mercantile firm in Montreal, Messrs. Holmes, Young, and Knapp, and is enclosed in a letter to Earl Grey from Lord Elgin, which runs thus:— My Lord—I have the honour to transmit, for your information, the copy of a letter addressed to Mr. Hindis, the Inspector General of this province, showing the results of the efforts made during the past season by a most respectable and enterprising mercantile house in this city to open a trade with the far west for the introduction, by the route of the St. Lawrence, of various articles which have hitherto been supplied exclusively through the Mississippi or the Erie Canal. Your Lordship will not fail to observe how formidable an obstacle the existing navigation laws oppose to the establishment of a trade which is calculated to prove so beneficial both to Canada and the mother country.—I have, &c., (signed) ELGIN and KINCARDINE. I shall not road the whole of the letter of Messrs. Holmes, Young, and Knapp. It describes the obstacles in the way of their trade. But the two last paragraphs I shall beg leave to read to the House:— We have now an order for 250 tons of Scotch pig iron for Chicago, and doubt not that large quantities will be required at the different American ports on the western lakes the coming season; but we find our hands completely tied, and our efforts paralysed, by the operation of these obnoxious navigation laws; but for them we should unquestionably be able to supply Upper Canada with all the products of the west Indies on cheaper terms than now that section of the province is supplied from New York; and we should be able to send our own products not only to our own but to foreign West India islands, where large quantities of staves, headings, hoops, &c., for the sugar and molasses trade, are annually sent by our neighbours; and we have latterly brought in from the State of Maine samples of what are called shooks—that is, such articles put up in compact and portable form—and solicited tenders from owners of sawmills and coopers to supply such here, and we find we can supply and ship all the articles required for that trade cheaper than the same articles can be shipped from Maine or Massachusetts to the West Indies. Last fall we sent orders to Cuba for three cargoes of sugar and molasses, provided prices came within our limit; such was the case; but no British vessel could be found to load for Montreal. Americans could be found in abundance ready to load on terms nearly as low as for New York; but then, thanks to our navigation laws, they could not come up our river with foreign produce. Well, our sugars and molasses go to New York, there to pay a transit duty (small though it be), and to be subjected to all the costs and delays of an inland communication through the United States to Canada; the result is, that Canadians pay dearer than if the navigation laws did not exist, as now they stand, for their sugar; but we cannot Bee what benefit is conferred upon the British shipowner by the restriction. Sir, the next and main principle of the navigation laws to which I adverted in introducing the measure of last Session, includes those restrictions which were intended to secure to British vessels the long-voyage trade, by not allowing foreign produce to be brought to British ports except in British vessels. I will not do more on the present occasion than advert to the arguments which I have before submitted to the House in favour of the removal of those restrictions. It appeared, and does appear to me, that a system of restrictions which shuts out the raw produce, while at the same time it admits the same when introduced in the manufactured state, is neither more nor less than giving a direct encouragement to our foreign rivals in manufactures at the expense of our own manufacturing interests. To prohibit the import of mahogany while we freely admit furniture—to prevent American cotton from being imported from a European port, but to allow American cotton goods to come in—to forbid sheep's wool from being introduced, but to allow woollen manufactures to come in—these are regulations which, appearing as they do to invert the first principles of commercial policy, only require, I think, to be laid before the House to secure the voice of Parliament against their being allowed to continue on the Statute-book. Sir, the third of the main and fundamental principles upon which our present system is founded, consists of those restrictions which attempt to secure to this country the carrying on indirect European trade. Now, with regard to this portion of the navigation laws, I must remind the House that it involves a policy which can only be successful so long as it is confined to ourselves, and so long as foreign nations acquiesce in it. But if foreign nations choose to imitate our policy, and insist on trying to confine their own carrying trade to their own shipping, then we should gain nothing by the rule; but, on the contrary, as the greatest mercantile and maritime nation in the world, we should infallibly be the greatest losers in a game in which all must lose something. But no man can have adverted to the indications of the policy of foreign countries in this respect without being convinced that they are quite alive to the injustice of this system, and equally determined, if we mean to keep our carrying trade to ourselves, that they will keep their carrying trade to themselves. Now, Sir, I ventured last Session to state to the House the situation in which we stand with regard to Prussia in this respect. I know that hon. Gentlemen on that occasion treated with great levity the menaces of Prussia. But I believe that the policy of Prussia, in this respect, will be the policy of the whole of Germany; and I submit that nothing can be more unwise and impolitic than to treat lightly threats of the nature in question. But is it Prussia alone whom we must expect to find holding this language towards us? Let me call the attention of the House to our relations with another country, the importance of our trade with which no one will deny—I mean Russia. Indeed, few trades are more important to this country, or more reciprocally beneficial, than that which is carried on between Great Britain and Russia. The latter abounds to the greatest extent in raw materials—the former is the great seat of manufactures. The two countries seem thus formed by nature to conduct a great and a mutually beneficial trade. Well, we have a treaty of commerce with Russia. It is dated 1843, is intended to remain in force for ten years, and of course will expire in 1853. By that treaty Russia has engaged, with some trifling restrictions, to admit British ships into her ports on equal terms with her own ships; therefore, of course, she cannot retaliate upon us so long as that treaty remains in force. But, then, what is our conduct? We apply to the Russian trade the restriction of this portion of our navigation laws. At present an English ship may convey a cargo of sugar from Cuba to St. Petersburg; but a Russian ship cannot bring a cargo from Cuba to London. We can take a cargo of enumerated articles from any port to Riga; but a Russian cannot take such a cargo to Liverpool. Now, is it likely that Russia will allow such a state of things to continue? But we are not left to conjecture. What has she actually done? Why, in 1845, two years after the signing of the treaty, there was issued a ukase, placing high differential duties on the cargoes of the ships of all those nations which did not put Russian vessels on the same footing with national vessels; and no doubt can exist but that when our treaty expires, the ground which Prussia is taking will also be taken by Russia against us. Will it not then be much bettor, instead of waiting until a period when we shall have to discuss the subject with feelings of irritation and bitterness, and perhaps, too, at a very inconvenient time—will it not be much wiser and more consistent with true dignity—by a timely concession—not to the demands of Prussia or of Russia, but to the claims of equity, of justice, and of true and enlightened policy—will it not be better and wiser at once to place the laws in question upon a consistent and rational footing, than by delaying to take such a step in time, to invoke upon ourselves the evils which postponement will necessarily bring? I might go on through a long list of countries in reference to which we are similarly situated, but it would be unnecessarily delaying the House. I think I have said enough to show that this principle, which is a fundamental principle of the navigation laws, is one which cannot be maintained without seriously compromising our commercial relations with other countries. My object was merely to point out what must be the infallible consequence of maintaining that fundamental principle. There are, then, as I stated—setting aside for a moment all considerations of the coasting trade and the fisheries—three main principles on which the system of the navigation laws rests; and I proposed in the course of last Session, and I now propose again, to repeal those restrictions, leaving, however, to the Queen in Covuncil a power—not necessarily to be exercised, but still a power which we think ought to be retained—of re-enacting these laws, wholly or in part, with regard to any countries as to which the Government may think fit that they should be preserved. Connected with the navigation laws, there are other questions, relating to the registry of ships, which it will be necessary for the House to deal with in conjunction with the main point. Without going into the details of these questions, I may remind the House that the main alteration which I proposed last Session was to entitle a foreign-built ship to a British register, if British owned and British manned—a proposal which would go to break down the monopoly at present existing in the shipbuilding trade in the united kingdom. Now, without anticipating discussion upon this point, I must say that subsequent re- flection has tended more and more to deepen the conviction which I entertained and expressed last Session that that most important trade—that trade which I value as deeply as any one—the trade of shipbuilding in England and her dependencies, has nothing to fear from the change which I now propose. Since the subject was last discussed here, I have looked over, with the most anxious attention, the mass of additional information taken before the Committee of the House of Lords. I have, I repeat, looked narrowly into that evidence, and I believe that no one can do so without arriving at the conclusion that of all the trades in the world there is not one in which we can more certainly and successfully compete with foreigners than in this of shipbuilding. Indeed, I cannot imagine on what grounds anything like apprehension in this respect is felt. If I look to all the elements of success—if I compare the United States—our most formidable rival in everything mercantile—with our own position, what result do I find as respects all the main articles used in shipbuilding—the articles of iron, of copper, of sailcloth? Why, Sir, I find that all these articles are supplied to America by us, and that they consequently must he cheaper here. I find, that with regard to cordage, we have the advantage by 10 per cent. I find that with regard to timber—taking the authority of Mr. Money Wigram—that we are on an equality with the States. As to labour, we are also on an equality, as far as wages are concerned; but I must allow that there is a point connected with labour upon which that gentleman states that we are not upon an equality; and I am afraid that the statement which he makes upon this point is correct. To it, then, I beg for a moment to call the attention of the Committee. Mr. Money Wigram states, that the wages of labour for shipbuilding are very much the same as in London. But there is this difference—a shipwright in the United States gives his whole day's work for his wages. A shipwright in London works as a combination man. Now, will the House say, for one moment, that the trade of the country is to be burdened—our commercial relations embarrassed—and mercantile difficulties allowed to spring up, in order to protect a combination amongst the shipwrights of London? Will this be one of the arguments urged upon me to show that we cannot compete with the Americans? No, Sir, the true remedy for such a state of things—for this unfair attempt to render labour dearer and more unprofitable for employers—is to introduce the competition of others, working under no such factitious disadvantages. Sir, there is another point on which I am aware that hon. Gentlemen maintain that our shipbuilders are subject to great disadvantages, and on which I am anxious to say a word—I allude to the duties upon the importation into this country of timber used in shipbuilding. Now I at once admit that it would be to me a matter of great satisfaction, could my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell us that he could spare the money levied upon the timber imported. There are few things which would be more useful to the trade of this country than a remission of these duties. But I must deny that they stand in the way of the House taking the step which I have now to recommend. And now I will again appeal, for I like—when possible, to do so—to the evidence of gentlemen who disagree with me on the question of the navigation laws; and in doing so, I can cite no more respectable or intelligent witness than Mr. Money Wigram—a gentleman who is one of the largest shipowners and shipbuilders in the world; and a gentleman of whom I must say, differing in opinion with him as I do, that he gave his evidence before the House of Lords in the most frank and candid spirit. Now, this is what Mr. Wigram says as to the effect of the duties on timber in raising the price of shipbuilding in England:— The amount of duty payable upon these articles is trifling, and does not form any material consideration; it is about 3s. 8d. per ton on a Thames-built and equipped merchant ship of about 691 tons. 3s. 8d. per ton! I venture to affirm that the duty paid on iron by the Prussian shipbuilders more than compensates for the duty paid by the British shipbuilder on wood. Besides, upon many of the most valuable woods there is no duty. On mahogany—now used for many shipbuilding-purposes—there is no duty. There is no duty on teak and on other valuable woods, so that it was quite a mistake to run away with the notion that these duties on foreign timber furnish an argument of material consequence for the British shipbuilders to urge against any change in the navigation laws; and to demonstrate this the more fully, I will quote the evidence of another gentleman, whom I highly respect, but one who is known to be one of the most ardent and persevering opponents of the measure which I have now to propose—I allude to Mr. George Frederick Young, late a Member of this House. In 1847, when he was examined before a Committee of the House of Commons, in answer to a question as to whether he thought the increased duty on timber was not an additional cost to the shipowner, he replied— I do not, because I think the quantity of foreign timber used in shipbuilding bears but a very small proportion to the whole. The next alteration which I proposed last year was the exemption of shipowners from that obligation to which they are now subject, of taking a certain number of apprentices. This is a point on which shipowners have been continually complaining, and I think it highly proper that, at a time when we are making the changes which I now propose, they should be relieved of the obligation which presses upon them. These, then, were the outlines of the measure which I last year proposed. I proposed to repeal the three main principles of the navigation laws—the restrictions on the carrying trade, the restrictions on the colonial trade, and the restrictions which go to ensure the long-voyage trade, at the same time doing away with the laws relative to registration, in order to allow the British shipowner to purchase his vessel from the foreign shipbuilder; proposing, at the same time, to reserve to the Queen in Council the power which I had stated. Now, Sir, I have, since last Session, in conjunction with Her Majesty's Government, carefully considered the objections which were made to this Bill, with an earnest desire to adopt any suggestions which appeared to us to be an improvement upon the original scheme. The objectors to that measure may be divided into two classes: the first class headed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries), objecting altogether to the principle of the measure which I introduced. That right hon. Gentleman embodied his opinion in a resolution, in which he stated, that although he was willing to consider any partial inconvenience which may have arisen under the present system of the navigation laws, yet that to the fundamental principle of these laws he must give in his decided adherence. Sir, I thanked the right hon. Gentleman for so frankly expressing the opinion which he entertained; but I could not hope then, or since, to remove the objections which he felt to the scheme which I had the honour to propose. I heartily rejoiced, however, when, by a decided majority, the House of Commons negatived the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, and asserted its opinion, and affirmed its determination, to examine the principles of the navigation laws themselves, and to consider whether they might not be greatly modified for the promotion of those interests which they professed in their integrity to advance. Now, I have not considered the Bill which I am now to propose, with any hope of removing the objections of the right hon. Gentleman; but at the same time I assure him, that I will most willingly listen to and anxiously consider any suggestion which he, or those who think with him, may throw out, and which I shall consider to be compatible with the spirit and the main object of the measure before us. But objections were taken to the measure last year in a very different spirit, and from a very different quarter. There were hon. Members who approved of the principle of the measure; who believed that the time was come for the thorough revision and reform of the fundamental principles of the navigation laws; but who, nevertheless, took exception to portions of the measure which I introduced. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) supported in a most able speech the general principles of the Bill, but admitted that upon some points he entertained great doubts. And this consideration brings me back to a part of the subject to which I adverted in the commencement of my speech, and to which I feel bound to recall the attention of the House—I allude to the coasting trade. The right hon. Gentleman stated, and stated I think with great force, that by maintaining unimpaired the restrictions which the navigation laws imposed upon our coasting trade, we were placing ourselves at great disadvantage in treating with foreign countries, and endeavouring to induce them to relax their navigation laws in our favour. The right hon. Gentleman adverted to the case of the United States. What, he argued, could be more absurd than that while you propose to allow the American to engage in your foreign and colonial trade, you should yet, by maintaining these restrictions, by preventing the American from sharing your coasting trade—a trade in which it is scarcely possible that he can injure you—debar yourselves from asking for that which would be the true counterpart of your colonial trade. Sir, said the right hon. Gentleman, how important is the trade along the coast of America. It is, in fact, a trade more of the nature of a foreign and a colonial traffic, than of a coasting traffic. Consider the variety of productions along the far-extended shores of America, and consider the difference between Massachusetts, and Carolina, and Louisiana. Sir, I own I felt it difficult to meet that argument. I felt its force extremely, and I certainly do think that if we were to make some change in the regulations of our coasting trade, and that if our colonies evinced a disposition to throw open their coasting trade to the United States, that then we shall have a very fair claim to ask the United States to admit our ships to participate in their coasting trade. Indeed, to say that a voyage from Malta to London is to be held part of a colonial trade, while a voyage from California to Now York is to be held part of a coasting trade—to maintain this, I think, would be to maintain a proposition so preposterous and unjust, that I do not believe that the United States would persist in a policy so contrary to the dictates of justice and common sense. But, Sir, I felt it to be my duty, in considering this part of the subject, to endeavour to ascertain whether it might not be possible to meet the difficulties which were felt at the time with respect to opening the coasting trade. I allude, in the first place, to the alarm which at that period existed among persons in the seafaring population; and, in the next, to the danger which was apprehended to the revenue by allowing foreign nations indiscriminately to engage in our coasting trade. I trust, Sir, that the consideration I have given to this measure has been such as to enable me to propose a measure which, while it does not imply a total abolition of the restrictions now imposed on foreigners, will effect a modification in them, and which, at the same time, will enable us to get, without cavil or hesitation, such a measure from the United States as the important mercantile interests of this country demand, without exposing the revenue to danger, or exciting alarm amongst those engaged in the coasting trade of this country. Now, there are two branches of the coasting trade, which, although they go by the same name, are yet essentially distinct from each other. There is the trade—conducted, principally, either by steamboats or small vessels—consisting in the carrying of goods and passengers to and fro, and depending, as may naturally be supposed, intimately upon local connexion with the places between which the trade is conducted. With that trade, even if it were thrown open to them, I do not believe foreigners could compete; but, acting on the principle of not unnecessarily exciting alarm, or of disturbing existing relations, it is not proposed to throw open that trade to foreign competition. I propose, Sir, to keep that particular description of coasting trade which consists of passing from one port of the united kingdom to another, on the same footing on which it now is. At present these restrictions on the coasting trade are imposed on our own vessels as well as on those of foreign countries. A British ship cannot combine the foreign with the coasting trade—a coasting voyage with a foreign voyage. She must make her election. She cannot clear out from Hull to go abroad, and in the first instance carry a cargo to London. The regulation in this respect was made for the supposed security of revenue. Now, when I propose to abolish this restriction, as far as foreign ships are concerned, I am prepared, â fortiori, to abolish it with respect to the vessels of our own country. I do not propose that either a foreign vessel or an English vessel foreign bound shall be allowed to proceed from port to port in England, and then return; but that, sailing from a British port, and being bound for a foreign port, they shall be permitted to carry from one British port to another, and then clear out and proceed on their foreign voyage. I may inform the House that I have been in communication with the offcers of the Board of Customs, and they have satisfied me that this can be done consistently with safety to the revenue, provided the restriction be imposed that the cargoes shall not be carried in vessels under one hundred tons burden. This latter restriction has been imposed to relieve any apprehensions that English ships might obtain facilities for smuggling by having high duty goods on board, professedly for shipment to foreign ports, but, in point of fact, designed for our own ports. But I do not myself believe that such facilities for conducting the coasting trade in England would be taken advantage of either by the ships of our own or of foreign nations to any considerable extent. I think that the light-dues and other charges to which the coasting trade is subject, are such as to prevent, except in a very few instances, either English or foreign vessels conducting the coasting trade for such purposes. These modifications, which I think may be adopted with safety, will, I trust, altogether meet the argument which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) pressed upon me last year—namely, that by withholding privileges we were refusing to the United States what would be considered advantages by them, and depriving ourselves of advantages with respect to the coasting trade to which we thought we were entitled. Sir, these are the only alterations of any consequence which I propose to make in the measure which I laid before the House during the last Session. There are some minor modifications in the Bill, which rather involve the manner in which it shall be carried out, than any alteration in its substance; but these are the only important alterations which have been introduced. There were many points raised in the discussion of last year to which I will not now advert, as I believe there is a general desire on the part of the House to allow this resolution to pass without indulging in a protracted discussion on the details of the measure, which can be reserved either for the second reading, or when the Bill shall be in Committee. I have on this occasion confined myself to what I consider to be the leading provisions of the measure which I have to propose to the House.


asked whether any intimation had been received from the American Government as to any convention with respect to the coasting trade?


I think I can answer the question of the hon. Member. In an interview which I had a short time ago with the American Minister, Mr. Bancroft, he spoke of his desire that such a convention should be signed. He said that he should be willing the next day to sign any convention which should include the coasting trade. I replied, that on a question of this kind, I did not think I ought to anticipate the decision of the House; that it was a question upon which Parliament should decide. But I have no doubt that Mr. Bancroft would be prepared to-morrow to give his assent to throwing open the coasting trade in the modified manner I have explained to the House. These, Sir, are the outlines of the scheme I have recommended to the adoption of the House. On the present occasion I will not enter into any of those minor points of detail for which we shall have more suitable opportunities for discussion. I will conclude, therefore, by assuring the House that if I believed, as the opponents of the Bill have stated, that the commercial opulence of this country was in the one scale, and its safety and honour in the other—if I believed this, I say, I trust that my choice would not have been doubtful. But the more I have considered this question, the more I am satisfied that those measures which, while they encourage trade, abolish useless restrictions, must infallibly increase the maritime strength, and tend to the greater security and power of this country. In particular I would entreat the attention of the House to the situation in which we stand with respect to our colonies. I implore the House not to interpose any un-necessary delay in the consideration of questions which the colonists are urging upon the attention of the House in a spirit of loyalty and affection to this country, but still in that spirit of earnestness and perseverance which the importance of the interests involved fully justifies. I confess that I am much gratified by the assurance given me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries), that it is neither his intention, nor the intention of those who act with him, to interpose any more obstruction or delay in the progress of this measure than is necessary for its full and fair consideration. I trust that our discussions on this question will be conducted throughout in a spirit of calm deliberation and fairness, and that the ultimate decision of the House will be such as to strengthen the maritime power of the country, expand its commerce, and give contentment to our colonies. Before I sit down I am reminded by an hon. Friend near me that I have omitted one or two points. There were two measures, which, although not necessarily connected with the navigation laws, yet still deeply affect the mercantile marine of this country, and with respect to which I stated, on a former occasion, the course the Government proposed to take. The first of those subjects was the question of the light-dues. In the course of the last Session, I laid on the table of the House a measure on this subject, which, with some alterations, I hope to be able successfully to introduce to the House in the present Session. The next point is also a very important and a very urgent one—I mean the question of the Merchant Seamen's Fund. I must say, that I think no question connected with our mercantile marine presses more urgently for the consideration of the Legislature than this subject of the Merchant Seamen's Fund. That fund is insolvent, and its difficulties are very much increasing; and I think that every year Parliament postpones grappling with that subject, we are increasing the difficulty of ultimate arrangement, and laying ourselves open to a burden in the end. Last Session I introduced a Bill on this subject, founded on the report of a Commission appointed to investigate the question. The inquiries of that Commission were prosecuted with great assiduity, and upon their report I founded the Bill, which I thought it only fair to bring in for the consideration of the House. In candour I am bound to say that the reception which that measure met with from the representatives of the mercantile interest in this House, and the maritime interests connected with the ports of England, was not such as to encourage me to persevere with it. Considering the feeling with which that measure was received, I felt it my duty to reconsider the subject, and I hope, in the course of the present Session, to introduce a greatly altered measure, founded on different principles, which shall combine, with a proper arrangement of the Merchant Seamen's Fund, measures for the advantage of the seafaring population of this country. I trust that I shall be able to introduce that measure at a period of the Session which will insure a full consideration of its provisions. I confess that I am not willing to lay these measures before Parliament until we have made some progress with the navigation laws, for I do not think it is expedient to throw too many measures upon the attention of the House at one time. I may also add that a noble Friend of mine, one of the Lords of the Admiralty, has, during the recess, considered the important question of the measurement of the tonnage of ships, and he trusts that in the course of this Session a measure will be prepared which will meet the objections entertained to the present system of measurement. I do not know that I can add anything to the statement which I have made, but will now conclude by moving the resolution of which I have given notice, and which is a slight modification of the resolution of last Session. I beg to move the following Resolution— That it is expedient to remove the restrictions which prevent the free carriage of goods by sea, to and from the United Kingdom and the British Possessions abroad; and to amend the Laws regulating the Coasting Trade of the United Kingdom; subject, nevertheless, to such control, by Her Majesty in Council, as may be necessary, and also to amend the Laws for the Registration of Ships and Seamen.


having read the resolution,


said, the resolution, accompanied by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, placed him under doubt as to the course he ought now to pursue. He had understood it was agreed upon last Session that the debate on this great national question should be allowed to be resumed this Session from the point at which it then left off. This being so, he had hoped that the principle of the measure would not have been reintroduced for discussion at this period of the proceedings. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) had thought proper simply to acquaint hon. Members on his (Mr. Herries) side of the House with the addition, by way of alteration, to his measure of last Session which he had now submitted to the House, he (Mr. Herries) should have confined his observations to the new part of the question, and should not have thought it necessary to address a word to the House on those great general propositions which this question involved. But as the right hon. Gentleman had entered into so long a statement, touching the main points of the question on which they were so materially divided, he could not suffer the right hon. Gentleman's observations to pass without some notice from his side of the House; although he had no objection to allow for the present the other parts of the resolution to pass without opposition. With these views, he could not presume to detain the House very long by the observations he should make on this occasion. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) had closed his speech with some general remarks and some general reflections, applicable to the principle of the proposed measure, which it was difficult to permit to pass unnoticed; but the notice of which must lead to much debate. But however much he was invited by that proceeding to enter into the whole field of controversy, he should not hesitate to say that, after giving the matter the most serious consideration, he had arrived at the conclusion that he should be taking the wiser course, and which was not only best suited to the convenience of that House—pledged as it was to the consideration of other business of equal but not greater importance—but which was also best calculated to secure for the present question, at the proper time, a minute, searching, and dispassionate examination, by acceding to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and postponing till the second reading of the Bill, the discussion which must then take place on the main principle of the measure. He would, therefore, proceed to address a few remarks to the last and most important portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. From an announcement he had seen elsewhere of the views and intentions of the right hon. Gentleman, he had been led to expect a very different statement from that which they had just heard from him. To be sure, the right hon. Gentleman had, on this occasion at least, been exceedingly chary of his information to Members of that House. His hon. Friend the chairman of Lloyd's (Mr. Robinson) earnestly entreated the right hon. Gentleman to give him, and those with whom he acted, some insight into the alterations and modifications which he proposed introducing in his plan; but the right hon. Gentleman had peremptorily refused the information; and when he (Mr. Herries) had made a similar application, the right hon. Gentleman had remained inexorable, and "had made no sign." They could get no answer from him; and yet at the very same time that he was refusing to give the required information, or any inkling of it, there was conveyed through the ordinary channels of information, as they were called, a statement of all that they desired to know. Now he certainly did think it was a little too hard that Members of that House should ask for important information, and be refused; and that at the very moment they were urging their ineffectual solicitations, somebody in office should communicate the required information to the public by means of the press. He could not help thinking that some censure was fairly attachable to the Government from this transaction. He did not mean to bring any charge against the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who he was sure would not refuse to impart to Members in that House information which they were most anxious to possess, while he knew that permission had been given to make that information public through other channels; but he certainly did think that it was very much to be regretted that there were some subordinates in office who took a different view of the case from the right hon. Gentleman, and pursued a different course. Judging, however, from the intimation which he had received in the manner he mentioned, he had been led to expect that the alterations to be proposed by the right hon. Gentleman in the resolutions of last year, would have been very different from what they had proved to be—that the alteration would have been for the better—that a step in the right direction, as it was called, would have been taken; and if this had been the case, he should have felt but little difficulty in closing with the right hon. Gentleman. Had the right hon. Gentleman informed them that day that he had already made arrangements, or had the prospect of making arrangements, not by a loose communication from Mr. Bancroft, but by a formal agreement with the American Government, for a commutation of commercial restrictions—for a fair and equitable exchange of advantages, whereby there should be given to this country an adequate exchange for making our coasting trade wholly or partially free to American ships—he should have been perfectly satisfied with the principle, at least, of that arrangement. But the whole case, as the right hon. Gentleman had arranged it, stood in this way—that there was no reciprocity at all in it. We stripped ourselves of the right to the exclusive trade of our own coasts and colonies; we were to surrender, by Act of Parliament, to all other nations the privilege which we now exclusively possessed, of carrying that colonial and coasting trade, only limited as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, in exchange for what? For the vague expectation that we might hereafter receive from the American Government something of adequate value—something equal to what it was proposed to surrender. But even this vague expectation of some return for our concessions was limited to the hope of obtaining a participation in the coasting trade of America. He could have come to the consideration of the proposal with a disposition to entertain it if the House had been asked to concede to America the right of trading on the coasts of this country, in consideration of our receiving the right of trading throughout the American coast—from the eastern coasts to California, a distance of 10,000 miles—which at present English merchants were debarred from. This would have been a fair arrangement; but the measure now proposed was nothing of the kind. It was intended that we should concede everything without receiving any positive assurance even of the smallest concession on the other side. We proposed to abandon the long-established system of our navigation laws, our coasting trade, and our trade with the colonies, and to let all foreign nations—not America alone—compete therein on equal terms with our own shipping; France, Holland, Spain, and all other commercial States, were to be admitted to the free enjoyment of this carrying trade, hitherto exclusively our own, upon the mere expectation that they would exercise a similar liberality to us. But they had no means of giving to us equivalent advantages. What nation could give us any equivalent for our colonial trade? Could France, for example? He doubted if she would ever yield to us the intercourse with the few colonies she possessed. But, then, we were to reserve to ourselves the right, if other nations did not follow our example, and imitate our spirit of concession—to adopt retaliatory measures with respect to them—if Her Majesty should be advised to do so. This was at once a vicious and a dangerous provision in the present measure. Take an illustration of the dangerous character of this provision. He would assume that we gave to France, in common with other nations, the privilege of trading to our coasts and colonies. France refused, on the other hand, to concede similar privileges. We say, "We will retaliate, and we will take from you what we have conceded to all other nations." But what would France say in reply? Why, "according to your own confession, you took off these restrictions for your own benefit; it is, therefore, not right for you to say to us, that because we do not think as you do, you will make an exception in our case in your system of trade with foreign nations. Other nations may choose to make concessions to your free-trade doctrines, but we are taking steps to protect our navigation and our own commerce, and when you propose to establish a difference between us and other maritime States, in your commercial regulations, you are assuming a position unfriendly and offensive to us. He only mentioned this to show the inconvenience of the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. Such a proceeding as this would be neither a wise nor a prudent proceeding on the part of this country. France was a high-spirited and very sensitive nation; and, by the by, she had not made the smallest concession either to our principles of free trade or free navigation. On the contrary, she was even now taking steps of the most stringent character for the protection of her own navigation and her own internal industry: and that, too, in a manner which no political economist of the smallest liberality of principle would approve. This would indicate the spirit in which they might expect to be met upon this question by France. If the House and the right hon. Gentleman took the other course recommended by his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) of negotiating with other States on the principle of conceding in proportion as an equivalent was offered, there might be no objection to the relaxation of the laws. But the course of the right hon. Gentleman was so vicious, and so full of danger, so liable to create disputes, and lead to animosities between this country and other States, that when it came to be discussed in that House, he should feel bound to offer it his most decided opposition. The right hon. Gentleman introduced into the discussion, and laid great stress on the point, as favourable to his argument, the assertion that the measure would be of advantage to our colonies, and was desired by them. The right hon. Gentleman solemnly warned us not to exasperate the colonies by refusing to agree to his proposition. He asked us, "Will you venture to exasperate the colonies by continuing the navigation laws?" Was it really the right hon. Gentleman and his friends who exhorted us thus not to exasperate the colonies? Did the present Ministers of the Crown pretend to say this; they who, in fact, had themselves driven the colonies to exasperation, who had never shown any compassion for the colonies, and who, in the hour of the colonies' distress, had passed an Act which consummated their ruin? If the Government really feared the consequence of exasperating the colonies, let them undo what they had done. Let them give them that just measure of protection which was due to them, not only for their own interests, but for the greater interests of humanity. But when the House remembered the efforts which had been made by one who was now no more (Lord G. Bentinck) to induce the Government to relax their measures against the colonies, and to give them a relief, compared with which the present measure was a mere trifle—and when the House remembered the conduct of Government on those occasions—it was impossible not to treat with ridicule their appeals to the House not to exasperate the colonies. But Government showed no mercy to the colonies; they contemplated their losses with indifference, and the mischief they had inflicted upon them could in no degree be repaired by relaxing the navigation laws. The right hon. Gentleman had not introduced the case of the colonies with fairness. He had only told the House half the story. To persuade the House to abandon the principle of the navigation laws, he had not thought it beneath the subject to lay stress on an extract from the ledger of some mercantile firm—Messrs. Young and Knapp, he believed. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: It came from Lord Elgin.] The right hon. Gentleman ascribes it to Lord Elgin. But what did the evidence of Messrs. Young and Knapp weigh, even when inclosed in a letter from Lord Elgin, when placed in the scale against the navigation laws? The right hon. Gentleman had omitted all mention of that part of the question which went to prove that the remonstrances from Canada had for their foundation the complaint that Government bad taken away all protection from Canada. They said, "We will be satisfied without the proposed change if you give us back our 5s. protection." The right hon. Gentleman should, in fairness, have stated the fact, that the remonstrances referred to were founded on the fact that the Canadians had been deprived of protective duties. So it followed that if you restored the protective duties the Canadians would not be very strong on the subject of the navigation laws. There was another point worthy of remark: the reply of Lord Grey to the communications of Lord Elgin, in the papers before the House, was confined to the last remonstrance transmitted from Canada; this had received his entire approval, while the other remonstrances in which protection was so strongly insisted upon, and distinctly connected with the removal of the navigation laws, were apparently unnoticed. It had been stated that the majority of the inhabitants of Canada were in favour of a repeal of these laws. But this was not the fact, as later information would prove that the repeal was not generally supported by the people of Canada. Had Government paid attention to the wishes of the colonies—had they done all they could not to exasperate them—then they would have paid attention to the first remonstrance which they received, and which embraced the subject of the protecting duties. After all, he (Mr. Heries) might be permitted to observe, as the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the question involved the fundamental principles of the navigation laws, which rested entirely on the ground of protection to our mercantile shipping, for the sake of its utility to our naval power—the opposition to the right hon. Gentleman's proposition would be placed on that ground. It was absurd to pretend that this was a question of a purely mercantile character—a question to be determined by the balance of profit and loss in the ledger. They were asked to consent to the overthrow of the old established principles upon which the navigation laws were based, on the ground that the consumer would be able to purchase articles at a reduced price if they agreed to repeal these laws. The main part of the question had been blinked, namely, the use and intention of the navigation laws—why they were created, and why they were maintained. He (Mr. Herries) was not prepared to accept the version of their history given by the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Stoke, Mr. Ricardo. No doubt he had given it in a very amusing manner, and there was a great deal of fun in it; but he could not assent to many of the propositions and statements of facts which it exhibited. They need not go back so far as the time of Richard II., for the history of them, nor even to that of Cromwell for authorities in support of them: let them refer to authorities within the period when the navigation laws became such as they are—let them consider the persons who, viewing all the considerations which the right hon. Gentleman now held in the balance—men who, having directed their minds to all the topics which were now assumed as the foundation of the case for the proposed reversal of these laws, still came to the deliberate conclusion that the balance of reasons greatly preponderated in favour of the maintenance of our navigation system. The supporters of this measure must first dispose of a vast mass of authorities in favour of that opinion, before they arrived at the conclusion that the advantages derived from the present state of those laws would be fairly counterbalanced by any such small benefits as might accrue from the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman. He would now venture to call the attention of the House to some other authorities on this subject, which did not yet appear to have received all the attention they deserved from this House. He did not now refer to the many great men and many philosophers whom he might have quoted as having maturely and fully weighed and studied this question, and come to the conclusion that those laws, maugre all the objections that could be urged against them, still constituted a system that ought to be maintained. He would pass from the great authorities of this country to the remarkable declarations of several very eminent men of the United States. No man would deny to Washington the credit for great wisdom. He weighed this very question in his sagacious mind with the utmost care, and came to the conclusion that the navigation laws ought to be maintained for the advantage of the nation over whose destinies he had exercised so important an influence. What did he say on this subject?— I recommend it to your serious reflection how far, and in what mode, it may be expedient to guard against embarrassment from these contingencies, by such encouragements to our own navigation as will render our commerce and agriculture less dependent on foreign bottoms, which may fail us in the very moment most interesting to both of these great objects. Our fisheries, and the transportation of our own produce, offer us abundant means for guarding ourselves against this evil. He would next cite the opinion of another great American authority, Mr. Madison, whose opinion on the question was entitled to very great respect. His opinion was— If it is expedient for America to have vessels employed in commerce at all, it will be proper that she have enough to answer all the purposes intended; to form a school for seamen, to lay the foundation of a navy, and be able to support herself against the interference of foreigners. I do not think there is much weight in the observatiens that the duty we are about to lay on in favour of American vessels is a burden on the community, and particularly oppressive to some parts; but, if there were, it may be a burden of that kind which will ultimately save us from one that is greater. He would now refer to the opinion of one nearer home, and of much more modern date, but scarcely less entitled to attention and respect; he meant the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume). He hold that hon. Gentleman to be a very great authority on this and other questions, and he would read a passage from the report of a Committee on the Light Dues, because it expressed such excellent sentiments, and was so much to the purpose in favour of protection. He believed the hon. Gentleman had been, about the year 1845, the Chairman of a Committee of this House with respect to light-houses; and his report contained sentiments so well expressed, and so much to the purpose, respecting the effect of the existing system of preference and protection to British shipping and seamen, that he (Mr. Herries) hoped he would be excused if he ventured to read a passge or two from it to the House:— Your Committee is most anxious to submit to the House the claims of the coasting trade to immediate relief, not only on economical but on political grounds of the highest importance to the maritime interests of this country. He (Mr. Herries) was astonished to find this still regarded in any quarter as a contested point (however weak the contest might be upon the other side) whether the commercial marine of this country really was essential to the maintenance of our maritime supremacy. He (Mr. Herries) should have said a few years ago—if he had heard any Ministry, and more especially the present occupants of power, attempt to controvert what was almost axiomatic—that a mercantile marine was of the utmost importance as a nursery for replenishing, from time to time, our national Navy—that it was evidence of something little short of infatuation and insanity. However, he was surprised to find that this—one would almost have thought self-evident—truth appeared, now-a-days, to be disputed by many persons. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hume), however, had no sympathy with such purblind individuals; for in the Light House Committee's Report he proceeded:— The great support of the naval power of the United Kingdom has been the facility of obtaining a supply of hardy seamen from the mercantile shipping, whenever required for the service of the Navy. Great Britain has had several brandies of commerce—the nursery of that hardy race which have so ably maintained the honour and power of the country on that clement where her force has been—and we trust is destined long to continue—paramount; but the earliest attention of Parliament is requisite to obviate the results that may take place, from the changes that are going on in the world by the introduction of steam; and, in our own country in particular, amongst the coasting shipping. Your Committee are the more anxious to direct the attention of Parliament to this important subject, because some other branches of our trade, which have hitherto supplied the hardiest of our sailors, have of late years considerably diminished, from various causes which it is unnecessary to detail. From our colonial trade in the East and West Indies we have had, and shall continue to have, a supply of seamen; but the Greenland and the South Sea fisheries, the Baltic trade, the Newfoundland, and, beyond all others, the coasting trade, have supplied the hardiest of our sailors; and a decrease of the supply from those sources must undoubtedly affect the future manning of the Navy, and consequently lessen the naval power of of the country.* * * From the evidence before the Committee, the coasting trade, which has, beyond all other trades, afforded to the Navy the largest supply of the hardiest of our seamen, is likely to decrease, unless Parliament shall adopt timely measures to protect it. Here they had the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) before them in the character of a protectionist. [Mr. HDME: NO, no!] Yes, he here avowed himself a protectionist. "Protection" was a word which they rather liked on that (the Opposition) side of the House; and he (Mr. Herries) was glad to hear it from the mouth of such an authority as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) was admitted to be in that House upon such questions. He would not now detain the House by going into a detailed argument on the subject of this measure; he would defer discussing details to a subsequent stage; but he would very shortly state the grounds upon which, so far as he could form a judgment upon it, the House must ultimately form its decision with respect to the measure of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman, in the first part of his speech, had stated that the principle of the navigation laws was to be modified; but, according to this measure, the principle would not be modified but abolished. The main points on which he, for one, should oppose the passing of the Bill to be framed on the resolutions before the Committee were these: first, he would not admit other countries to an unrestricted carrying trade between this kingdom and our colonies, and between one colony and another. He contended that the exclusive possession of this purely domestic trade was indispensable to the commercial and maritime interests of this empire. No foreign nation could upon any pretext assert a right to a participation in it. It was no question of justice between nation and nation. As matter of bargain, there existed none that could give us an equivalent for it. Mr. Huskisson maintained the principle on the highest grounds—namely, that no nation had a right to interfere with our home trade, or our trade with our own colonies. We should only admit other nations as we found it advantageous to our own interest, if ever it could be made to appear to be so. If the right hon. Gentleman, when they should come to the discussion of the details of the measure, could show him what would be the difference of freight by admitting the foreigner to beat down the English shipowner to a level with theirs; if the advantage to the consumer by such a process could be shown to be such that it would be equivalent to a great national advantage; it might in that case, at least, be fitting to put it into the balance against the other national motives for sustaining the navigation laws. But when the amount of these supposed gains was fairly tested even by the evidence before the House, which had been got up to exaggerate it, the result would be found miserably insufficient to support the case. It was to be observed also, that whatever might be the aggregate saving to the capital employed in commerce by the expected diminution of freights, there existed no probability that any part of the benefit would find its way to the pockets of the consumer. The consumer was indeed made the stalking-horse in the advocacy of the change; but if any one would calculate the effect of the possible reduction of the freight upon any of the principal articles of consumption in the retail trade, he would find that the profit which the capitalist might have made in the gross, would have vanished entirely, or have been reduced to the most minute fraction, before they reached the hands of the consumer. It was thus that what appeared to be a considerable gain, when computed upon the gross amount of the tonnage employed in any one branch of imports, proved to be of little or no value to the consumer, for whose benefit it was pretended that the whole measure was designed. He then came to the second point, namely, that of the long voyage. He would not stop on this occasion to notice the objection urged on the score of some occasional and mostly trifling inconveniences arising out of our strict prohibition to receive from Europe any goods imported thither from the other quarters of the globe. The main object was, to secure to this country, in its intercourse with the distant quarters of the globe, the exclusive carrying of the bulky articles imported from thence. This was a matter entirely between us and the countries in Asia, Africa, and America, with which we traded. No European nation had a right to interfere with it. All other States might make the same regulations for themselves. But England had, in a peculiar degree, the power of securing to herself the advantages of them, and of constituting herself thereby the emporium of the world. For the sake of our navigation and that of the immense interests engaged in the maintenance of that position, it was necessary that the principle of the long-voyage clauses of the Navigation Acts should be upheld. On that point, therefore, he was not prepared to make any concessions, except such as might serve to obviate some anomalous obstruction, and perhaps to take off altogether from some minor articles of importation from the East, restrictions which create inconvenience to trade, without procuring corresponding advantages to our navigation. With respect to our commercial intercourse with other European nations, the existing treaties of reciprocity had settled most of the difficulties attending it. What remained in dispute should be provided for, not by a spontaneous abandonment of the navigation laws on our part, but by mutual concessions and amicable agreements. These were of a different character from our colonial intercourse and our eastern commerce, in which no other European Power ought to interfere. He was unwilling to say much more on this subject; but as America had so often been referred to in these discussions, he would remind the House of the advice given on one occasion by Mr. Huskisson when speaking of that nation; and he wished that hon. Gentlemen who so often declared they had so much respect for that departed statesman, would adhere more to the principles he had laid down. Mr. Huskisson showed how firmly he could resist a spirit that sometimes existed on their part, of asking more than they were entitled to. They could not forget the correspondence between Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Canning, and Mr. H. Gallatin. Mr. Huskisson, on the occasion alluded to, said, that— When he was speaking of America in a British House of Commons, it was not improper to say that in matters of navigation there existed toward us a spirit of rivalry—a spirit which he did not blame, but which should make him doubt the wisdom of encourasing the growth of the mercantile marine of America. Now, there was one feature in the proposition of Her Majesty's Ministers which presented a danger, which he could not help forwarning them would lead to extensive evil. He had ventured to point out to the House on a former occasion, that according to the proposed mode of legislation, the foreign navigation would have every advantage now belonging to a British ship, except in the coasting-trade, which exception was now made still narrower. In every other part of the world the foreigner would have the same advantage. Look at the case of the British registered ship. On what ground was it likely that any man would embark his capital in British shipbuilding, if he found he could work out the same objects with a foreign-built ship as with a British-built vessel; and if he knew that, with a foreign ship, he would not have to sustain those disadvantages of navigation and crew, which were still to be attached to British-built ships? What was there, then, to prevent the enterprise of the British capitalist (that spirit of enterprise which pervaded every quarter of the globe)—from transferring his capital from that which was the least advantageous investment to that which was most advantageous, and to employ the foreign ship and crew as the cheaper instrument, in lieu of the British as the more costly one, for the purposes of his trade? He asked whether it could reasonably be expected that the mere spirit of patriotism would induce the capitalist to give the preference to British ships and British artisans under these circumstances? It was putting patriotism to too great a trial. But he was not indulging in a bare supposition when he took this view of the subject. There existed proof of the tendency of these alterations in our navigation laws to produce the effect he pointed out. In an answer from one of our consuls abroad to those insidious questions which were circulated from the authorities at home (for the purpose of detracting from the character of the British seaman, and lowering in the estimation of the world the reputation of a class of which we ought above all others to be proud), the fact is distinctly asserted that British capital is passing rapidly into the employment of foreign shipping, as an investment, in the Northern States with which we have treaties of reciprocity. Mr. Herstlet, the vice-consul at Memel, says that one of the motives for some of the complaints against the navigation laws by parties at home, is the great and increasing investment by British capitalists in foreign ships, as owners or part owners in the Baltic trade. This was the best answer to those who affected to deride the supposition that the British owner might be induced, not only by the greater cheap- ness of the foreign ship, but by the onerous condition attached to the British ship, from which the other was quite free, to transfer his capital to foreign ports, and pursue his trade with foreign seamen. But if hon. Gentlemen would attend to the evidence which had been given before the Select Committee of the House of Lords, they would find persons of no small experience declaring that if this Act passed, their capital would be transferred to other countries. Now, the right hon. Gentleman had quoted Mr. Money Wigram. But what did he say? Why, he said, "Take the protection away, and I will go to New York" ["No!" from the Ministerial side.] He (Mr. Heries) insisted that such was the effect of Mr. Wigram's evidence; but would not detain the House by searching for the passage. He had limited his observations on this occasion to the points which were involved in the principle of the measure, and was anxious to avoid details which must hereafter enter into the discussion. But he felt that he could not avoid saying thus much, even in this incipient stage of the proceedings, after what had fallen from the Mover of it. In its future progress, it should have his firm and persevering opposition. He had adverted to these points—he had confined himself to the principle involved; he had not entered into details which might arise in the discussion of this measure. He did not feel that he could suffer even this incipient stage of the measure to pass without taking the notice he had done of the principle of the Bill, especially after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He should offer to the future stages of the measure every opposition in his power.


said: As I have found there exists throughout the country great misapprehension as to the real nature of this measure, and as it is just possible that some hon. Members in the House may labour under the same misapprehension; I think it right to state that this question, divesting it of official jargon, in plain honest English is simply this—that it is the latest of a series of measures inculcated by the Manchester school, the end and object of which is to discharge all British labourers, and to employ for the future foreign labourers. Need I go through the details?—it is unnecessary. You have said, you will admit foreign timber instead of English timber—yon have said, you will admit foreign timber sawyers instead of English timber sawyers—you have said, you will admit foreign shipwrights instead of English shipwrights—indeed, I may go through the whole catalogue of labour, and your policy will apply to all. But for what advantage are we to make all these changes? Why, for the advantage of certain mercantile men and Manchester cotton-spinners. It will not be my fault if the country does not understand the true meaning of this question, from one end to the other. It was considered to be a question merely of trade and commerce, and only connected with their mercantile marine, with which the inhabitants of the interior had little to do; but it, in fact, affected essentially and much more deeply the class of labourers than any other question that could be brought before the House.


said, he had heard many statements made in that House which had surprised him; but what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Drummond) certainly surprised him very much. That hon. Gentleman had taken upon himself to say, that this was the last of a series of measures which had been inculcated by the Manchester school; and he had ventured to say, that all of those measures tended to injure the labourers of this country. But how did the hon. Gentleman reconcile these assertions with the general complaint of those who were of that opinion, who told them that the cost of food was reduced by this measure? What could be of more importance to the working classes than that food of all kinds should be cheap? [Mr. DRUMMOND: Wages.] Well, he would come to wages. Until a few days ago, wages had not been reduced that he had hoard of. ["Oh, oh!"] In the country districts of the south, he had heard that morning that there had been a reduction certainly; and that those who had been receiving 9s. per week were now receiving 8s. This was on the part of the agricultural labourers, whoso position was not caused by the measures referred to by the hon. Gentleman, but by measiures which were independent of them. But what was it, he would ask, which gave wages and labour to the industrious classes? Why, it must be the increased means of employment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) admitted that there was no place in the world so well calculated to be the depot of the world as England; and what he (Mr. Hume) would ask, had prevented her from being so, so much as the restrictive laws on our commerce and navigation? Did they want proof that instead of capital being employed in labour here, it had gone elsewhere? Why, the right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the employment of capital was so restricted by the operation of the navigation laws, that they were obliged to employ the capital of Englishmen to carry on trade elsewhere! What caused that capital to go away? It was the restrictive operation of the navigation laws. That capital, his right hon. Friend said, was employed in building ships in Sweden, and Russia, and elsewhere; but were not Russians and others part owners? The right hon. Gentleman truly said, that from the restricted means of building ships in this country—and that was owing to the navigation laws—our merchant shipowners in this country were compelled to obtain a cheaper conveyance for their goods elsewhere. Now, so far from that being the case, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, every one of his arguments went to disprove what he stated! What we wanted was, that the English merchant should be allowed to carry goods in an English ship as cheaply as in the bottoms of any other country. He (Mr. Hume) and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Herries) had been long engaged in arguing upon this subject; they had grown grey in discussing it; yet his right hon. Friend seemed to stand still, and to abide by all the obsolete doctrines which twenty times had been refuted in that House. The industry of this country had been shackled by monopolies; and the removal of every monopoly, whatever it might be, must tend to its advancement. England, which was blessed with such vast resources of capital and labour to employ, had nevertheless been most unfortunately forced to expatriate her capital in American, Prussian, and other ships, because these laws were in existence. His right hon. Friend had road an extract from a speech of Mr. Huskisson, but did he not know that but for the navigation laws the American navigation would not have been half what it was now? He hailed the proposition of Her Majesty's Government as one of the means of hereafter reducing the impediments to the employment of capital, the improvement of labour, and the keeping up of wages of those who were engaged in this country. The right hon. Gentleman said, that France had yielded nothing to us. But let him look to the state of the navy of that country. France had decreased that arm of power during the last five years, and that decrease was likely to be continued. The fact was, that wherever the blot of monopoly and restriction existed, an injury was done to the great interests of the nation if competition could not he brought to hear against them. From that cause France was suffering; and if she did not yield, she was likely to suffer still further in her commercial navy. Their conduct was not an example to follow, but a beacon to avoid. He hailed this measure as pointing to good results, and leaving our merchants and our shipping to competition. Again, why should not the colonies send to the host markets? Was the right hon. Gentleman afraid of English capital and industry competing with the foreigner? All the evidence which they had had upstairs proved that if they removed the fetters which prevented the proper application of capital and industry, they had nothing to fear. Let English ships compete, and he would ask whether there was anything to prevent our navigation being prosperous? So with the British shipwrights; they would not he injured. All the evidence he had heard was to the contrary. Give to the English fair scope only for their enterprise. If there were any restrictions upon the British shipowners, let them be removed. The right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Labouchere) had alluded to one evil, which he had stated, and which was a burden. If they compelled the shipowner to take a certain number of apprentices, and did not allow him to man his ship as he thought best, that grievance ought to be removed. What was there to prevent British ships and English shipowners from competing with the rest of the world? He would not for a moment allow any inferiority on the part of his countrymen; but hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that Englishmen had not the power to compote with foreigners. America, it was said, did not respond to the principle laid down. But had not Mr. Bancroft (not, he supposed, by an act of his own) presented a letter to Lord Palmerston, telling him that every concession, and every removal of restrictions upon trade, the American Government were prepared to yield; that they were prepared to give perfect reciprocity? Had not the Americans promised reciprocity? [Mr. HERRIES: It has not yet taken place.] It had not taken place with us. Let us set the example, and we should obtain it. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horries) had read to the House an extract from the report of the Select Coumiittee on Light Dues, of which he (Mr. Hume) was the chairman. He wished that the right hon. Gentleman were bound by that report, every word of which he (Mr. Hume) would stand by. The right hon. Gentleman got hold of the word "protection," and said, "I have got the words from Mr. Hume that the British navigation ought to be protected." Now, what was the real object of this expression? Why, it had reference to light-houses; and the House, from this, might judge of the difficulty in which the right hon. Gentleman found himself to found an argument upon it. At the time when this Select Committee was sitting, there was a new competition with the coasting trade of America. That competition was the competition of railroads against the coasting trade; and the report of that Committee showed that the coasting shipping were paying five per cent on the amount of their freights, in light-dues, whilst the railroads took the goods without being liable to any portion of that expenditure; and this placed the coasting trade in a greatly inferior position. Had that anything to do with the navigation laws, he would ask? He contended that, whereas up to the present moment, the Government had not thought fit to adopt the recommendations of that Committee, still their adoption would be the soundest policy, especially as we had lost the southern and the northern whale fisheries, and other sources of enterprise. That Committee had recommended unanimously that every impediment should be removed, and thus that the coasting trade should be protected by being put on the same footing with the carriers of goods by steam; and this was the matter which the right hon. Gentleman attempted to turn to the question of the navigation laws. He was satisfied that the day was come when every man should look to the general objects of legislation. He wished to promote the commerce of the country by giving scope to the development of capital for the employment of our labourers and artisans; and he hoped that all men would see the absolute necessity of removing all trammels upon our trade and navigation. It had been proved to his mind beyond contradiction that the navigation laws had been productive of great evils. He, therefore, considered that Her Majesty's Government, by the course which they were pursuing (without reference to the colonics) were doing that which must tend to the permanent prosperity of this country and the improvement of her colonies. [Cheers.] He observed that cheer, and he was sorry to say he must join with those who hold that the policy of the Government in respect to our colonies had destroyed millions of capital. That then, was misgovernment; but here was a proposition for the removal of burdens, and that could not he said to add to existing evils. It would be a relief if the whole of the world would compete with them. The colonists did not wish to be restricted by any navigation laws. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would, day by day, proceed with this measure, and allow the House to put the question at rest. Whilst he was anxious to see relief given to the shipping and coasting trade in respect to the navigation laws, he hoped relief would also be granted them from the burden of light-dues. He was equally anxious to see a proper system adopted for our merchant seamen, that they might not be allowed to remain in the destitution in which many of them now were. He thought the time had come when they might safely dispose of the navigation laws; they could then legislate on light-house duos, which would have the effect of ameliorating the condition of the shipping interests.


The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) has put a question to the hon. Gentleman behind me (Mr. Drummond), and has asked him whether the low price of food, caused by one of the measures included in this series, has not proved of advantage to the labouring classes? But I will put a question to the hon. Gentleman, and I ask him of what avail is the low price of food to the labourer who has got no money to buy it? This is, in point of fact, the way to look at the question; and, I think, if the hon. Member had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who introduced this measure, he would have been struck with that portion of the speech in which he said that the labourers of America were honest and diligent, whilst the labourers of this country were of a very opposite description—that, in fact, they formed illegal combinations, and were the reverse of the diligent and praiseworthy labourers who were to be found in America; and that, in order to encourage them, he was about to place them in competition with fo- reigners. This is, I think, anything but encouragement. I concur with my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) in thinking that this measure is directed against the labourers of the country, who will be the principal sufferers by its baneful operation. I took the liberty the other night, when speaking of the omissions in Her Majesty's Speech with relation to the labouring classes, to express my apprehension that the Speech was incorrect, for it called upon us to express our satisfaction at the state of labour and employment in the manufacturing and commercial districts; and I ventured to call on any hon. Member in the House connected with manufactures—either the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) or the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright)—to say whether those interests were in a satisfactory condition. One Member only (Mr. Henry) responded to the call, who stated that he was a manufacturer of largo condition—a manufacturer in Glasgow, in Manchester, and Belfast. [Cries of "No, no!"] I am told by hon. Gentlemen that I am incorrect in thus describing the hon. Member; then, if that be so, and the hon. Gentleman who spoke be not a manufacturer, I am in a position to say that no manufacturer has risen in his seat to contend that the industrious classes are in such a state of comfort and prosperity as to justify us in expressing satisfaction. It is true, an hon. Gentleman did address us on this subject. I allude to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), and I think the statements which he made to the House were not of a character to lead us to think we were incorrect when we hesitated to give our assent to that portion of the Speech from the Throne which spoke of the satisfaction we were called on to express with regard to the state of commerce and manufactures. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) says he has only hoard within the last few days, for the first time, that wages are depreciated in some of the agricultural districts in England. I have the honour to represent a county which has often boon made the subject of allusion in this House in connexion with the low scale of wages paid to agricultural labourers. I have always heard those statements with regret, and I could not deny that to some extent, but not to so great an extent as was represented, those statements were true; but there was a time when I might have endeavoured in my own county—as I hope I ever shall—to counteract the evil; but the arguments which I could have then used are taken from me now, because the principle is to be adopted of free trade in everything—the principle of buying everything in the cheapest market, even labour among the rest. I agree with the hon. Gentleman behind me (Mr. Drummond) in thinking that this is one of a series of measures, the effect of which is to depress still more the condition of the labouring classes. With respect to the colonies, the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure (Mr. Labouchere) tolls us that they will derive benefit from the proposition before the House; but will that proposition counterbalance the evil of your past legislation with reference to the colonies? Will they not rather wait until the turn in the tide of public opinion—a turn which is rapidly taking place—for that more effectual redress which this House will be obliged to make them when it is compelled, as it soon will be, to retrace its steps? Sir, I am satisfied that in voting against this proposition I shall not act contrary to the true interests of the colonies, for I am convinced that in their present position they would rather wait for that change of opinion which is even now taking place in the country, and which has already made its appearance in this great city. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to ask any tradesman in this town what is the condition in which he is now placed? I venture to ask, will any hon. Member connected with trade and the great commercial operations of this country get up and say that the traders of this country are of opinion that free-trade experiments have had a successful issue? And, Sir, if there is this change of opinion on the part of those engaged in commerce in this city, may I not venture to believe that the change will spread throughout the kingdom, where there is an opinion far and wide that the recent legislation of this House has not been guided by sound policy, and that we are approaching the time when we must retrace our steps. And I will also appeal to any Irish Member to rise in his place and say whether, in Ireland, there is the same opinion now in favour of free trade which induced them so rashly and so unhappily to give their fatal influence in carrying that measure. These are the sentiments which I hold in conformity with the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) who has led me to believe that he has rightly charac- terised this measure when he said it was the latest of a series, the end and object of which was to crush and depress the labourer.


said, that when two sides of an assembly like that declared such very opposite opinions, and each with such decided confidence in their truth, it almost always happened that some principle had been overlooked, or at least not fairly explained and laid open in the arena of contest. He apprehended there was a misunderstanding on the opposite side of the House as to the principle which his side of the House maintained. In simple words, they maintained that protection, come from what side it would, always meant giving a shilling for sixpenny-worth in return. On that fact they were ready to stake any credit with the country which they possessed; and if they had any such credit (and they had some), it was entirely because the large proportion of the country had been thoroughly indoctrinated with that principle. They did not believe that to give a shilling to receive sixpence in return was, or could be, or ever was, or ever would be, either sound policy or sound commercial wisdom. When Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House spoke of the industry of the country, as demanding protection and encouragement—what they really meant was, to prop up one industry by taking away two or three others. A former eminent Member of that House once advised his son to take a wife, and the young man replied, "Willingly, Sir; whose wife shall I take?" In the same manner, when hon. Gentlemen opposite talked of protecting industry, he always asked them who was to suffer? The whole question resolved itself into this: some man's industry was to be put a stop to, in order to increase the produce of some other man's industry, with the tertium quid of something being taken from the consumer besides. Was it not plain that every omnibus which received its sixpenny fare had put down one of the venerable hackney-coachmen, who proposed to do the same work for 1s. 6d. Why was that acquiesced in by Gentlemen on the other side? was it not because they had a consciousness that that shilling saved was not thrown into the river, but was expended in some industry or other? It might go to the butcher, the grocer, or the pastrycook; but to some industry or other it was sure to go; and this was the same to industry in the aggregate as if it went to the industry of the hackney- coachman. But there was something more: the man who went to the butcher, the grocer, or the pastrycook, got something for his shilling; in the other case he did not. It was that which made the differ-once, and turned the balance in favour of free trade, which permitted omnibusses to run about our streets, and put down all chance of a successful resistance from the hackney-coachmen. Were Gentlemen opposite to ask the hackney-coachmen them-solves if there was any propriety in putting down omnibuses, in order to promote their trade, he believed they would demur; at all events, if asked whether they thought there was any chance of a successful resistance on that point, the honest fellows would rub their brows and say, "We wish that we may got it." He would invite hon. Gentlemen opposite to try the experiment in reference to the working classes of this country. Let them say to those classes, "You have a trade which cannot live by itself; but here are two or three other trades which, if put down, might prop up yours to your satisfaction." He doubted whether they would get twenty men to support such a proceeding; he doubted whether men would not be revolted by the glaring injustice of the whole proposal, or, if not, by the utter improbability of anything like final success. It was said that we ought not to encourage foreign labour. Neither would be if it diminished English labour. He hoped, however, that hon. Gentlemen who had heard this debate, would take away with them the conviction that all protection for the encouragement of English labour was a delusion and a mistake. Hon. Gentlemen contrived to forgot the fact, that wherever they apparently increased English labour in one direction, they infallibly (and the free-traders were there ready to prove it), diminished and destroyed English labour in some other direction. If the protectionists could prove the contrary, every man on his (Colonel Thompson's) side the House—on the much-maligned free-trade bench, at all events—would be ready to vote with them. Sentiments of this kind had not been advanced in opposition to hon. Gentlemen on the other side every time that protection and diminution of labour had been mentioned; but had he had charge of those principles, he would have had a man stationed on that bench, to have kept sentry, whose duty should have been, every time these delusive pre- texts were put forth, to have demolished them, as he might readily have done, by a simple exposition of the first principles of free trade. He would apply himself only to one argument more—the necessity of keeping up the navigation laws for the sake of the defences of the country. The principle of this was, that it was worth while to give a shilling for sixpenny worth in return, in order that we might have a mercantile marine whence to take sailors for the Navy. If any Gentleman would close with them upon that, and reduce the argument for the navigation laws to saying it was politic, wise, and necessary to do this, in order to have sailors for the Navy, he believed the ground of debate would be considerably diminished. But though there was undeniably a connexion between an extensive mercantile marine and a naval force, that was not everything; there were other sources on which a military marine must depend. It must depend, among other things, on the general wealth of the country. If they made a poor country—if they took the course of paying everywhere a shilling to get sixpence in return, he know no more ready way of rendering the country unable to meet the expenditure necessary for military and naval exertions. Sailors were a great deal, but not everything; they might buy oven a sailor too dear; and it was not true that there was any existing connexion between the necessity of buying sailors at this excessive price, and the having a navy manned to the extent which was demanded. But naval officers were better able than he to speak on this subject; and he would conclude, by pressing on the House to consider whether there was any such real and absolute necessity, before they consented to the process recommended to them, of paying, even for British sailors, at the rate of a shilling, when sixpence was to be the value received in return. He assured hon. Gentlemen opposite that free-trade principles did not rest on the strength of its advocates alone; it was because they had the advantage in the country, because the majority of the country was with them in their opinions; and they were perfectly ready to bring to any decision that might be proposed the trial of their strength. Hon. Gentlemen opposite charged them with attending meetings in connexion with this question. Had not those Gentlemen themselves liberty to go to any meetings they pleased? But they could not bring forward public opinion to back them as the free-traders could; and hence the free- traders were strong, and their opponents weak.


said, he did not rise to refute the sordid reasoning founded upon the proposition that it was not prudent to pay a shilling for what could be purchased for a sixpence. Great as was the difference that existed between that and the other side of the House upon these subjects, he did not apprehend that, to the abstract proposition alluded to, any objection would be made, whatever might be said as to its application. He rose rather to correct a misrepresentation made by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and thereby deprive him of an argument upon which he relied with confidence. His right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) had read an extract from a letter of the vice-consul at Memel, stating that British capital was, in certain places, known to be largely embarked in foreign shipping. Upon this the hon. Member (Mr. Hume) had commented with great but premature and mistaken triumph, and had said, "See the consequence of these absurd navigation laws." But the extract read by his right hon. Friend did not state generally that British capital was invested abroad in foreign shipping. It stated that this was the case only in those countries in which reciprocity treaties existed—and in which, therefore, the navigation laws did not in reality operate. That is to say, the letter of the vice-consul at Memel showed that in those countries in which the navigation laws had been relaxed, the consequences which the supporters of those laws contended must result from their relaxation or repeal, had really resulted. Yet the hon. Member for Montrose, without exhibiting that lucidity for which his speeches were characterised, had managed to mistake this for an argument in favour of the repeal of those laws, although it was restricted to those countries in which the navigation laws had been relaxed. He would just remind the House of the evidence of Mr. Porter before the House of Lords, in confirmation of the inference he had deduced from the statement in question. The Committee of that House had drawn the attention of Mr. Porter to the fact that British shipping had declined rapidly in the Northern States of Europe, and asked an explanation of it. He replied, that "British shipping found more profitable occupation elewhere"—and that, in fact, was the whole question. British shipping could not compete with the shipping of those northern ports, but was driven thence to the colonial and the indirect trade of this country. This was a question of vast importance, for the profits of all shipowners could not be greater than the general profits of capital in this country. If, therefore, the profits of capital in this country were not such as to allow shipowners to engage in competition with those countries in which they were allowed reciprocity by treaties, it followed that if the whole of our shipping interest were placed upon the same footing, capital would gradually be withdrawn from shipping altogether, and this great country would become in a large measure dependent for its shipping upon foreign countries. He did not intend, however (after the understanding that had been entered into) to go into the general question on this occasion.


said, it had been generally understood at the commencement of the debate, that the resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman would not be opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite—that the details of the measure were not to be discussed—and that the conversation would end by the passing of the resolutions, the discussion being reserved for the second reading of the Bill. Under these circumstances, he should certainly refrain from entering into any details; but he must say, after all he had heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite, he was puzzled to conceive the principle upon which they founded their opposition to the present measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) had declared that if he could obtain reciprocal concessions from foreign countries, he should have no objection whatever to concession on our part. He (Mr. Herries) had declared that if the coasting trade of this country should be relaxed, he, at least, would not oppose it so long as it was relaxed by the United States. The hon. Member for Westmoreland (Mr. Alderman Thompson), when the subject was last under discussion, declared himself in favour of some relaxation of what is called the long voyage. The hon. Member for Sunderland said he was willing that the crews of British ships should be composed of sailors of all nations of the world. Now, with all these relaxations, what became of the fundamental principle of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries). If the fundamental principle meant anything at all, it surely meant this—that the trade of this country ought to be confined to British ships and British sailors; and if a concession was made, by which foreign ships and foreign sailors would be permitted to trade with this country under the British flag, the whole fundamental principle was abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman said that one of the main arguments to be considered was, the operation of such a measure with regard to the Royal Navy. He (Mr. Ricardo) agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Thompson), that the question ought to be narrowed down to proper limits. It was admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the relaxation of the navigation laws would be a boon to commerce. Then the whole question came to this—would that relaxation so far destroy the Royal Navy as to render it less able to defend the country? He must say that this came rather suspiciously from the shipowners, who were chiefly interested, as they imagined, in the maintenance of these laws. He, however, was quite willing that the right hon. Gentleman should take that ground; but if he did take that ground let the question be narrowed to that ground, and let the House consider whether the maintenance of the Royal Navy absolutely depended on the navigation laws. He should be fully prepared to discuss that question on another occasion, and would not now enter into any detail, but would simply make this remark, that if that be the case, one of two things must follow—either the navigation laws are too much or they are too little restricted. It was proved in evidence before both Committees that the mercantile marine of this country no longer retained that superiority for which it was once so celebrated. It was also in evidence—and there were British merchants around him who would state the same thing—that the merchants of this country were continually receiving advices from their correspondents not to ship articles in British bottoms if they could obtain foreign bottoms. Well, then, hon. Gentlemen must either protect our export trade as well as our import trade, or else the navigation laws were doing a positive injury, because they were making the shipowners lean upon this law and trust to this law, which burdened them with apprentices, light-dues, and other imposts. These things would never have existed with free trade. Could any one suppose the shipowners would have submitted to these regulations if they had not been answered, "See how we are protecting you—we are giving you the mono- poly of the carrying trade—you must therefore not complain of being obliged to take apprentices or pay light-dues." Of course, sooner than lose what they considered protection, they were willing to submit to these things. The consequence was, that we were now inferior to those nations for which we were once the model; and if the present system should be allowed to continue for five or six years longer, the same Gentlemen would come and say, "You must not take away our protection, because, see how the tonnage of England has fallen off in comparison with that of other countries; we cannot compete with them, and must be protected." In fact, every year they would require more and more protection, and as the system of protection went on, they would go on increasing in inferiority, and every inferiority would be an excuse for restrictive laws. It would be far better if in this country, instead of accepting an inferiority, and endeavouring to bring down other countries to the level of our inferiority, we should make an effort to raise ourselves up to the level of our superiors. It would be far better to say to the shipowners, "Depend upon yourselves—depend upon your energies as Englishmen—depend upon the resources of this country, and the wealth which commands the resources of the world, and do not trust to Acts of Parliament." It would be better to send forth our ships free as the winds which filled their sails, with liberty to go where they would, and come from where it suited them, than to start them from our ports encumbered with the 8th and 9th Victoria, chapter the 88th, and ballasted with twelve volumes of Hertslett's commercial treaties.


said, as it was generally understood that the resolutions would not be opposed, he should address very few observations to the Committee. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Ricardo), had asked what was required by those who were opposed to the measure. He (Mr. Alderman Thompson) could make a very short answer to the hon. Gentleman. They wanted a valuable consideration for those commercial advantages which were about to be surrendered—they wanted reciprocity. The hon. Gentleman had reminded him that on a former occasion he (Mr. Alderman Thompson) had made the admission that certain concessions ought to be made to the commercial interests on certain articles connected with the long voyage. What he said on that occasion he was quite willing now to repeat—namely, that there were some articles—the produce, for instance, of South America—which might by a custom-house regulation be admitted into consumption in this country, and which would give facilities to our commerce, and not interfere with the principle of our navigation laws. That opinion he still maintained; but he contended there was no inconsistency in holding that opinion, and at the same time having a decided opinion in favour of maintaining the main principle of our navigation laws. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) stated what he (Mr. Ald. Thompson) had not heard before, namely, that the American Minister had signified that whatever concession might be made in respect to our navigation laws, the country which he represented was ready fully to reciprocate that concession. But he (Mr. Ald. Thompson) might be allowed to ask what concession could the United States make to us in comparison with the great advantages we were about to surrender to them? And by the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere), it should be remembered that greater advantages were now proposed to be given than were suggested when the right hon. Gentleman introduced his measure in the course of the last Session. But it should also he recollected that the talented individual who now represented the United States, was placed in very different circumstances from those which existed in March last. He believed it was usual, on the election of a new President, to recall the Minister appointed by his predecessor. It was well known that Mr. Bancroft represented a President and a Government entertaining a far more liberal opinion on the subject of free trade than President Taylor. He had a right to assume this, because it was notorious to all that it was on the principle of protection to native industry that General Taylor was elected President of that country, and the apprehension existed that increased duties would be proposed by President Taylor. But more—it must be known to others as well as himself, who had large transactions with that country, that there was a general apprehension with regard to the contracts now making, that only the goods already imported should be subject to the tariff now in existence. Let the House look at the position of the United States. It was quite clear they possessed great advantages over us with respect to the colo- nial trade, and with respect to the transport of sugar from the Havannah, the Brazils, and Porto Rico. There was also much valuable trade carried on between the United States and China. If the proposed measure were adopted, the American ships would bring tea to this country which they had received in exchange for the manufactures of the United States, and would ultimately drive out of the Chinese market British manufactures. His right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) had clearly proved that although freights must, from the nature of things, fall, and to some extent benefit the importer, yet that the great object which the promoters of the measure had in view, namely, to cheapen the article to the consumer, would not be attained. What was the system upon which Spain acted with reference to the conduct of her colonial trade? He would call the attention of the House to a statement made by Mr. Lindsay, who had recently addressed a series of letters to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. That gentleman said— Some time since I paid a visit to the city of Glasgow, and my attention was directed to two vessels advertised as loading for Manilla. They lay contiguous to each other—one was a Spanish, the other was a British ship. The latter was, in every respect, the finer vessel, and, on inquiry, I found that the owners offered to take goods by her at from 15s to 25s. per ton freight. She had, however, very few on board; whilst the Spanish ship was loading bales, boxes, and every description of merchandise as fast as it could be stowed away in her hold, and, to my great surprise, every package shipped in her paid freight at rates ranging from 80s. to 100s. per ton. I had less knowledge then, and I said to myself, 'There must be some mistake here. A splendid British ship, in a British port, cannot get a quarter of a cargo of British manufactured goods, though she offers to take them to the same port at one-fifth of the rate of freight at which the old Spanish ship was paid for a full cargo of similar goods.' I determined to satisfy myself on this point, and found, my Lord, I was not under mistake. They were both destined for a Spanish colony, and on reference to the tariff at the port of Manilla, I found that British and other foreign cotton and silk manufactures paid an ad valorem duty of 12½ per cent if imported in Spanish, and 25 per cent if in British and other ships—that cotton-twist, cutlery, ready-made clothes, &c., paid 40 per cent if in Spanish vessels, and 50 per cent if in others. He (Mr. Ald. Thompson) should like to know whether any communication had taken place with the Spanish Government, showing the probability of any system of relaxation. But the system was not confined to Spain only, for English ships im- porting goods into Java paid a duty of 30 per cent, whilst goods imported in Dutch bottoms paid only 10 per cent. Now, with regard to France. Coals were exported to that country free of duty. Of that he did not complain. The return which we received for our liberality was this—two years ago the French Government introduced into their contracts a condition that coal exported from England to Franco should be convoyed in French ships. The new republican Government of France, in their contracts advertised the other day, had extended that principle to the supply for the public service. The contracts made for the supply of the marine service and the post-office amounted to from 60,000 to 70,000 tons. But the most extraordinary part of the proceeding was this—that the restrictions imposed on the import of coals for the use of the French post-office packets applied to one of our own British possessions—namely, Malta, and, consequently, English coals for the use of the French post-office service were not allowed even to be admitted into a British possession, except in a French bottom. And he would ask what probability was there of France approximating to a more liberal system? Now, with regard to Canada, of which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) had said so much, he must say that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman had been completely answered by his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries). The Canadians said, "We shall be ruined, unless you give us a protecting duty upon our flour and our corn." It was well known that the repeal of the corn laws, and the great alteration in the timber duties, had committed serious injury upon that great and important colony. But there was one most extraordinary circumstance connected with this memorial. They stated that they can ship their goods cheaper at the port of New York than at the port of Montreal, and they went into a calculation to show what the expenses are by internal navigation to New York and Montreal; but they gave no information whatever to show what the difference in freight would be from the St. Lawrence to any other port by an English or foreign vessel. That was a most extraordinary omission, and one which he had no doubt did not result from accident. The great evil under which the Canadians were labouring was this—that they could not export so cheap from Montreal as from New York; and he could not conceive how the repeal of the navigation laws would materially alter their condition. He held in his hand an account of a meeting recently hold at Demerara, where great distress existed. They stated that they would not commit so great a wrong to the mother country as to propose the repeal of the navigation laws. They stated that the repeal might be a slight benefit to them, but that it would be attended with so much danger to the mother country that they could not support it. With regard to New Brunswick, there existed no disposition to repeal the navigation laws. This was not a shipowner's question, nor was it a shipbuilder's question. In his opinion, it was a great national question. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere), had referred to the evidence given by a friend of his (Mr. Ald. Thompson) before a Committee of the House of Lords—the evidence of Mr. Money Wigram. Mr. Wigram, only yesterday, put into his hand a paper, showing that so far from oak timber being as cheap in London as it is in New York—the price in New York is 1s. 4d. per foot, whilst he is paying for timber similarly framed 5s. 6d. or 6s. per foot. Mr. Wigram stated that he had received the letter from a person in New York whose opinion was entitled to the greatest weight. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: What is the date of the letter?] He understood that the letter had been received by the last mail. The writer stated— If the information can be relied on, and I believe it to be correct, it fully explains the largo comparative difference in the cost of ships of the two countries, and will, I think, occasion insurmountable difficulty against British shipowners. In addition to the difference of labour I mentioned yesterday, I am informed moulds are sent into the country, and the timbers converted, and cut to their exact size in the woods where the timber grows. Much expense is thus saved in carriage, and best white oak is delivered in New York, converted to its exact size for use at 32 cents, or 1s. 4d. per foot cubic measure—against a cost for English oak, cut to its exact size, and delivered in London of 5s. 6d. to 6s. per foot cubic measure in the same state. Pine timber costs in New York, 35 cents, or 1s. 5d against 2s. 1¼d. in London. Other wood materials in proportion. Upon the nationality of the question he would trouble the Committee with only one or two observations, and a few extracts from the evidence given before the House of Lords. Sir Byam Martin, one of the oldest officers in the the service, and a man of great experience as a naval officer, and at the Naval Board said— I confidently assert that the mercantile ma- rine is every thing to the Navy, and that the Navy cannot exist without it. Captain Nicolas said— I have always looked to the mercantile navy for the purpose of supplying our ships when short of hands. I have always found it succeed; the seamen bred in the merchant service are the best in the world, and the most trustworthy in all dangers and difficulties. I think we must look to it as our mainstay. Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane also gave evidence in support of the navigation laws. Captain Berkeley, a Lord of the Admiralty, admitted that two-fifths of the seamen in the Queen's service, have been taken from the merchant service. He (Mr. Ald. Thompson) regarded the question as of the greatest importance in a national point of view. He believed that the prosperity of the Navy depended upon it; and he, therefore, trusted that the House, looking at the measure as a whole, would not be induced to assent to it without the adoption of an efficient system of reciprocity.


said, that his hon. Friend the worthy Alderman had in the course of his speech endorsed one or two fallacies of so gross a nature that he felt called upon very shortly to notice them. In the first place, it had been intimated that the reduction in the freight of goods would not go into the pockets of the consumer. He believed that there would be a reduction of 25 per cent in the freights of goods coming from all quarters of the world, and this would be a large profit in itself, which would go to the consumers, and this in itself would insure a great addition to the quantity of goods imported. But there was a further advantage which did not appear to have struck hon. Gentlemen opposite, namely, that this reduction in the freight would increase the quantity of any article imported, and thus would act advantageously in an indirect way in the reduction of prices. Within the last three months it had come to his (Mr. Mitchell's) knowledge that a most extraordinary result had attended the increased importation of an article of general consumption. It appeared that the quantity of it imported reached one-thirtieth part beyond the amount that was anticipated, and the result of this had been to produce a glut, and to lead to the reduction of prices 20 per cent. He therefore contended that the reduction of freights would operate in the same way, and must be productive of great benefit to the consumers. The next argument of the worthy Alderman was the case which he quoted, of three different countries which had more restrictive navigation laws than our own, namely, Spain, France, and Holland. The question was whether these increased restrictions had been of service to any of these countries. With respect to Holland, it was a remarkable fact that a considerable portion of the coasting trade there was not carried on in Dutch ships. As regarded France, it was a matter of perfect notoriety that so far from these restrictions having been productive of good, they had led to the directly opposite result, for the mercantile navy of Franco was not nearly in the thriving condition it formerly was in. It was also well known that for a long time past the mercantile navy of Holland had not increased. There was no doubt that increased duties were imposed on British manufactures when imported in English ships into the Spanish colonies, instead of in Spanish vessels. This, however, had no great effect: at present a great deal of sugar was imported into this country from Cuba, but nearly the whole of it came to this country in English bottoms. In these as well as other countries, the more restrictive the navigation and other commercial laws were, the more injurious had they proved to those nations which had adopted them. From what had fallen from the right hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) and the hon. Member for Westmoreland (Mr. Alderman Thompson), it was clear that they had abandoned the whole case as being damaging to the shipowners or the shipbuilders [Mr. Alderman THOMPSON: No, no!] Why, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) and other hon. Members said that all that they claimed was reciprocity, and that if there was reciprocity the English shipowner could compete with the whole world. Was not this giving up the whole case of last year as to protection, and as to the additional expense of building British ships and providing stores? He was perfectly willing to go into the expense of every article for shipbuilding, and for all other commodities connected with shipping, and would undertake at the proper time to show that there was nothing connected with English ships to prevent them being able successfully to compete with foreigners. He had understood from the worthy Alderman that a correspondent of Mr. Money Wigram had stated, that white oak sold at New York at 1s. 4d. the square foot, and that the same timber could not be obtained here under from 5s. 6d. to 6s. the foot. Now it so happened that the worthy Alderman had compared the raw and unprepared white American oak with the manufactured and pro-pared English oak. The white oak of America, also, was essentially different from the oak of this country, for the former would only keep seven years, while the English oak in ships would be perfectly sound at the end of twelve years. To put them on the same footing, was something like comparing a donkey to a race-horse. He would not occupy the attention of the House longer in dealing with such gross fallacies.


said, he should not have risen on the present occasion if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) had thought it right to lay the resolutions upon the table, accompanied by a short statement of the facts and reasons which induced him to propose those resolutions. But he had gone into a lengthened statement in favour of the policy of the Government, and had referred to certain portions of the evidence given before the Committees of the two House of Parliament, to suit his own purpose, carefully and studiously overlooking all those other portions of the evidence, given by the same parties, which militated against his scheme. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridport (Mr. Mitchell) had risen to expose what he called the gross fallacies of his hon. Friend the Member for Westmoreland (Mr. Alderman Thompson). Now he (Mr. Robinson) would endeavour to show that the hon. Member for Bridport and other Members on that side of the House, had fallen into some fallacies. The hon. Member spoke of the question as if the consumer was the only party in this country whoso interest was to be consulted. Now, he would ask what proportion of Her Majesty's subjects were consumers who were not also producers; and of what use would it be to the consumer to get an article cheaper if he lost the power of production? That was the whole question, and he fully agreed in the short and pithy speech of the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Dummond), that all these free-trade questions which had been brought before the House in succession tended to the discouragement of labour and the depreciation of wages, and would ultimately pauperise the country. Another fallacy had been put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Bradford (Colonel Thompson), who contended that the system of protection advocated on that (the Opposition) side of the House, was neither more nor less than the picking of one man's pocket for the benefit of another. But the advocate of protection was the advocate of protection to British subjects in contradistinction to foreigners. Those who advocated protection proceeded on the principle that, whereas neither the labourer, nor the capitalist, nor the agriculturist, nor the colonist, can he put on the same footing as the foreigner, the letting of foreigners into our markets both at home and in our colonial possessions renders it impossible we can compete with them. He trusted the subject would receive that consideration which its magnitude and importance deserved. If, in the course of the discussion, he should find a majority of the House determined to pass the measure in its integrity, he should deeply regret their decision, believing it would be one of the most impolitic and dangerous measures ever passed by a British House of Commons; but, at the same time, he would offer it no factious opposition he would content himself with the expression of his opinion at the different stages of the measure. If, however, the measure should be forced through the House of Commons, it must pass another ordeal before becoming the law of the land, and he trusted he should have occasion to say, in the words of Mr. Cobbett, "Thank God, there is a House of Lords." The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) quoted the evidence of Mr. M. Wigram and Mr. G. F. Young. No gentlemen of higher authority could be quoted on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman said, their evidence showed that the difference in the cost of timber was comparatively trifling. But the right hon. Gentleman did not toll the House that Mr. Wigram said, that, looking to the whole question, the effect would be to ruin the British shipbuilders; and that he would be obliged to shut up his establishment and go elsewhere. He was not well acquainted with shipbuilding; but he believed the cost of timber did form a material ingredient. In London the difference was not much, because the vessels there were built of British oak, on which there was no duty. But the people of Sunderland told them that the difference in the building of a vessel of 200 tons was more than 300l. in the cost of timber alone. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) had congratulated the House that time had been afforded for the consideration of this question, because the Canadians had now shown a much stronger disposition for the repeal of the navigation laws than they did last year. But the right hon. Gentleman had not told the House that the Canadians, although they last year expressed an opinion that the repeal of those laws might enable them to compete with the Americans, now required a protecting duty of 5s. a quarter on the wheat of Canada. He knew that even a hint expressive of any kind of protection excited the horror of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Unless he was greatly mistaken, the cry for protection would be heard sooner than they expected. The right hon. Gentleman had also stated that he saw no reason why the Canadians should not carry on the trade with the West Indies as well as the Americans. Did not the right hon. Gentleman know that the geographical position of Montreal and Quebec would ever place them at a disadvantage with the Americans as regarded the West India trade—a disadvantage which no alteration of the navigation laws would ever compensate them for? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that trade might be carried on with the West Indies as easily from the St. Lawrence as from the ports of Maine. Now, every one knew that the voyage was as long from Montreal to Maine as from Maine to the West Indies. The repeal of the navigation laws would not, therefore, enable Canada to compete with the United States in the West Indian trade. The only effect of it would be to injure the shipping interests of this country, without bestowing any benefit on the colony. He had referred to the debates which had taken place in Canada on this question, but could find no expression of opinion in favour of so sweeping a measure as that now proposed. When he looked round and saw the Hon. Members by whom this measure was supported—when he found it supported by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, the last person in the world knowingly to consent to a measure opposed to the public welfare—he did not feel justified in asserting that the measure would be entirely ruinous in its results; but, looking to the effect which former free-trade measures had produced, he felt he could not do better, with reference to this question, than to raise his voice in opposition to it. It had been said that hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, in admitting the question of reciprocity, had abandoned their whole case. He could not admit this. There was a great and important difference between entering into reciprocity treaties and throwing open the trade and navigation without stipulating for any return. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) proposed to reserve to the Queen in Council the power of withholding the advantages of free trade from those States which did not exercise reciprocity. When he (Mr. Robinson) recollected the principles which had been enunciated by hon. Gentlemen opposite with respect to this point, he could not consent to grant such a power. The right hon. Gentleman had rested his whole case on the assumption that the navigation laws imposed restrictions on commerce, and that, in order to free commerce, it was necessary to repeal those laws. He did not deny that the navigation laws placed in some instances restrictions on trade. He was perfectly ready, in compliance with the recommendations in the Speech from the Throne, to consider how far such restrictions might be removed by any alteration of the navigation laws consistent with the security of the country. But the recommendation from the Throne was not the proposition made by the Government. It was said that the repeal of these laws was called for in order to extend commerce. What commerce was meant? Not that of this country, but foreign commerce. The whole of the evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Lords was unfavourable to the proposition which was now submitted to the House. He found, from a statistical account, that at this moment the tonnage of the United States was 3,100,000 tons, while that of this country, including its colonies, was 3,800,000 tons. The difference was, therefore, only 700,000 tons: and if they were allowed to trade direct between our colonies and the mother country, and to have the intercolonial trade thrown open, without any restrictions, he (Mr. Robinson) warned the House that the marine superiority of Great Britain would gradually diminish, whilst the United States would enjoy the benefits of a trade to which they never had any claim whatever, and for which they could give us no compensation.


said, he would not trespass upon the time of the House more than a few moments. Although he could not agree with the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes) as to the causes of the present depression in trade, he concurred with him that, both in the metropolis and in the country generally, trade had not, for many years, been so depressed as it was at this moment. If he (Mr. Williams) had been in his place on the assembling of Parliament, he certainly should have taken the opportunity of expressing his opinion on that part of the Speech from the Throne, as well as on those portions of the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address which congratulated the House on the revival of trade. At the same time he admitted there was some temporary revival in the manufacturing districts; but that was always the case in the first three months of the year. He wished the noble Lord the Member for the city of London would ask the opinion of the great merchants and others connected with the retailers in all parts of the country as to the state of trade. They would inform the noble Lord, as they had himself (Mr. Williams), that although they never held such large stocks as they did now, they never had so much trouble in effecting sales; and that they did not find the money coming in so readily as they used to do. Now who were the traders that came into immediate contact with the millions? Why, the retail dealers; and he should be ashamed of his alliance with them if he did not stand up in his place and tell the Government and the House that the state of trade with them was never less prosperous than at this moment. Nevertheless, he trusted that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) would pass into law, because he was convinced it would be the moans of giving increased employment to the people, and consequently of improving the condition of the labourer.


was not surprised at the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade endeavouring to prevent the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Williams) from addressing the House. He was glad the hon. Gentleman opposite had spoken, because whenever any one on his side spoke of the depreciation of trade, there was some one of the Manchester school ready to rise from his wool or cotton sack, with the view of casting ridicule on all such statements. He wished, on the present occasion to address a few remarks in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Bradford (Colonel Thompson). He had understood the hon. and gallant Member to say, that if any one pointed out to him a trade that was protected, he could to that extent show him that it was a trade which robbed some other person. That was the doctrine of the school to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman be-longed. In the neighbouring county of Bucks there were two small trades, the beechwood and straw-plait trades, which had been utterly destroyed by free-trade measures; and as the hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to think that all protection to trade was a political robbery, he hoped when he next addressed the House the hon. and gallant Member would show who had been robbed by these trades. These trades might have displaced foreign trades of the same nature, but that was the whole question in dispute. He admitted that if duties were levied beyond a certain amount on foreign shipping, the effect would be restrictive of its amount; but if they threw open the ports, and left trade entirely free, he should like to know from what source they would derive revenue? The right hon. the President of the Board of Trade had laid down the doctrine that, "right or wrong," it was necessary to pass the measure proposed. It was a strange expression to use, that, "right or wrong," this relaxation of the navigation laws should be made. The hon. and gallant Member for Bradford had given the House what he called a sixpenny illustration of cheapness. A ride in an omnibus was the illustration made by the hon. and gallant Member. He (Sir J. Tyrell) would also take a sixpenny illustration. He admitted that sugar was now 6d. per pound; but then it ought to be recollected that the poor-rates in the parish of Marylebone were 8s. 6d. in the pound. [Mr. HUME: 5s. 6d.] Having ruined the West Indies, those who advocated free trade would perhaps tell him if the prosperity of the metropolis did not suffer from being deprived of the expenditure of the large incomes which used to be received from the West India estates. The advocates of the doctrines of the Manchester school must surely have closed their ears against the information given to the House by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Williams). Those hon. Members had given them a most gloomy view of trade, yet Ministers seemed to be plunging head-long into difficulty; heedless of the state of Ireland—the state of our colonies—and the increased distress and destitution among the people of this country. The right hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Horries) was about to present a petition, which represented the destitution and increased vagrancy of the country to be of the most appalling character. It was with regret that he, from time to time, had to make use of similar language; but when he found the Manchester school determined to carry out their principles, and when the state of the country was far from prosperous, he must, in the most decided manner, refuse to give his support to any of their doctrines.


would not enter upon the general question, or remark upon the topics that had been touched upon by hon. Members, as it was now approaching the hour when, by the rules of the House, the adjournment must take place. He hoped, however, that the Committee would allow the resolution to pass, so that the Government should be allowed to bring in the Bill without delay. The Government had, during the recess, thought it right to make communications to some foreign Powers of the purport of the measure introduced last Session, and intended to be now proposed to Parliament, for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain from those Governments, in return, a general notion of the course they were disposed to take with regard to navigation. Those papers would be shortly laid on the table of the House, and be in the hands of Members before the second reading.


observed, that the hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Mitchell) had stated that the trade with Cuba was now almost entirely in the hands of British shipowners; the inference intended to be drawn being, apparently, that British shipping could, without any protection, he able to compete with foreign. If this measure passed, the Americans would enter into the trade with Cuba in such a manner that this country would soon be deprived of it. Another fallacy of that hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell) was, that the consumer would derive great benefit from the repeal of the navigation laws. The consumer might be benefited by the reduction of freight in the case of heavy articles, as, for example, that of timber; but he appealed to the House, and to the hon. Gentleman himself, whether a reduction of freight in the case of sugar, to the extent of the sixteenth part of a penny per pound, would confer any benefit on the consumer. He would not then enter into the general question, reserving his remarks for a future occasion. He would only, then, declare his entire concurrence in the opinion of his right hon. Colleague (Mr. Herries), that the naval superiority of this country depended upon the maintenance of the navigation laws.


said, an appeal having been made to Irish Members who formerly voted for free trade by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes), he felt bound to say for himself, and he (Mr. J. O'Connell) believed there were some other Irish Members who concurred with him—that, so far was he from repenting of the vote which he had formerly given, he would most willingly follow the same course again. When the corn laws were first introduced in 1815, those who were prominent in the popular agitation in Ireland at that period saw the error of those laws quite as clearly as that House had done three years ago. A political leader told the people of that country that, although it was pretended that the protective system would be a benefit to Ireland, he did not believe it would prove so, observing that Ireland could not really be benefited at the expense of other portions of the empire; and he went into details in support of that view. He (Mr. J. O'Connell) was proud to think that Irish Members had assisted in securing the repeal of the corn laws; and though they had since been deserted by the English advocates of free trade, he trusted they would still vote for similar measures. The loss of life would have been infinitely greater in his own country if the navigation laws had not been suspended; and he believed that his countrymen would be benefited by that cheapening of the cost of food which must arise from the lowering of freights. On these grounds, and on the great principle that all monopoly was an evil, he should, as an Irish Member, record his vote for the removal of all commercial restrictions, and more particularly for the repeal of the navigation laws.


wished to know whether or not he had rightly understood that part of the Government measure which had reference to the coasting trade. He had understood the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) to state in effect, that an American vessel might, under the provisions of that Bill, on her arrival at Southampton, discharge a part of her cargo in that port, take in fresh goods, and then proceed to London, or any other English port; and that a French steamer coming from Havre might call at Ramsgate and take in cargo and passengers, and then proceed to another English port. He wished to know whether that view was correct.


said, that, undoubtedly, under the plan which he proposed to introduce, an American vessel would be able to call at one port, take in a cargo, and then proceed to another port; but she would not be able to carry on a regular to-and-fro coasting trade.

The following Resolution was then agreed to:— Resolved—"That it is expedient to remove the restrictions which prevent the free carriage of goods by sea to and from the United Kingdom and the British Possessions abroad, and to amend the Laws regulating the Coasting Trade of the United Kingdom, subject nevertheless to such control by Her Majesty in Council as may be necessary, and also to amend the Laws for the Registration of Ships and Seamen. Resolution reported and agreed to;—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bernai, Mr. Labouchere, and Lord John Russell.


expressed a hope that the next stage would not he fixed until ample time had been given for examining the papers which had been referred to by the President of the Board of Trade.

House resumed.