§ Order for Second Reading read. Motion made, and Question proposed—" That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. HERRIES
rose to oppose the further progress of the Bill, and stated that he should conclude his remarks by moving as an Amendment that it be read a second time this day six months. He had undertaken to make this Motion, because he objected to the principle of the Bill. If it were not conceived in the spirit in which it was conceived—if it were not framed in the manner in which it was framed, he should, in conformity with what he had stated last Session, have not been unwilling to allow a measure of this great im- 465 portance to proceed to another stage, in which its particular provisions might have been more fully considered, and, if possible, amended. But he was not content, so far as his voice could prevent it, to allow this Bill, so framed, and founded upon such an erroneous principle, to arrive at that stage. The measure was a most sweeping abrogation of the navigation laws, with some such trifling, some such insignificant reservations as tended—not to amend, not to remove the objections to that abrogation—but to tender them in some respects absurd, and in others onerous, without giving any compensation to those upon whom the burden would fall. He wished to show the House that what had taken place since the last discussion exhibited in a very remarkable degree the absurdity and danger of the proposed alteration; he wished to point out its operation on the coasting trade; and would endeavour to show that the worst of all the features in the Bill, in point of common sense, was the imposition upon the English shipowner of obligations to which his competitors were not exposed. It was impossible for him to consent to allow a Bill so framed to proceed to another stage; and he should, therefore, endeavour to state all those objections which he believed to be applicable to this ill-judged measure, so as to enable the House to come to an early decision upon the question. The present discussion was very much in the nature of a resumed debate. In the last Session the subject was very fully discussed, and with great ability, by some of his hon. Friends near him, and particularly by one whose loss would be long deplored. The interval between the withdrawal of the former measure and the present time had been fruitful in information, had produced many useful, documents, and, above all, had produced an expression of public feeling which was calculated to assist the House in forming a correct judgment, and coming to a true decision. The House was now in possession of the result of a correspondence with foreign Powers on the subject, and an important document touching on this measure had been received from Canada. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be satisfied with that correspondence, and he (Mr. Herries) trusted that be would be equally so after its contents had been fully discussed. Expressions of opinion had been elicited from all parts of the country, which expressions were of vast importance by reason of the numbers, the places, and 466 the classes whose interests were affected; and if the House would look at the character of the petitions in opposition to the measure, they would be of opinion that it would have been unfortunate indeed if the measure had passed the House last Session, before the House was aware of the strong feeling in the country. From an imperfect list of towns which he held in his hand, it appeared there had been presented petitions against the repeal of the navigation laws from Belfast, Bristol, Dartmouth, Devonport, Dunfermline, Dundee, Exeter, Exmonth, Fleetwood, Glasgow, Gateshead, Hull, Hartlepool, London, Liverpool, Leith, Lynn, Montrose, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Portsmouth, Penzance, Perth, Sunderland, Shields, St. Andrews, Swansea, Salt-ash, Tynemouth, Weymouth, and Yarmouth. Above all, he invited the attention of the House to the two petitions presented that evening from Liverpool and London. There was one from the metropolis of the great commercial world—London—represented by the First Minister of the Crown, signed by 27,000 persons of the most respectable classes. Then came a petition from Liverpool, the second great commercial city of the empire, signed by 24,700 persons—not shipowners merely; and he begged to direct the attention of the House to the following passage in that petition:—That your petitioners view with the greatest alarm the progress of a measure by which it is proposed to take away from this country the advantages it has so long and so successfully enjoyed, and by which such great results have been produced; and (as they believe unwisely) to invite foreign nations to share those advantages with us—nations utterly unable, even if willing, to confer upon us an equivalent in return. That one self-evident result would be the substitution (to a great extent) of foreign for British and colonial shipping, the employment of the labour and capital of other countries in lieu of our own, and the creation of new relations between foreign nations and our own colonies; thus weakening the ties which bind the latter to the mother country, and diminishing British power and influence throughout the world. But above all these, your petitioners would most earnestly implore your honourable House to look at the consequences of this measure as regards the British Navy. Dependent as this is for the supply of the best seamen upon the mercantile marine, can it be supposed that it will maintain its present power when that supply is withdrawn, as it inevitably will be, by the diminution of merchant shipping? and with a navy badly manned and inefficient, how, in the event of war, your petitioners would respectfully ask, will our remaining trade be protected, our colonies continued to us, or even our national existence secured?Before proceeding to discuss the general 467 question, he would call the attention of the House to the correspondence to which he had alluded; and if the House would indulge him with its attention for a short time, he would endeavour to repay it by as much conciseness as possible. He did not intend to trouble the House with statistics, but would endeavour to rest his views and arguments upon principle, and to discuss it upon the national principle involved in it. He was the more disposed to take this course because, in the last Session, many details were necessarily gone into, and he was anxious not to weary the House with them again. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the measure rested it, in the first instance, chiefly upon three points, which he put forward as his principal inducement to the House to take the subject into immediate consideration, and to accede to his proposition. He rested mainly upon the case of Canada. That was his first and great foundation. He called upon the House, by reason of the state of the West Indies, and, on the score of our colonies, he conjured them to pass the measure as quickly as possible. The right hon. Gentleman also told the House that while foreign Powers were pressing most strongly for admission into that which this country exclusively enjoyed, it became the House to consider as early as possible the danger of refusing to accede to their demands. He should endeavour to dispose of those three points before he proceeded to what he must consider the real question in dispute. First, with regard to Canada. Last year an impression prevailed that the Canadians were anxious for a repeal of the navigation laws. It was said last year that Canada was in a blaze for the abrogation of those laws; and in some respects the representations which had been received and laid on the table justified the right hon. Gentleman in what he had then stated; but he believed the right hon. Gentleman was not in possession of the whole of the documents relating to Canada. He would undertake to say that the case of Canada was good for nothing. It was evident that great pains had been taken to get up a case for the purpose of making an impression on the House. He would make no accusation against right hon. Gentlemen, but he feared there was a strong disposition not to lay all the documents connected with the question before the House. Such a mode of dealing with a public question had high authority among Her Majesty's Ministers, not in that 468 House, but elsewhere. Passages of a public document which made for the Minister's case were read, and those which told against it were not read. He did not at all believe that that was the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite would deal with this question. But the case of Canada now revealed a state of things the very reverse of what the House had last year been led to believe. Last year they had pompously announced to them the representations of the Board of Trade of Quebec. They had also had the opinion of the Governor of the North American provinces. There was brought before them an expression of the opinion of what was believed to be the majority of the Board of Trade of Montreal. They had also been led to suppose that the inhabitants of Canada West were of opinion—putting the question of protection out of view—that their main grievance was the existence of the navigation laws. It had, however, since then come to light that the majority of the Board of Trade of Quebec were of a contrary opinion to what had been represented, and that they were opposed to the repeal of the navigation laws. Now, it appeared that the Board consisted of eighty-nine members, of whom seventeen were absent from the country at the time that document was concocted, and of those seventy-two members fifty-three had absolutely signed a declaration that it (lid not represent the feeling in Canada. The Board of Trade of Montreal had presented in the first instance a petition, signed by the President, in favour of protection by a discriminating duty, in which petition the question of the navigation laws was slightly touched upon. The petition from the main body, stating in the strongest terms that they adhered to protection and the navigation laws, was signed by 57 members. He must pray the attention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to that fact. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would give the same weight to the opinion of such a body when opposed to him, as he claimed for them when they were supposed to be in his favour. The whole number of the board consisted of 103 members; of these there were absent from the colony, when the question was discussed, 8; members who refused to sign, 8; members who protested, 12. There were, therefore, 57 who had signed the letter, declaring that they had perused the document which had been signed by 13 members of said corporation, and which had made such an im- 469 pression on the right hon. Gentleman opposite. They stated that they concurred in the prayer of the petition for the continuance of protection and against the repeal of the navigation laws. But there had been a document presented recently which showed more strongly than anything else the feeling of the Canadas upon this question. It was the report of a meeting held in the colony at Hamilton, at which there was a larger number of persons present than had been known at any previous assembly of the sort. The meeting was convened by parties favourable to the repeal of these laws; but upon a resolution being proposed adopting a petition to Parliament in favour of their repeal, an amendment was moved and carried by a large majority, to the effect that a repeal of the navigation laws, so far as Canada was concerned, would prove most disastrous to its prosperity. That amendment was in the following terms:—That it is the opinion of the meeting that the abolition of the navigation laws, so far as Canada is concerned, would prove disastrous to its prosperity—compelling its inhabitants to compete with foreigners whose resources and whose restrictive policy give them a prodigious superiority over us, enabling them, while they exclude our shipping from the navigation of their waters, to possess themselves of our carrying trade, thus producing results which must prove destructive, not only to Canadian interests, but also to those of the British shipowner.Last year, the right hon. Gentleman opposite relied on the representations he had received from Canada in favour of his measure. This year they were all the other way. It was only fair, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman should give them the same weight when against him as when they were for him. It must, indeed, be acknowledged that unless the Canadians were the dullest people on the face of the earth they could not but see that their interests required the maintenance of these laws. It could not be denied that their position, when deprived of protection for their produce, was, as compared with that of the United States, most disadvantageous and distressing. The United States had, with respect to the great article of produce, corn and flour, derived great benefits from the abolition of all discriminating duties which had existed in favour of our colonists of Canada. Nor was this all; for the means of internal conveyance possessed by the latter were, as compared with those enjoyed by the former, most disadvantageous—the navigation, more especially by way 470 of Montreal, from the western parts of the province, being very intricate and difficult; whereas the United States had a good inland communication from the western lakes to New York, &c. Moreover, the Americans had, with their accustomed sagacity, determined to do everything in the way of fiscal arrangements to favour the shortest and cheapest and most accessible communication between the western lakes and this country. Montreal, let it be remarked, was not, as Quebec was, a free port; so that nothing could enable the former place to bear up against the removal of protection except the retention of the navigation laws. And now he begged the House to observe that when the people of Montreal had addressed to the Home Government a statement of their grievances on this subject, the Earl of Elgin, in transmitting it, pointed out that the erection of Montreal into a free port would, in effect, remedy the evils particularly complained of as affecting that important part of the province—he repeated, that the Earl of Elgin had conveyed an intimation to the Home Government that the erection of Montreal into a free port would remove the difficulties under which the inhabitants were labouring—a proposition which was seconded by several memorials. This advice was given in the spring of 1847; and he asked, in fairness, why, when they spoke loudly of the grievances of the people of Canada, in respect of the navigation laws, they did not take the step suggested by the Governor General of the North American provinces, and give them that relief they required? He put it to them why they did not act as he had pointed out? There was nothing to prevent the Government from issuing an order in council declaring Montreal a free port. Why had they not done so? Was it to preserve a grievance for the purpose of creating a prejudice and a cry against the navigation laws? He thought the House would agree with him in thinking that after this the pretended case of Canada actually vanished. Then as to the second case urged against these laws, that of the West Indies. Need he do more than ask what had become of it? Where was the famous despatch of the Governor of Jamaica, on which so much reliance had been placed, but of which the inhabitants had known nothing? Had not they, so soon as they had time to reflect, discovered the delusion that it had been attempted to impose upon them, and found that the repeal of these laws would 471 do them no good, because the result would be to facilitate the importation of foreign and slave-grown sugar, to the competition of which they had been so cruelly and unscrupulously exposed? He thought he need not say anything more on the "case" of the West Indies, so far as the planters were concerned, for to the case of the consumers of colonial produce he would subsequently advert. The next argument urged was that which had been founded on the alleged endeavours of foreign nations to induce the Government to abrogate those laws. He did not think this was an argument calculated to make much impression upon the House. The case of Prussia had actually been cited on the first occasion, but was very soon disposed of. The House would remember that a discussion took place upon this subject about the month of June last year. At that time the opponents of the Bill were induced to believe that the Government had resolved to act with dignified independence, and to pursue "the even tenour of their way," careless of the assent or dissent of foreign nations. They held out hopes that enlightened States would gladly accept this boon, and declared the greatest punishment that could be inflicted on them would be their own waywardness in not conforming to our system of liberality. Subsequently, however, a hint was thrown out that such foreign States as were so blind to their own interests—so marvellously inconsistent as not to reciprocate our liberality—would not find the same favour in the eyes of the Government of Great Britain as those who did—that, in fact, some punishment would be inflicted on them. That did seem to him and to his party a most extraordinary course—a most unjust course. They stood in the position of a man who, carrying a bag of bad money, threw it off his shoulders into the street, and then exclaimed, whoever takes it up must pay for it. The Government held that the repeal of the navigation laws would benefit themselves. Then, if they thought so, let them proceed to accomplish their repeal; but surely it was no reason that because a certain course of policy benefited England, other Governments were bound to take it up and adopt it. How did the Government act? Did they wait until Parliament met and they had taken the sense of both Houses upon the maintenance or abrogation of these laws? Did they maintain a dignified reserve as regarded foreign nations, and an independence of resolution? Did they 472 show their own reliance upon the rectitude of the principle which they wished Parliament to adopt? Nothing of the kind. After six months had elapsed, the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department took it into his head to correspond with foreign States upon the subject of the contemplated alteration of the navigation laws of this country. Now, if the Government was desirous of obtaining the opinions of foreign Powers, or if anything depended upon those opinions, why did not the Government endeavour to obtain those opinions either before the question was brought forward in Parliament, or wait until it was finally disposed of? But the noble Lord wrote notes to all our friends and allies abroad; he sent circulars to all, not even excepting the Government of the Equador, inviting them to consider the measure; and, he must say, there was something singular in the diplomacy of this country to induce the noble Lord to write to a foreign Government, telling it what the House of Commons had done, without waiting to know what the House of Lords might also do. Perhaps he thought he might thus obtain such favourable answers as might, in some measure, influence the decision of the House of Lords, and silence the party in this House who were opposed to the repeal of those laws. If such had been the intention of the noble Lord, he must have been grievously disappointed, for there had never been a more signal failure. The answers to these notes, or circulars, were very singular. Not one Power assented—not one. They asked foreign Powers what they would do, and the vast majority answered, "Nothing now." Some of thorn gave answers scarcely civil. The most promising referred to some future events which might never happen. The German States, for instance, replied, that they would wait for the establishment of a Central Government in Germany before they could say whether or not they would accept the proposition. In Hanover, Count Bermigsen regretted that in the present state of Germany it was impossible for the Hanoverian Government to enter into any separate commercial engagements. From Mecklenburgh-Strelitz, from Mecklenburgh-Schwerin, from Hamburgh, from Lubeck, they had the same unfavourable answers. But Prussia—Prussia, whose policy was so vauntingly spoken of—Prussia, by whose menace they were commanded to repeal those laws—what 473 was the answer from Prussia? Why, that she was in precisely the same position with the others: she could give no decision until the Central German Government was appointed, which would probably he somewhere about the Greek Kalends. Well, then, Russia—what did Russia say? The following is the paragraph in the memorandum of the Russian Government upon this subject:—A ces questions, le Ministère Impérial ne peut que répondre en rappelant ce qui a subsisté jusqu'à présent. Appréciant la haute importance des relations commerciales entre les deux empires et les avantages qui en résultent réciproquement, le Gouvernement Russe a toujours eu soin de traiter les bâtimens Britanniques qui visitent ses ports sur le pied d'une égalité aussi parfaite que possible avec les bâtimens nationaux. Ce principe a été maintenu en Russie alors même que les bâtimens Russes ne jouissaient pas encore d'une parfaite réciprocité dans les ports Britanniques. Le même principe a été formellement consacré par le traité de commerce et de navigation conclu le 30 Decembre—11 Janvier, 1842–3. Ce traité est encore en vigueur. L'état de choses qu'il a établi en faveur du pavillon Britannique, le Gouvernement Russe n'a, ni peut avoir, l'intention d'y apporter un changement quelconque. Mais il sera toujours prêt à s'entendre avec le Gouvernement Britannique sur l'extension, que l'application du principe de parfaite égalité peut encore recevoir en Angleterre en faveur du pavillon Russe. Les seules réserves qu'il croirait devoir y apporter seraient celles qui concernent le commerce de cabotage, expressément réservé déjà par l'article X. du traité de 1842–3, et les clauses contenues dans les articles séparés du même traité.The United States would not answer us. The United States were always very careful in such proceedings as these. They never committed themselves. That note of Mr. Bancroft was a mere civil matter-of-course assurance; but all they knew was that the matter was deferred. But what did Austria say? A more reproachful note than that which had been received from the Austrian Minister could hardly be conceived. It barely came within the limits of diplomatic courtesy and politeness. Austria was vastly surprised that we did not know the facts of the case. It was thus the Austrian Minister wrote on the subject:—Ce n'est pas sans surprise que le Gouvernement Impérial a vu qu'une question telle que celle à laquelle il s'agit de répondre, a pu lui être adressée par celui de la Grande Bretagne.Il croyait pouvoir se flatter que les principes on ne peut plus libéraux qui président à la législation Autrichienne sur la navigation, et qui sont justement appréciés par toutes les nations commerçantes, ne seraient pas ignorés en Angleterre.474Il espérait que le Gouvernement Britannique n'aurait pas voué à un entire oubli ce que l'Autriche a si franchement fait valoir dans plusieurs occasions, et particulièrement lors des négociations qui ont précédé la conclusion des Traités de Commerce et de Navigation du 21 Décembre, 1829, et du 3 Juillet, 1833, savoir: que les bâtimens Anglais ne sont assujettis dans les états de l'Empereur à aucune espèce de mesure restrictive, quant à leur provenance ou leur destination (le cabotage seul excepté), ni quant à l'espèce de marchandises qu'ils transportent; et que l'on ne perçoit en Autriche de ces navires, à la suite des dits traités, aucun drot différentiel quelconque.La navigation Anglaise jouit en conséquence en Autriche dos avantages les plus étendus, puisqu'elle y est placée, à l'exception du cabotage, sur le pied du'une pleine et parfaite égalité avec la navigation indigène.La preuve, par contre, que le pavillon Autrichien n'est point traité en Angleterre d'une manière analogue, est amplement fournie par le mémorandum mentionné plus haut.L'Autriche se trouve d'ailleurs à présent dans un état de transition. Si ume telle situation rend par elle-même à tout gouvernement très difficile, sinon moralement impossible, d'arrêter et de proclamer d'avance tout un système politique, une pareille entreprise serait aujourd'hui pour Autriche encore spécialement difficile par rapport à sa politique commerciale, vû aussi la position dans laquelle elle se trouve placée en sa qualité de membre de la Confédération Germanique.And such was the style of the despatch throughout. Could we wonder at this coldness, amounting almost to incivility, on the part of Austria? When Austria applied to us, her old ally, in the hour of her need, did we tender her our friendly aid? Not at all, we gave her the cold shoulder; and when she expressed her unwillingness to give up a part to satisfy the wishes of those who rebelled against her authority, we said, "You must give up more." The upshot of the reply of the Austrian Government was the same as the rest. They would do nothing until the German Central Government had settled the question. Well, but next came "the unkindest cut of all." They had a very positive answer from Belgium. The Belgian Government had got very odd notions, opinions which no doubt seemed very strange to Her Majesty's Government, but to him their course seemed a wise, just, and politic course. The Belgian Government was resolved to act with justice to their own subjects. The answer of Belgium was, in effect—"No. We will continue protection." Lord Howard de Walden wrote to Lord Palmerston as follows:—I have the honour herewith to transmit to you a copy of a note which I have received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs in reply to the 475 communication which I made to him under your Lordship's instructions, conveyed to me in your despatch of the 22nd of December last, relative to the alterations in the British navigation law, intended to be proposed by Her Majesty's Government during the present Session of Parliament.I expressed to your Lordship at the time that it was not probable that the Belgian Government would abolish the differential duties now levied in the ports of this country on British goods not imported in Belgian vessels.Subsequent conversation with M. d'Hoffschmidt, and the tenor of the present note, confirm that opinion; indeed, I very much doubt, considering the strong tendency which prevails at this moment in the Chambers to give extraordinary impulse and protection to all branches of national and internal industry, whether a proposition to admit of competition on perfectly identical terms between British and Belgian vessels would be listened to for an instant.British vessels are not at present subject to any higher port duties or charges than Belgian vessels, but on their cargoes an additional duty of 10 per cent is levied.Notwithstanding the disadvantage under which such imports labour, the general balance is still much in favour of British navigation, though, I believe, owing to this protection enabling them to work at lower rates of freight, steamers under the Belgian flag compete successfully with those of England.Now, he would ask the Government what they meant to do with Belgium? They knew beforehand that Belgium would not conform to their plan. Was the Government prepared, then, to adopt any particular line of policy towards that country? Were they to put the screw on with regard to Belgium? Now, the very counduct which the Belgian Government was pursuing was deserving of the praise of its subjects, and such as all good governments ought to pursue; for it was acting on the rule which, whether right or wrong, went to the protection of its own people. Indeed, the principles of sound policy and of good government had been learned in this country by the wise and illustrious Prince who had, happily for Belgium, been called to rule over it, before we had entered upon our new and dangerous schemes of policy; and Belgium was now finding the benefit of those principles. There was another State to which a communication had been made—he meant France. Now nothing could be more civil than the reply of France, and yet nothing-more decided than the opposition which she gave by her acts to our proposition. In the interval which had occurred between the time at which the Marquess of Norman by presented the note of our Foreign Secretary, and that at which he received a 476 reply to it, the Chamber of Deputies had come to a decision on the question of the salt duties, directly at variance with our plan. They had imposed a duty on salt coming in French vessels, and an additional higher duty upon salt coming in foreign ships, thereby excluding British vessels. It was a very remarkable thing that all these things should have occurred in France, in Belgium, in Germany, and other places—that the hostility to the proposal of the Government should continue, after all the missionaries from this country who had gone abroad to teach those benighted foreigners what would be for their benefit and for their good. The hon. Member for the West Hiding (Mr. Cobden) had been on that mission, and yet he had failed to convince them of the efficacy of his doctrines. Not one step was taken towards that system of free trade which the hon. Member went to teach. Did not that fact suggest serious considerations in the minds of all those who would go on experimentalising in the reckless manner in which the present Government went on? Why should they suppose themselves so much wiser than the people of all other States? Were they alone wise, and all the rest of mankind unable to see their own interest? Why should they suppose that all other Governments and Legislatures were devoid of intelligence and foresight? Was France wrong—was Belgium wrong—was Germany wrong—was America wrong? All of them were protectionists—America highly so, and yet she was in a remarkable state of prosperity. All were protectionists—were they all absurd? The noble Lord opposite at the head of the Government had said he was against protection, because protection was calculated to injure the party or thing protected. Had protection injured the silk, or the wool, or the cotton trade of this country, when it enabled it to compete with foreign manufactures of the greatest excellence? Was it not protection which had raised that branch of industry to the height it once occupied? Gould Prussia, or France, or America, have brought their cotton manufactures to such a condition as they were in at present, without protection? But for that protection, their rivals in foreign countries would have overborne thorn in their own market; for how could the manufacturers of England, who paid high wages for labour, compete with the manufacturers of a foreign country, where labourers were to be had for three half-pence 477 per day? But the progress of science and invention had, to a great extent, superseded the necessity for human toil; and the consequence was, owing to their machinery, and the peculiar advantages of the country, they were enabled to dispense with protection. But they ought never to forget that they continued a high protective duty in favour of their own manufactures, under which they grew up into prosperity. Prussia, France, and America were all making great progress in manufactures. But how? Under a protective system. America was now manufacturing twice or thrice the quantity of cotton goods that she did a few years ago; but if the native produce of that country and of France and Prussia were not protected against our goods, every loom would be stopped in them very soon, for they could not contend with us on equal terms. With respect to foreign countries, therefore, the correspondence had ended where it begun, and they were in the same position as regarded them as when the subject was brought forward last year. The Government would have acted with much more wisdom and prudence if they had never sent any of those notes or circulars; but certainly the result told highly in favour of the views of the party to which he belonged, and was well calculated to strengthen their previous convictions. In fact they had got no distinct answer from any one but Belgium, and that was not a favourable one; therefore they were now in a worse situation than they were before, because now they were bound to the principle. In his opinion, however, they would act much better to leave the measure alone, and would act more wisely in adopting his Motion for reading the Bill a second time that day six months. He had felt it necessary to touch upon those topics in consequence of what had taken place last year on that subject. He had shown them that Canada formed no case upon which to rest that measure. All the foreign Powers appeared to be in a more difficult position than before. They could not rely on the West Indies as furnishing a ground for their proposition. Having said that much, he would undertake, with the permission of the House, to state what he conceived to be the real question at issue in respect to that proposition for the repeal of the navigation laws. As he had said before, he would avoid as much as possible any reference to extracts or statistical documents, which, in the course of such a discussion as that, 478 might be introduced at great length on both sides till the end of time, and which rather applied to the details than to the principle of the measure. He might, if he wished, refer at length to the evidence in the report upon their table; but he would abstain from doing so. He conceived the question at issue to be merely this. It would not be necessary to make a diffuse statement on the point. It lay in a narrow compass. Upon the one hand it was maintained that the existing system of navigation laws had secured to this country in a greater degree than could be secured to it by another means a large and powerful commercial marine. It was contended, moreover, that that largo commercial marine was necessary for the purpose of maintaining and increasing the commerce of a great naval Power like England, and of protecting her in the hour of difficulty and danger, and that therefore it would be most unwise and impolitic to do anything towards the repeal of these laws. On the other hand, it was contended that the navigation laws enhanced the cost of carriage and impeded commerce, and that by so doing they inflicted an evil on the country. Some of the parties who opposed those laws maintained that a great commercial marine was not essential to a great naval Power. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: That is no opinion of mine.] No, but it was the opinion of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, the originator of the present movement. [Mr. RICARDO: Hear, hear!] Between these two latter arguments there was a wide difference, but he thought the hon. Gentleman's the Member for Stoke was not very generally entertained in that House. Now he (Mr. Herries) did not deny that the navigation laws were attended with some disadvantages, and that they imposed some impediments and obstructions; but what he contended for was, that those impediments and obstructions were vastly more than balanced by the advantages which these laws brought with them. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ricardo) was almost singular in his opinion that these laws were a gratuitous mischief, and did not contribute to our naval power—that they did nothing, in short, but injury. But other opponents of the existing system merely contended that the navigation laws were not essential to the encouragement or creation of a commercial marine, and that they might therefore be dispensed with without endangering the national safety. On the whole, it appeared that the question 479 was one in which they had to balance the inconvenience arising out of these laws against the advantages supposed to be secured by them. If the inconvenience outweighed the advantages, these laws ought to be repealed; but if the inconvenience which they produced was but trifling compared with the great national objects which they promoted, then a good case existed for reading that Bill a second time that day six months. He should proceed in the first place to deal with the proposition that a mercantile marine was not necessary to a great naval Power. He would not, however, dwell at any great length upon that point, because he could hardly imagine that a British House of Commons could entertain any serious doubt upon the subject. The supporters of these laws admitted that they had been passed for the creation and encouragement of a great mercantile marine, as a most important means of ensuring the national prosperity and safety. From the first statesman who invented them to the latest philosophers who had written in their favour, all who advocated their adoption did so on the ground that whatever might be the disadvantages attending those laws, the great national objects which they promoted far surpassed those disadvantages. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) and a vast majority of the House did not coincide in the opinion of those who thought that a great commercial marine was not a benefit to a great naval Power. But the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, after having stated in his very valuable work the opinion upon that point of Sir J. Stirling, a very meritorious officer, but one who entertained some very singular opinions, proceeded to say—There is an end, therefore, in all its branches of the nursery question. No pretext is loft for the continuance of a navigation law on any Royal Navy plea.But the views of Sir J. Stirling were opposed to those of other officers who should be considered very high authorities on that subject. They were opposed to the views of Sir T. Cochrane, of Sir B. Martin, of Admiral Dundas, and of Admiral Parker. They were also opposed to the views of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, from one of whose speeches he would quote a passage upon that subject, not with any invidious intention, not as an argumentum ad hominem, not for the purpose of calling on the hon. Member to vote with him upon 480 that occasion, but solely because the pas-sago in question afforded a very remarkable instance of a very important lesson derived from an event within the recollection of every one whom he was addressing. The hon. Member had turned that lesson to excellent account, and had drawn his conclusion from it in his usual terse, clear, and distinct language. He wished to call the attention of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent in particular to the passage. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire was referring to a dispute between the French and American Governments arising out of a money transaction, and the following was the language of the hon. Gentleman on the subject:—At that time—I hare it from the Americans themselves—the French had three times the force of ships of war that America had. Admiral Mackau was in the Gulf of Florida with a fleet large enough to ravage the whole coast of Florida and bombard her towns. But did France rush into war with America? She paid the money. Why? Because she knew well if she provoked an unjust war with the United States, her men-of-war were nothing compared with the force which would swarm out of every American port when brought into collision with another country. France knew that America had the largest mercantile marine; and though at first the battle might be to the stronger in an armed fleet, in the end it would be to that country which had the greatest amount of public spirit, and the greatest amount of mercantile marine.Such was the opinion of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire on the advantages of a mercantile marine to a naval Power; and from that opinion he (Mr. Herries) was sure that very few Members of the House would dissent. But then arose the question, whether the navigation laws contributed to the promotion of a mercantile marine. Now, it appeared to him to be manifest that they were calculated to produce that effect. They gave to this country the exclusive possession of the most extensive maritime commerce in the world—the commerce between her and her colonies in every quarter of the globe—and that circumstance, surely, inevitably tended to the formation of a mercantile marine. It was true that in Europe they had abandoned many provisions in their navigation laws, and abandoned them wisely, as he had always thought; but they had abandoned them because they could not be maintained any longer. That was the ground on which Mr. Huskisson had made his modifications of the system. But his (Mr. Herries's) proposition was, that they should at present hold what they could, 481 and concede only what, they must, in matters of navigation. Some persons, however, contended that the abrogation of the navigation laws could not lead to a diminution of our mercantile marine. Now, he could not conceive how that doctrine was consistent with the statement that the proposed change was to be effected for the benefit of the consumer in this country. He had never yet heard it explained how it was the price of goods in this country was to be reduced by reason of a reduction of the cost of carriage if the navigation laws were repealed, unless upon the principle that, after that change, the amount of freightage paid to the British shipowner would be diminished by foreign competition. But if that were to be the result of the proposed measure, it was clear that it must injuriously affect our mercantile marine. He admitted that the navigation laws imposed restraints on our commerce, and that inasmuch as they did so they operated unfavourably. ["Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial side of the House.] Hon. Gentlemen seemed to receive that as some new admission he was making; but that truth had never been questioned or denied. He would, however, endeavour to show them that the disadvantage in question was very inconsiderable when compared with the great national object which these laws attained in the promotion of a mercantile marine. The question they had to consider was, whether the gain they might derive from an abolition of the navigation laws was such as ought to induce them to run the risk of the loss to which that abolition might lead? He would put the matter on that ground, and he would not assume it as certain that the loss would be incurred; but he contended that if the advantage to be devived from an abrogation of the present system was trifling, it would not be wise to run the risk of the great national loss to which the change might give rise. He was not prepared to assert that the effect of the change would absolutely be to cause loss to the Navy; but if he could show that such a risk was run, then all the advantage that could possibly arise to the commercial marine must be thrown aside. Now, who was it that would be seriously benefited by the proposed measure? In the case of the West Indies, for instance, was it the planter, or the merchant, or the consumer in this country? If they read the evidence on the subject they would find that the benefit of any reduction of the cost 482 of freightage would be so frittered away before it could be felt by the consumer that it would be of little or no value to him. It could not, in fact, amount to anything like a diminution in the price of sugar to anything like the extent of a farthing on every pound. But would the merchant derive any great advantage from the change, or was he severely injured by the existing law? In order to show that neither of these questions could be answered in the affirmative, he would proceed to read a variety of extracts from the evidence of some of the first merchants of London and various other cities throughout Europe.J. Horsley Palmer (not a shipowner). Have you experienced any injury or inconvenience from the operation of the navigation laws?—I have not been aware of any.Patrick Francis Robertson (China and East India merchant).—I cannot say that I know anything about the operation of the navigation laws, they never interfere with us.Augustus Bosanquet (West India merchant). As a merchant, having concerns both in the east and west, will you state, whether in your opinion, the commercial interests of this country suffer materially from the operation of the navigation laws?—I do not see that they suffer at all by the operation of the navigation laws.Have you any suggestion to make as to any alteration of those laws, by which the general trade of the country would be benefited?—I am not read in the navigation laws; I merely take them as I suppose their effects to be in the world, and though I have looked over Mr. Ricardo's book, and the answer to it, still this amounts to so little that I cannot answer such a question.[The reading of these and similar answers excited ironical cheers from the free-trade benches.] Gentlemen may sneer at the circumstance that the witnesses confess that they have not studied the question, nay, that the most of them have not thought of the subject at all—but, to his mind that was the strongest evidence that the law had not borne heavily upon them. Were these men so low in intellect—so little acquainted with matters which affected their own interest—did they occupy so low a position in the commercial world—as not to be aware whether a specified law oppressed them or not? The fact that they did not know was the clearest proof that the pressure of the law in question was of the slightest kind. He would now continue his quotations:—Russell Ellice. Do you consider, as a merchant, shipowner, and West Indian proprietor, that the repeal of the navigation laws would in any degree relieve you in your present difficulties?—I think it would not assist us in the least, as far as I can judge.Have you, in your commercial transactions, experienced any injury or inconvenience from the 483 navigation laws?—None in my own transactions.Henry Davidson (West India merchant). Have you, in your commercial transactions, sustained any inconvenience from the navigation laws?—I am not aware that we have.Have you ever considered the way in which your trade is affected by those laws?—No, I have never particularly attended to it.Alexander Geddes (Jamaica planter). Have you any grievance to complain of in the operation of the navigation laws?—No, none.You think the repeal of those laws would do you no good?—I do not think it would be of any material importance.Robert Brooks (Australian merchant and shipowner). Is your interest the greater as a merchant or as shipowner?—The larger portion of my capital is in merchandise.Do you understand the operation of the navigation laws?—No, I do not thoroughly; very few men do, I think.Are you aware of any inconvenience in the colonial trade from those laws?—I do not know of any whatever.Do you know of any complaint having been expressed till recently in the colonies from those laws?—I never heard of any; not even recently.Supposing they interfered with your trade, you would soon understand them?—Yes, no doubt.John Gore (merchant to New South Wales). Have you ever entertained the question of the navigation laws?—Never; I know nothing of them.You know nothing of them?—I never heard anything of them till lately.All you know is that they never interfered with you?—Never to my knowledge.Have you ever heard your friends complain of the navigation laws?—I never heard it mentioned till a few months ago, when something was said in the House of Commons.Francis Shand (merchant and proprietor in Antigua). Have you experienced any inconvenience from the navigation laws?—I am not aware of any.George Booker (merchant and proprietor in Demerara). As a West Indian proprietor, have you no reason to complain?—I have no complaint to make so far as regards the navigation laws.Thomas Augustus Gibb (merchant and agent, resident in China). Do you understand the operation of the navigation laws?—No further than that they restrict our direct shipments from China to British vessels—but I am not a shipowner.As a merchant, have you ever found any inconvenience from that restriction?—No; none at all. I do not anticipate that I should ship my teas cheaper if you were to abolish the navigation laws to morrow.Robert Alexander Gray (house of Melhuish, Gray, and Co., trading with Brazils, America, Newfoundland, Portugal, and Mediterranean). Have you experienced any difficulty or loss in your commercial transactions from the operation of the navigation laws?—Not in the slightest degree.Would the repeal of those laws place you in a more favourable position with respect to your export and import trade?—Certainly not.Are you a shipowner?—I am; but our interest as shipowners is so small compared to our 484 interest as merchants, that I may say that my opinion on this subject is a disinterested one.Does not the prohibition to import the produce of the distant quarters of the world from Europe give rise occasionally to cases of hardship and inconvenience?—The instances of inconvenience are so few that I may say generally that no inconvenience has been experienced.David Cooper Aylwin (Calcutta merchant). Have you ever felt any inconvenience from the navigation laws?—As a merchant engaged in the constant importation and exportation of merchandise, I have, during a nine years' residence in India, invariably found that the navigation laws have secured me a regular and sufficient supply of shipping, at fair and moderate rates of transit. I should say that the removal of the navigation laws would not be of the slightest benefit to the merchant, as I do not consider they operate as a restriction on trade.[Mr. RICARDO: Read question 603.] He would leave it to the hon. Gentleman himself to read it if he should think proper. It might be said that the gentlemen from whose evidence he had quoted confessed that they had not directed their attention to the subject, and that their opinion was not therefore entitled to much value. But it certainly appeared to him that no circumstance could more clearly demonstrate the position for which he contended—namely, that those laws did not inflict on our merchants any serious disadvantage, than the fact that the point had not been thought worthy of consideration by the most active and intelligent merchants in the country. Mr. Horsley Palmer, Mr. Bosanquet, and the other witnesses from whose evidence he had quoted, were not men of narrow intellect, or of inconsiderable standing in the commercial world; and the fact of such men not being aware that the continuance of the navigation laws operated against them as a grievance, afforded the most conclusive proof that the grievance did not exist. Under these circumstances he could not help thinking that it would be most unwise to unsettle those laws on which the foundation of our naval power rested. They had entered on a course which had this fatality, that if unfortunately for this country the proposed measure should not answer their expectations, it would be too late to retrace their steps. Once abandon these laws—once throw aside the barrier of protection, and they could never hope to clothe themselves with it again. The right hon. Gentleman then adverted to the magnitude of the shipping interest, and to the spirit of resistance which the proposed change in the law had brought into action. An interest which represented a capital of from 485 50,000,000l. to 60,000,000l, and employed 290,000 seamen, ought not to be slightingly dealt with. Supposing that the higher consideration of national security was lost sight of, was the House prepared, without provocation, without any demand from without, prepared at the mere call of some hon. Gentleman who moved for the appointment of a Committee, before which evidence was taken, to rush into this wild scheme? They said that the House was about to do by sea what they had already done by land—they were going to make another political experiment. What was the menacing aspect—they were fond of the term—which justified them in doing injury to that interest? In his humble judgment such conduct was proof of nothing but dementation. Was it because they feared to give protection to anybody, and thought themselves bound to treat every interest as they had treated land? Had not the great metropolitan city, represented by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, called on the House to stay its hand? Could the noble Lord point to any strong expression of opinion on the other side from the same quarter? Had he brought up any petitions in favour of the measure from the city which he represented? All prudence and sound judgment were opposed to it. The voice which is now rising from every quarter will make its way to those to whose hands the Government is now entrusted, and they will learn that the first duty of a British Government—the first object of a British Legislature—should be to maintain British interests, uphold British commerce, and promote British enterprise; and that by cherishing those they will promote the greatness, safety, and honour of this great country, and make her continue to be what her naval power—to which her navigation laws have been auxiliary—has made her, the arbiter in the community of those nations of the world among which she is, and, if you stay your hands, may remain the mightiest empire. The right hon. Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ The Amendment having been seconded, Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months." Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. WILSON
was ready to admit that the right hon. Gentleman who had 486 moved the Amendment, had done so in language with which the Government had no right to complain. He had commenced his address by referring, in very high terms, to the petitions that were presented to the House that evening; and he (Mr. Wilson) would not wish it to be thought that he undervalued an expression of opinion from so important a body as the merchants of the city of London, especially when that opinion was backed by an equally strong expression of opinion from the merchants of Liverpool; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman, that when Sir Robert Walpole first came down to the House to propose what was the greatest reform in the commercial system in this or any other country, he was met by a protest from the merchants of the city of London, and by them he was then obliged to abandon his Bill for the establishing of the warehousing or bonding system. He would not say one word that might be considered invidious; but he must remark, that a petition from London signed by 20,000 or 27,000 persons could not be taken as conclusive evidence with respect to the opinion of the citizens of London on the measure then under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman (the Member for Stamford), in alluding to the observations made on a former occasion by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in reference to the pressure experienced by the Government on this question from their fellow-subjects in Canada, had not fairly represented his sentiments; in fact, he (Mr. Wilson) was somewhat surprised at the unfair representation which the right hon. Gentleman had given of them. The right hon. Gentleman, referring to the petition of the Board of Trade of Montreal, said that the petition received last year was negatived by the petition since received, and that the petition of last year was founded upon a wrong impression of their true interests. He begged to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to what he stated; he said the petition prayed for protection, and that, although the navigation laws were alluded to, they formed but a secondary part of the petition. Now, the Parliamentary paper was before the House, and he (Mr. Wilson) would turn to that, to sec what they did ask for. The petition proceeded from the protectionist section of the Board of Trade of Montreal; but to that a counter petition had been presented by the free-trade members of the Board of Trade. The first thing which 487 these Conservative parties prayed for was the repeal of the navigation laws, and the throwing open of the navigation of the St. Lawrence; and, secondly, the enactment of a measure imposing a moderate duty of 5s. per quarter on foreign wheat, colonial to be admitted free. The right hon. Member could hardly he aware, though he showed so much industry in making himself acquainted with all that took place in connexion with the subject, that after that petition had been laid before the House, they had two other petitions from Canada, solely for the repeal of the navigation laws: one from the Board of Trade, presented by his hon. Friend the Member for Kinsale; another from the Board of Trade of the city of Hamilton; and a third from the citizens of Montreal in public meeting assembled, presented to the House by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, all of which were in favour of a repeal of the navigation laws. Those petitions had been followed by an Address to Her Majesty of the Legislative Council and Commons in Canada, in Parliament assembled, which had been recently laid upon the table of the House, praying that she would use her influence to induce the Parliament to repeal the navigation laws. And notwithstanding those petitions, and the numerous public meetings which had taken place in Canada on the subject, they were now told by the right hon. Member for Stamford that the case, with respect to Canada, had fallen to the ground, and that the repeal of the navigation laws, instead of being any benefit, would be extremely prejudicial to that colony. He said, that it was not the navigation laws which impeded commerce there, but the difficult navigation of the St. Lawrence. They knew the difficulties which obstructed the navigation between Montreal and Quebec; but was that any reason why the British House of Commons should add artificial impediments? In fact, a stronger argument could not be used for the removal of restrictions as far as Canada was concerned. By the wisdom of that House, and the generosity of the mother country, who had advanced 2,000,000l. on the credit of the Government, Canada had been enabled to open a large inland navigation, and open a communication with the vast western lakes of America. What, then, must be the effect of imposing restrictions on the navigation of the St. Lawrence at its mouth, but to give an immense advantage to the trade of the United States through their canals? What was the use of all this ex- 488 penditure if they were to impose, by their navigation laws, difficulties upon the free working of this line of canal? How could it be expected that the Canadians could over repay the sum they had borrowed to construct the canal, if they were to be fettered by restrictions which this country placed upon them at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, thereby giving to the United States the benefits which they ought themselves to receive? Then with respect to the West Indies, to which the right hon. Member had also referred. He was sorry that some correspondence which had been recently received from the West Indies had not yet been laid before the House; in the course of a few days it would, however, be laid upon the table of the House. The House would see from these papers that the question of the repeal of the navigation laws, so far from having lulled, had increased considerably in importance. Hon. Members might think that the repeal of those laws would be no benefit to the West Indies; the colonists there, however, thought otherwise. Whether right or wrong in the opinions they had formed, they assumed to themselves the right of judging of their own interests. Could it really be believed that in the West Indies—exposed as the planters were to the competition of slave-grown sugar, and when labouring under a depression which he most readily acknowledged, although he might differ with hon. Gentlemen as to the cause—would be satisfied to pay from 3l. 10s. to 4l. of freight to an English shipowner, when a Danish vessel was ready to perform the same service at 2l. 10s.? He did not know whether the right hon. Member had seen an account of a large public meeting held in Jamaica during the last few months, where the strongest feeling prevailed in favour of the repeal of the navigation laws. Great stress was there laid upon the effect which the removal of the restrictions imposed by those laws would have in making Jamaica what it formerly was—the emporium of trade—in connexion with the Spanish main and the surrounding countries, and which it would be at the present time were it not for the existence of the navigation laws. It was clear, therefore, that, so far as the West Indies were concerned, the colonists considered that the repeal of the navigation laws would be beneficial to them. The right hon. Gentleman next proceeded to review the number of replies recently received from different Continental Powers. He seemed to argue as if he were perfectly 489 unaware that the greatest portion of those Powers had really granted perfect free trade—in fact, all we could ask for or could have as far as shipping was concerned. They were, however, constantly reminded that treaties were about to expire, and that a more liberal course would be expected on our part towards them. Such was the case with Prussia; and Austria seemed surprised that we should ask her to reciprocate, because she knew that she had given us all she could, and complained because we had not conceded similar reciprocal advantages. With respect to a few general observations which he felt it his duty to make to the House on the subject of the repeal of these laws, he would first state that in his opinion the present was a time peculiarly adapted for carrying out the policy proposed by the Government. It was impossible to hide from themselves the effect of the great free-trade measures which had been introduced into this country during the last seven years. Hon. Members might differ in opinion as to the propriety of adopting that line of policy, and of the ultimate results of those measures; but, at all events, they could not differ in opinion with him with respect to the actual results of those measures since the year 1842, when the great system of reductions in the commercial tariff begun—was commenced by the right hon. Baronet then at the head of Her Majesty's Government. He wished now to call the attention of the House to the great increase which had taken place in the trade of this country in some of the more bulky articles of freight, in order to show how great had been the advantages which the shipping interest had derived from the policy pursued by this country between the years 1842 and 1846. Previous to the year 1842 live animals were altogether excluded from importation into this country; grain was excluded, except under a law which admitted it so seldom, and at such accidental periods, that the British shipowner could hardly have been said to have derived any benefit from that article of freight; timber was subjected to a very high duty; and flax and hemp were also liable to a considerable amount of duty. He would first refer to the north of Europe. In the year 1841 no live animals were imported; in the year 1848 there were 195,123. In 1841 the quantity of flax and hemp imported was 1,738,000 cwt.; while in 1848 it had increased to 2,300,000 cwt.; showing an increase of 600,000 cwt., or nearly 30 per 490 cent. With respect to grain, the importation of that article of freight, previous to the year 1841, had averaged about 2,000,000 of quarters; for the last two years respectively it had been 12,000,000 and 7,000,000 of quarters; showing, therefore, an enormous increase with respect to the north of Europe since the adoption of free-trade measures. In the Mediterranean trade, a large increase had also taken place. In the article of currants, for instance, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth proposed in his budget a reduction of duty on currants, many hon. Members, not knowing the great consumption of the article, appeared to treat the proposition with a sneer. Now, the trade in the Mediterranean afforded a vast amount of employment to a smaller class of vessels, and was one of very considerable importance. In the year 1841, the importation of currants was 173,000 cwt.; but in consequence of the reduction of duty upon them, the quantity had increased in 1848 to 402,000 cwt. Olive oil, from the same part of the Levant, had increased from 4,700 tons in 1841, to 10,000 tons in 1848. An enormous increase had also taken place in the trade with the united States. From 91,000 cwts. of provisions in 1841, the amount imported into this country from the United States had increased to 600,000 cwts. in 1848. In 1841, the quantity of cotton imported was 4,357,000 cwts.; in 1848 it had increased 6,362,000; showing an increase of 50 per cent. Now, cotton was a large and bulky article, and it required a very large additional quantity of tonnage to convey 2,000,000 cwt. additional to that country; so that it had called into requisition a very large additional number of English and American ships. Then, if they turned their attention to the colonies in the tropics, a corresponding increase would be found to have taken place during those years. In the Indian empire and Ceylon, the same effects would also be observable. In eon-sequence of the reductions which had been made in the sugar duties, commenced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and concluded in 1846 by the present Government, a great increase in the consumption had taken place. The quantity imported in 1841 was 4,905,000 cwts.; in 1848 the quantity had nearly doubled, having been 8,209,000 cwts. The quantity of coffee imported into this country had since the year 1841 increased from 43,317,000 lbs. to 57,000,000 lbs. in 1848. With reference to the Australian 491 colonies, the quantity of Australian wool imported in 1841 had boon 56,000,000 lbs., whereas in the year 1848 it had increased to 70,000,000 lbs. [Mr. HERMES said that increase had taken place under the navigation laws.] Although that increase had taken place under the navigation laws, still it was in consequence of the adoption of the system of free trade that the increase had been so large as it was. But the most important article to which he would refer was that of timber. The quantity of timber imported from the British possessions in 1841 was 700,000 loads, and, of foreign timber—chiefly from the Baltic—it was 250,000 loads, notwithstanding the duty on foreign timber being reduced. Of foreign timber there had been a large increase. In 1841 there were 950,000 loads imported, and in 1848 there were 1,850,000 loads. The quantity of timber imported into this country from all parts of the world had thus been nearly doubled. The right hon. Member had referred to the threats of Prussia, the hints of Russia, and the invitations of the United States. Now he (Mr. Wilson) quite admitted that if there were no other grounds than those to be found for repealing the navigation laws, that they would not make a very strong case for the repeal of those laws. Hon. Members would find very strong arguments in the condition of the various interests at home in favour of the repeal of those laws. It was only in the last Session of Parliament, that a measure was passed admitting refined sugar at a considerably lower rate of duty than previously. The sugar refiners complained bitterly of the injury thereby done to their interests, and of their being excluded from taking into consumption cargoes of foreign sugars, introduced by foreign vessels into the ports of this country. It was impossible that those restrictions should be allowed to continue, or that those refiners should be exposed to the competition of Continental refiners, who had all the advantage of importing their sugars from the place of growth, without conceding to them a similar privilege. But that was the only one of a largo number of trades which were complaining in the same way of the injurious effects of the restrictions imposed by the navigation laws. With respect to the supposed advantages derived from the continuance of those laws, it appeared by the evidence taken before the House of Lords last year, that the shipowners were no longer of opinion that the navigation laws 492 were of so great importance. Mr. Young and Mr. Richmond, both of whom were examined before the Committee, had come to the conclusion, that they thought all the mischief done which could have been done by the operation of those laws. Mr. Richmond distinctly stated, "They are perfectly mutilated, and I was not aware that so little was left as there is." Mr. Young held the same language; and he (Mr. Wilson) thought they were quite right in their opinions, that those laws were of extremely little importance to the shipowners. With respect to competition, with whom was it that the British shipowner was not now competing? They were competing with every country, even according to the policy of the navigation laws themselves, independently of any consideration as to reciprocity treaties. The British shipowner was brought in direct competition with the American shipowner, and in his own market, where he had all the benefits derived from local connexions, part ownerships, and other advantages, none of which the British shipowner possessed in the American ports. The shipowner of this country had to leave Liverpool or the other ports with a comparatively light freight, and upon their arrival in the American ports, they had to compete with the Americans, and bring home cotton for the same price as they would charge. They had to compete with Prussian ships in the Prussian markets, with Spanish ships in the markets of Cuba. In fact, in every country, according to the policy of the navigation laws, without in the least degree owing to any newfangled notions of free trade, the British shipowners had to compete with other countries, and that too under the most unfavourable circumstances, and when the competition was likely to be the strongest. Why should not the shipowners of this country, compete with other countries? There was no place in the world in which ships could be built cheaper, taking every thing into account, than in this country. Since the discussions which had taken place on this subject last year, additional evidence had been laid before the House. Mr. Minter, an American gentleman, a resident in New York, and connected with a line of packets between the two countries, and who was examined before the Committee, had stated that the copper for sheathing, and a great portion of the other materials, had to be imported into America from this country at a high rate of duty. There was other evidence to show that the 493 shipowners of this country had the power to compete with other countries, and that evidence was to be found in the largo increase of the tonnage of this country. The tonnage owned by the united kingdom in 1827 was 2,460,500; in 1844 it was 3,637,231 tons; in 1846 it was 3,817,112; and in 1848, 3,952,524 tons. In the debate of last year, the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire contradicted a statement made by him with regard to the total tonnage cleared inwards and outwards. He (Mr. Wilson) stated that the British tonnage cleared inwards and outwards in 1824 was 3,454,853; and of foreign, 1,506,148: in 1848, British, 8,688,148; foreign, 3,727,438—being an increase in British tonnage of 5,233,295, and of foreign of 2,221,290 tons. In both instances, he (Mr. Wilson) was quite correct in his figures. It appeared to him from these facts that the more the British shipowner was brought into competition with the foreigner, the better it would be for him. If this country could stand the test of a comparison with America in the increase of her foreign shipping, he thought it would show there was but little danger to the shipping interest of this country, when all the advantages of America were taken into consideration.
American tonnage for foreign trade was in— Tons. 1827 747,170 1844 1,068,704 Increase 43 per cent.
United Kingdom:— Tons. 1827 2,400,500 1844 3,637,231 Increase 48 per cent.
He would now compare the tonnage of American ships and British ships entering into American ports, and the result would show that the British ships bad increased more than the American in their own ports. The tonnage of American ships entered inwards into American ports in 1827 was 918,000 tons; the tonnage of British ships entering American ports in the same year was 101,000 tons. In 1844 the American tonnage increased to 1,977,435 tons, whilst the British increased to 766,747 tons; being an increase of 110 per cent on the tonnage of American ships, and of 650 per cent on British tonnage. When the result was so favourable in com- 494 peting with a nation of so much energy and capital as America—with a country of such vast extent, and a rapidly increasing population—he thought there could be but little danger to the British shipowner from any part of the world. It would hardly he possible to find a more trying test of the power of British shipowners to compete with foreigners than that. If further evidence were required to show the power of British ships and British shipbuilders to compete with other countries, it would be found in the increase of the number of ships which had been built during the two periods in question. The average tonnage of ships built during the three years preceding 1823 was 76,000 tons; but during the last three years it had increased to 250,000 tons. This great increase had taken place, notwithstanding all the disadvantages against which they had to contend. He had shown that in the long-voyage trade the shipping interest of this country could not be said to have any advantage with respect to the foreign trade. He did not speak of the colonial trade. ["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] Well, but he had shown them that the colonies considered the restriction of the navigation laws as so great a burden that they could no longer bear it, and that the West Indies and Canada were crying out against it. It was inconsistent with the interest of the colonies that the navigation laws should be any longer maintained. But with regard to that trade of which the colonies had no right to complain, they did come into competition with other countries under circumstances unfavourable to the British shipowner, and unfavourable through the operation of these very navigation laws which were passed to protect him. The British shipowner was subjected to this disadvantage, that be had to send out his vessel to foreign countries with ballast, or but partially laden, because the goods sent in the outward voyage were less bulky than those entered inwards; but the foreign competitor came into this country with bulky goods, which gave him an advantage. They had the advantage in the trade in their goods, because the British shipowner would have to compete for the timber cargo in Prussia with the Prussian owner, for the cotton cargo in an American port with the American owner. With regard to the Continental trade, they prohibited, in order to protect this long-voyage trade, the import of any of these articles from the continent of Europe. By 495 that they did not protect their own shipowner, but they protected the shipowner of the United States, and of every other country with which they had direct communication. Thus they protected the foreign shipowner to the injury of the Engglish owner. That was exemplified in the well-known case of the vessel which arrived in Havre laden with cotton at the time when the Revolution broke out. The owner was desirous of bringing the cargo to Liverpool, but he could not do it. But if it had been an American ship coming directly to Liverpool, there would be no difficulty in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman made a great many observations as to the evidence given before the House of Lords' Committee; and he said that some of the largest shipowners found it impossible to discover any inconvenience which arose out of the navigation, laws. Now, there was a remarkable illustration of the operation of these laws, which happened in the case of a vessel freighted with hides. Mr. Gray, in his examination before the Committee of the House of Commons, like some of the witnesses quoted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, said he knew of no disadvantage whatever resulting from the navigation laws; but further on, this question was put to him:—"Are you aware of any instance of inconvenience from these laws?" The witness answered "Yes;" and he went on to relate that an English vessel was freighted from America with hides, part of her cargo being to be landed at Cowes, but part of which belonged to another merchant, to be landed at Antwerp. This ship went into Antwerp, landed part of her cargo, but when about to sail for England with the rest, her owners and the British merchant discovered that the whole of the hides must be landed at Antwerp, because they could not be brought over to this country. A correspondence ensued between the merchant here and the Board of Trade; but the result of it was, that all parties found it impossible, under the existing law, to remove the hides from Antwerp, the ship being a British ship; for the law would not have applied to foreign vessels; and therefore the merchant was obliged to sell at a loss in Antwerp what he might have disposed of in this country at a profit. Yet this was the gentleman who, a few questions before, said he knew of no inconvenience arising from the operation of the navigation laws. So much for the worth of such general statements as had been 496 quoted on the other side. This was but another instance of the extent to which they were protecting the foreign shipowner by their legislation, to the detriment of the British shipowner; for a foreign vessel could have brought over the cargo at the same freight. Was that, then, he would ask the House, an inconvenience such as a great country like Britain ought to be exposed to? But how did Mr. Gray propose to remedy it? He proposed that in all cases of vessels being freighted, but with their destination at the time being uncertain, they should be furnished with certificates whether or not the cargo was intended for the British market, and that the cargo, accompanied with such a certificate, should have the privilege of being landed in an English port. Now, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in such a case all the coffee shipped from South America, and all the sugar shipped from Java, would not uniformly be accompanied with certificates to secure their admission here? Would not what was suggested be a mere clumsy evasion of the law? He might be told, however, he was making out too strong a case; for Mr. Richmond, in his evidence, said that these laws were of no benefit to the shipowner, and they imposed no injury upon the consumer, because they had no effect in raising the rate of freight. However that objection might be urged, he really could not conceal his opinion that the average rate of freights was not raised by the operation of the navigation laws. After a long and careful study of the subject, he could not bring himself to believe that the British shipowner commanded on the average a higher rate of freight through restriction, any more than the English manufacturer would be benefited by an import duty on calicoes, whilst he was a large exporter of them. But he might yet be asked, "what injury, then, do the navigation laws inflict?" It had been said, and he thought very fairly and properly, that the injury arising from those laws was much more real than apparent. Every now and then there were bad harvests; there were unexpected deficiencies in the grain crops or the sugar crops, causing a sudden and unusual demand for shipping; and on such occasions, and in such emergencies, the freights of British ships were higher than those of other countries; and two years ago, they were obliged to abandon the navigation laws in order to allow foreign ships to bring corn to this country on a great emergency. It was on 497 such accidental occasions that the navigation laws became a peculiar burden. But did the high freights which British shipowners received at such periods do them any good? He believed that nothing could be more detrimental to the real interests of the shipowners of this country than the occurrence of those accidental periods of high freights, for they were invariably followed by such a great supply of shipping that there was a ruinous reaction, which generally lasted for two or three years. ["Hear!"] An hon. Gentleman shook his head, as if he doubted his statement; he would therefore refer to a few facts. During the last twenty years, there had been two periods in particular of extraordinary demand for shipping, succeeded by corresponding depression. He would begin with 1821. In three years, commencing with 1821, the average tonnage of the ships built was 76,000 tons per annum. In 1824, there arose very great speculation in shipping, and in consequence of the sudden large importation of various commodities, the shipowners received high freights. What was the result? Why, that in the two succeeding years, instead of ships being built annually to the extent of 76,000 tons, the tonnage of new vessels was 205,000 tons. What followed? A period of four years, during which there was the greatest depression amongst shipowners ever known in this country. In the three years from 1829 to 1831 the tonnage of ships built was 115,666 tons per annum. The position of matters went on gradually improving until 1836, and in the throe years ending 1837 the average shipbuilding was 182,806 tons. But let the House mark what followed. Every one remembered the bad harvest of 1838; every one remembered the importation of 3,000,000 quarters of foreign corn in 1839, and the difficulty which was experienced in obtaining British ships to import corn in that year. Further, every one remembered—for every one had felt year after year since that period—the inconveniences which resulted—the disarrangement of the money market—the impossibility of feeding the population—the gloom and despondency in all directions. The shipping interest was the only interest which flourished at that period. And what was the result of its prosperity? In the next three years, instead of 182,806 tons, no less than 319,110 tons of shipping per annum were built. He would now ask the hen. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Robinson), whose con- 498 nexion with the London shipping for a period of thirty years entitled him to speak upon the subject, whether he remembered the depression in the shipping interest of the years 1842 and 1843; he would ask him whether he remembered the effect of the large production during the preceding three years? He (Mr. Wilson) recollected being down in Liverpool at the time, and the merchants and people there remarked that they never had seen so many ships with the broom at their mast heads, the ordinary signal of a vessel being for sale. The language used to the Liverpool merchants and shipowners during the years 1842 and 1843, was, "Your ships are rotting in your docks, and your trade has gone to decay." Yet what else could have followed the unnatural stimulus which had been acted on to the utmost? In the three years following that period, instead of 319,110 tons, the new tonnage amounted to an annual average of 154,005. Here was a change! Where, then, he asked, were the advantages to the shipowners when they availed themselves of these high freights? He did not hesitate to say that they did a vast injury to the consumer and to the commerce of the country, and instead of bringing the shipowner a benefit, they were the immediate occasion of immense injury to him also. How much better would it have been to have resorted to foreign ships on such occasions as the occurrence of a had harvest, or when deficiencies in the crops had to be supplied? Yet the tale of high freights was the most that could be said for the British shipowner in connexion with the navigation laws, and when there came a serious press of trade, as in the year 1847, they were obliged to suspend the navigation laws for the time. No one would argue that such occasional excesses were desirable in trade; that which was the produce of the greatest uniformity was the best both for those engaged in shipping and those who were supplied by it. Now, he begged the attention of the House to the great disadvantages under which the British shipowner laboured. His freight often depended on pure accident; it depended often on the number of ships in the port, where that number might be too small or too great. If the British ships were too few, the crops must yet be shipped; and as they could not charter a Dutch vessel, though she happened to be passing at the time, the freights of British ships immediately rose. On the other 499 hand, it might happen that the produce for the year was small as compared with the number of ships in the port, and the vessels, many of them, would be obliged to go elsewhere in search of a freight. Such were the disadvantages under which the interest he was speaking of was now compelled to labour. No one knew better than the hon. Gentleman opposite (the Member for Huntingdon) the inconvenience which had at certain periods been occasioned by not allowing foreign ships to bring sugar from the ports of Mauritius and other distant colonies, however desirable it might be to employ them; while, if the demand ceased, or a particular crop happened to fail, the British vessels which had gone out were obliged to seek cargoes elsewhere at lower freights. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded him had enlarged at great length on the importance of the navigation laws, not in a commercial sense, but as to their political influence on the defences of the country. As that was a question on which he would not say much, whatever might be thought of it, admitting for the time that the hon. Gentleman was right in his conclusion, for he would not now consider whether or not the commercial navy was necessary for the maintenance of the Royal Navy; but admitting it, for argument sake, he would ask how could the Royal Navy be best supplied, and whether the effect of the navigation laws and the system with which they were connected had been favourable or not to that end? He begged the attention of the House to the number of men employed in the commercial navy of late years, during the various changes that had been made in the commercial policy of the country. He had already shown the large increase which the adoption of free trade, since 1842, had occasioned in the mercantile trade of the country. In the first year he had named, in the year 1842, the number of men employed was 181,000; but in 1847, 252,000. So that, taking it as an admitted principle, for the time being, that the commercial navy was necessary for the maintenance of the Royal Navy, it was found that the system of free trade, as opposed to the restrictive policy, and therefore to the navigation laws, gave an increase in the number of men employed to the extent of 252,000, as against 181,000, being a most irrefragable proof that the interests of the Royal Navy, in that view, would not suffer by a repeal of the navigation laws. Whether they looked, then, to the argu- 500 ments cited in that House, or to the evidence taken before Parliamentary Committees, Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that the time was come, as was evidenced by powerful indications, when restrictions on shipping ought to be abandoned, and when that important interest should be exposed to that healthful competition—for healthful he believed it—which influenced all the other interests of this country. Now, how was it to be accomplished? He believed the measure before the House was not only the wisest course, but the only practicable course which could be adopted for the benefit of those engaged in the navigation and commerce of this country, He was sorry to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford was not in his place, for that Gentleman, in one of the most able speeches that had ever been delivered in that House on the subject which now occupied their attention, spoke much in favour of proceeding by treaties and reciprocity. [Mr. CARDWELL: Reciprocity, not treaties.] He hoped very briefly to show not only the inconvenience, but the impracticability of proceeding by reciprocity. He objected to reciprocity—first, because it was against principle; secondly, because it was not wise in policy; and, thirdly, because it was inconvenient, if not impossible, in practice, He believed that one of the greatest errors which the Legislature of this country could commit, would be to countenance, by any step, an opinion which for years had been gaining ground on the continent of Europe, in regard to the commercial policy of this country. Nothing would be more prejudicial to the spread of free-trade principles among the countries of the Continent than that this country should appear to sanction the notion entertained by foreign Governments, that the British Government made concessions on their part, not for the benefit of commerce, but for the concessions which might be thereby drawn from foreign countries in favour of England. He said nothing could be more prejudicial to the real interests of commerce than any step to sanction such a notion; for he found that a most exaggerated opinion had been formed by other Governments, and the Ministers of other countries—men of great intelligence, from whom one would have expected better things. So erroneous was the opinion thus entertained as to the views and motives that prompted the commercial legislation of this country, that he 501 would beg the House to pause before they would sanction the rejection of this measure, and so condemn the course which they had been pursuing for years, and so countenance the notion that, in advocating the principle of free trade, which they had put so broadly before the world, they had acted entirely with a narrow view to the interests of this country. Many of the Ministers of other countries deprecated the sending of an English ambassador ostensibly to negotiate treaties of reciprocity, for they said, England was rich, an old country, well established, with large capital, and extensive trade and colonies, having power sufficient to avail herself of any advantage as soon as it might be opened—a power, however, which these other countries supposed they did not possess, and, therefore, the people looked upon all negotiations of this kind with a jealous fear, as if their interests were about to be betrayed. Such was the language used to him by intelligent Ministers of other countries, and he, therefore, thought that treaties on the basis of reciprocity, so far from being attended with benefit, would actually throw difficulties in the way of those who were willing to meet us. He objected to the principle of reciprocity for this reason: that, if fully carried out with every country with which a treaty might be negotiated, they must act towards that country in the spirit in which that country was pleased to act; or, in the language of a well-known gentleman (Mr. Bancroft), to those who gave little, give little—to those who gave much, give much—to those who gave all, give all. On the reciprocity basis, they must proceed on the principle of equivalents, and that was impossible. Whore, he asked, was the country that could give much to Great Britain? and, still more, where was the country that could give her an equivalent to the advantages which she was able to confer? Except America, who possessed greater power to satisfy this principle, but by no means power to supplant, there was no country in a state to enter upon the reciprocity principle in its strict and proper acceptation. Other countries had no colonial possessions; they had no equivalent advantages to offer in return for those conferred by England. He admitted that there was a great distinction between reciprocity in shipping and reciprocity in produce. He would not evade that question. It was quite clear that, if they imposed retaliatory duties on the produce of various countries, 502 for the purpose of meeting duties imposed on their own goods, they did not visit the same interests with this retaliation. For example, they sent their cotton and woollen goods to Prussia; they received from Prussia corn, timber, and wool. If Prussia imposed high duties on their cotton and woollen goods, they could only retaliate by putting high duties on the corn, timber, and wool of Prussia when imported. But, then, in this case they did not retaliate upon the same interest. The Prussian Government' punished the woollen manufacturer and the cotton manufacturer of England, by imposing high duties on their goods; and, then, the English Legislature punished them again by imposing high duties on the raw material from which those goods were manufactured. Nothing could be more monstrous than such a course of proceeding. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had talked, on the previous evening, of those who took superficial views of commercial policy; but how any one who took anything but superficial views could talk about proceeding on the principle of reciprocity, with regard to produce, in such a case as he had supposed, when that principle would lead them to such a result, was to him quite inconceivable. It was punishing interests of their own which had been already punished sufficiently in foreign countries. If they acted on the principle of reciprocity, they must give perfect freedom of trade to those who gave perfect freedom of trade to them. They must impose a duty corresponding in amount to those which were imposed on their own goods. If the United States admitted their goods free, then they must admit the corn of the united States free. Supposing that Prussia admitted their goods only at a duty of 20 per cent, then they must impose a duty of the same amount on the corn and timber of that country. Supposing that Russia at the Black Sea imposed a duty of 50 per cent on their manufactures, then they would have to impose a duty of 50 per cent on the corn and timber of Russia. They must, in fact, have distinct treaties, and distinct tariffs, and there would result a most complicated system of international commerce. Either reciprocity meant that, or it meant nothing, He fully admitted, however, the great practical difference between that kind of reciprocity and the reciprocity which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford alluded to 503 in his able speech last Session. By imposing restrictions on foreign ships corresponding with restrictions imposed on their own, they would have the advantage of dealing with the same interest, and the weapon much more likely to be effectual, because those for whose sake duties were imposed abroad would be subjected to corresponding disadvantages in this country. He admitted that there was a great difference between the two cases. But, then, what was the great object of repealing the navigation laws? That object must not be lost sight of. The great object of repealing those laws was to do justice to the colonies, to answer in a becoming manner the address of the Legislative Assembly of Canada to the Throne, and the appeals from Australia and the West Indies; to do justice to the sugar refiners of London, who said that they could buy cargoes of sugar brought by foreign ships, 2s. or 3s. per cwt. lower than cargoes brought by English ships; to give a proper reply to Lord Harris's communications on behalf of the suffering planters of Trinidad; to take from the Guiana planter the power of saying that he could export his sugar to this country at a lower freight in Danish ships than in British, and from the wool grower of Australia his present ground of complaint, that he could send his wool home cheaper in a German ship, which had carried out German emigrants, than in one of the ships of his own country. What answer would it be to the people of Canada to say, "We are very anxious to take off these restrictions, and to allow you to avail yourselves of the Bremen ship lying in the St. Lawrence; but then the Bremen Government do not choose to enter into treaty with us." What answer would it be to any of these parties to say, "We are very sorry we cannot do what you wish us to do, because there is another country which will not do what we wish it to do." He could quite understand that that would be the proper principle to act upon, provided there were no motives of a great internal and imperial character which should form the basis of their legislation. If they were now asking concessions for the purpose of extending their own trade, or of obtaining some theoretical advantages which they hoped to secure, he could then understand such a principle. But when palpable, existing, and well-defined evils had been stated in that House, in language which could not be misunderstood; and when those evils had been admitted—and if 504 they were not admitted there would be no cause for introducing that measure at all—he could not conceive why they should be expected to make their own policy dependent on the caprice, or folly, or ignorance, of any foreign Government. But he objected to the adoption of the principle of reciprocity on another ground, viz., that it would introduce great practical inconvenience. On this point he would now appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the university of Oxford'—[Mr. Gladstone had just entered the House and taken his seat]—whose experience and conduct during the time when commercial legislation went through its greatest changes entitled him to the greatest possible weight in that House. He (Mr. Wilson) had spoken of the immense variety of treaties which would be required if the principle of reciprocity was proceeded upon with regard to manufactures and produce; but a corresponding or analogous difficulty would arise from the adoption of that principle in the case of shipping. Very intricate and complicated regulations would be required. Supposing they found a country which was disposed to give all—they themselves would be obliged to give all. But then it must be borne in mind that there were twenty countries with whom they already had treaties, and to whom they were bound to extend the advantages which were obtained by the most favoured nations; and, therefore, if they gave new privileges to any one country, they must at once extend them to all the other countries which stood in the same position. He objected to reciprocity, because he believed it would only lead to a great evasion of the law. Suppose Hamburgh, or any other town on the Continent, were to give this country all that it required, and that in return its ships were placed on the same footing as British ships; what guarantee would they have that a third country, which had given them nothing, would not derive the same advantages as Hamburgh; or that the sugar of Java, and the coffee of South America, would not be brought to this country in the ships of Hamburgh? There would be no end to evasion. Well, then, it was said that all the important countries with which they traded at present would no doubt, enter into treaty with them, being already disposed to do so. The right hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House had thrown out some very unworthy imputations on the United 505 States, expressing his doubts as to the sincerity of the professions which were put forward, in that country. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that there was nothing new in the position of the United States with regard to the navigation laws; that all which had been said of late on the subject was in accordance with the general spirit and policy of that country, as exhibited for years. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that he thought the United States would reciprocate; Prussia, he said, would reciprocate, for she had already given what was asked; Russia and Hamburgh would do the same. Very well, then, what had this country to fear? If these important countries would give them now all the advantages which they could obtain from reciprocal treaties, or from the carrying out the principle of reciprocity without treaties, what had they to fear from taking the simple course of repealing the navigation laws? The House had been told that it was not likely that other countries would year after year keep their ports hermetically sealed. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentleman said "Hear, hear!" because they had got certain advantages now. Were they sure of keeping them? What was to be said in reference to the sulky language recently used by Austria in reply to letters from this country? But there were some countries from which we were not to expect the same reciprocity. It was admitted that we shall not expect it from France, Spain, or Belgium. And suppose that we do not get it from France, or Spain, how much worse off should we be than now? At this moment, France and Spain had great privileges in this country. France had the right, according, not to treaty, but to the general policy of our navigation laws, to send her produce direct to this country in her own ships. But to what extent did she avail herself of this privilege? To very little extent, indeed; while as to Spain, with all the privileges she might exercise, did she so think fit, her trade with this country was mostly carried on in British ships. Spain had the right to bring sugars here on the same terms with British ships; but what was the actual fact? That nine-tenths of the sugar from Cuba came in British bottoms. What, then, had we to fear from these countries? Nothing; while, on the other hand, all the really important commercial countries had already established by their policy as to navigation all that we could ask from them 506 in reciprocity. He considered that the great objects which the commercial classes of this country ought to aim at were the greatest possible degree of certainty and the greatest possible degree of simplicity, in their transactions. He believed that if we relied upon reciprocity, there would be infinitely less certainty and infinitely greater complexity for the British merchant to encounter, than under any other system. He would, for one thing, be constantly subject to the alternations resulting from the varying aspect of negotiations that might be pending between this country and others, and hence would clearly result great uncertainty, and great complexity. He knew it might, and he had no doubt it would, be said that the reservation which Government proposed to leave to the discretion of the Queen in Council, tended in some measure to the very object contemplated by hon. Gentlemen opposite; but, on that subject, he was disposed at the present moment, to say very little. This he would observe, however, that whereas free trade unrestricted would be in the one case, the rule, and restriction, if they so pleased to call it, the exception; in the other case, restriction would be the rule, and free trade the exception. As far as these reservations were concerned—whatever they might be, or however much worth—he did trust that freedom of commerce would be the great rule by which this law would be carried out in our transactions with foreign countries, and that hostile reservations, if even resorted to, would be the rare, the very rare, exception.
Tons. Increase—American 321,594 British 1,176,731
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
said: I hope the House, in coming to a decision on this important question, will not allow itself to be influenced by the arguments used in the commencement of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure. The right hon. Gentleman contended that, whatever might be the consequences—whatever might be the effect—however unfortunate and however mischievous the results might be of the course which the Legislature had adopted for the last four years, that course was to be persevered in, and the laws which so long protected the navigation of Great Britain must be repealed. Now, I hope the House, in coming to a decision on this question, will decide according to present circumstances, and not in accordance with any antecedent legislation. The question we have to consider is, whether the British shipowner can or cannot compete with the 507 foreigner. If it is capable of demonstration that he cannot compete, I do not think that this House would be acting right, because it has adopted the principle of free trade in other cases, to adopt it in this particular instance also. It is very easy to understand, and very easy, I think, to demonstrate to this House, on the evidence which has been taken before the Lords' Committee, that the British shipowner cannot compete with the foreigner; and the proof of it is, that everything in this country is very much dearer than in foreign lands—the wages he has to pay are much higher, and his materials he has to purchase at a much greater cost than the foreigner. The consequence is, that ships built in England, even those built in Sunderland, where the cost of construction is much smaller that at any other British port, are much more expensive than those of any foreign country whatsoever. I will not trouble the House with the details I intended to refer to, because it is universally admitted that the ships built in England are much dearer than the ships built abroad. But, Sir, I cannot refrain from alluding to the price of American ships, because the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, referred in a special manner to the ships built in that country. I find that Mr. Minter, in his evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords, said that the price of American ships was 14l. a ton, and that the price of English ships, class A 1, averages from 24l. to 26l. per ton. You will thus perceive that it is evident English ships cannot compete with American. With regard to America, the registered tonnage in the year 1847, was 2,838,045, but in 1848 it had advanced to 3,154,041, being an increase of 315,996 tons. Again, the tonnage built in the United States in the year 1846, was 188,203 tons, but in 1847 it had advanced to 243,743 tons, and in 1848 to 318,075 tons. With regard to the American tonnage entered into the ports of this county I find that the comparison between British and American shows the following result—British tonnage entered inwards from the United States in 1847, 205,123 tons—American tonnage, 435,399—excess of American over British tonnage, 230,276 tons. Again, if we look to the British tonnage employed in the trade with our colonies, and compare it with the American tonnage, we shall find that the American tonnage to our colonies, increased from 1825 to 1846, by 1,635,828 tons. 508 Nevertheless, in the face of these facts, the hon. Gentleman the Member for West-bury says we shall be able to compete with the American tonnage. It is impossible we can do so. The capabilities of America and the extent of her resources forbid us to entertain any such anticipation. I will read a few extracts from Mr. Mackay's new book. The Western World, to show what the resources of America are. Mr. Mackay writes—Her resources in almost every point of view are infinitely greater than any that we possess. Look at her forests, her fertile valleys, and vast alluvial plains. Look at the variety of her productions, including most of those that are tropical, and all that are yielded by the temperate zone: and look at her mines teaming with coal, iron, load, copper, and, as has just been discovered, wish silver and gold. Look again at her enormous territory, and at the advantages she possesses for turning all her resources into account, in her magnificent systems of lakes and rivers: in her extensive sea-coast; in her numerous and excellent harbours; and in her geographical position, presenting, as she does, a double front to the Old World, or holding out, as it were, one hand to Asia and the other to Europe. But such resources and advantages are only valuable when properly turned to account. It is only by their being so that they will become formidable to us. We have only to look to the race possessing them to decide whether they are likely to be turned to account or not. The Americans are Englishmen exaggerated, if anything, as regards enterprise. This is not to be wondered at, as they have, as a people, more incentives than we have to enterprise. Of this we may rest assured, that the most will be made of the resources and advantages at their disposal. This is all that has made us great. We have turned our coal and our iron, and our other resources, to account, and the world has by turns wondered at and envied the result.Then, with regard to the iron which the hon. Gentlemen opposite says America will have to purchase from this country, I find Mr. Mackay says—The American stock of coal and of iron is more than thirty times as great as ours, and more than twelve times as great as that of all Europe. Their other resources are in the same proportion, as compared with ours. And if our resources, turned to good account, have made us what we are, what will be the fabric of material greatness which will yet spring from the ample development of resources thirty times as great? If the industry of from twenty to thirty millions of people, with limited means, have raised England to her present pinnacle of greatness and glory, what will the industry of 150,000,000 yet effect in America, when brought to boar upon resources almost illimitable?But, Sir, though I agree with Mr. Mackay in his estimate of the vast resources of America, I do not agree with him in his conclusions. He says—It is the consideration that America will yet 509 exhibit in magnified proportions all that has tended to make England great, that leads one irresistibly, however reluctantly, to the conclusion that the power of England must yet succumb to that of her offspring? There is, however, this consolation left us, that the predominant influence in the world will still be in the hands of our own race. That influence will not pass to a different race, but simply to a different scene of action. It has been England's fate, during her bright career, to plant new States, which will inherit her power and her influence after her. On the continent of North America, on many points on the coast of South America, at the southern extremity of Africa, throughout wide Australia, in New Zealand, in Van Diemen's Land, and the Indian Archipelago, the Anglo-Saxon race will prevail, and the Anglo-Saxon language be spoken, long after England's glories have become historic and traditional. These different communities, flourishing remote from each other, will all be animated by a kindred spirit, and will cherish a common sentiment of attachment to their common parent, who will long exercise a moral influence over them, after her political power has been eclipsed.He further goes on to say—Not that England will not always be able to maintain her position in Europe. The powers which are destined to overshadow her are springing up elsewhere, and are of her own planting. Of these the American Republic, or Republics, as the case may be, will politically and commercially take the lead, when England, having fulfilled her glorious mission, shall have abdicated her supremacy, and the sceptre of empire shall have passed from her for ever.I do not believe that if we protect the industry of this country, that if we retain our navigation laws in their present integrity, this country need succumb to America or to any other country on the face of the earth. But it is an argument often used that the energy, the enterprise, and the industry of our shipowners and of Englishmen generally is so great that they can compete with any nation in the universe. I readily admit the industry and enterprise of the British people; but I am not ready on that account to expose them to a competition against which I am convinced they cannot successfully struggle. I fear that that competition to which you appear determined to subject them, instead of animating them to increased exertion, will paralyse their great energies and damp their noble spirit. Why, Sir, it has been even said, that our English captains need the impulse of competition, in order to induce them to take proper care of their cargoes, and to maintain their ships in an efficient condition; but in reply to this extraordinary assertion, what was the evidence of Mr. Bosanquet on that point, a large West India merchant. He said—I think the British shipowner for some time past has been rather badly paid, I found at one 510 time that our risks were telling very much against the insurance office, our freights being low; and I found at one period that the ships came home, as far as I could ascertain it, half handed, with one pump where there ought to have been two, and with less men than they ought to have had, and this in proportion as our freight fell.Does not this prove that if you bring the shipowner into competition with the foreigner, and so diminish yet more his profits, he will find it wholly impossible to bear up against the effects of a ruinous competition? Another witness examined before the Committee, Sir Joshua Walmsley (a free-trader) says—I think the British shipowners do not pay English captains well enough, neither do I think they treat them with sufficient respect.Does not this prove, that if you diminish the profits of the shipowners, they will find it more difficult than ever to give an adequate remuneration to their captains? If an insufficiency of remuneration is already complained of, will not the evil increase if you abrogate the navigation laws? I think it is generally admitted that British ships are more costly than foreign; but hon. Gentlemen opposite say, although it may be true that a foreign ship is cheaper of construction than an English ship, in point of fact, a dear English ship is in the end cheaper. ["Hear, hear!"] I think that is a mistake; and though I may not be in a position to prove it to the satisfaction of hon. Members opposite, I believe I shall be enabled to do so to that of the majority of the House. Mr. Young in his evidence before the Committee in the House of Lords, says, that he took the trouble to make calculations with respect to the duration of a certain number of British ships. He selected 300 British ships, and he found that they lasted on an average rather more than thirteen years, He then selected 300 foreign ships, and 100 Baltic, and he found that the foreign ships lasted 11 years and 96 days, and the Baltic ships 13 years and 8–10ths, or 5–10ths longer than the British ships. Mr. Young also stated, that a Baltic ship on Lloyd's register for 7 years was more valuable than a British ship registered for the same period. Thus it will be seen, that when they come into competition, the cheaper Baltic ship will be a more serviceable vessel to the owner than the ship constructed at so much larger cost in Eng land. With respect to the question as to which description of ships will be employed in the foreign trade of this country, you must consult the opinions of the British 511 shipowners, who are the persons who will have to compete with the foreign rivals. The entire number of British ships built in 1840 was 906, and in the colonies, 153; total built in that year, 1,059. Now, of these there were above ten years upon Lloyd's register, 308; under ten years, 751; proving that, in the opinion of British shipowners, the class under ten years' register were more profitable and more serviceable to them than those registered above that time. If we take the year 1846, we find that the number of British and colonial ships built in that year was 643, being a considerable falling-off as compared with 1840. Of these there were above ten years on Lloyd's register, 180; under ten years, 463; showing that, in the opinion of the shipowners, the ships under ten years were more valuable than those above that term. I was speaking to a gentleman this morning, who informed me he was about to charter two English ships for Jamaica, but in consequence of his belief that you were going to repeal the navigation laws—a presumption on his part which was based on the correspondence which has taken place between the Government of this country and those of foreign nations—he chartered instead two Danish ships at a reduced rate of 7s. 6d. per ton. What evidence could be stronger or more practical than that? Is it not evident that these cheap Danish, Russian, and American ships will and must displace our own? A shipowner carrying on extensive transactions in Liverpool, and who also gave evidence before the Committee, informed me the other day that he was going to build another ship, but that he delayed doing so until he knew whether it was indeed in contemplation to repeal the navigation laws, for if so, he was resolved to have his ship built in America. That, I think, is another significant fact, and one which sufficiently indicates what we may expect in the event of the navigation laws being repealed. With respect to reciprocity treaties, of which we have heard so much, I will not go into the details of Mr. Porter's tables, which have been proved over and over again to be fallacious and unworthy of credence; but this question I will ask: supposing you are correct—supposing we have been able to enter into competition with cheap foreign ships—supposing we have entered into rivalry with the ships of France, Russia, Denmark, Norway, and other States, what have you profited? Remember your present mea- 512 sure is founded upon a totally different principle from that of reciprocity treaties. You must bear in mind that, under those treaties, you confine the ships of foreign nations to particular descriptions of traffic, and that you do not allow them to enter into competition with you in those trades where you have already a decided advantage; but if you let them compete with you in the entire trade of the world, they must eventually defeat your British shipping. Do you deny the fact that we are unable to compete with the Baltic and American ships? The tonnage entered inwards from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Prussia, and other countries, in 1846, amounted to 571,161 tons, whilst the British shipping only amounted to 88,894 tons, making a difference of 482,267 tons. With respect to America the British tonnage entered inwards in 1846 amounted to 205,123 tons, while the American tonnage entered into our ports was 435,399 tons, being an excess of 230,276 tons in favour of America. But, Sir, with respect to those reciprocity treaties, I contend that, even under present circumstances, our shipping with foreign countries has not increased in the same proportion as the foreign tonnage has increased. I know it is generally believed that British shipping has the advantage, but I will prove to the House that this is not the case. The total tonnage of British ships entered inwards at foreign ports in the year 1847, was 2,564,865; but from that total amount you must make a deduction for the difference between the new and the old measurement, and for repeated voyages, of 25 per cent. This deduction of 25 per cent amounts to 644,200 tons, making, according to the measurement of 1824, instead of 2,564,865 tons, 1,920,665. The total foreign tonnage in 1847 was 2,253,939 tons; therefore, the superiority of the foreign over the British tonnage in the import trade of this country in that year was 333,274 tons. If, therefore, you allow foreign ships to enter into competition with you in the whole of the foreign and colonial trade, which we now keep exclusively to ourselves, no man can doubt the extent of the injury you will infallibly inflict on the British shipowners and traders of the country. Now, Sir, I would wish the House to observe also, that in looking to the present condition of the British shipowners, they must not only look at the increase of tonnage of British ships of late years, but also to the proportion of the ships that go out in ballast. I 513 find that the average of British shipping-engaged in the foreign trade was, in 1820, 22 per cent; but, in 1847, it had increased to 51 per cent; and again I find, in 1814, that the average foreign tonnage in the British foreign trade was 241 per cent less than British, but, in 1847, the foreign tonnage was 21 per cent more than the British. If anything can show the advantage to the foreign trade, I think that will. Then, again, I find that, deducting 25 per cent, the average increase of British tonnage from the year 1814 to 1847 was 134 per cent; but the increase of foreign tonnage for the same period was 259 per cent. In considering this question in all its bearings, I hope the House will not forget the number of artisans that will be thrown out of employment by the repeal of the navigation laws. You cannot deny this fact, because one of your main arguments in support of the repeal of the navigation laws is that the British shipbuilder has now a combination by which he keeps his rate of wages at 6s. per day, but which scale you are now anxious to deprive him of. Sir, I can predict that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who is not now in his place, will at some future day, when he is about to ruin some other class (if, indeed, any will remain to be ruined), come down and say, "In former years there was a class of men in this country who depended for their livelihood upon building British ships; that class has been destroyed by competition with foreign countries. These men were happy and industrious; they received 6s. per day for their labour; but in consequence of the competition to which they were exposed, they were deprived of their employment—great distress existed among them at first, but some of them have betaken themselves to other occupations, and others have emigrated." Such was the language of the noble Lord a few nights ago, when he alluded to the inhabitants of the Hebrides. Well, what are the advantages which you propose to gain by the repeal of the navigation laws, and to obtain which you are ready to commit this gross injustice on British shipowners, and to ruin a vast number of artisans and shipbuilders? The first advantage which has been put in the front of the battle is the case of Canada; and here I wish to allude to a remark which fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury, who asked what answer he was to give to the petitions of Canada—what answer to give to the petitions of the West Indies—what answer 514 to give to the man who lost his hides? But let me remind the hon. Gentleman, in reply, that while he is so anxious to attend to the petition of twelve men in Canada, he altogether disregards the opinion of the majority of the inhabitants of New Brunswick and of the town of Hamilton. He admits that he is ready to pay attention to the petition of twelve men in Canada, and of certain persons in the West Indies; but I ask him, what answer is he to give, and why is he not ready to pay attention to the petition signed by 27,000 of the most eminent merchants in the city of London? If the petitions of Canada and the West Indies are to be attended to, why should the petitions of the shipowners of Liverpool be set aside? I say that this conduct is grossly inconsistent, and I hope the merchants and shipowners of London and Liverpool will not submit to it. With regard to Canada, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford has argued so ably upon that part of the question, that I will not seek to weaken his position by following in his track; but when you say the repeal of the navigation laws will be a great boon to Canada, do you remember the difficulties of the navigation of the St. Lawrence? Do you remember the nature of the climate, and are you aware that the waters of that river are closed up for four months in every year? In the winter and autumn months the produce of the country would be carried by rail; whereas, in the summer months, when the insurance is low, it would be shipped by the St. Lawrence. Again, Sir, what is your object in repealing those laws with respect to Canada? Is it that you may be enabled to reduce the freight between Montreal and this country by allowing foreign ships to go to Montreal? But you forget that by allowing those foreign ships to go to Montreal, you also enable them to go to New York and elsewhere. Then, with respect to the West Indies, what my right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford said upon that subject has been altogether overlooked. An account arrived a few days ago from the West Indies, expressing the opinion of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce on this subject. They state that if those laws are repealed, they will be unable to compete with the Cuban and Brazilian planters, and that a fresh stimulus will be given to the slave trade. [The noble Marquess here read an extract of the opinion of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, to the general effect that the repeal would benefit Cuba, 515 rather than Jamaica, and that while the Chamber urged upon the Government that the only basis upon which they could hope to compete with Cuba and Brazil was the effectual prevention of the slave trade, they claimed, as the only means of rendering a repeal of the navigation laws beneficial to them, an immediate protection for their produce in the home market.] I now beg leave to call attention to a paragraph in the address of the Legislative Assembly of Canada. They say—It has not unfrequently happened that Canadian importers of sugar have been unable to procure British vessels on any terms at Havannah and other foreign ports.They did not say from Jamaica or Trinidad, but they complained they could not obtain British vessels on any terms at Havannah to bring slave-grown sugar; and although the House was in an unfortunate position in this respect, he trusted they would not forget that the object of these gentlemen at Montreal was to obtain slave-grown sugar cheaper than free-labour sugar. Another of the objects expected to be gained was a reduction of price. His right hon. Friend had shown that the utmost benefit the consumer could derive would be but the fraction of a penny. But he (the Marquess of Granby) thought there was sufficient evidence in the blue books to show that the consumer would not obtain that fraction of a penny. It was understood that the seller would not obtain the whole advantage of the reduction of freight, and that the consumer would not obtain it, but that the almost imperceptible amount would be divided between the two. There was abundant evidence to show that the rate of freight was not increased by those laws. On the contrary, the merchants, in stead of desiring their repeal, dreaded the repeal of the navigation laws. They thought that those who were more able to send a vessel to India or China, and that those who were able to bring their produce to this country, would find a certain freight in this market—and they entreat the House to leave things as they now are—and they said that it would be for their benefit not thus to interfere with their trade by the introduction of those cheap foreign sugars—they said also, that it would not he for the benefit of the consumers of this country. Then, with regard to the long voyage, the operation of these laws was not only most beneficial to the shipowner in this country, but it was an absolute benefit to the manufacturer, 516 and, therefore, to the consumer, whose prosperity must depend upon the prosperity of the manufacturer. As by the operation of the present law the foreign manufacturer was obliged to come to London to buy the raw material of East India goods to be used in his manufactures, he had to pay 2l. a ton freight between this country and the foreign country to which he took it; therefore, the English manufacturer actually had the advantage under the present system of paying 2l. per ton less for every ton of goods imported from India and China. Was not this an advantage? Why did the foreigner come here and pay 2l. per ton more for every ton of goods? Because he would have no second market to fall back upon if he imported directly. But they were now going to give him that second market; they were going to allow him to import his goods, and send them to the British colonies. Such being the fact, was it not evident that the British manufacturer must be a loser by the amount of 2l. per ton? Take the case of a merchant at Havre. Suppose him to charter a vessel to the East Indies for 500 tons of tea, or cotton, or any other article. Perhaps he might be able to dispose of the whole quantity at Havre. Suppose the freight from India to this country to be 5l. per ton, he would be enabled to save by the cheaper vessel 25 per cent, or 1l, per ton, and that, in addition to the 2l., would make his saving 3l. per ton, which on a cargo of 500 tons would give him a gain of no less than 1,500l. Was it, he asked, not clear, that under such circumstances the foreigner would import his own goods directly, and that this country would lose the carrying trade; that the merchants would be affected by the alteration, and that the consumers would suffer by it? There was one word further which he had to say as to reciprocity. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury said, that he objected to reciprocity on the ground that foreign nations had nothing more to give us. That, then, was the ground on which the hon. Gentleman objected to it. He said that foreign nations had given them all they could—that they had nothing more to give; then all that this country would now give to them would be simply a present—that they were to give everything now to the foreigner, and receive nothing in return from him. If that, then, was the hon. Gentleman's opinion—if he thought that this country could receive nothing in return, why did the hon. Gentleman allow his Col- 517 leagues to write to foreign Governments? And why did he sanction such a delusion? But great as would be the injustice done to the British merchant and shipowner by the repeal of those laws—great as would be the injustice to the British artisan, yet I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford that, compared with the evil effects it would have on the naval superiority of England, the importance of other considerations sinks into insignificance. All other considerations are trifling when compared with that greater and more momentous question. I agree with my right hon. Friend that there is hardly any one who denies the intimate relation that subsists between the prosperity of our mercantile marine and the naval supremacy of this country. No one can deny that, if our mercantile marine should fail, there is an end to our naval supremacy. Those who advocated a repeal of the navigation laws, were, therefore, bound to show that such a change would not he injurious to our mercantile marine. But the repeal of the navigation laws would not only aim a direct blow at our naval superiority, but it would necessitate the introduction of other measures—it would lead to a repeal of the apprenticeship system, and the allowing of foreign ships to be registered in this country. The inconsistency of the Government plan was generally acknowledged. The fact is, the Government are oscillating between their desires to carry out the principles of free trade—between the injustice they are inflicting on British shipowners—and their desire to maintain the naval superiority of this country. The result is, that they have introduced a measure, not only unjust in principle and dangerous to our naval supremacy, but one which, at the same time, shows their want of confidence in the truth of their principles. [The noble Marquess then referred to the evidence of Lieutenant J. H. Brown, given before the Committee on the Navigation Laws, to show that the repeal of those laws would be highly detrimental to the interests of the Navy, and calculated to imperil our maritime supremacy.] Lieutenant Brown states also, that the present system gives great encouragement to a very important class in this country; I mean the shipwrights: and he states, that if any change shall take place calculated to diminish that class of artificers, the consequences may be most disastrous should this country happen to be involved again in war. He says that 518 you should pause before you resolve to adopt any step that may possibly tend to the diminution of the shipwrights of this country. And can you, in defiance of such testimony, venture, by this sweeping alteration of the navigation laws, to hazard the employment of those men in the private dockyards of this country? Sir, I hope that whatever may be the conclusion of the House on this question, you will found that conclusion upon the evidence of practical men; that you will found it upon the evidence of men engaged every day in the business of importation and exportation; that you will found it upon the evidence of such men as the naval officers of this country—of men whose patriotism you cannot doubt—of men who have fought and bled for their country, "in order," in the eloquent words of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, "to preserve intact the soil of the country from the approach of any foreign foe;" and not of a man who had the audacity to state before a Committee of the House of Commons, that for his part he did not care if the whole of this country were carried in foreign ships. If that is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman who brings forward this measure—though, Sir, he has said that he would rather cut off his right hand than cripple the naval powers of this country, and expressed also his conviction that that naval power depended on the maintenance of a mercantile navy—I own I dread this introduction of foreign ships into the colonies, and harbours, and ports of this country. It puts me in mind of the introduction of the wooden horse of old into the city of Troy.Cùm fatalis equus saltu super ardua venitPergama, et armatum peditem gravis attulit alvo.Oh! (said the noble Marquess, in conclusion), that I had the power to dispel the delusions with which we are now assailed! Oh that I had the power to stir up that patriotism and that love of country which should animate every breast! for if I had such power, I should have no fear as to the result; for, despite of the confidence now entertained by Her Majesty's Government, and despite those inconsiderate communications, and, I may say, the unconstitutional communications made by them to foreign Governments—despite all those advantages, still I think I should see the gallant vessel that is now struggling with the storm sail triumphantly above the waves that threatened to overwhelm her. Sir, I 519 have no fear for the result of this great question. Despite of all disadvantages, if Englishmen are but true to themselves and their country, we shall be able to weather through the storm that impends over us, we shall be able to retain the command over that glorious element which is our natural protector, and which is the connecting link between this country and the countries dependent upon us abroad; and for years to come, notwithstanding the prophecy of Mr. Mackay, the flag of England will float triumphant through every sea.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, the noble Lord who had just down, and the right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the measure, anticipated with deep alarm the decay of our mercantile marine, and the declension of our maritime power. Though he (Mr. Cardwell) could not share in their gloomy apprehensions, yet the same natural anxiety weighed upon him in approaching a question of this great importance. He also desired to avoid a rash or precipitate measure, and to take every precaution, and to be guided by prudence, in the course on which they were about to enter. But sharing to that extent with them in the spirit in which they approached this question, he could not reconcile their conclusion to his conviction of what was due to the great mercantile interests of this country, of what a sense of justice to our colonies imperatively demanded; and he thought it would not be difficult to show, in some important respects, of what a due regard to the welfare of the shipping interest itself required at the hands of the House of Commons. It was difficult to understand, from the speeches he had heard, the exact position in which the question was supposed to stand by those who desired to reject the Bill, nor was it easy to collect it from the most laborious attention to the evidence taken before the Committee of the House of Lords. Let him ask those Gentlemen what opinion they entertained with respect to that clause which was said to secure to England the long voyage to distant parts of the world? If he looked to the evidence given before the House of Lords, he found witnesses of the first consideration stating that they regarded it as an essential element, one of the fundamental principles of the law; but he did not think it would be right to import into this debate any prejudice against the shipping interest in general by an allegation that they identified themselves with that particular clause, for he found that many of 520 those intelligent men were ready to admit that, as that clause now stood, it could not by possibility be maintained. He asked the friends of the shipping interest, as men of prudence and discernment, if they did not take timely measures with respect to the long-voyage clause, that clause which forbade them to import the produce of distant parts of the world, except in ships of the country from which it came, or of our own country, what would be their condition? They had very high authority for supposing that reciprocity was henceforth to be the order of the day; they were told so by the highest authority on that (the front Opposition) bench; and they heard in language that could not be mistaken, from the Baltic and from America, that more than reciprocity in this matter of navigation we should not be permitted to retain. His right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford had said that Mr. Huskisson wisely and prudently gave up that which he foresaw he was not able to retain. Let them consider the effect which a reciprocity of exclusion would produce upon one of our most important interests. He knew nothing more important than that great interest known by the denomination of the warehouse-system, which had been the growth of comparatively recent years, and was the offspring of a judicious relaxation made in the navigation laws, which had made this country the entrepôt between the regions which furnished tropical produce and the great consuming countries of Europe. We exported largely the cotton of North America, the sugar of the tropics, and other articles to the ports of the Baltic. Of cotton alone we sent no less than 200,000 bales a year to the northern ports. The British shipowner shared in the carriage of these goods from America to Liverpool, whilst we had the whole carrying trade of Russia, to which, last year, we sent 93,000 bales, and a large part of the carrying trade of the Baltic. We were told that reciprocity was henceforth to be the order of the day. When our treaty with Russia should have expired—when Prussia put into execution against us those threats which he advised them respectfully not to disregard, what would become of our carrying trade, and of those advantages which now made us the entrepôt of the world? We now forbade the products of Africa, Asia, and America, to be imported, except in our own ships or theirs. Russia, when two or three years more should have passed, would likewise say, "The products 521 of Africa, Asia, and America shall not come into the country except in ships of the country whore produced, or in Russian ships" —at least she would take care that if we did not relax this prohibition, they should not come in our ships. Then, with regard to the United States. We had now a reciprocity with them—in many important respects a reciprocity not of friendly intercourse, but of jealously-guarded restriction. Did they think it of no importance to observe the effect of this long-carrying clause with regard to America? There was a great trade springing up in a distant part of the world—California; and he was not now referring to the monetary effects of that new trade, but it was plain and palpable that there was a large trade opening in the ports of that part of the American coast, which could not be gainsaid. Was it of no importance to observe the effect of this clause on our trade with the territories of the united States? He was happy to say that he knew gentlemen who were reaping the reward of their enterprise in having sent the teas of China and the sugars of the Philippine Islands to the coast of California, and most successful these adventures had been. But, wait until the American Government had established itself in California; then would come into operation that clause of their navigation laws, the exact counterpart of our own, made to match ours, and no more tropical produce could be carried to the western parts of America in British bottoms. Mr. Huskisson warned us to be careful that we did not so arrange our navigation laws as to raise up some one great country to be a formidable competitor to our maritime power. To what country in the world would England look as likely to prove such a competitor? What country would carry cotton to Russia and Prussia, and sugar to California, if by maintaining our jealous restrictions against their ships we encouraged them reciprocally to exclude ours? On this ground, therefore, he would go into Committee on this Bill. Again, he asked hon. Gentlemen, who were against allowing this Bill to proceed a step further, how they proposed to meet the demands of our colonies? He did not know that he had ever listened with so much astonishment to any statement, as to the grave, deliberate, and measured statement of so wise a person as his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford, that he considered the case of Canada as good for nothing. Did hon. 522 Gentlemen know what that case was? He would endeavour to illustrate it by an instance within his own knowledge. A most respectable gentleman wrote to him to say that he had received by an Americal vessel from New York a certain quantity of corn; from the papers which accompanied it, and the brands, he perceived that it had grown in Canada; he was above disguise, and stated the truth to the custom-house officer. The answer was, "Then it cannot be admitted. If grown in the United States, it would have been admitted to consumption in the united kingdom." His correspondent prayed him to go to the Treasury, and obtain permission for it to enter. On what ground was he to have refused his compliance with this most reasonable request? ["Hear, hear!" and a laugh.] The hon. Gentleman who sneered would be ready enough, if he was discussing corn, with arguments to show that we should protect corn the growth of Her Majesty's subjects against corn the growth of foreigners. Would they tell him on what principle of protection—he was sure it was none of free trade—were they to protect the corn grown by the republicans of the United States against the corn grown by Her Majesty's loyal subjects in Canada? But he was told there was a plan devised by which these difficulties were to be got over, and the principle maintained. They were to nationalise produce—to admit corn as the growth of the united States if it had passed through the United States. There was now a keen competition going on between Canada and the United States. On Lake Erie you were much nearer to the sea by way of the Erie Canal, than by the St. Lawrence. Canada expended large sums of money, and was assisted by the imperial credit in making excellent navigable canals to keep the traffic by the line of the St. Lawrence; notwithstanding the great difference of distance, you could now, if the cost of the sea passage were the same, carry corn from Upper Canada to Liverpool as cheaply by way of the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence as by way of the Erie Canal and New York. His right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford justly lauded the sagacity of the Americans in enacting drawbacks on the transit trade through their provinces. He wanted to know by what name would he describe the intellectual virtue we should display, if by the provisions of the Legislature we imposed upon the transit through our own possessions a positive discouragement. The 523 Canadian said, "I am not asking you for protection, I am far from the market. I have a difficult navigation to contend with—but I entreat you, do not discourage your loyal subjects, enable them to compete on equal terms, and they will bring you produce, grown by British subjects, to compete in your market with the produce of the foreigner." Was this reasonable request to be refused? He would ask them to listen to the remonstrance made by the governor of a British colony in the year 1671. "Mighty," said Sir William Berkeley, who was governor of Virginia in 1671—" mighty and destructive have been the obstructions to our trade and navigation by that severe Act of Parliament." This was recently after the passing of the Navigation Act in the time of Charles II. "If," he added, "it were for his Majesty's service, or the good of the subject, we should not repine, whatever were our suffering, but on my soul it is contrary to both." And upon his (Mr. Cardwell's) soul, he believed it was the contrary of both, for what would the British shipowner gain, if, by the want of sagacity here and in Canada, the produce of Canada was to be carried to this country by the route of New York? The Welland Canal would be closed—our investments in improving the means of communication would be lost—the minds of the colonists would be alienated—but we should not have secured the British shipowner the advantage which he thought to enjoy. Then there were anomalies in the present state of the law, which it was quite impossible could be allowed to remain. He would not enter at length into this part of the subject, but would mention one or two particular cases. From some motive of policy, certain alterations had been made in the existing law. There was a small port at the mouth of the Danube, not locally in Austria, or a part of Austria, but which was deemed to be in Austria. Pressed, it might be by that circumstance, Memel was considered a port of Oldenburg, although Memel was not in Oldenburg. How, he would venture to ask, after they had deemed certain places to be ports of Austria and Oldenburg, which geographically were in neither of those countries, would they deal with an application from Holland, under the favoured nation clause, to make some particular port in another country a port of Holland? We had a reciprocity treaty with America. America was extending her power to the southward, and her influence over Mexico. 524 America might, therefore, find it convenient, and might actually say, "it would be useful to us if you would call a port in Mexico a port of the United States." Was it convenient, or was it safe, for the shipping interest of Great Britain to allow such an anomaly as this to remain upon the Statute-book? Clearly not. But then it was said, that if the navigation laws were repealed, we could not safely compete with foreigners; and the noble Marquess who had just sat down had read some evidence from the Lords' Committee upon this question, to show that ships were dearer, wages higher, and the expenses of navigation altogether higher in this country than in America. He (Mr. Cardwell), as became his position, had taken very great pains to possess himself with the contents of the Lords' reports upon this question, and he found among them some statements very contradictory to those of the noble Marquess. He found Mr. Dunbar, chairman of the London Shipowners' Association, a gentleman who, of all others, was most to be quoted as an authority upon the subject, asked whether he had not found it most to his interest to build dear ships than cheap ships. Mr. Dunbar said he had, for the obvious reason—because he expected them to last longer than cheap ships, and to cost less in repairs. Another gentleman of high authority, from Liverpool (Mr. Booker), was asked whether he thought, as to shipbuilding in America, taking into consideration the difference in quality, there was any great difference in the first cost. He replied that there was not. They were told next, by insurance brokers, that the insurance was less upon good ships than bad ones; and merchants of the highest authority showed that cargoes of corn and sugar would not be carried in cheap vessels. He could not venture at that hour to trespass upon the time of the House, by reading the evidence on these subjects; but he would add further, that one gentleman was asked his opinion upon English sailors. His answer was, that he thought them the best in the world. The same gentleman said, that the crews of American vessels were composed of English sailors, to the extent of three-fourths—that the Americans paid more wages—and that after a careful examination of the whole subject, it would be found, as he entirely expected, that the country which possessed the greatest capital, where the rate of interest was lowest, and which had the most energy and enterprise in every branch of trade—the country which had the com- 525 mand of all the markets of the world—was the country which might, upon fair and equal terms, safely and advantageously compete with any other nation. This was a topic which, he knew, it was not always popular to urge. He knew that compliments to the energy, enterprise, and skill of British shipowners, were not always accepted as they were meant—in fact, that it was supposed they were insidiously presented for the purpose of forwarding designs upon their interest. He, however, would be a party to no such delusion as to maintain for a moment that in real, fair, effectual competition, the British shipowner, and the British shipping interests could be defeated. He had prepared some statistics, which he would not read at that late hour, that would show this conclusively; and, indeed, whilst the noble Marquess was speaking, during the time he said it was almost a self-evident proposition that the British shipowner could not compete with foreigners, he held in his hand a statement of the British tonnage that had entered the United States in each year, from 1821 to 1844 inclusive. He would not enter into all the figures, but he found that the British tonnage entered inwards in the ports of the United States was, in 1821, 52,976 tons, and in 1844 no less than 766,747 tons. If it was a self-evident proposition that Great Britain could not compete with America, how would the noble Marquess account for the great increase in British tonnage to that country during those years, of from 52,000 tons to 766,000 tons? Then he found in the next place, that Liverpool, where ships were expensive, advantageously competed with New Brunswick, where ships were as cheap as in any other part of the world. He found, in like manner, that New York, where shipbuilding was expensive, competed with Maine, where it was cheap. Why? Because it was cheaper in the end to pay a good price for the best article, than a low price for one of inferior quality. But great stress appeared to be laid upon the political branch of the question. The noble Marquess and his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford said, "Never mind the commercial argument, but remember your maritime supremacy." He should certainly agree with them, and with the celebrated expression of Mr. Huskisson, "If your maritime power comes into collision with your commercial interest, your commercial interest must give way." But it was the interest of those engaged in British shipping to come to a fair and 526 equitable settlement of the question, as well as of those who, looking at the subject in a national point of view, urged the importance of our maritime superiority. The legislation of Queen Elizabeth was liberal with regard to navigation, and the glory of England was not tarnished in her reign. The patent of our precedence dated from days anterior to the ordinance of Cromwell. If he thought that our maritime supremacy rested only upon the paper foundation of an Act of Parliament, passed by Charles II., his anticipations of the result would be still more gloomy than those of the noble Marquess. He said, then, that all these considerations, which did not immediately bear upon any particular part of the Bill, conclusively proved the necessity for a settlement of the question. They went farther, for they proved that it was desirable for the mercantile interests, just towards our own colonies, and important for the welfare of those whose property was invested in British shipping, that the question should be finally determined. The House might rest assured of this, that if they delayed a settlement of the question, if they held suspended over those whose property was embarked in shipping, the threat of impending change without making it, they would prevent the application of capital, and the employment of industry. They would thus be sapping the foundations of the British shipping interest; for, let it be observed, that if the demand for shipping in the world was not supplied by the application of British capital, British enterprise, and British labour, foreigners would take advantage of the void we were creating, and a stimulus be given to foreign capital and foreign industry. Upon every ground, therefore, it was essential to arrive at some equitable settlement of the question. There were anomalies in the existing law which it was impossible to defend. It was not the object of those who supported the present Motion to attempt to defend them; but, on the contrary, frankly to express their desire to see them removed. The law, however, being as it was, it was the duty of Parliament to deal with it immediately, and to deal with it effectually—not rashly, not precipitately, but effectively, so as to arrive at a right settlement. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury had entered, at length, into general arguments upon the question, into which, had there been time, he (Mr. Cardwell) might have been disposed to follow him; but he thought it was the most correct course, at this preliminary 527 stage, to confine their attention to the simple question whether they would reject all progress in the matter. That was the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Member for Stamford, and it was to that proposal that he (Mr. Cardwell) ventured to oppose himself. Should they reject all progress, or should they go into Committee for the purpose of obtaining, as he hoped would be obtained, a fair hearing for all reasonable objections to the Bill—a fair consideration for every interest which its particular clauses might affect—a fair discussion of every improvement which the wisdom of either side the House might be able to suggest? Let the Bill go into Committee, and eventually they would arrive, he hoped with something like general concurrence, at a final, conclusive, and, at the same time, at a safe and satisfactory settlement of this most difficult and most important question.
§ MR. HENLEY
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that as the navigation laws existed there were certain anomalies, and having declared this, what course did he propose? Why, he said if they removed these anomalies, he would vote for this Bill. Now the very principle on which he proceeded was, not to remove these anomalies, but to sweep away these laws altogether. The hon. Gentleman, not respecting the petitions of large constituencies, told the House of Commons to remove certain anomalies, the very object of the Bill being to sweep away the existing law altogether. That was a policy which he could not understand. But what was the next argument of the hon. Gentleman? He said that there was a great agitation raised on this subject, and that, consequently, capital did not flow into the general channels for which it was wanted; and, therefore, he supposed because there was an agitation on the question, he was to understand that there was no remedy for it but by sweeping the whole law away. No matter whether it were for good or for evil, only begin an agitation, and there would be no chance of relief but by sweeping away the law altogether. The next point referred to by the hon. Gentleman was the American trade; and he had laid down this principle with regard to it, that we were not afraid of competition, and that when the rate of interest was low we could always compete. And the hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to illustrate his argument by referring to what had taken place in America, as showing that we should always have a commercial intercourse, and that, because she had not the capital to fill 528 up the gap, we had got a fair share of the trade between the two countries; and he then jumped to the conclusion that we should be enabled, under all circumstances, to secure the greatest part of the trade of the world. Then the hon. Gentleman touched another point, which he handled in an extraordinary manner—namely, the mercantile part of the matter; and he said, in a solemn voice—"I recommend you to take care to look at this question! See what an important interest the warehousing interest is! I advise you to be cautious, or else you will lose it!" And how did the hon. Gentleman illustrate his argument? Why, by meddling with the long trade! He said that American ships could carry cotton to Russia and Prussia! And he (Mr. Henley) would ask what was to hinder them from doing so now? [Laughter.] Did hon. Gentleman who laughed suppose he was not aware that American ships could not carry cotton from this country? But as to the warehousing interest, had it not grown up because this country was the greatest emporium of the world? The long trade helped the warehousing interest. Then the hon. Gentleman went into the question of Canada. He quite agreed with him that there was a great difference of opinion in the minds of the people of Canada. They might raise the question whether this or that opinion was the most entitled to weight; but with such questions of policy, he thought it was not unbecoming any Member of the Government, in bringing forward the opinions of legislative bodies, not to overlook the opinions expressed by the legislature of Nova Scotia. He supposed that the petitions did not all run in one way. The petitions from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick all deprecated the contemplated change in the navigation laws. But as to the Canada question, what did it rest upon? Why, he contended that if they did not relax the law, Canada would lose her transit trade from the western parts of the States. But the Canadians required that to enable them to get the trade under present circumstances, the freight from Quebec must be reduced 50 per cent to this country. Now was it meant that this should be the effect of the law—to reduce freight 50 per cent? No one could contend for this, because it cut two ways. If freights were reduced 50 per cent, they must show how the English shipowner was to take his freight. But how did the hon. Member for Liverpool illustrate the subject? He said—See the 529 hardship in this case, a gentleman, a friend of mine, ships a cargo of flour in an American ship from Canada to New York, and it could not he landed here as colonial flour, because it was imported in an American bottom. Now, it was not denied that individual eases of hardship would arise. But the question was, how they were to take the balance. Were they to remove a limited inconvenience to run the risk of an incalculably greater degree of injury to the country? The national part of the question had been given the go-by by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury gave 1841 as the commencement of free trade! [Mr. J. WILSON dissented.] The hon. Gentleman shook his head—he would say there was a great relaxation of the tariff. The hon. Gentleman used the argument throughout, that, in considering free trade, they must remember there had been an increase of shipping; but he said that the British shipowners, in 1841, had ruined themselves by building too many ships; but when the hon. Gentleman came to the national part of the question he cut the throat of his argument, because having demonstrated that the English shipowner had been so imprudent as to multiply ships to his own undoing, yet there had been an increase of shipping under the free-trade system. Now, his surprise was turned into great wonder at the speech of the hon. Member for Westbury, in which he had altogether thrown overboard the question of reciprocity. He (Mr. Henley) was not going to say whether reciprocity was good or bad; but a large portion of the hon. Member's speech was occupied on the subject of reciprocity, to show it was a very bad thing; whilst another portion was occupied in stating to the House, that, with reference to all those different States with which we had been in correspondence, they had given us all they could. If that were true, and if the hon. Gentleman fairly spoke the mind of the Government, he should like to know whether they were to legislate a lie? He knew no definition of a deceit, but a practical lie. Now, here was a foreign correspondence carried on—for what purpose? Why, a foreign State enters into a correspondence—for what? The hon. Member for Westbury said this correspondence was of no use—that these States had given everything they had to give! Was this correspondence, then, intended to throw dust into the eyes of the people? With regard to shipbuilding, there could be no 530 doubt, if the Government plan was carried into effect, that the price of ships must be equalised all over the world; but whether it would put the English shipbuilders out of work was entirely a separate question. The English ship must not cost more than any other; and, if so, the English shipwright must have less wages. He could not forget the extraordinary statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who had a most convenient way of dealing with these subjects, and who had expressed two diametrically opposite opinions on the subject of shipwrights' wages and earnings. Last year the right hon. Gentleman said it was quite a mistake to suppose that shipwrights' labour was dearer in this country than abroad—that, in point of fact, the work was so much better that, although the wages were nominally higher, it was cheaper in the end. This year the right hon. Gentleman gave a different version of his views. He said it was very true the wages at New York and Black wall were the same; but the New York man did more work, giving all his time to his employer. In quoting the evidence of Mr. Wigram, the right hon. Gentleman of course adopted it; but he (Mr. Henley) could not understand how he could reconcile these two views. The question now before the House altogether rested upon grounds which had been very little touched upon by either the hon. Member for Westbury or the hon. Member for Liverpool. It did not rest with the opponents of the measure to prove that English ships could compete with foreigners. This country for 200 years had gone on prosperously, its commercial marine increasing, and keeping pace with the vast extent of the commerce of the country. That being so, and this order of things having at all times, and under all circumstances, furnished the ships of the Queen with a full and efficient supply of men in time of need, it rested with hon. Gentlemen opposite to show, first and foremost, what benefits would be derived from the measure; and, secondly, they ought to be able to show quite clearly—almost to demonstration, that the British commercial marine can compete successfully in the trial to which it was about to be exposed. They had hitherto shrunk from that point. They had evaded the question; but it rested with them to prove the fact. But in what condition would they place the country if the experiment should not prove successful? Those questions had been dealt too lightly with; and the proposal for 531 altering the law rested not upon evidence, but only upon assertions. He believed that there were not many Gentlemen who thought with the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ricardo) that the commercial marine was not necessary to provide for our national defences. They had not attempted to show that this branch of trade could compete, as it had hitherto done, with all the nations of the world; and they had not attempted to show that if they failed, and that if capital should be diverted into other channels, how it was to spring up again after the establishment of a more lucrative trade in the hands of foreigners. But if the plan should fail, would not our naval supremacy, which rested upon the maintenance of our commercial marine, be at once at an end? In times of peace, when only some 30,000 or 40,000 men were required, they might do without the commercial marine; but if any sudden emergency should arise, and 100,000 seamen be required, where were they to be obtained? There was one point which had not yet been touched upon by any hon. Gentleman, and it was one to which he wished to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control, with the view of obtaining the views of the Government on the subject previous to the division. Allusion had been made to the state of the merchant seamen of the country, and especially to the condition of the masters and mates; and it had been said that in order to enable us to go into a fair competition with all nations, the masters and mates must be taken from a better educated and improved class. Now, he wished to ask the Government what they intended to do upon the subject of impressment? It was one which they could not evade. Now, if they were to have a class of superior men, they must have some assurance that they would not be taken on board a man of war, and placed before the mast. Whilst they were masters, they certainly could not be taken, but they might be when changing from one ship to another; and he knew of instances in which mates had been pressed and placed on hoard a man of war, and kept there for seven years. The question of how they were to be dealt with for the future, was one which must be answered. There was another question, also, on which some information must be given. It had been asked, "Why cannot you compete when put upon an entire equality?" But by this measure they did not put the owner of a British ship—the capitalist, upon an equality with the foreigner. That was a 532 matter of which they had a right to complain. Although relieved from the condition of apprentices, they were not relieved from the condition of manning. The American captain said, "I can get English sailors at 10s. or 15s. per month less than Americans?" And why? Because he was not obliged to take them unless he liked. But did any one suppose that English sailors would not raise their wages when they knew that the English captain could not ship any one else? Another point was this. They only proposed to give a limited opening to the coasting trade. The great argument used in favour of the measure was, that it was for the benefit of the consumer. If so, how did they justify the imposition of 25 per cent more than they ought to pay upon the citizens of London, by not throwing open the coasting trade for coals? That was an article of which freight formed a largo portion of the cost; and he wished to ask the free-trade Gentlemen who were so anxious to promote the interest of the consumer and shipowner, how they justified their shutting up that portion of the coasting trade? If it would benefit a man to save him a farthing upon sugar, surely it would be a benefit to save him 2s. on coals; for supposing the freight to be 8s., a reduction of 25 per cent would effect that saving. He wished to know how they could justify the imposition of a tax on the people of London of 2s. per ton, when, according to their own argument, they would benefit the consumer and the shipping interest by opening the coasting trade? That had been passed over very lightly, but he wanted to hear it answered fully. Why should not the Baltic ships—obliged to lie up in winter, as ours used to do—come here and compete with our ships for the coal and coasting trade? If Government were consistent in their principles, they must carry them further. He believed they were not sure of their principles; they were only trying them experimentally, and therefore they were afraid to carry them further. He asked what right had Government to impose on the farmer of Lincolnshire an additional charge for conveying his corn to market? But if, for the sake of the cuckoo cry of free trade in one thing, and free trade in another. Government followed in their present course, he would ask, was this a good time to try such a dangerous and doubtful experiment? What was our state at this moment, and what had brought us to that state? Had the trading interest gone on 533 so well up to this time that you could venture to take a liberty with another interest? It was a very convenient mode to call 1842 the era of free trade; it was a convenient mode, but it was not a true mode. Duties were then still in existence; they were still on cotton and other articles. The hon. Member for Westbury had said, that they were hound to make this alteration because there had not been a sufficient increase in shipping to meet the increase of commerce caused by free trade. That he (Mr. Henley) denied; and, moreover, he would show them that a great portion of the increase which had taken place during the last few years had occurred under a system of protection, and was not consequent on the adoption of the principles of free trade. What, then, were the Government about to do? To say the least, in a time of transition, when everything had been cheapened by a new system, at the very commencement of this system, no matter from what cause, it was evident we had not multiplied our transactions, though we had lessened our prices. While the system was in an imperfect state, and when they could not allege that any impediment had been offered by want of sufficient shipping, was it wise to attack an interest with a large capital embarked in it, and having the important question of our naval superiority involved in it, when there existed no real necessity for taking such a step? If the country were polled, every man, he was sure, would cheerfully pay the hardly appreciable advance in prices, rather than run the tremendous risk of a failure in this experiment. No one had attempted to deny that obstruction was here, and inconvenience there; but when you came to balance the possible risk with the possible gain, he was quite sure no one would be disposed to run that risk which he, for one, feared must take place if the present measure were carried.
§ MR. GLADSTONE moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, he had no objection, to the adjournment, provided it was understood distinctly that the debate would be resumed on Monday, that the House would then come to a division, and that no further adjournment on that day would take place.
§ MR. KER
was most anxious to say a few words in explanation of the vote he intended to give. He thought that Irish Members had a right to speak on navigation subjects, and he was of opinion, from the manner in which this and other mea- 534 sures had been introduced by Her Majesty's Ministers, that much credit could not be given to them for deep thinking and judgment.
§ Debate adjourned to Monday.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve, till Monday.