§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
rose to move their Lordships to give a second reading to a Bill for the repeal of the navigation laws, or more correctly, for the repeal of such portions and fragments of the navigation laws as then existed and were in force. In making that Motion, he felt relieved in some degree from the necessity of entering into that mass of details which the subject might appear to require, by the recollection that most of their Lordships must be familiarised with it, not only by the repeated discussions which had taken place upon it elsewhere, but also by the inquiries which had been instituted by a Committee of their own body. At the same time he felt, and he felt very sensibly, that he had opposed to him, on the present occasion, feelings in which he himself participated, and prejudices, if they were prejudices, which he could not but respect, because they were feelings and prejudices connected with the 1317 attachment which every Englishman entertained for the naval service of his country, and were founded on the belief, the erroneous but perfectly sincere and honest belief, that the present Bill would be prejudical to that force on which they thought the country relied, and ought to rely, for the preservation of its rank and importance among nations. He, therefore, felt it to be incumbent upon him to disabuse, if he could do so, those who entertained such prejudices; but before he entered on that part of his subject, it would be of advantage, and would tend to shorten the discussion, if he adverted at once to some points upon which he considered that all their Lordships were to a great extent agreed. He imagined that there were few persons in that assembly prepared to dispute, that it tended to the wealth of a country, as it did to the wealth of an individual, to obtain what he desired, and to send what he was willing to part with, by the cheapest and most convenient means. That being admitted on the one hand, he was prepared on the other to admit that, although that was a maxim and a principle which it was impossible to contradict, it contained, nevertheless, a principle liable to exceptions, and that, just as their Lordships were justified in suspending the liberties of individuals under particular circumstances, for the purpose of obtaining that without which liberty could not be enjoyed—security; so were they justified, in a matter affecting the wealth of the country, in considering that that wealth could not be permanent or secure, if they were not prepared to sacrifice a portion of it to give permanence and security to the remainder. He was prepared to show that the permanence and security of the national wealth would not, according to the experience which our present knowledge of the subject afforded, and according to all sound reasoning based upon it, be subject to any danger from this Bill, or be impaired in any respect by its provisions. He was also prepared, before he stated the nature of those provisions, to state at once what the history of that law had been which their Lordships were now called upon to consider with a view to its repeal. He undertook to show that the law, whilst it acted as an impediment to commerce, had long ceased to be an assistance to the Navy of the country. He was not about to fatigue their Lordships by entering into all the changes of the navigation laws since their first enact- 1318 ment; but he would just advert for a moment to the fact that the first attempt at a navigation law in this country was so early as the reign of Richard II., and that it was then attempted to confine the commerce of the country by enactment that no subject of the King should ship any merchandise outward or homeward, "save in ships of the King's allegiance," on penalty of forfeiture of vessel and cargo. In the very next year this enactment was found to be destructive to the commerce of the country; it was, therefore, determined not to carry it further; and another Act of Parliament was introduced for the purpose of repealing that law. Why did he mention these laws? Because they appeared to be founded on the national feeling of the period; because they were but the types and foreshadowings of the policy which had since been removed from time to time; and because they originated from the feelings which still pervaded the national mind of this country, and which was natural to the mind of every people—namely, a desire to grasp at everything which could be obtained in the way of commerce—a desire, nevertheless, which had never been indulged without superinducing, again and again, its own punishment. The resurrection of that desire, at various times, and under various phases, had proved to the world how difficult it was, both for nations and for individuals, to learn that the commercial prosperity of any one country must always be built on the commercial prosperity of other countries; and, accordingly, every attempt which had been made to insure a monopoly of commerce to this country had wretchedly and totally failed. These attempts had been renewed again and again. But the first attempt to secure the exclusive possession of commerce for the subjects of this realm which he should now notice, was made in the reign of Henry VIII. That Sovereign carried the principle of protection so far, that having first enacted, for the benefit of the shipowner, that no person should buy or soil any wine of Gascony unless it were imported in an English vessel, he afterwards protected his subjects from the rapacity of the shipowner, by limiting the quantity of freight to be imported in each vessel, and thus created an immense amount of confusion, inconvenience, and loss. Edward VI., finding that that measure, instead of promoting, was restrictive of the increase of English shipping, repealed those enactments by a 1319 Statute which was characterised by a simplicity of expression indicative of the youthful innocence of the Sovereign. That statute set forth by reciting that these attempts had proved restrictive of commerce, that it had been discovered that foreign commodities, and more particularly the wines of Gascony and the south of France, had become all the dearer in consequence, and navigation never the better; and it was therefore enacted, that these laws should be repealed. He would now come to that time when the law was passed which was more usually and generally known as the navigation law. That Act, as their Lordships knew, originated in the protectorate of Cromwell. But at that time they did not originate so much in views either of a commercial or political character, as in a desire to punish the Dutch for the support—the loyal support—which they had given to Charles I. They were intended to act as a bridle on the Dutch, and to punish them for the loyalty which they had displayed to a dethroned monarch. Looking back at the history of those times, and at the peculiar circumstances in which the country was then placed, and at the effects which might have been produced by giving a stimulus to our marine force, and by enabling it to carry on the operations of war against Dutch commerce, he was not inclined to assert that there were no grounds for trying the experiment how far the national arm could be strengthened by restriction, and how far the naval force and power of the country could be increased. He was inclined to think that at that time there was good ground for trying such an experiment; for the relations of England with Holland at that time were just the very reverse of what they were at present, the very reverse of what they were now, both with regard to the extent of marine, and to the amount of commerce; for Holland at that time was a deadly and powerful rival to the power of England. He implored their Lordships not to allow themselves to he run away with by the idea that the experiment which we made in the time of Cromwell, for the purpose of breaking down the power of the Dutch, and increasing our own naval power, was an experiment entirely successful. It was quite the contrary. On that point, he was able to call into court a most unexceptionable witness, for no man was able to give better evidence upon the subject than a witness who had been for many years a Secretary to the Admiralty. What time did their 1320 Lordships consider to be sufficient for an experiment of this kind to be tried, with a view of determining upon its success? Did they think that ten years would be sufficient? If not, did they think that fifteen years would produce more conclusive results? Well, he would tell their Lordships what had been the result after the law had been fifteen years in operation. He had, in common with many of their Lordships, been delighted with reading one of the most instructive as well as one of the most amusing books ever published, he meant the Diary of Mr. Secretary Pepys, which had recently been edited by a noble Member of their own House. This was what he found that acute functionary mentioned respecting the difficulties occasioned by the operation of the navigation laws. Mr. Secretary Pepys said, he was mightily troubled to meet with any reliable person to give him information. He could find none but persons wholly unfit, although of very good fashion, which was a shame to England. "It was very pretty," he said, "to observe that the persons one met in all parts of the streets were only women," and that no man was to be found there; "for the men," added he, "find it impossible to go there without incurring the danger of being pressed." "Mr. Coventry"—who was one of the ablest men of his day—" did tell me," said Mr. Pepys, "that he intended to recommend the suspension of the navigation laws, for the benefit and advantage of commerce." So much for the operation of the navigation laws in the time of Mr. Pepys. He hurried over the reign of the Stuarts, although, during the whole of that time, those laws were enforced, and with some show of success, inasmuch as at the accession of William III. the commerce of the country had increased to a certain extent. After the accession of the House of Hanover, things took a different turn. The House of Commons then felt the inconvenience of the navigation laws, and three or four Bills called Import Bills, were introduced, to allow foreign ships to be admitted into certain of our ports. So we went on, until, at the close of the American war, Mr. Pitt came for the first time into office. Mr. Pitt—a name which he could never allude to without great respect, and for which many of their Lordships felt a superstitious reverence—Mr. Pitt, on coming into office, was convinced of the necessity of introducing fresh relaxations into the navigation laws, in consequence of the 1321 State of things then existing. When did he do that? When did he entertain that proposition? Mr. Pitt made a proposition to that effect at a moment when, beyond all others, the importance of the Navy of England to the security of England had been tried and proved. He made it at the close of a war in which the laurels of England, tarnished by the unfortunate war which she had carried on by land in America, had just been redeemed by the glorious victory of Rodney in the West Indies, and by the relief of Gibraltar by Lord Howe at the head of the Mediterranean fleet—victories which established the naval supremacy of England, rescued her honour from disgrace, and enabled her to make, after all her disasters, a satisfactory peace. Was that the moment when a wise and patriotic Minister would voluntarily lay irreligious hands on that sacred ark, as some still consider the navigation laws to be, on which the security of the Navy, and consequently the security of the country, rested? Mr. Pitt, nevertheless, in that state of things, saw the necessity of opening our colonial trade, and introduced a Bill for that purpose, which did not pass at the moment, because he went out of office; but the object of which was pursued long afterwards by successive Administrations, and was the subject of successive Acts of Parliament. He now came down a good way further, to times within his own recollection. It so happened that one of the very few measures which he had the honour of assisting to bring into the other House of Parliament, was an Act to establish in 1806–7 a free intercourse between the West Indies and America, and he had the honour of sitting in that House with one of the most able lawyers and consummate orators who ever adorned the debates of Parliament—he meant the late Sir W. Grant—whoso convincing eloquence always produced the deepest impression on his hearers, as he expressed his own convictions in the most clear and lucid terms, and whose premises, when he was right, regularly led to the most logical and irresistible conclusions. Now, Sir W. Grant had persuaded himself, or had allowed himself to be persuaded by others, that this American Intercourse Bill, because it attacked the principle of the navigation laws, must be fatal to the commerce, and, above all, to the colonial intercourse of this country; and there was no language in which any noble Lord, or even any learned Lord, could arraign the Bill of the present night, 1322 so strong as that in which Sir W. Grant, according to his (the Marquess of Lansdowne's) recollection, which he had recently refreshed by a perusal of his speech, arraigned the provisions of the Intercourse Bill of 1806. He indulged in the most, confident predictions as to the results of that measure, stating that, if it were passed into law, there would be an end to the employment of all the shipping engaged in the West Indies. He further stated that there would be such inducements to America to undertake the conveyance of sugar, that it would be very doubtful whether a single hogshead of it would ever be again imported into this country in British vessels. Remembering the predictions which he then uttered, and the powerful eloquence with which they had been delivered, he had had the curiosity to examine what had been the consequence of a Bill so denounced by the merchants of the metropolis and the outports, and by Sir W. Grant. He had made a comparison of what had occurred one year after the Bill passed, and what was the state of things at the close of the war. In the year 1807, the registered tonnage of English shipping was 2,096,000 tons; at the end of the war it was 2,247,000. Thus an increase of nearly 200,000 tons had been made in our shipping in a few years under the operation of an Act which, according to these predictions, was to prove the destruction of the British Navy.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, he had now brought down his historical summary to the system of law with which their Lordships had now to deal. He requested their Lordships to look at the altered shape of the navigation laws, "if shape that could be called which shape had none," Now, although many of their Lordships believed, and many thousands who had signed the petitions on the table believed, that they were living under a complete code of navigation laws, he would undertake to show those who asserted that British commerce was now clothed in a suit of impenetrable armour, that it was only clothed in a garment of shreds and patches—a garment which, instead of being ample enough to defend it from injury, was the most imperfect for protection, if protection it could be called, of any which could be manufactured out of the fragments of the statute books. He would inform 1323 their Lordships of the protection under which commerce was now placed; and sure he was that they would be surprised at hearing that some of the most respectable witnesses summoned before their Committee had with great candour and simplicity avowed, that until they looked into the Bill they did not know how small was the protection which they legally had. They stated that it was impossible for them to have imagined that the trade of the country could have gone on, shorn as it was of that protection under which they thought they had been trading, and the absence of which they had never discovered, because they had never felt any inconvenience arising from the want of it. He held in his hand an account, with the details of which he would not trouble their Lordships—for if he did he should be addressing them till midnight, and even then would not be finished—he held in his hand, he repeated, an account of the conflicting laws and treaties by which our navigation laws were now confined and embarrassed. We had various treaties limiting and controlling those laws; we had treaties with the United States, with Mexico, with Bolivia, with Columbia, with Venezuela, with Buenos Ayres, with Russia, with Prussia, with Denmark, with Norway, with Sweden, with Hanover, with Holland, with Belgium, with France, with Portugal, with Spain, with Italy, with Greece, with Turkey, with Morocco, with the Hanse Towns, (fee, all of them more or less violating the principles of the navigation laws. Let not any of their Lordships run away with the notion that those treaties were all alike—they were no such thing—they were infinite in their variety. Of these treaties some were permanent, others terminable; some were on the principle of the "favoured-nations treaties," which was inconsistent with the reciprocity clause of the Navigation Acts. Others, not so. There were two treaties establishing equality of charges; there were four continuing an inequality of charges on British and foreign shipping. There were three treaties granting liberty to foreign vessels arriving in our ports to engage in voyages from them to other countries. All these treaties had covered the navigation laws with such a mass of confusion, difficulty, and inconvenience, as to render it not surprising that those who had an interest in rooting out their meaning, could not make out upon what principle they proceeded. That very circumstance had suspended the efficacy—if ever 1324 they had any efficacy—of the navigation laws enacted by Cromwell and by Charles II What, then, had been the general result of their legislation in doing away with protection in this piecemeal manner? It was this—that as we had concluded the treaties to which he had referred, the amount of English shipping and of English commerce had proportionally increased. It was in time of peace, too, that this result had taken place—a result which, he trusted, would be satisfactory to the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), as well as to the noble Lords around him. He would prove what he had just asserted by referring to what had occurred during the last twenty years, whilst the relaxation of the navigation laws was continually going on. In the year 1816 the registered tonnage of England was 2,783,380; in the year 1848, up to the latest time at which the accounts could be made up, it was upwards of 4,000,000. That, certainly, was not a proof that these alterations had either stopped the construction or diminished the employment of British shipping. But it might and most probably would be said, that in that interval the trade of the rest of the world had increased in the same proportion. He was glad that it had done so; he was glad that the prosperity of England was not built on the ruin and misery of other nations; he was glad that, whilst our marine had gone on rapidly accumulating, the prosperity of other nations had also been increasing; for he was well assured that such an increase would only lead to fresh exertions on the part of Englishmen to maintain their commercial, as they had hitherto maintained, and would always maintain, their maritime supremacy, and would open up fresh sources of prosperity to this country. But if he should be told in the course of this debate, as in all probability he would be told before its close, that the English shipowner and the English merchant could not continue to compete with the foreign shipbroker and the foreign merchant, and that they required this miserable remnant of protection to bolster them up in so unequal a contest, he would, in that case, call the attention of their Lordships to the way in which the British shipowner had fared in those voyages in which he was supposed to be most exposed to competition. He had now before him the relative amounts of English and of American shipping. One of the apprehensions entertained in consequence of this Bill, was stated to be the increase which it 1325 would give to the great commercial power of the United States. The Americans had greater facilities in procuring timber than we had, and that would give them greater facilities for engaging in trade; and it was predicted, that the consequence of that would be highly detrimental to English shipping and trade. For many years in the direct voyage between England and the United States, the English shipowner had gone on unprotected. What had been the issue? In the year 1836, the tonnage of England engaged in that traffic was 554,774, and of America, 1,255,384. In 1848 the amount of English tonnage was 1,177,000, and of American, 3,393,000; showing not only that the English shipping had maintained itself in competition with American shipping, but that at this moment there was a greater proportion of English shipping engaged in the trade. Then, with regard to the carrying trade, that trade was more advantageous to other countries than to the united kingdom. The goods carried were imported from other countries into the United States; goods which were not introduced into England, but which were wanted in America. Now, what was the proportion of British and foreign tonnage employed in this trade with the United States? In the year ending the 30th of June, the tonnage of British vessels entered in ports of the United States was 1,177,000, and of ships under all other flags 208,000 tons, so that, English ships were employed to nearly six times the extent of all other foreign ships, although foreign shipping was, with respect to this trade, precisely the description of shipping which it had been contended was likely to vie with the shipping of this country. He found, that of 100 ships engaged in trade to the United States, there were of United States' vessels, 63; of British vessels, 31; and of ships of other States, 6; so that the advantage British shipowers had obtained, in this unprotected trade, without any assistance from the navigation laws, had amounted to 30 per cent. He thought, then, that, looking at these facts, the British shipowners might confidently rely upon being able to maintain their ground against the competition of foreign shipping. He had received a few days since a letter from a most respectable shipowner in this country, who said, with reference to this subject, that he had owned a great number of ships which had been engaged in trade with most parts of the world, and the result of his experience was, that no ships got such 1326 good trade, or made such profitable voyages, as those which sailed between two foreign ports; as, for instance, between the Mediterranean and Brazil, or between Cuba and the Baltic. He found, also, with regard to the Hamburgh trade, that English shipping bore a very large proportion to the shipping of all European Powers carrying on trade with the Elbe. He would further ask their Lordships to look at the case of Russia and the States on the Baltic, where it was said our shipping would be exposed to peculiar danger from the competition it would have to encounter. In those countries timber was cheap and wages very low—circumstances which, it was contended, would be most fatal to the competition of English ships. He found that the total amount of British shipping engaged in trade to St. Peters-burgh was 228,000 tons, and of shipping from Prussia and all other countries besides England, 221,000 tons; so that in the very heart of the country which possessed these advantages of cheap timber and low wages, in spite of those advantages, and without any protection, British mercantile commerce had maintained such an ascendancy that he thought it would be unreasonable in them to indulge the hope that it should have a greater ascendancy. He considered that they had in these facts the most convincing proofs that there was no ground for the apprehension that the shipping of this country would be unable to compete with the shipping of other States. The advantage of the British shipowner was in the permanence of his materials—in the durability of the vessels which he built; and upon that we had hitherto relied, and might still continue to rely. But, it might be asked, why should this be chosen as the moment for introducing such a change, when they bad no complaint to make? Their Lordships must not assume that our treaties with other States were to be of perpetual duration, or that our present relations with those States must necessarily be continued, or that our colonies would be satisfied with things as they were. There were at this moment English ships to the tonnage of between 220,000 and 230,000 tons engaged in direct trade under treaties, the whole of which trade would be cut off if those treaties were not renewed. They had hitherto been compelled to go on step by stop, affording privileges to different countries, in consequence of treaties which compelled them to put those countries on 1327 the footing of the most favoured nations; and they were now engaged in discussions with Holland as to whether the license which had already been given with regard to the ports of the Elbe should be still further extended. Such discussions would not only be terminated by the measure before the House, but they would be terminated in a way satisfactory to all parties. This was the case with regard to European Powers—to Continental States; but he would ask their Lordships to look also at the colonial question. The British colonies called upon this country to confer upon them those advantages which the repeal of the remnant of the navigation laws could alone afford. The West India Islands were subjected to the greatest difficulty from the want of a measure of this nature. Canada also said that the whole trade of the St. Lawrence depended upon it; that she was at this moment engaged in a difficult competition with the United States, in consequence of canals having been opened, and means afforded, the effect of which was to draw the Canadian commerce from that province, and to carry it through the United States; and that nothing but the perfect opening of the St. Lawrence could enable her to retain her own trade. If they refused to Canada this advantage, could they expect the colonists to remain contented? He would say that they could not. He asked them then to give to Canada the free use of the greatest element of wealth that she possessed, and to enable her to carry on a valuable and important commerce, instead of refusing to admit her claim upon that broad principle which alone could cement her connexion with this country—a connexion which, he trusted, would always he maintained, but which, if it was to be maintained, required that they should consult her commercial interests, and show themselves not indifferent to her prosperity. With regard, therefore, to Europe, to the West Indies, and to Canada, he conceived that this country was bound, without further delay, to evince its disposition and intention to adopt such measures as would give full scope for the development of all their resources. In his conscience he believed they could do this with perfect safety. He believed that monopoly stood in the way of all commercial prosperity. They had had, not very long ago in the history of the world, a striking example of this truth. They had seen acting his part upon the stage of Europe the greatest mo- 1328 nopolist that ever existed. They had heard Bonaparte avow, when in possession of the enormous power which he wielded, that his objects were to obtain ships, colonies, and commerce. He conquered one-half of Europe; the other half he seduced or entrapped into negotiations; he could create monopolies everywhere, and he was unscrupulous in so creating them; but the genius of English commerce overcame all those monopolies. Ships he could not get; colonies he could not acquire; commerce he could not establish; but this was not the consequence of the British navigation laws. No; it was because British commerce and enterprise were of such a nature that wherever they found a footing—and, in spite of restrictions, in all parts of the world they would find a footing—they established themselves, even in spite of edicts enforced by a million of bayonets, and were conducted with glory and success. He, therefore, earnestly advised their Lordships to rely upon the energy of this country, and the means at their disposal. He was convinced, if they did not pass this Bill, not only that the position of this country would not be better than it was now, but that it would shortly be incalculably worse—that they would lose, and must inevitably lose, much that they had gained; while, if they did pass the measure, they had the prospect of that extension of commerce throughout the world which must immediately, or at all events ultimately, follow the removal of the restriction which fettered the intercourse of nations. He now asked their Lordships to give a second reading to this Bill; and, as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) had stated plainly and manfully that he was prepared for the consequences of its rejection, he hoped that he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) might be permitted to state for himself and his Colleagues that they also were prepared for the consequences of a hostile vote upon that question.
* My Lords, I rise under feelings of great anxiety to address your Lordships this day, although with the conscientious and deliberate conviction that in the course which I am about to adopt, I consult the best interests of the country. But when I express how anxious I am, let me exclude at once from what may be fancied to form any ground of this feeling, the supposition that I can regard my former conduct upon questions* From a report published by Ridgway.1329 of commercial policy either before I entered Parliament, or while I had a seat in the Lower House, or since I ascended to the high honour of a place among your Lordships, as in any degree whatever at variance with the course which I intend now to pursue. I have, indeed, not many hours ago, been thus taunted, in quarters from which such a taunt did come upon me somewhat unexpectedly—used, as I have been, to strange political evolutions—accustomed, as a long Parliamentary experience has made mo, to extraordinary feats of agility among statesmen and their followers; yet I own, with all this experience, the taunt did come with the attribute of novelty, and the zest of surpassing all expectation, when in such quarters, of all others, it was wondered at, that I, of all men—I, who had ever been the advocate of free trade, the friend of unrestricted intercourse among nations; I who had lately signalised myself (for a sneer is generally wrapt up in a compliment, the one often as worthless, because as groundless, as the other)—who had signalised myself by joining in a great victory over the exploded policy of unenlightened times, did not join now in placing the crown upon the column of liberal policy, which I had helped to rear—that I, the apostle of free trade, should, in the eleventh hour, and on the eve of its final accomplishment, turn round against it. I will not retaliate, and dilate upon inconsistencies; the temptation is strong, but I will resist it. [Cheers from the Protection party.] I perceive, my noble Friends who differ with me on this subject would urge me on to yield, difficult as I find it to resist; but resist it I will. I will only say, that I glory in what forms the subject-matter of the taunt; I glory in having obtained those immortal victories over antiquated error; in having made to triumph the soundest principles of political philosophy, sweeping away the groundless prejudices by which its progress was obstructed heretofore. But, if there is any one passage of my political life dearer than another to my remembrance—any one drop in the cup of exultation more peculiarly sweet to my palate—it is the recollection of those worthy, able, eminent persons, leaders of the revilers, the distinguished statesmen whoso support I enjoyed after passing a long life in opposition to them on this very question, and who crowned themselves with honour by abandoning their own errors to join me in vindicating the truth. But, after all, it is not now 1330 with me as it was with them; I am making no change at all in my opinions; I am in no one particular swerving from the path wherein I always have walked. The present measure is one of incalculable importance, and its great magnitude alone fills me with anxiety. I feel its bearing on the best interests of the country, her defence, her very existence, to be close and clear. This it is that alone makes me anxious, when I reflect how the opposition to it may suffer in my hands. On no other score can a moment's anxiety be felt by me. I utterly deny that the question of its merits has the least connexion with the free-trade controversy. The speculation of gaining a few stray votes in favour of the Bill may have seduced some who knew better to couple the policy of the navigation laws with that of free trade, to which it bears no affinity, because it is possible that some noble Lords who have opposed the corn laws and voted for their repeal, may be drawn unthinkingly to vote for the present Bill, on the false representation that it rests on the same foundation with that repeal. But who was the first patron of the free-trade school—the apostle of that faith? Whose works formed, as it were, the scriptural volume, the text-book of authority for all the disciples of that doctrine—all political economists of that sect? Unquestionably Adam Smith, author of the Wealth of Nations; and yet he distinctly gives his testimony in favour of the navigation laws—holding defence of more importance than opulence, and therefore, while he admitted that those laws tend to abridge the accumulation of wealth, declaring that they are to be respected as "the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England." Practical statesmen of the most liberal views have adopted the same opinions. The reverend founder of the American republic held these opinions. The first speech of Washington to the Congress, in 1780, earnestly recommended to their consideration "the encouragement of American navigation, so as to render our commerce and agriculture less dependent on foreign bottoms, which may fail us at the moment most interesting to both these great objects." He adds, that "against this evil, their fisheries and the trade in their own produce, afforded abundant means of guarding." Many years later, Maddison, a zealous disciple of the liberal school, and going much further than his illustrious predecessor, for he was of the democrat and not the federal party, professed the 1331 same opinion, and gave the same advice. Admitting that commerce might suffer a temporary embarrassment from the navigation law, he yet said, that any burden "on the community, however oppressively it might weigh on some parts, was well worth bearing, as it would secure the country from burthens that were greater." And he proceeded to show the absolute necessity of acquiring a maritime strength for their defence and the protection of their commerce. Last of all comes Mr. Huskisson, whom the authors of this new policy pretend to follow. Nothing-can be more distinct than his opinion, delivered at the very moment he was propounding his free-trade measures—so different from the one before us—" Commerce and marine may be opposed to each other; and then there cannot be a doubt that trade and its interests must give way to the creation and maintenance of a mercantile navy."
Differing, however, from all their high authorities among free-traders, philosophers, and statesmen opposed to them, and opposed above all to him whose name the authors of this measure most ostentatiously put forward on every occasion, Mr. Huskisson, my noble Friend denies wholly the merits of the Navigation Act, regards it as a measure of barbarous policy, unworthy of an enlightened age, almost of a civilised State. Nay, in his unsparing animosity to that great law, he is not content with holding that we have outlived its uses, and with contending that it is no longer adapted to our times and our condition; he must needs go back to its origin, and deny that it ever deserved any of the praises which it has received from all—from philosophers as well as from statesmen. My noble Friend takes us to the reign of Charles II. and to the Diary of Pepys, by which he says, it appears that within fifteen years after the Act passed, we suffered so much from want of seamen, that men called out for its repeal. My Lords, I'll tell my noble Friend for what men called out, and what occasioned our want of seamen. They wanted wages as well as statutes to obtain sailors. Charles had other uses to make of his money than paying the men; his other expenses drained his funds, so that the sailor, receiving no pay, rendered no service; and then the "Merry Monarch" holding it dangerous to feed men highly, who had no money in their pockets to meet certain charges which a generous diet might render need- 1332 ful, while he withheld the hire, lowered the scale of living. So that voluntary entering into his navy ceased to be a usual practice, while their sovereign had dispersed his supplies among those whose company he prized more than he did the manning of his fleets. This economy was what caused the want of seamen; the relaxation of this monopoly of supplies was what the people called for, not the relaxation of the colonial monopoly.
Now, with regard to statistical arguments, some few of which the noble Marquess dealt with, I confess I have great distrust of all such reasonings on questions like the present, chiefly because in all my experience, now not of very short duration, ever since the great controvery on the Orders in Council, 1808, I have found how insecure all details of mere figures are upon which to build an argument. I well recollect the long discussions of 1808, and again of 1812, on that unhappy aberration of our mercantile and belligerent policy—I remember again the debates on commercial distress in 1817, in 1822, in 1843—and I remember those on financial difficulties in 1816 and 1842. In all these contentions it was my fortune to bear a part; but we never found any certain guide in the mere details of statistical returns; and indeed, whether it was from the reports of the Board of Trade, or from those of Mr. Irving, the inspector of the Customs, or from the tables furnished by the Treasury, the lively impression was made on all minds, which now in some survives the heats of those days, that there was hardly anything which might not he proved by such documents; that they could be used equally by both sides; that, in short, you could prove anything and everything by their assistance. Indeed, I have heard it said, "give me half an hour and the run of the multiplication table, and I'll engage to pay off the national debt." It is easy to add a little here, and subtract a little there; gently to slip in a figure, it may be a cypher, among your data; slyly to make what seems a reasonable postulate in your premises, but which turns out in the result to be a begging of the question—and behold you gain your point, and triumph, until it is found that your adversary, having access to the same stores of arithmetic, just proves his case and refutes yours with the same facility. So much for statistics in general, when severed from sound principle and plain reasoning. But how much less to be relied on as the grounds 1333 of argument are those tables, which are manufactured, not generally, not indifferently, not as the lawyers say, ante litem motam, but in the heats of a controversy, and prepared by those in the employ of one party! To trust oneself among such details as these, would truly be perilous in the extreme. My noble Friend has fared forth into the labyrinth—the pathless archipelago—with such bad success, that his fate serves to warn me how I venture to follow his perilous course. But there remains to deter me, like a beacon on the same coasts, the sad wreck of another adventurer, the good ship "Board of Trade, G. R. Porter, master," cast away on the shoals of those faithless waters. We have access to the logs of these navigators, and can judge how they miscarried. I must give your Lordships an extract or two just by way of example. My noble Friend has talked largely on the comparative progress of English and of American shipping—the former amounting to so much tonnage and men, the latter to so much less. But it so chances that he, following his predecessor, Mr. Porter, takes the whole of the one and only part of the other, and thus makes out the result which suits his argument. Upon this little circumstance being discussed in your Lordships' Committee, the noble and gallant chairman (Lord Hardwicke), whoso absence we have such reason to lament to-night, except that we know him to be well employed in his country's service, and in a way to show him a powerful negotiator with his guns as at Genoa so elsewhere; put this question to the witness, after stating the entire difference of the two returns, the difference between total in the one, and partial in the other: "Then consequently these returns are not to be taken compared together, as showing in any degree, the comparative value of British and American tonnage." Mark the deplorable answer of the hapless Mr. Porter, "Certainly not." Again, "Have you any means of making such an addition to the American tonnage as may may lead to a fair comparison?"—" I am not sure that I have; I rather think I have, but I am not certain." He is then asked as to the amount of the trade, and I believe, but cannot be quite certain, that he gives it by approximation at 215,000 tons. My noble Friend on the cross bench (Lord Wharncliffe) reminds me of the cooking of returns. But here we had called up the cook to examine him. We asked, "Is this dish pure?"—" Not at all," he an- 1334 swered. "Is it nutritive?"—"Nothing of the kind." "Is it safe and wholesome to eat"—" Certainly not." "Have you any means of correcting its poison by an antidote?"—"I am not sure; I rather think I have, but I am not certain." My noble Friend dwelt at large on the reciprocity system. Having occasion to leave the House for a moment, I found him on my return reading over with much emphasis a list of countries with which we had such arrangements; and at each name he drew forth a cheer from his supporters, men of much zeal and good voice, but small reflection—as if each treaty furnished an argument for the Bill, and against the existing system. But these treaties were all respecting differential duties; all of them were grounded on the comparatively sound principle of only relaxing your monopoly with those States who agreed to relax their restrictive laws; they were framed to obtain a quid pro quo; they measured the advantages surrendered by the correlative advantages acquired; whereas your present scheme is to give the quid without the quo; to sweep away all restriction at once with every country, before you secure an equivalent from any one; and, so far from proportioning your sacrifice to your gain, to sacrifice everything before you gain anything. This is the precise comparison, the contrast between the policy of Mr. Huskisson, which you profess to follow, and your own—the copy is the very opposite and not the imitation of the original. As to the noble Marquess's comments upon the Russian trade, of which he stated so large a share belongs to this country, though unprotected, he must have entirely forgotten that the exclusive foreign laws which restrict the intercourse of Russia with foreign States, co-operating with our own laws regarding the indirect or carrying trade, give perfect protection to our commerce with that country. Thus France and other countries cannot import Russian produce into this country; we can only take it direct in Russian or in British ships; and as Russia has few or no ships of her own, it all comes in ours.
But on the statistics of the protected or unprotected trades, it is that the greatest errors have been committed by my noble Friend's authorities. It is among these shoals that Mr. Porter has left his wreck as a beacon to warn us how we follow his course. He no doubt had steered to the best of his ability, and quite conscientiously been east away, but that he acted under 1335 the bias of a strong prejudice in favour of his ally and relative, the author of the present Bill, is very much to be suspected—for we all know that the Bill is really Mr. Ricardo's, who in 1847 moved the Committee on the Navigation Laws, the Government being afterwards pushed on by their supporters, impatient at seeing them hold their places and do nothing. Now anything equal to the errors into which they and their prompters have fallen, I never did see in all my experience of figures and returns. In the comparative table of protected and unprotected trades—framed to show how much more the former or the latter had increased—there were, first of all, placed countries with which we have the reciprocity treaties. Why, that is a species of protection by the very force of the term, though a modified protection. Next, there were placed countries with which we have no such treaties at all, and our trade with which is therefore wholly protected by the navigation laws—we there find Tuscany, the Roman States (if indeed there be any trade driven there but sedition and pillage), Gibraltar, Malta, the Ionian Islands, Ceylon, Java, Sumatra, the South Seas. The tonnage of these trades together amounts to no less than 350,000, or nearly one half of the lesser sum, 840,000, which the concoctors of the table are comparing with 1,600,000—so that the error committed is nearer a half than a third of the very difference in question. How can any rational man place the least reliance upon tables thus framed, and thus abounding on their face with errors the most fatal? Their great concoctor is asked about these errors, and he cannot deny them—so he says, the heading of the return is wrong, and that instead of "unprotected," it should have been "less protected." Indeed! But that is just giving up the whole value of the table, and making it utterly useless, utterly unfit to be the ground of any inference whatever, utterly foreign to the present question. For, observe, I can understand what is meant by a trade unprotected by the navigation laws, and compare it with one that is protected; but a trade less protected, how am I to define it? Less protected than what? Why, than a trade that is more protected! What does this tell me? What makes more, what less? How can we possibly compare them together? All depends upon how much more and how much less, and this Mr. Porter does not affect to show.
But this is not the worst of it by a 1336 great deal. We are told to look at the carrying trade, and to see what a mass of shipping is at the mercy of foreign Powers. Large sums are here conjured up by the enchanting wand of the Board of Trade; and when I come to sift these sums, I find a misstatement that is absolutely incredible. The amount of 215,000 tons is stated, and how is this made out? The whole ships to prove this tonnage are 47, and their actual tonnage is 7,001, and no more; but they make 31 voyages each in the year, so away go the calculators, and multiplying 7,000 by 31, give us 214,000 or 215,000 as the tonnage, instead of one thirty-first part of the sum. Nor is this the most extraordinary feat of these nimble conjurers. One vessel, bearing the most appropriate name of the Magician, is of 96 tons burden; but she makes 148 voyages in a year—so straightway the tonnage in the trade she drives is expanded from 96 to between 14,000 and 15,000, and enters into the return to that vast amount—an amount nearly 150 times greater than the truth! My Lords, I will readily give a large license for exaggerations to that lively class of persons who contribute to our amusement by their powers of imagination—drawing, as was once said of a statesman elsewhere, upon their fancy for their facts, and on their memory for their jests. To these men I render all grateful homage, as among the gayest of our sad species; and I never very narrowly inquire if they exaggerate within reasonable bounds—two or three, or even fourfold. But so far as tenfold I will not be made to extend my license. Then what shall be said of a hundred fold—nay, a hundred and fifty fold, and that not by the lively wit, but by the plodding dealer in returns and tables, and trade and shipping statistics? I must really send them away to bury themselves and their errors in the recesses of the Trade Department, and no longer hope to obtain any faith here. The noble Marquess will in vain try to prevail by their aid. What! After such things as I have shown, attempt to choke us with tables! No. I will swallow none of them. I have done with them and their returns and reports, to the great clearing of this great controversy; to the no small comfort of your Lordships, who are little patient of statistics, a dry food, even when honestly prepared and fairly served up.
I proceed, then, with your leave, to discharge the important duty which I have undertaken, of dealing with this great 1337 question upon its proper merits, and trying the proposed measure by the test of reason, only relying on those facts which are beyond all dispute, and only referring to those returns which were made long ago, in the ordinary course of the public business, and before the subject was involved in any controvery at all. My duty to your Lordships and to the country requires that I should earnestly implore you, and solemnly warn you, not to part rashly with what my noble Friend called the miserable remnants, the fragments of a worn-out system. Fragments indeed! They are of gigantic size—they are the splendid remains of a mighty system—they are the pillars of our Navy, the props of our maritime defence. Modified the system has been, but only to suit the change of circumstances, not altering it, only adapting it to the varied condition of the world. There remains the almost entire monopoly of our home trade, and the perfectly rigorous monopoly of our colonial trade, employing above a million and a half tons of shipping, and above 20,000 seamen, with a capital that gives export and import, to between 15,000,000l. and 16,000,000l. sterling in the year. It is said, however, that we must not maintain this system of colonial intercourse, because Canada will be discontented, and the discontent is ascribed to the Canadians not having an unrestricted intercourse with the united States, until the navigation of the St. Lawrence is left open and free. But what restrictions are there worth speaking of, that may not be removed without unsettling our whole policy, when the Canadians may now export to the United States, and receive from thence all goods in either American or British bottoms? But my noble Friend says, we should follow in Mr. Pitt's steps, who, as early as 1783, proposed a material change in the navigation laws. Certainly what he proposed was anything rather than a change in the principle of those laws; it was a mere adaptation to the altered state of North America. Surely, my noble Friend forgets what a mighty change had taken place between the reign of Charles II. and the time of Mr. Pitt. The western colonies of Great Britain had thrown off the yoke of the mother country, and become a great independent State. A still more extensive change afterwards took place, and emancipated all the colonies of Spain, Cuba and Porto Rico alone excepted, and formed their vast territories into 1338 free communities, while the House of Braganza removing to Brazil, founded there a new monarchy, which had formerly been a dependency upon Portugal. The inevitable consequence of these great revolutions of empire was to make an alteration in the letter of the navigation law necessary for the purpose of preserving its spirit; and instead of abandoning the principle of the system, Mr. Pitt, in 1783, only proposed adapting it to the altered circumstances of the New World, as did Mr. Huskisson some forty years later, when the whole of the changes in the distribution of empire had been consummated. For every one must at once perceive, that as the Navigation Act excluded all trade between foreign colonies and our European dominions, but permitted trade between foreign States and those dominions in vessels of those foreign States, when Brazil and the Spanish Main were become independent Powers, we must by the principles of the Act receive their ships as we should Spanish and Portuguese vessels; and when the American colonies became also foreign States, we must receive their ships to bring over their produce, and could no longer exclude all forcign ships from our trade with emancipated America, as we had excluded them from America while she was, like Jamaica or Canada, a dependency of our Crown. Mr. Huskisson's policy, in many other respects, affected our foreign trade, and wisely, in my opinion. But let it not be supposed that no evils were felt by our mercantile navy from those changes. If you compare the tonnage for six years ending 1822, with the same ending 1828, you will find there was a falling-oil to the extent of 150,000 tons, or above 1,300 vessels; nor did the amount ever reach what it had been before the new laws, until the year 1838, sixteen years after Mr. Wallace had propounded those measures of relaxation, which I ought perhaps rather to term of adaptation. In now referring to tables, I only resort to documents and calculations made in the regular course of business, and long before any controversy arose on the present question. They are, therefore, altogether worthy of credit.
The policy, my Lords, of the navigation laws, rests upon the position, that without such a partial monopoly as they give to British shipping, we never can maintain a sufficiently ample nursery for our Navy, an object of primary importance, as Dr. Smith maintains, to every insular empire, 1339 and therefore to be sought at a considerable sacrifice of the wealth which unfettered commerce might more rapidly accumulate. The Emperor Napoleon is cited, by my noble Friend, as having wished for "ships, colonies, and commerce." The quotation is not quite accurate. He inveighed against the "ships, colonies, and commerce," of England, and gave out these as the objects of his hostility; whence Mr. Pitt, at a Guildhall festival, gave as a retaliatory toast, "the ships, colonies, and commerce "of this country, a retort which derived its point from the edition I am now giving of the French Emperor's saying. But that great warrior might have wished long enough for ships, colonies, and commerce, and wished in vain; both because from ample trade alone could he ever hope to have a navy, and because we had created our marine, which swept from the ocean all his commerce, taken all his men-of-war, and captured all his colonies—our marine, which owed its existence entirely to the encouragement that the navigation law gave our shipbuilding and the facilities lent by the same law to manning the fleets which that encouragement built. For nearly two hundred years we have abided by that policy, and holding steadily our course, neither swerving to the right, neither to the left, never abandoning it, only adapting it to the varying events which have altered the distribution of dominion in other regions, we have upheld the system which has created and maintained this navy—the envy of our rivals, the terror of our enemies, the admiration of the world. Are you prepared to abandon a system to which you owe so precious a possession, not only the foundation of your glory, the bulwark of your strength, but the protection of your very existence as a nation?
It is not agreeable in discussing a question like this to be occupied with personal matters relating to one's own history. Yet, as I have been charged with altering my opinions on this great argument, I must crave your Lordships' indulgence if I briefly advert to the opinions which I delivered very long—I grieve to think how long ago—prepared in 1801 and 1802, published in 1803. In a work upon colonial policy, I traced at large the causes which lead to the formation of a navy by means of a mercantile marine, and explained in great detail the intimate connexion between the colonial trade and that important branch of national economy. Agreeing 1340 entirely with Dr. Smith, my illustrious master, in his opinion, that the superior importance of defence well justifies a sacrifice of wealth, by restrictions upon foreign commerce, and especially the colonial trade, I ventured to differ widely from him in his estimate of the benefits derivable from remote establishments. He maintains that the colonial trade is less advantageous than the home trade, because it replaces two capitals, the one home, the other foreign, whereas the home trade replaces two home capitals, and that the nearer foreign trade of Europe is more advantageous than the distant trade of the colonies, because its returns are much quicker. I contended that this is a very erroneous view of the subject, and explained how the colonies being in truth a portion, though remote, of the empire, the trade replaces two home capitals; while I showed that it has this advantage over the foreign European trade, which is not counterbalanced by the superior quickness of returns, inasmuch as the capitals which naturally seek the colonial trade are those larger ones which are not suited to the nearer branches of commerce, thus naturally drawing into them the smaller capitals, which must have quick though moderate returns. I also showed that the interest of the community is not always identical with that of its individual members—their advantage being consulted by larger profits, though with slower returns, while the public interest is rather consulted by moderate returns quickly yielded. But I showed how the colonies from the nature of their commerce, have given a peculiar means of creating and maintaining a mercantile navy—how as to the kind of vessels employed in that commerce, and as to the seamen, both in number and value, they are the best nursery of seamen, keeping the crews of vessels more together, in greater number, longer at sea, and less frequently in foreign ports. I further differed with Dr. Smith in his censures upon our colonial monopoly, even as to its effects upon our general economy, and the accumulation of wealth, and I proved—at least seemed to prove—that the monopoly only had the effect of accelerating a state of trade which would naturally have soon grown up, and only encouraged the employment of such capital as naturally tended towards that distant trade.
If any one doubts the soundness of my views upon the true relation between the colonies and the parent State, let him bear 1341 in mind how the accumulation of wealth in those remote settlements operates. Let him go to the valleys of Inverness-shire and Ross-shire, or to our northern counties of Westmoreland and Lancashire, and parts of Yorkshire—he need not investigate minutely the circumstances of the neigh-bourhood—he will trace the influence of colonial speculation in the very names of the villas and other country residences which have arisen in those districts, the property of men who have cleared the barren waste, planted the bare heath, and caused the desert to smile. He will find names borrowed from the Antilles, and from Trinidad, and from Demerara, and Berbice. Capital, the growth of agriculture and of commerce in those distant settlements, has performed these wonders thus near our home. The value of the colonies is thus inestimable in every way. It is not only the glory of our extended empire that we derive from them, not merely the brilliant lustre which they shed upon our national fame—they are invaluable, if only for the rich addition they make to our wealth—they are precious as a mercantile speculation—they are to be prized on the mere calculation of pounds, shillings, and pence—they are no less our wealth than our ornament—no less our strength than our wealth—no less our glory and our profit in peace than our support in war. To abandon these magnificent establishments, to neglect these noble dominions, would be the very worst and basest policy which a British statesman could recommend to a British Parliament. They are integral portions of our own empire, though remote from the seat of our central administration, as Cornwall is part of the united kingdom equally with Northumberland—Kerry with Middlesex. The bounty of Providence has cast our lot in a great island, fertile in all the elements of agricultural properity, and if not enjoying a tropical sun, yet blessed with a wholesome, if unstable climate, that ensures to patient industry the hardy race which thrives under our sky. But our territory, though rich, is limited in extent, and bounded by a coast peculiarly adapted to raise a breed of expert and gallant seamen; by their skill and enterprise, and patience, we have enlarged the natural limits of our realm, until into distant regions,The flag that braved a thousand yearsThe battle and the breeze,borne victorious over the obstructions of nature, and the force of man, has been 1342 planted on every various land, from the Charaibean to the Indian Sea, in the Antilles, Australia, the Pacific, China—till we have acquired an empire on which the sun never sets, and call the produce of every soil and every clime our own. Are we to abandon this glorious dominion? No, says my noble Friend. But are we to abandon the mercantile marine to which we owe the acquisition of it, and by which alone we can supply the Navy that enables us to retain it? The colonial monopoly, the real parent of that marine, and nursery of that navy, is the unavoidable fruit of our extended territory. Part of our dominions lying separated from the rest, our intercourse with them, truly a branch of our home trade, as I have proved, must be kept to ourselves, because it is our home trade, and the distance rendering it impossible to keep out foreigners as we easily do from our near home traffic, we seek, and naturally seek, to counteract by our laws the effects of that distance, in order that we may possess our remote dominions, as if they were near, and obtain from this extensive possession a return for the cost we incur in planting, and in ruling, and in defending them. Shall we abandon them? "No," says the noble Marquess, "by no means; let us keep them by all moans. But then," says he," I would lot all other nations benefit as much by them as we do ourselves. My philanthropy is so enlarged—my benevolence so universal—I am in principle so very a cosmopolite, that not only I pray for the prosperity of every people under the sun"—a prayer, my Lords, to which I heartily say Amen, because I agree with him that the prosperity of our neighbour is conducive to our own—but he goes further, and adds, "I will give up all the preference which we have in our own settlements, and share with every foreigner every advantage which the purses and the blood of Englishmen have purchased for England." Now, here I leave my noble Friend; I go not to this length—this fantastic length; for I plainly see that if I do, the result must be not only that foreigners will share with us the benefits of our colonial empire and colonial commerce, but that we shall not be able to share it with them. We shall ourselves be cut out of all fair participation. "Be liberal to others," said the noble Marquess, "and trust to their returning your liberality." I gravely doubt it; at all events, I had rather, with Mr. Huskisson, delay giving 1343 everything up to them until I saw they were disposed to make us somewhat of a like return. He expects the Americans, for instance, to reciprocate. There is another phrase familiar to them of late years, and which they are more likely to use—they will probably repudiate, not reciprocate—reject your ultra-liberal policy, and not imitate it. Have we not had repeated proofs of this? I don't moan of their dislike to pay their debts while bragging that their resources are so ample as to deprive them of the sorry excuse of insolvency; but I hope this vile course will soon be abandoned—because soon it will be found to be contrary to their interest to persist in such shameless frauds. But, wholly independent of that kind of repudiation, what disposition have they shown to adopt our liberal views? Did they meet us half way in the arrangements of our bonding warehouse plan? Quite the contrary; the moment we adopted it, they took measures in the opposite direction. Did they show a disposition to open their coasting trade to us, when we were invited to let them share freely in ours? Nothing of the sort. Their Minister here said it would be done; his Government said nothing should induce them to think of it. Then see the position to which you reduce yourself if this measure of my noble Friend is adopted. You have purchased, dearly purchased, your vast and rich colonial empire—and a great part of its profit is the trade you drive with its various portions. At once you are to let into a full share of its benefits all other nations, who never have paid one shilling, nor spilt one drop of blood to govern or to keep it, or indeed to do any thing but obstruct you in both getting it and defending it. All are to be let in—Americana, Dutch, French, Belgians, Danes, Swedes, and all at once—not those only who, like the Dutch, have colonies, and are willing to give up their own exclusive traffic; but those who, like the Americans and the Belgians, have none. And you let all equally in at once, instead of waiting till you can arrange reciprocity treaties with any one of them. But why are you to let them in, and yet continue the expense of governing and of defending these settlements? Surely we must make up our minds to save the cost of this empire, if we no longer are to have the benefit. At least, if others are to profit as much as ourselves, and not to pay at all, we shall be truly simple if we go on paying for their benefit. Now, the military 1344 establishment of this country stands us in above fifteen millions yearly charge. Of this force, full two-thirds is required by our colonies. Then, are we to reduce the Army, Navy, and Ordnance ten millions? Why this is the very proposition of a sect lately founded by the ultra free-trade men. They have been agitating the country to this effect; and I declare I can perceive in this argument the main reason why with them the present plan is in such favour. What care they for reciprocity? What care they for our departing wholly from Mr. Huskisson's prudent course, and giving up the quid without the quo—making the bargain without getting the consideration? The Americans have no colonies; they won't give us any share in the coasting trade which they drive through their boundless waters, both on the Atlantic and in the lakes; they don't even care, by such a participation, to purchase a share of our own insular coasting traffic; yet we are at once to let them share that which is in truth a branch of our coasting trade, and its most valuable branch—the home trade of our colonies. They may bring our produce from the West Indies to England, export our manufactures from England to the West Indies, and carry on the trade between island and island—but not a dollar's worth of their American trade will they suffer us to share; and the agitators for reducing our Army and Navy perhaps foresee that to keep up those costly establishments merely in order that the Americans may profit by them, cannot long be endured by our people. Hence, no doubt, one motive of the zeal shown by that sect, which, although insignificant, is very active to abolish what they term the colonial monopoly.
I have been considering this measure in its relation to our colonies and our commerce. But look at it in its bearing upon our shipping; for, after all, that is the gist of the question.
My noble Friend denies that there is any thing to fear from passing this Bill. Even were he to succeed in proving that there is no danger, I am sure he cannot deny that there is much fear. When did he ever before find such alarm in our trading community? When see such numbers rushing forward to petition Parliament, and pray for a respite? Look at the 47,000 petitioners from Liverpool!
Yes, the Corpo- 1345 ration; and men of all parties—Whig, Tory, Radical, free-trader, and advocate of restriction—all, including above 1,000 of the first houses in that great town, have implored your protection against a measure which they doom fatal to the shipping interest. To he sure, we are told that Liverpool cannot be against it, when the two Members are for it. But this is explained. One of them, a worthy Baronet, was the secretary of a Whig Minister, when at the head of the present Cabinet; the other was understood to have pledged himself against it, when he canvassed the electors—and neither has the least concern in either ships, colonies, or commerce. Can any man believe Liverpool to be otherwise than most hostile, and unanimously hostile, to the Bill, when its 1,000 I mercantile firms, its whole corporation, and 47,000 of its inhabitants, being almost every man capable of petitioning, has signed the petition against it?
Now, in coming to the most important part of the whole question, and which my noble Friend not only never touched, but from beginning to end of his able speech never came within sight of—its bearing on the shipping, on the navigation of the country—I must remark that the argument really lies in a very narrow compass. Who doubts that our present system has answered its purpose? Its object was to give us a great mercantile marine, in order that we might always have a powerful national or military navy. Who can affect to doubt that it has secured to us at all times this supreme advantage? Who pretends to deny that whatever else it may have done, or failed to do, it has accomplished its purpose of giving us fleets which defend our country at home, and its vast possessions abroad—carrying our flag in triumph over every sea? Then, surely the proof is on him who would have us abandon this system, and try, for the first time, some other. Yet not one tittle of an argument did my noble Friend give to persuade us that we should give up the plan we have tried for centuries, and for centuries found successful, in order to try a new and unknown scheme. I might safely rest the case against him here; but I will go into the subject a little further, on account of its vast importance, even at the risk of fatiguing your Lordships, and upon whose patience I have already trespassed so long. And to get at this cardinal point, on which the question really turns, I pass over the 1346 glaring inconsistency of my noble Friend, whose maxim being that all men should be allowed to frequent whatever markets they choose, and carry their goods by whatever ships they please, yet will not venture on applying his principle to the coasting trade—will not let the Newcastle man send his coals to London by the cheapest conveyance, or the Londoner buy them at the lowest price; but as carefully excludes all foreigners from the trade between the Tyne and the Thames, as if sensible that there is no safety in touching that system to which we owe our ships and our seamen. So the grower of corn must still suffer under what my noble Friend calls the remnant of the monopoly, and the consumer of bread pay dearer than is necessary for his food. Why? In order to keep the coasting trade in the hands of the British carrier: contrary—directly contrary to the whole principle of the Bill, and as if to show how little confidence its authors have in their own policy.
My noble Friend, without even approaching this part of the case—in truth, the whole of the matter in issue—contented himself with saying, in general terms, that England could enter into competition with the rest of the world in shipbuilding and in rearing seamen; but he carefully shunned all particulars—producing not a tittle of evidence—not even a table of Mr. Porter—to back his assertion. But I have read the evidence; and I find, that while all our naval authorities, with one solitary exception, whom they promoted and sent abroad before he was cross-examined, are clear against my noble Friend; and nearly all the English shipowners join in the same views. We have the testimony of Mr. Mitchell favourable to the Bill. But he, a Member of the other House, confesses that his information is mainly gathered from what he heard in a Committee of that House. What he says of his own mercantile knowledge, I own, surprises me not a little. Two English sailors, he says, will do the work of a dozen Russians (Lords' Evidence, 606, et seq.). But after much statement that looks unfavourable to the navigation law, out comes the avowal (p. 619), that were it repealed he should give a decided preference to foreign ships. His main reason is, that our captains are of so inferior a description: of two hundred in his employ, not above one half being able to read and write. Now, my Lords, I have conferred with merchants and shipowners, of ten times Mr. Mit- 1347 chell's experience, some of them, too, as good Whigs as my noble Friend himself, and as zealous advocates of free trade, and they assure me, that if such be the result of the hon. Member's experience, he has been the most unfortunate of men; for theirs is directly the reverse. Nor can I much approve the circular that has been sent from the Foreign Office to our own Consuls, for the purpose of gleaning information against the masters of our trading vessels and their mates and sailors. The Consul in any port is, perhaps, the most unfit judge you can resort to on the subject. He sees only the seamen who have got into some scrape with the natives and their authorities. When all goes well and smoothly, the Consul is little appealed to; but, doubtless, all these gentlemen were apprized of the kind of intelligence that would prove most acceptable. For ray own part, having known not a few captains, and sailed in several ships, I am bound in justice to say, they appeared intelligent men, and undeserving the censures cast upon them by some persons.
Let us now come closer to the question, and at once try the matter in issue by the known facts. Can the foreigner, when this ill-omened Bill becomes law, undersell us in the two great articles of building ships and navigating them? On this issue is joined, and I proceed to prove my case. The first witness I call is Mr. Mitchell, not the Member, but a shipbuilder and merchant of the first respectability, and Belgian Consul in the port of Leith (Lords' Evidence, 665). Wholly independent of all controversy on the navigation law, this gentleman built a vessel with the greatest possible attention to economy, and it cost him 20l. a ton. Deduct 2l. for the timber duty—because that is not necessary, and may be taken off—we have 18l. a ton for the cost; and in foreign ports, not excepting Dantzic—because they there build as well as any where in the world—the expense is 12l., or 50 per cent less. But suppose the vessel could be built in our ports for 14l. or 15l., still the difference is quite enough to cast the balance against us, and give the foreign builder a preference. Such a preference is more than sufficient to ruin our whole shipbuilding trade. I do beseech your Lordships to pause and consider of what magnitude the interests are with which you are now dealing. In-Vested in this business is a capital of 16,000,000l.; 3,000,000l. are annually expended in building, 8000,000l. in out- 1348 fits and repairs, while 80,000 shipwrights are employed at wages of 5,000,000l. a year—a race of men as sober, skilful, and industrious, as any workmen the country can boast of; while in the dockyards of the Government there are not above 4,500. So much do we depend on the private yards for our men-of-war, that I heard Mr. Pitt, in 1804, state two-thirds of all our fleets to be built there, and of the 24 sail of the line built during the war that ended, or was interrupted by the Peace of Amiens, only two were built in the King's yards. Admiral B. Martin, too, states, that in the course of thirty or forty years above 90 sail of the line, and between 500 and 600 frigates, were built in the merchants' yards. But it is enough to remind your Lordships of the vast manufacture which you are cutting up by the roots, independent of other considerations. So much for shipbuilding, as regards the amount of it and the cost. But the argument rests not on calculations from figures, and from returns—the reason of the thing makes it manifest that we must be undersold. We have excellent oak, but that forms only 20 parts out of 55 in the construction of vessels; the other 35 parts, or 150 per cent, is fir, which we must fetch from a great distance. It is true we have the iron and copper near, which the Americans have to carry from a distance; but that makes only 15 parts in 100 of the cost incurred by the carriage of materials. It is true that Mr. Minturn (Lords' Evidence, 827), says, the American shipwrights receive 10s. 6d. a day wages, at which one feels surprise; but no inference can be drawn from this; for when asked, "Then, of course, you always repair your ships in England, where the wages are so much lower," he answers, "Oh, no; I never think of such a thing." Why? "Be-cause repairing here is so much more expensive." Then, as for quality of ships in the Baltic, they build them good, though with oak inferior to ours; but in the Adriatic, the oak and the building are the very best in the world, and thither must a large portion of our shipbuilding be driven. What then are the wages of foreign seamen as compared with ours? The evidence taken by your Committee proves that the scale is this.—In the Baltic, the captain has 3l., and 5 per cent on the freight, making 5l. a month in all; the Dutch captains have 4l.; and the Belgians the same; but our English captains have 8?. 10s.; and a re- 1349 spectable shipowner told me yesterday, that he never gave less than 10l. Pretty well for men who (as Mr. Mitchell says) can neither read nor write, while the well-educated Prussian and Dutchman has from 4l. and 5l. only. Then the foreign seaman has 1l. 10s. to 1l. 15s. a month wages, and his food costs but 8d. a day; ours have 3l wages, and their foods costs 1s. 3d. In the United States the wages are much higher than in other foreign countries, quite as high as our own, and even somewhat higher. But then they sail their ships with fewer men, 3¼ to a ton, where we have 4½; and they feed their men worse, and make them work more—put less into them, and get more out of them. This difference in their habits of strict economy and hard labour is very remarkable. If any person will read one of the most entertaining books ever published since Robinson Crusoe, he will be convinced of this—I mean Two Years before the Mast. Read it with the determination to pass over the sea phrases, and never think of stopping to understand them, you will find it a book difficult to lay down when once you take it up. But one feeling is present to your mind during the whole perusal, the unceasing hard labour of the whole crew at all hours of the day, "from morn till noon, from noon till dewy eve." Nay, at most hours of the night season too, and all to accomplish the most minute savings. Whoever surveys the picture of American economy, and labour, and privation, presented by that little volume, will at once comprehend how it is that our transatlantic brethren can navigate their vessels at a cheaper rate than we can.
Now, your Lordships perceive, that in making these comparisons between our own shipbuilding and navigation and those of foreigners, I have relied on tables or returns, indeed on specific facts, much less than on general reasoning from known and admitted data—and this is always more satisfactory and less exposed to error. When the reason of the thing—the probability from admitted facts, goes along with the figures, our calculation is secure from being upset by other figures. We check and fortify the one by the other, and can safely rely on our returns when they tally with the general probability. Thus, I have taken the evidence as consistent with what we should expect from the near neighbourhood of shipbuilding materials in America and the Adriatic, from the various 1350 habits and conditions of labourers, and therefore of sailors in different countries; and my conclusion, checking and fortifying the evidence of the witnesses who speak to sums, gives the formidable result that without legal protection our shipbuilding and navigation must leave us and pass away to other nations.
And here, my Lords, I receive in the midst of my alarms and apprehensions, comfort, and indeed support, from an unexpected quarter; not from any witnesses sent by the Board of Trade—not from any blue books or tables—not from the respected authority of Mr. Huskisson, or Mr. Wallace, and his other coadjutors; but from the noble Marquess himself and his coadjutors—nay, from this very Bill to which he desires your concurrence. For what does it enact? Just as its very first provision after the general reciprocity clause, saves the whole coasting trade, keeps it as a strict monopoly, excludes from all share in it every foreign ship—so does the following clause retain by far the most oppressive portion of the Navigation Act, the rule that every British vessel shall have the master and three-fourths of the men British subjects. And this, be it observed, is not merely giving the foreigner an equal share of the trade with ourselves; it is giving them the advantage over us; nay, it is excluding ourselves and giving them a monopoly; for they may navigate between our colonics and England as they please with their own crews, whereas we must have no foreign seamen in our vessels; I say, none at all; for the permission is utterly nugatory of one-fourth, because you cannot employ foreigners with your own men on account of the language; and if you did, you would save nothing by it, because you must give them the same wages and the same food—you cannot have two rates of pay, two dietary tables. Thus no gain whatever can we make by the cheapness of foreign seamen; and while we suffer them to man as they find most profitable, the ships to which our carrying trade with our colonies, as well as with all other countries, must speedily be transferred, we impose on our own shippers the burthen of manning their vessels in the way they find of all others the most expensive. The provision alone is sufficient to complete our loss of a marine by transferring it to those who undersell us. Our commerce may continue; nay, it may be as gainful as before; it may even be 1351 somewhat more profitable; that is not the point; our navigation, our mercantile marine is gone; the nursery of our navy, the source of our maritime strength, the great pillar of our empire, is crumbled in the dust. Then why this gross anomaly, this utter inconsistency in the Bill? Why still insist upon retaining the positive rule, that three-fourths, or rather, for the reason I have given, the whole crew of every ship shall be British? Only for this reason, that the Government know how much depends on these seamen; that on them rests the whole strength of our navy; that after all we have heard preached about free: trade, by those who do not know what the question really is, and which has no connexion with free trade; after all that has been said against the navigation law from Pepys and his Diary to this day, nothing but the strict enforcement of the navigation law can preserve to us that invalua-able class of men, the sailors of England. Therefore while you confine your own ship-owners to one-fourth of foreign men, you leave foreigners to have four-fourths of their own people on board their ships; therefore you exclude your own subjects from the benefits of cheap carriage round your coasts—because you feel quite certain, that in no other way can any relics of your maritime nxirsery be preserved. You know and you feel, that talk as you may of monopolies and liberties in trade, the maintenance of a great navy is not the necessary consequence of an extensive commerce; for all your trade may be driven by foreigners. You know and you feel the necessity of that navy, and that a navy not being the natural growth of this country, how extensive soever her coasts, it must be forced to be had at all; that you can no more with your distance from stores, and your rate of wages, and your people's habits of indulgence, have a full supply of ships and men—a mercantile marine—by natural means, than you can have pineapples and other hothouse plants under your ungenial climate. The wisdom of all ages sanctions the position under which you only act by halves; and while by your exceptions to the measure you confess that its whole principle is wrong, you adopt enough of that principle to ruin your navy, while by stopping short of its full adoption, you show the sense of shame which hangs upon your conscience, and make the exception Work as great oppression to some classes as the rule works ruin to all.
Cast your eyes over the mighty fabric 1352 you are shaking, before its foundations be wholly undermined. Four millions of tons steered by 230,000 gallant men; from among whom 120,000 man your Royal Navy, and carry its banners in triumph over every sea on the globe: is this the peculiar season for placing such an institution in jeopardy? Is the existing state of the world precisely that which makes it fitting we should now, of all times, undertake the risks of a fundamental and sweeping change? The peace of Europe may at any time be broken; and war, foreseen or unforeseen by any one, break out—unforeseen through accidents that may always happen; foreseen as the natural fruit of a restless, unquiet, meddling policy—a policy which disregarding the motto of the gardener and of the island statesman, "look at everything, but touch nothing "—rather, not steadily looking at anything, touches everything without grasping it; and forgetting the rule, that he must grasp hard a nettle who would not be stung—so fingers all things as always to smart and to fail. If then war shall come, whether the result long dreaded of our impolicy, or suddenly from the fault of others, without any reproach on ourselves; then, indeed, must we feel, and bitterly feel, the want of our maritime resources which this measure is calculated to cut off. In 1792, before the brilliant succession of victories which crowned with undying renown the St. Vincents, the Nelsons, the Duncans, the Howes, we had but 16,000 seamen in the Royal Navy, and in less than three months 35,000 more were added to them. Whence were these recruited? Not from landsmen; to that course we were afterwards driven once under the pressure of the war, and to the quota-men of the parishes may be ascribed the darkest page of our naval annals, the only disgrace which ever stained them, the Mutiny at the Nore. But it was the mercantile marine that supplied those thousands of loyal, brave, victorious sailors. Now, instead of 16,000, we have 33,000 as our peace establishment. Heaven forbid that my worst fears; should be realised! But I cannot east my eyes across the Channel without trembling for the peace of Europe. In France, the nominal republic, nominal even as the; republic of Paris—suddenly risen upon the ruins of the monarchy—already betrays the love, let us only say, of military glory. What carries their troops to Civita Vecchia? I Not, believe me, any desire to relieve the Pope; not any love for Italian independ- 1353 ence; not even the wish to put down the disgraceful and despicable anarchy prevailing in the Roman States; nor any design of State policy to balance foreign influence in the Peninsula by meeting the forces which Austria is marching thitherward; but because the people—the Parisians, and that unhappily still means the French—are bent upon having some military proceeding somewhere executed; and that no French ruler, no Minister, no President dare oppose this irresistible national propensity. Therefore it is, that General Oudinot, Duke of Reggio, has landed, and has reported in his despatches that he succeeded without firing a shot, as if a man were to recount how he had effected a descent from the packet at Boulogne or from a wherry at Wapping without resistance, there being none to resist. I have learnt from eminent statesmen in the service of King Louis Philippe, statesmen in whose keeping, as in that of their Royal Master, I should have deemed the peace of Europe safe with the tranquillity of France, that had even they been still in the direction of French affairs, they might not have felt it possible to resist those national impulses, and avoid marching into Italy the army of the Alps. Then look to that Peninsula. In the north. Marshal Radetsky's brilliant and rapid progress has restored peace to Piedmont; a progress attended with but one error, as I most respectfully take leave to think it, the stopping short of Turin, from motives of ill-judged forbearance, always likely to produce mischief, as this one has in the blood shod at Genoa. Piedmont and Genoa have however happily been released from the heavy yoke of a wild populace and their unprincipled leaders. Tuscany, too, has freed herself, without foreign aid, from the most debasing and intolerable domination that was ever exercised by sordid and vulgar tyrants in a civilised country. The Roman States, I hope and trust, are soon to have the same relief from the same mob despotism; while Venice appears at length to be pacified by the tardy performance of the treaty with Sardinia; and the unconditional surrender of Palermo has terminated those sad scones in the dominions of our Sicilian ally—scenes on which, I am sure. Englishmen may well look back with a good deal of pain and something of remorse. Yet still the Italian Peninsula can only be said to enjoy a near prospect of peace, without any settlement having been generally effected, while the presence of at least two foreign 1354 armies within its boundaries, and three foreign fleets on its waters, leaves no little apprehension as to the continuance of its repose. Then crossing the Alps, and casting a glance over Germany, what meets our eye but disquiet and confusion, from the Baltic to the Adriatic, the elements of revolution everywhere, popular ferment universally at work, a general attempt to shake existing institutions and subvert ancient thrones, a wild longing after untried schemes of self-government. Though Russia has come down to aid our ancient ally, marching to save Hungary from the despotism of mob tyrants, and the anarchy of Polish agitators, who can deny that this very mode of pacification adds a new knot to the complicated position of European affairs? Who will guarantee us against the ferment of revolution, involving all Germany in confusion, and give us an assurance that among her neighbours this must lead to the bursting forth of war? A bold man he must be, who will confidently foretell that in three months time all Europe shall slumber in profound peace. Is this the time which wise statesmen would choose—this very year, 1849, next after the almost universal revolution of 1848, and before the agitated waters have subsided into anything like a calm—is this the most fitting moment we could hit on for making a great, a sweeping, a portentous alteration in our whole commercial policy, and abandoning the system by which our navy has been created, fostered, maintained? I speak not of the inevitable certain effects of war on our trade, our freights, our insurances, aggravating every one disadvantage into which we have seen this new maritime code must place our commerce. I speak not of commerce at all. I speak of defence. After all our past achievements, we have still powerful enemies to contend with. Our immortal triumphs on the ocean, almost eclipsed by the fame of our arms on shore—I speak in presence of the warriors whose illustrious valour has covered them with those laurels, therefore I may not dwell longer on the topic—yet all these mighty deeds, whether by sea or by land, have left two rival nations, America and Franco, unsubdued—"Quos neque Tydides, nee Larissæus Achilles,Non anni domuere decem, non mille carinæ"—ready at any moment to take advantage of our weakness, and attempt our destruction. So much for the moment chosen to venture upon such a fearful change. But what counsels it, or what compels? Is it 1355 recommended to the Government by any one urgent consideration, or is it forced on them by any pressure from without? Do their friends in the country complain of their inaction, upbraid them with doing nothing, taunt them for not bringing forward bold measures? Boldness is an admirable quality in any Minister; especially when bounded by circumspection, and tempered by discretion; but I would, above all, commend the courage which is proof against yielding to clamour, and enables Lim to act under the inspiration of his own wisdom, consulting for the good of his country, careless what quarter he may displease or disappoint. It is a bastard sort of courage, which for fear of offending partisans, places in jeopardy the great interests of the nation—it is a vicarious valour, which only makes a Minister risk the loss of place, while he exposes the State to ruin, not rushing himself into danger, but pushing his country into peril, confronting his adversaries in debate while he exhausts all our means of defence; and, reckless of consequences, arms our enemies with unprecedented power. If all exclusive benefit from our colonies must be given up, and the fifteen millions now required for our establishment is no longer needful, but ten of these are to be saved, no doubt you execute the plan of the agitators for reducing our Army and Navy. Is that the class to court for whom this measure is framed—the sect of ultra free-traders that has lately sprung up, attempting to agitate the country for a reduction to this extent? Surely the Government must be aware that this body of politicians has sunk into utter insignificance—they hardly had their day—they are, as the Psalmist says, "gone hence like the shadow that departeth; they are driven away like the grasshopper." But, were they ever so powerful, you never can satisfy their demands. If you yield this measure, you take a step that can never be retraced; and will only be compelled to go forward. We are told that it is a crowning measure, and the last in this direction. But no one who looks at it with the slighest attention can flatter himself with any such hope. It contains within its bosom the seeds of fresh agitation and new demands. The coasting trade, the manning clauses, will excite new agitation by other Ricardos and other Cobdens. This is inevitable; and this should warn those who in voting for the Bill avow their dislike of it, but say they trust to its being the last attack on 1356 our old national policy. I, my Lords, stand on firmer and higher ground. I require the sins of that policy to be proved—that policy which has hitherto been ever successful in the accomplishment of its purpose—the defence of the country. Whoever would subvert it must show that it has failed, else no man of ordinary prudence will listen for a moment to his demand of a change.
In forming my judgment upon this great question, I have listened but to one voice, the voice of public duty; sinking all party, all personal considerations; and actuated only by my profound conviction of what my regard for the public safety enjoins, when I call upon your Lordships to reject this Bill. But one word more is demanded of me by what fell from my noble Friend when he intimated that certain consequences to himself and his colleagues would result from the loss of their measure. Now, on a question of minor importance, such a warning would upon my mind make the greatest impression. Upon any thing short of what I conscientiously believe to involve the fate, not merely of our mercantile navy, but of our national defence, the intimation of the noble Marquess would have weighed much with me; nay, would have made me listen readily, even gladly, to his suggestions; for I do not, on any account whatever, either public or private, from any feeling, whether of a general or a personal kind, desire to see a change in the Government. But the risk of any change I am prepared to meet, rather than see the highest interests of the empire exposed to ruin. Desiring the success of no one party in the State more than another, standing entirely aloof from all, my only anxiety is that the administration of public affairs should be in the hands of men who, unmoved by pressure from without, pursuing a rational and truly English course of policy, will honestly and manfully serve their king and country. But this measure I never can bear, because our national defence will not bear it. To sweeten the bitter cup which it will fill, I am told, and I firmly believe, nay I plainly perceive, that it must encourage slavery, and stimulate the infernal slave trade; since whatever cheapens navigation between this country and the marts for slave-grown sugar—whatever lets in the Americans, the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch, to bring over the sugars of Cuba and the Brazils, must of absolute necessity increase the African slave trade, by which the in- 1357 crease of those sugars is promoted. When this new ingredient is poured into the chalice commended to my lips this night, I can no longer hesitate, even if I had felt doubts before. All lesser considerations of party policy or parliamentary tactics at once give way; and I have a question before me on which I cannot pause, or falter, or treat, or compromise; and, regardless of the comfort in any quarter, careless with what arrangements of any individuals my voice may interfere, I know my duty, and I will perform it; as an honest man, an Englishman, a Peer of Parliament, I will lift that voice to resist the further progress of the Bill.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he should upon no other occasion have considered himself competent to follow the noble and learned Lord; but as it appeared to him that a great part of the speech of the noble and learned Lord had been anticipated by the arguments of the noble Marquess, and that other parts of it had no reference to the present Bill, he was emboldened to ask their Lordships' attention for a short time. He certainly should not increase the difficulty of replying to that noble and learned Lord, by entering into the question whether this measure bore analogy or not to other free-trade measures that had been lately passed by Parliament, still less had he the slightest wish to go into the question how far the course the noble and learned Lord was now pursuing was consistent with his former professions of policy; but it certainly did appear to him that there was this analogy between the Bill then before their Lordships, and those measures by which the protective duties had been taken off of late years—they both tended to remove restrictions upon commerce—they both tended to allow competition, and to destroy what he must be allowed to say was a limited monopoly. In the course of his able speech the noble and learned Lord had taken occasion to allude to a noble and gallant Lord, the Chairman of the Navigation Committee of last year, and who was now absent on professional duty. He was ready to bear his testimony to the eminent qualities displayed by that noble and gallant Lord—to the zeal and energy he had so usefully exhibited in his professional services on the coast of Italy. At the same time, he might be allowed to say one word of the singular fairness and candour of another noble Lord who had been taken away from them for ever—he meant the late Earl of 1358 Auckland. Great as had been the loss of that noble Lord to the public and the Government, he thought the Government would never feel his loss more than on the present occasion, when his great knowledge on matters connected with the Navy, his anxious jealousy of anything that might affect the prosperity of the Royal Navy, would have made his earnest conviction that this measure was absolutely necessary for the future prosperity of that Navy of the greatest possible weight with their Lordships. He did not think it necessary to go into any of the details which had been so ably handled by the noble and learned Lord. Nothing could be fairer than the statement he had given of the history of the navigation laws; but he thought that one point had been entirely left out of consideration. The noble and learned Lord considered this as originally a subject exclusively between the English and Dutch; but what were the facts of the case? He was sure the noble and learned Lord would remember that about the same time Louis XIV. passed a law for a very high differential duty on Dutch shipping. That law began the system of restriction which had since prevailed in France; and he thought that when they considered the insignificant amount of the mercantile marine in France compared with her extent, her wealth, and geographical position, they would be right in saying that our prosperity in shipping was owing to our increased colonial trade, and, still more, to our foreign trade, and the aptitude of the inhabitants of this island to mercantile pursuits, rather than to the restrictions which had so entirely failed in a neighbouring country. The noble and learned Lord had alluded to what happened immediately after the war of American Independence, and quoted the sentiments of some illustrious Americans on that occasion, that navigation laws were necessary to protect her interests. If he was not mistaken, those sentiments were uttered, not when America was free to pursue such course as she liked best, but when she was cut off, not only from intercourse with our colonies, but also from the trade of this country itself. But the noble and learned Lord had not alluded to the commercial difficulties of this question. It appeared to him (Earl Granville) that the law as it now stood required only to be read, for it to be clearly seen that there were commercial inconveniences attending it. Perhaps some noble Lords were more inclined to listen to the ship- 1359 owners and merchants, rather than to the theory of the Government on this question. Now, the shipowners were exactly the persons to whom they proposed by this Bill to apply the stimulus of competition, and although that stimulus was found in many cases to be not only useful to the community but to the class to whom it was to be applied, yet he believed it was without example that that class itself should be the first to invite that competition. He had great respect for the shipowners of this country, and it was far from his intention to believe that they were willing to deceive the public in this respect; but he could not believe they practically felt all the alarm that they expressed, for though this Bill was passed with a large majority in the House of Commons, and although there was some chance of its passing their Lordships' House, yet he was informed, on very good authority, that there were not at present more ships on sale than at any time in the last three years, and that large sums were being expended at Southampton and other places in building ships. Another class from whom petitions came were the farmers of this country. He did not think they were very well informed on the subject. He might say, without any want of respect to that body, that he should doubt whether any large body of persons engaged in agricultural pursuits knew what the provisions of the navigation laws were, or whether they ever for themselves had reflected what would be the consequence of the repeal of those laws. He must, he thought, have misunderstood the noble and learned Lord, but he understood him to say that by the present law French ships could not bring Russian produce from France. He (Lord Granville) was at a loss to know in what part of the Act that restriction was to be found. Then he understood that a large body of merchants apprehended great dangers from this Bill. He could not agree entirely with those who thought that, in matters of legislation, practical merchants were better informed than the Government. It had been his duty to go often to the custom-house, and he had seen there the great increase in the trade of the port of London, and the difficulty the custom-house had of meeting the increased demands of the merchants, and also he had seen the quay crowded with articles which had formed a new branch of commerce under the free-trade measures. That observation had done nothing to lessen the notion he 1360 entertained that free trade had increased the wealth of the country, and also in a great degree added to the advantages of the carrying trade. In the course of the inquiry on this subject, the Committee came to the warehousing system, and the first witness they examined said he had given some valuable information to the American Minister, who some three or four years ago came over to inquire and report on our trade. He held in his hand an American paper which contained the whole of the report made by that commissioner, in which he spoke highly of our warehousing system, and recommended the adoption of it by America. The report said—It is believed that there was scarcely an Act ever passed by the British Parliament that has aided more than the warehousing law to augment her manufactures, commerce, tonnage, and revenue. It is thus seen how Great Britain has made herself the centre of universal commerce and exchanges, and the storehouse of the business of the world.No Peer in that House, no man in the kingdom, could deny the benefits that that system had conferred on the trade of this country. He would remind their Lordships that whilst the foreigner might send his produce here to be warehoused for exportation in any ships he pleased, yet if our own colonies sent their produce in a foreign ship, that produce was not allowed to be exported, but could be seized and confiscated. But who first introduced the principle of this measure? Sir R. Walpole more than a century ago. But what was the result of his doing so? Not only did he incur personal risk to a great extent, but he was obliged to postpone the measure, which was not brought forward until the beginning of this century, in consequence of the opposition of the merchants of London and Liverpool, who insisted that that measure would be the destruction of the commerce of the country. He left it to their Lordships to say whether the Ministers or the merchants of London and Liverpool were in the right. In the same way Mr. Peel, the father of Sir R. Peel, who represented the manufacturers of the country, stated to their Lordships, on the Bill for throwing open the trade between this country and Ireland, that it was impossible the English manufacturer could compete with the cheap labour of the Irishman, and that he was determined, if the Bill passed, to emigrate to Ireland. Mr. Peel was supported in that view by the merchants of Liverpool; but he would ask 1361 whether they were right in their view? He believed that the merchant of this country was pre-eminent for good sense, intelligence, skill, and enterprise, and remarkable also for that Anglo-Saxon quality which had led so much to our prosperity in every walk of life, namely, a power of concentration to the business in hand. The merchant found trade forced by the navigation laws into certain channels. In one of those he found his profit. The interest of the consumer was not his particular business; and he might feel that if the Channel were opened it might bring some competition into that trade. The view which he took of this part of the case was borne out by the answers given by some of the commercial men who were examined before their Lordships' Committee. Those gentlemen gave remarkably sensible and intelligent evidence relative to their own trade, and then declared that they experienced no inconvenience from the navigation laws, but apprehended danger from their repeal. On looking more closely to their evidence, however, it appeared that several of those witnesses said, "I have not turned my attention to the navigation laws, "or" I never considered the bearing of the navigation laws on this question;" whilst another declared that "he did not understand the navigation laws," and added, what was very likely to he true, "that very few persons did understand them." The inconvenience which these laws caused to commerce was of so marked a character, that he really felt it unnecessary to refer to particular instances, or to enter into detail with respect to this part of the subject. What could be more onerous to our merchants than to prevent them from availing themselves of a glut of an article in a foreign port to supply the demand which might exist for that article in this country? If there was one point more clearly established than another by commercial experience it was, that a merchant would always bring his goods to the best and largest market. Thus a merchant who had a cargo of sugar would bring it to London or Liverpool, though it would cost him more to do so than if he carried it to smaller ports, to which part of the produce would perhaps ultimately be sent. Should the relaxation of the navigation laws be carried further, foreigners would warehouse their goods here, because they would then have the chance of the home market, which they were deprived of at present. The fluctuation of freight was another inconvenience 1362 which the navigation laws inflicted upon merchants. It was clear that it was a disadvantage to the shipowner to have freights unreasonably low, and it was equally a disadvantage to the merchant and to the shipowner when freights were unreasonably high; for a high rate of freights invariably caused an influx of capital into the shipbuilding trade, which as certainly caused a reaction that was injurious to the shipowner. Thus they found by the evidence of one gentleman, that in 1821, when freights were low, that the percentage of foreign ships to English was 20 to 80; in 1825, when freights were high, they found the proportion of foreign ships increased to about 30 to 70; in 1828, when freights again went down, the foreign fell to 23 against 77 English; and in 1840, when freights rose again, the foreign again increased in the ratio of 32 to 68. Another inconvenience to which commerce was subjected by the navigation laws respected the manning of our vessels. A ship might be brought over from India by a crew composed chiefly of Lascars; but the merchant was prevented from working out the ship again with the same crew. He must employ three-fourths British seamen, whom he did not want. These laws also burdened the shipowner with the obligation of employing a certain number of apprentices. He was unable to understand the observations which the noble and learned Lord made relative to the advantages which the Brazils and Cuba would have over our colonies in the event of the navigation laws being repealed. At present our colonies were restricted to British vessels, whilst they had to compete with those of Spain, Cuba, and the Brazils; but the case would be different if the navigation laws were repealed; for our colonies might then avail themselves of the ships of other nations to obtain supplies of free labourers. It might be recollected that Lord Harris, in one of his despatches, stated that the colonists were obliged to pay double freights in consequence of being compelled to employ none but British ships to bring them free labourers. But he would not go into the question of the colonies, as, no doubt, his noble Friend (Earl Grey) would discuss that part of the question at length. He would merely observe, that it would not be difficult to show the injustice, the impolicy, almost the impossibility of continuing to govern their colonies unless they did away with the most restrictive part of the navi- 1363 gation laws. He now came to the foreign part of the question. Amongst foreigners, the people of the United States were those from whom it was said we had the most to fear. The noble and learned Lord stated, that he had some doubts whether the United States would reciprocate with them. He could say, that when this country had made concessions, the United States made concessions; when they imposed restrictions, the United States imposed restrictions also. And he must say, with regard to the measure which Mr. Pitt wished to introduce, that if it had been carried it would have put an end to great commercial inconvenience to both countries, and have taken away all ground for bad feeling in consequence of acts of Congress and proclamations of the President on the one side, and Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council on the other. But the law, as it stood now, was a greater inconvenience to them than to America. He apprehended that no possible injury could result from this Bill, either in respect to this country or to foreign countries; for the Bill would in effect be a self-acting law. Already they had the assurance of the American Government of the construction which they would put upon it, and that they were perfectly ready to give everything which it was proposed to ask by this Bill. Moreover, if it were supposed that there was any danger of a reactionary policy in America in favour of protection, it would be wise to strike while the iron was hot, and at once to put our relations with that country on a sound and intelligible footing. Allusion had been made to the differential duties imposed upon our goods and vessels by the German Customs Union. Undoubtedly, the Zolverein and Prussia had manifested a determination to retaliate the restriction which our navigation laws imposed upon them. From her position Prussia must always exercise great influence in the north of Germany; and although it might happen that, by imposing discriminating duties upon our goods and vessels, Prussia would injure herself more than she could hurt us, yet it would not be fitting for England, the greatest commercial country in the world, to enter into a war of hostile tariffs, particularly when that contest was founded on an unjust principle. Russia, too, had given notice, that when the existing treaty with her expired, she would impose upon us restrictions similar to those to which we subjected her. The noble 1364 and learned Lord had twitted the Government with not having repealed the provision which compelled shipowners to man their vessels with crews composed, as regarded three-fourths, of British seamen, and also with not having thrown open the coasting trade. Those were questions which might more fully be considered in Committee; but he could not avoid making a few observations on the latter point. The concurrent evidence of all the witnesses examined proved that it was a matter of indifference to foreigners whether the coasting trade were open or shut, because no foreigner would enter it. There was, he believed, no objection on the part of the Government to the opening of the coasting trade, except an apprehension of the increased facilities which would thereby be given for smuggling, and a desire to avoid increasing, for no practical object, the alarm which unnecessarily prevailed respecting the proposed change in the navigation laws. The ground upon which a great portion of the opposition to the Bill rested, was the alleged inability of the British shipbuilders to compete with foreign shipbuilders. Now, as to the comparative cost of building ships here and abroad, he was informed, by a practical man, engaged in the trade of copper sheathing, that ships could be built as cheaply in this country as in Norway or Sweden, if they were built of the same quality. An instance was given of a ship built in Norway for 9,000l., which was afterwards sent to his (Lord Granville's) informant to be coppered, and have additional knees, &c., at a cost of 1,000l.; making altogether 10,000l. for a ship which would not have sold for more than 6,000l. in this country. He found that fifteen witnesses had all given different estimates of the cost of building ships, varying from 24l. to 6l. 16s. a ton. Any argument advanced to show the impossibility of continuing to build ships here, on account of the greater money cost, went to prove that Mr. Green and Mr. Wigram were guilty of egregious folly when they paid 24l. per ton for ships built on the Thames, when they could have them built for 10l. a ton elsewhere. He believed the truth to be, that no country in the world could build ships for a smaller amount of money than our North American colonies. Russia appeared to be able to build as cheaply the inferior class of vessels; but of the best quality, no ships were cheaper than those built in this country. The fairest way of instituting a comparison 1365 was, not to compare the ships of one country with those of another, overlooking the condition and circumstances in which they were produced, but to look at the elements for shipbuilding possessed by the different countries. As regarded this country and the United States, he found that all the elements of shipbuilding, including iron, copper sheathing, copper bolts, and sails, were cheaper in this country. Some persons thought the cost of timber made an enormous difference; but he found by the evidence of Mr. G. F. Young, that the whole cost of the foreign timber employed in a ship was only 380l. Some stress was laid upon the circumstance, that foreigners had provisions and stores cheaper than we could obtain them; but even in that respect the disadvantage to the British shipowner would amount only to the cost of freight from the port at which those articles could be obtained at the cheapest rate. As to the British sailor, he disagreed from the noble and learned Lord, and believed that our sailors had a natural instinct and aptitude for maritime pursuits, which rendered them the best sailors in the world; and the proof of this was that three-fourths of the seamen employed in the American marine were English. Nor was it to be supposed that our seamen would seek employment in American ships, if the noble and learned Lord were correct in stating that the Americans worked them harder and fed them worse. The noble and learned Lord complained of the calumny which he said had been directed against a large proportion of the captains of the English mercantile marine on account of their alleged inferiority to foreign captains; and the noble and learned Lord justified his defence of English captains by his own experience. Now, it must be observed that the captain in command of the vessel in which the noble and learned Lord was likely to be a passenger, was probably one of the best captains in the world. It was not his wish to speak disparagingly of the captains of our mercantile marine as a body, but, looking at the evidence given upon this point, it seemed impossible to deny that a considerable proportion of them were deficient in the information which was necessary for their profession. The noble and learned Lord was not entitled to throw discredit upon the testimony which our consuls had given upon this point. Lord J. Hay stated that if the inquiry had been sufficiently protracted to have permitted of 1366 his doing it, he could have produced numerous instances of the want of information exhibited by our mercantile commanders. It was in evidence that more accidents happened to vessels sailing under the English flag, than to those of any other nation, and that it was owing to the superior construction of our ships, rather than to the skill of our captains, that the loss of life and property was not much greater than actually occurred. He now came to the statistical part of the case; and he must say that he should have been surprised at hearing the noble and learned Lord inveigh against the statistical information which had been brought to bear upon this question, had he not known it was adverse to the noble and learned Lord's view of the case. Looking to the position of the noble and learned Lord, and to the high office which he had held in the State, it was to be regretted that he should have employed his giant eloquence and powerful sarcasm in attempting to crush Mr. Porter of the Board of Trade. Although Mr. Porter's position was inferior to that of their Lordships, he was actuated by as honourable feelings as appertained to any Member of that House, and it was hard that he should be exposed to an attack of this nature when he was unable to defend himself. He (Earl Granville) was inferior to Mr. Porter in ability, information, and experience; and therefore he regretted that it fell to his lot to explain that that gentleman had been the subject of great misrepresentation. Mr. Porter had been attacked with reference to a return issued from the Board of Trade, giving a comparative view of the shipping employed in the protected and unprotected trade. A great outcry was raised against the heading of this return, and it was shown that that very heading was founded in a description given by Mr. George Frederick Young himself before the Committee of the other House. It appeared from the return that whereas the protected trade had increased 94 per cent, the unprotected or rather the less protected trade, had increased 182 per cent. But it was objected that this was an unfair distribution, and that China, Russia, and the Brazils, ought to be included in the protected trade. That was done, and the effect was to lower the percentage increase of that trade to 91, and to raise the percentage of the less protected trade to above 200. It was next said that the whole of the South American trade ought to be included in the protected 1367 division. That was done; and the percentage of the protected trade reached 94, whilst that of the less protected stood at 200. The objections were not yet exhausted; it was alleged that a largo number of mercantile steamers, which were constantly sailing to and from the Continental ports, were improperly included in the less protected trade. A deduction was made on that account also; but, after all, the increased ratio of the less protected trade was too evident to admit of dispute. As far, therefore, as statistical information went, it established that the relaxations made in our commercial system in 1825 had caused a great increase in our trade. But it was not possible, by any kind of legislation, to prevent foreign nations, with their increase of civilisation and wealth, from increasing their navigation in time of peace; and, so far from effecting this object, the navigation laws protected the particular trade of each country just as much as they protected our own. It was a curious fact with respect to Denmark—one of the countries which was said to possess a great advantage over us as regarded economy in shipbuilding—that our indirect trade with that country was three times as great as our direct trade, and the former was unprotected. It was also worthy of notice that at the present moment this Denmark, so much dreaded by shipowners, was advertising for British seamen to serve in their fleet. The real question was, could other countries drive us out of the direct trade which we now enjoyed? Let their Lordships compare the progress of our mercantile marine with that of the United States, as evidenced by the ships entering the ports of that country, and consider whether we can beat the Americans without any restriction whatever. It appeared from a return of American and foreign vessels which entered the ports of America for the year ending the 30th of June, 1848, that the centesimal proportions were as follows: United States' ships, 63.00; British, 30.99; all other nations, 6.00—the latter small percentage represented the competition of all other countries of the world, from whom it was now represented we had so much to dread. Their Lordships were aware that the American shipping was divided into two parts—that employed in foreign trade, and that engaged in their immense coasting and internal navigation trade. The increase which had taken place in American shipping since 1815 was chiefly in the coast- 1368 ing trade. The foreign trade of the United States had increased only forty-five per cent since that period, whilst their coasting trade had increased 108 per cent. Taking the foreign British tonnage to have increased in thirty-two years thirty-three and a half per cent, and the American foreign tonnage forty-five per cent, yet he would ask their Lordships to consider whether there had not been at the same time a considerable difference in the increase of population. In the same number of years the population of this country had increased fifty-one per cent, while the increase in the population of the United States was about 144 per cent. Thus the increase of population in the latter case, as compared with the former, was as three to one; while the increase of tonnage was only about three to two. Our present navigation laws actually subjected us to a disadvantage as regarded the Americans. Their great shipping trade consisted in bringing over bulky articles, the produce of their own country; while the most desirable cargo that we could send out consisted in sorted articles, not only English, but foreign goods. Thus, while we could take out only part of a cargo of our own goods, a United States' ship could take a freight either composed entirely of American goods, or partly American and partly European goods. With regard to Portugal, the port wine produced in that country added considerably to the comfort and enjoyment of a large class in this country, and the commerce in this article, if carried on without injurious restrictions, would be an advantage to both countries. But Portugal, by ingenious fiscal arrangements, had contrived to impose a differential duty on the export of port wine to this country, as compared with its exports to other countries. The English importer, to avoid this differential tax, had thought of sending the port wine to the United States in the first instance. The navigation law, however, of the United States prevented English ships bringing it to America, even to be warehoused; and therefore the article was sent in American vessels to America, and came back to this country with the prejudice attaching to it of not being imported direct. Thus the fiscal restrictions on the one side, and our navigation laws on the other, occasioned the inconvenience of a voyage twice across the Atlantic, and put, at the same time, a considerable portion of the profit into the pockets of the Americans. He deplored that Por- 1369 tugal should think it necessary to impose this differential duty against one of her hest customers, but he still more deplored that this country should think it worth while to set an example of restriction which he must he allowed to say was one of a pitiful description. The noble and learned Lord had alluded in eloquent terms to the disastrous effects which would follow the destruction of the mercantile and military marine of this country. He (Earl Granville) beheved that this country, so long as it maintained its insular position, would never be found without a sufficient marine to protect it. And if he could so far extend his imagination as to fancy that the Bill now on the table could have the effect of extinguishing the fires in our steam-ships, of shutting up our shipbuilding yards, or starving the British seaman, he was ready to admit that then the mercantile marine would receive a heavy blow, and that this country would not preserve the naval supremacy she had hitherto enjoyed. But the real question was, whether this country was able or unable to compete with foreigners? He must say that he thought in listening to the noble and learned Lord's argument, to the effect that this country could not so compete, that similar arguments might have been used by any other Peer, possessing like eminent talents for debate, some seventy or eighty years ago, to show the impossibility of our competing in the manufacture of cotton goods with the cheap and skilful labour of the Indian artisan, who had the raw material under his very hand. But every one know what the progress of the cotton manufacture had been; and that we had inundated the world with the produce of our machines. To what was this owing? Whether it was owing to an accumulation of capital, and a disposition to rest satisfied with a smaller rate of interest than other people in the world—and he did not think that the events of last year were likely to diminish that disposition—whether it was owing to the ingenuity, skill, and mechanical invention of the population of this country; every one of these arguments applied equally to shipbuilding and ship navigation; and, in addition, the materials were as cheap here as in any other country. He had, therefore, no doubt but that if their Lordships passed the present Bill the shipbuilder of this country would have as great if not greater success than had attended the manufacturer engaged in any other article in this 1370 country. Before concluding, he would mention one circumstance that gave him satisfaction in supporting the present Bill. Whenever other changes had taken place in commercial legislation by the destruction of monopolies or by the introduction of machinery, for a time individuals and classes had felt a temporary inconvenience; but it was clear, whatever the result of the present proposed change might be, that no country possessed capital, ships, or sailors at once to compete with this country. Therefore the struggle, should it come, would be a gradual one; the shipowners would have time to prepare for it; and of the result of that struggle he, for one, did not entertain any doubt.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
rose for the purpose of submitting to the House an Amendment to the Motion of the noble Marquess (the President of the Council.) The object of the original framers of the navigation laws, had been to promote the safety and strength of this nation by the encouragement of British shipping and British seamen. The noble Marquess had quoted the Acts of navigation passed between the reigns of Richard II., and that of Edward VI., but he had passed over those of Queen Elizabeth. The 5th Elizabeth, cap. 5, was the first germ of the existing system: it excluded foreigners from our coasting trade—encouraged the fisheries—and prohibited the importation of wine, and other produce of France, except in British vessels. The famous ordinance of Cromwell, in 1651, fully developed the system, which was confirmed and extended by Charles II. at his restoration. These successive enactments, passed under such different circumstances, show them to have been founded on general principles, and not to have been merely ebullitions of anger against foreign rivals. It was necessary to distinguish between commerce and navigation; a nation might possess an extensive commerce carried on by means of the shipping of other countries, as is now the case, in a great measure, with Russia and Turkey; but it is upon the extent of its own shipping and seamen that the power as well as the wealth of an insular empire like England depends. This was the object of the founders of the navigation laws; and he trusted to show that this object had been attained. The noble Marquess had quoted a passage from Pepys' Diary, to show that a scarcity of seamen prevailed fifteen years after the passing of the law; but he (Lord Colchester) believed 1371 this was at a moment when there was a hot press to man the fleet for the Dutch war, and sailors kept out of sight. Several writers of eminence spoke of the great increase of shipping and trade within the first forty years after the ordinance of 1651. Davenant states our shipping to have doubled between 1660 and 1686. Sir Josiah Child, in his Tract on Trade, says—" The Navigation Act does occasion the building and employing three times the number of ships and seamen we otherwise should do;" and Sir William Petty, in his Political Arithmetic, printed 1691, says, shipping within the last forty years had greatly increased. No regular periodical accounts of the amount of shipping appear to have been kept during the first half of the 18th century; but from the year 1760, annual returns of the shipping of England and Scotland, are given in Macpherson's Annals of Commerce. Hence there appear to have been in the years—
|1760||486,740||tons of shipping.|
§ showing that although a diminution took place between the years 1770 and 1780, owing to our struggle against the combined forces of France and Spain during the war of American independence, yet that upon the whole period of forty years our shipping had increased more than threefold; and if the period of peace between 1782 and 1792 be taken separately, it will be found that during that short period our shipping more than doubled; and while our commerce thus increased under the navigation laws, its safety and strength were maintained by the numerous body of gallant seamen obtained from this commercial navy for the service of their country. Through them Rodney was enabled to gain that victory in 1782 which restored to us an honourable peace; and by the celerity with which our fleets were manned from this source, on those successive occasions during the succeeding ten years, when differences occurred with France, Russia, and Spain, we were enabled to maintain our rights without a rupture of peace; and thus, as was observed by a distinguished Admiral before their Lordships' Committee, the blessings of peace were preserved to us, and thousands of lives and millions of money saved. It had been asserted out of their Lordships' 1372 House that now seamen could not be obtained in the same manner; but he felt assured that the great body of our seamen would be ready to come forward at the call of their Sovereign; and if any held back, a law compelling them to take their share in the defence of their country would be willingly received by the seamen generally. The shipping of Great Britain continued to increase considerably from 1810 to 1815; but the general war which raged during that period throughout Europe, and latterly extended to America, so deranged the ordinary course of commerce, that no argument as to the effectof the navigation law could be drawn from it. From 1815 to 1824 some decrease had taken place in British shipping. Mr. Huskisson, in his speech, in May, 1826, had given the four following reasons, which he considered sufficient for this decline. 1. The cession, at the peace, of valuable colonies, captured, and held, during the war. 2. The abolition of the (British) slave trade. 3. The extinction of the Barbary corsairs by Lord Exmouth's victory at Algiers, which gave to the neighbouring States a coasting trade which had previously employed from 700 to 800 British vessels. 4. Diminution of employment in the transport service, amounting to 1,226 vessels, measuring 270,382 tons. The great progressive increase of British shipping since 1824, was admitted on all hands; but while the opponents of the navigation laws attributed it to the relaxations in those laws which took place between 1822 and 1825, others considered it as only the natural result of the altered state of the commercial world, arising from the emancipation of the States of South America, the increasing population and wants of the United States, and of our own colonies; and the general prosperity arising from a long period of peace. If, under such circumstances, our shipping had not largely increased, such a result would have been, as certainly, and with more justice, attributed to the navigation laws; but he had already shown their Lordships that up to the commencement of the century the increase under those laws had been steady and considerable, and a similar result might have been now expected. In considering the details of this increase of our shipping, it was necessary to advert to those Parliamentary returns of trade and navigation, which had been so much commented upon by noble Lords who had preceded him in 1373 the debate. Without intending to dispute the accuracy of these returns for the purpose for which they were primarily intended—to show the progress of trade; yet when they were applied to that of navigation, they were utterly worthless; for as they included avowedly the repeated voyages made by each vessel within the year—an increase of entries and clearances may show increased activity of commerce, but not necessarily increase of shipping. A striking example was given of this before their Lordships' Committee, where 47 seven vessels, measuring in the aggregate, 7,101 tons, were made, owing to the counting of their repeated voyages, to represent 228,127 tons of British shipping. But it was objected that those laws were useless, because, in trades between two foreign ports, our shipping was exposed to unrestricted competition, and yet carried off the prize. This was not altogether a correct statement of the case, as this voyage between two foreign ports was not, generally, an independent transaction, but only a portion of a larger venture, commencing and terminating in England: as from London to the Brazils, thence to the Mediterranean, and so back to England; in which latter portion, at least, the British ship enjoys the protection of the navigation law, thus enabling her to take a lower freight in the intermediate portion. But even in direct trades the competition is not always favourable, at present, to England; the imports from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, are almost entirely brought in the vessels of those countries, and two-thirds of the whole imports from the united States come in American vessels. In the Brazils, the number of vessels clearing with cargoes from the port of Rio Janeiro was, in 1847—
|United States of America||194||63,73|
Thus showing the American trade doubled the British, while the two northern nations of Sweden and Denmark were nearly equal to that of England. But when, as proposed by the Bill before their Lordships, all protection should be taken from British shipping, the advantage must remain with those who could equip and navigate their ships most cheaply. There was one branch of our commerce which remarkably exemplified what might occur. This was the southern whale fishery, which was con-
sidered to produce our hardiest seamen; and as every one employed in it, from the master of the vessel down to the cabin boy, was remunerated, not by fixed wages, but by a share in the produce of the fishery, there was every inducement to exertion; and those exertions do not appear to have been wanting, as it is stated, that, ship for ship, they have been as successful in catching fish as their competitors the Americans; yet this trade, which in 1821 employed 164 ships carrying about thirty men each, has decreased to twenty-one ships; and in 1848 only one ship was fitting out for the southern fishery. In the same period the Americans had increased from 130 ships to 659 ships in the same trade; and this is entirely attributed by Mr. Enderby to the superior cheapness with which the Americans were enabled to equip their ships, and to Parliamentary legislation, which, in 1821, took away the bounties previously given to ships engaged in this fishery, and to the reduction in the duties on vegetable oils. Sow, it appeared from the evidence before their Lordships' Committee, that a British ship of the best materials to stand for twelve years upon the highest class of Lloyd's Register (A 1, 12), costs, when equipped for sea, 16l. to 22l. per ton; best New York ships, 14l. 10s.; Hamburg, 11l 11s. to 18l. 10s.; Danish, 10l.; Lubec, 10l Wages per month—England, 45s. to 65s.; United States, 50s. to 62s.; Holland, 33s.; Norway, 28s. to 30s.; Prussia, 24s. to 30s.; Denmark, 24s.; Sweden, 23s. Provisions per day—England, 10d. to 15d.; the nor thern nations, 8d.; this difference arising more from the superior quantity and quality of the ration of the English sailor, than from the cost of the food. Dr. Colquhoun, Consul for the Hanse Towns, when examined before the Committee of the House of Commons, put in a very detailed statement of the cost of building, and equipping, and navigating ships in those commercial cities. He there states the cost of a Lubec ship of the first quality, destined for the transatlantic trade, when equipped for sea, to be from 8l. 15s. to 9l. 2s. per ton. Taking this as a standard, he further states, of vessels of other nations engaged in the same trades, the English are two-fifths dearer; the Dutch and Danes, somewhat dearer; the Swedish and Norwegians, three-sevenths cheaper, but not so durable; Finnish, four-sevenths cheaper—not so durable as Lubec, but better than Swedish. Provisions in Lubec ships,
10d. a day. The greater expense to the British shipowner, in wages and provisions, as well as in building and equipping his ship, is here distinctly shown. The two first items are undisputed; but with regard to building, it has been asserted, that although the first expense of the British ship is greater, it is more than compensated by her greater durability. The reply given to this argument by Mr. Wigram, the eminent shipbuilder of London, would seem conclusive. He stated to their Lordships' Committee, that—
The difference would be so much in favour of the foreign ship, as to return the capital invested in her with interest, and all expenses of navigating her, so far as I have been able to ascertain them, in a much shorter time than the English ship; for instance, the English ship would require eight and a half years to return the capital invested, when an American ship built of materials and workmanship to be registered twelve years in Lloyd's Register, would return the capital in five years. The owner would also have the advantage of the difference of cost, as a capital which he could employ in other parts of his business.
The clause of the Navigation Act which prohibits the importation from Europe, in any ship whatever, of the produce of Asia, Africa, and America, has been complained of as absurd; but it is evident, that wherever it could be imported into the continental parts of Europe more cheaply than by British ships, it would be always brought here from those ports, as the supplies were required, thus depriving the British ship of the long voyage, and throwing the ships and men now engaged in it, out of employ; and not only that, but might interfere considerably with the coasting trade; as much tropical produce imported into London is afterwards sent coastwise to the different towns on the south and eastern coasts of England, which, if the law permitted, might be sent direct to those towns from the ports of Holland at as small a cost as from London. It was also stated to their Lordships' Committee that the British manufacturer had an advantage over his foreign competitor, from all Indian produce coming first to this country, giving him the first choice in the market of those materials required in his trade. It had next been objected to the continuance of the present laws, that foreign nations were disposed to retaliate Upon us our own prohibitory system; and that in such case, besides inconvenience in the direct trades, we should at once lose an amount of indirect trade, equal to 225,000 tons of shipping, or one-sixth of our whole European trade. He, however, considered
it Very doubtful whether foreign nations would be so disposed to act, and thereby lose the advantages they possessed under the reciprocity treaties. The real tonnage of shipping employed in the indirect trade, appeared also to be exaggerated from the mode already alluded to, of including repeated voyages. From the tables placed by Mr. Porter before their Lordships' Committee, it appeared almost certain that these voyages between two foreign ports were only small portions of an entire voyage which would equally be made, though in a different course; or that they were short voyages often repeated in the course of the year, in which case the real amount of tonnage liable to be thrown out of employment must be proportionably diminished. In proof of this, he would state, that of 81,000 tons of shipping which entered the Russian ports of Odessa and Taganrog in the Black Sea, 74,000 tons entered from ports of Turkey, and above 2,000 tons from other ports of the Black Sea, leaving less than 6,000 tons from distant parts. So, of 20,500 tons entering the ports of Messina and Palermo, above 17,000 came from other ports of Sicily or of Italy. He came, now, lastly, to the question of the colonial trade, to which he would only briefly advert, having already trespassed upon their Lordships' patience. The representations of grievance came chiefly, if not entirely, from the West Indies and Canada. The complaints of Jamaica and Trinidad were, that they were restricted to British ships for the carriage of their staple produce, and the latter island further complained that the Navigation Acts prevented her from receiving many articles from France and Spain in French and Spanish vessels, and from carrying on a profitable indirect trade with Venezuela. Now with respect to the carriage of their staple produce, the only restriction was in the voyage to England; and it was shown to their Lordships' Committee, by numerous witnesses competent to speak to the fact, that there was no want of British vessels to bring home the produce at reasonable freights; and the present law permits foreign vessels to export to all parts except to England. The prohibition to import into Trinidad in French or Spanish vessels, arose from the refusal of those countries to grant corresponding privileges to England; but even under these circumstances Her Majesty had power to admit those unconditionally, by Order in Council, and also by the same
authority to erect free warehousing ports in Trinidad, to which foreigners might bring articles of commerce for re-exportation, taking in return such others as they might require, and thus making the desired entrepôt. Why Her Majesty's Ministers had never advised the issue of such Orders in Council it was for them to state. Canada, from its peculiar geographical position, as well as from the loss of fixed protection to its agriculture, demanded, perhaps, the most consideration from their Lordships; and he did not believe there would be any disposition in that House to prevent the Canadian Assembly from legislating with regard to their internal matters as might seem most consistent with their prosperity. But Lord Elgin had already stated in his despatch of March, 1847, that almost all the grievances complained of regarding the lower navigation of the St. Lawrence would be removed by the creation of Montreal into a free port: this as he (Lord Colchester) had already stated in regard to Trinidad, could be effected without any fresh legislative enactment. At the same time he felt the colonies, in their present depressed state, to be deserving of whatever relief their Lordships could give, short of breaking down the principles of the navigation law. Having now, as he trusted, shown that the original intention of the navigation laws was to promote the wealth, safety, and strength of these realms, by the encouragement of British shipping and British seamen; that under this system there had been raised up a great commercial marine, the basis of a powerful Royal Navy; that this increase of British shipping had been gradual and constant, and not confined to any late period; he trusted that their Lordships would not, this night, risk the loss of that naval greatness we now enjoyed, and with it the loss of our national greatness, by agreeing to what the noble Marquess, who opened the debate, openly and candidly avowed to be a repeal of the navigation laws. He, therefore, moved as an Amendment to the Motion of the noble Marquess, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Original Motion and Amendment put.
The DUKE of ARGYLL
said, that it was with great reluctance that he trespassed upon the attention of their Lordships upon a subject as vast as it was important; and to the discussion of which, he was deeply conscious, he brought both powers and information greatly inferior to many 1378 noble Lords who had preceded him; but being locally connected with some of the most important maritime and commercial communities in this country—the western districts of Scotland—several representations had been made to him with reference to this measure, which he trusted would be an apology for his unwillingness to give a silent vote. He would not, however, do more than explain very briefly the grounds upon which his vote would be founded. There were three great general points of view in which this subject might be, and had been, discussed: first, with reference to the abstract principles of free trade; next, upon its own intrinsic merits; and, lastly, on the ground of the political situation of the country. With regard to the first of these points, he believed his own opinion would not be at variance with the general opinion of that House. He had no sympathy with those who would make the maxim of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest market a dogma to be applied in every ease, and under all circumstances. A celebrated Member of the other House of Parliament had said, in the course of a debate upon this subject last year, that though he believed this country could maintain competition with foreign countries, yet if he had been unable to support that argument, he would still have voted for this Bill, because he considered that in all cases, and under all circumstances, we ought to buy in the cheapest market. He (the Duke of Argyll) could not quite concur in that proposition, neither could he agree with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), who had addressed the House in the early part of this debate, that this question had no connexion with the principles of free trade; because it appeared to him that it had precisely the same connexion with free trade that the repeal of the corn laws had. What was the ground upon which Adam Smith objected to the removal of the navigation laws? He took it for granted that they were essential to the defence of the country, and that if they were repealed, we should be unable to compete with foreigners in the matter of navigation. But he (the Duke of Argyll) apprehended that if Adam Smith had entertained the same views with regard to free trade in corn—if he had believed that the removal of restrictions upon the imports from foreign countries would have ruined the farmer—he would have opposed the repeal of those restrictions. The question turned in both cases upon whether it was 1379 probable or not that they would be able to maintain their competition with foreigners. He (the Duke of Argyll) had carefully considered the whole bearings of the subject to the best of his ability; and he would not give his vote for this Bill if he did not sincerely believe that they were able to maintain competition with foreign countries. It appeared to him that there was a primâ facie case against the probability of their being defeated in competition by the foreigner. He founded that position on the geographical situation of this country; on the capital it possessed; on the energy with which that capital was applied; above all, upon the maritime genius of the people—on everything, in short, which had made England what England was. But he founded that opinion further on the experience of the past. But then arose the question, was he to take the past as a period of protection, or as a period of relaxation? He had observed that noble Lords, and others out of doors, who argued against this Bill, were apt to treat the past alternately as a period of free trade and a period of restriction. If they wished to dwell upon the advantages of restriction, they showed the great power which this country possessed, the enormous amount of capital invested in shipping and shipbuilding, and the large number of the merchant seamen. If they wished, on the other hand, to consider the time as one of relaxation, they spoke of the great decline which had recently taken place in the profits of the shipowner. It appeared to him that this was not a satisfactory mode of argument, but that they must take the combined character of the period with the combined character of the result. Looking at the past in this point of view, it seemed to him to have been a period of progressive relaxation, and a period of progressive and enormous increase in our maritime prosperity. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) had thrown overboard entirely one of the great arguments of the protectionists out of doors. They referred to the treaties of reciprocity, and asserted that the consequences of those treaties had been most "fatal to the British mercantile marine. But the noble and learned Lord announced that he had no objection to these reciprocity treaties. A right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) had, in another place, spoken of treaties of this kind as a disagreeable necessity; while, on the other hand, another hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) had alluded to them as 1380 beneficial in their effects. It was true, as the noble and learned Lord had remarked, that the question of reciprocity treaties was not now before the House; but if the arguments of many of the protectionists were sound, they would go to the repeal of such treaties; and if those Gentlemen did not ask for the repeal of those treaties, it was not because they believed it would be the abandonment of a sound for an unsound commercial principle—not because it would be going back to a system of commercial feudalism, in which their hand would be against every man, and every man's hand against them—but simply because they knew they could not get that repeal. If, then, it could be proved that the consequences of relaxation and of reciprocity treaties had been advantageous to the commercial marine of this country, it would be a great encouragement to them to go forward in the path of relaxation. The noble and learned Lord had referred to the effect which reciprocity treaties with foreign Powers had had upon the commercial marine engaged in direct trade with those countries. He (the Duke of Argyll) believed it to be a fact, that with regard to Denmark and other States on the Baltic, the ships of those States had engrossed the greater portion of the direct carrying trade; but he thought this might be accounted for by the circumstance, amongst others, that the Baltic trade was to be regarded more in the nature of a coasting than of a foreign trade. A protectionist gentleman who had been examined before the Committee of that House, when asked why he did not employ his ships in the Baltic trade, replied, "Because they are too good, and I find better employment for them elsewhere." He would also refer their Lordships to the effect of the reciprocity treaties upon the direct commerce between this country and the United States. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) had objected to all statements of statistics; but the statistics to which he (the Duke of Argyll) was about to call their Lordships' attion had this advantage, that they did not come from Mr. Porter, but from protectionist authorities. In considering the effect of the reciprocity treaties, and the relaxations they had introduced, they must also take into account the probable, or rather the certain, effects which a contrary policy would have entailed upon this country. They could not adopt a middle course; reciprocity they must have, either in restriction or relaxation; and if they 1381 did not proceed on the principle of relaxation, but upon that of restriction, other nations would act upon the same principle. In considering, therefore, the result of the two policies, they were bound to take into consideration the effect which a retaliatory policy would have upon their own commercial marine. He would direct their Lordships' attention to the results entailed by the restrictive system upon the commercial marine of this country trading with the United States. Their Lordships were aware that a celebrated work had been published by Mr. Ricardo, a Member of the other House, entitled, An Anatomy of the Navigation Laws; and, in answer to that book, another very able work had been published, under the title of Mr. Ricardo's Anatomy Dissected. In that work he found a passage illustrating the effect which the restrictive system had had upon the direct commerce of this country with the united States. In 1789, 94,000 tons of British shipping were entered at ports of the united States; in 1790, the entries were 216,000 tons, being an increase of 120,000 tons; and that increase England maintained till 1792, when the Americans, in retaliation, imposed their navigation restrictions against England. Now, he asked their Lordships to mark that, in the next year, 1793, the tonnage of English ships entered in the ports of America fell from 216,000 tons to 100,000 tons, or less than one-half; in 1796, it had fallen to 19,000; there was afterwards some fluctuation, but in 1811, the tonnage of British ships entered in ports of the United States had fallen to 10,000 tons. In the course of eighteen years of restriction, therefore, the tonnage had fallen to less than one-twentieth of what it had been before the retaliatory law was adopted. In 1815, the reciprocity treaties were made, but it was not till 1831 that the tonnage of English ships entered in American ports reached the amount it had attained in 1790, and from which it had fallen, under a retaliatory system. It appeared to him that all these considerations were highly important in any discussion regarding the navigation laws, for a country like England was bound to look attentively at any code of laws which affected her commercial interests. Then, with regard to the carrying trade, an eminent witness before their Lordships' Committee had done him the honour to address some representations to him. He (the Duke of 1382 Argyll) put a question to him as to the ships of what nation they dreaded most in the carrying trade. He replied, they dreaded most the Baltic ships in the shorter, and the American ships in the longer voyages. It appeared to him that they might acquire some knowledge by looking to the returns of the Baltic ships that enter the ports of the United States under the existing system, because, under that system, the American navigation law was more severe against England than against the other maritime nations of Europe. This was in consequence of their restrictive system. He would refer to the evidence of Mr. Richmond, who gave an account of the tonnage of the different vessels that entered the ports of the United States. The tonnage of ships entering the ports of the United States from the united kingdom alone, in the year 1846, amounted to 255,546 tons. In the same year, what was the amount of tonnage from the Baltic Powers? The amount in that year of Prussian, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish tonnage, all put together, was 11,594 tons. That is, the British exceeded the Baltic tonnage by more than twenty-two fold—and this in spite of the fact that those Powers enjoyed carrying trades with America from which we were excluded. It appeared to him that there must be a strong presumption, that when the ships of the Baltic Powers came into competition with them on equal terms, that they would not press much harder upon them. He should next refer to the third ground on which the question had been discussed—he meant that which had reference to the political situation of the country. He had already said, that did he conceive they would be unable to stand in competition with Foreign Powers, no inducement could make him vote for this measure, not even the inducement held out by the noble Marquess, that, in the event of the measure being defeated, he would retire from power; even that argument would not induce him to vote for the measure if he thought they would be surpassed by foreigners; but he did not think so. Did he entertain the belief on which the evil prophecies of noble Lords opposite were founded, he should be infinitely less proud of England—less proud of her past history—less hopeful of her future destiny. But he entertained no such opinion. They were all proud of the victories their countrymen had won on the fields, and espepecially on the seas, of battle; but he be- 1383 lieved they might be prouder still in the conviction that they could gain a victory which was nobler yet, because a victory on which all other victories must ultimately depend—that they could enter the lists and win the prize in the peaceful race of industry.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
*My Lords, although I should be content to rest my opposition to this Bill on the speeches of my noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), and my noble and gallant Friend behind him (Lord Colchester), to the first of which an answer has been attempted, but to the second none whatever has been given, still I trust your Lordships will permit me, deeply interested as I am in every measure which affects the Navy, shortly to express my opinion.
My Lords, I entirely concur with my noble and learned Friend in the view he has taken of the state of Europe, and of the precarious character of the peace. I am unwilling under present circumstances to diminish our marine by one ship, or our seamen by one man, and the Bill would tend to undermine the strength of our Navy both in ships and men. I concur also with my noble and learned Friend in considering the question raised by this Bill to be unconnected with the principle of free trade.
For myself, I have at all times when in this country, seen reason to support the several measures introduced by different Ministers for the relaxation of our commercial code. I have willingly acquiesced in measures having for their object the increase of the national wealth, where I thought the pursuit of that object was not accompanied by danger to the material interests of the country. I make my stand here, because I believe we cannot pursue wealth, as it is proposed that we should pursue it by this Bill, without endangering the mercantile marine, with the prosperity of which is connected the security of the country. "Security is of more importance than opulence"—such was the declared opinion of the great author of the principles of free trade. Dr. Adam Smith; and it is in the name and as the disciples of the first of free-traders that we oppose this Bill.
The noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) has spoken in disparagement of the remnant, the fragments of the navigation law, which it is the object of this Bill to repeal;* From a report published by Ridgway.1384 but if your Lordships will refer to the statement of the main provisions of the law as they still exist, which is contained in the circular letter addressed by Lord Palmerston to the British Ministers at foreign Courts, you will see that these fragments are great blocks of legislation affecting the whole coasting trade, the whole colonial trade, the whole trade with Asia, Africa, and America, and in a very material degree that with Europe. It is true that the original system has not been preserved in its integrity, but enough yet remains to produce great and beneficial results, and I am satisfied with the efficacy of the law as it stands. For I see by the returns, that on the average of the two last years in the account, the British tonnage employed inwards in the trade of the united kingdom, with the British North American colonies, is five times greater than the British tonnage employed inwards on the average of the same years in the trade with the United States; but the population of the United States is eight times greater than that of the British North American colonies, and the wealth of the United States is greater than that of those colonies in a yet larger proportion; but if our trade with the British North American colonies bore only the same proportion to our trade with the United States, which the population of those colonies bears to that of the United States, the British tonnage employed would not exceed 27,000 tons. It amounted on the average of those years to 1,083,000 tons, that is, it was forty times greater than it would have been without the aid of the law by which it is protected. Depressed as has been the trade with our West Indian colonies of late years, still on the average of the same two years the British tonnage employed inwards in the trade with those colonies, approached within 10,000 tons the amount of tonnage similarly employed in the trade with the United States; and it was equal to the whole tonnage employed in the same years in the trade with Mexico and the foreign West Indies and all the rest of America, exclusive of the occasional trade with Patagonia.
Again, there has been a very much larger increase in the British tonnage employed in the trade with the British North American colonies, than in that employed in the trade with all the rest of America. The former has increased 648,000 tons since 1824. The latter has increased only 336,000, so that the increase of the 1385 British tonnage employed in the trade with British North America is nearly twice as great as the increase of the British tonnage employed in the trade with the united States and all the rest of America.
I say, therefore, that fragmentary as the system may he, it produces the effect it is intended to produce—the maintenance and the increase of British navigation, and therein the security of this country. And certainly, my Lords, never has there been a period, when the maintenance in all its efficiency of our marine, with a view to the national security, has been more necessary to us. The noble Duke who spoke last (the Duke of Argyll), would infer, from the circumstance of British ships having been enabled in past times to compete with foreign ships in some ports where they meet them on equal terms, that under the system to be established by this Bill, our ships could every where do the same. But I deny that any such inference can justly be drawn from the past. During all past time there has been extensive protection given by law to British ships, and the advantage derived from this protection in the trade to which it has extended, has enabled the owners of ships to employ them in ports where there has been no protection, at lower freights than they could have afforded to take without the advantages so enjoyed elsewhere. But we have no experience to lead us to the conclusion, that without any protection in any foreign trade our ships could successfully compete with the ships of foreigners; and we are not in a position to incur any risk in a matter vitally affecting our interests. For observe, my Lords, what would be our position in the event of a war. Consider only the amount of naval force it would be necessary for us to have at sea to protect our trade, and the many exposed points of our foreign possessions. At the conclusion of the last war, when the fleets of the enemy had been swept away, and we really had the supremacy at sea, which we should now have to fight for, we had 160,000 men, and nearly 1,000 ships—and now we have more points to defend. Since 1815, our establishments in Australasia have been much extended. They are very valuable, and wholly without the means of self-defence. We now occupy a station in the Canton river, and our trade with China is carried on at three ports instead of one, and each re- 1386 quires naval protection. We have established, and I much regret it, a new colony in New Zealand, requiring naval as well as military protection; and more in the spirit of romance than of policy, we have created an establishment in Labuan. Nor would this be all. In the event of a war, it would be absolutely necessary for us to occupy at once some station for our fleet in the Pacific.
With these new demands upon our force, what is our relative position with respect to foreign Powers? Be assured, my Lords, we are no longer in the position of paramount strength in which we stood on the evening of the battle of Trafalgar. Noble Lords have spoken of the supremacy of the seas as if we still possessed it. We have no longer the supremacy of the seas. In the event of a war with France alone, we should have to contend in the first instance in equal fight with the well-appointed fleet of France. I trust there can be no doubt as to the ultimate result of the contest; but depend upon it, it would be a severe contest, in which all our energies would be required to secure success. The French have at sea as powerful a fleet as ours. They have an establishment of seamen and marines very little inferior in number to ours, and having less trade, and much fewer points to guard, they have a much larger disposable force for European service. They have, besides, a system which enables them rapidly to increase their establishment in the event of war. Our resource is in our mercantile marine which this Bill will impair.
Further, in 1814, the united States had a small, however well-appointed navy. They have largely increased that navy, while the great accessions to their mercantile marine would enable them to scud to sea a vast number of small cruisers to act against our trade, and we should be compelled to employ a number of similar cruisers for its protection. And although strong in line-of-battle ships and heavy frigates, we are not strong in smaller ships of war. Nor would our dockyards afford us the means of building a sufficient number of such ships. We must have recourse to the merchants' yards. But this Bill, enabling British merchants to use cheaper foreign-built ships in preference to ships of British build, will dimish the number and the extent, and the capabilities of the merchants' yards, and this resource would be impaired. We have in former wars largely availed ourselves of it; and even in peace, 1387 when an increase of exertion has been required in our dockyards, we have drawn the necessary number of shipwrights from the merchants' yards at once. This we shall be unable to do when this Bill has been for some years in operation.
Moreover, Russia has now a formidable fleet in the Baltic, and another in the Black Sea. She has a large military marine, although she has but few ships employed in commerce, and these fleets, regularly exercised, are fit for summer service, although unequal to a winter cruise; and it must not be forgotten that since the invention of steam vessels every State which has a port can have a steam navy, however small its mercantile marine. Even Austria and Naples have at sea no inconsiderable squadrons of steamers.
But we should do wrong if we did not consider the present state of the navies of foreign Powers in conjunction with the changes which have taken place in their military position. In former times the Continental States had peace establishments, which left few troops disposable in the event of sudden war. It was necessary to make long previous preparation for war, and thus ample notice was given for preparations of defence. Now, the peace establishments of the Continental Powers are equal to their war establishments in former times; and the substitution of railroads for the ordinary roads, by which in former times armies could only slowly move, while all had knowledge of their movements, has enabled States to bring a preponderating force suddenly from the most distant quarters to the port of embarkation; and there they find, what has not improperly been termed a steam-bridge from the Continent to these islands. It is absolutely necessary for us to command that bridge, and to be able to destroy it. For what is our military position? We stand unarmed in the midst of an armed world. While Continental States have, in addition to their regular armies, a large force of national guards, which renders their whole armies disposable beyond the frontier, we have even allowed the militia, on which we formerly placed some reliance, to fall into disuse, and we have not substituted force for it. We have adhered to the old system of a small peace establishment. In the event of war, our military means at home hardly enable us to send adequate reinforcements to our numerous garrisons and colonies. We have literally nothing 1388 to rely upon for our defence but the naval cordon, which it is the tendency of this Bill to weaken and destroy. Behind that cordon we have no force whatever; and since the application of steam to naval purposes, that naval cordon does not afford the same degree of certain protection which was derived from a decided superiority in sailing ships.
Such being our position, observe, my Lords, in how many ways the Bill will impair our naval means, upon which alone we depend for security. It first repeals the provisions whereby all British ships must have a certain number of apprentices. Since 1835 those provisions have introduced into the mercantile marine 70,000 seamen; and we have the evidence of Lieutenant Brown, the registrar of seamen, that the seamen so introduced by apprenticeship are of a superior description to those who entered the mercantile service before the Act was passed. Undoubtedly, I inclined to the opinion that the concurrent operation of the law of apprenticeship and of the measure of employing a great number of boys in the Navy, brought every year into the maritime service a larger number of persons than employment could be found for when they became men, and hence that many went into foreign service; but it is the measure of employing so many boys in the Navy which it would be desirable to abandon, not the law of apprenticeship. A man-of-war is not the best school for the education of boys for the naval service; and the efficiency of the ship's company is much impaired by having so large a proportion of its number composed of these boys. It would be far better to consider how the law of apprenticeship may be amended so as to bring the apprentices for a short period into the Navy on the expiration of their engagements; and thus to make them acquainted with the discipline of a man-of-war and with gunnery. Now, indeed, in the event of war, we may obtain from the merchant service good seamen who can go aloft; but we then want seamen who can also fight guns; and the improvement I suggest would afford us this advantage, and give a degree of efficiency hitherto unknown to the reserve we possess in our mercantile marine.
Again, the Bill permits the general employment of Lascars instead of British seamen. I have much respect for the natives of India—more, however, for those who serve ashore, than for those who 1389 serve afloat—but I entertain much apprehension of that result, which the noble Earl (Earl Granville) seems to contemplate with satisfaction, as a relief to the shipowner, namely, the employment of Lascars in the voyage out to India and China. I am unwilling that Lascars should be substituted in that trade for the finest seamen I ever saw. I have been on board of many of Her Majesty's ships considered to be well manned; but I have hardly seen in any man-of-war thirty seamen as fine as almost all the seamen are in the packet ships employed in the trade to India. I cannot boar to see such seamen give place to Lascars.
By another provision of this Bill, it is no longer to be required that British ships should be of British build. I have already observed how serious an injury would be inflicted upon our Navy, were it to be deprived of the resource it has so extensively derived in war, and even in peace, from the merchants' yards. This point was strongly pressed upon the Committee by Admiral Sir Byam Martin, and certainly there could be no one entitled to more respect, and possessed of more authority, upon this subject.
But the main feature of the Bill is the provision under which British ships are to compete on equal terms with foreign ships. There is nothing in the past which can justify our expectation that British ships can so compete with success. We may build steamers cheaper, and in short voyages made by steamers we may compete, and, considering the contradictions in the evidence, it is possible that there may be ports in which we can build an inferior class of ships as cheaply as such ships can be built in some foreign port; but we cannot sail our ships as cheaply as the foreigner. The bulk of trade must always be carried on, not by steamers, but by sailing ships; and if we are unable to sail our ships as cheaply as the foreigner, there is no limit to the reduction which may take place in our mercantile marine. Yet upon the maintenance of that marine, in all its efficiency, on its extension in due proportion to the extension of the marine of foreigners, we depend altogether for the security of the country.
My Lords, at whose instance is it that we are asked to incur this danger? We are told that it is asked by our unfortunate West Indian colonies. Their poverty, but not their will, consents. It may be, that some amongst them, in their extreme dis- 1390 tress, may have desired changes, which would afford but small relief to them, while they would impair the naval power of this country, by which alone they can be protected. But hear, my Lords, in what terms, with what evident misgivings, they in their agony ask you to relieve them from the navigation law. This is the petition of Antigua:—Your petitioners submit, that the carriage of the staples of the colony to market, constitutes an important item in the cost of their production—that the carriage is restricted to British shipping by the navigation laws, thereby depriving the colonists of the advantage of a cheaper foreign carriage.That your petitioners ever entertained a reverential regard for those laws, as the basis of the national glory and prosperity; but public opinion having uprooted convictions equally strong upon questions of equal gravity and importance, your petitioners are admonished of the possibility of their error in regard to the navigation laws, and struggling for existence against beggary and ruin are constrained, however reluctantly, to enter their protest against this restriction and protection in favour of British shipping, as entirely indefensible upon the all-powerful principles of free trade.But Canada also desires the repeal of the navigation law in her favour. I think I observed the other day, in a petition presented from some place in Canada, by the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, a disclaimer on the part of the petitioners of any intention to give an opinion as to the effect which the measure they asked for their own advantage, would have upon the general interests of the empire.
I admit that, under the circumstances stated by the petitioners, in Canada they have a strong claim to the favourable consideration of Parliament, if any measures can be devised for the accomplishment of their object, without affecting the general interests; but I must observe as to all these colonial questions, that I do not recognise in colonists a Canadian or a West Indian. I recognise only an Englishman residing in the West Indies or in Canada. The Englishman residing in the colonies possesses all the privileges, and he cannot divest himself of all the duties, of British citizenship. If he should transfer his ambition to this country, he may enter the professions of the law, or the Church, or the military professions, as many have done, or he may obtain admission to Parliament, and hold the highest place in the councils of his Sovereign. He pays no portion of the interest of our debt, although much of it has been incurred in measures for his protection. He defrays 1391 no portion of the present charge of our Army and of our Navy, although that charge is increased by the provision of force for his defence. When sudden, unforeseen calamity afflicts him, the liberal hand of the Imperial Parliament is stretched forth in his aid. When his own credit is insufficient to enable him to raise the sums required for the completion of great works, essential to his prosperity, the credit of the Imperial Parliament is substituted for that of the colonies; and it is not unreasonable and unjust that, cherished and protected as he thus is, we should ask him to endure, together with us, the burthen of the navigation law, from which alone we derive the means of extending to him that naval protection without which his connexion with this country cannot be preserved.
We have been told of approaching difficulties with foreign Powers if we should adhere to our navigation law, to which for 200 years these foreign Powers have submitted; and we have even heard of threats which have been addressed to us upon this subject. I do not understand a threat from any foreign Power being addressed to us if the affairs of this country be properly administered; but if, in whatever form, intimations have been given by foreign Powers of their desire to see effected an alteration in our law, in which they have so long acquiesced—intimations which, when we consider the language used by Her Majesty's Government, would seem rather to have been invited than deprecated—I am satisfied that the course of previous negotiation, for the purpose of obtaining advantages in their ports, corresponding with those we may be willing to concede to them in ours, would be far preferable to the course adopted in this Bill, which provides for subsequent retaliatory measures against foreign Powers, if the concessions made by us should not be altogether reciprocated by them; but I confess I had rather see a negotiation upon such a subject conducted by other Ministers than those who have evinced so strong a bias of opinion, that they might be expected to concede every thing without an equivalent.
Be assured, my Lords, that wealth is as little the sole source of good to nations as it is to individuals, and the pursuit of it, with undue and blind eagerness, is as little consistent with safety as it is with respectability. It would be indeed a fatal error were we, in the pursuit of wealth, to 1392 neglect the strength by which alone wealth can be preserved. It would be a fatal error were we to rely upon the memory of past victories for our protection from present dangers, and trust that the pacific aspirations of our wealthy and weak state will conciliate the forbearance of the poorer, but armed and powerful neighbours, whom, in the pride of our strength, we struck down. Depend upon it, my Lords, we have done that which can never be forgiven; and continued strength, and provident preparation, can alone protect us from revenge. Mere wealth will only allure the hand of the spoiler.
I know well that the several parts of this great empire, faithfully banded together, making mutual sacrifices for mutual security, may for ever stand against the world; and, under our old constitutional Government, may enjoy a larger portion of prosperity, and a larger portion of real liberty, than can be attained in any republican State; but if partial interests are allowed to outweigh the general interests of the empire—if public avarice be allowed to absorb every public virtue, and the acquisition of present temporary profit be made the sole object of our legislation, we shall fall, as others have fallen before us, by neglecting the means by which we rose to greatness, and we shall fall unmourned, unhonoured—and despised.
§ On Motion of the EARL of CARLISLE, debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.