§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Sir, in moving that you do now leave the chair, and that the House go into Committee on the Navigation Bill, I feel it right to take this opportunity of making a statement to the House with regard to an important alteration which I propose to make in this Bill. The House will recollect that, when I brought forward this measure, I stated to the House that there was one item in which the measure would differ from that which I submitted in the preceding Session. I stated that this difference turned on a modification, which I proposed, of the coasting regulations of this country. I stated that I proposed, not to throw open our coasting trade to foreign nations absolutely, but still, under certain modifications, to admit foreign nations to a share of that trade. I stated that, although I did not attach much practical importance to this alteration, nor did I believe that it could be possible for foreign nations to avail themselves, in any extensive degree, of this permission, yet, believing that it would facilitate that perfect equality on which I thought it important, as far as possible, that this trade should be placed with regard to the trade of the most important maritime nations of the world, and especially that of the United States of America, I thought it desirable, for the purpose of avoiding all possible cavil or dispute with regard to the value of any relaxation we might offer to the United States, to make the alteration which I proposed. I stated to the House that I thought it desirable, not because I believed the United States particularly could avail themselves of this modification, to throw open the coasting trade of the united kingdom to that extent—I stated that, having at that time consulted the authorities of the Board of Customs, I felt myself warranted in making this proposal to the House, and that I was able to say that I had no apprehension that the revenue would be endangered. Sir, I feel bound to say now that I am no longer able to repeat 1197 that statement. I will frankly state what took place between my right hon. Friend at the head of the Board of Customs (Sir T. Fremantle) and myself in reference to this matter. When I first proposed to make this alteration, I sought an interview with my right hon. Friend. After having apprised him of the nature of the proposal which I intended to make, my right hon. Friend stated, that with the information he then possessed, although he was not prepared to say that considerable additional difficulty might not he thrown upon the department over which he presides by this alteration, yet still it was his belief that no such difficulty, and no such danger to the revenue, would arise as could be set in opposition to any of the steps which the Government desired to take with reference to a great question of national policy. Sir, it was upon that assurance of my right hon. Friend that I made this proposal to the House. At the same time, my right hon. Friend, who was allowed to frame such regulations as he thought necessary to secure the revenue under the proposed modification, sent me several regulations, which the Commissioners of Customs had prepared, and which I embodied in the Bill now before the House. But, Sir, I have received, now some days ago, a communication from my right hon. Friend at the head of the Commissioners of Customs, in which he says that, on going further into these regulations which he thought it right to advise the Government to make to accompany this modification of the law as regarded the coasting trade, and on further examining this question, along with the most experienced officers of the Customs, those most conversant with that branch of the service which particularly has relation to the trade which would have been affected by the modification proposed, he had come to the conclusion that, if not absolutely impossible, it would be a matter of extreme difficulty, to frame any regulations which should not leave the revenue of the country exposed to the greatest possible danger—if we did away with that distinction which now exists between the coasting trade and the general trade of the country; I mean, if we allowed any ship, foreign or British, to combine a coasting and foreign voyage. He said, "I believe that greater danger will arise from British ships combining a coasting with a foreign voyage, than from foreign ships coming to this country for that purpose." Sir, under those circum- 1198 stances, I am bound to state that I do not feel justified in advising the House to pass that part of the Bill which throws open the coasting trade in that modified manner which I had proposed. In what I have said I hope it will be clearly understood that I cast no blame whatever upon my right hon. Friend who is at the head of the Board of Customs. I am quite satisfied that if he gave his sanction to this proposal in the first instance, it was merely owing to his extreme unwillingness to set up any departmental objection against what he conceived to be a point of national policy. On the contrary, I am bound to take upon myself any blame that may be fairly imputed to any Member of the Government for having hastily submitted such a question to the House. I hope the House will do me the justice to believe that I would not have made this proposal if I had not believed that it might be done with perfect safety to the revenue of the country. I feel bound to state, that no imputation whatever can rest on Sir T. Fremantle for having given this sanction, as it might be supposed, hastily, and then withdrawing it; for I am convinced that he has acted throughout solely from a sense of duty, and that the fault is mine for not having given him more time for inquiry. But the result of this inquiry has been, that I am no longer able to ask the House to agree to relax the navigation laws in the particular I have described. The Bill, therefore, returns very much, almost altogether, to what it was when proposed to the House during the last Session of Parliament. I am happy to say that I believe this solitary alteration will, in no degree, stand in the way of the House being able to consider the Bill in Committee to-night. The clauses relating to the coasting trade are almost altogether distinct from the rest of the Bill; therefore, I trust this will not be deemed a reason for deferring the consideration of the Bill tonight. But as the alteration is an important one, I thought it only fair to the House to take this, the earliest, opportunity, of stating it, rather than reserve it until the House should have gone into Committee.
§ MR. HUME
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, after the information he has given us, if the trade were opened entirely, the difficulty he has now stated with regard to the collection of the revenue would not be done away with? In that case, I conceive, foreign vessels would 1199 be put on the same footing as British vessels; and then there would be no difficulty whatever.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Undoubtedly, if foreign vessels were admitted into our coasting trade as English vessels now are—that is to say, not allowed to combine the coasting voyage with the foreign voyage—of course the difficulty to the revenue, at least of the kind which I have pointed out, would not arise. But the hon. Gentleman will at once see that, as far as regards America, for instance, such a permission would be totally illusory. To say to the owner of an American ship—"You may come here and carry coals in our coasting trade, but you must not combine that with your foreign voyage"—that of course would be perfectly illusory. To open our coasting trade in that manner would excite a great deal of unnecessary alarm amongst our shipping interest; but, as far as regards foreign countries, even those close at hand, it would have very little effect; while as regards distant countries, it would be seen at once to be entirely useless.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Having myself taken objection to these very clauses, with reference to the question of revenue, I do not rise to dispute the justice of the conclusion at which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has arrived; but I must make a few remarks on what he has said. I think he is more successful in justifying the conclusion which he has now announced to the House, than he was in showing grounds for the decision at which he originally arrived, when he introduced those clauses into the Bill. He says he now withdraws those clauses, because the Chairman of the Board of Customs tells him the difficulty of acting upon them would be extreme. The right hon. Gentleman fully owns that at the commencement of their communications on the subject, the Chairman of the Board of Customs felt the difficulty of acting upon them, and that the danger to the revenue would be considerable; and it would be impossible for any person to have listened to the right hon. Gentleman without seeing that the bearing of the mind of the Chairman of the Board of Customs was entirely against those clauses. I have no knowledge of his opinions from that right hon. Gentleman himself; and with reference to communications of this kind, I would say that I see considerable inconvenience in details of this kind being given by Ministers of the Crown—details of conferences 1200 that take place between themselves and those who, though holding important offices, are in reference to them subordinate functionaries. It is usual, when a demand is made by a Member of this House for the production of returns from the Board of Customs, or the law officers of the Crown—I need not take a parallel case, I can take the Board of Customs itself—it is usual to decline the production of those 'returns, because it may lead to inconvenience. I think that details of this kind may also lead to great inconvenience, and tend to perplex the public mind, as to where the responsibility is really to be considered to lie. On the very just ground that those clauses form an important portion of the Bill, I think I ought to take this opportunity to invite the attention of the House while I make an explanation, which I had intended to give in Committee, in regard to a subject on which I have twice troubled the House—that is, in regard to conditional legislation. Having said so much on the second reading of this Bill, and during the discussions on it last year, to prove that the House should adopt that basis instead of the basis that Government have chosen, I think it but respectful to the House to show that I have not been trifling with them in that regard, though it is not my intention to trouble them with any amendment on the subject. I wish to state what it is I would have proposed. I would have proposed, in the first place, a clause referring to conditional legislation, and a number of clauses of direct legislation. The conditional legislation I would have advised the House to adopt, would be—to divide the whole trade of the empire into two divisions only; the first of them that which relates to the trade of foreign countries, and the second of them that which relates to the domestic or British trade, including, under that designation, the trade coastwise, and the trade of the colonies. Then I would have proposed to the House to enact a law—not dependent on the discretion of the Ministers of the Crown, otherwise than ascertaining the fact—that when any country was disposed to give to Great Britain a perfect freedom in its foreign trade, it should receive in return our foreign trade. When they proposed to give a perfect freedom in all maritime trade whatever—both foreign and domestic—they should receive a perfect equality with British vessels in all parts of it, both foreign, colonial, and coasting. I would have asked the House to provide for 1201 the foreign trade of the colonies, by dealing with that trade irrespective of the conduct of other countries. I would have asked the House, as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade proposes to do, to repeal every direct restraint on the importation of tropical pro-dace or non-European produce from Europe, that being a restraint which, according to the present law, affects not only the ships of foreign countries, but British vessels also. I would have asked the House to repeal all fiscal restraints, and every restraint in the nature of a tax, on the British shipowner. I would set him perfectly free, both with respect to the command of his ship, and the manning of his ship; and I would have invited the House to go into Committee on the Customs, that a draw-hack might be allowed upon the timber used in the building of ships. I think it my duty to state frankly why I will now make no proposal to the House of this kind. The object of my proposal was not to embarrass the proceedings of the Government. I am not unfriendly to the repeal of the navigation laws. I wish to see their repeal effected, but in a way that would have avoided any shock to the great interests that are involved in British shipping. For this reason I was perfectly willing to have made this proposal, had there been a hope—and, at one time, I was sanguine enough to entertain a hope—that it would meet with such a reception from the trade as would lead to a settlement of the question during the present year, believing, as I do, that, important as the settlement of this question must be at all times, it is peliarly important at the present moment. Had it been the disposition of those who are connected with the shipping interest of this country to have accepted that proposal, and made as large a concession of their views in regard to protection, I would, individually, have felt bound to urge that plan for the adoption of the House; but so far from that being the case, I have no reason to doubt that their disposition is, to stand by the present law, either exactly as it is, or with few and inconsiderable alterations. From a journal of the day I extract the following resolution, adopted at a meeting of the central committee for upholding the principle of the navigation laws. It was unanimously resolved—That the fatal consequences of the adoption of the repealing clause No. I in the Navigation Law Amendment Bill would not be removed by the Amendment of which notice has been given by the hon. Mr. Bouverie; and as they are con- 1202 vinced that the clause would still prove destructive to British navigation, they trust that it will not in any form receive the sanction of the friends to the shipping interest in Parliament.I take that announcement to apply—not merely to the particular form in which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock proposes to proceed with reference to this Bill—I take it that, although it aims at modification, or conditional relaxation of the existing law, its avowed aim is against the total repeal of the navigation laws. I certainly had not entirely abandoned the hope that Her Majesty's Government, seeing the strength of the interests with which they had to contend, might have thought it their public duty to have modified their measure in some respect with regard to conditional legislation: I need hardly say that, with the feelings I entertain upon the subject, I should have seen them adopt that course with sincere satisfaction. They have, however, done otherwise; and it is not for me to say whether they have adopted that course wisely or unwisely, with a view to effect the object which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has so much at heart. That being so, and both the great sections of opinion into which the House is divided differing upon this important question of preferring another and a more decided course, I do not think that it would have conduced, in any manner, to the public advantage, if I had taken up the time of the House by a discussion—probably, a protracted discussion—upon a subject of this nature. I was not willing that the plan which I should propose should be considered as any obstruction to the measure of Her Majesty's Government. It was not in that spirit that I had conceived it. I do not consider that any advantage would have resulted from the comparatively small number of Gentlemen who might agree with me in preferring my plan upon its merits to that proposed by the Government, dividing by ourselves against the great majority of the House, or that the principle of the plan would in the least have been advanced by our so doing. Neither do I think it desirable that my proposition should be forced upon a reluctant and resisting Government—and should, after having been opposed by them, with all the weight of their influence, be sent to the other House with such equivocal recommendation as the proceedings of this House would give to it. I was not willing to run any risk of being responsible, through the medium of any 1203 such plan, or by pressing it upon the attention of the House, for interfering with the progress of the measure of Her Majesty's Government. I confess that if I were driven to take my choice between the continuance of the present law in the face of our colonies and in the face of foreign countries, and the plan of Her Majesty's Government, my choice would be in favour of that of the Government. I need not trouble the House any further upon the subject; when we get into Committee, and come to the consideration of the Motion to be proposed by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, I shall be able to give my opinion on the principle contained in that Motion.
§ MR. HERRIES
said, he had been prepared to go at once into Committee on the Bill, as he had no intention of offering any merely obstructive opposition to the progress of the measure. But the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had greatly surprised him, and had led him to doubt whether they could then go into Committee with any prospect of a satisfactory result. It was a very extraordinary circumstance that on going into Committee on a Bill which had for its object such infinitely important changes—which had been under consideration the whole of last year—which had been reproduced this Session with the introduction into it of a very remarkable amendment—it was indeed most extraordinary that, upon the proposal now to go into Committee upon it. Her Majesty's Government should announce their intention of abandoning that great amendment, professedly upon the sole ground—discovered for the first time—that it would not work consistently with our revenue laws! The reason appeared to him to be a most unsatisfactory one; and he felt bound to say that it came upon us very unfortunately, to say the least of it, immediately after the communication from the American Government, long delayed and lately laid upon the table of the House, by which it appeared that they were not prepared to make mutual concessions on the subject of the coasting trade! The contents of that despatch, and the sudden change made by the Government, were too manifestly connected with each other, to leave much room for doubt upon their motives. There was another circumstance which made the alteration proposed by the right hon. Gentleman well worthy of the serious consideration of the House; it was this—that the very clause which they were 1204 then told was to be withdrawn, must have been communicated to the Governments of foreign countries. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: No, no!] Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that he had failed to communicate to foreign Governments the altered intentions of the Government upon the subject? [Mr. LABOUCHERE: The provision in question was not in the Bill of last year.] Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that Her Majesty's Ministers had not communicated to the Governments of foreign countries the important change which they had this year proposed to make in a Bill, the original provisions of which they had thought it so necessary to make known to them? Surely they had in that case been guilty of a very strange omission. He should have thought that the very first thing they would have done after having determined on that change, would have been to have made it known to the Governments of foreign States. But they had received from the Government of the United States a distinct refusal to admit us to their coasting trade. Now, he wanted to know whether, after such a change in the measure as that which the right hon. Gentleman had announced, it was proper that they should then go into Committee, instead of pursuing the usual and natural course on such occasions, namely, that the Government should withdraw the Bill for the present, and afterwards present it in its amended shape. He was not pleading for delay; he could have no such object. But there were no less than six or seven clauses in the Bill relating entirely to the coasting trade, and several others partially affecting that subject; and he thought that, under the circumstances, the Government would have done much better if they had brought in an amended measure, or if they had proposed that the House should go into Committee pro formâ, with a view to amend it. He, however, was not disposed to offer any unfair obstruction to the progress of the Bill, or to prevent them from considering it at once in Committee if they should think proper to pursue that course. But he should observe that they had then three different proposals before them, the first of which was the Bill which had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government; the next was the alteration which the Government proposed to make in that Bill; and the third was the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford. His right hon. Friend had stated 1205 what his plan was to have been; and he (Mr. Harries) regretted that any person so competent as his right hon. Friend skilfully to form a plan, and ably to explain and defend it, should shrink from the task of submitting it to the House. For his part, he should certainly have listened with the utmost attention to anything that might have fallen from his right hon. Friend; and although he believed that the Bill was not capable of being rendered a good one by any alterations which might be introduced into it, he was free to admit that the plan of his right hon. Friend was superior in its tone and character to the measure introduced by Her Majesty's Ministers. He believed, however, that the measure was essentially and fundamentally an un-English measure, and one which that House ought not to adopt; and he should, therefore, offer to it in all its stages his most strenuous and continued opposition.
§ MR. ROBINSON
said, he wished it to be understood that he did not in any way forego his opposition to the Bill by acceding to the Motion that the House should then go into Committee. He should offer to the measure every fair opposition in his power.
§ The House then went into Committee.
§ On the 1st Clause being put,
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
proposed to fill up the blank for the date at which the Bill was to come into operation with "the 1st of January, 1850."—Agreed to.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that one of the Acts proposed to be repealed by this clause was the 5th of George IV., c. 1, indemnifying "all persons concerned in advising, issuing, or acting under a certain Order in Council for regulating the tonnage duties on certain foreign vessels," and amending "an Act of the last Session of Parliament for authorising His Majesty, under certain circumstances, to regulate the duties and drawbacks on goods imported and exported in any foreign vessels." Now, the course he would prefer taking with regard to retaliatory clauses would rather be, to leave in operation such power of that sort as the Crown possessed now; but the retaliatory clauses which the present Bill contained—the 19th and 20th Clauses of the Bill—gave the Crown much larger power than that now possessed by it, and which were of a qualified description, and related to tonnage and goods. He moved, therefore, to omit from this clause all the words to which he had already referred as defining the Act of 5th George IV., c. 1.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On the Motion that the clause, as amended, be agreed to,
§ MR. BOUVERIE
proposed, at the end of the clause, to add the following proviso:—That the several restrictions and prohibitions in the aforesaid Acts contained, as to the voyages in which ships of any foreign country may engage, or as to the goods which they may import into, or export from, the United Kingdom, or any British Possession, or as to the goods and passengers they may carry either coastwise from one part of the United Kingdom to another part, or from any British Possession in any part of the world to any other British Possession (except such of the said restrictions and prohibitions as are hereby authorised to be removed or varied by the proper Legislative authorities of British Possessions), shall remain, and be in full force respectively, till it shall be made to appear to the satisfaction of Her Majesty in Her Privy Council, and it shall be declared by Her Majesty's Order in Council, that British ships are not subjected in such foreign country to the like several restrictions or prohibitions as to the voyages in which they may engage, or as to the goods which they may import into, or export from, such foreign country, or any possession thereof, or carry coastwise in any part of such foreign country. Provided further, with respect to the restrictions and prohibitions in the aforesaid Acts contained, as to the goods which the ships of any foreign country may import into, or export from, any British Possession, Her Majesty, by Her Order in Council, may direct that the whole, or any part, of such restrictions and prohibitions, shall cease to remain or be in full force as to the ships of any foreign country, although the like restrictions and prohibitions respectively, as to the goods which any British ship may import into, or export from, any possession of such foreign country, shall not in all respects have been removed.This Amendment he should have slightly to alter, in consequence of what the Government had that evening themselves proposed in connexion with the Bill; but his proposal was, substantially, to the effect that the several restrictions and prohibitions contained in the Acts recited in the 1st Clause—with certain exceptions—should remain, and be in full force, till it should be made to appear that British ships were not subjected, in foreign countries, to the like several restrictions or prohibitions. He must preface any remarks he had to make in support of the Amendment with which he should conclude, by disclaiming any wish to defeat Her Majesty's Government in reference to this Bill, or, indeed, to offer any hostility to the measure itself, which he had supported up to the present stage of it. He also distinctly disavowed and repudiated all hankering after protection in this Amendment; for it was strictly in the 1207 sense of free trade that he proposed it, and with a view to the removal of restrictions on the trade of the world. He confessed that, as regarded the particular subject of the navigation laws, protection had not a leg to stand on. In the first place, it was true that, as a system, they could only justify protection when that system was, as it were, given all round. But, besides this, there appeared to him, as between a protective policy and restrictions on navigation, an inherent and radical opposition between the best interests of shipowners and shipbuilders, and those who wished to enforce protection generally in the policy of the country. The protectionists contended that they ought to exclude from the ports of this country all foreign produce that could possibly compete with that raised at home. This was to cut up, root and branch, the whole shipping interest. Again, he was not induced to propose his Amendment under the influence of the alarms and dismal forebodings embodied in the petitions which had been presented against changes in the navigation laws in the present and the past Sessions of Parliament. Precisely the same prognostications, alarms, and visions of ruin prevailed, and were indulged in, when Mr. Huskisson first proposed changes in these laws; and he was persuaded that they would be followed by the same practical refutation as those former alarms and apprehensions had been, and that the result would be, as it had been before, a great increase in the tonnage of the British and foreign shipping entered inwards at all the principal ports of this country. He had been rather surprised, he must confess, the other night, to hear Mr. Huskisson quoted by the Government as an authority as to the mode in which the restrictions hitherto removed had been withdrawn; for Mr. Huskisson's views were altogether in favour of reciprocity, and of that which his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford called conditional legislation. Mr. Huskisson, then, might be referred to as no mean authority on a subject of this kind, for there could be no doubt whatever as to what his views were upon it. His (Mr. Bouverie's) difference with Her Majesty's Government on this subject was, simply, with regard to the mode in which the changes they proposed should be effected. The hon. Member said that these changes were tremendous, and that it behoved the House to take care that they were made in a way which had been tried 1208 and approved, and was the least likely to cause dissatisfaction to those interests which would mainly be effected by their operation. Now, he did not think that way was the one comprised in the plan of the Government; but he did think that at least something like the best way to proceed was suggested in the Amendment he should venture to offer to the House. There could be no doubt that, in any trade in which they could command one terminus only, though they might open their trade at their own end of it, it was in the power of the State that had the other terminus, by their legislation, so to impair and impede the trade carried on in the ships of the country in which was the first terminus referred to, as, practically, to force the whole trade to be carried on in their own ships, thus pursuing the course which had been pursued by this country for the last two hundred years. France enforced against them similar restrictions to those imposed by the navigation laws; and though it appeared from the correspondence laid on the table two days ago that Sweden had professed her readiness to make relaxations pari passu with this country, he should prefer to such professions the security of an Act of Parliament. An opportunity was now afforded to us of removing all restrictions. As to the merchant, he was altogether indifferent on the subject; for all he wanted to do was to carry his goods in the cheapest ships, and it would be the object of foreign nations to give a factitious dearness to the ships of this country. Such being the case, and restrictions being now in operation against them on the part of foreign countries, here was an opportunity afforded them of obtaining a removal of those restrictions—restrictions which the retalitory clauses of the Government afforded no means of getting rid of. If they could not, therefore, get rid of those restrictions in the way the Government proposed to do so, was it not more probable that they might do so by adopting the mode he (Mr. Bouverie) suggested in this Amendment? They had entered into reciprocity relations with almost every other maritime nation. The United States of America had a complete system of reciprocity: it was the foundation of their whole navigation system, and it was an example they would do well to follow. His hon. Friend the Member for Westbury had endeavoured to find an objection to the Amendment; but with all his ability he 1209 had signally failed. The hon. Member said, the Amendment would, if passed, involve this country in endless negotiations. That was exactly what it would not do; it would establish a self-working system. He saw a great gain which it was possible to obtain by means of his own plan; but he could not see any reasonable ground on which they could calculate on any such gain by adopting the mode on which the Government plan proceeded. This subject could only be urged at all on the footing of national advantage. In his opinion, a selfish desire for national advantage was really patriotism; and it seemed to him to be not open to dispute or doubt that the removal of the restrictions which impeded their commerce would be beneficial to this country as well as to foreign nations. If the retaliatory clauses in the Bill, as prepared by Government, were to be worked at all, the object of working them would be to make them instrumental in procuring from foreign nations restrictions similar to those which England was about to concede; but it was only by negotiations that that end could be accomplished. The clause he would suggest would supersede the necessity of tedious and vexatious negotiations. Out of a score of reciprocity treaties to which England was a party, there were only four which contained the "favoured-nations" clause; and it was idle to expect, that through the instrumentality of such compacts, any genuine or extensive system of reciprocal advantage could be established as between England and the other nations of the world. However, it should be remembered that all those treaties were determinable, and that was in itself a fatal objection to them. He admitted, that to realise the principle of reciprocity in the case of tariffs was extremely difficult, if not wholly impracticable; but he did not think that it was equally difficult to apply the principle to the case of shipping. There was no analogy between the two cases on which to found a common argument. Reciprocity as regarded tariffs was, however desirable, almost impracticable, because the articles which came from other countries into England, and in respect of which a low duty was imposed, were articles which were not exported from England to other lands; and it was a matter of extreme delicacy and difficulty to determine what other articles should be accounted as equivalents for them; but in the case of shipping no such difficulty existed. Nothing was easier, simpler, or more intel- 1210 ligible, than to say, we will relax our navigation laws, and make certain arrangements with respect to our shipping interests, on the express proviso that other countries will adopt similar relaxations and arrangements in our regard. He was not at all averse to the relaxation of the British navigation laws—on the contrary, he cordially approved of it—but all he was anxious about was, that if England took off her restrictions, the restrictions now imposed by foreign nations in whose favour she was about to make the concession, should also be removed. It was with a view to the attainment of this desirable object—and because he believed that his proposition was calculated to secure for this country national advantages which the plan of the Government as at present framed was not so likely to realise—that he had brought forward this Amendment. The hon. Member concluded by moving the proviso to the first clause given above.
felt bound to oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. He was sure that the object of the hon. Member was not in any way adverse to the liberal or free-trade policy of the country. He thought he should be able to show the hon. Gentleman that if he had carefully examined the laws of various countries, he would find that it would be utterly impossible to carry his plan into operation. He believed the clause as it stood would secure to them great and extensive principles of reciprocity, while it would not subject them to a great number of those inconvenient and intricate difficulties which were likely to arise from the existing treaties with foreign Powers. The object of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was to enable the country to receive concessions from foreign countries by making concessions to them; but if they were to have the conditional legislation of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, and if they were to hold in their hands the powers of retaliation, it would appear that whenever that equality was disturbed, it was to be restored by retaliating measures. Therefore the term reciprocity in the sense in which it was used by the hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Wilson) held to be equivalent to the term retaliation; for he again said that there was no difference between the case of conceding to any country the privilege such country refused to us, and the refusal to impose restrictions upon a country because it imposed restrictions upon us. He thought, 1211 however, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock did not intend to prevent the importation of goods from Asia, Africa, and America to this country; and if he understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford correctly, he was in favour of throwing open their trade to this extent. It was exceedingly necessary to keep that point in mind when considering the merits of the proposition now before them—namely, the throwing open the Continental trade, as far as concerned the goods of the whole world. His hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, in the clause which he had submitted to their consideration, proposed that this country shall not concede to any other country the privileges of those concessions which the Government proposed to make in the Bill before the House, unless it shall be shown to the satisfaction of the Queen in Council that such country does not retain corresponding restrictions upon our navigation. The hon. Gentleman ought, however, to be aware that there was scarcely one country in the world that had similar restrictions to ours. Did he mean that any country which retained a restriction, however insignificant or minute, shall be prohibited from the benefit we propose to confer upon all foreign countries, and thereby to destroy the mutual benefits that might arise in respect to the general trade carried on between us? But then he said the restrictions or prohibitions were to be similar. What, however, would be the effect of this principle if it were to be fully carried out as he proposed? What would they do in the case of Belgium, for instance? Belgium has more restrictions than any other country, except England; but yet she has not one like that of England. Taking the hon. Gentleman's Amendment as it stands—pass a law such as he proposed, and the next day after they had so I passed it, Belgium would be entitled to ask I us for the same advantage as any one of the other nations could claim, because she would say that she has not the like restrictions as ours. She has no colonies, and therefore no corresponding restrictions in our colonial trade. She has no long-voyage trade such as this country possesses. The restriction here was one absolute upon trade. She does not prevent the importation of goods from Asia, Africa, and America, except they are carried in English ships. He might go through almost every country in Europe, and find in each one a similar objection to the Amendment pro- 1212 posed. He found in no one country similar restrictions to ours. [Mr. BOUVERIE here reminded the hon. Gentleman of France.] He begged the hon. Member's pardon. Though France has some restrictions similar to ours, she had not all. He did not mean to say that they could not find in these countries some one restriction corresponding with ours, but he contended it would be difficult to find one country so situated in this respect as would present a I case which his Amendment would fairly meet. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock had talked of the great difficulty of carrying out the principle of reciprocity in tariffs. He admitted it; but if they were to retaliate by reciprocal restrictions, as the Amendment proposed, how were they to balance the one account against the other? The hon. Gentleman talked of the difficulty of negotiations; but he (Mr. Wilson) apprehended that the difficulties which he would impose upon the Board of Trade would be infinitely greater than any which could arise from the measure proposed by the Government. Did he mean to say, that he would not go piecemeal to work, but that he would rather take a wide view of the whole question, and would say to other countries, "If you throw open the trade between us, we shall throw over our navigation laws?" That, on doubt would be a mush more simple mode of meeting the question than the Amendment he proposed. But still this principle of acting would be attended with great inconvenience and difficulty. Suppose that we said to the world at large—suppose that the United States of America repealed their restrictions, in the spirit in which their legislation was now carried on. As soon as we allowed them to go into our colonial trade, that instant we should have all the countries with which we had treaties at this moment existing—some of which were not determinable even by notice—demanding from us the like privileges. What would Holland say? We are entitled to the Eastern Archipelago, and to trade with India and China, but we have a treaty with Holland that was not even determinable by notice. That treaty entitled them to trade with Java, the Eastern Archipelago, and the East Indies, upon terms of the most favoured nations. The same state of things existed in many other countries in Europe. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock said, why not then give notice of the conclusion of the treaty? Now, as he had said, this could 1213 not be done even if they were willing in all cases. In regard to Sweden, they could not put an end to the treaty which existed. But he would ask the hon. Member whether he was prepared upon this single subject to give notice to determine all the treaties we had entered into with the various countries of Europe, not only appertaining to the question of navigation, but also to the great questions in connexion with our commercial, civil, and political intercourse? He thought he could show that the course which the Government proposed to take, would in reality more effectually, more simply and plainly carry out what the hon. Gentleman seemed to have in view, than the Amendment which he had proposed, if adopted, would do. Before, however, he attempted to prove this, he must be permitted to make some further remarks as to the effect of the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, and the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University, in respect to allowing the goods of Asia, Africa, and America to be imported into this country. If they allowed the cotton of America, and the sugar of Java, to be imported through Rotterdam, then he would ask what value was their restriction on the direct trade, when they only required a ship to go to Rotterdam to bring the goods from thence to this country? It might, to be sure, be said, that the expense of this mode of trading would be a sufficient guarantee against its being adopted. The trade would, no doubt, be always direct as a rule; but when these exceptional cases arose, it was by no means improbable that this indirect way of importing such produce would be followed. They should then consider how difficult it would be to trace by what particular ship the goods originally came, so as to carry into operation the principle which they advocated. But let them reflect upon the damage that would be given to their warehousing trade. If they were going to permit foreign ships to enter into the surrounding ports with goods ultimately destined for the British markets, what a blow they would be giving to their warehousing trade! This trade must necessarily suffer seriously if we do not allow all ships to come to this country, and avail themselves of the warehousing markets here. What have been the practical operations of the Government in respect to this question? We have carefully looked to our connexions as regards the 1214 state of these laws with other countries—we have considered the nature of the different treaties we have entered into—and having weighed all circumstances, we propose this measure, which, after all, will better carry out the objects which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock has so much at heart. Let them take, in the first place, the United States of America. The law of that country was not such as many seemed to think. The Government did not proceed upon the mere expectation of a law being passed in the United States to correspond with our law; but the Government proceeded, not upon the assurance of Mr. Bancroft, however honourable and respectable he was, but upon the assurance of an Act of Congress. He perceived by the report of the Committee of the General Shipowners' Society that they seemed utterly ignorant of that fact, and of the American law. There have been no negotiations whatever going on with America upon this subject, although there has been something in the nature of a friendly conversation. The shipowners were evidently labouring under the impression that we had received an assurance from the American Executive to carry out by treaty the principles which we advocated, and to use their influence with Congress to pass them into law. Now, instead of that being the case, he wished the Committee to understand that the law of America at this moment, without going at all to Congress, enabled the Executive to extend to every country the like concessions which were extended to themselves. So far, then, as North America was concerned, she gave to his hon. Friend all that he asked. He would take Sweden, for example. She has no restrictions whatever upon navigation, except those which were specially directed against this country in retaliation of our navigation laws. She prohibits our ships resorting to her colonies. She prohibits the produce of Asia, Africa, or America, being carried through this country to Sweden. And with regard to Russia, the hon. Member was a little mistaken, in stating that he believed Russia had perfectly free navigation. Now, a law had been passed in Russia imposing upon every foreign country the same restrictions as they imposed upon Russian shipping. We are, no doubt, protected from the operation of this law by a special treaty, which, however, will terminate in 1851. The instant that treaty expires we shall be deprived of all the advantages we enjoyed 1215 under it, unless we remove those restrictions which now exist. Prussia was in a similar situation. Our treaty has expired. He ought to have said, in regard to Russia, that she feels our restrictions upon her trade to be peculiarly oppressive; for she feels that we not only enjoy a very long voyage trade through St. Petersburgh, but a very large branch of our trade with Asia, Africa, and America, is carried on through her instrumentality, which will be greatly endangered if we persist in these restrictions. In regard to France, the restrictive policy of that country had been frequently alluded to. No doubt the French policy was very restrictive, but it was more so in regard to this country than any other, in retaliation of our law. We compel the French to go into a direct trade with the East Indies, because they could not receive on equally good terms the produce through this country. When the tariff of this country was considered the most liberal, our navigation laws were the most restrictive. He thought that centuries might elapse before we would be able to induce France or Spain to make such concessions as the hon. Gentleman wished to obtain. In regard to Holland, supposing that she was content to give us all the privileges we asked, but persisted in retaining the trade of Java, was the hon. Member prepared to refuse the extension of free navigation to Holland, although she would give us the whole of the privilege of the Dutch European trade? It was his belief that no course could be pursued calculated to increase the warehousing trade of this country better than that which the Government proposed should be adopted. If foreign ships were permitted to discharge produce at our ports, for home consumption, it would greatly increase, and of course benefit our warehousing trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University, of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), suggested that a division should be made in the foreign and the domestic trades.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that the hon. Gentleman appeared to labour under a wrong impression with respect to his (Mr. Gladstone's) ideas upon the subject he had just alluded to.
regretted that he had misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, and he would not, therefore, proceed to argue upon the point referred to. But he must be allowed to say that, according to his view of the case, the principle of reciprocity proposed could never be carried 1216 out with advantage to this country, inasmuch as it would confer benefits upon countries which were unimportant to Great Britain as regarded commerce, to the detriment of other important nations with which the mother country and her colonies wished to trade.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that he had no intention of travelling into the various topics adverted to by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, nor to make any suggestions which might give rise to a debate upon the subject. After the manner in which his scheme had been withered by the unkind shadow thrown over it by his hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, he would not now go into the matter, but content himself with saying that he should not vote for the hon. Gentleman's proposition, simply because he thought it ineffective for the object in view, and impracticable in itself. He had given expression to that opinion, inasmuch as he considered that the restrictions laid upon foreign shipping in this country were placed upon it with a view to commercial advantages, and that restrictions must be mutually withdrawn. Now that principle could not be carried out by the proposition of the hon. Gentleman. Foreign countries were, he believed, in the habit of adopting measures to meet their wants, and he thought that this country ought to do so likewise—but only upon the principle of reciprocity.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that of the three expedients before the Committee—reciprocity, conditional legislation, and retaliation—he disliked the plan of the Government the least, but, nevertheless, had strong objections to it. His object in voting for repeal of the navigation laws was to enable Englishmen to select freely the ships in which to transport their goods to the destined port. It was not a question about foreigners at all. The only question was between the British shipowners, on the one hand, and the British people on the other. The British people asserted the right to select as they pleased the ships in which to transport their merchandise; and the British shipowner said, "No; you shall use my ships or none." He did not seek to give anything to the foreigner; his object was to restore to Her Majesty's subjects that civil right of which they ought never to have been deprived—the right to send their goods in whatever ship they pleased, and at the cheapest possible rate; and, unless there could be shown some national disadvantage in the exercise 1217 of this obvious civil right, he should support the Bill on this plain ground. Of the three plans, reciprocity, retaliation, or conditional legislation, reciprocity was clearly the worst. He had frequently observed of gentlemen who had been ill of the protection malady, that the first symptom of convalescence was the reciprocity stage—the perfect recovery being free trade. He had himself been in the second stage, but had quite recovered. In his opinion, the great principle was to give freedom for our own sakes, and not in respect to any conditions from other countries. Reciprocity was out of the question when we considered our treaty obligations with other countries. Take the case of Sweden. Our Minister at the Court of Sweden had emphatically insisted upon this construction of our treaty with Sweden, that whatever Sweden granted to other countries, conditionally or otherwise, should be given unconditionally to us. Having insisted upon this construction, we could not ourselves get out of it: we must grant to Sweden the same privileges, without condition, which we granted to any other country, and having granted them unconditionally to Sweden, where are we to stop? All the countries, Russia, Austria, &c., having the favoured-nation clause would follow. Depend upon it any attempt to carry out the reciprocity system in connexion with this measure, would involve us in inextricable difficulties. As to the proposed Orders in Council, he had great doubts whether it was even a wise thing to leave the regulation of trade to Orders in Council, or to permit the Executive to levy duties on the importation of commodities without the consent of Parliament. He would not say it was unconstitutional to do so, for the term constitution seemed to have no very definite meaning; but he would say that in his opinion it was very unwise as a matter of policy. As a general rule it would be far better, when any case did present itself which seemed to require that the course of trade should be interfered with, or that the taxation of the country should be increased, to appeal to Parliament, rather than leave such nice matters to the discretion of the Council. He held in his hand a paper which he had moved for, in illustration of the effect of past Orders in Council upon trade; and he there found reason to assign the origin of many of the complaints of our colonists, in a great measure to these very Orders in Council. The navigation laws, per se, allowed foreign 1218 ships to trade with the colonies, and to carry goods the produce of the country to which they belonged to the colonies, provided they went directly there. The Act of Parliament, however, said that foreign ships should not enjoy this privilege unless upon the specific authority of an Order in Council. What an amount of restriction such a proceeding imposed on the trade of the world! At the present moment you forbid your colonies from trading with more than half the world by withholding these Orders in Council. The colonies in America and the West Indies were prevented from trading with Belgium, Sardinia, Tuscany, the Papal States, Lucca, Greece, the Ottoman Empire, the Brazils, Peru, Uruguay, and other countries. Several complaints had been made that French ships had been prevented trading with Trinidad and Mauritius, and obtaining supplies of sugar from these colonies. The only exception was the allowing French ships to carry cargoes of ice from the island of Bourbon to Mauritius. He supposed this was done to enable the Governor of that colony to ice his champagne. They had never calculated the enormous amount of injustice they had imposed upon these colonies by the operation of these navigation laws. Was it possible to connect the colonies wlth ties of affection to the mother country when they imposed such restrictions? He believed it was the intention of the Government to impose such Orders in Council in only a few exceptional cases; but still he regretted that there was any provision of the kind in the Bill, because he was aware to what an extent this Order-in-Council system had been carried, and of the mischief which it had produced. He knew that under the provisions of this Bill all existing Orders in Council would expire, and the system would be entirely changed; but he wanted some security that restrictions would not be reimposed under the new Orders in Council. He believed that Belgium was the only country at present which was singled out for differential duties, higher duties being imposed on goods brought in a Belgian ship than on similar goods brought in any other foreign ship; and he could not conceive what public advantage would arise from the imposition of such duties. He trusted, therefore, that they would at once be got rid of.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
confessed that he was old-fashioned enough to look at the principle of this question in the 1219 same light that it was viewed by Adam Smith. It was perfectly consistent to hold, as a general rule, that the products of foreign countries should be admitted free within our own, and to hold that certain branches of industry ought to be supported for certain paramount political objects, even though it were at some small sacrifice of commercial interests. Adam Smith thought, on such grounds, that the navigation laws ought to be supported; and if he (Mr. Palmer) was in error in being of the same opinion, he might fairly shelter himself under the authority of that great philosopher. It was constantly stated that the navigation laws of this country were stricter than those of any other nation; and if this were so, knowing that they were imposed for the express purpose of obtaining and securing a maritime supremacy for Great Britain, judge of the soundness of the policy which imposed those restrictions by the admitted prosperity and superiority of our commercial marine. Without going into the general question involved in the measure now under consideration, he would observe that, in his opinion, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock was not worth being supported by Gentlemen who held his (Mr. Palmer's) opinions. If the hon. Gentleman had said he would give absolute freedom to those who gave it to us, his Amendment might have been worthy of consideration; but, as it stood, he could not help thinking that its object would not be answered. With regard to the observations which had been made that night upon the policy this country ought to follow with regard to foreign countries, he agreed in much that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who had said that we ought to look to our own interests, as foreign countries would look to theirs, independently of the course we might take. He would not be frightened by the argument that Russia and America would use threatening language to us if we did not adopt the course they wished. He believed those countries would do what they considered the best for their own interests, quite irrespective of us. Those countries had not the power to injure us in commercial matters to the extent that we might injure them. They would legislate as they thought best for their own advantage, and we could not prevent their doing so by passing this Bill or any other. If any other ceuntry, having circumstances 1220 favourable to a maritime Power like England, wished to increase its commerce, it would act as England did when she found Holland with the first commercial navy in the world—it would pass or retain navigation laws for the protection of its shipping. A nation having harbours, and rivers, and other natural resources, suitable to the growth of a maritime Power, but yet undeveloped, could not hope to create a navy so soon by free competition with other maritime countries already in possession of the markets of the world, as it might do by introducing its vessels at first into a more limited market, by the artificial encouragement of a protective system. Such a view might be thought fallacious by some political economists; but if it were the view actually taken by any foreign countries—as he thought it would be—he had no doubt at all they would act upon it. If, as the advocates of this measure prophesied, the result of our new policy would be to make us more nearly monopolists of the carrying trade of the world on the system of free competition, than we were under our navigation laws, foreign countries would naturally endeavour to support their own shipping by protective laws against our superior money power, and the start we had obtained in the trade of the world. He should like to know what the operation of the proposed legislation would be in the case of countries so situated which would not alter their navigation laws. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury had admitted that France and Spain, at all events, would not alter their laws. Was it not, therefore, manifest that, with regard to such countries, the proposed course of legislation would be giving a direct advantage to the ships of foreign countries which maintained restrictions? Take the case of France. If this Bill were passed, it was clear that France, maintaining or increasing its restrictions, would have just the same advantage in trading with us as the nation which traded with us on the freest principle. In fact, the French ship would be placed in a more favourable position, because it would have advantages in the ports of both countries. Wherever there was a chance of competing with our maritime power, foreign countries would have a direct object in imposing restrictions; for they could lose nothing by doing so in the trade with this country, whereas in the trade with their own they might gain much. He could not agree with 1221 those who, sitting at his side of the House, opposed the principle of free trade generally. If he was wrong in the view he took of the necessity of protecting a branch of industry connected with the maintenance of the naval and commercial supremacy of the country, he was content to shelter himself under the authority of the strong and deliberately expressed opinion of Adam Smith, and under the entire experience of the past, which went to show that the commercial navy, and the commerce of a great country like England, could flourish under the system of navigation laws. He regarded those laws in the light of an insurance for the perpetuity of our maritime power; and if it was an insurance maintained at some trifling cost to our merely commercial interests, he thought it well worth the while of a nation, whose very existence depended on their maritime supremacy, to incur that cost for the safety of so vital an object.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that some Gentlemen seem to read the biography of distinguished men only that they may pick out some weakness whereon to found a justification of their own errors. The opinion of Adam Smith was entitled to the greatest respect; but neither the opinion of Adam Smith nor of any other Adam should be held to be an absolute rule in this country. They should take the arguments and facts brought before them, and their own experience, and decide according to the best of their judgment. Adam Smith most reluctantly tolerated navigation laws, not on the ground of protection to shipping, but for the purpose, as he thought, of maintaining that naval influence which this country had been so anxious—often, he (Mr. Bright), believed unwisely—to possess. If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth had read the evidence before the Committee, and attended to many of the facts elicited during this discussion, he would have seen that the danger which Adam Smith apprehended might arise was one in regard to which he was mistaken, and was perhaps purely imaginary. Where was the rival to that supremacy? Surely America was the only country hon. Gentlemen had to fear. But America was willing to give all they proposed to give, and indeed had already given it, conditionally on the passing of this Bill. If, therefore, England injured her naval resources by free navigation, so would the United States in the same degree, and the 1222 relative position of the two countries would remain the same. With regard to the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, he considered it should have come from the other side of the House. It denied the whole principle of free trade, and made our freedom conditional on the concessions of other nations. He thought the Government had weakened their case by the introduction of the retaliatory clause, and hoped it would be withdrawn, as no free-trade Ministry could ever attempt to enforce it. The Government were blamed for inquiring into the intentions of foreign Governments; and, in truth, it was unnecessary, and had only been done in the hope of removing some of the prejudices and fears of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He (Mr. Bright) supported the repeal of the navigation laws on the broad ground on which he had supported free trade in corn—namely, that the people of this country have an undoubted right to the best and cheapest transit of the produce of their industry, and on this ground alone did he wish the present measure to become law.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he would not enter into the general principle, which nevertheless, there appeared some danger of the House discussing. There were many questions which it was most desirable should be considered; and he trusted the Committee would not diverge from them into the general question, which there would be full opportunity of debating on the third reading. As to the production of the foreign correspondence, the Government had thought it their duty to furnish to the House the fullest information on this subject which they could possibly procure. Upon a subject of such great national importance, the Government had thought it but due to the House to throw all the light in their power upon the views and intents of foreign Powers, and he was still of that opinion. The question of reciprocity had been so fully dealt with by his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Control, that he would not enter upon it, further than to remark that the more that principle was examined, the more apparent its fallacy became. If any Gentleman would undertake to shape the principle into an Act of Parliament, he would at once perceive the great practical difficulties. His belief was, that the moment they gave way on the long voyage, it would become impossible to insist upon strict reciprocity in the general carrying trade. Although he 1223 was in principle opposed to strict reciprocity, yet, the Government being aware of the facilities it would give for carrying this measure through that and the other House of Parliament, he had most attentively considered the subject in all its bearings, in order to discover if the principle could, in consistency with the opinions of Government, be incorporated with the Bill; but the difficulties were insuperable, and he had abandoned the project in despair.
§ MR. HERRIES
could not avoid expressing his surprise at the emphatic declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade as to the necessity of communicating with foreign States on the provisions of this Bill, in order that this House should thereby be apprised of the disposition and opinions of other countries with respect to them. When he remembered that the Bill they were now discussing was under consideration in the month of June last year, and when he found, by looking at the dates of the correspondence, that the first application made to any foreign Government was dated on the 21st December following—six months after the introduction of the Bill—he was at a loss to understand that declaration. And it now appeared that satisfactory communications had been received from two quarters only—from Sweden, and from our excellent and respectable ally the King of Sardinia. This was not a proper occasion to enter into discussion upon the general question, and he would not do so. The opportunity would occur on the third reading of the Bill, or upon the report, or upon both these occasions if it should be considered desirable. He would confine the few remarks he had to make to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. It had been proved in the course of the debate to his satisfaction that that Amendment, and the retaliatory clause in the Bill, and the proposition of the right hon. the Member for the University of Oxford, were all equally liable to objection. It was difficult to say which was the most objectionable. The favoured-nation clause, in his opinion, alike stood in the way of working all those propositions. With respect to America, it had been represented that by the law of that country as it now existed, the Act the House now proposed to pass would be immediately reciprocated. The Secretary to the Government of America referred to an Act of their Legislature, which he said 1224 would accomplish that object. Any one who would refer to that Act would find that Mr. Buchanan was mistaken on that point. If indeed it were true that the American Government had already passed laws giving the necessary power for such a proceeding, where was the necessity for any application to them upon the subject? He had heard it said, that, although in the passage referred to by Mr. Buchanan, the fulfilment of complete reciprocity was not provided for, there was an Act of 1817 which would accomplish the purpose. He had no proof of that, and did not believe it. It was true that in answer to our request the Americans referred us to that part of the Act which provided that all duties imposed on foreign ships should be removed when such countries removed similar duties imposed on American ships. But that was a question which related to duties only, and not to the navigation laws; and the question, therefore, arose, whether, under this Act, the prohibitive and restrictive navigation clauses, which were extensive and severe in the American code, would be removed by the mere passing of the proposed Bill. The American Secretary said he thought they would, but that was not a sufficient answer. Unless Government received a more decided reply to their proposition, it would not be safe for them to act on the mere opinion of an individual as to the construction of an Act of the American Legislature. It ought to be remembered that America had, in the answer in question, distinctly excluded her coasting trade. It might be said that the Americans were not at the time they made that answer aware of our being disposed to resign a portion of our coasting trade. But they well knew, through Mr. Bancroft, the very general disposition of our Government to concede everything; and in their first official communication to us they distinctly exclude their coasting trade. It was said that Mr. Bancroft had expressed a general disposition to meet in a like spirit whatever relaxations England might make. He was reported to have said, "If you will give little, we will give little; if you give much, we will give much; if you will give all, we will give all." That, again, was not consistent with the statement that the law in America was already sufficient to effect a complete reciprocity. If relaxation on the part of America would follow relaxation made by this country, what use was there for Mr. Bancroft making the promise referred to? There was a great deal of 1225 what he would call mystification in all this, and much that required more explanation than had yet been given. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) was not quite correct in supposing that Government intended by any part of the measure to conciliate the Opposition side of the House. It appeared to him, from the various modes in which something like reciprocity had been attempted to be carried out, that the framers of the Bill had paid homage to the principle, while they were, in truth, unable, owing to some counteracting pressure upon them, to carry it out. The hon. Member for Manchester had also placed the question in the fairest light, and had stated a principle in which he (Mr. Herries) concurred, namely, that we ought to legislate in matters of this kind for England, for ourselves, and not for other countries; and he also agreed that we should give no advantage or privilege except for an equivalent. We could not do better than adhere to the example of the American Government in that respect. In a letter of instruction from Mr. Clay to Mr. Gallatin, that statesman observes—Whatever commercial privileges are granted by the United States to any foreign nation by act of Congress or by treaties, are founded upon equivalents. Holding out the principle of fair reciprocity to all nations, we neither ask, nor profess to bestow, commercial boons.He had only further to state that he had no wish to protract the discussion by opposing unnecessary delays to the progress of the Bill. He was determined to oppose the principle of it at the proper stage; at present he could hardly say—so small was the difference between the Amendment and the retaliatory clause—which he should prefer. He was, however, afraid that the retaliatory clause would give rise to dangerous disputes with foreign States, and that against powerful States, such as Russia and France, or America, Government would hesitate to put it in force.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
wished to make one remark with regard to what had been said of Mr. Bancroft. In all the intercourse he had had with him, he must say that he thought it impossible for any man to conduct himself in a more honourable and straightforward manner. He could not take upon himself to say what construction an American court of law would put upon any act of the legislature; but it appeared to him that the American President had the right—without even consulting the Senate—of withdrawing the restrictions in 1226 question. With regard to the question of retaliation, he should reserve his opinion till the subject was before the Committee.
§ MR. HERRIES
protested against the right hon. Gentleman supposing that he had intended to cast the slightest reflection on Mr. Bancroft.
MR. ALDERMAN THOMPSON
said, that those who defended the navigation laws did so on the broad ground that they were essential to the safety of the country. He confessed that he had never heard what consideration America could give for the enormous advantages proposed to be granted to her by this measure. From the geographical position of America she had decided advantages in the colonial fishing trade, and in bringing to this country the productions of Cuba, Brazil, and Porto Rico. In 1826, when Mr. Huskisson entered into reciprocity treaties with the northern Powers, fears were expressed by the friends of the shipping interest of this country. They said that if foreign countries did not reciprocate, manufacturers and other interests would complain; and that Government would find themselves reduced to the alternative of commencing war if they attended to those complaints. The hon. Member for Westbury had, on a previous occasion, alluded to the fact of Mr. Brooke having brought a cargo of sugar from Java to Holland. Mr. Brooke could not find a British ship at Java, because the enormous tonnage duties levied on foreign ships excluded British ships from the ports of Java, and he had no alternative but to send his sugar home either in a Dutch or American ship. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the present measure would greatly increase the warehousing trade. Now, with all submission to the high authority of the hon. Gentleman, he must say that he could conceive no measure more calculated to injure that trade. At present the whole produce of the East Indies was brought to this country, and the Continent was supplied indirectly. But if the shipping of Holland, Belgium, Sweden, and other Powers were to participate in the East India trade, then London, Liverpool, and the other great ports of this country would cease to be exclusively the depôts of the produce of the East. It appeared to him that the intention of the Government was to throw open our ports to the shipping of any country, but to leave it to those nations to admit or reject the shipping of this country as they might think fit. It 1227 was impossible, in his opinion, to separate the question of shipping from that of tariffs. It was known to all that America had this year greatly increased her tariff, a step which would prove a great drawback on the trade with this country. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock had referred to the increase of British shipping to show that the fears of the British shipowners in 1826 with regard to the effects of the reciprocity treaties were unfounded. The hon. Member had not, however, stated that foreign shipping had increased to a far greater extent than English shipping had during the same period. The hon. Member had talked of the trade of the whole country, forgetting that the shipowners in 1826 never expected to lose the "long-voyage," or colonial trade. What they were afraid of was, that by the reciprocity treaties, the carrying of bulky articles of produce would be lost to this country. He held in his hand a statement which showed the decline that had taken place in the employment of British vessels, as between this country and Sweden, Norway, and Prussia, from 1824 to 1846. The decrease of British vessels employed in our trade with Sweden was 26 per cent; with Norway 71 per cent, and with Prussia 33 per cent. Of the ships that had passed the Sound there were—
Showing a decrease of British ships of 394, and an increase of foreign ships of 4,688. The anticipations of the shipowners, therefore, had unfortunately been too truly realised. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford was correct when he said that this measure was a great shock to the commercial interests of the country. He thought the principle of the Amendment now under discussion was, upon the whole, sound; but there would be great difficulty in carrying it out, and, therefore, he had considerable doubt whether he ought to vote for it; but if this proviso should be introduced, it would not induce him to look with any more favour upon the Bill than at present.
British Ships. Foreign Ships. Average in 1824 and 1825 4,363 7,476 Average in 1843 and 1844 3,969 12,164
§ MR. WAWN
said, however hon. Gentlemen might talk of free trade, the present measure was a free-trade measure for every interest, except in so far as the shipping interest was concerned. He would ask them what they meant to do with all 1228 the operatives in this country who were connected with shipbuilding? It appeared to him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would just act in as equitable a manner to the manufacturers of this country who had intimated their intention of voting for this measure, if they put a duty upon the raw material of cotton, and then allowed foreign manufactured goods of the same article in free of all imposts. He considered the Bill offered a premium for building ships abroad.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, as he did not see much encouragement to proceed to a division, he would allow his Motion to be negatived.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 15; Noes 132: Majority 117.
|List of the AYES.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Prime, R.|
|Broadwood, H.||Pryse, P.|
|Buck, L. W.||Richards, R.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Coles, H. B.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Hood, Sir A.||TELLERS.|
|Hotham, Lord||Bouverie, E. P.|
|Lacy, H. C.||Wawn, J. T.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Duncuft, J.|
|Adair, H. E.||Ellis, J.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Anderson, A.||Fagan, W.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Fergus, J.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Fordyce, A. D.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Forster, M.|
|Fox, R. M.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Fox, W. J.|
|Baring, T.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Grace, O. D. J.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Greenall, G.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Greene, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||Harris, R.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Hastie, A.|
|Bright, J.||Hastie, A.|
|Brisco, M.||Hay, Lord J.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.|
|Brotherton, J.||Henry, A.|
|Brown, H.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Brown, W.||Heywood, J.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Heyworth, L.|
|Carter, J. B.||Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Clay, J.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Craig, W. G.||Howard, hon. C.W. G.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Howard, P. H.|
|Cubitt, W.||Humphery, Ald.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Hutt, W.|
|Duncan, G.||Jackson, W.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Peel, F.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Perfect, R.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Pigott, F.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Pilkington, J.|
|Kershaw, J.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Kildare, Marq. of||Pusey, P.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Raphael, A.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Reynolds, J.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Ricardo, O.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Rice, E. R.|
|Locke, J.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Lockhart, W.||Sandars, G.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Maitland, T.||Somers, J. P.|
|Martin, C. W.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Masterman, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Matheson, Col.||Thompson, Col.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Thompson, G.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Thornely, T.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Thornhill, G.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Moffatt, G.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Morgan, H. K. G.||Wall, C. B.|
|Mowatt, F.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Nugent, Lord||Willcox, B. M.|
|O'Brien, T.||Wilson, J.|
|O'Connell, J.||Wilson, M.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Wood, W. P.|
|Parker, J.||Wyvill, M.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Tufnell, H.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ The proviso rejected, and Clause 1, as it stood ill the Bill, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 up to 10, inclusive, referring to the coasting trade, were then struck out.
On Clause 11, which enacts that the coasting trade shall be limited to British ships—
Provided always, that this shall not extend to prevent the carriage coastwise of goods in foreign vessels of one hundred tons burden or upwards arriving from or departing for parts beyond seas in manner herein before provided for, or to prevent the conveyance of passengers in such vessels;"—
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, in consistency with the principle of the Bill, this clause ought to be struck out, for, in his opinion, it infringed on the integrity of the admission already made by the Government in respect to the coasting trade, when they allowed the previous clause to be struck out. It was true they were told by the highest authorities that no danger was to be apprehended from admitting foreign vessels on the coasting trade even upon the same footing as British ships; but yet he was not disposed to think the clause now before the House ought to be admitted into the Bill. Take the case of the north-east coast of Scotland, producing oats for the 1230 London market, which came in competition with those of Denmark. The Danes were to have the choice of all the ships in the world, but the Scotch owner was obliged to send his oats in a British ship. He thought that on the principle of equality in dealing, the Committee ought to refuse to pass this clause. He would not divide the House upon it, but he certainly would vote against it if a division were taken.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
was not disposed to dissent from the right hon. Gentleman in the main, yet at the same time the coasting trade was the subject of restrictions in every country, and no country in the world had yet attempted to abolish these restrictions. He, therefore, thought that Government would hardly be justified in the meantime to proceed so far, considering the present state of opinion among certain classes in regard to the changes which were chiefly to be made by the Bill. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself had said the Bill would be a great shock to the trade of the country; but he (Mr. Labouchere) thought that both the right hon. Gentleman, and also the shipowners, when they came to understand their interests, would find they had been happily mistaken. Yet, as he had no wish unnecessarily to disturb their minds, he would retain the clause.
§ The Clause was then agreed to, as were Clauses 12 and 13.
§ On Clause 14 (Colonies may regulate their Coasting Trade with consent of the Queen in Council),
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the words of this clause might appear to some capable of admitting an extreme case, the case of two perfectly remote colonies agreeing to place their trade on the footing of a coasting trade, and so defeat the intentions of the Bill; and no doubt they might do so, but only with the consent of the Queen in Council, which was made necessary by the clause to the validity of such colonial legislation.
§ MR. DISRAELI
begged the right hon. Gentleman would favour the House with some further explanation as to the limit put upon the operation of the clause.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
explained that all that was intended by the clause was to give to colonies which were geographically neighbours, power to make trade among themselves a coasting trade. For example, the West India Islands or the Australasian group, would come within the scope of the clause. He did not see that there would 1231 be any difficulty in carrying it into opera-ration. Whatever might be the acts of any colonial legislature, these could not come into force without the consent of the Queen in Council.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, the clause did not definitively state what were neighbouring colonies, and what were remote; and it did not specifically point out any authority which was to decide that question: that was the great objection to the clause.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
repeated that the consent of the Queen in Council was necessary to give authority to the colonial legislation, and therefore any improper acts were perfectly under control.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, the clause did not give authority to the Queen in Council to say what were neighbouring colonies and what were not. What the House wanted to know was, by what machinery the Government proposed to carry the clause into effect, and how they were to know whether colonial law was or was not contrary to British law.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had no difficulty in giving them illustrations—he might select the American colonies, for example, the Canadas, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward's Island, Newfoundland—these were neighbouring colonies, and the object of the clause was to give such colonies the power to throw open their coasting trade, if they pleased; or, if they pleased to unite themselves into a group, and retain their coasting trade, they should still be empowered to do so. There would be no practical difficulty in construing the Act in this way; and none in enabling the Queen in Council to judge what colonies were neighbouring.
§ MR. DISRAELI
asked what was the reason of introducing the word "neighbouring," if it were left to the Queen in Council to judge of the expediency or inexpediency?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
replied, that it had been introduced to please the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford, who thought that without such a word the clause would be rather vague.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, the Queen in Council had no power to construe laws, and he desired to know, if a doubtful case arose, who was to decide what were neighbouring colonies?
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE- QUER
proposed to insert words to the effect that the Queen in Council should absolutely declare what colonies were neighbouring. The clause might pass as it stood, and be thus amended upon the report.
§ MR. SCOTT
suggested that the clause should be postponed altogether. What colonies could be considered as neighbouring to St. Helena and the Falkland Islands? He could assign no other definition to the word "neighbouring" in the clause, than that which was given to the parable of the good Samaritan.
§ The clause was then amended by the insertion of the words proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and upon the question that it stand part of the Bill,
§ MR GLADSTONE
objected to the principle of the clause, not upon commercial but upon legislative grounds. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade appealed to ancient practice as regarded the coasting trade. He (Mr. Gladstone) appealed to uniform principle. Subordinate legislatures within a State were in the nature of great corporations; and they should not be allowed to legislate upon the affairs and the property of the subjects of foreign countries. However extended might be the principle of self-government, the Imperial Government must always control and stand between the colonial legislatures and foreign States, in order to be enabled to fulfil its treaty engagements. Very strong cause ought to be shown before this principle was departed from. If the strong cause was, that it was desirable to open the coasting trade of a particular colony, or the trade between two different colonies, the way now proposed was not the only one to attain that object. The best mode, as it appeared to him, would be to give the power to the Queen in Council upon an address from the colonial legislatures. The effect would then be a domestic law, the construction of which would remain in our own hands. But how stood the case now? The colonies passed their own laws without consulting the home authorities with respect either to the terms or the purport of those laws; and very grave difficulties might arise from their enacting laws relative to the property and subjects of foreign States. If such difficulties arose, who was to construe the laws? Was the construction to be decided in the colony, or in Downing-street? If in the colony, the colony would virtually be placed in diplo- 1233 matic relations with foreign Powers; if in Downing-street, it would be considered no less a grievance than it would be to withhold the power of making the laws. In either case we should be bound to secure to the ships of foreign Powers with whom we had treaty obligations, equality of dealing with the colonies; and under colonial laws avowedly passed without any interference on our part, we should be required to answer the claims of foreign Powers arising out of the construction of those laws. This was not an accumulative power, but one which it was not in the option of the Government to put in motion; and, therefore, when Ministers should be asked by any foreign State, what was their intention with respect to their intercolonial trade, they would not be able to give any satisfactory answer, and this diversity of legislation would necessarily lead to great embarrassment. He certainly could consent to no proposition of the kind, unless it could be shown that such a mode of legislation was not a departure from general usage, and one from which experience assured us inconvenience would not arise.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
repeated that the object was to give to the colonies the power of dealing with their own coasting trade in the manner they thought would best promote their interests. The ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, had rather acted as a trap for his judgment. It was undoubtedly a conceivable case that the colonies might pass exclusive laws which would involve us in foreign countries; but the right hon. Gentleman must recollect that the Queen had the power of refusing her assent to those laws. A similar difficulty might arise with regard to foreign goods. Some colony might pass a law admitting the produce of one country, but prohibiting that of another; and the preference might be in direct contradiction to treaties and stipulations between Great Britain and that country. The truth was, no colony would think of such a step, for it would not be their interest. But if they did, the Queen in Council would certainly exercise her power of disallowing all such acts.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said nothing could be more distinct in legislation than the difference between foreign ships and foreign goods. Foreign goods were the property of anybody; foreign ships, in their origin, belonged to the subjects of foreign States, and rights grew up as to the treatment of those ships.
§ MR. SCOTT
could not conceive a more embarrassing state of things than would arise under this clause, if a foreign Power admitted by the act of a colony to the intercolonial coasting trade, happened to be also at war with this country. He wished to know how it was proposed to deal with such a case as that?
§ MR. ROBINSON
objected to the clause, after all the explanations that had been, given of it, because it enabled the Queen in Council to dispense with the existing laws, and allow foreigners to carry on a coasting trade between two or more colonies.
§ SIR R. PEEL
called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, to the point suggested by the hon. Member for Berwickshire, and observed that the clause made no provision whatever for such a case.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
, in reply, said, that any Power at war with this country would be excluded from every port in Her Majesty's dominions.
§ SIR R. PEEL
But the colonies knew nothing whatever of the foreign relations of this country, or of the mother country being at war with any Power. Would it not be well, then, that the mother country should say with what foreign Powers there should be an intercolonial trade? First of all, we had a retaliatory power; the colonies had none. How was the retaliatory power to be carried into effect with regard to the colonial coasting trade, if not by us? Suppose a gross wrong committed towards this country by one of the Powers admitted to trade intercolonially, how was the retaliatory power to be applied? By the alteration just made in the clause, the Crown was to determine which were neighbouring colonies. The colonies, therefore, had not a full discretion to determine whether their coasting trade should be open. The Crown had the power of refusing its assent to the colonial acts, besides the retaliatory power. It would consequently be only consistent to give the mother country the further power of saying between what colonies the coasting trade should be open to foreigners.
§ MR. DISRAELI
apprehended the objection of the right hon. Baronet, with regard to a foreign war, was not tenable. These were only municipal rights; and a declaration of war, by the law of nations, would instantaneously destroy all engagements, compacts, and conventions entered 1235 into by any colony with any foreign State. By modern practice, an embargo, without a declaration of war by the Imperial Government, would settle the question, and we could seize foreign ships in any port in Her Majesty's dominions.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the East India Company had exactly the same powers which it was proposed to give to the colonies, with the single condition that they were not to be exercised contrary to treaties. They might regulate their coasting trade and their foreign trade in any way they chose, provided it was not inconsistent with treaties; but if this country was at war, that circumstance would over-ride all the powers of the Company. He apprehended that the power of withholding the Royal assent was a sufficient protection against the colonies involving this country with foreign Powers.
§ SIR G. CLERK
opposed the clause, because it gave restraining, rather than relaxing powers. He could not see upon what grounds the colonial legislatures were entitled to place restrictions upon intercolonial trade.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he wished to leave them that which was not only strictly, but technically, their coasting trade. This was particularly desirable in the case of our North American colonies, which were within sight of the United States. To say that a vessel should not go from a port in Maine to New York, or from St. John's in New Brunswick to Halifax in Nova Scotia, would be nominally fair and equitable, but actually a great injustice. Although the countries might be foreign, yet for all purposes of navigation they were the same. As his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had observed, the same principle existed in the case of the East India Company, without any difficulty whatever resulting from it.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that from his connexion with the Board of Trade, he had reason to know that great practical difficulty had arisen from this power being in the hands of the East India Company. But even were it otherwise, the cases were not analogous. The Government of India was carried on in this country, being under the joint authority of the East India Company and the Board of Control, the head of which had a seat in that House; but a colony never consulted them about its laws at all. A new point had 1236 been raised by his right hon. Friend the Member for Dovor. As the Act stood, they gave an entire and absolute freedom of trade to the vessels of all foreign countries in the intracolonial trade, but at the same time they were now about to give a restrictive power to the colonial legislatures. They conferred a right by Act of Parliament, and at the same time gave the colonial legislatures a power of taking it away.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he would appeal to the House whether that was a fair way of putting the case. Though they were about giving the power to the colonies nominally of imposing restrictions, it was virtually nothing more than extending to the colonies the power which this country reserved to itself—of retaining the coasting trade. If the reservation were just in the case of the mother country, or of any particular colony, it was surely equally so in a case where two colonies formed actually but one country. To act otherwise would be similar to declaring that the trade between Great Britain and Ireland was not to be regarded as a coasting trade.
§ MR. HERRIES
said, that the proposition of Her Majesty's Government was to enable the colonies to make an exception to the general rule laid down by that House. Until his right hon. Friend the Member for Dovor had pointed out the Inconsistency, the spirit of the Bill was supposed to be of an entirely opposite character.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that no colonial legislature could impose this restriction until the Queen in Council first declared two colonies to be neighbouring colonies; and the Queen would not declare colonies to be neighbouring for any purpose that would interfere with treaties, or that was inconsistent with the general statute. The object of the clause was merely to maintain the spirit of the Act with regard to the coasting trade in the colonies as well as in the mother country.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Queen in Council had only to declare two colonies to be neighbouring in order to give them the power of imposing restrictions. If they really wanted the power to remain in the Queen in Council, they ought to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, it was his intention to move an Amendment to the Clause, to leave out all the words after the word "that" in the first line, in order to insert words to the effect that it should be lawful for Her Majesty in Council, on an address, or joint address, as the case might be, from the Legislative Council or Assembly of any of Her Majesty's colonies, to effect the regulations required; but as he understood that he could not move such an Amendment, he should feel it his duty to negative the clause.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 158; Noes 104: Majority 54.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Forster, M.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Fox, R. M.|
|Anderson, A.||Fox, W. J.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Anson, Visct.||Grace, O. D. J.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Grattan, H.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Greene, J.|
|Grenfell, C. P.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Bass, M. T.||Harris, R.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Hastie, A.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Hastie, A.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Hay, Lord J.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Heneage, E.|
|Blake, M. J.||Heywood, J.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Heyworth, L.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Hindley, C.|
|Bright, J.||Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Brown, H.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Brown, W.||Howard, P. H.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Jackson, W.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Carter, J. B.||Keppel, hon. G. T.|
|Caulfeild, J. M.||Kildare, Marq of|
|Clay, J.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Craig, W. G.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Loch, J.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Locke, J.|
|Duncan, G.||M'Cullagh, W. T.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||M'Gregor, J.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Maitland, T.|
|Ellis, J.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Marshall, J. G.|
|Enfield, Visct.||Martin, C. W.|
|Evans, W.||Matheson, A.|
|Ewart, W.||Matheson, Col.|
|Fergus, J.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Milton, Visct.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Simeon, J.|
|Morris, D.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Smith, J. A.|
|Mowatt, F.||Somers, J. P.|
|Norreys, Lord||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|O'Brien, T.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Ord, W.||Thompson, Col.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Thompson, G.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Thornely, T.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Parker, J.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Perfect, R.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Pigott, F.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Pilkington, J.||Wall, C. B.|
|Pryse, P.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Pusey, P.||Ward, H. G.|
|Raphael, A.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Reynolds, J.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Ricardo, O.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Rice, E. R.||Willyams, H.|
|Rich, H.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Robartes, T. J. A.||Wilson, J.|
|Romilly, Sir J.||Wilson, M.|
|Sandars, G.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Scully, F.||Wood, W. P.|
|Shafto, R. D.||Wyvill, M.|
|Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.||TELLERS.|
|Shelburne, Earl of||Tufnell, H.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Adair, H. E.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Arkwright, G.||Hildyard, R. C.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Hood, Sir A.|
|Baring, H. B.||Hope, Sir J.|
|Beresford, W.||Hotham, Lord|
|Blair, S.||Hutt, W.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Joulliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Jones, Capt.|
|Bromridge, R.||Lacy, H. C.|
|Brisco, M.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Burghley, Lord||Lockhart, W.|
|Christy, S.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Meagher, T.|
|Coles, H B.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Disraeli, B.||Masterman, J.|
|Dodd, G.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Drumlanrig, Visct.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Drummond, H.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Duncuft, J.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Moffatt, G.|
|Edwards, H.||Monsell, W.|
|Farrer, J.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Fellowes, E.||Mure, Col.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Napier, J.|
|Forbes, W.||Nugent, Lord|
|Fox, S. W. L.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Packe, C. W.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Palmer, R.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Patten, J. W.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Greenall, G.||Peel, Col.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Peel, F.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Pigot, Sir R.|
|Plowden, W. H. C.||Thornhill, G.|
|Prime, R.||Tollemache, J.|
|Reid, Col.||Turner, G. J.|
|Rendlesham, Lord||Verner, Sir W.|
|Renton, J. C.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Villiers, hn. F. W. C.|
|Robinson, G. R.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Rushout, Capt.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Seymer, H. K.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Smyth, J. G.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Sotheron, T. H. S.||Young, Sir J.|
|Stanley, hon. E. H.||TELLERS.|
|Stuart, J.||Scott, F.|
|Thompson, Aid.||Henley, J. W.|
§ Clause 15 was also agreed to.
§ On Clause 16 (No Ship British, unless registered and navigated as such),
§ MR. A. HASTIE moved, as an Amendment, that the whole of the remainder of the clause, after the words "duly registered," he struck out. The effect of this Amendment would be to do away with the obligation upon the British shipowner to have three-fourths of his crew composed of British seaman. He maintained that it was unjust, when they were to expose the British shipowner to open competition with all the world, to impose any such restriction as this upon his free choice of his crew.
§ Amendment proposed, page 7, line 20, to leave out the words from "registered," to the end of line 25.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
opposed the Amendment. The clause as it stood required a British ship to be three-fourths British manned; and it was clear no practical benefit would accrue to the shipowner by altering the proportion of British seamen. The witnesses examined before the Committees of both Houses generally concurred in the opinion that this regulation imposed no appreciable burden upon the shipowner, and that the alteration of it would afford to him in fact no real relief; for he would be obliged to pay the foreign part of his crew the same rate of wages as he gave to the British seamen he retained in his service. The privilege of hoisting the British flag, and of enjoying the protection of our Navy, must continue great advantages to the British shipowner after the passing of this law; and if they were to strike out the part of the clause objected to by the hon. Gentleman, the effect would be, that any ship that was foreign-built, and had a foreign captain and a foreign crew—any ship, in fact, that had no other British characteristic but a British flag, and was British owned—would be allowed 1240 to enjoy the same rank and the same privileges as a bonâ fide British ship.
§ MR. G. DUNCAN
saw no reason why the British shipowner should not be allowed to get his seamen from whatever quarter he liked.
§ MR. BRIGHT
had been told a few days ago by the captain of a British ship, an intelligent and able man, who had commanded a vessel of 500 tons for fifteen years, and who, he believed, was also part owner, that the abolition of the navigation laws would be no disadvantage to him nor to his sailors; but he said that it would be necessary to alter that clause which compelled every British ship to be navigated by at least three-fourths British seamen. This gentleman further told him that English sailors were the most turbulent seamen on the face of the waters. Though they were in some respects more hardy and able than foreigners, they were generally much more difficult to manage, the reason being that they knew they must be employed, and that they had a monopoly of employment on board British ships; and though the abolition of the clause might not result in the manning of British ships by foreign sailors to any considerable extent, it would operate as a check on the English sailors, and induce them to pursue a more rational course of conduct; and perhaps become as reasonable, and as easy to manage as those of any other country. With regard also to the proviso at the end of the clause, this captain declared that its effect was most unfavourable. He said that English ships required in consequence more men in proportion to their tonnage than American ships. The American ships were manned on the average with 3½ men per 100 tons; while the English ships required five men per 100 tons to navigate them; and this difference arose in consequence of the opinion that prevailed that the regulations required one British sailor for every 20 tons, and which the seamen were under the impression the law enforced. If the Americans could navigate their ships with 3½ men per 100 tons, surely the English sailors could do the same. This captain, therefore, considered that it would be an advantage if this proviso were left out. He admitted that there was no law on the subject; but the marginal note in the old navigation law had led to a contrary impression, and had produced much inconvenience. If the hon. Member for Glasgow divided on his Amendment, he (Mr. Bright) should vote with him. He had no notion 1241 of this left-handed justice by which the interests of the public were considered by the carrying of this Bill, while the interests of the shipowners were sacrificed by the continuance of these restrictions. In his view, the shipping interest should have the same freedom of trade as was accorded to the manufacturer and the corn grower, and that all restrictions which they considered injurious to the carrying on of their trade should be removed.
§ MR. ROBINSON
could not help remarking the glaring inconsistency of the conduct of the Government in declaring at the one time that our seamen and captains were the worst behaved and most unfit men in the world to command and man ships, and then the next moment compelling the British shipowner to employ these most unfit captains and misbehaved men in navigating their ships. This was certainly an extraordinary anomaly, and he should like to know how it was to be satisfactorily explained. If we intended to expose our shipowner to universal competition by law, he was certainly entitled in return to have every species of disability removed from him; and he (Mr. Robinson) believed that the proposed restrictions in manning would prove a great disadvantage to the British shipowner, exposing him to all the evils, and withholding from him all the advantages, of free trade. A more important consideration, however, than this, was the influence of these regulations upon the defence of the country.
thought that these restrictions upon manning ought to be removed. At the same time, he did not think any very sensible effect would be felt from the competition of the maritime nations of the north, who navigated their ships at a cheaper rate than us. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark together had only 30,000 men, our coasting trade alone employing 50,000; and the only effect of the competition from these three northern nations would be, to diminish our seamen's wages a little, and increase the wages of their own to a considerable extent.
supported the Amendment. If they were to take away all the shipowner's privileges, they ought not, in common fairness, to refuse, at the same time, to remove his peculiar disadvantages. Most of the interests of this country that had enjoyed protection, had also laboured under countervailing and peculiar burdens; and, indeed, the pretext used whenever these interests raised an outcry against the impositions of these peculiar burdens was— 1242 "You have no right to say a word—look what a thumping protection you have got." If the right hon. President of the Board of Trade was so enthusiastic in carrying out his free-trade theories, let him, at all events, not allow what relics of it he chose to preserve to be such as inflicted an injustice and an injury upon the British shipowner.
SIR F. T. BARING
said, the practical effect of this Amendment would be to throw the whole of the trade open to the most unqualified foreign competition. If this clause were rejected, the result would be that the naturalised foreigner might employ, even in our coasting trade, a foreign-built ship, with a foreign master, and entirely a foreign crew. Certainly some hon. Members on this side of the House might not object to going that length, but hon. Gentlemen opposite, who took the shipping interest entirely under their especial protection, would surely pause before they sanctioned an Amendment that would have such a result as he had pointed out.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that as the law at present stood, a naturalised foreigner might build a manufactory in this country of foreign wood and foreign bricks, and by the aid of foreign workmen. He might have a foreign superintendent, and employ foreign operatives to work up foreign materials, and then export every farthing's worth of the articles to a foreign country. The naturalised foreigner, if he chose, might do all this; and he apprehended we, in this country, would not be sorry for it, or think it any great misfortune, but, on the contrary, think he was contributing to the wealth and greatness of England. And so with regard to the case of shipping; if the naturalised foreigner thought proper to have his ship so built, and so manned, and so placed within our reach, as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested—a case which, by the by, was certainly very unlikely and very chimerical—why, even that might not be so very great an evil as some seemed to suppose; for if any great inducement were held out to parties to act in this manner—if a case so chimerical were to occur—if, indeed, it was not to be considered a chimerical but a real and likely case—if it happened at all, it would be because the shipowner found it to be to his advantage to embark his capital in this way. And when they were depriving the British shipowner of all his protection, and exposing him to open competition with all the world, 1243 they were bound, no less upon the principles of free trade than upon the principles of evenhanded justice, to relieve him from all these restraints upon the manning of his ships.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
thought the Committee ought at all events to be at least consistent; let them not do that in their legislation which would make them the laughing-stock of all other nations; let them not give a protection to the coasting trade at one moment, and then the very next do away with that protection altogether. By the preceding clauses that they had already affirmed, they had laid it down that a certain trade—the coasting trade—should be exclusively confined to a certain class of vessels having the character of "British vessels;" and the effect of this Amendment would be to say, either that anything was a British ship, or that there was no such thing as a "British vessel" at all; for a foreign owner who had become a naturalised subject of this country by paying 10s. 6d., might have a ship that was foreign-built, with a foreign master and a foreign crew, registered and entitled to all the privileges of a British ship, if the Committee were to stultify their former proceedings by adopting this Amendment. Let the Committee be at least consistent with themselves, and not attempt by a sort of side-wind to undo what they had already done by affirming the preceding clauses of this Bill.
§ MR. W. BROWN
said, the superiority of the American crews, to which reference had been so often made, arose undoubtedly from the liberty which the American shipowners enjoyed of taking their hands from whatever source they chose.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
expressed his opinion that the Amendment would, if adopted, produce the greatest practical evils. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow would not contend that American ships were manned by any but British seamen; and if it were true that fewer British seamen were able to navigate an American than were required to navigate a British ship, then the fact depended upon separate and distinct causes, which the House would do well afterwards to examine. He believed that the Amendment would excite great alarm and panic in the mercantile navy, and he hoped that the House would insist upon British ships being manned by a great proportion of British seamen.
MR. ALDERMAN THOMPSON
supported the clause, although he feared that it might be, to a certain degree, productive of hard- 1244 ships to British shipowners. Were the Amendment to be carried, there would be an end to everything like British registers, except in the coasting trade. By the present state of the law, the captains of British ships improperly provisioned were liable to be indicted as misdemeanants. He wished to know whether the hon. Member for Glasgow would propose to abolish this regulation?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
explained that it was found necessary to reserve a certain power to the Queen in Council to relax some of the restrictions involved in the navigation laws.
§ MR. MITCHELL
pointed out several advantages which would still arise from a vessel having a British register. Some of these advantages were well shown during the Schleswig-Holstein dispute. It was all moonshine to say that English owners would take foreigners in preference to English sailors. He would vote for the Amendment, to test the value of the "cry," and to remove a theoretical grievance. The effect of throwing open our ships to foreign seamen would be, to raise the general level of their wages to our own standard.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
thought that the proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow would lead to embarrassment in case of war between this and any other country. In case two nations were at war, the proposal now under discussion would afford facilities to the merchant vessels of one of the two belligerents to assume the character of British ships. The difficulties which would arise when the protection of British ownership was claimed and disputed by the other belligerent, must also be considered; as also the political difficulties into which this country might be thrown, by reason of a ship being entered as a foreign ship, owned by foreigners, and manned by foreign seamen.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
thought that the difficulty was created by the Bill. It was notorious that a foreign captain could be naturalised in this country for 10s. 6d.
§ SIR G. GREY
thought the hon. Member laboured under a misapprehension as to the facilities afforded for naturalisation in this country. It was necessary that the Secretary of State should obtain a certificate of the past residence of the party in this country, and an assurance of future residence. In the absence of these tests, 1245 many applications for naturalisation had been refused.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
would add, that, if it were easy for the foreigner to evade the proposed law, it would be equally easy for us to evade the difficulty by the same process.
The MARQUESS OF GRANBY
said, that great disadvantage would arise to the British shipowner from retaining the restriction; but if it was removed, and foreign sailors allowed to be taken, the naval supremacy of the country might be endangered; but whether foreigners were introduced or not, the only way that the British shipowner could compete with his foreign rival was, by lowering the condition of the British seaman. In the expressive language of Mr. Richmond, every British vessel must, in such a case, become a pinch-gut ship.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 197; Noes 53: Majority 144.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Craig, W. G.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Currie, H.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Dashwood, G. H.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Disraeli, B.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Dod, J. W.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Drummond, H.|
|Baring, H. B.||Duff, G. S.|
|Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T.||Duncuft, J.|
|Bass, M. T.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Dundas, Sir D.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Dunne, F. P.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Ellis, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Evans, W.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Fellowes, E.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Brisco, M.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Fortescue, hon. J. W.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Fox, R. M.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Gordon, Adm.|
|Carter, J. B.||Grace, O. D. J.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Granby, Marq. of|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Grattan, H.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Grey, rt. on. Sir G.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Collins, W.||Hallyburton. Ld, J. F. G.|
|Hay, Lord J.||Pigott, F.|
|Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.||Pinney, W.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Heneage, E.||Prime, R.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Pusey, P.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Raphael, A.|
|Heywood, J.||Reid, Col.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Reynolds, J.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Ricardo, O.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Rice, E. R.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Rich, H.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Hotham, Lord||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Howard, hon. E. G. G.||Sandars, G.|
|Howard, P. H.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Scully, F.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Seymour, Lord|
|Jones, Capt.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Kildare, Marq. of||Simeon, J.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Smith, J. A.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Smith, M. T.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Smollett, A.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Somers, J. P.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Somerville. rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Loch, J.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Locke, J.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Lockhart, W.||Stafford, A.|
|Lowther, H.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Mahon, The O'Gorman||Stanton, W. H.|
|Maitland, T.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Mandeville, Visct.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Marshall, W.||Traill, G.|
|Martin, C. W.||Turner, G. J.|
|Matheson, Alex.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Matheson, Col.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Morris, D.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Napier, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Nugent, Lord||Watkins, Col. L.|
|O'Brien, T.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Wilcox, B. M.|
|Packe, C. W.||Willyams, H.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Wilson, J.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Wilson, M.|
|Paget, Lord G.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Palmer, R.||Wood, W. P.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Wyld, J.|
|Parker, J.||Wyvill, M.|
|Patten, J. W.||Young, Sir J.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||TELLERS.|
|Peel, F.||Tufnell, H|
|Philips, Sir G. R.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Ewart, W.|
|Anderson, A.||Fagan, W.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Fordyce, A. D.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Forster, M.|
|Bright, J.||Fox, W. J.|
|Brown, W.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Clay, J.||Greenall, G.|
|Cobden, R.||Greene, J.|
|Cowan, C.||Harris, R.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Henry, A.||Mure, Col.|
|Heyworth, L.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Hindley, C.||Peel, Col.|
|Hutt, W.||Pilkington, J.|
|Jackson, W.||Renton, J. C.|
|Kershaw, J.||Seymer, H. K.|
|King, hon. P.J. L.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Lawless, hon. C.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Tancred, H. W.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Thompson, Col.|
|Marshall, J. G.||Thompson, G.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Thornely, T.|
|Milner, W. M. E.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||TELLERS.|
|Moffatt, G.||Duncan, G.|
|Monsell, W.||Hastie, A.|
MR. A. HASTIE
then proposed to omit from the clause the proviso allowing one British seaman for every twenty tons burden in certain specified cases.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that this proposition was in the nature of a relief to the stringent character of the other part of the clause. It did not render it compulsory that the master or owner of the ship should be compelled to have one seaman for every twenty tons burden, if he did not wish to do so.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that the first part of the clause stated that a ship must be manned with three-fourths of British crew. The present proposition was, that when the owner or master got as many men as he required, he might then take as many foreigners as he liked. The effect of this proviso had been to create an impression among the sailors, that they must have five men for every 100 tons. American ships were brought from New York to Liverpool with three or three and a half men to every 100 tons; but an English ship from Liverpool to New York would require to have five men to every 100 tons. The Government appeared desirous of following the injurious precedent of the old law, but he trusted that they would consent to omit this proviso from the clause.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
begged his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow to withdraw the Amendment until bringing up the report. As the proviso was a relaxation of the existing law, he did not wish to consent to withdraw it until he had an opportunity of considering the subject.
§ After a few words from Mr. WAWN and Mr. HASTIE, Amendment withdrawn, and the clause agreed to.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that as it was well understood that it was impossible for them to conclude their labours in Committee that night, he should take the li- 1248 berty of moving that the Chairman do report progress, and obtain leave to sit again.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
hoped the hon. Member would allow the two next clauses to go through Committee; they would then come to the retaliatory clauses, upon which possibly some discussion might take place.
§ Clauses 17 and 18 were then agreed to.
§ On the Motion that the Chairman report progress,
§ MR. DISRAELI
rose and said: Before we agree to that Motion, Sir, I wish to make an observation—a single observation—upon the remarkable circumstances which have attended the progress of this Bill to-night. I came down. Sir, in common with most Gentlemen present, expecting that the occasion would be taken by a very eminent Member of this House to develop one of the most important principles which can affect the trade and navigation of this country—the application of the principle of reciprocity to the Bill which is now under our consideration. I think I was justified in the anticipation in which I had indulged. It was no vague rumour—no transient idea floating for a moment through the atmosphere of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had upon every occasion that offered itself informed the House and the country that he would take occasion to express in detail the plan which he had already rather prodigally intimated to the House—that he would at this stage of the Bill give us an opportunity of deliberating upon a subject of great interest to the public out of doors. Under these circumstances the House, I am sure, sharing in the interest which influenced me, was greatly surprised by seeing instead of him another right hon. Gentleman, equally distinguished, rise at the opposite side of the table and make a communication almost as important, certainly as interesting, and much more startling. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, the moment we went into Committee—indeed, I believe even before the House was in Committee—suddenly addresses us and informs us that he is going to withdraw one of the most important portions of the new Bill, and, in fact, the only feature which distinguishes the Bill now before us from the measure of last year. When I remind the House that out of thirty-two clauses of which the present Bill consists, ten clauses by this sudden arrangement are to be 1249 omitted, and four more seriously modified, making in all fourteen clauses, there is surely ample reason for surprise. But no sooner had the President of the Board of Trade informed the House of this great sacrifice, on the part of himself and the Government, than the other right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Oxford, rises, amid breathless attention, as we thought to compensate for the loss already experienced, by seizing the occasion to propose the interesting addition we anticipated; but it turned out to be to inform the House that he also intended to make great sacrifices; and that he, on his part, imitating the example of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, was about to give up that great development of the principle of reciprocity which we awaited with so much suspense. I must do the right hon. Gentleman the justice to admit that, in making this announcement, he entered into many reasons—reasons which made us the more regret that we had not the full benefit of his ideas upon the great topic to which he referred, as well as his arguments for adopting that determination which so surprised us. The first reason he urged was that he expected to be supported only by a very slight minority, and the last was that he did not make the proposal because he did not wish to embarrass Her Majesty's Ministers. Now, by what means a slight minority could embarrass a Government even as powerful as the present, I am at loss to understand. We all observed with what scholastic ingenuity the right hon. Gentleman connected these two propositions. It was to me a remarkable exhibition to see with what resignation both the right hon. Gentlemen gave up the children of their adoption—making such marvellous sacrifices. I was almost reminded by them of that celebrated day in the French Revolution when the nobles and the prelates vied with each other in throwing coronets and mitres to the dust, as useless appendages. I think that day is still called "the day of dupes;" and I hope the House and the country, when they recall the incidents of this evening, will not be reminded that they may have had some share in the appellation. One observation I must make upon the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for the erroneous calculation in which he indulged with respect to the first project in reference to the coasting trade. He exonerated, with ostenta- 1250 tious generosity, the chief Commissioner of Customs from blame. I feel an interest in the political reputation of that gentleman. He is one of my constituents; and while I admit the generosity of the right hon. Gentleman in thus exonerating him from blame, I cannot help thinking that it would have been much more magnanimous if the name of Sir Thomas Fremantle had not been introduced at all—for, however the right hon. Gentleman may consider it, or wherever he may wish to shift the blame, he and his Colleagues are responsible for the error. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] Oh yes! you are willing to bear it now; but why did you attempt to excuse your blunders by introducing the name of a gentleman, which under no circumstances ought to have been mentioned in this debate? You have had plenty of time to consider this point, yet the difference between your measure of last Session and the present Bill consists in those very clauses in which you have so egregiously blundered. What is the general effect of this remarkable evening—this evening when we assembled to go into Committee—when we aspired to do nothing more than to amend the details of a great and well-considered and matured measure—what, I say, has been the effect of this evening? Why, it cannot be concealed, that this Bill for a repeal of the navigation laws has received to-night a paralytic stroke. But although that might be, what I am convinced it is not, a source of triumph and a cause of exultation to those who are opposed to the Bill, and although, from the extraordinary exhibition which it affords of the inefficiency of the Ministers, it may be a source of jest and merriment within doors, of this I am persuaded, that, out of doors, what has taken place here to-night will give rise to very serious and mournful considerations. Sir, there is very great distress in this country. There is no interest which is not suffering. I do not want, on the present occasion, to enter into a discussion of the causes of that suffering. I am not disposed, just at this moment, to approach the consideration of that subject. I believe that many of those who suffer out of doors might have been inclined, until a recent period, and that some of them are even still disposed, to submit to your legislation, if possible, without a murmur; but what they complain of is, not so much that their fortunes are injured—not so much that their prospects are blighted by your legislation, but that that legisla- 1251 tion has been precipitate and ill-advised—that it has not been matured—that, in a word, they have been sacrificed, not to a necessity foreseen long years ago by great statesmen, and regulated by the prescience of master minds—but that their fortunes have been destroyed and their position in life deteriorated, because suddenly, abruptly, without thought, with great precipitation, in a hurried, blundering, and hasty manner, you have passed laws which have most perniciously affected the great interests of this country. The agricultural interest is suffering most poignantly. I am not going to discuss the laws which have occasioned that suffering; but the men who suffer cannot lose the consciousness of this fact, that the Ministers who repealed the corn laws did not do so from conviction. They were panic stricken, and it is notorious that, a short time before they repealed them, they were, themselves, the most strenuous advocates of those laws. But they found a combination of circumstances with which they fancied that they were unable to cope, and for that reason they changed their opinions in a hurry, and great interests were sacrificed, and great suffering occasioned. Your victims would have been better contented, and would have found less difficulty in reconciling themselves to their hard fate, if the change had been made in a legitimate manner, after due deliberation, after the conviction of the people had been testified at a general election, approving the change of opinion in their representatives. I do not wish now to say one word against the abstract policy of your legislation; but this I do say, that the sufferers feel their sufferings the more keenly because they are the result of precipitate legislation. There is another great interest prostrate—the colonial interest, and more particularly that branch of it known as the sugar interest, which has been ruined by an Act that was carried by the votes of those who spoke against the destructive policy which their suffrages upheld. And those interests also remonstrate in the same tone, and say—"It is not merely that you have passed laws which have ruined our fortunes and blasted our hopes that we complain, but because you have passed those laws in a precipitate spirit—because they were not the result of fair discussion, and were not carried by a party who, year after year, had been advocating the successful policy, 1252 but rather by the instrumentality of men who supported them in the very teeth of their solemn pledges a thousand times recorded, and suddenly veered round because they wished to keep a certain Government in office." I know that in speaking thus I am correctly interpreting the feelings of the people out of doors. I do not enter into the policy of your changes now, but I do denounce the manner in which those changes have been effected. And what is the case in the present instance? Here is another great interest attacked. The siege has been long. Your conduct has not been less precipitate than in the former instances; though the attack has been of longer duration. We have had two years of protracted legislation against the shipping interests of England. The course you have pursued during those two years forms no exception to the rash policy which has characterised your proceedings with regard to the agricultural and colonial interests. Have your deliberations been graver or more thoughtful? This [holding up the Bill] is my answer. Has your measure been drawn up with signal success? The conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade this evening—the humiliating confession he has made—that is my answer to the question. Let me tell you now that this is a course you cannot proceed in. When we find the industry of a country tortured by legislative innovations, and the people which is forced to endure such sufferings compelled also to endure this cruel reflection, that they have not even the compensation of thinking that their destinies have been dealt with by statesmen, but by men who on every occasion have come forward to catch the breeze of the moment, and who have ever been ready to attempt legislation without making themselves masters of the subject they attempt to legislate on—when, I say, you act in this manner, and create such a feeling as this in the minds of a people, I tell you you do more than injure and destroy the material interests of a nation—you lay the foundation of a stock of political discontent, which will do more than diminish the revenues of the kingdom and the fortunes of its subjects—which may shake the institutions of this country to their centre.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Sir, I scarcely know whether I am justified in endeavouring to take precedence of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of 1253 Trade, but I promise the House that I shall not long interpose to delay the observations he has to make. After the reference that has been made to me by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, it would not, I think, be right on my part to have shrunk from following him in the debate. The hon. Gentleman, as far as I can collect the fact, makes two charges against me. One of them is, that having undertaken that I would in Committee on this Bill explain in detail the reasons that led me to prefer the mode of proceeding by conditional legislation to the direct legislation proposed by the Bill of Her Majesty's Government, I had failed to fulfil that pledge. The other charge is, that in stating the reasons that induced me to refrain from pressing my proposal upon the House, I have given reasons inconsistent with one another. I shall briefly reply to each of those charges. I have not given reasons inconsistent with one another. I did not presume to determine what would be the issue of a division on my proposals. I contemplated one of two alternatives, and I was not willing to incur one or the other of them. One of the alternatives would be that my proposals would have been supported only by those Members who were prepared on their merits to sustain those views; and I did not court that alternative, because my proposals, which hereafter may be of public service, would derive no benefit from a division under such circumstances. The other alternative was, that my proposals would be supported by a number of Gentlemen not accepting them with bonâ fide views, but who would employ me as a tool to damage the measure; and after having so employed me, then they would leave me and my proposal on the third reading of the Bill, having caused embarrassment to the proposition of the Government. For these reasons I am unwilling to incur either of the alternatives. The hon. Gentleman has said that I gave a pledge which I have failed to fulfil. On the contrary, I appeal to the recollection of every Gentleman who heard me, and who attended to what I said, as the hon. Gentleman did not, if this was not what I said. I stated most distinctly during the debates of the last Session, and on the second reading of the Bill in the present year, that I would exercise my own discretion as to making any proposal in the Committee; and the reason why I determined to take that course was this—I was not willing, for the sake of 1254 vindicating the more argumentative superiority of the suggestion I made, if it could be so vindicated, to run the risk of hazarding great interests. I was not willing to take upon myself the responsibility of rejecting the plan of the Government, though in important particulars I might differ with them, when the effect of that rejection would be the continuance of the present law. I said I concurred, in some instances, in the plan of the Government, and that, in contemplating the repeal of the navigation laws, I thought they contemplated a great national benefit. I said it was an important question how that object should be pursued; but as to the value of the object, I never expressed the slightest difference of opinion from the convictions which the Government entertain. I shall call one witness as to the propriety of the course I have adopted: that witness is the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire himself: If the hon. Gentleman himself had not seen that the course I pursue was favourable to the purpose I have in view, but unfavourable to the purpose he has in view, he would not have made this attack upon me. I am perfectly satisfied to bear his sarcasm, good-humoured and brilliant as it is, while I can appeal to his judgment as to whether the step I have taken was unbecoming in one who conscientiously differs with him on the freedom of trade, and has endeavoured to realise it, because, so far from its being the cause of the distress of the country, it has been, under the mercy of God, the most signal and effectual means of mitigating this distress, and accelerating the dawn of the day of returning prosperity.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire began his address to the Committee by stating that the proceedings to-night were marked by unusual circumstances. I will engage to say that there has been no circumstance that occurred to-night one-half so novel, so extravagant, nay, so completely unprecedented, as the course which the hon. Gentleman himself has taken. At the close of a long debate in Committee, he rose to state that he thought the time had arrived when the House could no longer with advantage pursue the discussion. He takes advantage of the interval that has occurred to make a speech in which he introduces almost all possible topics, and attacks almost all possible persons, and in which he has referred to the debate before going into 1255 Committee. The only interpretation I can put upon the course of the hon. Gentleman, and which I put with doubt in reference to him, is this—that, finding himself not as ready as usual during the previous discussion before the Speaker left the chair, he employed the interval of a few hours to polish his periods, and to arrange his sarcasms; and therefore it was that he rose after midnight, and delivered a long speech on the principle of the measure, and on free trade generally, while Mr. Bernal was in the chair. The proceeding was certainly an uncommon one, and had all the merit of originality. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford has very fully and satisfactorily adverted to that portion of the attack of the hon. Gentleman that referred to him. I confess I don't feel that I am labouring under any very great weight in bearing the attack which the hon. Gentleman has directed towards myself, therefore I shall not trespass for many minutes on the House while I advert to it. The hon. Gentleman has taunted me with the alteration which this Bill has undergone since it has been introduced by me. Sir, I quite admit that in one particular of considerable, but not of first-rate, importance—namely, the modification of the coasting trade, which it proposed to throw open, the Bill has been altered; but this I will say to the hon. Gentleman, that if he ever be charged with that official responsibility which, from his great talent and ability, it is not unlikely he may yet be charged with, of introducing and submitting to this House a measure of great gravity and great difficulty, he will not fare very ill if he can bring that measure through the House with no more material alterations in it than this measure which I have proposed has experienced in the course of discussion. I never scarcely knew a measure involving topics of so great difficulty, and on which the prejudices and feelings of the great mass of the community are so enlisted, that received, in its progress through Committee, loss alteration than the measure which I had the honour to propose. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it was not in a spirit of levity that the measure was brought forward by Her Majesty's Government. We well know the difficulties of the task which we had undertaken, but we felt it our bounden duty to face those difficulties, and to do our best to carry this measure to a safe and satisfactory conclusion. In 1256 that course we shall persevere, undeterred by any taunts which the hon. Gentleman may think fit to throw out. I will not advert, at this late hour, to the other points which the hon. Gentleman raised; but there is one matter on which I wish to say a single word. The hon. Gentleman said that I had not acted fairly in mentioning the name of Sir Thomas Fremantle. I am sure that I should be sorry to do anything that was not fair towards a gentleman for whom I entertain a feeling of private friendship, and whose talents and qualifications are known to every one. I am willing to admit that the withdrawal of the clause is entirely my own proposition. I did it with the full assent of Sir Thomas Fremantle, and I only told the story in order to explain to the Committee the reason for the withdrawal. Of course, the head of a public department is not responsible for any measure which is introduced by a Minister of the Crown. The Minister who introduces a measure is responsible for its defects; but I believe that Sir Thomas Fremantle, in giving his sanction to the clauses relating to the coasting trade, did so in order to facilitate the views of the Government, though afterwards, upon mature consideration, he came to the conclusion that it would be desirable to withdraw those clauses. If I expressed myself at all obscurely before with reference to the part taken by Sir Thomas Fremantle in this matter, I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity of correcting any misconception that may have arisen.
§ The House resumed.
§ The House adjourned at One o'clock, till Monday nest.