HL Deb 25 February 1848 vol 96 cc1313-32

said, that in rising, in pursuance of the notice he had given, to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the state and policy of the Navigation Laws, he regretted that the task had not fallen into abler hands, for he felt how inadequate he was to perform it; but the subject was one of such vast importance to the commercial classes, and to the various interests of the empire at large, that he felt confident their Lordships would be disposed to bear with any failure on his part; and if he were only able to induce them to give their serious and grave attention to a subject now for the first time brought under the consideration of the House as a whole question, he should be fully satisfied, knowing that any deficiency on his part would be amply compensated by their Lordships' attention to the subject. Although the noble Lord opposite had had the courtesy to intimate that the Government did not intend to oppose the appointment of the Committee, yet notwithstanding this, he thought it due to their Lordships to state his reasons for moving for it; and he believed it necessary in other respects, inasmuch as there were various considerations connected with the subject which might not at once strike them, and which it would be right to mention to the House. In the first place, the question lay so much in detail—comprising so many parts, and of so complicated a nature in all its bearings—connected with so many trades and interests, as well as with the great and important national interest of self-defence, that it would be impossible in a mere debate to bring the whole of it before them. It was therefore necessary that they should have an opportunity of consulting with those who were practically acquainted with the subject; and the best mode of doing so, in his belief, was to lay before them the evidence of such persons. There was another circumstance of immense importance in the consideration of this question. It was with the deepest regret he felt himself called upon to mention that he had found abroad, in conversation with persons connected with those great interests, a feeling of doubt and apprehension, as well as a sentiment, not of disrespect, but of disgust, with respect to the conduct of the governing powers of this country. Such had been the sudden and immediate changes of opinion on questions connected with the grave policy of the empire, that it was not astonishing if persons out of doors entertained doubts whether there was any such thing as an opinion at all upon these matters, or, if there was an opinion, whether that opinion would be maintained. He regretted to say that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government bad been precisely of a kind to give rise to these feelings; and he was compelled, therefore, to endeavour to induce the House to grant this Committee, that he might find out, among other things, if there had been any such extraordinary or sudden change on this question as to have induced Government, in the space of six months, to alter directly their course, and from steering due north to steer at once to the south. On the 21st of December, 1846, the Shipowners' Society of London had an interview with Lord Clarendon at the Board of Trade. On that occasion it appeared, from the account of the deputation entered on the minutes of the society, that "they were graciously received, and were assured in the most distinct language that no intention whatever was entertained on the part of Her Majesty's Government of making any alteration in these laws." On the 15th of March, 1847, these gentlemen—doubting, as he supposed, whether they could depend on the governing powers—went again to the Board of Trade, and asked the same question; and were again assured that there was no intention on the part of the Government to interfere in the question—that already an individual Member of Parliament had mooted the subject and moved for a Committee, which the Government would not feel justified in refusing, but that their bias and feeling were against any alteration, and that they would take good care the Committee should be a fair one, as they would appoint Mr. Milner Gibson chairman of it, being desirous to give every satisfaction to the parties interested. Here, then, was a clear proof that the Government declared they would not interfere with the Navigation Laws, and had no desire to change them. But on the 23rd of November there was a Speech delivered from the Throne, in which it was intimated that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring forward a measure involving some change in these laws. During the interval between March 15, and the delivery of the Queen's Speech, the public had been surprised by an announcement in an American newspaper, with an extract from which he would trouble their Lordships. It was headed "Repeal of the Navigation Laws." It stated— A correspondence has taken place between the British Secretary for Foreign Affairs and our Minister at that Court, relative to the repeal of the Navigation Laws of Great Britain. Mr. Bancroft applied to Viscount Palmerston, early in November, to learn whether Ministers would consent to establish with the United States a perfect system of reciprocity, in making all vessels of either country fitting out from any port in the world free to trade to any port of the other nation, whether home or colonial. Viscount Palmerston, after the lapse of some weeks, replied that although Her Majesty's Ministers did not feel at liberty to advise Her Majesty at once to make such a change in the commercial system as was asked by Mr. Bancroft, without the sanction of Parliament; yet as soon as that body should meet, a measure would be introduced which would embrace all the views put forth by Mr. Bancroft in his note. It is not doubted that Parliament will at once act favourably on the Bill. The importance to the United States of such a measure cannot be exaggerated. The British colonial system has been a most grievous restriction upon our commerce, and its annihilation, as promised by Viscount Palmerston, will open to our enterprising merchants the lucrative trade of the East and West Indies, and of the other British settlements, from which they have been hitherto debarred. This will be the greatest stride yet taken by free trade; and it is not to be doubted that all Europe will follow the example of Great Britain. The liberal commercial treaty made by Hanover with the United States has been, in no small measure, instrumental in dis- posing the British Government to this wise measure. The Rhine provinces have recently imitated the example of Hanover towards the United States; and everywhere, silently, but steadily, our commercial relations are being put upon the most advantageous footing. The repeal by Great Britain of the laws restricting the trade of the United States with her colonies will be far more beneficial to this country than any commercial treaty ever made by our Government. He read this passage to show the manner in which the Americans considered the question, and to acquaint their Lordships, that it was the first notice the people of England received that there had been any intercourse between this country and the United States on the subject. Was it justifiable, he asked, that a Minister of the Crown should open negotiations which were contrary to the law of the land, with the Minister of a foreign country, and that the people of England should receive their first information of these negotiations in a newspaper published at Washington? In his opinion, any such overtures should have been communicated to Parliament. Not only had the country been entirely deceived with respect to the intentions of the Minister of the day, but the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs had gone further, and had induced the people of the United States to believe that we were pledged to them to make some alterations in the law of the land. The course for the Minister of the Crown to have adopted on such an occasion would have been to say, "I cannot enter into this question with you, for it is contrary to law, and till that is changed, it will be impossible for me to speak of alterations." To deal with a subject of such vast importance, connected so intimately with the deep interests of the nation, and with the welfare of so many classes of the people, in the manner which had been adopted by the noble Lord, was unjustifiable towards the people of this country. Nor did his reasons to find fault with the conduct of the Government cease there, for Her Majesty's Ministry stated they would endeavour to use their influence that the Committee should be fairly constituted—that the inquiries before it should be conducted with impartiality. If they had done so—and he did not doubt it—the proceedings of that Committee, and the results to which it had come, were anything but fair. In the course of their investigation they had examined twenty-five witnesses in favour of the repeal of the Navigation Laws; while for their defence and maintenance only nine witnesses were called on to give their tes- timony. The sittings of the Committee terminated, in consequence of the dissolution of Parliament, before they made their report; and they left nothing after them but a very one-sided collection of evidence, hardly any portion of the testimony which might have been given on the other side being contained therein at all. One circumstance alone that had occurred during the investigation would render it unfair and partial. A distinguished officer of the Royal Navy, Sir J. Stirling, had given his evidence in favour of the abolition of the Navigation Laws; but before he could be cross-examined, the Committee were informed that the duty of the gallant officer required his absence, and that he had been compelled to sail from England. Another reason why he deemed inquiry necessary was this. It had been always considered by persons in Parliament, and by the people of this country, that any paper issuing as a Government document from a subordinate officer of the Crown, as a return or statistical statement, contained facts which might be implicitly relied on. In fact, no other papers were ever considered worthy of much attention, and the Legislature confided in their correctness, believing them perfect as far as human knowledge and calculation could go. A most important paper had been issued as a return to Parliament, to which he begged leave to call their attention. It was set forth as a statement of the protected and unprotected trade of the country, and had been much commented on by the free-trade writers, who had used its statistics for the purpose of making out their case. Now he was perfectly ready to admit that if these statements had been true, they would have succeeded in making out their arguments for free trade; but that was not the case—the paper was false. The writer of this paper, who was, he believed, Mr. Porter, the gentleman at the head of the statistical department of the Board of Trade, had, of course, compiled it to suit and favour his own views with respect to our commerce, he being learned in that description of theory which was so popular now-a-days, and having a hobby of his own, which he was anxious to dress out in the best colours. Mr. Porter had compiled this paper, therefore, in order to show the great advantage which had arisen from unprotected trade; but the way in which he went about doing it was strikingly unfair, as he would prove to them. The report was drawn up in two columns—one show- ing protected, and the other unprotected trade; and along list of places on the coast of Africa and Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena and Ascension, Mauritius, British India, British North American colonies, Australian colonies, British West Indies, fisheries, Jersey, Guernsey, &c. was given, from which Mr. Porter drew the following results:—In 1824 the tonnage of protected trade entered from their foreign ports amounted to 893,097 tons; in 1846 it advanced to 1,735,924 tons, showing an increase of ninety-four per cent. But in 1824 the unprotected trade was 904,223 tons, and in 1846 it was 2,558,809, showing an increase in the same period of 182 per cent. Now, his (the Earl of Hardwicke's) answer to this was, that the whole statement was a mistake—that the whole of the trade to which the question referred was protected. In these countries reciprocity treaties existed—ships could go from one country to another, carrying each other's goods; but the American, for instance, could not go to China to carry goods to us—the whole of the Chinese trade then was protected, for it was in our hands, as the Chinese had no fleet, while it was one of the most important we possessed. But in this respect it was returned as unprotected; and the trade with Brazil, Mexico, and South America generally, was placed in the same column, although in each instance it was highly protected by the very circumstances that these countries had no commercial marine, and that the ships of no other country could carry their produce to us. There was one feature in this report on which he might have commented in strong language: one of the largest items in the list of unprotected trades was that with France; and what did they suppose it amounted to in 1846? Not less than 556,824 tons. But the statement was not true, as he would prove from another portion of the paper. They would find in that year that the number of ships entered inwards from France amounted to forty-seven, of 7,101 tons. In this portion of Mr. Porter's return, this number was swelled to 228,186 tons. On the other hand, it could be shown that from 1824 to 1846 the increase in foreign tonnage had been enormous; for, while in the former year the amount of foreign tonnage in our ports (as we understood) was 758,599 tons, in 1846 it amounted to 1,803,177 tons, being an increase of 137 per cent. He now turned to another portion of the subject, and addressed himself to the speech made the other night by his noble Friend opposite, in which he stated that it was for the advantage of the West Indies that the contemplated change in the navigation laws should take place. Now, so far as he (the Earl of Hardwicke) had had any conversation with gentlemen connected with the West Indies, he found that they scouted the idea of deriving any benefit from the repeal of the navigation laws. One gentleman had stated to him that the advantage which the whole of the West Indian colonies would derive from the change would not amount to the value of a 10l. note. It must be considered that if the rate of freights were reduced, that they must be reduced in favour of shippers of produce from other parts of the world, as well as those of the West Indies. But what would be the advantage of the reduction of freights to the consumer in this country? He believed that the repeal of the navigation laws might reduce the freight upon—say a pound of cotton—by the half of a farthing; so that the purchaser of a cotton dress of the value of 10s. would gain in the price a little less than a farthing. A somewhat similar result would take place with respect to tea. The fact was, that his noble Friend was the driver of a theory which was perilling the best interests of the country. Let them look, for example, at the state of our import and export trade with America, to the state of the West Indies, to that of our cotton manufactures, and to that of the national finances; and then let them say whether the projects of free-trade theorists were not perilling the safety of the country. The value of the imports over the exports in our American trade had been gradually increasing. He would, in proof of this, show the real value of imports to the United States, contrasted with the real value of exports from the United States, in the three several periods of five years each:—

Exports. Imports.
First period of five years, from 1815 to 1819 inclusive £43,710,101 £15,822,680
Balance in favour of England 27,327,413
Second period, from 1826 to 1830 28,443,366 21,803,465
Balance in favour of England 6,639,901
Third period, from 1842 to 1846 30,458,513 66,136,454
Balance against England 35,677,941
What was the state of our cotton exports since slave-grown sugar had been admitted at reduced duties? The export—
From May 12 to September12,1846, to the Brazils 1,981,620
In sixteen months after the passing of the new tariff, to the Brazils 2,264,386
Increase 282,766
Eighteen months' credit exports not paid for.
An export duty on Brazilian sugar of 12 per cent. Raised her duties in 1845, and maintains them. Raised her revenue from 7,000 contos in 1845 to 16,000 contos in 1837.
Exports to Cuba, sixteen months before Act 322,488
Exports to Cuba, sixteen months after Act 210,732
Loss 111,756
Exports to Cuba, Porto Rico, sixteen months before Act 4,820
Exports to Cuba, sixteen months after Act 1,892
Loss 2,938
Exports of sixteen months in 1845 and 1846 to—
Bombay 1,643,515
Sixteen months, ending the 12th January, 1848 1,179,763
Loss 463,752
Calcutta 2,816,585
Sixteen months' ending the 12th January, 1848 2,174,008
Loss 642,577
Madras 102,490
Sixteen months' ending the 12th January, 1848 107,494
Gain 5,004
Mauritius 89,782
Sixteen months' ending the 12th January, 1848 41,189
Loss 48,593
British West Indies 827,483
Sixteen months' ending the 12th January, 1848 638,175
Loss 186,308
Total loss 1,339,224
Total gain 282,766 unpaid.
It was computed that 70,000l. has been saved to the manufacturers of cotton by cheap sugar, to meet the above loss. The total loss to the cotton manufacturer who was desirous to have cheap sugar was 1,339,324l., and the gain 282,000l. He was justified in saying, that the course of policy Government was pursuing was de- structive of the best interests of the country. No doubt it might be said that these considerations were foreign to the main subject of his Motion. Nevertheless, he felt that in every case in which their Lordships were called upon to make a legislative move in the direction of free trade, it was their duty to lay before the people of this country the history of the progress of free trade, and to impress upon them, over and over again, the results which had flowed from the policy which they had been pursuing, in order to show how necessary it was that a stop should be put to it. He would now, however, proceed to the consideration of the subject immediately before their Lordships. Their Lordships were aware that the so-called navigation laws were a number of Acts of Parliament passed in various periods for the purpose of regulating the trade and navigation of the country. These Acts extended back to very ancient times; but as one of them had been passed in the reign of Her present Majesty, they could not be said to have become antiquated or obsolete. Now, by these Acts the whole of our coasting trade must be carried on by British-built vessels, sailed by British masters, and manned by British seamen. The whole of our colonial trade, in the same manner, was placed under the same regulations, with this trifling difference, that, speaking in round numbers, one-fourth of the crew of a British ship so engaged might be foreign. Our trade with the rest of the world was in a state of reciprocity—in other words, foreign ships were allowed to enter our ports on the same terms as those granted by the foreign nations to our vessels. At present, however, one of the schemes in agitation was, to open up the trade of the world in favour of the United States. Such would, in his opinion, be a most fatal course of policy; for he believed that in the present condition of this country it would amount to the absolute ruin of our colonial trade. That trade employed 40,000 seamen; but the American mercantile marine was increasing so fast in power and efficiency, that it was likely it would soon be able to compete successfully with our own. He found the increase of British shipping to be as follows:—
In 1700 216,000 tons
1815 2,600,000 tons
1847 3,800,000 tons
Now, compare the amount of American shipping, which was as follows:—
Entrances, exclusive of coasting vessels.
Ships. Tonnage.
American 7,730 2,101,359
Foreign 6,440 1,220,346
Total crews 163,189
American 8,102 2,202,393
Foreign 6,258 1,176,605
Total crews 165,792
In the President's Message this statement was made— Should the ratio of increase in the number of our merchant vessels be progressive, and be as great for the future as during the past year, the time is not distant when our tonnage and commercial marine will be larger than that of any other nation in the world. And with this expectation on the part of the Americans, and their efforts to realise their expectations, we were about to surrender our navigation laws. Why, then, were we to make such surrender? What could the Americans give in exchange? Nothing! Where, then, was the reciprocity? We had our colonial trade in our own hands, and yet we were about to give the Americans such advantages as could not fail to ruin that trade. Look at the trade with China. The Americans sent cotton there, and took back tea. We could not compete with America. The American marine was manned with our own seamen; this was another evil, and one that perilled our maritime superiority. Take the whale fishery in the South Seas, and sec what we had sacrificed, and how the Americans had benefited by our folly. The following extract would illustrate his argument:— South Sea whale fishery, up to 1824, a bounty was given. A protecting duty from that time to 1830, of 39l. 18s. per tun on sperm oil. In 1830 it was reduced to 151. per tun. The duty ceases in 1848. Result, in 1820, employed 137 vessels, at 350 tons; 48,000 tons of shipping, with 4,000 men. American importation of oil, 500,000l. to 600,000l.; price to the public at the period was from 50l. to 70l. per tun. In 1845, not a single ship cleared out for this fishery. Americans have now 720 ships, and 20,000 men. This was free trade. The Americans had 720 ships and 20,000 seamen. And what was the consequence. We were now paying a higher price for oil, and, in addition, were obliged to take the oil from the Ame- ricans, where we once had a very profitable trade. Now let us look at the state of our trade with those countries with whom we had reciprocity treaties:—
Country. Date of Treaty Tonnage.
British. Foreign.
Prussia April 2, 1824 94,664 151,621
—1845 49,334 256,711
Dec. of British 45,330
Inc. of Foreign 105,090
Swedn & Norway May 25, 1824 28,493 175,364
—1845 16,372 219,820
Dec. of British 12,121
Inc. of Foreign 44,456
Denmark June 16, 1824 6,738 23,689
—1845 4,528 84,566
Dec. of British 2,210
Inc. of Foreign 60,877
France Jan. 26, 1823 89,301 57,171
—1845 552,925 222,527
Inc. of British 463,624
Inc. of Foreign 165,365
Now, with regard to France. This extraordinary amount of tonnage, and still more extraordinary increase, having led to more minute inquiry, a return was presented to the House of Commons (Parliamentary Paper, No. 28), from which it appears that of 556,821 tons entered inwards in the year 1846, 228,189 tons consisted of forty-seven steam-vessels, chiefly carrying passengers alone, and measuring in the aggregate but 7,150 tons, many of them also Government vessels. These steamers were magnified into the enormous amount recorded, by the multiplication of the number of passages made between the French and English coasts, one vessel alone, the Prince Ernest, of 145 tons, figuring in these Custom-house returns as 24,215 tons of British shipping. The number of trips across the Channel by sailing vessels in the French trade is so great as utterly to vitiate all conclusion.
Country. Date of Treaty Tonnage.
British Foreign
U. S. of America Aug. 6, 1827 73,204 217,535
—1845 223,676 444,442
Inc. of British 150,472
Inc. of Foreign 226,907
Unitd Netherlnds Oct. 27, 1837 216,593 102,301
—1845 286,569 226,030
Inc. of British 69,976
Inc. of Foreign 123,729
Germany March 2, 1841 187,972 110,348
—1845 205,130 115,253
Inc. of British 17,158
Inc. of Foreign 4,905
Russia Jan. 11, 1843 314,682 47,883
—1845 380,864 75,678
Inc. of British 66,182
Inc. of Foreign 27,795
And, with the exception of three States, we had diminished our trade, while the foreigner had increased his trade. It was, therefore, perfectly clear, if you opened the trade, that you must take another step. You must consent to give up the building, fitting out, and equipment of ships. The shipowner must be permitted to go to foreign yards, where he could get his vessels built cheapest. The merchants' yards here would then be reduced in number and efficiency; and thus further disadvantages would result. We should also be dependent for our merchant ships on foreign shipbuilders. Presuming that the shipowner would go where he could build cheapest, it was necessary to see if England would be his building country. Now let them compare the price of building in foreign countries. The average cost of building ships was 17l. 10s. a ton. In the United States the same ships could be built for the following sums:—
"The price of new British-built ships, for distant voyages, 17l. 10s.
£. percent
500 tons would cost 8,750
United States £14 10 pr ton 7,250 17½
Holland 14 0 pr ton 7,000 20
France 13 10 pr ton 6,750 22
Denmark & Norway 12 0 pr ton 6,000 31 4–10
Bremen 11 0 pr ton 5,500 37 1–10
Sweden 11 0 pr ton
Prussia (oak) 9 10 pr ton 4,750 45 7–10
Finland 8 10 pr ton 4,250 51 4–10
"The average is taken of British ships as ranging between twelve and eight years. The best foreign ships would be nine-year ships."
If that were true, what chance had English shipowners or shipbuilders, and the various trades connected with shipping, against foreigners? But if the Government were to proceed in the course pointed out, they would also be bound to admit foreign seamen as well as foreign shipping; for it was utterly impossible that the British merchant could compete with the foreign shipowner, unless he was relieved of the burdens now imposed upon him in the shape of interdiction of the employment of foreign seamen. By a summary of the expenses of a foreign and a British ship of 500 tons each, having the same number of officers and nearly the same number of men, the following results were apparent:—


"Each ship having captain, chief mate, second and third mates, boatswain and his mate, one carpenter, cook, and the number of seamen each ship carries, in all—

Men. Per Month. Per Year.
British 26 £65 10 0 £786 0 0
United States 19 55 15 0 669 0 0
Dutch 23 53 7 0 640 12 0
Prussian 20 27 12 0 331 10 0
Swedish 20 32 18 0 395 0 0
Bremen 22 39 5 0 471 0 0"

Their Lordships should remember that the military and the commercial navy of this country were one and the same—that the mercantile navy, in short, was the marine militia of the State, wherefrom the resources of the military navy were drawn. Therefore, the support of that navy should not be neglected, for this country could not have a large body of men drilled to both services, as the Russians had; and if it were to have a Navy, it should also have a nursery for seamen. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) repudiated the doctrine of Sir James Stirling, that British merchant seamen were of no value, as a senseless absurdity, which he wondered any man of mind could entertain for a moment. There was, in fact, no means of manning the military navy of this country, in time of emergency, except through the commercial navy. It might be true that not one-tenth of the military navy at present afloat was drawn, periodically, from the commercial navy; but that arose from the circumstance that sailors in the service of Her Majesty were so well cared for, that they did not willingly leave it. The moment, however, there was a demand for recruits, to the merchant service the country would be obliged to recur at once. It was curious, at this time, to observe that the effects of free trade upon British shipping had been made apparent long since, when a similar tampering as that now proposed took place with the navigation laws, and an Act was passed to prevent the evil consequences that had accrued, viz., 1 James II., cap. 18. In the preamble of that Act it was recited:— Whereas, for some years past, and more especially since the laying a duty upon coals brought into the river Thames, there has been observed a mere than ordinary decay in building ships in England, and particularly in Newcastle, Hull, Yarmouth, Ipswich, &c, &c, where many stout ships were yearly built in the coal and other trade, which were of great use to His Majesty in time of war, and a nursery for able seamen; but by the discouragement that trade hath ever since been under, occasioned chiefly by the freedom wherewith foreign ships and vessels, bought and brought into this kingdom, have engaged in the coal and other inland trade, equal to that of English-built ships, the merchants, owners, and others have not been able to build as formerly, which hath caused many English shipwrights, caulkers, and seamen to seek their employments abroad, whereby the building trade is not only lost in several places, and in others very much decayed, but also the importations of timber, plank, hemp, pitch, tar, iron, masts, canvas, and other commodities used in building and fitting out ships, are greatly lessened, to the apparent prejudice of his Majesty's customs, the loss of a considerable employment for shipping, and consequently of all other trades depending thereon, to the great advantage of foreign nations—Be it enacted," &c. If things were as this recital described on that occasion, he (the Earl of Hardwicke) saw no reason to suppose that they would be otherwise on the present occasion, or that they should not return to that deplorable state. He should only say that if the country was determined to have an efficient and an economical navy, and moderate naval estimates, it would take care that the merchant navy of England should never want a monopoly of that trade which was necessary to maintain a sufficient supply of seamen for a time of war. The noble Earl concluded by moving for a Select Committee on the Navigation Laws.


said, that, although on the part of the Government he should not oppose the Motion, he was bound to state that he did not at all think inquiry into the subject necessary. He did not, he repeated, consider any fresh inquiry into the Navigation Laws requisite, on the one hand; but, on the other, he was free to admit that he saw no possible objection to it. If it was not necessary, it was attended with no inconvenience; on the contrary, he thought the more light was thrown upon the subject, the more decided would be the conclusion come to, that these laws were not only inconvenient, but positively detrimental to the interests of those classes connected with the shipping trade. As there was to be an inquiry, and as the whole of this question was to be brought before them, he saw no reason why he should enter into any argument upon it. He was perfectly willing to submit to any prejudices which might at present exist upon this subject, convinced that time would prove him right; for, indeed, he did not fear that their Lordships would be led away by the opinion that free trade was a folly and a delusion, and that Adam Smith, and all the other illustrious statesmen who followed his doctrines and maintained his opinions, were under similar delusions as to the effects of free trade. Still less did he think it necessary to follow the noble Lord into all his details respecting the French navigation laws, although he did not think it would be difficult to point out many false inferences which he had drawn, and many erroneous convictions into which he had fallen; but he did not think it was the proper time. He thought it would be more fitting to do so when the whole question came before them, and then, when that time arrived, he had the utmost confidence they should be able to prove to demonstration that British commerce and the shipping interest had deeply suffered from the complicated, inconsistent, and inconvenient system of restriction which now existed, restricting the right of using foreign ships. He (Earl Grey) would not touch on the argument of the noble Earl as respected the colonies, further than to say, that when the noble Earl said it would be a disadvantage to the West Indian colonies to have a repeal of the Navigation Laws, the noble Earl was entirely and altogether at issue with the West Indians themselves. As far as public documents were conclusive upon that question, they were, on the contrary, all in favour of the repeal; and he believed that there was not a House of Assembly in the West Indies that had not petitioned Her Majesty to relieve those colonies from the operation of the Navigation Laws. He (Earl Grey) would merely make one or two further remarks upon some observations on the first part of the speech of the noble Earl. A charge had been brought against Her Majesty's Government by the noble Earl, that they had changed their opinion on the subject of the Navigation Laws; and he had founded his charge on the reported reply of his noble Friend the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, when President of the Board of Trade, when during the course of last year he was waited upon by various deputations, who sought to be informed whether the Government intended to bring in any measure with reference to those laws. And his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) in answer to them, stated that there was no intention then on the part of the Government to propose any change in the Navigation Laws. His answer was most strictly correct: there was no intention of proposing any measure in the last Session of Parliament. He was satisfied, however, that his noble Friend had never let fall a word on that occasion in favour of the existing system; but, on the contrary, he felt satisfied his noble Friend was then decidedly in favour of such change. The next charge was, the publication in America of copies of the correspondence of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office with the American Minister in this country, on the subject of the intentions of the Government with regard to the Navigation Laws. The noble Earl stated the Government had informed that Minister that a change would be made—though they had not the power to make it unless with the consent of Parliament. But nothing was more usual among nations having constitutional Governments than undertakings to submit certain measures to their respective Legislatures. It was the course adopted in the great majority of commercial cases. In such cases a Government enters into confidential communication with foreign Powers to ascertain their views; and then submits their own project founded upon them to Parliament. The noble Earl did not state that Her Majesty's Government had entered into a treaty on these conditions; he only complained that on the eve of Her Majesty's Speech to Parliament, the Foreign Secretary had informed the American Minister that he believed a mutual relaxation of the restriction that existed on the shipping of both countries would be very advantageous, and that the Government were prepared to propose it. The noble Earl had complained of the manner in which the Committee of the other House on the subject of the Navigation Laws had had been selected; but he (Earl Grey) did not think it either a usual or a convenient course to discuss in that House the way in which the affairs of the other branch of the Legislature were conducted. The inquiry, however, before the Committee, he (Earl Grey) could state to their Lordships was carried on in the strictest spirit of jus- tice, and with the most scrupulous care and attention. The noble Earl had described the statement of Mr. Porter, on the subject of the Navigation Laws, as a falsity; but their Lordships would find that, upon strict examination, the allegation of falseness would vanish altogether. The figures, according to the noble Earl, were incorrectly stated, and the numbers were wrongly given; and the noble Earl had also said that a mistake was made by that gentleman in classifying some portions of the shipping trade as protected, whilst other portions of it were not protected. In that statement he (Earl Grey) was inclined to agree. As far as the figures were in question all was correct: there were no blunders. Mr. Porter stated the case in one way, the noble Earl stated it in another; but he (Earl Grey) did not, therefore, admit the charge of falseness. The noble Earl objected that a ship making ten voyages was set down as ten ships; but he (Earl Grey) contended that a ship making-ten voyages was practically ten ships as far as the tonnage was concerned, and must be reckoned as such. To proceed on any other principle would be altogether a most fallacious mode of acting. With respect to the proposed inquiry, he was sanguine in believing that the result of it would be to afford still stronger and more decisive evidence in favour of the expediency of the alteration of those laws, which he hoped their Lordships, before the conclusion of the Session, would see effected.


rejoiced that the noble Lord was willing to grant the Committee; but when he found the noble Earl intended to proceed to legislate with respect to the Navigation Laws without waiting for the report of the Committee, he saw that the Government did not intend that the granting of the Committee should be of much use to those who asked for it. He inferred from the twofold statement of the noble Earl, that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a measure on the subject in the course of the Session, and that it was his opinion that the existing law was injurious to the mercantile interests and commerce of the country—that, in his opinion, the changes which the noble Earl would introduce would be advantageous to commerce. If such should be shown to be the result of the proposed alterations, he (the Earl of Ellenborough) would be most willing to acquiesce in them. But he trusted their Lordships would not agree to any change whatever in the Navigation Laws, unless they were satisfied the result of the change would be to increase the navigation and tonnage and the number of seamen employed by this country. Whenever the proposed alteration was brought before their Lordships he should come to the consideration of the question with that principle fixed in his mind. He concurred in the opinion expressed on this subject by his noble Friend (the Earl of Hardwicke), though he arrived at the same conclusion from different premises. For his noble Friend considered that in all matters of commerce protection should be the rule, and free trade the exception; whereas he (the Earl of Ellenborough), imbued from a very early period of his life with the doctrines of Adam Smith, was of opinion that free trade should be the rule, and protection the exception; but the Navigation Laws appeared to him, of all others, to be the case that formed the exception. It had been observed that the West India interest was in favour of, while the shipowners of this country were adverse to, an alteration of those laws. He was not surprised at such being the case. The West India interest was not called upon to look to the maritime interest of this country; all that they looked to was the mode of sending their own produce cheaply to the market; and, therefore, they might very reasonably join in the demand for the abolition of laws which they believed to stand in their way. They believed they suffered from those laws, and they therefore protested against them; but the shipowners here apprehended not only injury to themselves, but danger to the whole shipping interests of the empire, from such a course as was now contemplated; and their opinion was surely of some value. There were other points which had been referred to, and to which he hoped the inquiry would be extended; and if, under the form of his noble Friend's Motion, the inquiry could not be so extended, he should be disposed to add a few words to it to effect that purpose. His noble Friend had relied on the official statement of the tonnage of shipping; but he feared that no satisfactory reliance could be laid on that statement, which was so confused by the repetition of voyages inserted in it that the amount of tonnage given in it did not show the quantity of shipping. It would be absolutely necessary to have those accounts framed on a totally different principle. There was another point to which he should likewise desire to have the attention of the Committee directed. At present ships were by law obliged to take a certain number of apprentices, according to their tonnage—a policy the obvious intent of which was to increase the number of seamen at the disposal of the State. But if the matter were closely investigated, he feared it would be found that more young men were brought by it into the naval profession than could he absorbed by the vacancies arising from death, or by the increase of navigation. Thus, it led to the elder seamen being thrust out of employment by the younger men, and thus deprived of the means of support. It would be found, he thought, on investigation, that two-ninths of all the seamen we had to rely upon to recruit the Navy were apprentices under 20 years of age. He apprehended that the statement of the naval force of the United States which had been referred to, would not be found to be quite correct, But, undoubtedly, it was a matter of grave consideration if the number of seamen belonging to the United States was 112,000, and if, as it was stated, 100,000 of them were foreigners. What proportion of that number was composed of English seamen he knew not; but he was quite satisfied that when an English seaman made two or three voyages in United States' ships he did not usually return to the service of his own country, though perhaps the man who had only made one voyage in them sometimes did. But what he particularly begged their Lordships' consideration to was the vast importance to this country of retaining a great commercial marine. He regretted that in time of peace there was not that constant interchange between the maritime service of the State and the mercantile marine which was desirable; in time of peace the value of such a system was not perceived; but when war came, the merchant service was the reserve force of the State, and it was the possession of a permanent mercantile marine, which had hitherto given them the superiority over other nations. Russia or France, from their arrangements, might in the commencement of a war put a more powerful fleet to sea than we could; but they could not like us draw upon the reserve of a mercantile marine, which had enabled us in the last war to obtain a superiority which he trusted we should never lose in the case of another. He agreed with his noble Friend that nothing could he more absurd than to suppose that on a war breaking out, we could man our fleet without having recourse to the old system of impressment. He had read a great many plans for manning our Navy, which might be good enough if but 4,000 or 5,000 men were wanted; but when a number of men equalling the one-half of our mecantile marine were wanted, those plans became nugatory and of no avail. We had relied formerly on our preponderance at sea for the protection of our coasts from insult and danger; but the application of steam to ships of war, rendering them independent of all uncertainty of the winds, which formerly might impede the movements of a squadron, had interfered greatly with that preponderance. Had the French fleet in the last war been composed of steamers instead of sailing vessels, the result might have been very different from what it really was. He now told them they could not rely on their former preponderance—they must attack the enemy in his ports, and not remain in a cowardly manner to await the enemy's attack in the hope of protecting their own coasts. But whatever precautions they took, let them depend on it they must have here behind them a force sufficient to protect the heart of this country from the direful and to them strange calamity of an invasion.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned.

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