§ The Earl of Ripon,
in rising to move the second reading of the Customs' Bill, said that, although it had been stated, particularly by his noble Friend on his left hand (Earl Stanhope), that several objections would be made to this measure, yet, judging by appearances, (alluding to the few Peers present,) it did not seem very likely that these objections would be very seriously pressed, or be decidedly adopted by their Lordships. At the same time, as this measure involved matter of considerable importance—though the only part specially interesting to their Lordships was probably contained in the schedule at the close of it, it would be his duty, and their Lordships would expect him, to make some statement of the grounds on which her Majesty's Government proposed so extensive a revision of our customs, as well as the general principle on which the proposed alterations were founded. In making that explanation, he might have to refer to one or two particular items which appeared to him of superior importance, or which might be likely to attract their Lordships' attention. The subject of our tariff of import duties was one that had, for many years past, from time to time attracted the attention of Parliament. It was not at all surprising that it should have done so. Any one who had attended to the details of these subjects must have known that, during the twenty-five years of war which occupied the close of the last and the beginning of the present century, the fiscal necessities of the country compelled Par- 940 liament to make great additions from time to time to the duties charged on articles of foreign produce imported into this country. Those duties were imposed exclusively for the purpose of revenue, at least with very few exceptions. But the duties when so imposed did in their practical operation materially affect the principles of our commerce with foreign countries. In many cases duties were laid on without reference to the value or the price of the article, and the effect was to create strong protected interests at home which Parliament did not advert to in imposing those duties. Some of these duties were confined to the period of the war—others continued after its termination. Such a state of things, when a return of peace altered our position with foreign countries, and even the position of different parts of this country with each other, could not fail to excite the attention of persons concerned to the amount of those duties, and to the degree in which they pressed on the manufacturing and commercial interests of the country. Accordingly in 1818, when complete peace was restored by the withdrawal of the allied armies from France, and when the restoration of the currency in 1819, a measure of which he was not going to enter upon the merits, had affected the price of all articles, the attention of Parliament was drawn to the subject of the import duties, by two petitions presented to both Houses of Parliament, and by examinations before committees of either House. His noble Friend, the noble Marquess opposite (Marquess of Lansdowne) presented one of those petitions to that House. It was signed by the most distinguished and eminent men connected with commerce, and the noble Marquess followed it up by moving for a committee to inquire into the general subject of our foreign trade. That was a very useful proposition, and was cordially acceded to by the then Government, and particularly by Lord Liverpool, who at that time was First Minister, although there were many difficulties in the way. Interests had grown up in the course of a long war opposed to change, but it was felt that the true commercial policy of the country, whenever Parliament was enabled to follow it, was to revert to that more open and free system of commerce which prevailed before the war, and that whenever it was possible the tariff should receive a general and searching revision. 941 When the petition to which he had referred was presented in the House of Commons, he took the opportunity of stating, on the part of the Government, its general coincidence in the principle, and his own conviction that when a favourable opportunity offered, a revision of the import duties should take place. The difficulties in the way of such a proceeding were, as he said, very great. Among others, the effect of the change in the currency operated to an extent which no one anticipated. But still the principle that a more free system of commercial intercourse was that which should be aimed at was admitted on all sides. The progress of giving effect to this principle was slow, and had been represented to have been more slow than was consistent with good policy; but he did not think so, because changes of this sort ought to be gradual, and not forced against public feeling. The principle, however, he had always maintained, and it had been his lot to suggest measures founded on that principle, which had been adopted by the Legislature. A late right hon. Friend of his, Mr. Huskisson, whom he could never name without great respect and an acknowledgement of the ability which he manifested in all matters connected with the commerce of the country, did in 1825 take the first decided step to bring the tariff of import duties under the consideration of Parliament, with a view of putting them into a condition more reasonable and more advantageous to our foreign commerce. In the following years successive Governments had carried out the principle still further. In 1835 and 1836, very extensive alterations took place in many of the articles of the tariff, on the same principle and with the same object. When her Majesty's present Ministers were called on to administer the affairs of the country, they found that this principle had received the sanction of Parliament, and they found themselves placed in circumstances which made it imperative on them to take a more general view of the whole subject, with a view of considering whether they might not at once carry the principle into more extensive effect. An examination had taken place into the subject before a committee of the other House of Parliament, to which it had been referred. The question was not referred to that committee so much for the purpose of their giving a general opinion on the abstract principle, as for that of seeing 942 practically how the present duties worked, what was their amount, and what was their effect on the introduction of the articles on which they were levied. He would not now enter into the question as to whether he did or did not agree with the report of the committee, or with the opinions of individual witnesses examined before it; but he said that it was impossible to look at the tables which the committee presented without seeing that the tariff was now in such a situation as made it absolutely necessary that it should undergo a revision. Some articles were actually prohibited—others were subjected, nobody could tell why, to duties so high as to amount to a prohibition. Such articles, of course, produced no revenue at all. Many others, without any visible or assignable reason, were loaded with duties of from 60, 100, and even 200 per cent., amounting practically to all but exclusion, tending to the interruption of commerce, to the inconvenience of the consumer, and to the injury of the revenue. At the same time smugglers were enabled to introduce these very articles to the detriment of those who supposed themselves protected by high duties, and to the injury of public morals. All these considerations, respecting which it would be waste of time to go into details, made the Government feel the absolute necessity of overhauling as it were, the whole system of import duties. Their Lordships would feel from what he had said that they had done this not unnecessarily, and that the present measure was neither a hasty nor an ill-timed one. The revision of the tariff was a matter of no small difficulty. In the tables presented by the committee there was one column of great importance, which was not filled up, namely, that which should contain what was supposed to be a just proportion between the duties to be levied, and the average prices of the articles in bond. It was necessary to ascertain this in order to tell what duties should be attached to any specific article, and this information the Government endeavoured to procure in the first instance. In revising the tariff, the first principle adopted was to put an end to prohibitory duties, which he had not heard defended by any one, even of those who thought the Government had gone too far in admitting foreign articles. No one now contended for more than a protecting duty, and the only question was, how far the protection should be 943 carried. The proportion of duty to be levied varied according to the nature of the article. With regard to articles necessary for our own manufactures, the principle adopted was this—that the duties on all raw material, some of which were exceedingly high, should be reduced within the limits of 5 per cent, on the value of the article, and as much below that as was practicable. With respect to articles partially manufactured, but necessary in that state for some of our manufactures, such as thrown silk, the principle adopted was that the duty should not exceed 10 per cent, on the value. With regard to manufactured articles themselves, the general principle was, that the duties should fluctuate between 12 and 20 per cent. on the value. Mr. Huskisson in some of the important alterations which he proposed, thought 30 per cent, necessary; but it did not appear to the present Government justifiable to put the protection of manufactures so high. Some of the present protecting duties were lower, and yet sufficient. The duty on cotton goods was 10 per cent., and on woollen goods 15 per cent., which, to say the least, was abundant protection. They were also guided in the regulation of the rates of duty by a reference to the duties which foreign governments might impose on British goods. The treaty with Portugal placed a duty on every sort of British manufacture of 15 per cent. he treaty with Brazil gave the same advantage. It was always considered that 15 and 20 per cent, were rates of duty of which England had no right to complain, but it was necessary that she should manifest a disposition to give corresponding foreign articles, or at least articles as it were in pari materiâ, the same facilities which she wished to obtain for her own goods in foreign markets. By adopting, therefore, a duty of 15 or 20 per cent, on foreign manufactures, we should show that we did not seek a higher protection against other countries, than we expected them to give their own manufacturers against ours. That was the principle on which these duties in reference to raw materials had been reduced in this tariff. He did not mean to say there were no exceptions; there were exceptions, exceptions which he certainly regretted, but he thought the circumstances which led to the making them were such as fully justified them. The two material articles of raw manufacture 944 on which they had proposed no reduction were certainly very important ones, cotton wool and wool itself—both of them articles no doubt of essential importance. The duty in both these cases amounted to full 5 per cent, on the value, or nearly so. The only justification, especially in the case of cotton wool, for not reducing the duties on these articles, was the amount of revenue it would occasion the loss of; and looking to that circumstance, and looking to various considerations applying to other articles on which it was proposed to make large reductions affecting the revenue, it was thought that it would not be desirable, at the present moment to reduce the duties on these articles; and he certainly thought, notwithstanding the arguments of Gentlemen for whose opinions he had high respect, that, looking at the public interests generally, the selection which had been made of duties for reduction was more likely to be generally advantageous to the country than if some of them had been omitted for the purpose of including the duty on cotton wool. There was another exception to which he wished to advert, and that was in the case of articles of silk manufacture, in which they did not propose to make any reduction. Their Lordships were, probably, aware that, although the duties on manufactured silks were from 25 to 30 per cent, on the value, in some cases even more than 30 per cent., yet these high duties did not operate as a prohibition, for the importation of the article was still so extensive as to produce an annual revenue of between 200,000l. and 300,000l.; so that, although the duty was certainly too high, it did not exclude foreign silks from this country. In reference to this, as well as to some other articles on which the duties had not been reduced, he had another remark to make; their Lordships were aware that negotiations had been carried on with France, for the purpose of endeavouring, on our part, to place the commercial interests of each country on a more satisfactory footing; and their Lordships would naturally imagine that in such a negotiation silk was a manufacture on which the French would more particularly be desirous of obtaining some relaxation in our duties. From circumstances into which it was not necessary for him then to enter, this negotiation had not been brought to a final conclusion; and he deeply regretted that such should 945 be the case, for he confessed he thought it would have been wise policy on the part of France, and he was sure it would have been wise policy on the part of England, to have regulated the commercial relations of two such great and wealthy countries on principles which would tend to mutual advantage, and still mutual jealousies. He had not, however, given up the hope that a time might yet come when this great object would be satisfactorily accomplished. But in the mean time, this subject being still, as it were, under negotiation or, at least, liable to a revival of negotiations, it was felt by the British Government that it would not be consistent with prudence to make a reduction in those duties which were among the principal subjects of negotiation; and this remark applied to other articles, as well as to silk. It was obviously desirable that we should retain certain advantages which we might be called upon, in future negotiations, to concede to France and other countries—that we should reserve something to offer them in return for concessions which they might be disposed to make to us. In this policy, he would submit, there was no illiberality, no jealousy, no hostility chargeable upon the Government of this country; it was simply a principle of sound policy, due to the protection of our own interests; and he was firmly of opinion that arrangements would yet be made with France and other countries, in the highest "degree advantageous to all parties. There were many other articles named in the tariff, on which it was unnecessary for him to trouble their Lordships; but there was one article, which might be justly called a material of manufacture, on which he would say a few words—he referred to the timber duties. These duties had often been the subject of discussion in Parliament; but he had never heard any one contend that the duty on timber was, in itself, a desirable thing; or that, considered as a duty, it was anything but a severe infliction on the consumer, that consumer being the whole people, for it was clear that every member of the community was more or less interested in having timber at a moderate price. Every house, public or private, from the palace of the Sovereign to the cottage of her lowliest subject, was interested in having cheap timber. Every implement of machinery and agriculture, almost everything 946 used in carrying on every sort of trade, was interested in having cheap timber; and, more especially, there was one interest of very great importance to this country, the shipping interest, which was vitally concerned in this question of cheap timber. It was to be borne in mind that at this moment thousands of vessels were traversing the ocean, were navigating every sea, bearing the flags of nations which, fifty years ago, and even much later, never dreamt of entering into commercial navigation; and it was, therefore, essential to this country, while all the world, well nigh, was thus competing for the carrying trade, that all the impediments which stood in the way of our shipping interest should, as far as possible, be removed, so as to give our commercial navy a fair chance and prospect of competing successfully with every other country in the world, whatever incidental advantages remained to some of those countries in particular respects. Upon this subject he might succinctly state, without going into unnecessary details, that he believed there was no article employed in the equipment of vessels on which the duties were not reduced to the lowest possible point in the present tariff. One particular item of expense he might here advert to, though it did not occur in this portion of the tariff, and that was the article of salt provisions—an article, of course, of main mportance in the equipment of vessels. As the law now stood, although vessels going on a foreign voyage were permitted to take on board, for their own consumption, certain and specified quantities of certain other articles, such as rum and sugar, without paying the usual duties on those articles, yet they were not in like manner permitted to take on board, without the payment of duty, foreign salted provisions for their own consumption, although an article of equal or greater importance for this purpose than those he had mentioned. The only way in which British vessels could take these salted provisions on board, was as cargo to be exported to some foreign port; and in order to give effect to this restriction the law required that every vessel which had exported such a cargo should bring back a certificate from our consul at the particular port, that the salt provisions in question had been landed. The law in this respect, however, was continually evaded, and it was highly desirable that 947 it should be done away with altogether, and that the certificate should no longer be required. The next matter to which he would call the attention of (heir Lordships was the general question of provisions, especially cattle. On this point he was aware a battery was about to be opened on him right and left, but he was so entirely convinced that the objections which had been made to the proposed alterations in this respect were altogether without foundation, that he was greatly in hopes he should convince both the noble Earl near him (Earl Stanhope) and the noble Duke on the cross benches (the Duke of Richmond) that they were wrong, and ought to withdraw their threatened battery. As to sheep, there was no chance of their coming to any extent worth speaking of. The merinos were, he believed, pretty well given up, and at all events most assuredly the agriculturists here need be under no apprehension of their entering into any formidable competition with our own South Downs, and he believed there was quite as little chance of the British farmer being undersold to any extent by the foreign grower in the article of cattle. The law as it now stood was not, however, a fixed and permanent law. Some of their Lordships might recollect that they had passed nearly twenty years of their lives under a different system of law from the present. During the whole of the war, from the year 1793, the law prohibiting the importation of foreign cattle, sheep, and pigs, were suspended, and foreign cattle, sheep, and pigs, could for twenty years be imported into this country duty free. He was well aware that this was in time of war, and that the circumstances of the war were such as to defeat, in a great measure, the intentions of the Legislature in giving the Crown the power to suspend the prohibition; for France, Belgium, and Holland, and afterwards the north of Germany, and Denmark, then the only portions of the continent within reach of us were, the first of them our enemy, and the others the allies of that enemy; so that practically the suspension was inoperative; but, nevertheless, the fact of the suspension showed that in those days the policy of permanently prohibiting the import of foreign cattle, sheep, or pigs, was admitted to be untenable under those circumstances, and circumstances which had happened once might happen again. It 948 did not follow that it would require just precisely the same circumstances as in 1793 to induce the Legislature again to suspend the law. There was a variety of circumstances which might lead to the same result, and he considered for his part that it would be infinitely to the advantage of the British Government to exchange the present system for a permanent system of a moderate duty. There where many other reasons why a moderate duty should be substituted for the present rates. He knew quite well that the breeding of cattle in this country had of late years greatly increased—that the capital which had been expended in agricultural improvements had been partly devoted to improving the breed of cattle, but at the same time he might well doubt whether the quantity of cattle had increased exactly in proportion to the increase in the population; and when their Lordships considered the rate at which population was increasing, he certainly must conceive that it behoved Parliament to look a little beyond the present moment, and endeavour to provide in time against a contingency which, should it arise, would fill every well-wisher to his country with deep regret. If the case were as he stated, surely to maintain prohibition for the sole purpose of giving a monopoly—for prohibition was nothing less—would be a very short-sighted view of what were the interests of the consumers in this country; and he was sure that there could be no person in that or the other House of Parliament, or out of Parliament, to whatever particular interest he might happen to belong, who would not feel and admit that the interests of the consumer were the interests in which they were all deeply interested. This was his opinion, and, as he believed, the opinion of all men who thought on the subject; and he was confident that this consideration would not be overlooked by noble Lords in deciding on the policy of this alteration. He would proceed to consider what might be the effect of this alteration on that interest which was supposed to be especially liable to be injured from the adoption of this change; and here, he could not help thinking that there was no foundation whatever for any anticipation of evil to the British farmer from reducing the duty on foreign cattle to 20s. a head. This was an exceedingly moderate duty, and of itself could not operate as anything more 949 than a slight duty for revenue. As to the cattle to be imported, he must say, looking round at the various parts of the world whence the great, the formidable invasion of bullocks was threatened, he could not, for the life of him, find out where these bullocks were to come from, for he did not know where they were. He was sure they would not come from France; every person who knew anything of that country was perfectly well aware that meat was exceedingly dear there. There were publications issued on the part of the French government, which demonstrated beyond the possibility of doubt, that the supply of cattle in that country in no degree kept pace with the increase of its population. France was essentially an importing country in this respect; she could not feed her population unless she imported cattle; and there were some circumstances connected with the price and consumption of cattle in France, upon which he would say a few words. He would not trouble their Lordships with any details as to the imports and exports of France; it was quite clear she must import; but the degree in which the price of cattle had been raised in France, and the degree in which the consumption had failed to keep pace with the population, was somewhat curious, and was moreover quite sufficient to calm the apprehensions of the noble Duke, if he thought France was the country whence the flood of foreign cattle was to inundate the British farmers. As to prices, he held in his hand a table, published by the French government, and printed with other papers before their Lordships, which showed the prices of cattle in France from the years 1820 to 1841. He found that the prices of cattle sold in those years at Poissy and Paris were these:—In 1820, 9l. 14s. 4d. a head; in 1821, 10l. 13s. 1d.; in 1822, 11l. 16s.9d.; in 1823, 11l. 11s. 2d. He would not go through the whole list; it was sufficient for him to state that the price went on progressively rising year after year, until it reached, in 1837, 14l. 8s.9d. a head; in 1838,15l. 3s. 2d; in 1839, 15l. 13s. 7d.; in 1840, 15l. 4s.; and in 1841, 19l. 2s. 6d.; so that in 1841 the price of the head of cattle in France was more than double what it was in 1820, while at the same time the average weight of the cattle had diminished. Their Lordships would see that this increase in price tended materially to affect the consuming 950 powers of the people; and, in illustration of this, he would proceed to state some facts as to the number of cattle consumed in Paris before and after 1798. In the latter year, the consumption in Paris was, of oxen, 70,000; of cows, 18,000; and of calves, 120,000. He could not exactly state what the population of Paris was at that period, but the average of the population from 1812 to 1816, when, of course, the amount had increased above what it was before 1798, was 547,000. Now in these years, from 1812 to 1816, the consumption of Paris, which, of oxen, was, in 1798, 70,000, was only 71,996; and when you come to the four years ending 1840, when the population had increased to 950,000, the consumption of oxen was only 70,757; of cows, 18,924; while the consumption of calves, which in 1798 was 120,000, had dwindled down in the years 1837–1840, to an average of 79,000 only. There was manifestly, then, no need of apprehending a very alarming importation of cattle from France, not to mention that when the ports of England were opened to foreign cattle at the reduced duty, this competition would necessarily raise the price of cattle in France still higher than it was at present; so that the British grazier would have still less cause for apprehension. Belgium, in this respect, was much in the same condition as France. Great apprehensions had been expressed, too, as to the Flemish oxen, and, no doubt, that breed of cattle was of a superior kind. Great pains were taken with it; but he believed there was no part of Europe in which the supply was so inadequate to the demand as in Belgium, and where the price had been raised in a more marked manner. It was true that Belgium made some few exports, but these were altogether of cattle imported from Holland and other contiguous countries. The first impression produced in Belgium at the news of the intended change in our tariff, as to cattle, was one of great alarm for they thought that when England stepped in as a competitor for the supplies of foreign cattle, the price would necessarily be raised in Belgium, but this alarm had since subsided, just as the cattle fever, he believed, would ere long subside in this country, and with it the pangs and throes of his noble Friend, who he hoped would soon grow perfectly calm and satisfied, and pleased with the arrangement. The same remark he had just made would ap- 951 ply to the whole German League. From some portions of that League no doubt cattle were exported; but from the papers before their Lordships, it appeared that in those countries the breeding of cattle in no degree kept pace with the increase of population, and the price, moreover, had been for a series of years on the increase. From Austria, most assuredly, no cattle would come. Austria, in the first place, was not within reach of this country for this purpose; and, moreover, the Austrian government had laid an export duty on its cattle, showing that they did not suppose they had more than enough cattle for themselves, if enough. As to Poland, it was but the other day that he was looking at a document published by the Russian government, showing the condition of Poland for the last ten years, and which, after giving an account of a series of different harvests which had occurred there, went on to give a statement respecting the cattle raised in that country, whence it appeared that Poland was so straitened in this respect, that it had of late years obtained the greater portion of its cattle from the depths of Russia; so that the fat beasts which were to come over here from that quarter, to spread ruin amongst our agriculturists, must begin their long march from the depths of the Ukraine. He did not suppose that his noble Friend could expect to see cattle come from such a distant country in fine condition. He recollected, during the occupation of France by the allied army, seeing a herd of from 3 to 4,000 cattle, which had been sent from Hungary for the supply of the Austrian troops there; and, although they were large bony animals, yet, after their long journey, their appearance was most miserable, and they were lean and thin in the extreme. There were, then, only two spots in Europe from which they could expect any great supply of cattle—namely, Holland and Denmark. Both these countries were very limited in size, and not every part of them was qualified for the rearing of cattle. He would not detain the House by going into statistical details respecting the probable amount of cattle which could be obtained from these countries. He believed, however, that the result would show that the part of Europe from whence cattle could be expected, did not afford a supply of cattle, either in quality or quantity, such as could injure the grazier of this country. When, 952 prices had a tendency to be extremely high, no doubt the effect of this alteration would be to limit the prices by competition. He thought that this would be rather beneficial than otherwise, as it would prevent the producer getting an unfair share of advantage at the expense of the consumer. He contended, then, that the proposition for the importation of foreign cattle was just, safe, expedient, and wise in itself, and would not only prove advantageous to the consumer, but it could not prove injurious to the breeder of cattle. His noble Friend, the other night, gave him a long list of articles, the proposed duties on which his noble Friend could feel called upon to comment on at a future stage of the bill, and his noble Friend said, that he should require an explanation with respect to each of them. His noble Friend, no doubt, would go into a statement with respect to each of them; he should, therefore, postpone what he had to say on those various articles until then, when he would endeavour to answer any objections which his noble Friend might make, if his memory did not fail him in going through such a multitudinous list. He would not dwell longer on this list of articles at present. He would not say any thing then to revive the controversy with respect to the sugar duties. He was fully aware of the arguments which would be made use of on this subject by noble Earls opposite, but he would not weary the House by alluding to them further than to say that he did not think that they could make any alteration of the sugar duties at present, without producing such an effect on the public revenue as would be most impolitic. He said this without reference to the duty on sugar from our colonies, or on sugar the produce of foreign countries. He hoped that noble Lords would agree with him that they could not do everything at once, and more particularly in dealing with such a matter as the present at a period when they had no surplus revenue. Although circumstances at present rendered it necessary to revise the tariff, he thought, in the first instance, that it would be more wise and prudent for the Government to confine their attention to the great mass of the smaller articles in the tariff to which he had before referred, as well as the larger article of timber, than to apply themselves exclusively to other articles on which the duty was high, and with 953 respect to which no doubt a reduction of duty was desirable when it could be effected. At present, however, he feared that could not be done with any regard to the safety of the revenue. He alluded to such articles as sugar, tea, tobacco, foreign spirits, although other considerations applied to that article as well as to foreign wines. All these articles produced a large sum to the revenue, and however desirable it might appear to deal with them, he was satisfied that it was for the interest of commerce as well as for the interest of the consumer, that they should at present extend any reduction of duty which they could afford to the great mass of articles. He believed that there were about 1,100 articles on which customs' duty was levied, and on a very large portion of them the amount of duty received was small, and could be reduced without any great risk to the revenue. He thought, therefore, that it would be better to take 700 or 800 articles, and deal with them so as to afford to commerce a very great boon; and although he did not pretend to estimate to what extent the reduction would be beneficial to the consumers, he might say that the revision of the tariff would prove generally beneficial to all classes. He had now shown that this measure would, on the one hand, promote the interests of the consumer, and on the other our commercial interests; and, at the same time, these desirable results would be produced without injury to the revenue. He knew that he might be told by some that he did not go far enough, and by others that he went much too far. He had been told this by several deputations which had waited on him during the progress of the measure through the other House; and after he had heard what they had to say, the result generally was, that he was satisfied that the course taken by the Government was the best. They had done enough in the essential articles with respect to which they proposed a change, and they had not done too much as regarded other articles. This, he was bound to say, was the effect produced on his mind since the time when the propositions were laid before Parliament, and since he had had an opportunity of communicating with all the parties interested. Persons connected with the production of several important articles on which it was proposed to lower the duty, and into the manufacture of 954 which labour largely entered, had stated to him that they found on reflection, that the objections which they had formerly made against the reduction of duty were unfounded, and that the reasons which he gave at the time ought to have convinced them at once. This had been peculiarly the case with respect to articles of small bulk which could be easily smuggled. One person in particular who had strongly objected to the reduction of the article in the production of which he was interested had recently waited on him and frankly told him that he had been in France and had carefully looked into the matter, and that he had come to him, not as he did formerly to object to the proposition, but to tell him that he thought that it would not prove injurious, and that at the same time, the reduction of duty would have the effect of putting an end to smuggling. He believed that he had said as much as was necessary to explain the general outline of the principles on which the bill was founded; and all that he would further say was, that if it produced the effects which he expected—namely, the extension of our commerce, and relief to our suffering industry, without doing harm to any other interest—he should feel amply repaid for any trouble which the preparation of the measure might have given him. At the same time, when he said this, he knew that he was not entitled to take any credit for this, as it was only the performance of his duty. He had said enough, he thought, to satisfy the House that the measures which the Government had brought forward was one which he should be justified in calling upon their Lordships to read a second time.
§ Earl Stanhope
would endeavour to imitate his noble Friend who had avoided details of figures, and should bear in mind the advice of the late Marquess of Lansdowne, "I advise you, when you make a speech on finance, to avoid all mention of figures." He was aware that a superabundance of details was calculated to embarrass a subject. He should state some of the great reasons why their Lordships ought to reject this bill; but, though he meant to confine himself to these limits, he thought it necessary to refer in detail to one argument of his noble Friend as a specimen and type of the others. On the subject of cattle the noble Earl had expressed a confident expectation, in 955 which he would be disappointed, that he had convinced him by his arguments, though he might expect, and this expectation would be realized, to defeat him by a majority. As Milton said of kings, the noble Earl was "weak in argument, but strong in legions." He was suprised that the Minister of the Crown who originally proposed this measure should take for comparison the year 1835 as his model, when the average price of wheat was 39s., and the prices of cattle were proportionally reduced. If those prices had continued, public and private credit would have been at an end, and a general bankruptcy would have ensued. That Minister should have commenced his researches a little earlier, and gone back to 1825, when the extraordinary prosperity prevailed in all parts of the country which was referred to in the Speech from the Throne, which stated that content pervaded all classes of the community. Now, however, all classes were equally discontented. But that Minister could not have referred to 1825 without a most painful reflection, he must have recollected that though there was extraordinary prosperity at the commencement of that year, before its close it was destroyed by a measure which bore his own name, being called "Peel's Bill." In that year the average price of beef in Smithfield and Leadenhall markets was 4s. 7d.;it was now 3s. 6d. Salt beef and salt pork, in 1825, were 7l. 19s. per tierce; in 1841 they were 7l. 3s. 5d. He was aware that the price of meat might be affected by peculiar causes, as the mortality of cattle; but there was nothing to indicate a deficiency of supply, and from Ireland more came than ever; and yet they had been told that was a sufficient reason for abolishing the prohibition; and the noble Earl had talked of the undue share of advantage which fell to the growers of corn and the breeders of cattle. He wished the noble Earl would argue this point with the head of the Government, who, on the 16th of May said—There is no description of property reduced in so great a degree as the profit derived from the feeding of lean cattle. I admit that the traffic in lean cattle is carried on with great advantage from certain parts of Ireland and Scotland.If such was the case, he asked how could the duty be reduced without injustice? A reduction of 1d. per lb. on 956 meat was a reduction of 33 per cent, of the profits. The noble Earl advanced another reason—that the reduction was necessary to provide for an increased population. This was not an original argument it was one of the great reasons urged for a repeal of the Corn-laws, and seemed to have been taken from one of the Anti-Corn-law circulars, or some speech of the Anti-Corn-law League. The noble Earl had referred to a report—it was not what the Chinese called "A clear and perspicuous report." He could not believe that the price of oxen of 6 cwt. at Kiel was 7l., and 6½at Hamburg 12l., when so large a profit could be made by driving cattle such an inconsiderable distance. Then the price of beef at Bremen is stated to be from 1l. 6s. 8d. to 8l. 4.s. per 100 lb., which was 1s. 7½d. per lb. He denied that this could be correct, unless Bremen was in a state of siege or blockade. It was no doubt a mistake. Oxen that had been driven 100 miles could be sold in Hamburgh (at 4d. per pound) at a profit of 2l. 13s. per ox. Sheep driven the same distance could be sold (at 4½d. per pound), at a profit of 9s. 6d. per sheep; and hogs driven eighty miles could be sold (at 4d. per pound) at a profit of 11s. per hog. At the same time the price of oil cake was in Denmark but 6l. 6s. per ton, while in England it was 10l. 10s. per ton. In England barley was 30s. per quarter, in Denmark it was only one-half that sum. In 1828, when beef sold in France at 5d. the pound, 67,000 head of cattle were imported there, the duty, freight, and expenses being less than 1½d. per pound upon oxen. The duty on an ox in France was 2l., besides municipal dues of 1l. more. In Holland the duty was 1l. 3s. 4d. If they turned to America they found that at Cincinnati, on the Ohio, salted pork was sold at from ½d. to 1½d. per pound, and the circular of Messrs. Lizardi stated, that pork of a better quality than that usually sold in England cost in New Orleans not more than ¾d. the pound; and such was the advantage now enjoyed by that country in rearing cattle, that while in 1840 the quantity of salted beef imported from America was 7,700 cwt., it had increased in 1841 to 22,429 cwt., or more than thrice the amount. The exports from New Orleans were tripled in two years, and he had no doubt, that if the tariff be- 957 came law, not only would our markets be victualled from America, but our navy also. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government stated, on the 23rd of May, 1842, that he wished the tariff would reduce the price of meat, because he considered it was now too high. Yet the whole scope of the right hon. Baronet's argument went to show, that there would really be no reduction at all. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would make up his mind which argument he meant to stand by, and not thus endeavour to sit down upon two stools. If he did, he might find himself in the same position that many other persons had been in who had attempted the same feat. The two arguments neutralised each other, for if the price of meat was not to be reduced by the tariff, then of what benefit would the tariff be to the consumer; while, if the price was to be reduced, what was to become of the producer? But the right hon. Baronet really had a most remarkable talent for exhibiting facts in such a light that one-half of his audience believed them to be black, and the other believed them to be white. This was exactly what the right hon. Baronet had done with regard to the Corn-laws, and now he was doing the same with respect to the importation of cattle. Compared with such feats the sleight-of-hand proceedings of the German juggler were quite insignificant. He might say of the tariff what Pitt said of Bonaparte—that nothing was too vast for the temerity of his ambition, nor was anything too small or insignificant for the grasp of his rapacity. He might say the same of this tariff—nothing was too important not to be included, nothing so insignificant as to be safe from being meddled with. With the permission of the House he would proceed to state his objections to a few of the articles. First, with regard to onions. It appeared that onions might be imported from Holland at 1s. 6d. per bushel, including freight and other charges, which, with the proposed duty of 6d., would make 2s. the price at which they could be imported here from abroad. Now, the remunerating price in England was not less than 3s. 6d. a bushel. There were no less than 2,300 acres of ground employed in the cultivation of onion and other garden seeds. The production of those seeds required five times as many labourers as were required for land used for ge- 958 neral agricultural purposes, at an expense of about 40l. per acre. The price of the seed did not affect that of the crop, a very small proportion only being used—about 10lb. per acre. It appeared that onion seed could be imported at 1s. 9d. per pound, exclusive of the duty, which would amount to no more than about ½d. per pound. The remunerating price in England, however, according to the average of the last eighteen years, was 3s. 2d. per pound. Was it possible for the honest industrious producer of this country to compete with the foreigner under such disadvantageous circumstances as these? The next article to which he would call their Lordships attention was that comprising ores of various kinds. Whatever arguments might be used in favour of the reduction of the duty on copper ore, there was no ground for such reduction on manufactures of copper. It appeared that the importation of copper ore from Chili and Cuba was, in 1832, 45,000 cwt. In 1841 it had increased to 974,000 cwt. Reflecting that 40,000 persons in Cornwall depended upon the copper trade, he could not see why there should be any further reduction of the existing duty, which had not stopped the increase of the importation of ore. The stoppage of the Cornish mines would cause a loss of 1,000,000 of revenue annually, and the same amount was annually now employed in payment of the wages of labour. He next came to the article of oil, and here he must beg to call the attention of their Lordships to the very serious consequences which these proposed reductions of duty would have upon the whale fisheries—a branch of trade that had given so much support to our marine. Let the House look at the disproportion between the amount of duty hitherto received upon British as compared with foreign oils. In 1840 the amount of duty received upon train oil, spermaceti, and blubber, the produce of British fishing, was 1,220l. The amount received for duty on the same articles, the produce of foreign fishing, was 15,711l.;—and yet the duty on foreign train and blubber was to be reduced from 26l. 12s. to 6l., and on spermaceti to 15l. The reductions proposed upon drugs were so trifling in their nature, that while they would produce a loss to the revenue, no part of the benefit would go to the people, but all to the traders. The Apothecaries' Company ought to illuminate their hall, and 959 to make the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government an honorary member of their company, in return for this tariff. With regard to the reductions of the duties on timber, he really must say, that the poor would not be benefitted by them; and to argue that they would benefit the people generally because housebuilding would be cheaper, was absurd. The reduction would not amount to more than 1½ per cent., not on the timber used, but on the cost of the whole building. Yet for so unimportant a benefit we were to sacrifice not less than 800,000l. a-year. The protection was reduced 19s. 10d. on timber, and 1l. 13s. 6d. upon deals. Now, he thought it very desirable for their Lordships to bear in mind that the noble Earl opposite, who was for some time at the head of the Exchequer(Earl Spencer), had in 1831 been of opinion, that a reduction of 15s. would transfer to the north of Europe one-half of the colonial trade in this article. What would be the effect of this? The real value of our exports of British productions in 1839 to the North American colonies was 3,047,671l., the real value of our exports to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Prussia, in the same year, was 554,032l. In 1840, there were entered inwards from the North American colonies, 2,416 ships, of 808,222 tons burden; from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Prussia, 920 ships, of 134,135 tons burden. While he was on this subject, he could not forget that other countries had recently increased their protective duties very considerably; such had been the course of America; such had been the course of France, and most wisely had France done so in his opinion, for that course was calculated to find employment and subsistence for their own population; and he would tell his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) that the Government which ceased to discharge that duty stood not on a rock, but on the sand, speedily to be swept away by the winds. He now came to one of the most important heads—that of manufactured articles; he should not fatigue the House with going into particulars; but he was prepared to prove, upon testimony, that the reductions proposed, would be injurious in all cases. It was with great pain he found that, notwithstanding all the evils which had been heaped upon the suffering population of this country by the introduction of the 960 pernicious doctrines of free-trade, his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) and the Government still persisted in carrying those doctrines into operation., Could there be any doubt, that great sufferings would be caused by these reductions? Was it not known how severely the reductions in the article of leather—for instance, in shoes and gloves—would press on the classes engaged in the production of those commodities? Then, as to articles of luxury, take the instance of watches by way of illustration. He had been shown a foreign watch, which could be sold in this country, after paying the reduced duty, at 8l., but which could not be manufactured here under 25l. It had been said, that the reductions in the tariff were made with a view to alleviate the burdens on the poor, but he wished to know, whether it was from any paternal solicitude for the poor that this, and so many other reductions were made in the duties on articles of luxury? Was this intended to relieve the manufacturing classes, and extend the commerce of the country? He denied, that any advantage whatever would accrue from the tariff to the labouring classes, to whom it was the primary duty of the Government to afford relief. Into the question of free-trade generally, he should not then enter, but he might say, as the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Melbourne) had once said, that he considered free-trade to be strongly opposed to the habits, feelings, and opinions of the people of this country; nevertheless, from some expressions that had fallen from his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon), he was greatly afraid, that this tariff was intended as one stride toward the establishment of a completely free-trade, and he must say, that if this was only a stepping-stone in the march, he thought the country was not treated fairly. If they were to have free-trade, let it be offered at once, and then he well knew how manfully and how successfully it would be resisted by the people of this country. Let the offer be once fairly made, and their Lordships would never again hear of free-trade, so odious would its name become throughout the empire. With respect to the measure generally, he wished to hear from his noble Friend that he would give them (to use the language of the present head of the Government) "a frank and explicit" explanation of it, for that, he must say, he had not yet been able to get in any one 961 quarter. He wanted to know, whether a large or small importation of foreign commodities was expected? If a small one, then no benefit to the revenue could arise from the measure; if a large one, then what, he asked, would be the effect to the consumer? This had never yet been explained. In another place, not far from the spot where he stood, such was the complaisance—he used no harsh language, he did not say, such was the base servility, of the members of that assembly, that they seemed content to let the whole pass without explanation, and to put unbounded reliance on the ipse dixit of a Minister, whom they appeared to consider as infallible. But they did not represent the labouring classes in that assembly; it neither reflected the opinions of those classes, nor regarded their wishes, nor expressed their complaints. He would ask their Lordships, then, whether they considered that any Government had a right thus to condemn to destitution whole classes of their fellow-citizens without giving them any means of defence for themselves, and without any previous inquiry; for it was remarkable, that no public investigation had preceded this measure; it came forth like a thief in the dark. It had not been announced at the late election, and even when it was produced, it had not been received very kindly by the usual supporters of those who brought it forward. It would be the destruction of the political power of its author, to which, however, he attached but little importance; but it would, he thought, if it went to establish free-trade, effect what he could not contemplate without emotion—the total destruction of the country which had the misfortune to be governed by him. From information which he had received, not from a Chartist nor from a member of the Anti-Corn-law League, though he had no aversion to communicate with either of those parties, but from an old Tory, well acquainted with the counties of York and Lancaster—he was convinced, that the country regarded the measure with apathy, from a conviction, that a great change was at hand. He had no doubt about that. His noble Friend had said that there had not been many petitions presented against the measure, but he ought not to forget the numerous renunciations and remonstrances which had been addressed, not to Parliament, but to the Government itself. 962 They could not avert the natural consequences of their measures; if the consequences were to produce distress, the next result was discontent. It would be a lamentable delusion, if his noble Friend were to suppose that the new tariff was popular in this country. He knew that addresses of thanks had been sent to the Prime Minister for this measure, by bodies that were not immediately affected by it. On the same authority he had just named he had been assured that the tariff was popular in Yorkshire and Lancashire, merely because the people in those counties were thoroughly convinced that it would disorganize and revolutionize the country, and produce a total change and new distribution of political power. It was important to learn the opinions of those who professed to lead opinion, and the opinions given by Mr. Feargus O'Connor on the tariff were these:—In fact, if I were asked to frame a bill for the complete and entire dissolution of society, as at present constituted—agricultural, manufacturing, and so on,—I should say make not one single alteration in the budget of the right hon. Baronet.And he added afterwards that which experience would, unfortunately, prove to be too true:—That every injured and disappointed man will be thrown into the ranks of the Chartists.What had been the effect of the great innovation in the silk trade in 1825—he spoke of the numerous class of operatives engaged in that trade, forming, as a whole with the other labourers of the country, the most numerous and meritorious class of all others, and the most important and valuable to this country? The effect was, that their wages were reduced in consequence 50 per cent., and had never since risen to their former standard. In the difficulties and dangers which beset this country, and which it was impossible to represent in colours too dark and gloomy, he would earnestly entreat their Lordships not to pass a measure which would infallibly increase those evils. Let them beware how they added to the distress of the great mass of the people till they reduced them to that condition where every man, in the language of the great dramatist, would be ready——"To risk his life on either stake,To mend it or to mar it.He maintained that long-continued dis- 963 tress, which could be traced to the acts of the Legislature, was of itself a reason for demanding a change of Government, and that it afforded an unanswerable argument for a further change in the Constitution of the country. If the present distress of the country were allowed to continue, and to be still further aggravated, and that would infallibly be the case if this injurious measure we e passed, there would be but one cry throughout the whole length and breadth of the land, which they would find it impossible to resist. He entreated their Lordships to weigh well the dangers to arise from the natural effect of the measure now proposed, and before they consented to sacrifice the interests of any class, still less the interests of the working classes of their fellow-citizens, to reject the measure till they had instituted an inquiry—a fair, impartial, full, and efficient inquiry—as to whether all or any of these changes could be carried into effect with justice or with safety. Convinced that if they passed this measure they would accelerate to railroad rapidity the progress of revolution, and aggravate the distress, till at last they would contemplate with awe and alarm the perils which existed, he moved that the word "now" be omitted in the motion of his noble Friend, for the purpose of inserting the words "this day six months." He should consider it his duty, however small a number of votes he might have to support him, to take the sense of the House, and to enter a protest against this measure.
§ The Duke of Richmond
certainly did not agree in the last observation of his noble Friend, but as he intended to vote for the amendment, he would say a few words. It appeared to him, that the protection, on the faith of which so much capital had been invested in agriculture, should not be suddenly withdrawn. It seemed to him, also, that great changes would be made by this measure, of which no one could see the consequences, and such as ought not to have been lightly brought forward. It was not his intention to go into the various articles in the tariff, but as he had been directly alluded to by his noble Friend who brought forward this tariff, in the able and eloquent manner in which he always spoke, he felt called upon to offer a few remarks. He was sure, that if his noble Friend had had a better case, he would have been able to have brought forward stronger arguments. His whole 964 speech was, that the farmers ought not to be afraid; he told them that cattle could only be obtained in Denmark, or Holstein, and in Holland; and if that were the case, he would ask his noble Friend, whether it was wise to propose such an alteration, whether it was wise to create an alarm throughout, the whole country, whether it was wise and expedient, when the price of meat could not be much diminished, to hold out hopes to the consumers which would not be found to be true? He would ask their Lordships, also, whether his noble Friend had shown any one reason—and he did not object to an importation of cattle—had his noble Friend shown any reason why the duty should not be taken by weight? His noble Friend said, that he wished to improve the breed; he did not believe, that there could be much improvement from that source, but if his noble Friend wished to be of service to the agriculturists of England, he would have taken off the duty from lean stock, and would have reserved it upon fat; he would not have given an additional advantage to the foreigners, who were unfortunately able to fatten cattle much cheaper than ourselves. His noble Friend had said that the quantity of cattle had decreased in France; it had so decreased because the subdivision of land in that country was so great that they could not breed the same quantity of cattle. He objected also to the present bill, because, when he saw the measure supported elsewhere by those who had hoisted the flag of free-trade, and by those who boasted of being the enemies of the agricultural interest, he must look upon it with great suspicion, and could not agree to take such a large step in advance of free-trade. He thought that the farmers of this country, taxed as they were, could not compete with the foreign farmers. He looked upon this as a stepping-stone to further changes, and if the measure of his noble Friend were carried, and he should next year oppose what would be its inevitable consequence, his noble Friend would say, "why did you not oppose the original measure when we made it clear what its results would be?" The English farmer was taxed to a larger amount than the farmer in other countries. Not only was he subjected to public and local taxation, but the Legislature had taken care that his barley should not be made into malt, without paying a high duty; he was prevented also from fattening his cattle by steeping 965 his barley, a process which enabled the foreign farmer to fatten his cattle at a much cheaper rate. Moreover, the foreign farmer only employed as many men as he thought fit, whilst the English farmer, if he did not employ the labourers, was obliged to pay for their livelihood by the Poor-law. So long as they put these charges upon the English farmers, it was impossible that they could compete with the foreigners. He was one of those who thought that this measure would be of little or no use to the consumer and the people of this country if his noble and learned Friend were right, and he objected to an alteration by which the farmers might gain upon one article, but might lose upon all the others. And this tariff, with one exception, was of no ad vantage to the farmers. Except only the lowering of the duty on a new manure which the farmers were anxious to intro duce, every alteration was against them. He would certainly vote for the amendment of his noble Friend, although if his noble Friend had taken his advice he would not have divided the House. His advice would have been that the five, six, or seven who thought with him should have got up and attacked the measure, and not have shown their weakness by dividing. If the measure had been brought forward last year, he should have had much more confidence in being able to throw it out. As he was not able to do this, he thought that he ought not to say one word to alarm the farmers of this country. Seeing that the measure could not be prevented, he was not one of those who would throw any difficulty in the way of the Government by exciting, if he had the power to excite, the intelligent body of practical farmers. He sincerely hoped that his anticipations as to this bill would prove to be incorrect, and if they did, he would be the first person readily to admit them; and he repeated his advice to the farmers to try, by increased knowledge and by increased skill, if that were possible, to make their way in spite of this measure; and he trusted that the present bill would not be found to be a step to wards getting rid of that protection, with out which, in his opinion, the agricultural interest would be destroyed; and he was sure that his noble Friend would agree with him in thinking that on the prosperity of the agricultural interest rested the welfare and prosperity of every other interest in this country.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
wished to say a few words on the vote he was about to give in support of the present measure. He unfortunately differed from the noble Earl opposite (Earl Stanhope), not only in the conclusions to which he came, but also in the reasons he had assigned, although he agreed in many of his incidental remarks. He thought that his noble Friend who opened the subject (the Earl of Ripon) had made it as clear as a person could conceive any one of as great eloquence and ability as his noble Friend could make it, that little or no good would be effected by this measure in lowering the price of food in this country. His noble Friend had showed clearly that the price of meat would not be decreased in this country by the present bill, and that it would be perfectly futile and vain for the artisan or workman to expect any relief. Still he gathered from his noble Friend's speech the consolation that this bill was only a step towards a further and more important change, and upon that ground he gave it his hearty support. There was one phrase which fell from his noble Friend who opened the debate, in which he particularly rejoiced. His noble Friend said that he could not do everything at once. He thought this was the only excuse his noble Friend could offer for the government doing so little as they had done in that direction. He did not wish to go into the details of the articles in the schedules, but at the same time he must advert to one or two remarks of his noble Friend. His noble Friend had said that the great principle of this bill was to reduce the duty upon the raw material and on articles of manufacture. He must say that the manner in which that principle was carried out was very different from what his noble Friend stated. He thought that if it were possible for any persons under compulsion to bring forward a measure of free-trade in this country, who themselves had a dislike to free-trade, and to make it, if not impossible, at least very difficult to advance the principles of free-trade, they could not have done it in a manner to make the principle more distasteful to the middle classes of this country than in the bill of his noble Friend. His noble Friend had said that the Government had thought it better to apply themselves to a great number of small articles without attacking the great articles, such as sugar, tea, and tobacco. Therefore the only great article taken was 967 timber, and the only reason why that was selected was said to give relief to the shipping interest, although he still thought that the selection was made more with reference to the Income-tax than anything else. This tariff would, however, place the artisans of this country under a great disadvantage, although a later following out of the same principle which must come, which was the necessary consequence, would put them in a better position. By this tariff the Government said to the makers of gloves, to the shoemakers, and to others, that they must compete with the foreigners on the principle of free-trade, and that they were giving a corresponding advantage in the value of the raw material. The bill did no such thing. What was the raw material from which the artisan and workman would receive the greatest benefit? The necessaries of life. He would not then enter upon the questions of corn and of sugar, but it would be impossible to speak of the great principle and put those questions entirely out of view. On another great article of raw material a large duty was still maintained—he meant tallow. Tallow entered into almost every trade—every manufacture was affected by it—to say nothing of its being one of the necessaries of life with the artisan. He found that the duty on tallow under the new tariff was very excessive. His noble Friend said, that 5 per cent, was to be the average duty on the raw material, but the duty on tallow was 8 or 10 per cent., and he could not conceive why it had not been reduced. He mentioned that not only because the reduction would be of great advantage to the manufacturers of this country, but because it also indicated the neglect of what was professed by those who prepared the tariff. [The Earl of Ripon: The duty on tallow is only 6 per cent.] That was an article on which a reduction was more desirable, because it was an article that would encourage the shipping interest. He would mention another article, that it might not be said he confined himself to sugar and to corn. It was monstrous to say that the workmen of this country would get compensation by the reduction of duties on the raw material for the protection which this bill would take away. He would allude to the duty on cocoa. The Government had taken great credit to itself for the reduction of the duty upon coffee; but if they compared the nutritive qualities of coffee and of cocoa they would 968 find that the cocoa had the preference, and the mass of suffering and misery was so great, that everything they could do to lower the price of articles of nutriment would be most beneficial. He was not now going into the corn question, although his noble Friend admitted, that his own speech would be taken as an excellent speech against the Corn-laws, but he must remark, that in the year 1841, between the 29th of April and the 4th of June, there were entered for home consumption 108,090 quarters of foreign corn, which paid a duty of 23s. 8d.; whilst this year, during the same time, there were entered for home consumption 92,357 quarters, paying a duty only of 13s. or 12s. Their Lordships would see by this, that there was now a positive diminution in the consumption of corn in this country. The quantities entered did not show that the people did not consume the same quantity, but if they looked at the duty paid, that would tell the price of corn; and if the duty was highest when the largest quantity was introduced, it was positive evidence that the people had at that time the greatest power of consumption. He said then that the Government ought to have attacked such articles as cocoa, coffee, and others not included in the tariff [The Earl of Ripon: The duty on coffee has been reduced.] The duty at present was 6d. a lb. on foreign coffee, and 2d. a lb. on coffee the produce of British possessions. The coffee of foreign countries was therefore prohibited. This duty, which was not only protective, but prohibitive, was only as three to one. The new tariff made the proportion four to one. Indeed, the tariff maintained throughout the whole system of differential duties, and it departed from the principle laid down by his noble Friend, and enacted and created differential duties which did not now exist. That was at variance with his noble Friend's speech, and that was contrary to all sound principle, because where there were protective duties, although it would be unjust to do away with them at once, yet they ought to get rid of them gradually, and not enact any new ones. He objected to the tariff that it had not made a greater progress in that direction. He would vote for the bill, not because be was at all satisfied with the new tariff on its own merits, but on account of the principles on which it was founded, and more particularly on account of the profession of those principles by those who propounded them. He saw that those principles must 969 be carried out; it was impossible for her Majesty's Ministers, or for those who supported them, to recede from these principles, or to stop in the course on which they had entered. How far he ought to thank them, how far they had freely taken up this important measure did not appear; but when he looked back, and saw how his noble Friends near him had been opposed by noble Lords opposite, in their measures of reform, he could not but think that the adoption of the principle of the present bill was due much more to the Liberal party than to the noble Lord and his Colleagues. This reminded him of another observation: he meant the allusion to the import duty committee. He had heard with pain last year a noble Lord, a great authority on the other side of the House, now usefully employed elsewhere (Lord Ashburton), refer to the report, and especially to the evidence of that committee, in terms of great disrespect; he had called it inconsistent, fantastical, and mischievous, with other epithets of the like kind—certainly not one word had the noble Lord in its favour; and this was before the last election. He did not mean to contend that the present Government was at all bound by the opinions of its friends and adherents; but considering the way in which the opinions of the noble Lord to whom he referred were received at the time he stated them, he was not less surprised than delighted with the very different estimate the noble Earl seemed to-night to have formed of the report of the import duty committee. Upon that point he need not say more, and he would only add that he should vote for the bill on the Table in the fullest confidence that Ministers would proceed in the course they had commenced. He also relied upon the Parliament, notwithstanding it had been said, that it was composed of the landed interest, that its own good sense would lead it to support the present Government in its laudable undertakings of this kind, in order that the reform of our commercial system now begun might be satisfactorily completed. Even next year he hoped to see Ministers proposing a revision of the sugar duties, and not long afterwards he was persuaded must come an alteration of the Corn-laws. In this persuasion he should give his sincere and hearty support to the alterations in the tariff.
The Earl of Mountcashell
expressed his regret that noble Lords on that (the Ministerial) side of the House now adopted 970 measures which they had formerly opposed. If the sentiments of other parties had undergone a change, he could assure noble Lords that his opinions were unaltered. He was not surprised to hear the noble Marquess who had just addressed their Lordships express his intention to support this tariff, for the measure was founded on those principles which were advocated by noble Lords opposite. He begged to call their Lordships attention to the effect which this tariff would have with regard to the article of timber. He considered that it was the duty of the mother country to support her colonies with the same care and solicitude with which a mother sustained her children. That principle ought, he conceived, always to be acted upon; there should never be any deviation from it. In the present case, however, that principle had not been followed. The duties on timber had been reduced, but so great an advantage was given to the Baltic timber that the timber trade between this country and the Canadas and New Brunswick would suffer extensively. He had recently heard accounts from our North American colonies which represented affairs as wearing a most unpromising aspect; and he was informed that it was probable, if this measure came into operation, that serious business derangements would ensue. Under the system which now existed with regard to the timber trade we paid for a great quantity of timber by our manufactures; but under the operation of this measure we should have to pay for Baltic timber in money, instead of an outlet being opened for the sale of our manufactured goods. A large portion of our mercantile navy was now employed in the timber trade, but the effect of this measure would be to diminish to a considerable extent the employment of those ships, and to throw out of work the seamen by whom they were manned. His opinion was, that this measure would eventually result in the loss of our colonies. The tariff would also produce a serious effect with respect to the trade in cattle and pigs. At the present moment, in Ireland, the poorer classes were in a great measure dependent on the sale of their pigs for enabling them to pay their rent. The tariff, however, would deprive the poor of this benefit; for the import from abroad of cattle, pigs, and salted meat, would injure the sale of the home producer. He was sorry that the measure had ever been propounded, for he 971 believed in the result it would be most mischievous.
§ Lord Monteagle
felt a difficulty in voting on the measure, owing to the approbation which he gave to its principle, while he objected to many of the details of the tariff. He should vote in favour of the bill; but if ever there was a speech which showed how utterly worthless were the details of it, it was the speech of the noble Earl who moved the second reading. With respect to cattle, he had exposed himself to an unanswerable reply by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) when he had asked, if so little were to be done, why had the subject been touched? Although the advantages to the consumer were small, still the principle involved in the measure recommended it to him; but did it recommend it to the noble Earl? [The Earl of Ripon: Yes.] He was very glad to hear it; because, approving that principle, the noble Earl must be prepared to go much further. The noble Earl had talked as if the confusion, irregularity, and inconvenience of our commercial tariff was to be traced to the state of the existing laws, which had gradually deviated from the original purpose for which they were adopted; but what was that original purpose? The raising of a revenue. And for three-fourths of the speech of the noble Earl, the word protection, as applied to customs' duties, had never escaped his lips. Every tax was, pro tanto, an evil; it was only justified by the wants of the State, and it ought to be imposed with as little injury as possible to the subject. If such were the principle upon which the tariff had been prepared, nobody would give it a more hearty support than himself. He was doubtful, however, how far the tariff embodied the principle, and embodied it satisfactorily. He apprehended, that out of doors, considerable disappointment would be felt as regarded the assurance that the reduction in price of various articles in the tariff, would be a full equivalent for the Income-tax. Sterne had said, that the sight of a single captive was more impressive than the description of a hundred. He would take, therefore, a single example as a specimen of many cases, and he would ask whether a man of 5,000l. a-year, who paid 150l. to the Income-tax, would be benefitted to that extent by the remission of duties in the tariff? The total gain to the consumer under the tariff was only about 1,200,000l., while the Income- 972 tax was to raise the sum of 3,700,000l. This statement of itself was an answer to the assertion as to benefit to the consumer. He feared that disappointment as to the result would lead many persons to believe that the fault was in the principle, rather than in its application. Thus the sound and valuable principle itself might be unfairly injured in public estimation. The duty upon timber was the only great duty touched at all by the tariff, and he must say that it had not been touched wisely. Upon this point he did not take the same view as the noble Earl who spoke last. His opinions were, in fact, directly opposite, for the duty on Canadian timber was reduced to almost nothing, and he could not understand the ground of the noble Earl's objection, unless he meant to argue, that a heavy duty ought to be put upon the good timber of the Baltic, for the sake of compelling the consumer to use the bad timber of the Canadas. That certainly was not a statesmanlike mode of protecting colonial interests, for no colonial system could be depended upon, as regarded continuance, in which the interests of the mother country as well as of the colony were not consulted. The noble Earl who opened the measure had expressed a strong feeling in favour of other great interests, but nothing for their advantage was found in the tariff, and the parties concerned, would much rather have the assistance than the sympathy of the noble Earl. In the timber duties, Ministers were actually giving away the whole amount of the revenue; yet the trade had been an increasing and not a declining one. It had yielded a revenue—
Hence it was evident, that it was a trade which did not, like many others, require relief; for even during four years of great pressure, the duty upon timber had gone on increasing. It was one thing to make a reduction of duty, and another to give away the whole amount of revenue. He was glad to be able now to quote the report of the import duty committee with the approbation of the other side of the House for even the noble Earl had applauded it. [The Earl of Ripon: I declined giving any opinion on the evidence of the witnesses.] If so, the report was nothing less than miraculous. The noble Earl declined giving any opinion on the evidence of the 973 witnesses, and yet made that report, founded upon the evidence of the witnesses, the very groundwork of his tariff. He had not hesitated to state, at the time, that he differed from some of the witnesses, because he thought they were carrying their doctrines to such an extravagant extent, that they were endangering their own principles; but he might refer to the testimony of the late Mr. Deacon Hume, as a man known to and respected by the noble Earl, as well as by himself. Mr. Hume stated, that by proper regulations, a good million (such was his expression) of revenue might be obtained, without raising the price of timber to the consumer. This resource was now absolutely and irretrievably lost, at a time, too, when so much and such grievous distress prevailed in the manufacturing districts. While Ministers were thus throwing away a very large amount of revenue, they gave not the smallest relief by reducing the duty on the raw material, of two of our greatest manufactures—wool and cotton. Was it wise to relinquish the large amount of duty on timber, when, by keeping it, such aid might have been afforded to our suffering manufacturers? The arguments which had been used in another place in favour of reducing the duty on wool, including the transference of orders from this country to France, might be urged in favour of a diminution of the duty upon cotton. Hundreds of thousands were at once thrown away by the proposed change in the duty on timber, where no relief was required; while no attempt was made to render the tariff acceptable in Yorkshire and Lancashire, where assistance was most essential. Allusion had already been made to what had passed elsewhere, and he was happy to be able to refer to the speeches of Ministers, with unqualified admiration. However he might object to the details of the tariff, there was no extent of applause to which any free-trader—any follower of Mr. Huskisson—would go, in which he would not accompany him, as far as related to what had been said by the present head of the Government. The principles of free-trade had been laid down upon the broadest basis, for it had been declared that it was the business of the nation to ascertain where it could buy cheapest and sell dearest. Such words were things, and the application of those words would hereafter be most assuredly called for. He would not advert to the corn question further than just to call 974 attention to the 40th clause, which especially excepted Corn, grain, meal, flour, sugar, and molasses; and which were necessarily excepted, because the whole of the measure was in direct opposition and contrast to the law so recently passed excluding foreign grain. If one law were right, the other must necessarily be wrong. The question of sugar had been discussed on former occasions. The proposition as to sugar was very different from that as to timber; in the one case there would be a loss, and in the other a gain to the revenue. The noble Earl (the Earl of Ripon) intimated his dissent. Would he dissent when next year he introduced his sugar bill? The object of the Government proposal with regard to sugar was to add to the revenue, and he, for his part, could see no grounds upon which that principle should be acted upon with regard to sugar and be abandoned with regard to timber. It might be true, perhaps, that there was not in the tariff any direct protection, but there was that which was almost as bad, and which produced equally injurious results. Excessive discriminating duties—discriminating duties carried to the most excessive height—there was a great difference between the tariff as originally proposed and as it was now introduced to their Lordships; and these alterations had been made for the sake of giving discriminating duties in favour of the colonies. And yet this did not account for some of the alterations that had been introduced; for the duties upon some articles had been changed which were not produced at all in the colonies. In one schedule there had been no less than 138 articles amended, and heavy discriminating duties had been put upon eggs, and articles of that character and description. So far he could not but disapprove of the conduct which her Majesty's Ministers had adopted, but in other matters in which they had been attacked he entirely agreed with them. He did so with regard to the duties upon ores. Upon copper and tin it was especially desirable that the duty should be low for the interest of the English manufacturer. The high price had been very serious, and it cramped and fettered the industry of the country; and he rejoiced that the measure which a few years ago he had had the honour of introducing with regard to the Duchy-duties in Cornwall had considerably assisted the Government in their recent calculations upon metals. With regard to coals, he had expressed his most 975 serious objection to the duty which had been originally proposed. He felt assured that if that amount of duty had been persisted in, nothing less than the destruction of the trade must have followed. The amount of the duty had, however, been reduced, and yet he entertained serious doubts of the policy of imposing a duty upon the exportation of British coal. Upon whatever grounds it had been proposed or was defended, he entertained serious doubts of its policy; but he was sure that if it were done to fetter and impede foreign manufactures, it was most foolish, most impolitic, most unjust. That was not the way to place themselves on a favourable commercial footing with other nations. That was not the way to promulgate far and wide the grand principles of commercial wisdom. If they wished to accomplish these objects, they could only hope to do it by acting in exactly the opposite way. With regard to some articles—tobacco, and others—to which reference had been made, he agreed with the noble Earl and the Government in the propriety of the course which they had adopted. On the whole, he thought that there was too much discrimination in the present tariff—that there was a studied exclusion of those large articles which formed the principle trade of the country; and that there had been in the legislation of one year a measure, on the one hand, which opened competition to the English workmen—to the glover, to the hatter, to the cork-cutter, and many other trades—and at the same time a measure which, on the other hand, prevented the competition with regard to food. This was beginning at the wrong end. Mr. Deacon Hume had always said, "Begin your free-trade with corn." He agreed in that opinion; for then if there were competition in the corn market with regard to the food of the people, no other trade would be entitled to complain if they were exposed to equal competition. He intended to vote in favour of the present bill. He thought it good as far as it went, and he hailed its introduction, not merely for the principles which were involved in it, but for the speeches from men holding the highest position in the country, by which it had been introduced.
In 1838, of £346,000 In 1839, of 367,000 In 1840, of 459,000 In 1841, of 465,000
§ Lord Colchester
thought that he might vote for this bill without advocating the general principles of free-trade. The Customs' duties, as now existing, were an heterogeneous mass of duties, without order and 976 regularity; and he approved of the present bill as introducing consistency and uniformity into a tariff which, at present, was utterly deficient in those qualities, and not because protection was upon principle diminished in that tariff. Differing from the noble Baron opposite, he approved most of the discriminating portions of the bill. He looked upon the colonies as integral parts of the empire, and thought them entitled to a fair protection. With regard to the duty upon the exportation of coals, he approved of the proposal of her Majesty's Government.
§ The Earl of Ripon
, in reply, said, although his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) gave his support to the bill, he thought his noble Friend did not support it with a very good grace. His noble Friend found as much fault with the construction of the bill as the noble Earl beside him (Earl of Mountcashel), although certainly for different reasons, and picked as many holes in it as his ingenuity permitted. He thought, however, his noble Friend had fallen into many errors respecting it, and particularly in his observations with respect to timber. He thought his noble Friend had forgotten to refer to the actual condition of the timber trade. If there were any branch of our import duties which required revision on account of the peculiar absurdities of their present state it was the timber duties. The duty on manufactured wood, instead of being higher than that upon the raw material, was in almost every case considerably lower. In fact, from the beginning to the end, the timber duties were an anomaly and incongruity to which, if called on to revise the tariff, he for one could not consent, and he felt confident if he could permit them to remain he should find no more vigorous opponent than his noble Friend. To remedy this incongruity, it was necessary to reduce the duty upon timber so as to bring it into fair relation with the duty upon deals. This was what was done, for although the duty upon deals was also reduced somewhat, the duty upon timber was brought into fair relation to it. Having done that, it was quite obvious that unless they meant to abandon altogether the principle of protection to the colonies, they must reduce the duty on colonial timber below the rate it bore at present, and that duty being 10s., they had certainly thought it advisable to reduce it to the nominal duty of 1s. His noble 977 Friend had insisted that colonial timber was worth nothing, but nine-tenths of the timber of New Brunswick, so far from being inferior, was more suitable for the purposes it was applied to than Baltic timber. He said, therefore, that in giving protection to colonial timber, they could not be said to be compelling the people of England by fiscal regulations to pay a great deal more for a bad article than they would for a good one. But he thought his noble Friend under-valued the reduction of the timber duties as a measure of general relief to the people. He was ever ready to admit the high authority of Mr. Deacon Hume, but Mr. Hume laid down the principle that if ever there were a duty it was impolitic to impose in a manufacturing country, it was the duty upon timber, and he urged the policy of reducing it to the greatest possible extent. He was quite willing to admit that originally the Government had thought the colonies required greater protection than it was ever proposed to give them, and he would admit moreover they were mistaken in that opinion, but he must say he could never so far overlook the interests of the colonies as not to give them the advantages he thought they were entitled to. He thought there were principles far above those of fiscal policy, which should guide them on this subject. The colonists were our fellow-subjects, and of common blood, and common interests with ourselves. Moreover, they suffered many disadvantages. They could not pass a tax bill which did not receive the Royal Assent, and there were many other disadvantages which entitled them to all the advantages we could bestow. It should be remembered, moreover, the trade between us and our colonies was the only free-trade we could carry on, because it was the only trade in which it was certain that what we gave to them they would give us in return.
§ Their Lordships divided on the question, that the word proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Contents 59; Not-Contents 4: Majority 55.978
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Ripon||Stuart de Rothesay|
|Sydney||Stuart de Decies|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
Bill read a second time.
§ House adjourned at a quarter-past ten.
§ The following Protest against the Second Reading of the Bill was entered.
§ 1. Because the proposed reductions of protecting duties would be most injurious to many of the working classes in this country, and would depress their wages, or would deprive them of employment, by encouraging the importation of many foreign manufactures, which, from their cheapness, may be preferred to those that are produced at home.
§ 2. Because the working classes have a right to demand such protection to their industry as may enable them to obtain employment at adequate wages, and cannot be deprived of such protection without the most flagrant injustice, without destroying their respect for the existing institutions of this country, and without endangering the security of property of every description.
§ 3. Because a measure by which those who are employed in many branches of industry would be reduced to distress and destitution cannot be justified, although an increased importation of foreign manufactures should be accompanied by an increased exportation of some articles of British manufacture, which, like those of cotton and wool, are still protected by duties that it is not proposed to diminish.
§ 4. Because an increased exportation of some articles of British manufactures could not 979 counterbalance the injury which would result from the proposed measure by the depression in the home market, which is by far the most important and the most extensive, as well as the most secure.
§ 5. Because the proposed measure would encourage an increased importation of foreign goods, which, as experience has shown, is not always accompanied by a corresponding exportation of British manufactures, and in such cases there ensues a drain of bullion which contracts the circulation of the country, checks its industry and exertions, and might place in great embarrassment and danger the Bank of England.
§ 6. Because some of the proposed reductions of duties would occasion a loss to the revenue without any advantage to the consumers by a diminution of the retail prices, and other reductions are made on articles of luxury which are purchased only by the richer classes of the community.
§ 7. Because the proposed reductions of the duties on timber would secure an undue advantage to that which is brought from the Baltic, the freight from thence being much lower than from the British possessions in North America, and would therefore be very detrimental to the interests of those extensive and valuable colonies, which it is the duty of Parliament to protect.
§ 8. Because the proposed measure, by allowing the importation of live stock, and by encouraging that of salted meat and of various articles of agricultural produce, might very much depress their prices in this country, discourage their production, and deprive those who are engaged in it of the profits, or of the employment which it has hitherto afforded.
§ 9. Because the proposed measure would produce such distress as might at length become intolerable, and lead to a passive resistance to taxation, and such discontent as might burst asunder all the bonds by which society is now held together, and plunge this country in anarchy and revolution.