HL Deb 13 June 1844 vol 75 cc679-776
Lord Monteagle

I rise in pursuance of my notice, to bring under your Lordships' consideration a question of no small importance, and in discussing it, I deeply regret that I cannot hope to possess as full a mastery over all the facts of the case as is requisite, and that I cannot flatter myself that I can command sufficient powers of argument, and of persuasion, to lead your Lordships to those conclusions at which I have arrived. But though no one can be more conscious than I am of my own deficiencies, and of my in competency to do full justice to the subject I have undertaken, I yet feel confident that I shall obtain your Lordships' attention, not only from my experience of that indulgence and courtesy on which I have but too frequently relied, and on which I fear also that I have too largely drawn, but from my earnest conviction that my resolution must command your attention, on grounds wholly separate from its relation to the humble individual who recommends it to your adoption. My Lords, the proposition I am about to make, is, that you should institute an immediate inquiry into a subject of the most pressing exigency, and one in which the interests of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects are most deeply involved. However clear and absolute are my own convictions—however undeniable may appear to myself the process of reasoning, by which I reach my own conclusions, I am not so presumptuous as to ask your Lordships to adopt any resolution of fact affirming my opinions. Undoubtedly I should not be warranted in urging your Lordships to undertake this inquiry, if I were not myself deeply persuaded that there existed grievances that could be redressed, evils for which the Legislature was bound to discover a remedy. These evils I feel confident I can prove, these remedies I feel sanguine enough to hope I can suggest, if my Motion is carried. But I again pray your Lordships to recollect that you are not called on to affirm any proposition more definite than your willingness to enter into an examination of the evidence I tender you, and if lam not greatly self-deceived, I shall not only succeed in convincing your Lordships of the usefulness of such an inquiry, but I shall lay before you such ground of Parliamentary precedent, and of political expediency, as shall render the rejection of this Motion difficult, and in my judgment highly indefensible. In endeavouring to make out my case, and to demonstrate that Protective Duties have been, and now are, most mischievous in their consequences, more especially at the present time, and in a great commercial community like ours, I fear I may have cause to trespass, at considerable length, on your Lordships' time. However disposed I feel to compress my argument within as narrow a compass, as is consistent with the nature of the case, the facts on which I rely must be fully stated, and the order in which those facts stand in relation to each other, must be presented to your consideration. Perhaps I may have been rash in undertaking so great and difficult a duty, but having undertaken it I should be wholly without excuse, if from personal considerations, or even with a view to your Lordships convenience, I were now to shrink from the performance of a task of no ordinary magnitude and importance. Even if your Lordships should be disposed to condemn me for soliciting your attention to much of abstract reasoning—to an enumeration, which may be tedious, of many commercial, financial, and statistical facts, I venture to promise your Lordships a reward, in the speech which I fully expect to hear from the noble Earl, who will reply to my statements, and who never fails to bring to any subject, which it is his duty to discuss, all the resources which extensive knowledge, and reasoning clear and accurate, never fail to supply. It is my duty, in the first instance, to remove from your Lordships' minds the impression that I bring forward the question of free-trade as a party question. Nothing can be more untrue, and it would be alike unjust to myself, and to my argument, if such a delusion were to prevail. My resolution is not moved or recommended on party grounds. I shall appeal to authorities, both among the names of departed and of living Statesmen, who are the pride and the glory of the Tory party— I shall rely on the authority of Pitt, Lord Liverpool, Canning, Huskisson, as well as on that of Members of the present Administration. Similar motions have been frequently made on former occasions, without being considered as being adverse or offensive to an existing Administration. In the year 1820, during the Administration of Lord Liverpool, a proposition infinitely more extensive than mine, was brought forward by a noble Friend, who sits beside me (Lord Lansdowne). The noble Marquess moved for a Select Committee to examine into the whole state of the foreign trade of the Empire. He then stated, as I state now, that "it had long been the mistaken policy of the Government to impose restrictions on certain branches of foreign commerce, the effect of which restrictions being to oppose to foreign commerce, the same sort of impediments and embarrassments that taxation presented to the home trade. The tendency of this was to force trade into channels the most unnatural and unprofitable to the country." Your Lordships will observe, that my noble Friend's proposition was much more unlimited than mine. It was to consider the whole of our commercial laws; mine is to consider the Import Duties only. My noble Friend's enquiry embraced our navigation laws—the laws respecting shipping, and above all, it included a subject then of the greatest delicacy, as it must ever be of the highest importance—I mean the state of our relations with India and China, at a period when the Company's Charter was in full restrictive force. Lord Liverpool and his Cabinet, so far from throwing the slightest difficulty in the way of that inquiry, heartily concurred in it. They did not deal with it as being a party attack. They supported the noble Marquess's Motion. They assisted my noble Friend's inquiries. They profited by the knowledge so acquired, and the principles which were recommended and confirmed by the Reports of 1820 and 1821; for in those years the examinations of judicious and practical witnesses led to important and useful results. Why should not the same course be taken at the present moment? and why should it not be attended with similar good consequences? Again, during the Administration of my noble Friend (Lord Melbourne) a proposition more nearly approaching to the present, though in its terms less strictly defined, was made in the other House of Parliament. A Committee on the Import Duties was appointed. That Motion was not construed to mean a party attack, it was not dealt with as a party motion. On the contrary, it was cheerfully acceded to, and its inquiries were facilitated by the Government of the day. Your Lordships well know how fully I am warranted in affirming that the present Administration are the last persons who can condemn that inquiry. They, on the contrary, have given it their full and unhesitating sanction. Indeed, they have not only referred to the Report in terms of high commendation, but they have drawn upon it freely in support of their own policy, and in defence of the most important measures which they have recommended to the adoption of Parliament. In proposing the Tariff to the other House of Parliament, the evidence taken before the Import Duties Committee was largely quoted, and to a considerable extent was relied on as authority. Why should a course thus adopted in 1839, and commended in 1842, be objected to and opposed in 1844? Nor is this all. During Lord Melbourne's Ministry, in relation to a commercial question of the greatest magnitude and importance—our trade with the East Indies—a Committee of Inquiry was asked for, and was willingly granted. It was moved by the noble Baron (Lord Ellen-borough) who, till within these few weeks, has been Governor General of India. The inquiry before that Committee included every question of Oriental commerce; duties of revenue, duties protecting and discriminating; sugar, cotton, coffee, rum, tobacco, our relations with foreign States, and the laws and regulations of other Colonies. Very useful results ensued. My object in referring to these cases (and I could multiply the instances), is to demonstrate conclusively that it is neither fair, nor consistent with the usages and precedents of Parliament, to represent my Motion as of a party character, nor to oppose it as such Her Majesty's Government are not called upon—indeed I may say, they are not justified, in taking this course. Another preliminary consideration I must endeavour to impress on your Lordships' mind. If, as I have proved, mine is no party Motion, still less is it a partial one. It comprehends all our productive interests, and cannot be supposed to have any adverse bearing against any class whatsoever. It proposes to investigate principles, and to consider their application as bearing alike on commerce, on manufactures, and on agriculture. On previous occasions, in discussions which, if not identical with the present, were at least analogous, I took the liberty of urging on your consideration the impolicy and injustice of the present Corn Laws. I was then reproached as levelling all my arguments against one peculiar interest, and that, the agricultural interest of England. It was in vain for me to protest that such was far from being my intention; it was in vain for me to protest that I could not mean any injury or insult to the class of landed proprietors, to which I myself belonged, and to that agricultural interest with which all my own hopes and support were identified. Still I could not deny that the propositions I then urged, and all similar ones when limited to the Corn Laws, have a right to be considered, in a certain sense, as partial and one-sided. This objection cannot be raised against my present Motion, which extends wherever the principle of protection is to be found in our laws and usages. I am ready at the outset to admit that there are abuses and follies to be found among protections imposed for the benefit of the commercial and manufacturing, as well as the agricultural classes; "Hiacos intra muros peccatur et extra. "These abuses should be corrected as fully where they apply to manufactured produce, as where they apply to the produce of the soil. And I am fully entitled to say, that to the boldest and most unqualified repeal of protection, as affecting themselves, the commercial classes have given their entire assent. The memorable Petition from London, presented by Mr. Baring in 1820, stated absolutely that" it was against every restrictive regulation of trade not essential to revenue, against all duties merely protective, against foreign competition, and against the excess of such duties as are partly for the purposes of revenue, and partly for the purposes of protection, that the prayer of their petition was directed;" and in 1839 and 1840 it was stated still more distinctly by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, that "they declared their disapprobation of all restrictive laws whether intended for the protection of the manufacturing or agricultural classes." Similar resolutions were adopted at Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham, Glasgow, and other towns. I am thus warranted in saying, that not only is the principle for which I contend one which may and ought to be impartially applied, but that its impartial application is asked for and solicited at our hands, by the commercial classes, who have been so frequently charged with asking for protection themselves, whilst they declaim against it if conceded to others. Indeed, my Lords, if there is one principle for which I should most strenuously contend, it is, that our national interests do not admit of any distinct, and still less of any adverse, separation or contrast. Those interests must rise and fall together; and the principles, which are just and expedient in the case of commerce and manufactures, are equally expedient and just, when bearing upon agriculture. But I contend that protection, as such, has not been in either case permanently beneficial. No man has declared more unreservedly than the present First Lord of the Treasury, that "all that legislative protection can do for the agriculture of England is as nothing, when compared with the prosperity of our manufactures and commerce." Mr. Huskisson, in 1824, stated the same principle as unreservedly: It is to the increasing wealth of the manufacturing population" observed that great man "and not to artificial regulations for creating high prices, that the country must look, not only for relief from present burthens, but for the power of making fresh exertions. It is not in the power of any artificial measures to give relief to agriculture, or to any other mode of occupation, which can only flow from the increasing activity and unceasing industry of the people. This was said in 1824. In 1820 Lord Liverpool had spoken nearly to the same effect. The agriculture of the country" he observes "is the basis of its wealth and power. But on the other hand, agriculture would not be what it is, the fortunes of those who have profited by it would not be what they now are, had not agriculture been fostered by manufactures and commerce, and received its most important advantages from the spirit and industry of those engaged in such pursuits. The result has confirmed these predictions, and concurrently with the development of our commercial and manufacturing system, and notwithstanding a fall in the price of agricultural produce, it appears, that the increased annual value of the real property of England and Wales, as assessed to schedule A of the present Property Tax amounts, to no less than the enormous sum of 21,830,006l., or 42 per cent. upon the whole. This increase having taken place since 1815. I have made these statements, my Lords, in order to remove impressions which might be injurious to the fair consideration of this Motion. I proceed to ask on what possible grounds the Motion can be opposed. If parliamentary precedents, as I have shown, are in its favour— if I have disproved, as well as disclaimed the imputation of party motives, I am yet to learn how Her Majesty's Government, or this House, can be justified in rejecting my proposition. Is it upon the ground that the Tariff has been but lately adopted; that we should wait longer to know its real effects, and that we should not as yet propose to inquire into its working, still less propose to alter its enactments? If the Government had themselves taken that course, there would be some cogency and consistency in the argument. But what is the fact. Alterations have already been called for, and have been made in the Tariff. Acts have passed, and Bills are on your Lordships' Table, and are before the other House of Parliament which have made, and which propose making, very extensive alterations in material parts of the Tariff. Coffee, wool, and sugar, have been, and are about to be, the subjects of altered duties, and surely, if it is expedient thus to alter, and I am willing to assume, to amend, various heads of our Customs' duties without examination and inquiry, it cannot be unwise to review it in reference to those fixed principles which will render our commercial system more steady as well as more equitable, and will avert the evils of hasty or ill-considered legislation now or hereafter. But if this anticipated objection is untenable, and if it is disposed of by the reply I have just made, the common-place argument may be urged against inquiry, that it will shake all commercial relations, and will excite a disturbance in our mercantile dealings; it will be said that our traders do not relish this perpetual investigation, this prying into their concerns, and that with a view to these considerations, a Conservative Government is compelled to interfere. My Lords, the argument is but a stale one, and if it had any real force, it would have been still more applicable against my noble Friend's Motion in 1820, when Lord Liverpool was too wise and too candid to urge it. It would have been equally fatal to the appointment of the late Import Duties Committee, and to Lord Ellenborough's East India Inquiry, when the Government of the day (Lord Melbourne's) did not rely on any such shallow pretences. Therefore it appears to me, that neither on the ground that the present Tariff is insufficiently tested by experience, nor yet that the interests of trade will be prejudiced by my success, I can the noble Earl opposite (Lord Dulhousie) feel warranted in rejecting my Motion. But if I am thus at a loss to conceive on what grounds I may be opposed, allow me, my Lords with great earnestness, and I might add, with great confidence, to impress upon your Lordships' minds not only the general reasons why this inquiry should be undertaken, but why it is more peculiarly fitting that it should be undertaken at the present time. My Lords, if any reduction of duties should be recommended, and should be adopted, the first effect of such change is likely to be some loss of revenue. It is only after consumption has been stimulated and augmented by a lowered price, an increased supply, and an extending trade, that the revenue recovers itself. All such experiments should therefore be tried, at a period when there is a sufficient surplus to meet the temporary loss without hazard to the public interests. I would ask your Lordships to consider whether we are not in the precise condition to warrant you in making slight and temporary sacrifices. Not only have you resources at your command greater than you had been led to anticipate, but infinitely greater than Her Majesty's Government had declared to be necessary for the public service. When Sir R. Peel introduced those large financial measures with which he began his Administration, the country understood his intention to be to impose an Income Tax estimated at 3,700,000l.. a year, which was to be continued for three years only. This would have realised a sum of 11,100,000l. But I now believe, from admissions publicly made by the Government, the public have no great chance that the Property Tax will expire at the end of the three years. If it should cease sooner, it will be most gratifying to the country, but our pleasure will partake somewhat, of the nature of a surprise. But, however this may be, one thing is certain, that the amount of the tax has vastly exceeded the calculation of the Ministers. The tax has produced five mil- lions and a quarter in one year. Therefore in place of an income of 3,700,000l. for three years, the Exchequer will probably receive 5,250,000l. for five years, or 26,000,000l. in place of 11,100,000l. In addition to this, the Treasury has also realized 2,467,000l. by the sale of stock, and has also received 1,800,000l. from China, without taking into account the future remittances under the Chinese Treaty. I have troubled your Lordships with a recapitulation of these facts, in order to prove that if ever there was a period when the peculiar state of the finances admitted of a free investigation of the Import Duties, and of their reduction and correction, so as to enable Parliament to give relief to trade without hazard to public credit, the present is the time, of all others, when such a useful experiment may safely be tried, and where practical relief may be afforded to our productive interests. I have stated, that the scope of my Motion is comprehensive, and is therefore the more important. I invite the House to consider our Import Duties generally, but to consider them particularly also, as they illustrate and exemplify the consequences of protection. I invite your Lordships to investigate, not merely how protective duties bear upon the general interests of the country, but how they must ultimately affect the separate interests of the protected classes. To those classes, I venture to affirm, the system of protection can be proved to hold out the most mischievous and delusive hopes, leading to certain disappointment, and therefore as mischievous to those whom it was sought to favour, as to the public, at whose cost that favour was granted. I shall endeavour to make out this proposition, though I well know how difficult it is to discuss an abstract principle in an assembly like that which I have the honour of addressing; but I hope your Lordships will pardon the dryness of what may appear to be more of a scientific than a political argument. At the cost of being tedious, I feel it to be absolutely necessary to lay down and investigate the general principles on which I rely, and I am the more tempted to do so, when I have heard it laid down on authority which your Lordships will be the last to undervalue or to disown (Sir R. Peel), "that it is important to settle and to adopt general principles in order that you may apply them where and when you can, and approach them as nearly and as speedily as the very complicated state of things around us will permit." My delight in hearing this just and statesmanlike declaration was augmented by the words which followed, "and a further beneficial result of laying down such general principles, is the obligation and duty which it imposes on the Legislature, to avoid any new measure which opposes or which derogates from them." This being stated on high and responsible authority, I trust your Lordships will indulge me whilst I investigate the general principles on which I rely in support of the present Motion. Let us examine what are the principles on which a State ought to proceed in the regulation of that branch of its internal economy which comprehends its financial and commercial laws. The financial principle seems to me to be that of obtaining the largest amount of revenue required for the public service, contributed in the manner the least burthensome and vexatious to the whole community; and for this purpose, by its apportionment of taxation, to leave the industry of men and of classes in such a position as to produce the largest amount of wealth. Will it be controverted that men as individuals should be left uncontrolled in the pursuits of their own industry? This appears to me the simplest of all propositions, and it seemed to be recognized by our laws and institutions, so far as individual action is concerned. But in dealing with national interests, ought we not, as far as possible, to deal with them as we should with the interests of individuals? It will scarcely be asserted that individual interest should not be left free. But when we come to consider the productive industry of classes in this vast and active community, we find that in former times, largely, in modern times with more reserve and limitation, but under all circumstances, equally without excuse, bounties and encouragements are given, and burthens and restrictions are imposed, which too frequently leave the word freedom scarcely more than a name. The object of all traffic can only be to extend and to diffuse the command which individuals and communities possess over the comforts and necessaries of life. When I use the word wealth, I use it as expressing those necessaries and comforts—where: I express a desire that one country should increase in riches, I only state my hope, that all classes may be enabled more freely to possess and to enjoy those gifts of Providence and those productions of industry, which mark, and may be said to measure the progress of civilization. Nor will the benefits of this increase of wealth be limited to the mere increase of physical comforts. On the contrary, I feel confident that we have much greater facilities in making our fellow countrymen better subjects, and higher moral and intellectual beings, if we protect them from being ground to dust by suffering and destitution, not the less galling if justly represented to be the consequence of unequal and partial laws. I have found a description of the effects of freedom of trade in the writings of the late Mr. Ricardo, which appear to me most admirably to illustrate the comparison which I have drawn between the relations of individuals and those which exist between classes and individuals. This great writer observes:— Under a system of perfectly free commerce, each country naturally devotes its capital and labour to such employments as are most beneficial to each. The pursuit of individual advantage is admirably connected with the universal good of the whole. By stimulating industry, by rewarding ingenuity, and by using most efficaciously, the peculiar powers bestowed by nature, it distributes labour most effectively and most economically, while, by increasing the general mass of production, it diffuses general benefits, and binds together by one common tie of interest and intercourse, the universal society of nations throughout the civilized world. Under this system of freedom it is not one who benefits, but all Commerce would not take place, unless it were advantageous to both buyer and seller, for to refer to the authority of another great writer, (Malthus) Every exchange which lakes place in a country affects a distribution of its produce better adapted to the wants of the society. It is with regard to both parties an exchange of what is wanted less for that which is wanted more, and it must, therefore, raise the value of both products. I have referred to these high scientific authorities, for the purpose of proving that the same rule which regulates the intercourse of individuals ought to apply between class and class, nation and nation. But it is often and significantly asked, Are you visionary enough to imagine, as a friend of freedom of trade, that nations can abandon all taxation levied on imported produce? My Lords, if that freedom of trade, for which I contend, required such a concession, it could not be found on the face of the civilized earth. I am far from contemplating so fantastic and visionary a result. Customs Duties are amongst the most legitimate sources of Revenue. But they are different in nature, in degree, and in their consequences. A duty for the purposes of revenue, if wisely imposed and levied, is that of which few ought to complain, because it is levied for objects productive of benefits to all. It is raised for the purpose of defending national independence and national honour; it is raised for the purpose of defraying those charges, civil, military, and judicial, in which every subject of the Crown has a direct interest, and for which they receive an equivalent. Besides, these duties carry with them their own limitation; as it might be assumed, at least in a free state, that extravagant establishments would not, or ought not, to be allowed, and that the duties thus levied would necessarily be confined within the limits of the necessary public expenditure. To these Revenue Duties no serious objection ought to be raised. The second class of taxation is a Countervailing duty; a duty imposed upon a foreign commodity imported, and equivalent to any peculiar burthens upon the same commodity if produced at home. This again is just in principle. It would obviously be the height of all injustice, were a State to permit the import of articles duty free, to compete with similar home produce, burthened with heavy duty. Such a competition would be ruinous to the revenue, and most unjust to home industry. This principle may be illustrated by the articles of malt and hops. Assuming that the duties are paid by the producers, it would be reasonable to impose an Import Duty on French or Belgian malt and hops, equal to the internal duty collected by our excise. No objection can be raised to such a tax, on the ground of its inconsistency with free trade. If a special tax is levied on a particular class, that class has a right to demand protection against their foreign rivals to the amount of that tax, but to that amount only. Their case must be undeniably proved; mere assertion, however intrepid, will not do; more especially if accompanied by a refusal of all enquiry, and by the non-production of any evidence. On the other hand, no claim to protection can be admitted which merely rests on the grounds of general taxation, borne by all, and not paid exclusively by the particular parties seeking the protection. If a protective duty were conceded on any such grounds, it would be manifestly unjust. Yet this is the claim most loudly put forward, and too gene- rally admitted. Poland pays no taxes, it is said; England is heavily taxed, therefore it is just to place a protecting duty on the productions of Poland. I deny this altogether. Let us examine the case. Suppose a community to consist of ten classes, all equally taxed, one of these classes, the hatters for instance, calls for a prohibiting duty on French hats—I assume that the Board of Trade of the day recommends, and Parliament enacts this duty. Its first effect is to keep up the price of hats, for if it does not do this, it is useless altogether. But I assume that it succeeds. The result must he that the wearers of hats, paying a higher price for the article they require, will pay the hatters' taxation as well as their own. I assume for my argument, that there would not be any smuggling, and that capital would not be transferred from some other branch of industry to the trade of hatters, either of which results would render this protection inoperative, though impolitic and unjust. But let us suppose that protection in place of being confined to the hatters, was extended to the nine other classes of producers. What then? In the first place, was it likely that Parliament would at once be so omniscient as well as so impartial, as to apportion the equitable amount of protection, to each, and neither more nor less. But granting that this improbability was a truth, all prices would be equally raised. Every man's income might be severally increased, but his expenditure being raised in the same proportion, his absolute and relative position would be unaltered, and the Legislature dealing with these prohibiting duties, would find its labour lost, and would end just as it begun. The ill consequences of this system would, however, be still more apparent and fatal, if it were applied to a country having a great export trade. The case I have hitherto put would only apply to a country isolated from all others, and without commercial relations. Even in this imaginary case, I have shown that protection would be most cruelly unjust if limited to a favoured case; and if equally apportioned among all, that it would be inoperative and unwise. But it would be fatal to an exporting country like ours. The object of all protection is to raise price. If this, is not accomplished, it cannot realise the hopes of its advocates. But with an export trade like that of England, carried on to the value of forty or fifty millions, and consisting mainly of articles consumed both at home and in foreign countries, it is obvious that a rise of price must limit export, must fall back on the manufacturing industry of the country, and ultimately on those who raise the food on which those manufacturers subsist. It would be difficult or impossible for our manufacturers and merchants to meet the competition of their foreign rivals who were not cursed by the same protection. In this case, as in the former one, protection would defeat itself, and its only consequence would be the immediate limitation, and possibly, the ultimate destruction of home industry. The distinction between duties of revenue, and duties of protection, is so truly and forcibly put by a most eloquent Citizen of the United States, that I cannot resist calling your Lordships' attention to his admirable exposition "No two things, Senators," observes Mr. Calhoun, "are more different than duties for revenue and duties for protection"—they are as opposite as light and darkness. The one is friendly, the other is hostile to the importation of the article on which it is imposed. Revenue seeks not to exclude or diminish the amount imported: on the contrary, if that should be the result, it neither designed nor desired it. While it takes, it patronises; and patronises that it may take more. It is the reverse in every respect with protection: it seeks directly exclusion or diminution. That is the desired result; and if it fails in that, it fails in its object. But though hostile in character, they are intimately blended in practice. Every duty imposed on an article manufactured in the country, if it be not raised to a prohibition, will raise some revenue; and every duty laid for revenue, be it ever so low, must afford some protection, as it is called. Government, in adopting the protecting system, is to descend from its high appointed duty, and to become the agent of a portion of the community to extort, under the guise of protection, tribute from the rest of the community, thus defeating the end of its institution, by perverting powers intended for the protection of all into the means of oppressing one portion of mankind for the benefit of another. The tendency of the system is to isolate country from country, neighbourhood from neighbourhood, family from family, with diminished means and increasing poverty, as the circle contracts. The consummation of the system is to produce a Robinson Crusoe in goatskin." How just and how convincing is this statement; and how beautifully does it illustrate that eternal truth, that man cannot, without infinite prejudice to his per- manent interests, attempt to counteract that decree of Providence which renders nations like individuals, dependent on each other, and that to their great and mutual benefit. By the laws of nature, neither this, nor, any other country, is enabled to produce all that its inhabitants can require for their sustenance and comfort. It is on these very wants that the social progress of all is made to depend; and so far from viewing large importations of foreign goods with alarm or jealousy, those importations become at once the source of our increased comforts, and the measure of our domestic industry. "The benefit which is derived from exchanging one commodity for another," observes the late James Mill, "arises from the commodity received rather, than from the commodity given. When one country exchanges, or in other words, when one country traffics with another, the whole of its advantage consists in the commodities imported. It benefits by the importation, and nothing else. A protecting duty, which, if it acts at all, limits imports, must limit exports likewise, checking and restraining national industry, and thus diminishing national wealth." Nor let it be said that these are merely the dicta of philosophical theorists, discussing, and perhaps dogmatising, on abstract principles. The same principles are laid down in the evidence of that experienced public servant, the late James Deacon Hume, who had been thirty-eight years at the Board of Customs, and eleven years the Secretary of the Board of Trade—a gentleman of the highest official experience and character. Mr. Deacon Hume, being examined on this subject of protection, said— I conceive that no general measure could be more beneficial to this country than a removal of all protections, prohibitions, and restrictions. I cannot conceive that a country exporting forty millions' worth of its industry can effectually and beneficially, for any length of time, protect any partial interest whatever. I have always considered that the increase of price in consequence of protection, amounted to a tax. If I am made to pay 1s. 6d. by law for an article which in the absence of that law I could buy for 1s., I consider the 6d. as a tax, and I pay it with regret, because it does not go to the revenue of the country, and therefore I do not in return share the benefit of that payment as a contribution to the revenue. I must be taxed a second time to the state. It is also a misdirection of labour and capital, tempting parties to embark in a trade by factitious support, which in the end may prove a fallacious one. I have often wondered bow any rulers could consent to incur the respon- sibility of such a policy. The real question at issue is, do we propose to serve the nation, or to serve particular individuals. "After having been thus taxed for the benefit of some protected interest," continues Mr. Hume, "a man finds himself taxed a second time for the revenue." Mr. Hume expressed his astonishment that a system so vicious and senseless should have been so long permitted to continue. My Lords, this is only to be accounted for, when we consider the plausible grounds on which a protection is first obtained, and the grounds, still more plausible, by which, when unfortunately conceded, its continuance is defended. These protections find eager advocates through our representative system, and mix up most unhappily in our party disputes. In how many cases have we been driven from a wise course of legislation to adopt colonial discriminating duties, which ought never to have been granted, but which Her Majesty's present Government have most absurdly and indefensibly endeavoured in many cases to extend and perpetuate. How many of these discriminating duties are there, which were evils when first enacted, which have produced no benefit when continued, and yet which are made a fruitful source of discontent when withdrawn! This sometimes takes place even in reference to articles which a colony never has produced, and never is likely to produce; or which, if it did produce, the article in question was high in price and bad in quality. Yet these, so miscalled colonial and domestic interests, became the war-cry and watch-word of party. Nothing, in my judgment, can be more fatal to the fair adjustment of questions neutral in their character, and which ought to be approached with calmness and impartiality. It is however seen, that a great party has bound itself, most unfortunately, to the absurdity which it once adopted as a symbol of faith. I may best exemplify them by our present system of Corn Laws. I venture to ask any noble Lord, or any writer of character, whether they believe that twelve gentlemen of sense or experience could now be found out of the Cabinet, or even within it, who would seriously defend, or adhere to, the Sliding Scale of Duties, if they were not politically pledged to do so. Give me but a jury of any twelve men of calculation and of understanding— let them either be all agriculturists or all merchants, or select a jury de mediatate if you will—no verdict will be obtained in favour of so flagrant an absurdity. I will allow the choice of the court to be left with the Government. I will allow them to set aside or challenge jurors as freely as the Irish Attorney General himself can advise, the result would still be the same. Had it not been, that, these questions of revenue and protection were found the most convenient topics by which to produce a change of Government in 1841, I cannot believe that any one would now be found to defend the Sliding Scale. When I have occasion hereafter to remark on the commercial system of the United States, I shall illustrate this argument further; but in the meanwhile, I may be allowed to give your Lordships an American anecdote, which is equally applicable to our own case. When one of the restrictive American Tariffs was fiercely contested in Congress, it was asked— "Call you this a Bill for the protection of American manufactures? It only protects one single manufacture, the manufacture of a President of the United States." So, I may be, permitted to say, these protecting duties are to protect, not domestic interests, but the political interests of the Conservative party. I admit that we have made, and are now making progress towards an improved system. I admit that we owe large concessions in principle, and no unimportant concessions in practice, to them. Even within the last few days, by repealing the wool-tax, they have wisely abandoned at once a home protection and a colonial discrimination. They have done so with equal advantage to all parties— the producers, the manufacturers, the merchants, and the consumers. In coffee, too, I see with satisfaction, that they have reduced by 50 per cent. the colonial protection enacted but last year. These concessions, however, only serve to prove more strongly the necessity of my proposed inquiry. I entreat the Government to consent to a Committee, for the purpose of examining how far their own principles are realized in practice. Let not their abstract declarations remain a dead letter, or be reluctantly or partially applied. I cannot see many traces of their full development in the present Tariff; indeed our book of rates still continues, in many particulars, to deserve the censure passed upon it more than sixty years ago, by the author of the Wealth of Nations. What were the observations of Adam Smith on this subject?— The taxes which are at present imposed on foreign manufactures, if we except a few principal ones, have been the greater part imposed for the purpose, not of revenue, but of monopoly, or to give our own merchants an advantage in the home market. By removing all prohibitions, and by subjecting all foreign manufactures to such moderate taxes as it was found from experience, afforded on each article the greatest revenue to the public, our own workmen might still have a considerable advantage in the home market, and many articles some of which afford no revenue to Government, and others a very inconsiderable, might afford a very great one. Our Tariff included many hundred articles, and produced in 1843 a revenue of 22,636,000l. But of this enormous amount 20,300,000l. were levied on 13 articles only, and the remaining 2,300,000l. included a receipt of nearly 800,000l. of corn duties, which the Government were pleased to disclaim as an article of revenue, though they had no scruple in carrying to their credit in the Exchequer. Most of the lesser articles were valueless and unproductive as heads of revenue, many of them were maintained solely as absurd and indefensible protections. But this system was attended with a multiplication of restrictions and of penalties, and a mystification of our whole commercial system, rendering the operations of commerce complicated and hazardous. On these grounds, I feel, I am authorized to ask for this inquiry, and I ask it with the more confidence, because I undertake to prove that, in many instances, this system is wholly at variance with the principles laid down for his Government, and given to the world in a printed and authentic form by the first Lord of the Treasury. A single case will prove my assertion. The principles laid down by Sir R. Peel in 1842 were these—1. "The removal of all prohibitions and the relaxation of prohibitory duties. 2. The reduction of the duty on the raw material used in manufactures in some cases to an economical duty, and so that they should not exceed in any case 5 per cent. 3. The reduction of duty on articles partially manufactured, so as not to exceed 12 per cent. The reduction of the duties on manufactured articles to 20 per cent.; and The reduction of colonial duties." I ask the noble Earl opposite, whether he can say that these principles are fully and practically carried out? Let us apply ourselves, for instance, to the promised reduction of the duty on raw materials, to a sum not exceeding 5 per cent. What is the present duty on raw cotton? Why, during the last year it has exceeded 8 per cent. ad valorem; hut as it is taken by weight, it imposes a burthen much more oppressive than that amount on the particular branch of cotton manufactures exported, on which it operates most injuriously. I refer to cotton-goods exported to the foreign market. As a great proportion of the raw material enters into those articles which we export, such as yarns, the consequence is that we cast upon our manufacturers, not only the extra expense of freight and insurance, but also a high duty on the raw material, to which these exports are subject, without the allowance of any drawback. The cotton-trade is only one instance, but it serves my argument if it proves a single departure from the principles laid down by the Government, in one of our first articles of manufacture; thus, even if I restricted myself to this case alone, it can hardly be denied that I have laid sufficient ground for asking for the appointment of a Committee. I have already frankly and gratefully admitted, that on these subjects we owe much to the present Government. In making this acknowledgment, I feel that I shall at once awake the hostility, and extract a disclaimer from my noble Friend on the Cross Benches, (the Duke of Richmond.) When induced to approve, it must he admitted, that we are very inconsistent woers of the present Cabinet. I humbly entreat them to advance, he sternly commands them to retreat, or at least to halt. Whatever I receive with gratitude at their hands, my noble Friend rejects with scorn and with disgust. This was exemplified in the two instances to which I have so lately adverted. We have made a very considerable advance this year, by the repeal of the duty on wool. If ever there was a measure which was thoroughly right, which was right alike for the benefit of the manufacturer, of the trader, and of every other interest connected with the subject, it was the repeal of the duty on wool. But that repeal involved, as I have already stated, the repeal of all protection, on an article of agricultural home produce, and the repeal of the discriminating duties on colonial produce. But I like it all the better on that ground, because I believe the change can produce nothing except benefit to those who have hitherto enjoyed the so-called protection) and because the interest of the Colonies themselves will be benefited by the repeal of the discriminating duties. It is on the practical effect of the alteration that I found my praise. Again, with respect to coffee, the Government have made an advance towards the equalization, or the diminution of the discriminating duty, of last year. They are going further now, and I believe, they will not fare worse. The Government have taken a wise step, they would increase the revenue and, at the same time, would confer a benefit on the people. But if the steps were wise which had been already taken, was the whole subject an unwise one for investigation? I should be sorry to think that these alterations were made too late, though it must be admitted that they have all been injudiciously delayed; in some cases, I fear, our own industry runs a risk, of being destroyed and paralyzed by the obstinate adherence to a protective system. When we apply our remedies, at last, our commercial vitality in some branches may be gone, and we shall discover to our cost how true is the ancient maxim, "Re-media non agunt in cadaver." In stating that these salutary alterations should have been made sooner, I admit that many of them ought to have been made by the Whig Government as well as by the present; before the Committee I undertake to show the necessity of applying the same sound doctrine, without delay to cotton as well as to wool, and to other articles much more important than either. I also propose to show the total absurdity of some of these protections. Enamored as we seem to be of the principle, we apply it under circumstances, which admit neither of excuse nor of palliation. What can be said in defence of imposing import duties upon articles of the same class, which we export largely, and sell advantageously in the foreign market, even encumbered with the charges of freight, insurance, and mercantile profit. We export cotton goods to the official value of 69,000,000l., and cotton yarn to the value of 12,000,000l.; yet we take, on the import of similar foreign articles, a duty of 10 per cent. Our exports of brass and copper amount to 1,920,000l., and of iron, to 6,000,000l., yet foreign manufactures of the same kind are subject to 15 per cent. import duty. Woollen goods and yarns exported are valued at 8,800,000l., the import duty is 15 per cent. also. A similar duty is with equal absurdity imposed on foreign linens and yarns, of which our exports exceed 5,500,000l. It must not be supposed that this is a mere innocent absurdity. When coupled with other laws, more mischievously operative, it seems to indicate a hostility to all foreign industry, and it seems to affirm that cur leading manufactures require the support of these indefensible protections. We thus give an example to other countries, only too ready to profit by the lesson we have unwisely given. Foreign countries often attribute to particular circumstances what is wholly owing to natural causes; and countries which cannot compete with us in cotton, or in linen, which cannot rival us in woollens, in brass, or in hardware, imagine that if we had not these protecting duties in England, they would rise equal to us in manufacturing success, and they forthwith follow our bad example. [The Earl of Ripon: " No."] My noble Friend may deny the evil consequences of all this. But he can hardly controvert the fact. If he does so I shall refer him to his noble Colleague, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Lord Aberdeen), who may place in his hands a recent correspondence with Baron Billow, to the great cordiality and friendliness of which, the British Tariff has not very much contributed. My noble Friend will find, that not only on that, but on other occasions, and with other Powers, our own conduct was pleaded—I do not say always very fairly pleaded—as an excuse for similar acts of absurdity and of injustice, and it was thrown in our teeth in every country on the face of the earth, that we, the first commercial community in the world, adhere firmly to what was most justly stigmatized as an indefensible Tariff. We do this also at a time when we venture to profess the doctrines of freedom of trade. If it were at all offensive to my noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) to find fault with the Tariff, in the formation of which, however, he had taken a leading part, it must be more so, to mention the Corn Laws, of many of which my noble Friend might be termed the prolific parent—I might say the Saturnian parent —guilty, as he was, of the Titanian crime of devouring his own offspring. I know that my noble Friend, in 1815, gave the farmers the pledge that they should have a price of 80s. [The Earl of Ripon: I have always said exactly the reverse.] I am sorry to hear it, for I had always thought that my noble Friend enjoyed the confidence of the agricultural body; and if he had told the farmers that they would not get 80s., they never believed his assertion; they fondly trusted that they would get 80s. a quarter for their wheat; and they still continued to act as if every Corn Law had the power of fixing a minimum price for corn. They are in error, I willingly admit, but this only shows the deceptive and mischievous principle of our Corn Laws. But I shall proceed to illustrate the evil consequences of this protective system, by an example drawn from a foreign country. In June, 1820, the Spanish Cortes thought fit in their wisdom to enact a Law of Customs, the most restrictive and prohibitory. It was an exaggerated specimen of all the mischiefs of the protective system. This strange piece of legislation was brought under the review of an eminent philosophical writer, the late Mr. Bentham, who exposed its errors with his usual force and sagacity. "The Spanish Tariff," this author observes, "is open to eight specific objections, which may be stated as follows: —1. It seeks to substitute dearer for cheaper commodities. 2. It substitutes inferior for better articles. 3. It limits home production, by diminishing export in exchange for articles imported. 4. It produces a loss of revenue. 5. It encourages smuggling. 6. It sows the seeds of internal divisions. 7. It creates foreign jealousies, and leads to contentious and adverse diplomacy. 8. It. deprives the Government and the Legislature of the confidence of the people." Such were the objections taken by Mr. Bentham, to the Spanish Tariff, of June, 1820. I do not pretend to say, that these objections apply, to the same extent or degree, to our present laws, but I undertake to prove that there is not one of these censures to which we are not liable. Even in the course of the present discussion, I undertake, with your Lordships' permission, to work out this demonstration. But how much more satisfactorily could I attain my object, if allowed to call witnesses and tender evidence before the Committee, which I entreat your Lordships to appoint. I proceed in my inquiry. Have we no case before us in which we substitute dearer commodities for cheaper? Are not your Lordships familiar with a question to which public attention is at the present moment directed with intense anxiety? I allude to the Sugar Duties. Let the price of foreign sugar in bond be compared with the price of British colonial sugar. Do we not, by the imposition of a prohibitory duty of 63s. on the former, as compared with a revenue duty of 24s. on colonial produce, create a monopoly in favour of the latter, at the cost of the people of England? This monopoly is even closer than in former times, for the discriminating duty acts more severely since the duty on colonial sugar has been reduced from 27s. to 24s. At the present prices, the prohibition is complete, and it produces that which deserved the condemnation of Mr. Bentham, it substitutes a dearer production for a cheaper one. I know it may be repeated, as on former occasions, "You only propose to reduce the duty by some fraction—¼d. or ½d. in the pound—and this can give no relief to the consumer." A greater fallacy than this was never uttered, or to use a favourite word, was never "ventilated" abroad. The question was not the amount of duty charged, but the amount of sugar excluded. A small sum might do this as effectually as a great one, as an Italian poignard might cause death as surely as a Highland claymore. A particle of dust almost imperceptible, might stop the movement of the most powerful machine, and it would not be reasonable to say that the mischief it produced could be calculated by its absolute weight. But the present differential duty is not unimportant. It amounts, with the additional 5 per cent., to 41s., or 4½d. per lb.; and, looking at the effect produced on consumption, by a variation of price, it seems evident that a reduction or diminution of this difference of 41s., would produce an immediate effect on consumption. In 1831, the lowest price of sugar was 23s. 8d., and the consumption has been estimated at 20 lbs. per head. In 1840, the highest price was 48s. 7d., and the consumption fell to 15 2/10 lbs., or nearly 25 per cent. Between the years 1831 and 1841, a difference in price of 1½d. per lb., was followed by a falling-off in consumption of 745,222 cwt. But experience enabled us to judge of the consequences of the reduction of duty. This had been first shown in the consequences of reducing the duties on the sugar of Mauritius. It was shown still more conclusively, as consequent on the equalization of East and West India sugars, effected by myself, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1836. The table which I hold in my hand, exhibits the result of a measure, which, though for many years resisted by the West Indians, as ruinous to their interests, was at length carried, as easily as if it had been a common Turnpike Bill, and it is now relied on by its former opponents as essential to their best interests:—

1831 113,000 Duty 34s.
1832 79,000
1833 98,000
1834 121,000
1835 98,000
1836 110,000.
619,000 or average 103,166 cwt.
Duty received in six years, at 34s. £1,052,300
1837 270,000 Duty 24s.
1838 418,000
1839 477,000
1840 518,000
1841 1,066,000
1842 935,000
1843 1,101,000
4,785,000 or average 683,571 cwt.
Duty received in seven years £5,742,000
Increased Import 4,785,000cwt.
Increased Revenue £4,509,000
Duty received in 1836, at 34s. £166,600
Duty received in 1843, at 24s. £1,331,000
Increase of Revenue £1,164,400
We thus see that the country has gained by this limited application of sound principles, an increased import of nearly 4,800,000 cwts. of sugar, representing so much industry created in the East Indies; and that the revenue has profited to the extent of 4,500,000l. At an estimated consumption of 281bs. per head, the increased consumption would be 1,400,000 cwts., and the increased revenue 1,680,000l. But, even comparing the years 1831 and 1843, had the consumption been equal, we should have received at the Exchequer an additional sum of 795,000l. I have thus proved, that in the article of sugar, we are justly exposed to the censure of Mr. Bentham, in substituting a dearer article for a cheaper, to the loss of the consumer, the merchant, and the revenue. And on what plea is this absurdity defended? From our horror for slavery and the Slave Trade. It should, however, be remembered, that these distinctive duties existed when we were slave-traders and slaveholders. Their real origin, like that of other protections, will be found in monopoly, and not in any humane feelings. But it is convenient to put forward a new argument, when our former argument is no longer maintainable; and it is remarkable, and almost marvellous, to find the drafts which were made successfully upon the credulity of mankind. We submitted to the present prohibitory duties, out of compassion for the slave, and we were told, if we consumed a single pound of slave-grown sugar, that we were responsible both to God and man. What, however, did we do? How did we pay our debts to Russia? In slave-grown sugar. We traded all over the world, we dealt with the Brazils, we pressed the Brazilians to t8ke our manufactures, and they gave us in return foreign slave-grown sugar, which we sold in the best market. We were rejoiced to receive and to sell it, if we could do so to a profit. We took it to St. Petersburgh, to Hamburgh, and all over the world; nay, we took it into our own ports, and consumed it here, if the price only rose sufficiently high; we, a high-principled people, so sensitive as to refuse touching slave-grown sugar, permitted our principles to disappear with the rise in price, and the consequence is, that we might use every pound weight of Brazilian or of Cuba sugar, imported if the price in the market was so high to make it advantageous that we should pay for it. We went further still; we brought the slave-grown sugar to England, we refined it, and we sent it out to our own Colonies. We said, that the consumption in England would be degrading, but it was a practice good enough for the planters of Demerara, and Jamaica. We condescended to consume nothing but pure sugar in our tea, unpolluted by slavery, but we sent back the slave-grown sugar across the Atlantic, as being good enough for the palates and souls of our Colonists. Our conscience is thus localized, and limited by geographical boundaries. This absurdity is, however, scarcely equalled by another which we are to be called on by the Government to adopt. We are to be called upon to favour what is termed free-labour sugar, whilst we refuse to receive sugar cultivated by slaves. Louisiana sugar, we shall, however, be called upon to receive, by virtue of our Commercial Treaty with America. How do we dispose of our humanity in this case? If we investigate the state of slavery in Louisiana, the slave-breeding establishments in Virginia and other States of the Union, we cannot hut feel some surprise, that to the United States should be accorded any favour in this branch of commerce, more especially when we are called on to legislate on the principles of humanity. That the United States will send us sugar, I shall endeavour to prove on another occasion, when the Sugar Duties are brought forward. But, independently of this it is clear that in proportion as we shall take into consumption free-labour Sugar, now excluded by our prohibitory duties, in that same degree shall we raise the price of sugar on the Continent; and thus afford as direct an encouragement to slavery and the Slave Trade, as if we dealt direct with Cuba and the Brazils. My anti-slavery friend," observes Mr. Laird, "would admit all free-grown sugar; that is, the sugar of Java, Manilla, Siam, and China. Now, as this sugar must be withdrawn from the general European market, the price would immediately rise, and a greater demand for Brazil and Cuba sugars would take place. By the very act of opening our ports to free-labour sugar, we thus stimulate the Slave Trade as effectually as if we admitted slave-grown sugar ourselves. I am unwilling to call the distinction attempted to be drawn by the Government a hypocritical device, but it is, at least, a delusion into which the Cabinet has been betrayed, by their errors on this subject of protection. They seek to protect the Colonies, they next affect to protect the interests of humanity; the one endeavour will be as ineffectual as the other. I shall now proceed to consider whether our own Tariff does not afford an example, liable to Mr. Bentham's second objection, "the substitution of an inferior for a better article." Perhaps this meant the same thing as the first objection; but the analytical writer, to whom I have referred, drew the distinction. What shall we say of the preference given to wine from the Cape of Good Hope over the Wines of France, Germany, and the Peninsula? How can we defend the high duties till now imposed on foreign vinegar, as compared with that levied by our home Excise. Are we prepared to justify a duty of 22s. a gallon on pure brandy, whilst less than half that amount is imposed on British grain spirit. Here we see the protection of inferior commodities, as substitutes for superior, forced into consumption, made the very foundation of our commercial policy. But a still stronger example is to be found in the Timber Duties, and I must say, in passing, that so imperfect and objectionable a measure, as that proposed by the Government, and carried through, never could have obtained the assent of Parliament, had it been preceded by inquiry. I must guard myself from the supposition of disapproving of some change in the former Timber Duties, On the contrary, no possible alteration was more called for; I only object to the particular change made by Sir R. Peel. It was quite right to remove what Lord Plunket had called, and rightly called, an impediment to civilization. The subject of timber was a just subject for the consideration of Parliament. But how did the Government deal with it? If the matter had been under the examination of any fair Committee, whatever the course recommended might have been, it could not possibly have been the course taken by Her Majesty's Government. They had continued a discriminating duty, which had not been originally imposed for the protection of the Colonies. Its origin was thus stated by Lord Liverpool:— When in 1809, we were shut out of all trade to the Continent, and even likely to experience a great want of timber, which, as respected our Navy, was very alarming, Government sought to avert so serious a national calamity. Several merchants engaged, in consideration of a protecting duty promised to them, to embark their capital in the transport and carriage of American timber. Such was the origin of the protecting duty, proposed, not for the purposes of revenue, but to induce certain merchants to embark in a new trade. It was, nevertheless, a temporary measure, and I perfectly agree, that at the time of its adoption, any positive assurance of its continuance was refused. So great was the protection, and so absurd was the discriminating duty, that timber had been sent from the Baltic to Miramachee and New Brunswick, and imported thence at a profit, the increased freight of this double voyage being more than compensated by the reduced duty to which it became subject under the false description of colonial produce. This absurdity, it is true, had been corrected some years back. But fresh errors were committed. We repealed altogether the duties on colonial timber, at a period when the steadily increasing receipts demonstrated that the existing duties did not check consumption. It was a trade which had gone on increasing from 1832 to 1841. The amount of duty had doubled, and had reached in the latter period, almost to 500,000l.
Amount of Duty received in each of the last Ten Years on British North American Timber was as under: —
1832 £267,000
1833 259,000
1834 271,000
1835 340,000
1836 323,000
1837 335,000
1838 346,000
1839 367,000
1840 459,000
1841 455,000
The Government had thus thrown away, recklessly, and without necessity, the whole of the duty on British colonial timber, in a manner which I am prepared to show, is productive of no benefit to the Colonies or to us. As far as revenue was concerned, they substituted an article which paid a duty merely nominal, for one which paid duty to a considerable amount. And the effect of the alteration of the Timber Duties by Sir Robert Peel's Tariff has been a greater loss to the revenue than he anticipated. The duty received in
1839 was £1,526,000
1840 1,691,000
1841 1,488,000
Average 1,568,000 1,568,000
Duty in 1843 703,000 In 1842 975,000
The loss of duty 865,000 593,000
Quantity of timber imported, as indicated by the official value has been as follows:—
Great Britain. Ireland. United Kingdom.
1841 £913,000 £332,000 £1,245,000
1842 580,000 182,000 762,000
1843 813,000 63,474 876,000
Sir R. Peel calculated his loss of duty, first year £601,000
Second year 589,000
Actual loss of Revenue £1,458,000
Making a loss of Revenue beyond Sir R. Peel's estimate £268,000
The colonial timber, though good for special purposes, and able to bear a duty, was not fit for fabrics of durability and importance; and Parliament was, therefore, injuring the revenue and substituting an inferior article. We might be somewhat more reconciled to this sacrifice, if we could be convinced that it had been productive of benefits to our North American possessions. But such does not appear to be the case. In contradiction to this supposition, I shall refer to official Reports, to Parliamentary evidence, and to a late pub- lication of high authority. Mr. M'Gregor, in his valuable work on Commercial Statistics, has said:— The evidence of Registry Offices in British North America, and the recorded judgments of Courts of Law prove that the numerous judgments, mortgages, and sales of land have been the consequence of farmers and others engaging in the protected timber-trade. The farmers, on the other hand, who applied their industry to clearing their lands, and to agriculture alone, were, at the same time, when they were making sure yearly gains, transforming their woodlands into valuable arable and pasturage estates. What was the effect of the discriminating duties on the Colonists themselves? Again, I may refer to the same witness, Mr. M'Gregor's evidence given on his return to Europe, after having been employed many years in Canada, where he had full opportunities of judging for himself. In his evidence before the House of Commons' Committee of 1835, he said:— The wages or gains of the timber-trade, unlike the cultivation of the soil, were immediate; but the labour applied to the latter was creating a valuable estate, as well as moderate, though not quick returns. Mr. Peters pointed out several farms the possessors lost by the timber business, and several members of Council have spoken to me in a similar way. All state that the farmers, and many others engaged extensively in the timber-trade, have been dispossessed of their property, or hold it mortgaged. The advertisements for the last eight years of farms for sale, under these burthens, prove the statement; the consequence is, that the long settled agriculturists at the present moment consider the timber-trade no great advantage to them in the Colonies. I have correspondence to justify me in saying that three-fourths of the French Canadians, a majority of the population of Upper Canada, a great portion of those of Nova Scotia, and nearly all of Prince Edward's Island, will justify me in what I say. Mr. Richards, in his Report on the timber-trade, anticipates Canadian improvement as the consequence, not of the increase of the timber-trade, but of its abandonment, "When time or chance shall compel or induce the inhabitants to desist from this employment, then agriculture will begin to raise its head." Let me now inquire what had been the effect of this discriminating duty on the trade with Sweden and Norway? The value of British exports to Sweden, in 1814, had been 511,000l.; in 1819, only 46,000l.. British exports to Norway, in 1815, amounted to 199,000l.; in 1819, only 64,000l.. After the Peace we had pursued a system which had nearly extinguished the trade of Sweden and Norway. On this subject I beg to call the attention to the evidence of Mr. Consul Home, on the effects produced by our discriminating duties on our trade with Norway. " I do not know any countries in the world so well adapted for beneficial commercial intercourse as England and Norway. Yet England has been the first to throw us out, compelling us to look for connexions with France, who would admit the produce of our soil on more favourable conditions. In lieu of articles of British and Irish manufactures, we are obliged by a spontaneous act of your own Legislature, to use the linen cotton belonging to the German League, and even the coffee and sugar we annually consume. The port of Dram, before 1807, exported frequently upwards of 100 cargos of wood to Ireland, now it rarely exports three." As connected with the Timber Duties, on which the Government have erred so egregiously, I shall allude to the duty on staves and the case of the Coopers. This, it is true, is but an incidental matter; it is important, however, as showing the difference between dealing with these subjects after mature consideration, and dealing with them on an unsettled principle. In the repeal of the Timber Duties, there had been an inconsiderate abandonment of duty, because these duties might have been altered to the great advantage of the revenue, and without injury to the consumer. Yet the Government had gratuitously sacrificed revenue, and in doing so, had cruelly injured a deserving body of men—the Coopers. Let them not undervalue this class; a more industrious or praiseworthy order of tradesmen was not to be found in the country. What had been done in respect to them? We repealed the duty absolutely on staves imported into the Colonies; we might wish to encourage the Colonies, and of that I do not complain, but at the same time, we left most complicated discriminating duties on staves imported into this country, and this without allowing a drawback on the exportation either of staves or casks; the result was, that a trade which had existed with the Colonies, and indeed with foreign countries, for instance, the export of butts to Madeira—had been destroyed; Parliament had thus encouraged the importation into the Colonies of the manufactured articles from other places, and had checked the exportation from hence. By the law which the ingenuity of the Government had thus applied, they deprived the poor Coopers of a valuable market for their industry, and left them burthened with a duty to attempt a ruinous competition with foreigners who were freed from the duty altogether in the article of staves, and who paid a reduced duty even on the importation of manufactured casks. This injustice had deprived several hundred most industrious men of their usual occupation and of its reward. Such Was the consequence of inadvertent legislation. I could multiply such instances, were I not desirous of limiting my demand on your Lordships' time and attention. The next point to which I shall apply myself is" the effect of protecting duties in limiting our Export Trade." I assume for the present that there is no smuggling, for if smuggling is produced, protection is to the same extent defeated. This proposition is so clear, that it might almost be left to explain itself. If imports were allowed, exports must necessarily follow, unless foreign countries became so disinterested as to sell without receiving payment in return. In every case the State admitting articles produced by other countries must, in the long run, either directly or indirectly obtain the means of paying for all it received. I have already shown the diminished value of our exports to Sweden and Norway, as produced by our discriminatitig duties. But the same principle might receive other and still stronger illustrations. The loss of revenue, to which Mr. Bentham adverts, can be conclusively demonstrated on the evidence of Mr. Deacon Hume:— I have no doubt, (he stated to the Import Duty Committee) that if there were no protecting duties, the revenue would flow in with a great increase and with great ease. He, indeed, considered that one class of these protecting duties was equal to a tax of 36,000,000l. which the public were paying as effectually as if it were paid into the Exchequer:— Under a freedom of trade, I can scarcely believe that the effect would not be to raise the produce of the revenue one-quarter or one-third greater than it now is, and that without laying on one additional duty. Mr. Hume calculated on an increased recept of 1,000,000l. on sugar; an additional increase of 1,000,000l. on timber. Mr. M'Culloch states conclusive reasons for expecting an increase of 1,000,000l. on brandy, and Mr. M'Gregor suggests alterations in the Tariff, which, he conceives, would raise the Customs' revenue to 29,000,000l.. In these anticipations they were fully borne out by the practice of one of the greatest free-traders, as a Minister, which this country had ever possessed, not excepting Mr. Huskisson himself; I allude to Mr. Pitt, who had laid down free-trade doctrines more broadly, and had applied them more boldly, than almost any other statesman upon record. He began this system in the year 1786, and has left us no reason to doubt but that he continued steady to these principles to the end of his career. In 1786 Mr. Pitt reduced the duties on brandy and Geneva one-half, and he quadrupled the consumption. From 1800 to 1803, at a duty of 9s. 2d., the consumption of foreign spirits amounted to 2,700,000 gallons. In 1843 the consumption was only 1,038,000 gallons, the duty being 22s. 6d., and this on an article not worth more than 3s. to 5s. in bond. The "increase of smuggling" is a consequence of protecting duties, which connects itself closely with the loss of revenue. This is, perhaps, more strongly exhibited in foreign countries than our own, because the more exaggerated are the efforts made to produce protection, the greater will be the determination to defeat them. We shall find our most striking example of this in Spain, where we see industry checked and the revenue ruined by the system of prohibitions and protections. Smuggling in Spain is so well organized (observes Mr. M'Gregor, in his Commercial Statistics) that there are estimated to be 100,000 armed men engaged in it, and more than 300,000 persons engaged in this mode of life, having scarcely any other occupation but the contraband trade. The cotton manufacturers themselves, and several members of the Cortes, are represented as actively engaged in it. Marliani, in his Influence of the Prohibitory System, makes the following striking statement:— Since 1769, when the cotton manufacture commenced in Catalonia, the trade enjoyed a monopoly. What has been the result? From 1834 to 1840, we have an average importation of 9,900,000lbs. of cotton, or 1/60 of the importation into England in a single year. Has the prohibitory system really afforded any protection to the Catalonian manufacturers? Most certainly not. One-third of the French export trade is smuggled into Spain. The whole smuggling trade is as follows; —
Imports from France (by Government Returns) £1,331,608
Imports from England through Spanish Ports 34,637
Imports from England by Gibraltar 608,581
Imports from England by Portugal 540,000
Imports from England by Leghorn, Genoa, &c. 500,000
It is computed that the prohibitory system costs Spain 360,000,000 reals, or 4,000,000l. annually. Here we find an example, in the case of a country which ought to be a great one, of a sacrifice of its wealth and its public credit, in an abortive attempt at protection. In France the result has been much the same, and it might afford some consolation to noble Lords who recently apprehended the importation of cattle to a great extent under the new Tariff, to be informed that a number of beasts have been seized and condemned in France, on the ground that they had been smuggled into that country. This is admitted in the following extract from the Encyclopédíe du Commercent by M. Blanqui, a work which I have seen quoted as being one of authority;— The contraband trade is the only resource left to the industrious classes to procure foreign articles, the use of which they consider indispensable, but which are either absolutely prohibited by law, or by the high duty which law imposes. The notorious increase of smuggling in extent and management, proves that the legislation respecting the Customs should be in harmony with the wants of the people. If the import duties were moderate, the risks and penalties of smuggling would never be incurred. That system must be indeed defective, which ruins conscientious men who obey the laws, and which enriches the smuggler who disregards them. Such is the state of things in France, but I may be told that no such evils prevail in England,—my Lords, do not be too confident on this point. Smuggling to the same extent does not exist in England it is true, but there is good reason for knowing that it is carried on very extensively. The examination of Mr. Porter showed that 1,730,000 lbs. of silk were annually exported from France, which never paid duty in this Kingdom.
The silk goods entered at the French Customs House as exported to England amounted to 3,500,000
The silk goods entered at the English Custom House as imported from France did not exceed 1,875,000
Amount of silk smuggled from France 1,713,000
To make the statement more intelligible, I shall proceed to show the amount lost to the Revenue—
Had the full duty been paid on the imported silk, it would have amounted to 3,754,000
The amount of duty received was only 1,961,000
The amount of duty evaded, was 1,792,000
In every 100 cases of importation of silk, it may be concluded that fifty-two are entered at the Custom House, and that forty-eight are contraband. It is thus our laws are defeated, even in a case where the duties have been considerably, though not adequately, reduced. How much worse would it have been had the former duties been allowed to remain unaltered! If further proof was wanting of the evil consequences of protection, your Lordships might look at the Statute Book for the odious, unjust, and oppressive laws necessarily passed to prevent smuggling. A story was current relating to the late Chief Justice, Lord Ellenborough ["No, no," from Lord Colchester.] I only allude to this as an anecdote, not at all discreditable to the Nobleman in question, to whom, no blame could be imputed, but as an example of the system. It has been asserted that a quantity of smuggled lace belonging to one of his family or suite, had been seized in Lord Ellenboroughs carriage, and, if so, according to strict law, the carriage, horses, and everything else became forfeit. What had happened to Lord Ellenborough might have occurred to anybody else. So impossible was it to make laws against the contraband trade without violating all constituted and great principles. The effect of all this is further shewn by a return on the Table of the House. The number of prosecutions against smugglers in 1842 and 1843, have been as follows:—
1842 1843
England 815 1147
Scotland 64 107
Ireland 86 206
965 1460
In addition to all this the State is called on to incur the following enormous charge for our Preventive Force—
Harbour Vessels £. 4,040
Cruisers 101,534
Preventive Guard 391,584
Land Guard 19,048
Annual Charge £517,106
To which may justly be added above 50,000l. for the Excise Police. Another of the evils of protecting duties was, the internal divisions those duties had notoriously produced. This was true at all times, but most especially exemplified at the present moment. The wounds occasioned by prohibitory duties on the subject of Irish woollen goods and cattle were not yet healed, and they had recently been used as topics of agitation and disturbance. The repealers reminded their countrymen that the import of Irish cattle had been voted a grievance, and that William III. had answered his faithful Commons in 1697, that he would do all in his power to discourage the woollen manufactures in Ireland. But without reference to Ireland, were we quite free from internal dissensions nearer home, and on the same account? Did not the Anti-Corn-Law League and the Protection Societies arise out of protecting duties? And if protecting duties were imposed in favour of the governing classes, by those very classes themselves commanding, as they do, majorities in both Houses of Parliament, was not this a state of things deserving the best attention of the Administration; for could it be denied that it was a case leading to the greatest discontents, and open to the most just suspicion? I have stated, from Bentham, as one of the evil consequences of the protective system, the embarrassments of all political relations between nation and nation. I believe that the obstinate contests between France and Holland, in the reign of Louis XIV. were greatly embittered, if not created by the anti-commercial system of Colbert, whose Tariff, however, was in some respects less restrictive than our own. But in later times, if we consider the foreign jealousies arising out of the same cause, nobody could view our own diplomatic relations without seeing practically in our own, as well as historically in past times, the mischief that had been produced. Look at our unavailing, but most irritating diplomacy with France, with Spain, with Naples, with Portugal, and with the Brazils! Most of these difficulties seem to me to have arisen from our desire to contend in favour of do- mestic protection. This could not be the case if our Customs Tariff were of a different character. If duties were only imposed for purposes of revenue, no foreign State has a right to complain of them; but if the object of our duties is admitted to be the protection of a peculiar interest at home, to the injury of a similar interest abroad, it is no wonder that complaints are made, and that such a system of legislation should be held up to the indignation and scorn of Europe. I am far from denying that where a system like ours has grown up for centuries, it requires a sound discretion to guide us in applying the principles of practical reform. It might certainly be much easier to form a new system which was right, than to correct an old and injurious system, the growth, perhaps, of centauries, to which the wants, industry, and interests of the people might to some extent have adapted themselves; and I am quite ready to admit that in solving many of these difficulties, it is necessary to approach them cautiously, with a due consideration for excited hopes, and for interests which that system itself has called into existence. These considerations, however, are not to prevent the adoption of a right course, at a right time, and, should your Lordships consent to an inquiry into the subject, whilst the first object of the investigation would be, to consider what were the sound principles of commercial policy, the second would be, how it would be most fit, safely, honestly, and impartially, to introduce a new and improved system. But we cannot enforce this by retaliations, or by diplomatic astuteness. On the contrary, I believe it to be wiser, on the whole, that we should act independently for ourselves, that we should legislate liberally and wisely, thereby promoting our own interests, and leaving foreign governments either to suffer from their ignorance, or to profit by our example. I am aware that this notion of making what are called concessions, without stipulating for equivalents, is startling and unpopular. But I perceive with pleasure that it has obtained the sanction of this Government. They last year repealed the duty on the export of machinery gratuitously, though this was one of the points for which France had expressed her readiness to make a reciprocal concession. They had in the present Session wholly repealed the duty on wool, without seeking from the wool-growing countries any corresponding advantage. I do not deny that if we could secure the improvement of our neighbours' Tariff, we should add to the benefits attending the improvement of our own. But we ought not to refuse ourselves one benefit, because we are unable to obtain two. Such were the opinions of that enlightened man, James Deacon Hume, on whose authority I have so frequently had occasion to rely. His views were so strongly stated before the Import Duty Committee, that I must be permitted to refer to them more at large. The questions and answers are as follows: Would you remove our own protection without any foreign country removing theirs?— Most certainly, and without even asking them. I dislike treating with foreign countries upon any subject of this kind except navigation. Do you not consider a retaliatory duty as adding to the injury which the duty imposed by the foreign country is likely to occasion?— I have always thought so. I have disliked all treating in the matter. I would take what I wanted, and leave them to feel the value of our custom. I do not think our mode of dealing with Neapolitan oil was the best mode of gaining our object. The Neapolitans taxed some of our goods, and we retaliated by in effect taxing others. We made woollens suffer here, because they made our cottons and hard wares suffer there. I think we should settle our commerce better amongst ourselves, than by attempting to make treaties with other countries. We make proposals to them; they do not agree to those. We then feel repugnance to doing that which we ought, perhaps, in the first instance to have done of our own accord, and I go upon the principle that it is impossible for us to import too much, that we may be quite sure that the export will follow in some way or other. Nor is it only a practical Officer of Customs, and the adviser of Mr. Huskisson who adopts these conclusions. An eminent writer, who has rendered valuable services to the cause of economical science (Mr. M'Culloch), states his convictions with equal force. In his notes on the Wealth of Nations, he observes:— The French Government, by an unwise and impolitic legislation, prevent the introduction of the cheap and superior cottons of England into France, and consequently force their subjects to misemploy a large proportion of their capital, and to purchase inferior articles at comparatively a high price. But, need it be said, that this is a line of conduct to be avoided—not followed. The fact, that a foreign government does an injury to its own subjects by making them pay an artificially enhanced price for cottons and hardware, can be no apology for the Government of England injuring those entitled to its protection, by excluding them from the cheapest market for wines, brandies, and silks. To act thus, is not to retaliate on the French, but on ourselves. It is erecting the blind and brutal impulses of revenge, into maxims of state policy."—M'Culloch (Note XIII). I could carry this argument much further, and illustrate the evil effects even of what, in their time, have been considered as advantageous diplomatic arrangements, such as the Methuen Treaty for example; but, that I am desirous of passing to the last of Mr. Bentham's observations. The protective system, he remarks, produces a diminished confidence in the wisdom and the justice of the Legislature, and of the Government. My Lords, have we no evidence of this most dangerous result around us? Let me ask, what are the judgments formed by the great masses of the poorer classes, and of the middle classes also, on the justice and wisdom of a Parliament, which maintains the protecting system, and more especially the Corn Laws. The object of all these regulations is to raise prices artificially. By this, as far at least as agricultural produce is concerned, we are considered to profit as landlords; but the pressure is thrown upon the most necessitous and suffering classes. I will not carry this argument further. It is almost too important to be used as a mere illustration, but it ought to dwell on your Lordships' minds, as I am convinced it dwells on the minds of your countrymen. I have thus completed my argument, so far as it relates to Mr. Bentham's condemnation of the Spanish Tariff, and I have endeavoured to prove that every objection which he has raised, applies to our existing system. The next branch of my observations will bring before your Lordships a more general view of the same question, still leading to the same results. Perhaps, I may have more chance of carrying with me your Lordships' convictions, as I mean to take a review of the mistaken policy of some foreign states. It is extraordinary how much more readily we admit a truth, when it applies to our neighbours, than when it requires from ourselves any sacrifice of our own preconceptions or interests. The first, and the most instructive example, is that of the United States. From the year 1789 to 1807, the foreign commerce of the States was almost unfettered. The principle of protection was so little known, there was scarcely any one article of import, subject to a higher duty than 15 per cent. Yet it was, during those very years, that the progress of the United States in wealth, commerce, and population was the most signal. I entreat the attention of the House to this fact. It is important. No argument is more frequent or plausible than this:—we are told that though protection may not be necessary in the maturity of a state, it still is required in its infancy. I deny this, being firmly of opinion, that in the infancy of a state the system of protection is most objectionable, and the case of the United States may be taken as an illustration of my doctrine. We know from experience, that if the principle of protection is once admitted, it is very difficult afterwards to abandon it. In 1790, the value of the imports was but 23,000,000 dollars, and of the exports, but 20,000,000 dollars. The population was 3,929,000, and the value of imports to the population was about 5.3 dollars per head. In the ten subsequent years, during which there was some near approach to freedom of trade, the imports rose from 23,000,000 of dollars to 91,000,000; the exports from 20,000,000 to 70,000,000 dollars, and the consumption of foreign produce from 5.3 to 16.5 dollars per head. In 1807, occurred the embargo, in 1809, the Non-Intercourse Act, in 1812, the war, and in 1814, the Treaty of Ghent. Towards the latter period, the duties were doubled. In 1816, commenced the restrictive and prohibitory system, which was carried out to its full extent of mischief to America in 1828. Now, let us see the consequences of the change. The exports which, we have seen, were in 1800, 91,000,000 dollars, fell in 1830, to 70,876,000 dollars, although the population had augmented from 5,309,000 to 12,838,000, and the consumption of foreign produce by each American citizen, fell off to 5.6 from 16.5 dollars. The House will doubtless remember the feuds and civil dissensions which were the consequence of this most impolitic system. The permanence of the Union was endangered; the cry of nullification was raised; civil war seemed to be on the point of breaking out, and the following violent and threatening resolutions were adopted in Carolina:— If we have the common pride of men, or the determination of freemen, we must resist the imposition of this Tariff. In advising an attitude of resistance to the law, we deem it due to the occasion, to state our constitutional faith. Let the legislatures of Virginia, the Carolinas, Alibama, and Georgia, meet and prohibit the introduction of horses, mules, cattle, pigs from Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana; whiskey and cheese, from New York and Pennsylvania. We shall soon see what they have gained by their Tariff. But, I pass over the political argument, to revert to that which more closely bears on the subject I have in hand, revenue and commerce. In 1833, the Compromise Act passed, providing for a gradual reduction of the Import Duties. What was the consequence? Why, the value of imports rose between 1830 and 1840, from 70,000,000 to 127,000,000 dollars, the exports from 73,000,000 to 121,000,000 dollars, and in place of 12,800,000 inhabitants, consuming foreign goods to the average value of 5.6 dollars per head, the population increasing from 12,838,000 to 17,063,000, and the consumption of imports from 5.6 to 7.8 dollars. But this is not all. If any further illustration is requisite, it has been given in the effects of the last Tariff, more oppressive still than that of 1828. In three years, the imports again fell from 127,000,000 to 89,000,000 dollars, with a population, which, in the meanwhile, had rapidly increased. I have taken my statements from the works of Mr. Raguet. But, I find the strongest confirmation of his statements, in the speeches of Mr. Calhoun made in Senate. On the question of the Tariff in 1842, that very eloquent statesman, made the following observations:— I have shown from the commercial tables and other authentic sources, that during the eight years of high duties, the increase of our foreign commerce and of our tonnage, both foreign and coastwise, was almost entirely arrested; that the exports of domestic manufactures actually fell off. I also showed, that the eight years of the reduction of duties which followed, were marked by an extraordinary impulse given to every branch of industry, agricultural, commercial, manufacturing, and navigating. Our exports of domestic productions, our tonnage increased fully one-third, and our manufactures still more. It was under these circumstances that the Bill of 1828, which so greatly increased the duties, was introduced, and became law—an act of legislative folly and wickedness, almost without example. Well has the community paid the penalty. The real complaint of the friends of the Tariff is, that merchants can furnish the market cheaper than the manufacturer, and what, in truth, is asked, is, that the cheaper process of supplying the market should be taxed, by imposing higher duties on importation, in order to give the dearer articles a monopoly, that they may be sold for higher prices. Such were the views of Mr. Calhoun, and we have thus seen exemplified by the history of a series of years, the consequences of a false system. A more conclusive instance of the kind could scarcely be pointed out. Restrictions are dangerous in a despotic state, but the despot might by some happy accident, be an enlightened one; but in a Republican state, a restrictive policy is liable to be made subservient to the lowest, vilest, and most transitory personal and party interests. Reverting to a period before the Compromise Act, when the manufacturing interest was not sufficiently strong to maintain its protection; it called to its aid other interests, those of Louisiana and Kentucky, and offered as an inducement for political support similar protection to the sugar of the one, and to the sacking of the other. This system of policy was very happily ridiculed, not indeed by a State Paper, but by a document drawn up in the United States, which I take leave to read, as some relief to the dry details which it had been necessary for me to introduce. It was a supposed petition to Congress, from the oystermen and other inhabitants adjoining the Delaware, and it ran in the following terms:— Respectfully represent that they have been long engaged in the business of catching rock-fish and perch, in raking oysters, and shooting wild duck, for the Philadelphia market; and in pursuit of their respective occupations have set in motion a great quantity of American industry employed in fishing, shooting, boat-building, and navigating. That your petitioners are great admirers of the American system, inasmuch as it teaches the glorious truth that home industry ought to be protected. That your petitioners view with regret the completion of the Delaware and Chesapeak Canal, which, owing to the superior abundance of fish, oysters, and wild duck on the Chesapeak, enables the fishermen, oystermen, and duck shooters of Maryland, a foreign state, to undersell your petitioners; thus creating an unfavourable balance of trade against Philadelphia, by which a large amount of specie will be drained from her. Here were all the arguments fairly Stated and employed on the behalf of the oystermen of the Delaware: they were, however, of equal validity, as many, which your Lordships are well accustomed to hear, whether applied to the manufacturers, on the one side, or to the agriculturists on the other. In the present Session of Congress a better system seemed for a time likely to prevail, and a Committee of Ways and Means appointed to consider the Tariff, made a Report containing the following very important admissions:— An examination of the present Tariff-law, and of the Import-tables, have demonstrated to us a proposition we believe not controverted in any quarter; that to obtain increased revenue from the imports charged with duties under the existing law, the rates of duty established by that law must, in the general, be reduced. The practical recommendations of this Committee were, that duties of 25 per cent., ad valorem, should be imposed on woollens, linens, silks; 20 to 25 per cent. on metals, and 30 per cent. on wine, being a reduction of about one-third of the present duties. Even this amount of duty appeared indefensible as a permanent system, for the Committee proceed to remark:— We cannot consent to the continuance of this degree of protection but on the condition that the demands of the Treasury require the higher duties, and only as long as that necessity shall continue to require them. A branch of manufacture which cannot sustain itself against foreign competition under a protection of from 25 to 30 per cent., must be in a very sickly state, almost too sickly to authorise higher taxation upon an industrious people to sustain it. As a reply to the document from which I have quoted, a Report was made to Congress by the Committee of manufactures, which took the very opposite side of the question. And how did they justify a protective policy? Not so much by American experience,—for that would have told the other way,—as by the example which we of the British Senate have so unfortunately and unwisely given. The Committee ask, with but too much of reason,— What is the free-trade which England tenders to us? She imposes the following rates of duty on our products:—Salt beef 60 per cent., bacon 109 per cent., butter 70 per cent., Indian corn 32 per cent., flour 32 per cent., manufactured tobacco 1,200 per cent., un-manufactured tobacco 1,000 per cent. On fourteen articles she imposes an average duty of 355 per cent., a duty vastly larger than we impose on any of her fabrics. Her policy is also seen in the differential duties she imposes. The mischievous effects produced on American interests created by their injudicious restraints created by the Tariff is most strikingly exemplified by a paper I hold in my hand, which shows the average value of imports in 1840, 1841, and 1842, and comprises that average with the actual receipts in the first three quarters of the year 1843. The results are as follows;—
Average Value, 1840, 1841, 1842. Import for 3–4ths of a year at that average. Actual Import 3–4ths of the year 1843.
Dollars. Dollars. Dollars.
Woollens, except Carpeting 5,676,000 4,257,000 1,472,000
Worsted 2,033,000 1,524,000 456,000
Cottons 8,710,000 6,525,000 2,733,000
Silks 12,705,000 9,534,000 2,719.000
Linen 4,569,000 3,426,000 l,202,000
From this table it is apparent that the import trade, which would in all probability have amounted to 25,266,000 dollars, has been, by bad laws, reduced by two-thirds, or to a sum of about 85,000,000. Thus, the consumption of all the great articles of commercial industry and enterprise have suffered, under the weight of unwise protection. To the system of protection the Americans may trace the loss of their trade; and thus a country, kindred in blood, and which ought to be progressive in commercial prosperity, had been grievously injured by the same cause which, to a certain extent, had afflicted Great Britain. [The Duke of Richmond: They ought to pay their debts.] I fully agree with my noble Friend: "they ought to pay their debts;" but there is one debt they are bound more especially to pay. Congress owe a debt to the people of America, and this debt they could only pay by adopting a very different system of commercial and financial policy. Let them revert to a wiser system, and they will discharge an obligation due to foreign nations, as well as to their own citizens. Neither let them think that this course is recommended from this side of the Atlantic only. The opinions which I have expressed are fully supported by the following striking sentences from their great statesman, Mr. Jefferson:— Instead of embarrassing commerce under piles of regulations, duties, and prohibitions, could it be relieved from all shackles in all parts of the world; could every country be employed in producing that which nature has best fitted her to produce, and each be free to exchange with others mutual surpluses for mutual wants, the greatest mass, then, would be produced of those things which contribute to human life and human happiness, the number of mankind would be increased, and their condition bettered. In an inquiry like the present, it is impossible wholly to overlook the case of France, with which country, if an equal and just system of Revenue Laws prevailed, our commerce would be enormous, and equally profitable to both parties. Such was the opinion of Mr. Pitt, when called upon to vindicate the Treaty of Versailles:— France, he observed, was, by the peculiar dispensation of Providence, gifted, perhaps, more than any other country on the face of the earth, with all that render life desirable in point of soil, climate, and natural productions. It had the most fertile vineyards and the richest harvests. The greatest luxuries of life were produced in it with little cost and with mode-derate labour. Britain was not thus blessed by nature; but, on the other hand, it possessed, through the happy freedom of its Constitution, and the equal security of its laws, an energy in its enterprise, and a stability in its exertions, which have gradually raised it to a high state of commercial grandeur; and not being so bountifully gifted by Heaven, it had recourse to labour and art, by which it had acquired the ability of supplying its neighbours with all the artificial embellishments of life in exchange for their natural luxuries. Unluckily for the world, neither country has practically adopted those principles which would have given effect to the generous wishes and anticipations of Mr. Pitt. What had been the conduct of France, and what its effects? To protect her forest interest France imposed heavy duties on British iron, thereby ruining that which ought to have become one of her staple interests, the wine-trade of the south and east. In order originally to create and now to protect her "filatures," she next imposed oppressive duties on yarn; this reduced the labour of her weavers. To assist them and the spinner, she finds her deficiency is a want of machinery. England repeals her prohibition, and the French manufacturer thinks his fortune is made. But no; a new interest steps in and demands protection in its turn; the French mechanist, also requires that, for his sake, increased duty should be imposed on the import of machinery. His prayer is heard; but when he undertakes entering into competition with his English rival, he finds his efforts frustrated by the first duty to which I adverted, the tax on iron, and thus every step in this vicious circle demonstrates that it is impossible to apply protection, without incurring, I will not say, the risk, but the certainty of doing more harm than good; the good was at best transient—the injury permanent. Mr. Porter estimates the tax which France imposes on the consumers of iron to amount to 80 per cent., and this at a time when her interests as well as her vanities are so deeply involved in the extension of railway communication. In respect to yarns, it may so happen that the smuggler should in some slight degree, remedy the evils of a bad system of laws. It looks at least suspicious, that our export of yarns to Hamburgh has increased in proportion to the augmented pressure of the French import duties. The export of yarns to northern Germany has increased in the following ratio: —
1841 904,0001bs.
1842 1,831,000lbs.
1843 3,504,000lbs.
How much of this may find its way into France I have not the means of judging, but that a large smuggling trade is likely to exist in an article so valuable, so portable, and so highly taxed, can hardly be doubted. The deplorable state of the wine-trade was described by the wine-growers so far back as the year 1828, in the memorial of the proprietors of vineyards in the Gironde. The following passage is a translation of one part of their very touching representation:— What is the basis of the prohibitory system? A delusion which seeks to sell to the foreigner without buying in return. Our industry required for its increase no monopoly, nor those multiplied protections which oppress the country. A wise freedom of trade was our only want. A contrary system has prevailed. The ruin of one of our most important departments, the distress of all the neighbouring departments, the decay of the south of France, an immense population limited in the means of support, an enormous capital endangered, a difficulty in levying our taxation a reduced consumption, a stagnation of commerce, such are the bitter fruits of the system of which we are the principal victims. Since the date of this memorial, and more especially since 1830, some important changes have been made for the better in the laws regulating our trade with France. I rejoice to think that in our intercourse with France, we have recently made advances however slight towards an improvement of the system. We flattered ourselves that the days of absurd and illiberal jealousy were happily gone by, and in the year 1831 the duty on French wines was reduced; all wines were then put on the same footing, excepting Cape wine, which last article, as I have shown, affords a happy instance of the substitution of a worse article for a better, and of an article paying a low duty for an article paying a high duty. What has been the result of the change of policy as to French wines? The consumption has very considerably increased. In 1830, the high duty of 7s. 3d. only yielded a revenue of 110,000l. on a consumption of somewhat more than 300,000 gallons. In 1842, the reduced duties on French wines have produced within a trifle of the same sum, the consumption being 489,000 gallons. The export trade which we carry on with France is in a still more satisfactory state, and that great country is becoming rapidly, even in spite of many remaining most unwise taxes on both sides, one of our greatest customers. The following accounts exhibit these gratifying results—
British Produce in Declared Value.
1833 848,000
1834 1,116,000
1835 1,453,000
1836 1,591,000
1837 1,643,000
1838 1,314,000
1839 2,298,000
1840 2,378,000
1841 2,902,000
1842 3,193,000
To which should also be added a considerable export trade in colonial and foreign produce. Rapid as has been this progress, how much more rapid would it have been on both sides, had England and France adopted in concert a wiser and more enlarged line of commercial policy? It will be a more agreeable duty, and it affords me an equally forcible argument, after having pointed out to your Lordships the cases, unhappily but too numerous, in which a neglect of sound principles has led to the discouragement of national industry, and the diminution of national wealth, to proceed to notice some instances of a contrary kind. These examples will tend to prove that where we have cast off the fetters of ignorance and prejudice, and have applied sounder doctrines, the consequences have been most satisfactory, commerce and industry have prospered and extended, and this, even where we have shrunk from carrying out our doctrines to their legitimate extent. If a Committee were granted, I am prepared to show that the improvements to which I am about to advert are justly attributable to this cause. We have hitherto looked at the darker side of the picture. If I do not deceive myself, I have established the evils of the protective system; but fortunately, and very much owing to the spirit of better and modern times, and in many cases to the le- gislation of noble Lords opposite, instances are afforded of the advantages arising from the application of better principles. I shall give your Lordships many instances, all resting upon facts, and not upon abstract reasoning. My first example shall be drawn from the Silk trade. The progress of this manufacture is perfectly astonishing, since those ancient days when silk was literally worth its weight in gold, to the present time, when it enters largely into the clothing of the higher and middle classes. This has not been the effect of protection. This trade was not originally so burthened. From 1685 to 1692, the trade was so far free, that we imported silks from the Continent to a considerable annual amount. In 1697 and 1701, the prohibitory system was introduced. What was the consequence? Smuggling;—you proceeded further,—to give a special and local protection to London, you passed your absurd Spitalfields Act. Combinations of workmen, riots and violation of the law ensued, and your trade was driven from London to Lancashire and Cheshire. You erected the silk manufactories of Macclesfield and Manchester. Yet, so late as 1820, so extraordinary were the opinions entertained on this subject, even by practical statesmen, that Lord Liverpool, in his speech on foreign trade, on the 26th of May, deprecated the application of a more liberal system to the silk-trade, and said, " I allow the silk manufacture is not natural. I wish we never had a silk manufactory. The trade is natural to France. It would have been better if French silks had been exchanged for English cottons." Now it should be borne in mind that the silk-trade of England, so undervalued in 1820, now amounts to about 12,000,000l. a-year sterling; a great proportion of which goes in payment of wages; yet I have shown you that in the year 1820, the Prime Minister of this country was so led astray by the doctrine of protection, that he expressed his strange wish, that this manufacture, now one of our staples, had never existed. In the time of Mr. Huskisson, a better system was adopted. The raw material and the half-manufactured material, the thrown silk, were brought more abundantly into the manufacturing market, by a reduction of duty; protective duties were repealed, duties more moderate, though still excessive, were imposed, and the result was, an immediate extension of the trade. Our consumption of raw silk on the average of the three years 1821, 1822, and 1823, before the reduction of duty, did not quite amount to 2,400,000 lbs. In 1831,1832, and 1833, the average rose to 4,565,000 lbs. We now export silks largely, and are even enabled to dispose of our silks to a profit in the French market itself. Yet when these alterations, now proved to have been so beneficial, were at first proposed, the alarm was as great and the anticipations of ruin were as confident as they are now, if it is proposed to some agriculturists, to abandon the Sliding Scale. The truth is about equal in both cases. Mr. Huskisson fortunately lived to see the success of his own measures, and the silk weavers of Macclesfield, who had declared themselves ruined by his measures in 1825, drew his carriage in triumph through their town in 1830. I shall now draw an illustration from another trade, that of linen. We might have imagined that no trade could be more natural to this country, and that no trade less required interference, and yet no trade has been more the object of protection. It was, however, well suited to our country and to the habits of the people, and therefore, in spite of all protection, it has survived. Yet regulations of all kinds were made to disturb the market. Buying and selling were all settled by law. Salesmasters, Inspectors, Alnagers, were appointed, and restrictions and penalties were fixed on every operation of trade. But what was the advantage of all this protection? A transit duty was put upon the import of the linens of all other countries; although it was necessary to have foreign linens combined in assorted cargoes with English linens, in order to promote their sales in foreign markets. In the very same speech from which I have already quoted, Lord Liverpool said, "What would be the effect on Ireland if the transit duties on foreign linens were repealed? It would destroy the peace and the tranquillity of the most prosperous part of that country." These duties, I rejoice to think, have now been for many years wisely repealed, the peace of Ulster has not been endangered, and the linen-trade has improved and still is improving. But we were as lavish of our money as we were of our restrictive legislation. Mr. M'Culloch states his belief that the public money wasted in bounties and other grants, would, very nearly, amount in value to the whole linen-trade of the Empire. Be this as it may, the enormous sums uselessly expended cannot be controverted. From the year 1814, to the year 1833, there had been paid 4,011,235l., as bounties on the export of linen manufactures. From the time of the Union, up to 1820, there was half a million, or more paid to the linen-trade of Ireland, for the encouragement of this trade. The Linen Board was kept up to make Reports and appoint officers at an annual charge of about 20,000l. This system has been abandoned; there are no longer any transit duties levied on foreign linens. Having withdrawn all encouragement of this kind, what has been the result? I believe that at the present moment the application of capital, skill, and science in the north of Ireland has made the linen-trade more profitable in that country than at any antecedent period. I may state with confidence that, after this withdrawal of all this artificial encouragement and protection, the trade of Ulster, having found its level without receiving a farthing of the 4,000,000l. of bounty money, has reached an extent of prosperity, of which the history of that part of the country never before afforded any example. It is true that the character of the trade has changed, but its prosperity has augmented. A noble Friend informed me, that an order had been recently executed in the north of Ireland for a quantity of Cambric to be exported to Cambray itself. The official value of linens and yarns exported for the years from 1838 to 1843, was as follows:—
£ £
1838 4,330,000 708,000
1839 4,777,000 846,000
1840 4,931,000 961,000
1841 5,195,000 1,530,000
1842 4,016,000 1,935,000
1843 4,906,000 1,578,000
Yet these alterations, like those in the silk trade, were strenuously opposed, and successive Parliamentary Committees deprecated the change in language quite as forcible as that which is now used by the Agricultural Protection Societies. In 1822 the Committee of the House of Commons reported, that— The trade has apparently advanced under these encouragements, and the evidence of all who have been examined on the subject, pronounce the continuance of the bounties to be essential to the interests of the manufacturer in England, Scotland, and Ireland. With respect to wool, the Legislature has already acknowledged the absurdity of their prohibitory laws on the subject, having passed acts which have swept them all away. This good work, too long delayed, and the necessity of which I urged upon your Lordships in the two preceeding Sessions, has now been fully accomplished. The export of British wool, the import of foreign wool, the home protection and the Colonial discrimination, are abandoned by Her Majesty's Government, and the Legislature, to the great relief of all the parties concerned. Well did Mr. Gott, of Leeds, reply to a question put to him in your Lordships' Committee several years ago; on his being asked, whether the price of British Wool would have been higher had the duty of 6d. per lb. been continued on foreign wool? he answered— My opinion is, that the price of British wool would have been much less, British manufactures would have been shut out of every foreign market, and the stock of wool would have accumulated, as it will do, if ever that duty is imposed again. I trust that the time is not remote when we shall look back to protections to which we still obstinately cling, as we now do to the barbarous legislation which protected our woollen manufactures by the enactment of capital felonies, and which, after exhausting all the encouragement the living could afford, actually drew on the resources of the dead, and directed under a severe penalty, that all corpses should be buried in woollens (30 Charles II) and that none should make coverlets in Yorkshire save only the citizens of York!!! The effect of the reduction of duties on coffee is a still more convincing demonstration of the truth of all the principles for which I have been contending. In 1801, a duty of 1s. 6d. per lb. produced only a revenue of 106,076l. and a consumption of 750,000lbs. This duty was reduced in 1811 and the revenue doubled. In 1821 the excessive duties of 1s., 1s. 6d., to 2s. 6d., being imposed, the revenue collected was 384,000l. In 1843 the duties were fixed at 4d. on British and 8d. on foreign coffee, an injudicious discrimination this year abandoned, but still a salutary relief to the consumer. What has been the consequence? The consumption of coffee has risen to 30,031,000 lbs., and the revenue to 697,000l. Test the consequences of this; the value of coffee consumed in 1824, taken at 100s. in bond, was equal to 368,000l.; the same amount taken in 1840, but estimated at 80s., not 100s., exceeds 1,000,000l. To pay for this additional coffee, upwards of 600,000l. of British manufactures must have been exported, and home industry must have been to that extent promoted, besides the benefits afforded to the consumer, by increasing more than threefold one of the comforts and necessaries of life. The duty received in 1824, was 420,000l., in 1841, was 888,000l., proving that trade could be extended and consumers benefited, whilst the revenue raised on a taxed article was doubled. The Sugar Duties form a still more important branch of the subject, rendered peculiarly interesting from the extraordinary and indefensible proposition submitted to Parliament by Her Majesty's Government. But on these I have already enlarged, and shall have occasion to enlarge upon them again, when called on to discuss the current Sugar Duties. Another very satisfactory example both of the evil and of its remedy is to be found in the article of Spelter or Zinc; a duty of 28s. 6d., almost prohibitive, was imposed on this article for the protection of a few very inferior and insignificant zinc-works in England. Most wisely has this duty been reduced to 2s.; the effect has been a greatly increased activity in our manufactures of brass, as well as in the working of spelter itself. The increased importation is shown by the official value or quantity of spelter imported. The amount is as follows:—
Year. Official Value.
1838 268,000
1839 409,000
1840 253,000
1841 325,000
1842 306,000
1843 508,000
Your Lordships cannot drive by the New Road, or through many other streets of this great city, you cannot even inspect your own establishments without becoming aware of the extensive use of zinc, of the innumerable purposes to which it is applied and the employment to which it has led, I feel some personal reluctance in referring to the consequences of the abandonment by the Government of the additional duty on Irish spirits, as I may attach an undue importance to a measure in some degree originating with myself. The imposition of an exorbitant revenue duty produces many of the consequences of other undue restrictions, and its repeal is in fact an approach pro tanto to freedom of trade. The paper which I am about to read to your Lordships will show that in consequence of the increased tax imposed by the Government, the Irish spirits which paid duty, fell off more than 1,500,000 gallons, between 1841 and 1842, and that a repeal of the additional duty has brought up the consumption more than one million of gallons, with an increase of revenue.
Date. Gallons. Duty.
1840 6,830,000 864,000
1841 6,526,000 889,000
1842 4,818,000 882,000
1843 5,915,000 942,000
I have now concluded the long, and I fear but too tedious statement, which I have felt it to be my duty to make. I hope I have proved to the judgment of men who may take a dispassionate view of the argument, the indefensible character of many of the taxes on which I have animadverted, I feel confident that I have made out a decisive case for the appointment of a Committee to consider their tendency and effects. Your Lordships will remember that my Motion does not call upon your Lordships to condemn any one part of the system, it only affirms that the whole is a fitting subject for serious examination. Do you deny this? If you do I pray your Lordships to enquire into the correctness and accuracy of my statements of fact, and to test the soundness of the principles which I have advanced, by the evidence which I proffer to you, the evidence of men whose authority is infinitely greater than mine—of men of practical experience, habits of business and comprehensive views; of men whose character and position in society are fully entitled to your Lordships' confidence and that of the public. I ask for inquiry and no more. I have proved to your Lordships that the precedents of Parliament give an authority for the course I presume to recommend. I have shown that it will not lead to any disturbance of trade; that it is not connected with any party object; and, therefore, I humbly entreat your Lordships to give me your support. The exigency is great. Time presses. If such an inquiry was justifiable in 1820, much more is that inquiry demanded now. Fortunately twenty-three years of general peace has since elapsed. But those twenty-three years have given rise to a vast accu- mutation of capital, and to great competition on the part of foreign nations. The United States of America, as well as European Continental powers, are actively competing with the manufactures of this country. I do not believe that their competition can, under any fair circumstances, be successful. I believe that the skill, the industry, the capital, and the unconquerable perseverance of the industrious classes of this country will, if the Legislature give them fair play, be more than a match for the competition of all the countries on the earth. I feel myself warranted in saying this. I take no desponding view of the state of the country, but at the same time the competition that is going on ought to determine your Lordships to do justice to British industry, and to give a just encouragement to British enterprise. It is thus alone that we can be enabled to stand against all competition. The result of an inquiry Would, I fully believe, remove a mass of rubbish from the Statute Book that is a disgrace to it, it would relieve our industry from a pressure which is almost insupportable, while it would at the same time free the minds of the protected interests, whether agricultural or manufacturing, from a mass of delusion which is no less an injury than a disgrace. While reflecting upon this subject, I have been much struck with an eloquent passage in the works of Channing, in his "Thoughts on Greatness of Character," With which I shall conclude:— The influence of political institutions (or of Government) on property or wealth is chiefly negative. Government enriches a people by removing obstructions to their progress, by defending them from wrong, and thus giving them an opportunity of enriching themselves. Government is not the spring of the wealth of nations, that spring must be sought in their own sagacity, industry, enterprise, and force of character. To leave a people to themselves is generally the best service their rulers can render. Time was when Sovereigns fixed prices and wages, regulated industry and expences, and imagined that a nation would starve and perish if it were not guided and guarded like an infant. But we have learned that men are their own best guardians, and that property is safest under its owner's care. The great lesson for men to learn is that their happiness is in their own hands, and that it is to be wrought out by faithfulness to God and to their own consciences. I most earnestly entreat your Lordships to teach your fellow-countrymen this great and salutary lesson. I thank your Lordships for the attention with which you have honoured me, and apologising for having occupied so much of your time, I beg to move, in the terms of my notice, That a select Committee be appointed on the Import Duties, with the view of considering the effect produced by Protecting Duties on the foreign commerce, the home industry, the Revenue, and the general prosperity of the British Empire.

The Lord Chancellor

put the question, when

The Earl of Dalhousie

assured their Lordships that he felt extreme difficulty and diffidence in rising for the purpose of following the noble Lord, with the view of replying to the powerful and elaborate speech with which the noble Lord prefaced his motion. It was his duty however, to ask their Lordships—to persuade them, to reject the Motion of the noble Lord for a Select Committee to inquire into the Import Duties. The noble Lord's well known ability and long practical acquaintance with the various subjects which he had brought under the consideration of the House—(to which he (the Earl of Dalhousie) could have no pretensions)—would justify him, he hoped, in claiming the kind indulgence of their Lordships whilst he attempted to answer the speech the noble Lord had just addressed to them. The noble Lord in the outset of his speech had endeavoured to anticipate the grounds upon which Her Majesty's Government would ask their Lordships to refuse assent to his Motion, and had then endeavoured to show that these grounds were not worthy of serious consideration. With the utmost deference for the opinion of the noble Lord, he must say that it was upon precisely these grounds that he should base his opposition to the noble Lord's Motion, and he trusted that it would be in his power to establish that the reasons he should assign were not So entirely devoid of foundation as the noble Lord was pleased to allege. The noble Lord said, that the Motion he had submitted to their Lordships was one which, on the score of precedent, the Government could not possibly resist. He had declared that there was more than one precedent in his favour, and he stated that in 1820 a Committee had been selected upon the Motion of a noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), to inquire into the operation of these Duties, and another Committee on the same subject Was appointed in 1839, with the concurrence and sanction of some who now formed part of the present Government. But the noble Lord should recollect that good and substantial reasons were urged for these Committees— grounds which no longer existed, and which could not be brought forward in support of a Motion like that which the noble Lord had submitted to the House. The Committee which was proposed by the noble Marquess was appointed at a most important and critical period in the history of this empire:—it was appointed immediately after this country had emerged from a long war, during the progress of which this country had almost exclusively monopolized the trade and commerce of the world; and in consequence of that and of the expenses incurred in carrying on that war, coupled with a variety of other circumstances intimately associated with such a state of things, duties had been added to duties, without respect to articles, or reference to principles, until the table of Import Duties had assumed such a shape and condition as to call imperatively for inquiry and revision, and there could be no doubt that that Committee was imperatively called for and was justified by the peculiar circumstances of the country, and was productive of great and useful results. In the same manner, though under circumstances not so strong, the Committee of 1839 was also called for, owing to the long period which had elapsed since the subject had been inquired into. During those years which intervened a great change had been made in the commercial relations of the country, and it was perfectly right that such an investigation should be instituted. That inquiry was also followed by great, useful, and important results. But where was the analogy, or where were the corresponding circumstances under which those Committees to which he had referred were granted, and those under which the present Committee was moved for? He begged their Lordships to consider the circumstances under which a Committee of Inquiry was now moved for, and he would ask them to say whether the derangement and disturbance of commerce which always followed upon these proceedings were to be held of trivial consequence. Was that disturbance of the commercial world likely to be so little detrimental to the interests of commerce generally as the noble Lord seemed to consider it? He begged their Lordships to bear in mind the fact which struck home to them—the fact which unfortunately came too near them all—he called upon their Lordships to bear in mind the fact, that during the last five or six years the commerce of this country had been in a state of depression and distress— it would be needless in him to investigate the various causes which might have led to that—but within the last few months matters had assumed a different aspect. The disturbances in the West, and the warlike preparations in India and China had interrupted our commercial relations in the West and East; but that state of things was at an end, and there was an obvious improvement throughout the country—our looms and mines were again in operation, the spirit of enterprise was beginning to develope itself in all branches of trade. He hoped he might assume there was a more sunny prospect for the future. And yet this was the moment at which the noble Baron thought it prudent and wise to introduce a proposition for such an inquiry as that which was conveyed in the terms of his Motion. It was very well for the noble Lord to say that these Committees pledged their Lordships to nothing, and that he only moved for a Committee of Inquiry; that might be very true, but their Lordships would not be able to persuade those interests which would be involved, that this inquiry, if granted, would not be followed by results. He did not dwell upon the evil consequences which would follow a state of doubt, uncertainty, and insecurity, should the House consent to inquire into these Import Duties. He did not think that their Lordships would go into Committee without being prepared to propose some specific line of action. Such a Committee would give rise to a stagnation in trade and act injuriously upon all the interests of the country. He felt that the objection he urged was very strong, and that the recurrence of inquiries into these matters was peculiarly objectionable at a time when Parliament had but just sanctioned an arrangement of which the results were at present unknown:—an experiment was being tried, and before their Lordships agreed to the Motion of the noble Lord it was their duty to wait for the result of that experiment. Two years had scarcely elapsed since the whole of the commercial policy of this country had undergone a thorough investigation, research, and extensive revision. If this inquiry was so recent and extensive in its character, and if by the Returns on the Table of the House they were only able to test the experiment by half-years at a time, it was not for them to launch into fresh inquiries, or to adopt a similar course, until the result of that revision was fairly in possession of their Lordships and the country. The noble Lord said, that it was impossible to resist his Motion on the score of revenue; upon that ground he (Lord Monteagle) thought the Government could not refuse to remove the restrictive duties. The noble Lord, in support of his view, read to the House a statement of the revenue of this country, and said that the surplus revenue was so large, that there could be no better time than the present to enter into the consideration of the effect of the Import Duties. But the terms which the noble Lord used were the answer to his own proposition. The noble Lord said there was a certain sum from the Income-tax, the amount of which had exceeded what had been calculated upon, and that another source, which, after all, was a fortuitous source—namely, the money we had obtained from China, coupled with the Income-tax, had raised the resources of this country to so high a pitch as fully justified a reduction in the Import Duties. But the noble Lord should recollect that the Income-tax was only considered as a temporary, and not as a permanent tax. The noble Lord had no right to assume that it was not the intention of the Government to remove that tax, and to base his argument upon such an assumption. Were they to reduce these duties upon that ground, it would be no excuse for the Government, when a repeal of the Income-tax was proposed, to go down to the House of Commons and say, "We have taken off these duties under the expectation that the revenue derived from the Income-tax would be always available." That argument would not be listened to for a moment. The noble Lord, in the course of his speech, entered at great length into a history of the protective duties, not only in this but in foreign countries, and enlarged with great power on various topics, scientific, philosophical, and some of an abstruse nature, which it was not his intention to follow. He confessed to their Lordships that he felt himself unequal to follow the noble Lord into these various points. It was his intention to confine himself to the practical parts of the noble Lord's speech, and he hoped to be able to establish to the satisfaction of their Lordships that the Government, in the course of the commercial policy they had pursued, was not open to the objections which the noble Lord had urged against them; he trusted also that he should prove that they were entitled to so much confidence as to obtain a refusal to assent to this Motion in order to bring to a fair test the experiment which they were then trying. The noble Lord had referred to the statement made by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Administration when developing the financial and commercial policy upon which it was his (Sir R. Peel's) intention to carry on the Government of the country. The noble Lord, in referring to that statement, asserted that the Government had not acted up to the principles they professed, and upon that ground he (Lord Monteagle) made certain allegations against the Government. He must beg to remind the noble Lord, that when the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government made that statement, certain qualifications were attached to it, which the noble Lord had omitted to mention. It was true that the right hon. Baronet did state that he would act upon those general principles; but he also stated, over and over again in the course of the debates upon this subject, that he was bound in the first instance, to remove those duties which appeared to involve the greatest pressure, and with respect to which, in his own opinion and in that of the Government, relief was most urgently required. The noble Lord had stated that the present duty upon cotton exceeded the amount to which the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had said that he conceived all duties upon raw material ought to be reduced, namely, 5 per cent. He (the Earl of Dalhousie) was willing to take the calculations of the noble Lord opposite, though he had no opportunity of testing their accuracy; and he had no doubt that the duty upon cotton, which was very minute—5–16ths of a penny upon the pound —might exceed the amount of duty which the right hon. Baronet thought ought to be imposed upon raw material, and might be 8 instead of 5 per cent. But, however desirous the Government might be to relieve this commodity entirely from all taxation, it was an article which so deeply involved the interests of the revenue that it was impossible for the Government to pursue the course they might be anxious to adopt. Discussions had taken place, he believed, in the other House, upon substantive motions relative to the duties on cotton and wool, when the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Administration had made the statement to which he had al- luded. That right hon. Gentleman had Stated that, after the large reductions which at that period were made in the Import Duties, it would he impossible then to carry those reductions further, in consequence of the great amount of revenue that would be sacrificed; and that it was therefore impossible to pursue further, at that time, the course he might otherwise have taken. The noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) had alluded at considerable length, to the question of the Sugar Duties. He (the Earl of Dalhousie) did not desire to avoid the discussion of that measure; but he thought it would be most convenient to refrain from entering upon the question now, because in the natural course of affairs it would speedily be brought under their Lordships' consideration by itself, when an ample opportunity would be afforded of fully and fairly discussing it in all its bearings. The noble Lord had also dwelt upon another matter at considerable length, with reference to which he had strongly animadverted upon the conduct of the Government—the question of the Timber Duties. The noble Lord said, the Government had, with reference to this article, entirely departed from the principles upon which they had avowed it their intention to act; and that they had unnecessarily sacrificed revenue without benefiting the consumer. Upon this topic noble Lords opposite had shown much inconsistency; for, if there was one article upon which, more than another, noble Lords opposite, and those who thought with them, had perpetually urged the necessity of a large reduction of duty, it was upon the article of timber. It had been urged over and over again, that in this country we had iron, stone, lime, lead, and similar raw materials thoroughly at our disposal, while the important article of timber was excluded. Now, he (the Earl of Dalhousie) begged to contrast the course pursued by the present Government, as to the duty on this article, with the conduct of the Administration by whom they were preceded. When the Timber Duties were under consideration, during the Administration of the noble Lord opposite, a proposal was made to reduce the duty on foreign timber from 55s. to 50s., and also to reduce the duty on colonial timber from 25s. to 20s. Now he (the Earl of Dalhousie) was prepared to contend that, had that proposal been adopted, the result would have been the entire destruction of our colonial trade; while the reduction from 55s. to 50s. on foreign timber would have been utterly valueless to the consumer. But what course had Her Majesty's present Government taken with reference to this article? They had reduced the duty upon foreign timber from 55s. to 25s., and that on colonial timber from 10s. to 1s. That he considered was a most valuable boon to the people of this country, and he believed it had also proved most advantageous and beneficial to our colonial interests. The noble Lord opposite maintained that this reduction had not been beneficial; but, on this point, he (the Earl of Dalhousie) ventured to differ in opinion from that noble Lord. He conceived that the alteration had been most advantageous to our colonies, and that their Lordships had acted most wisely and prudently in giving it their sanction. He (the Earl of Dalhousie) wished to mention another point connected with this subject, to which the noble Lord had referred—the duty on staves. He entirely agreed with the noble Lord as to the importance of that trade which had been affected by the alteration of the duty on staves; and he believed the parties engaged in it, with whom he (the Earl of Dalhousie) had had much communication, were a most respectable body of men. He was not disposed to dispute the assertion that this case was one of some hardship; but he was not prepared to go the full length of the statement these parties had made. It was felt that, in the absence of entire conviction as to the facts of the case, it would not be prudent to enter into this question at present; but he (the Earl of Dalhousie) would be happy, if means could be found to give relief to those individuals, and to place them in the position of prosperity they had formerly occupied. The noble Lord had complained that the Government had not effected reductions of duty upon several articles of commerce he had mentioned, and he had endeavoured to lead their Lordships to believe that they had not fulfilled the promises they had formerly made, as to the rules by which their conduct should he guided. The noble Lord had dwelt with great force, during the concluding portion of his speech, upon the false notions entertained as to the advantages of maintaining high restrictive and prohibitory duties. He (the Earl of Dalhousie) thought that if their Lordships looked at the course of policy adopted by the present Government since their accession to office, and even during their former tenure of it, it would not be found that they had inculcated those doctrines of restriction and prohibition which the noble Lord had so strongly condemned. Both in this House and in the other, the Government had stated most distinctly that they would not attempt to maintain the doctrine that prohibition could be a barrier in defence of commerce, or that high protective duties—amounting to restrictive duties—could be beneficial in defence of commerce. On the contrary, they stated, that they conceived it to be their duty to remove the restrictions upon commerce, so far as they could do so consistently with due regard to existing interests, which had grown up under the present system. But when the noble Lord opposite mentioned instances in which, as he alleged, the Government had not acted upon the principles by which they had declared it their intention to be guided, he omitted to mention that large class of instances in which they had acted upon those principles, and had thereby greatly relieved and improved the commerce of this country. He believed there was hardly a trade in the country which had not been greatly benefited by the removal of restrictions under the measures of the present Government. He held in his hand a long list of the articles upon which reductions had been made, but he would not trouble their Lordships by going through it. He might, however, mention a few of those articles. The duty upon glass had been reduced from 8l. 6s. 8d. per ton to 1l. 10s. per ton; on soap the duty had been reduced from 4l. 10s. to 1l. 10s.; on olive oil a reduction from eight guineas per ton to 2l. per ton had been made; and similar reductions had been made on indigo, madder, and numerous other articles. He begged their Lordships to remember that reductions of duty had been made upon many articles which were employed in our manufactures; —the woollen manufacture, for instance, had been entirely freed—the reduction of duty on one article in particular had created a new trade in this country; viz. copper ore:—the introduction of foreign ore had advanced the price of British ore; and how had this result been produced? On the same principles on which he had the other night, in the presence of their Lordships—nay, he could hardly say in the presence of their Lordships, for there were only three Members of the House present—defended the reduction of the duty upon wool, namely, that by allowing the introduction of the foreign articles you promoted the sale of the home article for admixture with it in the process of manufacture; thereby affording extensive employment to the people, and increasing the amount of the revenue. The reduction of duty upon mahogany, ebony, and other similar articles, had been most advantageous. Then reductions had also been effected upon hemp, and other commodities of a similar nature, which had tended greatly to benefit the shipping interest. He maintained, therefore—though the noble Lord opposite might find in this tariff some articles upon which the reduction had not been quite so considerable as the noble Lord might have been led to anticipate— that the restrictions upon commerce had been removed to a very material extent, and that the commercial interests of the country had thereby been greatly relieved. But he (the Earl of Dalhousie) did not wish to rest his case upon what had been accomplished two years ago. What had the Government done during the present Session of Parliament? He had only the other evening submitted to their Lordships a Customs' Bill which referred to many articles which, though apparently of trifling importance, entered most extensively into the consumption of the country. Two of the most important articles to which that Bill related were wool and coffee; and he might state, that the total amount of reductions effected in duties during the present year, taking the Excise and Customs together, would be 450,000l. When he remembered that by the alterations made in the Tariff in 1842 imports to the amount of 1,200,000l. were removed; and when he found that measure followed up by another during the present year, which would remove duties amounting to 450,000l. more, he thought the noble Lord opposite was not justified in assuming or asserting that the present Government were the maintainers of a high system of prohibitive and restrictive duties, or that they had failed to carry into effect those principles which had been asserted by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. Now, if the Government were acting fairly and fully up to those principles—if they had shown by their conduct that they were not inclined to forsake the pledges they had formerly given—if they had proved that they were ready to remove every restriction upon trade which could be removed consistently with the protection of existing interests, so far as that protection did not amount to prohibition, or interfere unduly with the interests of the consumer—then he had a right to ask their Lordships to show their confidence in the Government by allowing them to complete that experiment which two years ago they had commenced. He had now stated the grounds upon which he thought it would be unwise for the interests of the trading community themselves that the inquiry proposed by the noble Lord should be instituted. He had said that he thought their Lordships ought to allow the Government an opportunity of ascertaining the result of their experiments, and he hoped they would so far recognize the justice and fairness of the reasons he had advanced as to withhold their assent from the Motion of the noble Lord.

The Earl of Clarendon

Although I sincerely regret the determination to which the Government has come, with respect to my noble Friend's Motion, I cannot but express the satisfaction with which I have listened to the speech of the noble Earl. It was no light task to attempt a reply to my noble Friend's statement, for a statement more powerful, more replete with facts of the most important character, and with deductions the most logical and conclusive, it has rarely been my fortune to hear, and I am sure your Lordships, whatever may be your political opinions, or whatever may have been your predetermination as to the vote you would give this night, must have heard it with all the admiration which its ability was calculated to command. It is the furthest from my intention, therefore, to cast any reproach upon the noble Earl, when I take the liberty of saying that the speech of my noble Friend has not been touched by the noble Earl—his arguments are still as unanswered as his facts are unimpeachable. The noble Earl throughout his speech seemed overpowered by the badness of his case, and if I might be permitted to say so without offence, his difficulties were occasionally increased by his appearing to speak against his own convictions, for one thing is to me apparent from the noble Earl's speech—that he is a free trader—indeed it is impossible he should be otherwise. No man possessing the noble Earl's talent and judgment could long occupy the place he now so creditably fills, having access to the soundest sources of information, and watching the operations of our system, without daily having occasion to observe its mischievous results, and becoming in consequence an enemy to commercial restriction. I think the noble Earl has made that manifest, and that (speaking in commercial terms of value with which the noble Earl is familiar) we may henceforth rely upon his official exertions in aid of his declared opinions, for although the noble Earl has alluded with satisfaction to what has been already done, he cannot, and he knows the people of this country will not rest contented with that. The noble Earl has drawn a glowing picture of the improved state of our trade, and the results he expects it will produce, and though I agree with him to a certain extent, I regret that I cannot share in his brilliant expectations. I may be wrong, and I heartily hope that my opinions, not lightly nor inconsiderately formed, may be erroneous, but the position of this country does seem to me one of extreme peril—our heavy burthens, our daily increasing population and pauperism, our diminished profits, and the competition of the whole world which we have to encounter do, to my mind, constitute elements of great danger, not in themselves alone, but because I cannot see any prospect of change in the system which works the mischief. Were we determined boldly to face our difficulties, to analyse their causes in the manner suggested by my noble Friend, and to legislate under the conviction that upon the well-being not of particular classes, but of the great mass of the population depends the general prosperity, I should see no reason to fear the taxes, nor the provision for the poor, nor the unproductiveness of capital nor competition were it ten times greater than that to which we are exposed:—but our course has been very different; hitherto we have contented ourselves with building new churches, and voting a little money for education, and making laws about children working in factories and women in mines, some of which may be useful in their way, although in my opinion any interference with what I must call the rights of industry is as unjust as it is unwise; but even were these things all proper, it would be beginning at the wrong end, it would be dealing with the symptoms, and not going to the source of national disease. Acts of Parliament cannot make want and virtue consort together; you must not expect a starving man surrounded by a starving family to be eager for spiritual comfort, or careful of the education of his children, or scrupulous about the means by which their pressing necessities are relieved. The material comforts of the working classes should be our first care— to provide that no unnecessary impediments should exist to the employment of labour is the first duty of the Legislature, as it is the paramount interest of every class in the community: but it is deplorable to reflect how little legislation has yet done in the fulfilment of this duty, or rather how much it has done to thwart the freedom of labour, and to keep the productive power of this great country in the gripe of monopoly and selfish interests. It is deplorable to reflect how feeble and how few have been the attempts to carry out those principles which Mr. Huskisson, now nearly twenty years ago, with the wisdom and foresight of a statesman first introduced, and the application of which, partial though it has been, has conferred so much benefit upon the country, and yet not a single measure based upon these sound principles, these principles of common sense as they are properly called, has been taken which has not more than fulfilled the hopes of it's promoters, and more than dispelled the prophetical fears of its opponents. There has not been a single failure in the experiment of allowing capital to run in a free and unrestrained channel—it has been invariably found, as my noble Friend has shewn, that when the restrictions upon any particular branch of industry are removed it springs at once into vigour and activity, and lays the foundation for commercial enterprize of which it is at first impossible to foresee either the benefits or extent. What is now the great source of our wealth and prosperity? What is it that vivifies and supports our national energies, that enabled us to make such gigantic exertions throughout the war, and that maintains us in the preeminent position we now occupy among the nations of the world?—why our cotton manufactures—but they were subject to all manner of vexatious fiscal regulations, amounting in 1782 to 15 per cent., in 1784, duties to the amount of an additional 15 per cent. were imposed on calicoes,—deputations were sent up from Manchester, Bollon, and other places to represent that these duties must infallibly crush the rising manufacture—the manufacturers were heard by counsel at the bar of the House of Commons, and Mr. Pitt was compelled to abandon his duties. Other attempts were made to levy duties on the cotton manufacture in the same year, but they were abandoned also in 1787, though this manufacture was not finally released from the grasp of the excise until 1831. In 1780, the value of our whole export of cotton manufactures did not exceed 350,000l., and they now reached thirty-six millions, giving employment to a million and a half of persons, when in 1760, not 40,000 persons were employed—thirty-seven times as many. In 1796, the quantity of British calicoes and muslins which paid the print duty was twenty-eight millions of yards, in 1829 it was 128 millions, and so great is the reduction in price, that a piece of calico which in 1814 was worth at Manchester 1l. 4s. 7d. now sells for less than 5s., and is accessible to the poorest classes. Could this have occurred if the cotton manufacture had still been hampered by restrictions? Could all those discoveries and inventions, which are the glory of the age in which we live, have taken place in a trade hampered by monopoly and restriction and repulsive to capital? Do not the wants of this million and a half of persons afford more real encouragement and protection to agriculture than any law for keeping up artificial prices and resisting the competition of foreign labour? What but the non-interference of the law and the free scope given to industry and capital and skill, would ever have enabled the English workman living upon meat and beer and bread, to compete with the Hindoos who formerly had the monopoly of this manufacture, and are supported upon rice, who weaved the cotton in the very field where it was grown, and whose patience and physical organization peculiarly adapt them for this species of employment? And yet it is the low rate of wages received by labourers on the Continent, that is the staple bugbear by which people in this country are still frightened into maintaining our restrictive system. Then again, look to the Silk Trade, the extraordinary circumstances connected with which must still be in the memory of your Lordships. You must remember the obloquy cast upon Mr. Huskisson, that metaphysician, as hard-hearted as the Devil, as he was called. The crowds of artisans from Spitalfields, who mobbed him on his way to the House, and what is of greater importance, the declarations of Mr. Baring (who three years before had presented the memorable Petition from the City of London) that the proposed measure was a dangerous experiment for the country, that those who proposed it were deliberately ruining the silk manufacture of England—that all capital embarked in it would be withdrawn, and those who had no capital but their labour would be left to starve. Mr. Huskisson, however, was neither deterred by these threats nor predictions, and what was the result? That instead of capital being withdrawn and the trade abandoned, fresh silk mills were built, and the import and consumption of raw silk was nearly doubled between the time when the trade was opened and that in 1840 in Manchester alone, the number of silk weavers have increased from 3,000 to 15,000, and the value of the goods made in that town from 450,000l. to 1,600,000l. This has been accompanied by the invariable consequences of competition, improved modes of manufacture, and our exports have nearly trebled since the reduced cost of production has opened to us the neutral markets of the world, from which when our prices were artificially maintained we were altogether excluded, and one third of our exports now actually goes to France—in 1827, we exported to France to the amount of 4,600l., in 1842 182,000l., being one third the amount of the whole of our exports to foreign countries, and about the double of what we exported to all our Colonies under the protective system. I will not allude to the articles of sugar and coffee, for I should only weaken the impression that must, I am sure, have been made upon your Lordships by the statements of my noble Friend, and with respect to corn, I will say nothing beyond expressing my entire conviction that the inherent evils of our present system, although mitigated and held in temporary suspension, may at any moment burst upon us with overwhelming force—that the Corn Laws are fraught with danger, not to one interest or to one class, but to all; for dependent as we have rendered our increasing and ill fed population upon the barometer, I am convinced that our very institutions would be powerless to resist the effects of two successive bad harvests and the obstacles opposed by our laws to the relief we might otherwise obtain. We have certainly been blessed with two or three harvests somewhat above the average, but we cannot expect a continuance of them, and are we prepared to meet such another year as 1839, when the exportation of bullion, the only commodity we could give in exchange for the foreign corn we could not do without, brought us to the verge of national bankruptcy? Indeed, when we were only saved from that catastrophe, and all its frightful consequences, by the assistance of the Bank of France, which assistance, even if we would incur the national disgrace of again soliciting it, we well know would be refused to us— and is there any thing changed in our situation since then, except having about a million more mouths to feed? Have we done any thing to regularise our commerce, and to enable us to pay for foreign corn by our own productions and in the ordinary course of trade? Nothing—we are just as unprepared to meet the danger as if experience had not forewarned us of its certainty and its results, as if we were determined never to arrive at improvement, but through misfortune and intimidation. The Government have dabbled with the Sliding Scale, they have made a change in its figures, but none in its operation. They have produced discontent among the manufacturing classes, upon which the agricultural mainly depend not only for the consumption of their produce, but for the employment of all their surplus population, and they still tell the agriculturists to rely, not upon their own exertions, but upon protection, under the blighting influence of which industry never did and never can prosper. Of this there can be no better proof than the facts, that although no class has enjoyed protection to the same extent as the agricultural, none has been so often in a state of distress, and none has made such frequent applications to Parliament for relief; and at the present day no meeting of farmer's friends, as they are called, or rather miscalled, ever takes place without the defective state of our agriculture being admitted, and without its improvement being earnestly recommended. I have no doubt as to what your Lordship's vote will be this night, and I have not the presumption to suppose that any thing which falls from me, should have weight with your Lordships, but I humbly hope, that you will reflect upon the importance of the statements made by my noble Friend, and bear in mind, that they present to you no speculative theories, but the invaluable lessons of experience, proving that every measure based upon sound principles, has been attended with progress and success, and that stagnation and failure have been the results of a selfish and empirical departure from those principles. Is there a man possessing common sense who would wish to retrace any step we have taken towards commercial freedom, and yet with the encouragement of practical benefits before us, is it not worse than folly to stand still, is it not sacrificing the best interests of our country in hesitating to proceed? I admit that the revision of the Tariff was useful, but not for the reasons assigned by the noble Earl, not for the relief it brought, or can be expected to bring, but for the recognition of sounder principles, and the exposure of some of the glaring absurdities in our commercial legislation by which it was accompanied—the doctrines expounded by those who in 1842, had the power, if they had but possessed the courage to give effect to them, were of service by adding the weight of the highest and best informed and most responsible authorities to the opinions of all those who have long been convinced that the prosperity of this country depends upon, and its decline can only be averted by employment for our industry, and by extension of our markets. To suppose, however, that such a revision of the Tariff as was made two years ago, that the trumpery reductions upon trumpery articles, and the careful exclusion of those articles of general consumption, will relieve the wants and satisfy the necessities of the country, would be as idle as to suppose that the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government meant his elaborate exposition of principles to be limited to the possible importation of a little Canadian corn, or to the improbable introduction of a few foreign cattle. Those experimental oxen from Holstein, as the President of the Board of Control called them, which he must have known or might have known, would never arrive to keep the magnificent promise made in their name of rendering us unconscious of the five millions and a-half taken from us in the shape of Income Tax. If the right hon. Baronet had possessed the courage and disregard of party exigency which characterised Mr. Huskisson, whose disciple and fellow-labourer he justly took credit for having been, he would not have faltered at the threshold of free trade, but he would have boldly entered at the breach he had effected in our restrictive system; he would have used the enormous power he possessed, greater than that of any other Minister in modern times, to remove those props by which individual interests have vainly for themselves and disastrously for the community been protected by legislation. He knows full well that our population and our productive ability are daily increasing, and that if we do not at the same time extend our markets, that is, our means of consumption, the excess of produce beyond the demand must lessen the power of producing, and for the want of more trade, that which we actually have will become less profitable. That is what he meant by declaring that we must purchase in the cheapest, and sell in the dearest markets, but our power of exchange, which for this power should be unrestricted, is still hampered by our laws; we are forbidden to buy in the cheapest markets, which would at the same time be the dearest for us to sell in. Our landed and colonial interests prohibit the plentiful supply of the chief necessaries of life from Prussia and Poland, and the United States, and Brazil and Cuba in exchange for our productions, and they declare, that although the population is increasing by millions there shall only be distributed among them the same fixed quantity of the chief necessaries of life, and they shall only have the same fixed number of customers for their increasing productions—for this is the practical working of our system—though, at the same time, nobody is found to defend monopoly or the benefiting certain classes and interests at the expense of all the rest. Everybody is prepared to say that in the abstract free trade is good, but that if it were put in practice, it would destroy the revenue, break faith with the national creditor, and prevent our competing with foreigners who are not heavily taxed as we are. All this, however, is either fallacy or misrepresentation; free trade does not seek to evade or abolish duties levied for the purposes of revenue, but to render those duties as productive as possible by providing that they shall not be raised for the benefit of individuals, but that whatever is taken from the people shall be bona fide for the purposes of revenue, and find its way to the Exchequer. It is against differential duties, taxes for the purposes of protection, that free trade wages war against the sys- tem which limits the supply of commodities, and maintains a higher price than if the article produced wherever it might be, were subject to a uniform duty; and thereby prevents the consumer from buying in the market most advantageous to him, and that is all that free trade contends for; and at the same time, that the consumer is injured, the revenue is not benefited. The higher of the two duties upon the same article is not imposed for objects of revenue, but for those of protection; if it yields anything to the revenue, it is by chance, by the accident of price; it merely enables the producer of the favoured article, be it corn, or sugar, or coffee, which is charged with the lower duty to obtain a price which he could not obtain unless the law secured it for him. This difference is just so much lost to the revenue, so much waste of the capital of the country, so much diminution of the power of consuming; and it is just what free trade seeks to correct. Is it not, then, a fallacy or a misrepresentation to say that free trade would abolish the Customs Duties? Why, there is no objection to the duties levied on tea or tobacco, or wine, nor to twenty times the duty those commodities now pay, if they could be levied without diminishing consumption, because they are uniform, they go into the Treasury; neither would it be contrary to the principles of free trade that a countervailing duty should be imposed upon a foreign article similar to one produced at home upon which a duty, as in the instance of malt, is levied; but the fact of our being so heavily taxed for the public, and in order to maintain inviolate the national faith, is the very reason why we should the more carefully avoid taxation among ourselves, the taking money out of the pockets of one set of men to transfer it to those of another set to whom it is not a gain, but merely repayment of the more expensive and unnecessary cost of producing, just as if we remunerated a home grower of claret by giving him two guineas a bottle for his wine, when it can be had for seven or eight francs from Bordeaux; and the less this is done, the greater must be the general wealth and producing power of the country, and the better shall we be able to bear our burthens and compete with foreign nations. There was one feature, or rather one omission in the noble Earl's speech which I observed with great satisfaction. The noble Earl has not defended our protective system upon the score of retaliation; and I trust we may therefore infer that the Government still adhere to that principle so intelligibly and wisely laid down by Sir Robert Peel, when he declared that it was not our interest and that he would not lend himself to the policy of shaping our commercial legislation by that of other countries, and that our duty was to regard only what was best for ourselves. I think it most important that there should be no misunderstanding upon this point, for the system still finds favour with the public, and is still advocated by some of the most enlightened portions of the press—and this is not unnatural; for there seems to be something gratifying in being able at once to do harm to those by whom we are injured: but that gratification soon gives way to other feelings, when we find that our revenge is likely to be as injurious to ourselves as to the parties upon whom it is exercised:—for what is it that we want? —the greatest abundance of all things at the cheapest possible rate, and the buying cheaply is most important to us; for according to the rate at which we buy, the rate at which we can afford to sell will be regulated. We ought not, therefore, to be deterred from buying cheaply, merely because those of whom we buy will not take some particular commodity of ours in payment. It would doubtless be more convenient, rather more profitable also if they did, but it is by no means an indispensable condition; and moreover, it is one which we cannot impose: foreign countries won't give us their productions for nothing, that's clear; and if they won't take our surplus produce in exchange, we must try to find some that we can fetch for them from other countries, or exchange through third parties. If that won't do, no transaction can take place, and then restriction is useless; if it can, we merely do ourselves an injury by taxing the articles we want, and making ourselves buy them dearly when we might have them, at a cheap rate. Take the case of Russia, for instance—there is no country in Europe which so fiercely prohibits our productions; while there is no country in Europe from which we take so much. Our exports to Russia amount to about 1,600,000l. per annum, of which one million is cotton twist; while we take about five millions in hemp, wool, tallow and timber, and we pay the balance of 3,500,000l. out of our bonded warehouses here, by cotton, indigo, cochineal, coffee, sugar, wine, which we fetch from countries where the raw produce of Russia is not required, and all of which we pay for by our own manufactures which are the cheapest in those markets. We thus secure to ourselves the carrying trade for Russia; and the more we buy from Russia, the greater will be her power of consuming those productions which represent our manufactures. But if in accordance with the principles of retaliation, we had imposed high or prohibitory duties upon Russian produce, not only should we have deprived ourselves of the profits upon our dealings to the extent of five millions, hut we should have ruinously increased the cost of every production of our own (to the shipping interest for example) in which the timber, tallow, and hemp of Russia are employed. Take the case now of a manufacturing country, Germany for instance; supposing that Germany prohibited our woollen and cotton wares, and that in retaliation we imposed 30 per cent. more upon the wool and timber of Germany—would that be a relief to our manufacturers and operatives who were already injured by the prohibition? Would it not be a twofold injury by diminishing the supply and raising the price of the raw material at home, and by lessening the demand for it in Germany, reducing the price there which would enable the German manufacturers to meet the English with greater advantage in neutral markets. If, when the tariff of the United States was raised two years ago, we had increased the duty on raw cotton, what other effect would that have had but to check the progress and raise the price of our cotton manufactures, diminish the employment of our people, and enormously aggravate the injury inflicted on us by the Americans? All attempts of foreign governments to injure our manufactures by hostile tariffs, are powerfully assisted by retaliation on our part, and by restrictions on raw produce which are the elements of those manufactures. Retaliation makes us less able to send our goods to the countries which impose those tariffs, and to all others, cheapness and not dearness, is the real weapon for combating commercial hostilities; and I am convinced that our wisest course would be, whenever a country prohibits any particular commodity of ours, to see how it can be pro- duced more cheaply, and this can only be by low duties and by the utmost possible freedom from restriction—it would give us more and more the command of the markets of the world—self-protection would soon cause other nations to follow our example, and we should have the glory as well as the benefit of opening the way to every country of the earth for the greatest of all earthly blessings—the free interchange among them all of those various productions with which each by the bounty of nature has been endowed, and the nearer we can approach to this, the more we shall benefit ourselves, the more we shall promote good understanding and the maintenance of peace with other countries. How infinitely preferable it would be to induce foreign nations, for their own advantage, to follow a good example; and how much more desirable all such arrangements based upon self-interest would be, rather than upon commercial treaties, the negotiations for which are always carried on with distrust, and are usually broken off in anger and war, the non-contracting parties in a spirit far less friendly towards each other than before they had discovered the impossibility of reconciling by such means their respective interests. The difficulty of adjusting those concessions or equivalents, which must form the essence of all commercial treaties is so great in matters which do not admit of very strict comparison, that failure is not to be wondered at, and success is often unsatisfactory. One party at least, being sure to consider itself overreached, and becoming anxious therefore for the time when, as in the case of the Brazils, it may escape from the thraldom of engagements which it regards as a national insult. Look at all the diplomacy employed of late years in negotiating treaties with Spain, and Portugal, and France, which with our restrictive system and with theirs was unadvoidably fruitless. We in general excite jealousy and suspicion, or expose ourselves to such a rebuke, as my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs lately received from Baron Bulow, very deservedly as I think, for we have not exactly built our house with the materials that justify our throwing stones at other people. But for my own part I should rejoice if it were proclaimed to the whole world, that we would henceforward attempt no negotiations for commercial treaties, but simply practise the doctrines we profess, doing that which is most for our own interest, uninfluenced by the policy of foreign governments, and leaving it to them to follow our example, as they infallibly must, if our policy should be demonstrated by experience to be sound and beneficial. Indeed, we owe some such reparation to the world which has been led by our example into the belief that the power and prosperity of England had advanced in consequence, and not in spite of, the mistaken system by which, for so long a period, the full development of our energies has been crippled. This system has taken too deep root among us, there are vested in it interests too great and prejudices too strong, to permit of its being lightly or immediately dealt with by the Legislature, but as both prejudices and particular interests must eventually yield to the increasing knowledge and increasing necessities of the people, my noble Friend proposes to precede that unavoidable event by a solemn and impartial enquiry—to prepare the way for immediate reforms where they appear to be practicable, and to justify delay where their postponement is proved to be expedient. It is for this object, which my noble Friend has himself so admirably explained, that I shall vote for his Motion, and because, viewing the whole subject not as a party but as a national question, I think that the Committee which he proposes would assist and facilitate that policy which the Government of this country, be it Tory or be it Whig, must henceforward be compelled to pursue.

Lord Colchester

should not attempt to follow the noble Lord who had just sat down through his long and able arguments. He could not help feeling that nations, like individuals, were too much swayed by prejudice and passion to allow us to look for that state of universal peace and harmony, in which the products of the universe could be mutually exchanged without stipulations on either side. The noble Earl had entered into the subjects of the silk and cotton manufactures. He (Lord Colchester) said that cotton had even now a protecting duty of 20 per cent., and foreign silk goods were not admissible under a duty of 30 per cent. so that it was not quite correct to say that those two great manufactures had risen entirely independent of protecting duties. It should not be forgotten that we were differently situated from most other coun- tries, having extensive Colonies, whose commerce it was our policy to foster. With respect to buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest, that, no doubt, was a good maxim, but there was another quality in a market that was valuable, and that was certainty. Our commerce with foreign countries might be ruined by a hostile tariff or a war, but we had always the control over the markets of our Colonies. Again, in dealing with foreigners, we shared the benefit with them; but in dealing with a colony, both the parties who profited by the transactions were subjects of the Crown. Colonies were the great nurseries of our seamen in case of a foreign war; the trade employed half a million of British tonnage, which might be paralysed by the removal of those duties hitherto considered necessary for its protection. An example of the good policy of extending the relations with our Colonies by giving developement to their trade, and of the great extension of commerce which might be anticipated, was to be found in the sugar trade of India, after the discriminating duties between East India and West India sugar which formerly existed had been equalized. Up to the year 1836 our trade with India was considered on a footing with our foreign trade, and there was a considerable discriminating duty between East and West India sugar and rum. The first relaxation was in the duty on sugar. In the year 1840, before a Committee of that House, the matter was much considered, and it was then shown that near the Ganges sugar could be cultivated, and in such a quantity as to supply the whole world, but that the high duty on sugar prevented that cultivation. The Government of that day were prevailed upon to equalise the duties upon East and West India sugar, and the consequence was a very large increase in the quantity of sugar produced, as well as of rum—for instance, in 1836 the quantity of sugar produced was 270,000 cwt., and of rum 65,000 gallons, whilst in 1841, after the duties were equalized, the quantity of sugar was 1,000,000 cwt., and of rum the quantity was nearly doubled. In the Colonies the protective duties were still necessary, and, on that ground, he must record his vote in opposition to the Motion of the noble Lord.

The Duke of Richmond

was very much surprised to hear the noble Earl who had spoken last but one, say, that the agriculturists had it all their own way. He really believed that if they went into any part of the country, and told that at any meeting of farmers, they would say that his noble Friend must have dreamt it. What the farmers complained of was, that they had not had it all their own way, but that for the last three or four years the Government were going in the wrong direction, and that their interests were seriously compromised. He, for one, should be very glad to have the inquiry proposed, but he could not vote for it after the speech of his noble Friend who proposed it, and of his noble Friend who followed in the debate; because if he did, he should at once be admitting that he was a free-trader—but that there was one single argument in all that was uttered by his noble Friend he was not prepared to admit in the slightest degree. His noble Friend who made the proposal said, that he would not object to a protective duty if they could show him that any one class was subject to more severe burthens than another. Why, that was the very reason he would have gone into that inquiry, because, did any man mean to say, that the farmers of England were not more taxed than any other class of men? They knew, that on the farmers were imposed the bulk of the taxes of the country. They knew that by law the manufacturers ought to pay upon their profits, but their profits could not be got at, and the farmer who did not make 300l. by his farm paid more than a manufacturer who perhaps in some years might make 30,000l. It was for this he should have been glad to go into the Committee to meet his noble Friend; but his noble Friend would not have moved for the Committee if he had thought it would be granted. This was one of those questions that were sometimes brought forward and supported in Parliament because it was known they could not be carried. He was not making any personal attack upon his noble Friend, but he knew that that had often been the practice of individuals who had moved in Parliament. His noble Friend said, he did not mean this as a party question; but he (the Duke of Richmond) would ask whether half the speech of his noble Friend was not an attack upon the Government for the Timber and Sugar Duties. Not that he wished to defend the Government, he would fairly admit that be did not like the speech of his noble Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade; because what he wished to have from the Government Was such a declaration as this, that so long as the agricultural interest was burthened with the taxes which it now paid and which rendered the British farmer totally unable to compete with the foreign corn grower—so long as this slate of things existed, the agricultural interest should not be deprived of fair protection. But he was not satisfied with the Government, and he did not vole against his noble Friend because he was satisfied with them, but that he was more dissatisfied with him. The noble Earl had said that they were all dependent on a good or bad harvest—that he dreaded a bad harvest because they would then be dependent on a foreign supply, He was glad to hear his noble Friend say, that he did not like being dependent on a foreign supply: but would that induce our agriculturists to embark their capital in improvements and make them do as they had been doing, their utmost to improve the soil so as to increase the agricultural produce for the people of this country? His noble Friend was afraid of being dependent upon foreign supply, but with that sort of free-trade lunacy, that delusion under which he laboured, his noble Friend said, that the best way of getting rid of a foreign supply, was by ruining our own farmers, preventing them from cultivating the land as they ought, and making us at last purchase in a foreign country. It was very true, that there might be, and he trusted there was, going on a great spirit of improvement in this country. There was no man who would not say that during the last twenty years a great deal had been done, or that the agricultural interest had not endeavoured to improve the country. If they had not done so, then it might be said that the agricultural interest was dependent upon legislative protection and stood with their hands behind their backs, and had not endeavoured to assist themselves. But they knew that improvements had taken place to a great extent, and why were they not greater? Because great improvements upon farms could not be made without a great outlay of capital, and did they believe that a landlord or tenant would go to a great outlay of capital, when he saw that such motions as this might be made in Parliament, and not met at once by Government saying, that fair protection was the principle by which they intended to be guided, and that perhaps in two or three years all protection might cease? No. If they were really de- sirous and anxious that improvements should take place in the agriculture of this country they should tell the agricultural interests that they should remain as they were. They would then exert their capital and themselves to the utmost; and if it were only permitted to them to do that, and their doubts were removed, in the next ten years there would take place as much improvement as there had been in the last twenty years. That was the practical view they should take of this subject. In that House it was not very often said when Peers stated their opinions on any subject that they were interested in it, and therefore their opinions were not of much value. He admitted that he was interested in agriculture, but he was interested in, and supported the agricultural interest of the country, because in his conscience he believed it produced the whole prosperity of England. He believed that, and he cared not for insinuation as to his own personal interest. He was interested for the labouring classes of the country also. He believed that if there were free trade in corn, and that the corn of Poland came into this country to-morrow, untaxed as that country was, and their labourers living as they could, upon what we should be ashamed to see our pigs eat, they would ruin the labouring classes of this country. He considered Free Trade to mean this— lower wages of the people of this country; he conceived, when they spoke of repealing the Corn Laws and of Free Trade, that they meant this. He believed that such would be the effect of Free Trade, and that many of those who advocated it without the walls of that House did wish to reduce the wages of the people. But he was happy to say that the great body of the labourers of England understood this question. They knew that the object was to lower wages; but they would rather be as they were, and he felt that if they were permitted to continue as they were they would be more prosperous than with all the visionary theories which his noble Friend had ventured to propound to their Lordships. His noble Friend in the beginning of his speech had given an instance of a hatter; but he would ask what would be the condition of the hatter if French hats were to be sold in this country at 6s. or 8s. a piece? The same with the fanners. If they allowed the foreigner to send corn into this country at a lower price than it could be grown at here, how were the farmers of this country to pay their share of the revenue? They could not pay any—it was a perfect delusion. Then his noble Friend said, that the imports into the United States had very much fallen off. The reason was exactly this—that in the year 1843 there had not been any manufacturer fool enough to send out any manufactures at all to the Americans unless he got hard money for them. Formerly he took bills of exchange, but he found that they did not pay their bills when they became due, and therefore he would not send out any more goods Unless he got hard dollars for them. But that was set down to the protective system:—he denied that it was owing to any such cause—it was owing to the bad faith of some of the states of America. Then the question really came to this, whether or not we were to have Free Trade in everything? If that House should at the present moment say there should be perfect Free Trade in everything, he wanted to know whether they believed it was possible the country could go on. He had heard many say "You may alter the Corn Laws." He thought he heard his noble Friend opposite say that a fixed duty of 8s. would be a very good thing; but that was not Free Trade. The noble Lord said, he was averse to a protective duty, but was the House prepared to affirm that there should be no protection at all? His noble Friend fairly said, he was against protection, the whole of his speech was levelled against it; but his noble Friend got out of the difficulty as to the fixed duty by saying he was against anything like a protective duty, but that he was not against any duty that was levied for the purpose of revenue. It was very possible his noble Friend might say that a duty on foreign linens might be a very legitimate duty for the purpose of revenue—he might have it in his eye to protect the linen manufacturers of Ireland. Still it was a protection to them, and what in earth did it signify to them whether it was given as revenue or protection? But if they would tell him they would maintain the present scale of duty on corn and agricultural produce for the next twenty years, he never would say another word upon the subject—it would be perfectly immaterial to him whether they called it protection or Free Trade, But his noble Friend would not do that—he approved of what the Government had already done—they were going in the right course—step by step they were getting rid of protection. But he, for one, could never give his consent to the reduction of any part of the protection to the agricultural interests in the slightest degree. He was prepared to carry out the same as far as the manufacturers went. He thought they ought to be protected also; and he never would make any difference in the opinion he gave, that he thought all ought to be protected so long as they were charged in the way in which they were by taxation. His noble Friend never spoke about hops—he did not recall to the attention of the House the immense and heavy tax which the farmers of this country paid in malt duty—he supposed that his noble Friend, with his great idea of Free Trade, would instantaneously propose that the Malt Duty should be repealed. If his noble Friend allowed all foreign countries to export all their agricultural produce into this country, it was perfectly clear that they must take away all such duties as this; but then he supposed his noble Friend was prepared also to repeal the prohibitions under which the farmers of this country laboured; at present they could not grow tobacco if they wished it—there was an Act of Parliament against it. He supposed that his noble Friend was prepared to do away with that; but if he was, and he was still Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would have to bring forward next year a worse budget even than that he produced the last year he was in office. He did not think that it was necessary for him to do more than protest against the speeches of the noble Lord who introduced this subject, of that of the noble Earl opposite, and also against that of his noble Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and he strongly suspected that he was almost solitary there, as no one had supported the view which he took of the question, but his noble Friend (Lord Colchester), who sits with his back to the wall. He was aware that in the view which he took of this subject he would not have the support of any of their Lordships but one. But if the people of England were polled, a very large majority, in both England and Scotland, would be found to agree with him that the adoption of Free Trade would be the ruin of the country, and moreover, that they would resort to every constitutional means to resist a course which would be destructive to all classes, and more especially to the labouring classes, and which would make this country dependent upon foreigners for a supply of food.

The Earl of Wicklow

observed that there was hardly an argument or a principle laid down by his noble Friend, who had introduced the question to the House with so much ability and eloquence, in which he did not entirely agree; and, after saying that, he might be asked why he did not follow up this expression of opinion by confirming it with his vote? It by no means followed, however, that because he concurred with his noble Friend in opinion, that he should agree with him as to the best mode of carrying out those opinions. He agreed with the noble Duke, that a Committee on such a subject could never be expected to be granted at that period of the Session; for it was obviously impossible to go into an inquiry, so extensive and complicated as it necessarily would be, with any expectation of arriving at anything like satisfactory or beneficial conclusions. Although some good might follow from the appointment of such a Committee at the commencement of the Session, still it could not be doubted that it would be attended with incidental evils from the inquiry disturbing the great body of the commercial classes of this country, and that it would create great alarm in all the important interests of the country. It therefore became a matter of consideration whether they should appoint such a Committee under any circumstances. There was one opinion expressed by his noble Friend in which he most cordially concurred. His noble Friend said, that he was well aware that it was one tiling to lay down sound principles, and another to apply them to a country which had existed hitherto under an entirely different state of things. Was not this a strong reason to hesitate before they took steps to follow out such an extensive course as was suggested by his noble Friend at once? But notwithstanding his objection to the Committee, he confessed that he should have voted for the Motion of his noble Friend, if the answer on the part of the Government to the Motion was any thing like that which the noble Duke had wished to have. It was the nature of the answer of his noble Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, which had satisfied him, and had induced him to vote against the Motion, because he derived from that answer the consolitary fact, that between the principles laid down by his noble Friend, who had brought forward the Motion, and those of Her Majesty's Government, there was very little difference. There was no difference in principle, the only difference was merely a question of time. One party was for a sudden change, and the other was for proceeding step by step, with due caution and deliberation. The latter course was that which he approved of, and he thought that the proceedings of the Government, with regard to the tariff, showed an anxious desire to promote those principles which, he believed, involved the best interests of the country; and at the same time they interfered so gradually in these questions as to prevent the changes being dangerous to the best interests of the country. He felt that Her Majesty's Ministers were treading in the right track, and he would not be a party to thwart them by opposition. He would not go into the question as to whether or not restrictive and protective duties were expedient at the time they were adopted, but at the present time, when our manufactures had been brought to such a state of perfection, he was convinced that the proper policy of England was free and unfettered intercourse with other countries. He did not believe, nor did he venture to hope, that the arguments of this country, on the question of getting rid of protection, would have much consideration or weight with foreign countries, and induce them to come to the same conclusion as this country. It should be remembered that other nations were gradually bringing their manufactures to a state of perfection, and they had no example before their eyes of a country attaining the highest state of manufacturing prosperity but this country, and they would infer that because we had so long adhered to a system of prohibition, that, therefore, this country owed its prosperity to protection. They would, therefore, infer that the doctrine of protection was the only means of enabling their manufacturers successfully to compete with ours.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

stated that as he had been referred to by his noble Friend who had proposed the Motion, and also by the noble Lord the Vice-President of the Board of Trade as the author of a proposition something similar to the present, and which had met with a more favourable reception nineteen years ago, than that which his noble Friend had that night proposed was likely to obtain; he was induced to rise and offer a few observations to the House before the debate closed. He had listened to the debate and to the various sentiments of noble Lords who had taken part in the discussion with great interest, and after listening to the very able speech of the noble Earl the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and the speech of his noble Friend the Duke of Richmond in opposition to this Motion, he could perceive only two points on which the noble Earl and the noble Duke seemed to agree, namely, in voting against the Motion now before the House, and in assigning arguments why the House ought to agree to it—for both these noble Lords pointed out circumstances which had recently occurred, which, if a Committee had sat on the subject, should have been made a matter of inquiry; and they should be brought to the test of inquiry, to see whether the facts alluded to by the noble Earl and the noble Duke bore the construction which they put upon them. The noble Earl said, look to the measures having the same direction as the course suggested by his noble Friend, which have been brought forward by Her Majesty's Government, and make yourselves acquainted with them, and observe the beneficial effects which have resulted from them when adopted by the Legislature and reduced to practice;— after stating this, the noble Earl admitted that these measures were not all that might be desired, and then said that this was an argument against inquiry as to whether they should not proceed further, and that these sound principles, as they were admitted to be by the noble Earl, should not be applied in other cases. The noble Earl, however, refused to let them obtain further information as to the success of former measures and as to the advantage of extending the principles on which they were founded. The noble Duke, however, called upon the House not to enter into inquiry, not because the measures to which he had just adverted were successful, but because they had not been successful, and because he altogether disapproved of them. The noble Earl said, do not inquire, because it is desirable that the principles of free-trade should be carried further. The noble Duke said, do not inquire, because my opposition to these measures is as great as yours, and their failure can be shown. Do not inquire, said the noble Earl, because you may be called upon to go on with measures founded on sound principles of legislation on this subject. Do not inquire, said the noble Duke, because the result might be, that you might be called upon to repeal those measures which you erroneously adopted with regard to those subjects, and of which he altogether disapproved. The noble Duke said that he almost stood alone on this subject, but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) could perceive no symptom of the solitude of opinion of the noble Duke; on the contrary, his speech seemed to have been received with marks of great satisfaction by several noble Lords who sat near him.

The Duke of Richmond

said, that he alluded to the speeches in that House. He also said if the country was polled, the majority of the people would be against free trade.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

observed, that certainly the speech of the noble Duke had been received with much more approbation by noble Lords opposite, than the declaration of the noble Earl, the Vice President of the Board of Trade, in favour of free-trade principles. Whatever confidence, therefore, that House might place in the Government, it was not marked in the enunciation of the very sound principles and arguments which the noble Earl, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade had laid down, and when they were told that any one enjoyed a state of solitude as regarded his opinions it certainly rather seemed to be the Vice-President of the Board of Trade than the noble Duke. The noble Earl said, that after the examples they had had of their success, those principles required nothing more than to be carried into effect. The noble Duke, on the contrary, alleged that they were founded on anything but wisdom and expediency. All that the noble Earl then asked, after these conflicting opinions, was, that they should pause before they further applied those principles, and inquire as to the expediency of carrying them farther. But under what circumstances did the noble Earl call upon the House to pause? Did the state of things in this country at the present time, looking to the state of the population, admit of their pausing with safety? This brought him to the arguments of the noble Earl as to the circumstances under which this Motion was made, and as to their being so different from those which induced Lord Liverpool to grant a Committee to enter upon a long, but he believed that he might safely gay not a useless inquiry, and which had subsequently led to the adoption of several important measures. Undoubtedly, circumstances were not exactly the same after the lapse of twenty years; but if the noble Earl meant to say that existing circumstances did not as urgently call for inquiry, or that the subject did not as strongly demand the consideration of the Legislature and the Government now as then, he denied that there was anything in present circumstances to justify such a conclusion. He conceived that his noble Friend who had brought forward this Motion had, on this point, laid down unanswerable arguments, and had shown, from all that was passing in this country and abroad, that the necessity of inquiry was most urgent. Was not this country at the present period—while they were then debating—in a peculiar situation? Did it not happen that, at the present moment, they found, that after the lapse of a single year, there had been not less than five distinct failures in their negotiations of a commercial nature, on principles of reciprocity with foreign nations. He did not intend by that observation to imply anything like a fault to his noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department—for he had no reason to believe, that there was any want of skill in carrying on these negotiations, or of anxiety to bring them to a successful termination. He merely alluded to it as a matter of fact, that with regard to every one of those Powers with which it was thought advisable, and for the interest of the country to frame more strict commercial relations, the negotiation had failed. It was so with respect to the United States; it was so with respect to France, to Germany, to Holland, to Portugal, to Spain, and to the Brazils. If any man looked to the spirit evinced by these States in their negotiations, and to the language employed by them, and which had been adverted to by his noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in a document so recently laid before the House, he thought that there could be no doubt that there was a manifest indisposition on the part of the Powers of Europe to engage in reciprocity commercial treaties with this country. No one could observe the present state of opinion in Europe, and indeed throughout the world, without perceiving that there had succeeded to the spirit of military rivalry and military hostility a feeling only less absurd and objectionable; namely, a spirit of commercial rivalry. This spirit arose from a most unfounded opinion that protection was essential to the success of manufactures, and that by establishing and adhering to that principle, and following in our former path of prohibition, by which they erroneously believed this country had arrived at its state of great prosperity, other countries would obtain as much manufacturing influence as this country. This was an undoubted fact; and, however sanguine a man might be, he must be more sanguine than the noble Duke on the advantage of protection, or of his noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as to the advantage of reciprocity, who would rise and say that he saw any indication of a more amicable and enlightened understanding on this subject on the part of those Foreign Powers to whom he had alluded. He stated this as a fact, and without wishing to undervalue the importance of any of the negotiations in which his noble Friend had been engaged; but he joined most cordially with his noble Friend, the noble Earl who spoke last on that side of the House, that however disagreeable the failure of these negotiations might be to Her Majesty's Ministers, he hoped that they would have firmness and resolution and honesty sufficient to prevent them resorting to a course which he feared was too popular, both in this country and that House, namely, the system of what was called retaliation. He was convinced, that if a Committee was appointed, the evils of resorting to such a course would be shown to fall on the country which attempted to retaliate. He trusted that this country would have the wisdom and the sense not to adopt this principle of retaliation, for if they did, the inevitable result would be the production of much mischief to our manufactures. The evil to the country against which this principle was applied, would only be felt by driving a certain amount of labour and capital from one channel of employment to another; but the effect on the country that adopted the principle would be the displacement of capital from more profitable to less profitable sources of employment, which must weaken the chance of the success of its manufacturing produce in every other market in Europe but its own. He, therefore, hailed with his noble Friend the admission of the noble Earl, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, that nothing like a system of retaliation should be attempted. He also inferred from the correspondence which had taken place between his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Baron Bulow, and from the conversation which had taken place in the other House with respect to that correspondence, that there was no intention on the part of the Government to adopt or resort to a system of retaliation. The noble Earl, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, said, do not agree to the appointment of this Committee, for although you have hitherto proceeded in a right direction, you may by doing so excite expectations which you may be unable to fulfil. The noble Earl did not say that no more was to be done in the way of legislation, founded on those principles which he designated as sound and wise—he believed that the noble Earl was too prudent to say, that in the course of twelve months no further measures in the same direction should be brought forward. Could it, however, excite false expectations in the minds of the Queen's subjects to adopt a course to make them acquainted with facts, so as to induce them readily to adopt the sound principles alluded to by the noble Earl, and to carry them out to the extent that was desirable? It was only a very short time ago that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government stated, in reference to one of the most important branches of trade in this country, that it was in a state of transition; he alluded to the sugar trade. Was this a state of things to which persons engaged in that important trade should reconcile their minds? and could it be expected that they must shut their eyes until some future change was proposed for their approval? Supposing any noble Lord present was connected with the sugar trade or any other trade, similarly circumstanced, he wished them joy after the speech which he had alluded to. They had heard nothing from the noble Earl, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, to lead to the conclusion that nothing more would now be done on this subject, and that they would not again fall back upon the principle and theory on which the Government had acted with respect to other matters. He agreed with the noble Duke that to raise a revenue taxes must be imposed, but taxes upon trade were adverse to revenue, as had been abundantly proved by his noble Friend in proposing his Motion. The noble Duke had said, who ever thought of raising a revenue from free-trade? Now he was satisfied that they could raise a revenue by imposing a moderate tax, but they could not do so by imposing such duties as would be what were called protective. The one course would have the directly opposite effect from the other. The noble Duke had asked to have pointed out to him instances in which there was free-trade with a revenue, in contradistinction to no revenue with a prohibitory duty. He must suppose that the noble Duke did not hear the speech of his noble Friend near him, who had [so clearly shown the effect, as regarded the revenue, of removing the protective duty on various important articles, and only imposing a comparatively small duty. He showed that this particularly was the case as regarded linen, silk, and spirits. The noble Duke denied that the wild theory, as he called it, of free-trade, would increase the revenue; but his noble Friend had shown that its adoption had done so to the amount of several hundreds of thousands of pounds in the year. On this ground, if the noble Duke was not satisfied, surely he should vote for inquiry, and see whether the cases of a more free trade in the articles he mentioned had not been productive of an increased revenue. The noble Earl the Vice-President of the Board of Trade said he should avoid all discussion on the question of sugar, because a Bill on the subject would shortly come before the House. He should have thought that this was a reason why they should previously make inquiries into the subject, so as to make themselves acquainted with the question in all its bearings, and express an opinion on the subject; for it should be recollected that the Sugar Duties Bill could not be altered in that House. The sugar question was one of the utmost importance connected with the commercial interests of this country, and would become more so every year. He believed that this was one of the questions with respect to which the people of this country had a right to complain of the Legislature. He could not say with the noble Duke that the labourers of the country understood this question, but if they did, he was sure that they would regard it as a ground of complaint. This country, of all the countries in the world, had the most extended dominions, spread over every climate, and had more extensive commercial relations in every part of the world than any other, and was enabled more readily than any other to bring together the produce of every soil and climate. The result to the labouring classes should be that they should not merely be sharers in its glory, but that the productions of other countries should be more readily placed within their reach; and, above all, that an article which was one of the greatest necessities, and also luxuries of life, should be more readily attainable by the people of this country, than by those who did not possess the same commercial advantages. But in consequence of the state of the law, the English labourer was only enabled to consume one-third of the quantity of sugar that was attainable by the reformed convict in New Holland, and one-half the quantity attainable by the settler sent to the Cape of Good Hope. After this can you tell the people of this country that they should be proud of its glory, when at the same time you refuse to them all the practical advantages of it. He would not allude to the hypocritical argument, for it would be regarded in no other light by every other country in Europe, as to refusing to allow the introduction of sugar from the most productive markets in the world, because it was what was called slave-grown sugar. This was a most monstrous objection, when your chief branch of manufactures depended upon the supply of a slave grown article, he meant cotton. To be at all consistent, you ought to exclude all cotton not the produce of free labour. After this no country in Europe or in the world would believe that you objected to the introduction of sugar from certain places because it was the produce of slave labour, when you allowed the most extensive introduction of an article produced under analogous circumstances. He thought, at no distant time, they would be compelled to assent to free trade in that article which formed so large a portion of the comforts and necessities of the people of this country. He would not go into another question then, because it might be supposed to be foreign to the discussion; but which, nevertheless, lay side by side to the question to which he had alluded—he meant the effect on the West Indian interest of the admission of foreign sugar, which would no doubt considerably lower the price of that article; but he would add, that justice was due to the West India proprietors, and a greater facility ought to be given to emigration-freedom to the employer as well as the employed. After the failure of the attempts of this country to prohibit the Slave Trade, its efforts might be directed to regulate the transmission of free labourers from various parts of the world—from India, from China, but most of all from Africa, to the West Indies. He thought this country had the deepest interest, as he was sure the West Indian proprietors had, in seeing a floating bridge across the Atlantic, by means of which the people of Africa might be conveyed across to prosecute their free labour in the West Indies. Upwards of 2,000 freemen had already been transported from the former to the latter country as free labourers, and were well pleased with their situation and employment. If Her Majesty's Government were to take the matter up, and proper regulations were made, so that no negro should leave Africa unless in a ship properly prepared for his reception, and without having an opportunity of returning to his own country, by a free passage at any time, he believed the most beneficial system of immigration might be carried on. He entirely concurred in the sentiments so strongly expressed by the noble Earl who immediately preceded him in that debate. He believed the only safety of this country was the systematic adoption of the principles of free trade, and applying them in all cases in which they were not inconsistent with revenue; he believed that revenue alone should be the restriction, and provided they secured that revenue, they might bear the storm of all the prohibitions which the folly of European powers might direct against them. Those prohibitions were the children of their own close and protective policy, but they were in a train, he hoped, of getting rid of those restrictions, and adopting a wiser, more enlarged, and enlightened policy; and he also trusted, when they had adopted it, it would become a beacon which other countries would be disposed to steer by, as the foundation of their own prosperity.

The Earl of Winchilsea

opposed the Motion. He admitted that the question had been introduced to their Lordships' notice with very great talent by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Monteagle); but however the noble Lord might have masked his real intention and views, there was no doubt that it was a free-trade question. Now, if he (the Earl of Winchilsea) resided in a country where they were about to establish government and laws relative to trade and commerce for the first time, no man would more warmly or sincerely advocate the principles of free-trade than he himself would. But let them look at the peculiar circumstances in which this country was placed, observe the artificial state of society, consider the vast and complicated interests which had been created and grown up—whether right or wrong he would not now attempt to argue—by the protection which had been awarded to different branches of public industry. An enormous national debt bore us down at every point, the interest of which must be paid. Talk about free-trade and the impolicy of protective duties as much as they liked, advocate the removal or reduction of this duty or that, still the revenue must be considered; and taking that important question into consideration, and the situation in which we at present stood, those duties could not be abandoned. If the noble Lord had shown that other Powers were prepared to forego all restriction upon the various branches of industry in this country, that might have formed some ground for supporting his Motion; but he (the Earl of Winchilsea) had travelled through several countries where manufactures were springing up that would enter into competition with ours; but they were quite opposed to the taking off those duties which affected British productions, let this country do what it might. As to the agricultural interest, he did not claim for it any protection which he was not fully prepared to extend to every other interest. But what was the situation of the agricultural interest? Let it be remembered, that there were peculiar burthens which were borne by the land, and that in the event of a bad harvest, the taxes, which constituted those burthens, were paid out of the capital, and not out of the profits of the farmer. If proper encouragement were given to the colonial and home markets, without reference in the slightest degree to the foreign market, he believed they would thereby ensure the prosperity of the manufacturing interest to a larger extent than by any other means. Entertaining these opinions he should give his most strenuous opposition to the Motion of the noble Lord.

Lord Monteagle

in reply:—My Lords, I rejoice in having made this Motion, and in the debate which has followed it. We, who recommend to your Lordships the principles of freedom of trade, have gained some vantage ground. The principles of protection have not been very strenuously defended even by the noble Earl, who has represented the Government. But what is still more striking is, that the vicious system of retaliatory duties, and the necessity of awaiting the conclusion of commercial treaties, seem to be generally abandoned. I augur from the very eloquent silence of the Members of the Cabinet, that they fully adopt the statements of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. My Lords, I think the noble Earl (the Earl of Winchilsea), who has spoken on the other side, unwittingly on his part, has strongly justified the Motion I have made. "Think of the National Debt," he observes, "and do not expose your fellow-countrymen to the competition of nations, who pay no such burthens." My Lords, it is on that very account—it is because a much-enduring nation is loaded with taxation—it is because we have an enormous National Debt, that I entreat your Lordships to grant relief to their industry. Do not let them at once suffer from the weight of your taxes and the weight of your injustice. Let industry and capital be free, and depend upon it the taxes will easily be paid, and the National Debt will be secure. The noble Earl states, that in his late visit to the Continent, he has observed in every country the rapid growth of manufacturing skill and industry. I willingly accept this testimony—I make the noble Earl my witness—and intreat your Lordships not to subject the manufacturing industry to unjust and mischievous burthens, from which their rivals in trade are exempt. My Lords, if my principles are wrong, and those of the noble Lords opposite are right, then have you confederates and associates whom you little dream of. The Repealers of Ireland are of the same school of philosophy. They complain, though I have considered most absurdly, that the Imperial Parliament has deprived them of the protection to their industry, which a native Legislature afforded. My Lords, if that protection had been really productive of good to Ireland, they are right. In that case your Lordships would he right likewise. The fact is, you are both wrong, and the case of Ireland affords a demonstration of the whole proposition. You have destroyed the woollens of Kilkenny, by your Leeds and Witney blankets, say the Repealers. Monstrous injustice! But they omit to compare the interest of the millions who require blankets, with those of a few struggling manufacturers of woollen goods. You have ruined our Irish collieries, says another. But what was the just outcry from Belfast and Dublin, when the brewers, distillers, and manufacturers had to pay an import duty on coals, and yet to compete with Liverpool and Glasgow, whose coals were had both cheaper and duty-free also. The absurdity of your protection has not been half exposed. You protected Ireland against England, and at the same time professed to protect England against Ireland. Such was the principle of the 10 per cent. Union Duties. But you did more, you protected one part of England against another. A few southern counties have a soil and climate which allows the ripening of clover and other seeds. For their sakes you placed a heavy duty on clover seeds. This you termed an agricultural protection, forsooth! You taxed every other class of farmers in England, for the sake of the favoured spots, and compelled them to accept a worse article, or to pay an enhanced price. Such is the system into which your Lordships will not even condescend to inquire! Leaving these facts to rest on your Lordships' attention, I now submit my Motion to your judgment.

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, present 38; Proxies 37:—75.—Not-Contents, present 90; Proxies 94:—184. —Majority aganist the Motion 109.

List of the NOT-CONTENTS
Duke of Cambridge. Wicklow
The Lord Chancellor. Bandon
DUKES. Rosslyn
Richmond Powis
Rutland Lonsdale
Buccleuch Harewood
Montrose Cathcart
Wellington Verulam
Buckingham Brownlow
Cleveland. Beauchamp
Winchester Eldon
Salisbury Falmouth
Abercorn Somers
Exeter Ripon.
Londonderry. Hereford
EARLS. Sydney
Devon Hood
Winchilsea Strangford
Shaftesbury Gage
Jersey Hawarden
Morton Lake
Home Combermere
Haddington Canning
Galloway Canterbury.
Dalhousie BISHOPS.
Aberdeen Lincoln
Dunmore Rochester
Dartmouth Glocester
Hardwicke LORDS.
Delawarr De Ros
Bathurst Beaumont
Beverley Saltoun
Mansfield Polwarth
Courtown Middleton
Clanwilliam Sondes
Mountcashell Rodney
Longford Berwick
Kenyon Colchester
Bayning Delamere
Bolton Forester
Northwick Rayleigh
Blayney Wharncliffe
Carbery Feversham
Farnham Tenterden
Redesdale Heytesbury
Sandys Templemore.
DUKES. Clancarty
Beaufort Charleville
Marlborough St. Germans
Roxburghe Bradford
Portland Sheffield
Newcastle De Gray
Northumberland Howe
Tweeddale Ranfurley.
Bute Arbuthnot
Waterford Strathallen
Donegal Massareene
Thomond De Vesci
Ely O'Neil
Cholmondeley St. Vincent
Ailesbury Exmouth
Westmeath Hill.
Ormonde BISHOP.
Bristol. Chichester.
Pembroke Clinton
Denbigh St. John
Westmorland Sinclair
Stamford Reay
Poulett Dynevor
Eglintoun Bagot
Moray Grantley
Lauderdale Carteret
Airlie Montagu
Leven Braybrooke
Selkirk Wodehouse
Balcarres Dunsany
Seafield Clonbrook
Glasgow Crofton
Ferrers Alvanley
Macclesfield Rivers
Warwick Ellenborough
Buckinghamshire Churchill
Egremont Harris
Talbot Prudhoe
Carnarvon Downes
Malmesbury Gifford
Mornington De Tabley
Roden Cowley
Mayo Stuart de Rothesay
Enniskillen Wynford
Clare Abinger
Donoughmore Ashburton
Limerick Seaton.
List of the CONTENTS.
Normanby Leitrim
Clanricarde Radnor
Lansdowne. Auckland
Minto Monteagle
Lovelace Wrottesley
Clarendon Campbell
Fortescue Teynham
Burlington Dacre
Bruce Colborne
Rosebery Cloncurry
Scarborough Leigh
Craven. Stafford
Gardiner. Sudeley
Worcester Cottenham
Norwich. Wenlock
BARONS. Camoys
Lurgan Crewe
Carew Suffield.
DUKES. Ducie
Bedford Leicester.
Devonshire BARONS.
Somerset Furnival
Westminster Vernon
Breadalbane. Godolphin
EARLS. Ponsonby (Earl of Besborough)
Albemarle Mostyn
Gainsborough Vaux (of Harrowden)
Camperdown Rossmore
Fingal Boyle (Earl of Cork)
Lichfield Arundel (of Wardour)
Effingham Dinorben
Suffolk Dunalley
Charlemont Hatherton
Gosford Carleton (Earl of Shannon)
Spencer Dormer
Zetland Stourton.
Paired Off.
Marq. of Huntley Duke of Hamilton
Marq. of Downshire Duke of Sutherland
Earl of Sandwich Marq. of Anglesey
Earl of Kinnoul Duke of Leinster
Earl of Tankerville Earl of Thanet
Earl of Digby Lord Stanley, of Alderley
Earl of Liverpool Lord Foley
Earl of Lucan Lord Beauvale
Earl of Harrowby Lord Langdale
Earl of Stradbroke Earl of Sefton
Earl of Cawdor Lord Denman
Viscount Melville Lord Lyttelton
Viscount Lorton Lord de Freyne
Viscount Beresford Earl Fitzhardinge
Bishop of Winchester Lord Bateman
Bishop of Bangor Bishop of Durham
Bishop of Exeter Marq. of Headfort
Lord Colville Lord Stafford
Lord Ravensworth Lord Methuen
Lord Keane Earl of Stair.

House adjourned.

The following Protest was entered on the rejection of Lord Monteagle's Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the Import Duties:—


1. Because it has been proved by experience, on many previous occasions, that Parliamentary inquiries into the state of our foreign trade have been usefully instituted, and have led to highly beneficial consequences, without creating any inconvenient disturbance or embarrassment to those commercial interests which were brought under the attention of the Legislature.

2. Because such an inquiry seems peculiarly requisite at the present moment, when Parliament is enabled to review the effects of various changes already made in the system of Customs' duties, and to consider the propriety of further alterations recommended for its adoption; it being by such careful investigation of general principles, and by the evidence of practical men, that past experience may be rendered most conducive to future legislative improvement.

3. Because it is the tendency of duties imposed neither for the purposes of revenue nor for countervailing justly the burthens of a particular class, to make the taxation of the country partial, unequal, and therefore, unjust, it becomes the duty of Parliament to examine whether any general or special advantages have been found to proceed from such deviations from those more comprehensive principles by which commercial policy should be governed.

4. Because all protective duties, like all artificial bounties on the diversion of capital from those branches of industry to which it would otherwise, and more naturally, be applied, lead to that application of capital in a manner less profitable to its owners, thereby diminishing the wealth of individuals and of the nation; and therefore all such anomalies in commercial law require the most careful investigation before their continuance can be justified, even in reference to the ultimate interests of those whom it is proposed to protect.

5. Because a preliminary inquiry is well calculated to remove many unfounded alarms, as well as many false expectations, thus preparing the way safely, and with a more general assent of all classes, for the adoption of an improved system of Customs' duties, consistent alike with the interests of the revenue, and with the interests of British industry.

6. Because the necessity of such inquiry is rendered still more apparent, from the announcement that it is intended, in the course of the next year, to take a comprehensive review of our financial and commercial laws, the proposed inquiry affording the best security against unwise or hasty legislation, like that by which we have seen revenue sacrificed without the attainment of any commensurate benefit by the consumer, the total receipt of duties lessened By the increase of their nominal amount, and novel and augmented colonial discriminations injudicially sanctioned by the Legislature; thus raising most impolitic obstacles to the establishment of an improved system.

7. Because the system of protective duties not only diminishes the wealth of a nation, by imposing fetters and restraints on productive industry; but it also excites suspicions and jealousies in our relations with foreign powers, leading to unwise and irritating international retaliations, dangerous to the peace of the world.

8. Because it peculiarly behoves the first commercial power of Europe to give an example to other nations of a sincere desire to discard the narrow and selfish restraints of restrictive policy, and to apply practically those more generous and comprehensive principles sanctioned by the authority of the most eminent writers, the recommendation of the ablest Statesmen, and the evidence of experience; by which it is proved that freedom of commerce best enables individuals, as well as communities, to apply capital and labour to such employments as are most useful to all; stimulating industry, rewarding ingenuity, and distributing labour most effectually and economically; and, by thus creating the largest amount of production, and the widest extent and variety of interchange, binding in one common tie of interest the universal society of nations.

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