HC Deb 12 August 1881 vol 264 cc1728-816

in rising to move— That an humble Address be presented to the Crown, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from any Commercial Treaty with France which proposes to substitute specific duties for ad valorem duties, to the disadvantage of any article of British manufacture, or in any way to raise the present rate of duties payable on such articles, and which does not leave Her Majesty's Government full liberty to deal with the question of Bounties, or which would bind Her Majesty absolutely to its provisions for a longer period than twelve months, said, that, whatever might be the opinion of the House on the Motion which he was about to submit, he thought that there would be a unanimous feeling of regret that they should be called upon, in the year 1881, to consider the question of a Treaty, proposed to us by France, which was of a reactionary and Protectionist character. The prophecies that one of the great results of the Treaty of 1860 would be that France and all other countries in Europe and America would become so much alive to the benefits of Free Trade that the nations of both Europe and America would soon be bound together in one great Zollverein of Free Trade had, unhappily, not been fulfilled. So far from their being fulfilled, it could not be said that Free Trade principles seemed to have made much, progress. The Treaty of 1860, which was undoubtedly of a Free Trade character, and which was concluded under the Empire, it was now sought under a Republic to replace by one of an altogether reactionary description. The Treaty of 1860, as was admitted by Her Majesty's Government, was of a very one-sided character, being much more in favour of France than of this country; and it was disappointing to find that France was now prepared to go back from the position which she took up in 1860, notwithstanding the undoubted advantages she had enjoyed under the Treaty, That result must be disappointing to them all, but more especially to the members of that Club which bore the name of the distinguished man who negotiated and settled the Treaty of 1860 on behalf of this country. So far from every country becoming more and more favourable to Free Trade, the Tariffs of foreign countries had a tendency every year to become more and more Protectionist. The only State in Europe which could be said to have adopted the principles of Free Trade was that country which was so much vilified by the Liberal Party—namely, Turkey. It was no wonder, then, that the people of this country were beginning to ask themselves whether a policy of admitting without question whatever came from abroad freely, while our exports were heavily taxed in those countries, was a sound and profitable one. He had lately read a speech made by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Potter), the President of the Cobden Club, at its annual meeting; and he could not help comparing that hon. Member to a well-known character in fiction—Mark Tapley. The hon. Member for Rochdale seemed to agree very much with Mark Tapley in thinking that there was no merit in appearing cheerful under happy circumstances, but that the great merit was in being cheerful under adverse and dismal circumstances. In his speech the hon. Member made the astounding statement that Free Trade principles were progressing at home and abroad. How did the case stand at home? Surely no one who read the signs of the times could fail to see that throughout the large towns of this country there was arising an intense feeling of dissatisfaction with the present state of things. Even in Birmingham, which had the advantage of being represented by two Members of the Cabinet who were such thorough advocates of Free Trade, there were indications that the Free Trade policy of the Cobden Club was decidedly not in favour with that town; and, whether rightly or wrongly, they attributed much of the suffering and bad trade which existed throughout the country—["No!"]—to that Free Trade policy. The hon. Gentleman who said "No!" would have an opportunity of telling the House in what town good trade existed. It was fully acknowledged that until recent years their Free Trade policy was a successful one. While they were the great manufacturing centre of the world it mattered little what duties foreign countries put upon their manufactures, which consisted, not of luxuries, but of necessities, as the consumers had to pay them; but foreign countries had now largely increased their manufacturing power, and had, instead of being importing countries, become exporting countries. Under these circumstances, it was time that they began to re-consider a policy which was all very well up to a certain time, but which some contended had now failed. While this was what was being said from one end of the country to another on the subject of their commercial policy, what had been the position taken by the Government with reference to the great grinciples of political economy? The Land Bill could hardly be said to be framed on the lines of true political economy. On the second reading of that Bill the Prime Minister treated with ridicule the economic propositions of Professor Bonamy Price as being too sound for any other than an ideal state in Jupiter or Saturn. It could not be said, therefore, that the Government had set a very good example at home, and, altogether, it was very difficult to coincide with the hon. Gentleman the President of the Cobden Club, when he said that the principles of Free Trade were advancing at home; and if they looked abroad it appeared to him that he must be a very sanguine man who could speak of the progress of Free Trade principles there. The tendency in every quarter of the globe seemed to be towards more and more restriction, and the French Tariff certainly of itself was no indication of any progress of Free Trade principles, notwithstanding the fact that they had enjoyed to some extent the benefits of Free Trade policy from the year 1860. The cheerful view of the hon. Gentleman was not, however borne out by the speeches of the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who were so often found associated together in public proceedings in and out of the House. Another gentleman accounted for the want of success of the Cobden Club on the ground that they did not give dinners enough. The money was spent in literature instead; and he was very much struck with the fact that, while thousands of publications concerning the English Land Question were struck off, the circulation of Free Trade publications had declined. Only 100 copies were taken of Free Trade and Protection by Professor Fawcett, and of The Value of Political Economy to Mankind only 100 copies; whereas a most mysterious pamphlet entitled The Dog and the Shadow circulated to the extent of 50,000. What was "the dog" and what was "the shadow?" It was not for him to say; but at all events there was a marked difference between the number of the pamphlets on the Land Question and upon the questions of Reciprocity and Free Trade, which were the questions of the day. He found, however, that there was one proposition before the Cobden Club of which he could approve. At the recent meeting the members of that Club pronounced that they would rather have no Treaty at all than a worse Treaty. He did not know whether the Government were prepared to accept that. He was rather afraid that they, were not. His attention was attracted to a letter in The Times by the President of the Board of Trade on the 8th of August, in which he said that "the feeling of the country was opposed to the conclusion of a Treaty materially worse than the present one." He ventured to say that that was not a proper expression of the public feeling, which was opposed, not merely to a Treaty "materially worse," but in any degree worse; and any action taken by the Government to bring about a Treaty in any shape worse than the present one would meet with entire disapproval. What was the position in which they were at present placed? It was with a great deal of regret that he troubled the House with this matter at this period of the Session; but in a few days they would separate, and by the time they met again, in all probability, if any damage was to be done, it would be accomplished, and they might find themselves bound by a Treaty of a most disadvantageous character, which excluded their goods from France, and prevented them from making an advantageous Treaty with any other country that might be prepared to do so. He did not, therefore, think it would be wise for the House to separate without a discussion on this important subject. He had the highest opinion of the Gentlemen charged with conducting the negotiations; but it was just as well to bear this in mind, that the tendency was to make a Treaty—a good one by all means, but make a Treaty. Therefore, it was essential the matter should be fully discussed before Parliament separated. The action of the Government hitherto did not inspire him with absolute confidence. They were told by the Prime Minister that everything that was done would be done in the full light of day. But how did the action of the Government square with these professions? The House would remember that it was with the greatest difficulty that his noble Friend (Viscount Sandon) extracted from the Government a copy in the English language of the French Tariff, and his noble Friend was deserving of their thanks for the persistency with which he pursued the matter and at length extracted the concession. The Chambers of Commerce in this country, no doubt, were quite able to understand the French Tariff in the French language; but it was a different case with workmen, and it was most necessary that the document should be placed in their hands, as they were greatly interested in the question. Almost everything which they knew with respect to these negotiations had been extracted by cross-examination from the Government, and little information had been given voluntarily. The present position of the question was the subject of very great anxiety in the country. They wanted to know the exact position which the Government had taken up upon this question, and also the position of the French Government. He had been told as early as October last that the French Government intimated their intention of substituting specific for ad valorem duties; and he wished to know whether the negotiations that had taken place had led to any alteration of the opinions of the French Government? If his recollection was correct, he thought the Prime Minister, in answer to a question, said that specific duties upon some few things might not, perhaps, make very much difference, but that as a basis of a new French Tariff it was impossible to entertain them.


said, that, as far as he could recollect, what he stated upon that occasion was that, in the substitution of specific duties for ad valorem duties, Her Majesty's Government saw very great difficulty, and the mode of overcoming these difficulties had not yet been reached.


said, that he had spoken to the best of his remembrance. But there was no doubt that the Government were of opinion that a change of specific duties would be disadvantageous to this country. He found that Earl Granville stated in a communication to M. Challemel-Lacour that a change to specific duties could not be otherwise than disadvantageous to British trade. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] He had the despatch in his hand. Well, he wanted to know whether the Government were still of that opinion, as there had been some shaky utterances on the subject on the part of the Government of late? He should be glad to know from the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether the Government held to the declaration of Earl Granville which he had just quoted? It would be impossible so to arrange specific duties as not to hit hardly some of their manufactures. The effect on Bradford might be judged by what had been said by Mr. Mitchell, ex-President of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, who stated that the duties would be increased by such a change from 100 to 150 per cent; and one large manufacturer had expressed his intention of removing a large portion of his machinery to France in the event of such a change. The House of Commons had already declared, by a Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), that it would not be content with a Treaty not less favourable than the old one, but would demand one more favourable. Had the Government communicated this Resolution to the French Government? We knew they had not. Why had they not done so? One would have thought that Resolution would have strengthened the hands of the Government in their dealings with France. His Resolution was not so strong as that of the hon. Member, and he hoped the House would agree to it. There should be no mistake about the action of the Government on the matter. The industrial community were unanimously of opinion that we should concede no more to France than we had already conceded. It was time that the policy which gave up everything and received nothing should be re-considered. It was acknowledged that the prophecy that all nations would soon adopt their Free Trade policy had been completely falsified. The doctrine of the Cobden Club—"Buy in the cheapest markets"—was not the original Free Trade doctrine. The Cobden Club said—"Take care of your imports, and the exports will take care of themselves." But if the present state of things went on, they would soon have very little exports to take care of. In 1872 their exports amounted to £256,000,000; in 1879 they had fallen to £191,000,000, showing a falling off of £65,000,000. In the period 1871–5, their exports to Europe were £741,000,000; in 1876–80, £626,000,000, showing a difference against the latter period of £115,000,000, equal to about 15 percent. Their exports to America in 1871–5 were £374,000,000; in 1876-80, £270,000,000; a diminution of £104,000,000, equal to about 37 per cent. This alarming decrease in their exports was a very serious matter. What was to be done toremedy it? He wished it to be clearly understood that he was not there to advocate a return to Protection for their manufactures. He did not see how Protection would benefit their manufacturing interests. They produced more than they consumed, and must export the surplus; and no duty would effect a rise in prices, because they could not have one price for what they exported and another for what was sold at home. What they wanted was not Protection, but entrance for their manufactures into foreign markets. They could not afford to be gradually and permanently excluded from foreign markets. How was that to be arrived at? It was said they had thrown away their weapons. He denied that they had thrown them away. It was true that they put aside those weapons in the hope that foreigners would do the same. This not being so, what was there to hinder them taking them up again. If they had still retained them, there would only be a small minority in the country who would not advocate their use in order to get better terms from the foreigner. What was the Prime Minister's proposal with reference to the Wine Duties lately made to France? In a letter on the subject in January last, his Secretary wrote— Mr. Gladstone desires me to say that the attitude of foreign Governments in the chief wine-growing countries, and that of some among them especially, makes it in his view extremely doubtful whether they will on their side suggest such measures, and with such a degree of promptitude as might lead Her Majesty's Government to propose an alteration of the Wine Duties as a part of the financial arrangements of the current year. What was this but a statement that before laying aside any portion of the weapons still left them they must have a quid pro quo? What was this but Reciprocity pure and simple? If, then, they were prepared to use such weapons as they still possessed, what was to hinder them taking up again those they had laid aside? Where was the difference in principle? He confessed he could see none. He should be told that Retaliation was as bad as Protection. Against that statement he could quote high authorities; but the present Free Traders looked with some contempt upon the doctrines of the great masters of the school—they had advanced beyond the views of Adam Smith and others. Professor Bonamy Price, whose political economy had been deemed by the Prime Minister so ideal as to be unfit for this planet, had stated recently that Retaliation was not antagonistic to the principles of political economy; and Mr. M'Culloch, a name that even hon. Gentlemen who were Free Traders would receive with respect, says in his Principles of Political Economy— If there he apparently good grounds for thinking that a prohibition will so distress those against whom it is levelled as to make them withdraw or materially modify the prohibition or high duty it is intended to avenge, it may be prudent to enact it. Were there, then, "apparently good grounds" for thinking that such action on their part would be successful with France? Let them see what was the value of English trade to France. The whole export trade of France in 1879 amounted to £126,000,000, of which £38,500,000, or nearly one-third of the whole, came to this country. France, therefore, could not look with indifference upon a policy of Retaliation by this country. Could there be a doubt, looking to the enormous importance of their trade to France, of what would be the effect of a retaliatory policy on their part? Would it not certainly have the effect of compelling France to modify her hostile Tariff, and come to terms? The imports from France, too, were just such articles as might well bear heavier taxation if it should become necessary. The consumers of silks, gloves, wines, and articles de Paris, could well afford the extra price for such luxuries if they continued to purchase them. He contended, therefore, that they should not tamely submit to any hostile action on the part of France such as was threatened; that unless they could obtain a Treaty fully as good as the present one, their hands should be left free to adopt such measures as in their opinion were most conducive to their own interests. For these and other reasons he asked the House to agree that no Treaty at all with France would be better than a reactionary Treaty. He also asked the House to declare that no Treaty whatever would be satisfactory which did not leave the Government full liberty to deal with the question of Bounties. The question of Bounties was of even greater importance than hostile Tariffs. The latter destroyed their foreign trade; but bounties attacked them in their home markets, and the very existence of their manufactures was made impossible. Of course, he would be told that this was a matter which worked its own cure, and that a country acting on this principle would very soon begin to see the fallacy of giving Bounties; but where were the indications of that? Bounties on sugar had been in existence in France for many years; but so far were they from being convinced of their disadvantage, that they were now going to give an infinitely larger bounty upon the building of ships. That did not look as if the Sugar Bounties had led France to see the error of her ways. Having built up one immense industry, and so given employment to vast amounts of capital and labour, they proposed to do the same in another industry; and it was confidently anticipated in France, and, indeed, had been openly stated in the Chamber of Deputies, that the Shipping Bounties would enable them to compete successfully with England. He would not trouble the House with a long disquisition on the subject of Sugar Bounties. He had tried again and again during the Session to get an opportunity for the consideration of this matter, and had not succeeded. He would remind hon. Members, however, that the employment of a countervailing duty, in the last resort, had been recognized by the Committee which had been appointed to inquire into this question. It had, he knew, been contended by the President of the Board of Trade that bounties were beneficial to the consumer; but the Prime Minister evidently did not hold the same views as those which had been put forward by the Board of Trade. Replying to a deputation, the right hon. Gentleman had said that he did not think any benefit founded on inequality and injustice could be a permanent benefit to the consumer; but that, supposing the means suggested as a remedy—a countervailing duty—were sound—which, of course, he did not acknowledge—they were precluded from taking such action by reason of the Favoured Nation Clause in their Treaties. He (Mr. Ritchie) contended that if they were so precluded by the letter, they were not precluded by the spirit of that clause from action of the kind, because the spirit of the clause required equality, and bounties destroyed equality. On July 30th, Earl Granville wrote as follows to Mr. Adams:— I have considered, in communication with the Law Advisers of the Crown, Lord Lyons' despatches of the 2nd and 3rd instant relative to the French Mercantile Marine Bill. I have now to inform you that the bounties which it appears to be intended to give on the construction of vessels in France, and on long voyages made by such vessels, do not in precise terms constitute a violation of the stipulations of the Commercial Treaties between Great Britain and France. At the same time, it is a fair matter of representation that such bounties are contrary to the spirit and intention of those Treaties, and will, in another way, produce the very effect which their stipulations with reference to import duties are intended to prevent. Here they had an admission by Her Majesty's Government that bounties were contrary to the spirit and intention of their Treaties, and brought about that which it was the object of those Treaties to prevent. Were they, then, to bind themselves again to such Treaties, or should they not take advantage of their freedom to take care that such a scandal as that pointed out by Earl Granville should no longer continue? They had a sure and certain mode of putting a stop to such a state of things. Should they again render themselves unable to avail themselves of it? Countervailing duties were not antagonistic to the principles of Free Trade. The Spectator, a thoroughly Liberal and Free Trade journal, thus expresses its opinion on the subject— A countervailing duty would have this effect and no other, that all the sugar subject to it would still come in which would have come in if there had been no bounty, and no more; and this is just what the theory of Free Trade requires. Moreover, the cost of this fiscal operation would not fall on the wrong persons, as the cost of a countervailing bounty would. The countervailing duty, if imposed, would deprive our sugar consumers of a temporary advantage, very unsettling to trade, and having a tendency to foster unnatural production; but in depriving them of that temporary advantage, it would confer on them the compensating advantage of not being subjected to needless and trying variations of price, and of not seeing a useful class of their fellow-countrymen vexatiously injured or ruined by the caprice of foreign countries. And further on, writing of the difficulties imposed by the Favoured Nation Clause of their Treaties, it says— It is no doubt a serious difficulty, and perhaps at present insuperable. But clearly we ought not to be obliged, by granting a Favoured Nation Clause, to treat nations alike under totally different circumstances; for that really means treating them not equally, but unequally. And we heartily agree that if the other difficulties of the case can be got over, we ought, in renewing our Commercial Treaties with the various countries of Europe, to provide against any construction of the Favoured Nation Clause so harsh that it shall compel us to deal unequally with different nations under the name of dealing equally with all. This was the policy for which he asked the assent of the House. It was a policy which had been endorsed by very high authorities, some of them prominent members of the Cobden Club, and it was a policy founded on justice and Free Trade. So much for that portion of his subject, and he had now only to say a few words on that part of his Resolution which asked Her Majesty to withhold her consent to any Treaty which would bind her absolutely to its provisions for a longer period than 12 months. On that point he would at once remark that there was almost an entire unanimity of opinion in the manufacturing and commercial world. Unquestionably, it would be an immense advantage to be able to terminate a Treaty at 12 months' notice. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had said that if a Treaty were unsatisfactory, 12 months was too long for it to remain in force. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman on that point; but it did not by any means follow that a Treaty that would be satisfactory to the Government would be equally satisfactory to the people, who, under the present system, might find that they were tied and bound for years by the terms of a Treaty which they did not approve. The Prime Minister had stated that the terms of the new Treaty with France would not be more unfavourable to British goods than were those of the last; but such an assurance did not give the people of this country much hope that their interests would be properly looked after. It was the opinion of the President of the Board of Trade, a prominent Member of a Government which had, unfortunately, the power of binding them hand-and-foot, that a Treaty not materially worse than the present one would be satisfactory. He ventured to tell him that if he thought such a Treaty would be satisfactory, he very much miscalculated the opinion of the vast majority of all classes of the country. Nearly every Treaty of importance at present in existence was terminable at 12 month's notice. Where was the inconvenience of making this Treaty similar in regard to time? He confessed he failed to see any, and that he was sure was the general opinion of the mercantile world. But the inconvenience of binding them for a term of years might be very great and very real. A project was on foot, and was, he understood, received with much favour, to form a great Customs Union between their Colonies and the Mother Country on a basis of Free Trade. If they bound themselves to a Favoured Nation Treaty with France for a term of years, the consequence would be that they would be bound to accord to France whatever terms they might agree to with their Colonies or with any other Power in return for concessions on their part; and so such an arrangement would be rendered impossible. He therefore urged the House to take care that they should not be put in such a position, and that any Treaty to which they became a party should be terminable by 12 months' notice. He thanked the House for the patience with which they had listened to him. He was afraid he had put his case very inadequately; but, at least, he hoped he had said sufficient to induce the House to assent to his Motion. It was no question of Protection, but one of simple justice. His object was to prevent their already diminishing export trade from diminishing still further under a Treaty more hostile than the present one; to prevent their home trade from being extinguished by means of bounties; and to prevent the Government from committing them to a Treaty which would bind them hand-and-foot for many years to an engagement which might prove most detrimental to their interests. If the result should be that no Treaty at all was concluded, the loss would be theirs, not ours. They, at least, would be left free to take whatever course might seem most advantageous for themselves. The aim and object of France was to weaken our position as a manufacturing and commercial Power; and the people of this country would not, he was certain, any longer tolerate a policy of submission, which, in the end, must result in national misfortune. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to the Crown, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from any Commercial Treaty with Trance which proposes to substitute specific duties for ad valorem duties, to the disadvantage of any article of British manufacture, or in any way to raise the present rate of duties payable on such articles, and which does not leave Her Majesty's Government full liberty to deal with the question of Bounties, or which would bind Her Majesty absolutely to its provisions for a longer period than twelve months,"—(Mr. Ritchie,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he was sorry that the hon. Member had spent about 20 minutes in what he might call "chaffing" the Cobden Club. Time was too valuable at this period of the Session to be occupied in that way. The middle portion of the speech was of a very different kind. It was somewhat of an academic dissertation, if one could conceive of an academy holding opinions so heretical as those of the hon. Member. In the latter portion of the speech the hon. Member came to business, and told the House what he meant, and it was with that portion he proposed to deal. The hon. Gentleman had remarked that it would be a great misfortune if the House were to separate without discussing a Motion of this kind; but in making that remark he had done but scant justice to the debate which had taken place on the Motion of the hon. Member for Gloucester, because, although the Government had on that occasion opposed the Motion of the hon. Member as being inopportune, they had, at all events, an opportunity of expressing their views with regard to it. In the course of the debate Her Majesty's Government, although they held that it would be an undignified proceeding for the House to carry such a Resolution at a time when the negotiations were going on, accepted the principle put forward by the hon. Member. The hon. Member opposite, therefore, would have saved himself much trouble if he had assumed that Her Majesty's Government would have adhered strictly to the declarations they had made on this subject on the former occasion. The hon. Member had said that if it had not been for this discussion to-night the country might have been bound by a Treaty which would practically have excluded British goods from France. Did the hon. Member mean seriously to contend that such would have been the case, when the Government had already declared that they would not be parties to the conclusion of a Treaty with France which would not leave British goods in as favourable a position as they had formerly occupied? The hon. Member had attacked the Government on the ground that they had shown too much favour to the Chambers of Commerce, as compared with the working people. No doubt, it was difficult to ascertain exactly who were the proper representatives of the working people, while it was easy to enter into communition with the Chambers of Commerce; but, nevertheless, exactly the same consideration had been shown to the former as to the latter. The hon. Member had also attacked the Government on the ground that they had kept back documents. That was no new charge to bring against a Government, for it had been made against the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) when he was a Member of the late Government. He must, however, complain of the tone in which this charge had been brought against the present Government by both the hon. Member and by the noble Lord. It had not been usual on former occasions to lay before Parliament Protocols of conferences or of negotiations which had not terminated, although he admitted that directly such negotiations had been concluded the Papers relating to them should immediately be laid upon the Table of the House. The late Government, however, had not followed that wise course on several occasions. The late Government, who had conducted several negotiations of great delicacy and importance, had not only declined, very properly, to produce the Papers relating to them while they were proceeding, but they had also refused to produce them after they had been concluded. Thus not a single word had ever been published by the late Government relative to the negotiations that took place in London in 1875 between the Government of this country and that of Italy with regard to the conversion of ad valorem into specific duties. Those Papers never were laid before the House, and the House was entirely without information on the subject; and yet the noble Lord blamed the present Government for maintaining secrecy with regard to these negotiations, although they had kept their promises to the letter. In 1877 most important negotiations were held in Paris. Those negotiations were full of interest in their bearing on these duties. The Papers and the Protocols relating to them were never laid before Parliament at all. Therefore, he hoped he had disposed once for all of these charges against the present Government. But there was a special point which was raised by the hon. Member in his speech just now, and it was a point in which he was supported by the noble Lord the late President of the Board of Trade, and that was that the present Government laid before the House more Papers in French than previous Governments had done, and that they did so for the purpose of secrecy. He should not be contradicted by anyone who was able to speak with knowledge of the fact, if he said that the present Government had made the translation of papers more common; that the late Government translated far less than ever had been the case before. The translation of ordinary correspondence was discontinued during Lord Salisbury's tenure of Office, and was discontinued by his order, and was only resumed in consequence of an order given by Earl Granville. In this matter of the French negotiations, Her Majesty's Government were under peculiar difficulties with regard to giving information to the House, and for this reason—that while on their side they had nothing to fear from publicity, they could not lay the Papers before the House without the consent of the Government of France, and the Government of France had not the same ardent desire for publicity in this matter by which Her Majesty's Government were affected. He could not forget that while the negotiations were going on, it behaved him to speak with considerable discretion. The Motion which had been brought forward by the hon. Member, and to which he only alluded in almost the last words of his speech, contained four heads. He began by stating that he was against the conclusion of the Treaty if it contained any conversion of ad valorem and specific duties, which would be unfavourable to any article of British trade. Her Majesty's Government made their declarations upon the subject of ad valorem and specific duties in the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), and they adhered to the declarations they then made, which declarations had been repeated several times by the Prime Minister and occasionally by himself. "What the trade asked was that the average on which a conversion was made should be a fair average, and should not damage any important branch of trade. Her Majesty's Government asked that no article should be damaged. They had stated distinctly that they would not agree to any conversion which would destroy any branch of British trade. The second thing which the hon. Member asked was this—that the Government should bind themselves not to conclude the Treaty if any increased duty was payable on any article, as he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) understood, of British manufacture. Did the hon. Member mean to say that if we could get a Treaty beneficial to the linen or the woollen trade, Her Majesty's Government should not agree to it because there was a rise of 2d. on straw hats or some other article which was not very important to British trade? It seemed to him that that proposition carried its own refutation. The hon. Member spoke of the Sugar Bounties and of the bounties on French navigation. The Sugar Question was dealt with by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and he had no doubt he would be able to refer to it in the course of this debate. But with regard to sugar, it was the intention of the French Government that the bounty system should cease to exist. And with regard to their new law upon navigation, the hon. Member, he thought, was disposed to greatly exaggerate the importance of that law. Certainly, at the present moment, the British shipping trade was in a very flourishing condition, compared with the shipping trade of France. The shipping trade of France had been declining steadily; and it was the opinion of the highest authorities in France that the proposed law in regard to shipping would not prevent that decline, but would prove ruinous to the finances of that country. They might take note of the fact that the Minister of Commerce did not speak in support of that Bill. The country would become tired of the law, and it was not likely to endure. He thought the hon. Member's fourth proposition was less likely to be accepted even than the other three. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) entirely agreed with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, when he said that if a Treaty were a bad one they did not want it for 12 months, for 12 weeks, for 12 days, for 12 hours, or even for 12 seconds; but that if it were a good one, then they should endeavour to secure that repose to trade which was given by a Treaty of long duration. A Treaty expiring every 12 months would be insufferable to traders; and in this matter he thought the policy of the late Government was a wise one in giving all their Commercial Treaties a duration of 10 years, for, he believed, if they could get a good Treaty, 10 years was as short a time as they should make it exist. With regard to the four proposals of the hon. Member, he must refer to the reply which was made on behalf of the late Government on this matter. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver), who was in his place and would be able to correct him if he was in error, was, he believed, one of the leading supporters of the policy which the Mover of the Resolution had advocated to-night. The hon. Member for Birkenhead supported proposals of this kind at the meeting recently held in Exeter Hall. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) smiled. That hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, now prepared to take the same course as in the days when he stood forward as the solitary advocate of Protection. In 1868 and 1869 the hon. Member was the only Member of the House who had the courage of his convictions and the ability to express them in articulate language. The hon. Member for Birkenhead, on the 25th of April, 1879, asked the late Government to give a pledge—not four pledges, as the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) now asked for. He asked the late Government, in regard to those very commercial negotiations with France, to pledge themselves to the abolition of the surtaxe d'entrepôt. The case as to that was very strong—the strongest that they had in their negotiations with France. The hon. Member asked the late Government to promise not to conclude a Treaty without obtaining satisfaction as to the surtaxe d'entrepôt, and the reply of the late Government said—and they were wise words—that it would be wrong of them, imprudent, inconvenient, and impolitic to give any assurance beforehand of the nature of the conditions which the Government would require in negotiating the New Treaty with France. That reply must be his reply to the four propositions of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. He could only repeat that the Government were unable, for the reasons given by the late Government in 1879, to pledge themselves beforehand to make the conclusion or the non-conclusion of the Treaty dependent on any particular proposals of that kind. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had referred to Her Majesty's Government not having communicated the Resolution passed on the Motion of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) to the Government of France. It was not usual or convenient for the two Governments to communicate the Resolutions come to by their respective Parliamentary Bodies to each other. But the Representatives of the French Republic in this country who were negotiating the Treaty were perfectly aware of that Resolution, having read, the papers like other people, and they knew also the character of the speeches which were made in its support; and he might state, if it was any satisfaction to the hon. Member, that the Resolution was the subject of animated conversation at the meeting of the Commissioners next day. The hon. Member had insisted in much detail on the impossibility of converting ad valorem duties into specific duties. The Government had taken every possible step to obtain the best information which existed in the country on the exact force of the French proposals, as far as they had them up to the present time. They had communicated personally and in writing with the leading firms and with all who chose to put themselves in communication with them as to the possibility or impossibility of that conversion. In that they had only taken the same steps, though, perhaps, in greater detail, as were taken by the late Government on the same question in 1875, during the Italian negotiations. But the late Government, having received all that information, acted in the teeth of it, and sanctioned those duties by renewing a Treaty with Italy after the Chambers of Commerce of Yorkshire had almost unanimously asked them to have nothing to do with them. It was impossible to give any pledge that no such changes in certain articles of British trade would be allowed, or that that they would not be allowed altogether. But the Government had distinctly stated, and he stated again, that they would not consent to any such change as would put an end to any considerable trade in any article, and that they must have a Treaty on those points which would be as satisfactory as the existing Treaty. The hon. Member spoke of the decline of British trade; and though he did not actually propose Protection, yet he suggested the imposition of duties on foreign goods manufactured in this country, which it would be difficult to raise without Protection to the British manufacturer. The figures put forward by the hon. Member were misleading, and so far from a decline there was an increase, although a less rapid one than in former years, in British trade. In 1879, addressing the other House, Lord Beaconsfield pointed out by conclusive figures that British trade was not declining then; and if that was the case then, how much more must it be the case now, when there was a revival of trade? The hon. Member asked in what town was there a better trade than existed a few years ago? He might mention Sheffield, Nottingham, and Leicester. He thought that even the cotton trade was in a more flourishing state this year, and that almost the whole of the trades of England were in a better condition this year than they were last year and the year before. A pamphlet published by the Association which was agitating the country in the hon. Member's sense showed that the hostile Tariffs were not to blame for a reduction of the British woollen trade. The hon. Member had carefully avoided referring to proposals for taxing the food of the people. He had proposed a duty on silk and certain other articles. A large quantity of the silk brought here from France was brought for re-exportation; and it must be remembered that it was not imported entirely for our own consumption. When the hon. Member talked of retaliating against France, he should recollect that a large part of our imports from France consisted of food, and. he would be playing with edged tools, because, although as representing a constituency like the Tower Hamlets he would not himself propose to tax the food of the people, yet there were other persons co-operating with him who did not refrain from doing so. There was a great meeting at Exeter Hall last week—[An hon. MEMBER: Not great.]—well, if it was not a great meeting, it was not from any want of advertizing or spending money. At that meeting, the chairman, Sir Algernon Borthwick, made a speech, in which the only practical proposal was a proposal for the imposition of a tax upon the food of the people He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) ventured to say that nothing could be more in conflict with the principles which were put forward in the House of Lords by the late Earl of Beaconsfield than the principles which were now professed by the gentlemen who were behind this agitation, and who held their meetings at the Beaconsfield Club.


said, he was not connected with any organization. He had nothing to do with the meeting at Exeter Hall, nor with any body of people which the hon. Baronet imagined were behind him.


said, he accepted the hon. Member's assurance that he was not connected with the meeting, nor with anybody behind him. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) observed that when the hon. Member in his speech said he was not going to impose Protection, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) sorrowfully wagged his head. Notwithstanding the hon. Member's assurance, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) must point out that the leading promoters of this meeting were those who had been going about with the hon. Member.


Going about!


The hon. Member attended several meetings on the Sugar Question.




said, he thought it was more; but, of course, he accepted the assurance. The promoter of that meeting was a Mr. Kelly, who was one of the leading promoters of the meeting at Exeter Hall. Moreover, taking into consideration the moment chosen for this Motion, the time of that meeting, the allusion to the great public opinion outside, and the similarity of the hon. Member's remarks with the speeches at that meeting, there seemed to be a connection between this Motion and the agitation. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would say no more, except that he believed the people of this country would not tolerate the re-imposition of taxes upon food; and those who advocated the imposition of duties upon foreign goods would find themselves greatly hampered by their alliance with those who advocated taxes upon food. He must repeat that the Government would offer their distinct opposition to this Motion, because it sought to pledge them to four separate conditions. They could not pledge themselves with regard to these four proposals, or, indeed, any condition at all. They took their stand on the same ground taken by the late Government, that "it would not be prudent"—in fact, most inconvenient—"to give any assurance beforehand of the nature of the conditions that would be required in the negotiation of a new Treaty with France."


said, he wished again to declare that he was in no way connected with the meeting in Exeter Hall.


said, he thought it was very desirable that they should at once make it clear that they were not to be persuaded from discussing the great question of the French Treaty by the skilful way in which the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had mixed up the discussion with the question of Protection. He imagined there was hardly anyone in that House who was not faithful to the genuine principles of Free Trade as they were propounded by the wise founders of that movement many years ago. The hon. Baronet seemed to undervalue the importance of this great and grave matter. He tried at first to blame him (Viscount Sandon) for the course he had taken in the matter. He complained of the tone he had taken. If, however, the hon. Baronet and the Government had taken the straightforward course of saying that the public interests would suffer, the Opposition would at once have ceased to ask questions; but when they demanded information, they were put off with all sorts of excuses. Anyone who perused the answers, would find it exceedingly difficult to get anything like a definite answer. He denied entirely that there was any blame attaching to the Opposition from the tone which they had adopted in these matters. The Prime Minister the other day denied that there had been any concealment or mystery, and said that the negotiations should be conducted in the full light of day, and that the whole commercial world should know what was going on. But what was the course really taken? Before the Commission all that was done was to issue a general Circular, and after the Commission met a few times, audiences were given to deputies representing various trades. The hon. Baronet had not given a very satisfactory explanation of the publication in French of the Commercial Tariff. What he said was that the Marquess of Salisbury had published certain despatches in French; but everything depended upon whom the Papers were for. The Tariff was required by the commercial community of England, and by a great number of the working men of England, and he re-asserted his position that it was a most extraordinary thing to publish the Tariff in French, just when the negotiations were about to begin, and when everybody wished to know what the conditions were. He was borne out in that view by the Chambers of Commerce of Halifax, Glasgow, Greenock, Hull, Leeds, Macclesfield, Carlisle, Dewsbury, North Shields, and Tynemouth. The Government must have known the feelings of the Chambers. More than this, they dropped out all information about agriculture, which was seriously affected by the new French Tariff. The duty on oxen was increased, as it was on game and other things, and OH fresh butchers' meat a new duty was levied; but no information was given on these points, the subject was entirely ignored. Even had the English farmers been masters of the French tongue, they would not have known the changes proposed and affecting agriculture. There was here great reason to complain. Why did not the Government apply in the winter to the Chambers of Commerce to supply them with their views? It was a great mistake to suppose that it was only the trades directly affected that were interested in this question. There were trades in this country—and he cited Wolverhampton in particular, the centre of the iron and other trades—which had not been included even in the Cobden Treaty. The Government ought to have originated communications with the great centres of commerce to know what their views were. As this question had been treated in a somewhat cavalier manner, it was necessary to go back to 1860 and to see the views that were then held. Surely the whole condition of the world then was perfectly different from what it was now. He would quote the words of the Prime Minister to show what was expected from the example of one or two of the principal countries on the rest of the world. The right hon. Gentleman said, on March 9, 1860— We came to the conclusion that if France once frankly, sincerely, and decisively entered upon the career of freedom of trade, her own experience of the commencing stages would he a security for her proceeding onwards towards its consummation such as we could not by any other means obtain. That is the meaning of the Treaty. That is the reason of the avoidance of minute arrangements, because they would have been a total misconception of the fundamental principles of the Treaty. …. The moral contagion of France and England acting together in the sense of liberty of commerce. ….I believe the example of France and England joined in one course and one policy will turn the hearts and minds of men to the blessings of peace and gradually spread from country to country a sense of the manifold evils that result from protection. He would venture to say that a different tone would be adopted now. Those hopes had been dashed to the ground, and they had to face a new state of things. The judgment of the Foreign Secretary on the Treaty of 1860 was that to a great extent it had been onesided; its operation had not been so favourable as was expected. What were the provisions of that Treaty? The discussion was too apt to drift into general vituperation of Protection, and the real provisions of the Treaty were forgotten. It ought to be borne in mind that it was originally made for 10 years only. They gave up duties amounting to £1,200,000, and bound themselves not to impose fresh ones. The French agreed to put no higher duty than 30 per cent upon any article of commerce. The community were not satisfied with that Treaty. But it was made in a period of superabundant hopefulness. What had been its effect? No doubt, since it was made there had been a great increase of trade between this country and France. The President of the Board of Trade said the increase had been fourfold. How had the two countries respectively been affected? He would quote from the figures of the hon. Baronet the Member for Surrey, who was a great authority in these matters. Taking the 10 years from 1851 to 1860, their imports from France were £113,000,000; exports to France, £83,000,000; or, excluding foreign and colonial produce passing through this country as an entrepôt, exports were £39,000,000, as against £113,000,000 of imports. In 1861–70 imports were £296,000,000; exports, deducting foreign and colonial produce, £129,000,000. In 1871–80, there were £421,000,000 of imports, against exports, deducting foreign and colonial produce, £124,000,000. That was a picture of how fairly the Treaty had acted with respect to the trade of the two countries. He thought it was impossible to conceal from themselves the fact that the knowledge of the enormous preponderance of their imports from France over our exports to that country was creating a feeling of irritation and uneasiness amongst the working people of this country. But as to the real condition of their negotiations with France, only a few favoured Chambers of Commerce had been informed; the rest of the country had been left in ignorance, and would not have an opportunity of judging whether a good or bad bargain was being made. The general belief was that the increase in the French Tariff would cause a rise of 25 per cent over the present duties. Then, the change from ad valorem to specific duties was a serious one, and the hon. Baronet had treated the question too cavalierly. Chambers of Commerce looked upon the question as of the highest importance, and had an insuperable objection to it. In addition to these great changes, Franco proposed to make another great change with respect to Shipping Bounties. The hon. Baronet treated the question of Shipping Bounties very lightly; but he could assure him that was not the tone taken by the most experienced men in the country. He said they would not last long. But that was said long ago about Protection, which even now showed no signs of disappearing. The feeling on that question was very strong both in England and Scotland. He would not, however, take English opinion on this subject; but he would take the opinion of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce—shrewd Scotchmen—who, after a discussion on the subject, passed this resolution— That, in view of the increasing protective character of French legislation, especially in respect to the proposed system of Shipping Bounties, it is inexpedient to conclude any Commercial Treaty with France which will have the effect of interfering with the free action of the British Government in regard to its fiscal arrangements. The Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce looked upon the enormous trade of the great lines of steamships, such as the Cunard Line, with its immense number of employés, as greatly affected by those Bounties. By those interests the present state of things was looked upon as most alarming. Similar views were expressed at Glasgow. If shrewd Scotchmen were alarmed on the subject of the Shipping Bounties, people in England should look very sharply to this matter; and he was sorry to find how very little the Government seemed to be alive to this grave question. He ventured to say that the position was a very grave one, and, he thought, ought to be treated with rather more gravity by the Government. He did not think it was at all fair that an endeavour should be made to put them off the scent by talking of Protection, whereas what they wanted was a serious and sober consultation as to a matter of grave national interest. Nor were the accounts received from their Consuls abroad more encouraging. Their Consuls at Havre and Nantes had written accounts of the Bounty system which were calculated to cause the greatest alarm. He could by no means take the couleur de rose view of their commercial position which the hon. Baronet had expressed. He quite agreed that the trade of England was enormous; but he knew enough of the feeling prevalent in the great centres of industry—in London, Liverpool, Staffordshire, and the Black Country—to make him feel that every possible endeavour should be made to better their position, and that they needed every possible advantage that the Government could give them which might raise and increase the emoluments which they got from the trade of their country. So far as he could see, they could not ignore the fact that depression did exist; and it was no use shutting their eyes to it, that there was a lack of employment, and that there was a feeling that their sufferings were considerably due to the general closing of the markets of the world to this country. Whether they were right or wrong was a matter for very serious and careful consideration, and he felt they were bound to give that consideration to it. What nation in the world was now opening its markets to them? Was Austria, Italy, Germany, or the United States, or their own Colonies? What leading market was more open to them, with the exception of Turkey, than it was 30 years ago? Instead of that they saw this spectacle. It seemed to be almost a law that, as force institutions prevailed, as popular Assemblies gained more and. more control of the great States of the world, as the popular voice got more powerful and potent in the administration of affairs, it seemed almost to be a law that industries of these countries were immediately greatly more protected in consequence. It only bore out the wisdom of the remark made by the Earl of Beaconsfield in 1860, when he said that they could never trust to the democracy of France to allow her great industries to be subverted or destroyed. He thought this country would act very rashly, with the great uncertainty of trade which existed, if they bound themselves to Treaties for any long period. The hon. Baronet expressed great contempt with regard to this; but let him observe that Parliament would have no chance whatever of having its say with respect to the bargain to be made with Prance. The Treaty would be virtually concluded, and it might be a matter for a Vote of Censure on the Government next year. Considering the feeling of the country and the uncertainty of trade for the future, it was surely wiser to limit the Treaty to 12 months. After the experiment it might be wise enough, if the country approved, to continue the Treaty for a longer period; but he ventured to say it would be much more acceptable, both to the leading manufacturers and to the great mass of the working people, if it was settled that their future with France, considering the enormous interests involved, should not be tied up for a very long period. There was one argument which he wished the House to attend to. The Prime Minister seemed to treat as a very slight affair their Treaties being terminable after 10 years. He held in his hand a list of the Treaties with Austria, Belgium, Italy, Columbia, Russia, Sicily, and the United States. The period of 10 years for which they were mostly settled had long since expired, and in many of these cases trade with those countries had been going on with a 12 months' notice for periods of 8, 12, and 16 years. He never heard that there was any uncertainty with regard to those countries. He would, therefore, beg the House to insist that the Treaty with France should be concluded only for a short period. He had very considerable fear with regard to the action of the Government in respect to this Treaty. There had been what was called so much shilly-shallying about it. The right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) surely meant something when, writing in the course of last month, he stated that— Her Majesty's Government will be guided by the general sentiment of this country. I have no doubt that this feeling is, generally speaking, opposed to the conclusion of any Treaty which should he materially worse in its terms than the present one. That he (Viscount Sandon) held to be a very threatening expression to use. He believed it entirely misrepresented the feeling of the country. They did not want a Treaty worse than the present one. On the other hand, they wanted one better, and he believed the country would be bitterly disappointed if they found they had a Treaty not much better. Then, again, the language of the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) himself was very doubtful. He said they would not agree to anything which would destroy any article of British trade, as if he thought it possible that any British Government would conclude a Treaty with France which should destroy an article of British trade. All this pointed, not to a better Treaty, but a worse Treaty. The truth was, that France was evidently very clever about this. She had frightened Her Majesty's Government apparently, and the fact was they felt now that if they got something a little worse than the present Treaty they would do a very good thing in comparison with the state of things which France dangled before their eyes. He wanted, without doubt, a much better Treaty. Allusion had been made to the Cobden Club, and, as this was so, he would venture to quote the words of the noble Lord, now President of the Council, who, as president of the Club, said, as reported in The Times in July, 1880— We find that the principles of this Club are becoming prominent all over the world, and that in Free Trade, in foreign policy, and in home policy, these principles are what you have adopted as the motto for your hooks—'Free Trade, peace, and goodwill among nations.' This expression showed, in his view, that there were many gentlemen living in a sort of fool's paradise. They were shutting up the markets of the world, instead of opening them, when they abandoned such commercial outposts as Candahar—many of which, he thought, in the future would have led to a great increase in British trade. If they went on the principle of drawing in, instead of—where it legitimately could be done—opening out fresh markets for themselves, it behaved them to be still more careful in their negotiations with the old countries of the world; and, as far as he saw, there was no substantial indication that the Government were awake to the serious gravity of this matter. He would venture to appeal to all those who valued the principles of Free Trade. [Ironical cheers.] That was the way the Government tried, if they could, to throw this matter of commercial negotiations into a question of Protection; but he would appeal to those who valued Free Trade to be very careful in their negotiations with the rest of the world, so as to secure that their great industries should not suffer and be seriously damaged by the Protection action of other nations, because he thought he must be very blind to the signs of the times who did not see that for some reason or other their exports were diminishing, and the country was flooded with foreign productions, and that in consequence there was sure to be a feeling arise against the principles of Free Trade. He trusted they would have some more satisfactory statement from the Government, and some assurance that, in revising their relations with France, they would not bind themselves for a period of many years


I heartily agree with a good deal that has fallen from the noble Viscount (Viscount Sandon), and with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), and so far as their recommendations to the Government go, as to the making of a Treaty with France, which shall be better than the present Convention, the noble Lord and the hon. Member will have the support of almost every Member on this side of the House. But it seems to me, Sir, that there is a good deal of misapprehension as to the bearings of this question, as to our trade with France, and also as to our trade with many foreign countries; and a good deal of the opposition to the negotiation of a new Treaty is based upon ignorance of fact. There are certainly objections to any Treaty of Commerce from a Free Trade standpoint; the greatest, to my mind, being that we give colour to the fallacy that in reducing or abolishing import duties it is not the nation which abolishes the duty which is chiefly benefited, that it is not the nation which adopts Free Trade that gains the most. Then, why have a Treaty at all? For this reason, Sir, that without Treaty our goods will be subject to the General Tariff—a Tariff which before 1860 was prohibitive, and which is largely prohibitive now, but with which we have no more right to interfere than we have to interfere with the Tariffs of the United States or Germany. We have absolutely nothing to do with the fiscal, or even with the protective, arrangements of foreign countries; their Tariffs are arranged by their Rulers in what they conceive to be their own interest; and though we know that they would be gainers by the abolition of all protective duties, we have no right to impose our notions upon them. What interest can be served by trying to tie up the hands of the Government, and by forcing them to break off negotiations before they know what are the best terms offered by France? The duty of the Government is perfectly clear in this matter; they understand the interests of the community; and surely those who are so capable in the ordinary affairs of life will be able to negotiate a Treaty which will be satisfactory, if such a Treaty be possible. The noble Lord seems to be labouring under an extraordinary delusion respecting the General Tariff, and he confounds it with the Tarif à Discuter, arguing as if they were one and the same thing. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamets considers specific duties an evil. Speaking as a manufacturer, wishing to do the largest possible trade with France, I do not hesitate to say that in every case where it is possible to assess a specific duty at all, it is preferable to an ad valorem duty. It is much better for the manufacturers of this country that the duties charged upon their goods should always bear the same relative proportion to their cost of production, irrespective of raw material; that the duty should always bear the same proportion to the wages. In cases where the raw material varies greatly in price, the price of goods varies also, and with ad valorem duties, the tax upon the goods will at one time be equal to 30 per cent, and at another to 60 per cent, on the wages price. It is better for the French competitor also that the duties should be specific, for he will then be able to depend on a certain fixed protection, whereas in the case of ad valorem duties his protection is a movable quantity, not easily ascertainable. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets went on to speak of the Sugar Bounties. That is a matter which has often been discussed in the House, and which has caused much interest in the country; but it has always been a question whether the effect of the drawback was properly understood. A great reduction has taken place, not only in the duty but also in the drawback allowed on refined sugar exported from France; and the saccharine test has been altered, so that now, I believe, there is no bounty whatever on its export; and when sugar refiners complain that they are injured by the drawback allowed by the Austrian Government on raw sugar, and, at the same time, that they are injured by the French drawback on refined sugar, I really do not understand what they mean; for, at any rate, the drawback on raw sugar, if it has any effect, must cheapen raw sugar to them. What are the facts concerning French refined sugar? The latest published accounts of the French Government show that the exports of refined sugar from France to all the world—exports which are ruining the English sugar refiner—have fallen from 74,000,000 francs in 1875 to 39,000,000 francs in 1881, in the first six months of the year, or that they are about half now what they were in 1875; and still our sugar refiners seem to be no better off for the failure of the competition. I am told that some of the members of one great Scotch firm have bought land on the Thames, are spending £150,000, and are going to produce 70,000 tons a-year more refined sugar, to add to the depression. I heard something the other day which will illustrate the position of the sugar refiners. Some six sugar refiners, I think from Liverpool, called to see an hon. Member, and met him in the Lobby; they told him their dismal story, to which he listened with patience. When they had finished, he said—"Well, gentlemen, if you can find me a sugar refiner who lives in a house of less than £200 a-year rent, I will support Mr. Ritchie's Motion." They sighed, but they went away sorrowful, for they had great possessions. Next day, he met two of them in the Royal Academy, and asked if they had bought any pictures. "No," they said, "there is nothing worth buying; "but one of the gentlemen found something worth buying before he left town, for he is reported to have bought a pleasant little house for the modest sum of £37,000. Of course, there may be poor sugar refiners; but in such cases as these I do not think much sympathy is needed. There are a great many people outside the House who oppose a new Treaty with France on very different grounds; but the question is really whether the Resolution brought for ward to-night is not an unfurling of the old flag of Protection? I am glad to hear hon. Members say that nothing is further from their intention; but what are the reasons alleged for the great opposition to this Treaty? It has been stated over and over again by Members outside this House, and inside too, and in the public Press, that our trade is in a decaying state. There was a meeting the other night in a great hall in London, at which many Members of Parliament were present; it was there stated that the effect of Commercial Treaties had been disastrous to this country; that France was now in the van of commerce, America second, and England a bad third. There were a good many Members of Parliament present, but not one of them had the grace—nay, I may say not one of them had the common honesty—to protest against such a statement. A little time ago I ventured to move for a Return showing the exports of France and England, in their home manufactures of cotton, woollen, linen, and silk. That Return, presented on the 1st July, showed that the exports of England were, in 1849, £40,000,000; in 1859, £73,000,000; in 1869, £107,000,000; in 1879, £94,000,000; and in 1880 they were £109,000,000. The French exports of the same manufactures were—in 1849, £16,000,000; in 1859, £32,000,000; in 1869,£35,000,000;inl879, £28,000,000; and in 1880 they were £29,000,000; showing an increase in the English exports between 1859 and 1879 of 32 per cent, against a decrease in the French exports in the same period of 11 per cent; and, carrying the comparison on to the year 1880, we find that whilst the English exports of these four staple articles had between 1859 and 1880 increased 50 per cent, the French exports of her own production of these articles had decreased 10 per cent. How then can it be said that France is beating us out of the markets of the world? But I shall be asked why do I not compare the international exports and imports of the two countries? Is it not a fact that France sends to us much more than we send to her? Yes, she sends to us direct much more than we send to her direct; but what does it matter to us if she takes calico from Manchester in return for butter, or if she takes silk from China or coffee from Ceylon? The goods sent from here to those countries really discharge our debt to France. A good deal of stress is laid on the fact that, according to the Returns, France appears to be sending to us some £15,000,000 a-year more merchandize than we send to her; and we are asked if this will not cause a drain of bullion, and if this is not the sign of a losing trade? Well, Sir, how stands the bullion account? I have as much right to judge the state of trade by the bullion account as anyone else has to judge it by the trade account; and if I find that we get much more bullion from France than we send to her, I might point to that as a proof of a profitable trade. What are the facts? In the last two years we have received from France £9,437,000 in gold and silver coin and bullion, and we have sent to her £2,192,000, showing a balance in our favour of £7,245,000; and I have just as much right to quote this as a proof of profitable trade as hon. Members have to quote their figures as a proof of unprofitable trade. But, Sir, such comparisons are worthless. Then, an exact comparison is impossible for another reason; our Board of Trade Returns do not discriminate between goods going into France through foreign countries and those which are sent for home consumption to those countries. In connection with the Treaty Commission I had occasion to try to obtain accurate information. Finding that the export of English yarn to France appeared in the export tables as £478,000, and not thinking this correct, I made inquiries from half-a-dozen merchants in Manchester, and found that they alone sent more yarns to France than the export tables showed, but that the greater part of their sendings went through Antwerp, and did not appear in the exports to France at all. I found also that many goods coming to this country from Switzerland and some from Italy were entered among the French imports, making it impossible to compare the items of international trade. But really these returns matter nothing. These matters may be well left to our merchants. What our merchants have to do is this—they have to take care that they get more than they give. What are our Board of Trade Returns? They are a record of the sum total of the national business—a record of the aggregate of the individual transactions of our merchants; but I am afraid they are something which many hon. Members do not understand, for when it is stated that our imports are £120,000,000 a-year more than our exports, I hear hon. Members say, shaking their heads—"What nation on earth can stand such a drain?" Well, Sir, the drain has been going on for a long while. In the last 23 years we have imported £ 1,600,000,000 more merchandize and some £70,000,000 more coin and bullion than we have exported; we have, at the same time, increased our foreign investments in a marvellous manner. We have more railways, more shipping, more mines and manufactories, and more comforts of all kinds; and I venture to think that even if, in the course of a few years, our imports should exceed our exports by £200,000,000 annually, we shall not be ruined. I may mention one article which does not appear in the Board of Trade Returns at all. We do a large business as manufacturers and exporters of ships; but "shipping" does not appear among our many exports. May I say a few words as to the meaning of the great figures put before us by the Board of Trade? Hon. Members cannot quite understand how it is we get home £120,000,000 a-year more than we send out. It arises, to a great extent, from the fact that our merchants know exceedingly well what they are doing. When they send a commodity abroad they must get more for it than they give at home. If the House will allow me, I will give in detail three instances of our export and import trade. In the first place, I will take the shipment of £1,000 worth of cotton goods to Bombay, the returns coming home in raw cotton; in the second, I will take the shipment of £1,000 worth of pig iron to Calcutta, the returns coming home in jute; and in the third, the shipment of £1,000 worth of coal from Cardiff to San Francisco, the returns coming home in wheat. I give the gross returns in order to avoid confusion in detail. In the shipment of £1,000 worth of cotton goods to Bombay the freight will be £50; on arrival the goods will have to fetch £1,050 to clear expenses; the merchant or his agent will have the cash in hand; he might send it home, but this is the last thing he thinks of, and he invests his £1,050 in cotton, freighting it to Liverpool or London at a cost of £70. This cotton will require to be sold for £1,120 to clear expenses. There will appear in the export table an "export" of £1,000 of cotton goods, and there will appear in the import table an "import" of £1,120 of raw cotton, and no one will suffer loss by excess of import. In the second instance, £1,000 spent in pig iron will, at very low prices, buy 500 tons, the freight of this by steamer to Calcutta will be £500; the iron must realize £1,500, which sum invested in jute will purchase 100 tons; the freight to Dundee will be £300, and the value of the jute on arrival £1,800. There will appear in the Board of Trade Return an "export" of £1,000 of iron and an "import" of £1,800 of jute, and no one will be damnified thereby. The next instance is more startling. £1,000 will buy 2,000 tons of coal, free on board at Cardiff; the freight of this coal to San Francisco will be £1,500; the amount realized for it in San Francisco will be £2,500, which sum invested in wheat will purchase 2,000 quarters. The conveyance of this wheat to Liverpool will cost £1,500, and it will require to be sold at £4,000 in Liverpool to cover cost and expenses. In the import tables there will be an entry of £4,000 wheat; in the export tables there will be an entry of £1,000 coal; the one exchanges for the other. Is anyone poorer for this transaction? But it may be said these are ideal figures. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: Hear, hear!] Does the hon. Member for North Warwickshire not accept them? Well, I will quote from the Board of Trade Returns themselves. Last year (1880) 587,000 tons of coal were sent from this country to India. They were valued here at £265,000, and appear at this figure in our export tables; in the Indian import tables they are valued at 11,380,000 rupees, or a little over £900,000 sterling money. This sum purchased 60,000 tons of jute, the value of which on arrival here was £1,080,000. The coal left this country valued at £265,000; its equivalent, the jute, came home valued at £1,080,000, and I do not know that anyone is worse off for the exchange. But it is said to be unpatriotic to export our coal in exchange for wheat, that we had better grow our corn at home, and engage more English labour. But would that be the result? Will any hon. Member say that on imported wheat we spend less in labour than on home-grown wheat? What was the cost of the labour employed in the production of a quarter of wheat in England? I ask the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who is an authority on such matters. He will, I hope, correct me if I am wrong. From what I can learn, I believe that in quoting 10s. as the labour cost of the production of a quarter of wheat in England I am in excess of the average. Well, what is spent on the getting of a ton of coal in this country, sending it to San Francisco, exchanging it there for a quarter of wheat, and bringing the wheat home? The getting of the coal will cost nearly 4s. in labour; it will be put on the railway and on shipboard by Englishmen and sent across the ocean in a ship built by Englishmen, with English capital. On arrival at San Francisco it is exchanged for wheat, the sending of which home again employs English shipping, labour, and capital. When the wheat arrives here, how much of its cost is represented by British labour? There is the labour spent on sinking the pit, on getting the coal, on transferring it to the port, on building the ship and manning it; and there is the labour employed in taking out the coal and bringing home the wheat. I do not know how I can assess the labour on a quarter of coal-won wheat at less than 30s., or probably three times as much as is spent on a quarter of home-grown corn. But what is the advantage to the nation? A merchant buys 500 or 1,000 tons of coal, sends it abroad, and exchanges it for wheat. He brings home a quarter of wheat in exchange for a ton of coal. A ton of coal in England at the present time is not worth more than 8s., in many cases not nearly so much. If we get in exchange for coal something which, in this country, is worth five times as much as the coal, is not this an advantage to the nation? I do not see that we are worse off through entering into transactions such as these. Well, Sir, what is to be the Autumn campaign of Gentlemen opposite? Is the flag of Protection again to be unfurled? Are we to lose that freedom of action we have enjoyed so long? Are we to accept trammels which hon. Gentlemen are not bold enough to support in this House, but which, when outside these walls, they do not hesitate to advocate? I do not think their programme will succeed. I suppose that hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow that if foreign nations imposed no duties on our exports, our trade would be very flourishing. Well, there is one great trade not hampered by foreign Tariffs, the greatest industry in this country, except agriculture—the coal trade; the trade which really is the key to the commerce of the world. Every nation is ready to receive our coal, yet the coal trade was never in a condition so depressed as it is now, notwithstanding that the production of last year was the greatest on record. What will be the result of Protection, if you try it? You must take heed from Germany. She is not now pointed at as a nation in the van of commerce. She was so a little while ago; but the blighting breath of Protection has passed over her, and she is falling behind. Some hon. Members wished to place a differential duty on wheat. They have such duties in Germany, and they are very moderate; not more than 5 per cent. Yet it is calculated that the difference in the price of rye bread, through the action of this duty, is such that a man will find himself short of a month's provision during the year. If the price of food is advanced 10 per cent, as some propose, the purchasing power of the workman, and of everyone, would be correspondingly reduced unless wages were raised; but there is no record, so far as I know, in the history of mankind where a tax upon food has raised the rate of wages; and in Germany the question now is not whether wages shall be raised, but whether the workman can have as much work and wages as before. Manufactories are going on to shorter hours, and discharging workmen to emigrate, until it appears that no less than 145,000 emigrants have left the shores of Germany during the last six months; and it is said that during the current year the export of humanity from that country will be 250,000. Perhaps I may be excused if I speak earnestly on this subject. My earliest days were passed in the shade of Protection. I do not want those times to come again. May I quote a short description of those times, written, not by a Radical, not even by an enthusiast for Free Trade, but written by the French historian, M. Guizot? The quotation refers to my native town; and he says, speaking of the time from 1836 and 1840— Bolton, a town of the second class in Lancashire, near Manchester, containing about 50,000 people, had been thrown by the commercial crisis into a condition of utter misery. Out of 50 manufactures 30 were closed, more than 5,000 operatives knew not where to seek or to obtain the means of sustenance. Disorder and crime, as well as misery, increased with awful rapidity; nearly half the houses were tenantless; the prisons overflowed, infants died in their mothers' arms, fathers deserted their wives and families, striving to forget those whom they could no longer maintain. But the evil continued; no succour came. Then it was, Sir, that the agitation in favour of Free Trade began. Do hon. Members opposite wish for a return of those times? My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, no doubt, remembers the condition of Bolton then, and I do not think that anyone will wish to exchange our present experience for a return of those old days. In regard to this Resolution, I am most anxious that our Government should have the power to make reasonable Treaties with foreign nations in the interests of commerce. I have the fullest confidence that the Government will carry out the best arrangements that can be made, not only with France, but with other countries also; and I sincerely hope that nothing may ever be done by our statesmen to endanger that most precious privilege of Englishmen—the right to buy what we most want where we best can.


said, he wished only to give a few reasons why the House should adopt the Resolution of his hon. Friend. He was sure everyone who had listened to his hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. J. K. Cross) must have felt satisfaction in listening to such an interesting and able speech. It was not his intention to follow him in the line he had taken. It surprised him, however, to hear the hon. Member express a desire for specific as against ad valorem duties; and he was surprised to hear the statement that we had nothing to do with the way in which the French levied their duties. He had always understood that the Treaty of 1860 was a bargain between the two countries, and he had yet to learn that one of the parties had no right to interfere when they felt that bargain had been broken. In the next place, he could not accept the view of the hon. Member that it was a sign of prosperity that our imports very largely exceeded our exports. If that were so, why did not the hon. Gentleman recommend that no effort should be made to reduce the rates in the new French Treaty—because that would most effectually limit our exports, and probably increase our imports? Coming back, however, to the question in hand, there were one or two points in the speech of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which he thought came very strangely from him. He could not help thinking when he was addressing the House that he was making a very clever speech; but he evaded the difficulties which had been brought before them. In regard to specific duties, he pointed out that this question had been considered by the late Government in regard to a proposed Commercial Treaty with Italy. He also pointed out that the Government had no objection in principle to specific duties. He (Mr. Jackson) at once said he had no objection in principle to specific duties; but the difficulty which he and his constituents felt in regard to the question was that all attempts hitherto made to convert ad valorem into its exact equivalent in their manufactures had failed. The hon. Gentleman did not enlighten the House as to whether the Commissioners had been able to find out an equivalent in specific duties which would be satisfactory to Bradford and Leeds manufacturers and merchants. The question under discussion was one in which his constituents took a deep interest, and one in which they were vitally concerned. A Petition had been presented to the House that day which practically followed the lines of the Resolution, and which was signed by 25,350 of his constituents, praying the House to sanction no Treaty with France on worse terms than the existing one. Of the 15,000,000 of British manufactures which were exported from England to France about one-fourth was exported from the West Riding of Yorkshire, and that showed how deeply interested the district was in the question. Instead of so many complaints being made against the Government, he would rather that their hands were strengthened so as to enable them to make a better Treaty. He did not see why the Government should not have followed the course adopted in regard to the Treaty of 1860, and have left to Parliament the power of final ratification. Many persons to whom he had spoken on the subject did not think this would in the least degree have endangered the Treaty or diminished the chances of making better terms. As regarded the proposal to alter ad valorem to specific duties, he would remind the House that the Joint Commission—British and French—which sat in 1860 was, after several months' labour, unable to come to any agreement as to any proper equivalent specific duty so far as woollens were concerned. He was open to correction if he was wrong; but he was informed that the proposals which the French Commissioners had made for the conversion of ad valorem into specific duties on mixed woollens represented an increase in the present rate of duties of from 20 to 200 per cent. If these were the most favourable proposals the Government had received, he could not conceive that they would for one moment listen to them, as they would destroy the trade of a very large district, so far as France was concerned. The district which he had the honour to represent had another important trade—namely, the leather trade. Leather was divided into four classes. The French Government proposed to make some slight increase in three of the classes, but a very large increase in the fourth. They proposed, in the last-mentioned case, to increase the duty from 10 francs per 100 kilos to 50 francs per 100 kilos, or an increase of 400 per cent. This proposal, although it affected only one category of goods, affected 90 per cent of the total amount of leather exported from this country to France, and covered the whole amount of leather of British manufacture exported. He mentioned that to show the danger of the Commissioners being misled in endeavouring to fix an average which would be equivalent to the present ad valorem duties. A constituent of his had received a trade circular, dated June 6, from a wool broker in Melbourne, which said that in the address of the retiring Chairman of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce reference was made to the contemplated new line of steamers from Marseilles to that port, which the French Government were likely to subsidize for the special purpose of enabling French manufacturers to obtain their supplies of wool direct. That might be considered simply a trade circular; but the Returns furnished by the Board of Trade tended to confirm the view that France had, during the last 10 years, been more and more taking her supplies of raw material from abroad direct, and not through the London markets. The exports of British produce and manufactures and of foreign and Colonial goods from this country to France showed this result. In the 10 years from 1861 to 1870 the exports of British manufactured produce to France amounted to £101,590,000, those of foreign and Colonial goods to £128,490,000. From 1871 to 1880 British exports to France had increased to £160,230,000, while the exports of foreign and Colonial produce had fallen to something over £124,000,000. The bounties, therefore, which the French proposed to give to their shipping involved, not an imaginary, but a real danger. So far as he was able to judge, under the Treaties at present in existence, subject to annulling on 12 months' notice, there had been found no inconvenience to trade. When the revision of Treaties of Commerce had to be taken in hand, it was exceedingly undesirable to bind this country for a long period. One other matter he might refer to. Under the present French Patent Laws, inventors, more especially the manufacturers of machinery in this country, were placed at a great disadvantage. Under any patent taken out in France the patented part must be made in that country. The consequence was that one portion of the machinery was probably made in this country and another portion in France. That was an arrangement which worked very disadvantageously for the manufacturers of machinery in this country, and especially in the borough (Leeds) he had the honour to represent, which contained some of the most eminent machine makers in England. One firm had found the inconvenience so great that it had been compelled to take a workshop in Lille for the purpose of carrying out the arrangement. He hoped that in negotiating a new Treaty with France care would be taken that our machine manufacturers should be placed on equal terms with the French. They had heard a great deal that night about Free Trade, Reciprocity, and Protection. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg), whom he always listened to with pleasure, went out of his way the other day to say something with regard to Reciprocity and Protection, and he looked to technical education as the cure for the difficulties under which we laboured with regard to hostile Tariffs. Well, he had heard a story which might throw some light on that point. A Bradford manufacturer told a merchant dealing with America that he had some goods which he wanted to send to that country. He was recommended to send, not the whole of those goods, but only three bales, representing about £400. Those goods were sold at a great advance upon Bradford prices; but when the merchant told the manufacturer that there was a debit of £36 against him, he had the greatest difficulty in making the manufacturer understand that in consequence of the duties, ad valorem and specific, and the charges imposed, the manufacturer, had he given the goods away at Bradford, would have been £36 in pocket. How would technical education remedy that? He should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he thought that the extension of any system of technical education in this country—an extension which he should be glad to see—would enable us to compete against such a state of things as that. The hon. Gentleman had said that Reciprocity and Protection were dead and buried; but that there had been an attempt to resuscitate them. It struck him that the hon. Gentleman must have been visiting their grave and have seen their ghosts, so very much afraid of them was he. Recently he was speaking to an, American Free Trader, who, he believed, was a friend of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Potter), and who had recently come from America, and he asked the gentleman when the Americans were going to take their duties off. The gentleman replied that he did not think much progress was being made in America in the way of Free Trade. He (Mr. Jackson) asked him what would be the effect of imposing a duty upon all corn imported from America, and the reply was— The imposition of a duty upon corn by the British nation would do more to spread Free Trade principles in America than anything which has taken place for a long time. It had been stated on high authority that force was no remedy; but when persuasion and entreaty had failed it might be useful to try a little coercion. He did not believe that there was a man in this country who desired Protection for Protection's sake. But if we did not occasionally speak out and make it known that we intended, if need be, to protect ourselves, we should find ourselves left behind in the commercial race. He quite agreed with the hon. Member who preceded him that the country was not in a deplorable condition; but the mere fact that our trade was a large one did not prove that employment was being provided for the large mass of the population, and he could show by figures that at all events with regard to particular industries our imports were increasing, while our exports were decreasing. Taking manufactured woollen goods as an example, it would be found that whereas the value of our imports from France in 1872 amounted to £2,800,000, in 1880 it amounted to £4,800,000; while in the same period that of our exports to that country had diminished by £1,000,000. That, at all events, was not a condition of things which was satisfactory to the British manufacturers. Looking at the matter in a broader way, it would be found that while the total value of our exports of woollen goods in 1872 was £32,000,000, it had fallen in 1880 to £17,265,000, or nearly one-half. On the other hand, the value of our total imports of the same class of goods had risen from £4,380,000 in 1872 to £7,649,000 in 1880. It was a noteworthy fact that our periods of prosperity in this country were those in which we exported the largest quantity of goods; while our periods of depression were those in which we exported the least and imported the most. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would agree to this Resolution, which he believed would strengthen their hands in the negotiations for a Treaty with France, and would tend to promote the interests of the manufacturing industry of this country.


said, he must congratulate his hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Jackson) upon the temperate tone of his speech. If his example had been followed by Gentlemen of more experience in the House, very much better service would have been done to the trade and commerce of the country. He thought the House would have no difficulty in discerning that the object of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) was the very object which he had himself deprecated. There could be no doubt at all that the question of the Sugar Bounties and the question of Reciprocity was to be the Party cry of the Tory Party. The new-born zeal of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) on behalf of the working men of this country would have been very much better manifested at a time when the noble Lord was in power, and when the late Government in the year 1877 had a fair chance of concluding a Treaty on terms such as we should be able to accept at the present day. He was quite sure that whatever might be said of the action of the Foreign Office at the present day, their conduct compared favourably with that of their Predecessors. They had been willing at all times and under all circumstances to lend their aid in furtherance of trade and commerce. The position of the Liberal Party entitled the Ministers to some consideration. At any rate, they did claim to be Free Traders; and, as Free Traders, they claimed to be the champions of the best interests of the nation. He had not lost his faith in Free Trade, and he thought that the public would be reassured when they read the speech delivered that night by his hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. J. K. Cross); and those who had been disposed to yield a little to the entreaties of men who were anxious to return to the trammels of Protection would also, he imagined, be inclined to have some faith in Free Trade principles. If we looked back to 1860, when the Treaty was first made, and compared the condition of the trade and commerce of this country, if we compared the social condition of the people, the Returns of pauperism, or the state of the labour market of that time with the present, we must feel that very great strides had been made. We were now asked to return to the old system of Protection. The proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets would lead us into the difficulty of having no Treaty with France and of being subjected to the same disadvantages as we experienced in 1860. At that time France was in a state of great depression; her industries were languishing, and her people dissatisfied. She adopted a more wise and liberal principle, and negotiated with this country for the purpose of reducing her duties. Up to that time her duties were prohibitory. He was right in saying that both England and France had been largely benefited by the changes then made. The changes were, no doubt, subject to the fluctuations of trade and commerce; and France had, no doubt, suffered, as other nations had suffered, from depression in trade. When this depression occurred from time to time, people were naturally disposed to seek for remedies; and the probability was that France, at the present time, was seeking for a remedy which many of them would condemn. He was anxious that we should not follow her example—that we should maintain our principle of Free Trade. But he contended that we had a perfect right to make such terms with France as we felt disposed to do. We were in the same condition as regarded France as we were in 1860. France had denounced the Commercial Treaty and had set us free. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets spoke of France as if she were doing something unfair by imposing certain conditions. He was not sure that the hon. Member would not say that France had no right to promulgate a General Tariff. She had promulgated a General Tariff. Those were the terms on which she was disposed to do trade with the whole world. But she did not say that she was not prepared to make special conditions with us. She had appointed Representatives to enter into negotiations with us. They had met in London and they had exchanged views with the Commissioners. He had great confidence in the ultimate result being satisfactory. We must accept the best terms we could get, or we must adopt the principle of having no Treaty. He contended that the advantage which we enjoyed in a moral point of view from the Treaty with France was equal to that which we enjoyed in a fiscal respect—that the fears of a French invasion had vanished in consequence of our commercial intercourse with France. This was a question not merely of pounds, shillings, and pence; it was a question of living on amicable terms with our neighbours, which would lead to the prosperity of the two nations. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool said he knew a great deal about the working men, and he was anxious about their present condition. Though the trade between this country and France had not lately been as prosperous as many manufacturers wished, he had no hesitation in saying that the condition of our people generally was very satisfactory; that there was very much less distress, much less pauperism, and much more satisfaction and peace among our people now than 30 or 40 years ago. Emigration from this country to America had decreased 30 per cent. One of the causes—the main cause—of the depression which existed in this country at the present time was a production of goods—and he took blame to himself in that matter—in excess of the demand of the nation and of the world. He had no fear for England, except we lost confidence in ourselves. If we maintained our Free Trade principles and continued to have such a Ministry as we had now, and which had done so much to promote our material welfare, we should enjoy happiness and prosperity.


said: Mr. Speaker, I wish to say nothing that may disturb the confidence of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Barran), who has just sat down; but I confess that it is with intense satisfaction I find the commercial interests of this country preparing for a Commercial Treaty, by giving this House the benefit of their knowledge and experience. I well remember the Treaty of 1860, and I remember how very much we were kept in the dark as to the negotiations, which were previously conducted by Mr. Cobden —as it appeared afterwards, on the part of the Government. There is a most singular despatch from the late Lord Clarendon, who was then our Minister in France. He wrote to the Foreign Office begging to know in what capacity Mr. Cobden appeared, for it was evident, although Lord Clarendon most good-humouredly overlooked the fact, that Mr. Cobden was, in fact, superseding our Minister in Paris, by negotiating without authority with the French Imperial Government. That despatch is in the Library, and I think that it affords a warning, which the commercial interest and its representatives in this country should bear in mind, to the effect that when it is known that a Commercial Treaty is contemplated, they should urge their views upon the Government in this House. I rejoice to say that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in answer to a Question from myself the other day, assured this House that whatever negotiations might be carried on—whatever agreement might be made between Her Majesty's Ministers and the Ministers of France with respect to a Commercial Treaty—the functions and the rights of this House should be respected, and that any such agreement should be provisional until it received the consent of this House. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I am sorry to see that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head and denies the accuracy of my impression. It is necessary that this House should remember that Commercial Treaties differ from all other Treaties, inasmuch as although the conditions of a Commercial Treaty may not alter existing duties, it is almost inevitable—actually inevitable—that the Treaty should trench upon the functions and the power of this House as to the imposition of new or renewed duties. Now, Sir, in 1860 this question was formally decided; and, with the permission of the House, I will read the words of Lord Palmerston, showing how genuinely he understood and respected the right of the House to have its powers and its functions reserved unfettered by any engagement entered into by Her Majesty's Ministers without the assent of this House. Speaking of that Treaty, Lord Palmerston said—"When ratified the Convention will be laid"—(he did not call it a Treaty, but he called it a Convention)— When ratified, the Convention will be laid before the House; but this much I will say now in answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman"— (the late Lord Beaconsfield)— as to what would be the function of this House in regard to that Convention"— (he did not call it a Treaty)— that the arrangements stipulated to be made on the part of Her Majesty are made conditional on the consent of Parliament to them. Unless we have the consent of both Houses of Parliament we are free from any engagement that has been contracted."—[3 Hansard, clvi. 109.] And that is the position which I trust the right hon. Gentleman will reserve to this House, as it was reserved before. Notwithstanding the declaration of Lord Palmerston, which I have quoted, in 1860 the House still was not satisfied that it had been sufficiently consulted, and what did Mr. Disraeli—then the Leader of the Conservative Party in this House? Sir, he moved this Resolution because the House felt that there had been an undue degree of concealment in the negotiations— This House does not think fit to go into Committee on the Customs Acts, with a view to the reduction or repeal of the Duties referred to in the Treaty of Commerce between Her Majesty and the Emperor of the French, until it shall have considered and assented to, the engagements in that Treaty. The House divided. It was a very full House, and these are the numbers:—For the Motion 230; against the Motion 293: Majority 63. This shows plainly how determined the House was not to allow itself to be led blindfold into any compromise of its power of taxation. I am glad, therefore, to find that the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) has elicited from the House the true spirit of independence, which Mr. Pitt, the negotiator of the first Commercial Treaty with France, so much respected in 1797 that he laid the whole conditions that he had proposed to France on the Table of the House for five months before the Treaty was completed. I mention these facts to show how completely justified is the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets in bringing this subject before the House; since now, at the conclusion of the Session, we have the prospect of negotiations with France; and the House, in the fulfilment of its duty to the country, is bound to reserve its assent and its sole power of dealing with taxation, lest Her Majesty's Minis- ters should imagine that the House has abandoned to them the functions which rest solely with itself. I was glad to read what the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said at the Lord Mayor's dinner, that he believed this House to be in no way deficient in talent, as compared with any of its predecessors; and I think the House, by its conduct to-night, is proving itself worthy of that commendation by showing its readiness to defend the rights and functions with which the nation has intrusted us. Tonight I am better satisfied on this subject than I have been for years. The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. K. Cross) wished to tempt me into a discussion as to the balance of trade. It is a subject on which I have both written and spoken; but I have become more cautious than the hon. Member for Bolton seems to be, for, looking across the House, after presenting some figures calculated to produce a very strong impression in favour of the present commercial policy, as affecting the balance of trade—looking across the House the hon. Member said—"But I shall be told that I am dealing with imaginary figures." I could not withhold the expression of my assent. I have had some experience of the difficulty of obtaining exact statistics to illustrate fairly the balance of the trade of the United Kingdom, and it is not by partial instances of isolated transactions that that great question can be duly or safely tested. I stand here, Sir, unblushing in the retention of my former opinions. I am prepared to say what I was obliged to tell the Mayor of Birmingham, the brother of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The Mayor, at a meeting in Birmingham, feared that I might enter on this subject. I replied—"You must remember that though I may be in a minority in England, I have the majority of the commercial world with me in these opinions." I cannot believe that our brethren across the Atlantic are lunatics any more than ourselves. I think it would be a reflection on the English race if I were to be so presumptuous as even to appear to admit anything of the kind. Will hon. Members believe that I, who was the last Chairman of the Protection Society for the United Kingdom and the Colonies—will hon. Members believe me to-night, when I tell them that when I first joined that Society my first struggle was to induce the members of it to agree with the late Sir Robert Peel, who had then proposed the reduction of various Customs' Duties, which had been imposed or enhanced by the previous Liberal Government? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that such is the fact. I, and the late Mr. Beckett-Denison, supported, and successfully supported, the Tariff introduced in 1842, and the further reduction of Customs' Duties by the late Sir Robert Peel up to 1845. And yet you nominal Free Traders seem to consider me a fanatic—I, who supported the late Sir Robert Peel in converting the prohibitory Tariff of this country, which had been imposed and enhanced by the Liberal Governments which preceded that of Sir Robert Peel in 1842, into a scale of moderate protective duties. The term Free Trade has been perverted; it has been misused for years to designate the system of free imports maintained by this country, while the Tariffs of other countries are becoming more and more protective. That which hon. Members on this side of the House and the commercial public are beginning to demand is not Free Trade in the perverted sense that I have described, but Fair Trade, so that we may trade with foreigners on something like terms of equality. The only difference between the two sides of the House is, I believe, as to the means by which fair trade may be obtained for the commercial and industrial interests of this country. I hope, I have reason to believe, that the bigotry of free imports is being dispelled. The Representatives of the commercial interests are here. I am here in answer to the appeal virtually made by the Prime Minister in his speech at the Lord Mayor's dinner. We are here for the purpose of arming, for the purpose of strengthening the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers in their negotiations for a Commercial Treaty with the Government of France.


said, it was quite true that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) did not advocate Protection pure and simple; but he did not advocate Free Trade. The hon. Member advocated Retaliation, and that they knew to be only another name for Protection. Although the hon. Member repudiated the idea of imposing a duty on breadstuffs, yet, from the cross-examination to which, he subjected him (Mr. Williamson) before the Royal Commission, some notion of that kind must have been floating through his mind. It might appear paradoxical, but he had the impression that the hostile Tariffs of some of the competing nations did not do us the injury that some hon. Members opposite imagined, but helped to stimulate our trade to a certain extent. At least, they gave us a firmer grip on the non-manufacturing countries, such as South America, China, Japan, and Australia, which were the largest consumers of our goods. He did not think the hon. Member had treated the House fairly in the years he had selected for comparison. He had also not placed the figures in every case fairly before the House. In truth, no nation that imposed high Tariffs on manufactured goods could compete with us, and never would be able to do so. Practically the shipping trade of America had been annihilated by Protection, while the British shipping trade had been remarkably prosperous for the last two years, and he hoped that prosperity would continue. No doubt less profits were made, and complaints were heard in consequence; but that was one of the results of the altered conditions brought about by telegraphy and other things, and they must accept the situation. He did not concur in the gloomy views taken by the hon. Member as to the trade of the country. A number of our manufacturing districts—notably Leicester and Nottingham—had been fairly prosperous of late, and the workmen fully employed. In Bradford, on the other hand, there had been much depression; but that was capable of explanation. He did not think the Bradford people were up to the mark in point of taste. They manufactured cheap articles of dress for women, and it was very difficult to make these tastefully. They also manufactured them chiefly of lustres, whilst of late the fashion had changed in favour of softer and more clinging substances. As to the sugar trade, he was sure that we had suffered more from antiquated methods of refining than from foreign bounties; and he understood that recent legislation had so modified the French Sugar Bounties that they could exercise but little influence on British trade. He would contend that some of the facts stated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Town Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) and by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) were capable of explanations different from those which they had given. He did not suppose for a moment that the House would sanction the Motion, and he hoped it would be rejected by a large majority.


begged to compliment the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. K. Cross) upon his able speech. In this debate it was no Party question they were discussing; and it' there was one thing more than another which, as a new Member, he was pleased to observe in the House, it was the ready allowance made for honest differences of opinion which they must always expect to find among men who studied great political questions. It was not to be wondered at that there were great diversities of opinion among those who were classed as Protectionists. No doubt, some Gentlemen did desire to see a return to Protection; but he (Mr. Ecroyd) was not one of them. There were, no doubt, also those who held the opinion that the best way to bring round nations like the United States and France was to retaliate upon them in this way—that if they put a duty of 20 or 50 per cent on our leading productions we should put the same duties upon theirs. He could conceive no principle more irrational, and none less capable of being carried into practical application; and if that were the meaning of Retaliation he was no Retaliationist. With regard to the term. Reciprocity, it was very difficult to understand what meaning to attach to it. It contained within itself the germs of those high desires expressed by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Barran) for the peace and better understanding between nations in which they all agreed. Reciprocity, in whatever sense they took its meaning, must surely be a thing they would all desire to bring about. There had been a great deal of discussion about the balance of trade, and perhaps the general question might be approached in that way very profitably. He was one of those who attached no necessary importance to the discrepancy between the exports and imports of this country. "We had very large foreign investments, and in connection with our great carrying trade a large amount of wages must accrue to us. The income due to us on these accounts must cause our imports, as a general rule, considerably to exceed our exports in value; but one important element had been left out of sight by those who would explain the whole excess in that way. The years 1871, 1872, 1873, and 1874 were years of great prosperity to this country, in which our industries were in active employment. In those years there was a tendency exhibited to a nearer approximation of the amounts of our exports and imports than during the less prosperous years that followed. According to many of the explanations, which really over-explained the reason of the great difference between our exports and our imports, those ought to have been years when the nation was becoming impoverished; but he did not think anyone on the opposite Benches would be bold enough to assert that. The real explanation was that in those years, because our industries were fully employed, because we were earning a large surplus income, we were greatly adding to our investments abroad; whilst in the years which had followed our industries had only been two-thirds employed, and there had been a great amount of enforced idleness. The result had been that having the same or a greater population to feed and clothe, upon a reduced income, we had been compelled to withdraw from foreign countries part of the value of our investments there. He had observed the extremely optimist tone in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, many of them Representatives of large manufacturing towns, where he knew there existed a great amount of discontent on the part of the working classes with the present position of our commerce and industries; and he ventured to think they would find it much more difficult to justify themselves before their constituents than would those who had invited the attention of the House to the subject. The great question of Free Trade, and what it had done for this country, was dwelt upon in somewhat eloquent language by the hon. Member for Bolton in the latter part of his speech. He (Mr. Ecroyd), too, was one of those who had the privilege of witnessing the success of the agitation for Free Trade; and, though a young man, he took a deep and proud interest in what was then done by the country. He had never thought that course mistaken, and still believed that what was then done was rightly done. He recognized to the fullest extent the great benefits that Free Trade had brought to the working classes of this country. But the state of things was much changed since then. At that time the laws of this country were the great barrier against a free interchange of commodities, and there was little restriction on the part of the United States. Now, the Protection and exclusion were on the part of the States, which had created an artificial system for the purpose of excluding foreign manufactures. That country was becoming more and more independent of England. The old state of things could not be restored. Those considerations were the key to the discussion of the great question, which was falsely called Reciprocity. This country had within its boundaries a population skilled and industrious in all manufactures beyond any people the world had ever seen. They were not in the position of a nation which could live upon its own limited resources. They had to manufacture for vast regions of the world, and they were dependent for the food of the people on free intercourse with other nations. During the last 10 years that intercourse had been restricted, and this want of Reciprocity was the thing of which they complained. They desired that the barrier now imposed by the United States should be removed as effectually as England removed in 1846 the barrier which she had erected. He maintained that what was contended for at present under the name of Free Trade was not the substance but the shadow which was fought for, not by working men, but by the doctrinaires by whom the working men allowed themselves to be led. He had some authority to say this, because he had been returned to the House by a large working-class constituency, after he had expressed to them with great freedom his opinions on this subject. There had been an attempt made in this country to set up the principle of free land; but he should, for one, leave it to those who had landed property to judge for themselves how it could be turned to the best account, and he should encourage no one to attempt the growth of wheat under conditions where it could not pay. He knew very well the stigma that must attach to anyone who would proclaim his belief in the necessity of proposing any tax whatever upon the food of the people; but if the difficulty from which we suffered was this—that we were obliged to purchase, say, £100,000,000 sterling of food every year from people who would not take our productions in exchange, it must be a matter of vital importance to try if we could not establish within our own Empire the power of growing those products. The sacrifice could only be temporary, and the moment we succeeded in establishing that power we should enjoy the substance instead of the shadow of Free Trade. The Cobden Treaty was an attempt to promote the principle of Free Trade; but he could not admit that it had succeeded as its promoters expected. In negotiating with the French Government it was of the greatest importance that we should not at this time enter into any Treaty which was irrevocable. He was not going to say that Retaliation was the policy to be adopted towards France. He hoped we should have a friendly establishment of increased freedom of exchange between this and other countries. But it might, unfortunately, be otherwise, and we should stand in a worse position if we bound ourselves beforehand by a self-denying ordinance not to impose duties under any circumstances upon manufactures imported from France into this country.


At the commencement of the interesting and moderate speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd), he referred to speeches from this side of the House, which, in his opinion, contained references to subjects outside and beyond the immediate issue under discussion. I cannot but think that the same criticism will apply to much that has fallen from the hon. Gentleman himself; but I do not make this a matter of complaint. On the contrary, I do not hesitate to say that the real interest of this discussion consists in those portions of it which have reference to the new doctrines of Fair Trade, Reciprocity, and Retaliation, of which we have heard so much and know so little, and with respect to which we are naturally anxious to have accurate and definite information. I had hoped, in view of this debate, that at last we should be able to grasp the phantom which has so long eluded us. I confess that these expectations have been disappointed, and that even now, after having listened atten- tively to everything which has fallen from the hon. Member and from previous speakers on his side of the House, I am still in the dark as to what they mean, and even as to whether they understand their own meaning themselves. It is gratifying, no doubt, to be assured, as we have been by all of them, that they are opposed to Protection and in favour of "real" Free Trade; but it is difficult for a plain man to reconcile these assurances with the other statements which they have made. We have had expounded to-night several shades in the new heterodoxy which seems at last to have secured the patronage of the Conservative Party. We have, in the first place, my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), whose consistency we all gladly recognize, and who tells us that he stands before the House "unblushing," the last Chairman of the old Protection Society, the last rose of summer, for 40 years left blooming alone, and now both gratified and astonished to see himself surrounded by so large a company. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) refuses to go as far as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. He tells us that he is not in favour of Protection; but then he adds that he approves of countervailing duties, and that he considers that we should now do wisely to take up once more the weapons which we have prematurely abandoned—meaning, by this expression, the duties upon foreign produce by which, in former times, home industry was supposed to have been protected. Then we have the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon). He is indignant that an attempt should be made to mix him up, of all persons in the world, with the discarded doctrines of Protection. He protests, in almost pathetic tones, his admiration and respect for the deceased leaders of the Free Trade movement; and I cannot avoid saying, in passing, that it is a characteristic fact in this and similar discussions that those who agree with the noble Lord are fond of expressing their respect for the Free Trade leaders and Political Economists who are gone from us, and who cannot repudiate the heresies which are now attributed to them; while they are unwilling to accord any authority at all to the utterances of those Free Traders and Economists who are still alive—who are the legitimate heirs and successors of the dead, and who continue and maintain their true faith and best traditions. The noble Lord tells us that he is in favour of "Fair Trade." I have a great respect for the noble Lord, though I am not able to take him at his own estimate as the true Representative of the trading classes and the commercial interests of this country. But it is in no disrespect to his general ability that I challenge him to point out to the House any practical distinction between what he calls Fair Trade, and what the rest of the world have hitherto consented to call Protection. He complains, for instance, with regard to the Cobden Treaty that it bound this country not to impose any duties on French produce, while it left the French free to levy duties not exceeding 30 per cent on the products of English industry, and he says that this is not a fair arrangement. But how does he propose to alter it? He may, of course, endeavour to persuade the French to give up their duties and to allow the free import of English goods. He knows, however, that this is impossible, and the only alternative open to him is to meet the French in their folly, and to impose duties not exceeding 30 per cent on their exports. That may be right, or it may be wrong; but, at least, the operation would produce a state of things exactly similar to that which existed under the protective system which the noble Lord professes to disapprove. On the whole, then, although the means are different and the language varies, it appears in every case, and in spite of protests to the contrary, that hon. Members opposite do intend to revert to a system of protection, although they prudently refuse to tell us the exact nature of the protective measures which they desire us to adopt. Although in this respect they continue indefinite and vague, we have, at least, as one result of the discussion, a full statement of the grounds on which the claim for Reciprocity or Retaliation is based; and I am here to challenge the allegations which have been made, and to say, with regard to them, that they are, in the main, either greatly exaggerated or altogether inaccurate.

Before I call the attention of the House to the facts and figures on which I shall rest my case, I have to notice a preliminary matter which has been referred to by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool. In language so strong as to be almost offensive, he accuses the Government of practising concealment upon Parliament and the people. I emphatically repel these imputations of motive, and these insinuations, which are unworthy of the noble Lord. I admit that he ought to be a good judge of what constitutes concealment. While he was a Member of the late Administration he had much experience and practice in this matter; and I will venture to say that the great difference between the late and the present Government is that the present Government conceal nothing that they can possibly publish, while the late Government published nothing they could possibly conceal. Sir, the discovery of the noble Lord is a monopoly of his own; the charge of concealment has not been made or supported by any other Member. It has not been suggested on behalf of any representative commercial body, or on behalf of any of those organizations of working men whose interests the noble Lord now undertakes to champion! and the grounds on which he bases his accusation are childish and frivolous in the last degree. He complains, in the first place, that we have not published the propositions which have been made to us, from time to time, on behalf of the French Government. He knows that we have been anxious to lay these propositions before the country, and that we have only been precluded from doing so by the express refusal of the French Government to allow them to be treated as otherwise than confidential. Then, in the second place, he refers to what he calls once more, in spite of contradiction, the refusal of the Government to give a translation of the General Tariff. We gave, at his request, a copy of this Tariff in the original French, although we considered that it was entirely unnecessary, as the General Tariff has not yet been the subject of discussion, and it may never have any practical interest for this country. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley), was the first to ask for a translation. Now, I believe, it is usual not to refuse any Return pressed for by any hon. Member unless its publication is inconsistent with the interests of the public service; and, therefore, I did not refuse the request of the hon. and learned Member for Shef- field; but I took him into my confidence, and explained to him the reasons which led the Government to think that the translation was unnecessary, and I asked him whether, under those circumstances, he would not think it well not to press his Motion. A few days afterwards the noble Lord came down to the House, and, in a hectoring tone, and with a "stand and deliver" manner, demanded an explanation of what he called my extraordinary reply, and insisted on an immediate assent to the Motion. I ventured to deprecate the noble Lord's warmth, and I begged him to wait for a few days until I had an opportunity of consulting the Representatives of the commercial classes to know whether they considered the publication would be of general service. The noble Lord has said to-night that we ought to have consulted the Chambers of Commerce at an earlier period; but when I proposed to communicate with them, the noble Lord expressed his contempt for these authorities, and declined absolutely to be bound by their opinion, preferring to rely upon his own special sources of information. This is the inadequate foundation on which the noble Lord seeks to erect his superstructure of charge and accusation against the Government. He goes on to say that in a Return which we presented some time ago we dropped out all information about agriculture; and he insinuates that this, too, was part of the insidious plan of the Government to withhold information from all concerned. Sir, the noble Lord would have been more "straightforward," to use his own expression, if he had told the House that the Return to which he refers was a preliminary Return, containing the changes of duty on the principal articles of export from England to France. There is no considerable export of agricultural produce to France; and consequently it was not, and indeed could not have been, included in this Return. But when the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) asked for particular information on the point, I had no hesitation whatever in at once acceding to his request. Lastly, the noble Lord complains that the Government did not take an earlier opportunity—during the winter, I think he said—of consulting Chambers of Commerce and the Mayors of the large towns with regard to the proposi- tions of the French. The Mayors of the large towns and the Representatives of the commercial classes are people of common sense, and they would not have thanked the Government if we had attempted to consult them before we had any proposition at all to lay before them. My ton. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) has already pointed out that if it be an offence to delay the publication of documents connected with commercial negotiations, the late Government have much more to answer for than we. It is true that the noble Lord disclaims any comparison between the present negotiations and the arrangements with Servia which were withheld from Parliament during the time of the late Government. But my hon. Friend did not rest his case upon this, but on the fact that in the negotiations on two several occasions—in Paris—in connection with the French Convention, the Protocols and Papers were not produced by the late Government. There is another case in point. In 1877, a most important Commission was held in France to inquire into the state of industry in that country and into the condition of the labouring classes. This was a matter which had the greatest interest for the working classes here, whose claims on the present occasion the noble Lord has without any authority assumed to represent. But what happened? When my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Mundella) again and again pressed the late Government to give a translation of the Report of the proceedings of this Commission it was refused by them on the score of expense. I am not now saying whether the refusal was justified or not; but I do complain that those who live in glass houses like the noble Lord should not be so exceedingly ready to throw stones.

In listening to the speech of the Mover of the Resolution, I have had occasion to-night to ask myself several times what can be the object of the Motion which he has made. I am driven to the conclusion that it is his desire, and that of the hon. Members who support him, to prevent any Treaty being negotiated at all. I believe, in 1860, the Conservative Party did all in their power to secure the failure of the negotiations; and, no doubt, they are only consistent in now endeavouring to make it difficult for the Government to continue or to extend the provisions of the Treaty then concluded. The hon. Member asked the House to agree to conditions precedent to the making of a Treaty which everyone knows are impossible, and if they were accepted by the House no Treaty at all would be practicable. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has already pointed out, forcibly and conclusively, that under this Resolution, if the French Government offered a Treaty which on 99 points out of 100 was a great amelioration of the existing Convention, the Government would be unable to agree to it if on the 100th point, however unimportant it might be, there were any increase of duty, however small. But I want more particularly to call the atetntion of the House to the third condition in the Resolution of the hon. Member. We are, in the words of the Resolution, to conclude no Treaty which does not leave us "full liberty to deal with the question of bounties." There is no doubt that this is aimed at the "Most Favoured Nation Clause," which has been asserted on other occasions against the proposal of the hon. Member to impose what he calls countervailing duties in the case of sugar. The effect of this condition would be, taken with those which precede it, that not only would the Government be unable to make what is ordinarily known as a Commercial Treaty, but they would not even be allowed to fall back upon a simple "Most Favoured Nation Clause," under which, in the case of both France and other countries, English trade has derived the most striking advantages, and without which it would be possible for France to impose differential duties against all articles of English manufacture. On what ground is this condition to be imposed? It cannot be necessary in the case of the Shipping Bounties which the French have recently, most imprudently and foolishly, in my opinion, undertaken to grant. There is nothing, I believe, in the Treaty stipulations which would interfere with the right of the Government to re-enact the Navigation Laws if they were silly enough to do so, after the experience of the past, and with full knowledge of the enormous and unexampled extension of British shipping which has taken place since the repeal of that legislation, and which has made the Mercantile Marine of this country the envy and astonishment of the world. And as regards sugar, whatever might have been the case in the past, there is now no ground for interference on this head either. In the course of the last 18 months the French Government have reduced the duty on sugar by one-half, and have altered the method of testing for drawback, and by these two changes they have, in the opinion of the experts whom I have consulted, reduced the drawbacks until there is now no bounty at all, or, at least, no bounty of the slightest practical importance on the export of refined sugar. But suppose that my information is incorrect, and that there still exists a bounty, or that one results in the future from changes in manufacture. In this case, who is to decide the amount of countervailing duty which is to be imposed as against the bounty? There is not the slightest agreement between the different representatives of sugar refiners, the Board of Trade and other authorities, and the French Government and their experts, as to what is the precise amount of bounty in each case. Is it likely that any nation will allow us to be judge in our own cause and to assert, as against their information and belief, the amount of duty which we are entitled to levy without infringing the "Most Favoured Nation Clause?" The only result of such an attempt would be to lead to disputes and retaliation. The "Most Favoured Nation Clause" would be whittled away until it practically ceased to exist, to the great injury of British commerce.

I say, then, that it is impossible to regard the Resolution otherwise than as an indication of the desire of the Party opposite that no Treaty at all should be concluded with France. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets has said that the people of this country would be unwilling to accept any Treaty that did not greatly improve the existing condition of things.


I did not say so. What I said was that the people of this country would not accept any Treaty which was not on equally good terms with the Treaty of 1860.


I accept the hon. Member's correction; but if he did not say so, other speakers in the debate, and notably the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, pressed his contention up to the limit I have stated. But though the noble Lord, by putting forward impracticable demands, would do his best to make a Treaty impossible, I cannot doubt that he and his Friends would be disposed to throw the whole blame for failure on the Government, and to ignore the part they themselves would have taken in securing this result.

Before going further, I should like to ask the House to consider briefly what has been the effect of this Treaty, whose continuance seems to be regarded with indifference by hon. Members opposite. I find that in the 10 years, 1851 to 1860, before the conclusion of the Treaty, our average exports to France were £8,300,000 per annum. Of these, British produce, as distinguished from Colonial and other produce, was represented by £4,400,000. Last year these figures had risen to a total export of £28,000,000, £16,000,000 of this being for British produce alone. This Return is 17 per cent less than the Return for 1871, which was the highest year, and 10 per cent more than the Return for 1877, which was the lowest; and I quote these figures because it is necessary to observe that there are great fluctuations in the trade, and nothing can be more unfair than to take only selected years for purposes of comparison. Now, coming to the imports, I find that for the first period of 1851–60 the average imports were £11,300,000, and they had risen, in 1880, to about £42,000,000. These figures are 40 per cent greater than those for 1871, the lowest year; and 10 per cent less than those for 1875, which is the highest. But these figures, important and satisfactory as they are, do not represent the whole facts of the case. The Returns of the Board of Trade, accurate in themselves, must be taken with qualifications and applied with knowledge. Thus the figure for the imports must be considerably reduced if we wish to arrive at the actual amount of produce of French origin which is retained for consumption in this country. There are, for instance, large exports of textiles of different kinds from Switzerland to Great Britain which come through France, and cannot possibly be separated in our Returns from French imports. Again, much of what comes from France is taken into warehouse for a short time in this country, which is the great depot of the commerce of the world, but is only temporarily held here, and goes on quickly to its real and intended destination in the United States or our own Colonies.

With regard to the exports, on the other hand, they have to be increased if the true amount of British trade with France is to be correctly ascertained. I am informed, for example, that British yarns intended for French manufacturers in the Vosges go through by way of Antwerp, and would consequently appear in our Returns as exports to Belgium, although really part of our transactions with France. When these allowances are made, it will be seen that, satisfactory as are the figures derivable from the British trade statistics, they do not fully represent the importance to this country of the commerce which has been created and stimulated by the action of the Cobden Treaty.

Passing now to more general considerations, I gather from the speeches which have been made that it is the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite that during recent years English trade has been declining and leaving the country; that wages have fallen, and that great suffering consequently exists among the working classes; that the profits of trade have disappeared, and that generally the country is on the verge of ruin. They also appear to think that foreign countries have benefited by our loss, and in proportion to it. Now, Sir, I challenge all these assertions. It is said that we take too optimistic a view of the present state of English industry, and I am prepared at the outset to make some admissions. I admit that the state of agriculture has been for some time such as to cause to all of us the greatest concern. I believe Mr. Caird has estimated that the difference in production from agriculture during the past three years, as compared with the normal average, has been equivalent to a loss of £150,000,000 sterling. Some other economists have put it at double that amount; and clearly it is impossible that £300,000,000, or even £150,000,000, can be subtracted from the purchasing power of the country without more or less affecting injuriously every other trade and interest. But this is not a question of Protection or Free Trade; and the state of things which we deplore arises mainly from the absence of sun, and the unfavourable seasons of the last four or five years.

Again, there have been special trades recently—as, indeed, in all preceding periods—which have been injuriously affected by special causes, and subject to special depression. The case of the Bradford trade is the best known instance of this; but it is due almost entirely to a change of fashion, and is also independent of questions of Protection and Free Trade.

Lastly, there has been, no doubt, a most serious diminution in the profits of capital, due to the rash and violent speculation and over-production which prevailed a few years ago. The case of the coal trade is one in point. The production of coal in this country last year, which was the year of greatest depression, was, nevertheless, the largest ever turned out of our mines. The period when the demand for coal exceeded the supply was known as the coal famine, although even then more coal was being raised than in preceding years. But that famine induced a rise in price of something like 16s. a-ton, and naturally brought into the trade a number of persons who opened fresh mines; and, although the demand has continued, the supply has increased in still greater proportion, and there has been a consequent heavy fall in prices. The same thing has, no doubt, taken place in other trades, and notably in the great iron industry of the country. But a loss of profit from such a cause must not be confounded with a loss of trade, or supposed to indicate approaching ruin. It has sometimes been said that grumbling is the secret of England's success, and no doubt while we are grumbling we are continually tending to improvement and perfection; but it would not be safe to accept, without further consideration, the complaints of those who are not doing so well as they think they ought, as representing accurately the general condition of the country. Statistics are against them; the irresistible logic of facts is opposed to the pessimism which sometimes prevails.

Let me call the attention of the House to some figures illustrating the more cheerful view which I have ventured to take of the situation.

First, as to our foreign trade. I find that, with regard to exports, the total value exported in the sis years, 1869 to 1874, was £1,688,000,000; the total value for the succeeding six years, 1875 to 1880, was £1,571,000,000, or a fall of about 7 per cent. But I must point out to the House that this fall was in value only, and that as, during the same period, there was a general reduction in price, averaging probably not less than 20 per cent, the real volume of our export trade has considerably increased, even during the worst period of depression, as compared with the period of greatest inflation.

And, if even the value has not increased, and if the volume has not increased in greater proportion than has actually been the case, that, I may inform the House, is to be attributed, not to Free Trade, but to the action of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. This statement may appear paradoxical; but the House will recollect that it was at the instigation of my hon. and learned Friend that, some years ago, a Committee sat, of which he was the Chairman, to consider the subject of foreign loans. That Committee destroyed the credit of more than one foreign country. They were no longer able to borrow money here, and as they could not get credit they could no longer take our goods. It cannot be considered a disadvantage that we do not sell to people who will never pay for what they buy; but the result, no doubt, was temporarily to reduce the export of British produce.

Coming now to the imports, I find that, after deducting re-exports, they were, in the first period I have selected for comparison, £1,702,000,000; and, in the second, £1,947,000,000, or an increase of about 14 per cent. There are some persons who regard the increase of imports with dissatisfaction; and it may be interesting to point out why it is that this increase has taken place. During the period referred to we largely increased our investments in foreign countries. The interest on these investments had to be paid, and foreign countries have paid for them by exporting goods, which have, of course, swelled our import returns. And if hon. Gentlemen opposite, the advocates of a Reciprocity system, were successful in erecting some barrier by which these importations could be arrested, what would be the result? Foreign countries must continue to pay their debts. Not being able to pay in goods, they would have for the time to pay in bullion and specie; there would be an accumulation of the precious metals in this country, and that would speedily bring about a rise in the price of all other articles. When that rise had been established, our power to export would be diminished; the amount of our exports would be reduced until the balance, or excess of imports over exports, was again re-established, although the volume of each would be lessened, to the enormous disadvantage of all concerned. In other words, the effect of an attempt to redress the balance would be promptly to lessen the value of our exports, but could not ultimately affect the difference in amount between them and our imports.

In confirmation of what I have said as to the increase in the volume of our trade, I now turn to some items of our production. I have taken the figures which I am going to quote from an interesting article in last week's Economist, from which it appears that in the first period of six years, to which I have already referred, the production of coal was 710,000,000 tons; in the second it was 813,000,000. In pig iron the production increased from 37,000,000 tons to 39,000,000. The consumption of wool advanced from 1,064,000,000 lbs. to 1,232,000,000 lbs.; and the consumption of cotton from 7,215,000,000 lbs. to 7,578,000,000. I might easily add to the list; but in all the principal articles of which we have Returns the increase in our trade is equally marked. But then it is said wages have been reduced, and the condition of the working classes is that of great distress; in fact, we have been given to understand that they can hardly keep body and soul together. Undoubtedly there has been a reduction of wages in almost every trade from the level which they reached in the time of greatest inflation; but what is also true is that the purchasing power of wages has become considerably greater in the same period, and, as a matter of fact, it appears that the consumption of every important article of necessity or luxury by the working classes has shown a remarkable increase. Thus the consumption of sugar, an article which the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets is so anxious to increase in price, has advanced from 42½ lbs. per head in 1869, to 63½ lbs. per head in 1880. It is not wonderful, under these cir- cumstances, that the sugar trade, in spite of the desire of some of the refiners for protective duty, is in a condition of great prosperity—a fact which the Returns leave beyond a doubt, and which is confirmed by information I have recently received to the effect that on a dissolution of partnership, in the case of a great firm in the North, while the original house is maintaining its production, the outgoing members of the firm have just purchased eight or ten acres of land in London on which they propose to erect a refinery at a cost of about £150,000, which will turn out something like 70,000 tons of refined sugar per annum. Then, in the same period, the consumption of tea has increased from 3.63 lbs. to 4.59 lbs. per head per annum; of tobacco, from 1.35 lbs. to l.43 lbs; and of spirits, British and imported together, from .98 of a gallon to l.09 gallons. It is impossible to ignore the significance of these facts, which show that whatever may have been the depression of trade, it has not yet affected the power of the working classes to procure for themselves increasing quantities of the necessities, the comforts, and the luxuries of life. There is one other article to the consumption of which I refer with some reserve, as I have been unable to check the figures, which I have obtained from an interesting statistical work, called The Progress of the World. But in this book I find it stated that during the period of 20 years, from 1831 to 1850, the consumption of wheat per inhabitant was 270 lbs. per annum. In the nine years, 1871 to 1879, it had risen to 341 lbs., and in the same period the price had fallen from 55s. per quarter to 48s., which is a fact of the more importance and interest because it has been shown by Dr. Farr, in his statistical abstracts, that the death-rate of the population falls 3 per cent for each 2s. per bushel in the price of wheat.

I may also refer to the subject of pauperism. If the working classes were being ruined in consequence of a mistaken fiscal and commercial policy, the result would be manifest in the Poor Law Returns; but, on the contrary, it appears that while, in 1869, 1,167,000 persons were receiving pauper relief in England and Scotland, in 1880 the numbers had fallen to a little under 902,000 persons.

As regards emigration, while the total number of persons who left these shores in six years, 1869 to 1874, was 1,218,000, in the six years between 1875 and 1880 the numbers fell to 850,000; and it is remarkable that in Protected Germany, during the whole of that period, emigration has been considerably increasing.

I must now go back for a moment to the excess of imports over exports which causes so much anxiety to a certain class of persons in this country, and is regarded by them as a sign of weakness and a proof of our commercial decline. I consider it, on the contrary, as a fact which ought to give us the greatest satisfaction, and I think I can show conclusively that this is the case. Let us take a comprehensive view of the question. I find that during the last 40 years, which embraces the whole Free Trade period, the total balance of trade or excess of imports over exports is, roughly speaking, £1,600,000,000. Now, how is it supposed that this is paid for? It seems to be the idea with some persons that the whole of this vast sum has been paid by this country in what they call "hard cash," meaning bullion and specie. But an examination shows that during the same period the imports of bullion and specie have exceeded the exports by something like £40,000,000; and, therefore, the total balance of goods and specie together must be taken at £1,640,000,000.

Again, I ask, how is this accounted for? Is it supposed that this country owes that sum to other nations? Nothing can be farther from the fact. On the contrary, in the period to which I have referred, the indebtedness of other nations to this country has enormously increased. It is now estimated at not less than £1,500,000,000, and no one, I imagine, would put its amount at the commencement of the period at more than £500,000,000. Consequently, foreign countries, while sending us £1,640,000,000 more than they have received from us, have at the same time got into our debt to the extent of £1,000,000,000. This investment has been made, not in specie or bullion, but in English goods, and if it had not been made our exports would have been something like £1,000,000,000 less, and the balance of trade would have been increased to the larger sum I have named. What does this enormous balance represent, then? In the first instance, it represents the cost of freight, the carrying trade of the world, and especially of English goods, having passed almost entirely into English hands. But over and above this item, it represents nothing more nor less than the profit derived by this country from its external trade and the interest from its investments abroad, during these 40 years.

There is another way of looking at this matter. Instead of taking it in bulk, consider the details of our foreign trade, and let us follow out a particular transaction. I have seen it stated that in Birmingham there exists a profitable industry in the manufacture of idols for South African negroes, and another industry for the manufacture of guns warranted to burst the first time they are fired. Generally speaking, I observe that everything which is said about Birmingham is inaccurate, and I disclaim any belief in these stories; but suppose, for the sake of argument, that this charge against the morality of my fellow-townsmen could be substantiated, and that a Birmingham manufacturer sells a brass deity to the negroes, or a gun such as those which were disposed of by the late Government to the number of 200,000 at the rate of 2s. 6d. a-piece; then, if for either of these commodities the Birmingham trader received an ounce of gold, as he well might, in return, the transaction would appear in the statistical tables as an export of 2s. 6d., and an import of about £3. The balance of trade would be £2 17s. 6d. against the Birmingham tradesman, and yet I do not think he would have any cause to be dissatisfied with the pecuniary results of the transaction. But why should what is profitable in the case of the individual become unprofitable when multiplied by the thousand or the million in the case of the nation? And yet this is the contention of gentlemen who fume and fret whenever the value of what we receive is greater than the value of what we give.

I have a few more words to say on the proposition that foreign nations have benefited during the period of depression in this country. This supposition is entirely unwarranted by the facts. There are periods of depression in all countries, although it is important to bear in mind that they are not always coincident, and that it is, therefore, unfair to compare the same years without taking circumstances into account. Taking first the case of France, and dealing with exports only as a test of prosperity, I find that the exports of domestic produce, which averaged in the two years 1858–9 £83,000,000, had increased in the two years 1878–9 to £128,000,000, an increase of £45,000,000, or 54 per cent. In the United Kingdom the increase in the same period was from £123,000,000 to £192,000,000, an actual increase of £69,000,000, and a percentage of increase of 57 per cent. On these figures I have to make two observations—first, that it is more important to consider the actual increase in money than the percentage, because, as the initial figures in the case of foreign countries are very much smaller than those of English trade, the proportionate increase may well be larger, even when the actual increase is very much less; and, secondly, I must point out that the increase, such as it is, in French trade is much greater than it would have been but for the loss of Alsace and Lorraine. In other words, while the internal trade of France has suffered by the cession of territory, the external trade has increased by the transfer of this portion of her internal trade, or a considerable part of it, to the statistics of her external commerce. If to-morrow Ireland were separated from the United Kingdom, no doubt a large trade between the two countries would continue to exist; but it would go to swell the exports, and, apparently, to increase the foreign trade, and would cease to be reckoned as part of the internal transactions of the country. Taking these facts into account, it would appear that in Protected France the advance and improvement in foreign trade has been much less marked and considerable than in Free Trade England.

I have already referred to the fact that in 1877 trade in France was so bad that a Commission was specially appointed to inquire into it. In the United States the depression preceded that in this country. It began and finished earlier; but, as a proof of its severity, I may mention that while from 1869 to 1873 the immigration into the United States averaged 200,000 per annum, in 1874 the balance of immigration over emigration was only about 1,000. In 1878 the iron industry was so depressed that, according to the Trade Reports, nearly two-thirds of the furnaces were out of blast, while in 1866 the total exports from the United States, which had been £65,000,000 in 1860, had fallen to £27,000,000. Next year they were about double this amount—the fluctuations being largely due to the action of the Civil War; but they are illustrations of the fluctuations which take place in the trade of all countries at some time or another. I remember being in Belgium, at Liege, during the height of the depression in the iron trade in this country, when it was supposed that Belgian manufactures were largely competing with us. I found there the same complaints as to loss of trade and profit, and I was told that the manufacturers were working at a loss, and selling only to keep their works partially employed, while the shares of great Iron Companies both in Belgium and Westphalia had fallen in many cases much below par. And in connection with this I might mention a statement which was made to me by Mr. Hick, formerly an esteemed Member of this House. I had seen in the newspapers, as a proof of the extent of foreign competition, a report that the girders for a large factory in Lancashire had been purchased in Belgium, and I asked Mr. Hick to explain it. He said—"The best explanation I can give to you is a contradiction, for those very girders were cast in my own foundry." The fact is that the effects and extent of foreign competition are almost always exaggerated. Unfounded statements are made and accepted as true without inquiry; but I am confident, from my own experience, that as regards the hardware and iron trades more especially, of which I know most—though I think the same remark would apply to other industries also—there never has been, for any considerable time together, serious competition from foreign manufacturers with the standard industries of this country. Within the last few days I have seen an extract from a Report of the Chamber of Commerce at Berlin, in which a protest is made against the Protectionist policy of Prince Bismarck; and if time permitted I might multiply instances to show that, whatever the extent of the depression here may be, it has been in recent years paralled or exceeded in every other country in the world.

And now, Sir, I turn to a consideration of the remedies which are proposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, for a state of things which, as I have shown, exists largely at all events only in their imagination. We are to adopt a policy of Reciprocity and Retaliation. But, I want to know, what are the precise steps by which this policy is to be carried into effect? Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree among themselves. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd) is the only speaker who has gone into some details. He said that it is the duty of our working men to make some sacrifice in order to re-conquer the free and fair trade which we have lost. There is no doubt about the sacrifice which the working men would have to make in order to adopt the policy of the hon. Gentleman. His view appears to be this—and I do not say that there is not an appearance of justification for it—we are to retaliate on foreign countries by putting on protective duties in order to induce them to take off the duties which they now levy on our goods. The hon. Gentleman appeared to consider that his proposal was a temporary expedient, to be adopted with reluctance and regret, and to be abandoned as soon as possible. But suppose foreign countries are not persuaded by the hon. Gentleman, or by his Retaliatory policy, to take off their duties? How long is the experiment to last? Is it to be for five years, or for 10 years, or for 20 years, or for ever, that the working classes are to be called upon to make the sacrifices which it is admitted will be entailed upon them?

Then, again, on what goods are we to retaliate? On which of our imports are we to put duties? That is a question of cardinal importance on which the advocates of Reciprocity ought to, but do not, agree. Does the hon. Gentleman propose, for instance, to tax foreign manufactures? I understand him to say that it would be foolish, in the last degree, to attempt to put duties on the principal manufactures of foreign countries.


explained that he meant that it would be foolish to impose in each case duties corresponding in amount to those directed against us. What he proposed was to put moderate but uniform duties on foreign manufactures.


I am glad to have the explanation of the hon. Member. I understand that if the foreigner charges 40 or 50 per cent duty on English manufactures, the hon. Member would retaliate by putting 10 per cent on the manufactures of the foreigner. But the hon. Member is altogether inconsistent in such a proposal. He stands up as the advocate of "Fair" Trade; but does he not see that it is just as unfair that there should be duties, say of 40 per cent on one side and 10 per cent on the other, as if there were 30 per cent on the one side and none on the other? Unless the duties imposed by us are the same as those imposed against us it is clear that trade will not be fair, although it will no longer be free. But there is another point which I submit to the consideration of the House. England is of all countries the most vulnerable in this matter—that is to say, that in spite of, or rather I am inclined to say in consequence of, the Protectionist policy of foreign countries, we export a great deal more than we import in the way of manufactures.


The great bulk of our exports go to India and China.


I challenge the view of the hon. Member; and I say that there is no country with which we have trade of any importance to which our exports of manufactured goods are not in excess of our imports. Take the case of the United States as an example, That is the worst instance of Protection with which we have to deal. I am speaking from memory, and I do not pledge myself to the exact figure; but, roughly speaking, I am under the impression that we export about £16,000,000 of manufactured goods to the United States, while our imports are only about £3,000,000, the rest, and great bulk of our imports, consisting entirely of raw materials and food; and, therefore, such a commercial war as the hon. Member proposes would do us more harm than the foreigner, who might retaliate on our retaliation by prohibiting, or still further increasing his duties on, our goods, or even by putting a duty on the exports of articles which we do not produce for ourselves.

I have already asked how long these sacrifices are to be imposed on the workingmen—for 10, for 20, or for 30 years? [Mr. ECROYD: No, no!] The hon. Member only intends it as a temporary expedient; but the effect of such a policy will be to foster weak industries unsuited to the country—such, for instance, as those which existed in Coventry or at Bethnal Green, which, even in the times of Protection, had only an unhealthy life, and which, when the time of experiment ceased, would be immediately destroyed, carrying with them in their ruin the fortunes of all who had been tempted by this mistaken policy to engage in them. [Mr. RITCHIE: Wines.] Sir, I have already detained the House too long in answer to the speeches which have been made. If I am to undertake to answer arguments in the nature of interjections, I am afraid I shall have to make an excessive demand on the patience of hon. Members. But the answer which I have made to the hon. Member for Preston does not satisfy the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. It is the difficulty of this subject that every man has his own separate specific, though all call it by the same name of Reciprocity; but the Reciprocity of the Tower Hamlets differs from the Reciprocity of Preston; and the Reciprocity of the Tower Hamlets differs at different times in the evening. What I now understand the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets to say is that we ought to put a duty, not on manufactures generally, but on wines, and gloves, and silks. As regards silks and gloves, I have the same answer to make which I have already made to the hon. Member for Preston. If they are not industries which can be maintained in this country without Protection, it would be most imprudent and unwise to foster them by unnatural means, and the result would only end in the misery and suffering of all concerned. Wine, no doubt, stands on a different footing. The duty on wine and on spirits is not protective; it is partly fiscal and partly moral, and might be dealt with upon those considerations; and if the Treaty negotiations with Prance should break down, the English Government would be perfectly justified in dealing with the Wine and Spirit Duties as they thought best for the interests of the country.

Well then, does anyone propose to put a duty on raw materials? The hon. Member for Preston, in the speech which he made at Exeter Hall, protested against so suicidal a proposal. Is it conceivable that we should ever be foolish enough to do away with the foundation of a great part of our trade—namely, the freedom with which we receive the raw material? Take the case of sugar. Why is it that this trade has been so prosperous of late years, so much so that I have heard it currently reported that one of the leaders in this manufacture has made a fortune of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 in less than 20 years? It is partly, at all events, in consequence of the injudicious Bounty system adopted by other countries which has enabled our manufacturers to get their raw sugar at less than cost price, and has enabled them to undersell the manufacturers of the rest of the world, especially in neutral countries. This is a fact which the Austrians have begun to find out; and manufacturers, both in Austria and in France, are naturally protesting against a system which places this immense advantage at the disposal of the British refiner.

Lastly, Sir, is anyone bold enough to propose that we should put duties upon food? The hon. Member for Preston, no doubt, has the courage of his convictions. He has referred to the sacrifices which he would require from the working classes, and he does not hesitate to make the demand upon them that they should pay an extra price of 10 per cent upon the most important articles of their daily consumption. Well, Sir, I can conceive it just possible, although it is very improbable, that under the sting of great suffering, and deceived by misrepresentations, the working classes might be willing to try strange remedies, and might be foolish enough to submit for a time to a proposal to tax the food of the country; but one thing I am certain of, if this course is ever taken, and if the depression were to continue, or to recur, it would be the signal for a state of things more dangerous and more disastrous than anything which has been seen in this country since the repeal of the Corn Laws. With the growth of intelligence on the part of the working classes, and with the knowledge they now possess of their own power, the reaction against such a policy would be attended by consequences so serious that I do not like to contemplate them. A tax on food would mean a decline in wages. It would certainly involve a reduction in their productive value; the same amount of money would have a smaller purchasing power. It would mean more than this, for it would raise the price of every article produced in the United Kingdom, and it would indubitably bring about the loss of that gigantic export trade which the industry and energy of the country, working under conditions of absolute freedom, has been able to create.

Sir, I think I have now dealt in turn with the arguments which have been brought before the House. I may summarize my conclusions by quoting to the House the opinion of one entitled to respect as an authority on this subject. The extract I am about to read is from a work entitled Twenty Years of Financial Policy, and was written in 1862 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote). It is, in my opinion, as applicable to the present state of things as it was to the time when it was written, and I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman has swerved since then one iota from the views which he has so well expressed. He says— The great fiscal and commercial measures of the last 20 years have wrought a wonderful change in the circumstances of the country. A complete revolution has taken place in many parts of our moral, social, and political system which may be directly traced, cither wholly or in great part, to the effects of those measures. Our material wealth, too, has enormously increased—our trade has developed, and our manufactures have been carried to great perfection. There have been seasons of temporary, local, and partial suffering, and the changes which have proved beneficial to the public have sometimes pressed hardly on particular interests; but, upon the whole, it can hardly be questioned that the condition of every portion of the community has been greatly improved by the new policy. In conclusion, I can assure the House that Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to the feeling in this country with reference to the present negotiations. That feeling is not keen for the conclusion of a Treaty, and would not be satisfied with any arrangement which was worse than the one now expiring; but I believe it would be disappointed if any effort were spared to bring the negotiations to a successful issue. As long, therefore, as there appears to be a chance of a happy result, we will not be forced by unwarrantable and frivolous charges of concealment and secrecy, or by attempts to impose extortionate or unrea- sonable conditions, to give up the negotiations in a pet, and without exhausting every means of arriving at an understanding honourable and beneficial to both countries. The commercial results of the Cobden Treaty I have shown to be of great importance—of great value to this country, and of greater value still to France; since the trade, large as it is, is a much smaller proportion of our total transactions than it is of those of our neighbours across the Channel. But these results are, in my opinion, overshadowed by the political advantages of the good understanding which has so long prevailed. I hope that, by the exercise of wisdom and discretion, and good feeling on both sides, it may yet be possible to renew and to extend relations which have contributed so materially to the prosperity of both countries, and to the welfare and the peace of the world.


said, he rose with great diffidence, and with some trepidation, after the warning addressed to him in the earlier part of the evening by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to ask the permission of the House to state, in a few sentences, why he intended to give his vote in support of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). The hon. Baronet had informed him, and informed the House, that he had no claim to speak with any authority on the subject. He could not help thinking that that was wholly unnecessary information. He was not aware that he had ever pretended to do so. It was quite true, and he acknowledged it with great humility, that he had never yet pretended to be an authority in the matter. He had never claimed to be a sapient member of the Cobden Club, or a duly-instructed disciple of those Gamaliels of political economy on the other side of the House, who professed to be so immensely superior to the Occupants of the Benches on the Tory side of the House. Nevertheless, he hoped, before he sat down, that he should be able to convince the House that the reasons by which he was guided in supporting the Motion were dictated by plain common sense. But before he did this, he would ask the permission of the House to refer, in a few words, to the speeches which had been addressed to them that evening. In the earlier part of the evening they heard from the non. Gentleman the Member for Bolton (Mr. J. K. Cross) a speech which he presumed to characterize as a speech of the greatest ability, and one to which he had listened with great interest and admiration. Further than that, they had been favoured with a lecture of considerable severity by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman said he could not understand what they meant by the Motion. He hoped, before he sat down, to be able to make the right hon. Gentleman understand, at all events, what his (Mr. Chaplin's) views on the subject were. But neither was the right hon. Gentleman able, for the life of him, to draw any distinction between Fair Trade and Free Trade. If he was not mistaken, before many months had passed, the right hon. Gentleman would find his intellect on that question considerably sharpened by the agitation and feeling which, he suspected, no one knew better than the right hon. Gentleman himself were widely and rapidly spreading in the country on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had fallen foul of the noble Viscount the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon), whom he accused of being grossly deficient in the courtesies of debate.


The hon. Member entirely misrepresents me. I did not use such words. I never said that the noble Lord was grossly deficient in the courtesies of debate.


said, he was thankful to be corrected by the right hon. Gentleman. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman could believe that the noble Lord would willingly be guilty of any discourtesy in that House. He was the last person who was open to such a charge. But, whether the right hon. Gentleman complained of a want of courtesy on the part of the noble Lord or not, he did undoubtedly complain of the charges which the noble Lord had made against the right hon. Gentleman for the concealment of the policy and intentions of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman drew a distinction between the manner in which the policy of the present Government had been carried out and the manner in which the policy of the late Government was conducted, and the concealment which had been practised by each. He (Mr. Chaplin) declined to accept the distinction of the right hon. Gentleman, and would prefer to draw one of his own. The concealments of the late Government were published to the world and put into plain English, whereas the concealments of the present Government, instead of being put into plain English, were disguised in the French language. To his great surprise and amazement, the right hon. Gentleman turned round and said that the publication of the documents in question was one of the most useless expenditures he had ever known and a great waste of public money. If that were really the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, why did he grant the Return? He had always thought that the present Government was par excellence a Government of economy as well as of all the other virtues in the world. Undoubtedly, they were a Government which had the largest majority he ever remembered; and if the right hon. Gentleman was really of opinion that the publication of these Returns was a great waste of public money and a useless expenditure, no man in the House deserved more severe condemnation than the right hon. Gentleman for consenting to publish them. The right hon. Gentleman had been good enough to admit, at all events, that there was some foundation for the statements which had been made on that side of the House. He had condescended to allow that there had been great agricultural loss and agricultural depression; but how had it arisen? It had arisen, according to the right hon. Gentleman, from nothing but the absence of sun. Unless he (Mr. Chaplin) were altogether mistaken and his memory deceived him, he had been led to believe that the agricultural depression was in a great degree owing to unrestricted foreign competition, in addition to the absence of sun. If that were true, what became of the contention of the right hon. Gentleman? If it were the case that the agricultural depression was owing to unrestricted foreign competition, and that the depression in trade was caused by agricultural depression, was it not the fact that, on his own showing, the depression of trade at the present time was in some measure, if not in a great measure, caused by that very system the right hon. Gentleman was the advocate of—namely, the system of Free Trade? The right hon. Gentleman had called upon hon. Members on that side of the House to state what remedies they proposed. He (Mr. Chaplin) was not aware that they were called upon to state any remedies whatever. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect was very much like the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton—they both appeared to him to be admirable and able speeches, but deficient in one particular—they were not speeches adrem. They were speeches directed against Protection, and the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton was specially directed against, the imposition of any duty upon corn. But what was the Motion before the House? The Motion before the House was a proposition on the part of his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets that no Commercial Treaty should be entered into with France except on certain conditions, and among those conditions was one in particular—that they should not tie the hands of the Government for more than 12 months. He could assure the hon. Member for Bolton that if ever the time arrived when he thought it necessary and right in the interests of the whole community to do so, he would not hesitate for a moment to propose the imposition of a duty upon corn, whether on wheat or barley or any other description of corn. The hon. Member for Bolton asked him (Mr. Chaplin) to explain to the House, if he were able to do so, what the cost in this country would be of producing a quarter of wheat. [Mr. J. K. CROSS: I said the cost in labour.] That was exactly what he understood the hon. Gentleman to have said. The object of the hon. Member was to find out what the cost in labour of producing a quarter of wheat in this country was in order to establish a theory that it gave far less work to English working people than a quarter of wheat imported from abroad. The statement of the hon. Gentleman was that a quarter of wheat cost in this country 10s., whereas the cost of a quarter of wheat imported from abroad was 30s. Now, what did the hon. Member mean by the cost in labour? He acknowledged the vast superiority of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House in their knowledge of political economy, and especially the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. But surely, hon. Members opposite must have learned by this time that everything that contributed to the production of a quarter of wheat in this country, except the original soil, was the fruit of labour. First, there was the seed. That was the fruit of labour; for it had to be collected and sown. Then there was the manure. They heard a great deal about artificial manure. In this case would any hon. Gentleman tell him that the application of artificial manure was not the fruit of labour? Could any hon. Member describe anything to him in the world that was necessary to the production of a quarter of wheat that was not the fruit of labour? Then, taking that view of the matter, although it was one upon which he had sometimes made calculations, he was asked the question suddenly, and he was sorry he had not got his calculations with him; but, putting it at the lowest, the cost of the production of a quarter of wheat in this country could not be estimated, he thought, at much less than £2.


wished to ask if the hon. Member included anything in his calculation for rent?


said, no; and he would tell the hon. Gentleman how he arrived at the calculation. He was informed by the farmers with whom he was in the habit of conversing in the country that it did not pay them to grow wheat unless they could get a return of £10 an acre. Allowing 30s. or £2 for rent, a balance of £8 was left. He took the produce of an acre of four quarters, which was a liberal allowance indeed. He was sorry to say that the produce did not often reach that amount now. That brought the calculation to £2 a-quarter, and in that calculation he put aside all consideration of rent altogether. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs pointed out that the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets contained four distinct propositions. So far as he (Mr. Chaplin) was concerned he approved of them all; but he attached especial value to that which declared that the hands of the Government should not be tied in any Treaty into which this country might enter with France for a period of 12 months. He would state to the House, with the utmost frankness, the grounds on which he held this opinion. He could not believe, in spite of all the reassuring speeches they had had from the other side of the House, that either the present condition or the future prospects of the commercial portion of the country were by any means satisfactory; and he must say that he had, besides, some considerable apprehension that they had been driving the theory of Free Trade now, for a good many years, much too hard. There were a good many reasons for apprehensions on their part. They in this country were in the uninterrupted enjoyment of the blessings of Free Trade, while on the Continent of Europe and in America they found what the right hon. Gentleman not long ago described as the impoverishing system of Protection—a system which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), who was notorious for his temperate language in dealing with this subject, on one occasion spoke of as the last refuge of cowardice, idleness, and greed. But, notwithstanding that, what did they find with regard to the commerce of the country during late years as compared in point of increase with the commerce of those benighted and blinded nations which pursued a policy opposite to their own? He found that during the last 10 years under Protection the trade of France had increased 39 per cent. Under the same system the commerce of Belgium, during the like period, had increased 51 per cent, and the commerce of Holland 57 per cent. That was the result of Protection on the Continent of Europe. What was the condition of things in America? He found that the commerce of that country under Protection—that impoverishing system, that last refuge of cowardice, idleness, and greed—had increased 68 per cent during the last 10 years; whilst the commerce of this country had increased under the blessed system of Free Trade just 21 per cent. in that period. The fact was, that those countries whose commerce, according to the authority of Free Traders, ought to be languishing, was catching hand over hand the commerce of England, which, according to their theories, ought to have prospered so much under Free Trade. He confessed that was a fact which, to a certain extent, filled his mind with misgivings and even with alarm, and those feelings were certainly not allayed when he remembered that some of the advocates of Free Trade in that House and in the country at the present time were the same men who were its advocates when it was first introduced as a system—the same men who had been proved by experience to have been mistaken, and to have been absolutely wrong in almost all the prophecies they made with regard to its adoption by other countries. When, for instance, the dangers which might arise to this country were pointed out, if England alone amongst nations adopted the policy of Free Trade, the charge was always met by the assurance on the part of Mr. Cobden and his Colleagues that those dangers could not by any possibility arise, because the advantages of Free Trade were so obvious that all other countries would immediately follow their example. But it would not be difficult to show, by a reference to the words of Mr. Cobden himself, that he was mistaken. Mr. Cobden said, on one great occasion, with reference to the success of the principles which, he advocated— We have a principle established now which is eternal in its truth, and universal in its applications; it must be applied in all nations and throughout all time, and if we are not mistaken absolutely in thinking our principles are true, be assured that these results will follow, and at no distant time. But these results never had followed; and what was the inference he must draw from Mr. Cobden's own words, if it was not that Mr. Cobden was mistaken, and that his principles were not so true as he believed them to be? The fact was, that since this country adopted Tree Trade, there had been a complete revolution in the conditions of the whole world, and this had led, as a natural consequence, to many results which had never been dreamt of for a moment by the advocates of Free Trade at that time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham himself, now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, declared on one occasion that there was no other country in the world which produced corn in quantity more than sufficient for its own consumption, or supplied in such a degree that she could by any possibility become a dangerous rival to this country. He had no doubt that when that statement was made it was perfectly true, although it was entirely opposed to the facts of the present day. Mr. Cobden thought, on the other hand, that they should purchase food from other countries, but that they would take their manufactures in return. They did, indeed, purchase food from other countries, and they were beginning to rely, he feared, too much upon them for their supplies, to the detriment of their own agriculture, and to an extent which, if certain unhappy contingencies were to arise, might lead to great danger, and possibly great disasters, for this country. But those countries did not take their manufactures in return, although they bought from them such enormous quantities of food. That was a state of things which must, he thought, if left unchecked, sooner or later lead to a condition of national bankruptcy. But if the prophets of former days were wrong in estimating the course that would be pursued by other countries, he was bound to say that the prophets of more recent times had been even more mistaken. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on the 25th of July, 1877, the occasion of the Cobden Celebration, when pointing out to the members of the Cobden Club, as he presumed, how the doctrines of Protection were being gradually destroyed in the United States and in France, said— If we look to France, we see that Protection is becoming weaker. If we look to the United States and consult any intelligent American who comes to this country, we shall find that there it is shaken and is tottering to its fall. It was four years since that statement was made, and if it was true that Free Trade was then tottering to its fall it was remarkable that it should be so steady at the moment he was speaking. But the right hon. Gentleman having spoken of the opinion of intelligent Americans four years ago, he might perhaps be permitted to refer to the opinion of intelligent Americans at the present time as it reached him through a personal friend who had visited the United States during the last few months. His friend stated that in speaking of this question of Free Trade everyone talked of the suicidal policy which they were pursuing in England. He must say that it increased the distress and alarm which he felt, to find that those who assumed to be the instructors and guides of public opinion on a question of such vast importance as this, were so bigoted by their prejudices in favour of their own views as to be absolutely unable to form an intelligent, sound, or impartial estimate of public opinion in any country which happened to be at all contrary to their own. He was quite aware that in expressing these opinions he should be held in the estimation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to be only fit for the interior of a lunatic asylum. ["Hear, hear!"] He supposed it would be useless to remind him or hon. Members who cheered that assertion, that if this view were carried into effect that asylum would be shared by the leading politicians and the greatest statesmen of every country in Europe except their own. However that might be, he was not in the least degree influenced by charges of that nature; on the contrary, he thought that, sooner or later, they would recoil upon those who made them. He was sincerely anxious that the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets should be accepted by the House. It pledged no one to any retrograde action in the matter of Free Trade; but it did leave a road open for action of that character, if it should be found or shown by experience to be necessary or desirable in the future. He could understand that its acceptance might possibly be a mortification to the self-love of members of the Cobden Club, or of hon. Members who sat on the opposite Benches; but it was not his business to find a shelter for or throw a veil over the self-love of any hon. Members opposite. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had alluded to a meeting held some days ago at Exeter Hall. As he was informed, that meeting was composed of working men and the delegates of working men from all parts of the country, and, notwithstanding the disparaging terms in which the hon. Baronet had spoken of it, he should have been glad to attend and hear from the workmen themselves the views and opinions which they entertained upon this most important question. He concluded by expressing a hope that the House of Commons would give its vote in support of this Motion, which, if carried, would leave the hands of the Government untied; while, at the same time, it would enable them to deal with the question in the future in such a manner as might be necessary in the interests of all classes, especially of the working classes of the country, and for the commercial prosperity of the nation at large.


said, that at so late an hour he did not propose to detain the House for any length of time; but there were one or two points upon which he desired to make some observations. He wished to point out that statistics were, at best, half truths, and that the conclusions which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had given to the House were totally at variance with the practical knowledge of every carrier by sea. He had been for 25 years connected more or less with the French trade, and for many years had been a partner in a firm of ship-brokers at Havre. In matters of this kind the opinion of shipowners was of value, because they had not only the figures of the Board of Trade to instruct them, but they saw behind the scenes. They knew the character of the business which their own ships were doing, the kind of things they were carrying; and they saw also what kind of things their competitors were carrying. Figures alone, even when they were true, were not the whole truth. Not longer ago than yesterday he was, as a Director of the Great Western Railway Company, looking to see what kind of business they were doing with ports in France, and to-day's experience of the Great Western Railway was the same as his own experience of former years. The trade from Great Britain to France was in articles which possessed value in themselves; while the trade from France to England represented, for the most part, luxuries and things of no particular value, except as the finished productions of valuable labour. Their price was, in a great measure, wages which they paid indirectly to French artizans. But the right hon. Gentleman was not even correct in his figures. Having been at the pains to examine the Board of Trade Returns for the last 22 years, he was in a position to contradict the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the exports of bullion were greater from France to England than from England to France. The actual figures of the last 22 years were that they had sent France in bullion £140,000,000 and had only got half of it back. Again, what did they get from France in the way of goods? Their imports of French products during the last 22 years were nearly £700,000,000; £400,000,000 of this consisted of manufactured goods and wines; and, in round figures, their importation of farm and garden produce was not much short of the other £300,000,000. What, on the other hand, were their exports to France? Not £700,000,000, nor £400,000,000, nor even £300,000,000. Everything of British or Irish production that they sent to Prance—not manufactured goods only, but including coals and pig iron—did not add up to more than about £270,000,000. And the facts were worse than the figures, for while the character of French exports made them profitable to France, our exports of such things as coals and pig iron were, to some considerable extent, loss of wealth, and supplied the raw materials for competing industries. He wished to point out that ships were cosmopolitan. British capital owed no allegiance to the British Crown, and it was open to the English people to invest their money abroad in ships. Undoubtedly, a certain school of Free Traders would so invest money under the French Bounty system. The effect of that system would be that where any competition existed between French and English ships in foreign trades the balance of success would be with the former. He asked the House and the Government why they should think of concluding any new Treaty with France which would allow the French to do what they were doing now with regard to the surtaxe d'entrepôt—an arrangement whereby France stimulated the trade of such ports as Havre and Bordeaux to the disadvantage of every port in Great Britain and Ireland. The French people said that this was not at variance with the "Most Favoured Nation Clause;" but from the geography of our position we were the only country seriously affected in the way he had pointed out. By the system to which he objected, not only were English shipowners wronged but English seaports as well—such places as Liverpool, for instance—and not alone our brokers and merchants; in fact, the mercantile classes and the labouring classes generally. They had great reason to complain of the Government. Her Majesty's Ministers should not merely speak of this as "an important question;" but they should get up and say that they would protect the interests of the British merchants, and would not conclude any Treaty with France which did not enable the ports of Great Britain and Ireland to compete fairly with those of France. France, in this matter, was doing a deliberate wrong to us, and he (Mr. Mac Iver) complained bitterly against the Government and against the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from whom, in spite of the invariable politeness of their utterances, it was difficult to get any definite reply. It seemed to be impossible for them to say to the French Government, as they ought to do—"You must deal fairly by us or we shall decline to negotiate a Treaty with you."

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 153; Noes 80: Majority 73.—(Div. List, No. 384.)

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till To-morrow.