§ House in Committee, according to Order.
§ Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
On Question that the following Articles stand part of the proposed Resolution [28th February]:—
Cotton Manufactures, as denominated in the Tariff.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he should he obliged if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would state the value of the importations of manufactures of hosiery which had hitherto entered into this country under the present duty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
replied, that in 1858 we imported 46,0001b. of cotton fringes, 123,000 pairs of cotton gloves, 187,000 pairs of cotton stockings, 8,000 pairs of cotton socks, and other cotton goods to the value of £36,000. The revenue was about £3,000, and the whole value of the articles could not have been far from £50,000. He should think that we imported something like £1,000 for every £1,000,000 exported.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
hoped that at least some of the articles in the list before the Committee would be expunged. The abolition of the duty upon them would involve a considerable loss to the revenue, and injure a very industrious class of people in this country. He understood that about £20,000 would be lost upon artificial flowers alone.
§ MR. AYRTON
remarked that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was proposing to admit a great number of articles free of duty without giving any assurance that he had carefully considered the position of persons engaged in small handicrafts in Eng- 2100 land, as compared with those employed in similar branches of industry in foreign countries. It was said that some of our working people were seeking a protection to their industry, which had been given up by the great manufacturers of Lancashire. That was a delusion, because the great manufacturers of Lancashire had very formidable natural protections, and so had the ironmasters and coalowners, who were to be largely benefited by the new commercial system. Where iron stone and coal were found together, an English ironmaster could make iron infinitely cheaper than it could be made in any country where those natural advantages did not exist. Coal alone was a great natural protection to the English manufacturer. The case was very different with respect to small handicrafts, and we might find that a large number of the most industrious of our workpeople would be overborne by persons abroad, who lived at hardly any expense, in a very genial climate, and who paid comparatively few taxes. He should like to know that our embroiderers would not have their wages reduced by the importation of embroidery from abroad. It might be said that they must consent to sacrifice their interests like other people; but that statement involved a fallacy. In the case of the corn laws there was a manifest monopoly, because the country was unable to supply the inhabitants with the food which they required; but no person could say that our smaller handicrafts enjoyed a monopoly, when we knew that our needlewomen, for example, were struggling against one another for a bare subsistence. For his own part, he looked to the practical application of propositions rather than to their abstract expression; and he thought the House had been too often carried away by philosophical flourishes about free trade and protection.Embroidery and Needlework, as denominated in the Tariff.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he did not rise to argue the question on the same grounds as the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, although he concurred in all that he had said as to the hardship about to be inflicted upon certain classes of industrious workpeople; but he could not allow the Schedule to pass without recording his protest against the waste of revenue which was involved in the propositions before the Committee. Looking through the whole of the Schedule it was impossible to imagine a more wanton waste of our resources. But 2101 considering what passed at the close of the debate on Tuesday night, it seemed to him that the question was how far it was worth their while to sit there discussing these articles; for on that occasion, after a great deal of pressing, they obtained from the Government on that evening a statement to the effect that the rejection of any one article would vitiate the Treaty. He, therefore, thought that it was a waste of time to discuss the different items, and to consider whether it was wise or desirable to adopt them. On the other hand, he could not help hoping that, without regard to the effect upon the Treaty, the present Schedule would be debated in reference solely to English interests, and to the question how far it was desirable, as a matter of English policy, to abandon a large revenue by remitting the duties on such articles as clocks, corks, embroidery, artificial flowers, leather manufactures, gloves, musical instrument?, oils, silks, and watches. Those ten articles, which were comprehended in the Schedule, yielded upwards of £400,000 a year; and ought we to part with that large sum when we were increasing our direct taxation, and retaining the present duty on tea and sugar? With regard to the Treaty, he confessed he did not see anything in it to induce him for its sake to part with this large and very important amount of revenue. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs admitted in his Despatch that those articles which were not articles of necessity would not be dealt with by the Government in their financial arrangements. The reason urged in favour of the Treaty and the proposed changes, consisted in certain alleged collateral effects. What would be the first of these collateral effects? If he could trust the intelligence which had reached London that day, the first collateral effect was likely to be the seizure of Savoy by the Emperor of the French; and he was disposed to agree with those eminent authorities, both in and out of the House, who declared that another collateral effect of the Treaty would be, instead of its creating good feeling, and encouraging friendly relations between England and France, to strengthen the war party in France. He must add that, viewing these remissions as they affected English interests and English policy, they appeared to him to be a wanton waste of revenue on articles which were not of general consumption, and from which there could be no objection to derive revenue.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that it was entirely for the right hon. Baronet to judge for himself whether it was a waste of time or not to discuss the articles proposed for remission. The right hon. Baronet and himself might perhaps come to the same conclusion on that subject, though he was afraid on very different grounds. He had thought that the doctrine of unrestricted competition had been conceded by the right hon. Baronet, but now he found it stiffly contested by him. The right hon. Baronet denounced the surrender of the revenue obtained by differential duties as a wasteful proceeding. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not think it was convenient now to discuss the general principles upon which the financial scheme of the Government was founded. But he had thought that the doctrine, that differential duties should be maintained—and almost every one of the duties now sought to be charged was a differential duty, and took from the British consumer infinitely more than it brought to the British revenue) had been abandoned. But the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire demurred to the Government proposals on two different points of view. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire complained of their parting with duties levied on articles of luxury, and the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets regretted that they were abandoning duties on articles raised by handicraft, and not by the great capital of great establishments. These were two questions totally and absolutely distinct. With respect to articles of luxury, it was a great fallacy to suppose that differential duties levied on such articles were better than other differential duties. It was a proper thing to consider, when they were raising revenue, whether or not they should first select articles of luxury; but when they came to the question of imposing differential duties on articles because they were articles of luxury, they then involved themselves in the same folly and evil as if they were not articles of luxury. Why should the Legislature give to one class the power of obtaining a higher price or profit than they would otherwise get, through the operation of a law? It signified not a rush what the article was, or whether it was one of luxury or not. It was a bad and unjust principle' as between English workers. The true principle was to give to the purchaser perfectly free and unrestricted choice of all 2103 articles of industry. But by differential duties to secure a particular price to a particular class of goods as compared with another class of goods, because they were articles of luxury, they generally failed to accomplish the object they had in view, did positive mischief to the very people they intended to benefit, and did that which was in itself wrong, because they created a monopoly in favour of a particular class. But the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets said that we ought to consider the case of handicrafts and of needlewomen. Now, to talk of protection to needlewomen by protective duties was just as rational as to talk of protecting the peasants of Wiltshire and Dorsetshire by the corn laws. The condition of our needlewomen was a melancholy fact in the state of English society; but with respect to competition with foreign labour they had nothing to fear, for, unhappily, their condition was much lower already than that of the foreign labourer through the competition of English labour. He confessed that he would have thought that the hon. Gentleman who represented the Tower Hamlets was well aware by this time of that fact. He must know they were entirely beyond the reach of any legislation. With regard, however, to the class of people who made artificial flowers and embroidery, he hoped the case was different. The wages of those employed in embroidery were not, he trusted, low, and he had no reason to suppose that they would be lower:—he believed that, on the other hand, labour would derive benefit from the proposed changes. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets said that the abolition of protection worked in a totally different direction in different cases. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was not aware of that diversity of experience, and he had yet to learn in what case within the limits of this country protection had been abolished without a great benefit resulting. They had had paraded before the House the question of corks; and if hon. Gentlemen now revived it, he would undertake to show that it was the most wretched case which had ever been brought upon the floor of the House. And with regard to the nine other articles, not a single voice had reached him either from masters or workmen against the proposed abolition of duties. He might remind the Committee that, besides all the general principles which led them to the conclusion at which they had arrived, they had in view a great reform of the Customs administration, and 2104 a great reduction of establishments. Even where it appeared, on first inspection of the tables of revenue, that £10,000 or £20,000 was realized by one of these articles, that did not show the real profit which it yielded. They were all articles of a nature to require very minute investigation, which entailed a great deal of delay and expense. For these reasons he hoped, and felt perfectly convinced, that these Votes would receive the approval of the Committee.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had quite misunderstood his argument. He did not object to the repeal of these duties on the ground of their being differential duties, but because in the present state of the finances of the country he thought it a wanton waste of our resources to part with £40,000 of revenue derived in such a way.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was glad that this discussion had called forth the speech of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) which did him much credit. The time was coming when the old Tory would join the Radical in demanding that taxation should be levied in the form most convenient to the people. The system now entered upon seemed to him justly comparable to the car of Juggernaut, so recklessly was the Chancellor of the Exchequer crushing the interests of the people of this country. The science of political economy was being fast degraded into a mere system. The Government refused to levy the revenue so as to accommodate the convenience and consult the interests of the people. They would not consider the circumstances of the time with which they had to deal, but showed a blind determination to lower and abolish import duties. He admired the course pursued in the United States on this subject. No aristocratic influence existed there, but taxation and the commercial system of America were adapted, as they ought to be, to the interests of the State. Why was not the same policy followed in England? The true representatives of the people would, he believed in time, revert to a system of taxation which consulted the interests and convenience of the people, and would not consent to be limited to the doctrines of any abstract school or to be made subservient to the demands of a few large interests.
§ COLONEL TORRENS
wished to ask, on behalf of the needle-women of England, whether the duties on French embroidery 2105 were to be remitted immediately, or whether some time was to be allowed to those engaged in that branch of industry at home.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said the proposition of the Government was that the abolition of the duties should take effect immediately, and he was not aware that any injury would be suffered by the class the hon. Member alluded to.Feathers and Flowers, Artificial.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he thought this was one of the articles which might be omitted while such extraordinary demands were made from day to day on our revenue. The arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of free trade were all, no doubt, very good, but let them be properly applied. What was the use of remitting duties on artificial flowers and opera-glasses, things of no moment to the public, while they maintained the war duties on tea and sugar which were of the greatest moment to the whole community.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to contend that these duties were objectionable because they took out of the pockets of the people more than the amount of revenue obtained from them. But did anybody suppose that when this duty was abolished artificial flowers would be one halfpenny cheaper than before? The sole result would be a loss of revenue, which was not just now to be despised, while some of the charges substituted by the right hon. Gentleman would be far more onerous upon trade. He could not help uttering a strong, though, he feared, a vain protest against this most improvident waste of the resources of the country.
§ MR. STEUART
said, his constituents had sent up the longest petition that ever came from Cambridge against this Budget, and, in justice to them, he must add his protest to those which had already been made against this wanton sacrifice of revenue. His constituents had no connection with cotton, coal, or iron; and there was no single article in the tariff that would benefit them; while they were to be saddled with an addition to the income tax, against which, in their name, he must add his firm but he feared his ineffectual protest.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
could not admit that taking off the duty would have no benecial effect besides reducing the price to the consumer. He thought on the contrary that great benefit would result from the 2106 importation of articles upon which French skill and taste were displayed. They would servo as models for the guidance of our own workmen and manufacturers, and ultimately it would be an advantage to these persons to have been subjected to French competition, for he had great faith in their power to rival any French productions.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
observed that plenty of articles came into this country already to serve as models for imitation.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
asked who was to define what was meant by "plenty." Was the law to step in to define and limit the meaning of the word by fixing an artificial price. His proposition was to leave the people to define it for themselves by leaving it to the natural level of supply and demand.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, his proposition was that there were "plenty" for the English workpeople to take example from, and he still adhered to his statement.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, it might be very convenient for the merchants of London to import as many commodities as they could; but as regarded the needlewomen of this country, of whom the supply was already greater than the demand, it was clear that they had arrived at the lowest natural level. There might, however, be a still lower level, for in India, where people lived for almost nothing, women skilled in embroidery could be found for £4 a year. Upon abstract principles of free trade no doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right, but this was a peculiar case, and should be considered as such.
§ MR. VANSITTART
complained that all their efforts were directed to the protection of foreigners, while they cared nothing for their own workpeople. A gentleman told him that he went over to Paris the other day with £700 in his pocket, but articles were so dear that he could not lay out a single shilling. There was no lack of employment in France, but they were to be still more encouraged here; while the Legislature did not care a single brass farthing for the English workers.Gutta Percha," Manufactures of, not moulded.—Articles, moulded.
§ LORD WILLIAM GRAHAM
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, now that the Customs superintendence was to be removed, there would be any inspection of things imported into this country; for, if he was rightly informed, things had been imported into this country which would 2107 greatly shock the modesty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, there would he ample power left in the hands of the Customs to prevent the importation of articles such as those to which, no doubt, the noble Lord had alluded.Linen, or Linen and Cotton Manufactures, as denominated in the Tariff.
§ COLONEL TORRENS
inquired, whether there was any prospect of linen yarns being admitted into France at a lower rate than 20 or 25 per cent. He was assured that it was impossible to export that article from Ireland to France except at a much lower rate of duty?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that in 1842, when there was a considerable trade with France in linen yarns, the duties were from 15 to 20 per cent; but there was no specific convention now upon that point. He understood the intention to be to follow the course which had been pursued in England, and to place the duties upon half-manufactured goods in a subordinate relation to fully manufactured goods. He therefore inferred that, as the duty upon linens would be reduced to a limit between 25 and 30 per cent, the duty upon linen yarns would be still lower, were it only for the sake of the French manufacturer.Opera Glasses, single or double.
§ MR. VANSITTART
asked, whether it was intended to admit, under the Treaty, Berlin opera glasses, which were much superior to the French?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the Vote which the Committee were invited to concur in, took no cognizance of origin.
Resolved, That the following articles stand part of the proposed Resolution [28th February.]
Cotton Manufactures, as denominated in the Tariff.
Earthenware, not otherwise enumerated or described.
Embroidery and Needlework, as denominated in the Tariff.
Feathers, as denominated in the Tariff.
Fruit, raw, not otherwise enumerated.
Gutta Percha, manufactures of, not moulded.—articles moulded.
Hair, manufactures of Hair or Goat's Wool, or of Hair or Goat's Wool and any other material, wholly or in part made up.
Hats or Bonnets, namely,—of Chip, of Bast, Cane, or Horsehair, of Straw—after the 31st of March, 1861.
Of Hair, Wool, or Beaver.
Hats of Silk or Silk Shag, laid upon felt, linen, or other material.
Iron and Steel, wrought or manufactured, namely,—machinery, wrought castings, tools, cutlery, and other manufactures of Iron or Steel not enumerated.
—fancy ornamental articles of Iron or Steel.
—manufactures of, coated with brass or copper by any galvanic process.
Jewels. Emeralds, and other precious stones, set.
Lace and articles thereof, as denominated in the Tariff.
Lead, manufactures of, not otherwise enumerated.
Leather Manufactures (except gloves), as denominated in the Tariff.
—Gloves, after the 1st of February, 1861.
Linen, or Linen and Cotton manufactures, as denominated in the Tariff.
Lucifers of Wood.
Morphia and its Salts.
Musical Instruments, as denominated in the Tariff.
Oil of Almonds.
—chemical, essential, or perfumed, as denominated in the Tariff.
Opera Glasses, single or double.
Perfumery, not otherwise enumerated.
Quinine, Sulphate of.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 'Silk, Millinery, or Manufactures of Silk, or of Silk and any other material, as denominated in the Tariff, stand part of the proposed Resolution.
§ SIR JOSEPH PAXTON
in rising to move the Amendment, of which he had given notice, and which he had modified in order to remove certain doubts that had been expressed, said that his constituents were of opinion that the duties upon silk manufactures had been given up in order to carry out the Treaty, and the interests involved were so large that he trusted the Committee would give him their attention for a little while, while he brought their arguments before them as clearly as he was able. He believed that there were about thirty towns and villages employed in the manufacture of silk, but Coventry, Macclesfield, Derby, Spitalfields, and Manchester, were the chief seats of the manufacture. From all these places he believed, except Manchester, there had been petitions to that House against the present proposition; but from Manchester alone his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham had presented a petition for the remission of the duty. 2109 Now, on looking over the duties on silk he found that none had been levied on the particular articles of silk manufacture that were produced at Manchester, and therefore it could be understood why the manufacturers at that place could afford to support the proposition of the Government. Last year the duty on silk amounted to £387,000, and £166,000 of this was levied on articles similar to those manufactured by his constituents at Coventry, and therefore he thought they had a right to be heard on this question. The silk manufacturers at Coventry had been for some time in a depressed condition, and when the intelligence of the conclusion of the Treaty arrived, the effect was completely to paralyze the trade. As soon as the aunouncement was made the Mayor of Coventry and a deputation of the inhabitants waited on him and his Colleague, and the Mayor said that he could hardly be answerable for the safety of his city if the duty were taken off. He did not altogether concur in the dismal forebodings of the Mayor; but still the change would undoubtedly strike a great blow at the prosperity of the town he represented, and that blow was the more felt, that it was believed that the object of the remission of the duty was not to render silk cheaper, but to give an impetus to the French manufacture. Nor must the Committee suppose that Coventry was a place which had not progressed with the times. In 1821 the population of Coventry was 21,000; in 1859 it was 42,000. In 1840 there wore in it 18,000 persons employed in the silk trade; in 1860, there were 28,000. In 1840, there were 4,732 small hand-looms; at the present time there were only 500; but of steam-power looms there were 6,650; and while in the former year the production of silk ribbons was 795,000 yards per week, it was now no less than 2,300,000 yards per week. The tax on silk had never been considered a burdensome one, but to be in fact a tax upon luxury; and even the Liverpool Financial Reform Association, in whose steps the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to be treading, had declared that so long as customs duties were levied at all the duty on silk ought to be retained. The tax was 15 per cent. He complained that while the Chancellor of the Exchequer had sought to conciliate the wine and spirit merchants in the matter of drawback, not the smallest accommodation had been given to his constituents. At present their trade was protected by a 2110 duty of about 16 per cent; and if 8 per cent of that duty had been remitted now, and the remaining 8 per cent some seven or eight years hence, they might have been able to sustain the shock; but what they most complained of was, that they had been bartered away for a French Treaty, without the prospect of receiving any compensation whatever. He himself was a Free-trader, as were also his constituents; and they were prepared to give up the silk duty if an arrangement could be made by which their productions could he admitted into France upon the same terms as those of France would be admitted into this country. But the fact was, the French prohibited the export of dyed silks, and the people of Coventry were thus prevented from competing with them in the finer articles, which were principally made of French dyed silk. A great deal had been said the other night about corks, hut this was exactly the same case. They were about to admit the manufactures of a country which kept a duty on the raw material. In fact this was, he believed, the first time such a proposition had ever been maintained. In 1845, Sir Robert Peel took off the duty on glass in order to give an advantage to the consumers of the article in this country; but France and Belgium made the better kinds of glass at that time, and continue to do so still. He had a letter from Mr. Chance, one of the largest manufacturers in Birmingham, in which that gentleman complained of the severity of the competition he had to sustain, and said:—Many houses have sunk under it, and so should we have done if we had not taken every moans to beat the foreign manufacturers.It was quite true that Mr. Chance's firm had succeeded, but he had one of the largest establishments in the world; and where there were formerly in this country twenty or twenty-five large glassworks, there were not now more than four or five. The silk trade, and that of Coventry in particular, had much reason to complain that their interests had been overlooked in the negotiation of the Treaty. The Chamber of Commerce of St. Etienne had recently voted an address to the Emperor, in which, while expressing their satisfaction at the prospect of ribands, one of their staple trades, being admitted into England free of duty, remarked that they could see no objection to the free importation of ribands into Franco. From that it might be reasonably inferred that, if the treaty had been skilfully negotiated on our side, there might have been an 2111 importation of ribands into France on equal terms with an importation of those of France into this country. The riband trade depended much on fashion, in which we invariably took our cue from the French. In this country we could make all the commoner sorts of ribands better than the French, and it was desirable that no obstacles should be placed in the way of their admission into that country. His constituents, however, believed that the Treaty would tend so seriously to prejudice their trade that they despaired of arresting its declension. He would conclude by moving the following Amendment:—
To insert after the word "Tariff," the words "being the manufactures of and imported directly from any country which permits the free importation of the silk manufactures of the United Kingdom.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted:"
said, the hon. Member had not moved his Amendment in precisely the terms of his notice; but though he had now omitted all specific notice of the Treaty which the Committee were not considering, the Motion had clearly a substantial reference to the engagements of that Treaty. It did not, therefore, appear to him to be one that he could fitly report to the House, and he should therefore decline to accept it.
§ MR. AYRTON
suggested that the difficulty might be got over by moving the following addition to the original Motion in lieu of the Amendment, "being manufactures of, or imported directly from, any country which permits the free importation of the silk manufactures of the United Kingdom."
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not give way to the Motion before the Committee. The constituents of the hon. Member were great Free-traders some fourteen or fifteen years ago; but now, when the course of legislation trenched upon their own interests, they appealed to the House for that consideration which was then refused to others. He (Mr. Sclater-Booth), as an humble Member of the Conservative party, thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for sweeping away those remnants 2112 of protection which had deformed our commercial system for so many years. They had long been led to expect that justice would be done to the agricultural interest; and he agreed with an observation that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade the other night, when he said, so far as abstract principle was concerned, the Conservatives, and those who supported the agricultural interest, ought to be among the first to support the proposition of the Government in that respect. As an abstract proposition, they should be very happy to further the introduction of free-trade principles in the tariff. The remission of the silk duties was one of the most important of the propositions of the present scheme. It was one from which many people expected to derive considerable advantages, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not give way upon it.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he presumed that the hon. Gentleman, who had just addressed the House, had spoken as a Conservative. Now he (Mr. Newdegate) was an older Conservative than that hon. Gentleman, and he might, therefore, be forgiven, when he observed, that if the hon. Member wished to stand well as a Conservative, he should not promote internecine warfare between the various interests of the country. He (Mr. Newdegate) had made considerable sacrifices to a sense of duty as a Conservative. He had separated himself from old friends, and cast aside the countenance of an eminent statesman; but he had acted in no narrow spirit, but from a conviction that he was serving national interests. It was because he believed it unwise that this country should be made to depend upon foreigners for food that he had adhered to Protectionist opinions in 1846: whether he had been mistaken in his views or not, he had, at all events, not acted from factious motives; he deprecated the idea of a representative of the agricultural interest now turning round upon other interests in a revengeful spirit, and saying, you deprived us of protection, you exposed us wilfully to jeopardy, and, although we have been preserved through an instrumentality beyond human control, by the discovery of gold—though we do not suffer as we did in 1850, we, in our turn, will injure you, the manufacturers of England, in any manner which we can. That was not true Conservatism—if it was, Conservatism was an empty word. He represented a mixed constituency, of 2113 which some 50,000 or 60,000 were engaged in silk manufactures, and he believed that they were fully entitled to the protection that had been reserved to them by Pitt, by Huskisson, and, up to the present time, by the measures of the late Sir Robert Peel. Sir Robert Peel, when revising the tariff on free-trade principles, continued a duty of from 10 to 15 per cent on silk, on account of the special disadvantages under which the English silk trade laboured, owing to the fact that this country could not produce the raw material. France produced the finest silk, and was close to Italy, with which country France was drawing her relations closer; and Italy produced a quality of silk superior to China, India, Turkey, or any other quarter of the world. Mr. Huskisson, who was thought to be a Free-trader, considered there were special difficulties to which the silk trade here was exposed from inferiority of climate and water, which prevented our dyeing with the finest tints. Mr. Pitt's Treaty contained a prohibition of the importation of silk manufactures. Was he who negotiated the Treaty of equivalents in 1786—a treaty of which the present was pretended to be an imitation—an unwise statesman? Mr. Huskisson, like the Emperor, thought a duty of 30 per cent would suffice upon the import of the manufactured articles; but Mr. Huskisson took the duty off raw silk as a compensation for the effect of the abandonment of prohibition, and the chance to a protective duty even of 30 per cent. Sir Robert Peel took steps to put down smuggling, and thus, although he reduced the duty to 15 and 10 per cent, he rendered it valid. Each of these statesmen thought that some amount of protection was necessary to counterbalance the natural advantages of France in respect to silk. Sir Robert Peel was a Free-trader, but with him it was a science and not a system; he thought that the English silk manufactures required protection, and that he, as a Financier, should be the better for a revenue of some £300,000 a year—a revenue raised easily. The late Sir Robert Peel did not, like the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, complain of an ignorant patience of taxation, but feared rather impatience of taxation. He could promise the right hon. Gentleman that there would be impatience enough presently. Was it a matter of no moment to plunge 200,000 of the population into a state of distress and destitution? The 2114 right hon. Gentleman said, he could not remember any step in the progress of free trade which had produced suffering. He (Mr. Newdegate) held in his hand an account of the distress produced in the silk trade by the change made by Mr. Huskisson; from the evidence of Mr. Grout before the Committee of 1832, it appeared that before that change in 1826 the people engaged in the trade were prosperous and happy, but afterwards, in 1832, their condition had miserably deteriorated. Mr. Brockle-hurst also stated, before the same Committee of that House, that in 1826 the workmen engaged in the silk trade lived in comfortably furnished houses, but that after Mr. Huskisson's change distress set in, and they were obliged to part with all their little property and were reduced to such destitution that hundreds were almost without clothing or bed. The evidence of this witness contained this remarkable expression—"They are a miserable and ragged people." He himself could remember the distressing effect of the change in the silk duties, made in 1846 by the late Sir Robert Peel, in Coventry and Nuneaton, two-thirds of the population were for a long period out of work. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been pleased to say that in no instance had free-trade measures produced distress. The silk manufacturers and the operatives whom they employed felt keenly that the injury to which they were about to be exposed did not result from the free deliberations of the representatives of the people; they openly and reasonably expressed their conviction that the House of Commons was not acting freely on their own sense of what English interests required, but that they were contending with two Governments—the Minister of the British Crown and the Government of France—that the House of Commons were in danger of succumbing to, the influence of two Crowns; they hoped that the House would vindicate its independent sense of duty in their favour; and they knew that, even after the first pressure of this Treaty was passed, the great bulk of the articles they produced could not compete with their rivals in France under a duty of 30 per cent. It was unfair at the outset, that under the Treaty the duties on the importation of silk goods from France were to be remitted immediately, while any advantage which the people of Coventry might obtain, chimerical as this was, the change in the French tariff would be delayed till 1861. The hon. Member for Coventry had told 2115 them that the silk trade was a progressive trade. Certainly, he did not represent an idle people. They did not impugn the reduction of duty made by Sir Robert Peel; but it was wise only because it was accompanied with corresponding advantages. If they compared the imports and exports of the three years 1844–5–6 with the imports of the 'three years 1856–7–8, they would find that the import of French goods had trebled, while the export on English silk fabrics had doubled. It had been said that it was beneficial to reduce import duties. Under the legislation of Sir Robert Peel, the imports of these articles had trebled while the exports of this country had doubled. The Government could not deny this fact, nor could they justify their disturbance of an arrangement so obviously beneficial both to the consumers and the producers of this country. Granting that it was worth while to conciliate the goodwill of France, how could they justify the retention of all prohibitions against the introduction of mixed goods into France for the first eighteen months, when the heaviest pressure would fall upon our people, the free imports commencing in the spring, and thus giving the foreigner the command of our domestic markets?—it was a fact which he regretted, that, owing to the weakness of the ladies of England, the manufacturers and milliners of France set the fashions for England. Hon. Members might think that a foolish fact, and beneath their consideration, but it was a fact which vitally affected large portions of the English silk trade. Had the Governments of England and France become joint, that we were about to concede such unfair advantages to that country? It was proposed the arbitrary decrees of that Power should destroy the welfare of his constituents? [Hear, hear!] He was not ashamed of expressing these sentiments. He was addressing a constituent assembly, of which he was a humble Member; some might be, but he was not, too proud to perform the duties of a representative. He spoke, not as Mr. Newdegate, but as one of the Members for North Warwickshire. If the Government did not require the assent of Parliament to this Treaty—if it was a transaction entirely within the prerogative of the Crown—why did they insult the representatives of the people by asking them to consider provisions which they had no power to alter or to reject? If England was about to 2116 carry out free trade with France, then should France likewise adopt free trade in favour of England, and the action of the two Governments ought to be simultaneous It was the duty of the House to insist on fair play for the labour of this country, and if there were any English spirit left in the House of Commons they would demand reciprocity. He appealed to the hon. Member for Birmingham, who claimed to be a friend of the working classes, to protect the interests of those classes by insisting on the adoption of free trade by France, if England was to carry out that system under a treaty with that Power. The hon. Member had said, at a meeting a few days ago at Manchester, which he most erroneously implied was unanimous in their approbation of this Treaty, "As regards silk and other articles, I won't go into those questions. We do not want convincing on all these points. We are agreed, that if we cannot manufacture without protective duties we had better shut up."[Hear, hear!] He (Mr. Newdegate) was not surprised at that cheer, as emanating from certain hon. Members; he knew their blind devotion to what they called free trade; but he would ask if such was their devotion to free trade, why did they not insist upon a free trade on the part of France? How could they reconcile with their system of free imports the retention of prohibition by France for 18 months, and then the imposition of protective duties of 30 and 25 per cent? All the present Motion asked was, that there should be a change in France simultaneous and similar to that in England. Perhaps hon. Members might be afraid of interrupting the friendly relations which, it was said, existed between the Emperor of the French and Mr. Cobden, their negotiator. Mr. Cobden had written about the affairs of Russia and Turkey? And in a pamphlet he published in 1836 on that subject, the hon. Member showed his democratic devotion to despotism, by expressing his opinion that the encroachments of Russia by no means affected the interests of England so vitally as some writers imagined. So enamoured was the hon. Member with the despotism of Russia, that he would have ceded Turkey at once to her possession. Mr. Cobden further said, that he claimed for the Manchester manufacturers the right of putting this matter entirely on a footing of self-interest; that he did not for a moment imagine that they were called 2117 upon to preserve the peace and good order of the world. That Constantinople would be a better customer to them if held by Russia. He commended the Government of Russia, because wealthy merchants were exempted from corporal punishment in that country, to which the less wealthy were liable. Mr. Cobden seemed about as consistent in his attachment to personal freedom as this Treaty was with the system of free trade. The hon. Gentleman was well spoken of at Manchester; but curious reports were current there respecting him. It was said that so complete was the admiration felt by the hon. Member (Mr. Cobden), that advocate of democratic doctrines—so entirely was he épris with the Emperor of the French and his system—that he had declared—notwithstanding the restrictions upon the liberty of the French press, and notwithstanding the fact that the Chambers were what he (Mr. Newdegate) was afraid that House was becoming, mere registration offices for the decrees of the Emperor of the French—that he (Mr. Cobden) could not discover what the people of France had to complain of. Such were the reports, current in Manchester respecting Mr. Cobden, where, if anywhere, that hon. Member was well spoken of. He asked the Government to justify this—that at the commencement of the year, when the fashions were coming in, France should have the sanction of the Government of England for retaining prohibition against the admission into France of the great bulk of English silk goods, while we were to open the ports of this country to the imports of France immediately we were to sanction for eighteen months the retention by France of prohibition against the great body of our goods, and after that the levy by France of double the duty that we were about to abandon, and then a duty of 25 per cent for the remainder of the ten years. This was simply offering up the interests of his (Mr. Newdegate's) constituents as a holocaust to foreign political arrangements. He would remind the hon. Member for Birmingham, that, in reply to a communication from certain working men, he had used strong language with regard to the effects which "the miserable complications of foreign affairs" exercise upon the condition of the industrious classes in this country; and that in his letter of last year to the delegates of the trade of Glasgow, he had stated, that if he were a younger man and in their position he would emigrate either to the United 2118 States or to some of the British colonies, and recommended them to do so. He would ask the hon. Member for Birmingham whether this Treaty did not promise to afford a severe instance of the misery of being mixed up with foreign complications? He would ask the House of Commons whether they would sanction the shutting up of the silk-trade mills as recommended by the hon. Member for Birmingham? and whether the House intended by their conduct to enforce the hon. Member's recommendation, that the working men of this country should be forced to emigrate? This showed how arbitrary might become a system which considered only the consumer, but would be bitter in its effects on interests which had been cared for by statesmen whose policy the Chancellor of the Exchequer pretended to imitate. The legislation of that House would be harsh, if, yielding to the influence of two Governments, they failed to grant to the silk trade that substantial justice which could only be afforded by a fair system of exchange.
§ MR. TURNER
observed, that the hon. Member for Coventry (Sir Joseph Paxton) had stated that all the silk trade were unanimous against that part of the Treaty which related to silk, with one exception-Manchester. He (Mr. Turner) was proud to say it was so. It might be said that this Treaty or Budget was such a Manchester treaty or budget that the people of Manchester were bound to support it in all its particulars. He was glad to say that the Manchester Chamber of Commerce had expressed a unanimous opinion in favour of this Budget. He held in his hand a memorial on the same subject, dated November, 1852, which had been presented to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire from the silk trade of Manchester. The memorial set forth that their trade was in a depressed condition, that the workpeople were not fully employed, and that that branch of manufacture was almost stationary. They went on to say that was owing chiefly to the limited nature of the foreign demand for their goods, and they were of opinion that was attributable to the high protective duty, the effect of which was to create an impression that England is unable to compete with continental silk manufacturers, and thus to throw the trade almost entirely into the hands of the French and Swiss. Now he (Mr. Turner) was of opinion that if the Manchester manufacturers 2119 either of silk, cotton, or any other branch could not maintain their position against competition with foreign nations, it was time for them to turn their attention to Borne other branch of business; and he firmly believed that instead of their being injured by competition, they would be stimulated, as they had always been by competition, to renew exertions in trade.
§ SIR EDWARD GROGAN
, as a representative of a city which still carried on a rather extensive trade in silk, would give his support to the Motion of the hon. Member for Coventry. Without entering into the Treaty, he did say that when he remembered the success which attended the representations made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the French Government in respect of the injury that would be inflicted on the spirit trade by the proposition of the French Government, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be induced to bring the claims of the silk trade also under the consideration of the French Government, in order to obtain some modification. One peculiar branch of the silk trade in Dublin was poplin, the manufacture of which was tolerably extensive, and which was a very superior article, but was at present prohibited in France. He had received a communication from a large poplin manufacturer, stating that that branch carried on a considerable trade with Russia, Germany, and Prussia; that they would be able at a moderate duty to carry on a trade with Franco, but that the duty at present levied on its importation into France amounted to all but a prohibition.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he would not long take up the time of the House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) laid very heavy charges at their door—he said that they had no principle of justice and no feeling of benevolence towards a portion of the people. That, indeed, was the very least of what he said during a long speech. Another delusion also appeared to occupy his mind, that he (Mr. Bright) and others could influence the Legislature of France. Well, he must say he found it quite hard enough to do his duty towards his constituents in his own country without any reference to France. As for the Amendment before the Committee, its effect, to put it in brief terms, was that we were not to take anything free from France or from any other country, unless France or that other country look something or everything 2120 from us. Suppose we were to apply that principle to corn, what then? As regarded France, now there was a sliding scale on the importation of corn. We have no sliding scale here, but if the hon. Gentleman carried his Resolution he would be quite in order, and it would be a consistent proposition to propose another Resolution that we should take no more cattle or corn from France unless France consented to have corn and cattle from us. He believed the people of Coventry were labouring under a great delusion in thinking that (to use a favourite Protectionist term) they should be "inundated" with French silks; nor could he see why the French people might not suffer themselves to be led away by a similar fallacy that they would be inundated with the silks of Coventry. He could not see how the same articles could be exported from France to England and from England to France at the same time, and leave a profit to the manufacturers in both countries. What wore the facts of the silk manufacture for which the hon. Member for Coventry was so alarmed? The English manufacturers bought their raw silk as cheaply as the French manufacturers bought theirs, for France could not grow all the silk it required, but imported it from China and Italy. Well, in what other element of cost was there such a difference? It could not be said we were not superior to France in respect of machinery. A phantom haunted many of late regarding the sending of our coals to France. Well, at any rate, we had our coals for our manufacturers on the spot, and so considerably cheaper. In cotton and in all other manufactures the machinery producing power was cheaper here than in any other country. Another element in the cost of production was the wages of labour; but here too any one conversant with the condition of France of late years must know that the wages of labour there, as well as here, were on the increase. As to the respective abilities of the French and English workmen, he had never spoken to any gentleman able to form a judgment on the subject who was not of opinion that an English workman in any department of mere labour—not design—was superior to a French workman. As to design and skill, there was no appreciable difference between the two countries. There were many trades in this country which were furnished with French designs by Frenchmen residing in England; and indeed a man might easily bring from 2121 France the best and newest designs, were he so inclined, at little or no cost of carriage, in his carpet-bag or portmanteau. His hon. Friend the Member for Coventry spoke of the increase in prosperity and population of Coventry during late years. Well, but did not this show the great enterprise, industry, skill, and capital of her manufacturers, and their vast command of machinery power—all tending to establish what no one could doubt—their complete success? He ventured to say that if his hon. Friend came here in ten years to come, as he (Mr. Bright) hoped his hon. Friend would, he would admit that the progress of the trade in Coventry was even greater in the interval. Protection not only made arts and manufactures wither and decay, but it also seemed to enfeeble the mind and reasoning powers of those who were subject to its influence. In its advocates there was an utter want of logic, an absence of faith, and a giving way to terror, of which even children ought to be ashamed. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had challenged any Member to point out a single class of operatives or capitalists which had been deteriorated during the last ten years by the changes which had taken place in our legislation; and, indeed, it must he admitted that the few who still upheld such principles practically every day of their lives condemned them. He was glad to hear a Member for an agricultural county (Mr. Sclater-Booth) say, that after the principles of free trade had been applied to agriculture, it was fair they should be applied to manufactures. He (Mr. Bright) thought the argument irresistible. They had applied the principles of free trade to agriculture, against the strong opinions of the agricultural class. They, the agricultural class, were mistaken, and so were many of the manufacturing class now. Events had shown how false the prediction of the working of those principles had been in the case of the land, and that they had been not pernicious, but eminently beneficial. Therefore he hoped the right hon. Member for Coventry would take courage, and when he went down to his constituency, tell them that he had great reason to think those dangers had been much over-stated, and he trusted that in future meetings, his hon. Friend would have the satisfaction of telling them that though he had made this final and hopeless effort on their behalf, he must then congratulate them that he had failed, and that they had been compelled to 2122 enter on equal terms with their foreign competitors upon the field of enterprise opened to them by the proposal now laid before the House.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, the hon. Member for Birmingham, with all his eloquence, and by all the numerous speeches he had made on Lancashire platforms and in that House, had never been able to persuade the working men of England to adopt the free-trade dogmas he had announced. He had never been able to persuade the people he was fond of calling the most enlightened in the world—the people of the United States—to accept them. The hon. Member must, therefore, excuse him if he pleaded the cause of a people as benighted as those of the United States or of France. The dogmas of free trade, as laid down by the hon. Member for Birmingham, had never been adopted by any people in the world. It deserved some consideration, whether this abstract theory was applicable to all conditions of men. They were told that every one who spoke against free trade gave himself up to an idle fallacy. The memorial from Manchester stated that the English silk manufacturers were not protected, and that French silks were found all over the world. Was that logic? According to the free-trade dogma the manufacture ought to flourish where there was no protection; and where prohibition existed, to go to the dogs. Yet, where prohibition existed it flourished and increased; in France it had increased three-fold in a comparatively short time, while here, with all our free-trade notions, it had scarcely progressed at all. There was not only no logic in the Manchester memorial, but absolute nonsense. He would ask whether the Free-traders were always as correct as they thought themselves? The hon. Member alluded to the importation of food. Here, by thinking their dogma must have an universal application, they were led into the most extraordinary contradictions. The soil of England could not produce enough food for the people; this fact at one placed it in a different position to other imports. Would the hon. Member say there were not weavers enough in the country to supply it with textile manufactures? There might be ploughmen enough, but there was not land enough to grow the food of the people. We had not in food the two things which were necessary to be combined to make unlimited production—the material to work upon and the labour to work with; and therefore the same principle was not appli- 2123 cable to the silk manufacture. In silk there were two different sorts of manufacture—one a commodity manufactured from the French raw silk, which was sought after by the richest classes, to whom it mattered very little what duty was imposed, as it was an article of luxury; the other, a commodity made from China and India silk, a coarse manufacture, which fashionable ladies would call a vulgar manufacture, and which was consumed by the great body of the country. It was carried on largely in England, and as the product from which it was made came from China and India it was in a slight degree cheaper than in France. But the Emperor of the French did not make hurried and secret treaties. With more providence and foresight he had actually built warehouses at Lyons for the reception of China silk, and had advanced money out of the Treasury to enable the French to come into the market against the people of this country, who were not afforded quite the same advantages. There was this difficulty in advocating the claims of the silk trade—this had always been a grumbling trade. They had cried "Wolf!" very often, and, as they were not yet destroyed, now they cried it again, it was erroneously supposed that they were not in much danger. It was said, "If the silk manufacturers cannot live, let them turn their hands to something else." He would like to ask whether they could be suddenly converted into puddlers of iron or potters. Some persons seemed to talk of working people as if they were mechanical entities. No doubt some men at Manchester regarded human beings as merely extensions of a system of engines. And therefore they said of one whose industry was destroyed, "Put him on to another engine; turn him over to something else." But they all knew that practically a man who had served a seven years' apprenticeship could not turn over to a new occupation. Who was to keep him while he learnt his new trade? The answer seemed to be, "Never mind, he is only a working man." But let the Committee consider what the sufferings of a working man might be. When the question affected the friends and relatives of gentlemen of the House of Commons, and there was a talk of getting rid of half-a-dozen clerks in the Foreign Office, great was the burst of indignation at the idea of a man in the Foreign Office being asked to learn some other profession or calling, and an Act was passed providing that if 2124 any protégé of a Member of the House of Commons was deprived of his office he should be entitled to a handsomely devised scale of compensation. But here were people who had lived in holes and corners, if they pleased,—yet in those holes and corners they might suffer an amount of misery which no one in that House could contemplate. And, although their sufferings might not be brought before them in petitions, like the petitions of the civil servants, to induce them to rescind an Act of Parliament, and grant £100,000, those sufferings would permeate through the ranks of the people, and make this transaction a millstone round the necks of those who were so glibly urging it forward. The people would soon begin to consider that there were some things more deserving a struggle than universal suffrage and vote by ballot. He was entitled on this subject to appeal to the judgment and caution of Sir Robert Peel. Sir Robert Peel removed all import duties on raw materials because that advanced the interests of the people; and he withdrew import duties from all those articles of production which were placed on a rock in this country, because they depended on certain natural facilities, but he preserved a just measure of duties on the smaller hand industry of the country. He would illustrate the case by a brief allusion to pottery. Although the clay from which china was made was found only in Cornwall, yet it must go into Staffordshire or Wales, where the coals and other clays were to be found. It was a protection by nature to the amount of 40 or 50 per cent on those commodities. In one sense they had the protection which the silk trade claimed, because localities and natural facilities gave them an especial advantage; but silk had this peculiarity, while a pound of corn was worth, perhaps, a penny, and would cost a halfpenny to be brought from any foreign source of supply, a pound of silk was worth a pound sterling, and could be placed as readily on the Continent, where people were living on 2s. 6d. a week, as in England. The cost of weaving was comparatively nothing where people lived in what we should call misery and degradation; and yet it was proposed to bring them face to face with our own weavers, who, perhaps, paid individually in taxes £5 a year—a sum equal to the whole wages of a man abroad. What he complained of was the heartlessness of a Treaty which, instead of exempting the silk trade, without a minute's notice ex- 2125 pressly left them as their only remedy to adopt the suggestion of the cotton lords of Manchester, and change their occupation. The Manchester Gentlemen, who talked so loudly of the rights of the people, gave at once their willing assent to these propositions; but they would not give the people an hour to consider them, but consented at once to sacrifice their whole interests. The delegate from Manchester did not think of them. His only thought was for the goods of Lancashire, and their cotton lags and woollen cloths. The silk trade had a further peculiarity—that it had not the advantages of factory labour, like the cotton, flax, or woollen manufacturers, but must be carried on to a large extent by handlooms. He was told on the best authority that gentlemen who had erected machinery for the silk manufacture had given it up, because it would not answer for the better class of productions, and there was more loss than gain attendant upon it. He had, however, been assured by a gentleman who was conversant with the subject, and who had been in Prance, that the silk hand-loom weavers in that country could do quite as much as the hand-loom weavers here, and that at a rate of remuneration less by thirty per cent. When, therefore, the hon. Member for Birmingham talked of the superiority of the English to the French workman, his observations must not be supposed to apply to the silk manufacture, which was a trade indigenous to France; and that being so, the Government, he should contend, had entirely lost sight of the interests of our operatives who were engaged in that particular occupation when they had entered into the present Treaty. He was aware that some of those hon. Members whom he saw around him were such frantic Free-traders, that they were opposed to the slightest expression of opinion which was not in accordance with their own. He wished they would read a speech of Mr. Burke, in which, when abandoning to a certain extent the theoretical views of the Whig party, he pointed out to them the true distinction between political theories and practical statesmanship, and he called upon them to devote themselves to the practical good of their country. It was that practical good, as opposed to mere theory, which he sought to effect in the case of a poor branch of traders, who were not in a position to make their voice heard as the spirit-dealers were, and who were about to be subjected to great suffering by the enforcement of hasty and 2126 ill-considered legislation. If the manufacturers of silk were shut up to-morrow, the weavers of silk might go into Lancashire and compete with the weavers there, and whose interests, he should like to know, under those circumstances would be advanced? Viewing the case in the light in which he had endeavoured to put it before the Committee, he, for one, should give his cordial support to the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Coventry,
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was anxious, before the Committee went to a division, to say a few words on the important subject under their consideration. It had been asserted that the present proposition had been recommended to the notice of the Committee under the pressure of two Governments—that the vote to which they were asked to come upon it was not to be taken on the merits of the case, but as the result of certain political engagements which had been entered into between England and France. Now, he wished in the most explicit manner to inform the Committee that that statement was one which was the reverse of the fact. The proposition to which he invited hon. Members to assent was made on its own merits—was recommended to them as being in harmony with the legislation of recent years, and calculated in itself to prove highly beneficial to the country. If, therefore, the proposal was one which in itself was good and sound, no sufficient reason, he should contend, for rejecting it was to be found in the circumstance that it was made through the medium of a treaty by means of which other benefits were sought to be attained. Now, the Motion before the Committee, he was prepared to admit, had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Coventry with great moderation, when the peculiarity of his position was taken into account; and he must be greatly astonished at some of the support he had received; but it was one to which, nevertheless, the Government did not deem it consistent with their duty to accede. The Committee was probably aware that as regarded the great article of ribands the duty levied in France was lower than that which we levied on French silks. It was a duty amounting to 7 per cent—or somewhat at the rate of 3s. per lb.—on the value of the goods; while the duty which we imposed, while nominally 15 per cent was in point of fact considerably more upon the silks which we imported. The whole question had, however, been 2127 argued upon the broadest grounds in the course of the discussion, both by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire and the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, who had taken the Committee back one or two generations into the past, and who had put forward views and opinions which, if they were good for anything, went to the very root of the course of legislation which we had been pursuing for the last eighteen years. It might indeed, after the speech which they had just heard, be very fairly said that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was a Protectionist—nay, something more than a Protectionist, for he seemed to be an advocate of the principle of setting up State warehouses such as those which he had pointed out were established in Lyons, in which by the providence of Government a supply of the raw material was provided for the manufacturer. The original tone of the debates on free trade had, in fact, been revived in the speech of the hon. Gentleman, by whom the hon. Member for Warwickshire, who had himself gone tolerably far in the direction of Protection, had been completely distanced. He was quite sure, if the mind of the hon. Member for Warwickshire was capable of admitting sentiments so ignoble as those of mortification at finding himself outdone in a career which he believed was especially his own, he must now be suffering tortures hardly to be described at seeing himself so completely distanced by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had displayed qualities which would have been invaluable at an earlier day, but he was afraid that now they were completely thrown away, like flowers "wasting their sweetness on the desert air." The hon. Member had caught, he would not say the slang, but the whole vocabulary which belonged to the days when the sanctuaries of protection were assailed by the profane hands of Mr. Huskisson. Free trade, he said, was all theory, and the views he advanced were those of a practical man; and then he talked of the heartlessness of the adherents of free trade. This was exactly the language used in the debates of 1825, when Mr. Huskisson, now pointed to with approval as a model wise legislator, was accused not only of being a hard-hearted metaphysician, but of having the sentiments of the devil in his breast. With the exception of the reference to that particular personage, the speech of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets quite came 2128 up to any of the denunciations previously pronounced. He drew a sad and deplorable picture of the sufferings of those whose labours had been displaced, but naturally forgot to inquire whether any labour had been displaced. The hon. Member spoke of the difficulties incidental to the trade, as if when protection existed in that branch of industry it was a Paradise, and every man was sure of a fair day's wages for a fair day's work. He seemed to think that the silk trade and protection had always existed together. But what was the truth of the matter? The silk manufacture took root in England centuries before the time of protection. It flourished in England in the 17th century, and it was only after it came to be protected, in 1697, that it began to droop, and to depend on legislative aid. Was there suffering then—no displaced labour? Had the hon. Member no compassion for the evil fortune which attended his favourite system? In 1765"the weavers went down to the Houses of Parliament in a body, to make personal application to the Members, representing their wretched condition, and praying for total prohibition of foreign goods. Parliament reduced the duties on raw and thrown silk; dealers in foreign goods countermanded their orders, and the weavers were appeased." In 1766 smuggling was carried on to a greater extent than ever, and 7,072 looms were out of employment—all this at a time when the system recommended by the hon. Gentleman was in the fullest vigour. In the same year the import and sale of foreign silks and velvets were totally prohibited, with the exception of those brought from India; but, in 1769, in that happy state of things when there ought to have been nothing but contentment and peace, the weavers formed combinations to compel their masters to raise their wages, committed various acts of violence on the property of their employers, destroyed their looms, &c, and in the riot several soldiers as well as weavers were killed.Constant disputes still continuing between employers and employed, an Act was passed in 1773 which enabled the weavers of Middlesex to demand a fixed price for their labour, which price was to be fixed by the magistrates; masters and men were restricted from giving or receiving more or less than the fixed price; the manufacturers were liable to heavy penalties if they employed weavers out of the district; the weavers also were restricted, under heavy penalties, not to employ, at any one time, more apprentices than two. This law remained in force until 1824. In 1784 additional duties were imposed, and in 1786 the 2129 silk trade was expressly excluded from a treaty with France. In 1793, 4,000 Spitalfield looms were quite idle, and at the end of the war the Spitalfield weavers were again involved in sufferings far more extensive and severe than at any former period, two-thirds being out of employment.That was the system which prevailed when the principles of the hon. Member were in operation. After that there came a change, and the men who made it were exposed to the same charges of heartlessness as the hon. Gentleman thought himself entitled to pronounce on the vast majority of the House of Commons. He had described the effects of the system the hon. Member patronized; and he asked, had there been 7,000 or 8,000 looms out of work since that period? Had there been any soldiers or weavers killed in carrying out that blessed system of trade regulations he advocated? Look at the facts of the case. In 1820 our imports of raw silk amounted to some 2,000,000 lbs., in 1859 they amounted to 9,920,000 lbs. In 1820 the exports of British manufactured silk goods came to £371,000, in 1859 they had risen to nearly £2,500,000. And in the face of all that the hon. Member came down to the House and claimed for his statements and principles the name of facts, experience, prudence, and wisdom, and dared to charge the majority of the House not only with error, but with heartlessness forsooth! The hon. Gentleman in commencing his speech expressed a hope that the Committee would listen with patience to his remarks, and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was glad they had done so, for he believed it was the last dissertation of the kind they would ever have within the walls of the British Parliament. The last of those prohibitive duties was now about to disappear from the tariff, and the opportunity they had just enjoyed was a rare one, and he should have been sorry if any momentary impatience had deprived them of the practical lessons they had just learned. It was not because of the French Treaty that the present Vote should be adopted. It was not a small and insignificant Vole, as comparatively speaking many of the others were—it was a large Vote and a large measure, involving a considerable sacrifice of revenue, and affecting the interests of a great and extensive trade. If the Committee thought it a bad Vote on its merits, let them reject it; but let them remember that if they did they would repudiate all the principles on which they had been acting for the last twenty years, and the 2130 adoption of which, instead of displacing labour and bringing classes and individuals to distress, had multiplied the comforts of the working man, and increased not only his sense of self-respect, but his loyalty as a member of society and a subject of the Queen.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
wished to state that the vote he was prepared to give on this question did not rest on the ground of protection, and that he had no sympathy with the arguments or views of either the hon. Member for Coventry or the Tower Hamlets. Those two hon. Members gave their vote in support of the Budget of the Government, and now they found that the Budget pressed upon their own constituencies, they came forward and raised their voices in behalf of interests to which he thought they must feel themselves they had put it out of their power to render any real service. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had invited the Committee to discuss this Vote upon its merits, and he had therefore a right to consider whether there did not exist serious financial objections to the proposal of the Government. He must, however, take decided exception to the right hon. Gentleman's statement that they could not reject the proposal to repeal the silk duties without reversing the policy of the last 20 years. He thought they were perfectly entitled to pronounce their opinion whether, in the present state of our finances, they ought to repeal a duty which brought into the Exchequer not less than £300,000 a year without pressing on any interest in the country, and which was fairly derived from taxation upon the rich. He should, therefore, oppose the proposal simply on financial grounds, as most improvident under existing circumstances
§ MR. BALL
said, that this question was so important to the inhabitants of Spitalfields and Bethnal-green, that if the Committee had any bowels of compassion they must pause before they agreed in the Vote proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Mr. Ball) had listened to the debate till he was fatigued and had fallen asleep; and when he recovered from his repose he found one-half of the hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench asleep also; and he thought it was absolute folly to go into the consideration of so important a question at that hour. He moved that the Chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again. He was the more disposed to insist on this as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated it was the last time 2131 they would have the opportunity of discussing the subject, and if it was the last, for God's sake let them linger upon it a little longer before they decided upon delivering up the poor silk-weavers to the ruin the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would bring upon them.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
hoped that, as the last speaker had refreshed himself, and was now, he trusted, in full possession of all his faculties, he would be able to state at any length he desired his opinions upon the Motion before the Committee. He further trusted that the question having then been fully discussed, the Committee would not separate without carrying it to a vote. He should oppose the Motion for reporting progress.
§ Motion made and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 28; Noes 233: Majority 205.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. CRAWFORD
appealed to the hon. Gentleman to allow the question of the silk duties to be at once settled. Gentlemen in the silk trade had already been put to great inconvenience, and goods were accumulated at the Custom-house waiting the decision of Parliament. He held in his hand a memorial to that effect signed by a considerable number of the chief dealers in the City of London. If the Committee did not pass the Resolution that night it could not be reported until Monday, and the merchants would not be able to pass their goods through the Customhouse until Tuesday. This would cause great inconvenience to the trade.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
also pointed out the evil of protracting the stagnation which had already lasted for three weeks, and assured hon. Gentlemen who wished to pursue that discussion that they should have an opportunity of doing so to-morrow, on the bringing up of the Report.
§ MR. BALL
said, he had made his Motion entirely upon the solicitation of the Spitalfield weavers and their employers, who had helped to return the hon. Member for the City (Mr. Crawford) to that House, and who apprehended perfect ruin from the 2132 measure which their representative now sought to press on.
MR. ELLICE (Coventry)
said, he voted with the minority, as he saw that several Members wished to express their opinions on the Resolution, and as he wished also to speak himself upon it; but he quite agreed with the Member for the City of London that it was of great importance that the decision of the House should be arrived at as promptly as possible.
§ MR. AYRTON
was also in favour of a speedy settlement of the question. The hon. Member also offered an explanation to the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but loud cries for a division made his observations inaudible.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment again proposed; Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 68, Noes 190. Majority 122.
Original Question put, and agreed to.
Silk, Millinery, or Manufactures of Silk, or of Silk and any other material, as denominated in the Tariff.
Stays, or Corsets, of Linen or of Cotton, or of Linen and Cotton mixed.
All other Toys.
Watches, as denominated in the Tariff.
Woollens, namely,—manufactures of Wool, or of Wool mixed with Cotton, as denominated in the Tariff.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 'Goods, being either in part or wholly manufactured, and not being enumerated or described, nor otherwise charged with duty, and not prohibited to be imported into or used in Great Britain or Ireland; but if any such Goods shall be composed of any Article liable to Duty, as a part or ingredient thereof, then such Goods shall be chargeable with the full duty payable on such Article, or if composed of more than one Article liable to Duty, then with the full Duty payable on the Article charged with the highest rate of Duty,' stand part of the proposed Resolution.
§ MR. AYRTON
wished for an explanation also of the next paragraph of the Resolution, which related to some goods unenumerated. He asked whether this included furniture made of wood which, as he believed, paid a duty. The English manufacturer ought not to have to com- 2133 pete with foreign-made furniture whilst the imports of the material which he used were subject to duty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would look into the list to see whether furniture was included and give the hon. Member an exact answer; but he could state that there was no duty on furniture woods; and that the duty on wood would be only at a nominal rate. The Resolution provided for the case of articles made of materials liable to duty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would withdraw the paragraph of the Resolution, and propose it again at the next sitting of the Committee as a separate Resolution.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ To report progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at half-past One o'clock.