§ ORDER of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Second Reading read.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
said, that in presenting himself to their Lordships, he could not but regret that on the first occasion on which he had had to address himself to a question of serious importance in their Lordships' House—to say nothing of 2 the great disadvantage under which he was labouring in having to follow the eloquent speech of a noble Earl last night—the animation of which had lost nothing of its effect in the interval—he should feel himself under the necessity of opposing many long-cherished feelings, and of running counter to many deep-seated prepossessions which had long prevailed in that assembly, and which that speech was so well calculated to reawaken. He must, however, endeavour to find a compensation in the conviction that the policy which he was prepared to support was calculated to produce far more general good, and to promote more wide-spread interests, than could be comprehended in any one class of the community, however enlightened or however powerful. He was glad that on this question those of their Lordships who opposed most strenuously the views of Her Majesty's Government must be entirely acquitted of any selfish or personal motive in so doing. However severely and however unjustly their Lordships might have been attacked on former occasions, he could not but feel that on the question of the navigation laws no personal or class 3 interests, no selfish or sordid motives, could be attributed to them as likely to warp their judgment or to influence their legislation. On the other hand, he claimed for himself credit for a sincere desire to promote the general good, and to preserve untarnished the immemorial glory of the country. The noble Earl who closed the debate of last night so eloquently had declared that the measure which the Government had introduced would be detrimental to our maritime interests, and would be destructive, as he said with much solemnity of emphasis, to the naval superiority of England. Now, he (the Earl of Carlisle) could only say, that if the measure of the Government was of such a character as the noble Earl had described it to be, or if it even ran the risk of producing such results as those which the noble Earl predicted. Ministers ought to encounter, not only defeat but ignominy also, for introducing it. His belief was, that the assertion of the noble Earl was an erroneous exaggeration, or, if he might be permitted to say so, an utterly baseless notion. His conviction was, that the tendency of the measure they had introduced—as he well knew it to be its object—was to give increased activity to the commerce of the country. His conviction also was, that commerce was the best nurse and support of our mercantile marine, and that our mercantile marine was the best pledge and guarantee of our naval and national greatness. The noble Earl had further, with a somewhat vehement indignation, denounced the Bill for seeking to give, at all risks, greater wealth to the country, and had said that wealth alone was not the sole good of a State, any more than it was of an individual. He concurred with the noble Earl in denouncing that wealth which was too dear for a country's freedom; but the question in the present case was, whether the wealth which Government was anxious to promote by the present measure, was not the due, the proper, and the unforced reward of honest industry, and whether it would not tend to continue and prolong the peaceful intercourse of nations? He felt himself, on the present occasion, happily absolved from the necessity of entering into a history of the navigation law, or into a detailed account of its provisions and enactments, for that duty of the Government had been fulfilled most satisfactorily last night by his noble Friend the President of the Council; and he likewise felt that it would be equally presump- 4 tuous in him to encroach on the duty of his noble Friend the Colonial Secretary by venturing to touch upon the close and intimate bearing of those laws upon our colonial connexions, not because he did not consider that point of the greatest importance, but because it fell under the especial care of his noble Friend, and because he would be able to do it more adequate justice. He must take leave to say, in the outset of his remarks, that he could not bring himself to look at our code of navigation laws with that implicit deference and with that reverential awe which were professed for it by many. Even at its outset it had been attended with disastrous results. It had been enforced by the Commonwealth, the Protectorate, and at the Restoration. Its first enactment appeared to have been dictated by jealousy of the Dutch, in consequence of their success in procuring for themselves the carrying trade of the world; and its first results had been two sanguinary wars with that nation. As a course of restriction and exception, when once entered on, could scarcely ever be stopped or abandoned without the occurrence of some great check, their Lordships would not be surprised to hear that the original provisions of the navigation laws were soon enforced by the Act which first introduced into the Statute-book the long list of "enumerated articles;" by the restrictions laid on English merchants not to carry European produce to the colonies, or to bring foreign produce home, except in English-built ships; by the prohibition of importations from Holland, the Netherlands, and Germany, except in the same description of vessels; and, lastly, by the extension of those restrictions to Ireland, which at last became intolerable from their intensity, and goaded that gallant nation first into discontent and afterwards into rebellion. They were further reinforced by restrictions on the colonies, which had been declared by one of the highest authorities in the united States, their present Minister in England, Mr. Bancroft, in his History of America, to have been the main cause of the resistance offered to Great Britain in that country, and which had also been declared by the unsuspected testimony of a British statesman (Mr. Huskisson) to have been the chief co-operating cause of that unhappy conflict which terminated in the independence of the United States, and which had led to the introduction and extended the growth of American manufac- 5 tures. These were some of the consequences and some of the rivalries and heart-burnings with which our navigation laws were justly chargeable, and which ought fairly to be set down as offsets to their account, whenever any fulsome panegyrics were passed upon their merits. He was, however, in the concerns of nations as in those of individuals, inclined to let "bygones be bygones;" and in the circumstances of bygone times, when the Dutch monopolised the traffic of the ocean, and when our naval resources were scanty, ill-provided, and ill-organised, he was not inclined to deny that the policy of these restrictions might have been justifiable. But he would now ask their Lordships to consider whether, in the circumstances of the present times—in the middle of the 19th century, in the present state of our international relations, in the maturity of our wealth and power—it was expedient still to maintain the restrictions which had been thought necessary to foster our commerce in its infant exertions? And, in considering that point, their Lordships ought to ask themselves, first, whether, upon the supposition that the navigation code was the wisest and the most perfect code which the wit of man could have devised at the time of its enactment, it was now in our power, even with a view to our profit, to maintain it on its present footing? It was all very well for the noble Earl to assert that he was well satisfied with the existing law; but he put it to the noble Earl whether he could expect to maintain it, even in its present efficiency, or, he should rather say, inefficiency? Independently of all commercial restrictions and all political prohibitions, the circumstances which occurred at the commencement of the present century made us nearly exclusively the carriers of the world. The battle of Trafalgar, to which the noble Earl alluded last night with such thrilling effect, had cleared the ocean for our ships more effectually than any Parliamentary prohibition or any maritime code could have aspired to do. On the re-establishment of peace, from continued disuse to the sea, it was long before the Continental nations made any exertions to create a marine or to convey their own goods in their own vessels. But it was not long before reaction against monopoly arose, and encouraged a growing spirit of resistance against those who wished to continue in their own possession all the advantages of trade. That tendency had been acknowledged and yielded to by 6 the sagacity of the Administration which introduced and concluded the reciprocity treaties. Some intimations of the same spirit were now observed again. We knew that some of our treaties with foreign Powers which were most favourable to our commerce had either expired, or were on the point of expiring. It should be remembered that Russia, Denmark, Holland, and Austria could, by giving us twelve months' notice, put an immediate termination to their treaties with this country. The noble Earl had spoken of those intimations as so many threats addressed to the Government of Great Britain, and had insisted that, if the affairs of the country had been properly administered, no such improper threats would ever have been addressed to us. Whether the affairs of the country had been properly administered or not, he would not stop to inquire; but the noble Earl might perhaps expect, by his vote of that night, to find others who would administer them better. Still, with all deference to the noble Earl, he must say that this was a very puerile mode of treating this part of a great question. Did the noble Earl really mean to say that an intimation to us on the part of Austria, to whom we declined to give any portion of our carrying trade, although she gave all her carrying trade to us—did the noble Earl mean to say that an intimation from Austria that she would no longer carry on commerce with us upon such unequal conditions amounted to a threat, or anything like a threat? Her Majesty's Government had been charged by noble Lords on the opposite benches with not having shown of late sufficient deference to that ancient ally of Great Britain, Austria; but Her Majesty's Government would be treating Austria with greater indifference, nay, with greater disregard, than any which they had ever yet been accused of exhibiting, if they were to turn a deaf ear and pay no attention to her remonstrances on this head. So, too, with regard to Russia, where our ships were received into all the ports on the footing of Russian ships, and where we participated freely in the direct and indirect trade of the country. Did the noble Earl mean to assert that if the Emperor of Russia should inform us that when our treaty with him expired, as it would do in 1853, he should decline to renew it—did the noble Earl mean to assert that such an intimation, coming from the master of the half of two quarters of the globe, would be an improper threat? It had been said in the course 7 of the debate that such a threat on the part of Russia would be no great threat, because Russia did not possess any mercantile navy. Was that so? Their Lordships should determine. He held in his hand an account of the tonnage of vessels belonging to Russia, France, and other maritime countries which entered at the ports in the united kingdom in each year, from 1846 to 1848, stated exclusive of vessels in ballast; and in those three years, with the exception of France for one year, the largest amount of tonnage was set down to Russia. Here the noble Earl read the following; table:—
Under such circumstances he thought that their Lordships ought to be prepared to expect that foreign countries would refuse to renew their commercial treaties with us on the same terms as before. The noble Earl had announced that he should prefer having the terms of our trade with foreign countries settled by preliminary treaties; but that he could not bring himself to believe that Her Majesty's Government were the parties who could enter into the discussion of these treaties with advantage. The noble Earl might fancy that some of his friends might make them better: and if they came into office, as some of them expected, they had better try. He wished, however, to call the attention of their Lordships to the effects which would follow in case foreign countries should seek to renew their treaties with us on terms more favourable to themselves, and we by refusing such terms should lose the favourable advantages which we now possessed. In alluding to this subject last night, his noble Friend the President of the Council had stated, that if foreign Powers should refuse to renew their commercial treaties with us, they would throw 200,000 tons of British shipping out of employment. It appeared from the evidence given before one of our Committees, that the amount of British shipping which entered and cleared at some of the principal European ports, distinguishing the direct and carrying trade, was as 8 follows:—"Entered from foreign ports, 233,521 tons. Cleared for foreign ports, 220,268 tons." From this it was evident that, should the countries to which these ports belonged turn our system against ourselves, they could throw, on a very low statement, more than 200,000 tons of British shipping out of employment. Alluding to this assertion, his noble and learned Friend opposite, who followed the noble Marquess in the debate (Lord Brougham), had made a strange and uncalled-for attack upon him. The statement of his noble and learned Friend was, that "the assertion that there was a sum total of 215,000 tons of direct trade, all liable to be cut off by treaties, was a fiction of the grossest, he might say the most scandalous, character that he had ever heard." His noble and learned Friend further added, "that he had never seen so gross a case; for out of 7,101 there had been manufactured 215,000 tons, in consequence of the vessels having gone thirty-two voyages in the course of the year." Now, he thought that his noble and learned Friend must in some unaccountable confusion have mixed up two cases and two returns, which were and ought to be kept quite distinct from each other. His noble Friend the President of the Council had mentioned that we had 200,000 and odd tons engaged in the carrying or indirect trade; and, the figures being nearly the same as the figures contained in a return presented to the House of Commons, showing that 7,101 tons of steam tonnage in the trade with France, Holland, and Belgium were made to represent 228,127 tons, owing to repeated voyages, his noble and learned Friend had come to the conclusion that these 7,101 tons of steam tonnage engaged in the direct trade with certain countries, formed the real amount of our total tonnage engaged in the indirect trade with the whole world. Though there had not yet been time since the delivery of his noble and learned Friend's speech to make out a return of the name of every British ship engaged in the indirect trade of the world, yet, from an account which he held in his hand, he found that the tonnage of British vessels (and he had the name of every ship) that arrived at the port of Hamburgh in 1847, and were employed in the indirect trade, that is, in sailing from one foreign port to another foreign port, amounted to 12,590 tons. He also found that those 12,590 tons belonged to sixty-two ships; and, of that 9 number, twenty-one sailed again for foreign ports. Besides, there were sixty-three ships, which, having arrived from British ports, sailed for other foreign ports. He had no doubt that, if he had similar returns from the ports of Trieste, Brest, Marseilles, &c., he could point out the name, cargo, and destination of every ship there engaged on every voyage. But the fact was, that the steamers passing to and from this country to the Continental States rarely if ever engaged in the indirect trade; and he must say that his noble and learned Friend, who he was sure had made his statement inadvertently, ought, before he impugned that of the Marquess of Lans-downe, and used the big words in which he ventured to indulge, to have ascertained by examination how the case really stood. He had hitherto been endeavouring to show to their Lordships that there would be considerable risk in their attempting to maintain things on their present footing; for every foreign country would undoubtedly watch its time, and after the example of the United States would refuse to deal with us except upon the same measure which we dealt out to them; and then, when we had forfeited the indirect trade of foreign countries, he had the fullest expectation that the complaints of our merchants and manufacturers, of our shipowners and shipbrokers, of our wharfingers and sailors, of our dealers in iron and our forgers of copper, would be pitched to a deeper note of distress than any which had yet been used by those who thought they might be prejudicially affected by this Bill. What he wished next to put to their Lordships was, whether, even in the present state of things, there were not evils generated which it would be as well to get rid of? The inconveniences arising from the present condition of the navigation laws had been ably detailed to their Lordships by his two noble Friends the President of the Council, and the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. They had also been illustrated in the most powerful manner by the daily recurring experience of those who had the most concern in these matters. He had gleaned from their experience a few of the evil effects which had been produced by the operation of the navigation laws; and, in order that he might state them with accuracy, he had made out a written list of the various ways in which the importation of various important articles of traffic were impeded by them. They were indications of what was 10 happening or might happen every day; they were instances of the manner in which the navigation laws interfered with the commerce which it checked, and with the prosperity which it marred. When he had gone through his list, he thought that he should convince all who heard it that the navigation laws were not without that connexion with free trade which had been so unadvisedly disclaimed in that House. He would begin with the article of cotton. His statement was:—
Flag. 1846. 1847. 1848. Tons. Tons. Tons. Russia 68,995 80,420 76,108 Sweden 44,648 68,355 51,956 France 38,039 49,623 108,362 Holland 53,538 58,445 76,000 Belgium 38,391 34,246 38,322 Spain 21,311 28,202 14,672 Portugal 13,353 8,466 7,858 Italian States 57,498 89,604 29,749That cotton which was brought to Havre on English account in a foreign ship, which could not be disposed of in France at any price, and which could have been sold at Liverpool to advantage, might not be conveyed from Havre to Liverpool in a British ship, but might be reconveyed to the United States in a foreign ship, and thence brought to Liverpool in an American ship, thus depriving the British ship of employment, and depriving the English market of cotton when there was a distressing deficiency in the supply.That sugar could only be sent from Guiana and other colonies to England, at a freight of 3l. 10s. or 4l. a ton; while slave-grown sugar—which we are accused of unduly encouraging—could be sent from St. Croix, in Danish ships at 2l. 10s. a ton, thus discouraging the supply of colonial and free-labour sugar; that no British ships could be procured to export free-labour sugar from Batavia.That copper is now produced in great and growing abundance in Australia, and cannot find a sufficient number of British ships to convey it to this country, and the high freights, which are the necessary consequence, diminish the profits of what is sent, which has led to the project of establishing smelting works in Australia, instead of employing, first, the shipping, and, next, the manufacturers of England for that purpose; that, again, as German ships which now carry out emigrants to Australia may not carry back copper ore, or meat, or any of the produce of Australia, as return cargoes to this country, or to their own country with a view to exportation to this country if the market at home should not be remunerative, therefore, at Hamburgh they have also established smelting works in their own defence, again creating a gratuitous competition with the manufacturers of this country.That wrought hides may be imported into this country in any quantity from France or other countries; but if there was any superfluity of raw hides, they might not, under the navigation laws, be brought to this country for the artificers of this country to manufacture, unless they were sent all the way back to America.That cochineal, another article of most rapid increase from the Canaries, has its chief depôt at Cadiz, whence it is taken in French ships to Marseilles, but it cannot be taken, under the navigation laws, even in English ships to England, because the Canaries are suffered to be geographically in Africa, and therefore the produce must be imported in English ships from the Canaries themselves, where there is not independent inducement for English ships to go; while at Cadiz there is always a multitude of British ships for the pur- 11 pose of bringing wine, but which are not suffered to bring this valuable and much-wanted dye.That Madeira wines may not be brought from Lisbon even in English ships, where they would always be in great abundance. Nor the gums of Senegal from their chief depôt at Marseilles. Nor the dyewoods of West Africa from a large depôt of them at Marseilles. There may be a surplus supply of all these articles in these ports; there may be a deficient supply at home; the ships loading with sherry and claret may be full of convenient chasms absolutely yawning for these light assortments, but the prohibition is complete and inexorable.That nitrate of soda, more highly thought of as a manure, has sold for from 2l. 6s. 6d. less at Hamburgh than here, but for the same sum could not be brought even here.That a parcel of Alpaca thread was actually the subject of this veritable transaction. It arrived in Hamburgh—a great depôt for merchandise from South America—from Peru, was purchased, sent to Hull, refused admittance, shipped thence to New York, re-exported to Liverpool, and sent into the manufacturing districts, where it arrived too late for the demands of the market.That Java indigo, which was much wanted for some of the more delicate manufactures of this country, was purchased in Holland, but, in order to secure its entry into this country, it was shipped in a Dutch vessel to the United States, and thence exported to this country.That palm-oil, Manilla hemp, logwood, have all been waiting for shipment in the United States, and because no British vessels were to be had they all failed of being sent.That it is stated by a Hamburgh resident that the operation of the navigation laws with respect to the supply of Peruvian wools to this country, such as are brought to the continent of Europe first, is unquestionably unfavourable to British manufacturers, because the German manufacturer is purchasing that article now at a less price than the manufacturers can purchase it in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the consequence must be that the German manufacturer can afford to sell his cloth at a less price than the English.That at Bombay and Calcutta, though there is constant uncertainty whether there will be ships to carry produce to England, and the freight has been as high as eight guineas a ton, and though the same ports are filled with ships not only seaworthy, but efficiently commanded, and which would bring home that produce, if they were suffered to do so, yet because of that preposterous disability which attaches to ships manned by Lascar sailors, they are not suffered to do so.His Lordship then proceeded: I cannot for my life discover why, if the Lascars are good seamen, as unquestionably they are, and if they are also British subjects, which cannot be denied, they are not to be engaged as sailors on board of British ships. That eminent shipowner, the late Mr. Somes, when examined before the Committee of 1844, gave this evidence as to their character. He said—That going in the East India trade he would rather have Lascars. In a warm climate 12 you do not require a greater number of them than of British seamen. Their great merit is their orderly conduct; they are as quiet as lambs on board ships.The noble Earl then proceeded to read the remainder of his statement, which was to this effect:—That with respect to the noblest, because the most useful article of interchange, I mean the bread we live upon, it is stated by the Board of Trade at Toronto, September, 1846, that large quantities of produce were forwarded to Montreal from the interior, where it had been produced during the preceding winter, at prices severely enhanced by the exaggerated reports which reached Canada of the scarcity of breadstuffs throughout Europe. On arrival it was found impossible to obtain shipment for it at loss than 6s. a barrel, and the holders were threatened with insolvency alike from its shipment or retention, and perceiving most distinctly that the chief cause of their difficulties was to be found in the present navigation laws of Your Majesty's kingdom, a feeling of deep dissatisfaction therewith has arisen in the minds of Your Majesty's Canadian subjects.Now, he would ask their Lordships to consider what this long enumeration of cases proved? Did it not prove beyond all contradiction this—that we could not pursue our old career any longer, and that we must enter upon a new track? Yes, these laws impeded, obstructed, and, if he might use a common phrase, bothered every branch of our trade in every quarter of the world. These laws seemed to him to be nothing better than an ingenious attempt to double the freight of every commodity imported into England, and to multiply the distances which divided the different countries of the world from one another. In our anxiety to secure the long voyage, we forgot that we deprived ourselves of a number of short ones; and, in our desire to grasp the profits of the short voyage, we had recourse to measures calculated to drive our colonies to resistance, if not to pave the way to more active and open hostility, ending in their ultimate secession and independence. Instead of appropriating to ourselves the resources of all other countries—the riches of the globe in the easiest manner—though it was no easy matter under any circumstances—we surrounded them with difficulties of our own creation, and rendered the ocean more dissociable even than pagan poets had described it. He would now say a word or two on another point, which his noble and learned Friend had much laboured, namely, the degree in which the mercantile marine was a nursery for the Royal Navy, He reminded their Lordships that the modern system of the Royal Navy, and more 13 particularly the steam department of that Navy, required a larger number of hands specially trained for its service; whilst at the same time, the introduction of steam navigation dispensed with a number of hands which were formerly required to man the sailing ships. You had thus on the one hand a special number required for the naval service, and yet a smaller number wanted in the aggregate of the two services. If in the future, as would probably be the case, we should have to derive assistance from the mercantile marine to man the Royal Navy, he could not but entertain a confident hope that we might rely on an adequate supply of sailors for the national Navy, when he saw that in the interval between 1823 and 1847 the number of our sailors had increased from 165,000 to 252,000, and the amount of our tonnage from 2,506,760 to 3,952,000, being an increase of 50 per cent. Another point on which some stress had been laid by the noble Earl who spoke last night was the levity with which his noble Friend the President of the Council had spoken of the apprenticeship system in the mercantile Navy. Undoubtedly that system was represented as a burden on the shipowners, for it was an inconvenience to ships upon a short voyage to be compelled to carry a certain number of apprentices; but still the shipowners had declared their willingness to bear it in return for the other privileges which they had got. Indeed, so far from there being any indisposition to take a number of apprentices—who were useful upon long voyages—there were now in the merchant service 10,000 more apprentices than our merchant vessels were compelled to take by law. The next point to which he would refer was the capacity of unprotected British shipowners to compete with the foreign shipowners. It appeared to him that there were many considerations connected with that part of the subject which ought to go far to dissipate any apprehensions that might be entertained with respect to the consequences of the proposed alteration of the existing system. If we considered the strength and durability of British shipping, as compared with the strength and durability of the shipping of the United States, or with the less strong and less enduring shipping of the north of Europe, we should find that we were not likely to suffer any material disadvantage—he should rather say, we suffer no disadvantage at all from the measure 14 now proposed. He would read to their Lordships the evidence of a gentleman who had been examined on this point before their Committee—a gentleman who was highly honoured in his own country, and who, he could speak from personal knowledge, deserved to be equally honoured in this—Mr. Minturn. He was asked—In what respect should you consider that a ship can be built cheaper in America than in England: where would be the saying?—The only item in shipbuilding which to my knowledge is cheaper in America than in England is wood; and this, for ships built in New York, has to bear heavy transportation—much of the timber being brought by sea from Virginia and Florida, and the plank from Lake Erie, a distance of 500 miles. The iron is imported from England, and pays a duty of 30s., besides the expense of importation. Copper is also much higher than in England, and wages are nearly double.Mr. Graham, the secretary to Lloyd's, also said—"The first-class British ships are the best ships in the world, and are superior to American ships." And Captain Briggs stated that such ships as he had spoken of, costing 20l. per ton, "would not stand A 1 for 12 years. The Americans have no ship that would stand A 1 for 12 years in this country." Another witness stated—A Hamburgh vessel, from 200 to 500 tons, iron-fastened and coppered, costs ready for sea, about 11l. a ton. She stands seven years A 1, and no more. The English ship costs 20l. a ton, stands twelve years A 1, and four years more, making sixteen years. The Hamburgh ship, therefore, stands nine years less on the first letter than the English ship. We deduct, as before, 1l. a ton for each year, and we find the English and the Hamburgh ship are the same cost. We have yet to consider the expense of navigation.It is, therefore, fair to assume that the English vessel, as far as regarded its durability, is worth, as compared with the colonial vessel, in the proportion of twenty-two to seven.Mr. Wilson, of Sunderland, used this language to the same Committee:—If any other proof be wanted that foreigners have no advantage over England in the build and navigation of ships, we have it in the fact that when the shipping trade is depressed and freights non-remunerative, the British shipowner is not 'the first' to let his ships lie rotting in harbour and the sailors fill the workhouse. The contrary is notoriously the fact. In those years of depression the foreigner is the first to lay up his vessel.The Parliamentary returns prove, beyond all manner of doubt, that on every recurrence of distress in shipping, there is a great comparative decrease of foreign and a corresponding increase of British vessels employed in the foreign trade. And did not language like that stand to 15 reason, when we considered the countries from which the materials came required for the construction of foreign vessels? We furnish them with iron, with copper sheathing, with chain cables, with sails and canvas, and with cordage—all articles on which they have to pay a duty, and we have not. The only article on which we have to pay a higher duty than they have, is timber; and the duty on timber is only 3s. 6d. in the 18l. or 20l. per ton which the ship originally cost. He would not enumerate the other sources of our superiority, but only to observe that in our colonies we had the cheapest supply of timber in the world. While the Americans had their oak—and splendid oak it was—we had also splendid timber—so much so that our native oak was estimated at 4l. 10s. more than that of foreign countries. Their Lordships' attention had been called to the great increase of steam navigation; and he might remind them that with regard to providing steam vessels and furnishing their machinery and materials, no nation could enter into rivalry with the united kingdom. He found that our machine-makers could lay down steam engines in the Baltic ports 30 per cent lower than the makers in those ports could do themselves. He thought it might, therefore, be confidently asserted that, with respect to steam-ships and iron-built vessels, no country could stand a comparison with this. They had reason to hope, then, that they would not sustain a disadvantageous competition with foreign countries, when they swept away the last imperfect and illusive remains of the protection which they still retained under the navigation laws. He thought his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had been somewhat unjustly reproached for not having spoken with sufficient respect of the still existing remains of the navigation laws when he described them as "shreds and tatters." Why, what were the terms in which the most obstinate adherents to the present navigation laws had spoken of their prospects since the adoption of the reciprocity treaties? Mr. Young had stated before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1847, that protection was inadequate in those trades with regard to which they had virtually abrogated the navigation laws; and that, in fact, they had no protection. He thought this was in effect a very similar description to that which had been given by the noble President of the Council, when he characterised the navigation 16 laws as a remnant of protection—as a thing of shreds and tatters. He (the Earl of Carlisle) was not without hope that the final and complete removal of this monopoly would have the same effect which had invariably attended similar measures with respect to other branches of industry—that it would tend to stimulate exertion, and to lead the way to improved and economical modes of management. He would not enter upon the invidious task of inquiring what were the shortcomings and defects of their present mercantile marine. He thought, however, that it would be unwise to pride themselves too much upon its efficiency; for he feared there were many things, especially connected with the condition of the seamen, the sanitary regulations of the ships, and in some degree also with the qualifications of masters, in which amendment was greatly required. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) had last night called attention to a most interesting and valuable work, published in America, called Two Years before the Mast. He (the Earl of Carlisle) had made the acquaintance of the author of that work; he had asked his opinion on this subject, and he was satisfied that opinion had been given sincerely and honestly. His friend, Mr. Dana, who had had great experience and opportunities of observing the crews of vessels from all parts of the world, had told him, that he thought the British sailor was a more thorough sea creature than the American sailor—that he was, in fact, the best seaman that could be found in the world; but that he considered, with respect to the masters of merchant vessels, that the American masters were better educated, more generally accomplished, and better instructed in those branches of scientific knowledge which might be of service to them, than the same class in this country. He (the Earl of Carlisle) would not enter into detail upon another point which had been touched upon by the noble President of the Council—namely, that in many lines of navigation and trade, where British ships were now subjected to direct competition with the ships of all other countries, they were able to carry on a successful competition. His noble Friend had gone through a variety of instances to show how British vessels competed with the ships of the United States and of Hamburgh. The ships of the United States competed successfully with the cheapest-built ships in the world—those of Sweden, Bremen, and 17 Antwerp; but British ships were able to beat the American shipping even in the ports of the United States. He (the Earl of Carlisle) thought there could not be a stronger proof than that of the power of this country to compete successfully with foreign ships all over the world. Indeed, it almost stood to reason that that nation which upon the greatest number of points on the surface of the globe could present the largest number of ships, and could offer the lowest rate of freight, must, in the end, secure the greatest proportion of the carrying trade of the world. This was what formerly gave their envied ascendancy to the Dutch, and what, he firmly believed, with the means and appliances which we possessed, would ensure a similar ascendancy to this country. Low rates of freight would do for traffic on the seas what low rates of travelling had done for traffic by railway on shore—they would create traffic where none had existed before, and would suggest wants which had not been felt before, and which, besides suggesting, they would satisfy. Even conceding, then, that the repeal of the navigation laws would confer advantages upon foreigners, yet, believing in the impulse that was always given to trade when the cords of restraint were loosened, and believing in the unbounded elasticity of British trade, and its capacity to surmount all obstacles, he entertained the confident hope that they would eventually secure by far the largest proportion of the multiplied traffic of the world. He could, indeed, well believe that a system of exclusion and monopoly, such as had been the pervading motive of their navigation code, but which was found impracticable in the present condition of the world, might have appeared plausible when our powers were confined within narrower limits, and when our commerce had not swelled to its present gigantic proportions; but now, when there was no region of the world in which we have not peopled the shores or occupied the seas, from Aden to Oregon, or from Newfoundland to New Zealand, every obstacle and impediment was multiplied tenfold. We had by our enterprise and activity so dotted the globe with our stations, that to interrupt or complicate the traffic between them and the rest of the world, was to make our legislation an universal nuisance. He (the Earl of Carlisle) had endeavoured, in discussing this subject, to lay the chief stress upon that activity and development which he believed the relaxa- 18 tion or abolition of the navigation laws would confer upon the commerce of this country; but he was not blind to the consideration that the colonial part of the question was that which most immediately pressed upon the attention of the Legislature. He was not ashamed of those associations connected with the commerce and the woollen trade of the West Riding, which still clung to him even in that assembly. He might, however, be met by the statement that a very large portion of the mercantile body not only did not apply for this measure, that they did not wish for it, but that they repudiated it, and had even petitioned against it. He admitted that this seemed to him to be the strongest point raised against the measure; but he accounted for the indisposition of a large portion of the mercantile body to the Bill, by the circumstance that when any set of men had for a long time occupied themselves in any particular branch of trade or industry, and had done so with success, there was a tendency on their parts to wish to leave things just as they were, and not to clear away from the course of their successors difficulties which they had themselves successfully surmounted. He believed that if a royal road to geometry could be invented, the persons who would most object to it would be geometricians. This rule applied to every class of persons. When they had obtained a certain degree of eminence in a particular pursuit, they thought it could only be obtained by others in the same manner, and every altered mode of exertion seemed to them impossible. He would only further remark, that while he anticipated the greatest benefit to commerce from the abolition of the navigation laws—while he thought it would give facilities for their intercourse with all the rest of the world, and would enrich this country with that most harmless wealth which a noble Earl opposite had last night seen fit to denounce, but which no one could deprecate when following in the wake of honest and peaceful industry—he still could not listen unmoved to the predictions of evil with which some noble Lords accompanied the adoption of this measure—predictions of risk to our shipping, of injury to our commerce, and of danger to our national defences. If he believed this measure could have such a tendency—if he did not think it was likely to have the very opposite effect—he certainly would be the last person to appear as its supporter. He trusted, however, that he set 19 a just estimate upon the naval character of this country, upon the enterprise of its mercantile marine, and upon the deathless glory of its national fleets; and that it was not in the year in which Rule Britannia had been first heard in the streets of Paris that they would have that strain unlearnt at home. The reason why he did not anticipate any risk to their commerce, any damage to their shipping, or any danger to their national defences, but the contrary, from the present measure, was this—because he believed that the sure, though perhaps gradual, effect of the measure would be to give increase of employment, enlarged activity, and renewed vigour to the general trade and commerce of the country; and because he believed it was the commerce of the country stimulating their agriculture, rewarding their manufactures, and developing every branch of industry, which was the main cause that gave employment to their fleets, that guaranteed permanence and security to their national defences, that had hitherto made this country the mistress of the sea, and that, with the blessing of the Almighty, would always keep her so.
said, that he had listened with deep attention to the noble Earl who had just sat down, but confessed that he had not heard any sufficiently strong grounds stated to justify this Bill being brought forward against the expression of the strong opinion of the country against it. The noble Earl had referred to a long list of grievances connected with those laws; but he would like to know what measure there was which could not also have its long list of cases cited against it? They were cases that he had heard of before in the report of the Committee of their Lordships, and he had heard answers sufficient to convince him that the evil resulting from these cases did not counterbalance the benefits derived from this measure. He would not attempt to follow the noble Earl who had just sat down through all the details of his speech—that he would leave to abler speakers. He was surprised that the noble Marquess who moved the second reading of this Bill should have thrown anything like disdain upon the expression of feeling on the part of this country, or that he should have endeavoured to underrate the value of the petitions which had been laid upon the table of their Lordships' House against this measure. The state of public opinion had been shown in the great decrease of the majority in 20 favour of the measure, as compared with that of last year, in the House of Commons. It had been alleged, that most of the petitions which had been presented against the Bill had emanated from agricultural bodies; but it appeared by a return made to their Lordships, that up to the 4th of May the number of petitions presented had been 182 against the measure, and only six in its favour. Of the 182 against the Bill, fifty-seven were from owners and occupiers of land, and the remainder from shipowners, or from persons directly interested in the shipping trade. He confessed that he could not reconcile the arguments used by the advocates of this measure—first, that these laws were so much injury to commerce; secondly, that they were mere waste paper. With regard to the case of the colonies, he found upon reference to their petitions that all which they sought, either with respect to the warehousing system or the direct trade, might be granted under the present Bill; but these privileges had been refused, for what reason he would leave their Lordships to judge. The effect of that refusal had been the cause of several petitions in favour of the Bill; but not one of the petitions presented from the colonies considered the measure as a remedy for their distress. With respect to the question of retaliation, it must not be forgotten that retaliation would be just as possible after the passing of this measure as it was at present. This reminded him of the promises which had been made to them at the passing of the free-trade measures, that foreigners would follow their example. But had it turned out to be so? But all other points of consideration fell into insignificance when compared with the naval interests of the country. Noble Lords on the opposite side of the House seemed to labour under a great mistake with respect to that branch of the subject. He remembered a noble Lord connected with the Board of Trade did not attribute our mercantile superiority to the operation of the navigation laws, but to our isolated position—our great commerce—and extensive colonial trade and possessions. The noble Lord here referred to and read extracts from the evidence of Mr. Dunbar, to show (as was understood, for the noble Lord was occasionally very imperfectly heard) that in the port of Rio Janeiro, which was what was called a free port, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and American shipping, competed successfully with British. What 21 would the trade then he when thrown open to all other nations? Reference had been made to the cheapness of British ships; and it had been said, that the difference between the cost of American-built ships and of English-built ships would not prevent this country from competing successfully with the United States; but it had been stated by a witness whose authority he had never heard questioned, that the Americans could not only build ships more cheaply, but that they could also man and equip them more cheaply, than the shipowners of this country. He believed the adoption of this measure would not only have the effect of damaging the commercial marine of England, but that it would eventually tend to injure the Navy. He could not understand what was meant by inserting the manning clauses in this Bill; they were either put in because the promoters of this Bill feared that the effects of the Bill would be to drive the shipowners of this country to take foreign seamen, or else they were put in for the purpose of blindfolding the opponents of the measure to its real effects. The coasting clauses of the Bill appeared to have been introduced for the same reasons. The noble Earl who had last night addressed the House had referred to the battle of Trafalgar, as the cause of the subsequent success of their mercantile marine. He would not enter into the question whether the consequences of the battle of Trafalgar were favourable or not to the increase of the mercantile marine of this country. They must look a little farther, and ascertain what was the cause of the battle of Trafalgar. The opinion of a man whose title he had the honour to bear, and whose name was still revered all through this great country, might, upon a question of this importance, be brought forward—though dead, he was not forgotten. Though, doubtless, the navigation laws had been, in some measure, altered since his death, yet the principle remained the same as when he lived. He could not forget the conduct of his noble uncle, when in the West Indies, contrary to the orders of his commander, he braved the chance of a court-martial for the purpose of carrying out more strictly the laws of his country; because he considered those laws fundamentally necessary to the maintenance of the Navy of this country. He proved afterwards how necessary they were in the next important period of his life—the battle, or rather the fall of Copenhagen. He was most anxious at that 22 time to act with expedition. He was unable to effect his purpose so speedily as he would have wished, and in a letter written by him he stated that he might have saved the blood spilled at Copenhagen, and obtained a friendly instead of a hostile victory, if he could have fitted out his ships, and got them sooner out of the Yarmouth Roads. In questions of national defence, it was necessary to pay a little more attention to practice than to mere theory. In the year 1801, when his great uncle was appointed, by the unanimous voice of this country, to undertake the duties of fortifying the country against foreign invasion, what could he have done had not the navigation laws been upheld? Where would have been those ships which the merchants were enabled to fit up for him, to enable him to cover the coast? Where would have been those sailors whom he induced to enlist, when they believed their country to be in danger? Where would have been those sailors, those ships—or where would have been the means of building more ships in the country, if by the abolition of those laws the British merchant had been compelled to employ foreign vessels, and British sailors had been employed in a foreign service? The present manning-clauses must be upheld, or they would soon see their shipowners sending their goods in foreign-built ships—in foreign-manned ships, and in ships under foreign flags. If that were the case, in what position would the country be placed in a time of war. It was very well, no doubt, for persons to call loudly for general peace, and for the establishment of a system of settling all disputes by treaties between one nation and another; such persons could however, have no security that master spirits would not arise, as had heretofore been the case, and who, throwing aside all treaties, would force nations to war. They might depend upon it that the only effective security for the continuance of peace was the maintenance of a sufficient force. Feeling strongly as he did that this measure would be detrimental to the best interests of this country, he could not content himself by giving a silent vote on this subject; and he earnestly trusted that their Lordships would resist this Bill. He called upon their Lordships to reject the Bill on the ground that it would not foster or encourage the trade of the country; he called upon the freetraders among their Lordships to resist 23 the Bill, because it was an imperfect measure, and one which, sooner or later, would require to he amended; he called upon all who felt any interest in the prosperity of their country to reject a measure which so injuriously affected the best interests not only of the nation but of its colonies, and which would repeal those existing laws which were necessary, in some degree, for the peace of the world.
§ EARL BRUCE
stated that, as an independent Member of their Lordships' House, he felt anxious to assure them that, after having listened with great attention to the various speeches delivered on this subject, he had come to the conclusion, that never before had it been his good fortune to support a measure introduced by Her Majesty's Ministers with a more perfect conviction that he was right in doing so, than with respect to this measure. A great variety of opinions seemed to be entertained as to the effect of the repeal of the navigation laws. It was thought by some noble Lords that if they were repealed, it would cause the inevitable destruction of the Royal Navy of this country. They argued that whatever might be the inconveniences resulting from the operation of these laws, still that the defence of this mighty empire being involved in their continuance, all other considerations ought to yield to that paramount one. If he for a single moment could imagine that the passing of the present Bill would, in the most trifling degree, expose the country to a foreign enemy, he should, without a moment's hesitation, set aside the most cherished opinions, and at once vote against the Bill, for he felt that the defences of the country must be maintained upon any terms. He was far from subscribing to any such doctrine, but, on the contrary, he fully believed that the country might be most efficiently defended—as efficiently, if not more so, than it had ever been, even though those remaining fragments of the navigation laws should be instantly abrogated. Others, again, acting upon what they considered a conservative principle, though a very unsound one in this case, said, "Let us leave things as they are. We know the worst which these laws can produce." He ventured to caution noble Lords from looking at this question in this manner. Things will not remain as they are. The question is as urgent in point of time as important in character. The various colonies of this country felt themselves aggrieved by the course pursued by the mother 24 country with respect to the adoption of free-trade measures, and they claimed as some compensation for the injury they had sustained, the removal of the burdens imposed upon them by the existing navigation laws. Those changes of policy which had been recently adopted by the country, would, he felt confident, ultimately lead to the benefit of the empire generally, notwithstanding the contrary opinions which had been formed by many persons on the subject. It was very well for the ardent admirers of protection to say that the movement which had taken place against free trade was one in the right direction; but whatever might be their opinion as to the success of that movement, he believed it would be utterly impossible for them ever to obtain protection again. Then there were treaties with foreign countries on the point of expiring, and powers in their hands for effectually changing the present state of the laws by retaliation. Nor can our Foreign Minister, whoever he may he, have a word to say against such retaliation, or in favour of a renewal of such treaties. Treaties will not be renewed without concessions from this country. The example of this country in favour of an exclusive system may not unnaturally be followed by other countries in imitation of this the greatest commercial country, and a system of restriction may be more advantageous in fact to them than to this country. A combination of other countries, might be formed against this one; and, being at last forced to throw open the colonial trade, this country would meanwhile have lost its foreign trade. Then as to the comparative superiority and expense of English and foreign ships and crows. An Englishman is slow to believe that from drunkenness and want of discipline the British merchant crews are generally inferior to foreign; but it must be admitted, that in the inferior classes of our merchant ships, this, in some cases, is but too true; but it cannot arise from the unfitness and inaptitude of Englishmen for the service, either as commanders of ships or seamen, for they are eminently and peculiarly qualified for it. This inferiority is chiefly owing to the want of care in educating and selecting masters; and, above all, to the baneful effects of these remains of monopoly. There can be no reason why an English master should not be as well educated as a foreign one, and by better accommodation on board, and a judicious system of payment by per centage, no 25 reason why he should not take as great a care of, and interest in, the goods committed to him as his foreign rival. As regards comparative expense, the price of timber is somewhat higher in this country; but in iron, sails, cordage, copper, the English shipbuilder has advantages over almost every other country, and especially as regards the United States, which is likely to be the most formidable rival of this country in the carrying trade. But if there are some to whom it is impossible to demonstrate satisfactorily these details, there is this irresistible argument, that we do compete with foreigners in the foreign trade, and in that comparatively unprotected trade our shipping and commerce are increasing faster than in the protected trade. If the foreign unprotected trade were not profitable, all our ships would be naturally driven into the protected trade. But it is said, foreign shipping has increased still more than British: if so, where is the use of the navigation laws for the purpose of protection. But the increased population, and demands of other countries, sufficiently account for this. But if our unprotected trade with foreign countries separately has increased, à fortiori, is there reason to hope it will do so to an enormous extent when intercommunication between all parts of the globe are open to it? The greater the amount of the carrying trade, the lower will the freights be; and ships will rarely make a voyage in ballast, or have to wait in port for cargoes; and from the immense connexion (as it would be termed in trade) between this country and every part of the world, our ships would have great advantages if that system prevailed. But shipowners and shipbuilders must not forget that every step which has of late years been taken in the question of free trade, has been a boon to the shipping interest; every relaxation of duties has increased importations, and the demand for ships. He (Lord Bruce) considered it clear, that as regards the colonial trade, the navigation laws could not continue long—that as regards foreign trade they afford no protection, while to our ships and crews the repeal of them would be a benefit and not an injury—and, above all, that it is not solely to carry out a free-trade theory, though he considered it essentially part of the free-trade system, notwithstanding what other noble Lords said. But things could not be left as they were: answers must be given to the prayers of the colonies and foreign 26 States; replies must be made as to the renewal of treaties. He beseeched their Lordships, therefore, at once to pass this measure, which, if delayed, would come shortly again before them under, perhaps, much more disadvantageous circumstances. They need not fear, by a repeal of these laws, to injure the British commercial navy in time of peace, or the prospects of the Royal Navy in time of war. The armour of protection might have been suitable in times past, but was only an impediment now; the British sailor required nothing but a fair field and no favour to contend, whether in peace or war, with the sailors of every nation on the globe.
§ EARL TALBOT
said, he would request the attention of their Lordships while he briefly gave expressions to his opinions on the subject under discussion. He had given way to the noble Lord who bore the illustrious name of Nelson, and had permitted him to take precedence of him, and he was glad he had done so. He was rejoiced to hear him advocate the necessity of attending to the defences of that country which his illustrative relative was so conspicuous in guarding. It was impossible to over-rate the importance of this question; and the first thing that occurred to him in looking to it was, to inquire where was the necessity for meddling with the subject at all. He found in the petitions that had been presented to their Lordships against this Bill, an adequate answer to all the arguments that had been urged in support of it. Those petitions had been prepared in as constitutional a manner as any petitions that, within his recollection, had been presented to Parliament. They were not manufactured petitions; they were not petitions placed at the corners of streets, and signed by boys or women, or signed by some persons five or six times over. They were petitions emanating from merchants and corporate bodies, and from men who understood their business, and who came respectfully to their Lordships' House to implore them not to pass this measure, which they thought would be fraught with danger to the public interests. It had been said by noble Lords at the other side that this measure was intimately connected with the subject of free trade. It might be considered in two branches: it might be considered as connected with free trade, or it might be considered as totally apart from free trade. If they were to consider it as connected with free trade, it would naturally occur to 27 a reasonable mind to inquire how far that experiment of free trade had succeeded. In consequence of the disturbances in Europe, and in consequence, also, of that distress which they must all lament, it might be argued, and argued he thought fairly, on both sides of the question, that free trade had not had a fair trial. But they were led to expect that it would be a panacea for all the evils that might occur. They might say, therefore, at all events, that free trade had not stopped the difficulties that had arisen. He was not then going to say that free trade was a failure. His argument was, that free trade had not yet had a sufficient trial to enable them to found other measures on the same principle, and he therefore entertained a strong conviction that this measure ought not to be passed into a law. The question had been divided into three branches, and was to be considered in an historical, commercial, and national point of view. Without referring at length to the public history of those laws, it would suffice to say that they had existed for about 200 years, and that there was a code before them which had existed for 200 years, and during that period their maritime trade had arrived at that admitted supremacy which it now enjoys. To meddle with so venerable a system appeared to him extremely hazardous, and especially in the face of such evidence as that which had been brought forward on the present occasion. With the commercial part of the subject he felt himself very incompetent to deal; but he had perused the greater part of the evidence submitted to both Houses of Parliament, and he would say that the great mass of the evidence was in favour of supporting the navigation laws as they are in all their essential points. If there was any point in the navigation laws requiring alteration, why not make that alteration the subject of treaty, and remove the parts that were considered objectionable? With respect to one of the points objected to, he bad conversations with commercial men, and he knew they would find no difficulty in effecting, by treaty, such a modification of those laws as would meet a case of that description. The noble Lord who had opened the debate that evening had laid great stress on the number of seamen having increased so largely, and on that he founded an argumenten the impolicy of those laws; but instead of doing that he should, in his (Earl Talbot's) opinion, have founded an argument the other way. Under those 28 laws the number of their seamen had greatly increased, and men who could prove useful to their country in time of need had risen under them. He (Earl Talbot) would not detain their Lordships by going into a detail of the price of building ships. His noble Friend the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests had admitted that evening that the cost of shipbuilding must be greater in this country than it was abroad; but his noble Friend contended that British-built ships would be cheaper, in the long run, inasmuch as the ships built in this country would last for a greater number of years. But it should be recollected that the capital embarked in the shipbuilding trade would naturally be applied to the building of ships at the cheapest rate, and in the cheapest market, irrespective of all such considerations. Let them see what an advantage it would be to the owner to build the ship abroad. First of all, he would save the duty on the timber, and likewise have the benefit of other advantages. It might be said this Bill was passed to take off all restrictions on commerce; but if they were to go on the system of entire relaxation, they should not stop half way, or clog their Bill with any clause that would place the English shipowner in difficulty, or place a burden on him he was unable to bear. By the introduction of any clause such as that referring to the coasting trade, Her Majesty's Government showed that they wanted confidence in the measure they had introduced. Before introducing that measure, it was their bounden duty to consider the question, and to arrive at the conclusion that the coasting trade should not be thrown open in consequence of the difficulties in the way of doing so. They should have found that out before they ventured to produce the Bill to Parliament at all. Let it he recollected how this Bill had been introduced. The Bill was brought forward at the suggestion of a Friend of his (Earl Talbot) in another place, who, in a joking way, said, "We have got free trade; let us now have a go at the navigation laws." That expression, he supposed, had been taken up by Her Majesty's Government; and, because it was uttered, they deemed it necessary to introduce a Bill of the importance of that now before the House. He would remind their Lordships that a Committee of their Lordships' House was appointed to inquire into this subject; but without waiting for the results of the inquiry the Bill was introduced, and he could 29 not but say that that branch of the Legislature had been treated with marked disrespect. As regarded the question of reciprocity, see the way they had been met. He did not complain of reciprocity; but with their insular position, and with the immense empire they had to maintain, he did protest against their giving everything away without anything being given to them in return. They had a reciprocity system with America a long time before, but it was merely a nominal reciprocity. If they gave up something, they ought to get something in return; but they should not go forward in the headlong way they were going by this Bill, to attain that object. He was given to understand that a very salutary and very easily comprehended rule was adopted by Belgium. He ought, perhaps, to apologise to their Lordships for at all addressing them on this occasion; but holding, as he did, a commission in the Navy, he felt that he had some claim to address their Lordships on the subject of manning the Navy. The question, as it affected the Navy, was one of considerable importance; but after the eloquent speech which they had heard from the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) who closed the debate on the previous night, he felt that he (Earl Talbot) could not say any thing that would add to the impression which that noble Lord must have made upon their Lordships. When he recollected all the information which that noble Earl must have acquired while he governed their eastern empire—when he remembered, also, the knowledge he must have obtained while filling the office of First Lord of the Admiralty in this country—and when it would be found that the assertions made by him were supported by the evidence of all the naval officers examined before their Lordships' Committee, he felt assured that he was perfectly justified in agreeing in every sentiment that had fallen from the noble Earl. He conceived that the danger that might follow would be incalculable. It would be dangerous to diminish the number of their sailors, when it might be necessary to call suddenly upon them in time of war. A great alteration had taken place in the way of sailing ships, in consequence of the facilities that were given by the introduction of steam; and it was to be apprehended that by the facilities afforded for the transmission of coal by railway, the coasting and collier trade, so valuable a nursery for seamen, might be 30 seriously affected; and also that the operations in time of war would be much more sudden than in former times. They would want to throw their strength upon particular points with rapidity, and it would be found that steam would have the effect, besides, of diminishing very much the practice of seamanship. The introduction of steam must, therefore, of necessity have a strong tendency to affect the well-known character of the British tar. Let them remember that if they made this alteration they could not retract except at the risk of quarrelling with their neighbours; and he hoped, with the concurrence of a majority of their Lordships, that he should have the satisfaction of taking a part in stopping a measure which might be productive of considerable injury to the best interests of this great maritime empire.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
,* before he entered on the general subject before the House, begged their permission to advert to a charge made by a noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) last night against Mr. Cardwell, one of the Members for Liverpool, who, he stated, had made a strong declaration upon his election in favour of the navigation laws—who had by reason of that declaration received the support of the shipowners and others of that port—and whose conduct the noble and learned Lord alleged had been inconsistent with those professions. Now, having a great respect for that Gentleman—although he had the misfortune to differ with him on this occasion—he was anxious that their Lordships should be put in possession of the facts, and for this purpose would refer to an authentic statement of them which he held in his hand. From this it appeared that a Committee of the Liverpool Conservative Association, deputed to select candidates at the last election, agreed to recommend Mr. Cardwell's name, with that of Sir Digby Mackworth, and reported accordingly to a general meeting of the Association, on the 24th of June, 1847. By that meeting the following resolution was adopted:—That this mooting do now adjourn until Monday, at half-past two, and in the meantime the Chairman be requested to correspond with Mr. Cardwell, M.P., and Sir Digby Mackworth, and to ascertain whether those gentlemen will give an assurance to oppose all endowment of the* From a Report published by Ridgway.31Roman Catholic clergy, and the abrogation of the Navigation Laws, should those measures be brought forward in the Legislature.This resolution was communicated to Mr. Cardwell, and the following was his answer, so far as respects the navigation laws:—I do not anticipate any proposal either for the endowment of the priests or for the repeal of the navigation laws. With respect to the navigation laws, I consider their object to have boon the regulation of our trade and shipping with an especial reference to our maritime supremacy. A Committee has been sitting from the commencement of the Session to inquire into their operation and effect. When they have closed their labours I shall feel it my duty to consider the evidence, and shall not consent to any modifications of the law which may appear to me calculated to interfere with the prosperity of the shipping and commercial interests, and the maintenance of our maritime power. I request you will convey to the adjourned meeting my assurance that these are my genuine sentiments, stated without any reserve, and without any intention or expectation that I shall change them. Permit me to add, respectfully, but firmly, that I decline to enter into any engagement, expressed or implied, which may fetter my free action in Parliament, or render it incompatible with my personal honour to pursue, from time to time, the course suggested to me by my sense of public duty.The consequence of this language was, that he was rejected by the Conservative Association, and did not receive their support. On a subsequent occasion, when addresssing a meeting held in the Exchange Ward, on the 26th of July, 1847, Mr. Cardwell closed his observations as regarded the navigation laws, with words to this effect:—Well then, I say, Gentlemen, I will consent to no change unless, upon future careful inquiry, and full consultation with all parties interested, I am satisfied that it would be conducive to the general good. And I state plainly, also, that, being so satisfied that a change would be so conducive, no power on earth should ever induce me to oppose it.These statements would, he hoped, acquit his hon. Friend, Mr. Cardwell, of the charge brought against him by the noble and learned Lord.
He would now beg to say a few words respecting the Bill before their Lordships. Before he had the honour of a seat in that House, he had been called upon in the other House to give a vote upon the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the Navigation Laws, and he had not refused to go into the inquiry, being not only not so bigoted to those laws as to refuse all investigation into their effects, but on the contrary, thinking it highly desirable 32 from time to time to consider what changes in those laws the lapse of time and changing circumstances both in our own trade and that of foreign countries might make it proper to effect. It was necessary that from time to time such adjustments should be made between the occasionally conflicting interests of trade and navigation. Such adjustments had been made by the Legislature at different times; but the one great principle of protection to our mercantile marine, as an object of paramount importance, had never been lost sight of, nay, had been kept most studiously in view by every statesman who had dealt with them down to the present time.
It had been made a subject of much discussion in this debate, whether this were a question of free trade or not. Now for his own part he (Lord Harrowby) cared not whether it were or no. He never could consider that the questions of free trade and protection were, like those of right and wrong, two great antagonistic principles, which admitted of no variation in their application. They were, in his mind, questions, in which the reasons for applying the one principle or the other predominated, according to the nature of the interests at issue, and the occasion of their application. But in this case, by the admission of all parties, in this House at least, as it had been by all previous statesmen and all previous legislatures, there was at least something which took the question out of the category of simple free trade, and compelled the consideration of it on a different basis. The noble Marquess himself, and all who followed on his side, had fully admitted that the mercantile marine of this country was the basis of her naval strength, and if of her naval strength, of her very existence, and had declared in the strongest and most emphatic language, that if they could be convinced that the measure before the House had any tendency to impair that marine, to injure that mercantile marine, no consideration of simple commercial advantage could ever induce them to seek it at such a cost—concurring in this with every preceding statesman and authority on this subject, that whenever the interests of commerce and navigation were really at variance, those of navigation must predominate, as essential to the defence and security of the empire. All parties thus practically concurred in taking this question out of the category of simple free trade; and the question must ultimately, in the minds of all, 33 concentrate on this one point, can the mercantile marine of Great Britain compete, unprotected, with the marine of other countries? and if not, what is the amount of protection requisite to enable it to do so? For he fully admitted that it was our duty not to continue a single restriction, not to impose a single obstacle in the way of the greatest liberty to commerce, which was not absolutely essential to that object. Now, a great deal of powder had been burnt upon this subject, which had rather tended to obscure, than to throw a steady light upon it. Calculations and counter-calculations had been produced with the view of showing, à priori, that the British shipowner could or could not compote with the foreigner—calculations as to the expense of building, the expense of navigation; and he would admit that such calculations were often a basis for legislation not very satisfactory, for somehow or other the result did not always appear ultimately to be that which such à priori calculations, apparently most indisputable, would lead a man to expect. Some elements, it would seem, were omitted, the omission of which was not to be detected at the time, which made the whole difference in the result. But the observation of facts, as to the past, if carefully and conscientiously made, that is, genuine, carefully considered and conscientious statistics, could not mislead; but then they must be conscientiously selected, they must be the real tests of the question at issue; and on this point he did think that their Lordships and the country had great reason to complain. It was painful to him to make reflections here or any where on the proceedings of a gentleman, Mr. Porter, the honour of whose acquaintance he enjoyed, and whom he hoped often to meet again; but the sense of a public duty to a great question would not permit him to be silent. Well then, he said, that a vast mass of figures had been produced by that gentleman as bearing upon the question at issue, and with the object of producing an effect upon this question, which had no real bearing upon it whatever.
Now, take first the celebrated schedule, which he had produced before the Committee of the House of Commons, of what were called the protected and unprotected trades, purporting to show the relative progress of British navigation under these two heads, and with the view, if any view it had, of showing that without protection British navigation throve and increased 34 better than with its aid; and look solely to the figures so arranged, without analysing the particulars—look only to the gross results, and the conclusion would appear to be inevitable. It would be found, that on the gross figures so arranged, an increase of shipping on the protected side would appear of only 94 per cent, while that on the unprotected side would appear to have been 182 per cent. But how were these results produced? Why, by including the repeated voyages of steamers, in one set of cases, and in another the navigation with countries, in the trade with which, as they had no ships, or but very few of their own, and the ships of no third party were admitted, we had, though not by law, yet by the facts, an effective protection, and even monopoly. Now was this fair? What was the point at issue? The power of competing in sailing vessels, of maintaining a great mercantile marine to sustain and feed our Navy. Was this shown by the command which our superiority in machinery gave us over the communication by short and weekly-repeated voyages between France and Belgium, and Holland and Hamburgh? If it was not good for this purpose, for what purpose was it advanced? But whatever the purpose might have been, the effect could only mislead, and did mislead, those who argued on this question, and did not look closely into the details. It was misleading up to this moment even those who were debating the question at this hour in their Lordships' House; for the results of such tables as these had been quoted already in this debate, and would, he had little doubt, in spite of demonstration, be referred to again as conclusive evidence. But what did this table of Mr. Porter's, when analysed, really establish? That Ave could compete with China, which had no marine that crossed the seas—with Sumatra and Java—with Mexico, and the States of South America, which had no marine—with Turkey and Egypt—with Tripoli, Barbary, and Morocco—with Spain and with Portugal—countries, certainly, which we had never considered as formidable competitors in such a race, all disqualified by one circumstance or another, political or geographical, for such a struggle—that we could effectively compete with Russia, locked upon one side by six months' frost, with little sea-coast, and under institutions of serfage, which utterly incapacitated her, if no other obstacle existed, for ever possessing a numerous or energetic seafaring 35 population. Well, these were not very satisfactory tests; these were not the experimenta crucis, as the philosophers call them, which, by eliminating all disturbing influences, enable a man to arrive at any real result, any real solution of the question. What countries then remained? France, the Netherlands, and Germany. And what were the figures there:—
What a magnificent increase of British tonnage! Could anything be more satisfactory, more conclusive, as to the elements of maritime predominance, which such a statement showed. But analyse it—and what was the result? In the first place you must sot beside it, the cotemporary increase in the shipping of these same countries:—
1824. 1846. Tons. Tons. France 82,650 556,821 United Netherlands 68,285 382,975 Germany 67,345 206,201 218,280 1,145,997
And it will he found that the shipping of these countries made no very contemptible strides within the same period; and, in the next place, the vast proportion, as he (Lord Harrowby) had said before, of the tonnage which so swelled the account in the columns of British shipping, represented only the repeated voyages of steamers across the Channel, or to Hamburgh, and in no way bore upon the real question at issue—the predominance of British navigation. It had no more to do with the question at issue, than if, the inquiry being whether stage coaches could compete with railroads, a table were produced, including stage coaches and cabs under a common head, and swelling the account by the number of clearances inwards and outwards, of the latter vehicles, between Euston-square and Palace-yard.
1824. 1846. France 52,648 262,938 United Netherlands 107,729 230,721 Germany 46,106 122,485 206,483 616,144
We had now disposed of the whole schedule save Prussia, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and the United States of America; and here, indeed, and here only, there was a real competition—here only a fair test of the result. Here there were sailors against sailors, ships against ships, a real and effective struggle, and what was the result? Let the Baltic shipping first be taken by itself. 36
In two-and-twenty years of increase of population, and wealth, and intercourse, a decline in British navigation of not much less than 40 per cent. But let their Lordships look at the other side, which Mr. Porter was in no hurry to place before them, the progress of the shipping of the same foreign countries, in the same intercourse during the same period.
1824. 1846. British ships trading with Prussia 94,564 63,425 Denmark 6,738 9,531 Norway 11,419 3,313 Sweden 17,074 12,625 129,795 88,894
The result, therefore, in this really unprotected intercourse, when there was an effective competition, and neither party had any real advantage—in fact, in the only case in which the real test so far had been applied—was, that British shipping had declined, between 1824 and 1846, from 129,795 tons to 88,894 tons—a decrease of not far from 40 per cent; while the foreign shipping engaged in the same intercourse within the same periods, had increased from 350,674 tons, to 571,161 tons—an increase of about 63 per cent. Was this encouragement to believe, that unprotected British navigation could compete with all foreign navigation? And yet, so far, this was the only case in which the experiment had been fairly tried. Now, in dwelling on this part of the case, he did not mean to attack the reciprocity treaties of Mr. Huskisson, under the operation of which this experiment had been going on. He looked upon them, as Mr. Huskisson himself had always stated them, as a concession to avoid greater evils, not as an absolute good in themselves. But for this point the result was conclusive. British navigation fared but ill in the direct trade with the Baltic Powers, save with Russia, who was disqualified by peculiar causes of her own. What reason was there to expect that British navigation would fare better in the carrying and the colonial trades, which it was now proposed to throw open to the same Powers?
1824. 1846. Prussia 151,621 270,801 Denmark 23,689 105,973 Norway 135,272 113,738 Sweden 40,092 80,649 350,674 571,161
But how was it with the United States?
Let their Lordships refer to the same table of Mr. Porter's, and they would see 37 an increase in British, shipping from 44,994 tons, to 205,123 tons—a very respectable and encouraging increase on the face of it; but, in the first place, let them look at that which Mr. Porter had not shown, the cotemporary condition of American shipping, and they would find an increase from 153,475 tons, to 435,399 tons; on the face of it, no great encouragement to throw open to such competition trades from which such competitors are now excluded. But let them examine further, and ascertain what was the nature of the British shipping, which was able to keep its ground at all in the struggle with American shipping. The figures could not be procured, but the fact was undoubted. The only ships, except steamers, which could live in that competition were the cheap and inferior ships, built in our North American colonies, enjoying the same advantages for construction which the Americans themselves enjoyed, and which, being principally employed in the timber trade with the mother country during the summer, were enabled to carry the comparatively light article of cotton at a low rate of freight during the winter season. The whole valuable carriage between this country and the United States, it was notorious—nine-tenths in value was the calculation—was in ships of the United States; and he was afraid that no change in the American navigation laws, consequent upon the Bill before them, would suffice to remove the disadvantages under which British navigation in intercourse with the United States was, undoubtedly, at present labouring. The orders for goods came from America, and were directed, as well by American feeling and connexions as by navigation laws, into American ships.
He hoped he had now satisfied their Lordships, not only that Mr. Porter's statistics had not established the case in favour of the safety of exposing British shipping to unaided competition, but directly the reverse. But, if any doubt yet remained, he (Lord Harrowby) would appeal to Mr. Porter himself for proof, in his evidence before the Committee of their Lordships' House, as to the valuelessness of the tables which he had presented, for the purpose to which they had been applied, in fact to the question now before their Lordships. He then admitted that the classification of protected and unprotected trades was in itself incorrect, and that many of these, which were unpro- 38 tected by law or treaty, were in fact protected by other circumstances. On the subject of the repeated voyages of steamers, which swell the apparent increase of British shipping in the trades with France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany, when the question was put to him in Committee, "Therefore this shows the increase of trade, not of shipping?" he was compelled to answer, "Clearly."And with regard to the steam tonnage, there are many repeated voyages taken into account, which go to show the increase of the trade, but not of the shipping?"—"Exactly,was his reply. When he was further asked—But admitting that steam vessels form a very large element, that they are, in fact, a paramount element of increase in the trade, do you not think that the mere passages of steamboats backwards and forwards between adjacent countries in voyages of twenty-four hours, does not bear very strongly one way or the other, the question being the formation of seamen, and the navigation of ships generally?His answer is—I certainly have not been accustomed to look at things in that point of view—I have looked at them with reference to the trade of the country.Now, it was very right that an officer of the Board of Trade should look at the trade of the country; but when the question was one of shipping, and not of trade, it was not right of him to bring forward statements so arranged as to wear the appearance of bearing upon navigation when he knew they had in reality no such bearing—so arranged as to mislead, as practically they had misled, and were still misleading, parties both in this House and out of this House, and which had gone far to produce an impression, and an incorrect one, on the public mind. Knowing the value and the bearing of his own statistics, he should rather have warned parties into whose hands they might fall, of the abuse that might be made of them, than have permitted them to produce an effect not the true one.
But he (Lord Harrowby) had not done with these statistics. Mr. Porter had made a further statement, by which it appeared that the tonnage between Great Britain and the United States had increased between the years 1821 and 1844 from 52,000 tons, to 776,000 tons. Now, this statement had rather astonished those who were engaged in the American trade, and who were aware of the difficulty with which the ships of Great Britain main- 39 tained themselves at all in competition with the Americans; and accordingly they looked into the American returns, to verify the facts, and satisfied themselves that the numbers stated by Mr. Porter were a complete mistake, including, as they did, not only the sea-going vessels entering the ports of the United States from Great Britain, to the amount of about 240,000 tons, and 33,000 tons of the British West Indies, but also 515,879 tons of the British colonies in North America, consisting to a very great extent of vessels trafficking on the great American lakes, whether by steam or sail, and therefore having no bearing whatever upon the question in debate. Evidence on this point was adduced before their Lordships' Committee last year—but in vain. Mr. Porter persevered in his statement, and in a correspondence with Mr. Cardwell, which he (Lord Harrowby) had seen in the public journals, reaffirmed, only so late as March 15th of this year, his former statement, adding to it in distinct terms, that "the whole consisted of vessels entering the seaports of those States;" and subjoining in a postscript, "I do not pretend to infallibility, but in this case you may quite depend upon it that I am right." Could their Lordships believe that after this reconsideration of the facts, and this reaffirmation of their accuracy, he was obliged, on the 29th of March, to confess, that on looking into the American accounts, he found that out of the 811,000 tons, which he had thus positively given to British sea-going tonnage for the year 1846, 300,000 were, in fact, lake tonnage—only 512,000 Atlantic tonnage; and that it ultimately appeared that even these figures had to be transposed, and about 300,000 alone remained the amount of the whole veritable Atlantic British tonnage trading with the United States, including that from the British West Indies, instead of the 811,000 which had been so obstinately persisted in, in spite of evidence, by the statistical office of the Board of Trade? Then what should he (Lord Harrowby) say of conduct like this? He would not call it dishonesty, because he did not believe it to be so; but he did call it a species of fanaticism, which blinded the intellectual vision, and of which instances appeared from time to time, confusing and staggering the apprehension of all ordinary men. At any rate, with such instances before them, their Lordships would be careful how they accepted statistics from that quarter. It was such in- 40 stances as these which justified the suspicion into which statistics had fallen, and discredited the whole science.
He would take another instance to show with what caution tables of this kind ought to be received—how closely they should be scrutinised before their value was admitted. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) and the noble Earl (the Earl of Carlisle) had told their Lordships of the risk of retaliation from other countries, with whom Great Britain now enjoyed the privilege of a carrying trade, if she did not admit them to the same advantage; and they told their Lordships that 240,000 tons of shipping engaged in such voyages between third ports, and he did not know how many seamen navigating them, were at stake.
Now, he (Lord Harrowby) did not mean to make light of that possibility, and thought it very advisable to consider it, case by case, looking in each instance to the likelihood of such threats being carried out, or not, according to the evident interest of each party, and looking to the amount of navigation in each case at stake. But he (Lord Harrowby) could not but think that the figures in this case, as in the others which he had gone into, were no real representation of the facts, that is, of the real extent of the navigation. There were no returns by which the whole of that neutral navigation could be analysed; but in page 475 of the report of their Lordships' Committee, a table appeared which threw considerable light upon the subject, and which would lead their Lordships to believe that the tonnage really at issue in this carrying trade was but small. Out of the 240,000 tons, or thereabouts, this table gave the particulars of about 150,000 tons; and when 42,000 tons were found engaged in a voyage from Turkey to Odessa, 32,000 from Turkey to Taganrog, equally in the Black Sea, 3,616 between Spanish ports and Cadiz; 2,960 between French ports and Antwerp, &c. &c., and other voyages of like dimensions, occupying in most cases not a week in the passage, it was impossible to consider, that their importance had not been greatly exaggerated, and that in fact, if reduced to voyages of a year's duration, the whole amount would be but very trifling. It was clear that they were but fragments of other voyages, useful in their way, in completing the links of a chain of traffic, but not furnishing support to any thing like, not one-tenth at most, the amount of 41 tonnage which the mere statement of the figures would presume.
He had thus stated with as much brevity as he could the reasons which induced him not only to believe that there were no adequate grounds for thinking that it was safe to take this great leap in the dark, but, on the contrary, to entertain a strong conviction, that as far as evidence from similar cases was to be had, there was great reason to fear the most disastrous consequences from such a step. He knew there were inconveniences, he knew there were evils, which deserved consideration and required a remedy. But he was confident that there was nothing which it was not better to treat separately and on its own merits, adjusting the concession and the remedy to the specific case, and not abandoning at once and in the gross the whole system of laws on which at least all preceding statesmen had rested their confidence for our maritime security.
But even if the work were to be done, if their Lordships were prepared to abandon these ancient bulwarks of British power, surely the manner of proceeding proposed by Her Majesty's Government was the most unwise, the most inconvenient, the rashest that could have been suggested.
As far as he understood the Bill, its effect was this, that from and after the 1st of January, 1850, that is to say, in six months or little more, the whole navigation of the country and its colonies was to be open without reserve to every other country, whether those countries had or had not made even a step in advance in the way of reciprocal advantages; that therefore the result must be this, that within the next six months or little more, every country on the face of the globe, with which we had commercial dealings, whether republic or monarchy, federation or despotism, must have altered the whole system by which their navigation and trade were governed, so as to give us not only a nominal, but a real and effective equivalent for all that we gave to them, or that British shipping would be exposed at once and without preparation, not only to unassisted, unprotected, competition, but to competition under every possible disadvantage, giving the carrying trade, giving freight both ways, to countries which shall have given you no carrying trade, no reciprocal trade in return; and the only remedy for this state of things held out, was the impossible one of retaliation, withdrawing from foreign countries privileges which 42 they would already have been enjoying without equivalent concession on their parts. Such a scheme was impossible to carry out. A Government which had so loudly denounced a system of commercial hostility and reprisal could never engage in such a course; and the result would be, that these advantages would be given to foreign shipping, without return—and under the guise of equality, the most crushing inequality would be created. To expect that within the year an effective reciprocity could be secured, was really absurd. Why, we had been negotiating for it for years already, without success, as in Prussia, in France, and with the eastern possessions of Holland, where when we enjoyed reciprocity in name, it was denied us in effect—by a salt monopoly in Prussia—by Government contracts for coals in France—by the arrangements of a monopolising company in Holland. We had already little encouragement in the answers which had been returned by different Governments to our inquiries, as to their willingness to reciprocate. In some we were met with a sneer, in others with an ambiguous answer. Belgium was afraid of us; Holland called her colonial, a coasting trade, just as the United States gave the same title to her trade with California, and on that plea withheld it. It was proposed to admit ships built in the United States, but they already told you that they would not admit those which were built in British colonies. Was this picture encouraging? Did it hold out the smallest hope, that, having given everything, you would not find yourself in the condition of being compelled to acquiesce in the sacrifice of your shipping without equivalent, or to enter on that commercial warfare, to avoid which you pretended to recommend this precipitate, this wholesale, abandonment of your own advantages?
The only point on which he (Lord Harrowby) felt any real dffiiculty in meeting the proposal of the Government with a direct negative, was the condition of our colonics. We could not but feel, that our colonies, having lost all colonial favour, might well and naturally expect to be liberated from all colonial restriction But in fact and in truth the difficulty was confined to Canada. The West Indian colonies, in the just and most natural exasperation at the destruction of their prosperity, the disappointment of their best-grounded expectations, grasped in the first instance at the idea of deriving some ad- 43 vantage from the abolition of the navigation laws, and thus securing a cheaper freight for their productions. But a little reflection showed them, that any hope of advantage from this source was fallacious; that whatever advantage they might gain from a cheaper freight, would be shared by their powerful rivals, Cuba and Brazil, and that thus they themselves would appear in the British markets under no greater advantage than before. One by one, they, therefore, have withdrawn their plea for this imagined boon. It was only on coming into the House this day that he had put into his hand the expression of opinion on the part of a public meeting of planters in Guiana, in which they distinctly state, "that the repeal of the navigation laws would be anything but a boon," and reject it with scorn. To Trinidad and other colonies many of the advantages desired might be granted by Order in Council under the existing law. In Canada, and Canada alone, was there any real difficulty. He could not but be sensible of the importance of conciliating a colony so important, so nearly independent in its action, and in such vicinity to the United States; more especially when rankling under the disappointment of advantages to their principal productions, which seemed to have been guaranteed to them by recent legislation. But even here, also, much might be done without touching the navigation laws. The noble Lord himself, the Secretary for the Colonies, in his despatch of the 31st July, 1847, tells Lord Elgin—With regard to that part of the memorial which relates especially to the navigation of the St. Lawrence by foreign vessels, I have to state, that although this question is also connected with the general laws of navigation, it may, perhaps, be possible to deal with it separately, and to comply wholly or partially with the application of the memorialists, even though it should be decided to leave the rest of the navigation law untouched.He knew that this was not everything that the Canadians expect; but even the remainder might be better left to be made subject of separate negotiation with the Americans, than to be given up at once as part of a general concession. The Canadians themselves suffered from a heavy duty—8s. per quarter—imposed upon their corn when imported into the United States; and they told you themselves, that they only looked to being able to break through the opposition to the removal of this protection to American produce, which was raised by the protectionists of that coun- 44 try, by means and with the help of negotiations, which should make a relaxation of this prohibition a condition of concessions to be made to American navigation.
Under such circumstances, there being every reason for not breaking down precipitately a whole system on account of some local or exceptional difficulty, and in the most difficult and important case of all that difficulty being practically best fitted to be dealt with on its own merits and as a separate question, there could be no excuse for thus proceeding. He himself, at least, could see no reason for hesitating to give a decided negative to a proposition, based on no real necessity—involving the greatest hazards to the most essential interests of the empire—unsupported by authority or by experience—founded, if on anything, on the most fallacious information; and from which, when once carried out, and when we were under engagements with foreign nations, there was no possibility of reconsideration or retreat.
said, his purpose, in alluding to the Liverpool election, was not to attack Mr. Cardwell; it was merely to show that the feeling of Liverpool was against the Bill, although its Members were for it. The question had arisen from the fact that a much-loved friend of his (Sir J. Graham) in the other House, had said, that, as the Members were for it, the town could not be against it. In order to refute that statement it had been necessary to refer to the Members for Liverpool. He had said that Sir Thomas Birch had been the secretary of his late friend, Lord Melbourne, but that Mr. Card-well could not be actuated by any influences of that character; and yet he had altered his opinions on the subject of the navigation laws in a very remarkable manner, although he had pledged himself on the hustings to support them. It was only with that view that he (Lord Brougham) had mentioned the matter, and not with the slightest intention of attacking that very respectable person, Mr. Cardwell. His defence for having said this would be taken from the mouth of the Mayor of Liverpool, who had seconded the nomination of Mr. Cardwell, and had been one of his leading canvassers. The Mayor of Liverpool, Mr. J. Bramley Moore, being called upon in the town-council, all the members of which were upon one side on this question, to account for having proposed a gentleman opposed to the navigation laws—
Certainly. His Parliamentary experience was four times as long as that of the noble Earl, and the result of that experience was, that when questions arose respecting Gentlemen who inaccurately or wrongfully made charges against others, they were always allowed a larger privilege of explanation. The Mayor of Liverpool said—I beg to call the attention of the council to the fact that I followed Mr. Cardwell through the whole of his canvass, and during the whole of that time I was under the impression that he was opposed to the repeal of the principle of the navigation laws.At the nomination Mr. Cardwell said—A prejudice has boon attempted to be excited against me, upon the supposition that I meditate some change in the navigation laws prejudicial to your interest. I have given to that statement—in every place and on every occasion—the most emphatic negative; and I leave it to the good sense of Liverpool whether you will be blinded by a cry or guided by facts. I hope you will see that measures that increase the number of things to be carried, will increase the prosperity of those who have to carry them; and seeing me with the chairman of the Dock Committee on the one hand, and the chairman of the Shipowners' Association on the other, you will judge of me by the company I keep, and regard me as safe on the subject of the navigation laws.It is good to leave well alone; it is also good to leave it alone for fear it should be made worse.
§ LORD WHARNCLIFFE
said, there was at least one advantage in proceeding thus late in the debate to address their Lordships on the question, namely, that the points on which the discussion turned were now pretty well understood. He believed there was now no difference of opinion on the most essential point of the question, namely, that it was not to be regarded merely as depending on the principles of free trade, but also as being closely connected with the important consideration of the defences of the country; and it had been admitted that unless they who advocated the Bill could satisfy themselves that the proposed alteration of the navigation laws would not endanger our naval supremacy, they certainly would not be justified in supporting the measure. The attempt had, indeed, been made to show, by means of evidence given before their Lordships' Committee, that there was no necessary connexion between the prosperity of the mercantile marine and that of the Royal Navy; but one able and experienced officer was 46 the only witness who supported that view, and in opposition to that officer's statement that his experience had led him to the belief that not more than one-fifth of the men in the Navy were derived from the mercantile marine, was to be set the testimony of the Registrar of Seamen, who showed that not less than one-half of the number was derived from the mercantile navy. He thought, then, there was no possibility of maintaining the argument, that the prosperity of the mercantile navy was a matter of indifference to our maritime supremacy. But it was impossible also to say that the question of the repeal of the navigation laws was not most intimately connected with free trade. It was instructive to look back to their history; for we should find the real fact was, that this country had been compelled to make changes in those laws in consequence of the other changes that had taken place, and by circumstances beyond our control. In 1663, what was the system established in this country? Why, our laws were so restrictive that the entire trade of our colonies, of which we had a considerable number, was confined to their own coasting trade, and the communication with the mother country? They had no power to obtain supplies from any neighbouring country. What was the consequence of that state of things? What might be expected, and what was, in fact, inevitable—that, instead of being able to enforce that absolute prohibition, there sprung up a trade between the colonics and the contiguous countries; and in spite of all the regulations that were made, an illicit trade was established a few years after the passing of the navigation laws, and which was carried on, in course of time, with the connivance of the Government. One hundred years later, in 1766, they were obliged by an Act of the Legislature to relax these provisions, not for the interests of the colonies, but by the force of circumstances, which compelled that alteration. What was the next step? Why, that the effect of our policy was to establish a new and independent country on the other side of the Atlantic, which compelled us to yet further and more important changes. And in these as well as in the more recent changes in 1818, 1820, and 1821, instead of this country adopting as its principle of action, and keeping in view, some great principle of legislation, by gradually relaxing those restrictions as circumstances required it, they had been driven by the actual necessity of the case, 47 and compelled by circumstances over which they had no control, gradually to undermine the navigation laws, until the effectual and complete prohibition which was formerly enforced was reduced to a mere fragment of what they had originally been. Then, as regarded the actual state of these laws, they were made up of a series of the most contradictory enactments, and presented an inextricable web of legislation, which was exceedingly difficult to unravel. It was worth while for any one, simply out of curiosity, to cast his eye over the various statutes that had been passed, as enumerated in a paper contained in the Appendix to the Report of the House of Commons' Committee. They involved such a series of complications and contradictions that it was almost impossible for any one who had not passed his whole life in legal or mercantile pursuits to ascertain the meaning and effect of the different Acts, and to know really what the law was. The Acts of Parliament bearing on those questions were altogether about 100 in number. But the real and essential question which their Lordships had to deal with was this—whether, in repealing what remained of the navigation laws, they were withdrawing from those who maintained the naval system of the country that support which was essential to enable them to keep up competition with other countries. That was the real question; and he must say that he felt, like others who had spoken upon the subject, that there was some difficulty in arriving at a just conclusion from the evidence that had been given upon that point. If they looked at the evidence they would find that it was of the most contradictory character. He found that Mr. George Frederick Young and others who were deeply engaged in shipping affairs, and had bestowed much study upon the navigation laws—he found those gentlemen broadly asserting, in the strongest language, that it would be impossible for the British shipowner to compete with the foreigner without protection. On the other hand, he found that there were persons of great weight, men actually engaged in the shipping trade and owners of ships, who stated that they had not the slightest doubt of the ability of the British shipowner to compete with the foreigner if protection were withdrawn, and who thought that the existing restrictions on navigation were wholly useless. What, then, was the conclusion to which he arrived? For his part, he was constrained 48 to say, that he thought, in considering the legislation they ought to pursue on that subject, it was wholly useless to attempt to form an opinion as to such points from the evidence given before the Committee. His view was that it would be better policy to leave the evidence altogether out of consideration. He did not think it at all necessary, in order to arrive at a just conclusion, to attempt to dive into the details of such calculations, of which they had no real means of forming a just conclusion. But let them see what foreigners said on that subject. Their Lordships were aware that there had been laid upon the table of that House the communications that had been received by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from the British Ministers and Consuls abroad, in answer to a circular of inquiries which had been sent to them, in order to ascertain certain points with reference to that question. In Belgium, which was peculiarly circumstanced, having large mineral resources, and in which a very low rate of wages prevailed, which should make them not afraid of entering into competition with any other country, what did he find there? Why, Lord Howard de Walden, writing to Lord Palmerston on the 28th of December, 1848, on the subject of the differential duties to which British goods and British vessels were subjected in Belgian ports, observed, that the Belgian Government was not prepared to abolish the differential duties, from the impression that prevailed that the Belgian vessels could not compete on equal terms with British vessels. Another remarkable instance was that of the United States—one of the most formidable competitors they had. Mr. Crampton, writing from thence, observed, that Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, had said he feared they might have some difficulty with regard to the question in Congress, from the unwillingness to throw open the shipbuilding business to British shipbuilders; from which the conclusion was inevitable, that there was a reasonable doubt whether our ships would not be able to compete with theirs. Nor could this on consideration appear to be at all extraordinary; for the American shipbuilder had to pay more dearly than the British shipbuilder for almost every item except timber, and even timber itself was only attainable at a cheaper rate in some of the American ports. Another important fact with regard to the northern countries of Europe was this, that though 49 they had the power of building vessels much cheaper than us, the greater part of those built in Sweden and Norway were built expressly for the timber trade, and were unfit for anything else. After all, what was the value of the outcry that had been raised against the repeal of the navigation laws? This was not the first time that vaticinations of ruin to our manufactures and commerce had boon made; on other questions, precisely the same assurances of the impossibility of our competing with foreign nations had been hazarded; and they had repeatedly received a complete falsification. Look to the history of the linen trade of Ireland. That trade had not only been protected, but had been encouraged by bounties; and nothing less than ruin to the trade was predicted when it was long since proposed to repeal those bounties. He believed, however, that since that time the flax-growing districts had been the most prosperous part of Ireland, and the linen manufacture since the change had increased to an enormous extent. It was almost within his own recollection when it was proposed to take off the prohibition upon the export of long wool, which was considered of the most essential importance to the manufactures of this country, and to export which, it was said, would throw the woollen trade entirely into the hands of foreigners. The result was what had been predicted by the promoters of the measure, that the trade had enormously increased. Who was there who did not recollect the outcry that was raised when Mr. Huskisson proposed the throwing open of the silk trade? It was said that, by admitting French silks, we should completely destroy our own manufacture, and that it was impossible for our manufacturers to compete successfully with those of France. And yet in 1823, before the change was effected, the whole amount of the raw silk imported for consumption was only 2,400,000 lbs.; and in the year 1847, the quantity was near 4,500,000 lbs. The declared value of silk manufactures exported in 1832 was 529,000l.; and in 1847, notwithstanding a great decrease in the real value of the articles, the total declared value had increased to 985,000l., part of this being actually sent to Franco itself. Finding that such had been the result of all these gloomy predictions, their Lordships would be justified in disregarding them, if not in treating them as absolutely false. When they heard strong opinions expressed by the witnesses before the Committees, they were justified in 50 looking at the character and occupation of those witnesses; and in some cases it would appear their evidence was not quite so conclusive as might be supposed. A Mr. Booker, a merchant of Liverpool, had been examined before their Lordships' Committee with respect to competition between this country and America; and he said, "I consider that the Americans, taking them as a people, are very superior to the English." Not content with this, he added that when emigrants from this country are transferred to the American soil, the stock is improved. He (Lord Wharncliffe) absolutely rejected this assertion; he believed no such thing. He was rather inclined to believe, with Mr. Dana, that the British seaman was the best seaman in the world; and so far from believing that the race was improved by being transplanted to the soil of America, he thought, on the contrary, that nothing more was necessary than for them to stay here to maintain their superiority. Then there was Mr. Aylwin, a merchant, who had resided for some years at Calcutta, and who took the bull by the horns, and stated that the removal of the navigation laws would not, in his opinion, be of the slightest benefit to the shipowners or merchants, as he did not consider them at present in any way an impediment or restriction. One gentleman who was examined was asked whether he would have any objection that all the goods shipped from England to America should go in American ships, and all the goods shipped from America to England should go in British ships, said he should have no objection to such an arrangement; and when he was asked whether he was prepared to carry this principle out generally with regard to all foreign commodities brought hero in foreign ships, he confessed that he was driven up into a corner, but that he had stated honestly what he thought. Much had been said as to the reciprocity treaties, and their connexion with the navigation laws—the real fact being that those treaties had little reference to the navigation laws. Mr. Huskisson, in 1822, finding himself in a difficulty with foreign countries, thought proper to relax the navigation laws. He did so, but not by way of treaty. The reciprocity treaties were made afterwards, and their object was merely to relax the system of countervailing duties on goods and shipping. Yet these treaties are said to have ruined British navigation. He held in his hand the evidence of Mr. Young, who stated in the 51 strongest manner possible that wherever reciprocity treaties had been established, all protection under the navigation laws was absolutely worthless. Mr. Aylwin, speaking of the reciprocity treaties, referred to those treaties concluded with Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, the United States, and Prussia, and showed, as he thought, that the result had been a great decline in the navigation of this country. Supposing that were admitted, it was not at all clear that if Mr. Huskisson had not made those changes, there would not have been a greater decline. In 1823, just before the reciprocity treaty was concluded, the British tonnage to Prussia was 80,484 tons, while in 1817 it was no less than 104,709 tons. It was, therefore, lnjust to attribute the falling-off to the reciprocity treaties. With respect to Denmark, the result was the same, on a smaller scale, and it was evident, that before those treaties were entered into, the decline had taken place. On the other hand, he would refer to the figures, showing the tonnage of the shipping of the united kingdom, in which there could be no error from repeated voyages or lake navigation. He would begin from 1827, after the conclusion of the most condemned of those treaties, and after the revision of the registry, and he found that in the year 1828, in spite of all the reciprocity treaties, in spite of all Mr. Huskisson's changes, the tonnage of the united kingdom amounted to 2,460,000 tons, while in 1846 it had increased to 3,817,000 tons. These were facts which showed the baselessness of all the melancholy predictions indulged in as to the effects of the proposed measure. There had been a constant and gradual increase in the navigation of this country, as the system had been gradually relaxed; and the fair presumption was, that if they relaxed the system still further, they would reap still further advantages from it. But it was asked, what reasons were there for altering the law? In the first place, they had received from several foreign Powers intimations that a larger share of reciprocal advantages would be re-quired in future. Prussia, which at the time of Mr. Huskisson stood alone, was now at the head of a powerful commercial league; and a determination on the part of that Power to recommend the imposition of further restrictions on foreign shipping, would produce far more serious effects on the commerce of this country than it would have done at that period. Another reason for the change arose from the claims of our colonics; but there was, 52 after all, this additional reason, that they were bound to remove all restrictions which were not essential to the maintenance of national prosperity. He felt considerable difficulty as to the 10th Clause, for he had rather have conferred on the Executive Government a power of relaxation than a power of retaliation, though he saw the difficulties of either course; and he supported the Bill in the expectation that the power here to he given would not be left a dead letter. He firmly believed that, although in many cases they might go a long way in dispensing with considerations of reciprocity in commercial changes, yet such a course would not be always as wise on questions of navigation, which stood on a totally different footing. They ought, in relaxing these laws, to be cautious not to lose sight of the paramount interests of the country at largo. The whole essence of the maritime system was a system of reciprocal interchange. If they were to find, after a change of this description, without applying the power of retaliation, that foreign Powers persisted in placing the commerce of this country under permanent disadvantage, the advantage which would be derived from this change would be very much diminished. He trusted the Government would not lose sight of the declaration contained in the important despatch of the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs, dated the 22nd December, and that in voting for this Bill they might take it for granted that the Government, who had recommended this measure to their Lordships and Parliament, would see, that in relaxing the navigation laws for the benefit of foreign shipping, they obtained such advantages as would place British shipping on a fair and reciprocal footing with them. He could not call upon their Lordships to affirm the principles involved in this stage of the measure, without remembering that it was one, in the peculiar operation of which the welfare and stability of British interests of the most extensive and important character were deeply involved. But believing, as he did, that they were justified in looking with confidence to the results of the proposed change, he should on that occasion give an unhesitating vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill.
The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY
was reluctant to interfere between the House and those noble Lords who Mould, doubtless, address it on the general character and the details of the measure to which their Lordships were now asked to give a 53 second reading. He felt, however, that independently of the impressions at which his own mind had arrived, he owed it to those vast and most important interests in the north of England from whom he had received deputations on this subject, as one that most deeply affected their prosperity, to enter his protest against this Bill. He knew all the impatience of noble Lords who expected, and would not he disappointed, he was sure, in their anticipation, to be gratified and instructed by noble and learned Peers whoso opinions on a matter of this kind were naturally looked forward to with much anxiety; but regarding this Bill as one of the most dangerous experiments ever introduced into the House, he had risen to give it his strenuous opposition. How uncalled for it was by the wishes of those most directly interested in the objects which it was pretended that it would accomplish for their benefit, the House might infer from the fact of the thousand petitions—he believed he might say with from 400,000 to 500,000 signatures attached—that had been presented against it. It was an ill time for an experiment, as he must call it, which put in jeopardy the invaluable sources of our mercantile greatness, and the future existence of that naval nursery from whom we had long been accustomed to draw chiefly the gallant crews which manned our fighting ships—when so many countries of Europe were in that condition of political disquiet and turbulence, the result of which no one could venture to foretell—when Ireland was in her present fearful state of poverty and disturbance—when at home, even, there was so much to excite solicitude and alarm. The noble Marquess, who was very indistinctly heard, was understood to say, that during the hostilities which threatened to disturb the peace of the world, this country ought to attempt no measure which might have the effect of diminishing our mercantile navy, or lessening the number of seamen from which the naval service of the country would have to be drawn.
§ EARL GREY
said, as the decision which their Lordships would be called upon to give that night was one which must deeply affect the commercial interests and the general welfare of this country, he would endeavour to lay before their Lordships—as briefly as possible, considering the late hour of the night—the grounds on which he thought their Lordships ought to be 54 called upon to support this Bill. But while he admitted that the interests concerned in the decision which their Lordships would give were of the greatest importance, he must state, at the same time, that his confidence in the cause which he was about to support, had been greatly increased by the speeches made by noble Lords on the other side during the course of this important and protracted debate. For notwithstanding the great abilities which the opponents of the present measure had undoubtedly displayed, he had no doubt that those who had carefully listened to their speeches throughout, could not have failed to perceive that a great portion of what they had said had either been very irrelevant to the subject, or that what was not irrelevant had been singularly vague and wanting in clearness and distinctness. There had been a long disquisition on foreign Powers—there had been a panegyric on Marshal Radetsky, whose shortcomings of complete victory at Turin was attributable to the great exuberance in that commander of the milk of human kindness. Their Lordships had had a full and particular account of the motives which induced the French Government to send their expedition to Civita Vecchia—an account so full and particular that he was obliged to suppose the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) must have been invited by the President of the He-public to take part in the deliberations of his Cabinet; and if the supposition were well founded, he must say the noble and learned Lord had made a very unhandsome return for the honour which had been done him, by thus disclosing to their Lordships secrets with which they otherwise would not have become acquainted. Their Lordships had had most powerful declamations upon the theme that a mere increase of wealth ought not to be the object of a nation's ambition. They had had from nearly every speaker on the other side dissertations full and copious upon the extreme importance of a commercial marine to the welfare and safety of this country. Upon this last point he had only to say, that he was not aware of any difference of opinion upon it. He believed that upon the one side and upon the other it was considered by noble Lords, that to maintain and improve the advantage of the commercial marine, ought to be one of the first objects of any Government. For himself, he could say, that, in supporting this Bill, while he believed that the general in- 55 terests of the whole country were concerned in its passing, he believed the one interest to which the greatest advantage would accrue—the one branch of our commercial industry—the one interest most concerned in the advantages to accrue from this Bill, was the commercial marine. The whole question, then, which their Lordships had before them was merely this—whether this measure would produce the effects which were anticipated by the friends, or feared by the opponents, of the Bill. Consequently, the whole of the declamation to which he had listened during the debate, on the other side, though it might be of great use for the purposes of oratorical display—though it might be of great advantage in interesting the House, and leading their Lordships, perhaps, to admire the skill and rhetorical art of the noble and learned Lords from whom it proceeded; yet, so far as these speeches were intended to advance the decisions of their Lordships, or to make any progress towards a definite opinion on this great question, all this declamation was but so much breath misspent—so much powder fired upon no enemy, and so much waste of time of their Lordships. The real question, and the only question before them, was, whether this measure which they were now called upon to pass was or was not calculated to promote the general interests of this country, and the more special interests of the commercial marine? That was a question on which the House had a right to expect from noble Lords opposite some explanation upon points which they had never once touched during the course of the debate. They had heard a great deal of most elaborate statements of figures, endeavouring to prove that it was simply impossible that our commercial marine should compete with foreigners. But in the midst of elaboration of figures it had continually struck him, and he was tempted to ask, did the noble Lords know what the real question was that was now before them? Had he considered what the navigation laws were, or what fragments, as his noble Friend near him (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had called them, of the navigation laws were still before them? Why had not the noble Lords opposed to the Bill pointed out in what respect these fragments of the navigation laws at present protected British shipping? Now, as the noble Lord had not pointed out in what respect the British shipowner would be affected as compared with the foreigner, suppose he (Earl 56 Grey) were to admit that on the sea alone—which had hitherto been as the home of the Englishman—suppose he were to admit the Englishman on the sea alone was unable to compete with the foreigner—for in all the other branches of industry they had only to look round to be convinced that he was by far their superior—admitting that he were not able to compete on the sea with the foreigner, it was still necessary to show him how the navigation laws protected the British shipowner from this unequal competition. Taking these laws as they stood, the noble Lord ought to point out to him the particular benefit which was derived from these laws by the British shipowner. It was the more necessary to come to particulars, in order to grapple with noble Lords on this matter, because every noble Lord who had attended to this question must he aware that, instead of making the speeches which they had heard on this occasion in the House, the noble Lords opposite might have come down with a volume of Hansard's Debates, and have read one of those speeches made against Mr. Huskisson's reciprocity treaties. These speeches were as nearly as possible similar to those they had now listened to—treating generally of the importance of a commercial marine, the destruction that would befall it, and the ruinous consequences that must come upon the commerce and industry of the whole country from any relaxation of the law. He remembered that during the first Session that he had the honour of a seat in the other House of Parliament, which, he was sorry to say, was now a long time ago—in the year 1827—General Gascoigne, then Member for Liverpool, and his hon. Friend the Member for Northumberland, made speeches against those treaties, which, with the alteration of but a very few words, would pass muster very well among those made on the present occasion; and he heard those speeches so demolished, so utterly crushed by the close and argumentative reasoning of Mr. Huskisson, that he believed in the minds of most men the subject was settled for ever. The noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) who concluded the debate last night, said, he, for one, entirely approved of the system of reciprocity treaties. But if the noble Earl approved of the principles of reciprocity, while his friends opposed this measure with the very arguments adduced in opposition to these principles, he ought to have felt himself concluded thereby to an ap- 57 proval of the measure now before the House. The difficulty which he felt, was to contend with antagonists who were so indistinct. If they had only told him how those laws were an advantage to the British shipowner, he would have known how to meet them; but as they had not been so definite in their opposition, he was sorry to say that he must trouble their Lordships at rather greater length than otherwise would have been necessary; he must seek instances in the provisions of these laws, and ask, in reference to each, where lay the advantage now possessed by the British shipowner? He must ask the noble Lords opposite where was the advantage to the British shipowner in being prohibited from importing into this country from any port in Europe a cargo which was the produce of Asia, or America, or of Africa? He was prohibited from bringing it into this country equally with the foreign shipowner. There was no competition here. It was indiscriminate prohibition. It was to him truly incomprehensible how the British shipowners could gain by a law which permitted him or an American shipowner to bring the produce of America from New Orleans, and forbade him to bring the I same produce from the port of Havre. Again, what gain could it be to the British shipowner that he was prohibited from bringing the rosewood of Brazil from Havre, which yet a Dutch ship might carry into this country? Why, this was protection to the Dutch shipowner. Again, what gain was it to the British shipowner, that he was prohibited from bringing Batavian sugar from Holland, unless it were refined, when it might be introduced by a Dutch ship? He said they began by laying a prohibition as to the raw article, not upon foreign shipping, but upon our own shipping; it was not, therefore, a case of competition, but of restriction imposed upon British shipping, in favour of the shipping of every other country. Very much the same effect was produced by the prohibition imposed on certain enumerated articles, the produce of Africa or America, introduced into the ports of Europe, which were excluded from this kingdom, unless shipped by British vessels or vessels belonging to the country producing the article, or belonging to the port at which the cargo was reshipped. Now, he must own that since these laws were looked upon as so wise that to lay a finger upon them was to touch the palladium of our commercial prosperity, he wished the noble Lord had 58 explained the principles of this arrangement—why it was that one article was admitted, and another was prohibited? There was a long list of articles which they admitted: there was tar, tallow, boards, figs, fruit and many others; yet they prohibited corn and grain, but admitted grain if converted in flour. It appeared thus that they had made an alteration in favour of foreign manufactured goods; yes, the relaxation was in favour of foreign manufactures. Now, if the principle was good, why not extend it to all? ["Hear!"] He wished to know on what grounds it was that this enumeration of admissible articles had been drawn up? The general rule established was, that most goods the produce of most countries were admissible in British ships, or in ships belonging to the countries of which the goods were the produce. He wished to know on what principle that proposition was founded. Did it secure the British shipowner from competition? They permitted, in regard to corn, one of the enumerated articles from Dantzic, the full competition of Prussian ships with British; and in goods of America the same relaxation was given in favour of American ships. By the present law, then, they were allowed to compete with the rival whom they had most reason to fear, because it was obvious that the shipper in his native country, with an establishment at command of his own, was of all others the most dangerous rival. It was clear that the Prussian was not so dangerous a rival in America as he was at Dantzic, and that the American was not so dangerous at Dantzic as he was at New York. Notwithstanding this, however, with a perverse ingenuity, the law allowed the American the privileges of full competition with the British shipowner at New York, his place of strength, which yet was denied to him at Dantzic, where he was on equal terms with the Englishman. And the like was the effect of the navigation laws in regard to the Prussian, or the shipowner of any other country with which we were trading. Passing over, in the mean time, the trade with the colonies, these were literally the principal provisions of the law under discussion, and those the main points of the Act which it was now proposed to Parliament to repeal. He said again, that those provisions might be right or they might be wrong; but at all events he totally denied that the British shipowner derived any benefit from their operation. Nay, the British shipowners themselves 59 said they received no benefit from them, because when the question of reciprocity treaties was under discussion, they said, if treaties on such a principle were recognised, they were ruined, and there was an end of British shipping. Five and twenty years ago that was the language held: they said differential duties were the only things that maintained British shipping; and that if these were taken off, and they were exposed to free competition in the case of every country with its own shipping, there would be an end to British shipping. Fortunately the affairs of this country were directed by men who knew the interests of the shipowners better than they themselves. If they had had their own way, they could not have prevented their being put on an equal footing with foreigners, because, whatever duties we put on, foreigners would have done the same; but they would have restrained commerce by compelling every country to send out its ships in ballast, and bring home its own cargoes in its own ships, having two ships to do the work of one; and how could that have been a benefit to the most commercial and richest nation in the world? These capricious restrictions upon our own shipping were in reality what constituted the navigation laws as regarded our foreign trade; and to say, therefore, that we should lose nothing by their repeal—to say there was no possible danger from the change—was greatly understating the cause as it stood. British shipping had the greatest interest in getting rid of these restrictions with the least possible delay. He would remind them of what was said last night by his noble Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, who told them, and truly, of that system by which the British ports had become the centres of the commerce of the whole world, at which goods from every country and from every clime were stored up in our docks ready to be reshipped and taken to any country in the civilised world, wherever commerce had penetrated, and the necessities or the luxuries of society required them. A system which had grown into a matter of gigantic importance, so that a very large part of our trade and commerce was dependent upon it; and so struck were intelligent foreigners with this truth, that an able gentleman, sent by the Government of the United States to examine into the subject, reported to his Government, that in his opinion a great part of the commercial prosperity and wealth of this country 60 arose from this warehousing system. This, then, he (Earl Grey) would say, that if foreign nations had applied to us those laws, which were disgraceful in themselves—which involved in them principles of a barbarous age—which he had almost said were disgrageful to us—if foreign nations had adopted them, and applied them to us nearly to the same extent as they had been adopted by us—the warehousing system must necessarily have been at an end. We refused freight from Hamburg, Rotterdam, or any other great port on the Continent, the produce of Asia and America. It was only to apply that rule to ourselves, and all our bonded warehouses would be emptied of the silks, and teas, and spices, and all kinds of goods now stored up in them to await the calls of commerce; they would be cleared at once of that great accumulation. The warehouses and docks would be left empty, and ruin would be entailed upon large classes and interests of the community. In the same manner we refused to allow foreign shipping to be engaged in the indirect trade; we would not, for example, permit Russian ships to bring American produce to this country. But were the same rule acted upon our own indirect trade, and we should be no longer able, as now, to carry sugar from Rio to another foreign port, and no longer able in fact to carry on a large trade of that kind. He wished to he allowed to advert, in passing, to what had fallen from his noble Friend the noble Earl who had spoken not long since, and who had so long represented Liverpool in the other House (the Earl of Harrowby). That noble Earl was understood, in what he said, to convey the opinions of a large number of those who had been formerly his constituents; he found great fault with the importance attached by his noble Friend the noble Marquess near him, to the indirect trade, the noble Earl observing that it was made up of mere fragments—vessels going from one port in Turkey, or any other country, to some other port in another country. But did he not perceive the advantage in these fragments? What gave the greatest advantage to shipping was, that which made a commercial enterprise—that it should be so contrived that there should be no waste of labour, that the ships should be always earning something. His belief was, that if these fragments of voyages were put an end to, our ships would not be able to compete with those of Russia. He would take the very case supposed by the noble Earl, of a 61 vessel going out to Odessa with a cargo in order to bring back corn. As it was, she toot out a cargo, perhaps of coal, at a very low freight, it was true, and it was but a part of the course of trade that the owner must be content with a small freightage in such a case; but still the vessel was earning something, by taking coals to Constantinople, and then going to some small port near, took cargo on to Odessa, and could now come with goods from Odessa. But if, by a fatal policy, they put an end to this indirect trade, the ship could not then go on to Odessa. If this law were maintained, it became a matter, not of speculation, but of certainty, that this country would lose that trade, by being exposed to the same restrictions which Russia now imposed upon other nations. For the present, the treaty we had with Russia relieved us from the operation of that Russian law; but that treaty would expire within a given time, namely, in 1853; and, when it had expired, we knew that Russia would apply to us the same rule that we had applied to her. We should lose at once that trade, of so much value, and we should cut up by the roots that warehousing system which it had been justly contended was one of the main props and supports of our commercial importance. It was precisely the same in the case of Northern Germany and Austria, of the United States, and various other countries. What we gave to them we should have in return. He wanted to point out to their Lordships a little more completely the fact that this law was not an advantage to the British shipowner, but on the contrary a disadvantage to him. The competition with the American shipowner had been adverted to, and much had been said of our inability to compete with the American shipowner in the trade between America and this country. It might surprise some of their Lordships, but he believed that the fact was nevertheless so—that it was this very statute which was our main difficulty in competing with the American shipowner; and his noble Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade had called their attention to that fact. By the law of the united States, ships of all foreign countries which subjected them to certain restrictions were not allowed to carry to the ports of the united States any produce but their own. In consequence of this law being in force, we came in the category to which the prohibition applied, and we could therefore carry out to the United States 62 nothing but our own produce. We could not carry an assorted cargo. Our own law imposed, in a similar manner, the same restrictions, and the Americans were therefore crippled in their ability to assort a cargo to bring here. It happened, however, that the American shipowner had comparatively little interest in that way, for his cargoes were chiefly cotton in its various forms, and bulky freights of corn or goods of that kind, the produce of the United States. But in the trade the other way the restriction told. The trade to America from this country consisted principally of manufactured articles of various kinds; and every one who paid attention to commercial matters knew that in sending out cargoes of that description the whole profit frequently depended upon the power of assorting the cargo. The Americans had lately established a competing line of steamers between this country and New York. Now, in an important branch of trade he had been informed that the American steamers had this advantage over the British steam ships. Since the steam communication with America had been established, among the articles which paid best were articles of taste and dress, such as millinery, and matters of that sort, in which, on account of the mutations in fashion, early conveyance was of great importance as affecting the value of the articles; and those articles they could carry and we could not. They therefore always went out by the American steamers; and he had been told that, owing to the privilege the Americans possessed of assorting their cargoes on going back to the States, and which our steamers had not, a great advantage was secured on their side. He could point out many other instances of a similar kind. The law as it now stood, was a protection not to our shipowners, but a protection to foreign interests and foreign manufacturers as against the British. At this moment foreign sugar might come into London in foreign ships; but if an American ship, which might freely bring sugar from Cuba into London, were to bring a cargo of Jamaica sugar, it could not be received. In the course of a short time the duties upon sugar would be equalised, and the moment that took place, Jamaica would have no more interest in importing sugar here than to any other part of the world. The moment that took place, it would be a great advantage to the Jamaica planter, when his sugar was warehoused in London, that he could go to the 63 warehouse and take it out at the right time, so as to take advantage of the best state of the market; but this, it seemed, would not he allowed, He trusted he had succeeded in showing, in so far as the home trade was concerned, that the restrictions which remained on our Statute-hook were no real protection to the British shipowner, while at the same time they were a most onerous and oppressive charge. In that respect, therefore, he thought he had made out a strong case for the Bill before the House. In turning to that branch of the subject which was connected with the colonies, let him say that if what he had advanced with respect to the home trade was true, it was even more true with regard to the colonial trade—that what remained of the old prohibitions and restrictions was, indeed, a mere fragment. The main restrictions now to he dealt with were these—first, that foreign ships could not carry goods from one colony to another, or from one of our colonics to this country Then, in certain cases, foreign countries were not allowed to trade, except in their own ships, to the British colonics, and in other cases only' in British ships. These were the main conditions of restriction. He would point out the evils which that law produced, but in so doing he was anxious to avoid trespassing upon their Lordships' attention longer than he could possibly avoid, and therefore he would confine himself almost exclusively to one case, and that was the important case of Canada. With respect to Australia, he would merely observe that it was perfectly true, as had been stated before by his noble Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, that great evil had resulted in such a case, for example, as the following:—A ship going out, say, from Bremen, with German wine, was precluded from bringing back to this country the ore of Australia; and it therefore frequently happened, as had before been mentioned, that the ore was lying on the beach in large accumulations, owing to the want of conveyance, no British ship being there, and had at last to he consigned to Hamburgh. With regard to the West Indies, his noble Friend the noble Earl (the Earl of Carlisle) had said that he believed the case of the West Indians had been practically abandoned, and that the West Indians themselves no longer pressed it. He believed it had also been said that the repeal would be no boon to them, and that this question had, in fact, nothing to do with free trade. But in Jamaica and 64 the West Indies, the question of the navigation laws was considered to have a great deal to do with free trade. It was felt there that if the principle of free trade was to be maintained in one thing, it ought to be observed in another; and that it was impossible for them to ask us to admit foreign shipping into competition with our own, while at the same time they demanded protection for their own produce; but if they were once assured that it was not intended to restore protection to their sugar, the House might rest assured that they would not long acquiesce in the continuation of the navigation laws. It had been said by a noble Lord in the course of the debate, that much of the inconvenience with regard to Trinidad might be removed by exercising the power which Her Majesty possessed. The noble Lord was mistaken. It would be impossible to relieve the colony from the evils of which it complained, by an exercise of Her Majesty's power. He came now to the case of Canada; and he earnestly entreated their Lordships to consider how the question really stood with respect to that dependency. Corn and flour, the most important articles of the produce of Canada, were now exposed to free competition in the markets of this country with the produce of the United States. It was important to observe that Canada possessed one of the three great lines of internal navigation communicating with the interior of the American continent. Within the last few years Canada had, at a great expense, improved the line of water communication by the St. Lawrence to the great western lakes; and vessels of a very considerable size could now go from Quebec to the lakes without transshipping their cargoes, and in a short space of time. It was a question whether the produce not only of Canada, but of the western side of America, should be sent by this route, or by the Erie Canal to New York. As far as Quebec was concerned, the advantage lay in the Canadian route; for freight from Tremont to Quebec was 60 cents for every barrel of flour, whilst to New York it was 101 cents; and in point of time the former route occupied only six days, whilst the latter occupied sixteen. The advantage, therefore, was very much in favour of the line of the St. Lawrence. But from Quebec the case was altered. The importance of this trade arose from its contiguity to Europe, flour from Quebec and New York being mainly sent in return for goods imported either from Eu- 65 rope or some of the colonies in the West Indies. In sending flour from Quebec by the Canadian line of communication, the advantages which the Canadians possessed were entirely neutralised by the high prices charged for freights as compared with the freights from New York, the difference in favour of the latter being nearly 50 per cent, though even on that calculation the St. Lawrence line had an advantage in communicating with Liverpool. And what was it that raised freights from the St. Lawrence, and practically destroyed the advantage that Canada naturally possessed? What ruined the Canadian in competition with the American, was the restrictions imposed by the Act which their Lordships were now called upon to repeal. Every gentleman who paid attention to commercial subjects, was aware that the rate of freight from any port mainly depended upon the amount of trade from that port. When a great number of ships were brought into a port by inward trading, they could always afford to carry goods out at a low freight; so that whatever checked the inward trade, raised the freight of the outward trade—in other words, it was the general amount of traffic and employment which ships could command—the certainty of not having the return voyage lost—which regulated the price of freights. A curious illustration might be given of this fact by the practice in a part of our own country. Looking merely at geographical position, there could be no doubt that merchandise from the west of Ireland could get to America cheaper than from Liverpool; but such was not the course of trade. Practically, it was found cheaper to get to America by paying the cost of conveyance to Liverpool, than to go direct to New York from Sligo, Westport, or Galway. It was precisely the same principle which rendered the freights from the St. Lawrence so high. It was stated in the papers upon their Lordships' table that the course of trade upon the St. Lawrence was for large fleets to go to Quebec and Montreal in spring and autumn, which came back freighted at a moderate rate; but in the height of summer, when it was most advantageous to carry goods, there were few English ships in the river; the rate of freights consequently rose to an extravagant amount, and the Canadians were exposed to a great disadvantage because they could not employ American ships to carry goods the produce of Canada. There was a further and most important fact to which 66 he desired to call attention, as showing how the trade of the St. Lawrence was crippled by the regulations imposed by our navigation laws. In a despatch from Lord Elgin, dated the 18th January last, there was a very interesting letter from an experienced and enterprising house in Montreal—the firm of Holmes, Young, and Knapp—representing that they sent cargoes of iron and other goods into the western States of America, even as far as Illinois, and that this trade, if it were allowed to take its natural course, would become most important and advantageous, but that it was entirely crippled by the operation of our navigation laws. They stated, that if American ships could enter Montreal with produce from the British or foreign West Indies, it would be forwarded through Canada to the western parts of America, and that those ships in return would take Canadian flour and other produce to the British and foreign West Indies. What was the consequence of the restrictive system pursued? Did any advantage arise from it to the British shipowner? Far from it. The consequence was, not that the British shipowner gained by the restriction, but that goods which would otherwise go by the St. Lawrence went to New York, and were forwarded by the American instead of the Canadian canals into the interior; and that the enterprising commerce of Canada was checked and crippled by these arbitrary and absurd prohibitions. What had the British shipowner to lose by removing these restrictions? A noble Lord admitted in the debate last night that the case of Canada was a hard one; that Canada lost by these restrictions. He (Earl Grey) said the cost of freight was raised by them; but if it were not raised, the British shipowner would have nothing to lose by repealing them. Nor was the converse true. It did not follow, if freights were lowered, that the British shipowner would lose—far from it. Freights would be lower because the service would be more economically performed; because there would be more economy of labour, and greater prevention of waste. British shipowners would partake of these advantages along with foreigners, and both would derive benefit. But would British shipowners lose by making carriage by sea less expensive? It was generally believed that if a manufacturer could reduce the cost of the articles he produced, he was a great gainer; in like manner if the British shipowner, by the 67 removal of these restrictions, could reduce the expense of conveying articles of commerce from one part of the world to another, it was certain that commerce, and with commerce navigation, would be increased, and that the interests of British shipowners would be advanced. He did not mean to say that the interests of the foreign shipowner would not he advanced by this measure, or that the advantage of the whole civilised world would not he promoted by it; but he hoped it would not be seriously contended that we should keep advantages from ourselves because others might participate in them. If we were to act on the unchristian principle of not doing good to ourselves, because we might do good to others, we should ourselves be the greatest sufferers, and should deserve to be so. Having shown that these restrictions were a disadvantage to Canada, he would show the claim which she had to he relieved from them. In 1843 Parliament passed an Act by which corn, the produce of Canada, was allowed to be imported into this country on payment of a nominal duty; and, in consideration that she would impose a duty on American corn, Canada was allowed also to grind American wheat, and to import it in the shape of flour into this country. The effect of that law was, that all the disposable capital of the province was invested in mills for grinding corn, in warehouses, in canals, and in ships for forwarding it to England. But hardly were all these arrangements finished, and their canals completed, when, in 1846, there was a sudden change in the policy of this country. The protective duties were repealed, and corn was allowed to come from New York on the same terms as from the St. Lawrence. The consequence was, that the revenue of the canals was lost to the colony, and ruin to an almost unexampled extent was brought upon private individuals by this sudden change. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) would no doubt tell the House that this ruin was occasioned by the removal of protection. He would tell their Lordships, however, that it was brought about not by the removal of protection, but by the shortsighted and unwise measure which induced the Canadians, in 1843, to build on the unstable foundation of a monopoly, which most persons saw was already gliding from beneath their feet. When the Bill was before Parliament, he (Earl Grey) had opposed it upon that very ground. He had strongly urged the views which he enter- 68 tained upon the other House of Parliament, but Parliament passed the measure. The Canadians trusted to British legislation, and the result was just what he had expected. But whether he was right, or the noble Lord was right—whether the error was committed in 1843 or 1846, was immaterial to his present argument, for it must be agreed on all hands that it was the want of steadiness and consistency in our legislation which had inflicted this injury upon Canada; and, therefore, we were bound, upon the plainest principles of common sense and justice, to relieve that colony from the consequences of our own conduct. He contended that, when they looked at what had passed, it would be most unjust to tell the Canadians that their produce should not only be exposed to unrestricted competition in the market, but that they should also be exposed to the disadvantages of a monopoly, as compared with their rivals, in conveying that produce to this country. They must, therefore, do one of two things, unless they wished to set justice utterly at defiance. They were bound either to retrace their steps, and to restore to Canada the protection of which they had deprived her, or else they were bound to give her the advantage of the fullest competition in bringing her produce here. This led him to observe, that when the noble Earl who finished the debate last night, said this measure had no connexion with the Act of 1846, he was entirely in error. He considered that that noble Earl, having supported the Act of 1846, was now' bound to assist Canada in getting rid of the restrictions by which she was fettered. Even admitting that the restoration of protection would be a wise course, still the noble Earl and other noble Lords were hound, until they could give Canada protection, to grant her free trade in ships. But had the noble Lord opposite, or those who acted with him in the other House, proposed any measure for the restoration of protection? They had done no such thing. Whatever they might say at public meetings to soothe the farmers, who began to find they had been deluded by those who had taught them to rely upon the broken reed of protection, the noble Lord and those who acted with him were too conscious of the real state of public opinion in this country to have ventured, in the other House of Parliament, to make a distinct proposal for the restoration of protection. If they could not do so—if they saw merely 69 some vague and distant vision of the realisation of their hopes, that was, at all events, a tacit acknowledgment of its impracticability, for he called it a tacit acknowledgment of the impracticable character of any given object, when those who greatly desired its attainment did not move a finger to accomplish it. While, therefore, that prospect was so distant and so vague, noble Lords opposite were bound to cast it aside, and to give Canada the relief which she would obtain from the passing of this measure. He begged now to refer their Lordships to a very high authority, that of the noble Lord who sat opposite. When the Act of 1846 was under consideration, the noble Lord called attention to the very argument which he (Earl Grey) had just used, and urged Parliament, on the ground of the great expense which had been incurred in Canada, in reliance upon the trade she was to enjoy with this country, to reject the Bill. But the Legislature did not reject it, and, therefore, he submitted that Parliament was bound to take the other alternative, and to pass the present measure. He thought that he had shown that the claim of Canada was strong in justice—he would now show that their case was also strong on the grounds of policy and of progress. If their Lordships had read the papers which had been laid upon the table, they could not have failed to perceive the strong evidence those papers contained of the feeling which existed on this subject in Canada. The Canadians were fully conscious of the nature of their claim to the consideration of the British Legislature: they knew that it was a claim not upon the favour, but upon the justice, of that Legislature. The whole province was almost of one mind upon that subject. It was true, as a noble Lord opposite had stated the other day, that the Canadians had held various public meetings to con-eider this question, and that their prayer was not unanimous in favour of the repeal of the navigation laws. In some cases, no doubt, they had asked for a restoration of protection; but upon this point they were perfectly unanimous—that to allow things to remain as they were, would be to inflict upon them an intolerable hardship. Some persons would, no doubt, prefer the restoration of protection; but he thought it was perfectly marvellous, considering how much private interests had been affected by the transition of 1846, that the preference of that course over the other was not more general. He thought it was greatly to the 70 credit of the commercial classes of Canada, and the members of the provincial legislature, that so great a preponderance of opinion existed in favour of asking for the correction of their present grievances, not by retracing the steps which had been taken, but by going on still further, and giving them the advantages as well as the disadvantages of competition. He had already mentioned a letter signed by several of the most eminent houses in Montreal, which had been addressed to the Council of the Board of Trade in Canada. That Council had asked for the restoration of protection in addition to the repeal of the navigation laws; and the gentlemen to whom he had referred addressed to the Council a letter which he regarded as the most remarkable document which had proceeded from a large commercial body since the famous London petition in favour of free trade presented to the House of Commons by the late Lord Ashburton, arguing in a manner which did them the very highest credit, against any attempt to restore to them that protection which it might have been supposed they would have been most anxious to regain. But he would also refer their Lordships to the general expressions of public feeling in Canada, and to the decisions of the provincial Parliament. At the commencement of this Session, both Houses of that Parliament agreed unanimously to an Address to Her Majesty for the repeal of the navigation laws. He would repeat the word "unanimously," and he would make good what he said. It was perfectly true that an Amendment to that Address had been moved. But that Amendment was not to leave out any portion of the Address. It was not to the effect that the repeal of the navigation laws was unnecessary—the feeling was too strong in Canada on this subject to allow a Motion of that kind to be made, no more than a Motion for the revival of the corn laws could be made here; but the Amendment was, that an addition should be made to the Address, and that it should be an Address not merely in favour of a repeal of the navigation laws, but also praying for the restoration of protection to Canada. But what was the result of that Amendment? On a division upon it, the United Assembly of the Canadas decided, by a majority of forty-nine to fourteen, that they would refuse to insert in their Address a prayer for the restoration of protection. The question was then put upon the Address as originally proposed, and by the 71 votes of the Assembly, which he had now lying before him, it appeared that no second division took place, and that the Address was agreed to without opposition. The concurrence of the Legislative Council would appear to have been given almost as a matter of course, as he found no report of either discussion or division upon it in the second House. He would only quote one more authority as to the state of feeling in Canada. He would beg to refer their Lordships to a despatch that had been laid on their Lordships' table in the course of last Session, from Lord Elgin, dated the 15th of June last, and he hoped he might be permitted to read that despatch, or at least the greater part of it, to their Lordships, as, in his opinion, it was one of the very highest importance, considering the high character of the noble Lord, and the opportunity which he possessed of arriving at a sound judgment with regard to the state of feeling in the province over which he presided. The despatch thus proceeded:—My Lord—Arumour has reached this province that the measure for the amendment of the navigation laws, the introduction of which has been hailed with such unanimous acclamations here, may yet be lost in its progress through Parliament. It is my duty to represent to your Lordship that this report has produced a very painful feeling. The Canadian farmer is a supplicant at present to the Imperial Legislature, not for favour, but for justice; and, strong as is his affection for the mother country and her institutions, he cannot reconcile it to his sense of right, that, after being deprived of all protection for his produce in her markets, he should be subjected to a hostile discriminating duty in the guise of a law for the protection of navigation. That the British shipowner should be unwilling to permit foreigners to share the trade of the St. Lawrence, is not unnatural; but there is too much reason to fear that if the present system be persevered in, the bulk of the produce of Canada will find its way to New York and Portland, where, even under existing laws, it may be shipped to England indifferently in American or British bottoms. I shall not insist on the manifold inconveniences and hazards to which such a state of things would inevitably lead. It is enough for the present purpose to observe, that it would render the monopoly promised to the British shipowner illusory. On the other hand, if the natural and acquired advantages of the navigation of the St. Lawrence were to receive their full development under a system of low freights and charges produced by the removal of restriction, it is probable that not only the produce of Canada, but a large portion of that of the western States of the Union, will find its way to Quebec and Montreal. Of this vast and increasing trade it is hardly possible to doubt that British shipping, with the aid of long-established commercial connexion, will engross a considerable share.Now, let them hear the words proceeding 72 from one who did not speak lightly on these matters—one who did not speak without the fullest and most ample information, and without the fullest and most perfect conviction that what he stated would take place. He went on to say—I cannot employ language which is too forcible in representing to your Lordship the anxiety which I feel, conscious as I am of the responsibility attaching to the high trust which Her Majesty has confided to me, that the liberal policy of Her Majesty's Government on the subject of the navigation laws should receive the sanction of Parliament. The people of Canada are animated with the best dispositions towards England; they are satisfied that the constitution of their forefathers, of which they now clearly see that it is the intention of the Imperial Government that they shall enjoy without qualification or reserve the full privileges—affords them at least as large a measure of substantial liberty and social happiness as any form of government which the wit or ingenuity of man has devised. I am confident that if the wise and generous policy lately adopted towards Canada is persevered in, the connexion between this province and the mother country may yet be rendered profitable to both in a far greater degree than has been the case heretofore. I should deeply grieve, therefore, if an attempt, which I am disposed to believe, in so far as the St. Lawrence is concerned, prove futile, to secure a monopoly for a useful and exemplary class of our fellow-subjects, provisions were suffered to remain on the British Statute-book which would seem to bring the material interests of the colonista and the promptings of duty and affection into opposition.In addition to the opinion thus expressed by Lord Elgin, he (Lord Grey) would not hesitate to declare his own firm conviction that if their Lordships now decided upon rejecting this Bill, they would give a stab to the peace of these provinces from which they would not easily recover. He believed that they would give a shake, and a most serious shake, to the security of British power in their North American colonies. They all knew, and he believed would all acknowledge, that the connexion between this country and the North American colonies could not be maintained on any other ground than that of perfect equality, and by this country possessing the confidence and affections of the people of these provinces. It was neither possible, nor, if it were possible, would it be desirable, that the possession of Canada, and the other provinces of North America—for on this matter they should all be considered as one—could be maintained on any other terms. They should remember that it was not Canada alone that was concerned in this matter, but that the fate of the great naval arsenal of Halifax was also involved in their decision. When 73 their Lordships were talking of the importance of maintaining the naval strength of the empire unimpaired, he would beg to remind them of the danger to which the rejection of this measure would expose one of the most important of their great naval ports. The North American colonies were a whole—they must hold them, or they must lose them, together; and he would repeat, they could hold them only by retaining the cordial affections and support of the people of those provinces. He believed that this truth could not be too strongly impressed upon them; he believed that they could not have too constantly present in their minds this great and important fact, that these, and these only, were the terms on which the present connexion between the British empire and their colonial subjects on the other side of the Atlantic were secured. But he would beg them also to consider that at this moment, as Lord Elgin had told them correctly, the Canadians, the great body of the Canadian people, whether of French or of English extraction, were decidedly cordially attached to this country, and that they were daily becoming more and more aware of the blessings which they enjoyed from their connexion with the British empire, and of the great advantages which they derived from the form of government now established among them. In the midst of their disputes—and what people were there among whom there were not party disputes?—in the midst of these disputes, no doubt imprudent and violent men would sometimes be found to talk of a union with the United States. In the United States, too, some persons have talked of the same thing, or, as they termed it, of a nullification of the connexion between this country and the North American colonies. But still, in the midst of all their party disputes and violence, he had no doubt but that they were still sincerely attached to this country, and that they were becoming daily more sensible of the benefits which they derive from belonging to the British Crown. But he was not prepared to say that this feeling would be continued if so gross an act of injustice, as in their opinion it would be, should be committed as that of the rejection of this measure. On the contrary, he believed that if their Lordships threw out this Bill, they would part with their best security for the attachment of these colonies to the British Crown. It was the opinion of many who had watched the current of political opinion and events 74 in the world for the last few years, that the connexion of these provinces with the mother country was drawing rapidly to a close, and that they would become an independent people at a very early day. If this were so, and this country should lose the present opportunity of doing, with a feeling of good grace, an act of favour to these colonies, they might put it out of their power to secure to themselves even the benefits that would arise from the maintenance of friendly relations with them when they should have become an independent Power; what had happened before might happen again, and there might be hereafter written in the records of England's policy towards those colonics—then no longer hers—the fatal words, "Too late!" But what did the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham) tell them on this subject? The noble and learned Lord had stated that the importance of the colonies was derived from this country being able to maintain their navigation laws without regard to them; and by his use of the expression quid pro quo the noble and learned Lord appeared to signify that he would give the colonies nothing without getting a return for it. If his opinion of the value of the colonies were as low as that of the noble and learned Lord, he did not know how he might be disposed to act towards them; but he believed that the colonies ought to be maintained on far higher grounds. He considered the maintenance of our North American provinces to be an essential element of their national strength, and it was mainly on that ground that he now called upon their Lordships to agree to this Bill, as an important and necessary step for the security of their colonial empire. He would beg to remind their Lordships of the effect which the navigation laws formerly had in the breach between this country and those of her colonies in North America which now formed a separate republic. The history was, indeed, full of instruction and of warning as to the future; and he felt so strongly as to its direct bearing on the question now before them, that he must entreat their Lordships to grant him their patience while he called their attention briefly to it. In the early period of the history of the North American colonies, the commerce was perfectly free and unrestricted. The great author of the navigation laws himself had allowed the rising colonies of New England to enjoy an unrestricted trade. Under that system those 75 colonies increased rapidly in wealth and population, notwithstanding the numerous wars with the Indians, and the unsettled state of the country. After the Restoration, however, Charles II. endeavoured to apply the navigation laws to those colonies: the attempt was met by resistance on the part of the colonists of the most determined kind. The whole of the population of the colonies joined together in making the law a dead letter—juries, magistrates, and witnesses, by acting in concert together, defied the whole of the united exertions of the power of this country. The odious law of trade and navigation could not he enforced. He would trouble their Lordships with a quotation, and that a very remarkable one, on the subject of the enforcement of those laws. In the year 1679, Edmund Randolph was sent out as the first collector of customs to Boston, for the purpose of enforcing the law of navigation and trade in that place. The work from which he intended to quote was a very interesting one, perhaps not generally known in this country: it contained the lives of all the most remarkable men who took part in the great struggle of the American war against this country. In the introductory chapter of this work, an account was given by Mr. Savage of the mission of Edmund Randolph, who was selected as the most able and energetic person who could be sent out to enforce this law. It stated—He was a doomed man before his arrival. Determined upon success, he made eight voyages to and from America in the nine years which connect his name with our annals; but from the first to the last of his career he was treated with aversion and contempt. The merchants determined that he should not break up their intercourse with places interdicted by the Navigation Act; and the vessels which were seized by him and his deputies were rescued, and sent upon the voyages which their owners had designed them to make, though liable to reseizure upon their return to America. If he carried his complaints to the colonial courts, he obtained no redress, but, on the other hand, both he and his subordinates were fined for their official zeal. In a word, after enduring every indignity, Randolph himself was imprisoned. In a letter to Lord Clarendon, written from Boston in 1682, he says, 'I humbly beseech your Lordship that I may have consideration for all my losses and money laid out in prosecuting seizures here.' The same year he wrote to the Bishop of London, 'I have a great family to maintain, have great losses and expenses about His Majesty's service here.' To a Mr. Povey, in 1687, he says, 'I am at 50l. a year charge to keep an able clerk, and cannot get any fees settled sufficient to pay that charge.' In a letter dated from the 'Gaol in Boston,' to the Governor of Barbadoes, he thus writes; 'The country is poor; the 76 exact execution of the Acts of Trade hath much impoverished them; all the blame lies upon me, who first attacked and then overthrew their charter, and was the officer to continue their Egyptian servitude by my office of collector.' Again, and from his dungeon, he implored Cooke, his old enemy, to take from his apartment a wounded fellow-prisoner, whose sores had become insupportably offensive.He need scarcely remind their Lordships that the Government of Charles II. and of his successor were not strong enough to enforce those laws, and they, therefore, remained upon the Statute-book practically a dead letter: that they were so, he held in his hand the strongest possible proof in the form of an extract from the same work which he had just been quoting. It ran in the following terms:—Such was the result of the first effort to fasten upon the colonial merchants and shipowners the Navigation Act and Laws of Trade. After this signal failure all further and serious endeavours to arrest the course or restrain the limits of their maritime enterprises were discontinued for nearly a century. Collectors of customs were, however, continued at all the principal ports, but they seldom interfered to trouble those who embarked in unlawful adventures; and such adventures were finally undertaken without fear, and almost without hazard. In truth, the commerce of America was practically free. Some merchants 'smuggled' whole cargoes outright; others paid the King's duty on a part, gave 'hush money' to the under officers of the customs, and 'run' the balance. Suddenly and without warning there came a change. The year 1761 was filled with events of momentous consequence.That evidence was clearly confirmed by the history of those transactions written by Mr. Chalmers, a clerk in the Board of Trade; and a more unexceptionable witness upon the present question could scarcely be produced by a Member of the House taking that view of the question before their Lordships which he (Lord Grey) felt it his duty to support, for Mr. Chalmers was a perfect worshipper of the navigation laws, and, with the same spirit which seemed to animate the other writer whom he had just quoted, Mr. Chalmers, assured his readers that the merchants of Boston and New York did, in those days, grow rich under the navigation laws—damnably rich. It was of course well known to many then present that in the early part of the reign of George III. an unfortunate attempt was made to enforce the navigation laws in America; and if that attempt had been persevered in, it must have ended even then in a separation of our North American possessions from the Crown of England. Now, it was generally supposed that the American war of 77 independence arose merely out of a question of taxation; but it was not merely taxation, it was a question about the navigation laws. It was an attempt to enforce those laws, which led to hostilities between the mother country and the States of America. In proof of this assertion, he might quote from the work of Mr. Sabine the following passage:—In their opposition to the Navigation Act and laws of trade, the merchants and shipowners were entirely right. Obedience to humane laws is due from every member of the community; but the barbarous code of commercial law which disgraced the Statute-book of England for the exact century which intervened between the introduction and expulsion of her colonial collectors and other officers of the customs, was entitled to no respect whatever. Separation from her would have followed as certainly in 1676, when the first attempt was made to fix this code upon America, as in 1776, when the experiment failed a second time, if there had been at the one period the same strength and concert, the same deeply-seated irritation, and the same aid from the state of English and European politics, as existed at the other. There never was a moment, early or late, when the maritime colonies would have submitted willingly to the requirements of these statutes, or have submitted to them at all without the use of force. And whoever carefully traces the course of events for the fifteen years immediately following the year first abovementioned, will discover a most striking resemblance to those which occurred between 1761 and the commencement of the war of the revolution.By the kindness of the distinguished historian of the United States, now the Minister from that country in England, Mr. Bancroft, he had been able to confirm that testimony. He had furnished him with copies of some very curious letters of Turgot, the French Minister, in which he stated that any attempt to enforce those odious restrictions would obviously lead to a separation between the two countries; and again, six years later, when the struggle had commenced, he expressed the same opinion. He would confirm that further opinion by a short letter which he had received from Mr. Bancroft himself, addressed to him in answer to some inquiries he (Earl Grey) had made of him upon the subject. Considering the distinguished eminence of that gentleman as an historian and as a statesman, he thought it would be admitted that his evidence was worthy of some consideration. He said—John Adams, the second President of the United States, the first American Minister in London, the foremost in declaring independence in 1776, said always that independence was born in the struggle in 1760 and 1761, against the enforcement of the Navigation Acts. John Adams, 78 in his account of the origin of independence, dwells on every one of the leading restrictive acts on navigation and trade, and says he never could read them, even when alone, without uttering a curse on them. The renewal of the dispute after the repeal of the Stamp Act, took place in the summer of 1767, in an attempt to enforce the Act of Trade against a vessel of John Hancock. The New Yorkers were still more opposed to the Acts of Navigation than the Bostonians; they were many of them of Dutch origin, and could not trade with Holland.It was a most striking fact, that during a century and a half, while the navigation laws were in abeyance and not in force, they had in the American colonies prosperity, contentment, and loyalty. They had, on the other hand, twice when this law was attempted to be enforced, offered the most determined resistance to the restrictions which the navigation laws imposed on their commerce. In the first instance, the attempt to enforce these laws was wisely abandoned; in the second, the councils of this country were not under the same guidance. The spirit of Walpole, who said that he would leave this question for his successor, no longer presided in Downing-street. The attempt to enforce this odious law was persevered in, and the result was a calamitous war, and the ultimate dismemberment of the empire. These things were matter for their instruction, if they would but take warning by them. Would they then, in defiance of all this experience, with this lesson before their eyes, again rush blindfold into the same shortsighted and unjust policy? He trusted not. He trusted that the decision which this evening their Lordships would come to, would be a dfferent one. He could only say that if unfortunately the decision was the reverse of that which he confidently anticipated, he would indeed, in his opinion, be a bold man—not to use a stronger word—who would consent to make himself responsible for the administration of colonial affairs in the face of the danger and difficulty which that decision would bring about. He had now, he was aware, at too great length, called their Lordships' attention to that branch of the subject with which he was more immediately connected. He should now conclude by saying a few words, and they should be a very few words, upon the bearings of the question generally. It had been said that the present question was altogether distinct from the general question of free trade. He did not think so. On the contrary, he held that this was only one branch of the great question at issue between com- 79 mercial freedom or restriction, and he was justified in saying so because he found that those who were opposed to him, except a very small number, except two noble Lords—the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) who took the lead in opposition, and the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) who closed the debate last night—these two noble Lords did indeed deny the connexion of this question with that of free trade. But he did not find that other noble Lords followed their example. He could not help observing, also, that great stress had been laid during the present discussion upon the great number of petitions presented to this House on the subject now before their Lordships. Now they all knew the machinery by which petitions, of late years, were got up, sometimes on one side, sometimes on another. That machinery had gone so far as to destroy in a great measure the value of the right of petition. But he had never known that machinery to be worked more vigorously than on the present occasion. Take the petition that was presented from the great town of Liverpool, for example. They were told that in that town, containing 300,000 inhabitants, 47,000 persons had signed the petition. He presumed it was pretty well known that there were considerable divisions upon the question of the navigation laws; and then did any one suppose that a genuine petition could have been fairly signed by three-fourths of the adult male population of the town? And, even supposing it to have been so signed, that it deserved any degree of weight proportioned to the number of signatures which it bore, when many of those who signed it must have been paupers, beggars, or worse, for 47,000 formed three-fourths of the whole male adult population? But it was not merely on the number of signatures, but on the number of petitions, that stress had been laid: from the Minutes of their Lordships' House he should now read the names of some of the places from which the petitions had proceeded; they came from the clergy, owners, and occupiers of land, and others in Mayfield, Hastings, Pulborougb, Enfield, Crawley, Steyning, Uckfield—what had they to do with the navigation laws?
§ EARL GREY
No doubt from a maritime county. They were also from Uxbridge, Tewkesbury, Melton Mowbray. Melton Mowbray, he believed, was not in a 80 maritime county. Did any of their Lordships believe that the preservation of the navigation laws was the object these petitioners had in view? He had sent for one of these petitions, to examine it. It was very short—he thought it very entertaining, and perhaps their Lordships would allow him to read it. It purported to be the humble petition of the undersigned persons, from Ashby-de-la-Zouch—in a maritime county of course—and stated that the petitioners viewed with alarm the depressed condition of British agriculture, which they thought would ruin not only the landlords, farmers, and labourers, but those other industrious classes who were dependent upon them for their support. The petitioners prayed, therefore, that such duties might be imposed as would lead to the restoration of sufficient protection to the agricultural, colonial, manufacturing, and commercial interests, and would raise a sufficient revenue to meet the wants of the country, and would reduce the taxation of the country by throwing the customs duties upon the foreign producers. That was a species of political economy which their Lordships would be able, without any remarks from him, to appreciate. The petitioners then went on to deprecate any alteration in the navigation laws, under which the country had attained its present pitch of prosperity. Such, then, was the character of the petitions. He asked, then, whether he was not justified in stating that the resistance to this measure on the part of the petitioners was meant as the first step backwards from that commercial policy which they adopted in 1846? It was not intended to stand by itself, it was merely the first and preliminary step towards an attempt at what was called reaction. And to do the noble Lords justice, he must say that in presenting these petitions, they, so far as he understood them, did not disguise the fact that such was in truth their aim. They did not hesitate to tell the House that there was a great reaction in the country. [Cheers.] Oh yes, to be sure, he knew it—noble Lords believed that there was great reaction; they called upon the House to throw out the Bill, as the first step in that policy which they were called upon to adopt in the belief that this reaction was a real and substantial thing. He asked noble Lords to pause before they determined to give their sanction to the policy of reaction. He advised them to consider well what effects would result from 81 adopting it. He was not the least afraid that they would succeed in altering the measure for the repeal of the corn laws. He had not the smallest, the most distant, the faintest apprehension that they would ever succeed in restoring the corn laws. That which some noble Lords mistook for apathy in public opinion was not apathy, but a well-founded opinion among the people of this country that such a step once taken could never he retraced—that the tide of human improvement was steadily and constantly in progress—and that the opinion which more than a century ago was admitted to be sound by the philosopher in his closet—which, after a lengthened struggle, in which it had to contend against passion, prejudice, and interest, had so succeeded as to become practically enrolled in the Statute-book—that after such a struggle and such a victory in this free country there could be no retreat. They might as well suppose, because the tide went back for a moment, that the waters of this mighty river were about to return to their parent source, as imagine that by any effort of theirs they could roll back the tide of public opinion. No; the corn laws were settled for ever. But though he had perfect confidence that such was the case, he was not the less apprehensive of the serious consequences of reopening this question. Let him ask their Lordships to consider whether it would not be full of danger to the best interests of this country again to raise that agitation which was for the present quiescent. Did their Lordships remember the machinery of the agitation which then existed, or did they wish it to be renewed? Let them point out first of all how it would affect the interests of those whose benefit they professed to have at heart. Look how it would affect the interests of the land. Did they not think if they again began the agitation for protection, if they again circulated the doctrine that protection was necessary to the proper carrying on of agriculture, that they would be taking a course fraught with evil, that they would depress the value of all landed property, whether it was to sell or to let? There was nothing in the present prices to justify panic. The average price of wheat was now 40s., and the average price under protection had been 35s. There was nothing, therefore, in the fact of there being a low average price for a time to justify the panic under which the agriculturists were suffering. There was not a landlord 82 in the country at this moment who was not suffering from a depressed value of his property, in consequence of this panic. But would their Lordships aggravate that panic? Did they think there was no danger in the present state of Europe in again setting class against class?—or again calling into activity all the machinery of the Anti-Corn-Law and the Pro-Corn-Law League?—and in keeping up an agitation upon the exciting subject of the food of the people? Were they so blind as not to know that among the ostensible advocates for a repeal of the corn laws, were too many persons who were exceedingly sorry at the early success of that measure—that there were too many who wished to maintain the machinery of that agitation for ulterior, and, as he (Earl Grey) believed, most dangerous objects? Were their Lordships going to play into the hands of those parties, and enable them to set up again the machinery of that agitation for those most dangerous purposes to which he had adverted? He trusted they were not. Was there not another danger? Did they not fear that if they got up the cry of "Protection!" the tenantry might turn round upon them and say, it was not protection but something else they wanted; that they would no longer trust to the gentry under whose guidance they had formerly acted, but that they would act for themselves, set up a new flag, and adopt a more dangerous cry? Were their Lordships prepared to run the risk of inflaming the minds of the tenantry with dangerous and exciting topics? Were they prepared to expose the best and most vital interests of the country at this moment to the incalculable hazard of a new agitation? He trusted they were not. It was true the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) told them the other night to look to none of the risks, to look to none of the dangers, but to consider only the measures before them, and to throw it out without fear and without scruple. That advice was characteristic of the noble Lord. He was indeed—.. "A daring pilot in extremity,Pleased with the danger, when the waves ran highHe sought the storm.The noble Lord might seek the storm; but he trusted their Lordships were not prepared to follow his example. He trusted that, in the exercise of a calm and sober judgment, they would consider the bearings of their decision that night, not only upon the immediate question now before them, but upon the general interests of the 83 country—subjects which they were bound not to exclude from their consideration. He was convinced that, however those who looked upon public affairs as a mere exciting and intellectual game, which might be carried on in the spirit of a race course or a prize fight—however they might look upon this question—he was convinced that the great majority of their Lordships would feel that there was imposed upon them the highest and most solemn responsibilities, and that they would take into consideration all the circumstances to which he had adverted; and if they did so, he felt no doubt whatever as to what would be their decision.
My Lords,* in rising to address your Lordships at this late hour (a quarter past one o'clock), you may rely upon it that I will not go back, as the noble Marquess has done, to the days of Henry II.; nor shall I go back, as the noble Earl has done, to the days of Mr. Randolph, with his large family. Nor to those days, a recurrence of which, I fear, is yet more remote, when our colonics, to use the emphatic language of the noble Earl, were "damnably rich." I shall not even be tempted by the digression with which the noble Lord concluded his speech to enter into the topics which he has touched upon. I am not surprised at that digression. I very well understand its purport, and I can easily imagine that it may be agreeable to the noble Earl, with the cause which he has to argue, to seek for a diversion from the real question at issue, and unnecessarily to convert this question into one of free trade, on which every other speaker during this debate, with great good taste and great judgment, has hitherto forborne to enter. For my part, I shall confine myself to the question immediately before the House; I shall not inquire whether the abolition of the corn law was or was not a wise measure—whether all interests, including that of the producers, have reason to be satisfied with the present price of wheat, nor even whether this measure will have any effect in raising or depressing the value of landed property. I will confine myself to the question now before your Lordships—is it, upon all the considerations of domestic, foreign, and colonial policy, advisable now, by adopting the principle of this Bill, and giving it a second reading, to throw down and destroy utterly and altogether that system of laws* From a Report published by Ridg.84 which, for two hundred years at least, has been looked upon by the people of this country as the basis of our national greatness, and the foundation of our naval strength? I shall examine this question, and endeavour to confine myself to the topics which have been adverted to by the noble Earl; and I will follow the noble Earl through the colonial part of the question to which he has naturally applied himself.
My Lords, I say that the question now is, will you abolish—will you entirely repeal your code of navigation laws? The question is not, will you now, as you have done before from time to time, judiciously and wisely, because considerately and not blindly, adapt the provisions of these laws to the times in which you live, and to the state of your relations with foreign countries. I approve of that policy for the past; I do not deprecate it for the future; but what I do most strongly deprecate is that hasty, and injudicious, and ill-considered step which Her Majesty's Government advises you to take, and which I request your Lordships to bear in mind the noble Earl has taken care to tell you, in emphatic language, if once taken, is irrevocable, that you should now utterly destroy the navigation laws. That is the question which your Lordships have now to decide—not whether the minor inconveniences which may exist are a fit ground for legislation at all, or whether they are such as may easily be remedied, either by the authority of the Crown, or the intervention of the Legislature, by modifying your statutes to some extent, without departing from the main and fundamental principle of the laws.
The noble Earl thinks fit to call the navigation laws—and the noble Earl pronounces an opinion on all subjects with considerable confidence—the noble Earl describes the navigation laws, or rather the "remnants and fragments" of them which are left upon the Statute-book, as the barbarous relic of a barbarous age—as discreditable and disgraceful to your Statute-book—as inconsistent with the practice of all civilised nations; and he only wonders that any nation pretending to be civilised, should so long have endured the oppression of those laws. I may be told by the noble Earl that he has gained by experience, but I recollect hearing of the time when the noble Earl himself was not quite of the opinion which he has now expressed. [Earl GREY: NO, no!] If the 85 noble Earl says to me that at no time, at a public meeting at North Shields, did he express different opinions—it is true that he was then addressing a maritime constituency—if the noble Earl tells me that the paper which has been placed in my hands, and which purports to contain extracts from speeches delivered by the then Earl of Durham, and the present Earl Grey, is a forgery and a fiction, I have done with it at once; and though I was not guilty of a wilful misrepresentation, I regret that I made the statement.
§ EARL GREY
said, that the extracts were correct as far as they went; but the speech was delivered when he was only twenty-three years old, and before he had ever sat in Parliament; if, however, the whole passage was read, it would be found that though he said that it was unjust to expose the British shipowner to competition whilst he was exposed to restrictions, yet he suggested as the remedy to take off those restrictions.
The noble Earl having given an explanation of the speech, which I will therefore not now quote, I may mention the occasion on which the speech was made. It was not with reference to the repeal of the navigation laws, which is now proposed; but that speech was made against those relaxations of the navigation code which were introduced and proposed by Mr. Huskisson, in reference to which your Lordships have heard that Mr. Huskisson gave the most crushing answer to his opponents. But I will not cite the high authority of the noble Earl. I will descend from the high authority of the noble Earl, not to quote that passage from Adam Smith, which has been so commonly mentioned, but to refer to the expressed opinion of that great writer and political economist, that those laws, dictated as they were in the first instance by national animosity, had in their effect produced the very measures which the utmost political wisdom could have devised. And afterwards, after they had ceased to be any more than they are now, when they were only the barbarous relic of a barbarous age, after these relaxations had been introduced, which so much alarmed the youthful fancy of the noble Earl, Mr. Huskisson was still heard to say—I am ready to admit, that the regulations of our navigation system, however salutary they may be, must more or less act as a restraint on that freedom of commercial pursuit which it is desirable should be open to those who have capital to employ. I am however, at the same time, bound 86 to say, that these regulations are founded on the first and paramount law of every State, the highest ground of political necessity—the necessity of providing for our own safety and defence; the necessity of being prepared to afford security to our numerous colonial possessions, scattered throughout all the seas of the world; the necessity of protecting the different branches of our widely-spread commerce against all the risks attendant on a state of war; and, lastly, the necessity of preserving our ascendancy on the ocean, and thereby sustaining the high station in the rank of nations which that ascendancy, more than any other circumstance, has given to this country.Entertaining these opinions, I am as ready as any man can possibly be to say, that it is our duty on all occasions to look to the peculiar nature of this State necessity; and that, whenever the interests of commerce and navigation cannot be reconciled, the feeling which ought to be uppermost in all our minds, should be—I, Sir, have no hesitation in stating it to be my feeling—that the interests of commerce in all such instances ought to give way, and those of navigation to have the preference.Adam Smith, then, talks of these laws, though originating in national animosity, as producing the effect of consummate wisdom. Mr. Huskisson thinks that they rest on paramount considerations—on the highest grounds of political necessity. Earl Grey considers that they are disgraceful to your Statute-book—the relic of a barbarous age; and between these conflicting authorities your Lordships have to decide. I will invite the consideration of your Lordships to the extent of the interests involved in this question, which you are now called upon irrevocably to decide. I do not believe that the amount of tonnage is quite as large as the noble Marquess opposite has stated. I do not think that it amounts to 4,000,000 of tons; nor do I believe that the number of seamen amounts to 232,000; but there is no doubt of this—that in that shipping interest, and in the trade connected with that shipping, there is embarked a capital of from 50,000,000l. to 60,000,000l.; that it employs, besides seamen, 80,000 artificers, and that these 80,000 artificers divide amongst them annually 5,000,000l. at least in the shape of wages. The freight carried by the vessels of this country, by British shipowners, paying wages to British seamen, British workmen, and artisans of every description, is not less than 28,600,000l.
But, my Lords, these are the mere pecuniary questions which your Lordships have before you, and upon which you have to decide, affecting the money and wealth of the people; but there are considerations much higher than these—considerations of paramount importance—far above all ques- 87 tions of money and wealth—the considerations of national defence and national greatness. On one point we are all agreed; we are all agreed that our maritime superiority is essential to our greatness, to our independence, and to our existence as a nation. We are agreed that on the maintenance of our commercial marine depends the maintenance of our naval superiority. I have shown your Lordships the extent of our commercial marine, and you are now called upon to put in jeopardy all these great interests, pecuniary and national, and to declare that you are so satisfied with the arguments of the noble Earl and his colleagues, that you have no hesitation in sweeping away at once every vestige of those laws under which those great interests have grown up and flourished. That, my Lords, I think, is not a course which ought to he hastily adopted by the British Legislature; but if I am embarrassed by the complexity of these considerations, and by the risks which we are called upon to encounter, I am, my Lords, hardly less astounded, after this lengthened debate, notwithstanding the great ability of noble Lords who have spoken in support of the Bill, at the comparative paucity of the arguments by which this great change has been sustained, and at the recklessness of the Minister who, with hardly any motive, is willing to jeopardise all these great interests, and to rest all upon the hazard of a single die. It is not for us to be called upon to show what is the value we attach to these ancient laws; the onus probandi is not thrown upon us, who advocate the continuance of time-honoured institutions—institutions not more honoured by time than by the success which has attended them—the onus probandi rests with the Government, to show such an imperative necessity, such an overruling compulsion, that nothing but the absolute repeal of these laws can meet the almost insuperable difficulties by which we are surrounded. Have they shown anything like it? Have they shown anything in the past, in the present, or in the future, to call for so sweeping a change?
The noble Earl has commented in language which I was surprised to hear from a Member of a popular Administration on the petitions which have been presented to this House upon this subject. He has produced some few signed, and not unnaturally, by tenant farmers, who, though suffering under the oppressive laws which you have of late passed, are not yet lost to 88 all sense of sympathy with others who are threatened with similar oppression, and who, though you have ruined them, protest with a generous feeling, which does them credit, against your involving other classes and other interests in a similar ruin by a similar but more uncalled-for legislation; but even if it be true, that of those petitioners, among whom there was almost entire unanimity when addressing themselves to your Lordships on this question, there be some who have not a direct interest in it, is that to be a ground for disregarding the expression, the unanimous expression of all those great communities which are directly affected by this measure? The noble Earl says the petition from Liverpool is too large. He cannot believe that 47,000 men in Liverpool consider that this Bill is unwise, impolitic, and oppressive. I believe, nevertheless, that this is the case; but if the noble Earl thinks that the 47,000 signatures to the Liverpool petition are an indication and evidence that there are 47,000 men in Liverpool against free trade, let me correct that misapprehension at once; it is no such thing—Protectionists, Free-traders, Tories, Whigs, Radicals, persons of every denomination of political opinion, have joined in that petition, with an unanimity which is probably astounding to the noble Earl, but which seems perfectly natural to those who are acquainted with the tone of feeling in the great town of Liverpool in respect to those laws. The question was discussed at the meeting from which that petition came; and though the petition was not agreed to with entire unanimity, the minority was so small that it might fairly be supposed to leave a balance of 47,000 men, or three-fourths of the male adult population of Liverpool, deprecating and protesting against this measure. But if the noble Lord be right, where is the counter-petition from Liverpool? Where is the counter-petition from any quarter? Is there, my Lords, I ask, one great shipping town in the kingdom from which petitions have not been presented against it? Is there one great shipping town which has presented a petition in its favour? There is not one.
No doubt it is very convenient to hold the doctrine propounded by the President of the Board of Trade, that these people do not understand their own interests—that the merchants do not know what is good for commerce, and that naval men have no idea of what is good for the Navy, 89 and that those engaged in navigation do not know what is good for the shipping interest; but that there is one infallible tribunal which looks impartially over the whole range of affairs, and that tribunal is Her Majesty's Government. But there is an old proverb which has much truth and wisdom in it—cuique in suâ arte credendum—and when I see that all naval men, except one, consider your scheme as ruinous to the naval power of this country—that every shipowner says it will be ruinous to my shipping—and that all commercial men say it will do no good to our commerce—I confess that I am inclined to believe the unanimous testimony of those three classes, rather than to set aside their opinions for the purpose of placing implicit faith in the recommendations of Her Majesty's Government. But let me do justice in one case in which I made the other night a slight misrepresentation. The noble Marquess presented a solitary petition from Manchester in favour of the Bill. The whole number of signatures against the Bill is 166,000; and in favour of it the signatures in all are only 3,799; of these, 177 are from Southwark; 175 from Deptford; and the total from England about 1,000; but, upon the noble Marquess presenting the petition from Manchester, I asked him how many signatures it had, and the noble Marquess said he had not counted;—no more had I, but I had been informed there were 488 signatures when the petition had been lying for only two months in the Exchange at Manchester. My information, however, was a week old; and I have found that the petition had in the course of that week gained an accession of strength, for there were not 488 but 489 signatures; and I beg, therefore, to apologise to the noble Marquess for the trifling error into which I fell.
But another observation was made by the noble Earl, which I heard with still more surprise—I heard the noble Earl talk about the machinery employed for getting up petitions; but I venture to say, that there never was an occasion which called forth a more spontaneous declaration of the feelings and opinions entertained in the great majority of our seaport towns. But, my Lords, what has most surprised me is, that any observation as to the machinery resorted to for the purpose of getting up opposition to this measure, should have come from any Member of Her Majesty's Government, who, if I am rightly informed, have made very laud- 90 able, it may be, but certainly very strenuous, and I believe I may say very unusual, efforts to obtain a majority in your Lordships' House. If, my Lords, there is any one interest which, more than another, is prone to cry out when it is hurt, or before it is hurt, and which is disposed to watch jealously the proceedings of the Legislature, it is the great mercantile interest; and if the great mercantile interest really had suffered from the operation of the navigation laws, depend upon it these laws would not have been permitted to remain on the Statute-book so long without a single voice of complaint from any one branch of the commercial world. But more, we invited inquiry—we courted investigation—we asked the opinions of our merchants; and no man can say that those merchants were selected on account of their political opinions or personal connexions; before the Committee of your Lordships' House appeared merchant after merchant, who, when they were asked whether they had any complaint to make against any of these laws, one and all said, "No; I never found them interfere with my trade; I never found them any interruption to my commerce;" and it is no answer to that evidence that when asked, "Do you know anything about the navigation laws?" they answered—[Earl GREY: No!] Yes, that was the reply; and the noble Earl seemed to think that was a great point gained. The merchants replied, "No!" that they knew nothing about them. Why, my Lords, what the merchants did know about them was, that they never felt their operation, that they never felt any inconvenience from them. But they belonged to that very class upon which, if upon any, according to the noble Earl opposite, those laws pressed most heavily, and yet they never felt them, they knew nothing about them. My Lords, I say that negative evidence of that sort is of the utmost value. With respect to those small and minor complaints as to particular articles, I confess that I could hardly refrain from smiling when I heard the noble Lord alluding to the old case of the Havre cotton, to cochineal and Manilla hemp. These are only exceptions which prove the general absence of complaint against the whole system. I will not say that you should apply to them the principle de minimis non curat lex; but at all events a very trifling alteration and modification of the law would completely remedy those incon- 91 veniences, without infringing at all upon the main principles of the laws themselves. The noble Earl invites us to consider the Canada case; and in point of fact, we may consider the whole question as resting, first, upon the relations subsisting between this country and the colonies, and next upon the demands made by foreign Powers: because I think, with regard to the consumer deriving any benefit from the reduction of freight, that argument has been abandoned as untenable. True it is, that by competition freights may at certain periods, and to a certain extent, be lowered perhaps to the extent of 25 per cent upon the whole freight earned—a reduction which may by the way turn the scale against the British shipowner, and in favour of his foreign rivals, but which cannot give any appreciable relief to the consumer; because when divided over the entire tonnage of the ship, 25 per cent upon the freight would not sensibly reduce the price of the article imported. I therefore go at once to the case put by the noble Earl, and I say, that if I looked to the question with regard to Canada alone, I do think that Canada is an exceptional case: and that, under present circumstances, whatever might be the practical effect of the alteration, a strong case might be made out in argument on her behalf in favour of a relaxation of the navigation laws. I repeat that I think Canada, in the circumstances in which she now stands, has a strong claim to be made an exception. And here lot me observe that the noble Earl, who laid so much stress upon the importance of attending to the demands and complaints of the colonies, appears more anxious to meet their wishes, and more desirous to comply with their demands, when they happen to be in exact consonance with the wishes of the Government. I have failed to perceive him so anxious on other occasions. When Australia petitioned against having fresh importations of convicts sent to her shores—when the Cape of Good Hope protested against having, for the first time, the polluting stream of crime poured in upon her—when the West Indian colonies, showing the absolute ruin and beggary to which they have been reduced, by being exposed to an unfair and unequal competition with the produce of their labour, prayed for some equivalent or protection—nay, even when those West Indian colonies, borne down by the effects of free-trade legislation, petitioned for fiscal relief from the 92 burden of the enormous establishments to which they were subjected—I do not find that the Colonial Office had ears always so widely open to hear, however loudly expressed, the complaints of our suffering colonies. Even in this very case, let me remind the noble Earl, that although Canada asks at our hands some relaxation in her favour of our navigation laws, the Canadians, not with the same unanimity certainly, but with large numbers of signatures, petitioned your Lordships' House, praying that you would grant them that, without which the removal of our navigation laws would be useless—namely, such a differential duty in their favour as alone would have the effect of transferring the stream of commerce from the great countries of the west to the St. Lawrence. I do not find that that prayer has been attended to. Even these petitions which do not ask for a renewal of protection begin by saying, that whereas the mother country has deprived them of the protection which they had hitherto enjoyed, they petitioned for the relaxation of the navigation laws, not as an equivalent, but as tending, in some degree, to compensate them for the losses which they had sustained. The noble Earl says they have not petitioned Her Majesty for the restoration of protection; I think, my Lords, there is a very easy and natural solution of the difficulty. Petitions to Her Majesty have to go through the hands of the noble Earl, and he has to advise Her Majesty as to the answer she should give to their prayer. And I, for my own part, knowing as I do the opinions of the noble Earl upon this question, would think I was wasting my time if I were to petition Her Majesty, under such circumstances, for a restoration of protection, and for the imposition of a differential duty.
The case of the Canadians is peculiar. They have, as the noble Earl stated, laid out large sums of money, in which they were assisted by this country, for the purpose of completing a very extensive and important line of water communication to improve the circuitous route of the St. Lawrence, so as to have it chosen rather than the more direct route of the States.
Their interests are doubly concerned, as producers and as carriers. In the first capacity they are anxious for the readiest and cheapest conveyance for their produce: in the second, that that conveyance should be through their own territory, rather than through that of the United 93 States. The noble Earl speaks of a letter which he has received, and to which he triumphantly refers, by which it seems that the cost of carriage to Montreal or Quebec was considerably less than to New York, but that the whole advantage was neutralised by the extravagant demands of the British shipowners of Montreal and Quebec, who were enabled to charge whatever they pleased in consequence of the monopoly which the navigation laws gave them. I will not go into the elaborate calculations of the different parties to show the cost of transport. This opinion, however, has been strongly controverted, and great difference of opinion exists among those who have the best means of information. One set say that the difference is 9 cents, or 4½d. in favour of Quebec; the other, that the difference is 14 cents, or 7d. in favour of New York.
But what is the fact? Montreal is a port 180 miles above Quebec—a port upon a river which is frozen over five months out of the twelve—a port which is distant from London thirty-five days' sail, whereas New York is but twenty-five on an average—a port between which and Quebec the intervening space is is in some places exceedingly difficult of navigation, on which account there are heavy charges for pilotage and towage to be defrayed before entering on the ocean freight. I hold in my hand a return of the incidental expenses under that head, and I find that the expenditure, up and down, for those charges alone, exclusive of all others, amounted, upon a vessel of 350 tons, drawing fifteen feet of water, to 171l. 5s. It must be remembered that, after the month of July, the vessels, from scarcity of water, may have to be lightened of their cargo for a portion of the distance, which makes an additional expense of 10s. per ton. I regret to be obliged to weary your Lordships with these details, but as the noble Lord has laid particular stress upon the case of Canada, I am bound to answer his arguments. I contend that the experience of the past is the best argument to refute the position of the noble Earl. The ships of America will not enter the port of Montreal, choked up as it is for five months in the year, and to which at most they can make but two voyages from hence, when they have their own port of New York open all the year round, to which they have no difficulty in making four. And here is the proof. I will take the period of the year 1847, when competition was freely 94 admitted. In that year there were exported from the St. Lawrence breadstuffs sufficient to load 220 vessels of 350 tons, or 77,000 tons; but how many foreign vessels do you suppose entered the St. Lawrence in that year, for the purpose of entering into competition with the monopoly of British shipowners? Why, twenty-two vessels, and of these twenty-one were Hamburghers and Bremeners, carrying German emigrants, who availed themselves of the opportunity to bring back cargoes. And it is stated in the petition which I presented from Quebec, that of these twenty-one, several went out in ballast refusing to take cargoes at the rate of freight at which British vessels were then loading. Only one American ship entered the St. Lawrence in that year, and she brought a cargo of American goods and returned with deals, and did not enter into the competition to which she was invited. It is my belief, if you grant this boon to Canada, that it will not hold out any inducement to the Americans to compete.
The noble Earl has alluded to what he termed one great authority. He alluded to a letter of Messrs. Holmes, Young, and Knapp, merchants, he says, of great respectability, who had complained that their trade had suffered in consequence of those restrictions in the navigation laws.
These gentlemen, two of whom are, I believe, natives of the United States, are among the minority who dissented fom the memorial of the Council of Montreal, praying for a renewal of protection; and in support of their opinions, they send a letter to Mr. Hincks, duly forwarded by Lord Elgin, showing that they had, in the preceding year, carried on a very profitable trade with the interior, in fish, crates, and other articles. Now in this case, at all events, if their profits were such as they represent them (on which I have heard some doubts expressed) it is clear that the navigation laws did not stand in their way. But they go on to say—We have now an order for 250 tons of Scotch pig iron, but we doubt whether we shall be able to make a profit on it, for we find our hands tied and our efforts paralysed by the operations of the obnoxious navigation laws.Now what on earth can these obnoxious navigation laws have to do with a shipment of 250 tons of Scotch pig iron in a British ship up the St. Lawrence? But I can tell you what can, and probably did, interfere with such a shipment—the imposition of a 95 duty of thirty per cent levied on the cargo by the Government of the United States. Those gentlemen express the greatest horror at the hare supposition that the loyalty of the people of Canada could be affected by any pecuniary considerations, and, alluding to a paragraph in a memorial by the Council of the Board of Trade, they repel with lofty indignation the idea—Of allowing the sentiment to go forth uncontradicted, that our loyalty to our Queen, and our attachment to British institutions and connexion, depend on the mother country taking what we would consider a retrograde step in the development of her new commercial policy. We trust the loyalty of the province depends on something loftier than a mercenary motive.Such are the statements which the noble Earl rests upon when he says that a feeling of perfect loyalty to the Queen pervades the Canadian mind. I tell him to beware that he does not adopt any policy which may tend to diminish that loyalty; I will not now enter upon this most serious and alarming question, nor stop to return the warning of the noble Earl by telling him to beware, lest by abandoning all attempts to control a dominant majority in Canada, he should lay the foundation of deep-rooted discontent, disaffection, and disloyalty in the minds of a hitherto loyal and contented people.
Having said thus much, I will pass to the loyalty of Messrs. Holmes, Young, and Knapp. I hold in my hand a letter written by those gentlemen to their correspondent in this country, who has handed it to me, and who has empowered me to make what use I please of it. The letter is dated the 14th of March, 1849. It commences as follows:—Dear Sir—The feeling of annexation to the United States seems to he the most prevalent at present among our people; could the measure he brought peaceably and amicably about, there is not a doubt that three-fourths, if not nine-tenths, of the inhabitants would go for it.Non meus hic sermo. This is not my authority, but the noble Earl's, for the state of feeling and the sentiments prevailing in Canada. The letter goes on to say—No country can expect to retain colonies under a free-trade system, unless allied to each other by contiguity, or for the purpose of mutual protection. The commercial system of the United States now offers more advantages to this province than any other within view; but to avail of it is impossible without the question of annexation being involved. Their system, as far as respects the internal affairs of the Union, is peculiarly isolated and selfish as regards other nations. Our people, being disappointed at their non-concur- 96 rence in reciprocal free trade in the native productions of either country, will not rest easy till it is brought about.Then, with a dash under it come these word: "There is but one certain way to do it." Hero then is the letter of the loyal friends and advisers of Her Majesty's Government in Canada—here are their North American authorities for the feelings of the British Canadians—men upon whose advice we are about to adopt measures for securing the attachment and affection of the people of Canada. And what does this authority tell you? Why, "that colonies and free trade cannot exist together; that standing where we stand, the mother country refuses us those advantages which the United States will not give us so long as we remain connected with the British empire; which America offers to us, but offers to us only upon one condition, namely, that of our ceasing to be British subjects any longer, and becoming citizens of the united States by means of annexation." The conclusion was inevitable, that connexion with that country could alone give them all the privileges they desired: and that loyalty must indeed be powerful which continues undiminished under circumstances of so great trial. But let me ask the noble Earl whether Canada is our only North American colony? The noble Earl said that the case of Canada must be taken in connexion with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; but those very colonies have petitioned you, and have implored you not to repeal the navigation laws, because they were shipbuilding colonies, and were the places which supplied you with cheap ships.
What I meant to say was, that the noble Earl said that the cause of Canada must be taken in connexion with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; and I say that New Brunswick has petitioned the Imperial Legislature that the navigation laws may not be repealed.
But I am bound to say, that even if, in consideration of the peculiar circumstances of Canada, you were to make an exemption in her favour, a measure might be easily framed to extend to New York and Quebec the same principle which you extend to various countries of Europe, namely, to allow the 97 ports of either of those countries to he indiscriminately ports for the export of the produce of either of them. No objection would be made here to such an extension of the principle, and it would meet the demands of Canada. I do not say that it would meet the difficulties under which that colony labours, because Montreal and Quebec cannot compete successfully with New York on the principle of entire and unlimited competition; and unless we allow them the protection of a moderate differential duty upon foreign corn, except it comes by way of our own colony, you will never be able to transfer the great tide of traffic from the Erie Canal to the St. Lawrence.
Great stress has been laid in this debate upon the petition from Jamaica in favour of the repeal of the navigation laws; but it should be remembered that that petition was passed under rather singular circumstances, namely, within the last few days of the sitting of the provincial Parliament, when, as your Lordships may be aware from your own experience, business is generally hurried through without that due care and deliberation which at other seasons it would be much more likely to command. This petition was carried in April, 1848; but it is somewhat remarkable that in October, 1847, only the year before, and again in October, 1848, later in the same year, Committees of the House were appointed to inquire into, and did enter into long and laborious investigations of, the causes of the distress of the colony; and, singular to relate, not a single suggestion was ever made by either of the Committees, or even attempted to be supported by any evidence taken before them, to attribute any portion of the distress of the colony to the navigation laws. In the last days of the Session the memorial passed; but the curious thing is, that it did not pray for a repeal of the navigation laws; but simply that the Jamaica ports should be made free ports, and that as they were deprived of protection, they should be free to choose British or foreign ships for the transmission of their produce. They did not ask for a repeal of these laws. They asked for their repeal as they related to Jamaica, but not as to Cuba. They naturally did not desire that cheap freights should be extended to Cuba and the Brazils, for they saw that, by doing that, they would be giving an advantage, and getting none in return. If the petitioners prayed for anything, it was to open the ports of Jamaica for the purpose of encouraging 98 the recourse to them of vessels of different nations. With respect to the general question of freight from the West Indies, I will here take occasion to observe that, so far as my judgment goes, I am not at all disposed to believe that the effect of the repeal of the navigation laws will be in the long run to diminish the amount of freight. It would undoubtedly produce very considerable fluctuation. There would be a great flood of tonnage at one time, and a great scarcity of it at another—an evil which would of course be attended with very injurious consequences, and one from which, under the present system, we are happily secure; for the staple commodities of the West Indies being easy of calculation, the English shipowner finds no difficulty in proportioning his tonnage to the precise amount of commerce he may have to accommodate; while at the same time the certainty of a return freight enables him to carry out at very low rates the various supplies of which the islands stand in need.
Allusion has been made to the petition which was presented from Demorara, and I must confess that I do think the case of the petitioners appears to be a hard one. They complain that the measures of relief they applied for are peremptorily refused to them; but that what are intended for remedial measures are offered in the shape of a grant of money, and a proposition for the repeal of the navigation laws. With respect to the last proposition, they intimate that, so far from desiring it, they deprecate it in the strongest possible manner, being of opinion that it will not be a boon to the colony at all.
But what shall I say of the case of the island of Trinidad? Most assuredly if there ever was a case which required an explanation on the part of Her Majesty's Government, it is the case of that island. I hold in my hand the report of the proceedings of the Council of Trinidad, complaining of certain impediments and restrictions which they assert are imposed upon their commerce. What they mainly complain of is this, that not by the operation of the navigation laws, but by the operation of an Order in Council, which it was competent for the Queen to make or to revoke, they are prevented from carrying on a direct trade with Spain in Spanish ships, and with France in French ships, and that they are driven to the necessity of importing French and Spanish goods from the French and Spanish settlements 99 in the West Indies, with no advantage to British shipping, but to their own manifest detriment. Thus circumstanced, the colonists applied for relief to the Government at home; but what did they pray for? What they prayed for was not a repeal of the navigation laws, but a measure of relief, which it was competent for the Government to grant without any interference whatever with the navigation laws. The prayer of these petitions was that an Order in Council might be issued granting to all foreign ships the benefit of the 8th and 9th Vic. c. 88, so that all foreign goods might be exported direct into Trinidad in the ships of the country producing them. The Attorney General, in the discussion which took place in the Council, expressed a confident hope that the Home Government would accede to the prayer of the colony, observing that the reason why he did so was, that an acquiescence in the request of the petitioners would not involve any material interference with the navigation laws. Such was the sum and substance of the petition from Trinidad, and such were the express grounds on which its prayer was urged by the Attorney General; and yet we are seriously told by the Government the people of Trinidad have petitioned for a repeal of the navigation laws. But that is not all. In the same discussion it was openly stated, that "their Lordships, through their secretary, Mr. Porter, had recognised the validity of the complaint, but declined to take any steps until the general question of the navigation laws should come under consideration." Thus Her Majesty's Government purposely keep alive a recognised grievance, which they had the power of remedying, for the sake of bolstering up their case, and keeping up a feeling of excitement against the navigation laws.
Now, my Lords, having troubled you with these remarks upon the colonial part of the question, I turn to the arguments founded on our relations with foreign Powers. The noble Earl tells us that the navigation laws must be repealed, because certain threats have been made use of by Prussia and Russia, and because it is as yet uncertain what other threats may emanate from other quarters. My Lords, I am not very conversant with diplomatic usages, but I must say, that I do not remember to have read any document with feelings of such surprise as the circular addressed by the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department to the British Ministers at the 100 various Courts of Europe. If it were desired to ascertain what were the views of each particular Court on this important question, it certainly does appear to me that the most courteous, the most judicious, and in every sense the best course that could have been adopted, would have been to have made a separate application to each Court, and to have written it in terms suited to the position in which each Court respectively stood in relation to ourselves. That, I think, would have been by far the wisest and most statesmanlike proceeding; but, instead of doing that, the noble Lord, I suppose to save trouble, lumps them altogether, applying precisely the same language to those countries which had adopted the most liberal and the most restrictive policy towards us.
The noble Earl applies, in precisely the same tone, and in identically the same language, to every Minister of every Court in Europe, and with what request? Why, to be informed, first, of that which he ought to have known, what were the restrictions to which that country subjected our commerce; and next, what course it would be prepared to adopt in the event of our taking certain steps in a certain direction. I must say, my Lords, that I am not in the least surprised that the noble Lord should have occasionally received some very tart and sharp replies to such an application. The answers he has received are, generally speaking, far from favourable to the project of the Government. Hardly any of them have said that they will reciprocate the policy the Government intended to pursue; and some have intimated, in no very courteous terms, that we may do as we please, but that they are determined not to do any thing at all. The answer from Austria was certainly couched in no very conciliatory terms, and did not betray any very friendly feeling. "You ought to know," they said in substance, "that we impose no restrictions whatsoever on your commerce; but you impose restrictions on ours; and now that you have reminded us of it, and raised the question, we must take the matter into consideration, and see what is to be done, in order to ensure a more liberal treatment at your hands." Such is the purport of the reply returned by the Court of Austria; and it certainly does appear to me that it would be difficult for the mind of man to conceive anything more infatuated or absurd than the course you have pursued. You have challenged all the Courts 101 of Europe to adopt a course of restriction and coercion, and you have provoked them to make inquiries which may terminate to your own disadvantage. We are told, however, that unless we are prepared to concede a full reciprocity, Russia has actually threatened the imposition of new restrictions at the expiration of a treaty under which we have enjoyed considerable advantages; and, it is added, that a similar threat is held out by Prussia. Now, I do not wish on this occasion to enter on the general question of reciprocity treaties. I will content myself with saying that at the time when Mr. Huskisson entered into them, I think they were wise and judicious concessions of that which we should have found it impossible to maintain. They gave, no doubt, advantages to foreign countries; but I believe they saved us from farther loss which we should otherwise have sustained.
But I am not inclined to attach much importance to the threats which appear to have produced such dismay in the mind of the noble Earl. I do not think that Russia or Prussia will carry their throats into execution, simply because I know that the treaties they threaten to terminate are productive of much greater benefit to themselves than to us. Countries in their commercial transactions with each other are generally swayed by those considerations which each believes will in the long run prove most advantageous to itself; and we seldom find that any country, our own excepted, will commit itself to any course of conduct, unless with the conviction that it will prove eventually beneficial to its own interests. That Russia and Prussia will be governed by such considerations in their negotiations with us, I have not the least doubt. The reciprocity treaty into which we entered with Prussia, has resulted very much more to her advantage than to ours. It has been stated by my noble Friend on the cross benches (Lord Wharncliffe), that, before the year 1824, our traffic in the Baltic had diminished. I think my noble Friend is in error. It is possible that the percentage increase of the tonnage of the Baltic Powers might have been greater than ours; but unless I am much mistaken, during the eight years preceding the ratification of the reciprocity treaty, the tonnage of the four Baltic nations had increased only 30,000 tons, whereas our tonnage had increased 50,000 tons; but since the reciprocity treaty, the increase in their tonnage has been enor- 102 mous, while ours, instead of increasing, is actually falling off. Before the reciprocity treaty, the British tonnage engaged in the trade with Prussia was 94,000 tons. It has now fallen off to 49,000 tons, being a diminution of 45,000; whereas the tonnage of Prussia has increased, during the same period, from 151,000 to 256,000 tons, being an augmentation of no less than 105,000 tons. And yet we are told that unless the navigation laws are repealed, Prussia will be so blind to her own interest as to terminate a treaty which has enabled her so largely to increase her trade. Does Prussia gain no equivalent for that which she concedes to us? Why, it is under that very treaty only, which it is said she will abandon, that she has the right of importing produce hither from the Weser and the Elbe, the mouths of these rivers not being within Prussian territory, her own ports, to which she would otherwise be limited, being of an inferior character, and accessible only to smaller vessels. To those ports, if she abandon the treaty, her ships will be confined, and be driven from the Weser and the Elbe. I ask you whether you think it likely that Prussia will make such a sacrifice of her own interests, for the purpose of injuring your commerce?
But supposing Prussia to be in earnest in her intention to abrogate the treaty, surely the most rational course for England to pursue would be to say, "Come, now, let us talk the matter over; let us see what concessions you require; let us hear what concessions you are prepared to make in return." Such a course is the one which would have been recommended by every consideration of justice and common sense; but Her Majesty's Government, instead of acting in such a manner, threw themselves at once into the arms of the hostile party. The moment the threat was uttered, they exclaimed, "We will stipulate for nothing—we will negotiate for nothing; you shall have your own terms—the direct and indirect trade we surrender to you—you shall have our colonies—you shall have everything." They acted about as wisely as an officer would act, who being in the possession of a fort, and the enemy giving notice of the termination of an existing armistice, should not so much as endeavour to enter into terms of capitulation, but even before being called on to surrender, should decamp at night, leave his arms, ammunition, baggage, and all behind him; and when the enemy had 103 taken possession of the abandoned fort, should expect that advantageous terms should be granted to him, and threaten otherwise to retake the fort. Just similar is the threat that, in the event of foreign countries refusing to reciprocate our generous policy, we shall reserve to ourselves the power of retaliation.
My Lords, I am far from undervaluing the indirect trade of this country. In itself it is a great advantage. But in entering into reciprocal engagements for the indirect trade, there is one great consideration, which seems wholly to have been overlooked by Her Majesty's Government, though it was not lost sight of by Mr. Huskisson. Mr. Huskisson, I think, properly described the policy of the navigation laws, when he said—Our navigation laws have a twofold object. First, to create and maintain in this country a great commercial marine, and secondly (an object not less important in the eyes of statesmen) to prevent any one other nation from engrossing too large a portion of the navigation of the rest of the world. Acting upon this system, the general rule of our policy has been to limit as much as possible the right of importing the productions of foreign countries into this country, to ships of the producing country, or to British ships."* * * * "The motives for adopting that system were, first, that such portion of the carrying trade of foreign countries as does not devolve to British shipping, should be divided as equally as possible among the other maritime States, and not enjoyed by any one of them in particular; and, secondly, that countries entertaining relations of commerce with this country, and not possessing shipping of their own, should export their produce to England in British ships only, instead of employing the ships of any third Power.In pursuance of this sound and wise policy, he entered freely into reciprocity treaties to regulate the direct trade, but he reserved in his own hands the control of the indirect trade, in order not to give to other nations, America, for instance, such an advantage as might enable her to become at some future period what the Dutch were once, the monopolisers of the carrying trade of the world. If you enter into direct reciprocity treaties with various countries, with some you may he a gainer, with others a loser; but your gain or your loss is confined to the trade with that country; but enter into reciprocity treaties for the indirect trade, and if there be one nation which can build and sail cheaper than yourselves, that nation becomes your successful rival in every sea and every port, and thus has an opportunity of obtaining that preponderance of naval 104 power which it was the object of the navigation laws to prevent any other nation from acquiring. The noble Earl at the head of the Colonial Department seems at a loss to understand what good results from the prohibition of the importation into this country from the ports of Europe, of the products of Asia, Africa, and America, and the advantage which will accrue from retaining in our hands the colonial carrying trade. Now, in the first place, let it be recollected that our colonial trade employs 1,770,000 tons of shipping. That amount of shipping is ours without dispute or controversy. No one can interfere with it. But, then, the noble Earl asks, why should we not do away with the long voyages, and permit the importation of African, Asiatic, and American produce from the ports of Europe? I reply, for this reason: No goods, the produce of Asia, Africa, or America, can be imported here, except from Asia, Africa, and America. Consequently, we import the whole of what we require from those countries for our own use; and as we are the largest consumers and the best customers in the world, the effect of the restriction in question is to send the great bulk of the foreign produce first to you, and to force the smaller Continental markets to receive it by driblets and in detail. They cannot afford to carry the produce in question by wholesale, unless they can forward to our markets what they cannot consume in their own. Abolish the present system, and you permit your rivals—the Dutch, for example—not only to compete with yon in your own markets, but to establish for themselves that great warehousing system which we find so profitable.
I will not trouble you with any statistics—nor is it my intention to attempt any controversy respecting the various tabular statements which have emanated from the Board of Trade; but, viewing the question merely as a matter of principle, I would implore of your Lordships seriously to consider the effect upon this country, and upon its population, if the measure you are about to adopt should unfortunately have the effect of weakening or impairing our commercial marine.
It appears to me that it is wholly impossible to exaggerate the importance of keeping up the private shipbuilding yards of this country in their present number and efficiency. The number of shipwrights and other artisans employed in the Royal 105 dockyards does not exceed 5,000, whereas the number employed in the private shipbuilding establishments amounts to no less than 80,000. Diminish that number, and tell me where, in the day of sudden emergency, in the time of war, we are to find ships to supply the wants of our Navy? It was stated by Mr. Pitt that between the years 1790 and 1801 only two men-of-war were built in the Royal yards, whilst twenty-two were built in the private yards; and that great statesman always expressed the highest opinion of the value of those private yards. Often and often has it happened that the private shipbuilding yards of this country were the resource to which, for the preservation of your naval supremacy, you were obliged to fly. But transfer the work, or a great portion of the work, now executed in them to foreign yards, and tell me if you do not strike a deep blow at the very root of the naval strength of your country? But yet to transfer that employment, to encourage the labour of foreign shipwrights, must be one of the objects of the Bill. It is a measure which offers to the merchants of this country, as a boon, mind, and in compensation for the competition—the unprotected competition—to which they will be exposed, the privilege of building in and buying from foreign dockyards, on the assumption, of course, that in these dockyards they can build cheaper ships than they can do at home. If this be not the case, why, the boon is no boon to shipowners at all. But the Government assumes that our merchants and shipowners can and will build in foreign dockyards; and the result must of course be, that every ship built abroad, under this Act, diminishes the amount spent in British labour—and in British labour of that class which is by far the most valuable to the naval and maritime power of this country.
Let us pause for a moment to consider what we are about to do. The present law requires that our ships shall be British owned and British built, manned by British seamen, sailed under a British flag, and with a British register. We are going to do away with the advantages which the British shipwright possesses. We are not about to stipulate with the United States, that our shipbuilders in the North American colonies shall have the privilege of building for the United States. They are wiser than we, and they say, "we will give you no such thing." But having first sa- 106 crificed our shipwrights to enable the shipowners to meet the competition of foreigners—when we have done that, and exposed the shipowners to competition, not only in our direct and indirect, but also in our colonial trade, that is, the trade between one British port and another, we impose upon them the restrictions of carrying British crews, of providing more expensive victuals, and all the other restrictions and expenses attendant upon our maritime regulations. What temptation, under this state of things, has the British merchant to sail under the British flag at all? He submits now to expenses and restrictions, because he has, in return, the monopoly of our colonial trade, and advantages in certain foreign ports; but we are now about to take away all those benefits, and retain all the restrictions and disadvantages. He will, as a matter of course, sail under some neutral flag, and not seek for a British register. He will sail under a foreign flag, and reap all the advantages which he has now as a British shipowner, and get rid of all the disadvantages. I am not speaking loosely or without authority on this subject. We examined before the Committee an enterprising and intelligent merchant who was about to set out to the South Sea in order to restore the whale fisheries, once a most important trade, but now, as regards us, wholly extinct. With regard to that trade, I must trouble your Lordships with a few figures to show the relative progress made by ourselves and the United States. From 1834 to 1845, the Americans increased their ships in this trade from 40 to 732; and as those ships averaged thirty men a-piece, they thus employed 21,900 American seamen. The American produce was increased from 35,000 tons to 43,000 tons in 1845; the money value of which was 1,420,000l. The British produce imported in 1821 was 24,000 tons; but in 1845 it had fallen off to 5,500 tons, as against 43,000 tons American. The value of our produce was 2,490l. as against the 1,420,000l. American. The man who shall restore that trade to this country will confer upon her a great boon, and he will raise up a large body of British seamen, and add much to the wealth and resources of the empire.
Mr. Enderby having obtained from Her Majesty's Government a grant of the Auckland Islands, was on the point of going out with this praiseworthy object in view; but he told the Committee that if the navigation laws were repealed (as there seems 107 every prospect that they will be, unless the prudence and wisdom of your Lordships should prevent it) the company with which he was connected, instead of building, manning, and sailing British ships, would buy Norwegian ships, man them partly with Norwegians and partly with South Sea Islanders, and sail them under some neutral flag. The result would be that this could only then be considered a British trade, inasmuch as it would be carried on with British capital, and the only amount that could have the chance of being expended in this country would be the profit which went into the pocket of Mr. Enderby. Instead of employing British ships and British seamen, and expending the whole cost of the fitting-out for the benefit of this country, it would all go to encourage foreign shipbuilding and to foster foreign seamen. This is the course you are gratuitously about to adopt. Why will Mr. Enderby take this course? In the first place, he will build, or he thinks he will build, his ships cheaper—he will sail his ships cheaper—he will victual them cheaper—and when he gets to his station in the South Seas he will not be liable to have a British man-of-war alongside, asking if any of his crew are disposed to enter into Her Majesty's service, and compelling him to pay wages to those who desert him at the very moment when their services are most required.
Nor is Mr. Enderby's a solitary case. I received the day before yesterday a document signed by twenty of the principal shipowners of the port of Leith; and I have seen similar communications signed by thirty shipowners from Glasgow; by a like number from Port Glasgow; and by a considerable number from St. Andrews; all apprising me that, if the navigation laws be repealed, their first move in the way of self-interest will be to give up the British register, and to sail under foreign colours. Now, my Lords, that is the course which you are gratuitously calling on Parliament to sanction. You are doing it against the sense of the country. You are supporting the views of a majority of the House of Commons, which has dwindled down before the expression of public opinion in this Session to half the number it Was in the last Session; and I take leave to say that of the members of that majority a considerable number do not represent the feelings and views of their constituents, as many of them will find out when, sooner or later, that dissolution of Parliament 108 shall take place, to which the noble Earl looks with so much alarm.
I have to express many apologies to your Lordships for trespassing at so much length upon your time, but I feel the importance of the question to be so great that I could not abstain from thus going through a portion of the arguments—for it is only a portion—on which my opposition to this piece of crude legislation is founded. The noble Earl has alluded to the state of the country, and he says, "Beware how you again raise the question of different classes, and array them against each other." My Lords, it is not we that have raised that question—it is not we that arrayed one class against another. On this occasion, at all events, your Lordships will exercise an independent judgment, for there is not, I should think, a man here who has a particle of pecuniary interest in the question about to be decided. If we are fighting for the interests of any one class, it is at least a class with which we have no connection. If we are fighting for the interests of any class, it is one by supporting which we are maintaining the prosperity, the independence, and the stability of the empire at largo. It is not for the wealthy, it is for the humble labourer and mechanic, that we strive. It is because I believe that it will be greatly to their injury that I am thus earnest in imploring your Lordships to reject this mischievous Bill. For let the event be what it will, let not any of your Lordships delude yourselves with the idea that it is a matter of indifference to this country whether our commerce is carried on in British ships or foreign ships.
I have had papers put into my hands, showing me the distribution of the earnings of a ship returning, we will say, to the port of Liverpool, with a freight of 4,000l. Of that sum considerably more than half, 2,500l. is distributed in wages, provisions, stores, repairs, dock dues, and other expenses in this country, in the employment of British labour. Of the 4,000l., only 1,500l., or even less, remains as profit to the British shipowner; and that profit itself, in nine cases out of ten, is again invested in the same trade, and, in one form or other, contributes to the employment of more British labour. But when a foreign vessel comes into our docks, what happens? She pays dock dues—that she cannot help; but she pays no wages; she purchases no stores; she never repairs or refits in a British dock when she can by any possibility prevent it; but returns to her own 109 country with at least 3,500l. which quits this land, and is not in any way applied to the encouragement of British industry. This is not, then, a question only of the wealthy, or of a great national interest, but it is—and to that I am always most anxious to look—a question of paramount importance and national interest in another sense, because it involves the furnishing of means of employment to the working classes.
I hold that the abolition of the navigation laws is a question entirely separate from that of free trade. I wish as fervently as the noble Earl that none of the animosities that marked that question may arise out of this; but he is much mistaken if he thinks that the vote of to-night, if your Lordships pass the second reading of the Bill, will settle the question. He is much mistaken if he thinks this Bill will be the end-all and be-all—that the British merchants, the British shipowners, the British seamen, and the British mechanics, will be satisfied with a Bill passed by a bare majority of this House, under pressure such as I never heard of before, and menaces such as the noble Marquess thought it becoming in him to throw out to your Lordships. But the question will not be settled by the vote of to-night, unless you should happily reject the Bill. It was the complaint of the greatest general in the world (except one), of the greatest opponent this country ever had, that the British troops never knew when they were beaten; and the general result was that, in the end, they were seldom, if ever, beaten. The people of this maritime country will never know when they are beaten. Although for a time this Government may sacrifice their best interests, and the interests of the whole empire, they will renew the struggle again and again, not for their own protection, but for the maintenance of our naval power, and the promotion of our mercantile interests.
And, my Lords, the mention of that greatest general, of that illustrious man, makes it impossible for me to forbear, on this occasion, the expression of my deep regret, that adherents as attached, troops as staunch, and hearts as devoted as ever bled under his command, and died on the field of battle to raise him to the highest pinnacle of glory, should now, while struggling in another field for the maintenance, not only of the honour and glory, but the existence of this country—now, while fighting for principles which I will not but be- 110 lieve that the noble Duke in his own heart approves, be chilled and saddened by finding him, to whom they still look up with admiration and reverence, standing coldly aloof from their exertions, or even easting the weight of his mighty name and influence into the ranks of their opponents. Whatever course may he pursued by my noble and gallant Friend, no man, and I least of all, will venture to speak of it in terms of censure; but we who suffer may be allowed deeply to deplore what we believe to he the fatal error of that course. Let not my noble and gallant Friend—let not any of your Lordships flatter yourselves that this question once disposed of, the wall of partition, which was unhappily built up a few years ago, will be at once thrown down and leave no trace behind, no obstacle to our political reunion. My Lords, this cannot be. We may deplore our separation from our friends with whom it was once our pride politically to act; we may lament the prevalence, by their support, of principles which we think dangerous and fatal; but in those principles and the adoption of this course, which we believe ruinous to the country, we cannot, we dare not, we will not acquiesce. We will seek to bring this country yet to a sense of its danger; and if there be among your Lordships any who fear a reactionary feeling with regard to your late legislative measures, let those noble Lords be sure no course they can take will be so likely to facilitate and strengthen that reaction as the passing of this fatal measure, because to the farmer, to the colonist, and to the various interests who feel themselves aggrieved and oppressed by your recent legislation, you will add yet another class, and that a most important one, and one most dear to the national feeling. The shipping interest will be necessarily led to associate with their fellow-sufferers, and combine in united efforts to obtain for each that protection to which they think they are justly entitled.
My Lords, I do not advise that course, but I tell you that it will take place—naturally, necessarily take place. I may not look with much fear to the consequences of it, but I do look with fear at the consequences of your passing this measure at this time, repealing at once, and without further consideration, the whole of that great system which has become part of our national existence, and that without securing from any foreign nation the assurance that they will recipro 111 cate even if they could—which they cannot, for they have no colonial possessions to compare with yours—the advantages they may obtain from us.
My Lords, I have now done. I have addressed to your Lordships all which at this hour I feel justified in saying; but I cannot conclude without expressing the deep anxiety—the deep alarm—which I feel at the possible result of your Lordships' decision. I await it with fear, because I believe the destiny of the country hangs upon it; and I can only pray that that Almighty Providence, who has hitherto raised this nation to the proudest heights of eminence and prosperity, and blessed it with unnumbered blessings—that He who, as we are taught, rules the hearts of kings, and sways the councils of legislatures often times to far different ends and far different conclusions from thnse which the legislators themselves anticipated—that He, in this awful hour of our country's fate, may direct your Lordships' judgment and decision to that course which may be most conducive to the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and Her dominions, and to the maintenance of the great fabric of that mercantile and commercial navy which, essential as it is in itself for supplying the many wants and comforts of this great people, is indirectly of still more vital importance in supporting and upholding that great Navy—that maritime strength of the country, on which, under God, depends, not the wealth alone, not the greatness, not the glory, but the independence, the station in the scale of nations, the very existence of this hitherto mighty empire.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
, in reply, said he would not detain their Lordships by replying at any great length to the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, or to the other speeches during the debate; but there were some observations made by the noble Lord who spoke last, which called, and called emphatically, for remark. That noble Lord in the course of his speech had made reference to what he was pleased to term "menaces"—["Hear, hear!"]—yes, menaces. He now called upon that noble Lord to prove the charge—to state where and in what language they had been made. Yes, the noble Lord said "menaces." There was a general curiosity throughout the House to know where these menaces had been uttered, whether in public or in private—whether openly or in secret, and he (the 112 Marquess of Lansdowne) was all attention to hear the solution of this extraordinary assertion. By and bye he heard his own name alluded to, and he immediately perceived that this extraordinary—this unconstitutional "menace" was a simple declaration made by himself, in reference to a declaration made by the noble Lord himself. He took upon him to say, upon his honour, that he never would have uttered it if the noble Lord had not first set him the example. Some days ago the noble Lord came down to that House, and said, manfully—he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) might say somewhat ostentatiously—the noble Lord came down to that House and declared that for the consequences of the vote which might be given on this measure he was prepared. On a subsequent day, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) humbly ventured to state in a single sentence, that if the noble Lord was prepared for the consequences of a victory upon this question, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was prepared for the consequences of a defeat. That was the unconstitutional "menace" unheard of in the annals of Parliament; or rather, that was the simple declaration which the noble Lord, with an excess of exaggeration, had been pleased so to describe. After the declaration made by the noble Lord—unnecessarily made by the noble Lord—but made no doubt for the purpose of influencing the votes, because with such an appeal to individuals as he made, some might not dare—[Cries of "Oh, oh!" from the Opposition benches.] He was in the recollection of the House. The noble Lord said, "I hope no man will fear to do his duty." He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) understood, and the House understood, the meaning of these terms, and the intention of them. He should have felt it a dereliction of his duty to have left the House and those who honoured Her Majesty's Government with their confidence in ignorance of the importance attached by Her Majesty's Ministers to the vote upon this question. He had now sufficiently explained the menaces alleged by the noble Lord to have been made. He had now finished with that; and, as he had promised, he would be as short as possible in touching on the general question. He would turn to that on which the noble Lord had dwelt so much, to the petition received by the House, and laid upon the table. He thought the noble Lord acted a part hardly worthy of him, when he attempted to infer so much from a petition 113 which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne), in the ordinary exorcise of his duty, simply laid on the table, and which he laid upon the table without attaching any extraordinary importance, and without calling the attention of the House to it. The noble Lord, however, immediately went and counted the names on that petition, and he miscounted them, that he might have the magnanimous part of admitting that he had miscounted them by mistake. The noble and learned Lord, however, accused Her Majesty's Government of having brought in this measure for the purpose of gaining popularity. This was the most extraordinary mode ever resorted to by a Government seeking for popularity. The noble and learned Lord spoke of a pressure from without; but whether the pressure was from without or elsewhere. Government was aware, on proceeding with this Bill, that a certain current of popular feeling ran unfavourably to this measure; but while he said that, he was well aware, and their Lordships would confirm it, that Government would not do its duty if, seeing a danger approaching, they should not take measures to avert it, even contrary to popular feeling. Now, speaking of the petition, and of the number of names, which the noble Lord alluded to as a mark of the feeling of the country in regard to this measure—he wished the noble Lord, if he did not mean to take the sense of the country upon it in the usual way, to look at the persons who had voted for this Bill. The noble Lord said that in all the ports, especially the outports, popular feeling was against it. Well, he had looked at the Votes of the other House of Parliament, unwilling though he always was to refer to that House, or the names of Members in that House, and he had found that of those representatives of ports and outports, there voted against this Bill 13, and for it, being Members for outports, 41. Why, then, if he was totally in error in supporting this measure, still he was countenanced in his error by that majority of Gentlemen representing ports of the united kingdom. He had the satisfaction of knowing that even if the feeling against them was quite general, yet the most intelligent in the country were in favour of the measure. All that the noble Lord could do with those Gentlemen to whom he had referred, was to "menace" that they should not be re-elected in the event of the dissolution of Parliament, which the noble Lord evidently did not wish, though he had alluded to it for the pur- 114 pose of "menacing" those Members of Parliament, if they should presume to vote against the opinion of the noble Lord. He now came to review some other points occurring in the debate. On the general question, he would only observe that the noble Lord, the whole of whoso speech, or at least the greater part of it, was directed to establishing the beneficial effects and the complete success of the navigation laws as they now stand, before he sat down was compelled in two most important points to intimate his expectations of the necessity of relaxing those laws. He was extremely astonished, because with the navigation laws any relaxation as the noble Lord called it—but he did not mind relaxation, he was opposed to repeal only—any relaxation was to that degree the repeal of them. The noble Lord had contended that Canada would by this Bill be placed in the position of asking for more; and not only Canada, but other colonies, would have a right to say, "Why all this favour to Canada? Why should not the same privilege be granted to this island?" and so the noble Lord went on from one supposed concession to another, and after all coming to the very conclusion which the Government themselves had arrived at. Now, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) stated his deliberate opinion now, as he had stated it before, that it would be more advantageous to this country—more advantageous to the merchant and shipowner—more advantageous to the commerce of the country, that this question should be settled on a broad and intelligible ground, rather than that it should be dealt with bit by bit; and to the perpetuation of that farrago which the noble Lord on the cross benches had so ably exposed—that farrago of anomalies and inconsistencies which it was the intent and object of the noble Lord to propose and uphold, in addition to the confusion which already existed. With respect to our relations with Europe, the noble Lord said that we ought to wait for other nations to declare their intentions not to renew their treaties with us; and the noble Lord appeared to indulge some faint hope that possibly some of these countries might not decline to continue their relations with us on the same footing as at present. He would ask the noble Lord whether there was anything in the papers—not in any answers to the circulars of the Board of Trade, but in the public documents of Europe—which afforded the 115 noble Lord the slightest foundation for saying that those countries would so continue their relations with us? He appealed to any noble Lord whether we were now in a position in which we could stand. We were in a situation in which the ground was slipping away from beneath our feet; and was it not the part of wise men to anticipate the conjuncture—to yield while they could with grace—to yield while they could with dignity—and not yield, as the noble Lord proposed, step by step until the whole system was given up? He believed that the sounder, better, and more dignified policy was that proposed by the Government, which had the advantage of letting the public know, and of letting the shipbuilder know, what he had to expect, and what exertions it was necessary for him to make. The noble Lord had brought forward a very singular example in illustration of his principles, in the case of Mr. Enderby and the South Sea whale fishery; appearing to forgot the fact that that fishery had been lost under the old law. As to the reciprocity treaties, which the noble Lord regarded with approval, those treaties did not, he thought, meet with much favour now in that House, and they contained the power of extension, so as to cause constant demands of being put upon the footing of the most favoured nations. The object of the noble Lord was to keep out foreign ships; but the object of every one of those treaties which the noble Lord approved of was to bring in foreign ships. Every duty taken off brought another ship into our ports. Their Lordships had been told by a noble Earl, that it was useless to conclude these treaties, and seek to conciliate foreign countries, because there existed throughout Europe a rankling jealousy of this country which would always make other nations unwilling to enter into these treaties. But upon what, he would ask that noble Earl, did that jealousy rest? If the cause was to be inferred from the uniform language held on the Continent—always in one and the same strain—it was this, that foreigners considered that the commercial policy of England was grasping, and that her object was to keep down the commerce of other countries. Therefore he contended that if it were really wished to overcome that prejudice, and to furnish the friends of England with an argument in opposition to those who disparaged her policy and depreciated her councils, the very best argument that could be furnished would be a practical measure which proved it to be 116 her wish to promote prosperity throughout the world. In the course of the debate, he had watched attentively to see whether the ground on which alone his opinion of the wisdom of this measure could be invalidated, could be maintained by sufficient arguments, namely, that this Bill would interfere with the mercantile and maritime resources of the country. He confessed that he had been disappointed in finding any. The noble Lord, however, had contended with some plausibility that it would interfere with the warehousing system. Now, if there was one measure more likely than another to promote the warehousing system, and to benefit the warehousing interest, he believed it would be found in this Bill. All articles which could be imported in foreign ships, would, under its operation, be warehoused in this country; but at present those which could not be imported in foreign vessels were carried to other countries. In short, the benefit of the warehousing system was one of the greatest arguments that could be urged in favour of the Bill. The noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham) had contended there was no relation between this Bill and free trade. In his (the Marquess of Lansdowne's) view, there was a very intimate connexion between them, and the measure was designed to finish and perfect the free-trade principle. He now came to the last accusation which had been made against the Government for proposing the present alteration in this law. The noble Lord said it had been done upon a sudden, and without deliberation. That was a most unfounded accusation. Why, within a few months after the Government had been formed, his noble Friend then President of the Board of Trade (the Earl of Dalhousie)—no mean authority upon this subject—saw the impossibility of maintaining the navigation laws. He brought the subject under the consideration of the Cabinet; by the Cabinet it was again and again considered; by the Cabinet it was, not this year nor last year only, brought before the House of Commons. By the House of Commons it had been finally voted; yet now, after between two and three years' deliberation, with two Committees of Inquiry, and with successive votes and decisions, the noble Lord came down and told their Lordships that the Government were passing this Bill in a hurry. He told the noble Lord that no measure had ever been passed with more deliberation. In this respect at least Her Majesty's Government must stand ex- 117 cused. But they would not stand excused for having proposed it, if they thought there would be any danger of its compromising our commercial or naval power. But they did not, and could not, apprehend any such consequences. And notwithstanding all the ingenious deductions of the noble Lord—notwithstanding all the statistical statements brought forward upon one side and disputed by the other—there remained untouched the fact, which to him was most significant and most convincing, namely, that in the direct unprotected trade with the United States of America, for twelve or fourteen years past, the shipping of this country had been continually increasing. With the prevailing competition in trade, the diminution of wages, and the reduced cost of materials, he could not doubt that the British shipowner and the British seaman would derive vast and substantial advantages from the change which was now submitted for the acceptance of the House. From that conviction—that firm conviction—he should not be swerved by anything he had heard in the course of this debate; and as the noble Lord had challenged him, he would add that he was willing to abide by all the consequences.
§ On Question, That "now" stand part of the Motion,
§ House divided:—Contents, present, 105; Proxies 68; total, 173:—Non-contents, present, 119; Proxies 44; total, 163: Majority 10.
§ [The Lists which have been circulated on this occasion are imperfect and uncertain: those Peers marked thus* are omitted from some Lists.]120
|List of the CONTENTS (including PROXIES)|
|St. Alban's||* Cawdor|
|Kenmare||Howard de Walden|
|Strafford||Stanley of Alderley|
|Thanet||Stuart de Decies|
|Waldegrave||Saye and Sele|
|VISCOUNTS.||Talbot de Malahide|
|List of the NON-CONTENTS PRESENT.|
|Longford||Stanley of Bickerstaffe|
|List of PROXIES.|
|Hardwicke||Bath and Wells.|
|Leven and Melville||Berwick|
|AGAINST.||IN FAVOUR OF.|
|Lord Bagot||Lord De Freyne|
|Viscount Maynard||Bishop of London|
|Earl of Digby||Lord Churchill|
|Earl of Lauderdale||Marquess Conyngham|
|Bishop of Gloucester||Bishop of Worcester|
|Viscount Beresford||Lord Ward|
|Bishop of Llandaff||Lord Rivers|
|Earl Somers||Earl of Wicklow|
|Earl Bathurst||Marquess of Abercorn|
|Earl of Munster.||Viscount Clifden.|
§ Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.
§ House adjourned to Thursday.