§ MR. BYNG
said, he then rose to move an Address to the Queen on the subject of the Commercial Treaty with France. The House would feel that he presented himself under circumstances of no ordinary importance and difficulty. The responsibility attendant on a duty similar to that which he had undertaken would at all times be very great, but it had been seriously increased by the discussion that took place on Monday evening. At the risk of detaining the House for a few moments on a matter personal to himself, he could not refrain from stating that, if hon. Gentlemen on the other side had suffered any inconvenience from the shortness of the notice he had given, no one could more deeply regret that circumstance than himself. But he might remind the House that a fortnight ago notice was given of a Motion of a very serious character. It was given, he believed, very nearly at the same hour at which he gave his on Friday night, but there was this difference between the two cases, that whereas the notice given on the 17th February by the right hon. Gentleman 122 the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) only appeared in the Votes on Saturday morning, he thought it respectful that he should give public notice of his Motion at the same time, in order that those Gentlemen who had left London might, if they did not receive their Parliamentary papers, see it in the public journals. He also took the earliest opportunity of sending a copy of his Motion to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks and the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) and he hoped, therefore, the House would acquit him of any intentional disrespect. He was glad to think that, whether or not his opinions or his arguments would meet with the assent of the House, he was, at all events, treading that night in the steps marked out by precedent and constitutional usage. He found that on the 21st of February, 1787, Mr. Blackburn, the Member for Lancashire, and Captain Berkeley, the Member for Gloucestershire, respectively moved and seconded an Address to the Crown, expressing the approbation of the Commons of England of a treaty of commerce which the reigning Sovereign had entered into with the King of France, and within his own recollection, when in 1856 a treaty of peace was concluded between Her Majesty and the Emperor of Russia, the right hon. Gentleman in the chair, and the right hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert) were severally the exponents of the feelings of the House in their loyal and dutiful reply to the gracious message from the Crown. Under ordinary circumstances, when a treaty like the present was concluded, it was difficult to separate its political from its commercial bearings. On this occasion it was not only difficult, but simply impossible to do so, and therefore he did not wish to shrink from discussing the political as well as the commercial elements of the Treaty. He should have felt satisfied a fortnight ago with using the language employed by Earl Cowley in the correspondence which had been laid on the table, and expressing the hope that the generous and philanthropic views which had actuated Her Majesty's Government in concluding the Treaty might meet with their reward by proving the means of drawing closer together the bonds of amity between the two countries for whose benefit the Treaty had been contracted, but he now was obliged to go somewhat further. The House knew that he was not in the secrets of the Government, and that all he said, therefore, was but the simple expression 123 of the opinions of an independent Member of the British Parliament. If he had thought for one moment that the Government intended to pursue any other course of policy abroad than that which was far less the opinion of any set of Ministers than the predetermined will of the country —a policy which during the last few months had been marked by dignity and moderation—he should not have undertaken the duty which he had risen to discharge, but he firmly believed that no change was contemplated in that respect. He knew that definitions were difficult, he was sure they were dangerous; but if he were asked to define what the foreign policy of this country ought to be, he should say it should be a combination of dignified forbearance, calm conciliation, and friendly intercourse with all nations. It was our duty to embrace every fair opportunity of extending our commercial and trading connections with other countries. With regard to peace we should use every means in our power to preserve it unstained and unsullied. With regard to war, he would bid them bear in mind the old motto on the Spanish sword —"Do not draw me without reason, nor sheath me without honour." Let this country respect treaties, let it not refuse its good offices when solicited to offer them, out, above all, let it not interfere unnecessarily and unwarily in the internal affairs of other nations. He believed that a policy of that kind would secure respect abroad, and he felt certain that it would acquire confidence at home. At the same time, while England pursued that line of policy, there was no reason why it should not on all legitimate opportunities endeavour to extend its trading and commercial relations with other countries, more especially when, as in the present instance, such a course would go far to wipe out old prejudices and ancient grudges. There was a subject connected with foreign policy of a painful character and of such importance that he did not wish his feelings with respect to it to be misunderstood for one moment. He would willingly have postponed any observations with respect to the annexation of Savoy to a more legitimate opportunity, but, as he believed that the Motion he was about to make involved to a certain degree an expression on the part of the House of confidence in the Ministry, thus much he would say, that he believed in respect to foreign policy the honour and best interests of England were in safe and trustworthy hands. To say 124 more would be inopportune. He would now pass on to the subject that was more immediately inviting their attention, and first, he would ask the House to consider what had occurred during the last eight nights of debate on the Commercial Treaty with France. He had heard with some surprise the statement made by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire that the course taken by the Government with respect to the Treaty was neither right nor fair as regarded the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government should first have invited the House to express approbation or disapprobation of the Treaty on a Motion of an Address to the Crown, and that if that Motion were decided in the affirmative the House should have proceeded to discuss, and reject or accept, the various items connected with the Customs' duties. The House, however, had given its vote against the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and they had had lengthened debates on a number of points involved in the Treaty. He (Mr. Byng) had been surprised to find that the very course which the right hon. Gentleman recommended was denounced by the leader of the Opposition in 1787. Mr. Fox declared that of all ways the proceeding by Address was the most unconstitutional and dangerous; that it tended to deprive the House of its legislative functions, tied up the hands of Members, and tended to annul all those forms which our ancestors had devised to secure freedom of discussion. The course pursued on the present occasion was not obnoxious to any of those charges. The Chancellor of the Exchequer laid on the table of the House the provisions of the Treaty of Commerce at the same time that he made his financial statement. Time was allowed the country to deliberate on the propositions; deputation after deputation waited on the right hon. Gentleman, and all the great trading and monied interests of the country were consulted. Many amendments were proposed; many deficiencies were detected, and after the discussions which had taken place he believed that the House was in a position, with a due regard to the public interests, to pronounce an affirmative or the reverse upon the proposition he was about to submit to it. He could not help being struck by what occurred during the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Du Cane). The question was very fairly raised by that hon. Member, 125 but upon that occasion some of the Conservative Members, for South Lancashire, Liverpool, Cornwall, Northumberland, the Potteries, and other places, declined to follow the hon. Gentleman; and he therefore drew the inference that those Gentlemen were convinced of the beneficial character of the Treaty, and that they wisely preferred what they believed to be the interests of their constituents and of the country to any advantage to be gained by a party victory. In glancing at the Treaty he would not endeavour to over-estimate its advantages, or undervalue its corresponding disadvantages, but if he were asked why he supported the Treaty he should say, because it involved on the part of this country the almost entire removal of protective duties, and that simplification of the Tariff so long and urgently asked for. With the permission of the House, he would quote a few figures in order to show that the country had been advancing rapidly in this direction during recent years. Two hundred years ago there were 1,630 articles charged with Customs' duty; in 1787 there were 1,425 articles charged with duty; in 1826, 1,280 articles; in 1841, 1,163 articles; in 1845, 1,052 articles; in 1853, 466 articles; in 1859, 419 articles; and in 1860, when the present Treaty would come into effect, if the proposals of Her Majesty's Government were adopted, there would be only forty-four articles charged with duty. He likewise valued the Treaty because, in the first place, it constituted on the part of France an abandonment of prohibition, and, in the next, it established a great reduction of the import duties on articles of English produce and manufacture. He had heard it stated during the late debates, and probably he should hear again that night that a bad bargain was being made for the people of this country. If it were a question of how much one party would give and how little another would take, that objection might have some weight, but he denied that these negotiations were entered upon in the spirit of mere barter or bargain. This was not, in a literal sense, a treaty of reciprocity, but it was one of mutual benefit. Through this treaty the people of England said to the people of France, "We have seen past years of privation and distress; but recent years have been marked by unexampled prosperity in our commercial undertakings; this shows that the policy on which our legislation is now founded is wise and just in principle, 126 and, as we wish other nations to be pros-perous as well as ourselves, we invite you to meet us in the spirit of free trade; we do not ask for a bargain or barter, in making which everything must be weighed with exact nicety, and where the slightest preponderance would vitiate the fairness of the proceeding, but we ask you to remove prohibition and reduce protective duties, meeting us in a spirit of free trade, and we venture to predict that our convictions, which are strong on this subject, will become yours also." And how did the people of Prance answer this appeal? They said, "We recognize the justness of your arguments, and your condition justifies your statements; but these views are novel to many of us and unpalatable to others. Give us time, therefore, and we will endeavour to meet you in the path of commercial progress, and honourably and faithfully endeavour to carry out all our engagements." Paradoxical as it might appear he thought the mere fact that the Treaty did not excite on either side of the Channel any great enthusiasm was a proof of its impartiality. While in this country persons were heard in certain quarters grumbling with the Government for giving up all and getting too little, French manufacturers were complaining that 30 or 25 per cent ad valorem duties would hardly enable them to compete with English manufacturers. But what was the opinion of Mr. Pitt in 1787 with respect to the mutual advantages conferred by such a treaty as the present? Mr. Pitt said:—It was ridiculous to imagine that the French would consent to yield ad vantages without an idea of return; the Treaty would be of benefit to them; but he did not hesitate to pronounce his firm opinion, even in the eyes of France, that, though advantageous to her, it would be more so to us. The proof of this assertion was short and indubitable. She gained for her wines and other produce a great and opulent market; we did the same and to a much greater degree. It was in the nature and essence of an agreement between a manufacturing country and a country blessed with peculiar productions that the advantage must terminate in favour of the former; but it was particularly disposed and fitted for both the connection. Thus, France, was, by the peculiar dispensation of Providence, gifted perhaps more than any other country upon earth with what made life desirable in point of soil, climate, and natural productions. Britain was not thus blessed by nature; but, on the contrary, it possessed, through the happy freedom of its constitution and the equal security of its laws, an energy in its enterprise and a stability in its exertions which had gradually raised it to a state of commercial grandeur, and, not being so bountifully gifted by Heaven, it had recourse to labour and art, by which it had acquired the ability of supplying its neighbour with 127 all the necessary embellishments of life in exchange for her natural luxuries." [Hansard, Parl. Hist. xxvi., 394,]Every word uttered by Mr. Pitt in 1787 applied to the present Treaty, with this qualification, that at the present time the people were even more anxious than formerly that the inventive genius and mechanical industry of the two countries should be directed not to their mutual destruction, but to their relative improvement. Those who complained that France did not march in the steps of free trade with the same alacrity and rapidity, which we now displayed, ought to remember that England had arrived at her present convictions only by slow and painful degrees. We, too, had passed through the various stages of prohibition and protection; and if our neighbour in banishing the former still clung to the latter, we should endeavour to lend them a helping hand. On this point Mr. Buckle, in a well-known work, used some remarkable words. Speaking of free trade, he said:—It should always be remembered, as a proof of the backwardness of political knowledge, and of the incompetence of political legislators, that although the principles of free trade had been established for nearly a century by a chain of arguments as solid as those on which the truths of mathematics are based, they were to the last moment strenuously resisted, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that that was conceded the necessity of which had been proved by the ablest men during three successive generations.It would be neither just nor right on his part if he were to abstain from noticing what he considered the errors of omission and commission in this Treaty. He could assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) that he sympathised in the feeling which had induced him to give notice of an Amendment to that Motion, and that he deeply regretted that, upon an occasion when the commerce of the country was to receive a material development, the shipping interest would still be subjected to harsh and injurious restrictions. It should be remembered, however, that this was a Treaty of Commerce, and not of navigation, and although it would affect the indirect trade, the direct trade, as he understood the Navigation Laws, would not suffer. Thus, an English ship going with an English cargo to a French port, would stand on precisely the same footing as a French ship; but if a Dutch or American ship went to France with a cargo of English produce, the differential duties in such a 128 case would be levied. He sincerely hoped, with his hon. Friend (Mr. Lindsay), that this state of things would not last. Another objection taken to the Treaty was of equal importance. He confessed that when he first read it he regarded the 11th Article with concern and apprehension. But the more he had considered the subject, and the more he had received information from competent authorities, the more had those feelings of concern and apprehension been removed. He now believed that in case of war the 11th Article would have no force with regard to the antecedent rights of other countries. What was the opinion of the Lord Chancellor on our undertaking to impose no export duty on coals?—As to the prohibition, this is merely intended by both sides commercially, and for commercial purposes it is most fair. If war should break out with France, the prohibition has no operation. It has no effect upon belligerent or neutral rights.He (Mr. Byng) would, with deference, go further than this, for it seemed to him that, supposing we were at peace with France, and war were to break out between France and a friendly Power, which Power complained of our export of coals, as thereby furnishing France with munitions of war, we should not be able to let that Article of the Treaty continue in force. But, besides this, his feeling of regret at the existence of the 11th Article had been considerably diminished by the fact that ours was not the only country from which France derived its supplies of coal. The Belgian collieries were of large extent, and France might, in case of need, draw considerable stores from the shores of the Black Sea. One argument used against the Treaty on this subject had somewhat astonished him. It was said that we ought to retain the power of prohibiting the export of coal because the veins of coal in England only contained sufficient to last us for 400 years. That reminded him of a passage in a witty author respecting the people of Laputa, who, though they enjoyed many advantages of soil and climate, were described as being perpetually tormented by the fear that, at some time or other, the rays of the sun would be extinguished, and neither light nor heat would be received from this source. But supposing it were proved that the 11th Article were so injurious to the interest of England, was it absolutely binding on the Government? From the statement made by the Foreign Secretary on this point he gathered that the clause was 129 capable of modification and of alteration, and that it would be in the power of the Government almost to reject it, if they thought fit to do so. Passing from these objections, he would ask the House these questions, "Do you believe this Commercial Treaty to be right in principle? Do you believe that, if fairly and honourably carried out, it will conduce to the advantage of the two contracting parties—that by its operation trade and commerce will be extended, and the material and industrial resources of both countries developed—that it has been entered into in a spirit of mutual conciliation and good-will, with a firm hope that it will produce between the people of the two countries an alliance more stable and permanent than any which can be formed between Sovereigns and Governments? Do you believe that it will knit together the two nations in one common bond of friendship and interest, and that the Treaty is one which will bear the scrutiny of time and the judgment of posterity?" If the House could return an affirmative answer to these propositions, he asked their cooperation in this Address. They had all, no doubt, consulted the precedent of 1787, and studied the debates on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had taken a technical objection to the words of the Address he was about to move, but it really breathed the same spirit of loyal attachment to the Throne as the Address to which he had referred, and the House of Commons was animated seventy years ago by the same hope which, he felt certain, now animated men of all parties around him—namely, that whatever treaties Her Majesty might ratify they might tend to the happiness and glory of Her Majesty and to the prosperity of her dominions. Before concluding he had another duty to perform. If it were true, as had been said, that that man was a benefactor of mankind who made two blades of grass spring up where but one grew before, he was not a less wise and useful citizen in his generation who gave up time, health, and fortune, and the yet more precious treasures of a gifted intellect to carry out what he believed to be for the benefit of his country. Such a man we had seen. We had seen him receive the greatest reward to which in this country an honourable ambition could aspire,— the reward of seeing every day the successful results of his arduous efforts in the great contest of free trade against protection and monopoly. Not content, however, with this, he had sought 130 another and a wider field of action, in the wish that other countries should possess those benefits which, under Providence, had accrued to his own from a policy of unrestricted competition. Differences of opinion there might be respecting this Treaty; on the one hand its advantages, and on the other its disadvantages, might be over-estimated; but he (Mr. Byng) believed that there would be but one opinion as to the wise and patriotic part which had been played by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), and if the Treaty produced the happy results which many anticipated, it would ever be a source of pride and gratification to the Commons of England that it had been negotiated and, in the main, concluded by one of their own number. In conclusion, he would respectfully appeal to hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House not to allow individual discrepancies of opinion to prevent their joining with him in this Address. To those who sat opposite he would hold a different language. He would ask that great historical party—the Conservative Gentlemen of England—to approach the discussion of this great question in a spirit worthy of the occasion, and that when recording their votes to-night they would all, in the words of the prayer which was daily read at their table, "lay aside private interests, prejudices, and partial affections." He trusted it would never be said again that there was a desire on the part of any one in that House to stifle discussion, for it was impossible that discussion could there be stifled. He would call upon hon. Members to reflect upon the vast interests which were at stake, and to give such a vote as they could look back to in future times with pride and satisfaction. If they objected to the Treaty financially, commercially, politically, morally, or socially, then let them return an indignant negative to this proposal. If they believed that in the negotiations the honour and dignity of the Crown or the interests of the nation had been sacrificed, then let them move an Amendment. If they thought that the Government had trifled with the interests of the country or had failed in their duty, let them displace the Ministry, and although he believed the country would not ratify such a judgment, even if pronounced by that House, yet the people would understand the manliness of such a step. If, however, hon. Members believed —as, in his opinion, a great majority of them did believe—that the Treaty would 131 conduce to the best interests of England and France, he asked them to approach the Sovereign with the Address which he was about to propose, and to express with him a hope that, under the blessing of Providence— without which the efforts of the wisest statesman would fail—the two great nations of England and France might be still more closely united by the common bonds arising from identity of interests and reciprocity of intercourse, and thus prove, as they had heretofore proved, to be the pioneers of civilization and progress in all parts of the habitable globe.
Motion made, and Question proposed,—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to assure Her Majesty that, having considered the Treaty of Commerce concluded between Her Majesty and the Emperor of the French, this House begs leave to approach Her Majesty with their sincere and grateful acknowledgments for this new proof of Her Majesty's desire to promote the welfare and happiness of Her subjects:
To assure Her Majesty that we shall proceed to take such steps as may be necessary for giving effect to a system which we trust will promote a beneficial intercourse between Great Britain and France, tend to the extension of Trade and Manufacture, and give additional security for the continuance of the blessings of Peace.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he had the honour to second the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex, which had been proposed in a speech of so much ability, judgment, and good taste. He (Mr. Baines) felt it a deep satisfaction to join his hon. Friend in asking the House for its definitive approbation to a Treaty which had been formed to cement the friendship and advance the prosperity of the two greatest nations in the world. He felt that Her Majesty had in that exorcise of her prerogative conferred another great boon upon her subjects; and it was right that the House should express its grateful acknowledgments for an act which he believed would be mentioned in history as one of the memorable events of Her Majesty's bright and happy reign. His hon. Friend, representing the metropolitan county, had expressed the mind of his constituents upon this Treaty. He (Mr. Baines), coming from another part of the country, was there to declare the opinions of his constituents regarding this great compact. He might speak, he believed, not only for the great town which he represented, as possessing a considerable variety of important branches of industry, but for all the great branches of industry carried on in the counties of York and Lancaster, and the northern and the 132 midland counties. He believed that those engaged in the cotton, woollen, worsted, and linen manufactures, in the leather manufacture, in the porcelain and earthenware manufacture, in that of cutlery and hardware, in fact, in all the great branches of English industry, regarded the Treaty as opening a new market for their products, whilst, at the same time, they considered it a new pledge for peace. In the year 1855 he was a witness of two great and striking spectacles in the city of Paris. One took place in the Champs de Mars, and the other in the Champs Elysée. That in the Champs de Mars presented the spectacle of 60,000 French troops of all arms drawn up, and Her Majesty the Queen of England riding in an open chariot, attended by the Emperor and the marshals of France, through that vast host of armed men. That was an interesting spectacle, and he felt proud of his Queen. But he also felt proud of the French, for he felt that his Sovereign was as safe among that largo body of gallant men as if she was surrounded by her own guards and in the midst of her own capital. The most pleasing thought presented to his mind by that great spectacle was, that it was not merely an alliance of friendship between two Sovereigns, but that it was an indication of an alliance of a very important kind between two great nations. It was, however, merely a political alliance. He then went to the other spectacle, the exhibition in the Champs Elysées; and there he was led to see that the political alliance was not supplemented by a commercial alliance, for there he found the manufactures of his own town and his own county displayed, indeed, for show, but not permitted to be sold. They were not allowed to be introduced into France by the Commercial Code of the country. A special licence was granted for the in traduction of a few articles, by way of sample to the French manufactures, but as a general rule they were excluded. This was a great defect, for it showed there was not a perfect alliance between the two countries. The present Treaty had been concluded for the express purpose of remedying this evil. No one in that House would deny that commerce was the best guarantee of peace. He would show how extraordinary was the defect that now existed with regard to commercial interchange between the two countries. If they looked at the amount of that intercourse, they would find it dis- 133 gracefully insignificant compared with the vast amount of the industry and trade of England and France respectively. The exports of British and Irish produce and manufactures in 1859 amounted in value to £130,440,000; but the proportion sent to our nearest and wealthiest neighbour was only £4,744,000. But there was also an inequality between our imports from and exports to France, which it was the duty of Government, if possible, to remove. The imports from France into the United Kingdom, in the year 1858, amounted to £13,271,890, and in the same year the exports of British and Irish produce to Franco amounted only to £4,863,131. The exports to France were little more than one-third of the imports from France into this country. But a great part of those exports consisted of raw pro duce or of articles in the first stage of manufacture, for example:—Wool (sheep and lambs), £701,090; coal, £578,232; iron, wrought and unwrought, £533,876; copper do., £372,628; tin, unwrought, £68,175; yarn, cotton, £53,393; linen, £84,223; silk, £143,236; thrown silk, £372,675; woollens, £196,975; making the total value of raw or partially manufactured goods exported £3,164,603 out of £4,863,131, the total amount of exports from England to France in 1858. He begged, in the next place, to call attention to the following statement of the exports to France in 1858 of manufactured goods:—Cotton manufactures, £229,05^; hardware and cutlery, £99,115; linens, £67,260; machinery, £260,142; silk manufactures, £42,166; woollen, £256,212; total manufactures, exclusive of yarn, £953,953. From that return it appeared that less than one million's worth of their manufactures were exported in that year to their nearest neighbour. He begged, in the next place, to call attention to the following statement of exports of British and Irish produce in the year 1859: — To France, £4,744,103; United States, £22,611,283; Germany, £11,777,162 (exclusive of Austria); Australia, £4,939,199; Holland,£5,379,794; Russia, £3,493,016; Turkey, £3,752,458; Brazil, £3,686,353; Egypt (Mediterranean), £2,195,882. It was most evident that the amount of mutual and beneficial intercourse between the two countries of England and France was miserably below what it was calculated by nature to be, and which it might be, to the infinite advantage of both countries. Allusion was made by his hon. Friend who 134 preceded him to the admirable and unanswerable speech of Mr. Pitt, in defence of his Commercial Treaty with France. In a passage in that speech it was remarked, that while France excelled England in her natural productions, England excelled France in her manufactures, thus showing how desirable it was that an exchange of productions should be entered into between those two countries. The treaty of Mr. Pitt, affirmed by such enormous majorities worked well, and until the breaking out of hostilities the trade was continually and rapidly on the increase. But since that time they had had experience of two contrary kinds. They had the experience of twenty years of desolating war, by which the two countries were afflicted, by which mankind was injured, and by which civilization and Christianity were dishonoured. And they had had another sort of experience in England, and that was the experience of forty years of commercial reforms. Those forty years of commercial reforms were about to be closed by the Treaty before the House, which threw down almost every barrier that was interposed to prevent the establishment of perfect freedom of industry and consumption between England and all the world. Of course it did not throw down all the barriers in regard to France, but it was a great advance to perfect freedom on the part of that country. Had not their experience in England of the working of free trade sufficiently convinced them that they might take this step, and encourage Franco and other countries to follow their example? Had not all the interests deprived of protection been benefited? They took away the protection from their manufactures, from their commerce, from their colonies, from their agriculture, and from their shipping; and was there a single trade deprived of protection—bating partial and temporary exceptions—that was not much more extended and flourishing than when protection existed? Then what had been the results to different classes? To the landlord the removal of protection had brought an increase of rent-roll as well as securer rents—to the farmer a more abundant produce and a larger income — to the manufacturer a great extension of his operations—and to the merchant and tradesman the removal of protection had brought a great advance in prosperity. Great social and constitutional effects had also resulted from the removal of protection. They had a population much 135 more contented than they had when protection existed. The dangerous complaints of class against class — of bread-eater against bread-grower had entirely ceased, and they were enabled in consequence to enlarge the basis of the Constitution. The noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, had the singular honour and felicity, as the reward of his long course of consistent patriotism, to be able to present himself in that House, holding in one hand the Treaty of Commerce with France, and in the other the Reform Bill for England. He should regret if it were thought by the manufacturers of England that they had unworthy competitors in France. They would have in the French manufacturers worthy competitors. The enjoyed in France the advantages of nature and of art—they had sunnier skies, clearer streams, great knowledge of chemistry, a natural and cultivated taste, patient industry, and a prolific invention. And if there should be any of the manufacturers of England so conceited as to think that they could easily bear away the palm, he would tell them that they might go to France and look at the productions of the French manufacturers with infinite advantage to themselves. He had asked an eminent manufacturer whether he thought he should be able to send his goods to France under the duties now to be levied, and he thought he should; but he added that it was not to be supposed that the French manufacturers would remain where they were now, but that competition would stimulate them to new exertions and greater improvements. Hitherto the French manufacturers had not had that stimulant, and improvement had consequently been much more rapid on the part of the British manufacturer than on their part. Was there any reason, however, for us to despond? No. In England they had advantages of the most substantial kind which would enable them to compete with their livelier, more ingenious, and more tasteful rivals in France. They had in the first place accumulated wealth and capital, which —being charged with a lower rate of interest—was an agent of commerce and of manufactures of the greatest potency. Then they had iron in the utmost abundance and of the most excellent quality. They had coal, which, with iron, formed one of the main agents of manufacturing industry. They had machinery, in which they had not yet been approached by any other country. They had that talent for mechanical invention which had made England the birth- 136 place of spinning by rollers, of the steam-engine, of the power-loom, of railways, and of the telegraph. They had also labour of a kind the most valuable in the world. There was no labour equal to that of the English labourer in point of activity, energy, and endurance. They had also a principle of self-reliance on the part both of manufacturers and artizans that was not equalled in any country of Europe. They had perfect freedom of commerce and of institutions. And, lastly, they had an impregnable insular position opening to them all the commerce of the world, and protected by an invincible navy against any hostile attack. He was one of those who would maintain that their navy should always be the first in the world, and should be equal to every demand that might be made upon it in defence of the honour and interests of England. He assured the House that the great population among whom it was his lot to dwell, were animated by an earnest and true wish to cultivate a spirit of friendship and harmony with the French people, and to bury in oblivion the feelings which lingered in the recollections of by-gone days, when the two countries presented towards each other an attitude of antagonism. He believed the Treaty met the general approbation of the people, and that no party which should attempt to defeat it would find favour with the country. In conclusion, he might be permitted to remark that the utmost reach of political philosophy and all the results of historical experience just brought them to appreciate the old, simple, and Divine injunction, which might be attached as a motto to every commercial treaty, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
§ MR. W. S. LINDSAY
Sir, reference has been frequently made to the Treaty of 1787, but when we compare that Treaty with the Treaty which we are asked now to affirm, I must say that that Treaty of 1787 is a Treaty of Reciprocity in the strict sense of that word, as regards Commerce and Navigation. In the course of this discussion we have often been invited to accept the Treaty now under consideration, as furnishing good ground for warranting the continuance of peace between this country and France; and I am one of those who think that anything which tends to facilitate intercourse between nations, also tends strongly to the binding of those nations together But we must not forget that the Treaty of 1787 tended to make the ties much stronger between 137 England and France than this one is likely to do, and yet within three or four years after it was ratified a fearful war was commenced between the two countries. Although this present Treaty fails as a Treaty of Reciprocity, and falls very far short of that of 1787, nevertheless I feel bound to accept it, and feel also bound in gratitude to the Government, and especially to my hon. Friend Mr. Cobden, through whose exertions the Treaty was obtained, to use my best exertions to carry it through, and upon these grounds:—It does not effect, most certainly, all that I desire, and in truth it is very far short of what I desire; but it places England in a better position than she is in now, and it will give increased sources of employment to her people, and enlarged markets for her commerce; and as it places us in a better position than we have hitherto occupied, I give it my hearty concurrence and support. But I rose more particularly to direct the attention of the House to Article 3 of the Treaty, and to speak more particularly to the Maritime view of the case in our dealings with France. If honourable Members will turn to the Treaty they will see by Article I, that on British manufactures imported into France the duty shall in no case exceed 30 per cent, and so forth; and then, in Article 3, reference is made to the differential duty respecting French shipping; and looking at that Article 3, we should naturally draw the conclusion that the Article was levelled against English shipping; I was under the impression myself at first that it was levelled against English shipping but if hon. Members look closely into it they will see that, though the language is not so clear as it might have been, it has not this meaning, but leaves matters, in reference to the position of the British shipowner, exactly as they now are. The first Article states that certain articles are to be admitted upon paying a duty of not more than 30 per cent, but it does not say in what ships those articles shall be conveyed, and this leaves the importer at liberty to ship in any bottom he pleases. That being so, Article 3 is necessary; for, as the Navigation Law of France stands at present, there is no differential duty ou the produce or manufactures of England imported into France from this country in French or English vessels, and therefore, but for some such provision, foreign shipping — the shipping of America or of Holland, for 138 example, which are subject to differential duties in that trade—would have been able to come to our ports and load our manufactures, and proceed with the cargo to a port in France. Under these circumstances it was necessary to make a provision, that this Treaty should not interfere with the differential duties which now exist as between France and foreign shipping, I will, with permission of the House, endeavour to state how we stand with regard to the Navigation Laws of France. They divide themselves into four distinct heads. First, the direct trade between this country and France. In that direct trade the ships of England and France can load the manufactures or produce of England without differential duties of any kind whatever, except in reference to some paltry matters on both sides, which ought to be removed from the path of free trade. Then there is the coasting trade of France. That trade is confined entirely to the shipping of France; that is to say, if any foreign ship should take a cargo of goods from Havre to Bordeaux, she would be liable to confiscation, both goods and ship. Then there is the indirect trade, so far as regards the colonies and possessions of the respective countries, and the trade between them and the mother-country—that is to say, the trade between the French possessions and France, the trade between our East Indian possessions and France, and the trade between those colonies and possessions and England. The shipowner of France, as far as we are concerned, can enter into this trade with perfect freedom, as well as into our coasting trade. He can go to any of our possessions and load on the same terms as the English now do for the ports of England, or, by the laws of his own country, he can of course load for France. Now, British ships cannot load in the ports of Australia or India for France. They may load, indeed; but the differential duties on most articles imposed by France are so heavy against British ships, and consequently in favour of the French ships, that British ships are entirely prevented from loading from our possessions for ports of France. Then there is the indirect trade again, so far as regards the trade between foreign countries and France—that is to say, the trade between America and France, or China and France. By the Treaties of reciprocity which France has, the ships of America can leave the ports of America for France on the same terms 139 as French ships, but English ships cannot do so; in fact, the duty is so heavy that it is entirely prohibitory. Reference was made the other night to what has been stated in the Moniteur as being a great boon which the Emperor was about to grant to English shipping. At present the duty on cotton in French ships was the same as in American ships, while the duty on cotton in English ships was ½d per 1b., whereas, by the change about to be made the difference would be reduced to ¼d. per 1b. on cotton in British ships carrying it, say from New Orleans to Havre. A farthing a pound, however, was a probibitory duty as much as ½d., for the farthing amounted to just 50 per cent on the gross ' amount of freight on the cargo between I New Orleans and Havre, Therefore, to I reduce the charge from ½d. to ¼d, is no advantage at all, for the lower amount entierly prevents us from entering into that trade. I should wish to direct the attention of the House to one or two other points connected with this matter, and I would ask, "Has France gained by these restrictive duties?" If the system is unjust to us, it is more unjust towards the people of France—because it is a remarkable fact, that while the general Commerce of France has been increasing at a greater rate almost than any country in Europe, their shipping has remained almost at a standstill. I referred to M'Culloch's Commercial Dictionary the other day, and was astonished to find that from 1827 to 1836, the trade of Franco increased by 10,000,000,000 francs; from 1837 to 1846 it increased 15,000,000,000 francs; and from 1847 to 1856 the export and import trade of France increased by no less than 22,000,000,000 francs, and' this, was the "Special Commons" of that country; that is to say, it consisted of articles imported for their own use, or articles of their own manufacture exported. Yet while all this wonderful increase has been going on in their commerce, the shipping of France has been at a standstill, for in 1830 they had 14,852 vessels, and in 1857, 14,845, or just seven less than they had twenty-seven years before. It is true that the vessels now are of a larger tonnage, but at this moment the whole tonnage owned by France is only 1,00,000 tons, not one-sixth of what we Own, and little more than two-thirds of the tonnage owned in the city of New York. In 1787 France sent to San Domingo 527 ships, manned by 9,855 seamen, whilst in 1857 140 she had only 407 ships engaged in the whole trade of all her colonies and possessions, and those ships employed only 6,000 men. If, therefore, anybody had reason to complain of the narrow-minded policy of France, the people of France had most reason to complain. But we also have reason to complain, for while we throw open our ports to the shipping of France, and our coasting trade to the shipping of Franco, and whilst French ships are allowed to enter our ports on the same terms as our own shipping now enter them, France has made not the slightest concession to us. But what I am more anxious to direct attention to is, that if this Treaty, which I trust will be confirmed—is to produce the results we anticipate, it is utterly and absolutely essential that there be some material change in the Navigation Laws of France, and it is more necessary to make such alteration for the people of France than for those of England. I say not one word about the injustice of the law, which stipulates that we shall not take the produce of our own Colonies in our own ships into the ports of France, but I will endeavour to show that it is essential that Franco should make some change in her Navigation Laws. As I have said, the ships of France and England may take the manufactures of England to the ports of France; but, before many years are gone, the whole of that trade will be carried on in steamers. There will be large quantities of wine and silk coming from France, and large quantities of cotton goods— chiefly of the better sort of fabrics, I am told—going from England to France. But they will not be all going to one port. The cargo will be too valuable for any one place to take it, and it will be necessary for the vessel to proceed to two or more ports of France. An English ship at present can go to Liverpool and load a cargo for Havre, but she could not load a cargo from Havre to Bordeaux, for the moment it appeared that she was going from one port of France to another with cargo, the French authorities would stop her, and confiscate both ship and cargo. But the wines and silks of France will not in all oases be paid for by the manufactures of England; in many cases they will be paid for by the sugars and rice of India or the coffees of Ceylon. And how will the case stand then? The French merchant who has sold his wines to London has to receive payment in sugars from Calcutta, but he will not be able to take those sugars 141 to France in English ships. He will therefore be working at a great disadvantage. Now, Sir, I have on the paper a notice—I fear I must call it an Amendment, though I do not mean it as such, but only an addition to the Address—I suppose, however, in accordance with the rules of the House, it must be considered to be an Amendment. I feel myself placed in a somewhat awkward position, for I am anxious to see this Treaty ratified, because I think that the people of this country, and the shipowners of England will be considerable gainers by it, as it will increase that particular trade in which they and the shipowners of France are alone interested. But while I am anxious to see this Treaty of Commerce confirmed, I, at the same time, feel that some change must be made in the Navigation Laws of France, and I feel that it is but justice to the shipowners of England that some change should be made. Now, I am in this position: My great anxiety is to carry a Resolution of this House which will convey to the Emperor of the French the feeling of this House in regard to his Navigation Laws. I do not ask that the Emperor should place the ships of England on the same terms as we place the ships of France, but I ask that the trade of the colonies and dependencies of the respective countries may be placed on the same footing as the direct trade now is. I have stated the grounds upon which I ask this, and I have stated the necessity there is for it; but so anxious am I to confirm the Address to Her Majesty, that I am afraid to put my Amendment to the House, for fear I might prevent the ratification of this excellent Treaty, and if I press my Amendment to a division, and that division is against me, it will go to the Emperor of the French that we do not want a change in the French Navigation Laws. If on the other hand my Amendment is carried, if might defeat the conclusion of the Treaty. Under these circumstances, I think I shall best consult the interest of the shipowners of the country if I accept the offer which the noble Lord made to me the other night, and receive from him as early a day as possible for bringing forward what I propose as an Amendment, in a substantive form, when I understand I am to receive the support of the noble Lord; and I hope to be able thus to convey to the Emperor a distinct Resolution of Parliament in regard to this important matter. I shall therefore not press my Motion.
§ MR. PEACOCKE
said, he was ready to join issue with those who predicted that immense advantages would be derived from the Commercial Treaty with France. He opposed the Treaty, in the first place, because he did not believe the commercial relations of England with foreign countries ought to be made the subject of commercial treaties; next, because he thought no duty ought to be remitted of which the remission could not be defended on its own merits. If the Treaty had been negotiated by a Conservative Government, what, he would ask, would have been the language of the hon. Member for Birmingham? He would have denounced the Government as the enemies of the great cause of commercial freedom; he would have taunted them with being false prophets, and intimated that the bucolic intellect was unable to appreciate the great truths of M'Culloch and Ricardo; he would have contended that by negotiating this Treaty they had thrown back free-trade principles for a period of twenty years. And this Treaty had really, he believed, stopped the advance of free-trade principles in France. The Government of England had attempted to obtain commercial concessions from France by granting still greater. Was that the way to propagate free-trade principles in Franco? He thought, on the contrary, that if we were not to haggle and bargain with the French for the purpose of obtaining commercial advantages we should be more likely to induce them to adopt the principles of free trade. They would otherwise say that our faith in those principles was shaken, and that we had come to the conclusion that though excellent in theory they were ineffective in practice. He was opposed to commercial treaties in general, but he objected in a special manner to that under discussion, as tending to fetter our legislative action for a period of ten years, and deprived Parliament for that period of the free control over our financial code. No duties ought, he contended, to be abolished, the remission of which could not be defended on its own merits, and to that rule the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reference to the wine duties certainly formed an exception which the right hon. Gentleman had failed to justify. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his correspondence with Earl Cowley had admitted virtually that the remission was made for the purpose of obtaining concessions from France. The 143 right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, indeed, argued that those duties stood up like a brazen barrier between the poor man and a glass of wine, and that if they were only removed wine would become the beverage of the humbler classes. That, however, was a view of the question which was merely speculative and problematical; all we know for certain is, that wine is the beverage of the rich and tea the beverage of the poor; and it seemed to him, he must say, far from being a sound financial policy, at a moment when a deficiency of nine millions and a-half in the national exchequer existed, to cast away 2,000,000 of revenue for the sake of an hypothesis. Looking at the Treaty, however, upon its own merits, the view he was disposed to take of it was that it was an excellent Treaty for France. It was said, indeed, to be calculated to confer reciprocal advantages upon both the nations who were parties to its stipulations; but, for his own part, he could see very little of that reciprocity which some hon. Members seemed to suppose would be the result of its operations. France, under its provisions, would receive duty-free coal—an article which to her was of great importance for purposes of war: but how did she deal with the other products of our industry? While we consented to reduce or entirely to abolish duties, which we had hitherto levied on her staple products, she would continue to impose upon ours a duty of 30 per cent. If there was any reciprocity here it was unintelligible to him, and it was equally unintelligible on a former occasion to a Minister who enjoyed no inconsiderable reputation, who on a similar occasion, when the Dutch nation wished to treat our commerce after a similar fashion, sat down, and to our Minister at the Hague wrote in cypher his opinion of the matter in the following well-known lines:—In matters of commerce the fault of the DutchIs giving too little and asking too much;With equal advantage the French are content,So we'll clap on Dutch bottoms a twenty per cent.Nous frapperons Falck with a 20 per cent.Now, if the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who was ever ready to fashion his conduct after historical precedent, had sat down and written a despatch couched in a similar spirit, it would have been far more conducive to the interests of British commerce. He would not go into the question of the navigation laws, 144 which had been sufficiently dealt with by his hon. Friend who had just sat down. The operation of the Article of that Treaty which related to coal, which was at the present day almost as much a muniment of war as saltpetre or gunpowder itself, had been argued on the supposition of this country going to war with France. But he would ask what would be the consequence if France were to be engaged in hostilities with the United States or any other foreign Power? Why, the other Power would seize our transports, public feeling would be roused, and the result of our abiding by that Article, under those circumstances, might be that we should be dragged into a contest with such foreign Power contrary to our wishes, and in direct opposition to our best interests. But it was said the Treaty would tend to foster and extend friendly relations between the French and English people. Now, he, for one, was not sure that it would so effectually lead to the attainment of that object as some hon. Gentlemen seemed to suppose. The three great interests in France were the army, the priesthood, and the manufacturing classes. How her army was affected towards this country we had learnt from the addresses of the French colonels. The sentiments of her priesthood we had ascertained from the writings of M. Veuillot in the Univers. The manufacturing classes remained; whose industry existed only by the monopoly which they enjoyed. It was well known that under a change of fiscal system great distress must arise under the best circumstances. Let them consider what must be the effect of great distress in the manufacturing districts of France? We all knew what it implied in this country; starvation in the cottage and disorder in the market-place. When such distress had to be suffered in France, and when the people were told that it was owing to the importation of English goods, was that likely to produce in the minds of the manufacturing classes in France a feeling of favour towards England? For his own part, he was of opinion that the effect of the Treaty would be to unite in one common bond of hostility to England the three I great interests which he had named, and, believing that to be the case, as well as regarding it to be false in principle, one-sided in its provisions, and calculated to produce disastrous consequences, he had no alternative but to enter his protest against the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he rose to express his approval of the course which the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) had pursued in not pressing his Amendment upon the present occasion. The hon. Gentleman had, in adopting that course, he thought, consulted in the best manner the interests of those whose cause he had espoused, inasmuch as his Resolution, if it were passed at all that evening, could be carried only by a small majority, whereas upon a future occasion it might reasonably be expected to go forth with all that weight which attached to the unanimous decision of the House of Commons. Having said thus much upon that point, he might be permitted briefly to tender his thanks to the Government for having negotiated a treaty which would, he believed, be productive of very beneficial results. It afforded, he might add, no small indication of the favour with which that treaty was generally regarded that, so far as he could ascertain, it was highly approved by his constituents in Hull, who were, he would not say neglected in its negotiation, but, at all events, whose particular interests were not directly or immediately consulted by its provisions. The hon. Member who had just spoken, however, condemned the Treaty as making a bad bargain; but he (Mr. Clay) would not look upon it in the light of a bargain at all, for he could not help thinking that every concession which we pledged ourselves to make by virtue of it might very well be defended upon its own merits. It tended to render the path of free trade more easily trodden by the ruler of the French nation, and to make it almost impossible for France herself to stop short in the career which she had so auspiciously begun. Other countries, seeing the advantages which such a policy conferred, would be induced to follow her example, until at length principles from the adoption of which England had already de rived so much advantage would come to be prevalent throughout Europe. Seeing that such would be likely to be the result, he could not hesitate to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he could not understand how the Treaty could be regarded otherwise than as a bargain between the two countries by which it had been entered into, and, while prepared to admit that few hon. Members in that House were more interested than himself in the success of that bargain, yet he felt that he could not, on political grounds, even more important than its commercial consequences, give to it his support. As 146 Mr. Pitt had been quoted, he would take the liberty of quoting another authority, which would have even greater weight with the noble Lord the Minister for Foreign Affairs—he meant Mr. Fox—in order to justify him in viewing this question from a political point. In 1787 Mr. Fox said:—The object of France was to put us off our guard, to lull us into security, to prevent our cultivating other alliances, to lessen the dependence of foreign States upon us, to turn all our views to commercial profits, to make it the private interest of individuals rather to acquiesce in any future project of ambition which France might engage in rather than come to a rupture with her.If anything could prove the truth of Mr. Fox's remarks, applicable as he held them to be to this question and the present crisis, it would be, with reference to "commercial profits and private interests," what he should call the un-English observations that fell the other evening from the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright). He did not think the hon. Member would have uttered the sentiments he did but for the interests involved in this Commercial Treaty. The noble Lord himself, when on a former occasion he was understood to palliate the possible annexation of Savoy to France, had no doubt also in his view the importance to this country of carrying through this Commercial Treaty. And he would observe that he approved of the language of the noble Lord as exhibited in the Despatches, but he regretted that he did not go further, and avail himself of the opportunity, knowing of the desire of the French Government as to Savoy, to throw greater obstacles in the way. The Treaty of 1787 was constantly referred to, but the greatest difference existed between the two cases. In 1787, Mr. Pitt had a surplus of £1,500,000, while we in 1860 had a deficit of £10,000,000. In 1787, Holland occupied the same position with reference to the two countries of England and France that Savoy now did, and there were mutual armaments. It was proposed by France to interfere in the United Provinces. And what followed the carrying of the Commercial Treaty? It was proposed by France that there should be a mutual disarmament. But, now, if the proposed Treaty meant anything it did not mean disarmament, for with a Treaty which was to bind the two countries in terms of mutual amity and alliance, we had almost double war Estimates, and were, besides, forming volunteer corps all over the country. There was no use in blinking this question. 147 Why, then, armaments—why, then, volunteer corps? They were occasioned by the ambitious views of France, which were exciting a spirit of mistrust and suspicion throughout the country. He did not wish to say anything that might give offence to the Emperor of the French, nor did he find fault with anything he had done since he came to the throne, but he must say all his protestations had been falsified by the result. The coup d'état, the occupation of Rome, the war carried on for an idea, and the prospective realization of that idea in a form which must add to the mistrust and suspicion of Europe, were instances in point. Throughout France the prevalent impression was that political considerations chiefly influenced us in the formation of this Treaty. It was only yesterday he read in the Revue des Deux Mondes the following statement:—It is not exaggeration to say that the Treaty of Commerce, in place of cementing an alliance between the two nations, is more likely to lead to war. It had been wiser for England never to enter into it, but there is time to reject it, and Parliament would evince great wisdom and foresight in declining the fatal gift. Its rejection would be the source of immense joy to France and the two nations would be placed in better relations towards each other.It was distinctly asserted that the two things—the Treaty and the annexation of Savoy—had gone on together, and that the noble Lord was influenced in giving way on the annexation question for the sake of the Commercial Treaty. On the Continent the two questions could not be separated. The observations which the noble Lord had addressed to the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) precluded him from going into the foreign part of the question further than to say that in the state of distrust which now prevailed, to link ourselves for the next ten years with a country in the ruler of which we had not perfect confidence was a very great blunder, which might lead us into serious difficulties. Within two years of the treaty in 1787 the revolution broke out in France; and we might still find ourselves in very difficult relations with that country—all the more objectionable because we were made to appear in some degree party to those acts which the French Emperor might commit. Although we were perfectly free of any compact with him, the Continent would not hold us to be so. In the end we might find ourselves deserted by that country to which we had clung so long and for the alliance of which we had sacrificed 148 so much—deserted without a single ally or an adequate national defence.
§ MR. W. EWART
said, he must deprecate the system of quoting partial extracts from partial reviews. The hon. Member who had just sat down had alluded to the volunteer movement as if it were evidence of a secret hostility to France. But nobody who had looked into the question had any other view of it than that it was a great national movement arising from a feeling that the defences of the country were not sufficient. He believed that the Emperor of the French himself, if his opinion could be obtained, would say that we were doing that which was right on general grounds. A more unfortunate quotation than that made by the hon. Member from Fox never fell from the lips of any man, when they recollected what Pitt, who was deeply versed in the subject, said on the same question. Pitt was before his age in political economy. He was the disciple and the friend of Adam Smith. It was said and believed that Fox had never read the works of Adam Smith. He had no respect for political economy; nor had Burke given deep attention to it, though so great a political philosopher. He felt inclined to give his earnest support to the Commercial Treaty now proposed, because, if not in conformity with the simple forms of free trade (which prescribe independent action, without a treaty), it was based upon free-trade principles. It might be said let France reduce her duties spontaneously as England had done, but that she had not done so was no reason why they should reject the very same thing because it came before them under the guise of a Commercial Treaty. There were two especial reasons why he should give the proposal his warm support—first, because it was eminently a measure of peace; and, secondly, it was a measure of extended commerce, a continuance of that policy which began in the days of Mr. Pitt, was advanced by Mr. Huskisson and Sir Robert Peel, and which his right hon. Friend now asked the House of Commons to confirm. He thought it only just to the Emperor of the French to state that a Commercial Treaty with this country was no new idea of his, for what was now his policy as an Emperor had also been his policy when President of the French Republic. When, in 1852, a Committee of the House sat upon the question of the wine duties, a French nobleman, the Baron 149 de Clérant, who was also a large winegrower, was examined before it. In his evidence he stated that he had recently had an interview with the President of the Republic, and that it was the wish of the latter to obliterate hostile feeling between the two nations, and that the best treaty of commerce would be mutual intercourse between them. The two main points with respect to the present Treaty were the wine question and the free admission of articles of French manufacture. With regard to the first of these points one hon. Gentleman stated that the English people had no taste for the wines of France—that they were not suited to the English palate. It might be that our people would not like the vin ordinaire, much less the piquette, but he would maintain, on the strength of the Report of 1852, and of that which Lord Chelsea had drawn up for Lord Cowley, that many of the wines of France, particularly those produced in the region extending from the mouth of the Rhone to Bayonne, were well fitted for English consumption. He denied that French wines were unsuited to the English taste and climate. Any reader of Chaucer would remember the allusion to Bordeaux wine in the Pilgrimage to Canterbury. But it was needless to cite old authorities; French wines would have continued to be the prevailing wines, had it not been for the measures of prohibition adopted by our Legislature. In the reign of William and Mary an Act was passed declaring the importation of French wines and other goods a common nuisance, and providing means for putting a stop to it. But the wants of mankind would always defeat the ingenuity of the Legislature; and accordingly they found in another Act, passed he believed, in the second year of Queen Anne, complaining of French wine still coming in, and that it was not "staved, spilt, burnt, or destroyed," as had been ordered by the previous enactment, and more rigorous means were taken to secure its exclusion. Next came the Methuen Treaty which confined us to port—and when that was first negotiated petitions were presented against it. Among them was one from the afterwards port-drinking University of Oxford, signed by a large number of Members—among others by Dr. Aldrich, the celebrated Dean of Christ Church, the author of the Logic, of Peckwater Quadrangle, and of the well-known Merry Christ Church Bells. To 150 show that the people of England even now were not impervious to the use of French wines, he would call attention to the evidence given before the Committee of 1852 by Mr. Tower and Mr. Short, which showed that what he might call the lower middle classes relished the use of wines, and if that were the case under the operation of restrictive laws, what might not he expected when wine came into the country under a system of free trade. But it would be idle to open the door to the importation of French wines if means were not at the same time provided for distributing them among the people, and particularly for bringing them down to a lower stratum of society; and on that account he greatly approved the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for extending the system of granting licences. Many persons, now denied the use of wine, might then have the privilege of enjoying it. Why, to put a case, might not a poor governess cheer her solitary meal at a confectioner's shop with a glass of wine. With respect to other articles of French manufacture they would, he thought, by their superiority of design, greatly improve the taste of the manufacturers of this country. It was a remark of Adam Smith's that there were no persons were much interested in the removal of prohibition as the landed interest, since they were the general consumers of imported goods. He trusted now that their peculiar monopoly was removed, and they were enrolled, so to speak, in the category of Free-traders, hon. Gentlemen opposite would come forward boldly, and, as in the time of James I., demand the abolition of all monopolies. As a measure of peace he supported this Treaty with the greatest cordiality. He protested strongly against the notion that there was any natural enmity between France and England, and he would refer those who had any idea of this sort to the language of Mr. Pitt—"The doctrine that France must be the unalterable enemy of England," said Mr. Pitt, "is strongly to be deprecated. To suppose that any nation should be the unalterable enemy of another is weak and childish. It has no foundation in the experience of nations, or in the history of man. It is a libel on the constitution of human society." As a friend of peace, he rejoiced that the Treaty had been signed. It was said by a poet of the last century, not now so much read as he deserved:— 151The Gaul, in days of antique story,Saw Britain link'd to his now adverse strand;No cliffs between, sublime and hoary,He trod, with un wet foot, from land to land.He trusted that though the two countries were no longer linked together by material bonds, they would long be bound to each other by mutual feelings, by mutual interests, and he hoped hereafter by mutual freedom. He congratulated his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the success of this peaceful enterprise, of which the glory indeed was great, but of which the good was greater than the glory. He hoped that to the last hour of his life his right hon. Friend would have the satisfaction of knowing that he had conferred an inestimable benefit not only on his own country but on all mankind.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
I wish, Sir, as an Irish Member, to state the reasons why I give my most cordial support to the Commercial Treaty with France, and the Budget of which it forms a part. I do not agree with those hon. Gentlemen who apprehend that serious political inconvenience will follow from this Treaty; but, on the contrary, I firmly believe that it will not only be productive of highly beneficial results to England and to Ireland, but tend to secure the continuation of peace and the growth of friendly and amicable relations between this country and France. No doubt, Sir, there is an apparent inconsistency in a war budget and a peace treaty—in enormous Estimates for military and naval preparation, and a treaty, on the base of mutual interests; but it is an inconsistency for which the Government and Parliament are scarcely, if at all, responsible. The Government, acting with the concurrence of Parliament, have really done nothing more than act in obedience to those feelings of alarm and suspicion which seem to pervade all classes in this country with regard to the present or the ultimate policy of the Emperor of the French. Nevertheless, it is not by new and improved rifles, or by Whit-worth and Armstrong guns, or by launching additional line of battle ships, or even by studding the coast with impregnable fortresses, that we can obtain that confidence and security at which we naturally aim—we can only do so effectually by endeavouring to enlist the sympathies of the mass of the French people in favour of mutual kindly relations, and thus strengthening the union between both countries. I do not believe that now, when we are spending £30,000,000 on our armaments, we are 152 one whit nearer the end which we have in view—namely, security and confidence—than we were when our expenditure was only £20,000,000; nor do I think that, by the gallant display which was yesterday made in the streets of London, we are likely to enlist the sympathies of the French people, so as to influence the policy of the Emperor in the direction of an honest and enduring peace. I hold, then, that this Treaty will prove more efficacious than the most costly armaments, inasmuch as it will unite the two nations by the strong tie of a common interest. I place no trust in the Emperor—but that is not the question with which I have now to deal. What the House is now to consider is this,—how can we lead the people of France to see that their interests are so much in favour of friendly relations with this country, that it will not be in the power of the French Government to cause a wanton rupture with our Government and people. It is not right or fair in us to blame the Emperor for not having gone farther than he has done in the present treaty; for it must be borne in mind that he has had to deal with the most obstinate and impracticable people in the world, the monopolists and protectionists. Not very long since the same class were to be found at this side of the Channel, and in this House too. I remember the time when I was strongly influenced by the apprehensions expressed by a large class of my own countrymen, the gentry and the farmers of Ireland, who cried out—"Oh, if Protection is gone, Ireland is lost for ever;" but I learned wisdom by experience, and the first vote I gave in this House was in favour of free trade. It was the last formal battle that was fought on this floor between protection and free trade, and I sustained the banner of free trade, if not by my voice, at least by my vote. What have been the results of free trade for Ireland? Formerly there were many gloomy prophets, of the Cassandra class, who predicted all manner of terrible things, especially the ruin of the agricultural interest, as well as the trading and commercial, should the principles of free trade be applied to Ireland. These gloomy predidctions have been utterly falsified by the result, because Ireland has gained enormous advantages from the policy inaugurated by Sir Robert Peel. It has been said of this Treaty, assuming it to be one in the direction of free trade, that England would have all the advantage to be derived from it, while Ireland would have none. Well, I am here, as an Irish- 153 man, to give my emphatic denial to that assertion. Ireland, I assert, has gained enormously by free trade; not, indeed, so much from any great advantage which she has derived from increased manufactures, as from the higher prices which she has obtained for the produce of her soil. Prices are now paid for some articles of Irish produce, and even in the Irish market, such as were not paid in the time of the great French war. I hold in my hand the accounts from the last Cork butter market, dated March the 5th; and what were the prices in that, the greatest market in Ireland, through which butter to the amount of a million and a-half of money passed during the last year? It was £6 10s. a hundred for the first quality, and £5 15s. for the third quality—these are war prices in time of peace. If I look to the price of wheat, what do I find? Why, notwithstanding the free importation of foreign bread stuffs, it was about 50s. a quarter—which is a much larger price than the Protectionists had ever hoped to obtain for it under the free-trade system. Free trade, I repeat, has done enormous service to Ireland; it has saved thousands and thousands, nay, without exaggeration, hundreds of thousands, of human lives. I well remember the state of things in 1848, when the price of Indian meal, and that not of the best description, was £21 a ton; and I remember, to my knowledge, one parish of the county of Kerry in which, in the same year, there was not an ounce of food for sale for nearly twenty-four hours, and in which the Indian meal that was afterwards brought in was sold at the rate of £34 a ton—the same article that has since been imported at £6 10s. and £7 a ton. I shall only state another fact to show how, in the hour of her direst distress, Ireland was saved by free trade and open ports. A certain district in the West of the county Cork exported, the year before the famine, somewhere about £70,000 worth of produce—that is, sent it to the Cork market, to be afterwards shipped to England. On the following year, instead of sending out a single shilling's worth of what it produced, it had to bring in food to the value of nearly £100,000. But for free trade, but for open ports, the people of Ireland would have been slain, not by thousands, or hundreds of thousands, but by millions. Has free trade done injury to the Irish gentry or to the Irish farmer? I assert not. While free trade has given new energies 154 to the people of Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow, it has benefited Ireland through her agriculture, through her commerce, through her ships employed in the coasting trade; for she it is that supplies the hungry mouths and craving stomachs of the English consumers. Ireland, therefore, gets a larger price for her produce; and the farmers of Ireland—though in a short time they will, upon a particular question, claim justice at the hands of this House, and I trust they will obtain it—were never in a more flourishing position; and the Irish landlords never had their rents better paid. Why was this?—because there is active enterprise and remunerated industry in all parts of this country, and therefore the ships which sail from Dublim, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Wexford, are filled with the produce of Irish fields, Irish farms, and Irish dairies. This is the principal reason why I support a free-trade Budget, and a Treaty in the same direction. It has been said that England is to have all the immediate advantage to be derived from this Treaty. Indeed, an hon. Friend of mine, the Member for King's County (Mr. Hennessy) unwittingly, and of course, unconsciously, endeavoured to deceive the House the other night, by attempting to show that Ireland would have but a very small share in the advantages of the Treaty, or in the contemplated remission or repeal of duties—proposed in the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hold in my hand an able article from the Irish Quarterly Review, in which the writer clearly proves that Ireland does not get credit for the whole of the amount she contributes to the Imperial Exchequer. In fact, it is conclusively shown that she paid, in the year 1857–58, a million more than she is supposed to have done. She gets no credit for the duty which is paid in England on articles which are consumed by her people; and this evidently gave rise to the notion that in the remission of duty on foreign importations she would derive little, if any, benefit. The hon. Member for the King's County mentioned one article amongst others—currants—and he quoted it in order to show that Ireland would derive only the four-hundredth part of the advantage which England would derive from the proposed remission of duty. The returns from the Custom-house are quite fallacious with respect to the share of duty paid by the Irish consumer; because while the total amount of duty paid on currants 155 to the British customs was £300,992, according to the last returns, the proportion paid by Ireland, or into the Irish Customs, was but £720; thus respesenting the one-four-hundredth part of the consumption represented by the English duty. Now, if we take the relative populations of the two countries, and consider that the population of Ireland is at least six millions and a-half, it will be seen at once that no figures could by possibility be more fallacious, or no statement more absurd. The explanation is simply this—not that the Irish people do not use currants, in the proportion that they are used in other parts of the United Kingdom, but that the wholesale grocers of Dublin, Cork, Belfast, and other principal towns, generally dealt with merchants in London, Liverpool, or Bristol, who imported the article and paid duty for it in England. It is thus that England gets credit for more duty than she really pays, and that Ireland obtains less credit for her contributions to the common Exchequer. As an instance in point, I may state, what I believe to be the fact, that an immense quantity of refined sugar is annually imported into Cork, scarcely a shilling of the duty on which is paid into the Customs in Ireland, but has been paid in Plymouth and other English towns. The same may be said of large quantities of unrefined sugars. So it is with other articles. Referring to the item of ladies' wearing apparel, including silks, gloves, and artificial flowers, I will show how absurd is the alleged contribution of Irish duty on these articles. For instance, England is represented as having paid £20,452 duty on artificial flowers made abroad, principally in France, while Ireland is sot down as only paying £2 And in the article of gloves, while England is represented as paying duty to the amount of £53,314, Ireland does not get credit for a single penny; and yet it is well known that there is a considerable demand for foreign gloves in that country. But then there is the great item of silk manufacture, on which England paid a duty of £295,034, while Ireland is represented as having paid but the infinitesimal sum of £31. As an Irishman, I admit it is not a matter to boast of, but it is the fact, that Irish ladies ere fonder of dress than even the ladies of England. I know not whether to attribute this taste for magnificence to their alleged Eastern origin; but I can assert hat—to say nothing of the cities, even in 156 poor country towns in Ireland one might often see ladies sweeping the streets with robes that would grace St. James's or Versailles. What is the explanation of the discrepancy in the two accounts—in the large sum for England, and the infinitesimal proportion for Ireland? This—that the duty on these articles had been paid by the great houses in London, who sold them duty-paid to the houses in Ireland. It is then not just to say that in all the proposed remissions of duty on foreign articles, of whatever nature, that Ireland will not enjoy her full share of advantage. I am not afraid of any injury being done to Ireland by the free importation of foreign butter. I believe that the honesty and fair dealing of the Irish maker and the Irish market will more than countervail the cheap roguery of the foreign maker and importer. The foreign maker sends in to this market a fraudulent and inferior article, adulterated with various compounds; whereas in Cork, for instance, the greatest of the Irish markets, those who govern that market are bound by the most solemn obligations, of honour as well as of self-interest, to maintain the sacredness of their brand—so that the butter marked 1st quality, 2nd quality, and 3rd quality, will really be 1st quality, 2nd quality, and 3rd quality, as it is represented to be. [Mr. DISRAELI: That is part of the Budget; we are speaking of the Treaty.] It surely is a part of the same subject, the Treaty being a provisional portion of the Budget. There has been much and unnecessary apprehension as to one article provided for in the Treaty—coal; but that apprehension appears to have very nearly died out, and no one will be bold enough to attempt to galvanize the skeleton into momentary life. What is the fact? Franco does not want our coal for purposes of war and invasion; she requires it for manufacturing and domestic purposes. By her canals and her railways she can supply her war-steamers with an abundance of suitable coal; but if she required other coal for war purposes, what more easy for her than to purchase it, the difference of price being an item unworthy of consideration in the Imperial expenditure. I ask, is it of no advantage that England finds in France an additional and extensive consumer of her coal? Coal is extracted from the bowels of the earth by human labour, well remunerated; and is it of no advantage to England that she should have additional employment for her working classes, and 157 additional demand for her ships in sending it to a foreign country? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) endeavoured the other night to alarm Irish Gentlemen on the subject of Irish linens. I must honestly confess that I am personally unacquainted with the question myself; but if I am ignorant, I am at least humble, and I have, therefore, consulted some of the very highest authorities as to the operation of the Treaty on the linen trade of Ireland. Amongst other authorities on this subject, I sought information of the hon. Member for Lisburne (Mr. Richardson), who has, perhaps, the largest interest of any man in Ireland in the prosperity of the trade, being himself personally engaged in the manufacture of the article on the most extensive scale. The right hon. Gentleman sits on the Opposition side of the House, and is not a supporter of Her Majesty's Ministers, and perhaps might strain a point to go against them; and yet he, and other Gentlemen conversant with this great Irish interest, admitted that, under the Treaty, Irish linens could be sent into France so as to be able to compete fairly with the linens of Belgium, that an increased trade in linen yarns would be its certain result—and Irish diapers and Irish damasks would be able to beat all competitors out of the field. But perhaps the best proof of how the Treaty has been received in Ireland, and how it is likely to develope trade and manufactures in Ulster, may be given by the statement which has been made to me a few moments since, in the lobby, by the largest shipowner and one of the most enterprising men in Ireland,—namely, that it is now in contemplation to get up a company, or to establish a line of steamers, to carry on commerce direct between the North of Ireland and France. I support this Treaty because I believe its advantages to France will be great, while its advantages to England will be no less. I hope to see the day when we no longer shall have war Estimates in the time of peace. If the benefits resulting from this Treaty will be at all equal to those which are anticipated from it by its friends and promoters, no Minister will have the courage to stand at that table and ask for the enormous amount of money which has been asked for this year for naval and military expenses. Those Estimates, which press so grievously on the industry and the means of the mass of the country, must be materially reduced in consequence of 158 friendly relations between the two countries. I say these Estimates must be reduced; for if there be brought about a good feeling between the two nations, of what other Power have we any apprehension?—what other country is there to menace the repose of this?—from what other potentate is there the slightest danger to your security or your liberty? Why is it that friendly relations are so steadily maintained between the United States of America and England? Is it because you and they are of the same blood, or of the same race, or of the same religion? No, it is because there is such extensive commerce between the two countries, and their mutual interests are so interwoven in the bonds of peace, that neither the government nor the people at either side of the ocean would venture to break them. I wish to see the same relations between this country and France; and I believe that once the Treaty is concluded, and in fair operation, the pressure of taxation will become less year by year; and that this country will yet bless the name of Richard Cobden, who has promoted this noble scheme of amity and friendship, which will, while doing vast good to France, also do vast good to England. If France does not at once break down all the barriers of protection, it is to be hoped she will do so eventually, when once she has fully tasted the advantages of free trade. France, it must be remembered, is only now taking that step which this House took a few years ago with such alarm and misgiving, and in time she will follow our example. I differ from the hon. Member for Maldon [(Mr. Peacocke), who asserted that three great classes in France were anxious for war with England—the army, the clergy, and the people. Soldiers, no doubt are ever anxious for war, as a means of distinguishing themselves in their profession; but I deny that the clergy of the great Christian Church of France are anxious for war and the effusion of blood. They may resent undue interference on our part with matters that deeply affect their Church, and even religion—they may, and they do, resent taunts, and gibes, and calumnies, too frequently resorted to by the press and the platforms of this country, and even uttered in this House—they may resent the stupid and bitter malignity which is veiled under the forms of diplomacy; but they are anxious for the maintenance of peace, because they know that Christianity and civilization flourish in times of peace and not in time of war. As to the 159 people—the masses of France—they must be benefited by whatever reduces the cost of the principal articles of daily consumption; and when they find that the Treaty with England will ensure to them cheapness, and, at the same time, more abundant employment, they will not be willing to quarrel with a people with whom it is their best interest to live in peace. As an Irishman, I heartily applaud this scheme, and I earnestly trust that it will be carried out to the advantage and satisfaction of this country, and of that great country with which we are now for the first time, for many years, endeavouring to establish, on a sure foundation, friendly and kindly relations.
said, that as one of the representatives of a district which would be materially affected, he rose for the purpose of giving his hearty support to this Treaty, and to the financial measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which were connected with it. He believed that in doing so he was acting in accordance with the wishes of the vast majority of his constituents. He thought the House might look upon the speech of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) as an indication that they should have a unanimous assent to the Address from the representatives of the United Kingdom of England and Ireland. He was one of those who did not look for reciprocity in this or any other Treaty, but he looked at it as a great step on the part of France in the right direction and in favour of free trade, which we so much wished to extend. As a treaty of reciprocity it was no doubt open to cavil, but he had received a vast number of letters from persons engaged in manufactures, who stated that though they did not see any immediate or large advantage to their own particular trades, nevertheless they gave their entire assent to this Treaty and the principles upon which it was founded. Besides the iron and coal trades there were other trades in the north which would derive advantages from this Treaty. There were large proprietors of chemical manufactures who were of opinion that this Treaty was only wanting to complete the perfect following out of their manufactures, by admitting them at a low rate of duty into the French markets. With respect to coal, he believed there was considerable misapprehension existing as to the effect of this Treaty upon that trade, As regarded the extent of the coal-fields of England, a well-informed authority had assured him that at the rate of 80,000,000 160 tons a year, there would be a duration of 1,975 years. This was exclusive of the coal-fields under the sea. In working coal and preparing it in a large or round state for ordinary sale, a considerable proportion of small coal is produced, for only a part of which is there at present a market. The rest is wasted, being for the most part uselessly burnt at the pit's mouth. In the case of some single large collieries this waste is going on at the rate of 500 to 600 tons per day. The surplus thus destroyed was estimated to amount to nearly 2,000,000 of tons annually in Durham and Northumberland alone, and constitutes a pure sacrifice of a valuable material. This small coal will be exported to France, and the extra demand on her part for coal from us will be met, for some time at least, by the supply of a material now unproductive to our country. It was said France wanted coal for purposes of war; but the truth was she wanted them much more for the purposes of commerce. Coal, some held, ought to be considered contraband of war, but by the same rule so ought the cloth and leather with which the soldiers were clad. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) that the shipping advantages between the two countries ought to be mutual, and that our Government ought to impress upon the Government of France the necessity of altering their navigation laws. He should hold the same language even if the Shipping interest was in the most flourishing condition; because the more extended the application of correct principles of commerce, the greater the benefit to ourselves and the world. At the same time he did not think it right to resort to the system of reciprocity clauses. He was therefore glad that the hon. Member still intended to bring forward his Motion, with regard to the differential duties as a substantive Motion. Perhaps he was too sanguine in his estimate of the political effects of the Treaty; yet he could not help expressing a firm conviction that it would tend to the permanent interests of peace. They were in the habit of thinking that if a revolution broke out in Paris, revolution must also break out in Berlin, Vienna, Naples, and Rome. Then, he asked, why should not the reverse be the case when France sets a good example? Why should not other States pursue a free trade policy, and the advantages be made general throughout Europe? Foreigners pointed to our numberless sta- 161 tutes and asked us why we did not adopt the Code Napoleon. He thought it would be well for us if we did, but when we consented to this Treaty we could return a triumphant answer by pointing to the shortness and simplicity of our tariff.
§ LORD ADOLPHUS VANE-TEMPEST
said, he had anxiously waited to hear an enunciation of the policy to be pursued by those who sat on the front Opposition benches with regard to the Motion before the House, but he had waited in vain. He had felt it his duty to support the financial proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it was a continuance in the course of wise financial policy which was inaugurated by Sir R. Peel, which had conferred many financial benefits upon the country, and to which we should be wise to adhere. He fully coincided with the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Ridley) with respect to the extent of coal, and with the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) that the French Emperor had no need of coal for the purposes of war, but for the purposes of commerce. He (Lord A. V. Tempest) wished to see the commerce of Franco and England carried out to its widest extent, and he sincerely hoped that the commercial alliance between the two countries would promote their mutual prosperity and create feelings of sympathy and goodwill between them. Such were his wishes; but his expectations did not go so far; he was not so sanguine. He trusted that he should not expose himself to the charge of inconsistency if he attempted to give his reasons for opposing the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex. Great Britain might enter into commercial arrangements with France, but that did not necessitate a State treaty. He had recorded his vote in favour of the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he might, he trusted, with the fullest consistency, say that this was not a time to agree to the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Byng). He deprecated the approval, by the House of Commons, of that Motion, affirming, as it did, the existence of terms of amity and friendship between France and England, when the course, he believed, the Emperor of the French was determined on pursuing with regard to Savoy and Nice was entirely opposed to the sentiments and wishes of this country. Should this be so, he thought the British House of Commons was entitled to say even to the Emperor of the French—"Thus far shall you go, but no 162 farther." There were only two speeches hitherto made on the subject of the annexation of Savoy which expressed the sentiments of the people of this country—the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield and the hon. Member for Horsham. He had heard they were indiscreet; but his opinion was that they were true. If he wanted an argument against the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Byng) he found it in the despatches of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He particularly wished the House to give its attention to the noble Lord's Despatch of the 28th of January, in which he said:—The Emperor cannot fail to have present to his mind the alarm and anxiety which prevailed in Europe during the past summer; the arming of Prussia and the German Powers; the hopes of revolution excited; the rumours of alliances, offensive and defensive, which agitated the public mind. The Emperor can well recall that period; for he stated how much of glory he was content to forego, how much of noble aspirations to disappoint, in order to give satisfaction and peace to Europe. It is to be hoped and desired that the present tendency should be to soothe the troubled waves and restore calm to the agitated atmosphere. But the question of the annexation of Savoy would be regarded not so much as composing past troubles as raising the elements for new storms. Natural frontiers—the Alps and the Rhine—the repetition of the history of long and bloody wars—the commencement of a new struggle between France and Europe—such are the ideas which would pass through men's minds at the announcement of such an acquisition. Let the Emperor recall the noble words in which he gave forth at Milan a sentiment not less just than becoming the Sovereign of so great an empire. In addressing the Italians, His Imperial Majesty said, 'In the enlightened state of public opinion the moral influence that can be exercised contributes more to grandeur at the present time than barren conquests, and that moral influence I seek with pride by contributing to render free one of the fairest portions of Europe.'It was a "barren conquest" that the Emperor of the French was seeking now. He cared not for protests, and meant to annex Savoy. The time had come when he might throw off Count Walewski's mask. Was that a time to express continued amity with the Emperor? You might be on visiting terms with a person, but that was no reason for being his affectionate friend. Let the people of this country be on visiting terms with the Emperor of the French, but do not let them throw themselves into his arms, He trusted that the House would pass the financial propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, since they would be beneficial to the interests of the country but, he considered these 163 propositions as not necessitating the acceptance of the Motion before the House, which he knew would be accepted in Europe as the tacit submission of England to the French Emperor's aggressive policy. He for one, was not willing to shake hands with a man who had got a glove on, and that an iron one. He begged to propose an Amendment, embodying his views, which, however, he should be happy to withdraw if some Member of greater weight than himself would put a Resolution on the subject into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman.
To leave out from the words 'Majesty that,' in the second line, to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House approaches Her Majesty with great devotion and respect, but while fully appreciating the advantageous results to be obtained by this Country from an increased commercial intercourse with France, and while fully estimating the European benefits attending the friendly relations between Great Britain and France, this House respectfully declines expressing an opinion on the Treaty Her Majesty has concluded with the Emperor of the French, until such time as the final intentions of the Emperor of the French with reference to the project of annexing Savoy and Nice to the French empire be made known to this Country,'—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SLANEY
said, he hoped the noble Lord would forgive him if he did not enter into a discussion of the Amendment which he had proposed to the House, but simply say that he should vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex. He thought the Treaty would be the means of giving great advantages to this country and the country opposite to them. It would be the means of giving extended employment to great masses, both here and in France, and would, by degrees, bind together in the bonds of amity two peoples who had been too long in the habit of considering themselves as natural enemies, so that in the course of time they might be as one nation. In the first debate which they had had on this subject, they had heard some points quoted from the works of Mr. Arthur Young. Now, to that gentleman the landholders of this country owed a deep debt of gratitude, and in regard to France, he showed that she could produce for this country wines, olives, and silk—articles which this country must require, and which the South of France would supply in large 164 quantities if a sufficient demand sprang up to induce the people of France to cultivate their production; and such a demand would necessarily lead to a much larger employment of labour. In exchange for these things England could send the products of her looms and her manufactories. A point had been put forward to alarm our manufacturers, and it was said the French people would be able to undersell them. He (Mr. Slaney) wished to call the attention of the House to the fact that in this country we had one very great advantage. We had the advantage of possessing immense capital, extensive credit, and admirable facilities of communication. The French, on the contrary, could never expect to have anything like the capital which was necessary for the establishment of large manufactories, in consequence of the compulsory division of property which took place every generation. The operation of that law would prevent the increase of capital, and thus there would be a tendency in the people to turn their attention to the cultivation of their soil. They could supply us in abundance with the natural products of their soil—olives, silks, and wines—and we, in return, could send them the productions of our looms, our mines, and our forges. Besides, the French would send to this country articles of beauty and taste, matters in which the people of this country were deficient. In the hope that these exchanges would be for the advantage of each nation and for the good of all mankind, he should cordially vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
Sir, I do not rise to express dissent from the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex. I should regret very much if that Motion were not carried. The rejection of the Motion would be the overthrow of the Treaty, and, for my part, I do not desire that the Treaty should be overthrown. But if my assent to the Motion were to be held to imply that I believe this to be a Treaty wise in its provisions, well-considered in its details, or such a treaty as the trade of the country requires, and has a right to expect, the opinion which I entertain of the Treaty would be very much misapprehended. And it is in order to prevent that misapprehension that I do not wish to give a silent vote on the present occasion. I desire to disclaim at once an opinion which I know is held by very high authorities who object to a commercial treaty merely because it is a commercial treaty. I make no such objection. I know that 165 commercial treaties are liable to lead to inconveniences and embarrassments, and no one could give a more forcible description of their dangers in this respect than was given in the course of the last Session of Parliament by the two noble Lords who sit on the Treasury bench. But to say that a commercial treaty can never be justified would, I think, be to apply, in an extreme and violent manner, a perfectly good abstract and general rule. A commercial treaty must depend for its justification upon the circumstances of the case and upon its own provisions. I am also ready to confess that any arrangement which will have a tendency to draw closer the commercial intercourse between this country and France is eminently desirable. Everything that has been said—and much has been said to night—of the relative capacities of Franco and England for the interchange of their products, and, on the other hand, of the very limited trade which has hitherto been carried on between the two countries, we all know and feel to be true. I recollect the anxiety which was felt by many of the commercial classes in 1840 and 1841, when efforts were made to obtain a reduction of the French import duties on English goods, and I remember the regret with which the failure of the efforts to obtain that reduction was accompanied. I know that in 1852 those efforts were again renewed, and that they only terminated with the removal of the Government from office by whom they were being made. I am ready, therefore, to go with the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Byng) in giving credit to the present Government for their desire to increase our commercial intercourse with France, but I cannot concur with him in the admiration which he feels for the bargain they have made for us. I own I was much surprised the other night to hear the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) say, that in this Treaty there was no bargain whatever, and that if he thought there was a bargain he would not support the Treaty. I should be sorry if the hon. Member were to withdraw his support from the Treaty, but I must ask him this question, if there is no bargain, what is the use or object of the Treaty at all? What is the meaning of the engagements on the part of Her Majesty and of the correlative engagements on the part of the Emperor of the French, if there is no bargain? What is the meaning of the instruction given to the negotiators, that provided they could obtain certain concessions they might consent to the reduction 166 of certain duties, if there is no bargain? And, again, if there is no bargain, what is the meaning of that Article which says that the Treaty shall not be valid until the House of Commons has sanctioned what is virtually the price we are paying for the Treaty? My objection to the Treaty is, not that it is a bargain, but that it is a very bad bargain for us. I am aware there are certain branches of trade which have persuaded themselves and which endeavour to persuade others that they constitute the whole trade of the country. It does seem that, under some impression of this kind on the part of the negotiators, arrangements are made in the Treaty which are satisfactory to those particular branches of trade; but that largo and important branches of the trading industry of this country are entirely overlooked, or their interests neglected in this Treaty, is capable of very easy proof. We had expected to hear tonight from the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) the grounds on which he was prepared to propose an Amendment to the Address; but as the hon. Member has deferred his Motion to a future day, I may be allowed, perhaps, to mention one fact which bears on the subject of it, and which only the other day came within my own knowledge. I was shown the quotations of shipping freights now current at the Mauritius, where both English and French ships are putting on board the produce of the island. The English ships are loaded to discharge at English ports, and the freights they are obtaining vary from 10s. to 20s. a ton. Loading side by side with these English ships are some French ships, and the latter are loading to discharge at French ports, but with liberty, if so ordered, to discharge in English ports. The French ships have consequently the advantage of a double market, and are obtaining a freight of 45s. a ton, or 150 per cent higher than the highest freight given for English ships. Now, observe what will occur when this Treaty comes into operation. France is going to increase largely the importation of cotton. The desire of the owner in America of a cargo of cotton probably would be that the ship in which the cot-ton was put should, on coming to Europe, call for orders at Cork, and then, according to the state of the market, should unload either at Liverpool or at the port of Havre. If the cotton was on board a French ship, that could be done, but not so (except at an increase of charge) if it was on board an English ship; and the consequence would 167 be that the whole of the carrying trade, as far ns cotton was concerned, would be thrown into the hands of the French shipowners. Now, I desire to state precisely the amount of blame I attribute to the Government on this point. I know what their excuse is. They say that this is not a treaty of navigation, but of commerce. Be it so; but if it be a treaty of commerce, and not of navigation, how comes it that there is inserted in it an article which is an article of navigation, and not of commerce? If the negotiators had a right to insert that article in a treaty of commerce, had they not also a right to ask for and urge a reduction or abolition of these differential duties? Then comes the further question. Did they ask and press for the abolition? They might have asked for it and been refused, and then there would be no help for it; but, at all events, the shipping interest would have had the satisfaction of reflecting that their interests had not been overlooked. But what I complain of is that no suggestion was made to the negotiators to keep those interests in view. Of themselves, too, they appear to have made no effort to obtain an alteration of the existing system in this respect, and without remonstrance or struggle the French shipping have obtained for the next ten years an indirect and passive assent in the English Treaty to these obnoxious and exclusive privileges. I now come to the way in which a very important manufacture of the country—all important to Ireland—is dealt with in this Treaty—I refer to the linen manufacture. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he introduced this Treaty, described with great accuracy the importance of this manufacture, and mentioned how, when the French import duties were low, the linen manufacture rapidly increased in this country, but received an immediate check when the French duties increased. Considering the importance of the manufacture, I think we might have expected to have found some proof that its importance was appreciated and its interests attended to during the time of the negotiation of the Treaty. The negotiation with respect to the linen duties appears to me most singular. I find in the first despatch on the subject of the Treaty from our Ambassador in Paris to the Foreign Secretary, special mention made of the linen duties. Earl Cowley wrote to this effect:—A proposal has been made to establish a treaty of commerce. That proposal is favourably 168 entertained by the French Government; and I desire to know whether the English Government will authorize the gentleman who has made the proposal here to carry it out. What was then proposed was this. Earl Cowley said that Count Walewski explained that British manufactures generally were to be admitted into France at a maximum duty of 30 per cent, but that the duties on linen and articles of that kind were to be reduced from 30 to 15 per cent ad valorem. That was not a mere proposal of the English Government, but it was one entertained by the French Government; yet afterwards this proposition drops out of sight, and the Treaty appears with a maximum duty on linen manufactures, not of 15 per cent, but of 30 per cent; and I do not find that it ever occurred to the Government to call attention in any of their despatches to this change, and to demand an explanation. Now, I ask whether the plenipotentiaries who negotiated the Treaty were really aware what the present duties on linen manufactures going into France are, and what is the amount of duty they can bear with any hope of an extension of trade. The present duties are not ad valorem, but after an inquiry I find that the duties on linen and linen yarn imported into France may, on being commuted into ad valorem duties, be stated thus—with respect to the medium and fine kinds of linen, which constitute the principal manufacture of Ireland, the average of the duties would come to something like 30 per cent; but, taking the fine qualities alone, which are really the only qualities exported to any considerable extent to France, the duty would be about 20 per cent. The case with respect to linen yarns is remarkable, there being at present a large export from the north of Ireland to Cambray and other places in France. I find that the duties payable upon the fine yarns are not only not 30 per cent, but 15, and 10, and 5, and even so low as 4, 3, and 2 per cent. It has been said by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) that, even with a maximum duty of 30 per cent, a linen trade might be done with France which would supplant the French manufacture. In answer to that I may observe that those engaged in the linen manufacture in Ireland have considered this subject, and a meeting representing the linen manufacturers of the whole of the north of Ireland have stated their view with respect to this maximum duty of 30 per cent. The manu- 169 facturers in question state that they consider the duty of 30 per cent, as proposed by the French Government, or even a duty of 25 per cent, totally prohibitory as regards the great bulk of linen yarn, and linens, and that even with a duty of 10 per cent the French manufacturers, with an unlimited supply of machinery and coal, could successfully meet British competition. They state another fact worthy of observation. They say that with respect to the ordinary kinds of linen manufacture, you may take two-thirds of the price as representing the cost of the raw material, and one-third as representing the labour, charges, and capital employed in making the article. As regards the raw material, they say that France can supply herself as cheaply and ns well as, or more cheaply and better, than this country; therefore the ground of competition is narrowed to the remaining one-third of the price, which represents the cost of manufacture. Consequently they contend that if a duty of 30 per cent he imposed it is virtually a duty to that amount upon one-third of the value of the article, and therefore a duty of exactly 90 per cent on the total value. A duty of 10 per cent would thus prove a protection for the French manufacture equal to 30 per cent. I ask if those who negotiated this Treaty really turned their attention to what the circumstances of the case were with regard to the linen manufactures? I ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade whether the Board of Trade was consulted on this subject? The Board of Trade is the repository of a great deal of information on this head of the industry of the country, because in 1840–41 that department was engaged in the arrangements then proposed for a reduction of the French duties on the import of linen, In 1840, the French Government, and even the French manufacturers themselves, said they would be satisfied with an import duty of 10 per cent on linen, provided England would allow the free exportation of machinery into France. Now, we know that though machinery was not at that time allowed to be exported free from this country, all restrictions on its exportation have been since taken away. Moreover, the Board of Trade has since 1840 been in constant communication with the linen manufacturers, who have urged them to remonstrate with the French Government and to endeavour on account of the remission of the duties on machinery to obtain a reduction of the duty on Irish 170 linen to the same amount as that on Belgium linen—12 per cent. Then, how is it that the Board of Trade did not, through the proper Minister of the Crown, give expression to the negotiators of the assurances of the linen trade that a maximum duty of 30 per cent would be nugatory and useless. I think we find in the circumstances of the negotiation an explanation of this difficulty. The first communication that was made by the Government respecting the Treaty was, I find, on the 17th of January, and the whole Treaty was concluded at Paris on the 23rd of January. So that there was really no time for the Board of Trade to interpose or be consulted by the Government on the subject. It is not surprising, therefore, that there should be a feeling on the part of the linen trade that their interests have been very much overlooked in the negotiations. They feel it to be a mockery to tell them that you have secured this great boon to the linen manufacturers, that, whereas they can now send their manufactures into France at a duty of or under 30 per cent, linens will not be charged more than 30 per cent, and this mockery is felt to be all the more cruel when they find the Foreign Secretary telling them that "the intention of the Emperor of the French is to introduce a moderate rate of protective duty, and that he is going to change the prohibitory system into one of practically open trade." Surely no one will say that a duty which I have calculated to be equivalent to 90 per cent is "a moderate protective duty," and that it gives us practically an open trade in linens. But we have been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this Treaty merely stipulates for a maximum duty of 30 per cent, and that he has hopes the French Government will carry out a further reduction. I am not sure whether I understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer correctly or not, but I think he went so far as to say there were hopes that a return would be made by France to the moderate duty that existed some years ago on linens. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER indicated assent.] I am glad to hear that there is a prospect of this, and I need hardly say that I will rejoice at it exceedingly when it is accomplished; but I must state candidly the view which I take of the matter. If it be the case that the Government of Franco say they are prepared to reduce the duties on linen manufactures to the old state of 171 things why was it not put into the Treaty? If they say they are prepared to do it now, Burely they must have been equally pro-pared three or four weeks ago. If this was their temper and tone, surely a slight remonstrance or request on the part of our Government would have procured the reduction, and relieved us from trusting to indefinite assurances that may never be realized. But I will state why I must hesitate before I can feel at all sanguine as to the realization of this prospect. In the first place, I cannot account for the way in which the 15 percent originally proposed was changed to 30 per cent, and that having been done, I very much doubt whether we shall have any reduction of the 30 per cent now. In the next place, I have seen in the French papers a very singular memorial from a body of French linen manufacturers to the Minister of Commerce, in which they state that this duty of 30 per cent is the very least which would be a sufficient protection, and they beg him to be firm and not go below it; and that, as they understand there is going to be a commutation of duties by a subsequent convention, they beg him to over-reach, if possible, (for it comes nearly to that) the English Government, and by means of the commutation make the duty, if possible, higher than 30 per cent. I quote from memory, but that is the substance of the proposal they make. The reply of the Minister of Commerce was in general terms, but it was anything but indicative of that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has led us to expect. He said to them, in effect, "You may be perfectly tranquil; you may rest quiet, assured that France will always take care of her manufactures, and you may rely upon it that you shall have full and ample protection." That does not, in my opinion, look like a further reduction of the duties on linen. But the interests of the linen trade have been still further neglected. There is no doubt that France is the greatest consumer of linen of any country in the world; but the next greatest consumer is Spain. There is no part of the world in which a Spanish settlement or colony is made in which a demand does not spring up immediately for linen manufactures. In this Treaty you have favoured France with a reduction of the duty on wines, and you give the same favour to Spain. It may have been that Spain would have refused to give you any return for the advantages conferred upon 172 her; but what I want to know is, how you explain the fact that you never made any application to the Government of Spain on the subject—that you never proposed to Spain to give you, in return for the boon you were prepared to offer her, a reduction of the duties on linen. I say this on the authority of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, for he told us that the Government had not thought it their duty to make any communication whatever to the Spanish Government on the subject of a relaxation of duties. We are now told that the Government is quite willing to enter into negotiations with Spain, but the time for negotiation with Spain is past, for she has now got the boon which a few weeks ago would have seemed to her the highest you could offer. I do not say that if Spain had refused, you were on that account bound to refuse negotiations with France; but, at all events, it was worth trying whether she would consent to a reduction of her duties or not. This leads me to show that you have by this Treaty placed a great difficulty in the way of future negotiation with the Spanish Government. By your arrangement with regard to the duty on wine, you have virtually established a differential duty against Spain. You have made one Resolution specially applicable to wines of a certain low strength, and the effect will be that your reduced duties will be more favourable to France than to Spain. I find that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, in one of his despatches, takes credit for the way in which the duties are thus arranged. In his despatch to Earl Cowley, of the 17th of January, the noble Lord says—A scale thus adjusted would, it is hardly needful to observe, be eminently favourable to the introduction of wine from France, as the lower wines from that country would enter at the duty of 1s.The noble Lord, therefore, does not deny that a differential duty is thus virtually imposed in favour of France; on the contrary, he rather takes credit for it. I say, then, that this creates a certain difficulty in negotiating with Spain on the subject, and it forms one of my grounds of complaint against the Government as to the manner in which this Treaty is framed. But a still more singular instance is supplied by the reduced duty on spirits. The noble Lord proposed, in the first instance, a duty of 10s. upon French spirits, and this was afterwards reduced to 8s. 2d. What were the grounds upon which the noble 173 Lord said that 10s. would be a proper duty? He began by stating in his instructions to the negotiators of the Treaty that the object of the Government was to make "an equitable adjustment of burdens as between commodities which more or less compete with one another in the general market;" and said that in the opinion of the Government 10s. per gallon was the lowest price to which "for any British purpose" they could propose to reduce the duty upon French brandy. But then he added—If, nevertheless, you should find that by making a concession beyond even what I have named you can obtain from the Government of the Emperor satisfactory arrangements for an early reduction of duty upon some important commodities, you are authorized to engage to reduce the duty on brandy from 10s. to 8s. 2d. per gallon.Well, this is one of the most singular transactions in negotiation that I ever heard of. We have heard of robbing one interest in order to pay another, but I never before saw so unblushing an instance of such a robbery. "I admit," says the noble Lord in effect, "that the manufacturer of British spirits as against French brandy is entitled to a duty of 10s. For any British purpose that is a proper duty, but if you can obtain some concession—not in favour of that, but of any other trade—you are authorized to sacrifice the British manufacturer, and reduce the duty, which ought to be 10s., to 8s. 2d." Accordingly, without any further communication on the subject, the British negotiators did reduce the duty, and the question I have now to ask is, what was the "early reduction of duty upon some important commodities" which they got in return before they were authorized to lower the rates on French brandy? I have looked through the Treaty, and there is not a single article the early reduction of the duty on which is insured, except coal. But in his letter of instructions the Foreign Secretary told our Plenipotentiaries at Paris that he did not care a straw about coal, for he says—An allusion is, indeed, made by Count Walewski to British coal; but such is the market for that commodity, both in this country and abroad, that no public interest would be excited upon the question, whether the duty charged on it in France is to be high or low, or whether the remission is to be immediate or postponed.That, therefore, was not the concession in return for which the Plenipotentiaries were authorized further to reduce the duty on French brandy. What concession, then, did the Government get? As far as I can 174 ascertain, we have nothing to show in return. Let me remark here, that the observations made in this House respecting the article of beer require a further answer than they have yet received from the Government. When France was stipulating for the introduction of her wines, why was not some correlative advantage sought for in the admission of our national beverage into France? The Government reply, "We still hope by negotiations to induce the French Ministry to admit our beer on easier terms." Well, I must say that I never knew a case so replete with hope. This is the answer we receive on every occasion. But has any change come over the mind of the French Government since the Treaty was concluded, upon which such a hope can be founded? I want to know whether the question was asked while the Treaty was being negotiated, and whether you then met with a refusal. For want of success the Government is not to be blamed; but I do blame them if I find that they have not asked for concessions which they ought to have demanded from France. Now, look at the question of the raw material, upon which the English manufacturers in part depend for their supplies, and at the way in which this is dealt with by the Treaty. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, if I may humbly say so, laid down a most admirable principle at the commencement of his despatch—namely, that the task which the Government thought devolved upon them was to make "an equitable adjustment of burdens as between commodities which more or less directly compete with one another in the general market." Now, there is no burden with with which a trade or manufacture can be weighted comparable to the burden imposed by difficulties in obtaining supplies of the raw material. I will take three instances; and, first, that of silk. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney), in describing the picturesque zones into which France is divided, spoke of that which yields the mulberry tree on the leaves of which the silkworms feed. Now, the Treaty, as we know, provides for the import of manufactured silk into England from France free of duty. The Government knew that we had an important silk manufacture in England which depends upon France for a certain amount of raw material, on which a heavy export duty is levied. Again, I ask, was any attempt made to reduce the export duty on that raw material? If there was, no trace of 175 it appears in the papers now before the House. No instructions seem to have been given to the plenipotentiaries, and I do not find in the communications between them and the Home Government a single word which refers to this subject. Another raw material upon which I will say a few words, is cork, upon which an interesting conversation occurred in Committee. I do not mean to say that we are dependent upon France for cork; but at the time we were negotiating a Treaty, one result of which would be to admit manufactured corks free of duty, it became advisable that the Government should see from what country the raw material was to be supplied. That country, as they were aware, was Spain. Were the Spanish Government asked whether they were willing, in return for the reduction of the wine duties, to relax their export duties on cork? Lastly, there is the article of rags. I assume that at the time of negotiating the Treaty the Government had determined to take off both the import and the excise duty on paper. It is true that since the discussion of the Treaty began we have been told that the French Government has intimated its intention to permit the export of rags. I am glad to hear it; but the question is, what was the amount of consideration bestowed upon this subject in the Treaty? If France is willing now to remove the prohibition upon the export of rags, she must have been perfectly willing at the time the Treaty was negotiated; and why was not a clause inserted securing us a free export of rags as a matter of right, instead of leaving it as a matter of future hope and indulgence? The French Government deal with us very differently. They, for example, are anxious to have coal in abundance. Do they trust to assurances from the Government here that no difficulty will be thrown in the way of the export of coal? By no means. They ask for a distinct undertaking that England will not prohibit the export of coal during the whole period of the Treaty. I think it might have occurred to our plenipotentiaries, "Here is France asking us not to prohibit the export of an important product. May we not in return ask her to allow the free export of raw materials which are wanted in England?" That leads me to consider the 11th Article of the Treaty. Up to the present moment we have not had from the Government any explanation of their views respecting the effect or the object of this Article. I know 176 that my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General favoured us one night with a view upon the law of the question; but I do not hope to hear the Government endorse that view, because in "another place" those who represent the Government pronounced an opinion exactly opposite to his, and I conclude that my hon. and learned Friend was only treating us on that occasion with one of those interesting disquisitions in which no one is more happy than himself. Setting aside law and technicality, however, let us look at the substance of the case. I do not know whether the Government are of opinion that the 11th Article engages not to prohibit the export of coal to France alone, or generally; but it is quite immaterial for my purpose which meaning they attach to the Article, because we know that in practice you cannot prohibit the export of coal with success unless you prohibit the export of it totally. Therefore, if we forego the right of prohibiting the exportation of coal to France, we practically forego the right of prohibiting its export to any country. Explain the Article whichever way you like, it amounts to a surrender of a power now possessed by somebody to prohibit exportation of coal. I now ask, what is the power now possessed to prohibit the exportation of coal? I say the Sovereign of this country has no commercial power to prohibit exportation of coal, but the Sovereign has a power reposed in her by Parliament, as a great political trust, to prohibit the exportation of coal on the ground that it is or may become a material suited for the purposes of warfare. If that be the political power possessed by the Sovereign, I want to know what right had Plenipotentiaries negotiating a Treaty of Commerce to agree to a surrender of a political power which had no relevancy to commerce? I want further to know this—in the papers laid before the House there is not one particle of correspondence between the Plenipotentiaries and Her Majesty's Government as to this 11th Article. Whether it was inserted in Paris by the Plenipotentiaries, or whether it was communicated to them from this country, does not appear; but the conclusion must be that it was inserted in Paris. I do not find that it occurred to Her Majesty's Government to ask what was the object of that Article, whether for political or commercial purposes; or whether it was an article that was much insisted upon by the French Plenipotentiaries, but the power seems to have been passed away in silence.
177 The aspect of this subject has changed during the discussion. When the Treaty was first laid before us we thought that this was an Article to which much importance was attached by the French Government; but we have been since assured by Her Majesty's Government that in fact the French Government does not attach importance to it, and is quite willing to concede or to modify the Article; but that, on the other hand, Her Majesty's Government has informed the French Government that they do not desire any alteration. I do not wish to pre-occupy the ground of the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), who intends to propose an addition to the Address upon this point, but I submit to the House that this has become a simple domestic question. It is a domestic question between us and Her Majesty's Government, the French Government being aside, they being willing to modify the Article, but Her Majesty's Ministers being unwilling to do so. It is, It is then, for Her Majesty's Government to show why England, against the wish of France, insists upon inserting in a French Treaty a clause, which surrenders a high political power entrusted, under an Act of Parliament, to the Sovereign of these realms, simply to please Her Majesty's Ministers. I hope the House will express its opinion that this Article ought not to be inserted in the Treaty; but I do protest, for the sake of precedent and order, against the notion that seems to be entertained by the Government, that a power of this kind, which is reposed in the Sovereign by Act of Parliament, can be surrendered without the consent of Parliament, which conferred it; and I likewise protest against the idea that also seems to be entertained, that, if the sanction of Parliament to such surrender be necessary, that such sanction can be obtained in any other way than by an Act of Parliament. I say Parliament cannot give its sanction except by means of an Act of Parliament; and therefore, if I am right in that, I shall desire to know whether the legal advisers of the Government, as a body of legal advisers, will commit themselves to the opinion, that the power now possessed by Her Majesty to prohibit the exportation of coal is a power that she can surrender, or be advised to surrender, without the assent of Parliament, which created the power. I have now gone through the points of the Treaty upon which I desired to comment. I venture to submit that, in those respects I have 178 mentioned, this Treaty, when we are considering the amount of credit to be given to those who framed it, is a one-sided, imperfect, and halting Treaty. I have been much struck by an observation made by Mr. Pitt when be entered into the Treaty with France which we have heard mentioned so often. Mr. Pitt speaking in February said, with natural pride, "Here is my Treaty, which was published in September, which has been in every one's hands since then, and canvassed throughout the length and breadth of the land, and yet there has never been a single remonstrance addressed to the Government or to Parliament on the part of any trade in the kingdom against the provisions of the Treaty." Can Her Majesty's Government say the same for this Treaty? Has the shipping interest made no remonstrance? Has the linen trade, the spirit trade, the brewers, the silk trade, the cork trade, the paper trade—have they made no remonstrances? I must say, although I hear an hon. Member opposite (Mr. W. Ewart) speak of the glory that would enure to those who negotiated this Treaty, I doubt whether the same lustre will attend the negotiators of this Treaty as attended that of Mr. Pitt. But I do not think the Treaty of Mr. Pitt is exactly a parallel. A better analogy, it seems to me, can be found in those heroic legends of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite is so distinguished an illustrator. This is the Treaty of Glaucus and Diomed. It is "gold for brass—the value of a hundred oxen for the value often." I think it will go down to posterity described as a Treaty open to that observation much more than as a treaty to be placed side by side with that of Mr. Pitt. I may be asked, if these are the views I entertain as to the details of the Treaty, why I do not oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex. I answer at once, I think that, halting and imperfect and one-sided as this Treaty is, much greater injury and risk would be incurred by defeating or resisting it than by giving it effect; and I for one am not prepared to take the responsibility of impeding the execution of the Treaty. But I must be permitted to express a hope that never again shall we have to consider a treaty under circumstances similar to the present. There is not merely a responsibility attaching to those who would impede or thwart the Treaty; there is also a responsibility attaching to those who enter into a treaty of this kind, requiring, as to some of its 179 terms, the assent of the House of Commons, and who then propose the Treaty for the consideration of the House in such a way that there can be no free or unbiassed discussion of those terms. I ask, have we been or are we in a position to discuss the terms of this Treaty, to criticise them, or to remodel them fairly or freely as such terms ought to be discussed? What has been the argument of the Government? When any hon. Member made objection to any part of this Treaty, the answer was, "If you touch that clause of the Treaty, you defeat the Treaty entirely; we cannot answer for the consequences if you interfere with any provision that may seem to you to be objectionable. It may eventually result in destroying the Treaty." And not only has Her Majesty's Government held that language, but I regret to say that something even stronger has been put forth in another quarter. No sooner was the attention of the House of Commons called to the Treaty, and no sooner had some suggestions been made by various hon. Members as to the exportation of coal, than we saw published in the newspapers a letter from a gentleman of great eminence, who is supposed to have been if not a plenipotentiary to make the Treaty, at least one of the negotiators of it. In that letter, which was evidently written for publication, M. Chevallier says, speaking of the 11th Article, "its rejection would be an unfriendly act and taken as such in France, and a cry would be raised of 'Perfidious Albion!' and that would be the case even if the Article were to be struck out with the consent of the French Government." That is language not very agreeable for the House of Commons to hear at a time when it is supposed to be engaged in calm deliberation upon the Articles of the Treaty. I recollect an observation that was made about two years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer under somewhat analogous circumstances. We were then discussing a measure of law which excited very great interest in a foreign country, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer then said, "It is hard for this country to be called upon to discuss questions connected with the amendment of our own laws under menace and terror of a foreign Power." But it is not merely that we have been called upon to discuss the terms of this Treaty under the pressure I have described, but we have been called upon to discuss all the financial arrange- 180 ments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer under exactly the same pressure. A Motion was made in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex (Mr. Du Cane) going the whole length of the financial propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, What were the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in opposition to that Motion? He said, "If you carry this Motion you do that which is incompatible with the Treaty." I admitted the force of the argument so much that I did not feel justified in giving my vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Essex, although I approved much that was contained in it; but I felt that there was a risk in adopting the Motion which I should not like to incur. But I say that, whereas in former days the Budget was, of all measures, one which was essentially domestic in its character, and one which this House might discuss without any risk of interference from any Foreign Power, we have this year literally been discussing the Budget with this Treaty round our necks. I will say, in conclusion, that I am most anxious to augur everything that is favourable from passing this Treaty; I am willing to hope that all that its warmest admirers expect to result from it will be realized; but I do say, if those advantages do not result from it—if it should turn out that the benefits sought to be derived from it are insubstantial and illusory—that the price we are paying for drawing closer the bonds of amity between France and England should not have the effect of drawing closer those bonds—if it should prove in the result that this Treaty, concluded almost as rapidly as the treaty of Villafranca, is as speedily forgotten—if it should turn out that the financial projects of the Government, of which this Treaty has been the cover and the strength, should leave behind a regret for the revenue we have lost, and a feeling of irksomeness at the imposts we have to bear, it will be then remembered, and remembered to the prejudice of its authors, that this measure was presented to the House of Commons in a form and under circumstances which precluded to all free and unrestrained discussion.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Sir, I am glad to hear from the hon. and learned Gentleman that, satisfied with criticising the Treaty, he intends to vote in favour of the Address which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex. He says he will throw no impediment in the way of this Treaty; he is a friend 181 to commercial treaties; he does not object to a bargain in the abstract; he only objects to a bargain which is not so good as it might have been. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman there are many things in reference to our commercial relations with Prance beyond this Treaty which it would be very desirable to obtain; but, at the same time, I think what we have obtained is good in itself, is worth receiving, and will confer great benefits on the people both of England and France. The hon. and learned Gentleman is friendly to commercial treaties as a rule. I do not quite go that length myself, but I will not reject an opportunity of encouraging our commercial intercourse with France simply because the attainment of that object is sought through the medium of a commercial treaty. The hon. and learned Gentleman is friendly to commercial treaties, but I cannot help thinking he would never be successful in negotiating such a treaty with any foreign country if he proceeded in the way be thinks Her Majesty's Government ought to have proceeded with reference to the one now under consideration. The hon. and learned Gentleman would have had us enter in negotiating the Treaty into minute adjustments of every particular duty; he thinks, for instance, we should have gone into all the different classes of yarn and linen, attaching to each the particular duty to be charged on its import into France, before any treaty was agreed to. I think if any poison were to attempt to negotiate a commercial treaty on the principle of settling such minute adjustments of duty in every instance, be would probably fail altogether. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had acted as the negotiator of the Treaty now before the House, I do not think he would by this time have got through the linen duly. He says the Board of Trade made no representations on the subject of the linen manufacture; that it could not have considered the importance of that manufacture, or it would have used its influence to obtain a better arrangement in respect to that important article with the French Government. I had the honour, not long ago, of receiving a deputation from Belfast in reference to the linen trade, which was introduced by the hon. and learned Gentleman; and what did those gentlemen say? They said, if the French Government would only put them on the same footing as the Belgians they would be satisfied. I say 182 they will be put on the same footing as the Belgians from June 1861. The treaty obligations existing between France and Belgium prevent the arrangement taking effect earlier than that time; but the first moment it can take effect the linen manufacturers of Belfast are to have an arrangement which they state will be satisfactory to them. It is not to be assumed that because the maximum of duty is mentioned in the Treaty, every duty now below that maximum is to be raised to the maximum. In the supplementary arrangements contemplated the duties below 30 per cent will not be raised, but those above that amount will be reduced. It is unfair to tell the linen manufacturers of Ireland that, with respect to some classes of linen now paying 2½ per cent on being imported into France, the duty may be actually raised to 30 percent. I think I may say nothing of that kind will take place; I am sure that all the correspondence in reference to future arrangements breathes an entirely different spirit. With regard to coal, that being a legal question, I do not profess to offer any opinion upon it. I think it had, better be left to be discussed by itself on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). But I have been told that anything that could be done in England, before this Treaty, according to international law, in reference to prohibiting the export of coal, may still be done; and that no other surrender has been made except the surrender of the right to prohibit the export of coal in a commercial sense. On the question of spirits the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted a passage in the correspondence between my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Earl Cowley, in which it is stated that 10s. on foreign spirits would be the most desirable duty for the English revenue; but that the negotiators might agree to 8s. 2d. if some early reduction could be obtained on some article to be introduced into France. And then, asks the hon. and learned Gentleman, what early reduction did we obtain? I can tell him that one of the early reductions obtained was that on this very article of linen. The reduction of the duties on British linen going into France was brought nearer by a considerable period—namely, to June 1861, and it was one of the early reductions obtained by the concession in regard to spirits.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
said, in the first letter from Earl Cowley to the noble Lord 183 (Lord John Russell) the 1st of July, 1861, was stated as the date.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
I have not the despatch by me at this moment, but I think I am correct; at all events the reduction of the import duty on linens going into France would have taken effect at a more distant period but for the concessions made with regard to the duty on spirits. Again, iron and machinery were also to be admitted at an earlier period in consequence of that concession. The hon. and learned Gentleman used the expression that this agreement for a smaller import duty on French spirits was a sacrifice of English manufacturers of spirits for some political object. The hon. and learned Gentleman, I am sure, has unintentionally misrepresented the case, because it was always intended and always understood by the French Government that a sufficient difference should be maintained between the duty on foreign spirits and that on British manufactured spirits to cover the disadvantage under which the British manufacturer was placed by being under Excise survey. No intention, therefore, could exist of sacrificing his interest. No doubt, he was to lose a protective duty, but under no conceivable circumstances was he to be put on any terms of inequality with the French manufacturer. With regard to the question of wine, the hon. and learned Gentle man has given utterance to substantially the same sentiments which were expressed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir S, Northcote). He seemed to think this Treaty placed a differential duty on wines of Spain, and gave those of France an advantage, and that we had placed ourselves in a very difficult position, if we were hereafter inclined to propose a commercial treaty for the admission of British manufactures into the former country. It must be remembered that this arrangement is one which does not in the least arise out of the Treaty, but is made solely in reference to our own laws relating to spirits; and, as I am informed, it will be found much easier to get into consumption a quantity of spirits through the importation of Spanish wines at the duties proposed by the Treaty, than to attempt the same operation through the importation of French wines. Therefore, in that sense, with a view to the consumption of alcohol, you are to some extent favouring Spain at the expense of France. I cannot see any ground of complaint whatever in this arrangement with regard to wines. I think 184 the case is not a French question merely, because the greater portion of the German wines, I am informed, will have the advantage of this lower rate of duty, as containing less than 18 degrees of alcohol. The hon. and learned Gentleman has really gone into so many minute details that it is extremely difficult to follow him; but on the question of shipping I will take leave to make a few observations. Those who have sent memorials to the Board of Trade on the subject of the third Article and of the differential duty have all, without exception, suggested that, unless something could be done for the shipping interest, this Treaty ought to be rejected altogether. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Cairns) have not taken that view of the question; and the petitioners seem to be under a misapprehension on the subject of the Treaty. I have read their memorials, and I find an idea prevailing that in some way or other British shipping will be placed in a worse position than before, and that the Treaty will give some kind of sanction for a period of ten years to restrictions which might otherwise have been removed. I contend that this Treaty does nothing of the kind, but that, so far as it affects the British shipping, it will confer advantages upon it. In the trade between England and France ships of both nations are on a footing of perfect equality: by increasing that trade British ships must be benefited. What is the state of the case at present? Of the French direct trade with the United Kingdom, sixty-nine per cent is carried under the British flag; twenty-eight per cent is carried under the French flag; and three per cent under the flags of other nations. This is the trade to which the Treaty relates, and to no other, and it is this trade which may be expected so largely-to increase by the mutual interchange of products and manufactures. It is clear that if British ships can enjoy sixty-nine per cent of the carrying trade there is nothing in any French regulation which prevents them from deriving full advantage from it, and any increase of that traffic arising from the Treaty must obviously confer an important advantage on British shipping. But, further, I find that the trade between England and France forms something between one third and a half of the whole foreign trade of that country; of this the English vessels enjoy seventy per cent, or, in other words, between one-third and one-quarter of the 185 whole foreign trade of France. To raise the general question of differential duties bearing on the indirect trade with France is to enter into something quite apart from this Treaty. The hon. and learned Gentleman, I think, has talked of imports from America into France. No doubt, it would be very desirable if British ships could carry goods from the United States to France on the same terms as American vessels; but this Treaty has nothing to do with creating facilities of that kind—it is simply to facilitate the carrying of British produce into France. The same argument applies with regard to the Mauritius; I respectfully submit that when you introduce these topics into a discussion on an Address on this particular Treaty you are really travelling from the question before the House. But, as this subject has been mentioned, let me see the extent of this great grievance. I should be glad if the navigation laws of all countries were entirely abolished. In this country we have removed all restrictions; and there are very few nations, with the exception of France, Spain, Portugal, and to some extent America, which have not reciprocated our liberality, and given us freedom of navigation. It is said that at the Mauritius we are kept out of something very well worth having by these differential duties. I presume that a certain quantity of sugars are consigned to this country, which for the most part find their way in English bottoms, which I presume cannot be regarded as disadvantageous to British shipping. But I have a return before me showing the extent of the colonial trade of France; and let us see how much we should acquire if every French ship were prevented from carrying produce from any of our Colonies to France—a consummation that the hon. and learned Gentleman, I think, will scarcely hope for. I find that in 1858 the trade between France and the British Colonies in Asia, Africa, and America, amounted to 119,216 tons of shipping in the year. The trade of Great Britain with foreign countries, under all flags, was 14,438,000 tons; and between the United Kingdom and her Colonies was 4,306,426 tons. So that all you would gain would be admission to n trade of 119,216 tons of shipping in addition to the trade of 18,000,000 into which you now enter. I venture to say if British shipowners had all this trade, of which they say they are now deprived, they would feel it to be an addition of comparatively trifling importance. I do not say 186 it is not worth having; but I think more importance is attached to these restrictions than they deserve. The whole French trade with the British possessions in India and the Mauritius is only 81,000 tons. It really appears to me you are attaching great importance to small matters, and, by continually pleading small restrictions, are attempting to raise a prejudice against a great and comprehensive measure of commercial freedom, with which I am quite certain the country and the constituents of the hon. and learned Gentleman are satisfied. There is one remarkable fact with regard to English and French shipping which I cannot help mentioning. In the year 1858, of the French ships in the ports of France engaged in the foreign carrying trade—I do not speak of the coasting trade—British vessels in those ports formed two-thirds of that tonnage:—that is, for every nine French ships in the ports of Franco engaged in the foreign trade there were six British engaged in the same trade. All these ships must have obtained employment, notwithstanding the restrictions that remain. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) was anxious to propose his Resolution as an Amendment to the Address. I was one of those who endeavoured to dissuade the hon. Gentleman from doing so. I imagine he did not attach much importance to the advice, because, being a Member of the Government, he thought I was not quite to be believed on such a subject. He rather listened to me with a degree of distrust I have not been accustomed to sec. But I really advised the hon. Gentleman to take the course I should have thought best had I been in his position. When the noble Lord at the head of the Government offered him an opportunity of bringing forward his Resolution as a substantive Motion, and told him he would support it, I could not conceive the hon. Gentleman would have a moment's hesitation; and I am quite convinced he has now taken the most judicious course for the promotion of the cause he has be ably advocated. I have no doubt when he brings forward his Resolution again—I do not say in the exact words in which it now stands—that it will obtain the general support of the House. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast concluded his speech with some observations about the French export duty on rags. He said the negotiators of this Treaty had paid no attention to the question of export duties levied by 187 foreign countries on the raw materials of manufactures. I dare say they did not; I am not aware it has been the custom to enter into such considerations when dealing with the import duties of this country. I venture to say there is scarcely a single article or manufactured article the duty on which you have reduced or repealed that does not contain some ingredient that is liable to some restriction as to its ox-port from other countries. What would be said if any one objected to the importation of corn and grain from France because the French Government prohibits the exportation of guano? You repealed the duty on leather, though the French Government puts a duty on the exportation of raw hides. If you were to act on the principle of repealing Customs' duties only with regard to foreign export duties, you would be in a difficulty every time you dealt with a manufactured article. I do not think the argument has any force; I believe it will be found impolitic to make your import duties depend either on the existence or the removal of export duties on raw materials in other countries. No doubt it is most desirable that all those export duties should be removed by foreign countries, and I was extremely glad to hear the noble Lord announce to the House that the French Government intended to remove the prohibition now existing on the exportation of rags from France. But the negotiators of this Commercial Treaty would have been to blame if they had gone into the consideration of such export duties in reference to every article with which they were going to deal. In fact, we must look to the general principle of these measures; the negotiators were about to deal with a great measure of principle, much of the details of which has yet to be completed. Had they allowed themselves to travel into considerations beyond the broad principles of the Treaty, they would have failed altogether, and the House would not have had the Treaty before it for discussion. I hope the House will give its unanimous vote in support of the Address the hon. Member for Middlesex has submitted to us. I cannot conceive that the noble Lord who has moved the Resolution relating to Savoy will obtain any support. I cannot believe that he will go to a division. Why we should refuse to increase our commercial intercourse with Franco because some territorial question is under discussion I cannot understand. There is nothing in the words of the Address to which any hon. Member can have 188 any serious objection. I can scarcely conceive even the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) objecting to it. Even if the Treaty be as bad as he says it is, at any rate our intention is good. The very existence of the Treaty is a proof of a desire on the part of the Crown to promote the welfare and happiness of the people. No one will deny that such a treaty must promote a beneficial intercourse between Great Britain and France, and tend to the extension of our trade and manufactures. We all hope and trust that such will be its result. We do not ask you to say it is mathematically demonstrated; we ask the House simply to congratulate the Crown on thus proving its desire to promote the well-being and happiness of the people of this country, and to express a hope that the measures proposed will increase our commercial intercourse with France, to the advantage of both nations.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he sincerely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in hoping that the discussion of the Treaty would not be mixed up with any other topic. The noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord H. Vane) had raised the question of the annexation of Savoy to France; but in considering the Treaty they should confine themselves to its relations to the financial and commercial system of the country, and not go into any other subject. He had scrupulously abstained, during the discussion of the Treaty, from throwing any impediment in the way of the changes proposed, but he did not consider himself precluded from freely criticizing the Treaty as presented to the House, and for which the Government asked not only their assent but their applause. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had much disappointed him, as he had expected to hear a more satisfactory answer to some of the points that had been started. The objections the hon. and learned Member for Belfast had made to the Treaty had not been answered at all. He (Sir S. Northcote) would consider for a moment the reasons why a Commercial Treaty with France had been resolved on at all. It had been described as an instrument framed to induce the people of England and France to consent to alterations in their financial systems which, without the Treaty, they would not be willing to adopt. It might be said that if we had not entered into the present Treaty, the Emperor of the French would not have 189 been enabled by any other means to persuade the French Protectionists to accede to the change in the commercial policy of France which he desired to introduce; but he should, upon the other hand, contend that it would appear as if the English Government had had recourse to a Treaty in order to induce the House of Commons to accept financial arrangements which under other circumstances it would have rejected. Now, looking upon the advantages which the Treaty was likely to confer upon the English people, he was perfectly willing to admit that the throwing open of the trade with France was a step in advance, and made a breach in the prohibitory system which had in that country hitherto prevailed. He could not, however, help thinking that that step might have been taken, and that breach effected, without the necessity of having recourse to the present Treaty for the purpose. He was of that opinion, because he was, as every hon. Member must be, well aware that the Emperor of the French was a consistent advocate of free trade, and that he had endeavoured to obtain the adoption of its principles on more than one occasion. The last move, however, which he had made in that direction had so alarmed the French manufacturers, that they had extorted from him a pledge to proceed no further in the course upon which he had entered until the year 1861. Now, that being so, it was evident that when the year 1861 should have arrived, the Emperor of the French would have been prepared, consistently with what he deemed to be the good of his people, to extend to us concessions, perhaps, still greater than we had succeeded in obtaining from him by means of the bargain which we had just concluded. The argument, therefore, that the Treaty was of great importance because it effected a breach in the prohibitory system of France, did not, in his opinion, possess so much weight as some hon. Gentlemen seemed disposed to attach to it. It was, however, said to be likely to be productive of great advantage to this country in other respects; but from the justice of that view he must beg leave to dissent. By the third Article, for instance, we stipulated that the rates of duty which were mentioned in the preceding articles were to be independent of the differential duty in favour of French shipping, and it was argued that we need give ourselves no concern about that stipulation, inasmuch as the Treaty applied to direct and not to indirect trade, and as 190 in the direct trade British vessels stood on equal terms with French vessels. But, if that were so, why, he should like to know, had the third Article been introduced into the Treaty at all? It had not, most assuredly, been inserted in accordance with our request, but at the suggestion of the French Emperor, who, he took it for granted, must have some object in view in procuring our assent to such a stipulation. In endeavouring to discover what that object could be, he (Sir Stafford Northcote) found that we had entered into a treaty of navigation with France in 1826, which was terminable at a year's notice. Now, if that treaty were put an end to, what would be the result? Why, that the differential duties in favour of French ship, ping would be revived in the direct trade, and the Emperor of the French would have it in his power to point to the Treaty of 1860 as declaring that the duties therein named were independent of those differential duties altogether. He wished to call the attention of the House to Article 11, which provided for the exportation of coal to France free of duty, and which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade contended had been introduced into the Treaty in a commercial sense. Now, it was perfectly clear that that Article had not been framed at the instance of the English Plenipotentiary, but must have emanated from the Emperor of the French himself. With what object, then, it was but reasonable to ask, could its introduction into the Treaty have been sought? The question was one upon which he thought some light was thrown by what had taken place when he had filled the office of Secretary to the Treasury last year. A proclamation had at the time been issued with respect to the export of goods which were contraband of war, declaring that all those by whom such goods were exported would not only expose their property to be captured by foreign vessels, but would render themselves liable to penalty under the operation of the municipal law and what was called the South American Act. That proclamation had caused great alarm in certain quarters, and several persons had communicated with the Treasury for the purpose of ascertaining whether coal came within the terms of the prohibition, alleging that they had entered into contracts with the French Government for the supply of largo quantities of that article for the use of the French navy. If the export of coal had then been prohibited it was 191 quite clear that the interests of France in prosecuting the war in which she was engaged would have been materially interfered with, and yet we had by the present Treaty consented to surrender a right which we might have found it advantageous to exercise last year, and to the exercise of which we might at some future period find it beneficial to have recourse. It was argued, however, that a prohibition on the export of coal from England to France would not prevent the French from getting a supply from Belgium and other countries in the event of a war. But supposing that the war was one in which Belgium was also interested, and that it was desirable to cripple France, what would be the consequence? Why that they would be unable to do so in consequence of the Treaty? The view which he took upon the subject was one which he could not help thinking was not merely hypothetical, and one which received something like confirmation from the celebrated conversation which had been reported in The Times newspaper as having taken place in December last between two distinguished persons—an Englishman and a Frenchman, whom general report pointed out to be the Emperor of the French and Mr. Cobden. In the course of that conversation the Englishman was represented as having asked whether no information could be given him with respect to the large stock of coal then being laid in by France. The answer to that question was as follows:—I will continue with the same frankness. Some months back your Tory Ministry was so much opposed to the war in Italy that everything announced its wish to place itself on the side of Austria. It was even on the point of causing coal to be considered as contraband of war. Now, our navy used only English coal. The Minister had then to occupy himself with that semi-hostile attitude of your Ministry, and to look about for the means of supplying, in case of need, the French fleet with French coal. It was his duty not to leave our supplies at the mercy of your Government.Now, coupling what had taken place when he was in office with what were admitted to be the necessities of the French navy with respect to the supply of coal, he thought it was perfectly clear that the intention of introducing into the Treaty the 11th Article was to preclude us from taking those steps to prevent the exportation of coal which we might have taken last year. If that were not the meaning of the article in question, what end was it intended to answer? In a commercial point of view it was of no earthly value, as the Emperor 192 of the French was perfectly aware; so that we had been—he would not say entrapped into its insertion in the Treaty—but induced by France to accept it for her own particular objects. The Treaty had many good points in it, but it crippled and fettered us for a period of ten years, and left us powerless to alter or modify our course, whatever circumstances might occur to induce us to do so. During the last ten years a great change had taken place in the principles which regulated our commercial policy; he hoped the same principles would continue to prevail; but could they assure themselves of that, and how could they justify themselves for now tying up their successors in a new Parliament, which was to be elected on a totally new principle by stipulations of this sort? The Chancellor of the Exchequer told him the other night that he was proposing to tie up the hands of a reformed Parliament. Nothing could be more absurd than to attempt to fetter Parliament by any legislation of that House because one Parliament could always reverse the proceedings of its predecessor; but there was one way in which the hands of Parliament really might be tied,—and that was by a Treaty which binds the honour of the Crown, is accepted by Parliament, and cannot be got rid of. When a Treaty was so loosely drawn as this—when its details had received such cursory attention as from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade this Commercial Treaty obviously had received—when they were really putting themselves very inconveniently in a position from which they could not withdraw—when they were unable duly to consider it—when they could not discuss the details of the Budget, hampered as they were by the provisions of this Treaty, he could not help raising his voice against the adoption of the course which had been prescribed for them. He really blushed for the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night when he was obliged to propose a differential duty in favour of French corks in order to get out of the difficulty which seemed to arise out of the French Treaty. He was prepared to take off the duty altogether from corks; that was a question of free trade; but then came in the Treaty question, and lest the Treaty should be jeopardized his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer actually proposed a differental duty in favour of French corks, contrary to every principle of his whole commercial policy;—there could not be a more 193 convincing proof of the extremely undignified position in which they were placing themselves. There was an expression in the Address they were called upon to vote which was rather a singular one. It professed, in the first place, to assure Her Majesty that the House had considered the Treaty of Commerce concluded between Her Majesty and the Emperor of the French, and then the Address went on to assure Her Majesty that "we shall proceed to take such steps as may be necessary for giving effect to a system which, we trust, will promote a beneficial intercourse between Great Britain and France." And now, what was the meaning of that word "system?" He supposed it was an error for the word "treaty." [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: It is the word used by Mr. Pitt.] He did not know what Mr. Pitt's Treaty or Mr. Pitt's system might have been, but, as the word was designedly introduced, they were obviously giving their assent to much more than a treaty; they were called on to give their assent to a system. What system? The system of mixing up their financial arrangements with treaties with foreign countries—a system which was to bind them to cut off, by an arrangement with a foreign country, large sources of revenue, and put them in a position in which they would be obliged to go on in a course from which it would be utterly impossible to withdraw, and which would cost them a great deal more than they had yet any idea of. What would be the effect of reducing those duties on luxuries? Would there not be a great pressure placed on them to take off those on tea, sugar, and other articles of prime necessity? He believed the argument would be found irresistible. They had relieved the rich from the heavy taxation on wine, silks, and other articles of luxury, and at the same time they were retaining the duties on the necessaries of life. One duty after another would fall, and the more they narrowed the number of articles on which they imposed duties the greater would be the pressure to take them off, and the greater the difficulty of maintaining the duties on those articles. The Liverpool Financial Reformer was in a state of perfect ecstacy with this Budget, considering it as a step, though a feeble one, towards the perfect freedom of trade, which, it stated, could not exist so long as there remained any duties of Customs or Excise on exports or imports. This was the great lever with 194 which the Liverpool Financial Reformer was to work for the accomplishment of all it desired. He did not see how, logically, they could stop short in the course they were now invited to enter upon—of striking off all, or almost all, the remaining duties of Customs and Excise. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] His right hon. Friend cheered, but what was to come in their place? Were they to have direct taxation; and if so, was the Chancellor of the Exchequer prepared with an unexceptionable scheme of direct taxation? His course would then be intelligible. But what he did was this; having impressed on them that our system of direct taxation was not satisfactory, and having also in former years expressed his strong sense of the difficulty or impossibility of altering it, he now asked them to postpone the whole question of its settlement till another year, and in the meantime to pursue a course which must lead to the destruction of all indirect taxes. Seeing then that the House was now called on to take a gigantic step in this direction, under circumstances which would commit the country to a course from which it would be impossible to recede, he felt himself unable to join in the very cordial approval they were invited to give to this Treaty.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he hoped there would be no objection to disposing of the Amendment of the noble Lord; then, the right hon. Member for Stroud might proceed with his Amendment to-morrow.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he wished to call the attention of the Government to this fact, that, supposing the question put and the Amendment of the noble Lord negatived, the words proposed to be left out; would stand part of the question. Might not the words of the Address be improved in one respect? His hon. Friend who last spoke (Sir S. Northcote) called the attention of the House to the word "system," which the Address pledged the House to promote. Now, that was a very ambiguous term. Some people might suppose it meant the system of free trade; others the reciprocity system. He thought what was meant was the system mentioned in the Treaty—namely, the doing away with prohibitive duties on the part of France and the reduction or abolition of revenue duties on the part of England. What he suggested was that, instead of 195 the word "system," they should use the word "treaty," which would have the effect of pledging the House to take such steps as they should think best fitted to give effect to the Treaty, so as to promote commercial intercourse between the two countries.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he thought "system" was the more appropriate word, but there would be no objection to insert the word "treaty." To make the alteration, however, it would be necessary for the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, these difficulties often occurred in Committee, and there they were got over by putting only the first few words of the clause. If the first half-dozen words of the Address were put, and the question then resolved in the affirmative, any alteration might be made afterwards.
§ Amendment by leave, withdrawn: Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. HORSMAN moved the adjournment of the Debate.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.